Antara Das

For many villagers, there is nothing to go back to

“Our houses have been burnt, our belongings looted”

Their anxiety is compounded by reports of reprisals

Nandigram: The 1,400 people who have taken refuge at the Brajamohan Tiwary High School at Nandigram in West Bengal’s Purbo Medinipur district have left behind all that they had — except their fear and despair.

“What will we go back to?” said Chhayarani Khatua, of Simurgunno village. “Our houses have been burnt, our belongings looted, they even took our domesticated animals away,” she said. It is a difficult co-existence, as after weeks of stalemate, the school has finally opened, with the top floor of the second-storeyed building being taken over for examinations. There are already indications that the school authorities might ask the administration to vacate the building.

Anxiety of homeless

The anxiety of the homeless, mostly supporters or sympathisers of the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh (Resistance Against Land Eviction) Committee (BUPC), here is heightened by reports of reprisals percolating back from those who have tried to return.

“They [the supporters of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)] are imposing heavy penalties, forcibly making the BUPC supporters carry party flags,” said Sabitri Das. “There is absolutely no safety for women and young girls there, who are bearing the brunt of the atrocities,” she said. Education of children has become one of the casualties. As she sits quietly in one of the dingy, overcrowded rooms, 12-year-old Trinayani Das has no idea when she will be able to return to her school at the Gokulnagar area, or whether her textbooks are safe at home.

Ten-year-old Mir Bulu, nursing a bullet injury at the corner of his forehead, has become angry and irritable, his mother said.

“Both the CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress supporters were part of the movement against land eviction,” said Sudarshan Mondol.

The people who fled to Khejuri were mostly CPI(M) leaders and the gram pradhans who had always wanted to give up their land for industry, said another. Women, children and the elderly dominate the camp. Many have fled to other districts.