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(22 August 2005 – 17 June 2008)
A Mazdoor Mukti Publication
Nandigram is a rural area in East Midnapur district of West Bengal which has been the centre of peasant resistance against an attempt by the government to acquire agricultural land for setting up a Special Economic Zone. Nandigram is located around 150 km from Kolkata, on the south bank of the Haldi River, opposite the industrial city of Haldia. The area falls under the Haldia Development Authority. There are three Blocks in Nandigram – Block-1, Block-2, Block-3 of which Nandigram Block-1 is the one most affected by the West Bengal government’s proposed SEZ to set up a chemical industrial hub with investment from the Salim Group, an Indonesian multinational. The total area of Nandigram (all 3 blocks) is 413.74 sq. km. while the population is 439077. The total area affected by the proposed SEZ project was about 60 sq.km. with a population of about 65000 covering five Gram Panchayats. The affected areas are Bhangabera, Sonachura, Saudkhali, Maheshpur, Gokulnagar, Adhikaripara.
Muslims and lower caste Hindus dominate the population. Apart from agriculture, the people of Nandigram are engaged as labour in the garment industry and estuarine fishing. Betel leaves represent the only commercial crops and brick kilns constitute the only industrial activity. Annual incomes vary between Rs 18,000 and Rs 20,000. Many of Nandigram’s youth travel up the river to the industrial hub of Metiaburz to work in low-paid jobs in the garment and other industries. Literacy rates here are as low as 27 per cent, against the West Bengal state average of 69 per cent. Most villages here have no electricity, few pucca houses, and landholders subsist on three crops of rice and vegetables.
Khudiram Bose and Matangini Hajra are among the many martyrs who hailed from this very region. The people of Nandigram were at the forefront of the boycott of British goods in 1901; the Khilafat, non-cooperation movement in 1921;when chowkidari system and tax by the British was opposed, compelling the British to withdraw. Salt Satyagraha in 1930 made the district popular. In Tebhaga movement in 1946, Nandigram fought for the rights of the sharecroppers successfully. One of the main centres of the Tebhaga Movement (1946-47) was Midnapur, namely Mahishadal, Sutahata and Nandigram). It was then CPI that led the movement, which was for the right to work, right to land and right to life of the people. This is the historical reason behind the CPI holding on to the legislative seat in the area even today. Bhupal Panda, Ananta Majhi, Pandit Jana led the movement. Many areas were converted to Muktanchal. Women came forward and joined the movement as members of volunteer bahini of the Krishak Sabha. After the famine of 1943, Mahila Atmaraksha Samity was formed. The new mode of resistance and form of participation of the peasant women of Mohammadpur and Nandigram spread like fire. Women took up whatever they had in their domestic confine –broomstick, sickle, chopper, stick to protect them from the police and to save their men folk and their crops. Nandigram witnessed another uprising under the leadership of Sudipta Tewari in 1982. Even then roads were dug up and police was boycotted to draw the government’s attention towards the underdevelopment.
The Communist Party of India, which is a constituent of the Left Front government in West Bengal, had a strong presence in the area. Illias Mohammad Sheik is member of the state legislative assembly from Nandigram. Nandigram traditionally has been a left citadel, voting time and again for successive Left Front Governments in the state. The Nandigram assembly seat is held by the CPI while the Haldia Lok Sabha seat belongs to the CPI(M). In last Panchayat election CPI(M) won 55 seats and CPI got 20 seats in total 136 seats of Nandigram -1 block.
Jellingham project of Burn Standard Industries Limited at Gangrachar in Nandigram Block–I has been wearing out since it closed down in the year of 1989. Close to 400 acres of land at Gangra was acquired in 1977 for this project by the Kolkata Port Trust and Burn Standards. About 142 families lost their land. Of them, 19 families had lost the roof over their heads as well. Some were lucky. They received a small compensation for their lost land after knocking on the doors of the Calcutta High Court. Others received nothing.
The production started on 1984 and after functioning for five years only, this unit of Burn Standard wound up all its operation due to corruption in management and conflict between labour unions.
A huge area of this abandoned project now has been still lying deserted and unattended. Later, the Zilla Parishad was practicing community forestry on a part of this unused area. The outcome of Jellingham project has raised apprehension and mistrust among the residents of Nandigram in connection to the proposed plan for industrialization.
22 August:The Chief Minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, today left for Jakartha despite the state facing a controversy about allotment of agri-cultural land for industrial use. The chief minister has gone to finalise a Rs 50,000 crore deal with Indonesia’s Salim Group for setting up industry on some 5,100 acres in south 24-Parganas after obtaining the clearance from the CPI(M) Politburo and the state leadership. A 22-member trade delegation from the state also accompanied the chief minister.Before leaving Mr Bhattacharjee said in the changing political and economic situations in the world, there was no other alternative with us but to rely on the foreign investment and the capitalist market for the rapid industrial growth in Bengal. He, however, made it clear the interest of the state and the working class people would not be sacrificed in any way.He claimed the Salem would not only set up a new industrial state in Bengal but it would provide over 50,000 jobs to the unemployed youth in the immed-iate future.
27 August:West Bengal Chief Minister, Bud-dhadeb Bhattacharjee, who yesterday conclud-ed a five-day visit to Singapore and Indonesia, briefed top political leaders in these two countries about the State Government’s “economic program-mme” and his “political thinking” in the present milieu of globalisation. With the West Bengal Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, conveying a political mes-sage to the international business community that his Government is determined to stay on its “reform” course, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed in Jakarta for an “industrial-park” project, with foreign collaboration, in the State. He said that his government wanted foreign direct investments (FDI) and private capital for industrial and infrastructure projects in the State. The MoU for an industrial-park project was signed on 25th night between the Salim Group, an Indonesian business house, and the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation. Under the MoU, essentially a “state-ment of intent” on both sides, the Indonesian group will play the deve-loper’s role for promoting an industrial park, in the nature of a special economic zone, in West Bengal. A formal and final agreement, including a detailed project report, will be negotiated on the basis of the present MoU, according to officials.
14 June: Mr. Beni Santosso, chairman of the Salim group landed in Kolkata tonight. He will be flown to Haldia in the next morning. According to a Haldia Development Authority (HDA) source, Mr Santosso will discuss with them Haldia’s industrial potential and the feasibility of setting up an SEZ at Nandigram, on the banks of the river Haldi. Mr Santoso visited construction sites of the Kolkata West International City at Howrah and Mahabharat two-wheeler factory at Uluberia.
15 June: Mr Santoso arrived in Haldia at noon today. Mr Lakhsman Seth, CPI-M MP and chai-rman of Haldia Development Authority, showed Mr Santoso the land that has been proposed for allotment to the Salim Group for its projects. Mr. Santoso inspected land at Barhsundara, near National Highway No. 41 and at Dakshinchak near Balughata — the site of the proposed bridge over the river Haldi. He also viewed Nandigram from Jawahar Towers at Haldia Dock Complex. Later, he visited Tentulberia, the proposed site for the Raichak-Kukrahati bridge over the river Hooghly. Speaking to reporters during his visit, Mr Santoso said: “We will require 27,000 acres of land at Haldia for developing an SEZ. I have spoken to the developing authority here and tomorrow I will discuss it with the chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.” Mr Seth later said that Mr Santoso was satisfied with the land he had inspected here. “The atmosphere here is conducive to industrial development,” he said. The government will provide Salim Group 15,000 acre of land at Nandigram and 12,000 acre at Haldia for the SEZ. The group will develop the SEZ at Haldia and draw investors to it through their international contacts, he said. Mr Set also said that once the SEZ is operational here, Haldia will figure in the list of premier industrial towns in the country and the world. The much sought-after SEZ will come up at soon, he said — Mr Santoso’s visit had put the seal on it.
16 June: The Indonesia-based conglomerate, Salim Group, proposes to invest in a special economic zone [SEZ] in Haldia in West Bengal’s Purba Midnapore district and has sought part-icipation in the chemical hub that is to come up in the port town. The Chairman of the Salim Group, Benny Santoso, met the West Bengal Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, here today and discussed its SEZ proposal, part of a composite plan that includes the setting up of several infrastructure projects in different parts of the State. The projects include the construction of a bridge over the Hooghly, a highway linking the South and North 24 Parganas districts and the setting up of a knowledge city and a health city in North 24 Parganas. The Indonesian conglomerate has sought from the State Government 35,000 acres for its different projects. The SEZ, along with the necessary social infrastructure around it, is expected to come up over 25,000 acres.
Mr. Santosso had visited the proposed site for the SEZ yesterday. A final agreement for the different projects involving the Salim Group is expected to be signed by July 30 after a detailed project report is submitted by the conglomerate to the State government. A memorandum of under-standing for the composite plan had been signed earlier. The group is also seeking participation in the proposed chemical hub in Haldia. The project had been discussed at meetings between the Chief Minister and the Union Petroleum Minister, Murli Deora, as well as officials of the Indian Oil Corporation.
31 July: West Bengal today signed an agree-ment with the Salim Group of Indonesia to implement various developmental projects, inclu-ding what is stated to be the largest infrastructure project undertaken by any State. But the Detailed Project Report for a Rs 200-billion outlay over 15 years on 40,000 acres of land is still not available. Negotiations have been going on for two years. Townships, a 96-km expressway that will need 2,500 acres and cost Rs 4,000 crore, an industrial growth centre at Uluberia (cost Rs 6.5 crore), the Haldia special economic zone on 12,500 acres and a chemical industrial estate and economic zone (10,000 acres) in east Midnapore district are mentioned.
As per the agreement, the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) would develop various projects in about 15 years, including a SEZ at Haldia over 12,500 acres and mega chemical industrial estates including a chemical SEZ over 10,000 acres of land at Nandigram in East Midnapur district of the state (spread across 10,000 acres in a 50:50 joint venture with West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation Ltd).The agreement provides for con-struction of the Eastern Link Highway, which would be 100 km long and 100 m wide and spread over 2,500 acres. In addition, the consortium would build a four-lane road bridge over the Hooghly river, from Raichak to Kukrahati. Construction of the bridge would be completed by 2012. The consortium would maintain the bridge for 15 years, after which the State Government would take over. Construction of a four-lane road bridge over the Haldi River, from Haldia to Nandigram, has also been planned. The proposed bridge would provide a link between Haldia and the proposed chemicals SEZ in Nandigram. The agree-ment envisions the setting up of several urban development projects and projects for economic rehabilitation and social development in respect of those who would lose their land to the proposed projects.
The project, ‘New Kolkata International Dev-elopment’ (NKID), would spread over 38,650 acres. The Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) is a constorium of Indonesian group Salim, Universal Success group and Indian partner Unitech. The agreement was signed between West Bengal industry secretary Sabyasachi Sen, Salim group’s Beni Santoso and West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation Managing Director Debasis Som in the presence of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee here. The ‘historic deal’, as claimed by The CM of West Bengal, is said to bring in the state investments worth Rs 40,000 crore. One among the notable absentees at the event was Land and Land Reforms Minister Abdul Rezzak Mollah, who opposes the conversion of prime agricultural land for the realisation of the CM’s dream of ‘fast track development’. Members of the CPI(M) and its allies are either side of the duelling duo. A year ago, Mollah had threatened to resign over controversial amendments in the Bill on land use, which were finally watered down. His opposition to handing over multi-crop land to the Salem Group was ignored by the CM who laid the foundation stone for the Group’s motorcycle unit in Howrah district. Since then, people of the affected villages of Nandigram have been strongly opposing such despotic acquisition of their land.
August: A committee, dubbed as Krishak Uch-chhed Birodhi O Jonoswartho Roksha Committee (Committee Against Eviction Of Peasants And To Save People’s Interest) was formed 2006 by Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) along with Indian National Congress for propaganda work against forced land acquisition. Another committee started functioning in Nandigram and adjacent Khejuri block, called Krisi Jami Raksha Committee (KJRC) (Committee To Save Farmland), a state-wide initiative led Trinamool Congress. Another initiative, Gana Unnoyon O Jana Odhikar Sangram Samity (GUJOSS) (Association For The Struggle Of Mass Development And People’s Right), comprised of Jamait I Ulema Hind and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (Santosh Rana faction) started working in Nandigram during Nov-ember 2006.
6 October: The Board for Approval (BoA) for SEZ, at its meeting held in New Delhi, gave approval to nine SEZs, including the high-profile SEZ to be built by the Salim Group of Indonesia, the petrochem hub, the auto-ancillary park promoted by the Srei group, among others.
8 October: The state government has assured citizens in Haldia and Nadia of an usual working day tomorrow while Trinamool Congress has pledged to make tomorrow’s bandh a successful one. “The strike called shall not affect normal life and industrial operations in Haldia,” said MP, Tamluk and East Midnapore CPI-M district committee member Mr Lakhsman Seth. Observers believe that the land acquisition step at Singur may repeat itself later at Haldia-Nandigram where a mega-chemical hub and special economic zone has been envisaged over 27,000 acres of land by the state government. However, Haldia has been a stronghold of the Left Front for years and the Opposition may find it difficult to organise large scale protests against the decision if it is taken.
9 December: Miss Mamata Banerjee has appealed to the people of Bengal to join mass fasting tomorrow to commemorate seven days of fasting by members of Singur Krishi Jami Banchao Committee (Singur Save Farmland Committee). She said the mass fasting will begin tomorrow from 10 a.m. in the morning. She said similar Save Farmland Committees will be set up at Bhangar, Nandigram, Haldia and Singur, where the govern-ment is making a move to acquire land for industrialisation.
28 December: The Haldia Development Authority (HDA) issued a Notice stating the entire Usmanchak and Jadubarichak mouzas and another two — Shahebnagar (47) and (48) in Khejuri block — were on the acquisition map.
29December: A public meeting was called up by Mr. Lakshman Seth, the Chairman of Haldia Development Authority (HDA) and CPI(M) MP, at Nandigram Bus stand to convince the local people in favour of land acquisition. Lakshman Seth named the 27 mouzas to be acquired in Nandigram block-I.The people here were appar-ently under the impression that only parts of Usmanchak and Jadubarichak mouzas would be acquired. The villagers strongly raised their voice of protest against this autocratic decision of the government.
1 January: Eminent musician Pandit Haripra-sad Chaurasia has inaugurated Haldia Utsab 2007 amid a gala opening programme on the grounds of Haldia helipad today. The grandeur of Haldia Utsab is a treat to watch and people arrive in large numbers to participate in it every year. The 13th edition of Haldia Utsab has been attributed to the birth centenary of Shahid Bhagat Singh. Nandigram, on the opposite side, seems reluctant to sing the festive tune. Trinamool Congress mem-bers staged a demonstration at Kendamari ferry-ghat on the Nandigram side of Haldia today against land acquisition plans of the Left Front government.
2 January: The Haldia Development Authority (HDA) had issued a preliminary notice indicating a plan to acquire about 14,500 acres of land of 27 moujas of Nandigram-1 block and 2 moujas of Khejuri-2 block. It had also been announced that the land of Nandigram block would be acquired shortly since the Salim Group would build a mega Chemical Hub (10,000 acres) and another Indus-trialist group of Pawan Ruia would set up a Shipbuilding and repairing unit (2500 acres) there. The rest of the land (2000 acres) would be used for disposal of alluvium dredged from the river bed of Haldia Port. The list of earmarked moujas was sent to the concerned Gram Panchayats. The notice mentioned the names of total 29 moujas at the Nandigram-1 and Khejuri-2 blocks that had primarily been shortlisted for the Salim-promoted chemical hub which included 5 Gram Panchayats in Nandigram -1 block namely 10 No. Sonachura, 9 No. Kalicharanpur, 3 No. Kendemari, 2 No. Muhammadpur and 1 No. Vekutia and Khejuri GP in Khejuri-2 Block.This notice, to use a rather cliched expression, set a cat among the pigeons. There was large scale disquiet amongst the local people.
3 January: There was news about HDA’s notice for acquisition that spread like fire. Thou-sands of people estimated around 1500 plus gathered at the Garchakraberia panchayat Panc-hayat office and after some minor clashes there were many rounds of firing by the police authorities. The villagers alleged that the left party Panchayat pradhan Samerun Biwi called the police and the protesters were brutally assaulted at Bhuta More nearly 1 Km. away from the Panchayat office when they were coming back. They alleged that the policemen fired several rounds without any provocation and threw tear gas. Five innocent villagers were severely injured due to police firing. 16 years old Sheikh Sattar (Son of Sheikh Anwar) was shot with a bullet on his left leg. Jahangir Shah (30) son of Tehfil Shah, a poor tailor, lost his ring finger of left hand. Sheikh Abed (40) got hurt on his left foot. Sheikh Nurul (45) showed injury mark on his left arm bruised by the hitting with baton. Gurupada Barik (35) received bullet injuries on his left arm. After being assailed the excited villagers chased the policemen. Violent clashes set off since then between the villagers and the State administration and also between sections of villagers. One of the police jeeps collided against a lamppost when they were trying to escape and it was burnt due to short circuit. Then the villagers rescued the policemen and drove them out of the village.As the news of police violence spread all over the neighbouring villages, the villagers of Sonachura, Osmanchawk, Jalpai, Garchakraberia and others resisted the police to protect themselves. The villagers damaged all the roads and bridges as well as blocked the roads with boulders and tree trunks to prevent the police force entering the village. The villagers including a large number of women started patrolling the locality with staves, brooms, sickles, swords, and other weapons to prevent the entry of policemen. Sensing trouble, the police remained restraint for the time being.
“History of Bengal will come to an end if we stop the process of industrialisation just because the Opposition wants us to stay away from agricultural land. And, history will not spare us”, the state chief minister,Mr Buddhadeb Bhattcharjee, said this afternoon even as reports of the clash at Nandigram were coming in. “We are on the right track. The government accepts the moral respons-ibility to provide affected people with alternative means of livlihood”. He was addressing audience at the 41st foundation day celebration of the CPI-M mouthpiece, Ganashakti at Netaji Indoor Stadium. In tune with the party’s line, chief minister Bud-dhadeb Bhattacharjee today declared that the number of SEZs in the state would be restricted to “four to five”.
4 January: It was reported that CPI (M) work-ers tried to enter the villages by crossing the canals, from Khejuri area but it did not work. People opposed; yet without much violence, the attempt got scuttled. There was an incident of destroying at CPI(M) office, which is said to be the result of the ire and anger amongst the masses having faced the beatings and the bullets. After the mob set fire to the CPI(M) local committee office in Rajaramchak today, the party’s office in Sonachura and the CITU office were put under lock and key. In the villages, people gathered in large numbers, stopped the police and vehicles from entering the villages. Digging trenches and breaking the paths and bridges mainly did this.
With nearly 250 CPI(M) supporters forced to flee home in the remoter pockets of Nandigram, desperate party members, who had fled interior villages such as Garchakraberia, Sonachura and Rajaramchak, had sent an SOS today to their comrades in Khejuri and Haldia, where the party has strong bases. Bijon Roy, the party zonal committee secretary in Khejuri assured them “necessary action” before leaving for Haldia for a meeting with zonal committee leaders tomorrow evening.
Garhchakraberia in Nandigram remained tense following the mob versus police incident even as locals organised a series of roadblocks near Kalicharanpur gram panchayat area. RAF and police reinforcement could not reach the spot as protestors dig up approach roads, put up boulders and tree trunks on the roads to Kalicharanpur.
Two service firearms of the injured policemen that were missing from yesterday were recovered near Nandigram block health office.
The land and land reforms minister, Mr Abdur Razzak Molla, today denied that any acquisition notice has been issued in Nandigram. Home secretary Mr Prasadranjan Ray said at Writers’ Buildings today that it seems that the rumours have been “deliberately” spread. Mr Ray also added that “it is still not clear whether there was any firing” and promised that there would be an investigation. Senior police officers and reinforcement has been rushed and efforts are on to convince the people that the proposal for acquisition is yet to be finalised.
By evening, Nandigram police have arrested seven persons in connection with the attack on police yesterday. They have been identified as Shankar Moitra, CPI-ML state secretary, Dibakar Bhattacharya, a lawyer; Malay Tiwari and Jitendra Kumar, Jadavpur University students and locals Sammyajit Jana, Biparadas Chattopadhay, Nitai Mondal.
A Trinamool Congress observation team led by senior leaders including Mr Sougata Roy, Mr Sovan Dev Chattopadhay and Mr Partha Chatto-padhay turned up at Nandigram.
An all-party forum against land acquisition, ‘Jomi Raksha Committee’ (Save Farmland Com-mittee) was created today at Nandigarm and Mr Sisir Adhikari, district Trinamool Congress leader and MLA, was chosen as its president. Mr Sisir Adhikari said, “We cannot observe the Left Front government taking away land from us silently. We will protest in a democratic manner here.” Mr Lakshman Seth, local MP and CPI(M) leader, is hopeful of his initiatives of industrialisation at Nandigram.
4-6 January: From 4th January 2007 people urged for unification of the three anti-land acquisition committees. On 5January 2007 a meeting was held in Etimkhana (muslim orphan house) in Tarachand Bar beside Nandigram market involving all block or district level leaders of political parties who were involved in those three committees. A unified committee, called Bhumi Uchchhed Protirodh Committee (BUPC) (Com-mittee for Resistance to Eviction from Homeland) was established from the meeting and resolution was taken that nobody would hoist their own political flags within Nandigram excluding the case when a political party was organizing a meeting or march on its own. On 6 January noon, a huge public meeting was held in Bhuta More, Garchakraberia announcing the formation of BUPC.
5January: Although there were no fresh inci-dents of violence today, Nandigram continued to be on edge. Around 1 this afternoon, about 150 farmers armed with spears, sickles and sticks marched into Tekhali, a CPI(M) stronghold. The CPI(M), too, geared up for a confrontation. But the Rapid Action Force defused the situation. Since the flare-up on 3rd, an armed mob has demolished concrete slabs on the approaches to six bridges and dug up four roads in about 50 places, cutting off the villages.
Inspector-general of police (western range) Arun Gupta and DIG (Midnapore range) N. Ramesh Babu, along with officials of the district administration, today met representatives of the four Opposition parties at Nandigram police station. “They’ve assured us that the situation will normalise soon. We won’t make any arrests but will release the 12 people detained this morning. The police will not raid any villages — it could lead to bloodshed. We’ve also told them that there is no acquisition notification by the district collector yet — he’s the only one empowered to do so,” Gupta said after the meeting. “We didn’t realise that the SUCI and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind could secretly gather such a large number of people. Police had no warning of the attack. When the mob began stoning the police, who were outnumbered, they fired in the air,” said a senior East Midnapore official.
The Bengal government will not allow “new, big” special economic zones in districts where such projects have already been lined up, according to a policy being drawn up. The districts include South 24-Parganas, North 24-Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, East and West Midnapore. “Big SEZs in these districts will not be recommended to the Centre for approval. However, small ones can be considered depending on their merit,” commerce and industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen said today. He defined “small SEZs” as those needing not more than 250 acres. Large SEZs — those exceeding 10,000 acres — will be allowed in backward districts that do not figure on the investment map now. Sen today clarified that the new policy would not affect the eight proposals given “in-principle” clearance by the Centre in October. The government will need over 14,000 acres — for a 10,000-acre multi-product special economic zone (SEZ) to be developed by the Salim Group, for a 2,500-acre expansion of Haldia port and a 2,000-acre ship-repairing yard to be built by Pawan Ruia’s company.
“In view of the (past two days’) developments, we shall keep the process of land acquisition on hold for some time,” land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah told. Industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen said the villages would not be relocated and houses would be left untouched during the acquisition. The local CPI(M) leadership feels there was no need for the authority to issue the notice, which triggered the violence. “It is the district collector who issues such notices. The authority only made things worse for us,” a party leader said.
With the tension over land acquisition mount-ing, differences between the CPI(M) and its allies widened today on the interpretation of ground realities. Indicating the need to close ranks to take on the forces opposed to industrialisation, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat had yesterday said that the Left Front should meet before the government moves ahead in Nandi-gram. But the allies complained today as CPI(M) state secretary and front chairman Biman Bose is yet to convene a meeting. The CPI and the Forward Bloc, however, refused to dismiss the resistance in Singur and Nandigram as created by “Opposition design” alone. Forward Bloc general secretary Debabrata Biswas accused Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee of following in the “footsteps of (former Andhra Pradesh chief minister) Chandra-babu Naidu in the name of development”. He insisted that new industries could be housed on the “premises of closed mills, land left unused by investors and non-irrigated land”. Industries minister Nirupam Sen had clarified earlier that unlocking land in closed factories was a time-consuming task and that Bengal could not afford that time.
6 January: A Nandigram based Bhumi Ucch-hed Pratirodh Committee came into being. Two committees formed earlier leading the movement against forcible land acquisition along with other mass organisations and political groups including Trinamool, SUCI, Congress, Jamiyet-E-Ulema-Hind and PDSI merged to form the “Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee” (BUPC) to prevent any move to acquire land for the proposed project by the Salim group and the state government. “We’ll call the protest off only if we are assured land will not be acquired. This is our prime demand,” says Siddiquallah Chowdhury, general secretary of the Jamiyet-E-Ulema-Hind.
Following 3rd January’s incident, the CPI (M) set up a number of camps at Satkhanda near Bhangabera Bridge, Pankhai and Sherkhanchawk in Khejuri -2 block that surround the protesting villages. Arms were being amassed in each of these camps. The hint of retaliation had come from state secretariat member Benoy Konar today: “If they want a Keshpur-like situation, we are prepared for it. If they want to do things democra-tically, we shall reciprocate. But if they want to make things difficult for us, we are prepared to make life hell for them.” In Keshpur (West Midnapore), a turf battle had killed at least 50 CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress workers between 1998 and 2000.
Midnapore range deputy inspector-general N. Ramesh Babu said he knew of the assembly of people in some places on the outskirts of Nandigram. “We are keeping a watch on the situation,” he said.
The East Midnapore district secretariat of the CPI(M) held a meeting today to discuss Nandigram. Tamluk MP Lakshman Seth has been told to “submit a report to the state leadership at the earliest”. The meeting at Tamluk ratified the Deployment of cadres. “At both (Haldia and Tamluk) meetings, leaders underlined the need to regroup and build up defence. What else could we do?” said Pratap Sahu, a CPI(M) Nandigram zonal committee member.
By 6 pm, the Tekhali pandal was awash with petromax light and packed with at least 300 CPI(M) workers. They could hear the slogans across the road, in Sonachura: “Buddhar shilpa, golpo golpo (Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s industrialisation drive is a fib)”. As night falls, by 8.30pm, bombs were hurled. It was not clear which side started it, but the attack triggered clashes. According to the police, at least 70 bullets were fired in the gun battle through Saturday night. “The battle took place mainly in two places — Tekhali-Sonachura and Bhangabera. They started hurling bombs from 8.30 pm and it continued till seven in the morning. Not less than 50 bombs were hurled by the two sides,” said the Midnapore range deputy inspector-general of police, N. Ramesh Babu.
Outsiders in hundreds came in to the area from the opposite side of the khal in village Sonachura, may be to prepare some ground for the berserk, unwarranted violence that followed. Around midnight, 20/ 25 persons on the motor bikes made an entry into Sonachura with rifles as people and leaders told us, and began random firing to which at least 20 persons fell prey, got wounded or killed and collapsed.
7 January:Terror struck at Nandigram. The land acquisition fracas turned into a bloody gunbattle in East Midnapore’s Sonachura on Sun-day morning, leaving at least four people dead. Unofficially, the death toll was pegged at six, with several others injured and missing. With no police presence in the area, alleged CPI(M)-backed men had a field day. At first light (3.30am to 7am) firing intensified. Most deaths took place after daybreak. Locals set the CPI(M) camp at Baratala in Khejuri and the house of a local CPI(M) leader, Mr Debangshu Sasmal, ablaze. The Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee, formed yesterday, observed a 24-hour bandh in Nandigram today.
The Congress’s 24-hour bandh tomorrow and the Trinamool’s dawn-to-dusk one, which the state government has said it would oppose, were called in protest against the “massacre of innocent villagers by the CPI(M)”. The CPI(M) accused the Opposition of fomenting the trouble.
The mobilisation began on Friday (5th) night. Activists, mostly from Khejuri, poured into Tekhali, Bhangabera, Sherkhachak, Kurighat and Bangshu-bazar, CPI(M) strongholds on the fringes of Nandi-gram. They came in Matador vans, on motor-cycles, bicycles and on foot. By yesterday (6th), there were about 250 of them in each of these five centres. Eyewitnesses said CPI(M)-backed mis-creants started throwing bombs at Bhangabhera from a position near Talpati bridge around 11 p.m. yester-day. The bombing resumed, this time accompanied by reports of “automatic firearms” in Khejuri, on the other bank of Talpati canal, around 5 a.m. today. The villagers retaliated by hurling back pebbles and brickbats. The villagers alleged that the entire operation of mass killing was organized and conspired by Lakshman Seth. A gang of hooligans of CPI(M) dressed in police uniforms, threw bombs and fired many gunshots at villagers patrolling on the other side of the Sonachura Bhangabera Bridge. Houses and shops near Bhangabera were ransac-ked by the offenders.Things were under control till 2:30 am today. All of a sudden, 20/ 25 persons on the motor bikes made an entry with rifles as people and leaders told us, and began random firing to which at least 20 persons fell prey, got wounded or killed and collapsed. Three persons died of bullets during resistance, namely, Bharat Mandal, Sekh Selim and Biswajit Maiti (12 year old). Locals said at 5 am, a group of people was fired at under the cover of fog and dense foliage. Bharat Mondal, a 28-year-old cultivator from Sonachura, was hit in the stomach and died on the spot. Sk Selim’s body lay on the road till 5 pm — nearly nine hours after he succumbed to bullet wounds — in the otherwise bustling Sonachura bazar. A part of his skull was missing. “We dragged his body out of the canal,” claimed a villager. Reportedly, after the initial firing, the group retreated around 7.30 am. But an hour later, some 10,000 men marched to the spot.
A local CPI(M) leader Shankar Samanta, ( Son of Sudhansu Samanta) a rich peasant of Sona-chura, was allegedly showing the invaders the key persons of the resistance. People chased him, captured and burnt alive. They dragged Samanta to Shitpara and burnt him alive in a haystack. His mansion was ransacked and torched also by the villagers to take revenge of carnage. Sankar was an affluent farmer, owning about 12 bighas, a sawmill and a husking mill. “It was around 10.30am. About 100 people armed with crowbars, rods and sticks stormed into our house. They dragged out Sankar and Bhabani [brother]. I started shaking in fear and would have collapsed had my grandson not come to rescue,” he said.
Around 10 a.m. villagers carried the bodies of Biswajit Maity (15) and Bharat Mondol (20) to Nandigram block hospital for post mortem. The body of Sheikh Salim was brought in at 4 p.m.
The peasant community of Khejuri also formed a union named “Krishi Jami Banchao Committee” to protect their rights and livelihoods.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee des-cribed the incident as “unfortunate”. “Organisations like Jamiyet-E-Ulema-Hind are spreading harmful and vicious propaganda,” he said.
8 January: Today morning, the police had to fire six rounds in the air at Dinabandhupur to chase away protesters who threw bricks and injured four cops. Soon after, there were reports of clashes between CPI(M) and Opposition supporters at Sahebpur — the proposed site of a ship-building and repair unit. Early this morning, a CPI(M) office was torched at Basulichak, 5 km from the police station. Late last night, the burnt body of Shankar Samanta, an independent but pro-CPI(M) panch-ayat member, was found. CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose today provided a twist to the plot, saying: “What is happening in Nandigram is a conspiracy hatched by outsiders from other states. They are drawing up a blueprint for sabotage.”
Later in the day, efforts to end the standoff proved shortlived. While an all-party meeting in the afternoon found a way out of the imbroglio, in the evening, the Opposition demanded that a supporter be freed before they agree to the common agenda. But CPI(M) refused. The all-party meet was convened by East Midnapore DM Anup Agarwal at Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s prodding. The parties initially agreed on a four-point charter: the police will be allowed into strifetorn villages, there would be no hindrance to repairs of roads and bridges, no party will set up camps or offices within a 5-km radius of the proposed project site and, if land acquisition is planned in future, the DM would convene another all-party meeting to spell out the details. The meeting also decided that a core group comprising Krishi Jami Raksha Committee representatives would meet sub-divisional officer Shankar Haldar at Nandigram in the evening to chalk out modalities. However, in the evening Trinamool and Congress insisted that Khokon Sheet — one of their supporters whom CPI(M) has accused of instigating Sunday’s bloodbath — be released before they agreed to the charter. The demand turned down, representatives of both parties walked out of the meeting. Despite these resolutions, however, it was not possible to repair the damaged roads, culverts and bridges and it was also not possible to deploy the state police within the affected parts of the Nandigram police station.
9 January: “Tear apart Nandigram notification”, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhatta-charjee said here today that a notification issued by the Haldia Development Authority without government sanction identifying certain “mouzas” as sites for a special economic zone (SEZ) and two industrial projects in Nandigram and sur-rounding areas was used by certain forces to create confusion in the minds of the locals to incite them to violence. “It was wrong of the Haldia Development Authority [a State body] to issue such a notice … Confusion among the local people is only natural if such a document from a State agency is brought to their notice,” Mr. Bhatta-charjee said, adding that he had drawn the attention of the district administration to it. “I will start a political process and talk to all local panchayats and only after doing so will a map for the proposed SEZ be finalised. The loss that has been the outcome of the confusion created will have to be made up for,” the Chief Minister asserted. Any land acquisition process would exclude homesteads and places of worship and would only follow discussions at the local panchayat level, he reiterated. The Haldia Deve-lopment Authority was not the competent body to serve notices of land acquisition.
Biman Bose of CPI(M) and Front Chairman ap-ologises to Medha Patkar over Nandigram flare-up.
A 30-member Trinamool Congress delegation called on Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and con-demned the “authoritarian” tendencies of the Left Front Government.
10 January: Singur-bound Medha Patkar det-ained by Kolkata police arrested, to be produced in the court.
For the first time since the land war broke out here on January 3, police today set foot on flashpoints Sonachura and South Khali. The villagers laid iron sheets on a dug-up road to make way for BJP leader Sushma Swaraj and the police followed her, though she had not asked for any escort. Not all villagers were happy when the roads were opened for the BJP leaders today. “If we open the roads now, RAF jawans will come in and lathicharge us and make arrests,” said Shakti Prasad Maiti of South Khali.
Villagers today started re-pairing roads on their own at five places where they had dug trenches on the night of January 3. The trenches were filled at Hossainpur, Meenpur, Khemasundarichak, Osm-anchak and Chakchilinga.
A meeting between the SDO, Haldia and members of the Bhumi Uchched Protirodh Committee (BUPC) that went on till late last night ended in a stalemate. With the administration having failed to broker peace with the agitating farmers, a fresh threat came today. Mr Sheikh Sufian, convener of the committee and a local Trinamool leader said, “If the state government does not issue a notification proclaiming that they would not acquire any land at Nandigram immediately, then we will intensify our movement in the area.”
A new forum under aegis of CPI-M’s farmers’ wing, Krishak Sabha, has been formed that has begun campaigning in favour of land acquisition and the proposed SEZ in Nandigram. Mr Ashok Goria, districty Krishak Sabha leader, said that this committee known as Krishi o Shilpo Unnoyan Samiti has been formed to make people of Nandigram understand the need of the SEZ here. While admitting that they had failed to make the farmers aware of the land acquisition process and the compensation in return, he said that they would try their best to wipe out all apprehension that farmers here would become homeless and jobless after the SEZ comes up in Nandigram.
Meanwhile, nearly 500 CPI-M supporters and their families who were once residents of trouble torn Nandigram have taken refuge in temporary camps being set up at four places outside the tension prone areas. Police were seen guarding these camps to preempt any further attack or violence.
Even in the midst of the turmoil at Nandigram, over acquisition of farm land for setting up the mega chemical hub, the Salim Group today reaffirmed its commitment to implement all its projects — the SEZ at Nandigram, Haldia and building roads and bridges at Kukrahati and Baruipur. Mr Prasun Mukherjee, a partner of the consortium led by the Salim Group, met Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee during the day and discussed the projects. He said the group had left it to the state government to acquire land for the SEZ and would await the realignment of the land.“The question of moving out of West Bengal doesn’t arise at all. We are fully committed to developing the SEZ. In fact, a Chinese delegation would arrive in the city on 19-20 January and stay in the state for about a week to study how they can invest,” Mr Mukherjee said.
11 January: Barricades were back in most Nandigram villages after talks between the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee and the district administration failed today. All the leaders of Opposition parties on the committee walked out of a meeting with block development officer Ashok Sarkar, saying the administration would first have to fulfil their conditions before insisting on road repairs.
Reports of armed men mobilising near the Khejuri side of the trouble-torn area infused fear in the villagers who have taken to patrolling wielding bamboo sticks. Mr. Lakhshman Seth today visited Khejuri to attend the funeral of Shankar Samanta, a CPI-M gram panchayat member of Sonachura who was killed in the violence on Sunday (7 January) morning.
Even as his party recuperates from the setback it suffered in the Left bastion of Nandigram, CPI-M state secretary Mr Biman Bose today said the government would not drive people out of their homes without making provision for rehabilitation. “No decision has been taken with regard to the proposed special economic zone in Nandigram. Neither our party nor the government has taken any decision on acquisition of residential areas. We have to keep in mind that people will need land to settle down,” Mr Bose said this afternoon. CPI-M sources said that senior party leaders, including former chief minister Mr Jyoti Basu, wants the government to put on hold the new project till the situation is brought under control. The party leadership has realised that CPI-M workers at the grassroots level have been alienated from it in Nandigram and surrounding areas.
A city court on today granted unconditional bail to social activist Medha Patkar, who was arrested yesterday apprehending breach of peace after she tried to go to Singur.After visiting Singur, Medha was to head for Nandigram in East Midnapore today. “Prohibitory orders under Section 144 are in force at Singur and we could not allow her to go there. However, prohibitory orders are not in force in Nandigram. So, the order to arrest her is not applicable to Nandigram,” said Prasad Ranjan Roy, home secretary. “I am amazed at the Left Front government’s action. They are so scared of me that they have deployed policemen to stop my movement,” Medha said.
12 January: At a meeting of the party’s state secretariat at Alimuddin Street this morning, former chief minister Mr Jyoti Basu and senior leaders decided to start a campaign in the districts to generate public opinion in favour of the govern-ment’s industrial policy. Agitated by recent developments in Nandigram, Mr Basu reportedly said at the meeting that land acquisition should be stopped for the time being in East Midnapore. He also stressed on the need to prepare a land map to avoid confusion in future.
Social activist Miss Medha Patkar today dared the chief minister and the CPI-M state leadership to visit Nandigram and tell villagers that they would acquire land here. While addressing a gathering at Hazrakata in Nandigram this afternoon, Miss Patkar said that the Centre has only given approval “on principle” to the two proposed SEZs in West Bengal. However, this is not the final approval and yet the state government is claiming that land acquisition for the SEZs will not be a problem at all. “Why are they saying this while sitting in Kolkata? I dare them to come to Nandigram and speak about their exact land acquisition process, the compensation that is going to be paid, job promises and the rehabilitation package,” Miss Patkar said. She added that people do not only want a rehabilitation scheme and urged the villagers of Nandigram that if the state government tries to tempt them with money or rehabilitation, “ask them ‘to rehabilitate’ the people of Narmada first.”
Two men were allegedly assaulted by supp-orters of Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee at Kalicharanpur in Nandigram. Members of the Committee went to the residence of Nanda Giri and Trilochan Sit and demanded donation for the anti-land acquisition movement here. They refused to pay up.
The CPI(M) folded up its camps at Tekhali and Kansadua today after being told to do so by police.
14 January: The CPI-M today launched its campaign to explain to the people the need for industrialisation with its state secretary, Mr Biman Bose addressing a meeting at Tamluk, East Midnapore, and Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at the Kolkata district committee unit. Clearly on the defensive after the Opposition-sponsored agitation first at Singur against the farmland acquisition for the Tata small car project and then at Nandigram against transfer of land for the mega chemical hub project, the CPI-M has decided to begin the “political process” by going to the villagers at the grassroots. Mr Biman Bose today also attended a closed-door meeting at Sutahata in Haldia with all the leaders and local committee members of the district. The CPI-M will observe 27 January as Nandigram Dibas all over the state to protest against the killings.
19 January: Union external affairs minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, told Congress members today that the way to strengthen the party in West Bengal is to follow the lead of the ruling CPI-M party and form Self Help Groups (SHGs) rather than criticise land acquisition in Singur or Nandigram.
Peace initiatives failed yet again at Nandigram with Trinamool Congress, Congress and Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee refusing to attend a meeting called by the SDO at Haldia today alleging Left Front terror in the village. Mr Sankar Halder, SDO, Haldia has blamed the failure of the meeting on the noncooperation of Trinamool Congress.
22 January: CPI MP Mr Prabodh Panda today criticised the “double-faced game of politics” that the government is allegedly playing in Nandigram with the Haldia Development Authority’s high handed serving of notice to farmers contradicting the chief minister’s promise of parley. He also complained that local farmers were badly hit following the discontinuation of the ferry services between Nandigram and Haldia by the HDA as they failed to transport their produce to Haldia.
31 January: Since January, the statements of senior CPI(M) leaders all clearly indicate the ominous threats to the people of Nandigram, and reading them after March 14, they sound like chilling prophecy. Following Binoy Konar, Health Minister Suryakant Mishra who is from East Midnapore, had declared “Snakes come out in the summer, you must use the flag like a stick and smash their heads”.
2 February: A division bench of Calcutta High Court today said the advertisement regarding the special economic zone (SEZ) status to Nandigram — which led to a spate of violence, claiming at least four lives, some time ago — was rightly issued by the Haldia Development Authority. The bench comprising acting Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice K K Prasad today held that the advertisement issued by HDA for the information of the public about construction of a chemical hub and SEZ at Nandigram-Khejuri was not a notice under Section 4A of the Land Acquisition Act ,1894. The court observed: “That advertisement was rightly issued by HDA under the Town and Country Planning Act and West Bengal Industrial Infrastructure Development Act 1974…”. However, CPI(M) sources maintained that even after the High Court ruling the party considered the HDA had acted in haste and the confusion could have been avoided. “We opposed HDA because they had hurriedly issued the notice,” said a senior party leader.
6 February: Despite the ongoing controversy over the acquisition of land in West Bengal for new industrial projects and setting up special economic zones (SEZs), the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) has formally cleared Indonesia-based Salim Group’s investments in the proposed SEZ at Nandigram in the East Midnapore district of the State, as reported today. The board has also cleared Salim’s proposed investments in other projects that include townships, housing, industrial parks and related infrastructure, official sources said. The matter is now to go to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) since the proposed foreign direct investment inflows are in excess of Rs 600 crore. Salim Group has committed a total investment of around Rs 20,000 crore over a number of years in West Bengal last year. The investments would be done through a recently incorporated company New Kolkata International Development Private Ltd (NKID). The company has entered into development agreement with the State Government and the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation Ltd (WBIDC) to act as the developer for the proposed New Kolkata Project. Salim group is one of the largest industrial groups of Indonesia and has already made investments in India in a project for developing an integrated township near Kolkata in a joint venture with a non-resident Indian, Mr Prasoon Mukherjee, promoter of the Universal Success Enterprise Ltd (USE group) and the Ciputra Group of Indonesia, the company has informed the FIPB, sources said. The USE group too has already made investments for developing an integrated township in Kolkata in a joint venture with the Salim and the Ciputra group. The new company, NKID, has also obtained the necessary no objection certificate (NOC) from Kolkata West International City Private Ltd (KWIC) and its Indian partner Dhanalakshmi Abasan Private Ltd and submitted them to the board following which the proposal has been cleared by the board, sources said. The FIPB has approved NKID’s application seeking permission to act as an operating-cum-holding company to make down-stream invest-ments in Indian companies for devel-oping various components at its integrated infrastructural projects comprising SEZs, townships, housing, industrial parks and related infrastructure either through wholly owned special purpose vehicles (SPVs) or joint venture with third parties, including WBIDC.
10 February: The dead body of sub-inspector of police Sri Sadhu Chatterjee was recovered after dredging parts of the adjoining river.
11 February: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today carried his efforts at a consensus to the hub of the land protests, travelling to within 40 km of Nandigram to strike a conciliatory note. But although he promised not to use force to acquire plots — and even spoke of shifting the Salim Group project elsewhere if Nandigram stayed adamant — the chief minister stood firm on his drive to build industry. “The transition from agriculture to industry is a natural process. There can be no turning back,” Bhatta-charjee told a gathering at Heria in Khejuri block-I, the nearest he has been to Nandigram where land clashes have killed seven. He said his government was in no hurry to acquire land in Nandigram and would first explain to the farmers how the mega chemical hub would benefit them. “I don’t blame the people of Nandigram. If they don’t understand (the need for industrialisation), we’ll explain it to them. We won’t take any plots forcibly. If they still maintain that Nandigram should remain as it is, we’ll take the project elsewhere. But they should realise who will lose out if such a prestigious project cannot be implemented here,” Bhattacharjee said. He revealed that industry proposals worth Rs 10,000 crore (from German and US investors as well as the Tatas) were pending for Haldia alone, where a policeman was lynched by land protesters last week.
The chief minister distributed deeds in East Midnapore’s Khejuri today, days after a land war rocked the area. Mollah will distribute pattas in West Midnapore’s Jhargram later this month and attend a programme to distribute pattas at Canning I and II blocks in mid-March. Earlier, as part of efforts to regain lost ground in East Midnapore, the chief minister had doled out 5,000 pattas (deeds) to landless farmers at the Heria panchayat samiti office.
12 February: Land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah today said the patta distribution was a routine exercise, but admitted that the sudden flurry of activity was to “protect farmers in the face of the land acquisition drive”.
Rattled by protests and their possible reper-cussions in next year’s panchayat polls, Buddha-deb Bhattacharjee’s government is trying to balance its acquisition drive by doling out tilling rights to the landless. The land department has set an April 14 — Bengali New Year — deadline for allotting pattas (deeds that ensure a landless peasant’s right to cultivate a patch of government land) for 10,000 acres. Since coming to power in 1977, the Left Front has distributed pattas for over 9 lakh acres, but the process had been neglected after 1987.
19 February: An all-party meeting was held at Tamluk, the district headquarters of East Midna-pore, where it was unanimously decided that no action would be taken till school examinations were over. Similar meetings were held at block and thana level.
5 March: The Madhyamik Pariksha (Secondary Examination) was over on March 5, 2007. Another set of school-leaving examination was scheduled to begin on March 16. The district magistrate, Purba Medinipur again convened an all-party peace meeting. In this meet-ing he proposed that peace should be restored, police should enter the affected areas of Nandigram police station, damaged bridges and roads should be repaired and normalcy restored to the entire affected areas. However, the repress-entatives of the Trinamool Congress and the Indian National Congress did not attend this meeting.
10 March: The District Magistrate, East Midna-pore, convened a meeting of all political parties to take up the issue of repairing roads that had been dug up. The opposition parties boycotted (boycotted by the Congress, the Trinamool Cong-ress, the Suci and the BUPC) the meeting on the basis that no steps were taken on the previous resolutions. It was decided in the same meeting that the roads will be repaired and if any individual or any group of people or any organisation created any disturbance steps would be taken against such persons according to law.
12 March: Unfazed by the ongoing anti-land acquisition movement in the state, chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said that the government would now accelerate the pace of industrialisation in the state. Speaking at the inauguration of the new office of West Bengal Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation, Mr Bhattacharjee said: “We took a long time to convince people of the efficacy of our industrial policy. Now we have achieved a turnaround. In fact, it is not only a turnaround. We have begun walking on the right path and need to increase our pace to keep up with the fast-changing world.” The chief minister, while addressing the assembled employees harped repeatedly on the need for speeding up the process of industrialisation. He claimed that with the inflow of capital in the state, both foreign and from within the country, the need of the hour was to accelerate the pace.
13 March: Mr. Subhendu Adhikari, MLA, Trinamool sent a fax message to the Chief Minister of West Bengal that the “Police authorities have created panic among the common people of Nandigram.” People in Nandigram knew police would enter their area on 14 March. According to several depositions before the People’s Tribunal on Nandigram (26-28 May), the BUPC met on the night of 13 March and decided: (1) To mobilise people to come for a Puja and Koran reading session at the two sites where the police would have to cross the cut in the roads or ‘bund’ made by protesting villagers; (2) To use women and children as a shield, under the assumption that the police would not fire on women and children.
After a brief lull, the CPI(M)’s “musclemen” started firing shots and hurling bombs from the Khejuri side across the Talpati Khal at BUPC loyalists at Sonachura, Bhangabera and adjoining areas in Nandigram, since yesterday.
The indefinite sit-in organised by the BUPC on the Nandigram fringes on Saturday (10 March) to protest against lack of police initiative to curb Marxist cadres’ “organised terrorism” still cont-inues.
A national commission to protect the rights of farmers and prevent acquisition of farmland by force should be set up by the Centre, Miss Mamata Banerjee, Trinamool Congress chief, said at a Press conference today. The Centre should declare a national policy on acquisition of farmland and repeal the 1894 Act on land acquisition framed by colonial rulers, she felt. The state government, according to her, is misusing the Act to acquire multi-crop land for industrialisation and urban-isation. Miss Banerjee sought the President and the Prime Minister’s intervention and said the Centre should impose Article 356 on the state to “end the misrule and despotism of the Left Front government”. “We are demanding the Centre’s immediate intervention and sacking of the state government whose chief minister is a despot and is masterminding state-sponsored terrorism .’’
14 March: The police started moving about 10.00 a.m. in the morning. The police entered Nandigram at Sonachura crossing the Bhangabera bridge (under the leadership of Arun Gupta, Inspector General of Police (Western Range), Sri Tanmoy Roychowdhury, Additional Superintendent of Police, Haldia, Sri Amit Hati, Officer-in-Charge, Khejuri Police Station and Sandip Singha Roy, the then Officer-in-Charge, Sutahata Police Station and 500 police personnel along with the local leaders and 500 cadres of Communist Party of India (Marxist) who were clothed in khaki police dress along with sandals in their feet and having caps with a logo of Shaheed Bhagat Singh entered the area.), and also from the Tekhali end (under the leadership of Sri Debasish Boral, Additional Superintendent of Police, Tamluk, Shyamal Bhattacharya, Additional Superintendent of police, Headquarters, Sri Swapan Sarkar, Sub-Divisional Police Officer, haldia and 300 hundred police personnel with arms and ammunitions along with local leaders of Communist Party of India (Marxist) entered into the area.). The BUPC member Sabuj Kumar Pradhan was at Sonachura, where thousands of people had assembled since the morning. Passages from the Geeta and Koran were being read out to keep the crowd together, and their morale high. “It was decided that women and children would be placed in the front to neutralise the police,” says Pradhan. A senior police official, who does not wish to be identified, admits that confronting a mob of 20,000-25,000 in a rural setting is no mean job. It is enough to unnerve the police. The shooting began. Within hours, Nandigram had morphed into a symbol.
Fourteen peasants were killed and at least 75 injured when police fired on peasants protesting government plans to seize 10,000 acres in the Nandigram area for a Special Economic Zone to be run by the Indonesian-based Salim Group. It is also reported that a large number of women and girls were sexually assaulted or raped by police and their associates. But the local police did not record any FIR or report any of this to the Magistrate.
Buddadeb Bhattacharjee, the state chief minister and member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) political bureau, sent 4,000 heavily armed police to reassert government authority in the area. Evidence is now emerging that CPI(M) goons joined in the police attack.
Renowned poet and Akademi Awardee Sankha Ghosh reacted sharply and renounced his Bangla Akademi membership. Even documentary film-maker and advisor, film development board, Sashi Anand, stepped down from his position. In protest against these ‘administrative atrocities’, intellec-tuals had taken to the streets over the weekend demanding the chief minister’s resig-nation. At a forum at central Kolkata last weekend, a group of intellectuals, including writers Nabarun Bhatta-charya, poet Jaya Mitra, actors Aparna Sen, Indrani Halder, Anjan Dutt, singer-musicians Kabir Suman, Pratul Mukherjee, Pallav Kirtaniya, playwrights like Bibhas Chakraborty, Bratya Basu, Ashok Mukherjee, Kaushik Sen, educationist Saibal Mitra, filmmaker Gautam Ghosh flayed Bhattacharjee and his “anti-people” attitude. Many had even renounced state awards and honours conferred on them. Bhattacharjee, a writer, poet and playwright himself, was so distressed by this that he thought of quitting his post.
The brutality of the attack was such that whatever little could be shown by the various TV channels (the police and party cadres blocked the entry to the spot when the operation was on) shocked the state.
Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi tonight reacted with dismay to the news of the deaths in Nandigram, asking what purpose the bloodspill served. “The news of deaths from police firing in Nandigram this morning has filled me with a sense of cold horror,” he said. Virtually dismissing the official version that there was no alternative but the police action, he said: “The point uppermost in my mind is not ‘who started it’, ‘who provoked it’, or whether there were agent provocateurs behind it. Investigations will reveal that. The thought in my mind, and of all sensitive people, is whether this spilling of human blood was avoidable? What is the public purpose served by the use of force we witnessed today?” In a statement from Raj Bhavan, Gandhi made it clear that his intention wasn’t to get into “blame fixing”. “But I can’t be so casual to the oath I have taken as to restrict my reaction to a pious expression of anguish and outrage”. The governor said the use of force against militants, extremists, insurgents and anti-national elements is one thing, but those at the “receiving end” today weren’t among them. Without disclosing details, the statement suggested that Gandhi had given some advice to the government over the last two days as he received information on “rising tension” in Nandigram. “I trust the government to not only go into the whys and wherefores of this tragic occurrence but also ensure it leaves no room for repetition.” The governor said it was up to the “conscience of officials responsible to atone for the event in the manner they deem fit”, but made it clear that the government should move to end the bitterness the day has brought. “The government must do what it thinks is necessary to mitigate the effects of the bitter March 14, and to do it visibly and fast.”
