The land agitation at Bhangar reached the heart of Kolkata on Monday when a few thousand people, comprising farmers from the area as well as leaders and members of Left Opposition parties took part in a procession organised by CPI-ML Red Star, the Naxalite group behind the movement.
The procession - which started from College Square and ended at Esplanade - was led by, among others, Sukur Ali Khan, father of Mafizul Ali Khan, the wage labourer who was shot dead, on January 17. “I want my son’s death to be probed by the CBI. I know that a powerful Trinamool leader planned all the violence,” said Khan who filed a petition before the Calcutta High Court last week. “I have refused to accept the compensation the state government offered. They cannot silence me by offering money,” said the landless labourer.
It was apparent that the CPI(M) sniffed an opportunity in the ongoing movement against state government’s move to acquire 16 acres of farmland in Bhangar to recover some of its lost ground in rural West Bengal ahead of panchayat polls. Though none of the top CPI(M) leaders were seen in the rally, many CPI(M) supporters were present. It was learnt that some members of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) had earlier objected to the presence of CPI(M) in the programme, forcing leaders of the party to stay away.
In what is seen as a throwback to the land movement stoked by the Trinamool Congress in Nandigram and Singur to dethrone the Left Front government in 2011, the farmers protest in the South 24 Parganas district, many CPI (M) leaders feel, could provide the Left Front a major issue against the TMC in the 2018 rural elections.
Interestingly, this comes at a time when constant bickering between two powerful TMC leaders- former MLA Arabul Islam and his successor and former CPI(M) land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah- in the Muslim-dominated agrarian belt is further adding to the woes of the ruling dispensation.
Although members of the CPI-ML Red Star are organising farmers against the land acquisition, a section of CPI-M leaders of the district and young party members close to Jadavpur MLA Sujan Chakraborty had been monitoring the developments long before it hit the headlines.
“Immediately after two youths were shot dead, the Bhangar Samhati Mancha was formed with help from Red Star members some of whom are former students of Jadavpur University (JU),” said a CPI(M) leader from Jadavpur. “The objective of the Mancha is to keep the issue alive,” he added.
CPI(M) and Naxalite leaders close to Red Star members trenched at Bhangar said the proposed Power Grid Corporation project on 13.44 acres involves setting up of towers and hi-tension transmission cables. This, they said, would not only cause inconveniences to farmers but affect real estate value of the land on which some big projects have already been planned. Farmers, who had sold land in much cheaper rate for the projects, now want market rate for their plots.