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Farmers are pitted against CPM cadres in West Bengal. A battlelines view
It is my fourth night tracking the Nandigram struggle. I am at a farmer’s home in Gangara, two kms from Bhangabheda. There is no one here apart from Sushma Maiti, the mother of the household — the six other members of her family are in hiding at a relative’s. It is nine at night and we are counting the bombs we hear bursting around us. Interspersed through the shelling are gun reports and shouted slogans: long live the Krishi Zameen Raksha Samiti, long live the farmers’ struggle, hang Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. In this terrifying night of shelling and outcry, we try to hold ourselves together. Don’t be afraid, says Sushma, get some sleep; we’ve heard this for the last two-and-a-half months, tonight you can hear it too.
The Red Brigade in these parts is a goon squad, able to go to any lengths against the farmers
The Red Brigade in these parts is a goon squad, willing to go to the most shameless lengths to drive farmers off their lands. For two months, 362 households from Khejuri have been living in a camp in Sonachura, run by Krishi Zameen Raksha Samiti (KZRS) volunteers. All have come here with horrific stories of what the goon squads did in their village. It began with their being warned not to associate with the KZRS; non-compliance was met with beatings, extortion and rape. Sixty-five-year-old Nilmani Das says that nothing — land, wealth, one’s daughter — is safe in the village. Schoolteacher Pradeep Pramanik is in hospital after he was mercilessly beaten for supporting the farmers’ struggle. Chinmay Das was attacked at the party office and was forced to cough up Rs 33,000. Vishtu Guriya’s wife was raped; Rs 20,000 was also extorted from him.
Only government-accredited journalists can proceed from Khejuri to the villages of Nandigram. Who is to keep count of the rapes in Sonachura, Gojulnagar, Gangara, Saudkhali and Khejuri? Nor do people here favour complaint when there is so little hope of redressal. “Give me a guarantee that the rapists will be punished,” says a Sonachura farmer, “and then, yes, I will tell you there have been rapes at my home.” The mothers of Sonachura say that if, under the Buddhadeb Bhattacharya government that let off Tapasi Malik’s rapists, there could be no justice in Singur, then they cannot expect any in Nandigram either.
Pushpraj is a freelance journalistcourtesy : Tehelka