A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 12 No. 47 17 - 23 November 2009
By-election Blues: A Fading BJP, a Stunned SP and a Clueless CPI(M)
Close on the heels of the Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh, we now have the results from by-elections to thirty-one assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat. The by-elections covered a large part of the Indian political spectrum: Left-ruled West Bengal and Kerala, BSP-ruled UP, BJP-ruled Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh as well as Congress-ruled Assam and Rajasthan. Of the 31 seats, the Congress claimed ten, the BSP nine and the TMC seven. The rest were shared by the BJP, Forward Bloc and independents.
By-elections are often too limited in scale and scope to offer a really representative picture of the developing political scene in a state. But like the recent by-polls in Bihar, the scale of by-polls in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal too has been fairly large and the message too loud to be ignored.
The UP results have been particularly stunning. Among the eleven Assembly seats that went for by-polls, the BSP got as many as nine, the Congress one and the remaining going to an independent candidate. The BJP and SP failed to retain any of their seats and drew a blank. The decline of the BJP in UP has indeed reached unprecedented proportions. The BJP lost even in Lucknow and whether in Ferozabad LS seat or the ten other Assembly seats that went for the by-poll, the BJP vote plummeted to merely a few thousands. The BJP’s loss has been gain for the Congress, which not only won the Ferozabad LS seat and the Lucknow West assembly seat but finished second in several other seats and significantly improved its votes in almost all seats.
The BJP’s decline and the revival of the Congress have cost the SP dear. The Ferozabad LS seat and many of the by-poll bound Assembly seats were traditional SP strongholds, yet the party failed to open its account. Clearly, with the BJP receding into the background, the SP has lost its pre-eminence as the leading ‘secular’ force in the state and in many areas the SP vote has suffered a two-way split benefiting the Congress as well as the BSP. The BSP has of course emerged as the biggest immediate beneficiary in the state, yet in the Ferozabad LS seat the BSP finished third. The relative gains made by the BSP in the regional context of UP politics must be reconciled with this larger picture of the party’s stagnation and decline nationally or in states like Haryana and Maharashtra where the party had seemed to be gaining ground in previous elections.
The results from West Bengal have not been unexpected in terms of direction, but the scale of TMC gains and the intensity of the CPI(M)’s rout must still have raised quite a few eyebrows. The LF had only three of the ten seats where by-polls were held, and so it may seem that the CPI(M) or LF did not have much stake in the by-polls. But there can be no mistaking the intensity of the anti-CPI(M) landslide. In the Rajganj Assembly segment under Jalpaiguri LS seat, the CPI(M) had led by 50,000 plus votes even in the recent LS election, but this time the CPI(M) lost this seat to TMC. In Kalchini (ST) segment under Alipurduar (ST) LS constituency, the RSP finished third while an independent candidate supported by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha bagged the seat.
In the prestigious Belgachhia East by-election, where the seat had fallen vacant following the demise of CPI(M) stalwart Subhas Chakrabarty, the TMC candidate, a former lieutenant of Chakrabarty, wrested the seat by a margin of nearly 30,000 votes. The lone Left Front victory in these by-elections came from Goalpokhar in North Dinajpur district with the Forward Bloc regaining the seat at the expense of the Congress.
More than the margin of the CPI(M)/LF loss, the CPI(M) leadership must be feeling dejected by the fact that its ultimate tactical dream of weaning the Congress away from the TMC over the shared common plank of ‘responsible governance’ (read repressive collaboration) came a total cropper. Jyoti Basu’s appeal to traditional Congress voters to stand by the CPI(M) at West Bengal’s (read CPI(M)’s) hour of crisis just as the CPI(M) had stood by the Congress at the Centre fell on absolutely deaf ears. While the CPI(M) gropes for the next tactical straw on its capitulationist trajectory, it is now the TMC’s turn to expose itself as the new ‘oppositional’ ruler in West Bengal. As the Writers Building finally seems to be heading towards a change of guard, the battle for a real revival of the Left must begin in right earnest on the changing political turf of rural Bengal.
Preparations for Bihar Bandh on November 24
November 24 will mark the completion of four years of the Nitish Government. On that day, the CPI(ML) has called for a Bihar Bandh to highlight the all-round failure of the Nitish Government - on all fronts, be it the failure to implement of the recommendations of the Land Reforms Commission as well as the Common School Commission; to protect the poor from price hikes; to curb loot and corruption in NREGA, ration and other schemes; or industrial and agricultural development.
