In a chilling re-run of the 14th March bloody backlash, three persons were killed, several others, including an Eastern Frontier Rifles personnel, injured at Nandigram and nine villages set ablaze during a pitched battle between CPI-M cadres and BUPC activists that continued for over 18 hours since late last night. The Trinamul Congress-led Opposition met the Governor, Mr Gopalkrishna Gandhi, in the evening demanding invocation of Article 355. The Prime Minister was also informed of the escalation of violence.
At least 15,000 people were hounded out of their homes and many of them had to be given shelter at relief camps set up at Nandigram college.
Amid conflicting reports about the genesis of the fresh cycle of violence, an unconfirmed report suggested there was a mine explosion at Sonachura. The home secretary, Mr Prasad Roy, said "if there was truth in the report, it was indeed a serious matter."
Mr Roy admitted that firing started from Khejuri, a clear admission that CPI-M cadres unleashed the violence. Mr Shyamal Chakraborty, CPI-M state committee member, however, claimed the provocation had come from the BUPC.
Trinamul Congress chief Miss Mamata Banerjee said the day's violence made the state a "fit case" for invoking provisions of Article 355 as members of the minorities and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe, who form a majority at Nandigram were no longer safe under the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee regime.
The Speaker of the West Bengal Assembly, Mr HA Halim, said Maoists had taken control of Nandigram and the Opposition had failed to realise it.
The violence started at villages bordering Nandigram and Khejuri around 10 last night. Local CPI-M leaders claimed armed BUPC cadres had abducted two of their party activists. This apparently triggered the flare-up with marauding, armed CPI-M cadres tried to force their way into Nandigram setting at least nine villages on fire and driving nearly 15,000 people out of their homes.
A bloody battle ensued following resistance from BUPC supporters, resulting in the deaths of three persons and leaving scores injured.
Among the killed was a BUPC activist who was hit by a bullet on the head and two CPI-M activists Tushar Shau (30) and Nirapada Ghata (32) who succumbed to bomb injuries at Khejuri.
The firing and bombing started late last night and continued throughout the day. CPI-M men reportedly tried to enter Nandigram from Sonachura, Garhchakraberia, Satengabari, Tekhali, Bhangabera and Ranichak. Hundreds of rounds were fired during the gun battle, according to information.
Armed CPI-M cadres initially entered Satengabari, Ranichak, Bhangabera and Sonachura firing salvos at supporters of BUPC taking up positions for resistance.
Later in the day, they entered, Simulkundu, Kanungochak, Satengabari, Uttarpurbapally, Girirbazar, Brindabanchak and Akandabari and set houses on fire in a desperate bid to recapture these places from their rivals. Two BUPC supporters Mr Khokan Shit (30) and Mr Manas Das (32) were injured.
The CPI-M cadres were forced to retreat after BPUC supporters put up a strong resistance. On their way back to Khejuri, CPI-M cadres allegedly looted 10 houses of BPUC supporters and set them on fire. An EFR Nayek, Mr Pradip Tamang, who was on duty near the Tekhali Bridge sustained injury after a bullet fired from Khejuri hit him, said a senior district police officer. Mr Tamang was first taken to Nandigram hospital from where he was rushed to Tamluk district hospital, according to Mr Satya Shankar Panda, superintendent of police, Midnapore (East).
The police said at least 300 bullets were fired and more than 500 crude bombs hurled during the clash.
Among the injured the condition of a BUPC supporter, Mr Kalipada Sit, is said to be critical. Local CPI-M leaders said, at least seven of their supporters were injured in the Trinamul-sponsored attack.
That the state administration virtually abdicated its responsibility became clear when the IG (law and order) Mr Raj Kanojia said : "I cannot say from which direction the bullet which hit Tamang came". This was in sharp contrast to the home secretary's admission that the firing was from the CPI-M-dominated Khejuri.
