There are five reports.
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1. Tamluk Hospital, April 8, 2007
Kabita Das Adhikari, Gokulnagar
KD is a mother of two married sons, one works in Calcutta and the other in Haldia Dock area. Son-in- law works in an office in Haldia, K’s husband is unemployed.
Since March 17, KD has been in Tamluk Hospital. Injured in the right knee and left hand. She had undergone an operation on the right knee on April 7, was swathed in bandages and groggy with pain and after effects of anesthesia. Yet she was keen to talk.
The Das Adhikari family has 2.5 bighas of land and according to KD, 12 members are dependent on it. Since the trouble has been brewing in Nandigram in January, her son who works in Haldia dock has been unemployed. “I have stayed on in the village to participate in the movement to save and protect our land and take care of the family. If we all leave the area, the movement will die out,” says the son who is in the hospital to take care of his mother. He has joined the Committee since January 2007. Earlier he was a CPM staunch supporter.
On March 14, KD says that they had congregated near the Bhangaberia bridge. There was a “huge” police force and the police made an announcement on microphone and with “folded hands” urged the people to disperse. There were a “lot of women in front and they did not want to move away”. Soon the police burst tear gas and immediately they began to fire. “Everywhere it became very dark and people ran helter-skelter and I could not see. People fell down and policemen were beating them up.”
In this chaos KD broke her hand and knee. Many along with her had taken shelter in a room but the police chased them, broke open the door and beat them up. She said that girls were beaten up brutally but had not come to the hospital for treatment but was being treated in the village.
KD said at least 4,000 people had died. But when we asked her whether she had seen any dead bodies or knew any one who was dead, she said that she was hiding in a room with many others and did not see.
KD thinks that the police came that day to take over their land to build industries. “If we give away our land, where will we go? How will we survive? How much money will the government give? How will we eat? How do we clothe ourselves and where do we get a roof over our head?”
Said KD, “I have always voted the CPM. So has my family. They have become rajas with our votes. Today, the young boys in the village have to guard against the CPM at night so that they do not attack and take away our land. The CPM is still creating terror in the area.” When we asked her how she knew since she has been in the hospital, she said, it was in the newspapers.
Chabi Mandal, 36 years old, South Khali. Mother of three children, CM’s eldest daughter is 15 years old. . Husband Badal Mandal is a wage labourer. Due to the ‘disturbance’ in the village, her children have not been attending school.
She was brutally beaten up on her left hand and leg. There was no women police in the force. “One policeman caught me by my hair and dunked me in pukur water and beat me up”. She lost consciousness. It was the villagers who took her to a room and helped her out. “Even today, my eyes are still burning and smarting due to the gas and my head feels strange”.
According to CM, on March 14, “anaker gola kete diye chilo, aar koto jon ke pete guuli kore che”. She said that she saw one boy being shot.
According to the CM, on March 14, the CPM supporters were present across the Bhangaberia bridge. “They came out of cars and vans and we saw them.” When asked what they were wearing, she said, “ clothes like the ones we wear.”
She went to Nandigram hospital for treatment only on March 21 because she has small children and could not leave them alone at home. At the Hospital, they gave her two tablets and asked her to go home. A few days ago, she came to Tamluk Hospital for treatment.
“I joined the Committee to save the little homstead we own. Unless we come together how can we protect our land. The government said, they will make industry, but how does that benefit me? We will have to leave the area and they will not give us any compensation. Where will we go with our children?”
Before she joined the Committee, CM has been a Trinamul supporter. “It’s a lie that the CPM families can not live in the village and have had to leave. They are the ones creating terror. Look at the new patients in the hospital, they were attacked by the CPM. Even today there is so much fear of being attacked in the area.”
Anuradha Khara, 36 years old, Sonachura, S Jalpai. She has two sons who are 11 and 14 years old, her husband is very critical and admitted to SSKM with bullet injury in his stomach. AK has a bullet injury in her right knee.
The family owns a little more than one bigha of land where they cultivate paddy, potatoes, brinjal and other vegetables throughout the year ( “Why don’t you write I own 100 bighas” says AK jokingly). AK was feeling much better, during our last visit to the Hospital on March 24, she was a mental wreck worrying about the safety of her two young “missing” sons following the police clampdown and brutality of March14 on Bhangaberia bridge where villagers had gathered. She was refusing to eat or cooperate with the medical treatment, according to her relatives. Our team on enquiring found the boys safely with their aunt.
The family has been traditional CPM supporters but since January 2007 they had “left” the Party to join the Committee. “This is not a political party, but one to save our land,” said AK. “Even if I die I will not let go of my land. We are uneducated. Who will give us jobs? If we do, we will end up washing Salim’s feet.”
AK claims that she was at the Bhangaberia spot since 3 am on March 14 because villagers were in turn guarding the area of fear of the police grabbing their land. “The cadres came in different vehicles like Tata jeep, dressed in police uniform and in chappals and some had their faces covered”. The crowd that had gathered, said AK, felt that seeing the women and children, the police would only restrict themselves to fire tear gas shells. When the crowd refused to “move away” after the police announcement, they began to fire.
