Mamata issues ultimatum

Antara Das

`High Court order a victory for people of Singur'

Kamarkundu (West Bengal): Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee issued an ultimatum to the state government here on Saturday, asking them to return the land that she alleges was "forcibly acquired" for setting up the Tata Motors car factory at Singur in West Bengal's Hooghly district.

"I appeal to the government for the last time to rectify its mistake and return the land to the farmers who were not willing to part with it," Ms. Banerjee said, at a rally organised by the Paschim Banga Krishi Jami Raksha (West Bengal Save Farmland) Committee. "If they don't, any violence that may ensue would be the responsibility of the state government."

This was the first rally that Ms. Banerjee was addressing in the area, barely seven kilometres from the Tata factory site, since the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday set aside the prohibitory orders imposed in Singur on February 4 on the grounds that the order was pre-determined and an abuse of power by the administration.

"The High Court order is a victory for all freedom loving people and not just the people of Singur," Ms. Banerjee said. "If the farmers have really given the land willingly, then why do you need police protection at the site," she asked.

Refusing to respond to the offer of talks by the state government as long as construction activities continued at the factory site, Ms. Banerjee said that she was determined to continue the struggle on behalf of the people.

"This is not a political struggle but involves questions of human rights and land rights," she said.

Ms. Banerjee said that there was no opposition between agriculture and industry but she did not have any affinity for those who did business without a human face. In the absence of a land map or land policy, she asked the state government to return the land to the farmers and create an environment conducive to the development of industry.