06 August 2011

Fact-Finding Mission At Khangardihi

[Human rights activist, Debjit Dutta’s report on violence at Khangardihi]

A three-member team, with activists from three different organizations that had actively participated in the people’s movement preceding the all-important ‘parivartan’ (change in West Bengal with the electoral defeat of the CPIM), visited Khangardihi village of Medinipur Sadar, Block-I on June 14, 2011. This was because of a report that Neelkamal Singh, a member of the Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) as well as an enterprising, conscious and reasonably educated youth who also happened to be one of the founders of Bagdi Janakalyan Samity, an organisation to safeguard the rights of the Bagdis (SC), was forced to leave his village along with some of his relatives and neighbours.

A continuing series of threats, boycotts, acts of extortion, intimidation etc. over the years before the Assembly elections, when almost the entire village was a stronghold of the CPI(M), culminated in a virtual eviction of Neelkamal  and others after the sweeping victory of the present ruling party, as reported. The team tried to find out the facts independently, irrespective of any pre-or post-election bias.
While the team approached the residence of Neelkamal (Neelu) and the locality at Khangardihi on the scorching afternoon of June 14, 2011, only one elderly lady, out of at least ten households, dared to offer some water to drink, that too on the condition that she should not be asked any questions – a familiar feature in most villages during the party-cracy. In no time, she fled - or was made to flee- by people who could not be seen. Not a single person was willing to speak – a disheartening fact in the present political scenario.  Without entering into details, it can be said that the team was made unwelcome by Neelu’s neighbours not by choice but out compulsion, threats and a sense of insecurity. The watchful eyes of the neighbourhood did not go unnoticed by the team.

It was an entirely different story, however, when the team had to interact with those willing and eager to talk - the village Trinamool Congress (TMC) supporters, who are said to be mostly ‘convert TMCs’ and who apparently sympathized with the actions of PBKMS but were not willing to accept Neelu’s ‘arrogance’ as he would not function in the way they wanted him to do. Ranjan Singh, one of Neelu’s relatives, was the most vocal against himalthough Dalim Mallik, another TMC leader, seemed more tolerant in his approach. None of them, however, admitted that Neelkamal was beaten up by Ganesh Singh and others on June 9, after which he had to leave the village. On the contrary, they were furious that a complaint was lodged with the police in Medinipur police station against Ganesh and a few others. They had a lot to say against Neelu but no one was willing to accept the fact that Neelu along with his relatives, friends and neighbours were terrorized – a fact that was clearly evident when we visited their locality earlier.

The members of the fact-finding team held long discussions with all sides and tried to convince them that the situation in the village was undesirable and detrimental to their well-being, more so after the much-awaited change in the political scenario. They tried to impress upon the villagers that the disputes could only be resolved through discussions among themselves. The same suggestions were made by the team members to Pradyot Ghosh, Dinen Roy and other senior TMC leaders in the same evening with an appeal to arrange for an immediate meeting. Such appeals were made on behalf of PBKMS earlier too. The villagers and the senior leaders seemed to have understood the importance of holding such a meeting and agreed to do it soon. All of them apparently admitted that the team members were justified in their approach to resolve the ongoing problem and bring about an end to the atmosphere of violence. However, till date no such initiative has been taken.

On a subsequent meeting with Neelkamal, his elder brother Ram, Mukti Dalui and others at Badu, Barasat - their refuge after fleeing the village - two of the team members learnt of some shocking facts which are stated below:

The very next morning after the declaration of results of the Assembly elections, TMC leader Nurul threatened Neelu along with others and asked them to “surrender”. The CPI(M) supporters obliged but Neelu and his associates refused to do so.

Two days after the poll results, Bifal Bhuiyan threatened Neelu and others and said, “Ekhon theke ja bolbo toder tai shunte habey” (From now on you will have to listen to what I tell you). Some TMC leaders tried to force them to sign an undertaking that they would not be involved with any activities of their organization. Under the supervision of Gafur, almost the entire village was made to “surrender” except 13 villagers, including Neelu, for whom a separate list was prepared.

Later, when the police arrived, one of them asked Neelu, “Shamasta gram TMC korchhe, tumi sangathan korbe? Khub lej gajiye giyechhe?” (You will stick to your organization when the whole village is with the TMC – flashing your tail, are you)  

Related Posts: Letter to Mamata
                     Green Terror at Khangardihi 
                     Update on Khangardihi

No comments:

Post a Comment