People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
November 25, 2007
Left Protests NHRC Chairman's Statements
Sitaram Yechury, D Raja, Basudev Acharya, Gurudas Dasgupta, Brinda Karat and Md Salim, members of parliament, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, representing CPI(M) and CPI have submitted the following memorandum to the chairman National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on November 20 regarding his statements on Nandigram.
THIS is to draw your kind attention to statements attributed to you, which have appeared in almost all the national dailies that “Nandigram and Godhra were severe assaults on the face of democracy. They were the worst scars on the face of the nation. It is shameless (sic) to see that human rights were violated in such a way”. The PTI (November 19) further reports: “He said the NHRC was committed to protect the rights of the people, who were victims of “opportunist” politics in both the states…Justice Babu said he will talk to Bengal chief secretary to assess the situation in Nandigram”.
We would like to register our strong protest against these statements. Such statements were made even before speaking to the West Bengal chief secretary, without waiting for the report of the State Human Rights Commission or the report of the NHRC team which is at present in Nandigram. Any citizen of the country has the right to express his or her opinion on any issue, but as the head of an institution like the NHRC it is expected that all facts should be verified before such an indictment is made of a state government. The minimum requirement is to give the state government a hearing. By not doing so we regret to say that your statement shows bias and prejudice and we apprehend that it will influence any report by the institution you head.
We would like to point out how the then chairperson of NHRC had acted following the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002, which you have referred to. The chairperson came out with his observations on the State-sponsored pogrom in Gujarat only after thoroughly verifying the facts. He visited Gujarat in person, held a long meeting with the Gujarat chief minister and his officials, heard all the parties involved and only then issued a statement. Unfortunately you have not done so; violating even the minimum norms of functioning of an institution like the NHRC; indicting the state government without giving them an opportunity to be heard.
We would like to put on record our objection to the comparison you have sought to make between Nandigram and Gujarat. Gujarat witnessed the worst communal violence the country has ever witnessed since independence. Over 2000 innocent people were killed in Gujarat in a State-sponsored pogrom against Muslims; scores of women were raped, the whole state was witness to loot, plunder, burning of houses and destruction of crores of rupees worth of property; over 100 religious places and burial grounds of Muslims were destroyed, police reports were not filed, lakhs were driven from their homes. Even today, thousands of victims of the communal violence in Gujarat remain displaced, waiting for justice, which has eluded them for over five years. Superficial comparisons with Nandigram tend to undermine and trivialise the trauma and the suffering of the Muslim minorities in Gujarat.
Nandigram developments are a result of a clear political conspiracy to capture territory by an alliance of parties who have been rejected in the elections by the people who have used the poor as hostages in their plan. You must be aware that for the past 11 months the administration and the police were not allowed inside Nandigram. Heinous crimes were committed during that period but no action could be taken against the criminals. Over 3500 poor people, comprising of dalits, Muslims, agricultural workers and artisans were forcibly evicted from their homes. Development work under the panchayats was brought to a standstill and all educational institutions were closed. Under the patronage of the BUPC (Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee) armed Maoists infiltrated into the area and together they carried out systematic attacks against Left supporters. 27 Left activists and supporters have been killed in Nandigram since January 2007. Huge caches of arms and ammunition including IEDs, detonators, guns etc. have been recovered by the CRPF since they started patrolling the area on November 12. Are you aware sir that the Maoists have brutally killed 3 CPI(M) workers in the last week. We are sure that the NHRC will be concerned about such violence, which amounts to brazen violation of human rights.
You must be aware that as far as the issue of land acquisition is concerned the state government had declared as early as February 2007 that the proposed chemical hub would not be located in Nandigram and therefore there was no question of land acquisition. In spite of that the blockade by the BUPC continued. The state government and the district administration have made every effort to resolve the issues through dialogue and discussion with the opposition parties and the BUPC. Repeated appeals were made to restore normalcy, allow the administration to function in the area and to allow the 3500 odd displaced people to return to their homes. But the pleas were not heeded. In desperation the refugees took the decision to go back to their homes. In the ensuing clashes, according to police reports, 4 were killed according to number of bodies recovered and 4 have been killed in mine blasts. One complaint of gangrape has been made and the police have immediately registered the case and are conducting an investigation. The government has clearly stated that in all such cases the strictest action will be taken.
Since November 12, when the CRPF could be deployed and the police and district administration could enter Nandigram, the violence could be stopped and steps could be taken to restore normalcy. A large number of BUPC supporters who had fled from the villages initially, have already returned home.
We have great respect for the NHRC, which has played a vital role in our democracy, by impartially inquiring into cases of human rights violations and fixing responsibility for the same. In the case of Nandigram, we expect the NHRC to go into the entire series of events, which started from January 2007 and fix responsibility for all instances of human rights violations. We hope that you would kindly reconsider the statements made on Nandigram and take a more balanced and impartial view on the matter.