Nandigram from May 5-11, 2008 – APDR report


1. LARGE SCALE violnce unleashed by the CPI(M) goons in tandem with local and state level administration.

2. People began to flee away and took refuge under various makeshift camps. Allegations were made that voter id cards were forcibly taken by the chief ruling party cadres.

3. 34 people who were forced out of the areas filed petition before High Court; Justic Dipankar Dutta of High Court on 9th May directed the local administration to ensure their return and safety. Right now they are being detained by CPIM men; we are trying to contact SDPO, Tamluk, to find them out and give protection in compliance with Order of HC.

4. On May 6, a team comprising Aparna Sen, Saoli Mitra, Subhaprassana, Sujato Bhadra and Amiyo Choudhuri met the State Election Commissioner, Mr Asolk Gupta (retd. IAS) and had a one-hour-long discussion. He refused to suspend DM, SP of East Midnapur against whom CDI had chargesheeted in Nandigram recapture of November. However, the Commission told the the team that the SEC was seriously considering the fate of the Nandigram OC, one Debasis Chakraborty. But within a few hours, the government gave him a clean chit and SEC surprisingly dropped the idea of serious consideration of allegations against him.

5. It was agreed between the SEC and the team that a team from civil society would visit many places including Nandigram to observe panchayat polls not as SEC’s observer but as an independent body and the SEC would lend all possible help including security.

6. On 8th May, Aparna Sen and others formally informed the SEC about the team’s visit to Nandigram Block I and II on May 10 ; SEC was further informed that the team would come back to Kolkata on 11 May after the election was over.

7. SEC communicated the members of SWAJAN, who initiated this move, that the team could go to the above-noted areas to observe the polls on May 10 and 11. This letter of SEC [ dt08.05.2008] further stated interalia – ‘It may ensured that they are able to move freely subject to usual restrictions of movement near the polling stations. They may also be provided with necessary security’.

8. Next day, on May 9, members of civil society took out a big protest rally against the continuos terror tactics adopted by the goverment and the ruling party in Kolkata.

9. On May 9 itself, State secretary Biman Basu opposed this and demanded that the team should be stopped by SEC.

The Home Secretary faxed a letter to SEC stating that ‘you [Commssioner] are aware of the fact that there exists some tensions in Nandigram and police are maintaining law and order situation there. It is felt that visits by outside organizations to nandigram area before and on the poll date might create fresh tensions and lead to breach of peace….it is extremely difficult to make eleborate security arrangements for any team of outsiders’.

The HS also refrerred to provision 105 of Panchayat Act, 2008 which prohibits campaign of any form from 48 hrs before the end of the polls. In view of what has ben said above, the HS said to SEC that SWAJAN may kindly be advised to cancel its contemplated visit to Nandigram to obseve the poll. The SEC, in a similar language of the letter of HS and with similar reasoning, informed SWAJAN that ‘you may reconsider your decision to visit Nandigram on May10 and 11 May‘ [ref.1730-SEC/4D-6/2008 dt10.5.2008].

10. The theam began its journey towards Nandigram around 12:30pm and was intercepted by the police and SDO near Bagnab at Uluberia. The SDO showed the second letter of SEC and HS’s letter. The team told him that the visit was not banned and they didn’t require the security. The SDO then threatened them with arrest. It may be noted that reference to the above provision by HS is absolutely irrelevent since the purpose of the team was to observe the poll and not any kind of campaigning; in fact, the letters of SEC and HS also mentioned this – i.e. to observe the poll.

11 The team was compelled to come back to Kolkata and lodged a complaint against police and administration with SEC. Subsequently they exposed party-govt-SEC unholy nexus to the public through media conferences and interviews.

12. Right now, at this very moment, reports are coming from Nandigram that booth-jamming has been started by CPIM and voters are being allowed to come out of their houses to cast vote in some areas. MP lakshman Seth had threatened Mr. Alok Raj , DIG, CRPF over mobile.

In solidarity,
Sujato Bhadra/APDR


Nandigram on May 12, 2008: Lakshman Seth and his arm-twisting

4.30 am: Two women from Sonachura lodge complaints of molestation against CRPF DIG Alok Raj

9.30 am: Tamluk MP and Haldia CPM strongman Laxman Seth calls up Raj on his cellphone (who puts the call on loudspeaker in front of media personnel) and asks him not to step out of the camp. Raj accuses him of pressurizing and blackmailing him, says the MP can’t issue orders to him

1 pm: CRPF personnel clash with police and some villagers in Garupara. A CRPF lady constable, who was hurt in the brickbatting, accuses Nandigram OC Debashish Chakraborty of molesting her. Chakraborty claims he was assaulted by CRPF personnel

5.45 pm: State election commission secretary S N Roy Chowdhury says an MP or MLA cannot give any directive to security officers

People expected violence in Nandigram on polling day, but few expected it would be between the uniformed personnel given the responsibility of ensuring peaceful voting.

With the stakes running high in Nandigram, CPM went the whole hog on Sunday to ensure victory. The troubled zone remained on the boil throughout the day. Even the CRPF and local police stood divided and did not mind exchanging heated words and blows.

CPM workers were jittery about CRPF patrols, especially in Khejuri, since Saturday evening and word soon reached Haldia strongman Laxman Seth. Around 4.30 am, two women from Sonachura lodged complaints against CRPF DIG Alok Raj, claiming he had molested them during a raid on Saturday. Seth, who calls the shots in Haldia, repeatedly tried to get in touch with Raj early Sunday morning but couldn’t. This added to his fury. “All my calls went unanswered. He (Raj) picked up the phone once but on hearing my name passed it to another person. This is not desirable. I am an MP and he should have heard what I had to say,” Seth said.

The MP could finally reach Raj around 9.30 am when the officer was at Tekhali bridge with a patrol team. Seth told him about the FIR and asked him to “remain in the camp” since a complaint was pending against him. He also claimed CRPF jawans had assaulted CPM workers inside some booths. Raj explained that CRPF had not entered any booth. “You are an MP and you are trying to pressure and blackmail me. You tell me, am I the kind of person to molest ladies? Why this false FIR against me?” Raj told the MP.

Raj then asked Seth about the time and place of the alleged molestation. The MP said it was around 4.30 pm on Saturday at 7 Jalpai — he did not even mention Sonachura. Raj shot back: “At 4.30 pm I was at Nandigram police station. Before that I was at the Rajaramchak camp. Listen to me, Mr Seth, I did not go to 7 Jalpai.”

The MP then alleged that CRPF was “moving on its own”, which Raj refuted. When Seth again told Raj “not to move out of the camp”, the CRPF officer responded angrily: “How can you direct me? I will not be confined to the camp. Sorry.” And disconnected the phone.

Barely a couple of hours had passed before CRPF and local police got involved in a brawl, and a woman CPRF constable filed a molestation complaint against Nandigram OC Debashish Chakraborty — who, according to home secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti, was on “poll duty” although the chief secretary had said the OC would not be given election duty.

A Times of India report