Lalgarh: Freed, women ‘warriors’ battle tears – Bailed-out 14 blame police
Posted by Admin on October 24, 2009
Subharani Baskey in tears outside Midnapore Central Jail. She said she had gone out to see what was happening when police picked her up. (Samir Mondal)
Midnapore, Oct. 23: The Lalgarh women whose bail order won the release of officer Atindranath Dutta yesterday stepped out of jail with tears in their eyes this morning.
Among the 14 charged by the government with waging war against the state were those who alleged that they were picked up from home or while looking out to see what the commotion was about.
Grey-haired and grandmotherly Subharani Baskey was inconsolable. “I was at home when I heard that the police were arresting our women. I went out to see what was happening. They caught me and dragged me to their Kantapahari camp,” said Subharani, 55.
Padmamoni, 30, said she was dragged out of her home. “I did not know what was happening. Suddenly, a group of policemen barged into my house, dragged me out and marched me to the camp.”
As Padmamoni slowly wa-lked out of the jail gate after 50 days in captivity, she hugged the others in the group and sobbed. “I have a husband and two sons aged 10 and six and I want to rush home to see them,” she said during the trek to the bus stand 1.5km away.
The police had raided their village on September 3, a day after tasting rare success in a gun battle with the Maoists. In the eight-hour encounter, the joint forces had killed at least two of their opponents and many rebels were believed to have been hit.
“We had raided Teshabandh village following a tip-off that some of the injured Maoists were being treated there,” an officer said today.
He added that the women had put up “organised resist- ance against them, armed with bows and arrows, knives, daggers and even pipe guns”. “The Maoists had used the women as a shield.”
Pratima Patra, 35, an activist of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, admitted resisting the police, but denied her Maoist links. “The police entering our village means they will go door-to-door and torture us. So we went to prevent them from entering our village. We are not Maobadi and were not carrying any deadly weapons.”
Sumi Mandi, 36, who lives in an adjoining village, echoed her. “As soon as we heard that the police had entered Teshabandh, we rushed there. The police arrested us and took us to Kantapahari. They accused us of helping the Maoists, beat us up and threw us behind bars. But we had done no wrong,” she asserted.
The women were charged with offences like rioting with deadly weapons, attempt to murder, waging a war against the state, raising funds to wage a war against state, sedition and under the arms act.
Today, many of them were not aware of why they were being released all of a sudden. Told that Maoist leader Kishanji had sought their release in exchange for the Sankrail OC, Pratima said: “We don’t know how we were released, but I thank whoever arranged it.”
When the women walked out of Midnapore Central Jail, their lawyer gave them Rs 180 for the trip back home.
A lone man was among those released — not because Kishanji had wanted it, but because he had been picked up during the same raid. Ramdulal Mandi said he was walking towards the Kantapahari bazaar, about 3km from Teshabandh, when the police “pounced” on him.
All of them will have to be produced in court during the next hearing on October 29