The Bengal government has slapped sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, generally used against terrorists, against Bhangar land agitators. These sections — 16 and 18 of UAPA — are related to acts of terrorism and conspiracy and carry capital punishment as the maximum sentence.
UAPA has been slapped against 11 people including two leaders of Maoist outfit CPI(ML)(Red Star) — Sharmistha Choudhury and Pradip Singh Thakur .
The remaining nine are villagers, including a student set to appear for their higher secondary examinations this year.
“Police has slapped UAPA sections against those arrested in connection with the Bhangar incident. We would oppose it. There is no ground for such sections in this case,” Rangta Munshi, one of the lawyers for defendants, told HT. The next hearing is on February 8.
Sections of IPC and West Bengal Maintenance of Public Order Act were also slapped against those arrested.
“We will protest. We have always demanded repeal of UA(P)A. In this case how can the police brand land agitators as terrorists,” said Sujata Bhadra, prominent human rights activist, who was a supporter of Mamata Banerjee during her Singur and Nandigram struggle.
CPI(ML)(Red Star) the little known Maoist party that led the agitation participates in elections and is a critic of the Maoists. They formed Jomi, Jibika, Poribesh O Bastutantra Raksha Committee (Committee to protect land, livelihood, environment and ecosystem) and prevented the police from entering the area for seven days.
Chattradhar Mahato, one of the faces of the Maoist movement in Lalgarh in West Midnapore district, along with three others were the first ones to be convicted under UAPA in Bengal in May 2015.
Incidentally, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government did not slap UAPA sections during the Singur and Nandigram movements between 2006 and 2009. After the Bhangar unrest, the chief minister asked the police to take strong steps and find out the agitation.