Successful Bihar Bandh: Assertion of People’s Protest against Police Firing and Nitish Govt.’s High-Handedness
Bihar observed a daylong bandh on October 15 for the second time in five months to protest against the growing spate of police atrocities. The bandh on May 10 called by CPI(ML) and supported by several other opposition parties was called in the wake of the May 2 police barbarity in Aurangabad. The October 15 bandh, called jointly by CPI(ML), CPI and CPI(M) and supported by the RJD and LJP, was prompted by the October 12-13 police firing in Madhubani district leading to the killing of two students – Nishant Jha and Ravindra Yadav – with several other students lying in hospital with grievous bullet injury, having been fired at by the police at above-the-waist levels.
Madhubani was of course no isolated incident. On October 11, thousands of people, including a large number of girl students, were brutally beaten up by the police at Paraiya in Gaya. The protesters were demanding police action against the lumpen goons who had gang-raped a girl student, yet instead of arresting the rapists, the police rained lathis and tear gas shells on the protesters. One of the protesters, Durgi Majhi, who was hit on the head with a rifle butt is now lying in PMCH in a critical state. Another scene of police brutality was enacted at Ara where dalit students observing an indefinite fast were whisked away by the police in a pre-dawn swoop on 14 October and beaten up brutally inside the police station. Incidentally, Nitish Kumar was scheduled to visit Ara on 14 October in course of his Adhikar Yatra.
The Madhubani incidents had a long build-up. Prashant Jha, and Preeti Chaudhary, both Class X students, had eloped since 7 September as the girl’s family was fiercely opposed to their relationship. The girl’s family is well-heeled and well-connected, and they promptly managed to have some of the boy’s relatives put in jail and threatened to have the boy bumped off. When the matter was brought to Nitish Kumar’s attention at the time of his Adhikar Yatra visit to the district, he did nothing to get the issue resolved. Against this backdrop when a beheaded body was discovered on October 3, Prashant’s mother thought it was her son’s body and demanded it be handed over to the family. The police refused and the mother accompanied by several women soon sat in an indefinite dharna.
On October 12, students joined in and called Madhubani bandh, but the police retaliated by attacking the women in the dharna. Veteran CPI leader and ex MLA Ram Naresh Pandey, and Prof CM Jha, President of the District unit of Jan Sanskriti Manch, who were there to express solidarity with women were also badly beaten up by the police. This triggered public outrage across the district and the trigger-happy police and para-military forces went berserk, killing at least two and injuring scores of people. Forced on the backfoot, for the first time Nitish Kumar admitted an ‘administrative lapse’, transferred the DM and SP of Madhubani, the IG of Darbhanga Range and the girl’s father who is the District Education Officer, and announced a judicial probe.
Surprisingly, on 15 October afternoon Prashant and Preeti were spotted near Mehrauli in Delhi, and as the information reached the Delhi Police and the Bihar DGP, the two were asked to surrender. Sections of the media have since started painting the bandh as a false move that only reflected utter desperation on the part of the opposition in Bihar to destabilise the Nitish Kumar government. Nitish Kumar, who has been arrogantly dismissing the protests of the people during his Adhikar Yatra as acts of political conspiracy hatched by the opposition, sees this as a new opportunity to deride the people and their protests.
To dub the October 15 Bihar Bandh a false move simple because the teenage couple surrendered in Delhi and the boy who was presumed dead by his own mother was found alive, would be a travesty of truth and an utter misreading of the situation in Bihar. Even if the bandh is seen only in the very limited and specific context of Prashant and Preeti, the fact remains that the future of the teenage lovers remains as uncertain and insecure as ever. Given the backdrop of the honour killings going on across the country, most prominently in states adjoining Delhi, and the shocking case of the Rizwanur murder in Kolkata, it is important to guard against lapsing into any kind of complacence, and instead remain ever alert to ensure that Prashant and Preeti are allowed to determine and shape their own future without any external pressure or fear. The Bihar government or Bihar police had absolutely no role in spotting them in Delhi, and cannot therefore claim any credit whatsoever for the dramatic discovery of the two teenagers the same afternoon when people were protesting in Bihar. If anything, the two teenagers may have been influenced by the developments in Madhubani and elsewhere in Bihar in deciding to surrender.
More importantly, the October 15 Bihar Bandh was by no means limited to the issue of Prashant and Preeti, it was above all against the increasingly autocratic character and conduct of the Nitish Kumar government. If bureaucratic highhandedness and all-pervasive corruption were the hallmarks of Nitish Kumar’s first term in power, growing police repression and unmitigated arrogance of the Chief Minister himself have emerged as the defining features of the ongoing second term. The protests witnessed in his recent meetings and the growing popular participation in struggles for justice and change carry two clear messages for whoever cares to read them: (i) Bihar is not enamoured of Nitish Kumar’s ‘special category status’ campaign for the state, it sees this as nothing but a political ploy by a ruler who has belied the hopes and denied the rights of the people in every sphere; (ii) just as India in 1977 had rebuffed the Congress claim of “Indira is India, and India is Indira”, Bihar too is in no mood to accept Nitish Kumar’s megalomaniac illusion “Nitish Kumar is Bihar, Bihar is Nitish Kumar”.
