Thousands of protestors in India's eastern state of West Bengal Sunday laid a siege around a factory manufacturing the world's cheapest car, the Nano, to demand return of farmland acquired for the project, dpa reported.
Led by the state's opposition leader, Mamata Bannerjee, activist Medha Patkar and politicians, an estimated 50,000 farmers, villagers and party activists converged on the factory site in Singur, near the main city of Kolkata.
Organizers said this was the biggest demonstration in India against "land seizure" for setting up an industry. They expected the number of protestors to swell to 200,000, claiming many were still reaching the site.
The factory, operated by Tata, among India's biggest industrial houses, resembled a fortress with the communist-ruled state government deploying nearly 3,000 policemen to break up any violent protests.
Groups of farmers in Singur said some farmland for the plant was forcibly acquired by the state government and given to the company. They are demanding that Tata return 160 of the 403 hectares allotted for the factory to the farmers.
But Tata argue that the land is required to set up units for spare parts and component vendors and shifting them would make it difficult to keep the costs of the car low.
Bannerjee planned the "indefinite strike" at Singur in the backdrop of a threat by Tata owner, Ratan Tata, to withdraw the project from the state if agitation continued.
"I would like to request all of you to abstain from any violence. This agitation is for the cause of common people," Bannerjee said.
The Trinamool Congress and its allies have set up 21 camps alongside the boundary wall of the site.
"No industry can be founded on the dead bodies of the farmers," said Amar Singh, leader of the Samajwadi (Socialist) Party, who has joined the demonstration.
Tata, India's leading vehicle maker, has invested over 375 million dollars in the plant at Singur. The first Nano cars, priced at nearly 2,400 dollars a unit, were scheduled to roll out in October.
A prototype of the Nano, dubbed the "People's Car," was unveiled with much fanfare at the car exhibition in Delhi in January. It is a 623-cc car with a 33-horsepower multipoint fuel injection petrol engine.