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Bhangar on boil as bombs hurled, bullets fired in midnight clashes

This fresh violence came in the wake of the villagers’ petition in Calcutta high court seeking assistance in filing nomination papers for the rural polls.

kolkata Updated: Apr 19, 2018 21:06 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Bhangar clashes,Bengal,Trinamool Congress
Bhangar villagers have been opposing a power grid project in the area since the end of 2016.(HT File Photo)

Bhangar, on the outskirts of Kolkata, where villagers are opposing a power grid project since the end of 2016, was thrown into the vortex of violence on Wednesday night with dozens of bombs being hurled and bullets fired well past midnight.

According to residents, local toughs supported by the ruling Trinamool Congress, launched an attack on the villages opposing the project – Michhibhanga, Khamar Ait, Middhyapara, Notun Hat and Oriya Para.

Residents of about a dozen villages are offering resistance to a power grid project in the area, posing a combined challenge to the might of the state government and the ruling Trinamool Congress. The stake of the ruling party has increased after two of the agitators filed nomination for the local gram panchayat, since their victory would be a slap on the Mamata Banerjee regime.

From Wednesday afternoon roads leading to the agitating villages were blocked with logs and bricks to cut off the area.

This fresh violence came in the wake of the villagers’ petition in Calcutta high court seeking assistance in filing nomination papers for the rural polls. The agitators under the banner of Jami, Jiban, Jibika, Poribesh O Bastutantra Raksha Committee (Committee for protecting land, livelihood, environment and ecosystem) decided to contest the rural elections to prove their popularity in the area.

The high court verdict is due on Friday.

“The renewed violence was to ensure that even if the high court ruled in favour of us, no one dares to submit nominations. They are afraid of facing contests because they know they will lose,” said Pradip Singh Thakur, state secretary of Naxalite outfit CPI(ML)(Red Star) that is spearheading the land agitation in Bhangar.

“It was the biggest attack the Trinamool has launched on the villages. Many villagers came out of their homes to resist the goons and finally, after nearly four hours, they went back. We are sure they will be coming back tonight,” Abdul Aziz Mallick, president of the agitating body, said on Thursday.

“They are spreading lies. We did not attack them. On the contrary the so called agitators have forced several of our workers out of the area,” said Trinamool Congress leader Arabul Islam, a former MLA.

Islam’s son heads the Polerhat II gram panchayat, which covers nearly 80% of the areas dominated by agitators.

The agitating committee, however, could file nominations for only two gram panchayat seats against their wish to contest in 16 gram panchayat, three panchayat samiti and one zilla parishad seats. Trinamool Congress-backed toughs allegedly thrashed members of the committee when they went to the block development officer’s office to submit nominations on April 6.

That night the police arrested several prominent human rights activists who were standing by the Bhangar agitation. One of them, a young doctor, Ratul Banerjee, has been booked under sections of the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

Banerjee is the fifth person associated with the movement to be booked under UA(P)A.

Incidentally, chief minister Mamata Banerjee has repeatedly said that the Bhangar project must come up since it would help power distribution in south Bengal.

First Published: Apr 19, 2018 21:06 IST