Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lawlessness looms - 24-hour bandh called on Monday as blood continues to flow

Lawlessness looms
- 24-hour bandh called on Monday as blood continues to flow

Calcutta/Nandigram, Nov. 10: The Nandigram truce lies in tatters with Bengal staring at a long spell of lawlessness.

The CPM today brushed aside governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s expression of outrage and pressed ahead with its bloody offensive in Nandigram, gunning down at least two persons in an unarmed procession.

Mamata Banerjee sought to convert the governor’s statement into a force multiplier to breathe fresh life into her Nandigram movement that had appeared on its last legs 24 hours ago, and threatened to “indefinitely cripple” Bengal from Monday. She also announced her resignation as member of Parliament.

The SUCI and the Congress called separate 24-hour Bengal bandhs on Monday, while the BJP announced a 48-hour one from Monday till Tuesday.

With police staying put in the barracks, the onus of averting a conflagration in Nandigram now rests on the 1,000-strong CRPF unit the Centre today cleared for Bengal. But operational decisions like when and where to deploy it lie with the state.

In Calcutta, it was Mamata’s turn to thumb her nose at the rule of law. She did not explain what she meant by “crippling” the state but Trinamul Congress general secretary Madan Mitra claimed that it signified an indefinite bandh. “We have to prepare ourselves for an indefinite period of bandh. That’s what Mamata Banerjee meant,” he said.

The Trinamul chief had avoided the B-word also while calling for the state to be brought to a “standstill” on October 31. The Supreme Court, however, has clarified that any attempt to force a shutdown — by whatever label — is illegal.

Asked what “indefinite” meant, senior Trinamul leaders said Mamata might have a “rethink” if the state witnessed a “total” shutdown on Monday and Tuesday.

Mamata, who left for Nandigram late tonight, said she had sent her resignation letter to the Prime Minister and a copy to the Lok Sabha Speaker.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee cancelled his Delhi trip to attend a party politburo meeting there. He refused to take questions at Nandan, where the Calcutta Film Festival was inaugurated, and slipped out through a side door while Trinamul activists protested at the main gate.

In Nandigram, where the CPM has “recaptured” half the party’s lost territory in the past few days, trouble erupted around noon.

Men, women and children marchers from Nandigram Bazar, Garchakraberia and Sonachura came under fire near Maheshpur, which the CPM regained this week. Sheikh Rezaul, 38, and housewife Shyamali Majumdar, 33, lay dead and 15 were injured.

Some reports spoke of a third death but district magistrate Anup Agarwal said “no (third) body has been found”.

CPM leader Shyamal Chakraborty alleged that Maoists and Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee activists had used the marchers as human shield to fire at ruling party supporters.

The marchers later regrouped and ransacked the barracks adjoining Nandigram police station in protest against the force’s inaction.

The inspector-general (law and order), Raj Kanojia, said the police did not move into the troubled areas to avoid “confrontation or firing”.

Shot, raped

CPM cadres shot a 40-year-old woman in both legs in Satengabari on Wednesday and then raped her with her daughters, aged 14 and 17, Pratirodh Committee convener Abu Taher alleged. He said the woman got admitted to the Nandigram block hospital today. East Midnapore police chief S.S. Panda confirmed receiving the complaint.

The police arrested eight CPM men near Egra apparently while they were removing some of the injured marchers from Nandigram in a van.