07/30/2007, 00.00
INDIA
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People continue to die in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal over land

by Nirmala Carvalho
In Andhra Pradesh police fire at leftwing groups who want land distribution for the poor; eight people are killed. In West Bengal clashes between supporters of the state’s leftwing administration and local farmers defending their land continue. Appeals are made to the central government to take action against the two states.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Khammam District in Andhra Pradesh saw a total bandh (general strike) on Sunday, a day after police killed eight workers and wounded another 16 during a protest rally. At the same time in West Bengal, street clashes that left people dead and wounded continue between supporters of the state’s leftwing government and farmers who are trying to defend their land from expropriation.

In various parts of Andhra Pradesh protest marches organised by the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) took place yesterday. More are scheduled for today.

The CPIM and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) demanded the resignation of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy for using ‘brutal force’ and ‘suppression’ against popular protests calling for land distribution to the poor.

For the past three months leftwing groups have been holding 'bhooporatam' or land action in the state, demanding housing and land for poor.

Last week, they intensified their protests when top party leaders launched a general strike in the state capital of Hyderabad.

On Saturday demonstrators met near the village of Mudigonda, Khamman District. When police approached the gathering they were pelted with stones. Agents responded violently with a TV station showing them surrounding and beating unarmed women.

“The government can’t be allowed to get away with this. This will have far-reaching repercussions on the political situation in the country,” said CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta.

TDP leader N. Chandrababu Naidu accused the police of using AK-47 and self-loading rifles to fire at protestors. “Never before in the history of the state have such sophisticated weapons been used against political activists,” he said.

The chief minister ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident. He also transferred and suspended some top police officials.

He announced Rs 500,000 in compensation for the families of those killed and a government job for one member of each of the bereaved family and houses for homeless families in the state.

Meanwhile, there was another dramatic day yesterday in Nandigram, Kolkata (West Bengal), as members of the CPIM and workers of the All India Trinamool Congress clashed. A CPIM man was killed, another is fighting for his life and 25 injured people were admitted to the hospital.

In the incident police used batons to break up clashes between two rival political groups, but were themselves attacked with iron rods and stones.

A state proposal to set up an industrial hub or Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Nandigram village through tax incentives and cheap land is at the root of the violence.

As a result of the local protests, the state government was forced to backtrack and cancel the proposal. However, clashes with police on March 14 left 14 people dead.

Since then violence between supporters of the state's ruling Communists and opposition-backed villagers has continued.

Trinamool Chief Mamata Banerjee appealed to the central government to take action against the West Bengal government.

She said that if New Delhi can take action against the Andhra government then action should be taken against the West Bengal government.

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