Troops and police stood by in Calcutta on Tuesday (14 July) as a general strike gripped the city and much of West Bengal.
Troops and police stood by in Calcutta on Tuesday (14 July) as a general strike gripped the city and much of West Bengal. The strike, called simultaneously by groups of political parties led by the pro-Moscow Communist Party in India and its bitter rival, the Marxist Communist Party, ended after 24 hours. The strike reportedly marked the first time troops have been stationed in Calcutta for crowd control; in the past they have merely been alerted.
Businesses and shops all over West Bengal - the hub of India's industrial activity -- were closed for fear of violence. Public transport remained off the streets in most areas.
In Calcutta itself, the capital of West Bengal and the state's primary commercial city, docks, were idle, railway stations inoperative and most commercial activity was at a standstill. The usually busy streets were empty of traffic except for troop-carrying lorries and processions of demonstrators chanting slogans and carrying red flags.
The strike had been called to demand an end to central government rule over West Bengal. India's President Giri imposed direct rule from Delhi last March when a Marxist-led government collapsed amid mounting violence. The Communists also demand an end to what they call "police repression".
There were no major incident's in Tuesday's strike, but police opened fire in four places to disperse militant Maoist revolutionaries known as Naxalites. Other scattered disturbances also occurred during the strike.
The massive state-wide security deployment appeared to have headed off any repetition of the violence that resulted in the deaths of at least 32 people during the last communist-sponsored strike in March.