11 August 2011

'Green Terror' In West Bengal's Khangardihi Village

Place of incident: Village Khangardihi, 7 No Bonpura GP, PS Midnapore Sadar, Paschim Midnapore

Names of victims: Neelkamal Singha, Parbati Singha (Neelkamal’s mother), Rampada Singha,(Neelkamal’s brother), Arati Singha (Rampada Singha’s wife), Shefali Singha (Neelkamal’s sister-in-law), Nikhil Pandit aged 16 and studying in Class Xl (Neelkamal’s nephew),  and  three daughters of Rampada Singha aged 10 years ,5 years and 2 years, Mukti Dului, Chandana and two sons and a daughter aged 10 years,7 years and 5 years.

 Names of accused: Befal Bhuinya, Khudiram, Ranjan Singha, Gopal Bordoloi,Jyoti Bar, Tarapada Karak, Alok Ghosh and Ganesh Singh.


PBKMS first came in touch with the people of Khangardihi village in February-March 2010 while doing a study on implementation of Supreme Court orders on Right To Food. Later, Neelkamal Singha and others got in touch with us because their people (about 100 families from the low caste Bagdi community), who had formed themselves into the Tapshili Jati Bagdi Jana Kalyan Samity, were being tortured by the rest of the village. Caste was a major issue with the village upper caste people, supported by the Muslims, banning the Bagdis from entering their temple, taking drinking water etc. This matter was brought to the notice of the local police and district authorities and, with their intervention, the matter was settled.

Many of the members of the Bagdi Jana Kalyan Samity became PBKMS members. PBKMS thus had about 200 members in the village. These members of our union began taking up issues of NREGS implementation, MDMS implementation etc.  This led to conflict once again in December when village leaders owing allegiance to both Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – CPM – combined to attack the Bagdis. They broke down a board commemorating Dr. Ambedkar, as well as burned down a shed that the Bagdis used as a meeting place. Neelkamal and some others were also beaten up. The police came in and at the insistence of the village people of the Bagdi para stayed the night to protect them. Their departure however led to a resumption of threats of being shot at. This made the people very reluctant to file police complaints. A PBKMS team went to the village the next day and talked to all leaders and helped to restore peace. After a long process, later on March 14, on Dr Ambedkar’s birth anniversary and in the presence of those who had earlier opposed the Bagdis, an Ambedkar board was again put up.

After the declaration of Assembly election results, those affiliated to the TMC insisted that all others must “surrender” and must now say that they would listen to the TMC local leaders. Those who were most insistent about this were recent converts to the TMC from the CPM. We began to get reports of force being used and of beatings, threats, fines and coercion. We therefore called up Dalim a village-level TMC leader, but found that though he was well intentioned no one would listen to him. We then contacted Mrigen Maity, MLA, and complained to him, but the intimidation did not stop. We then asked Neelkamal to stay out of the village for some time till things cooled down.

However, when he returned after a few weeks, things again flared up where he was asked to “surrender” and to pull down the Ambedkar board. Neelkamal felt this was undemocratic and protested. He reported the matter to the police on 9 June 2011, who came and threatened him instead of protecting him. The police said “The entire village is with the TMC so why can’t you also listen to them? Who do you think you are?” After they left, Neelkamal was brutally beaten up in the village and an attempt was made to murder him, when he refused to pull down the Ambedkar board.

Another person, Satish Dului, was also beaten up and both were admitted to hospital on June 10, 2011.  Satish Dului did not file a police complaint fearing that he would not be allowed back to the village if he did so. However, Neelkamal did file one. Since then, Neelkamal has not been able to enter his village. His entire family (brother, mother, sisters-in-law etc) have also fled the village. The person who took him to the hospital, Mukti Dului, and then filed the complaint, has been forced to also flee with his family. Thus, today, 15 people are out of their homes.      

Action Taken:

PBKMS has helped the victims file a police complaint. However the police has not given an FIR number. We have also informed the ASP HQ, Mr Sukesh Jain, about the matter.  No effective action has been taken. The police, in fact, seem to be supporting the accused. Till now, no action have been taken against the accused, failing which families of Neelkamal and others have not been able to return back to their village.

PBKMS also heard at one point about the possible kidnapping of one of their members, Khokan, and panicked and informed Shri Mukul Roy, AITMC General Secretary.  While Khokan’s whereabouts were known within 15 minutes of this call, he has since stopped maintaining any contact with us.

At Mr Mukul Roy’s suggestion, we have also been in touch with Mr Prodyut Ghosh and Mr Dinen Rai, district leaders of the TMC. However, this has also not reduced tensions in the village. While it has been suggested to us by the police and by the district leadership of the TMC that they can send the 14 people back with a police escort, there is no assurance that there will be no further intimidation in the village. The present atmosphere in the village is also not very reassuring. For example, Neelkamal’s mother went back to the village after her niece died to attend the funeral, but found that no one talked to her. Similarly, Mukti’s brother has tried to prepare rice seedlings for Mukti, but has been threatened and has been asked to stop this immediately.

On July 1 we informed the Deputy Chief Minister, Mr Partha Chatterjee, in writing. We then heard that a police team had been to the village. However, we have been told it has had an adverse impact: all the accused are supposed to have taken bail in court and the witness to the case, Gautam Dului has been forced to withdraw his name as witness. It is now rumoured that Mukti, the complainant, who is hiding in his relative’s house in a nearby village will be visited by the Khangardihi leaders and asked to withdraw the police report.

It is reported that others have also faced physical violence and intimidation. These include Gautam Dului, Sushmita Dului, Bhanu, Kalpana Dului,Satish, Khokhan Singha,, Bimal Singha and Gopal Bagh.

There are other frightening reports from the village. It is said that a team checks mobile phones regularly to ensure that no phone calls are made outside. People have been threatened against informing anyone outside about what happens in the village. The land of the fleeing families is likely to be taken over.

We suggest that the accused be arrested immediately and that a meeting be organized in the village with the TMC district leadership and the PBKMS along with the villagers to ensure that the victims can live there peacefully.

Related Posts: Update    Letter to Mamata            Fact-Finding Mission

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