Nandigram (East Midnapore), Jan. 4: Nandigram continued to bristle for the second day, with a CPM office torched, ditches cut across roads and culverts destroyed to block access to villages.
But the large police reinforcements sent after yesterday’s pitched battles with villagers stayed put at the Nandigram police station, about 8 km from the action, under orders not to “interfere” and stoke the fire.
The SEZ land acquisition does not have the same urgency as Singur.
A lone bit of action by the local police’s Tekhali outpost just beyond Nandigram, however, revealed as strong a Naxalite link as Singur’s. Six CPIML (Liberation) activists were detained, with two of them — Moloy Tiwari and Jitendra Kumar — turning out to be students of Jadavpur University and Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Shankar Mitra, 60, said he was the secretary of Liberation’s labour front and lived in Jadavpur. Bipradas Chatterjee, 45, and Netai Mondal, 30, are from Mahishadal in East Midnapore. “We will not allow the Salim Group to grab farmers’ land for a special economic zone,” Mitra said.
Block officials toured the villages from morning, their loudspeakers blaring that no notice on land acquisition had been served. Yesterday’s attacks on the police and a panchayat office seem to have been set off by a mistaken belief that acquisition of farmers’ plots, earmarked for Indonesia’s Salim Group, was imminent.
But the villagers weren’t buying the assurance. Some 6,000 armed men and women split into groups and held marches across Nandigram under the banners of Krishi Bachao Committee and Jami Bachao Committee.
Around 1.30 pm, some 700 people vandalised and torched the CPM local committee office at Rajaramchak before setting a power transformer on fire at Char Kendamari.
The mob marched on to the home of CPM local committee secretary Niranjan Mondal. Seeing he had fled, it left a parked trekker in flames.
Thousands prowled the approach roads armed with sticks, spears, axes and sickles, watching out for police teams. Roads were dug up in at least 30 places.
Inspector-general (western range) Arun Gupta, camping at the police station with deputy inspector-general (Midnapore range) N. Ramesh Babu, said, “The situation is very tense today. So, police were not sent to the villages.”
Gupta admitted the police had fired in the air yesterday, which the home secretary said was being probed.