February 12, 2014

Nandigram Myths Decoded: CBI Calls the Bluff

By Nilotpal Basu

HISTORY is cruel; in its own way, it squares up the truth. Seven years back, a rural tract in West Bengal – Nandigram – shot to prominence.  It resonated across the country. The cyber world took it beyond the national boundary and drew international attention. Political observers attributed electoral nemesis of the three decade electoral sway of the Left to the developments in Nandigram.  Nandigram was seen as the ‘diabolical’ anti-peasant face of the Left in Bengal. And overall, it contributed to undermine the credibility of the Indian Left.

What was the background of the unfortunate developments that unfolded in Nandigram in the early days of 2007?  The government of West Bengal in its attempt to industrialize the state had zeroed in on the Petroleum Investment Region scheme mooted by the central government; taking advantage of incentives of the scheme to facilitate the petroleum investment hub where Nandigram would be the core. The requirement for the scheme was a large amount of land.  The locational advantage of Nandigram was its proximity to port city Haldia and existing oil refinery and petro-chemical complex. These existing facilities provided important infrastructure to locate the petroleum investment zone. That agricultural land in Nandigram suffered from salinity, forcing people to migrate for work was another factor which weighed in favour of developing industrial activities in the region.

However, the decision of Left Front government did not find major support from the people. A major factor which affected the mood of the people was the lack of communication. The comprehensive consultative exercise which ought to have helped galvanise popular opinion for industrial activity failed to fructify. And this communication deficit was compounded by a tendentious propaganda blitz by the opposition. A rainbow coalition emerged to oppose acquisition of land for the project.

Taking advantage of the uncertainty that emerged, the broad platform virtually took physical control over the proposed project land. The platform took to violence; digging up roads and blowing up bridges, the entire area went out of the writ of the state government. The law and order situation became captive to these forces. Several killings ensured that discourse on the industrialization agenda could not reach the people. Discussion and debate towards any informed conclusion was the casualty.  


It was a catch-22 situation for the state government. Given the broad opposition to the project and the related issue of land acquisition, it became clear that without concurrence of people, it was impossible to go ahead with the project; notwithstanding its importance in the overall context of the industrialization agenda. Thus, between January and March 2007, atmosphere of uncertainty and anarchy prevailed in the area.  In February itself, the state government and the chief minister announced that there will be no land acquisition against wishes of the people.  But despite that, the opposition was unrelenting and carried on their violent and lawless ways making the area incommunicado to the state government. The state government was found helpless in ensuring the right of the entrapped citizens. 

And, this was the backdrop of 14th March 2007. A police party which entered the area to restore communication to re-establish rule of law was confronted with. The consequent unfortunate police firing and related incidents resulted in the loss of 14 persons; widespread condemnation against ‘forcible acquisition’ followed.

Nandigram became the symbol around which opposition to the Left government galvanized.  From Maoists on the Left to communal forces of all hues on the Right combined. With TMC spearheading the opposition, its supremo and present chief minister Mamata Banerjee shot into national fame. She became the icon of the anti-Left forces not only nationally but also internationally. Those who were pathologically opposed to the Left catapulted her to lead against hitherto electorally invincible Left; so much so, that she featured on the cover of Time magazine.

Ironically, the Left in India, which had been in the forefront of the struggle for agrarian reforms and land redistribution, was shown as having betrayed that legacy. The overall neo-liberal policy environment featuring large-scale takeover of agricultural land by corporate sharks came to be equated with what happened in Nandigram on the 14th of March. 

Of course, there have been several reasons which led to the setback of the Left in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and assembly elections in 2011; but Nandigram was widely seen as the trigger which set out the course for undermining the credibility of the Left. 

Much as they attempted to explain their approach, the Left failed in getting its message across. Even before the Left Front government could order any independent probe into the firing on 14th March, the Kolkata High Court, at the insistence of the opposition, ordered a CBI probe.


