PRELIMINARY REPORT OF THE ALL INDIA FACT FINDING TEAM ON THE NANDIGRAM MASSACRE
Preliminary report of the All India Fact Finding Team on the Nandigram Massacre
Medha Patkar (NBA & National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements), D Thankappan (New Trade Union Initiative), Dr. B. D. Sharma (Bharat Jan Andolan), and others, April 8 2007
Begin forwarded message:
Date: 8 April 2007 7:17:02 PM GMT+05:45
Subject: [narmada_andolan] Nandigram – Priliminary Report of All India FactFinding? Team
This is the Preliminary report of the All India Fact Finding Team that visited Nandigram during March. The length is due to the 4 Annexures which are also pasted for your reference and use.
Preliminary report by the All India Independent Fact Finding Team on Nandigram Massacre
The ghastly massacre at Nandigram came to be known to us through phone calls from West Bengal on March 14th around noon. The firing was on and we were told that tens had died and hundreds lie wounded. Some of us sent faxes and emails to the Prime Minister of India, Sonia Gandhiji, Pranab Mukherjee, Shivraj Patil and informed some others including the Governor of West Bengal. Medha Patkar, NAPM and Ashim Roy, NTUI with Sumit Sarkar and Adv Prashant Bhushan, also sent a letter to the Hon’ble Chief Justice, Kolkata High Court and same was accepted as a PIL by the High Court. The stories of brutality and continued state sponsored terror in Nandigram kept arriving.
We then gathered from different parts of India in Kolkata, to investigate into this barbaric incident and rushed to the affected area. With knowledge of the background of the struggle; aware of the conflict between the State and CPI (M) in alliance and the people – farmers, fish workers, labourers, artisans and others, we proceeded with senior activists from Bengal* and reached out to maximum number of people in the field and in the hospitals. We tried to collect first hand information, whatever available to apprehend exactly what had happened on the 14th of March 2007 and thereafter in Nandigram. The members of the team include:
- Medha Patkar (NBA & National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements)
- D. Thankappan (New Trade Union Initiative)
- Dr. B. D. Sharma (Bharat Jan Andolan)
- Tridib Ghosh (People’s Democratic Front of India)
- G N Saibaba (Preparatory Committee for the Formation of Anti Displacement Front, Ranchi Conference )
- Arun Khote (National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights)
- Rakesh Rafiq (Yuva Bharat)
- Ram Dhiraj (Azadi Bachao Andolan)
- Srimant (Kalinga Nagar Movement)
- Meher Engineer (Scientist and Academician)
(*Those who accompanied us included Shri. Pranab Banerjee and Nimai Ghosh NAPM, Swapna Ganguli, Paschim Bang Khetmazdoor Samiti, Sanjay Ganguli, Jansanskriti; Shyam Bihari, Jansangharsh Samiti and others from SUCI.)
The team visited various villages in the Nandigram area and PG hospital Kolkata, Nandigram and Tamluk (district) hospitals. The team also met the District Magistrate and Collector of East Midnapur and talked to various political and people’s organizations. The team has conducted elaborate interviews with the villagers in the affected area and also talked to the victims and their relatives.
Some of the members of the team investigated into the January incident in Nandigram and so the team is aware of a number of issues involved in the present situation.
When the team visited the various hamlets of Gokulnagar including Adhikaripara, Sonachura including Bhangabera, Maheshpur and Hazarakanta, a number of facts relating to the incident have come out.
- The people, majority of them women, informed us of the incidence that occurred in Gokulnagar and Sonachura with total unanimity. They said that they were receiving threats of attacks from the CPI (M) leaders and cadres since days. The attack was supposed to be immediately after the school exams but it was preponed.
- We were also told that Secretary, Home Affairs, Mr. P. R. Roy had categorically stated publicly that the Government would forcibly enter and establish the rule of law in Nandigram. A similar statement came from (I.G. Law and order). The likelihood of state repression was therefore known to the people all over the state of West Bengal at least 2 days before the incident. There were some protests in Nandigram on this.
