RAMGARH: There is no road to this village tucked away in a forest, 58 km from Midnapore town. A winding dirt-track leads to the forest hamlet, interrupted by ponds and ditches. It’s Parkota, a village that has not seen electricity. This is the birthplace of Sidhu Soren alias Bhuta Baskey the topmost Maoist leader to have been killed in Bengal.
On Tuesday morning, a police team from Lalgarh turned up at his mud hut when the Baskey family was busy with their usual chores. A constable handed out a message written in English to the dead rebel’s father Jamadar Baskey and left. Jamadar took it as yet another “police paper” that he has been getting since Bhuta left home to join the Maoists. He kept it along with the other papers he couldn’t read.
The note was about his son’s death. Jamadar had no clue till TOI gently gave him the news. The father broke down. His wail brought his wife Lakshmimani running outside. One look at him, and she knew her worst fears had come true. She collapsed by his side.
The tears quickly gave way to anger. “The government has killed my son. Is this expected from a government? The police could have arrested him, jailed him. But they did what marauders do,” Jamadar said. He isn’t going to bring his son’s body from Midnapore. “Why should I? I won’t bend before the government for help. Let it do whatever it feels like with the body,” an agitated Jamadar said.
Sidhu left home 10 years ago, soon after he took his Madhyamik examination. “There was no trace of him for a month till he sent a message through a courier that we should not worry for him or try to trace him. He said he would not return. We could sense what he was doing when police came to our hut a few days later looking for him. They told us that Bhuta (Sidhu) had become a Maoist and that he had got in touch with the rebels when in school. We didn’t have any inkling of it,” he said.
“My son returned to this area when the movement began in 2008. One of my neighbours saw him in Kantapahari. I and my wife rushed to meet him, but we could not find him. We met him the second day. Bhuta asked about our health and how his other brothers and sisters were doing. He looked quite composed and committed. He left after a few minutes. That was the last we saw of him,” the father said.
The family has eight cottahs of land and Jamadar works as a wage labourer to run the family.
Poverty and oppression are common to most of the young men and women in Jangalmahal who left home to joint the Maoist-led People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA). PLGA member Ganga alias Alo and section commander Arjun alias Biswanath Murmu, who were killed in the Duli encounter last month, come from families that starve for half the year.
Eighteen-year old Ganga hailed from Champashol village in Salboni’s Madhupur. She lived with her brother Sudhan Tudu, a landless labourer. Their family was among the few who did not rally with the CPM. “That was why CPM toughs used to harass my sister and beat her up once for refusing to join their rally. Alo was an introvert. She wouldn’t let anyone know about the anger building in her and joined the Maoists in 2008. She left home this January,” the brother said.
Arjun’s mother Tushu Murmu was shattered by his death but is proud of him. “He did the right thing. He had the guts to fight the CPM harmads. I would appreciate if any other youth from this village takes up the cudgels against the marauders,” said the mother at Kanyabali village.
While moving through one of these villages, TOI met a PLGA area commander of the Bengal-Jharkhand belt. “The Jharkhand government is corrupt. The politicians tried to grab our land too. My brothers were graduates but could not get a job because we have no money to satisfy the powers that be. I chose this route so that families like us do not have to suffer,” he said. TOI