Protest against power grid project turns violent in Bengal

Kolkata, Jan 17 (IANS) A violent clash broke out between villagers and police on Tuesday in West Bengal’s Bhangar as the ongoing protest against the proposed power grid project in the area intensified further.

Nearly 10,000 villagers gathered with sticks and rods and blocked the road to the village at various points using tree trunks to protest against alleged torture by police on Monday night.

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 in Bhangar II block — by the state government for the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL).

On Tuesday, armed villagers surrounded the police personnel posted near the under-construction power grid and demanded they leave the village. The police resorted to a lathicharge and fired teargas shells at the agitators to take control of the area.

The agitators also accused the Rapid Action Force and 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 agitators, united in the anti-land acquisition movement, demanded that state power minister Sovandeb Chatterjee come to Bhangar in person and announce cancellation of the power grid 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, state power minister 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.