Amina Bibi, (25), had been standing in a serpentine queue at Swarupnagar Primary School on Monday afternoon.
It was almost 3pm. Her three year old child was getting jittery and the sweltering heat was only making things worse.
The queue was moving at a snail’s pace.
But Amina was smiling and exchanging pleasantries with her neighbours, most of them Muslims and, on fast because of Ramzan.
“How can I leave? After all we wait for five years to cast our vote in the panchayats. Once I am done here I have to prepare food for Iftar at home,” she said.
Amina sounded like a perfect citizen in a perfect society. But there were certain things about her, and many others in the queue that could make social scientists sit up.
Amina and her neighbours had come from Majherpara in Kushumdanga where two Congress supporters, Ayat Ali and Nurbaksh Sheikh died in an explosion while making bombs in the wee hours of Sunday and a voter, Nurjahan Begum, died of bomb injuries barely an hour before Amina left for Swarupnagar with her child.
Three deaths, of neighbours she knew for years, did not seem to make much difference to the 25-year-old homemaker and the other women. What’s worse, even the children seemed to have learnt to live with the grotesque face of life.
Ayesha Begum, sub-inspector at Rejinagar police station, narrated an experience she had while on duty at Domkal during the 2008 panchayat polls.
“Four persons died in a political clash near a polling booth and we had not been able to remove the bodies on time. I was surprised to see people queuing up to cast their votes. One corpse was lying barely 10 feet away but nobody seemed to bother. People in these parts accept violence as a way of life. But they will not let go of their right to franchise. No wonder polls in Murshidabad are never peaceful,” the police officer said.
In Murshidabad, Domkal is one of the Assembly constituencies where violence is a standard feature of every election.
Monday was no exception.
Eight people were injured in clashes between CPI (M) and Congress supporters.
“The district has a history of violence. And one of the reasons is its proximity to the Indo-Bangladesh border. Illegal weapons are smuggled in and distributed across Murshidabad,” local CPI (M) MLA Anisur Rehman said.
“But it would be wrong to conclude that every murder or act of violence during an election has a direct relation to politics. Disputes over property and land are often settled through bloodshed and passed off as political clashes,” he added. Rehman could be correct. Due to fertile soil and development of roads and other infrastructure, agriculture and trade have prospered in recent years.
There are villages where spotting a mud house could be quite a difficult task. Its not that poverty has been eradicated from the roots in Murshidabad but prosperity of a certain section has definitely added a socio-economic dimension to village politics.
The politics of “them” and “us” seems to have gone deeper.