12 October 2010

A Report on People's Uprising in Nandigram

 (Sources: Different News papers and websites)

On 7 January 2007, 8 villagers (not confirmed) were killed and at least 20 people were seriously wounded in overnight clashes between local peasants resisting land acquisition and some 'outsider' cadres of the ruling party (CPI-M) in Nandigram of East Midnapore district, West Bengal though the opposition party leaders and local people's organisation for protection of farmland claimed 11 casualties. An industrial zone is to be built in Nandigram with help from Indonesian conglomerate the Salim Group, but the project has faced strong resistance from the farmers refusing to give up their land.

In the wee hours of the 7th morning (Sunday) at Sonachura village, Nandigram-1 Block there was bombing and firing, where about 8 people died including a 13 year old boy named Biswajit Maity. Villagers alleged that a gang of hooligans of  CPI(M) dressed in police uniforms, threw bombs and fired many gunshots at villagers patrolling on the other side of the Sonachura Bhangabera Bridge over the Talpati Canal. Local people asserted the attack was organised by the CPI(M) goons who started throwing bombs from across the river at Khejuri-2 towards Nandigram.

Most of those killed and injured were members of the newly-formed "Bhoomi Uchched Pratirodh Committee" (Committee to Resist Eviction from Land) that is leading the movement against forcible land acquisition. It was reported that 4 of those who died were Bharat Mondal (Sonachura), Biswajit Maity (Soudkhali Purbapalli), Sk. Salim (Uttarpara, 7 No. Jalpai) and Shankar Samanta (Son of Sudhansu Samanta, Sonachura). The last one was a CPI(M) leader assassinated by the villagers to take revenge of mass killings. Kolkata TV, a Bengali news channel, showed footage of a bullet-riddled Bharat Mandal (28), a member of the Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC), collapsing. He was taken to a medical facility in a rickshaw van but died early Sunday. Bharat had two daughters and a son. Bodies of the dead and the injured were brought to the Nandigram Block Hospital. Two other victims, Anukul Mondal and Nishikanta Barman were seriously injured and moved to SSKM Hospital. Villagers and police both failed to throw light on death toll and the persons missing since 7th midnight.

After the massacre about 5 thousand local people set the CPI(M) camp at Satkhanda in Khejuri-2 block and the house of a local CPI-M leader, Mr Sudhansu Samanta, ablaze. The police remained mute spectators, not entering into the strife torn villages despite the violence. But a large contingent of police patrolled the outskirts of the village and was watching the situation very closely. Mr Arun Gupta, IG (Western Range) pleaded inaccessibility citing dug-up roads and said the presence of policemen in Nandigram would only add fuel to the fire. Director-general of police (Midnapore range) Mr NR Babu echoed Mr Arun Gupta when he pleaded inaccessibility. He said, “Armed villagers are patrolling the fringes and we feared violence in case police try to move in.” However, the Rapid Action Force was deployed in Nandigram after the violence even as other party leaders of Left Front demanded an immediate meeting of the Front to discuss the situation. Since police failed to enter the villages, it could not be confirmed if the violence had claimed more lives.

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. 4 villagers including a 15 year old boy were injured in the firing. Then the livid mass set on fire a police jeep and 9 police men were wounded.

After Singur, the Left Front Government of West Bengal is now going to grab around 22,500 acres agricultural and homestead  land in Nandigram 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 (well known as anti-trade union and anti-worker employers under the Suharto regime)  for this purpose. Construction of a four-lane road bridge over the Haldi River linking between Haldia port and the proposed SEZ in Nandigram  had also been planned.
Nandigram (about 150 km from Kolkata near the Haldia port town) is a minority dominated area (61% Muslim community) and traditionally has been a left citadel, voting time and again for successive Left Front Governments in the state. The Nandigram assembly seat is held by the CPI while the Haldia Lok Sabha seat belongs to the CPI(M). In last Panchayat election CPI(M) won 55 seats and CPI got 20 seats in total 136 seats of Nandigram-1 block. In total 23 seats of Panchayat Samity, 16 seats belong to the left parties. But faced with the apprehension of losing their land and abode to proposed SEZ, thousand of villagers have now organised themselves into a single body to resist the looming land acquisition.

