Strike paralyses West Bengal; CRPF reaches Nandigram

Strike paralyses West Bengal; CRPF reaches Nandigram

Kolkata: West Bengal came to a standstill on Monday at the start of an indefinite strike called in protest against the killing of villagers opposed to the establishment of a massive industrial park.

Bus and train services were disrupted and businesses, schools and colleges shut as the strike, called by parties opposed to the state’s ruling Marxists, took effect amid reports of fresh tensions in Nandigram, one of the hot spots of recent violence.

The state capital was deserted, with people and traffic off the roads. Protesters set fire to buses and a railway station near Kolkata, police said. More than 200 people were detained for blocking roads and railway tracks.

The Marxist party wants to set up a privately run special economic zone, a scheme endorsed by the government as central to India’s drive to boost economic growth and lure foreign investment.

But villagers opposed to the acquisition of 14,500 acres of land for a petrochemical hub to be set up by Indonesia’s Salim Group have taken to the streets.

More than 20 people have been killed since March in a series of clashes over plans for the zone.

Senior West Bengal police official Raj Kanojia said 1,000 paramilitary troops despatched by the Union home ministry on Saturday to restore order in Nandigram had reached the village.

“Central security forces are now taking control of the situation in Nandigram. There have been sporadic clashes in the village...but no major incident was reported today,"he said.

The Congress party remained unrelenting on its attack on the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM)-led government on the Nandigram issue, alleging its writ was not running in the trouble-torn area and it has failed to protect lives and properties there.

Main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party demanded dismissal of the state government alleging that there was a complete breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state.

Under siege from all sides, the CPM hit back holding Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress responsible for the situation in Nandigram and alleged that it was taking the support of Maoists.

Party general secretary Prakash Karat was also critical of the state’s governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, whose remarks that the troubled area resembled a “war-zone" had created a controversy.

Meanwhile, Banerjee telephoned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is currently in Moscow, and invited him along with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to visitNandigram.

PTI contributed to this story.