13 December 2010

Nandigram On the Verge of Civil War

On 7th January in the wee hours of the morning close to 1.20 AM at Sonachura village, Nandigram-1 Block there was bombing and firing, where 8 villagers died including a 13 year old boy. Till 6.30 PM on 7th January 2007, it has been reported that 2 more people are still fighting for their lives in Nandigram primary health centre Altogether 20 people have been seriously wounded.

Villagers alleged that CPI(M) cadres of the ruling party dressed in police uniforms, threw bombs and fired many gunshots at villagers patrolling on the other side of the Sonachura Bhangabera bridge.  Most of those injured were members of the Bhoomi Uchched Pratirodh Committee (Stop Eviction From Land Committee) that is leading the movement against forced land acquisition. 6 of those who have died were Bharat Mondal, Bhudev Mondal,  Biswajit Maity, Bishnu Miaty, Shankar Samanta and S.K. Salim

The problem started on the 3rd of January 2007. With the Singur fire still blazing, violence exploded again over a project for Indonesia's Salim Group when police lathi-charged and fired several rounds on villagers gathered to protest against acquisition of their farmlands at Nandigram in West Bengal on 3rd January 2007. Six villagers including a 12 year old boy were injured in the firing. The villagers turned on the police to set on fire a police jeep . Nine police men were wounded. The stand-off continued, with the villagers preventing the police force from entering the villages after damaging the roads and bridges to cut off the area from the rest of the state.

After Singur, the Left Front Government of West Bengal is now going to grab around 22,500 acres agricultural and homestead  land in Nandigram (about 150 km from Kolkata near the Haldia port town) of East Midnapore district for construction of a multi-product SEZ (Special Economic Zone) and a mega Chemical Hub. On 31 July 2006, the West Bengal government signed an agreement with the Salim Group of Indonesia for this purpose.

Since last year, peasants and fishermen communities of Nandigram are strongly opposing such despotic acquisition of farmland and homestead land. They formed two independent people's organsiations named "Gana Unnayan and Jana Adhikar Sangram Samity" (Association for Mass Development and People's Rights)  and "Krishi Jami O Janaswartha Raksha Committee" (Committee for protection of agricultural lands and public interest) to protect their life and livelihoods. (On 6th January 2007 all these committees merged to form the Bhoomi Uchched Pratirodh Committee, with the Trinamool, SUCI, Congress, Jamaat e Ulema Hind and some Naxal groups as their members).Last month social activist Medha Patkar along with Swapan Ganguly, General Secretary of PBKMS and other activists visited the area to support the villagers resisting the acquisition.

On  2nd January 2007, Mr. Laxman Seth, the Chairman of Haldia Development Authority (HDA) and CPI(M) MP, officially announced that in the first phase of the land acquisition about 14,500 acres of land of 27 moujas of Nandigram-1 block and 2 moujas of Khejuri-2 block would be acquired. Mr. Seth reported that the list of earmarked moujas has already been sent to the concerned Gram Panchayats.

The notice fuelled rumours that district magistrate Anup Agarwal would visit personally to acquire the land. A large number of  villagers assembled at Kalicharanpore Gram Panchayat office in Nandigram on 3rd January to express and their refusal to part with their land. But their outrage and protest action was responded by atrocious manhandling and straightforward violation of human rights by the Left Front Government police. The villagers alleged that the Panchayat pradhan called the police and the protesters were brutally assaulted nearly 100 meter away from the Panchayat office when they were on a peaceful rally. After being assailed the unarmed villagers of  Sonachura, Osmanchwak, Jalpai and Garchakraberia resisted the police to protect themselves.

