CPM cadres joined cops to fire, now beating up witnesses: CBI

CPM cadres stepped into khaki and joined police as they fired on protestors in Nandigram. Villagers in police uniform allegedly raped women. Party activists hampered investigation by harassing and even assaulting witnesses for deposing to the CBI. The number of bullet injuries counted is far higher than what would have been sustained going by government figures on the firing.

These are among a sweeping set of allegations made by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in its first report on the March 14 police firing in Nandigram that killed 14 people.

The 20-page status report, presented in sealed cover to the Calcutta High Court yesterday, contains an introductory section specifying instances of key witnesses being threatened and even beaten up after they deposed before the CBI.

A total of 399 witnesses were examined by the agency, including 168 injured and six alleged rape victims.

The report states, "The CBI camp office at Nandigram has been receiving frequent calls from victims/injured persons from villages complaining of threats from CPM supporters, especially at night. They fear backlash, harassment and torture from CPM people, adversely affecting investigations of the case."

The report also names witnesses who have thus been threatened. In one case, two witnesses (their names are being withheld) from Sonachura area appeared before the CRPF on December 1 with a complaint of being threatened by CPM activists for appearing before the CBI.

In another case, an important witness (name withheld), who deposed before the CBI on December 5, had been called again for questioning the following day. On the night of December 5, the witness was threatened and beaten up by CPM workers, who were named by the witness.

The witness had to be hospitalized and a police case registered.

The CBI's report reveals that following these incidents, the agency lodged a complaint with the District Magistrate urging him to take "preventive measures" so that witnesses could depose freely.

The CBI's Nandigram probe has, by now, expanded into a bunch of cases: with separate investigations being conducted into the killings at the Bhangabera bridge and Adhikaripara as well as allegations of rape and instances of recovery of arms.

Three alleged rape victims have already deposed before the CBI with testimony that persons in uniform who were known to the villagers raped them after the violence.

After its preliminary investigations in the Bhangabera bridge shoot-out and after recording statements of eye-witnesses, the CBI's status report notes that the people were being "pressured" by CPM cadres to give up their agitation against construction of the chemical hub on their land and hand over their land to the government.

Witnesses have also named CPM supporters who, they allege, used to sneak into their area at night with the intention to harass or torture — the reason why they began to maintain night vigils and decided to construct trenches to prevent such "infiltration."

On the nature of the March 14 armed confrontation, witnesses from the Bhangabera area have told the CBI that they noticed several "private persons" along with the police party who were also wearing khaki dress but were not wearing army boots.

Witnesses named a local CPM leader who was present (name being withheld) and guided the CBI to a canal where bodies had been thrown.

The agency, thereafter, recovered, bones from the spot and sent them for forensic examination.

In the Adhikaripara case, too, witnesses told the CBI that "private persons in police uniform" accompanied the police, were armed and also fired at the villagers.

The witnesses denied throwing bombs at the police party and have named several CPM activists (names withheld) who were the persons present in khaki uniform.

The allegations of CPM activists accompanying the police party, the CBI has stated, will be conclusively investigated once CBI completes its questioning of witnesses, analyses mobile phone records and receives reports from its ballistic and forensic teams.

The CBI's status report also reveals glaring discrepancies in the early police investigations as well as the inquest and medical records handed over to them.

For instance, the CBI has informed the High Court that while the affidavit filed by the State Government says that 57 rounds were fired at Nandigram, "the total number of injuries on the bodies of victims appear to be much more than the number of rounds claimed to have been fired by the police."

The CBI has stated that they will shortly question police officials on this.

After its preliminary probe, the CBI has also questioned the veracity of medical records handed over to them. The status report contains lists of all the injured of Nandigram, and indicates that in fact, many more injured persons suffered bullet injuries as against blunt injuries listed against their name by the police.

The report also notes how there are "discrepancies" in some of the inquest and post-mortem reports which are now part of the probe.

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