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Amnesty demands impartial enquiry into Nandigram atrocities

Jan 17, 2008

In a recent report, Amnesty International India and Human Rights Watch have demanded an impartial enquiry into all acts of human rights violations that took place in the eastern India’s Nandigram area. Local farmers protesting state acquisition of land had clashed with ruling party supporters, leading to a spurt of violence since early 2007.

New Delhi: The state authorities in West Bengal had not acted in an impartial manner in Nandigram. Women were especially targeted and were subjected to rape, molestation and beatings by ruling party supporters.

When these women came forward and named those responsible for the violent attacks, police refrained from taking any action against the perpetrators of crime, claims a newly released report by Amnesty International India (AII) and Human Rights Watch (HRW).

A joint four-member team, comprising Justice (Retd) S.N. Bhargava, Lawyer Vrinda Grover, Senior South Asia Researcher with HRW Meenakshi Ganguly and Director AII Mukul Sharma visited Nandigram and Kolkata between November 28-30, 2007.

The team traveled to affected villages, relief camps and met with the victims, as well as government officials and rights activists.


Releasing the report at a press conference in New Delhi: Urgent Need to Address Large Scale Human Rights Abuse During Nandigram "Recapture”, AII director, Mukul Sharma said: “Weeks after peace had supposedly been restored. We learned that perpetrators were still roaming free, celebrating their victory by threatening and beating up local residents.”

Located in East Midnapore district of West Bengal, Nandigram had witnessed a series of violent protests throughout last year. Supporters of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and farmers belonging to Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee (BUPS) clashed with each other. Farmers were opposing the acquisition of 4,000 hectares of their land by the state government for Indonesia-based Salim group for a chemical hub.

In violence that took place in Nandigram between January and March last year, there were reports of killing of at least 25 people and around the same number of cases of sexual assault on women. This included the police firing of March 14, in which 14 people had died.

Beginning November, another 15 people were reported to have died in violence and left hundreds wounded when armed supporters of CPI-M went on a rampage to “recapture” the area.

Vrinda Grover said: “Both under the Indian Constitution and under international human rights law there is an obligation on the state to provide protection to all citizens regardless of any affiliation or opinion.”

Dwelling on the aspect of sexual violence, Ms Grover said: “This is a very disturbing and serious concern that from 1984 onwards we have seen women being targeted very specifically whenever mass crimes take place – whether it is communal, or caste based, or a political conflict of the kind that Nandigram had witnessed."

She felt that unlike in other places where women were targeted because they belonged to a particular community, the case of Nandigram was different because there they were made targets for actively participating in the resistance movement.

Expressing his concern Mukul Sharma said that in an environment where there was so much emphasis on industrialisation and development in West Bengal, it was likely that this kind of violence would increase in future.

The two independent human rights bodies have demanded an impartial enquiry into the acts of violence and prosecution of those who were responsible for human rights violations in Nandigram.

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