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 organisations 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.[1] On the last week of December, 2006 a meeting was called up by CPI(M) MP Mr. Lakshman Seth at Chanditala to convince the local people in favour of land acquisition. But the villagers strongly raised their voice of protest against this autocratic decision of the government. On 7th of 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. Lakshman Seth, the Chairman of Haldia Development Authority (HDA) and CPI(M) MP, officially declared 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. It was also announced that the land of Nandigram block would be acquired shortly since the Salim Group would build a mega Chemical Hub (10,000 acres) and another industrialist group of Pawan Ruia would set up a Shipbuilding and repairing unit (2500 acres) there. The rest of the land (2000 acres) would be used for disposal of alluvium dredged from the river bed of Haldia Port. Mr. Seth reported that the list of earmarked moujas had already been sent to the concerned Gram Panchayats. The notice mentioned the names of 29 moujas at the Nandigram-1 and Khejuri-2 blocks that had primarily been sort listed for the Salim-promoted chemical hub.

The notice fuelled rumours that district magistrate Mr. Anup Agarwal would visit personally to acquire the land. A large number of  villagers assembled at Kalicharanpore No. 9 Gram Panchayat office of Garchakraberia 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 left party Panchayat pradhan Samerun Biwi called the police and the protesters were brutally assaulted at Bhuta More nearly 100 meter away from the Panchayat office when they were on a peaceful rally. After being assailed the unarmed villagers of Sonachura, Osmanchak, Jalpai, Garchakraberia and other villages resisted the police to protect themselves. The villagers damaged all the roads and bridges as well as blocked the roads with boulders and tree trunks to prevent the police force entering the village. The villagers including a large number of women started patrolling the locality with staves, brooms, sickles, swords, and other weapons to prevent the entry of policemen. Sensing trouble, the police remained restraint for the time being.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya claimed that no notification had yet been issued for land acquisition in Nandigram. Home Secretary Mr. Prasad Ranjan Roy also stated that it was deliberate rumour.

Tension prevailed in Nandigram while a local CPI(M) office at Rajaramchak was ransacked on the 5th January by the excited villagers. Some of the CPI(M) leaders have fled the villages, while much of their rank and file joined the anti-land acquisition movement. Following 3rd January's incident, the CPI(M) workers set up 'check posts' at places on way to Nandigram to 'scrutinise' the entry of people even though the administration has not yet imposed Section 144 CrPC. Even the Journalists alleged that they were stopped at a distance of 9 km from Nandigram by the CPI(M) cadres who 'patrolled' the area.

On 6th January, 2007 Saturday, at least 22 mass organisations formed the "Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee" (BUPC) to prevent any move to acquire land for the proposed project by the Salim group and the state government even as CPI(M) activists flexed their muscles and drew a battle line with the irate farmers and residents.

In the meantime, the CPI(M) formed a no. of 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 were being amassed in each of these camps. The plan was clearly one of "cleansing" the villages of dissenters. The CPI(M) seemed to be going about this in an organised manner. On the 6th, it was reported that Sushanto Ghosh, one of the CPI (M) Ministers, and Lakshman Seth, the MP from Haldia, gave provocative speeches in the area, exciting their members to take action on those opposing acquisition.

Sushanto Ghosh has the dubious reputation of masterminding the CPI(M) operation to convert "Keshpur", an area with a number of TMC supporters into a CPI(M) stronghold in 2000 through "cleansing" operations using anti-socials and cadres. Lakshman 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 these, 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 Konar’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 the result was.)

CPI(M) district Secretary, Ashoke Guria  reflected the words and thoughts of Benoy Konar. when he said on 5th 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 said that Rabiul Hossein and Khejuri Panchayat Samity president Himanshu Das had been given in charge of the cadre force in the camps.

The family members of the martyrs who were killed in violence here as well as those whose houses and shops were ransacked by the offenders had identified 4 men who once had struck terror at Keshpur. Seikh Rabiul Islam, Kebal Das, Satya Das and Shankar Patra whom the villagers of Sonachura believed to be leaders of the CPI(M)’s “cadre bahini” were seen wielding weapons from neighbouring Khejuri block across the Talpati bridge and targeting innocent members and supporters of the BUPC early on 7th morning.

