Sunday, December 2, 2007


Bijoy Chowdhury, winner of several international awards, was in Nandigram on 10 November and was caught in the crossfire. But he shot some of the most heart-rending pictures of the day of the final offensive. His frames are a witness to one of the shameful chapters of our times, when former neighbours became such foes that they could kill, maim and rape. They were men possessed by brute force

NANDIGRAM, a constituency in East Midnapore in West Bengal, flared up in January 2007 after villagers in the area put up stiff resistance to proposed land acquisition for a Special Economic Zone, including a chemical hub, by the Communist government in collaboration with Indonesia’s Salim group. What followed since January is now known to everyone. The mere death toll (around 34 offically till the end of November) in the unrest does not speak for the turmoil in the region or what innocent villagers went through, or are still undergoing. The government’s ill-conceived move to industrialise a region without the popular mandate shredded the social fabric of Nandigram.
The angry villagers first cut the region off from rest of India by digging up roads and throwing uprooted trees. Then, on 14 March the police attempt to retake control to establish administrative rule came at the cost of 14 lives in police firing, hundreds of injured people and several incidents of rape. The graphic details of the atrocities perpetrated on the people, irrespective of their political affiliations, were much reported. Nandigram was divided into two groups — the ruling CPI(M) and the Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee, which was formed to resist land acquisition but was backed by the Trinamul Congress.
After months of intermittant violence — a period when thousands of CPI(M) supporters had to flee and stay in camps at Khejuri, a strong base of the party adjoining Nandigram — the ruling party cadres planned an attack to regain control of Nandigram and ensure the return of their men and women. A massive onslaught was unleashed since 5 November and the invasion of Nandigram culminated in the final offensive on 10 November, when CPI(M) cadres and hired goons, like an invading army, killed, raped, maimed and plundered villages — action which West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee later sort of justified by saying that “they (the not so peaceful villagers opposed to his party) were paid back in their own coin”.
If the currency of development is horrific, perhaps it would be better to return to primitive times.
— Trans World Features.