Nandigram issue

Nandigram dispute
The Nandigram SEZ controversy, which caused the Nandigram massacre, started when the West Bengal government decided that the Salim Group of Indonesia would set up a chemical hub under the SEZ policy at Nandigram, a rural area in the district of Purba Medinipur. The villagers took over the administration of the area and all the roads to the villages were cut off. The administration was directed to break the Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Commitee’s (BUPC) resistance at Nandigram and a massive operation with at least 3,000 policemen was launched on March 14, 2007. However, prior information of the impending action had leaked out to the BUPC who amassed a crowd of roughly 2,000 villagers at the entry points into Nandigram with women and children forming the front ranks. In the resulting mayhem, at least 14 people were killed.

1 Background
2 The events of March 14 2007
3 Reactions
4 Location shift
5 November 2007 violence


The Salim Group was founded by Sudono Salim closely associated with Indonesian ex-president Suharto.

The chemical hub would require the acquisition of over 14,000 acres (57 km²) of land. The special economic zone would be spread over 29 mouzas (villages) of which 27 are in Nandigram.4Probodh Panda, a CPI MP from the district has said that most of the land to be acquired is multi crop and would affect over 40,000 people.5Expectedly, the prospect of losing land and thereby livelihood raised the heckles of the predominantly agricultural populace.6 The villagers, who had been predominantly supporters of the party in power, CPI(M), turned against it and organized a resistance movement under the banner of the newly formed Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee or BUPC (literally, Committee for the Resistance to Eviction from Land)7.

Partners in the ruling Left Front and even sections of the CPI(M) party including the Minister for Land and Land Reform, have expressed reservations on the project.8

In defence of the project, the state government states that it was won by competing with 9 other Indian states9. Being in the vicinity of Haldia Petrochemicals & IOC refinery, which, the CPI(M) claimed, had earlier led to 100,000 jobs being created through downstream projects, the party argued that this is the best place to build a hub from the point of view of supply-chain integration.10

The Salim Group sought around 35,000 acres (140 km²) of land for a series of ambitious projects.11 Apart from the special economic zone (which is a 50:50 joint venture with the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation) it has been assigned the construction of the 100 km long 100 m wide Eastern Link Expressway and construction of a four-lane road bridge over the Haldi River, from Haldia to Nandigram, has also been planned. The proposed bridge would provide a link between Haldia and the proposed chemicals SEZ in Nandigram.12 The Barasat-Raichak expressway and the Raichak-Kukrahati bridge, will connect Haldia to National Highway 34.

The decision to award of the expressway to the Salim group has however courted controversy13 since the preliminary work for the same, including a feasibility study14was contracted out earlier to the renowned JICA15. The Agency was kept in the dark about the change in plan until it was announced publicly by the chief minister16.But the people of Nnadigram refused to believe Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattachariya, as it was he who had earlier repeatedly stressed on the land acquization in Nandigram for the project. It was under his orders that the administration moved ahead with the chemical project. The people came to know of the project’s advancement from a memo published by Haldia Petrochem Authorities. The local farmers, who repeatedly informaed that the land there, is fertile enough for multi-crop farming, got furious and raised there voice against the project. The opposition from the farmers forced the Chief Minister to inform, that the government would withdraw from the project. Despite the Chief Minister’s statement, the local, district and State administration kept stating that the Chemical Hub would take place at Nandigram itself. There were written documents signed by the concerned authorities, which confirmed this.

The events of March 14 2007

The administration was directed to break the BUPC’s resistance at Nandigram and a massive operation with at least 3,000 policemen was launched on March 14, 2007. A group of armed and trained CPI(M) cadres wore police uniforms and joined the forces17. However, prior information of the impending action had leaked out to the BUPC who amassed a crowd of roughly 2,000 villagers at the entry points into Nandigram with women and children forming the front ranks. In the resulting mayhem, at least 14 people were killed.18

Immediately following the March 14 carnage voluntary teams of doctors visited the Nandigram health centre, the district hospital at Tamluk and later, the SSKM hospital and compiled a comprehensive report19

Few journalists were able to access the area, with their access being restricted by ‘checkposts’ manned by CPI(M) party cadre20; two belonging to a news channel were briefly abducted21.

Though such a turn of events was not entirely unexpected, the scale of the action left the state stunned. Trinamool Congress estimates put the toll at 50. PWD minister Kshiti Goswami of the RSP, a Left Front constituent, said 50 bodies were taken to hospital, but it was impossible to ascertain how many were actually dead.22 In response to this, The CPM party has also stated that 2,500 CPM members and supporters and their families were driven out of the area and displaced into relief camps as a result of unrest. It has accused the Jami Raksha Committee – a coalition of activists from various parties who oppose land acquisition – of armed attacks on relief camps which led to three deaths as well as a series of murders and a gangrape.23

Veteran Naxalite leader Kanu Sanyal opined that in the name of Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Committee, Trinamool has established a reign of terror in Nandigram.24

Fresh violence erupted in Nandigram on 29 April caused the West Bengal Human Rights Commission to step in.25. A team of intellectuals and theatre personalities from Calcutta was attacked by CPM cadre on their return trip after disbursing relief material collected from the people in various parts of the state.26

The deaths in Nandigram have led to a great deal of controversy on the left in India. 27 The federal police say they have recovered many bullets of a type not used by police but in widespread use in the underworld.28


