| Children going to school in Nandigram. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta, Dec. 8: The CBI is now zeroing in on the policemen who opened fire in Nandigram on March 14.
During their investigation, CBI sleuths have identified two India Reserve Battalion (IRB) constables who were among those who fired from the Bhangabera bridge.
Biswajit Murmu and Ajit Manna have told the investigators they had fired on their superiors’ orders.
The battalion was brought from West Midnapore to “restore” peace in Nandigram.
The central agency is yet to identify any of the policemen who fired from the Tekhali bridge.
“We know that Murmu and Manna had opened fire on March 14. They were posted at the Bhangabera bridge un-der the supervision of the former inspector-general (western range) of police, Arun Gupta, and other officers who were transferred later,” a CBI official said.
Murmu and Manna had fired at a gathering of around 15,000 people, including women and children.
“We heard that 39 rounds were fired from the rifles of these two constables. And they pulled the trigger under the direction of their superiors. But the instruction should have come from a magistrate,” the CBI official said.
“We’ll ask Murmu and Manna to name the police officers who asked them to open fire,” he added.
Fourteen land protesters were killed on March 14.
East Midnapore police told the CBI today that 20 rounds were fired at Bhangabera and 17 at Tekhali. But a CBI official said: “The number of deaths in the firing and the number of people who received bullet injuries, do not corroborate the claim.”
The central agency began probing the police firing after Calcutta High Court branded it “unconstitutional and unjustified”.
The sleuths said no proper plan was drawn up about the role of the ground-level personnel before the police’s bid to enter Nandigram, which had become out of bounds for the administration following the violent protests by the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee against land acquisition.
“Constables and officers of deputy superintendent rank from the adjoining West Midnapore district were asked to come to Tamluk on March 13,” a CBI official said.
The officers were called for a briefing at 5pm on March 13 but it was cancelled. They assembled at Bhangabera and Tekhali around nine the following morning. “Even then the briefing did not clearly mention the lines of action,” the official said. The firing started an hour later.
“There should have been clear guidelines on the circumstances in which the police would pull the trigger,” the official said.