Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Speechless in oasis of peace

Saket Sundria and Kajari Bhattacharya
NANDIGRAM, Nov. 20: Peace indeed! But at what cost?. People are only free to say what the party wants them to. They can only do what they are instructed to. Most importantly, you have to support the party so that nobody bothers you. Terror is the most visible emotion on the faces of residents of this “peaceful” Nandigram.
The umbra of this shadow of terror is in evidence everywhere in the villages of Satengabari and Ranichak, which bore the brunt of the CPI-M’s attack on 6 November. The places, considered weak links in the BUPC’s fortress, were used as entry points and the party cadres left a trail of wreckage and destruction in their wake. Even now they are intimidating villagers and flexing their muscles. When asked, a villager said: “We ran away when they attacked but had to return because we have nowhere to go. There’s no food in the relief camps. Nor is there proper shelter or warm clothing to protect ourselves from the onslaught of winter,” he said. He was, however, reluctant to divulge his identity, fearing torture. The fear was more profound as CPI-M cadres were lurking nearby.
Another, elderly man only said there was peace all around, albeit sarcastically. As a passing remark he added: “When you do what they want, who is going to trouble you?” A group of villagers standing in the centre of Ranichak were anxious to speak about their woes. But some young roughnecks glowered at them from a convenient distance to ensure that they didn’t say anything to blow the lid off “the essence of peace”. The villagers stood mute in despair with their houses looted and clothes they had on were the only ones they now possessed. “We only have what we had on ourselves when we fled. Everything else has either been looted or gutted when they set our houses on fire,” an elderly lady said. When asked who had caused the destruction, she glanced at the four young men following the reporters and meekly said: “We don’t know.”
In an effort to show their prowess, the men following The Statesman team kept shouting at villagers, including children. As a little boy tried to pluck coconut from a tree, these men ordered him to come down and shouted: “Go to your area to do this.”
People in most villages are also apprehensive about how the state of affairs will be once the CRPF leaves. “We knew they, (hinting at the CPI-M goons), will launch an attack before the CRPF comes in. We had also said that the CRPF would be controlled and guided by the state police, who would use them as they want to,” an old man from Gokulnagar said. Now, the villagers are very sure the CPI-M will lie low until CRPF is here and will hit back soon after, he added.
Meanwhile, the efforts of the CPI-M to project the media and judiciary in a poor light have not stopped at the top level. In at least two street corner meetings in Mahisadal, near Nandigram, local leaders were heard commenting about the “biased” role of the media and judiciary, who were “conspiring to overthrow the CPI-M regime”. They named the newspapers not following their line, two of them being The Statesman and Dainik Statesman. However, near total absence of audience and empty chairs in these meetings suggest people were not buying their argument.
Editorial: Nukes & Nandigram