Four persons sustained gunshot wounds in Rewa’s Baijnath village, roughly 550 km north-east of Bhopal. The victims claimed they were shot at by guards of the Jaypee Cement factory in Bela, when they tried to prevent them from demolishing their huts on Thursday.

The CPI(M) blocked the Rewa-Bela highway to protest against the police inaction. Party state committee member Rohit Tiwari told The Hindu that the victims were in Shyam Shah Medical College. One Koju Lal Kushwaha is serious after shrapnel struck him in the head.

“Today at around 10 a.m. 50 guards led by General Manager B.S. Rana and Security In-charge G.S. Rawat entered the village to demolish huts. They were stopped by 15 residents following which Mr. Rana asked his men to open fire. At least 25 rounds from 12 bore shotguns were fired at unarmed peasants. Four were hit. The guards resorted to lathi-charge in which two women were injured,” he said.

After protests, an FIR was filed at the Chorhata Police Station naming 11 persons including Mr. Rana and Mr. Rawat. Both these men, along with Managing Director Sunny Gaur, were accused of murdering Raghavendra Patel -- a youth who was shot during a protest for jobs at the plant in 2007. The case was quashed by the trial court last month, on grounds of insufficient evidence.

The dispute at Baijnath relates to three-fourths of an acre which villagers say has not been acquired. Yet Jaypee’s guards prevent people from farming on it. Mr. Tiwari claimed that repeated requests to the government for compensation have been ignored. “The administration has turned a blind eye to repeated complaints that controlled explosions in limestone mines in the village project rocks into homes,” he said.

The clash began on September 30 when Jaypee’s guards were stopped from demolishing huts on the land. A large contingent of guards broke the huts on Tuesday, but they were rebuilt on Wednesday. The police were informed but did not act, and villagers allege that more huts were burned down on the same day.