Territorial Warfare to Reign of Terror
for Democratic Rights and Political Choice
for Democratic Rights and Political Choice
An Independent Citizens’ Report
8th March, 2008
I. Phase I: Events that led to the attack on March 14 5
II. Phase II: Events leading to the “recapture” on November 10 6
PRIMARY FINDINGS 7
TESTIMONIES OF THE PEOPLE OF NANDIGRAM
I. Testimonies From the March – April 2007 Visits 10
A. Visits to the CPM Camps
B. The Violence of “Development”
II. Testimonies From the November 24th Visit 16
A. Violence Against Women: Rape, Sexual and Physical Assault, Verbal Abuse
B. Damage to Home and Property: Homelessness and the Inability to Return
C. Continuing Threats and the Reign of Terror
D. No Right to Political Choice
As a result of an initiative by women’s groups, organizations and individuals, an 11-member team of citizens from Kolkata comprising teachers, social activists, researchers and students visited Nandigram on November 24, 2007. Concerned about the repeated disruption of peace in the region, the team decided to go to the affected areas and talk to the local people with the objectives of expressing solidarity with the survivors of violence, documenting people’s needs in the current circumstances, and drawing up recommendations. One of the chief aims was also to investigate the nature and range of sexual violence and its use as a political weapon, towards pre-empting further such occurrences of violence against women.
The people who constituted this team were Rajashri Dasgupta, Kavita Panjabi, Anuradha Kapoor, Trina Nileena Banerjee, Shuktara Lal, Swapna Banerjee, Shubhasree Bhattacharya, Sourinee Mirdha, Saswati Ghosh, Shyamoli Das, and Sushmita Sinha,
Places visited on November 24th included the Brij Mohan Tiwari Shiksha Niketan Relief Camp in Nandigram town, the Nandigram Hospital, the villages of Sonachura Garchakraberia and the Bhangaberia Bridge where the CRPF was stationed, as well as Daudpur village.
This report also carries a section comprising testimonies collected by members of Citizen’s Solidarity in March and April 2007. These have been included to demonstrate certain links across events from March 2007 to November 2007, as well as to foreground specific features of the situation in Nandigram that were recorded only in the earlier trips, such as the visits to the CPI(M) camps in Khejuri and Tekhali. Five members of the November 24th team were also members of the Citizen’s Solidarity teams that had visited Nandigram earlier this year, so the current investigations are also in continuity with the earlier ones.
The introduction ends with a timeline of events pertaining to the crisis in Nandigram, beginning from 29 December 2006 and ending with our visit to Nandigram on 24th November 2007.
* * *
Nandigram is marked by an extremely complex and violent political situation. On January 2nd 2007, Lakshman Seth, Chairman of Haldia Development Authority issued a notice for the appropriation of land in Nandigram, Mednipur district, for the setting up of a chemical hub jointly with the Indonesia-based Salim group of companies. The fear of forced land appropriation by the CPI(M) ruled state government of West Bengal for this proposed SEZ resulted in a massive people’s resistance. The complete absence of any democratic processes for securing people’s consent, and the imposition of an industrial policy at the cost of agriculture, created widespread insecurity and fear in the local population. This led to the setting up of the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) in Nandigram in early January, against forced takeovers of land.
A significant factor in Nandigram is that till the beginning of 2007 it had been, traditionally and predominantly, a CPI(M) support base. The party had commanded nearly 80 percent of the electoral votes in Nandigram, with many of the supporters having been loyalists for almost 30 years. When the threat of the land takeover became imminent, a large majority of the CPI(M) supporters joined the BUPC. The membership of the Committee cut across all political parties and groups like the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI), the Congress, the People’s Democratic Conference of India (PDCI) and the Jamait-E-Ulemae-Hind. It also included a large number of citizens not affiliated to any political party. The BUPC adopted a black flag both as a symbol of the people’s resistance, and to emphasize their independence as a committee beyond any particular party affiliation.
On 12th February, the chief minister Budhadeb Bhattacharjee declared, at a public meeting at Haldia, near Nandigram, that no land would be taken from those unwilling to give it. On the very next day, 13th February, Lakshman Seth, CPI(M) MP, mentioned at a press conference in Tamluk, that the land mentioned in the HDA notice would be acquired. Such conflicting statements like the above by various senior leaders of the ruling CPI(M) during the conflict period only added to the increasing distrust and insecurity of the local people.
Between early January and March 14, 2007, parts of Nandigram were cut off and the police were not allowed to enter the area, nor was the local administration allowed to function. There were some attempts by the district magistrate to organise peace meetings and take up the issue to repair roads and bridges that had been dug up; but opposition parties like the TMC and the Congress boycotted the meetings because they were not given written assurance that the land would not be acquired. The Chief Minister’s verbal assurance that land in Nandigram would not be forcibly acquired for a chemical hub did not convince the people of Nandigram, who even today suffer deep distrust and disillusionment.
During this period between January and March, CPI(M) leaders and supporters fled the area, with the party claiming that about 3,500 of its members and supporters had been forced out. However, civil society groups such as ours, that visited the CPI(M) camps with the purpose of conducting an independent and non-partisan assessment of the damage done to human life, livelihoods and people’s dignity, were met with hostility and suspicion. Observations did not tally with the claims made by the leaders of the CPI(M) camps.
On March 14, 2007 the state violated all democratic norms and unleashed armed violence on its own protectorate. In tandem with the CPI(M) militia called Harmad Bahini, the state’s para military forces and armed police launched a massive attack on a large number of villagers who had joined the BUPC organised shanti michhils (peace processions) to go to pujas and namaaz readings. The attack included indiscriminate and rampant firing, brutal attacks and widespread sexual abuse of women. It left 14 people dead and more than 200 injured. Of these, 85 were hospitalised with serious bullet and baton injuries. Gang rapes and sexual molestation of women were reported in large numbers.
Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi said the deaths from police firing had filled him “with a sense of cold horror.” The thought uppermost in his mind, he said, was not who started or provoked it, but “… whether this spilling of blood was avoidable? What is the public purpose served by the use of force we witnessed today?” In disgust, intellectuals, writers, filmmakers and dramatists condemned the police firing and criticised the chief minister and his “anti-people” attitude. People across the state protested spontaneously; some demonstrators also blocked roads and railways. Schools and colleges in the Nandigram area were shut down.
The CBI took over the investigation of the March 14 armed attack, following the order of the Calcutta High Court that ruled, “Prima facie the action of the police department is wholly unconstitutional and cannot be justified under any provision of law.”
On March 29, the Chief Minister announced at a meeting that the state had committed mistakes, “I own responsibility for the lapses in Nandigram …I don’t want any more bloodshed and deaths irrespective of which party the dead belong to.” But the people of Nandigram, still shattered by the earlier events, expressed little faith in this declaration. The fact that they had not yet received any ‘official document’ or written assurance about the withdrawal of the SEZ plans kept them in a state of suspense and insecurity.
Between March and November 2007, reports poured in (both verified and unverified) of children being killed, people missing, and bodies being disposed of secretly. The disillusionment of the people with the state government and the CPI(M) party deepened. As the people’s distrust of the CPI (M) increased, the TMC, the largest opposition party in the state, gained force in Nandigram and in the BUPC leadership.
Violent confrontations between the BUPC and the Harmad Bahini had become commonplace. The majority of the villagers in the affected areas were living in constant fear of attacks by the Harmad Bahini. On the other hand, BUPC supporters also complained of being forced to join BUPC marches under threats of violence by the TMC leadership. Yet there was a radical difference between the people’s resentment of this and the violence of the CPI(M). In the latter case, people expressed a deep sense of betrayal and terror, as well as a complete breakdown of the trust and faith they had reposed in the CPI(M) over the last three decades.
By November there had been a clear gathering of CPI(M). cadres and militia in the area, as well as stockpiling of arms. In early November 2007, the armed Harmad Bahini struck back with the full support of the state. They violently “reclaimed” the “lost” villages in Nandigram that had come under the control of the BUPC. The police was conspicuous by its inaction even as frightened villagers, caught in the violent crossfire between the two main contending political parties, fled their homes for fear of death or injury..
It is significant that though the people of Nandigram have been subject to acute and continuous violence for the last one year, their response was far from that of a community of passive victims. The citizens’ movement fought to reclaim the democratic rights to life, freedom and livelihood, as well as to live with dignity. In the process, the heated debate over special economic zones (SEZ) for industry gained ground, and Nandigram became a symbol of people’s protests across the country against state repression.
On November 12, when the CRPF finally entered Nandigram, the CRPF director S.I.S. Ahmed said, “The private armies, comprised CPI(M) cadres, have already captured the area. It was only after that the CRPF personnel were allowed in. Now there is not much that the CRPF can do, except the maintain status quo and protect the private armies.” Finally, ‘peace’ reigned in Nandigram, hooded, bloodied and mauled, witness to the terror writ large on people’s faces.
The CPI(M) has resorted to rampant sexual violence, using it as a weapon of power and intimidation to browbeat all the women of Nandigram who participated in large numbers in the movement against land acquisition. The women were courageous, spirited, articulate, and sharply analytical about their reasons for resisting the state policy. Violence against women ranged from verbal abuse and sexual threats. to sexual harassment under the pretext of conducting physical searches for concealed weapons, to gruesome acts of rape, gang rape and the shoving of rods/batons down women’s vaginas. Women testified that their homes continued to be unsafe, as CPI(M) cadres were ordering women to send their men away, and keep their lamps lit at night to “welcome” the cadres. As a result, many women who had gone back to their homes promptly returned to the relief camp within a day, while others who had not left had stayed on in continued terror of more sexual violence.
