PURULIA: If you can’t change them, change their village. British officer Harold Briggs tried it in Malaya in 1949 and the West Bengal government did it three years ago. But the move seems to have boomeranged.
The entire Kalabera village comprising 36 tribal families was shifted from the top of Ayodhya Hills in Purulia to the plains by the Trinamool government under a strategy to stop Maoists from accessing the forest settlement again.
The move triggered resentment and anger among the evicted villagers and also sent a message to other tribal villages across the region that their settlement could meet the same fate.
The resentment helped the BJP make inroads in the tribal belt. While Trinamool leaders are not campaigning in Ayodhya Hills fearing mass agitation, local leaders of the saffron party have been visiting Kalabera and other villages for two years and raising the issue of the social impact of uprooting tribals from their birthplace. “Instead of developing our village and constructing a road to reach our place, the state government forced us to settle in the foothills,” said Bara Paharia.
Paharia and 170 odd other villagers had to accept the government’s offer as they would have otherwise been branded Maoists’ sympathisers.
The district administration says connecting the village with a road would have been expensive while building houses cost less.
The political cost for Trinamool could be heavy. “Neither the previous Left government, nor the present Trinamool cared about our problems… We need to change our electoral choice and our only option is the new political force emerging here,” said Madan Murmu of Sirkabad village.