Towards the Bandh, the CPI(ML) has begun widespread mass contact drives from 10 November onwards, with senior party leaders leading more than 300 padyatra teams which are holding meetings, mass meetings, and distributing leaflets in villages in more than two dozen districts. Sharecroppers and landless labourers in particular have responded enthusiastically to this campaign.
At a Press Conference on 13 November, Party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya released a booklet published by the party titled – ‘The Nitish Government and the Recommendations of the Land Reforms Commission headed by D Bandopadhyaya.’
Dalit Youth Shot Dead by Landed Criminals
CPI(ML) Leads Protests
On 4 October, a dalit youth Jeevan Singh (a brick-kiln worker) was shot dead in public by high caste Jatts for raising his voice against casteist humiliations by the latter in Chuhar Chakk village of Moga District, Punjab. Moga is part of the same Malwa region of Punjab where such atrocities against dalit labourers have grown – such as the assault on Bant Singh Jhabbar some years ago.
Jeevan Singh, 22, had dared to stop Jatts from playing vulgar and offensive songs on their tractor-stereo at loud volume when crossing in front of dalit homes. A gang of powerful Jatts who also enjoy political backing of the Akali Dal, and have often indulged in acts that terrorize dalit villagers with impunity (complaints to Police were not even registered in previous cases) took this assertion of dignity as a challenge to their feudal domination. Around 50 of them, armed with weapons, came on 25 bikes to his house to hunt him out; finding him at work, they left after threats to his life. The same evening, when he was in the market place, the criminals came up openly and shot him point blank and also shot at the crowd, injuring several including some children who were hurt by the shells of the bullets.
On 6 October, CPI(ML) leaders from Mansa and Ludhiana Bhagwant Samao, Rajwinder Rana and Tarsem Jodhan visited the victim's family. A fact finding team of RYA lead by Hasmeet Singh visited the victim's family. On 10 October, CPI(ML) held a press conference in Chandigarh to highlight the issue. The press conference was addressed by the mother as well as the brother of the victim as well as Comrade Tarsem Jodhan, RYA Punjab President Kanwaljit and General Secretary Hasmeet Singh. Jeevan Singh’s mother Kuldeep Kaur demanded justice for her son, having rejected attempts to get her to “settle” the case by accepting land and cash.
Police have arrested 3 of the accused but the main accused, the gang-leader ‘Dhanna' is evading arrest due to his political connections with the ruling Akali Dal.
On 12 October, CPI(ML), Mazdoor Mukti Morcha, RYA and labourers of village held a dharna and gherao of Police Station Mehna, under which the village Chuhar Chakk falls, demanding immediate arrest of main accused. The Gherao was lifted only when DSP gave assurance to arrest the main accused within 7 days.
On 13 October, the bereaved family held a Bhog (religious ceremony) for the murdered youth. CPI(ML) CCM and state in charge Comrade Swapan Mukherjee, as well as Punjab’s CPI(ML) leaders Bhagwant Samaon, Tarsem Jodhan, Kanwaljit and Bant Jhabbar attended the ceremony. A joint action committee headed by Hukkam Raj of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha was formed with other dalit and labour organizations.
On 16 October, a deputation from the joint action committee met the DC Moga demanding compensation to the family and immediate arrest of prime-accused.
Security Workers Hold Public Hearing in Delhi
Security workers, employed in various private security firms in Delhi, held a Public Hearing at Parliament Street on 17 November under the banner of AICCTU to spearhead the campaign for the enactment of a special law to protect security workers from the exploitative and insecure conditions of employment prevailing in the sector. Hundreds of security workers from different agencies (IPSS, Elite, SIS, SWIFT, 24 Security, Walson and others) took part in today’s public hearing.
Workers spoke of the negligible welfare measures and rampant violation of labour laws in the sector, and demanded immediate enactment of “Special Act and Board for Pvt. Security Workers” in the state of Delhi to regulate their employment and service conditions and for welfare.
The picture that emerged from the depositions of the workers is as follows:
Security through private guards has become a common phenomenon especially in urban India, especially in mega cities like Delhi. In the last decade, the number of such guards and agencies employing them had grown at an accelerated pace. Delhi is no exception to that. During the last decade there has been mushrooming growth of security agencies in Delhi and other major urban centres of the country. As per one estimate, there are more than 5,000 registered and semi-registered security agencies in Delhi itself engaging more than 2,50,000 security guards. The terms and conditions related to employment are based on very ordinary contract, which leads to continuous oppression and dismissal. In a large number of cases, security guards are not being even provided uniforms by their employers (they have to pay out of their own salaries for uniforms, shoes and transport to and from work.) They work up to twelve hours a day, for a meager salary which is as low as Rupees 2000-2500 a month. They are rarely allowed to take leave even for a day in a month. A single day’s leave in an emergency without prior intimation often leads to dismissal from the service. They are not given any benefits under ESI and PF Act. Before joining an agency, security guards have to pay Rupee 1000 on an average for dress, which has the market price of not more than Rupees 400.
