The Supreme Court verdict setting aside land acquisition for the Tata Nano project in Singur and ordering return of the illegally-acquired land to the peasants of Singur is a historic victory for the peasants’ movement.
The verdict vindicates the position argued by the Singur peasants and a range of democratic supporters throughout – that the land acquisition was illegal and immoral and robbed the peasants of their land, livelihood and rights in order to appease the corporate Tata.
The CPI(M)-led Left Front Government that had all along defended the Singur land grab was punished with electoral debacles. Now, faced with the Supreme Court verdict putting paid to its stubborn defence of the land grab, the CPI(M) leadership has continued to claim absurdly that the blame lies with the 1894 Land Acquisition Act “which was the only legal instrument available at that time.” This plea fails to convince, however, since the Supreme Court has held the acquisition at Singur to be a violation of the 1894 Act, not the present Land Acquisition Act. The West Bengal Government led by the CPI(M) violated even the norms for acquisition set down in the 1894 Act and unleashed repression on peasants resisting land grab. Instead of continuing to defend the indefensible, the CPI(M) ought to accept the Supreme Court verdict as a vindication of the fighting peasants, apologise and introspect for its high-handed act of corporate land grab.
The Singur verdict should serve as a warning to the Modi Government and every other Government in the country that is trying to usher in land grab laws and snatch land from peasants and adivasis to hand over to corporates. It will serve as a boost in the arm for the ongoing struggles to scrap land grab laws and instead enact laws to protect agricultural, fertile, coastal and forest land from grab.
Meanwhile the Trinamool Congress Government of Mamata Banerjee, while making political capital over the verdict, is ignoring several key demands of the land and livelihood losers – especially the landless agricultural labourers and sharecroppers.
On 12th September, the CPI(ML) held a March in Singur to congratulate the fighting people of Singur who are the real architects of this historic vindication of their struggle and a landmark victory against state-aided corporate land grab all over the country.
The administration tried to stop the March, pressurising CPI(ML) to postpone the March to any date after the official ‘Singur celebration’ of 14 September by the TMC Government. The CPI(ML) held the March successfully defying this administrative ploy. The statues of Tapasi Malik and Rajkumar Bhool, martyrs of the Singur struggle were garlanded before a public meeting was held which were attended by agricultural and other rural labourers and share croppers who lost their livelihood because of the acquisition. The gathering raised the demands for compensation for these livelihood losers, payment of compensation with interest for those who had refused to accept compensation in protest, and return of the land in cultivable conditions. The CM Mamata Banerjee’s announcements on 14 September did not address these demands and a signature campaign is now underway to raise them again powerfully. The Local TMC MLA of Haripal and the local police and TMC leaders are trying to browbeat and intimidate the people away from this campaign. But the Singur struggle, emboldened by the Supreme Court verdict, continues!