His son's death brought Lalbasa Paswan to this city 10 years ago. His grandson’s death in last Sunday’s blast, allegedly orchestrated by the ULFA, is taking him back to Harauli, a quaint village in Bihar’s Darbhanga district.
Lalbasa, 55, had come looking for a job to look after his daughter-in-law and her two children. He landed the job of a cook in a shop in Fancy Bazar. The day Lalbasa’s grandson Ramanand turned 17, he summoned him – he was too old to work and Ramanand had to replace him. The teenager had inherited his grandfather’s culinary skills and was only too glad to give up his job as a coolie and take on the more lucrative cooking assignment.
The religious gathering at Chaigali on Sunday turned out to be his last assignment. “Ramanand was supposed to send a money order home on Monday. Instead, I will board a train with the money he saved for his sister and mother. I will probably not return...” sobbed Lalbasa.
God perhaps chose to play the cruelest joke on cartpuller Rajesh Sahu. The thelawala nearest to the blast site, he promptly provided his cart to carry the dead and injured to MMC Hospital nearby. The third body he picked up was that of his son Pawan, who did not survive the journey to the hospital. “Who do I earn for now,” asked Rajesh, as he prepared to return home to Bagaha on the Bihar-Uttar Pradesh border.
Unlike Lalbasa or Rajesh, Lallan Chaurasia was miles away from the blast site. The paan-seller had gone off to Motihari after the anti-Bihari wave in 2003 singed a couple of his fellow villagers. He returned last year but the blasts convinced him he was better off earning less at home than being killed on videshi territory. So he boarded the train back home on Wednesday.
For the ULFA, people like Lallan and Rajesh are nothing but foreigners or colonisers. It is an ideology that has since 1990 — the year the ULFA first reared its head — seen over 50,000 labourers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh leave the state for good. “The loss of labourers from Bihar has had an impact on the price of commodities in Assam and elsewhere in the Northeast,” said a leading trader in Fancy Bazar. “Those who replace them usually demand more than the going rates and the cost is factored into the price of goods.”