15 March: A division bench headed by Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar ordered the CBI to probe the incident. A CBI team headed by Sri B.B. Misra, Joint Director of CBI, arrived in the Sub-Divisional hospital to conduct investigation in terms of the order of the Hon’ble High Court. Hon’ble Calcutta High Court passed an order on its own motion to initiate Public Interest Litigation. The order said “Prima facie we are satisfied that this action of the police department is wholly unconstitutional and cannot be justified under any provision of law” and called for a special inquiry into the incident by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
16 March:While the CBI has initiated a probe as per directives of Calcutta High Court into the incident today at Bhangabhera, Bhoomi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) supporters marched through Sonachura today. On learning that a CBI team would come down to Nandigram, CPI(M) cadres fled from Sonachura while policemen confined themselves at Sonachura High School camp. At about 12 a.m. more than 10,000 BUPC supporters marched with the dead bodies of Supriya Jana and Gobinda Das who were killed on 14 March’s police firing from Nandigram Block Hospital area towards Sonachura. On the way, they ransacked Sonachura gram panchayat samity office and set it on fire.
In a manifestation of deep popular anger, people across West Bengal staged a general strike. Protesters blockaded roads and railways throughout the state. In Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, marchers confronted the police.
Mass anger was such that three Left Front constituent parties—the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and the Forward Bloc (FB)—expressed support for the strike. They thereby sought to distance themselves from the actions of the CPI(M) chief minister, although he was acting in support of neo-liberal economic policies that have been sanctioned by the Left Front as a whole.
A CPI(M) zonal committee office was torched and another ransacked by bandh supporters in Howrah today following the recovery of a body and a critically injured unidentified man, both allegedly victims of the violence in Nandigram on 14 March. The body and the injured man were found near Beltala near Bombay Road around 7 a.m. today. As news spread, angry activists of several parties set ablaze the No. 22 CPI(M) zonal committee office in Panchla. Mr Neeraj Singh, SP Howrah, however, dismissed such claims as rumours.
In a dramatic turn of events, CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc leaders today pushed the CPI(M), Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in particular, to a corner by deciding that they would withdraw their ministers from the state Cabinet if the Left Front including the CPI(M) doesn’t apologise in public for the Nandigram massacre.
The West Bengal government today said all Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in the state have been put on hold until a “socially balanced” dec-ision was taken in this regard at the national level. Presenting the state budget for 2007-08 in the assembly, Finance Minister Ashim Dasgupta said there was a necessity to take steps for setting up large industries in consultation with people with a necessary balance of agriculture and payment of compensation for land acquired for projects.
17 March: The CBI team, investigating the pol-ice firing in the violence that rocked Nandigram on Wednesday (14 March), today recovered 22 rifles and arrested 10 persons from Maa Janani Brick kiln situated on the Khejuri side of Talpati canal near Bhangabhera. The CBI team conducted their probe at Adhikary para in Gokulnagar village where the bloody attack on the villagers took place. Villagers have alleged that the CPI(M) cadres for launching attacks on the villagers for the last two months used the brick kiln as a hideout and a base.
The team of CBI and forensic experts went to Adhikary para today to find evidences of the atrocities allegedly done by police and CPI(M) goons. The team found both empty and unused cartridges, abandoned shoes and sandals, blood-stains, crude bombs after conducting a thorough search there. The team came across about 25 ransacked houses, which were done by CPI(M) goons after the police attack on Wednesday (14 March). Mr Abdul Samad member of BUPC who accompanied the CBI team at Adhikary para said the Mr BB Mishra who is heading the investigation has assured him of justice and had also asked him not to lose patience.
Two bodies were found floating in the Haldi river at Nastala in Geonkhali today, triggering tension in the area. The bodies are believed to be that of persons missing since Wednesday.
18 March: The Trianmool Congress, which is spearheading the protest against the land acqui-sition for Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in West Bengal, will observe Monday as ‘Nandigram Day’ and will take out candlelight processions across the state to register protest over the recent killings.
Security was being increased across eastern India today after Maoist rebels called for a strike to protest the killing of several peasants in Nandi-gram, police said.
Villagers in Debganga attacked state govern-ment officials because they felt they might take over their land. Farmers brandishing sticks and sickles set a state government vehicle on fire in Debganga, 50 km from Kolkata where officials had allegedly come to acquire some one thousand seven hundred acres for setting up industries.
19 March: To protest the massacre at Nandi-gram, Sumit Sarkar, respected historian of twentieth century India and a self-avowed Marxist, and his wife and fellow historian Tanika Sarkar criticized West Bengal actions. The couple has returned to the government the Rabindra Puras-kars, West Bengal’s highest literary reward. Siddiqullah Choudhury, the chief of the Jamiate-Ulema Hind, said: “We have taught the Govern-ment a lesson they will never forget. You can’t play with the lives of innocent villagers.”
The preliminary inputs sent by the CBI invest-igating team to their New Delhi headquarters today about the March 14 bloodbath in Nandigram may put the police in a spot. The final report will be placed before Calcutta HC this week only after CBI director Vijay Shankar himself clears it. The inputs state in clear terms that police alone were not responsible for the bloodshed: “outsiders” had played a key part. The report corroborates the charge with several pieces of evidence. Crucial to this finding is the significant number of .315 bore bullets seized from Sonachura and Gokulnagar. Incidentally, the CBI also unearthed a significant number of such bullets along with other arms and ammunition from Ma Janani brick kiln on Day 2 of probe. According to CBI sources, these bullets are not used by the police but usually fired from country-made revolvers (particularly for those used to hunt animals). The number of bullets seized by the CBI from the spot was much more than the firing order given by IG (western range) and an executive magistrate. Khejuri, the third place (apart from Sonachura and Gokulnagar) where these bullets were found is believed to be a CPI(M) stronghold and at least five of the 10 people arrested had reportedly confessed to be CPI(M)’s youth wing members. The second and the most significant portion of the report deals with the nature of injuries sustained by those dead and injured. After studying the injury reports, the CBI team was of the view that these injuries (mostly gunshot wounds) were primarily on the chest, shoulder and hips and other upper parts of the body. The report concludes this can only be a result of “direct” and close-range firing, explaining that the shooters aimed at their victims’ bodies directly. The report tallies with the police version that a police officer of the rank of IG was present during the onslaught from Bhangaberia bridge while an executive magistrate was present on the Tekkhali bridge. This shows that the “chain of command” was in place and it is pointless to suggest the firing could be due to some JROs losing their cool and resorting to firing.
20 March:The government today ordered a CID probe into Wednesday’s police firing at Nandigram in which 14 people were killed. State home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray said the CID probe would go on simultaneously with the exe-cutive inquiry to be conducted by the comm.-issioner of Burdwan division, Balbir Ram. “So far as we understand, the CBI is inquiring into the Nandigram incident but it is yet to start a probe. The CID team that has been sent to Nandigram will probe the police firing. If the CBI later takes up the probe, we will hand over our findings to them. But as of now, the CID will inquire into it,” Ray said. He ruled out a judicial probe into the firing. According to him, preliminary reports sent to Writers’ Buildings suggested that an additional superin-tendent of police and an executive magistrate had ordered the firing when the mob attacked police-men while they were entering the villages.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today held an hour-long meeting with director general of police A.B.Vohra at Writers’ Buildings to discuss the Nandigram issue. He is learnt to have asked Vohra about the provocation behind the firing. State home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray said he had discussed with advocate general Balai Ray the affidavit to be filed before the high court on the firing.
The special CBI team, on a fact-finding mission, met several families of Nandigram today.
Senior members of the Calcutta High Court Bar have demanded that copies of reports that the CBI team is sending to its Director Mr Vijay Sankar in Delhi from Nandigram about the mass killing and rape perpetrated by the state police and armed CPI(M) cadres there on 14 March be submitted to the registrar of Calcutta High Court first. Mr Arunabha Ghosh, a senior member of the Bar, said here today that there was every possibility of the reports being doctored to exonerate the state police and the CPI(M) of the charges. And this would be done “purely on political considerations.” Mr Ghosh said the CBI team had already sent two detailed reports to Mr Sankar giving enough proof of the involvement of CPI(M) cadres and police. He criticised the government for ordering a CID inquiry, saying it was a “political move’’.
The Nandigram block office today sent a letter to all parties and officials announcing the termination of the land acquisition programme for the special economic zone. Nandigram-I’s block development officer Ashok Sarkar said, “It is easy for you as an outsider to appreciate the oppor-tunities, but it is difficult to make people realise that all of a sudden.” This, despite the fact that almost 34% of the working population in the two affected blocks of Nandigram I and II travel 135 km daily to Kolkata or Haldia to find jobs. A large percentage of these are employed as tailors in Metiaburuz, Kolkata’s port area, thanks to the demographic profile, with 40% of the population being Muslim.
21 March: The CBI today said the police cont-ingent sent to reclaim Nandigram last week had not fired just 37 rounds, as two FIRs seemed to suggest, but many more. The agency, asked by the high court to probe the March 14 firing that claimed over a dozen lives, submitted its preliminary report to the court’s registrar-general late this afternoon. The hearing is scheduled tomorrow. CBI officials said the bureau would seek more time from the court before it comes up with a detailed report on the police action. “As many as 30 officers from different ranks were pressed into service for preparing the preliminary report, other than several sources that we had to tap to get the information,” said an officer handling the case. Asked whether the government would submit its affidavit tomorrow, advocate general Balai Ray said: “The court had not fixed any deadline for us and so it is not imperative for us to submit the affidavit by Thursday.”
First information reports filed by police claimed that they fired only 37 rounds during the Nandigram bloodbath, but doctors said at least 51 villagers were hit by bullets. “Thirty-eight people have bullet injuries. Apart from this, 13 died of bullet injuries excluding the one victim who was stabbed to death,” said S. Patra, superintendent of Tamluk district hospital. Add to that the 16 bullet marks on walls and trees around Bhangabera bridge, and the figure rises to 67. A few live bullets, too, were found around the site. The FIRs at the Khejuri and Nandigram police stations, however, say just 20 rounds were fired at Bhangabera and 17 at Adhikarypara. And these included several rounds fired in the air to break up the “unlawful assembly”. So who fired the extra bullets? The arrest of a gang with a stockpile of arms and ammunition at a nearby brick kiln, and their alleged confessions to police, suggest CPI(M) cadre may have accomp-anied the police and attacked villagers with guns and sharp weapons. The CBI has discovered at the site bloodstained spent .315 bullets, which weren’t part of the raiding police team’s arsenal. The central agency’s preliminary report, placed before Calcutta High Court today, says that not just 37, but, many more bullets were fired that day, and not all of them were fired by the police. One of the FIRs says: “The firing at Adhikarypara was ordered by Debasish Boral, additional SP (superintendent) of Tamluk, and additional SP (rural) Satyajit Banerjee while the firing at Bhangabera was ordered by Arun Gupta, IG (western range), and SP A.G. Srinivas.” Gupta, who yesterday handed the government a confidential report on how the firing took place, told: “I and the SP ordered the firing on the executive magistrate’s instructions.” The police’s own seniors seem to be sceptical about the figure. Immediately after the March 14 firing, a panel of senior officers had suggested that 400 to 500 rounds may have been fired. An officer of the rank of deputy inspector-general today began an inquiry on how many bullets the force had fired. “We are sure that a few hundred bullets were used. The chief minister has taken note of it. We’ll count the number supplied to those who were sent there and match it with the number they had after the firing,” a senior officer said.
Moreover, many villagers were injured not by bullets, but sharp weapons. The CBI is not yet clear about who wielded these weapons. “It is clear that the police did not use swords and daggers. But, we have not yet been able to ascertain who was responsible. Forensics experts will also need some more time to run lab tests on evidence,” sources added.
The state, which is getting the matter investigated by the CID will also seek more time. The report, when it is submitted, will consist of CDs, medical reports and TV footage.
The Supreme Court today referred to a five-judge constitution Bench the question whether high courts can direct CBI inquiry into cases without prior consent of the state governments — as in the Nandigram incident. Today, the petitioner on whose plea Calcutta HC had ordered a CBI probe into the Nandigram incident filed a caveat in Supreme Court preempting the state government from taking any ex-parte orders from the apex court by filing an appeal against the HC order. After hearing the caveat, a three-judge Bench, headed by Justice B N Agrawal, referred it to the constitution Bench. They felt this was necessary because the Constitution entrusts states with the ‘sole authority’ over law and order.
Incidents of violence were reported from the Gokulnagar area of Nandigram today when members of the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee took out a procession in memory of those killed in the police firing. The police said a group of Pratirodh Committee supporters ran-sacked a CPI(M) office. But committee leaders alleged that bombs were hurled from the party’s office. A group of CPI(M) supporters who fled their homes in Nandigram met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today. Mahishadal MLA Tamalika Panda Seth led the team. The villagers said the chief minister assured them he would look into their problems.
The presence of over 100 security personnel inside the Assembly today sparked protests from Opposition members, who described it as the “blackest day” in the history of parliamentary democracy.
22 March: The Union commerce ministry has brought about significant changes in the rules that govern the Special Economic Zones.The amend-ments, notified on March 16, will allow developers to acquire more land than initially planned as well as change the nature of the SEZ. This way by acquiring additional area of land, SEZs can even become a multi-product zone. According to the original SEZ rules, a change in the classification was not permitted. The commerce ministry has also accepted the demand of SEZ developers to change the definition of “contiguous area,” which will allow them to acquire land that has public utilities like a road or a railway line running through it. This amendment will benefit multi-product SEZ developers (which need a minimum 1,000 hectares of land). However, the commerce ministry has decreased the validity period of in-principle SEZ approvals from three years to one year. The new rules will also allow sub-contractors of zone developers to avail excise and sales tax benefits.
23 March: A woman member of the anti-land acquisition front was severely beaten up today when she went to buy kerosene at Tekhali market in troubled Nandigram, allegedly by some CPI(M) activists.
In a hard hitting article in CPI publication New Age, party general secretary A B Bardhan said the ‘organised and brutal police assault’ on villagers was unprecedented, unbelievable, shocking and traumatic, forcing many to think that time had come to break up the Left Front. He accused the CPI(M) state leadership of refusing to heed to frequent warnings given by alliance partners about the tensions that were building up in Nandigram and pleas for greater transparency and need for taking Front partners into confidence.
24 March: “West Bengal Government’s policy to promote industrialisation is a sign of maturing of Left parties,” Chidambaram said, while indicating that Left parties should take a balanced view to resolve conflict of interests. “Avowed policy of West Bengal Government is to promote industry… But then they run into conflict with a section of their own people, and with those espousing the cause of those affected,” he said.
26 March: Calcutta High Court today rejected a plea for continuation of a CBI inquiry into police action in Nandigram that claimed 14 lives but said any decision on resumption of Central probe would be taken only after examining all evidence. After five more affidavits and two applications on the Nandigram carnage were filed in the HC by different parties today, the Division Bench of Chief Justice Mr SS Nijjar and Mr Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose adjourned the hearing for three weeks. The court directed the state to file its affidavits in reply to those affidavits and applications within two weeks. The other side will have to file replies within a week. Mr Kalyan Bandopadhyaya and Mr Bimal Chatterjee prayed for continuation of the CBI inquiry. Mr Bandopadhyaya stated that 27 persons were missing, 164 were injured and three women had been raped in Nandigram. The court observed that it would pass an order for CBI probe, if necessary, after looking into the CBI report and all other records annexed to the affidavits and applications. Advocate-General Mr Balai Ray told the court that the Governor should not be dragged into the row.
Meanwhile, at least 45 people from Orissa were detained at Kharagpur while on their way to Nandigram to express solidarity with the locals there, officials said today. They were brought to the town police station for questioning, they said.
29 March: The West Bengal CM, Buddhdeb Bhattacharjee said at a DYFI meeting that the state had committed mistakes and reiterated that such incidents would not be repeated. Now, the CM has finally announced that the Nandigram SEZ project has been scrapped. He said: “I had said before we wouldn’t go to Nandigram if people do not want the SEZ there. This time the government has formally decided that it doesn’t want bloodshed for industrialization, irrespective of which party the dead belong to. I take full responsibility for mistakes committed by the government there.” Before Bengal government decision to scrap Nandigram SEZ, CPI(M) boss Prakash Karat had said that the CPI(M) will set up SEZs only after the Centre has formulated a comprehensive policy.
The West Bengal wants the SEZ to be shifted from Nandigram to Haldia. State commerce and industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen said the hub would be set up in Haldia. “We will make a fresh application to the Union ministry of chemicals and fertilisers to consider Haldia as one of the locations,” he said. He added that the Salim group-led consortium’s intended multi-product SEZ on 12,500 acres in Haldia could also see a location change.
31 March: After expressing reservations about the West Bengal government’s handling of the Nandigram issue, the CPI today asked the Centre to review its policy on Special Economic Zones. “The Centre should review its SEZ policy as it is not in the interest of the common man and the farmer but helping the MNCs and industrialists,” CPI general secretary Mr AB Bardhan told reporters here. He suggested, “limited Special Economic Zones” like China and “not the unlimited” SEZs as was the case in the country.
1 April: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattach-arjee has taken his peace drive to Delhi, squeezing in meetings with the national leader of the Jamait Ulema-i-Hind and the Prime Minister in the middle of a CPI(M) brain-storming session. The chief minister met the Jamait general secretary, Maulana Mehmood Madani, at Banga Bhavan in New Delhi this afternoon. Party colleague Sitaram Yechury was also with Bhattacharjee, who is in Delhi for the CPI(M) politburo and central committee meetings that will end tomorrow.
Tension mounted in Nandigram today after members of the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee recovered the charred remains of a body from a heap of cinder on the outskirts of Sonachura village. The major part of the body was buried under ash and the other portion was a little away. The headless body, reduced virtually to charcoal, was taken to the Nandigram police station in a cycle van. “The body is so badly burnt that it is not even fit for a post-mortem. We can’t say for sure whether it is that of a man or a woman or how old that person was. A forensic test can tell that,” said Nandigram block medical officer Subhabrata Maity. Western range inspector-general Arun Gupta said all that the police received was a charred bundle of bones. It has been sent for forensic examination.
The Pratirodh Committee took out a procession this morning to demand Buddhadeb Bhatta-charjee’s “punishment” for the police firing that killed at least 14. Columns of protesters, which included women and children, snaked from Garchakraberia to Sonachura — the sites of the March 14 bloodbath — and dispersed on seeing a large posse of policemen on the outskirts.
3 April: In a desperate bid to jump on to the anti-acquisition bandwagon, BJP supporters today went on the rampage inside the Nandigram block development office, which was getting ready for an all-party peace meeting.
4 April: “Direct purchase is a quicker option for all projects, including those by the Salim Group. We want to implement them, creating the minimum ripple,” commerce and industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen said today. The government had recently asked the Jindal Group to directly purchase 500 acres in West Midnapore’s Salboni for its steel plant. “We are asking steel investors like Bhushan and Balaji to buy the land on their own. The government of India is also thinking on this line for its SEZ policy,” Sen added after a 45-minute meeting with NRI businessman Prasun Mukherjee, a partner in the consortium New Kolkata International Development, which will implement the Salim projects.
5 April: The Centre today said land for special economic zones must be acquired with the consent of owners and put a 5,000-hectare cap on their size. The ceiling will not affect projects in Bengal, where the largest proposed is the Salim Group’s multi-product SEZ to be spread across 5,000 hectares (12,500 acres). Reliance’s 10,000-hectare Maha Mumbai SEZ and another in Haryana will, however, be hit. “The state govern-ments are free to lower the cap for SEZs below the 5,000-hectare mark if they want to,” commerce minister Kamal Nath said, pre-empting protests from the Left, after the empowered group of ministers lifted the freeze on SEZs imposed in January amid controversy over land acquisition. The CPI(M), which had sought a 2,000-hectare cap, was however not complaining about the higher ceiling. “It will help us to go for the proposed chemical hub,’’ Bengal secretary Biman Bose said in Calcutta.
27 April: Violence erupted in Nandigram today as bombs were hurled and guns fired in Bhanga-bera area of Nandigram.
Communist Party of India (CPI) legislator from Nandigram S K Ilias Mohammed was allegedly assaulted by Trinamool Congress supporters in Nandigram while in CPI(M) controlled Khejuri there were sporadic reports of firing.
29 April: Bombs and bullets flew and claimed a life in Nandigram today for the first time since the March 14 firing, with a CPI(M) worker shot. Police confirmed the death of 26-year-old Lalit Mondol, also known as Dilip, a labourer from Gokulnagar. CPI(M) leaders claimed that another supporter, 30-year-old Mahitosh Karan of Jambari, was killed in a bomb attack but his body was carried away by Pratirodh Committee members to Garchakraberia, a Trinamool stronghold. CPI(M) cadres fired the day’s first shots in Satengabari, about 170 km from Calcutta, the police said. In retaliation, Pratirodh Committee members from Garchakraberia raided Gokulnagar and Jambari. It is reported that The Nandigram land war toll reached 22 today after the seven deaths on January 7 and 14 on March 14. Mamata Banerjee, alleging the violence was “state-sponsored”, announced a series of protests kicking off with a one-hour rasta roko from 11 am tomorrow. On May Day, protest meetings will be held in all 341 blocks in the state, to be followed by a state-wide gherao of police stations on Wednesday. The Congress pledged to join all Trinamool Congress protests on Nandigram.
30 April: Calcutta High Court today asked the government to ensure normality in Nandigram. Hearing an NGO’s plea seeking a directive to the government to ensure peace, the division bench of Justice P.C. Ghosh and Justice B. Somadder said: “The government must ensure peace in the region and it must also see that property is protected.” Reacting to the court directive at Writers’ Buildings, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee wondered: “How is it possible to ensure peace?”
Members of the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee ransacked over 130 houses of CPI(M) supporters at Saten- gabari, Brindabanchowk and Keyakhali today. “We paid them back in their own coin. We will not tolerate the CPI(M)’s oppression any more,” said one of the marauders. Police are still not being allowed entry into the villages and the government is in no mood to push its force, fearing a rerun of March 14 when at least 14 people were killed during a similar operation. Nandigram officer-in-charge Champak Choudhuri tried to lead a team to Maheshpur but was chased away by members of the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee, while CPI(M) supporters detained a police jeep at Amdabad. “We’ve asked the police to exercise restraint,” home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray said. An all-party meeting will be called soon to start the peace process, the home secretary said at Writers’. The Opposition, however, has boycotted all such meetings in the past few months. Biman Bose, the state CPI(M) secretary, urged the Opposition to attend the peace meet.
1 May: A group of intellectuals and theatre personalities attacked by CPI(M) supporters while they were returning from a meeting at Sonachura in Nandigram. They had gone to distribute relief materials to affected villagers in Nandigram.
2 May: The division bench of Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice P.C. Ghosh today opened the sealed cover of the CBI report on the March 14 police firing, 39 days after it was submitted. “The report is inconclusive. The investigating agency wants more time… So we are asking the government to apprise us of the status of Nandigram by tomorrow,” the court said after going through it. Only a paragraph of the 15-page report was made public. Para No. 21 says: “It is most respectfully submitted that the CBI team has confined its in- quiry to the mandate given by the court,” and adds the CBI needs time for a “thorough and detailed investigation”. After reading out the paragraph, the chief justice said: “The remaining portion of the report will be kept in sealed cover till further orders.” Calcutta High Court also directed the West Bengal government to file a status report on the March 14 police firing by Thursday.
Sharp differences in West Bengal`s ruling Left front over Nandigram issue erupted today with a partner condemning the attack by CPI(M) activists on intellectuals in the troubled area while a senior minister virtually justified it. “It is definitely condemnable,” Ashoke Ghosh, state secretary of Forward Bloc, said. “Who has given them the right to attack?” he said. He said fifty intellectuals had gone to Nandigram. “They called me to inform about the attack and I advised them to bring it to the notice of the front chairman.” He also said it may be raised at the left front meeting. “These intellectuals have always been our friends and part and parcel of the Left movement. They are not our enemies. “We are in power and our behaviour has to be right, the front and the CPI(M) need the help of intellectuals,” he said. On the other hand, senior CPI(M) leader and minister Subhash Chakraborty virtually justified the attack asking “Why did these intellectuals go there? They had gone there to do politics.” He said “These intellectuals are behaving like political workers and are taking the side of those responsible for creating lawlessness in Nandigram.”
Police today set foot in three villages of Nandigram. “We went to Takapura, Ranichowk and Satengabari in Nandigram Block II. These are areas bordering Khejuri, where the CPI(M) is strong, and Nandigram, where the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee is in command,” a Nandigram officer said. In the morning, both groups exchanged fire at Satengabari. “When some CPI(M) cadres tried to move towards the village, members of the committee resisted and they had to back off,” said another officer. The committee, led by the Trinamool Congress, ransacked a large number of houses at Takapura and shops were set on fire. Some 50 CPI(M) supporters fled home and took shelter in the Sherkhan Chowk camp in Khejuri.
A state Congress general secretary today attended a meeting of the Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee chaired by Mamata Banerjee and assured her the party’s presence when she goes to governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi tomorrow. “The need of the hour is a united movement against the CPI(M)-led government and I am happy that the Congress sent its representative (Jayanta Bhatta-charya),’’ Mamata said.
4 May: The Left Front government would abide by the directions of the Calcutta High Court to restore normalcy at trouble-torn Nandigram, CPI(M) patriarch Jyoti Basu said today. The West Bengal government will act in accordance with the high court directives,” he said after a meeting of the CPI(M) state secretariat attended by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee and party’s state secretary Biman Bose among others. Other CPI(M) leaders also said only the court can save the situation. “If the court asks the government to stop the violence at any cost, the state police are competent enough to do that,’’ party leader Benoy Konar said. Basu also regretted the attack by CPI(M) supporters on a group of intellectuals on 1 May. “It is very bad. I do not know who has done this,” Basu said.
Around 6,000 Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee activists marched into Satengabari and Gokulnagar today and ransacked 10 houses, a dozen shops and a CPI(M) office as their comrades held police at the nearest camp hostage. The marchers flaunted their guns, swords, rods and bombs. Ashok Bera, the chief of the CPI(M)-led Nandigram panchayat samiti, alleged that they fired and hurled bombs indiscriminately. “The police were nowhere to be seen when they singled out shops owned by our supporters and looted them,” Bera said. Committee convener Abu Taher, a Trinamool Congress leader, admitted that his men ransacked groceries, eateries, tea stalls, furniture stores and paan shops. “CPI(M) supporters had taken shelter in them,” he said, justifying the attack. Nearly 1,000 members of the committee surrounded the 50-odd policemen at the Tekhali camp around 10.30 am as the others marched on. The houses targeted today were, however, deserted. Almost all CPI(M) supporters have fled the area since Sunday.
The West Bengal government today submitted its status report on Nandigram violence. The report indicted CPI(M) cadre for inciting violence in the district. According to the report, clashes broke out after CPI(M) activists entered Nandigram. The report also says that CPI(M) activists stopped a Trinamool Congress MP’s vehicle and damaged it. The police admitted their inability to reach remote areas of Nandigram, the report added. The report further stated that the state police was helpless without the support of political parties. The Status Report on Nandigram submitted to the High Court by the home secretary Mr. Prasad Ranjan Ray.
Today the Forward Bloc, Revolutionary Social-ist Party of India and Communist Party of India accused the CPI(M) of deliberately delaying the formation of an all-party forum to restore peace in Nandigram.
State governments have decided not to give any tax exemption to non-processing areas in SEZs, which means such relief could be confined to activities in half the area of the zones. Non-processing area refers to real estate and other businesses that fall outside the core objective for which an SEZ has been set up. The minimum processing area of all SEZs had been increased to 50 per cent. A committee of state finance ministers today took the decision to scale back the sweep of exemptions.
6 May: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattach-arjee defended the home secretary’s “status report” on Nandigram at the CPI(M) state committee meeting today. If the report had indicated the chief minister’s approach, he made it even clearer to his comrades. “The government cannot suppress information to the high court about the incidents in which CPI(M) supporters were involved. If our men do wrong, we should not conceal it. However, the report mentioned 25 incidents but a section of the media and the Opposition only highlighted the three incidents involving our supporters,’’ Bhattacharjee said.
8 May: The West Bengal government said today it had no evidence of the presence of Maoist rebels in trouble-torn Nandigram despite intell-igence reports that they had infiltrated the area. “The state government has no specific evidence about Maoist infiltration into Nandigram, though there have been intelligence reports in this regard for the past three months,” said Home Secretary P R Roy.
9 May: The administration today initiated steps to prepare a list of Nandigram’s homeless as some 4,000 men, women and children waited anxiously to return to their village after months. Haldia subdivisional officer Shankar Haldar wrote to all political parties, seeking a list of those who fled home.
14 May: Big Brother CPI(M) today yielded to its smaller partners and agreed to a state all-party meeting to restore normality in Nandigram.The change came not exactly out of a new spirit of accommodation but from its realisation that Mamata Bannerjee would not accept a district-level initiative and the party can’t afford to be called a “spoiler of the peace process”.
17 May: Stung by the Nandigram backlash, the government has decided to make the concept of a mega-chemical hub clear to all before moving ahead with the project. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today told his cabinet colleagues that he would circulate a detailed note on the chemical hub among all political parties. He also hinted that if anyone wanted clarifications on any point in the note, a meeting could be convened.
18 May: The CPI(M) today rejected a draft reso-lution prepared by its allies for the all-party meeting on Nandigram. The draft condemns the police firing on March 14 and demands punish-ment for those responsible for it and damages for the victims. The CPI(M) feels only a court can decide the punishment. “The all-party meeting or the Left Front cannot decide who the culprits were or what punishment they deserve. The court has to say whether the police firing was unjustified or an act of compulsion,” CPI(M) state secretariat member Benoy Konar said after its meeting.
Calcutta High Court today ruled that the Bengal government could no longer acquire land that is in excess of the ceiling unless it works out “an adequate and proper compensation package”. The ruling will apply to all future acquisitions related to the Land Reforms Act but not those under the Land Acquisition Act that the government has been using to facilitate industry. The order means that the government’s acquisitions to build a land bank will come to a halt. It will also affect the land and land reforms department whose primary function is to collect excess land and redistribute it among the landless. For land acquired under the Land Reforms Act — the parent act that brings into play land ceiling rules — the government pays far below the market value.The court has described the government rate as “illusory”.
13 June: The state-level screening committee on special economic zones, which today met 18 new SEZ applicants to scrutinise their proposals, categorically told them that they should not plan any industry in Haldia but look at other districts.
15 June: Nandigram today erupted in its worst violence since the March 14 killings, with the police taking the bullets this time as land protesters stormed CPI(M)-dominated Khejuri. Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee mobs burnt down the Bhangabera refugee shelter and overran Satkhanda village, driving CPI(M) supporters out of both, after ransacking a police camp. An inspector, Prabhat Sarkar, was fighting for his life at Calcutta’s SSKM Hospital tonight after being shot in the back of his neck. A constable took a bullet in the hand.
16 June: Nandigram erupted in violence again today as CPI(M) activists hit back at the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee to avenge their “humiliation”.
17 June:Bullets were shot from Khejuri yet again today. A group of CPI(M) workers allegedly opened fire at a media team proceeding towards the infamous Janani brick kiln in Khejuri’s Sherkhanchak. No one was injured. Mediapersons moved towards the kiln after they came to know that 50 men were hiding inside the kiln. This was the same place from where 10 CPI(M) workers were captured with arms within a few days after the Nandigram carnage.
18 June: Jyoti Basu, who took the unparalleled initiative of inviting Mamata Banerjee to his home to revive the peace process, today warned of “action” in Singur and Nandigram.
21 June: The day was meant to mark 30 years of uninterrupted Left rule, but the Front partners turned the Netaji Indoor Stadium into a shadow-boxing arena. While chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his predecessor Jyoti Basu defended the drive for industry, the RSP, Forward Bloc and CPI voiced caution couched in rhetoric. In Delhi, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat echoed him. “Industrialisation is a must for employment. Without big corporate houses like the Tatas, it is not possible in the present system,” he said. Mamata has listed a 12-point “chargesheet” against the Left and said a probe will be conducted when it is out of power.
22 June: The West Bengal Government has filed the administrative report before the Calcutta High Court on the March 14 violence over land acquisition in Nandigram in which 14 persons were killed in police firing and scores of people were wounded.
26 June: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said his government has yet to decide on a special economic zone in Mahishadal despite the Centre’s in-principle approval for one. The chief minister’s clarification is being seen as an attempt to prevent the ripples of Nandigram from spilling over to Mahishadal, 10 km across the Haldi River. State industry officials said the 2,500-acre SEZ by Ramky Infrastructure Ltd would be for pharma-ceutical and biotech industries. It was planned in Mahishadal as part of the proposed 62,500-acre Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemical Invest-ment Region (PCPIR).
27 June: Maoists stormed a railway station, set fire to the stationmaster’s office and rigged the tracks with explosives early today in a fiery warning to Bengal over the Nandigram “genocide” and its special economic zones. The pre-dawn attack on Biramdih station in Purulia, close to the Jharkhand border, is the first of its kind in Bengal and came amid a 48-hour economic blockade the rebels have called in their strongholds in the east.
23 July: Mr Nirupam Sen today said: the Left Front government will never allow market forces to determine the price of land to be acquired for new industries, commerce and industries minister. “Some people are of the opinion that the market should be allowed to fix the price of land. They think this will fetch more price. But the state government will not allow that. It will always play a supervisory role to stop speculation,” Mr Sen said at a programme organised by the CPI(M)’s youth wing. He also countered the argument put up by Left Front allies that precaution should be taken to avoid chemical hazards in the proposed chemical hub in Haldia. Every technology comes with its own safeguards, he said.
29 July: Nandigram once again witnessed violence leaving one dead and three injured after clashes erupted between supporters of the Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Commitee and CPI(M) cadres this morning. A 12-hour-long bandh has also been called in the area by BUPC after police lathi-charged its members in a rally, injuring 36 people including its leader. Police said Bapan Patra (35) was caught in the crossfire while working in his paddy field near Sherkhanchak when both CPI(M) cadres and BUPC supporters started firing at each other. He died on the spot. CPI(M) leaders later claimed that Patra, a resident of Pankhai village in Khejuri, was their supporter. Barun Mondal, another CPI(M) supporter, and two BUPC members Adhir Khatua and Manoranjan Midda, too sustained bullet injuries in the gunfire near Talpati canal. The area saw heavy firing and crude bombs were hurled since this morning. It continued till late in the day. In another incident at Nandigram bazar, 10 km off Sherkhanchak on Talpati canal, 36 BUPC members have been injured when CPI(M) cadres allegedly hurled bombs at their rally. BUPC had brought out the procession in response to a CPI(M) organised victory rally to celebrate its recent triumph in Haldia Municipal Corporation. As clashes began between the two sides police rushed in and resorted to a lathicharge leaving 36 injured. The injured include Mr Abu Taher, a prominent leader of the anti-land acquisition movement. Mr Ashok Bera, a local CPI(M) leader however, denied the allegation, putting the blame on BUPC members. He alleged that the rally had attacked and ransacked the office.
The imam of Jama Masjid, Delhi, Syed Ahemed Bukhari, who met Mr Jyoti Basu today, said the people of Nandigram want peace and urged Mr Basu to help restore peace there.
8 August: The People’s Tribunal on Nandi-gram firing of March 14 has placed its report before West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, stating it to be “pre-planned and state-sponsored massacre”, carried out ‘to teach a lesson’ to the people opposing the SEZ project on their land. The Tribunal said, ” On March 14 there were a disturbingly large number of incidents of sexual violence by both police and armed ruling party cadres against women, many of them carried out in the most cruel, degrading and inhuman manner.” The tribunal also called upon the West Bengal government to make a public declaration that the report would not be used against the local people for the so called restoration of law and order in the Nandigram area, the tribunal observed.
20 August: In the backdrop of Nandigram SEZ issue, the Central Government made it clear today that farmland cannot be acquired without the consent of the owner but said dependence on agriculture sector for employment needs to be reduced. Responding to a question by Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee on the Nandi-gram issue in the Lok Sabha, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said the effort is to discourage acquiring of fertile land.
3 September: After the bloodshed at Nandi-gram, and the stiff resistance from opposition parties and Left Front partners over land acquis-ition, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today expressed the government’s preference for the lonely island, Nayachar, 30 kilometres away from Haldia, to set up the much talked-about chemical hub.Congress and LF leaders didn’t have any problems with the site as such because it doesn’t call for eviction of families as would have in the case with Haldia or Khejuri. However, the government will finalise the site after an environ-ment impact assessment by an expert panel, because Nayachar comes under the coastal regulation zone where industries are not permitted under the existing environment rules. According to commerce and industry minister Nirupam Sen, the soil condition of Nayachar should not be a problem as a new technology has already come up that helps in consolidating soil. The 11,000-acre Naya-char Island, located at the confluence of the rivers Haldi and Hooghly, is the preferred site for the government as it requires no acquisition of land. The only thing that needs to be done is to construct a bridge to connect it to the main land.Sen said: “The meeting was constructive and positive.” At the meeting, which was boycotted by Trinamool Congress and SUCI, the CM briefed the political parties.
27 October: Three CPI(M) activists were killed and five injured in an explosion near CPI(M)’s relief camp at Sherkhan Chowk in Khejuri area of Nandigram block today night, Inspector General of Police (law and order) Raj Kanojia said in Kolkata. However, BUPC core committee member Sabuj Pradhan said the blast took place when they were making bombs at Khejuri, a stronghold of the CPI(M).
The companies that proposed the Rs 2,000-crore shipyard on the bank of the Hooghly in East Midnapore today threatened to pull out in the face of opposition by the Trinamool-led Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee. “We are ready to talk to the farmers. But if the government fails to provide us land, we shall shift elsewhere,” Subir Chakraborty, the vice-president of Bharati Shipyard, told a joint news conference in Haldia with Saurav Das Patnaik, an Apeejay Group director, by his side. Chakraborty said they had surveyed land in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. “But we chose Bengal because the government promised to provide us with the land. The 12-15m depth of the Hooghly near Geonkhali would have been helpful for the shipyard.” Bharati needs 400 acres to build the shipyard in collaboration with Apeejay. “Over 40,000 people will get jobs,” Das Patnaik said. “Village youths who have passed Class X or XII will be trained so that they can be employed.” Villagers who had decided to sell their land if the investors spoke to them directly changed their decision yesterday as political leaders stepped in. Asked if the project can be shifted to Jelingham near Nandigram, as suggested by Trinamool, Chakraborty said: “No. We chose Geonkhali as it’s well connected by road and rail. Haldia port is only 20km away and Calcutta port about 60.”
Trinamool Chief Mamata Banerjee said today: “I’m sticking to what I said. All activities in the state would come to a halt on October 31. Parishkar Banglaye, oidin baro ghantar jonyo Bangla ke achal kore dewa hobe (in plain Bengali, the state will be brought to a standstill for 12 hours that day).” Bengal home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray said the government would take all steps to maintain normality on October 31.
28 October:Two party offices of the CPI(M) were torched and a car carrying Congress leaders attacked allegedly by CPI(M) workers in Nandi-gram during the bandh called by Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC).
Trinamool Congress today alleged a bullet was fired from a CPI(M) office at the convoy of its supremo Mamata Banerjee when she was travelling in a car in violence-hit Nandigram.
Henry Paulson Jr, the US treasury secretary, discussed weighty matters such as infrastructure with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. The treasury secretary, who made the trip though ambassador David C. Mulford could not accom-pany him because of a last-minute cancellation, later said he was “happy with the talks” with the chief minister. “I have heard very good things about the chief minister and I believe that he is a great economic reformer,” Paulson added.
29 October: The Centre today said there is no proposal to set up a special economic zone (SEZ) at Nandigram in West Bengal, where fresh violence erupted on Sunday over the issue of land acquisition for industrial projects. “No SEZ is being set up at Nandigram. Also, there is no application proposing to set up an SEZ at Nandigram,” a commerce ministry statement said.
The CPI(M) has called a 12-hour bandh in parts of the area in protest against what they call Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee’s attempts to foment trouble in the area. There was, however, not much impact of the bandh in the three blocks of Nandigram, a stronghold of TC-backed BUPC.
CPI(M) and anti-acquisition BUPC activists to-day exchanged fire in the trouble-torn Nandigram in East Midnapore district amidst reports of a gunshot injury to one person.
The Bengal government has sought deploy-ment of central forces to contain violence in Nandigram but at the same time iterated the need for a political solution. “Union home minister Shivraj Patil telephoned me yesterday and I told him about our requirement of CRPF personnel,” chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said at Writers’ Buildings today. Home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray has sent a letter to his counterpart at the Centre, Madhukar Gupta, seeking a CRPF battalion (about 600 personnel) for deployment. “We expect their arrival in a week,’’ Ray said. A 400-strong force is now deployed in Nandigram. The personnel are drawn from the State Armed Police, the Eastern Frontier Rifles and the Rapid Action Force.
1 November:Notwithstanding opposition by some Left Front partners to the West Bengal government’s decision to deploy CRPF at Nandi-gram, CPI(M) patriarch Jyoti Basu today said the central forces’ presence there would be good as the opposition parties were clamouring for Central intervention to restore peace in the area.
2 November:The state government had ann-ounced compensation of Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of the 14 killed and ruled out compensation for the injured.
4 November: The CPI(M) Politburo member Brinda Karat accused the Opposition of conspiring against the people of Nandigram. Without naming the Trinamool Congress, Karat said a party was resorting to “opportunistic” politics by forming a Mahajot. “They are hatching a conspiracy and the poor people become victims of their gun trotting and opportunistic politics. Those who are doing this should be given the Dum Dum dawai treatment (a severe bashing),” said Karat. She said this in a rally of the All India Democratic Women’s Association at Dum Dum in the northern fringe of the city in the presence of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Bhattacharjee would have recalled that Dum Dum Dawai is a throwback to the “gana dholai” (public beating) of corrupt shopkeepers, ration-dealers, blackmarketeers of essential items as well as their alleged protectors in the then ruling Congress. Dum Dum Dawai was coined during the Left-led food movement of 1965-66.
Brinda’s outburst came on a day the SFI — the student wing of her party — suffered a debacle in Jawaharlal Nehru University. The All India Students Association (AISA), student wing of the ultra-Left CPI(M)L, has for the first time won all four central panel posts after a campaign targeting the SFI’s “hypocrisy”. A senior SFI leader admitted that Nandigram was a major reason for the defeat. When CPI(M) cadres were killed in police firing in Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh a few months ago, the SFI did not hold a protest march at JNU because of its embarrassment over Nandigram, an AISA leader said. “We were the ones who held a march condemning the firing in Andhra.”
Local DYFI unit held a meeting at Heria (close to Khejuri) where it pledged to send back its homeless supporters to their villages. Two days before that, the process of withdrawing police from the troubles spot had already started.
5 November:At least 10 people were killed when armed CPI(M) supporters from Khejuri moved in to regain control over eight villages in Nandi-gram, chasing away Trinamool Congress-led Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) members who had wrested the villages from them months ago. The battle in which both sides appeared armed to the teeth began today night. As bullets flew, there were a series of blasts, allegedly triggered by Maoists, at three places — Bhanga-bera, Satengabari and Ranichak. CPI(M) meticul-ously drew up a plan three days before the offensive and the Red Brigade executed it today night to regain ground.
6 November: There was a huge explosion on the Khejuri side around 11.30 am and three CPI(M) supporters were killed in a landmine blast. Seven others were seriously injured. The blast occurred at Mansher chawk in Khejuri. Superin-tendent of Police (east Midnapore) S S Panda said Tushar Shaw, Nirapada Manna and another person were killed in the explosion. Though the district CPI(M) leadership claimed that the landmine was planted by Naxalites operating in the area, the police did not confirm the allegation.
Ten persons were injured in clashes between workers of CPI(M) and anti-land acquisition Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) here last night, police said today. Superintendent of Police S Panda said seven activists of the CPI(M), two of the BUPC and one policeman sustained bullet injuries and were hospitalised. The affected areas included Tekhali Bazar, Satengabari, Paharganj, Ranichak and Sonachura.
Peace efforts have gone down the drain in Nandigram, the Bengal home secretary said today, as renewed violence killed three residents. ”Nandigram has turned into a war zone. We are trying our best to control the situation”, “It’s a war-like situation,” Prasad Ranjan Ray said at Writers’ buildings. “After today’s battle, possibly the CPI(M) has gained a few areas,” Ray said. The injured, who include a pregnant homemaker hit by bullets in both thighs, are in hospital. The jawan shot in his right shoulder while patrolling Tekhali Bridge has been identified as Pradip Tamang. Seven of the wounded are CPI(M) backers and three are Bhoomi Committee sympathisers.
The exchange of fire started along the Nandigram-Khejuri border last night. By 4.30 am, the situation spun out of control. CPI(M) workers were already well entrenched in Sonachura, Akandabari, Satengabari, Ranichak. Some houses were looted. A fierce gun-battle had broken out at Tekhali, Bhangabera, Ranichowk and Satengabari. Thirty minutes later, nearly 200 CPI(M) workers armed with rifles and pipe guns crossed the Talpatti canal from the Khejuri side and marched into Ranichowk and Satengabari in Nandigram. They attacked half-a-dozen villages, firing and hurling bombs. The Bhoomi Committee members retaliated. Nearly 10,000 villagers fled as CPI(M) cadres started setting one house after another on fire.
Sabina Begum gangraped allegedly by armed CPI(M) cadres during their “Operation Recapture” in Nandigram.
7 November: Party patriarch Jyoti Basu and state secretary Biman Bose spoke in different voices after a Left Front meeting and the home secretary got caught in a skirmish with the CPI(M) on a day pockmarked by incessant gun battles in Nandigram. Bose, however, iterated his party’s right to “resist in self-defence”. He also contested home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray’s remarks yesterday that the CPI(M) triggered the clash from Khejuri. “We told the chief minister that his remarks were based on misinformation and were far off from the reality,’’ Bose said. But Ray repeated at Writers’ Buildings: “Whatever I said was on the basis of the information received from the district administration and police. I have no other agency to bank on. The truth has to be told. I can’t say something that isn’t true.” Roy virtually rebelled against the CPI(M)’s official stand and gave his own version of the situation in Nandigram. ”About 2,000 people, largely Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) supporters, are homeless. The CPI(M) has gained ground in Maheshpur and adjoining areas of Nandigram. Many CPI(M) supporters have returned home,” Roy said.
CPI(M) supporters are said to have taken control of several villagers through the day and captured fresh areas in Nandigram, where two people were injured in renewed violence. Meanwhile, two of those injured in Tuesday’s violence died today, taking the toll to four. Local party leaders also claimed success in wresting the homes of 300 evicted supporters. Home Secretary P R Roy said in Kolkata that four people have been killed in the last three days, while unofficial reports claimed that five people have been killed.
Desperate to regain control, CPI(M) cadres rampaged through Nandigram I block today, entering village after village as they fired blanks in the air. Terrified villagers fled, seeking shelter in school buildings and relief camps. By evening, the numbers in the camps had swelled to 3,000 plus. To regain control of Nandigram, local CPI(M) leaders have formed squads — each has nearly 20 cadres — positioned at 10 points along the border with Khejuri, a CPI(M) stronghold. They have been carrying out simultaneous attacks at different points, instead of attempting to move into one area. The CPI(M) plan has worked: six villages have been emptied — Maheshpur, Gokulnagar north and south, Keshavpur, Kanungochak and Simul-kundo. Keshavpur, Gokulnagar and Kanungochak had become bastions of the BUPC and Maoists. CPI(M) supporters, who had been living in the camps all these months, started moving back to their homes. With most villages still out of bounds — armed squads have dug up trenches and snipers have taken positions — panic-stricken villagers had difficulty even fleeing, most on foot and others on cycle rickshaws. BUPC leaders demonstrated outside the police station, demanding in vain that the police act. East Midnapore police chief S S Panda said: “We know all this, but what can we do? If we step out, we are blamed. Let them (parties on both sides) call a meeting and tell us to crack down, then we shall see.”
Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi today sum-oned the Home Secretary and the Director General of police for first hand information about the developments at Nandigram.
At the Left Front meeting in Calcutta, Jyoti Basu wanted chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattach-arjee to “postpone” deployment of central forces and renew talks with the Opposition. Although Mamata Banerjee had spurned talks offers from the chief minister several times, Basu said: “If needed, I have no problem in talking to her. I have no animosity towards her. If required, I can talk to her a hundred times.” But Basu was no less critical of Trinamool. At the same time, Basu said: “Who attacked first is not the big question. Both sides have weapons.’’ However, by evening, the CPI(M) politburo issued a statement supporting the chief minister’s decision to call the CRPF to contain the “Maoist violence”. Last week, party chief Prakash Karat had said the “chief minister’s stand is the party’s stand”.
In Kolkata, Mamata Banerjee demanded that the Disturbed Areas Act be immediately invoked in Nandigram to restore normalcy.
8 November: A truce was reached today between CPI(M) and anti-acquisition activists at strife-torn Nandigram even as the West Bengal government announced compensation for those who died in the March 14 police firing and violence. Pushed to the back foot by the CPI(M), the Trinamool Congress-backed land acquisition protesters promised to lay down arms and let police enter the villages still in their control. The truce is being seen as a virtual surrender by the Pratirodh Committee, which had been outdone both in manpower and firepower by the CPI(M) over the last few days. The move came after meetings last night and this morning between the Pratirodh Committee, the CPI(M) and East Midnapore district magistrate Anup Agarwal. The CPI(M), too, has agreed to lay down arms.
Chief Secretary A K Deb said that Rs two lakh would be paid to the families of each of the 14 killed. No decision has, however, been taken about those injured in the incidents, he said. Deb, quoting a BUPC source, said the committee had no link with Maoists and anyone suspected of having ties with Naxalites would face action. He also said that the BUPC’s demand for withdrawal of cases lodged against those involved in the March 14 violence had been rejected. “The government will take action if any case of indulging in violence on March 14 is proved on inquiry,” he said. Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee had earlier said that compensation would be paid to the families of the victims of the police firing.
A CPI(M) group, led by Himangshu Das, the sabhapati of the panchayat samity (Khejuri 1), had held an open-air meeting last Thursday (1 November) near the Janani brick kiln in Khejuri, a senior police officer of East Midnapore said today. From the same kiln, the CBI arrested 10 CPI(M) supporters and a huge cache of arms and ammunition seized following the March 14 police firing. “The meeting continued till the wee hours and they chalked out a strategy to reclaim Nandigram. Over 100 party cadres led by Das attended the decisive meeting,” the officer said. The signature slogan — inquilab zindabad — was replaced by hoy marbo, noy morbo (kill or be killed).“The cadres took stock of the arms and ammunition at their disposal and decided that they needed more for the operation. More men were also requisitioned,” the officer added. The focus then shifted to the entry point for unleashing the assault. Some rooted for Khejuri but the option was dropped after taking into account the strength of the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) in the vicinity.“They opted to attack from the Nandigram Block 2 side: Satengabari and Ranichowk, both strongholds of the CPI(M). The CPI(M) squad decided to cross the Talpatti canal from Bahargunj. The spot was chosen because of the standing paddy crop at Ranichowk that provided cover. “Crossing the Talpatti canal from Bhangabera or Tekhali would have been dangerous because of open fields,” the officer explained. The meeting decided to organise covering fire from Khejuri to distract the BUPC supporters and make them concentrate on Khejuri while CPI(M) cadres entered from elsewhere. This explains home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray’s statement that the initial firing was from the Khejuri side.
On Friday (2 November) morning, the West Midnapore unit was informed. Motorcycle-borne Red Brigade members started arriving in Khejuri by night. “Nearly 400 armed men arrived till Saturday (3 November) night from West Midnapore, including Garbeta and Keshpur. Arms and ammunition were transported in two Matadors from the Purulia side and kept in the same brick kiln. “On the nights of Saturday and Sunday (4 November), the cadres were sent to Satengabari and Bahargunj,” another officer said. Party leaders held the final meeting on Sunday night at the CPI(M)’s Bahargunj camp. The leaders told the ranks that they have to recapture as much land as possible before the CRPF arrived. “They were assured that the party would reward them or take care of their families if something happened to them,” a local CPI(M) leader said. Some local leaders went to Khejuri police station and asked the force not to react in case of violence. “We did what we were asked to. Party leaders in Calcutta were apprised of the plan,” an officer said. On Monday (5 November) midnight, multi-pronged attacks were launched from Satengabari, Ranichowk and Bahargunj, catching the opposition off guard. “Three groups of over 200 men each launched the attack,” a police officer said. According to the plan, the offensive had to be wrapped up in two days so that the leadership in Calcutta could talk peace. At the end of the operation, 40 to 45 per cent of the “CPI(M) land” was recaptured. Cadres — local criminals mostly involved in dacoity cases — for the operation were drawn from Chandrakona and Garbeta zonal committees. Also, cadres were sent from Narayangarh and Keshiary areas. Another group of around 250 armed CPI(M) supporters and criminals came from the villages of Punishol at Onda and Rajpur, Taldangra in Bankura. Sources said criminals were given money in advance and given a free-hand to bring whatever they could from the empty homes once the operation is complete. Sources said one such group that has returned to Onda came with motorcycles. The Bankura group reached Nandigram after travelling by train and then road. The group boarded trains and allegedly got off at Balichak, four stations after Kharagpur, and then headed towards Nandigram via Khejuri in the guise of daily wage earners. They take the same disguise when they go to Bihar and Jharkhand to collect arms, sources said. Most of these people are suspected to be running arms smuggling rackets. The arms used in the recapture operation are believed to have been supplied from these suppliers. Another cache of arms came from Purulia where party workers had received arms to combat Maoists. It is also suspected that the arms gone missing after the Purulia arms drop are with CPI(M) supporters and were smuggled to Nandigram. The coal mafia from Burdwan is also believed to have played a key role in the operation. The money from the mafia is believed to have supplied funds for the operation, helped in procuring ammunition and hire vehicles that carried the armed men to the interior areas as the attack progressed.
Social activist Medha Patkar was today assaulted allegedly by Communist Party of India-Marxist activists at Kapaseberia in East Midnapore district of West Bengal while on her way to strife-torn Nandigram. Kapasberia, a CPI(M)-strong-hold, is under Mahishadal police station and 15 km from Nandigram. “There were CPI(M) men carrying red flags who blocked my car and some other vehicles which were going along with mine to Nandigram. I was hit on the face and they tried to pull my hair and were about to drag me out of the car,” Patkar told. Patkar said policemen escorting her convoy in four jeeps and a pilot car remained ‘silent spectators’ and did not take any action when she was attacked. She said social activist Anuradaha Talwar and intellectual Tarun Sanyal were also accompanying her to Nandigram in separate vehicles.
