Bengal government talks to Loba villagers

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 09, 2012 18:30 hrs

Kolkata, Nov 9 (IANS) The West Bengal government and villagers of Loba, who had clashed with the police over a land acquisition dispute Nov 6, Friday held a meeting.

They differed on various issues but said they were not against the Trinamool Congress government.

Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee, who held talks with representatives of villagers, later squarely blamed the previous Left Front government for the land acquisition problems.

"Our government was not at all involved in the problems related to the land there. The land price, and related issues were decided during the Left Front regime," he told mediapersons.

The Nov 6 clashes, in which 27 policemen and six villagers were injured, occurred over a confrontation related to coal extraction by DVC Emta Coal Mines Ltd, a joint venture company, in Birbhum district's Dubrajpur area, around 226 km from here.

Some landowners had opposed additional land acquisition for the project, and seized an earth-moving machine last year. The villagers refused to let go of the company's equipment, after which it lodged a police complaint.

A police force, led by Superintendent of Police R.K. Meena, went to recover the machine but met with resistance from villagers who used bows and arrows.

Chatterjee said his government told the villagers that it would look into issues about which they had grievances.

"I have told those purchasing land to be a bit cautious. I have already spoken to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The villagers said they would participate in rural development schemes and cooperate with the government to ensure there was no more trouble.

"I have spoken to both DVC in Emta. After speaking to villagers, I will speak with them again,'" Chatterjee said.

However, the villagers, who were led by Party for Democratic Secularism secretary Samir Putatunda, said it was unjustified on the part of the police to fire on them.

The chief minister has denied any police firing.

The Krishijami Rakha Committee (Save Farmland Committee) secretary Joydeep Mazumdar said their struggle would continue.

"It is a struggle for our existence," he said.

Though Chatterjee has blamed the CPI-M, a section of the Congress and the extreme Left for the violence, Save Farmland Committee leader Felaram Mandal said none of these parties were involved.

The representatives made it clear that the company's machine would not be released till the dispute was resolved.

The villagers also put forward a six-point charter of demands including judicial probe into the incident, compensation for the injured and withdrawal of cases related to the incident.

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