From Nandigram to Nonadanga:
The Change That Never Happened
The TMC regime came to power in West Bengal with a promise of 'Poriborton' (change) from the policies of state repression and eviction of the poor pursued by the erstwhile CPIM-LF Government. But the promise of change is unraveling fast, and all sections of the people in West Bengal are witnessing all-out fascist assaults on democratic rights.
Land grab and brutal eviction of peasants at Singur and Nandigram had unleashed widespread resentment and protest, resulting in the unseating of CPIM's Government and helping Mamata Banerjee's TMC win power with her slogan of 'Ma-Mati-Manush' (Mother-Land-Humanity). Recent developments in TMC-ruled W Bengal, however, appear a cruel mockery of that slogan. Slum-dwellers at Kolkata's Nonadanga (mostly refugees rendered homeless by the Aila hurricane) were forcibly evicted by the State Government, and when they protested, a ruthless lathicharge followed, injuring many including a pregnant woman and an infant. When concerned citizens protested against the eviction and the police repression, 68 protestors were arrested. Seven of the protestors were jailed, and shamelessly, the TMC regime has re-opened cases against some of them, relating to the protests against land grab at Nandigram! For Mamata Banerjee, it seems, the show of sympathy for the protests at Singur and Nandigram was only a ploy to secure power.
In yet another incident, a protest organized by the auto-drivers' union (incidentally one that was supportive of the TMC) was subjected to an assault by TMC goons. TMC goons also beat up people marching in a procession organized by a civil liberties' group against the Nonadanga eviction.
A spate of rapes in the State was blatantly denied by the Chief Minister, who accused the complainants of lying to malign her Government. In a recent incident in South 24 Parganas, a retired scientist and his daughter were beaten up and the latter stripped naked: reportedly by their landlord and members of a local 'club', to pressurize them to vacate their rented flat. Significantly, the assailants reportedly included both TMC and CPM supporters.
The West Bengal Government's offensives are ominous – with a touch of the ludicrous and farcical. A Jadavpur University professor was beaten up by TMC goons and arrested past midnight – for the 'crime' of circulating a light-hearted and witty cartoon lampooning the Chief Minister. Earlier, the Chief Minister banned a range of leading newspapers from public libraries. A TMC Minister has asked people not to marry 'CPIM workers.' The State's CID is policing social networking sites, seeking to remove any cartoons that are 'derogatory' to the Chief Minister. Mamata Banerjee has asked the Centre for measures against 'cyber crimes': apparently referring to cartoons and comments critical of her on the internet!
It must be noted that in Mamata-ruled West Bengal 'CPIM worker' and 'Maoist' are shorthand for any form of dissent or criticism of the Government, and for every form of Left activism. Everything from cartoons to rapes to deaths of babies in hospitals are blamed on 'CPIM conspiracy', while all forms of agitations and protests are branded as 'Maoist,' as a pretext for cracking down on them. What West Bengal is witnessing today is a virtual anti-communist witch-hunt, with every shade of democratic dissent being intimidated, gagged, and punished.
In TMC-ruled West Bengal, as in CPIM-ruled West Bengal, you can expect eviction from your land and slums if you are poor, and you can expect attacks by police and cadres, as well as jail if you protest such eviction. But there is an added fascist dimension in today's Bengal: your gatherings at Coffee House will be policed, the Government will decide what you are allowed to read, and laughing at the Chief Minister can land you in jail.
But the ray of hope in West Bengal lies in the sustained protests against the assaults on democracy – protests that continue undeterred by the Government's campaign of crackdown and intimidation.
Condemnation and Protests Against Acquittal of All Bathani Tola Accused
Terming the Bihar HC verdict acquitting all 23 perpetrators of the Bathani Tola massacre to be the result of a conspiracy against the poor, the CPI(ML) pointed to complicity of the Nitish-led BJP-JD(U) Government in protecting the perpetrators of feudal atrocities.
On 11 July 1996, the feudal private army, the Ranveer Sena, conducted a gruesome massacre at the hamlet of Bathani Tola, hacking to death 21 landless poor people, mostly from the Dalit and other oppressed castes and the minority community. Children and pregnant women were especially targeted in manner which can be said to have provided a template for the Sangh Parivar's genocide against Muslims at Gujarat in 2002. Then President KR Narayanan had termed the massacre to be a national shame. After Bathani Tola, the Ranveer Sena perpetrated similar massacres at Laxmanpur Bathe and Miyanpur.
A lower court in 2010 had convicted 23 persons for the massacre, passing a death sentence on three and sentencing the rest to life imprisonment. The recent Bihar HC verdict has shockingly acquitted all 23.
