Nandigram (West Bengal) : Shootouts, bombings and arson between rival groups continued in parts of Nandigram Wednesday, three days after the death of a person plunged the trouble-torn area in West Bengal into fresh turmoil.
Eyewitnesses said women and children were fleeing villages in large numbers to escape death and brutality. TV footage from the area showed people leaving villages while masked men fired at each other.
“We have heard that some people entered a village called Takapura, an area so far unaffected. We have sent our forces there,” Inspector General of Police Raj Kanojia told IANS in Kolkata.
There have been reports of arson, heavy firing and exodus of women and children from villages in East Midnapore district’s Nandigram area, which has been on the boil since January over land acquisition for a special economic zone (SEZ).
Though the proposed SEZ has been scrapped, tension continues in Nandigram that turned bloody again Sunday with the death of one man following attempts by ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) supporters to regain control of the area.
On Tuesday evening, a group of intellectuals from Kolkata that had gone to Nandigram with relief material said it was attacked by CPI-M men.
Incidents of violence have been reported from the Ranichawk area as well.
The two warring groups are the Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC), which is opposing land acquisition for the SEZ, and the CPI-M, whose masked men are launching attacks from the side of Khejuri, an area adjoining Nandigram on the other side of a canal.
With police not playing an active role in Nandigram after clashes with protestors on March 14 that left 14 people dead, over a hundred injured and several women raped or brutalised, the situation has deteriorated with the two sides engaged in a fierce gun battle and bombings.
“We are trying to broker peace with an all party meeting in Nandigram instead of initiating police action since the latter would only trigger trouble,” Home Secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy said.
Opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress has earlier spurned all offers of an all-party meeting, saying the CPI-M should first stop launching attacks from Khejuri.
Theatre personality Shaoli Mitra, who was among the intellectuals who visited Nandigram, dubbed their experience on Tuesday night as horrifying. The group was attacked by CPI-M men and its vehicles damaged. Some members were assaulted too.
“If this is what they can do to a group of intellectuals who have gone to give some relief to the victims of Nandigram without any political motive, we can understand the plight of the common people there,” Mitra told IANS.
“Throughout our stay in Nandigram we were verbally attacked by CPI-M supporters. But the worst came after dark. We had just reached Khashchora near Chandipur when we saw a huge procession. My car luckily passed but our other cars of the 12-vehicle convoy were attacked,” she said.
The official toll in Nandigram has reached 21 since early January.