Developing news: Barbaric firing by CPI(M) harmads in Lalgarh

January 7, 2011

Jan 12: APDR Fact-finding report on Netai Incident
Jan 11: Sanhati Statement
Jan 10: PUDR Statement
Jan 8: Sequence of events, List of dead and injured
Jan 7, 2011: Intial reports

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APDR Fact-finding report on Netai Incident

Jan 12, 2011

A six member team from APDR reached Netai village of Lalgarh at 3 PM on 08th January, 2011 to investigate the incident of firing on unarmed villagers by Harmad Bahini on 7th January at village Netai of Lalgarh block, West Midnapur, West Bengal.

Villagers told the team that one month ago the camp of CPI(M) formed at the house of the local CPI(M) leader, Rathin Dandapat. Abani Singh and Sovon Mondal, CPI(M) leaders of the same village, had told the villagers that the camp had been made to establish peace in the area. Gokul Maity of this village informed us that instead of establishing peace some trouble had been started at the village. Villagers were forced to cook and wash clothes for the camp. About 20 to 25 armed persons were at the camp according to the villager Pradip Roy. One man was forced to make 40 to 50 chapattis in one day. The members of the camp shouted at villagers for any mistakes in cooking, like more salt or better taste. One day they forced, at gun point, the villagers to participate in the rally of CPI(M). The non armed villagers were compelled to guard the armed men of the camp.

Unwillingly they were obeying all orders from the camp. The agricultural work of the villagers was hampered for their service at the camp and also the dignity of the villagers was not protected by the members of the camp. After establishing the camp at the village, the CRPF did not patrol the village a single day. The CRPF left the fortunes of the village in the hands of the Harmad camp. Other camps of Harmad bahini of CPI(M) are situated at Birkar, Belatikari and Sijua within 3 to 4 km from the camp of Netai. The villagers were living under the fear of the Harmad Bahini.

Finally, four days before the incident, the leaders of the camp announced mandate for arms training to the villagers of 18 to 35 years old. It was too much for the villagers. One day the villagers gathered to take arms training in the field. After that, on 6th January, the villagers unanimously decided that it was not possible to take arms training. On 7th January around 2 thousand villagers out of four thousand population, gathered before the camp at 8 AM. The villagers and the camp members held discussions at the Bat-tala Chalk which is 20 to 25 meter away from the camp or the house of Rathin Dandapat. They told the leaders of the camp that villagers were not willing to take arms training. After discussion of 15 to 20 minutes the leaders said that they required the consent of the higher party committee in this matter.

In the name of consent of higher committee they called the armed forces from the other camp. After few minutes, from south of the village some armed men entered the village and firing started. Some of the villagers said that first firing started from the roof of the Rathin Dandapat. There is another version that the armed men of the outside camp started the firing first. Phulmani Maity and Swaraswati Maity, injured in the firing, and fell to the ground at once. Some other persons fell on the ground, unconscious, after bullet injuries. Some men were running away with injuries. At the time of firing, bullets were coming like rain. According to the villagers 30 to 40 round bullets were fired at a time. Then the mob dispersed from the Bat-tala Chalk. The dead bodies were lying at 30 to 40 meter distance from the house of Rathin Dandapat. The distance of the dead bodies prove that the house of CPI(M) leader was not gheraoed by the villagers. The firing continued for one and half hours. The armed man went away with firing at the side of Kanshi river.

Villagers gave the name of the armed persons who were engaged in the firing of 7th January at Nitai. Such as Abani Singh, Sovon Mondal, Joydeep Giri, Asani Chalok, Tapan Dey, Phulora Mondol, Nabagopal Chai. They also said that the Harmad did not allow ambulance for injured persons.

The local police force was informed by the villagers at 8 pm before gathering in front of the camp. After firing Tanmoy Roy and Sibsankar Roy again informed the in-charge of Lalgarh Thana. After four hours CRPF entered the village. Then CRPF butted with their bayonets and terrorized the villagers. Salil Pal of Natai is still lying in the bed (Bed No -32 of Surgical Ward) of Midnapur Sadar Hospital due to the injury by CRPF. Sandip Mondal was also injured by the CRPF.

The Fact finding team mads the observation that Lalgarh thana is situated at the distance of 2.5 to 3 Km from the place of incident. The police force came to the village after 6 hours of the incident. Harmad bahini fired at the villagers for a long time and the police did not take any initiative to resist the incident from nearby thana. The police gave enough time to the armed force to get away from the place of the incident. Police did not help to the injured person. The villagers hospitalized the injured persons alone. So it proved that the Harmad Bahini and police were jointly beside the incident of 7th January. The team now reached the conclusion that the firing of the 7th January by Harmad Bahini of CPI(M) occurred with the alliance of police force and CRPF. So it can be seen as a state sponsored repression and terrorism.

