Raktima Bose

INAYATPUR (PASCHM MEDINIPUR DISTRICT): Eight months into her pregnancy, fear and confusion was writ large on the face of Kabita Dolui of Doluipara village here on Tuesday.

After spending a terrifying Monday night listening to the gunbattle that raged about 30 km from Lalgarh between the Maoists and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) activists, Kabita is not sure whether to flee the village with her two children, like many others, or wait till her husband returns from Kolkata where he works as a labourer.

Most residents of the village, which is located a stone’s throw away from the CPI(M) local committee office, share Kabita’s anxiety and apprehension.

“Our village was never disturbed by any kind of Maoist activity earlier. It was the first time we experienced something like this,” said Milon Dolui, who earns a living by binding beedis (a thin cigarette made of tobacco, wrapped in a tendu leaf and secured with a coloured thread at one end).

In this impoverished village, where binding beedis is the main source of income, the residents are so terrified after the Monday incident that they dare not carry on with their work, fearing a violent backlash any moment.

Several families were seen fleeing the village on the day. When asked the reason, almost all had the same thing to say: “In this battle between the big powers, we end up suffering the most. There is no security here, so it is better that we leave.”

When asked about the seemingly fortified CPI(M) office in the neighbourhood, with its bunker-like roofs and its occupants, most villagers feigned ignorance.

“I have heard they are homeless people from different parts of the district, but they do not socialise with us. We do not know who stays there,” said Bablu Dey.