Naushad Siddique, the lone All India Secular Front member in the West Bengal Assembly, was on Saturday assaulted on the dais at the protest venue of the joint forum of state government employees staging a relay fast and a sit-in demonstration to demand pending dearness allowance dues.
Siddique had been on the dais to express solidarity with the agitating employees. As he was addressing the protesters, a man wearing a black trouser, a camouflage-pattern shirt and cap and carrying a helmet, suddenly came up to him.
“What have you done for the sake of the minority community?” he asked Siddique after stopping him from speaking. In response, the MLA said he does not intend to do anything only and specifically for the minority. “I want to work for all – majority or minority,” he said.
At this, the stranger immediately lost his cool and immediately pushed the legislator heavily. However, those present at the dais immediately intervened and did not give him any chance to assault Siddique further.
Some of the agitators present on the dais in fury tried to attack the stranger, but were stopped by Siddique. “Leave him. This is nothing but a drama and an attempt to malign your movement,” Siddique was heard saying.
The assailant was handed over to the police and late in the evening, identified as Abdul Salam akas Tota, an elected Trinamool Congress gram panchayat member of Bankra-II village in adjoining Howrah district.
He is known to be a close confidant of district Trinamool leader and former minister Rajib Banerjee.
However, the local Trinamool leadership distanced itself from him. Sheikh Meher Ali, the deputy chief of Bankra-II panchayat, said that although Salam continues to be a member of the panchayat, he has no connection with the ruling party any more.
“There are many cases pending against him. So, the party maintains a distance from him,” Ali said.
Just before the attack on him, Siddique said that the state government’s excuse of lack of funds for not paying the dearness allowance arrears was baseless. “But lots of money is spent by the government behind fairs and festivals. The state government should stop such wasteful expenditure and pay the legitimate dues of the state government,” he said.
Siddique later told newspersons that the stranger was a plant by some vested interests to create confusion at the agitation venue. “But those who are present here are all educated people and hence, the stranger was handed over to police. I hope the police should now probe honestly to track the masterminds behind this incident… the police are supposed to protect this agitation dais as per court order,” he said.