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'What are we fighting for in Nandigram?'
November 22, 2007 10:23 IST
Signs of the division over land acquisition for a proposed SEZ are still evident in Nandigram. Torched houses bear testimony of the violence in recent days and few have chosen to stay on despite the mayhem even as red hammer and sickle flags of the Marxists flutter once again.
The Bhangabera bridge on the border between Nandigram and Khejuri is where the first spark of violence erupted early January, leading to the divide between the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee and the Communist Party of India-Marxist.
The measured tread of boots of the Central Reserve Police Force personnel is reassuring and the only sign of the fragile peace since mid November there.
On January 6, three people of BUPC, Sk Selim, Bharat Mondal and a student of class VIII, Biswajit Maity, were allegedly killed in gunfire from CPI-M leader Sankar Samanta's house. The rest is history now.
Nearly 15,000 residents from nearby villages like Sonachura and Garchakraberia burnt down Sankar's house. He perished in the blaze. Others in his panic-stricken family swam across the canal and reached Khejuri-I, a CPI-M stronghold. Another 400 families of Bhangabera followed suit.
"We could not even take clothes when I and my wife fled our home. When we reached the other side of the canal, our party supporters gave us shelter. If we had not found shelter, we would have been dead now," recounts Sankar's brother Bhabani.
Eleven months later on November 10, the CPI-M hit back by 'recapturing' Bhangabera, Sonachura and nearby areas. Soon after, another displacement took place. As CPI-M supporters returned home, those belonging to the BUPC fled the area with an uncertain future staring them in the face.
"I don't know what the BUPC members got by driving us away. I knew all of them and when we came back, we did not take revenge. We told them that we could stay together peacefully. When the government has withdrawn the proposal for land acquisition, then what are we fighting for," asked Bhabani.
"A mass movement has turned into a political conflict. The Trinamool Congress is responsible for it and did it for political gain. Those who left should return and start leading a normal life," he said.
CPI-M supporters alleged that during the past 11 months BUPC supporters with the help of Maoists constantly harassed them. "I stayed risking my life. They would have burnt down my house, but spared it after taking money and my crops. Now perhaps I can live in peace," said Tarit Samanta, a resident of Bhangabera.
"When bullets flew in the last 11 months, we left and took refuse three-four kilometers away until the guns fell silent. We would then return home fearfully at night. We have been terrorised since January," he said.
CPI-M leader of Khejuri, Himanshu Das, said around 1000 people had to flee and lost everything. They had to stay in relief camps.
He reiterated that BUPC supporters had nothing to fear. "After all, we were neighbours and we will live again together."