Police made a baton charge, lobbed tear gas shells and used water cannons to disperse hundreds of belligerent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) youth wing leaders who tried to march to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation headquarters yesterday protesting against a host of issues including the civic body’s failure to control the dengue menace.
Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) activists flung water bottles, and threw stones at the police who had put up guard rails and steel barricade near Chandni Chawk in central Kolkata to prevent the protesters from reaching the KMC headquarters.
The march was organised as a means of swaying public opinion ahead of next year’s civic polls.
The protesters set ablaze tyres and tried to dismantle the barricade with sticks, rods and metal plates, as police used their physical strength to protect it.
Some BJYM workers were then seen climbing the barricade, as some snatched sticks from the police after jumping to the other side of the barricade.
The police retaliated by wielding their sticks and using the water jets on the protesters before lobbing tear gas shells.
The BJYM later claimed 60 of their workers, including state president Debjit Sarkar were injured after they were “mercilessly beaten” by the police. Thirty-five activists, including a dozen women, were arrested.
A police officer said several security personnel were also injured.
Led by BJP state president Dilip Ghosh, general secretary Raju Bandopadhyay, and actress and BJYM leader Rimjhim Mitra, the protesters started from Central Avenue, raising slogans against the civic authorities’ negligence in containing the spread of dengue.
They carried posters and banners targeting Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and asking her to reply to the charge that the authorities were hiding facts about the disease, which has affected 44,000 people in the state.
Ghosh accused the state government of issuing an order to doctors not to write dengue in the prescription.
“For the last three years, dengue has emerged as a serious problem in Kolkata. When they couldn’t control the disease, they came out with an order that doctors cannot write dengue in the prescription. The doctors were forced to write ‘unknown fever’ instead.
“The government tried to act too clever. It has only led to the spread of the disease. Even a KMC official has died from the disease. People are in panic,” he said.
Mitra accused male police personnel of manhandling women BJYM workers. “Why did they stop us? We had permission to march further. The police acted ferociously”.
The BJYM also demanded a corruption-free KMC, and a cleaner Kolkata, with fewer cable wires, posters and hoardings and better civic services.
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