25 December 2010

Bankrupt CPM Strikes Again - Heading For A Bloody Election

A Brief Report On the Recurrence of Violence in Nandigram

Unsure about whether they can win through plain voting, a desperate CPM has again resorted to tactics of violence in Nandigram in the past three days as its preparation for the forthcoming Panchayat elections. To understand the situation there, a team consisting of concerned citizens (Meher Engineer, Bijaya Chanda, Debjit Dutt, Ashim Giri and Anuradha Talwar) visited the area today( 20th April 2008). We visited Gokulnagar Adhikary Para and the local Nandigram Hospital. We talked to CRPF and Eastern Frontier Rifles personnel posted in the disturbed area. We also met various patients and their families at Nandigram hospital. One of our team members (Bijaya Chanda) had earlier met three of the patients who have been transferred because of the seriousness of their injuries to SSKM Hospital in Kolkata. We give below some of our major observations:

The past few days have seen a repeat of torture on the people of Nandigram. Villagers of three different parts of Nandigram have been the target of attacks in the past three days. As a result, there have been a number of people wounded – 10 from Gokulnagar Adhikary para, Mondal para and Parmanik para , of which three are women; 7 from Garchakraberia area; and, 1 old woman of 70 years from Sonachura area.

There has been a repeat of the earlier experience for those who have suffered earlier either on March 14th 2007 or during the “re-capture” operation by the CPI(M) in November 2007, or in the intervening period. The most shocking example of this is that of Radharani Ari, a frail middle-aged village housewife. Radha Rani’s husband is a marginal farmer. She was gang raped on March 15th by her CPI(M)  neighbours. However, Radharani never allowed the shame of being raped overcome her zeal to protest against injustice She became one of the most vocal critics of the CPI(M)’s harmad[1]. She has been part of a nationwide campaign on the CPI(M)’s atrocities , having gone to Kerala and Delhi with a team and later having accompanied the Nandigram to Narmada Jatha . She also gave evidence against her rapists to the High Court appointed CBI team. On 18th April 2008, Friday night, at 9.30 PM, Radharani had to pay the price once again for her courage – she was gang raped once again by Harekrishna Das and Chinmaya Das. The latter is the CPI(M) candidate for booth number 167 in Gokulnagar in the forthcoming Panchayat election.

Radharani was recovered from a field that is about 200 yards from her house in a half naked and unconscious state at 3.30 AM after the harmad left. Like Radharani, Narmada Shit of Sonachura, a 70 years old woman, has been targeted because she is a vocal critic of the CPI(M) harmad. She was chased and beaten up on Friday night by the harmad and while trying to escape them, she fell and was almost buried under an earthern wall that collapsed on her. She has also been admitted to the SSKM Hopsital in Kolkata with grievous injuries along with Radha Rani.

Many of those wounded have been attacked earlier. One example is that of the family of Radharani Ari,  whose son was attacked earlier and broke his leg in the process. Her son and husband were attacked again, when she was raped on the 18th. Pratap Ari, her husband, is seriously injured and in SSKM hospital, He has received a greivious sword injury on his chest. Her son, Subhendu Ari, is in Nandigram hospital with a deep cut on his left foot due to a sword attack. Some of the others wounded are:

Sudharshan Pramanick of Gokulnagar Parmanik Para received injuries from an iron rod , lathis and swords. He is Nandigram hospital.

Shiekh Gulam Mohammed of Jalpai Nakchirachar was attacked by a sword. He managed to escape an injury on his stomach and was then attacked on the head. He put his hands up to prevent this and has had both his hands cut by the sword.
The CPI(M) during the attacks has followed the sinister pattern that they used in November during their “re-capture” operation. Large groups of armed people have invaded the villages once again; many of the members of these groups have been outsiders from the neighbouring Khejuri area; the police have stood by as casual bystanders, and often as active supporters of the invading groups, arresting youth supporters of the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee from the villages as a precursor to the invasion.

Of most concern is the fact that the entry of outsiders in the area is being actively prevented once again. Today (20th April 2008), the convoy of Mamata Banerjee was prevented from entering Gokulnagar by an armed mob of CPI(M) supporters in spite of the presence of the Nandigram Police Station Officer in Charge (OC), Debashis Chakraborty, and the Circle Inspector (CI) who preferred to play the role of a partisan onlooker. She was manhandled and her vehicle was wrecked.

