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Compensation raid on seat of power

Asansol, June 19: Around 400 residents of Purushottampur, led by Opposition parties, today laid siege to the office of the additional district magistrate here for over two hours, demanding immediate release of the villagers arrested on Sunday.

Before that, they blocked GT Road, shouting anti-police slogans.

The Purushottampur villagers are agitating over 240 acres of non-farm land, earmarked in 1989 for modernising the IISCO Steel Plant. Unlike in Nandigram, villagers here are ready to give up land, but they want a higher compensation and jobs in the plant.

Around noon today, activists of the Trinamul Congress, Congress, BJP, SUCI and a Naxalite faction joined the Purushottampur protesters — most of them women — as they stormed into the ADM’s office after breaking a police cordon at the gate.

The crowd ransacked the office, threw away furniture and flowerpots and overturned dustbins, spilling the garbage in the corridors. Then they marched towards ADM Smarki Mahapatra’s chamber, where a meeting was on.

Armed with banners condemning Sunday’s police action in Purushottampur, they squatted outside the room.

A posse of 100 policemen arrived and a scuffle started.

The ADM then agreed to meet representatives of the political parties and some of the protesters, who handed him a charter of demands.

They also sought a public apology from the police for resorting to lathicharge during Sunday’s “peaceful demonstration”.

“We will launch a movement for the Purushottampur villagers with all Opposition political parties,” Trinamul leader Moloy Ghatak said.

Local Congress leader Tapas Banerjee said the government should call an all-party meeting on Purushottampur, like the ones it is trying to hold on Singur and Nandigram.

The ADM, however, said the demands could not be met immediately. “I can’t release the villagers who are in jail custody. It is a matter of the judiciary. We also cannot provide permanent jobs at the steel plant.”

The CPM said it would carry out a door-to-door campaign in Purushottampur and its neighbouring villages telling people not to “step into the Opposition’s trap”.

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