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

FP

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.

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