Of even more concern is the fact that in the presence of the OC and CI, members of the media were stoned and chased by the armed mob for about 1-2 kms. The police force and the Rapid Action Force (a special anti-riot police group) were also part of the mob that chased them.

Ransacking of houses has also started again. Radharani Ari’s house has had tiles broken on Friday and is lying desolate. Swadesh Das Adhikary’s house in Gokulnagar Adhikarypara , which was burnt in November was once again surrounded by a mob in the evening today. It was only our repeated appeals to the CRPF force over the phone that led to his rescue and the dispersal of the mob from the area. Khokan Shit’s house in Sonachura was attacked with bombs on Friday night.

People, especially women, are once again frightened. Many are planning to flee from their homes. Khokhan Shit, his father, wife and children have already left their house in Sonachura and have taken shelter with relatives. Tapasi Jana is planning to send away her 17 years old daughter as she fears she will be raped. It is feared that villages under attack will gradually empty out.

Gokulnagar Adhikary para has a camp of 22 jawans from the Eastern Frontier Rifles. When we asked these jawans about their role in the recent problems in the village, they told us (after 3 days of occurrence) that they still did not know details of what had happened there on Friday night, when a serious incident took place with 11 people injured and 1 woman gangraped.  They said their patrolling routes and activity were decided by an Assistant Sub Inspector from the West Bengal Police, who according to the village people is hand in glove with the CPI(M) harmad. The CRPF soldiers who are now guarding Gokulnagar village complained about not having the powers to take any action, and said they were puppets in the hands of the local police.

The names of some of the CPI(M) goons against whom complaints were reported to have been lodged with Nandigram P.S. are:
Gurupada Patra, Manik Patra, Raja Garu Das, Ratan Garu Das, Babulal Bor, Sudhangshu Garu Das,Sanjay Mondal, Suman Mondal, Milan Bijoli, Prakash Mondal, Johar Das  and others .
The first four are the accused in cases that were filed in March and Novemebr 2007, but are still evading arrest with police help.

[1] The local name for the armed  goons of the CPI(M)

Shocking Judgment on Binayak Sen

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity is shocked at the judgment of the Raipur Additional District and Sessions Judge in Chhattisgarh which has given life imprisonment to Dr Binayak Sen. We know Dr. Sen for many years as a humane doctor. He has not, like many others, turned his profession for mere profit making but has used his skills to serve the weakest sections in the country.Dr. Sen established the Shahid Hospital, a hospital for workers, and later ran dispensaries in tribal areas in Chhattisgarh. He has always voiced his views strongly against injustice of all sorts in the country.  

Dr. Sen is the victim of a witch-hunt by the Chhattisgarh Government and is being targeted because he was one of the first and boldest voices of protest against the Salwa Judum and its atrocities in Chhattisgarh.He has also spoken boldly against the Chhattisgarh Government using the excuse of curbing Maoist activity to vacate large tracts of land for corporates like the Tatas and Essar.  Having followed the trial closely, as far as we know, there has been no concrete evidence of his involvement in seditious activities. We would in fact consider him a true patriot who has worked peacefully for the improvement in the lives of the poor and downtrodden in this country. Charges of sedition against such a person reflects very poorly on the Indian democracy.

We condemn the judgement of the Sessions court as being totally politically influenced by those who are in power in Chhattisgarh. We also affirm that we shall continue to struggle to seek justice for him and many others like him, who are being victimised for crimes they have not committed.

24 December 2010

Answering CPI(M)'s 'True Lies'


Untruth 1: Certain elements had resorted to violence and cut off roads and bridges in the area on the pretext of land acquisition.

Truth: After Singur, the Left Front Government of West Bengal attempted 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 31st July 2006, the state government signed a MoU with the Salim Group of Indonesia (well known as anti-trade union and anti-worker employers under the Suharto regime) for this purpose. Since then, peasants and fishermen communities of Nandigram have been strongly opposing such despotic acquisition of village land in the name of industrialisation.

Initially, the villagers 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. Later on, two committees merged to form the "Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee" (BUPC) (Committee to Resist Eviction from Land) to prevent any move to acquire land for the proposed SEZ and the state government even as CPI(M) cadres flexed their muscles and drew a battle line with the infuriated villagers.

