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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 March 2007, 18:09 GMT
West Bengal hit by fresh clashes
A man injured in the police firing in Nandigram being taken away for treatment
The residents fought pitched battles with the police
There have been fresh clashes between police and villagers in an area of eastern India where police fired on protesting farmers on Wednesday.

Fourteen people were killed and more than 70 injured during Wednesday's violence at Nandigram in West Bengal.

The farmers were protesting against government plans to set up a chemical hub and an industrial zone in the area.

Doctors who operated on the injured villagers say many of them were not hit by bullets from police weapons.

Khaki uniforms

"Some of these bullets are surely not from weapons issued to the police forces in West Bengal," a medic who wished to remain unnamed told the BBC from Calcutta's RG Kar Medical College.

Nandigram map

"There are shotgun wounds, even injuries suffered from pipe guns widely used by local gangsters and political toughs in Bengal," he said.

The BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta says that locals and opposition activists in Nandigram allege that many of those involved in Wednesday's shooting of villagers were not policemen, even though they were wearing police uniforms.

"In Gokulpur and Bankhaberia, the second wave of attack on the villagers was carried out by men in khaki uniform, but they had no caps or service boots used by policemen," said Subhendu Adhikari, a local member of the main opposition Trinamul Congress party.

"They were wearing sneakers or sports shoes. We are sure they were armed Marxist cadres," he said.

Hugely contentious

Journalists heading for Nandigram on Wednesday ran into makeshift checkpoints manned by Marxists wearing red caps.

The BBC's Amitabh Bhattasali was among those whose vehicle was stopped at Chandipur by them.

Protests by Trinamul Congress party against the police firing in Nandigram
There has been severe criticism of the police firing

Our correspondent said that they were clearly angry with the way journalists had covered the story, and were preventing journalists from travelling to Nandigram.

Protests have gone on there despite the state government pledging to move the hub elsewhere.

New economic zones are a hugely contentious issue in India.

What began as protests against the state takeover of farmland for industrial development has now turned into a trial of strength between farmers and the West Bengal government.

'Cold horror'

Nandigram remained tense on Thursday with the police using tear gas and staging baton charges to break up protests by angry villagers in the area.

Villagers also set fire to a local administration office and attacked policemen in front of the local hospital, which is teeming with relatives of the dead and injured.

The high court in Calcutta has ordered an investigation into the incident.

West Bengal chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya said 14 people had died and more than 70 people, including at least 30 policemen, had been injured in Wednesday's clashes.

The police action by the ruling Communist-led state government has been severely criticised by the ruling party's allies and the Trinamul Congress.

A woman injured in the police firing in Nandigram
Locals believe that the government will be buying farmland for industry

Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi said in a statement that the news of police firing had filled him with a "sense of cold horror", and that the police action was perhaps avoidable.

Since January the villagers have violently opposed the state government's plans to take over nearly 10,000 acres of crop land to set up a special economic zone that would contain a hub of chemical industries to be commissioned by Indonesia's Salim Group.

Angry farmers along with political activists, belonging to the state's governing Communist party and the Trinamul Congress, have dug up roads, burnt down wooden bridges and attacked government officials and policemen trying to enter the area during the past two months.

Six people, including a policemen, died during protests in the area in January.

'Fierce resistance'

In recent weeks Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya, who is pushing for Bengal's speedy industrialisation, has said that the project would be shifted elsewhere if the locals did not want it.

But he said Nandigram had descended into lawlessness and ordered the police to take control of the area this week.

The Trinamul Congress has called for a state-wide strike on Friday to protest against the police firing.

Two allies of the Communist party have said the police action was "most unfortunate".

State governments in India are acquiring large tracts of land to set up special economic zones (SEZs) to push up employment and earnings.

The federal government reckons that SEZs will bring in $13.5bn in investment and create 890,000 jobs by 2009 if the ambitious plan is allowed to proceed.

Critics say this is destined to become the biggest land grab in post-colonial India, given the lack of transparency and rampant corruption in government.


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SEE ALSO
Violence marks Bengal shutdown
08 Jan 07 |  South Asia
'Bengal Maoists' target car plant
04 Dec 06 |  South Asia
West Bengal hit by general strike
09 Oct 06 |  South Asia
Economic zone plans polarise India
02 Oct 06 |  South Asia

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