Saturday, March 24, 2007
Nandigram: crime against humanity
At Sandip's book release ceremony yesterday, one of the speakers was Sujato Bhadra, of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR).
The APDR is an organisation whose work I respect enormously. For 3 decades, the APDR has almost single-handedly held aloft the candle of human rights in West Bengal.
Sujato read out from the Govt of India’s SEZ Act and the state rules. In explicit terms, it is stated that this territory will be like a foreign territory.
Very, very fitting indeed, especially in this year of the 60th anniversary of India’s independence, the independence for which Bhagat Singh, whose centenary falls this year, and so many others, gave their lives. Ironic indeed, and deeply shameful, that the same govt should issue advertisements paying tribute to Bhagat Singh. And the CPI(M) has paid its tribute to the memory of Bhagat Singh, whom it had claimed in its pantheon, by the massacre at Nandigram, for the setting up of a SEZ by a businessman associated with other crimes against humanity in Indonesia.
Sujato spoke briefly about their findings from Nandigram. He said what happened there can only be called a crime against humanity.
In international law there are 3 kinds of mass killings. War crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. India is not a signatory to the law on crimes against humanity, just as the USA and China are not. And Sujato informed the gathering that in 2003, during the BJP govt’s tenure, a secret pact was signed with the USA, under which perpetrators of crimes against humanity would not be prosecuted in each other’s countries.
The Left Front govt of West Bengal has the distinguished record of having perpetrated another crime against humanity in the past – in Marichjhapi, on 31 January 1979, when 36 people (the official no.) were killed in police firing.
Sujato’s conservative estimate is that at least 45 persons were killed in Nandigram, and 100-120 persons are missing. But even this estimate is only on the basis of visiting 3 villages, of the 14 affected. Local people speak of scores of dead bodies having been taken away, thrown into the river, or carried off for secretly burying. A large no. of children are missing.
The police operation of 14 March was not to restore law and order. It was aimed at annihilating the resistance. There were multiple bullet wounds on the bodies of several of the dead.
While the CPI(M) may have announced that land will not be acquired for a special economic zone in Nandigram, the people there are living in terror. For they know the CPI(M) will not spare them, and will ensure their elimination after things appear to have calmed down. They committed the cardinal sin of abandoning the party. And they created an example of militant resistance, which is now going to create more Nandigrams everywhere.
The only parallel in India that Sujato could think of – was the killing and mass burial of some 1,500 youths in Punjab in the early 90s, in the name of anti-terrorist operations.
APDR’s report on Nandigram will be completed shortly and made available to the public. I remember the historic report on the organised massacre of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984, in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Who are the guilty? The Nandigram reported will be as significant.