Finally, the propaganda blitz that led to institution of CBI probe has come full circle. On 18th December 2013, the CBI, after almost seven years of investigation, filed a chargesheet before the court.  The findings could not be any greater indictment of the then opposition led by TMC and its mercurial leader Mamata Banerjee. The CBI findings completely vindicate what the Left government had contended at that point of time.

The CBI chargesheet reveals – “Investigation has disclosed that efforts were made by the district administration and the police officers to normalize the situation in Nandigram. Many meetings were organized between the administration, leaders of the opposition parties and BUPC”; Bhumi Uchhhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) being the umbrella organisation spearheaded by the TMC which led the agitation in Nandigram. But, the CBI has now opined that –“However, there was no visible improvement in the law and order situation which remained out of control for the District Civil and Police administration”.

Detailing about how bad the situation was between January and March, 2007, the chargesheet states -“During this period at least 56 FIRs were registered at Nandigram and Khejuri police stations relating to violence, arson, loot and murder etc. The period also witnessed death of 11 persons and injuries to at least 25 persons due to these clashes. A police Sub Inspector namely Sadhu Charan Chatterjee was kidnapped and killed by the mob, police jeeps were burnt and police weapons were looted. The cases registered could not be investigated by the local police as the local police were unable to enter into the villages during this period”.

The chargesheet comprehensively calls the bluff that the police entry was ‘clandestine’. The chargesheet categorically states that - “On 12.03.2007, the state home secretary briefed the press, in which he informed them about the proposed police action in Nandigram”. Subsequently, “it was decided that the police operation would be conducted on 14.03.2007 at three places in Nandigram”.

The firing was ‘after all attempts to disperse the crowd’ who blocked the police entry through requests over PA system, lathicharge, firing of tear gas and firing in the air ‘failed’.

The chargesheet also nails down the claim that there were hundreds of people killed, with gory charges of children and women being torn apart and their bodies smuggled out. The chargesheet categorically points out that ‘opposition consciously spread rumours’ and ‘organised armed men’ to take on police which led to the unfortunate firing.  As if to add salt to injury, the CBI rejected the plea of the TMC that the political leadership of the Left was responsible.  In fact, despite these findings, the current state government and the chief minister has refused to allow CBI to proceed against police and civil officials whom they found to violate some procedures, insisting that Left leadership must be investigated.

The CBI is no ‘holy cow’. Neither has it done anything spectacular to erase the impression that it is not insulated from political interference having earned the description of ‘caged parrot’.  But, TMC and Ms Banerjee have forgotten that for almost six and a half years during which the CBI was carrying out its investigation, it was they who were in company with the ruling Congress – both in the state and the centre.  The state government had every opportunity to inform CBI towards an ‘informed conclusion’ in course of last almost three years; not to forget that this CBI investigation on firing in Nandigram was essentially at their own behest. 

Therefore, it is an irony that truth has finally come through the CBI chargesheet. Those who had chronicled contemporary events during that period will hopefully revisit conclusions that they had drawn on Nandigram – and, more importantly, on the Left and its intentions.

WEST BENGAL LEFT FRONT’S Month long Massive Campaign

Kolkata: THE CPI(M) and Left Front unleashed a massive campaign on peoples’ issues for more than a month in West Bengal. Left Front called for the campaign from 3rd January to 3rd February, which got a huge response from the people. The campaign focused on the restoration of democracy, immediate halt to atrocities against women, against price rise, fair prices for peasants, defending the rights of the workers, punishment of the chit fund fraudsters, against anarchy in educational institutions. The campaign also stressed on the consequences of anti-people policies of the centre and the threats of communal and disruptive forces.

At one level, the campaign was organized in intensive manner, reaching to people through door to door contact. Block and district level joint conventions of the mass organizations were organized. At the other level, mass mobilizations took place either at district or local-zonal level.

