Kolkata, Jan 17 (IANS) A man was shot dead and another received bullet injury in his arm in a violent clash between villagers and police on Tuesday evening in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district as an ongoing protest against a proposed power grid project in the area intensified.
A number of policemen also sustained injuries during the clash in the district’s Bhangar-II block.
Following the violence, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee assured the villagers that no land acquisition would be done without their consent and the proposed project would be relocated, if needed.
South 24 Parganas’ Bhangar, known for its history of political violence, is on the boil since last week over “forced” acquisition of 16 acres of farmland — spread over the villages of Khamarait, Machhi Bhanga, Tona and Padmapukur — by the state government for the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL).
The area flared up when angry protestors fought a pitched battle with police when the latter tried to enter Padmapukur.
In the face of fierce resistance, police beat a retreat.
The injured protestor was rescued by the villagers and later taken to the RG Kar Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata.
The confrontation escalated on Tuesday afternoon when a huge police force, accompanied by a battalion of the Rapid Action Force, tried to enter the village.
Stones were pelted at the police vans from all directions injuring several police personnel.
The villagers torched a police van while two other police vehicles were pushed into a pond, police said.
In a tweet later, Banerjee said: “No land will be acquired if people don’t want to give away land. Proposed power grid will be relocated, if required.”
Food Procurement and Horticulture Minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah, who is also the local legislator, said he would have a word with Banerjee about the demand of the villagers. Mollah, who could not enter the spot, claimed “outsiders have entered the villages” .
“The CPI-ML Red Star and other Naxalite groups have been organising the protestors for quite some time. The CPI-M and the Congress are also behind the disturbances.
“I’ll have a word with the Chief Minister about people’s demand in Bhangar. I am against taking land from people forcefuly without proper compensation packages,” he said.
“Outsiders have entered the village and they are misguiding the villagers. They were conducting meetings in these villages for a long time,” he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, nearly 10,000 protestors gathered with sticks and rods and put up road blockades at various points using tree trunks to protest against alleged torture by police on Monday night.
The armed villagers surrounded the police personnel posted near the under-construction power grid and demanded that they leave the village. Police carried out a baton charge and fired teargas shells at the agitators to take control of the area.
The agitators also accused the RAF and the police of terrorising the villagers and breaking into their houses in the darkness of the night.
“The RAF and police are beating us mercilessly. They are trying to terrorise us. Even the women and children are not being spared. We will not tolerate this,” said a resident of Machhi Bhanga village.
The anti-acquisition agitators demanded thatPower Minister Sovandeb Chatterjee should come to Bhangar and announce cancellation of the project.
“The government is saying the plan to build a power grid in our village has been dropped, but then why is the construction work still on? The Power Minister has to come here and announce cancellation,” an agitator said.
However, on Tuesday afternoon, Chatterjee claimed he has already ordered a halt to the power grid work while also accusing “outsiders” of fuelling the violence.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India-Marxist State Secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra held Banerjee responsible for the disturbances. “The Chief Minister is solely responsible for the violence. She should consider whether she now has the moral right to continue in office”.