It was a very happy occasion for us veterans with advancing years to thrive and prosper on the occasion, and it was on 8 September. The place was Ramgarh. This is the cluster of villages amidst deep, dense forestry, where the killers, who call themselves ‘Maoists,’ had first committed the heinous crime of shooting and leaving to die painfully, muttering agonising but feeble cries for water to drink before passing away thence into history, the first martyr of a dark dawn, a CPI (M) worker and a poor peasant, Comrade Nandalal Pal.
The initial killing was followed by the taking of the lives in the cruellest manners imaginable of CPI(M) workers, and poor farmers all – Comrades Gopinath Murmu, Behari Bhunia, Sankar Hansda and Sankar Pal, all but Comrade Sankar Pal were members of different tribal communities. Many more such vile acts followed. Smell of terror hung over the villages as a pall of plague.
THE TERROR – NOW GONE
This is the place where the Trinamuli supremo had been driven around, a close week or so before, riding pillion to one of the PCAPA ‘leaders,’ on a motorbike, she back-slapping, as the TV cameras rolled, those very sinister creatures of the dim who had killed Comrade Nandalal.
The outpouring on 8 September of the poor and the toiling, the downtrodden and the anguished, the men, the women, the children, the victim and the ill, even the old and the infirm assured us that the jangal mahal would never ever be allowed to lapse back into a reign of terror, ever.
The moving scene for us was the moment when the Red Flag was hoisted and left fluttering in the breezy and hot summer-like conditions, under the intense blue of the open. That the process of the symbolic rally held afterwards at the very spot where the man-hunters had roamed even a fortnight back, made a great many of the marchers cry their hearts out in sobbing great tears openly, and not silently, was expected – but truth to tell, it was a rare occasion of basic emotional nature for us to witness the droplets of joy and relief roll down the gnarled cheeks of the old, and the taut faces of the young.
TRAGEDY - AND THE TRIUMPH
We recalled then with more-than-a-tinge of tragedy the manner in which the depradationists had run amuck for twenty long months, of the dark of the terror-filled days and death-ridden nights, here at Ramgarh area, for far too long this had gone, the villagers had decide then and there— and the CPI(M) had organised them as befitting a vanguard Party of the working class and the toiling masses.
The masses turned, no longer willing to be amidst the shadow of fear-- and the ‘Maoists’ were on the run - any police action was not in the calculation of the common of the dust and the dirt, the grass and the forest, the flower and the strongly-scented wild fruit. They were disgusted with the quality of low-life they had suffered and they chose to march, and the future, they knew, could only get worse, horribly, disturbingly, agonisingly so if they chose not to act and the time was now.
The local leadership of the CPI (M) told us in grave details the expected manner the attackers, complete with their baiters in such ‘political’ outfits as the Trinamulis, and the different gangs of common criminals (the ranks often merged into one another, we must put an interjecting note here, and their abetters in the ranks of the lurking former jotdars, smaller zamindars, and the money-lending sahukars) chose flight as the better part of valour. They fled, and fled and then fled again.
CELEBRATION- AND TEARS OF JOY
The villagers who crowded around in the rally came from the remotest hamlets with such quaint and to us, townsfolk, quite exotic names in their earthy linguistic deconstruction, tribal with each having a connation related to the tribal life at the centre of which remained the tree and the grass.
The villages were DhyangBhahara, Pitrakhuli, Balibandh, Patharnala, Belasole, Sitalpore, Neriah, Joaldanga, Birghasa, Shusunia, and Majurkata, and many others. During one of the sweeps, the villagers caught hold of the local criminal who had been made ill-famed by the left deviationists as ‘Bullet’ Mahato, his given name long buried in a mire of blood of martyrs. He was duly handed over to the police, untouched, unhandled but being forced to walk as a crowd of thousands looked intently at him, he with eyes low, shoulders in a stoop, walk reduced to a creep.
The marchers went on and rejoiced, sang, and danced, and beat up a storm of the resonance of the large kettle drum. We lingered behind, hope burgeoning, and despair in hasty, inglorious retreat. The people had spoken – the jangal mahal had given a grateful listen. Lalgarh is now at a distance of - a days’ worth of march - eight short kilometres.