Midnapore, June 5: The peace ball was set rolling in three devastated pockets of Nandigram today with their homeless CPM panchayat chiefs sitting across the table with Opposition leaders.
East Midnapore district magistrate Anup Agarwal convened a meeting with the pradhans, their deputies and opponents in Sonacuhura, Kalicharanpur and Gokulnagar.
Lakshman Mondal, the Sonachura panchayat chief, fled home in the last week of January and now lives in a refugee camp set up by his party at Bhangabera.
Samerun Bibi had escaped from Kalicharanpur on January 3 after the panchayat office was set ablaze. Archana Bera, the Gokulnagar pradhan, had fled home mid-February.
Samerun and Archana are staying with relatives in CPM strongholds Haldia and Khejuri.
Lakshman and Samerun did not turn up at the meeting called by the district magistrate in the Nandigram block office on May 11 fearing that they would be beaten up by the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee’s supporters on the way.
“It was good that the meeting was held in the DM’s office today,” said Samerun.
Agarwal said the return of the refugees was not discussed today. It wasn’t on the agenda.
CPM leaders claim that nearly 3,500 supporters are now homeless. The Pratirodh Committee says about 350 of its supporters were forced to flee the CPM-dominated areas.
Superintendent of police Anil Srinivas said: “Talks are on with both sides.”
A “lot of other things” were discussed, though.
Agarwal said after the meeting the Opposition would help find a rented building in Sonachura to house the panchayat office, which has been gutted. Samerun and Lakshman will work from the block development office from tomorrow, while Archana will attend her office in the relatively calmer Gokulnagar.
The panchayats will hold meetings on the repair of roads that were dug up.
“Some of the roads have been repaired by the villagers themselves. The rest will be repaired in a concerted effort by the panchayat functionaries,” the DM added.
The CPM president of the Nandigram panchayat samiti, Ashok Bera, and Trinamul leader of Opposition Ranjan Patra were all smiles today.
“The atmosphere was cordial inside,” said Bera.