On the other hand, the state home secretary said the CPI-M had "probably gained ground" at Nandigram after the day's violence.
While describing the situation at Nandigram to be "quite worse" Mr Ray said that according to unconfirmed reports some people had crossed Bhangaberia to enter Sonachura.
Asked whether the police were unable to enter areas where the CPI-M had regained control, the home secretary admitted there had been virtually no police presence in the areas like Gokulnagar, Ranichak, Bhangaberia and Satengabari which turned into a "war zone" witnessing "widespread violence" today.
Police contingents couldn't move into some areas of Nandigram lest it should aggravate the situation, Mr Kanojia said. None was arrested for the violence. . There is strong Maoist presence in Nandigram, he added.
The home secretary admitted that the peace process had come to a "halt" and all the discussion initiated in the past three or four months "for a peaceful end to the dispute has gone down the drain."
The state government has not received any information about the arrival of Central forces it has requisitioned for deployment at Nandigram. " We are waiting for the CRPF to come.
Meanwhile, Mr D Bandopadhyay, former Union revenue secretary, told the Governor that he and some other retired IAS officers were preparing charge-sheets against district magistrates of Hooghly and East Midnapore
and all those police personnel who were responsible for mass killing and mass rape and incidents of arson and looting at Nandigram and Singur since 25 September last year.
Mr Bandyopadhyay, who was a member of the delegation led by Miss Mamata Banerjee, called on the Governor to apprise him of the worsening situation at Nandigram. He said they were collecting details of the acts of omission and commission of the guilty officers involved in the horrendous crime committed at the two places.
Each of these officers would be separately served charge-sheets and proceeded against through legal means. Mr Bandyopadhyay urged the Governor to tell the Centre to depoliticise the officers of all-India services (West Bengal cadre), because of their highly partisan behaviour during Nandigram and Singur operations.
He said that popular perception about the role of these officers was so bad that the credibility of this all-India cadre had suffered badly.
What move would the CRPF take?
Would the CRPF conduct raids in the Khejuri-Nandigram belt in Midnapore East at the dictates of the district police or would they act independently? Probably they would conduct their operations as per as the advice given by the district police who are controlled by the state government. This was hinted by the state home secretary, Mr Prasad Ranjan Roy.
In that case, the Central forces may not be posted in Khejuri where the real tension lies. The area is dominated by a few hired goons of the CPI-(M) who have been lodged in hide-outs. Explosives and a cache of sophisticated arms have been kept here to use as and when required. Only a tip of the iceberg was busted by the CBI sleuths three days after the 14 March massacre took place, alleged Mr Nanda Patra, a BUPC leader.
However, a top brass of the CRPF of the eastern region sector was quoted as having said in the newspapers that they would conduct a raid independently as they are doing in Maoist-infested Midnapore West, Bankura and Purulia even if they work under the state government's control.
They would find out illegal activities and arrest leaders belonging to any party, whatever be his status, the official further added.
However, the future would only tell whether the CRPF would act accordingly, a BUPC leader said.
Some state police personnel posted in the district have expressed their resentment against the government for slighting them.
"The state armed police jawans were competent enough to control the situation within hours if they were given an opportunity and if the government had sincerely desired so. There was no need for the government to post CRPF," an aggrieved policeman said privately.
Meanwhile, the people of Satkhanda, Janka,Kamarda, Sahebnagar, Chowk Kasba and several other places in Khejuri are apprehending torture by hired musclemen of the CPI-(M) who are camping in the area to take part in the Nandigram liberation operation.
They are stealing fish, poultry and ducks. Besides this, they are also misbehaving with the women, the villagers alleged.
However, the Khejuri CPM leader, Mr Himangshu Das, have denied the allegations.
Planned Attack : RSP Minister
Nov 6, 2007
The CPM's allies saw a design in the escalation of violence and at least one of them, the RSP, directly accused it of launching a "planned attack" on Nandigram with "armed supporters".
