KOLKATA: "The Supreme Court judgement on Singur is a landmark victory. We have waited 10 years for this judgement," she told reporters at the state secretariat. Banerjee, who steered political opposition against the land acquisition process of the then Left Front government in West Bengal forcing Tatas to abandon the project in 2008, said her government would shortly work out on a mechanism to return land to the farmers as directed by the court.
"This is a landmark victory. We have been waiting for this day for ten long years, This is a victory of the people, victory of Ma, Mati Manush (Mother, land and people — Ms Banerjee's pet slogan)," an elated Mamata Banerjee told media persons at the state secretariat Nabanna.
"The people of Singur suffered so much, they endured so much torture, but they never left me. I have tears of joy in my eyes. Returning land to the farmers of Singur was one promise my government could not fulfil so far.
But now we can return the land," she added. Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court set aside the acquisition of land by the previous Left Front government in the state for the Nano car plant in Singur of Hooghly district, saying due processes and procedures were not followed. it also decreed that land has to be given back to the farmers within 12 weeks.
The state's principal opposition leader at that time, the Trinamool Congress chief had undertaken a 26-day hunger strike in Kolkata in December 2006, against the "forcible land acquisition" in Singur, and demanding 400 acres taken from farmers unwilling to part with their land be returned to them.
She later travelled to the rural pocket and laid siege on the factory for 14 days in 2008. The Tata group then moved the project out of the state and finally set it up in Sanand in Gujarat, on land assigned to them by the state's then investor-friendly Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
"The acquisition was wrong and it was a historical suicide," Ms Banerjee said, attacking the erstwhile Left Front regime. In contrast, Ms Banerjee said her government never acquired land forcibly, and even for public purposes like roads and railway infrastructure it negotiated with all stakeholders.
"It was because of our movement that the draconian 1894 law on land acquisition was changed. Now this verdict has yet again proved the success of our anti-land acquisition movement," she said. Ms Banerjee said her government would obey the court order fully and a strategy meeting has been called on Thursday to decide on the follow-up action.
The next administrative meeting of the government will be held on September 14 in Singur, followed by the main victory rally of Singur farmers the same day.
Ms Banerjee said "Singur festival" will be organised in all blocks of the state on September 2 to show respect to the peasant movement, and called for cultural programmes to be organised as part of it. The date September 2 is significant as 17 central trade unions, with the left parties in the forefront, has called a nationwide general strike on that day.
A nostalgic Ms Banerjee said she had coined her slogan of Ma, Mati, Manush inspired by the Singur movement. She recalled her hunger-strike, saying, "I wasn't allowed to move freely. Peasants were tortured."
Ms Banerjee said the first decision of her cabinet after the Trinamool came to power in 2011 was to return the land, but the matter got dragged in court battles after that. She said she did not want to make a distinction between "unwilling" and "willing" farmers.
The "unwilling" farmers are those who had complained that the land was taken against their will and joined Ms Banerjee's anti-acquisition movement, the "willing" farmers gave the land and took compensation cheques from the Left Front government of the day. "I am not vindictive. It was a matter of principle. I want to reach government services to all. We will talk to the locals and take people into confidence," she said.