Two CPM flags flutter atop concrete platforms raised in Baikuntho Mahato and Bhibuti Singh Sardar’s memory at Supurdi village in West Bengal’s Purulia. Maoists shot dead the two CPM functionaries on April 23, 2009. A year earlier, they had killed another CPM worker, Sashadhar Kumar, in Dava village, about 10 km away.
Nearly a decade later, residents of the two villages are again on the edge, after the alleged political murders of BJP workers Dulal Kumar, 31, and Trilochon Mahato, 21. The bodies were found hanging from trees last week.
The killings have opened old wounds in Balarampur block, under which the villages fall, at a time when Maoist violence in the region has started to become a distant memory.
The Centre recently denotified Purulia, a former Maoist stronghold, as a Left-wing extremist affected area like most parts of tribal-dominated Jangalmahal.
“It is like those days have come back, in a more gruesome way. Back then, we were scared to leave our houses. Fear stalked,” said Supurdi resident Rajkishore Mahato, 52, who is visiting Trilochon’s house. Rajkishore was with Baikuntho and Sardar when they were killed. “We were chatting after a village fair. I had a tangi (local weapon) with me. The Maoists attacked and shot them dead. They told me to put my weapon down. I did, but they shot me. I was a CPM worker then.”
Baikuntho’s nephew, Bijay, 30, said they were with the CPM earlier. “Then it was the Maoists who were after our lives. Now we have joined the BJP and the (ruling) TMC is after our lives.” He called the TMC more dangerous than the Maoists. “They killed and hung (Trilochon)’s body with a note written on his T shirt.”
Maoist violence in the state began to wane after the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government came to power in 2011 and cracked down on the rebels.
BJP’s Bhutnath Kumar, 60, who won a gram panchayat seat from Dava, said the CPM dominated the region before the Maoists. “I was a panchayat member. However, after the Maoists, the TMC took over. Some of the surrendered Maoists joined them. I was with CPM and had to face threats from TMC.” He said he had almost given up politics. Bhutnath is also a witness to Sashadar’s murder. “It seems those days have returned. Where will we run and for how long?”
Residents credit TMC with developing infrastructure like roads, but accuse its panchayat members of corruption. “Many schemes like toilets remain on paper with the panchayat members siphoning off the money. We never had a gram panchayat meeting,” said Dava resident Nibarun Kumar, 50.
TMC removes five party block chiefs
Kolkata: The TMC Saturday removed five party block presidents in Purulia, including the one from Balarampur where two BJP workers were found dead last week. Party insiders say the move comes on the back of twin concerns — BJP’s good performance in panchayat polls and pressure on the party after the two deaths. Besides Balarampur, block presidents of Para, Raghunathpur-I, Raghunathpur-II and Saturi block were removed. —ENS