Sunday, November 25, 2007

It’s us-and-them in Nandigram

Saket Sundria and Kajari Bhattacharya
NANDIGRAM, Nov.22: While distraught people in Nandigram relief camps struggle to protect themselves from the onslaught of winter and calm pangs of hunger, a windfall of sorts seem to be greeting those who have returned from Khejuri following the “recapture” by CPI-M cadre. They have more food and clothes than they need ~ a reward for their loyalty to the party. The chief minister’s much-maligned "us-and-them slip", evidently, is no slip. The divide exists, and glaringly for the people living in the fear of cadres in Nandigram.
Not only supporters of the BUPC in relief camps, but also those who have returned to their homes in violence-ravaged villages are struggling to beat cold nights and starvation. Several houses in Satengabari and Ranichak were looted and set on fire when armed CPI-M goons stormed them on 6 November. Villagers, who had fled with clothes on their backs, came back to find everything they used to own in ruins. “Now we have neither a morsel to eat nor utensils to cook. With our clothes stolen or torched, we spent the night shivering, but there's no help in sight,” Mr Shakti Mondal, of Satengabari, said. Not content with ransacking, the cadres keep threatening villagers to intimidate them so that they don't speak to outsiders such as journalists or relief workers. At least 20 houses were burnt down and a number of others damaged in Satengabari while 15 houses were burned in Ranichak. “They couldn't set our house on fire as we were all inside. But they have taken everything that we used to own. It's the end for us,” Mrs Sabita Mondal (name changed) of Ranichak, said, her voice trembling with terror.
In relief camps, relief workers struggle to feed victims of the carnage. Most of them have to do without warm clothing and many have to sleep in the open as there is not enough room indoors. In sharp contrast, CPI-M activists, who were holed up in Khejuri for the past 11 months, are reaping a rich harvest of their support to the party. Two youths, Sanjay Das and Robin Das, were seen returning from market with two new shirts to their home in Adhikarypara. They said their father Kanai Das had received a lot of money and other material from the government. Others such as Basanta Gayen Das and Buddhadeb Das claimed they would be fed till May next year by the government.
“We faced no problems in the relief camp in Khejuri. Rice with three curries was served twice a day and we had puffed rice or parathas for breakfast,” said Ashotosh Das of Adhikarypara, holding three new blankets provided by the government (party). “Our people are in the government. We have nothing to worry about,” claimed another.
Their usurped neighbours, now in relief camps, are still struggling to come to terms with the calamity that has befallen them, and trying to cope with the hard bargain after being “paid back in the same coin”, as claimed by the chief minister.