PURULIA: Poverty, low power voltage, dusty roads, mud houses, no bathrooms, seasonal migration and small land holdings – there are fewer reasons for the residents of Purulia’s Dava and Supurdi villages to smile.
Hence, politics is what interests the nearly 2500 voters of Supurdi and Dava. But, they paid dearly for their interest, not once but twice a decade apart.
While residents of the two villages claim that their sons Trilochan Mahato (of Supurdi) and Dulal Kumar (of Dava) were murdered by hanging for their close association with BJP, both the villages saw three deaths of active CPM leaders during the Maoist heyday of 2008-09.
However, the modus operandi was different. Former Zila Parishad president Baikuntha Mahato and CPM local committee member Bibhuti Singh were gunned down by Maoists after a village fair on April 23, 2009 in Supurdi.
A year before, local committee member Sashadhar Kumar was pumped with bullets in his sleep on the terrace of his house by Maoists in Dava.
“Me, Baikuntha and Bibhuti were chatting after a village fair. Maoists came and shot at them from a distance. Both of them died on the spot. They asked me to throw away my ‘Tangi’ (local axe) which I
did but they shot me at my waist and I fell on the ground,” said 52-year-old Rajkishore Mahato, who is an active BJP worker now. A ‘martyrs’ memorial’ for the two fallen comrades have been erected on Baikuntha Mahato’s land.
An estimated 700 people died during the peak of Maoist insurgency in the western districts of West Bengal from 2008-12. Many of them were killed in kangaroo courts or murdered for being
associated with the then ruling party CPM.
“The present ruling party is more dangerous than the Maoists who had come from Jharkhand. We lived in fear during the killings by Maoists but never had to leave the village. But after Trilochan’s death,
many villagers who had moved to the outskirts of the village by building houses in isolation have returned to the village core to feel secured by staying together. If this is not terror, what is?” said slain CPM leader Baikuntha Mahato’s nephew Bijoy Mahato, a BJP leader.
For Dava’s newly-elected BJP panchayat pradhan Bhutnath Kumar (60), a witness to Sashadhar Kumar’s murder in 2008, the present times are a reminder of the past. “After watching Sashadhar being gunned down, we had fled the village and returned only after months. However, the same Maoist symathisers surrendered after 2011 and are now Trinamool Congress leaders. Hence, people voted for BJP as the only alternative left,” he said.
Alleged corruption in the grassroots has also made Dava residents against the ruling party. “People have worked for MGNREGA but not got any money, sanctions released for building toilets have been
usurped by local TMC leaders. One has to pay a hefty sum to get benefit of Indira Awas Yojna. Even one has to bribe to get old-age pension. Though the state government built roads, but we are vexed with local TMC leaders. We will support anyone who fights against injustice, their ideology does not really matter to us,” said local resident Mangal Singh Sardar.
Of the 13 seats in Dava Gopaldi Gram Panchayat, BJP won 10 while TMC won 3 in the recently-concluded panchayat elections. The ruling party won 12 of the 13 seats in 2013 while CPM had won one
seat. The contest was tougher in 2008 when CPM won 8 seats and TMC won 5.