Singur land agitation mooted for school syllabus in West Bengal

Many historians strongly disapprove of the move alleging bid to politicise education

Gulf News

Kolkata: The Singur land agitation by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, which ultimately resulted in the Supreme court ruling to return land allocated for an industrial project to farmers, is slated to be a part of the history syllabus for students of Grade 9 and 10 with the state government indicating its determination to push it through.

According to state education minister Partha Chatterjee, “The Singur movement by Mamata Banerjee for the unwilling farmers [those who refused to part with their land] is a historic event and I have received many proposals from the intellectuals and educationists to include this in the school syllabus. The proposal has been sent to the syllabus committee for approval. Once it is approved, it will be included in the school curriculum.”

However, many historians disapproved the move arguing that contemporary history has never been part of the syllabus. “This is politicisation of education, which is always done by the ruling party. Singur was a political movement and the last word is yet to be spoken. Comparing it with India’s freedom movement is not right,” said Pallavi Das, a professor of history.

Others said it was a move to create a cult figure out of Banerjee. Indeed, Kabir Suman, a member of parliament from Mamata’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) had predicted while addressing a public meeting two months ago that, in a few years time, there would be temples dedicated to Mamata and she would be revered as deity.

“There is an attempt to make Mamata larger than life. It seems she is enjoying the process,” said Tomar Roy Chowdhury, a social scientist.

The syllabus will include the 14-day agitation and a subsequent 26-day hunger strike that Mamata led during her campaign against the left-leaning state government of the time. “We are finalising the literature and will also ask the chief minister to give her comments. It will be in the syllabus from the next academic year,” said an official of the state government.

Meanwhile, the farmers of Singur, who received their compensation money and land papers in a maga event last Wednesday, are an unhappy lot with most of them complaining of clerical mistakes in their papers or cheques.

Many cheques bear wrong names or misspelt names while others have received lesser sums in lieu of compensation than they are entitled to.

“We were happy to get the cheques. But my name is wrongly spelt and I cannot encash it,” said Sovan Das, one of the aggrieved farmers.

Others said that the compensation paid to them fell far short of the promises made to them by the government in 2006. “I was supposed to get a cheque of Rs1 million [Dh54,740] while I have just received Rs460,000. Now I will have to chase the government officials for the same,” said Sukumar Ghore, another farmer.

Most blame the hurried manner in which the government has sought to conclude the process for the clerical errors on the part of officials. “The courts had given a deadline of 12 weeks; what was the hurry to give us cheques and land papers in two weeks,” asked Ghore.

“Mamata was in a hurry to catch the media attention as she did not want to lose the flow and the excitement that the judgement had created. In that hurry, she and government officials are making major goof-ups,” said Chandan Das, a former state government employee who is among the farmers who refused to give up their land.