Amar Gram, Tomar Gram, Nandigram
"Bands of CPM goons aided by platoons of Eastern Frontier Rifles and Commando forces were entering every village and paras [mahallas]. They brought the men out of home, they took no prisoners, no witnesses, they shot them, bayoneted them, ripped apart their stomachs and then laid them down the canal to the sea and confluence. They then brought out the young girls, gathered them in open space, raped them multiple times till the girls collapsed, they then tore their limbs, in some cases cut them to pieces and let them down the Haldi river and/or Talpati canal. They made sure that there were no witnesses. And even if there were some, they know that the young girls in traditional Medinipur would never come out to say what really happened and who will believe. Nobody will corroborate and those who will speak out will be killed and tortured again. CPM and police then wrapped the entire village with their red banners showing that the area was secured and their writ will run. Those who fled the villages were mostly apprehended on the outskirts or on the boundaries and no one knows what happened to those poor souls. We could hear these facts only from those who could crawl the whole way out through fields and forests. Even that is difficult now as the fields are all dried up and the crops have already been reaped. Anyone running is easily visible.
Even though innumerable, official count of rape could be obtained as six, because these are the ones who survived to tell their tales and they are around middle aged women who somehow were spared from being butchered and minced to pieces. The process followed in villages after villages and to our utter astonishment the process continued till next morning. All the correspondents were removed. Sukumar Mitra, a journalist from Dainik Statesman ran his way out amidst flurries of bullets. He was specifically hunted and somehow could manage to sneak out. The ferocity of this attack was so grizzly that the residents of that area was simply not believing anyone to open their gab. Fear is made a weapon for a social-censorship.
Haripur is a nearby subdivision. This area is earmarked for nuclear power plant. People of that region has also come up in protest. Most of them are fishermen. They have stopped going to the confluence and the sea. They feel that human bodies are everywhere in the confluence and the worst is that the crocodiles, gharials and sharks are now rushing towards that spot from far away Sunderbans. These animals rush for fresh blood. The fishes will be eaten away by these reptiles and there is a high possibility of these getting netted instead of fishes. The Haripur will be out of livelihood for at least a week or so, and this was premeditated by the CPM administration to teach Haripur a lesson. Haripur is the place which shooed out even Central teams and even bigger police forces. This was a lesson to teach both Nandigram and Haripur together. No sign of any dead bodies would ever be found, no proof of rape will be there. The real number of casualties can only be revealed at least three months after, and that too if peace comes into stay, and if the residents could come back and then count the missing. But after CPM has "secured" and "liberated" those areas, the evicted will not be allowed to come back and these properties will be given to the CPM goons from Keshpur and Garbeta and neighbouring places. The permanency of mopping up strategy is how CPM will ensure that Nandigram and Haripur will be secured for electoral battles in the future."
West Bengal is often lauded for its land redistribution programmes of the 70s and 80s. In a society that has relentlessly added surplus labor since the 1800s, in the 3 decades since the last redistribution a new generation of landless cultivators has emerged, renting land from those who had received the original redistributed titles.
As part of a particularly opaque deal with the Indonesian Selim Group, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), in power in West Bengal, tried to acquire 14000 to 22000 acres -- about the size of Chandigarh -- in a Midnapore seaside village called Nandigram to build a Special Economic Zone. After many years in power, the CPI(M) has attracted many rapacious carpetbaggers; its appetites have grown and it must routinely create new avenues of loot and income for its leaders and cadres. Its philosophy now is brutally Chinese -- good old-fashioned Tienanmen Chinese, not the present namby-pamby property-rights-espousing Hu-istas -- flavored with a sullen Indian inefficiency.
As a result of the SEZ, the landless tenants of Nandigram face displacement without compensation, which is only to be paid to the formal owners of the land. In a district with 960 people per sq km, all the surrounding areas are so chockful with landless peasants, if your land's 'owner' sells out to the government you have nowhere to go.
As the SEZ talk gained currency, Medha Patkar and other social activists visited Nandigram in December. Trouble in Nandigram began in earnest on Jan. 7, after the leak of government plans to build a petrochemical plant and shipyard on the newly acquired land. A hastily-formed Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh -- Land Acquisition Resistance -- Committee organized protests that quickly blockaded the villages. Police effectively abandoned Nandigram to the farmers, who turned their villages into bristling garrisons — digging trenches across roads and erecting barricades to keep outsiders out.
After 2 months of impasse, an increasingly incensed CPI(M) leadership finally sent in the cavalry last week. On Wednesday night the police stormed the village. CPI(M) cadres who have bought up all the land adjoining the SEZ in anticipation of making, well, a killing, fired from behind police lines at the Resistance committee, and also prevented any of the injured from getting out. By morning Nandigram gutters were running red. Independent media reports suggest a hundred 'shot while poor'.
The Business Standard (upset at the failure to acquire land for 'reasonable developmental objectives') writes in an opinion:
West Bengal has been at the centre of a persistent storm over the acquisition of land for supposedly reasonable developmental objectives. The confrontation between the police and residents of Nandigram, who have resisted the acquisition of their land, has brought sharply into focus the extreme sensitivity of land-related issues, on the one hand, and the heavy-handedness that the state has tended to bring to bear on them, on the other. But attention must focus also on the broader implications of the episode in West Bengal. In terms of the metrics currently in vogue, faster growth with greater inclusiveness, these may well be ominous.
Three critical links in the political and administrative chain appear to have broken down in precipitating last week’s confrontation. First, the CPI(M)’s internal intelligence system failed in bringing the depth of the anti-acquisition sentiment in Nandigram to the notice of its leaders. This is, after all, the most essential function of a political party in a democratic framework. Indian parties are often, and justifiably, criticised for having abandoned this function and allowed their grassroots to rot even as parties have become more leader-oriented and less bottom-up in their approach, but the Communists have generally been seen as the significant exception. Their well-organised cadres were seen as a reliable means of two-way communication between the people and the politburo, a key reason for their stranglehold on political office in West Bengal. But, as Nandigram demonstrates, this is not always the case. The priority that the chief minister put on the project was enough to energise the party cadres into pushing it forward, regardless of the resistance. They did not think it necessary to keep him informed of the growing significance of that resistance, which would have at least opened up the possibility of a mutually acceptable course correction.
Second, the working arrangement between the party and the government seems to have degenerated to a situation of total capture of the latter by the former. Even if the party cadres were painting a false picture of the situation on the ground in pursuit of their own interests, it was clearly the responsibility of the district administration to warn the state government about the precariousness of the stand-off. Whether they chose not to, or did and were ignored will come out in an objective process of inquiry, which is clearly warranted. It is extraordinary that the administration and police should have been prevented from entering Nandigram for two months, with no way of enforcing the civil administration’s writ over the area. Either way—tainted or ineffectual—the structure comes across as inadequate.
Liberal opinion in Calcutta is revulsed. The poet Shankha Ghosh writes (apparently targeting Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the CPI(M) boss and Chief Minister):
But I have kept my pledge
Letter by letter
Those who resist -- their lives
I have made hell
Our party will rampage
No one else will speak
In an iron-fisted governance
That is but natural.
The time for bullets is night
and all day, too
In an iron-fisted state
that's Law and Order.
Who dies, dies; or lives out his life
Today I have won, I have made
All their lives Hell.
Another perspective can be found in the history of surplus labour and deficit land -- see Netaji's grandnephew Sugata Bose's Peasant Labour and Colonial Capital -- Rural Bengal Since 1770, part of the New Cambridge History of India. Recommended.