When this team visited Nandigram on November 24, 2007, the black flags had disappeared and had been replaced by thousands of flags of the CPI(M) and TMC, each marking and claiming territory, as well as some of the BJP, and the SUCI. The local people assert that the BUPC had originally been represented by black flags, signifying that “we did not stand for any single party. It was a people’s struggle.” Now, with the multiple party flags dominating the terrain, and the CPI(M) fast regaining all lost ground through force, they claim that there is no space for them.
In the aftermath of the November attacks and the violent takeover by the CPI(M) militia, the people’s resistance stands crushed. They are living in a state of terror, and are being forced to “reconvert” and support the CPI(M), or risk their lives and homes. The same people who had insisted spiritedly in March that they would die rather than be forced into giving up their land are now resigned to their fate: “How much suffering can we bear? Now if the CPI(M) demands our land we will give it up – yes, however meagre be the compensation. What choice do we have?”
I. Phase I: Events that led to the attack on villagers on March 14
December 29, 2006: Lakshman Seth, Chairman of Haldia Development Authority (HDA) and CPI(M) MP, announces at a public meeting the state’s decision to build a chemical hub in Nandigram.
January 2, 2007: HDA issues a preliminary notice to acquire 29 mouzas of land in Nandigram I and 2 mouzas in Khejuri II comprising 25,000 acres of land affecting 60-70,000 villagers for a chemical hub to be built by the Indonesian-based Salim Group. The notice triggered a spate of violent events leading to people’s resistance.
January 3: A large number of people gathered at the Garchakraberia panchayat office in an attempt to find out more about the HDA notice. There were violent clashes among sections of villagers, those opposed to land acquisition and supporters of the CPI(M). There were also clashes between the people and the police and when a police jeep overturned, people drove out the police from the area. Villagers dug up roads and removed concrete slabs from bridges to prevent the police and administration from entering the interior villages.
January 5: The BUPC was formed by the people across the villages of Nandigram. Within days, roads had been dug up, culverts destroyed and CPI(M) supporters driven away, and parts of Nandigram were cut off.
January 6 & 7: The land war witnesses its first deaths in direct combat with at least three bodies thrown up and four persons missing as thousands of CPI(M) and BUPC supporters clash with guns and bombs between Sonachura and Tekhali. Subsequently, both sides claim the ‘missing persons’ to be dead and the seven dead to be their supporters. Among the dead was 14-year-old Biswajit Maiti of Sonachura. Local CPI(M) leader Shankar Samanta was killed and his house burnt down.
January 10: Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee announces the withdrawal of the notification for land acquisition in Nandigram and admits “major lapses” on the part of the local administration.
"I have asked the East Midnapore district administration to tear up the notification about land acquisition by the Haldia Development Authority (HDA) as it was the root-cause of trouble that led to total confusion and cost several lives at Nandigram," the Chief Minister told reporters at Writers' Buildings.
February 10: The dead body of sub inspector Sadhu Chatterjee is recovered in the area.
February 12: Budhadeb Bhattacharjee says at a public meeting at Haldia, near Nandigram, that no land would be taken from those unwilling to give it.
February 13: Lakshman Seth, CPI(M) MP, at a press conference in Tamluk says that the land mentioned in the HDA notice will be acquired.
II. Phase II: Events leading to the “recapture” on November 10
From mid-March to mid-October 2007 what followed was a stalemate of simmering tension in the area with the people caught between regular bombings and firings between the two political groupings. People claimed that police camps were being withdrawn in various parts of Nandigram, and forces comprising criminal gangs and the Harmad Bahini were being amassed in the CPI(M) camps at Khejuri. By end October the tension had aggravated in the region:
October 25: BUPC refuses compensation unless all its demands are met.
October 28: TMC leader Mamata Banerjee’s convoy is attacked. Call for 12-hour Bengal-wide bandh against “state-sponsored terrorism” in Nandigram.
At a media meet, state secretariat member Benoy Konar said, “…We [CPI(M)] have been on retreat since the trouble began and they [BUPC] have made inroads in 11 village panchayats. It had two initially… If we don’t stop them, they would occupy Khejuri. We can’t allow them to widen their liberated zone anymore.”
October 29: The state government seeks deployment of central forces to contain violence in Nandigram but at the same time reiterated the need for a political solution. The CPI(M)’s major allies are divided on the deployment of central forces.
October 30: The CPI(M) strikes back. Over 200 armed Harmad Bahini members snatch control of two Nandigram villages from the BUPC in a gun battle that killed one and injured another. Hundreds of villagers flee home. Reporters caught in crossfire and media access restricted.
November 3: Brinda Karat, CPI(M) politburo member and MP, said at a rally in Kolkata of the All India Democratic Women’s Association that those hatching a conspiracy against the people of Nandigram should be given a “dumdum dawai” treatment [severe bashing].
November 5: Attacks by the CPI(M) militia result in them taking control of about 10 ‘lost’ villages, chasing away BUPC supporters. Media reports allege both sides were armed and in the violence people were shot, women sexually assaulted and houses set on fire. An estimated 15-25,000 people are hounded out of their homes; of the homeless, more than 1800 people seek shelter at relief camps in Nandigram town. Area restricted to social activists and the media. The police remain inactive.
November 6-9: CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose, reiterates the party’s right to “resist in self-defence”. Home Secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray, who had not earlier confirmed any Maoist role in the violence said: “Yes, the Maoists were involved. But we haven’t got a confirmation of the landmine blast.”
Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi voices dismay at the manner of “recapture” that he termed “unlawful and unacceptable”.
The CPI(M) has “recaptured” more than 50 per cent of the land from which the party’s supporters were evicted. The spectre of a showdown looms over Sonachura — the epicentre of the Nandigram rebellion — with both sides openly preparing to wage “war”.
November 10: The Harmad Bahini recaptures all Nandigram villages, including Sonachura in a final, lightning offensive while the state government holds back the CRPF at the nearby Tamluk town. Some 450 armed cadres advanced towards the “fortress” of Sonachura village, firing from behind 600 captive BUPC supporters whom they used as human shields.
1. There is large-scale brutal violence and threats exercised by the ruling CPI(M) on the local people and political opponents with the full support of the State machinery. Villagers are being levied exorbitant “fines” to “compensate for the damages done to the CPI(M) families in the last 11 months.” Over the months there has been a build up in Nandigram of the CPI(M) militia, the Harmad Bahini, and villagers testified to killings and threats in the villages of Gokulnagar, Kalicharanpur, Adhikaripara, Simulkunda and Satengabari. On November 6, 2007, CPI(M) cadres fired on BUPC members in Satengabari, Ranichak, Bhangabera and Sonachura and torched nine villages including Simulkunda and Satengabari. This was followed on November 10, 2007 by indiscriminate firing upon a BUPC-organized peace rally with the police standing by as silent spectators.
2. On November 24 (two weeks after the recent spurt of violence in the area), approximately 1500 men, women and children were in the relief camp at Brij Mohan Tiwari Shiksha Niketan in Nandigram town. According to villagers at the relief camp, about 15-25,000 people had been forced to flee their homes and villages; of them, 3000-3500 people had taken shelter in the relief camp, others were living with their relatives and families in neighbouring villages and districts. Many who had returned to their homes had come back to the relief camp within a few days because of the continuing violence, bombing and firing in the villages. Women felt insecure and refused to return to their homes till the CRPF was posted in their villages to ensure their safety against the violent vengeance of the Harmad Bahini.
3. In many villages people were living in fear and insecurity, in spite of efforts and assurance on the part of the authorities. There was a complete breakdown of trust, villagers were increasingly polarized in opposing political camps and had become suspicious of each other. The people expressed their lack of confidence in the state government, local administration and police. Villagers spoke of how criminals who had killed and sexually assaulted women continued to threaten them. Many villagers wanted CRPF camps in the immediate vicinity of their villages.
4. Across the villages in the area, there was a complete loss of political freedom. People testified that they are being forced to pledge their allegiance to one particular party or the other. Residents of areas like Sonachura expressed their anger and frustration at the BUPC leadership for keeping their own women safe at home, while forcing other women in the villages to join the BUPC marches and threatening to beat and burn down the homes of all who refused. Villagers were scared of admitting to the violence they had faced in the hands of the CPI(M), claiming that they had been threatened into silence. Some villagers in Daudpur said that after October 28, the BUPC forced people to stand as night guards against the armed attacks from the Harmad Bahini. The state has been branding all protesters of state violence as either Maoists, or TMC agents, denying the possibility of non-party political resistance.
5. Rape and sexual assault have clearly become dominant weapons of war in the crossfire between vested political interests in Nandigram. Perpetrators have been resorting to sexual assault on women to intimidate, humiliate and subjugate the opposition, while the opposition has been using incidents of rape to discredit the perpetrators, not to seek justice for the affected women.
The team met and talked to women (this includes earlier visits to the area and hospitals after March 14, 2007) who had been physically and sexually attacked and injured, with crimes ranging from rape and the forcing of rods into women’s vaginas, to rampant sexual assault, as well as the abduction of girls. Despite these instances, not much has been done to provide relief and counseling to the women, initiate investigation against the criminals and punish the perpetrators to establish confidence in the population.