Gopal Krishna Gandhi, the present governor of West Bengal, criticised the state government over its handling of the Nandigram incident, speaking of his “cold horror” in a press statement. His statement was taken suo moto cognisance of by the Kolkata High Court following which an enquiry by the CBI has been ordered.29 However, there have even been accusations of the CBI’s failure to ensure a thorough investigation.30

An editorial in the The Indian Express said that the party machinery has become the “sword arm of an industrialisation policy that involves settling complicated property rights issues.”31

Renowned novelist Sunil Gangopadhyay, a friend of the Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya also felt that the industry is necessary but state violence was barbaric. 32 Social activist Medha Patkar had visited Nandigram on 7 December 2006 to protest against land acquisition.33 Other renowned persons who joined protests against the project and the genocide carried out on 14 March 2007 to implement it include Magsaysay and Jnanpeeth Award-winning author Mahasweta Devi, Booker Prize-winner Arundhati Roy, film director and actress Aparna Sen, theatre personalities Shaonli Mitra and Bibhas Chakraborty, painter Suvaprasanna, songwriter and singer Kabir Suman and many others.

The CPM has currently adopted the public position that land acquisition will not be made without the consent of the people of Nandigram. The proposed SEZ has ostensibly been shelved following the March 14 police action.34

Location shift

After the bloodshed at Nandigram, and the stiff resistance from opposition parties and Left Front partners over land acquisition, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on 3 September expressed the government’s preference for the sparsely populated island of Nayachar, 30 kilometres from Haldia, to set up the much talked-about chemical hub.35

November 2007 violence

A fresh round of violence came up in November 2007. On November 12, 2007, the National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the West Bengal Government directing it to submit a factual report on the conditions prevailing in Nandigram. 36


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16 Responses to Nandigram issue

  1. farhan says:

    good brief account. wikipedia is a great site.

  2. Saurabh says:

    This is a very well written article on Nandigram. I wanted to know about the issue as i did not follow it. I got a handsome information on the topic


  3. Saloni Khaitan says:

    very informative!!wanted to know about the issue but details regarding the compensation offered by chief minister to the framers is not given.

  4. Santosh Karteek says:

    The news is very informative.
    Anymore details about the state government activities so as to why and how they still went forward with the chemical hub, despite the march protest could also be mentioned.


  5. shweta says:

    the article is brief and very well written.It enabled me to know about the issue .keep up the good work!

  6. Pingback: Trends : Most viewed topics on Speak India « SPEAK INDIA

  7. p_v_Namjoshi says:

    My request would be two fold. In Madhya Pradesh in Morena -Bhind district huge land is fallen vacant known as BIHAD[rugged ,shaggy,and arduous land]This land should be allotted by the govt. for industrial purposes . The Chambal river passes through it. The lease should be for 100 years with nominal lease rent of 100 Rs. per 10 hectors or so. The unemployment problem could be served and there by decoity problem could be solved. The area is hardly 200 KM away from Delhi. Therefore this proposal should also be considered. Secondly Gwalior which is hardly 40 KM away from Morena would also be magnate capital of India. Hence from every angle it is useful.

    It has become a fashion ,now a days to oppose acqisation of land by political parties for selfish motives and not for the interest of the public. Medha Patkar is one of the example of Narmada Bachav Andolan. Because of her the cost of dam was just doubled.

  8. Kasturi says:


  9. Deepshikha says:

    It really helped.Thank you.

  10. Samir Basu says:

    Your account of Nandigram incident is half truth. Sequence of event is OK. But main cause behind formation of BUPc has not been mentioned. a large part of Nadigram or CHAR NANDIGRAM has been formed as a process of siltation and the land belongs to W.B. Govt. Local Panchayats used to issue temporary right to local residents to cultivate on such land. Money used to be taken by Panchayat leaders and local CPIM and TRINAMUL leaders alike. WB Govt. decoded to utilise a large part of such CHAr land – actually belonging to GOVT so that minimum compensation on account of Land acquisition can be paid. TRINAMUL and asection of LEFT leaders in fear of losing financial interest formed BUPC and resisted the acquisition. It is more for personal gain than for public purpose. Social Activists and NGOs involved in the movement in the name of sympathy for general public have minted money and received millions of dollars as foreign grants. A RTI petition has been lodged to gain information that how much money these NGOs and activists have received after joining Nandigram movement.

  11. Pingback: Samir basu on Nandigram « SPEAK INDIA

  12. Pallav Mathur says:

    I liked the stuff really!!
    it gets u off the itch of reading long articles,the briefing helps understanding faster and better

  13. AdeX says:

    I need to know why the BUPC continued the political movement even after the WB Gov surrendered that they canceled the land acquisition??

  14. Rucha Shukla says:

    thanks a lot..its very informative..but i want to know the current take on it. im sure the farmers are still suffering and fighting. its a pity that the hands which grow our foodgrains have to pick up guns to fight for their own land!! does the government intend to satrve us?

  15. Vinu Varghese says:

    Thanks…… i was great worth reading. also was short too. so was no boring. wanted to know about the issue for almost an year now.
    I some how cant understand how the party cadres had the balls to dress up like police men. i mean left front who claims of secularism and anticommunlistic should’nt have done this catastrophe.

  16. Andrew Pelt says:

    I found your post on my (almost) daily obsession with blog searching. Thanks for the informative blog post as I can certainly appreciate all of the hard work that goes into maintaining a site like this! Thanks again.

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