9 November: The CPI(M) army captured new areas today and their gunshots scared away Trinamool Congress supporters trying to return home, making a mockery of yesterday’s ceasefire call. “They stormed Kanchannagar, Daudpur, Samsabad, Chakchilinga in the afternoon,” said an officer posted at Nandigram police station.
A CPI(M) mob blocked journalists’ entry into Nandigram. Jamait Ulema-i-Hind general secretary Siddiqullah Chowdhury was arrested on the way.
“If the police had gone, they would have had to open fire again,” party patriarch Jyoti Basu said today after the meeting of the state secretariat. Basu had disapproved the firing along with the Left Front partners. Today, he sounded like accepting the party’s armed offensive to reclaim Nandigram as fait accompli. “There is no need for a state-level peace meeting now. I’ve been told today that the police would move in and set up camps to restore peace. I’m happy that peace meetings are being held at the district level and homeless people from both sides are returning. Let them pursue their political beliefs while staying together. The unused panchayat funds for development should be used now.”
The party’s Keshpur hero, Sushanta Ghosh, now a junior minister, was summoned to the secretariat meeting today.“We’ve finally spoken the language they understand,” said secretariat member Benoy Konar. Fellow secretariat member Shyamal Chakraborty insisted that the “homeless people — and not the party — were compelled to take up guns after months of suffering”. The state party leadership, which had distanced itself from Basu after his public disapproval of central force deployment, today quoted him while saying that their treatment of the vanquished would be different from Trinamool’s. “Jyotibabu had criticised Trinamool for forcing our supporters to join them. We won’t do the same to them,” Chakraborty said. He admitted, though, that CPI(M) supporters on their way home “have torched some of their opponents’ homes”.
RSP leader Kshiti Goswami said the CPI(M) was “imposing peace at gunpoint”. The Forward Bloc’s Ashok Ghosh felt “no durable peace is possible without political consensus”. Binoy Konar reacted by saying that the CPI(M)’s allies “had been supporting the Trinamool’s cause” for some time.
Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi voiced his dismay at the manner of “recapture” that he termed “unlawful and unacceptable”.“The ardour of Deepavali has been dampened in the whole state by the events in Nandigram. Several villages in Nandigram are oscillating from the deepest gloom to panic,” Gandhi said this evening. Reproducing the state government’s own words, Gandhi said: “At the time of writing, the most accurate description for Nandigram is the one used by our Home Secretary, namely, it has become a “war zone”. No government or society can allow a war zone to exist without immediate and effective action.” “Enough is enough. Peace and security should be restored, without any delay,” Gandhi said.
A delegation of four WB CPI (M) MPs and one MLA met the Hon. Governor on the late morning and in a detailed memorandum apprised him of the train of events that took place in Nandigram. Earlier, the WB Governor in a statement called for the establishment of peace at Nandigram and exhorted the state administration and the representatives of the people to intervene. The delegation consisted of Taritbaran Topdar (who led the delegation), Prasanta Pradhan, Sudhangsu Sil, Mainul Hasan, all MPs, and Rupa Bagchi, MLA.
10 November: The CPI(M) today accused Gop-alkrishna Gandhi of inciting violence and taking sides on Nandigram. It was expected that the party would resent the governor’s statement yesterday describing the “recapture” of land by the CPI(M) as “unlawful and unacceptable”. “The governor has once again overstepped the constitutional limit of the highest office of the state. His latest statement will not only be an impediment to the restoration of peace in Nandigram but it will also stoke further violence,” CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose said. The state secretariat held an “emergency meeting” in the morning to work out how to undo the damage caused by Gandhi’s criticism before the CPI(M) squads had finished the operation in Nandigram, where their Trinamool-led rivals are holding on in parts. Jyoti Basu, whom Gandhi had described as “our elder statesman”, agreed. “It (the statement) is uncalled for and will only add to the problem in Nandigram. It will adversely impact on the peace process.” Although the governor yesterday also spoke of the eviction of CPI(M) supporters by their opponents and cautioned against Maoist presence, the party dismissed this as “lip service”. Responding to criticism that he had not issued a statement when Nandigram’s CPI MLA was attacked by Trinamool workers in April, the governor’s press secretary tonight said Gandhi had written to Sheikh Iliyas Mohammed, condemning the attack and wishing him speedy recovery.
Fresh violence erupted in Nandigram today as one person was killed and three others wounded when a procession by the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) was attacked with guns and bombs at Mahespur. The violence began after the recapture of large areas in the troubled block by the CPI(M) cadres. IGP (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia said in Kolkata that the person, ‘possibly a BUPC supporter’ was killed in the firing and three others were wounded. Eyewitnesses, however, claimed that at least 10 people were wounded when CPI(M) supporters who have partly regained control of Maheshpur fired upon the procession.
The Centre today decided to send about 1,000 additional CRPF personnel to West Bengal. The decision to send additional force to Bengal comes after the Union Home Ministry received a request from Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Police at the nearest outpost did not act to stop the violence and left in a hurry, they alleged. District Police Superintendent S Panda said that the situation was ‘alarming’. All the wounded were rushed to a local hospital and primary health clinic. The IGP said the police were patrolling some areas earlier inaccessible to them.
Medha Patkar today began a two-day fast in Kolkata. Film personalities Aparna Sen, Rituparno Ghosh and writer Mahasweta Devi joined her, calling for a boycott of the Kolkata Film Festival and other programmes of the state government.
A weeklong carnival of 247 films from 56 countries is usually enough to send film buffs into raptures. But when the 13th Kolkata Film Festival (KFF) begins today, a large section of the city’s film fraternity will be missing – to protest the ongoing violence in Nandigram. The city’s intellectuals have long been divided into two camps – one spearheading a civil society movement against the state government’s Nandigram and Singur policy and ongoing bloodbath in Nandigram, and the other defending the ruling communists. The KFF is organised by the state government. “I refuse to be a part of the festival in the backdrop of the Nandigram violence which is worse this time,” Aparna Sen, along with her father, filmmaker and critic Chidananda Dasgupta, left the ongoing Kolkata Film Festival Committee in protest against the violence. Filmmaker Ritupono Ghosh has also walked out of the event. Sen said. “This is a kind of self-censorship. We as artistes are taking our own decision driven by our own conscience. With a person of Sen’s stature boycotting the festival, the message would be loud and clear,” noted playwright and film and TV serial actor Kaushik Sen said. The actors are members of the Artists, Cultural Activists and Intellectuals’ Forum.
CPI(M)’s Midnapore West district committee member, Tapan Ghosh and the party’s Garbeta zonal committee secretary, Sukur Ali, who are wanted by the CBI in the 2001 Chhoto Angaria massacre, arrested, along with 11 others. Yesterday nearly 400 armed CPI(M) men had arrived from West Midnapore as part of a plan to take control of the lost ground of Nandigram. Around 9pm, when Trinamool Congress, Congress and SUCI supporters had blocked roads in Egra town to protest against CPI(M) attacks. The police arrested the 13. Nearly 1,000 Congress, Trinamool and SUCI supporters guarded the police station at night suspecting they will be freed. Trinamool MLA Sisir Adhikary alleged that he identified Sukur and Tapan last night but “the police allowed them to hide their real identity”. Among those held were Garbeta zonal committee member Abhiram Mahato, local committee secretary Biswanath Mondal, Chandrakona zonal secretary Santanu Maji and district committee members Meghnad Bhuniya and Biswanath Das. On January 4, 2001, six people were killed and the house of Trinamool Congress supporter Bakhtar Mandal torched, allegedly by CPI(M)-backed goons. Of the 13 accused in the case, seven have been reportedly absconding and one got killed. They have been charged under Section 364 (abduction), 307 (attempt to murder), 326 (group assault), 201 (destruction of evidence) and 120 B (smuggling by misleading) of the IPC. All the 13 accused were intercepted by a group of Congress and Trinamool Congress activists in Egra town after they heard the cries of a woman, injured in the violence in Nandigram, while she was being carried away in an ambulance, one of four cars, one bearing the sticker of the government of West Bengal used by the Khejuri BDO (WB 29 3500). Some of the demonstrators peeped into the ambulance and found an elderly woman and two middle-aged men — injured and bloodstained. As news spread that CPI(M) cadres had been caught sneaking out of Khejuri, “about 200 comrades rushed to their rescue but were outnumbered,” said Biren Nayek, another Trinamool leader. The accused were smuggling out three injured Bhumi Ucchhed Pratirodh Committee activists — Mr Yadav Pal of Sonachura, Mr Bipin Gayen of Saudakhali and Mrs Kalpana Garai of Gangra in Nandigram, through Egra town today evening. They accused were beaten up by the mob and later handed over to the Egra police. Their arrests have proved that a Garbeta team of the CPI(M)’s goons directly participated in the operation to capture Nandigram. The other accused include Jadunath Mahato, Biswanath Mandal and Sanatan Maji, CPI(M) cadres from Garbeta, Meghnad Bhunia, Midnapore West district committee member of the party and Ganasakti correspondent, Biswanath Das, a CITU leader from Belda, Goutam Prodhan, party cadre from Khejuri and the drivers Paresh Malakar, Sankar Maiti, Susanta Gol and Ranjit Das.
CPI(M) cadres stopped Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee’s convoy near Kola-ghat today night when she was on her way to reach Nandigram. Then she took a decision to leave the spot and stay at a guesthouse near Kolaghat. “Enough is enough. I know how to cross this barrier but I don’t want any further confrontation with CPI(M) goons,”
Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee today announced her resignation as MP (South Kolkata Lok Sabha constituency) from the Lok Sabha in protest against the violence at Nandigram. Citing the possible reason for her move, she said “it is no longer possible to carry on political activities in West Bengal under the oppressive, one-party rule of the CPI(M)”. Banerjee, however, did not clarify to whom she had sent her resignation letter. She also said her party would ‘paralyse’ West Bengal for an indefinite period from Monday She also announced her party’s plans to ‘paralyse’ Bengal for an indefinite period from Monday. When asked whether she supported the strike called by the SUCI on Monday, she said “from now on, everyone will be together.”
West Bengal PWD minister and RSP leader Kshiti Goswami today decided not to continue in the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee cabinet and sought his party’s permission to resign over continuing violence in Nandigram. “I want to resign because I cannot accept what is happening in Nandigram. We have been deceived by the CPI(M). One thing is being said, another thing is being done,” Goswami said.
11 November: Tapan Ghosh and Sukur Ali sent to jail custody for 14 days by the Contai judicial magistrate, Mr Makhanlal Mandal, along with 11 others, who were arrested from Egra yesterday evening. Interestingly, in connivance with police, Sukur Ali and Tapan Ghosh tried to call themselves Saiful Ali Khan and Madan Kar respectively. The two were produced in a Contai court today under false names but Contai Bar Association busted their lie. But when the lawyers of the complainant, Mr Uttam Das, a resident of Egra, showed the photographs of the duo published in newspapers they had to admit their identity. Mr Das’ lawyers also alleged that police helped the two criminals in giving them towels with which to cover their faces to camouflage their identities. They submitted prayers to the magistrate for taking action against the Egra officer-in-charge (OC), Mr Sudip Banerjee and the investigating officer (IO), Mr Jagannath Ponda, for their dubious role in yesterday’s incident. The magistrate passed an order asking the OC and the IO to appear in the court on 13 November along with the case diary, the latest injury report of the three BUPC activists and EPIC cards of Ali and Ghosh. A few thousand people gathered outside the court since morning to hear the order of the magistrate and shouted slogans against the Chhoto Angaria accused.
Stung by Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s remark that Nandigram resembled a “war zone”, the CPI(M) Politburo today hit back accusing him of overstepping his role and saying that his statement was “uncalled for”. At the outset, the CPI(M) said the statement of the Governor was “surprising” as it was “well-known that from January 2007 there has been violence engineered in Nandigram and normal life disrupted.” It also recalled that for the past eight months, thousands have been “driven out” of their homes and the state administration “prevented from functioning” in the area.
The “Red Army” recaptured all the Nandigram villages in a final, lightning offensive this evening while the state government pitched in by holding the just-arrived CRPF back at Tamluk. Some 450 cadres crossed the Bhangabera and Tekhali bridges around 4.30-5pm and advanced towards the Opposition “fortress” of Sonachura, firing from behind 600 captive Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee supporters whom they used as human shields. By 5.30, Sonachura had fallen without resistance. “The CPI(M) game plan clicked. Seeing their supporters in front of the advancing cadres, the Pratirodh Committee men refrained from shooting and ran away,” a police officer said. He said the CPI(M) had sensed that Sonachura might put up a stiffer fight than Maheshpur, regained on Wednesday, and had drawn up the human-shield strategy. The cadres already held some 100 Pratirodh Committee supporters hostage in Maheshpur. Yesterday, when Opposition marchers ran helter-skelter under the Red Brigade’s fire, some 500 of them were chased into party stronghold Khejuri and held captive. The local police had already been instructed to stay inside the barracks. District police chief S.S. Panda, too, was stopped at Chandipur as he headed to Nandigram, the officer said. “He had to return to his Tamluk office.” Garchakraberia fell at 6.30 after some token resistance. Kalicharanpur was easily overrun. By 7.30, when the cadres retreated into Maheshpur, Nandigram town was the lone Opposition citadel left standing. The cadres began shooting from Khejuri across the Bhangabera bridge, about 2km from Sonachura, since morning and the Opposition returned the fire intermit-tently. Around 4.30pm, some 200 Red Brigade fighters crossed the Tekhali bridge and made towards Sonachura, 6-7km away, behind a thousand CPI(M) refugees and 400 hostages. Just after 5, a second group of 250 cadres — behind another 1,000 refugees and 150-200 hostages — crossed the Bhangabera bridge. It reached Sonachura around 5.45, some 15 minutes after the first team. In Nandigram town, where some 10,000 Opposition supporters are camping, Pratirodh Committee convener Abu Taher said: “So many have been left homeless again today.”
Of the five CRPF companies (about 400 personnel) in Tamluk, 16 jawans set off for Nandigram police station tonight to oversee the arrangements but CPI(M) cadres blocked their truck on the way. The jawans chased them away but had to turn back when a group of women CPI(M) supporters formed a chain before the truck a little ahead.
In an unprecedented action, leading Kolkata intellectuals, including filmmakers Aparna Sen and Gautam Ghosh, tonight fought with cops, entered the city police headquarters and freed their colleagues arrested during a rally to protest violence in Nandigram. Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi today condemned the violence unleashed by CPI(M) cadres in Nandigram and the police action against intellectuals protesting against the violence in Kolkata. “We are ashamed of what is happening in Nandigram. Intellectuals, film artists and others are being arrested by police for protesting against the Nandigram violence to gag down any kind of protest,” Dasmunsi told a Youth Congress function at Tilkhana in Howrah district.
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today took a motorbike ride after alleged Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI(M)) cadres obstructed her convoy that was heading towards Nandigram. After this, she proceeded towards Tamluk Hospital on her way to Nandigaram on a motorbike. Her supporters riding two-wheelers escorted Banerjee to the hospital where the injured of the yesterday clashes were admitted. She called for an indefinite statewide stir to “paralyse West Bengal” from Monday. The Congress also announced a 24-hour strike in the State on Monday.
The CPI, Forward Bloc and RSP held an emergency meeting today and blamed the CPI(M) for the situation in Nandigram. State PWD minister and senior RSP leader Kshiti Goswami said he had stopped attending office and would request his party to resign from the ministry to protest against the CPI(M)’s handling of the situation in Nandi-gram. “The CPI(M) wants bloodshed just to recap-ture territory,” Goswami alleged. “It’s the sole responsibility of the state government to protect people in Nandigram. I don’t know if they are CPI(M) or Trinamool activists. To me, they all are human beings.” Allies RSP, Forward Bloc and the CPI held the CPI(M) “entirely responsible” for the “politics of violence and revenge” in Nandigram but had not a word against the Trinamool Congress-led Pratirodh Committee.
The victorious CPI(M) promised safety to Opposition supporters. “Most of those who had fled their homes from either side have returned. I appeal to the rest to come back immediately. They are free to carry out their respective political activities,” CPI(M) state secretariat member Shyamal Chakraborty said.
Expressing concern over the Nandigram incident, BJP today urged the Centre to send army to West Bengal to instill a sense of confidence in the people of the CPI(M)-ruled state “where law and order has broken down”. “The Centre should invoke Article 355 and deploy the army in West Bengal to instill confidence in people and to drive out all those elements who have captured Nandigram,” senior BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu said.
Terming the escalation of violence in Nandigram as “dicy and tricky”, Government today said it was a matter of deep concern for both the Centre and West Bengal government and the entry of Maoists in the scene has aggravated the problem. “I think, Delhi is concerned, West Bengal is also deeply concerned. We have to ensure that more lives are not lost,” National Security Advisor M K Narayanan told reporters accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Moscow.
12 November: “Peace” arrived in Nandigram today, face hooded, gun slung over the shoulder, the roar of a hundred motorcycles broadcasting a crushing CPI(M) victory. Squads of armed, bike-borne cadres, carrying stacks of red flags, kept criss-crossing Nandigram since early morning on a mission to “consolidate” the recapture. The flags were for planting — one at every home — and the guns for forcing Opposition supporters to join the victory marches. “Fifty riders came to our village and asked us to join the rally or else…. We have switched loyalties to save our lives,” said a Sonachura resident who till yesterday was a Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee supporter. A red flag fluttered at every house in Nandigram town, the last Opposition citadel that was recaptured today and where all the processions converged.
“Peace has prevailed and people should feel safe. There will be no trouble from today,” Niranjan Mondal, the CPI(M) local committee secretary from Kendamari, screamed over the microphone at the town victory rally. When around 150 Central Reserve Police Force personnel finally got into Nandigram, it was too late — that is the gist of the report CRPF director-general S.I.S. Ahmed has sent to the Centre. “The private armies, comprised of CPI(M) cadres, have already captured the area. It was only after that the CRPF personnel were allowed in Nandigram today. About 100 CRPF personnel staged a flag march on the outskirts of Nandigram, which witnessed violence over recapture of the area by CPI(M) whose activists have surrounded the troubled area and controlled all entry points. Now there is not much that the CRPF can do, except maintain status quo and protect the private armies,” Ahmed said, according to Union home ministry sources.
Today a 24-hour bandh called by the Congress and a “paralysis” programme by the Trinamool Congress. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has for the first time publicly dissociated herself from “bandhs”. She has shifted the focus to “non-cooperation with the government” from “imm-obilising Bengal”. “Our party has not called any bandh. We only supported the bandh called by other parties. We only want to launch an indefinite non-cooperation movement against the state government and not against the people,” she clarified. She also announced her decision to participate in Wednesday’s mahamichhil from College Square to Esplanade but not under her party banner. “We will take part in the mahamichhil on Wednesday leaving behind our party flags. I appeal to all to come and take part in the procession,” Mamata said.
13 November:“Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is like Narendra Modi,” veteran Left-leaning historian Sumit Sarkar fumed as he drew parallels between the violence in Nandigram and post-Godhra riots in Gujarat. A seething Sarkar, who has been ailing, was speaking after he joined a group of liberals against the “atrocities” by Marxists in Nandigram.
After criticising police action against some intellectuals at the venue of the Kolkata Film Festival, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya today trained his gun on intellectuals, alleging a section of them ware trying to obstruct the cultural event on the pretext of protesting against the Nandigram violence. ”The way they wanted to protest was not the right one but at the same time such incidents of police action are always undesirable. It would be better if there was no such incident,” Bhattacharya said. ”How can this be allowed in the city whose very prestige is associated with the film festival, especially in the presence of a host of foreign dignitaries,” Bhatta-charya said.
The CPI(M) today termed as “provocative” West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s recent public denouncement of the manner of recapture of Nandigram and said that it was leading to “complications”. “When preparations are being made for return of normalcy in Nandigram, he (Gandhi) is trying to move the wheel in the reverse direction,” CPI(M) daily ‘Ganashakti’ said in an editorial.
Defending the recapture of Nandigram by ruling CPI(M), West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said Opposition parties there were ‘paid back in the same coin’. “They have been paid back in the same coin. Our supporters, after remaining away from their homes for 11 months, were desperate to return. They risked their lives and returned home,” Bhattacharjee told a press conference. “I wrote to the Home ministry on 27 October but they informed me on November 5 that they could not provide Central forces because they were to be sent to Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh (where Assembly polls will be held),” Bhattacharjee said. Asked whether the events in Nandigram took place as a result of the failure of the police, Bhattacharjee replied ‘to some extent it is their failure. The police could not enter Nandigram. If they could have, the situation would have been better’. Asked how CPI(M) supporters could enter Nandigram when the police had failed, Bhattacharjee said, “it would have been better had the police entered. But the people had no alternative and returned home.”The government would compensate all the 14 killed on March 14 — eight in police firing and the rest in violence, he said, while the injured had been treated at government expense at hospitals. The families of those killed would receive Rs 2 lakh each, he said. “All papers are ready. I have asked my officials to contact family members and arrange for payment.” He said compensation would not be paid to the injured.
CBI counsel Tapas Basu prayed that Ghosh and Ali be produced in court for the Chhoto Angaria trial. Justice Abdus Kuddus of the second additional district and sessions judges’ court in Midnapore granted that and ordered the two to be brought to court on November 21. Trial in the Chhoto Angaria case began on April 10. Since then, nine of the 35 witnesses have deposed in court. Most of them had turned hostile, as their statements were different from that given to CBI.When the court had earlier ordered for the accused to be produced in court, police claimed they were absconding and CBI alleged that the accused, who were roaming free, had been intimidating the witnesses. “Now, with the arrest of these two, we hope the witnesses will be able to depose freely,” said Partha Sarathi Basu, DSP (CBI-special crime branch).
A landmine, a country-made gun and a 3.3 rifle were seized by the CRPF on Tuesday near Sonachura. “The weapons were recovered but we have no knowledge who left them there,” CRPF DIG Alok Raj told a private TV news channel when asked if the weapons belonged to Maoists. Home Secretary P R Roy, however, said no Maoist was arrested from Nandigram as yet.
14 November: “I am not above my party”, dec-lared Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today when asked whether he would like to dispel the notion that he is the chief minister of only the CPI(M) and not of the state. “Why should I do so? Should I tell you that I am above my party? But I know my responsibility as chief minister. It is the Opposition who had shown the way in Nandigram.”He said: “I listen to everyone but I also have to listen to my party. I am the chief minister and a CPI(M) leader as well. I cannot deny my political identity. Since I have taken oath under the Constitution, my primary responsibility is to function as chief minister”. The RSP wondered whether he forgot that he was in Writers’ Buildings when he made the remarks. “When he is in the state secretariat his identity is that of the chief minister”, Mr Manoj Bhattacharya, RSP leader said. The chief minister today spoke in the same voice as his party’s state secretary, Mr Biman Bose, who had earlier said: “The sun has indeed risen”. “But it would be some time before its warmth is felt”, said Mr Bhatta-charjee. Clarifying his yesterday’s statement, Mr Bhattacharjee initially said by “our people” he had meant “both sides” but then corrected himself, saying: “I meant CPI(M) boys and workers. Some people are projecting that CPI(M) started the violence but it was BUPC, TRINAMOOL and Maoists who created problems with arms. It was only in the past two or three days that the CPI(M) paid them back in same coin.” But he denied that it was armed outsiders who had “recaptured” Nandigram. “I do not admit that outsiders entered Nandigram with arms. Our party has decided that there would not be any outsider in Nandigram.” The chief minister today announced compensation of Rs 10,000 to those whose houses have been fully damaged and Rs 5,000 for partially damaged houses while another Rs 1,000 would be given for buying utensils and other essential commodities. Rs one crore has been allocated from the CM’s relief fund.
CPI(M) leaders Tapan Ghosh and Sukur Ali, prime accused in the Chhoto Angaria massacre, were welcomed with garlands and flowers by partymen as they walked into jail today. Dipak Sarkar, CPI(M)’s West Midnapore district secretary, also described the two as assets. “Both Tapan and Sukur are our assets. All the arrested CPI(M) leaders are victims of a conspiracy hatched by Trinamool Congress and police. We are not worried about the two going to jail. About 4,500 (party workers) have been to jail in the last 30 years,” claimed Sarkar. The accused are shifted from Contai sub-jail to Midnapore Central Correctional Home today along with nine other inmates. Sarkar denied they were in any way linked to the Nandigram violence. “They were returning from Digha, where they had gone to celebrate Kali Puja, when Trinamool and BUPC supporters spotted them and falsely implicated them,” he said. Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee leaders had submitted a list of 42 missing people to Nandigram police station on November 14.
Contrary to the chief minister’s protestations that peace had returned to Nandi-gram, armed CPI(M) cadres unleashed a fresh reign of terror on a number of villages in Nandigram today, forcing hundreds of villagers to flee their homes as policemen and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans remained mute spectators. CPI(M) cadres also stopped social activist Ms Medha Patkar at Satenga-bari and forced her to return.
CRPF jawans today seized yet another land-mine in Satengabari this morning and defused it with help from experts of the bomb detection and disposal squad of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Three rifles were also recover-ed during a raid conducted by CRPF jawans at Satengabari, police said and added that officers and jawans confiscated 153 rounds of ammunition in villages across Nandigram in the last 24hours. Senior Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Committee (BUPC) leader Sheikh Shamad alleged that armed CPI(M) cadres had abducted three BUPC supporters from a relief camp at Nandi-gram Bazar around 12.30 p.m. today at gunpoint despite the presence of security forces. One of them, Sheikh Mujtafa had been beaten up at the Nandigram CPI(M) office and released later, he said. The BUPC members have no idea about the whereabouts of the remaining two. “We have learnt about the abduction, but no onehas lodged any written complaint with us,” Mr SS Panda, SP, East Midnapore, said.
In School Committee election of Haripur School in Nandigram CPI(M)-backed candidates have lost all 6 seats.
15 November: The Calcutta High Court bar association has decided to stage a boycott until the judgment in the March 14 firing case is delivered. Over 1,000 lawyers then marched to Raj Bhavan, shouting slogans against the “armed recapture of Nandigram villages”. Mamata Banerjee today said she would lead a padyatra from Singur to Nandigram on December 2.
The RSP has decided to defer its “final decision” to November 29, when its state com-mittee will meet again. “We have not decided to pull out yet and need to debate more as this is quite a difficult decision to take,” RSP state secretary Debabrata Banerjee said. Party veteran Kshiti Goswami, however, stuck to his guns on resigning as PWD minister. He sought the leadership’s “permission” to stop attending office. “The permission has been granted to him. But other ministers of the party will continue their work. If we decide to quit, however, all ministers will resign,” Banerjee added. “A debate is going on in the party and we are in a difficult situation. I wanted to resign because of growing differences with the CPI(M), be it on the issue of special economic zones, nuclear energy, chemical hub, Singur or Nandigram,” said Goswami, who had compared Bhattacharjee to Narendra Modi. However, on the question of pulling out of the government, he said: “I will go by the party’s decision.”
Local CPI(M) workers have ordered their homeless rivals to pay a “fine” of Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000 if they want to return, supporters of the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee told today.
Today, the SDO of Haldia, Sankar Halder, convened an all-party meeting to ensure the homeless could return. BUPC members boycotted the meet, saying the committee was not invited and that bike-borne cadres were still spreading terror across Nandigram.
A six-member team from National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today came to Nandigram and spoke to some of the refugees who have been displaced during the CPI(M)’s “recapture Nandigram” operation that began on 6 November and lasted for five days. Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans today recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition from Sonachura in Nandigram even as displaced people complained about torture by the CPI(M) cadres to a team of National Human Rights Commission visiting the refugee camps. Mean-while, eight CPI(M) supporters were arrested today for roaming around on motorbikes for “area dominance.” East Midnapur SP Mr Satyeshwar Panda said the CPI(M) supporters had been arrested from Tekhali Bazar.
Officers of the Central agency suspect that Maoists had set up a training camp at Sonachura and brought arms and ammunition. Mr Alok Raj, deputy inspector general of the CRPF, said that a total of 25 kilogram explosive, 50 country-made fire arms, 73 pieces of detonators, 18 rounds of ammunition and equipment which are used to make landmines, were recovered from an abandoned house at Sonachura.
At least 10,000 people of Nandigram, who were driven out of their homes by CPI(M) cadres, have taken refuge at Brajamohan Tewari high school near Nandigram bazaar. The gruesome incident, according to the police complaint, occurred in Satengabari, one of the villages that bore the brunt of the CPI(M)’s terror. Reportedly, 160 of the 240 houses either burnt or badly damaged. Most of the residents are huddled in the Brojomohan school relief camp.
West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee says that what CPI(M) cadres did in Nandigram is “morally and legally justifiable.” His comrades in New Delhi today argued that Nandigram is a “state subject” unlike the Gujarat rapes and murders of 2002 and, therefore, could not be discussed in Parliament. “Why can’t Nandigram be discussed when Gujarat has been discussed several times,” BJP party leader V K Malhotra said today.
It has taken Mrinal Sen exactly 24 hours to reduce an incredibly massive people’s protest to a Punch and Judy show. His participation in Wednesday’s (November 14) rally of intellectuals against the CPI(M) and the next day’s procession by so-called pro-CPI(M) celebrities is either a classic instance of dithering or, what seems more likely, a calculated flip-flop.
Sabina Begum is the first officially confirmed case of gangrape allegedly by armed CPI(M) cadres on November 6, during their “Operation Recapture” in Nandigram. Her two daughters went missing soon after the gangrape that night. Sabina said that after she was raped, she saw her daughters, Fatima, 16, and Nasreen, 14, raped as well and then abducted by CPI(M) cadres. All the three names have been changed to protect their identities. “We have initiated a case of rape and I cannot say anything more,” said S S Panda, Superintendent of Police, East Midnapore. “Doctors have confirmed that Sabina was raped. We have registered a case of gangrape against the accused,” Champak Chowdhury, Officer-in-Charge of Nandigram police station, told.
16 November: The Calcutta High Court today dismissed all petitions filed by the Buddhadeb Bhattacharya Government in West Bengal in connection with the Nandigram violence on March 14. The High Court asked the State Government to give compensation of five hundred thousand rupees to the families of those who were killed, two hundred thousand rupees to women who were raped or molested, and one hundred thousand rupees to those who were injured. The court also rejected the plea of Advocate General Balai Roy, and directed the government to continue the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) inquiry into the matter. Terming the March 14 killing in Nandigram as “totally unconstitutional”, the high court stated that the incident could have been avoided had the police exercised self-restraint. The mob at Nandigram had not prevented the police from carrying out their duties, the court said while stepping up the size and sweep of compensation announced by the government. The judgment also cleared the haze over the number of casualties in the police firing by putting the toll at 14 — one of whom remains unidentified — and the injured at 162. The state government was directed to pay Rs 5 lakh to the kin of each person killed in the indiscriminate police firing, Rs 1 lakh to each injured person and Rs 2 lakh to each of the rape victims who have been duly identified. The compensation, the court directed, should be paid within one month. The Bench stated that the action of the police on 14 March cannot be justified on the grounds of sovereign immunity. The Advocate-General’s argument claiming immunity for police action on such occasion is not acceptable, the court held. The police action cannot be justified even under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Police Act, 1861, or the Police Regulations, 1943. It is ultra vires Articles 14,19 and 21 of the Constitution of India, the court further held. The judgment mentions “police firing” and “indiscriminate police firing” in which 14 “innocent villagers” died. A government claim — that the crowd was armed — has also not been borne out by the ruling. A division bench of Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose said in the judgement that the intention of the police seemed “to be to crush the demonstration rather than to control or disperse an unlawful assembly”. “Also, the court does not accept that it is permissible to indiscriminately open fire to control the crowd…. The firing cannot be justified under any provision of the law.” The judges said there was nothing to prove that the crowd was posing such a danger or threat to the police that the force had to open fire. There was “not enough provocation”.
In the preliminary report to the court, the CBI is learnt to have said the police had violated regulations and had opened fire not to scare away the crowd but to kill. The police should have first opened fire in the air and then shot at the legs instead of firing indiscriminately, the report has apparently said. The court gave liberty to the CBI to register cases against the accused, including the police, and start criminal proceedings. The state had challenged the authority of the court to order a CBI inquiry on the basis of the governor’s statement. But the court said it was within its jurisdiction to seek a CBI probe without taking the consent of the state government. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee declined comment. State party secretary Biman Bose, too, did not comment on the verdict, though he criticised the “increasing interference of the judiciary in the business of legislature and the government” at a rally in Birbhum. Party state secretariat member Benoy Konar opened fire in Calcutta. “It (the verdict) will only inspire the forces of anarchy. Next time, the court should decide when the police should fire to tackle violence. “Do they expect the police to contain rowdies by spraying Gangajal and reading out the Gita to them?” he said. The allies aired opposite views. “The order reflects the people’s opinion. The government should treat the verdict with respect,” Forward Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh said. The RSP’s Kshiti Goswami and CPI’s Nandgopal Bhattacharya echoed him. Mamata Banerjee called for a “secular democratic front” opposed to the CPI(M). “Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has no moral right to continue,” she said. The Pratirodh Committee’s Abu Taher called it an “historic judgment”.
Maoists today admitted, “standing by” Nandi-gram villagers to resist attacks by “armed CPI(M)” supporters. In a statement issued today, the CPI (Maoist) Bengal secretary, Somen, said his guerrillas were “motivating people and building up a resistance”. Inspector-general (law and order) Raj Kanojia today said 650 bullets, eight firearms and Maoist training manuals, in Telugu and Bengali, have been found in Sonachura.
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today called for a new political front to take on the ruling CPI(M).
According to senior Trinamool leaders, Banerjee plans to cash in on the rift within the Left Front— RSP and Forward Bloc have been regularly criticising alliance partner CPI(M) over the Nandigram issue.
Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) leaders handed over a list of 1,140 refugees to a National Human Rights Commission team in Nandigram.
17 November: The CPI(M)’s “us” may not all have been party cadres. The CID today arrested a hardened dacoit from a state government guest-house in East Midnapore and said he and his gang had joined the operation to recapture Nandigram. Sheikh Selim alias Selim Naskar of South 24-Parganas, accused in over two dozen armed robberies, had been invited by the CPI(M) to Khejuri for his expertise, officers said. The 33-year-old robber and four associates were arrested from the public health and engineering department’s bungalow at Geokhali, about 40km from Khejuri. They had stopped there for the night on their way back home. A sophisticated, Italian-made 9mm pistol and six bullets were seized from Selim. “The gang was in Khejuri for a couple of weeks. After the recapture, they spent five days in Nandigram. Yesterday, they began their journey home,” a CID officer said. He added that the police had been watching Selim’s movements after he obtained bail from the high court four months ago. “We had no idea that he was in Khejuri; we were tracking him in case he carried out more robberies. But his cellphone records and tower location details surprised us. They showed he was in Khejuri.” Selim had taken along with him Mizanur Rahman Gayen, Ali Gaffar Mollah and Shajahan Gaffar from Joynagar, a CID sleuth said. “They contacted Sheikh Faiyaz of Geokhali who took them to Khejuri. We have arrested all of them.” The local Mahishadal police, who helped the CID catch the five men, believe Selim had taken a larger gang to Khejuri. “After receiving the CPI(M) invite, Selim collected men from Diamond Harbour, Joynagar and Mograhat,” an officer at Mahishadal said. Selim had been arrested several times since 1997 but got bail each time.
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee called on Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and urged him to recommend dismissal of the Left Front Government on the basis of the Calcutta High Court’s judgment terming the March 14 police firing at Nandigram as ‘unconstitutional’. “I have appealed to the Governor to recommend impos-ition of Article 356,” Mamata said.
The West Bengal police registered a case of rape after the wife of a Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee supporter said she was gang-raped in Nandigram. The police said the woman from Gokulnagar alleged that three men confined and raped her on November 14, and four men raped her the next day. She named two of the rapists as Kalipada Das and Sagar Das of the same village. Medical tests were done on the woman at the Nandigram hospital.
The CPI(M) today accused governor Gopal-krishna Gandhi of “hypocrisy” and asked him to quit Raj Bhavan and join the Trinamool Congress. Party leaders also accused Calcutta High Court of conspiring against the CPI(M) and “cautioned” the protesting “intellectuals”, turning the “us versus them” line into “us versus everybody else”. Party state secretariat member Benoy Konar told a rally on Rani Rashmoni Avenue, “The Opposition had targeted CPI(M) workers since January but the governor’s conscience was sleeping. It awoke after the March 14 police firing.” He added, “Our governor… is also a citizen and we have no problem if he joins politics and flies the Trinamool Congress flag. But he can’t do that while occupying Raj Bhavan.’’ “The high court (which has declared the March 14 Nandigram firing unconstitutional) has become another conscience-keeper. Our market is flooded with conscience-keepers.” Konar said the “intellectuals” criticising the government had “embarked on a suicidal movement”. “They are being fed false reports by the media. I would like to caution them. Some of our front people are also betraying restlessness. Do remember that the Left Front can be stronger only if the CPI(M) becomes stronger.” “All forces have ganged up against us,’’ state party secretary Biman Bose agreed as he urged the state government to consider challenging the verdict in the apex court.
Despite a palpable uneasiness in the Congress camp about needling the Left over the Nandigram mayhem, the issue made its way into the deliberations at the AICC session. Under pressure from its West Bengal unit, the party blamed the Marxist state government in the political resolution for allowing anarchy to prevail in the troubled area. The resolution, however, carefully refrained from naming the political party.
CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose advised the state government to move Supreme Court against the Calcutta High Court order.
18 November:A week after his men entered Nandigram, the DIG Alok Raj, of the CRPF today accused the district police of not cooperating to help secure the area which was ‘recaptured’ recently by CPI(M) cadres.
The Bengal government today asked the Central Reserve Police Force to shift all its five camps further away from the trouble-prone areas to pockets that have remained CPI(M) strongholds throughout the last 10 months. The CRPF has been asked to move from Nandigram College to Tengua, from Rajaramchowk to Jellingham, from Khodambari to Khejuri and Teropokhia and from Gokulnagar to Pankhai. Yesterday, the CRPF said its camps were not close enough to the trouble spots and that it wanted to set up a few in the interiors. The force was bewildered by today’s decision, especially because its demand for a camp at Takapura was turned down. “The proposal was shot down. We don’t understand why,” an officer said. Director-general of police A.B. Vohra said: “We had a detailed discussion about the modalities of setting up the camps and things should work out fine. I hope the people regain their confidence gradually and return home.” The police brass refused to see “politics” in the relocation of CRPF camps.
Today’s decision has left the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee stumped. Many of its leaders alleged that the move was aimed at helping CPI(M) supporters move around freely on motorcycles in the “recaptured” areas and terrorise people. Committee supporters Babulal Akhtar and Sheikh Shahauddin were arrested today when they returned home to Hajrakata. The police said they were wanted in several cases of rioting. Two days ago Shahauddin was asked local CPI(M) leaders to pay Rs 1.5-lakh as tax for his return to home.Suspecting villagers of lodging false complaints of their houses being torched during violence at Nandigram, the block administration has initiated a survey to find the exact number of houses destroyed before adequate compensation is paid to the victims.
According to a senior district police officer, a total of 210 complaints of arson were reported from trouble-torn villages in Nandigram till 15 Nov-ember.An encounter was reported between a joint CRPF-police team and Maoists in naxal-stronghold Saranda forest of Jharkhand on Sunday on the eve of a 48-hour bandh called by the Maoists from Monday to protest against the Nandigram killing in West Bengal.
The shadow of Nandigram massacre has been observed on the second day of north Bengal’s Little Magazine Fair which is being held at Balurghat. Mr. Ranen Barman MP, Balurghat, Mr. Biswanath Chowdhury, minister for Jail WB, Mrs. Sucheta Biswas, chairperson of Balurghat Municipality boycotted the fair. District BJP leader Mr. Rajat Roy remarked that this is nothing but an eyewash. The SUCI district leader Mr. Sagar Modok stated that RSP is doing these things only to misguide the people.
RSP minister Kshiti Goswami, who has been boycotting his office at Writers’ Building for the entire month, met poet Shankha Ghosh along with party colleagues Manoj Bhattacharya and Shubhranshu Bandopadhyay. Last week, the poet, who left his post as vice-chairman of state-run Bangla Academy in protest against the March 14 police firing, had joined the rally of intellectuals critical of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhatta-charjee’s policies on Nandigram. The poet, however, said he had listened to the minister, but refused to take any initiative for a new front. “I am basically a poet and an apolitical man. I am unable to start all these forums,” Ghosh said.
Taking advantage of the widening rift between West Bengal’s ruling Left Front major CPI(M) and partner RSP, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Sunday renewed her call to form a secular democratic front, saying her party wanted RSP to head such a front. “A secular democratic front is necessary to replace the oppressive rule of the CPI(M) we would like the RSP to head it. Trinamool Congress would be a partner of such a front,” Banerjee said at a meeting in Tollygunj in Kolkata.
Criticising the CPI(M) for imposing its opinion through violence, veteran economist Amlan Dutta said, “the ruling party’s theory of capture will lead to adverse consequences. If this continues, the country will end up being fragmented. Each ruler will try to expand his territory and in the process a civil war will break out.” Dutta also warned against a “cultural degradation” which will set in if democratic values were compromised. “Demo-cracy allows the freedom to hold different opinions and views within the confines of the law. But the CPI(M) refuses to entertain any view which is not in line with theirs, which is undemocratic,” said Dutta.
19 November: The Central government today agreed to a debate on Nandigram in both Houses of Parliament after the BJP disrupted proceedings and resolved to keep doing so till it was allowed. The BJP said the Left’s argument that Nandigram was a state subject and could not be debated in Parliament was “totally hypocritical”. It cited how the Left had forced the House to discuss the firing in Haryana’s Gurgaon last year. Another BJP leader, V.K. Malhotra said: “Describing Nandigram as a state matter is totally wrong as it involves issues which cause national concern.
The decision to relocate CRPF camps in Nandigram has been reversed, apparently to avert a brewing backlash from the homeless. State police today said the central force was not asked to move its camps away from Nandigram’s trouble spots. “I gave no such instructions,” director-general of police A.B. Vohra said at Writers’ Buildings. Home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray echoed DGP Vohra. “The camps will be shifted, if at all, only after a review of the situation in Nandigram,” he said.
A women’s squad of the CRPF today staged a flag march through areas that bore the brunt of the CPI(M) attacks. “This is to build confidence among the people so that they can return home,” commandant Seema Tolodi, who led the march, said.
The CRPF campaigns are concentrated in Nandigram and not a single raid has been conducted in Khejuri, Mr Alok Raj, CRPF DIG, said today. “We are only raiding the places about which information is being provided to us by the state police and locals. We have no presence at Khejuri and no information from the area is forthcoming, either. No camp has been planned for Khejuri. We are here to help the state police. It is their prerogative to direct us to the right places’’, he said.
For the first time, Maoists have chosen Satyajit Ray’s favourite actor, Soumitra Chatterjee, to correspond with and question his stand on the Nandigram issue. The letter, written by the state secretary of CPI (Maoists), to Soumitra Chatterjee, questions the Tollywood actor’s stand on the recapture of Nandigram by CPI(M) cadres. “You played the character of Pandit Mashai in the film Hirak Rajar Deshe (Kingdom of Diamonds) where there was a division between ‘we’ and ‘them’. You had portrayed a rebel character in the film and in the end the rebels were victorious.” “But that was 1980 (the year the Satyajit Ray film was released), now this is 2007 and you have switched allegiance. In the fight that is going on, there is a division between ‘we’ and ‘them’ as well, but you have now taken the side of Hirak Raja (Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee). The letter, dated 14 November, questioned why Soumitra Chatterjee has taken up the side of the “oppressor”.
The West Bengal government came in for serious criticism today from National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairperson Mr Justice S Rajendra Babu, who said Nandigram was one of the “worst scars” on the face of the nation. Terming the situation in the Bengal block as “grave”, he said: “Nandigram and Godhra were severe assaults on the face of democracy. They are the worst scars on the face of the nation. It is a shame that human rights were violated in such a way.” When contacted, chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said: “I would like to know what exactly the NHRC had witnessed in Nandigram that it saw it fit to make such a comment.”
The Nandigram issue found an echo in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly with CPI(M) and Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) members hurling charges at each other. MIM leader A Owaisi sought to draw a parallel between the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat and the violence in Nandigram. “The West Bengal CM is speaking the language of (Narendra) Modi. He has justified attacks by CPI(M) cadres. Muslims are being targeted there,” Owaisi said. His remark evoked strong protests from the CPI(M) whose leader N Narasimhaiah described the MIM as a “party confined to the old city of Hyderabad”.
The Supreme Court today refused to entertain a plea seeking action against the West Bengal Government for the violence that broke out in Nandigram as the NHRC was already looking into the matter. “When the NHRC is already looking into the matter how many other forum do you want,” the Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan remarked. The court took exception to the PIL, filed by one Kedar Chand Yadav, which it found was based only on newspaper reports. “It was an abuse of the process of this court,” the court observed.
20 November: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today made his first public comments on this month’s bloody events in Nandigram, lending his voice to “the spontaneous outpouring of grief and anguish by artists and intellectuals in Kolkata”. He said it was the state government’s duty “to ensure that all sections of the population, regardless of their political views and affiliations, are entitled to and do receive protection of the law enforcement authorities”.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said he agreed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s views on Nandigram and shared his concern. “The Prime Minister has made the right statement. It’s a very good statement and I welcome it. I share the Prime Minister’s concern and spirit. We are one with the Prime Minister as far as the issues pointed out by him are concerned,” he said, before leaving Writers’ Buildings. On the National Human Rights Commission’s observations equating Nandigram with Godhra, the chief minister said his party has sent a memorandum. The CPI(M) secretary, Mr Biman Bose, told reporters in Budge Budge that “the Prime Minister should behave like a Prime Minister. The Prime Minister should not be worried about Nandigram.’’ Mr Bose, however, earlier said that if any of his cadre was found preventing villagers from returning home he would be expelled from the party.
CPI(M) and CPI leaders today wrote to the NHRC chief, accusing him of bias. “We regret to say that your statement shows bias and prejudice and we apprehend that it will influence any report by the institution you head.” In a memorandum sent to the chairman, six CPI(M) and CPI MPs (from the Lok Sabha and the Rajya sabha), have criticised the chairman’s remarks. The memo-randum was sent and signed by such CPI(M) and CPI MPs as Mr. Sitaram Yechury, Mr. D Raja, Mr. Basudev Acharia, Mr Gurudas Dasgupta, Ms Brinda Karat and Md Salim.Block development officer Ashok Sarkar met the chiefs of the 10 village panchayats in Nandigram today to discuss development work. Seven CPI(M) leaders, two from Trinamool and one from the Congress attended the meeting. The first such meeting in seven months decided to give priority to repair of roads and distribution of relief among the homeless.
21 November:A Sessions Court here today remanded two prime suspects in the 2001 Chhota Angaria massacre in East Midnapore district, Tapan Ghosh and Sukur Ali, to 14 days judicial custody.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) arrested three CPI(M) members, including a leader with four cases registered against him, at Nandigram. It is, however, yet to get a list of wanted criminals, a week after it sought it from the state police. CRPF picked up Swadesh Das, CPI(M) branch committee secretary at Maheshpur, and handed him over to the Nandigram police. He was produced in Haldia court and was remanded to judicial custody for 14 days. Das is the fourth CPI(M) man to have been arrested in Nandigram on charges of criminal offence. Circle Inspector Swapan Sarkar said Swadesh Das was wanted in four cases, including those of murder and loot. Abu Taher, a local Trinamool Congress leader, said Das had raided various villages in Nandigram with hired goons from Khejuri, particularly after March 14, and they had lodged complaints against him with the police. The CRPF also picked up Kestwa Gorai of Brindavanchawk and Anup Kumar Mondal of Sonachura village who were wanted in criminal cases. Himansu Das, CPI(M) district committee member of East Midnapore, confirmed that both were active supporters of their party. Das alleged that the CRPF was conducting searches only in the houses of CPI(M) members. “They conducted search in the house of Gautam Metia of Amdabad village who is a CPI(M) zonal committee member of Reyapara. They also raided the house of Badal Mondal of Sonachura who was a local committee member of CPI(M),” he said.
The CPI(M)-led government in West Bengal today came under all-round attack on the Nandi-gram issue in the Lok Sabha with the Opposition BJP asking the Centre to issue directions to it under Article 355 and dismiss if it failed to follow them. Intervening in the discussion, Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi, a prominent leader from West Bengal, said it was time for objective introspection for the West Bengal government on the issue over which it has come under a fierce attack from Left-minded intellectuals, artistes and writers.
The CRPF today expressed dissatisfaction and concern over the attitude of the state police which has been releasing criminals and rioters after they were handed over to them. Even today, Anup Mandal, a CPI(M) local committee member, an accused in at least six cases, including two of murder, was released within eight hours of he being handed over to the police from Sona-chura. The police, however, tried to argue that the CRPF did not understand the situation. The CRPF asked for a report on why the accused was released, the state police officials sent a written reply in Bengali despite knowing that the CRPF officers were not well versed in the language. Mr Alok Raj, expressing disappointment over the incident said: “There is no point in deploying the CRPF if the state police behaves like this. People in Sonachura and Sonachura Bazar were terrorised by Anup. He was not allowing people to return to the villages.” Besides murder, Anup is also an accused in cases related to rioting, arms Act and explosives Act. The police however claimed that there was no arrest warrant against him. Mr. SS Ponda, Superintendent of police, East Midnapore, expressed ignorance about those cases against Anup and said: “Most of the cases during these times are politically motivated.” The CRPF does not understand and that is why are complaining. “We see and meet a lot of people from the BUPC, against whom we have got complaints, but we don’t arrest them,” Mr Ponda said in an apparent attempt to justify the release of Anup Mandal.
The bail petitions of Tapan Ghosh and Sukur Ali, CPI(M)’s Midnapore West district committee member and the party’s Garbeta zonal committee secretary, respectively, was rejected by the Midnapore West second additional sessions judge, Mr Abdul Kuddus. The duo was produced in his court today.
A Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court comprising Chief Justice SS Nijjar and Justice Tapen Sen today admitted a writ petition filed by Mrs Basabi Ray Chowdhury questioning the legality of the West Bengal Bar Council’s call for a cease-work on 20 November to protest against violence by the CPI(M) cadres in Nandigram.
After days of processions and protests against the CPI(M)-led violence in Nandigram choked Kolkata, the city was convulsed by rioting today when mobs appeared in the heart of the city, attacking police with bricks and molotov cocktails, burning cars and damaging property. That started as a road blockade by 100-odd supporters of All India Minority Forum, against allowing exiled Bangladesh author Taslima Nasreen to stay in India.
22 November: The Opposition today sought to put both CPI(M) and the Centre on the mat in the Rajya Sabha today on the Nandigram issue and demanded that President’s Rule be imposed in West Bengal.
While the CBI is not likely to begin its investigation into the 14 March carnage in the area, a 10-member CID team, led by the agency’s DSP Mr Swapan Chatterjee, reached the trouble-torn area in Nandigram today to inquire into some important complaints registered with Nandigram police station since 5 November. Some of the cases include firing by CPI(M) cadres on the BUPC peace procession held on 10 November in which at least three people were killed; a few rape complaints and firing on a jawan of Eastern Frontier Rifles, Mr Pradip Tamang on Tekhali bridge. Mr Tamang had alleged that the bullet that hit him had been fired from the Khejuri side. “The instruction for the team to visit the troubles area came last night from DG Mr Anup Bhushan Vohra,” said ADG CID, Mr Bhupinder Singh.
The CRPF-DIG, Mr Alok Raj conspicuously left for the city from Nandigram today. He has expressed his unhappiness over the state police’s attitude and had said that they were not co-operating.
A National Women’s Commission team compr-ising of four members also visited Nandigram. They visited the police station, the relief camp and Satengabari and spoke to the victims. The situation, however, remained normal as some more people left the relief camps to return to the villages. Nearly 30 people returned to Adhikary-para and around 20 each to Maheshpur and Gokulnagar. Some families from Satengabari and Vibekanandapur also went back to their villages.
23 November: The Centre today rejected the Opposition’s demand for imposition of President’s Rule in West Bengal in the wake of the Nandigram violence.
Concluding a discussion on the proposal to set up an SEZ in Nandigram and the subs-equent violence in West Bengal, Home Minister Shivraj Patil said in the Rajya Sabha that the Centre would deal with Naxalism in a “holistic” manner. “We will be very careful in using Article 356. We should not use it lightly or in a manner that is suspicious and will not be acceptable,” the Home Minister said. “Although a few villages have been affected, it doesn’t mean the breakdown of law and order machinery in the entire state. However, it also doesn’t mean that Article 356 would not be used. When the occasion arises, we will be using it, but we will be very careful,” he said.
Advocate Kalyan Banerjee today petitioned the high court for a CBI probe into the violence in Nandigram between November 5 and 12, when CPI(M) supporters allegedly “recaptured” villages in Trinamool control for the past few months. Kalyan Banerjee also sought an order asking the state to compensate villagers whose houses were damaged after suspected CPI(M) cadres drove them out of their homes.
Police today gave the CRPF a list of six CPI(M) supporters “wanted” on various criminal charges — a first step towards rapprochement with the force that had repeatedly accused them of non-cooperation. The list the police gave CRPF assistant commandant A.K. Upadhyay named six Satengabari residents. It did not say anything about their past, area of activity and whether they were absconding. A CRPF officer wondered why it took the police nine days to share the information. A bigger list had been handed over to the CID team that came here last evening.“If flushing out criminals to ensure the return of the homeless is a priority, it should not have taken so long to identify the most wanted in one village,” a CRPF officer said. “But it is a step forward.”
Apprehending disruptions, the kind which were witnessed during the 13th International Film Festival held at Nandan and other cinema halls, the state government cancelled the seven-day Natya Mela. The drama festival was supposed to start today at the city’s leading auditoriums like Rabindra Sadan, Sisir Mancha and the Academy of Fine Arts.
24 November:Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind (JUH), a socio-religious body that has opposed land acquisition at Nandigram, has alleged that it is not being given a ‘free-hand’ to carry out relief works in the region. Jamiat’s state chapter has said that its party chief will soon take up the matter with the Union Home Ministry. A delegation of JUH visited Nandigram today and has set up its own relief camp at a Nandigram orphanage.
