//Singur: Arundhati Roy warns of the perils of `anti-people' policies

Singur: Arundhati Roy warns of the perils of `anti-people' policies

Prashant Pandey

Arundhathi Roy

Arundhathi Roy

"NOT RIGHT": Social activist Arundhati Roy (left) staging a protest outside the CPI (M) headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday against the West Bengal Government's decision to hand over farmland in Singur to Tata Motors.

NEW DELHI: Expressing solidarity with the farmers of Singur in West Bengal who are resisting the State Government's move to acquire land and give it to Tata Motors for setting up a car manufacturing plant, noted author and activist Arundhati Roy on Thursday warned that such policies would ultimately force the marginalised to take up arms.

Addressing a press conference after participating in a protest outside the Communist Party of India (Marxist) office here, Ms. Roy said Singur was not an isolated case.

There was a connection between incidents such as Kalinga Nagar firing, the Narmada dam project and Singur as, in the name of development, people were being displaced without adequate compensation and a comprehensive rehabilitation plan.

`They speak the same language'

Criticising the stand of the CPI (M) Government, Ms. Roy said it was ironical that the same party once used to be among the most vociferous on such issues. "There is unity now in the political class. Whether the Government or the Opposition, they are all speaking the same language — either overtly or covertly," she said.

Stating that it was always easy for the Government to claim that the local population had given its consent for acquisition, Ms. Roy said people like landless tillers and sharecroppers would never count in official records.

Rejecting the State Government's contention that "outsiders were fomenting trouble in Singur," Ms. Roy said this is a "stale strategy" that the Governments have used several times in the past to discredit popular opposition. "It is not worth even a thought," she said.

CPI (M) leader's response

Earlier, recounting the turn of events at a meeting with CPI (M) Central Committee member Neelotpal Basu here, Editor, Mainstream, Sumit Chakravarty, expressed anguish at the senior leader's response.

"At the meeting we apprised Mr. Basu about how the police barged into the house of Bharti Das, owner of 1.5 acres in Singur who refused to hand over her land, and beat her up violating all human rights norms. All that Mr. Basu had to say was that the `police is police and that is the way they behave'," said Mr. Chakravarty.

Dismissing suggestions that people like Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar and Ms. Roy were against development, Mr. Chakravarty said in the present case there was no objection to the setting up of the Tata factory but there was no justification in the Government acquiring prime agricultural land.

"In the meeting (with Mr. Basu), we were told that the Tatas were shown five locations that included waste land and industrial areas which were lying in disuse. But they chose Singur because it had certain advantages in terms of infrastructure. If the Government wants development why doesn't it give the company land in backward areas where real job opportunities could be created," he argued.

He said civil society was protesting only because there was clear evidence of the local population resisting the Government's action.

`Amend laws'

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan said there was a serious need to put pressure on the Government for amending the land acquisition laws as they cannot be used to snatch land from the poor and give it to private parties.

Social activist Surendra Mohan said the Tatas had created a flourishing township on barren land in Jamshedpur in the early 20th century. "Why can't they take the same risk now? They are certainly a much more bigger corporation now," he said.