| Lakshman Seth
Nandigram, Jan. 7: With nearly 250 CPM supporters forced to flee home in the remoter pockets of Nandigram, desperate party members had sent an SOS on Thursday to their comrades in Khejuri and Haldia, where the party has strong bases.
Bijon Roy, the party zonal committee secretary in Khejuri, had contacted Badal Mondal, Pratap Sahu, Anup Mondal and Joydeb Paik, who had fled interior villages such as Garchakraberia, Sonachura and Rajaramchak.
Roy assured them “necessary action” before leaving for Haldia for a meeting with zonal committee leaders on Friday evening.
At that meeting, CPM insiders said, Tamluk MP Lakshman Seth said party morale should be boosted at any cost.
“We realised it was of the utmost importance to boost the flagging morale of party workers. So we brought over our comrades from Khejuri (adjoining Nandigram) and other places,” said district secretariat member Ashok Guria.
The mobilisation began on Friday night. Activists, mostly from Khejuri, poured into Tekhali, Bhangabera, Sherkhachak, Kurighat and Bangshubazar, CPM strongholds on the fringes of Nandigram.
They came in Matador vans, on motorcycles, bicycles and on foot. By Saturday, there were about 250 of them in each of these five centres.
Last evening, a pandal was erected at Tekhali where the party opened a kitchen for members who had fled their villages.
The hint of retaliation had come from state secretariat member Benoy Konar yesterday: “If they want a Keshpur-like situation, we are prepared for it. If they want to do things democratically, we shall reciprocate. But if they want to make things difficult for us, we are prepared to make life hell for them.”
In Keshpur (West Midnapore), a turf battle had killed at least 50 CPM and Trinamul Congress workers between 1998 and 2000.
Leaders said the decision to deploy cadres was ratified by yesterday morning’s district secretariat meeting at Tamluk. “At both (Haldia and Tamluk) meetings, leaders underlined the need to regroup and build up defence. What else could we do'” said Pratap Sahu, a CPM Nandigram zonal committee member.
Seth, known to be the most powerful CPM leader in the area, said this afternoon that the Haldia meeting was called only to draw up plans for a pro-industrialisation campaign in Nandigram over the next two months.
“It would be wrong to conclude that we discussed retaliation at the meetings. It was our party workers who were attacked. We only defended ourselves,” Seth said.
The MP admitted, though, that party members from Khejuri had taken a lead role in providing shelter to those who had fled their homes.
But asked whether the supporters had flouted orders for restraint, Seth was more direct: “Instructions don’t work with people who are staring at death.”
Although Guria stressed that today’s attack was masterminded by the agitated villagers, insiders said that in a regimented party like the CPM, every move is planned ahead.
“How long do you think we can stay outside our homes' They drove us out with weapons; we, too, have done what we should have done,” said Badal Mondal, a Nandigram zonal committee member from Sonachura.
By 6 pm yesterday, the Tekhali pandal was awash with petromax light and packed with at least 300 CPM workers. They could hear the slogans across the road, in Sonachura: “Buddhar shilpa, golpo golpo (Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s industrialisation drive is a fib)”.
They were seething. No one knows for sure who threw the first bomb, but the flashpoint had already been reached.