Alleging that outsiders with vested interests were organising protests against the State government on the pretext of serving the cause of slum dwellers, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Thursday that her government would evict neither slum dwellers nor grab the land of the farmers.

She was referring to protests by slum dwellers at Nonadanga on the eastern fringes of the city leading to the arrest of seven persons including renowned scientist Partho Sarothi Ray and the subsequent public outcry.

Ms. Banerjee said the protests were orchestrated by certain non-governmental organisations (NGOs) trying to make money out of the movement. Dr. Ray has since been released.

“I will prove that there is a conspiracy behind it…People will stop those who want to stall development in the State,” she said, addressing a gathering at Basirhat in North 24 Parganas district.

Ms. Banerjee said the poor and the deprived are her “soul” and her government will not do anything against their interests.

“There are many who want me to forcibly acquire the land of farmers and set up Special Economic Zones. But I will not attack farmers and acquire their land and will not increase the land ceiling,” she said.

Claiming that a section of Maoists is behind the protests, Ms. Banerjee said: “There are many who have spilled the blood of the poor and are roaming around shouting Maoist slogans.”

Protest marches, demonstrations and hunger strikes have continued for the last two weeks by those evicted from the slums at Nonadanga. The issue had drawn the attention of many people including representatives of civil society who have criticised the government move to evict people without compensation or rehabilitation.