What exactly happened at the obscure Chhota Aangaria village of Garbeta block in Medinipur district of West Bengal on 4 January 2001? How many people were killed and how? What happened to the corpses? What prevents the state government from announcing a judicial enquiry in spite of such tremendous uproar in the state and beyond? Nearly three weeks after the incident, Garbeta stories show no sign of disappearing from the front pages of Kolkata newspapers.
The facts emerging from Garbeta are quite intriguing. True to her style, Mamata Bannerjee had lost little time in furnishing the 'details' of the Garbeta carnage including the number and names of the victims, claiming, of course, their allegiance to her party. She even backed up her 'claims' with all kinds of sample exhibits -- skulls, bones, bloodstained clothes and what not! But for ones, she had to beat a quick retreat. It was soon revealed that the victims were associated with the People's War Group and the number of people killed was possibly less than what she had claimed. Even the members of the NDA fact finding team acknowledged that Mamata had erred and that she should have confined herself to demanding a probe.
No less revealing has been the response of the Left Front government. The government first tried to dismiss the entire incident as a figment of political imagination of the opposition. But faced with growing public pressure, the chief minister soon had to announce a CID inquiry, thereby rejecting the initial position of his own government. Report now indicate that the state government has decided to transfer the controversial and blatantly pro-CPI(M) police superintendent of the district, who had once been removed earlier from his position as SP of Bardhaman district following a National Human Rights Commission recommendation concerning the killing of a truck driver. The State Human Rights Commission has however chosen to take stong exception of the intervention of the NHRC in the Garbeta episode without bothering to explain its own inaction.
The most intriguing twist to the incident has come from the involvement of the PWG and the CPI(M) response to this aspect. Reports of a certain PWG presence in the Garbeta region bordering the three neighbouring districts of Medinipur, Bankura and Hooghly have now and then been appearing in the press ever since Medinipur started hogging the media limelight thanks to the Keshpur incidents and Panskura by-poll. It is now widely reported that initially the PWG had struct aa deal of sorts with the CPI(M), a fact corroborated by none other than Sushanta Ghosh, the CPI(M) minister from the district who is credited to be the brain behind the party's post-Bankura recovery campaign. The mission accomplished and the deal having run into difficulties, the CPI(M) probably wanted to rid itself of the PWG problem and the carnage at Garbeta could well reflect the beginning of a politico-military realignment of forces.
As far as the PWG is concerned, Garbeta is perhaps part of its unfortunate anarchist destiny. Devoid of its own independent politics, it is always liable to be trapped in a game of political football between CPI(M) and the TMC-BJP combine. One does not know if the PWG will ever be able to learn any political lesson from Garbeta, but what really merits the critical attention of every Left activist and campaigner for democratic rights is the attitude of the CPI(M) leadership.
Reacting to the PWG angle of Garbeta incident, CPI(M) leader and editor of the party's weekly organ People's Democracy, Sitaram Yechuri had rushed to portray the incident as part of a larger challenge to national security (and of course, international conspiracy), advising Advani to ponder and probe. Comrades Surjeet and Karat were of course quick to reject this suggestion of a central probe. Instead, CPI(M) publicists have now chosen to expose the 'double standards' of the BJP and the NDA government on the issue of combating Naxalism. We are reminded that on 23 December, 1999, in reply to a question raised in the Rajya Sabha by Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Nirupam (a member of the NDA's fact-finding mission to Garbetaa) on the growing 'threat' of leftwing extremism in the country. Home Minister Advani had lauded the CPI(M)'s role in tackling the threat. By questioning the NDA government's 'politically motivated' concern for human rights of Garbeta Naxalite victims, the CPI(M) would like to 'expose' Advani's insincerity on the question of combating Naxalism! To be sure, invoking the bogey of leftwing extremism is the easiest way of tackling the embarrassing question of human rights!
These are dangerous signs of history repeating itself in West Bengal. Thirty years ago, the CPI(M) in West Bengal had collaborated with the Congress to crush naxalism only to invite the white terror, which culminated in the Emergency and brutal state repression on thousands of activists of the CPI(ML) and CPI(M) alike. If the TMC is able to expand in West Bengal, the reason has to be located primarily in the growing resentment of the people. By rfusing to institute a judicial enquiry into Garbeta, the CPI(M) is only tarnishing the image of the Left and giving a handle to anti-Left propaganda. And far from pushing the BJP on a defensive, any invoking of the theme song of 'Naxalism and national security' to make common cause with the ruling classes will only disarm the Left and democratic forces and play into the hands of saffron reaction in West Bengal and beyond.
