India: “33 injured as police clash with people in West Bengal village over earth mover seizure”

[See the news articles, then the statement from the Democratic Student Union of JNU. -- Frontlines ed.]

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Another land row in Bengal, over 25 cops injured in clash with villagers

The Indian Express, Kolkata, Wed Nov 07 2012

Villegers with traditional weapons confront the police

In fresh trouble for the West Bengal government, thousands of villagers who were protesting against land acquisition by a private coal mining company took on the police in Dubrajpur in Birbhum district, about 200 kilometres from Kolkata, early today. Over 25 policemen were reported to have sustained injuries in what appeared to have been a well-orchestrated attack by the villagers who were armed with bows and arrows and crude bombs.

Amid allegations that the police had opened fire, state home secretary Basudeb Banerjee categorically stated that “there was no firing on the part of the police”.

Five villagers were reported to have been injured in the clashes that began late on Monday night, but hospital officials denied any of them had bullet injuries.

All the five injured villagers are reported to be Trinamool Congress supporters from Loba village. As many as nine police vehicles were torched. In a late night development, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ordered the removal of Birbhum SP H Meena, who was asked to proceed on leave.

The problem dates back to 2009, when EMTA, a private company which entered into a joint venture with the Damodar Valley Corporation for supply of coal to its plant, obtained the mining licence for the area. The company was slated to acquire 3,500 acres of land, but it has only been able to acquire 700 acres so far — 200 acres of government land and 500 acres of private land. Loba, which has a TMC-backed panchayat, and the surrounding villages fall within the 3,500-acre area.

About a year back, the company had brought in some earth-moving equipment to start work in the area. But the villagers, who alleged inadequate compensation and launched the Save Agricultural Land Committee supported by a TMC faction, did not allow any work to be carried out.

Today’s flare-up was provoked by the company’s attempt to remove the earth-moving equipment from the area, with the protection of the police forces.

“Earlier, private owners sold their land cheap… they later felt they had been cheated and set up the Save Agricultural Land Committee,” said a local TMC leader on the condition of anonymity. Significantly, another TMC faction is reported to be supporting the private company.

As compensation, the mining company had provided Rs 4 lakh per acre for river bank land, Rs 8 lakh per acre for one-crop farmland, and Rs 10 lakh per acre for multi-crop farmland.

Meanwhile, EMTA officials in Kolkata declined to comment on the issue. Incidentally, EMTA was earlier de-allocated coal blocks in Himachal Pradesh in the wake of the coal block allocation controversy.

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ANI – Tuesday 6 November 2012

Dubrajpur (W.Bengal), Nov.6 (ANI): Police and villagers clashed in Dubrajpur village in West Bengal on Tuesday during an attempt to seize an earth mover that was being used by the villagers to mine coal.
According to media reports, the exact number of casualties is not known at the moment…The villagers claimed that the police fired at them, but the administration has denied it. As per the reports, six people have been injured, but there are no bullet injuries…Twenty-seven policemen have been reportedly injured, when villagers attacked them with bows and arrows…The earthmover belongs to DVC Emta, which has coal mining rights in Birbhum. The villagers allegedly took the vehicle away last year…A villager, Upananda Mondal, said that the policemen cordoned off the area and fired, leaving several villagers injured…”Today in the morning, the police came here and cordoned off the village area. They started firing and injured several villagers,” he said.
Dubrajpur area is the coal belt of Birbhum district and a number of coal mafias are active in the area.
The local people have often alleged that there are frequent deaths due to coal disputes in the area. (ANI)

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Democratic Student Union, Jawaharlal Nehru University — Statement — 10 November 2012

Condemn the police firing on protesting villagers in Dubrajpur! No matter which party is in power, it is the same story of corporate land grab and plunder!

“The problem started during the Left Front rule. Since then we have knocked on the doors of all political parties — CPM, Congress and Trinamool Congress. All of them assured us that they would take up the cause but didn’t do anything”– the protesters at Dubrajpur
In another case of police firing at the behest of corporations, an armed force of over 1,000 policemen entered Dubrajpur in West Bengal’s Birbhum district and opened fire on protesting villagers. Twenty villagers, including a woman and school children, were injured in the police firing with two of them in a serious condition. The police went there to recover the machinery of the DVC-EMTA Coal Mines which has acquired 600 acres of land from the area.
The background of the police firing: In 2010, during the then ‘Left’ Front rule, the DVC-EMTA Coal Mines was given nearly 600 acres of land for an open-cast mine. Since then, the people had been protesting against the land grab. After the TMC came to power in 2011 it continued with the project despite stern opposition from the people. In 2011 the villagers of Loba, Palashdanga and Juprai drove away the officials from the region and seized their instruments, demanding that the government pay them the compensation first. The TMC led state government and the DVC Emta Coal mines since then were working in tandem to recover the equipment. The industries minister Partha Chatterjee called up the local SP a few days back asking him to expedite the recovery. The TMC Birbhum president Anubrata Mandal even accompanied when the police was on its way to wreck mayhem.
The TMC led state government ordered the police firing. But, it was however quick to go into a denial mode right after the firing – even going to the extent of forging hospital documents of the injured to somehow prove its claims.Similar to what was said by the CPM during Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh movements, the TMC is claiming that the “innocent” people of Dubrajpur were incited to violence by ‘misguided outsiders’. And when our ruling class politicians are talking about outsiders, how can they forget the Maoists? CPM always saw the hand of Maoists and TMC (as well as a nexus between the two!) whenever people rose up in revolt against its terror. And now the TMC is claiming that the Maoists and CPM may be behind the resistance in Dubrajpur! But seeing through this hypocrisy of both the TMC and CPM, the people of Dubrajpur who are currently protesting against the TMC led state government and its attempts of forceful eviction also refused to talk to the ‘Left’ front delegation that went to the area.

The TMC had replaced the CPM government more than a year back with the grand promise of ‘parivartan’. But it did not take long for the real face of this parivartan to unmask itself. Mamata Banerjee who had shed crocodile tears for the struggling people of Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh did not take long to unleash the same state repression on the people, once she came to power. The continuing state terror in Junglemahal, the eviction of slum dwellers and arrest of activists from Nonadanga and now the police firing in Dubrajpur reveals how the TMC is united with all other parliamentary parties in carrying on with brute force all the anti-people policies of the Indian state. Only a revolutionary transformation of the present society, and not change of governments, will put an end to the corporate loot and plunder.

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