In the wake of a nationwide strike called by workers’ union, in which 250 million people were expected to participate across the country, parts of the Indian state of West Bengal have witnessed violent incidents and clashes.
In the first video surfacing on social media, a few men can be seen vandalising a bus in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar. Men with their faces covered can be seen hurling stones at the bus with passengers, who can be seen rushing out.
In another video, clashes erupted allegedly between workers of West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress party and its rival Communist Party of India-affiliated Students Federation of India. Some people can be seen in a melee while passerby tried to calm them down.
#WATCH West Bengal: A clash erupted allegedly between Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Students' Federation of India (SFI) workers in Burdwan during the Bharat Bandh called by ten trade Unions against 'anti-worker policies of Central Government' pic.twitter.com/G9WFzmVUYQ— ANI (@ANI) January 8, 2020
West Bengal is also witnessing blockades of railway tracks by demonstrators in Howrah leading to the cancellation of 42 trains. Demonstrators also obstructed railway tracks in Kanchrapara.
In another development, four crude bombs were recovered by the state police near a railway track in North 24 Parganas.
West Bengal: Four crude bombs recovered by Police from railway track near Hridaypur station in North 24 Parganas. pic.twitter.com/TUT0dXiV62— ANI (@ANI) January 8, 2020
State Chief Mamata Banerjee has condemned the “hooliganism”, saying that violence in the name of agitation is unacceptable and this is not what the movement is about.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee: CPIM has no ideology. Planting bombs on railway tracks is 'gundagardi'. In the name of movement, commuters are being beaten up and stones are being pelted. This is 'dadagiri', not a movement. I condemn this. #BharatBandh pic.twitter.com/wg0Jiac8Nn— ANI (@ANI) January 8, 2020
Ten major trade unions, excluding the ones affiliated with the federally ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, have announced their participation in the shutdown across India against the Modi government’s “anti-worker” policies such as disinvestment and privatisation of state entities in a bid to provide relief to the ailing economy.
Though the central government didn’t respond to the protests, it has issued a notice to public officers asking them not to grant any kind of leave to employees during the duration of the protests.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has stressed in parliament that “whatever the government is doing is in the interest of the country” and a recession-like situation is unlikely.
The Indian economy has been facing an unprecedented slowdown over the past two years with economic growth decelerating to 4.5 percent in the September quarter, its slowest pace since March 2013.