AK was shot on her knee as she was running away. A young boy carried her and dipped her low limbs in the pukur and ran away to save himself. “Many people fell into the pond trying to save themselves as the police began to throw stones and bricks”. She dragged her self to the nearby field and lay down as she could not move. One villager tied her knee with a piece of close and brought her husband and her first to Nandigram Hospital from where they were asked to go to Tamluk Hospital. Her husband was then rushed to SSKM, Calcutta as his condition deteriorated.
According to AK, they joined the Committee “willingly to save our land”. “ Of course, it is natural there will be resentment against those who have left their homes and are now willing to return ( meaning the CPM supporters). I have heard tension is still brewing.” When told that houses of CPM supporters have been burnt down and members and supporters attacked, she replied, “ There must be reasons to do so, try and understand why. How can you be a panchayat with a gun in your hand? I thought CPM is a party of the poor, now I see they are indulging in mass crimes.”
“We do not know anything about why our land will be taken except that it will become a chemical hub. If so, we will never be able to cultivate our land.” According to AK, the Haldia experience has shown them that most of the villagers had not got compensation for their land . Such people are now their neighbours and are now fighting for their rights.
AK said “many women” have been raped but did not come to the hospital for treatment. “This is because of shame. Women cannot accept rape, all that they have is their right to motherhood. When this goes, they are full of shame.”
G Hossain, 42 years old Jalpai village. He has been injured in the back and when we met hime he was lying flat on his back. His wife, according to Hossain, was injured in her head and back. He was lying straight on his back on the hospital bed as he was injured in the back.
He said he was with the “mother organization” of the CPM for the last 20 years. Duribng the 1970s land reform movement, the stae government gave his family 12 kathas of land and pukur. “We worked hard the whole day and followed whatever they (CPM) told us to do. We never understood their dhanda till recently”.
On January 3, there were many meetings, according to Hossain to protest the land acquisition plan of the state government. “We though that we would protest in front of the BDO, but he never turned up. Instead there was a lathi charge and women were forced to gherao because they were angry.”
Since then Hossain joined the Committee, and the “CPM men ran away from the village. They know that people refuse to follow them.”
“On March 14, we decided to pray, both Hindus and Muslims because we thought if we pray together, god will listen to us. All of us went to the meeting voluntarily, no body forced us to.” According to Hossain he and the other villagers had faith in the police, “they are human beings too. They will feel pity on us.”
When the police gather on tehotehr side of the bridge, the villagers were asked to sit down. Hossain saw two vehicles ( mini buses) “from where men in black – don’t know whether they are cadre bahini or police-got down.”
“ I saw boys being shot dead and falling down my nephew and my biyan’s son. I saw Immadul, 18 years old shot dead. Many fell down, I tried to save one but slipped and fell myself and rolled on. At this juncture, the police beat me black and blue.”
According to Hossain, “ We will feel safe if the CPM return to the villages. We can live together again and there will then be no more attacks. Many have returned but not the leaders. Earlier Badal Mandal was a big hero, he has a huge house in Chandanpur (?).” Hossain maintains that none of the poor CPM members want a chemical hub. “We are uneducated, how will industry benefit us, we will not get a single job. Our land is fertile, we do not need to buy vegetables or even onions. We will never give up our land even if we die.”
The doctors involved with the treatment in Tamluk Hospital are:
Dr AK Shee, surgeon 9434035936
Dr S Maity, surgeon 9434148372
3. Dr Pradip das, GP ( post mortem) 9434229844
4. Dr S Patra Superintendent 9732592809
2. Tamluk Hospital , March 24, 2006
Shyamoli Mahato, 52 years, resident of Sonachura village. Her daughter, Shibani was nursing her in the hospital.
Shyamolie has a bullet injury in her head. According to Shyamoli the women and children had gathered on March 14 at the Sonachura side of the Banghabera bridge for Gouranga puja. The Jami Uchhed Coommittee had told them that they apprehended a possibility of a police attack and if women and children were in front, they would retreat and not try to enter the village.
She spoke of children been ruthlessly killed by tearing their legs apart. When questioned further she said she herself did not see the children being killed but everybody around in the hospital and village was talking about the brutality.
Shibani, her daughter said that villagers have been staying awake at night for the past 3 months since January in turns because they feared being attacked any time. They feared that their land would be taken. Shibani was at home on March 14 and had not witnessed the attack.
Both Shyamoli and Shibani were asked whether they knew that the Chief Minister had open declared in Kolkata that there would be no land acquisition if people of Nandigram did not want it. They said that they had no such information. On the contrary, they said that once the state government and the local CPI(M) have said that they wanted land implies that they would have to give surrender their land. They also added that there were no talks about any form of compensation. They were satisfied with the treatment in the hospital.
