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MP farmers’ protest: An echo of what happened in Nandigram a decade ago

The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government wanted to acquire fertile agricultural land to set up a special economic zone for a chemical factory to be built by the Salim Group of Indonesia.

india Updated: Jun 07, 2017 21:32 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Firing on farmers,Farmers protest,Nandigram
Police petrolling on the Mhow- Neemuch highway amid burning tyres of a truck in Mandsaur , Madhya Pradesh, India, on Wednesday, June 07, 2017. (Mujeeb Faruqui/HT Photo)

In 2007, police fired on farmers resisting the expropriation of their land in Nandigram, a rural area in the East Midanpore district of West Bengal.

The main confrontation took place in Sonachura, where locals had assembled to resist the government. They organised yagnas and read out passages from religious texts to keep up morale.

After police broke through makeshift blockades installed by the protesters, fourteen people were killed and over 70 were wounded. Local residents told the Calcutta press that armed CPI(M) cadres accompanied the police and helped attack villagers.

Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi said in a statement to the media that the news of the violence filled him with “cold horror”.

The day after the attack, a division bench of Calcutta high court head by chief justice SS Nijjar ordered a CBI investigation into the incident. Intellectuals erupted in protest on the streets of Kolkata with many known to sympathise with the Left severely criticising the government.

Nandigram became a symbol. The violence contributed to the end of the Left’s 34-year rule in 2011.

It all started because Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, then the chief minister, had made a deal with the Indonesian Salim Group to build a chemical factory.

There were early warnings that the Left Front ignored. Violent protest was already developing in Singur, and several party leaders were wary about the Salim Group’s past complicity with anti-Communist violence in Indonesia. Bhattacharjee pushed ahead anyway, desperate for private investment to generate new jobs.

On January 2, 2007, the Haldia Development Authority issued a preliminary notice that it wanted to acquire 14,500 acres over 27 mouzas. On January 3, more than 1,000 people gathered to protest. The government took no heed and went ahead with its plans.

First Published: Jun 07, 2017 21:28 IST