The Trinamool Congress, led by Mamata Banerjee, came to power in West Bengal in 2011, riding a popular wave of mass fury over forcible acquisition of land and state atrocities in Singur, Nandigram, and Lalgarh. But six years down the line, the faultlines of the new regime are showing up, most notably in the ongoing farmers’ movement in Bhangar, with a sense of ironic déjà vu.
Villagers in Bhangar, in South 24 Parganas district in West Bengal have been fighting against uninformed, undemocratic, coerced land grab and high-handed measures by the State government, under the joint banner of Jomi, Jibika, Poribesh O Bastutantra Raksha Committee (Committee to Protect Land, Livelihood, Environment and Ecosystem). The villagers, in a spirited show of unity and massive mobilisation, had put forward their demands for full rights to information, clarity on environmental clearance and ecological impact of the project on the densely populated multicrop land and fisheries, democratic consultation with affected villages, legal and adequate compensation, and a respite from the rule of goondas enjoying State patronage.
The State government responded to the people’s movement in a strong-armed manner eerily reminiscent of the previous regime’s policy in dealing with grassroots peasant movements. They took to batons, bullets, teargassing, ransacking homes, economic blockade, damaging crops and homes, massive arrests, slapping of non-bailable false cases, rampant slapping of the draconian UAPA on local activists, to the extent of even arresting and imprisoning civil society activists from Kolkata whose crime was to form a solidarity committee to stand with the Bhangar farmers. In a chilling re-run of police brutality on people’s movements from Nandigram to Kalinganagar, the West Bengal police shot dead post-graduate student, Alamgir Molla, and non-formal worker Mafijul Ali Khan, both in their twenties.
The resilient villagers have kept up the fight, even in the face of such repressive measures. The demands for unconditional release of all movement activists, withdrawing all false cases and justice for Alamgir and Mafijul have created greater resonances in society.
As of today, the struggle at Bhangar continues, so does the incarceration of movement organisers.
The ruling party has been running its spin-doctoring campaigns to discredit the movement. First they mocked at villagers for raising issues of environmental impact, then they claimed it was all a handiwork of “outsiders” propped up by “foreign hands” and “funded by Venezuela”! The mainstream media, initially sympathetic, has since turned away from giving space to the people’s voices. They have sidelined many of the important demands of the villagers, and are helping erase State culpabilities.
Counter-Media Seeking the Truth
This short film has been made with an active collaboration of activists, mediapersons and villagers themselves taking up cameras, and shooting the atrocities and protests as it all unfolded. In just over 30 minutes, and structured as an unfolding timeline that juxtaposes the State’s version against people’s assertion, the feature would tell you most everything about the peasants movement in Bhangar, thus far. Watch the 30-min exclusive short feature from People’s Media which cuts through every lie and distraction peddled by the government, and seeks truth from listening intently to the people’s voices.
We urge you to watch and screen the film widely across the country, to spread the word about the Bhangar Movement. The movement needs a broad solidarity at this moment. To request a high-definition version of the film, please email us at [email protected].
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