Gujarat editions of the Indian Express and Times of India have reported how several textile traders, who had come out in support of an indefinite bandh against Goods and Services Tax (GST), were injured in police lathicharge in Surat Monday. Police detained five protesters who were released later.
The GST Sangharsh Samiti, formed under the umbrella of Federation of Surat Textile Traders Association (FOSTTA), had called for the indefinite strike from Saturday till their demand was met. Over 70,000 traders of Surat have been agitating for the last one week. The textile market area on Ring Road of Surat looked deserted on Monday morning as more than 50,000 shops in 150 textile markets remained closed. At around 11am, several textile traders and workers assembled near markets to protest against GST.
There was heavy police bandobast in the area and till 12 pm the situation was relatively calm. However, the things deteriorated when police started using force. According to traders the police were pressurising them to reopen the shops or leave the market area, which the traders refused. When police failed to convince the traders, they started using force to vacate the area.
“We were peacefully protesting at Millennium Market area and we had informed police in advance. However, at around 12 noon, the police started using force on peaceful protesters,“ said Attar Singh, member of GST Sangharsh Samiti told The Times of India. “There were around 5,000 protes ters near Millennium Market area. We tried to convince them to reopen shops; some of them were stopping traders who wanted to reopen their shops. We intervened and that enraged them. Soon they started attacking policeman and we had to use force to control the mob,“ said one police officer at the Millennium Market.
The GST Sangharsh Samiti, formed under the umbrella of Federation of Surat Textile Traders Association (FOSTTA), had called for the indefinite strike from Saturday till their demand was met. Over 70,000 traders of Surat have been agitating for the last one week. The FOSTTA had also met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, requesting them to roll back the GST on textiles.
But on Monday, some of the traders opened their shops following a meeting by Surat Navsari MP C R Patil on Sunday evening. He had assured them that their demands would be put before the competent authorities. However, not a single member of FOSTTA or GST Sangharsh Samithi, was present in the meeting. Only those from two newly-formed groups South Gujarat Textile Traders Association and Vepari Pragati Sangh were present. Sanjay Jagnanai, former president of FOSTTA was also present.
The GST Sangharsh Samiti again met in the evening to decide the future course of action. Manoj Agrawal of FOSTTA said the textile traders were protesting non-violently. “They had not damaged any public property or taken law in their hands. The police lathicharge has worsened the situation. Many traders, including elderly, were injured.”
Rajesh Agrawal, a core committee member of GST Sangharsh Samiti, said, “Seeing anger among the traders, we had called for an indefinite strike. With police aid on Monday, some of them opened their shops. But a larger section is angry. The traders are businessmen, not criminals.”