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NHRC on Nandigram, Taslima and Dinhata

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  • Sukla Sen
    National Humn Rights Commission s order on Nandigram issue - New Delhi Feb 08, 2008. The Government of West Bengal proposed to set up a Special Economic Zone
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 9, 2008
      National Humn Rights Commission's order on Nandigram
      issue - New Delhi
      Feb 08, 2008.


      The Government of West Bengal proposed to set up a
      Special Economic
      Zone (SEZ) and a chemical hub in an area covering
      around 10,000
      acres in Nandigram Block-1 and for that purpose it
      proposed to acquire
      land. On 28th December, 2006 Haldia Development
      Authority
      circulated an informal notice showing the likely
      location of the
      project. The local people resented the proposal for
      acquisition of
      land. Violent clashes broke out between the supporters
      of the party in
      power i.e. CPI (M) and the Bhoomi Uchhed Pratirodh
      Committee
      (BUPC) - an organisation to channelise the protest
      against the proposed
      land acquisition. From the middle of January, 2007, a
      large
      area covering 5 gram panchayats of Nandigram Block 1
      was isolated and
      police and other Government agencies were prevented
      by the
      supporters of BUPC from entering the area. About 2000
      people, believed
      to be supporters of CPI(M), were driven out and they
      took
      shelter in the adjoining area across the canal within
      the jurisdiction
      of PS Khejuri. On 14th March, 2007, the State
      Government
      tried to reestablish its writ in the area by force.
      The attempt of the
      police force to enter the area was violently resisted
      by
      supporters of BUPC at two places and the police opened
      fire at the
      mobs. 14 persons were killed in firing and 300 people
      including
      52 policemen sustained injuries.

      The police firing on 14th March, 2007 was widely
      condemned in the media
      and the Commission took suo motu cognizance of
      reports
      published in the "Asian Age" and 'Indian Express'.
      Case
      No.872/25/2006-07 was registered. The Chief
      Secretary, Government of West
      Bengal and DGP of the State were asked to submit
      factual reports.
      Accordingly, a report dated 29th March, 2004 was
      received from the
      Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal.

      The High Court of Calcutta also took notice of the
      incident and held
      that the action of police to open fire was
      unconstitutional. It
      directed CBI to take up investigation of police firing
      and related
      cases. It also directed the State Government to pay
      Rs. Five
      lakhs each as compensation to the families of the
      dead, Rs. One lakh
      each to the injured persons and Rs. Two lakhs each to
      the rape
      victims.

      On 19th March, 2007, the District Magistrate of East
      Medinipur issued a
      notification to the effect that the State Government
      will
      not acquire any land for industry in Nandigram. In
      spite of the
      notification BUPC did not withdraw the agitation. The
      police was
      still not allowed to enter the area. Sporadic
      incidents of violence
      continued to occur in the following months till
      October, 2007.

      On 27th October, 2007, the State Government sent a
      requisition to the
      Central Government for deployment of CRPF in
      Nandigram and
      adjoining areas for 3 months. On 5th November, 2007,
      the Central
      Government sent a reply that it was not possible to
      provide CRPF in
      view of the pending Assembly elections in several
      other states.

      On 6th-7th November, 2007, the CPI (M) cadres overran
      the blockade with
      the help of outsiders and criminal elements. Several
      road
      blockades were organised by CPI(M) supporters and
      access of outsiders
      to Nandigram was stopped by them. During the period
      from 6th
      November to 12th November 7 persons were killed, 32
      persons including
      16 police personnel sustained injuries and several
      houses were
      fully or partially destroyed. A large number of
      villagers (nearly
      2500), believed to be supporters of BUPC were driven
      out and the
      CPI (M) supporters who were displaced earlier returned
      home. On 11th
      November, 2007, the Government of India ordered
      deployment of 6
      companies of CRPF. On 12th November in the evening
      CRPF personnel made
      a flag march in the area and normalcy was slowly
      restored.

      Regarding the incidents which occurred from 6th
      November, 2007 onwards
      Shri Sanjay Parikh has submitted a petition. He also
      forwarded to the Commission a message received from
      Smt. Medha Patekar
      and requested for urgent intervention. The Commission
      took
      cognizance of the petition and case No.725/25/2007-08
      was registered.
      Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal was directed to
      submit a
      factual report within10 days. A team of the
      Investigation Division was
      deputed to visit the disturbed areas in Nandigram and
      study
      the situation. Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs,
      Govt. of India was
      also requested to take such steps as may be necessary
      to
      retrieve the situation in Nandigram.

      Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal submitted a
      report dated 3rd
      December, 2007. The report reveals that 560 houses
      were
      completely damaged and 399 houses were partially
      damaged in the
      incidents which occurred from 6th November, 2007 to
      12th November,
      2007. It further states that the State Government has
      decided to pay
      Rs. 10,000/- for each fully damaged house, Rs.5,000/-
      for each
      partially damaged house and Rs. 1,000/- per affected
      family for
      utensils and household goods. It has also been stated
      in the report
      that sanction for ex-gratia payment in accordance with
      the orders of
      the High Court, is currently under process.

      The investigation team of the Commission visited
      Nandigram in very
      difficult circumstances and when the situation was
      very tense.
      Communication with the local people was also difficult
      being still
      under the trauma of riots and violence. The team
      after overcoming
      these difficulties set out on their task and has done
      commendable job.

      According to the report of our Investigation team, the
      entire episode
      can be considered in three phases:-

      First Phase 3rd January, 2007 to 14th March, 2007

      During this phase, the state police started losing
      control over law and
      order situation in the area of Nandigram. The people
      lost
      trust in the police and they feared that the police
      would help the
      state agencies to take forcible possession of their
      land. The
      villagers were instigated by different political
      parties to fight
      against the Government policy. Under the umbrella of
      BUPC, the
      people laid a seige over a large area covering 5 gram
      panchayats in
      Nandigram Block-1 and did not allow the police and
      some other
      state agencies to enter the area as they seemed to
      have lost trust in
      either of them. On 14th March, 2007 the police force
      tried to
      enter the area and when it was resisted by the local
      people it opened
      fire resulting in the death of 14 persons and
      injuries to
      several others

      Second Phase 15th March to 5th November, 2007

      This was a period of comparative lull. As a matter of
      fact it may be
      described as the period of calm before the storm.
      During this
      period the local administration issued a notification
      on 19th March,
      2007 declaring that the State Government will not
      acquire any
      land in Nandigram for industries. Still the agitation
      by BUPC
      continued. Not only the blockade of the area covering
      5 gram
      panchayats in Nandigram Block-1 continued but BUPC was
      able to extend
      its influence to other areas in Nandigram Block-2.
      This period
      was also utilised by CPI(M) supporters for stock
      piling of arms and
      ammunition and mobilization of man power including
      anti-social
      elements across the canal in the area of PS Khejuri.
      The State police
      remained a mute spectator through out.

      Third Phase

      On 6th November, 2007, the CPI(M) supporters overran
      the blockade and
      tried to "recapture" Nandigram. The police outpost at
      Tehkhali
      was withdrawn late at night on 6th November, 2007 and
      thus the attack
      by CPI(M) supporters was facilitated. The
      investigation team
      of the Commission has reported that the location of
      the Tehkhali
      outpost was of strategic importance as it was the
      dividing line
      between the CPI (M) dominated area and the BUPC
      controlled area. The
      Investigation team has reported that the approach of
      the police
      was totally partisan during this period. The team also
      found a CPI (M)
      flag hoisted at the police bunker at Tehkhali.

      Since the State Government does not appear to have
      discharged its
      primary obligation in preventing the attack by CPI
      (M) cadres on
      6th November, 2007, it should bear the responsibility
      for the loss of
      life and property following the attack. It is
      suggested that
      the next of kin of the dead in these incidents and
      also the injured
      persons should be compensated in the same manner as
      directed by
      the High Court of Calcutta for the victims of the
      incidents of 14th
      March, 2007. The compensation that the State
      Government proposes
      to make for damaged houses appears to be quite
      inadequate. The
      Commission considers recommending enhanced
      compensation for fully and
      partially damaged houses. The Enquiry Team of the
      Commission has
      reported that after the incidents of 6th November,
      2007 several
      houses of BUPC supporters have been occupied by CPI(M)
      cadres and they
      are now claiming to be owners of those houses and
      demanding
      compensation. The Commission considers it necessary to
      appoint a
      Committee to suggest compensation regarding damage
      that occurred
      and to ensure that the monetary relief does not fall
      in wrong hands and
      it reaches the genuine persons. The Committee shall
      consist
      of Shri A.K. Jain, Secretary General, Shri D. Sarangi,
      Special
      Rapporteur and Shri A.K. Garg, Registrar.

