West Bengal district tense after violence over land acquisition

RSTV Bureau

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Barely 32 kilometres from the capital city Kolkata, West Bengal government is facing the ire of local villagers. Bhangor town of South 24 Parganas district is in the middle of an uneasy calm after one person was killed in violence over agitation against the construction of power grid sub-station in the area.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee took a stock of situation on Wednesday summoning the meeting with police top brass, including DGP Surajit Purakayasta.

The situation got tense on Tuesday after a firing incident in the village allegedly between the locals and the police. It was, however, denied by the latter.

“There has been no police firing. The police didn’t fire a single shot. The work of the Power Grid station has already stopped. The person was declared dead on arrival at the hospital and the other person is undergoing treatment,” ADG (law and order) Anuj Sharma told the press.

However, the violence followed an attack on a police outpost where some police vehicles were set ablaze. With unverified reports of one more person dying doing the rounds, villagers put up barricades felling trees and piles of bricks on roads.

“Forces were withdrawn from the area but we are keeping an eye on the situation there,” a senior police official said.

Bhangor area has been seeing protest over the acquisition of village land for the construction of power sub-station. Since October last year, the local farmers have been opposing the construction, claiming they have not been paid adequate compensation by the government. They are further seeking return of their land.

With the protest boiling, the West Bengal government has declared that the project has been stopped.

“No land will be acquired if people don’t want to give away land. Proposed power grid will be relocated if required,” CM Mamata Banerjee said on Twitter.

But soon the tweet was deleted. Interestingly, the ruling party said it should be ignored.

State Power minister Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay when contacted, said the state government would certainly be holding talks with the agitated villagers and farmers after the situation normalises. “The situation is under control in Bhangor. Till now, there is no news of any second person dying there. And there is no news of any protests anywhere there also,” he told a news agency.

Sharply criticising the state government, opposition CPI(M) released a statement condemning what they called a “police repression” at Bhangor and demanded that TMC government “should stop using force against the protestors and sit for talks with people to settle the issue”.

The incident has also armed the Left front to take on Mamata Banerjee, who had ousted 34-year-old Left front government in the state, ironically, keeping anti-land acquisition movement in Singur and Nandigram at the forefront of her election campaign.

“In 2007, TMC had helped in flaring up protests at Nandigram and Singur. It used false propaganda to instigate the people. Now in 2107, TMC is in power and it is using brute force to forcibly acquire land in the area…” a senior CPI (M) leader alleged.