Police cane charge Bhopal gas tragedy victims

Bhopal: Observance of 27th anniversary of Bhopal gas disaster was marred by violence today as police fired in the air and lobbed teargas shells to disperse protesters indulging in arson and blocking trains to press for more compensation for survivors of the world's worst industrial disaster.

Police fired several rounds in air, burst tear gas shells and cane-charged those who torched vehicles and stone-pelting, which disrupted rail traffic on busy Delhi-Chennai route for over five hours, district Collector Nikunj Shrivastava told agency.

Four police jeeps and a dozen motorcycles were set on fire during the agitation, police said. A police jeep and an OB van of a TV news channel were damaged in stone pelting.

According to police, stone-pelting began when agitators squatting on the tracks at Barkhedi-Aishbagh and Chhola Road railway crossings were asked to leave by them.

Over a dozen government officials, including Collector Shrivastava, SSP Yogesh Choudhry, CSP H N Guru and some women were among those who suffered injuries in stone-pelting by the agitators.

Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Ghanshyam Singh said rail traffic was disrupted on Delhi-Chennai route. Many trains were stranded at Vidisha, Itarsi and Habibganj stations due to the agitation.

Many trains were diverted from Itarsi, Maxi, Devas and Bina railway stations due to protests.

Section 144 of CrPC banning gathering of five or more persons was imposed in Aishbagh area and was lifted after over two hours, the Collector said.

Following violence, a large number of police personnel were deployed in the affected areas where the situation is under control now and rail traffic has resumed.

Some arrests have been made in connection with the arson and violence but the exact number of those rounded up by the police will be known later, the Collector said, adding the way vehicles were torched and overturned it appears that some anti-social elements were also involved in the movement and could have been part of the groups or may have taken advantage of the situation.

An NGO, Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA), claimed over a dozen persons suffered injuries in the incident.

The 'rail roko' call was given by various NGOs working for the rights of the gas affected victims who are demanding adequate compensation, among other things.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the NGO met Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan who assured them that he would take up their demands with the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Meanwhile, accusing the district administration of lacking in farsightedness, the Leader of Opposition in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, Ajay Singh today demanded stringent action against the police personnel who fired in air and cane-charged the gas victims on the occasion of the 27th anniversary of the world's worst industrial disaster.

"The day was observed as a black day by the victims and even on this day they were fired upon and cane-charged by the officials," Ajay said in a statement strongly condemning the incident.

He alleged that the incident occurred due to the state government's failure in maintaining the law and order situation.

Condemning the violence, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sanghtan's Convener Abdul Jabbar said,"the violence cannot be justified in any manner, but the movement took a violent turn due to the Centre and the State's indifferent attitude towards the victims' legitimate demands since last 27 years".

He also demanded release of those who were arrested by the Bhopal district administration.

Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee President, Kantilal Bhuria, also condemned the police action against the victims.

CPM's state secretary, Pushan Bhattacharya in a statement condemned the police action.