The newly installed Jharkhand government completed its first two months in office on January 15. Of course, there can be no questioning the formal majority of the NDA government headed by Babulal Marandi. But there is hardly another parallel of a government having alienated so vast sections of the society within a span of just two months. The gulf between the aspirations of the Jharkhand movement and the Jharkhandi people and the design of the Sangh Parivar is daily widening. Going by the proverb 'the morning shows the day', the future indeed looks full of challenges for this 28th state of India.
The assault on a church in Bokaro steel city followed by a heinous attack on a Christian missionary school and rape of a woman employee in Kurpania in Bokaro district - within weeks of the swearing in of the new government - were of a piece with the anti-Christian crusade being spearheaded by the Sangh Parivar all over the country. Thousands of students and young people came out on the streets of Ranchi to condemn this attack and demand justice, but the government turned a deaf ear. Then on December 28, the occasion of the first Eid of the new Millennium, we had this incident of unprovoked police firing on a predominantly Muslim crowd protesting against the death of a four-year-old girl. The events leading to the unfortunate death of a DSP who was alleged to have been stoned by the mob are still shrouded in mystery. Yet defying the curfew, rabid communal elements were allowed to politicise and communalise the DSP's death and innocent Muslim citizens are since being subjected to a systematic campaign of harassment. Indiscriminate arrests, extortion and blackmail, add up to a typical story of a harassed and helpless community living in the shadow of police terror.
On the economic front, the burning agenda before Jharkhand is creation of employment, elimination of the mafia and finding a solution to the long-standing tragedy of large-scale displacement, the havoc caused to the poor in the name of industrialisation and development. But instead of making any gesture to suggest even an acknowledgement of these issues, the government is busy appeasing the chambers of commerce and the mafia, and threatening the people with more devastating designs of displacement. It is quite revealing that the government has thretaened to resume work on the widely opposed Koel-Karo project. Jharkhand has a great concentration of public sector units in coal and steel sectors. The fact that the same political coalition now holds power both at the centre and in the state renders the public sector in Jharkhand all the more vulnerable to the neo-liberal assault of privatisation and closure.
There are also other factors worrying the people of Jharkhand, especially the adivasis. The ongoing official bid to tamper with the Fifth Schedule has raised serious questions regarding the future of tribal rights on land. The non-inclusion of the adivasi religion 'sarna' in the census questionnaire and a possible exclusion of large numbers of migrant Jharkhandi workers from the census operations are also causing widespread anxiety.
The good news from Jharkhand is that the people are not prepared to take all this lying down. Signs of a new phase of popular mobilisation and movement have already begun to surface. The Nav Nirman Rally held by the CPI(ML) in Ranchi on November 30 was the biggest in its history. The call for Jharkhand bandh on December 6 to press for recall of Governor Prabhat Kumar, an Ayodhya accused, was greeted with an overwhelming response in all corners of the state. The radical Left and other disillusioned focres of the Jharkhand movement have begun to come closer. This has the potential of generating a formidable combination which in turn can serve as a great bulwark for secularism and democracy, for a determined defence of the needs and aspirations of the adivasis and the working class. The dream of Jharkhand can only be realised by defeating the evil saffron design that seeks to convert this new state into a playground for communal fascism and predatory capitalism.
Party Central Committee met on 12-14 January 2001 at Ranchi in Jharkhand. It reiterated our basic position regarding the ongoing exercises in third front formation: (i) Clear and categorical opposition to both BJP and the Congress, (ii) a minimum democratic programme with due emphasis on economic issues, and (iii) exclusion of corrupt and discredited regional forces and primacy of movemental forces with clean and credible records.
The CC noted that "after a decade of neo-liberal economic reforms, contradictions at various levels of society are sharpening beyond normally manageable levels... Faced with intensifying socio-economic crisis and growing political challenges of governance, the BJP and other outfits of the Sangh Parivar are once again trying to rake up the Ayodhya issue and switch over to a pitch of stridency and aggression comparable to the first round of Ayodhya mobilisation in the late 1980s and early 1990s."
CC noted that "the economics and politics of globalisation have entered a new phase of uncertainties... the most stunning expression of this uncertainty could be seen in the US Presidential election." It took note of "a reversal of America's much-celebrated economic boom", in which "American economy - not only the so-called new economy but also the old economy of industrial manufacturing has begun to slow down."
