April 29, 2009

LALGARH WITNESSES A FEARLESS PADAYATRA

LALGARH: There was no ocean of clouds in the sky. The heat was broiling. The ambience was waiting anxiously for another of the secretive assaults by the ‘Maoists.’ Then the tide changed. A padayatra of several thousands CPI (M) workers and local villagers emerged from the forests into Lalgarh, plenty of Red Flags fluttering and afloat in the hot khamsin-like wind swirls, slogans reverberating across the Sal, Mahua, Arjun, and Simul trees in full, multi-hued bloom – summer has been here. Leading the marchers was Dr Pulin Baskey, CPI (M) candidate from the Jhargram parliamentary seat. The march winded its way through villages like Belatikari, Nepura, Dharampur, Chemtiara, Bamal, Jirapara, and Gohmi.

Dr Pulin went from house-to-house on his campaign trail. He moved freely around Lalgarh east and west, the ‘Maoist’-affected stretches, upto Saradamani. Everywhere he was welcomed with fresh flowers and garlands. The people were eager to talk to him and tell him about the ‘Maoist’ atrocities that had also stultified development work in the Kantageria-Lalgarh-Ramgarh area. Each of the stopovers that Dr Pulin made was within a maximum of one kilometre of known ‘Maoist’ shelters that the loyal Trinamuli toughs provide – out of political compulsion or fear is still a point of debate.

The CPI (M) candidate addressed an impromptu rally at the ST Chowk that was attended by several thousands of the local populace. For the first time, we could see that the wall of fear was crumbling down and the people were no longer cowering when coming out into the open. The padayatra was at least three km long and had other, smaller meetings that the CPI (M) leadership of the area addressed, among them Anuj Pandey and Joydeb Giri.

Dr Pulin then proceeded to the place in Belatikari where CPI (M) leader Chandi Karan had been assaulted by the ‘Maoist-Trinamuli’ combination a few weeks back. We were quite astonished as we witnessed people pour out of the hutments and mill around the CPI (M) leadership – the enthusiasm was quite infectious and certainly affected us as well as the few known Trinamulis of the locale who had ventured out to see what the hurrahs were all about.

Then the padayatra entered the deepest of the dense stretches of the jangal mahal, slogans ringing out all the while, where the pitched-and-tarred metalled road was a strip of winding steel glistening harsh amidst the soft lush of greens, browns, and the bright Red of the march.

The people at a final rally held at Gohmi by the side of the deep aquamarine stream where quiet flows the Kangsabati river, told the CPI (M) leaders how the ‘Maoists’ had visited the area deep into the night, last night, asking the villagers not to join the padayatra or else. They defied the death threat -- and the cracks have started to appear in the fa├žade of fear that these left sectarians and their Trinamuli cronies seek to drape over the Lalgarh area. The election is but a couple of days away.

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