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Trinamul on Maoist notice - Threat over Nandigram 'extortion'

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By PRONAB MONDAL AND ANSHUMAN PHADIKAR
  • Published 21.09.09
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Sept. 20: Maoists have warned that Trinamul Congress activists in Nandigram will “pay with their lives” if they don’t stop threatening and extorting money from CPM activists.

A senior Maoist leader has said Trinamul workers in Nandigram who were “torturing” poor villagers just because they were CPM supporters would soon have to face verdict in the “people’s court”.

Nandigram, which was once a Left bastion, had become the launch pad for Trinamul’s resurgence after the land acquisition backlash that paid the Opposition party rich dividends in the panchayat and Lok Sabha elections.

During Mamata Banerjee’s land movement in Nandigram, the government and the CPM had often alleged that her party had the active support of the Maoists. Trinamul had dismissed such suggestions.

However, once the Centre sent paramilitary forces to Lalgarh and a security operation was launched, the Maoists started publicly criticising Trinamul for failing to stop the crackdown despite being part of the Union government. Maoist leader Kishanji had then accused Mamata of failing to return the favour extended in Nandigram.

The threat issued now by another Maoist leader has injected a menacing edge to what has so far been confined to occasional criticism.

Trinamul workers in Nandigram will have to “pay for their act, maybe with their lives”, the senior rebel leader — a CPI (Maoist) central committee member — said in a recent interaction.

In Nandigram, Trinamul men are targeting poor CPM supporters. They are extorting money from them and denying them jobs under the rural job scheme, he said.

The Telegraph spoke to some CPM supporters who said they were at the receiving end of Trinamul’s “extortion”.

One of them, 30-year-old Narayan Das, was not allowed to bring his father’s body back to his Sonachura home in Nandigram and Trinamul workers would not let him perform the last rites until he coughed up Rs 2 lakh.

Narayan, a supervisor with a construction company in Cuttack, said: “When I reached Chandipur, about 40km from Sonachura, my relatives called me on my cellphone and told me I would not be allowed to perform my father’s last rites until I paid Rs 2 lakh to the local Trinamul leaders. Finally, my relatives took the body to the village for cremation and I had to return to Cuttack.”

Narayan said the local Trinamul leaders have also prevented his brothers from cultivating five bighas that his father left for them. “They allowed cultivation on one bigha after I paid Rs 10,000. But they are still demanding Rs 2 lakh.”

Another Sonachura CPM supporter and a farm labourer, Rabin Mondal, alleged that he was being denied work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. “I am not being given work under the 100 days’ scheme. No one is giving me a job as a farm labourer as Trinamul leaders have asked villagers not to,” said 30-year-old Rabin.

A CPM supporter in Gokulnagar who works as a clerk in the irrigation department in Mahishadal fled his home a year ago after Trinamul activists demanded Rs 2 lakh from him too.

He now lives near his work place, but his wife and two children are still in Gokulnagar. “My wife and two sons live in my two-storey house in the village. I have 10 bighas to cultivate. So I gave them Rs 1 lakh. They have said they will leave me alone only after I pay the remaining amount,” he said, requesting anonymity.

The Trinamul leadership in Nandigram denied that CPM supporters were facing extortion threats. “Our workers have not extorted money or resorted to any oppression. There is no question of demanding money from CPM supporters,” said Abu Taher, Trinamul leader and chief of Nandigram panchayat samiti.