The People’s Health doctors working in the relief camp said they were treating mainly children’s health-related complaints, like cough, fever and diarrhea. The health situation had aggravated due to the over crowding in the camp and unhygienic facilities. They claimed that they had not received any complaints of sexual assault on women, or of physical injuries on either men or women. The experience of the fact-finding team was different. We met Lata Rai from Gangra Village who had been physically and sexually assaulted and spoke to many people in the camp who still carried scars of deep bullet injuries on their faces, stomachs and legs.
The team also heard tales of recent incidents of violence on women from the camp inmates. For example, one Rani Bagh who had been gang raped in Satengabari by 6-7 men, was now in Tamluk hospital. Both her daughters, one about 17 years old and the other younger, were abducted. They are still missing.
Hundreds of women from Kalicharanpur, Adhikaripara, Simulkunda and Satengabari had not returned to their villages out of fear of sexual assault; they had also sent their young girls to live with relatives elsewhere. The night-time threats, especially against women, also continued. Women testified that in villages like Satengabari that CPI(M) cadres threatened, “We’ll come back at night – light your lamps and wait for us with open doors. Send your men away; we’ll come back to you at night.”
6. Many people showed signs of depression and psychological trauma. A villager from Gokulnagar, then in Nandigram hospital, who had had been abducted from his home at gunpoint, was still in a state of shock characterized by incoherence, stammering, violent fits of trembling and an inability to eat anything. Women in the relief camp kept repeating how they could never forget the attack on them, the rain of bullets and the screams of the crowd running to save their lives. The camp inmates also expressed a deep sense of helplessness, emptiness and irretrievable loss. They shuddered at the idea of trying to rebuild their lives given their insecurity and the lack of trust in the village community.
7. Those suffering from the latest incidence of violence, as well as those who had been injured earlier in the year, could not afford treatment and medication. Many could not work as they had done earlier. On both counts, their livelihood has been adversely affected. Women and children have been the worst sufferers of the violence, with the latter afraid of going to school and witnessing further violence.
8. The suffering of the common people was heightened, and their confidence shaken all the more because of the partisan role of the police. Villagers testified that the police had arrested on false charges various BUPC members and supporters who had returned to the villages. Complaints about atrocities perpetrated by CPI(M) supporters were either not registered or the accused were released immediately after being arrested without following proper legal procedures.
9. Some people who had participated in the peaceful march to Maheshpur on 10th November were arrested and locked up for three days in the school building. The women were subjected to repeated sexual harassment by the Harmad Bahini who accused the women of being Maoists.
10. While language was proving to be a barrier for the CRPF in dealing with the volatile situation, there were apparent efforts to restore peace, including red-flag processions etc. The presence of the CRPF can ensure only a temporary and forced calm; this is no solution to the reign of terror. In villages like Garchakraberia, where the CRPF had been posted, normal life and activity seem to have returned; however, tension and fear simmered under the facade of peace. At night, when the CRPF personnel went off vigil, assailants begin their attacks; then the fear of reprisal forced people to flee their homes at night and take shelter elsewhere. Villagers claimed they were terrified of what may happen when the CRPF is withdrawn.
11. The situation in Daudpur was still very tense. There was resentment and anger brewing among the villagers who also questioned the authority and corruption of particular CPI(M) leaders.
12. A senior police officer accompanying a political leader at the relief camp refused to answer most of our questions. But he hinted at pressure from some political parties, and implied that work was being made “difficult” due to “political interference”; he said that though peace was returning to the villages, the situation remained “still difficult”.
TESTIMONIES OF THE PEOPLE OF NANDIGRAM
I. Testimonies From March – April 2007 Visits
A. Visits to the CPI(M) Camps
As this was a non-partisan fact finding trip, the team also visited the CPI(M) camps at Tekhali and Khejuri specially to talk to the injured and violated women. The suspicion, hostility and surveillance we encountered here were in sharp contrast to our visits to the BUPC areas where the men had welcomed us openly and left us free to talk to whomsoever we chose to, far away from their “supervision”. The “freedom” to talk to the women separately was denied to us here. The women in the BUPC areas had the freedom as well as the confidence to articulate critiques not just of the CPI(M) but also of the TMC leadership of the BUPC. The women in the CPI(M) camps were clearly living in a situation of close monitoring and censorship.
KHEJURI, 24th March, 2007
After our visit to Nandigram hospital, some of us made our way to Sonachura village. Across the Bhangabera bridge, where the March 14 firing occurred we could see Khejuri village. Our local guide was reluctant to accompany us to Khejuri and murmured something about “they will not like it”. We were keen to speak to the people in Khejuri since we knew that they were mainly CPI(M) supporters; we wanted to learn about their experiences of the March 14th incident, their assessment of the problem in Nandigram, and what could be done about it. So far, the injured and those we had spoken to in the Nandigram hospital had been BUPC supporters.
Parking the car at the Sonachura end of the bridge we walked across the Bhangabera Bridge. We saw a large group of armed police posted at the Khejuri end, left of the bridge. On the right side of the bridge 5 men sat quietly on a bench, the area looked completely deserted and a few red flags fluttered in the background. Their behaviour immediately struck us as ‘different’. Everywhere we had been earlier that day, people had crowded arounded us and been eager to talk. This was the first time we met with reluctance and silence. The boys looked sullen, kept sitting, and had to be persuaded to talk.
We told them that we were concerned citizens from Calcutta and were keen to know what had happened on March 14th. “Nothing,” they said bluntly. “Go back from where you have come. Can’t you see everything is peaceful here. The problem is on the other side”(Sonachura). When we said we wanted to talk to the villagers, they said none were around, and that we should leave immediately. When we told them we had heard about the police firing and that many were killed and injured, they pointed across to Sonachura and asked: “Have you seen the burnt down house of Samanta? You have? Do you know how? Do you know how his family was killed? Then you know everything. There is nothing more to know. Go away.”
TEKHALI , 3rd April, 2007
In Tekhali we saw small groups of people sitting under a big shamiana and approached them. A man came forward to stop us, asking us for our identities. When we stated that we were a team of women comprising university and college teachers, psychological counsellors, NGO activists and students, from Citizen’s Solidarity, an independent group set up in Kolkata for the purpose of working on Nandigram, he looked at us in suspicion and said in a tone of insulting disbelief: “How do I know what you are saying is true? Many a media person comes here claiming to be someone else.”
Eventually, in response to our protests at such charges, and assertions that some of us also had identity cards with us, he reluctantly agreed to talk to us. He pointed out to huts in the distance claiming that they had been burnt by the BUPC, but would not let us go in that direction, urging us to go to the Khejuri camp across the bridge instead, which he claimed housed over 400 people.
He also told us that several CPI(M) supporters who had been injured by BUPC firing were still recovering in a hospital nearby. Brief and terse in his interactions, he was unwilling to say anything else, and told us to go to Khejuri. As we got into the car and turned it first in the direction of the hospital, where he had indicated the CPI(M) supporters were housed, he and others came running up to stop us, saying “Where are you going?”. Upon learning that we were heading for the hospital first, they refused to let us go, saying that all the injured had now returned to their homes, and we would not find anybody there. They made us turn the car towards Khejuri.
KHEJURI, 3rd April, 2007
In the Khejuri camp there were large utensils lying about in the courtyard of a one storey brick and cement building, and a makeshift structure stood on one side. A quick walk around the building revealed that there was no way this building could accommodate more than 30-40 people. We were taken into the front room of the makeshift shelter and seated there by three men, one of whom proceeded to interrogate us in the same suspicious mode that we had witnessed in Tekhali. After ten-fifteen minutes of questioning, they allowed us to talk to certain women whom they then called into the room. Before we could step out to talk to the women individually, we noticed silent looks or gestures of warning, such as men nudging the women’s elbows. Barely had we stepped out and sat down in different parts of the courtyard, each of us in a pair with one of the women from the camp, that we found the men coming out, and each taking up a position within four feet of each pair of women, with a threatening air.
Despite such surveillance the women managed to talk to us, and spoke very generally about how their homes had been looted and how they had been threatened and hounded out of their homes by the BUPC. When asked if 400 people lived in this camp as the men at both Tekhali and here at Khejuri had claimed, they denied that, saying that a couple of hundred would come here to eat, but only about 30 people actually stayed here.
Three of the women talking individually to three of us told us that there was one woman inside who had been raped by BUPC men, and each agreed willingly to go in and call her out. The men followed them in. One woman came back to say she was making tea and could not come out now. When we said we could wait, the second woman said she was unwell so could not meet us. By this time the third woman came back with a third version – she had gone to the camp under the bridge in Tekhali (we had just come from there and had seen no evidence of a camp there).
Resigned, we got up to leave. At this point an older woman walked in, and something in the other women’s eyes made her ask us, helpfully, whom we wanted to see. At this point we told her that we were genuinely making attempts to record the ways in which CPI (M) women too had been affected by the BUPC men, and if they did not talk to us, then we could not testify to the injustices done to CPI(M) men and women too. We added that if they refused to communicate with us, then the CPI(M) should also stop charging civilian fact finding groups with being partisan. This older woman gave us a penetrating look and said quietly, “Wait, I’ll get her.” After a long ten minutes she came back with a look of forced restraint on her face and said in a hollow voice: “She’s not there, she’s gone to her relatives place across the bridge.”
We walked towards the street outside in seething silence. As we reached the front porch we saw the three women who had been talking to us huddled together on it. They looked at us mutely. Suddenly one of us burst out in an exasperated tone: “How long will you let the men control your every move? And you’re to blame too, because you let them do it! Do you realize how much damage you’re doing to yourselves?” They just looked back at us in silence. In place of the hostility in the men’s eyes, there was a lost look in theirs’, clearly seeking solidarity, as if to say, “You understand the situation we are in – why do you still insist?”
