A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 16 No. 28 2-8 JUL 2013Bagaha Firing:
Resist Police Raj in Nitish's Bihar!
Less than a week after Nitish Kumar had secured the trust vote for his government with the help of the Congress, CPI and four independent MLAs, Bihar experienced yet another shocking case of police brutality. On 24 June as many as six persons belonging to the Tharu community in Bagaha district near Nepal border in North-Western Bihar were gunned down by the trigger-happy Bihar police. At least 15 people have been seriously injured.
Agitated by the lack of police response to find a local youth who had gone missing since June 15, people had thronged the nearby police station at Naurangiya and once again the police knew no other way of tackling the agitated people except opening fire. They opened fire without any warning and they did it not to disperse the people but to kill. All the people killed had bullet injuries above the waist level.
The Naurangiya firing is by no means an isolated case in Nitish Kumar's Bihar. His track record of 'good governance' has been routinely punctuated by periodic instances of police brutality. Batraha, Bhajanpur (Forbesganj), Aurangabad, Madhubani and now Naurangiya – there have been several major cases of police brutality during Nitish Kumar's second term. The pattern is reinforced by the impunity enjoyed by the police. In the case of the infamous Forbesganj firing, some of the guilty officials actually received a promotion. More than two years since the firing, the judicial inquiry commission is yet to submit its report and the survivors are being prevented by all means from deposing before the commission.
In the Aurangabad case of 2 May 2012, in which hundreds of people were brutally beaten up by the police with CPI(ML) leader and ex-MLA Rajaram Singh being singled out for a brutal physical assault led directly by the SP, the state human rights commission (SHRC) has indicted the administration for police excesses and slapped a fine of Rs 200,000 on the state government. But instead of complying with the order of the SHRC the state government is busy pursuing a false case against Rajaram Singh and many others. In Madhubani, CPI(ML) leader Dhruv Narayan Karn and scores of students and activists belonging to various opposition parties have been in jail for months together since the police went berserk on 12-13 October 2012.
The other feature that stands out in all these cases of police brutality is the arrogant disdain with which Nitish Kumar has been justifying the police brutality without ever bothering to visit any place of police firing or talking to the aggrieved people. In 2005 Kumar had launched his statewide 'Nyay Yatra' from the Tharu-dominated areas of Champaran, appealing to the people of Bihar to ensure justice by bringing him to power. Now ensconced in power for nearly eight long years, he is paying back his 'debt' by imposing a veritable police raj on the people of Bihar.
Yet the changed political equations in Bihar have made it difficult for the arrogant and authoritarian regime to ignore the voice of the people with its characteristic contemptuous nonchalance. On 27 June Bihar observed a day's bandh at the call of CPI(ML) and other Left forces demanding immediate institution of a judicial probe, and prosecution of all guilty police officials under section 302 of IPC and adequate provision of compensation and rehabilitation for the families of those killed and injured in police firing. For the first time in recent history, the government has announced some primary level action against some officials and compensation worth Rs 4 lakh for every victim while agreeing to set up a judicial probe. Equally interesting has been the BJP's response – the party that has routinely justified every police action while in power is now talking of police high-handedness. Some BJP leaders are now demanding compensation for the victims of Forbesganj firing as well.
The Bagaha firing once again corroborated the authoritarian nature of the Nirish Kumar government. At the same time now that this government has been reduced to a minority with the split in the ruling alliance it has visibly also become susceptible to popular pressure. The government that has betrayed and failed the people on almost every count must now be encircled by surging waves of popular resistance.
CPI(ML) and other Left parties including CPI, CPI(M), Forward Bloc called a Bihar Bandh on 27 June 2013 in protest against the Bagaha police firing which killed 7 Tharu people including 3 school children in West Champaran.
CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya led the party activists in implementing the Bandh on the streets of Bihar's capital Patna. Thousands of CPI(ML) supporters marched from Gandhi Maidan, led by GS Comrade Dipankar, Bihar Secretary Comrade Kunal, Central Control Commission head Ramjatan Sharma, Central Committee members KD Yadav, Meena Tiwari, Saroj Chaubey and others. They broke the police cordon at Dakbangla Chouraha and marched towards the Station. On returning to Dakbangla Shouraha, there was a prolonged clash with the police, following which the leaders and bandh supporters were arrested and detained in the local police station. At Siwan and Darbhanga also, CPI(ML) leaders and supporters were arrested.
