New Delhi: Over the last week CPM cadres went on a rampage in a bid to regain their supremacy over Nandigram in West Bengal. With several people gunned down, homes vandalised, and women gang-raped, this episode was certainly the CPM's moment of shame and a controversy the Left government in Bengal is finding difficult to handle.
So, has Nandigram become a political battleground? That was the topic of debate on CNN-IBN show The Big News with Rajdeep Sardesai.
On the panel of experts were chief of Trinamool Congress Mamata Banerjee and Professor of Economics at Jawahar Lal Nehru University Jayati Ghosh.
It all started in August last year, with the West Bengal government giving the green signal to the Salim Group, a petrochemical giant, to set up a Special Economic Zone, the land for which was to be acquired from 29 villages, most of them in Nandigram.
Little did the CPI-M led government know that their business-friendly policies would wreak havoc in the otherwise peaceful area.
Meanwhile, Nandigram's farmers, fearing forced eviction, decided to resist. The Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) consisting of farmers and backed by the opposition, Trinamool Congress, was formed to resist the land acquisition. What followed in the next nine months is brutal violence that completely went out of the state government’s hands.
Many intellectuals in Delhi including Ghosh, who virtually brought out a statement defending the CPI-M, has said in the past that “in the absence of intervention by the state machinery and civil society organisation and unwillingness by the opposition for a political dialogue, is it surprising that the displaced CPI-M sympathisers made their own moves to return to their homes.”
So, does it mean that what happened in Nandigram should be supported?
To which Ghosh said, “At least 300 people were evicted from their homes in January this year. No state administration has been allowed to enter Nandigram. It was a situation that was completely untenable. No law and order machinery could enter Nandigram in the last nine months. Children could not go to school. This kind of a set up cannot solve a problem.”
The CPM has been critised for recapturing Nandigram, but BUPC’s blockade of Nandigram has also not found many takers.
Reacting to Ghosh’s allegations Mamata said, “That is wrong. This allegation is the face-saving formula of the CPM party. There was no blockade in Nandigram. Pulse polio was 100 per cent in the area. The region has been normal all this while. But why did the sate government withdraw the seven police camps on October 27 before the second massacre. The government should have known that Nandigram is a fragile region.”
No remorse in CPM cadres
Despite the killings, the state Government has not shown any regret or remorse? The CPM describes the Nandigram battle as the dawn of courage, fortitude and relentless struggle.
However, Ghosh said that she personally felt regret and remorse for the violence in Nandigram. “It’s tragic and they reflect a cynical exploitation of the poor. The protests by the BUPC were unnecessary because the demands have been met. All those who are egging the locals to violence are cynical because there is no movement. The government had said that there won’t be any land takeover.”
Disagreeing with Ghosh’s explanation, Mamata said, “When the CPI-M government said that they would not capture the land in Nandigram then why did they send their goons. In the name of operation Red Star they have terrorised the people.”
However, CPI-M has justified they had to use force because armed Maoists were stationed inside Nandigram and so they had to be flushed out.
“I challenge the Government to find Maoists in Nandigram. I want to know why the media was not allowed to enter the villages. That is because they want to kill, torture and rape the people and then suppress the evidence,” Mamata said.
Though, both Ghosh and Mamata agreed to disagree with each other, there was one thing on which they were on a common plane and that was that it’s time to introspect on why the issue went out of control. Nandigram violence is a blot on this country and it’s about time the Opposition and the state government in West Bengal found a peaceful solution to end the bloodbath.
Results of the poll:
95 per cent – Yes
5 per cent – No