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Tale of Nandigram boy soldiers

Posted by Indian Vanguard on November 21, 2007

NANDIGRAM: At any other time, in any other circumstance, Sukanto, Sushanto, Nayimuddin, Najimuddin would
have been like any other child growing up in rural Bengal, splashing around in the village pond, going to school and preparing for the Madhyamik examination. But in Nandigram, they have learnt to make bombs.

The children of Nandigram are the worst victims of the 11-month-old gunbattle for domination. In these 11 months they have learnt the difference between “us” and “them”. Like their parents, these four children and countless others, had fiercely protected their land.

The children of Nandigram have lost their innocence. They have picked up the technique of making crude bombs, they know when and how to hurl them. They have learnt how to dodge the splinters. They know about guns and bullets. They have learnt to hate.

Driven away from their homes, they have taken shelter in a refugee camp in Braja Mohan Tiwary high school in Nandigram. They know that returning home won’t be easy. And, they are prepared for that.

“If I had a gun I would show them,” says Shahuddin Khan of Satengabari. “Them” are the CPM cadres and police. Till last year, Shahuddin loved school. Today, he is not sure whether he will be able to appear for the Madhyamik examination. His family first came to the refugee camp on November 12. Three days later, they returned home. But couldn’t stay there even for a day. Their home was burnt and their belongings looted.

Shahuddin rues he didn’t have a gun that day. “My father doesn’t allow me to shoot but I know how to use a gun. I picked it up from watching the elders,” he says.

For all its support from villagers, Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee would not have been able to carry on with the 11-month siege without the help of these children. They carried arms and ammunition, worked as messenger boy and were posted as sentries when the elders rested.

“At every rally, we were in the front row. When our parents took rest we went to the village borders and stood on guard,” says Sheikh Nayimuddin, a Class V student. Nayim, his twin brother Najim and another younger brother escaped to the camp from their home at Gokulnagar’s Keshabpur. Their mother joined them two days later at the camp. Their father Mir Ali, an embroidery worker who joined hands with BUPC is absconding from the village.

Sukanto Mandal, from Keyakhali, used to take food for his father Sahadeb and others who battled the cadres from roughly dug trenches. His elder brother, Sushanto was given more responsible work. He had to ferry guns, ammunition and bombs to the bunkers. He and some more boys regularly crossed over to the other side to bring bullets. ” Dana furiye gele niye aastam (when they ran out of bullets, I used to bring it),” says Sushanto.

After CPM cadres stormed into Ranichak, Sahadeb fled his village. His sons were threatened by the cadres but stayed on. “One day, a bullet hit very close to where Tonu, a girl from our neighbourhood, was standing. We knew the time had come to leave,” says Sukanto. “But the battle is not over. We can’t return home till we drive the CPM men away.”


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