Radharani Ari, 45 years, resident of Gokulnagar village.
Her daughter, ( daughter in law?) Sabita was in hospital to take care of her.
Both are being treated in the hospital for injuries that they received on March 14 incident.
Radharani said, ‘I was trying to escape, I ran madly…but they managed to get hold of me…they were all in police uniform, some 100 / 200 of them…I fell down and was madly beaten by the police…I prayed for forgiveness with folded hands…they used very abusive languages, refered to us as Khanki, toder abar ijjat. I was almost unconscious…the saree had torn in places…it was hardly covering my body…one of them put the baton through my vagina…I shouted out in pain…”
When asked about the details of the incident she said the women and children had gathered for Gouranga puja. “We did not know that there would be any attack…. We thought they will not harm us when they see women and children… just when we heard the firing from Khejuri we decided to sit down together. But within minutes they were throwing tear gases, it became so dark and the beating and shooting began…we all started fleeing…could not see anything as our eyes were burning…Many women ran into adjacent houses for shelter…the men broke open the doors…tortured and raped women…there was blood flowing all around. They shot indiscriminately from the back…if you all go to the place where pujas were performed you all will still find women’s undergarments lying here and there…please go and see them” she reiterated…”how they tortured us”
Radharani was bleeding heavily when she was admitted to the hospital. She said that the bleeding continued for a few days. “I am a bit better since past 2-3 days. All my family members are alive, she said. But I really do not know whether we will ever be able to stay as a family as we used to…they will not allow us…will attack us again…we have to flee from our houses. They have massacred everything”
Sabita was also ruthlessly beaten by the police when she tried to protect and save the injured; she showed us the bruises on her shoulders and hands. Sabita’s eyes filled with tears as she said…”see the marks…how brutally they have beaten us…they have killed whoever they could. So many people were killed and bundled into sacks”. When we questioned her how many bodies and whether she had witnessed any killing, she said the following. “I was running and my eyes were smarting and there was darkness all around…But I can say for sure I saw one boy who fell near my feet – He was shot by a bullet and was crying out for help. I know he could be saved…As I bent down trying to lift him up…the police once again started beating me…they dragged away the boy…folded him…and packed him inside the a jute gunny sack and tied up the mouth…threw the bag on the lorry…I still cannot eat after that…the scene keeps haunting me…the boy could have been saved.. I know it.
Gitanjali Bijli, resident of Gokulnagar. She has been admitted with a head injury and broken hand. As she fell down while running she was hit on her head. She also mentioned “the men stamping on my head with the boot”
“Many women fell inside the ponds while they were running for their lives…we were also almost blinded by the tear gas. They were almost 150 – 200 men all dressed in police uniform. Wherever we ran for shelter they broke down the doors…entered and tortured us ruthlessly”
I was brought to the hospital by some boys of a different locality…I do not know them. The area was filled with bodies all over. Those who were still alive and shouting in pain they just pulled them away” Where did they take them? “ I don’t know, some say the bodies where thrown all over…wherever they could.
Bidyut Basanta, 42 years, resident of Sonachura. She has been admitted to the hospital with both hands broken
“ I ran as fast as I could and I fell into the pond. There were many inside the pond, some were taking shelter to protect themselves…The police surrounded the pond and was not letting us get out…whoever tried to get out of the pond
was violently beaten…their heads dunked into water and beaten up …they pulled at the dresses of women even when they were in water. They killed some men by beating them as they tried to save their lives inside the pond…’pukurer jal lal hoe gechilo go didi’ They have killed countless numbers…(when we asked if she herself had seen any body killed, she could not)
How did you manage to come out? “We were pleading with them for our lives…There were some police among those surrounding the ponds; they allowed and helped us to come out…had it been the cadres all of us would be killed there”
Could you identify the police from the cadres? “some of them had covered their faces with black cloth…
Were they cadres ? Do you know them? “No”
Kakali Mondol (name changed), 35 years, resident of Kalicharanpur (??). She was gang-raped by 3 policemen. Her eldest son, a student of VII is taking care of her at the hospital.
Kakali was lying silently on the bed with the pallu of her saree and the back of her palms covering her face. We knew she was not sleeping but watching us quietly; earlier a nurse had pointed her out and said that she had been raped). She did not respond and look at us when we sat on her bed to talk to her. For more than 10 minutes we sat silently holding her hand, but she did not speak a word only looked right ahead with a vacant look. Then there was a slow but perceptible movement of her fingers as if she was responding. She spoke quietly, almost to her self, a current of words that had remained bottled up.
“amar eto diner parishram didi…char chele meye ke lekhapora sekhabo…koto asha…highway te sabji bikri kore…sab sesh…karo kache ar konodin mukh dekhate parbo na”
Subsequent bits and pieces of conversations revealed that Kakali has 4 children, a daughter and 3 sons. Daughter is the eldest in Class VIII and is 15 years old. Her sons are in class VII, IV and I. She is the main earner of the family selling vegetables. Her husband works as a daily wage earner, though not regularly. Her husband brought her to the hospital but since then has not come to visit her in the hospital because he is very poor and has to take care of the family.
