Measuring his words carefully, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Wednesday talked peace, people's rule and offered a package of development for Nandigram, the violence-scarred area he stepped into after nearly 11 months.
The chief minister, who visited the area after February 11, said he would not have sent police on March 14 if he knew there would be firing - 14 people were killed that day.
Addressing a rally amid heavy security, he evaded any mention of the terror unleashed by his Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) cadres in November to recapture the area from the rival Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) or the Committee to Protest Land Eviction.
Choosing to play a chief minister of all, irrespective of party affiliation, he also promised a big development package for the area.
"I appeal to all to help us in maintaining peace and setting in motion the development work that was stalled for nearly a year. I want a peace committee in Nandigram instead of a BUPC because I again say that no land would be taken here," Bhattacharjee said, assuring that he would help rebuild lives torn asunder by spiralling violence.
He said peace could not be maintained with only police or the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force). "People have to maintain peace and remove the differences. I request you all to keep peace."
"I clearly say that the Left Front government cannot grab land of the farmers, never ever. We are pioneers in land reforms and have ensured that in this state land belongs to the poor," he said.
"There were campaigns that we were out to grab the land of the Muslims. Can we do that? Remember we are leftists."
The chief minister appealed for calm and said he mourned for all. People in Nandigram did not want any more violence, he stressed.
Offering the way forward in the area, where the government has scrapped plans for a chemical special economic zone (SEZ) after violent protests over land acquisition, Bhattacharjee said just because there is no industry it did not mean that the area would lag behind. The government would make sure that it would develop the area in agriculture, irrigation and education.
"I will let you know our plans to develop Nandigram by improving the agricultural output. We want the colleges here to be upgraded. We are preparing for it," he said.
The chief minister assured that compensation would reach all and not just CPI-M supporters.
He said he had sanctioned Rs10 million already and Rs 80 million was waiting to be spent.
"We have decided to distribute free mini kits for all cultivators here now, whether it is paddy cultivation or vegetables."
Bhattacharjee, who had claimed that Maoists were behind the armed clashes in Nandigram, said the guerrillas were setting up bases in Sonachura and Garchakraberia areas of Nandigram.
He began by clearing "misgivings" of the people of Nandigram: "We wanted to develop Nandigram like Haldia... We wanted to build a bridge and connect the two.
"Haldia was nowhere 30 years ago but now it is on the industrial map of the world. But we never intended to force people to give land. Are we mad to have wiped out mosques, temples, markets and everything to set up the chemical industry here?"
The chief minister said the government had competed with seven states to clinch the chemical industry plan. "And it is not us alone but with the centre which was willing to set up the chemical hub with the Indian Oil Corporation (as anchor investor)," he said.
Nandigram, located about 150 km from Kolkata in East Midnapore district, flared up in January. Thirty-five people have died officially in Nandigram since January with a fresh bout of violence in November after the CPI-M cadres allegedly recaptured their lost bases in the area by launching a massive onslaught against BUPC workers.