After spending long six years as a refugee Nittyananda left the camp with his parents to reach Panchari. With him, were his sister Chikkabi and two younger brothers. During this long refugee life he never thought of surrendering to the army, quietly in his own native land.
That day they reached Pujagonj Camp at 11 in the morning. Under the cover of the dark night they entered their native land leaving behind Ijara Chara of Tripura, India, and many forests, hills and mountains. After crossing the Khedar Chara lake they arrived at Pujagonj village. The villagers were excited and pleased to see them. At the ghat of Logang Chara a young girl kept staring at them while cleaning her patil (cooking pot). The girl wanted to say something to Nittyananda but she did not say anything. She kept on staring as long as she could see him. Nittyananda also looked back.
At last when they all reached Pujagonj Bridge they all sat down to get some rest. The continuous walk on the long slippery road to Chara (small canal) had made them very tired. Nittyananda's two younger brothers were very hungry.
But his father simply said "Stay here for a while. Let me look for Banda Karbari. We'll have to surrender first".
Nittyananda and his family have never been to any army camp before. Today they would have to go there. They were so excited about it. They didn't know what the army would say. Chikkabi confusedly looked at the camp, where two army jawans stood on guard.
After a short while Rangamua came back with Banda Karbari. Karbari strained his eyes to see all of them. He inquired about their possessions and asked "Do you have Indian rupees? If you have any, give me some." Rangamua replied, "No, Karbari babu, we don't have any." After some time Karbari said, "You stay here. Let me communicate first". He left for the camp using the stairs. Time passed by.
Nittyananda was having a bad headache because he was hungry. He felt like fleeing from that place. He remembered the days at Tripura camp: how pleasant it was to watch the TV in a group! Some of them used to sing Hindi songs- even they acted the role of Amitav. At one moment Nittyananda noticed his two younger brothers sleeping. He shivered because of the frightened , pale face of Chikkabi.
Banda Karbari came back with an army man at last. Everybody got up. Chikkabi stood up perplexedly. The army looked at every one and asked them to go up. Rangamua, Nittyananda -- everybody followed Chikkabi. They all gathered in a shed round in shape. One jawan brought them drinking water. Then one officer wrote down their names. They were asked to go to Logang, a Ghuchogram (cluster village) prepared for them. They were surprised to know that it was a camp; another camp life waiting for them on their native land.
They had returned to their country to start a free life. They were afraid of Gugrukh bahini's oppression and VDP's (Village Defense Party interrogations at the bazar. Nittyananda's every hope was about to be shattered. He felt very helpless. He gave up his hope of getting on education. After his return from India he had to pay half of the little amount he got from the government to the Gugrukh leader. Half of the rice he got from the weekly ration had to be given to the corrupt dealers of the Ghuchogram. There was no other alternative to this. Rangamua did not have the courage to protest these atrocities. He knew how Godaram was tortured in the camp because he had protested. The dealers seized his card. Later he had to apologise by giving 'Do-Chuani' wine to the Gugrukh leader and the ration dealer. Somehow he managed to come back home by giving them money and rice. These were the rules of the Guchogram. Rangamua accepted everything silently. Nittyananda tried to understand this situation although he did not agree with them.
Nittyananda was passing his days under constant threat when the great Biju festival arrived. He thought about celebrating Biju. He lay down on a <>gamcha in the sunshine of the Chaitra afternoon. He could not sleep because of the din and bustle of small children. There was no quiet place outside. Having no other alternative, Nittyananda was compelled to lie down. He pondered what he would do on Biju.
After two days Nittyananda went out in search of green jackfruit for a special food item on Biju day. He headed for a secluded garden not far from the village. He went into one garden after another. Most of them had been turned into jungles. However, the old paths used by the people were still there. 'Assam' creepers have covered the whole area. The gardens had become a sanctuary for wild cats and jackals. There was a charred house in the middle of one garden.
Nittyananda went too far to look for jackfruits in the garden. It was early afternoon. He managed 7-8 pieces of small green jackfruits. Suddenly he heard the sound of a gun. He could not understand from where it was coming. He ran to a burnt house and stood on its floor. Now the sound of fire was much clearer. After a while a wisp of smoke was visible from a distance.
His heart was throbbing as nothing seemed comprehensible. "War? With whom? Shanti Bahini was not supposed to come here. I was it Shanti Bahini? he asked himself. He started to walk down towards the Ghuchogram with bags full of green jackfruits and other vegetables. The closer he got, the louder the sound of shooting. He could hear the loud, confused noises made by people. Groans and screams of frightened people filled the air and sky. The sound of shooting and cracked burnt bamboos and shouts of unarmed, helpless people were all mixed up.
Nittyananda could clearly here a slogan " We want blood". He advanced further crossing the jungle and bushes. He stopped at a place from where the burning Ghuchogram was visible. He saw the young and old men and women--all the Jhumma people-- were fleeing. Only a roar of "We want blood." was coming from a long distance.
After a while, he stood up. The bags full of green jackfruits were lying on the ground. He managed to hold thickets of small trees, dragged himself forward and thought, "What happened to my parents, brothers and sisters? Are they alive?"
He could not make out what was happening. When he got home, only the pillars were still burning. Every house of the village was turned into ashes. The spark of fire was still there. Nittyananda could not see any Jhumma men and women alive. The cluster village with thousands of Jhumma men and women had been turned into a crematorium.
Suddenly Nittyananda was surprised to hear someone cry in a croaked voice. He saw many wounded Jhumma men and women looking for shelter at the foot of the hill. Among the dead bodies, Nittyananda was looking for his parents, brothers, and sisters.
His father, pierced by a spear, was bleeding profusely. Nittyananda took off his shirt and pressed it on the injured place. At one stage the shirt became wet with blood. Nittyananda was sobbing and crying out 'baba', 'baba'. His father kept on groaning. The whole area became red with blood; it was only blood everwhere.
Translated by: KAMALUDDIN AHMED
Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Chittagong
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