The ruling Left Front in West Bengal came under scathing criticism on the Nandigram issue on Monday with former prime minister VP Singh demanding an immediate ban on SEZ-related land acquisition and radical Left party CPI (ML) equating the current West Bengal government with the "semi-fascist" rule of the 1970s.
Singh, referring to the killing of 11 farmers in Nandigram, said that what is happening in West Bengal is wrong. He added that farmers' land is being taken over by "corporate landordism with help from the state. It is a reversal of ideals and policies on which the CPI-M government had come to power. It is very sad and tragic."
Singh, who now heads Jan Morcha, said that the UPA government should impose a six-month moratorium on acquiring land for SEZs. "The government should then constitute a commission comprising eminent citizens to formulate a new policy for acquiring land. The farmers should have a say and also decide the compensation package. Why should the state act as the choudhury (leader) and act on behalf of corporates," Singh said, adding that earlier land would be taken by the government to build schools, hospitals and roads.
The former prime minister questioned the logic behind first acquiring land and then starting the industrialisation process. "Has there been no industrialisation in India? We have had industrialisation before but not like this. We are now competing internationally," Singh said.
Earlier in the day, CPI (ML) cadres demonstrated outside the CPI-M headquarters near Gol Market and outside the West Bengal Resident Commissioner's office on Baba Kharag Singh Marg. They raised slogans against the CPI-M, alleging that the government had sold itself to corporate interests.
Party general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said the incidents at Singur and Nandigram rush back memories of the "semi-fascist" government of Siddhartha Shankar Roy in the 1970s.
"The CPI-M has been unmasked, the illusions it created shattered. They have gone back on every promise they had made on SEZs. For example, CPI-M had said only non-agricultural land will be acquired, or at the most, a one-crop land. They have gone back on each promise. The repression in West Bengal is now being carried out by the state," Bhattacharya said.
He added that of the 20,000 acres being acquired in Nandigram, more than 13,500 acres comprise fertile, two-crop land where paddy and betel leaves are cultivated.
The CPI (ML) leader said that CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya's allegation that there is a communal angle to the violence is "politically motivated and dangerous".
He said that it is true that the CPI MLA of the area is a Muslim but farmers, irrespective of their religions, are carrying out the protests.
Bhattacharya urged Left front allies like CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc to withdraw their ministers from the West Bengal government as a mark of protest.