Today is November 15, 2007. Yesterday, in Kolkata, nearly 100,000 people walked on the streets in support of Nandigram. Their slogan was “Tomar nam, amar nam, Nandigram, Nandigram.” (Your name, my name, Nandigram, Nandigram.) Nandigram is a place in East Midnapore district of West Bengal. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has joined the multinational corporate giants and started acquiring agricultural land in West Bengal in the name of industrialisation. Singur in Hooghly went to the Tatas. Nandigram was earmarked for a chemical hub for the Salim Group. Lakshman Seth, the supremo of the Haldia Metropolitan Development Authority, issued notices to Nandigram in December 2006. This notice — till date not officially withdrawn by the West Bengal government — triggered the mass killings in Nandigram in January and March 2007.
In Nandigram, men, women and children have been — and are being — killed. Women are being raped, and there has been no redressal steps taken by the state government. On the other hand, CPI(M) cadres and hired killers — recruited from adjacent districts, Jharkhand and other places — are killing people with great regularity. Hindus and Muslims are facing and fighting the enemy together. The CPI(M) has ultimately managed to enter Nandigram. Hundreds of houses have been demolished; rice, clothes and utensils have been looted; ponds and other water resources have been poisoned. And women were raped. Rape is a tactic that the CPI(M) uses.
Yesterday, the people just walked on the streets of Kolkata wearing black badges. I have seldom seen a more dignified and solemn procession. The presence of the young generation was also very impressive. Our writers, painters, singers, cultural workers from the theatre, the cinema and other media joined in. Most impressive was the huge assemblage of the common people. They are the essence of Kolkata. Donations were being collected.
I was so proud of Kolkata.
Today, the state government has organised another procession to counter yesterday’s protest. My small flat is packed with rice, clothes and blankets. These are being carried to Nandigram by trucks by local volunteers. The sky is dark. The weather forecast says a cyclone is in the offing. Nandigram needs tarpaulins, blankets and rice. Nandigram needs active doctors, selfless workers, especially young people who will show us the way to serve people. More later, when I can.
Mahasveta Devi is a writer and activist. She was awarded the Jnanpith in 1996 and received the Magsaysay Award in 1997.