The removal of Maoist fear from the minds of electorate turned the Election day into a festival on Monday.
Places including Belpahari, Netai, Lalgarh and Jamboni were enough to recollect the horror which once gripped the people here. Polls in erstwhile Maoist infested 18 Assembly constituencies in West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura were scheduled on a separate date.
But a change in mindset was witnessed in Jangalmahal on Monday. The villagers did not feel the risk of their lives while reaching the polling stations. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had over and again claimed that “Peace has been restored in Jangalmahal and people here are smiling”. Her claims turned out to be true when thousands of fearless villagers queued up outside the polling booths since morning to cast their votes. Many were found walking a few kilometres to reach the polling station. Palpable excitement was witnessed among groups heading towards the booths. Leaving all their work, women in large number turned up and exercised their power. People carried water as they braved the temperature of around 39 degree in the region. They were found asking jawans of the Central Force, who were posted at a distance from the polling stations, whether there was a long queue of the voters. Even elderly people cast their votes. It may be recalled that nine villagers including four women were killed and 28 others were injured when CPI(M) backed goons opened fire on January 7, 2011. Besides this incident hundreds of people were killed in the region due to the Maoist insurgency. Despite taking measures, the previous governments, both in the Centre and the state, failed to check the Maoist activities in the state. During 2011 Assembly elections, people had risked their lives to cast their votes as it was a common practice of the Maoists to make people boycott the election. This time villages came out fearlessly and there was no one to threaten them with dire consequences.
In Netai Primary School 763 out of 949 voters cast their votes by 2 pm and 50 per cent of the electorates exercised their powers before 10 am. The picture was quite similar all over Jangalmahal. The jawans of the Central Force too did not witness much trouble as people didn’t face any problem in reaching to the booths. Instead, the women from local villages on way to the polling booths were found offering drinking water to the jawans. Nandarani Murmu, a local resident, said that she and her family members had cast their votes fearlessly. “Earlier we used to be in a dilemma whether to go to cast our votes as Maoists’ threat used trouble our mind,” said another resident of the area.