Social unrest in Bengal, fourth estate condemns Nandigram violence

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Kolkata, Nov 12 (UNI) West Bengal's Left Front government continued to face social turmoil with more intellectuals joining the protest movement, Press Club condemning the incident and social activist Medha Patkar venturing towards strife-torn Nandigram for the second time in four days.

The Press Club, Kolkata, here last night expressed concern at the obstruction to mediapersons entering Nandigram, repeated attacks on them and urged the West Bengal government to ensure free movement and safety of journalists.

Press Club president Kamal (correct) Bhattacharjee and Secretary Kushal Dasgupta in a joint statement here said, '' Several incidents of assault on reporters and cameramen have taken place in the past few days while covering Nandigram.'' ''We want to put it straight on record that no area, expect for those of military importance, can be barricaded to bar the way of the media and nothing can be done to deny them the right to information,'' they said.

Condemning the attacks on scribes, they hoped that the appeal would reach the people concerned and necessary action taken forthwith to enable the media personnel to move inside Nandigram and elsewhere freely.

If the fourth estate expressed its ire, author Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay and film director Nabyendu Chatterjee were the latest to boycott the film festival and expressed their solidarity with the intellectuals of Bengal.

The Festival site wore a barren, vacant look with hardly any people arriving to see and enjoy the feast of films. However, festival spokesperson said, ''The crowd is less as there is no tarnsport. But the morning show of films had some people.'' Criticising the incident, Mr Mukhopadhyay said, ''Democracy has been stifled. A peaceful march cannot be an obstruction on democracy and what is happening in Nandigram is shameless. I have decided to boycott the festival in protest against this anarchy.'' They add to the already swelling rank of intellectuals, who had boycotted the film festival, including Aparna Sen, Rituparno Ghosh, Gautam Ghose, Suvaprasanna, Pallab Kirtania, Anjan Dutta, Mousumi Chatterjee.

Mr Suvaprassana said, ''While the CPI(M) is killing people in Nandigram, our Chief Minister is trying to lift the image of the state before the international forum. We protest this hypocrisy.'' At least 70 intellectuals were arrested yesterday for agitating before Nandan, the cultural hub and home for 13th Kolkata Film Festival, and taken to police headquarters in Lal Bazar.

Meanwhile, APDR's Sujato Bhadra told UNI, ''Armed with the interim order passed by the High Court permitting medical relief be taken to Nandigram, Medha Patkar has set out for Nandigram.'' ''I have never been stopped in any state from going to a place of concern like this West Bengal government. But I will go to Nandigram and reach out to the people who are suffering and need medicine, food and care,'' Ms Patkar said.

Earlier, she was advised not to venture towards Nandigram for her safety and well being as she could face opposition by the authorities at the Writers' Buildings.

Ms Patkar tried to visit Nandigram on November 9 where she was allegedly obstructed and assaulted by the CPI(M) activists.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan leader was on a 48-hour hunger strike protesting the volatile situation in Nandigram. She had also reportedly invited West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi to visit Nandigram with her.


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