| A ‘soldier’ in the ‘battle’ for Maheshpur. (Jahangir Badsa)
Nandigram, Nov. 7: Sumitra Mondal was stuffing whatever she could in a gunny bag as a bullet whistled past her mud house around noon.
Nemai asked his wife to hurry up. They would have to run across paddy fields to Nandigram town, 10km away, with their three daughters and a son.
Sumitra, 28, was ready — the bag on her shoulder and a two-year-old baby in her arms.
And they joined the exodus of about 4,000 villagers who fled their villages.
“We don’t know how long we will survive like this,” wept Sumitra, at Nandigram High School.
CPM foot soldiers today captured Rainagar, Nainan, Parulbari and parts of Maheshpur and Amgechhia — where Sumitra and Nemai lived.
Partymen armed with rifles, pistols and bombs fanned out to the villages with about 300 people who had fled these areas earlier.
“We took about 300 people home by evening,” said Himangshu Das, the CPM’s Khejuri zonal committee secretary.
The party had taken control of Satengabari, Giribazar, Brindabanchowk, Simulkundu and Jambari yesterday.
A Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee leader conceded defeat, but vowed to fight back. “We were under heavy attack. Police failed to provide us security. But we’ll not surrender,” said Suresh Chandra Mondal.
There were gun battles al-ong the Nandigram-Khejuri border through the day.
The toll rose to four with the death of CPM supporter Sankar Maity, 22, who took a bullet in Khejuri last night.
The first shots of the morning rang out around 11. A bu-llet from Khejuri hit Sheikh Akram Ali, 35, in the head at Nilpur. He was part of a Prat- irodh Committee procession on the Nandigram-Tekhali road. He is now in hospital.
Jhuma Das, 30, who was fleeing to her parents in Kalicharanpur from Simulkundu, was caught in the crossfire and hit by a bullet in the leg.
As news of the fresh firing spread, nearly 2,000 people surrounded Nandigram police station and sought protection. Processions snaked through the villages calling for a police boycott when the firing did not stop.
About 150 policemen and jawans of the Eastern Frontier Rifles and Rapid Action Force apparently refused to move out of the station.
“CPM cadres attacked us at Maheshpur and Amgechhia. When we went to the police for help, they refused. So, we have decided to boycott them. We have asked shopkeepers not to sell any food, tea or anything to the policemen,” said Abu Taher, a committee convener.
East Midnapore police chief S.S. Panda pleaded helplessness. “Maybe the policemen were scared after the EFR jawan was hit by a bullet yesterday. I’m not very sure. We have nothing to do until the CRPF arrives,” he said.
The police tonight resorted to a baton charge to disperse committee members in front of the Nandigram police station. An officer accused them of “preventing us from going out on duty”.
A rumour that armed CPM goons had been trapped in Maheshpur drew thousands of villagers there around two in the afternoon. Seeing them, CPM supporters who had made inroads into the village fled. But they came back stronger later.
A fierce exchange of fire began at Bhangabera around the same time.