Attributed to the alleged Marxist terror, Dangarpara, a tribal hamlet in Binpur assembly constituency, turns into a deserted village for several months every time panchayat elections are round the corner.
Tall and frail, Chinibas Soren, 50, has seen five such forcible migrations since 1982. The most recent one being in May 2010, when he and the rest of villagers fled their homes — the village is around 165 km south-west of Ranchi — after an attack by CPI(M) supporters who came from neighbouring villages.
After spending almost nine months in relief camps at Josna Amdanga, around 2 km south of their village, the refugees returned only a month ago to find their homes burnt and destroyed, tube-wells damaged and belongings looted. A few families are yet to return.
“They attack our homes, injure and kill us for opposing the CPI(M),” says Soren, a Jharkhand Party (Naren) activist, resolving not to run away, instead confront, the CPI(M) goons the next time they attack their village.
Never before did these villagers have the courage to take on the mighty CPI(M) cadres head on. But with the changing political situation and Trinamool emerging as a powerful alternative in the Marxist bastion, the villagers are hoping for safety and security of their families and property in the days to come.
Life has, over the years, remained very painful for the 30-odd families, around 26 of them Santhals and
traditional Jharkhand Party (Naren) supporters.Refusal to support the CPI(M) has deprived these families of all major government benefits, security from the police and made them targets of frequent attacks by the ruling party supporters.
The prolonged tussle has claimed the lives of two youths of the village, Gangaram Mandi and Kushadyaksha Maiti, besides leaving scores injured. Many youngsters have permanently migrated to safer places in search of a better livelihood.
“Their only demand has been to refrain from any political activity or support the CPI(M),” said Khokon Ghosh, a local villager, whose wife is a deputy chief of the village panchayat. Though a non-tribal, Ghosh has been a staunch Jharkhand Party (Naren) supporter and has had to a heavy price for his choice of party. “They have attacked and damaged my house no less than four times, but every time I have luckily escaped unhurt,” he said, showing the broken asbestos sheets on the roof of his house.
Neighbouring Kagajpal and Beldanga villages are CPI(M) hubs. The attacks generally originate from these villages. “Every time, we flee and return a few months later,” said another villager Arjun Soren, showing his house burnt to ashes. “But this time, we have been refugees for more than nine months as there were no assurances of our security from the administration.”
In the sub-divisional headquarters, Jhargram, CPI(M) district committee member Ravi Sarkar termed the allegation as baseless. “Everybody knows how CPI(M) workers are targeted by all and sundry in the countryside these days,” he said, adding that the CPI(M)’s strength has been its secular policies and its ideology, which the rivals do not have.
Sarkar said that CPI(M) has lost more than 200 party workers, killed by rivals or Maoists in Jangalmahal, in the the last two years.
Police superintendent Pravin Tripathy recently visited Dangarapara and assured the villagers of all possible help.
With Binpur going to poll on May 10, and the Election Commission making elaborate security arrangements for every voter, Dangarpara residents hope to vote freely for Jharkhand Party (Naren) candidate, Chunibala Hansda, an MLA for the last two terms. The Trinamool-Congress alliance is supporting Hansda’s candidature. “She has always stood by us through thick and thin, especially when we are forced refugees in our own land,” said Srimat Soren, whose house was also ravaged.
“In the last three decades, the police did nothing to check the violence perpetrated by CPI(M)’s armed goons,” Chunibala Hansda told HT. “The days are going to change now as the people are not going to tolerate the Marxists’ barbarism any further.” If she wins, it would be Hansda’s third term from Binpur. Her husband Naren Hansda had also represented the seat twice before he died of ailments.
Senior citizens in Jhargram said with party rebel Arjun Hansda contesting as an Independent, it’s going to be very tough for the sitting MLA to retain her seat. But at Dangarpara, people are pretty optimistic of their leader retaining her seat.