Nandigram violence

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The Nandigram violence was an incident in Nandigram in the West Bengal state of India, where the Communist Party of India (Marxist) forcefully tried to acquire land for SEZ. Farmers of the locality were adamant they did not want to give land, they agitated under the banner of Bhoomi Raksha Committee, while the then governor was on air and no contact was available with him the police entered the Nandigram area and violence erupted. The West Bengal government's plan was to expropriate 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) of land for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to be developed by the Indonesian-based Salim Group for the industrialization. The police shootings at least 14 villagers died and 70 more wounded.

The SEZ controversy started when the government of West Bengal decided that the Salim Group of Indonesia.Far Easter Economic Review October 1998] would set up a chemical hub under the SEZ policy at Nandigram, a rural area in the district of Purba Medinipur. The villagers took control of the area and all the roads to the villages were cut off. A front-page story in the Kolkata newspaper, The Telegraph, on 4 January 2007 was headlined, "False alarm sparks clash". According to the newspaper, the village council meeting at which the alleged land seizure was to be announced was actually a meeting to declare Nandigram a "clean village", that is, a village in which all the households had access to toilet facilities. However, later events indicate that the government had in fact decided to set up the chemical hub and the villagers' concerns were genuine. Following the villagers' objection to and protest against the acquisition of land in Nandigram for the proposed chemical hub, the chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee ordered the Nandigram land acquisition notification to be "torn up".

The chief minister said no notification had been issued for acquisition of land at Nandigram. A team of policemen had been sent to dissuade people from digging up roads. One police officer, Sadhucharan Chatterjee, aged 59, was killed while trying to repair a road dug up by protesters, and twelve other policemen were very seriously injured. The administration was directed to break the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee's (approximately translated from Bengali as "Committee to Oppose Uprooting from Lands") (BUPC) resistance at Nandigram and a massive operation with at least 3,000 policemen along with armed cadre of members of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) was launched on 14 March 2007. Information of the impending action had been leaked out to the BUPC, and they amassed a crowd of roughly 2,000 villagers at the entry points into Nandigram, with women and children forming the front ranks. In the resulting mayhem, at least 14 people were killed.

This incidence played an important role in the politics of West Bengal for next few years. Mamata Banerjee and her political party widely mentioned this issue along with the political war cry Ma Mati Manush in their election campaigns.

Background[edit]

The events of 14 March 2007[edit]

The administration was directed to break the BUPC's resistance at Nandigram and a massive operation with at least 3,000 policemen was launched on 14 March 2007. However, prior information of the impending action had leaked out to the BUPC who amassed a crowd of roughly 2,000 villagers at the entry points into Nandigram with women and children forming the front ranks. In the police firing, at least 14 people were killed".[1]

Immediately following the 14 March killings, voluntary teams of doctors visited the Nandigram health centre, the district hospital at Tamluk and later, the SSKM hospital and compiled a comprehensive report[2]

Few journalists were able to access the area, with their access being restricted by 'checkposts' manned by CPI(M) cadres;[3] two belonging to a news channel were briefly abducted.[4]

The scale of the action left the state stunned. All India Trinamool Congress estimates put the toll at 50. The PWD Minister of the Government of West Bengal, Mr. Kshiti Goswami of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (India) (RSP), a Left Front constituent, said 50 bodies were taken to hospital, but it was impossible to ascertain how many were actually dead.[5] In response to this, people singled out as CPI(M) members and supporters and their families were driven out of the area by the locals and their houses burnt. A week after the 14 March clashes, The Hindu estimated that around 3500 persons had been displaced into relief camps as a result of threats from BUPC.[6] Accusations by Trinamool Congress that hundreds of people have been killed in the event were not confirmed by facts. Two of the supposed victims, as claimed by Trinamool Congress, were later found in a completely safe place elsewhere in West Bengal.

The CPI(M) has accused the Jami Raksha Committee – a coalition of activists from various parties who oppose land acquisition – of armed attacks on relief camps which led to three deaths as well as a series of murders and a gangrape.[7]

Fresh violence erupted in Nandigram on 29 April caused the West Bengal Human Rights Commission to step in.[8] A team of intellectuals and theatre personalities from Calcutta was attacked by CPM cadre on their return trip after disbursing relief material collected from the people in various parts of the state.[9] Those activists later publicly supported opposition party Trinamool Congress in 2009 Parliament Election.

The deaths in Nandigram have led to a great deal of controversy on the left in India.[10] The federal police say they have recovered many bullets of a type not used by police but in widespread use in the underworld.[11]

Reactions[edit]

Gopal Krishna Gandhi, The Governor of West Bengal criticised the state government over its handling of the Nandigram incident, speaking of his "cold horror" in a press statement.

