Mangalkot is simmering.
Marxist cadres have driven out all Congress supporters from Dhanyarukhi, a village in Bardhaman district’s Mangalkot assembly constituency.
Their goal: restore CPI(M)’s majority in the area (the party lost the recent panchayat polls to the Congress-Trinamool Congress alliance), and grab the fertile farms owned by the local Congress supporters.
The village, 160 km north west of Kolkata, is out of bounds for outsiders and the media.
CPI(M) supporters stop, harass and even beat up strangers who dare to enter, while a pliant administration looks the other way.
As a result, taxi drivers in Katwa town, 20 km away, are refusing to carry passengers to the area. This correspondent had to pay double the regular fare, get off at a distance from Dhanyarukhi, and enter the village on foot posing as a land buyer.
“We have set up police camps in the village. Peace will be restored soon and people will return to their homes,” Katwa SDPO Amlan Ghosh, under whom the village falls, assured Hindustan Times.
But every other day, the Marxists burn down the houses of one or more Congressmen and hound them out of the area.
Their “crime”: their votes gave the Trinamool Congress-Congress alliance a one-seat majority in the recently concluded polls to the Bhallagram panchayat, of which Dhanyarukhi is a part.
“The CPI(M) will have absolute control over the village once we are ousted,” said Sharat Pal, 51, a farmer and Congress supporter, who has taken shelter at the Congress office in Katwa.
This is a typical CPI(M) technique whenever it decides to “sanitise” an area of the opposition and has been repeated in hundreds of pockets across the state since it came to power 32 years ago.
The murder of Falguni Mukherjee, a popular CPI(M) leader, on June 15 gave the Marxists the pretext to launch their reign of terror.
They blamed the crime on the Congress and began a systematic but low-profile programme to cleanse the area of the party’s supporters.
This operation finally hit the headlines on July 15 when a team of eight Congress MLAs led by its leader in the state assembly, Manas Bhunia, was assaulted and chased away by armed CPI(M) cadres when they had visited the area.
Two days later, Bengal witnessed the most successful Congress-sponsored bandh in years.