- The police entered from Khejuri and Tekhali, the known bases of CPI (M) into the villages Sonachura and Gokulnagar respectively. The police entered the area from 3 entry points which are Garchakraberia, Bhangabera and 7 Jalpai. In both the places the people were conducting Puja or reading Quran at the time when the police entered the villages. They were worshipping Mahaprabhu Gourangadev, the God that is known to be a senior. Apparently they were protesting the announced entry of the police but also peacefully involved in religious activities believing that they would be protected by God. At both the places the women and children were in the forefront. They expressed that they put women and children in front expecting that police would not attack them. The nature of protest shows us clearly that it was peaceful and there was no possibility of any untoward incident happening. There was no need for police firing on the people who had gathered in these two places.
- The women waved their hands and shouted that they should not be attacked upon and also appealed to the police that they were only conducting Puja and Police should not interfere or enter the villages.
- Without giving any time to the people the police started firing the tear gas shells and rubber bullets. As per the report of the people the entire area was covered with smoke. Within 10 minutes, even before the people could realize what was happening, the police started firing bullets mostly above the waistline. The women were specially targeted including those who were trying to flee away. At both the places there was stampede and chaos. At Bhangabera, the police chased the villagers firing from the back upto 2 kilometers into Sonachura village.
- Apart from the initial firing and killing of the people the police continued firing in the villages for the next 24 hours by cordoning off the villages to prevent entry of outsiders including the place. There was large scale looting, burning of the village house and property and raping as reported by the local people. The police and cadres entered various houses, mercilessly beat and dragged people out and raped and molested the women inside.
- The local press reports make it very clear that the state Government and Midnapore police administration were well prepared for the attack on the villagers which is corroborated by the people’s narration. For example the Midnapore police administration requested for 40,000 rounds of ammunition and 40 ambulances from the state administration a few days before the incident. This clearly shows that the whole attack on the villagers was well planned one whereas the people were totally unprepared for this brutality.
- According to the oral narrations of the villagers, the police resorted to firing while the CPI (M) cadres were directing them closely. The CPI (M) cadres, mostly mobilized from outside these villages were in khaki uniform but wearing chappals. The women in Adhikaripara in Gokulnagar clearly told us that the uniforms didn’t fit most of them and they wore Red tags on their wrists. The villagers referred to these khaki clad non-police personnel as cadre Vahini or Harmad Vahini. The people in the villages namely Sonachura, Tekhali Bazaar, Gokul nagar Panchayat reported us that this ‘Harmad Vahini’ entered their villages in hundreds from the Khejuri side. These cadres fired indiscriminately from local made and imported weapons and the hospital authorities confirmed that injury marks of bullets other than those used by the police have been found on the victims.
- The people of Sonachura village reported that about 35 children who were studying in a Ramakrishna Saral Kindergarten Vidyalaya are still missing. Their whereabouts are not known. There are cases of missing children from other villages too. The parents naturally are very worried and apprehend that they were killed and their bodies have been abducted. The villagers reported that these ‘Harmad Vahini’ not only kills but also abducts the dead bodies in a routine manner. They also told us that the school uniforms of 2 children were found in the bushes nearby. Incident of the children being killed and torn apart by pulling aside their 2 legs were also reported.
- The villagers of the Sonachura repeated time and again with anguish that many dead bodies of the people killed by the firing were buried by the police with the help of CPI (M) cadres in the trenches dug by the villagers earlier to restrict entry into the villages. If this report is to be believed, the authorities should immediately arrange for digging of the filled in trenches to verify this claim. The villagers also reported that some dead bodies were carried away in a truck.
- The other very brutal aspect is while the villagers were trying to nurse the wounded, they were severely beaten by the police and also ambulances were prevented in rescue operation.
- The still continuing presence of police in the area is a matter of great concern to the villagers because the police are providing protection and support to the CPI (M) goons. The current situation is also preventing the children from going to the schools and the women from going to the market as we were informed by residents in Adhikaripara, Gokulnagar who are dependent on Tekhali. All the schools in that area are closed as of now. The police continue to invade the village houses from time to time.
- In Sonachura, it was during our presence that the information of 3 persons being kidnapped reached the villagers and the youths from the families of the victims became furious screaming and abusing police. They were pacified by the other villagers and our team members.
- We were reported by women in Gokulnagar that the police were trying to make vulgar gestures on March 16th when the women had to run away to save themselves from any untoward incidence.
- Women, raped and molested, were interviewed by us in the hospitals who have faced physical injury and mental shock but with no lady doctor or counselors to take care of. The investigation to establish rape is also not completed.
