Fear grips Nandigram villagers on poll eve (Lead, Superseding earlier story)

May 10th, 2008 - 8:11 pm ICT by admin  

By Soudhriti Bhabani
Nandigram (West Bengal), May 10 (IANS) 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 allegedly 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.

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.

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 partial. 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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Politics |