I did not order police action, says Bengal minister

Indo Asian News Service

Kolkata, Nov 8 (IANS) Denying allegations that he had ordered police action in Birbhum district's Loba village Nov 6, West Bengal industries minister Partha Chatterjee Thursday said left wing extremists, CPI-M activists and a section of Congress workers had sparked the trouble.

The clash resulting from police action had left 27 policemen and six villagers wounded.

"I did not give any such orders. My department also gave no such orders. Whatever is being said about this is false," Chatterjee said.

He was reacting to reports in some TV channels which, quoting a police probe, said the minister directed police to move into the village to recover a machine of a coal mining company which the villagers had seized.

"There may be a probe which can look into the conversations involving me. The CPI-M, some sections in the Congress and the extreme left were behind the incident," he said.

The clashes occurred in a confrontation related to coal extraction by DVC Emta Coal Mines Ltd, a joint venture company, at Dubrajpur, around 226 km from Kolkata.

Some landowners had opposed additional land acquisition for the project, and seized an earth-moving machine last year.

The villagers refused to let go of the company's equipment, after which it lodged a police complaint.

A police force, led by Superintendent of Police R.K. Meena, went to recover the machine but met with resistance from villagers who used bows and arrows.

Chatterjee said two months ago he met the villagers, who agreed to remove the machine.

"Tomorrow (Friday) again they will meet me," he said.

On the government asking Meena to proceed on leave, Chatterjee said: "Prima facie there is proof about his negligence".

He said it was surprising how such a large number of people gathered at 5 a.m. with bows and arrows.

The incident has raised a political storm in the state. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee describing it as "pre-planned" but "unfortunate" announced a probe to find the "agent provocateurs".

Banerjee denied any police excesses and maintained that they did not open fire, but the opposition parties claimed otherwise.