Agitator shot dead in Bengal as protest turns violent

Kolkata, Jan 17 (IANS) A person was shot dead and another received bullet injury in his arm in a violent clash between villagers and the police on Tuesday evening in West Bengal.

The clash took place in South 24 Parganas district’s Bhangar-II block as an ongoing protest against a proposed power grid project in the area intensified.

South 24 Parganas district’s 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 the police when the lawkeepers tried to enter Padmapukur village.

In the face of fierce resistance, the 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 for area domination.

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.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee assured the villagers that no land acquisition would be done without their consent and the proposed power grid in Bhangar would be relocated, if needed.

“No land will be acquired if people don’t want to give away land. Proposed power grid will be relocated, if required,” Banerjee tweeted after the incident.

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. The police resorted to a cane-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 that West Bengal Power 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 and accused ‘outsiders’ of fuelling the violence in the villages.

“The construction of the power grid is stopped for now. But a faction of the villagers is still agitating. It seems the agitators have some other motive. There are outsiders and other political party activists that are fuelling the violence,” Chatterjee said.