      For the unfortunate incidents of Nandigram neither CPI
      (M) nor BUPC can
      escape their share of responsibility. In this context
      it is
      necessary to make a few general observations:-

      (i) The police and the
      bureaucracy should
      keep themselves aloof from political influence.
      Alignment
      with the party in power results in erosion of public
      trust which leads
      to avoidable misery.

      (ii) The party in power
      should always be
      alive to its constitutional obligation to rule
      without favour
      and prejudice. It should never encourage or connive
      with the illegal
      activities of its supporters.

      (iii) The opposition has a
      right to
      highlight the failures of the Government and to
      educate the people
      about the policies which it considers harmful. While
      it may take
      recourse to peaceful agitation, it should in no case
      encourage
      people to indulge in unlawful activities.

      (iv) There should be a
      continuous dialogue
      between the party in power and the opposition and
      such
      dialogue should always be motivated by a concern for
      the good of the
      people at large.

      (v) The press has a
      pivotal role to play
      in a democratic set up, therefore, it should always
      adopt a
      balanced and unbiased approach in reporting the
      events. In the case of
      Nandigram the Press did a commendable job by
      highlighting the
      atrocities on people but it failed in its duty to
      emphasise that the
      blockade of a large area of Nandigram by the
      agitators was
      unconstitutional.

      (vi) Whether agricultural
      land should be
      acquired or not for industry or projects like SEZ is
      a moot
      question. Agriculture being the only source of
      livelihood for the
      farmers, compensation in terms of money for
      acquisition of their
      land may not be adequate. In the process of
      rehabilitation of such
      displaced people as a result of acquisition of land,
      the
      Government should take the local people into
      confidence and it should
      also ensure alternative means of livelihood and
      shelter for
      the displaced. Whether in addition to monetary
      compensation, any other
      land can be given to relocate or can be linked to the
      project
      for which the land is acquired by allocating adequate
      number of shares
      and providing employment to at least one member of
      each
      affected family and similar other measures may be
      considered. The
      agriculturists may not be in a position to
      appropriately or wisely
      invest the money received by way of compensation.
      Necessary steps may
      have to be taken by the Government to appoint
      advisors for
      making right investment.

      NHRC sends notice to the Delhi Police Chief and Home
      Secretary, MHA on
      Taslima Nasreen's condition: sends notice to West
      Bengal
      Chief Secretary and DGP on the killing of five persons
      in
      indiscriminate police firing

      New Delhi February 08, 2008

      The National Human Rights Commission has asked the
      Delhi Police
      Commissioner and the Home Secretary, Ministry of Home
      Affairs to
      provide their stand within two weeks on a complaint
      brought to the
      notice of the Commission concerning the writer Ms
      Taslima Nasreen
      from Bangladesh. The Commission's move comes after a
      group of writers
      submitted a joint complaint which said that Ms
      Taslima Nasreen
      was virtually undergoing solitary confinement. The
      complaint alleged
      that she was not able to even converse or communicate
      with
      anyone except government officials and was undergoing
      great agony. The
      complainant said that the author was entitled for
      protection
      of her life and liberty and there was no basis to
      treat her in that
      manner.
      The Commission after going through the complaint said
      that if true, the
      allegations made in the complaint seriously affect
      human
      rights. It also directed that a copy of complaint
      should be provided to
      the two authorities for their comments.

      The Commission also sent notice to the Chief
      Secretary, West Bengal and
      DGP, West Bengal on a report which said that atleast
      five
      persons were killed in indiscriminate police firing on
      the Forward Bloc
      activists at Dinhata town of North Bengal on February
      5,
      2008. As per the report published in "The Telegraph"
      on February 6,
      2008, the activists were protesting against SEZs and
      big
      capital's entry into retail. The report further said
      that the deceased
      were in the age group of 25 to 65 and 50 others were
      injured
      in the incident. The report also added that eight
      supporters of Forward
      Bloc suffered bullet injuries. The Telegraph report
      further
      highlighted that the protesters were shot above the
      waist and those who
      died suffered head or neck injury.

      Calling it a serious issue of violation of human
      rights, the Commission
      has given four weeks time to the two authorities for
      their
      comments.


      Amitadyuti Kumar <amitdyu@...>
      from APDR




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