At least 11 killed in Nandigram firing, 60 hurt
The police firing is part of a strategy by CPI (M) to regain lost ground, report Sujit Nath & Aloke Banerjee.Updated: Mar 15, 2007, 00:54 IST
In a pre-planned operation, thousands of West Bengal policemen on Wednesday entered Nandigram and opened fire on villagers resisting them, killing at least 11 people. More than 60 others were injured, many of them women and children.
The 2,000-strong police contingent’s entry was part of a strategy made by the CPI (M) to regain lost ground in the block in East Midnapore district, about 140 km from Kolkata. The villagers had cut off Nandigram from the rest of the state for over two months, protesting against the acquisition of land for a proposed special economic zone (SEZ). They had blocked all the entry points and had dug up the roads.
In a bid to force an end to the agitation, the police forced into Bhangabera village - one of the entry points - and came up against a human barricade of women and children. The police fired teargas shells, then rubber bullets, and finally live cartridges.
The police said they fired in self-defence as the villagers were carrying arms. As the villagers started fleeing, policemen followed them and dragged some out of their houses and beat them up. "It was like a war. I don’t know where my family members are," said Saber, a villager.
"Bodies were scattered all over the paddy fields smeared with blood. The injured were screaming for help but the policemen kept kicking them," said Ehsan, another villager.
The police also resorted to severe action at Sonachura, another village.
CPI (M) insiders told Hindustan Times that the party top brass last week chalked out the plan to push the police in. The party was under pressure from leaders of its East Midnapore unit, led by MP Lakshman Seth, who felt the CPI(M) would suffer permanent losses unless the blockade was removed.