A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 18, No. 09, 24 FEB – 02 MARCH 2015
The Exit of Jitan Ram Manjhi and
the Agenda of Assertion of the Oppressed People in Bihar Politics
Kumar now says his decision to resign and hand over power to Jitan Ram Manjhi in the wake of the rout of the JD(U) in the Lok Sabha election of 2014 was an 'emotional' one. Being the calculating and pragmatic politician that he is, Nitish Kumar is not really known for taking 'emotional' decisions. Indeed, the decision to install Jitan Ram Manjhi as the stopgap Chief Minister of Bihar was anything but an 'emotional' gesture. It was a shrewd political move aimed at killing several birds with one stone.
By making Jitan Ram Manjhi the Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar had insulated both his party and government from the immediate impact of the huge defeat suffered in the Lok Sabha elections. He projected himself as a leader who was ready to shoulder responsibility for the defeat. And most significantly, he wanted to convey the message that he was serious about the mahadalit discourse initiated by his government, hoping to claim every credit for 'sacrificing' his own seat of power for a leader coming from the most oppressed and marginalised Musahar caste.
But as Jitan Ram Manjhi began to test Nitish Kumar's calculations with the steady assertion of his new found authority and unmistakable emergence from Kumar's shadow, Nitish Kumar began to panic. The BJP, the party that habitually patronised and defended every massacre of mahadalits in Bihar, discovered great political merit in the symbolism of Jitan Ram Manjhi and got ready to outplay Nitish Kumar in the game he had started with the Manjhi card. But more than anything else, it was perhaps the Delhi election outcome which limited the BJP's options and made sure that the Bihar political drama ended in a rather anti-climactic denouement.
Jitan Ram Manjhi has been a politician of the old Congress school who later switched over to the Janata Dal. He comes from the Gaya-Jahanabad belt of Bihar which witnessed heinous massacres of the rural poor all through the 1980s and 1990s. Manjhi never really spoke out for the dignity, rights and survival of the oppressed people in this turbulent period. Following the political tradition of Jagjivan Ram and Ram Vilas Paswan, and unlike someone like Karpoori Thakur, he never really sympathised with the oppressed poor's battle for social dignity and emancipation.
As Chief Minister, he had the chance to address the basic agenda of the oppressed people. A CPI(ML) delegation met him and asked him to reopen the massacre cases in which the culprits have all been acquitted by the High Court, reinstitute the Amir Das commission whose disbanding had emboldened the Ranvir Sena to resume its campaign of anti-dalit, anti-women violence and initiate measures to implement the recommendations of the Land Reforms Commission. Manjhi did not show any concern for these basic questions of justice, on the contrary he began to hobnob with the BJP, the biggest patron of social injustice and oppression.
Will Manjhi now seek reconciliation with Nitish Kumar to return to the Janata Parivar or will he float a new party and toe the Ram Vilas Paswan line to jump on to the BJP bandwagon? The early indications are he is keeping his options open. Let us leave these speculations to Manjhi who alone can determine his own future political course. What is most important is to reassert the agenda of people's rights, justice and dignity in this new political juncture. Nitish Kumar must be held accountable for betraying the trust the people had reposed in him over his promises of development and good governance.
Towards the very end of its tenure, the Manjhi government took several decisions addressing some of the long-standing demands of Bihar's most deprived and neglected sections of workers and employees. Pressure must be mounted on Nitish Kumar to respect and implement all those decisions. Recent developments have made it abundantly clear that whether it is the Janata Dal or the BJP, both are interested in using Manjhi only as a pawn and the real concerns of Manjhi's community figure nowhere in their scheme of things. The communist banner of class struggle must be held high at this juncture as the real vehicle for the political assertion of the oppressed people.
Red Salute to Comrade Govind Pansare!
Why Are Killers of Pansare and Dabholkar Free?
Like Narendra Dabholkar, his friend and associate, Comrade Pansare too was a pioneer of the rationalist movement in Maharashtra. Dabholkar too was shot dead on his morning walk in August 2013, following threats by Hindutva terrorist groups. His killers are yet to be caught. Following Dabholkar's murder, Comrade Pansare had stepped up pressure on the government for the passage of the Anti-Superstition Bill.
