Thursday, November 15, 2007

Buddhadeb ‘justifies’ Nandigram bloodbath

The Peninsula (Qatar)

Activists from the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) New Democracy shout anti-government and West Bengal government slogans during a protest against the attacks in Nandigram, in New Delhi, yesterday.

Kolkata • West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya yesterday virtually justified the onslaught by his Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) in Nandigram saying, “the people who suffered were paid back in their own coin”.

“Do you think they were peaceful people? They had for months attacked, harassed and evicted our people,” Bhattacharya said, adding that the armed groups in Nandigram had got a befitting reply.

“I had wanted to avoid this situation and so wanted to send Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men early,” Bhattacharya said, as he appealed for peace in Nandigram and asked evicted residents to return to the violence-racked area without any fear.

“I appeal for peace in Nandigram. There should not be any violence. I urge the residents living in the area to maintain peace.

“I have asked the administration to go to the area and talk to the people living in relief camps and help restore peace,” Bhattacharya told reporters at the state secretariat.

He also appealed to women and children to return to the villages in the district. “There is no cause for fear. I appeal to the women and children to return to the villages,” he said.

The chief minister said five CRPF companies were now camping in Nandigram.

“Around 480 to 500 CRPF personnel are now in Nandigram. The district administration is helping them to set up camps in the area. The Centre has promised to send 1,000 CRPF personnel. Another company of women CRPF personnel will reach the district,” Bhattacharya said.

“We want the kin of the March 14 victims in Nandigram to get the compensation soon. I have asked the administration to prepare the papers and ensure the victims get the compensation,” he said.

The chief minister also indicated the state government would drop charges against those who have not been held guilty of serious crimes, accepting one of the demands made by Trinamul Congress-backed Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC).

“We want to drop cases against those who are not guilty of serious crimes like murder and rape,” he said.

He later left for Raj Bhavan to meet Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi.

At least 14 villagers were killed in police firing when they resisted entry of cops in Nandigram on March 14.

West Bengal Chief Secretary Amit Kiran Deb had said the state government would pay a compensation of Rs.200,000 each to the next kin of victims who died on March 14.

The toll in Nandigram violence rose to 34 since January when the region flared up over proposed land acquisition for a special economic zone (SEZ), including a chemical hub - a plan which was scrapped by the state government later in the face of stiff resistance.

But violence continued unabated as a turf war between the CPI-M and the BUPC raged in the run-up to the local body