Sunday, November 25, 2007

Harvest ready, workers few

Saket Sundria
NANDIGRAM, Nov 24: The paddy fields of Nandigram, with their swaying golden crop, could be any farmer's delight. But the violence unleashed by CPI-M cadres has left the farmer, who didn't abandon his plough despite being forced to take up arms to save his land, in a dilemma.
A vast tract of fields is lying unattended and crops are facing the threat of destruction. Due to heavy rains during the recent cyclone, the paddy fields are submerged in water, a situation not conducive to the ripe crop ready for harvest.
Frightened farmers are compelled to live in relief camps.
Those who have dared to return to their homes are either beaten or forced to pay hefty fines by CPI-M-backed goons.
Above all they are instructed to “hold the Red flag and everything will be fine.”
One of the CPI-M supporters, Mr Ashutosh Das of Adhikarypara, who returned from Khejuri, after nearly 11 months, said: “We can't let them (the farmers) come in just like that. They have to pay for their deeds. And we know they have to come, for the crop needs to be picked or it will rot.”
In an effort to justify his stand, he said they were not allowed to sow seeds so how could they watch others harvesting.
When asked how much land he owns, the man said, “none”. He is a daily wager.
Despite the threats, people have started leaving relief camps for they believe their only chance is while the CRPF is posted in the area.
“We will have to reap the harvest while the CRPF is there. After that it will all be theirs,” Mr Shankar Maity of Garhchakraberia said. But there are people like Mr Ashwini Mal and Mr Anadi Mal of Adhikarypara, who are still missing.
Both have five bighas where the crops are ready. But their looted homes lie deserted. Mr Anadi Mal's wife (who was too afraid to give this reporter her name) has no knowledge of her husband's whereabouts. She braved threats to return home, from her paternal village, on Tuesday. “We have to lift the crop from the fields but I have not seen him since 10 November. I don't know what to do,” she said. Her brother-in-law Ashwini's house is still deserted.
Mr Swadesh Das, a BUPC leader, was apprehensive about the situation. “The farmers are trapped. They fought to save their land. Most of them participated in the struggle and juggled between the fields and our posts. Now when it is time to reap the crop they are forced to live in the relief camps,” he said. But he was trying to convince them to go back because with the CRPF jawans patrolling the villages, the situation is under control. With the state police releasing rioters and goons arrested by the CRPF, the villagers' fears refuse to die.