Dr. Ashok Mitra, long time Finance Minister of the Government of West Bengal (and a veteran CPI(M) leader) criticised the government and his party stating that till death he will remain guilty to his conscience if he keeps mum on the happenings in Nandigram. He states that the CPI(M) leadership is blind of hubris and the party has turned into a wide open field of flatterers and court jesters dominated by 'anti-socials'.[12]

An editorial in The Indian Express said that the party machinery has become the "sword arm of an industrialisation policy that involves settling complicated property rights issues."[13] Some of the armed men who fired at the villagers, but were not part of the police, were later caught by security forces and found to be working for the CPI(M).[14]

Renowned novelist Sunil Gangopadhyay, a friend of the Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee also felt that the industry is necessary but state violence was barbaric. [15] Social activist Medha Patkar had visited Nandigram on 7 December 2006 to protest against land acquisition.[16] Other renowned persons who joined protests against the project and the actions carried out on 14 March 2007 to implement it include Magsaysay and Jnanpeeth Award-winning author Mahasweta Devi, Booker Prize-winner Arundhati Roy, film director and actress Aparna Sen, theatre personalities Shaonli Mitra and Bibhas Chakraborty, painter Suvaprasanna, songwriter and singer Kabir Suman and many others. Later on, Kabir Suman became a parliamentarian in Trinamool congress ticket and almost everybody else found place in some committees in Central Ministry. CPI(M) has alleged that they were paid back by Mamata Banerjee for their support to her.

The CPI(M) has currently adopted the public position that land acquisition will not be made without the consent of the people of Nandigram. The proposed SEZ has ostensibly been shelved following the 14 March police action.[17] The local, district and State administration have however maintained that the Chemical Hub will take place at Nandigram itself. The PWD Minister of the Government of West Bengal, Mr. Kshiti Goswami has also come out against the CPI (M) stating that the CPI (M) is determined to set up the chemical hub at Nandigram, despite all the protests.[18]

The latest drubbing that the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government's 14 March action received was from the High Court at Calcutta, when, on 16 November 2007, a Division Bench consisting of The Hon'ble Chief Justice S. S. Nijjar, and the Hon'ble Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, declared that "The action of the police department to open fire at Nandigram on 14 March 2007 was wholly unconstitutional and cannot be justified under any provision of the law" and further that "The action of the police cannot be protected or justified on the ground of sovereign immunity." and also that "The action of the police cannot be justified even under the provisions of Criminal Procedure Code; The Police Act, 1861 for The Police Regulations, 1943". The Hon'ble judges also ordered that "we direct the State of West Bengal to pay to the victims of the deceased as a result of the undiscriminating police firing on 14th of March, 2007 immediate compensation in the sum of Rs.5 (five) lakhs each" and further that "We further direct the State Government to pay immediate compensation to the persons who were injured and whose particulars have been given the pleadings sum of Rs. not less than 1 (one) lakh each" and also "We further direct the State Government to pay compensation to the victims of rape who have been duly identified in the pleadings a sum of Rs.2 (two) lakhs each".

Amnesty International expressed serious concern that the Government of West Bengal has not taken the necessary concrete steps to ensure that all persons under its jurisdiction are protected from forced eviction and displacement, and that all those forcibly displaced during the violence are ensured at the very least minimum essential levels of food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care and education, as well as their right to voluntary return or resettlement, and reintegration.[19]

Location shift[edit]

After the bloodshed at Nandigram, and the stiff resistance from opposition parties such as All India Trinamool Congress and Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) (SUCI) and Left Front partners such as Revolutionary Socialist Party and All India Forward Bloc over land acquisition, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on 3 September expressed the government's preference for the sparsely populated island of Nayachar, 30 kilometres from Haldia, to set up the much talked-about chemical hub.,[20][21]

November 2007 violence[edit]

A fresh round of violence came up in November 2007, as the villagers who were thrown out of Nandigram by the BUPC returned home. The return of the villagers was marred by violence unleashed by the ruling party cadres over the resisting BUPC cadre in Nandigram. The media termed this return as a "recapture" by the CPI(M).[22] Evidence points to the operation being conducted entirely by the party keeping the state administration inactive. The party eulogised the operation with its state chairman describing it as 'a new dawn' and the chief minister as 'paying them back in their own coin'.[23] The last comment was directed presumably primarily at the extreme-left Maoist activists who, the CPI(M) claims, were active at Nandigram. The government has however officially contradicted the claim.[24] The situation was described as one of "Red Terror".[25] Social activist Medha Patkar in a message to National Human Rights Commission of India said that war like situation prevailed in Nandigram due to presence of thousands of CPM cadres. Police officers were present in the area, but supported their programme to attack Nandigram.[26]

The new offensive has resulted in protests throughout India.[27] On 12 November 2007, the National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the West Bengal Government directing it to submit a factual report on the conditions prevailing in Nandigram.[28] Film director Aparna Sen and Rituporno Ghosh decided to boycott the film festival in Kolkata in protest.[29] Aparna Sen said, "Nandigram has become a slaughter house with blood being shed every day. CPM might be at the helm of affairs but the state still belongs to us."[29]

The Parliament of India decided to discuss Nandigram with urgency, suspending the regular question hour sessions, on 21 November 2007 after two days of complete suspension of the proceedings owing to the heated debates between CPI(M) and opposition party members in both the houses. CPI(M) was alienated in the issue by all the other ruling United Progressive Alliance allies considering the fierce nationwide sentiments against the massacre [30]

2008 violence[edit]

In May 2008, fresh violence broke out in Nandigram between supporters of the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee, and the CPM activists. Both sides exchanged fire and hurled bombs at each other, with CPM getting the worst of it.[31] It finally led to the re-capture of the lost base by BUPC aided by the District Trinamool Congress led by Subhendu Adhikary. A status quo has been reserved since then and Nandigram remains a Trinamool stronghold, albeit by force of arms.

