A Tale of Two Rallies
On 4th November, the Bihar’s ruling party, the JD(U) and Congress, the ruling party at the Centre, held rallies that sought to articulate their agenda for the 2014 elections.
In Bihar, the JD(U)’s ‘Adhikar Rally’ at Patna ostensibly showcasing the demand for Special Category Status for Bihar, was essentially a JD(U) election rally for 2014. But for the last three months the entire state government and administrative machinery were totally preoccupied with rally preparations. With the Adhikar Yatra and the rally, the line of demarcation between the main ruling party and the state administration has completely disappeared in Bihar. Not long ago, the Supreme Court commented on the ‘perpetual absence of the State of Bihar’ from the proceedings relating to conjoined twins whose family was seeking medical aid. This glaring absence in the sphere of welfare is in stark contrast to the State’s overwhelming preoccupation with the Adhikar Yatra and rally.
At the rally itself, the poor, minorities and women – constituencies whom Nitish Kumar had wooed with many promises, but who feel utterly betrayed now – were conspicuous by their absence. Notorious criminal politicians were among the most vocal champions of and mobilisers for the Adhikar Rally. Foremost among these, of course, was Munna Shukla, lodged in Muzaffarpur jail, (husband of JD(U) MLA Annu Shukla), who made an extortion phone call from jail to a director of an educational institution, demanding Rs 2 crore for the Adhikar Rally. Munna Shukla also reportedly distributed leaflets for the Rally at a court appearance. Another prominent face of the Rally campaign was Ranvir Yadav, another convicted JD(U) leader whose wife is a JD(U) MLA, who grabbed police rifle and fired at crowds protesting during Nitish Kumar’s Adhikar Yatra at Khagaria. Then there was Anant Singh, the notorious criminal JD(U) MLA from Mokama, known for being the biggest land grabber in Patna. Huge billboards with images of Anant Singh could be seen on every roundabout and street corner in Patna before the District administration removed a few a couple of days before the rally. Anant Singh and his supporters made themselves prominent at the Rally with their unruly presence.
At the Adhikar Rally, Nitish Kumar admitted that the criteria for awarding special category status would have to be revised in order that Bihar can avail it. Once that is done, several other states like UP, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha would be equally legitimate claimants for the special category status, in view of the relevant indices like poverty, malnutrition, literacy and other social criteria. Why did Nitish Kumar not opt for the logical route of a united campaign for special category status with similarly placed states, rather than an exclusive agenda for Bihar?
Clearly, Nitish Kumar sought to make special category status an exclusive campaign theme for the JD(U) towards the 2014 elections, to divert people's attention from the glaring failures of the state government, against which people’s resentment was acutely visible in the protests that greeted the Adhikar Yatra every step of the way, eventually forcing it to be called off. The JD(U) would like to make the Special Category status a bargaining chip to do business with whichever party/combination of parties comes to power after 2014.
The 'Bihari Asmita' being advocated so aggressively by Nitish Kumar and his colleagues, exploits factors like the poverty, out-migration, and backwardness that are suffered by Bihar’s people. But in Nitish Kumar's scheme of things, the 'asmita' (identity) is to be controlled by the feudal lobby and the mafia brigade – precisely the very same forces who bear the greatest responsibility for Bihar's pervasive and persistent backwardness. It is only by determined resistance to those forces that Bihar can move forward towards pro-people development and enduring change.
Meanwhile on 4th November in Delhi, the Congress held a Rally – one that, unprecedentedly, was held in support of FDI in retail and the neoliberal agenda. Addressing the rally, top leaders of the Congress including Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and PM Manmohan Singh brazenly defended fuel price hikes and subsidy cuts, and claimed that liberalisation would benefit the poor. The Congress, by trying to sell FDI in retail as a boon for farmers and consumers, is indirectly admitting that traders will be hit by FDI in retail and cannot therefore be convinced. The Congress gamble is perhaps that traders are usually anyway not known to vote for the Congress. Despite the bravado displayed by the Congress at the Rally, it is clear to all that the imposition of subsidy cuts is taking a political toll. Just recently, another whopping hike in the cost of LPG cylinders was stayed by the Government, perhaps rattled by the reaction of people in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh.
If the ruling parties at the Centre and in States are articulating their agenda, it is time, too, to assert the people's agenda for 2014: which must be to punish the corrupt and anti-people rulers, who are denying the people their rights, unleashing repression, and grabbing all that should rightfully belong to the people.
Conference for Dalit Students’ Rights in Patna
On 16 October, AISA held a Dalit Students’ Adhikar Sammelan (Rights’ Conference) in the Patna University campus. The Conference protested the Nitish Governments patronage of feudal forces and the series of assaults on Dalits in Bihar, including the arson and violence at Dalit hostels in Ara by Brahmeshwar Singh’s supporters.
