The Singur -Nandigram episode was again enacted in Loba, a sleepy hamlet of Dubrajpur in Birbhum district, when a huge contingent of police fired upon the villagers who were agitating for legitimate compensation against land acquisition by EMTA (Eastern Minerals and Trading Association), a private player in coal, for setting up open cast mine in this vast tract of fertile agricultural land. EMTA is one of the main players named in the Coalgate scam.
The police indiscriminately fired upon the villagers, lobbed tear gas shells, brutally lathicharged men, women and children early in the morning on 6th November. Many were injured, with at least 5 villagers suffering bullet injuries, and being admitted to the District Sadar Hospital at Siuri. A 10-member team of CPI(ML) visited the spot on 7th November at 10 am and interacted with the leaders and villagers. The team comprised PB member Comrade Kartick Pal, Abhijit Majumdar, CCM, SCMs Atanu Chakravarty, Surinder Singh, Moloy Tiwary, Birbhum District Secretary Subodh Rooj, Gopal Ghosh, Prodyot Mukherjee and Rabin Banerjee.
After reaching the spot, the team met Felaram Mondal, President of Krishijami Raksha Committee (Save Farmland Committee), the platform which spearheaded this movement since 2006. He was at the makeshift camp at Babupur of Loba village. The villagers showed the empty cartridges of bullets, and used tear gas shells. Felaram Mondal said that a huge contingent of police force (according to press reports, 8-10 Officers-in -charge of different police stations, and a huge police force along with 37 recovery vans) suddenly attacked the volunteers sleeping in the tent, beating them mercilessly. Immediately, villagers from nearby villages rushed in, in hundreds. A pitched battle started between the police and villagers, and villagers bravely faced the firing, retaliating with bows and arrows. Burnt police vehicles and pieces of the shattered glass panes from the police vans strewn all over bore testimony to the villagers’ courageous resistance in the face of severe repression.
The villagers informed the team that EMTA planned to acquire three thousand three fifty three acres of fertile land (three times that acquired at Singur), where different types of vegetables, rice, mustard seeds etc are cultivated throughout the year. During 2009-10, during LF rule, EMTA acquired 700 acres of land from the absentee landlord through their agents. In 2009, an agreement was signed between EMTA-DVC (Damoder valley corp) on land acquisition but the details have still been kept under wraps. Since then, the villagers have been demanding adequate compensation and price for their land. Felaram Mondal also said that after TMC assumed power, Partha Chatterjee, Minister for Industry & Commerce, came to their tent and promised an adequate compensation package within a week, to which the villagers agreed. But till date nothing was in sight.
The villagers informed that on December 2011, the EMTA officials came to this village with an earth mover machine for digging the land. The villagers gheraoed, resisted and took possession of that machine which is in their custody till now. It is this machine that triggered off the police action. For the last few months, Partha Chatterjee had been pressurising the local administration for police action to retrieve the machine. The police informed the minister that such action might lead to a serious law and order situation but his department didn’t accept the police version. It should be mentioned that EMTA donated 2 crore to the chief minister’s relief fund and 20 lakhs to the Durga Puja committee headed by Partha Chatterjee.
The villagers also alleged that Anubrata Mondal, the district president of TMC has openly colluded with EMTA and instigated this police action. He has taken Rs 25000 per bigha as commission from EMTA and has acted at the behest of this company.
A procession of agitating villagers came to the spot and Comrade Kartick Pal addressed the gathering. He condemned the police brutalities in severest terms, congratulated the villagers for their heroic resistance and termed this movement as Singur-2.
After the incident, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said, “It is still a mystery how it occurred,” adding that “I can’t understand why such a large contingent of police went to the village without informing the senior officers.” The SP of Birbhum district was asked to go on leave for an indefinite period and a administrative enquiry was ordered. The Home Secretary and the CM denied any police firing and even claimed that the police personnel showed “restraint” despite being attacked by villagers with bows and arrows! Satabdi Roy, TMC MP from Birbhum, initially said that she heard about police firing, but later made a complete somersault and said that the police had not fired. Partha Chatterjee told the press that CPIM and Congress were behind the ‘violence by villagers,’ and after 24 hours, he discovered the “hand of the ultra left” and “outsiders” in this agitation. Soon he came out with the conspiracy theory, used by the CM to respond to most serious issues – that there was some conspiracy “to malign this government.” But the villagers and leaders of Krishijami Raksha Committee opposed this statement and said categorically that there were no outsiders.
The fact finding team then proceeded towards the hospital and met the superintendent of the Siuri Sadar, and saw and consoled the injured. The names of the injured are as follows--1) Upananda Mondal,age 45,bullet injury in the right abdomen; 2) Shyamal Ghosh, age 35, bullet injury in left leg; 3) Jiban Bagdi, age 19, a student due to appear in Higher Secondary Exams in 2013, bullet injury below the left pelvis; 4) Purnima Dom, age 32, bullet injury in the left leg; 5) Budan Ghosh age 38, bullet injury in the palm of right hand. The fact finding team raised the following demands- 1) Judicial enquiry headed by a sitting judge of Kolkata High Court; 2) Punishment of the guilty police officers forthwith; 3) Scrap the agreement signed between EMTA &DVC; 4) Rs 1 lakh compensation to the injured and state govt to shoulder the responsibility for treating the injured; 5) Chief minister should visit the spot immediately.
8th November was observed as a state-wide protest day against the Dubrajpur firing, with protest/dharnas held at the block level.