A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 16 No. 13 19-25 MAR 2013
Decoding Nitish Kumar's Politics of 'Adhikar'
On March 17 Nitish Kumar held an impressive show of strength in Delhi. While the rally was officially projected as a platform to raise the demand for special category status for Bihar, and by implication for all states that have been victims of persistent socio-economic backwardness, it has come to be seen as a signal of a potential political realignment in the context of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. The rally talked of 'adhikar' (rights) but instead of outlining any agenda of struggle for securing it, it only hinted at political deals with the Centre. Nitish Kumar had already voted for the UPA nominee in Presidential election and had praised Chidambaram's budget and he followed up the rally with cordial meetings with the troika of Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram and Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
Instead of speculating on the possibilities of political realignment, let us try and decode Nitish Kumar's rhetoric of 'adhikar' which has silently replaced his earlier 2005 keywords of 'nyay' (justice) and 'vikas' (development). In 2010 Nitish Kumar won an emphatic victory in Bihar with the people of Bihar asking him to deliver on his promise of 'nyay ke saath vikas' (development with justice). But as the government faces growing anger in Bihar for its failure and betrayal on this front, Nitish Kumar cleverly wants to shift the agenda to the issue of special category status posing it as the panacea for all that ails Bihar.
Given Bihar's reality of backwardness, the record of neglect shown by successive central governments and the insecurity and discrimination that Bihari workers and students continue to face in different parts of India, the demand for special category status for Bihar definitely has a rational basis and the CPI(ML) was the first organisation to raise this demand forcefully at the time of Bihar's bifurcation in 2000. But while the slogans of 'nyay', 'vikas' and 'adhikar' are all unexceptionable, it is Nitish Kumar's opportunist politics which has turned all these lofty words virtually into their opposites for the overwhelming majority of people of Bihar.
Development in Bihar, for instance, must begin with rapid agricultural development and that necessarily demands land redistribution and tenancy reforms and enhanced public investment in irrigation and agriculture. This is conspicuously absent in Nitish Kumar's paradigm of development, with the agenda of land reforms having been abandoned to appease the feudal forces.
Likewise, justice in Bihar has become completely skewed – the convicts of massacres are being systematically acquitted and criminals rewarded with government contracts and official patronage while the jails of Bihar remain overcrowded with people from the very sections of society that Nitish Kumar seeks to lure with terms like mahadalit, ati-pichhda and pasmanda (dalits among dalits, extremely backward castes and backward Muslims) even as Muslim youth are being routinely harassed and persecuted as terror suspects. The police and bureaucracy have become a law unto themselves and only the other day the Supreme Court had to seek an explanation from the Bihar government for the barbaric police repression on teachers protesting peacefully near the gate of Bihar Assembly.
The rhetoric of 'adhikar' has to be seen against this backdrop of growing denial of democracy within Bihar. In Nitish Kumar's scheme of things, the question of Bihar's 'adhikar' within India has been delinked from the question of the adhikar of the people of Bihar within Bihar. This became abundantly clear when during his Adhikar Yatra in 2012 the police and JD(U) goons came down heavily on contractual teachers demanding job security and wage parity even as the people everywhere confronted Nitish Kumar with their own demands forcing Nitish Kumar to abandon his yatra. Subsequently, the huge turnout at CPI(ML)'s Parivartan Rally in Patna on November 9 marked a fitting popular rebuff to the massive misuse of state machinery and resources for Nitish Kumar's 4 November Adhikar Rally.
It is significant that Nitish Kumar said not a word against corruption and corporate plunder in his 17 March Delhi address. Given the degree of corruption and corporate plunder written into the official strategy of development, any additional funds and tax or duty exemptions that Bihar or for that matter any other backward state may get under special category status, are hardly likely to reach and benefit the people.
The example of Odisha is quite relevant for Bihar – under Naveen Patnaik, Odisha is often praised as a model for the kind of development that Nitish Kumar preaches and promises. In terms of almost every indicator of socio-economic development Odisha however jostles with Bihar for the lowest rank even as the corporate giants and mining mafia make merry. After the separation of Jharkhand, Bihar may have lost the kind of mineral and forest resources that Odisha has, but it has most fertile land and abundant water resources, and a corporate-driven corruption-ridden development trajectory will make Bihar as vulnerable as Odisha.