The Conference was inaugurated by Ramayan Ram, AISA National Secretary and popular student leader from Allahabad University. CPI(ML) Central Committee member Dhirendra Jha spoke about the protection extended by Nitish Kumar’s government to Ara JD(U) leader Naveen Kumar who had led the assault on the Dalit hostels. Ramchandra Ram, former member of Bihar’s Mahadalit Commission, welcomed AISA’s efforts and said that the Commission was a fraud, and crores of rupees were being looted in the name of the Bihar Government’s Mahadalit Development Mission. RYA National General Secretary Kamlesh Sharma spoke about the condition of the Dalit hostels in Bihar and the Government’s apathy towards renovating these hostels.
AISA leader from Bhojpur Manoj Manzil spoke about the Government’s repressive measures unleashed on the struggle of Dalit students in Ara for justice, including the arrest of hunger strikers on 14th October in anticipation of the Chief Minister’s visit to Ara.
AISA leader Shivprakash Ranjan from the Ambedkar Hostel at Katira (Ara), journalists Hemant and Shashi Sagar, AISA State Secretary Abhyuday and RYA State Secretary Naveen were among those who participated in the Conference.
Following the Conference, the students held a protest march from the University campus to Kargil Chok.
Delegation to Embassies to Submit Appeal on Koodankulam
On 31 October, a Delegation consisting visited 10 embassies in New Delhi to hand over a letter of appeal from the people of Koodankulam. The delegation comprising Kavita Krishnan (Central Committee, CPI-ML), Malathi Maithri (Writer and Anti Nuclear Activist), Deepa (Anti Nuclear Activist), Bhargavi, Sundaram and Jitender (Delhi Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Anti Nuclear Protest) and Pandi Kumar (Students’ Movement against Nuclear Energy) visited the Japanese, German, Russian, American, British, Australian, Belgium, Swedish, Chinese and French Embassies to hand over the letter addressed to the respective Prime Ministers through the Ambassadors and High Commissioners. On the streets, the delegation marched displaying banners calling for support to the people’s struggle against the Koodankulam Nuclear Plant and photographs of the struggle.
The text of the letter, signed by members of the delegation as well as by leaders of the Koodankulam struggle, is as follos:
Greetings! We, several millions of people from the southernmost tip of India, are writing to you to seek your support for the peaceful and nonviolent struggle that we have been waging for almost a quarter century against the Koodankulam nuclear power project (KKNPP). We have intensified our struggle since August 2011 with indefinite hunger strikes, relay fasts, massive marches, seige protests and so on.
This mega nuclear power park is being built with Russian loan and technology against the will and wishes of the local people. The Indian authorities have not conducted any public hearing to seek our permission or consent for this project. They have not shared the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report, the Site Evaluation Report, and the Safety Analysis Report with our people. These reports are made available to the public on the internet in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. After a long and hard struggle of more than 22 years, we have just obtained a copy of the EIA report which is outdated and so full of inaccuracies and incomplete information.
As the Indian authorities unleash all kinds of atrocities on us such as dangerous cases (like sedition, waging war on the state etc.), imprisonment, curfew and prohibitory orders, intimidation campaigns, home searches, physical attacks on our persons and properties, police atrocities and other such high-handed behavior, we are forced to seek justice from the international community. After all, nuclear energy is a global issue and the effects of it cannot be restricted to any national borders or international boundaries.
The world knows fully well that nuclear power and bomb programs are the two sides of the same coin. And this is the reason why the international community objects to the development of nuclear power by certain countries and calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons altogether. In fact, Nuclearism has become a dangerous ideology that corrupts politics, threatens democracy, imperils freedom and endangers human existence on the Earth. Such a comprehensive humane global look at the world economy, politics and security makes the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) redundant. It is high time we abolished the IAEA that has a mission to, among other things, facilitate “the transfer of such technology and knowledge in a sustainable manner to developing Member States.”
Although the global nuclear industry tries to promote nuclear power as the answer for global warming and climate destruction, the international community knows for sure that poisoned Earth with nuclear waste cannot be the answer for polluted air. Moreover, our fragile planet has been facing natural calamities of all sorts with increasing frequency and added potency. And it would be foolhardy to add to our woes with nuclear threats and dangers.
We have no moral legitimacy whatsoever to produce electricity for our present needs and endanger the futures of our children and the unborn generations with the dangerous booty of nuclear waste, contaminated sites and deadly radiation. It is not only immoral but also illegal to help the profiteering MNCs, corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and technocrats make money at the cost of the Earth, the future inhabitants and their common futures.
When terrorism spreads all over the world like an epidemic and nuclear terrorism is fast becoming a dreadful reality, proliferation of nuclear weapons, promotion of nuclear technology and fostering of nuclear material will be suicidal. Science and technology are important tools for our progress and prosperity but when that quest shuns human values, moral principles and political ethos, we suffer from God-complex and dig our own graves.
