April 29: Bombs and bullets flew and claimed a life in Nandigram today for the first time since the March 14 firing, with a CPM worker dragged out of his home and shot before his family.
Weeks of minor skirmishes peaked into large-scale violence as CPM cadres and Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee men attacked each other in several villages.
Police confirmed the death of 26-year-old Lalit Mondol, also known as Dilip, a labourer from Gokulnagar.
CPM leaders claimed that another supporter, 30-year-old Mahitosh Karan of Jambari, was killed in a bomb attack but his body was carried away by Pratirodh Committee members to Garchakraberia, a Trinamul stronghold.
East Midnapore police chief Anil Srinivas said, “We are looking for the other body.”
Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who had publicly criticised the March 14 police firing, spoke to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee over the phone and expressed concern at the fresh flare-up.
CPM cadres fired the day’s first shots in Satengabari, about 170 km from Calcutta, the police said.
“Cadres on motorbikes rode in from their stronghold, Khejuri, early this morning,” Pratirodh Committee convener Abu Taher said. “They fired at the villagers and threw bombs, ransacked 15 houses and torched four of them.”
In retaliation, Pratirodh Committee members from Garchakraberia raided Gokulnagar and Jambari.
A police team led by Nandigram officer-in-charge Champak Choudhuri tried to move into the troubled areas but was gheraoed by a Pratirodh Committee mob at Giribazar, 3 km from Satengabari.
“We could not disperse them forcibly since there were women and children among them,” an officer said.
At the root of the clashes is the CPM’s effort to get supporters who had fled their villages back to their homes and the Pratirodh Committee’s resistance to this.
The Opposition-led Pratirodh Committee has boycotted every all-party meeting called by the district administration to resolve the issue.
The Nandigram land war toll reached 22 today after the seven deaths on January 7 and 14 on March 14.
CPM district leader Asoke Guria said Dilip was chased all the way home while returning from his job as an earth-cutter around 11 am.
“He got married just six months ago. They killed him before our eyes,” Dilip’s uncle Gobindo said.
Taher admitted Dilip was a CPM worker, but claimed three committee supporters were injured, too. Guria said three CPM men were missing and the homes of 42 destroyed.
Rasta roko today
Mamata Banerjee, alleging the violence was “state-sponsored”, announced a series of protests kicking off with a one-hour rasta roko from 11 am tomorrow. On May Day, protest meetings will be held in all 341 blocks in the state, to be followed by a state-wide gherao of police stations on Wednesday.
The Congress pledged to join all Trinamul Congress protests on Nandigram.