Friday, February 8, 2008

CPM murders partners in Dinhata

CPM murders its partners in Dinhata

Flags in hand, Monindra Roy ran for dear life — not his own but that of a Forward Bloc comrade who had been hit by a police bullet on Tuesday.

Roy, who was part of the Bloc law-violation programme, carried the injured man to hospital, about 200 metres from the Dinhata subdivisional office — the site of the mayhem. But he did not survive.

Roy’s efforts, however, did not go unnoticed. A youth caught the action on a camcorder (grab on left).

The 33-year-old farmer said he had stooped to collect flags lying on the ground as bullets whizzed past him.

“Then I heard someone yell. An aged man, wearing dhuti-panjabi, collapsed before me as blood oozed out of his chest. I ran towards him and picked him up. With the flags still in my hand, I carried the man out of the campus. I saw many people groaning in pain while the policemen kept firing.”

Dinhata growls, Calcutta goes silent

OUR CORRESPONDENT (Kolkata, Telegraph, Feb. 8, 2008)

Siliguri, Feb. 7: The Forward Block put up two faces today.

The Dinhata brigade bellowed against the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government for Tuesday’s police firing that left six dead, but colleagues in Calcutta kept their lips sealed.

Udayan Guha, the Dinhata Bloc secretary who has been catapulted to the forefront in the district, said Tuesday’s “barbaric” incident would be highlighted at all party meetings from now on.

He said the Bloc would not buckle under the “might of the government”, which had tried to “crush the Forward Bloc’s efforts to raise common peoples’ issues”.

But leaders in Calcutta, who had yesterday cut short their bandh and refused to criticise the chief minister, were silent on the firing, confining themselves to the refrain that the matter would be discussed at the next Left Front meeting.

They appeared keen to distance themselves from Guha’s aggressive brand of politics — in evidence since Tuesday’s law-violation programme and in its aftermath.

Guha dismissed suggestions by the CPM that “antisocials” had mingled with the procession that had stormed the subdivisional office in Dinhata, which triggered the police firing.

“There was not a single antisocial in the rally. They were all our supporters. The CPM leaders should prove their point,” he said.

In Calcutta, the Bloc leaders took pains to ensure that they did not lay the blame on the government — but only on the police — for the deaths. Guha, however, was in no mood for such benevolence.

“We have been fighting the CPM-led government on some major issues. After Tuesday’s incident, we doubt how much unity can be maintained in the Left Front. Our workers at the grassroots level view the CPM as any other opposition party.”

Some Bloc leaders in Dinhata admitted that the sympathy generated by Tuesday’s firing would “benefit” the party.

“It is not a very pleasant thing to say given the enormity of the tragedy, but the deaths will definitely help us in the panchayat polls,” a leader said. “It has pumped up our workers and made us more aggressive in our anti-CPM stance.”

Dinhata limped to normality today with shops and offices re-opening and children trooping back to school.

However, tension hung heavy over the town and nearby areas, especially villages which lost residents to the police bullets. “We are not going to sleep till justice is done,” said a Bloc supporter from Sitai.

Volley & blunder (Statesman, Kolkata, Editorial, Feb. 8, 2008)

Disconnect in Forward Bloc’s strategy

It has been a foundational jolt for the Left Front, an in-house disaster and the first of its kind since it assumed office in 1977. It has quite visibly stumped the Communist Party of India (Marxist) going by its feeble response. The dominant party has targeted the bullet against the Forward Bloc, its partner in governance, and has had to reconcile itself to a bandh called by a constituent of the Front. There are at least three fundamental aspects of Tuesday’s tragedy in Dinhata that call for some soul-searching by the CPI-M, the government and to a certain degree the Forward Bloc as well. The first must be the recourse to firing; the second is the ruthless severity of the action; and finally the FB’s position vis-a-vis the Front. Pulling the trigger gets more and more reckless as the government suffers a jerk in the knee even in the face of a perfectly democratic agitation. Palpable indeed is the urge to seek fatally quick-fix solutions and an increasing tendency to seek desperate options. This is illustrated by the summoning of the army first to restore order over a four-km radius in Kolkata and more recently to douse a fire, essentially the outcome of municipal negligence. And when the army is not an agreeable or viable option, the police are ordered to fire and kill, an action carried out with a degree of malevolence that is as calculated as it is political. Tuesday’s firing violated every rule in the book: the trigger was pulled without the mandatory warning and the bullets were targeted above the waist, on the head and in the neck. Which makes it plain that the firing, as in Nandigram last March, was ordered to kill. Forty-eight hours after the mayhem, it isn’t quite definite as to who ordered the action ~ Cooch Behar’s DM, the SP or the OC. Still less whether the firing could have been avoided. These are questions that the Chief Minister, who holds the police portfolio, must answer. Indeed, the ability of the force to control violent crowds is now open to question as never before.
The Forward Bloc’s reaction has been notably restrained. The firing has been condemned as “barbaric” but the party appears to have drawn a fine distinction between the police action and the government in the wider context. Electorally, there has been a parting of the ways all right; the party will go it alone in the panchayat elections. Yet it has decided to stop short of quitting the coalition and “is still with the Left Front” because of what Mr Ashok Ghosh calls “political necessity”. The party must realise that the time for fence-sitting is over. That, in sum, is the dire message from Dinhata.

CRPF denies firing in Dinhata
Statesman News Service (Feb. 8, 2008)

KOLKATA, Feb. 7: The controversial firing at Dinhata on 5 February killing six people, including four Forward Bloc supporters, acquired a new twist today when the CRPF denied its personnel had opened fire on the demonstrators as alleged by the FB leadership. The FB stuck to its charge.
Mr SIS Ahmed, director general, CRPF, said according to preliminary reports the CRPF contingent requisitioned for assisting the police during the agitation “didn’t resort to firing at all.”
Asked whether the firing had taken place before the CRPF personnel arrived at the spot or after, Mr Ahmed said: “I don’t have details of the sequence of events.”
Mr Udayan Guha, FB Cooch Behar district secretary, told The Statesman over phone that he had video clippings to prove that CRPF personnel had fired from their rifles.
“We are getting ready still photographs of the firing which will leave no doubt about the firing. I don’t know whether the CRPF is trying to save itself or anybody else, but we have evidence to show how the CRPF resorted to firing,” Mr Guha said.
The FB state secretary, Mr Ashoke Ghosh, alleged the firing had been preplanned and that the CRPF had been deliberately positioned before the police. He also said the FB would later divulge how the “blueprint for the premeditated firing” was prepared.
Yesterday’s bandh, which was eventually scaled down from 24 hours to 12 hours, was in protest against what the FB alleged the CPI-M’s attempt to clamp police raj on the state. It described the killings at Dinhata as a “second Nandigram” where 14 villagers had fallen to police bullets on 14 March last year while protesting against the state government’s move to forcibly acquire farm land for setting up a mega chemical hub. The plan had finally to be abandoned in the wake of the turmoil that it triggered off.
A day after his remarks on the Dinhata police firing, transport and sports minister Mr Subhash Chakraborty, backed out to say in Midnapore that the Left Front ally (without mentioning the Forward Bloc) can’t do whatever it likes.
But today he refrained from commenting on the police excesses in Dinhata. The chief minister will give his observation in this matter, said the transport minister.
On the Singur issue, Mr Chakraborty said the government had not done any wrong by acquiring farmland there for industrialisation. He was addressing workers of the SBSTC in Midnapore today.

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