Last one month witnessed massive rallies in districts, breaking barriers of terror and intimidation by ruling party, signifying an assertion by the people. The huge gathering on 8th January in Kolkata by CPI(M) North 24 Parganas district committee  helped to build up confidence of the Left workers throughout the state. A huge rally in Coochbehar was addressed among others by Manik Sarkar, the chief minister of Tripura. In Burdwan district, massive gatherings took place in terror-stricken areas of Memari, Raina, Ketugram, followed by one of the biggest gatherings in recent memory in industrial town of Durgapur. In Raina, no buses or vehicles were allowed to carry CPI(M) supporters but the people defied it with huge processions, walking into the meeting ground carrying red flags. In Ketugram, where many CPI(M) activists were murdered, the first meeting of CPI(M) took place in 32 months. In Durgapur, workers from the steel, metal industries and coal mines flooded the rally ground. In Medinipur town, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee addressed a mammoth gathering , attended by thousands from severely terror-stricken areas of Jangalmahal and other areas of West Medinipur district. Baharampur town of Murshidabad witnessed a rally of unprecedented participation. Surjyakanta Misra addressed the rally.

South 24 Parganas district organized 30 public meetings throughout the district. The last two meetings were addressed by Sitaram Yechury in Diamond Harbour and Jadavpur.

Apart from that, the state witnessed continuous protest actions against the atrocities on women, with road blocks and demonstrations. Sutdents and youth hit the streets protesting large scale corruption in primary teachers’ selection examination. In Kolkata, on 22nd January, two separate processions marched towards downtown and blocked Esplanade.

This one-month campaign ascended to its peak with the call of Brigade Rally, scheduled on 9th February. Hundreds of meetings took place in every corner of the state, in front of factories, in tea gardens, in rural marketplaces, in busy streets of towns. In almost all districts, Left activists went door to door with pamphlets, appeals.

Primary Teachers Recruitment Scam in West Bengal

KOLKATA: IN another shocking scam, millions of primary teacher aspirants were deceived in West Bengal when it was exposed that most of the ‘successful’ candidates were recommended by ruling party leaders. In fact, candidates were recruited like party volunteers with all norms and decency abandoned.

The West Bengal Primary Education Board declared TET result on November 23, 2013 which showed only 1.07% of those who appeared in the examination have crossed the bar.  Though 35,000 posts were reported to be officially vacant, only a small proportion of those who sat in the examination were declared passed. Primarily it was 55 lakhs of people reported to have applied for TET examination. Suddenly it was officially announced that 45 lakhs of applications have been received. Finally it was further announced that just 17, 72,000 thousand people appeared in TET examination where only 18,792 people were qualified in TET. Now, it has come to light that the list was prepared by the ruling party leaders. The so-called ‘analysis’ was done in Trinamool Bhaban in Kolkata. The list contained the names of relatives, close aids of the TMC MLAs, leaders and hardcore TMC activists. TMC MLA of Kalna has been able to squeeze his eight family members in the list. TMC MLA of Kulpi has done almost a similar trick. In almost all districts, the relatives of district TMC leaders have found place in the list. It has been admitted by South 24 Parganas District Primary Council chief that the list has been scrutinised and recommended by TMC leaders Mukul Roy, Partha Chatterjee and Madan Mitra.

It has been widely reported that these recruitments have been done in exchange of huge bribes, paid to ruling party leaders.

The scam has angered students and youths and protest rallies were organised throughout the state. From north to south districts of the state many protest rallies and meetings demanded immediate resignation of the education minister. The DYFI has organised a militant protest in front of Primary Education Council.

Lavpur Gang Rape: Ruling Party’s Khap Panchayat is the Culprit

Kolkata, 22nd January, 2014: The brutal gang-rape of a tribal girl in Lavpur in Birbhum district has exposed not only the deterioration of law and order in the state, but also how the rural Bengal has come under savage rule of Trinamool Congress.

