People's Democracy

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


No. 46

November 18, 2007



The Refugees Return Home At Nandigram


B Prasant


THE first light of a new dawn of a mild and clear October morning has signalled the beginning of the process of normalisation of the situation at Nandigram in Midnapore east. The terror-filled days and nights when the smell of fear, and the stench of blood, were common enough phenomena, as armed killers ran riot, and the corporate media exulted, have ended, with the CPI(M) organising a ten-kilometre long double-file procession that slowly traversed the area over nearly half-a-day.


The memory of 27 comrades, men and women, brutally killed, of the hundreds of women humiliated and molested often in public, of children dying from lack of nutrition and from blocked access to medical facilities, the unhealthy condition of the relief camps as more and more people poured in to make the ranks of the displaced persons swell beyond manageable proportions, and of the dreadful torture meted out routinely to those who refused to be rendered homeless — everything was a painful past, difficult, almost impossible to erase, but for the returnees, the past was another country in another time.


The marchers every one of them was seen carrying the Red Flag. Some came out with old and faded Red festoons that they had kept carefully preserved over nights of the long knives they had passed through. The smile on the faces was back. The cheer that had left the hamlets was in place again. There was no talk of any vendetta. The way to go was forward, together.




As Gita Rani Patra, a staunch CPI(M) supporter who had roughed it out with her family at the Maoist-dominated Sonachura over the recent past, would put it: ‘the task is to get going with the sowing, cropping, and harvesting work, and we need as many hands as possible, and there is so much to do.’


They are all kisans and political distinction while acknowledged in its existence, would not hamper the process of their working towards a rich harvest, who knows, even a bumper crop, given the fine and mild weather, come January. The kisans, determined in their tenacity to face terror and live through it with a dour nonchalance, had finally won.


As the procession entered Garchakraberia and Sonachura, the two last strongholds of the Trinamul Congress and the Maoists where many a heinous crime had been committed to the drumbeat of anti-communist triumphalism, the ‘braves’ of the past months were seen running for their lives, dumping arms and ammunitions in the nearby canals and disappearing into the afforested stretches that are situated between Nandigram and the mouth of the River Ganges, but leaving behind several land mines and improved explosive devices (IED).


The receding whirr of a clutch of motor boats signalled the end of the road for the hired Maoist killers, others had left via the land route to Jharkhand earlier. The Trinamul Congress was in for a greater dismay. The usual tactics of the Maoist murderers was to use the innocent villagers, many of whom supporters of Mamata Banerjee’s local legionnaires, as the frontal shield from behind which they would shoot at the CPI(M) supporters and fire especially at those kisans working in the open agricultural fields.


The afternoon of November 11 saw a strange sight. A large number of men, women, and children including suckling babies were seen streaming into Khejuri from the nearby areas dominated by the Trinamul Congress-Maoist-Naxalite combine. In tears most of them, the villagers said they have been tortured, fines extracted from them, the women humiliated, and the men and boys beaten up very badly as a regular exercise by the Maoist goons over the past eleven months. They have also been forced to act as shields of the armed Naxalite and Maoist squads (both on March 14 when the police opened fire and routinely thereafter.) They could not, would not, take it any longer.


When on a complaint lodged with the much-maligned police by the local Trinamul Congress chieftains (suddenly finding the police to be ‘good and just’), that hundreds of their supporters had been kidnapped by the CPI(M) and taken to Khejuri, bound hand-and-foot, and the TV channels duly obliged with ‘supporting evidence,’ the local police station officers went down to Sonachura and found the ‘kidnapped’ men, women, and children, weary and hungry, siting down in a file at what remained of a community hall, on small mats as a meal of piping hot rice-lentils-boiled vegetables was ladled in heaps onto their sal leave ‘plates’ by the villagers of Khejuri.




Said Mohd Sarifullah, all of 90 years and still able to face the intransigence of the Maoists with a brave smile and an erect spine: ‘here we are being treated like visiting relatives; we are being fed; we have been given fresh sets of clothing; and we shall sleep peacefully tonight — and if you tell us to go back we will do so, but on condition that the CPI(M) workers accompany us and settle us down at our villages so that we are no longer the target of robbery, coercion, torture, beatings, and humiliation at the hands of the Trinamul Congress hoodlums.’


The state secretary of the Bengal CPI(M) Biman Basu, home early from the Polit Bureau meeting going on in Delhi, said that the first priority for the people of Nandigram, for all the people, was peace but the next task of importance was the commencement of rural development work, and ‘we want everyone to take part, to make the people of Nandigram smile in unison again.’