The area now seems to be heading for a civil war. Villagers have cut trenches in roads, blocked roads with logs and boulders on the 4th . A CPI(M) office was ransacked on the 5th by the excited villagers. Some of the CPI(M) leaders have fled the villages, while much of their rank and file has joined the anti-land acquisition movement. The police has not entered the area to give protection to any of the aggrieved parties. Instead it organised a meeting with all political parties opposing the acquisition on the 6th, where all the parties and important groups (Trinamul, Congress , SUCI, Jamaat-e-Ulema-Hind and CPI(ML) Liberation) promised to maintain peace in the area, while the police agreed to not go in.

In the meantime, the CPI(M) has formed 25 camps that surround the protesting villages. The villages are in four gram panchayats namely Garchakraberia, Soudkhali, Kalicharanpur and Sonachura, and have a population of  about 60-70,000 people. Arms are being amassed in each of these camps. The plan is clearly one of "cleansing" the villages of dissenters.

The CPI(M) seems to be going about this in an organised manner. On the 6th, it is reported that Sushanta Ghosh, one of the CPI (M) Ministers, and Lakhan Seth, the MP from Haldia, gave provocative speeches in the area, exciting their members to take action on those opposing acquisition. 

Sushanta Ghosh has the dubious reputation of masterminding the CPI(M) operation to convert Keshpur , an area with a number of Trinamul supporters into a CPM stronghold in 2000 through "cleansing" operations using anti-socials and cadres. Lakhan Seth has been one of the strongest proponents of industrialisation in Haldia and has been active in helping in forcible land acquisition. In fact it is memories of this acquisition from which people in Haldia suffered a great deal that is making the people of neighbouring Nandigram very wary of the Government's policies.

In middle of all this, to add fuel to fire Benoy Konar, the President of the Krishak Sabha (the Peasant wing of CPI(M)) gave statements to the press. In an article in Bartaman, January 7, 2007 titled "Chardik Theke ghire palta mar dewa hobe, Benoy Konarer Hunkar" ( We’ll surround from four sides and hit back, Benoy Kengar’s threat) he said that “ora astra niye ele amra ki chup kore thakbo?Darkar hole oder dakhale thaka charti gram panchayate elaka chardike theke ghire fele jiban jerar kore debo. Tokhon ora moja ter pabe.”  (If they bring weapons shall we stay quiet? If necessary then we’ll surround from all sides all the four gram panchayats and make life hell for them. Then they will understand the fun.)

Ora lathi niye ele kintu ebar amrao lathi hatei ta rukhbo” (If they bring sticks then we’ll also take up sticks to stop them)

“ … amra onek sanjamer parichay dichchi. Keshpureo Trinamul eyi line niyechilo. Shesh porjonto okhane je fal hoyechilo ta sabai dekheche..”  ( we have shown a lot of tolerance. In Keshpur Trinamul had taken this line. In the end everybody saw what was the result.)
CPI(M) district Secretary, Ashoke Guria  reflected the words and thoughts of Benoy Konar. when he said on Saturday that "if they pick up weapons and unleash terror than can we be quiet? There will be a political resistance. We have shown enough tolerance. But we have to think of how long we are going to remain quiet.". Local party sources have said that Rabiul Hossein and Khejuri Panchayat Samity president Himanshu Das have been given in charge of the cadre force in the camps.

The affected villages were visited today by a group of leaders from all important political parties and various mass organisations. Swapan Ganguly from PBKMS was also part of this delegation. They met Arun Gupta,  IG (Western range) who was also in charge of police operations in Singur, Anup Agarwal, the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of police. They have asked the police to see that peace is restored in the area and that cases are filed against the murderers of the 8 people who have died today and against those making provocative statements.

As people who have been sympathetic and supportive of the people's movement to resist forcible acquisition of land, we appeal to you to :
  • make all efforts to restore peace in Nandigram area and dissuade the CPI(M) and all other political parties from resorting to violence;
  • demand that the West Bengal Government must stop acquisition of farm land for industrial and other non agricultural purposes;
  • demand that the West Bengal Government adopt a process of negotiation and stop the use of force whether that of the police or its cadres to force people to give land.

No comments:

Post a Comment