It is also significant that Nitish Kumar did not assert the fundamental right of every student or worker from Bihar to study and work in any part of India, rather he legitimised the insult and humiliation that Bihari migrants often have to face by arguing that thanks to his government's record of development the word 'Bihari' no longer evokes any sense of shame! The rights of Bihari migrants are fundamental and inalienable and must not be made dependent on the so-called media-manufactured image of Bihar or the rate of growth of the economy in Bihar. Otherwise, special category status will become a handle to stigmatise Bihar just as the beneficiaries of reservation often continue to be stigmatised by the arrogant champions of 'merit', 'excellence' and 'efficiency' who see these qualities as hereditary virtues that must remain an upper caste preserve.
For Nitish Kumar, the rhetoric of 'special category' status is an escape route for brushing aside the bitter reality of loot and injustice; bureaucratic highhandedness and police repression, and appeasement of feudal-communal forces that has become the hallmark of his regime within Bihar. It is a political bailout package with the help of which he seeks to renegotiate his terms with the Congress and the BJP. For the people of Bihar, the battle against regional disparity, Centre's neglect and chauvinistic violence is inseparable from their battle for democracy, development and dignity within Bihar. And most importantly, the battle for Bihar's 'adhikar' is inseparable from Bihar's live and non-negotiable legacy of struggle for emancipation and transformation.
Nitish Kumar says 'special category status' is not a dole but a right but by delinking it from the all-India agenda and perspective of struggle against corruption and corporate plunder, he has already reduced it to just a bargaining chip. On 18 March 1974 the students of Bihar had gheraoed the State Assembly in Patna and launched the great movement of 1974 against corruption and autocracy. Four decades later, on 17-18 March 2013, a self-styled product of the 1974 movement was busy in Delhi striking deals with the powers that be. Bihar will surely not rest till it reaches its destination – New Bihar in New India.
Undeclared Emergency in Punjab
A platform of 17 peasants' and workers' organizations of Punjab had given a call for 'Rail Roko' protests on 6 March demanding a bonus of Rs 100 on MSP for wheat, providing the homestead plots to rural labourers as promised, waiver of pending electricity bills and provision of free motors on fields of small farmers.
On the night of the 5th itself, the police conducted raids and arrested peasants' leaders and activists wholesale. Mass arrests also took place on the 6th where peasants managed to hold protests (such mass arrests took place at Gurdaspur, Jalandhar and other places). Around 2500 peasants are now in jails. A large number of CPI(ML) members and leaders are now in jail, as are those of other Left parties. Arrested CPI(ML) leaders include SCMs Gurmeet Bakhpura, Gulzar Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Ruldu Singh, Gurjant Singh, Gurnam Bhikhi, and Gurpreet Rudeke, as well as party activists Ola Samaon, Gurpreet Kotdunna and AISA activist Harman Himmatpura. 200 CPI(ML) members are in Gurdaspur jail and 150 in Mansa jail. CPM Punjab leaders Comrades Raghvir Singh, Lal Chand, Atmaram, and others are also in jail. An ASI of Punjab Police died in Tarn Taran while raiding houses of leaders and police arrested many farmers on charges of killing the ASI. The police earlier registered the case under IPC section 304 but later amended it to 302, accusing farmers of murder. It was later cleared by the medical report that there was no injury mark on the body and the ASI died of heart attack rather than beating as claimed by police in the FIR.