The bandh received widespread popular support, with people coming on to the streets in large numbers to make it a success. Trains were blockaded at Darbhanga, Ara, Siwan, Biharsharif, Begusarai, Jehanabad, Nawada, Muzaffarpur, Betia, and Araria. At Bhojpur, the NH-30 was blockaded and the Ara-Sasaram highway was blockaded at 3 spots. The NH-30 was blockaded at Rohtas also. Roads and railways were blockaded all over Bihar, and markets remained closed.
A CPI(ML) fact-finding team visited Bagaha immediately after the firing and ascertained the facts. The team comprosed State Standing Committee member Viendra Prasad Gupta, State Standing Committee member and former MLA Amarnath Yadav, RYA National President Amarjit Kushwaha, and CPI(ML) leaders from Champaran Vishnudev Yadav, Sunil Rav, Dayanand, Dwivedi, Rahim Miyan. Mohd. Kalam and others. A brief summary of the report follows.
On 15th June this year, Chandeshwar Kaji, a young singer (of Dardari village, Naurangiya thana, W Champaran), went to Devtaha with his music system. The same night, people from Amva village called him to their village. He did not return home after this. On 16th June, after he went missing, police were alerted. A week passed, and the police's apathy was apparent. They failed to locate Kaji, or even his corpse. On the night of 25th June, the police arrested a father and son from Amva. Villagers from Dardari reached Naurangiya on the 25th, demanding that the arrested duo be jailed. The villagers said that blood stains and a torch had been found near Ghutri bridge in Kataharva, leading them to suspect that the body might be found in that area. When the police reached Kataharva, villagers asked why the arrested duo had not been brought along, to help locate the corpse. A heated exchange with the police ensued, and police responded by summoning extra forces including Bagaha DSP Shailesh Kumar. Meanwhile school kids of Harnatand were returning from coaching classes. As soon as the DSP reached, an indiscriminate lathicharge was unleashed on the villagers, and when villagers resisted this, the police began to fire. 6 were killed on the spot, a 7th died in Gorakhpur hospital subsequently.
12-year old Anil Rai, 10-year old Shivmohan Kumar, and 16-year old Anup Kumar, are the young boys killed by the police bullets. Other victims of the firing included Brahmadev Khatait (35), Dharmvir Khatait (31), Bhukdev Kumar (23), and Tulsi Rai (24).
Bhahmadev Khatait had been shot in the leg. When his younger brother Dharmvir Khatait tried to rescue him, police shot Dharmvir dead and brutally stamped on Brahmadev, taking his life. 15 people are injured in this attack, and those grievously injured include Ritwik Kumar (14), Kamlesh Rai (22), Ganesh (24) and Madan Mahto (28). The families say that the injured are not getting proper treatment. Madan Mahto, a tailor, who took bullets in his left leg and right hand, still had mere bandages on his body: even the blood stains on his body are yet to be cleaned. Bihar State Standing Committee member Comrade Rajaram visited the injured people who are admitted to PMCH.
The bodies of those killed are in Valmikinagar Guest House. Police are refusing to hand over the bodies to the families. The police wants to cremate the bodies without giving the families a chance to see the bodies.
Sankalp Sabha on Land Rights in Purnea
Recently, an oppressive landlord was burnt alive in a spontaneous protest by adivasi women in Kukrain No.1, Purnea district of Bihar. Severe police repression had followed. CPI(ML) has maintained that the feudal oppression, denial of land rights, and exploitation of labourers lay at the bottom of the incident.
On 25th June, CPI(ML), defying the repressive and defensive atmosphere imposed by the administration, held a Bhumi Adhikar Sankalp Sabha, demanding unconditional release of arrested adivasis, and withdrawal of false cases against CPI(ML) District Secretary Lalan Singh and other local activists as well as 96 adivasis; and setting up of a special tribunal to distribute ceiling surplus, bhoodan, Bihar Government and sikmi land among the landless.
