Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Yesterday’s leader is today’s refugee


Yesterday’s leader is today’s refugee

Nandigram, Nov. 12: Local Congress leader and Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee convener Milan Pradhan, 32, has become a refugee overnight after the Red Brigade marched into Sonachura last evening.

Firing from their rifles, the cadres stormed his house around 6pm and dragged out Milan’s father Prabir, 65, and mother Brajarani. They stripped the house bare of belongings and set a portion of it on fire.

A little later, Prabir had gone missing. The cadres had kidnapped him, Milan said.

“I had fled through the backdoor as I saw the mob approach. I rode my motorcycle to Nandigram Bazaar, 10km away. There were others, too. We spent a sleepless night at our relief camp at Nandigram High School,” Milan said.

“My house was ransacked while my mother cowered in one corner. Afterwards, she could not find father.”

After the marauders left to attack another house, a pro-CPM neighbour took pity on a weeping Brajarani and gave her shelter. Prabir was freed by his captors and returned to Sonachura this morning.

Milan was furious when he heard about his house being looted. “But I was helpless.”

Another Pratirodh Committee convener and Congress leader, Sabuj Pradhan, 25, was also at home in Sonachura when the Red Brigade swooped.

“Suddenly we found hundreds of CPM people running towards our village. A few had guns and were shooting indiscriminately,” he said.

“We had already decided that we were weaker than the CPM. So, I immediately gathered my widowed mother, elder brother and his two sons (aged seven and eight) and left the village with others. Since I was a known face, I cycled ahead of the others and reached Nandigram Bazaar in the night.”

His family moved to a relative’s house.

Other Pratirodh Committee leaders such as Abu Taher, 32, of Hajrakata and Sheikh Sufiyan, 45, of Shamsabad had also fled to Nandigram Bazaar fearing for their lives. Their families, however, were untouched in their villages.

“We were too scared to stay at our homes,” Taher said.

As a huge CPM procession entered Nandigram Bazaar around 10 this morning, all the Pratirodh Committee leaders, including Taher and Sufiyan, ran into Nandigram police station seeking security.

Panic gripped the shelter camps in and around Nandigram town. Refugees began fleeing from every camp except the one in Nandigram High School.

“We ran out of the shelters. Some went to the high school while the rest fled to relatives’ homes,” said Sheikh Jamshed, 45, a refugee from Satengabari who was staying at a camp in a primary school. CPM supporters had attacked and ransacked his home last week.

This evening, Nandigram High School housed about 4,000 refugees. Another 6,000 refugees had fled the camps around Nandigram town.