NANDIGRAM : A REJOINDER TO THE UNTRUTHS OF THE CPI(M) – from PBKMS, March 24, 2007

March 20, 2007

(Since 14th March 2007 , the CPI(M) has gone into an overdrive to prove that the actions of mass killing in Nandigram were justified (though unfortunate, they add in after thought). We give below their chief arguments to support this view taken from the Politburo statement issued on the 14th March 2007, and the actual facts.)

Untruth 1: 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

Point of contention: Was land acquisition only a pretext? Had the Government really categorically declared that no land is being acquired in Nandigram? How serious was the threat of land acquisition?

Facts :

The Chief Minister says in his statement in the Bidhan Sabha [State legislature] on the 15 th March said “Though no final decision has yet been taken about the exact location of the projects, on December 29, 2006 an informal notice for public information regarding likely location of this project was circulated by the Haldia Development Authority to all blocks and Gram Panchayat offices of the area.” He further states as does the CPI(M)statement on 16th March 2007 that in a public meeting at Khejuri and at various other times the Chief Minister had made statements that land would not be taken. What these statements do not however reveal is that:

1. The PBKMS fact finding report from 22nd to 24th January found that the exact 29 mouzas that would be taken for the project were given in the notification issued by the Haldia Development Authority on 2nd January 2007. Initially about 14,500 acres of land would be acquired “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.”

2. While the Chief Minister states that the notice was “informal”, it needs to be questioned how a written notice issued by a Government authority can be informal. Also, the Chief Minister did not till recently, a few days after the 14 th massacre, actually give a written notification to say that land would not be acquired.

3. In spite of earlier statements by the CM saying no land would be acquired if the people of Nandigram did not want it, the representative of Salim in India stated in as late as March that there had been no discussion with the State Government on withdrawal of the chemical hub from Nandigram and that the hub would be established in Nandigram.

Untruth 2: Certain elements had resorted to violence and cut off roads and bridges in 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.

Point of Contention : Why did people cut off roads and bridges and isolate themselves? What did happen in these peace meetings?

It was the bitter experience with a partisan state administration and CPI(M) terror that forced people to resort to the cutting off of roads and bridges. These experiences occurred on several occasions:

1. On 3rd January, in return for information on land acquisition from the Pradhan of Garchakraberia Anchal, the people received bullets and lathis from the police . 5 innocent villagers were severely injured.

2. Following 3rd January’s incident, the CPI (M) set up a number of camps at Satkhanda near Bhangabera Bridge, Pankhai and Sherkhanchawk in Khejuri-2 block that surround the protesting villages. Arms were being amassed in each of these camps. The plan was clearly one of “cleansing” the villages of dissenters.

3. Senior CPI(M) leader Benoy Konar, the President of the Krishak Sabha [the Peasant wing of CPI(M)] 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 said on 5th January 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.”

4. The Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (Committee to Resist Eviction from Land) reported its fears of attack to all senior police officials before 7 th January, but was met with inaction.

5. In all-party peace meetings it was agreed that the CPM would withdraw its camps and after this roads would be repaired. No such action was taken to dismantle camps.

6. Violence exploded once again in Nandigram on 7th January morning, at Sonachura village, Nandigram-1 Block. 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 ferry ghat 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.”

7. After the 7th the people of Nandigram have lived in daily fear of retaliation. The Citizen’s Committee reported, “We found village women extremely apprehensive, begging us to spend the night with them.” Women and men whom the PBKMS met during its fact finding trip from 22 nd to 24th January said the same thing. On two different occasions visits made by our members with Medha Patkar also received similar reports from villagers. Newspapers carried reports of almost daily skirmishes on the Khejuri- Nandigram border.

8. The ferries of the Haldia Development Authority from Haldia to Nandigram were stopped for a long period of time leading to an economic blockade of the area. Later when the ferries were started, CPM cadres did a regular check on passengers.

