Bihar Rebuffs NDA and UPA
Rallies for Transformation and for a Powerful People’s Alternative
The CPI(ML)’s massive Parivartan Rally on 9 November in Patna powerfully articulated people’s aspirations for thoroughgoing social and political transformation and a people’s political alternative in Bihar and in the country. The rally’s slogan – ‘Neither Delhi’s Loot Nor Nitish’s Lies – Unite for Change’ – clearly struck a chord with Bihar’s poorest and most oppressed, who turned Patna’s Gandhi Maidan into a virtual sea of red flags with their enthusiastic participation.
Many observers commented on the stark contrast between the people’s Parivartan Rally and the ‘official rally’ by the ruling JD(U) just five days earlier. Nitish Kumar’s show in the same Gandhi Maidan on 4 November had enjoyed the backing of the entire Government machinery. Misuse of government and administrative power to promote the rally was rampant, with district magistrates issuing official orders aimed at ensuring the participation of workers in the rally. Unimaginable amounts of money were spent on the JD(U) rally, including amounts raised and pocketed by JD(U) leaders in the name of the rally. 4 trains and 50,000 buses were booked to ferry people to the rally. 10000 policemen and 1000 magistrates swelled the crowds in the JD(U) rally. JD(U)’s mafia politicians Munna Shukla, Ranvir Yadav, Anant Singh, and Sunil Pandey flexed all their muscle to boost the rally. The success of the spectacle was supposed to be sealed with money, muscle and media power.
But at the Parivartan Rally five days later, the people of Bihar gave the rulers’ rally a fitting rebuff, effectively cutting it down to size. The Parivartan Rally matched the size and strength of the rulers’ rally without the help of money and government machinery, and outshining the sterile, mafia- and police-dominated official show by far in terms of the sheer energy, response, and discipline of the mass of participants.
Among the Parivartan Rally participants were the villagers of Bhajanpura (Forbesganj) where the police firing claimed 4 lives last year; dalit students from Ara; and victims of police lathicharge at Aurangabad and firing at Madhubani.
The Parivartan Rally gave voice to the enormous sense of betrayal and resentment felt by Bihar’s poor against the hollow pro-poor and pro-rights posturing of the Nitish Government, which has only protected the privileges of the feudal and communal forces and patronised mafia politicians. If the Parivartan Rally called for a rebuff of Bihar’s NDA Government, it also called the bluff of the kind of ‘change’ being touted by opposition leader Laloo Yadav. For one thing, Laloo’s own 15-year rule in Bihar saw some of the worst scams and massacres of dalits. For another, Laloo today, along with Ram Vilas Paswan, is an arch defender of the corrupt and anti-people Congress regime at the Centre. Any promise of ‘change’ from such a quarter cannot command any credibility.
Leaders of the All India Left Coordination, Bihar Secretaries of CPI and CPI(M), and some socialist leaders also addressed the Parivartan Rally. The success of the Parivartan Rally pointed to the potential for a genuine third alternative – both in Bihar and in the country. Again, such a ‘third alternative’ cannot be a mere cobbling together of ideologically and politically compromised non-Congress non-BJP forces towards elections or power-sharing. Rather, the Rally asserted the need for and potential of a people’s political alternative, emerging from people’s movements for democracy.
As the sea of red flags fluttered in Gandhi Maidan on 9 November, the winds of change could be felt blowing – not only for a people’s assertion in Bihar but from Bihar towards the rest of the country.
Massive Parivartan Rally
From all over Bihar, people from villages and towns poured into Patna from the night of 8th November itself, red flags and banners in hand. They had gathered in the state capital for CPI(ML)’s Parivartan Rally in Gandhi Maidan, Patna, on 9 November. With their strength of numbers, enthusiasm, and determination in spite of all the hardships of the journey, Bihar’s poor were making a loud statement. They had stayed away from the Chief Minister’s Adhikar Rally held less than a week ago, and had gathered for ‘Parivartan (transformation) instead.
At noon sharp, the Rally began with songs rendered in memory of the martyrs, by Hirawal and other cultural groups. A memorial for the martyrs had been erected near the dais – paying tribute to Bhaiyyaram Yadav, to those killed in police firing in Forbesganj and Madhubani, and to various other martyred and departed comrades. CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, politburo members of the CPI(ML) Swadesh Bhattacharya, DP Buxi, Nand Kishor Prasad, Ramji Rai, Kartick Pal, Amar and Ramjatan Sharma, various CCMs of the party, CPM Punjab Secretary Mangat Ram Pasla, CPRM leader and former Lok Sabha MP RB Rai, Bhimrao Bansod, Secretary, Lal Nishan Party (Leninist), and others paid floral tributes to the martyrs.
