Singur movement: A look back in time
On Wednesday, when the Apex Court of the country ordered the return of acquired land taken by the erstwhile Left Front government within 12 weeks, the chronicle of Singur beacons as the bright reminder of series of incidents. The Singur incident brought a socio-political change in the Bengali middle-class society.
Tata Motors announced the small car factory in Singur on May 18, 2006. The seventh Left Front (LF) government, led by then Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, had retained power with a thumping majority. As the LF government was desperate to improve the industry scenario in the state which had long been shattered in their early regime, Bhatacharya’s government was ready to bring the factory at any cost.
Just after two months, on July 18, the Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee started protesting the issue. The ground of the protest was forceful land acquisition by an elected state government. Mamata Banerjee’s rally at Singur, as a sign of protest – started the historical movement.
The explanation of state government’s controversial land acquisition which the protesters tried to bring to light was phenomenal. The Left-led Bengal government then gained the controversy by using a rule of British made land acquisition act, framed in 1894. As many of the protesters said it was a law, with its draconian implementation, it would only kill the well-being of poor farmers in Singur, but the government paid no need to it.
The LF government acquired 997 acres of multi-crop farmland to allocate the Tata’s to construct their factory. The rule is meant for public improvement projects, and the LF government wanted Tata to build factory under this rule.
However, amidst the huge protest Tata started to set up their plant in Singur in January 21. By then, they had already promised to produce ‘Nano’ – the affordable car which would cost just above a lakh only.
The protest had also turned turbulent as many of the internationally famed social activists, and Bengali luminaries had stood beside the movement led by Mamata Banerjee. The protesters – Anuradha Talwar, Medha Patkar, Arundhuti Roy, Mahasweta Devi and others were started to protest saying the location of Tata Motors site is the most fertile one in the whole of the Singur block. The local population depended on agriculture. Almost 20,000 farmers are making their livelihood from the multi-crop land.
On December 3, 2007, Mamata Banerjee started her indefinite hunger strike for 26 days. But by then, Tata Motors had launched the Nano, for first public viewing in New Delhi’s Auto Expo – explaining the target buyers to grab it soon.
In the meantime, the rape case of Tapasi Malik had stunned the entire country. The fenced off area of the Nano-factory, which has been continuously guarded by the policemen, where allegedly guarded by cadres of the CPI (M) party as well. The girl, Tapasi malik, who was one of the protesters, was allegedly gang-raped and burnt to death by those CPI(M) cadres. Later, a CPI (M) leader, a zonal committee leader, Suhrid Dutta was arrested by CBI based on the statement of local CPI(M) activist Debu Malik.
On January 18, the Calcutta High Court upheld Singur land acquisition, saying it was legal but it could not mar the enthusiasm of the protesters. Tata on the other hand announced that the first Nano would be rolled out of Singur by October, 2008. They had even showcased the car in foreign soil.
Time started favouring Trinamool Congress as the party won a good majority in the Panchayat election. On August 2008, Mamata Banerjee started indefinite dharna at Singur. Predicting the heat which was coming against them, the Tata Motors suspended development work on Nano factory on September 2, 2008.
On September 3, 2008, then governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi agreed to play a mediator to resolve the issue between government and the Trinamool Congress but in vain.
Tata Motors decided to move out from Singur and conveyed the decision on October 3, 2008. Then they had announced their new plant in Gujarat’s Sanand. September 1 of the very next year, Tata Group chief Ratan Tata demanded the compensation with the Bengal government.
In May 20, 2011, Mamata Banerjee became the Chief Minister of Bengal and announced in her first Cabinet meeting that they will return the 400 acres land to the unwilling farmers for the Singur.