Saturday, January 26, 2008

Diplomacy fails to cut much ice

Uday Basu
KOLKATA, Dec. 29.: When Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee instructed his party cadres of Nandigram during his visit on 26 December to try to talk things over with their sworn enemies from the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee which spearheaded the resistance against the state government’s now scrapped mega chemical hub project, he was out of touch with ground realities.
Fear is all pervasive in battle-scarred Nandigram and the spectre of retaliation haunted CPI-M cadres attending the open session of the party district unit's conference so much that they felt it unsafe to stay at the venue a minute after the chief minister ended his speech. It was seen to be believed the way they made a beeline for the vehicles that had brought them to the venue from their homes several kilometres from Nandigram.
The psyche of the people living in and around Nandigram was summed up in the words of a woman trudging briskly back home at Reyapara, one of the trouble spots, with her 10-year-old son, almost running from behind to keep pace with her. Asked whether she believed, like the chief minister, that lasting peace would return to the strife-torn belt in no time, she said with ringing sarcasm : “Only God knows.” Another party sympathiser said the way “peace” had been sought to be restored was “definitely not the right approach”.
“If their men, women and children are killed, how can they be expected to remain calm? They would hit back. The result: We dare not go near Nandigram college. There is a concentration of BUPC activists in this area and they are sure to retaliate. They have a huge stockpile of arms,” he said in clear disapproval of the bloody recapture of the villages by his party cadres in the first week of November.
Another woman, who was keenly following every word of the chief minister when he was addressing the rally, could barely conceal her disbelief when Mr Bhattacharjee suggested that CPI-M cadres should try to build bridges with BUPC activists and interact with them so that amity returns. She shook her head and grunted, mocking at the chief minister’s directive to his cadres.
These CPI-M supporters declined to disclose their identities as scores of other cadres were leaving the venue fast with them. But they said peace will be illusory and the chief minister’s pious wishes won’t cut any ice with the people who have lost their kin in the 14 March police firing and had to flee their homes during the recapture of villages with arms and violence.