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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 13

My Latest Experiences in Nandigram

Sunday 16 March 2008, by Bijoya Chanda

I am a 39-year-old advocate practising at Alipore District Sessions and Criminal Court in West Bengal and residing at P-1 State Bank Park, !st Floor, Kolkata 700063. I am a human rights activist and a member of the ‘Association for Protection of Democratic Rights’ (APDR), a pioneer human rights organisation in West Bengal. On March 5, 2008 a fact finding team consisting of five members of APDR, namely, myself, Siddhartha Sengupta, Anup Dutta, Prashanta Halder and Mrs Ratna Bhowmick went to visit and observe the human rights situation in different areas of Nandigram Block-1 and Block-2. Our scheduled programme was to stay there till March 7, 2008 and to spend nights in the villages and we informed the same in writing to the O/C, Nandigram P.S. and to the DIG, CRPF, Nandigram at about 2 pm. Then we started for the village Garchakraberia.

We reached Garchakraberia at about 3 pm, met some villagers including Mujibar Rahaman, of the Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) and went to Sonachura Bazar by a motor van.As soon as we reached Sonachura Bazar at about 7.20 pm near the house of Panchayet Pradhan Lakshan Mondal, some 60/70 CPI-M cadres—led by Lakshman Mondal, Panchayet Pradhan, Anup Mondal, member of Sonachura Anchal Panchayet, Badal Mondal Mondal, Joydeb Paik, Chandrakanta Paik, Chintamoni Das, Sagar Ch. Mondal. Prabir Das, Rabin Mondal, Ganesh Pal, Bishweshar Pradhan, Bidhan Pramanick and Santosh Halder—encircled us, asked us to get down and started abusing us in the most filthy language. When we got down they asked about our destination. I stated that we would go to Sonachura Shahid Smriti Swasthakendra and we had informed the P.S. about our programme beforehand but those CPI-M people started shouting by saying: ‘You are Maoists and we will search your bags and we will cimplain to the police.’ I disclosed my identity as a lawyer, showed them my identity card issued by Bar Council of WB and the received copy of 2 intimation letters written in APDR’s official pad to the O/C Nandigram P.S. and the DIG, CRPF and also requested them to search our bags, if necessary, and let us go to the Swasthakendra. But instead of paying any heed they forcefully confined us at the chamber of one Dr Pratap Pal and said that we are outsiders, we have no right to enter Nandigram and they will never allow us to stay there. Being a human rights activist and a member of the APDR I visited different areas of Nandigram including Sonachura and Gangra several times since after the incident of March 14, 2007. Hence local people are quite aware of my identity but in spite of that those CPI-M people falsely and purposefully informed the police that they had caught five terrorists/Maoists with the intention to harass and threaten us.

DURING our confinement those CPI-M people abused us in the most filthy language, several times uttered slang language and made indecent gestures intending to insult the modesty of myself and Mrs Ratna Bhowmick as a result of which Ratna Bhowmick fell sick. Moreover they threatened to murder us, bury us alive and flay our skin. They even threatened us by saying that they would keep arms inside our bags before the police comes. We were not allowed to talk over mobile phones.

Police from the Nandigram P.S. came at about 8.45 pm. In presence of the police also the CPI-M people continued to use abusive and slang language alongwith criminal intimidation and asked the police to leave us at their hands although nothing objectionable was found while police searched our bags. Four workers of Sonachura Swasthakendra were caught by the RAF and were kicked and slapped and hit by lathis because they were preparing meal for us. This went on till 1.10 pm until the police started for the P.S. along with us and those four workers of Swasthakendra. Those four workers were kept in the lock-up till about 11.30 am on March 6, 2008.

While we were getting into the police jeep, Chandrakanta Paik of the CPI-M snached from my hand the received copy of the intimation letter addressed to the O/C and pointing at me and Siddhartha Sengupta said in loud voice: ‘These two used to come frequently. We should not have let them go, rather we should have finished them today.’

We detained in the P.S. till 10.15 am on March 6, 2008 and till then we were not allowed to contact our relatives or organisation. Afterwards we were allowed to leave the P.S. with Mr Abu Taher, the Joint Secretary of the BUPC. I had three letters with me written by my client, a resident of Gokulnagar, Nandigram who is now in judicial custody. Those letters, a printed map of Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur and a book which I had bought from the BUPC office at Nandigram on that very day and a personal note- book of Ratna Bhowmick and some xeroxed documents obtained by Anup Dutta are still lying with the Nandigram P.S.

As I was undergoing trauma I sent my complaint to the Superintendent of Police, Purba Medinipur by speed post only on March 9, 2008.

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