As we write this report having gone a-visiting to east Midnapore briefly this afternoon to savour at first hand the fresh breeze of peace, harmony, and democracy, and yes, to revel in the ambience of festivity going on at most places at Nandigram, we were told by the villagers that the festival of lights had come a day too early for the kids.


Everyday would be a day of light and of joy for the children of the poor kisans of Nandigram from now on, and they would not allow the bitter memories of the past eleven months to cloud their vision of a future of tranquillity marked by happiness for everyone.




The desperation was apparent in the violent behaviour of the Trinamul Congress the way they would not spare patient-carrying ambulances and busloads of passengers, as they tried to be the enforcers ‘with a human face’ of the successive days of bandh called by their chieftain.


State secretary of the Bengal unit of the CPI (M) noted this at a media conference at the Muzaffar Ahmad Bhavan in the later afternoon of 12 November. 1100 Trinamul Congress activists were arrested in Bengal with 33 taken into custody in Kolkata. The bandh was to start officially at 6 in the morning. However, the desperate bunch of goons of the Trinamul Congress set fire to buses at various places in Kolkata and in the districts at around 5 in the morning.


The industrial belt was as usual bustling with activity, as were the airport, the metro rail, the ports, and the large number of jute mills the state possesses. Bomb attacks on jute mills would not stop the mazdoors from trooping in for the shifts. Haldia was a-bustle as usual as were the mills and factories in the industrial zones of the districts of the state. Tea gardens workers enjoyed their traditional holiday following the festival of lights, but the tea garden offices ran as usual. The fields of agriculture hummed with harvesting activities. Offices both government and private ran albeit with marginally less employees-officers than usual.


The bandh toll included a dozen-odd badly injured, nearly ten buses torched and wrecked, and something unprecedented, an ambulance carrying a seriously ill patient was attacked, at Kalna in Burdwan district, the patient was dragged out along with her relatives, and beaten, and finally the ambulance wrecked with lathi-blows and brickbatting.


Pick-up vans for employees were systematically attacked, poured petrol on, and then torched at several places from Dharamtolla to Moulali to Tollygunj in Kolkata, and at towns like Siliguri and Raigunj in the mufussil.




Biman Basu pointed out that among the people injured by the violence unleashed by the Trinamul Congress was Baren Mitra, a district committee member of the CPI (M) of south Dinajpur. In Howrah, journalists of a Bengali daily were attacked and left wounded and bleeding. Party workers were attacked in an organised way at various places in Coochbehar, south 24 Parganas, Hooghly, and Howrah. Shopkeepers were attacked at quite a few places and shops forced to down shutters.


There was a planned disruption of the Railway services with large banana leaves thrown on the high-voltage, overhead traction wires, short-circuiting the connection; vacuum pipes were disconnected at several places rendering the engine useless. Buses, trams, taxi cabs ran but fear of attack kept some of them off the road.


The Trinamul Congress once more showed how brutal it could be as a bunch of bullies and enforcers when its workers proceeded to pour boiling milk and boiling water on a tea stall owner at Raigunj, in the same area where a government employee Pranab Das had been bombed to death during an earlier Trinamul-called bandh. PWD offices were wrecked at places like Itahar, and government employee left with bleeding injuries. A BDO of Baruipur was assaulted and injured, concluded Biman Basu.


Responding to questions and comments of the media at the conference, Biman Basu said that an NDA team could very well go to Nandigram where the people were in the process of rebuilding their lives that had been rudely disrupted: ‘anyone visiting Nandigram should help the process and not do anything that would provoke reactions,’ was Biman Basu’s cryptic comment.




Responding to a reported statement made out of a meeting of the CPI, RSP, and Forward Bloc that the ‘CPI (M) alone is responsible for the happenings at Nandigram,’ and to which the media persons drew his attention for comments, Biman Basu said that it was true that only the CPI(M) men and women were killed at Nandigram. Biman Basu listed the names of the 27 CPI(M) workers killed there this year.


Biman Basu said that the reported statement could have mentioned the manner in which the Trinamul Congress and its adjutants had over the past eleven months pushed people out of the two blocks Nandigram and how they had forced them to become refugees in their own homeland. Biman Basu said that he would subsequently discuss the issue at a meeting of the Left Front. He would also hold if necessary bi-partite or tri-partite talks with the LF constituents. The CPI (M) leader also called upon the Trinamul Congress to come up a list of its men women that it claimed to have been killed at Nandigram this year.