List of dead persons

1. Phulmani maity, 2. Swaraswati Gharai, 3. Samananda Gharai, 4. Dheren Sen, 5. Dhrubaprasad Ghoshwami, 6. Arup Parta, 7. Sourav Gharai.

Injured Persons who are still admitted in the hospital

i. Gouri Das , Farmer, 65Yr. – Bullet injury at the right of the chest
ii. Dilip Sen , Farmer, bullet injury at left eye and right hand
iii. Arati Mondal, 52yrs, – bullet injury at belly
iv. Geeta Adak, – Bullet injury at belly
v. Saktipada Singh – Bullet injury at right side of the chest
vi. Tapas Mondal – Bullet injury at left leg
vii. Nayan Sen, – bullet at left leg
viii. Avarani Mondal, – bullet at shoulder
ix. Ganesh Adak, bullet at chest
x. Hansha Roy , Injured
xi. Taruni Ghata , Injured
xii. Naba Ghata, injured
xiii. Ashim Roy, injured
xiv. Lhakhan Sen, Madhu Jana
xv. Salil Pal, injured by CRPF

Fact finding team members of APDR

1 Rangta Munshi – Assistant Secretary
2 Prasanta Haldar – Secretariate Member
3 Joy Gopal Dey – Secretariat Member
4 Sandip Saha – Photographer of APDR
5 Babu Da – Member
6 One other member of APDR

From
Prasanta Halder,
Association for Protection of Democratic Rights
18 No. Madan Baral Lane
Kolkata – 700012

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Sanhati Statement

Jan 11, 2011

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the shocking incident in Netai village, near Lalgarh, West Midnapur district, where armed mercenaries (harmads) of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) fired indiscriminately on a crowd of unarmed villagers, mostly women, resulting in the death of at least eight people and injuries to many. The villagers had gathered around the harmad camp in the village, housed in the two storey house of a local CPI(Marxist) leader, demanding that the harmads stop the atrocities on the villagers and leave the village. This is a culmination of the continuous violence in the Lalgarh area perpetrated by armed cadres and mercenaries recruited by the CPI(Marxist) to regain their control over the area which had been lost in the wake of the Lalgarh uprising. The harmads have established fortified camps by occupying schools, government buildings and anganwadi centres, creating havoc in surrounding areas.

While in the past two weeks the union home minister P Chidambaram and the West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee have indulged in semantics over the word “harmad”, here we witness the result of the policies jointly pursued by both the state and central governments. It is common knowledge that the entry and continued existence of harmad camps in Lalgarh have been possible only with the active help of the joint state and central security forces who have used the harmads to penetrate deep within the area in order to suppress the peoples’ struggle in Lalgarh. The unprecedented and continued use of Section 144 in the area have allowed this condition to develop and sustain, preventing the entry of any members of civil society into the area.

We demand that to prevent the reoccurrence of such incidents, and to end the continued bloodshed and repression in Lalgarh, the harmad camps are immediately disbanded and the joint forces withdrawn from the area. Also the perpetrators of this heinous crime, and all other atrocities, should be brought to book. We also demand that Section 144 should be immediately withdrawn from the area, allowing access to all citizens.

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PUDR Statement

Jan 10, 2011

A spate of political killings in West Bengal, which in few months from now will hold state assembly elections, is a matter of deep concern for PUDR.

Hitherto the media and the authorities had confined themselves to condemning killings by the CPI (Maoists) in the Jangalmahal area, in which officially it was claimed that 79 persons lost their lives. But the killing by CPM cadres on January 7th, who fired around 300 rounds on a 250 strong crowd, primarily women, protesting the local CPM diktat that each family to send one person for arms training, thus killing 8 persons and injuring 20 with most bullets fired on the back, show how it is becoming a free-for-all between political parties. While we remain unequivocally opposed to killings by the Maoists, whatever be the pretext, we have been cautioning, drawing attention of the public, not to ignore crimes committed by political parties and official agencies. Figures released by the Union Home Minister in a letter he wrote to the Chief Minister of West Bengal on 24 December 2010, as well as the figures shared by the Chief Minister with the Legislative Assembly on 23 December 2010, shows how grave the situation has become with more than 200 persons killed and a couple of thousand injured between May 2009 and 15 December 2010, in inter-party clashes.

