Singur and Nandigram By Akhila Raman
Be it Right or Left, it is becoming increasingly clear that many Governments across the world are eager to get in bed with the corporations.
The message is clear in West Bengal: Economic development will be pursued at any human cost.
Protesters will be brutally dealt with and killed if required. Critics will be vilified. Facts will be fudged to justify brutal actions.
The Ugly Might of the State has descended in an unholy manner on the farmers
in Singur and Nandigram. How can CPIM reconcile its conflicting
history of admirable land reforms in West Bengal with the
recent brutal repression of farmers in its desperate bid of
"The Communist Party of India (Marxist) is the revolutionary vanguard of the working class of India. Its aim is socialism and communism through the establishment of the state of dictatorship of the proletariat. In all its activities the Party is guided by the philosophy and principles of Marxism-Leninism which shows to the toiling masses the correct way to the ending of exploitation of man by man, their complete emancipation.
" – CPIM website
Thus reads the website of Communist Party of India-Marxist(CPIM). Its stated aim and ideals are lofty. Practice is
becoming increasingly shameful. The CPIM led Left Front came to power in West Bengal in 1977 with the promise of achieving
socialism and has continued to win every election ever since, largely due to the land reforms through the 80's, which did
benefit large sections of the toiling masses. Lately though, the Party is increasingly becoming indistinguishable from the Right.
The Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has issued an open invitation to all and sundry in the investment sector to
come and set up shop in West Bengal. Strange Bedfellows?
He even offered to
acquire the land for Ratan Tata to set up a small car factory near Singur. It so happened that the land Tata wanted was
multi-cropped land in fact. Hence it became necessary for CPIM to fudge the facts and use outdated survey records
to portray it as a mono-cropped land, thus
going back on its declared promise that multi-cropped land will not be acquired for industrialization.  
Buddhadeb had stated in early December that they had obtained consent from the farmers to acquire 932 acres of land
before the fencing of the area began in December.
Later, the Government was forced to admit that the consent had been for only 586 acres of land, prior
to fencing Which implies, once fencing began in early
December, the farmers who had not given consent were under pressure to sell the land else they would
lose the land anyway.
Naturally, the toiling masses of Singur rose in rebellion against a Government which was exploiting
them rather than emancipating them. The moving video "Abadbhumi" which documents in detail the dissent of the
farmers against this exploitation, leaves one in little doubt.
Predictably, all kinds of groups rushed to Singur in support, which ranged from politically motivated Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool Congress
to selfless grassroots activists like Medha Patkar and numerous human rights groups.
Brinda Karat of CPIM was quick to equate Medha with Mamata, denouncing the former, in an unedited draft article
circulated among CPIM lists. 
Here she was behaving exactly as her counterparts in the Right normally do.
Then the Might of the State was unleashed upon the same toiling masses who had dared to
question their exploitation. They were intimidated and beaten along with the opposition protesters,
which has been documented by reputed human rights groups.
Karat and Buddhadeb predictably denied
that there was any brutality against the farmers. In their
eyes, anyone who protested against the car factory necessarily were allied with the opposition goons and deserved
to be beaten up. [ Reminds one of Bush's maxim?:"You are either with us or against us" ]
In the meanwhile, the rape and murder of 18-year old Tapasi Malik inside the fenced area in Singur is
yet to be resolved and Singur farmers continue to protest.
What really happened in Nandigram?
Next stop in the spree of agricultural land-grab for industrialization is Nandigram. The farmers in
Nandigram began to be intimidated by the rogue elements of the CPIM. Troubled by the events in Singur, they
rose in protest against any forceful aquisition of their multi-cropped agricultural lands and
refused to let the CPIM cadres and the police inside their village. [Sure enough, the situation was taken advantage of
by opposition parties which had dug up roads and cut off access to Nandigram.] What followed next is a
tale of carnage: On March 14th, the police fired indiscriminately into a crowd of unarmed people of Nandigram, killing 14 persons
and injuring hundreds including women, men and children. Many young women were raped by
anti-social elements. Eyewitness reports
suggest that the people who fired at the crowd included uniformed police and CPIM goons in fact and that
many children were brutally torn apart, killed and thrown into the pond.