On her own, Kakali began telling her story about her child hood days in Calcutta where she worked as a domestic in people’s homes before she was married off. She spoke of her children and her dreams of educating them and building a life where they would be better off than her. She spoke about her husband and how he toiled to make two ends meet and how she carried vegetables on her head to the market and earned for the family. “ I too supported the Committee, if I did not I would be thrown out once industry came. How would I feed my family. Where will I go?”
Of that eventful day of March 14, Kakali said that she was gang raped by policemen. When we asked her how she knew they were cops, she said, they wore uniform. She remembers being raped by three men before she lost consciousness. After a long silence, she said : “ What is this thing called rajniti ? What has this rajniti done for us?”
Only once did Kakali break down just before we were leaving when she said, ” How will I show my face to any one? After all my struggles…” We told her she had nothing to feel ashamed of as she had not committed a crime, those who had violated her were the criminals. She listened quietly and calmed down. On hearing that we planned to go the village where the trouble took place, she was all concern for our safety. She held our hands tightly and whispered ‘sabdhane jeo, ora kauke charbe na’.
3. Kakali Mondol (name changed), Kallicharanpur, 8th April, 2007
We met Kakali Mondol (age approx. 35) in her home in Kallicharanpur on Sunday 8th April, 2007. She earns her living by planting rice on others’ land and selling her own vegetables, fish and coconuts, as well as others’ rice in the Nandigram market. She is married to Bikash Majhi who works for daily wages on neighbouring lands. They have four children - one daughter and son by Bikash’s late first wife, and two boys by Kajol.
When we approached her hut, Kakali was sitting silently under a low thatch. We asked her if she would be willing to talk to us. Kakali looked up and asked dejectedly, “Why have you come? What is there to say now?” We continued to stand there quietly. Then she got up and looked us straight in the eye. Suddenly she reached out to us with a muffled cry, leaning against us as we held her steady in a close embrace, and through inconsolate sobs she kept asking. “What is left now?…. Everything is over. ….How can I show my face to anyone now?….How can I show my face in the bazaar..…How can I work now?”
Eventually she calmed down and invited us to sit on a mat under a coconut palm by the pond. Her husband looked at her gently, then turned around to us and burst out in agitation that the police had attacked them at the pujo in Gokulnagar in hordes on 14th March and fired on them. A little later he went away, leaving us alone with Kajol.
Then Kakali continued: “We, in Adhikaripara and Kallicharanpur, did not go to Bhangaberia. We had organized our own pujo in Gokulnagar, Adhikaripara, and the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee had told women and children to reach there early in the morning. A police attack was anticipated and they felt that if the women and children were there the police would not get violent. There was news that police would enter four areas simultaneously that day – Bhangaberia, Gokulnagar, Maheshpur and the fourth place, I do not remember the exact name, I think was Osman Chowk. We had organized the pujo as a barrier to the police. We felt that if we were all at the pujo the police may come and talk to us calmly. We had gone early, on empty stomachs. We got some moori to eat there. Around 10-11 AM, during the kirtan the police entered. We all raised our hands asking them to go back, we pleaded with them not to attack us. First they seemed to retreat, then they came back in hordes. They flooded the maath (ground) “like waves”. They came in and attacked us with tear gas and gunshots. There was complete chaos. Some died, most of us ran back. The police followed, they entered our homes and attacked women there. In Gokulnagar, in one home three women and one 12 year old child were abused.
I was attacked in the maath. First the police beat me on the shoulder, then when I fell to the ground, they dragged me by the hair, and then fell upon me. I know they were the police from their uniforms. One of them bit my breast, see didi (she unhooked her blouse, tense with a helpless rage, to show a wound that had not yet healed). One, two, then a third one came upon me viciously, then I lost consciousness. I was found lying in a cowshed and was brought home.
I was taken to Nandigram hospital the next morning. Then I was transferred to Tamluk hospital on Friday evening. The doctor there said “its nothing.” That I would have no problems even though I’d been raped. The Nandigram doctors were OK. The Tamluk doctor was paaji (evil). He was tall, fair, and wore glasses. He wanted to get rid of the rape patients as soon as possible. There was another raped woman there too. Gouri Pradhan of Gokulnagar. He wanted to get rid of both of us. I came home on Sunday 1st April. I had severe breathing problems, the blood had clotted in my breast, and I couldn’t lift my right arm. They said it would take three months for me to get OK. I’m still v. weak. I can barely stand.
I don’t understand why this is so? Is it fear? I also have no confidence to go anywhere, no strength to do any work. Bombing can be heard everyday, the children were alone, so I had to come home as soon as possible.