25 November:Hand-written posters in the name of Maoists appeared here today, days before a CBI team arrives for a probe, triggering allegations that CPI(M) supporters had pasted them. “Nandigram ka khoon dharshan-er apradhey CPI(M) neta taiyar ho jao” is neither proper Hindi nor Bengali. The message that appeared on walls all over Hajrakata, Hossainpur and Rajaramchowk villages translates as “The crime of murder and rape in Nandigram — CPI(M) leaders be prepared”. “They appear to have been written in a hurry and in not very correct Hindi,” a police officer said. “We have found nothing concrete till date to establish the presence of Maoists in the area. Nor were any such posters spotted,” said Mr RK Sharma, commandant of the CRPF. Materials like these posters have started springing up only after the CPI(M) “recaptured” Nandigram.
The double standard of state police in Nandigram was once again discernible today when it arrested two Bhumi Uchched Protirodh Commit-tee (BUPC) leaders from near the local police station and produced them in the court purely and simply for agitating in front of the Nandigram hospital about a month back to protest against improper and inadequate facilities.
Addressing an open session of the Darjeeling district conference of the CPI(M) here, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddadeb Bhattacharjee said his party ”would guard against creation of a similar situation (Nandigram-like) anywhere in the future in the state”. The proposed chemical hub had already been shifted to Nayachar from Nandigram and the work would start shortly, he said.
26 November: The Calcutta High Court today decided to take up the hearing of a PIL seeking CBI probe into the violence in Nandigram earlier this month on December 3.The matter was mentioned before a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice S S Nijjar and Justice Tapen Sen by counsel Kalyan Banerjee on behalf of the petitioner, Sabyasachi Roy Chowdhury and others.The bench, on Banejree’s plea that the petition be taken up for urgent hearing, said that the matter would be heard on December 3.Besides seeking a CBI investigation into the alleged rape, murder and large-scale arson by the CPI(M) cadres during the November 5 and 12 violences in Nandigram, the petitioner has also also demanded compensation for the victims.
An eight-member CBI team reached Haldia this evening and is likely to resume an inquiry into the 14 March carnage in Nandigram from tomorrow. The CBI will conduct a thorough and detailed investigation. The three most important aspects of the inquiry will be the firing over the Bhangabera bridge, in which the CPI(M) goons collated and collaborated with the police, arms haul and arrests of 10 CPI(M) activists from the Janani brick kiln and the firing in Adhikarypara. Cases have been registered by the CBI in connection with all the three incidents.
Over 600 people left Nandigram High School for their villages this morning, apparently emboldened by the likely arrival of a CBI team and driven by the need to return home during the harvesting season.
The Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh committee and the district Congress leadership have requested the administration to prevent the CPI(M) from holding a rally in Nandigram town on 28th. The CPI(M)’s Haldia strongman, Lakshman Seth, who is said to be one of the brains behind the recapture of Nandigram, is scheduled to address the rally.
A full 13 days after Sabina Begum (name changed) was allegedly gang-raped by CPI(M) cadres, the Nandigram police have delivered a letter to the victim asking her to produce the clothes she wore on the night of the incident. The letter, dated November 19, was, in fact, delivered to her at the hospital where she was admitted on November 10, four days after the alleged incident. A gangrape case was registered on November 11 after her medical examination the previous day. The state Home Secretary, too, had confirmed the case and said that an investigation was on. The letter shows the callousness and the neglect that has marked the investigation. “You are hereby informed,” the letter says, in Bengali, “that the clothes you wore during the incident of November 6, be produced (before the undersigned) in connection with the inquiry. This is extremely urgent.”The letter is in the name of Krishnendu Pradhan, Sub-Inspector, Nandigram Police Station, District East Midnapore. Asked about the letter, Sabina told: “That sari was the only piece of cloth I had on me when I escaped from my village and I have been wearing it even in the hospital bed. I got another sari at the hospital and I have washed the first one several times so far.” This also puts a question mark on the seriousness with which the police have gone about collecting evidence in the case. First, they failed to visit the victim’s house in Satengabari, 50 km from the hospital, for days even after the rape case was registered on the plea that the area was “too tense.” Also, no woman police officer has visited Sabina till date to either record her statement — mandatory in an alleged rape case. In her police complaint, Sabina identified some alleged culprits who were from her village and even named them in the FIR. But no one has been arrested so far. Said Neeva Kanwar, member of the visiting team from the National Commission for Women: “The police in Nandigram are not acting at all. The victim in Tamluk hospital (Sabina) could name five people who raped her. We learnt that these people are roaming around freely in the village…Sabina told us how she got raped, with 30 people surrounding her house.”
The CRPF raided Simulkunda and Satengabari today and picked up two CPI(M) supporters. Three bullets were found in the house of Ratan Sith, 30. Mir Odut Ali, 35, who had been accused of rape, was caught in Satengabari. CRPF deputy inspector-general Alok Raj joined his post in Nandigram today after a three-day leave.
Dreaded dacoit Selim Laskar alias Sheikh Selim was denied bail by Haldia court today and remanded in CID’s custody for five more days. Co-accused Mizanur was also handed over to CID for five days. The three others arrested with Selim and Mizanur have been sent to jail custody. On November 18, Selim’s lawyer Gopal Das had claimed that Selim was mentally unsound and under medical treatment.
27 November: The Calcutta High Court today issued criminal contempt notice against three CPI(M) leaders, including Left Front Chairman Biman Bose for allegedly making unsavoury comments against its order terming the police firing on March 14 at Nandigram unconstitutional and unjustified. A division bench comprising Chief Justice S S Nijjar and Justice P C Ghosh took cognizance of two applications by the Bar Library Club and the Calcutta High Court Bar Association seeking contempt proceedings for the alleged comments and directed that contempt notice be issued against Binoy Konar and Shyamal Chakraborty, both central committee members of CPI(M), apart from Bose.The bench would hear the matter in January next year, the court directed.
Not just law and order but even the welfare schemes introduced by the Centre seem to be badly hit in Nandigram. According to the official statistics available with the Union Rural Development Ministry, East Midnapur is one of six worst performing districts in the state where the state machinery has failed to meet the target of providing IAY houses to the rural poor. In the first six months of the current financial year, the state Government has been able to provide only 740 IAY houses as against the total target of 9,412 houses, which is not even 8 per cent of the total target. In fact, East Midnapur also features in the list of worst performing districts in terms of upgradation of houses for rural poor. As against a total target of upgrading 2,353 houses of rural poor, the state Government has barely managed to upgrade 336 houses, which is less than 15 per cent of the total target even as over seven months of the current fiscal have already passed. In contrast, in West Midnapur district, which was part of the erstwhile Midnapur district till 2002, the state Government’s performance is well on track with more than 50 per cent houses already been provided by the first half of the current fiscal. East Midnapur’s poor performance holds significance as it averages to 7 per cent as against the overall 21 per cent performance of the state. However, East Midnapur is not the only district in West Bengal with its performance in welfare schemes in single digit. Bankura with 4.79 per cent, Cooch Behar with 3.17 per cent, Hoogly with 2.04 per cent, Murshidabad with 7.30 per cent and Siliguri with 6.80 per cent are the other districts making it to the list of top six districts with worst performance in welfare schemes implementation.
CPI(M) leader Shyamal Chakraborty, along with two other members of the CPI(M) central committee – Mohammed Salim and Shyamali Gupta – visited Nandigram today, the first visit of a team of senior party leaders to the area since violence broke out there in January.
28 November:Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra addressed CPI(M)’s first public meeting in Nandigram since the land war broke out almost 11 months ago. At the rally, East Midnapore district secretariat member Ashok Guria released a list of 28 party supporters allegedly killed by Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee activists since January.
The additional chief judicial magistrate of Kakdwip court, Mr Subhankar Sen, has passed an order and instructed the deputy inspector general of police (DIG) of the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) today to initiate legal action against a senior CID inspector for torturing three Nandigram residents in police custody at Bhavani Bhavan last month. The assaulted three persons are Radheshyam Giri (40), Prakash Munion (24) and Gourhari Mondal (24), all residents of Kendamari village in Nandigram – who were arrested by circle inspector, Kakdwip, Mr Abdul Aziz, on charges of being involved in a Maoist network. Police picked up them around 10 p.m. on 13 November from Kakdwip and booked them under sections 121, 121 (A), 122, 123 124 (A), 120 (B) of Indian penal code and section 25 of Arms Act. They were produced before the Kakdwip court on 15 November and later remanded in police custody for two weeks. On 16 November, CID inspector Mr Roy moved a petition before the magistrate of the same court submitting that the accused be sent to CID custody for interrogation. The magistrate granted the petition. When produced before the court for the second time on 28 November, the accused told the magistrate that they were tortured in CID custody. Mr Kallol Das, advocate of the accused, alleged: “Prakash sustained injury in his right leg due to torture while Gourhari and Radheshyam were hit on their right hand and ear with heavy objects in police custody. They showed the injury marks to the magistrate and alleged that they were brutally tortured by the police officer.” The order states: “ It is clear that the investigating officer (Mr Roy) violated law and tortured the accused persons. Therefore I recommend to the DIG (CID), West Bengal, to take necessary legal action against the police officer.” The magistrate observed that Mr Aziz “violated section 57 of the CrPC” under which members of each law enforcing agencies are bound to produce accused before the court within 24 hours of arrest. Mr Aziz had produced the accused on 15 November.
CPI(M) leader Shyamal Chakraborty today met Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and expressed reservations about the role of CRPF in Nandigram. He alleged the central force personnel were attacking CPI(M) men.
A two-member NCM delegation led by Harcharan Singh Josh visited Nandigram.
29 November:The former U.S. Attorney-General Ramsey Clark (79), a recipient of the Gandhi Peace Award, visited Nandigram today to see the condition of peasants after the recent violence there. Mr. Clark is participating in an international anti-imperialist conference being held here. “It was a very moving experience to see the people facing a plight that was brought upon them by their own government,” said Mr. Clark on his return. Sara Flounders, member, Central Secretariat, of the U.S.-based Workers’ World Party, and Steven Kirschbaum, vice-president, U.S. Steel Workers Associations, accompanied him. Stating that Nandigram clearly represented imperialist designs, Mr. Clarke said that to prevent it, “we must fight unitedly.” “Power stands in the people, but the question is whether there is will and intelligence to exert that power.” He hoped that the banner of resistance would be held high by the people of Nandigram and carried by the All-India Anti-Imperialist Forum, organisers of the conference, to strengthen the movement. Mr Clerk, who played an active role in the anti-Vietnam war movement and later formed World Action Centre ~ a global forum of Anti Imperialist movement ~ met several homeless people and said: “The CPI(M) always raises its voice against US aggression, but when it comes to give capitalists a free access to land to set up Special Economic Zones (SEZs), the so-called Marxists of West Bengal unleash a reign of terror on farmers who had brought them in power. They (the CPI(M)) did the same thing in Nandigram, what USA-led forces are doing in Iraq and other developing countries to capture market for the capitalists.”
A fact-finding team of international human rights body Amnesty International ended its two-day visit to West Bengal’s trouble-torn Nandigram today. The team comprised Justice (retd) S.N. Bhargava, former chief justice of Sikkim High Court, Vrinda Grover, Advocate, Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia researcher with the Human Rights Watch, and Mukul Sharma, director, Amnesty International India.
Nandigram is emboldening prospective inves-tors to voice concern in public and question the government’s pace of work. Infosys, the IT giant whose proposal for a project in Calcutta is caught in a price tangle, today said the company would weigh risk factors before deciding on the state even if land of its choice was offered now. “The news of Nandigram has even reached Bangalore and it creates a misconception and fear psychosis in the minds of clients,” T.V. Mohandas Pai, the human resource director of Infosys, said in Calcutta. Today’s comments suggest the widespread outrage caused by the CPI(M)’s “recapture” of Nandigram had been noted by industry. This is in contrast to the largely restrained response to the March 14 firing in which 14 people were killed. Eager to allay the fears, industries minister Nirupam Sen issued a statement in the evening, reaffirming the government’s commitment to “industrialisation efforts”.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today indicated that he would not give up Bengal’s industrialisation to buy peace with the Opposition, going on the offensive after being defensive on Nandigram and other issues for months. At the start of the CPI(M)’s four-day district conference in South 24-Parganas, Bhattacharjee said: “Nandi-gram was our first choice. But we have now shifted the site to Nayachar. We can’t just dump the project, or the deep-sea port project in South 24-Parganas. People in Nandigram will realise their mistake when the chemical hub comes up at Nayachar.
The RSP today decided to send Kshiti Goswami back to Writers’ Buildings, three weeks after he had “desired” to step down as PWD minister to protest the CPI(M)’s Nandigram recapture. Goswami will resume work tomorrow. While Goswami said he would accept the party’s decision as a “disciplined soldier”, RSP state secretary Debabrata Banerjee called it a “cons-ensus opinion”. “Almost all of the state committee members supported my criticism of the govern-ment. But they argued that my resignation would not be tactically wise,” he said. Goswami said the RSP had decided against pulling out of the government not only because “fellow travellers Forward Bloc and CPI” had requested it to, but also to “honour the wishes of Jyoti Basu”.
Three persons were injured after a clash broke out between Trinamool Congress workers and labourers backed by CPI(M)’s trade union wing Citu in Nandigram today. According to the complaint lodged by Chatterjee at Nandigram police station, the Citu labourers claimed that only those affiliated to Citu could carry goods in the area. They stopped the Trinamool workers from unloading the sacks from vehicles to van rickshaws. Some of the rickshaw-pullers and other Trinamool members defied them and moved ahead to unload the sacks, supervised by Chatterjee, when the labourers allegedly attacked them. The Trinamool men hit back and a clash broke out.
The state Cabinet had earlier made up its mind to shift the proposed chemical hub to Nayachar — an island in the Hooghly, 30 km from Haldia. The only thing due was a “scientific sanction” from experts to declassify the island from the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ-I) category. For, the government decision clashed with rules under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, that prohibits any construction and storage in CRZ-I areas. The State Coastal Regulation Zone Authority, in a meeting today, removed that hurdle. It declassified the CRZ-I category island and placed it under CRZ-III where industries are allowed with restrictions. The classification of coastal areas are usually done following central guidelines issued by the Union ministry of environment and forests in 1991. Some members in the meeting tried to raise protest, but the Authority didn’t pay heed to all such “excuse” in a bid to clear the way for the proposed chemical hub. The state Cabinet also approved the site in its August 17 meeting. Since then, there was rumour that the state environment department may approach the state CRZ authority to drop Nayachar from the CRZ-I category.
A 10-member CBI team visited the villages of Sonachura today and took down accounts of farmers injured in the March 14 police firing in Nandigram.
30 November: CBI and CRPF, in a joint raid recovered seven fresh bombs and some cartridge shells from the Janani brick kiln. CPI(M)’s armed brigade used to stockpile their arms and ammunition at this very kiln in Khejuri’s Sherkhanchawk before recapturing the Nandigram. The raid was led by CRPF’s additional SP Arvind Upadhayay and his colleague Seema Toloi. The raid has sent a shudder among CPI(M) ranks in Khejuri. So much so that CPI(M)’s East Midnapore district secretariat member Asok Guria refused to comment on it. Local CPI(M) leaders were confident that the central force — called out by none other than chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee — would come to Nandigram to “aid and assist” the state police and wouldn’t take steps on their own. CRPF top brass is learnt to have got a go-ahead from the Union home ministry, which is keeping a close watch on Nandigram.
The National Commission of Minorities (NCM) today said it had found “very serious incidents of molestation of women and rape of minor girls” in Nandigram. NCM chairperson Mohd Shafi Qureshi said a delegation of the commission that visited trouble-torn Nandigram had reported that excesses were committed on farmers, most of them belonging to the minority community. “There have been lapses on the part of the state government. It seems all was pre-planned and executed with the connivance of the state government,” Mr Qureshi told PTI. He said the report had spoken of very serious incidents of molestation and rape.
A witness revealed at the final hearing of the Citizens’ Commission of Enquiry today that he possessed digital images ~ both moving and still ~ of rape and molestation victims of the 14 March carnage in Nandigram. The photographs and video recordings were taken while conducting health camps all over Nandigram from 18 March onwards. The photographs and video recordings will be submitted as evidence before the Commission, which will submit its report in December. The Citizens’ Commission of Enquiry was set up by the Citizens’ Council of West Bengal for ascertaining facts and circumstances relating to the acquisition of land at Singur and Nandigram. The final sitting of the Commission was held today at the Centenary Hall of the Mahabodhi Society (Kolkata).
There is a community of interest between the state government and the wealthy Indonesian Multi-national corporation at whose behest a Special Economic Zone was sought to be set up in Nandigram, Mr Ramsey Clarke, former US attorney general and human rights activist said here today. Otherwise, why should the people of Nandigram be brutalised by a police force which is supposed to protect it, he asked on the return from a recent trip to the conflict-ravaged area.
1 December: A 10-member CBI team visited Saudkhali village in Nandigram today and met the affected families. The CBI today questioned a Nandigram panchayat head accused of involvement in the March 14 firing, making the first move to bring local CPI(M) leaders under the scanner. A team of six officials, led by CBI superintendent Sijit Pande, came to the office of the Sonachura No. 10 gram panchayat around 3.30 this afternoon and spent an hour with Lakshman Mandal, the pradhan. They asked Mondal where he was on March 14, the day police firing killed 14 people. They also wanted to know the annual income and expenditures of the panchayat.
2 December: West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi visited the violence-ravaged Nandigram today to take stock of the situation in the troubled area and said wrong-doers must not be exonerated and pitched for presence of CRPF for some more time. After visiting Nandigram, West Bengal Governor today said the Buddhadeb Bhattacharya Government should honour the Calcutta High Court order on March 14 police killings here. At 11.10am Around 100 people, including 50 women, formed a human wall, forcing the 30- vehicle convoy to stop. At Tekhali, the CPI(M) local leadership had decided to block the governor’s car to air “grievances”. “The blockade was a part of that effort,” said Ashoke Bera, the Nandigram I panchayat samiti president. While the CPI(M) continues harping on the importance of development via industrialisation, the Governor today said: “Nandigram is a very good place for sustainable agriculture. The state government should utilise the area’s rich natural resources.”
The government is “sad and shocked” over the March 14 police firing in Nandigram, industries minister Nirupam Sen said today. “Onekey bhabchhey aamra police firing ke support korchhi. Kintu keno korbo? Aamra pagol naaki? Aamra dukkhito o marmahato (People think we are supporting the police firing. But why should we? Are we mad? We are sad and shocked),” Sen said at the open session of a CPI(M) convention in Shantipur town, about 70km from Calcutta. “No civil society can support the killing of innocent people in police firing. We are shocked and feel such deaths should never have happened.” Industrialists, including the Tatas who are making the car plant in Singur, are facing “unpleasant questions” over Nandigram abroad, said Sen. “Tata and others are being asked unpleasant questions in London and other western countries. They wanted clarifications from our investors about the deaths in Nandigram and they (the investors) kept silent. We are sad and shaken hearing all this.”
A CPI(M) supporter shot in Nandigram died in Calcutta today. Dipak Das, 26, was admitted to SSKM Hospital on November 12, a day after he took a bullet in his abdomen in Gokulnagar.
4 December:The Bengal chief minister today admitted that Nandigram was “an administrative and political failure” but for the first time publicly regretted his remark “paid back in their own coin”. “I said we (the CPI(M)) had paid them (Opposition activists) back in their own coin. I think I should not have said that because now I want peace, peace for all, peace for all sections,” he said. He added: “Nandigram was an administrative and political failure. We have learnt (the) lesson… that we have to take people into confidence.” None can go back on industrialisation because it has captured the minds of young people in Bengal, he said. On his relations with state Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, he said the Governor was a “very nice man” and that he has had a very cordial relation with him. “There has been no problem (with him) at all. We not only discuss administrative and political issues but literature also. We also exchange books,” he said. On the chemical hub which was supposed to have come up at Nandigram, Bhattacharjee said it was now being set up at Nayachar which did not have any habitation nor arable land.
The CPI(M) allies today welcomed the Bengal chief minister’s admission of “administrative and political failure” in Nandigram but kept fingers crossed on whether his party would chart a new course while pursuing the drive for Indus-trialisation. “We don’t know how sincere his admission is, but we welcome it,” Bengal CPI secretary Manju Kumar Majumdar said.
About Bhattacharjee’s regret for his remark that the opposition’s armed supporters had been “paid back in their own coin”, State CPI(M) spokesman Shyamal Chakraborty said: “If it was our party’s opinion, we would have said it from the party’s forum.” His party state secretariat and central committee colleague, Benoy Konar, made it clear that the party did not regret the recapture. “They (the Trinamool Congress-led resistance group) learnt their lessons from Singur. We learnt our lessons from Nandigram and made our way back in the manner that suited them. They compelled us to take up arms and our people gave them a fitting reply,” Konar said.
The West Bengal government has approached the Supreme Court seeking deletion of harsh strictures against it in a Calcutta High Court judgement on police firing in Nandigram earlier this year, in which 14 people were killed. Addressing a press meet in New Delhi Tuesday, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya admitted the Nandigram episode was an ‘administrative and political failure’. The state government in its petition has contended that the high court had hastily reached its conclusion in terming the police firing as ‘unconstitutional and unjustified’, without evaluating all records placed before it by the state, detailing various steps taken to contain the situation in Nandigram. While seeking deletion of the high court’s strictures against it, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI(M))-led government also challenged the order to pay compensation to the kin of the victims. The state government pleaded to the apex court to constitute a committee to fix the damages to be paid to the victims.
A police team from East Midnapore arrested a Trinamool Congress leader hours after he was released from SSKM Hospital in Calcutta today. Khokon Shith, who had been hospitalised with a bullet hole in his palm on November 11, had allegedly played a key role in supplying arms from resistance hub Sonachura to Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee supporters in adjoining villages. He sustained the bullet injury during a fierce gun battle with CPI(M) supporters at Bhangabera on November 7. “He underwent a surgery in the hand and skin grafting,” an SSKM official said.
A police officer was showcaused today for releasing CPI(M) activist Anup Mondal hours after the CRPF arrested him for allegedly terrorising Pratirodh Committee supporters who had returned home. Three other cases are also pending against Mondal, including one for an attempt to murder. CRPF deputy inspector-general Alok Raj had gone on leave after Mondal’s release and complained to his Delhi bosses about the “partisan” police.
The CBI joint director today visited Bhangabera and Tekhali, from where the police had opened fire, and met units of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camping at the Nandigram College ground. CBI investigating officials spoke to villagers from the worst affected pockets of Southkhali, Jalpai and Sonachura in Nandigram.
5 December: Sports and Youth services minister Subhas Chakraborty made it clear that intellectuals, who had taken to the streets to protest the Nandigram recapture by the Red brigade, were not invited to his department’s seminar “Dhongsher Birudhdhey Srijaner Abhijan” next day. Chakraborty has arranged the seminar at Rabindra Sadan to observe the 15th anniversary of the demolition of Babri Masjid. CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, writers Sunil Gangopadhyay and Nirendranath Chakrabarty, singers Usha Uthup and Lopamudra are among the invitees. When asked as to why poet Shankha Ghosh, film-maker Aparna Sen or dramatists Bibhas Chakrabarty and Saonli Mitra were not invited, Chakraborty said he had consciously dropped them from the list of invitees because of their criticism of the government. He was clear: “I have not invited those who are directly speaking against the government.” Chakraborty reasoned that they would have turned down the invitation. “Would you invite someone when you know that the person would surely say no?”
Richard Stagg, the new British high commis-sioner to India called on West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya to say that West Bengal had the “right environment and increasingly arranging the right infrastructure” required to attract more and more British investors. Stagg said he was aware of the “turbulent reports” appearing in the Indian media (about Nandigram) over the last seven or eight weeks, or even before that. “But I am convinced that no private investor would be encouraged by an atmosphere not conducive to congeniality, which can surely be created by the West Bengal government,” he added. After talking to Bhattacharjee, he said he was convinced that the CM had a personal goal of creating an atmosphere favourable to any foreign investor.
Five graves at a ground in Khejuri’s Baman-chak village have been discovered today and the police said that they contained half-charred bodies. Suspicions have been raised of attempted disposal of victims killed during the violence triggered by CPI(M) cadres. The local people and police claim there are bodies buried in the ground. Today morning, the CRPF team stationed at Khejuri got news that a large cache of arms had been kept at a house in Bamanchak, close to Khejuri’s Tentultala. Bhukkan, a CRPF dog trained in sniffing mines, led the team to the road from Badatala to Bamanchak, where four graves were found on one side of the road and a solitary one on the opposite side. The CRPF team was joined by the Khejuri OC and SDPO (Contai). After about half an hour, three women and a local CPI(M) leader from Tekhali reached the spot. The women claimed that the bodies of their husbands — Bachan Garudas, Sunil Bar, Gourhari Das, Srimanta Das and Gobindo Prasad Singh — were in the graves. Zilla Sabadhipati Niranjan Sihi claimed that these five persons were killed in an attack carried out on October 28 by BUPC supporters. When asked by CRPF why the bodies were not cremated, the CPI(M) leader replied that it wasn’t possible for them to take the bodies back to their homes. The residents of Bamanchak, however, claimed that on October 30, two days after the alleged attack, they had seen fires from several spots along the road. The next morning, they claimed to have seen halfcharred, mutilated remains of human beings lying on the road. Trinamool MLA Subhendu Adhikary said that more bodies were hidden in different places. “We have a list of at least 35 people who are missing from Nandigram. CBI and CRPF should make inquiries,” he said. “Arms used during the November violence can be found in three CPI(M) party offices at Kunjapur, Kamradah and Sherkhanchak.” CPI(M) state secretariat member Shyamal Chakrabarty refused to comment. “I can’t make a wild remark. Let the CRPF recover the bodies first,” Chakrabarty said.
CPI MLA from Nandigram Mohammad Iliyas has been caught on camera allegedly demanding a bribe to raise questions in the Assembly. The sting operation involving Iliyas was telecast by a regional channel today morning, just as the winter session of the Assembly began. The MLA was shown allegedly seeking money to introduce the TV reporter, who posed as an NGO worker, to local leaders in Nandigram and raise the issue of children affected by the violence in the last 11 months. Iliyas allegedly agreed to meet the ‘NGO representatives’ at the state MLAs’ hostel on Kyd Street today morning. The sting crew was invited up to his quarters on the second floor — room No. 3 —where they found him waiting alone. After the initial introductions, the issue of a certificate introducing the ‘NGO’ was raised (The crew wanted a certificate from Iliyas to be able to move freely in the trouble-torn villages, where anyone without CPI(M) credentials is looked upon with suspicion.). Those carrying out the sting operation claim Iliyas dropped hints of a “financial deal” to solve the problem of entering the villages — he was told that Rs 3-4 crore could be arranged from international and national agencies to work for the children. They convinced him that once the issue of suffering children was raised in the Assembly, it would be taken up by the media and thus attract private funding agencies. It is alleged that Iliyas demanded Rs 3 lakh from the ‘NGO’ for the certificate and permit to work in the area. The certificate stated that the ‘NGO’ has been doing “commendable work in the area for the last six months and should be allowed to move about freely”. Iliyas was allegedly paid Rs 10,000 on the spot; the rest was to be paid later. He agreed to raise the issue around noon next day. The revelation sent shockwaves through political circles.
An 18-member team of Left Front legislators, led by Mohammad Masih, also visited Nandigram today to take stock of the situation in the strife-torn area. The team will submit a report to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and West Bengal Legislative Assembly Speaker Hasim Abdul Halim. The group comprises three women legislators and representatives from Left Front allies – the Forward Bloc (FB), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and Communist Party of India (CPI) – who have been vocal against the violence in Nandigram. The team visited Satengabari, Adhikari para, and Sonachura, all former strongholds of the Trinamool Congress-backed Bhumi Uchched Protirodh Committee (BUPC). After visiting the areas, the team met the block development officer (BDO) and later went to Tamluk, the East Midnapore district headquarter, to confer with the district administration.
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) joint director Arun Kumar, heading the probe into the March 14 police firing in Nandigram region of West Bengal’s East Midnapore district, visited several trouble-torn areas today and interacted with violence-scarred villagers. Kumar went to Tekhali, Khejuri Bazaar, Satengabari, Adhikari Para, and Sonachura villages of the district and met the family members of those killed in the police firing. He also talked to district officials.
6 December: The West Bengal government today ordered a CID inquiry into the identities of the persons whose charred bones and portions of skull were exhumed from five crudely dug graves at Bamanchak near Nandigram. “The CID has been asked to inquire into the matter,” Home Secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray told newsmen here. The remains were sealed in plastic packets and taken to Khejuri police station, from where they will be sent for forensic and DNA tests. The graves were dug up in presence of Contai (fast track first court) additional chief judicial magistrate Jaiprakash Singh. The Khejuri police have started a case of murder and attempt to destroy evidence against unknown persons. So far, none has come forward to claim the charred remains. Even the women who came from Tekhali yesterday claiming that the bodies of their husbands lay in the graves, were nowhere in the scene while CRPF dug up the remains today. The only clue that the CRPF have got is an unsigned sheet with four names — Khanra Hajra, Prabhat Gayen, Swadesh Mandal and Gourahari Patra— scribbled over it. But none had any answer as to how these people died and why the dead were not taken to the crematorium or graveyard for the last rites, or why the bodies were left half-burnt. CPI(M) leader Shyamal Chakrabarty, however, has an answer. “Those bodies were left half-burnt due to dearth of logs. They were burnt after post-mortem,” he said, asking scribes not to “read much” into a normal incident. Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) members claimed that the remains were of CPI(M) outsiders who had come to Nandigram as part of the Red Brigade. Two pieces of leg bones, flesh and wood, all charred, were found from the first two graves. The third grave contained burnt body parts like hip joints, spinal cords and ankles. The fourth and fifth graves also contained burnt leg bones.
Two police officers grilled by the CBI today in the Nandigram probe admitted receiving orders from higher-ups to open fire on villagers on March 14. Both claimed that the villagers had attacked the police first, compelling them to retaliate. The two officers — Shekhar Roy, the then inspector-in-charge of Nandigram police station and Amit Hati, in-charge of Khejuri police station — were summoned to the CBI camp. They were also taken to the two spots — Bhangaberia bridge and Gokulnagar — where the firings took place. Roy named the then IG (Western range) Arun Gupta, the then additional SP (Haldia) Swapan Roy and the then additional SP Howrah (Rural) Satyajit Banerjee who issued the orders to open fire at both the places.
The state government will not acquire land in Nandigram under any circumstances, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said in the Assembly today. “On February 11, I had annou-nced that we would not go to Nandigram to set up the chemical hub. That decision still stands.” “Nayachar has been identified as the new venue. We have sent a proposal to the Centre. Experts are giving their opinions.” He insisted that industrialisation in the state would not be thwarted as the government has received fresh investment proposals worth Rs 150,000 crore.
Assembly Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim today asked CPI MLA from Nandigram Sheikh Illiyas Mohammed to be present in the House on December 10 to reply to a privilege motion moved against him. Illiyas was allegedly caught accepting bribe.
The CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat today came down heavily on a section of the intelligentsia who chose to draw a parallel between Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Bengal and Narendra Modi’s Gujarat. Without naming historian Sumit Sarkar and others, Karat held that some people including some intellectuals didn’t understand the basic features of communal fascism. “None other than the Left have kept a vigil on the communal danger since 1992. West Bengal stand out as model of communal amity. Those who are undermining our efforts are enemies of the country and society,” the CPI(M) general secretary said at a gathering held at Rabindra Sadan to observe the pulling down of the Babri Masjid.
7 December: In a major boost to CBI’s probe into the March 14 Nandigram carnage, a Contai court issued an order today to hand over the 10 persons arrested from the Janani brick kiln in Khejuri days after the attack. All 10 were released on bail after CID took over the investigation. CBI officers are certain they will learn more about the role played by “outsiders” in the carnage if they get to interrogate the 10. Contai ACJM Mihir Mandal today ordered that the arms seized during the brick kiln raid soon after the March 14 Nandigram carnage be handed over to CBI. They are now in CID’s possession.
The government has ordered CID to establish the identity of the people whose charred remains were found in five newly dug graves at Khejuri’s Bamanchak village in East Midnapore on Thursday.
The Supreme Court has said it will hear on December 13 a petition filed by the state govern-ment against a Calcutta High Court order on compensation for victims of the March 14 firing.
8 December:CBI investigators probing the Nandigram firing on March 14 have identified at least 27 outsiders in khaki who moved with the police force to break the barricade that the villagers of Nandigram had put up. Investigators got the lead from the video footage of the carnage recorded by none other than the police and cross-checked it with on-the-spot interrogation of more than 50 villagers and two police officers present on the day of the firing. CBI officers then summoned villagers, owing allegiance to both the parties — CPI(M) and BUPC, and questioned them with video footage on display. The process helped them to spot the men in khaki — a little different from police uniform difficult to differentiate from a distance. These men, according to CBI, were heavily armed and moving with the police. The footage showed that these men, unlike the police, had no shoes. It was evident from the footage that while the police posted on Bhangabera Bridge was busy asking villagers to make way for the police, these “cops” sneaked into the crowd with batons and started chasing them. According to the CBI, this was enough provocation for the crowd to turn violent. Angry villagers then started pelting stones at the police. In the melee, these men chased some of the BUPC supporters with firearms. Locals reportedly identified them as CPI(M) workers. CBI officers have recorded their version and verified their presence in the procession from the footage. Their statements corroborated the video recording of the incident by and large. Investigators have reasons to believe that these outsiders on khaki sparked the violence. Four CBI teams today visited Sonachura, Adhikaripara and Gokulnagar villages in Nandigram. The CBI team is now looking for men in khaki. It has interrogated a few local CPI(M) activists who reportedly refused to identify them. They claimed that some CPI(M) supporters of Sonachura and Bhangabera villages were present with the police as they were forced to join and guide them. But they denied the charge that these men were carrying firearms and chased away BUPC supporters. CBI officers today recovered more charred bones and firearms — a .303 rifle and an improvised gun from the Talpati Canal. They said the charred bones along with those found at the five graves at Khejuri might have a connection with the March 14 carnage.
While the CBI did its bit, a CID team under IG (I) D P Tarenia visited the dreaded spot at Baman-chak village today from where the charred remains were recovered only the other day. Family members of Bacchan Garudas, Srimanta Das and Sunil Bar killed in a blast on October 27 at Sherkhanchawk, claimed that the bones were those of their relatives and asked the police to hand them over. Within a day after the state government ordered the CID inquiry into the mystery graves, the police rounded up 15 people including a CPI(M) local committee member on charges of rioting and attempt to murder.
9 December: The family members (residents of Ramnagar village in West Midnapore’s Belda) of a CPI(M) supporter have claimed that they saw his and four other bodies being placed on an unlit pyre at the spot where the mystery graves were found in Khejuri last week. It is the first public statement by a victim’s relatives that seems to corroborate the CPI(M) version that the graves were of five party supporters who died in a blast on the night of October 27. But why did Gobinda go to Khejuri, 50km away? His wife, Seema, said: he went to see his friend on October 24. On October 28, the party informed us that he had died in a bomb attack.” On October 29, the Singhs left for Khejuri in a hired Tata Sumo. “On October 30, Kanai (victim’s brother) identified the body at Tamluk Hospital and it was brought to Khejuri along with four other bodies of CPI(M) supporters,” said Seema.The five men killed in the explosion at Sherkhanchowk on October 27 were believed to have been making bombs. The four apart from Gobinda were from Gokulnagar, about 10 km from Khejuri. Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee convener Abu Taher said she was not telling the truth. “If the body really belonged to Gobinda, why was it not taken to Ramnagar for cremation? The bones found are of our many missing supporters.”
11 December: Forward Bloc today claimed the ruling Left Front in West Bengal is heading for a split following CPI(M)’s ‘mishandling’ of Nandigram and Singur issues. “After thirty years, the Left Front in on course for a split over CPI(M)’s unilateralism and the Nandigram and Singur issues,” All India Forward Bloc General Secretary, Debabrata Biswas said. “Leftists are facing embarrassing questions from people across the country for what happened in Nandigram. The violence there was sponsored by CPI(M) and other partners had nothing to do with it,” Biswas, a Rajya Sabha member, said. He also charged that there was major change in policy and attitude of CPI(M). “CPI(M) has been deviating from its anti-capitalists and anti-imperialism ideology.” He said his party was sticking to its decision to go it alone in the panchayat polls next year.
12 December: Home Secretary PR Roy said: “The CRPF will stay in Nandigram till February 12 as scheduled.” The CRPF were deployed in Nandigram on November 12 after CPI(M)’s recapture of the area. Raising the issue in the house, senior CPI(M) MLA Robin Mondal alleged the CRPF during raids in Nandigram on Wednesday ‘inhumanely’ harassed women and children and a 90-year-old freedom fighter was also not spared. ”The people also complained that three CRPF personnel are supporters of Trinamool Congress and helping supporters of that party in unleashing atrocities,” he charged. The CRPF should act under strict guidance of the state police. It was a serious matter and the Chief Minister and the state administration should act against CRPF atrocities, Mondal said. The CPI(M) attack of the central forces came after the Chief Minister had told reporters in New Delhi on December four that the CRPF were doing a good job in unearthing arms and ammunition stockpiled by Maoists in Nandigram. Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, who visited Nandigram on December two, had pitched for presence of CRPF for some more time.
A body with two bullet holes was today dug out of the suspected grave that had been found in Parulbari village. A woman, Shyamali Pramanick, saw the decomposed remains and said it was that of her husband’s. Haren, aged around 37, was a Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee supporter. His family said he went missing on November 7 while returning home from the Nandigram block hospital, where his father was being treated for a heart ailment. State police had reportedly submitted a petition to the Haldia court for digging up the spot on Monday, but the judicial magistrate could not reach the spot till Tuesday night. Finally, the government decided to go ahead with the digging in the presence of an executive magistrate. Around 3.15 pm on Wednesday, Shanti Raj Ghorui, block development officer of Nandigram Block I, arrived at the spot and police started digging after about 15 minutes. After removing about six inches of the upper layer of the soil, police discovered a head. By 5 pm, the entire body had been dug out. Bullet marks were found on the victim’s waist.
Charges were framed against CPI(M) leaders Tapan Ghosh and Sukur Ali, accused in the Chhoto Angaria case, today. Abdul Kuddus, Midnapore second additional district judge, fixed December 19 for the next hearing of the case. Public prosecutor Tapas Basu said the two have been slapped with charges under sections 302, 120B, 148, 149, 438 and 201 IPC for being allegedly involved in murder, criminal conspiracy, possessing illegal arms, assembling of criminals, arson and destruction of evidence. Kuddus will decide on December 19 if the two would face trial at the same time, as they had been absconders in the case. The house of Abdul Rahaman Biswas alias Bakhtar Mondal, a Trinamool Congress supporter, was set ablaze at Chhoto Angaria on January 4, 2001. CBI, which took up the case on April 17, 2001, had filed chargesheets against 13 people on November 29, 2004. Five of the accused surrendered in court on August 5, 2005, while police declared the remaining eight as absconders after getting a court warrant. The two were finally caught on November 10.
13 December: The Supreme Court today restrained the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from taking action against any West Bengal police officials involved in the March 14 police firing at Nandigram. A bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan said it was temporarily suspending a part of the Calcutta High Court order, which asked for a CBI probe into the police firing that killed 14 people. The bench, which also included Justices R.V Raveendran and J.M. Panchal, however, clarified that it was not preventing the CBI from continuing, as per the high court order, its ongoing probe into the role of police officials in the firing. The bench’s directive came on a petition by the state government challenging the high court order, which had also passed strong strictures against it and had termed the police firing as ‘illegal and unconstitutional’. The state government had sought deletion of the harsh remarks against it from the court’s order. On the state government’s petition, the apex court bench also issued notices to the CBI as well as the Association for Protection for Democratic Rights and other respondents on whose petition the high court had passed its order. The toll in Nandigram has risen to 35 since January this year when the region erupted in violence over a government proposal to acquire farmland for industry.
14 December: Alarmed over Maoist posters being plastered on the gate of the state secretariat, the West Bengal government today formed a task force to monitor the activities of the rebels and also suspended four Kolkata Police constables on charges of dereliction of duty. ‘A task force has been formed to monitor the activities of the Maoists in West Bengal,’ state Home Secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy told reporters. The posters, which were reportedly pasted late Thursday night, blamed Chief Minster Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Left Front chairman Biman Bose and Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member Binoy Konar for the March 14 firing in Nandigram. Roy said four Kolkata Police constables who were posted outside the gate of state secretariat Writers’ Buildings Thursday night have been suspended for dereliction of duty. Security personnel found the posters pasted on the gate No.1 of the state secretariat and immediately removed them. Police have taken a photocopy of the posters for further investigation. Maoists posters were also found on the walls of a popular cafeteria, Coffee House, in central Kolkata.
17 December: The CBI’s “preliminary” report on the March 14 firing in Nandigram says the police did not have enough provocation to shoot. CBI handed over a preliminary report on Nandi-gram to the Calcutta High Court in a sealed cover. The judges refused to divulge the contents. Roy handed over the sealed cover to the division Bench of Chief Justice S S Nijjar and Justice P C Ghosh and sought four more months to complete the probe. The court had directed CBI to initiate a full-fledged investigation into the police firing in Nandigram on November 16. Submitting the report in Calcutta High Court today, the bureau sought four months to submit the final report. The division bench of Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Ghosh gave two months. The “ final” report has to be submitted by February 15.
A CBI official from Delhi told: “The police firing was without much provocation. The distance between the field where the crowd had assembled and the policemen on the Bhangabera bridge was big. Even if the villagers hurled brickbats and bombs at the police, they wouldn’t have reached the cops.” Bhangabera was one of the two places — the other being Adhikarypara — from where the police opened fire at villagers who tried to prevent them from entering Nandigram. “Practically, it was impossible for the villagers to throw brickbats and bombs at policemen standing on the bridge. There was no threat to the policemen, as claimed by them,” the CBI official said. Some of the constables who had fired apparently told the CBI sleuths that even before setting foot on Nandigram they got the impression they might be ordered to shoot. The CBI official said: “The officers who ordered the firing possibly made up their mind to shoot even before entering Nandigram as they knew the sort of resistance they might face.”A large number of policemen and villagers were yet to be examined, the CBI told the court. Sources said the preliminary report has pointed out the disparity between the actual number of bullets fired and the figure mentioned by the police in their FIR. “Many people sustained bullet injuries, but the police claimed that only a few rounds were fired,” a CBI official said. The bureau needed time to confirm whether “outsiders” in police uniform also opened fire. “Many villagers who sustained bullet injuries spoke to us about ‘outsiders’,” the official said. The counsel for the high court bar association, Shaktinath Mukherjee, pleaded with the court to speed up the probe. “The firing took place eight months ago and the CBI started its full-fledged investigation last month. It is already very late,” he said. The judges took 15 minutes to read the 15-16 page document. Neither the lawyers wanted to know about its contents nor did the judges inform them about it. A source said the bench did not comment on the “preliminary report” as it was awaiting the apex court’s verdict.
The Supreme Court will hear the case again on January 28. In its interim order, the apex court restrained the CBI from registering a case against any of the accused till the disposal of the case. “What could the high court say today? It had to either direct the CBI to register cases against the accused or stop the probe,” a lawyer said.
19 December: The CBI has filed four fresh cases while probing the Nandigram massacre of people on March 14 against local CPI(M) leaders and police officials for allegedly raping women and holding them hostages. With this, the number of cases registered by the CBI has gone upto seven after the agency was directed by the Calcutta High Court to carry out thorough investigations into March 14 police firing that left 14 people dead and 70 injured. The CBI officials said one of the cases relates to rape of a mother and her two daughters allegedly by CPI(M) leaders of Nandigram around March 14. The two other cases were registered against unnamed people who went on a rape and looting spree on the day of police firing on March 14.
20 December: The CRPF today found eight graves in the CPI(M) stronghold of Khejuri adjacent to Nandigram, three of which might contain human remains. CRPF sources said the three graves found at Mansinghber today evening could be of women as torn pieces of saree and bits of bangles and a necklace were found from there. Five empty graves were located at Sherkhan chowk. A 25-member CRPF team has cordoned off the graves.
CPI(M) plans to make the ‘selective leaking’ of the CBI report on Nandigram into a big issue. West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and politburo member Sitaram Yechury today (The party’s central committee, currently meeting in the Capital) questioned the motive behind the ‘leakage’, saying that it could be easily interpreted. While Bhattacharjee said the party would take it up with the Centre, Yechury said since the matter was subjudice, it would be wrong to preempt anything. Asked if he felt that a political party had a role behind the “leakage” of the report, Yechury said, “It is for the media to interpret.” In private, party leaders alleged that “leakage” was the handiwork of some Congress leaders at the Centre who thought that such reports would embarrass the Left Front government. “The truth would come out. No amount of insinuation and media battle would take away the facts of the case. CBI has been asked to probe the Nandigram violence, and not the role of the CPI(M) cadre alone.
21 December: The CRPF today interrogated residents of two villages after five empty graves were found at Sherkhanchowk near Nandigram. Arindam Mukhopadhyay, chief of CRPF’s Gokul Nagar camp, visited the graves today and posted a team to question the people of Sherkhanchowk village and Pankhai. The CRPF has been questioning the villagers on the identity of the missing bodies, how they had disappeared, who had dug up the graves and whether the land was used as a graveyard earlier, the CRPF sources said.
23 December: Altogether 76 bombs were today found near Janani brick kiln on khejuri side, a CPI(M) stronghold. Acting on a tip-off, CRPF personnel went to the Janani brick kiln area here with sniffer dogs and found the bombs hidden in the bushes. “The bombs would be handed over to the police,” CRPF Assistant Commandant Arindam Upadhyay said.
Forward Bloc secretary Ashok Ghosh today publicly blamed the Bengal chief minister for the March 14 firing in Nandigram at the Bloc’s first rally in Nandigram. “It is true that Buddhadeb Bhatta-charjee had apologised for ordering the firing on his own in Nandigram (at a Left Front meeting on March 17). Pratirodh Committee members described the front rally as “an eye-opener” for the CPI(M), “which is responsible for our miseries”.
26 December: Today, for the first time since the turmoil began, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee addressed a public meeting in Nandigram. Bhattcharjee began his address by saying “I have come here to express my condolences for all those who have died irrespective of their party affiliations,” maintained his government had wanted to develop Nandigram as a big industrial town like adjoining Haldia. Bhattacharjee said his government had no idea that a situation would be created allegedly by the opposition which would lead to police firing. “No government in a civilised country can send the police to kill people,” the Chief Minister told. He also urged CPI(M) leaders not to “misbehave” with opposition activists but to be polite with them. “The government does not take into account party affiliations. We will help all the distressed people,” Bhattacharjee told the open session of the CPI(M)’s East Midnapore district conference. Bhattacharjee rued his decision to send police into Nandigram on March 14, which sparked clashes in which 14 persons died. “Had I known that it would result in exchange of bullets and loss of lives, I would not have sent the force. My condolences are for all the people who lost their lives,” Bhattacharjee said.
The family members of 29 CPI(M) “martyrs” were given cheques of Rs 2 lakh each. Bose handed over the cheques as the compensation was from the party, not the government.
Hours after the CM’s meeting, CPI(M) activists of Southkhali village severely beat up an elderly couple, Batakrishna Das and his wife Rekharani, for refusing to take part in the party rally. The couple has been hospitalised.
27 December: Champak Roy Chowdhury, the officer-in-charge of Nandigram police station, was shunted out to the Tamluk police lines today. He was replaced by Debra OC Debashis Chakrabarty. Roy Chowdhury was transferred apparently under pressure from the East Midnapore CPI(M), a day after the chief minister announced in Nandigram that he wanted police to play a non-partisan role. District CPI(M) leaders were upset with the way Roy Chowdhury had rounded up CPI(M) loyalist school teacher Abhay Jana, with a bomb in his hand, and refused to let go of him despite pressure from the party.
CPI(M)’s Nandigram zonal committee secretary Ashok Bera dismissed the assault on BUPC sympathisers as “a minor incident”. He felt his party activists should not treat Opposition supporters as enemies. “We are trying to convince our supporters. But BUPC men are creating trouble in places like Bhutar More,” he said. But his assurance meant little to those BUPC supporters, who were roughed up by CPI(M) cadres today morning at South Kendamari village.
30 December: Complying with the Calcutta High Court order, the West Bengal government has paid compensation to the kin of 13 of the 14 people killed in the March 14 police firing in Nandigram region of East Midnapore district. “Compensation cheques were handed over to the relatives of all the victims of the March 14 firing in Nandigram except one whose body was yet to be identified,” District Magistrate Anup Agarwal said.
Local reports said Nandigram-I block deve-lopment officer (BDO) Santiram Gorai went to Sonachura, Kalicharanpur, Southkhali, Jalpai, Keshabpur and Parulbari Sunday and handed over the cheques.
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2 January: The ruling CPI(M)’s pro-farmer face took yet another beating in Balagarh today when they won the Balagarh by-election with a much diminished mandate. CPI(M) state secretariat member Shyamal Chakrabarty, in a way, conceded the Nandigram effect. “Ours is a remarkable victory against the malicious anti-CPI(M) tirade launched since trouble broke out in Nandigram,” he said.
The Salim projects that were put on the back burner after the Nandigram flare-up, are on the agenda once again. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today set up a steering committee to push the projects. The Petroleum, Chemical and Petrochemical Investment Regions (PCPIR), commonly known as the chemical hub, is the committee’s top priority. “It is not possible to implement all the projects at one go. A steering committee will fix the priorities and monitor the progress,” said Bhattacharjee. “We have sent a fresh proposal to the Centre because the chemical hub will not come up in Nandigram, but Nayachar,” said the CM, adding, “We have also formed a committee, headed by Subir Raha, former ONGC chairman.” The CM said a 25-km road would be built in the first phase. “We will set up new IT hubs in Kalyani, Haringhata and Durgapur,” said Bhattacharjee. This first phase includes:(1) PCPIR at Nayachar, (2) Development of Raichak-Kukrahati bridge, (3) As part of development, a 25-km stretch will be built connecting Diamond Harbour Road to Raichak and between Barasat and Basanti, (4) Townships at Kalyani, Baruipur and Haringhata.
The ruling CPI(M)’s pro-farmer face took yet another beating in Balagarh today when they won the Balagarh (Hooghly District) by-election with a much diminished mandate. CPI(M) state secretariat member Shyamal Chakrabarty, in a way, conceded the Nandigram effect. “Ours is a remarkable victory against the malicious anti-CPI(M) tirade launched since trouble broke out in Nandigram,” he said.
5 January: Police arrested Ranjit Mandal, a resident of Sonachura, from Baruipur in South 24-Parganas today after noon claiming that he is a member of the Maoist squad. BUPC supporters rubbished the police claim and have planned a stir from tomorrow.
The chief minister met the IOC chairman, S Behuria, to formally inform him about the government’s intention to set up the chemical hub at Nayachar instead of Nandigram. IOC, in turn, told the government to send a formal letter so that it could begin its feasibility study. Bhattacharjee told the IOC chairman that the oil refinery was the mother project and it wouldn’t be possible to set up the petroleum, chemicals and petrochemicals industrial region (PCPIR) without the refinery. Therefore, the CM said, it was essential that the IOC held a meeting with the Salim group. “The anchor investor and the anchor developer of the chemical hub must meet,” Bhattacharjee reportedly told Behuria. The IOC chairman told the CM that a deep sea port was an absolute necessity for any big refinery. The CM couldn’t agree more. The state government has been discussing about this deep sea port with the Centre because Haldia and Kolkata ports suffer from lack of draft and a new sea port could play a crucial role in making the chemical hub and the refinery a reality. Also present at today’s meeting were chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb and commerce and industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen. Briefing reporters about the meeting, Sen said, “IOC has told us that it will promote the chemical hub as a destination of downstream petrochemical activity. For this, they will soon send a team to the state.” Despite the talks on the chemical hub at Nayachar, the proposal for which was yet to be submitted to the Centre’s Cabinet committee for approval, IOC is currently more focused on completing the capacity augmentation plan and setting up the paraxylene facility at the existing refinery rather than the proposed 15-million tonne refinery at Nayachar. Last year, IOC had entered into an agreement with the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation to be the anchor investor for the proposed chemical hub in Haldia, which was to come up on 10,000 acres. Today, the commerce secretary said, “No fresh agreement will be needed. IOC will let us know how much land they will require, now that they will create a petrochemical hub around the refinery at Nayachar (and not Haldia).” IOC has already committed an investment of Rs 2,000 crore for expansion and modernisation of its existing refinery in Haldia. “They will need 80 acres for the expansion,” said Sen, adding, “Post expansion, IOC would want to connect this refinery with the one that will come up at Nayachar.” He said the oil major was also keen to construct a pipeline between Dum Dum airport and IOC’s offloading centre at Budge Budge.
11 January: Calcutta High Court today issued criminal contempt notices against CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose and party leaders, Benoy Konar and Shyamal Chakraborty. The three have been given two weeks’ time to prove as to why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them for making derogatory remarks against the judiciary. The matter will be heard again two weeks later. Biman and two others had criticized the judiciary and passed derogatory remarks against the division Bench of Chief Justice S S Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh after they directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to continue with its probe into the Nandigram police firing on March 14, 2007.
Calcutta High Court today directed the state government to file an affidavit within eight weeks on two public interest litigations against fresh violence in Nandigram in the first week of November 2007. A division Bench of Chief Justice S S Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh took up a petition filed by the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights and Secularism (CPDRS). Left Front chairman Biman Bose, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and CPI(M) leaders Benoy Konar and Brinda Karat have been made parties to the petition.
12 January: In a big boost to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, CPI(M)’s Bengal unit has firmly backed his move to encourage special economic zones (SEZs) in the state. And this, despite CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat once having asked the Centre to put all SEZs, including 14 from Bengal, on hold. In its draft report on ‘Left Front government, municipalities and panchayats’, to be presented at CPI(M)’s state conference here from Monday, CPI(M)’s Bengal unit has made its stance clear. “In such a situation, we can’t just drop the SEZ idea. Investments will stop flowing into the state’s export-led industries if we fail to set up SEZs. The existing ones will become sick in the days to come,” the report states. This makes it clear that the party’s state unit stands by Bhattacharjee’s bid to pursue multi-product SEZs — especially in less fertile areas such as West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia, Asansol, Jalpaiguri and Siliguri. Bhattacharjee has one condition, though: promoters have to use 50% of the SEZ land for manufacturing. The draft report says: “Those who oppose the state’s bid for industrialization are, in a way, arguing for the status quo. We have to strive for industrial development along with our consistent struggle against the ill-effects of capitalism.”
