KOLKATA: Protest is often the secret to success in West Bengal’s political landscape. It worked in Mamata Banerjee’s favour in 2011 when TMC ended the Left Front’s 34-year reign riding the momentum of sustained agitations against land acquisition for Tata’s Nano plant in Singur and land-related agitations
Over a decade later, major stakeholders in the Left Front have started a similar stir.
The centre of attention is the TMC government’s mining venture in the Deucha Panchami coal block spread over 1,100 acres in Birbhum district.
These parties have swung into action and standing by people in the tribal-dominated area where villagers have to be relocated for the project. The area is home to nearly 800 families in more than 90 villages.
Despite the CM’s announcement two years ago to start mining work in the area and offer for a rehabilitation package of Rs 10,000 crore, an inch of work is yet to take place. Mamata has even admitted there is an eviction problem.
Proving that her hunch was right, a protest rally was organised last week at Diwanganj under the banner of a local tribal organisation against eviction from the project site. CPI(M)’s Rajya Sabha MP Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya joined in, under the banner ‘Save Democracy’ and called for armed resistance to protect lands.
“We do not want to miss the opportunity to use the tribal people’s fear of getting evicted from their ancestral property. This is the same tool Mamata used in Nandigram and Singur against our government’s land acquisition policy and dislodged us. Now, her government is talking about eviction and we have adopted the path she had chosen,” said a CPI(M) leader.
The first organised resistance was seen on Thursday, when local TMC functionaries took out a procession at the place where the rally attended by Bhattacharya was held.
Soon after they started, tribal women with sticks and stones surrounded the TMC workers shouting slogans against eviction. They pelted stones and the TMC workers had no option but to retreat.
According to reports from the Intelligence Branch (IB), several organisations under different names are visiting these tribal-dominated pockets and encouraging them to protest the government’s eviction initiative.
Sunil Soren, a tribal who recently joined TMC in Diwanganj, said some group might have misled the people who attacked the TMC’s rally.
“The government has decided to take a soft stand on the issue of eviction. That’s because the voting pattern of tribals is almost uniform. If a wrong message is delivered, our party may suffer a massive electoral jolt in the tribal areas of Purulia, Jhargram, West Midnapore and Bankura districts,’’ said a TMC leader.