Bihar CPI(ML) Secretary Comrade Kunal welcomed all participants in the Rally. CPI(ML) CCM KD Yadav spoke on the theme of the Rally. On behalf of the Bihar State Committee, Comrade Arun conducted the proceedings. Addressing the Rally, Comrade Vinod Singh, CPI(ML) MLA in the Jharkhand Assembly called for an assertion of Left-led people’s movements against corporate loot. JNU Students’ Union General Secretary Shakeel Anjum, who hails from Araria district of Bihar, spoke about the dismal state of education and employment in Bihar, and about the growing communal politics in the Araria region and witch-hunt of Muslim youth in Darbhanga in the name of anti-terrorism. He called for students to defeat the communal forces and representatives of the anti-people Bihar and Central Governments in the forthcoming students union elections in Bihar. JNUSU Joint Secretary Piyush was also present on the dais. AILC leaders Comrade Bhimrao Bansod of LNP(L); Comrade RB Rai of CPRM; and Comrade Mangat Ram Pasla of CPM Punjab called for Bihar to show the way for a realignment and assertion of fighting Left forces. CPI State Secretary Rajendra Singh and CPIM State Secretary Vinay Kant Thakur called for Left unity and assertion of the issues of the people. Socialist leaders - former central Minister Devendra Yadav and former Bihar Minister Ramdev Singh Yadav castigated Nitish Kumar as well as former CM Laloo Yadav for betraying the socialist ideals and called for a unity of the fighting Left and genuine socialist forces. Veteran socialist leader Hind Kesri Yadav, former Bihar Minister and anti-liquor movement activist, recounted how Bihar police watched while liquor mafia brutally beat him up last month in Muzaffarpur. When he showed his wounds, agitated people rose up and raised slogans. AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee called for the people of Bihar to support the all-India strike called by central TUs on 20-21 February 2013. AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari said that just as massacres had become the hallmark of the Lalu-Rabri regime, gang rape and other assaults on women have become the hallmark of Nitish's rule. Rajaram Singh, GS of the All India Kisan Mahasabha, who had recently been severely beaten by police in Aurangabad and jailed for a prolonged period, said that the Nitish Government and the Central Govt were both promoting land grab in the name of development, while the Nitish Govt had appeased feudal forces by abandoning the question of land reforms. CPI(ML) CCM and former MP from Bihar, Rameshwar Prasad, and AIALA GS Dhirendra Jha also addressed the Rally.
The main speaker at the Rally was CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar, who said that the countdown for the Nitish Government had begun. By jettisoning the Bandopadhyay recommendations, allowing Ranveer Sena supporters to go berserk, and by making mafia politicians like Sunil Pandey, Anant Singh, Munna Shukla and Ranvir Yadav the icons of his Government, the Nitish Government had clearly shown its loyalty towards feudal and criminal forces. In the name of ‘sushasan’, the Nitish Government was raining batons and bullets on protestors time and again. Commenting on the CM’s visit to Pakistan, he said it was always welcome to promote goodwill between the neighbouring countries. But, he asked, would not the people of Pakistan ask the CM how come he speaks of secularism and harmony, but he teams up with the BJP and presides over the witch-hunt of Muslim youth falsely branded as ‘Pakistan-backed terrorists’?
He reminded that Nitish Kumar, as a central Minister in 2000, had done nothing to support the demand for special category status for Bihar when the CPI(ML) first raised it.
He also commented on former CM Laloo Yadav who had also begun talking of ‘Parivartan’. He said that Bihar had not forgotten Laloo’s misrule, and leaders like Laloo and Ram Vilas Paswan cannot talk of ‘change’ while acting as lieutenants of the corrupt Congress regime at the centre. Comrade Dipankar called for a ‘third alternative’, but emphasised that such an alternative could not just be an opportunist realignment for the sake of power. It must in fact be an assertion of people’s movements, with a radical, fighting Left at its core. Bihar, he said, had always shown the way – be it during the freedom struggle or the 1974 movement for democracy – and now again, it was time for Bihar to show how a vigorous Left movement could rejuvenate politics and pave the way for a people’s political alternative.
Rousing slogans and responsive applause greeted Comrade Dipankar’s speech. At the end, AISA State Secretary
Abhyuday read out an 8-point resolution, which included resolutions against the corruption, corporate plunder and pro-corporate anti-people policies of the UPA Government; against repression and feudal-communal politics promoted by the Nitish Government; demanding CBI enquiry into the murders of Bhaiyyaram Yadav and Chhotu Kushwaha and the Forbesganj massacre; and to turn the February 20-21 Strike called by central TUs into a Bharat Bandh.
