A Year of Binayak Sen's Incarceration: Footsteps of Fascism in Chhattisgarh
May 14 will mark a whole year since Dr. Binayak Sen was jailed under the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) in Chhattisgarh. Despite an international outcry against his detention, he has been denied bail, and continues to be in jail, even as other human rights activists and independent media persons are vilified and arrested in the state.
The massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 was widely recognised as an experiment in the Sangh Parivar 'laboratory' of Gujarat: a sort of curtain-raiser for the fascist project in the rest of the country. The developments in Chhattisgarh should be seen as no less. In fact, these are all the more disturbing and serious because Gujarat 2002 happened with a BJP-NDA Government at the Centre, whereas the Chhatisgarh 'experiment' is being conducted with the tacit consent of the Congress-UPA Government at the Centre.
Consider the atmosphere in Chhattisgarh for the past year. The Salwa Judum project of fomenting a civil war among the adivasis of Bastar continues unabated in spite of carefully documented evidence of state repression and even rape in Judum camps, and in spite of the disapproval of the Supreme Court. Over 50,000 villagers have been evicted from their villagers and live in Salwa Judum 'relief' camps, while major steel corporations like Tata and Essar stand ready to grab their land.
In the Supreme Court, however, the Centre joined the Chhattisgarh Government in defending Salwa Judum as a model for combating 'naxalism' and insurgency. And more recently, the Congress Government in Manipur has begun an anti-insurgency project on the lines of the Salwa Judum; and a similar plan is in said to be in the pipeline in Maharashtra too.
Under the CSPSA, even a doctor who treats a sick or injured person can be booked for treating alleged 'terrorists'. In other words, every doctor is supposed to set aside the Hippocratic oath and all humanitarian norms! Dr. Binayak Sen is a doctor with a difference. For him, medicine and social conscience were always interwoven, and his insistence on exploring the social and political linkages of sickness and hunger led him to be closely involved with Shankar Guha Niyogi's efforts to organise mining workers in Chhattisgarh. He set up a hospital committed to providing health care to the families of the workers. The 'crime' for which he has been jailed is that he met with Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal in jail (with the authorities' permission and in their presence) in order to give him medical treatment. He was arrested when he went of his own accord to the police station, having read reports in the press of preposterous charges of 'terrorism' against him.
The main reason for Dr. Binayak Sen's arrest was that in his capacity as National Vice President of the PUCL and General Secretary of PUCL Chhattisgarh, he has been vocal against the Salwa Judum and against fake encounters under cover of 'anti-naxal' operations in Chhattisgarh.
PUCL activists and other human rights activists and representatives of people's movements face relentless harassment, vilification and witch-hunt inside Chhattisgarh. The latest victim is PUCL activist and independent film maker TG Ajay, who has also been booked under the CSPSA.
In Chhattisgarh, there is a virtual conspiracy of silence, with the police controlling much of the media coverage, and mainstream media participating enthusiastically in the planting of sensational vilificatory stories against human rights activists and democratic movements.
In Chhattisgarh, the footsteps of fascism can clearly be heard in the taming and silencing of the media; the repression of potential people's resistance in Bastar, not just by army jackboots but also by invoking a manufactured 'people's uprising against naxalism' in the name of Salwa Judum; and the witch-hunt of all voices which speak of humanity, democracy and dignity. The 'campaign against Naxalism' is a convenient cover which allows ruling class forces including even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to maintain an approving silence on the assault on democracy in Chhattisgarh.
The incarceration of Dr. Sen has brought international shame to India. Dr. Sen was recently conferred with the 2008 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. A host of international voices, including activists and writers and most recently, 22 Nobel laureates from the field of medicine and chemistry have issued a strong statement demanding Dr. Sen's release. The statement indicts India for violating international human rights covenants and allowing the recipient of the Mann Award to remain in jail. On May 14, let us join the voices of protest all over India and abroad, demanding the release of Dr. Sen and demanding the end to state repression and suppression of democratic rights in Chhattisgarh. While demanding that the Central Government intervene to restore democracy, disband the Salwa Judum and release human rights activists in Chhattisgarh, we must also vigilantly counter the attempt by other states that have begun to adopt the 'silent fascism' model of Chhattisgarh.
Give Examplary Punishment to the Perpetrators of Jaipur Serial Blasts
New Delhi, 14 May.