Who killed Comrade Pansare and why? To understand that, one would have to know his work.
In 1984, Comrade Pansare wrote a popular book called Shivaji Kon Hota (Who was Shivaji) on Chhatrapati Shivaji where he challenged the communal misuse of Shivaji by the saffron brigade. The book has been translated into many languages. The books says, "If there are any buyers for their hatred for Islam they should sell it on their own merit. They should not sell their commodity in Shivaji's name. They should not sell that commodity under the brand of Shivaji. At the same time, the Muslims should not equate Shivaji with his image created by these so-called Shivabhaktas. They should look at history; they should appreciate his attitude to Islam religion. Then only they should make their opinion."
This is how Dhaval Kulkarni summarises the Shivaji who emerges from the book, "Shivaji respected all religions, abolished serfdom, framed pro-farmer policies by doing away with arbitrary powers of local satraps (like Deshmukhs) to collect land revenue, took on established interests, and appointed Dalits and backward classes to prominent positions. In contrast with the modern version of the predatory state, Shivaji also warned his soldiers against 'touching a vegetable stalk in the farms of the ryots (farmers)."
The Hindutva outfits were incensed by him because he ripped apart their hijacking of the historical figure of Shivaji for their anti-Muslim agenda.
Comrade Pansare helped organise and support the movements of a range of workers, especially in the unorganised sector. He was a vocal opponent of the Modi Government and the Fadnavis Government, and scathing in his criticism of the Sangh-BJP's two-pronged strategy of appropriating Gandhi's legacy and celebrating Gandhi's killer Godse.
Filmmaker Anand Patwardhan observed, "In the week leading to his murder, Pansareji had spoken out against the forces that glorify Nathuram Godse and had also spoken about the need to re-investigate ATS chief Hemant Karkare's death in light of the fact that Hindutva had targeted Karkare for his indictment of saffron terror and had the most to gain by his death." Recently, he had been leading an anti-toll tax agitation in Kolhapur.
Hindutva outfits like the Sanatan Sanstha (implicated in Dabholkar's murder as well as in blasts in Thane and Goa), had filed a defamation suit against Pansare, who had accused these organisations of fomenting terrorism. Pansare had even received a letter threatening 'Tumcha Dabholkar Karu' ("We'll do a Dabholkar to you").
Modi has assured now that hatred and violence will not be tolerated. But he is yet to say a word against the killing of Comrade Pansare. And he is yet to take any steps to rein in the organisations like the Sanatan Sanstha, which openly incite hatred against activists like Dabholkar and Pansare.
Apart from Dabholkar and Pansare, RTI Satish Shetty is also among the activists who have been killed in the past few years in Maharashtra. Shetty was murdered in Pune for exposing land grab, and the CBI investigation in the murder has made no headway.
Protests were organised on 16th February by left democratic forces all over Maharashtra, including, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Shrirampur. CPIML (Liberation) activists joined the protests in Mumbai and Pune. In both the places, the protests were organised by around 400 people each, despite the last minute call. In Mumbai, a public agitation was held in which CPIML, Lal Nishan Party, Republican Panther, Bigul Majdoor Dasta and AAP participated. In other places, CPI, CPM and Lal Nishan Party attended the protests in major numbers. The CPI(ML) demanded a judicial inquiry on this matter by a sitting Supreme Court judge.
Delhi Police detained a large number of students from various universities and Left groups as they gathered to protest Comrade Pansare's murder.
Land Grab and the Lie of 'Employment, Development'
The Modi Government's Land Acquisition Ordinance nullifies the need for consent and social impact assessment for land acquisition for industrial corridors, security, rural infrastructure, housing and related infrastructure, and social infrastructure including projects under government and PPP models. This effectively opens the flood gate for land grab without consent by any public/private entity under any pretext!
