RAMGARH: Her son and daughter-in-law had fled to Midnapore town on June 15, the day when Maoists torched Ramgarh police station. But septuagenarian Renu Ray refused to leave her homestead land at Amladanga. Since then, the old woman is living by herself, with hardly anything to eat.
Her eyes glistened with hope as security forces marched past Alamdanga, the village close to Ramgarh. She welcomed the forces, but at the same time, was afraid of the consequences after they withdrew from the area. "I am cut off from my family, and the world outside. My landphone is dead and BSNL employees don't tread to this dreaded place. I am here taking care of the cattle that my son has left behind. The Maoists have been a curse upon us. Grocers won't open the shops lest PCPA men charge them hefty amounts. Some upped the shutters only today, when news spread that the central forces were coming to the area. But that was only for half an hour. They were closed as soon as the Maoists arrived at the market. I walked all the way from home to buy rations and didn't get any," Ray said.
This seems to be the other facet of the Maoist-dominated People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA), that had unleashed a reign of fear in the area to counter police terror. The disgruntled opened up only after the security forces marched into the area.
Another retired government employee, living in the area, grumbled over the extortions going on for all these months. "I am a retired government employee and survive on pension. These men would not spare me even. I had to give Rs 500 every month to these people who came to my house with guns. It's good that the forces have come to our rescue. They will come back again when forces leave the place," the retired employee said.
This was the common refrain among the womenfolk who were left at the mercy of PCPA, while the youths in the families fled from the villages. Jharna Das of Amladanga recounted how PCPA men forced them to join their meetings. "They won't allow us to venture out after sundown. The PCPA took control of the villages in the evening and asked us to join their meetings. They rebuked us if we didn't turn up in the meeting. Such was the rule. Our relatives stopped coming to our place," said Das.
Meet Sukumar Soren of Mohultol. A jawan of the state armed police posted at Barrackpore, Sukumar is now under cover. "I have not disclosed my identity here. What do I do? I have sent my wife and children to Sarenga. I am living here alone to protect my home and cattle. I don't want any confrontation with PCPA," said Soren.
There is no one to care for elderly residents such as Lakshmi Tudu (70) of Shiertola village, left to fate with her ailing husband for the last fortnight. "We are surviving on forest roots and kalmi sag. Buses have stopped plying since a fortnight. I can't take my husband to Goaltore, 10 km from here. Two days ago I pleaded with the local grocers to give me some rice. They refused, out of fear," Lakshmi said.