Next to Nandigram firing site, CPM men were holed up with arms, ammo: CBI
Posted online: Sunday, April 01, 2007CBI rebuts govt claim that party had no role in firing; Our men have to protect themselves: CPM
KOLKATA, MARCH 31: The CPM-led Left Front government in West Bengal has maintained that the March 14 police firing in Nandigram in which 14 people were killed was “unfortunate” and “tragic” and that the police had little choice when they were faced by a violent mob. The government denied that CPM party cadres were involved in any way.
However, in what could deeply embarrass the government, the Central Bureau of Investigation — ordered by the Calcutta High Court to probe the incident — has found evidence that contradicts this claim and establishes a link between the violence that day and CPM cadres who were supplied illegal arms and ammunition.
Highly placed sources have told The Sunday Express that the CBI’s report, presented to the court, contains evidence to show how, well before the incident in Nandigram on March 14, party cadres were brought in by local CPM leaders and accommodated in “three office rooms” of the Janani Brick Field at Sherkhanchawk, barely 300 m from the Bhangabera bridge, the site of the police firing.
Three days after the incident, the CBI arrested 10 of those CPM cadres during a surprise raid on the kiln. Based on their interrogation and recovery of material, the CBI has claimed that those arrested were supplied illegal weapons and a huge cache of ammunition (see box) by an “organized political party” (a reference to the CPM) with a view to create terror and attack “political activists of the opposite political party at the point of gun and muscle power.”
The stockpile included .315 rifles, countrymade firearms, shotguns, automatic pistols and revolvers and hundreds of cartridges.
Raj Kanojia, a spokesman of the state police, confirmed to The Sunday Express that the police force deployed in Nandigram on that day did not use .315 cartridges. But, significantly, the CBI team found as many as “238 pieces of empty cartridge case of 8 mm/.315 from the men arrested at the brick kiln.”
The CBI team also reported that those arrested had, with them, as many as 367 pieces of live cartridges of this 8 mm/.315 variety. Some of the cartridges recovered by the CBI were also said to be blood-stained.
Five mobile phone handsets were recovered as well from the arrested men in the brick kiln and the CBI is said to be investigating the calls made to and from these. Sources said the agency has established that the cadres were in touch with local leaders, including gun-runners and local criminals.
CBI investigators also recovered from those arrested several books of CPM party receipts, leaflets of the party’s youth wing, Democratic Youth Federation, and the All India Krishak Sabha, the party’s peasant wing. Figuring in the list of items recovered: “CPM flags, telephone diaries, personal diaries, green helmets, correspondence, a map and some yellow coloured plastic gunny bags having blackish stains.”
Benoy Konar, CPM state secretariat and central committee member and the president of the West Bengal unit of the All India Krishak Sabha, when asked about this evidence told The Sunday Express: “Our party men in Nandigram needed to protect themselves from the onslaught of the rival camps. We will have our defence should the issue come up before the court.”
The CBI’s finding reinforces public apprehension in Nandigram that the area is set for a protracted, even violent, political turf battle. Seizing on land as an issue, rival political parties have all got together and forced the CPM on the defensive.
Many CPM voters in the block of villagers, who refused to join the protests against the government’s decision to set up a chemical hub in Nandigram, have been evicted from their homes. State Industries Minister Nirupam Sen admitted to this newspaper that the party had been “caught on the wrong foot” as it could not reach out to the villagers on time.
Although Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has announced that there will be no hub — and, therefore, no land acquisition — in Nandigram, the region is still tense and those evicted from their homes are increasingly getting impatient.
What CBI says it found from the ten arrested
• .315 rifle having SL NO. AB 846231
• .315 rifle having SL No. AB 002231
• .315 rifle having SL No. AB002312
• .315 rifle having SL NO. AB 000041
• Country-made firearm (rifle) without any number.
• Shotgun, made in England, No 26847, single-barreled
• Shot gun with serial No 527932, single-barreled
• Firearm with the impression “DBS Enterprise, Calcutta (India), model 55
• Shotgun with impression “Selected Forged Steel Proof”, 2 ¾ inch chamber, model 94C
• Country-made pistol
• Automatic pistol, made in China
• Country-made six-cylinder revolver
• One revolver made in Japan
• Country-made pistol
• 238 empty cartridge cases of 8 mm /.315 bore
• 47 live .12 bore cartridges
• 27 live .12 bore cartridges and one empty case
• 44 live cartridges of various types
• 33 live cartridges of various type
• 367 live cartridges of 8 mm/.315• 261 live cartridges of .380 inch bore, and one empty case