The answer to the question, how the people of Singur respond to the Calcutta High Court’s verdict in favour of Tata Motors, will depend on whom you speak to.
Disappointment, frustration, rage, bitterness, despair, the odd celebration and indifference could all be seen on Friday, on the periphery of the site of the deserted Tata Motors small car factory.
Just off the highway, on the road leading to the villages in Singur where a majority of those who lost their land to the project live, a group of revellers greet you, their faces smeared with the red colours of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
“The Tatas will get the land back; there will be a factory here and jobs for us,” shouted Prabir Kumar Khamaru, who owned 1.5 bighas that was acquired for the factory, but lost his job as a security guard when Tata Motors relocated the factory to make its small car Nano in October 2008.
However, as one moves inwards, the mood turns dark. At the heart of Purbapara, where several families have refused compensation for more than five years, protesters hold aloft hand-written posters reading, amader jami pherot chai (we want our land back); they believe: “jami pherot pete ayner jatilata noye (there are no legal hassles in retuning the land).”
“I will never let go of my land. I hold a land deed in my name, how can the land suddenly belong to the Tatas,” insisted a visibly emotional Partha Manna, who owned five bighas.
Farmers such as Mr. Manna and Dudh Kumar Dhara, who owned 4.5 bighas on the factory site and is a member of the high-power committee tasked with overseeing the process of returning the land to unwilling farmers, are “saddened by, but not despondent” with the judgment, but there are others seething with anger.
“Where are all those leaders who had led the agitation against land acquisition today? They have become Ministers, MLAs and have been elected to the panchayat, and none of them bother to find out about us,” said Tajuddin Lal, 38, who owned two bighas on the factory site and claims to have several police cases slapped against him during the agitation led by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.
“We have heard a lot of promises — a monthly compensation of Rs. 1,000, rice at Rs. 2 a kg [the announcements made by Ms. Banerjee]. But where is my rice,” Mr. Lal asked. “Even having those leaders standing by our side today would have sufficed.”
For a section of the people — those who lived in hutments on the factory site and were evicted and rehabilitated in the KGT Colony in the Beraberi area — the verdict means little. As it lies in a low-level area, the colony is flooded during every monsoon; even the access road and a hand-pump that serves as the sole source of drinking water are inundated.
“Ask Mamatadi or the Tatas to look us up some time,” is their parting shot.