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PUCL, April 2007

Public meeting on Nandigram

"Nandigram and Gujarat Fall in the same Category as both were State Sponsored"

Click here for PUCL press statement

(Fourteen people were killed by the West Bengal police on 14 March 2007 when it opened fire on the agitating farmers against the proposed special economic zone (SEZ) in Nandigram village of West Bengal. The government proposed to acquire the land of the farmers for SEZ and give it to a foreign industrial house for establishment of a chemical hub.

People of the surrounding villages have been resisting the government acquisition of their land as it was their only source of livelihood. In an apparent bid to intimidate and subjugate the farmers the government of West Bengal with the active assistance of local armed Communist Party of India (Marxist) cadre used brutal force officially killing 14 people while unconfirmed reports put the figure, including missing above 300.

Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Janhastkshep organized a joint public meeting on the issue of Nandigram police firing at Gandhi Peace Foundation, Delhi on 3rd April 2007. A large number of civil rights activist and intellectuals took part in the meeting.s

A report by Dr. Pushkar Raj National Secretary, PUCL.

A large number of students, lawyers, civil right practitioners and intellectuals attended the meeting convened by PUCL and Janhastkshep at Gandhi Peace Foundation today, 3rd April 2007. Chairing the meeting and initiating the discussion President of PUCL-Uttar Pradesh Justice (Rtd.) Ram Bhushan Mehrotra said that in a democracy people should have the right to decide about the model of development that they would like to adopt for their good. It is incomprehensible and unacceptable that the government takes upon itself to decide the kind of development that the people should have and persist with it despite the latter’s stiff opposition.

Former president of PUCL Justice (Rtd.) Rajender Sachar expressed shock that over the basic issue of development the governments would go to the extent of shooting the people. `Sane people of this country must question whether the government that shoots to kill the innocent to grab their land for development should remain in the office’, he asked. He further said that in recent times the governments have shown a certain degree of arrogance of power irrespective of the political parties they belong to and this is an insult to our democracy.

Veteran socialist Surendra Mohan regretted that the government that champions the cause of poor and unemployed should lay emphasis on capital intensive industry. ` The government says that they have been inspired by China in the field of SEZ but China has only 6 of them while we are creating them in every nook and corner of the country. Besides, in china the farmer does not lose the land, he remains its sole owner’, he said. He further explained that in the SEZs the labor laws will not apply. It is clearly anti-labor policy and those who have been championing the cause of the workers and poor have turned their back at them.

Sumit Chakarvati, the editor of reputed weekly Mainstream, paid rich tribute to the dead farmers who laid their lives for a cause that is dear to the heart of every farmer of the country. Condemning the Nandigram massacre he said that Gujarat and Nandigram fall in the same category because they both were state sponsored. `As a leftist I can only hang my head in shame’, he regretted.

Sumit Chakarvati gave an account of his visit to the west Bengal and surmised that he and his team came to the conclusion that CPM is sheltering a mafia. He said that West Bengal is the 5th largest industrialized state of the nation and prior to left front government assuming power three decades back it was in the 3rd position . What has happened is that many industries like jute have died down due to the neglect of the government. The need of the present is to revive those industries and provide employment to the people and not to industrialize further with the help of capital intensive technology.

Pointing out of the case of Singrur he said that the land in Singrur is regarded as one of the most fertile land track of the world as per the Geographical Survey of India. The government is uprooting 15000 people who are depended on agriculture for the sake of generating the employment for 12000 people!

Well known Supreme Court lawyer Prashanat Bhushan said that he had heard that CPM was no different than the Congress and the BJP when it came to violent cadre; but now this has been well established by the happenings of Nandigram. He said that there must be certain guidelines when the government acquires land of the farmers. Elaborating these guidelines he emphasized on the ceiling on the land holding of an industrial house; not entrusting the private parties for rehabilitation of the displaced persons; making gram sabha a deciding authority in land acquisition of a particular village and finally making a well defined distinction between the public purpose and the public interest when the land of the farmers is acquired.

Dr. Aparna from CPI (ML) pointed out that the SEZ Act was passed not long back in the Parliament unanimously and there was no serious discussion as has become norm when it comes to the serious policy legislation in the parliament. Now including CPI (M) all the political parties want amendment in the Act. `The people of this country must ask these peoples’ representative that they should at least be serious parliamentarians’, she exhorted.

Bringing fore her personal visit to Nandigram Dr. Amita Singh, Professor of Centre for Law and Governance, JNU saluted the spirit of people of Nandigram and said that the farmers of Nandigram deserve accolade for the fact that they have expressed and asserted what farmers of the rest of the country have not been able to. She compared what is happening in the villages adjoining the cities of Haryana with Nandigram and maintained that the resistance of people of Nandigram will fill the people of the other parts of the country too to rise against the vested interests of the globalization sponsored corporate interests.

Recalling her visit last year in the region she said that the area has been developed for last one decade as one of the best in the state to make people self sustained with the arduous efforts of the self help groups and committed social spirited persons. The result has been that the area now is free of sanitation related epidemics that claimed hundreds of life earlier annually.

Besides due to the efforts of the civil society groups the people are self sufficient economically; in agricultural and related field of animal husbandry, fishery and have grown in economic self dependence and prosperity. The place is livable and beautiful with local peoples’ own hard work and efforts of nearly a decade. It is unacceptable for the people of the area that today the government that did the least for them when they were in dire crisis comes and tries to snatch their land and deprive them of their honorable livelihood. Certainly there would be resistance and naturally there was.

Finally Dr. Pushkar Raj secretary of PUCL , placed before the meeting a resolution condemning the forcible acquisition of agricultural land and forests in the different parts of the country and depriving the people of their livelihood through the antiquated, anti-people colonial legislation, viz., the Land Acquisition Act 1894. The resolution demanded the resignation of the state government and arrest of those who planned and carried out the Nandigram massacre. The resolution also demanded the repeal of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and the repeal of SEZ Act.

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014