M A I N   N E W S

Nandigram again
12 killed in police firing
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, February 14
At least 12 poor farmers were gunned down today at Nandigram by the police, which, accompanied by CPM cadres, went berserk in an attempt to capture two anchals from the possession of the Krishia Bachaoo Committee.

Even as official sources in Midnapore announced the death of 12 people in police firing at Nandigram today, the Director General of Police claimed that only six people had so far been killed in violence there, creating more confusion about the actual situation.

Unofficial sources, however, put the death figure at 20. Those killed included mostly woman and children. Over 200 persons with bullet injuries had been admitted to different hospitals and health centres in and around East Midnapore, of which, the condition of as many as 50 was stated to be critical.

Angry over the police firing, opposition activists torched buses and blocked roads across West Bengal, while lawyers staged demonstrations against the incident.

Earlier, the trouble started around 8 a.m. when the police and the local CPM workers started entering Nandigram from two different directions. But the agitating farmers and their supporters, controlling the anchals as their citadels, resisted with lathis and other lethal weapons, while the womenfolk and the children began sit-in resistance. Some of them started singing while others started beating drums. The police fired several rounds of tear gas shells to disperse them but their attempt failed. Instead they were attacked with bricks and bombs.

The police then started firing indiscriminately injuring several people, including women. As the demonstrators people started fleeing, CPM workers, who were carrying firearms, could be seen entering Nandigram which they had surrounded from all sides since last night.

CPM cadres allegedly also attacked mediapersons, particularly from the electronic media, to stop the live-coverage of the incident.

Describing the incident as ''unfortunate'', Left Front Chairman Biman Basu said he had called a meeting of the Front constituents tomorrow.

Blaming the opposition for the violence, Basu said Nandigram remained outside the rule of the land for two-and-a half months and a stalemate was prevailing in the area.

''Nandigram is a part of West Bengal and the administration wanted to establish rule of the law in the area.

But a stalemate continued for long as the Trinamool Congress repeatedly refused to take part in all party meetings to restore peace and prevented repair work to take place,'' he said.

Basu alleged that Trinamool supporters kept under threat a large number of villagers and forced them to join the anti-establishment force.

He said the mob, led by Bhoomi Uchched Protirodh Committee, indiscriminately hurled bombs and fired shots at police. They also burnt a police vehicle, he said.

The Left Front Chairman alleged that one of the members of the Bhoomi Uchched Protirodh Committee had died when a bomb which he was about to throw, burst in his hands. Meanwhile, Pradesh Congress Working President Pradip Bhattacharjee said he had apprised party President Sonia Gandhi of the details of the incident.

A 12-hour Bangla Bandh had been called for March 16 by the Trinamool Congress. It will be supported by the Congress(l) and all other parties. The opposition parties demanded the Chief Minister's resignation and the imposition of Presidentís rule in the state.

However, confusion prevailed over the exact death toll after the incident as the actual figure was not readily available from the state home secretary Prasad Roy as well as the IG (law and order), Raj Kanoria. The state PWD minister Kshiti Goswami, however, put the death figure at 50, which the TMC leader, Partha Chatterjee also corroborated. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said several dead bodies had floated down the adjoining river. Banerjee, accompanied by several other leaders left for Nandigram in the afternoon. Before leaving the city, she demanded immediate resignation of the Chief Minister and the application of Article 356 in the state. She requested the state higher secondary council for re-scheduling the higher secondary examinations, scheduled for March 16.

The Coochbehar unit of the Forward Bloc, a major partner of the Left Front, demanded the Chief Ministerís resignation.



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