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Terror feeds on hunger, neglect

When HT team spent the night in Bokdoba, the but silence during the wait was eerie, reports Anirban Roy.

india Updated: Apr 11, 2006 16:18 IST

After an hour's drive through the thick forests from Bandwan in Purulia district, the road opens on to Gurpana, a tiny tribal village.

The first sight that greets the HT team on a recce of Bengal's Maoist strongholds is that of villagers working on a gravelled approach path.

The road — the only sign of official activity in this backwater — is being laid to make way for CRPF vehicles. The force is waging a bloody war against the Reds.

For the workers, the road will make little difference to a life without electricity or drinking water — the people have fallen off the de, thevelopment radar as the government wrests for control of the red corridor.

As night falls, the CRPF camp glows in the dark, thanks to powerful generators, while the village broods in darkness.

Jawans have strict orders not to venture out after dusk. The people, on the other hand, are suspicious of the CRPF and the counter-insurgency operations.

In every village dotting the forests of Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore districts, the mention of elections is greeted with chill.

"Who cares for us? And what will we gain from elections?" asks Kalipada Murmu, who brews mahua, the local liquor, in Gurpana.

A few kilometres away is Bokdoba, a village in West Midnapore district, where the CRPF recently built a community hall to befriend tribals. Bokdoba is a breeding ground of Peoples Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA), the armed wing of CPI (Maoist).

Such is the anger against the government, that political parties did not dare to enter the village. Not even a stray election leaflet has found its way here.

Tribals, mostly Santhals, survive by foraging on wild varieties of yam, colocasia and insects. Because of the infertile soil and lack of irrigation, they can't produce more than one crop a year.

Ask about the Maoist movement, and villagers come up with flat denials. "No, they don't come here," says Nidhu Soren, a village elder.

He adds that security forces trouble them only because they are poor. But isn't Jaguri Baskey, one of the senior leaders of PLGA, from this village?

"Yes, she is from this village, that does no mean that we should be tortured," Soren shoots back.

The HT team spent the night in the Bokdoba Lower Primary School. The rebels didn't turn up but the silence was eerie, broken only by the barking of stray dogs. As dawn broke and the journey was resumed, one conversation with a villager remained with us.

"What is our fault?" Nidhu Soren had asked when quizzed on the insurgency operations. "Will they stop troubling us if we vote?" It's not a question people in power are interested in answering.

First Published: Apr 11, 2006 16:18 IST