The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Wail moves Mamata
Nandigram residents at a CPM camp in Bhangabera. Picture by Amit Datta

Calcutta, May 8: The wail of Sumita Samanta — and around 4,000 others — has assailed Mamata Banerjee and moved her to action.

The Trinamul Congress leader today responded with alacrity to the political initiative launched by the Left Front to enable the people displaced by the Nandigram violence to return home.

Saying that she is prepared to talk to all parties, Mamata maintained that she wants everyone to return home “regardless of whether they are CPM men’’.

Asked whether she is willing to hold discussions with the CPM, Mamata said: “I am ready to talk to all parties and that answers the question.”

She also seemed to answer the prayers of the homeless like Sumita, who has spent the past 121 days in a CPM refugee camp at Bhangabera. The CPM says over 4,000 party supporters have been driven out of their homes in Nandigram since January.

“We now want to return home,” a sobbing Sumita said this evening, told of Mamata’s response to the government’s peace proposal.

The two sides that battled in Nandigram for the last four months have moved closer over the past 24 hours to set in motion a political process to try and ensure the return of the homeless.

A flurry of activity unfolded both in Calcutta and in Nandigram to work out a strategy. Marathon meetings were held all through yesterday. However, Mamata had said yesterday that she would study the front’s proposal carefully before responding.

Today, Mamata held a meeting with her party’s East Midnapore chief Sisir Adhikari and Save Farmland Committee leaders and decided that Trinamul should cooperate with the government for the smooth return of the homeless.

“Our party, in association with the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee, will cooperate with the state administration and help in every manner possible to ensure the return of people from Khejuri to Nandigram and their access to food and livelihood.

“We are not bothered whether they belong to the CPM or not. As human beings, they deserve the right to go back to their homes though the CPM didn’t allow us the same in Keshpur and Garbeta. Let peace prevail and I am glad that our men, instead of the government, started the process,’’ she told a news conference.

Mamata’s turnaround follows a string of political compulsions:

The realisation that she should not be seen as a “spoiler” when both the front and the government are desperate to help the homeless

Reports from the ground that it would be difficult to sustain the agitation in Nandigram as normal life remains crippled and that the primary reason — land acquisition for a chemical hub — no longer exists

The CPM’s campaign citing the plight of the homeless was gaining ground

Mamata’s eagerness to distance herself both from the Jamait Ulema-i-Hind and Naxalites

A Trinamul hope that the move to let CPM cadres return might make them switch loyalties in the future.

Mamata today refused to attach conditions to a dialogue if governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi convenes an all- party meeting, but said the Nandigram killings have to be discussed. The Trinamul leader, however, left it vague whether she would be personally present at such a meeting.

The CPM and other Left partners welcomed Mamata’s peace gesture. “We are happy that she rose to the occasion and responded positively to our peace initiative,” CPM veteran Benoy Konar said tonight.

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