The memories are low, but the scars are deep.
There are exactly 50 years, police inspector Sonam Wangdi died Naxalbari during a peasant revolt that quickly fell into a fire that has caused large areas of India and killed hundreds of people. Wangi was the first victim of what is now known around the world as the Naxal movement.
But Lhadom Wangdi, the police widow, said all the deaths, including her husband’s, were in vain. “The Naxal movement could only be justified because the innocent people died … my husband was unarmed, his death was a great loss.”
What the 81-year-old stings today is how her husband’s death has been reduced to a footnote in the remarkable history of the Naxalbari movement. For four decades only Rs 1300 has been collected as his monthly pension. Recently spent Rs 3000. “Is not that ridiculous?” Lhadom, a doctor by profession, gave birth to her son in July 1967 and now lives with her two children in Darjeeling. Sonam won the medal of the police chief, but was quickly forgotten even in the hill town where a small road takes its name. To avoid painful memories, the family left its range in Siliguri, which for 30 years has housed the state intelligence office, an ironic strategy of coordination to defeat the left radical ideology that killed Sonam.
Sadananda Roy Chowdhury has not been so lucky. 60-year-old boy is near Naxalbari surrounded by the families of the killers of his grandfather Nagen, the first owner to be lynched by the Naxalites a month before Sonam died. The man who killed Nagen died last month, and his daughter works under Sadananda a local trade union.
“People do not like Naxalites even now, and they have given our region a bad name. I met many Naxalites and asked them to kill good? They recognize all the mistakes.”