A Sizzling Summer of Popular Unrest
It is now well known that economic neo-liberalism can only flourish in an increasingly illiberal political milieu. The pro-market, anti-people policies that call for a so-called ‘retreat of the state’ cannot be sustained without state intervention of a different kind – increased application of state terror and repression. Over the last few weeks different sections of our society – from workers and peasants to students and intellectuals – have experienced first hand this brutal truth of our times. In the sizzling heat of June, as the mercury soared to new highs and people desperately awaited the first shower of a belated monsoon, governments of different hues were busy showering batons and bullets on peaceful agitations across the political landscape of the country.
In Vasundhara Raje’s ‘royal’ Rajasthan, five farmers have been gunned down and at least twenty injured by the trigger-happy police for demanding water. This happened in Tonk district, close to Raje’s seat of power in Jaipur, when angry farmers blocked the Jaipur-Kota highway to press their demand for supply of water to their irrigation-starved land from the nearby Bisalpur dam. This is not the first time Raje’s police have opened fire to quell an agitating public. In the eighteen months of Raje’s stewardship, the Tonk firing marked the eighth major incident of police brutality. Last winter, six persons were killed in Sriganganagar district when police attacked farmers demanding release of water for irrigation from the Indira Gandhi Canal. And one person was killed and many injured earlier this month when police fired on villagers protesting against a custodial death in Dholpur, Raje’s hometown.
The Congress has described the Tonk incident as yet another example of feudal intolerance, a characteristic trait of the Raje regime in Rajasthan. But the Amrinder Singh dispensation in Congress-ruled Punjab is no less guilty of such autocratic arrogance and police high-handedness. In a brutal pre-emptive crackdown on the farmers’ movement in the crisis-ridden Malwa region of Punjab, hundreds of farmers, workers, students and CPI(ML) leaders have been falsely implicated and imprisoned by the Amrinder Singh government. In recent years, this region has witnessed at least 3,000 suicides by cotton growers and other debt-trapped farmers. The farmers’ agitation led by the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta) and Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sangharsh Samiti is rooted in three most pressing immediate demands of the Punjab peasantry – debt relief, rollback of power tariff hike and stopping the privatisation campaign of the state government.
When participants of the Rozgar Adhikar Yatra, including economist Jean Dreze, were beaten up in early June by the police in Sarguja district of BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, few could anticipate a repeat of such police brutality a week later in CPI(M)-ruled Kolkata. But this is precisely what happened when a posse of baton-wielding and gun-toting policemen belonging to the Kolkata Police and the elite Rapid Action Force launched a sudden midnight assault in the prestigious Jadavpur University campus to forcibly end a hunger strike agitation by six student leaders. Jadavpur is the constituency of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee and it is he who directly looks after the police department. The police continued to thrash the hunger strikers inside police stations and even after they were taken to hospitals and a girl student who was present at the site of the hunger strike was specially singled out by the police for physical assault and sexual harassment. The peaceful hunger strike was being held to demand withdrawal of arbitrary suspension orders slapped on six students of the university.
It is not merely the liberal use of batons and bullets against peaceful agitations that has surfaced as a common thread connecting governments of diverse political varieties. If the different colours of the flags of different ruling parties have started merging into the united colours of coercion, equally striking is the other leveller, the logic that is being routinely invoked to justify the systematic assaults on democracy. The Chhattisgarh police argued that the Employment Guarantee campaigners’ method of collecting and addressing the people was similar to that adopted by the Naxalites, and some of the girls present in the campaign had Nepali and hence ‘Maoist’ looks! Likewise, the Punjab police suspect a growing streak of Naxalite red behind the green turbans of BKU farmers. And for the CPI(M) in Bengal, the fear of Naxalism runs deep as a pathological fixation that starts haunting the party every time it sees pulsations of democratic life beyond its boundaries of ‘red’ regimentation – be it a case of an independent assertion of the rural poor, a bold expression of disillusionment of the young, or a forceful articulation of intellectual dissent.
This desperation of the ruling establishments is undoubtedly a major political recognition for the legacy of Naxalbari and the success of the CPI(ML) in keeping up the tradition and tempo of militant mobilization of the working people and the progressive intelligentsia. If the parties of the ruling classes have successfully patented the three C’s of communalism, corruption and criminalization, the CPI(ML) has established itself as the most authentic political platform for the basic concerns of the working people and other defenders of democracy. It is also heartening to see that every attempt to gag the people’s voice is only winning more and more friends for the movement.
Bansgarha Mine Disaster:
An Outcome of Government's Criminal Acts
The day on 15 June proved one more black day for the coal industry workers of India . The old Bansgarha coal mine of CCL under central Saunda Project in Barka-Sayal area in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, collapsed when 14 workers were just ready to come out after finishing their day's work. The mine was inundated by a huge amount of water and no one was hoping that the life of any of the 14 workers could be saved as the concerned officials could start the rescue work only after 20 hours. Later, 13 dead bodies were recovered after five days.
