West Bengal industry minister Partha Chatterjee is learnt to have directed the police to intervene in a land dispute that turned violent in Birbhum on Tuesday even as his leader Mamata Banerjee said the security persons acted on their own.
While no one came on record, sources in the district police and the Trinamool Congress’s Birbhum unit told HT on Thursday SP Rishikesh Meena had received calls from Chatterjee, who told him to retrieve a piece of machine of mining company Bengal EMTA from the villagers who had seized the equipment of the firm.
A police source said: “In early September, Chatterjee called the SP, demanding an explanation why the machine was not recovered. The SP said such attempts could create tension and might require force. Chatterjee allegedly asked the SP to go ahead.”
After the violence, Meena had told HT there was pressure on him. However, he refused to disclose who pressured him.
The minister on Thursday denied any role in the incident. “I didn’t instruct the police. Neither my department nor the state government did so. Is it our job to instruct the police?”
However, earlier in the day the minister told a TV channel that he had visited the village in August and asked the locals to release the machinery. Chatterjee also said the district magistrate and the SP were present in the meeting.
The genesis of the trouble was the granting of mining rights to Bengal EMTA and DVC, which had acquired 3,500 acres, spread over 16 villages. The land was acquired for lifting coal for a thermal power plant run by DVC. The villagers formed the Krishi Bhumi Raksha Committee and began demanding more compensation and rehabilitation.