A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 13, No. 20, 11 – 17 MAY 2010
Inaugural Speech by CPI(ML) General Secretary at the Founding Conference of All India Kisan Mahasabha at Patna on 10 May, 2010
(In lieu of editorial)
Comrades and friends, It gives me immense pleasure to inaugurate this important all-India assembly of revolutionary peasant activists. On behalf of the Central Committee of CPI(ML), I extend my warm revolutionary greetings to all of you assembled here, delegates from the four corners of the country and our esteemed guests from Maharashtra and our close eastern neighbour, Bangladesh. Special thanks are also due to our comrades outside of this hall, especially comrades of Bihar who have defied all odds to organize this conference.
Today is the 153rd anniversary of the great uprising of 1857, the first war of India’s independence which was a powerful peasant war in its essence. And this state of Bihar and its capital Patna were among the leading theatres of that glorious national awakening. We recall this legacy with great pride, and resolve to carry forward the great spirit of peasant revolts against imperialism and feudalism, for real freedom and democracy.
Indeed, 1857 signalled the beginning of a long history of militant peasant struggles in Bihar and several other parts of the country. Bihar also served as an early Gandhian laboratory where Gandhi got the impetus to impart a mass peasant dimension to an otherwise elitist Congress. The peasant masses in Bihar however soon began to get disillusioned with the compromising pro-feudal politics of the Congress. From passive supporters of Congress politics, peasants began to turn into active fighters for social transformation and national liberation.
Leading this transition in Bihar and UP were Swami Sahajanand and his comrades. Communist organizers were also engaged in a similar mission in different parts of the country. Against this backdrop, the foundation of the All India Kisan Sabha in 1936 laid a powerful basis for a broad-based anti-imperialist unity of Left forces and gave a fillip to organized and militant peasant struggles across the country. We salute and inherit this rich legacy of peasant mobilization and organization.
It was this legacy that lay behind the historic Telangana uprising in the 1940s and the great Naxalbari and Srikakulam uprising two decades later. Just when the Indian state thought it had snuffed out the fire of Naxalbari, Bhojpur and soon the whole of Bihar rose in revolt unfurling the banner of dignity and democracy. Defying any number of massacres perpetrated by the state or by private armies operating under state patronage, the fire of revolutionary peasant struggle has continued to spread in Bihar and today it simmers across the country from Punjab to Orissa, and Bengal to Andhra. As we assemble here to launch an all-India organization of the labouring and fighting peasantry, we pay our heartfelt tributes to all our great leaders and martyrs who blazed this great trail of radical peasant assertion in India.
If Indian agriculture has managed to overcome the worst shackles of landlordism, bondage and usury, the achievement must be attributed above all to this live legacy of peasant assertion. It was the great Telangana uprising and the host of struggles against landlordism during the first half of the previous century that forced the agenda of elimination of landlordism on the post-colonial Indian state. Likewise, it was the Naxalbari-inspired revolts of the rural poor which compelled the state to go for land ceiling legislation and legal protection of tenancy and share-cropping.
Yet, the state always limited and subverted the land reform agenda in the interest of the landed gentry. Land apart, the landed rich also derived maximum benefits from whatever agricultural and allied infrastructure was developed through public investment while the landless poor and the small peasantry were left to fend for themselves. The green revolution further intensified the socio-economic inequalities and regional disparities, and when under WTO Indian agriculture was subjected to unequal competition with the highly developed and heavily subsidised capitalist agriculture of the western world, the result was an unprecedented agrarian crisis.
Over the last two decades, the crisis has engulfed almost the entire agricultural economy in the country. Even as successive governments boast of 8% economic growth, during the last ten years agriculture has been stagnating at less than 2% annual growth. In the last two years, the rate has actually dropped to 1.6% and minus 0.2% respectively. Peasant suicides have been continuing unabated – whether there is a crop failure or there is a glut in the market, miseries continue to mount for peasants driving many to a suicidal end. And to top it all, now we have an unprecedented 20% food inflation, which hurts most peasants as much as it hurts the non-agricultural working people.