The condition under Section 101 of the 2013 law, which requires that land not used for 5 years be returned to the owner, has been altered thus: "The time limit which has been set for a project or 5 years, whichever is later". This opens the doors for real estate mafia to acquire land, sit on it, and then sell it when the land prices have shot up.
To justify the urgency of this Land Grab Ordinance, the Modi Government has claimed that land acquisition for industry and infrastructure is necessary to generate jobs and promote development.
The CAG Performance Audit Report on Special Economic Zones exposes the fact that land grab under the 'public purpose' clause has resulted in massive diversion of land for commercial real estate purposes, and that the claims of generating jobs and development have been a big lie. The Land Grab Ordinance is only setting the stage for more scams on the lines of the SEZ Scam, that will loot land and impoverish peasants to fill corporate real estate coffers.
CAG Report Exposes SEZ Scam : The SEZ Act 2005 (as well as SEZ Acts in states such as Odisha and West Bengal, enacted prior to the 2005 national act) all claimed to be a panacea for 'development'. People's movements resisting land grab for SEZs (at Raigad, Kalinganagar, Nandigram and Jagatsinghpur, and other places) have been met with firing and repression, and been branded as 'enemies' of development and employment-generation. The colonial 1894 Land Acquisition Act facilitated such land grab, deeming that farmers' consent was not needed as long as land was acquired for 'public purpose'.
The CAG Report lays bare the truth – that the people's movements were right and the pro-corporate Governments were liars.
The Report observes:
"Though the objective of the SEZ is employment generation, investment, exports and economic growth, however, the trends of the national databases on economic growth of the country, trade, infrastructure, investment, employment etc do not indicate any significant impact of the functioning of the SEZs on the economic growth.
"Out of 45635.63 ha of land notified in the country for SEZ purposes, operations commenced in only 28488.49 ha (62.42 %) of land. In addition, we noted a trend wherein developers approached the government for allotment/purchase of vast areas of land in the name of SEZ. However, only a fraction of the land so acquired was notified for SEZ and later de‐notification was also resorted to within a few years to benefit from price appreciation. In terms of area of land, out of 39245.56 ha of land notified in the six States, 5402.22 ha (14%) of land was de‐notified and diverted for commercial purposes in several cases. Many tracts of these lands were acquired invoking the 'public purpose' clause. Thus land acquired was not serving the objectives of the SEZ Act."
•Vast areas of land were acquired for 'public purpose' SEZs. But most of the land remained unused and were later diverted for commercial real estate purposes. This is a scam of massive proportions, and concerned Chief Ministers and the then Prime Minister ought to be criminally prosecuted for this scam.
•The CAG report also notes the environmental violations of the coastal Adani SEZ in Gujarat, in which both the then Modi-led State Government and the UPA Government were complicit, and which fisherpeople's and farmers' groups in Gujarat had exposed.
•The Land Grab Ordinance now again aims to do exactly what the SEZ scam achieved – grab land without peasants' consent in the name of 'public purpose', and divert that land for real estate profits. This is why the five-year time limit for using acquired land is also being scrapped.
•SEZs fail to generate economic growth, jobs, infrastructure, investment. Those were just lies to justify robbing peasants of land and India of its food security. The same lies are being peddled in favour of the Land Grab Ordinance now.
•The CAG report also tries to calculate the massive amount spent on SEZs in terms of sops, tax exemptions, and so on (Rs 1.76 lakh crore, according to 83rd Report of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce
•on Functioning of SEZs, June 2007) but recognizes that tax sops are actually even more massive since they were 'hidden' and disguised.
•In fact SEZs robbed India's poor peasants and adivasis of land, livelihood and jobs on a massive scale. The CAG report indicates the incalculable cost borne by the nation, of this massive loot of jobs, fertile fields, environment villages, lives and food security.
On 23rd February, on the call of the All India Kisan Mahasabha, gram sabhas all over the country met to pass resolutions demanding scrapping of the Land Grab Ordinance and an end to the moves to curtail MNREGA and Food Security coverage. These resolutions will be submitted to the President of India and Lok Sabha Speaker following the Jan Sansad in Delhi by people's movements on 16th March, following the launch of the All India People's Forum.