- A number of wounded persons, children to the aged and a large number are still lying in the villages unable to reach the hospitals and are being threatened by the CPI (M) attacks from the adjacent areas.
- The people expressed their helplessness not being able to file FIRs, many being illiterate and outside supporters are not yet been able to reach them, especially due to CPI(M) protests and blockades.
- Hundreds of families especially labourers, informed us that they were without any income over days while others complained of not being permitted to visit Tekhali Market by party goons. Many families could not cook and eat 2 meals over last 2 days, while they could not have peaceful sleep over weeks.
- The people invariably, especially the women screaming in pain and anguish were emphatic in their expression and demand that Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya as C.M. and Home Minister should be held responsible and guilty and should be punished for cold-blooded murder of women and children. They even demanded that capital punishment be given to the guilty when a poor person like Dhananjay faced the same for a rape and murder.
- With many families having faced death and devastations and all the communities in the area shattered, the people are still unanimous with their resolve that they will not allow their land and resources to be taken over. Even with the Left Front’s decision to cancel the SEZ project at Nandigram reaching them, the people feel suspicious of the States’ plans and are determined to continue the struggle with unity and no divisions within.
Basic Issues in Nandigram
The basic issue in Nandigram and all proposals for an alternative economy including industrialization is the State’s right to take the livelihood resources of the people, invoking the Colonial Land Acquisition Act. The people are not prepared to part with the land at any cost. It is the women and children who are in the forefront of these struggles as they are the worst victims of development. Any scheme of cash compensation is not acceptable to the people. A visit to an area like Nandigram with lush green fields and trees, small ponds and houses, many one-storeyed and huts, outside which with children play around naturally evoke the simple question – what they will do with that money and where they will go? The resolve “we will not move out, come what may” is the natural response of a people threatened with the very right to survive with dignity which is the most sacred of the rights enshrined in the Constitution.
The minimum which can be expected from the State in a democratic polity is an informed dialogue with the people, which should not start just before actually acquiring the land, as the State is legally, obliged to do. It should start well before any alternative use of land, on which thousands of people depend, is planned for in a serious way by the State. The alternative use could be an industry or a mining complex. The people must be convinced that the State means well for all citizens and is not swayed by the clichés that some one has to bear the cost of development, or the birth pangs associated with India shining version of development. If the state is not able to convince the people, the State must withdraw and not take shelter under colonial laws. The present land Acquisition Act must be scrapped and a new formulation consistent with the Constitutional rights of the citizens of India must be framed.
The irony is that the provisions of SEZs even dispenses with the colonial law of acquisition which gives some scope, though totally inadequate, for the people even to place their position before the designated authority. They were suddenly faced with a fait- accompli that they have to move out. Their reaction was natural. They were denied even the privilege of all living beings, “even the worm turns’ by the State which, in this case, happened to be dedicated to the welfare of the people.
The most regrettable part is that in the case of SEZ, both the state government and the central government opted for a frame without any public dialogue a frame that dispenses with all processes of social, economic and ecological considerations, involving concerned departments in the state and center.
A board of approval that takes all possible decisions on its own, leaving no scope for any intervention on the part of the people and any concerned organizations is the face of a Special Economic Zone.
The Conflict and the Politics of Resistance in Nandigram
It must be noted that Nandigram is an area where a strong resistance had developed and contributed to the freedom movement of India. They were at eh fore front of the Khilafat Movement of the 1920s and had witnessed martyrdom of Khudiram Bose and Matangini Hajra. The area was cut off from the surroundings even then. The strategies and strength of the resistance today comes from this grand tradition of fighting for freedom and nothing less.
Following the publication of the notification by the HDA on January 2, and what happened soon after that, the people formed the Ganaunnayan Committee, taking along people’s organisations outside Nandigram including National Alliance of People’s Movements, Hawker Sangram Committee, Paschim Bang Khet Mazdoor Samiti and others. The resistance also had its root in the oppressive displacement faced by the people at Bhang, Rajarhat, Singur and others, closer to the city of Kolkata where land was acquired in large chunks in the name of industries; in this respect, Singur was particular important.
