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Back to politics after punch-up
Women carry logs for the fencing in Singur. Picture by Amit Datta

Dec. 3: Fencing continued apace in Singur today and parties dusted more familiar forms of protest, signalling the return of political means and a tacit acknowledgement of the limitations of violence.

As calm descended on Singur after a day of clashes blamed on “outsiders”, Mamata Banerjee threatened to launch an indefinite hunger strike in the heart of Calcutta if the fencing is not halted within 24 hours.

SUCI, another political formation opposing the acquisition of farmland for the Tata small-car project in Singur, has called a 24-hour bandh on Tuesday. The party’s influence is confined to certain pockets in the state but the impact of the bandh call should be clear by tomorrow evening when Trinamul Congress is expected to say whether it would support the strike.

If Mamata and the others spoke of satyagraha and bandh, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, too, helped revive the political process by offering an olive branch to the Opposition.

“I am still ready for discussions with an open mind. This is not a government-vs-Opposition issue. The state’s interest is paramount and the Opposition should not endanger it,’’ Bhattacharjee told a Citu rally in Calcutta.

He indicated that the government was ready to call another all-party meeting if the Opposition agreed. “Trinamul boycotted an all-party meeting earlier. If the Opposition is ready, I will definitely consider it,’’ he said after the meeting.

The Citu rally was convened to drum up support for an all-India strike on December 14 — a test case for the IT industry and the chief minister who had said the state would function normally irrespective of the political colour of bandhs — but the official theme was overshadowed by Singur.

Bhattacharjee iterated that yesterday’s police action was provoked by “outsiders”. “I have asked police to react only when they are attacked. Rifles were not issued to the force in Singur to avoid bloodshed. It was not the locals who clashed with the police, but Naxalites, the SUCI and Trinamul troublemakers joined hands to attack the police,’’ the chief minister said.

State CPM secretary Biman Bose also insisted that only one Beraberi resident, whom he identified as Dilip Das, was caned while the others were “outsiders”. But he added that the Left Front wants the police to exercise restraint.

The presence of “outsiders” is being seen as the decisive factor that prompted Mamata to line up the hunger strike under a farmer’s forum to prevent her campaign from being hijacked.

Bhattacharjee sought to strike a balance between the vision of industry-propelled growth and concerns over its impact on farmers and agriculture. “We have to tread the path cautiously and ensure that agriculture is not ruined in the name of industry,’’ he said.

Corporate barb

Biman Bose has accused Tata Motors’ competitors of instigating the agitation. “I cannot name the companies, both domestic and foreign, who are feeling threatened by the Tata project. They are afraid that the Tatas’ presence in the small-car segment will wipe them out,” he said.

COMING UP

Monday

  • Mamata threatens indefinite hunger strike opposite Metro cinema
  • CPI (Maoist) calls 12-hour Hooghly bandh
  • Congress agitation in front of district magistrate offices across the state
  • BJP chief Rajnath Singh to visit Singur

Tuesday

  • Suci calls a 24-hour state bandh. Impact to depend on Mamata’s stand, which will be made public on Monday
  • CPI(ML) Liberation and CPI(ML/Kanu Sanyal) call 12-hour bandh in state
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