Kolkata, December 2
After Thursday night’s high drama when West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee refused to leave her Secretariat, Nabanna near the Vidyasagar Setu Toll Plaza, alleging that the Army had been deployed in the area despite police objections, the Eastern Command on Friday responded to the Chief Minister’s allegations saying that the Army had been in constant touch with the local police about its operations in various parts of the state. As a matter of fact, it was on request of the Kolkata Police that the date of the operation was pushed back from November 28 to 30.
Accusing the Modi government of using the Army for politics, TMC leader Partha Chatterjee said the situation is very unfortunate. “The manner in which Modi government is using the Army for politics has never happened before. We have the highest respect for the Army, but the situation is very unfortunate.” Speaking on the Army’s statement that the state was informed he denied saying, “We were not informed. We had not given permission to Army.”
GOC Bengal, Major General Sunil Yadav, said that the Army had been in constant touch with the West Bengal police and that there had been “several meetings”. Yadav said that the Army Formations in the Eastern Command at local levels “are carrying out routine annual data collection exercise on availability of load carriers at major entry points. As a matter of fact we pushed back the date of the operation on the request of the West Bengal police because of the Bharat Bandh. We were to begin the three day exercise on November 28, but began on November 30 instead. We are carrying out the operation in 80 different points across the East and North East region. The same exercise was carried out at exactly the same points last year as well – between November 19-21,” said Major General Yadav.
Additional Commissioner of Police Supratim Sarkar, meanwhile, said that the Kolkata Police had objected to the exercise being carried out at the Toll Plaza and had written to the Army asking them to look for an alternate point to carry out the exercise.
On a letter dates November 25th Sarkar had responded to the Army request and had written to Administrative Commandant Colonel Surinder Mahani citing the heavy traffic flow on the highway, the toll plaza being the entry and exit points to other districts and states and the proximity to Nabanna, the West Bengal secretariat and therefore “a high security zone” as reasons for the Army to shift its exercise elsewhere. Colonel Mahani had responded to the letter saying that the exercise at this point was imperative, a letter that Sarkar claims not to have received.
Kolkata, December 2