Nearly 50 people gathered outside the Indian High Commission in London on 2nd April 2007 in an angry protest against the Nandigram killings which took place on 14 and 15 March when a 5,000 strong contingent of police opened fire on local people resisting forcible eviction from their land which was to be turned into a Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
The true scale of the atrocities which occurred in the operation, planned at least a week in advance by the CPI(M) led West Bengal government, is now
emerging. TV footage showed trucks carrying bodies with their legs dangling out. More than 50 people are missing from the terrorised villages of Nandigram, and believed dead. Human rights activists report that women were gang-raped, children brutally attacked, and that there are large numbers of young girls and children among the “disappeared” in the targeted villages.
The demonstrators shouted slogans such as “Nandigram, Never Again! Scrap the SEZs!” and held the West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya responsible for the carnage, chanting “Buddhadeb, Shame, Shame! So many killings in your name”. One of the placards read “West Bengal government murdering for big business”.
The organisers of the protest, the Transnational Institute, South Asia Solidarity Group and Reading Grassroots Action, also handed in a letter to the President of India, urging him to ensure
1) A thorough independent enquiry and the prosecution of all state officials, including police personnel, who are suspected of perpetrating human rights violations
2) Full medical attention for those injured who have yet to receive proper care
3) The immediate suspension of the SEZ Act of 2005.
They also expressed concern about the proposed ‘chemical hub’ SEZ near the port of Haldia. The main transnational corporation showing interest in this new SEZ is Dow Chemicals, manufacturers of ‘Agent Orange’ who were major suppliers of chemical weapons for use in Vietnam. There are major
concerns about pollution: chemical factories need special environmental clearance (Environmental Impact Assessment) which was not sought for Nandigram and is also likely to be bypassed in Haldia.
A spokesperson for South Asia Solidarity Group, Kalpana Wilson, said, “The British government’s policies and aid to the government of West Bengal
and other states in India are promoting SEZs, vast enclaves which are virtually foreign territories controlled by transnational corporations, making thousands of people destitute. We plan to step up the campaign against this.”