|A woman injured in the Nandigram firing lies at the Tamluk hospital. Picture by Biswarup Dutta|
Tamluk, March 24: Forty-eight-year-old Sarifa Bibi cries like a child whenever she hears a noise.
Lying at the Tamluk district hospital, she hasn’t had a good night’s sleep since March 14. The minute she closes her eyes, she is swept back to that bloody day — bombs exploding at her feet, lathis raining on her and fear-stricken villagers running helter-skelter.
A resident of Jalpai village, about 10 km from Bhangabera, Sarifa had been part of the wall of protesters who tried to resist the police in Nandigram.
“When I recovered my senses at the hospital, I could not hear anything. My hearing improved gradually, but there is always a ringing sound in my ears. Whenever there is a noise, my heart starts to beat faster, I think another bomb has exploded,” she says, tears streaming down her tired face.
Satyabala Mondal, too, bore the brunt of the police batons. But her scars are deeper than what her bruises betray. The 45-year-old resident of Gokulnagar had fallen into a hole while running from the police.
Satyabala has had only nightmares since then. “Whenever I sleep, I dream of villagers being chased by gun-wielding policemen and a boy lying in a pool of blood.”
According to Sabitendra Patra, the superintendent of the Tamluk hospital, people like Sarifa and Satyabala may not be seriously injured but trauma has taken a toll on their minds.
“They can’t be released from hospital as they are still suffering from severe trauma. We have had to seek psychiatric help for them,” he said.
What has added to the hospital’s headache is the constant stream of VIP visitors and sympathisers, who won’t let the patients forget the firing. Every day, politicians and NGO representatives come to the hospital to listen to their “tales of horror”.
“Through their waking hours, the patients are being asked to relive the March 14 nightmare. The women face embarrassing questions like whether they had been raped or molested. As a result, the patients’ nerves are ruffled and their rest and sleep disturbed,” said S.N. Baur, one of two psychiatrists at the hospital.