The ceasefire announced by the NDA government during the month of Ramzan has not succeeded in generating any real hope of a political breakthrough in Kashmir. The whole move, in fact, has been perceived more as a tactical ploy to divide the Kashmiri organisations than a real attempt to restore normalcy and find a political solution to the Kashmir question. At best it can be termed half hearted response. We demand that the government put forth the formula on the basis of which it proposes to hold talks with Pakistan. Also noting that the "Indo-Nepal relations have touched a new low", the CC noted that the situation has been further vitiated by blatantly expansionist remarks made by Sangh Parivar ideologues.
Discussing various facets of agrarian unrest in the country that has once again begun to assume explosive proportions, CC noted that "While neo-liberal economic reforms have eroded the very basis of public investment in agriculture, WTO-dictated globalisation has exposed the Indian farmer to the clutches of giant agribusiness firms and highly subsidised cheap imports, thereby further exacerbating the inherent crisis of the landlord path of capitalist development of Indian agriculture." On our part, we have to "intervene in this crisis on behalf of the agricultural proletariat and the rural poor from the standpoint of the revolutionary peasant path of capitalist development." "We have to link the question of procurement to the broader issue of public distribution because the new policy essentially seeks to dismantle the public distribution system and replace the earlier procurement-cum-distribution arrangement by completely privatised foodgrains trade."
Pursuing the agenda of organising agricultural labourers as well as restructuring and rejuvenating peasant associations, the CC resolved to form a national coordination among our agricultural labour organisations very soon. National level peasant coordination committee will be formed in a conference to be held at Faizabad of UP on 2-3 March, 2001. These would facilitate interaction with other peasant/agricultural labour organisations as well as in intervening in the crisis.
In the current phase of sustained activism of working class movement, CC noted that "most of these struggles and strike actions", unlike the conventional patterns and parameters of trade union movement, "are addressing questions linked to government policies and the very survival of the working class. The old lines of demarcation between trade union struggles and political movements are getting blurred." In order to impart a conscious political thrust and direction to the trade union struggles and other spontaneous actions of the working class, CC resolved to carry on efforts of building a solidarity forum and launch a working class journal.
CC noted that the initiative for a national conference against globalisation has been received quite well, which is "a necessary exercise to study various forces in action and develop our understanding and response regarding the broad spectrum of ongoing popular struggles against globalisation."
News from the fields of struggle: |
More than 15,000 people participated in "Save Democracy" rally held at Dhanwar of Giridih district in Jharkhand on 11 January in protest against increasing onslaughts on minorities, backwards and weaker sections of society, against government repression on opposition and patronage to corrupt and feudal elements. Addressing the rally Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya asserted that Party will resolutely fight all saffron attempts to finish off democracy and secularism in the country. Jharkhand is a state where Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and Hindus, dalits and backwards have lived with tribal people for centuries and established a strong communal amity and fraternity through a prolonged struggle for independence and identity of Jharkhand. Condemning the police firing on Eid day he demanded judicial enquiry into the whole incident and recall of Prabhat Kumar, Governor of Jharkhand who is a co-accused in Babri Masjid demolition case. Com. Suvendu Sen, Secretary of Jharkhand State Committee, Com. Mahendra Singh, CC member and Party MLA in Jharkhand, Com. Rajkumar Yadav, Secretary of Giridih District Committee, Puran Mahato, District convenor of Jharkhand Mazdoor Kisaan Samiti, Parmeshwar Mahato, member of Jharkhand State Committee and Loknath Paswan, Secretary of Bagodar Block Committee also spoke at the occasion. The meeting was presided over by Com. Vijay Singh.
While CPI(M) and Trinamul are busy in rehersing for the forthcoming bloody electoral battle for Legislative Assembly in West Bengal, in which peasants are being reduced to cannon fodder, Party held a "Save the Peasantry" rally at Rani Rasmoni Road in Calcutta on 9 January. Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya was the main speaker. Other speakers included Com. Kartik Pal, Secy. of State Committee, Com. Ajit Das and Biman Biswas, secretaries of North Dinajpur and Nadia respectively. The meeting was presided over by Com. Shankar Mitra, CC member.
Addressing the rally Com. Dipankar said that "Save the peasantry" call is the call of the working people throughout the country. Even after 53 years of independence and 23 years of left rule, the conspiracy to kill people goes on. The current NDA govt. is inviting MNCs to agriculture and asking local peasants to grow grapes. Now we have turned a foodgrain importing country whereas we used to export it earlier. Remunerative prices are not available to peasants so they are committing suicide. This is happening despite green revolution. The struggle of saving peasantry is the struggle for country's independence.
