MIDNAPORE, 6 MAY: On 18 March, 13-year-old Nintu Mahato, was taken away by CRPF personnel from Bara Baghara in Midnapore Assembly Constituency of West Midnapore on suspicion of being a Maoist and was beaten up mercilessly.
The other five taken away along with him were Class XI students Khokon Mahato, Radhakanta Mahato, Rabi Mahato and Class X students ~ Siddheswar Mahato and Kartick Mahato of Chandra High School.
Their only fault ~ they formed an organisation called Chhatra Samaj Committee to protest against the torture perpetrated on their parents by the Harmads.
In Bara Baghara, a village that comes first when one takes the jungle road, towards Pirakata, one would see only women making saal chhatis or drying mahua. Khokon is now the sole guardian of the village of women and children that has been deserted by all able-bodied men.
On being asked the change in scenario because of the elections, Khokon said: “Now they (Harmads) don’t have the time to come to our village. Four armed camps surround our village. But all have been shut because of elections. Also, where are the people in the village who would vote? While half of the men are in jail, half have run away.”
When CRPF men raided their village, Harmads were with them. They pointed out the houses and the CRPF men barged in to drag people out, Khokon recalled later.
However, Harmads had stopped this correspondent thrice in Madhupur and Pirakata (Salboni Assembly Constituency) and Bidri (Binpur Assembly Constituency) and had warned her against going further.
Curious Kusum Mahato (18), holding her 4-month-old child, peeks out of the door. Her husband, who was a sole doctor in the nearby six villages, was arrested for being a Maoist sympathiser.
Khokon said: “My husband was the only doctor we had. He was beaten up half dead.” The women said that there is nobody at the panchayat office. All have fled because of the Maoists. The Public Health Centre had been lying defunct for years.
Widespread migration has taken place from the interior villages of the districts specially from the villages in Garbeta, Salboni, Binpur, Jhargram, Nayagram, Narayangarh and Keshiary Assembly constituencies.
In Laljol village, Banspahari, two men were arrested on suspicion of being Maoist the day this correspondent reached their village.
The pradhan said that he had been busy calling “contacts” so that the men could at least be produced in the court. “Nowadays the arrested people are just killed without being produced in court. One of the men arrested had just got a bike in dowry and had taken his friend for a ride to the market in Jamtolagarh. That’s where they were arrested,” he said.
The pradhan says that such incidences are common. “Each villager has atleast two-three police charges against him. How can a villager who doesn’t even get to eat survive if he is hounded by police?” asks the pradhan. Moreover, they can’t even enter the villages to collect minor forest produce like saal patta or sabui grass on which their livelihood depends. “Our forest has now become a Maoist hideout. What other option do people have than moving out,” he added.