Don’t defame the army, says Bengal Governor; Mamata hits back

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Kolkata, Dec 3: West Bengal Governor K.N. Tripathi on Saturday sternly cautioned against “defaming” and “letting down” the Indian Army in the wake of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleging that soldiers extorted money from truck drivers during their deployment at toll plazas.

Asked about Banerjee’s accusation that the soldiers extorted money from truck drivers, Tripathi said: “Every person should take care in making allegation against a responsible organisation like the Indian Army. Don’t let down the army. Don’t defame the army.”

Responding to Tripathi’s caution, Banerjee accused him of speaking in the “tone of central government” on the issue of army deployment at toll plazas in the state.

“The Governor is speaking in the voice of Central Government!! He was not in the city for about 8 days,” she tweeted.

Terming the Governor’s comments as “unfortunate”, Banerjee, also the Trinamool Congress supremo, said Tripathi should have checked the details of recent developments in the state before commenting.

“Before making statements, all details should have been checked. It is very unfortunate,” said Banerjee, who spent Thursday night at the state secretariat and stayed put for 36 hours protesting deployment of the army at toll plazas in the state allegedly without informing her government — an issue that snowballed into a major row causing disruptions in Parliament.

The central government and the army rubbished the allegations, saying too much was being read into a routine exercise.

Meanwhile, a Trinamool Congress delegation, on Saturday afternoon met the state governor and submitted a memorandum protesting against the deployment of army at several toll plazas in the state.

“We have informed him in detail about how the army was deployed at 18 places in West Bengal without the permission of the state government,” said State Education and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee after meeting the governor.

Echoing party supremo Mamata Banerjee, the Trinamool leader criticised the governor for his comments on the issue.

“It is unbecoming of a governor to make such a statement. People might assume that the governor is favouring a specific political party. we are not taking it in a good spirit,” he said.

The Trinamool leader clarified that while the state government has the highest respect for Indian army, it strongly denounces the central government’s ploy of using the army in a wrong way.

“We have highest degree of respect for the Indian army but if central government tries to break the federal structure of a state by using army as a shield, we have to protest against that,” Chatterjee said.

In the Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said the army was conducting a routine exercise in Kolkata. The Eastern Command showed papers detailing the correspondence between the army and the local police on the issue and said the state government and the police knew about it in advance.