Gunfights rage on in Nandigram, CRPF arrives

Kolkata, Nov 11 (IANS) Gun fights continued to rage in Nandigram Sunday, a day after ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) cadres allegedly fired on an unarmed procession of villagers, killing two, even as the first batch of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) arrived in West Bengal to restore normalcy in the strife-torn area.

“Gun battles have been reported from several areas in Nandigram since Sunday morning. But there has not been any major incident of violence so far. We are monitoring the situation closely,” Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia told IANS.

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TV news channel reports said there were sporadic firings in some areas like Tekhali, Gokulnagar, Adhikaripara and Sonachura in Nandigram, about 150 km from here in East Midnapore district.

To bolster the police force in the state, the first batch of CRPF, comprising 200 of the 1,000 personnel cleared by the centre, arrived here in the morning and immediately left for Tamluk in East Midnapore.

The CRPF will enter Nandigram Monday and stage a flag-march to restore confidence among people in the area. Five more companies of the CRPF will reach the state Monday.

The TV channels put the death toll in Saturday’s violence at five but the official toll was two till Sunday morning.

“There are bodies lying in Amgachia area but the CPI-M is firing from there and so even the police cannot retrieve the bodies from there,” Abdus Samad, leader of the Bhumi Uchched Pratriodh Committee (BUPC), told IANS from Nandigram.

“The situation is volatile and any moment there can be a fresh gun battle,” said a photojournalist covering the violence.

Meanwhile, Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who had to camp at Kolaghat Saturday night after her convoy was stopped by CPI-M cadres, made another vain attempt to reach Nandigram Sunday.

Again, CPI-M men stopped her vehicle at Radhamonibazar. She then rode the pillion of a motorcycle to reach the Tamluk hospital, where several BUPC supporters injured in Saturday’s firing have been admitted.

Later, she participated in an agitation in front of the East Midnapore police headquarters and submitted a memorandum to the district police chief.

Banerjee decided to spend the night at Tamluk Sunday ahead of her party’s indefinite agitation in the state from Monday.

As Nandigram convulsed, the ripples were felt in Kolkata, the seat of power of the 30-year-old communist government, with the non-CPI-M constituents of the Left Front turning the heat on the government to act.

West Bengal PWD Minister and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) leader Kshiti Goswami, who Saturday expressed desire to resign from the government in protest, reiterated his decision Sunday not to attend his office from Monday.

“I don’t want to attend the office. I have communicated my decision to the party secretary and they would discuss in the party and take a decision. I have also decided not to use my official car,” said Goswami, one of the vocal critics of the government over Nandigram.

Three Left Front allies – the Forward Bloc, RSP and the Communist Party of India (CPI) – called an emergency meeting Sunday of the “mini-front” to discuss the Nandigram situation.

“We, all three Left partners, have called the meeting for discussing the issue of fresh violence in Nandigram. All senior party leaders are expected to attend the meeting,” CPI state secretary Manju Kumar Majumdar said.

Majumdar said his party would act upon the decision taken by the Left partners in the meeting.

Senior CPI leader and Water Resource Development Minister Nanda Gopal Bhattacharya said the three-party meeting would decide how to initiate the peace process and stop violence.

A disgruntled Goswami said, “It’s the sole responsibility of the state government to protect people in Nandigram. I don’t know if they are CPI-M or Trinamul activists. To me, they all are human beings.”

Fresh violence Saturday in Nandigram claimed two lives, as CPI-M men allegedly fired on an unarmed procession of BUPC, prompting Banerjee to resign as MP.

In Kolkata, the intelligentsia rallied behind a fasting Medha Patkar and other human rights activists as they boycotted a state-organised film festival and staged a blockade at Esplanade Sunday.

Several intellectuals were injured when police resorted to a baton-charge to prevent them from reaching Nandan, the venue of the Kolkata Film Festival. Around 30 intellectuals were arrested for violating law and order.

Filmmakers Goutam Ghosh and Anjan Datta Sunday followed Aparna Sen and Rituparno Ghosh in boycotting the state-organised festival.

Bollywood actor Moushumi Chatterjee, who started her career with Bangla films, Sunday said she would campaign for Nandigram victims in Mumbai and expose the CPI-M.

Refusing to accept a Lifetime Award offered to her by a prominent Kolkata publication group, Chatterjee told IANS from Mumbai: “This is not the time to accept Lifetime Award from anybody. I think the CPI-M should instead start a ‘life taking’ award there.”

Violence in Nandigram has claimed 34 lives since January, when the region flared up over proposed land acquisition for a special economic zone (SEZ). The state government scrapped the plan later in the face of stiff resistance.

However, a turf battle continues in Nandigram between the CPI-M and the BUPC in the run-up to local body elections in May next year.