Tuesday, November 11, 2008

India Marxists 'guilty of murder'
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

Tapasi Mallick
Tapasi Mallick's body was found in a paddy field

A court in the Indian state of West Bengal has found two Communist leaders guilty of murdering a woman who opposed a Tata car plant near Calcutta.

Suhrid Dutta and Debu Mallick of the state's governing party were convicted of murdering Tapasi Mallick in 2006.

The two men were also found guilty of tampering with evidence. Sentencing is due on Wednesday and their lawyers say they will appeal against the verdict.

Months of protests over the factory led to Tata moving production elsewhere.

Land row

Eighteen-year-old Tapasi Mallick's charred body was recovered from a paddy field in Singur on 18 December 2006.

She was in the forefront of peasant protests against the acquisition of farmland to be used for the Tata Motors car factory at Singur.

Mallick's murder case was handed over to India's federal police, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), after an outcry.

Suhrid Dutta, chief of the state's ruling CPI(M) party at Singur, was arrested along with another party leader Debu Mallick, in July last year.

Lawyers say Dutta and Mallick could face the death sentence or at least life imprisonment for their crimes.

Tata, one of India's leading industrial groups, had planned to make what it said would be the world's cheapest car, the Nano, at the Singur factory.

After weeks of sustained and sometimes violent protests, Tata scrapped the venture last month and announced that it would shift production of the Nano to the western state of Gujarat.

The Communists have ruled West Bengal for 30 years and are desperately trying to attract investment to shore up the state's ailing economy.

But many projects face opposition from farmers who are unwilling to part with their farmland for industries.

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