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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Activists demand speedy trials against Kolkata's land sharks

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times   April 11, 2013
First Published: 13:31 IST(11/4/2013) | Last Updated: 13:33 IST(11/4/2013)

Activists are protesting against filling canals and water bodies by land sharks.

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“The issue of environmental activists being murdered was one of the first issues that came from hearing in the commission. The matter along with the status of these cases has been brought to the light of the state government,” said Biswajit Mukherjee, former chief law officer of the state environment department and president of Paribesh Academy, an NGO.

He said that at least seven people have been murdered since 1997, fighting for environmental causes. This apart, everyday, many such activists are being threatened and beaten up. But there has been little progress regarding trial of these cases.

“We have shot a letter to the home department asking for speedy trial of these cases, and if possible, to take them in fast-track courts. We are also contemplating on filing a Public Interest Litigation in this regard,” said Mukherjee.

On February 13, 2013, the joint secretary of the state home department requested the director general of police and city police commissioner to take necessary steps so that the pending cases could be followed up appropriately.

“But that was all. Till date nothing has been done,” said a senior officer of the state home department.

In January this year, the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights shot a letter to chief minister Mamata Banerjee. They are seeking her intervention to save the Chalundia Khal from land sharks - a cause for which several environment activists are working already.

“The threats come from a section of land grabbers and local promoters with strong political connections and associated with the group which murdered Barun Biswas,” said Dhiraj Sengupta general secretary of APDR.

APDR’s letter to the CM mentioned, ‘On 28th December, 2012, the threatened activists were severely beaten with rods, bamboos and bricks by a group of goons and promoters who wanted to reclaim large parts of Chalunlia Khal and wanted to eliminate those who dare to stand in their way to gain free lands out of a river-tributary which belong to state. Earlier the same activists saved a large plot of land known in the area as “Saheb-Bagan’ from the strong hands of the same group of land grabbers.’

Sengupta claimed that the local police are operating hand in glove with the land grabbers. The local BDO and other senior officials of the district adminstration also preferred not to act.

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