The HC order observed that "The investigation was not fair in respect of the persons who perpetrated the ghastly crime ... Apparently investigation has directed in a particular direction far from the truth and not above suspicion." Therefore it is clear that the state machinery and police in Nitish-ruled Bihar is doing all it can to weaken the case and protect the guilty. Not long ago, Ranveer Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh, notorious as the Butcher of Bathani Tola, went free after the Government failed to oppose his bail plea! Earlier, the RJD Government which had been in power at the time of the massacres, had also done its utmost to protect Brahmeshwar and others of the Ranveer Sena. The Nitish Government, as soon as it came to power, disbanded the Amir Das Commission, which had been about to name several political leaders including many from the BJP-JD(U), as patrons of the Ranveer Sena. In Nitish's Bihar, mahadalits are sentenced to death for the Amausi massacre while perpetrators of feudal atrocities against dalits and the rural poor go scot free.
The CPI(ML) has demanded that in view of the glaring complicity of the Bihar Government with the perpetrators of feudal massacres, the Supreme Court should take cognizance of all cases relating to such massacres at Bathani Tola, Bathe and Miyanpur, and pass an appropriate order to ensure that justice is not subverted.
Condemning the verdict which exposed the hollowness of Nitish's promises of 'Justice Along With Development,' CPI(ML) held protests all over Bihar, at the capital Patna and at Bhojpur, Jehanabad, Arwal, Sasaram, Bihar Sharif, Siwan, Gopalganj, Champaran, Gaya, Navada, Muzaffarpur and other districts. In Patna the protest march was led by Politburo member Ramji Rai, CC Members KD Yadav and Saroj Chaubey, AISA State Secretary Abhyuday, SCMs Naveen Kumar, Anita Sinha, and RYA National President Kamlesh Sharma.
The Call of April 22, 2012:
Intensify the Battle against Corruption and Corporate Offensive!
Launch all-out Preparations for the Party's 9thCongress!
Recent times have seen a great worldwide upswing in popular struggles and India is surely no exception. The country continues to pulsate with powerful struggles against mega corruption, land acquisition, mining loot,and arrogant, autocratic governance. The scam-ridden UPA governmenthas been pushed back on several occasions. Be it the issue of FDI in retail, fare hike in the railways or the move to give sweeping powers to the Intelligence Bureau in the name of countering terrorism, the government has had to either withhold or roll back its decisions. The situation calls upon us to deliver more powerful blows to the powers that be to press for substantive policy changes and push back the growing corporate assault on the Indian economy and polity.
Meanwhile, the list of scams continues to get longer with explosive revelations emerging from within the top layers of the system. A leading newspaper has published a draft CAG report exposing the process of allotment of coal blocks to private companies causing an estimated loss of about Rs. 11 lakh crore to the national exchequer, more than six times the magnitude of the 2G scam that came to light in 2010. This has once again brought to the fore the need to establish public control over our precious national resources.
In a series of stunning statements, none else than the Army chief himself has raised his voice against massive corruption and irregularities in defence purchases. This year's budget has provided a huge sum to the tune of nearly Rs. 2 lakh crore for defence expenditure. Defence outlay constitutes the single biggest item of budgetary allocation in every successive budget. Clearly the huge expenditure which is always sought to be justified in the name of national security has become a source of limitless loot by a corrupt nexus of arms dealers, army top brass, top bureaucrats and ruling politicians. Enforcing strict monitoring and absolute accountability of defence expenditure is the need of the hour and this must go hand in hand with reduction in arms imports and greater emphasis on improved indigenous defence production.
A third shocking example of political corruption has come once again from Jharkhand where in an unprecedented move Election Commission had to cancel the RajyaSabha elections and the High Court had to order a CBI probe into the horse-trading of MLAs cutting across political divides. As ever, the lone CPI(ML) MLA in the Jharkhand Assembly has been the most honourable and consistent exception and bold voice of protest to this murky politics.
The Constitution of India envisioned the RajyaSabha as a Council of States, a federal complement to the LokSabha or the House of the People. The federal nature of the RajyaSabha was first undermined by parties like the Congress using the RajyaSabha for backdoor entry of leaders from states on the basis of false residential claims. Thus Manmohan Singh entered the RajyaSabha from Assam just as Pranab Mukherjee once came from Gujarat. With the legalisation of this system, the RajyaSabha has now become an easy destination for corporate moneybags. The RS poll scandal makes it crystal clear why the MPs and MLAs must be brought within the purview of the proposed Lokpal/Lokayukta Act and why the original character of the RajyaSabha must be restored to stop corporate representatives from subverting the federal principle and trespassing into the RajyaSabha.
To carry forward the battle against corruption we must rebuff this growing corporate assault and this is where the communist movement must take the lead and show the way to all patriotic and democratic forces in the country. On the 43rd anniversary of Party foundation let us dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to this challenging task.
