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INDIA: Villagers protest over Tata factory land

By just-auto.com editorial team | 21 May 2007

Scores of armed police took up positions around the site of a planned car factory on Monday, officials told a news agency, a day after officers clashed with hundreds of villagers demanding more compensation for land the government acquired to make way for the project.

At least 33 people were injured in Sunday's unrest, the latest in months of clashes to hit Singur, a village just northwest of Calcutta where Tata Motors is building a small car factory on 997 acres (400 hectares) of farmland, according to the Associated Press (AP).

AP noted that how the land was acquired remains a contentious issue though officials in West Bengal state, where Singur is located, insist most people willingly sold out. But farmers and opposition politicians say many were pressured by police and officials into selling at below-market rates.

Protests had died down over the past two months, but on Sunday about 300 villagers, some carrying knives and meat cleavers, marched on the fence encircling the factory site, a senior police official  told the Associated Press.

The police responded with rubber bullets and tear gas, he told the news agency on Monday. Eight officers were injured. The situation was calm Monday but security was beefed up as "a precautionary measure," he said without elaborating.

A village leader, Becharam Manna, told AP at least 25 people were injured by police during the clash. "Many of us were beaten up by the police," he said. "Most of the farmers were duped," Manna continued. "They now realise that parting the land was not a good idea and they should get the land back."

Tata officials were not immediately available to comment to the Associated Press on the unrest, but they have repeatedly insisted they will build the factory as planned.