Archive for the ‘Singur’ Category

CPI(M) lies about Tapasi Malik’s death – apologist Vijay Prasad disseminates untruths

June 30, 2007

By Partho Sarathi Ray, Sanhati

The brutal rape and murder of Tapasi Malik, the 18 year old girl who was a highly motivated member of the Save Farmland Committee spearheading the struggle against land acquisition in Singur, had sent shockwaves through the body politic of West Bengal last year. The Save Farmland Committee had accused the CPI(M) cadre who double as night-guards for the fenced off area of land, forcibly acquired for setting up Tata’s factory at Singur. The CBI had taken up the investigation due to strong protests against the incident.

However, CPI(M) leaders and the police had tried to pass it off variously as suicide, result of a love affair etc. Most vociferous and prominent among these was Debu Malik, who appeared on several TV channels claiming to have seen Tapasi go towards the fenced off area with a can of kerosene in her hand. Soon, and sure enough, some intellectuals serving the CPI(M) took up the task of adding a new twist to the story.

In a widely circulated article which appeared on the prestigious American leftist newsletter Counterpunch on May 23, 2007, Sudhanva Deshpande and Vijay Prashad wrote the following about the death of Tapasi Malik:

“Stories were blown out of context, and allegations flew around (sexual assaults, murders) that have since been shown to be false. The most sensational was the murder of a young woman, Tapasi Malik, who had been a leader in the Singur struggle against the land acquisition. The blogs and the capitalist media blamed this death on the CPM. The Central Bureau of Investigation is now of the view that she was killed by her father and brother.”

The two authors cavalierly accused the bereaved father and brother of the victim for her murder, without attributing it to any source, and passed it off as an assessment of the CBI. It now turns out that the only source on which this accusation was based was an article in the CPI(M) organ Peoples Democracy which said the following on the matter

“NEW and definitive light has been shed on the murder of a young woman named Tapasi Malik. Tapasi was done away brutally nearly five months ago one early morning on December 8 and her remains stuffed in a hole within the limits of the automobile factory that is coming up at Singur. Her body was set on fire and was partially burnt. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probing the case now believes that the young woman’s father and brother might have had something to do with her murder.”

The article went on to say “In all probability, the duo (Tapasi’s father and brother) will be subjected to sophisticated probing techniques as narco-analysis, brain-mapping and DNA testing. The blood samples taken from the murder site apparently do not match the samples of blood collected from Monoranjan and Surajit. The father-and-son may also be subjected to a ‘lie-detector’ or ‘polygraph’ test.” All this was attributed to un-named “CBI officials” talking to an un-named “all-India English daily”. A miasma was tactically created to accuse the father and brother Tapasi Malik for her death and was propagated by Vijay Prashad and Sudhanva Deshpande in their article.

Now let us fast-forward to the facts which has been coming out in the last few days. The person whom the CBI subjected to the lie-detector test were not the father and brother of Tapasi but Debu Malik, the powerful CPI(M) activist from the area who was in charge of organizing the CPI(M) cadre for safeguarding the land acquired for their capitalist master. Debu Malik failed the test and broke down under interrogation to confess to the crime of raping and murdering Tapasi. Interestingly, he also confessed that it was done on the orders of Suhrid Datta, the influential Singur zonal committee secretary of CPI(M) who was also subsequently arrested. Debu is also the close confidante and driver of the former CPI(M) Singur zonal committee secretary and current district committee member Dibakar Das, who was also called up by the CBI for interrogation.

It has become clear that the entire crime was ordered by the local CPI(M) leadership to teach a lesson to the teenager protesting the loss of her family’s livelihood. Binay Kongar, the CPI(M) leader who is officiating as the CPI(M) state secretary in absence of Biman Bose who is enjoying a vacation in the USA, has disowned Debu Malik by saying that he is a “supporter/voter” of the party and not a “member”. However, the arrest of Suhrid Datta and the possible arrest of Dibakar Das has somewhat subdued the tone of the normally indomitable Binay Kongar. What this incident has also done is to expose the bankruptcy of the CPI(M) allied intellectuals who propagate the falsehoods emanating from their party in a Goebbelsian manner, hoping that a lie repeated a hundred times will become the truth.

