Indian left gets a red face, peasants their land

NEW DELHI: A Faustian bargain in which Indian communists took land from poor peasants for Tata company to make cars, a move that set off the Left Front’s rout in West Bengal, was reversed on Wednesday when the Supreme Court ordered the state government to return the fields to the tillers.

The controversial land grab in Singur in West Bengal had marked a rightward slide of the once celebrated Communist Party of India (Marxist, CPM), which many see as now offering nationalist slogans to retrieve its domain in Kolkata.

That the Supreme Court quashed the land acquisition effected by the Buddhadeb Bhattacharya-led CPM government in 2006 for allotting it to Tata to set up its Nano car factory came as a withering response by the “bourgeois” state the communists had mocked.

The court held that the acquisition could not be said to be for a “public purpose” and hence the land should be remitted back to farmers within 12 weeks.

Where the CPM was the anchor of India’s mature and responsible policies with its neighbours, apart from pioneering land reforms, reports on Sunday revealed the party’s regressive vocabulary.

According to the Times of India, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Sunday compared Pakistan to vultures, saying the neighbouring country is trying to reap advantages of the bloodshed in the Kashmir Valley during its longest curfew period.

“Pakistan is like a vulture. Vultures fly high in the sky. They spot bodies only if they see blood on the ground. But we need to ask our government why blood is flowing on the ground. Let us go and talk to the Kashmiris. A dialogue between them and the government can resolve the issue,” said Yechury, in an address to CPM workers. Sections of the Indian media had earlier criticised Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar for describing Pakistan as a veritable hell.

According to the Supreme Court’s order, farmers who got compensation from the government will not return it because they were deprived of their livelihood for the last ten years.

The court order signifies a major victory for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the CPM’s bête noir, who had led the protests against allocation of land for the Tata factory.

While setting aside the Calcutta High Court order of upholding the acquisition process, the Supreme Court bench ruled that the acquisition was bad in law on several grounds and that acquiring the land from the farmers for giving it to a company for a car plant could not come under the ambit of “public purpose”.

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