DULAL Chakraborty recalls that it was four days after the May 2 poll results when a group of “local Trinamool workers” arrived at his mud house in Mahisda village in the Keshpur area of Paschim Medinipur district. Chakraborty and his son Somnath, both BJP employees, were already living at a relative’s house, he says, fearing retaliation. The men told the family to stay “ghorbandi (in the house)” and not be seen anywhere outside.
Chakraborty later realized that he and his son were on a list of 16 local BJP supporters and two CPM members allegedly prepared by the Trinamool for a social boycott. After the list went viral, the police sprang into action. By the time they arrived at Chakraborty’s house to reassure the family that the ‘ghorbandi’ was illegal, it had been 15 days and his decision had been made: the 59-year-old and his family cut all ties with the BJP.
The TMC claims that it has not issued a leaflet with such a list. The suo motu police have filed a case against “unknown persons”, and only recently arrested four people, all TMC supporters, for spreading “rumours”. They are out on bail.
But for Chakraborty and others, the “fear” was real. After being locked up for days until police intervention, several claim they have left the BJP.
The social boycott in Mahisda and other places following the results of the Bengal Assembly was among the issues raised by the BJP, including Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and MP Swapan Dasgupta. The NHRC report, commissioned by the Calcutta Supreme Court, was highly critical of Mamata Banerjee’s government.
The list, prints of which were in circulation, was called ‘Mahisda All India Trinamool Congress’ and read in Bengali: ‘Partyr anumoti chara ai somostho byaktider kono jinish potro bikroy kora jabe na. Cha dokandander uddeshhe janano jay, ayi byaktider cha dewa jabe na (Nothing may be sold to these people without the party’s permission. Tea sellers may be told not to serve tea to these people)’. Violators were threatened with “punishment”.
SP, Paschimi Medinipur, Dinesh Kumar says: “Good research has been done. The police continued to take confidence-building measures and asked people not to heed such rumours. The situation is now normal.”
Speaking of the TMC links of the four arrested – Pintu Chakraborty, Manas Bhuiyan, Sujash Pramanik and Rabin Das – Uttamananda Tripathi, president of the party’s Keshpur bloc, said: “They can be our supporters, but not our workers. They didn’t cooperate with us in this Assembly election… As soon as we got the news (from the list), we asked the police to take action.
Chakraborty, a farmer who owns 2 bighas of land, says he has never seen the list himself. “The group of TMC employees who visited my house beat up my cousin Surajit. Two days later, another group said we were not allowed to leave our houses, even to our fields.”
Chakraborty says Keshpur Police Station staff were very polite when they visited them. “They told us not to worry, that we were free to do our job. They also gave us their numbers to call in case of problems… But I can’t afford this. We’re sorry. I also told Somnath to leave the BJP.” Somnath was the general secretary of the Keshpur Purba Mandal of the BJP.
Narayan Middya, 36, the vice president of BJP Keshpur Purba Mandal, lives about 20 minutes from Chakraborty’s house. The family claims they faced a month-long “boycott”. Though it’s over now, Middya says he still fears returning to his job as a licensed lawyer at the land registry office in Keshpur.
Alleged TMC men landed at Middya’s house and looted it on May 3. While he left the house at 3 a.m. to escape them, the men reportedly returned a few days later and told his family to stay home at all times. Friends brought vegetables and other necessities at night because the joint family of 10, including his wife and three children, couldn’t leave the house, Middya says.
According to Middya, he has lived with the violent politics of the area for more than 23 years, having joined the CPM in 1998, when the area was a left-wing stronghold. “It turned into a TMC bastion after 2011. We understood that we couldn’t fight the TMC who is left-wing. That is why we joined the BJP in 2017.”
Now, Middya says, “No one can be here at BJP. Like others, I have decided to get out of politics altogether.”
Haradhan Maal, who lives near the Mahisda Bus Stand with his wife and two children, says he learned about the “boycott” when he went to a tea stall about a week after the result. “The shop owner said he can’t serve me. I just got home and stayed inside.”
Later, Maal wrote a letter to the TMC saying he made a mistake in joining the BJP and asking for a pardon.
“I wrote that I am ready to join the TMC. Yet the boycott was not ended.” The restrictions were not lifted until police officers visited him about 20 days later, he says. “They have asked me not to follow a boycott.”
Goutam Mal, 24, also on the “boycott” list, says job hopes drew him to the BJP. His parents next to him in their mud house, Gautam says, “I am a graduate and also have a teacher training. But like me, thousands are unemployed. We thought that when the BJP comes to power, there will be more employment, teacher vacancies will be filled… We never thought that after the victory, the TMC would attack us, ban us like this.”
The CPM executives on the “boycott” list are Panchu Mal and Dibyendu Mondol. Dibyendu, a teacher, says he is not surprised by the violence. “Such politics has been conducted in Keshpur for a long time. It is difficult to engage in opposition politics here. Now people see a naked form of it.”
Mahisda TMC leader Arun Roy rejects such claims, saying, “There are flags of all parties here.”
TMC Keshpur MLA Sheuli Saha claims that the party in Mahisda village is not even that strong to “issue such fatwas”.
“Someone intentionally caused this incident.”