Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Statesman
Nandigram: Five fresh graves discovered

Statesman News Service
NANDIGRAM, Dec. 5: At a time when the Trinamul Congress has been alleging that many of those who had been fired at during a peace rally by BUPC supporters in Sonachura on 10 November were kidnapped and their bodies hidden by CPI-M cadre in Nandigram and Khejuri, the CRPF today discovered five more graves dug near Khejuri.
Mr Alok Raj, DIG, CRPF, said: “We have given in writing to the state police about our findings and have asked them to act on them. The state police were called to the area where the graves were found.”
But when contacted, Mr SS Panda, SP, Midnapore East, initially denied that he had any information in this regard. Later, he said: “I will inquire into it.” When asked whether bodies would be exhumed, he said: “I don’t know.”
Acting on a tip-off from locals, the CRPF today cordoned off an area near the roadside of the Khejuri-Tetultala road about one kilometre from Khejuri College, where they discovered the five graves. The CRPF informed the local police, which came to the area around 10.30 a.m.
The CRPF DIG said that a group of women from Gokulnagar, which is far from the spot, claimed that the graves were of those five people who were killed while making bombs in Sherkhanchak on 27 October. But the bodies of these people were taken to Tamluk police station, Mr Raj said. “It is mysterious as to why these bodies would then be taken so far to a remote spot to be buried.
Also, the dead were all Hindus. Do Hindus bury their dead?” he said quizzically.
CRPF officers said that they have handed over the charge of exhumation and post-mortem of the bodies to the state police. They have also asked police to explain why graves had been dug by the side of the road.
“We hope the state police will be able to satisfactorily answer our queries by tomorrow, and exhume the bodies. Failing which we have to take recourse to other measures,” a senior CRPF officer said.
Meanwhile, Trinamul Congress MLA from Contai, Mr Subhendu Adhikary said the bodies might be of those BUPC supporters who were shot at and later kidnapped by CPI-M cadre on 10 November.
“We have a list of names of 35 people who are missing since that peace rally. We want to know whether the bodies in the graves found today are of those missing people,” Mr Adhikary said.
The fresh revelation by the CRPF has added fuel to the controversy regarding the killing and alleged disappearance of many who were shot at on that day. Recently, Mr Subhas Chakraborty, state transport minister, criticised the media saying “only five people were killed in the recent spurt of violence in Nandigram”.
He had also claimed that three of them were CPI-M supporters.

The Telegraph

Grave riddle in Nandigram

Khejuri, Dec. 5: The CRPF today stumbled upon five mounds of earth resembling graves in a field in East Midnapore’s Khejuri.

If bodies are found inside and their identity established, the findings could throw fresh light on allegations that outsiders were brought in by the CPM to help the party recapture Nandigram. Khejuri had remained a CPM stronghold even at the peak of resistance in Nandigram.

Alok Raj, the deputy inspector-general of the CRPF, said the central force was tipped off that some bodies had been buried in Khejuri.

A CRPF posse reached Bamunchak village, about 1km from the heart of Khejuri, at 4am today and carried out a search. On the side of a road, they found the five mounds that looked like graves.

The CRPF had gone prepared with spades and crowbars but the mounds could not be touched as the mandatory magistrate’s order was not available.

The East Midnapore superintendent of police, S.S. Panda, said the matter would be thoroughly probed. “But as for exhuming the bodies, we will not do anything in a hurry as villagers’ sentiments are involved,” he added.

Raj, the CRPF officer, said he had been told by police that five persons who were killed in a bomb blast at Sherkhanchowk in Khejuri on the night of October 27 were cremated and their remains were buried there.

“But we found several discrepancies in the versions of family members of those killed on that day and local residents. We have asked the police to carry out a thorough probe. Generally, bodies are cremated in a shamshan. Why should funeral pyres be lit on the roadside?” Raj asked.

On October 27 night, gunfights were reported across the Nandigram-Khejuri divide, and five alleged CPM bomb-makers had died in an accidental explosion around midnight. Three persons —Sunil Bar, 45, Bachan Das, 24, and Gobinda Singh, 37 — were killed on the spot while Gour Das, 24, and Srimanta Das, 35, died in Tamluk district hospital later. Gobinda was from Belda in West Midnapore, 50km from Khejuri, while the rest were from Gokulnagar, 10km from the mounds.

The four from Gokulnagar had fled their homes to the CPM’s relief camp at Sherkhanchowk.

Local police suspect that the mounds were the graves of these five persons.

However, the CRPF could not find till late this evening any villager who had seen funeral pyres.

“Some villagers told us that the ground was dug up and some mutilated bodies were buried there. They added that as the graves were not deep enough, dogs dug out limbs. The area was filled with stench. Then one night, unidentified people re-dug the graves and the bodies were properly buried,” a CRPF officer said. “We feel there is more to it than meets the eye.”

The CRPF team questioned the relatives of some of the five who died. “Initially, Kabita, the widow of Bachan Das, told us that she was present at her husband’s funeral. But she changed her statement and confessed she was not present,” an officer said.

Sunil Bar’s widow, Sharmila, could not identify the spot where her husband’s pyre was lit.

In Calcutta, inspector-general (headquarters), Jogesh Chatterjee, said the family members of four persons said that after cremation, the bones were buried in the field. “There is no confirmation as yet about the fifth body,” he added.