On 29th December 2006, a public meeting was called up by Mr. Lakshman Seth, the Chairperson of Haldia Development Authority (HDA) and CPI (M) MP, at Nandigram Bus stand to convince the local people in favour of land acquisition. But the villagers strongly raised their voice of protest against this unilateral decision of the government. In the face of people's dissent, on 2nd January 2007, a notice was officially issued by HDA that initially about 14,500 acres of land would be acquired. The notice mentioned the names of total 29 moujas at the Nandigram-1 and Khejuri-2 blocks that had primarily been sort listed for the Salim-promoted chemical hub which included 5 Gram Panchayats in Nandigram-1 block namely 10 No. Sonachura, 9 No. Kalicharanpur, 3 No. Kendemari, 2 No. Muhammadpur and 1 No. Vekutia and Khejuri GP in Khejuri-2 Block having a population of nearly 60-70,000 people. This notice with the list of earmarked moujas was sent to the concerned Gram Panchayats by the HDA.

In an Interim Report of the Citizen's Committee led by Prof. Sumit Sarkar and others on their fact finding in Nandigram, it was stated, "At Nandigarm, all sections of the village people that we met, women as well as men, vociferously expressed bitter anger about the land acquisition process. They had heard rumours of land acquisition for the last year and a half, and had organised themselves to resist it. They had not been consulted at any stage, nor had any elected body (panchayats or gram sansads) been called to discuss the issue. On 3 January, people went to the Gram Panchayat office at Kalicharanpur to ask for information about a notice that had been reportedly issued by the Haldia Development Authority. They had heard that about thirty eight mouzas would be engrossed within the land earmarked for the SEZ under the Salim group. On being told by the Pradhan that no information had come, they demonstrated peacefully and left. They alleged that soon afterwards, the police attacked them with lathis and teargas and then fired upon them. Four people were badly injured.

A large crowd, including many women, carrying household implements like sharp knives, then came out and there was an hour-long confrontation, after which the police retreated in some confusion. According to eyewitnesses among villagers at Bhuta More, a police jeep drove off course and hit a lamppost while trying to escape. The jeep got completely burnt through the ensuing electric short circuit, a policeman fell out into a pond and another tripped on the road and fell. The villagers rescued them and, after a light beating, sent them back. They had left behind a rifle that was subsequently sent back to the Thana. Immediately, villagers began to erect barricades, bridges were broken and roads dug up to prevent the entry of the police and of CPM cadres into the villages. We saw hundreds of such barricades which are still in place."

Untruth 2: CPI (M) members and supporters were driven out of the area. Two thousand and five hundred people were driven out of the area. More than a thousand people are sheltering in relief camps outside the area ... Those who did not go along with their (i.e. TMC, Naxalites) disruptive activities were targeted.

Truth: Nandigram 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, thousands of villagers organised themselves into a single body to resist the looming eviction. A team of PBKMS visited Nandigram on 22-24 January to ascertain the situation. We found that a huge numbers of former CPI(M) members and supporters are dourly discontented against the party and the Government.

Pratap Chandra Mondal, s/o Bhaku Chandra Mondal, of Sonachura said, "I supported the CPI(M) and was the President of the Shiksha Karmi Union. Now, I am actively supporting the movement. They are forcefully taking away land for business interests. We want industry but not SEZ. Because in SEZ there are no labour laws, no minimum wages etc. The CPI(M) came to power because they represented the working class and now they have become enemies of the working class. They are anyway taking more land than required for all these industries. The movement against land acquisition is not going to stop on any verbal promises; we want only written agreement that they won't take land".

The Citizens' Committee's Report tallied with our findings. It stated,"Our impression was that the people of Nandigram are prepared for a very hard struggle. It is being waged with remarkable communal amity and with participation from all political groups, many of whom had been CPM just the other day. “We were all CPM but now we only have our movement”, said a woman: “We do not want to wander around like gypsies, carrying tents on our back". .... ... We also feel that the fury was partly due to the total lack of transparency about the basic facts about land acquisition about which no government sources would inform them. They were not part of any discussion about matters that concerned their lives and livelihood."

Tension gripped in Nandigram while a local CPI(M) office at Rajaramchak was set ablaze on the 5th January by the excited villagers. Some of the notorious CPI(M) leaders have fled the villages, while most of the CPI(M) members and supporters joined the anti-land acquisition movement. Following 3rd January's incident, the CPI(M) set up a number of camps at Satkhanda near Bhangabera Bridge, Pankhai and Sherkhanchak in Khejuri-2 block surrounding the protesting villages.

