Singur on boil as farmers clash with police, Medha arrested
By Indo Asian News Service
Kolkata, Dec 2 (IANS) Singur, the proposed site for Tata Motors' small car project, reached a flashpoint Saturday as farmers clashed with police during fencing of acquired land even as West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya vowed to facilitate the unit in the disputed farmland despite protests.
Social activist Medha Patkar, who suddenly appeared on the scene, was arrested by police along with her associates and sent back towards Kolkata even as Trinamool Congress supporters blocked road and rail after news spread that police had unleashed terror on women and children in the villages.
Farmers fought pitched battles with police in the fields of Singur in Hooghly district, about 45 km from here as the administration sent a huge police force there to take possession of the land and fence it for a proposed Tata Motors small car project.
Women and children in Beraberi, Khaserbheri, Gopalnagar and Singerbheri villages were beaten up by the advancing policemen, alleged farmers' organisations. The adult males of the villages had fled their homes Friday night itself fearing arrest. However, police claimed the aggressive villagers attacked them with acid bulbs and arrows.
At least 5,000 police and paramilitary forces - sent to take possession of the land - used tear gas on the villagers and fired rubber bullets. A huge pile of harvested paddy caught fire in the clashes.
Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia said: 'The police were attacked with acid bombs and arrows and many of us, including women cops, were injured.
'The police had to chase the villagers and arrested a few. The crowd was aggressive,' Kanojia told IANS.
Saturday is the second day of land acquisition.
Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Patkar, who was intercepted on her way to Singur, managed to reach the area by dodging the police but was stopped when she tried to enter a village at Khaserbheri where women and children were allegedly tortured by policemen.
'When I visited a village at Beraberi I found women crying. Police unleashed a havoc in the village and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) cadres were there too. Women were molested and handled by men police,' Medha alleged.
'They arrested us without even telling on what ground we were arrested. I was not there to incite people,' said Medha.
Trinamool Congress legislator Rabindranath Bhattacharya said about 1,000 policemen swooped down on the villagers. Many women were beaten and many others seriously injured.
'This is the second phase of our agitation that began seven months ago. Now they are trying to take possession of our land. I am sure this agitation will not be restricted to Singur alone but will spread all over,' he said.
Singur Krishijami Bachao Committee (Save Singur Farmland Committee) convenor Becharam Manna told IANS: 'It is a shame to democracy. Our women were assaulted and children beaten up by the cops. Everyone was hit with batons.'
Manna denied that the villagers attacked the policemen with acid bulbs or arrows.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharya said the car project would continue despite all opposition and claimed that the police were attacked with knives and provoked leading to the action.
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who was forcibly stopped on her way to Singur for a rally Thursday, asked her party MLAs to head for Singur.
'We will not allow fencing by force. The chief minister unleashed his goons in the garb of policemen,' she said later.
Banerjee, who was in Islampur in north Bengal for an election campaign, rushed back to the city even as life was disrupted by the Trinamool activists who blocked road and rail, including the city's lifeline Howrah Bridge.
Several Maoists, including students from the Jadavpur University, and Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) party workers also were arrested in Singur while in Kolkata students of the prestigious Presidency College took to streets and courted arrest.
Footage captured by Bengali news channel Kolkata TV showed policemen used teargas and beat up villagers. It also showed women and children breaking into tears and in anger as police took possession of their villages. Section 144 of the Indian penal code has been imposed in the area.
The farmlands owners, who mostly live in the city, have sold the land to the government for the Tata Motors small car project. The protesting villagers are the tillers or sharecroppers, especially the unrecorded tillers, who work on the land and have a close association with it. They stand to lose their livelihood and homes with the land acquisition.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharya claimed that 927 of the 993 acres needed for the Tata Motors plant has been acquired, but Mamata Banerjee said at least 531 acres are with the farmers.
'There was no need to send so many policemen if the land was in the possession of the government,' Mamata told IANS earlier.
Copyright Indo-Asian News Service