B. The Violence of “Development”
Bulu Adak , approx 42-45 yrs old, Southkhali, Ganatantrik Mahila Samity Secretary, 3rd April, 2007
We met her standing by a hut on the road, with her 5-7 year old son in her arms. She showed us the wounds on his body and the limp he had developed after being injured in the March 14th attack.
Her disillusionment with the CPI(M) ran deep. What was the point of doing CPI(M) all our lives? I have been a CPI(M) follower for 30 years, but what did I get? I am the local secretary of the Ganatantrik Mahila Samiti, but when I realized they were going to take my land by force, I joined the BUPC.
My house is on just 3 kathas of land – there is no place even to grow vegetables. We have no means of survival now; all work here has stopped. My elder son had across the river to Kulpi gone with two other friends in search of work, but was turned away – everywhere they were told the same thing: ‘Nobody from Nandigram will be given work here.’
They were still staying in camps, and she expressed fear for her life at the hands of the CPI(M).
Anima Pramanik, Tamluk Hospital, 24th March, 2007.
Anima had been gang-raped by 3 policemen. Her eldest son was taking care of her at the hospital.
She was lying silently on the bed with the pallu of her saree and the back of her palms covering her face. We knew she was not sleeping but watching us quietly; earlier a nurse had pointed her out and said that she had been raped. She did not respond or look at us when we sat on her bed to talk to her. For more than 10 minutes we sat silently holding her hand, but she did not speak a word, only looked right ahead with a vacant look. Then there was a slow but perceptible movement of her fingers as if she was responding. Then she started talking slowly, almost to herself, and we heard a current of words that had remained bottled up so far: “Amar eto diner parishram didi…char chele meye ke lekhapora sekhabo…koto asha…highway te sabji bikri kore…sab sesh…karo kache ar konodin mukh dekhate parbo na” (All that I’ve laboured for across so many days, didi…that I would educate my four boys and girls…so many hopes…selling vegetables on the highway…it’s all over….I’ll never be able to show anyone my face again).
Subsequent bits and pieces of conversations revealed that Anima has 4 children, a daughter and 3 sons. The daughter is the eldest, in Class VIII, and is 15 years old. Her sons are in class VII, IV and I. She is the main earner of the family, and vegetables. Her husband works as a daily wage earner, though not regularly. Her husband brought her to the hospital but since then has not come to visit her in the hospital because he is very poor and has to take care of the family.
On her own, Anima began telling her story about her child hood days in Calcutta where she worked as a domestic in people’s homes before she was married off. She spoke of her children and her dreams of educating them, and of building a life in which they would be better off than her. She spoke about her husband and how he toiled to make two ends meet and how she carried vegetables on her head to the market and earned for the family. “ I too supported the Committee, if I did not I would be thrown out once industry came. How would I feed my family. Where will I go?”
Gradually she revealed that she had been gang raped by policemen on March 14th. When we asked her how she knew they were cops, she said, they wore uniforms. She remembers being raped by three men before she lost consciousness. After a long silence, she said : “ What is this thing called rajniti (politics)? What has this rajniti done for us?”
Only once did Anima break down, just before we were leaving, when she said, ” How will I show my face to any one? After all my struggles…” We told her she had nothing to feel ashamed of, as she had not committed a crime. Those who had violated her were the criminals. She listened quietly and calmed down. On hearing that we planned to go the village where the trouble took place, she was all concern for our safety. She held our hands tightly and whispered ‘sabdhane jeo, ora kauke charbe na’ (Be careful, they will not spare anyone).
Anima Pramanik, at home, 8th April, 2007
We met Anima in her home on Sunday 8th April, 2007. She earns her living by planting rice on others’ land and selling her own vegetables, fish and coconuts, as well as others’ rice in the Nandigram market. She is married to Mahesh who works for daily wages on neighbouring lands. They have four children - one daughter and son by Mahesh’s late first wife, and two boys by Anima.
When we approached her hut, Anima was sitting silently under a low thatch. We asked her if she would be willing to talk to us. She looked up and asked dejectedly, “Why have you come? What is there to say now?” We continued to stand there quietly. Then she got up and looked us straight in the eye. Suddenly she reached out to us with a muffled cry, leaning against us as we held her steady in a close embrace, and through inconsolate sobs she kept asking. “What is left now?…. Everything is over. ….How can I show my face to anyone now?….How can I show my face in the bazaar..…How can I work now?”
Eventually she calmed down and invited us to sit on a mat under a coconut palm by the pond. Her husband looked at her gently, then turned around to us and burst out in agitation that the police had attacked them at the pujo in Gokulnagar on 14th March, and had fired on them. A little later he went away, leaving us alone with Anima.
Then she continued: “We, in Adhikaripara and Kallicharanpur, did not go to Bhangaberia. We had organized our own pujo in Gokulnagar, Adhikaripara, and the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee had told women and children to reach there early in the morning. A police attack was anticipated and they felt that if the women and children were there the police would not get violent. There was news that police would enter four areas simultaneously that day – Bhangaberia, Gokulnagar, Maheshpur and the fourth place, I do not remember the exact name, I think was Osman Chowk. We had organized the pujo as a barrier to the police. We felt that if we were all at the pujo the police may come and talk to us calmly. We had gone early, on empty stomachs. We got some moori to eat there. Around 10-11 AM, during the kirtan the police entered. We all raised our hands asking them to go back, we pleaded with them not to attack us. First they seemed to retreat, then they came back in hordes. They flooded the maath (ground) “like waves”. They came in and attacked us with tear gas and gunshots. There was complete chaos. Some died, most of us ran back. The police followed, they entered our homes and attacked women there. In Gokulnagar, in one home three women and one 12 year old child were abused.
I was attacked in the maath. First the police beat me on the shoulder, then when I fell to the ground, they dragged me by the hair, and then fell upon me. I know they were the police from their uniforms. One of them bit my breast, see didi (she unhooked her blouse, tense with a helpless rage, to show a wound that had not yet healed). One, two, then a third one came upon me viciously, then I lost consciousness. I was found lying in a cowshed and was brought home.
I was taken to Nandigram hospital the next morning. Then I was transferred to Tamluk hospital on Friday evening. The doctor there said “its nothing.” That I would have no problems even though I’d been raped. The Nandigram doctors were OK. The Tamluk doctor was paaji (evil). He was tall, fair, and wore glasses. He wanted to get rid of the rape patients as soon as possible. There was another raped woman there too. Lakkhi Pal of Gokulnagar. He wanted to get rid of both of us. I came home on Sunday 1st April. I had severe breathing problems, the blood had clotted in my breast, and I couldn’t lift my right arm. They said it would take three months for me to get OK. I’m still v. weak. I can barely stand.
I don’t understand why this is so? Is it fear? I also have no confidence to go anywhere, no strength to do any work. Bombing can be heard everyday, the children were alone, so I had to come home as soon as possible.
Now we are guarding our land because they [the CPI(M)] say they will take our vastu [homes] away too. They say they’ll set up a colony here. I go to the Nandigram market, I do business there, I sell vegetables and rice. Could I do that in Calcutta, or even in Tamluk? In a colony? I’ve voted for the CPI(M) before, but not always for the same party. I never stayed with one party – I voted depending on what I liked about the party. I never went for a michil too; this time I went because of the pujo. The police are oppressors – and this is the fault of the CPI(M). The CPI(M) in our villages left their homes to give up their land to Salim. Now they terrorize us from outside.
Tell Buddhadeb to return our children. Tell him to restore my honour. The whole of India, the TV, the world now knows I have been raped. I don’t even feel like going out now. Laxman Seth and Buddhadeb think us to be destitute and fools – we’re not. They think they can buy everything with money. Ek chagole kaan kaatle shob chaagole bhoy? (If you cut off one's goat's ear, will all the goats be afraid?) I was violated. You’ve come as women to see me, to tell the world how we have been violated.
The police came to see me 8 days later, to talk to me, addressing me as “Ma”! I said “Don’t dare call me that. If anyone had done this to your mother or daughter, would you have let them dare talk to your mother or daughter 8 days later? Would they have talked?” Because I said all this, the police report said nothing had happened to me.
There was one Anjali, and one Muslim woman, both of whom were raped with the barrel of a gun – that is also rape, is it not? First they were beaten to the ground with the butt, and then raped with the barrel. Both women were in Tamluk hospital, they were Sonachura women, and were still on oxygen when I left.
There are many parties in the BUPC here – the TRC, the SUCI, the BJP, but they are not doing anything for us either. We are a movement in ourselves – it’s our land at stake. There was no discussion, no face-to-face, no explanation whatsoever, about what might happen. We heard from the TV and newspapers that our land will be taken, and after that came the bombing and gunshots. They say that we were armed. We barely have enough to feed ourselves – why would we blow up what little we have on bombs? There is still fear that they’ll take away our land – fear and terror….After the 7.30 PM news the bombing gets so loud, you won’t believe it.
The effects of the tear gas were so devastating that my eyes are still burning. I had been blinded for 2 whole days. One person – Chitto Das’ s wife - was actually paralyzed because she inhaled too much gas – I don’t know whether she will live. None of us could eat properly for two days – this was the effect of the gas and an overwhelming fear.
Why do they say we are against development? When Haldia was set up there was no resistance and no massacre. We too want development. Towns were developed – when Tamluk was developed there was no resistance. But now Buddhadeb is selling our land to foreigners, to Salim. We object to that.
