The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Boycott mars return home
- CPM steps up social pressure on Trinamul families in Khejuri, keeps working on ‘options’

Nandigram, June 11: Homecoming has been anything but sweet for the CPM families in Nandigram as well as for the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee sympathisers returning to Khejuri.

If some CPM supporters were driven out of Nandigram yesterday with threats and bombs, then the 29 Trinamul Congress sympathisers who returned to Khejuri after four months on June 7 have been facing a Gandhian kind of resistance: non-cooperation.

“Ever since I returned with my family, the ruling party has ostracised us. Neighbours have been warned that they would be fined if they talk to us. Shops have been told not to sell us any supplies,” said Sheikh Golam Mohammad, 37, at his house in Balibasti village of Khejuri.

The family has been living on boiled potatoes and rice since their return, he said

Mohammad’s two shops — selling cloth and grocery — at the Burtolla bus stand have been ransacked and closed down by CPM supporters.

The family’s fault: Mohammad’s father Sheikh Kudrat Ali is the president of the Pratirodh Committee in Khejuri II block and is hiding in Nandigram.

“This is virtual house arrest. We cannot even have a cup of tea at the bus stand. They (the CPM supporters) won’t allow us to reopen our shops. No one talks to us,” said Mohammad’s 20-year-old nephew Sheikh Abdul Hasim.

On Friday, the day after nine of the 22 members of the family returned, a group of 30 CPM supporters arrived at their doorstep and warned them against any “activism”.

But the family is determined not to flee again. “They told us to join hands with them or else we would not be able to survive. But I refuse to go anywhere. Whether I live or die, it will have to be in this house,” said Mohammad’s 70-year-old mother Benja Bibi.

Their next-door neighbour, Amina Bibi, who moved in last Thursday from Nandigram, rued having come back.

“Police escorted me back. Now, I’m a social outcast. CPM supporters ransacked my tea stall and won’t allow me to run it. I went to Jonka police station yesterday to discuss the matter, but the CPM cadre who were supposed to come for the talks didn’t turn up,” she said.

About 15 km away at Kendrabacher village, 13 Trinamul Congress supporters, who had fled on February 7 and returned on June 7, also faced harassment.

“Today, as I began to till my land, a group of CPM supporters came and told me I would not be allowed to do so. My fault is that I did not seek the party’s protection and fled to Nandigram,” said Paresh Das. He stayed at a camp in Nandigram with his family for over six months.

His neighbour, Akash Sheikh, who also returned on Friday, is scared to go to the market and takes a ferry across the Talpatti canal and shops at Nandigram every two days.

“I don’t want to hear their taunts at the market. After the January 7 violence, we started an anti-acquisition movement in Khejuri. On February 7, CPM supporters attacked our houses. Every night, we fear another attack,” said Sheikh.

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