|(Top) Tapasi Malik when she was nine. Villagers walk to a rally on Tuesday demanding punishment for the teenager’s killers. Pictures from a family album and by Pradip Sanyal
Singur, Dec. 19: Twelve hours before her body was found in flames in Singur’s fenced area, Tapasi Malik had been pushing a crowd of young land-acquisition protesters to sing louder.
“Jokhoni gaan gaaibe, gala phatiye, jore, bhalo kore gaaibe (when you sing, never hold back, give it all),” the 18-year-old urged the young boys and girls at Sunday’s sit-in, which she had taken the lead in organising.
Members of the Trinamul Congress-backed Krishi Jomi Banchao Committee, the pivot of the protests in Singur where land has been acquired for a Tata Motors factory, said the words of the murdered girl reflected her spirit.
Without her efforts, the six-hour show from 10 am yesterday at Baro Haath Kalitala off Bajemelia — an effort to get local students and youths to join the protest — would have been a non-starter, committee member Ganesh Chakrabarty said.
In Beraberi, Gopalnagar and Bajemelia — all Trinamul pocket boroughs — Tapasi was a hero in the war against the government.
In other parts of Singur such as Khasherbheri, Madhusudanpur and Joymallya most had not heard of the young rebel. “No one like her came to our area,” said Keshab Sarkar of Khasherbheri.
Nitai Roy, who tills sharecroppers’ plots when they decide not to sow seeds, said: “There was no agitation in our area.”
Many farmers in Singur, about 40 km from Calcutta, have willingly sold their land to the government in anticipation of a booming car plant.
Ganesh Chakrabarty, who sees the Tatas’ “dream project” as a harbinger of doom, said: “Tapasi was a bundle of energy. She mobilised contacts in other villages — she was a natural organiser.”
Tapasi had dropped out of the local Beraberi High School after Class VIII because father Monoranjan could not afford the fees. Still, she was the most educated in her family.
“She did the household chores, helping mother Molina out. She got up early to prepare food for her teenage brothers Surojit and Subhas, who work as carpenters in Calcutta,” said Saraswati Mitra, a relative.
Her debut as an activist came the day Tata officials were stopped near a club, Ujjal Sangha, in Bajemelia, yards from her home.
On September 25, she joined the gherao of the BDO’s office with her mother. Then followed a trip to Calcutta to attend a Trinamul Congress meeting.
“Back in Singur, Tapasi went about liaising with the committee’s top leaders, including Nayantara Dhara, who wrote the lyrics for the protest songs,” said Haradhan Patra of Gopalnagar.
“I had heard about a girl like that. But she never came to our area,” said Krishnapada Mondal of Madhusudanpur, only a couple of kilometres from Gopalnagar.
Today, as many villagers were still numbed by her death and activist Medha Patkar turned up to lead a march of women from Bajemelia demanding punishment for Tapasi’s killers, a part of Singur came to know about her from reports of yesterday morning’s murder.