Locals, protesting against the construction of a power sub-station, and Trinamool Congress workers allegedly clashed at Bhangar in South 24 Parganas on Thursday, injuring at least three persons. In January, Bhangar had witnessed protests against the alleged forcible land acquisition for the power project turn violent, resulting in the deaths of two persons. While protesters had alleged that the two died when police had opened fire, police had maintained that “outsiders” were responsible for the deaths.
Thursday’s clash started at around 12 pm, when Trinamool workers stopped a motorcycle rally held by members of Jami, Jibika, Poribesh O Bastutantra Rakha Committee — a platform for villagers backed by Naxal outfit CPI(ML) Red Star. A clash ensued, and two groups allegedly hurled bombs at each other, injuring at least three persons and setting five vehicles on fire.
While the villagers claimed that bullets were also fired, an officer from Bhangar police said: “No bullet injury has been reported. The two groups attacked each other, and a few people received minor injuries.”
Accusing protesters of instigating violence in the area, State Horticulture Minister Abdur Rezzak Molla said, “The agitators were holding a rally in Bhangar with arms. Trinamool workers and locals barricaded the area and stopped them. In retaliation, they hurled bombs, injuring two of our workers.”
Local strongman and TMC leader Arabul Islam blamed CPM, Congress and Maoists for the violence. “No Trinamool leader was involved in the violence. The incident took place near Anantpur, the local market. The agitators were holding a rally with arms… and the locals, who want peace, stopped them. The agitators hurled bombs and one by one, all its vehicles and bikes caught fire. This violence is the handiwork of Naxals, CPM and Congress,” he said.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh, too, blamed the CPM and Naxals for the violence. “It is their attempt to create an issue in Bhangar and stay in limelight. The state government, too, has failed to control the agitation and as a result, frequent clashes are erupting there. The ruling party is yet to make its stand clear on Bhangar. On one hand, it is saying it will not acquire land by force and on the other, it is using goons to foil the protest of villagers.”
“This will not solve the problem and the ruling party cannot kill the movement by force. We have not forgotten Nandigram incident and how such an attempt to foil farmers’ movement brought doom to the erstwhile Left Front government. If such a thing is repeated, TMC will have to pay the price,” he said, adding that the government must resolve issues through dialogue.
CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty, meanwhile, blamed the government for not being able to handle the situation. “It is unfortunate. The rally was a scheduled programme… who gave Trinamool Congress the right to attack the agitators with bombs? This government is not ready to hear any views that criticise its policies. The ruling party is trying to suppress people’s voice by using bombs and guns,” he said.
Alik Chakraborty, a leader of CPI(ML) Red Star, told a news channel: “We are still open to talks but if such attacks continue, then the government must be prepared for after-effects.”
In a statement, CPI(ML) Liberation “condemned the attack on the people of Bhangar by Trinamool goons in connivance with the police”. “…The Trinamool government is hell bent to recapture the area by brutal state repression and political terror…,” it said.