ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Story of Land Acquisition in Bhangar, West Bengal

Are Things Changing?

One crucial factor among many that led to the victory of Trinmool Congress in the West Bengal elections in 2011 was the violence associated with land acquisitions in the period when the Left Front was in power. An attempt is made to see if any lessons were learnt out of the Nandigram–Singur episodes. A case study of land acquisition in the Bhangar area of West Bengal is presented by putting forth the entire story of what happened from January 2013 to March 2020. The intersecting dynamics of local politics, local land mafia, the rents arising out of land acquisitions, and the state-level politics are also analysed. It is found that the villagers are willing to sell their land if they get a “proper” compensation. It is hypothesised that possibly a “learning state” is evolving in West Bengal, which could aid its industrialisation.

The author would like to thank CSSH, UPE-II at the Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune, which supported this project.
 

The author would like to thank an anonymous referee for making very insightful suggestions. She would also like to thank the villagers from Bhangar who shared their opinions and experiences while doing this fieldwork and later on the phone. She would like to thank Suraj Das, doctoral candidate at Jadavpur University for providing able research assistance. The author also thanks Achin Chakraborty, Gautam Gupta, Priya Sangameswaran, Prachi Deshpande, Maidul Islam, Manush Ghosh, Tanmoye Chatterjee for their valuable insights. The usual disclaimer applies.

 

It was a dj vu moment when one read about the violent turn to the protests and massive roadblocks against land acquisition in Bhangar area of South 24 Parganas in West Bengal on 17 January 2017 (Sweety Kumari 2017). Three people were reported to have been killed due to police firing though the police deny opening fire (while doing our fieldwork in Bhangar, we were told that actually six people died in the police firing). The immediate reason for the violence was the arrest of Sheikh Shamsul Haq, a local leader belonging to Trinamool Congress (TMC) and also an important member of Jamin, Jibika, Poribesh O Bastutantra Raksha Committee (JJPOBRC), an organisation formed to protect land, livelihood, environment and ecosystem by the villagers in Bhangar area (Bagchi 2017). Torture of locals by the police and damage of the local mosque and houses has also been claimed by the people.

On the other hand, police hinted towards the possibility of outsiders and Maoists being involved in the violence. Many police personnel were also injured and more than half a dozen police vehicles were either set on fire or thrown in the pond (Bagchi 2017). It has been claimed that bombs were hurled by both the sides (Chattopadhyay 2017; Bhattacharya 2018). Other sources claim that 30 police personnel were injured and 40 police vehicles were destroyed by the mob (Chattopadhyay 2017). Interestingly, the agitators claim that along with the police, violence was also started by the local TMC members. This claim puts in front of us a fascinating aspect of complexity of local politics, which we will explore below.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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