The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bonnet brigade strikes, Tata team escapes

Singur/Calcutta, Jan. 15: A team of Tata and government officials was forced to leave Singur through an unplanned route today after being confronted by a group of people who thumped the bonnets of their cars and threatened to pull them out on their way to the city.

All doors of the two cars were locked and the panes rolled up. The hoodlums could not get hold of the officials.

Before the situation could spin out of control, the cars — escorted by a police jeep — backed away, took another route and left the place where the Tatas plan to set up their “dream project”.

In Calcutta, home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray said the incident was not serious. “The protesters had surrounded their car and were trying to talk to them.”

Police said Suryavanshi Singh, a Tata official overseeing work on the Singur project, Apurba Banerjee of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and S. Bhattacharya, a senior consultant, went to the Gopalnagar panchayat office today.

They were returning to Calcutta after a meeting with the panchayat chief over a Jamshedpur trip by members of the rural body when a bunch of Save Farmland Committee members led by social activist Anuradha Talwar tried to block their way.

Kalyani Pal, the panchayat pradhan, said: “They are taking panchayat members to Tatanagar to show us their project and community development programmes. We are scheduled to leave tomorrow and the officials came here for a final word with us.”

Talwar and the members of the Save Farmland Committee were holding a meeting at Sanapara More when Becharam Manna, its convener, spotted two cars and a police jeep approaching the Durgapur Expressway. “Suddenly they became furious and ran in front of the cars. They first thumped the bonnet of the Ambassador in which Banerjee and Bhattacharjee were travelling,” said Asit Pal, the Hooghly additional superintendent of police.

“Another section of people led by Manna ran towards Singh’s Tata Indigo, which was behind the Ambassador. They started pulling the doors to drag out Singh when four policemen got off their jeep and took them on,” Pal added.

During the scuffle between the villagers and the police, the cars reversed and drove away.

Asked if all Tata teams visiting Singur were accompanied by police escorts, the home secretary said: “We give them police cover discreetly to ensure that such incidents don’t occur.”

A Singur police officer said that from the number of prot-esters, it did not look like a scheduled scheduled programme. “They saw the cars and decided to stop them.”

Banerjee has filed a complaint with the Singur police station against Anuradha.

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