16 November, 2007: Horrified and appalled by the recent spate of barbaric violence in Nandigram, close to 100 concerned NRIs, possibly in first ever such action, have filed a Right To Information application as a group, at the Indian Embassy in Washington DC, to find out about the truth behind Nandigram massacre and also to try to highlight the total apathy of the West Bengal Government to the tragic situation.
Led by volunteers of Association for India's development (AID), the applicants demand, among other things, information on the number of people killed or injured in the current spate of violence since November 4; the number of police force deployed in the area; the actions taken by the government to restore peace, provide relief, rehabilitate the displaced villagers, and book the criminals who perpetrated the ghastly acts of violence and those who blocked the entry of media-persons and CRPF jawans in Nandigram; and the status of land-acquisition and the SEZ project in the area.
"It is a sad day in our Indian democracy. Innocent people have died; so the truth must come out and the culprits should be punished," said Shreya Amin, a NRI living in New York City, who actively organized the community to file RTI applications.
"The recent 'recapture' of villages by CPM party cadres who have no administrative jurisdiction is completely illegal and unconstitutional. It is appalling to see the Chief Minister of the state coming out in defense of such hooliganism with incendiary phrases as "paid back in the same coin". We hope our RTI application will bring to light the gross indifference of the West Bengal Government to the current situation by bringing out the actual numbers behind the stories", says an infuriated Somu Kumar, volunteer with AID
AID has also issued a strong statement condemning this violence on this website (http://aidindia.org)
Re: Indian-Americans shocked by violence at Nandigram
NRIs take up cudgels for Nandigram victims
The Nandigram issue isn’t just holding up the business in the Parliament. It has also caused ripples among Indians in the US. Asserting their right to know under the Right to Information Act, dozens of non-resident Indians (NRIs) have asked why did the police fail to defend the lives and rights of the people of Nandigram?
The motley group that includes academics, students, lawyers, IT professionals and management consultants has also sought to know the total number of those dead and injured in Nandigram violence that erupted earlier this month as well as earlier, in February. Attempting to get an official response to the alleged torture and human rights violations in the violence, the NRIs have also sought to know the role of the police in the incidents. “Why were the human rights activists who attempted to enter the affected area on November 7 were not protected or escorted by the police?” the application seeks to know, among other details.
The NRIs want to know the government’s position on the incident, the deployment of CRPF there as well as the status of the SEZ project in the area. The group has also informed the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah about the application. The CIC, when contacted, said the NRIs have asked for information from the embassy on a matter that does not concern the embassy. “But, since they have asked for the application to be forwarded to the concerned department the matter is under consideration,” he said.
The NRIs will up the ante if the application remains unanswered on any ground, sources said. Preeti Sampat, who is a part of the group told Hindustan Times on email: “We are waiting for intimation from the embassy regarding our application and will plan further action once we hear from them.” Sampat, an RTI activist and member of the Rajasthan based Mazdoor Kisaan Shakti Sangathan, is now pursuing a PhD in the US. She added that the NRIs have furnished their passport details as proof of their being Indian citizens.