Coming on the heels of Nitish Kumar’s 4 November Rally, comparisons were inevitable. All observers, including many intellectuals of Patna, as well as media personnel, remarked on the stark contrast between the Government-sponsored rulers’ rally of 4 November, and the lively, responsive gathering at the CPI(ML) Rally. Even in terms of sheer numbers, the CPI(ML) rally had comfortably matched the ‘official’ rally, flooding Gandhi Maidan with red flags. Many media reports recounted how the CPI(ML) rallyists had come, without the aid of any sponsored trains and cavalcade of buses; how they sustained themselves with little bundles of sattu and chana; and on their self-discipline and boundless enthusiasm. One paper recounted how, a group returning from the Rally, rendered rousing revolutionary songs and spontaneously composed songs in Bhojpuri against the Nitish Government, late into the night as they waited for a train at Patna junction.
The Parivartan Rally was a vigorous and timely assertion of the relevance and urgent need of Left politics and people’s movements against the corruption, corporate plunder, and repression unleashed by Governments at the State and Centre alike, and by UPA and NDA alike.
Dubrajpur Firing: Mamata’s Nandigram
The Singur -Nandigram episode was again enacted in Loba, a sleepy hamlet of Dubrajpur in Birbhum district, when a huge contingent of police fired upon the villagers who were agitating for legitimate compensation against land acquisition by EMTA (Eastern Minerals and Trading Association), a private player in coal, for setting up open cast mine in this vast tract of fertile agricultural land. EMTA is one of the main players named in the Coalgate scam.
The police indiscriminately fired upon the villagers, lobbed tear gas shells, brutally lathicharged men, women and children early in the morning on 6th November. Many were injured, with at least 5 villagers suffering bullet injuries, and being admitted to the District Sadar Hospital at Siuri. A 10-member team of CPI(ML) visited the spot on 7th November at 10 am and interacted with the leaders and villagers. The team comprised PB member Comrade Kartick Pal, Abhijit Majumdar, CCM, SCMs Atanu Chakravarty, Surinder Singh, Moloy Tiwary, Birbhum District Secretary Subodh Rooj, Gopal Ghosh, Prodyot Mukherjee and Rabin Banerjee.
After reaching the spot, the team met Felaram Mondal, President of Krishijami Raksha Committee (Save Farmland Committee), the platform which spearheaded this movement since 2006. He was at the makeshift camp at Babupur of Loba village. The villagers showed the empty cartridges of bullets, and used tear gas shells. Felaram Mondal said that a huge contingent of police force (according to press reports, 8-10 Officers-in -charge of different police stations, and a huge police force along with 37 recovery vans) suddenly attacked the volunteers sleeping in the tent, beating them mercilessly. Immediately, villagers from nearby villages rushed in, in hundreds. A pitched battle started between the police and villagers, and villagers bravely faced the firing, retaliating with bows and arrows. Burnt police vehicles and pieces of the shattered glass panes from the police vans strewn all over bore testimony to the villagers’ courageous resistance in the face of severe repression.
The villagers informed the team that EMTA planned to acquire three thousand three fifty three acres of fertile land (three times that acquired at Singur), where different types of vegetables, rice, mustard seeds etc are cultivated throughout the year. During 2009-10, during LF rule, EMTA acquired 700 acres of land from the absentee landlord through their agents. In 2009, an agreement was signed between EMTA-DVC (Damoder valley corp) on land acquisition but the details have still been kept under wraps. Since then, the villagers have been demanding adequate compensation and price for their land. Felaram Mondal also said that after TMC assumed power, Partha Chatterjee, Minister for Industry & Commerce, came to their tent and promised an adequate compensation package within a week, to which the villagers agreed. But till date nothing was in sight.
The villagers informed that on December 2011, the EMTA officials came to this village with an earth mover machine for digging the land. The villagers gheraoed, resisted and took possession of that machine which is in their custody till now. It is this machine that triggered off the police action. For the last few months, Partha Chatterjee had been pressurising the local administration for police action to retrieve the machine. The police informed the minister that such action might lead to a serious law and order situation but his department didn’t accept the police version. It should be mentioned that EMTA donated 2 crore to the chief minister’s relief fund and 20 lakhs to the Durga Puja committee headed by Partha Chatterjee.
The villagers also alleged that Anubrata Mondal, the district president of TMC has openly colluded with EMTA and instigated this police action. He has taken Rs 25000 per bigha as commission from EMTA and has acted at the behest of this company.
A procession of agitating villagers came to the spot and Comrade Kartick Pal addressed the gathering. He condemned the police brutalities in severest terms, congratulated the villagers for their heroic resistance and termed this movement as Singur-2.
