While thousands of villagers of Bhangore in South 24 Paragans district in West Bengal clashed with the police on throughout Tuesday as part of their opposition to setting up of a power grid in the area, the police sent a confidential report to the government blaming Maoists and about 40 Jadavpore University students for turning the peaceful agitation into a violent outburst, in which one person died.
Police said in their report that Maoists and the students had gone to Bhangore and were living among the villagers for at least two months to organize the agitation.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has agreed with the opinion of the police and has asked Kolkata police to enter the villages, if possible on Tuesday night itself, to arrest the Maoists and JU students, since most of them are from Kolkata, sources told Observe24x7. In a Tweet, Banerjee blamed “outsiders” for instigating trouble.
The enormity of the agitation came as a major embarrassment for the Mamata Banerjee government, which came to power after prolonged agitation on the issue of land acquisition and yet had to face angry villagers on the same issue of land.
Villagers have been protesting against setting up of the power grid for the last six months with the Jami-Jibika-Bastutantra-O-Paribesh-Raksha Committee leading the agitation, which was peaceful in nature. The situation took a turn for the worse after two activists of the committee were detained by the police on Monday night.
The detention provoked the villagers to set up barricades in all the major roads leading to Bhangore. Though the government announced that the power grid would not be set up there if locals were opposed to it, the villagers questioned the government’s sincerity after the two activists were detained.
The situation went completely out of control after policemen began raiding the villages late in the night and allegedly demolished furniture and utensils in some the houses and arrested six locals. On Tuesday morning, villagers set up fresh road blocks, arranged for crude bombs, bows and arrows and stones and clashed with the police when they attempted to remove the barricades.
At least three police vehicles were set on fire and some police vehicles were pushed inside local ponds. Cane charges and firing of tear gas canisters failed to disperse the angry villagers. Completely outnumbered and also under strict instructions from the government not to open fire, the police left the area in the evening. Several policemen were injured.
At least one villager, Mafijul Khan, died from bullet injuries and another was injuries. Akbar Ali Mollah, the injured villager who was rushed to R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital, said the police fired from inside a Tata Sumo car after they were chased by angry villagers. The police denied the charge.
The brother of the dead, however, said goons close to local Trinamool Congress leader Arabul Islam, fired to instigate trouble.
The Bhangore agitation bears uncanny resemblance with the agitation in Nandigram in 2007 where villagers had started a similar agitation against then Left Front government’s attempts to acquire land for a chemical hub project. Even then, the government had blamed Maoists for instigating violence there.
The prolonged agitation in Nandigram had finally brought down the Left Front government from power in 2011 when the Trinmool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee replaced it.