Police fire at villagers in West Bengal, Mamata keeps mum

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Kolkata, Nov 7: On Mar 14, 2007, when the police had opened fire on protesting farmers and villagers, the then opposition leader Mamata Banerjee had flayed the then left Front government of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and it was the beginning of the end of a powerful regime.

The same state witnessed a role reversal on Tuesday when Banerjee, now the chief minister with a massive mandate, remained mum over a fiasco in a village in Birbhum district where the police allegedly fired on land agitators early on Tuesday morning.

West Bengal home secretary Basudeb Bandopadhyay denied the police firing in a quick reaction and it was all that the government had to say throughout the day. Birbhum Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Shatabdi Roy also condemned the incident of 'alleged firing'. She said that although the villagers said that there was firing, but she did not know who fired on whom.

It was also learnt that some of the scheduled press conferences at the state secretariat were cancelled at the final moment. According to some quarters, it was done deliberately to avoid discomfort while facing media questions.

Later, the CM and all senior party leaders and functionaries took part in 'Bijoya Sammilani' during when no mention was made about the fiasco. Sources said that the Birbhum MP had also drawn flak from Banerjee because of hinting that a firing had indeed taken place. The TMC supremo, it was learnt, asked party leaders not to issue any statement. Some senior leaders, on the condition of anonymity, said it was causing the party embarrassment for it was the same TMC that had supported the land agitation in Loba during the Left Front days. It was also said that a factional feud in the TMC was spreading in the area.

At least 33 people, including 27 policemen and six villagers were injured after a violent clash broke out at the Dubrajpur colliery belt when the police tried to recover an earthmoving equipment. Police said the equipment had been snatched by the villagers from a mining company about seven months back.

Trouble started almost six months back when DVC-EMTA Coal Mines Ltd, a joint venture company, reached Loba village for acquiring nearly 600 acres for open-cast mine. It was alleged that the villagers were not being offered proper price for the land. Local villagers drove away the officials and seized the equipment deployed by the firm.

Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee members said a force comprising 1,000 police personnel reached the village on Tuesday morning and attacked the villagers to remove the equipment. "When we protested, they started firing, injuring several villagers," they said.

Both the Congress and the Left Front slammed the TMC government over the incident. The Congress also demanded a CBI probe into the violent clashes.

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