President urged for CBI probe into Nandigram firing


Kolkata : Leading intellectuals, including Magsaysay Award winner Mahasweta Devi, have urged President Pratibha Patil to take an initiative for restarting the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the March 14 police firing in Nandigram that claimed 14 lives and left over 100 injured.

Support TwoCircles

“We demand that the CBI inquiry into the massacre of 14 on March 14 be reopened and the incidents be investigated thoroughly; that violators of human rights be brought to justice,” the intellectuals wrote in a letter dated Nov 4 to Patil even as the West Bengal government decided to deploy central forces in Nandigram.

Violence has continued unabated since January in the trouble-torn East Midnapore area when the government proposed land acquisition for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), which was later scrapped.

In an open letter to the president, the intellectuals, including Left historian couple Sumit and Tanika Sarkar, said: “We are deeply disturbed by the news that the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) are going to be sent to Nandigram in West Bengal to restore order there. This indicates a paramilitary solution to what is essentially a question of peoples’ livelihood, of human and civil rights and of peoples’ participation in decision-making processes.

“The present crisis in the law and order situation has arisen because of state violations of such democratic rights, and we feel strongly that only a political solution can address the crisis. The experience of paramilitary operations in other parts of the country in similar contexts makes us very apprehensive about the consequences in West Bengal.

“We reiterate that the CRPF or any other paramilitary force should not go into Nandigram. They would be working under West Bengal state directives and that would worsen a situation that is already intolerable,” they said.

“It is clear that the peasants of Nandigram have lost all trust in the state,” they stressed.

The intellectuals said a CBI enquiry was necessary to restore confidence of the people and to normalise the situation in Nandigram, over 150 km from here.

They said the Calcutta High Court judgement on the writ petitions pending before it must be expedited immediately, and an immediate compensation and a fair rehabilitation package be provided to the families of those killed, injured and disabled during the March 14 violence.

“The same should be done for victims on both sides of the political divide who have suffered in earlier and subsequent clashes,” they said.

The intellectuals demanded an independent monitoring body of the high court to ensure a ceasefire at Nandigram.

“Local level peace committees should be set up to facilitate dialogues among different factions in villages, especially to ensure the safe return of the displaced people and their livelihood. The process should not be confined to exchanges between the ruling Left Front and the Trinamool Congress at Kolkata only,” they said.

Other signatories to the letter include painter Suvaprasanna, playwright Shaoli Mitra, political analyst Praful Bidwai, Satya Sivaraman, Sumit Chakravarty and Jaya Mitra.

At least five people were killed in renewed clashes and an explosion in Nandigram in the past few days, raising the toll to 28 since January when the region flared up over a proposed land acquisition for an SEZ, including a chemical hub.

Though the state government abandoned the SEZ plan, a turf war in the run-up to next year’s panchayat elections continued between the CPI-M and the Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC), a Trinamool Congress spearheaded body protesting land acquisition.