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Art of masking Singur dissent
Disgruntled farmers asked to keep off

Singur, Nov. 30: Singur’s unwilling farmers, especially those nursing a grouse against Mamata Banerjee for her failure to deliver on promises, were told by local Trinamul leaders to stay away from the venue of the chief minister’s administrative meeting this afternoon.

The local leaders conceded that they were apprehensive about angry villagers asking uncomfortable questions to the chief minister or raising slogans against her after her closed-door meeting at the block development office with state and district officials and MLAs and MPs from Hooghly.

The Trinamul leaders said they had taken a lesson from the incident in whichvillagers gheraoed junior agriculture minister Becharam Manna at the same venue on Wednesday for the government’s failure to provide them the promised subsidised rice and monthly allowance.

Tarakbala Koley of Gopalnagar, whose three bighas were acquired for the Tata Nano plant, said the farmers who had not collected compensation cheques for land acquired from them were asked not to visit the BDO’s office today.

“Local Trinamul leaders came to our homes last evening and told us to stay away from the BDO’s office today,” 70-year-old Tarakbala said. “We were told that Didi would not meet us. They were scared that we would speak out against them in front of Didi.”

Dudh Kumar Dhara, Trinamul’s Beraberi gram panchayat pradhan, admitted that such a drive was conducted last evening.

“The message was conveyed to the villagers that they need not come to the BDO’s office as the chief minister was coming only for an administrative meeting. We could not run the risk of letting the villagers come close to the chief minister. Opposition parties may have tutored them to say wrong things.”

Trinamul sources said this was the reason why Mamata was “forced” to call off a programme to give out hand-carts and cheques under various schemes to the villagers.

Immediately after the news of the chief minister’s decision to curtail her programme reached Singur last evening, the local Trinamul leaders started telling the residents that they “would not be allowed” at the BDO’s office during her visit.

“We could not take the risk of a snap demonstration at the office,” said a Trinamul leader from Khaserbheri, where many unwilling farmers live.

Only supporters handpicked by Manna were allowed to assemble outside the gate of the block development office premises. In sharp contrast to the manner in which Mamata used to freely mingle with the Singur villagers, today even those handpicked were frisked.

A 700-strong police force was deployed in Singur. Except for those with security clearance, no one was allowed inside the block development office premises.

Mamata reached the office at 12.54pm. The meeting went on till 2.30pm. It was followed by a media briefing and the laying of the foundation of a Rs 10-crore college in the area. By 3pm, Mamata’s convoy had left Singur.

Several unwilling farmers said they would not have gone to meet the chief minister anyway. “The first promise she made to us was that our land would be returned. Forget about the land, we are not even getting the promised subsidised rice and monthly dole,” said Meera Panja, who had participated in Mamata’s anti-land acquisition movement.

Local Trinamul leaders said they had received reports on the growing discontent in Singur. “The farmers are questioning the motive behind driving out the small-car plant from Singur. It will be difficult to answer such uncomfortable questions before the panchayat polls,” a local leader said.

Singur resident Sadhana Panja said: “Didi will come and go. How will that change our lives? We are almost dead now.”