Thursday, March 18, 2010

ML Update Vol.13 No. 01 29 DEC 2009 - 4 JAN 2010

  • ML Update
    A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
    Vol. 13 No. 01 29 DEC 2009 - 4 JAN 2010

Jharkhand Elections:

Pressing the ‘Replay’ Button

The Congress had contested the Jharkhand election with the slogan “Chuniye unhe, jinhe desh ne chuna” (elect those who have got the mandate of the nation). It abandoned its former allies JMM and RJD and forged a new partnership with the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha formed by former BJP leader and Jharkhand CM Babulal Marandi. Instead of asking the Jharkhand electorate to vote for the Congress on the basis of the dubious claim that the Congress had got a mandate from the rest of India, the party should have rather offered an explanation as to why the same Congress which with its allies had won all but one LS seat from Jharkhand in 2004 could retain only one seat in the 2009 LS election. More importantly, the Congress had to explain its conduct as the backseat driver of whatever passed for government in Jharkhand for much of the last five years. Instead, the Congress thought it could bluff its way to power by blaming the ‘independents’ and its former allies for the scams and mess in Jharkhand.

On his part, Marandi too performed a big somersault to take his political journey from the BJP to the fold of the Congress. As recently as during the May 2009 LS election he was claiming to provide a non-BJP, non-Congress alternative in the politics of Jharkhand, but came the Assembly election and here was Marandi joining hands with the Congress and that too for less than a quarter of the state’s seats. While the Congress and JVM jointly fought the elections, the Governor shelved all his gubernatorial protocol to work overtime as a Congress campaigner, trying to hard sell the Congress-JVM combine to the Jharkhand electorate. The Governor gave interviews to the media arguing that only big national parties could deliver political stability and economic development! The BJP too adopted a largely similar stance, except it also blamed the Congress along with the ‘independents’ and smaller parties for all the evils that plague Jharkhand.

Now the election results have left both the Congress and the BJP in a most unenviable position. The BJP can have the consolation of having retained the ‘largest party’ status, but it is no longer an exclusive slot for the BJP. The BJP and JMM have both finished on top with 18 seats each, followed by the Congress and its new-found ally, JVM, which have 14 and 11 seats to their credit respectively.

By contrast, ‘others’ have once again managed to win as many as 13 seats, and barring the two seats won by the CPI(ML) and the Marxist Co-ordination Committee, the remaining 11 seats in this catch-all category have all been won by the same independents, most of whom have now formed small parties of their own. The AJSU has won as many as five seats; and most of the legislators currently languishing in jail and/or accused of holding property disproportionate to their known sources of income, have returned to the Assembly as victorious members. This clearly means that neither of the two major pre-poll coalitions are anywhere near the magic mark of 41 seats in an Assembly of 81 – the Congress-JVM combine has fallen 16 short while the BJP-JDU combine needs another 21 seats to reach that magic figure. The key obviously lies with the JMM and the smaller parties. If the JMM throws its lot in with the BJP, the combine can easily stake its claim to form government. Likewise, a possible resurrection of the old UPA (Congress, JMM, RJD and some of the smaller parties and independents) can also muster up majority, the catch being the Congress will probably have to part ways with the JVM to woo the JMM back into its fold. It will be interesting to see how the ‘big national’ parties sell them again to regional forces and ‘independents’ and small partners who all are waiting in the wings to drive a hard bargain.

Several parties from the neighbouring states of UP (BSP and SP), Bihar (LJP) and West Bengal (TMC) had contested the polls in Jharkhand but failed to open their accounts. The CPI and CPI(M) too once again drew a blank and also lost whatever little credibility they had, thanks to their weird notion of forging ‘Left unity’ under the leadership of the RJD! Once again it will be the CPI(ML) and MCC led by Comrade AK Roy who will account for the Left camp inside the Assembly. It should be noted that the CPI(ML) had extended support to the MCC in Nirsa (which it won) and Sindri (where it finished second) in Dhanbad district in lieu of MCC’s support to the CPI(ML) candidate in Mandu (where the CPI(ML) nominee finished third).

If the last one year of President’s Rule had put Jharkhand on the ‘pause’ mode with the Assembly kept under suspended animation, the elections have only pressed the ‘replay’ button. As all the burning issues cry for urgent answers and the ruling classes’ fond dream of political stability remains elusive, the people of Jharkhand will have to press ahead with their fighting initiative. For the CPI(ML), the tasks remain clearly cut out as the party will have to intensify its role as the boldest voice of people’s struggle in the turbulent state.