On 5 May, CPI(M) mob striped three woman activists of Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee when they refused to join a rally organised by CPI(M).,.[32][33] Owing to wide political and civil protests on the incident the Government of West Bengal ordered a CID probe into the incident.,.[34][35] CPM leaders denied the allegations, claiming that it was part of a malicious campaign.[33]

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi and a section of intellectuals including Aparna Sen from Kolkata, in separate press statements, demanded that panchayat polls, due on 11 May, in the areas falling within the jurisdiction of the Nandigram thana be deferred, for, elections might not be "peaceful and democratic".[36]

Electoral aftermath[edit]

Panchayat[edit]

The electorate of Nandigram reacted against the Left Front government's policy of industrialisation through farmland acquisition. For the first time since the Left Front government came to power, the opposition wrested control of the East Midnapore Zilla Parishad by winning 35 out of 53 seats on 11 May 2008.

Parishad seats. The results of the election are:

In all four seats of Nandigram – I and II blocks, which saw violence after protests against the government's bid for land acquisition for a chemical hub, the Trinamul candidates have won the polls by defeating the CPI(M) candidates including a heavyweight leader. Sheikh Sufian, a Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee leader backed by the Trinamul, defeated his rival CPI(M) candidate Ashok Jana by a margin of over 13,000 votes while Pijush Bhunia, another Trinamul leader defeated Ashok Bera, a CPI(M) zonal committee secretary by over 2,100 votes.[37]

West Bengal election[edit]

In the West Bengal Legislative Assembly election, 2011 the incumbent Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee lost his seat and the Left Front lost power after 34 years. Mamata Banerjee and All Indian Trinamool Congress widely used these Singur and Nandigram issues and their political war cry Ma Mati Manush in their political campaigns.[38] Firoza Bibi (whose son was killed in shooting by police) of the All India Trinamool Congress won the Nandigram assembly by-election with a margin of 39,551 votes defeating the ruling front's candidate Paramananda Bharati.,[39][40]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Red-hand Buddha: 14 killed in Nandigram re-entry bid". The Telegraph (Kolkota, India). 15 March 2007. Retrieved 15 March 2007. 
  2. ^ Medical Team Report from Nandigram with names, locations, and injuries – 5 April.
  3. ^ The Times of India 15 March 2007 Nandigram: Mediapersons roughed up by CPM activists
  4. ^ Tara TV
  5. ^ Nandigram turns Blood Red
  6. ^ "Nandigram victims narrate their tales of woe". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 21 March 2007. 
  7. ^ nandigram
  8. ^ Zee News
  9. ^ Sify
  10. ^ "Nandigram and the deformations of the Indian left". International Socialism. 2 July 2007. 
  11. ^ BBC
  12. ^ Dr. Ashok Mitra (Former Left Front Finance Minister) on Nandigram
  13. ^ Indian Express
  14. ^ Stockpile squad trail heads towards party
  15. ^ Daily India
  16. ^ India eNews.com 7 December 2006
  17. ^ The Statesman
  18. ^ WB PWD Minister against CPI(M)
  19. ^ Report on Nandigram by Amnesty International: Urgent need to address large scale human rights abuses during Nandigram recapture
  20. ^ Nandigram Chemical hub shifted
  21. ^ Nandigram will remain a black mark
  22. ^ [1][dead link]
  23. ^ NDTV 14 November 2007
  24. ^ Sify.com 13 November 2007
  25. ^ "Red terror continues Nandigram's bylanes". 
  26. ^ "NHRC sends notice to Chief Secretary, West Bengal, on Nandigram incidents: investigation team of the Commission to visit the area". 
  27. ^ Nandigram | Top News
  28. ^ National Human Rights Commission
  29. ^ a b "CPM cadres kill 3 in Nandigram". 
  30. ^ Lok Sabha to discuss Nandigram today
  31. ^ Fresh violence in Nandigram, two injured. The Times of India. 5 May 2008.
  32. ^ CPM mob strips woman in Nandigram, probe on. The Times of India. 7 May 2008.
  33. ^ a b Women activists blame CPM of beating in Nandigram. The Economic Times. 7 May 2008.
  34. ^ CID probe ordered into stripping of women at Nandigram. Sify News. 7 May 2008.
  35. ^ Intellectuals Meet West Bengal Poll Panel Over Nandigram. News Post India. 7 May 2008.
  36. ^ Fresh attempt to cut off Nandigram.The Hindu. 7 May 2007
  37. ^ [2]. The Statesman.
  38. ^ "Singur, Nandigram Were Way to Writers' for Mamata". Outlook. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  39. ^ Nandigram nightmare continues for CPM, Trinamool wins Assembly bypoll
  40. ^ Trinamool Congress wins Nandigram assembly by-election

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