This first-person report first appeared in the Doinik Statesman, Kolkata, 20 April 2008 and was translated by Soumya Guhathakurta and published in Sanhati on 21 April 2008
Honourable Chief Minister, I am the same Radharani Ari of Nandigram. How many more times will your cadres rape me?
Yes, I am the same person. The same Radharani Ari, resident of Nandigram Block, village – Gokulpur. Whether or not you remember me, I am not too sure, although by now the entire state of West Bengal has heard about me. I did not catch the limelight due to some creditable act of mine but on account of my misfortunes. I am a housewife of, by now infamous, Nandigram. My spouse is a marginal farmer with a holding of 3 bighas (1 Bigha = 0.1338 hectare) and this piece of agricultural land is our only source of a hand to mouth existence for our family. Other than me and my spouse we have six children – four daughters and two sons. When the movement against land acquisition started in Nandigram, when your party cadre along with policemen wearing slippers pounced on our village with bombs and guns, I was there along with all the others in the movement against land acquisition, to resist the onslaught. These people in the resistance movement were our neighbours, neighbours with whom we have lived in harmony for the past three generations. They were all agriculturists, thousands of us, men and women.
On 14 March 2007 my world went in to turmoil. I was no more to remain a homemaker in an obscure village. On that day I evolved to Radharani Ari. Since morning of that fateful day there was news in the air that police would be coming to break the resistance movement. Since dawn, before daybreak, hordes of people from the villages had gathered at Sonachura, beside Talpati canal. Children and women were in the forefront of the gathering. What happened next is known to all and known the best to you. Police and your party cadres in police uniform fired and advanced towards us and we were forced to retreat, the gathering was scattered helter-skelter and I finally took refuge in what I till then thought were the safe confines of my home. But it was safe no more.
At 2 pm in the afternoon of that day CPI(M) cadres had entered our house and they were all local faces known to me. Their names are Badal Garudas, Kalipada Garudas & Snehangshu Das. What followed can only be termed as behaviour of monstrous proportions and I became unconscious. I was later found in a nearby field and brought home by my husband. Sonachura, was surrounded and blockaded for the next two days and I could be taken to Nandigram hospital only after the siege was lifted. The aforesaid three persons were named by me to the police but the police did not record their names. I repeated their names to the CBI investigation team that came to investigate the 14 March incidents at Nandigram. I also mentioned the names to Balbir Ram one of the CBI officers. Badal and Kalipada were picked up by CBI but are you aware of the fate of Snehangshu?
Snehangshu Das is the CPI(M) candidate, in the forthcoming Panchayat elections, contesting the Gokulnagar gram panchayat from booth no. 167.
I have not hesitated in proclaiming that I have been raped, gang raped. I have said this in Kolkata, in Delhi, in Chennai, in Thiruvananthapuram. I have said, what I have said, with the hope I will get justice and the perpetrators of this horrendous crime on me will be punished. You had visited Nandigram recently and we heard your speech, your plea seeking forgiveness. There was supposedly a ‘new dawn’ over Nandigram but did things really change?
Yesterday evening (April 18, 2008) at 10 pm CPI(M) had taken out a procession that abruptly ended after half an hour. Suddenly a group of people attacked our house. “Open the door, you will meet your fate this time!” they shouted as they banged on the door and started breaking it with axes and hoes. The door finally gave in and the hooligans entered our house and attacked my son and my spouse. Hurt badly they fell down on the ground. The intruders forcibly lifted me and carried me away. Later my son, Bapi Adhikary and my spouse, Ajit Adhikary found me in a nearby field and brought me back home. I had to again retrace my steps to Nandigram hospital exactly 13 months and 5 days after I had been discharged from that place.
Honourable Chief Minister, this time again I recognised the perpetrators of this heinous crime on me. They are the same Snehangshu Das and Gurupada Patra, Manik Patra, Purna Das, Prakash Das, Raja Garu Das. I do not know whether they will be punished for their crime. I do not know whether you will come again to Nandigram and what you will say, what assurances you will give. I have realised that we will have to continue to live like this at your mercy and at the mercy of your police and party cadres.
Your speeches are sound bytes only, meant for audiences at meetings and not for gang rape victims like me. Or else how could I have had to survive hell, not once but twice. How can the perpetrator of that crime, twice over, be a CPI(M) party candidate in the forthcoming Panchayat election. Honourable Chief Minister, what have you got to say.