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The death toll in West Bengal’s Bhangar land agitation has gone up to two as protests turned violent on Tuesday after an angry mob torched at least 10 police vehicles. The deceased have been identified as Mofijul Khan and Alam Mollah. The Indian Express had earlier reported 26-year-old Khan was brought dead to Kolkata’s SSKM hospital with a bullet wound. “Apparently he had a bullet injury in the back, and the cause of death was excessive bleeding,” an officer had said. The victims’ families allege firing by TMC cadres.
WATCH VIDEO| Atleast Two Killed As West Bengal Land Protests Turn Violent
Police denied opening fire at the protesters and said it was the mob that resorted to firing. South 24 Parganas SP Sunil Kumar Choudhary told The Indian Express: “There was no firing from the police side. A large number of police personnel have been injured following firing and bombing by the agitators.” Sources in police also told The Indian Express they were investigating the possible involvement of “outsiders” and Maoists in the violence.
The area has been seeing heightened tension since October 2016 as farmers opposed construction of a Power Grid substation to transmit power between West Bengal and a part of Bihar. In 2013, about 13 acres of land was acquired for the project from farmers who later protested, saying they had not been paid the market value of the land. They opposed the project and demanded return of their land.
Work at the project site was suspended two weeks ago but the protests intensified over the last two days. Two TMC senior leaders, Abdur Rezzak Mollah and Mukul Roy, were sent to take stock of the situation on the ground but could not enter the affected area. Matters came to a head Monday when Kalu Sheikh, one of those spearheading the agitation, was detained by police. This led to more protests and Sheikh was set free.
— (With inputs from Sweety Kumari, Aniruddha Ghosal)