Kolkata/Berhampore: The raging protests against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) spread from Assam to West Bengal Friday afternoon, as angry demonstrators attacked the crowded Coromandel Express train and systematically unleashed arson and looting at railway properties in two separate districts.
So much so, that governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and chief minister Mamata Banerjee were forced to appeal for peace. The day also witnessed an aged man in a district along the Indo-Bangladesh border die in fear of the NRC and CAB and a senior BJP leader being attacked.
At around 3.22pm Friday, a furious mob of 250-odd people took to the railway tracks of both Up and Down lines and started pelting stones on the Chennai-bound Coromandel Express, bringing it to a grinding halt at Uluberia in the Howrah-Kharagpur section of the south-eastern railway (SER) soon after the train’s departure from How-rah station at 2.50 pm. The train driver and a railway staff were injured. The panicked passengers closed the doors and windows of their coaches even as the mob went on rampage at the Uluberia station.
The SER spokesperson Sanjoy Ghosh said, "Massive damage was caused in the attack. Rs 4 lakhs in cash, eight computers and unreserved tickets were taken away from the booking office at the station, which is now in total darkness.”
Following the violence at Uluberia, six trains including the Howrah-Digha Kandari Express, Shalimar-LTT Kurla Express, Hyderabad-Howrah East Coast Express, Yesvantpur-Howrah Duronto Express, Shalim-ar-Adra Rajya Rani Express and Jabalpur-Santragachi Humsafar Express were halted midway, and 11 EMU local and passenger trains were detained and controlled at various stations.
In Murshidabad, angry protestors set parts of the railway tracks on fire, damaged signals at the Beldanga railway station, and vandalised the Beldanga police station and Block Development Office around 3.25 pm. Rejinagar, Murshidabad and Jangipur stations in the district; Krishnanagar in Nadia; and Baruipur in South 24 Parganas; also witnessed agitations.
A tea-stall owner Kudrat Sheikh (64) from Sagardighi in Murshidabad died at the Jangipur Hospital after suffering a heart attack at his home Thursday night. His son, Apple Sheikh, claimed that his father had become very restless and anxious after the CAB was passed in Parliament. Kudrat’s wife, Nusrat Bibi, said, that he was afraid he would be kept in the NRC detention camp since he had failed to collect old ownership documents.
Earlier in the day, state BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu's car was attacked by a group of youths at Bhupatinagar in east Midnapore. Fortunately, Mr Basu escaped unhurt.
In an emotional appeal, governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said, "I have always appealed to the people with folded hands that we must believe in peace and rule of law. We must avoid violence. We must believe in our Parliament and the laws made by it and our Constitution. If anyone takes the law into their hands, it is unfortunate. The people of West Bengal are peace-loving by nature. I believe they will listen to their governor and act in a peaceful manner."
Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee announced her rally against NRC and CAB on December 15 in the city and said, "I appeal people from all castes, creeds and religions to build a mass movement peacefully and democratically. It will happen here also like it is happening elsewhere. We can be sent to jail. We may have to face more torture also."