Frayed red flag only sign of CPM in Nandigram
Going by the flags and posters, a stranger would be forgiven for thinking that the electoral contest in Nandigram, the non-descript site of violent showdowns in 2007 between the forces of the Left Front government and Trinamool Congress-backed locals, is between the BJP and Trinamool Congress. Indrajit Hazra reports.Updated: May 03, 2011 23:41 IST
Going by the flags and posters, a stranger would be forgiven for thinking that the electoral contest in Nandigram, the non-descript site of violent showdowns in 2007 between the forces of the Left Front government and Trinamool Congress-backed locals, is between the BJP and Trinamool Congress.
But, at least on paper, it is a repeat of the contest between the Trinamool's Firoza Bibi and the CPI's Paramananda Bharati.
There is not a single hammer and sickle sign in sight. Except in the dark, charred, gated CPM office where a red flag flutters as if in tatters.
"We will have to die," says Shaikh Nashir, 32, a CPM worker.
"This party office was attacked after the Trinamool won the panchayat elections in 2008; it was attacked after the Lok Sabha elections in 2009. Party worker Abdullah Khan was hacked to death. We're next."
Outside, however, Nandigram wears a festive air. People are going to or returning from voting. The sprawling grounds of the 100-year-old Nandigram Brojomohan Tiwari Shikshaniketan have been taken over by polling officers and security personnel.
Murarimohan Patra, 76, a peon at the school, joins the queue of voters.
With a salary of Rs 700 a month, he sees the Trinamool in government as a good thing, but wonders how the new regime will change things.
"Someone will have to sift through 34 years of papers - that is, if many of these official files are not being destroyed now as we speak."
Four years ago, even before more than 4,000 police first entered Nandigram in March 2007 to stamp out local protests against the government's plan to take up land to set up a chemical hub under a special economic zone policy, there was disaffection against the sitting CPI MLA Iliyas Mohammad, suspected of being corrupt. There was, however, not much of an opposition to the Left.
The 12.30 azaan rings out from the loudspeakers on top of the Nandigram Jama Masjid as Ujjal Maiti, 70, a former teacher explains that the terror unleashed by CPM cadres in 2007 in villages like Shonachura and Adhikaripara "populated by Muslims" made the community, traditional Left voters, switch sides en masse.
On being asked how he sees progress come, Shobhon Tripathi, a teacher, says stoically, "I used to teach a girl once. I first planned on making her get a first or second division. She failed and I stopped teaching her. After a while, I became her tutor again, and this time she scraped through. It was a huge event. The case with Bengal is pretty much the same. Its state is so bad that anything will be a bit better."