From Socialism to Barbarism?
Predictably, Buddhadeb defended his actions saying that the protesters were armed and were allied
with opposition and that the brutality had to be carried out.
Many long time defenders of the CPIM continue to defend it in similar vein. But, on-the-ground investigation and
fact-finding reports by reputed human rights organizations APDR and PBKMS,
based on eye-witness testimonies of 62 patients and 200 villagers, make it clear that many of the people killed and injured were in fact
unarmed people of Nandigram, including women and children who were standing up to the organized intimidation
tactics of some elements inside the CPIM, some of whom have been identified.
Now, CPIM has been forced to scrap the project in Nandigram, but at tragic cost to the locals.
It may be that the actual brutality on farmers was perpetrated by a small minority of CPIM cadres,
but the Party needs to own up the responsibility and punish such rogue elements.
Emancipation of the masses?
Where does this leave CPIM with its conflicting history of admirable land reforms in West Bengal
and the recent high-handed repression of farmers in Singur and Nandigram? From lofty ideals of
emancipating the toiling masses from exploitation to blatant wooing of corporations and taking the
side of the latter against the toiling masses? It seems now that it rather stands for the Emancipation of
the upper and middle classes as opposed to the proletariat. Notwithstanding its past progressive
land reforms, lately it seems to be allying itself with the corporations against the masses.
If it is true that the State of West Bengal is indeed in desperate need of industrialization and has to
move on with the times, then why not do it in a more just and equitable manner?
One fair compensation to the farmers could be to give them equity in the proposed car
factory, in addition to a fair sale price for the land . If the Tatas make profit, which they will, then why not share the spoils with the
farmers who give up their lands? Why should the farmers of Singur and Nandigram
make all the sacrifice for the development of the State, while the benefits of resulting
industrialization will mostly benefit the upper and middle classes, with very little
"trickle-down effect" to these farmers?
It may be worthwhile for Buddhadeb and CPIM defenders to listen to the following
impassioned words of a farmer in Singur:
" Why cannot the Government and the Tatas leave our multi-cropped agricultural lands
and instead build the car factory in fallow lands located just a few kilometers away?
" – Excerpt from documentary film "Abadbhumi"
[ The author is a researcher based in California. Full Text of the article with detailed references can be found in:
Singur and Nandigram ]
AIM of CPIM, website of CPIM
Progress and challenges in West Bengal,
The Frontline, Aug 2004.
Political Economy of Land Reforms in West Bengal
 `We are an investment-friendly government' , Buddhadeb Bhattacharya
Buddhadeb wooing Dow Chemicals of Bhopal gas leak infamy
 Headline Singur , Amitadyuti Kumar
"Avijit Mukherjee, the BDO of the block said—it is Singur because the official records show this area is marked as ‘single-cropped’, non-irrigated or ‘barren’. These records were based on surveys dating back to 1990. During the last 15 years, in the proposed Tata Motors site, the peasants have got installed 35 shallow pumps, 28 of which with their own money. In addition, there are three deep-tube wells. The two rivulets, the Zulkia and the Kunti – flowing along the either sides provide a substantial irrigational facility. In the dry season these rivulets and the DVC (Damodar Valley Corporation’s dams) release irrigate the fields. How can such land be called single-cropped, barren or non-irrigated?"
