Partial Parivartan

Junglemahal gets peace,still ‘starves’

Written by Madhuparna Das | Lalgarh | Published: May 21, 2012 3:41 am

In May 2011,three states and a Union Territory elected new governments while a fifth election gave the ruling regime yet another extension. Here’s how the first year has gone for the five governments and their chief ministers

Two things have certainly changed in Junglemahal — peace is back,and what were Maoists’ strongest pockets in their West Bengal bastion have now become Trinamool Congress bases. What hasn’t changed is the absence of development.

“We last got a job under NREGA in 2009. We have got peace but we are still starving,” says Siromani Hansda of Brindabanpur village. Mohan Hansda of Brindanpur says,“For us parivartan has meant peace.” And in Burishol,where Maoist leader Kishenji was killed,Rabindranath Mahato echoes,“Violence has stopped but there still is no primary health centre. If anybody falls ill,we have to take him to the Jhargram hospital 20-30km away. There is no primary school within 5km and for higher secondary education,a student has to go to Jamboni,more than 8km away.”

Burishol,once a stronghold of Maoists and their frontal organisations,is one of the villages that have turned into Trinamool bases,as have Netai in Lalgarh,where nine villagers were gunned down by CPM cadres before the elections,and Chattradhar Mahato’s village Amlia in Lalgarh.

Niyati Mahato,Chhtradhar’s wife,is said to be negotiating with local leaders for joining the Trinamool. The panchayat has started laying water pipelines that are being seen as a reward to villagers for voting Trinamool. Chhatradhar’s mother Bedana says,“My elder son is in jail; my other son was killed. We have to be with the ruling party to survive.”

The ebb in Maoist activity reflects in casualty figures. From 311 civilians killed in Maoist violence in West Midnapore in 2010,it has dropped to 26 so far this year.

The face Junglemahal presents to a visitor starkly contrasts the image it conjured up a year ago,one of AK-47s and SLR slung across the shoulders of security personnel marching along the road. Schools then served as CRPF camps and many homes were without their men,who would have left for fear of either the security forces or Maoists.

Today,the personnel are gone,the schools are back to holding classes and villagers are no longer scared at the sight of a stranger. The playgrounds are full of children till dusk in an area where once even adults wouldn’t venture out after dark. “Several of our students lost a year,missing the 2010 board exams,” says Panchanan Singha,teacher of Gohamidanga High School. “Now our school is free; the troops left a year ago.”

Pairani Hembram of Dharampur,who was three when she went to jail with her arrested mother,is now five and goes to school. “Police picked up my daughter and me in 2010 though I kept protesting I have no links to Maoists,” says Basanti Hembram. “But now I am happy that my daughter has been admitted to school.”

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