That most of the people, as voters, in Nandigram have been supporters of CPI (M) and CPI is more than known. The present elected representative is Mr Illias Ahmed of CPI. TMC has, if at all, very little mass base in the constituency. SUCI has its supporter’s and now, a group of activists, who are full timers. A group of local organisations include those who run some services such as schools and orphanages, eg: Jamait-ulema Hind through its active members, has organized a few madrasas and orphanages, while another group works on water issues as a part o Jalbiradari.
It was the information that Haldia Development Authority (HAD) considered to be the stronghold of Laxman Sheth, M.P., CPI(M), had proposed to acquire 38,873 acres of land in the east Midnapore, spread over about 139 monjas – ‘revenue units’- (village communities’ for Chemical Hub project which spread shivers through the populations therein. Amidst doubts and rumors this got confirmed through the politicians’ claims and confident statements. The instant reaction obviously was also a consequence of the event that had been unfolding in Singur from May 2006 onwards. The idea that the State and in particular a party that claims to be the sole party to have undertaken extensive land reforms in India could team up with a major capitalist and acquire 1,000 acres of land for the Tata Motor company to set up a modern plant to manufacture 1 lakh people’s car per year was a stunning blow to the peasantry of Nandigram. The peasants also new that the move to industrialize West Bengal by expropriat
The allegation that it is party politics and the vested interests of opposition parties in West Bengal that has led to the conflict over Nandigram SEZ is untruthful. It is more than asserted that the initial mass uprising later led to inclusion of the political parties such as TMC and SUCI to form Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Samiti, and not before. The claim that it is the game of Maoist too, does not stand proved before anyone who has witnessed the spirit and articulate expression of the cause behind the struggle by Women, Men and Youth, beyond caste and religion in the area. A large majority of the Hindus who are about 40 % of the population in Nandigram are Dalits while 60 % are Muslims. The chord of unity struck amongst them is the economics of natural resource based communities while their politics is neo-left politics of people’s movements, challenging the traditional leftist movement and, beyond ideological domains, the corporatised politics.
Our demands are:
- A Judicial Enquiry with a sitting Supreme Court Judge into the whole incidence of firing and associated atrocities on the people of the villages of Nandigram including the issues of human and legal rights. Punish all the culprits who are directly or indirectly responsible for this barbaric act.
- Immediate investigation into the missing cases of persons, including children, from each of the affected village of this area, if necessary with a household survey by an independent agency. Digging up of the trenches where people suspect that the dead bodies have been buried near the Canal of Bhangabera.
- Immediate withdrawal of the police forces, not in phases. Also, restrict the CPI (M) from any kind of protest, repression and attack.
- A formal and official announcement with written notification of the withdrawal of the proposal of the Nandigram SEZ, Chemical Hub allotted to the developer Salim group of Indonesia.
- Withdrawal of all the proposals of SEZs across India along with the very SEZ ACT.
- Constitution of the concerned citizens’ committee with prominent democrats to start a process of establishing normalcy in the affected areas of Nandigram.
- Adequate compensation package for the victims and proper treatment for the injured after shifting them to Kolkata hospitals so that they get sufficient care and medical facility.
- The medical case profiles of the victims should be protected and deposited immediately with an independent and neutral agency.
Meeting with Mr. Anup Kr. Agarwal, Magistrate and Collector, East Midnapore District on 17th March 2007 between 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm.
After visiting various villages and hospitals the All India Fact Finding team members met the D.M. at his office and presented some of the concerns expressed by the villagers. The team expressed the shock over the unprecedented and unheard of police atrocities on the villagers of Nandigram including large number of women and children. The reign of terror prevailing in the area is a continuing threat to peace to the area. The team expressed that the villagers are concerned about the large number of children missing from 14th March and continued attack of the women on their home by the uniformed personnel, harassment of the villagers including the women preventing them from going to market and children to school and the situation must be addressed by the administration precisely to bring back normalcy.