Peasant struggles in Bihar

Peasants' Dharna in Patna
Hundreds of peasants from nearby rural areas of Bihar's capital Patna held a protest dharna on 22 December under the banners of Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha and Jalla Kisan Sangharsh Samiti with their 8-points demandcharter that included compensation for land and free electricity to the farmers affected by Gaurichak Power Grid. Peasants from Jalla, Sampatchak, Fatuha and Punpun sent a memorandum to the managing director of Power Grid Corporation and decided to hold a 'long march' from Gaurichak to Patna if the demands are not met in a month. The meeting held at the dharna was presided over by Umesh Singh and conducted by Dinanath Mehta. CPI(ML) Central Committee members Kunal and KD Yadav addressed the farmers at the dharna. Umesh Singh said that the 5500 acres of land has
been acquisitioned in Patna district in the name of development and the process is on for another 7400 acres, while thousands of acres of land has been made unusable by the projects of Power Grid Corporation even without any acquisition or compensation. Moreover, the government is encouraging private partership through franchisee scheme in electricity bills resulting in inflated bills to the farmers, and schemes announced for controlling drought and improving irrigation have proved false resulting in zero development.

Protest against Eviction of Poor Dalits
Shahari Garib Morcha held a protest demonstration in Patna on 22 December for demanding rehabilitation of 60 dalit families, very poor Maha-dalits living on pavements of the capital for years and earned their living by ragpicking and other menial jobs. Th reality behind Nitish government's much hyped 'sympathy' for maha-dalits became known once again when these poor families were evicted in this coldest of the season without any notice and alternate arrangement for rehabilitation, in the name of beautification of the city. These most poor and dalits were brutally beaten up, their meagre belongings thrown away on the road and three of them arrested when they tried to protest the brutality. The evicted people, mostly Mushars, burnt the effigy of Nitish government. Ashok Kumar, Convenor of Shahari Garib Morcha, led the protest.

Land Given to the Landless Poor
Nitish Govt. has backtracked from its promise of implementing land reforms in Bihar, but the struggle of poor and landless for land continues in Bihar. Poor fought in Jehanabad for 12 bighas of land which has now been distributed among 85 families for making their homesteads. A struggle was launched against the illegal occupation of the said land in Sumera panchayat of Makhdumpur block, successfully. Later, the land distribution was done by the CPI(ML) after holding a mass meeting in the village. Another 87 decimals of land was distributed among 35 landless dalit families in Kazisarai village of Kako block. This land was being occupied by one powerful person of the village, but seeing the militant unity and protest of the poor, he backtracked and the local unit of AIALA then held a mass meeting on the said land and distributed it. AIALA leaders Bharat Prasad and Pradip Kumar addressed the people and pledged to intensify the struggles for land and dignity.

Struggle against Privatisation and Loot of Water in the Sone Canal
Canals and irrigation too have not escaped the assault of privatisation. In Laloo Yadav’s term itself, President Abdul Kalam had begun the process by declaring the formation of a ‘Distributary Committee’ for the No. 10 Distributary on the Sone Canal. While this was said to be an ‘experiment’, it proved in fact to be the first step towards handing over the Canal to feudal forces, and gradually a feudal ‘canal mafia’ emerged. The No.10 Distributary irrigated the entire Paliganj area and Dulhin Bazaar Block, and the privatisation hit the farmers badly. 30% of the water tax is given to the government, and the remaining 70%, intended for maintenance of the canal, is instead looted in entirety. 150 workers, recruited for maintenance of the canals, have been kicked out of their jobs. The area that pays the water tax lies dry, while the President of the Distributary Committee, Valmiki Sharma colludes to sell the water on the black market. The Sone canal area, usually unaffected by drought, was hit by drought this time; canal water remained in the upper reaches of the canal, badly affecting the sowing of the rice crop and jeopardising the rabi crop in the lower reaches. Peasants were angry and worried at this situation. Around 12000 acres of land in 20 villages were badly affected in the lower reaches of the No. 10 Distributary, but even the lower reaches of the main canal were affected and crops were drying in Bikram, Naubatpur, and Danapur blocks. When CPI(ML)’s Paliganj MLA Comrade Nand Kumar Nanda raised the matter with the Irrigation Minister, he pleaded lack of sufficient water in the canal. But the farmers were sure that water could reach the lower reaches if only the black marketeering and diversions could be stopped. The Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha began an agitation on the issue of canal water, compensation for the damaged crops, and identity cards for the sharecroppers. First a dharna was held at the Dulhin Bazaar Block headquarters; receiving no response, they demonstrated at the Canal Department SDO’s office at Arwal and also gheraoed the office of the Distributary Committee at Paliganj. The roads were blockaded in protest on 8 November. A very large number of farmers from outside the organisation unexpectedly joined the blockade. On 10 November, a meeting of farmers was convened to decide the course of action; but the meeting was held in the open with all farmers being invited through announcements on a mike. 400 farmers from 35 villages participated in the meeting, and it was decided that if water did not reach the fields by 16 November, an indefinite road blockade and lock-out at the block HQ would take place. Seeing the mood of the farmers, the administration too became active and began patrolling the canal, identifying and removing blocks that had been created at various points, and gradually water began to flow downwards and reach the fields.