Democratic forces therefore demand a judicial inquiry into the Garbeta incident. let the truth, the whole truth, come out. Truth alone can form the foundation of a real recovery of the Left in West Bengal.
Party General Secretary's Press Statement |
In a press statement issued in Calcutta, Com. Dipankar said that Party CC has resolved to launch a nationwide campaign to organise a determined secular democratic resistance against the BJP's renewed bid to rake up the Ayodhya issue. Cautioning all secular and democratic forces in the country against believing the BJP's assurances on Ayodhya, the committee held that to save whatever remains of democracy and secularism in this country, it is imperative to defeat any attempt to construct a Ram temple on the plot where the Babri Masjid stood till 6 December 1992. To prevent the VHP from further vitiating the atmosphere, the nation must press for an immediate reimposition of the ban on this saffron outfit.
He said: "To intensify countrywide resistance against the disastrous policies of liberalisation and globalisation and promote closer unity and understanding among the fighting forces, the CPI(ML) favours the formation of a rainbow coalition of resistance encompassing forces of the organised Left movement as well as the socialist currents and other emerging social movements in the country. The process of globalisation has begun to play havoc with the very survival of large sections of our basic producers; it is also marked by a relentless drive to subvert the institutions and notions of parliamentary democracy in the country. Against this backdrop, a people's conference against globalisation and for democracy will be held soon in Delhi where leading activists representing diverse currents of resistance will exchange their views and experiences and initiate a united national campaign for self-reliance and democracy. "
News from the fields of struggle: |
Bihar bandh called by eight Left parties including CPI(ML), CPI, CPI(M), MCPI, SUCI, RSP, Forward Bloc and MCC (Roy) against Centre's agricultural policy and State govt.'s apathy towards peasantry was widely successful. Around 10,000 party cadres and peasants courted arrest throughout the state. In certain districts, viz., Jahanabad, Kaimur, Rohtas and Buxar, broad masses of peasantry participated in implementing the bandh and they appeared on the roads with their ploughshares to block the roads. Trading remained suspended throughout the state. GT Road was blocked at Mohania, Dehri on Sone and Aurangabad. Police resorted to firing at Dehri on Sone. Assam Road or NH-31 was blocked at Kursela, where police resorted to lathicharge the demonstrators, in which dozens of activists were injured. The highway from Darbhanga to Muzaffarpur was blocked at several points including Etbarpur Chowk, where police had fired during the last bandh. All the roads initiating from Darbhanga, Arrah and Mairwan were blocked. In Darbhanga SP himself conducted the lathicharge.
Trains were stopped at Narkatiaganj, Darbhanga and Dumraon. Police conducted lathicharge at Narkatiaganj injuring several local leaders and cadres.
In Siwan town, 400 activists led by Com. Amarnath Yadav took out a march throughout the town and courted arrest. In Patna, 600 activists took out marches from State Party office in three batches to cover the whole city. Apart from leaders of other left parties, CPI(ML) leaders including comrades Ram Naresh Ram, Ramjatan Sharma, KD Yadav, Ramji Rai, Saroj Chaube, Rajaram Singh, Kamlesh Sharma, Mithilesh Yadav courted arrest.
Party had conducted statewide campaign on 15-16 january to make the bandh a success. Street corner meetings were held on 16 January evening and torchlight processions were brought out.
A day-long session of lawyers, activists of civil liberty movement and enlightened citizens was held at Common Hall, Darul Shafa in Lucknow on 21 January, in which a human rights forum named "People's Union of Human Rights' was formed. It is intended that the forum will fight not only for human rights but also against fascist acts of BJP govt. and take movemental initiatives for safeguarding democracy. The session was inaugurated by Com. Akhilendra Pratap Singh, Secy. of CPI(ML) U.P. State Committee, and presided over by senior lawyer Devendra Pandey and senior journalist and writer Ajay Singh. Baalram Yadav, convenor of Progressive Advocates Association conducted the session. A 15-member coordination committee with Chittaranjan Singh as convenor was formed. The session was also addressed by CB Singh, poltical thinker and lawyer in the High Court, Nihaludin, president of All India Muslim Forum, law teacher Azim sherwani, educationist Krishnawatar Pandey, senior left leader Pratap Kumar Tandon, and others. The session demanded that black acts like Art.144, Goonda Act, NSA etc. be annulled, judicial rights given to executive be withdrawn and legal aid committees be formed at district level.