What has been the state’s response to this deepening agrarian crisis? Only a one-off loan waiver before the 2009 Lok Sabha election which certainly helped the Congress retain power but did little to arrest, let alone resolve, the crisis. The Congress had projected the loan waiver as a decisive boon for marginal and small farmers, but the fact remains that the waiver could hardly make any dent into the problem of indebtedness. According to a study done by Professor Harjinder Singh Shergill of Institute for Development and Communication, Chandigarh, the average indebtedness in Malwa region of Punjab actually grew from Rs. 52,000 in 1997 to Rs. 139,000 in 2008. He estimates Punjab’s total farm debt to have gone up from Rs. 5700 crore to Rs. 30,394 crore over this period.
Contrast the government’s indifference to the issues of agrarian crisis and food inflation to its concern for saving Indian big capital from any possible adverse impact of the global economic crisis. In three instalments of bailout package, the government pumped in no less than Rs. 3.5 lakh crore, and this when the number of Indians in the global list of billionaires doubled from 24 in 2008 to 49 in 2009! Add to the bailouts the direct tax exemptions the government hands out in a routine manner in every budget to corporate tax payers (Rs. 2,08,000 crore in last three budgets) and it could fund as many as eight loan waivers in last three years!
The government’s indifference to the agrarian crisis is actually driven by a cynical calculation. The crisis is being sought to be used as an instrument to compel more and more peasants to move out of agriculture, or in any case to give up independent agriculture, thereby facilitating increasing corporate appropriation of resources involved in the agricultural and rural economy. The enactment of the SEZ Act, the state-corporate combined drive for forcible land acquisition, the introduction of GM crops and MNC seeds, steps towards privatization of water resources are all happening against the backdrop of the raging agrarian crisis.
The new agricultural policy of the Indian government and every aspect of Indo-US cooperation in the agricultural field are aimed at intensifying this drive towards corporate restructuring of Indian agriculture. US penetration in Indian agriculture has not yet attracted the kind of public attention and debate that we saw in the case of the nuclear deal, but in terms of scale and implications, the growing US intervention in Indian agriculture is no less detrimental to the interests of India and Indian people.
Under the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture (KIA), signed during the Bush presidency, Indian agricultural knowledge and research has virtually been mortgaged to the US research establishment and it is well known that the interests of US MNCs are closely associated with this venture. Representatives of notorious US agribusiness MNCs Monsanto and Cargill are on the board of directors of KIA. And now the UPA government has initiated a new Agriculture Dialogue with the Obama regime aimed at a comprehensive deal on “Agricultural Cooperation and Food Security” which talks of ‘robust cooperation between the governments’ in a whole range of areas from ‘crop forecasting, management and market information’ to ‘expanding private sector investment in agriculture’.
In the 1960s when India was faced with a major food crisis, the Indian state had peddled the US-sponsored Green Revolution as the answer to that crisis. Today when the green revolution model has collapsed, and India’s food security and food sovereignty are at stake, the Indian state has ironically once again turned to the same American establishment for so-called second generation green revolution and food security! This is the sure recipe for subjugation and destruction of Indian agriculture.
For capital, agriculture is just another source of profit, and appropriation of natural resources is a proven way to gain greater economic control and rapid accumulation of wealth. At the other end of the spectrum, for the vast majority of agricultural population, agriculture is the only or primary source of livelihood. And in spite of the declining share of agriculture in the country’s GDP, a vibrant agricultural economy can be the only reliable foundation for food security and food sovereignty of a populous country like India. The peasant movement today is essentially a battle between these two contending visions of Indian agriculture – it is a broad-based patriotic-democratic answer to the narrow corporate-imperialist blueprint of corporatized agriculture.
Immediate completion of the unfinished agenda of land reforms, comprehensive and timely assistance for people who are directly involved in agriculture, increased public investment in agriculture and adequate indigenous research and extension service to suit the diverse needs of peasants in different fields – these are the four key components of a pro-peasant alternative direction of agricultural development in today’s India. In fighting for this alternative direction, fighting peasants – call them poor and middle peasants or marginal and small farmers – must make common cause with both agricultural labourers and tenant-farmers or share-croppers.
Agricultural economy in India is marked by uneven development of capitalism, and agriculture being most closely linked to the rural society, the peasant masses also have to contend with well entrenched feudal forces on different levels. The fighting peasants and their allies thus invariably find themselves pitted against the combined might of the old feudal forces as well as the emerging kulak-corporate nexus. In spite of uneven economic development and socio-cultural diversities, the agrarian crisis today looms large over the entire country, providing a new sense of urgency and unity among the fighting peasant forces across the country.