According to Mr Narayan Bhunia, a resident of Sonachura village, the CPI(M)’s “cadre bahini” had been assembling at some houses in Khejuri about seven days back. They were also carrying weapons that included automatic firearms and stocking them at these houses. On 7th January, in the shadow of the midnight these armed men allegedly crossed over from Satkhanda of Khejuri-2 Block to Sonachura via the Bhangabera bridge and took shelter at the house of Shankar Samanta, a member of the CPI(M) controlled Sonachura 10 number Gram Panchayat. Mr Pranab Manna, another eyewitness to that incident, said the armed men started firing indiscriminately at a peaceful gathering of the BUPC that led to the deaths of 3 people. “We could only throw some stones in retaliation as we don’t have any firearms here. As day broke, we could identify Rabiul, Kebal, Satya and Shankar as they kept firing on us from Shankar Samanta’s house,” he said.

Soon after these men of Keshpur fame fled, an angry mob attacked Shankar Samanta’s house and set it ablaze. Shankar Samanta died from burns. The mob also attacked the house of Mr Lakshman Mondal, the pradhan of the panchayat but he escaped somehow. The mob ransacked the house and had reportedly seized a revolver from his house.

However, local CPI (M) leaders refuted the allegations of "carrying out an attack" on the villagers and claimed that the peasants supported by the rival TMC workers 'lynched' their party-members. CPI(M) district Secretary Ashoke Guria said, "Trinamul workers have kidnapped some of our party members".

Chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee blamed the Jamiyet-E-Ulemae-Hind for resorting to a “communal campaign” to incite violence in Nandigram. He said: “Quite a few political parties, including Trinamul Congress, Congress, SUCI and Naxalites joined the (anti-land acquisition) campaign to spread confusion. Jamiyet in particular started an ugly communal campaign. This (six deaths) is an unfortunate incident, no matter activists of which party perished in the clash.”
The Left Front Chairman Mr. Biman Bose said his combine would oppose the bandh as he believed the violence at Nandigram since 3 January was the handiwork of the Trinamul, Naxalites and the SUCI.

On 7th January, the affected villages were visited by a group of leaders from all important political parties and various mass organisations. Mr. 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 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 were killed and against those making provocative statements.

The police had 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 January, where all the parties and important groups (Trinamul, Congress , SUCI, Jamiet-E-Ulemae-Hind and CPI(ML)Liberation) promised to maintain peace in the area, while the police agreed to not go in.
Nandigram turned into a combat zone as villagers blew conch shells and moved with swords, sickles and staves sounding a bugle of war against the CPI(M) and the state administration following the move to get hold of land for the SEZ. The situation has remained explosive since then, prompting Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and the CPI(M) to go on the back foot even as the Left Front constituent parties like CPI, RSP, and Forward Block criticised the government for its land acquisition policies.

BUPC called a 24-hour bandh at Nandigram on 7th while SUCI called another bandh in the area on 9th in protest against CPI(M) violence on the farmers whose land was being grabbed for the proposed industrial project of the Salim group. The Congress and the SUCI also called for a 24-hour bandh in Bengal on 8th, while the Trinamool, CPI (ML) Liberation and BJP separately called for a 12-hour state-wide bandh in West Bengal on the same day to protest CPI(M) atrocities on political opponents at Nandigram and killings of poor farmers.
6 activists of CPI(ML) Liberation, including students of Jadavpur University and New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), were arrested from Nandigram after the flare-up. The party alleged that the police falsely incriminated their workers who had gone there for fact finding. CPI(ML) Liberation demanded arrest of CPI(M) leaders Benoy Konar and Lakshman Seth for issuing provocative statements.

