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Govt looks for legal teeth to pluck arms

Calcutta, May 2: The government is building a case for “intervention” in Nandigram, hoping for a high court directive to employ central forces to clear the arms and ammunition amassed there.

If such an order is issued, Nandigram can be declared a “disturbed area” and the paramilitary brought in.

Home secretary P.R. Ray hinted at such a move when he said: “In case of the strike at Hindustan Motors, the high court gave us express instructions to intervene. We are waiting for a similar directive regarding Nandigram.”

In an affidavit to be submitted before the court tomorrow, the government will say it has done everything in its power to restore peace in Nandigram, but police have been prevented from entering the violence-hit villages.

The government will also describe in detail how the villagers have stocked arms and ammunition and why more violence is imminent.

An official said the government is hoping that the court would ask it to take some “extreme action” in Nandigram to restore peace. “As our police are not being allowed to enter the villages, it would give us an excuse to get the central forces to intervene.”

“If the police try to enter the villages and conduct a search for the arms and ammunition, there is bound to be violence, like it happened on March 14. But if the central forces do it, we can wash our hands of it,” he added.

Under the act, the forces can destroy hideouts, ammo dumps and shelters from where attacks are likely to be made. They can also fire at suspected trouble-creators.

Those arrested by the central forces have to be handed over to the police.

On Monday, the high court expressed concern at the “emergency-like” situation in Nandigram and asked the government to protect life and property. Told about the court order, the chief minister had pleaded helplessness.

But a further court directive to ensure normality could give the government a reason to bring Nandigram under the Disturbed Areas Act and open the gates to central forces. The Centre declares an area “disturbed” if the state so recommends.

Advocate-general Balai Ray met chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb and the home secretary, who briefed him about the situation in Nandigram.

The government said it has been showing restraint to prevent a re-run of March 14, when 14 villagers were killed as police apparently tried to enforce the rule of law.

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