Residents of Hurshi, Lochanpur, and its adjacent villages in Islampur, Murshidabad, are a happy lot. The reason - elections and central forces.
With the onset of assembly polls, jawans of the central paramilitary forces jawans have arrived in the village. Though in several parts of the district, people are complaining about the activities of these jawans, villagers of Lochanpur and Islampur are happy at the drop in crime. Known for high crime rate, these villages are now leading a peaceful co-existence. They are also expecting a peaceful voting process this time.
Last year, on August 23, four CPI(M) men and a Congress supporter were killed at Lochanpur over a dispute of school managing committee election. Since then, an atmosphere of tension prevailed between the two parties. Several political clashes broke out injuring a number of persons.
But the situation of one of Bengal's most crime prone zones, Lochanpur-Hurshi, has completely changed after the arrival of the jawans.
Rupsa Bibi, a resident of Hurshi village, said, "My father, Ruhul Amin, 45, was a CPI(M) local committee member in Islampur. But some Congress supporters killed him along with three other CPI(M) men in front of my eyes last year. Since then, we three sisters are living here with my mother, facing threats of local Congressmen to withdraw the murder complaint. But the whole scenario has changed after the arrival of the forces. Now, we can't see them anywhere near our house. I am expecting a peaceful vote this time."
According to Bablu Sheikh, a resident of Hurshi-Ghughupara, "Exchange of firing and hurling bombs between Congress and CPI(M) supporters is a common incident here. Villagers seldom bring the matter to the notice of police. We were used to the noise of violence." With a touch of mockery he added, "Now everyone in the village misses the sounds of bombs before going to bed - courtesy the CPF jawans. The Congress and CPI(M) goons are still in the village but seldom step out of their houses in fear of the CPF jawans. We are expecting a peaceful vote this time."
Jan Mohammad, a resident of Ghughupara, said, "Both the parties take advantage of illiteracy of the villagers. About 80% men of this village have a criminal record. As a result no one is ready to give marry off his or her daughters in this village. But after the arrival of the jawans, the situation has slightly changed. Only a few days ago, Akbar Master of our village got married to a girl of Muktarpur."
Hurshi Congress president Sujarul Islam said, "Other than cultivation, there is no scope of employment here. So people involve themselves in criminal activities with the hope of making quick money. But after the arrival of the jawans, crime has come to an end."
Similarly, Zia-ul Haque, CPI(M) member in Ghughupara, said, "The arrival of jawans has brought back law and order in this area. People can move here freely. So this year we are expecting a free and fair election."
But some villagers worry who will protect them after the polls. BL Meena, Murshidabad SP, said: "People of the area will have to understand that the forces can't be posted in here forever. They will have to take the initiative to maintain brotherhood and law and order. We are always ready to help them."