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Nandigram victims narrate their tales of woe

Antara Das

To make themselves heard, hundreds of displaced people come from their relief camp to Kolkata


EXPRESSING ANGUISH: Villagers from Nandigram, who have been ousted from their land and whose houses have been allegedly burnt by the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee, staging a dharna in Kolkata on Tuesday.

Kolkata: Gita Das represents the other reality of Nandigram. The reality, which has forced the likes of her to spend the last two-and-a-half months away from hearth and home, in the cold comfort of a relief camp. It is to tell this story and ensure that that their voices do not get drowned that she, along with hundreds of others, piled onto a bus early on Tuesday morning on a five-hour journey to Kolkata.

Sitting on the hastily constructed bamboo and cloth pandal, her face betraying months of fear and anxiety, she is surprised if asked why she has decided to stay at the relief camp set up by the Communist Party of India (Marxist). "How much of violence can you take, as a person, as a woman?" she asks.

"There is complete absence of rule of law in this area," said Biman Bose, chairman of the Left Front Committee, while addressing the gathering of the displaced. "It is as if the five areas that constitute Nandigram are not within West Bengal or India," he added.

With the number of those forced to spend their time at relief camps since January 3 constantly rising and now estimated to be around 3,500 while widespread looting and destruction of property continues, Nandigram has become a law unto itself, the villagers said. "I had managed to sneak back into the village, only to find the clothes and blankets torn to pieces," Gita said. "They even smashed my school going son's geometry box," she said. Others have discovered that their houses have been set on fire and reduced to ashes.

"They held a knife to my bosom, abused me in the filthiest language and warned that if I did not pay Rs. 5,000 to support their cause, they would kill my son," she said.

"They [Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee members] tell us that our days are over and neither the Government nor the administration can do anything to save us," said Sandhya Das, cradling her baby in her arms. Most of the children in the camps have been missing school since trouble began. The camps provide two meals a day and mothers spend the rest of the time scrounging for snacks like puffed rice to pacify their children.

A five-member delegation of the displaced comprising Kanika Mondol, Kakoli Giri, Sabita Samanta, Krishna Mondol and Shameroon Bibi had gone to meet the chairperson of the State Women's Commission to air grievances.

The delegation is also slated to meet Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi as well as members of the State Human Rights Commission.

Different priorities weigh down the villagers as they prepare to spend the night on the city street. "I had refused to join the procession and was hence targeted by them," said Shaktipada Mondol, an old man sitting with his grandchild. "I hope I get justice here," he added. "I just hope my sons whom I have left behind remain safe," added Gita Das.

A procession was taken out in the city by the CPI(M) for the restoration of peace at Nandigram and in support of the Left Front Government's development policies.

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