[We publish below a joint statement on the Nandigram situation, issued by different organizations and individuals, including Medha Patkar, who was manhandled by CPM goons – AN]
* Thousands Forced to Flee from Nandigram, Activists Under Arrest
* Memorandum Submitted to Governor of West Bengal
* Dharna begins in Kolkata, Two Day Protest Fast to Commence Tomorrow
Nandigram is under fire and scare. On the festive days of Kalipuja, the light emerging from the land of Martyrdom is not of the lamps women would light in their ‘badis’ (houses) but from the burning houses, put on fire by cadres entering village after village and occupying land forcibly.
The reports coming from the land and the citizens as members of the Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Committee indicate that at least 20,000 families are made to flee from their houses in Satangabari, Samsabad, and other villages which are either demolished or looted. We met Taslimadi in Kapasberia with Minudi, who have taken shelter in their relatives’ houses. But the tears in their eyes and choked voices brought to us the pain and anguish for being made destitute and homeless which could not be hidden. While thousands of families and more than a lakh people have shifted either to the schools and other public buildings, or to the open grounds where huge camps are set up by the committee where most of the people are being fed, if not left hungry.
Tens of people, from the villages that laid their lives for land in 2007, the very year of remembering of Gandhiji’s satyagraha, the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh and 150 years of the Sepoy Mutiny, saw their victory in the cancellation of the Chemical hub to be brought on the lush green land in Nandigram, East Midnapore. But that was not all. They are facing worse of the battles, a war.
Beyond throwing small bombs, firing across the Khaals (naalas) and rivulets, demolishing 60 houses in Satangabari (May 2007) and such other attacks threatening and targeting villagers; boycott of labourers and hawkers going to work and customers going to nearby market is also a serious concern. Resistance to this also became violent, as people and some of the supporting social and political activists claimed that they could not survive without it.
A new phase began, with steady increase in the large number of persons, known to be Harmad Vahini, CPI (M) cadres, and an open attack on the houses and villages and also persons, started in October. Persons of both sides seem to have been killed but no one is sure of the final tally. The information from the area was in parts and parcels and delayed but now it’s clear that CPI(M) cadres from outside the area, as they are identified with goons, have been marching, beating, hitting and forcibly occupying territory. News conveyed and flashed clearly indicate that Satangabari, Samsabad, Sonachura and few other villages are partially or fully vacated, occupied and houses looted and damaged, even burnt. Beyond this, the total picture of the fight going on among the unequal forces is not coming out but it’s certain that unlike what is presented from the ruling quarters in West Bengal, there is no infiltration of Maoists that has caused all this. There may be a handful of activists belonging to various ideologies `Gandhian to Maoism’ reaching Nandigram, but we have not doubt that the battle was started, led and is carried forward by the local residents, women, men youth and children included.
We know that hundreds and hundreds of families have been left without livelihoods who are only crying halt to snatch away their land, asserting their rights but also appealing for peace. They, in thousands, are innocent, they are challenged but they are committed even to lay their lives but not bent or submit. They are beyond party lines, accepting the leadership of Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Committee with representatives of villages’ communities, peoples’ organisations such as Gana-unnayan and Jana-adhikar Raksha Samiti and also local residents representing SUCI, TMC, PDCI and Congress as parties and Jamait-e-Ulema-i-Hind. This must be understood by all.
What is going on in Nandigram is undemocratic, criminal and also inhuman. People on both sides are losing lives while property and livelihood in the area is irreversibly damaged. This is unacceptable. The West Bengal Government has been repeatedly appealed by various organisations, to control the situation by compelling the CPI (M) cadres to withdraw the siege and stop forcible entry and occupation, but to no avail. THE POLICE, INCLUDING SENIOR OFFICIALS, SEEM TO BE INACTIVE AND
APATHETIC AS PER ORDERS AND UNDER THE POLITICAL CONTROL OF LAKSHMAN SETH, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT AND CHAIRMAN OF HALDIA DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY.
It is all these which necessitates an urgent intervention by not only the Central Government, the Home Ministry but also the Constitutional authorities and the National Human Rights Commission, to say the least.
IT WAS EXACTLY TO HIDE THIS AND PREVENT AN EXPOSURE THAT THE WEST BENGAL GOVERNMENT IS NOT PERMITTING THE MEDIA PERSONS, except those who could somehow manage to sneak in.