13 January: The state government will take full responsibility for farmers and their families who give away land for industrial projects, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told a massive gathering of party workers on Brigade Parade Ground today. The state remains committed to industrialization, but the policy will be in harmony with farmers’ needs, the chief minister said. “If land has been taken away from farmers, then it is the government’s responsibility to ensure the family gets a new source of livelihood. We can’t shy away from this responsibility. We don’t need to be told by Congress or Trinamool about what needs to be done for the farmers,” the CM said at the open session of CPI(M)’s state conference. Bhattacharjee, who had once said “money has no colour”, said the state was not concerned about which business group or country comes scouting for investment prospects — what matters is jobs. “It can come from the Tatas, Jindals, US or Chinese companies, that is not the issue. Our only criterion is how many people will get jobs once these industries come up,” he said. The CM added: “We are not bothered about who will buy the car made at Singur. What is important is that 6,000 people will get work there. The chemical hub couldn’t happen at Nandigram, but it will come up at Nayachar. This will pave the way for rubber and textile industries all over the state. Whoever guarantees job is welcome here.”
30 January: After roping in L N Mittal for the Nayachar project, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is now trying to get his favourite industrialist, Mukesh Ambani, as the anchor investor for the proposed chemical hub. For this, the chief minister today sent a team led by commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen to Jamnagar. Ambani has built the world’s largest grassroots refinery complex in Jamnagar, which manufactures 27 lakh tonnes annually. Nirupam Sen, along with principal secretary, commerce and industries, Sabyasachi Sen, and WBIDC managing director M V Rao, will try and get Reliance Industries to come as the anchor investor for the chemical hub in Nayachar. Sources said the chief minister, now armed with a thumbs up from the Jurong Consultants, who have certified that Nayachar is even better than Singapore’s Jurong, one of the world’s largest chemical hubs, is wasting no time. So, if last Sunday (27 January) saw him flaunting the Jurong certificate before the world’s fifth richest man, it’s time to weigh a bigtime deal with the Ambanis. The industries minister, who reached Jamnagar at 11.15 am today, took a close look at the refinery till 1 pm. His next stop was the green belt created by Reliance in the erstwhile deserts of Jamnagar. A refinery in Nayachar and a deep sea port in Haldia now top the CM’s priority list. Reliance has already been there and done that. Therefore, it made perfect sense to physically visit Jamnagar.
1 February: After the Ambanis, now the Hindujas are looking to invest in Bengal. The Hinduja Group India (HGI) wants to pump in big money in the proposed chemical hub in Nayachar. The Hinduja Group India (HGI) is also planning a medical city near Kolkata. Commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen, along with state industry secretary Sabyasachi Sen, had a long discussion with Hinduja group chairman Ashok Hinduja and vice-chairman Subir Raha regarding this today. “HGI is interested to set up a naphtha cracker unit in Nayachar. The group has already decided to set up a refinery and looking for a downstream unit close to a port. Mukesh Ambani is also exploring the possibility of setting up refinery or downstream unit at Haldia,” Sen said.
2 February:In School Committee election of Gokulnagar High School in Nandigram all CPI(M)-backed candidates have lost in 6 seats.
8 February: Calcutta High Court today directed Left Front chairman Biman Bose and others to file an affidavit within six weeks on a contempt application filed by BJP state secretary Rahul Sinha. Sinha had moved the application against Bose for his remarks on the judiciary after the High Court on January 16 had directed the CBI to continue with the probe into the March 14 firing in Nandigram.
CBI today questioned Arun Gupta, IG (admin-istration) and N R Babu, DIG (Midnapore Range) about the March 14, 2007, police firing in Nandigram. The agency also interrogated 28 CPI(M) workers, including local leaders Himanshu Das and Rabin Giri at the Kolkata Port Trust guest house in Haldia. Sources said CBI pointedly asked Gupta, then IG (Western Zone) and in charge of the Nandigram operation, and Babu, about whether the situation was severe enough for police to open fire. In an attempt to justify their order to fire, the two placed some audio clippings before the CBI team. Sources said Gupta and Babu even tried to prove through the recorded telephonic convers-ations of two Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee leaders that the latter had planned to attack police that day. Gupta and Babu reportedly tried to convince CBI officers that a few BUPC activists were the first to fire at the police from a rally, forcing the latter to retaliate. Apparently, several discrepancies emerged in the versions offered by the two senior officers during the day’s interrogation. “We have questioned Arun Gupta and NR Babu to check out a few details,” said Arun Kumar, CBI joint director.
9 February: The National Human Rights Commission has said neither CPI(M) nor the Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee “can escape their share of responsibility” for the events in Nandigram. It has also severely indicted the state government for “failing to discharge its primary obligation” in preventing the attack by CPI(M) cadres as well as the police for its partisan role.
10 February: In School Committee election of Maheshpur High School and Kanchannagar School in Nandigram, all CPI(M)-backed candid-ates have lost in 6 seats of each.
12 February: Today when the CRPF teams completed their three-month stay, state home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray ruled out chances of withdrawal of the central forces at the moment. “They will stay there for some more time,” Ray said.
A police team, along with the Rapid Action Force (RAF), raided Sudhangshu Das’s hut at Sonachura in Nandigram today morning and rounded up Mithu Ghosh, the “suspected Maoist” who had taken shelter there. According to police, he denied having Maoist links during interrogation.
14 February: Months after he said sorry for the Nandigram carnage, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today, while addressing the state police force at Science City, gave East Midnapore police an award for the best unit in the state. And Sadhucharan Chatterjee, the police officer who was lynched by a mob during the Nandigram unrest, got the posthumous bravery award.
15 February: The Central Bureau of Invest-igation (CBI) submitted today a second report on the March 14, 2007 firing incident in Nandigram, West Bengal, to the Calcutta High Court. The court directed the investigating agency counsel Ranjan Roy to handover the report to the registrar general. On December 17, CBI had submitted a status report to the court. Before that, on March 26, it had filed a preliminary report, after the court took up the case suo motu and asked CBI to probe the firing. Meanwhile, a number of public interest litigations were moved, condemning police firing that claimed 14 lives. After a prolonged hearing, the court on November 11, 2007, had passed an order observing that the police firing was unconstitutional. The court also directed the CBI to proceed with the investigation by registering regular criminal cases and file status report in a month.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today handed over 13,000 acres of land in the Nayachar islands for the Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Region (PCPIR). But the handover is only for “permissive possession”, which is required for conducting studies and surveys before the project actually takes off. The petrochem hub was supposed to be set up in Nandigram, about 4 km away, until a year-long violence and bloody turf war scuttled the original plan. Instead of farmlands, the SEZ will now come up on a chain of marshy islands in the middle of the Haldi river. The chief minister formally gave away the islands to Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy Petrochemicals Private Limited, a joint venture company formed with WBIDC and NKID, the consortium led by the Indonesian Salim group. WBIDC, now the owner of the land, may use it as its equity in the venture. NKID’s share in the company is 51 per cent. As the 49 per cent shareholder, WBIDC may, be in a position to contribute the land as equity share. Unlike the Tatas, where WBIDC wasn’t involved, the chemical hub project may allow the industrial corporation to give the land to NKID free of cost. Industry secretary Sabyasachi Sen said, “The nitty gritty of the land deal is yet to be worked out. It may be WBIDC’s equity contribution to the project.”
16 February: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhat-tacharjee on Friday handed over 13,000 acres of land in the Nayachar islands for the Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Region (PCPIR). But the handover is only for “permissive possession”, which is required for conducting studies and surveys before the project actually takes off.
22 February: Eight Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee supporters were injured in a clash with CPI(M) supporters at Nandigram’s Dihi Kamalpur village today afternoon. Around 12.30 pm, a group of CPI(M) supporters barged into the house of BUPC supporter Khudiram Das. Das had earlier accused some CPI(M) workers of kidnapping two minor girls from the village. The two girls were rescued yesterday from Namkhana in South 24-parganas. The girls, however, did not name any of the CPI(M) workers. Two of those injured in today’s clash have been admitted to a Tamluk hospital. A police picket has been put up in the area.
24 February: As media reported today, one of the smaller Left parties, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), has severely criticized the CPI(M) for its ambivalence and “arrogance” on various issues, be it support to the UPA government, Indo-US nuclear deal or Nandigram. RSP’s 18th national conference, currently being held in the capital. “The eviction of poor farmers in Singur for an SEZ of the Tata group and at Nandigram for the Salim group and the adamant and arrogant stand taken by the CPI(M) West Bengal unit invited much criticism and popular unrest,” the draft resolution said. It added that it was due to the open protest by RSP, CPI and Forward Bloc that the CPI(M)-led government “gave up its adamant stand and made amends by tendering a public apology for what had happened, particularly, in respect of Nandigram.”
25 February: The Supreme Court today defer-ed for four weeks the hearing on a petition filed by the West Bengal government challenging a Calcutta High Court order indicting it for “unjustified” firing which left 14 dead in Nandigran last year. A Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan adjourned the hearing after it was brought to its notice that rejoinders and counter-affidavits were yet to be filed.
27 February: The expert committee visited Nayachar today to assess the geological aspect of the island. The West Bengal government is hoping to get the final approval for the proposed Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Invest-ment Region (PCPIR) from the Centre by March 15. Top sources in the state government said the Union ministry of chemical and fertiliser is satisfied with the report and the approval is likely to come next week. When contacted, the state industry secretary Sabyasachi Sen said the indications are positive from the ministry. The vice-chairman of Hinduja Group India and the head of the six-member expert committee on PCPIR, Subir Raha, added, the expert committee will meet on March 24 to further discuss the PCPIR issue. The expert committee visited Nayachar on February 27 to assess the geological aspect of the island. “We shall discuss a few technical points in the meeting, to be held at Jadavpur University,” he said.
2 March: For the first time since CPI(M) “re-captured” Nandigram last November, violence erupted yet again at the battle-scarred zone today. A Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) supporter was shot at and three others were seriously injured when a group of CPI(M) men allegedly opened fire at Keyakhali near Satenga-bari. Debashish Mondol, the BUPC supporter, was hit on stomach and thigh. He was rushed to the Tamluk Subdivisional Hospital and later taken to SSKM Hospital in Kolkata. Local CPI(M) leaders did not deny the involvement of their supporters in the incident, while claiming that some of their partymen had also been injured. No arrests were made. Trinamool Congress and BUPC have called a Nandigram bandh tomorrow. The incident occurred around 1.30 pm, when Mondol’s house was attacked allegedly by a group of 40 armed CPI(M) men. After a few minutes of scuffle, the assailants fired at him. Hearing the gunshots, some BUPC supporters rushed to his rescue. A clash ensued between the two groups which left four other BUPC men injured. Bullets were fired indiscriminately. While Mondol — a teacher at the Satengabari School — received bullet wounds, another BUPC supporter, Jaladhar Das, was beaten up.
3 March: A clash between supporters of CPI(M) and Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) on the eve of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s programme tomorrow is a grim reminder that the situation in Nandigram is far from normal. Today there was tension in Nandigram over a bandh called by BUPC. Two CPI(M) supporters were later arrested, IG (law and order) Raj Kanojia said. Refusing to take chances, the government today rushed one company of India Reserve Battalion to Nandigram. Besides, CRPF will continue to be stationed there, in all likelihood, till the panchayat poll. Tomorrow, besides, distributing pattas to landless farmers, Bhatta-charjee would also address a meeting in Nandigram.
The road to a Nandigram village was dug up after almost a year today to keep police away as Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee and CPI(M) supporters clashed, injuring many.
A mob beat up CPI(M) supporter Sheikh Akram in the village this morning, accusing him of being part of a gang that had attacked BUPC supporters in Chowringheebazar, 3km away. Around 9am, a Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) procession heading to Nandigram police station encountered CPI(M) supporters who were asking traders to open their shops at Chowringheebazar. An altercation snow-balled into a clash about 5km from Nandigram police station. Eleven people were injured. At Satengabari, BUPC activists attacked the house of CPI(M) supporter Sheikh Tahid, 35, and beat him up. Tahid had allegedly shifted loyalties after the CPI(M)’s Nandigram recapture in November.
Led by Trinamool Congress MLA from Contai (South) Subhendu Adhikary, committee supporters demonstrated in front of the police station and accused the CPI(M) of unleashing attacks on them.
4 March: A new school, a new college, land pattas for farmers — chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had a sizeable gift hamper ready for Nandigram today. The CM tried to reassure listeners that his government won’t take land forcibly from farmers. “Nandigram has been a lesson for us. People here have shed tears. We won’t let this happen anywhere in the state. My government won’t apply force to acquire land from unwilling farmers. We need industry but we will go for it only where farmers will give land on their own. We have had no problems in Salboni, Asansol, Durgapur,” the chief minister said. But that was not enough to reassure people. Villagers in nearby hamlets wore black badges against continuing police atrocities. The brave — or maybe, the foolhardy — even walked up to the CPI(M) gathering wearing the badges. The mood was defiant all around, as the recent school committee election of Ashartaliya High School showed. CPI(M) lost in all six posts. Bhattacharjee was accompanied by land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah, who distributed land pattas to the landless. “A campaign being run by our enemies is spreading rumours that the government is taking away land from poor Muslims. It is baseless,” Bhattacharjee said. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today asked the Opposition parties as well as the CPI(M) to forget what happened in the past year, not create further trouble in Nandigram and work together for the area’s uplift. The chief minister said, “I’ve come to Nandigram not to take away land but to give land to the poor. We wanted to set up industries here but the people did not want them. The government would not bring industry by shedding people’s tears.” “We took lessons from the mistake committed in Nandigram. You all will be glad to know that the people of Nandigram will be able to work in Nayachar,” Bhattacharjee said.
Hours after the chief minister appealed for peace, block development officer Santiram Gorai took a team to repair the road, dug up at three places. Armed policemen accompanied them, but there was no resistance. Pratirodh Committee leader Abu Sufiyan said: “We did not support yesterday’s dig-up. We don’t want more trouble.” But in the evening, at least 10 people were injured as Trinamool Congress and CPI(M) supporters clashed at Balarampur, 15km away. Police said the trouble erupted over painting a wall for a puja. Two villagers had to be hospitalised.
5 March: West Bengal home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray is being shunted to the higher education department, while higher education secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty will take over as the new home secretary. The formal handing over of charge will take place on March 10. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee signed the order during the day. The transfer of the home secretary on the eve of the panchayat election is significant, especially because he was caught in a controversy last year when trouble was at its peak in Nandigram. Roy had gone on record stating that attacks on Nandigram were taking place from Khejuri, a CPI(M) stronghold.
8 March: As media reported today, the West Bengal government is hoping to get the final approval for the proposed Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Region (PCPIR) from the Centre by March 15. Top sources in the state government said the Union ministry of chemical and fertiliser is satisfied with the report and the approval is likely to come next week. When contacted, the state industry secretary Sabyasachi Sen said the indications are positive from the ministry. The state government consti-tuted the six-member committee to assess the technical and economical viability of Nayachar island. Sources close to the development added the representative of PCR Chemicals, the developer of the chemical SEZ at Nayachar, will not be there in the expert committee meeting. PCR Chemicals is a joint venture between NKID and WBIDC. Clearing the air on the eligibility of the 47-sq-km island as a PCPIR, Sabyasachi Sen had earlier said Nayachar will only be the processing hub for the proposed PCPIR. As per the PCPIR policy, the total area required is 250 sq km. But the minimum processing area required for the PCPIR is 100 sq km. “The processing area may or may not be contiguous,” the policy says.
9 March: As media reported today, SUCI has finally agreed to join hands with Trinamool Congress to curb CPI(M), which has been showing “fascistic trends,” according to an SUCI leader. SUCI state secretary Provas Ghosh and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee have met twice to discuss the issue. And, according to the deal clinched in the last meeting, the two parties will jointly contest the coming panchayat polls. SUCI leaders said their party wants the unity with Trinamool-led PSDF to grow from the grass roots through participation in joint movements. “In Nandigram, SUCI and Trinamool had local level adjustments in the Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee. But we want this understanding to grow up to the state level now,” said Ghosh.
14 March: A number of rallies in Kolkata have been organized by several parties and organ-izations to protest the police firing in Nandigram on March 14 last year. Today marks the first anniversary of the firing.
The Lok Sabha today dismissed a US Government report which alleged that there have been human rights violations during the Nandigram violence. Raising the matter during Zero Hour, CPI member Gurudas Dasgupta described the US State Department’s observations were “grave interference of internal affairs of India by the Bush administration”. Responding to the point made by Dasgupta, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee observed the report should be “ignored with contempt it deserves”. “We are not bound” by the Bush administration, he said.
The CPI(M) today described as “interference” in India’s affairs a US official report that referred to the Nandigram violence. The party asked the US to concentrate on “gross human rights violations in occupied Iraq and by the Israeli regime in the Gaza strip and other areas of occupied Palestine”. The US report comes on the first anniversary of the March 14 firing in Nandigram.
15 March: Activists of the CPI(M) and Trina-mool Congress clashed in Nandigram today. The clash took place at Chowrangi Bazar at about 11 am and two persons, one worker each of CPI(M) and Trinamool, were injured, Purba Midnapore district Superintendent of Police, S Panda, said.
18 March: As media reported today, a citizen’s expert committee has slammed the West Bengal government’s dream chemical hub project on the Nayachar island on Hooghly river, saying it would cause serious ecological damage. Nayachar, a 47 sq km island on the Hooghly river in East Midnapore district, has been selected as the likely place for the proposed chemical hub in West Bengal. The state government settled for Nayachar after being forced to move from Nandigram, the first site chosen for the chemical hub. The committee, formed by city-based environmental activists, said that Nayachar is an estuarine shoal and any structural intervention on the land would imperil its delicate ecology. “First of all, the newly selected location for the chemical hub at Nayachar cannot be termed an island. It’s better to call it a land of alluvial deposit which emerged above water level during 1930 and still continues to evolve by the process of erosion and accretion,” Ganges Monitoring Committee member Kalyan Rudra said.
19 March: The Centre’s approval for the petro-chemical hub at Nayachar is yet to come through, but the investments are already flowing in. Cals Refinery today signed a MoU with the state for a Rs 4,000-crore oil refinery plant. “The refinery will come up in three phases. The first two will be at Haldia and the third at Nayachar,” said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, elated at the first venture in the Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Region (PCPIR) project. “We need this petroleum company for the PCPIR.” The MoU for the 5-million tonne oil refinery plant was signed between Cals Refinery, Haldia Development Authority (HDA) and West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC).
24 March: The Centre is contemplating am-ending the land acquisition law to ensure adequate compensation, both monetary and psychological, to people whose lands are acquired. The government also said no agricultural and irrigated land should be taken for Special Economic Zones. “We are contemplating incorporating certain issues in the existing law. It is before the Standing Committee and soon Parliament will discuss it,” Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil said at a seminar on “Relief and Rehabilitation of Displaced Persons” organised by National Human Rights Commission. “When a person is not ready to sell his land and it is acquired through the law, he has to be compensated financially as well as psychologically. Besides, land for land is also acceptable,” he said. The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 enables governments to acquire land for public purposes as well as for companies registered under the Companies Act. Following protests in Nandigram and other SEZs, it was proposed that the law should be suitably amended so that the government can acquire land for public purposes. “Land which are good for agriculture should not be acquired for SEZs as far as possible. No irrigated land should be acquired and only barren land should be taken for SEZs,” Patil said.
2 April: Notwithstanding the opposition faced by government in acquiring land for industries, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhatta-charjee today said the state has to move ahead with industrialisation despite problems. “There is a problem in acquiring land (for industries) in West Bengal. While 63 per cent of the land was agricultural, 13 per cent was forest cover and one per cent fallow,” he said at Coimbatore (Kerala) apparently referring to the opposition in Nandigram and Singur. “So only 23 per cent was left for the industry and that has been filled up. We cannot stop here and we must move ahead,” he told reporters replying to a question here.
19 April: Violence erupted afresh in Nandigram since yesterday after CPI(M) workers allegedly attacked villagers in Gokulnagar area and gang-raped a 50-year-old woman. Three persons, including the woman, were shifted to the SSKM Hospital in Kolkata today. In her complaint to the Nandigram police station, the woman claimed that she was also among those raped on March 14, 2007. Around 10 pm yesterday, nearly 200 CPI(M) supporters from Khejuri took out a procession in Gokulnagar. On the way, they allegedly attacked members of the Trinamool-backed Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC). Among those hurt were 12 Trinamool workers. Seven CPI(M) workers then entered the woman’s house and gangraped her. Her screams brought neighbours running to the spot but policemen posted on the nearby Tekhali bridge allegedly remained unmoved. The CPI(M) workers returned tao Khejuri after the assault. Around 1.30 am, a CRPF contingent reached the spot and tried to pacify locals. The woman and other injured were shifted to a local hospital. Among the injured was Narmada Shee, who led women from Sonachura against the CPI(M) since early 2007.
23 April: The medical board at SSKM Hospital has concluded that Radharani – the villager from Nandigram – was not raped, but only physically assaulted. The medical board submitted its report today to the hospital superintendent, Ashok Ghosh. Radharani, a resident of Gokulnagar village, was brought to SSKM on Saturday (19 April). She had alleged that CPI(M)-backed goons had raped her on Friday (18 April) night during the clashes between CPI(M) and BUPC supporters. The report, however, has drawn flak from human rights activists and the band of intellectuals, who have opposed CPI(M)’s show of strength in the East Midnapore village. “If a woman says she has been raped then the complaint has to be taken into cognizance. This is what the Supreme Court has to say. When the medical test was performed and in what conditions also has to be taken into account. Even in Tapasi Malik’s case (of Singur), the government had said that the medical tests had ruled out rape. Doctors often work under political pressure,” said rights activist Sujato Bhadra. Theatre personality Saoli Mitra, who went to meet Radharani on Sunday (20 April) along with film-maker Aparna Sen, said both Radharani and her husband had told them about the rape. “She told us that the miscreants removed her clothes and forced her to drink alcohol. That she was assaulted is beyond doubt and there should not be any discussion on whether she was actually raped or not. After March 14, many women had claimed that they had been raped, but their claims could not be proved,” said Mitra.
28 April:Criticising the Buddhadeb Bhatta-charjee led-government of West Bengal for its handling of the situation at Nandigram, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today said that she was with the people of the area in their sorrow. “I am with the people of Nandigram who faced sorrow and hardship, especially with the women, children and farmers,” Gandhi said amidst a thunderous applause from the crowd at the YMA ground here.
29 April:CPI(M) patriarch Jyoti Basu today snub-bed Congress president Sonia Gandhi for her criticism of the law and order situation in West Bengal and reference to the suffering of people at Nandigram, saying she knew nothing about the state. “I read in newspapers that she came to the state to campaign for panchayat elections. She knows nothing about West Bengal. There is no need to give any importance to her utterances,” Basu told reporters.
4 May:A fresh clash between supporters of the state’s ruling CPI(M) and those of opposition Trinamool Congress erupted here today. Mean-while, 4OO villagers were sheltered in releif camps following mounting violence in the run up to coming panchayat elections.
5 May: Violence has reared its head in Nandi-gram once again. At least four Trinamool Congress supporters and a CPI(M) cadre were seriously injured in clashes that broke out in Nandigram Block-I on yesterday night. With the major political parties pushing hard to make inroads into each other’s territories ahead of the May 11 elections, the violence is almost always directed towards driving out opponents. Today, CPI(M) supporters drove out Trinamool candidates from at least 30 villages. These candidates came down to the State Election Office seeking protection. Trinamool leader Abu Taher wanted the administration to arrange for adequate CRPF presence in the area. “The situation is not conducive for holding elections. The local police is taking sides. In that case, we have to think of pulling out of the panchayat elections,” Taher said. Tension was building up in Nandigram Block I since Saturday (3 April) when CPI(M) men started entering Opposition-held villages with police protection. Jittery members of the Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee sprang to the defence of areas now under their control. Both parties took out several rallies over the weekend. The show of strength ended in a fierce clash yesterday night in which Trinamool supporters from Gokulnangar, Narugopal Gayen and Utpal Mandal, sustained bomb injuries and CPI(M)’s Seikh Jabes was hit by a bullet. Today, the clashes spread to Nandigram’s Keyakhali, Maheshpur and Satengabari. The BUPC men complained that armed CPI(M) cadres on motorbikes had ransacked huts and opened fire at Satengabari, forcing 3,000 of them to flee.
A woman ran naked half a kilometre in Nandigram after she was stripped and thrashed by alleged CPI(M) supporters for refusing to campaign for the party, eyewitnesses said today. So inconsolable was the 28-year-old woman that she refused a sari proffered by a police party, following which she was again beaten up in front of the law-enforcers by the political mob, the witnesses added. The CPI(M) denied such an incident had taken place, and the police said no one was beaten in their presence. According to the witnesses, around 8am on Monday, about 50 CPI(M) supporters came to Keyakhali village, which houses many people who back the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee that was at the forefront of the campaign against land acquisition in Nandigram. The group entered the house of Debashish Jana, 35, a farm labourer, and forced him and his eight-year-old son Sanjoy to join a CPI(M) procession. The woman — Jana’s wife —protested, following which the intruders pounced on her and ripped off her sari, blouse and petticoat. Then they rained blows on her. “I was stripped. My only fault was protesting against the manner in which my husband and son were forced to join the procession,” said the woman, now in Nandigram block hospital. An East Midnapore district secretariat member of the CPI(M), Ashok Guria, said such an incident did not occur. “The Trinamool Congress had earlier brought charges of rape against CPI(M) workers but nothing has been proved. Now they have started a new trick. The woman might have had a fall.” CPI(M) state secretariat member Benoy Konar, too, denied party activists’ involvement.
6 May: Today, about 12 persons were injured when they clashed with the police deployed for the repair work of roads dug up by villagers in Nandigram block II. Also, armed CPI(M) toughs roamed around Satengabari, Jambari, Sonachura and Gokulnagar in Nandigram Block I, chasing outsiders and media persons trying to sneak into the violence-hit villages. One needs a nod from the CPI(M) party office at Nandigram town to get into these areas.
Party leaders check your credentials and tip off their cadres at the entry points like Tekhali Bridge, Sonachura and Maheshpur. But the fact is even the police at Tekhali Bridge won’t come to any help if one’s in trouble. Trinamool Congress leader Abu Taher alleged about 4,000 villagers were forced to leave homes in villages “captured” by the red brigade. CPI(M) leader Ashok Guria said, “These villages were under BUPC control. Now, the government has established its control over these villages. Any effort to revert to the old order will be dealt with severely.”
The alleged stripping of a 28-year-old woman by a CPI(M) mob after she refused to join a party rally has further stained the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government’s reputation regarding Nandigram. The doctor attending on the victim, now at Nandigram Hospital, today confirmed sexual assault. Annoyed with the wayward ways of his partymen, the chief minister ordered a CID inquiry. Special IG (CID) Sanjay Mukherjee reached Nandigram on Tuesday for the probe.
Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) supporters today brought fresh allegations of CPI(M) atrocities on two more women from Nandigram, but district-level party leaders were dismissive of the incidents. Refusing to admit any case of stripping, CPI(M) leader Asok Guria said, “I don’t know of any such woman in Nandigram. It’s a media creation.”
CPI(M) goons ahead of the panchayat polls have virtually sealed off a wide swathe in Nandigram Block-I. Armed toughs have taken to roaming the lanes of Satengabari, Jambari, Sonachura and Gokulnagar, chasing away outsiders and journalists trying to sneak in. Only those with a ‘passport’ from the CPI(M) party office at Nandigram town are allowed to enter. Party leaders there check people’s credentials and tip off the cadres posted at entry points in Tekhali Bridge, Sonachura and Maheshpur only if they are convinced. Even the police posted at Tekhali Bridge won’t be of much help if someone were to fall into trouble. According to Trinamool Congress leader Abu Taher, some 4,000 people have fled after their villages were “captured” by the Red brigade.
7 May: Sporadic clashes continued in trouble-torn Nandigram today with four activists of Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) allegedly beaten up by CPI(M) activists and three others kidnapped in the run up to the May 11 panchayat election. Trinamool Congress bloc president Abu Tayeb alleged that of the four, one was assaulted last night and two others were beaten up this morning at Keyakhali village. The other BUPC activist was injured at Kalicharanpur village today. He also alleged that three BUPC workers were kidnapped by CPI(M) activists. Police said one of them has been rescued. Meanwhile, CPI(M)’s West Midnapore district secretary Ashok Guria claimed the kidnapped men were activists of his party but were campaigning in favour of Trinamool Congress. Tension prevails in the area with 80 per cent of the shops remaining closed.
Debashish Chakrabarty, officer-in-charge of Nandigram police station, got a clean chit from the State Election Commission today. The Opposition had complained that he was playing partisan.
CPI(M) MP and chairman of the Haldia Development Authority Laxman Seth was today heckled by BUPC activists at Bajkul when he was on his way to Patashpur to address a public gathering.
8 May: Efforts to bring home people displaced from Nandigram after recent clashes suffered a setback today when CPI(M) activists allegedly beat up some of them, forcing at least 50 of them to go back to relief camp. Authorities were bringing 150 people who had taken refuge along with several others at a make-shift tent behind the BDO’s office ever since clashes erupted in trouble-torn Nandigram. However, motorcycle borne CPI(M) men allegedly beat six of them at Maheshpur near Satengabari and Gokulnagar, Trinamool Congress bloc president Abu Taher alleged. Superintendent of Police, S Panda, said that he had been informed of the violence and he was looking into it. The decision to send the people, who were displaced by the recent violence, home with Police and CRPF escort was taken at a meeting convened by the district magistrate, the BDO and the affected people last night, BDO Shantiram Gorai told today.
9 May: In what could add to the West Bengal government’s worries, the National Human Rights Commission has asked the state government to publish the complete list of persons whose houses were damaged in the Nandigram violence as well as take an immediate decision on payment of exgratia to the next-of-kin of those who were killed. It has also asked the state government to provide legal aid to all persons who have been arrested in connection with police cases regarding incidents of clashes. The NHRC has made a 12-point recommendation, which includes publishing details of those who suffered loss of property, and asked the state chief secretary for his response. The details of loss of property should contain specifics like address, nature of construction (kutcha/pucca), extent of damage (fully/partially), and the ex-gratia amount paid or proposed to be paid.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee doesn’t see any Red terror in Nandigram. Instead, the chief minister says panchayat elections will be free and fair all over the state. In response to allegations of ‘CPI(M) terror’ by the Opposition and a section of the city intelligentsia, Bhattacharjee said today things have radically changed for the better in Nandigram over the last few months, with trouble persisting only in some pockets. “I admit there are problems in a few pockets. They are a legacy of the past. Nothing has happened in the last 3-4 days. We have a huge police force there. Central forces have also moved in. Villagers, who left their homes even a few days ago, all returned today,” he said at Kolkata Press Club. He added: “Villagers in Nandigram have had enough of violence. They want peace to return. Grassroots-level leaders from the ruling party and Trinamool are playing a positive role. They get in touch with each other and the local administration whenever there is trouble and rush to the spot to see it doesn’t spread.”
Some Trinamool Congress and BUPC supporters were lathicharged by the Rapid Action Force as they tried to prevent a truck with material for elections from moving out of the BDO’s office. The Trinamool and Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee workers had stopped the truck on the ground that they would be unable to vote as they had been driven out of their villages, the police said. Justifying the lathicharge, the office-in-charge of Nandigram Debasish Chakraborty said “police have done their duty.” A journalist was also injured in RAF action, he said.
10 May: A day after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee rubbished Opposition claims of ‘Red terror’ in the region, Aparna and her entourage were stopped from going to Nandigram at Bagnan in Howrah, some 70 km away from their destination. Not that the destination was peaceful. Bombs and bullets had a free run, with the warring sides — CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress— clashing at several places, leaving at least three injured. It was around 2.45 pm when the fleet of cars with Aparna, Saoli Mitra, Kaushik Sen, Bolan Gangopadhyay and others screeched to a halt on NH-6. Parked all over the road were police vehicles.
West Bengal is suffering due to Manmohan Singh’s incompetence, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said today. “A number of state projects are awaiting Singh’s clearance for over a year. I don’t know why he is sitting on them. This delay is affecting the development of Bengal,” Bhattacharjee told reporters. “The projects awaiting his approval include a deep sea port, a chemical hub at Nayachar in East Midnapore district, Light Rail Transit, greenfield airport and upgradation of Bengal Engineering and Science University.”
11 May: With stakes high in Nandigram, the CPI(M) went on an overdrive today to pave the way for the party’s victory in the panchayat polls. Accusations and counter-allegations flew thick and fast with two women accusing CRPF DIG Alok Raj of molestation, even as local CPI(M) strongman and MP Laxman Seth issued sundry threats — all of which was interspersed with clashes.CPI(M) cadres were unhappy with CRPF men patrolling the areas, especially those along Khejuri since Saturday, and the word soon reached Haldia MP Lakshman Seth. Around 4.30 am, two women from Sonachura lodged complaints against DIG Raj that he had molested them during a raid late Saturday night. The MP tried contacting Raj telephonically but couldn’t. “Every time I called the DIG, his phone went unanswered. Then he picked it and on hearing my name passed the phone to another person. I am an MP, he should have listened to me,” said an angry Seth. The MP finally reached Raj around 9.30 am when he was at Tekhali bridge with his team. Seth told him about the FIR and said he should remain in the camp since a complaint was pending against him. He also alleged CRPF jawans had assaulted CPI(M) workers inside the poll booths. Raj rejected the charge. “You are an MP and you are trying to pressure me and blackmail me. You tell me, am I the kind of person to molest ladies? Why has this false FIR been lodged against me?” Raj asked Seth. When the DIG sought details about the time and place of the alleged molestation, Seth said it was around 4.30 pm on Saturday at 7 number Jalpai. There was no mention of Sonachura by Seth. “At 4.30 pm, I was at the Nandigram police station where we had a meeting. Before that I was at the Rajaramchak camp. Listen to me, Mr Seth, I didn’t go to 7 number Jalpai,” Raj said. “I am trying to protect the citizens of this area and I’m doing my duty,” he said. Currently, nearly 500 CRPF personnel are deployed in Nandigram. State election commission secretary S N Roy Chowdhury said, “No MLA or MP can issue any instruction to any officer or administrative official during the election process.”
Officer-in-charge of Nandigram police station Debashis Chakraborty claimed that he had been beaten up and injured by CRPF personnel at Garupara where he had gone with a police contingent after hearing reports that the CRPF personnel were beating up women there. Chakraborty claimed that he was hit in the hand by the CRPF personnel. Raj denied the claim and countercharged that five women CRPF personnel were beaten up by the state Rapid Action Force and the police at Adhikaripara when they were coming out after patrolling the area. One of the five women, Dimple Sharma, was injured and had to be treated in hospital, he said. Last Wednesday (7 May), chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb had announced that Chakraborty was being withdrawn from poll duty. “The OC, Nandigram, will have no role to play in the elections. Sub-divisional police officer (SDPO), Haldia, has been posted in Nandigram police station. He will be the one conducting the OC’s duty,” the chief secretary had said. The police officer, however, was very much present on poll duty today.
The CPI(M) cadres were alleged to have blocked supporters of Trinamool Congress from casting votes at three villages of trouble-torn Nandigram in East Minapore district, while polling in the first phase of civic elections was peaceful in four other districts today. “CPI(M) cadres have jammed booths in the villages of Takapora, Kamal-pur and Sonachura. Voters are being intimidated so that they do not venture out to cast votes,” Trinamool Congress leader Sammad said. He said they had been pleading with the CRPF personnel for help. “We have faith in the CRPF personnel only, but they are not being allowed to work properly here. If it continues, election here will turn into a farce,” Sammad said. However, CPI(M) leaders claimed that so far election in Nandigram had been peaceful and they had requested voters and party members to show restraint.
12 May: Armed clashes between Trinamool Congress and CPI(M) in the aftermath of yesterday’s panchayat poll, forced 500 villagers to take shelter near the BDO’s office here today. Both the Trinamool Congress and the CPI(M) charged each other with instigating violence, ransacking houses and kidnapping rival supporters. Bombs and guns were used in the clashes. East Midanpore Superintendent of Police S Panda said that he was “aware of the situation”. At Baruni, where polling was cancelled at a booth on Sunday following booth capturing, there were clashes between the Trinamool Congress and CPI(M) supporters. Trinamool Congress leader Abu Taher claimed that five Trinamool Congress supporters were injured in the clash. CPI(M) leader Ashok Guriya, on the other hand, claimed that five of his party supporters were injured.
The Union Home Ministry today sought a detailed report from West Bengal government on the first phase of panchayat polls, particularly the situation in Nandigram where CRPF and police reportedly clashed with CPI(M) cadres. On the basis of the report, the Home Ministry is likely to hold a high-level meeting with senior officials to take stock of the situation.
13 May: Four booths in Chillogram, Gangra and Garchakraberia voted again today amid tight security. Later in the day, Trinamool leaders alleged that CPI(M) workers had attacked their supporters at Khejuri’s Haludbari. According to them, 21 Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) members were injured in the attack. Police did not confirm any injuries till late in the night. The controversy over Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) deployment continued during the day with Gautam Metya, CPI(M) local committee secretary from Reyapara, accusing the force of playing the role of BUPC workers.
21 May: The Left today suffered the biggest poll jolt since the 2001 Assembly verdict as it lost two districts to Mamata Banerjee and one to the Congress in the panchayat polls, raising the question whether land acquisition for industry was exacting a heavy political cost.
Shaken though it was by the loss of Nandigram-scarred East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas, the CPI(M) announced: “There will be no going back on the policy of industrialisation.” Benoy Konar, the CPI(M) state secretariat member who addressed the media today instead of the party’s Bengal secretary Biman Bose, said: “It will be simplistic to infer that people voted against industrialisation. We failed to convince farmers in these two districts (East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas) where people have apprehensions about losing land.” The chief minister can expect more trouble arising out of this conclusion for his industrialisation programme. Trinamool said it would not “allow the administration to take away an inch of land from unwilling farmers”.
23 May: The CPI(M) lost the East Midnapore Zilla Parishad to Trinamool Congress for the first time. In 2003, the CPI(M)-led Left had 50 of the 52 Zilla Parishad seats here. This time it won only about 16, with Trinamool wresting 35 seats. In Panchayat Samity, CPI(M)-led Left had 23 and opposition including Trinamool had 2 here in 2003; now in 2008, CPI(M)-led Left secured only 5, and Trinamool bagged 20 seats.
A CPI(M) supporter accused of leading attacks on Opposition houses was beaten and hacked to death by nearly 100 triumphant Trinamool Congress supporters in a Nandigram village this morning. Sheikh Khalek Mullick, 27, had set off for his workplace in Haldia around 8am. Khalek, a resident of Garchakraberia, worked as a security guard at a private company in Haldia. The villagers were “angry” with him, said Abu Taher, a newly elected Trinamool panchayat samiti member. “He had led CPI(M) cadres to Jaduba-richar village on Wednesday (21 May). They looted houses of our supporters and beat them up. The villagers saw Khalek today and could not keep their calm,” said Taher, also a Pratirodh Committee convener. He also alleged that Khalek was armed. The police recovered a pipe gun from the spot, but could not confirm if it belonged to Khalek. Sheikh Khalek Mullick, 27, who was accused of leading CPI(M) raids on Trinamool houses earlier, was stopped on his way to work and beaten to death.
An all-party meeting was held at the Nandigram police station today. Trinamool, CPI(M), Congress and SUCI representatives attended it.
24 May: Some 200 CPI(M) supporters have gone into hiding fearing more such strikes, but allegations of CPI(M) attacks trickled in from other pockets of south Bengal. The CPI(M)’s Nandigram zonal committee secretary, Ashok Bera, said nearly 200 supporters had fled their homes.
26 May: CRPF has given a clean chit to its DIG Alok Raj who had been accused of molesting two women on the eve of the panchayat elections in Nandigram. “Raj was doing his duty and the allegations levelled against him are absolutely baseless,” CRPF chief V K Joshi told repor-ters. The inquiry was conducted following Regis-tration of FIRs against Raj. Though the state police had registered a case of molestation against the officer, one of the “victims” later said she had only been assaulted by the CRPF men.
The CPI(M) had called a 12-hour bandh in Nandigram-I and Nandigram-II blocks today in protest against the murder of their party worker, Khalek Mallick on 23 May. In most areas of both Nandigram-I and II blocks, with the exception of Nandigram market, shops remained open. Locals said shops at Nandigram market usually remain closed on Monday and they were not closed due to the bandh. The ferry services on the river Haldi, between Haldia and Nandigram, were also normal. Even in places like Reyapara where the CPI(M) has a strong presence, life was not affected.
Amidst the bandh call, the Trinamool observed ‘Sahid Diwas’ in Nandigram today. They took out rallies at few places in memory of the ‘martyrs’, those who were killed in police firing as well as by CPI(M) cadres during the last two years in the villages of Nandigram.
27 May: The Trinamool leaders today annou-nced that they would compensate villagers whose houses were vandalised during the violence. The party also pledged to provide employment to at least one member from each family who lost a member either in police firing or in the clashes.
Thousands of villagers and party workers participated in the victory rally today. According to Mr. Adhikari, Trinamool chief Miss Mamata Baner-jee is likely to visit Nandigram on Saturday for celebrations.
Social activist Ms Medha Patkar, today paid another visit to the trouble-torn villages of Nandi-gram. She first went to Maheshpur in Nandigram I block, which bore the maximum brunt of poll violence and spoke with villagers there. She then visited the Nandigram block hospital and met some of the patients who were injured in poll violence. She also offered Rs 17,000 to those camping away from their homes.
28 May: Amnesty International today challeng-ed the world leaders to apologise for six decades of human rights violations and re-commit them-selves to deliver concrete improvements. Its annual report 2008, released worldwide today. The annual report on human rights worldwide also blamed the Bengal government for failing to peacefully persuade farmers protesting against land acquisition. “In January and March (2007), at least 25 people… were killed… more than 100 were injured and at least 20 women were sexually assaulted by private militia allied to the ruling CPI(M),” says the report, released in India today. It concedes, however, that CPI(M) supporters had — before the retaliation — been displaced from their land by those opposed to the acquisition.
29 May: The government will avoid a repeat of Singur and Nandigram and be “cautious” while acquiring land for industry, the CPI(M) is said to have resolved behind closed doors after three-day talks ending this week. The decision taken by CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and party state secretary Biman Bose today found an echo in industries minister Nirupam Sen’s words. “The government will acquire land for the (Salim group’s) projects only after a consensus at the grassroots level,” he said in Delhi. Mamata Banerjee today said Nirupam Sen was “lying” by saying that the Salim group’s projects would not proceed without consensus on land acquisition. “I don’t believe what the industries minister said in Delhi about the Salim group’s projects. It’s just a ploy to placate the electorate before the Lok Sabha polls,” the Trinamool Congress chief said. “He is lying to woo back the voters who have rejected the CPI(M) in the rural polls.”
Nearly 200 Trinamool Congress supporters, who had fled their homes in Nandigram after the panchayat polls, returned tonight after a peace meeting at the local police station.
30 May: CPI(M) supporters in Nandigram, who had fled their homes after a comrade was killed by a Trinamool Congress mob last Friday, are hesitant to return, though a peace process is under way. Trinamool leader Sheikh Sufian and CPI(M) zonal committee secretary Ashok Bera attended a meeting in Nandigram police station last evening and gave in writing that the local leaderships would be responsible for any trouble in the days ahead. Nandigram I block deve-lopment officer Shantiram Gorai met represen-tatives of all parties at the village level over the past two days urging peace. After yesterday’s meeting, about 350 supporters of the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) returned home last night.
31 May: Mamata Banerjee today announced that the Trinamool Congress-controlled East Mid-napore zilla parishad and the Nandigram panch-ayat samiti would provide jobs to the families of those injured or killed since the land war began in January 2007.
1 June: CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose met party leaders in Nandigram-scarred East Midnapore today and asked them to launch a campaign to convince farmers that no land would be acquired “without their consent”.
2 June: The CRPF today filed a case against Nandigram OC Debashis Chakraborty in the Haldia additional chief judicial magistrate’s court for assaulting the constable and obstructing its jawans from carrying out their duty at Garupara in Nandigram during the first phase of the panchayat polls on May 11. Constable Dimple Sharma had lodged a complaint with the East Midnapore superintendent of police accusing Chakraborty of calling her names and assaulting her after the Nandigram police station refused to accept her FIR. “We moved the court because the Nandigram police station refused to register the FIR against the OC,” CRPF assistant commandant Prem Kumar Ravi said after filing the case in Haldia, about 150km from Calcutta. Prem Kumar today alleged that no probe was conducted into the OC’s conduct. Magistrate Arpan Chattopadhyay has asked Haldia subdivisional police officer Gaurav Sharma to conduct a probe and submit a report. State home secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti had on May 18 dismissed the “molestation charge” against Chakraborty and CRPF deputy inspector-general Alok Raj, who had gone to Nandigram on the eve of the polls to oversee the law-and-order situation. In the submitted complaint, Mr Ravi has alleged that a group of villagers with the tacit support of Mr Chakraborty, hurled stones at them which left a woman CRPF officer, Ms Dimple Sharma and a sub-inspector Mr Iswar Singh, injured. He also alleged the reason for the attack was to prevent the CRPF from doing its job there during the election process. “The intention of police officer Mr Chakraborty was clear since he instigated the local people to attack the women force, which was completely unwanted. Mr Chakraborty even hurled abusive language, when Ms Sharma tried to put up resistance to save herself from the attack,” the complaint reads.
6 June: the Indonesian tycoon Anthony Salim, CEO of Salim Group, met Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Commerce and Industries Minister at Writers’ Buildings. After that, decision was taken by the government that the state government will hold talks with the newly-elected Trinamool panchayat boards at East Midnapore and South 24 Parganas to acquire land for the Salim projects. The proposed Salim Groups’ projects are located mainly in these two districts and partly in Howrah and North 24 Parganas.
7 June: Tension brewing in Nandigram since the lynching of a CPI(M) supporter a fortnight ago erupted early this morning, leading to clashes that left many Trinamool Congress supporters home-less at Simulkundu village. Although Trinamool has won all 10 gram panchayats in Nandigram, it lost a seat to the CPI(M) in Simulkundu. CRPF and police personnel started patrolling the village following stray clashes but the bigger trouble started after they left around 2am today. “CPI(M) supporters surrounded Trinamool houses and fired in the air and hurled bombs to scare the residents. About 200 people fled their homes,” said a police officer.
A police team that had gone to search a room rented by suspected women Maoists was forced to turn back today after students and teachers from Jadavpur University stopped the cops from entering without a warrant. The room, rented by a JU student and an alumnus, was also being used as the office of an organisation called Matangini Mahila Samity. Although not affiliated to the CPI (Maoists), banned in some states but not in Bengal, the Samity is known for being sympathetic to the rebel outfit and efforts to “protect women from CPI(M) atrocities”.
9 June: The Contai fast track court today summoned controversial Nandigram OC Debashis Chakraborty to appear before the court by July 30. The summons came after a complaint from Satyaranjan Maity, who said that the officer ransacked his house on December 28 last year while he was in charge of the Debra police station. The West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) also took up the complaint today and asked its additional director general K P Prabhakar Rao to probe the allegations against Chakraborty and submit a report within a fortnight. The court today passed the order after hearing the petition of Rekha Maity, a 50-year-old resident of Khejuri, who alleged that Chakraborty had assaulted her 84-year-old mother-in-law Billwabasini and molest-ed her sister-in-law Kalyani, 21, and her own daughter Mausami, 18.
10 June: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today came down on police for entering the office of Matangini Mahila Samiti in Jadavpur without any search warrant. “Whatever police did was not right,” Bhattacharjee said at a press meet at Writers’ Buildings. “Their (the women’s) political belief is entirely their matter. But it’s not right for police to go in such a large group to inquire about them”. Not only that, West Bengal Commission for Women has taken up the case suo motu and asked the police to submit a report. Commission chairperson Malini Bhattacharya has also written to the chief minister.
As media reported today, Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) leaders in Nandigram are all set to go to the court again. They are demanding compensation for the families of people who went missing following the police firing during the Nandigram recapture operation on 14 March last year. The BUPC leaders alleged that in 2007, 165 people were injured in the violence in Nandigram. None of them have received any compensation till date despite the Calcutta High Court’s directive in this regard. The state government has only given compensation to the families of 13 people who were killed in the police firing but has done nothing so far for those who are still missing following the violence.
The state government will hold talks with the newly-elected Trinamool panchayat boards at East Midnapore and South 24 Parganas to acquire land for the Salim projects. The proposed Salim Groups’ projects are located mainly in these two districts and partly in Howrah and North 24 Parganas. The decision was taken by the government after the Indonesian tycoon Anthony Salim, CEO of Salim Group, met Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Commerce and Industries Minister at Writers’ Buildings on June 6. Salim Group had planned a chemical SEZ in Nandigram before it led to an outrage among the locals and became one of the reasons for the CPM’s debacle in the recent panchayat polls. After meeting the government and its joint venture partner, Anthony Salim, announced that his company would stand by the state government. “We are planning to hold detailed talks with the newly-elected panchayat representatives after the zilla parishad, panchayat samity and gram panchayat boards in these districts are formed. We will explain them each project in detail and take their views on it. Later, rehabilitation package and other things will be discussed. We are hopeful of evolving a consensus,” said Sabyasachi Sen, principal secretary to state commerce and industries department. Though the Trinamool Congress leaders did not welcome the government’s proposal heartily they didn’t refuse it either. “We are not against all the projects of the Salim group but we will continue to oppose certain proposed projects. We will protest against projects like highway from Raichak to Kukrahati where fertile agricultural land will be acquired. We are aware of the state government’s proposal but our party is yet to decide whether the Trinamool representatives in the area will settle the issue. The newly-elected representatives will also have a say on the issue ,” said Sougata Roy, Trinamool spokesperson. On July 31 last year, the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and New Kolkata International Develeopment private limited (NKID), a special purpose vehicle, signed a Memorandum of Understanding. According to the MOU, the projects include a chemical industrial estate and chemical SEZ at Nandigram (after the strong resistance from the villagers, state government was forced to shift the site to Nayachar near Haldia).
11 June: With violence continuing in the strife-torn villages of Nandigram even after the end of the panchayat polls, a Trinamul Congress worker was shot at by a group of alleged CPI-M cadres while he was returning home at Samsabad last night. The victim, Mr Sheikh Selim, was immediately taken to the Nandigram block hospital where an operation was performed as the bullet pierced at his leg. A complaint was lodged against some CPI-M workers with the Nandigram police following the incident but the police has failed to arrest any one at this time.
15 June: Fresh trouble broke out at Bhajachauli in Midnapore East today when a group of hoodlums allegedly backed by CPI-M hurled bombs at a Trinamul Congress rally at around 12.20 p.m. in presence of a large police contingent. The attack left at least three Trinamul Congress workers injured. According to the police, the youth wing of the Trinamul Congress had organised a mass-rally at Bhajachauli Market to protest against the CPI-M atrocities on their party workers there. The programme was pre-scheduled and it was well informed to the police.
16 June: A complaint was lodged against OC, Nandigram Mr Debasis Chakraborty today. This time, Mrs Kananbala Das Adhikari, mother of accused Trinamool Congress leader Mr Enakshi Das Adhikari, has lodged a complaint with the Haldia additional chief judicial magistrate court against Mr Chakraborty for unlawfully beating her son in the police lock-up.
17 June: A public interest litigation (PIL) filed against officer-in-charge of Nandigram police station, Debasish Chakraborty, has accused him of failing to protect the residents in the area from violence since December, 2007. Asit Roy, a social activist and a member of the All India Legal Aid Forum, today filed the PIL in which he alleged that Chakraborty had also implicated ordinary villagers in false FIRs. Roy sought the court’s order directing the state government to remove Chakraborty from his post after a departmental inquiry proved his “inhuman and unconstitutional actions.” He also demanded a CBI probe against Chakraborty. The petition accused the OC of ignoring the interests of the people and instead acting as an agent of a political party.
NANDIGRAM TIMELINE, updated on 18 June 2008, compiled and prepared by Asis Kumar Das, sometimes taking texts directly from Newspapers, Reports and Articles. Thanks to our friends who encouraged and helped us to enrich this Timeline. We request all concerned people to send suggestions, corrections to us. Write to: email@example.com
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“Singur is in Hooghly district, 45 kilometers from Kolkata. The nearest railway stations are Singur, Kamarkundu and Madhusudanpur. The farmland earmarked for the project stands alongside an arc of the Durgapur expressway near the Ratanpur crossing with NH-1. The six mouzas whose land falls under the Tata project site are GopalNagar, BeraBeri, Bajemelia, Khaserbheri, SingherBeri and JoymollarBeri. They stand on the other side of the project site completing the expressway’s arc into a circle. According to a govt. Statistical Handbook on Singur block, 83%of the land is irrigated and the crop density is 220%. The crops produced are mainly paddy and potato but jute and a variety of vegetables are also grown in the fields. There are five modern cold storages and a host of wholesaler’s sheds (arat) in Ratanpur-Singur town.
“According to the People’s Survey carried out by Sanhati Udyog in November, the landholdings in Singur are small with very few owners having more than 2 bighas (0.66 acres). Hence, there are more than 11,000 land holdings. Of a total of 6,000 families that will be affected, about 3500 farming households work on their own fields and can be called poor or subsistence farmers. According to them there are about 1200 unregistered sharecropping Bargadars. But a Status Report on Singur circulated by the CPM Delhi State Secretary, P S Grewal talks of only 237 recorded Bargadars and about 170 unrecorded.
“According to the Sanhati Udyog Report there are a large number of migrant workforces. About 1000 wage-labourers, arrive daily from Bardhaman, Bankura and other parts of the Hooghly district to earn their livelihood from agricultural activities. Around 800 labourers, mostly adivasis from Jharkhand, are seasonal migrants who work the fields for six-eight months and earn just about enough to feed their families back home for the whole year. There are also several permanent migrant families who had come two or three decades ago and settled down in Singur.