Nitish Kumar had begun with the rhetoric of development and in recent years his government was making astounding claims of recording the highest and fastest development rate in India. Why then this sudden turnaround and the new-found realisation that Bihar can develop only by attaining the special category status? One look at the existing special category states would tell anybody that special status is no recipe for development or democracy – almost all the special category states in the North-East are notorious for the loot of funds meant for various development schemes, brutal customary suppression of human rights and the resultant maze of ethnic violence. Nitish Kumar would like to use the special category status demand to divert public attention from every failure and betrayal of his government and to justify any pre- or post-poll alliance-hopping in the coming days.
Nitish Kumar’s new-found politics of special category state – he never supported this demand when the CPI(ML) raised it at the time of Bihar’s bifurcation, or in the elections of 2005 or 2010 – amounts to nothing short of a confession of failure of his much-publicised politics and economics of development. His bluff of using the issue of special category status for Bihar as a supra-party agenda representing the whole of Bihar has already been exposed quite mercilessly in the course of his Adhikar Yatra. Faced with mass protests and various sections of the people demanding their own ‘adhikar’ (rights), he now calls it a JD(U) affair restricted only to JD(U) activists! The Chief Minister of Bihar, certified as ‘prime ministerial material’ by his deputy, has actually shown himself to be nothing more than an arrogant and unscrupulous JD(U) leader who talks about ‘Bihari asmita’ (pride in Bihar) only as long as he does not have to face any inconvenient question. He has perhaps become so fond of seeing his own smiling portrait in the ubiquitous newspaper ads and hoardings that he forgets to smile in real life and asks his party men of the Ranvir Yadav variety to teach the people a befitting lesson!
Nitish Kumar would do well to remember that Indira Gandhi’s Emergency-era legal censorship had not worked; the team of her sycophants and loyalists could not save her from the wrath of the people in the epochal 1977 election. Can Nitish Kumar’s advertisement-inspired control over the media in Bihar fare any better?
After October 15 Bihar Bandh, the countdown has now begun for the next showdown in November. On November 4, Nitish Kumar will have his ‘Adhikar Rally’ at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan, a show for which the entire state government had been preparing rather obsessively for the last three or four months. The reply from the fighting people of Bihar will come on November 9 when the CPI(ML) will hold the Parivartan Rally at the same historic site. While Nitish Kumar seeks to invoke Bihari pride by getting more grants from the Centre (as of now the state government cannot account for Rs 25,000 crore of funds it has withdrawn from the treasury, what the scale will be after Bihar gets special category status is anybody’s guess), the CPI(ML) represents the fighting legacy of Bihar wedded to the dream of ‘a New Bihar in a New India’, combining the battle against oppression and injustice within Bihar with the larger national task of defending democracy and transforming the conditions of the people and the complexion of the country.
Incidentally, after a long period of silence and passivity, Lalu Prasad has also hit the street with the slogan of Parivaratan. But his talk of ‘Parivartan’ is only a dream to ‘restore’ his rule in Bihar. Even as the whole country fights against corruption, corporate loot, invasion of FDI and assault on democracy, Lalu Prasad stands most loyally by the discredited Congress party and UPA government. When the people of Bihar talk of ‘parivartan’ (change), they fight for an alternative. In the 1970s Bihar showed the way to end the stranglehold of Emergency. In 1989 in the wake of Bofors scam and Bhagalpur riots, Bihar played a leading role in the quest for a national political alternative. It was this search which saw the rise of the Janata Dal as a major entity, and it was the same quest that also saw the IPF/CPI(ML) emerge as a powerful force in the Left movement.
Two decades later, the Janata Dal today stands divided in multiple factions. The two streams in Bihar have abandoned their non-Congress, non-BJP plank, the RJD has become an appendage to the Congress, while the JD(U) has become one of the most trusted partners of the BJP. But the country once again looks for a national political alternative; it seeks not only a change of guard at the Centre but a change of policy direction for the country. Bihar cannot be kept away from this national quest; on the contrary the people of Bihar can only be a big source of strength and energy for this national battle. The CPI(ML) remains committed to provide the people of Bihar with a most credible and consistent medium to intensify the battle against corruption and for parivartan (transformation), nationally as well as in Bihar. The contrast between the two rallies of 4 and 9 November – the rally of the arrogance of repressive power versus the rally of the determination of the fighting people – will be an important pointer to know which way the wind is blowing.