Workers were complaining water seepage for the last one week but no preemptive action was taken resulting in this tragedy. In effect, this avoidable disaster is the result of criminal neglect of safety measures by the CCL management and the governmental authorities. Safety precautions are never been followed. Even mandatory green pillars were removed and at the lower level, where this incident took 14 lives, large area was dug leaving no support for the ceiling by the greedy management. In spite of fears of imminent collapse, management decided to continue mining and continued sending workers into the death trap, only for accumulating more profits. Even at the cost of many lives, knowingly.
In the era of liberalisation, the management's anti worker attitude has further reinforced in the name of achieving targets anyhow, without showing any concern for the compulsory safety measures and for the precious lives of the miners. Even after the death-knell of 14 miners, prompt emergency measures were not taken up to pump out the water and save the lives (only two pumps are installed for the purpose). Chief Minister of Jharkhand made a political show by visiting the inundated mine, but did not order for taking measures to immediately remove water and left the job for the callous management.
It may be noted that India is among countries with highest number of accidents and fatalities in coal mines.
Activists of Coal Mines Workers' Union (CMWU), Jharkhand General Mazdoor Union and CPI(ML) went to the site and asked the management to speed up the rescue operation, but to no avail. They also met the agonized families of the affected workers. CMWU held a protest in front of CCL headquarters on June 17 and reiterated its demand to save the workers. CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya led a team to the spot on June 17. He strongly condemned the criminal insensitivity toward the workers' lives and negligence by management as well as the government. This team included CPI(ML) State Secretary Subhendu Sen, JMKS State Convener Janardan Prasad, AIPWA State Secretary Sunita and others. The team demanded judicial inquiry into the incident and institution of criminal cases against the callous officials. The role of the state government is also condemnable as it showed no concern towards the rescue work. The team also criticized those unions which are trying to save the corrupt management instead of fighting for the prompt rescue and relief operations. Some unions tried to shrink the whole matter into the petty politics of compensation money.
The CPI(ML) legislator Vinod Singh went to the spot with a team of MLAs including JMM's Sudhir Mahato, Congress' Pradip Balmuchu, independents Bandhu Tirki and Stephen Marandi and RJD's Girinath Singh and tried to pressurize the management for accelerating rescue operations. They also criticized state government's negative attitude towards the whole incident.
Rozgar Adhikar Yatra:
Governments have always Neglected the Question of Employment Guarantee
"The question of employment is the most basic issue for the people but at the same time it is the most neglected issue for those in power. While government doesn't guarantee employment, it always guarantees repression for those fighting for the basic rights. Recent incidents of lathicharges on people demanding water in Bihar , repression on peasant movement in Punjab and Haryana and police atrocities on students in Jadavpur University are glaring examples of this", said Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya while addressing Rozgar Adhikar Yatra when it reached in Ranchi on June 17 after covering several states.
The Yatra, presided over by noted economist Jean Drez, was welcomed and addressed in Ranchi by Comrade Dipankar, CPI(ML) CC member Rajaram, CPI(ML) Jharkhand State Committee Secretary Subhendu Sen, Tridib Ghosh and Vinod Raina of Bharatiya Gyan Vigyan Samiti and others. Thousands of people marched on the occasion with red flags and banners in hands amidst reverberating slogans of "har haath ko kaam do, kaam ka pura daam do! and "Government's proposed employment guarantee draft is unacceptable!" in scorching sun reflecting people's intense desire to do away with their never ending sufferings inflicted by the repressive and greedy powers. In Ranchi the Yatra was participated by Jharkhand Mazdoor Kisan Samiti, Jharkhand General Mazdoor Union, Coal Mines Workers' union, AIPWA, Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, PUCL and some other organisations.
Comrade Dipankar emphasised in his address that people's movements on basic issues have increased after 90s and the CPI(ML) is proud to have led many such protracted struggles. He also recalled the gory assassination of Comrade Mahendra Singh, the hero of poor and the downtrodden, in Jharkhand, and of Shankar Guha Niyagi in Chhattisgarh and termed these incidents as a manifestation of increasing desperation of the ruling classes in face of growing militant struggles of most poor and neglected people. These struggles have now attained much wider political dimensions and have made its way to be voiced in Parliament and Assemblies, he added, and called upon the people to intensify struggles for the most deserving right of guaranteeing employment and proper wages. The question of employment guarantee is not only for the unemployed, it is also a pertinent question for those in employment but devoid of basic facilities and legal rights.
