14th March Nandigram Violence- The Inevitable Decline Of CPIM


Nandigram: Nandigram, a village in East Midnapur, West Bengal, was drowned in the blood of poor people, among which women and children on 14th March, when 3000 strongly armed policemen and armed goons sent by the ruling CPI-M (Communist Party of India -Marxist) surrounded the villages and fired aimlessly at the protesting people. This day will be remembered as a dark day in the history of the Indian Communists.

Nandigram has been a focal point of struggle in West Bengal, after the chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya announced that thousands of acres of agricultural land would be grabbed by the government for the purpose of building a chemical hub and a Special Economic Zone, whose owner will be Salim, a crony capitalist of Indonesia. Salim gained some special ‘notoriety’ during the Suharto regime, where he was seen as being responsible for murdering thousands of Indonesians and common people.

Unfortunately Nandigram is not an exception, a lone example, in West Bengal, where there is an ongoing attempt on the part of the government – in the interest of the capitalists – to forcibly acquire fertile agricultural land from the peasants. The process started with South 24 Parganas, where, in the name of “developing real estate” in the interest of Salim, land will be taken from peasants. In Singur in the Hooghly District nearly 1000 acres of land is being taken from the peasants to allow Ratan Tata to build his small motor vehicle producing factory.

The Nandigram violence represented not only the death of progress but also signalled the inevitable decline of the CPI(M). In 2007, on paper, Nandigram was the closest police station to 11 months of civil war-like condition on 27,000 acres of land housing over 100 villages in the East Midnapore district of West Bengal.

But it was the metaphorical Nandigram that mattered, in which it wasn’t just people who died, but also the dream of progress and the promise of industrialisation. Riding high on the Left Government’s 30 years of state rule, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya was on a mission to industrialise.

Having convinced Ratan Tata to set up his Nano project in Singur, he promised the state’s largest SEZ, with an investment of Rs 48,000 crore, to be set up with an Indonesian real-estate giant, the Salim Group.

But to avoid the trouble it faced in setting up the Nano project, when the opposition leader, Trinamool Congress’s firebrand Mamata Banerjee, fasted through December 2006 stalling the factory’s construction, the Left decided to set up the Salim SEZ in Nandigram, it being a Left stronghold. On January 2, farmers, with the help of Trinamool activists, clashed with 250 CPI(M) cadres after getting a letter on land acquisition from CPI(M) MP Lakshman Seth. Six people died in the clash and the farmers blocked the area earmarked for the SEZ.

Till March, they would not allow a single “outsider” to enter Nandigram, be it the police or government officials. On March 14, Bhattacharya sent 2,500 policemen to “recapture” Nandigram, but unofficially, they were accompanied by suspected 400 CPI(M) cadres.
Officially, 14 farmers died in the firing, but over 100 were declared “missing”. A similar attempt in November by the cadres finally “recaptured” Nandigram.

Bhattacharya showed no remorse as he said, “They (farmers and Trinamool activists) have been paid back in their own coin.” It has mostly been payback time for him since then. While the Left lost its credibility in the state, Banerjee went on to form an alliance with the Congress.