Now we want the terror to end. Those absconding from the villages should return, as they’re terrorizing us from outside. Once they’re home, fear will affect them as much as it affects us, then the terror will abate. There is no sleep now, for fear of the terror. I was used to tough labour – now I can’t work; this thought is eating away at me inside.”
II. Testimonies From the Visit of 24th November, 2007
A. Violence Against Women: Rape, Sexual, Physical & Verbal Abuse
Anima Pramanik in the Relief Camp at Brij Mohan Tiwari Shiksha Niketan in Nandigram town
[We knew her from earlier visits. She had been gang raped and did not wish to be identified in any way. She was visibly in deep depression, her eyes were listless and dull, and she kept staring at the ground as she sat in front of us.]
“When the villagers who had been away for 11 months returned to the village they came with their ‘protectors’ [cadres] and started taunting, abusing and threatening us. They said: “Tomader na ki baba aachhe? Kotodin rokkha korbe?” (We hear you apparently have fathers? How long will they protect you?) Till last night there were gunshots and bombing. They have been coming around every night issuing threats. My husband and I have sent our children away to a relative’s home elsewhere. Since I was still being threatened, my neighbours forced me to come away to this camp for safety. They said, “Go, or they will rape you again.”
The BUPC peace march comprising more than 2000 people was going to Maheshpur. When they reached the Tekhali road they were attacked. Those who tried to flee from the rear were shot from the back.
What is the point of filing a case with the police? First they raped me, now they’ll rape my daughter. My maan (honour) has been destroyed. People see the violence outside, but I have a fire raging inside me; who will understand the intensity of the fire raging inside me? I’ve been burning for eleven months, and yet I have to suffer more? I’m scared for my children now. (Breaks down.)”
Lata Rai (Lives in Gangra Village; Age: 40-42):
[Local people accompanying us told us that Lata had been brutally beaten up, and there had also been an attempted rape. There was bleeding and deep bruising all over her body, especially on the lower abdomen, her breasts and knees. We saw the marks when we met her. She had been hurt so badly that when we met her she could hardly walk.]
“I live with my mother and my elder sister’s family. My husband has left me. I work in Bombay as an Ayah and come home once a year. I have lived for five years in Bombay. This year, I came after the pujos were over on the 18th of October, as leaving work during the Pujas would mean that I would have to lose my bonus income. I boarded the train from Churchgate on the 15th of October.
On 13th November I went to the rally called by BUPC, which started at around 11 am. There were 4000-5000 people in the procession, including people from the Congress and SUCI. The BUPC had said: “Nandigram has been won; we have a victory procession because the land will not be taken. The people who had left their homes will return.”
I was in the middle of the procession and I saw that there were many people there from my neighbourhood. We stopped at Kalicharan School for water. After that we started walking towards Tekhali on a road with Sonachura on one side and Gangra on the other.
After a while, there was sudden firing and bombing by CPI(M) cadres and the Harmads. People began to run for their lives as the Harmads encircled the procession from both sides and began to beat up people. They even hit lame persons and dragged away a lot of people. Canons were planted in the ground. This was the first time in my life that I was seeing guns. At around 2-2.30 the procession was broken up.
Along with a few young girls, I took shelter in a goalghar (cattle shed). 10-12 of us women were there. When the CPI(M) people came, the young girls could flee, but I could not (this was an hour after the procession had broken up). I was dragged out of the shed and beaten up. My hands and legs were tied up. They dragged me by the hair and punched me, my face was bleeding. I was pulled forcibly towards Gita-di’s house; she is a CPI(M) supporter. Throughout this time, there was a gun pointed at my throat. I was then tied to a pole and beaten again. Gita-di came at me with a stick and threatened me with abusive language. She put me into the brick factory and tied me up.
All through, I was subjected to severe verbal abuse with sexual intonations. Then I was taken to Khejuri [the CPI(M) bastion] and left in a Primary School at Chaitanya Mor, Amratola. 1500 BUPC supporters who had attended the rally had also been brought here. Some people were taken to the back of the building and beaten by the CPI(M) cadres. People were petrified and were crying. We were offered some food but most of the people did not eat it. The police from the local police station came a few times during the three days we were there. Whenever the police came, the cadres would stop beating. But we were too intimidated to say anything. We’d been warned by the CPI(M) cadres, the Harmads, and some of the CPI(M) leaders who had come to the school, to not identify the Harmads or say anything against our captors. We were told that we would face dire consequences, if we said anything.
The Harmads were mainly boys from outside and some were from the neighbourhood – I could see their eyes so that’s how I recognized them. Their faces and heads were covered with black cloth; they wore black trousers and shirts, and high black boots. The Harmads came on bikes. There were three people on each bike, all carrying guns. I was able to identify two people from my village, Anup Mondal and Jaideb Paik, as their scarves opened up and I saw their faces. I think some of the people from the village were taught to use guns near Tekhali bazaar.
On the 14th, we were forced to join the CPI(M)’s victory procession which went through Tekhali Bazaar to Sonachura. All the BUPC supporters were put right in front of the procession as human shields and red flags were put in our hands. They told us: “Ekhon tora shantite thak, pore aro ache.” (You may live in peace for a few days now, there’s more to come.) I could not walk but was forced to and was verbally abused throughout. After returning home, I was presented to the press as someone who had received training from the Maoists. Even before this, when I was abducted from the procession, at the school, and at Gita-di’s house, I was repeatedly called a Maoist.
I was in a lot of pain and needed medication. But even after I was released and came home, I could not go out for several days to visit the doctor or seek help as the CPI(M) supporters from the neighbourhood were keeping watch. They left on the 23rd evening, which was when I was able to finally leave home for the relief camp.
On the way to both the school, and to Tekhali Bazaar, I noticed that the sides of the roads were bloody. In some places the blood stains had been washed with water.
I have heard of women, especially young girls, being taken in groups on van-rickshaws with their faces covered and blood dripping from their feet, which suggested that they had met with severe sexual assault. I don’t know why they are angry, we are poor people – we can’t fight with them. I don’t know anything.”
Tanjila Begum (Lives in Daudpur;):
[She is a Congress representative, her husband a Trinamul Congress member, father a RSP member and other members of her natal family are also attached to various parties. She left her house and was staying in the Congress Party office, fearing retaliation.]
“A lot of girls were raped, 14-15 year old girls were taken away – things have calmed down a bit after the CRPF arrived. There have been some FIRs at the Nandigram police station. 15-20 young women can’t be found. After Medha-ji [Medha Patkar] came, the women have opened their mouths for the first time. Everyone was crying at the hospital.”
Mina Dutta (Lives in Sonachura; Age: 23):
“They kept us at the school at Amratola for three days. There were a lot of people from the BUPC procession. They gave us food. The Harmads searched us in the school, men touched us while searching. The Harmads had come to Khejuri, Sonachura and threatened us, saying that we would have to go to their processions or they would burn our houses.”
[The next section is devoted to interviews carried out in the Relief Camp at Nandigram. We sat with a few women in a circle and they shared their experiences with us, one at a time, and also collectively – adding to what one person was saying or agreeing with each other. Individual testimonies are given below.]
Rani Rai (Wife of Jiten Rai; lives in Simulpur):
“On the 5th/6th of November, the men who had left Nandigram after March, came from Khejuri, bringing several other people and began threatening us. They threatened to take away my daughters and rob our home. They were armed with bombs and pistols. The men also lay claim to our house, saying our property belonged to them. We were threatened with dire consequences [the constant threat being that her daughter would be abducted] if we complained to the police. They tore the school books of my daughters. All the men were from the CPI(M). By the time the police would arrive, they would have left.”
Champa Rai (Wife of Subol Rai):
“I came to the camp after the 5th/6th of November, when the problems began. I returned a few days later and the assailants asked why I hadn’t stayed at home. My house had been robbed. I returned to the camp.”
Debrani Rai (Husband is deceased; has 2sons)
“The groups of men said they knew I had two sons [15 and 21 years of age] and they would be keeping tabs on them [i.e. the sons]. They did not allow us to attend to our rice fields and stole fish from our village pond. After these men had gone away in March, we looked after their families. And now they are back and are threatening our womenfolk.” [Debrani was terrified that something might happen to her sons.]
Bimala Biswas (Lives in Satengabari):
“There were policemen accompanying the group of CPI(M) members. They fired at people and took over homes. A woman called Akhreja Bibi was raped, a few days after the 5th and her two teenaged daughters were kidnapped. No one knows where the girls are.”
Kobita Rai (Wife of Kalachand Rai; lives in Simulkunda, near Satengabari):
“My husband was shot in the stomach. He is in PG now. I came here on the Tuesday before the march. The CPI(M)’s Harmad Bahini had begun their attacks in our villages earlier. They took over the village, looted our homes, and then set fire to them. It started on 30th October. They first attacked our houses and looted, then burnt them.
I have two sons, about 6 and 11 years old. The cadres were literally raining bullets into our homes, in the entire area, and looting rampantly. We fled on the 6th. There is a woman in this camp, Minoti Patra, who was raped. I think she is from Adhikaripara. She won’t talk to anybody or see anybody.
Ask us to talk only if you can do anything for us. We are tired. It would have been better to have died. Those who are dead are at least in peace. Give us security so we can stay at home in peace.”
Malati Rai (Wife of Lalmohan Rai; lives in Satengabari; Primary School teacher in Sonachura Visveswara Primary School):
“They came threatening us saying: “We’ll come back at night – light your lamps and wait for us with open doors. Send your men away; we’ll come back to you at night.” How can we stay in a place under such threats? Akhreja Bibi was gang raped in Satengabari by 6-7 men. She is now in Tamluk hospital. Both her daughters, one about 17, one younger, were abducted. They are still missing.”
