The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Governor’s fireworks
- Slap to CPM but not mum on rebels

Calcutta, Nov. 9: Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi has dropped a Diwali bombshell on the CPM’s victory parade in Nandigram, voicing his dismay at the manner of “recapture” that he termed “unlawful and unacceptable”.

However, the latest expression of outrage was far more multi-dimensional than his “cold-horror” statement of March 14 when 14 people were killed in Nandigram.

“The ardour of Deepavali has been dampened in the whole state by the events in Nandigram. Several villages in Nandigram are oscillating from the deepest gloom to panic,” Gandhi said this evening.

The nearly 700-word statement was more blunt than that two days ago when the governor confined himself to describing the CPM offensive as “rapidly evolving developments”. The official death toll then was relatively low at four.

However, allegations today that victorious CPM squads are burning down huts of the vanquished seem to have prompted the governor to speak out.

“Even as of 4pm this day (Friday), I have received phone calls from responsible persons in Nandigram saying that several huts are ablaze. Large numbers of villagers have taken refuge in the local high school in Nandigram, bereft of food and personal security,” the governor’s statement said.

Reproducing the state government’s own words, Gandhi said: “At the time of writing, the most accurate description for Nandigram is the one used by our Home Secretary, namely, it has become a “war zone”. No government or society can allow a war zone to exist without immediate and effective action.”

In observations that sounded almost like direct intervention, the governor said he had “also asked the administration to remove new unauthorised man-made blocks” at four entry points in Nandigram.

The places he mentioned are manned by CPM cadres who are on a round-the-clock vigil to prevent “outsiders” (journalists and social activists) from entering Nandigram.

“Enough is enough. Peace and security should be restored, without any delay,” Gandhi said.

However, in a marked departure from the March 14 statement, the governor acknowledged the plight of CPM supporters rendered homeless since the beginning of the year.

“I am fully aware of the fact that, earlier in the year, many villagers in Nandigram who were perceived as sympathisers of the ruling establishment had been obliged to leave the villages and seek shelter in Khejuri…. Those who had to flee to Khejuri must come back with full confidence and dignity.”

The governor took care to refer to allegations that Maoists were fomenting trouble in Nandigram. “I am also aware of the apprehension that some Maoists, their numbers being unverified, are believed to have entered the area…. No quarter should be given to the cult of violence associated with Maoists.”

The March 14 release — which had the headline-grabbing line “the news of deaths from police firing in Nandigram this morning has filled me with a sense of cold horror” — had mentioned neither the Maoists nor the homeless explicitly.

“The point uppermost in my mind is not ‘who started it’, ‘who provoked it’, or whether there were agent provocateurs behind it,” the governor had said then, the “omissions” prompting the CPM to take potshots at him.

The governor’s statement today came a few hours after a team of CPM members of Parliament requested him to “see that his sympathy and concern are meant for sufferers on both sides”.

But the new release was also greeted by innuendoes from CPM leaders who, at least at first glance, chose to overlook the balanced tone.

CPM state secretariat member Benoy Konar described Gandhi’s statement as “unfortunate and not impartial”. “When our supporters were out of their homes during Durga Puja, his festive spirit was not dampened. He has insulted his post,” Konar added.

Pointing to the differences between Gandhi’s statements then and now, sources in Delhi said there could be more to the statement than an outpouring of grief by a conscientious governor. The sources said Gandhi had been in touch with the Union home ministry regularly. “The governor spoke to the Union home minister today,” one of the sources said.

The source said the long statement could also be reflecting the “considered view” of the Centre on the issue. Considering the nuclear deal heartburn in Delhi, other political sources said, the Congress-led government would not be averse to sending a message to the Left Front government on the desirability of having a friendly arrangement at the Centre.

The governor referred to the new homeless in Nandigram, meticulously listing the names of 13 villages. All the villages are among those “recaptured” by the CPM.

Social activist Medha Patkar, who had complained to the governor that she was assaulted in Nandigram on Thursday, also figured in the statement. “The treatment meted to Smt Medha Patkar and other associates of hers last evening was against all norms of civilised political behaviour,” Gandhi said.

The governor said he had been in regular communication with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and had requested the state government to take measures such as “immediate return of the ingressers”, provision for urgent relief to the displaced and the facilitation of their return to their homes.

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