Kolkata: The battle for Bengal 2021 has once again catapulted Singur, along with Nandigram as one of the key political flashpoints for all three rival camps; ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), its main challenger BJP and old adversary CPM-led Left Front (LF) and its alliance partners, Congress and Indian Secular Front (ISF). It is here the last LF government’s land takeover for Tata’s Nano factory in 2006 went horribly wrong and ignited a fierce anti-acquisition agitation that had not only led to violence and deaths but also the fall of three decades-long LF rule and Mamata Banerjee’s rise to the power in 2011.
A revisit to Singur now cannot escape the irony of history as the thousand acres of fertile farmland which was taken over for the factory is now called Tatar Math or Tata’s field even after demolition of the factory shades and its boundary walls. After the SC court has nullified the hasty acquisition, the Mamata government has returned some parts of the land to the farmers for reuse as farmland.
But all the land could not be restored to its original use because of earlier changes made for industrial purposes. So as one travels on a reinforced concrete road through the sprawling landscape, farming on some parts comes into sight. The rest has been left as fallow land with overgrown bushes where snakes have made their home. We met one which was crossing the road.
At one end of the former factory compound, stands village Bajemelia, one of the epicenters of the agitation in 2006-7 and home of its most renowned martyr, Tapasi Malik. The charred body of the young girl who was an enthusiast of movement was found on the ground on December 18, 2006. She had gone there to attend nature’s call at the wee hours. CBI arrested two local CPM leaders, Sruhid Dutta and Debu Malik for alleged rape and murder but they later got bail.
Mamata Banerjee unveiled the bust of Tapasi and Rajkumar Bhul, another martyr who died on September 26, 2006, after she became chief minister in 2011. As we entered Tapasi’s home, we found the TMC flags over and around the busts.
Tapasi’s father was missing at the farmers’ meet
Medha Patkar, a veteran of Singur-Nandigram land wars in 2006-7 paid homage to both at a public meeting a few kilometres away on March 14. The meeting, held under the banner of Kisan Mahapanchayat was addressed by Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) leaders who had come to urge Bengal voters not to vote for BJP. Speakers recalled the bond between Bengal and Punjab since the days of RasBihari Bose-Subhash Bose and Kartar Singh-Bhagat Singh during India’s freedom struggle.
They also tried to connect between Singur-Nandigram agitations and the ongoing farmers’ movement against the Narendra Modi government’s pro-corporate farm laws. “This government is by the companies and for the companies. Vote to punish it so that Modi climbs down from his tower of arrogance and listens to farmers and other common people,” they said.
But Tapasi’s father, Monoranjan Malik was not there, though local TMC satrap and Mamata’s minister, Becharam Manna was supervising the arrangement. Manna has managed to bag party tickets both for Singur, at the cost of sitting MLA, elderly Rabindranath Bhattacharya while fielding his wife, Karobi in adjoining Haripal to replace him. Sulking, retired teacher Bhattacharya, known as Mastermoshi has joined BJP and got the nomination for Singur.
Monoranjan is also opposed to Manna but has not switched sides. Sitting at his two-storied home, he said he was not invited to the farmers’ rally at Ratanpur. “Medha ji knew me and came to my home. But I was not informed this time. Who bothers for my slain daughter and me?” the middle-aged said ruefully. He has grievances against Mamata too. “I am still with Didi. But neither Tapasi nor I have got any justice. Both of us were used by the party in its campaign till Didi came to power. Now she gives tickets to TV serial players but ignores people like us,” Malik added.
According to him, Mamata government has only provided him a small shop in the Kisan market named after Tapasi along with 16 other affected families. He still pays EMI for the home loan. Neither his political aspiration was met as local party feuds denied him even a panchayat membership. The aggrieved man claimed that BJP had tried to entice him but he refused.
Srijan Bhattacharya, CPM youth leader and Singur candidate this time has met Malik during his campaign. “I wished him good but I have no regret for opposing the Tata factory. I lost my daughter because of it,” he said. Both BJP and LF-Congress-ISF alliance are training their guns on Mamata for ruining industrialization since the Singur-Nandigram episode. CPM state secretary Surya Kanta Misra made it clear at the latest Brigade rally that the party would rerun its corporate-driven industrialization policy, albeit ‘with people’s support’.
This is the first part of the two parts report from Singur