No one knows what really happened, but everyone says they heard something sinister was afoot. No one knows who did it, but people believe some unknown outsiders have been roaming the area. It’s rumours like these that are spreading panic among the people of remote Orli village in Belpahari. Although the village seems perfectly normal, one can feel the panic in the air.
The problem isn’t isolated to Orli. The same rumours are doing the rounds at other villages, like Jamidiha, Chakadoba, Kashmar, Kakrajhore and Churimara, all near the Jharkhand border in Belpahari.Gripped by the fear of this unknown force, local women aren’t even venturing into nearby forests to collect leaves, one of their main sources of income.However, no one really knows what’s happened; all anyone says is that they heard something bad had happened.
The rumour spread like wildfire, reaching the ears of even Bharati Ghosh, superintendent of police in Jhargram. District police visited the areas to try and alleviate the local’s terror.
A few days ago, the SP held a meeting with villagers to assure them that nothing had happened. However, she asked villagers to remain alert and even advised them to protect the area by forming village committees and venturing out with lathis and torches after sun set.This caused even more panic among the people, who fear that a Maoists resurgence in the area, was the reason for police to tell them to be alert.
“The SP asked us to remain alert and said that after President’s rule was imposed in Jharkhand some people had entered the area from there. We don’t know what’s going on. But all this has caused us to panic,” said Bikash Mahato, a resident of Orli.
Sources also said that during the meeting with the villagers, the SP had alerted locals about the movements of the Maoists, who were moving in different areas in small groups and trying to regroup again. Many believe the rumour was a ploy by the Maoists to terrorise them.
Panicked villagers are wary of speaking to outsiders.“I don’t know what’s actually happening here. I don’t understand what’s going on. I’ve heard that some outsiders had forcefully taken three women of a nearby village when they went to collect leaves in the forest. Even I collect leaves in the forest to support my family, but now I’m scared of going there alone,” said Binapani Mahato, another local.