The BJP has called a 12-hour bandh today in West Bengal, protesting the death of two youth at North Dinajpur's Islampur. Sporadic incidents of violence have been reported across the state. The police are out in full force in capital Kolkata and other sensitive districts.
Protesters have attacked private buses in Howrah's Tikiapara area and clashes between the Trinamool and BJP supporters have been reported in Barasat. In Cooch Behar and Midnapore, state government buses have been vandalised. Protesters blocked train tracks on the Howrah-Bardhaman main line.
Protesters have also obstructed trains in Sealdah-Barasat-Bongaon, Sealdah-Diamond Harbour and Kawta-Bandel sections. Drivers of the state government buses were seen wearing helmets.
Cooch Behar: Drivers of govt buses wear helmets while driving after some of the buses were vandalised by protesters today. BJP has called for a 12-hour bandh in West Bengal today in protest against the death of a student following a clash with police in North Dinajpur's Islampur. pic.twitter.com/Koe7sbcrm0- ANI (@ANI) September 26, 2018
The Trinamool government has warned that stern action will be taken against those trying to enforce the 12-hour bandh today. Party general secretary and state education minister Partha Chatterjee accused the BJP of trying to foment trouble in the state and said all steps will be taken to ensure normal life is not affected. The minister has asked schools and colleges to remain open. Some private schools however, have declared a holiday, fearing violence.
West Bengal: Protesters vandalise government buses and torch tyres in Midnapore. BJP has called for a 12-hour statewide bandh today in protest against the death of a student who died following a clash with police in North Dinajpur's Islampur. pic.twitter.com/qBn4SHX0Dx— ANI (@ANI) September 26, 2018
The BJP has claimed that the shutdown would be a total as "the entire state is fed up with the misrule of TMC". "People will participate in this strike peacefully. But if the TMC and its goons try to foil the strike, there will be repercussions," said the state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh.
Siliguri: Police have arrested 24 bandh supporters from Bagdogra and Naxalbari areas. BJP has called for a 12-hour bandh in West Bengal today, in protest against the death of 2 students in a clash with police in North Dinajpur's Islampur #WestBengalpic.twitter.com/PtIUx7xAqf— ANI (@ANI) September 26, 2018
"The state government is trying to hush up the incident in Islampur. But we won't stop until and unless justice is delivered," said Mr Ghosh.
A war of words broke out on the eve of the bandh between the two parties. While the Trinamool minister alleged, "the BJP is trying to instill fear among the people and the kind of language they are using is completely unacceptable," the BJP accused the state police officers of working with the Mamata Banerjee government. "The TMC government will not be there after 2021 but they (officers) have long services. We (BJP) will not spare them... We will remember their names. We have sharp memories," said the state BJP chief in North Dinajpur on Sunday.
The opposition Congress and Left parties have protested the Islampur incident but have not supported the BJP's bandh call. Both parties accused both Trinamool and the BJP of trying to communalise the incident.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is currently on an European tour, has ordered extra police force to be deployed to stop BJP activists from disrupting normal life. "Extra precautionary measures have been taken to counter the bandh. All sanctioned holidays have been cancelled as all senior police officers will be on the city roads," said a top officer.
Rajesh Sarkar, a former student, died after being hit in the back by a bullet during the clashes between protesters and the police in Islampur last Friday. Another student, Tapas Barman, also died of gunshot wounds at the North Bengal Medical College, where he was taken for treatment. The clashes in Islampur erupted over protests over the appointment of Urdu teachers in a local government school.