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Landowner fires at villagers over road

Landowner fires at villagers over road

Author: Correspondent
Publication: The Telegraph
Date: July 10, 2009
URL: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1090710/jsp/siliguri/story_11218449.jsp

17 labourers admitted, accused flees with licensed gun

Nearly 20 labourers in a village in Karandighi suffered gunshot wounds when a gang led by a local landowner fired at them after an argument broke out over the construction of a road.

The shots were fired from a licensed double barrelled gun and illegal firearms. After the incident, police said, landlord Haji Aftab Hossain fled the village with the licensed gun.

Karandighi police said Hossain, had objected to the construction of a road, a portion of which went over a plot allegedly owned by him.

The villagers of Jhallapara, 70km from here, on the other hand wanted the road, which would connect them to the state highway. The police said hooligans owing allegiance to Hossain opened fire on the villagers injuring 12 of them. Sources at the district hospital in Raiganj, however, said 17 persons had been admitted with bullet wounds. The others were released after first aid.

One of Hossain's sons, Sheikh Rakib, and four others have been arrested.

One of those injured and admitted to the Raiganj hospital, Mohammad Alam, said about 11am, the villagers, including women and children, were engaged in earth work to construct the road when Hossain along with about 20 men surrounded them.

"We were caught unawares and tried to reason with them, but they suddenly started beating us up with lathis and then began firing indiscriminately," the wounded man said lying beside others on the floor of the hospital.

The police said from the very outset there was a dispute between the villagers over the road going over Hossain's land and several salisi meetings had been held to solve the problem.

Alam said last week at a salisi meeting, Hossain had given verbal assurance that he would allow the use of his land to construct the road. "That is why the villagers volunteered to give labour to build the 1-kilometre stretch of road which is necessary for communication with the outside world. Other landowners too had given up their land for the road." He added that the land in question was 23 decimals or 23 hundredths of a cottah.

The additional police superintendent of Islampur, James Kujur, said: "Hossain has fled with a licensed gun following the incident. We are looking for him and his elder son, Noor Alam. We have set up a police camp in the area."

The incident has taken a political turn as Hossain is said to be an influential leader of the CPM in the area and those injured mostly belonged to the Forward Bloc and the Congress.

Bloc MLA from Karandighi, Gokul Roy, condemned the firing on innocent people. "We demand that the jotedar be arrested and all arms seized from his house," Roy said.

Sources at the Raiganj hospital said most of the injured had been hit by pellets fired from shotguns. Most of them were hit on the limbs and back, a doctor on emergency duty said.

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