The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Generators, cells turn barbed wire

Nandigram, March 17: Three days after the bullets flew, the battle is being fought with generators, mobile phones and conch shells.

As dusk falls across the swathe of 18 villages north of Sonachura, still out of bounds for police, some 80 generators clatter into life.

Soon, 100-odd halogen lamps bathe the approach roads in light. In Garchakraberia and Kendamari, half a dozen more are switched on by the banks of the two canals flowing into the river Haldi.

At least 40,000 people armed with thick wooden sticks, spears and sickles and carrying about 1,500 mobile phones guard the borders of their villages against police and CPM cadre.

About 40 motorcycle riders dart up and down the village roads, checking on the 25-odd places where they have cut breaches.

“We fear attacks from two fronts — along the roads from Sonachura, and from the Haldia side down the Haldi and the canals. So, we have taken the precaution of lighting up the Bela Uday canal at Garchakraberia and Sarberia canal off Kendamari,” says Gour Shankar, a shopkeeper in Kendamari.

“We have resolved to protect our villages from the police and CPM cadre. We have heard the government has announced that no land will be taken over in Nandigram. But, we are unsure,” said 40-year-old farmer Bhimcharan Das, a Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee point man in Kendamari.

“We’ll continue to barricade our villages till we know for certain that our land is safe.”

On Wednesday, as soon as the police “recaptured” Sonachura, Adhikarypara, Maheshpur, Gangra, Jalpai and Mondalpara in the south, these 18 hamlets in the interior of Nandigram had swung into action.

“We got the news within minutes and relayed it to the other villages over our mobiles. We realised that we hadn’t a moment to lose. First, we drew up a list of things that we needed and announced it over the loudspeakers,” said Sheikh Bhailu, a well-to-do farmer in Garchakraberia who also has a stationery store.

One of the things they needed was plenty of cellphones, which have become key to building up the resistance.

“Mobiles, loudspeakers, conch shells, kansar ghanta — we’ll use them all to warn of the enemy’s arrival,” said farmer Saiyum Qazi, another local Pratirodh Committee leader, in Garchakraberia.

The stocks of 3,000-5,000 litres of diesel and kerosene that each village had have been running the generators, irrigation pump sets and mechanised boats. Almost all the well-off farmers own generators.

The halogen lights came from the village electricians and decorators who use them during weddings and festivals. The 100-odd loudspeakers and amplifiers were requisitioned from the electricians and a few mosques. “By Wednesday night, we had everything in place. We dug up more roads and widened the old breaches,” said Bhailu.

“We prepared lists of volunteers for every night and announced them over the loudspeakers,” said shopkeeper Gour Shankar.

With the generators being put to a more strategic use, the village shops and markets are closed after dusk. Neither do the homes light up.

More important, the villages themselves lie in the shadows, a swathe of thick darkness behind the lights.

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