A road dug up by land protesters in Nandigram in 2008
Tamluk, March 21: The state government has appealed to a Haldia court seeking the withdrawal of over 100 criminal cases against Trinamul workers related to the Nandigram land war, the move apparently aimed at wiping off taint ahead of the panchayat polls.
Trinamul leaders and the lawyer appearing on behalf of the government said the cases, filed during Left rule, were politically motivated. None of these 110 people were arrested.
A Trinamul leader in East Midnapore, however, said it was “crucial” for the party that the cases were withdrawn before the rural elections. “If the cases are withdrawn, the Opposition will not be able to use them as a handle against the accused during the campaign for the polls,” he said.
A police officer said many of the 110 Trinamul workers, accused of murder, attempt to murder, rioting and arson during the Nandigram land turmoil between 2007 and 2009, were panchayat functionaries. “The Haldia additional chief judicial magistrate’s court had issued warrants against 500 Trinamul workers. Chargesheets were filed in 2011, before the Assembly elections. On paper, they are absconders,” the officer said.
Of the 110 petitions submitted since last December, seven have already been withdrawn.
Assistant public prosecutor Taragati Ghatak said: “We received instructions from the government to withdraw some of the Nandigram-related cases that don’t have merit. Some of our petitions will be heard on March 25.”
Another lawyer representing the government dubbed the cases politically motivated. “The complaints were lodged by members of the then ruling party (the CPM) out of political vendetta,” he said.
Subroto Mookerjee, a senior high court lawyer who is not connected to the Nandigram cases, said: “As the accused persons have not been convicted yet, the state can withdraw the cases but only with the court’s consent.”
The 500 accused Trinamul leaders and workers had gone into hiding for some time after the Election Commission ordered the execution of all pending arrest warrants before the 2011 Assembly elections.
The CPM strongly criticised the government’s move. “We will move Calcutta High Court with the affected families if the cases are withdrawn,” district CPM secretary Kanu Sahoo said.
“Cases had been lodged against at least 500 CPM workers in connection with the Nandigram land war. Why should only those cases against the Trinamul activists be withdrawn?” Kanu Sahoo added.
One of the 110 accused, Nandigram panchayat samiti deputy chief Abu Taher, said: “All the cases against us are false. So we had requested our leader Mamata Banerjee to withdraw them. We are grateful she has responded.”
Asked why the accused against whom warrants had been issued are not being arrested, additional superintendent of police Amitabha Maity said: “We have asked the local police to arrest those against whom warrants have been issued. But the police are not being able to find him.”
Most of the 110 accused have been attending office regularly, sources said.