The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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News of CBI brings 500 villagers home

Nandigram, Nov. 26: Over 500 people left Nandigram High School for their villages this morning, apparently emboldened by the likely arrival of a CBI team and driven by the need to return home during the harvesting season.

As news spread that the sleuths were coming, the villagers started packing their bags last night.

The Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee’s frantic calls for a CBI probe in Nandigram led many to believe that the bureau could ensure their security.

Sudhin Bijli, who returned to Adhikarypara with his wife, son and daughter, said: “The CPM goons will flee once the CBI enters Nandigram.”

A police camp had been set up at Adhikarypara earlier. “But we were scared to return as we heard that CPM cadres were threatening villagers in the presence of the police,” said Sudhin, 48.

The Pratirodh Committee leadership had arranged a dozen trekkers to take the villagers to Maheshpur and Tekhali, around 10km from Nandigram town. From there, they walked 2-3km to Satengabari, Jambari, Brindabanchowk or Adhikarypara. The trekkers made several trips.

Such a large number of Pratirodh Committee supporters had not returned home together since they started fleeing on November 5.

Police sources said a CBI team led by a deputy inspector general is expected here tomorrow to continue their investigation into the March 14 police firing. The officials from Delhi reached Calcutta today.

Calcutta High Court, which had earlier sought a preliminary probe report from the CBI, ordered a thorough investigation this month.

The villagers had started returning home in small groups since the CRPF came here. Some more returned after the police set up camps in Maheshpur, Adhikarypara, Daudpur, Garchakraberia and Amdabad. The high school shelter that housed over 1,500 refugees a few days ago, had around 700 last evening.

CRPF pickets set up at Sonachura and Giribazar last evening made those still living in the camp more confident.

Prabhanshu Shekhar Bera of Jambari, the headmaster of the nearby Brindabanchowk Primary School, returned home with wife Krishna and son Papu.

“We heard about the CBI team and the CRPF camp at Giribazar and made up our minds,” said Prabhanshu, 50.

The standing crop has to be harvested by December-end. “The harvesting season has started and the villagers are desperate to return home. The crop is their principal source of income,” said committee convener Swadesh Das.

The committee and the district Congress leadership have requested the administration to prevent the CPM from holding a rally in Nandigram town on Wednesday.

The CPM’s Haldia strongman, Lakshman Seth, who is said to be one of the brains behind the recapture of Nandigram, is scheduled to address the rally.

“The peace process is on. It will be unwise to allow such rallies now,” said district Congress president Sailaja Das.

However, subdivisional officer Shankar Haldar said he has already given permission to the CPM rally.

The CRPF raided Simul-kunda and Satengabari today and picked up two CPM supporters. Three bullets were found in the house of Ratan Sith, 30. Mir Odut Ali, 35, who had been accused of rape, was caught in Satengabari.

CRPF deputy inspector-general Alok Raj joined his post in Nandigram today after a three-day leave.

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