High drama unfolded on Thursday night after the “deployment of the army” at certain toll plazas in West Bengal. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee decided to stay put at the state secretariat ‘Nabanna’ for the night seeking Army’s removal from the second Hooghly bridge toll plaza near Nabanna.
Notably, even after the force was removed as per her demand, she stays there and said she “can’t leave them (people) insecured. “I am the custodian of common people. So I can’t leave them insecured. I will stay put here for the whole night and observe the situation,” said Banerjee to reporters at around 1.30 AM.
On her demand that she would leave office only after Army was removed, she said, “These people may have gone. But they are there in 18 other districts.”
Before her press meet, journalists reviewed the spot and found no Armymen there. A temporary shack was also removed. However, there was no official statement from the Army about the removal.
Banerjee accused Centre of deploying Army in West Bengal without informing the state. Thus, she refused to leave the office in a protest till the Armymen were withdrawn.
But the Defence spokesperson said the Army conducts such exercise all over the country to get data about the load carriers that could be made available in case of a contingency. “There is nothing alarming about this and it is carried out as per government orders,” said Wing Commander S S Birdi.
The purpose of the exercise is to estimate the number of vehicles passing through a certain area. “Army conducting routine exercise with full knowledge and cord with WB Police. Speculation of army taking over toll plaza incorrect,” said the Eastern command on Twitter.
However, the Kolkata police said they have raised an objection to this Army exercise owing to security reasons and traffic issues. “Army exercise at toll plaza was objected to in writing by Kolkata Police, citing security reasons & traffic inconvenience,” said the city police on Twitter.
But the real drama unfolded in the evening when Banerjee alleged that Army deployment was done in toll plazas without the state government’s knowledge and termed it as “unprecedented” and “a very serious situation worse than Emergency”.
She said, “The Secretariat is a sensitive zone and a toll plaza is a sensitive place. Why is the Army here? Whatever reason they are giving is not correct. They are lying. They are changing their reasons from time to time. The MHA has the complete data of the vehicles moving in different states.”
Banerjee also added that she checked with other states but nothing such has happened in Maharashtra, Kerala, Odisha and Chattisgarh. “Why is that happening here? I fear that they can shoot. Either I will live or die but I will speak for the common people,” Banerjee said.
“I do not have any problem if the Centre behaves like the central government. But they are repeatedly doing mistakes and now they are doing a blunder. It is an attack on the federal structure. We want to know the details,” she said.