Friday, March 23, 2007

Report of Investigation Into Nandigram Mass Killings

Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) and Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) put forward a petition to the Kolkata High Court on 15th March 2007 urging immediate intervention of the court to reinstate safety and security of the villagers in Nandigram. The organisations also pleaded for an interim order restraining the state administration from preventing them from reaching Nandigram to provide assistance to injured and deceased villagers.

On 15th March 2007, a Division Bench of the High Court comprising Honourable Chief Justice S S Nijjar and Honourable Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh also took suo moto note of the incident. It also passed orders on the petition of APDR and PBKMS and reprimanded the state government stating
” it seems as if the Police Department which is under the control of the Home Department is not even aware of the existence of Article 21 of the Constitution of India…..This Article specifically guarantees that ‘no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law’. Oblivious of the aforesaid guarantee, the police has resorted to gun firing on a large crowd protesting against the proposal to acquire their land.”

Further the order states “we are satisfied that this action of the police department is wholly unconstitutional and can not be justified under any provision of law." The court also stated "Such kind of force can not be justified except in the cases of armed insurgency or warlike situation. Innocent farmers and villagers can hardly be put into the aforesaid bracket."

The court in its order directed the followings:

  • It restrained the state administration from stopping the petitioner organisations and other NGOs from reaching Nandigram to provide assistance to injured and deceased villagers.
  • The court directed the CBI to immediately send an investigating team to the strife -torn area and look into the circumstances that led to the police firing which claimed innumerable casualties in Nandigram. The CBI team is directed to immediately visit Nandigram and any other surrounding affected area and collect the entire relevant materials of firing by the police and combat forces to be presented before the court in the form of a report.
  • It directed the district administration to ensure that the unclaimed dead bodies are handed over to the appropriate authorities and the identified dead bodies are handed over to the lawful claimants after due legal formalities have been concluded, such as post mortem and inquest report, so that the relatives are able to perform the last rites of the deceased.
  • The state government has also been directed to file an affidavit setting out the reasons for the police action which has been taken against the population of Nandigram by resorting indiscriminate firing by the police. The affidavit should also disclose the material on the basis of which the order for firing was issued.
  • The court also directed that under no circumstances any evidence should be destroyed by any person and instructed the CBI to collect all evidence including the post-mortem conducted on the victims of the firing.

  • In view of the absolutely volcanic situation created, the court further directed the state government to ensure the safety and well-being of all the general public in the area. The state is also directed to take adequate measure to provide medical facilities to the injured villagers.

In response to the above, the two petitioner organisations along with some concerned individuals visited Nandigram and Tamluk and the affected villages on 15th and 16th March 2007. The team consisted of Amit Dyuti Kumar, Anurada Talwar, Arjun Das, Bibek Tripathy, Chiroranjan Pal, Jeeban Modak, Panchali Roy, Pramod Gupta, Prasad Roychowdhury, Raghunath Chakraborty, Sandeep Singha, Sadhan Roychowdhury, Dr. (Mrs.) Subrata Sarkar, Sujoy Ganguly and Subrata Roy.

Response of the Administration
At about 8 PM on 15.03.2007 a team went to the office of the District Magistrate, Purba Medinipore where Mr. Anup Agarwal, District Magistrate, Purba Medinipore was present. The team expressed their strong resolve to go to Nandigram and sought the assistance of the District Magistrate to enable the team to proceed for Nandigram immediately.

The District Magistrate, Purba Medinipore, however, flatly refused to entertain any such request for rendering assistance to the team on various counts or grounds saying that the District Magistrate, Purba Medinipore is not a party in the writ petition and that the said District Magistrate, Purba Medinipore has no legal or moral obligation to entertain any of the requests on the subject. Then the District Magistrate, Purba Medinipore advised the members of the team not to go to Nandigram on the ground that seeing the members of the team the people of Nandigram may be charged thereby there will be apprehension of breach of law and order. The apprehension that the team would encourage disorder was also echoed by Kalyan Banerjee, ASP on Special Duty whom we met at Chandipur police station.

The impression we got was that the administration was unhappy about outside intervention in Nandigram even though people were in dire need of aid of all kinds.

Before the 14th
In spite of prior information of amassing of arms and goons and appeals by the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee before 6th January, no action was taken then by the police to prevent attacks by armed party cadre on the 6th January. From 6th January onwards, there were almost daily attacks from the Khejuri side of the Talpati Canal by the CPM. The Haldia Development Authority, of which Lakshman Seth, CPM MP, is the Chairperson, tried an economic blockade by stopping the ferry, the main means of transport for agricultural goods from Nandigram villages to Haldia. CPM had regular camps on the roads that led to Nandigram and organised harassment of all media, social activists and even common people who tried to enter the area. The police invasion of Nandigram was only ordered when after two and half months the party goons and leaders in surrounding areas failed to suppress the local anti land acquisition movement. There seems to have been no other pressing reason for the attack suddenly at this juncture.
From press reports, it is obvious that the action in Nandigram was planned and executed in advance. On the 12th itself media reports began coming in showing that such action was being planned by the State Government. An all party meeting which was boycotted by the members and parties in the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee decided on action for the police to enter Nandigram. That high level people in the administration along with ministers and top level decision makers were involved is also clear from the fact that armed police battalions were brought in from Krishnanagar, Jalpaiguri and many other places. News reports also speak of a planning meeting before the operation on the 14th where CPM party leaders and a senior police official sat together in a party office at Kunjapur.
The Government also seemed ready for some unpleasant consequences. The District Magistrate for example justified actions on the 14th by informing us that “such unhappy events would have happened whenever we had gone into the area”.