The CPI(ML) strongly condemns the serial bomb blasts which killed more than sixty innocents in Jaipur and expresses its condolences for the bereaved families of the victims. The perpetrators of such crimes who intend to damage the communal harmony and social fabric must be identified and given exemplary punishment. The CPI(ML) appeals to the people to keep a strong vigil against such divisive forces in order to maintain social harmony and also to stop any recurrence of such incidents.
The CPI(ML) demands that the Government must take proper steps to identify the perpetrators of this heinous crime against humanity and no one should be left out of the purview of the investigations.
Citizens Meet in Jaipur Condemn Blasts: A meeting of eminent citizens, intellectuals, PUCL and various democratic organisations was organised in Jaipur on the following morning of the serial blasts. CPI(ML) Central Committee member Srilata Swaminathan was present in the meet on behalf of the Party. It was decided to constitute a People's Committee to keep a vigil on the situation as well as to strengthen communal harmony in the town.
A Report on Karnataka Election Campaign
Karnataka State unit of the party has fielded candidates in six assembly seats for which elections are to be held on 16 May, 2008. This is the first time, the party has fielded candidates in six seats, four seats in Davangere district and two seats in Koppal district, compared to its tally of two seats in the entire state in last elections in 2004. The party has fielded Comrade E.Ramappa, state secretary in Harapanahalli, J.Bharadwaj, State President of AIALA in Gangawati, Basavaraj, SLT member in Harihar, Chowdappa in Jagalur, Hanumanthappa in Mayakonda and Mareppa in Kanakagiri.
In Harapanahalli, campaign is going on in full vigour since the allotment of our party symbol. Main programme of the whole campaign was organized on 12th May when we went on a Padayatra cum procession with more than 150 people, two bullock carts, a propaganda auto and a car along with the playing of traditional and modern drums. The procession traveled through nook and corners of Harapanahalli town covering around 15 KMs, including the main road of the town. Bullock cart, carrying the candidate, was completely covered with red cloth and ‘Three Star Flags”. Red shawl wearing and flag carrying activists added colour and vigour to the whole campaign while drums pulled the people sitting indoors to avoid the scorching sun. The look of the procession was consciously planned in order to distinguish our party from other parties that are always circling the air with helicopters. Even on the day of the rally many helicopters circled the skies of a very small town of Harapanahalli. This seat has become one of the political hot seats that Rahul Gandhi came for campaign in support of Congress candidate MP Prakash, former minister and former JD(S) stalwart on 12 May. Mining mafia and the sitting MP, Karunakar Reddy is representing the BJP. The MP’s regular mode of transport to the constituency is helicopter.
In Gangavati, the party organized a padayatra on 13 May covering main roads of the town that adjoins the heritage centre, Hampi. This is a culmination of door to door canvassing that went on for more than 10 days in adjoining rural areas of the constituency.
In Kanakagiri, the local administration and the police are creating maximum possible disturbance against our smooth campaign. First, some false cases were filed against the candidate and then, the Chief Election Agent, who was cleared of many other cases when he was active in some dalit organization, was issued summons on some false grounds, etc. Comrades are still continuing with the campaign against all odds.
In Jagalur and Harihar, our comrades are on a continuous padayatra covering all rural areas propagating the party policies while seeking votes.
Mayakonda is a new constituency where we have fielded a candidate from the angle of expansion. Campaign trail is going on in its level best in spite of EC restrictions that prevents only the political propaganda but not the illegal flow of liquor and money.
In Kudligi constituency that falls under Bellary district, the Returning Officer was so biased against our party that he acted unilaterally to refuse to allot our party symbol and to make the party candidate an independent in spite of submitting A-B forms. The party complained to observers and the DC but in vain.
Gangawati Candidate J. Bharadwaj Arrested
Comrade Bharadwaj, member of Karnataka SLT and Surya Prakash, Taluk Secretary of the party were arrested on 7 May for protesting against the Bhoomi Puja by a company called MSPL in one of the SEZs in Koppal in Karnataka district. The company has launched SEZ in 1140 acres that includes a lake spread around 40 acres. Comrade Vittappa and Sandhya of Koppal Zilla Bachao Andolan, Poojary of CPI(ML) (Kanu Sanyal) were also arrested along with affected protesting farmers.
