The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Return of night vigil after cops move out

Nandigram, March 20: A day after the East Midnapore administration issued a circular saying no land will be acquired for industry in Nandigram and police started pulling out, it was back to square one for villagers on either side of the Talpatti canal.

To the south of Bhangabera bridge, the CPM stronghold of Khejuri was resplendent with red flags and banners while on the opposite side in Sonachura brand new flags of the Trinamul Congress fluttered along with the BJP’s saffron and the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee’s black flags, proclaiming regained territory.

The police camps in the areas have been disbanded and about 400 policemen have left in phases since last night.

On the Sonachura side, villagers resumed their vigil from tonight as they had been doing before Wednesday’s police firing.

The vigil had begun from January 3 when residents of interior Nandigram areas belonging to Opposition parties set up the Pratirodh Committee and vowed to prevent the administration and the police from entering the villages.

Roads were dug up in at least 30 places. Subsequently, several CPM workers and supporters fled the villages to take refuge in the CPM strongholds of Tekhali and in Khejuri.

Now, with the police moving out, supporters of the Pratirodh Committee have set up vigil to ward off possible attacks from the CPM bastion of Khejuri. As evening approached, around 200 people moved in to stand guard at the approach to Bhangabera bridge.

“As the police have left, we will have to resume our vigil through the night. For the last two nights, we had kept the generators off since the police were present on the bridge, keeping it fully lighted up. Lighting arrangements will have to be made for tonight. After dinner, about 400 more villagers will join in the vigil,” said Pijush Kanti Bera, a resident. Around 500 to 700 people had earlier taken turns to maintain vigil at the bridge every night for the last two and a half months.

Even after the administration’s announcement about not acquiring land in Nandigram, the villagers are sceptical. “The government is not taking our land now, but where is the surety that they will not acquire it after a year' Even in January, the chief minister had talked about tearing the land acquisition notice to pieces. Then why did he send the police to our villages to shoot our people' Did it take so many deaths for him to realise that Nandigram should be spared'” asked Srikanta Paik, a resident of Sonachura village.

In the afternoon, Pratirodh Committee members along with families of those killed last week held a condolence meeting at Sonachura Bazar. Photographs of Joydeb Das, Pushpendu Mondal, Rakhal Giri and Sheikh Imdadul Islam — all local residents — were put up on the dais as the Pratirodh Committee remembered their “sacrifice” and contribution to the success of their movement.

After Wednesday’s police firing, the security forces do not enjoy much confidence among the people.

“Earlier, we had faith in the police. But after Wednesday, we can never believe them any more. How do we know whether it was actually the police or CPM cadre dressed in their uniform'” asked Swapan Maiti, a resident of South Khali village.

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