PURULIA: As a fallout of the terror spread due to double deaths of BJP workers in Dava and
Supurdi villages of West Bengal's Purulia district, BJP's youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) has formed Gram Suraksha Samiti (Village Protection Force) in 60 of the 90 villages in Balarampur block of Purulia district to guard the villages from what they call 'TMC terror'. The vigilante groups have received support and encouragement of the state BJP leadership.
Armed typically with swords, bows and arrows and batons, most of the vigilantes are BJYM members who worked for BJP in the panchayat elections. The saffron party swept Balarampur block in the
recently-concluded panchayat elections and have claimed that the two deaths were a fallout of that victory.
Both the deceased BJP workers Trilochan Mahato and Dulal Kumar were missing throughout the night and their dead bodies were found next morning on May 30 and June 2 respectively.
"We have formed the booth-level Gram Suraksha Samitis in 60 of the 90 villages of the block and divided each booth into five groups. Each group consists of 12-15 people on motorbikes and on foot. The Samiti members are stationed at the junctions and centres of the villages and regulate the movement of people at night. We question people moving at the night. If we find someone suspicious, we detain them throughout the night. BJP leader Mukul Roy visited us, congratulated our effort and asked us to be more vigilant," said BJYM Balarampur block president Chotulal Mahato.
So, according to rough estimates, there may be somewhere around 3,500 to 4,000 armed men guarding the villages of Balarampur block of Purulia throughout the night.
"TMC members have become scared seeing our organisational strength. I don't think they will dare to kill any more of our workers," he added. BJP has accused West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew and Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek Banerjee of instigating TMC workers in Purulia to make the district 'oppositionless', which the saffron party claims was a cue to kill BJP workers.
However, BJYM has ruled out speculations of the vigilante groups attacking TMC workers in retaliation against the deaths of the two BJP workers given that many of the BJYM members in the Village
Protection Committees were college-mates of Trilochan Mahato and relatives and acquantainces of Dulal Kumar.
"We have formed these local protection groups for our self-defence as the police is incapable of providing us security. We will not harm TMC men if we are not harmed by them," Mahato added.
The guard duty has been gruelling for many of the college students who have to stay awake throughout the night and attend college the next day.
"Most of the villages are terrorised after the double deaths. Hence, we have taken the responsibility of protecting our villages. It is tiring as we have to stay awake the whole night and attend college the next day. But, this pain is not more than losing your college-mate and a fellow BJYM member," said 21-year-old Sandeep Mahato (name changed).
Such armed Village Protection Forces of local youth were previously formed in Balarampur and other Left Wing Extremism-affected regions of the western districts of Purulia, Bankura and Paschim
Medinipur (now part of Jhargram district) during the 2008-11 Maoist insurgency in the sunset years of the Left Front rule to prevent Maoist attacks on CPM leaders and supporters.
Armed local vigilante groups were also formed by both CPM and TMC cadres during the land agitation in Nandigram in Purba Medinipur of West Bengal in 2007-08.
For several old timers of the Village Protection Forces who were active during the Maoist insurgency years and have joined the BJYM groups, not much has changed. "The need to protect villages come
from only one thing -- terror. The Maoists who had then spread terror by killing CPM leaders are now part of the ruling party after their surrender. So, effectively our enemy remains the same," said Bikash Mahato (name changed).