Oppression and Resistance

Sailen Misra

In 2001, the then CPI(M)-led government of West Bengal acquired 294 acres of land under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 in Sibpur mouja of Bolpur, Bribhum. The government acquired the land with promise of setting up industrial units on the land and giving jobs to at least one member of each land-loser family. Besides, it was promised that the interests of the pattadars (registered tenants), bargadars (registered sharecroppers) and agricultural labourers would be protected. Lured by this promise, more than 1100 of landowners parted with their land at the throw away price of Rs 2400 per cotta. 119 riots refused to take the price of land and five out of sixty-seven pattadars refused to accept compensation. The land was transferred to the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation. But no industrial unit was set up till 2008 and the land-losers started a movement. The APDR and the organisations of the far left stood by them. They staged a day-long sit-in demonstration before the office of the local SDO. The demand was that either industries were to be set up or the land was to be returned to the original owners. In 2010, the Trinamul Congress, obviously in its own political interest, supported the movement and even held a public meeting. The local TMC leaders promised that if the TMC came to power industries would be set up and if this was not feasible land would be returned. But they failed to set up industries in the wake of their coming to power, and asked the farmers to till the land, which the latter did for three consecutive years. Recently, the TMC tried to prevent the farmers from tilling the land, and began to propagate the old story of setting up industrial units. Then it was announced on behalf of the government that the land would be used for housing projects and additionally, for building up a Viswa Bangla University. The farmers burst into grievances and made it clear that they would allow only industrial units, not housing complexes for the affluent. The farmers went to the High Court with the demand for return of their land. On the other hand, the APDR, the Save Democracy Forum and other political outfits began to organise the farmers. A meeting was convened at a nearby place, Sabirganj, at the call of the 'Sibpur Jamihara Sangrami Mancha' (Forum for the Struggle of Sibpur Land-losers). Bikas Ranjan Bhaattacharya, Abdul Mannan, Miratun Nahar etc were to address the gathering. At about 1-10 P.M, a motorbike procession of TMC hooligans arrived at the spot and ransacked the platform of the meeting, taking away the chairs, tables and other things gathered there for the meeting. They also severely beat up a farmer named Haidar Shiekh. Then they fired shots from revolvers. The shots alerted the farmers and they came rushing to the spot. They drove away the TMC army. The scheduled speakers were allegedly obstructed by the TMC activists while on their way to the meeting. Two hours later however the meeting was held and was addressed by Miratun Nahar, Sailen Misra, Amitabha Chakrabarty etc. Thus the attempt of these TMC men to disrupt the meeting was foiled by the people. The struggle of the villagers is perhaps a small one; but it has articulated the truth that not silence, but resistance is the only way for survival.


Vol. 50, No.23, Dec 10 - 16, 2017