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Ringed by rebels, a night of terror

Dahijuri, Dec. 22: Five women and an infant locked in, and armed Maoists with a 2,000-strong crowd threatening to blow up their house — it was the worst nightmare come true for Nilima Sengupta and her daughters.

Nilima’s husband Amiya, secretary of the Belpahari zonal committee of the CPM and its district committee member, has been on the Maoists’ hit list for long and never stays in Dahijuri, where the Sengupta home was attacked last night.

Last night, there were five women — Nilima, her four daughters and her newborn granddaughter Poulomi at home — when the Maoists and activists of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities ringed the house around 9.30pm.

The Senguptas’ home in West Midnapore has an iron gate outside. The Maoists first tried to break the iron bars of the gate and enter. When they could not, they broke part of the compound wall and entered.

Before they could storm the ground floor of the house, Nilima, a CPM zonal committee member of Lalgarh and deputy chief of Dahijuri gram panchayat, and her four daughters managed to scurry to the first floor with the child.

The first-floor also has an iron gate on top of a narrow staircase.

“For 20 minutes, they went on hitting on the iron gate outside and the wooden door. They stuck spears through the window. We pressed chairs, tables and almirahs against the door to stop them. When we realised that they will soon break into the house, we took Poulomi and ran to the first floor and locked the iron gate. They broke the door and came after us,” said Sanghamitra, one of the four daughters of Sengupta and a teacher at Dahijuri High School.

Fortunately for the women, the gate on the first floor did not budge. The staircase was too narrow for the attackers to use their crowbars and axes. “When they could not break it, they threatened to shoot us and blast the house with land mines. We huddled in a room and asked our mother to take care of the little girl,” said Sanghamitra.

The tribal activists and Maoists then went downstairs and made a heap of furniture, books and clothes and set them on fire. Soon, thick smoke started filling the house, suffocating the women and the child upstairs.

“My daughter started crying. We then climbed on the roof and took shelter in the attic. That room too filled with smoke, so we ran out on the terrace to take in air. The people heard my daughter’s cries and knew we were on the terrace. They started throwing bricks at us from below. We huddled on the terrace and began to cry,” said Lopamudra, who had come to visit her mother and sisters — Sanghamitra, Gargi and Moitreyee — for the first time after Poulomi’s birth.

Nilima had by then called up Binpur police, the fire brigade and her husband in Jhargram. “Hearing what had happened, my husband began to cry. I told him that we have decided to fight death to save the little one. At one point, we thought of tying her with a sari and lowering her on the thatched roof of a neighbour’s house,” she said.

The police, however, did not arrive. The people’s committee had blocked all roads to Dahijuri. While trying to reach the house, the inspector in charge of Binpur police station and three CRPF jawans were injured in an explosion.

Around 2am today, the mob started to disperse. “We quietly came down and went out of the house through a rear door. Till daybreak, we stayed huddled under a tree near the house,” said Gargi.

A police team reached the spot around 8.30am.

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