"Demand Fortnight" Observed by Kissan Mahasabha
The Bihar state council of the Akhil Bharatiya Kissan Mahasabha organized protest demonstrations in front of the block headquarters across Bihar between 27 January to 12 February 2015 to demand that the paddy be purchased from sharecroppers and small and medium farmers at Rs 1660 per quintal without having to show the papers of land ownership. Other major demands included- registration, identity cards and kisan credit cards and agricultural loans to all sharecroppers and lease holding farmers, subsidized seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides, fixing of farming rates as the level of the government, loan waivers (government as well as moneylenders'), diesel subsidy, crop damage compensation in case of floods or famine, guarantee of a fixed period of farming without fear of eviction, and roll back of the land grab ordinance. Thousands of farmers and sharecroppers joined the protests.
Protests and meetings were held at Daudnagar (Aurangabad) with strong participation by small and medium farmers demanding elimination of middlemen, compensation for loss of potato crop, and parchas for land occupied on the banks of river Sone. At Arwal and Karpi farmers protested along with 3 and 7 tractors of paddy respectively. Similarly at Kurtha block hundreds of farmers protested along with their paddy. Protests were also held at Chakai block in Jamui district. At Beguserai Khemas, Kisan Mahasabha and CPI(ML) jointly protested in front of the Collectorate and put forward the farmers' demands. On 30 Jan various Left organizations took out a joint protest march in Beguserai. Protests and dharnas were organized at Darauli block in Siwan district, Bairiya block in Western Champaran and Darbhanga district.
"Paddy purchase fortnight" was observed in Patna district in the form of kisan dharnas in front of block headquarters. A 10 point memorandum was submitted through the BDOs to the Chief Minister. Farmers were mobilized through leaflets and village meetings. These programmes were organized at Naubatpur, Dulhin Bazar, Punpun, Bikram, Sampatchak, Paliganj, Dhanrua, Masauri, Fatuha, Bihata, and Maner.
A three day kisan jagaran yatra (farmers' awareness journey) was taken out in Hajipur, proceeding through Hajipur, Bidupur, Rajapakar, Desri, Sahdei Bujurg, Jandaha, Mahnar and Patepur blocks and encompassing 48 nukkad/village meetings. On 30 Jan 400 farmers and sharecroppers with their paddy protested at the Hajipur block HQ. A total of 2500 quintal paddy was purchased by the administration on this day. Hundreds of farmers protested in Nalanda district on 12 Feb.
The Kisan Mahasabha demanded purchase of paddy up to April 15 and elimination of middlemen. About 500 farmers staged a road block in Dumrao block in Buxar district on 28 Feb. Protests and meetings were organized in Rajpur block on 2 Feb. Between 4 Feb and 11 Feb protests were organized at Nawagarh, Chougai, Kesath, where the speakers pointed out the anti farmer policies of the govt which were responsible for the farmers' woes.
In Bhojpur, the administration of 9 blocks, namely Jagdishpur, Piro, Tarari, Sahar, Charpokhri, Sandesh, Agiaon, Gadhani and Udwantnagar, had to bow down before the protesting farmers who had come with their paddy, and purchase the paddy at 1660 per quintal. The dhan kharido movement began at Jagdishpur where farmers brought paddy loaded on 37 tractors in a procession from Naykatola crossing to the block headquarters. On 2 Feb around 2000 quintals of paddy was brought to Charpokhri block. On 4 Feb about 225 tractors of paddy were brought to Agiaon block. In Agiaon and Gadhani the farmers stopped all work for 4 days through road blocks and dharnas. In Sahar block sharecropping farmer Mohd. Nasir Hussain sat on an indefinite hunger strike along with his 88 quintals of paddy as the purchase centre in-charge refused to purchase his paddy. On 14 Feb the Kisan Mahasabha organized a huge meeting in support of Mohd. Nasir Hussain. On 15 Feb the BDO gave the assurance of meeting his demands and he ended his hunger strike.
