“Stop dalal-raj in Loba. These touts are responsible for the mess in this village” — this was the message that victims of police firing in Loba wanted to send to the state, when 30 residents of Loba turned up in the city on Tuesday, for a meeting organised by the Party for Democratic Socialism (PDS).
Villagers identified touts as hailing from both CPI(M) and Trinamool camps. Five villagers were injured in the police firing at Loba, Birbhum, on November 6, when police went to recover DVC EMTA machinery seized by villagers demanding proper compensation for their land.
“Around 40 touts operate in the village under the patronage of both the Trinamool and CPI(M). These touts bought our land at cheaper rates and sold it off to EMTA at high prices,” said one villager, on the condition of anonymity.
These villagers identified the ‘leaders of the land mafia’ as Sashan Ghosh, CPI(M) district committee member, Ujjal Ghosh, Trinamool zonal president and Shyamsundar Pal, CPI(M) gram panchayat member.
Some others involved in the illegal dealings were identified as Banamali Ghosh, Somnath Sarkar, Rupananda Thakur, Bhendu Bhattacharya, Arun Bhattacharya, Tasimul Haq, Noor Azim Mondal and Sattar Khan. Villagers also blamed Trinamool district president Anubrata Mondal for the chaos.
Incidentally, chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s policy of leaving corporates to directly buy land from land owners was met with much skepticism by various chambers of commerce in the state, who had warned that such a step would booth the land mafia.
“The land touts are responsible for the deteriorating situation in Loba. At around 4 am on the fateful day, about 40 to 50 police vehicles, along with these touts entered the village and brutally attached those guarding the machinery, including me. Police resorted to indiscriminate firing as the crowds swelled,” said Upananda Mondal, who was shot in the right hand.
Class 12 student of Joplai High School, Jiban Bagdi, also a victim of the shooting, agreed.
“I went to the troubled spot out of curiosity. Suddenly, the police started firing at us and I ran for my life. Two bullets hit my back. The land mafia is provoking the police,” he said.
Loba residents claim that they did not have any problems selling their land, provided they receive proper compensation.
“One acre of land in Loba yields 60,000 tonnes of coal. If the price of coal is Rs.7000 per tonne, one acre will year coal worth Rs.42 crore. The land mafia paid villagers between Rs.4 lakh and Rs.10 lakh per acre. The state government’s indifferent attitude is encouraging land grabbers,” alleged Joydip Majumdar, secretary of Loba’s Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee.