Resistance group in Bhangar finds it tough to enter panchayat poll fray
Bhangar (West Bengal): The road to the controversial power substation that was to be built by Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd at Bhangar, in the outskirts of Kolkata, has remained closed to outsiders since being dug up by protesters a year ago.
In the space of a year, the only thing that’s changed is the protesters.
The road that was dug up by protestors to keep the police out has now been seized by armed men driving away potential candidates from filing nomination papers for the upcoming panchayat election in West Bengal, due to be held on 1 May 2018. Even the media is not allowed to enter.
There wouldn’t have been any contest at all in Bhangar if a little known ultra-Left outfit, CPI (ML)-Red Star, hadn’t managed to spread its influence in a handful of villages and brought them together to oppose the substation.
They alleged that land was being grabbed by agents of local Trinamool Congress leaders for a project that could potentially harm agriculture.
Alik Chakraborty, a leader of the outfit, had announced with much fanfare that Bhangar’s protestors would step up their movement by contesting elections against the same Trinamool Congress leaders they were opposing over the now-halted substation project.
Chakraborty had initially thought the biggest challenge would be to get enough candidates from among the underprivileged, because half of the seats in this area are reserved for other backward classes, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
But it turns out that only two candidates have been able to break the barrier of the armed men, and file nomination papers.
The resistance group had aimed to field 24 candidates—19 for gram panchayat seats, four for gram samiti and one for zilla parishad. But with only one more day left to file nomination papers, it appears that Chakraborty’s motley group of protestors will not immediately gain much ground in electoral politics.
“Those men with their heads covered are goons hire by the Trinamool Congress,” said Mirza Hasan, an active member of the Bhangar resistance group. They have kept the block development office out of bounds for everyone except those from the Trinamool Congress filing nomination papers, he alleged, adding that several people from his resistance group have been attacked in the past few days.
One of the two persons from the resistance group, Asim Mandal, who sneaked in on Thursday and filed nomination papers, declined to be pictured for the fear of being identified.
The Left parties and the Congress, which do not on their own have much of a presence in Bhangar, have lent unconditional support to candidates from the resistance group.
Trinamool Congress leader from Bhangar, Arabul Islam, denied the allegation that his party was obstructing people from filing nomination papers.
The ultra-left resistance group started violence in Bhangar in the name of the substation, he alleged, adding that people from outside Bhangar had been brought in to stir up unrest.
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