On the pointed questions relating to the incident of 14th March, the collector refused to talk on the same on the plea that the matter is under investigation by the CBI under High Court’s direction. He has expressed to the team that he has no information on missing children, nor any attack on women and told that no such police complain has been reported. The team members pointed out to him that the continued presence of police camp in the area creates constant fear to the villagers from reporting to the incident to the police. The team pointed out to him that the appalling conditions of the injured persons admitted in the Nandigram hospital, inadequate facilities in the hospital need urgent transfer of patients numbering around 20 to Kolkata hospitals. It is reported that due to the inadequacy of ambulance facilities is preventing the transfer of the injured to the city hospitals. When the team members enquired with him why the request of inspecting the dead bodies in the morgue are
Visit to Nandigram Primary Health Centre
The Nandigram primary health center was too crowded with patients and relatives and visitors when we reached there at 9.15 am. We found a number of women social workers in touch with the patients and helping them, making our task easier to know about the individual cases.
We could speak to and listen to a few patients seriously wounded.
1. Radharani Adi, vill. Gokulnagar, 45 yrs :- She was not only beaten just under her left shoulder which was swollen and probably had a fracture but also brutally hurt with a rod which pierced and hit the uterus from outside.
There was no lady doctor in the hospital and no X-ray facility, not even more than one vehicle to be able to shift to the district hospital. The doctors were waiting to shift 20 patients but stuck without adequate vehicles, were told by Dr. Maiti, the doctor in-charge.
Even after 18 hrs since she was admitted, her hand was not x-rayed and treatment for the same had not started.
During a visit to Tamluk hospital we found that Radharani was shifted there but even till midnight her hand was not x-rayed, the superintendent told us by the time she was admitted, X-ray unit was closed.
2. Achin Kumar Mondol: – “I saw trucks full of sand coming in first, followed by vehicles full of police. Without talking to us we faced tear gas. I saw women and children at the feet of police, requesting not to attack. Teargas and firing also went on simultaneously for some time.”
3. Arati Mondol: – Age 35 years, from village Kalicharanpur, complained that her head got hurt from a lathi blow. She was part of the Andolan on March 14th, which she called a puje Andolan. The attack took place when the sun was high in the sky, probably around 10 am. Both rubber and real bullets were used by the attackers.
4. Ashok Kr. Janai: – A Khet Mazdoor, 38 years married, having two 2 sons. He is from Nagchowk village and went to the Andolan to protect his land. He was trying to help some wounded person when he was hit by a bullet. He was also beaten by two policemen with lathis, on his right feet. No X-ray was taken.
5. Radharani Pathna: – Age 45, a widow with two boys and a girl. The girl was with her. She had been hit by a tear gas on the inside of her right thigh. She was still in pain.
Visit to PG Hospital, on Friday after 10 pm
Four of our team members and about six others, concerned social activists and academicians visited the Cenzon ward and Woodburn ward of PG Hospital, on Friday after 10 pm immediately after arrival in Kolkata.
We found about 15 wounded women and men from Nandigram area to the hospital mostly on the March 15th.
We have spoken to a number of patients, especially women, excluding those who were serious and sleeping. All of them narrated the story in brief, proving that they were unarmed and either in puja or reading Quran in a masjid, when a large contingent of police entered in, and attacked them.
The opening of tear gas shells led to people trying to helplessly prevent the police in uniforms and hundreds, if not thousands, of others (known to be CPM cadres in uniforms but wearing chappals with mostly red band on the head.
More details match the narration of the incidence by villagers we met in the field.
A few cases of the hospitalized wounded and a part of their statement.
1. Parikshit Maiti: – (45 yrs) Small bullet unlike that of used by police hit and entered his stomach. Operated, he was fast asleep, he couldn’t be interviewed.
2. Pritish Das :- (Sonachura) – “On the 14th March morning a few thousand policemen entered the village Sonachura and attacked. We never expected they would resort to firing, since we were engaged in puja and reading Quran. They fired on women who were at the front targeting them. I am sure more than 100 received bullets just then, when I collapsed.”
3. Salildas Adhikari: – Bullet hit his neck which was operated, he couldn’t speak.
4. Sapan Giri: – “I joined Bhumi Protirodh because I wanted to save my 2 bighas land. They didn’t give us even 10 minutes before firing.”
5. Smt Bhavani Giri: – “I have no land but I joined the struggle since I can’t go to work in factories, I work in agriculture.
I was in the kirtan of mahaprabhu Gouranga when they came in. Some of us started requesting them not to attack, some even started running away when tear gas was released. But they fired. I saw with my own eyes that 4 yrs old child was torn apart by legs and one girl was thrown into the canal. I can believe the news that about 28 bodies were recovered from the khaal (drain).”
