|Lunch, at a CPM camp last week
Nandigram, May 8: At 7.30 this evening, Sumita Samanta was smiling through her tears at what had been her home for the past four months — the CPM shelter at Bhangabera.
She had just heard that Mamata Banerjee was ready to be part of the political initiative to restore peace in Nandigram and she would help those displaced return home, even if they were CPM supporters.
“We have been out of our homes for four months. We tried to return once after (the police action on) March 14, but were hounded out again. We now want to get back home,” said the refugee from Sonachura.
Sumita misses her 13-year-old daughter Sovana and 11-year-old son Sovan, whom she had sent to stay with her parents at Khejuri’s Kamarda.
“They could not appear for their final exams,” said her husband Tapan.
The refugees at Bhangabera, Sherkhanchowk and Baharganj were smiling after many evenings today for two reasons — the decision to allow CPM allies to open talks with the Opposition and Mamata’s response to the move.
The homecoming wouldn’t be a moment too soon — not many days are left to prepare the soil for the monsoon crop, aman.
“We have to prepare our two-bigha land,” said Tapan.
Brindaban Paik, 35, of Sonachura has been staying at the Sherkhanchowk camp with wife Anita, 30, son Ashok, 8, and daughter Chanda, 6.
“Our house needs repairs before monsoon. There is a ray of hope now,” he said.
The mood became more upbeat in the camps after the news of the resumption of the Haldia-Nandigram ferry service — suspended from January 7 — trickled in.
Brindaban, however, was torn between optimism and melancholy. “We’ve heard that our house has already been looted. We’ve to get the assurance now that we will not be attacked again.”
Members of the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee, no less weary of the ceaseless tension, offered hope.
“It is true that we have kept the CPM workers out of their turf for months. But we are also tired of keeping vigil. We want peace and rest,” committee member Sudarshan Mondal, 40, said in Gokulnagar.
“We want to forget our enmity and begin afresh. If our children can stay at home, why should their children stay in relief camps' After all, there will be no land acquisition for industry in Nandigram.”
Congress supporter and committee member Chandan Panda had borrowed Rs 8 lakh from the bank to buy two minibuses last year. “The roads were dug up in January and my buses stopped plying. If this situation prevails, I’d be forced to commit suicide.”
District magistrate Anup Agarwal met the Nandigram BDO, the Contai SDO and officers of the food department to ensure distribution of foodgrain. “We’ll take all steps to restore normality,” Agarwal said.
Abu Taher, the Trinamul leader and convener of the Pratirodh Committee who had been all fire and brimstone the past few months, said: “We appeal to all to return home.”