For this poor villager of Shamserpur in Lalgola, Murshidabad, it has been a long wait of 14 years. Achintya Das has walked barefoot since 1997.
He will start wearing shoes or chappals only if Mamata Banerjee comes to power after the assembly elections this year.
Das had been a CPI(M) supporter till 1997. “I was a hardcore CPI(M) follower. Mamata Banerjee was a youth Congress leader back then. In 1997, she organised a grand rally in Kolkata. Several young men from my village went to participate in the rally and they took me along to see their leader, Mamta Banerjee,” he said.
“Suddenly, for some unknown reason, the police lathicharged at the innocent Congress supporters assembled there and killed a few of them that day. I was forced to leave Kolkata with my arms raised and my feet bare. That was when I took an oath of not wearing shoes or chappals till Mamata Banerjee became the chief minister. It seems that within one-and-a-half months my dream will come true and I will be able to wear shoes again after 14 years,” said Das, who is now waiting for May 13, when the election result would be declared.
The father of three sons and a daughter said, “I come from a very poor family. So I used to support the Left Front movement and its ideology. After the Kolkata incident, I quit CPI(M). I have been a Trinamool member since its inception. But I had to sacrifice a lot for this. I have a plot of 14,400 sq ft in this village. The CPI(M) men damaged my chilli cultivation and burnt my paddy farm when I joined Trinamool. They also poisoned all the fish in my pond. But I still didn’t leave Mamata di.”
“But now I want immediate removal of this undemocratic and killer government. This government has already done enough damage to this state. They have lost the right to be on the throne,” Das said.
An ardent Mamata supporter, Das said, “I have met Didi thrice and have been barefoot each time. So she calls me Achintya pagla.”
Shankar Mondal, Das’s neighbour, said, “Everyone in this village knows why Achintya babu doesn’t wear shoes. He was barefoot even during his daughter’s marriage. When the groom’s family saw him like this even at the boubhaat, some thought he was crazy.”
“There are times when my feet bleed after I step on a piece of glass or sharp stones on the village road. But nothing can deter me from keeping my oath. I am sure this year change will take place and my Didi will become the new chief minister. Only then will a wear a new pair of chappals, like the ones Didi wears,” Das said.
Purabi Das, Achintya’s daughter-in-law, said, “From the day I got married, I have seen him without shoes. At first it looked quite strange to me, but now I respect his dedication and love for Mamata Banerjee. I am sure he will be able to wear new shoes this year. I will buy the new pair for him.”