02 DISABLED FOR LIFE
By Partha Dasgupta
Susanta Mondal, 41, Agricultural worker, TEGHARIA
SUSANTA MONDAL, 41, of Tegharia village was a Congress worker in the 1990s. The six-footer belongs to the Bagdi warrior caste, often dubbed a criminal tribe. Mondal is a landless peasant who used to make ends meet by tilling others’ land and occasionally working in the large fishing ponds in the Sasan area, some 30 km north-east of Kolkata.
But an active, daring Congress worker was an eyesore for the CPM mandarins who controlled and terrorised the large areas of Sasan and Barasat dotted with water bodies. He was, therefore, ‘found’ to be carrying 3 gm brown sugar while working in a paddy field and was picked by the police in 2000.
For three days, nobody knew of his whereabouts. “They did not put me in the lock-up. I was hidden in some house and tortured,” says Mondal. “They gave me electric shocks and beat me up with a hot iron rod. I had blisters all over my body and a broken hand,” Mondal remembers with horror. “Unconscious, I lay half-dead.”
If it was his political affiliation that precipitated these events, it was political connections that saved his life. “Jyotipriya Mullick (now the TMC MLA from Gaighata) pulled some strings and saw to it that I did not die,” he recalls. But he was convicted for drug trafficking and had to serve his time.
MAMONI, SUSANTA’s mother, wailed inconsolably when asked about the plight of the family during the years Susanta was in jail. A few months after Susanta’s arrest, his father was murdered. Susanta’s mother, wife and daughter shifted to the house of Susanta’s sister, Lakshmi. Laxmi’s kitchen was the address of these three women for 10 years.
“We do not believe anyone any more,” says his wife Rekha, who made her displeasure quite apparent at the sight of her husband being interviewed. The ghosts of the last 10 years are haunting her. “I worked as a domestic help in Madhyamgram, Birati and Salt Lake. It was a life shorn of all dignity. But I had no choice. My daughter is young and she needs to live,” says Rekha. Their 16-year-old daughter, clinging to her, refused to divulge her name but volunteered, “I dropped out of school and worked as a domestic help too.”
Mondal, now out of prison, lives in constant fear of being hounded by CPM goons and police a second time. The robust-looking man cannot do any physical work, let alone walk properly. “We know how he was victimised as also the condition his family is in. We will try and do something for him,” says Mullick. This promise holds out the only hope for Susanta and his beleaguered family.