The dhan kharido andolan has created awareness in the sharecroppers and farmers who are now expressing their anger against the government, middlemen, and administration.
Struggle against Gang Rape and Murder of Adivasi Girl in Jharkhand continues
On 15 December 2014, two tribal girls employed as cleaning workers in a hotel were gangraped by the employer in the hotel premises in Ramgarh district. One of the girls died due to the injuries caused during the brutal sexual assault. Soon after the incident was brought to light by the fact finding team comprising of CPI(ML) and RYA activists, CPI(ML) and AIPWA have been engaged in a sustained struggle to help the victims obtain justice even as most Jharkhand parties continue remaine silent on this matter. AIPWA National General Secretary Meena Tiwari along with a 15 member AIPWA team visited the village on 4 February, met and spoke with the rape victim and her parents, the parents of the dead victim, as well as other villagers. The team attempted to meet the Jharkhand Chief Minister, chairperson of the Women's Commission, and Minister for Women and Child Development, but none gave the team an appointment. On 6 February AIPWA and RYA staged a dharna at the Ramgarh block headquarters. Addressing the dharna Meena Tiwari said that the poor people and adivasis would give a prompt and fitting reply to the BJP Government. Through the dharna a memorandum addressed to the Chief Minister was submitted to the SDO, demanding among other things- speedy trial, immediate arrest of the two rapists and investigation of the role of the station in charge in trying to shield the guilty, action against the doctor who wrote a false medical report on the death of the victim and compensation for the victims. On 12 February, the Foundation Day of AIPWA, women in large numbers protested in Deogarh, Kodarma, Rajdhanwar, Garhwa, Dumka, Gomiya, and Ranchi, after which the charter of demand was sent to the Chief Minister. It has been decided that if these demands are not met, a protest will be held in front of the CM on 2 March.
Obituary : Prof. Tulsi Ram
Professor Tulsi Ram's untimely demise at the age of 65 years took place on 13 February at Rockland Hospital in Faridabad. Till his last breath he continued his fight against the politics, ideology and culture of communal – religious violence, superstition and social and economic inequalities.
Tulsi Ram joined the left movement by associating with AISF and CPI during his days in Banaras Hindu University. Later he joined JNU and after his finishing his PhD in International Politics, got appointment as a faculty in the same university. Besides engaging in research in Marxism, International Politics, in particular the international politics during the period of Soviet Union, he also studied Buddhist perspectives and Ambedkarism, assimilating his understandings of them in his larger understanding of politics.
Besides being very well grounded in Ambedkarite thought, he remained a Marxist till his last breath. He never resorted to rhetoric or non-constructive criticism of the work culture of Communist parties on the issue of caste. Instead, he used the platforms available to him to present his nuanced understanding and analysis of the caste question. He wanted to resolve this question by engaging in criticism and introspection from within the Marxist organizational structure.
Today, when the Dalit movement is undergoing a great crisis and a deep process of introspection and inner struggle is underway, Prof. Tulsi Ram's absence will be keenly felt. He used to say that one of the most dangerous trends for Dalit movement was the Dalits becoming casteist, and about the politics of BSP he used to say that BSP is making Dalits casteist.
Prof. Tulsi Ram played a significant role in the promotion and development of Dalit literature. His also played a crucial role as the President of Dalit Writers' Association. He explained Dalit literature as the literature of liberation of the entire humankind. As a left activist he remained anti-imperial till the very end. 'CIA- Rajnaitik Vidhwans ka Amriki Hathiyar' (CIA- American tool of Political Demolition), 'The History of Communist Movement in Iran', 'Ideology in Soviet-Iran Relations', and 'Angola ka Mukti Sangharsh' (Freedom Struggle of Angola) are some his prominent works. Prof. Tulsi Ram also edited the magazine 'Ashvaghosh'. In 2012 he was part of the Citizens for Justice for Bathani Tola platform. His demise is an irreparable damage to the culture of rational and dialectical materialist intellectual traditions and the Left-Dalit movements in India.
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: 22442790, e-mail: email@example.com, website: www.cpiml.org