Never abandon the battle field for none will fight for your rights if you don’t, said chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday afternoon, articulating the lesson of the Singur experience. Standing on a dais, the chief minister was relishing every moment of the programme to mark the resumption of farming activity in Singur, that defined the crowning glory of her nearly political career of nearly four decades.
“None hands out rights on a platter. One has to fight for rights,” said the chief minister before proceeding to explain -- for the umpteenth time -- how she relentlessly fought for returning the land to the Singur farmers between 2006 and 2008. (In October 2008, Ratan Tata announced his decision to exit Singur.)
“Singur will become an example in front of the whole world,” remarked the chief minster before announcing that she has asked the district administration to erect a monument in the memory of those farmers who made a lot of sacrifices for the anti-acquisition struggle.
“We did not quit. The administration used all types of method to oppress and coerce the people. We were even attacked inside the block development office where lights were switched off and the media was kept at bay,” recalled the chief minister.
It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the chief minister owes a lot of her political career to the land movements Singur and Nandigram. The vindication of her stand both in the electoral and judicial fields has not only turned her an undisputed leader in Bengal, but also helped her to emerge as a face championing farmer rights in the country.
In 2006, after the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government announced that about 1,000 acre of land in Singur -- located in one of the most fertile tracts of the state -- will be acquired for setting up the Nano plant of Tata Motors, Mamata Banerjee immediately sensed great opportunity to build political capital out of the ill-advised move of the government and the obstinacy of the top leaders to stick to the decision.
She carried out dharnas, fasts, padayatras, faced lathis by the police, but did not give up the movement despite the full force of a the Left that enjoyed 235 MLAs in the assembly of 294 members.
Incidentally, the ground is set for including the Singur movement in the school syllabus in Bengal.
“It’s a victory of the farmers of the entire country. Such a fight for farmer rights has rarely been seen in the country,” said Subrata Mukherjee, the senior most member of Mamata Banerjee cabinet.
Other cabinet colleagues of Mukherjee such as agriculture minister Purnendu Bose and education minister Partha Chatterjee spoke from the dais. Besides paying encomiums to the chief minister, both of them said that her assiduous struggle was instrumental in ushering in the resumption of farming in Singur -- a multi-crop fertile area of the lower Gangetic plain -- instead of the the industrial activity that it was preparing for.