The impressive mass meeting was held at the Shaheed Maidan, which had been named Reema Devi Maidan. A martyrs' memorial at the grounds was dedicated to Comrade Brajesh Mohan Thakur. The meeting was presided over by Comrade Lalan Singh, and addressed by party GS Comrade Dipankar, PB member and AIALA GS Dhirendra Jha, former MP and AIALA National President Rameshwar Prasad, CCM and AIPWA GS Meena Tiwari, as well as many district leaders. More than 5000 participated in the Sabha.
Speakers stressed the fact that 3 lakh acres of land in Purnea were illegally occupied by landlords and feudal forces. They condemned the Nitish Government for backtracking shamelessly on the recommendations of the Land Reforms Commission.
To mark the 38th year of imposition of Emergency, the Cinema of Resistance campaign organized a film-screening at Pratapgarh Primary School in Jadavpur, Kolkata, on 29th June. About 80 people attended the the screening. Anand Patwardhan's 'Prisoners of Conscience' which relives the dark days of Emergency through interviews of political prisoners from that period was screened, followed by Haobam Paban Kumar's 'AFSPA 1958' which documents five tumultous months following Thangjam Manorama Devi's rape and murder by Assam Rifles personnel in Manipur, and Surya Shankar Dash's short films 'Dhinki' and 'The Lament of Niyamraja' made respectively on the struggles in Dhinkia around the POSCO project and Vedanta's devastating mining in Niyamgiri hills in Odisha. The last three films portrayed damning proof of the ravages caused by the prevailing undeclared Emergency across the length and breadth of the country. The screening was mostly attended by young people and students along with veterans who had lived through the period of Indira Gandhi's total suspension of all vestiges of democratic rights. After the screening, a short discussion followed, with several people signing up to become a part of the Cinema of Resistance campaign and take it forward in the days ahead.
AICCTU held a state level Women Workers' Convention in Tirunelveli on June 30. The convention paid homage to the army jawans and others who lost their lives in the rescue operations in Uttrakhand and those died in the manmade disaster.
The convention raised the following demands:
· Enumeration of permanent and non-permanent, organized and unorganized women workers in the public sector, private sector and in the government departments in the state.
· The state government should take immediate efforts to get Presidential assent for L.A.Bill 47/2008 which will protect the rights of women workers of sumangali scheme at least to a certain extent.
· Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 should be implemented immediately in the state.
· Women workers should be paid equal wages for equal work.
· Meaningful social security measures for women workers.
· Revision of minimum wages for garment workers in the state. (It was last revised in 2004).
· Fixing minimum wages for domestic workers.
The convention was held in a background where lakhs and lakhs of beedi women workers are missing from the records of District Labour Commissioner's office and there by those lakhs of beedi women workers are denied of their statutory rights. Around Rs.73 crores is lying in the PF office unclaimed. When the Supreme Court asked why the TN government should not raise the cess from the construction work to 1% instead of the existing 0.3% to give more benefits for the construction workers, the State government has replied that the construction wokers' welfare board has enough funds left after giving enough benefits for the construction workers and hence the question of raising the cess does not arise. But the ground situation in TN is that not all construction workers, majority of them women are registered under the welfare board and that even those registered are not getting and welfare benefits.
Vahida Nizam, National Vice President, AITUC, Malathi Chittibabu, National Vice President CITU and Sujatha Modi, President, Women Workres Trade Union addressed the convention.
The convention was presided over by Com. Anbuselvi, AICCTU State Council Member. Com.Thenmozhi, State Vice President, AICCTU placed the resolutions. Com.T.Sankarapandian, General Secretary, AICCTU, inaugurated the convention. Com.Bhuvaneswari, State Deputy General Secretary, AICCTU addressed the convention. Over 100 women workers participated in the convention.
The convention decided to organize demonstrations all over the state stressing the demands raised in the convention.
The Chennai district committee of the party mobilised Rs.75000 in 4 days of flood relief campaign.
