Ananya Dutta & Marcus Dam
KOLKATA: There was high drama at the Writers’ Buildings — West Bengal Secretariat — here on Friday afternoon when four Trinamool Congress MLAs, including Leader of the Opposition Partha Chatterjee, staged a sit-in within the protected area outside the chambers of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. They were demanding his arrest in connection with what they alleged were “arrests of innocent people” in the Arambagh-Khanakul area of Hooghly district following the recent disturbances there.
The MLAs raised slogans when Mr. Bhattacharjee, accompanied by SPG commandos and a large posse of policemen, returned to his chambers after lunch recess. They and another Trinamool legislator, who was apprehended at the building’s main gate, were arrested under Section 151 of the Indian Penal Code. The MLAs were later released on bail.
The arrests sparked demonstrations and roadblocks by the Trinamool at various places in the city, and normal life was thrown into disarray on Diwali-eve.
Mr. Bhattacharjee later said that he had given instructions that the demonstrating MLAs be escorted out as he “could not allow the Opposition to convert the corridors of Writers’ Buildings into a circus ring.”
Condemning the sit-in outside the Chief Minister’s chambers, State CPI(M) Committee secretary Biman Bose said such an act can only be resorted to only by those who “do not believe in democratic politics and are bent on creating anarchy and terror.”
“The incident can only inspire those forces behind the fascist-like attacks being perpetrated in the State,” he said.
Mr. Chatterjee, accompanied by two party MLAs, who entered the Writers’ Buildings five minutes after the Chief Minister had left for lunch at 1.10 p.m, surprised every one when he announced the protest decision.
The scene was reminiscent of the January 7, 1993 demonstration by Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, who was then in the Congress, outside the office of the then Chief Minister, Jyoti Basu.
The Trinamool MLAs did not heed the requests of Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty and Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen to call off their protest. Mr. Chatterjee insisted that he and his colleagues would leave the Secretariat only after the Chief Minister was arrested.
With Mr. Bhattacharjee due to be back in his chambers at 4 p.m., senior State and police officials went into a huddle to discuss security matters as it became increasingly clear that the MLAs would not budge from their stand. A large number of police personnel were posted the building.
Twenty minutes later the MLAs, who were escorted out of the Writers’ Buildings by security personnel, were arrested and whisked away in a police vehicle to the Presidency Correctional Home.
Meanwhile, the Arambagh-Khanakul area has remained troubled since clashes occurred between supporters of the Trinamool and the CPI(M) on October 12 during a bandh called by the latter in protest against the murder of a party worker.