The spreading fire of farmers' resistance to the government's land acquisition drive claimed the life of a policemen as an angry mob beat DIB Sub-Inspector Sadhu Chatterjee to death at Gangamore village near Haldia on Wednesday.
This is the first time since the killing of a Sub-Inspector at Naxalbari 40 years ago that agitated farmers killed a policeman.
Trouble also rocked Singur – the site of the Tata Motors factory – where angry farmers uprooted 80-odd bamboo poles used for fencing and 14 halogen lampposts erected on the paddy fields.
The deceased policeman is still traceless. The injured including Nirmal Majhi, officer-in-charge of Bhawanipore police station were admitted to hospitals in Tamluk and Kolkata in a critical condition.
The trouble started at around 11.30 am when an eight-member police force of the local police station reached Gangamore village. About 150 villagers belonging to Bhumi Uchhed Protirodh Committee, armed with lathis, axes and bombs, first gheraoed the policemen and then beat them up. Chatterjee who was in civil dress died on the spot. But the other policemen sustained severe head injuries. District police administration suspects that the slain policeman was thrown into the nearby Haldi river.
Police said that tension prevailed in the area after a clash between local CPI-M supporters and farmers in the village on Tuesday night. Tapas Utthasini, a local committee member of the CPI-M was seriously beaten up by the angry farmers during the clash. He was brought to a state-run hospital in Kolkata.
The local CPI-M lodged a FIR against a committee member.
A huge contingent of police force led by NR Babu, DIG (Midnapore range) rushed to Gangamore on Wednesday afternoon after the death of the DIB sub-inspector. Police started combing operation at Gangamore and nearby villages Iswardaha and Jalpai.
Meanwhile, Siddiqulla Chowdhury, general secretary of Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind has threatened to lay seize to Writers' Buildings and block the chief minister's convoy if the state administration did not prevent CPI(M) activists from terrorising villagers.
"When the cops started threatening the villagers and abused them, villagers started shouting at them. Soon the situation went out of control. Villagers armed with lathis and spades attacked the cops and hit them on their heads," explained Trinamool Congress MLA Suvendu Adhikari, who is heading the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee.
The incident shocked the CPI(M) leadership. A rattled CPI(M) MP Lakshman Seth said: "The villagers were armed to the teeth. And there is no way we can get inside Nandigram unless the administration restores normalcy. Today's incident shows the state of affairs in the area."
At Singur trouble began at dawn when 300-odd farmers forced their way inside the fenced area of the proposed Tata automobile plant at Bajemelia and Beraberi villages.
The farmers went into rampage at 5.30 am and the police moved in half-an-hour later. And then followed a 30-minute pitched battle between the police and the farmers in the paddy fields. The police had to resort to lathi-charge and had to fire tear gas shells and rubber bullets to disperse the angry mob.
Later, the villagers also cut off an entry road at Bajemalia village to prevent the cops from coming inside with reinforcements.
Local people alleged that this was in retaliation to the RAF movement inside the Bajemalia villager on Monday, when one of the cops hit the five-year-old daughter of Pashupatinath Mallik. "This agitated the villagers. We have been complaining that the police is frequently entering the villages and peeping inside the houses," said Madan Ghosh of Gopalnagar village.
"Though the incident happened at two places – Bajemelia and Beraberi – the villagers from Rupnarayanpur, Gopalnagar, Singherbera, Bajemalia, Beraberi and Khaserberi participated in the battle against the police. As a result of state government's acquisition of 997 acres of land in Singur, nearly 10,000 farmers have been affected," added Rabindranath Bhattacharya.
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