In most of the districts of Chattisgarh there is famine situation. In absence of relief, poor peasants are compelled to migrate in large numbers. On 20 Dec. 73 persons were going from Balod Bazar to Nagpur by a cement laden truck. At Mura village the truck overturned and 9 persons including 5 children died on the spot, whereas 28 others got injured. When the police tried to take the corpses away, CPI(ML)-led local people blocked the road and demanded 5 lakh compensation, along with food for work scheme to check migration. Com. Narottam Sharma, Secy. Raipur DC and Bhagbali Druva of AICCTU led the road blockade for 7 hours after which they were arrested and police took away the corpses. On 22 Dec., a demonstration led by Com. Rajaram, Party in charge and Com Shambhu Singh, Secy. of Chhattisgarh was staged before collectorate protesting Party leaders' arrest. Police released the two leaders on personal bond and chief minister announced Rs. 25,000 compensation to the deceased.
Our readers must be aware that in the Hill Districts of Karbi Anglong and N.C. Hills of Assam the Cong(I)-BJP-UPDS combine, in league with the Holiram Terang-Jotson Bey renegade clique, have started a dangerous game of physical elimination of elected representatives to usurp power. Mr. J.M. Basumatary, Executive Member of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, has already been murdered in his government residence in Diphu, another member of KAAC has been kidnapped, and some others along with their kiths and kins are under the gun-threat.
CPI(ML) has called upon the democratic organisations and individuals to observe Assam Hills Solidarity Day on February 7, 2001 against this ongoing conspiracy by Congress(I)-UPDS-renegade clique to destabilise the elected council and disrupt people's harmony and the autonomous state movement and in support of the demand for autonomous statehood to the Hill Districts.
May we request you to write directly to the President of India as well as to the Governor of Assam, Guwahati. You may like to use the following Performa.
The President / The Governor
Rashtrapati Bhawan / Raj Bhawan,
New Delhi / Guwahati, Assam.
Subject : Complete breakdown of law and order in the Hill Districts of Assam, attempt by reactionary forces to destabilise the democratically elected Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and non-implementation of Article 244-A of the Indian Constitution.
We wish to bring to your argent notice the following important facts regarding the Hill Districts of Assam:
1. The anti-autonomy, reactionary forces like the U.P.D.S. and renegades of the A.S.D.C. along with Congress and BJP are making a desperate bid to destabilise the popular, democratically elected representative body of the hill people -- the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council through terror tactics, intimidation, kidnapping and massacres. Recentlyy, in a blood-curdling dastardly act, one of the Executive Members of the K.A.A.C., Mr. Jarowmohan Basumatary, was murdered in cold blood in his own government quarter. Again, Mr. Bikas Boro, Public Health Engineer in the K.A.A.C. was kidnapped and is still in illegal custody.
The manner in which these acts have been used to 'manufacture a majority' in the K.A.AC. is unprecedented in the history of Parliamentary democracy in the country. These developments are a cause of serious concern because the motive of these reactionary forces is not only to destabilise the democratically elected K.A.A.C., but also to completely disrupt the peaceful, democratic movement of the Hill people going on under the leadership of ASCD-CPI(ML), which has become a model of harmony and trust between communities and nationalities. The methods being adopted to create disruption are totally unconstitutional and underhand, amounting to a blatant violation of the democratic process in the country.
2. There have been no steps on the part of the Assam government to control te deteriorating law and order situation and stop massacres and killings of innocent citizens, especially Hindi-speaking people in these districts, by the extremist U.P.D.S Since the question of law and order does not fall within the purview of jurisdiction of the K.A.A.C., and since the Assam Government has proved a complete failure in projecting the lives of innocent people, it is important that the subject of law and order be handled over to the K.A.A.C. immediately.
3. Under the provision under Article 244-A of the Indian Constitution, the people of the Hill Districts have the constitutional right to an Autonomous State within the State of Assam. Yet, successive central governments have remained indifferent, in not inimical to this just demand. Viewed in the context of the recent formation of separate states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal, non implementation of Article 244-A in the specific context of Assam has resulted in a deep sense of betrayal and alienation among the people of the Assam Hills.
In view of the above developments, we, as concerned citizens, place the following demands for immediate consideration:
(i) Immediate arrest of culprits responsible for the ongoing killing spree, foiling of attempts to destabilise the K.A.A.C. and disrupt peace and harmony, and institution of a judicial enquiry into the conspiracy to destabilise the K.A.A.C.