The results of the recent Assembly elections in five states have clearly shown that the people are getting increasingly fed up with the two main parties of the ruling classes. Popular disenchantment can also be seen to be growing in states where governments had come to power in the last elections with massive majorities. West Bengal and Bihar are two significant cases in point. In states like Gujarat and Karnataka where notorious BJP governments have been in power for years together, there are now unmistakable signs of decline and even an element of disintegration in the BJP camp.
The situation seems favourable for the rise of non-Congress non-BJP forces and the UPA and the NDA are both feeling the heat. But there are little signs of any third front yet, and without a powerful resurgence of the Left movement there can be no third front that can pose any major challenge to the two-decade-old neoliberal policy regime that has been playing havoc with the resources of the country and livelihoods of the working people.
In the first four months of 2012 we have successfully concluded Party conferences in four major states. Within a year from now we will hold our Ninth Congress. The coming months will require us to work hard on every front so we can expand our organisation and unleash powerful initiatives in terms of mass and class struggle and ideological-political intervention. The entire Left camp is passing through an intense churning and a successful Ninth Congress will take us ahead towards our cherished goal of bringing about a powerful resurgence of the revolutionary Left. Let us pool all our strength and make our best possible efforts to fulfil the tasks ahead.
Communist Party of India
9th CPI(ML) Bihar Conference Concludes at Darbhanga
We have, in the last issue of ML Update, reported on the first two days of the 9th Bihar State Conference of the party. In continuation, we report on the concluding session of the Conference.
On 11 April, the third day of the CPI(ML)'s Bihar State Conference began with an address by Politburo member Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya who drew the attention of the delegates to the changing land and agrarian relations in Bihar and the need to intensify land struggles and organize the share-croppers and tenants as a core force of the peasant movement. Following this, the central observer, CC Member Comrade Sudhakar, presided over the election of the new State Committee. The conference elected a 53 member State Committee and the newly elected State Committee then elected a 21-member Standing Committee, and Comrade Kunal was elected as the new State Secretary.
In his address, Comrade Kunal emphasized the need to respond to changing conditions and organize struggles of the new generation of workers in urban and rural areas. The central observer Comrade Sudhakar expressed the confidence that the party in Bihar would rise up to the occasion and meet the challenges and possibilities posed by the political situation in the state.
Addressing the concluding session, party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya observed that the past year was one of serious challenges for the party. Veteran leader Comrade Ram Naresh Ram passed away. Results of Assembly and panchayat polls were disappointing. Recently, our young comrade BhaiyyaramYadav was assassinated. He congratulated the outgoing state committee and its leadership for successfully steering the Party in the face of these challenges.
He said that in spite of disappointments, we should not stop dreaming big: the focus of our discussion should be whether we are making appropriate plans and putting in our best efforts and making effective use of all the resources at our command.
Pointing to the growing disillusionment with the Nitish regime, Comrade Dipankar called upon the conference to meet people's aspirations for an effective Left opposition and take all-round initiatives.
Comrade Dipankar called upon the delegates to stay ideologically alert and politically agile without unnecessarily stretching and elevating small differences arising in the course of practical work to some presumed ideological-political plane. He reminded the conference of the 8th Congress emphasis on the integral nature of our tasks where political, ideological and organizational aspects merge into a single whole. Instead of treating the Party as a sum total of different mass fronts and remaining preoccupied with Party's relations with mass organisations, he stressed the need for everybody to focus more on expanding and developing our mass organisations within the masses of concerned classes and social strata and building Party within the advanced elements produced by this mass practice.
He emphasized that we need to pursue both expansion and consolidation: only by expanding to new areas and among new sections of people can we consolidate existing areas of work. Feudal domination in society continues, but the leaders, slogans, and forms of such domination change. While keeping our basic anti-feudal orientation, we must take all the new initiatives and new issues and forms necessary to contend with the changing situation. He ended by expressing confidence that the new committee would take on the task of taking the party and movement to new heights.
The Conference ended with a rousing rendition of the Internationale. Around 150 volunteers had worked day and night to make the Conference a grand success.
Protests Against Life Sentence for Rupam Pathak
The All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) held protests all over the country against the life sentence to Rupam Pathak of Bihar for the culpable homicide of BJP's Purnea MLA Raj Kishor Kesri, terming the verdict of the CBI Court to be a "gross miscarriage of justice."
In the national capital on 11 April, women protested with a dharna at Jantar Mantar, raising slogans and placards saying, "Why Is Rupam Convicted While Her Rapists and Their Protectors Go Free?" Addressing the demonstration, Uma Gupta, National Executive Member of AIPWA conducted the protest meeting. Addressing the meeting, Kavita Krishnan, National Secretary of AIPWA said that since Rupam's accusations against Kesri and Rai have not been investigated, Kesri will be hailed as a martyr, Rai will continue his political career without a stain on his character, while Rupam, branded a murderer, will languish in jail all her life. Actually the severe life sentence to Rupam is a life sentence for a woman's voice demanding justice against rape and sexual harassment and taking on the ruling political establishment to which the rapists belong.