The incident took place on January 21, in Subalpur village. It is a shocking incident where a kangaroo court was summoned to decide on the fate of the girl who had an affair with a boy of another community. The so-called ‘arbitration court’ asked for a hefty fine for the ‘crime’. As the family of the girl declared their inability to pay the ransom, an ‘order’ was passed to rape the girl. Some 12 to 13 people raped the girl in the village itself. The medical test also proved that the girl was indeed gang-raped.

As the details began to come to light, it was proved that the signatories to the order of the ‘fine’ included local Trinamool panchayat member, a non-tribal. Two other TMC leaders were also involved in the crime, both of whom were non-tribal. Ajoy Mondal, the panchayat member feigned ignorance until his signatures were exposed in the media. Another TMC leader, Debraj Mondal reportedly used his video to shoot the crime. It was not an “adivasi practice” at all, but the handiwork of a gang of criminals, using the fake and unjust ‘arbitration’.

In a typically Mamata-administration’s way of handling atrocities against the women, the police did not seek the remand of 13 accused even after arresting them. In the process, very important medical tests of the culprits and other necessary details were skipped. With huge condemnation of the act, the chief minister ordered the transfer of the district police superintendent and police was forced to appeal to court again to take the accused into their remand. Meanwhile, in a suo moto action, the Supreme Court has ordered the Birbhum district judge to conduct an enquiry of his own and submit report to the apex court.

The incident, coming only weeks after the gruesome murder of a rape victim in Madhyamgram, sparked a spontaneous protest in the state. AIDWA, DYFI, SFI, CITU and other organisations protested through road blockades and rallies throughout the state.

A Left Front delegation led by the leader of the opposition Surya Kanta Misra went to see the raped girl at the Siuri Hospital. Mishra talked with the victim and her mother and then met the hospital superintendent. The delegation also visited Subalpur village. Misra lamented that the Panchayat administration of West Bengal, for which the state was known to the researchers from all across the country and even overseas, for which the state was proud of, has now turned in to the ‘Khap’ Panchayat of the ruling Trinamool Congress. He said that there is no other instance of such brutality in the history of this state.

Left Front chairman and CPI(M) state secretary Biman Basu has condemned the incident and has demanded exemplary punishment for the miscreants. He said the security and honour of the women in the state has been trampled. It seems that the state was moving towards the medieval era. The All India Democratic Women’s Organisation has also condemned this brutal barbaric act. Besides demanding justice, they said there was not a single day in West Bengal without any incident of atrocity on women taking place. They have demanded security arrangement for the tribal woman and her family members. 

AIDWA Demands Action in the Gang-Rape case of Adivasi Girl

The following is the press statement issued by the All India Democratic Women’s Association on January 23:

It is shocking that not a day passes in West Bengal without one or the other incident of violence against women. The latest incident has taken place in Labhpur, Birbhum on January 21, when a 20 year-old adivasi girl from the village of Rajrampur was abducted and gang-raped by 12 persons from the same village as she had dared to have a relationship with a non-tribal boy. This was done after a kangaroo-court called apparently by some village elders sought to extract a fine of Rs 50,000 from the girl’s family for this supposed offence, and the family pleaded their inability to pay the same. The couple were reportedly brought before the kangaroo-court bound hand and foot and even after the boy pleaded that he wanted to marry the girl, the perpetrators ignored him and gave the verdict for the girl to be raped as a punishment by those present. She was dragged to an adjoining room and attacked by a number of persons from her own village, and left severely injured in front of her house. The next day she went with her mother and lodged an FIR at Labhpur Thana, after which she was admitted to the PHC and then shifted to Siuri District Hospital. The police have so far arrested 11 persons on the basis of the FIR. The AIDWA has led a deputation to the SP and several protest rallies have been conducted against the growing atmosphere of insecurity, especially for women in West Bengal.

Although some arrests have been made in this particular case, it is necessary that the administration makes immediate arrangements for the full security of the survivor and her family. All the perpetrators and instigators must be arrested and a proper investigation conducted.  It is increasingly the case in several districts of West Bengal including Birbhum that there is a growing atmosphere of violence, with gangs of armed anti-socials taking the law in their own hands. This is because many of them enjoy the political patronage of the ruling party, as a result of which the police and the administration turn a blind eye to them. Consequently, lawlessness has been increasing at all levels, since there is now a feeling that such crimes can go unpunished. The AIDWA expresses its grave concern about the situation, and stands by all those who are victims of the growing crimes against women in the state. 

