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PUCL, February 2007

Arrest of Anuradha Talwar and other women activists in Singur

-- By Medha Patkar, NBA & NAPM;
Aruna Roy, MKSS;
Kavita Srivastav, PUCL and Right to Food Campaign

February 4, 2007

We condemn arrest of Anuradha Talwar and other women activists in Singur

Who says Singur is peaceful? Can anyone prove that the farmers there have given their consent to transfer all of 997 acres of land to Tatas?

Is there any evidence to show that the agitators in Singur are violent outsiders while the State is only committed to the welfare of local people and to protect their human and constitutional rights? Can the media report flashing the news of Tata Motors having started the work of the new factory at Singur be taken as the final statement on the situation in Singur?

The news from the battle-ground brings out the fact that Singur is still simmering. It is reported from Singur itself that more than thousand protestors with the women at the forefront began a peaceful protest against fencing of the land which they have not agreed to be acquisitioned. While the people were unarmed and based on their own land, the armed policemen in large number took to tear gas bursting and lathi-charge to prevent them thus resorting to violence.

A team of seven women was standing peacefully like the other farmers.

All around, they saw large numbers of protesting farmers. Suddenly the local police came violently on the women's team. The seven who were attacked were Swapna Tripathi, Aushto Maity, Jaba Murmu, Jamila Khatoon, Jyotika Pal, Namita Gaine, Anuradha Talwar.

The police fired several rounds of tear gas shells. Anuradha also saw one house being burnt in the Poorva Pada of Beraberi. One man broke his leg, they saw him limping and crying in pain. They were verbally abused by the police who even threatened to rape them.

The police tried to drag them out of the area. When they refused they were pulled and pushed and thrown into the vans from where they were taken to the Chinchura police station. The seven got several cuts and injuries in this scuffle of being pushed into the van and pulled out. They are still in police custody not knowing whether they are under arrest.

We condemn the arrest of seven women along with Anuradha Talwar, an activist of Pashchim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samiti, a member organisation of National Trade Union Initiative and National Alliance of People's Movements. It is obvious that the State Government is not able to manage the dissent and has become desperate trying to use illegal ways of imposing the Corporate takeover. That they were not just mishandled but also beaten up while some other leaders including Becharam Manna of Bhoomi Raksha Committee also faced the lathis.

The arrested women are taken to Chinchura Police Station but again without any arrest memo and violating the court orders in D.K. Basu vs. Govt. of West Bengal, 1996. The incidence, once again, is a clear indication of the continued repression of the local people's movement by the State Govt. that has falsely been accusing others who are questioning the forcible acquisition of people's resources, of violence and conspiracy against the State. It is obvious that the left front Govt. which is hiding its deal with Tata Motors has also been circulating false reports, claiming no opposition from the land owners and share-croppers, trying to convince the world that it is the outside activists, especially the Naxalites who are the bone of conflict.

When the CPM activists are protesting against forcible eviction of Adivasis due to Polavaram Dam in Andhra Pradesh, and are also beaten up at the hands of the Congress regime there, it certainly doesn't behave as the party and the Govt., that they follow a similar line of action in the name of development, in their own state. The message of Singur, we remind the left front, is reaching out to the nook and corner of the state and the country, discrediting them as pro-corporate against the electorate.

We warn the Government of serious consequences unless the following actions are taken immediately.

1) All the work by the Tatas or the W.B. Govt., including building of a fence wall, is stopped with immediate effect.

2) Return back the land that is forcibly acquired without the consent of the owners and bargadars, or remove fencing and declare status quo till the conflict is resolved.

3) Release the arrested unconditionally and charge-sheet the police officials who have used illegal and unjustifiable means, to suppress the peaceful agitators.

4) Withdraw the police force from Singur Region

5) Begin a decisive dialogue with the local people, the Gram sabhas, Bhoomi Raksha Committee, and others concerned.

We appeal to the people's organizations and concerned citizens to condemn today's incidence, raise the above demands and express solidarity with people of Singur struggling to save their livelihood and the country herself, from the onslaught of capitalist power.

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014