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Indian Americans want answers from WB govt
Suman Guha Mozumder | December 11, 2007 19:25 IST
About 75 Indian-American academics and professionals filed a joint application under India's Right to Information Act at the Indian embassy in Washington, DC, demanding information from the West Bengal government on the violence in Nandigram [Images].
The applicants said they were 'appalled by the recent spate of large scale displacement and violence in Nandigram.' They condemned the government for its 'total apathy to the repeated intimations of imminent violence' by the Bhoomi Uchhed Protirodh Committee, a group of people from Nandigram opposing the acquisition of agricultural land proposed by the state earlier this year.
The applicants also held the government responsible for its failure to protect the lives and rights of the villagers, and demanded information on the number of people killed or injured in the violence since November 4.
The concerned non-resident Indians, many of them volunteers and supporters of the Association for
Responding to the CPI-M claim that the party's cadres were killed and one policeman burnt alive in Nandigram, Somasundaram Kumaresamuthusamy of AID said they wanted the state government to act as a protector of all citizens and not discriminate between people based on their stand on land issues or on their political inclinations.
"In democracy," Kumar told rediff India Abroad, "all voices have to be considered equally and the government cannot take an obnoxious stand of 'we' and 'them.' When there was continued violence beginning February 2007, rights groups have been demanding that the government act in an unbiased manner and bring the perpetrators to justice -- irrespective of whether they were CPI-M or BUPC -- and save the innocent caught in this crossfire.
"The state government," he continued, "is indifferent and is neither holding talks sincerely nor taking any concrete step to bring peace to the region. Obviously, the state government has more responsibility in maintaining peace than alleged Opposition and Naxalite cadres. The state government, the protector of the law of the land, cannot let its own cadres use violence against villagers illegally."
On whether criticism for the incidents in Nandigram has been selective and targeted against the ruling party -- as alleged by the CPI-M -- Kumar said there is a clear difference between the state government machinery and a political party.
"The chief minister's claim of 'paid back in the same coin' is extremely disgusting and seems to condone violence," he said, referring to West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya's characteristion of the violence in Nandigram by party cadres as a retaliation to what was done to them in the past year by the BUPC.
Nandigram also drew flak from the Association of Indian Muslims of America. The organisation said the community in the
'Media reports describe some cadres the Leftist parties running berserk in the region,' said an AIMA statement, 'destroying peoples' houses, raping women, brutalising and killing civilians and setting fire to their dwellings. In addition to much loss of property an atmosphere of fear has been induced by such mayhem and violence.'
"While we strongly support the programs of the Left Front government to establish modern industries," said Kaleem Kawaja, a NASA [Images] engineer, on behalf of the group, "such development should be implemented consistent with the laws of the land and the way of life of the people of the state. Non-sustainable industrial growth that does not integrate with local society should not be forced on the people.
"We condemn," he continued, "the recent coercive methods used by the government apparatus. We appeal to the