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Hunted by Maoists, village turns haunted

It was an entry into a village that had been abandoned by its villagers because of Maoist aggression and killings. Sandip Chowdhury reports.

india Updated: May 09, 2011 16:14 IST
Sandip Chowdhury

It was an entry into a village that had been abandoned by its villagers because of Maoist aggression and killings.

Bagbinda, a village in the foothills of the Ayodhya in Purulia, going into polls on Tuesday, made headlines when Maoists killed seven of the village panchayat members, including the woman grampradhan, Chapala Garait, on the black night of December 16, 2010.

The HT team that journeyed through the jungle roads that leads to this ill-fated village was shocked to find no young male members of the village in sight. It is now a village with a few aged villagers, along with women and children.

There were no signs civilisation on the walk along the recently concretised 2.5 km road. In sight were abandoned huts under lock and key. No posters of any of the political parties could be seen.

Our first interaction with a local, Kuwar Chandra Mahato, was even more surprising. “We do not know which candidates are contesting the polls. You cannot find a single poster or any wall graffiti that would actually help us to know who is contesting against whom. None of these candidates has come to our village to campaign,” the old man told HT.

Asked whether the villagers would vote, another elderly man, Bhanu Pratap Singh, said, “We have not yet decided. But if the situation permits, we will vote. If we do not, the entire village would abstain.”

Maoist threat has even kept the candidates away and with no campaigning, the villagers are in the dark about the crucial election that would determine the fate of the rule of the Left Front in the state.

There was no sight of any central paramilitary forces personnel doing rounds in the village. “Not even the Election Commission had shown the courage of sending officials to our village,” Mahato told HT.

As we entered the village, the scene of desertion became even more evident. The abandoned post office and health centre add to the desolated look.

“We are here only to protect our cows and goats. All have left for the town out of fear,” said Latika Mahato, who stayed back after the deadly winter killings, sending her husband and all other male family members away from the village.

The only concretised building that stands tall among the muddy huts is the Shahid Khudiram Basu Madhyamik Shiksha Kendra. “We have only three hand tubewells in our village and of these, two had been installed only three months ago,” said Nirala Mahato, who had married into this village 15 years ago.

Near an open well, Bindu Singh, bent with 70 years, tries hard to lift water from a great depth to wash her belongings. She is the only member of the the family of Gobardhan Singh, who was killed on that night, to survive despite fear for life.

“Where will I go? I cannot leave my husband’s house out of fear. My other sons and their families have left. But I made my heart strong to stay back,” Singh said. “I go to sleep immediately after dusk, but cannot get a good sleep since every night I am being haunted by the ill-fated December night.”

The only livelihood for these villagers comes from cutting wood in the nearby Maoist-infested jungles. “The government has done nothing for us. No MLA or minister has ever visited our village,” said Singh.