The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Protesters dig in heels, talks fail

Nandigram, Jan. 11: Barricades were back in most Nandigram villages after talks between the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee and the district administration failed today.

All the leaders of Opposition parties on the committee walked out of a meeting with block development officer Ashok Sarkar, saying the administration would first have to fulfil their conditions before insisting on road repairs.

“The administration should first remove the camps put up by the CPM within 5 km of the villages. The camps are a threat to the villagers’ safety. Secondly, we need the administration’s undertaking in writing that land acquisition will be stopped,” said Sheikh Sufiyan, block Trinamul Congress secretary and a leader of the committee.

He said copies of this undertaking would be distributed among the villagers in the form of leaflets to “motivate” villagers and restore peace.

After a temporary reopening of roads and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj’s visit yesterday, all entry points through Hajrakata were blocked with stacks of bricks and tree trunks.

The Bhangaberi and Bakulnagar bridges remained inaccessible. Iron sheets used at the Bakulnagar bridge yesterday to allow a VIP convoy to pass were removed today.

“Does the administration think we are fools' They’re insisting only on road repairs. After the villages become accessible, who can say they will not impose Section 144 here, like in Singur, and forcefully acquire land'” asked Raihan Kabir Chowdhury of the Jamat-e-Ulema Hind after the meeting.

The parties also questioned the chief minister’s statement on tearing up the acquisition notice. “In appearing to take one step back, the chief minister is actually trying to go two steps forward. But he should not underestimate us. We’re prepared to take four steps forward,” said Bhabani Prasad Das, SUCI block leader.

District magistrate Anup Agarwal said the administration would not issue any undertaking. “In the resolution adopted after the committee’s meeting with the subdivisional officer on January 8, we clearly stated that land acquisition has not yet started. We said it would not be carried out without discussions with all political parties.”

Police were careful, not trying to enter any village. “We don’t want to rush anything. We want to restore the confidence of villagers first. This will happen gradually,” said DIG (Midnapore range) N. Ramesh Babu.

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