In the course of preparatory mobilisation to 9 January "Save Peasantry" rally called by CPI(ML) rally at Calcutta, people rallied before ADM office, Balurghat of South Dinajpur district on 29 December. The speakers included Com. Ajit Das, State Committee member, Com. Subhas Das, Distt. Secy. and others. Similar mass meetings were held at Tungidighi of North Dinajpur district, mainly organised by comrades joining our party coming out of CPI(M) and addressed by Com. Basudev Bose, State Committee member, Com. Ajit Das, Distt. Secy., Com. Ramdas Mandal, Manik Datta and Laxmi Saha; at Itahar on 31 December, addressed by Com. Ajit Das, Manik Datta and Ganesh Chhetri, and at Goalpukur on 2 January, Chopra on 3 January and Islampur on 5 January, all addressed by Com. Ramdas Mandal.
In the course of preparations of Bihar bandh called on 17 January to protest the govt. anti-peasant, anti-agriculture policies, widespread propaganda was conducted in Patna and elsewhere. Torchlight processions were taken out at district headquarters. Peasants armed with ploughshare will block the roads with their bullock carts and tractors. In this course, joint dharna by 8 left parties including CPI(ML), CPI, CPI(M), MCPI, SUCI, Marxist Coordination Committee(MCC), RSP and Forward Bloc was held at district headquarters on 12 January.
In Bhawanipur bazaar of Dhamdaha subdivision of Purnea district in Bihar, two touts Taleshwar Murmu and Lakhan Hansda were paraded with shaven head and face blackened along with the effigy of BDO. These touts had cheated people in the name of Indira Awas Yojna. Party warned the BDO to mend his ways otherwise he will be punished in the same manner.
As the height of Durgawati dam is being raised by 3 feet, demands were raised to construct 6-ft. culvert on the barrage and embankments on both sides up to Telari to check the overflow of water and facilitate transportation. More than 300 people sit in a dharna at Sakri daily since 5 January on these demands under the banner of Area Development Struggle Committee that covers Kudra, Rampur and Bhagwanpur blocks. The dharna is led by local Party and peasant leader Com. Gopal Singh.
PWG attacked Mushahr tola of Supahali village in Masaurhi block on 28 December and beat women, broke houses as well as handpumps. When the aggrieved women reached police station to register their complain they were asked to leave CPI(ML). Com. Saharuddin Miya was attacked by Ranvir Sena goons while he was returning from dharna at Naubatpur block. He is serious in Patna and is being treated.
The Fourth bi-annual conference of Assam State Power Workers' Union (ASPWU) was held in Guwahati on 5-6 January, 2001. A massive rally was brought out on 5 January in which about 3,000 power workers of the state participated. The rally was flagged off by Upen Talukdar, a veteran TU leader. It marched through the heart of the city shouting slogans 'Save Electricity Board - Save Assam', 'Withdraw Electricity Bill - 2001', 'Stop mass killings and secret killings' in the state.
An open session was held after the rally, addressed by Com. Sudhiruddin Rana, working president of All-India Federation of Power Workers, Chakradhar Prasad Singh, Gen. Secy. of U.P. Power Workers Federation, Com. Rubul Sharma, CC member and State Secretary of CPI(ML), Com. Prasun Chatterjee, State Vice President of AICCTU, Bimal Nandi of UTUC(LS). Conference in its resolutions decided to launch vigorous struggles against policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation as well as against implementation of Electricity Bill, 2000. Conference also demanded that the government must recognise ASPWU as it is the biggest union of power workers in Assam.
The conference elected an executive body of 69 members with Tolan Bhorali as president, Nagen Bora as working president and Aja Rajkonwar as General Secretary.
First Cachar District Conference of CPI(ML) was held at Silchar town on 6-7 January, 2001. The open session was presided over by Com. Asim Nath and addressed by Distt. Party Secy. Com. Sripad Dhar, Com. Subhas Sen, and others. On 7 January delegates discussed the fall out of saffron policies of globalisation imposed by the central govt. as well as problems faced by the rural poor in the district and decided to build the party for giving leadership over the mass movement, particularly peasant movement. Conference elected a 9-member district committee with Com. Sripad Dhar as Secy.
