Nandigram hub: Basu sees govt blunder
Statesman News Service
KOLKATA, April 23: The state government has made a blunder by not sharing details of the proposed chemical hub with Nandigram residents before initiating land acquisition, former chief minister Mr Jyoti Basu said today, more than a month after 14 people lost their lives. He was addressing a meeting of Left trade unions organised by the 12 July Committee at Mahajati Sadan this afternoon.
“I never imagined that the anti-industry agitation could take such shape. Even now about 2,500 of our supporters are being forced to live in makeshift camps. The chief minister has announced that there will be no chemical hub in Nandigram. But many people had no idea what a chemical hub is. We made a mistake. We never told them about the project. I won’t say much on this issue since the court is hearing the case,” Mr Basu said even as he maintained, citing examples from the past, that the only role of the Opposition was to “oppose progress.”
At Esplanade, where street hawkers had organised a rally, CPI-M state secretary Mr Biman Bose alleged that some “outsiders” have already started to misguide residents of Raghunathpur in Bankura where people have agreed to hand over land for a proposed steel plant.
A few kilometres away, Mr Jyoti Basu recounted many incidents related to land acquisition during his tenure. “When I was head of the fifth Left Front government we finalised plans to set up five new cities. Naxalites put up resistance when we tried to acquire land for the development of Siluguri. One man was also killed in police firing. We have to acquire land. But we will try not to touch fertile multicrop land unless there is no option. Many intellectuals have left us. They have misunderstood us. But I am sure some of them will come back,” he said.
Even as he lauded the government for taking up ambitious projects, it was apparent that Mr Basu was not happy with the Nandigram incident. “We had acquired so much land in the past. But we never faced any problem. At Rajarhat, for example, I personally handed over cheques to farmers and they voluntarily gave us the deeds to their land. But I still asked the minister in charge to set up co-operatives for the children of these farmers. We have to work hard. And our party alone cannot take West Bengal ahead. We have to organise the masses and take people with us,” Mr Basu said.
Witnesses to firing
sceptical about probe
The eye-witnesses to the Nandigram massacre who appeared at the hearing for the administrative probe at Chandipur block office today said they did not believe the probe would come up with honest findings.
Members of Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee also alleged that the trial of the killing of at least 14 villagers in Nandigram by police and CPI-M cadres on 14 March have been tangled up in legal and departmental procedures while the real culprits were roaming free.
Mrs Arati Modal, one of the eye-witnesses, said: “At least 200 women and several children had gathered on that fateful day at Gokulnagar for worshipping Gouranga ***thakur and to protest against the entry of police into our villages. But without any intimation, police opened fire on us and CPI-M cadres started beating us up. Several women sustained bullet injuries. Many were molested. Even after I slumped to the ground with a bullet hitting on my right leg, CPI-M cadres thrashed me severely. Many of the goons were dressed in khaki uniforms but wore slippers and red head bands which suggest they were carrying out orders from the CPI-M leadership.”
The probe team, led by Mr Balbir Ram, today conversed with 47 villagers ~ 25 of them women ~ who were witness to the massacre that took place on 14 March at Bhangabhera and Gokulnagar in Nandigram. Mr Abu Taher, BUPC leader, said: “Neither the CBI, nor the CID have come up with their reports on the Nandigram slaughter even after a month after the incident. We don’t expect the administrative probe to yield a fair ruling but we shall certainly take part in the process.”
The hearing is likely to continue for a few more days as nearly 320 villagers from Nandigram have registered as witnesses to the Nandigram massacre.