Four killed in police firing near Pune (Lead)

August 9th, 2011 - 9:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Pune, Aug 9 (IANS) Three men and a woman were killed near here Tuesday when police fired at thousands of farmers who blocked highways and turned violent to protest government takeover of their lands.

At least eight protesters and 35 police personnel were injured in the violence and protests that paralysed the old Mumbai-Pune highway and the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

Police identified the four who died as Shantabai Ankush Thaker, 35, Moreshwar S. Sathe, 40, Shyamrao Waghu Tupe, and Maruti Kirid.

Police said several thousands of angry farmers blocked the highways, resulting in a tailback of vehicles at least 10 km long on both directions.

The farmers were protesting against land acquisition for laying a water pipeline between Pavna Dam in Maval sub-district to the outskirts of Pune city.

Condemning the police firing, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh leader Balasaheb Pingle accused the Maharashtra government of turning a deaf ear to farmers’ demands.

Police squarely blamed the demonstrators.

Authorities said that even as police attempted to remove the farmers squatting on roads in Bahur village and on the highways, some of them started pelting stones at police vehicles and attacked security personnel.

Initially, police used canes and rubber bullets to control the situation. When that failed, police said, the farmers were fired at.

Pingle, however, said the villagers were protesting peacefully for days and blamed the police for the killings.

More than two dozen vehicles, including two police vans, were badly damaged in the protest in which the farmers received the support of youth and student groups.

According to farmer leaders, a majority of the villages in the area of Pune district would be affected by the pipeline project.

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