West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chairperson Mamata Banerjee described the Supreme Court’s judgment, delivered on Wednesday, setting aside the land acquisition by the previous Left Front government at Singur in 2006, for a proposed Tata Motors’ small car factory, as a landmark victory for her party.
“Despite electoral victories, I had only one job left — to return the land to the farmers of Singur. Now I can die in peace,” Ms. Banerjee said after the judgment. However, she added soon after that the verdict would have no impact on potential investment. “The State will emerge as the number one industrial destination.”
In a statement issued later in the day, Tata Motors’ spokesperson said the company, “will study the judgment before commenting on the same.”
The Chief Minister said she saluted the spirit of the Singur farmers who did not lose hope.
Decade-long fight draws to a close
“Today is a day that brings tears of joy in my eyes,” West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee said after the Supreme Court set aside the land acquisition by the previous Left Front government in Singur in 2006, for Tata Motors’ small car factory.
“I thank all those who supported the cause [of returning the land to the farmers],” she added, before going on to thank her Opposition — the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress.
“My special thanks to those who did not support and opposed my ‘hunger strike’ for 26 days in Kolkata, and the 14 days’ dharna at Singur, to protect the interests of poor farmers,” she said. Reiterating her policy that agricultural land should not be acquired forcefully, Ms. Banerjee said that by forcefully acquiring farmland in Singur, the Left Front government had committed a “historical suicide”.
The CM also thanked all those who stood by her. She especially mentioned writer-activist Mahasweta Devi, who passed away recently.
“If she [Mahasweta Devi] were alive, she would have been very happy,” she said. Interestingly, she also gave special thanks to Home Minister Rajnath Singh for being by her side during her struggle, and to her comrades, many of whom went to Parliament later, and the young girl Tapasi Malik, who was raped and killed during the Singur agitation.
Replying to questions, Ms. Banerjee said the Tatas are welcome to set up industry in the State. “We are not [so] mean-minded that we will be vindictive,” she said, pointing out that the Tatas are involved in a number of activities in the State.
Much more than a nano celebration
On a day when farmers in Singur waited with bated breath for the outcome of the 10-year legal battle, the streets were surprisingly deserted. Men women and children sat glued to the television sets in their homes from morning.
Finally, at around 2 p.m. they learnt that the land acquisition by the Left Front government had been cancelled. They erupted in jo
The villages of Baraberi, Khaserbheri and Goplanagar were the worst affected by land acquisition. Women in these villages came out of their homes blowing conch shells. People smeared green abir [coloured powder] on each other’s faces and burst into slogan-shouting. Every locality of Singur was celebrating. People shouted, sang and danced on the streets.
“We are all overjoyed, extremely happy,” said Badal Santra, a farmer whose two and half bighas of land was acquired by Tata’s small car project. “Look at my thatched housed,” she said turning emotional. “Does someone who owns so much land deserve a home like this? In the past ten years, how much rice and potato I could have cultivated. How many lakhs I could have earned,” said the farmer who had refused to accept any compensation.
“I have been waiting for this day since 2006,” said Manorajan Malik, father of Tapasi Malik, who was raped and killed for protesting the land acquisition. “I am grateful to God that the farmers have finally got what they fought for.”
No apology, says CPI (M)
CPI(M) State Secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra ruled out any apology for acquiring land in Singur and said it was done as per the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. Dr. Mishra added that after the Trinamool came to power, the CPI (M) had not been against the return of the land. “We never opposed it ... Now the question is: how the land will be returned and in what condition?” Mr. Mishra said.
Another CPI (M) leader, however, said the development would create panic among investors. “None will like to invest in the State,” said CPI (M) leader Bikash Bhattacharya, considered close to former CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
The Left Front government under former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had ordered accquisition of 997 acres of land in Singur in 2006 for Tata Motors small car factory. While, 11,000 farmers owning roughly 600 acres of land had received the compensation about 2,000 farmers owning the remaining 400 acres did not accept the compensation.
Owing to the protests by farmers led by Ms. Banerjee, the Tatas decided to shift the project to Sananda in Gujarat and abandoned the project in October 2008. After coming to power the Trinamool Congress government passed Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011. On June 22, 2012 the Calcutta High Court held the Singur Act as “unconstitutional and void.”