On 8th January, stray incidents of violence marked the All Bengal Strike called by the oppositions in the state. Normal life was disrupted and the situation continued to remain tense at Nandigram. Locals there continued round-the-clock vigilance to check further infiltration. Violence continued as men armed with automatic firearms and dressed in black had started firing in the early hours on 8th and the villagers set a CPI(M) office ablaze at Bhekutia, Dinabondhupur around 6 A.M. at dawn. It was alleged that a shop owned by a local CPI(M) leader was also ransacked by the mob. The villagers chased a police troop at Dinabandhupur when they tried to enter the village. Officer in Charge of  Nandigram PS Mr. Shyamal Roy had been transferred and it was reported that Panskura OC Mr Shekhar Roy would take over from him.
Sporadic incidents of violence were reported across all districts of South Bengal with at least 5 people, including a woman, injured in Fakirbazar area near Shibpur in Howrah, after bandh supporters allegedly threw a petrol bomb on a packed Shibpur-bound SBSTC bus around 2 p.m. 11 more people were injured in 3 separate clashes between bandh supporters and their rivals in Kadambagachi and Duttapukur in North 24-Parganas and in Bhangar in South 24-Parganas, respectively. In Durgapur, police lathicharged a Congress-led procession near Bhiringhee while a CPI(ML)office was allegedly set on fire by some CPI(M)-backed activists at Pandaveswar.

In north Bengal, 11 people were hurt in two separate clashes between SUCI and CPI(M) supporters at Gosanimari and Chengrabandha in Cooch Behar while police lathicharged bandh supporters in Malda district. The bandh also affected life in Jalpaiguri, North and South Dinajpur and Darjeeling districts.

In Kolkata, bandh supporters clashed with police at Hazra crossing. Police lathi-charged on the rally of Bandh supporters. Streets wore a deserted look with only state-run buses and trams plying. In all, 373 people, including 37 women, were arrested in Kolkata. Some state and private buses were damaged and roadblocks were put up near Hazra, Kidderpore, Gariahat, Maniktala, Palmer Bazar and Entally. Train services, in both South Eastern Railway and the Eastern Railway divisions, were disrupted.

On 8th January, an all-party meeting called by the district administration was held at Tamluk. Representatives of all political parties and the administration agreed on four points: 1) any government notice on land acquisition will be issued only after discussions with all political parties; 2) there must not be any political camp within a 5 km radius of the trouble-prone area; 3) roads will be repaired at the earliest to make the villages accessible and; 4) the points of agreement will be announced all over the district. After this meet police and paramilitary personnel from five districts started camping at the border of Nandigram.

Meanwhile, Khokan Shit, a Sonachura resident, was arrested by Thekhali outpost police while accompanying a cameraman. Members of the BUPC met the IG (Western Range) and demanded Khokan be released forthwith. They said his detention would further antagonise the Nandigram villagers.
Shri Biman Bose, Chairman of the Left Front made a statement on 8th January, 2007 which was telecast by 24 Ghanta, ETV and other channels. He had stated that the violent events in Nandigram were planned on 3rd December 2006 during a meeting at the four storied house of one Tapan Khatua (Son of Manas Khatua) in Nandigram in the presence of Medha Patkar.

But the truth is Medha was arrested from Singur on 2nd December 2006 and spent the night of the 2nd and most of 3rd December in a police van at Hungerford Street. She was in Kolkata on 3rd night and on the 4th left from Howrah in the morning to be arrested once again on her way to Singur at 11.30 on the 4th December 2006. In fact, Medha Patkar was followed by the police all through out her visit in Kolkata from the 2nd to the 10th of December 2006. Moreover, Medha Patkar is known as a non violent Gandhian. This is one more instance where Shri Bose is using lies to cover up the autocratic and brutal actions of his party and their Government to suppress people’s movements.

National Alliance of People’ Movements (NAPM) of which Medha Patkar is a very important member condemned this malicious statement. On 9th in a press release they said "This is just one more untruth from Shri Biman Bose and members of his party , where they are following Goebbels’ policy in Hitler’s Germany of repeating lies again and again in order to turn them into beliefs". They also condemned the repeated attempts by Mr. Biman Bose to perpetrate untruths. Later on, a case of defamation was filed against him.

