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Beaten back, land warriors wave white flag

Calcutta/Nandigram, Nov. 8: The Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee has agreed to a truce in Nandigram.

Pushed to the back foot by the CPM, the Trinamul Congress-backed land acquisition protesters promised to lay down arms and let police enter the villages still in their control.

The truce is being seen as a virtual surrender by the Pratirodh Committee, which had been outdone both in manpower and firepower by the CPM over the last few days.

The move came after meetings last night and this morning between the Pratirodh Committee, the CPM and East Midnapore district magistrate Anup Agarwal.

The CPM, too, has agreed to lay down arms.

“The government had taken the initiative of working out a peace process in Nandigram and all parties concerned have reached a consensus on this,” chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb told reporters at Writers’ Buildings this afternoon.

Home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray and director-general of police A.B.Vohra were by his side as Deb spoke.

It was also decided at the meetings that the police would fan out across Nandigram and set up more camps at “strategic points”.

Both the Pratirodh Committee and the CPM agreed that the police would be “allowed to act freely” so that those creating violence in Nandigram were dealt with firmly.

Agarwal confirmed tonight that the police had started moving into the worst-hit areas. “The police have already been despatched to Tekhali and Bhangabera,” the DM said. “We shall send forces to other villages tomorrow.”

In an attempt at a face-saver, Subhendu Adhikari — the Trinamul Congress MLA steering the anti-land acquisition movement since January — said the Pratirodh Committee had agreed to allow the police into the villages after the administration accepted a majority of its demands.

However, most of the demands had been met before the truce meetings took place. The government had earlier announced compensation for those killed in the March 14 firing. Only the amount — Rs 2 lakh — was declared today.

Senior police officers who had ordered the firing have also been shunted out.

As for the demand that land in Nandigram would not be taken for a chemical hub, the government had agreed to it months ago.

Some Pratirodh Committee leaders tonight admitted that they were “relieved” the police were moving in to “save them from the relentless onslaught” of the CPM cadres.

“We want restoration of peace in Nandigram and we want the police to move in to establish the rule of law,” Adhikari said.

Senior Trinamul functionaries said in Calcutta that the party’s central leadership had endorsed the Pratirodh Committee’s decision. But Trinamul president Mamata Banerjee said the compensation for the March 14 victims should be increased to Rs 10 lakh.

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