(ii) Confiscation of all illegal arms in the possession of extremist outfits, U.P.D.S. in particular, and supply of free licensed weapons to the common people for self-defence.
(iii) Immediate steps on the part of the Assam Government to stop killings in the Hill Districts as well as restoration of law and order in these districts.
(iv) Recommendation for immediate implementation of Article 244-A of the Indian Constitution in relation to the demand for an autonomous state comprising the Hill Districts of Karbi Anglong and
As part of the Delhi Party's programme 'Save the Poor, Save Delhi' launched on 5 January for two weeks, Party's Mahrauli district committee of Delhi took out a Padyatra (march on foot) 21 January against anti-poor and anti-labour policies of Congress govt. in the state and BJP govt. in the centre. They also distributed thousands of leaflets. The march led by Com. Rajendra Pratholi, State Secy., Com. Ranjan Ganguli, Secy. of Mahrauli District Com. NM Thomas, Secy. of DTC Workers Unity Centre, Com. Santosh Roy, SC member and Com. Ashok Singh, Secy. of Badarpur Branch. Shouting slogans like "Stop evicting industries and workers in the name of pollution", the march covered a 5-km. stretch from Okhlaa Ph-II Party office to reach Okhla Ph-I and turned into a mass meeting there. The meeting was addressed by Com. Pratholi.
In another programme during the same campaign, North West Delhi Committee of CPI(ML) held a protest dharna and a meeting on 20 Jaunary at Azadpur Bus Terminal. The protest meeting was addressed among others by Delhi Party Secy. Com. Rajendra Pratholi and Com. Ranjit Abhigyan, member of Central Secretariat, Com. Jeeta Kaur, In charge of Northwest District, Comrades Satbeer Surendra, Rajpal and Amritlal Chakravarty and Ashok from Nav Chetna Path. Speakers not only held BJP and Congress and their central and state govt. responsible for eviction of industries and workers, they also criticized the anti-poor bias of the judiciary on the issue of industrial relocation.
Democratic Socialist Party's 19th congress, held on January 3-7 near Sydney, Australia with 287 delegates and observers. The Congress assessed the significance of this movement in world and Australian politics and identified five main features of the anti-corporate mass movement across the world:
1) The new movement reflects a growing crisis of popular legitimacy for the imperialist ruling class's drive to globalise their neo-liberal policy agenda of rolling back all the economic concessions made to working people in the developed capitalist countries during the long 'boom' from the late 1940s to the early 1970s.
2) Large numbers of people, especially young people, in the imperialist countries are deeply concerned at the deepening of poverty in the underdeveloped countries which has resulted from neo-liberal globalisation.
3) The crisis of legitimacy for neo-liberal globalisation is most immediately focused on the imperialist-dominated international economic institutions that are seen as the key vehicles for promoting and imposing neo-liberalism around the world the WTO, IMF, World Bank and World Economic Forum (WEF).
4) The movement is objectively anti-capitalist in its dynamics because opposition to the drive to globalise neo-liberal policies runs counter to the interests of the capitalist rulers in the rich imperialist countries of North America, western Europe, Japan and Australia.
5) This social movement, like every other, is broadly divided between two trends a spontaneously class-struggle trend centred around the radical, consciously anti-capitalist forces and a consciously class collaborationist trend headed by the trade union bureaucracy.
The congress made the assessment that this new movement presented revolutionary Marxists with the opportunity to win large numbers of working people in the imperialist countries to an anti-capitalist, internationalist consciousness.
In the message of greeting to the DSP's 19th Congress, Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya on behalf of CPI(ML) declared full support to the theme of the congress "Globalising Resistance to Capitalism". The message appreciates DSP's multi-pronged initiatives in promoting resistance against globalisation and says: "From the pages of Green Left Weekly to the streets of Sydney and Melbourne to forums like the Asia-Pacific Solidarity Conference and Marxism-2000, you have kept the flag of class struggle flying against all odds".
From Com. VM's article 'Emerging Patterns of Left Unity and Continuing Struggle', Liberation, May, 1993; SW, p. 36.)
We also feel that grassroots organisations in various corners of India are conducting a positive struggle to press for a people-roiented developmental strategy. In the present context, they are also raising their voice against IMF-WB dictated economic policies as well as communalism. Such forces must all be brought under the umbrella of the proposed mass forum. The Left must reorient its policies to include in its agenda the whole range of new issues which have come up in the last few decades of the developmental process. And for that the Left must not hesitate in developing interaction with such forces with a firm faith on its own ideology and organisational strength. On these and other questions we must continue our fight within the forum.