| A Red flag flutters over the Nandigram bazaar. Picture by Sanat Kumar Sinha
Nandigram, Nov. 15: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s “boys” have not just been paying back opponents in their own coin. They are also taking hard cash, according to the new homeless in Nandigram.
Local CPM workers have ordered their homeless rivals to pay a “fine” of Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000 if they want to return, supporters of the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee told The Telegraph today.
This is apart from the “red flag” they have to plant near their door and joining all CPM processions to demonstrate their support for the party.
Four days after the CPM’s bloody recapture of all the Nandigram villages, misery has returned for BUPC supporters in another form: a “jarimana”.
The fine depends on the area of the land they owned.
“My wife, who is all alone at Daudpur, has told me how CPM cadres threatened her saying I would have to pay a fine whenever I return,” said Rabiul Islam Khan.
The 64-year-old’s only son Rahul is still hiding at his in-laws place in Chandipur.
With his wife also informing him that the cadres had warned of “stern action” once the family returned, the former employee of Duckback company said he had decided against going back.
“Buddhadebbabu key bolben, aamra aar bari phirtey chaai na,” he said, alluding to the chief minister’s repeated assertion that BUPC supporters will be persuaded to return.
“Besides, there have also been reports of how the cadres have been beating up those who have dared to return. At night, they move around with faces covered. You think I will return under these circumstances'”
Local CPM leaders refused to comment on the “return fine” or the other conditions imposed by party cadres, saying there might be some “hiccups”.
Rabiul isn’t the only one who has made up his mind not to return. It’s the same story across parts of Brindabanchowk, Roynagar, Jalbunia, Takapura, Gokulnagar and Adhikaripara — areas that till a few days back were BUPC strongholds.
“On Wednesday, CPM leaders held a meeting at Takapura where they said I would have to pay Rs 1.5 lakh if I wanted to come back. My fault is I was a key hand in organising the BUPC movement in that zone for the last 11 months,” said Sheikh Sahauddin.
“Forget administrative moves, if you ask any of the homeless here, they would all tell you how they are dying to return home but won’t. Move around and you will know why.”
In his mid-30s, Sahauddin had joined people like Rabiul and others in the fight to protect the land their forefathers had handed down. While some took part in active protests through the Trinamul Congress-backed BUPC, others remained silent sympathisers.
Now, days after what CPM state secretary Biman Bose described as a “new sunrise”, they live in a situation where fear reigns and return means switching allegiance.
“The other day, a gang of supporters barged into my chamber and went on a rampage for over four hours from 3pm and then left us homeless. If I have to return, I will have to participate in CPM-led processions and even ensure that the red flag always flies atop my house,” said Dr Imadul Mohammed of Daudpur.
Today, the SDO of Haldia, Sankar Halder, convened an all-party meeting to ensure the homeless could return. BUPC members boycotted the meet, saying the committee was not invited and that bike-borne cadres were still spreading terror across Nandigram.
Sheikh Sohidullah, the CPM’s local committee secretary for Nandigram, said the party wants people to return home. “The CPM has always advocated peace in Nandigram and now that it is back, it’s time normality returned. If people are facing any problems, the party will look into it,” he said.
Not many are convinced.