January 22, 2008. A report by Anuradha Talwar, Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity
The High Court dismissed all the petitions against the land acquisition in Singur on 18th January 2008. After waiting for over almost six months to give its verdict (the last date of hearing was 31st July 2008) the High Court dismissed all the 11 public interest cases against forcible land acquisition by the State Government for Tata Motors Company. The Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court comprising the Chief Justice, Mr. S.S. Nijjar, and Mr. Justice P.C. Ghose, by a common order, on 18th January, Friday held that the land acquisition by the State Government at Singur for construction of a small car manufacturing unit by Tata Motors is valid. While dismissing all the public interest litigations challenging land acquisition at Singur, the court held that those petitions are not maintainable.
The court further held that the arguments of the State Government, Tata Motors and WBIDC are acceptable in the sense that land has been acquired for economic development of the area.
This unilateral move of the High Court (which seemed a Mohammed bin Tughlak like gesture) made headlines and left many people in Singur stunned. What has not made the headlines is the speed with which the Singur people have recovered and are continuing their struggle.
On our visit on 18th January 2008 to Singur, we met many women in Beraberi Purba Para, who had returned disappointed from the High Court that morning. Most had tears in their eyes. The men wiped their eyes surreptitiously. However, we soon saw signs of revival amongst them and the earlier steel was back in their voices.
In an instantaneous meeting organized by “Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee” on the same evening, after more than two hours of intense discussion, the farmers unwilling to give the land for Tata Motors once more took the decision to not take the compensation cheques and to continue their struggle. They also were self critical for having banked too much on the court decision. The unwilling farmers of Singur who have still not given their land for Tata Motors were very angry because the Court had taken a very long time to give its verdict.
After a series of village meetings on the 19th, where the others in the Singur villages endorsed their decision, a protest rally was organized by ‘Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee’ on 20th January, 2008 against the verdict of Kolkata High Court. The people also decided to appeal against the High Court’s orders in the Supreme Court.
On 20th January a protest rally started from Barohat Kalitala at 3 – 30 p.m. and ended at Kamarkundu Rail Gate. They then began a sit down strike and blocked the rail line and the road in protest of the verdict by the High Court. The Rally was leaded by Saraswati Das, an old woman who was involved in the movement from the very beginning, Becharam Manna, Convener of ” Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee” , Rabindra Nath Bhattacarya , Local MLA, and Amitabh Bhattacharya of Majdoor Kranti Parishad and members of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity also participated. More than 1500 people were present at the rally. As usual a number of women were there. They shouted slogans, ” We will not give our land”, “High court verdict is in favor of Tata, not for people’s interest”, “We won’t abide by the verdict of High Court” etc. The Rail and Road block programme were continued over 1 and half hour. Becharam Manna on behalf of ” Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee” announced that they will be organized more protest programmes in near future. They all want to see an end to forcible land acquisition.