Nandigram remained tense on Thursday with violence continuing unabated and social worker Medha Patkar coming under attack. The state government, on its part, stepped up its firefighting, deciding to send in the police by Friday and announcing compensation for the victims of the March 14 police firing.
Chief Secretary Amit Kiran Deb said the next of kin of the 14 people who were killed in the firing would get Rs 2 lakh each. Moreover, he said, the government has also decided to transfer the policemen involved in the incident and punish them if found guilty.
Patkar was on her way to Nandigram when her car was stopped by alleged CPI-M activists in Kapasera. In the ensuing melee, she was grabbed by the hair and pulled out of her car. The police team escorting her reportedly fled the scene. The area turned into a battlefield in no time and a mob assaulted human rights activists Sunanda Sanyal, Sujato Bhadra and Tarun Ganguly who were accompanying Patkar. “They were mercilessly beaten with bamboo sticks and bricks,” Patkar told HT. The activist demonstrated in the area for more than three hours.
Some mediapersons were also attacked and injured and their vehicles damaged. Inspector General of Police, Western Range, Arun Gupta said: “There were some stray incidents in some areas. No news of firing and casualties have been reported so far. We are inquiring into the attack on Medha Patkar.”
Another report coming in said the convoys of Congress leader Manas Bhuniya and Trinamool Congress leaders Mukul Rai and Subhendu Adhikari also came under attack at Mograjpur and Narghat respectively.
At Writers’ Buildings, Deb said: “The East Midnapore district administration held a meeting with both parties (CPM and Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee) last evening and again this morning. The police will set up camps inside Nandigram and patrol the area to prevent further escalation of the problem. Those who fled their homes will be escorted back by the police.”
The district magistrate has been asked to identify those who will be getting compensation, Deb said. The BUPC’s demand for compensation for the injured was not considered. But their other demands will be looked into. For instance, the government is “considering separating Nandigram from the Haldia Development Authority and a decision in this regard would be taken soon”.
The state government has also decided that all 50 pending cases will be scrutinised and baseless cases withdrawn while legal and administrative avenues will be explored to take steps against the officers behind the firing.
The BUPC members, however, are taking the state initiative with a pinch of salt. Come Friday, they believe, the police will just ensure the “capture” of their villages by the CPM.
Meanwhile, Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi has sent an assessment report to the Centre on the Nandigram situation. Copies of his report were sent to the President, Prime Minister and Home Minister.