Sunday, May 18, 2008

At least 30 dead in local elections

30 people have died in clashes during Sunday's village council polls in India's West Bengal state. The district of Murshidabad, on the border with Bangladesh, was worst affected with 15 deaths. "The Marxists unleashed state terrorism on our people and we had to fight back," alleged Adhir Choudhury, Congress party MP from Murshidabad.

It is the bloodiest election in Bengal’s history, surpassing even the 2003 death count. Scores more are battling for life in hospitals across all seven districts that went to the polls.

Armed clashes between Trinamool Congress and CPM in the aftermath of Sunday's panchayat poll, forced 500 villagers to take shelter near the BDO's office in Nandigram on Monday. Both the Trinamool Congress and the CPM charged each other with instigating violence, ransacking houses and kidnapping rival supporters.

A cottah of land in some places here now sells for Rs 2-3 lakh - it was no more than Rs 2,000 in 1998, a hundred times less. The state is eyeing vacant plots to woo software giants Wipro and Infosys, which have long been asking for land.

Many private companies have already bought land cheaply, and sometimes by violence and usually fraudulently, in these villages, paying around Rs 1-1.5 lakh for each cottah. If the CPM (Marxist) wins, then the government might to go ahead with acquisition and forcibly take away land without proper compensation. It applies to land development companies as well," said Haripada Naskar, a farmer of Bajetarab village run by the Trinamool Congress. "CPM is just waiting for the panchayat elections to be over. If they win here, they will forcibly take away land from the farmers. A lot of land related corruption has taken place here with the help of the Rajarhat-Gopalpur municipality and Hidco. We want to make the villages in Rajarhat corruption free," said Rajarhat block Trinamool president Prabir Kar.

IMO: AFAIK various parties just try to take over the polling stations, often by heavy armed attack - usually just bullets, bombs etc - I noted no tanks or rocket launchers as yet - and then totally rig the ballot there.

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