About 40 days before their violent confrontation with the police over rehabilitation issues, residents of Loba village in Birbhum had written to West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, apprising her of the problem surrounding the purchase of land by mining company Bengal EMTA.
Before writing to Banerjee — who herself had spearheaded the struggle against land acquisition when the Left Front was in power — on September 27, they had communicated with commerce and industries minister Partha Chatterjee, local MP Shatabdi Roy, the district magistrate and the superintendent of police.
In their letters, the Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee (KJRC) leadership alleged Bengal EMTA hadn’t spoken to the villagers. “They started buying land through touts. However, they couldn’t start their project unless they bought all the land required,” the letter read.
“We are an apolitical platform formed to preserve the interests of the working class and farmers. We are not obstructing the development of the coal industry in Birbhum. We simply want proper rehabilitation packages. However, by influencing certain sections of the administration, Bengal EMTA is unleashing terror in the area.”
The letters prove all wings of the state government, the CM included, had been forewarned by the agitators. Trouble began on November 6, when the police allegedly fired at villagers who were demanding a better deal, following their displacement.
The villagers had attacked a team of about 150 policemen, including the superintendent of police, additional superintendent of police and officers-in-charge, who went to recover the earth-moving equipment the locals had seized from the firm.
A company executive said: “We had offered the amount decided by the state government ... But they didn’t allow us to start work.”