[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Nandigram struggle update
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Thu Jun 12 06:11:19 BST 2008
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 2008 10:39:57 -0700 (PDT)
From: <medha at narmada.org>
Update: 11 June 2008
Nandigram: The Struggle is On
Nandigram has no doubt won the battle through the ballot box, but the woes are
far from ended. It was indeed a shock to our small team of activists that
visited Nandigram region on the 27th of May. On the previous day, there was a
large gathering of intellectuals in Kolkata, with many eminent persons,
including former Judges, writers and artists, former bureaucrats, former
Vice-Chancellor, film makers as well as activists and others, organized by the
Cultural Forum of Artists, Activists and Intellectuals, who denounced the
violence and fascist onslaught on democracy in West Bengal and elsewhere as in
Chattisgarh and Orissa. Apart from Aparna Sen, Debabrat Bandoadhyay, Justice
Malay Sengupta, Meher Engineer, Bibhash Chakraborty and others, also present
were Prof. Arun Kumar from JNU and Suhas Borker, a senior media activist. We
all also referred to Nandigram as a symbol of mass resistance to violence.
We left Kolkata after informing some of the BUPC members and reached Nandigram
by 10:00 a.m. We could see the feeling of victory on the faces of traders,
shopkeepers and hawkers in Nandigram town, who raised their hands to welcome
us. Just a few furlongs away, it was a sad scenario to see a few hundred women
and men continuing to be in the camp with the torn and fluttering plastic tent,
which could barely be called a shelter. Those included Radharani Ari and
Pratap Ari, who are still forbidden from returning to Gokulnagar, Akreja Bibi
from Satangbari and other victims, in spite of being victorious in that small
yet important electoral battle. Bold and courageous enough to declare the rape,
why even the gang-rape, these women have become symbols of resistance by
staking their life and dignity and are known now across the country, if not the
world, and yet they have the same story as many a freedom fighter of the last
century. The country salutes them, but does it care? Sheik Sultan put it aptly,
“Didi, I cannot celebrate anything, because the dard (pain) persists even
today. I, therefore, prefer to feed the soldiers of this movement, who are
still being victimized and hounded”. The drums were being beaten indicating
the victory in the Panchayat elections, where the TMC, obviously feeling
victorious, its candidates, as BUPC candidates, having won the battle. It was
only today that fried fish was provided along with the minimal rice and dal
that was served day after day. Someone said, it was because we were to come.
Akreja Bibi was in pain. She wanted her two daughters to return back from her
relatives' place. None of them could either say, “take us back” or “we
will be back”. The intimidation and even direct attacks continued to take
place obviously with the approval, if not diktats from the ruling party CPI(M).
In Gokulnagar, we met a number of women in Adhikaripada, at the labourers
hamlet, who were waiting for the community brethren to come back to the village
and get back their source of livelihood. Its not easy to seek employment
guarantee in CPM's rule. Its only in their ideology! Ninety year old mother of
Swadesh Das Adhikari came out of a small store room with some mattresses and
one stove saved, next to her house lying in ashes. All neighbouring women were
keen to convey to us that they were taking care of her. But the mother wanted
care of her son, none else. He was underground and unsafe. Just for
'Nandigram's freedom struggle', that was fought and won, he and others were
Women, who came out of the nearby pukur (talab), were happy to see us back, but
still troubled in every way. The small blasts to the threats had not stopped
for ever, only reduced. The hamlets had a dead look with only the hundreds of
red flags fluttering or threatening? It was creditable that those couldn't stop
the voters from voting against the CPI(M). In the presence of CRPF men and
women, stories of how they came back from wherever, to vote, and voted
fearlessly, were narrated to us. Some CRPF men were proud to tell us that they
protected them during the elections. The people nodded. But the victory had not
helped them get back their livelihoods or even some compensation.
Not more than 30% of the victims who were to be compensated as per the Kolkata
High Court Orders are paid. The rest have no means to fill their stomachs. They
are full of thoughts and threats to be able to rebuild their small houses or
re-establish their businesses. Those who have just come out of jail on bails
looked blank. Their indomitable strength apart, they need full rehabilitation.
200 and more people were in the camp, lying in the backside verandah of the
BDO’s office. This was worse than the school-based camp, put up since
November onwards. TMC was looking after the provision of grains, we were told.
Women were very sad over the food. Obviously, the resources are falling short.
Torn tarpolins spoke a lot. There were no funds or relief flowing any more.
Nandigram was either over or won over, as per the distant observers. But the
story is different. The struggle and pain are far from over. The cause of the
trouble, political intolerance and violence persists. With 100 blocks in West
Bengal having no political activity, thanks to the party dominance and control,
Nandigram and East Midnapore, Daankuni-Singur, South 24 Parganas, even if
victorious, will not be easily allowed to claim non-left Front constituencies,
for too long, too easily. Nandigram's common people too, are prepared to bear
the backlash of their successful challenge and over-throwing the party and its
plan. Who will be of help?
We approached the BDO of Nandigram. A young man, he appeared open to listening
and also honest. He was curious to know our analysis. But had he himself given
out his story, it would have been shameful to some. He agreed that he had
written many letters to the OC, Debashish, to protect people's lives but there
was no response. He appeared helpless in relation to the political attacks, but
surely wanted to help people in ways possible. There was no proactive role
visualized. He was awaiting the applications from individuals for employment.
NREGA was far from being executed. There was Rs. 4,00,000/- received for
Nandigram Block, with Rs. 38, 000/- balance from previous month and 3.1 lakh
Rs. were spent to provide 1560 person days of work. Even if we presume all the
15 days of work was granted, only 104 persons must have been employed, which is
negligible. In the situation of dire need, the BDO appeared helpless. When we
questioned him on providing food grains under relief, his only answer was that
he had asked for the same, but not yet received.
On the whole, there is not a shred of doubt in the fact that the people in
Nandigram require support from all of us, who consider their struggle as
exemplary and inspiring and their martyrdom, an ideal. How can we extend
solidarity and lend support to their struggle?
1) Write letters to the Chief Justice of the Kolkata High Court and the
Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, asking them to ensure that
the compensation for their loss in March-April and November 2007 is paid to
each and every person. Let the High Court appoint an independent Commission of
2) List of households, with houses partially or fully destroyed/burnt is
prepared by the local leaders. Organizations and individuals may come forward,
as during natural calamities and offer support, since monsoon is already on and
the shelterless need to erect something urgently.
3) People, not having regained livelihood, or lost it, are not being able
to meet even their basic needs. Doctors, psychiatrists, activists are all
needed, if there are any. There are at least 2 clinics without paraphernalia
and high quality infrastructure. Any doctor or other service provider willing
to stay there for at least 6 months would indeed be very resourceful.
Debjit Dutt Medha Patkar Bijoya Chandra Anuradha Talwar
More information about the Debate-list