Nandigram violence

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The Nandigram violence was an incident in Nandigram in the West Bengal state of India, in the aftermath of a failed project by the Government of West-Bengal under the erstwhile Communist rule to acquire land for SEZ (Special Economic Zone).

The policy led to an insurgency in the region, followed by the death of 14 people by the Police Forces.

This incident played an important role in the politics of West Bengal for the 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.

Later the CBI gave a clean chit to the entire Buddhadeb Bhattacharya govt on Nandigram firing.[1]

Background[edit]

The SEZ controversy started when the government of West Bengal decided that the Salim Group of Indonesia[2][3][4] would set up a chemical hub under the SEZ policy at Nandigram.

But farmers of the locality were adamant that they did not want to give up their land and agitated under the banner of Bhoomi Raksha Committee which was baking up by Maoists. 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 industrialisation. In the police shootings at least 14 villagers were killed and 70 more wounded.

The Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee, an organisation formed by the Maoists reacted antagonistically to the news. They blocked the roads leading to the Nandigram area and for a period of 3 months from January to March 2007. A number of FIRs were registered at Nandigram and Khejuri police stations, relating to violence, arson, loot and murder, etc. But the cases registered could not be investigated by the local police as the local police were unable to enter into the villages during the standoff. Thousands of supporters of the Left parties got attacked and were made refugees to be accommodated at shelter camps.[5]

Following the villagers' objection to and protest against the acquisition of land in Nandigram for the proposed chemical hub, the State Government gave in to the demands of BUPC and finally announced the cancellation of the project in the first week of March. But the situation hardly showed any improvement. 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 events of 14 March 2007[edit]

The administration was finally directed to break the Maoist-backed [clarification needed] BUPC's control of Nandigram and a massive operation with at least 3,000 policemen was launched on 14 March 2007. However, prior information of the impending action somehow leaked out to the BUPC who amassed a crowd of roughly 5,000 villagers at the entry points into Nandigram to oppose the entry of police and assault them. In the resulting mayhem, at least 14 people were killed.[6]

Immediate aftermath[edit]

The deaths in Nandigram have led to a great deal of controversy on the left in India.[7] The federal police say they have recovered many bullets of a type not used by police but in widespread use in the underworld.[8]

Few journalists were able to access the area, with their access being restricted by 'checkposts' manned by CPI(M) cadres;[9] two belonging to a news channel were briefly abducted.[10]

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[11]

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.

Reactions[edit]

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.

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.[17] 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.[18] Accusations by Trinamool Congress that hundreds of people have been killed in the event were not confirmed by facts. Ex Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said that 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) adopted the public position that land acquisition will not be made without the consent of the people of Nandigram. The proposed SEZ was ostensibly shelved following the 14 March police action.[19] The local, district and State administration have however maintained that the Chemical Hub will take place at Nandigram itself.

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.[20]

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.[21]

Judicial response[edit]

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 the State of West Bengal to pay to the victims of the deceased as a result of the undiscriminating police firing on 14 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".

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 desired chemical hub.,[22][23]

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.[24] 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'.[25] The last comment was directed presumably primarily at the extreme-left Maoist activists who, the CPI(M) claims, were active at Nandigram and the situation was described as one of "Red Terror".[26]

On 12 November 2007, National Human Rights Commission of India sent notice to Chief Secretary, West Bengal, directing him to submit a factual report within 10 days on the conditions prevailing in Nandigram and around after Social activist Medha Patkar said that war like situation prevailed in Nandigram due to continual presence of thousands of CPM cadres on all sides and accusations of police officers, present in the area supporting their programme [27]

Film director Aparna Sen and Rituporno Ghosh decided to boycott the film festival in Kolkata in protest against the renewed violence[28] 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."[28]

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 [29]

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.[30]

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).[31][32] Owing to wide political and civil protests on the incident the Government of West Bengal ordered a CID probe into the incident.[33][34] CPM leaders denied the allegations, claiming that it was part of a malicious campaign by political rivals intending to defame them.[32]

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".[35]

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.[36]

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.[37] 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.[38][39]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/CBI-clean-chit-to-Buddha-govt-on-Nandigram-firing/articleshow/29581354.cms
  2. ^ For more information on the Salim Group please see Sudono Salim
  3. ^ "Asia Week". Asia Week. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  4. ^ "Far Easter Economic Review October 1998". Saliltripathi.com. 8 October 1998. Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  5. ^ Siddiqui, Imran (10 June 2007). "First trickle of a homecoming - 18 pro-CPM families back in Nandigram after five months". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  6. ^ "Stockpile squad trail heads towards party – Phone records spill Nandigram secret". The Telegraph. Calcutta, India. 19 March 2007. 
  7. ^ "Nandigram and the deformations of the Indian left". International Socialism. 2 July 2007. 
  8. ^ BBC
  9. ^ The Times of India 15 March 2007 Nandigram: Mediapersons roughed up by CPM activists
  10. ^ Tara TV
  11. ^ Medical Team Report from Nandigram with names, locations, and injuries – 5 April.
  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. ^ Nandigram turns Blood Red
  18. ^ "Nandigram victims narrate their tales of woe". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 21 March 2007. 
  19. ^ The Statesman
  20. ^ nandigram
  21. ^ Report on Nandigram by Amnesty International: Urgent need to address large scale human rights abuses during Nandigram recapture
  22. ^ Nandigram Chemical hub shifted
  23. ^ Nandigram will remain a black mark
  24. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20071123000100/http://flonnet.com/stories/20071207508512100.htm. Archived from the original on 23 November 2007. Retrieved 27 November 2007.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ "NDTV.com: Buddhadeb defends 'Nandigram takeover'". 2008-06-19. Archived from the original on 19 June 2008. Retrieved 2016-10-18. 
  26. ^ "Red terror continues Nandigram's bylanes". 
  27. ^ "NHRC sends notice to Chief Secretary, West Bengal, on Nandigram incidents: investigation team of the Commission to visit the area". 
  28. ^ a b "CPM cadres kill 3 in Nandigram". Archived from the original on 17 April 2008. 
  29. ^ Lok Sabha to discuss Nandigram today
  30. ^ Fresh violence in Nandigram, two injured. The Times of India. 5 May 2008.
  31. ^ CPM mob strips woman in Nandigram, probe on. The Times of India. 7 May 2008.
  32. ^ a b Women activists blame CPM of beating in Nandigram. The Economic Times. 7 May 2008.
  33. ^ CID probe ordered into stripping of women at Nandigram. Sify News. 7 May 2008.
  34. ^ Intellectuals Meet West Bengal Poll Panel Over Nandigram. News Post India. 7 May 2008.
  35. ^ Fresh attempt to cut off Nandigram.The Hindu. 7 May 2007
  36. ^ [1]. The Statesman.
  37. ^ "Singur, Nandigram Were Way to Writers' for Mamata". Outlook. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  38. ^ Nandigram nightmare continues for CPM, Trinamool wins Assembly bypoll
  39. ^ Trinamool Congress wins Nandigram assembly by-election

External links[edit]