Ananya Dutta

KOLKATA: There was a ruckus at a press conference here on Saturday as some intellectuals close to the Trinamool Congress refused to answer questions after accusing the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led State Government of being responsible for the tragedy involving the Gyaneshwari Express early on Friday.

Some of them have been nominated to important positions on railway committees after Mamata Banerjee took over as Union Railway Minister. The group, claiming to be representatives of civil society, charged that the rail tragedy had been planned in the run-up to this Sunday's civic elections in West Bengal not by Maoists but by the ruling party in the State to prevent “winds of change brought by Mamata Banerjee”.

After their opening remarks they refused to answer questions posed by journalists seeking to know the basis on which they had cleared the Maoists and fixed responsibility on the State Government instead. They declined any further comment saying they had just received a call from the State Election Commission to immediately put an end to the press conference.

Immediately afterwards there was a furore at the Kolkata Press Club as journalists claimed that the group had openly extended support to a political party without taking questions from them. At this point policemen entered the premises and ensured that the press conference came to an end on the ground that it was continuing in violation of State Election Commission rules in view of Sunday's civic polls.

The Press Club later issued a statement condemning the incident “because police cannot make a forced entry into the club without verbal permission from the club authority”. West Bengal CPI (M) State Committee secretary Biman Bose in a letter to the State Election Commissioner called for action against those alleging that his party and the Left Front Government were “conspirators” behind the train mishap.