Singur/Calcutta, Dec. 3: Mongol Das of Beraberi Modhyapara first saw them three weeks ago.
As the 25-year-old labourer trudged across Joymolla, Khasherbheri, Beraberi and Madhusudanpur in Singur, cutting the bushes before the land acquired for Tata Motors would be fenced off, he found the Maoists everywhere, huddled in their makeshift camps.
Most of Bengal learnt about them yesterday, when a 500-strong mob armed with stones and sticks fought police and tried to resist the fencing, and the chief minister blamed “outsiders” for the flare-up.
Even local Trinamul Congress leaders, who got wise to the steady dribble of Maoists to Singur a couple of weeks ago, hadn’t foreseen the attempt to hijack their movement from right under their nose.
“A fortnight ago, leaders of various Maoist outfits met at Barohath Kalitala to discuss ways to organise an uprising against the land acquisition. Poltu Sen of Bajemelia played the lead role,” said Haradhan Bag, Trinamul pradhan of Kamarkundu-Gopalnagar-Doloigacha gram panchayat.
“We had no problems as long as there was stiff resistance to land acquisition. But we never realised they would emerge such a strong force here.”
The “outsiders” from CPI (Maoist), CPI(ML) Liberation, SUCI and All India Students’ Association moved in fast, residents said.
“A few women in their late 40s went round telling farmers and sharecroppers it was better to die fighting now than starve to death later,” a district police officer claimed. Lead roles were played by Swapna Banerjee, 50, from Calcutta’s Surya Sen Street and Tapas Batabyal, 53, from Howrah’s Bally, police said.
Both turned up in Singur on Friday, along with JU postgraduate history student Bilas Sarkar, to organise Saturday’s showdown. Debolina Ghosh, 25, Presidency College ex-student from Hooghly’s Hind Motor, campaigned among the women. All four were arrested yesterday.
The Maoists were quick to cash in on the publicity today, claiming the movement as their own and warning Mamata to stay away from Singur if all she wanted was political mileage.
“Singur had never been an issue for Mamata; she stepped in just a few days ago,” a West Midnapore-based Maoist leader said. “When we were fighting hundreds of armed police, she was hundreds of miles away in north Bengal. None of her followers was in Singur to take on the police.”
He claimed the rebels had been campaigning in Singur for six months, moving in from their bases in Goghat, Arambagh and Khanakul, 70 km away.
“We then sent some of our leaders to form small frontal organisations,” a CPI (Maoist) spokesperson said.
CPI (Maoist) state secretary Somen has called a 12-hour Hooghly bandh tomorrow with an advisory to farmers to arm themselves against the police.