A12-hour bandh or general strike, called by the opposition parties in West Bengal to protest Wednesday’s police violence on villagers in Nandigram, was marked by incidents of violence across the state, including an attack on a Tata Motors plant being constructed at Singur.
Some rallies held in the state also turned violent. The office of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) was set on fire at Panchla, in the Howrah district to the north of Kolkata.
In the northern district of Jalpaiguri, 12 people were injured when bandh supporters clashed with the police. At adjacent Siliguri, rail tracks were set on fire. A crude bomb was lobbed at the newly-built boundary walls of the Tata Motors plant at Singur.
“A number of government vehicles, mostly buses, have been either damaged or set ablaze. Bandh supporters also attacked a few government offices,” state home secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy said.
Atteor in Kolkata were kept out of the purview of the bandh.
Reacting to the recent developments, Rahul Todi, managing director, the Bengal Shrachi Housing Development Ltd said, “Despite the CM’s assurance that no chemical hub would be set up in Nandigram, what happened on Wednesday cannot be supported in any way”.
Nandigram, 160km from the state capital, is the site of a proposed special economic zone (SEZ)—a manufacturing hub that offers tax incentives to companies.
Violence in Nandigram, triggered by police clampdowns on protests over acquisition of land by the government for industrial use, is causing a rift in the coalition state government.
“What happened in Nandigram was unfortunate but bandh or violence is not the solution. Obviously, this incident has meant bad publicity for the government but we do not see any long-term impact on investments in the state,” said Rajeev Singh, secretary-general, Indian Chamber of Commerce.
“Nobody likes a bandh, but what happened in Nandigram was also not correct,” said Hemant Kanoria, vice-chairman and managing director of Srei Infrastructure and Finance, a company which is also pitching for an SEZ in the state.
While industrialists such as Aditya Agarwal, director of Emami, felt that the Nandigram incident could have been avoided, there are others who are impressed by the government’s firmness in pursuing industrialization.
“The government is standing firm on its decision to solve the state’s unemployment problem by pursuing industrialization,” said C.K. Dhanuka, chairman, eastern region, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
The constituents of the Left Front, with the exception of CPI(M), namely, Forward Bloc, Revolutionary Socialist Party and Communist Party of India, have been holding meetings through the day to crystallise their stand on the issue and decide their future course of action. They have already threatened to pull out of the government if the police are not withdrawn from Nandigram immediately.