A pall of gloom descended on the entire Swarupgunj village under the Chanchal police station here, as the body of a local man, Saker Ali, who was found dead in Rajasthan, arrived here today. A sense of fear also stalked the villagers, with parents of men working in the state of Rajasthan saying they would call back their children. Ali, 32, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in his rented room at Narikana area under the Shastrinagar police station in Jaipur on Tuesday.

The death comes close on the heels of another incident when another man from Malda was killed over an alleged love affair in Rajasthan in December. Most of the family members of the labourers working in the pandal decoration trade in Rajasthan now want their dear ones back home even if that means meager earnings here.

Almost all the political parties are now vocal against the BJP-led government in Rajasthan, even as the family members of Ali buried the dead near the village today, while the twin blow to Malda labourers in Rajasthan after `the brutal killing of Affarajul Khan of Kaliachak last month, compelled family members to decide to call the men back.

According to local sources, more than 300 men from the village work in other states, mainly in Rajasthan, as pandal labourers and they have been living there for years now. “Many from my family have been working in Rajasthan for almost 10 years, but we want them back now.

We will make do with a lesser income in the family, but not the terror and tension that is within us now,” Farida Parvin, a local said here today. Muklesur Rahaman, who has reached home from Rajasthan to spend some days with his family, is now thinking to quit his job there. “I can manage work here, but with a lower wage, but still it seems better to stay here than to go there in a tensed frame of mind,” a panicked Mr Rahaman said.

The Congress, CPI M and the Trinamul Congress have severely criticised the role of the Rajasthan government as they claimed that the family of Ali had to bear all the expenses for bringing the body to Malda. One of the district secretaries of the BJP, Ajoy Ganguly, meanwhile, said that death of anybody is always unwelcome and sad. “But the issue here is generating more employment opportunities for these people in the state, so that they do not need to go anywhere else.

Another thing is to publish a ‘white paper’ by the state government on the detailed list of labourers of all the districts to keep a record of these persons,” he said. District magistrate of Malda, Kaushik Bhattacharya, said, “The joint BDO there visited the family, while there has been no discussion, so far, on whether the state will provide any compensation to them.”

Mean while, the body of another labourer from Malda, Sabir Sheikh, who died from mystery fever at Ernakulam in Kerala on Tuesday, reachedhis hometown of Pirojpur area under the English Bazaar police station this morning. He was 535.