Violence-ridden Nandigram took a bold step towards peace on Tuesday as Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee welcomed the idea of Left Front allies holding a dialogue with her. The CPI(M) on Monday had agreed to allow its allies to talk with Mamata and find an acceptable formula of restoring peace in Nandigram.
"I welcome the idea. I will be happy if they talk to us. We don’t want to attach any conditions to such talks and we never said that we will not participate in peace meetings," Mamata said. "We are even ready to talk to the CPI(M)," she said.
Mamata, however, chose not to hide her apprehensions and hoped that the offer for talks was not an eyewash "as had happened in case of Singur." "The state government did not keep its words in Singur. In earlier peace meetings in Nandigram, the district administration did not even record our opinion. If any Left ally talks to us, they must have prior authorisation from the government that the decisions of the meeting will be implemented sincerely or else such talks will have no meaning,” Mamata said.
RSP leader and state PWD minister Kshiti Goswami, who had offered to talk to the Trinamool chief after the Left Front meeting on Monday, "warmly welcomed" Mamata’s stand. "She can talk to us individually. She can sit with all the allies of the Left Front together. I also accept her stand that decisions arrived at such meetings must be binding on the government as well," Goswami said.
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, however, chose not to comment. He merely shook his head and strode off when asked for his opinion on the development. CPI(M) insiders said that the issue would first be discussed within the party before the CM made any comment.
Leaders of both the opposition and the allies of the CPI(M) described the development as optimistic with Mamata warming up to the idea of talks, Nandigram remaining free from violence for the last three days and the evicted people trickling in home. The East Midnapore district Left Front, too, decided during the day that return of the evicted people to their homes should be the first priority.
During her hurriedly called press conference, Mamata said she was also open to the idea of Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi calling an all-party peace meeting. "This government has lost credibility because it did not keep its words in case of Singur. That is why we had said that we would attend all-party meeting convened by the governor and not by the administration,” she said.
The Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Committee was also eager to restore peace in the area became evident as they allowed several families belonging to the CPI(M) camp to return to Nandigram during the day. Mamata said 25 such families had returned. "Everybody except those guilty of the March 14 carnage are welcome to return home," she said.