9. The CPM’s hired goons had been making serial armed attacks to win over Nandigram. Police did not take any legal step against the miscreants. Instead, they filed false cases against about 900-950 innocent villagers resisting land acquisition. On 9th March CPM goons hurled bombs and fired several rounds from Bahargunje, Ranichowk, Pankhai and Sherkhanchawk across the Tekhali Bridge to terrorise the BUPC activists. Jharna Kajuli, a 10-year old girl and Nilima Das (22), a housewife, were injured by bullets.

10. Most people entering Nandigram were subject to checks and harassment at various points between Chandipur and Nandigram and on the road from Henria to Nandigram. Medha Patkar was subject to road blockades and protests (including a show of bottoms masterminded by Benoy Konar); PBKMS members received the same treatment; Kolkata intellectuals were stopped from entering Nandigram; a car load of women from the TMC had their car broken up; media people were harassed, stopped and searched. Provocative statements by CPM leaders continued.

Even when these events took place before the police, no action was taken by them. The Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee’s contention is that the decisions that were taken in peace meetings were never put into effect by the police or the CPM; hence they also did not feel it was safe to keep their side of the bargain of allowing repair of roads.

Untruth 3: 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.

Point of Contention : Was the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee a platform for all parties or did it consist of only anti-CPM forces? Were atrocities committed on CPM supporters inside Nandigram

Truth:

Nandigram traditionally has been a left citadel, voting time and again for successive Left Front Governments in the state. The Nandigram assembly seat and Haldia Lok Sabha seat are held by the CPI and CPI(M). In the last Panchayat election, the CPI(M)- CPI combine won 75 seats out of 136 seats in Nandigram-1 block. Of the 23 Panchayat Samity seats, 16 belong to the left parties. In a left citadel where 69,376 (49%) voters were CPI/CPM voters, it would not have been possible for an anti land acquisition platform like Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee to survive without popular support.

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 highly 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.”

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.”

Thus it is CPM’s own base which has turned against it because of the callous and insensitive stand taken by the CPM and its government on the issue of land acquisition.

Secondly, if there have been such a large number of atrocities on the CPM people, have cases been filed by the CPM supporters against those who are perpetrating these atrocities? As far as we know, no such cases have been filed; even where dubious gang rape of a house wife and so called rape and murder of Sunita Mondal have taken place.

Untruth 4: 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.

Point of Contention: Were those resisting the police on the 14th of March violent? Was the police firing provoked and done in self defense?

An investigation done by APDR and PBKMS into the events of the 14th brought out the following points (which have been confirmed by many newspaper reports):-

· The crowd was peaceful , unarmed and involved in a Puja (religious ceremony)

· The police first repaired a bridge unhindered at Bhangabera and then entered;

· Women, along with children, volunteered to be in front in the belief that the police would be more circumspect if they were in the front;

· The police first lobbed teargas shells binding people and then began firing. Firing continued for about 15 minutes and the action after that for
about and hour and a half, all in the presence of senior police officials who could have stopped the action if they wanted to.

· During the action, excessive force was used leading to 14 dying , about 30 persons going missing, injury to at least 200-250 people,
separation of families , looting of houses, rape of at least two and molestation of many more women and girls, cruelty on children etc.

Allegations of disappearance of numerous bodies were also there. Conversely, 6 policemen were received minor injuries.

· The involvement of party leaders and goons in the massacre have also been clearly conformed by eye witness accounts who spoke of
recognizing party cadres who were wearing slippers with police uniforms, storage and stockpiling of arms by party cadre in various places in
Khejuri etc.

· All of the above point to use of excessive force by the police and the collusion with party leaders and goons brings up serious questions
about the fairness of the administration as a whole.

· It should also be noted that the administration in Nandigram, even though roads were cut off continued to function. During a visit on 28th
February 2007, on enquiry we learnt that schools, ICDS centres, ration shops, kerosene dealers were continuing to function more or less as
usual. The major absence was of the police presence.

We appeal to all mass organisations and individuals to visit Nandigram to see the truth for themselves, instead of listening to the false propaganda by the vested interests.

Written by:

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity

1, Shibtala Road ,

Vill: Maheshwarpur,

P.O.: Badu, Kolkata- 700128

Email: pbkmswb@gmail.com

Phone: 033-2538 2064, 033-2526 8662

Fax: 033-2538 4779