Sunday, March 16, 2008

Nandigram Revisited

- From the spot where it began to the reminders of ‘cold horror’ - Several scars & a son missing

What is the final death count in the March 14 firing?

Fourteen persons died —eight of bullet injuries and six of wounds caused by bomb shrapnel and sharp weapons.

Many were reported missing. Have they been found?

The Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) had claimed that 27 people were missing. All were traced, except Subrata Samanta, 25, a resident of Southkhali. Subrata’s father said his son was shot at and unknown people dragged him towards CPM-controlled Khejuri.

Dug-up roads were the symbol of the Nandigram resistance. Have they been filled up?

Roads were dug up in at least 40 places. The BUPC carried out temporary repairs in April. The administration repaired two roads. The villages are accessible now.

The spark was lit by a notice pasted at the Kalicharanpur gram panchayat office at Garchakraberia. Is the office still there?

The office is still there. But work resumed there only in November after the recapture of Nandigram by the CPM.

What about the sanitation meeting, the attack on which signalled the start of the rebellion? The meeting was held as part of a process to declare Nandigram a model sanitation zone.

The sanitation meeting that was attacked on January 3 was never reconvened. A survey to accord the model sanitation zone status could not be carried out.

Have all the families that fled returned?

All families from both sides have returned. Around 150 BUPC and CPM activists are in hiding because they face criminal charges, including murder and rape.

Have all the physical wounds healed?

Around 100 people are still undergoing treatment in some form or the other. Tapasi Das, 30, of Gokulnagar was hit by a bullet below her back. She was released from SSKM Hospital last May but her wound is still oozing. Abhijit Giri, hit by two bullets on March 14, is still undergoing treatment at SSKM Hospital.

What about the children?

The children are gradually getting over the trauma, but the scars will remain, say villagers.

What about the Janani brick kiln, from where a suspected CPM hit squad was arrested with arms? What happened to Naru Maity, the leader of the 10-man gang?

The brick kiln started functioning again from the middle of November. Maity and nine others got bail three months after their arrest as police failed to submit a chargesheet. They have now jumped bail and are absconding.

Does Lakshman Seth, the Haldia strongman and CPM MP whose zeal for land acquisition is said to have lit the fire, dare enter Nandigram now?

Seth attended a CPM-organised public meeting in Nandigram town on November 28 after its recapture. He attended another meeting at Tekhali near Talpatti canal on the Khejuri border and travelled through the CPM-controlled zone on January 7 this year. Seth also accompanied the chief minister on December 26 to Nandigram to attend a meeting. But he is yet to risk travelling into the interiors of Nandigram.

How many CRPF jawans are still there?

About 400 CRPF jawans, including 100 women personnel.

Was any Maoist ever arrested from Nandigram?

No Maoist was arrested from Nandigram.

Are strangers still greeted with mistrust and suspicion?


Is there a sense of David beating Goliath?

Yes. Nandigram villagers who sympathised with the anti-acquisition movement feel that it was a great victory against the government and the CPM. “We were desperate to save our land. Now we feel it is a great victory for us as the government has made it clear that no land will be taken from us for industry. The CPM tried its best to help the government but it, too, failed,” said homemaker Sabita Das Adhikary, 40, of Gokulnagar.

How do people make both ends meet now?

Farming remains the mainstay. Harvesting was carried out in November and December. Tension simmers because of the approaching panchayat polls. But a semblance of peace prevails because of the presence of CRPF jawans.

What about the BUPC leadership?

Abu Taher, 35, BUPC convener: In hiding, but still actively involved with the committee, communicating over the phone. His employees are running his motorcycle spare parts shop.

Sheikh Sufiyan, 45, convener: An affluent farmer, he is now believed to be in hiding in Calcutta. He is said to be close to the Trinamul Congress leadership and is sometimes seen in Nandigram.

Bhabani Das, 58, convener: Owns over three bighas of farmland which is tilled by labourers. He lives in his house.

Milan Pradhan, 35, convener: He is a chemical supplier and has an office in Calcutta. He fled Nandigram after the recapture and is believed to be in Calcutta.

Sabuj Pradhan, 38, convener: He farms his own land but has been hiding in an undisclosed place since the recapture of Nandigram. He is often seen attending meetings in Nandigram town but does not venture into the interior villages.

If the governor goes to Nandigram on Friday (March 14), what will be the most striking symbol to remind him of the “cold horror” he spoke of exactly a year ago?

At least 10 persons are carrying deep scars of the police bullets.

