Govt prevents artistes and intellectuals from visiting Nadigram

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Kolkata, May 10 (UNI) The administration today barred movement of a team of city-based artistes and intellecutals, who were heading for Nandigram to oversee the Pancyayat polling, following an instruction from the West Bengal State Election Commission.

The team, including filmmaker Aparna Sen and theatre personality Saonli Mitra, was asked not to proceed further on security ground as it reached Bagnan in Howrah district, more than 100 km from Nandigram in East Midnapore district, where Panchayat polling will be held tomorrow.

Expressing inability to provide security to them, Sub-Divisional Officer Sanjay Ghosh asked the team members, who were under the banner of 'Swajan', not to proceed further.

Reacting to this, Swajan spokesperson Mitra alleged that it was a conspiracy to hold them back so that there was no one to stand by the people in Nandigram during the polls.

''The Election Commissioner had assured us on Thursday that we will be given full security. Now, at the eleventh hour, he is saying we can't have special protection,'' she said.

However, welcoming the administrative measure, CPI(M) state Secretary Biman Basu said the team members were 'self-made observers' and their proposed visit was motivated.

The artistes and intellecutals had earlier expressed concern to state Election Commissioner Ashok Gupta over the spiralling violence in Nandigram and wanted themselves to be sent to the area as 'independent poll observers' to monitor the situation.

They apprehended that violence would continue in Nandigram on the poll day and people would be tortured and threatened to vote in favour of the ruling Left Front.

Though denying such a status, the state Election Commissioner had allowed them to visit Nandigram.

But later, the poll panel refused to guarantee full security to the team members and asked them not to go to Nandigram.

The State Election Commission's move came following a letter from the CPI(M), that cited provisions of the electoral act saying no individuals had the right to be poll observers without the sanction of the EC.

''The law will take its own course if a pre-determined effort is made to disturb the law and order situation in the names 'right to free movement','' he said.

Questioning the motive of the intellecutals, who in the recent times repeatedly opposed the state government and the CPI(M) on the Nandigram issue, Mr Basu alleged that none of them had ever raised their voice against political terror, unleased against the Marxists in the past.

''They are self-made observers. But there is no such provision in the electoral act. There could be a motive behind their move,'' he said.

Earlier, the intellectuals had submitted a memorandum to WBEC demanding immediate transfer of Nandigram police station's officer-in-charge, the District Magistrate and the Police Superintendent to ensure a free and fair polling.

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