People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 24

June 17, 2007

Trinamul Congress Blocking Peace Process At Nandigram


Refugees once again!



B Prasant


GAUNT-FACED men, women, and children, many with clear features of extreme malnutrition put out a kind of an emaciated smile when they heard that they would be allowed to return to their hearth-and-homes. The Tekhali bazaar camp was abuzz with excitement. Looted to the last window sill and roofs brought down, yes; but that was home, their home, and they had waited for five long agonising months to go back.


Their cattle had been sold, their faithful guard dogs killed in the cruellest manner imaginable, their ponds were now filled with rotting carcasses of fishes and turtles, their flower gardens now a few unkempt bushes, their hay stacks and sacks of rice and lentils were long gone, even the household places of religious worship had disappeared, trampled down and set fire to. Nevertheless, that was their home and they were eager to return.


From the morning of June 7, the small bundles containing last of their possessions were neatly tied up and slung on their thin shoulders. Teary goodbyes were exchanged with those inmates of the camp who would have to wait their turn. Babies were adoringly cradled around the waists, thin and bony, of their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. They were going home, all 500 in the first batch from the Tekhali relief camp. Others in camps at Bhangaberia and Sher Khan Chak watched with barely-suppressed happiness that it would be their turn next. How long had they not touched the soil of the place where they had grown up for generations.


The first shock came when they saw with horror a thousand-odd save agricultural committee criminals barring their way with guns, pistols, knives, swords, scimitars, and staves. They fired volleys of warning shots — and that was enough for the poor shell-shocked inmates of the relief camps. They clutched their babies, left their remaining possessions, and ran for their lives with the Trinamul Congress men, faces covered in black clothes, shooting and chasing them, laughing and passing bantering comments all the way.


The police dared not intervene because of fear of an armed clash, for the Trinamul Congress goons were apparently prepared for such a confrontation not with the helpless relief camp refugees but with the police. The saddest of sight that we have ever witnessed was when the inmates, heads hanging down, tears streaming down from their thin faces straggled back to the relief camp and just sat there with vacant looks on their faces.


Another attempt was made by the bravest of the brave of the Tekhali camp to get back home the next day. The police were present. Nevertheless, they dared not tangle with the heavily-armed and numerically superior Trinamul-Naxalite gangsters whose ranks included marksmen. This time, the Trinamul Congress changed tactics. They remained armed and vigilant. They would not go in for frontal attacks. In addition, they would not prevent 112 ousted rural people from returning to the ruination that had been five months back their beloved places of residence. Nevertheless, abuses rained on the ousted people as they trudged warily and wearily back. A few bombs were thrown.


It was past nine in the evening when men like the tubercular Prajapati Das and women like Gita Rani Giri, carrying her sick and emaciated husband on her back, reached the Simulkundu village, their haven, and their abode of peace — once. They possessed mostly one-storied burnt-mud tiled houses that had small and what had once been neat courtyards. There had once been low bamboo-pole-made boundary fencings around which creepers grew. All were gone, all.


The inside has been cleaned out of everything, literally. Even the photos of their ancestors had been torn out and away from the walls and burnt. No utensils remained. Beds were broken up and put to the fire. All sorts of papers including Prajapati Das’s pension documents, and Gita Rani’s prize possession, a cane-made chair that she had fabricated herself, laid split into small pieces. The sighs that we heard made us tremble with a primal fear of what had taken place palpable, visibly, touchingly palpable here as in the rest of the village where people had resisted the advances of every kind of the save agricultural committee’s goons.


The attacks came later deep into the night as the villagers slumped into a trance like sleep of great relief. The villages were first surrounded by armed goons who then blocked all but one exit that led to the relief camp. Then the bombs started to be lobbed. With a murderous cry, the goons entered the villages and started to force the sleepy villagers to come out and stand in a line.


They were then beaten up mercilessly. Gita Rani was one of the worst hit with a huge and deep head injury as was her incapacitated and disabled husband. Her children were not spared. Gita later told us that on seeing more, many more of the black-clad, gun-wielding Trinamul Congress goons enter into her house and make a bid to grab at her sari, she ran out of the back door, desperately clambered up a tree (“I have never in my life had climbed up a tree, babu, believe me”) and stayed up till the morning light appeared — a period of four hours. The villagers, who could not find shelter elsewhere chose desperately to leap into the canal that runs by, swum frantically fast, clambered up the bank, ran, and then took shelter in the nearest relief camp at Sher Khan Chak.


On the other hand, and in sharp contrast, all the 20-odd Trinamul Congress supporters whose ranks included at least seven notorious criminals were allowed to return to their places of residences It is interesting to note that these worthies had fled on their own after having done their misdeeds and nobody had forced them to leave. The Trinamul Congress had said that 71 people would return home. In the event, not even two dozens turned up. Throughout the evenings and nights of June 7, 8, 9, and 10, the Trinamul goons kept up their shooting practice at villagers that had not supported the save agricultural committee’s activities.


Elsewhere in Kolkata, the Bengal Left Front praised the efforts initiated by the veteran communist leader Jyoti Basu to start the peace process, and placed a report of the Basu-Mamata discussions for the consumption of the Left Front constituents. The Bengal Left Front believes that the process will help create fresh initiative for peace at Nandigram. Peace would mean that the developmental work kept in abeyance in the period where violence reigned, would re-start.

At Nandigram this week, a landmark beginning was made in the task of commencement of development work of the Gram Panchayats (GP). Present at a meting at the office of the district magistrate of Midnapore east were the Panchayat Samity (PS) Sabhapatis of the CPI(M), of what we now call ‘occupied Nandigram area’ into which administration cannot penetrate. Braving threats, and avoiding gunfire and bombs, the Sabhapatis of Sonachura, Kalicharanpur, and Gokulnagar attended the meeting where the Zilla Sabhadhipati Niranjan Sihi of the CPI(M), too, was present as was the local block development officer (BDO).


The meeting went on for nearly three hours given the vast amount of backlog of tasks that has to be tackled. Other than Archana Bera, the CPI(M) Gram Panchayat Pradhan of Gokulnagar who would work from her office (she bravely refused to do otherwise), the others whose houses are still under occupation by the robber gangs of the Trinamul Congress and Naxalites, have been asked to work out of the Nandigram BDO office.


It was a primary sort of decision that work of village Awas Yojana, NOAPS, pension schemes, SJRY, issuance of ration cards would commence as early as possible. The work of REGA would start subsequently. Mid-day meals will be started in schools that have started to open and function but with 50 per cent students attending yet.


The violent outlook of the Trinamul Congress at Nandigram (as elsewhere in fact) was shown on June 12 when the Imam of the Jama Masjid of Delhi, Syed Ahmad Bukhari was not allowed to enter Nandigram by Trinamul-Naxalite goons. The imam later told the media that attempts were being made at Nandigram by elements of vested interests to bring about disunity and discord between communities, and that this must be stopped.