Kolkata: West Bengal was paralysed on Wednesday by a strike protesting against the police killing of five demonstrators who took part in an anti-unemployment rally, officials said.
The day-long strike, called by a member of West Bengal’s ruling Marxist coalition, was the latest challenge to the government of the impoverished state, which has been rocked by violent protests since early 2007.
Demonstrators in state capital Kolkata blocked roads and appealed to people to support the shutdown, shouting: “Make the strike successful. Protest against the communists’ misrule.”
The five demonstrators killed Tuesday in northern Dinhata town, 600 kilometres (372 miles) from Kolkata, were all activists of the Forward Bloc, a minority partner in the state’s nine-party ruling coalition, police said.
Police said they fired at the demonstrators when they started striking police and government officials with bamboo sticks and pelting them with stones. The protesters were demanding that the government provide jobs for the rural poor.
A policemen injured in the clashes died early on Wednesday, police said.
In several parts of the state on Wednesday, supporters of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which leads the ruling coalition, fought street battles with Forward Bloc supporters.
“Nearly a dozen people received minor injuries” in the clashes, Raj Kanojia, police inspector general said in Kolkata. A few small crude bombs also exploded near a railway station in the city but there were no casualties.
Shops and other businesses were closed along with schools and colleges and public transit came to a halt across the state.
Kolkata wore a deserted look. Only government offices were open but officials reported thin attendance.
“Everything is shut down across the state except the airports but passengers are stranded there because there’s no transport,” said Kanojia.
The situation in Dinhata remained tense, said area police superintendent Anil Kumar.
Protests last year in West Bengal against moves to take over agricultural land for industrial use claimed at least 34 lives.