Tribute to Comrade Nagbhusan on his 14th Anniversary
The 14th death anniversary of Comrade Nagbhusan Patnaik was commemorated at Nagbhusan Bhavan on 9th October with a special discussion on ‘present political situation and Left unity’. Leaders from various Left parties shared the dais.
Comrade Khitish Biswal, State Secretary of CPI(ML) remembered Comrade NB’s dream of Left unity said, today, when the attacks on people in the form of steepest price rise, land grab, siphoning of PDS meant for poor, killing of adivasis and those opposing land grab, mega scams etc. have intensified manifold, it is responsibility of all the Left parties to unite in struggle for resisting and thwarting the enemies of the people.
Addressing the convention, Comrades Naryan Reddy from CPI, Sivram from CPI(ML), Sadasiv Das of SUCI(C), Sarat Das of CPI(M), veteran journalist Ravi Das and Prasant Pattanaik also endorsed the united action of left in Odisha. Comrade Sivram said that all Left parties should chalk out a common programme to fight against worsening political situation in Odisha.
Police Brutality in Arrah on the eve of CM's Visit
Hunger Striking Dalit Students Arrested, CPI(ML) Office Attacked, and Party Leaders Arrested by Police
On the eve of Nitish Kumar’s ‘adhikar yatra’ reaching Arrah, the police created an emergency like situation arresting one hundred students of Ambedkar hostel on 14th October who were on an indefinite hunger strike demanding arrest of JD(U)-BJP goons accused of attacking Katira Hostel, they were taken to undisclosed location, their belongings were snatched. All this was enacted by the Arrah administration to make sure Nitish Kumar does not has to face embarrassing situations he’s been now accustomed to in various districts where his yatras went. However, when his Arrah sojourn was cancelled, the police and officials vented all their frustrations on the arrested students and other comrades held in the Town Thana by abusing and beating them badly. Twelve comrades had to be hospitalised. The DSP himself was leading the assaults.
On 15 October, when the agitated students were returning after participating in the bandh called by the Left parties and entire opposition in Bihar, the police started thrashing up some dalit students. The victims ran to the nearby CPI(ML) district office for shelter, where the police hounded them. A posse of police personnels led by Dist. Sgt. Nandkishore Singh forced their way inside the office and barbarically assaulted the students. Some were taken away and their whereabouts is not yet known.
Arrested Party activists and leaders include Comrades Surendra Ram (rural incharge), Sujit Kumar and Abhishek Kumar (students) and Comrade Shahabuddin.
CPI(ML) Delegation’s Meet with Mamta Banerjee
In the backdrop of growing authoritarianism and bad governance by the ruling TMC Govt in West Bengal, a 6-member team, led by CPI(ML) State Secretary Partha Ghosh, met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recently, as a deputation on behalf of the common people.
[As this report goes to press, a 15 year-old school girl is the latest victim of rape in the state. She was attacked on her way back to school - on the very same day that Mamata Banerjee lashed out at the press for regularly publishing news on rapes - something she deems as 'rare incidents' and examples of 'negative propaganda' by the media to paint her regime black.]
Issues raised were completion of unfinished land reforms in West Bengal, democratization of the Panchayat system, and remunerative pricing for the farmers. The deputation submitted that presently small peasants, bargadars and pattadars are getting evicted from their land by feudal forces in rural Bengal, and demanded that the government take stern and effective action to stop this. They also demanded that evictees of Singur be given Rs.7 lakh, and a monthly stipend of Rs.7000 until they get their land back. Trashing all the false cases still pending against activists who took part in the Singur and Nandigram movements were also demanded. Regarding the issue of a horde of attacks on women after the TMC came to power, the deputation demanded that a fast track court be set up to expedite the legal process to punish the culprits. Trying to throttle each and every dissenting voice has been the most disturbing trend over the past several months. From jailing a university teacher for e-mailing a harmless cartoon, to a full-blown attack on workers' right to strike, or clamping false charges on activists for taking part in anti-eviction protests in Nonadanga, things have gone from bad to worse. The CPI(ML) delegation condemned such attacks on democracy, and demanded that democratic rights of the people be guaranteed and respected.
The Chief Minister attempted to ignore, deny facts and also tried to dodge the demands citing either paucity of funds or blaming the previous regime. When asked why the investigation commission for probing the Kashipur-Baranagar genocide has not even convened a single meeting, the flimsiest of excuses like the unavailability of a room was produced! It was evident that the self-proclaimed leader of ma-mati-manush is losing touch of the ground. The deputation reminded the Chief Minister that the people would be watching her actions in the coming days and if their demands were not fulfilled, they would lose no time in taking to the streets.