 THE PUBLIC HEARING AND FURTHER INVESTIGATION ON THE STRUGGLE BY THE PEOPLE OF SINGUR
"The land to be affected is the prime agricultural land
with multiple cropping , growing paddy, jute and rich and varied vegetables
which is the sources of livelihood for those thousands of families"
 Full protection to Tatas: Buddhadeb, The Hindu Dec 1
 'No consent for acquiring 411 acres of land', Times of India Dec 16
Status Report on Singur
 Abadbhumi: video on singur
 Brinda Karat: Truth about Singur
 Nandigram rape: CPM man owns up, The Statesman, March 20
Outsider role in Nandigram, Times of India, March 20
 Buddhadeb's statement on Nandigram
 Report of Investigation Into Nandigram Mass Killings, Association for Protection of
Democratic Rights(APDR) and Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity(PBKMS), March 23,2007
Full Text of Report
Excerpts from the Report:
"According to the villagers and wounded people, there were many goons and leaders of the CPI (M) party with the police during the police violence...There are many complaints of horrific and deliberate
acts of violence during this phase and afterwards...Women were taken away and raped..."
Sequence of events
The testimonies and discussions with eyewitnesses and
victims (patients) of the firing show that the
sequence of events given by all these people is more
or less the same. The sequence given below is based on
the testimonies of 62 patients and about 200 villagers
whom we met.
People were aware that there would be an attempt by
the police and party goons to re-enter the area as a
first step towards taking over their land. They
decided to offer peaceful resistance by organising a
Gouranga Puja (incidentally Gouranga is the God
believed to be protector of the people nearby). They
also planned a Koran recitation ceremony. Once this
programme was known, people flocked to the spots where
the Puja and Koraan rectals were being held. At
Bhangabera the Puja was in a trench that had been cut
in the road earlier. About 5,000-6,000 people were
present, of which 3000 were women and about 400-500
were children. The people were unarmed as they were in
religious ceremonies. The women and children decided
to stand in front as the people assumed that the
police would not be that much violent with women and
A large police force with firearms and tear gas
arrived in vehicles and buses on the Khejuri side of
the Talpatti Khal in the morning. They were
accompanied by many armed CPM goons. They were also
carrying truckloads of road repair equipments and
materials. At Bhangabera Bridge, they first filled
up a large trench near the bridge. None opposed this.
They then began advancing across the bridge. There
seems to have been no prior warning. It eas reported
that, Anup Mondal of the CPM was using a hand mike,
but most barring a few nearby heard nothing and were
not forewarned about the police action. Without any
proper warning the police-CPI(M) combine began
throwing bombs and tear gas shells. This blinded the
crowd and created confusion and panic. At ths
juncture, the the police-CPI(M) combine began firing
from various firearms and advancing further while
firing. Operations, including the firing and the
filling up of the trench seemed to have been planned
earlier. While the firing continued for about 15
minutes, other forms of violence followed for the next
hour and a half or so.
There are many complaints of horrific and deliberate
acts of violence during this phase and afterwards.
Those rescuing the wounded were prevented from doing
so. Pushpendu Mondal, S/O Beni Madhab Mondal , Vill –
Gangra, Nandigram received bullet injuries in his
belly and right hand. Pulin Behari Mondal (his
neighbour) tried to take him for hospitalisation but
due to lathi charge by the police, Pulin fled the
place. Police and goons took Pushpendu away forcibly.
Women were taken away and raped. Women who tried to
hide or wash their burning eyes in ponds were forced
to come out and then beaten up again. Houses and shops
were looted. Instead of using minimum force necessary
to disperse the unarmed people gathered there, maximum
possible force appear to have been applied to instil
fear and terror in people, to break their morale and
teach them a lesson. The large presence of armed
CPI(M) men, many also in police fatigue injected the
element of vengeance and revenge in the operation.
Violence and Murder of Children
Along with women, children who were present in huge
numbers to participate and witness the puja also wore
the brunt of the police firing and lathicharge. Scores
of people have alleged that children were torn apart,
hurled into ponds and killed. Many people have
testified to children being shot at and killed. (See
"....I witnessed women being dragged away by the
police and they were also throwing small children into
the pond..."Satyabala Mani W/o Anadhi Mandal.
"......They killed children-they shot, hacked and even
tore them apart with their two legs..." Lata Mondal
w/o Shakun Mondal. Residence- Gokulnagar