If memory serves us right, Nandigram in East Midnapore, West Bengal, first became the Ground Zero of spiralling violence in March when people opposing the state government's plan to set up a chemical industries hub clashed with CPI(M) cadres and police forces. With its local populace of around 20,000 scattered around seven or eight villages sucked into the 'extra-political' battle between political forces — the ultra-Left and Trinamool Congress vs the CPI(M) — the whole Special Economic Zone (SEZ) issue, along with that of land acquisition for development, entered the less abstract world of bloodshed. The area, an underdeveloped and anachronistic obstacle in the plans of a 'New Bengal', exposed some serious 'human' shortcomings of the state government's development policies.
Nandigram has since remained in a state of siege, even after Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee categorically pulled the plug on Nandigram's chemical hub plans (the plans to set it up in the uninhabited Nayachar island being blocked in turn by the Union Environment Ministry). So, with the immediate cause for the downward spiral no longer there, one would have expected a return to peace — the lingering economic and developmental wretchedness notwithstanding. That hasn't happened. With at least three people killed on Tuesday in the clashes between CPI(M) cadres — who raided to regain their traditional 'control' of Nandigram — and those opposed to the party's politico-lumpen brigade, Nandigram has elicited the response of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has expressed concern and has asked Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil to immediately step in.
Mr Bhattacharjee has appealed to all sides to refrain from violence. No one, not even cadres theoretically responsible to Alimuddin Street, seems to be listening. The state police has not even been able to enter the war zone. Bringing peace to Nandigram 'by force' hasn't worked. It's time the Centre, with the help of armed forces loyal to no political outfit, steps in and brings law and order to a part of the country that finds itself barricaded away in a turf war that could spin even more dangerously out of control.