May 26, 2013, TNN

: In a meeting with all political parties in the state, Kolkata Police commissioner Surajit Kar Purakayastha on Saturday announced that law-violation programmes will no longer be allowed in the city.

Opposition parties, particularly the CPM and the BJP, which have planned such programmes on May 31 and June 1, called the decision “undemocratic”.

Though the police chief cited reasons such as lack of infrastructure and the harassment caused to people, it was clear that the government wants to avoid trouble ahead of the crucial panchayat polls in the state. It was during a law-violation programme in April that SFI leader Sudipta Gupta lost his life while being hauled to the Presidency jail. Recently, a law-violation programme by the SUCI led to chaos in central parts of Kolkata. A sub-inspector was seriously injured in the violence that broke out.

According to Purakayastha, Kolkata does not have “adequate” infrastructure to handle law-violation programmes during which political workers are found to jostle with the before being overpowered and herded into waiting buses to be taken to the lock-up. In most cases, the have to use force to bring the situation under control. Though the Kolkata possesses water cannons and other crowd-control equipment, none of these have ever been brought to use during such programmes.

The commissioner, however, said that the ban is temporary and will be in place till the police build up adequate infrastructure. He didn’t make clear what the government has in mind so far as augmenting the police force is concerned.

“We met representatives of all major political parties and requested them to not to organize law-violation programmes,” Purakayastha said. He did not clarify whether there would be any amendment in the present law. When asked whether it a request or an order, the commissioner said that it was an instruction from the city police. In addition to the ban on law violation, the also renewed its ban on the holding political meetings at Metro channel. “For long, we have been requesting political parties not to organize any programme at Metro channel as this disrupts the normal movement of traffic in the heart of the city. Today, we once again reminded all political parties about the existing ban in the Metro channel,” a senior police officer said. Sources in the police, however, said that officers were working as per instructions from the ‘top’.

The decision resulted in severe criticism from parties. “Firstly, these are not called ‘law-violation’ programmes. Members of responsible political parties simply ‘court arrest’ when the government fails to protect the interest of citizens. When they police says that it can’t handle such programmes, one wonders what it will do against people who break the law and try to get away. No wonder, the law and order situation in the state is in a mess. This is not a police decision. It is a decision taken by the state government to curb the rights of people,” said CPM leader Md Salim.

State BJP president Rahul Sinha said that the government is gradually trying to implement an ‘undeclared emergency’. “It wants to choke the Opposition‘s voice. We shall hold our programme as per schedule,” he said. West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee president Pradip Bhattacharya also said that his party wouldn’t abide by such instructions.

 

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