|Ayesha Bibi and her son in the camp. Picture by Samir Mondal
Keshpur, July 10: Sheikh Ajibul fled his home on the night of July 2, not for the first time. The difference is, this time he was driven out by his own people.
Ajibul is one of about 175 Trinamul workers and supporters who last week ran away from their village of Khejurboni in Keshpur — West Midnapore’s bloody theatre of CPM-Trinamul clashes — following attacks by a rival Trinamul faction. They are staying at a camp 4km away in Keshpur town, set up by their local leader.
The irony is not lost on Ajibul, who is on the run with his wife and three daughters. “I had to flee home four times in the past 13 years — thrice because of the CPM’s threats. But this time I was forced to flee by attacks from my party,” he said.
Sheikh Basiruddin, 49, who fled with 12 family members on July 1, blamed the former Trinamul block president of Keshpur, Chitta Gorai.
“Gorai has raised an armed group of activists led by block Trinamul Youth Congress president Sheikh Alajuddin. They attacked our homes on July 1 night, bursting bombs and firing at us. They targeted the supporters of the current block Trinamul president, Ashish Pramanik.”
Gorai was replaced by Pramanik last August as part of a state-wide shuffle of party officials. That kicked off the Trinamul faction feud on a turf that the CPM once ruled.
In the late 1990s, Trinamul’s efforts to gain a foothold in Keshpur had set off bloody clashes with the CPM. Evidence that Trinamul had succeeded to an extent — in Keshpur and neighbouring Garbeta and Pingla — came when Bikram Sarkar wrested the Panskura Lok Sabha seat by defeating Gurudas Dasgupta in a by-election in 2000.
But the CPM bounced back in 2001 when Nandarani Dal won the Keshpur Assembly seat by a margin of over one lakh votes. Trinamul workers again fled their homes in the face of CPM threats.
Ajibul said he had run away from Khejurboni the first time in 1999. “I fled with my family to a party relief camp in Neradeul bazaar (about 10km from Keshpur town). We returned home after Trinamul won the Lok Sabha seat in 2000; but after the CPM won Keshpur in 2001, we left for a party relief camp in Midnapore town.”
He returned again before the 2006 Assembly polls following a state government initiative and campaigned for his party. “But after the CPM won, I again left with my family. Before the 2011 polls, I came back with help from the administration. After Trinamul came to power, I thought I would now have some respite,” he said.
Ayesha Bibi, 35, said that on July 1, Pramanik had got his supporters to march from Khejurboni to Keshpur town to observe B.C. Roy’s birth anniversary. “Gorai’s supporters interpreted this as a show of strength against them. That night, a group of men led by Alajuddin attacked our homes with bombs and guns,” she said.
Pramanik claimed that apart from Khejurboni, about 300 people from three villages — Gunara, Sankhpura and Ronpara — had fled their homes.
“Many CPM activists switched over to Trinamul after last year’s polls with the help of some of our local leaders. As a result, Trinamul workers who had toiled for the party for years are suffering,” Pramanik said.
Gorai denied any political angle in the villagers’ flight, claiming: “The Trinamul workers have fled home following a feud in the village.”
District police chief S.K. Chowdhury said: “We’ll have to verify the facts before we can take action.”