Tapasi Malik 16 – A strong willed girl and one of the youngest
and most dedicated organisers in singur.

Tapasi Malik raped and burnt alive on orders of CPM leaders
to teach her a lesson.

Civilization died that day in the fields of Singur….


CPI(M) men arrested for Tapasi Malik’s murder

The Statesman, KOLKATA, June 29

Two CPI-M activists, Mr Suhrid Dutta and Mr Debu Malik, who were arrested in connection with the Tapasi Malik murder case, were remanded in CBI custody by the additional chief judicial magistrate of the Chandernagore SDJM court in Hooghly today.

Mr Dutta, a CPI-M Hooghly district committee member and his associate Mr Debu Malik, were charged under sections 302, 120 (B), 376 and 201 of the IPC, said Mr Tapas Basu, CBI advocate who submitted a remand application before the court. He said the CBI had found evidence of the duo’s involvement in the murder. The magistrate later ordered the CBI to present Mr Malik before the court on 7 July. Mr Dutta was remanded in CBI custody till 12 July. Mr Dutta, who is also the secretary of the CPI-M Singur zonal committee, alleged that he was falsely implicated. The duo was produced before the court around 10.50 a.m. CBI officers grilled Mr Dibakar Das, another CPI-M Hooghly district committee member, yesterday but he was not detained.
More than a thousand supporters of the Trinamul Congress, SUCI and other Opposition parties staged a sit-in demonstration in front of the court gate demanding that the accused be handed over to them for punishment. The agitators were chased away. Tension ran high in the court premises after local CPI-M supporters assembled in the area to take out a rally alleging “highhandedness” of the CBI. They alleged that Mr Dutta fell victim to a conspiracy of “Opposition parties”.

Defence counsel Mr Keshablal Mukherjee, who submitted the bail application for Mr Dutta, said the 55-year-old CPI-M leader should be released on bail considering his health condition. He claimed that Mr Dutta was framed by his rivals. The CBI advocate, however, countered the allegations and told the magistrate that the investigating agency had got evidence of the leader’s involvement in the crime. He said that Mr Malik had given a statement under Section 164 CrPC before the Patiala metropolitan magistrate court disclosing Mr Dutta’s involvement in the murder. Mr Malik reportedly told the CBI that five other men were involved in the murder which took place on 18 December last year. The CBI advocate said the murder was committed to creating a fear psychosis among the people of the area. Advocate Mr Kishor Mondal, who submitted the bail petition for Mr Malik said the CBI officers “had drugged his client” to keep him silent in the court. “Debu was under the influence of drugs when he was produced before the court. He didn’t respond to my quarries,” said Mr Mondal. The defence counsel said they would decide on the next course of action after speaking to the family members of the accused.

Meanwhile, Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee supporters and their counterparts in the CPI-M today took out rallies trading charges against each other. While the former demanded capital punishment for the accused, the later alleged that the CBI and the Opposition parties have conspired against Mr Dutta. Interestingly, Mr Malik, who was very close to the CPI-M, has fallen from grace and the party has already started stamping him as “a mere sympathiser of the party.” Trinamul Congress chief Miss Mamata Banerjee visited Tapasi’s residence at Bajemelia and assured villagers that no criminal would be spared. She will address a meeting of the Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee to be held at Singur tomorrow.


Mollah in Singur land flip-flop: political deal, not law, is key

June 8, 2007

Mollah in Singur land flip-flop: political deal, not law, is key

KOLKATA, JUN 7: West Bengal’s Land & land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah did an about turn on Thursday to announce that it would be possible to return some acquired land at Singur to farmers who do not wish to sell out, a day after he cited Supreme Court rulings and the law to say that acquired land cannot be returned.

Former chief minister Jyoti Basu had opened the question of returning some land after he stepped into the picture on Monday by holding a surprise meeting with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, after the much-touted May 24 all-party meeting had failed to resolve the issue.

Following the Basu-Mamata meeting, Mollah had met the former chief minister to explain the legal position. Mollah had explained that two Supreme Court orders state that a government cannot return land that has already been acquired.

