Villagers flee CPM bastion - Biceps in Khejuri, balm in Calcutta
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- Published 20.03.07
|CPM state secretary Biman Bose consoles at a rally in Calcutta a woman who fled Nandigram. The party organised a show of solidarity for supporters evicted from Nandigram by Opposition forces. Around 330 oustees began a dharna at a makeshift camp on Rani Rashmoni Road. Two teams, including women, met governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and members of the state women’s commission. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya|
Nandigram, March 20: CPM supporters who had to flee their homes have been in the news. But away from the public eye, nearly 500 villagers from the Left stronghold of Khejuri who had raised their voice against land acquisition in Nandigram have taken shelter in camps opened yesterday in Sonachura and Garchakraberia.
These villagers, who took shelter in the four camps in Sonachura and Garchakraberia, say they were forced to flee as they could not cope with the CPM’s muscle power.
According to the list of mouzas made public by MP Lakshman Seth last December, Sahebnagar and Balibasti in Khejuri Block II were likely to figure in the government’s acquisition plans.
“Initially, we depended on the Nandigram movement, thinking that if their campaign proved successful, our land in Khejuri would also be saved. However, when the CPM workers killed villagers opposed to land acquisition in Nandigram on January 7, we couldn’t sit quiet any longer. We began our own anti-acquisition movement in Khejuri Block II,” says Sheikh Akkash Ali, a resident of Kaderabachher village in Khejuri’s Sahebnagar mouza, who is now camping at Sonachura.
The villagers dug up roads leading to the village to cut themselves off from CPM cadres and the administration.
As the movement gathered momentum, their “persecution” at the hands of the CPM increased.
“On February 15, CPM cadres attacked our houses, demanding to know how we could dare to go against them in their bastion. They demanded that I pay a fine of Rs 10,000 for having joined the anti-acquisition movement. I had no choice but to flee,” says 65-year-old Sheikh Moinuddin from Kaderabachher.
The villagers say their movement caught on within a short time. “In a span of 26 days, about 15,000 to 20,000 villagers were with us. We had the support of 80 per cent of the population but the rest 20 per cent had arms and muscle power. We couldn’t match their strength and were forced to flee,” says Kalipada Sith, 35, from the same village.
Sith now lives in perpetual fear of what the cadres might do to his family. He has left his wife and five-year-old child behind. “I’ve heard that they’ve harvested the paddy from my 2.6-bigha plot and have also taken away all the fish from my pond. They’ve driven away my old mother to another relative’s house in Nandigram. At night, they come and threaten my wife that they’ll set fire to the house,” he says.
Seventy-six-year-old Amar Ali also fled after he was asked to pay a fine of Rs 5,000. Three of his sons and his son-in-law, who were also part of the movement in Khejuri, have fled to Orissa.
More than 3,000 have taken shelter in the camps. While about 400 are from Khejuri, the rest are from areas bordering the Talpatti canal. The police, they claim, never gave them protection.