Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Land protesters beat Singur engineer senseless

Singur, July 29: An engineer at the Tata Motors plant here was thrashed this evening, allegedly by activists of the Trinamul-backed Save Farmland Committee who were protesting the arrest of a fellow member at the site on theft charges.

An unconscious Manish Khatua, whose firm Shapoorji Pallonji and Company is building the Nano plant, was brought to a private hospital in Calcutta with head injuries, police said. Khatua, in his 30s, regained consciousness on the way to the hospital, Shapoorji sources said.

The trouble began when Sailen Hambir, 40, a resident of Bajemelia bordering the site, was accused of entering the plant to steal and held. Trinamul leaders said Sailen was a supporter of the committee, which wants land taken from unwilling farmers for the project to be returned.

Priyabrata Bakshi, officer-in-charge of Singur police station, said those who assaulted Khatua had come to steal rods. “Those who attacked the engineer are supporters of the committee. They had come to steal rods from the site and while escaping beat up the engineer.”

However, Manick Das, the Trinamul zilla parishad member from Singur, said Sailen had entered the plant around 6pm to “roam around”.

“He was a landloser and sometimes entered the site through slits in the boundary wall to roam around. Today suddenly, the policemen on duty accused him of stealing and arrested him.”

According to the police, nearly 200 villagers from Bajemelia, including women, rushed to the plant site with rods and sticks as soon as word about the arrest spread and demanded that Sailen be released. The police had to chase away the protesters with canes.

“On their way back, they (villagers) came across the engineer and beat him up,” another police official said. Rajeev Mishra, the police chief of Hooghly, of which Singur is a part, confirmed one arrest.

The attack occurred on a day security for the project was reviewed after crude bombs exploded last night at Singur station and at a lodge occupied by Tata plant workers.

“We reviewed the security for the Tata Motors factory,” Bengal home secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti said after a meeting in Calcutta chaired by chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb and attended by police chief A.B. Vohra.

Patrolling has been stepped up on the 5km stretch between the plant and Singur station. More policemen have been deployed at Kamarkundu and Madhusudanpur stations, used by the workers.

Some workers at the vendor park inside the site didn’t turn up yesterday after alleged threats from the Save Farmland Committee. The situation was normal today, Singur BDO Prasenjit Chakraborty said.

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