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Tables turn in land war

Hyderabad, July 28: Andhra Pradesh today witnessed a Nandigram, only the six land protesters killed in police firing were led by the Left.

Unlike Bengal, where the CPM is acquiring plots for industry in the face of Opposition-led farmer protests, the Marxists have joined the CPI in Andhra to agitate for land for the poor.

The movement, which has spawned serial land grabs across the state, erupted during a Left-sponsored bandh today with a mob attacking the revenue divisional officer’s office in Khammam district.

Officers said the mob burnt records and furniture besides a jeep at the office at Mudigonda town, 211km northeast of Hyderabad, and rained stones, bricks and sandals on the police, injuring an inspector.

The police fired 70 rounds, killing six protesters, including a woman, as well as two bystanders — a seven-year-old boy and a lorry driver. The firing and lathi-charge left nine injured.

The day-long bandh had been called to protest the Congress regime’s failure to keep its poll promise of handing vacant government land to the urban homeless to build homes and the rural poor to cultivate.

Home minister K. Jana Reddy said the bandh turned violent at many places with mobs burning “over 50 buses” and attacking government offices.

In Mudigonda, a local CPM leader “with known Maoist links” and his wife led the mob, chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy said.

“There was no provocation. The police suddenly started firing, prompting some youths to throw stones and barge into the office,” said CPM activist Sharadamma, 32.

As in Nandigram, the protesters marched with the bodies and placed them in front of the collectorate in Khammam town, demanding action against the police. The Left has called another bandh tomorrow, supported by the Telugu Desam Party. CPM leader Sitaram Yechury will be at Khammam.

The government has ordered a judicial inquiry, transferred Khammam police chief R.K. Meena and suspended his deputy Ramesh.

Since early this year, the Left has been on a land-grab spree, seizing mainly unused government plots but also some private land.

The government had responded by throwing out the squatters and arresting over 10,000 activists and some leaders, including CPM and CPI state secretaries B.V. Raghavulu and K. Narayana.

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