But, party sources said, Basu is of the view that the government should yield to some of Mamata’s demands to settle the simmering row over Singur, where the government acquired 997 acres last year for the Tata Motors’ small-car project and its ancillaries.

Accordingly, Basu has asked Mollah to find a way out, especially after Mollah said publicly on Thursday that the law does not allow the return of any acquired land, sources said.

Today, Mollah said a political consensus is more important than administrative and legal issues for the Singur row.

“Once a political consensus is reached, we can find a legal way out,” Mollah said Thursday.

The CPI(M) state secretariat is scheduled to meet on Friday, followed by a full meeting of the nine-party Left Front.

Separately, Mamata’s Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee, which was formed to spearhead the battle against land acquisition at Singur, will meet to decide the course of action.

The committee will also discuss Nandigram, where the government had to drop plans for a special economic zone (SEZ) earlier this year following stiff opposition from farmers.

Trinamool sources said that Mamata is unlikely to yield an inch unless the government agrees to some demands, since Naxalites have joined her movement and are putting pressure on her.

“Already, some Naxalite groups are spreading talk that Mamata is in league with the CPI(M),” the Trinamool sources said.


Farmers whose land was grabbed by TATA-CPM combine start committing suicide

June 4, 2007

The death toll with this suicide rises to 4 in singur.

1 anti-land grab activist bludgeoned to death by the police in a brutal lathicharge

1 girl raped and burnt alive(tapasi malik) for resisting landgrab.

2 farmers driven to suicide.

Related post

Tapasi Malik Raped and burnt alive for by CPM goons and West Bengal Gestapo Police

Death toll rises in TATA-CPM combine landgrab at singur.

Prasanta Das, a 43 year old marginal peasant of Khaser Bheri mouza in Singur, who had declined to give up his land for the Tata Motors small car factory, committed suicide by hanging himself from the ceiling of a cowshed at his residence. His body was found in the wee hours of 25th May, 2007.

Incidentally it was the day of the first anniversary of the land struggle in Singur against forcible land acquisition. The villagers strongly alleged that the suicide was because of the land loss. Prasanta’s bereaved relatives and neighbours said that he was very much depressed and “mentally upset” ever since his family’s land (around 4 bighas and 4 Cottah) was forcefully acquired by the state government for the Tata Motors project.

His mother Geeta Das said, “He was prescribed treatment and counseling by the doctor. He didn’t say anything unusual before his death. He was always worried how the family would live without the land.” The deceased Prasanta has two minor daughters, only 9 years and 6 years old respectively. His widow, Sandhya Das has no alternative source of earnings.

The farmland was held jointly by Prasanta, his father Mahadeb Das (65) along with his two younger brothers Tapas and Sushanta. The Das family, consisting of three brothers, their wives and children were solely dependent on their agricultural land for their life and livelihood and after the government took over the land for the Tata project, they have been living in penury.

But despite their destitution, Prasanta and his family straightaway turned down to receive compensation cheques alleging that their land was forcibly grabbed by the government against their will. “We didn’t take money for the land because the family did not want to part with the land,” Prasanta’s mother said. Besides he was one of the earliest and active members of “Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee” (Singur Save Farmlands Committee), a people’s organisation against the land acquisition. He was also injured in the police’s lathi-charge on September, 2006 in front of BDO office during the peak of Singur land struggle.

A protest rally was taken out in the evening by the members of Krishi Jami Raksha Committee carrying Prasanta’s dead body along the newly erected wall of the Tata’s project site.Earlier on 12th March, a similar incident had taken place in Singur when another poor peasant Haradhan Bag of Beraberi Purbapara, whose land had also been acquired without his consent, had committed suicide consuming pesticide.Singur is now simmering in a terrible anguish and perturbation over the heart-rending suicides of two peasants.

A fresh turmoil is brewing here after May 20th, when hundreds of peasants and agricultural workers determined to recover their lands acquired for the project, conflicted with the police who fired teargas shells, rubber bullets and charged with batons resulting 25 villagers including a 13 years old boy severely injured.

Later on, the police filed a large number of false cases (Ref: Singur P.S. Case 113, dated 20.05.07) against 53 protesters including Becharam Manna, Convener of Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee and Anuradha Talwar, President of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity and 400 others under the following sections of IPC.

