Singur (West Bengal), Aug 31 (IANS) People smeared green gulal on each other, raised deafening slogans eulogising West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and took out victory rallies as euphoria swept this rural hamlet of Hooghly district on Wednesday after the Supreme Court verdict quashing the land acquisition for the Tata Motors’ Nano project.
Since Tuesday night there was palpable tension among the locals, most of them peasants, from whom land had been acquired by the erstwhile Left Front government for the small car plant which now stands abandoned like a haunted house.
The Tatas had shifted the project to Sanad in Gujarat, following a violent peasant movement here against the plant.
From the early hours of Wednesday, people huddled around television sets for news on the court verdict which was originally scheduled to come at 10.30 am.
The tension became palpable as the judges pushed back the verdict time to 1.50 pm.
People crowded at tea stalls and the main thoroughfares, spoke in hushed tones and constantly looked at their watches.
Finally, zero hour came and with it the news that the court had set aside the acquisition.
Collective shouts of joy rent the air as television channels confirmed the news. Hundreds screamed “Mamata Banerjee zindabad”. Her photographs and Trinamool Congress’s flags were held aloft by the people, many of whom became tearful. Banerjee had spearheaded the protests in 2006-2008, undertaking a 26-day hunger strike in Kolkata and then a 14-day sit-in close to the Tata Motors project area.
“The long wait has finally come to an end. Those who had received cheques as compensation at least got something. But we neither took the cheques nor got back the land. The Supreme Court gave us double bonanza as we would get land as well as the compensation,” Badal Santra, a farmer from Khaserberi village told IANS.
Many like Santra had joined Banerjee’s agitation, alleging that land had been taken from them against their will.
Recounting their struggles and hardships over the past 10 years, Bholanath Ghosh — who had lost 2 acres of land in Ghaserberi area — said: “Singur raised a question over the process of land acquisition. We were not part of the consultation”.
“How can it be called development when farmers were being excluded from the process. The Supreme Court established our demand,” Ghosh added.
Welcoming the verdict, Singur legislator Rabindra Nath Bhattacharya said: “The verdict has proved our stand that the land acquisition was illegal and anti-people, and against the interest of the residents of Singur. I hope the state government will initiate the next course of action to return lands to farmers.”
Trinamool activist Mahadeb Das, who had also lost land, said: “We are happy and it is a victory of democracy. The Supreme Court has established the rights of the farmers. The Left Front government slapped 128 cases against the farmers and 14 people became martyrs during the movement. We are dedicating the victory to those who were with us”.
“Currently, there are about 2,400 unwilling farmers with about 340 acres of land. Some farmers had given land and received the cheque later due to pressure. We are grateful to the court that it ordered that the farmers be given both compensation and land,” Das said.
Singur Shipo Bachao Committee’s (Singur Save Industry Committee) Convener Udayan Das also welcomed the verdict, but regretted that the court’s decision would adversely affect the industrial prospects of Singur and the rest of the state.
“We welcome the verdict. The committee filed a case against the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act 2011, passed by the Trinamool government as it (the act) would create a division among willing and unwilling farmers. The act proposed to return the land to unwilling farmers only”.
“We have been advocating that if there will be no industry, the land should be returned to all the land-givers. The apex court’s order has directed the state government to return the land to all, which we are welcoming,” Das told IANS.
But he also struck a discordant note.
“After this order, the industrial prospects of Singur as well as of the state would be shattered.”