The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Operation Nandigrab
How CPM mounted the lightning strike that stumped rivals

Nandigram, Nov. 8: The CPM’s lightning thrust into Nandigram has pushed the Trinamul Congress-led resistance group to the wall and set the stage for an uneasy ceasefire.

The Telegraph has found out how the CPM meticulously drew up a plan three days before the offensive and the Red Brigade executed it on Monday night to regain ground.

A CPM group, led by Himangshu Das, the sabhapati of the panchayat samity (Khejuri 1), had held an open-air meeting last Thursday near the Janani brick kiln in Khejuri, a senior police officer of East Midnapore said today.

From the same kiln, 10 CPM supporters were arrested by the CBI and a huge cache of arms and ammunition seized following the March 14 police firing. “The meeting continued till the wee hours and they chalked out a strategy to reclaim Nandigram. Over 100 party cadres led by Das attended the decisive meeting,” the officer said.

The signature slogan — inquilab zindabad — was replaced by hoy marbo, noy morbo (kill or be killed).

“The cadres took stock of the arms and ammunition at their disposal and decided that they needed more for the operation. More men were also requisitioned,” the officer added.

The focus then shifted to the entry point for unleashing the assault. Some rooted for Khejuri but the option was dropped after taking into account the strength of the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) in the vicinity.

“They opted to attack from the Nandigram Block 2 side: Satengabari and Ranichowk, both strongholds of the CPM. The CPM squad decided to cross the Talpatti canal from Bahargunj.

The spot was chosen because of the standing paddy crop at Ranichowk that provided cover. “Crossing the Talpatti canal from Bhangabera or Tekhali would have been dangerous because of open fields,” the officer explained.

The meeting decided to organise covering fire from Khejuri to distract the BUPC supporters and make them concentrate on Khejuri while CPM cadres entered from elsewhere. This explains home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray’s statement that the initial firing was from the Khejuri side.

On Friday morning, the West Midnapore unit was informed. Motorcycle-borne Red Brigade members started arriving in Khejuri by night.

“Nearly 400 armed men arrived till Saturday night from West Midnapore, including Garbeta and Keshpur. Arms and ammunition were transported in two Matadors from the Purulia side and kept in the same brick kiln.

“On the nights of Saturday and Sunday, the cadres were sent to Satengabari and Bahargunj,” another officer said.

Party leaders led by Das held the final meeting on Sunday night at the CPM’s Bahargunj camp. The leaders told the ranks that they have to recapture as much land as possible before the CRPF arrived.

“They were assured that the party would reward them or take care of their families if something happened to them,” a local CPM leader said.

Some local leaders went to Khejuri police station and asked the force not to react in case of violence. “We did what we were asked to. Party leaders in Calcutta were apprised of the plan,” an officer said.

On Monday midnight, multi-pronged attacks were launched from Satengabari, Ranichowk and Bahargunj, catching the opposition off guard. “Three groups of over 200 men each launched the attack,” a police officer said.

According to the plan, the offensive had to be wrapped up in two days so that the leadership in Calcutta could talk peace. At the end of the operation, 40 to 45 per cent of the “CPM land” was recaptured.

Contacted, Das said his party had been able to send supporters back to their houses after 10 months. “Everything is fair in Nandigram, considering the situation. We also want peace,” said the stocky man in his mid-forties.

Asked about the strategy session, he said: “We hold meetings every day like our opponents. Who told you about the Thursday meeting' Why don’t you write about the feelings of hundreds of homeless people who have been able to go to their houses'” he said.

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