4 months that reduced CPM to a 'minority'
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- Published 11.02.07
|CPM leaders returning to Ishwardaha after several days in hiding. Pictures by Sanat Kumar Sinha|
Ishwardaha, Feb. 11: Four months — that is all it took a CPM stronghold to turn against the party and force its leaders into hiding.
“In November, Trinamul leaders formed the Baastu Krishi Jomi Banchao Committee cashing in on rumours of land acquisition. They capitalised on the farmer’s love for land. Most of our voters and many of our leaders have moved over to Trinamul since,” said Narayan Patra, a CPM supporter and husband of panchayat member Chandana.
The Patras returned to the village, 130 km from Calcutta, on Friday after several days in hiding because of the raging anti-acquisition movement.
They admit that the situation worsened because of the large-scale defection by the CPM’s grassroots members.
A villager said only 30-odd families out of the 1,500 at Ishwardaha supported Trinamul before the agitation began.
Bablu Laiya, once a CPM whole-timer, is among the many to have bolstered the Trinamul ranks since.
Shankar Kar, then the DYFI local committee secretary, is a leader of the committee now.
“After these leaders were brainwashed, they also took our supporters with them. Very soon, we panchayat members and our families became a minority,” said Anil Gayunia, who had won 70 per cent votes in the 2003 panchayat polls.
Observers said small farmers such as bargadars and pattadars, who do not have land of their own but till that of others, have been the driving force of the movement here.
Land records show that marginal farmers and a large number of bargadars, both recorded and unrecorded, primarily inhabit the 791-acre Ishwardaha mouza.
There are some 3,500 registered bargadars in Ishwardaha, a mouza with only 2,035 plots.
Over half the village — around 400 acres — is on the acquisition list for a multi-product special economic zone.
“The average size of holdings here is 40 decimels (about 26.6 cottahs). There are many who till others’ land but do not figure on government records. There are also those who till government land (pattadars) along the banks of the Haldi,” said an officer.
Over 75 per cent of Ishwardaha is single-crop, but the land is dear to its residents. “My husband and I till a four-bigha plot that belongs to another family. We grow khesari (a kind of pulses) in the season and do menial jobs the rest of the year. But the crop is important to us. We get 50 to 60 kg of dal,” said Basanti Gendi, wife of an unregistered bargadar.