Saturday, March 24, 2007

Protest by Chennai youth

Youth present memorandum to CPI(M) members on the Nandigram violence

Chennai, March 23, 2007: Members of a Chennai-based youth collective, 'Youth for Social Change' today held a silent demonstration in front of state CPI(M) office against the Nandigram violence. The members of the youth collective handed over a petition, signed by more than 170 students and concerned citizens from all over Chennai, to Mr. Padmanabhan, member of CPI(M) central committee.

After a hour long demonstration outside the party office the members of the group requested to meet a representative of the party to present the petition. Office bearers received the petition and upon learning that the group was not affiliated to any political party proposed to have a dialogue. Mr. V. Meenakshi Sundaram, editor of CPI (M)'s Tamil publication 'Marxist' offered to narrate the party's version of the controversy. He said that "the Nandigram issue was all a manifestation of the opposition's political game, the law and order in the area was in shambles and the government had to intervene."

"Contrary to the claims of CPI(M) and its mouthpieces, the protesters were not affiliated to any particular political party. It is a farmers' struggle for their right to life and livelihood, and many concerned citizens, literary figures and artists are staging strong protests all over the country. It was CPI(M) which initiated land reforms in West Bengal but they are now bent on violently grabbing the same land from the people", says T. Venkat of Youth for Social Change.

In response to a question on inviting Dow Chemicals for setting up facility at the proposed Nandigram chemical hub, Mr. Meenakshi Sundaram said that "foreign investment for industrialization is necessary to provide jobs to the people and in the era of globalization we are not in control". Dow Chemicals is the owner of Union Carbide, the company responsible for the world's worst industrial disaster in Bhopal. The gas leak in Bhopal killed 20,000 people and severely injured 150,000. 23 years later, the site is still heavily contaminated because Union Carbide and its current owner Dow Chemical who refuse to clean-up.

The youth group also went to the State head office of CPI, alliance partners of CPI(M) in the west bengal govt. and presented a copy of the petition to Mr. T.Pandian, general secretary of the state CPI. T.Pandian, while appreciating the concerns of the youngsters said that they have already voiced their serious concerns about the killings. He added that there was nothing wrong in accepting one's mistake.

The youth collective, in their memorandum, has demanded an apology from the Chief Minister of West Bengal, withdrawal of police forces from all the affected villages and free access to these areas for the media and the public. Their demands also include a repeal of the SEZ act and return of the land acquired in Singur for the proposed TATA Motors small-car factory.

Similar struggles against displacement and forcible land acquisitions are going on all over the country. Whether it is Kalinganagar in Orissa or Bastar in Chhattisgarh, the people are being denied their rights to dignified life and livelihood. "Nandigram is not an isolated incident. Such incidents are happening across the country and they will continue to happen if governments continue to disregard the interests of farmers and common people in their reckless drive for industrialization", said Jeny Dolly, from Youth for Social Change.

On March 14, around 5000 policemen and many CPI(M) cadres entered Nandigram, where thousands of local villagers were protesting the forcible acquisition of 22500 acres of fertile land for a chemical SEZ. The protesters were brutally attacked and fired at. Official reports say that 18 villagers were killed but unofficial reports put the count to around 125 with hundreds more injured. Women and children were the primary targets of the bullets. Eyewitness stories of gore, rapes and inhuman violence during the incident pour out of the area everyday.

Youth for Social Change will continue to engage concerned citizens and students from around Chennai in the public debate on the path of development that should be followed.

For more information, contact:- Yash Jain 9380488384; nandigram AT gmail DOT com


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