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Violence in Bengal shutdown, fragile peace in Nandigram

Violence in Bengal shutdown, fragile peace in Nandigram

A fractured peace was brokered by the administration after unrelenting clashes claimed at least five lives in Nandigram area, even as West Bengal saw sporadic violence Monday during a shutdown to protest the killings over land acquisition for a special economic zone (SEZ) to be developed by an Indonesian firm.

Of the two all party peace meetings held in Nandigram, about 150 km southwest of Kolkata, one failed with the Trinamool Congress and Congress boycotting it. The other arrived at some peace initiatives.

East Midnapore district magistrate Anup Agarwal held a peace meeting with all political parties to defuse the situation following which the administration decided to remove all political party camps within five kilometres of Nandigram and rebuild the roads dug up by villagers.
However, another meeting called by the police superintendent failed over the arrest of a villager whose release was demanded by the opposition parties.

The office-in-charge of the Nandigram police station was also replaced by his Panskura counterpart.

As the shutdown, called by the opposition, was observed in the state, angry villagers under the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (Committee to Resist Eviction from Land) torched a Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) office at Dinbandhupur Lockgate in Nandigram around 6 a.m., police said.

Several policemen were also injured in stone throwing by the villagers during the violence and police had to fire in the air to quell the mob.

Home Secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy in Kolkata confirmed the recovery of five bodies following clashes between farmers resisting land acquisition for the SEZ and activists of the ruling CPI-M. Till Sunday night, three bodies had been recovered even though electronic media stationed there put the toll at six.

Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty, however, claimed that 11 people had died including nine CPI-M men.

Ruling Left Front chairman Biman Bose in a press conference said that the Nandigram flare-up was premeditated with a blueprint already planned in a house belonging to one Manas Khatua in the area where students and research scholars were visiting for over a month.

He said Khatua's son Shankar led the protest in Nandigram. He said social activist Medha Patkar also visited the area Dec 3 though did not name her directly as one associated with the group.
There were incidents of overnight firing and bombings in the area as police entered the villages Monday for the first time since Wednesday.

Police were attacked and injured Wednesday by villagers angry over reports of a land acquisition notification for a chemical hub and the SEZ, to be developed by the state in collaboration with Indonesia's Salim Group.

Villagers, however, alleged that CPI-M men tried to enter their homes in police uniform even Sunday night.

Earlier they had dug roads, threw logs and trees on the way to Nandigram and demolished bridges to prevent the entry of police and outsiders.
As tension escalated, the 24-hour shutdown called by the Congress, Trinamool Congress and Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) turned violent at several places with buses being stoned and set afire.

Over 500 strike supporters were arrested till late in the afternoon as the situation turned volatile in south Kolkata's Hazra area, close to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's residence, and before the Writers' Buildings that houses state government offices.

The strikers gathered at Hazra repeatedly clashed with police who resorted to hitting them. Congress leader and former city mayor Subrata Mukherjee was arrested as were SUCI activists, particularly women, when they tried to enter the Writers' Buildings.

Two buses were set ablaze in Uttar Dinajpur district in north Bengal while vehicles were stoned and damaged in Kolkata's Taltala, in Howrah and D.H. Road areas.
Media personnel, especially electronic media camerapersons, also alleged that they had been beaten up by police.

Train services were badly hit. Most schools and shops were closed in Kolkata and few buses could be seen on the roads. However, Sector V in Salt Lake, the IT hub of Kolkata, was kept outside the purview of the protest by the parties.
Air services functioned normally during the day.


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posted by Bimal 9.1.07,


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