Tuesday, May 6, 2008

42 candidates tell SEC terror tale : The Stateman (6.05.08)


Statesman News Service
KOLKATA, May 5. About 42 Trinamul Congress candidates, including women, contesting the panchayat poll at Nandigram today met state election commission officials and demanded “protection from armed, marauding CPI-M cadres” who have allegedly hounded them out of their homes.
Mr SN Roy Chowdhury, the commission secretary, said: “We have inquired with the block development officer and he had confirmed that about 1,000 villagers are living in camps near the BDO office as they feel insecure living in their own houses."
The candidates, however, claimed about 4,000 villagers had to flee their homes fearing attacks from armed CPI-M cadres. The candidates submitted a memorandum to the state election commissioner, Mr Ashoke Gupta, urging him to immediately restore peace at Nandigram and remove the officer-in-charge of Nandigram police station in 24 hours. Mr Gupta said the Trinamul leaders had submitted a memorandum demanding the removal of the O-C Nandigram earlier as well. He said: “I do not want newly-recruited Home Guards manning booths. They can be put to other use." The memorandum also urged the commission to ensure that Opposition candidates are allowed to campaign freely at Nandigram and be provided security. Mr Roy Chowdhury ordered the district magistrate to send the SDO and the sub-divisional police officer to the troubled spot and inquire into the allegations made by the candidates.
He said he was trying to contact Nandigram observers and added that while filing and withdrawing nominations, observers had been made to stay there and the process had been largely incident free. He, however, admitted that never before had candidates come to the commission in such a large number demanding security.
The women candidates complained that every night they had to take shelter in a different houses as they found it unsafe to spend the night at their own homes. They alleged that CPI-M cadres had threatened them with harm if they should they contest the 11 May election.
The candidates, along with some senior Trinamul Congress leaders, today reached the SEC office around 1 p.m. and left around 4 p.m. The leaders shouted slogans and demanded security for their candidates. After much persuasion, the SEC officials agreed to meet all 42 candidates for gram panchayat, panchayat samiti and zilla parishad and they were ushered in by police after they had produced their nomination certificates.
Ms Sankarai Karan, a PS candidate, after meeting the commission officials, told The Statesman: “After I filed my nomination and refused to withdraw my candidature, I was under constant threat. I cannot stay at my home and I continuously change shelters at night."
Mr Chandan Das, another PS candidate, has fled his home because "CPI-M backed hooligans" are "forcing him to leave home". Mr Swadesh Das Adhikary, a candidate for Gokulnagar gram panchayat, said that one of his family members had been abducted only because he was contesting the rural election. Sk Khusnabi, contesting for Samsabad seat in Nandigram, said hundreds were rendered homeless owing to CPI-M “atrocities.”