The CPI(M) cadres set up 'check posts' on the way to Nandigram to 'restrict' the entry of people from outside. Even the journalists alleged that they were halted at different places by the CPI(M) cadres' squad who patrolled the whole area. Arms were being amassed in each of these camps. The plan was clearly one of "cleansing" the villages of dissenters. These camps set up by the CPI(M) were not  "relief camps" for sheltering the cadres "driven out of the area". Quite the opposite, a band of anti-socials were hired from outside, like Garbeta, Keshpur and other places to take possession of Nandigram by disruptive and offensive measures. Civil society's groups as well as noted social activist Medha Patkar were assaulted by these CPI(M) miscreants over and over again. 

Thus the CPI(M) began to prepare themselves to take hold of Nandigram in an organised manner. On 6th January, it was reported by the villagers that Sushanta Ghosh, one of the CPI(M) Ministers and MP Lakshman Seth gave provocative speeches in the area, exciting their cadres to take action on those opposing land acquisition.

Sushanta Ghosh has the dubious reputation of masterminding the CPI(M) operation to convert Keshpur, a TMC based area, 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 forceful 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 antagonistic statements to the media. He threatened the villagers stating "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."  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 then 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."

Inevitably, violence exploded once again in Nandigram. The Citizen's Committee reported, "A police camp was set up on the border between Nandigram and Khejuri. On 6 January, at around 5 PM, villagers saw the police vacating that camp. That night, a launch drew up on Haldi River at the ferryghat there. According to villagers of Sonachura and adjoining villages, a very large number of strangers, fully armed, disembarked, and occupied the police camp. At around 3 AM, villagers woke to the sound of bombs and gunfire, coming from the house of Sankar Samanta, a CPM activist. As they rushed towards the spot, they found the dead bodies of two village youths, Bharat Mondal and Sheikh Selim. When the body of thirteen year old Biswajit Maity was found, villagers, in their fury, turned upon the Samanta residence and torched it, killing Sankar Samanta. Since then, they live under daily intimidation from CPM cadres, expecting massive retaliation. We found village women extremely apprehensive, begging us to spend the night with them." The villagers alleged that the entire operation of mass killing was organised and conspired by Lakshman Seth and his party.

On our visit, we also found terror by the CPI(M) supported goons was incessantly going on. The village people were living in panic. The villagers, particularly women and children stopped sleeping at night as there was always an awful feeling that someone was going to attack them. They could not live their normal life. They were too scared to venture out. Amiya Kumar Maity, s/o Ishwar Ramanya Maity said us that CPI(M) cadres like Badal Garu, Kalipada Garu were stopping any food items to come in vans from Tekahli to Sonachura. They were only being allowed to cross if they pay money.

The CPI(M) goons had been assembling at some houses and brick kilns in Khejuri over last two and half months. They encamped at Chandipur, Heria, Reyapara, Hanschara and other places in Khejuri block. They were also carrying weapons that included bombs, automatic firearms and stocking them at these places. Reports of armed CPI(M) cadres mobilising near the Khejuri side of the trouble-prone area infused fear in the villagers who had taken to patrolling wielding merely bamboo sticks. Rita Maity, w/o Milan Maity of Sonachura said, "We are really scared at night. They come in vessels by the Taalpati canal and threaten us. We don't go out at night. They threaten us that they'll take away everything and burn it." Madhusadan Mondal, s/o Bijoy Kumar Mondal of Sonachura stated that CPI (M) cadres were preparing for an attack again. He told, "Every night there is bombing especially in the Paankhai, Sherkhanchak, Mansingherbar, and Baratla in Khejuri-2 Bock. They come in vessels and throw bombs. In Gobindaji Shikshya Niketan of Gokulnagar, both school children and teachers have stopped going."

Untruth 3: Even after the government categorically declared that no land is being acquired in Nandigram, the Trinamul, naxalite and other elements refused to allow the administration or police into the area ... The repeated efforts to have meetings so that peace could be restored were rebuffed with these parties and elements refusing to attend the meetings.

Truth : There was no genuine endeavour by the government to reinstate peace in true sense. Most surprisingly, before the mass killing of 14th, the police and the administration totally played an indifferent role. The police remained mute spectators during this turbulent period despite the frequent violence by the CPI(M) miscreants over the innocent villagers. The local administration always tried to by-pass their responsibility and the police officers tried to defend themselves that any attempt to edge into the strife-torn villages would foment trouble as the villagers consider police to be "ruling party's agents". But a large contingent of police patrolled the outskirts of the affected villages watching the situation very closely.

