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Flowers gone, guns boom

Master of the canvas Nandalal Bose, who spent his childhood here, drew inspiration from nature. But today’s kids grow to the smell of gunpowder, said Manoj Kumar Singh, a schoolteacher.

As darkness engulfs Choukat village atop Madhuvan hills there is not even the flicker of a kerosene lamp, forget electric lights, practically non-existent. Villagers, fearing both Maoists and security personnel, do not take questions from strangers. In nearby Madhuvan, a village youth said: “It’s poll time and anything can happen. Please go away. It is not safe here.”

Life has never been the same since Maoists blew up the sub-divisional office in Haveli Kharagpur, Munger, in 2008. Poor people from remote villages, here for official work face harassment owing to security everywhere, said Ramswaroop Ravidas of Chotki Hatiya village.

Haveli Kharagpur, 50km from Munger district headquarters was once a popular tourist spot. But now, owing to Maoists, residents dare not go there, said Subodh Kumar.

The Darbhanga royals helped build irrigation canals from the Kharagpur Lake but these are now defunct and government apathy makes it worse. “In 1967, while the rest of Bihar faced a famine-like situation, we harvested 57 quintals of paddy on nearly 40 bighas. Today, in the absence of water and rising Maoist menace, agriculture is not lucrative anymore,” said Balmiki Singh of nearby Banvarsa hamlet.

“Our ancestors were proud residents but today we live under the shadow of gun,” said Jaidev Chatterjee from the erstwhile Chatterjee Zamindar family. “We are not sure voting will change our fate. Will the new MP help restore this place’s glory?” asked Ramcharitra Singh, a retired college teacher here.

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