AIPWA’s State-level Women’s Court and 6th Bihar State Conference
All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) organised a ‘Mahila Adalat’ (women’s court) on 2nd October at Patna on the issue of increasing oppression and sexual violence against women. Thousands of women from villages and panchayats participated in this Adalat. Women from Samastipur, Darbhanga, Siwan, Patna, Hazipur, Patna rural, etc. narrated their stories of suffering violence.
Comrades Meena Tiwari (AIPWA’s General Secretary), Kavita Krishnan (AIPWA’s National Secretary) and Sucheta De among others addressed the Women’s Court. Women leaders of Left parties in Bihar also spoke. The verdict of the Jury, announced by Prof. Bharti S.K. is that there has been tremendous increase in crime and sexual violence against women. The officials- SP, DGP and even Nitish Kumar – despite knowing about the incidents, did not act to bring justice, rather most senior officials have colluded with the perpetrators to prevent justice. Agitations by women has been able to force them to take action at some places, which calls for intensified all-out agitation and Nitish Kumar must be gheraoed.
Same evening the delegate session of AIPWA’s 6th State Conference began at Anjuman Islamia Hall. Jamila Bano from Arwal hoisted the flag. The Conference underlined important tasks for AIPWA in the coming days- challenges and tasks in building an extensive women’s movement and spreading AIPWA in every district. 275 delegates from 26 districts of Bihar attended the Conference. 91-member State Council and 23-member State Executive were elected, with Comrades Saroj Choubey and Shashi Yadav as President and Secretary respectively.
The Conference called for mobilising huge number of women in the ‘Parivartan Rally’ to be held on 9 November 2012 at Patna. Several resolutions were passed by the Conference.
AIPWA’s 6th UP State Conference
AIPWA organised a State-level rally to mark the beginning of 6th Uttar Pradesh State Conference against the rising violence against women and to protest the anti-women policies of the Central and State govts. The rallyists – led by AIPWA General Secretary Comrade Meena Tiwari and raising the slogan “we’ll not tolerate discrimination, violence and humiliation, we’ll fight to take our right to freedom, employment and dignity” - marched from the Varanasi Cant. Railway Station to the Conference venue- Nagar Nigam Hall at Sigra. More than 500 women from 16 districts took part in the rally.
The inaugural session was addressed by Comrade Meena Tiwari, Prof. Shahina Rizvi, Jagriti Rahi from Vision Organisation, Dr. Madhu Kushwaha and Chitranjan Singh from PUCL. More than 500 women delegates attended the Conference. A 41-member State Council and 15 member State Executive were elected from the Conference. Comrade Tahira Hasan and Comrade Geeta Pandey were elected President and Secretary respectively.
Conference concluded with passing of 11 point resolution, including demands for formation of special courts for women and reconstituting the State Women Commission.
AIKM’s Statewide Protest in Uttarakhand
A statewide protest was organised on 8 October at the call of Uttarakhand State Committee of All India Kisan Mahasabha to highlight and demand urgent action on the burning issues of the peasants in the State. A 7-point demand charter was sent to the CM through dharnas and protests in several districts including Bhikiyasaind (Almora), Haldwani (Nainital), Udham Singh Nagar and Dehradoon.
Tea Workers’ Movement in Assam
Tea workers’ struggle demanding 20 percent bonus and Rs. 200/- in daily wage is on in Assam under the banner of Asom Sangrami Chah Sramik Sangha (ASCSS) affiliated to the AICCTU. Violating all labour laws and norms, tea companies have been exploiting tea workers who get only Rs.100 a day. On 10th October, protest demonstrations were held in different districts including Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sonitpur, Jorhat and Nagaon on their demands.
Congress(I) Goons Attack Public Meeting
Sadou Asom Gramin Sramik Santha (SAGSS), as is AIALA known in the State of Assam, has been conducting campaigns against corruption in different schemes of panchayats and blocks in Assam. During the course the organisation activists and campaigners faced attacks from Congress Party goons. In Nagaon district, on 13th October, a group of local leaders of Congress(I) attacked a public meeting of SAGSS, tried to divert corruption issue and other burning problems of local people. It is a serious attack on democratic process and by such kind of acts ruling Cong(I) is trying to subvert grass root democracy. CPI(ML) and SAGSS vehemently condemns these acts and call upon the people to fight out this attack and subversion.
Comrade Murugaian, Party’s District Committee member of Pudukottai District and AICCTU SWC member passed away on 14 October due to a massive heart attack. He was 57. He had attended the District Committee meeting of the Party on 12-13 October, after the meeting he went to Tanjore and booked tickets for the Construction Workers’ Federation Conference that is to be held in November. On 14th morning he complained of chest pain and was taken to the Tanjore hospital where he died of heart attack. He was in the CPI(M) and joined our Party in 2001. Party held a condolence meeting in Minnathur, his native village, where local youth, who are yet to become Party members, attended the meeting in large numbers and said that will they take up the work left unfinished by Com. Murugaian.