Now we are guarding our land because they (he CPM) say they will take our vastu (homes) away too. They say they’ll set up a colony here. I go to the Nandigram market, I do business there, I sell vegetables and rice. Could I do that in Calcutta, or even in Tamluk? In a colony? I’ve voted for the CPM before, but not always for the same party.I never stayed with one party – I voted depending on what I liked about the party. I never went for a michil too; this time I went because of the pujo. The police are oppressors – and this is the fault of the CPM. The CPM in our villages left their homes to give up their land to Salim. Now they terrorize us from outside.
Tell Buddhadev to return our children. Tell him to restore my honour. The whole of India, the TV, the world now knows I have been raped. I don’t even feel like going out now. Laxman Seth and Buddhadev think us to be destitute and fools – we’re not. They think they can buy everything with money. Ek chagole kaan kaatle shob chaagale bhoy? I was violated. You’ve come as women to see me, to tell the world how we have been violated.
The police came to see me 8 days later, to talk to me, addressing me as “Ma”! I said “Don’t dare call me that. If anyone had done this to your mother or daughter, would you have let them dare talk to your mother or daughter 8 days later? Would they have talked?” Because I said all this, the police report said nothing had happened to me.
There was one Radharani, and one Muslim woman, both of whom were raped with the barrel of a gun – that is also rape, is it not? First they were beaten to the ground with the butt, and then raped with the barrel. Both women were in Tamluk hospital, they were Sonachura women, and were still on oxygen when I left.
There are many parties in the BUPC here – the TRC, the SUCI, the BJP, but they are not doing anything for us either. We are a movement in ourselves – it’s our land at stake. There was not discussion, no face-to-face, no explanation whatsoever, about what might happen. We heard from the TV and newspapers that our land will be taken, and after that came the bombing and gunshots. They say that we were armed. We barely have enough to feed ourselves – why would we blow up what little we have on bombs? There is still fear that they’ll take away our land – fear and terror….After the 7.30 PM news the bombing gets so loud, you won’t believe it.
The effects of the tear gas were so devastating that my eyes are still burning. I had been blinded for 2 whole days. One person – Chitto Das’ s wife - was actually paralyzed because she inhaled too much gas – I don’t know whether she will live. None of us could eat properly for two days – this was the effect of the gas and an overwhelming fear.
Why do they say we are against development? When Haldia was set up there was no resistance and no massacre. We too want development. Towns were developed – when Tamluk was developed there was no resistance. But now Buddhadev is selling our land to foreigners, to Salim. We object to that.
Now we want the terror to end. Those absconding from the villages should return, as they’re terrorizing us from outside. Once they’re home, fear will affect them as much as it affects us, then the terror will abate. There is no sleep now, for fear of the terror. I was used to tough labour – now I can’t work; this thought is eating away at me inside.”
4. Visit to Nandigram on 21 March 2007
We left for Nandigram at about 7.00 am. with members of the Microfinance Promotional Forum. We were about 32 persons in 4 cars. We were met by Swapan Panda and other members of Kajla Jana Kalyan Samity near Nandigram. So two more cars were added to the convoy. They were carrying relief materials including Fruits, dry rations like Muri, Chire etc.
We did not encounter any resistance for most of the way. We did not see any police battalions which have obviously been withdrawn. We saw just a few outposts with five young police personnel. However, as we started getting into the Nandigram area, there were TMC workers and villagers who stopped us. But seeing that we had relief materials and talking to Kajla workers, they let us go through. A few kilometres from Tekhali, we were asked to turn back as there was supposedly bombing in Tekhali. However, the villagers urged us to go saying that the people in Bhagabera and Gokulnagar needed help. After some time, we moved ahead and saw a group of very angry protesters asking for justice and punishment for Buddhdeb and all those involved. They also said there was bombing in Tekhali but that the police were not doing anything. The police apparently asked the people to wait until the firepower was exhausted and then come out.
We went ahead past Tekhali Baazar where the bombs were meant to have been thrown but heard nothing. The bombs had stopped by then. We reached Adhikarypara which is close to Gokulnagar, one of the places where the firing took place. A medical camp had been set up and many people, mainly women had come for medical attention. We were able to speak to some of the women who were very vocal but also very fearful of what was going to happen. I am giving below what some of them had to say:
Sabitri Das Adhikari: A middle aged woman described the incident on 14 March. She said that they were expecting the police to enter but thought that if they were unarmed and praying, they could ask the police to go back. So Women, Children and men were sitting together and praying – some reading the Quoran, others doing Kirtan in Gokulnagar when the police arrived. On the loudspeaker they asked the villagers to move and let them do their job. The villagers asked them to go back and said they would repair the roads themselves and that they did not want to give up the land. Immediately, the police fired tear gas and everyone ran helter skelter as their eyes began to burn. Then the police started a lathi charge and then began the firing. All of this happened within 10 minutes of the villagers saying they would not go back. After this everyone ran for their lives and women and children hid in latrines and cowsheds. The police followed them into these places, kicked open the doors and then mercilessly beat up the women. Sabitri said she went to the cowshed where about 10 young women were hiding. The police entered and began abusing the women saying ‘Saali beti Saitanguli, Bhumi Bachabe, Swami ke Bachabe, dakhachi tomader’ and began beating the women. In spite of her begging them to stop they beat her up, tore women’s clothes and hit them with iron rods. She showed us the marks on her body where she had been beaten. She said she recognised two of the men as ‘Sunil Bar’ and Chan Sheth (not sure if I got this name right’).