Kajol Rai (Malati Rai’s ja - husband’s elder brother’s wife); lives in the same house as Malati, in Satengabari):
“I stayed back to look after my aged mother-in-law. Somebody had to stay with her. My husband works in Indore. On the 8th I was talking to neighbours outside our home when they attacked. A CPI(M) man came and beat me up; then they ransacked our home. I was beaten up so badly, I couldn’t talk after that – I still find it difficult to talk. We went for 4 days without any food. They had wiped us out of all utensils and food. I called up my husband in Indore, and he asked us to come to this camp, so I came here with the rest of the family.”
Soma Maity (Wife of Biplab Maity; lives in Gokulnagar):
“I have been living here for the last 10 days. Our house has been ransacked because we joined the BUPC. Our aunt has been raped. I took a chance and returned home. However, members of the Harmad Bahini had issued instructions to leave the doors of houses open at night. There is a risk of rape. There is no sign of the police or the CRPF.”
Shibrani Sahu (Lives in Gokulnagar):
“There was a rape attempt on my daughter-in-law. We shifted her to another house. My daughter, Minoti, studies in Class 7. She is not able to go to school. We are scared to return home. It is very inconvenient, especially for women here, [i.e. in the relief camp] to take a shower or even sleep. We are suffering more because it’s winter. There is also a water supply crisis.”
Monimala Rai (Wife of Gautam Rai; lives in Khejuri):
“It has been 11 months since my husband left home. I ran away from Khejuri to my parents’ house in Sonachura. Here, I was pressurized by the Harmad Bahini who asked me to surrender and pay a fine. I then fled Sonachura and came to the relief camp with my three daughters and son. I did not receive any support from my husband who went off to Orissa. I was dragged from a protest march on 10th November by the Harmad Bahini and my family was told that I had died. I saw corpses being smuggled out. When the Harmad Bahini realized this, they tortured me further. Somehow, I managed to escape.”
B. Damage to Home and Property: Homelessness and the Inability to Return
Tanjila Begum, Daudpur
“The house of Shahidul Islam [a primary school teacher, CPI(M) member and Panchayat Pradhan] house was burnt down by school students in Daudpur, a month and a half ago as a result of public anger against his corrupt ways. He was not giving the mid day meals and was pocketing the money amongst other things. After his house was burnt, he went and broke down the houses of other people in the village who he felt were responsible.
On the 10th, the CPI(M) cadres entered on 90 motorbikes, three astride each bike, through Tekhali Bridge.”
[When we asked about violence by the BUPC, she did not say much but said that there could have been a few cases of retaliatory violence.]
Sheik Obeidul Islam (Lives in Daudpur):
[On the way to Daudpur, we saw a Congress Party motorcade coming. On entering the village, the team met an urban-looking young man who worked for Haldia Petrochemicals. He led the team to the razed house of Panchayat Pradhan Shahidul Islam; we later came to know that he is Sheik Obeidul Islam, elder son of the Pradhan.]
“My father is an efficient and capable functionary, and his rivals, particularly those supporting the CPI(M), were jealous of his expanding popularity. There was no tension in this village during the last 11 months when the violent conflict was raging in the other villages. But my father was threatened for his political conviction. To our absolute surprise, on 27th October, our house was attacked by the BUPC. We fled in fear of our lives and no one came forward to protest this violence. The same day, my brother, Mukhlesur Rahman’s, house was also razed. Subsequently the BUPC refused to let the villagers interact with him and fined anyone who tried to contact me. They also forced people to give money for buying bombs and petrol to burn down our house.
Then I fled with my family and returned during the “peace rally” of 11th November. Some houses were probably destroyed in the ensuing commotion and anger of the CPI(M) supporters who saw the way our house had been razed. Some people who were very angry with what had been done to our house broke the houses of those CPI(M) turned BUPC supporters who had allegedly burnt down our house.”
[At this juncture, we noticed that a police jeep had followed us. We proceeded to separately talk to the women supporting the Pradhan. There were about 40-45 women and children surrounding us. The points they brought up collectively are listed below.]
· When the Pradhan’s house was razed, the BUPC was in command.
· The BUPC asked either for a person from each family to be night guard, or to pay subscription. Those who refused were abused; those who were found talking to the Pradhan had to pay a penalty.
Points Raised by the Women Whose Houses Got Severely Damaged and Whose Property Was Looted on the 11th:
· The Pradhan was a corrupt man who headed many committees like the Idgah Committee, the Masjid Committee, theRG Party etc.
· He embezzled funds. One day in a meeting he was asked to show the accounts and he refused. In anger, the people set fire to his house.
· The children mentioned that he would ask them to pose as primary school students and sit for exams.
· A few of the women said that the Pradhan had personally led many attacks carried out against the BUPC. Some of the women also said that the Pradhan's house was burnt by the same people who then came and broke their homes and that the Pradhan led the attack. These people had changed their allegiance to the BUPC and then when the CPI(M) came back, they switched loyalties again. The people whose houses were vandalized were not the people who were involved in razing the Pradhan’s house.
· Some people said: “Amra party kori na.” (We are not affiliated to any political parties.) Despite this, their homes were destroyed.
· One of the families had a large sewing machine which got damaged. All of them have had tiles broken (temporarily covered with tarpaulin), electricity wires torn and possessions looted and burnt.
· The man who supposedly gave Rs 10,000/- for fuel to burn the Pradhan's house had barely enough to eat himself and was helped by neighbours.
· They suspected personal feuds within the CPI(M).
A Woman in Daudpur Whose Tea Stall Had Been Burnt:
“My tea stall was burnt on the 11th, by CPI(M) cadres who had come in the procession. “Ami party kori na” (I am not affiliated to any political party) and still they broke and looted my house. The Pradhan was leading the procession and even asked me to clear out the broken glass so that no one would get hurt.”
[The woman was joined by her husband and others. While we were talking to the people, an altercation broke out with Mukhlesur Rahman, a relative of the Pradhan. Some of the people openly talked about how the CPI(M) cadres had broken the tea stall and asserted that the couple who owned the stall were not involved in any party politics. We intervened so that tempers cooled. The police jeep which had been following us requested us to wind things up quickly. We left. What was interesting was that everyone, including the BUPC and CPI(M) supporters, said that there had been no violence in Daudpur all these months until the Pradhan's house was burnt. This aspect needs further investigation. If there was no violence from January to October in Daudpur, what led to the Pradhan’s house being burnt down and the subsequent violence?]
“I came here on the 6th, with my husband and our two children. My daughter is in Class 7 and son in Class 11. There is a canal near our house and we could hear gunshots from across. Suddenly we realized the CPI(M)’s Harmad Bahini were in the fields behind, so we ran for life. The bullets were pelting like rain.
We can’t go back because they are armed with pistols and swords, and are killing people, raping women. They are fewer than us, but they are armed. We will go only when the CRPF camp is set up there. Our homes were all ransacked. They are empty now. We had a Rs 10,000 worth, tiled, two storied house. It had a sal wood frame. It was 40 years old, my in-laws had built it. I hear only the walls remain now.
Monimala Rai (Lives in Khejuri):
“My house has been destroyed. There was even more destruction in places like Sonachura, Gangra and Ballipota. My brother was hurt during a protest march and had to be hospitalized. He is now at home and has been besieged by the Harmad Bahini who are neither allowing him to leave the house nor receive medical supplies. His house is in Khejuribari’s Kadirabad Chowk.”
Salma Bibi (Wife of Nasiruddin Hyder; lives in Sarengabad):
“I have been living at the relief camp with my three sons and daughter from 6th November, after taking part in the previous day’s protest march. My husband is a member of the BUPC. On the 6th, about 50 people converged at our house and started firing. I managed to get my husband away from the house. After failing to catch hold of him, the Harmad Bahini ransacked our house at night. They sported red kerchiefs around their faces. They threw my four month-old child on the floor and threatened to kill me and my children if we did not leave the house. We escaped to the relief camp; I feared for our lives. I want to return home once peace has been restored but I don’t have any home to go back to. I don’t know where we will stay.”
Minoti Biswas (Wife of Palash Biswas; lives in Kiyakhali, Sarengabad):
“My husband was shot on October 28 by the CPI(M) cadre. He was admitted to PG Hospital on 29th October and stayed there for twenty days. In the meantime, our house has been looted and is occupied by strangers. When government representatives visited the house, these occupants claimed that they were the residents of the house. We want to return home. We do not know what to do while the violence continues. I have a handicapped son and a daughter. We are facing a lot of problems at the relief camp. The children have become prone to catching a cold.”
C. Continuing Threats and the Reign of Terror
[Most of the women at the Nandigram Relief Camp, said they had taken shelter there after a fresh outbreak of violence. Some of the women said they would have to lie if they wanted to stay in the village. They were threatened primarily by a group of 10-15 people. This group, however, was heavily armed. Apart from three or four people, the rest of this group comprised outsiders. They would lie low during the day and start their oppression in the village once darkness fell. This was related by some women from South Kalicharanpur who were unwilling to have their names made public.]
“I have five daughters. If something happens to my husband, how will I support them? They aren’t allowing us to go to our rice fields and start the harvesting process.”
Lila Bibi (Village not known):
“My daughter was not able to sit for her Madhyamik exams. The CPI(M) supporters tore her books while looting the house. They [i.e. the CPI(M) supporters] are living in peace. They don’t have the same fears as me. But I am not afraid to talk because I have nothing more to lose.”