In Arwal, feudal forces had even made a pukka dam n the main canal! When hundreds of farmers gathered and began breaking the dam, the police intervened to destroy the dam. Leaflets calling for protests on 6 November were distributed during the padyatra. By 16 November, around 4000 acres of land in 7 villages had received water. More than 1000 small and marginal farmers from 40 villages participated in the blockade this time. Patna district suffers drought and flood despite of being in the lap of nine rivers; this can only be due to the anti-peasant policies of Bihar governments. The party is planning a longterm campaign demanding withdrawal of the privatisation of the Sone Canal; repair of the canal; stable solution to the flood problem; and comprehensive management for the water of the rivers in this region. The Paliganj MLA raised the demand for withdrawal of privatisation of the Sone canal in the Assembly. The Government has assured that this demand would be met but has as yet shown no signs of keeping its word.


Teachers’ Fact-Finding Report in Ludhiana Incident
A fact-finding team of university teachers from Delhi visited Ludhiana on 20.12.2009 to ascertain the facts of the incidents of violence involving migrant workers that have gripped the industrial part of the city. The team visited Dhandari kalan and Sherpur and spoke to a large number of migrant workers and visited their homes. The team found that despite a large number of the migrant workforce (around 12 lakhs) living in Ludhiana for over 15 years, sometimes even much longer, a majority of them had no voting rights or ration cards. Even when they applied for voters I cards, their applications were rejected on spurious grounds. It is not surprising that no political party, not even the local Member of Parliament, Mr. Manish Tiwari, has bothered to visit them. This attitude percolates down to the bureaucracy and police force, who treat the migrant workers as virtually second class citizens. It was found that:

1) The migrant workers have for the past 2-3 months been gripped by a sense of fear and insecurity following a series of violent attacks by ‘biker gangs’, in which several workers were injured, attacked, robbed of their daily earnings, with one worker even succumbing to his injuries later in PGI.
2) The workers were greatly agitated that the police refused to file any complaints about these incidents of loot and attack. On 3rd December, when the workers assembled at the Dhandhari PS to complain of yet another attack on them, the police hurled abuses at them and pushed them out of the gate, locking the gate to the PS. The workers jammed the highway close to the PS in the hope that the police would open the gates and come out and listen to them. However, the police responded by opening lathi charge and tear gas. This incensed a section of the workers into burning eight cars.
3) The police meanwhile refused to engage/ negotiate with the surging crowds of the workers, numbering according to eyewitnesses, around ten thousand. Instead, it sent messages to the neighbouring villages such as Pammi and Dhandari that migrant workers were marching towards their villages to loot and burn, and that the police was unable to control the crowds. The Police thus asked the local population to join them in controlling the migrant workers. Thus, an issue which was essentially a workers versus administration was maliciously turned by the administration into a migrant versus local issue.
4) On the 4th Dec., there was a pitched battle between the workers on side of the railway track at Dhandari kalan and the police and its army of anti-social criminal elements. The latter were brandishing, according to eyewitnesses, swords and iron rods as well as fire arms. The workers were trying to resist the entry of these criminal elements into their neighbourhood by pelting stones, however by around noon, they were pushed back and while the police provided them cover, these criminals entered the neighbourhood of Ishwar Colony and created mayhem.
5) The team in its visit to the various bedas (workers’ settlements) found them deserted, with a large majority of workers residing therehaving fled or missing. Only about 20 per cent of the original inhabitants remained with whom the team interacted. The Ishwar Colony, for instance, has 125 rooms and each room houses 4-5 roommates. When we visited the complex on Sunday, only about 15 people remained.
6) We found one room after another burnt, the belongings reduced to cinders. There were clear remnants of forcible entry: sword and spear marks on aluminium doors; in Pooja Complex, the lock to the main gate had been broken with a bullet shot; scooters, bikes and an auto rickshaw were burnt. The six shops in the Ishwar Complex were all completely burnt.
7) Eyewitnesses and victims told us how they had returned from their night shift and were hiding inside their rooms while the clashes were on at the railway track. They had locked themselves inside their little rooms when the attackers came and set their rooms on fire. Women and children were manhandled, men attacked with rods and swords. Eye witnesses told us that on the 4th, men were taken to hospital with their heads bleeding, and deep gashes made by swords on their faces.
8) The team spoke to SSP Ludhiana who claimed that the workers had set their own houses on fire by themselves! While the people e met told us that they had filed complaints in the PS about the arson at their shops (in Ishwar Colony) and the huge losses incurred by them they were yet to receive a copy of their complaints. We raised this issue with the SSP and he said that no FIR had been filed till now (after 16 days), and if the need arose, these complaints could be accommodated in the FIR about the burning of the vehicles. He also dismissed the possibility of the existence of any biker gangs.