VP Singh's promise of making employment a fundamental right proved false when he became Prime Minister. But he successfully Mandalised the polity and later implementation of the policies of liberalisation closed all the doors for the unemployed. Atal-Advani's promise of 'self-employment' turned out to be a ploy to strengthen mafia-criminal raj. Present government's food-for-work scheme is being run in only 140 districts giving it the status of a sort of employment lottery. Even this scheme is used to benefit ruling parties' contractors and some money from this head has even been used to modernise the police. He said that any democracy is a farce without the right to employment. This government has cheated students and youth of the country by highlighting non-issues while evading the basic issues.
When ruling classes have no courage to accept the stark reality of rising incidents of starvation deaths and scams continue plundering public money, struggles of the deprived people is the only hope left before us. He also cautioned that such struggles must not be limited within the comforts of Delhi and Patna and appealed to integrate with the deprived masses and to make strong bonds with the forces striving for the total change. The CPI(ML) has successfully brought basic issues of the common people to the fore through its valiant struggles and sacrifices and this voice of genuine democracy is now widely known as Naxalism. This is our great victory, he add.
Statue of Comrade Raju Installed
The colliery workers of Dhanbad district installed the statue of Comrade Rameshwar Ravidas 'Raju' on the occasion of first anniversary of his martyrdom in his native village Surunga on 18 June. He fell to the bullets of criminals near his village a year ago. He was Dhanbad district committee member of CPI(ML) and Central Executive member of Coal Mines Workers' Union .
The martyr's statue was unveiled by CPI(ML) State Committee member Manoj Bhakta. Hundreds of colliery workers, Party activists took part in the ceremony and pledged to work for the struggle for an exploitation-free society. Many cadres from Marxist Coordination Committee and AJSU also took part in the meeting. After garlanding the statue, a mass meeting was held which was addressed by AICCTU National Vice President Upendra Singh, widow of the martyred comrade Meera Devi and many others. Speakers called upon the people to carry forward the task of organising the coal workers, particularly the poor workmen who are not even recognised as coal workers and fullfil the dream of Comrade Raju, and to defeat the all pervasive criminal-mafia-administration nexus to build a very powerful working class movement. CPI(ML) District Secretary Sukhdev Prasad conducted the proceedings.
Workers' Struggle in Kumardubi's KFS Plant
CPI(ML) Dhanbad district unit held a militant protest on June 14 after conducting an intensive week-long campaign in favour of Kumardubi Firebrick and Silica Plant workers who are struggling for the re-opening of the factory and removing the hold of local mafia dons over the factory's estate. These workers are struggling for a long time against the auction of the Plant, for payment of the arrears and against repression by mafia in nexus with the local politicians, police and administration. It may be recalled that the resistance put up by the agitating workers against the armed mafia and police who came to evacuate nearly 900 families of the workers on 22 April is considered to be a memorable event in the history of the workers' movement in the district. The mafia and police had to make a hasty retreat seeing the valiant mood of the workers.
Convention in Tirunelveli
In Tirunelveli of Tamil Nadu a convention was held on ‘Dalit Oppression in Pappapatti, Keeripatti; Plunder of Water in Gangaikondan...Whither Tamil nadu?’ against the failure of the central and state governments to hold elections in the dalit panchayats in Pappapatti, Keeripatti, Nattamangalam and Kottakachienthal and allowing Coca Cola plant in Gangaikondan of Tirunelveli district to draw 5 lac litres of water per day from the river Thamirabharani. S. Kumarasami, President AICCTU, addressed the convention where he stressed that surrendering to imperialist plunder and compromising with feudal remnants are the basic characteristics of the bourgeoisie in power, the Indian ruling classes’ clamour for a strong state only means to launch intensified attacks on the democratic rights and rights for livelihood of the people but this strong state cringes and crawls before imperialism. He called upon the people to independently assert themselves in their fight against the foreign masters and their domestic lackeys. Balasubramaniam presided over the convention and comrades Sankarapandian, Rajmanikam, Karuppasamy addressed the gathering. Apart from the workers of various sectors, people from other walks of life also attended the convention.
Protest against Tonk Firing
CPI(ML) held a protest demonstration in Jaipur on June 18 against the firing incident in Tonk town that took five lives of peasants, including a woman, and injured many. Hundreds of protesters were stopped near the state Secretariat where they burnt the effigy of state Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and demanded her resignation. The protest was led by Party CC member Prabhat Kumar, AIALA Vice President Krishna Adhikari, AIPWA President Srilata Swaminathan, Party State Secretary Mahendra Chaudhary, Phoolchand Dheba and Harkesh Bugalia. It was demanded to arrest the police officers responsible for the firing incident under charge of murder and compensation to the families of those killed.
Earlier, a CPI(ML) investigation team that visited Tonk after the firing incident told that state govt. working at the behest of Asian Development Bank (ADB) is not willing to solve the issue in favour of the peasants.
