People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 27

July 03, 2011


Police Brutality in Bengal Coal Fields


From Our Special

Correspondent in Kolkata


THE coalfields of West Bengal witnessed the first serious attack directly by the police against a peaceful protest under the new regime of TMC-Congress.


Pandaveswar MLA Gouranga Chatterjee and 16 others were injured on June 21 when police, CISF and RAF personnel resorted to lathicharge to disperse villagers protesting against the forcible acquisition of land to expand a coal mine. The incident took place at Hansdiha village in Pandaveswar, near Raniganj.


The project against which the villagers are protesting is a Rs 250-crore coal excavation project under the Sonepur Bazari Open Cast Mine of Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL). A private contractor of Punjab has bagged the Hansdiha extension patch. In reality, the land is being acquired for private contractor for mining.  In the first part of this project, residents of five villages were evicted earlier. ECL backed out from the rehabilitation package that they promised and the villagers were suffering from lack of all basic needs in the area where they were pushed to. In the second part ECL has planned to evict all villagers from Shonpur Ruidaspara, Hansdiha, Punjabidanga, Bheladanga. In total, more than 10,000 people would have to be displaced in 11 villages. ECL has planned to forcibly acquire 1205 hectares of land without any rehabilitation and alternative livelihood.


For the past few days, the villagers had been preventing the private contractor and ECL from starting work on the project. On June 21, villagers heard that bulldozers have started operation in Hansdiha and a few hundreds of people started a protest rally. They were joined by CITU leaders and coal workers from the local area. The procession was peaceful. As the villagers reached near Shonpur Bazar, police officers, along with CRPF and RAF, started lathicharge. Gouranga Chatterjee, local MLA and a front ranking leader of coal workers was particularly targeted. He was beaten severely and even after he fell on the ground, he was thrashed. Chatterjee sustained serious injury and was later admitted in a hospital in Durgapur. Asansol MP Bansa Gopal Choudhury, too, suffered injuries. The police officers were seen beating the villagers and CITU leaders with a vengeance. Four villagers -- Krishna Chakraborty, CPI(M) leader Rabin Mukherjee, Nirmal Banerjee and Ujjwal Mondal  -- were injured too. Police officers promised to take them to hospital, but instead they were taken to police station. There they were again beaten and had been arrested.


On June 22, at the call of the CPI(M), a total and spontaneous bandh was observed in Raniganj, Pandebeswar and Jamuria protesting the police atrocity.  Even the coal mines came to a standstill though there was no formal call. A delegation of CPI(M), including Polit Bureau member Nirupam Sen, the leader of the opposition in assembly Suryakanta Misra, Madan Ghosh, Amal Halder visited the affected areas and talked with the people. The villagers alleged that ECL has not even waited for a scheduled discussion and went on rampaging their houses.

The villagers also reminded of Mamata Banerjee's announcement that no land would be acquired forcefully from villagers. "But in reality, it is her police who have beaten up villagers for protesting land acquisition," they alleged. 


All India Coal Workers’ Federation of India (ACWFI) condemned the police atrocities, expressed its anguish and indignation against the state policy on labour, so reversed under the current regime from the policy followed by the LF government on the matter of state’s role in disputes between labour and the employers. In a statement, ACWFI said, incidentally, the lathicharge on labour has been first of the kind after Left Front government had been installed in June 1977.