6. Smt Banashrin Acharya, village Kesarpur: – “I am brought here in Kolkata when my husband is in Tamluk, both of us were wounded.”
Visit to Tamluk Hospital on March 17th at 10 pm.
1. Gauri Pradhan, approx. 25 yrs, vill. Sonachura: – “Three policemen took me away, dragging to a cowshed and raped me. My husband is out in Burdwan for work. I didn’t know how my family will accept me.” We inspected the case paper in a hurry as doctor was hesitant. And found no mention of pathological investigations while based on only physical examination, same Dr Bina had refuted that it was case of rape. Doctors and sisters seemed to be under enormous pressure and couldn’t speak much.
2. Sharita, approx. 35 yrs, GadhChakraberia: – Her hearing capacity is affected with blasting or firing sound. Brain was saved but some neurological damage seems to have occurred and she has problem memorizing things. “My daughter couldn’t appear for exams. Will I ever go back? I don’t think. But whether I do or not, I will not leave the fight.”
3. Kajal Majhi, Kalicharanpur: – She could hardly speak out but reported of rape.
4. Gauri Mondol vill. Sonachura: – “We were 5-6 women sitting inside the house, when 5 persons in police uniform entered in and started lathi charging.” She had many marks of severe beating and injury on the ear.
5. Shankho gol: – She had major head injuries and leg injuries with bullets. Her daughter lay aside with bullet injury on her knee. She is 47. Her right leg was in a cast from the thigh down. Her head was bandaged. It was hit by a rubber bullet.
6. Shamoli Sushanta Manna: – She was not only injured with bullet on her head but was extremely shaken. “I have nothing –no property and no one in my family. I have been just a labourer. But I will fight with and for others for own land.”
7. Sheikh Satam Hussain: – He was hurt on the fore head above her right eye with a tear gas shell. He missed his 9th std exam. He could not see with that eye. He could not speak much.
8. Laxmikant Gayan approx. 30 yrs, Sonachura: – Rubber bullet hit him on the face, when he was trying to lift the wounded persons.” I will never leave the struggle come what may.”
9. Seeta Maiti, Sonachura: – “They beat us brutally and took 14 of us women to Contai but there was some phone call to the police officer and we were suddenly brought back. I shiver with a thought, what could have happened otherwise. We know girls were taken away by police men and all have not even spoken out till date.”
10. Kalpana Jana: – Aged 40. Had an eye wound due to a hit by a tear gas shell. She could not see with that eye.
11. Lakhira: Aged 25 years. Had a bullet wound on her left leg.
Some oral testimonials of women
1. At Sonachur Bazaar: – “A group of young men talked of the local people who are prominent in the Cadre Bahimi. They insisted that we record the following names: Nabu Samanta, Sookesh Sankhi, Babi Bhuniya, Hebal Das, Bejon Rai, Sadhu Pramanit, Arun Mondol, Badal Mondol, Pradhan Lachman Mondol, Asis Mondol, Satya Das Bhabo Samanta.
They claimed that CPI (M) ‘netas’ are walking freely in front of the police, at the camps at Tekhala Bazaar and at Bhangbena Bridge, Tulughata and Maheshpur.”
2. Sutapa das adhikari, Gokulnagar: – “I witnessed the whole event. When we were in prayers, we saw a large number about 200-250 entered from Tekhali side. Tehkhali is CPM base.
We could see they have with them persons in police uniform with red bands that means ‘HARMAD BAHANI’ .We started waving hand to say ‘No police we don’t need you please’, but they broke tear gas shells and also started beating. Those wounded were not allowed to be lifted. Those who tried to give them water were also beaten and fired. We saw dead bodies lying. At least 14 people still alive were tied to few bamboos and dragged on a stoney land. They were abusing women throughout.
Even yesterday on March 16th police spoiled well waters by urinating in them. Police were trying to open chains of their pants when women had to run away.”
3. Pushparani: – “My brother Bharat Mondol was targeted and killed in police firing in January. This time my second brother Pushpenda too got killed. Not able to bear the grief I went to Lakhan Mondol, the Panchayat Pradhan and asked him to stop this. He said ‘being a pond you cannot fight the sea unless you carry the red flag’.” Pushparani was in tears after hearing this.