Left Front puts Nandigram land acquisition on hold

New Delhi, Mar 17 | Updated: Mar 18 2007, 06:28am hrs
In a significant move, the WB government today decided to immediately stop land acquisition at Nandigram, the site selected for setting up of a chemical hub by the Indonesian Salim Group.

While a section of LF leaders claimed that the decision could affect industrialisation, others felt it was a temporary setback. Once projects like Tata Motors in Singur roll, the mindset of people would change, they said.

However, CM Buddhadev Bhattacharya had to bow under pressure from CPI (M)s allies, CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc, who had been critical of the CMs policy.

At todays meeting, the LF decided to withdraw police from Nandigram in phases. It was also decided that all allies would be taken into confidence for future SEZ projects. With this, the crisis of allies threatening to pull out over police action at Nandigram, seemed to have blown over.

Asked whether the decision would stall industrialisation of WB, RSP MP Abani Roy told FE: The decision at this juncture does not concern the entire state and is confined only to Nandigram.

A majority of those who have taken up arms in Nandigram against the LF were once hardcore CPI (M) cadre.

The state government has reports that illegal Bangladeshi migrants have trickled into parts of rural Bengal, including Nandigram, over the years, and settled down as sharecroppers with the help of local Left leaders. Though a majority of these immigrants became tillers, they lacked documents to prove the ownership of land.

Life in Nandigram, located on the south bank of Haldi river remained peaceful as long as the locals and the immigrants were CPI (M) supporters. But Bhattacharyas move to industrialise changed the equations. Singur was the flashpoint, but the CM stood his ground. However, by then the Trinamool Congress and the Maoists had successfully succeeded spread the fear of farmers losing their land.

The moment the state government declared its intention to hand over 14,000 acres of land to Indonesian Salim group for a SEZ,

Nandigram erupted. Illegal immigrants, local residents and farmers, who had become hardcore CPM activists, switched sides. There was a sharp division between the committed cadre and the floating vote bank. Taking advantage of the situation, outfits like Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind and Trinamool started consolidating in the area. The immigrants and the landless joined hands with a section of farmers and formed the Krishijami Raksha Samity (Save Farmland Committee) to take on Left activists.

In January, the first clash between the committee members and the CPI (M)cadre took place and nearly 2,500 party supporters were driven out and their land captured.

With panchayat elections approaching, pressure mounted on the WB government to push back the cadre living in the camps in and around Nandigram.

Despite being attacked from all sides, the state govt has indicated that the move to industrialise West Bengal would go on. The government is also flaunting West Bengal as an emerging destination for investments.