Donations were collected among workers door to door in their residential areas in Ambattur and among Advocates in their champers by Democratic Advocates Association members led by Com.Bharathi. About Rs.40000 were collected among Advocates who generously contributed. One 60 Year old advocate Ayyadurai enthusiastically participated along with a team of advocates.
At Villupuram, Party cadres with flags and banners collected donation among public in bazars and bus-stands. They have collected Rs.5000 in 6 hours of campaigning. Comrades Venkatesan and Shenbagavalli led the campaigns.
At Nagai in Tanjore district, party cadres led by party's district secretary Com.Elangovan collected donations among public in Bazars and bus terminals holding party flags. They collected Rs.4000 in 2 days for few hours of campaigning. At Salem, cComrades collected Rs.5000 as flood relief. Comrades Chandramohan and Mohanasundaram led the campaign. Efforts are on in other centres of Tamilnadu.
As part of the ongoing protests demanding Justice for Comrade Gangaram Kol, the party held a protest procession in Dibrugarh district (Tingkhong area). The procession began from the party's office at Rajgarh through the main market to the Revenue Office. 500 people marched in the procession raising slogans demanding arrest of the main accused, Congress MLA Raju Sahu, without delay, and a CBI enquiry into the killing. When the procession reached the main market, a protest meeting was held and an effigy of Raju Sahu was burnt. The procession was led by Assam State Committee member Comrade Arup Mahanta. At the Revenue Office, another protest meeting was held which was addressed by Assam State Secretary of the party Comrade Bibek Das. A memorandum to the Governor was submitted via the Revenue Officer. The procession was led by Comrade Balindra Saikia, Mira Tanti, Suraj Garai, Maitreyi Bagchi, Punti Tanti, Shashi Modha, Bitupon Bokoliyal, Lakshyadhar Kalita, and other CPI(ML) leaders.
Jan Sanskriti Manch, AICCTU and RYA held a protest programme at Jantar Mantar on the evening of 26 June to mark the 38th anniversary of the infamous Emergency and to protest the ongoing 'undeclared' Emergency in the country.
Cultural activists, writers, poets, workers, youth and students participated in the programme, declaring their protest against the ongoing policies of government surveillance and intrusion, violation of civil liberties and trampling of freedom of thought and expression. The arrest of workers and activists of people's movements as well as voices of dissent using draconian laws and false cases was vigorously protested. The protest meeting was addressed by JSM President Prof. Manager Pandey, Janvadi Lekhak Sangh General Secretary Murli Manohar Prasad Singh (who recounted his own experiences of being arrested during the Emergency), Pragatisheel Lekhak Sangh General Secretary Ali Javed, CPI(ML) Politburo member Kavita Krishnan, Aslam Khan of RYA and Sunny of AISA. Shyam Kishor, AICCTU leader and CPI(ML)'s Delhi State Committee member, just released from jail a day before, recounted his experience of being arrested on trumped up charges following the February All India Strike.
The meeting began by keeping a minute's silence in memory of those who lost their lives in the Uttarakhand tragedy, and JLS President Shiv Kumar Mishra who passed away recently.
Lokesh Jain and his team sang on the occasion. Artists Anupam and Ashwini Agrawal did a live painting at the venue.
The program was conducted by Awadhesh, and conceptualized by noted artist Ashok Bhowmick.
Participants included teacher Ravindra Goyal, writers Noor Zaheer, Dinesh Mishra, cultural activist Rekha Awasthi, critic Ashutosh, Gopal Pradhan, filmmakers Imran and Vijay and many others.
(Excerpts from a report by Rahi Gaikwad in The Hindu, 30 June 2013)
As with the proverbial bogeyman, the mere mention of the word 'police' struck fear into Leelavati Devi and she reached out to her family for some comforting.
"They beat me black and blue with a rifle butt, in the back, in the waist," she said, after much goading. Deeply disturbed, she got startled even by the sound of passing vehicles.
Her village of Deotaha in Bagaha, West Champaran district, is one among several villages with a concentration of nearly three lakh people of the close-knit Tharu tribe. On June 24, Bagaha became a bloody chapter in Bihar's history when the police opened fire on agitating Tharus, killing six and injuring 15.
According to the police, the firing was "unavoidable" but the situation that led to the firing was avoidable.
