A District Court in West Bengal on Thursday awarded death penalty to 11 men, including a local Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader, for opening fire on unarmed village women and killing a housewife, in an attempt to grab land 14 months ago.
Those sentenced to death are Lankeshwar Ghosh, Palash Ghosh, Sanat Ghosh, Shyamal Ghosh, Jhantu Ghosh, Goutam Ghosh, Paresh Ghosh, Joydeb Ghosh, Nepal Ghosh, Rajkumar Ghosh and Basu Ghosh. Twelve were named in the police complaint, and one is absconding.
Krishnagarh District Court Judge Partha Sarathi Mukherjee convicted the men for shooting to death Aparna Bag on November 23, 2014. They had been charged under Section 9B of Explosive, 27/35 of the Arms Act, 307 (attempt to murder) and 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code.
The Judge was quoted as saying, “During prosecution, it has been amply proved that you had no enmity with the victims and the 55 families who were cultivating the land. You were not even the owners of the land, nor farmers, nor even occupants by any means or even a sharecropper.”
“You fired indiscriminately on innocent women when they tried to resist it (the land grab), hurled explosives and killed an innocent woman. Three other persons were injured in the attack. They could also have been killed by the bullets you fired. You all acted like terrorists. You deserve strong punishment,” he added.
The woman was killed while the men were trying to seize land, which belonged to Refugee Rehabilitation Department of the West Bengal Government, at Ghungragachhi under Krishnaganj block.
Fifty five families, who had been tilling the land for years now, claimed to have possession of the same. This was on the basis of the slogan, “langol jar, jomi tar (the one wielding the plough owns the land)”, that was coined during Left regime, when several families had crossed over to India from Bangladesh in the 1970s and 1980s.
The rights to the land were reportedly given to Phatik Sarkar, Sashadhar Joardar and some other people displaced during the 1971 war. Four decades after the allotment, a descendant of an allottee sold less than an acre for Rs 6 lakh to two persons, including one who was sentenced to death. Since then, the accused had been attempting to take over the entire 8.28 acres of land.
The men faced resistance from the tillers when they arrived on tractors to gain possession of the land and four people received bullet injuries during the clash. While three out of them recovered, Aparna Bag succumbed to her injuries soon after. Aparna’s two daughters Devika and Nilima were the main witnesses.