New Delhi, Nov 23: Home Minister Shivraj Patil today rejected the opposition's demand for imposition of President's Rule in West Bengal on Nandigram issue and said that 'miscreants' were present in the area who wanted to foment violence and assured that the people evicted from the area would be brought back, paid compensation and guilty punished.
Giving a virtual clean chit to the government of West Bengal, Mr Patil admitted the CPI(M)'s claim about the presence of Maoists in Nandigram and said that there were miscreants active in Nandigram who could be termed as 'naxalites or terrorists'.
While replying to a short duration discussion on Nandigram issue in the Rajya Sabha, the Home Minister asserted that the article 356 had to be used very carefully and responsibly and when it was absolutely necessary. He wondered ''If a few villages are affected, will it allow us to impose President's Rule in the entire state? We will not use it lightly.'' Without naming Gujarat, he said that those demanding it for West Bengal must understand that if it was imposed in one state then they could not say it was not be imposed in another state. However, his comments evoked widespread protest from opposition BJP and Trinamool Congress members who reminded him of Bihar and Jharkhand episode.
Mr Dinesh Trivedi of TMC said the Centre was duty bound to impose President's Rule in West Bengal while BJP leader Sushma Swaraj also reiterated her demand for it. However, Mr Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference said the article should never be used against any state.
The Home Minister said the Centre had earlier issued oral directions to the West Bengal government to take all necessary measures to avoid precipitating the situation in Nandigram and Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had assured him that they would be implemented.
Regarding the CPI(M)'s claim that Maoists were responsible for Nandigram violence and the BJP's demand for Centre's clarification on this, Mr Patil said he had some information that certain people behind the scenes were trying to incite the people of Nandigram.
Arms found in the area also indicated that they could be used for terrorism and violence. The area being riverine it was easier to bring arms there, he pointed out.
Refusing to categorically say whether the method adopted by the West Bengal Government in Nandigram was correct or not, he said, ''You want me to sit judgement on it, it has to be decided by the court.'' When asked whether CPI(M)'s claim that Maoists were waging war against state in Nandigram was correct or not, he indirectly defended the West Bengal government by saying that if people were not allowed to return back to their houses and officials not allowed to go to any part of the country, then ''it cannot be tolerated by the government. We have to take action. Liberty of the people has to be protected''.
Expressing regret over the violence in Nandigram, Mr Patil defended the West Bengal government stating that ''liberated zones' like the one created in Nandigram could not be tolerated''. He said the Chief Minister had assured him that all measures would be taken by the state government to bring back the people to their houses, provide compensation to the victims and punish the guilty. He said that to assist the state government, the Centre had sent 33 battalions of paramilitary forces.
Regarding the Centre's stand on Maoists, the Home Minister said that the government was not opposed to any 'ism' and was ready to talk to naxalites if they put down their guns. However, the government wanted to adopt a holistic approach which included socio-economic development of the backward region, providing employment opportunities to the people.
Pointing out that the root-cause of violence in Nandigram was people's opposition to land acquisition for industrial purpose, Mr Patil said the Centre was in the process of finalising a comprehensive relief and rehabilitation policy.
Advocating higher compensation to the land owners, he said the government was considering increasing the solatium amount from present 35 per cent to 50 per cent and it could be increased up to 100 per cent. Moreover, land owners, whose land would be taken, be also given shares of the industry being put up in the area and employment be given to local people.
Not being much satisfied with the Home Minister's reply, the opposition BJP and TMC members said it created more confusion while the CPI(M)'s Brinda Karat approved Mr Patil's statement by thumping the desk.