Bagaha was simmering with discontent ever since a local youth, Chandeshwar Kaji, went missing on June 15. The police's dilly-dallying over taking action caused the initial delay.
"First we looked for Chandeshwar ourselves," Suhas Kaji of Dardari told The Hindu . "Three days later, we went to lodge a missing complaint, but were turned away as it was the wrong police station. Our village comes under one police station, but the spot where the boy was last seen comes under another."
Going back and forth to police stations took three more days. On June 21, the police took a complaint. The same day, blood stains and a torch, which Chandeshwar was carrying, were found in the fields. Suspecting foul play, the locals went to the police again to register a case of kidnapping.
On June 24, the day of the firing, hundreds of men and women surrounded the Naurangiya police station demanding action. In this melee, a phone call from a police man said the body had been found.
The information turned out to be false, but the damage was done.
News of the possible recovery of the body spread across the villages of Bagaha and people turned out in large numbers to see the body. "I went to see the exhumation. The people were telling the police to dig out the body," Ritik Kumar (14), injured in the left arm, told The Hindu .
Victims said the police were digging in several places in vain. Seeing this, a group of nearly 400 women surrounded the police and demanded that they summon the accused, Ravikesh, arrested in the case, to the spot.
"The women said the police could not leave without discovering the body. The police assured them the accused would be summoned but instead started calling additional forces from other police stations. The women started screaming and heckling the police," Suhas Kaji said.
At this point the police lathi-charged the women, and even assaulting them with rifle butts. The brutal assault on the women incensed the villagers — nearly 2,500 in number as per the police. They began throwing stones, at which the police opened fire. As per the police probe, 33 rounds were fired from various rifles.
"The police first fired in the air. The people were still under the impression the police would not fire at them. But they did," said Ritik.
Many innocent bystanders and students became the target of the bullets. The Khatjit family of Deotaha village lost two bothers, Brahmadev (40) and Dharamjeet (32). With the breadwinners gone, the wives and children of the deceased duo now face a bleak future.
"My husband had gone to buy fertilizers. I rushed to the spot when I heard he was shot. When I saw his blood-stained body, I went weak in the knees, but still thought of picking him up. The police came to attack me. I ran to the nearby Mushahar [a low caste] quarters. But the police came looking for me there, asking who was wearing yellow clothes. I was in a yellow sari. I had to change my clothes and make my escape," Hemanti Devi, Dharamjeet's wife, told The Hindu .
Hemanti saw her brother-in-law Brahmadev trying to get up despite being shot in the loin. "As he was trying to get up, he was shot in the chest. When he still did not die, the police crushed him under their jeep," she said.
The police denied running over anyone.
Madan Mahato was shot twice while trying to flee. His mobile was snatched away when he tried to receive a call. "When I fell down, the police said, 'Should we kill you?' I told them to go ahead. They then dumped me in the jeep like a gunny bag."
Bhupdev Mahato, an engineering student, was on his way to the market. He stopped on seeing the crowd and before he knew what was happening, was shot in the chest.
Many of the deceased and those seriously hurt have been shot in the back.
Lack of aid
The gross lack of medical facilities has put those seriously injured at further risk.
Five days later, Ganesh Mahato (20) still had three bullets lodged in his body — one in his spine and two in the ribs. All were shot from the back. Apart from the acute pain, he had difficulty in breathing. With lack of facilities to operate on him, he would be taken to Delhi for treatment, his family said.
Asleem Miya (25) was unable to speak and only gestured to communicate. He had one bullet lodged in the back. The family had no news about his further treatment.
In Bettiah, Madan's wound was cleaned and one stitch given without administering anaesthesia. "In Patna, I had to spend one day in the emergency ward as no bed was available," he said.
The bullets have left behind a trail of shattered lives. Chandeshwar's wife Geeta Devi has lost all hope. The duo was married only last month. With her husband's case now sidelined, there was focus on her plight. Having received only school education, she desperately needs a job to keep afloat.
"I am not scared of the police; I am angry at them. They started battamizi [misbehaviour] first. They fired on people who were running away," Ritik said from his bed at the Patna hospital.