AICCTU Preparatory Body Formed in AP
On 26th of April an organisational convention of All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) was held at Vijayawada. The meeting was presided over by CPI(ML)'s Andhra State Secretary and Polit Bureau member P. Murthy. DP Bakshi, PB member and S. Balasubramanian, Vice President of AICCTU and in-charge of Andhra along with the leading activists of Vizagapattinam, East Godavari, Khamam, Adilabad, and Ananthapur districts were present in the meeting. Com. DP Bakshi stressed the necessity of the organized trade union work in Andhra. It was decided to reach a membership target of 20,000 before the national conference of AICCTU to be held at Chennai. A seven member preparatory committee was formed with Com. CH Nageswar Rao as its Convenor. It was also decided to launch a campaign for the forthcoming founding conference of construction workers to be held in Patna at the end of June 2008 towards the formation of Federation of Construction Workers Union. The preparatory committee also decided to hold a State level conference in the last week of June.
122nd May Day was observed in Puducherry as an anti-price rise protest in a massive rally and public meeting. Large number of workers from factories, industrial estate, unorganized workers in all walks of work, urban poor, youth and women participated in the rally. The rally started from Singaravelu statue, who founded the 1st May Day programme in India and ended with a public meeting near Com. Jeevanandham statue, who was a veteran communist leader. The rally was headed by Com. S. Mothilal and the public meeting was presided by Com P. Shankaran.
Addressing the rally, comrade S. Balasubramanian, State Secretary of CPI(ML) said that it’s the policies pursued by NDA, UPA Government which are instrumental in the present crisis. He also said that BJP had no locus-standi to give a call for nation wide bandh whose pursuance of neoliberal policies are responsible for the present situation. The others who spoke in the meeting are Com G.Palani, CPI(ML) State Committee member, K.Selvam, Vice president, AICCTU, C.Sagayaraj, President, Movement for protection of homeless, P. Ravikumar, Convenor, RYA, M. Venkatesan District Secretary CPI(ML) Cuddalore and S. Ammaiyappan.
Tea Garden Workers Inaugurate their Union Office: On 1st May, the local unit of Sangrami Shramik Union in Sachindra Chandra Tea Estate opened its new office and the annual convention of the workers was organised on the same day. The Convention, held in a lively atmosphere saw many workers actively participating in the discussions. Cultural programme was also held on this occasion. A 25-member committee was elected by the convention which decided to expand the organisation in other tea gardens as well. The convention was presided over by the CPI(ML) CC member and the Acting President of tea garden workers union, Comrade Abhijit Majumdar.
Attack on Party Candidate in West Bengal
The candidates of our Party for the Panchayat elections are facing attacks in many parts of the State by both CPM and Congress goons. A recent instance of these two parties coming together to attack our Party candidates became evident, when Putul Bibi, a candidate from the North Dinajpur district was brutally attacked by Congress goons in collaboration with local CPM workers, on 23rd of April. She had to be hospitalised. Her in-laws were also not spared. The local police too lodged false cases against them and her husband is still in police custody. The local administration also tried to prevent the Party from holding a meeting condemning the incident. But braving all odds the Party organised a militant meeting in the locality, where more than 2000 party supporters were present. Putul bibi's case is just one of many instances where local authorities and ruling parties are having a free hand on toiling people.
AISA Team Visits Bengal’s Tea Gardens
A three member team of the All India Students’ Association (AISA) recently conducted a survey from 10 to 14th April in the tea gardens in North Bengal, which are in the news for all the wrong reasons. In the course of its survey the team found that the starvation deaths in the gardens is still continuing. On 5 March, Fakani Barak (a 21 year old worker of a closed tea garden) died of starvation. Local authority though tried to brand the death as from malnutrition. The condition of the workers is extremely distressing in the gardens, even in the ones which are somehow still running, as daily wages are a meagre 52 rupees compared with the minimum wage rate of 78 rupees in the state. The health benefit that the workers used to enjoy in the gardens are being denied now by the owners on the pretext that they are paying health tax to the govt. The literacy rate is also very low in the whole region. The owner of the closed tea gardens have cheated the workers of at least Rs.80 crores, as they have not paid the PF amount deducted from the workers salary to the Govt. The Govt. has yet to take any effective action against the owners and none of them has been arrested till date. The govt, as well as the existing trade unions, are silent on the issue. Though govt. has agreed to include the workers from the closed tea gardens in the BPL list, most of them have not received the BPL card as yet. The working days generated by the NREGS, for closed tea garden workers are a mere 14 days. The conditions clearly show the apathy and indifference of both the govt. and the local unions. This apathy of the Left front govt has translated into 1200 deaths in recent times in the region. AISA State unit has decided to publish a booklet highlighting the issue.
