KOLKATA: A day before a crucial public meeting of anti-power grid agitators at Bhangar in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district, bombs were hurled and bullets fired at Machibhanga and Khamarait villages in the area on Tuesday night.
Both Trinamool Congress supporters and the agitators pointed fingers at each other for the violence.
While agitators of the CPI (Marxist-Leninist) Red Star-formed Jomi, Jibika, Bastutantra o Poribesh Raksha Committee (committee to protect land, livelihood, ecology and environment) claimed that the bombs were hurled at their stronghold villages by TMC workers to scare away the people ahead of the public meeting on January 4 – where future course of action of the agitation would be decided — and their office at Natunhat village was vandalised, the ruling party said that two of their workers are missing since the bombings by the agitators.
The violence comes after local TMC MLA Abdur Razzak Molla threatened to ‘cast net’ on the agitators and ‘weed them out’ to commence the power grid before the panchayat elections in May during a ‘peace rally’ taken out three days ago as a show of strength of the ruling party.
However, Molla claimed on Wednesday that TMC workers were attacked on Tuesday night while they were returning after inspecting a ground at Machibhanga where a pro-power grid rally of TMC workers would be organised on January 7. He also claimed that the agitators have been divided since announcement of compensation by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. As an aftermath of the violence, the entire region remained tense on Wednesday morning with shops remaining shut and normal life being hit. Police and Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel staged route marches through the villages to restore peace.
Bhangar has been on the boil since 2015 against the 440 KV power grid and witnessed pitched battles after two agitators died and 16 went missing over alleged police firing in February last year. But, it remained relatively calm over the past 10 months after Mamata Banerjee promised not to go ahead with the project without the consent of the people.
However, the region again went back to violence after a bike rally of the agitators was bombed and vehicles burnt allegedly by TMC workers on December 28 last year. Large numbers of security personnel were deployed there since then.