TMC Lawmakers Spend Night at Silchar Airport After Scuffle With Cops, Mamata Calls it ‘Super Emergency’

Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress lawmakers who were stopped from leaving Silchar Airport on Thursday afternoon were taken into custody by the police in the evening after they decided to spend the night inside the airport in protest against the alleged manhandling by cops.

Senior police officials said that the eight-member delegation is being kept under preventive detention inside the airport under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) that empowers police to arrest to prevent the commission of a cognizable offence.

The lawmakers – six MPs and two MLAs – had gone to Assam on a two-day visit to campaign against the National Register of Citizens but were stopped by authorities citing that prohibitory orders were in place in the town and their “inflammatory” speeches could affect the law and order situation.

The TMC delegation as well as the police accused each other of using force and released footage of the scuffle at the airport. In the video released by the TMC, women lawmakers can be seen being chased and restrained by policewomen.
The clip released by the police, on the other hand, showed MLA Mahua Moitra pushing a policewoman who was pleading with her to stop. Assam DGP Kuladhar Saikia said that three cops, including a woman, were injured in the scuffle.

TMC supremo and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee described the incident as “super emergency” and asked the delegation to stay put at the airport after police had earlier given them two options to return to de-escalate the situation.

“BJP is trying to threaten democracy. What is BJP trying to hide in Assam? I am very disappointed how the MPs and media have been manhandled at Silchar airport. This situation cannot continue,” she told reporters.

The eight-member team had reached the airport around 1.30 pm to attend a citizen’s convention in the city and was also supposed to visit Nagaon and Guwahati on Friday.

The team included six MPs – Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Ratna De Nag, Nadimul Haque, Arpita Ghosh and Mamata Thakur – and Bengal urban development minister Firhad Hakim and MLA Mahua Moitra.

Speaking to News18 over telephone, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar said the moment they landed at the airport, they were detained by policemen and not allowed to exit the premises citing the reason that Section 144 had been imposed in the city.

“When we asked for justified documents, they were unable to show us. The Assam police chased and beat me and my colleagues Mohua Moitra, MP Sukhendu Sekhar Ray and others. We were kept confined,” he alleged.

Sukhendu Sekhar Ray also claimed that he and other members of the delegation were roughed up by the police.

According to officials, the delegation was given two options by the police – stay in Silchar and take a direct flight to Kolkata on Friday morning or travel to Guwahati on Thursday itself and take a flight out from there.

In both cases, they would not be allowed to meet anyone as Section 144 has been imposed in both cities, sources told News18.

The TMC did not accept either of the choices. They told the police they would cancel the public events and would only meet people, but were denied permission.

As the situation once again came to a head, the police decided to take away the option of traveling to Guwahati and decided to hold the delegation in detention at Silchar itself.

TMC MP Derek O’Brien also described the incident as “super emergency” and said that it was the right of the delegation to meet people in Assam.

BJP’s Bengal unit president Dilip Ghosh, however, blamed the TMC members for the incident, saying they had no business going to Assam. “They are the problem. Who asked the TMC MPs to go there? No one else has gone there. They have gone there to spread tension and create trouble. They should come back.”

“Our MPs were obstructed in a similar way when we tried to visit any trouble-hit area in Bengal. TMC leaders have no business in Assam,” he added.

The issue was also raised in the Parliament as TMC members, led by senior leader Saugata Ray, demanded a response from the government on it in the Lok Sabha. The party is also planning to bring a privilege motion against the detention of its MPs in Lok Sabha on Friday.

“Assam Police has detained them at Silchar Airport. They are interferring with the free movement of people. This is a breach of privilege,” Ray said, adding “we want government response on this”.

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