1. Section 147– Punishment for rioting.
2. Section 148 – Rioting armed with deadly weapon.
3. Section 149 – Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed inprosecution of common object.
4. Section 186 – Obstructing public servant in discharge of public function.
5. Section 332 – Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty.
6. Section 333 – Voluntarily causing grievous hurt to deter public servant from his duty.
7. Section 325 – Punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt.
8. Section 326 – Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means.
9. Section 353 – Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty.
10. Section 307 – Attempt to murder. and I.P.C/9 (B) (1) I. E. Act.Three activists, Kush Kumar Das, Jagannath Roy and Tarun Santra were arrested and detained under jail custody till the next hearing on 4th June 2007.

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity


Singur Farmer commits suicide

March 14, 2007

Singur farmer commits suicide after government forcibily acquired his land
From our Correspondent

Singur, Mar 13: A farmer, who committed suicide yesterday after he lost his land to the proposed site for building of the TATA car project in Singur, cremated here today.

62-year-old Haradhan Bag who was suffering from acute depression was a resident of Beraberi Purbapara village.

“About one acre of our farmland comes under the land allotted to the TATA car plant. We are completely dependent on our land. My father even went on a hunger strike for six to seven days. But for quite sometime he was feeling lost and dejected. The other day he broke down talking to me, saying we might not get back our farmland and afterwards he consumed poison,” said Joydeb Bag, his son.

Tata Motors started to build its factory in Singur in January to make what the company claims will be the world’s cheapest car for 100,000 rupees.

But the project, which has become a test case for the Communists, has been mired in trouble with some farmers who say the government took their land against their will. The government claims that it has compensated most of the farmers.

‘Heartless’ Buddhadeb hiding facts over Singur, charges Mamata

February 18, 2007
‘Heartless’ Buddhadeb hiding facts over Singur, charges Mamata

[RxPG] Singur -, Feb 17 – Combining histrionics with humour, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee Saturday described West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya as a ‘heartless emperor without clothes’ out to rob the farmers of their land and the state of its democratic rights.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Addressing her first rally at Singur after withdrawal of prohibitory orders, she alleged that the government had struck a secret deal with the Tatas, who are to set up a small car factory there.

Targeting Tata Motors and Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata, she said: ‘I love the street dog in my neighbourhood more than Ratan Tata’ as ‘he is out to destroy about 10,000 families in the name of a Rs.100,000 car’.

‘The chief minister is a heartless person. He does not have a heart. In Bengal people have no democratic rights. He is like emperor without clothes,’ Mamata said as farmers protesting acquisition of land gathered there brandished their land ownership papers.

‘Raja tor kapar kothai -,’ she shouted, referring to the ‘ways’ of Buddhadeb Bhattacharya.

‘If you disrobe people, you will also be without clothes.’

‘He is one without even common sense. The CPI-M – is playing with fire, which will singe them,’ she said.

‘Why were the Tatas given this land? I am not an economist but it is plain and simple that if you subsidise a company with power, water and Rs.10 billion then it can roll out a car for Rs.100,000 for a limited period of time,’ Mamata said.

‘No wall of the Tatas raised by imposing Section 144 Cr PC – can stop you. The wall is not important, the people are important, their wishes are important. Those among you who have not given land, don’t give. It is a battle for honour, for your mother -, for your pride, for democracy,’ she told the gathering to a resounding affirmation.

The Calcutta High Court Wednesday struck down the imposition of prohibitory orders in Singur, terming it ‘misuse of power’. The prohibitory orders were promulgated following violence in the area over land acquisition.

Mamata said it was not her responsibility always to maintain peace and held that ‘for any violence the responsibility will be of the chief minister’.

‘We are not against industry. We want industry on wasteland and agriculture on farmlands,’ she maintained.

‘I hear the Tatas are going to collaborate with Italy, so is this going to be a ‘Tatali’ – project,’ she commented, as people burst into laughter.

‘Singur is not alone now. We are with you,’ she said.

