It’s been more than a decade since the Chamkaitala and Choto Angaria massacres but the scars run deep. Most of the villagers are unwilling to express their political views.
As this correspondent approached few of the 48 families residing in Choto Angaria, most preferred to either close their doors or stare from a distance. Only Babar Ali and Isarat Seikh decided to break the silence, but played it safe. Except for mentioning that they had not seen any Opposition party leader, the two villagers talked about agricultural problems, lack of irrigation water and their daily sufferings.
The situation was no different in Chamkaitala. Once bitten by strong political clashes and reigned by terror, no villager dared to express a political view. In 2000, two Trinamool Congress supporters were allegedly killed by CPI(M) members at Baital in Bankura, situated on the border of Chamkaitala in West Midnapore, Bankura and Hoogly. Again on January 4, 2001, CPI(M) workers killed 11 Trinamool supporters in the house of Baktar Mandal at Choto Angaria in East Midnapore.
At that time, the newly formed Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee and several top Opposition leaders had immediately rushed to Chamkaitala and Choto Angaria in East Midnapore. But since then, no Opposition was seen in the areas. “Only during the time of last Lok Sabha election, Congress leader Manas Bhuniya had come with his team,” said a villager of Choto Angaria. Ever since the entire area turned into red corridor, no Opposition leader went there except two or three incidents in the last 10 years. Yet, the Opposition keeps on trying to encash on massacres.
Trinamool and Congress leadership in the district admitted that they had less presence in the areas and attributed CPI(M)’s reign of terror as the reason behind it. “The CPI(M) had captured the area under gunpoint. If anyone is seen talking to us, the villager will have to face the consequences in the hands of CPI(M). We want peace here. We also know that these people are suffering a lot. We will go to them in time, with some good gifts,” said Ashim Ojha, Trinamool leader in Garbeta.
However, both Congress and Trinamool leadership claimed that villagers are ignoring CPI(M)’s threat and attending their rallies.
“It’s a signal that the people also want a change and be free from the torture of CPI(M),” said the leaders.
“CPI(M) had not allowed opposition in Garbeta in the past few elections. But, this time, we are trying to go all places. We will also go Choto Angaria and Chamkaitala to assure people,” said Hema Choubey, Congress candidate from Garbeta, contesting against CPI(M) leader Sushanta Ghosh.
However Sukur Ali, CPI(M)zonal committee secretary, Garbeta, rubbished all such charges. Ali along with party leader Tapan Ghosh, who were accused in the Choto Angaria case, were acquitted by Midnapore district court.
The duo said, “There is no disturbance here. We have not imposed our views on the people forcefully. People had faced sufferings brought on by Trinamool workers and they do not want to see those dark days again. Now at every corner in the area, there is peace.”