May 3, 2009


3 May 2009, 0522 hrs IST,
Caesar Mandal & Prithvijit Mitra, TNN

NANDIGRAM: Till a few months ago, they were the saviours and heroes to the people of this region, who fought against CPM and police. But today, having moved into the power corridors after rural polls, they are the most hated people in Nandigram, alienated from the masses at the same place where 14 people fell to bullets on March 14, 2007.
Reason? These Trinamool Congress leaders are today busy usurping power, paying little attention to development activities. Swadesh Das and Swadesh Adhikari were in the forefront of the movement against land acquisition for 11 months. They were part of the Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) action squad, warding off waves of attacks by CPM cadres. Today, they are afraid of entering the area following resistance from their own followers.
During the Nandigram movement, they had become household names in Sonachura, Adhikaripara, Gokulnagar and other villages along Talpati canal bordering CPM-dominated Khejuri. Camping there for months and fighting bullets with bullets, they became heroes. But now, a year and a half after the November 2007 CPM assault and less than a year after the panchayat polls, the likes of Das and Adhikari have become aliens in the land they once lorded over.
Since Trinamool’s victory in the rural polls, the leaders have been difficult to access. They confined themselves to the power corridors and forgot the dusty lanes. There are even charges of corruption against some of them. There is such resentment against the leaders for letting the people down that the two Swadeshs now avoid the villages for fear of reprisals. “Let’s not talk about Swadesh here. After Trinamool’s panchayat election victory, their presence is rare in these parts. A year has pas-sed, but there’s been no development work. Tube wells are yet to be repaired.
We have to walk over a kilometre to get water,” said private tutor Khokon Adhikari. Das is now in charge of the public works department of Nandigram-I panchayat samiti and Adhikari is known as a close comrade of leaders like Sheikh Sufian and Abu Taher. Tapasi Das, who had been hit by a tear gas shell during the police firing on March 14, 2007, is yet to get any compensation. “Days after the injury, I received Rs 30,000 from Kerala Congress. That was all. The government hasn’t provided any compensation. Nor have the Trinamool leaders organized any financial aid,” said Tapasi, who still limps.
Kanan, Khokon’s mother, uses the analogy of government relief. “When 10 barracks of flattened rice are despatched, only three reached the affected people. The case is similar here. Money disappears as it trickles down,” she said. Former BUPC leader Abdul Samad (now with Sidiqullah’s People’s Democratic Conference) says his comrades-in-arms, who had become Trinamool leaders, were behaving just like CPM earlier did.

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