Malati Mondol (Wife of Sujit Mondol; lives in Gokulnagar, Adhikaripara):
“I have been accused of organizing a group of women. My husband fled our house out of fear. But my land is like my mother and I cannot desert it. I told my husband to take our sons away to a relative’s place, away from here. I chose to come and stay in this camp. I had tried to return home yesterday; I came back. I was told: “How long will the CRPF protect you? Someday they have to go back.”
The Harmad Bahini had come dressed in black, with red turbans and wrist bands and guns in hand. They have drawn up a hit list of 7 people in our village and have promised to behead them. They want to take revenge for the last 11 months. They have threatened to take my two sons too. There is no relief from the Harmad Bahini. The wives of the CPI(M) men have been threatening us too, saying: “Tomader dekhe nebo!” (We’ll see to you alright.) Gokulnagar and Khejuri are across from each other. The shooting and the bombing continue relentlessly.
I’m a woman, I have to stay with the other women to provide support; otherwise they will feel let down. We mothers need to stand together. We need solidarity.”
Kamala Adak (Wife of Nemai Adak; lives in Sonachura):
“My husband went to the march – it was on Saturday, I think, at around 10 AM. A little later, some neighbours came running back to me and said he had been shot in the waist. He had fallen down on the road. My neighbours saw him fall, and then ran for their lives in terror. They saw the cadres piling him into a van into which they were dragging all those who fell down, injured or dead. How would they know if he was dead or not? He was wounded in the waist – he may not have been conscious…I have not seen him since…I don’t even know whether he is alive or dead.
I came to this camp on Tuesday. My bhasur (husband’s brother) brought me here for recording the case with the BUPC. We have just 2 bighas of land. My husband used to work on other people’s land; I work at home. I have two boys, one is 12 years old and the other is younger, and a girl who is about 15 years old. I can’t work in the fields since I got operated to prevent further conception. How will we even survive?”
Sultana Bibi (wife of Mohammed Islam; lives in Satengabari):
[Sultana Bibi is a twenty five year old woman who lived with her husband and the families of her five brothers in law in Satengabari, where the family has been staying for generations. Now the entire family is staying in the relief camp.]
“We own around 30 bighas of land out of which around 27-28 acres are cultivated. We came to the camp on the 7th of November and are too scared to return. Now the CPI(M) is the “boss” in the village and the CPI(M) members are armed. If we want to return to the villages, we are told that we have to pay money to stay there. They are charging anything between fifty thousand and a lakh and we have to pay the amount immediately. Our homes are destroyed but the CPI(M) people come and ask us – “Can you say that anything has been destroyed?” They are even claiming our houses as theirs. They are cutting and taking away our crops and also cutting down the trees, sometimes to sell, sometimes to destroy.
We will only return to our villages if the CRPF is camped there. The police accompany the cadres, so we cannot trust them.
Women have been threatened sexually. Families have been told that they should keep their doors unbolted at night. This sexual threat is another reason why we are scared to go back home. Around thirty girls have been abducted from our village. Two women who have faced sexual violence have been hospitalized.
The violence and counter violence that is taking place is directed towards gaining control over the area. More than two thousand people have gone missing since the peace march on the 10th.”
Ratna (lives in Kiakhali):
“Our house, worth Rs 3 lakhs, has been razed to the ground. Nothing remains – even the bamboo in the structure is being sold off. Those who have destroyed all this are claiming it as their property. During the month of Baishakh (April-May), when they had destroyed our homes, then their homes too had been destroyed. When they had to leave the village, their paddy was stolen by thieves. If there was a CRPF camp in Giribazaar, then three-four thousand people would have gone to that camp for returning to their villages.
Our leaders are on the run to save themselves. If people who are my sons’ age can scold me, beat me or tell me that I should keep the door open at night then it’s better to die. The threats that we have been living under are far more serious than losing our lives.
This is the only piece of clothing I have. You can see how we are living here... If I go out to bathe in the nearby ponds at the back of the school building then local people do not like it. But I cannot use the water that I get here. It is too cold and my waist pain has gotten aggravated.”
Additional Observations (made collectively by the women interviewed at the relief camp) :
· The assailants were levying fines of Rs 25,000-40,000 because the families had (allegedly) supported the Trinamul Congress.
· Those assailants who were arrested and put in prison were consequently released by the police.
· They have been warned against talking to journalists.
· The CPI(M) had asked women in the relief camp to return home. Some of them had tried to go back, but on returning found their homes looted. They were petrified of the “outsiders” who came at night and asked them not to light lamps and to leave their doors open. They were under continuous threat of sexual abuse and came back as they were too scared to stay on.
· A 25-26 year old man did return home and was severely beaten up. His wife was a Trinamul Congress member.
· In the areas where the CRPF personnel were present, there was greater stability. The assailants were intimidated by the CRPF.
A Woman from Khejuri (Temporarily living in Sonachura on the 24th):
[She lives in Khejuri. She was unwilling to give us her name and was very afraid to talk. Her husband had been a TMC worker. She had noticed us on the road and had gone into her house fearing that she would have to talk. Once we went in, she received us warmly but what struck us most was the continuing sense of scepticism and fear. Till the end she could not really trust us although she said that it was nice to talk with us.]
“Night-time threats continue. Anyone who dares to talk of the CPI(M) attacks is threatened with more attacks in the future, by CPI(M) followers. I have faith in the TMC. The TMC leaders have been there when the supporters were jailed. My husband was one of those jailed. I trust the CRPF and will try to go home [i.e. to Khejuri] tomorrow.
I am sceptical of any initiative because I think it is difficult to trust anyone.”
Sheikh Aziz (Lives in Garchakraberia):
“Since the CRPF entered three days ago there has been peace. But we are terrified of what will happen when they leave. There is a fearsome tension simmering beneath this calm. There is fury raging across both sides.”
Findings at Nandigram Hospital
[Five villagers had been admitted to the hospital. We spoke to them as well as to the doctor on duty. In this section we describe their state of health and give their own comments, when applicable.]
Sheik Alam (Lives in Leelapur) had joined the march on the 7th of November. He is suffering from bullet injuries in his head. The wound required 14 stitches.
Ashim Mondal (Lives in Gokulnagar) was tortured as he had joined the march on the 10th of November. He is suffering from mental trauma and has not been able to stand on his feet ever since. He lay in the hospital bed staring up at us vacantly. His wife and mother sat beside him and talked to us.
Manas Rai (Lives in Gangra):
“I was a member of the CPI party. I joined the march on the 10th of November and was physically assaulted for joining the BUPC peace march. I have suffered an arm fracture as a consequence. This attack has been organized to take revenge on all of us who opposed the CPI(M).”
Sheikh Jahangir (Lives in Satengabari) had joined the march of 10th November and had to pay the price. He is suffering from a bullet injury in his leg.
Chandan Biswas (Lives in Sonachura) is about 48-50 years of age. He has worked for the CPI(M) all his life. When he joined the BUPC struggle in January this year, it was the first time that he had gone against his party. He was beaten up with a stick for joining the BUPC peace march. When his neighbours returned on the 10th, they threatened him with a pistol and took him to Tekhali. It is not known what they did to him there. He has been talking incoherently ever since He was admitted into Nandigram Hospital with a broken arm and severe injuries. He was not able to eat and they had to put him on a drip. The hospital has released him but he is scared to return home as his life is threatened. He has begun to talk a little now, but his speech is still contorted. He was stammering while he tried to talk to us and his legs trembled violently. He is mentally troubled.
He said: “I feel deeply betrayed by my party. I am too scared to go back home and I would rather go to the relief camp than home. I don’t know how my wife and daughter are in the village.”
Dr. Subrata Maity, the BMO (the only doctor on duty):
“Earlier, in March-April, Nandigram Hospital had three doctors. There are now two posts open. No doctor wants to come to Nandigram because of the tension here. My transfer order came eight months ago, but since I’m the only doctor here I can’t leave.”
Women in Sonachura:
[This conversation took place in the market area; we spoke to some women who were watching us. Their voices were hushed and only became softer as they spoke.]
“Things are far from well. It is too risky for us to be seen speaking with you. We’ll be marked; we are constantly being watched.”
D. The Right to Political Choice
“The people who came in from Sonachura on the night of the 10th (Saturday) with bikes from Khejuri said: “You have to join the CPI(M), take up red flags, and break the houses of those who have broken houses.” 80 or 90 people came, three on each bike. For two days, only men were coming, mostly Harmads. There were no women. On the 11th, there was a CPI(M) procession and on the 13th, a BUPC procession.
People left in fear. I have heard that Harmads don’t break houses; they make the villagers do it. The CPI(M) people left because they were scared of what they had done. They left their houses in Kamalpur, Satengabari, Daudpur and the No. 7 sector.
This is my in-laws’ house. I am a part of the Congress, my husband is a TMC member and my father is attached to the RSP. This is something personal. No one says anything to anyone else. Nandigram was a good place. It was a place where learning flourished. See what is happening for the past 11 months.
When the administration first wanted to come in, we knew what the police had done in Singur. That’s why we didn’t let them enter. Didn’t they beat us up first? They should have given it to us in writing that there would be no beating up. It’s true we didn’t let the police enter for fear of acquisition.
The CRPF cannot understand our language, even though they are trying very hard. If the local police stay neutral then we can trust them. Politics is a personal thing, I want all the parties to stay – otherwise there would be no fun in politics.