Addressing the public hearing, Comrade Swapan Mukherjee, General Secretary, AICCTU, stressed that the Government was yet to recognise security workers as ‘workers’; the Delhi Government, for instance, had not included this sector in its list of sectors where minimum wages would apply. The biggest struggle, therefore, was one for their identity, dignity and rights. He mentioned that the governments of Delhi and the Centre had been claiming that workers coming to Delhi from the ‘Maoist-affected’ states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and the like would be under surveillance. Such propaganda, he said, is a pretext to ensure that the workers in highly insecure, ill-paid and exploitative sectors are prevented from protesting against the enormously exploitative conditions. He called upon the workers to take the example of the Gurgaon workers who united across factories to force the Government to recognise their demands, and to create a united struggle for their rights.
The Public Hearing was also addressed by CPI(ML) State Secretary Sanjay Sharma, AICCTU Delhi Secretary SK Roy, AICCTU State President NM Thomas, AICCTU Secretary VKS Gautam and Ardhendu Roy, AICCTU National Secretary Rajiv Dimri and others.
Peasants at Chunar on indefinite fast against land grab and repression
The recent events around the J.P. Cement factory at Chunar (District- Mirzapur) are an example so show how the privatization of a PSU is initiated by Mulayam and later Mayawati’s government abuses state power to defend the new owners against the local population. (see ML Update Vol. 12, No. 44, 27 OCT – 02 NOV 2009) Protesting peasants have been brutally lathi-charged, and 26 of them, including a 16-year-old boy, eight dalits and a noted lawyer were jailed under the Gangster Act.
The main demands of the agitating villagers were -1. The new management of the factory was employing contract labour brought from far off places. Employment should be provided to the locals whose land had been acquired for the factory. 2. The pollution from the factory and the newly constructed 38 MW coal based power plant was destroying the crops of the farmers as well as adversely affecting their health. Reckless exploitation of ground water was causing scarcity of drinking water for the villagers. They demanded a check on the pollution and compensation for the damaged crops and 3. A pathway passing through the factory and connecting the outskirts of a village to its centre had been closed by the management of the factory causing severe hardship to the locals. They demanded that it be opened for free transit.
The CPI(ML) decided to intervene in this movement and a Dharna was organized against police atrocity on 21st October followed by a protest march to the district Head Quarter on the 26th Oct. To further pressurize the government for the release of the arrested, an indefinite Dharna and relay hunger fast was started from the 2nd November in Chunar under the banner of Uttar Pradesh Kisan Sabha. Ishwari Kushwaha, the State Convener of UPKS also joined the fast for 72 hours.
With mounting pressure from the movement and all-round condemnation from the locals, bail was finally granted to the arrested. The judge while granting bail had to write in his order that the entire actions of the state machinery had been carried out so as to benefit JP Associates.
The indefinite dharna continues, and CPI(ML) plans to intensify the struggle in the days to come.
RYA Burns Raj Thackeray’s Effigy in Lucknow
Activists of the Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) burnt the effigy of Raj Thackeray on 10 November outside the UP Assembly at Lucknow, in protest against the lumpen and chauvinistic violence by MNS MLAs in the Maharashtra Assembly. Holding the Congress Government responsible for encouraging the MNS phenomenon, they demanded the arrest of Raj Thackeray. The effigy birning was preceded by a spirited march by RYA activists led by State President Balmukund Dhuria from their office at Lalkuan to the Assembly.
Initiatives by RYA Punjab
From 27-29 October, RYA Punjab ran a stall selling revolutionary literature, films, etc, at a 3-day youth festival being held at the Punjabi University Patiala. Many students responded enthusiastically; a meeting was held and a committee of the RYA formed.
From 29 October to 1 November, RYA participated in the 'Mela Ghadari Babean Da' (Fair to commemorate the martyrdom of the Gadar party leaders – Gadri Babas) which is held at Deshbhakt Yaadgar Hall, Jalandhar every year. A documentary made by RYA on the Mansa struggle for homestead land, titled '10 Marla Zameen' was also released there. RYA teams from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh and Punjabi University, Patiala participated in various events at the fair.
