People's Democracy

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


No. 25

June 24, 2007

Trinamul-Naxalites Launch Massive Armed Assaults At Nandigram


An old refugee woman showing her house which was looted and destroyed by Trinamul goons after she returned to her village


B Prasant


RIGHT from early in the morning of June 15, a large number of gunmen belonging to the Trinamul Congress and the Naxalites attacked Khejuri and Nandigram. They burst into the relief camps, ejected out the refugees after thrashing them and looting their remaining meagre belongings, looted shops and establishments, shot at the police and finally burnt up the local police camp. In the shootout with the police, the latter were the worst sufferers. Five police personnel received bullet injuries and all of them had to be shifted to hospitals in serious condition.


At the remote Sahebnagar-Satkhand area which is situated away from the main settlements, at least one police rifle was snatched away by the miscreants. According to the refugees who have now taken shelter of sorts in the thick bushy area surrounding the Khejuri relief camps, nearly 50 shops have been looted and burnt to the ground. Hutments of nearly 30 people were razed to the ground after being looted clean. Another police camp close to Ranichak was partially gutted. The police were unable to retaliate with full strength for fear of a greater conflagration and as one police officer was clear in his mind: ‘we are engaged in action with limited initiative, especially in terms of counter-fire.’


The refugees still shaking with fear, told us about the hundreds of rounds of shots of large calibre bullets that were fired at the relief camps for at least 30 minutes. ‘It was like a rain of bullets, a rain of death,’ said one old kisan who has already been rendered homeless thrice and had on him but his worn lungi and a dirt-smeared vest. The 150-odd refugees yet in the camp when the shooting started just dropped everything, picked up the babies and the old men and women and ran into thick bushy areas that had the additional advantages of coves of thickly-leaved trees. The articles that had been painstakingly collected by the local units of the CPI (M) for the inhabitants of relief camp and that were systematically made off with, included Rs 20 thousand in cash, several kilos of rice, bags of lentils, two large trunks filled with bread, clothing, especially for women and children, books for the boys and girls, and a couple of bicycles, and a good number of umbrellas. After looting the camp, it was set on fire.


Throughout the day and the next day, gangs of armed goons numbering around two hundred roamed around the Bhangaberia locality. The same afternoon, the Trinamul-Naxalites, this time aided and abetted by Maoists gunmen attacked the Ranichak-Khejuri border villages. The principal target was the Ranichak relief camp. Again, hundreds of rounds of large-calibre bullets were fired at the camp. The remaining refugees ran out and away completely terror-struck. The refugees were joined by villagers who would not toe the save agriculture committee line, and thus one had the sad sight of a thousand odd poor kisans and the families running away from the hail of bullets as the assassins laughed and bantered the fleeing people.


The relief camp was then looted and set on fire. 50 houses nearby were looted and ransacked. Later a school was attacked and the girl students dragged out to join a Trinamul-Naxalite procession, which actually fizzled out as the main organisers, were more interested in looting houses. The girls breathed a huge sigh of relief and ran away as fast as their young legs would take them away, far away from the vandals and the murderers. Not being satisfied at the turn of events, the Naxalite section of the goons then asked the boy students to enter the nearby police chowki and try to set fire to it. Nothing transpired; as the boys were too shaky to set alight the matches they had been given. Two police jeeps were then ransacked, and one set on fire. The police chose not to be provoked.


The first instance of resistance by the relief camp inmates turning around and resisting the marauders was found during the late morning of June 18 at Nandigram. It was a difficult decision to take. The attackers, Trinamul Congress, Naxalites, and Maoists had launched a three-pronged attack in groups of two hundred-odd men each. Every attacker was armed with guns and carried satchels of bullets plus countrymade explosive devices. The first point of resistance was the Talapati canal, which was being attempted to be forded using boats strung together.


The villagers, mostly men but also a few young women came out in their thousands and merely physically blocked the marauders from landing on this side of the canal. There was a tense face-to-face confrontation for nearly a quarter of an hour. There was every chance that a massacre would ensue. Courage, raw human courage of the thin and underfed villagers, most had lost all their earthly possessions, none of them carrying even a stave, prevailed over armed might. The attackers suddenly lost their nerve; they chose to show hundreds of pairs of clean heels and ran away, as fast as they could across the swaying boats on the canal, panic-gripped for the first time since March earlier in the year. The thunderous slogans that emanated from the villagers and continued for half-an-hour reverberated across both sides of the canal.


However, elsewhere, attacks continued sporadically. The principal mode of the attackers was looting and burning of the relief camps and of hutments of CPI (M) supporters. The attackers came from Sonachura, a Trinamul stronghold and attacked villages of the Sahebnagar locality, looting and burning houses at random. The Sher Khan Chalk relief camp, or what remains of it, was again attacked, the remainder of the ousted people once more ejected and made to flee. Bombs were lobbed one after the other and as one village woman recalled, ‘we thought there was a thunderstorm approaching.’


A very recent report of the intelligence branch (IB) now submitted to the home department has revealed a horrific fact. In the attacks that the Trinamul-Naxalite-Maoists carried out on Nandigram and Khejuri, they fired on an average 200 rounds of .315 rifle and semi-automatic gun bullets each day. The total cost of the bullets fired each day would be nearly half-a-lakh of rupees. According to IB sources, the bullets of .315 calibres were somehow smuggled out of government ordnance factories at Pune, and then sold to the assailants of Nandigram through the ‘informal sector’ of gun running. The entire cache of bullets is being put together at two localities: Garchakraberia and Maheshpur. Trinamul Congress leadership visit most frequently these two places using convoys of vehicles. There is a suspicion mounting that the bullets are being supplied from Kolkata and surrounding areas. The more important question is who are the financiers behind these murderous operations being carried out by the lumpen elements of the Trinamul Congress, the Naxalites, the Maoists, and the SUCI?