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Alarm Bells Sound in Nandigram for Indian Democracy
By Bobby Ramakant
Asia Correspondent

The state of west Bengal has waged a war against farmers with an intention of occupying their farm land, fish ponds, homes and hearths. In spite of the rhetorical statements by the Chief Minister of WB that he would consult and convince the people, the State government claiming to be leftist by ideology, has resorted to brutal and barbaric way of using police force and party cadres to attack the unarmed, non-violent farmers, fish workers, labourers and artisans in the district of East Midnapore for grabbing their land.

14 people, all villagers, were reported to be killed. Civil society organizations claim there are more than 50 dead so far in the mindless frenzy unleashed by police and administration on people of Nandigram.

The people from generations old communities who have a golden history of freedom movement and martyrdom are being not only forced but killed by the "free Indian state" which is shameful for the Indian democracy and its people. Imposition of industrialization, with or without SEZ, as also real estate-development, is to kill farm land and farming as a way of life.

This brutal attack is being condemned by civil society organizations across India, and also expatriates with forums as those of DailySouthAsian and AID India flooded with outcry to lobby pressure for action and justice. "CPM must be compelled to stop murdering farmers immediately and held accountable. Such state fascism and corporate war against people can't and must not be tolerated" said noted social activist Medha Patkar.

Medha continues to add that there is going to be a demonstration in Delhi beginning on March 19 in support of all people's movements against displacement in India. The charter of demands include:

- That the Union of India and UPA through the PM, Sonia Gandhi and others must immediately intervene and use various restraining measures in their hands to compel the CPM government to stop the murderous attack.

- Legal action must be taken against all responsible for the killings including the CM, West Bengal

- That the National Human Rights Commission will send a team for urgent enquiry and take action. We assert that SEZ Act should be repealed and projects with conflict between the state and the people should be put on immediate hold across the country. An enactment on Development Planning, based on the draft submitted to the National Advisory Council under the Chairmanship of Smt. Sonia Gandhi should be taken for consultation with people's movements and approval.

The West Bengal state stands charged with culpable homicide in Nandigram. The people's demands included:

- Immediate police withdrawal from Nandigram
- Police officers be held accountable for the massacre
- Judicial enquiry into the massacre be conducted immediately.
- Due punishment be meted out to offenders
- Public apology by the CPM
- Halt land acquisition right now
- Repeal the SEZ act that has already caused so much blood shed

It is a shame that police administration and our elected representatives continue to thwart people's struggles and instead of protecting democratic rights of our people, they are overtly active in protecting vested interests of corporations.

Another noted social activist and Magsaysay Awardee 2002 Dr Sandeep Pandey reasserts that "industrialization is not an alternative to agriculture." Even pro-industrialists need food to eat, not machines.

Let's hope that people who feel they are not "affected" by the Nandigram Satyagrah, will `hear' the alarm bells communities on the frontlines have already sounded. The time to wake up is running out.



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Bobby Ramakant, who serves as The Seoul Times' Asia correspondent, is a member of NATT, Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals, and edits Weekly MONiTOR series, reporting violations of tobacco control policies as a senior public health and development journalist. He writes for newspapers in 11 countries and can be reached at bobbyramakant@yahoo.com)

 

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