Monday, November 19, 2007

Shot and dragged away, but not ‘dead’

Shot and dragged away, but not ‘dead’

Nandigram, Nov. 18: The compensation ordered by Calcutta High Court for the victims of March 14 will not reach Pranab Samanta, who saw his son Subrata being hit by a bullet in the chest and his limp body being dragged away by policemen.

“We know our son was killed in the police firing. Why should we be deprived of the compensation?” asked Pranab, 62, a farmer.

The CBI, he hoped, “would be able to dig out the truth”.

Subrata, 24, of Jalpai village near Garchakraberia, had left home for the Bhangabera bridge to attend a rally of the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee, leaving his 20-year-old wife Srimati and month-old son Sasanka at home.

Mother Saraswati, 52, had also set out with Subrata and his father, but returned home after she slipped and fell on the way. Subrata, went ahead with his father, sister Tapati and her husband Tapas Samanta.

When they reached Bhangabera bridge around 7am, about 20,000 villagers were already there.

“Around 10.30 in the morning (of March 14), the police crossed Bhangabera bridge. They lobbed tear gas shells at first. Our eyes were burning from the gas and we were looking for water to wash our eyes when they opened fire,” said Pranab.

“We immediately sat down on the ground to protect ourselves from the bullets. Suddenly, a bullet hit Subrata in the chest and he collapsed. We could make out he was dead,” said Tapas.

When Pranab, his daughter, son-in-law and neighbours tried to carry Subrata towards Sonachura, a large lathi-wielding police team allegedly chased them away.

“The last time I saw my son, he was being dragged away by his feet,” Pranab said.

Pranab had moved the high court demanding a CBI probe into his son’s disappearance and compensation. The court admitted the petition and the case is still pending. The state has been told to file an affidavit spelling its stand on the charge.

Pranab was among the many CPM supporters who joined the “war” to protect their land from the government. We earlier supported the CPM. But we joined the movement against the acquisition to save our land,” the father said.

After losing his son, Pranab lost interest in the movement. “We dissociated ourselves from both sides,” said Pranab, who refused to flee home even when the violence peaked.

Saraswati and Subrata’s grandmother Jayanti Bala still break down in tears at the mention of his name. “I knew something terrible was going to happen the moment I fell that day,” Saraswati said.

The committee had claimed that 29 people went missing after the police firing. Except Subrata and Durgapada Maity, the rest are known to be alive.

Maity, 42, a resident of Rainagar, apparently went missing on March 4 and not 14th.

His wife Amita told the police he had left home on March 4 for South Khali on business. “She was told to send her husband to the Nandigram police station when he returned, but he never turned up,” an officer said.

Maity was allegedly killed while making bombs in a Nandigram village.