Mamata Banerjee came to power in West Bengal riding the wave of peasant resistance to land grab and state repression at Singur and Nandigram. Now, her own Government is unleashing the most brutal repression to crush resistance to land acquisition for a power grid project at Bhangar.
13.5 acres of fertile multi-crop land was acquired by the West Bengal Government for the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL). Environmental and social impact assessments were flagrantly violated to acquire the land. The exact nature of the project was never made public at the time of land acquisition, no gram sabha was ever convened to inform villagers of project plans or seek their opinions. Local farmers were induced to sell their land at a rate considerably below the market price. Concerns of local people about the environmental and health impact of the high-tension wire and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) have never been addressed.
Two protestors – a student Mafizul Alam Khan and a young villager Alamgir Molla were killed in police firing. No compensation has been given to their family members and the State Government is refusing to accept any responsibility for these killings.
The entire Bhangar area has been placed under an undeclared Emergency, and 11 activists have been arrested and booked under the Unlawful Activities Protect Act (UAPA), which is a draconian supposedly intended to curb terrorism.
It is significant that the PGCIL is under Central Government control. There is much shadow boxing between Mamata Banerjee and the Modi Government. The BJP also frequently attacks the TMC Government in its bid to fan communalism and find a foothold in West Bengal. But in the matter of Bhangar land grab, the BJP is completely silent. Mamata Banerjee is unleashing repression to acquire land forcibly for a Central Government project.
The Modi Government tried in vain to amend the 2013 Rehabilitation and Compensation Act. Today, by violating the 2013 Act, branding anti-land-grab activists and protestors as ‘terrorists’ and invoking UAPA against them, and refusing to hold any talks whatsoever with the people of Bhangar, Mamata Banerjee is following the model Modi himself followed in Gujarat and is now imposing on the country.
The violence, repression and forced eviction and land grab by the TMC Government makes a mockery of Mamata Banerjee’s election slogan promising to honour ‘Ma Mati Manush’ (mother, land, and human beings). Her Government is attacking arresting women and human beings, and branding their democratic protests defending land as ‘unlawful activities’!
The West Bengal Government must heed the voice of people, cancel the power grid project, initiate dialogue with the people of Bhangar, probe the police firing and pay compensation to the families of the two victims.