We, representatives of Peoples’ Movements, Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samiti and New Trade Union initiatives, NAPM, APDR, Forum of Artistes and Intellectuals, Teachers and Scientists’ forums, representatives from SUCI including Tarun Sanyal, Sunondo Sanyal, Tarun Naskar, Sujata Bhadra, Meher Engineer, Amit Bhattacharya, Debaprosad Sarkar(MLA), Anuradha Talwar ,Swapan Ganguly and Medha Patkar, decided to visit Nandigram on being invited through repeated calls and messages from the
people facing the onslaught.
Yesterday, November 8th 2007, we proceeded towards Nandigram accompanied by tens of policemen and officials, who warned us of security problems but also assured us of being there to protect. On their conveying to us a possibility of having a dialogue with the Chief Minister or Chief Secretary in the Government, we agreed to hold the dialogue after visiting the area and assessing the situation there. We took the Haldia route instead of the route we took earlier, where CPI (M) cadres had stopped us. We reached Kapasberia More at about 12:30 p.m. A gathering of 30-40 CPI(M) cadres with Red flags stopped our convoy and started shouting abusive slogans against us.
Interestingly the police pilot car leading the convoy stepped aside and made way for the goons so that they can have a free hand on us. A few cadres specifically targeted Medha Patkar, Tarun Sanyal, Debjit, Deboprosad Sarkar and Meher Engineer as well as a few media persons in other vehicles.
They started attacking Medha Patkar with fists, violently pulling her out of the car by holding her hair and Sari. They broke the specks of Debjit and partly tore the clothes of Sunondo Sanyal. They also broke the camera of a media person.
All the while, the cadres were encircling all the cars (except the police ones) and breaking the glass panes, shouted abusive and filthy language to all of us. Even at this point, police chose to be silent spectators who are watching some fun for free. Five vehicles were able to turn back and move a few yards.
One sumo car (WB 02H 4402), carrying Meher Engineer, Amit Bhattacharya and Hindustan Times reporter Alok Banerjee, was severely damaged and the passengers including Alok Banerjee were badly beaten in this unprecedented act of violence by CPI(M) terrorists. The driver somehow managed to move forward towards Kapasberia School where the local residents gave the passengers first aid.
Medha Patkar and others began to stage Dharna on the Kapasberia bridge and had a protest sit-in for 3 hours and more. We handed over a letter addressed to the Superintendent of Police and asked to make way for our visit to Nandigram and to book the attackers under law. Local residents came out in large numbers and showed their support and solidarity towards us and to the struggle of common people of Nandigram and condemned the CPI (M) attack on us. They also condemned the deliberate and directed police inaction. Subsequently we lodged two complaints with the local Mahishadal Police Station, one relating to
breaking down of the above mentioned Sumo car, and the other regarding the physical attack on Medha Patkar, Deboprosad Sarkar (MLA) and others by CPI (M) cadres. We returned to Mecheda for further action where Medha Patkar and Tarun Sanyal addressed the local residents.
* We condemn such undemocratic and criminal tendencies by the ruling party and demand as free and concerned citizens of India as well as representatives of peoples’ movements that we should be allowed to visit Nandigram where more than a lakh people have become homeless and need our immediate support and relief.
* We are shocked by the apathy, inaction and both direct and indirect support of the police to the CPI (M) hooligans, indicating a break-down of State Machinery resulting in non-availability of any channel for security and redressal of grievances of common people.
* We urge an urgent intervention by the Governor of West Bengal as well as the Union Government of India to open up Nandigram by ensuring withdrawal of siege and stopping outsider-attackers from entering Nandigram.
* We demand that peaceful defenders of Human Rights’ belonging to known Peoples’ organisations should be allowed and protected and their entry to Nandigram area should be facilitated.
* We hope that all concerned and progressive citizens, civil organisations as well as political parties will protest against the onslaught on Nandigram, forcible occupation of their territory and violation of basic human rights and civil liberties, compelling the Constitutional authorities and government to intervene in this battle between the State and people for freedom, democracy, right to life and livelihood.
Sukhendu Bhattachrya – Sanhati Udyog/NAPM
Anuradha Talwar – Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samiti/NTUI
Sujata Bhadra- APDR
Tarun Naskar/ Dilip Chakraborty- Forum of Artists and intellectuals
Meher Engineer- Teachers’ and Scientists’ Forum
Shyam Bihari Singh- Janata Dal (Secular)
Kartik Pal- CPI (ML) Liberation
Shaktiman Ghosh- National Hawkers’ Federation
Amit Bhattacharya- Prof. Jadhavpur University
Gautam Sen- Intellectual
Medha Patkar- National Alliance of People’s Movements