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Fear clouds paddy harvest

Burdwan, May 14: Boro paddy cultivated on 200 acres by CPM workers in a Burdwan village can’t be harvested as they have fled home in the face of alleged Trinamul threats after the murder of a ruling party leader in the area on April 26.

The CPM workers fear that if the paddy is not harvested in the next two weeks, the crop will shrivel in the scorching heat.

Farmers of Hatgobindopur in Burdwan block-II said over 6,500 quintals of boro paddy worth over Rs 75 lakh could be destroyed.

Trinamul Yuva leader Amitava Panja, 45, was beaten to death by suspected CPM workers in Hatgobindopur when he was returning home after attending a party workers’ meeting. The houses of several CPM workers were burnt down and many more were damaged in retributive attacks by suspected Trinamul activists.

Around 100 CPM workers fled their homes.

Pradip Biswas, a 55-year-old farmer, said: “I will be ruined if I fail to harvest the paddy. I have invested over Rs 2.56 lakh to cultivate paddy on my 10-acre land. The scorching heat will destroy the crop.”

Representatives of the affected farmers, led by Burdwan Sadar CPM zonal committee secretary Mehboob Alam, met Burdwan (north) sub-divisional officer Swapan Kundu on Saturday and sought his intervention.

The SDO said: “I asked the BDO to investigate the allegation and submit a report. After getting the report, I held a meeting with local leaders of Trinamul and the CPM as well as police. Trinamul leaders assured me that they would not create any problems. Now, the farmers can harvest their paddy safely. The police will protect them during harvesting.”

The farmers are, however, scared to return home. “More than 50 houses had been ransacked and torched on the night of April 26. We can’t return home because the police will not guard us forever,” one of the CPM workers said.

The CPM alleged that around 10 families of party sympathisers who had stayed back in Hatgobindopur to harvest paddy were not allowed to take the crop home.

“Trinamul-backed goons forced them to sell their produce to paddy traders and snatched the money. They have been saying openly that they will need the money to fight legal cases pending against them,” Alam alleged.

Block Trinamul president Shyamal Dutta said: “We had never said we won’t allow them to harvest their paddy. But they have to at least come to the village for that. These villagers have fled home because they are accused of Panja’s murder.”

Alam said the farmers who wanted to harvest paddy were not among those accused.