Nine of the 19 agitators who were arrested in connection with Bhangar agitation in January were granted bail by the Judicial Magistrate at Baruipur court on Saturday. This is the first time that bail has been granted in the Bhangar agitation case. All 19 were arrested and slapped with Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). While four were affiliated to political parties, as many as 15 were agitating village residents. They were arrested on January 17, the day two persons, including a second-year college student, were killed in alleged police firing.
While the Baruipur court granted bail to 11 of the accused, the magistrate rescinded bail to two – Kushal Debnath and Sankar Das, after the government counsel pointed out that another case had been filed against them in the Calcutta High Court.
Both Debnath as well as Das belong to the Bhangar Andolan Sanhati Committee and are leaders of the movement. Das is also a member of the CPI (ML) Red Star, which has been spearheading the Bhangar land agitation while Debnath is a labour activist in the area. “While we are disappointed that Debnath and Das have not received bail today, we are happy that the other nine have. This is the first time anyone has gotten bail in the Bhangar case and we are hopeful that all the others in prison right now will also receive bail including Sarmistha Chowdhury,” said Ranjit Sur, vice-president, Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), who is also engaged in the movement.
The agitations, which have been on for the past year, turned violent in January when the PGCIL started erecting power grid towers on the land, a part of their power sub- station project. Agitators had said the high voltage overhead lines were the main bone of contention as it passed over their homes. They also alleged forced land acquisition from farmers.