Beneath sari, brutal scars
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- Published 21.06.09
Kuldiha, June 21: Shame is abandoned with great effort. But the women of this village are willing to draw up their saris, just to show how brutalised they are.
At a relief camp in Pirakata, the crossroad that practically marks the end of the authority of the West Bengal government on the route to Lalgarh, they pulled up saris to reveal weals and scars to show how mercilessly they were beaten by the police.
The police did not have orders to open fire. They were free to beat and brutalise.
Kuldiha is 4km up ahead from Pirakata. It is desolate, save for the cows tethered to bamboo masts. The village has about 40 households. The refugees from the village say there was only one person in the village with a regular job — a government employee in the land reforms department. Most were farmers and cowherds. But this afternoon there is no one in any of the houses. The village is desolate. The men fled to the forests when the security forces began assembling.
The battered women of Kuldiha roamed the fields and forests around here for two nights. This morning and afternoon, they began trickling into the camp at the Pirakata Primary High School set up by the local Trinamul Congress.
Every armed conflict must have its share of refugees. The relief camp in Pirakata is the first to shelter the first in Lalgarh’s latest round of violence.
The village is spread on either side of a narrow metalled road. Inside, a motorcycle upturned into a pond is evidence of the violence that it has been through.
There isn’t a soul in sight. Cows tethered to bamboo masts moo because they are hungry. Their owners have left home. They are in the relief camp this afternoon.
“The policewomen lifted my sari,” sobs Bijola Mahato, “and kicked me while lathis rained down and a man shouted ‘since your husband is not at home, let me come tonight and be your husband’”.
The Bengal government’s order to the security forces it has amassed over here to go easy on the trigger has meant they can go hard with the lathi.
In the wake of the advance to Bhimpur and Lalgarh over the last three days, armed police of the state force have been entering villages on either side of road, battering the people, rounding up at random, abusing and hurling obscenities.
“When the police came into Kuldiha they were accompanied by two or three men,” said Jamuna Mahato, whose 18-year-old son is missing. “They broke down the door of my house and dragged me out.” There were policewomen and policemen.
Belarani Mahato, who said she made tea at a shop in Kuldiha, said she was pulled by the hair. “The policemen were dragging the children but mostly our saris were being pulled up and we were being kicked and beaten with lathis,” she said.