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The king of the damned

 

Buddhadeb bhattacharya'sforces are again stirring the waters; is this waterloo?
RITA TIWARI | Issue Dated: May 13, 2007
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The king of the damned What is similar to Nandigram and Vietnam? Notwithstanding the geographical distance between the two, you can hear people in West Bengal comparing Nandigram with Vietnam and Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya with an American General. The past Sunday's violence only served to accentuate the tension in the already tense region and the next day was no different. In Chandipur, 25 km from Nandigram, the tension is thick enough to lean on. A senior police officer advised TSI against going to Nandigram, saying the situation is 'not good’. A little farther, the CPI(M) and the Trinamool Congress workers offer similar advice. While TSI proceeded, ignoring them, we realise that maybe it would have been better to have listened to them.

Chemical hub (for the SEZ) is not an issue any longer. The turf has changed. Now the fight is for political supremacy. The usually overcrowded bus stand resembles a mortuary. Shops and houses are closed, barring a few scared faces peeping out of windows to get a view of what's going on outside.

Nandigram looks like a battlefield. The road has been blocked every 100 metres and there are freshly cut trees or branches to obstruct vehicular movement. All this prompts the question: why shouldn’t Nandigram be compared to Vietnam? The air is full of revenge, anger and fear. People are too apprehensive to talk about the latest incident. Khejuri’s Shashidhar Mandal says that this is war of control between the CPI(M) and the Trinamool. There is a large element of truth in this.

When activists led by the Trinamool Congress and Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh began agitating against the acquisition of land for industrialisation, and when the movement started to grow in strength in the area, more than 2,500 workers of the CPI(M) were forced to leave the area. Now, they want to come back and the state administration is helping them. This is the cause of fighting.

The anti-SEZ activists are opposing their return. According to them, if the CPI(M) members return, they would certainly convince the locals to give away their land. The reasoning sounds fallacious because Bhattacharya has already committed that there would be no SEZ in the area. Then how come this is a cause of conflict? It is clear that the issue has ceased to be purely about land or industrialisation. It has become a prestige issue for the political parties. Dinipur district’s MLA, Shishir Adhikari of the Trinamool Congress says that during the previous elections, the total number of undivided votes against the Left in the area were 62%. The Left wants to control the area with the rest 38%. Officials say that the issue has transformed into one of self defence. The CPI(M)’s district secretary alleges that the Trinamool is merely trying to make political capital and is using the land question as a pretext. Nandigram’s MLA, Mohammad Ilyasi of CPI, who defied party line and joined the militants, was assaulted by the same hands who helped him win elections in the first place. The king of the damned It is important for the Trinamool to build a strong base in Nandigram. Someshwar from the village says that after establishing themselves here, the Trinamool is eyeing Khejuri – a CPI(M) stronghold. The Trinamool also has an eye on the Haldia region. Following this strategy, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee has shifted her proposed rally on 21 May at Kolkata’s Brigadier ground to the Haldia region. Someshwar of Nandigram says that people are still unable to sleep at night, so palpable is the fear. A number of people are fleeing from the area, leaving behind their land and belongings. Mohammad Irfan, who left Nandigram for Haldia, says that it is important to be safe first.

While the 14 March incident made it clear that CPI(M) workers were also involved in the violence along with the police, the latest incident proved beyond any doubt that CPI(M) cadres also have a large amount of ammunition at their disposal.

Nandigram’s geographical location makes it ideal for conflicts. There is no way to reach Nandigram except for a narrow 25-km-long stretch from Chandipur or else, one would have to cross the Haldia river. The police has to support the CPI(M) because of administrative compulsions, but even they do not have the courage to enter the village. The state home minister, Prasad Ranjan Roy, has said that the police has been instructed to 'be patient’. They do not want a repeat of 14 March.

Bhattacharya held a high-level meeting and took stock of the situation. This meeting in turn called for an all-party meeting. He has already asked the opposition to stop their boycott. But it has had no effect on the Congress and the Trinamool. After the latest incident, Governor Gopal Krishan Gandhi had a word with Bhattacharya, even as the opposition bayed for the chief minister’s resignation.

The Trinamool blocked roads throughout the state. The CPI(M) has also declared demonstrations across the state protesting against the killings in Nandigram. The earlier violence was restricted to Block 1 of Nandigram, but the fresh violence happened in Block 2. It is in Block 2 that the workers of CPI(M), who had to leave earlier, were trying to return to and that is what triggered off the violence.

Mamata Banerjee says that the steps taken by the government show its double standards. On one hand, they call for an all party meeting and on the other, they use violence to ensure the return of its workers. The state working president of the Congress, Pradeep Bhattacharya, says that the government will have to prove first that they really want peace in the area. Banerjee has given a detailed account of the fresh incidents to the President and the Prime Minister, asking for their urgent intervention.

The CPI(M)'s patriach and former Chief Minister, Jyoti Basu, says that the 2,500 displaced workers of the party are also human beings and they have full right to return to their homes. He admitted that the Nandigram situation is quite tense right now and it will take a while to get normal. Maybe with his vast political experience, Basu realises that Nandigram has indeed taken the shape of Vietnam where the spiral of violence does not seem to end.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017