Deganga (North 24-Parganas), March 17: Escorted by policemen, the three government officials had gone to Deganga to check out if illegal structures were coming up on a plot as numerous complaints had said.
But they ended up being confined in a room by a 3,000-strong armed mob, which refused to take chances with government stooges who they thought had come to “snatch” their land.
A little Nandigram sprouted in Deganga this afternoon when villagers’ nerves, stretched taut with suspicion, snapped at the sight of the team.
Armed with iron rods and sticks, the mob turned on the trio, dragged them into a room and locked them up. Then they set fire to an Ambassador and a police jeep and blocked Jessore Road, leaving commuters stranded between Beliaghata and Deganga.
Fortunately, the violence did not lead to any loss of life.
The script unfolded exactly as it had done in Nandigram in early January, when a circular by the Haldia Development Authority on identifying land for industry sparked violence, killing seven people.
Earlier in the day, a rumour had begun doing the rounds that after Singur and Nandigram, the government was now getting ready to “grab” land at Deganga for industry.
A letter on land acquisition had been sent by the block development officer to eight gram panchayat pradhans in February, but it had been withdrawn subsequently as a “mistake”.
So, when the team showed up this afternoon, suspicion got the better of the villagers and they locked up Barasat sub-divisional officer S.C. Ghosh, BDO Matindra Debnath and circle inspector Chittaranjan Chakraborty.
The trio remained in mob “custody” till reinforcements came from Deganga police station.
“We have no intention of acquiring land for industry at Deganga. Trouble erupted simply on the basis of a rumour,” district magistrate P.K. Mishra said.
He said the “mistake” in the BDO’s letter could have fed the rumour. “The BDO inadvertently mentioned that 1,737 acres might be acquired for industry.”
Mishra said it was “unfortunate” that people thought their land would be taken. “We will allay their fears.”
A villager, Pannalal Mondal, said: “After Singur and Nandigram, we are preparing for a showdown. The administration cannot forcibly acquire land from us.”