Peace talks fail as Mamata walks out
The much-publicised all-party meeting to restore peace in Nandigram failed on Thursday with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee walking out of it after she had a heated argument with the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) that refused to term the March 14 police firing in the area as a genocide.
However, senior Left Front leader and West Bengal Forward Bloc (FB) secretary Ashok Ghosh, who initiated the all-party peace talks, claimed the meeting was successful and the Trinamool chief had communicated her views on the peace initiative.
Ghosh said as the meeting was "inconclusive" and it was "adjourned" and would continue after discussions with all the parties. But Banerjee differed.
"We participated in the all-party meeting to restore normalcy in trouble-torn Nandigram. We demanded punishment to all perpetrators of the March 14 massacre. But there was no such agenda in that meeting and so we boycotted it," Banerjee said.
After two hours of discussions, Banerjee walked out of the meet at Mahajati Sadan and left for her south Kolkata residence.
At least 21 people were killed, hundreds injured and several women raped in Nandigram, about 150 km from Kolkata in East Midnapore district, since January over a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in collaboration with Indonesia's Salim Group. Fourteen people were killed in police firing March 14.
Thousands are living in camps since the flare-up.
"I wanted to know from the Left Front leaders who asked police to enter Nandigram and fire on the innocent villagers. And in reply to that, CPI-M leader Subhas Chakraborty said police entered Nandigram to avenge an incident when a police jeep was torched by Nandigram villagers on Jan 3 this year," she said.
Besides Chakraborty, CITU state president Shyamal Chakraborty and CPI-M state secretariat member Madan Ghosh participated in the meet though Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and CPI-M state secretary Biman Basu were not present there.
Representatives from Nandigram's Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) and Singur Krishijami Raksha Committee - the platforms opposing land acquisition in West Bengal - also attended the meet along with senior Trinamool Congress members, including Partha Chattopadhayay and Subhendu Adhikari, legislator from the area.
Banerjee demanded punishment to all the perpetrators who were involved in the March 14 massacre and also asked why the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the mayhem was being delayed.
"The Left Front allies played a very effective role in restoring peace in Nandigram but the CPI-M had no honest intention to make it successful," Banerjee said, clarifying that she would not participate in any peace talk if it's called by the CPI-M.
Appreciating the honest gestures of the Left Front partners, she said, "If the other members of the front (except CPI-M) called further peace talks on the Nandigram issue I am ready to take part anytime."
Apart from CPI-M, Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Nandagopal Bhattacharya, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) leader Kshiti Goswami and many other senior Left Front members participated in the meeting.
Congress leader Somen Mitra, Pradip Bhattacharya and Manas Bhuniya also took part in the meeting. As Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was not invited, it protested outside the venue.
Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, one of the key groups in Nandigram protests and a constituent of the anti-land acquisition movement, was not invited for the peace talks either as it is not a political party.
The Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI), a communist party outside the Front, had earlier boycotted the meeting describing it as "futile", while the BJP, one of the few parties not invited, has alleged that it was a "farce".
As participants of the meeting began arriving at the venue BJP workers reached the spot and began demonstrations after blocking the arterial CR Avenue, leading to chaos.
Police said 30 BJP workers were arrested. A strong police picket was also set up to ensure that the meeting could proceed undisturbed.