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04 Apr 2007

People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) condemns the brutal attack on the protestors in Nandigram, an unwarranted attack in which, reports indicate, at least 21 people have been killed. This attack follows weeks of intense protests in the area over the takeover of vast tracts of land for a proposed SEZ to be operated by the Salim Group.

    The Chief Minister, Mr Buddhadev Bhattacharya, in recent public statements indicated that the SEZ would not be established atNandigram if the people did not want it to be set up there. To then send in police to fire on protestors and kill on such a large scale –instead of engaging in meaningful negotiation to resolve the situation – marks a nadir in Indian democracy.

 The protests at Nandigram is only the most visible among several such protests taking place in the country. These protests are intensifying over SEZs (in HaryanaWest BengalMaharashtra and elsewhere), over mining (in Orissa, Chattisgarh, Jharkand and other states), over dams and displacement in general. Not just are sharecroppers, small farmers, and agricultural workers agitated about the loss of land and livelihoods by these various projects, people in these areas and elsewhere have come to realize that such industrialization has little gain for them. The gains if at all are slight and ephemeral. These SEZs also are like 'foreign enclaves' in which labour laws of the land do not apply, and in which vast tax handouts have been given to industry, and also far more land than is needed for regular industry.

Barely a year has passed since the brutal attack on protestors in Kalinga Nagar, Orissa, in which 12 protestors were killed. Yesterday's brutal attack at Nandigram has shown once again that violence and repression are increasingly becoming an intrinsic part of 'development' and industrialization in India. This has the most alarming consequences for the lives and livelihood of ordinary people in this country.

PUDR demands that:

1. The SP and the DM, East Midnapur district, be suspended, pending enquiry;

2. Criminal prosecution be intitiated against the authorities who approved this action; 

3. Compensation be immediately paid to the families of those killed and injured;

4. All SEZs in the country be put on hold;

5. No further takeovers of such lands happen until labour laws are

Sashi Saxena and Nagraj Adve

Secretaries, PUDR