On Tuesday morning, Md Iliyas woke up, splashed water on his face, picked up two carry bags and went to the market. The former MLA from West Bengal’s rural Nandigram region had last done this seven years ago.
The 59-year-old was perhaps waiting for a moment of poetic justice. In December 2007, a sting video showed him taking Rs 10,000 from a man. In the tumult that followed, Iliyas had to resign from the assembly and his party, the CPI, expelled him.
On Monday, video clips released by a news portal showed Trinamool member Sankudeb Panda asking for a stake in a TV network. The student leader performed the sting operation against Iliyas eight years ago for a local news channel. The sting was one of the turning points in the Nandigram farmland movement that catapulted Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee to the centre stage of West Bengal’s political theatre. “There is a saying, ‘Khuda ke ghar der hai, andher nahi hai (It may take time but the Almighty delivers)’. After the sting operation, my father resigned and faced embarrassment. He stopped going out and became a mental wreck. He rarely spoke to anyone,” said 23-year-old Sk Saddam Hossain, Iliyas’s elder son.“But this morning he got up and went to the market after so many years. Last night, he saw the sting operation on TV.”
Iliyas said he was the victim of a conspiracy. “No one listened to me then. I resigned. Now, after so many years, I am happy,” said the former legislator who won the Nandigram assembly seat in 2001 and 2006. Family members allege that he didn’t ask for the money but the amount was almost forced into his hands during the sting. Panda later joined the Trinamool Congress and became its student wing chief and then general secretary.
Hossain told HT how his family was defamed following the sting. He could not go to college as wherever he went, he was called the son of a tainted politician.