MIDNAPORE/KOLKATA: The plan to recapture Nandigram was drawn two weeks back in a meeting between two top CPM leaders from East and West Midnapore. An MP from East Midnapore and a state minister from West Midnapore were also present at the meet. The main point of discussion was how to bring back Nandigram, out of bounds for CPM supporters for the last 11 months. Armed men were used from at least three districts — West Midnapore, Bankura and North 24 Parganas — for 'Operation Nandigram' to flush out the opposition.
The first attempt to re-enter the villages and oust Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee supporters, who had held fort since early 2007, was made on March 14. The operation was conducted mainly by state police and did not bring the desired result. CPM had to go on the backfoot following widespread protests after the March 14 massacre. Since then no CPM leader has been able to set foot in Nandigram.
The party's East Midnapore district unit was under pressure from its supporters in Nandigram who were forced to flee to Khejuri. Despite the talks of peace and aborted attempts to make the refugees return to the villages in small number, the guns along the Nandigram-Khejuri border were hardly ever silent. Leaders from both the districts had to set aside their differences to sort out the problem. CPM could not afford to let Nandigram remain out of its control till next year's panchayat polls.
Also, the West Midnapore district unit has the experience of leading such an operation — Keshpur — in 2000. On November 4, 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.
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 CPM 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 CPM 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.