Amnesty International India is concerned at reports that at least fifteen people were killed in police firing today in Nandigram which has been the scene of protests for the last few months against possible displacement due to a new chemical project in a proposed Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
Reports say that at least fifteen people (there are varying reports on the number of people killed) were killed and over hundred people injured in police firing today in Nandigram, Eastern Midnapore district, West Bengal where farmers have been protesting an initiative by the West Bengal state government to acquire land.
Amnesty International India is concerned about excessive, disproportionate use of force by the police forces, which have sought to enter the areas of ongoing protests in Nandigram.
It may be recalled that, in the first week of January, Nandigram was the scene of violent clashes reportedly involving members of the local Krishjami Raksha Committee (Save Farmland Committee) and persons linked to the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which leads West Bengal's Left Front government and is seeking to accelerate the development of industrial projects in the state.
The protests were against the West Bengal government's move to set up a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to be jointly developed as a chemical hub by the state-owned Industrial Development Corporation and the Indonesia-based Salem group of companies. Another SEZ promoted by the same group is also reportedly planned in the Haldia area.
In this context, Amnesty International India reiterates its demands that the Government of West Bengal:
- order an impartial and independent inquiry into the excessive use of force at Nandigram now and the violence in Nandigram in January, promptly make the findings public and prosecute those accused of violence;
- ensure that all state officials, including police personnel, who are suspected of being responsible for human rights violations, including excessive use of force, are prosecuted;
- ensure that activists and other individuals engaged in peaceful protests in West Bengal are able to do so without fear of violence, harassment or false accusation of involvement in criminal activities.
Amnesty International India believes that full consultations about the human rights impact of economic decisions with those to be affected are vital means through which human rights are safeguarded in the context of development. In this respect, the organisation calls on the Government of West Bengal to:
- announce and implement a consistent policy of full consultation with local populations before any development which could affect their livelihood can take place and
- ensure that, where populations are resettled, there is just, adequate and culturally-sensitiv e rehabilitation, resettlement and reparation for those affected.
Joe Athialy is Campaigns and Communication Coordinator, Amnesty International India