After the incident, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said, “It is still a mystery how it occurred,” adding that “I can't understand why such a large contingent of police went to the village without informing the senior officers.” The SP of Birbhum district was asked to go on leave for an indefinite period and a administrative enquiry was ordered. The Home Secretary and the CM denied any police firing and even claimed that the police personnel showed “restraint” despite being attacked by villagers with bows and arrows! Satabdi Roy, TMC MP from Birbhum, initially said that she heard about police firing, but later made a complete somersault and said that the police had not fired. Partha Chatterjee told the press that CPIM and Congress were behind the ‘violence by villagers,’ and after 24 hours, he discovered the “hand of the ultra left” and “outsiders” in this agitation. Soon he came out with the conspiracy theory, used by the CM to respond to most serious issues – that there was some conspiracy “to malign this government.” But the villagers and leaders of Krishijami Raksha Committee opposed this statement and said categorically that there were no outsiders.
The fact finding team then proceeded towards the hospital and met the superintendent of the Siuri Sadar, and saw and consoled the injured. The names of the injured are as follows--1) Upananda Mondal,age 45,bullet injury in the right abdomen; 2) Shyamal Ghosh, age 35, bullet injury in left leg; 3) Jiban Bagdi, age 19, a student due to appear in Higher Secondary Exams in 2013, bullet injury below the left pelvis; 4) Purnima Dom, age 32, bullet injury in the left leg; 5) Budan Ghosh age 38, bullet injury in the palm of right hand. The fact finding team raised the following demands- 1) Judicial enquiry headed by a sitting judge of Kolkata High Court; 2) Punishment of the guilty police officers forthwith; 3) Scrap the agreement signed between EMTA &DVC; 4) Rs 1 lakh compensation to the injured and state govt to shoulder the responsibility for treating the injured; 5) Chief minister should visit the spot immediately. 8th November was observed as a state-wide protest day against the Dubrajpur firing, with protest/dharnas held at the block level.
Memorial Meeting for Comrade Ashok
On 12 November, the death anniversary of CPI(ML) leader and former Lokyuddh editor Comrade Ashok, was observed at the Patna State office of the party. The memorial meeting was attended by party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar, State Secretary Comrade Kunal, Lokyuddh editor Comrade Brij Bihari Pandey, other members of the Lokyuddh team, and other leaders and activists of the party.
Students Protest Jailing of
The All India Students’ Association (AISA) and Jharkhand Tribal Students’ Association (JTSA) today protested at the Jharkhand Bhawan in Delhi against the continuing incarceration of Dayamani Barla and other activists protesting against forceful land acquisition at Nagri.
Since 16 October 2012, she has been in jail, arrested under some charge or the other by the Jharkhand government. She was first arrested for the “crime” of blocking the road in front of the BDO of Angara block (Ranchi) in 2006 for the demand of MNREGA job cards. Soon after she was released on bail on 19 October 2012, Barla was incarcerated again, this time for violating court orders by ploughing land at Nagri village on 15 August 2012, some 20 km from Ranchi. Once the courts were forced to grant her bail in the above two cases, she was charged with “defamation” because she took part in a demonstration where activists burnt the effigies of the Jharkhand high court on 4 October 2012.
JNUSU Joint Secretary Piyush Raj, AISA leader Om Prasad, JNUSU Councillor and activist of AISA and Jharkhand Tribal Students’ Association Anubhuti Agnes Bara, and other activists participated in the protest.
A memorandum was submitted to the Resident Commissioner of the Govt. of Jharkhand in Delhi demanding the immediate release of Dayamani Barla and stopping of land acquisition in Nagri. The memorandum also demanded that the Jharkhand government follow the law of the land and constitutional provisions under the 5th Schedule and implement legislations like the PESA Act that are meant to protect the rights of the tribal people of the state of Jharkhand.
AICCTU and AISA Support
Hunger-Striking Maruti Workers
On 7-8 November, terminated workers of Maruti Suzuki, Manesar plant held a mass hunger strike in front of the District Magistrate Office (mini-secretariat), Gurgaon demanding immediate release of all arrested workers and the withdrawal of all the false charges put on them, immediate reinstatement of all terminated workers, including the contract workers and an impartial inquiry into the incident of 18th July. The 149 Maruti workers in Bhondsi jail also held a parallel hunger strike on those days, defying threats and repressive measures by jail authorities.
On the 7th, the police dismantled the tent and water and sound system, and other amenities - cracking down on the peaceful protest. The police also detained workers in the thana - but was forced to release them later. The hunger strike continued. On 8th November, AICCTU and AISA leaders joined the workers in their protest. AICCTU National Secretary Santosh Rai and AISA leader Sucheta De addressed the protesting workers. AICCTU leaders Shankaran, Sarvraj, Tarachand and others along with a students' team from JNU including JNUSU Joint Secretary Meenakshi Burogohain participated in the protest.