No inquiry of the killing on 6th January carried out at the district or state administrative level. Police did not take any legal step against the offenders. Instead, they filed false cases against about 900-950 villagers resisting land acquisition. Radha Bera, s/o Panchanan Bera who doesn't stay there, but works at a launch in Canning, had attempt to murder cases amongst others filed against him. Parimal Kar, s/o Late Manmatha Kar was not present on the 7th night as he was sick but had similar cases filed against him. Khokan Shit, son of Kanai Shit, a Sonachura resident, was arrested by Thekhali outpost police while accompanying a cameraman of Kolkata TV. At last, police was compelled to release him under the pressure put forth by the BUPC activists.

As a matter of fact, the government had been playing a dual role on Nandigram issue from the very beginning. Just after the people's uprising in January, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee falsely claimed that no notification had yet been issued for land acquisition in Nandigram. Home Secretary Mr. Prasad Ranjan Roy also stated that it was a deliberate rumour. On 9th January, in a major climb-down, CM conceded “it was a mistake” on part of the HDA to have issued a notice for acquisition of land at Nandigram and verbally instructed the DM to “tear it up”. 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. But the villagers were not convinced by his verbal declaration and clearly asserted that unless the government issue an official notice of non-acquisition of land at Nandigram, they would not stop their movement.

On 2nd March, just 12 days before the mass-killing, CM again confessed his "mistake" stating that "the administration had taken quite wrong steps in Nandigram". In an interview in Kolkata TV, he unambiguously affirmed, "No land would be acquired by force. I have directed the police not to step forward in Nandigram".

The initiatives of the administration to repair roads, bridges in the tension-torn areas in Nandigram fell short as the anti-land acquisition movement workers refused to cooperate till the administration gives an official notification proclaiming that land acquisition would be completely stalled. They also demanded the government first ensure that all camps of the CPI(M) regiment be removed from the adjoining areas. They further demanded to immediately withdraw all the false cases filed against the BUPC members. All-party meetings with the local administration repeatedly failed as no action was taken by the government to win back trust and confidence of the people by any peaceful and democratic means. Not a single demand of the villagers was met and the whole situation remained explosive. As a result the Nandigram impasse continued to persist, adding to the unbearable anxiety and insecurity of the villagers which results in 14th infernal genocide.

Untruth 5: The police entered Nandigram to see that the roads, culverts and bridges are repaired and the administration restored. They were attacked by brick batting, bombs and use of pipe guns.

The state violence over the ongoing people's land struggle in Nandigram reached a peak on 14th March. Around 14 people (as officially announced by the state government, but informally it is estimated that the death toll may rise to more than 100) were brutally succumbed to bullet injuries and about hundreds others were admitted to hospitals in a precarious condition after random firing by the 5000 strong police force at Nandigram. A large number of the deceased and wounded persons were women and children. Innumerable innocent villagers (including children) have disappeared.

During the three-hour long barbarous police operation on 14th, CPI (M) cadres equipped with deadly arms descended in hordes, trailing a large contingent of police and combat forces and refusing anyone, including the media persons from entering into Nandigram and the surrounding area. This is just like an undeclared emergency to unleash a reign of terror by the police and the ruling party cadres in disguise.

A huge battalion of police entered the strife-torn area in the 14th morning, brutally lathi-charged, threw tear gas shells and all on a sudden started firing indiscriminately upon unarmed and nonviolent demonstrators. Many were shot dead while a large number of villagers were injured weltering in blood on the street. Women and children were at the forefront of the protesters and faced the violence the most. Some women were allegedly molested and gang raped. It is alleged by the eyewitnesses that the CPI(M) goons and the police concealed numerous dead bodies.

