Priyasmita and Reeju Pathak
On Tuesday, 17.01.2017, the peaceful agitators at Bhangar witnessed the ruthless violent side of state terror. West Bengal police in an unholy nexus with local TMC goons, open fired on the agitating mass, killing two young men (Alamgir and Mafizul). The former was a 22 year old student of Derozio College, the nearest college in that part of 24 Parganas(South).
The killing of two men was the culmination to the series of terrorizing activities that gripped the innocent agitating villagers of Bhangar since the previous night. On Tuesday night Kalu Sheikh, a local agitator from the adjoining Uttar Gajipur village, was arrested by the CID, all of a sudden. This sparked a spontaneous unrest among all the villagers and they spontaneously blocked Haroa Road. Police had to give in to their legitimate demand and released Kalu Sheikh.
The next morning saw the violent outburst of state terror. Huge numbers of RAF personnel circled the entire area. RAF in tandem with police from Kashipur PS and local TMC goons, under the leadership of Arabul Islam, started violently torturing the innocent villagers. Women and children were not spared either. They entered each village house in Khamar Ait, Machibhanga, Tona among others and pulled out each individual physically injuring all of them. Many of the houses and shops along with two revered mosques of the area were vandalized. The violent ordeal continued through the day till evening when police along with TMC goons open fired on the mass, killing two young students from the area.
Such a terrible act of state atrocity where two college goers had to lose their lives has not been officially lamented by any state authority in any form. Many of the witnessing villagers have testified that the bullets were shot by Arabul’s men who were disguised in police uniforms. It revokes our memories of Nandigram genocide when “genji police” became a part of collective vocabulary.It should also be noted that the police authorities have denied their complicity in firing, branding it as an act of miscreants. Why is every state agent acting in such vehement denial is baffling.
While the Chief Minister has verbally announced that power grid set up will be stalled if the residents of the area are against it and the state authorities will not physically harm any people from the area, eleven innocent villagers who were arrested on Tuesday have been given police custody for another six days. They are given charges under explosive act,arms act etc. While the DM assured that state police would not contend the bail seeking plea for the eleven arrested, just the opposite happened. Instead of getting bailed, their police custody got extended. The state has been progressively increasing the RAF deployment in the area and the entire area is in a general state of restlessness. Villagers are persisting in their Haroa road blockade program since Tuesday.
In their website, PGCIL states that before beginning with any construction work, it is mandated to conduct a thorough mass hearing among the inhabitants of that place. Only after meaningful exchange of public opinion and consent, can the company go ahead with its project implementation. Nothing of that sort was conducted at Bhangor. Why?
Over and above the blatant disobey of rules and breach of minimum democracy, the local TMC leader, Arabul Islam had been intimidating the villagers to sell off their lands. They have also been paid arbitrarily. While some got 2.5 lacs/bigha, some had to be content with 1 lac. It has been reported by villagers that Arabul with his men would enter the villages at night to terrorize villagers by charging bombs and open firing. Why did the state remain a mute spectator all along? Now that the people are speaking up against the misdeeds of these local ruffians and alleging that they were complicit in firing bullets, why isn’t our CM, who is also the Police minister not taking necessary actions? Why has no investigation into the matter initiated yet? As the CM of the state she is the guarantor of democracy and peace in her state. Why is she silent about the violence meted out against villagers by the state?
The villagers believe that the construction of the power grid and the passage of high tension electricity lines will cause serious harm to their health, livelihoods, ecology and environment. Their concerns should be carefully noted by the authorities. If the state and company authorities really think that such concerns are baseless (as is being propagated now) why have they not made any efforts in putting across their argument to the villagers? Why have the villagers not been assured of any ill effects from the side of the government?
The website also states that no construction of power grid should be done in thickly populated areas. The said area is a densely populated area with a high child population. Some of the residents of Tona and Dhibdhibe Bazar area got electric shocks during their everyday activities around the areas where the electric poles are erected. Many of them sell of their lands to gather money for their daughters’ weddings. After the power grid construction gets over, these lands will get devalued for sure. It is estimated that the 2.5 lacs/bigha might go down to as low as 1 lac/bigha. How will these people manage to carry out their tasks is quite unsettling.
One of the saddest ways of curbing the movement‘s spirit has been the much tried tactic of mislabeling the participants of the movement. It is a mass movement, a movement of people. Students and democratic people from across the state have participated in it to lend their voice against ongoing injustice. The WB CM has branded such participants as Maoists, ultra lefts, Naxalites, etc. The insider-outsider theory has also been made up. As long as humanity and rationale exists in humans, humans will speak up against injustice; take part in movements to establish people’s rights. What is right will remain right, people will take stands irrespective of threats and terror tactics.