No repression in West Bengal - picket of Indian embassy, 4pm, Monday 2nd April - London

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Mar 28 2007 11:15
No repression in West Bengal - picket of Indian embassy, 4pm, Monday 2nd April - London

(see news article - the number dead is now estimated at 16 with hundreds injured and missing)



In Nandigram, West Bengal, in India, on Wednesday 14th March, police opened fire on peasants trying to stop the Communist-led government from taking their land, which had been designated to be ‘developed’ into a ‘Special Economic Zone’ (SEZ).
This, however, is not the real issue at hand here. The state government of Nandigram, which is led by the Communist Party of India – Marxist (CPI-M), was using the police to reassert their authority and power over a region which had firmly and explicitly rejected their plans for the area.
The peasants’ of the area were protesting against their land being acquired for the building for a vast industrial project, which, under national laws, is assured access to the water and electricity of the area, regardless of how this affects the residents of the area, even if this means residents have to go without. These SEZ’s have no obligation to the area within which they are situated, they are exempt from laws surrounding labour practices, and are considered to be foreign territory, thus gaining exemption from taxes as well.
However, the people of Nandigram were not prepared to just role over and accept this. In January the people took control of the area, forcing communist sympathisers to leave the area. They were self-organised, with no political party holding sway over the peasants. They even won a victory; the state government claimed ‘if the people of Nandigram are not convinced about the benefits of the chemical hub (the SEZ), we will not force it on them, we will take the project elsewhere in the state’, although, as the Times of India pointed out ‘the offer to withdraw the notification for land acquisition and shift the SEZ project elsewhere seems like a ruse meant to distract the villagers who had barricaded the area.’ However, on Wednesday 14th March, over 2,000 police entered the region, ‘to restore administrative control.’ Eyewitnesses say, ‘police started showering bullets – many from point blank range at the chests or heads of these hapless humans – with the sole intention of killing. Bodies of the victims were spread all over the place. There was no ambulance or prison van with the police. They had no intention to arrest people, they were there to murder.’ Communist supporters have set up check points far from the conflict zones to stop anyone getting into the area and witness what is happening. Since Wednesday there have been continued clashes across the area, with the police and armed members of the communist party fighting local residents. Reports are that somewhere between 14 (the official number) and 125 (eyewitness accounts) people have been killed, and many more have been injured. Most of the victims from Wednesday were women and children participating in non-violent civil disobedience, similar to how Gandhi protested.
We are calling for a protest outside of the Indian Embassy, which is situated at India House, Aldwych, London, WC2B 4NA, just off the Strand, near the B.B.C building, nearest tubes either Covent Garden or Temple. Our demands are for the national government to intervene and stop the atrocities and for the withdrawal of the planned SEZ from Nandigram, and from any area in West Bengal. We are also highlighting our disgust that people have been murdered over the drive for profit and for political power, and our contempt for a government (both national and state) which is totally subservient to corporations, which pushes a drive for industrialisation at the expense of the people, in opposition to the people, which is entirely for the benefit of a small minority.