On 9th January, in a major climb-down, chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee conceded “it was a mistake” on part of the Haldia Development Authority to have issued a notice for acquisition of land at Nandigram and instructed the district magistrate to “tear it up”. Mr Bhattacharjee said the HDA notice “created all confusion” even before land acquisition could start at Nandigram. The CM was also categorical that no land-mapping would begin at Nandigram before talking to villagers “down to the grassroots level” and explaining to them every aspect of the project.

In Nandigram an uneasy tranquil prevailed as police failed to make peace with the BUPC and the trouble-torn area continued to remain beyond administrative control. On 9th January, fresh violence was reported in the evening. An unidentified man was allegedly assaulted by the villagers in Soudkhali, near Garhchakraberia after a few blasts in the village around 9 p.m. The villagers, who claimed the man was an "outsider", found him near the spot where the bombs exploded. He was held captive by the villagers and then handed over to local police.

Superintendent of Police, East Midnapore, Mr. Ashok Dutta said police did not push in because discussions with the agitating activists had ended in a stalemate and things still remained tense. Police Officers came clean that any attempt to edge into the tense villages would foment trouble as the villagers consider police to be government agents. Local leaders were urged by the SP to pacify villagers and try to bring back peace to the area. Police was compelled to release Khokon Shit arrested on 8th.

Mr Bhabani Prasad Das, a member of the BUPC said: “Some men sneaked into Char-Kendamari village from the Haldia side and torched the betel plantation of Mr Chandan Bhuian.” A Sonachura resident alleged: “Around 1 a.m, a few men inched up to Gangra near Jellingham project in a boat and hurled a few bombs.” Policemen set camp in Dinabondhupur, Tekhali and Bhangabhera.

On 9th January, Industries Secretary of West Bengal Mr Sabyasachi Sen said that the chemical hub, was “actually” the initiative of the Union petroleum and chemicals ministry which wants to set up a petrochemical and petroleum investment region (PCPIR) in one of the coastal, sea-faring states. Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal were considered. A task-force was formed by the Prime Minister’s Office which finally chose Haldia and Dahej in Gujarat for the project because of its location, connectivity and resources. According to the PCPIR policy, the hub is to be built on 250 sq km or about 62,000 acres of land, while 40 per cent of the area, which comes to about 25,000 acres, is earmarked for the manufacturing zone. Mr. Sen tried to explain that the zone is to be given the status of an SEZ so that investors can be given special incentives without which, such a huge area can’t be developed before actual manufacturers step in. The Haldia Development Authority, according to him, was asked to make a survey of land in 17 moujas of Nandigram for subsequent acquisition. The HDA has no authority to acquire land which is vested with the district collector. Obviously, lack of preparations and the failure of the state government to allay fears of farmers who would be displaced led to the fiasco over the survey. The policy, it is now being emphasised, is not to touch dwelling units and places of worship. Nor is it imperative to acquire continuous land for the project. “Land can be fragmented and different plots can be linked, if needed, by laying new roads,” Mr Sen said.

On 9th January CPI(M) cadres and police brutally assaulted a group of college students when they were on rally at A. J. C. Bose Road near CPI(M) office at Alimuddin Street, Kolkata in protest against the carnage at Nandigram. They were intercepted before they could reach the CPI(M) headquarters. Eleven students were arrested and were taken to Lalbazar. The students had gathered at Moulali crossing around 3 p.m. under the banner of "Chhatrachatri  Samhati Mancha", a new outfit representing several student bodies owing allegiance to different political organisations. There were several students from Presidency College and Jadavpur University

On 10th January, police for the first time ventured into Nandigram as few roads were repaired overnight in view of the NDA delegation’s visit. But the villages continued to retain detached as roads were dug up and blockades were put back in place as the NDA delegation left Nandigram.

A meeting between the SDO, Haldia and members of the BUPC that went on till late night ended in a stalemate. The members of the committee said if the state government does not issue a notification proclaiming that they would not acquire any land at Nandigram immediately, then they would intensify their movement in the area. Mr Shankar Halder, SDO, Haldia, stated that they would begin repairing roads leading to Nandigram as soon as peace is restored in the entire area.
In the meantime, a new forum under aegis of CPI(M)’s farmers’ wing, Krishak Sabha, was formed that would begin campaigning in favour of land acquisition and the proposed SEZ in Nandigram. Mr Ashok Guria, district Krishak Sabha leader, said that this committee known as "Krishi o Shilpo Unnoyan Samiti"  had been formed to make people of Nandigram understand the need of the SEZ here.

