The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Karat pitches for judicial probe
- Party rethink after CBI glare on cadre

New Delhi, March 19: CPM general secretary Prakash Karat today said a judicial probe, too, is required into the Nandigram violence with the CBI investigation threatening to nail party cadre.

“We would have liked the West Bengal government to order a judicial probe into how the police excesses came about. But the high court in its wisdom ordered a CBI probe. We still believe that a judicial inquiry is required,” Karat said at his first news conference after Wednesday’s Nandigram firings that officially killed 14 villagers.

Till two days ago, CPM leaders such as Sitaram Yechury would fend off the media’s queries by saying “wait for the CBI inquiry to be complete”. The agency had then just begun its investigation.

On Saturday evening, however, the agency turned the spotlight on possible involvement of CPM cadre in the bloodbath.

Its sleuths nabbed a gang of 10 heavily armed people from a brick kiln near Nandigram, and handed them over to the police. Yesterday, the police said the men, caught with bombs, pistols, ammunition and CPM flags, had confessed to having been sent to Nandigram by some CPM leaders.

Investigators are trying to find out whether the gang is a CPM action squad that had surreptitiously participated in Wednesday’s police raid.

The preliminary post-mortem reports on five of the victims that have been handed to the CBI, officials say, suggest the possibility that people other than the security forces had a hand in the villagers’ deaths. The agency is unhappy that the hospital hasn’t given them the post-mortem reports of the nine other victims.

Karat suggested his party could demand a judicial inquiry even after the CBI probe was over. He told reporters: “Several independent organisations have demanded a judicial inquiry.”

One such group is the National Alliance of People’s Movements, associated with Medha Patkar. It, however, has been demanding a judicial probe right from the beginning, before Calcutta High Court ordered the CBI inquiry.

The CPM, too, had spoken of a judicial probe at the outset. But once the CBI investigation began, the party forgot about it till Karat revived the subject today.

There have been instances in the past of inquiries by two autonomous bodies. For instance, the CBI investigation of the 1984 massacre of Sikhs was accompanied with a probe by the Nanavati Commission.

Karat admitted that CPM workers could be driven out of Nandigram only because they had “lost support there”. He said: “People have turned against us in Nandigram because of the land acquisition.”

Till the other day, Yechury had been telling the media that the violence was not linked to land acquisition but was the result of a political conspiracy.

Karat had visited Calcutta yesterday to meet state party leaders and CPM patriarch Jyoti Basu. “I have collected all reports related to the Nandigram incident. I will place it before the politburo meeting for further discussion,” he had said.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee could face criticism at the politburo and central committee meetings scheduled in Delhi at the end of the month.

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