The man who had given his land for the hospital still hasn’t been compensated. They can’t be trusted. Their methods weren’t right; after this breach of trust, the people will not trust them again. They have gone too far ahead on the wrong way. Everyone has the right to practise politics. My husband does not tell me anything, nor do I tell him anything.”
“We have voted for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. What right does he have to act like this? Even when the English ruled things weren’t so bad. Is this independence?”
Rani Rai, Champa Rai, Debrani Rai and Bimala Biswas:
“All we want is peace.”
“The CPI(M) are traitors to its supporters. Who will trust them again? For two generations we have been with the CPI(M). Even my father was a CPI worker; when the CPI died out, later in his life, he worked for the CPI(M).”
Monojit Pradhan (Lives in Sonachura):
“We were CPI(M) people. From the 2nd of January, we joined the BUPC. It was our struggle against our party. The No. 9 and 10 wards are CPI(M) localities; all of us, almost 80 % of the people here, are attached to the CPI(M).
After we joined the BUPC, we realized that the TMC was trying to take over [the BUPC]. The TMC told us that if we did not go to the michhil (procession), they would burn down our houses. Local leaders from the No. 10, 6 and 2 wards coerced us to join the michhil. They made these demands over microphones. We were worried about our land – this covers the No. 10 ward. The TMC demanded that we fight against the land acquisition efforts taking place at the other wards as well. Why should we be concerned about the land acquisition efforts being made in the other wards? Suddenly the TMC leaders in the BUPC started calling us CPI(M) supporters again. As if the fact that we had been part of the CPI(M) was a crime. We figured out that the TMC was using us for their ends.
Politics is a personal thing. We wanted the CPI(M) to discuss in detail what the land acquisition entailed for us. We weren’t against the land acquisition; we were concerned about the kind of compensation we would be given. However, instead of negotiating with us, we were branded as being against the land acquisition efforts. We had no time to talk – no time was given for dialogue. Is it that easy for us to leave our bastu-bhite (homestead)? They just say, “Chhere dao” (leave it) and we will? And can they do all this without taking our permission? The other party’s leaders said that the government won’t provide anything. How do we know what the government will give or not give? If they ask for the land now, we will give it. What are our demands? Simple things. We want a house, a job. We have no education. If we can’t do agriculture, what can we do?
Eyee amader ektukhani gharbari (this is the little space we have). We want to keep it. They said they will give us land and money. Lakshman Seth said we will be given 8 lakh rupees and a house in the colony. They will give us family quarters in the colony. But look at the size of my family; how will we live in two rooms in a colony flat? And these gardens, the trees, the pond? Who will give us jobs at the new factory? We don’t have degrees.
We are common people, we have no party. In the beginning, the BUPC had black flags signifying that we did not stand for any single party. It was a people’s struggle. But soon all the black flags were removed and were replaced by TMC flags. That is when we moved away. There is no space for us. We have been targeted by the CPI(M) and the TMC. As far as the CPI(M) is concerned, we are against the land acquisition and the TMC targets us because we were CPI(M) supporters. Not this party or the other – now nothing matters. There is nothing we can do anymore. We are no party.
The area has witnessed a lot of violence over the past 11 months. Some CPI(M) people are still away from their homes, most have come back. The CRPF has come in. There are two camps: the Nandigram Relief Camp and the Khejuri border camp. If there are atrocities committed in the future, we will report the same to local CPI(M) leaders.”
“The BUPC used to say: “Mothers and sisters come out, we are taking out a procession.” Everyone threatens us. When they blow on their conches at night, we have to go out and collect on the main road. If we didn’t they would come to our doors and bang on them in the middle of the night. The TMC leaders’ wives and daughters stayed in, while we had to come out. We don’t trust anyone anymore.”
1. The most critical factor necessary for restoring peace in Nandigram is that the state government must adopt a non-partisan attitude. It must strengthen administrative structures and processes to ensure impartial, immediate and effective action that can instill confidence among the people.
2. Conditions must be normalized for people to renew their daily social and economic activities without apprehension of reprisal. The state must rehabilitate persons who have lost access to livelihood due to injury, death of a family member, or damage to property. Women should feel free to move around without fear and children must be able to return to school.
3. To stop the violence and to rebuild people’s confidence in Nandigram i) illegal arms in the villages must be confiscated, ii) criminals, irrespective of political affiliation, must be immediately arrested, charged and tried in time-bound trials under proper legal procedures and iii) effective vigilance should be in place to deter those indulging in retaliatory and revengeful acts that could derail the peace process.
4. We demand responsible action and accountability from all political parties in the region. They must stop exploiting the volatile situation and the sufferings of the people, abstain from violence and play a constructive role in the peace process in Nandigram. Concerted efforts have to be made, across all political differences, to control the spate of vengeance and rebuild the confidence of the people.
5. The West Bengal State Commission for Women must take urgent steps to ensure that rape and other criminal cases of sexual assault must be registered immediately, and be thoroughly investigated and followed up. Victims of rape, as well as women who have been physically and sexually assaulted, must be provided immediate medical treatment and their privacy respected and dignity upheld. The administration must take immediate measures to stop the violence against women and prevent groups from using them as pawns for narrow political gains.
6. Men and women suffering severe trauma must be provided care and attention. The government should set up a counseling cell in Nandigram or authorize an NGO to do so for the purpose of trauma alleviation.
7. Compensation must immediately be paid to all the families of the dead, to the injured, and to women who were raped and sexually assaulted. Attention should be paid to their special needs and efforts made to restore their dignity and confidence in the process of rehabilitation. The SDO/BDO should ensure that the grant promised to repair damaged houses must be distributed without any partisan preference.
8. The administration must set in place systematic processes and structures that involve all political parties and people’s organizations in the region to renew the democratic process and enable citizens to reclaim the lost democratic space for a lasting and just peace in the area.
9. The political rights of people must be ensured. Democracy does not only mean the rule of the majority; it also entails ensuring the rights and respect of the minority, as well as of those holding opposing political opinions and beliefs. The ruling party, the CPI(M), has a greater responsibility in the peace process and in re-building the people’s confidence as it has been in power for more than 30 years in the state of West Bengal.
The violence of “development”, as evidenced in Nandigram, is forbidding. It has acquired a disturbing nature and magnitude and demands urgent attention. While Nandigram was marked by violence between the CPI(M) and a number of political parties such as the TMC, the BJP and the SUCI, investigations reveal that the CPI(M) owes greater responsibility for the violence in the region. As the ruling party for 30 years, it is answerable to the electorate for harnessing the state machinery to unleash violence and meet its own narrow political gains. Nandigram has raised critical questions: “What is the CPI(M)’s stand on violence against people? More specifically, what is its position on sexual violence as a weapon of coercion?
The political culture of West Bengal has attained dangerous dimensions with the uninterrupted rule of one political party for over 30 years. It ranges from a politics of opportunism to a reign of terror that pervades all levels and every sphere of public life, and effectively destroys political choice. As an important political party of the largest democracy in the world, the CPI(M) has to take on the onus of radical self-critique and internal reform, as well as transform its political culture if it is committed to the values of people’s democracy and freedom.
Nandigram is a grim instance of state repression in the context of corporate globalization. The state has become synonymous with the CPI (M), and has relied more on the use of party cadre and armed militia rather than legal law enforcing agencies like the police as in Nandigram. By “justifying” the violence of the party cadre in the name of revenge, the chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, has effectively legitimized such violence.
It is also evident that the state has been complicit in creating a situation of terror in Nandigram. It is condemnable that a government professing pro-people policies has betrayed the trust of its electorate by violating all democratic processes, and by attempting to forcibly appropriate land as well as impose policies without the people’s consent. It is a matter of grave concern that the state has crushed all people’s resistance, and through violent means, first through police violence and then in full complicity with armed party cadres and militia.
Every constitutional norm for responsible governance - separation of state and ruling party; non-partisan governance; adherence to democratic processes; transparency in functioning - has been violated. The logic of such a process of liberalization is clearly anti-democratic and unconstitutional. Already implicated as it is in this course, can the state halt to reconsider its project for liberalization? Can it change course to deliver to its citizens a democratic blueprint for development, and implement it with transparency and impunity? Or will its rule of force be successful in coercing entire populations into abject submission?
Nandigram is just the beginning.
 A group of women and women’s organisations that formed a collective in the aftermath of the March 14th events in Nandigram..
 Rajashri Dasgupta, Anuradha Kapoor, Kavita Panjabi, Swapna Banerjee and Saswati Ghosh.
 Observations and testimonies recorded by those members of Citizen’s Solidarity who were not in the current team have been included with their permission. They are Madhuja Mukherjee and Vibhu Sharma.
 The names of most of the victims have been changed for their protection.
 A local CPI (M) leader.
 Lata identified Gita as being the daughter of Jagadish Jana.
 We could see the absurdity of this accusation as she wasn’t even able to pronounce the word correctly. What she said sounded like “Muhammadi” and it was only after we questioned her further, and she repeated the word several times, that we understood what she was saying she had been accused of. When she was first accused of being with the Maoists, Lata had asked: “Who is this Muhammadi/Maobadi?” implying that she had thought that “Maobadi” was one individual rather than a group of people.
 None of the women interviewed at the camp gave a precise date when the recent violence began. They agreed that it was around the 5th-6th of November.
 According to him and his son, the house had been burnt and looted by BUPC supporters who used to support the CPI(M) previously, on 28 October. The Pradhan’s house was a two storied mansion, the biggest we saw in any village.
The house had visibly been destroyed, the ceilings broken with some powerful explosives, all furniture burnt and their possessions looted.
 There were children as well, and one of the points listed applies to what they said.