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Mamata and her Singur comrades walk into school text books

Almost an entire chapter has been devoted to the movement between 2006 and 2016.

kolkata Updated: Feb 20, 2017 19:14 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
Singur,Mamata Banerjee,History Text Book
A page of the text book. There are five pictures of chief minister Mamata Banerjee who is seen sowing seeds in Singur here. (HT Photo)

Less than six months after supreme court upheld chief minister’s Mamata Banerjee’s contention that the Singur Nano factory land must be returned to the farmers, her education department mandarins have etched the names and achievements of a number of Trinamool leaders and supporters throughout the length of a full chapter in history text books of class VIII.

Distribution of the book began on Monday.

As many as six pages of the 10-page insert entitled “Jami Jal Jangal: Jiban Jibikar Adhikar O Ganaandolan” (Land, water, forests: the right to life and livelihood and mass movements) have been devoted to Mamata Banerjee’s Singur movement.

Read: Farming to factory and back: Rust turns green in Singur Nano plant

The chief minister’s pictures adorn five of the six pages. The book covers the entire period from 2006 when the resistance began to October 2016 when the chief minister sowed mustard seeds in Singur to launch the resumption of farming.

While the first four pages briefly mention the movements of Tebhaga, Telangana, Chipco, Appiko, Silent Valley and Naramada Bachao Andolan, the last six pages are dedicated to Singur movement, and especially the role of Mamata Banerjee.

Picture of Singur residents touring the villages after the supreme court verdict on August 31, 2016. Mamata Banerjee attained the stature of a demigod last year when the apex court upheld her contention that the land must be returned to the Singur farmers. (HT Photo)

The movement has been written about in glowing terms, and the names of all her prominent aides who were seen participating in the agitations have been named in the text book that is published by the education department.

The Trinamool leaders mentioned in the book are Mukul Roy, Subrata Bakshi, Partha Chatterjee, Sovan Chatterjee, Firhad Hakim and Sovandeb Chatterjee. Even minor leaders such as Becharam Manna, Rabindranath Bhattacharya and Tapan Dasgupta, all of whom later became ministers, have been given a pride of place.

Read: Mamata burns midnight oil to write book on Singur

“It was Mamata Banerjee, who started the Singur movement by sowing paddy seeds,” reads the book. Two participants in the movement, however, strongly objected to this claim.

“This amounts to twisting the facts. It began as a spontaneous resistance movement by the local farmers, which the Trinamool Congress joined after some time. The Krishji Jami Raksha Committee (KJRC) was formed on June 4, whereas Mamata Banerjee sowed paddy on July 18,” said Sajal Adhikary, a state committee member of CPI(ML)(Liberation) who spent months in Singur in 2006. Adhikary has an MPhil degree in history and teaches the subject in a government-aided higher secondary school in Hooghly district.

Mamata Banerjee at an agitation programme in Singur in 2008. (HT Photo)

The narrative, however, omits almost every participant in the movement who later turned a critic of the Mamata Banerjee government. While the role of prominent intellectuals has been briefly mentioned, there merely are passing references of rights organisations and members of the student community who played a pivotal role.

“The Singur movement was led by (KJRC), in which leaders belonging to outfits other than Trinamool Congress, too, held significant positions. Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI), CPI(ML)(Liberation), Paschimbanga Khet Majoor Samiti and Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) played crucial roles in mobilising the farmers at ground level. But the text book is silent on their roles,” said SUCI leader Santosh Bhattacharya, who virtually relocated himself in Singur for nearly six months in 2006-2007 to participate in the movement.

Civil society members such as Kabir Suman, Pratul Mukherjee (singers), Abhi Dutta Majumdar (scientist), Joy Goswami (poet), Aparna Sen (film personality), Jogen Chowdhury, Subhaprasanna (painters), Mahasweta Devi (writer), Amlan Dutta (educationist), Shaoli Mitra, Bratya Basu, Arpita Ghosh (theatre personalities) were also named.

Read: Never abandon the battlefield: Mamata Banerjee’s Singur takeaway

Prominent human rights activist Sujato Bhadra, who teaches history in a college, has also been named. “This is no way to chronicle history. This is a subjective narrative of the ruling party. They are simply to glorify some of their leaders,” Bhadra told HT.

A glance through the pages 158 to 168 reveals that the movement/agitation in Tebhaga, Telangana and Kakdwip have been mentioned to avoid questions almost as an afterthought.

“I’m at loss of words with the government’s unscientific approach towards history. Critical analysis of contemporary movements can be part of higher studies but glorifying leaders of the ruling party in history text books for school children is unprecedented. Adolf Hitler ordered his inclusion in school text books,” said Samik Lahiri, former MP and member of CPI(M) state committee.

On February 13, education minister Partha Chatterjee told reporters, “It’s a historic win for the farmers. Along with the Singur movement, the Tebhaga movement and Krishak Andolan will also feature in the syllabus and students must know that this movement is one of the milestones in the country’s history.”

First Published: Feb 20, 2017 19:14 IST