Landless Labourers Seize Land in Mansa
The agricultural workers in Dalel singh Wala village led by Mazdoor Mukti Morcha and CPI(ML) seized four acres of panchayat land which they decided to redistribute among the landless for building their dwellings. The seizure programme was organised on the 39th Foundation Day of the Party amidst chanting of revolutionary slogans. The villagers are guarding the land against any attacks by the feudal forces or the administration. They have vowed to defend it in order to provide dwellings to the landless. Earlier the administration had promised to allot land to the landless workers but it turned out to be a false promise as usual. Bhagwant Singh Samao, Secretary of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha led the agitation. Before the land-seizure the landless labourers paid tributes to Com. Dharam Singh Fakkar, one of the founder members of Mujara Movement (movement to ensure land to landless).
CPI(ML) Protest Against Price Rise
Communist Party of India (ML) activists in Patna blocked the train movement at Rajendra Nagar Terminal on 23 April to protest against rising prices and UPA government's failure to put a check on it. Danapur-Rajgir Intercity Express and Lokmanya Tilak Express were delayed as protestors sat on the tracks for hours. Protesters demanded a stop on black-marketing of food items and tough measures against hoarders, along with fine-tuning of the public distribution system. They blamed the Congress-led UPA government and declared to further intensify the agitation.
State Level Study Camp in Uttarakhand
The State unit of CPI(ML) in Uttarakhand organised a state-level study camp on 4-5 May in Pithoragarh. The prime focus of the study was to understand the thrust and essence of the Documents of the Eighth Party Congress held in Kolkata in December 2007. About 40 comrades from different parts of the State attended the camp and it was inaugurated by CC member Rajendra Pratholi.
Reports from Gwalior
The Gwalior unit of CPI(ML) is conducting series of struggles on various issues of the people. A procession was taken out through the main streets of Gwalior that culminated in a mass meeting on 15 April concurring with the national campaign against price rise by the Party. The meeting was addressed by Dist. Secretary Vinod Rawat and other leading activists.
On 24 April, a bicycle rally and padyatra led by Com. Anwar Ali was organised for demanding adequate measures for supply of drinking water and against reining in inflation. Prior to that, on 22 April, observing the Party foundation day the Party’s Call of 22 April was studied by the local committee and pledge was taken to carry forward people’s struggles.
Keeping alive the glorious memory and commemorating the 150 years of 10th May 1857, the first war of Indian Independence, a meeting was organised and a discussion followed on the relevance of 1857 in our times. Com. Devendra Singh Chauhan, a Central Control Commission member of the CPI(ML) threw light on this subject and emphasised on the importance of linking the nature and essence of struggles of then and now.
Honour Killings in Haryana Condemned
The CPI(ML) in Haryana has raised the issue of planned killing of a couple (Sunita and Jasbir) in Balla who wanted to marry each other. The Party has also condemned the death of three labourers in an iron foundry. An investigation report was published in both the cases. The Party demanded an enquiry be instituted headed by a sitting judge of the High Court as well as prompt arrests and strict punishment to the killersz. CPI(ML) has also demanded a compansation of 20 lakh rupees and govt. job to one member of the families of each of the deceased. The investigation team was comprised of Prem Singh Gahlawat, Omprakash and Rajesh Sharma.
Comrade Harhangi Prasad
Comrade Harhangi Prasad, a veteran Party comrade, passed away on 2nd May, 2008 at the Gorakhpur Medical College. He suffered a heart attack. He associated himself with the CPI(ML) since 1973. He was also associated with the Employees’ Union of the Medical College. He was employed at the Gorakhpur Medical College and only few months were left for his retirement. The Party Committee of Gorakhpur cremated his body and bid him a farewell. We pay our tributes to Comrade Harhangi Prasad who was always a sincere soldier of the Party.
Comrade Ramswaroop Yadav
Comrade Ramswaroop Yadav, block president of Rajasthan Kisan Sangathan of Buhana Block in Jhunjhunu, passed away at the age of 78 on 23 March, 08 at this ancestral village of Khandwa. Even at this age he was active in the struggles of peasants and workers with great dynamism. His body was cremated on 24 March. Hundreds of Party members including Rajasthan State Secretary of CPI(ML) Mahendra Chaudhary, Dist. Secy. Phoolchand Dhewa, and many others bid farewell to their comrade.