Protests Continue against Large Scale Peasants' Arrest in Punjab
Thousands of arrested peasants in the jails of Sangrur, Bhatinda, Ludhiana and Barnala have decided to continue their protest inside and outside jails till their demands are met and they are released unconditionally.
Prompt and timely intervention by the CPI(ML) team from Delhi has also facilitated protest programmes outside the jails. This team comprising Central Committee member Prabhat Kumar, Radhika Menon and All India Kisan Sangharsh Samiti leader and Haryana Party in-charge Prem Singh met peasant leaders lodged in Sangrur, Bhatinda and Ludhiana jails. They addressed protest demonstration and dharna held in Mansa on 15 June and in Sangrur on 16 June where hundreds of peasants participated. The team also met DC of Sangrur and handed him over a memorandum of demands.
While protest dharna is being organised daily in Mansa, Krishna Adhikari, Vice President of All India Agricultural Labour Association, addressed a gathering of peasants on 17 June where she strongly criticized Chief Minister Amrinder Singh's desperate attempts to silence the voice of the crisis ridden peasants in Punjab . She also condemned recent hike in electricity tariffs by the state government terming it a continuation of anti-peasant and anti-worker policies of the state government. This meeting was also addressed by Kulbir Kaur of BKU (Ekta), Pradeep Sapulia of Jamhoori Adhikar Sabha, Balwinder Kaur of AIPWA, CPI(ML) leaders Nachhattar Singh and Baldev Singh Bhikhi and Mazdoor Mukti Morcha's Dharampal Niti.
Protest meetings were also held in Ludhiana and Chandigarh on 21 June. Comrades Prabhat Kumar and Jeeta Kaur addressed the meeting in Chandigarh and called upon all the left and democratic forces to come forward to join and strengthen the peasants' struggle. They said that country's agrarian economy in now under the dictates of WTO regime controlled by the imperialists and this incident of large scale arrests is only a part of a larger conspiracy being hatched against the small and marginal peasants.
Some of the leading comrades lodged in various jails are Ruldu Singh, Vice President of BKU(Ekta), Rajwinder Rana, Punjab State Secretary of CPI(ML), Bhagawant Samaon, National Councillor of AIALA, Sukhadarshan Nat of AICCTU, Harbhagwan Bhikhi, leader of Punjab State Warehousing Mazdoor Union, Jaspal Khokar of Democratic Employees Front, Sukh Charan Singh Danewalia, workers' leader, Ghura Singh Man, Sukhwinder Singh Heerewala of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha and AISA activists Balkaran Balli, Nikka Singh Samaon and Buta Singh Nangal.
CPI(ML) has demanded to withdraw all the cases imposed on agitating peasants and their immediate and unconditional release, arrest of illegal commission agents and moneylenders and withdrawal of power tariffs.
Nationwide Campaign by Trade Unions
Sponsoring Committee of Trade Unions has decided, in a meeting held in Delhi on June 10, to launch a nationwide campaign on a 16-point charter of demands of the working people. An All India Convention of Workers and Employees will be held on July 9 in New Delhi where the programme of struggle including a countrywide general strike would be decided.
The 16-points charter of demands include demands like enacting a comprehensive legislation on service conditions and social security for unorganised sector workers and agricultural workers, to amend Rural Employment Guarantee Bill to ensure employment guarantee in line with promise made in CMP, to stop privatising and disinvesting profit making and strategic sector PSUs, privatisation of public services and utilities, corporatisation of defence production units, to stop moves to downsize workforce and lift ban on recruitment, stop contractorisation, to enact legislation to prevent sexual harassment of women at work place and ensure full protection to women against atrocities, to take measures for revival of loss-making PSUs, to withdraw measures raising FDI cap in telecom, banking and insurance sectors and halt steps to allow FDI in coal, retail and pension sectors, to review Electricity Act 2003 and the National Electricity Policy, to ensure workers' right to strike, constitution of sixth Pay Commission, to remove ceilings on eligibility and calculation in Payment of Bonus Act, to raise interest rates on EPF, GPF, CMPF, PPF and small saving instruments, to scrap new Pension system and the PFRDA Bill, carry out land reforms and step up public investment for irrigation facilities, to strengthen Public Distribution System, and to take stringent measures for recovering NPAs and unpaid tax arrears from the defaulters in the corporate and big business lobby, etc.
Agitation in Jhunjhunu
Jhunjhunu unit of CPI(ML) has been conducting an agitation against the rapist of a minor girl demanding his immediate arrest. But even after a month, local police has not arrested the culprit. On 9 June a protest meeting was held on this issue where CPI and CPM also participated. Earlier, demonstration was held on 23 May, Jhunjhunu Bandh was called on 27 May and effigy of SP was burnt in protest on 28 May.
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication, R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22518248, e-mail: email@example.com, website: www.cpiml.org