On 24th January, an AIPWA Fact Finding team went to Bhangar in West Bengal where villagers are resisting land grab. The village roads were deserted. The brick and tree log barricade were still there in the village, but some of the leaders of the movement told us that they wanted to remove the barricades today as it was an obstacle in their daily work.
The AIPWA team visited Sajida Bibi (name changed) who was a victim of the assault on the 17th of January. She shared that the hooligans brutally beat her and threatened to rape her. She showed the bruises on her neck, back, hand and posterior. She said that presently none of the women were staying in the village after the evening as they are afraid of the hooligans. 20 more women confirmed her statement. After talking with her, the team of AIPWA entered the village of Khamarait. This village is under the Trinamool Panchayat and the Panchayat Pradhan is Hakimul Islam, son of Arabul Islam. Villagers informed the team that on the night of the riot, the hooligans in police uniforms broke windows and roofs of houses and also tortured whoever they came across. They beat Panchayat member Saiful’s wife Rabeya Bibi. We asked the villagers, why, if they had not wanted the Power Grid Corporation then, did they give their land. One youth named Sahil Mallick told that the Arabul gang almost snatched their land at gunpoint, they threatened them that if they raised their voice they would kill us. Afira bibi vented her anger against local TMC leaders – Arabul Islam and Rezzak Molla. “Mofijul Khan and Alam Mollah died in the firing and Rezzak says he will bring a “hybrid son”? What type of leaders are they? Arabul and Mamata Banerjee did this to us. Arabul is the main Gunda here who took land at gunpoint.” Mamata Banerjee had won the people’s mandate and came to power in 2011 after her own participation in 3 major agitations over forcible land acquisition against the former Left Front government, and now she herself is blaming “outsiders” for the Bhangar agitation. Villagers repeated their demand that the chief minister should visit Bhangar and personally announce that the controversial power grid would be relocated. One young woman told us that “after this power grid we cannot sleep in the night. Now for any emergency in the family, we will not be able to sell our land – nobody will buy our disputed land.”
One elderly lady said, “I cannot run if I am chased. What will happen to us? We don’t know what to do?” Mamata Banerjee who always is portraying her party as a farmer friendly and poor friendly party, declared that the Trinamool Congress government will track and hunt down all political activists who were involved in the Bhangar land movement, which resulted in the brutal killing of two villagers by the police guided by the strong man Arabul Islam.
AIPWA assured villagers that they were with them in the fight and the will continue the fight till people get justice.
AIPWA has demanded:
1. Judicial enquiry into the firing in Bhangar and the murders of Alamgir and Maffizul
2. Unconditional release of Sharmistha Choudhury, Pradip Singh Thakur and all other arrested agitators, and withdrawal of all cases slapped on them
3. Punish all the police and the TMC goons who entered peoples’ homes in Bhangar and created an atmosphere of terror.
4. Ensure the safety of all villagers including women and children.
5. Immediate arrest of Trinamool strongman Arabul Islam
6. A public apology from Rezzak Molla for saying “hybrid son”
7. No attempts to build the Power Grid and the Electrical Sub-Station without transparent democratic and legal procedures.