"The Union home ministry has said it would be difficult to send the CRPF immediately because of polls in other states. So the CPM has assembled its armed supporters to mount the attack in a planned manner with the backing of the Eastern Frontier Rifles," PWD minister Kshiti Goswami said.
He suspected that the CPM was "in a hurry" to crush the Opposition's control of Nandigram as it would like the panchayat polls — due in May — to be brought forward.
The home secretary today said CPM supporters in Khejuri started the fight last night.
A day before the Left Front meets to discuss the deployment of central forces, the Forward Bloc and CPI said they had heard what the government had to say and harped on the need for a political dialogue.
CPM state secretary Biman Bose did not react to the home secretary's comment but other leaders said the supporters were "only defending themselves against Trinamul-Maoist attacks''.
"I don't know what hap- pened last night. But we are facing attacks from Trinamul and Maoist goons since January," said Dipak Dasgupta, the CPM state secretariat member in charge of East Midnapore.
"Why did the home secretary not say that our party office was attacked last night? Our homeless supporters put up the resistance required to ensure their return," said fellow state secretariat member Shyamal Chakraborty.
If the allies had no doubt about the CPM's role in the violence, they also had no doubt that Mamata Banerjee did not want peace. Goswami said: "It is in Mamata's interest to keep the cauldron boiling."
The Bloc's Ashok Ghosh was reluctant to renew his peace efforts as neither the government nor Mamata wanted it.
CPM leader Benoy Konar said: "Before the CRPF comes, the ground reality is either we wrest control of our positions or they take over Khejuri."
Lakshman Seth gives the call "kill or get killed" - Nandigram awaits fierce bloodshed
Statesman News Service
MIDNAPORE, Nov. 6: Nandigram awaits to witness a fierce bloodshed again which is even worse than the 14 March carnage if the recent fiery utterances of the CPI-M MP, Mr Lakshman Seth and the Politburo member, Mrs Brinda Karat, much before the arrival of the Central forces in the region, are any indication of that.
In the open session of the different zonal committee conferences of the party in the district last week, Mr Seth announced that they would recapture their lost bastion in Nandigram.
By giving the slogan, "kill or get killed," the Marxist leader charged the party cadres to wrest Nandigram from the clutches of the Bhumi Uchhed Patirodh Committee (BUPC) consisting of the Congress, Trinamul, SUCI, Jamit-e-Ulema besides the communists who had left the party to protest against the Left Front government's anti-peasant policies.
Addressing the open session of the CPI-M ~ controlled Paschim Banga Ganatantrik Mahila Samiti at Dum Dum on Sunday Mrs Karat, echoed Mr Seth's voice when she prescribed "Dum Dum Daoai" (infamous batoning of Dum Dum ration dealers by irate Left mob during food movement in early sixties).
Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was also present on the occasion.
The BUPC leaders alleged that Mr Seth and his comrades have prepared a game plan for an attempt to capture Nandigram again.
They have mobilised a few hundred trained gunners for the purpose from Garbeta, Kespur, Belda in Midnapore West and other places in Khejuri and will shoot them down with the help of CRPF on charges of harbouring the Maoists to aid them.
The CPI-M deployed hordes of hired hoodlums in Khejuri to take part in Nandigram operation, six of whom had died in a blast while manufacturing bombs at the house of a cadre at Sherkhanchowk in Khejuri last week.
That the deceased were outsiders was confirmed from the dying statements of one of them and also there were no claimants of the bodies of four from the hospital morgue.
But the contention of the chief minister claiming that a hardcore Naxalite squad led by Mr Ranjit Pal, who was involved in the assassination of the JMM MP from Jamshedpur, Mr Sunil Mahato, are with the BUPC is a cock and bull story.
If that be the fact their battle with the CPI-M would have assumed a different dimension and the heads of many stalwarts of the area would have rolled down as the modus operandi of the Naxalites suggested, the BUPC leaders argued.