Calcutta, May 7: The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government has set in motion an elaborate administrative process to try and restore peace in Nandigram.
The first signals came from a Left Front meeting and a strategy session at Writers’ Buildings during the day, though it may be some more time before police try to enter the battle zone.
By the evening, both the CPM and the Trinamul Congress made appeals that those who have been forced to flee their homes be allowed to return. The CPM has been making this demand for the last few months, but Trinamul’s appeal is being seen as a positive signal for normality to return to the area.
The first objective of the administrative initiative will be to prevent further clashes between CPM and Opposition activists.
Additional reinforcements of the Eastern Frontier Rifles and the Indian Reserve Police will be moved into the fringe areas of Nandigram from tonight. The number of police camps on the border between the areas dominated by the warring groups will also be increased.
Simultaneously, the distribution of food and other relief material to the affected people will begin, aimed at restoring their confidence in the administration. The revival of the public distribution system at Nandigram, including for the people living in relief camps, will be given top priority. Repair of roads and other administrative interventions will follow later.
The package of administrative measures is expected to assume a greater role in Nandigram in the coming days because the political initiative so far has failed to contain violence. Worse, the attempts to deal with the situation at the political level created something of a vacuum.
In line with the chief minister’s stand at yesterday’s meeting of the CPM state committee, Jyoti Basu today hinted that the administration should be given a freer hand.
Basu admitted that CPM workers, too, were still indulging in violence. “I heard that our people are also throwing bombs from the Khejuri side. What are the police doing'” Basu was quoted as saying at the meeting.
Significantly, at Writers’ Buildings, home secretary P.R. Ray, too, said attacks were still being launched from Khejuri, a CPM stronghold. “There is no denying the fact that attacks are being made from camps in Khejuri. We have asked the district administration to ensure that such attacks are stopped,” he said.
The government seems to have decided that the violence on the fringes of Nandigram, particularly from Khejuri, must be stopped before peace could be restored.
All this does not, however, completely negate the political process. The Left Front meeting today struck a different note for the political initiative. “If needed, our partners can open dialogue, individually or jointly, with Opposition leaders to restore peace in Nandigram,” front chairman Biman Bose said.
Bhattacharjee readily accepted a proposal from RSP leader Kshiti Goswami that the allies be made part of the political initiative. Goswami followed it up with a phone call to the Trinamul office.
Mamata Banerjee, however, said she would study the Left’s proposals carefully before responding to it.
The administration, too, has decided to talk to the parties separately.