Dulal Chakraborty remembers that it was four days after the May 2 poll results when a group of “local Trinamool workers” arrived at his mud house in Mahisda village of Paschim Medinipur district’s Keshpur area. Chakraborty and his son Somnath, both BJP workers, were already living at a relative’s house, he says, fearing retaliation. The men told the family to stay “ghorbandi (inside the house)”, and not be seen anywhere outside.
Chakraborty later realised he and his son figured in a list of 16 local BJP supporters and two CPM members allegedly prepared by the Trinamool for social boycott. After the list became viral, police got into the act. By the time they landed up at Chakraborty’s house to reassure the family that the “ghorbandi” was illegal, it had been 15 days, and his mind was made: the 59-year-old and his family cut off all links with the BJP.
The TMC claims it didn’t issue any leaflet containing such a list. Police suo motu lodged a case against “unknown persons”, and only recently arrested four people, all TMC supporters, for spreading “rumours”. They are out on bail.
But, for Chakraborty and others, the “fear” was real. After spending days cooped up until police intervention, several claim to have left the BJP.
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The social boycott at Mahisda and other places following the Bengal Assembly results was one of the issues highlighted by the BJP, including by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and MP Swapan Dasgupta. The NHRC report, prepared on the directions of the Calcutta High Court, was severely critical of the Mamata Banerjee government.
The list, printouts of which were in circulation, carried the name of ‘Mahisda All India Trinamool Congress’ and said in Bengali: ‘Partyr anumoti chara ai somostho byaktider kono jinish potro bikroy kora jabe na. Cha dokandarder uddeshhe janano jay, ayi byaktider cha dewa jabe na (Without the party’s permission, nothing can be sold to these people. Tea sellers can be told not to serve tea to these people)’. Violators were threatened “punishment”.
SP, Paschimi Medinipur, Dinesh Kumar says, “Proper investigation was done. Continuous confidence building measures were taken by police and people were asked not to pay any heed to such rumours. The situation is normal now.”
On the TMC links of the four arrested — Pintu Chakraborty, Manas Bhuiyan, Sujash Pramanik and Rabin Das — the party’s Keshpur block president Uttamananda Tripathi says, “They may be our supporters but they are not our workers. In this Assembly election, they did not work with us… As soon as we got the news (of the list), we asked police to take action.”
Chakraborty, a farmer owning 2 bighas of land, says he never himself saw the list. “The group of TMC workers who visited my house beat up my nephew Surajit. Two days later another group told us not to step out of our homes, even for our fields.”
Chakraborty says the personnel from the Keshpur Police Station were very polite when they visited them. “They told us not to worry, that we were free to go about our work. They also gave us their numbers to call in case of any trouble… But I can’t afford this. We are sorry. I told Somnath too to leave the BJP.” Somnath was the general secretary of the Keshpur Purba Mandal of the BJP.
Narayan Middya, 36, the vice-president of the BJP Keshpur Purba Mandal, lives about 20 min from Chakraborty’s house. The family claims they faced a month-long “boycott”. While it is now over, Middya says he is still scared to return to his job as a licensed law clerk at the land records office in Keshpur.
Alleged TMC men landed up at Middya’s house and ransacked it on May 3. While he left home at 3 am to escape them, the men reportedly returned a couple of days later and told his family they were to stay home at all times. Friends brought over vegetables and other essentials at night as the joint family of 10, including his wife and three children, couldn’t leave home, says Middya.
According to Middya, he has lived with the area’s violent politics for more than 23 years, having joined the CPM in 1998 when the area was a Left stronghold. “It turned into a TMC bastion after 2011. We understood we could not fight the TMC being with the Left. Hence, in 2017, we joined the BJP.”
Now, Middya says, “No one can be with BJP here. Like others I have decided to leave politics altogether.”
Haradhan Maal, who lives with his wife and two children near the Mahisda Bus Stand, says he got to know about the “boycott” when he went to a tea stall about a week after the results. “The shop owner said he cannot serve me. I just returned home and stayed indoors.”
Later, Maal wrote a letter to the TMC, saying he had committed a mistake by joining the BJP and asked for its pardon.
“I wrote that I am ready to join the TMC. Yet the boycott was not ended.” The restrictions were only lifted when policemen visited him about 20 days later, he says. “They asked me not to follow any boycott.”
Goutam Mal, 24, also in the “boycott” list, says hope for a job drew him to the BJP. His parents beside him at their mud house, Gautam says, “I am a graduate and also have teachers’ training. But, like me, thousands have no job. We thought if the BJP comes to power, there will be more employment, schoolteacher vacancies will be filled… We never thought that after winning, the TMC will attack us, ban us like this.”
The CPM cadres who figure in the “boycott” list are Panchu Mal and Dibyendu Mondol. Dibyendu, a teacher, says he is not surprised by the violence. “Such politics has been going on in Keshpur for a long time. It is difficult to do opposition politics here. Now people are seeing a naked form of it.”
Mahisda TMC leader Arun Roy dismisses such claims, saying, “There are flags of all parties here.”
TMC Keshpur MLA Sheuli Saha asserts the party is not even that strong in Mahisda village to “issue such fatwas”.
“Someone caused this incident intentionally.”
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