Sutapa Das Adhikary: A young woman and also Sabitri Das’s daughter in law. She described the incident in exactly the same way as her mother in law. She added that many were injured and fell to bullet wounds including children. Even after this the police beat them up with lathis and rods. Some people ran away to their houses and other ran away to the fields or houses of relatives. The mayhem continued from 10.30 –12 noon. The police then went, broke open doors and looted some houses. From the evening of the 14th till the 15th they went into people’s homes and sexually abused the women who were there, sometimes in front of their husband by tearing their blouses and biting their breasts. They also scratched the women on their breasts (khimche diyeche). She said the women were traumatised and unwilling to talk due shame. She also saw the police tying up young men and women and carrying them away. She noticed that all the men were in uniform and some of them wore chappals and had a red band tied around their wrists. She and others who had run away from their homes on Wednesday tried re-entering on Friday afternoon. But the police were still there and they unzipped their pants in front of the women and asked them to come to them. They ran away again in fear and came back on Friday night. She said they were now living in fear as they did not know when they would be attacked again. Many of them do not sleep in their homes at night for fear of further attacks. She said that she after everyone left, she id not know what would happen. She also talked about two men namely Bijan Rai and Rabiul coming in on motorcycles looking for their leaders on the 14th. According to her, the police ate the mid-day meal prepared for the children on that day. For two months the CPM goons have been attacking them and Lakhan Seth had been going to Khejuri every night and inciting the cadres. She felt the most important thing they needed was protection. Villagers cannot leave their village and go to the market for fear of being beaten up by the cadres.
She said that about 200 people had been injured in Gokulnagar of which over 50% were women, 20 people were hospitalised in Tamluk and 10 in SSKM and Nandigram.
Indrani Das: She was also hit by a rubber bullet and her clothes were torn and she was abused.
It is clear that many more people were injured than has been projected as many men and women were in hiding and had just come back to the village and were accessing medical help.
We then moved on to Sonachura and Bhangabera where the worst violence had taken place. On the way we came across some homes that had been burnt. In Sonachra we found that a huge meeting was on and we carried on to Bhangabera. Bhangabera has a border with Khaserberi. There is a bridge which you cross to enter Khaserbheri which is now totally dominated by the CPM . The Nandigram area is totally dominated by all those against land acquisition. These are villagers most of whom owed their allegiance to the CPM at one time but are now against them. On reaching Bhangabera we realised that most people were not at home as some had fled there homes and others had gone to the meeting we saw on the way. However there were a group of men most of whom had come in from other neighbouring villages who led us to the house of Sankar Samanta, a CPM supporter who was killed on 7th January. The house had been ransacked by the villagers and was strewn with clothes of women and children. According to them, about 150 CPM goons lived in this house and used to bring women in and rape them. This is the house from where the firing began. We went to the nearby houses to find them deserted. We met an old couple who said they were not there when the firing took place and had just returned.
I met a young man (whose name I did not get), who was from Khaserberi who had been living in Bhangabera for the past 4 months because he was against land acquisition. He was there when the incident took place. He said he ran away and hid but could see what was going on from a distance. According to him, he saw the police ripping of clothes from women and sexually abusing them. He said that Naba Samanta was there and that he was particularly violent with women and children.
We then went across the road where I met a few people. The first woman obviously did not want to say much and said she was in her house with her child when the firing happened and she did not know much.
Anita Paik: She was a young woman looking really traumatised. Her husband was in Tamluk hospital and she had not been able to go and see him because she had little children and it was very far away. Her house is very close to the bridge that connects Bhangabera to Khaserberi. She said that from about 6-9.30 in the morning there was a huge procession and then people sat down to pray. There were women, children and men. She was in her house with her mother in law, organising water for everyone who had come when at about 10.30 she heard the commotion and the tear gas and bullets being fired and saw people running away. Then policemen entered her house and started breaking everything. She ran away and hid in another family house with her husband and children. But the police came here too, broke the door and beat her husband till he lost consciousness. They abused and told her to stop protecting her husband and beat her up as well. Later the villagers helped take her husband to Tamluk hospital. She said she was saved from sexual violence because her mother in law intervened.