SFI Leader Brutally Killed

Kolkata, 21st January, 2014: SFI leader Saifuddin Mollah was brutally murdered in Baruipur, South 24 Parganas district on 19th January. Saifuddin, a post graduate student,  was the president of Baruipur 2 rural local committee of SFI and was returning to his home in Sitakundu Bazar from a public meeting addressed by Suryakanta Mishra, the leader of opposition in the West Bengal assembly. He was forcibly kidnapped by Trinamool Congress goons and taken to a secluded place. He was mercilessly beaten, the entire body showed signs of savage torture. The news of his kidnapping reached to his family also and his brother rushed out to search for him. He even reached to the spot but was cordoned by the TMC assassins. Saifuddin was severely injured and was craving for a drop of water. But his brother was not allowed to do so. Meanwhile, the police was informed but they reached to the spot almost after two hours. Police brought Saifuddin to hospital where he was declared ‘brought dead’.

Saifuddin Mollah was the son of a poor family; he supported his studies by teaching in a local coaching centre. He was very popular among the school students at the centre. A well-behaved and always available for social work, Saifuddin was a popular figure in the area. He was a member of CPI(M). He was only 23.

This murder once again brought the memory of SFI leader Sudipta Gupta, who faced death in police custody on 02nd April, 2013. Sudipta was taken into custody when SFI organised a militant demonstration demanding holding of students’ union elections in the state.

Saifuddin Mollah was killed at a time when an all-out attack is being perpetrated against SFI in West Bengal. Elections to students’ unions are taking place in the state. In most of the colleges, TMC has not allowed any opposition organisation to contest. SFI activists were attacked, beaten mercilessly in many colleges in Kolkata, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Hooghly, Nadia, Siliguri, South Dinajpur, Maldaha. TMC goons, with active support from police, have virtually seized the colleges and universities and SFI could contest only after bloodshed wherever possible.

Suryakanta Misra went to meet the family of Saifuddin on the next day. He was accompanied by CPI(M) district secretary Sujan Chakraborty, Party leaders Abdur Rezzak Mollah, Kanti Ganguly and others. The parents of the martyr broke down and asked whether attending a CPI(M) rally is a crime! In fact, the entire village raised the same question. The young students of the coaching centre were seen crying and lamented that now their dear teacher has been murdered they would be rendered orphan. Misra went to the coaching centre and assured that the studies would be continued. CPI(M) will help in maintaining the centre.

SFI and DYFI organised a protest march in Kolkata and blocked the main thoroughfare of the city. SFI all India general secretary Ritabrata Banerjee was present in the march.  A protest day was observed throughout the state on 21st January.

The central executive committee of SFI in a statement  condemned the killing and said, this incident reflects the perils that democracy today finds itself in the state of West Bengal. Since the 2011 assembly elections 143 left supporters and activists have been killed. Resistance to the attacks on the democratic rights and civil liberties of citizens in the state has become important for ensuring democracy throughout the country.

SFI Protests Bengal Comrade’s Murder

The CEC of SFI also expressed solidarity with the brave and heroic struggles students in Bengal. On January 21, the Dehradun district unit of the Students Federation of India (SFI) took out a procession in the city, the capital town of Uttarakhand, in protest against the brutal murder of Comrade Saifuddin Mollah of the SFI in West Bengal, and burnt an effigy of the Bengal chief minister Ms Mamata Banerjee in the DBS College grounds. It was the Trinamool goons who attacked Comrade Mollah with sticks and clubs and thus murdered him. The SFI has demanded the resignation of the Mamata Banerjee government that has patronised the attacks on SFI and other democratic organisations in the past as well.