Singur, about 40 km from here in Hooghly district, has been chosen by Tata Motors for its small car project on over 997 acres of land. The deal triggered a violent face-off between the state government and farmers, led by civil society groups and parties like Trinamool Congress.


Mamata’s health deteriorates ,Ratan Tata determined to build factory over her dead body

December 28, 2006

Mamata’s health deteriorates ,Ratan Tata determined to build factory over her dead body
Take care of Mamata, orders PM

The PM has instructed the Central authorities to extend all medical care for Mamata Bannerjee.
New Delhi:
After having taken over Mahatma Gandhi as far as resisting hunger is concerned, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Bannerjee’s worsening health has drawn the attention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Dr Singh, on Wednesday, instructed the Central authorities to extend all medical care for Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Bannerjee in view of deterioration in her health.

Doctors had put Mamata on oxygen support after she developed breathing problems on Tuesday.

Mamata has been on a hunger strike for the past 24 days, protesting against West Bengal government’s acquisition of farmland for the TATA Motors project in Singur. Her party has been demanding relocation of the project out of the fertile agricultural land to some other site within the state.

The Eastern Command Hospital has been instructed to offer whatever medical assistance is requried by Banerjee, PM’s media adviser Sanjaya Baru said in Delhi.

“Because of the deterioration in Mamata Banerjee’s health and her refusal to accept state government’s help for medical care, the Prime Minister has instructed Central authorities to extend all medical care required,” news agency PTI quoted Baru as saying.

Mamata says she would not end her fast till the state government accepts her demand that the land at Singur, which had been taken “forcibly”, be returned.

Mamata had termed the CPM-led state government’s move to acquire of 954 acres of farmland to set up the Tata Motors project in Singur as “anti-farmer and anti-poor”.


Rivals fuelling fire, says Tata – Determined to set up plant in Singur

Dec. 27: Ratan Tata today accused “some of our competitors” of stirring the Singur controversy, adding a stunning new dimension of corporate intrigue to what has been a political issue so far.

In an interview to NDTV, he also expressed determination to see through the project that will turn out cars costing Rs 100,000 at the site some 40 km from Calcutta.

“Let me just say it is not just political, because I happen to know that some of our competitors are also fuelling some of this fire… they would be very happy if the project got delayed,” he said.

Mamata Banerjee has been fasting for 24 days now against what she calls “forcible” land acquisition in Singur.

While competitors expressed surprise at the charge voiced by a corporate leader of impeccable credentials, Mamata’s Trinamul Congress threatened to take the Tata group chairman to court.

“We will file a defamation case against Ratan Tata. His statement will prove to be an obstacle to any respectable solution to the Singur issue. His statement is an echo of what Biman Bose had said earlier and is in bad taste,” said Trinamul general secretary Mukul Roy.

Bose, the CPM boss in Bengal, had said about two weeks ago that Tata Motors’ competitors were encouraging the agitation over Singur.

Efforts continued to get her to call off the fast, but without success.

Tata said: “We regret what has happened and (I) ask myself have we been caught in a political quagmire where political issues have tended to try and overcome even the issues they are supposed to espouse?”

He was clear Tata Motors would not pull out because of the controversy. “The Bengal government has been very steadfast in its support and I think it would be wrong for us to say that we will pull out and go.

“I am unfortunately a person that has often said ‘you put a gun to my head and pull the trigger or take the gun away, I won’t move my head’.”

Tata was laudatory about Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. “Why did we go to Bengal”, he said, “because we believe in the leadership that the present government has provided.”

Tata’s accusation set the business beehive buzzing. Maruti and Hyundai, both of which make small cars and are the country’s two other big automobile companies, declined comment.

The country’s biggest car maker, Maruti, has four small models — the 800, Alto, Zen Estillo and Wagon R. Hyundai has the Santro. Several others are planning small cars.


CPM waiting for the slightest oppurtunity to unleash fascist terror on organisations protesting singur

December 26, 2006

CPM waiting for the slighest oppurtunity to unleash fascist terror on
organisations protesting against the land acquisition in singur.
The Calcutta gestapo police is on high alert and the minute they
get the green signal they plan to put their elaborate plan into action.

