The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fear takes a backseat in Dhupguri

Dhupguri, Sept. 19: The red flag over the bullet-scarred CPM office, at half-mast for a month, flutters again in the evening breeze. The garments stores overflowing with fresh supplies blaze with lights. The streets teem with people shopping for puja.

The atmosphere is festive and the mood buoyant.

A month after Kamtapur Liberation Organisation cadre riddled five CPM workers with bullets and jolted this sleepy town awake, wounds are healing fast.

Shopkeepers do not hurry any more to shutter their stores at dusk. Nor do people rush home from work. The fear of the dark is receding. And so is the fear of another KLO strike that many said was imminent last month.

“The situation has improved a lot. People are out on the streets and coming to our shops to splurge on clothes for their children for puja. We are no longer apprehensive of fresh attacks,” said Nani Das, a clothes merchant at Dhupguri bazaar.

A band of six KLO militants, armed with assault rifles, stormed the CPM office on the evening of August 17, spraying the partymen with bullets. While the five men who had come in the line of firing dropped dead inside the building, several others were hospitalised with bullet wounds.

The militants blazed away for around 15 minutes even though the party office, located in a busy market area, is within shouting distance of the local police station. As the bodies lay in pools of blood and many party workers took shelter in corners and bathrooms cowered in fear, the killers strode out and rode away on motorcycles.

CPM leaders accused the police of not lifting a finger to protect the workers and vented their anger on director-general of police Dinesh Vajpai when he visited the party office a day later. To pacify the partymen, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee visited Dhupguri early this month.

The pockmarks on the walls are hideous reminder of the attack that shattered a long spell of peace in north Bengal. The framed photographs of Marxist leaders are mostly without glasses.

Jalpaiguri district CPM secretary Manik Sanyal said the resentment at the police has subsided. He said the police are now careful, unwilling to leave anything to chance.

The party office is crawling with not just the faithful, but the uniformed securitymen, armed to the teeth. “We are keeping a round-the-clock watch on the CPM office and doing our best to guard it,” superintendent of police Siddh Nath Gupta said.

Residents have put the incident behind. “We want to forget it. Shooting in a small-town always plays havoc. But it is almost normal now,” said Samaresh Roy.

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