Statement on Singur from Sanhati

October 12, 2008

Months of unflinching resistance by the people of Singur, especially landless labourers and marginal farmers, against the unjust and violent farm land acquisition by the West Bengal government has finally forced Tata Motors to withdraw its small car project from that area. Despite the opportunism and unprincipled populism of the leadership, buttressed by alliances with rightwing political forces, the struggle of the working people and their sympathisers culminating in a seige for weeks around the factory has forced the corporation to finally move out. While this has brought some joy to the people of Singur, their struggle has definitely not ended – the fight continues to get back the land that was forcibly acquired from them. The West Bengal state government has categorically stated that there is no question of returning the land. We demand that, without further delay, the forcibly acquired land should be handed back to the evicted farmers in the original condition at the expense of the government/Tata. We also demand that the government compensate landless agricultural workers and share croppers for their loss of income for the past two years. And, we stand by any struggles undertaken by the farmers in this regard.

The mainstream media has lost no time in declaring doomsday for industrialization in Bengal. For them and their commentators, this is the only model for development and the retreat of the Tatas implies that we have missed the bus to paradise, without having any concern for the plight of the uprooted except for some token compensation. We categorically reject this paradigm and believe alternatives are possible. In fact, we believe that this entire process has only thrown open the debate on alternative paths of development. It provides opportunities for us to explore new ideas on economic growth and development which keep the needs of working people in the center. In contrast, the Left Front government is only tamely submitting to the dictates of big capital claiming that there are no alternatives to neoliberal industrialization, so much so that it has gone to the extent of using violence by police or cadres to suppress any opposition. We strongly condemn all such acts of repression. We also demand that the government should immediately stop such forcible acquisition of land that destroy peoples lives and livelihoods and take steps to acquire and establish industries on the prime land belonging to the 55,000 closed industries in the state.

In a larger context, the movements of Singur and Nandigram have emboldened people across India to resist forcible acquisition of their resources and denial of their rights in the name of development. Such struggles all over the country have pushed back, to a certain extent, the anti-working people neoliberal industrialization policies of the central and state governments. This is definitely an encouraging sign in these times. However, the state continues to devise more intricate plans as private capital waits impatiently to grab resources, aided by the state, solely for its own profits. It is, therefore, important that we continue to vigorously oppose the neo-liberal policy framework of the ruling establishment. As we look across the world, we can witness the crisis in capitalist economies dominated for decades by neoliberal ideology and we, at this point, can choose to reject paths dictated by private capital and chart out new policies that lead to development without marginalization, and the fruits of which are equitably distributed amongst all.