India villagers protest against planned car factory

Villagers and policeman clashed at the site of a planned car factory in eastern India as the local residents demanded more compensation for land the government acquired to make way for the project.

Some 200 people in Singur, a village just northwest of Calcutta , tried to break down the boundary wall of the site where Tata Motors Inc., a division of the Tata Group, is building a small car factory on 997 acres (400 hectares) of farmland.

"Today they came suddenly, but we managed to control the situation," said Asit Pal, a senior police official.

Television footage showed police firing tear gas and hitting villagers with bamboo sticks.

It was not immediately clear how many people were wounded in Monday's violence.

There was a heavy police presence in Singur on Monday after 33 people were injured in unrest there Sunday, the latest in months of clashes over the project.

How the land was acquired remains a contentious issue with officials in West Bengal state, where Singur is located, insisting most people willingly sold out. 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, Pal said.

The police responded with rubber bullets and tear gas, he said Monday. Eight officers were injured.

A village leader, Becharam Manna, said at least 25 protesters 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 said. "They now realize that parting the land was not a good idea and they should get the land back."

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

Tata is one of India's largest business conglomerates with interests spanning steel, software services, hotels, chemicals and insurance. Tata Motors makes cars, buses and trucks and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova