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Page last updated at 06:35 GMT, Friday, 17 July 2009 07:35 UK

Strike over violence shuts Bengal

Stranded railway passengers at station in Calcutta, 17 July 2009
Passengers have been stranded as railway services stopped

A strike over recent political violence has led to a widespread shutdown in the Indian state of West Bengal.

The 12-hour strike called by the opposition Congress party has closed down businesses, schools and colleges.

Airlines have rescheduled flights to the capital, Calcutta, and thousands of passengers are stranded in railway stations as services were affected.

The Congress party called for the shutdown to protest against attacks on its lawmakers.

Nine party legislators were allegedly attacked by supporters of the ruling Communist party at Mangalkote in Burdwan district on Wednesday.

The strike, which began early on Friday, has affected work at the Calcutta port. Government offices have recorded poor attendance.

Public transport, taxis and auto rickshaws are off the roads in Calcutta, says the BBC's Subir Bhaumik.

On Thursday, angry Congress party supporters took to the streets of the city, burning down five government buses, damaging other public and private vehicles and setting up a road block on a bridge that connects the city's main railway station to the rest of the city.

The police arrested nearly 150 party workers for arson and disruption.

The Congress party has said that the Communist-led coalition government in the state should step down unless it can "manage the state's worsening law and order situation".

"If the state police and administration cannot protect the lawmakers from mobs of armed Communist supporters, this government must go," Congress leader Subrata Mukherjee said.

Nine people have died and many injured -including several opposition lawmakers- in clashes between the Communist and opposition supporters in West Bengal since the general elections in May.

The ruling Communists lost 26 of the 42 seats in the state to opposition candidates.



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