Cracks in Trinamool over Singur plan of action,

Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri

KOLKATA: The Singur Krishijami Raksha Committee (Save Singur Farmland Committee), a joint movement forum of the Trinamool Congress, Naxals and Suci, is gradually showing signs of disintegration.

The split comes after a confusion in the possible line of attack.While a section of the committee is in favour of solving the problem through dialogues, another group led by Naxalites and Maoists, wants direct attack against the state administration for lack of cooperation.

Though Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee’s hunger strike doesn’t seem to ruffle any feather in the state administration, Mamata does not seem to be in a mood to budge from her stand. She has already thwarted union broadcasting minister, Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi’s plea, who met her on Sunday on behalf of of Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.

“I will not call of my fast, unless the state government gives back land to unwilling farmers. Now, If anything happens to me, the state government will be responsible for it,” Mamata said.

Having waited for so many days, the Naxalites and Maoists are now looking to take up extreme measures like mass disobedience to stall the project and bring justice to the Singur farmers. The discontent among a section of party workers was evident when Mamata decided to call off the 48-hour West Bengal bandh on December 21 and 22.

The Naxalites, in the movement, strongly denounced Mamata’s decision and their leader, Dipankar Bhattacharjee, even said that calling off the strike would be demoralising the agitators and sending a wrong signal to farmers at Singur.

While it is still not clear when Mamta would call off her hunger strike, the Naxalites are gearing up to take control over the movement at least in Singur.

According to a state government intelligence report, hardly any Trinamool supporters are spearheading the agitation there and Naxalite outsiders, which include students of Calcutta and Jadavpur University, are frequenting Singur on a daily basis. Even the Suci is in favour of the extremist movement planned by the Naxalites.

According to a senior political analyst, the violence would give chief minister Budhadeb Bhattacharjee a free hand to curb the Singur issue and the state government can then nail it completely.


The Indian Mainstream Media – "They crawl when they had only been asked to bend."

December 26, 2006

Rama has a post on the mainstream media


I read with astonishment yesterday an editorial in The Telegraph on the subject of forcible land acquisition in Singur by the CPI(M)-led West Bengal state govt, for handover to the Tatas for their small car project.

In a nutshell:

“The govt of West Bengal must do what it thinks is best for the economy. It is not obliged to obtain consent.”

Ironically, even that hideously oppressive relic of British colonialism, the Land Acquisition Act, of 1894, gives allowance for natural justice by requiring hearing prior to acquisition. But evidently justice is very far from the concerns and desires of India’s elite. If our precious democracy depends on this media and on this class – God help us!

I was immediately reminded of the words used to describe the behaviour of the Indian media during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency (1975-77):

“They crawled when they had only been asked to bend.”

In his book Being Indian, Pavan Varma writes:

“A concern for democracy was, in any case, conspicuously absent in most educated Indians when she imposed the Emergency. There was not even a semblance of credible protest anywhere in the country when almost the entire opposition was put in jail. The bureaucracy quietly accepted the new regimen. The corporate world welcomed it. The most spectacular capitulation was among the so-called guardians of the right of free dissent and free expression — the media. They crawled when they had only been asked to bend, with many top editors assuming the ‘traditional Indian posture of respectful subservience (in which) they remained —not looking particularly dignified until the Emergency was over’. A dominant image of that time was a much publicised triptych in oils of Mrs. Gandhi by the colourful artist M.F. Husain, representing her as the goddess Durga triumphantly vanquishing her foes. The poor bore the brunt of the excesses of the Emergency, and ultimately, when elections were called, it was their hostility that defeated Indira. But the significant thing is the extent to which most Indians — poor and rich alike — were willing to quietly acquiesce in the abuse of power when in the first instance it seemed undefeatable …”

If ever an example was needed to prove the utter ignorance, bankruptcy, and self-centred character of the Indian mainstream media and India’s privileged classes – then yesterday’s editorial in The Telegraph is it.

Singur row: Trinamool Cong to meet PM

December 23, 2006

Singur row: Trinamool Cong to meet PM

Saturday, December 23, 2006 (Kolkata):

The Trinamool Congress is planning to seek an audience with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit to Kolkata over the Singur issue.

