Mamata faces SFI protest, Amit Mitra heckled

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Tuesday faced noisy protests from SFI activists who also heckled her finance minister, Amit Mitra, outside the Planning Commission to protest the death of a young comrade in Kolkata.

Dozens of protestors from the SFI, who were waiting for the Trinamool Congress leader outside the planning commission office in Yojna Bhavan raised slogans against her when she came with Mitra and other ministers to meet the commission’s deputy chairperson, Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Agitated students carrying placards pushed Mitra around and shouted slogans as he tried to enter the office in the heart of the city.

In the melee, his white kurta was torn.

The chief minister, who was advised not to get down from her car and instead drive down straight inside the complex, chose to walk through the crowd that was shouting “Mamata down, down”.

Banerjee, who was to meet Ahluwalia to finalise the annual plan 2013-14 for the state, was also accompanied by Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee and Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim. They too were pushed around.

The fuming chief minister who was surrounded by the angry crowd later complained to Ahluwalia, who described the protest as “unwarranted.”

When asked by reporters about the incident, she said: “These are hooligans.. Left is playing dirty politics.”

“They can’t stop me. They can kill me. They can’t stop me from discussing development issues of the state,” an angry Banerjee told reporters.

The TMC leader, who broke her alliance with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) last year, later also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

She said she had every right to meet the prime minister, the finance minister and planning commission officials.

“What they have done today is breakdown of constitution. They have lost credibility. I feel sorry for them,” she added.

Answering a query about Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s speech in Kolkata where he had praised her, the chief minister said a chief minister “has every right to speak… Anybody can appreciate.”

SFI leader Ritabrata Banerjee said: “Our protest is to show Mamata Banerjee that Sudipto Gupta’s death was not a petty matter. People are deeply concerned about what is happening in West Bengal.”

The SFI protest followed the death in police custody of SFI leader Sudipto Gupta in Kolkata April 2.

Police in Kolkata insist that the young man was killed when his head struck an electric post while being taken in a bus.

The SFI has alleged that he was beaten by policemen, forcing him to fall off the bus and suffer serious injuries that led to his death.

Banerjee had called the incident as “unfortunate”. Later, described it as “petty.”

Minister of State for Planning, Rajiv Shukla was quick to condemn the incident.

He said such incident “should not have taken place” and “it was wrong to use such meetings for political purposes.”

“It (the protest) has been taken up with the Delhi police,” he said and added that whatever strong action possible will be taken.

CPI-M leadership sought to distance itself from the incident.

“SFI is the student wing of CPI-M. But we do not approve of any personal targeting,” CPI-M leader Nilotpal Basu told NDTV news channel.

He added that the protest was over the manner in which West Bengal government had dealt with the death of SFI leader Sudipta Gupta in police custody.

Sunand, who was part of the group that protested near the Yojana Bhavan, said that they were sorry if someone’s shirt was torn in the melee.

CPI leader Atul Anjan said people have a right to protest but there is no place for indecency.

“In a democracy, people have the right to protest, but indecency has no place in such protests,” Anjan told NDTV.

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