Thursday, May 31, 2007

Peoples' Tribunal on Nandigram


28 May, Kolkata

In its interim report, the independent People's Tribunal on Nandigram has recommended, among other measures, the setting up of special Human Rights Courts to ensure speedy justice in all cases of human rights violations in Nandigram and adjoining areas.

The Tribunal, organized by the All India Citizens Initiative, heard depositions from victims, witnesses, social activists, intellectuals, doctors, human rights groups and other concerned organisations here today. The hearings were held in both Nandigram and Kolkata from 26-28 May and headed by Justice S.N.Bhargava, former Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court.

Tribunal members, which included Pravash Joshi (Editorial Advisor, Jansatta), Lalita Ramdas (Social Activist), John Dayal (Member, National Integration Council) and Jyotirmoy Samajder (Psychiatrist), visited the site of police firing and other places in the Nandigram area relevant to understanding the circumstances and nature of the violence.

Meanwhile Mr Anup Agarwal, the District Magistrate of Midnapur (East) issued a letter to the organizers of the Tribunal asking under what 'law of the land' such a Tribunal was being organized. The All India Citizen's Initiative in its reply said that the Tribunal had been organized under Article 51 of the Constitution, which calls upon every citizen of India " to promote harmony and spirit of brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic, regional and social diversities". It must be mentioned here that all concerned official agencies were informed of the Tribunal and requested to depose before it but none of them turned up.

The Tribunal received over 39 oral and 142 written depositions at the hearings held at primary schools in Gokulnagar and Sonachura and the University Institute Hall in Kolkata. While a final report of its findings is still being prepared the Tribunal has the following observations to make, based on prima facie evidence as well as depositions made before it:

  • There is no doubt at all that grave violations of human rights have been committed against the villagers of Nandigram;
  • There seems to be a disturbingly large number of reports of sexual violence against women;
  • There is an urgent need for a thorough, independent investigation of the events of 14 March 2007, especially with a view to ensuring justice for all those whose rights have been violated;
  • There are still a significant number of people in the area who need immediate medical attention for various problems related to the violence;
  • From all accounts no steps have been taken by the state machinery to provide compensation for the dead and injured so far.
  • The education and normal activities of school going children in both Nandigram and adjoining areas such as Khejuri have been seriously affected due to both past and ongoing disturbances.

Based on these observations the Tribunal would therefore like to make the following preliminary recommendations:

  • Special Human Rights Courts should be set up in West Bengal at the earliest to deal with all cases of human rights violations that have occurred in Nandigram and adjoining areas;
  • Stringent punishment needs to be meted out to all public officials and others guilty of violation of human rights or administrative lapses leading to such violations;
  • There should be adequate compensation and social rehabilitation provided to families of all those killed or injured in the violence of 14 March 2007, as well as in the period before and after this date.
  • Many of those injured were men and women working as wage labour in agriculture and other sectors. They are no longer able to continue working and must be also be provided alternate employment;
  • There should be special compensation and social rehabilitation provided to all victims of rape or molestation in Nandigram and adjoining areas;
  • Steps should be taken immediately to trace all those who are supposed to have gone 'missing' in the aftermath of the violence in Nandigram and adjoining areas;
  • Free and competent medical treatment should be provided by the state government for all those physically or mentally affected by the violence;
  • Urgent relief needs to be provided to all those whose livelihoods have been severely affected by the turmoil since January 2007.
  • Immediate steps should be taken to stop ongoing violence in Nandigram and adjoining areas and every effort made, in a sincere manner, to bring peace among all factions involved. The services of non-governmental and civil society organizations should be utilized in the peace process if necessary;
  • All necessary precautions need to be taken to prevent the occurrence of such events in future in other parts of West Bengal.

The Tribunal will continue working on a final report of its findings and present them to various concerned agencies for further action.

An All India Citizens' Initiative

45 Beniatola Lane, 3rd Floor, Kolkata-700009 Ph. & Fax +91 033 2219 2902 Mob. 09433728792

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