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CPM leader held ‘hostage’ in Nandigram

CPM leader held ‘hostage’ in Nandigram

Nandigram, Jan. 24: Lakshman Mondal, the CPM chief of the Sonachura panchayat, left for the bazaar around 7 am on January 7.

An hour later, about 150 people opposed to land acquisition stormed his two-storey mud house. It was ransacked, doused with diesel and set on fire.

Trembling, his wife Shukla grabbed her three-year-old daughter and five-year-old son and fled through a rear exit. A neighbour rescued her two other sons — one of them 10 and the other two years older.

Lakshman heard in the bazaar that his house had been attacked and headed to Khejuri, a CPM stronghold about a kilometre away. “He was caught by another mob on the bridge at Bhangabera,” said a villager.

Since then, Lakshman, 40, is being held hostage by the land acquisition protesters.
Police admitted knowing about his plight, but added that they would not launch a rescue mission fearing a repeat of the January 7 flare-up in which seven villagers were killed.

“I have not seen my husband since he left for the bazaar that day. A few days ago, some villagers said he was safe, but couldn’t come home as he could be lynched,” said Shukla, the uncertainty in her life apparent in the lines on her forehead and the teardrop waiting to brim over.

Until the land war broke, the Mondals were a happy family. Lakshman tilled a three-bigha plot and earned rent from a shop he had hired out to a sweetmeat dealer.

“I’ve sent my children to another village and am staying at a relative’s house,” said Shukla. “We will leave Sonachura for good if they release my husband.”
“Lakshman is safe, but we can’t say what will happen if CPM workers or the police try to take him away,” said Bakul Dev Das, a Trinamul Congress member of the Sonachura panchayat.
Sabuj Pradhan, a Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee leader, said the villagers were “very angry” with Lakshman for his pro-industry stand. “They’ll kill him if he is seen in the village. We’ll not reveal where he is now.”

A villager added that the committee would use Lakshman as a shield if the police try to enter Sonachura to probe the bloodbath earlier this month.

“The CPM leadership had informed us about Lakshman Mondal’s disappearance. We inquired into it and found that he was somewhere in Sonachura. We did not progress any further,” said Ashok Dutta, the East Midnapore superintendent of police.

A senior officer, however, said the murder of Nandigram panchayat samiti member and Sonachura resident Sankar Samanta on January 6 was still fresh in the administration’s mind. “We’ll not take any hasty step that might put Lakshman in danger.”

The chief of the Kalicharanpur panchayat, Samerun Biwi, is also in hiding since January 3.
The administration, which has been planning a meeting with panchayat members to finalise a roster for the re-pair of roads dug up by the acquisition protesters, is now in a quandary. “With the chiefs of two key panchayats missing, there is a problem at hand,” an official said.


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posted by Bimal 25.1.07,


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