The movement against land acquisition in Singur started as a spontaneous protest by the farmers, but brought together more than a dozen political parties and social organisations as it grew bigger.
Though it was a collective struggle against alleged forced acquisition of land, two Trinamool Congress leaders — sitting MLA Rabindranath Chatterjee or Mastermoshai as he’s known locally and Becharam Manna — stood out the faces of the movement. Both went on the become ministers when Mamata Banerjee formed her first cabinet after the historic win in 2011.
Barely known beyond Singur, Manna was a leader of the Trinamool’s Singur community development block when the locals erupted in protest on May 25, 2006. He sensed an opportunity to come up the ranks and joined the movement.
Becharam Manna was an unknown Trinamool leader of Singur community development block when the agitations started on May 25, 2006. He smelled a rat and joined the movement. Even though SUCI and CPI(ML) (Liberation) had thrown their weight behind the farmers rights from the beginning, Manna had become one of the most important leaders by the Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee (KJRC).
Even though SUCI and CPI(ML) (Liberation) had thrown their weight behind the agitating farmers from the beginning, Manna emerged as one of the most important leaders of the Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee, a people’s front against alleged forced acquisition of land.
The committee, formed on June 4 with representatives from all villages that were going to be affected by the acquisition, elected Manna and SUCI’s Shankar Jana as the two conveners and local Trinamool MLA, Rabindranath Bhattacharya, as its president.
Since then, Manna and Bhattacharya were seen leading the movement from the front — from participating in hunger strikes to leading farmers’ resistance when, in December 2006, police came to take physical possession of the land.
Farmers Manik Das, Mahadeb Das, SUCI’s Shankar Jana and Santosh Bhattacharya, CPI(ML) (Liberation)’s Sajal Adhikary played crucial roles in galvanising the agitating farmers.
It was the charismatic Manna who became the voice of the movement. He even quit his job at the jute mill to devote more time to drive the Singur movement.
“It was a very difficult time for my family. I had become a mother barely a few days after the movement started. But he had no time for me or the baby. From dawn to the dead of night, he was busy steering the movement,” recalled Kakali Manna, Becharam’s wife.
She later became the president of the Trinamool’s women’s wing in Hooghly and a member of the Singur Zilla Parishad.
Bhattacharya, who was already in his seventies when the movement started, did not take time to reach Beraberi, the epicentre of the movement, on Wednesday. Farmers coloured the octogenarian in green. His support gave farmers the belief when the movement began.
“It was our principled stand and struggle that paid off in the end,” Bhattacharya said flashing a triumphant smile on Wednesday.