Scores of countries around the world have chosen not to hoard fissile material, develop or test nuclear weapons, or build nuclear power plants. In fact, many countries that have relied heavily on nuclear power so far have decided to phase out. So let us make a solemn resolve here and now to build a new world that has no Uranium mines, no nuclear reactors, no waste dumps and no nuclear weapons.
Looking forward to your government’s and citizens’ support and solidarity for our anti-Koodankulam struggle and a nuclear-free world campaign, we send you our best personal regards and all peaceful wishes.
S. P. Udayakumar,
M. P. Jesuraj,
Fr. F. Jayakumar,
Adhikar Sammelan Against Dalit Atrocities in Dadri
On 4th November, the RYA held an Adhikar Sammelan (Rights’ Conference) at Dadri (UP) for rights and dignity of Dalits, peasants, and the poor. The Conference was held following a sustained campaign by RYA in 60 villages, and in the wake of the repeated assaults on Dalits in Ramgarh village in Dadri.
The conference was conducted by RYA activist from Ramgarh, Vikas. At the conference, four young Dalit activists – Brahm, Guddan, Veepal and Roshan - who were jailed on cooked-up charges; Sheeshpal whose son Tikaram lost his limbs in a terrible Dalit atrocity; Tkaram’s brother Bhuvanesh; as well as Preetam, Tejveer, Harpal, Prakashi and several others from Ramgarh spoke about the grab of panchayat land meant for Dalits by the gram pradhan Kuldeep Bhati, followed by a mob assault on Dalits on 14th March and the assault on Tikaram on 18th July.
Nearly 200 people from 20 villages participated in the conference. Participants included CPI(ML) Delhi State Secretary Sanjay Sharma, AISA activists from JNU and Jamia Millia Islamia, VKS Gautam from CPI(ML)’s Delhi State Commmittee and several activists from CPI(ML) NOIDA committee, several teachers of Delhi University, former pradhans of Bhogpur, Raipur, Rithodi, and Beel Akbarpur villages, and Amba Prasad, President of the Bhoomiheen Kisan Mazdoor Sangh.
Among those who addressed the Conference were Com. Shyam Kishor, CPI(ML) Delhi State Committee member, JNUSU Joint-Secretary Piyush Raj, and Kavita Krishnan, Central Committee member of CPI(ML). RYA leader Aslam Khan thanked the participants in the Conference and put forward a set of resolutions which were unanimously adopted. The resolutions condemned the SP Government of UP for presiding over a series of attacks on Dalits and minorities; condemned the former BSP Government for allowing corporate land grab that affected not only peasants but also dalit agricultural labourers, and for diluting the SC/ST Atrocities Act; demanded an end to corporate land grab in the name of Ganga and Yamuna Expressways; and demanded punishment for Kuldeep Bhati and others accused of land grab and violent attacks targeting Dalits.
Condolence Meeting for Revolutionary People’s Poet Durgendra Akari
On November 5th, a condolence meeting was held at the CPI(ML) office at Ara at 2 pm for revolutionary people’s poet Durgendra Akari, who passed away the same morning at his village Edaura. He had been ailing for the past two years.
A large number of cultural activists, CPI(ML) leaders and common people flocked to the CPI(ML) office to pay respects to Akariji, as he was popularly known, and to participate in his cremation.
At the condolence meeting, CPI(ML) State Secretary Comrade Kunal, PB member Com. Nand Kishor Prasad, former MP Com. Rameshwar Prasad, State Committee member Com. Sudama, Com. Santosh Sahar, district secretary Com. Jawahar Singh, writer Neeral Singh, critics Ravindranath Rai, Rakesh Diwakar, Sunil Choudhury, and poet Krishnakumar Nirmohi as well as several other Left activists and cultural figures paid tribute to Akariji.
Akariji was the voice of the poor, the landless, the agricultural labourers. He was born in 1943. He joined the 1974 movement and subsequently, was drawn to the revolutionary communist movement in Bhojpur. During Emergency, Akariji defied muzzling of dissent, refused to go underground, and would travel in trains, selling his books with poems against the repressive Congress rule. He was threatened and also offered incentives to stop writing and he was also attacked physically, but he always had great confidence in the strength of people’s struggles, and never fell silent. He composed poems on the struggles of the poor, against state repression, and against both the Laloo-Rabri Government and the Nitish Government. His poems have always been popularly sung in the course of people’s movements.
Jan Sanskriti Manch published a collection of his songs, titled Chahe Jaan Jaye in 1997. In the preface to that book, ell-knon freedom fighter, communist and people’s poet Ramakant Dwivedi ‘Ramta’ wrote that Akariji, who lost his father as a child, did not get schooling, and worked as a sweet-maker and worker. Only later in life, in the course of the movement, did he learn to read and write. He composed songs in the language of the landless poor, based on their own experiences. He endured attacks by police and goons and was even jailed because of his protest songs. Akariji was committed to the struggles of the rural poor and the politics of the CPI(ML).