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In elephant and Maoist country

'Beware, wild animals' corridor,' says the sign at a turn in the road to Rajgram. In this jungle country of Purulia district in West Bengal, elephants often drop by from the Dalma hills in Jharkhand, a state the Banduan block of Purulia juts into.

The pachyderms come for the paddy. Mostly, they come in the dead of night, moving with a quiet surprising for their size, feast on the paddy and the new crops being grown in Banduan like pumpkins, and go back, leaving footprints.

Sometimes, the villagers arrange a halla party -- with fire, drums, and a lot of shouting -- to shoo them away. In the Ayodhya hills in Bagmundi, another Purulia block bordering Jharkhand, the rogue tuskers are known to drink mahua, country wine, when they raid the villages.

But the big animals are the smallest of your worries here in the interiors of Banduan. This is terror country.

On October 11, 2003, Maoist guerrillas killed the Banduan police's officer in charge, Neel Madhab Das, who was leading a patrol near Kantagram village. First, a landmine exploded, and then came the ambush.

On July 9 last year, the outlawed rebels gunned down Mahendra Mahato, a local Communist Party of India-Marxist leader.

On the night of December 31, 2005, about 50 Maoist guerrillas entered the house of CPI-M district secretariat member Rabindranath Kar in Bhomragarh village. They blew up the front wall and burnt Kar and his wife Anandamoyee Kar alive, and fled into the jungles.

The police camps in Rajgram, Kuchia and even the block headquarter of Banduan have come under repeated attack.

Text: Sumit Bhattacharya | Photographs: Baishampayan Saha

Also See:
Complete Coverage: Assembly Elections 2006

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