Daughters flee out of rapists’ reach in Nandigram

published on March 20, 2007

Daughters flee out of rapists’ reach



Nandigram, March 18: Sixty-year-old Mahitosh Das tiptoes out of his house every night with daughter Lakshmi, 18, and hurries to a cluster of bushes nearby where they sit cowering till daybreak.

Most other families have sent their daughters away from Nandigram — out of the reach of rapists using the battle over land to prey on women.


“My 14-year-old son, Tapas, guards my wife and house while I take my 18-year-old daughter, Lakshmi, near a pond a little away from the house and hide behind the bushes every night,” said Mahitosh, a resident of Sonachura.


After the gangrape of a CPM supporter’s wife at Kalicharanpur on March 3, allegedly by villagers opposed to land acquisition, frightened parents from both the warring sides are sending their daughters away to safety.


Since violence broke out in Nandigram, young women from at least 500 families have left for the homes of relatives or friends.

The complaint by two women of rape by men in uniform during Wednesday’s police action has meant sleepless nights for Mahitosh, who doesn’t have anywhere he can send Lakshmi.

The CPM local leadership has asked supporters in Sonachura, Gangra, Kalicharanpur and the neighbourhood to send all girls between 12 and 22 away to relatives’ houses.


“We are under terrible stress trying to arrange for our supporters to return home. We have to think about the safety of the young girls,” said Niranjan Mondal, secretary of the Sonachura local committee.


But CPM workers have been accused of turning on women whose fathers or husbands are part of the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee.


When party workers, who had to flee home in January in the wake of the anti-land acquisition movement, returned to Sonachura on Thursday emboldened by the police action, they searched out Nanigopal Sith’s house in Sithpara.


Nanigopal, a local leader of the Pratirodh Committee, had fled after the firing.


“Angry CPM workers came in search of Nanigopal in the afternoon. ‘Your husband had realised fines from us. Now you pay up Rs 5,000 immediately. If you can’t, you will have to send your daughter to us at night,’ they threatened us. Early next morning I took my 15-year-old daughter, Daibaki, and left her at a relative’s house near Nandigram hospital,” said Tararani, Nanigopal’s wife.


On the other side of the land divide, Moni Paik, the mother of two young daughters, has chosen the security of the CPM camp in Tekhali over her house in Sonachura’s Paikpara. “We who have young daughters at home cannot take any chances.”


Pratirodh committee leaders, of course, deny the charge. “Our supporters have not targeted young daughters and wives of CPM supporters. They have fled on their own out of fear,” said convener Sabuj Pradhan.

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