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Villager protesting land acquisition shot dead in W Bengal

'The CPI-M men raided us in police fatigues and killed him', alleges a villager.

india Updated: Jan 07, 2007 12:22 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

A villager was shot dead in overnight clashes between farmers resisting land acquisition and alleged Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) activists in West Bengal's Nandgiram plunging the constituency in East Midnapore district in fresh turmoil on Sunday.

Bharat Mandal, a 28-year-old farmer, was shot dead by CPI-M men, locals alleged. They claimed more villagers had been killed and injured in the nightlong violence unleashed allegedly by the ruling party men who raided the village in police uniform.

Kolkata TV, a Bengali news channel, showed footage of a bullet-riddled Bharat Mandal, a member of the newly formed Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (Committee to Resist Eviction from Land), lying dead.

Bharat was taken to a health centre in a rickshaw van but died on early Sunday.

"The CPI-M men raided us in police fatigues and killed him," a villager alleged.

"Bharat has two daughters and a son. I don't know what would happen to his family," the brother of Bharat Mandal said.

Local journalists claimed the attack was organised by the CPI-M men who started throwing bombs from across the river at Khejuri towards Nandigram.

Opposition parties have called for a 24-hour shutdown on Tuesday.

The Rapid Action Force (RAF) was deployed in Nandigram after the violence even as Left Front leaders demanded an immediate meeting of the Front to discuss the situation.

At least 22 mass organisations on Saturday formed a body to prevent any attempt by the West Bengal government to acquire land for a chemical hub and a special economic zone (SEZ) in Nandigram that saw violent protests against the proposal this week.

The Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (Committee to Resist Eviction from Land) was formed to prevent any move to acquire land for a proposed project by the Salim group of Indonesia and the state government even as CPI-M activists flexed their muscles and drew a battle line with the angry farmers and residents.

"We will not give any land for industrialisation here at any cost or price. We will teach the government a lesson if they use force," said a representative of the new body.

CPI-M leader Binoy Konar in Kolkata said on Saturday: "We will not sit silent in Nandigram. We will hit back if they adopt violent means." The battle lines were thus drawn in Nandigram.

Nandigram, about 150 km from Kolkata, is a minority dominated area in East Midnapore district and considered a Left Front citadel.

On Wednesday, police had to fire several rounds to quell frenzied villagers who set a police jeep on fire, heavily injured cops, blocked roads with boulders and demolished a bridge to prevent police access to their areas after word of a land acquisition notification spread.

The situation has remained explosive since then, prompting Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and the CPI-M to go on the back foot even as the Left Front constituent Communist Party of India (CPI) criticised the former for its land acquisition policies.

The Nandigram assembly seat is held by the CPI while the Haldia Lok Sabha seat belongs to the CPI-M.

In East Midnapore, the government reportedly is eyeing over 22,000 acres of land for industrial projects.

On July 31, the state government signed an agreement with the Salim Group to implement various developmental projects, including a mega chemical industrial estate, to be spread over 10,000 acres in a 50:50 joint venture.

Construction of a four-lane road bridge over the Haldi river, from Haldia to Nandigram, has also been planned. The bridge would provide a link between Haldia and the proposed chemicals SEZ in Nandigram.

First Published: Jan 07, 2007 12:22 IST