The team met Nilanjana Dasgupta, SDO, Tamluk Subdivision, on 15th evening at Tamluk hospital. According to Nilanjana Dasgupta, SDO, Tamluk Subdivision, the action on 14th March 2007 in Nandigram was not known in advance by her. No discussion on such an action being taken by the district administration took place beforehand. She was also not sure whether there was any provocation that led to the decision to use police force, as the area was cut off from the rest of the district and they had no idea of what was happening inside. She had heard that a gang rape had taken place there, which may have been a causative factor, but was not able to say whether this was a confirmed report. She also said there was some concern about rising food prices and food shortages in the area.

The fact that things spun out of control of the district administration can be gauged from the fact that SDO Tamluk subdivision was in a development meeting that day when the firing was taking place. All BDOs and Sabhapatis of the blocks in Tamluk subdivision were with her. She was asked at 2.30 PM to stop the meeting and to rush to the district hospital immediately to get the hospital ready to receive the wounded from Nandigram.

The general impression that we got from talking to some people in the administration was that there were in fact attempts by the ASP and other police officials to start confidence building measures in the local area so that the police could start gradually going in. Along with this, there had also been planning for the administration to go in with food relief in order to build up people’s confidence. One section of the administration was therefore totally taken by surprise by the events on the 14th.

Combined Party Police Action

From reports and testimonies that we received it seems that the command of the police force was in the hands of the CPM party leaders. A number of CPM leaders at the local level were also present. The invasion itself was planned by both party and police officials, Police uniforms were used by party cadre and important local leaders who were a part of the invading force.
"....I went to attend the puja there and police started chasing and while running I fell down and the police and other people(dressed in police uniforms but no police boots instead sandals) started beating me up mercilessly...." Konoklata Das W/o Rabin Chandra Das Residence- Soudkhali Chowk

".....They were men dressed in uniforms along with the police but they were wearing sandals and not police boots. Some of them were carrying lathis while there were those who were carrying guns..."Sreekanta Mandal. S/o Ganesh Mandal. Residence- Sonachura

According to the villagers and wounded people, there were many goons and leaders of the CPI (M) party with the police during the police violence. They have also identified some of them. The names of the identified goons and leaders are as follows:
From Khejuri :
1. Bijon Roy
2. Rabiul Khan
3. Himangshu Das
4. Swadhin Pramanik
5. Kebal Das s/o Haripada Das

Nandigram :
1. Ashok Guria , President District Committee AIKS
2. Naba Samanta, Brother of Shankar Samanta, Sonachura
3. Joydeb Paik, (LCS) Sonachura
4. Badal Mondal, Sonachura
5. Anup Mondal, Panchyat Member of Sonachura
6. Bapi Bhuiya, President of Krishak Sabha
7. Sukesh Shanki, Member of Panchayat Samity
8. Lakshman Mondal, Pradhan, 10 No. Sonachura Gram Panchayat
9. Chandan Hajra, Party Member
10. Rabin Bera, ( LCM of Saud khali)
11. Arjun Maity,
12. Iasin Khan, Pradhan, 9 No.Anchal
13. Satadal Das

Anup Mondal, Panchayat member, during the incident on 14th was reported to be using a hand mike to tell people to allow police to do its job.
One of the patients clearly identified the CPM goons present. His testimony is given below.

Subodh Das, S/o Gangadhar Das, Age: 50, Residence: Gangra; Occupation: Van driver
I identified 8 of those who fired bullets; they are CPI (M) goons. They are :-
◊ Lakhman Mondal. Gangra
◊ Badal Mondal, Sonachura
◊ Joydeb Paik, Sonachura
◊ Anup Mondal, Sonachura
◊ Sukesh Sanki, Sonachura (South)
◊ Bapi Bhuiya, Sonachura (South)
◊ Kebol Das, Kunjapur (Khejuri)
◊ Parusaram Mondal, Sonachura

According to the witnesses we met, police officials under whom Wednesday's firing took place were as follows :-

1) IG Western Range Arun Gupta
2) DIG N. Ramesh Babu
3) S.P. East Midnapore Anil G Srininvasan
4) OC Khejuri PS Amit Hati
5) SDPO Swapan Sinha

It was also reported that the CPM had hidden large stocks of arms in the following places :-
1) Party Office in Kunjapur
2) ICDS building in Ranichawk
3) Janani Brickfield in Sherkhanchawk- where a new bathroom has been made, there is a septic tank which is unused.
4) Bijon Roy's house in Khejuri

Download full report with photos

No comments: