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Use force, risk another Nandigram?

To crack down or not to crack down, that’s West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s dilemma, reports Tanmay Chatterjee.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2009 23:30 IST
Tanmay Chatterjee

To crack down or not to crack down, that’s West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s dilemma.

“If the government cracks down in Lalgarh, there will be gunfights and lots of dead bodies. The government can’t afford that after what happened in Nandigram,” said a senior government official on condition of anonymity. “And if we don’t crack down, the situation will spin further out of control.”

At least 14 villagers had died in police firing at Nandigram in East Midnapore on March 14, 2007, when the government tried to re-establish its writ over the area.

Senior Left leaders hold this incident responsible for the alienation of the rural masses, and the subsequent drubbing the Left Front received in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls.

During the day, a sizeable section of the CPI-M, led by Housing Minister Gautam Deb and Central Committee members Shyamal Chakraborty and Benoy Konar, pressed for police action against the CPI (Maoist) and People’s Committee Against Police Atrocity — the citizen’s body spearheading the stir — in Lalgarh in West Midnapore district.

Unless the party regained its clout in this district, they argued, Maoists would wipe it out not only in East and West Midnapore but also in neighbouring Bankura. This would result in severe reverses for the Left Front in the 2011 assembly polls.

CPM state secretary Biman Bose reportedly expressed helplessness and said: “This is nothing short of fascist terror. The state government must take action. But we have no supporters left in Lalgarh.”

But the CPM’s allies — RSP, Forward Bloc and CPI — want the government to move cautiously to avoid another bloodbath. Senior RSP leader Kshiti Goswami and Forward Bloc secretary Ashok Ghosh also questioned the effectiveness of the state police.

They felt the best option would be to invite direct central intervention.

That way, they could blame the Congress and Trinamool Congress, in case the issue goes out of control.

A delegation of Front MLAs will meet West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi on Thursday and brief him about the situation.