It is true that other parties such as Forward Bloc too suffered murderous attacks at the hands of Maoists in which seven of their cadres lost their lives. But most of the 200 killed died in clashes between the Trinamool Congress and the CPM. Of these Trinamool Congress lost 96 members and 1237 of its activists suffered injuries as against 65 deaths suffered by ruling party CPM and injuries to 773 of its members and the Congress lost 15 members and 221 got injured. The figures are a salutary reminder to us all that the exaggerated claims of Trinamool (which claimed 2000 deaths) and the CPM (which alleged that 337 deaths), notwithstanding, political violence is a widespread phenomenon in West Bengal in which niceties of constitutional norms and upholding established laws, play little role.

Political parties such as CPM, Trinamool Congress, BJP, Congress may have the self-image of upholding the law and of championing peaceful political processes, but in actual fact, as the death toll in West Bengal illustrates, crimes of these parties are far worse because it takes place in the guise of believing in parliamentary democracy, and these parties use security forces available to them to witch-hunt political dissidents. If these political killings are read together with crackdown on dissent, proscription of political ideologies, curbing expression by invoking sedition, kid glove treatment of Hindutva terror, then a far greater threat to India’s constitutional democracy looms large. This in fact reinforces our conviction that open politics with its emphasis on peaceful process, rule of law and respect for political dissent is giving way to manipulative and increasingly lethal engagement. Money power, muscle power and use of security forces and agencies for partisan end, therefore, pose a grave threat to us all. It is therefore high time to shift focus away from the myopic view of Maoist violence to the use of violence and violent means by parliamentary political parties and agencies of State.

Signed

Harish Dhawan & Paramjeet Singh

Secretaries PUDR

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Jan 8 Update, List of dead and injured:

The details that have emerged over the last night –

The harmad camp had been set up in the house of one Rathin Dandapat, who was a CPI(M) supporter, but was not present at the time, and was under the control of Abani Das, the local CPI(M) strongman. The harmads had been regularly forcing men and women from the village to come and cook food for them and wash their dishes, and had beaten many of them up. The night before the massacre, Anuj Pandey, the CPI(M) zonal committee secretary from Lalgarh had visited the camp. After that the harmads went to houses in the village and asked the families to send all males in the age group of 20-30 to the camp the next day to receive “training” to start night patrols. When the villagers had refused, they had been beaten up.

Next day morning villagers, mostly women, marched up to the harmad camp demanding that they stop these demands on the villagers and vacate the building. There were around 50-60 women in the group and around 30 men. The gherao of the harmad camp went on for around 4 hours, during which time the villagers had also informed the police multiple times in Lalgarh thana (which is around 2 km from the place) about the presence of armed people in the camp.

But the police did not come, and then the harmads started firing indiscriminately from inside the building, mainly from its first floor. There are some reports that another harmad group had also crossed the Kangsabati river and had arrived and started firing at the crowd, but there is some confusion regarding this.

People fled from the area and the harmads took the opportunity to flee, firing all the time. Some people, who were working in the nearby fields, were also shot at and injured during this time. The harmads also tried to prevent people from taking the injured to hospital.

Then the injured were taken to the hospital in Midnapur, and later three, whose condition is critical have been shifted to Kolkata. Till now, we have the names of seven of those killed, and the names of all the injured who are in the hospitals. These are as follows:

Dead:

Dhrubaprasad Goswami (male – 45)
Fulkumari Maiti (female – 35)
Arup Patra (male – 45)
Shyamananda Ghorui (male – age unknown)
Dhiren Sen (male – 47)
Sourav Ghorui (male – 35)
Saraswati Dolui (female – age around 30)

Injured:

Arati Mandal (female-50), Dilip Sen (male-30), Ganesh Adak (male-34), Lakshman Sen (male-22), Hansraj (male-51), Shakti Singha (male-74), Naba Ghorui (male-60), Tapan Mandal (male-28), Gurai Das (male-65), Nayan Sen (male-40), Geetanjali Adak (female- 35), Chitta Das (male-35), Tarini Khatui (male-30), Lalu Dhibar (male-65), Subash Singha (male-45) and Abharani Mandal (male-25).

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Jan 7 Update: On the afternoon of Jan 7, CPI(M) harmads, holed up in the house of a school teacher in Netai village near Lalgarh fired indiscriminately on a crowd of people, consisting mostly of women, who were protesting their depredations in the area. As reports come in, it appears that 12 people have been killed, numerous have been injured. Many more might have been killed, the harmads have reportedly removed some of the dead bodies. Reports also suggest that Anuj Pandey, the notorious CPI(M) leader from Dharampur was present during the firing.

Lalgarh Mancha has called for a blockade of College Street in protest which is going to start immediately.

Jan 8th: Protest rally from College Street at 3 pm.