Haripur Nuclear Plant: Lies, Lies And More Lies

[ A Press Release by the Parmanu Chulli Birodhi O Bheete Mati Jeeban Jeebika Bachao Committee
(Committee Against Nuclear Plant and To Save Homes, Life and Livelihood) ]
About 100 villagers from Haripur and surrounding villages in Purba Medinipur in West Bengal demonstrated in front of the Kolkata office of the Consul General of the Russian Federation on December 22. Their demand - that Russia stop its collaboration with the Indian government for the nuclear power project at Haripur. Arthur Berbst, attaché from the Russian Consulate, met a delegation of five people, representing the Parmanu Chulli Birodhi O Bheete Mati Jeeban Jeebika Bachao Committee (Committee Against Nuclear Plant and To Save Homes, Life and Livelihood).  Shyamali Giri from the Committee insisted that they were not willing to give their land at any cost and would rather die than give their land. Sushanta Bhuiyan of Haripur village stated that no amount of money could compensate for the loss of their homes and livelihood. Banneswar Manna from the same village asked for the Russians to desist from entering Haripur as they would meet stiff resistance.

The villagers also explained to the attaché the economic situation in Haripur, which is not the wasteland it was being portrayed by the Government, but is a densely populated area, with vibrant agricultural and fishing activities. They also told Berbst that not a single Government official had been allowed to enter the area since November 2006, so no inspection or survey had taken place to examine if the site was suitable for a nuclear plant. Nor had they ever been consulted on the issue.

While Berbst assured the delegation that their memorandum would be translated and handed over to the Russian President (who is in Delhi at present) within 10 hours, he also expressed his country’s helplessness as far as choice of the location was concerned.  According to him, the Russian Federation is providing only 30-35 engineers for the nuclear plant and is only giving technical assistance so it cannot put pressure about the site. He denied newspaper reports that  Russia was also providing finance.

While this protest meeting was going on, according to press reports, Sergey Kiriyenko, CEO of the Russian state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, was telling Russian journalists about the corporation’s plans to expand cooperation with India in the nuclear energy sector. He confirmed that the site in West Bengal (Haripur) was definitely the second site chosen for Russian collaboration. According to him, “Today we have reached agreement on basic credit terms. This fundamental pre-requisite is being negotiated by the respective finance ministries of the two countries. They have agreed that the credit will be extended on the same terms as applied to the first and second power units (in Kudakalan).”

The people of Haripur thus met with another set of lies today. Earlier they have been told by local leaders that Haripur was no longer under consideration by the Government of India and that their MP and Minister Sisir Adhikari has received a letter to this effect from the Prime Minister. This has also been proved an untruth today.

Related Post: Protest Pictures 

23 December 2010

Nandigram : The People Who Struggled And Won

By Swapan Ganguly, Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity

The Nandigram struggle, a movement that concerned 29 mouzas in the district of Purba Midnapore in West Bengal, started from 3 Gram Panchayats, but has impacted people’s movements all over the world. The movement by the people of Nandigram began when they heard that their land was to be acquired for industrial development. On 31st July 2006, the West Bengal government signed a MoU with the Salim Group of Indonesia for this purpose. The worried people immediately formed two independent people's organisations named "Gana Unnayan O 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 29th December 2006, a public meeting was called up by Mr. Lakshman Seth, the Chairman of Haldia Development Authority (HDA) and CPI(M) MP, at Nandigram Bus stand 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. Lakshman Seth rejected their protests and said very unilaterally that the project would happen. On 2nd January 2007, a notice was officially issued by HDA that initially 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.

This immediately caused a lot of consternation amongst the people. A large number of villagers of Garchakraberia gathered at their Gram Panchayat office on 3rd January to express their refusal to part with their land. But their peaceful protest action met with atrocious manhandling and straightforward violation of human rights by the Left Front Government police. 5 innocent villagers were severely injured due to police firing.

This was the start of the Nandigram movement. The people of Nandigram had seen that the Government could use police force to acquire land as they had done in Singur for the Tata Motors project on 2nd December 2006. They also knew that once their land was fenced off, as in Singur , the struggle would be long and hard. They found that the West Bengal Government had not been responding in Singur to the accepted programmes of peaceful mass action. So, they decided to take the more drastic step of cutting off their area from the rest of West Bengal by digging trenches on all the roads that led into the area that was to be acquired. At the same time, all the committees and forces in the area combined to form the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC), an all party formation, which henceforth led the struggle.

This was not a new tactic for Nandigram. Similar digging up of roads and cutting off of the area had been done here during the British period when Nandigram was one of the first areas to declare itself independent of the British. It had been a liberated zone for over a year at that time .