From 3-4 October, RYA organised a stall at the Thapar Technical University, Patiala, and was once again received warmly by students.
On 14 October, the new unit of RYA in Gidderbaha District of Muktasar held a Natak Mela (Theatre Festival) dedicated to the Martydom day of Shaheed Kartar Singh Sarabha (16 October.) RYA President Kanwaljit, General Secretary Hasmeet and Joint Secretary Harmeet (who is from Gidderbaha) were present.
On 16 October, a function marking the Martydom Day of Shaheed Kartar Singh Sarabha was held at Punjabi University, Patiala and Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh.
AISA initiatives in Madurai
Private education institutions are making money with the blessing of the Government machinery. In Tamilnadu many minsters, politicians and any other capable criminal or money bag own a Private Education Institution. In Madurai students of a private polytechnic were attacked by police when they marched more than 20 kms from their private polytechnic to Madurai city to ask the District Collector to enquirer into the money extracted by the management in the name of penalties.
AISA issued a poster condemning the attack and held a Student's Convention on 13 November in protest against commercialisation of education. More than 40 students attended the convention which was presided by Comrades Divya, Selva and Vinotha.
Representatives of many student organizations spoke at the convention. Comrade Usha (SCM,Tamilnadu) addressed the students. The convention decided to launch a campaign against the unholy alliance of the education mafia and the state government and to study and publish a document on the status of exploitation by the private institutions in Madurai district in January.
Workshop in Patna in memory of Comrade Ashok Kumar
On the first death anniversary of Comrade Ashok Kumar on 12 November, the Patna Town Committee of the party along with Samkaleen Lokyuddh organised a Workshop on ‘Current Situation in Bihar and Tasks of the Left.’ Comrade Ashok Kumar was a CPI(ML) leader, member of Lokyuddh editorial board, and in the course of his life, had not only worked as an political organiser in many states, but was also committed to the task of Marxist analysis and response to current social, economic and political developments. He passed away from a heart attack suddenly last year.
The Workshop began with revolutionary musical tribute to the martyrs and departed communists by Hirawal. Comrade Brij Bihari Pandey, editor, Lokyuddh, then described Comrade Ashok Kumar’s life and values, and outlined the perspective of the workshop. The Workshop was inaugurated by Party State Secretary Comrade Nand Kirshore Prasad. Comrade Saroj Chaubey, Secretary of the Town Committee, presented a report of the responsibilities and tasks of the various branches and committees towards the Bihar Bandh of 24 November on the issues of land.
In the concluding speech, Party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar said that for the Left in Bihar, making land reforms (a precondition for Bihar’s development) a central political agenda in defiance of the spectrum of ruling class parties out to scuttle it was a key challenge.
BSNL Workers Demand Implementation of Wage Revision
Demanding that wage revisions announced by the Government in January 2007 be implemented without any further delay, around 150 BSNL workers under the banner of AICCTU held a protest at the Ambattur Estate Exchange. They pointed out that wage revisions for officers had come into force 9 months back, but the workers are being neglected. On AICCTU’s invitation, C K Mathivanan, National Secretary of the National Federation of Telecom Employees (NFT) addressed the protesting workers.
Pricol Workers’ Relief Efforts for those affected by heavy rains in the Nilgiris
Heavy rains in the Nilgiris have resulted in the loss of over 100 lives, and massive devastation of crops and homes. In response, workers of the Pricol factory at Coimbatore, already engaged in a struggle against repression, responded to a call by the AICCTU to contribute 1 kilo of rice per worker by way of relief. Not only workers belonging to AICCTU, but even the minority of workers who belong to other unions responded to the call. In Plant III, where only 73 of the 330 workers do not belong to AICCTU, workers responded across the board, and 500 kiloas of rice were collected as we go to press. In Plant I too the same efforts are ongoing. A team of workers plant to go soon to the affected areas for relief work.
Protest against Fare Hike in Delhi
CPI(ML) held a protest on 14 Nov. at ITO in Delhi against the hike in fares of Metro trains and DTC buses. Protestors pointed out that the Shiela Dixit Govt is on a privatisation spree, and the burden for Commonwealth Games is being borne by the common people. The Govt has reduced the Government-owned DTC into a revenue collecting agency for Tata, and is buying buses from Tata at 2-3 times the actual rate, not to mention paying Tata exorbitantly for the maintenance and operation of buses. The bus fares have been hiked steeply in order to meet this expense. Protestors demanded an end to the commercialisation of public transport in the capital city. A protest and street corner meeting was also held at Kondli on Nov. 11.