The Devil in the Details: SEZs and State Restructuring in India
National University of Singapore
Nandigram is a cluster of villages in West Bengal, India. The area attracted world media’s attention in March 2007 when the local administration attempted to force their way in to villages from which they had been expelled three months earlier. Organized by a local alliance of political parties, Muslim clerics and Civil Liberties activists, under the banner of Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee (Anti Land Acquisition Committee), hundreds of subsistence and marginal farmers had dug up the roads leading to the village and barricaded themselves inside. The villagers resorted to these extreme measures as a protest against a government proposal to acquire land for a planned petrochemical hub. The resultant standoff between the Left Front-led government and the villagers lasted 10 months. Intermittent skirmishes between supporters and opponents of the proposed project, and police and Communist cadres’ organized assaults on the villages to retake control, resulted in the death of scores of villagers. The government and the ruling party managed through concerted action to retake control in November 2007, but the victory was pyrrhic. The Government of West Bengal has had to publicly undertake to abandon the proposed land acquisition, while the Left Front which exercised some restraint on the centrist Indian National Congress Party, is now on much weaker grounds.