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Bhangar, West Bengal: Developing Movement against Land Acquisition

December 29, 2016


Photo: January 16-17: Massive police and RAF action descends on Bhangor

Contents:
8. January 18 – Kolkata: Protest rally against police action in Bhangor
7. January 17 – Massive police and RAF action on movement
6. January 14 – Mass gathering as administration goes back on promise to withdraw power plant
5. January 10 – Huge mass gathering in Gazipur village
4. January 9: Press Note from Jomi, Jibika, Bastutantra O Poribesh Raksha Committee
3. December 28 – Mass gathering in Machhi Bhanga village, Bhangor
2. December 27
1. Background
*****************

January 18, 2017
A protest rally has been planned in Kolkata from College Square to Dharmatala starting at 2 pm. This rally is to protest the police action in Bhangor.
*****************

January 17, 2017
A huge police action has descended on the movement over the last 24 hours.
RAF and police have entered Khamarait village. There is a huge RAF presence in Natunhat. They are dragging out women and men from their homes. Villagers are being beaten up. Shops and houses have been destroyed. A ferocious attack on the movement is going on.

Earlier, Kalu Shekh, an important participant in the movement, had been arrested from Gazipur village and then released under mounting peoples’ anger. Thousands upon thousands of villagers had come out in protest. Police descended on a victory procession that followed.
****************

January 14, 2017
The administration backtracks on its promise to withdraw the power grid. Locals reacted today by arranging a gathering in Polarhat. However, police were deployed from the afternoon and permission to hold a meeting was denied.

Within one hour, people gathered in a different location – in Gazipur village, in a field near the Bildharipara neighbourhood. Over 5000 people came.
***************

January 10, 2017
A meeting is going on in Gazipur village today, the 10th. This follows the meeting in Urepara yesterday.
More than ten thousand people have already gathered for the meeting. The news is spreading to nearby villages as well.
It should be noted that Gazipur is the village of Arabul, the so-called “terror of Bhangor”. A few days ago, Arabul had come to threaten the villagers with his acolytes and goons. The villagers drove him out and took out a procession of 2000 people. And today’s mass gathering proved once again that when the people organise, the rulers are rendered toothless.
Gazipur: Photos from mass gathering on January 10




Above – Gazipur: Photos from mass gathering on January 10


December 28
A movement has been developing against the acquisition of 16 acres of farmland in Bhangar, in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. The land was acquired by the State government for the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL).
The villages of Khamarait, Machhi Bhanga, Tona and Gazipur in the Bhangar II block have been on the boil in the last few days.
On December 27, Section 144 was imposed in a radius of 1.5 km surrounding Khamarait, and gatherings of more than three people were subject to arrest. Employees and officials of PGCIL were exempt from Section 144.

Photo: Huge protest gathering on December 28, 2016 in Machhi Bhanga village, Bhangor block West Bengal
On December 28, a huge gathering of several thousand people took place. People coming in vehicles from Deganga, Beleghata, and other places, arrived on foot after being stopped by the police. Roads leading to the meeting were manned by police and the hired goons of the ruling Party. The administration was given till January 1 to meet all demands.


Photo: Huge gathering of people on December 28, 2016 in Machhi Bhanga

December 27: 
An emergency gathering of at least 2000 people took place after the imposition of Section 144. Three main resolutions were taken:
(a) the public meeting on the 28th would be moved to the Khalparer field in Machhi Bhanga, which is outside the 1.5 km perimeter of the Section 144;
(b) a legal fight will be waged against Section 144;
(c) press conferences will be held to spread word about the movement


Photo: Emergency gathering of people on December 27 after imposition of Section 144.


Photo: Posters of the movement. “According to the website of PGCIL, a mass hearing should transparently take into account the voices of the local people, the landowner and workers, and the responsible government official – and the effects on society and environment have to be disclosed. Why was this not followed in Bhangor?”


Background
The people of Bhangor – farmers and fishworkers – are resisting land acquisition for setting up a power plant by the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL). A power plant with several lakh volts will have adverse effects on the lives and livelihoods of people in seven villages like Khamarait, Machhi Bhanga and others.
The process started two years ago, when farmers were coerced into signing away their lands to PGCIL by the notorious Trinamool Congress strongman Arabul Islam and his army of goons. They were first reassured that a small power house would be built in the area. Later, people came to know that the project was being planned at a much more massive scale.
The effects of the electromagnetic fields generated by this massive power plant on human health, livelihood, and ecology have not been taken into account. These effects will cause havoc on the livelihoods of the people.
Moreover, the large number of people that depend on fish embankments (bherries) for their living and stand to be displaced have not been given any reassurances. The Bidyadhari river flows through this region and has become a canal, clogged by the pollution from Kolkata. Local fishworkers are already reeling from the effects of this environmental disaster, and stand to be further dispossessed.
The local people had no alternative but to choose the path of protest. This has invited the wrath of the Trinamool-police combination. Six people have been arrested, people have been driven out of their homes. An atmosphere of terror has been brought about by the goons of Arabul Islam and the police.

The people, however, have not backed down. On December 22, the people of Bhangor brought Kolkata roads to a standstill in a massive rally. This was followed by a huge gathering on December 28, braving the imposition of Section 144.

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