Others who addressed the protest meeting included Sucheta De, JNUSU President, CPI(ML)'s candidates in the Delhi MCD polls – Shakuntala Devi from Ashok Vihar (Wazirpur), and Rasheeda Begum from Narela, and AIPWA activist Renu. Sheela, the CPI(ML) candidate from Kondli, AISA activists Rajrani, Anubhuti, Sunny, Farhan, and others too participated in the demonstration.
On the same day, AIPWA held a protest march in Ranchi culminating at Albert Ekka Chowk, where a protest meeting was addressed by AIPWA State President Guni Oraon, AIPWA Ranchi Secretary Sarojini Bisht, and other participants included Shanti Sen, Lalo Devi, Shanti Kacchap, Neela Devi, Chando, Singi Khalko, Mamta and other AIPWA activists.
On 12 April, AIPWA held a protest march from BHU gate to Ravidas Gate in Banaras, culminating in a protest meeting addressed by AIPWA National Executive member Kusum Verma.
On 14 April, AIPWA held an impressive 'Chakka Jam' all over Bihar in protest against the verdict. All over the state, women blockaded roads, highways, and rail routes, demanding justice for Rupam Pathak.
Campaign in Jharkhand Against Corruption in the RS Polls
On 16th April, the CPI(ML) in Ranchi flagged off a statewide campaign (16 April-3 May) callinf for popular vigilance to monitor the rampant corruption and horse-trading in the Rajya Sabha polls. The RS polls, which had to be cancelled in view of evidence of corruption, is being held again in the State.
The campaign, pointing out that MLAs were found engaging in rampant horse-trading and corruption, will again demand that all MLAs and MPs need to be brought under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill. Reminding that the Rajya Sabha had been envisaged as the Council of States, the campaign will point out that Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee began the trend of undermining this spirit of state-specific representation. The campaign will demand a return to the constitutional spirit of state-specific representation, demanding that activists and individuals connected to the Jharkhand movement and other democratic concerns in the State must be candidates for election to the Rajya Sabha. The JVM led by Babulal Marandi has been posing as the champion of the protests against corruption in RS polls. But the campaign is pointing out that the JVM has no right to speak on this issue, since it is yet to initiate any action against its own MLAs from Rajdhanwar and Jamua, who were implicated in the scandal!
These issues were raised at a Citizens' March called by the CPI(ML) in Ranchi on 16 April, where a large procession marched from Sainik Bazaar to Albert Ekka Chowk and held a public meeting there. Participants in the march and public meeting included Prof. B P Kesri, activists Dayamani Barla, Faisal Anurag, and Gladson Dungdung, and journalist Srinivasan, and CPI(ML) leaders including State Secretary Janardan Prasad, Bagodar MLA Vinod Singh and CC Member Bahadur Oraon. The public meeting was presided by Comrade Anil Anshuman, and Comrade Sunil Minz thanked the participants.
Till 3 May, the campaign will continue in various forms in districts all over the State.
Workers Movement in Bhind, MP
Since 5 April, the AICCTU-affiliated Hamaal Palledaar Mazdoor Union' (load bearers' union) at the agricultural market at the district headquarters at Bhind, Madhya Pradesh, had been striking for their demands – including increase in wages for loading sacks onto trucks. The strike had been notified on 5 March and on 31 March, the administration was again reminded that the strike would take place if the demands were not met by 4 April. The workers went on strike when the demands were ignored.
During the strike, workers held sit-ins, demonstrations and processions. The administration kept favouring the traders, but the workers remained united. By 12 April, the situation became tense, when traders beat up the striking workers, and police, instigated by the traders, arrested several including CPI(ML)'s Bhind Secretary Comrade Suraj Rekha Tripathi, as well as 11 workers including AICCTU National Council member Vinod Suman and leading activist Comrade Prabhudayal. In protest against the arrest, workers gheraoed the police station, and held processions in main parts of the city. By evening the administration released Comrade Suraj but the other 11 were jailed.
The movement continued, and CPI(ML) leader Comrade Devendra Singh Chauhan convened an all-party meeting of non-Congress non-BJP parties on 13 April. The SP and Loktantrik Samajwadi Party, CPI, CPIM and various organizations participated, and it was decided to jointly call for a Bhind Bandh. The Bandh was successful, with sit-ins and militant demonstrations by workers, and several rounds of talks with the administration took place.
On 16 April, the District Collector held talks with a joint struggle committee led by Comrade Devendra Singh Chauhan, and the 11 workers were unconditionally released, and the rate for loading sacks was increased to Rs 10 as demanded by the workers.