The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha calls CBI; so what, asks Mamata
- Church in bandh put-off plea

Calcutta, Dec. 19: The chief minister today agreed to a CBI probe into the brutal murder of a teenage girl in Singur yesterday and appealed to Mamata Banerjee to call off her 48-hour bandh in protest against the incident.

In response, the Trinamul Congress leader gave a “24-hour ultimatum” to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. The government has to return land “forcibly acquired” for Tata Motors by then.

“I don’t want to force a bandh on Bengal. I’ll wait 24 hours to see if the government returns the forcibly acquired 500 acres. If it does, we will call off the bandh. But if the chief minister sticks to his ego, we will be compelled to go ahead. We’ll wait till 4 pm tomorrow,” Mamata said.

The chief minister made it clear that he was seeking the CBI probe because the Opposition wanted it. “The home secretary will write to the Centre seeking a CBI inquiry. I request the Opposition to withdraw their bandh. The Trinamul Congress leader should call off her fast. There is still scope for talks,” he said.

But Mamata said: “The CBI probe has nothing to do with the bandh. Giving back fertile farmland to Singur farmers is our prime demand.”

Bhattacharjee rubbished the charge that land for the Tatas’ small-car factory had been acquired forcibly.

“For the 997-acre plot, consent was received for 954 acres. What would you do if a project had the consent of 95 per cent people' Would you back out or go ahead'” he asked.

“But if there are some farmers who do not want compensation in terms of the value of the land but want to continue agriculture as their livelihood, the government will provide them with alternative land,” he added.

Land and land records director B.P. Gopalika went to Singur today and inspected 14 acres of government land which, sources said, could be a possible location for rehabilitation.

Mamata, who is apparently running short of options in the face of the government’s firmness on the project, conceded that the Thursday-Friday bandh was her last resort.

“What could we have done when the government has closed the door on us'”

It ensures five straight holidays up to Christmas.

Bhattacharjee said the bandh would cause “serious problems” and that the people “do not want” it.

The Bangiya Christiya Pariseba, an association of churches, requested Mamata to defer the bandh in view of the Christmas and New Year.

The Congress, which had supported Trinamul’s earlier bandh over Singur, distanced itself from this one. “A 48-hour bandh will greatly inconvenience people and we are opposed to it,” state party working president Pradip Bhattacharya said tonight.

“This bandh was called by the Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee,” Mamata said as an excuse for not calling it off. Her party, she added, has called “only three bandhs this year as we don’t want to inconvenience people”.

Mamata’s agitation would not delay the Tata project, the chief minister asserted. “Industrialisation is under way. All the proposals we are working on will materialise. The Jindals are coming in two days. Their project has almost been finalised. On December 24, the Prime Minister will launch the modernisation of IISCO. Work on the Salim projects is on.”

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