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A fast & a missed chance to earn bread

Nandigram, Dec. 26: Mozammil Haque of Rajaramchowk observes roza without fail during the Ramazan month.

The 50-something farmer had an unscheduled roza today and ate his staple maachh-bhaat only after evening prayers.

“I had decided not to eat until the chief minister left Nandigram. I observed a day’s roza as a mark of protest,” the staunch Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee supporter said before leaving for prayers.

The chief minister had left Nandigram by then and his message — that no land would be acquired and there would be peace and development — had reached residents.

“I know they will not take our land. But that is only because of our movement. We’ll have to continue with it,” Mozammil said. Fellow villagers Khokon and Saira Bibi echoed him.

None of them was interested in discussing the chief minister’s meeting, which the Pratirodh Committee boycotted.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee among the relatives of some of those killed in the land war. Wrapped in a red shawl is Lakshman Seth, whose land acquisition notice had triggered the war last January. Pictures by Pradip Sanyal

The committee had asked its supporters to observe a fast as long as Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was in Nandigram.

“A lot of people, both Hindus and Muslims, in Rajaramchowk, Garchakraberia, Sonachura and Adhikarypara fasted today. The response was spontaneous,” said committee leader and Contai South MLA Subhendu Adhikary.

Mozammil stopped by neighbour Syed Muzaffar Ali’s hut to show the impact of the committee’s call.

Muzaffar, also on fast, was preparing to leave for the local mosque. His daughter Rina was rustling up a late lunch for the family. The girl in her teens was frying eggs for her six-year-old nephew Sohail, who was hungry.

Muzaffar told her to feed the child while stepping out of the two-storey mud house, off the road connecting Hajrakata and the Bhangabera bridge.

“There is a difference between promising and ensuring peace. CPM cadres are waiting for the right time to hit back at us,” said Muzaffar, fear of a fresh backlash written on his wrinkled face.

According to him, not more than 500 people from the area went for the chief minister’s show in Tengua. The CRPF’s presence, he added, prevented the CPM from herding villagers to it.

CPM supporters ruled out the possibility of more violence, at least in public. “The peace process has started. People will realise it soon,” said Bikash Maiti.

The Contai resident took a bus to Khejuri in the morning and walked 8.5km with a procession to reach the meeting venue. He was aware of the mistrust among committee supporters about the CPM’s intentions but peace, he said, was only a matter of time.

Bikash’s bigger concern was the loss of a job opportunity. “I’m unemployed. The chemical hub gave me a lot of hope. We’ve missed the chance.”

His friend Arabinda Barik agreed. Arabinda has a small salon in Khejuri. “It’s a hand-to-mouth existence. Wish I had a regular job,” he murmured after getting off a party bus that took him to the chief minister’s meeting.

The turnout at the Tengua field spelt success today but for success inside Nandigram villages, the chief minister has to address the twin problems of “mistrust” among committee members and loss of hope among cadres.

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