Like the British, the CPI(M) and the police reacted with extreme ferociousness and with a dangerous “jugal bandi” , a well planned orchestra, where the police and the party acted in tandem to suppress the people’s movement. This was to be the hallmark of the Nandigram movement for the next one and a half years. Events of greater and greater brutality followed. On 7th January, when the first deaths took place, police camps at Bhangabera withdrew to make way for a number of armed CPI(M) cadres . These cadres came to be known as the harmad vahini later (a local expression used to denote Portugese pirates who were known for the barbarity). The harmad vahini occupied the house of a well known CPI(M) leader and began firing indiscriminately at villagers who were patrolling the places where the roads had been dug up near Bhangabera Bridge. Four people died including a 13-year-old boy died. 3 people were seriously injured and had to be admitted to hospital. Mob fury erupted and the house of the CPI(M) leader where the harmad vahini were firing from was burnt down. Shankar Samanta, a prominent CPI(M) leader and the owner of that house, was killed.

Tensions continued for the next few months. There were attempts to do an economic blockade on Nandigram- the people were not allowed to take their produce out to sell in nearby markets; people and buses were stopped and searched when they went into Nandigram or travelled outwards; migrant workers from Nandigram who were working in Haldia or in Metiabruz in Kolkata were threatened with job losses. The CPI(M) went into an overdrive to quell the protest. The police stood by and watched
On 14th March, 2007, the police-party jugal bandi reached a crescendo. After meticulous planning, in which party functionaries planned an operation with the police, an armed invasion of Nandigram was ordered. The BUPC, on hearing about this responded with a peaceful prayer. Thousands of people amassed at the “border” i.e. at the places where roads had been dug up, and where the police was likely to enter. They swore they would give their lives but not their land. Children and women sat in prayer or read namaz, with the men folk in the rear, hoping that the police would not be so violent with women and children. What followed was mayhem. Indiscriminate firing, throwing of teargas shells, a violent lathi charge- and then later, forcibly entering homes, raping and molestation of women.

A few cases were reported and documented, many remained undisclosed. In the High Court, there were reports of 3 rapes, 162 injured, 26 missing and 14 dead.  A house-to-house survey of 2754 of the worst affected households brought forth further reports – 59 bullet injuries, 37 rubber bullet injuries, 120 rifle butt injuries, 26 tear gas shell injuries and 2 bomb injuries. 11 women reported rape, 274 reported physical torture, 46 reported violation of modesty, 17 reported sexual torture. The figures were numbing, the experiences we heard when we visited the area were heartrending. The villages were silent; many had fled. The hospital in Nandigram town was in turmoil, with crying women seeking lost families, with enraged people looking for the harmad, with other people looking shell shocked. Most shocking was the evidence that came out gradually that the attackers had consisted of both the police and the harmad dressed as police – uniform clad people with slippers on their feet could not possibly be police! Everyone said that the slipper-clad ones- the harmad- had been the most violent.

Outrage followed from civil society in West Bengal, in India and internationally. The CPI(M) and the police withdrew. Skirmishes continued on the bordering areas – the people of Nandigram villages complained every day of armed attacks by small groups of  harmad, which they had to repel using the force of numbers. The police stood by, a silent spectator.

In October 2007 the reports of attacks and skirmishes began to increase.. By the first week of November, it was obvious that an army of the harmad had entered the Nandigram villages and was going to recapture the area.  The villages were cordoned off and gangs of CPI(M) supporters attacked all of us who wanted to go into the villages. Again the police stood by, a willing accomplice. It was only after about 10 days of these happenings that we were able to visit the villages. Thousands had taken shelter in refugee camps. Villages were surrounded by the harmad – a frightening army of armed men with faces covered with black cloth and red scarves on their heads, the refugees said. Villages were burnt, houses were ransacked. Even women and children were not spared. A spate of rape and pillage followed. The BUPC responded by a peace march of people who tried to return to their villages in a procession. This unarmed procession was attacked by gun carrying harmad. Some of the processionists were “captured” by the harmad  and used as a human shield to invade the villages that still had to be “captured”.

Intervention by the CRPF was finally demanded by civil society and all Opposition political parties. Problems began within the Left Front itself and finally the CRPF presence was accepted by the State Government. It was only after the arrival of the CRPF on the 15th of November that things began to quieten down.

Further horrors kept unfolding. Mass graves were discovered in Khejuri, an area that had been under CPI(M) control earlier. Caches of arms were discovered, but the CRPF was not allowed to arrest many known criminals or carry out search operations properly.