Party leader Mamata Bangerjee has been on hunger strike over the issue, which entered the 20th day.

The party members are likely to apprise the PM of the current at Raj Bhawan where he’s staying for the night.

Later in the afternoon, the party plans a novel demonstration where women from Singur will take to the streets of Kolkata with utensils in which they normally cook their daily meal as a mark of protest.


SINGUR: Where the left turns right

December 23, 2006


The CPM machinery has gone into overdrive in Singur to secure the Tata deal; it has left the peasantry, its constituency, totally in the cold

Vijayan MJ

Vijayan MJ

In the interests of informed debate on issues of prime importance, one should welcome the CPM campaign in the media with its ‘truths’ stating the official CPM position on the Singur issue. However, there is much that compels us to differentiate between ‘facts’ and party propaganda.

First: Why Singur? On December 7, Rajya Sabha mp Nilotpal Basu told a delegation that the Tatas had been shown five different plots for the car project. He also said that the company did not want any other plot than the Singur one. Now, is it for a company to decide whether it should get agricultural land or barren land for a factory? Why should any state government allow itself to be blackmailed by a private company?

Second: Why do the Tatas need 1,000 acres for an automobile factory? According to the CPM version, they are buying this land only for a car manufacturing unit. A car unit needs less than a fourth of that area. No one talks about the need to give so much land to a private company for just one project. Or about how the colonial Land Acquisition Act, 1894 — meant to allow the government to acquire land for public purpose — is now being used to forcibly acquire land for a private company. In Orissa (where the Tatas were embroiled in a similar controversy in Kalinganagar), the Tatas have acquired huge tracts of land that they hold but do not use. One sometimes wonders whether they are industrialists or real estate speculators. In the case of Singur, neither the CPM nor the Tatas have tried to justify the demand for so much agricultural land. While CPM leaders like Brinda Karat discuss land acquisition and rehabilitation, they say nothing on the Tata Motors project itself, neither its economics nor the mou agreements and process of finalisation. For all the talk about facts, there is a deep secrecy surrounding the project.

AP Photo
How is it that a party that favoured comprehensive rehabilitation (as against mere compensation) in other projects decided to unilaterally give cash compensation for agricultural land and houses?

There are several petitions under the Right To Information (rti) Act pending before the local authorities since early 2006 (months before either Medha Patkar or Mamata Banerjee were involved) demanding transparency in the land deals between the Tatas and the state government, especially regarding the farm lands in Singur. The government has not responded to a single one — a clear violation of the rti Act, 2005, which the CPM has supported very vehemently. Unfortunately, till the time the active resistance started, the state government was not willing to give even the people directly affected any information regarding the land acquisition or negotiate rehabilitation proposals.

Regarding the consent of the people, all the nine meetings held were with party representatives and panchayat members but not with any gram sabha or with the project affected. Why? It is required under the 74th Amendment of the Constitution and must happen, even at this late stage. It is clear that no project details were provided to the gram panchayat nor was its consent sought, as reported to a panel for public hearing on October 27, 2006, by Dhud Kumar Dhara, a member of the gram panchayat.

At a press conference in Delhi, Bharati Das of Khaser Beri village said that they did not know about the land acquisition till the police pushed them back from harvesting their fields. Bharati owns only 1.5 acres in Singur, but demands the right to be informed about the project and to be negotiated with on rehabilitation and the benefits to the affected population. The CPM would do well to remember that democracy is not about majority or minority alone and that each member of society has the right to demand transparency, justice and the right to live with dignity.

Bharati’s statement along with the injuries on her body will also disprove the cruel joke about the police reacting to the bomb-throwing mobs of the Trinamool Congress.

Third: Of a total 997.11 acres, the government got prior consent from farmers for 586 acres only on the day it fenced the land (before passing the Compensation Award). This data is as per a status report on land acquisition in Singur by the state government. Even this much cannot be accepted as given till those documents are made public. In any case, it’s not a question of 100 percent or 99 percent families’ consent. There are 347 affidavits submitted by farmers who have not wanted and do not want to give away land. From the very first argument of the majority being in favour of the compensation, the CPM official stance is fixed to one guideline, that of majoritarianism, completely moving away from its past positions.

