Four years back, this place was gripped with terror. CPI(M) cadres and their red flags ruled over the entire area. But the day before the elections here, the scene is completely different. CPI(M) cadres are nowhere to be found and their flags have totally vanished.
Life is normal. Fear is no more the key in Nandigram and people want peace to prevail through democratic process. If the panchayat polls 2008, Lok Sabha polls 2009, assembly by-poll 2009 are indications, then people are ready to vote for Trinamool.
“People have not forgotten how they were tortured by the CPI(M) cadres. Many have lost their property and family members in the bloody clashes. Now we want peace to continue. People will vote for Trinamool and give the candidate a lead of at least 70,000 votes,” said Biswajit Paik of Sonachura.
A lot of water has flow down the Talpati Canal in Nandigram, which was a scene of major violence in the month of January 2007. The CPI(M) cadres and their leaders were going all-out to capture the villages that showed their loyalty towards the Trinamool Congress and objected to forcible acquisition of more than 14,000 acres of land for a chemical hub here.
And the climax was the brutal killing of the 14 innocent villagers on January 14, 2007 in police firing, who had gathered to protect against acquisition of land. Since then, 34 people have lost their lives in either police firing or in political clashes between the CPI(M) and the Trinamool party men.
Two years back, people dreaded to come out of their houses in the villages of Setangabari, Tekhali, Gokulnagar, Samsabad, Takapura, Daudpur, Kendemari Jalpai, Mohammadpur, Garchakraberia, Sonachura and Bhekutia. These were strong CPI(M) bases that saw major bloody clashes with the Trinamool supporters, which reduced in intensity as Trinamool began to win elections here.
The first turning point was the panchayat polls in which the people of Nandigram sealed the fate of the CPI(M). In Nandigram I, Trinamool captured all the 10 anchals at fray and in Nandigram II, the Trinamool captured six out of the seven anchals. The CPI(M) got one. Then in 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Nandigram gave a fitting reply to sitting MP Lakshman Seth, who tried to acquire their lands against their wish, by giving Trinamool’s Subhendu Adhikary a big lead from this assembly segment.
And in the same year, in the Assembly by-poll people of Nandigram defeated the CPI candidate and gave a victory to the sitting Trinamool Congress MLA candidate Feroza Bibi. “With so much security force and effective Election Commission, we expect a free and fair poll in Nandigram. We have seen lot of rigging in the past, now we want peace and democracy here,” said Arunodoya Maity, who lives near Talpati Bridge along the Sonachura-Khejuri border.
Only 10 public meetings have been held in Nandigram in the run-up to the assembly polls. Banerjee has held one at Tekhali Bazar, where she promised people that if she comes to power she would develop the area. And there would be no forcible acquisition of land. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in his meeting at Heria in Khejuri said that he did not order the police firing and that he did not think his government did any wrong in trying to acquire land. The last part was not music to people who gave blood to keep their land.