As Trinamool gains ground CPM cadre fails to terrorise
When Debirani Ghosh opened her front door at 5.00 am on February 14, 2010, the first thing she noticed was a white borderless saree (called thhaan locally, and worn by widows) swaying from the bamboo flag post in her front yard. Arnab Mitra and Snigdhendu Bhattacharya report.kolkata Updated: Apr 15, 2011 23:12 IST
When Debirani Ghosh opened her front door at 5.00 am on February 14, 2010, the first thing she noticed was a white borderless saree (called thhaan locally, and worn by widows) swaying from the bamboo flag post in her front yard. Till the previous evening, the Trinamool Congress flag her husband Bablu had hoisted, used to flutter on it.
It was a warning people in rural Bengal understood quite clearly. The party (local lingo for CPM) was telling her that she would become a widow soon. Her crime: Bablu had committed the ultimate “treason” – he had joined the TMC.
The Ghoshs, small farmers in Kamdebpur, in West Bengal’s Hooghly district, had been long-time CPI(M) supporters and had benefited from Operation Barga — the Left Front programme, which, between 1978 and 1984, had given landless farmers ownership rights over the land they tilled. But they had recently switched allegiance to “Didi’s party”.
“We had been warned earlier,” said Sushmita Ghosh, Bablu’s sister-in-law. “The party ordered a complete social boycott. Other villagers stopped selling us food and other items. They turned away when they saw us approaching.”
Bablu was killed later that week at a local school election where he had gone to help a TMC candidate. No one has been arrested for his murder. The family was forced to move to Jangipara, a TMC bastion. The area is now clearly demarcated into CPI(M) zones and TMC zones.
“I’m confident they will return to their house after May 13,” said Sheikh Moinuddin, a local TMC leader. “All this will stop once Didi (Mamata Banerjee) comes to power.”
“These are lies being spread by our rivals,” CPI(M) local committee member Arup Basu Mallik said, denying that his men were involved in murdering Bablu. “And he’s living in a fool’s paradise if he thinks we’ll lose.”
Theatre personality Shaoli Mitra, a well-known intellectual who is sympathetic to the TMC, told HT that sending thhaans as a warning to rivals is a common CPI(M) tactic in rural Bengal. “More than the actual killing, it is the fear of getting killed that terrorises people,” a senior police officer said on condition of anonymity. “One saree can keep thousands under control in villages.”
Instances such as this abound in rural Bengal.
Since 2007, Ramen Baskey has gone from being a “revisionist”, an untouchable, a target of violence and intimidation, a man on the run to local hero.
A resident of Dhanchatani village in West Bengal’s Purulia district, Baskey, like others in his village, had always been a CPI(M) supporter. “But several of us were getting disenchanted with the party,” he said. Early in 2007, he mustered up enough courage to join the Trinamool Congress.
The party reacted to his rebellion by ordering a complete social boycott of Baskey and his family.
“Workers were told not to till my one-acre plot. The (party’s) local committee issued a ‘firman’ ordering villagers not to have any contact with my family. I couldn’t buy food from the village; the local barber wouldn’t cut my hair,” said Baskey. The party even tried to “redistribute” his land to sympathisers, but failed.
Several villagers secretly sympathised with him, but in rural Bengal, disobeying the party was fraught with danger. The TMC was not yet powerful enough to counter the communist writ.
The 2009 elections changed that. Though the Left Front (Forward Bloc) retained the lone LS seat from Purulia, the opposition parties established leads in four of the nine segments.
Besides, the rout suffered by the CPI(M) across the state gave people the courage to come out openly against the party. Baskey is now hailed as a local hero for standing up to the CPI(M)’s bullying. He has regained control of his land, which the local CPI(M) had prevented him from farming for two years.
CPI(M) central committee member Mohammad Salim, however, denied that his party had ever indulged in such terror tactics.
But Partha Chatterjee, TMC leader and leader of the opposition in the state assembly said: “Everybody know that the CPI(M) uses the threat of terror and social boycott against opposition workers.”