KOLKATA, TNN , April 9 : After more promises of rehabilitation, the administration again cracked down on Nonadanga settlers protesting against their eviction. Police rounded up 69 agitators, including a nine-year-old girl, and locked them up at Lalbazar for nine hours on Sunday.

At night, 62 of them were released, while seven leaders of the anti-eviction movement were booked on non-bailable charges. Three days ago, urban development minister Firhad Hakim had promised to review the rehabilitation scope for Nonadanga evictees.

The seven leaders include Debolina Chakraborty, Sidhartha Gupta, Debjani Ghosh, Abhigyan Sarkar, Partha Sarathi Roy, Shamik Chakraborty and Amal Chatterjee. While Shamik and Amal are activists of Mazdoor Kranti Parishad, the others belong to different mass organizations.

On Sunday morning, shanty dwellers of Nonadanga assembled near Ruby crossing off EM Bypass to demand rehabilitation of the evicted squatters. “It was a scheduled programme and we had informed Kolkata Police well in advance,” said Shamik Chakraborty, one of the leaders of Nonadanga Uchhed Birodhi Committee – the anti-eviction forum fighting for rehabilitation of the squatters.

The demonstration began around 10am. It was being held away from the main thoroughfare, so there was no chance of traffic disruption, claimed the organizers.

Shortly before noon, a large police force, led by deputy commissioner Basab Dasgupta, visited the spot and reportedly asked the agitators to leave at once.

“We refused to give in. But they forced us to stop. They pushed us into the prison van and dispersed the gathering by chasing the protesters,” said Abhay, another leader of the forum.

Debolina Chakraborty, one of the organizers, said that initially they were taken to Tiljala police station and then to the central lockup at the Lalbazar police headquarters.

“Police arrested 69 of us including 39 women and a child of nine years,” said Parag Banerjee, one of the agitators. Police denied detaining the child and said 61 people had been held.

Confusion has taken place over the number of the arrest as DC SSD Sujay Chanda said, “We have arrested 61 persons under 151 IPC (considered as preventive arrest) and the case was registered at Kasba police station.” He denied that nine-year-old Monika Kumari Shaw was arrested. TOI, however, confirmed that the child was in the lockup with her mother till 9pm with all other arrested agitators.

At night, police released 62 of the detainees on personal release bond, but they booked seven leaders in connection with a case registered at Tiljala police station on Wednesday.

On that afternoon, six persons – including an 18-month-old infant – were injured in a lathicharge on a rally of the evictees. “These seven persons have been arrested under Sections 143,149,332,341,342 353 of IPC which suggests that they had provoked people in wrongful activity, assembled illegally, and wrongfully restrained and resisted policemen,” said a senior officer. The forum however claimed that Sarkar, Debjani and Partha Sarathi Roy were not present in Wednesday’s rally.

Amitava Bhattacharya, secretary of Mazdoor Kranti Parishad, condemned the arrest. “It was a peaceful assembly and it was an announced programme. It’s a fascist step taken by the government to gag the voice of democratic protest,” said Bhattacharya.

The forum has decided to march from College Square to Writers’ Buildings on Monday. Rights organizations like APDR and Bandi Mukti Committee and USDF have said they will join the rally. “We strongly condemn the arrest,” said Choton Das, secretary Bandi Mukti Committee.

State government perhaps in a bid to take strong arm policy against the Nonadanga anti-eviction movement. Despite an assurance from state urban development minister Firhad Hakim on Thursday to review the rehabilitation scope of the evictees, on Sunday once again police operation was conducted against the agitating evictees. Cops rounded up 69 agitators including a nine-year-old girl and put them in Lalbazar Central lock up till late evening since noon.

Later at night cops released 62 among them but rounded up seven leaders of the movement in stringent non-bailable charges.latter two are known activists of Mazdoor Kranti Parishad then previous five are from different mass organizations.