XX Jana: Did not get the full name. He said there was a procession of about 5-7000 people and then they sat down to pray. While people were anticipating police action they did not think that police would harm children, women and men who were unarmed and praying. According to him, at about 10.30 the police asked the crowd to disperse. When they said that they would not give up their land and asked the police to leave, the police began firing tear gas shells. Immediately the area was full of black smoke and their eyes began stinging. Instantly they ran towards the pond to splash their eyes with water. In the meantime the bullets stared firing and they saw people including children being hit and falling into the pond. He ran from the place and hid. He lost his brother’s wife in the firing. She was taken to Tamluk where she was declared spot dead.
Both Anita Paik and Mr Jana talked about how scared they were and that they were still spending nights outside their homes. It was clear that there is a huge sense of fear and insecurity amongst the villagers many of whom have still not returned. They still do not know how many women, children and men have actually died and how many are missing as many have still not returned home, they are still widely dispersed and they are not in a position to do a survey yet.
We then went to Nandigram Hospital On the way we met a woman who was very old and raving about what had happened on the 14th. Its was clear that it affected her mental balance. But she was articulate about what had happened and what she saw. She said that more that 200 women’s clothes were torn and many had to flee in their petticoats. She said that people were indiscriminately fired upon and that she saw a child being ripped apart by the legs.
At Nandigram hospital we found most of the inmates were women. The first two women we spoke to had been admitted only on Monday as they were in hiding till then. One of them was inconsolable as she talked about what had happened. She said that they were all praying when the police asked them to clear out. When they resisted, tear gas was fired followed by bullets. They ran helter skelter. She saw men, women and children falling to bullet wounds. She ran away and went into hiding and only came back on Sunday after which her husband brought her to the hospital. She was beaten up very badly.
We saw Janaki Das who had lost in her own world. She was not talking and had a glzed look in her eyes. A young girl sitting with her mother on the next bed said that she had lost all eight members of her family- they could not be traced and that she kept looking out for them. It was clear that she was in a state of acute trauma.
Salema Bagum: She was in Bangabera and talked about how she was beaten up and abused in a horrific manner. The rifle bayonet/rod was shoved up her vagina and she was still bleeding. She was naturally incensed with what had occurred and asked us if there would be no justice – if the perpetrators would not be punished. She said she would like to she Buddhadeb and Lakshman Seth’s heads being cut off and hung in the village square as punishment. She narrated how the CPM goons had broken her right arm during the last elections because she was not going to vote for the CPM. She was seething with anger. Her daughter Tanjila Khatoon, a young girl, who was present during the incident narrated what she saw. She also said the same thing as the others, that they were praying, the police came, asked them to let them do their job, the villagers asked them to leave and said they would repair the roads themselves, the tear gas was fired and then bullets. She saw a young neighbour, a 15 year old boy who was due to give his Madhyamik being hit by a bullet and his body fall into the pond. She saw children’s legs being ripped apart and thrown in the pond. Women, men and children were beaten mercilessly, women’s clothes being torn and women being sexually abused. Sheikh Al Masoor, who was standing by Salema Begum’s bedside said he saw a woman’s breast being cut off and stuffed into a pocket. He saw the police drag a small child away from the hands of his mother. The police then said ‘nibi, aye, aye’ and as she moved to take the child, he shot her.
It is clear from all accounts that this was a targeted attack on unarmed villagers and was brutal. Men, women and children were beaten mercilessly, and women were subjected to sexual abuse. Many died but a total count of the numbers is unavailable as the villagers do not yet have the information about who is missing, and who is in hiding. The villagers are in a state of constant fear and are still spending nights out in the fields.
5. Victims interviewed in Tamluk Hospital, 08.04.2007
Testimony 1- Sheikh Hosi Alam, age 27, owns a tea-stall, admitted with bullet injury on finger. Hosi Alam was the first person we encountered as we entered Tamluk Hospital.
After the first round of questioning (‘Who are you?’ ‘Why are you here?’) we went through the corridors of the usual filthy ‘type’ hospital with unfriendly doctors and nurses. Upstairs they have a created special enclosure for ‘Nandigram-victims’. About 97 have been admitted till date including 13 with bullet injuries and 2 rape cases –with question marks (as shown on the register).
Curiously, the victims at the Tamluk hospital wanted to talk to us and were eager to record their testimonies. Somehow they knew ‘sohorer didi ra’ (‘sisters’ from the city) function as pressure groups. Initially nothing particularly ‘new’ emerged from Hosi Alam’s or other interviews. It was the same horror tales we have confronted on TV and heard through rumors and other sources. Men, women and children had gathered to resist police intrusion on that ‘fateful day of war’. ‘Judhyer dine’ …as they put it.
“We were performing pujas, when we saw the police coming. We were told –the police won’t fire at women and children. Ours was a shanti michil. We were protesting against all that happened in Dec and Jan. We held our hands high, and said –go back- we won’t give our lands.”
Then they fired, first tear gas and then….Stories merged into one another.
