Gujarat: Farmers oppose limestone mining, clash with police; Several injured
Ahmedabad, Jan 2: Clashes broke out on Wednesday between the police and farmers protesting against limestone mining by a private firm near a village in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, leaving several policemen and agitators injured, officials and local residents said.
While Bhavnagar Superintendent of Police (SP) P L Mall said four policemen were injured in the clashes, local villagers claimed around 15 people, including women and girls, were wounded. The police lobbed 35 teargas shells and resorted to baton charge to control a large group of farmers demanding that limestone mining by UltraTech Cement Ltd near Bambhor village in Talaja taluka be halted, the SP said.
Around 30 villagers were detained, he added. The protesting farmers hailed from 13 villages in the taluka, around 180km from Ahmedabad. Local residents said around 15 people were injured and taken to a nearby hospital in Mahuva town. Villagers joined a protest march and reached near Bambhor, where they tried to disrupt the mining activity, leading to clashes, Mall said.
"We fired 35 teargas shells and also used batons to prevent the mob from disrupting the mining activity," he said.
A team of around 50 police personnel, including a deputy SP and members of the Special Operations Group and Crime Branch, was deployed at the site since Tuesday in anticipation of disruption by local villagers, the officer said. He said the company had paid for the special security arrangement made at the site by the district police.
"At least four police personnel sustained injuries, including a constable who suffered head injuries in the clashes," he said. Around 30 villagers were detained from the site and taken to the nearby Datha Police Station, Mall said.
"Protesting the detention, a group of villagers went to the police station and gheraoed it. The police again fired teargas shells and used batons to disperse them," he said.
"Some more persons were detained there (outside the police station)," Mall said. The villagers claimed they were protesting in a peaceful way when the police used "unnecessary force" to end their agitation. The villagers said the mining activity would adversely impact farming in the region, which lies close to the Arabian Sea, as it would break the ridge that prevents saline water from seeping into agriculture land.
"Thousands of farmers from 13 villages were walking towards the mining site in protest. When they reached the site, a large team of police standing guard started firing teargas shells and baton charged them," said Bharatsinh Vala, a member of the Gujarat Khedut Samaj, a farmer body.
"Rest of the villagers walked towards the police station to court arrest when the police again fired teargas shells and used baton against them outside the police station," Vala said. "Many villagers, including women and girls, were injured in the clashes," he said.
Vala claimed the villagers had opposed limestone mining in the region during public hearings but the state government gave the go-ahead for the project. The mining site has seen protests in the past too. An e-mail query sent to the company by PTI did not elicit an immediate response.