With Panchayat elections close by, the CPI(M) tried its best to get rid of the CRPF and finally succeeded in downsizing the numbers there by February 2008. Voters in Nandigram were convinced that they would not be allowed to vote freely. Sure enough , during the run up to the elections in May 2008, violence again began escalating. A number of reports of intimidation of voters came in. The CRPF was again deployed in a large scale on the voting day. The uncomromising stand taken by an exceptional CRPF officer and the courage of the people there meant that there was a large voter turnout. The CPI(M) lost not just in Nandigram, but in the entire district. This seems to have finally cooled down the terror tactics being employed by them.

Nandigram is the first place where the Government has been forced to back out of its plans for an SEZ. It has become a byword in Bengal and in the rest of the country. People who protest against the Government start digging roads or blockading them as a sign of protest. Those defying the CPI(M) whip threaten to turn their areas into Nandigrams. The first protest adopted by the people of Mejia recently against pollution caused by transporting of fly ash was to dig up the road. At the present moment, the adivasis in Lalgarh and its surrounding areas are protesting against police excesses and they have also blockaded their roads- Nandigram style. They are building up all party people’s committees in villages to carry forward their struggle. The people of Nandigram have paid a huge price, but they have kept their land. And they have inspired others to struggle for their rights.

Survey Report Of Nandigram

Effects of land acquisition for chemical hub in the eyes of local people :  Shekh Akmam Hossein of Hosseinpur has given 6 kathas land out of his 7 bighas land for road (from Hazrakata to Kendamari Ferry Ghat ) with out demanding any compensation . But now he is not ready to give his l inch land for the Salim Project against any compensation. His livelihood is totally depends on this land.
Shekh Sirajul, agricultural labour of Hosseinpur gets Rs.70.00 to 75.oo as daily wages. He is also against the land acquisition, he will loss his earnings and 29 decimel bastujami ( homestead land).

Rajendranath Giri of Sonachura village, owner of 3 bighas and 15 kathas land  harvesting Swarnamasuri and Aman paddy, potato, poly flower, cabbage, kohlrabi, tomatto, brinjal. He has also 4 pan baroj (plantation of betel-leaves) of 20,000 saplings. He earns Rs. 8000.00 to 10,000.00 every month. He is not ready to give his land against any compensation.

Kanai Shit of Sonachura village has 12 bighas land. He has 3 pan baroj ( plantation of betel-leaves) of 16,000 saplings, 250 coconut trees. He is also harvesting brinjal, tomatto, pumpkin. He earns Rs. 80,000.00 yearly only from vegetables of 5 bighas after giving the wages to the labourers and others cost. He demands that he creates 450 to 500 mandays yearly only in the pan baroj (plantation of betel-leaves). He is not ready give her land for the proposed SEZ.

Ahmmad Ali Khan of Garchakraberia has 30 bighas land. He has many types fruit trees ( e.g. Sabeda -100, Coconut- 600, Betle nut-700, Mango-200, Guava- 50, Lemon- 100, etc.). He has 1 Pan Baroj(plantation of betel-leaves) of 6000 saplings. He is harvesting sugar cane in 15 kathas, Khesari in 15 bighas, potatos in 1 and half bighas. At the time of his grand father they have given land for school, hospital and also to the poor peasents. But now they are not ready to give their land for this project. They are living generation after generation on this land.

Kartick Chandra Nayak of Garchakraberia has 2 bighas land. He depends on this land. He is also not ready to give her land.

According to Moulan Sayad Abdus Samad, one of the convener of "Bhumi Uchhed Protirodh Committee" due to this project they will loss more than 100 primary schools (public and private), 2 Madhyamik Schools, 3 High Schools, Madrasa -1 (govt), 2 ( private), Maktab-38, Hospital-1 at Mohammedpur, temple-107 and masjid- 42.

Bhawani Das, member of the committee, said that environment will be highly polluted due to this proposed chemical hub and also it is a question of food security as there are many agricultural land in the proposed project.

Shekh Safian, another convener of the committee, said that most of the people of this area are living on agriculture and fishery in the riverside.

Land is not only the means of production and livelihoods to the people but also have their feelings to their ancestors land. Mossamad Asia Bibi (70 years old) of Garchakraberia said that she wants to take place after her death near her husband's cemetry.

Land Status (Panchyat wise) of Nandigram – Block
Gram panchayat
Geographical area
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Agricultural land
(in hectare)
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Land position
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Kendamari jalpai