The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Peace versus push for force
- Pressure rises for Nandigram ‘action’

Calcutta, June 18: Pressure mounted on the Bengal government to use force in Nandigram to restore the rule of law, putting a question mark on the fate of the sputtering peace drive.

Jyoti Basu, who took the unparalleled initiative of inviting Mamata Banerjee to his home to revive the peace process, today warned of “action” in Singur and Nandigram, which is back on the boil.

“She is still threatening to pull down the boundary wall (of the Tata Motors unit in Singur) despite us working on a (fresh) compensation package for land-losers. Nandigram also has become more volatile. If this situation continues, you know what action the government would be required to take. And the government will take those steps,’’ Basu said.

CPM state secretariat member Benoy Konar articulated the party stand further. “I think the Opposition is under the mistaken impression that the police will not retaliate if they are attacked,” Konar said.

On the ground, too, the party appeared to be losing patience. Today, CPM cadres kidnapped an Opposition activist from Nandigram after ransacking four houses.

Sources said the local leadership in West and East Midnapore — where Nandigram falls — has accused the police of inaction.

The issue was raised at the state committee meeting today but chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, perhaps keeping in mind the fallout of the deaths after police action on March 14, was non-committal.

The chief minister went into a huddle with chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb and home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray at Writers’ Buildings this morning to assess the situation arising out of the “continuous” violence in Nandigram.

“We have reports that both groups are carrying arms,” Ray said in an indirect reference to members of the Trinamul-backed Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee and the CPM. “We are taking steps to prevent arms movement in Nandigram,” Ray said without detailing the steps.

The approach suggests the CPM is hoping that the hardening of stand might add a sense of urgency to the peace process and force the Opposition to be more accommodating.

However, if the situation continues to spiral out of control in Nandigram, it would appear that there was some truth in the government claim that a deliberate attempt was being made with the help of “outsiders” to wreck the peace process.

The mood in the CPM is now more or less similar to the one before the peace drive began when the party and the government were pinning their hopes on the high court to give a clear-cut directive to use force to restore order. The court did not do so, prompting the government to offer an olive branch to the Opposition by blaming CPM cadres also for the violence.

The admission had set in motion a chain of events that led to the peace process which now appears to be floundering. Unlike his earlier support to an all-party initiative at the state level, Basu today favoured district and block-level meetings, something that CPM state secretary Biman Bose had been insisting on.

Basu’s comments also clouded the fate of the all-party meeting that was “adjourned” on May 24 after Mamata had stormed out.


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