Fear grips Nandigram on poll eve, three killed

May 10th, 2008 - 7:00 pm ICT by admin  

By Soudhriti Bhabani
Nandigram (West Bengal), May 10 (IANS) There was palpable tension in West Bengal’s trouble-torn Nandigram region as three supporters of the opposition Trinamool Congress died in a clash with cadres of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Saturday - a day before the panchayat polls. “Three people - Srikanta Das, Lalmohan Das and Tapan Das - were shot Saturday morning at Jalpai area in Nandigram. But we are not sure if they were shot by CPI-M activists or hired criminals took advantage of the clash and shot them,” East Midnapore district police superintendent Satyashankar Panda told IANS.

“CPI-M supporters were accused of snatching voter identity cards of Trinamool Congress supporters. The clash was a result of an altercation between the supporters of the two parties,” he said.

A rally by Congress supporters was also attacked and the rallyists beaten up by unidentified men. Around 50 Congress supporters were injured in the incident.

“I am sure the attackers were hired by the CPI-M,” said state Congress president Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi.

Tempers have been running high ahead of the first election in this area, about 150 km from Kolkata, after the region flared up in protest over proposed land acquisition for a special economic zone (SEZ) in collaboration with Indonesia’s Salim group for developing a chemical hub.

At least 36 people have been killed and thousands injured in Nandigram since January last year as activists of the CPI-M and anti-land acquisition group Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) clashed frequently in a violent turf war.

Sheikh Mote of Nandigram’s Gokulnagar says he had to pay the price for not rooting for West Bengal’s ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist in local body elections to be held Sunday. He was beaten unconscious by the (CPI-M) cadres.

Mote says he was sleeping along with his family when a group of CPI-M men broke open the door of his house early Monday morning, dragged him out and taught him a lesson for his insolence.

They beat him with rifle butts in front of his panic-stricken family and left him unconscious. Later, he was taken to the Nandigram block hospital with critical head injuries.

Mote is not the only one complaining of torture by the CPI-M supporters. Thousands of agonised villagers in the Nandigram cluster of villages in East Midnapore district say they were threatened at gunpoint, driven out of their homes and assaulted for not supporting CPI-M in the panchayat poll.

“They told us if we want to live in Nandigram we have to support CPI-M. There’s no alternative. We have lost everything in the turf war,” said Mir Musharaf Ali of Satengabari.

“There’s no government aid and police are acting very partially. We are spending sleepless nights with our families in fear of CPI-M attack,” Ali said.

“We have taken shelter at a temporary relief camp near the building of Nandigram Block Development Officer (BDO),” he said.

“More than thousands of villagers from Bhangabera, Kalicharanpur, Gokulnagar, Adhikaripara, Maheshpur and Sonachura area are living in the relief camp,” he said.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee asserted Friday: “Nandigram will have a free and fair poll. I assure there will be no violence during the poll. Instead, people there will be in a festive mood.

But the likes of Ali are not convinced.

“We really don’t know what will happen in Nandigram after the panchayat election,” He said. “If the CPI-M loses they will not let us live here peacefully and if they win they will torture us even more.”

“Three battalions of the central paramilitary force have been deployed in Nandigram. Confidence-building measures are on. We held meetings with the district police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) commanding officer to bring back normalcy in Nandigram,” East Midnapore’s deputy magistrate Pritthiman Mitra, who is on special duty for the panchayat election, told IANS.

“The CRPF is trying to help villagers return to their homes but the situation is not totally peaceful here,” he said.

BUPC member Abu Taher said: “”All candidates with different political affiliations (other than CPI-M) have been threatened at gun-point to withdraw their nominations from the panchayat election. People are constantly being forced to take part in CPI-M rallies and their party meetings.

“This election would be an acid test for us to prove whether we can fight against the CPI-M atrocity,” he said.

The three-phase local body elections in West Bengal will be held May 11, 14 and 18. Counting will take place May 21.

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