Forty-three-year-old wood sculptor Bhabani Biswas hails from a village in Naxalbari. Influenced by the iconic CPI(M-L) ideologue Kanu Sanyal, he quit the path of violence and started to eke out a humble living from his artistic pursuit around 20 years ago.
"He taught me to adopt the path of truth and shun greed. From a very young age, I had a flair for making dolls and carving out statues. Sanyal inspired me to take it up as a profession long after I left school and the Naxalbari agitation," Biswas told HT.
During the Naxalbari agitation, Biswas came to occupy some land and later redistributed it among poor villagers. "I devoted myself thereafter to various such social pursuits as taking bodies to the burning ghat, organising deliveries of villagers, helping villagers in need of help," said Biswas. "In those days, the only way you could protest against the atrocities of the Congress was to enrol for the Naxalbari revolt."
Another artisan, Bholanath Sutradhar from Purulia, missed the elections this year so that he could take part in a handicrafts fair, Lokshilpa O Karukriti mela, at Jorasanko Thakurbari. Purulia, which goes to polls in the fifth and sixth phases, is famous for its mask.
Sutradhar, who has come down with his uncle to sell masks made from paper pulp, has no regrets. "Even while in Purulia, the CPI(M) resorted to coercion at the time of elections. The conduct of polls was hardly fair back there," he said.