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SINGUR! Do We Really Want Rabindranath?

Tuesday 24 April 2007, by Mahasweta Devi

Kolkata’s Bengali daily, Dainik Statesman, on the happenings in the State. In the following piece she exposes the role of the powers that be in attempting to destroy Tagore’s Santiniketan—once again in the name of ‘development’, the word the State CM has been continually employing to defend the indefensible actions of his government in Singur. We are reproducing it with due acknowledgement. —Editor
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Do we want? Do we really want? If so, why did we allow Santiniketan to continue as a ham shadow of its past glory? I would like it to be known not only to the Bengalis but to all Indian citizens that Bengalis are a race of comatose people. They know how to slumber. They never wake up.
I am not against Hindi. Why Hindi, I am not against any Indian language. I went to Frankfurt as an Indian by the courtesy of the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

But how do I forget Rabindranath? At the same time I must admit that I would not have been inspired, had I not seen the united struggle at Singur. I shall be 82 on January 14, 2007. But there is no age limit for learning. The people of Singur have shown me from my roots. They made me to realise that though I had earned encomiums as an “Activist Writer”, I had not done anything for their struggle. They made me take up the pen.
That’s why I am writing.

With Singur in mind I went to Santiniketan. On reaching Bolpur I come to know that the Railways had kept a model of the bogey in which Rabindranath made his last journey from Bolpur to Calcutta. It was a sort of museum.
Because of some deep understanding and camaraderie between Laloo Prasad Yadav and our beloved Chief Minister that memorabilia had vanished. In that room there is a Hindi library today. I welcome any library in any Indian language. But unfortunately that library always remains closed. Then why was Bolpur station selected for the purpose?

There is a story behind it. A road would be built on the railway land by the side of the library, the road which would bulldoze Santiniketan to carry heavy materials for the Bengal Ambuja Project.

I have no confidence on writers, artists, intellectuals, of all age that they would get down to join the struggle to save “Singur”. I am getting old, hence I have faith on those who do not think about what they would gain, to stand by the struggle of Singur. If you cannot do it for Singur at least protest against the conspiracy of turning Tagore and Santiniketan into an “ugly luxury recreational facility” for the rich and the opulent. Be try to be clear with your own conscience.

I shall now tell you what happened at Santiniketan on November 28, 2006. Incidentally, people of Santinilketan are very happy that I am writing about Singur. People do understand that “protest” is the only way.

In all my writings on Singur I blamed the Chief Minister. I have severely reprimanded the voiceless unprincipled Front partners. Today in the TV, I saw that many of them present in the Front meeting declared that they too were with the CPI-M on the Singur issue. May I ask these wise and learned gentlemen that after stabbing the protesting people of Singur in the back would they, thereafter, go back to them and beg for votes? I feel like asking the Chief Minister whether in his innermost mind he ever considered what he was doing was right or wrong.

There are so many rumours afloat. Someone told me that the Tatas had no choice. The people of Durgapur wanted this factory to be located at Durgapur. Brand new cars produced by the Tatas could move fast along the golden quadrilateral roads to Kolkata, Mumbai and anywhere. But the Chief Minister had some other thought. Hence Singur was selected.

Singur would go. That’s why Singur was chosen. I saw in the TV that our beloved leaders were shouting to their heart’s content about the takeover of Singur behind rings and rings of security forces. Why did these darling and sweetheart leaders of the people require so much protection to speak to the people? It is my very humble question. I do not remember any popular leader of yesteryears going to the people with so much of police protection. Weren’t the present leaders apples of people’s eyes? Were they ever so? Many such queries are coming to my mind. Why do they today require policemen, their own SS cadres, their gangs of goons, siren hooting pilot and cost escort cars, when they move about ? Why?

Well, let the people come to Singur. Let them come from everywhere. Let the students go, let the ordinary people go. Anyone who goes is getting astounded. How could the local sons and daughters of the soil build up such a strong defiant movement. I have written so much about them in my writings, their struggle has become a saga. They have gone into folklore. They have been rendered into folksong. Mothers sing such songs as lullaby to their children.

Let Singur be a part of popular ballad. Let it be a part of popular poetry. Let me see whether I can write a novel on Singur. I came to know Singur quite late in my age. Though I do not want to be ‘old’, Singur has given me a lot. I gathered the strength to struggle from Singur. Singur, you have won. You have shown the path of defiance and anyone who has the courage to struggle wins. You have won.

I shall join your fight. I shall be with you. In my old age it is Singur. In my young age it was Santiniketan—Tagore and his Santiniketan.

Let me tell you what happened on November 28, 2006. As the Chief Minister in his utter arrogance is giving the land of Shahid Rajkumar Vul to the Tatas, with the same degree haughtiness the Speaker of India through his power and influence is handing over water, land and “khoai” of Santiniketan (eroded undulated uplands) to the businessmen and promoter-developers.
Some of us filed a case. Somnath Chatterjee, who is the Speaker of the Lok Sabha today, was the Chairman of Sriniketan-Santiniketan Development Authority in 2004. Look at the inherent strength of the word “development”. The Chief Minister is wanting development “by destroying agriculture” and Somnath Chatterjee is desiring development by devastating Tagore’s Santiniketan. Among the promotors he invited was Harsh Neotia of Bengal Ambuja. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of SSDA, Somnath Chatterjee, let him prosper and he would prosper because all Leftists in Parliament have the single trajectory of going up and up live. Like any wild weed in the rainy season. He gave 9.046 acres of land of Visva Bharati to Bengal Ambuja on December 10, 2004. This is the “khoai” land. Khoai a disputed word. One would get mention of “khoai” in the poems of Tagore and the subsequent poetry of Bengal. One cannot see them now.

Bengal Ambuja could not show “no objection certificate” from the Pollution Control Board. Hence, they could not start any construction work. The project got stalled. The Speaker got mad. In 2004 there was a public hearing at Suri. The project did not get any clearence. On December 14, 2005 there was a public hearing in the court of the SDO, Bolpur. Some goons of a political party created disturbance and the public hearing was abandoned.

After a long gap construction work started. On November 28, 2006 we went to the site. The understanding was that building construction would start only after getting environmental clearance. And that too only a few houses would be built. On the site we found a huge ugly double- storied building, one single-storied building of Bengal Ambuja and a few other double-storied buildings. By their side a new road was being laid. Pillars have been put. For clearing the land for the new road the surrounding “Sarban”(a wild shrub used for thatching) was set on fire. We were told that patch of “Sarban” had jackals. I destroyed two pillars by kicking.

The police came. I confessed I broke the pillars. I asked them to arrest me. I do not know why they did not arrest me. We requested the officers of Bengal Ambuja to show us the no-objection certificate of the Pollution Board.
They did not have it.

We asked: How could there be such construction without clearance? Show us the clearance.

They did not have it.

I saw in a paper that the Hon’ble Speaker had said the construction was going on with appropriate clearances. It is a lie. We did not see it. It might be in the long pocket of the Hon’ble Speaker. Bengal Ambuja is breathing down the neck of Visva Bharati.

Why am I not mentioned in the FIR? Why did the police arrest Ashish Majhi and Khatia Murmu? Later, they were released on bail. What bailable offence did they commit? Was it a conspiracy to frame up some innocent persons who were employees of Visva Bharati?

Answer me Somnath Babu! You have to reply to these charges, because that permission-document was issued in your name. I have done it. You have to respond to me, Mr Speaker Sir!

I send my greetings to the protest march of Singur to be held shortly.

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