“A majority of non-farming households in Singur are employed in agriculture-related occupations. 450-500 cycle-cart drivers transport crops and agricultural inputs to and from the fields, nearly 200 households are engaged in animal husbandry and over 150 households are vegetable vendors in Howrah, Sealdah, Chuchura and the two local markets. The cold storages in Rantanpur employ about 500 labourers.”
In May 2006, the West Bengal Government decided to acquire 997 acres (initially 1013 acres were asked for) for the Tata Motors small car factory in Singur of Hooghly district.. Almost 6,000 families, including many agricultural workers and marginal peasants will loose their land and livelihoods. Though the State Government has decided to compensate the land owners, no policy has been taken for the landless agricultural workers, unrecorded bargadars and other rural households who are indirectly dependent for their livelihood on land and agricultural activities. Almost all the land owners had also expressed their unwillingness to give their land from the inception of the project, but these appeals have fallen on deaf ears.
The Tata Project: According to news reports in the month of May 2006, just after the victory of the Left Front in the election of the Legislative Assembly for the seventh time consecutively, a meeting was held between Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, CM of West Bengal and Ratan Tata, the Chairman of Tata Company. In this meeting, it was officially announced that over 1000 acres of the land of Singur block would be acquired since the Tata Motors would build a small car plant. It was also said that the land acquisition would take place shortly as Tata Motors wanted to launch a new One-lakh-Rupee car model by the year 2008. According to Mr. Nilotpal Basu, CPI(M) MP (as stated by him to a delegation that met him on the 7th December), the Tatas had been shown 5 different pieces of land and they chose Singur.
The only official document publicly available on the project, the Gazette notification under sec 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act 1894 between 19th and 24th July states that the “land as mentioned in the schedule below is likely to be needed to be taken by the Government/ Government undertakings/ Development Authorities, at the public expense for a public purpose viz., employment generation and the socio economic development of the area by setting up a Tata Small Car project”.
18 May: Announcement of Singur Deve-lopment at the Chief Minister – Tata Joint Press Conference in Kolkata. Ratan Tata said today that his aim was still to turn out the small car at a price of Rs 1 lakh, which he had announced some three years ago, and that it will be another two years before the vehicles actually roll out. With chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, and surrounded by top group executives, he said Tata Motors had decided to locate the project at Singur in Hooghly. For the first time, Tata revealed that the project, to be spread over 700 acres with another 300 kept aside for ancillary production, and will create 10,000 jobs, direct and indirect. “We have come to believe that Bengal is the most investor-friendly state in the country. Someone had to turn that belief into reality. The investment is a reflection that the Tata group has faith in the investment climate and the government of Bengal,” Tata said. Bhattacharjee, who let Tata do the talking, was modest. Asked what is expected of the government in the next five years, he said: “I will only try to be a performer.
25 May: The struggle of a substantial number of the people of Singur against the land acquisition began from day one when the Tata company representatives and the officials went to see the land. The people refused to let them reach their fields and blocked their way and the Tata team had to be rescued by the police.
26 May: Angry farmers of Singur today demanded that the chief minister assure them of jobs in it. If their demand is not fulfilled, they will continue their agitation and not let the government take their land.
30 May: Mr. Nirupam Sen, state comm-erce and industries minister was greeted with black flags in Singur today by members of Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee, an apolitical organization of farmers and labourers of Singur. The farmers were protesting against the state government allowing Tata Motors to set up an automobile plant on agricultural land.
1 June:About 3,000 villagers today stag-ed a demonstration in front of the office of the Singur block development officer against the government’s move to acquire farmland for the Tata Motors project. The Tatas have chosen the site in Hooghly district, about 45 km from Calcutta, for their small-car project. Local Trinamool MLA Rabindranath Bhatta-charyya was with the protesters throughout the demonstration to express his support. The villagers, under the banner of the Krishijami Banchao Committee (Save Farm-land Committee), brought out a process-ion around noon. Waving sickles, ploughs and brooms, they shouted slogans against chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and industries minister Nirupam Sen. The prote-sters carried placards with slogans like Krishi jami aamader bhitti, tabu Budhhar eki kukirti (Farmland is our livelihood, but look at Buddha’s [Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s] mis-deed) and Jamir dalal Nirupam Sen Singur theke door hato (Land broker Nirupam Sen stay off Singur). Sen had visited Singur on Tuesday (30 May) to explain to the villagers about compensation they would get for land given to the government. He had also tried to convince farmers that it made more sense for them to sell their land instead of using it for cultivation. The protesters, with about 1,000 women at the head, gathered at the BDO’s office and demonstrated for two hours against the government’s move to dispossess farmers of their farmland. They submitted a deputation to BDO Abhijit Mukherjee who said he was yet to receive a government order for acquisition of land and was not in a position to shed light on the issue. The villagers came to talk about land acquisition but I told them that the district magistrate is empowered to deal with the issue.
17July: Work on acquisition of land for Tata Motors’ factory for producing small cars at Singur has begun with the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation submit-ing its proposals to Hooghly DM Mr Vinod Kumar. The state government will acquire a little more than 1,000 acres through the WBIDC for transfer to the Tatas. “The proposal reached my office last week. At the moment, the WBIDC wants only 25 per cent of the enterprise’s requirement. We will issue a land acquisition notice in the near future. Farmers whose land is to be taken will have a month’s time formally to lodge their claims and to raise objections, if any,” said Mr Kumar. The proposal will go to the land and land reforms department tomorrow, after which it is to be placed before the minister concerned for the go-ahead to be given. When it comes through, notifications will be issued. The state government has said it will have acquired land within six months of the notices being issued. In another devel-opment, farmers led by the Trinamool Congress’ member of the legislative Assembly from Singur, Mr Robindranath Bhattacharjee, lodged protests with Mr Kumar today, alleging the state government was trying to remove them from land they owned. The farmers also submitted a memorandum to Mr Kumar, saying they would fight “with all their might” any effort to acquire land. Mr Kumar, though, said the memorandum had been submitted on behalf of the Trinamool Congress and not by any farmers’ organisation.
19-24 July: Ignoring the people’s voice the Government issued 13 notices under Section 9 (1) of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 to the affected farmers.
24 July: The Durgapur Expressway was blocked as a protest.
8 August: Mr Ratan Tata said here today that he was hopeful about Tata Motors’ proposed plans of setting up a car factory at Singur. Mr Tata was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of Tata Tea’s 43rd annual general meeting. He said that everywhere in the world, land have been acquired to set up construction units and even Special Economic Zones (SEZs). So he hoped that the state government would give the land to the company. He said that Tata Motors had no intention of shifting to another place for the car factory.
Meanwhile, nearly 5,000 locals who had gathered from several villages around Singur, today demonstrated in front of the Gopalnagar gram panchayat office protesting against the state government’s decision to acquire land at Singur for Tata’s small car project.
18 August: Notice issued under Section 9 (1) of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894; dem-onstration held by the peasants of Singur.
22 August: Some 5,000 Singur farmers today gheraoed the block development officer’s office and held up hearings on claims and objections to acquisition of land – for the Tata Motors car factory – by first disallowing officials to proceed to the camp and later boycotting the hearing when the officers did manage to get there under police escort. In Singur, farmers under the banner of Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee demonstrated in front of the BDO’s office since this morning brandishing brooms and sticks. Officials assigned to conduct the hearing were gheraoed. Later, the gherao was withdrawn and officials were permitted to enter the block office.Even as the agitation gained momentum, a top Tata Motors executive said that the company was not looking for an alternative site for its factory. “The small car is expected to roll out from the plant at Singur by 2008,” Tata Motors deputy chief (strategic sourcing department), Mr BB Parekh told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar in the city on ‘‘Prospects of development of the auto component industry in West Bengal’’ organised by Bharat Chamber of Commerce today. He said that the delay in land acquisition would not be a hindrance to meeting the 2008 deadline and expressed satisfaction with the state government for the manner in which it was handling the situation. “Nothing is lacking on the part of the West Bengal government,” he said. A huge police contingent, including Rapid Action Force personnel, deployed in front of the BDO’s office. According to a district admin-istrative official, 1010 farmers, who had protested against land acquisition were asked by the district administration to attend the hearing today. As none of them turned up, the hearing couldn’t be held. Meanwhile the leaders of SKJRC has threatened to fight against any attempts of displacing farmers from their land till last drop of blood.
28 August: Calcutta High Court today heard a writ petition challenging the proposed land acquisition at Singur for a car-manu-facturing unit there. Mr Justice Pranab Kumar Chattopadhyaya directed the State to file an affidavit. The matter will be heard after the Puja vacation. The state land and land reforms minister, Mr Abdur Rezzak Mollah, today said land acquisition in Singur would be completed before the Pujas.
29-31 August:Notice issued under Sect-ion 6 of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. When the authorities went to deliver final notices at BeraBeri between 29th and 31st August, the women barricaded the way and prevented the officials from pasting notices on their walls.
By September 27, the land department will hand over to the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation all the 1,013 acres Tata Motors needs at Singur in Hooghly district to put up its small-car plant. Any day after that, the corporation can transfer the land to the Tatas. Abdur Rezzak Mollah’s land and land reforms department received the proposal from Tata Motors on July 21 and the process of acquisition was flagged off in two days. Mollah said the pace of acquisition was an “all-India record”. He had earlier promised the process would be completed within three to six months. If the process is completed by September 27, it would have taken just two months. Acquisition is being rushed through in the face of protests organised by Opposition Trinamool Congress. By the end of the day today, the Hooghly district administration had received around 450 consent forms from farmers voluntarily handing over land measuring 303 acres. Officials said the date for receiving consent forms was extended on August 28 following assurances from the local Krishak Sabha, the CPM farmers’ organisation, that it would persuade the owners to hand over land willingly. “All consent counters at Singur will be kept open past August 31 right up to the date of announcing compensation,” land reforms commissioner Sukumar Das said. The land department today issued notices declaring that the government would acquire six portions totalling 507.8 acres “in public interest”. Farmers owning parts of these 507.8 acres have been given 10 days to submit their consent to the acquisition.
September: The latest notification to the Environment Impact Assessment Act, in September, 2006, vests the states with more power and the people with lesser scope to participate in the decision-making process. The ministry of rural development opened the draft of the new National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy briefly for public scrutiny in October. The formulation and re-formulation of these legislations and policies are rather exclusionary and undemocratic. In the issue of People’s Democracy dated 11 September, 2005, Prakash Karat justified the amendment to the West Bengal Land Ceiling Act by saying that it was meant to acquire 41,000 acres lying locked in closed industrial complexes around Kolkata.
1 September: More than 100 villagers from Santoshimatola in Singur prevent officials from entering their villages to serve notice to acquire land. Because of protest demonstration keeping women in the forefront in Bajemelia district authorities flee—work of issuing notices is abandoned.
The state land and land reforms minister, Mr Abdur Razzak Molla today admitted: “Although a third of the land holders have given consent we have to plug all loopholes because the disgruntled lot might move court. The situation is complex at Singur.”
4 September: An international Fact Find-ing Mission (FFM) was held in Singur to look into the looming eviction of farming comm-unities as a result of the construction of Tata Corporation of a facility in the area. As a result of this FFM, a report on the situation of the community was drafted. Moreover, an online petition letter addressed to the government of West Bengal and to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights was posted in the PCFS website. The letter urges these offices to look into the planned eviction of the farming communities in Singur, West Bengal.
20 September: The West Bengal Gov-ernment declared that the lands at Singur, for which notification was issued earlier under Land Acquisition Act of 1894, have been vest absolutely in the Government, free from all encumbrances.
21 September: The award was declared. Through the month of September, the issue got raised at multiple platforms outside Singur, in Kolkata too. There was a clear message from the various meetings that the Government must not forcibly evict people and must review its stand on Singur. The Government however, moved according to plan and on paper acquired the land on the 20th September 2006.
25 September: Land acquired. The events (The day the Govt decided to hand out compensations) showed that the Government would go to any extent to evict the people and hand over the land to the company officials, more than four hundred people including several women and children were brutally assaulted and about 78 activists were arrested which included 27 women, MP Mamata Bannerji and MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya. At around 1:40 am in the night the RAF and the police attack a few thousand men-women-children who had been protesting peacefully all day. Few hundred persons are injured. The government had announced publicly that cheques for compensation would be issued to the landowners of Singur whose lands have been vested in the government. The assembled villagers at BDO Singur were upset that their voice had not been given a platform and that the Government was unilaterally working on this project. About 5000 people including about 2000 women workers had peacefully demons-trated at the Block Development Office at Singur against the distribution of cheques to the peasants under the banner of “Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee”. The protest was an all night one. The dissenting farmers wanted the administration to carry out mutation for their land titles too. However, they were told that only if they gave their consent letters would it be carried out.
The struggle of the people nevertheless continued in a democratic and peaceful fashion the next few months. Marches, rallies, public hearings got organized in Singur and Kolkata. They were joined by several organisations and eminent people like Professors from Jadavpur University, Human Rights and other social action groups, trade unions and all political parties other than those of the left front from all over W. Bengal. Former Chief Justices of the Supreme Court and former Prime Minister VP Singh all urged the Government, met the Governor and wrote to the PM and President and Central Government to not evict the people and give the TATA’s alternative land.
Trinamool supremo Miss Mamata Banerjee announced a 24-hour “general strike”, (read Bangla bandh) on 9 October in protest against land acquisition at Singur, tonight.
27 September: As a sign of civil dis-obedience, the Socialist Unity Centre of India and CPI (ML) Liberation called for a 12 hour bandh (protest or general strike) in Singur on 27 September. Moreover, a meeting of the NGO’s/ CSO’s was held on the same date protesting against the attack of the police on the peasants of Singur, particularly on the peasant women.
Sonia Gandhi’s Congress today sought to project itself as a responsible Opposition party in Bengal as it rolled out the welcome mat for Ratan Tata and his proposed car project in Singur. While rallying behind Mamata Banerjee in her bid to get Tata to relocate the project, Congress leaders stressed that they didn’t want the protest to come in the way of Tata’s dream — to roll out a Rs 1-lakh car from Bengal — or Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s vision of an industrialised state. “Let’s make it clear, we have nothing against Buddhadeb Bhatta-charjee’s Indus-trialisation programme, or the Tatas’ small-car project,” Union information and broad-casting minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi said. “Ratan Tata is an ideal industrialist. We would like to have him here,” he added. After five years, senior Congress leaders shared dais with Mamata today and announced a series of protests against the police action in Singur to dislodge Trinamool Congress supporters who had laid siege to the block office in protest against land acquisition. Congress leaders such as Somen Mitra, Subrata Mukherjee and Sudip Bandopadhyay urged the government to structure an all-party initiative and “take us (the Opposition) into confidence”.
28 September: Rajkumar Bhool who was injured (on 25 September) by the police atrocities at the BDO office died. He is declared as the first martyr of the Singur Agricultural Land Protection Committee. By the initiative of Trinamool Congress there is blockage of all roads and railway lines in the state from 11am to 12noon.
1 October: On the day of Bijoy Doshumi night vigil is observed in the affected moujas of Singur. All the villagers in all the villages of Singur area switched off the lights in their houses in the evening as a symbol of protest. The whole area was engulfed by darkness.
Ex-chief justices of the Supreme Court judges J. S. Verma and Rajendra Babu and retired judge M. N. Rao write letters to Ratan Tata to abandon Singur.
3 October: The people protested by refusing to cook in thousands of village houses in Singur. This is to protest against the police atrocities and as a part of non-violent peaceful movement.
4 October: An all party meeting by the initiative of the government was held, but was not attended by the major opposition party — Trinamool Congress boycotted. Gov-ernment has again declared that the physical possession of the land would be taken very soon and the same would be handed over to Tata before the end of this month.
9 October: A 24-hour statewide bandh or general strike has been observed by various political parties to protest the eviction of the peasants. The Committee to Assist the Struggle of Singur Peasants Against Eviction has also supported the general strike. 6211 Bandh supporters arrested.
11 October:Claiming that Tata Motors has been given the “best package” for its small car project in the state, the West Bengal government today said that about 1,000 acre required for it was already in its possession. “The land (for the project) is already in the possession of the state government,” Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, told reporters at the state secretariat here. To compete with states like Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh where exemption on excise duty and income tax was available as per central government policy,”we have given the best package to the Tatas,” he said.
Bhattacharjee said the state government would not sell the land to the Tatas but lease it out to the auto major. He said that the state government has entered into a package deal with the Tatas.
Later, Industry minister, Nirupam Sen, explained that land would be given to the Tatas on lease at a concessional rate. “The period of lease and rental is being worked out.” “The lease may be for 99 years,” he said. Stating that the state government has incurred a cost of Rs 148 crore for land acquisition for the Tata project at Singur in Hooghly district, Sen said that the entire land would be handed over to the company by December.
Tata Motors would spend Rs 1,000 crore for setting up the Rs one lakh people’s car project at Singur, 35 km from Kolkata.
The company has announced that it would launch the car by 2008. It had given an end of the year deadline to the state government for the land acquisition.
12 October: A deputation of the Sanhati Udyog is sent to the Hoogly District Mag-istrate; APDR publishes its fact-finding report on police atrocities at the BDO office and the murder of Rajkumar Bhool.
15 October: Because of police atrocities in Singur on 25 September, Shame Day is observed.
16 October: Unidentified goons, allegedly backed by the CPI(M), damaged a water pumping station at Madhyapara in Singur last night to prevent irrigation of potato farms in the area. It seems to be a pressure tactic to force agitating farmers of Singur to give up their land for the proposed small car factory. Farmers said that goons vandalised the water pumping station at the “behest of the CPI(M)” to stop them from cultivating their land. The state government had issued a prohibitory order restricting farmers from using land for agricultural purposes ahead of the comm.-encement of the land acquisition process in Singur. But villagers who opposed land acquisition flouted the order and continued with farming. The pumping station, set up 30 years ago by the state government to facilitate multi-crop farming in Beraberi and Bajemelia moujas has been the only source of water for the farmers. Farmers said that the goons went on the rampage in the pumping station, snapped its power connection and damaged parts of the water pipelines. The Singur police began a probe but nobody could be arrested till late tonight. “An incident took place near the pumping station last night, but no complaint has been lodged with us. We are probing the case,” said Mr Priyobrata Baxi, officer-in-charge, Singur police station. The incident occurred 20 days ahead of commencement of potato farming. The pumping station used to provide water for farming potato, paddy and jute in Bajemelia and Beraberi moujas which have been ear-marked for the small car project.
The Congress today made it clear that the party’s joining hands with Miss Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress will only be “based on issues” in West Bengal, like their common “issue-based agitation” to protest the Left Front government’s alleged “anti-farmers policy” in Singur, and not part of “any blind poll alliance”.
17 October: 10 universities of the state and 130 faculty members of IIT request the governor to intervene to stop the forceful eviction of peasants in Singur.
18 October: More than a 1000 women from Singur protest in front of the Tata Center at Kolkata.
21 October: As a protest, no lights were lit in the villages of Singur on the night of Diwali.
23 October: A water-pumping station in Singur’s Kolepara village was vandalised last night by unidentified goons allegedly backed by Communist Party of India-Marxist leaders wanting to stop supply to 65 acres of farmland owned by people unwilling to cede their plots for a Tata Motors factory to come up. The station, built by the State Minor Irrigation Corporation in 1978 for multi-crop farming, is the sole source of water for the farmers of Kolepara, Gopalnagar, Sanapara and villages close to Gopalnagar. A week earlier, a pumping station in Singur’s Madhyapara was left badly damaged after a raid by ruffians. The culprits are yet to be detained though an assistant engineer of the state water resources, investigation and dev-elopment department lodged a complaint with Hooghly police last week. The complaint was urged by Mr Nandagopal Bhattacharjee, the departmental minister. Mr Ranjit Mullick, chief operator of the Kolepara facility, said: “More than 65 acres in Gopalnagar, Kolepara, Sanapara receive water from the pumping station vandalised last night. It has three rooms and the criminals broke into the one with a transformer in it. They snapped the power link and stole transmission cables worth a few lakh of rupees. The theft came to my notice around 8 am today when I found the door open.”
26 October: Hailing Tata Steel’s takeover of Corus as an example of the Tatas’ reputation as a world-class manufacturer, the CPM is asking people of West Bengal to welcome the Tata Motors’ small-car project in Singur. While the Tata Group has many interests in West Bengal, notes the editorial in Ganashakti, the CPM mouthpiece, ‘‘the group’s decision to choose Singur for its small-car project will be a boon for the manufacturing industry, and attract more investments to the state’’.
27 October:Social activist Ms Medha Patkar today warned the state government of a law and order breakdown in Singur if force was exerted to acquire farm land while the well-known litterateur and social activist, Mrs Mahasweta Devi, said CPI(M) workers have no right to call themselves Marxists because they have been “systematically hoodwinking people.” They were addressing a rally organised by Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee at Bajemelia hospital ground this afternoon.
Public Hearings organized, which was chaired by Medha Patkar and had Mahashweta Devi, Justice Malay Sengupta and Dipankar Sengupta as members, were creative and democratic ways of giving a platform to the voices challenging the acquisition.
Regarding the consent of the people, all the nine meetings held were with party representatives and panchayat members but not with any gram sabha or with the project affected. It is required under the 74th Amendment of the Constitution and must happen, even at this late stage. It is clear that no project details were provided to the gram panchayat nor was its consent sought, as reported to a panel for public hearing on October 27, 2006, by Dhud Kumar Dhara, a member of the gram panchayat.
30 October: In a balancing act in the midst of controversy over proposed acqu-isition of land for the Tatas’ car project, former chief minister Jyoti Basu on Monday sounded a note of caution for acquiring multi-crop land by the Left Front government in West Bengal for setting up industries.
31 October:Country’s leading car manu-facturer Tata Motors today said it would roll out its Rs 1 lakh car in the second half of 2008, from its proposed plant at Singur in West Bengal. However, the company would start manufacturing the cars at its proposed plant “well before that”, Tata Motors Man-aging Director Ravi Kant today said, without specifying any timeframe. Speaking to reporters after announcing the company’s second quarter results of the current fiscal, Kant said that the company has sought for 970 acres of land, of which Tata Motors would use more than 60 per cent and the rest by ancillary companies.
3 November: Citizens’Convention by the Citizen’s Mancha in Kolkata. Ten complaints are filed against the government. A Public meeting was organized by SUCI in Singur.
5 November:Trinamool Congress sup-remo Mamata Banerjee on Sunday asked the Tatas to shift their proposed small car project from farmland in West Bengal’s Singur and gave a 12-day ultimatum to the state government to announce that industries would not be set up on agricultural land. However, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-government expressed determin-ation to go ahead with the project.
7 November:West Bengal government started deploying huge contingents of armed police and the Rapid Action Force and setting up camps at several places in the area. Plainclothes police informers have been openly moving around in the villages gathering information about resistance plans. Armed policemen have been posted in the village squares and the markets to keep watch on the villagers’ movements.
The process of land acquisition in South 24-Parganas has been kicked off with the urban development department sending a proposal to the district administration for construction of district headquarters at Baruipur. The initial proposal for acquisition of 498 acres of land was sent a week ago. This is the first proposal for land acquisition to be submitted in the district where huge acquisitions are on the anvil for shifting the district headquarters to Baruipur from Alipore and for various projects of the Salim group including two townships. According to the agreement between the state govern-ment and the Salim group, the latter will pay the cost of land acquisition in Baruipur to KMDA for the construction of the district headquarters. The land earmarked for district headquarters is spread over five mouzas including Jagadishpur.
17 November: Traffic virtually came to a stand still on Central Avenue in the afternoon as thousands of lathi-wielding Trinamool Congress activists marched along the road, carrying party flags, placards and shouting slogans. People returning home from offices had a harrowing time as the party workers protested against the acquisition of cultivable land by the state government in Singur for industrial purposes. The dandi march, which was scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m., ultimately commenced around 3:30 p.m. from near the Mahatma Gandhi statue on Mayo Road.
19 November: Farmers opposing land acquisition in Singur today took out a rally against deployment of policemen in five camps, accusing them of “terrorising” villagers under the “influence of CPI(M) leaders” to stop them from sowing potatoes. Anticipating trouble from agitating farmers, the district authorities have thrown a strong security cover in Singur by deploying more than 800 policemen at five “strategic points” while they fence 997 acres. Farmers allege lack of consent on their part. More than 7,000 farmers including 800 women took out a procession from Bajemelia hospital grounds under the banner of Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee (SKJRC) this evening demanding “immediate withdrawal” of police from Bajemelia, Chagalveri, Khaserveri and Joymollah villages. They also organised sit-ins before the police pickets. The procession ended at Khaserveri where SCJRC’s convener Mr Becharam Manna addressed the gathering. Supporters of political outfits like CPI(ML), SUCI and CPI(ML) New Democracy and members of Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) also attended.
25 November: Teachers of various uni-versities and premier academic institutes staged a protest in Kolkata against the acquisition of multi-crop agricultural land for industrialisation. A large number of teachers, under the banner of Teachers and Scientists against Maldevelopment, also joined in the sit-in demonstration. Tarun Kanti Naskar and Abhee Dutta Majumdar, joint conveners of the forum, have criticised the government’s “anti-peasant role” and pledged to extend moral support to the “struggling farmers”.
26 November: A section of villagers in Singur has started preparing to resist the Hooghly district administration’s physical occupation of acquired land today. In some cases, the administration had issued cheques to owners whose claims were doubtful, Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee said. In 50 cases, objections had been filed. Mamata would lead an agitation in Singur on Sunday to sow potatoes. West Bengal Industrial Devel-opment Corporation officials have collected consent letters from 30 landowners during the day after visiting Gopalnagar village. The district authorities have made a strong police bandobast. Around 6,000 additional policemen would be deployed. They are also controlling the movement of vehicles on the Durgapur Expressway in view of Mamata’s threat to sow potato seeds on the plots.
30 November: State violence began to be orchestrated once again from 30th November, when section 144 was clamped on the area. Trinamool activists torched buses, blocked roads and railways and disrupted traffic movement while protesting against the alleged assault on their party leader Ms Mamata Banerjee who had been barred by police from proceeding to Singur today. Police arrested whoever boarded down from the train or moving towards Singur. The govern-ment has prohibited all assemblies in the Singur area.
1 December: The Trinamool sponsored 12-hour Bangla bandh today witnessed sporadic violence, in which one person was killed and some passengers were injured when bandh supporters threw stones at vehicles, including the Kolkata-Dhaka bus on NH 34. Meanwhile, the state government began fencing off the land acquired for setting up the Tata small car factory at Singur. While Miss Mamata Banerjee descry-ibed yesterday’s ransacking of the Assembly as “most unfortunate” the Left Front today demanded “exemplary punishment” for the Trinamool legislators involved in the incident. The bandh also ensured that the US ambassador, Mr David Mulford, took an early flight out of the city, cancelling his engage-ments. Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said in Midnapore that the incidents over Singur would not send any wrong signals to investors. Meanwhile, fencing work began at Singur amid protests. Director of Industries Mr MV Rao said it would be completed in three days. Officials in the industry department said the Tatas are likely to take possession of land in five days’ time. District magistrate Mr Vinod Kumar said police posts had been set up at Joymolla village within the project site.
2 December: A memorandum seeking to stop this “persecution” would be given to the governor and if it continues a three-day long bandh would be called as the last resort, Mr Subrata Mukherjee, senior Congress leader and a spokesman of the Krishi Jami Bachao Committee said in a Press conference today.
People of Khaserbheri, Bera Beri and Gopalnagar gathered to resist the fencing off of the proposed project land. Severe police force was used against them, several people were injured and more than 60 people were arrested. Several women told us that the police not only beat up people at the project site, but chased them into their villages and dragged them out of their houses and beat them. Verbal sexual abuse was used against the women, and at least one young woman, Deepali Moitra said that she was dragged by her hair from under a bed in Kasherberi where she was hiding. Medha Patkar who went in solidarity was not allowed to enter the affected villages by the officials and her citizen rights of movement in the area was curtailed.
According to eye-witnesses in the various villages of Khaserbheri, Bera Beri, Do Bandi, including the fact finding reports on the violence of the 2nd brought out by Manavadhikar Surakhsa Manch (MASUM) and that of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samiti, the state government had deployed more than 5000 police contingent and Rapid Action Force (RAF). The government had already promulgated the prohibitory order u/s 144 of Cr.P.C on the 30th November itself in Singur. When the government officials started putting the fence on 2nd November 2006 at about 10 AM, the local villagers resisted. The people were already there since 6 AM and when the officials who under police protection were fencing the area came face to face with them they resisted the take over as it was their last effort to save the land. It was in this exchange that violence broke out and police force and RAF resorted to widespread lathi-charge and firing tear-gas shells and rubber bullets. The villagers told us that the police entered the adjoining villages and mercilessly beat and physically assaulted the villagers indiscriminately showing no respect to the women, old people and children. A number of people got severe injuries due to police brutality. The police entered the houses and ventured into the rooftop and beat up unarmed peaceful people with batons causing bloodsheds. The police also tore clothes of women and verbally hurled sexual abuses at them.
According to the fact finding report of the MASUM report dated 2.12.2006 the police arrested more than 60 people comprising of 18 women and children. Among them, Jhuma Patra, daughter of Mr. Ashok Patra of village Khaserbheri, 12 years old and a student of class-V in Naraharipara Primary School and Soma Dhara daughter of Sanyasi Dhara of same village, a minor were also arrested.
The Chandan Nagar Police Station filed case nos 150 & 151 dated 2.12.2006. In both the cases the complainant was Officer-in-Charge of Singur Police Station, Mr. Priya Brata Baxi. In case no. 150, according to police version, 38 persons were arrested and among them 4 were admitted to government hospital. The police initiated the case under sections 147/148/149/186/188/447/332/333/-353/325/307 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) & 9(b) (2) of Indian Explosive Act (I.E. Act) with 9 W.B.M.P.O. Act. In the Case No. 151, ten people were injured and one police personnel also received injury. This case was registered under sections 147/148/149/188/323/353/-307 of IPC and 9(b) (2) of I.E. Act
4 December: The WB government claim-ed that 920 acres of land has been voluntarily handed over by the landowners.
Social activist Medha Patkar and Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh were on Monday detained along with other top BJP leaders from West Bengal on their way to Singur, where fencing work at the Tata Motors small car project site continued amid strong police presence. Singh, who arrived in Kolkata on Monday, was stopped by police at Maitipara on Durgapur Expressway, 25 km away from Singur and arrested along with state party president Sukumar Banerjee and secretary Rahul Sinha under section 151 Cr PC. They were freed on bail immediately, Hooghly police superintendent Supratim Sarkar said. Patkar, who had set forth from the city by local train with two others, had disembarked at Sheoraphuli station on Howrah-Bandel section and had reached Purushottampur, 10 km away from Singur, by autorickshaw when policemen stopped her, threw a cordon and took her forcibly to Dankuni. She is being kept at the CIL guest house at Dankuni. This is the third time that Patkar has been prevented by the police from reaching Singur in less than a week.
4 December: The Singur agitation intens-ified today with Miss Mamata Banerjee going on an indefinite hunger-strike and declaring her moral support to tomorrow’s SUCI-sponsored bandh. Miss Banerjee began the hunger-strike at Esplanade in central Kolkata after the state government had rejected her demand for stopping fencing work at Singur and withdrawal of police forces from the area. Fifteen farmers, including five elderly women, began a fast-unto-death at Singur today in protest against police excesses and land acquisition. Miss Banerjee declared that her party would block roads all over the state for two hours from 12 noon on 6 December and march to Singur on 7 December, “come what may”. “You get lost”, was her final message to Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. The Trina-mool supremo apologised for the inconven-ience caused by bandhs. “We are not in favour of bandhs. But there is no alternative’’. Left Front chairman Mr Biman Bose said the government would oppose tomorrow’s strike. BJP chief Mr Rajnath Singh was detained on his way to Singur and released at Dankuni, 25 km from the project site. He later shared the dais with Miss Banerjee.
Activist Ms Medha Patkar was turned back on her way to Singur for the second time in four days. A habeas corpus application moved in Calcutta High Court today complained that Ms Patkar had been illegally detained.
The chief minister told the Assembly that fencing work was on and would end soon. The Tatas would be handed over land this month, he said. Asked about an upward revision of the compensation package for farmers, Mr Bhattacharjee sounded positive. On his all-party talks offer, he said only the Congress had responded positively to it. The chief minister, however, clarified there was no scope for any further discussion on the “core issue”.
The Assembly Speaker today accepted a privilege motion against 21 Trinamool MLAs and declared that salary and other facilities of 29 Trinamool MLAs would be suspended till the PWD submitted a report on the total loss of public property. The Opposition walked out in protest against the decision. The Speaker has decided to refer a motion against Miss Banerjee for the Assembly ransacking to the privilege committee of Parliament. The Singur issue rocked Parliament also.
5 December: In spite ofprohibitory ord-ers people continued to protest in the affected villages. In both BeraBeri and Khaserbheri people were sitting on indefinite fasts. In spite of the terror unleashed in the area, people have started peaceably defying Section 144.
6 December: The police stopped thou-sands of protesters today from storming the site of a proposed Tata factory in West Bengal.
7 December: Rajya Sabha mp Nilotpal Basu told a delegation that the Tatas had been shown five different plots for the car project. He also said that the company did not want any other plot than the Singur one.
8 December: People spontaneously shut down shops and took out a procession of about 500 people when the police forcibly took away Rabindra Bhattacharya, the local MLA and 4 others from the Bajemelliya Santoshimatala hunger strike camp.
10 December: The Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee had a press conference in Beraberia Purba para and presented signed letters from farmers where the farmers declared that “We Have Not And Will Not Give Our Land To Tata Motors”.
Shanti Ram Ghosh of Beraberi Mandirtala, a cheque recipient announced in the press conference that he was ready to return his cheque and wants his land back. The members of the Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee (SKJRC) today countered the state government’s claim saying that the state government was yet to receive consent from owners of nearly 344.91 acres of land. The state government had claimed that it had received letters of consent from owners of 935 acres of land – earmarked for the Tatas’ small car factory in Singur. Meanwhile, 14 women have launched a fast-unto-death near Beraberi Purbapara in Singur today in protest against alleged “police excesses” on last Saturday and the state government’s “false claims”. A two-year old, Koel Das, was seen accompanying her mother on stage. The SKJRC has prepared a list of farmers unwilling to let go of their land. The list was produced before mediapersons today and would soon be submitted to the district magistrate. Mr Shankar Jana, joint convener of the SKJRC as well as member of the Suci’s Hooghly district committee said: “Owners of 344.91 acres of land have declined to give up their land and only Rs 67 crore has been disbursed so far by way of compensation to farmers. The total compensation package stands at Rs 140 crore.” The farmers claimed that the government was yet to get letters of consent from owners of 55.26 acres land in Beraberi mouja and that owners of 33.47 acres land in Khaserveri, 16.68 acres land in Joymollah, 16.98 acres land in Beraberi Bazar and Malapara, 3.37 acres land in Ujjwal Sangha area, 57.10 acres land in Kolaypara and Singherveri, 63.69 acres land in Purbapara, 97.43 acres land in Gopalnagar and 0.97 acres land in Duluigacha did not agree to give up land till today.
CPI(M) in Peoples’ Democracy stated, “over 950 acres has the voluntary consent of the owners who have already collected their compensation.”
11 December: West Bengal Left Front chairman and CPI(M) politburo member Biman Bose on Monday alleged that there were high-profile outsiders in the garb of social activists who were being funded by overseas agencies to disrupt economic development in parts of India. He exhorted CPI(M)’s SFI–students arm to “expose such persons”.
18 December: At about 6 a.m. the body of a young activist of the Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Samity, Tapasi Malik was found burning in the fenced area. Some hair and other articles were found near her body. It seemed a clear case of murder. Tapasi had on the previous day worked hard to mobilize the children and had gone home, had dinner and then slept. According to the family she had probably gone to the fields in the morning for toilet purposes when she may have been attacked. An FIR no 156/ 18 December, 2006 was lodged under sections 302 and 201 of the IPC. The girl was reportedly raped and murdered by miscreants who were present within the guarded area. The victim had entered into the fencing for nature’s call. She was about to be buried and fire was set on her body to destroy the evidence of crime. The villagers intervened in such situation as fire and bad smell attracted them. The micreants involved in the matter fled from the spot. Therafter, Superintendent of Police of Hooghly swung into action to cover up the crime. Mr. Supratim Sarkar, SP of Hooghly rushed to the place of occurrence with a huge contingent of police force and called father of the victim, Manoranjan Malik and forced him to sign on a paper.The body of the girl was brought to Serampore Walsh Hospital for post mortem examination where the attending doctors refused to conduct post mortem, then the body was referred to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.According to a fact finding team of the Kolkata women’s groups that went immediately to the area the murder with a possibility of rape could have been the act of the 195 security guards deployed by the WBIDC and police deployed to guard the acquired area. It was after a lot of protest by the Krishi Jami Rakhsha Samiti and others in Kolkata that the investigation has been handed over to the CBI.
28 December: After 25 days of persist-ently refusing to end fasting, Trinamool Congress chief Miss Mamata Banerjee called off the hunger strike today. The MP, who had complained of a blurring vision earlier in the day, told reporters that letters from President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and former Prime Minister Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee had persuaded her to take the decision.
In Japaiguri, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said the state government had “specific” information that the rivals of the Tatas were encouraging trouble over the car factory project in Singur, Hooghly. The comment comes a day after Ratan Tata accused “some…competitors” of fuelling the fire, adding a new dimension of corporate intrigue to the existing political issue. In an interview to a private television channel, Tata had expressed the determination to see through the project that will turn out cars costing Rs 1 lakh at the site some 40 km from Calcutta.
28 December: an elderly couple, who had parted with their land for the proposed Tata Motors small car factory at Singur, were found dead in their house in mysterious circumstances at Doluigacha near Ghoshpara in Singur this morning. Police said some locals spotted the inert bodies of Tinkari Dey (55) and his wife Maya (50) on the floor of their bedroom around 11.30 a.m. today. While both bodies bore marks of injury, an electrical cord was found cutting into each neck, Mr Arun Gupta, IG (Western range) said. He said preliminary investigation suggested that it was not a case of suicide but added that police were yet to establish the motive. He said that the “murders” had been committed clearly “not for gain” as no valuables or household goods had been found missing from the victims’ residence. Police did not find any suicide note. Mr Gupta said the two bodies had been sent for autopsy. “The cause of death will be known only after we get the reports. We have certain leads and are working on them. Police have questioned a few locals but no arrests have been made,” the IG said. According to reports, Tinkari and Maya used to live alone and their three sons are settled in Delhi. They owned nearly 20 cottahs of land at Singerbheri — a part of the farmland earmarked for the Tatas’ small car factory project area. They had parted with their land and had collected a cheque for Rs 4.22 lakh from the Singur BDO office.
31 December: The West Bengal Govern-ment earlier in its “STATUS REPORT ON SINGUR, As on December 31st , 2006″ had spread the blatant lie of 96%. Now they have rolled back the whole story (STATUS REPORT ON SINGUR) from their website without any explanation.
A group led by Dr. Sumit Sarkar visited Singur.
1 January: Mamata Banerjee’s decision to end her `indefinite’ fast on the Singur issue after 25 days of high-wire theatrics brought considerable relief to West Bengal and beyond. The relatively tame end to her hunger strike seems to have disappointed the ragbag of political friends — ranging from Naxalites through communal elements to free-floating and freelancing NGOs and individuals — who have rallied to her Singur cause to target the organised Left in a year it has scored major electoral victories.
3 January: Trinamool Congress leader-ship and members of Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee (SKJRC), today pointed out discrepancies in the status report that was published by the state government on 22 December and 2 January and have given a 72- hour ultimatum to the state government to publish the list of farmers who have given their consent for land acquisition. Listing the discrepancies, Mr Partha Chattopadhyay, leader of the Opposition, said that the chief minister in his letter to Miss Mamata Banerjee on 20 December stated that the total amount of compensation to be paid is Rs 131.49 crore. The status report which was published on that day also quoted the same figure. But, yesterday, Mr Sabyasachi Sen, state industry and commerce secretary said, the total compensation payable for the acquired land in Singur is Rs 119 crore. Mr Chatterjee said that the government is making such “dubious” statements in order to baffle the people. A senior member of SKJRC said that even the industry and commerce minister in an interview to a private channel, said, the total compensation package is about Rs 131 crore. He said in earlier status report stated so far Rs 85 crore was spent as compensation but yesterday Mr Sen said that Rs 83 crore was disbursed so far. Earlier, in his second letter, the chief minister stated that of the 997 acres of land needed for the project, the state government had already acquired 954 acre of land with the consent of the farmers. Yesterday, the state government announced that owners of 658 acres of land in Singur of total 997 acres acquired for Tata Motors small car project had accepted compensation, till 31 December 2006. Mr Chattopadhyay said earlier the state government in their status report stated pre-award consent status – rayati consent- 584 acre, factory consent 38 acre and vested land 34 acre which amounts to 620 acre. The same status report stated 332 acre was awaiting for post award consent.
7 January: Farmers of Singur alleged that the government has stopped releasing water from 30 deep and the mini tube-wells which fall inside the fenced-off area. As a result, agriculture in almost 743 acres of land in Bajemelia, Singherveri, Khaserveri, Beraberi and Gopalnagar, has been badly hit owing to the non-availability of irrigation water. There are three deep tube-wells and 27 mini tube-wells in the area, which supply irrigation water to almost 1600 acres of agricultural land.
15 January: An official of Tata Motors was manhandled and his car damaged by a mob at Singur in Hooghly today. A four-member team, including officials of the Com-munity Development Programme of Tata Motors, West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and a private firm had gone to the Gopalnagar panchayat office around 12 noon to hand over railway tickets to villagers. Tata Motors is supposed to take a team of 24 panchayat members from three panchayats to Jamshedpur to show them the community development programme of the Tatas. The three panchayats are Gopalnagar, Beraberi and Kamarkundu-Gopalnagar-Doluigacha (KGD). As the officials were returning, they were intercepted by nearly 70 villagers at Sahanapara crossing off Durgapur Express-way. The villagers gheraoed them. Five police personnel escorting the officials tried to pacify the mob. The villagers identified the community development officer of the company, Mr SB Suryakanta. They manhan-dled him and damaged his gypsy van. Additional police forces reached the spot and rescued the officials. Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee convener Mr Becharam Manna, took full responsibility of the incident. The Singur OC said no complaint had been lodged.
The Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee today complained that the much awaited list of consent award put out on the govern-ment’s website contains names of 100 farmers whose land is outside the Tata small car project area. These farmers live in Bajemelia, Beraberi, Singerbheri and Gopalnagar moujas.
16 January: Villagers of Sahanapara in Singur uprooted nearly 30 pillars of the fence and forced their way into the area earmarked for the proposed small car project of Tata Motor this afternoon at the site where the manhandling incident took place yesterday. They were chased away by a police contingent led by ASP (HQ) Mr Asit Pal. A picket has been posted. The incident occurred around 2 p.m. when Trinamool leaders were addressing a rally at Kapasaria crossing off Durgapur Expressway near Singur. Trinamool leaders including Mr Sanjoy Baxi, Mr Paresh Pal and Mr Dilip Yadav entered Sahanapara village on two motorcycles and mobilised more than 100 farmers to organise the raid. Policemen, posted at Sahanapara crossing off the Durgapur Expressway, couldn’t identify them. Later, more than 100 farmers gathered and entered inside the fencing.‘
At the rally, Trinamool threatened to call a 72-hour strike in the state if supremo Miss Mamata Banerjee is not allowed to visit Singur.
19 January: Tension gripped Singur this afternoon when GRP found the body of Astu Malik (48), uncle of slain Krishi Jami Raksha Committee leader Tapasi Malik. His body was found lying on railway tracks near Chandan-pur in Burdwan-Howrah chord section.
21 January: Initial phases of construction work for the Tata Motors’ ambitious Rs 1,000 crore project began with a bhoomi puja at Singur in Hoogly district, the West Bengal government said today. The Tata communication came a day after the West Bengal government extended prohibitory orders banning the assembly of four or more people in Singur till Jan 28 midnight following reports that more protests could be organised over the takeover of fertile farmland for the small car project. Even as Singur remained tense with a Tata official heckled by protestors recently, a statement from the company said that it had begun construction work on Sunday, but without detailing the exact nature of the first step. Reports from Singur said that with over 500 policemen present, a ‘ bhumi puja’, a Hindu ritual prior to starting any project, was performed at the site, but not over the plot whose owners claim they have not given up their land yet. “The Tata Motors plant operation is expected to create employment in excess of 10,000 direct and indirect jobs,” the release said. The civil construction for the plant is being initiated by Tata Motors, it said. Singur, about 40 km from here in Hooghly district, has been chosen by Tata for its small car project over 997 acres of land. This has triggered a violent face-off between the government and farmers led by civil society groups and parties like Trinamool Congress.
22 January: A 1000-member security squad was engaged last night for guarding Tata Motors plant site at Singur in the wake of yesterday’s protest during “bhoomi pujan”. The CPI(M) cadres in the areas have also been asked to organise round-the-clock vigil at the site. The order under Section 144 CrPC, which was reimposed on Singur and adjoining areas, had also been extended for an indefinite period. Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress Mahila Samiti today held demonstrations in front of the Tata Industries’ headquarters at Chowringhee, Kolkata. The demonstrators blackened the Tata Centre building with tar. Carrying placards and broom sticks, they blocked the main thoroughfares, disrupting traffic. The aggrieved leaders also raised slogans and burnt the effigies of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Ratan Tata. Describing yesterday’s incident at Singur as a minor event, the Chief Minister assured Tata Motors officials that things at Singur would get normal. He reiterated that adequate protection would be given to Tata Motors during the construction period and afterwards till normalcy was restored.
23 February:Villagers at Bajemelia and Khaserveri in Singur early today partially set ablaze a fence around a plot where a Tata Motors factory would come up. In the afternoon, six villagers led by Mr Becharam Manna, convener of the Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee, barged into the project area to destroy a platform on which Tata Motors had organised a puja, kicking off construction work. The SKJRC linked the incidents with an anti-land acquisition agitation by displaced farmers in the area but the Trinamool Congress sought to distance itself from what hadhappened. “I was told villagers had tried to set some wooden poles on fire but no damage was done to the platform where the puja was held,” said Mr Kalyan Mukherjee, Chandernagore’s sub-divisional police officer. A senior district-level police officer said, around 3 am, the mob had gathered around the fence at Bajemelia Dakshinpara before setting the poles on fire without being noticed by the policemen. The police noticed the flames half an hour later and rushed to the place to extinguish the fire. Mr Manna said: “This is only the beginning. It hints at an an armed struggle by the displaced farmers against the state govern-ment and Tata Motors.”. He claimed the destruction of 50 wooden poles today though the police pegged the number at 20.
24 January: Intellectuals, academicians and students today joined the protests against the state government’s policy of land acquisition in Singur and Nandigram with a sit-in demonstration at Esplanade.
25 January: Farmers opposed to land acquisition in Singur twice set fire to fence posts at the Tata car plant site early this morning. Around 5.30 am, a group of villagers wrapped jute bags soaked in kerosene around 10 wooden posts and set them on fire at Beraberi, about 50 km from Calcutta. Police arrived about half an hour later and doused the flames. An hour later, a group of women came to the site and set fire to the posts again. The police gave chase but could not catch anybody. A police team later raided two clubs in adjoining Bajemelia in search of the culprits but did not arrest anyone. This is the third time that villagers have set fire to the fence posts since January 21, when the Tata Motors authorities performed bhoomi puja (Land worshipping). In Calcutta, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee reviewed the situation with chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb, industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen and other officers.
28 January: Over 40 people, including 11 policemen, were injured in clashes between Trinamool Congress activists and police during a TC-led farmers’ march to prohibitory order-bound Singur where construction work by the Tatas on a car plant entered the fifth day today. A Tata Motors godown at Joypur was attacked by protestors. The incidents occurred at four points – Maitipara near Dankuni toll plaza, Nalikul, Baidyabati and Mahaeswarpur en route Singur. Some of the injured were admitted to Walsh hospital and the rest were brought to a private hospital at Dankuni. About 200 villagers at Bajemelia mouja made their way to the fenced area and uprooted the wooden poles and set them ablaze. Later, police who were busy keeping “the outsiders” from entering Singur, rushed to the spot and started beating up some locals. It was reported that villagers from Gopalnagar, Bajemelia, Ghoshpara not only uprooted the poles but also set them ablaze. Miss Mamata Banerjee has convened a meeting of the Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee (SKRJC) at her residence tomor-row. Trinamool Congress supporters blocked National Highway 2 and 6 at Dankuni, They also squatted on railway tracks at Kamarkundu and Madhusudanpur. Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Mr Raj Konojia said in Kolkata that police had to lathicharge the agitators who resorted to stone-throwing against security forces at Dankuni, eight km from Singur, where police had set up a barricade to prevent the protestors from going to Singur. Mr Kanojia said police also used water cannons and burst tear-gas shells to disperse the volatile crowd. “Eleven policemen were injured in the clashes and four of them had to be taken to the hospital for first aid,” he said. He said protestors armed with bamboo poles had gathered at four points in the district in the afternoon to kickstart the days’ agitation against acquisition of fertile farmland for the Tata Motors’ project. At Maitipara, about one km from Singur, police chased away a group of TC activists when they tried to break the cordon. The Trinamool Congress claimed 15 to 17 of their supporters sustained injuries in “unprovoked” police lathicharge. Asked how many TC supporters were injured, Mr Kanojia said “I cannot give this figure as we have not made any arrests”. Condemning the police action, senior Trinamool MLA Mr Sougata Roy said in Kolkata “this is an example how far the Left Front government can go to act as an agent of the Tatas. “Though prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC have been imposed only in Singur police station area, Trinamool activists were stopped far away from Singur at places where prohibitory orders have not been enforced. “This is a wanton misuse of state power to curb the democratic movement and help a particular industrialist.” A spokesman of the Eastern Railway said that several people blocked the railway tracks near Kamarkundu station on the Howrah-Burdwan chord line around 4.00 pm. Even though they were dispersed by the police within one hour, the banana leaves which the agitators threw on the over head wires took time to be removed. Train services on the chord line were disrupted for nearly three hours. Congress leader Mr Sudip Bandopadhyay, was allegedly gheraoed today by the agitating Trinamool activists. Mr Bandopadhyay, a former Trinamool MP, claimed that when he was returning to the city after presiding over a community marriage ceremony at Tarakeswar, he was accosted by TC activists at Nalikul in Hooghly district where the demonstrators had assembled for the party’s march to Singur. The activists allegedly abused Bandopadhyay and refused to let his car pass and he had to turn back and take a detour to the city. He was also allegedly asked by the agitators to address a meeting explaining his party’s “bonhomie” with CPI(M) at the national level.
9 January: CPI(M) said in People’s Democracy, “As far as the specific violent incidents related to Nandigram is concerned there has been no notice issued for land acquisition”
4 February: Nearly 150 villagers of Beraberi and adjoining villages under Singur Police Station assembled near the fences erected by the administration as acquired for Tata motors. The protest was a peaceful one and led by Krishi Jami Rakha Committee. When the protestors supposed to assemble adjoining the fence at about 10.30 AM to lodge their protest and shouted slogans, a large number of police bodily resisted them and resisted them to approach the fence, though on that time the area was not under 144 Cr. P.C. The police started beating protestors with their lathis and women were pulled by their hairs and abusive language was used by them, which was shown and heard by the audio- visual medium. The police charged tear gas shells and their aim was absolutely toward the village and due to that one hutment of a villager caught fire and turned into ashes. Then number of protestors including Ms. Anuradha Talwar of Right to Food Network has been arrested.
5 February: Prohibitory order under Section 144 CrPC was reimposed at the Tata Motors small car project site in Singur following fresh violence in the area, even as Tata group chief Ratan Tata flew into Kolkata late today evening for a meeting with Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya at an out-of-the-way office of the state government. After a marathon meet (lasting over two and half hours) with Bhattacharya and state Commerce and Industry Minister Nirupam Sen, Tata and the chief minister fielded questions from the media. Ratan Tata said given the pace of work at Singur, he was confident the small car would be rolled out by 2008. Tata was accompanied by R K Krishna Kumar, director of Tata Sons.
7 February: Police today fired teargas shells to chase away activists of Trinamool Congress-led Krishi Jami Raksha Committee (Save Farmland Committee) who entered the fenced off area at the Tata Motors small car project site and uprooted 14 fencing posts. Around 100 people of the committee entered the fenced off area at Bajemelia in Singur bloc early on Wednesday morning to uproot the posts. Policemen immediately launched into action firing teargas shells to drive away the disruptors. No arrest has been made in this connection, Sub-Divisional Police Officer Kalyan Mukherjee said adding, police fired 14 teargas shells. A huge police force has been deployed at Chanditola, roughly 10 km from Singur, in view of Wednesday’s scheduled march to Singur by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind opposing the land takeover for setting up industry.
9 February:Farmers spearheading the movement against land acquisition in Singur dug up a stretch of the Bajemelia-Beraberi road in an attempt to prevent police from entering the village today. Later, Krishi Jomi supporters tried to set a portion of a fence on fire before police chased them away.
Two bodies found on the outskirts of Singur on Tuesday (6 February) have been identified as those of Jyoti Prakash Biswas, an engineering diploma holder who worked for a company that provided earth-moving equip-ment, and his driver. Police suspect they were strangled to death and dumped in roadside bushes. Biswas, 37, was found dead at Bora, off Durgapur Expressway, close to the place where Mamata Banerjee will address a rally tomorrow. His driver Kanchan Das, 32, was found at Dadpur, over 20 km away. Hooghly police chief Supratim Sarkar said: “There is no connection between the deaths and the Singur situation.”
14 February: Mr Justice Jayanta Biswas of Calcutta High Court today held that the procedure adopted by the government for land acquisition at Singherveri under Singur police station for the Tata small car factory was proper, valid and in accordance with law. Mr Justice Biswas dismissed the writ petition of Sri Padmasagar Export Company which had challenged the acquisition of its land. The firm had purchased a 4.28-acre plot at Singherveri in 2004 for Rs 45 lakh. It had constructed a factory and obtained clearance from statutory bodies including the Pollution Control Board. In spite of this, the petitioner complained the collector of the land acquisition department had acquired the company’s land by issuing a notification on 21 July last year.