Fifth bi-annual conference of All Tiwa Students Union (ATSU) was held at Kathiatoli of Nagaon district in Assam. It was attended by 500 delegates. The open session was addressed by Pronab Jyoti Mosrong, President of ATSU, Balaram Senapati, President of Tiwa Sahitya Sabha, Aditya Khaklari, Gen. Secy. of All Assam Tribal Sangha and others.
Conference agreed that United People's Front (UPF), though not an independent political party, will act as a coordinating body of Karbi (plain) and Tiwa organisations. Conference also resolved to launch struggle for implementation of the 6th Schedule of the Constitution in Tiwa areas, dissolution of the adhoc autonomous council, holding tri-partite talks and free and fair elections. Conference also demanded to decalre the Tiwas living in Karbi Anglong and Meghalaya as Sceduled Tribes. Conference elected a 17-member Central Executive with Pronab Jyoti Mosrong and Santanui Amsi as its President and Gen. Secy. respectively. During the debate regarding tribal movement, a section of the delegates who advocated hobnobbing with the ruling parties for achieving the autonomous council staged a walkout from the conference.
In Kashipur of Rayagada distt. of Orissa 3 adivasis were killed on 16 Dec. 2000 in a police firing during an agitation against displacement of adivasis from their land that was given by the Govt. to Larsen and Toubro for building a plant. Party and Lok Sangram Manch gave a call for South Orissa Bandh on 28 December which was complete success in Behrampur, Koraput and Rayagada districts. Traffic on Berhampur-Koraput road was completely collapsed. Bandh was total in Gunupur and Parlakhimundi towns as well as in Mukundpur and Padampur blocks.
Women agricultural workers of Mannippallam in Mayiladuthurai block of Tanjore district took to the streets and blocked the traffic for 6 hours, protesting the illicit arrack sale. In order to give organised shape to the women workers' protest,. CPI(ML) decided to have a protest programme and announced the decision, which evoked good response. In an attempt to counterbalance our move the district SP issued a press statement stating meaasures supposedly taken to curb the menace. Countering this, Party on behalf of agrarian workers issued a statement how rampant the menace was that in Sirkazhi taluk alone liquor business was around Rs.23 crore a year, and even political party functionaries leaders were holding liquor shops. The coverage drew massive response and around 400 people, out of which 250 were women, protested in front of Tehsildar office for two hours. Protest demonstration was held jointly by Tamizhaga Vivasaya Thozhilar Sangam (Tamil Agrarian Workers Union) and AIPWA. The tehsildar assured the protestors that in one week time the illicit arrack will be removed.
After the successful wage struggle of women workers, the first district conference of "Tamil Agrarian Workers' Union" was held at Tanjore on 7 January. Out of 75 delegates participating in the conference, 34 were women. Experience of wage struggle and plans to strengthen grassroots organisation were discussed. The conference elected a district committee of which Com TKS Janardhan is President and Com. Mallika Vice President, T Kannaiyan Secy. and Azhagmmal and Bharati Dasan Joint Secretaries. The conference demanded representation of women workers and inclusion of Tamil Agri. Workers Union in the State Agricultural Workers' Welfare Board, recently constituted by the State govt. and enacting a separate Act for agricultural workers' welfare in the present session of Assembly. Observing it as a campaign, thousands of postcards will be dispatched to the Assembly speaker demanding introduction of this Act.
Bangalore Party organisation held a well-attended "Seminar against globalisation" on 7 January 2001 at Institute of Agricultural Technologists, Bangalore. Among the speakers, Prof. Babu Mathew spoke on 'Impact of globalisation on working class', KS Puttannaiah of KRRS on 'Globalisation and farmers' issues', Prof. Gangadharmurthy on 'Impact of globalisation on dalits', Prof. LN Gopalkrishna, a social activist, on 'A creative response to globalisation', and Com. Shankar, Party Central Committee member, on 'Globalisation and political responses". The welcome address was given by Com. Govindaraj, State Secy. and vote of thanks by Com. Ranjani. The seminar was moderated by Com. Subramani.
Com. Ramchandra Yadav, veteran communist and AICCTU leader, died on 13 January 2001 after prolonged illness in Patna. He was over 75 years of age. He had played a significant role in organising town poor and unorganised labourers in Patna. We condole his death and share the grief with his family members and comrades-in-arms.