People's Democracy

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


No. 48

December 02, 2007



The Truth Of Nandigram


INTERVENING in the debate on the issues related to Nandigram and the SEZ policy Mohd Salim speaking on behalf of the CPI(M) clarified right in the beginning that the CPI(M) is opposed to the SEZ policy of the central government. This policy needs to be amended along with the land acquisition act, and the new rehabilitation policy shold be brought into effect.


Referring to Nandigram Mohd Salim clarified that the chief minister of West Bengal had announced in a public meeting in East Midnapore on February 9 that there was no proposal to set up a SEZ in Nandigram. However, what happened in Nandigram is really tragic and regrettable because those who have died there were all poor villagers and farmers and it does not matter which party they belonged to. Salim pointed that he and his party was interested in a dispassionate discussion on the issues relating to SEZ, the land acquisition and development questions, and the issues arising from the policy of globalisation.


Salim said that the foremost problem in Nandigram was that for the last 11 months the opposition has maintained that they will not attend any all-party meeting. Tracing the history of the development there, Salim pointed out that a propaganda was unleashed that the meetings by panchayat and gram sabha were for land acquisition. It is well known that panchayat does not acquire land. As per the proper procedure according to the land acquisition act it is the district collector who has to issue a notification for acquisition. This false propaganda reached such a pitch that the elected representatives of the people, the local MLA, who incidentally belongs to CPI and the local MP were not allowed to enter those villages. Not only that, the area was made out of bounds for the central government representatives, MP, MLA, police, or any other administrative official. Salim pointed that the dangers in such a situation where the party that has lost in a election can declare that the elected representatives cannot enter an area and even use violence and physical force to enforce the same.


Mohd Salim discussed the case of death of Sankar Samant who was murdered, his body was dismembered, his house was burnt. His only fault was that he was an elected member of the CPI(M) to the local panchayat. A “fact finding” team later said that he was a proclaimed murderer and a terror in the area and one Sheikh Salim was attacked in his house. Salim pointed out that the fact of the mater is that Sheikh Salim’s house is 15 km away from Sankar Samant’s residence. This culture of violence to settle political differences is dangerous, Salim pointed out.


Salim drew that attention of the house to the Anand Bazar Patrika editorial of January 6, which pointed out that the pattern of violence suggested the presence of naxalities in the incident.


Mohd Salim pointed out that despite a public declaration that there will be no land acquisition in Nandigram, the BUPC comprising TMC, a few Congress men, Jamait e Ulema e Hind, three kinds of SUCI, 22 factions of naxalites and a few independent locals, declared that nobody from outside including law enforcing agencies can enter the area. Even a meeting was organised and it was declared that no one can enter the area without the help of Congress, TMC or Jamait.


The incidents of March 14 are tragic and regrettable. When one block was declared out of bounds for two to two and a half thousand CPI(M) supporters alongwith police and other government functionaries including teachers, police decided to go in. This was also a question of human rights. It is being said that around 400 to 500 people, supporters of BUPC, are now outside their houses, Salim pointed out that they had as much right to go to their homes and families. The decision to send police on March 14 was taken after several all party meetings were held which were unfortunately boycotted by Congress and TMC. On March 10, at an all party meeting with the district collector where only BJP participated, it was decided that culverts and roads will be repaired and the public works personnel will go under police protection. This is the background of the March 14 incidents.


Salim then drew the attention of the house to be involvement of the naxalites in Nandigram. The home minister had said in a statement in this house on March 13, 2006:


“The Naxalite movement continues to persist in terms of spatial spread, intensity of violence, militarisation and consolidation, ominous linkages with subversive or secessionist groups and increased efforts to elicit mass support. The naxalites operate in vacuum created by absence of administrative and political institutions, espouse the local demands and take advantage of the disenchantment prevalent among the exploited segments of the population….”


Amidst interruptions, Salim said that even L K Advani when he was home minister and later prime minister Manmohan Singh and national security advisor have drawn attention to the problem of naxalite violence. The national security advisor told media on board the prime minister's special aircraft while going to Moscow:


“The Maoists said at their 9th Congress that wherever there is an opportunity they will get in. I think this is one area (Nandigram) that they have entered. Some of the violence can be attributed to Maoists... I am deeply concerned about the role of Maoists in the simmering conflict at Nandigram in West Bengal.. It is a matter of concern for both the government of India and the government of West Bengal. Delhi is concerned. Kolkata is also deeply concerned. The idea is to ensure that no more lives are lost and those who have been driven out and blocked from returning to their homes can do so with minimum violence and casualties”.


And the prime minister had said in his speech on April 13, 2006:


“It would not be an exaggeration to say that the problem of naxalism is the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country. I have been carefully listening to all of you and I have also interacted separately….”


Salim then drew the attention of the house to Mamata Banerjee’s statements in Bankura and Tejpur wherein she had said if CPI(M) cannot be defeated through elections then Maoists help should be sought to remove them by force.


In view of this, Salim said one should rise above partisan considerations and face the challenge posed by Maoists violence. Referring to Advani’s visit Salim said, while people have been visiting Nandigram during March and November but in between no one cared when 2500 CPI(M) supporters were homeless and 27 CPI(M) workers were killed.


The bandh called by the Maoists and the leaflets issued by the Maoists in Bangla clearly proved the involvement of Maoists in the happenings of Nandigram. All the newspapers are reporting that landmines and AK-47s are being found.


During the period from March to September when the local CPI MLA visited the place, he was beaten up and had to be hospitalised.


Mohd Salim quoted a government of India document on 'How to tackle naxalites' which said “Political parties must strengthen their cadre base in naxal affected areas so that the potential youth there can be weaned away from the path of the naxalite ideology.”


Mohd Salim added that while it is true that there was anger against the perceived policy of land acquisition, the naxalites wanted to use it to establish a “liberated zone”. He said that the government of West Bengal had asked for central forces on October 27, 2007, knowing fully well that any use of police force was not to the liking of some of the Left allies and all party intellectuals. The CPI(M) had been exercising patience and restraint in the belief that misconceptions based rumors and half truths will be removed with the passage of time. But arms and ammunitions were being used to keep a hold on people when they started realising the truth. The Indian Express of November 3, had written “It is official now. The Maoists have taken control of the Nandigram, the East Midnapore block that has witnessed violence…. Initially, Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress had taken charge of what began as a spontaneous movement…….”


Mohd Salim said that the home ministry informed the government of West Bengal on November 5 that CRPF was not available because of elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. The chief minister talked to the home minister and the external affairs minister requesting them to send CRPF because the state police was not even equipped to handle the sophisticated arms and the land mines with people who had laid a seige to Nandigram.


Mohd Salim said that now people are gradually realising what actually happened in Nandigram despite a barrage of false propaganda.


In the end Mohd Salim made a fervent appeal not to communalise the issue. Admitting that some mistakes were committed because of which the issue has become so controversial, Salim again appealed not to make it an issue of narrow partisan politics or an issue between Hindus and Muslims.


He concluded by quoting Rabindranath Tagore:


“Let me not grope in vain, in the dark, but keep my mind still in the faith that the day will break and truth will appear in its simplicity.”