Even in the midst of such a turmoil at Nandigram over acquisition of farm land for setting up the mega chemical hub, the Salim Group reaffirmed its commitment to implement all its projects - the SEZ at Nandigram, Haldia and building roads and bridges at Kukrahati and Baruipur. Mr Prasun Mukherjee, a partner of the consortium led by the Salim Group, met Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on 10th and discussed the projects. He said the group had left it to the state government to acquire land for the SEZ and would await the realignment of the land.

Tension persisted at Nandigram as another all-party meeting to find a solution ended in a stalemate on 11th January. Reports of armed CPI(M) cadres mobilising near the Khejuri side of the trouble-torn area infused fear in the villagers who had taken to patrolling wielding bamboo sticks.
Earlier on 11th, a meeting between the Nandigram BDO and representatives of the BUPC proved fruitless yet again with the administration insisting that the villagers first allow the government to repair roads and bridges damaged in the recent violence. Representatives of BPUC walked out of the meeting demanding the administration first ensure that all political camps be removed from a 5-km radius of the trouble-prone area. Since a CPI(M) camp was yet to be shifted out of the specified sphere, they said they would not allow the administration to start repair work.

CPI(M) MP Mr Lakhshman Seth visited Khejuri to attend the funeral of Shankr Samanta, a CPI(M) gram panchayat member of Sonachura who was killed in the violence on 7th morning. Mr Seth accused the Trinamul Congress of having fed the people wrong ideas of industrialisation and creating an environment of terror. .

On 12 January, a public meeting against state government's unfair policy of land acquisition and CPI(M) terror was organised by BUPC at Hazrakata in Nandigram. Around 12 thousand people from the surrounding locality assembled at the meeting. Social activist Medha Patkar, Swami Agnibesh of Bandhua Mazdoor Mukti Morcha, Anuradha Talwar, President of PBKMS, Prof. Meher Engineer, Shishir Adhikari, TMC MLA of Egra and other representatives from SUCI, Congress, Janata Dal Secular and Jamiet-E-Ulemae Hind addressed the gathering. Medha Patkar accused the Salim group which is going to set up the proposed SEZs of being a corrupt company. She said that this group is the one which had murdered Communist party members in Indonesia for purely business reasons and now they are joining hands with the Communist ruled state to set up business. She dared the chief minister and the CPI(M) state leadership to visit Nandigram and tell villagers that they would acquire land here.

As the land acquisition issue turned the tide against CPI(M) in Nandigram which had been a stronghold of the Left Front for years, the CPI(M) state secretariat drafted a plan on 13th January to carry out an extensive campaign from 15th January to 28th February in districts earmarked for new industrial projects to win back confidence of farmers and generate public opinion in favour of their new industrial policy. It was decided that a pamphlet would also be circulated in villages and urban areas. The schedule of this campaign was finalised at Alimudin Street where Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and the party’s state secretary, Mr. Biman Bose, met leaders from East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas for more than five hours. It was learnt that Mr. Dipak Sarkar, one of the CPI(M) state secretariat members would be given the responsibility to look after the developments in East Midnapore thereby clipping the wings of Mr. Lakhsman Seth.

In an all-party meeting convened by the SDO at Nandigram, it was decided that the roads and the bridges would be repaired at the earliest. Mr Sankar Halder, SDO Haldia, requested the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) members to motivate villagers to help the administration.

But the initiatives of the administration to repair roads, bridges and bring back normalcy in the tension torn areas in Nandigram failed again as the Anti-land acquisition movement workers refused to cooperate till the administration gave word that land acquisition would be completely stalled. After 24 hours of the all-party meeting none of the oppositions and BUPC members came up to help out the administration. As a result the Nandigram stalemate continued to persist, adding to the worries of the administration.