This reflects the apathy and prejudice which is characteristic of the administration’s response towards the problems of the migrant workers.It is inconceivable that workers who work for 12 -14 hours a day, live in tiny rooms with no ventilation, 4-5 people in one room in almost sub-human conditions, to be able to survive and save some money, to have set their own belongings on fire. The people of the area have made the following demands:

1) Compensation to be paid for all the losses incurred.
2) Given the prevailing atmosphere of fear, there should be a CRPF camp to secure the neighbourhood. The people have lost all faith in the local police.
3) The 42 migrant workers who have been arrested should be immediately released
4) Charges against those responsible for the violence on migrant workers be framed without delay.
Signed: Tanweer Fazal, anghamitra Misra, Manisha Sethi, Ahmed Sohaib for
Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association

Dalit Youth Shot Dead by Landed Criminals in Punjab
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 a Jatt youth from playing obscene songs on his tractor-stereo at loud volume when crossing in front of dalit homes and speeding on a street where small children were playing. A gang of powerful Jatts ld by a criminal ‘Dhanna’ which also enjoys 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. The Jatt youth returned with his father, Dhanna and the latter’s gang, fired at the crowd, injuring 7, and then shot Jeevan dead while he was standing at a shop. District leaders of the CPI(ML) Teerath Singh Madhoke and Hukam Raj reached the village where workers gheraoed the thana to make the police register an FIR against the killers. On 6 October, CPI(ML) leaders from Mansa and Ludhiana and 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. 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. A joint action committee headed by Hukkam Raj of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha was formed with other dalit and labour organizations.
On 16 October, a dharna was held and a deputation from the joint action committee met the DC Moga demanding compensation to the family and immediate arrest of prime-accused. Under pressure, the police eventually arrested Dhanna, the youth who had initiated the clash and his father But the police bias is evident from the fact that the vehicles and weapons used in the attack are yet to be recovered and compensation yet to be paid to the family of Jeevan Singh as well as those of the injured.

ASHA Workers Protest
Hundreds of ASHA workers protested in Barhaj tehsil on 16 Nov and Bhatparrani tehsil on 19 Nov and Salempur tehsil on 23 Nov in Deoria district of UP with their charter of demands. These protests culminated in a district level protest by thousands of ASHA workers in Deoria on 30 Nov in front of the Collectorate. The protest was led by UP ASHA Association's Convener Gita Pandey and AIPWA leader Premlata Pandey along with many others.


Comrade Sumitra Devi passed away on 18 December '09 in Nalanda district. She was only 50. She fell unconscious a day before when returning from the anniversary meeting held in memory of comrade Daulal Pandit from Maidwa who had passed away a year ago. She was admitted in a private hospital immediately. She remained associated with the Party throughout her active life, for nearly thirty years, and was a District Committee member of AIPWA at the time of her death. She always firmly stood in defence of the Party in difficult times and always accomplished her tasks very sincerely. A large number of people took part in her last journey in Hilsa. A memorial meeting was organised in Hilsa town which was addressed by Bihar Party Standing Committee member Comrade Pawan Sharma.

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