From People’s Media: In January 2017, two people were killed when the police fired on villagers in Bhangar, in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district. They were protesting the forcible acquisition of their fertile agricultural land for a proposed powerg-rid substation. Read reports and watch a short film made on location, as the events unfolded.
The Trinamool Congress, led by Mamata Banerjee, came to power in West Bengal in 2011, riding a popular wave of mass fury over forcible acquisition of land and state atrocities in Singur, Nandigram, and Lalgarh. But six years down the line, the faultlines of the new regime are showing up, most notably in the ongoing farmers’ movement in Bhangar, with a sense of ironic déjà vu.
Villagers in Bhangar, in South 24 Parganas district in West Bengal have been fighting against uninformed, undemocratic, coerced land grab and high-handed measures by the State government, under the joint banner of Jomi, Jibika, Poribesh O Bastutantra Raksha Committee (Committee to Protect Land, Livelihood, Environment and Ecosystem). The villagers, in a spirited show of unity and massive mobilisation, had put forward their demands for full rights to information, clarity on environmental clearance and ecological impact of the project on the densely populated multicrop land and fisheries, democratic consultation with affected villages, legal and adequate compensation, and a respite from the rule of goondas enjoying State patronage.
The State government responded to the people’s movement in a strong-armed manner eerily reminiscent of the previous regime’s policy in dealing with grassroots peasant movements. They took to batons, bullets, teargassing, ransacking homes, economic blockade, damaging crops and homes, massive arrests, slapping of non-bailable false cases, rampant slapping of the draconian UAPA on local activists, to the extent of even arresting and imprisoning civil society activists from Kolkata whose crime was to form a solidarity committee to stand with the Bhangar farmers. In a chilling re-run of police brutality on people’s movements from Nandigram to Kalinganagar, the West Bengal police shot dead post-graduate student, Alamgir Molla, and non-formal worker Mafijul Ali Khan, both in their twenties.
The resilient villagers have kept up the fight, even in the face of such repressive measures. The demands for unconditional release of all movement activists, withdrawing all false cases and justice for Alamgir and Mafijul have created greater resonances in society.
As of today, the struggle at Bhangar continues, so does the incarceration of movement organisers.
The ruling party has been running its spin-doctoring campaigns to discredit the movement. First they mocked at villagers for raising issues of environmental impact, then they claimed it was all a handiwork of “outsiders” propped up by “foreign hands” and “funded by Venezuela”! The mainstream media, initially sympathetic, has since turned away from giving space to the people’s voices. They have sidelined many of the important demands of the villagers, and are helping erase State culpabilities.
Counter-Media Seeking the Truth
This short film has been made with an active collaboration of activists, mediapersons and villagers themselves taking up cameras, and shooting the atrocities and protests as it all unfolded. In just over 30 minutes, and structured as an unfolding timeline that juxtaposes the State’s version against people’s assertion, the feature would tell you most everything about the peasants movement in Bhangar, thus far. Watch the 30-min exclusive short feature from People’s Media which cuts through every lie and distraction peddled by the government, and seeks truth from listening intently to the people’s voices.
We urge you to watch and screen the film widely across the country, to spread the word about the Bhangar Movement. The movement needs a broad solidarity at this moment. To request a high-definition version of the film, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bhangar Violence: Protests Continue Over Forced Land Acquisition
Angry protesters damaged cars and continued road blockades on January 18 in several villages of West Bengal’s Bhangar II block – the scene of large-scale violence since January 16 over “forcible” land acquisition for a Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL) project. According to a report in the Hindu, the unrest began with the arrest of local Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Sheikh Shamsul Haq who is also part of a committee that opposed land acquisition. Haq told the Hindu that trouble over the acquisition of 14 acres of land for the project had been brewing for over two years now. Previous attempts to acquire land in Bhangar by the Left government in West Bengal had been abandoned because of the possibility of resistance along the lines of Nandigram and Singur.
State and Bhangar
Bolan Gangopadhyay, The Indian Express
The crucial point to note here is the sheer sidestepping of the consultative process that should be a political minimum in any democratic structure. The very fact that PGCIL can choose to set up a power grid substation without organising a meeting with the gram sabha and explaining the details of the plan in the local language exposes the deep authoritarianism in the state’s notion of “development”. The systematic neglect by the authorities of the legitimate questions of the villagers is, perhaps, powered by the faith that sending a police force will make up for the lack in scientific explanation and community consultation.
Mamata Banerjee is making political arrests to crush stir against power project, claim protestors
Subrata Nagchoudhury, Scroll.in
The participants of an agitation against a power project in Bhangar, in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district, have alleged that the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government was using repressive measures and filing false cases against peaceful protestors, often using draconian laws, in an attempt to crush the movement. Sujato Bhadra, a leader of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, accused the government of making several “political arrests” in connection with the Bhangar agitation, and of “slapping UAPA charges indiscriminately” against those associated with it.
The little-known Red Star party is making its mark in Bengal with the Bhangar land stir
Subrata Nagchoudhury, Scroll.in
The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Red Star is spearheading an agitation against a power project in Bhangar in the state’s South 24 Parganas district. The police had arrested the two leaders in January in connection with violent protests in Bhangar that claimed two lives that same month. The agitation against an under-construction power grid sub-station in Bhangar, 35 km from Kolkata, turned violent on January 17, and two villagers were killed in firing and mobs set fire to a large number of police vehicles.