On 14th January, the local people of Vekutia area cancelled the 300-year-old Pous Sankranti mela (fair) at Basulimata temple near Dinabandhupur in Nandigram, as it was not the time to celebrate.
On 14th CPI(M) began their “political process” by "going to the villagers at the grassroots". The party launched its campaign to explain to the people the need for industrialisation with its state secretary, Mr Biman Bose addressing a public meeting at Tamluk. Mr. Bose also attended a closed-door party meeting at Sutahata in Haldia with all the leaders and local committee members of the district to boost the confidence of the party members. The CPI(M) also initiated damage-control measures to restore confidence in the party following the people's uprising and unrest in Nandigram. It was announced that CPI(M) would observe 27th January as Nandigram Dibas (Nandigra Day) all over the state to protest against the killings. The party would be campaigning throughout the region based on the points mentioned in the mandate of their last legislative Assembly election, handing out lakhs of pamphlets during the months of January and February to reach out to the common people.

Villagers of tension-torn areas in Nandigram persisted in their non-cooperation with the district administration over mending of roads and bridges with the BUPC insisting on a notice from the government stating that “no land will be acquired in Nandigram”. On 16th January, BUPC leaders held a meeting to chalk out the future outline of the movement that decided to seek the removal of Nandigram from the planning area of Haldia Development Authority, a judicial inquiry into the incidents of 3rd January and 7th January and adequate compensation to the families of the deceased in the incident on 7th January. It was also resolved that a deputation would be submitted to the local block office and police station on 25th.

In East Midnapore, Trinamul supporters blocked roads at Chandipur, Nandigram, Maniktala, Nimtouri, Nandakumar, Contai and other places from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. successfully. They also conducted two meetings at Saudkhali and Kalicharanpur and one at Rayapara in Nandigram. District Trinamul leader and MLA Mr. Subhendu Adhikari said: “Police and administration have initiated cases against Trinamul workers. We shall continue our protest.”

On 16th January CPI(M) state secretary Mr. Biman Bose said Nandigram was the last part of a project that would take eight or ten years to complete. “The project starts from Barasat. Nandigram is at the fag end. No land has been acquired there. The process of acquisition may not even start now. The media is spreading rumours”, Mr Bose said at Alimuddin Street this evening after releasing a pamphlet titled “It's not agricultural versus industry - It's industry on the foundation of agriculture” that would be circulated all over the state.
Asked why the Left Front allies were not taking part in the campaign, Mr Bose said that the decision would be taken at the next meeting of the front. However, he could not say when the meeting would take place.

Police have not been allowed to enter the barricaded areas since tension broke out here on 3rd January. At present, duties of police have been reduced to patrolling tension-torn areas on the roads from Nandigram to Muhammadpur bridge and Nandigram to Tekhali, Bhangabhera.
Arup Das, a Trinamul worker and a prominent representative of BUPC, spearheading the movement against acquisition of land for the proposed SEZ, was hit with sharp weapons by some miscreants at Tengua bazar and died on the spot on 16th midnight. Superintendent of Police, Ashok Dutta said, the deceased was returning to his house in Kandoposhora village at late night after attending a meeting of the Trinamul and the BUPC. Police recovered the body from near his house on 17th early morning. The murder of Arup Das has bred fear in the minds of villagers. They are alleging that miscreants backed by CPI(M) took advantage of the shower last night and committed the murder. However, the villagers seemed ready to continue their anti-land acquisition drive. BUPC called a 12-hour bandh from 6 am on 17th January in protest against the killing. Meanwhile, members of BUPC forwarded a deputation to BDO, Nandigram, demanding a notice of non-acquisition from the government to end tension in the area.

Compiled by: Paschimbanga Khet Majoor Samity
19 January 2007

[1] On 6th January 2007 all these committees merged to form the Bhoomi Uchched Pratirodh Committee, (BUPC) with the Trinamul, SUCI, Congress, Jamiyet-E-Ulemae Hind and some Naxalite groups as their members. On 7th. the peasant community of Khejuri formed a union named "Krishi Jami Banchao Committee" (Committee to save agricultural lands) to protect their rights and livelihoods. The committee organised a meeting at Battala, Khejuri in the evening.

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