Calcutta High Court today quashed the prohibitory order issued under Section 144 CrPC at Singur on 4 February and observed that it was an abuse of power and an act of executive highhandedness unreasonably restricting the petitioners’ right guaranteed by the Constitution. Mr Justice Dipankar Datta passed this order on a writ petition moved by Mr Kalyan Bandopadhyaya challenging this prohibitory order promulgated by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Chandernagore. The court held that this abuse of power had been prompted by extraneous considerations. It was a pre-determined and pre-judged act. Two members of the Krishi Jami Bachao Committee protesting against the acquisition of agricultural lands at Singur for the Tata small car project had filed writ petitions in the HC. They had questioned the validity of the prohibitory order promulgated by the magistrate. The court order stated that to defuse the tension prevailing in the locality and to prevent further loss of life and damage to property prohibitory orders had been promulgated in the area under Singur police station five times from 30 November last year up to 4 February this year.
16 February: Mamata Banerjee is returning to Singur tomorrow with the demand that work on the Tata project be stopped and the “forcibly acquired” land given back. “My demands remain the same,” she said tonight. While the government has said only around 30 acres out of the 997-odd were acquired without the owners’ consent, Mamata has been insisting that over 450 acres were forcibly taken away. Mamata will address a rally near Kamarkundu station, 5 km from the Tata Motors plot and 50 km from Calcutta. It would be the first Opposition rally in Singur in over two months. Mamata was stopped on her way on November 30 because Section 144 was in force there. Trinamool Congress MLAs vandalised the Assembly in protest. The order was in force for 60 days from November 30 and was extended twice till the midnight of February 14.
The chief minister, the industries minister, their departmental secretaries, the chief secretary and the home secretary reviewed the Singur situation today.
23 February: Within a fortnight of pulling up the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government for “abusing power” by imposing Section 144 in Singur, Calcutta High Court today posed some tough legal questions to the state on the process of land acquisition there. Acting Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya asked the government to file an affidavit within April 13 furnishing all the details justifying the legality of the acquisition. The HC questionnaire wants the state to clarify whether all the owners of a land-holding in Singur have put their signatures on the consent agreement that the state has been flaunting all these days. The acting chief justice asked state advocate-general Balai Ray whether the state government could acquire land for a single project under two different sections of the same Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
25 February: Trouble broke out at Beraberi Purbapara in Singur today after agitating farmers forced their way into the fenced off plot belonging to Tata Motors in a desperate bid to reoccupy land that the government has “forcibly” acquired in a bid to set up a car factory. Shortly after the attempt to demolish the fence was thwarted by police, farmers staged a sit-in nearby, prompting adminis-tration to deploy additional police forces and RAF in the area. Construction work of the boundary wall of the plot was badly affected. Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee (SKJRC) members alleged that farmers were “dragged by the collar” and “policemen passed lewd comments” at women who participated in the agitation. Police, however denied the charge. “No one has been arrested. We are keeping a watch on the situation,” Mr Kalyan Mukherjee, SDPO, Chandernagore, said. Mr Becharam Manna, convener, SKJRC, said that the protest will continue till tomorrow. It was learnt that social activist Miss Medha Pateker will visit Singur on the same day. Trouble began around 11.30 a.m. today, when more than 2,000 farmers from Beraberi, including a few hundred women, marched down to the fenced off plot at Beraberi Purbapara and tired to pull down the fence. They were shouting slogans against the state government and Tatas. Policemen, who were guarding the fenced-off plot, intervened immediately. After being resisted, farmers entered into a scuffle with the police triggering tension. It was alleged that Mr Becharam Manna, convener, SKJRC, was assaulted by cops. Farmers from Bajemelia, Khaserveri, Gopalnagar, Singherveri, also joined their counterparts from Beraberi following rumours that the women were assaulted by the police. Later, agitating farmers burnt effigies of the chief minister and CPI(M) central committee member Mr Benoy Konar. In the afternoon, senior police officers held a series of meeting with SKJRC leaders and asked the farmers to call off the protest.
2 March: Local people of Khaserveri in Singur dug up a portion of the road leading to Tata’s small car project area near Bajemelia Ujjwal Sangha this afternoon. Farmers said that they dug up the road to prevent police from entering the fenced-off plot and to disrupt supply of bricks and cement for construction of boundary wall around the project area.
9 March:Tata Motors finally got possession of land for its small-car factory in Singur on today. The state government today signed an agreement with Tata Motors for the controversial small-car factory at Singur, leasing out 949.5 acres of land to the company for 90 years. The deal, however, still remain shrouded in secrecy, as the principal secretary of the state industries department, Mr Sabyasachi Sen, who was one of the signatories, declined to divulge details of the package of incentives being offered to the automobile major on the specious plea that the Assembly was in session.Commerce and industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen, WBIDC MD Debashis Shome and Tata Motors ‘R S Thakur inked the 90-year lease deal after a day of high drama. The final signature was put by Thakur on a hospital bed. Finally, at 6 pm, Sabyasachi Sen broke the news. The state officials first signed the deal and then sent it to Thakur, who is undergoing treatment at a city hospital. But neither the state nor Tata Motors revealed any details — such as the price of the land or the annual lease rent rates. The official excuse: the Assembly is in session. “My minister (Nirupam Sen) will place the details in the Assembly,”the commerce and industries secretary said. The company has already been carrying out landfilling at the site based on the “permissive possession” it had earlier got from the state. The factory will be built on 645 acres, while 290 acres are for the ancillary units. A further 14.5 acres have been allocated to set up a power sub-station and WBIDC plans to use 47 acres of vested land for beefing up local infrastructure. The land-use plan adds up to 996.5 acres, falling a little short of the already acquired 997.11 acres. Tata Motors has decided to scale up its investment by Rs 500 crore from the initial Rs 1,000 crore for the 2.5-lakh capacity main plant, and an expected Rs 500 crore for the ancillaries. According to sources, the deal gives Tata Motors financial incentives that would offset the tax incentives offered by states such as Uttarakhand to the automobile giant. Sources in the commerce and industries department hinted that WBIDC bought the entire land from the land and land revenue department and leased it to Tata Motors for the factory and signed a separate lease deal for the ancillaries. The financial part of the deal — still a secret — involves sops that may help the Tatas keep the car’s price within limits despite paying central sales tax that it could have avoided in Uttarakhand or Jharkhand. WBIDC plans to balance this burden with a deferred payment provision of the total lease rent in 10 easy instalments.
The government proposes to set up a panel — with representatives from the state, WBIDC and Tata Motors — to ensure that the land-use agreement is adhered to.
Two days after senior Trinamool Congress MLA Sadhan Pandey spoke out in favour of Tata Motor’s small car factory in Singur, he was suspended from the party for an indefinite period. Soon after his suspension, Pandey stepped on the gas, and took on Trinamool chairperson Mamata Banerjee, holding her responsible for the “absence of democracy” in the party.
12 March:Haradhan Bag, a farmer of Singur committed suicide on Sunday (11 March) night, who, according to his family members, refused to part with his land for the Tatas’ small car project. A day after his suicide, the state government seemed unsure about the victim’s share of land in the project area. Bag’s family members and supporters of the Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee (KJRC) had claimed yesterday that the victim owned 55 cottah land in Beraberi and had refused to hand it over to the state government for the car project. However, the district administration today said that they would have to check records to discern whether Bag had any land inside the project area. Mr Vinod Kumar, the Hooghly district magistrate said: “We know that his family and legal heirs have land in the project area, but we have to check whether Bag himself had any property within it.” Director of industries, Mr MV Rao, refused to comment on the issue. Meanwhile, supporters of KJRC denied the district administration’s claim, saying that Bag himself owned a plot which was forcibly acqu-ired by the government. “We have necessary documents to prove that Bag owned land in the project area,” claimed convener of the committee.
13 March: Trinamool Congress legislators staged a walkout after the Speaker refused to allot more time during the Question Hour to raise the issue of Haradhan Bag’s suicide at Singur. Later in the lobby, Leader of Opposition Mr Partha Chatterjee demanded chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee issue a statement in the Assembly on the agreement between the state government and Tata Motors. He maintained that the “ clandestine deal” between the state government and Tata Motors had driven Bag to take the extreme step. The Speaker today threatened to adjourn the Assembly session sine die if ministers did not change their habit of skipping the House in future. The Speaker, Mr HA Halim had to adjourn the House for half an hour this afternoon since no minister was present on the floor. The matter was pointed out to the Speaker by the CLP leader Dr Manas Bhunia.
The state government claims it’s helping the dispossessed farmers buy land in the Singur block itself or nearby. But the list of such buyers prepared by the district registrar, Hooghly, reveals the pathetic efforts being made by the state government to sell the story that farmers have parted with their lands voluntarily. Prefacing the details of the persons who have bought plots of land and the mouzas where the land is located, the district registrar noted that “the list is illustrative and not exhaustive.” From October, 2006 to 12 February such purchases were made. But 10 of the plots were bought on behalf of one marketing farm. Only two plots were bought by two farmers measuring 59.16 decimal and 27.23 decimal. An official of the state land and land reforms department said the government had decided to help the dispossessed farmers buy land if they so wished as an alternative to the land they had handed over for the small car project.
Unfazed by the ongoing anti-land acquisition movement in the state, chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said that the government would now accel-erate the pace of industrialisation in the state. Speaking at the inauguration of the new office of West Bengal Industrial Infra-structure Development Corporation, Mr Bhattacharjee said: “We took a long time to convince people of the efficacy of our industrial policy. Now we have achieved a turnaround. In fact, it is not only a turn-around. We have begun walking on the right path and need to increase our pace to keep up with the fast-changing world.” The chief minister, while addressing the assembled employees harped repeatedly on the need for speeding up the process of industrialisation. He claimed that with the inflow of capital in the state, both foreign and from within the country, the need of the hour was to accelerate the pace.
16 March: Agitating farmers demolished a portion of the boundary wall of the plot where the Tata’s proposed small car project is going to come up near Sanapara in Singur this afternoon and set the watch tower inside the area on fire. They also hurled crude bombs in the fenced-off plot near Singherveri and chased away labourers working in the project. The farmers uprooted a portion of the fence near Beraberi Purbapara and burnt down a few wooden poles before being chased away by police. Four vehicles were also damaged near Kamarkundu railway station. Security of the project area has been heightened with more policemen being deployed there to thwart possible attacks on the fence. Farmers took out a rally near the project site in the evening and warned the government with dire consequences if “forcibly” acquired land was not returned to them. No one has been arrested in this connection.
State industry minister Mr Nirupam Sen today announced that Tata Motors would get a Rs 200-crore loan at a rate of one per cent interest from the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation for its small-car plant. He said no money was being spent from government exchequer but the WBIDC would take a loan from the market to extend this loan to the Tatas! The information was a part of the disclosure on the incentive package for Tata Motors made by Mr Sen in the Assembly. He said the government had offered incentives on land, a soft term loan and refund of VAT for the first 10 years of a 90-year lease. “We have acquired 997.11 acres of land of which 645.47 acres, on a 90-year lease, has been handed over to Tata Motors for setting up a small-car unit. The remaining 290 acres has been earmarked for an ancillary unit or vendor park,’’ Mr Sen said. “Out of the 645.47 acres, the state government would take up-front payment for only 290 acres. In addition, the Tatas would have to pay a yearly rent at the rate of Rs 8,000 per acre for 290 acres.’’ The minister explained Tata Motors will pay Rs 1 crore annually by way of lease rent for the first five years. Thereafter, for every five years, there will be a 25 per cent hike in the lease rent for the next 30 years. From the thirty-first year to the sixtieth year, there will be a 30 per cent hike in the lease rent every 10 years and from the sixty-first year to the ninetieth year, the Tatas will pay at an annual flat rate of Rs 20 crore. The comprehensive lease rent for 90 years will thus come to nearly Rs 850 crore, he said. The incentives had been offered to counter concessions offered by other states.
18 March: A portion of the boundary wall of the Tata Motors’ small car project site at Singur was damaged early today when explosives planted inside hollow iron pipes kept hidden in a drainage outlet went off. Explosives secreted in six other drainage outlets of the boundary wall near a Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee camp at Gopalnagar Bospara were later detected. The blast was triggered around 3:30 a.m. Officers of the bomb squad of the state police rushed to the spot and unearthed the high-intensity charges which were believed to have been planted to blow up the boundary wall. Police are still not sure of the brain behind the act. “We are probing the matter. Nothing can be disclosed at this point of time,” Mr Anuj Sharma, DIG (Burdwan range), said. No one has been arrested in this connection. A senior police officer said that policemen posted at the project site had heard the sound of an explosion coming from the Gopalnagar Bospara-end of the boundary wall early today. They reached the spot to find a portion of the wall damaged. The blast was triggered a few yards off a Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee camp. Senior officers were later informed of the explosion and a search was eventually mounted. Policemen found six iron pipes packed with explosives in six different drainage outlets of the boundary wall. The objects were later defused.
19 March: CPI(M) said in People’s Democr-acy, “There was no notification for land acquis-ition in Nandigram. There was only a notice issued by the Haldia Development Authority announcing the intention to acquire land in certain areas.”
27 March: In a significant development, the West Bengal government today admitted that its advocate general made an “erroneous submission” to the Calcutta High Court on the compensation for farmers whose land was acquired for the Tata Motors’ car plant in Singur. Retracting its earlier submission that land had been acquired and awards passed for compensation for the project under two sections of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, the state government said in an affidavit that all awards were passed under one section of the act and there was no question as such of violating any law. The affidavit sought to clarify that the submission to the court on February 23 that two awards were passed under sections 11(1) and 11(2) of the act were incorrect as the awards were passed under only one provision– section 11(1). However, it said that though no award was passed under section 11(2) of the act, compensation had been paid in terms of an agreement in writing under the said section. The affidavit also said that the state’s advocate on record, Sitaram Samanta, had “wrongly given instructions in respect of the payment and consequently the AG regretted to having made such a submission”. The state govern-ment had come in for severe criticism by a division bench comprising then acting Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharjee and Justice K K Prasad on February 23, when the advocate general said that compensation was paid under two sections of the law to farmers. The bench, observing that the acquisition process seemed prima facie to be illegal, cited a Supreme Court judgement in which the apex court had ruled that two sections of the same law could not be used at the same time. The affidavit submitted by the government to the Court on 27 March 2007 says that only 30% of the landowners of Singur who own 287.5 acres of land had given consent in writing (That means, around 65% who have even collected cheques still against this forcible land acquisition).
29 March: Tata Motors managing director Ravi Kant today stoutly defended the company’s selection of Singur as the site for its proposed small-car plant, emphasising that it was based on sound business sense.“We choose where we want to set up the plant and nobody has the right to speak about the location. It is entirely our choice,” Kant said. “I personally visited twice all the six sites shown by the Bengal government. I was part of the decision-making process in which Singur emerged as the clear choice based on sound business sense,” he added. Kant also defended the government’s stand on providing incentives to the company. He said various state governments are still making offers. “Why should we consider the word ‘incentive’ bad? Industrialisation in Bengal over the past has been very poor. If a government is willing to rectify the situation by providing incentives, there is nothing wrong,” Kant said. “Bengal has missed out earlier on auto industries…. When the present government expressed keen interest in re-industrialisation, we thought why not be the first one to capture this opportunity?”
Leader of Opposition Partha Chatterjee today served a privilege notice on chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, accusing him of misleading the Assembly on the Singur land issue by supplying information that was “conflicting and at variance with each other”.
2 April: The CPM is working on a compensation package offering double the market value of land to farmers and equity participation in industrial units coming up on their plots to silence the Opposition and make takeovers more palatable. Land minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah has submitted the new set of proposals to state party secretary Biman Bose.He has taken into account the prospective value of land and suggested that the landloser be awarded a part of that. Party insiders said Bose tabled the proposal at the central committee meeting that concluded in Delhi today.Mollah, who was the first to voice his concern about the land acquisition drive last year, has proposed 60 per cent of the market value of farmland as solatium.In addition, they should get 40 per cent of the land’s prospective market value after 30 years.
Tension ran high in Singur today after four persons, who gave consent for acquisition of land for the Tata Motors small car factory, were assaulted allegedly by supporters of the Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee (SKJRC) at Gopalnagar Madhyapara on Sunday night. The victims-Dilip Ghosh, Nimai Karmakar, Kashinath Ghosh and Mr Janmenjoy Ghosh-were appointed by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) for the security of the project site, police said.
25 April: The government today signed an agreement with Tata Motors as a result of which young men and women from displaced families in Singur would get vocational training. Commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen said 358 youths have been selected. This includes 17 ITI-trained youths who had qualified in the aptitude test conducted by the company and are now undergoing training in Jamshedpur. There would be 122 others who cleared another test conducted by the Tatas. This batch will initially enroll for a four-month course at the Ramakrishna Mission Shilpa-mandir, Belur Math. The others will be trained at ITI (Industrial Training Institute) Howrah, ITI Hooghly and ATI (Administrative Training Institute) Dasnagar. “The company will set up a training institute in Singur for jobs in automobile and ancillary industries,” Sen said after the deal was signed. Over 2,500 candidates had registered at the WBIDC camp office in Singur seeking vocational training. Over 600 of them were women. The training will be in two parts, a nine-month course for freshers and a six- month programme for those who have completed the Ramakrishna Mission course. Successful candidates will then be trained at the Tata Motors plant.
2 May: The high court today said the affidavit submitted by the government on the Singur land acquisition process was “incomplete.” The government now has to furnish a fresh affidavit by June 5, giving details on the disbursement of compensation to landowners — such as the serial numbers of cheques issued and their dates — and the rule under which the payment was made. On February 23, the court asked the government to detail the modes of payment made to those who sold their land for the Tata Motors project, about 40 km from Calcutta. The order followed a petition by Jaydeep Mukherjee, a social worker, challenging the legality of the process adopted by the state while acquiring the land. The petitioner’s lawyers said the government took over the land under two different rules of the acquisition act, which the law does not permit. The advocate-general said the government did not furnish the details because it had challenged the maintainability of the petitions.
20 May: Violence flared up in Singur as well as Nandigram today, less than 24 hours after a breakthrough that put Bengal’s principal political opponents on course to a peace meeting. In Singur, the confrontation went a notch beyond the usual cat-and-mouse game after a knife attack on police during a Trinamool Congress-led attempt to tear down a portion of the wall around the Tata small-car project. Rubber bullets and tear gas shells were fired, injuring some but none grievously, according to officials.The clashes, however, did emit enough smoke and fire — and television footage — to rustle up what Mamata Banerjee candidly described as her “daily meal”. Mamata declared that there would be no let-up in the agitation in both Singur and Nandigram but took care to point out that she stood by her commitment to the all-party meeting scheduled for Thursday.
CPM veteran Benoy Konar said, “She is a carnivore who has been requested to eat grass, which she will do only under compul-sion,” referring to Mamata’s willingness to attend the all-party meeting.
21 May: Singur protesters again tried to damage the wall around the Tata Motors site this afternoon and police had to lob tear gas shells and threaten to fire to shoo them away. Around 200 people who assembled in a playground near Kamarkundu to protest against yesterday’s police action apparently turned “violent as it began to rain”. “Led by Save Farmland Committee leader Becharam Manna, they were marching through the villages. But they took to the fields as it started pouring and headed straight to the wall at Bajemelia, where they clashed with the police yesterday” said Priyabrata Bakshi, the officer in charge of Singur police station. The protesters hurled stones when around 1,500 police and paramilitary personnel, who were there since yesterday, intercepted them. Circle inspector, headquarters, Satyacharan Dutta had to be admitted to the Chinsurah Imambara Hospital with head injuries. “We used tear gas to ward off the demonstrators, but that proved insufficient as it was raining hard and some of our men were injured in the melee. Then we flashed our arms and threatened to fire and the protesters fled,” Bakshi said. Non-bailable warrants have been issued against 61 people, including Manna, Trinamool MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya and social activist Anuradha Talwar, for yesterday’s attack. A woman constable was assaulted and a policeman was hit with a dagger by the Save Farmland supporters.
24 May: Genocide on her lips, Mamata Banerjee burst out but not before spending 1 hour and 51 minutes in a rainbow row of leaders rarely seen on the Bengal political horizon. Neither Mamata nor the CPM sees it as the end of the road after the Trinamool Congress leader walked out of today’s all-party meeting convened to bring the homeless back to Nandigram.
25 May: The state Forward Bloc secretary today admitted lack of homework before yesterday’s all-party meeting and said he would meet Mamata Banerjee soon to fix an agenda for the next round of talks. “It’s true that we had not done proper homework prior to the peace talks,” said Ashok Ghosh, the convener of the meeting from which Mamata had walked out.
Prasanta Das chose death over compens-ation. A 45-year-old farmer from Khaserveri mouza in Singur, Prasanto Das, who had refused to part with his land for the Tata Motor small car factory, committed suicide by hanging himself from the ceiling of a cowshed at his residence early today. The family of the deceased owns a little more than four bigha land in the project area which was acquired by the state government for the Tata Motor project. The family had refused to receive compensation cheques. Prasanto, a father of two minor daughters, had hoped that Miss Mamata Banerjee would raise the issue of land acquisition in Singur at the all party meet at Mahajati Sadan yesterday.
27 May: The by-election to two panch-ayat seats at Singur passed off peacefully with nearly 80 per cent polling being recorded under the watchful eyes of policemen today. No poll related untoward incident was reported from other places of Hooghly. A senior district official said that 75-80 percent poll was recorded in by-election to 17 panchayat and two panchayat samit seats in Hooghly today. The two seats at Singur-one, under the Bora panchayat and the other at Balarambati, fell vacant after CPI(M) candidates who had emerged victorious in last panchayat polls died. Both CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress expressed satisfaction with the polls. “The by-election is a prestige fight,” said Mr Ranjit Mondal, a CPI(M) Singur Zonal committee member. Mr Becharam Manna, Trinamool leader, said that party cadres successfully used the “land grab” issue in the by-election.
31 May: For the first time in the country, a project promoter has offered shares in the company to owners of land to be acquired to set up the factory. The Jindals, who will build a steel plant in Bengal with a capacity of 3 million tonnes in the first phase, today offered cash and stock to compensate 742 families from whom they expect to buy land at Salbani in West Midnapore district.
2 June: At a front meeting today to discuss the peace process, Forward Bloc leader Ashok Ghosh took everyone by surprise, saying he wants the CPM to play a bigger role. “I believe that proper homework has to be done before the second round of talks and the CPM should play a bigger role in it. I’ve given up and Biman Bose will henceforth co-ordinate the peace process. I know what Mamata Banerjee wants and that without her co-operation the talks cannot be successful,’’
Speaking at the convention, “No to SEZ” – organised by the All India People’s Convention on Nandigram, Narmada Bachao Andolon leader Medha Patkar criticised the Left Front government. “They are trying to make the people poorer. They want to hand over our land to foreigners.” She said the people of Singur preferred to commit suicide rather than hand over their land to the government for the Tata Motors project. “Thus, they have marked their protest,” Medha stated.
4 June: Jyoti Basu rang up Mamata Banerjee in a surprise move today, inviting her home to thrash out a solution to the Nandigram-Singur standoff. She was at Basu’s residence within half an hour of the call. There were clear indications that the talks had borne fruit. “After talking to Mamata, it seems to me there is a solution,” the former CM said at a joint news conference with the Trinamool leader after the hour-long meeting, which ended at 7.50 pm. Housing minister Gautam Deb was also present at the meet. Mamata was visibly upbeat to have been able to put across her viewpoint to Basu. “If Jyoti Basu listens sympathetically to the plight of the farmers of Singur, I will think my 25-day hunger strike has been fruitful. I am not unreasonable, but I want the people of Singur and Nandigram to get justice,” she said. The Basu-Mamata meeting, however, went further than the May 24 all-party talks because Singur too was discussed. Basu said he had heard Mamata out on both Singur and Nandigram and liked her attitude. “She is not against industrialisation. She told me that about 300 farmers (in Singur) have not collected cheques for the land acquired and that more than 600 acres are not necessary to set up the factory. If we have to return their plots, we will have to talk to the government. We will also have to talk to the Tatas to reorganise. But, we must ensure the Tatas don’t go away.”
In the first positive fall-out of the ice-breaking meeting between CPI(M) veteran Jyoti Basu and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Nandigram and Singur, an all-party meeting was held today successfully in trouble-torn Nandigram for the first time since January. The all-party meeting was held to resolve the issue of repairing roads which were dug up by protesters opposing the state government’s move to acquire farm land for industries. The meeting, convened by East Midnapore District Magis-trate Anup Agarwal, was attended by all political parties including those belonging to Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) a grouping of opposition parties leading the anti-land acquisition movement.
5 June: As Mamata Banerjee counts her gains after yesterday’s meeting with Jyoti Basu, she is also weighing her options for a possible compromise on Singur. Trinamool Congress sources said Mamata may be inclined to accept alternative “farmland” for landlosers in Singur.
Today, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhatta-charjee, his Cabinet colleagues Nirupam Sen, Abdur Rezzak Mollah and Gautam Deb and Left Front chairman Biman Bose met Basu at his Salt Lake residence to discuss ways to arrive at an acceptable solution to the Singur and Nandigram issues. Basu reportedly advised them to be transparent and, if necessary, make concessions to end the months-long agitation. A prolonged unrest, he warned, would ruin the state’s investment prospects. He updated them on his discussions with Mamata. According to one minister, the CM said he wanted to settle the dispute “with an open mind”. While shifting the Tata factory site was ruled out because of legal implications, one solution considered was offering Singur farmers, who unwillingly handed over their plots and did not collect the cheques, alternative plots in adjacent areas, a CPM source said. A list of plots vested with the government in nearby areas like Tarakeswar and Haripal was drawn up at Writers’ during the day. Also, the Hooghly district magistrate and the Singur block land records officer met the land reforms commissioner during the day.
6 June: Mamata Banerjee has thrown a fresh spanner in Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s peace plans.The Trinamool Congress chief refused today to accept alternative plots for Singur farmers whose land had been forcibly acquired for the Tata Motors’ factory. The government may make a few concessions, but is not revealing all its cards yet. Another round of talks with Mamata will be held to explain the situation to her. The government plans to distribute land available in Singur and adjoining blocks, but outside the factory’s fenced-off area. It also plans to purchase land under ‘Chash O Basobaser Bhumi Daan Prakalpa’ to set up homestead-cum-kitchen gardens and distribute the plots among Singur’s land-losers. Rs 1.9 crore has already been made available to the Hooghly district authorities under the scheme. But, a policy decision will have to be made, under which the land-losers will be given priority over the local poor and landless farmers, for whom the scheme is meant. Plots of up to 16 decimals (chhatak) could be purchased and distributed among the affected. In addition, some more land – now being dealt with by the Land Reforms Tribunal – could be available. Once the problems with the plots are settled, these could be distributed among land-losers and farm labourers from Singur. Land available in adjoining blocks is also being examined for distribution among the land-losers. Besides, according to estimates, altogether 165.447 acres of farmland vested with the government are available for distribution among affected farmers in the Singur block. But of this, only 34.99 acres are available for distribution – the rest is under possession. But Mamata said the offers were not acceptable to her. “An aunt can’t replace the mother,” she said, explaining why the offer for alternative plots was not acceptable. “Why should farmers suffer while the Tatas build malls on their land?” she asked. According to her, more than 600 acres were not necessary to build the small-car factory and a part of the land that had been acquired would be used for real estate projects. “I have explained all my demands to Basu,” she said.
7 June: The state government has admitted before Calcutta High Court that it has not been able to reach an agreement with farmers over the acquisition of around 300 acres of land in Singur. The government, in an affidavit, has stated that till April 25, 2007, Rs 90.35 crore has been disbursed to 10,021 people for 671 acres. The state has so far acquired 997.11 acres for the Tata small car project. It had allotted a total of Rs 118.95 crore to pay the rayats (as compensation) and Rs 0.58 crore for the bargadars. The affidavit, however, does not make it clear whether landowners yet to accept the award are not satisfied with the compensation or do not wish to part with their land. It only mentions that of the 3,124 persons who opted for agreements under Section 11(2) of the Land Acquisition Act, only 2,414 have agreed to hand over their 287.52 acres and accept the compensation fixed by the collector. The affidavit also says that several applications have been filed before the collector for referring the matter to court. These applications are now being processed. The compensation amount not claimed will also be deposited to the relevant court, the government has decided. The government has also told the high court that even before notification was actually issued to acquire land for ‘public purpose’, the collector received 1,010 objections in printed proforma. Those who had submitted these objections had made it clear that they would resist any acquisition attempt. The state calls this invalid in law but did offer the objectors hearings between August 22 and 25, 2006. However, due to ongoing violence in the area, these people could not be personally informed of the hearing dates.
The government claims that it did make an attempt to inform the objectors. In spite of this, nobody turned up for the hearings. After the notification was issued, seven objections were received. These were heard and disposed of by him on August 29 and 31. Of these seven, six have already accepted their awards and received the compensation amounts. The affidavit further says that of the 997.11 acres, 645.67 acres were allotted for Tata Motors. While 290 acres have been reserved for ancillary industries, 14.33 acres have been taken over by the SEB.
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Land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah today said plots acquired from “unwilling” farmers in Singur could be returned if such a decision was taken “politically”. The Trinamool Congress chief refused on Wednesday to accept alternative plots for Singur farmers whose land had been forcibly acquired for the Tata Motors’ factory. Mamata Banerjee, during her meeting with Jyoti Basu on Monday, had demanded that land of the “unwilling” farmers be returned. Mollah had ruled out returning farmland yesterday, citing a Supreme Court verdict. He modified his stand today. “My department is examining all options, including returning the plots to the agitating farmers. Yesterday, I just defined the legal position. Returning the land is not being ruled out. Let the issue be settled politically first. We will try and fit into our legal framework whatever decision is taken.”
8 June: The state government has admit-ted before Calcutta High Court that it has not been able to reach an agreement with farmers over the acquisition of around 300 acres of land in Singur. The government, in an affidavit, has stated that till April 25, 2007, Rs 90.35 crore has been disbursed to 10,021 people for 671 acres. The state has so far acquired 997.11 acres for the Tata small car project. It had allotted a total of Rs 118.95 crore to pay the rayats (as compensation) and Rs 0.58 crore for the bargadars. The affidavit, however, does not make it clear whether landowners yet to accept the award are not satisfied with the compensation or do not wish to part with their land. It only mentions that of the 3,124 persons who opted for agreements under Section 11(2) of the Land Acquisition Act, only 2,414 have agreed to hand over their 287.52 acres and accept the compensation fixed by the collector. The affidavit also says that several applications have been filed before the collector for referring the matter to court. These applications are now being processed. The compensation amount not claimed will also be deposited to the relevant court, the government has decided. The government has also told the high court that even before notification was actually issued to acquire land for ‘public purpose’, the collector received 1,010 objections in printed pro-forma. Those who had submitted these objections had made it clear that they would resist any acquisition attempt. The state calls this invalid in law but did offer the objectors hearings between August 22 and 25, 2006. However, due to ongoing violence in the area, these people could not be personally informed of the hearing dates. The government claims that it did make an attempt to inform the objectors. In spite of this, nobody turned up for the hearings. After the notification was issued, seven objections were received. These were heard and disposed of by him on August 29 and 31. Of these seven, six have already accepted their awards and received the compensation amounts. The affidavit further says that of the 997.11 acres, 645.67 acres were allotted for Tata Motors. While 290 acres have been reserved for ancillary industries, 14.33 acres have been taken over by the SEB.
West Bengal’s Left Front government is working on a proposal to find a solution to the stand-off over acquisition of land in Singur for Tata Motors’ car plant, veteran CPI(M) leader Jyoti Basu said today. Basu said Industry Minister Nirupam Sen was working on the proposal. “Nirupam is listing points. Legal aspects are also being looked into. Let’s see what happens,” Basu said. To a specific query, Basu admitted that there was not much alternative land in Singur for industries. “Alternative land is available elsewhere but why should land-losers go there?”
Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee has sounded a positive note on the peace moves in Singur, saying a solution could be found if there was the required political will. “It is a matter of political will and political decision. There is no legal hurdle,” Mamata told reporters today after a meeting of Krishi Jami Raksha Committee (KJRC). CPM patriarch Jyoti Basu, who invited Mamata over to his house for talks on Monday (11 June), also sounded positive. “A solution is definitely possible,” he said. Tomorrow, Trinamool supporters will block roads throughout the state between 5 and 6 pm. KJRC, too, will also start taking out rallies of “hungry people from Singur and Nandigram” in different metros. In the first phase, from June 22 to July 18, people from these two areas will be taken to Delhi, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram. “People will go to these places carrying begging bowls,” said a KJRC source. In the second phase, Mumbai, Bangalore, Jamshedpur and Agartala will be covered.
9 June: Jyoti Basu had suggested that “unwilling farmers’’ whose plots had been taken for the Tata Motors project be provided land either in the project area or outside. But with Mamata ruling out the possibility of accepting alternative land outside the project site, Sen has a complicated job on hand. CPM sources said Sen would have several options to work on. One of them relates to the 290 acres reserved for ancillary units. The land is apparently with the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, which has been examining proposals from 70 units. Another 50 acres of vested land are with the government but are not part of the project area. At today’s meeting, front allies didn’t want to take responsibility for the Singur talks, leaving it to Bose.
Trinamool supporters will block roads throughout the state between 5 and 6 pm. KJRC, too, will also start taking out rallies of “hungry people from Singur and Nandigram” in different metros. In the first phase, from June 22 to July 18, people from these two areas will be taken to Delhi, Chennai and Thiruvanan-thapuram. “People will go to these places carrying begging bowls” said a KJRC source. In the second phase, Mumbai, Bangalore, Jamshedpur and Agartala will be covered.
CPM leader Benoy Konar, meanwhile, criticised intellectuals who opposed the Indus-trialisation drive of the state government. Addressing a meeting at Chandernagore, he said they held a partisan view. Intellectuals had not raised their voices against killing of policemen and abduction of innocent villagers.
The Left Front meet today ratified the decisions taken at yesterday’s CPM’s state secretariat meeting. While it has been decided that none of the 997 acres acquired will be handed back to farmers, the government is trying to work out a four-point package to give them a better deal. Perhaps the most significant step is a possible hike in the compensation package to the farmers. This, though, could cause some embarr-assment to the government and allow Mamata Banerjee, who has been spear-heading the Singur movement, to claim victory. Second, state industry minister Nirupam Sen, given the task of finding a solution to Singur, is likely to propose rehabilitation for the farmers at alternative sites which are better than the ones discussed earlier. Third, the government will try to ensure direct or indirect employment to one member of each displaced family in the Tata Motors project. And for the rest, the government will provide them direct support. Given that it is now up to the government to work out a Singur formula, Front partners, RSP and Forward Bloc, wanted to know why Jyoti Basu should have held talks with Mamata.
Trinamool relaunched its agitation on Singur during the day with an hour-long road blockade in different parts of the state, demanding that land taken forcibly from farmers for the Tata Motors factory be returned. Traffic in the city was badly affected.
10 June: Eager for an early solution to the Singur land row, CPM Party patriarch Jyoti Basu, who has donned the mantle of peacemaker, claimed at a meeting in Baguiati (Kolkata) today the package would be unparalleled in the country.
The state government has told Jyoti Basu that it would not be legally possible to return land acquired for Tata Motors in Singur to “unwilling farmers”. The decision was conveyed to the CPM veteran by industries minister Nirupam Sen on a day both the government and Mamata Banerjee appeared to be hardening their positions.
12 June: Mahindra and Mahindra is planning to set up an automobile ancillaries special economic zone (SEZ) in Bengal. A six-member team from the company’s infra-structure venture, Mahindra World City, today went scouting for land for the proposed 500-acre SEZ in Burdwan district.
13 June: Farmers, spearheading move-ment to reoccupy plots acquired for the Tata Motors’ proposed small car project at Singur, tried to damage the boundary wall of the project site three times today. The attempts were thwarted by the policemen who lobbed tear gas shells and resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the mob comprising at least 500 farmers, including more than hundred women. Farmers claimed that two local youths- Ujjwal Das and Tapan Bag, sustained burn injuries in the tear gas shelling and lathi-charge. The police, however, brushed aside the charges. Cops claimed that the attackers were chased away when they started hurling stone at policemen protecting the boundary wall. The police, however, denied the charge of teargasing. According to the police, a group of farmers, armed with shovels tried to damage the boundary wall from two different places near Beraberi around 11 am during heavy downpour in the area.
14 June: West Bengal Chief Minister Bud-dhadeb Bhattacharjee today turned down the Trinamool Congress’ demand that the land of the unwilling farmers at Singur, acquired for the Tata Motors small car project, should be returned but said an alternative proposal was being worked out by the State government. The government, however, is working on an alternative package for farmers who wanted their plots back, the chief minister reportedly disclosed at the meeting. The alternative package would be revealed to the core committee, as well as to the Left Front, after June 18 — the date scheduled for the hearing of a case on Singur in Calcutta High Court. The chief minister told the core committee that Industry Minister Nirupam Sen also informed CPI(M) veteran Jyoti Basu that it was not possible to return the land acquired for the Tata project, he said.
Villagers of Purushottampur in Burnpur today prevented IISCO authorities from taking possession of about 240 acres acquired in 1989, demanding compensation to match that of Singur.
17 June: The rumbles of Nandigram and Singur were felt in Asansol today when hundreds of villagers fought police from behind women and children, trying to stop takeover of plots acquired 18 years ago. The sticks-and-stones battle at Purushottampur was over 240 acres of non-farm land, earmarked in 1989 for modernising the IISCO Steel Plant (ISP). Unlike Nandigram, the villagers are ready to give up the land but post-Singur, want bigger compensation and a job in the plant for each of the 350 families.
19 June:The West Bengal government today announced an economic package for rehabilitation of the people affected by the Tata Motors’ small car project in Singur but rejected demands for return of land acquired for it from farmers. The package comprises training programmes for the affected persons and their employment in the Tata project, state Industries Minister Nirupam Sen told reporters. The rehabilitation scheme include provision of appropriate training, identification of employ-ment opportunities through close coordination with Tata Motors Limited in various activities /trades and preparing a socio-economic database of persons affected by the project. Besides, it includes selection of trainees by ensuring that one person from each family whose livelihood may have been affected by the project, be included. On demands that the land acquired from unwilling farmers be given back, Sen said, “There is no chance of returning any acquired land at Singur under any circumstance … No land can be returned to the farmers whether they gave it willingly or unwillingly for the Tata Motors project.”
22 June: A day after students staged a walk-out at the Ramrajatala ITI, their batchmates at the Bandel ITI went on a class boycott agitation today. The students demanded an assurance that they will be provided jobs once they complete their course. The protests began after commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen report-edly said the students need to score at least 90% to qualify for a job at Tata Motors. Tata Motors sources, meanwhile, said the company would absorb successful trainees it has selected from Singur. “If they successfully clear the training and related tests, they will become eligible for employment,” a company spokesperson said.
23 June: Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhatt-acharjee said his government has demon-strated enough patience on the Singur issue and is keen to see an amicable solution. “The Singur and Nandigram controversies have already sent a wrong signal to investors. But the government is determined not to let the situation go out of hand,” the CM said.
26 June: Chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, today said the CBI should complete the probe into the murder of Tapasi Malik as early as possible and the main culprit should be grilled without taking the political allegiance into account. “I had earlier said that the CBI was taking time to complete the probe. So far one person was interrogated in connection with the murder. The probe should be completed as early as possible and the main culprit behind the murder should be grilled,” said the chief minister at Writers’ Buildings. Mr Bhattacharjee also said the political allegiance of the culprit should not be taken into account while conducting the probe. “The political allegiance of the culprit is not important. The culprit should be identified and should get proper punishment. When Tapasi was murder-ed in Singur, I had ordered a CID inquiry but the Opposition demanded a CBI inquiry and I agreed as the priority was to identify the actual culprit,” the chief minister said. Earlier, the CBI arrested Debu Malik in connection with the murder of Tapasi Malik in Singur about six months back. Debu was produced in a Delhi Court yesterday. He may be brought to Kolkata by the CBI within a couple of days.
28 June: The ruling CPM today was left red-faced after Singur party chief Suhrid Dutta was charged with the murder of teen-ager Tapasi Malik, whose charred body was found at the Tata small car factory site in December last year and became a major trigger for anti-land acquisition protests. Dutta’s arrest was the second after CBI took over the case. The agency had earlier (24 June) picked up CPM activist Debu Malik and put him to a narco-analysis. Dutta and Malik will be produced in court tomorrow. CBI officers smell a rat in the entire episode. “It’s a sensitive issue. The investigation is on. It appears that the girl was heavily assaulted. It appears to be a part of a deeper conspiracy,” special branch SP A K Sahay said. Today CBI also grilled CPM district committee member Dibakar Das and two others at the special crime branch office at Salt Lake, but let them go. CPM state secretariat member Benoy Konar refused to see the case as a political murder. “Why should a CPM activist rape or murder someone when the party knows that it may upset the industrialisation process in Singur?” Konar asked.
30 June: The CPM today said a party probe had shown that Singur leader Suhrid Dutta did not have any role in Tapasi Malik’s rape and murder. “We have conducted an internal probe that has given us no reason to believe that Suhrid could have been involved in the crime,” CPM state secretariat member Benoy Konar said after a meeting last night with leaders from Hooghly district, under which Singur falls. Konar, however, made it clear that the party had nothing to do with Debu Malik, the key accused in the Tapasi case. Both Debu and Suhrid have been remanded in 14 days’ CBI custody.
2 July: The government is renewing efforts to retrieve benami or ceiling-surplus plots held by big landowners in the state in the face of a growing demand for land to set up industry. The West Bengal Estates Acquisition Amendment Bill will be placed in the Assembly on Wednesday to give legal teeth to the drive. The amendment to the West Bengal Estates Acquisition Act, 1953, will extend by 10 years, under Section 44(2a) of the act, the government’s powers to suo motu revise records of land rights by another 10 years. The powers expire this November.
Sankar Das, a 45-year-old sharecropper and the only earning member of a peasant family at Dobandhi village close to the Tata factory site, died on Sunday (1 July) night at his home. His father Dulal and wife Anima claimed Sankar had died of starvation, giving the Opposition enough ammunition to blow holes in the government’s claim that share-croppers rendered jobless because of the land acquisition are being engaged on a daily basis at the factory site. “My husband was the sole bread winner in our family. He had no job for the past 14 months, making it difficult for us to arrange two square meals a day. We came to know that the government would offer us work at the factory site but it didn’t. Worse, we woke up one morning to find a boundary wall restricting entry to the land my husband used to till,” Anima said. Gram pradhan Prabhas Pal, however, rubbished the charge. “There are enough daily jobs at the factory site. Many labourers from Dobandhi come to work there daily. The number of locals at work is less than what is needed. We are thus engaging labourers from outside. If someone is willing to work, he can come and join. You give me a name, we will engage him,” Pal said. He added that a total of 1,500 labourers were engaged on Monday for excavation of the neighbouring Julkhia canal and allied sewer works in the area.
Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee today sought Central intervention in West Bengal, alleging there was something “malafide” in the Tata Motors deal for the Singur car unit. “What is the agreement between the Tatas and the Left Front government? Why is the deal so hush-hush? The CM and the CPM are both involved,” she said while addressing a meeting on the “atrocities” of the Left Front government. Banerjee, who heads the committee, asked why Tata Motors was getting power, water and land “free of cost” from the state government. The Central Forensic Science Laboratory will conduct a polygraphy test on CPM leader Suhrid Dutta, the brain behind land acquisition in Singur for the Tata Motors’ small car factory, tomorrow in connection with his alleged role in the Tapsi Malik murder case. This decision was taken today when Dutta, former CPM zonal committee secretary, agreed for it. “His consent for the polygraphy test was necessary as under the existing law one cannot be forced to give evidence against himself,” said an official. CBI had booked Dutta for ‘criminal conspiracy’ in the case on the basis of information provided to it by the other accused Debu Malik who reportedly confessed to his crime and specifically named the CPM leader as one of the conspirators behind the killing of the ‘Save Land Committee’ activist Tapsi for her opposition to the land acquisition.
3 July: Polygraph tests done on CPM supporter Debu Malik, the prime accused and approver of the Tapasi Malik murder case in Singur, have started yielding results. Acting on the findings, a three-member CBI team reached out to Malik’s elder sister Maya Das’s house at Bajemelia village and recovered the shirt and the trouser Debu had put on the day Tapasi was murdered. Debu had left the clothes at his elder sister’s house after the murder. Their colour and texture matched with what he had told the CBI. Not only that, the CBI team verified with the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) officials the names of the night guards on duty at the factory site on December 18 when Tapasi was murdered. They got these names from Debu Malik during interrogation. CBI officers will summon two of these night guards for interrogation soon. They have conveyed it to the Singur police and told them to see that they don’t leave the place without intimating the police. In New Delhi today, the CBI performed polygraph tests on Suhrid Datta — CPM’s former zonal secretary — but refused to divulge the findings. Datta will have to undergo the tests again on Wednesday, CBI sources said. The agency has confiscated the SIM card from the Nokia cellphone set that Datta used till recently. Datta is learnt to have made calls to Krishi Jami Raksha Committee convener Becharam Manna from that phone after the murder. The rumour was doing the rounds in Singur till Manna flatly denied it. “I didn’t receive any call from Suhrid Datta. I’m ready to face the CBI. I have told this to Mamata Banerjee, who is now in Delhi. It’s all bunkum,” Manna said. Taken aback by the two other names of CPM district secretariat members — Balaram Sabuin and Sunil Sarkar, Hooghly CPM secretary Benode Das on Tuesday hurriedly called a district secretariat meeting in Sreerampore to work out the combat strategy. As a first step, Sabuin has been asked not to open up before the media on the Singur murder. CPM’s Singur zonal committee members have also been asked to launch a door-to-door campaign against the “conspiracy” to clear the confusion among villagers.
4 July:Additional chief metropolitan magistrate (Patiala House court in New Delhi) Kamini Lao held that the polygraph tests on former CPM Singur zonal secretary Suhrid Datta were performed without Datta’s consent. Lao made his observation after talking to Datta in-camera. The additional chief metropolitan magistrate summoned CBI officer Partha Sarathi Ghosh today. Ghosh submitted that CBI had taken Datta’s consent in front of a remand magistrate. However, the procedure says that the consent by the accused has to be taken before a judicial magistrate.
A delegation of the Singur panchayat samiti, led by sabhapati Ranjit Mandal came all the way to the WBIDC office in Kolkata to discuss about the shifting of the temple and the crematorium that has fallen within the fenced off TATA car factory site. The trust running the temple property — spread over 30 acres — within the project site threatened to move court because the government acquired the property without even com-pensating it. The government had earlier promised to pay the damages. Similar is the problem with the crematorium. Villagers have no access to it for the last 14 months since it was fenced off for the small car project. A team of WBIDC officials from Kolkata will visit the Singur villages tomorrow to identify alternative locations for the crematorium and the temple.
Panchayat samiti office bearers have decided to launch some projects under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the Singur villages immediately, especially after the starvation death in Dobandhi village. “A total of 200 sharecroppers and daily wage-earners from Dobandhi village have already enrolled themselves under this scheme. Fifty-nine people will be engaged in the first phase for constructing roads, culverts or installing tubewells in the villages,” block development officer (BDO) Prasenjit Chakraborty said.
5 July:Suhrid Baran Dutta, CPI(M)’s zonal committee secretary from Singur, arrested for the murder of a woman opposing the acquisition of land for the Tata Motors’ car plant at Singur in West Bengal, today refused in a Delhi Court to undergo a lie detector test. “I do not wish to be subjected to polygraph (or) lie detector test,” Dutta told Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Kamini Lau during in-chamber proceedings.
6 July: An apparent contradiction in Singur consent figures provided by the chief minister and the land minister gave the Opposition ammunition to target the govern-ment in the Assembly today. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said in a letter to Mamata Banerjee that consent had been obtained for as much as 954 acres out of the 997 to be acquired for Tata Motors. But Abdur Rezzak Mollah told the House today the government had not got owners’ consent for the acquisition of 326 acres. Saugata Roy fished out a copy of Bhattacharjee’s letter and told the land minister: “Your chief minister had said that consent letters had been received for the acquisition of 954 acres, meaning only 43 acres had not been given willingly. Today, you are saying that the government didn’t get consent for the purchase of 326 acres.” An angry Mollah said: “I’m speaking the truth. My records say… owners of 326 acres didn’t accept compensation cheques…. Rs 119.52 crore has been paid and 10,072 cheques issued.” “I don’t have the right to rectify the chief minister. Please don’t ask for that,” he added. Mollah ruled out returning the land in Singur.
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11 July: Sixteen-year-old Tapasi Malik didn’t commit suicide as the state police had earlier claimed. CBI has no doubt that hers is a case of premeditated murder. Those who burnt the Singur anti-land acquisition activist alive were goons on hire, brought from outside. They again visited the spot, two days after the December 18 murder, on a trekker from the Singur railway station, CBI claims. Its investigators reached the conclusion by tallying signed statements of a host of people, including local CPM heavyweights, during interrogation. Local trekker operators corroborated the claim. Local promoter Sailendra Sahana had admitted during interrogation he knew two of the four men Debu Malik had described. Based on their statements, CBI released sketches of four persons. It also declared a Rs 1-lakh reward for any information on the suspects. Datta’s refusal to take the lie-detector test has only fuelled their apprehension. “We have got sufficient leads to nail him. We will place them all in Chandernagore court tomorrow (12 July) when Datta is produced,” said A K Sahai, special crime branch superintendent, CBI, Kolkata.
12 July: CBI has identified Suhrid Dutta, CPM’s Singur zonal committee secretary, as the mastermind behind the murder of Tapasi Malik. Dutta was produced at the Chander-nagore court today where CBI claimed to have gathered enough evidence to hold Dutta “directly responsible” for the rape-murder. Dutta’s bail plea was rejected and he was sent to 14-day judicial custody. CBI lawyer Partha Tapaswi said there was enough evidence to nail Dutta. “He was the main planner. We have already released the sketches of the four prime accused, who committed the murder. As the case stands now, Dutta cannot be released on bail,” Tapaswi said. Dutta will appear before the court again on July 26. After this sensational declaration, it is unlikely that CBI will reveal all their cards now. After interrogating nearly 40 people, mostly villagers, the detectives had determined there were four prime suspects – all outsiders – who actually committed the murder. CBI hasn’t yet explained, though whether Dutta had only planned the murder or hired the killers as well. Sources said CBI is likely to interrogate more people to shore up its claims. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said in the Assembly today that he would stick to his earlier statement that the government had got consent for 954 acres in Singur to set up the Tata small-car plant. Although the discussion was on the police budget, Bhattacharjee — also the police minister — chose to clear the air on Singur first following a controversy generated by land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah’s apparently contradictory statistics. The chief minister had mentioned 954 acres in a letter to Mamata Banerjee on December 20 last year. But Mollah recently told the House that the government had not got consent for 326 acres, triggering an uproar from the Oppos-ition benches.Replying to a query from Trinamool Congress MLA Saugata Roy, Bhattacharjee said: “Till there were 287 acres left for which consent was to be sought, the land reforms department was involved. After that, the WBIDC (West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation) took over.”The chief minister said the WBIDC had set up camps in Singur that made “thousands of people” curious about the consent award. “That led to further availability of consent. Moreover, there were 34 acres of vested land. All this added up to 954 acres. So, I stick to my stand. The land reforms department is also correct as per its records.” Bhattacharjee warned the Opposition any agitation that damages the wall around the Tata project would not be tolerated. “Breaking a boundary wall can’t be called a democratic agitation. We won’t tolerate such a disruptive agitation. If it is done, the government will take necessary steps.”
13 July:Senior CPM leaders once again trained their guns on the investigating agency today. Emerging from a meeting of the party state secretariat, CPM patriarch Jyoti Basu said: “It is no secret that two central agencies, CBI and RAW, are antagonistic towards us.” He wondered how CBI could issue sketches of four people, describing them as the main accused, without naming them. “Datta will defend himself in court which is considering the case.” Asked why the party leaders were protesting against the investigating agency when the chief minister had handed over the case to the CBI, Basu said the chief minister had referred the case to the agency as he is also in charge of the home department. State CPM secretary Biman Bose went a step further, accusing the investigating agency of committing excesses. “CBI is acting like a political party. It should be more restrained,” he said.
15 July: Around 200 supporters of Krishi Jami Raksha Committee attacked a police camp near the Tata Motors factory site in Singur and chased away 10 policemen today. KJRC convener Becharam Manna claimed that police had provoked them. The area remained tense for some time. Today evening, the KJRC supporters took out a procession with flaming torches in memory of Tapasi Malik, who was allegedly raped and murdered last December. Around 7.30 pm, the procession started from Beraberi. It passed through Khaserbheri, Gopalnagar and reached Bajemelia’s Bosepukur. On the way there was a police camp. Ten policemen were posted at the camp.
19 July: Police today fired teargas shells at a group of villagers trying to pull down a wall of Tata Motors’ small car factory here. Hooghly district police superintendent Rajeev Mishra said the police fired 25 rounds of teargas shells to disperse a 100-strong mob of villagers trying to break the wall. “The villagers tried to break the wall, when the police intervened and were subjected to heavy brick-batting,” Mishra said. He said there was no damage to the wall, but villagers owing allegiance to Trinamool Congress-led ‘Krishijami Raksha Committee’ claimed that a portion of the wall was damaged.
21 July: A local court (Chandannagar) today rejected the bail plea of Debu Malik, one of the main accused in the murder of Tapasi Malik in Singur, and remanded to jud-icial custody for another 14 days. Chandan-nagore chief judicial magistrate Pradip Bandyopadhyay rejected the bail prayer by Malik’s counsel Kishore Saha.
22 July: The Central Bureau of Invest-igation (CBI), probing the Tapasi Malik rape and murder case in Singur, today issued fresh summons to nightguards Bhanu Hambir and Monu Hambir, and Krishna Barik – a CPM supporter who works with the temporary canteen at the Tata Motors site. They have all been asked to report to the CBI’s Salt Lake office tomorrow. The two nightguards were interrogated on 20 July, a day before Debu Malik, the prime accused in the Tapasi Malik case, was produced in the Chandernagore court. Now that Debu’s lawyer has claimed that his client was forced to make the confession statement before the magistrate, the agency is going a whole hog to collect evidence to corroborate the charges brought against Debu Malik and CPM’s former Singur zonal secretary Suhrid Datta. CBI lawyer Partha Tapaswi had earlier said that the murder was engineered by Datta.
