INTERVIEW

They are waiting for me to die

Interview/ Alik Chakraborty, leader, Bhangar “liberated zone”

47-alik-chakraborty The “liberator”: Alik Chakraborty has been sheltered by the villagers for about a year.

If there is one man the Mamata Banerjee government wants, it is Alik Chakraborty. A postgraduate from the University of Calcutta, Chakraborty has been the leading force in “liberating” about a dozen villages in Bhangar. He is currently being sheltered by the villagers and has several layers of security protecting him. For the first time in a year, ever since he went into hiding, Chakraborty spoke to a reporter. Excerpts from an interview with THE WEEK:

You are being regarded as the ruler of a “liberated zone” in Bengal.

[Laughs] Does that create a good impression for a government? There is a liberated zone in the close vicinity of Kolkata, but the West Bengal government is not taking these people seriously. Just imagine the state of affairs.

But, why are you creating trouble for a project that could change the power situation in and around Kolkata?

The government is making fools of these people. The project will not be of any help to the local villages. The grid voltage is a hundred times higher than the local voltage. So, the electricity will have to travel through several substations before reaching the villages. How many substations will they create? Actually, this project is to supply power to neighbouring countries.

The government wants to arrest you at any cost.

If they give in writing that there will be no grid project in high population density areas, and that the project will be withdrawn from here, I will surrender. So, the cost of getting me is very low.

Are you against talks with the government?

Not at all. But, we wanted scientists to be involved in talks to know the impact of the grid on people. The government is engaging the police. Tell me, is this a police subject? The police are trying to bribe villagers, but they cannot be sold.

Why do you think the police is being involved?

This is because the government’s primary objective is to get permission to enter the villages. They [the police] call villagers and tell them to first allow the police to enter. The police would then ask the government to withdraw the project, they say. The villagers are poor and uneducated, but not stupid.

But, the state power minister told THE WEEK that Mamata Banerjee would not let the project happen if the villagers were against it.

She is saying something to her minister and the exact opposite to local Trinamool leaders, who are nothing but goons. She told them that the project has to be completed at any cost.

You said the project was fatal. Why?

Because of the electromagnetic impact and the emission of sulphur hexafluoride gas. The combination could lead to permanent breakdown of the central nervous system and cause damage to foetuses. There are about 273 research papers on this from all around the world. I admit there is no such research paper in India. But, does that mean that we would allow such a risk? Why put people’s lives at stake?

The government wants to get you out of the village. They think the villagers would then crumble under pressure.

Absolutely false. We could fight because the people here are very committed. We are all here to give them support, and necessary guidance.

The police and intelligence officers are tracking your health. They feel you are unwell and your life is at risk. So, they are showing patience.

Yes, they are waiting for me to die. In fact, they would like to spread a lie that I am very sick and not in a position to fight. I would like to tell them, through you, that I am fine and ready for a prolonged fight.

Are you suffering from any ailment?

Yes, I am. I am suffering from Crohn’s disease. I have to maintain a regulated and disciplined life. But, nothing is serious. I am fine.

So, what the police believe is wrong?

I was in hospital for a few days. They could not know that.

Are Maoists helping you?

Maoists do not fight elections. The villagers are. I will not say anything more.