By Partha Dasgupta
Shabana Khatun, 16 Student
SANDHYA MONDAL’s husband was killed in 2007. The unlettered 30-year-old and her two sons sought shelter with her mother Laxmi and have stayed there ever since. Every night, she stays awake to fend off drunken cadres.
In the same village, Khamar Naobad, notorious for sheltering the Harmad, lives Shabana Khatun. She is just 16 and passed her school-leaving examination in 2010. Her father Mohammed Noor Ali, a Congress worker, was murdered when she was a child. Her elder brother, Mohammed Sadek Ali, is a Trinamool Congress (TMC) supporter and “can lose his life any moment”, says Shabana.
A few days after Eid, Shabana was alone at home when seven or eight armed cadres broke into her room. They were looking for her brother Sadek. When Shabana expressed ignorance about his whereabouts, they tied up her legs, threw her on to the bed and began molesting her.
Shabana shrieked in fear and cried for help. She pleaded, “I am only 16. I have my whole life ahead of me. Please do not ruin me.” But her cries for mercy did not have the slightest effect. “Haven’t you heard of Tapasi Malik of Singur? Don’t you know what happened to her?” asked one of the cadres, whom she could identify as one of her brother’s friends. “We will rape you and then kill you. Your grave is being dug outside,” he said.
The group then went out and sat down for a drink, preparing for “an entire night of revelry”. An hour later, one of them, whom she knew from childhood, came in quietly, set her free and asked her to flee. She climbed through the kitchen window and ran for her life.
Welcome to Sasan, home of the CPM don Majid Master, who has ruled over 40,000 bigha (3 bigha = 1 acre) of fishing ponds for the last three decades. These ponds are leased out for around Rs. 10,000 per bigha. Majid, a teacher in a government school, has built nine party offices in the Sasan area, has his own private army and has successfully terrorised the entire Sasan panchayat that comprises 12 villages. Harmad camps, which are so much in the news now, have been functioning in this area for decades.
After the 2009 poll debacle, Majid left his home in Sasan and is rumoured to live in Barasat and Madhyamgram. However, his wife has taken up the mantle and was in the forefront when the Harmad opened fire during elections to the Dugdia Faltadanga High School committee a few months ago.
TEHATA VILLAGE has been a traditional Congress stronghold and as such, the worst affected during the Left regime. Most menfolk fled the village when the Left Front came to power in 1977, only to return after TMC swept the North 24-Parganas district in the 2009 general elections. “My son died for want of treatment while I was in exile. I could not even come back to see my dead son, as I could have been killed,” sobs Iman Ali Mollah, 52, who returned to this village after 22 years. Md Babur Ali and his wife Safina Bibi have returned after 24 years and reclaimed their house. But their sons have refused to return. Sahidul Haq Mollah, who fled from Tehata 23 years ago, is now 55, and has vowed to take revenge. They have driven out Safikul, Majid’s son-in-law, and Motalef, two of the most notorious CPM men in Tehata.
Every evening, the entire village is on armed patrol. Even a 12-year-old boy has learnt to use firearms. The official name given by all political parties to this preparation is ‘a spontaneous and democratic people’s resistance’. In reality, it is a shadow war that promises to break into a real war anytime.