On Tuesday, Nandigram got a 130-foot-tall column, or minar as it is being called. Built on the initiative of the local Trinamool Congress MP, it is a memorial not only to the 14 villagers killed in police firing on March 14, 2007, but also to women assaulted or raped during that movement. And one of those women inaugurated it.
Tears welled up in the eyes of the 52-year-old woman, who had allegedly been gangraped twice. “On March 14, 2007, I was attacked twice by CPM goons,” she says. “My house was burnt and my family members fled. But I have not yet got justice.”
“The rape victim symbolised the torture of the people and their subsequent fight against land grabbing,” Shuvendu Adhikary, Trinamool MP from Tamluk, tells The Indian Express.
Among such structures in the state, it is only second to the Shaheed Minar in Kolkata, which is 168 ft. The one in Nandigram has been built at Rs 2.25 crore. Adhikary says what inspired him was the minar at Jalianwala Bagh and the Bhasha Shaeed Minar in Dhaka.
The tower, with 108 steps, is on 45 decimals of land donated by a local party sympathiser. “The money came thorough donations,” the MP says. “Teachers in Nandigram donated salaries for a week. All TMC functionaries from panchayat to zilla parishad to municipalities contributed salaries for one month to three months. I contributed Rs 30 lakh from my allowances as MP.”
Construction started on November 18, 2011. “I broached the idea to Didi (Mamata Banerjee) and she wholeheartedly approved it.”
The minar has an all-religion prayer hall, a free dispensary, and a four-room guesthouse. “No other shaeed minar in India has such features,” says Tapas Kumar Palodhi, the engineer-in-charge. “Shuvendu da said it should not be merely a tower but should have features that should meet the needs of the local people. Doctors are in the dispensary, which has functioned from day one, and we have built their quarters on the premises.”
Adhikary hopes to make it a tourist destination. “We will throw open the staircase and arrange for security at the top,” he says.
For maintenance, a trustee board will be set up. “It was the people of this area who laid down their lives to save their land from Marxist goons.”
The shop had stored over 20 drums of kerosene that fuelled the blaze and it quickly spread through the entire building.