10 August: The ambitious Rs 100,000 car project of Tata Motors is running behind schedule, but Tata Sons Chairman Ratan Tata hopes that it would achieve top speed to make up for lost time. “The project is getting delayed,” Tata told reporters today on the sidelines of Tata Tea’s 44th annual general meeting here. Referring to the controversy over land acquisition for the car project in Singur, Tata said that the project would lift farmers from a life of poverty. Those who were propagating the cause of farmers should do something for them. “This controversy is politically motivated,” Tata said. “I feel West Bengal is the most industry-friendly state and has an enlightened government and a pragmatic chief minister,” he said.
Trouble erupted again at the Tata Motor’s small car project site in Singur today when a group of Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee activists attacked and assaulted engineers working on the project. About 10-12 engineers were on their way to the factory site to oversee the ongoing work around 8.30 a.m. While 10-12 engineers had gone only a few hundred metres from the lodge near Natun Bridge in Gopalpur to oversee the work some women BUPC members blocked the road near Koleypara. When some of the engineers got down from the vehicle to know what the problem was, the women attacked them and damaged their car.
11 August: A day after Tata Sons Chairman Ratan Tata’s statement that vested interests were delaying the small car project at Singur, Trinamool Congress said Tata was speaking like a politician. “Tata is speaking like a politician and his statements are like that of a politburo member of CPI(M),” Trinamool Congress General Secretary Partha Chatterjee told reporters here. Chatterjee, also the leader of opposition in the West Bengal Assembly, alleged that Tata had insulted those who had launched a democratic movement against acquisition of farmland for their project. Stating that land, water and electricity were given to the Tatas free of cost, the Trinamool Congress leader also demanded to know the agreement between the West Bengal government and Tata Motors.
19 August: Five persons, including a senior district police officer, were injured when agitating farmers in Singur once again clashed with the police while trying to inflict damage on the boundary wall of the Tata small car project site, this afternoon. Police said more than 300 farmers, armed with pickaxes, attacked the boundary wall of the project site at five spots – Khaserveri, Beraberi and Gopalnagar, Bosepukur, Shitala-tala – around 12.30 p.m. today. The protes-tors claimed that they had damaged a portion of the boundary wall near Bosepukur. Policemen resorted to tear gas shelling and lathicharge to disperse the agitators. Locals said that three farmers sustained burn injuries from tear gas shells, while police claimed that two policemen, including deputy superintendent of police (headquarters), Mr Pradip Biswas, were injured by stones hurled at them. The clash continued for at least one-and-a-half hours. The area remained tense following the incident. Security of the project site was tightened apprehending fresh attack, police said. Mr Becharam Manna, convener, SKJRC, said the attack on the wall would continue till the government returned the land. He alleged that a farmer from Bajemelia Uttarpara, Mr Ramesh Koley, was critically injured after a tear gas shell exploded on his head. Mr Rajeev Mishra, SP, Hooghly, who had rushed to the spot after being informed of the incident, said that a total 150 tear gas shells were fired to disperse the mob.
20 August:With the possibility of early elections looming large, Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee seems to be playing her cards carefully, keeping equal distance from Congress and NDA. If the UPA-Left ties break and snap polls are held soon, Mamata is ready to dump the NDA and join the Congress-led alliance to fight the CPM in West Bengal, it is believed. Banerjee, still officially part of the Opposition NDA combine, arrived here yesterday night but failed to show up at the NDA meeting today morning. Her party MP in Rajya Sabha, Dinesh Trivedi, also did not turn up for the NDA meeting saying “they were not aware of today’s meeting.”While Banerjee found excuses to miss today’s NDA meeting, her long chat with parliamentary affairs minister P R Dasmunsi, Congress leader from Bengal, in Parliament’s Central Hall on Monday, was seen as a move to build bridges with Congress.
21 August:A key member of the CBI team investigating the sensitive Tapasi Malik murder case, in which a Singur CPM leader is allegedly involved, has been booked by the agency for allegedly taking bribes to show favours to accused and suspects in probes in different cases. The accused, A K Sahay, who is an SP posted at CBI’s special crime branch (SCR), Kolkata, was under the agency’s radar for quite some time due to his suspected role in a number of cases being investigated under him. “The CBI, which has also been after its own corrupt men, treated this complaint with the same seriousness as it treats complaints against outsiders and booked Sahay on Tuesday,” said a CBI official posted in Kolkata.
22 August: Counsel Samaraditya Paul – representing Tata Motors, tried to impress upon Calcutta High Court today. Paul, while rejecting charges of mala fide intentions against the state government in handing over land in Singur to Tata Motors, claimed that acquisition for a company is actually for public purpose. Dispelling allegations that the state government had handed over land for free, he told the court that his client would shell out nearly Rs 1,000 crore to West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation in the next 90 years for lease of 645 acres required for the mother plant. The remaining land will be used to set up ancillary units. According to the lease deed submitted by Paul, Tata Motors will pay Rs 1 crore annually for the first five years. For the next 10 years, the annual rent will be Rs 5 crore. WBIDC will receive Rs 20 crore every year for the next 30 years. In this manner, the total rent payment for the first 45 years will be Rs 655 crore. This was submitted before the division Bench of Chief Justice S S Nijjar and Justice P C Ghosh, hearing public interest litigations against the Singur land deal. He told the court that Tata Motors has already paid Rs 1 crore to WBIDC as the first year’s rent. According to the lease agreement, this payment was to be made within 60 days of the deed being drawn out. Paul pointed out that the petitioners had not produced any particulars to establish any mala fide intention on the part of the state government. “The allegations and material in the petitions do not disclose any mala fide exercise of powers by the state. The court has thereby not taken cognisance of such allegations,” he submitted. Referring to submissions by counsel Siddhartha Shankar Ray and others appearing on behalf of petitioners, Paul submitted that they had not made any statements against Tata Motors. “There is every presumption in favour of the administration that power has been exercised bona fide and in good faith. Tata Motors has taken a lease for valuable consideration and not received a gift as the uninformed petitioners have alleged,” Paul further submitted.
27 August: Tata Motors today informed the Calcutta High Court it will pay Rs 855.79 crore to West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) as rent over the 90 years of lease for its car plant at Singur, even as a petition challenging land acquisition claimed that the state had gone beyond its jurisdiction to give land to the company. Presenting the figures before a division bench comprising Chief Justice S S Nijjar and Justice P C Ghose, Tata Motors counsel S Pal submitted that the company would on an average pay Rs 9.5 crore per year to WBIDC. During the hearing of a PIL challenging acquisition of farmland at Singur, Pal claimed that while the lease deed rentals provided a cushion at the beginning, the rental was stiffer in the later years. He said that WBIDC had given 645.67 acres of land to Tata Motors on a 90-year lease, on an annual lease rental of Rs one crore per year for first five years with an increase at the rate of 25 per cent after every five years till 30 years. On expiry of 30 years, the lease rental would be fixed at Rs five crore per year with an increase at the rate of 30 per cent after every 10 years till the 60th year. On the expiry of 60 years, the lease rental would be fixed at Rs 20 crore per year, which would remain unchanged till the 90th year, Pal submitted. Adding up, Tata Motors would have to pay Rs 855.79 crore to WBIDC for 90 years. After completion of Pal’s submission, barrister Siddhartha Shankar Ray said as per land manual of 1991, a screening committee was to be set up for acquisition of land.
31 August: A clash between farmers and police ensued at Sahanapara crossing off Singur this morning after the former tried to intercept a vehicle belonging to Tata Motors. Policemen, apprehending an attack on technicians travelling in the vehicle, resorted to a lathicharge leaving six persons injured. Eight persons including three women and Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee (SKJRC) convener Mr Becharam Manna were arrested in this connection. A senior district police officer said that more than 100 farmers including a few women had gathered at Sahanapara crossing following rumours that the managing director of Tata Motors, Mr Ravi Kant, was coming to Singur to inspect the company’s proposed small car project site. The agitating farmers, armed with brooms and sticks erected a road block at Sahanapara crossing and started shouting slogans against the state government and Tata Motors’ chairman Mr Ratan Tata at around 9.30 a.m. Later senior SKJRC leaders including Mr Manna came to the spot and allegedly “insisted” farmers to attack the boundary wall of the project site. Sensing trouble, a police contingent led by the officer in charge of Singur police station Mr Priyabrata Baxi, reached the spot and tried to pacify the mob. Meanwhile, farmers spotted a Tata Motors’ vehicle approaching them. They tried to intercept the vehicle following rumours that Mr Ravi Kant was travelling in the car. Having failed to control the mob, policemen allegedly resorted to lathicharge in which six farmers including a woman was injured, said a senior SKJRC member. Police said that technicians of Tata Motors were coming to Singur by the car which the farmers tried to damage. Policemen later escorted the vehicle to the project site. Meanwhile, about 40 farmers led by local Trinamool Congress MLA Mr Rabin Bhattacharjee tried to force their way inside the project site through Khaserveri area. Apprehending an attack on the boundary wall police chased away the farmers. Mr Bhattacharjee was detained in connection with the incident. In another development, farmers blocked railway tracks at Kamarkundu railway station in protest against the arrest of Mr Manna throwing train services in Howrah-Burdwan (chord) section out of gear for more than two hours this afternoon.
15 September: CPM leader Suhrid Baran Dutta and party activist Debu Mallik, arrested in connection with the murder of Tapasi Malik in Singur, the site of the Tata Motors car plant, were today chargesheeted by the CBI. The chargesheet was submitted by CBI investigation officer Parthasarathy Basu in the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Pradip Badhopadhyay in Chandannagar.
Tata Motors will roll out 2.50 lakh units from the small car project in 2008 and the production is likely to touch 3.50 lakh in the next few years, West Bengal Minister for Commerce and Industry Nirupam Sen said today. “I hope that next year, the first year of its production, 2.50 lakh small cars will roll out of the Tata Motors project here and the figure will reach 3.50 lakh in the coming years,” Sen told a CPM rally in Singur. He said many industrial units would come up on both sides of the Durgapur Expressway, beside the Singur project site, in the coming years. Claiming that there was an overwhelming response from farmers to hand over their land for industry all over the state, Sen said the state government has asked Tatas to involve the local people in area development programmes and the business group is training 3,000 people. The minister claimed that 70 per cent of Singur farmers gave their land voluntarily for the Tata project, while some land could not be acquired due to litigation and the remaining refused to hand over land “due to confusion”.
17 September: Faced with stiff oppos-ition against land acquisition for industry at Singur and Nandigram, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today sought the help of the Confederation of India Industry (CII) in formulating a proper acquisition and rehabilitation policy for land losers. ”We need your help. CII should form a committee to go into details on what should be the government’s policy for land acquisition, the role of private investors and the rehabilitation policy. ”If you give your suggestions, our government will seriously examine it,” Bhattacharjee told captains of Indian industry at an interactive session here. “I just cannot roll back the Tata Project. I need this project for West Bengal. The Tata Motors’ small car will roll out in the middle of next year,” he said. Bhattacharjee said that 90 per cent farmers supported the Tata project and a small section of ‘bargadars’ (share croppers) and small farmers were opposing it. ”But we cannot ignore them”, he said. The Chief Minister said his government had made mistakes at the political and administrative level on land acquisition. ”The opposition has successfully misled the people. Therefore we have decided not to go on in Nandigram,” he said.
Bajaj Auto feels the Tatas have got a very good deal at Singur. “The incentive offered to Tata Motors is quite lucrative,” Bajaj Auto vice-chairman Madhur Bajaj said on the sidelines of CII’s national council meeting here today. However, he did not comment on the proposed small car project of Tata Motors.
Eleven women were raped in Singur and 17 sexually tortured in Nandigram on March 14, according to a survey conducted by Sameekshak Samannaya, an NGO. Four persons are still missing and have not been accounted for. While releasing the report in Kolkata on Monday, former state land reforms commissioner Debabrata Bandyopadhyay said the figures had been compiled after a door-to-door survey at 2,754 out of 6,858 houses in 13 mouzas worst-affected by the incidents of March 14.
21 September:As reported by media today, the CBI claimed that CPM leader in West Bengal Suhrid Dutta, one of the accused in the Tapsi Malik murder case, was involved in infrastructure development work of the Tata Motors’ small car project at Singur for “personal gains”. “There is evidence to indicate that the accused was involved in infrastructure development work including selection of contractors for personal gain,” said the agency in its 17-page chargesheet filed in the court of additional chief judicial magistrate of Chandannagar in West Bengal.
22 September: The mysterious death of a farmer near the Tata Motors factory triggered fresh tension in Singur today. Besides the Tapasi Malik rape-and-murder case, this is the fourth such incident in Singur since land acquisition started for the Tata car factory. Thirty-seven-year-old Srikanta Shee was found hanging from a guava tree near his house at Gopalnagar of Singur. Police say he committed suicide. Shee has been out of work for a month because the farmland where he worked has been acquired for the Tata project. Srikanta’s wife Aparna said, “We were reduced to poverty. He used to graze cattle and work as a farm labourer but after acquisition of land both these occupations were gone. He became depressed.”
6 October: As media reported today, the Governor, Mr Gopalkrishna Gandhi, has asked the state government to look into a complaint that policemen, guarding the disputed site of the small car factory of Tata Motors in Singur, fired tear gas shells, while tackling demon-strators, at a farmer, Mr Ramesh Koley, working in his fields, causing him to be injured badly. Mr Koley wasn’t even participating in the demonstration. The rights organisation had lodged a complaint with the Governor after the district police superin-tendent allegedly refused to initiate a probe into the police action. According to the complaint, a 28-year-old farmer from Bajemelia at Singur, Mr Ramesh Koley, was working in his paddy field near the Singur car project site around 3 p.m. on 19 August this year when policemen resorted to tear gas shelling to quell a mob trying to damage the boundary wall of the proposed factory. One of the tear gas shells landed on Mr Koley’s forehead. The farmer, who had not even participated in the demonstration, sustained critical injuries to his head after the tear gas shell exploded. On 10 September, special officer of the Governor’s secretariat, Mr Adhikari, sent a letter (Number: 3392-S) to the secretary of the human rights body, informing the latter that the matter has been taken up with the state home department.
18 October: The recent Supreme Court ban on acquisition of “good agricultural land” has sent ripples through the far-flung villages of Beraberi, Bajemelia and Khasherberi, where large tracts of agricultural land have been acquired to make way for the Tata small car factory. The SC verdict, which stated that governments should not acquire land for a private company under the guise of public purpose, came in handy for Krishi Jami Raksha Committee (KJRC) that took out a rally today at Beraberi Purbapara to whip up sentiments against the state government. Tata Motors officials have taken care to assuage feelings by flagging off its initiative to support the cause of primary and secondary school education in Singur. Today, the company provided desks, benches, chairs, tables, cupboards and electrical fittings in addition to educational and sports materials to a primary school at Ruidaspara in Beraberi.
19 October: After a lull of a few months, violence erupted outside the land acquired for the Tata Motors’ small car factory in Singur today morning leaving at least 20 people, including five women and four policemen, injured. Members of the Krishi Jami Raksha Committee, which is opposing land acquisition for the factory, carried out an “unprovoked attack” on policemen posted outside the boundary wall. To push back the attackers, the police resorted to lathicharge and lobbed teargas shells. Three of the injured policemen have been admitted to hospital. Hundreds of villagers, armed with lathis, sickles, axes, vegetable cleavers and water bottles filled with petrol, assembled outside the factory’s boundary at around 7 am. They first started hurling abuses at the policemen and then moved closer to the wall.
30 October: The programme to “paralyse” normal life in West Bengal by the Trinamool Congress stands as violence was still continuing in Nandigram, party chief Mamata Banerjee said today. She said it would also be against “forcible” acquisition of land at Singur and unnatural death of computer graphics teacher Rizwanur Rehman. SUCI has also called a 12-hour Bangla bandh today.
1 November: Tata Motors will construct a “right-turn flyover” in Singur, connecting the small car plant site to the eastern flank of Durgapur Expressway to prevent traffic congestion when cars start rolling out next year. The decision to build the flyover was taken at a meeting convened by West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) today. The meeting, held at the WBIDC camp located within the site premises, was attended by Tata Motors general manager D Sengupta, additional district magistrate Liyakat Ali and panchayat samiti sabhapati Ranjit Mondal. A decision was also taken to dredge the Ghiakunti basin into which water drains out from the Julphia canal. The decision follows the flooding of neighbouring villages and inundating the factory site during this year’s rains.
25 November: More than 1,500 farmers, including hundreds of women, took part in a rally in Singur this afternoon to protest against the forcible acquisition of their farm land by the state government and the alleged “mass killing” in Nandigram by the CPI(M) cadres. The rally began from Kamarkundu railway station and ended at Ratanpur crossing off Durgapur Expressway near the Singur car project site where local Trinamool Congress MLA,Mr Rabindranath Bhattacharjee and convener of the Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee (SKJRC), Mr Becharam Manna, addressed the gathering. Farmers who took part in the rally demanded that plots “taken away by the state government from the farmers at gunpoint” be returned to them immediately.
26 November: A month after completion of hearing, the Singur land acquisition case was today reopened before the Calcutta High Court following the apex court’s ruling that no government had the right to acquire agricultural land on the plea that private industry would be set up in public interest. The hearing commenced before a division bench comprising Chief Justice S S Nijjar and Justice Pinkai Chandra Ghosh. The case was reopened after the petitioners’ lawyer Siddhartha Shankar Ray was allowed to submit a fresh application to the court on November 22. In his submission at the hearing, Ray cited the ruling of the Supreme Court on September 12. Advocate General Balai Ray said the land in Singur was acquired by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation for industrialisation to create employment opportunities and boost the economy of the area. While noting the Supreme Court judgement cited by S S Ray, the division bench said that it would study the apex court order.
The bail applications of former CPI(M) Singur Zonal committee secretary Suhrid Dutta and Debu Mallik arrested by the CBI for their role in the murder of 18-year old Tapasi Malik were rejected by a court here today. Hooghly District Judge Yudhisthir Haldar rejected the bail prayers of Dutta and Debu Malik and transferred the case to the Chandennagore First Track First court. The Chandennagore First Track First Court will hear the matter on November 30.
30 November: Charges against the accused in the Tapasi Malik murder case — CPI(M) Hooghly district committee member, Suhrid Dutta and his associate Debu Malik — will be framed in the first fast track court in Chandernagore on 7 December. Additional district and session judge of the Chander-nagore first fast track court, Mr. Amar Kanti Acharya passed a direction in this regard today turning down the petition of defence counsel who sought a 15-day stay order against direction of the Hooghly district and session judge, Mr Judhisthir Haldar, who sent the Tapasi Malik murder case to the Chandernagore court for trial on 26 November. Advocate of Dutta, Mr Sandip Dutta, moved a separate petition seeking that the process of framing of charges be adjourned for 15 days. Mr Dutta told the court that he moved the adjournment petition because his senior, Mr Arindam Mukherjee, who is defending the murder accused CPI(M) leader, was absent in the court today.
7 December: A local court today framed charges against former CPM Singur zonal committee secretary Suhrid Dutta and co-accused Debu Malik in the murder case of 18-year-old Tapasi Malik. Fast track court magistrate A Acharya, who rejected their bail pleas, questioned Dutta whether he pleaded guilty. Dutta said he did not. The magistrate fixed January 28 to begin the trial, during which 64 witnesses would be examined in 20 working days. Earlier, opposing Dutta’s bail, CBI counsel Partha Tapasyii told the court that Dutta and Malik had not been given bail by the Calcutta High Court and should not be granted bail from this court as their release might hamper probe. The CBI had presented a well documented CD to the court which demonstrated their involvement in the case, Tapasyii said. Dutta’s counsel, Keshab Lal Mukherjee and Arindam Bhattacharjee prayed for bail.
13 December:The state’s Tata connec-tion is getting stronger. Today, Telco Cons-truction Equipment Company Ltd (Telcon) was allotted 250 acres in Kharagpur on a 99-year lease to set up a Rs 600-crore heavy earthmoving equipment facility. Telcon is a joint venture between Tata Motors and Hitachi. “On Thurs-day, we met 35 component makers interested in setting up shop at the vendor park near the Tata Motors plant in Singur,” State commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen said. “Their combined investment in Singur will be Rs 2,200 crore in the first phase. They will employ 2,750 people initially, which will go up to 4,000.”
17 December: A day after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee talked about the wonder that Singur would be, an unemployed farm worker killed himself at Singur’s Khaserbheri Shibtala today. Shankar Patra (48) was found hanging in the cattle shed behind his mud house around 2 pm. Son Pratap said Shankar had taken to working in other people’s farms after his tea-shop was burgled. But the state took over the land, where he regularly found work, for the Tata factory. Shankar then joined the anti-land acquisition movement. Though many farm hands got work at the factory site, Shankar did not. Shankar was jobless for weeks and depressed, said Pratap. “We have nowhere to go. Since we went against the government’s plans, no one cares for us,” said widow Asha.
25 December: Senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee today came out in support of acquisition of land for industrial development and made a veiled criticism of Trinamool Congress which has been leading an anti farmland acquisition movement in West Bengal.
1 January: The much-awaited “people’s car” will roll out of the Singur factory on time, the state government said today at the Writers’ Buildings in presence of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen.The government decided to implement a Rs 170-crore irrigation project which would channelise the accumulated water through the Ghia and Kunti rivers near Singur. The commerce minister said, “This irrigation project is not just for the Tata unit — it’s for the low-lying region around it. It’s a master scheme for the entire region.” The irrigation department is working round the clock to implement the Centre’s 30-year-old Ghia-Kunti scheme. The state government may ask the Tatas to pitch in. MP Rupchand Pal, who also attended the meeting, said, “The cars will roll out in the middle of 2008 as scheduled. There is no problem now, residents are cooperating because they, too, are getting jobs.”
3 January:The assembly and roll-out of Tata Motors’ small car would be from the Singur plant in the state and not from Pune or Uttarakhand as speculated, a west Bengal government official claimed today. “It would be silly if the company rolled out the small car from a different plant,” the official said. However, a Tata Motors’ official, when asked on the company’s decision on location of the roll-out of the low-cost car, said: “We expect to start commercial production in the middle of next financial year as stated in earlier occasions.” The WBIDC official said that although the company planned to showcase the car at the upcoming Auto Expo at New Delhi this month, it would be a prototype from the Pune plant. The mother plant would require 640 acre and the vendor park 290 acre. Already, nearly 55 vendors have agreed to come to Singur, with a promised investment of Rs 2,200 crore. This was in addition to the Rs 1500-crore investment to be made by Tata Motors at the plant.
Socialism for the world and capitalism for West Bengal — this is how chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has charted out his development path, given the constraints of a state government. Taking a U-turn from the Left demand for nationalisation of industries in the ’60s, he made out a strong case for capitalist industrialisation at the 42nd anniversary of the CPM’s Bengali mouthpiece, ‘Ganashakti’, today. “Some people say industrialisation is fine. But will that be a socialist mode? For them, I would like to say that industrialisation in West Bengal has to follow the capitalist course. I am aware of the sweat and tears that capital brings with it, but there is no way out. Where from shall we get the money? Our government doesn’t have funds,” he said, clearing pointing to the sea change in the CPM’s mindset till the ’80s when bourgeois was a dirty word. He wants Left Front partners to appreciate the changing times and take a pragmatic stand on agriculture and industry. “The Jindals have taken land from a total 137 families. They’ve no problems absorbing them when they are going to generate 18,000 jobs. But the same can’t be expected from the Tatas. We acquired land for their small-car factory in Singur from a total 12,000 families. Is it feasible to engage all of them? The Tatas, however, have introduced a training programme and will absorb some from the land-losers.” Coming to terms with the changing times, the CM clipped his Leftism from offering a radical alternative to existing social order and said the Left goal now is give a human face to the market-driven path.
6 January: FB state secretary Ashok Ghose’s said today that the Tata project should be shifted from the present location. At a public meeting in Singur today the FB leader had said that the land at Singur was fertile and no industrial plant would be allowed there.
That party adventurism in Nandigram and land grab in Singur hit the CPI(M)’s support base in Hooghly hard became evident with the party losing control of managing committees of four schools, including one located in Singur, today. According to reports, all six CPI(M)-backed candidates, who contested the election of the managing committee of Basubati Bijonbihari Girls’ School in Singur, have been defeated by their counter-parts in the Trinamool Congress. In 2005, the CPI(M) had won all these six seats unopposed. Local residents claimed that “land acquisition at gunpoint” and “Nandi-gram massacre” resulted in the defeat of CPI(M) candidates. In Polba, around 20 kilometre from Singur, the CPI(M) lost six seats in the managing committee election of Fom-dhara High School, yesterday. Candid-ates backed by the Trina-mul Congress and the Forward Bloc defeated their counterparts in the CPI(M) for the first time in the school’s history. The CPI(M) suffered a major setback after all its six candidates lost the election to the managing committee of Bansberia Boys’ School yesterday. All the six Trinamool Congress-backed candidates emerged victor-ious as three-fourth of the total voters, who are parents of school students, voted against the CPI(M).
7 January: The CPI, a partner of the ruling Left Front today distanced itself from constituent Forward Bloc’s stand that the Tata Motors small car project at Singur should be relocated to Kalaikunda in West Midnapore district. “We don’t think there is any scope for re-opening the Singur issue at this stage when the plant is nearing completion,” CPI state council secretary Manju Kumar Majumder told reporters.
10 January:The West Bengal govern-ment (state Industry Minister Nirupam Sen) today expressed happiness over Tata Motors unveiling its much-awaited people’s car ‘Nano’, and said the Singur project, where it would be manufactured, will be completed in time.
Today Ratan Tata unveiled the Nano in Delhi’s Pragati Maidan. And hundreds of kilometres away in Kolkata, a visibly elated West Bengal industries minister Nirupam Sen said Nano was a pride for the state. “Many people had doubts about the car. The car, as promised, is priced at Rs 1 lakh, and it’s a matter of pride that it’ll roll out from Singur.” But, amid the huge mass of mediapersons and other people gathered inside Hall No. 11 for a first look at Tata’s Nano car, a group of six women, activists of Delhi Soliderity Group, a forum of left-leaning individuals and organizations, dressed in white T-shirts stood out. Written in bold red on their T-shirts were provocative blurbs like “The Rs 1 lakh car has Singur people’s blood on it” and other such slogans. Standing in a single line, the women were talking animatedly to curious journalists and distributing leaflets. The group claimed that the lands of many farmers at Singur were forcibly taken away by the West Bengal government which used CPM cadre for the purpose. At a press conference later in the day, six farmers from Singur claimed they had not taken the compensation being offered for their farmland. The press conference was addressed by Medha Patkar, among others. The protesters also questioned Tata’s claim that they would provide employment to locals at the plant, saying only 12 people had been given jobs so far and that too as security guards. “Tatas are training some local youths at ITIs, but they have given no assurances on whether they would be absorbed.”
11 January: The fracas over retrench-ment of security guards started yesterday – when Ratan Tata was unveiling the Nano – and spilled on to today, with local CPM activists barging into the walled-off factory site and stopping engineers, mechanics and contractors from doing their work. The embarrassed CPM top brass distanced itself from the agitation but local leaders felt the agitation was “justified”. It was in December last year that West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) had decided to cut down the number of night guards at the factory site, but for some strange reason it waited for the day of the unveiling of the Nano to inform the 131 retrenched workers. Protests broke out, leading to chaos all through yesterday. Today, the sacked guards led by flag-flaunting Citu men stormed into the factory site around 8 am. It wasn’t long before the CPM top brass came to know of it. Party leaders at the Alimuddin Street headquarters frantically called up the Hooghly CPM office at Serampore to stop the agitation.
13 January: The state government will take full responsibility of farmers and their families who give away land for industrial projects, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhatta-charjee told a massive gathering of CPM workers on Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata today. The state remains committed to industrialization, Bhattacharjee said, but in balance with agriculture. The message to the Opposition and dissenting Left Front partners: “there will be no looking back”. “If land has been taken away from farmers, then it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that the family gets a new source of income and livelihood. The government cannot shy away from this responsibility. We don’t need to be told by Congress or Trinamool Congress about what needs to be done for the farmers,” he said at the open session of CPM’s state conference. Bhattacharjee, who had once said “money has no colour”, said they were not concerned about the name of the business group or country coming for investment — what mattered was jobs. “It can come from the Tatas, Jindals, American or Chinese companies, that is not the issue. We want to see how many people will get jobs once these industries come up. That is the only criteria,” he said. “We are not bothered who will buy the car manu-factured at Singur. What is important is that 6,000 people will get work there.
18 January: In a major boost to the Bud-dhadeb Bhattacharjee government, Calcutta High Court today put its seal on the state’s land acquisition in Singur, paving way for Tata Motors’ Nano to roll out from there. A division bench comprising Chief Justice S S Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh dismissed all the 11 petitions against land acquisition in Singur. The bench observed there was no malafide intention on the part of the state in acquiring land there. “There was no colourable exercise of power by the government during acquisition of the land. Landowners who are not satisfied with the compensation amount may move the land acquisition collector.” Today’s judgment has been on hold since August 30 last year. In Singur, compensation has been paid by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corpor-ation (WBIDC), a state body. Some petitio-ners had relied on a recent Supreme Court order in which it had quashed a bid by a private company and the government of Punjab to acquire agricultural land for a tractor company.
Business associations today said the Calcutta High Court judgment on Singur will restore investors’ faith in Brand Bengal and open the floodgates for a greater inflow of capital. “The state’s image will receive a boost and companies will no longer feel jittery about setting up shop in the state,” Assocham president and Videocon chairman Venugopal Dhoot said. Dhoot has been one of the biggest champions of the state’s industrial potential in the recent past. “The HC judgment will restore credibility in the state’s industrialization drive,” CII eastern region chairman and JSW Bengal Steel joint MD Biswadip Gupta said.
8 February: Over 500 farmers today blocked the Durgapur Expressway near Singur demanding the return of agricultural land that they alleged has been forcibly acquired from them for the Tata small car project. According to the police, the farmers and the Trinamool Congress activists blocked the highway near Haterchawk-Beltola area leading hundreds of vehicles getting stranded.
The body structure of the new Rs one lakh Tata Nano car will be built by NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul-owned Caparo Group. Selected inner structural panels will be pressed and assembled by Caparo at a new facility in Singur, adjacent to the Tata Nano manufacturing plant in West Bengal.Caparo, the manufacturer of the world’s highest performance road-capable hyper car, the Caparo T1, will supply 60% of these assemblies, with the rest being manufactured in-house by Tata. To meet Tata’s ambitious cost targets, Caparo has installed a new semi-automated production line with zero fault forward quality control systems. “The body technology is relatively conventional, but the manufacturing technology is the result of very sophisticated analysis to ensure high-quality, low-cost production,” Caparo Group CEO Angad Paul said today.
10 February: A man rendered jobless after the 1.5 acres he used to share with others was acquired for the Tata Motors plant here died today, allegedly of malnutrition. Kalipada Majhi, 45, of Beraberi Purbapara, about 100m from the project site, did not respond when his wife Kalpana called him at 7am today. “I was told that Kalipada was a sharecropper and had been ailing. He was left with no land to till after the acquisition for the Tata project. Only a probe will reveal whether he died of malnutrition,” said Chandernagore subdivisional officer Shekhar Roy, who has ordered an inquiry.
25 February: Angry farmers thrashed West Bengal Industrial Development Corpor-ation (WBIDC) surveyors today for being denied the price of land they had given to the latter. Block development officer Prasenjit Chakrabarty and Singur panchayat samiti sabhapati Ranjit Mandal were also heckled by the mob. Tension was brewing in the villages since the original road to Bablabandh from Khasherbheri village was cut off after Tata Motors fenced off the site for the factory. In the meantime, farmers gave away seven acres to WBIDC to revamp the sewer network in the area. Even a local crematorium was fenced off. WBIDC officers promised an alternative plot for setting up the crematorium. But that is yet to happen. Today, when officials and surveyors reached the spot to carve out the road, Khasherbheri villagers flocked near the Ujjal Sangha Club. They asked the officers what they were doing all this while. Trouble broke out around 1 pm when villagers stopped the two returning from the site and searched for the officers. They dragged out surveyor Gautam Do and driver Asok Das and started beating them up. When Chakrabarty tried to intervene, the mob pushed him back into the car. On hearing the news, Singur police station officer-in-charge Priyabrata Bakshi came to the spot but fled only to return with a huge force. SDPO Kalyan Mukherjee finally rescued the officers. CPM-backed Pragatishil Shechchhaye Shilpos-thapan Samity convener Dibakar Das cond-emned the attack on government officers. But he conceded that the villagers also had genuine grievances. “WBIDC officers have not kept the promise they made while taking land from the farmers for the sewerage system,” he said.
29 February: As media reported today, the West Bengal government has told the Supreme Court that the Singur venture would lead to rapid industrialisation of the state. “The state government thinks that the implementation of the project at Singur will play a pivotal role with regard to devel-opments in the field of modern industry in all respects not only in Singur, but also throughout the state of West Bengal,” the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government said. The state was responding to the apex court’s notice to it on a petition filed by the Karnataka Landless Farmers Association, which was complaining against the states’ recent policy to increasingly target agri-cultural land for setting up industries and SEZs. The West Bengal government refuted allegations that 645.67 acres of land had been leased out to Tatas at throwaway prices and said: “The government has the power to form any policy and/or to exempt from paying various claims for the sake of greater interest of the state.” The association had alleged that soon 43,000 more acres of land would be acquired for two dozen companies of an available 2.25 lakh arable and arid land. Rejecting this, the state said: “Though a few thousand acres of lands are under examination for setting up industrial units in different districts of the state, out of which a major portion of land is not fit for cultivation or not at all fertile.”
2 March: Criticising the chief minister for awarding the Seva medal to an IPS officer, accused of torturing women and farmers in Singur, a section of intellectuals and human right activists have decided to meet Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi to complain about Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Mr. Bhattacharjee recently awarded the Seva medal to IPS officer, Mr Asit Paul, former additional superintendent of (Headquarters), Hoog-hly, who has been accused of assaulting women farmers and Ms Anuradha Talwar, a human rights activist near the Singur small car project site last year for protesting against the land acquisition.
3 March: As media reported today, the marginal farmers of Bajemelia and Khaserbheri villages in Singur — many of whom had earlier protested against the land acquisition for the car factory — have finally started collecting their compensation cheques from the Chinsurah collectorate office. According to district administration, the valuation for the 997.11 acres of Singur land stands approximately at Rs 110 crore. Individual landowners have so far collected Rs 95 crore for giving up their land. The government is yet to issue 2,000 cheques to individual land-losers. CPM MP Anil Basu said the farmers could have accepted their cheques earlier had they not been prevented by a section of local people. “People should understand the importance of development in this region,” he said. The convener of the Krishi Jami Raksha Committee, Becharam Manna, said his organization has not prevented anybody who wanted to collect the compensation cheques. “But if the govern-ment forces farmers to accept the cheques, we will keep preventing them from following the government diktat,” he said.
8 March: Fresh trouble is brewing in Singur. And this time, the aggrieved are those from the CPM who helped the government hasten the small car project despite all odds. They include the homeless people awaiting rehabilitation and a host of local security guards, those who helped surveyors, suppliers, truck operators and people whose bills are pending with the government for months. They feel let down now. The Singur CPM has taken up their case and submitted a memorandum to CPM MP Anil Basu, who came to address a closed-door party meeting in Singur today. The meeting was held to chalk out the party’s plans before the panchayat elections. Party activists present at the meet resented the way the state government and the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation have denied wages to the daily labourers for months that they feared would be put on the back burner, once the Nano car rolls out of the Singur factory.
28 March: A man was found dead inside the Tata Motors’ small car project site in Singur today, police said. Rajkumar Biswakarma, who hails from Andal in Burdwan district, was working as a dumper driver, Sub-divisional Police Officer, Chandan-nagar, Kalyan Mukherjee said, adding that he was found dead at Joymolla locality inside the site with his head allegedly being smashed. Mukherjee said it was yet to be ascertained whether it was a case of homicide or accident. The body was sent for post-mortem.
30 March: As media reported today, the state panchayat department has worked out a revenue sharing mechanism for the three-tier panchayat system — right from the zilla parishad down to the gram panchayat level — for the local bodies to spearhead devel-opment projects in the Singur area. Engineers attached to the zilla parishads will examine the technical aspects of the applications and issue the trade licence as also the necessary sanction for the building plan, while the panchayat samiti will issue the no-objection certificates in consultation with the gram panchayats. According to the mechanism devised by state panchayat secretary Manabendra Nath Roy, 50% of the earnings will go to the respective panchayats and the rest would go to the Singur panchayat samiti.
2 April: Notwithstanding the opposition fac-ed by government in acquiring land for industries, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said the state has to move ahead with industrialisation despite problems. “There is a problem in acquiring land (for industries) in West Bengal. While 63 per cent of the land was agricultural, 13 per cent was forest cover and one per cent fallow,” he said apparently referring to the opposition in Nandigram and Singur. “So only 23 per cent was left for the industry and that has been filled up. We cannot stop here and we must move ahead,” he told reporters replying to a question here. The issue was part of the discussion at the CPM on the performance of the Left-ruled states of Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura.
7 April: Caparo Group chairman, who will be going to Singur tomorrow, said Britain has a special affection for Bengal. “It is good to see that the state is forging ahead in industri-alisation and third in economic growth among the states here,” Paul said. According to Paul, the quality manpower is the biggest advantage of Bengal. “There was never dearth of quality manpower here,” he added.
8 April:The NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul, who is on a business visit to the Tata’s Singur plant, praised the Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s handling of the controversial Tata Motors plant at Singur. “I do not think that there is any other option, but to industrialise… We will have to industrialise and work for a better world,” he said after visiting Tata Motors and Caparo Engineering’s plants here. State Chief and Union Minister Priyaranjan Das Munshi said, “I have not learnt politics from Lord Paul. I have learnt politics from the state of Bengal and we all defend Tata for expanding its industrial activities in our country. Tata is a global industrialist. There’s no doubt about it and we have no quarrel with the industrial arrangements of Tata. However, we certainly do not approve the manner in which the whole thing is being done by the Chief Minister. We are not changing the position despite the good works of Lord Paul.” The Trinamool Congress president said, “I cannot give a certificate to him (Lord Paul) because he is pleading for Tata because Tata is giving him business. This is a business venture nothing else.” Lord Paul’s Caparo engineering will be supplying components to the Tatas.
13 May: Tata Motors’ Rs one lakh car Nano project is still driving on bumpy streets, with the Supreme Court seeking to know why the West Bengal government acquired farm land for the project in Singur that has now become a site of a political battle between Mamta Banerjee’s TMC and the ruling CPI(M) combine.
A bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan while issuing notice to the company, the state government and the West Bengal State Industrial Development Corporation (WBSIDC) today and posted the matter for further hearing in July. The apex court was hearing a petition filed by Kedar Nath Yadav, a practicing lawyer, who sought immediate halt of Tata Motors’ project, although the Calcutta High Court had earlier upheld the land acquisition exercise. Tata Motors, which proposes to roll out the world’s cheapest car Nano from the Singur facility, submitted before the court that it had invested over Rs 1,000 crore in the project and any delay would increase the cost of the car. The company had earlier requested the apex court not to pass any orders on the petition without hearing it.
The chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhatta-charjee, addressed a meeting at Kamarkundu, Singur.
21 May: The seventh Panchayat poll results in West Bengal today threw up a harsh political reality for the Marxist-led Left Front. For the first time in the past 30 years, the results reflected a distinct dent in its rural support base. In Singur Block 1, the area where the Tata factory is coming up, the CPM had control of all the three Zilla Parishad seats. The CPM and CPI had won 32 of the 44 Panchayat Samiti ( the middle tier) seats in 2003. This year, all the three Zilla Parishad seats have been won by Trinamool which also won 37 of the 45 Panchayat Samiti seats this time. The CPM managed only 8. But unlike East Midnapore Zilla Parishad, the CPM managed to win the Hooghly Zilla Parishad. The CPI(M) won’t roll back its controversial policy of industrialisation through farmland acquisition despite the defeat it suffered in areas it sought aggressively to implement its policy, Mr Benoy Konar, Central committee member, said today. “It’s an oversimpl-ification to suggest that our defeat in Midnapore East, which includes Nandi-gram, Singur in Hooghly, South 24-Parga-nas and North Dinajpur means a rejection of our policy. Several factors contributed to our poor showing in those areas and these include our failure to convince the farmers about the need for industrial growth along with agricultural development, corruption in a section of panchayats, disunity among the Left Front partners on the question of industrialisation, alienation of the party from the people in many areas and communal propaganda by the PDCI leader Mr Siddiqulla Chowdhury among the rural popul-ation,” Mr Konar said.
22 May: As media reported today, Though the state government has justified the acquisition of fertile farm land in Singur by stating that the Tata Motors’ small car factory will provide both direct and indirect employment, the state directorate of employ-ment had said that Tata Motors Limited (TML) has not notified any vacancy to any of the employment exchanges in Hooghly district so far. The information from the state labour department made it official that no large-scale direct employment would be provided in the small car factory in Singur. While replying to questions under the Right To Information Act submitted by Mr Salil Kapat, convener of Indian Society for the Fundamental and Human Rights, the deputy director of employment of state labour department, stated: “As is revealed from the deputy director of employment, Hoogh-ly, Tata Motors Limited has not notified vacany/vacancies to any of the employment exchanges in Hooghly district.” Mr Kapat had asked whether TML ever intimated to the state labour department as to how they would recruit prospective employees for their factory at Singur and whether Tata Motors ever approached any of the employment exchanges for personnel recruitment for their proposed small car factory. However, the reply sent to Mr Kapat on 16 May revealed that Tata Motors is yet to approach the local employment exchanges for recruiting local residents for its Singur factory. Earlier, Mr Nirupam Sen, state commerce and industries minister, had claimed that all 180 students from the land-loser families in Singur had undergone training in various Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and were absorbed in either the Pune factory of Tata Motors or other subsidiaries of the group. The minister also said some had even refused a job. Though Mr Sen, to be fair, had never promised large-scale recruitment for the car factory, the letter from the labour department has made it official that apart from the few students from land-loser families who have undergone training in the ITIs, there is little hope for common or garden variety of residents of Singur as far as gainful employment at the TML factory is concerned.
An associate of the Salim group, many of whose infrastructure projects fall in the rural belt captured by the Trinamool Congress, has said the consortium was “investing in the state” and expressed confidence of getting the support of the new zilla parishad. “We know India is not China. It is a democracy. And democracy is not a risk for us. The projects would develop the area. I am confident of getting support from the new zilla parishad,” Prasoon Mukherjee, the director of New Kolkata International Deve-lopment (NKID), told from Indonesia today. The Salim group is one of the investors in NKID. “We are investing in the state,” Mukherjee added, suggesting that the change in political equations need not come in the way of development projects. The group’s proposed projects include a six-lane highway connecting Barasat in North 24-Parganas to Raichak in South 24-Parganas, a host of industrial clusters and housing projects, two SEZs and two bridges. Some of these projects are slated to come up in South 24-Parganas, where the zilla parishad will be formed by Trinamool. Industry minister Nirupam Sen also sought to reassure potential investors, saying “there is no question of a review or rollback of the industrial policy”.Sen, how-ever, admitted that people had differences with the government’s style of functioning. “We will have to take a lesson, but that does not mean they have voted against indus-trialisation in Bengal,” he added. Responding to a question on the Trinamool leadership’s threat of halting construction of the Tata Motors factory at Singur, Sen said: “The question does not arise. The Tata project will be completed in due course.”
23 May: As media reported today, No sooner has Trinamool Congress come to power in Singur and its surroundings, it has started speaking the language of Indus-trialization. There has been no tirade against the Nano factory coming up fast in Singur, no attacks on its boundary walls and no potshots at those going to work at the site. Despite fears of trouble at the Tata Motors factory after the change in the power equation, work went on smoothly at the Singur plant. Dumpers and trucks entered the premises carrying iron beams and coils. “Work is going on,” said a factory spokesperson. Trinamool’s Becharam Manna, convener of the Krishi Jami Raksha Committee, which spearheaded the movement against land acquisition, is no longer calling for pulling down the boundary wall. “CPM paid the price for ignoring people’s wish. Now, we want locals to be given priority when jobs are given,” Manna said. The villagers, too, want an end to the politics of disruption. “The anger was against CPM. Trinamool will be doing the same thing that CPM has done so far. We want work. Those who are speaking against the factory are not doing the right thing,” said Tarun Malik, a tea stall owner at Bajemelia. After securing the three zilla parishad seats in Singur, Trinamool went on to win the gram panchayat seats as well. All the 16 seats in Kamarkundu, Gopalnagar, Doluigachcha (KGD) gram pan-chayat went to Trinamool, as well as the Singur-I seat, which CPM had never lost. That the resentment against land acquisition had crossed the boundary walls of Singur became evident after Trinamool won eight gram- panchayats, including Dankuni, where land was acquired for a housing project. Sensing the changing political equation at the ground level, the district administration was quick to react. Till now, all administrative decisions regarding the Tata Motors project were taken by the Singur panchayat samiti. These included submission of building plans, mutations etc. It has been decided that from now on, the Hooghly zilla parishad — which has been retained by CPM — will look after the administrative needs of the project. Trinamool leaders have not complained about this decision so far. On Wednesday (21 May), around 10,000 party supporters assembled at Singur High School, but no rallies went towards the factory site. “We have told the boys to stay away from the factory. We have nothing against it. We would have welcomed the decision had fertile land not been snatched for the factory’s purpose. People have voted us to power. If they want the factory to remain, it will remain,” said Dipankar Ghosh, Trinamool’s Beraberi gram-panchayat member.
25 May: Bolstered by the victory in panchayat elections, members of Trinamool Congress-backed Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee attempted to storm the Tata Motors’ project area in Singur today around 1 pm. Nearly 200 SKJRC supporters tried to raze the boundary wall of the premises. They set afire two watchtowers inside the premises and clashed with the police. The policemen lobbed 14 rounds of teargas shells. The villagers lobbed bricks, injuring one constable. The clash continued for nearly two hours, even as work in the area went on unhindered. A few hours later, addressing a public rally at Singur’s Kamarkundu Bharati Maidan, trinamool Chief Ms. Mamata Banerjee asserted that her party will not compromise with the legitimate demand of farmers whose land was forcefully acquired by the government. “I request the state government to give back 400 acres to farmers who have not received the compensation. Our agitation will continue in Singur as people have voted us to power,” the TMC chief said. Terming today’s incident as an isolated one, she criticised the Singur police for using force to thwart the farmers’ movement.
Veteran CPM leader Jyoti Basu said the party will have to learn from its past mistakes and work together for better results in the coming elections. Talking to reporters at the CPM’s state headquarters at Alimuddin Street, where the party’s two-day state committee meeting started today, Basu said: “We understand that the opposition has entered into a grand alliance against us. We will have to gear up for that and win them back who have left us.” Basu said it was not possible to meet Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s demand to return 400 acres of land to Singur farmers who have not received compensation. “Let Mamata say clearly whether she wants industry or not. Any sabotage attempt at the factory will not be tolerated,” said the CPM leader.
26 May: Mr Jyoti Basu must ask his party to accept the people’s verdict in Singur to make the state government return 400 acres of land forcibly occupied from the owners for the small car project, Miss Mamata Banerjee said today.
27 May: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told his cabinet core committee today that while planning to take over land in Singur, he knew the area was fertile and that farmers were opposed to acquisition but his hands were tied. “I knew that the land in Singur was fertile and farmers had grievances over acquisition. But I was dragged into Singur,” a minister quoted the chief minister as saying. In the wake of the uproar over Singur, Bhattacharjee had earlier said the Tatas had zeroed in on the area for their car plant though the government offered land elsewhere. Today, he also admitted taking “hasty steps in Nandigram”.
28 May: The Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said today that she had no objection to the Tata Motors project at Singur if the government returned the 400 acres of land to those farmers who did not accept compensation. “Time and again I have been saying that we are not against industry. It is of vital importance to us. Some people might have sold their land at Singur because they needed money. I have nothing to say regarding this. But I want the government to return the land to other farmers. If that happens the factory may come up,” said the TMC chief.
7 June:As media reported today, secur-ity has been beefed up for labourers engaged in dredging the canals around the Singur small car project site after reports that they had been threatened by some unident-ified men. Police suspect that those who had threatened the labourers are Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Singur Committee (SKJRC) supporters. Though the organisation denied the allegation, it has iterated its intent to stall work on the project. According to a police officer, some unidentified men threatened Mackintosh Burns labourers who were at work near Bosepukur on 22 May, a day after the panchayat election results were declared. The next day, other labourers who were excavating a canal near Dobandhi, were also told to stop work and leave Singur. The unidentified men threatened the labourers with harm if they were seen again in the area, he said. The convener of the Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee (SKJRC), Mr. Becharam Manna, had earlier urged labourers to abstain from work on the project and support the causes of the farmers, but he denied that the organisation had ever threatened them. “We have never threatened labourers. Instead, they were requested to abstain from work to express solidarity to farmers whose agricultural plots were taken away forcefully. The labourers may have been threatened by some others,” Mr Manna said. He said that SKJRC supporters would stall work on the project if the government refused to return the land plots acquired for the project to farmers. He added: “We will not allow labourers to enter the project site. A fresh movement will be started from 14 June.”
13 June: The West Bengal state government is not transparent enough to divulge details of the land leased out to Tata Motors in Singur. The state chief election commissioner, Mr Arun Kumar Bhattacharya, had to issue an order asking the state public information officer of West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation to provide information to Mr Salil Kapat, convener of Indian Society for the Fundamental and Human Rights, regarding the land deal in Singur when he faced bureaucratic buck passing for nearly a year after submitting questions in this regard under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Mr Kapat had submitted questions under the RTI Act on 8 June, 2007 seeking some particulars about the land deal between Tata Motors and the state government. He wanted to know the names of the parties between whom the deed of transfer or lease was executed regarding the land for Tata Motors in Singur, and whether any exemption was granted in respect of the registration. He also wanted to know about the market value of the land assessed by the registering authority including the details of the deficit stump duty and registration fee payable thereon. These details which the applicant sought were related to two departments, department of finance and department of commerce and industries. The commerce and industries department was ready to provide the information within its purview, but the the finance department had allegedly refused to provide information on their part citing some technical problems. Mr Kapat then made two appeals to the West Bengal Information Commission seeking justice. Finally the state chief information commissioner, Mr Arun Kumar Bhattacharya, conducted a hearing where concerned authorities from the finance department and WBIDC were present. After the hearing, the commissioner ordered the WBIDC to furnish all the information to Mr Kapat within 15 days.
14 June: The Tata Nano factory in Singur is in for trouble. Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee addressed a rally with the newly elected panchayat representatives of her party today and announced total non-cooperation with the Tatas. “No panchayat representative of our party should cooperate with the Tata project without my permission. The public mandate has gone against setting up the car factory in Singur,” said Mamata. Serving an ultimatum to the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government, she asked the government to return the land it has forcibly acquired from unwilling farmers. Mamata also announced a deadline for the government, failing which she threatened to launch an indefinite stir in Singur block. “I mean it. The government should return the land by August 20. If it does not, we will block Durgapur Expressway. And, this time, there will be no rally. Villagers will perform their festivals — from Durga Puja to Eid — on the expressway itself. We will take to the ultimate,” the Trinamool chief said. With the party winning 15 of the 16 gram panchayats in Singur block, Mamata said: “Villagers are with us. We will go by their wishes and not at the whims of the state government. I will kick off the movement on August 20.” Taking the cue, Krishi Jami Raksha Committee convener and newly elected panchayat samiti member Becharam Manna asserted that the Trinamool-run panchayats will not allow the Tatas to put up electric wires or electric posts. Some local activists even went near the boundary wall of the Tata factory. But Mamata had left the place by then to meet the Muslim families in Chanditalla, where two persons died in a road accident.
15 June: As media reported today, the state government wants to hold on to the option of land acquisition as in Singur despite the political price it paid in the rural polls and the Centre’s bid to promote direct purchase by investors. In its note to the parliamentary standing committee on the amendment bill to the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, the state land and land reforms department has said there “should not be any ceiling” on the amount of land to be acquired by the government. The note will be sent to the committee after it is vetted by the CPM state secretariat and the central leadership. The amendment bill, under the scrutiny of the parliamentary committee along with the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2007, says the government can acquire 30 per cent of the land required for private projects provided the remaining 70 per cent is directly purchased by the investors. “We are opposed to the ceiling not only because of fragmented landholding in Bengal, which makes direct purchase cumbersome, but also because it deprives many land-losers of a solatium,’’ land minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah said. In Singur, those who sold their land willingly had received 30 per cent over the plot price as solatium. The land department’s note wants provisions “for acquisition for government companies… development authorities and local bodies”. It also wants “provision for land acquisition for infrastructure like industrial parks… by the government or its undertakings” as well as for education and healthcare facilities, government offices and housing. Mollah said: “It would help the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and other agencies to hold land that can be leased out for private or joint sector projects.’’ In Singur, the government had transferred land to the corporation, which leased it out to Tata Motors. The state wants 50 per cent of the land price as compensation for sharecroppers. The Singur farmers were paid 25 per cent. “The law now makes provision for payment of six times the price of a year’s yield,” he said. His department also wants the solatium doubled from 30 per cent. Although the department has “no objection” to the Centre’s proposals for paying land-losers the plots’ “prospective value” — or shares of the industries to be set up — the party and the government are yet to make up their mind. Mollah said: “The bill says the prospective value will be offered only when the land is not used for the original purpose. But we are laying stress on the cancellation of the lease in such cases.” He wants the government to give back 40 per cent of the acquired plot to landlosers after developing it.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told a rally in North 24-Parganas’ Deganga, where the CPM lost the rural polls, that the industrialisation drive would continue because “we have to provide jobs to educated youths”. “We need jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said.
SINGUR TIMELINE compiled and prepared by Asis Kumar Das, updated on 18 June 2008 (sometimes texts directly have been reproduced from Newspapers, Reports and Articles). It is welcome if anyone share initiative to develop this Timeline. It is also requested to send suggestions, corrections and revisions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Published: 18 June 2008