The Centre on Wednesday gave a written directive to the West Bengal government on the Nandigram issue asking it to ensure people’s safety in the violence-affected areas and ensure the safe return of those forced to vacate their homes.
“We have given directions to the West Bengal government in writing that no one should be forced to leave his or her home. Everybody should be brought back and given full protection by the state,” Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil said, while winding up the discussion on Nandigram in Lok Sabha.
Such a step by the Centre borders on the assertion of Article 355 — which makes it responsible for protecting states against external aggression and internal disturbance. And also to ensure that every state is governed in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
The Home Minister informed the House that the instructions were “on the lines of what Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani had earlier spoken of” while initiating the debate.
Advani had asked the Centre to issue directions to the state government under Article 355 of the Constitution and dismiss it if it failed to comply. “If these directions are not followed, then the Centre is fully justified in invoking Article 356 (imposition of President’s Rule) in the state,” the opposition leader said.
The BJP leader also raised the demand for an all-party parliamentary delegation to be sent to Nandigram to assess the situation.
The CPM-led West Bengal government came under a sharp attack during the debate for its handling of the Nandigram situation.
Even the Congress was critical of the state government with Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.R. Dasmunsi asserting that it must conduct “an objective introspection” into the matter and take action against the guilty to restore peace and order in the disturbed area.
CPM member Mohammad Salim and Gurudas Dasgupta of CPI, however, put up a strong defence of the state government accusing their political opponents of fuelling the crisis, thereby allowing the Maoists to take advantage of the situation.
Patil, however, ruled out a CBI inquiry into the latest incidents in Nandigram saying it would not be possible unless the state government makes a specific request. But blamed the state government for not handling the situation in the troubled areas properly.
The home minister also said that the Centre had information that some outsiders had instigated people for turning violence. “They also brought sophisticated weapons into the area,” he said.
Patil also dismissed the charge of Left parties that the Centre delayed sending of CRPF personnel to Nandigram saying the paramilitary forces were send without any delay.
On calling of Army in Kolkata, Patil said, the state government has informed that the situation was "tense but under control". He said the trouble started during an agitation of people restoring to blocking the roads and stone pelting, resulting in injuries to 50 people including a Deputy Commissioner of Police.
On Advani's query on whether the Centre was consulted by the state government before calling the Army, Patil said, it was not required.
Meanwhile, in a forceful speech, CPM member Mohammad Salim lashed out at the party’s political detractors accusing them of instigating the Nandigram populace by misleading propaganda and giving a handle to Maoists to take advantage of the volatile situation.
Gurudas Dasgupta alleged that some forces were attempting to destabilise the constitutionally-elected government in West Bengal.
He termed the happenings at Nandigram as a “great human tragedy” saying that the area was slowly returning to normalcy and there was need to take a positive view to take the process forward.
The debate witnessed noisy interruptions from members of opposing sides which upset Speaker Somnath Chatterjee who expressed disapproval of their behaviour. He told them he would continue to do his duty and those who did not want him could get rid of him.
He appealed to the members to discuss the matter in a manner which would help in resolving the issues.
Rajya Sabha will discuss the Nandigram issue on Thursday.