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Few overcome fear to cast vote

kolkata Updated: May 11, 2011 12:38 IST
Sandip Chowdhury
Sandip Chowdhury
Hindustan Times
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Bagbinda, the ill-fated village in the foothills of Ayodhya in Purulia, had only begun polling after around two hours of the start of scheduled opening time.

And it was not because of any Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) failure or any fault of polling personnel. The villagers were initially reluctant and central forces had to take extra initiative to assure the already scared villagers to vote.

"Till 8.30am, nobody had come to vote here," said Ranjit Kumar Majhi, presiding officer of booth 53, Bagbinda Primary School under Bagmundi assembly constituency.

Bagbinda village made headlines when Maoists killed seven panchayat members, including the woman grampradhan Chapala Garait, on the night of December 16, 2010. Only 30 of 275 voters of this nearly abandoned village voted on Tuesday.

A meagre 331 votes were polled at Bagbinda Primary School in a segment that has 1,097 voters. Villagers, who had been staying outside Bagbinda village since the December killings, had travelled down in groups from Jhalda. "I, along with my brother-in-law, and other family members had come to vote," said Shakuntala Singha, whose son Kinkar Singha, 25, was killed by Maoists.

However, it hardly matters to the Singha family whether the CPI(M)-led Left Front or Trinamool-Congress alliance forms government. "I had come fighting fear from Jhalda to vote here. It is all the same for our family whoever comes to power. If Dada could not bring any development for us in 35 years, what would Didi do?" said Uttam Kumar Singha, uncle of Kinkar.

Uttam Kumar who initially was wary of disclosing his identity, told HT, "I am BA (hons) in history and still in search of job. We have been leaving our village for the last five-six months."

Another voter, Ajay Kumar Singha, an unemployed youth who had been staying away from Bagbinda in fear of Maoists, said, "We have been deprived. We have no work, no water, no food and also had lost our shelter. How can we survive?"

Mukta Singha, 70, who had shown courage to vote despite Maoists threat to chop off the hands of whoever voted, told HT, "I am poor and have no other alternate place to reside. So I am forced to stay back in this abandoned village despite all threats from the Maoists. I did cast my vote without fearing for the worst."

Talking to CISF officers posted to guard the Bagbinda Primary School booth in the foothills of Ayodhya, HT came to know that no observers or district officials visited this abandoned village booth.