In spite of the severe crackdown, protests have continued defying the repression. CPI(ML) activists have initiated a relay hunger strike in Mansa jail, which is likely to spread to other jails as well. On 18 March, an indefinite dharna has been called by the 17 organizations at DC offices all over Punjab demanding release of all those arrested. Also a call was given to observe the week as protest week. Effigies of Punjab Government were burned daily in various villages and towns in all districts of state. The Government under pressure released the few activists but kept the main leadership lodged illegally in jails. The effigies of Government were burnt in many villages of the four districts of Mansa, Barnala, Sangrur and Batala under leadership of CPIML. It was decided to hold dharnas outside DC offices on 18th march. This time too there was strong police arrangement. All buses were stopped kilometers away from cities to restrict protestors from reaching cities. Every farmers or laborer looking man was being detained for questioning. The farmers and laborers were arrested in large numbers showing the situation of undeclared emergency in Punjab. Still protests happened at many places. Finally, bowing to pressure the Punjab CM has agreed to meeting leaders of agitating union leaders on 1st April and to release the activists and leaders lodged in jails.
CPI(ML) District Secretary Arrested on False Charges on the Eve of Nandigram Anniversary
As the Panchayat elections come nearer, the TMC government is trying to crush all revolutionary left opposition by hook or by crook. Police harassment, fabricating and reviving false cases against political opponents and creating an overall ambience of terror are just some well-known tactics in their arsenal. As part of this all-out attack, comrade Bipradas Chatterjee, District Secretary of East Midnapore, was picked up from his home by the police of Mahishadal P.S., who arrested and implicated him in a false case dating back to the Nandigram episode six years back.
On the 4th of January 2007, more than two months before the fateful mass-killing at Nandigram took place, comrade Bipradas Chatterjee along with five other comrades from a CPI(M-L) investigating team were arrested and slapped with false charges. As was the order of the day during the Left Front rule. Mamata Banerjee, who managed to amass political fortunes and riding on the massive public discontent post-Nandigram, even came to power, had made election promises of withdrawing all false cases slapped by the erstwhile LF government on political activists and common people of Singur and Nandigram. But just like the perfect somersault on the 'promise' of releasing political prisoners, her government has lied on this count too. Not only that, her government is using those very same fabricated cases for the very same purpose of silencing political opposition. The ghosts of Nandigram are surely going to haunt more governments than one would have thought, in the days to come.
In protest of comrade Bipradas Chatterjee's arrest, CPI(M-L) Liberation called for a protest march on the 11th of March. The rally, led by leaders from the Central Committee, State Committee and District Committees, started from College Square and ended at Esplanade, where State Secretary comrade Partha Ghosh gave a public address. A placard at the rally summed it all up - "Down With Mamata Banerjee - betrayer of Nandigram-Singur movements ".
Progressives and Reactionaries Polarised Over Memorial for Dr. Nirmal in Darbhanga
A remarkable mass movement is underway in Darbhanga, Bihar, in which there is a struggle between people's memory and political amnesia, between a progressive vision of a people's Bihar, against a Bihar shackled in the feudal-communal mould.
It all began when some doctors of Darbhanga Medical College decided to commemorate a remarkable alumnus of their institution –Dr. Nirmal. Nirmal Singh was a bright student, born in a middle class, backward caste peasant family in Bhojpur. He qualified for the Darbhanga Medical College by his high marks is his intermediate school exams – a rare instance where a student from any backward/dalit or oppressed backward could breach the unspoken barrier of entry to medical college.
He took on the suffocating Brahminical-feudal hegemony in the DMC hostel and administration (a feature which persists in many medical colleges in India even today). A popular student, he soon rallied progressive students around him in the fight against caste discrimination, braving several attacks on his life in the process. On one such occasion in February 1973, he was injured, abused even in hospital and jailed on false charges. Spurred by a sharp sense of the inherent injustice of the judicial process towards the oppressed communities and the poor, he returned to Sahar, Bhojpur where the CPI(ML)-led movement against feudal oppression was raging. Eventually, on 29 November 1975, Dr. Nirmal was martyred alongside CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Jauhar (Subrata Dutta) and 125 others following a 72-hour gun battle.
This glorious legacy of Comrade Nirmal continues to inspire students and professors of Darbhanga Medical College who decided to erect a memorial and dedicate a park to honor his legacy. The Medical College administration had already accepted a proposal for installing a statue and dedicate a park in his name which was duly published in college's Souvenir and various newspapers and magazines. When Medical College administration installed a statue with active cooperation of present students and alumni on 27 Dec. 2012, it was widely welcomed by the democratic and progressive circles in the region. But BJP leaders in the town became restless and local BJP MLA demanded the health minister Ashwini Chaube and CM Nitish Kumar to remove the statue.