Most of them were horrendous narratives of unimaginable atrocities. But our imaginations are limited; nothing that we learnt in schools and through life prepared us for this. Random firing, killing, rape, butchery. Some said ‘children were butchered’. ‘Where are the bodies and records’ we asked. ‘They were thrown into ditches, ponds…’ they replied. Exaggerations? Perhaps. May be its impossible to express a shock of such enormity otherwise. A cynical of friend of mine says –‘they are all TMC, they are liars’. Frankly, I sincerely hope they are all ‘lying’ - for all this is truly ‘unbelievable’.
The question of land distribution and its economy emerged as the connecting thread as we listen to the witnesses. Hosi Alam argued,
“We are to get only 4 Lakh per Acre…what will we gain? I have 10 kathas, and we are 5 brothers, what will each one receive? Where will we go? We have our land, our ponds, our farms…why should we go?’
Hosi Alam brought out a point that many repeated later. They know they are being culturally uprooted and therefore they are resisting.
Testimony 2- Anima Jana, 32 (husband Prasant Jana, has 3 daughters) lay there, still striving to deal with trauma. She said,
“They were hurling bombs; and firing tear gas….I jumped into a pond but they rushed in there and hit me on left arm, elbow, head, back, chest…with the baton. I have not returned home since then. We are poor what will we do when we go back home?”
Indeed, many were staying on in fear, moreover simply to survive – to get their daily bread from the hospital. And back home, fields are lying cultivated, they have not sown new crops; they are busy fighting. Anima recounted ,
“We are bagh chashi. We cultivate paddy, pulses etc. We are agricultural laborers. We have about 10 kathas of our own. But my husband has 6 brothers. What will each get? Then we heard our land will be taken away…we were told to join Jami Bachao Committee…I was CPM earlier….
On that day some of the muslim bhais saved me. And then the one who gave me water (Ratan Das) died later. They hit women on their belly, on their backs….Initially we were told they are killing people in the hospitals so I came in here after 5 days….”
Testimony 3-Shoba Rani Sinha , age about 50-55 ( ‘How would I know how old I am ?’ she said). She sat there with a devastated look. Shoba Rani was evidently reeling under physical and emotional wounds. It appeared as though her back was broken. She was admitted with broken leg and injuries on the hip; she still had tremendous pain and could hardly move.
‘When did you come to the hospital?’ I enquired.
“I came in after some days… there were rumors that they will inject poison in our bodies”.
Shoba Rani grabbed my hand and said,
“You know, they pulled the child from my lap and slit his throat”.
We looked at her in disbelief. ‘But where is the body…?’ we murmured.
“They took it away in gunny bags” she said softly.
I thought ‘she surely is exaggerating’; but the look in her eyes made me think otherwise. May be she was exaggerating, but it hardly means all this are untrue.
I asked her, ‘but why won’t you give land?
‘Would you give it if more money is offered?’
“No never! I have my cattle, I fish …why should I give my land? How can I live a room in the colony?”
‘Are you TMC?’ I quizzed. Shoba Rani looked around and whispered in fear – ‘yes’.
“On the day of ‘war’ they killed our daughters, our sons... Lakhshman Seth was there, I saw his car… I don’t think they will let it go so easily. They will return to seize our land….They will prosecute us, our sons cannot go out of Nandigram, beyond the border…they cannot get work”.
Shoba Rani’s narration was muffled with fear. We couldn’t follow her at times, she was speaking very softly and at times words didn’t make sense. 14th March had left deeper wounds than what we could see easily. Most the people work as agricultural laborers. After the harvest they grow vegetables or pulses. During the monsoons the fields get flooded. Then they use the land as ‘fisheries’. A man said, ‘I think the fighting will stop with the rains’. ‘Where are our rainmakers?’ someone murmured. For now, however, they are fighting to keep their bhite-mati (home and land) as they continue to live in apprehensions.
Testimony 4- Salma Bibi, age 42, resident of Garachakraberia (husband Fakrul Islam Khan, has 4 grown up children, her sons work as tailors in Calcutta),. They own about 3 bighas of land. They cultivate vegetables.
Salma Bibi was staying in the hospital with her 20 years old daughter – Tanjila Khan. Tanjila refuses to go back, she is simply scared to go back home, she went on saying- ‘give me a job, take me along’.
Salma has been bleeding since 14th March; the police kicked her on her belly. Salma said-
“The police were hitting right and left …they were also picking up girls. They hit me with their boots…later I hid behind the tall coverings of betel leaf fields….If you go to Nandigram and stay there you will see they are still fighting every night”
14th March, however, was only the beginning of her miseries. The doctors in the hospital misbehaved as well.
“While they were examining my wounds they were laughing. I was taken to a room, where there were no coverings. Two policemen tried to peep in, my daughter protested. You know the doctor lifted my saree and called out to a nurse and said ‘let’s both see, its no point looking alone’”.
‘What is the name of the doctor?’- “I wouldn’t know”.
‘And, what treatment did you receive?’
“They did USG tests … I don’t know exactly, they have given some medicines… They are not referring me to SSKM”.
Madhuja, April, 2007.
Monday, June 11, 2007
There are five reports.