The number of landholders has also been challenged. The state CPM report itself shows the number of landholders across 635 acres to be 9,020. This shows the small size of the landholdings. Those who defend the project must understand that post-award consent means consent under duress, and that it is not ‘Free Prior Informed Consent’, a pre-condition that is recommended for large dams and development projects. The fact not mentioned is that most of those dissenting have not even accepted the land acquisition notice under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Hence acquisition in their case is ex-parte, on paper.

Fourth: How is it that a party that took a position favouring comprehensive rehabilitation (as against mere compensation) in other projects decided to unilaterally give cash compensation for agricultural land and houses? What happened to the party’s position on ‘land for land’ rehabilitation? Who authorised the state government to decide that the people should take the cash compensation and be satisfied? The CPM should remember that swearing by the two-third majority in the Assembly will do no good as the party was not seeking votes over the Tata factory in Singur.

Fifth: The issue of compensation to share-croppers and landless people has not been remotely resolved. Training for any vocation does not guarantee employment. To offer such training as a complementary economic development activity is appreciable, but to destroy existing agricultural employment and offer ‘training’ is nothing but a scam. What would the families do with cash? Absentee landlords may invest in some trade but will cultivators be able to purchase land of the same quality, of what area, where and when?

The state that the CPM claims is a people’s state, does not even have a rehabilitation policy. West Bengal should instead opt for a state-level Rehabilitation Act for the minimum displacement that may occur for projects that would be justified and conceded to by the affected people.

Its vicious response to its critics has exposed the CPM more than anything else. To call activists like Medha “the leaders of what are nowadays called social movements”, and dismiss critics as “fascists” does not suit a party which till last month was busy organising the India Social Forum with the same ‘civil society groups’. Until recently, senior party members were on the pavement with the same Medha Patkar when she was on a fast over the Narmada issue. At the time, they seemed to enjoy the attention of TV cameras and made the most fiery of speeches. Why should those ousted from Singur not have the same rights as the displaced of the Narmada Valley? What does this do to the party’s claim to be fighting neo-imperialism? Are some oppressors better than others, even if the brutality they unleash is the same?

Singur, as far as the West Bengal government is concerned, is only the start. The Haripur nuclear plant, for which about 18 sq km of land is to be acquired from traditional fishworkers, is next in line. It will not be surprising to find Comrades Brinda and Yechury opposing the nuclear plant at Koodamkulam while shouting the opposition down in favour of the Haripur plant. Are we to look forward to the day when the state government will accept an offer by Dow Chemicals to start a unit in West Bengal? Will the CPM then delegate its Politburo members to disseminate state propaganda to persuade us that it is right for them to accept the offer of this successor of Union Carbide, which killed more than 20,000 people in Bhopal? Or will we be told that Bhopal was a figment of our imagination — that it never happened?

CPM comrades can ignore the fact that black flags were flying outside most houses in Singur prior to the night of December 6 when party cadres removed them. They are free to believe that the local people were so excited about giving up their land for such a great development project that they went to the extent of organising pro-Tata and pro-Buddhadeb rallies in Singur and Kolkata. Like the West Bengal chief minister, leaders like Brinda Karat are free to believe that Medha Patkar’s visiting Singur would have created a serious law and order problem, which is why she was denied permission. The party is also free to believe that the ‘facts’ they have produced about Singur are the absolute truth and not propaganda. But none of us will have the freedom or right to differ from what the CPM believes — and if we do, we will be arguing against industrialisation.

The CPM’s Singur fact-sheet reminds us of a similar campaign released by the Gujarat government when the nba, with the Left’s support, was opposing the Sardar Sarovar dam; and also of a ‘fact-sheet’ that has now been issued by the Chhattisgarh government defending the violence by the Salva Judum.
The CPM and its comrades should remember the words of James Bovard: “Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” However, the actions of party leaders suggest that the era of enlightened despots is back. The CPM is not just right, the CPM is THE right, and since they are the arbiters of ‘the good of the people’ — because they are agitating on the streets as well as sitting in government — there’s no place for any real criticism.

Vijayan is associated with the Delhi Forum, a coordination centre for people’s movements