This is not new to this college and many statues have been installed at earlier occasions in the campus. One park is dedicated to Dr. Chakradhar Jha, one gate is in the name of two ex-students Mohan Rai and Vimla Rai, the front of the old college building has been reserved for the statue of erstwhile king of Darbhanga! And no one had ever objected to such proposals. But feudal-brahminical regressive forces are trying to obstruct a memorial of a revolutionary who sacrificed his life fighting with such forces. The BJP in ruling alliance of the state is conspiring to remove the statue and BJP Minister of Health in Bihar had announced shamelessly to remove the statue in three days! A week passed since then and no one was able to touch the statue, thanks to thousands of people who came to challenge the power-blind right reactionaries.
Dr. Ajit Kumar Chaudhary who is quite active in this struggle first received a show-cause notice from the college administration and when he led the people opposing the police attempts of removing the statue, was implicated in criminal sections along with Dr. BMP Yadav, employees' leader Yogendra Ram, one hostel employee Ramsagar Ram and 50-60 other people. Police failed to remove the statue. On fifth day, on 17 March, a massive mass meeting was held near the statue. People from across their political-social divides reached there in support. Leaders from different streams supported Dr. Ajit Kumar Chaudhary and garlanded the statue. Representatives of various social-political streams lent their support. Now the ruling parties' camp is apparently divided and confused.
Ex-minister Ashraf Fatmi said that while there is wave of support in favour of installing the martyr's statue, the Bihar govt. is disrespecting people's sentiments and is a real burden for the people.
Dr. Ajit Kumar Chaudhary said that he had started this mission with a very small team, but in face of govt. repression this has transformed into a massive mass movement. People's support is giving enormous strength and now there is no force in the world strong enough to prevent us from successfully accomplishing our task of installing the statue of martyr Dr. Nirmal. CPI(ML) leader and ex-MLA and National General Secretary of All India Kisan Mahasabha Rajaram Singh said that Dr. Nirmal carried forward and lived the legacy of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh which is continuing in the martyrdoms of comrades like Mahendra Singh, Chandra Shekhar, Brajesh Mohan Thakur and Bhaiyyaram Yadav and many others even today. Bihar will never tolerate regressive forces which are trying to insult the martyrdom of Dr. Nirmal. He said that Nitish Kumar is now sitting on the lap of feudal-communal forces.
Prominent medico and founder General Secretary of Overseas Doctors Association in Britain Dr. Rajeshwar Prasad Sinha remembered his college days and his martyred friend and greeted students and teachers of the medical college saying this is a great struggle for giving the history its due place. Litterateur and ex-member of Bihar Legislative Council Prem Kumar Mani said that the forces opposing Dr. Nirmal are same who had murdered Gandhi. He added, the movement of which Dr. Nirmal was an integral part and laid his life was a movement which brought revolutionary changes in Bihar's polity and society. Now fundamental issues of Bihari society are being evaded by present chief minister Nitish Kumar who is backing reactionary feudal forces. CPI(ML) leader Arun Kumar said that rulers know it well that the statue of Dr. Nirmal will be an everlasting inspiration for the struggling poor and toiling people of the state hence they are trying to oppose him. But no one can deny that the movement starting from Darbhanga has the potential to give a new direction to the whole of Bihar. Colonel Lakshmeshwar Mishra Retd. also addressed the gathering where he strongly condemned Bihar govt. and said that people's aspirations can never be suppressed by the repressive tactics of the state. Many other speakers including teachers and students of Darbhanga Medical College also addressed the mass meeting and expressed their determination to defeat the reactionary, fascist forces and in favour of the victory of the people.
The resolutions were also passed in presence of thousands of poeple demanding withdrawal of all cases imposed on the activists and doctors of the college, dismissal of Bihar health minister, and that the government must stop defaming the martyr vanguards of the social political movements which brought progressive changes in Bihar and elsewhere.
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication,
R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22518248, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.cpiml.org