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A little over a month after residents lifted a blockade in Bhangar, it was reimposed on Sunday after police arrested a man from the region. The police action came after one person was injured in violence between TMC and villagers last week. Although police sources claimed the person was arrested based on his “criminal activity”, and had no link to the clashes in January, residents set up roadblocks with felled tree trunks and demanded the immediate release of the accused. Alleging police atrocity and protesting the arrest, several villagers put up barricades on roads at Natunhaat, Khamarhati and Padmapukur, following which a huge police force was deployed to maintain law and order.
Bhangar has remained tense since January 17 this year. Residents had protested against, what they claim was, forcible acquisition of land for a power project. The protest soon turned violent. Two persons died, allegedly killed in police firing. Police, however, had claimed they were killed by “outsiders” who fired on protesters to fan violence.
The CID probe into the deaths has made little progress.
Since the deaths, a blockade was imposed against government officials and lasted for at least 10 days, after which residents agreed to talks. Even then, police were not allowed in.
On Friday, local TMC leader, Kaizar Ahmed had attempted to meet with another party worker at Padmapukur, one of the villages that had protested the land acquisition. However, locals interrupted the meeting and allegedly attacked the two.
The next day, the TMC, led by Ahmed, protested in Bhangar.
“During this protest, village residents alleged TMC workers threw bombs and bricks at them. The situation turned quite violent, and at least one youth from Khamarhati village was injured,” said a police source.
With violence escalating, the police, led by Saikat Ghosh, Additional SP (East Zone) of South-24 Parganas arrived at Bhangar. Sources said Ghosh was roped in from Barrackpore Police Commissionerate in January to “better handle the Bhangar situation”.
On Sunday, the police carried out a massive search operation in the village and allegedly harassed a number of residents. According to sources, their targets were likely a number of CPI-ML activists, blamed by the government for instigating protests, who have allegedly found “safe haven” in the villages.
“The TMC is instigating the violence in the area. Using this violence as a plank, the police is entering villages and harassing villagers,” said Sheikh Azim, one of the protesters.