Private email sent by Bijaya Chanda

I am a 39 years old Advocate practising at Alipore District Sessions & Criminal Court in West Bengal and residing at P-1 Stste Bank Park, !st Floor, Kolkata 700063.I am a human rights activist and a member of ' Association for Protection of Democratic Rights' (A.P.D.R.) a pioneer human rights organization in West Bengal. On 05.03.08 a fact finding team consisting of 5 members of A.P.D.R. viz. 1.myself, 2.Siddhartha Sengupta, 3.Anup Dutta, 4.Prashanta Halder and 5.Mrs. Ratna Bhowmick went to visit and observe human rights situation in different areas of Nandigram Block-1 and Block-2. Our scheduled programme was to stay there till 07.03.08 and to spend nights in the villages and we informed the same in writing to the O/C, Nandigram P.S. and to the DIG,CRPF,Nandigram at about 2 p.m. Then we started for the village Garchakraberia.
We reached Garchakraberia at about 3 p.m., met some villagers including Mujibar Rahaman of Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) and went to Sonachura Bazar by a motor van.As soon as we reached Sonachura Bazar at about 7-20 p.m.near the house of Panchayet Pradhan Lakshan Mondal some 60/70 CPI(M) cadres led by 1.Lakshman Mondal, Panchayet Pradhan,2. Anup Mondal, member of Sonachura Anchal Panchayet, 3Badal Mondal MOndal, 4.Joydeb Paik, 5.Chandrakanta Paik, 6.Chintamoni Das, 7.Sagar Ch. Mondal. 8.Prabir Das,9.Rabin Mondal, 10.Ganesh Pal, 11.Bishweshar Pradhan, 12.Bidhan Pramanick and 13.Santosh Halder encircled us, asker us to get down and started abusing us with the most filthy languages.When we got down they asked about our destination. I stated that we would go to Sonachura Shahid Smriti Swasthakendra and we had informed the P.S.about our programme beforehand but those CPI(M) people started shouting by saying,' You are Maoists and we will search your bags and we will cimplain to the police.' I disclosed my identity as a lawywe, showed them my identity card issued by Bar Council of W.B.And Received copy of 2 intimation letters written in APDR's official pad to the O/C Nandigram P.S. and the DIG,CRPF and also requested them to search our bags if necessary and let us go to Swasthakendra. But instead of paying any heed they forcefully confined us at the chamber of one Dr. Pratap Pal and said that we are outsiders, we have no right to enter into Nandigram and they will never allow us to stay there. Being ahuman rights activist and a member of APDR I visited different areas of Nandigram including Sonachura and Gangra several times since after the incident of 14 March, 2007 . Hence local people are quite aware of my identity but in spite of that those CPI(M) people falsely and purposefully informed the police that they had caught 5 terrorists/Maoists with intention to harass and threaten us.
During our confinement those CPI(M) people abused us in the most filthy languages especially severel times uttered slang languages and made indecent gestures intending to insult the modesty of myself and Mrs. Ratna Bhowmick as a result of which Ratna Bhowmick fell sick. Moreover they threatened us of committing murder of us, of burrying us alive and of flaying our skin. They even threatened us by saying that they would keep arms inside our bags before police come.We were not allowed to talk over mobile phones.
Police from Nandigram P.S.came at about 8-45 p.m. In presence of police also CPI(M) people continued the abusive and slang languages and criminal intimidation and asked the police to leave us at their hands although nothing objectionable was found while police searched our bags.Four workers of Sonachura Swathakendra were caught by the R.A.F. and were kicked and slaped and hit by lathi as because they were preparing meal for us. This episode continued till 1-10 p.m.untill police started for the p.s. along with us and those 4 workers of Swasthakendra.Those 4 workers were kept in the lock-up.tillabout 11-30 a.m. on 06.03.08.
While we were getting on the police zeep Chandrakanta Paik of CPI
(M) snached away from my hand the received copy of intimation letter addressed to the O/C and indicating me and Siddhartha Sengupta said in loud voice,' these two use to come frequently. We should not have let them go, rather we should have finished them today.'
We had to be detained in the p.s. till 10-15 a.m. on 06.03.08.and till then we were not allowed to contact our relatives or organization. Afterwards we were allowed to leave the p.s. with Mr. Abu Taher , the Joint Secretary of BUPC. I had 3 letters with me written by my client, a resident of Gokulnagar, Nandigram who is now in Judicial Custody. Those letters, a printed map of Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur and a book which I had Bought from BUPC office at Nandigram on that very day and a personal note book of Ratna Bhowmick and some xeroxed documents obtained by Anup Dutta are still lying with Nandigram P.S.
As I was undergoing trauma I sent my complaint to the Superintendent of Police, Purba Medinipur by Speed Post only on 09.03.08.