| A girl looks out of a battered wall for a glimpse of the VIP visitors. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Nandigram, Nov. 27: The di-vide between “us” and “them” — CPM supporters and their rivals — became stark today as three party leaders went through the area but spoke only to one set of people.
Mohammad Salim, Shyamal Chakraborty and Shymali Gupta did not come face to face with a single Opposition supporter in several hours because local leaders had asked them to remain at home or in their fields until the leaders left.
A resident of Adhikarypara said: “CPM cadres went door-to-door last night and asked us not venture out during the leaders’ trip.”
“If I told the leaders how they are terrorising us, do you think I would be allowed to stay at home tomorrow'”
Sutapa Manna (name changed) did not dare to open the small window of her hut at Satengabari. “CPM leaders told my husband to stay at home or in the field until the leaders left,” she said.
At Adhikarypara, Salim got down from his white, air-conditioned Travera in front of the damaged house of Yasin Ali Sheikh, where local leaders had brought about 50 CPM supporters.
Yasin narrated to the MP the “atrocities” unleashed by Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee activists. “You can live in peace now,” Salim said.
At Sonachura Bazar, he said: “Nandigram was a free territory for them for 10 months, now it is our turn to be fearless and enjoy our rights.”
The “us-and-them” divide became official when the chief minister defended the CPM’s Operation Nandigram on November 14. “Who were harass- ing our people over the past 11 months' Our party men were threatened, harassed and killed by their men. That’s why our men retaliated,” he said.
Central committee member Gupta, state secretariat member Chakraborty and Salim were the first front-ranking CPM leaders to visit Nandigram in months.
When they arrived, supporters who had lined up on the path with their tales of woe waved red flags and shouted slogans. These people had fled to Khejuri during the land war and returned home after the recapture, forcing those owing allegiance to the rival camp to flee.
“Were the Maoists here'” Salim asked. “Yes, they taught our teenagers how to use arms,” parroted Indrajit Majhi.
Salim was unhappy hearing that the CRPF was working on its own. “It can’t be allowed,” he said.
Chakraborty later accused the force of acting solely on the basis of Pratirodh Committee complaints. “The CRPF is harassing our supporters. It should follow the administration’s instructions,” he said.