Arms build-up ahead of polls in Nandigram
Biswabrata Goswami (Statesman, Kolkata, 26 April 2008)
NANDIGRAM, April 25: In the run-up to 11 May’s three-tier panchayat polls, a huge cache of sophisticated bombs, arms and ammunition are piling up at various points in Nandigram. These are being hoarded by both CPI-M cadres and supporters of the Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Committee (BUPC). Strife-torn Nandigram might again be witness to another bloody battle during the fast-approaching panchayat polls.
Spiraling violence and attacks by armed supporters of the CPI-M who are moving about freely in villages here, coupled with the build-up of arms and ammunition in the area, have compelled a worried district police to rethink their strategy of handling the political situation.
Police are also worried about a large number of smuggled guns that were used by CPI-M-hired goons during the bloody recapture of Nandigram in November last year. Most of these sophisticated guns have yet to be seized, because of alleged interference from CPI-M top guns.
A visit to Nandigram and its outskirts revealed that the CPI-M has already started mobilising cadres in all villages neighbouring Nandigram, which the BUPC controls at the moment. The move is being seen as the last step towards bringing Nandigram under their complete control by unleashing a reign of terror on Opposition supporters.
According to a CPI-M party insider, the plan to wash out the Opposition’s dominance from these villages before 11 May, was drawn up three weeks back during a meeting between two top CPI-M leaders from East and West Midnapore. An MP from Midnapore East and a district secretariat member from Midnapore West were also present in the meeting.
Party insiders said the main point of discussion was how to bring back all villages of Nandigram under CPI-M dominance before the panchayat polls. Like the Nandigram recapture operation, the party will use cadre ~ local criminals mostly involved in dacoity cases ~ for the operation. These cadres will come mostly from Keshpur and Garbeta areas because the party has already won all seats in these areas. A huge cache of bombs and firearms will be stocked at various hideouts in Khejuri and a few hideouts in Nandigram. Local cadres, headed by trained cadres from outside, will start intimidating villagers by using mild strong-arm tactics in the villages where the Opposition has still dominance, said the party insiders.
Asked about the matter, Mr Ashok Guria, district secretariat member of the CPI-M, said: “They (the BUPC) are constantly attacking our men, they are moving around with arms and threatening our cadres. Is it possible to digest their threats? They will have to first give up their arms before police, only then will peace and democracy return to Nandigram. If they attack with arms, we will have to resist it with arms to protect our supporters and cadre. We have asked police to seize firearms stored illegally by the BUPC workers.”
Mr Bhabani Das, a BUPC and SUCI leader, alleged: “Revenge has become the CPI-M’s buzz word. They want to regain lost ground at any cost. The government and the party are fused into one. Instead of the ‘rule of law’ they believe in the ‘rule of the party’. Both became handy tools of the party bosses’ sinister game plans to recapture Nandigram in the same manner as zamindars used to fight to gain or regain. Ahead of the polls, they have already started mobilising their cadres and storing arms at their hideouts.”
The district superintendent of police, Mr SS Panda said: “This is nothing new. For the last two years, both sides have been busy stocking bombs and firearms and using these in attacks. Ahead of the polls, they may store these at hideouts but we are trying to seize these illegal arms from them.”
Fear still reigns in Nandigram
Biswabrata Goswami (Kolkata, Statesman, 24 April 2008)
SONACHURA, April 23: In Nandigram’s villages, people still live in fear of the CPI-M and police. Opposition candidates who have filed their nomination papers for the forthcoming panchayat poll fear they may have to cancel their candidature should the pressure become unbearable.
Mr Sheikh Alam, a Trinamul leader, said: “It is not the CPI-M that we fear but the support it enjoys from police. Most of the attacks on villagers here took place in the presence of policemen. Given the deteriorating situation, we might withdraw our candidature at the last minute. We have intimated this to the local SDO.”
An aged woman draped in a saree slammed shut the window of her mud house when this correspondent asked for a reaction on the political scene in her home ~ Sonachura village, Nandigram. Others, who were nervously peeping out of their houses, did the same. A middle-aged man came out of his house and whispered, “Please don’t stay here for long. They will beat us and torture our women if they see us talking to outsiders. Even you may be attacked.”
In the Nandigram-I block of Midnapore East, “they” are CPI-M cadres. A few days before “normalcy” returned to these villages following the CPI-M’s bloody recapture of Nandigram in early November last year, the political scene was quite different from what it is now. The entire area was a stronghold of the Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Committee (BUPC). But after re-establishing their political dominance, the CPI-M is now desperately trying to hold on to these villagers by following a three-pronged strategy.
First, they chalked out plans to win the villagers’ faith by implementing various Central development schemes. They allocated huge funds for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and various health schemes through panchayats.
Secondly, they worked insidiously to break the Opposition’s unity. Foreseeing a split in the BUPC over selection of candidates for the forthcoming panchayat poll, they filed the nomination of a Trinamul Congress leader in Nandigram I panchayat samity, Mr Ranjan Patra, as an independent candidate backed by the Left Front. The CPI-M leadership here tactfully nominated many new candidates who are mostly members of anti-Left Front families in those areas to cut a large piece out of the Opposition’s vote-bank.
Trinamul Congress chief Miss Mamata Banerjee has decided to keep both the BJP and the Congress at a distance during the panchayat polls. As most anti-Left parties are also members of the BUPC, there are rifts in the Opposition; many Opposition candidates have filed nominations as independents, which has helped the CPI-M to penetrate into Nandigram’s villages.
Thirdly, the CPI-M is unleashing “silent” terror among supporters of the Opposition. They have planned to enlist the help of local police to arrest prominent Opposition workers and leaders in connection with old cases ahead of the polls.
The CPI-M has been successfully able to unite its partners and solve seat-sharing disputes. Of 115-gram panchayat seats in Nandigram, the CPI-M has fielded 75 candidates, the CPI has fielded 33, the RSP three, the FB two and the SP has fielded two candidates. Of 27 panchayat samity seats, the CPI-M has filed nominations in 21, the CPI in five and the RSP in one, while in the two Zilla Parishad seats, the CPI-M and the CPI have fielded one candidate each.
Although the CPI-M-sponsored terror in Nandigram had united the Opposition and the CPI-M lost heavily in school committee elections, the Opposition will not be able to retain their influence unless they can retain their unity in the panchayat poll.