In the heydays of green revolution, the rich peasants in relatively advanced areas were quite vocal in advocating liberalization of Indian agriculture. Today the ideologues of rich peasants have either become outright advocates of corporatization or have lost all initiative in the face of acute agrarian crisis. Maharashtra, which had emerged as the cradle of the rich peasant movement led by Sharad Joshi, has today turned into the number one graveyard of Indian farmers even as another leader of Maharashtra kulaks and sugar lobby officiates as the country’s agriculture minister. The crisis has broken down the wall between the so-called advanced capitalist areas and backward feudal regions and the ground is now ready for revolutionary peasant activists from all over the country to take the lead in forging a nationwide peasant resistance.
I wish the conference every success in this direction. May your proposed All India Kisan Mahasabha emerge as a powerful platform of peasant unity and peasant struggle, linking backward regions with advanced areas, peasants with workers, and the peasant movement with the wider current of patriotic-democratic assertion of the Indian people. Since its inception, the CPI(ML) has drawn its greatest sustenance from the revolutionary peasant movement in the country and may I conclude by reiterating the Party’s resolve to march ahead along this path of protracted people’s struggle through every future twist and turn.
Red salute to the fighting legacy and spirit of the Indian peasantry!
National peasant conference held at Patna in SriKrishna Memorial Hall on 9-10 May successfully concluded with the founding of “Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Mahasabha” (all-India peasant alliance). The venue for the historic occasion was named Comrade Master Jagdish Hall, Swami Sahajanand Saraswati Nagar. Well-known peasant leader Ruldu Singh from Punjab and CPI(ML)’s Central Committee member and an ex-MLA Rajaram Singh were elected its President and General Secretary respectively. The Conference also elected a 101 member National Council and a 35 member National Executive.
The Conference has also elected eight vice presidents and seven national secretaries among whom are many well known faces from West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Chhatisgarh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. The eight VPs are Comrades Kartik Pal (W.Bengal), Kshitish Biswal (Orissa), KD Yadav and Rajaram (Bihar), Heera Gope (Jharkhand), Prem Singh Gahalawat (Haryana), DS Chauhan (Chhatisgarh) and Subhash Kakupte (Maharashtra); and the seven national secretaries are Comrades Ishwari P.Kushwaha (UP), Arun Singh (Bihar), Puran Mahto (Jharkhand), Suvimal Sengupta (WB), Ashok Pradhan (Orissa), D Harinath (Andhra Pradesh) and Purushottam Sharma (Uttarakhand).
Apart from the above, the 35 member NE includes names of Gurunam Singh Bhikhi (Punjab), Ramchandra Kulhare (Rajasthan), Rajendra Bhawake (Maharashtra), Jay Prakash Verma, Chandranath Bhai Patel and Anwar Hussain (Jharkhand), Ananda Prasad Bhattacharya, Pavitra Singh and Tapan Batbyal (WB), Afroz Alam (UP), Jagat Martoliya (Uttarakahnd), Suvirjit Sinha (Tripura) and Amarnath Yadav, Ramadhar Singh, Sudama Prasad, Chandradeep Singh, Shivsagar Sharma, Rajendra Patel from Bihar.
The participants to the National Peasant Conference included 1475 delegates from 16 states, 251 guests and 500 observers. Renowned historian RS Sharma and senior lawyers in the Patna High Court SP Mukherjee and Indu Shekhar Singh sent their compliments for the Conference. Peasant leader from Bangladesh Abdussalam addressed the Conference and delegates from Maharashtra’s Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) declared themselves allied with AIKM for working for peasants’ movement nationally.
The Conference was inaugurated by CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya. The flag for this founding Conference was hoisted by veteran CPI(ML) leader Comrade Ram Naresh Ram. Celebrated leaders of peasant movement – Nemo Singh (Naxalbari), Com. Triveni Sharma Sudhakar, Ramswarup Singh, Azad ji and guests from Bangladesh and Maharashtra were felicitated by the Conference. Comrade Swadesh presented them mementos.
Well known economist Prof. NK Chaudhary welcomed the delegates and guests to the Conference on behalf of the 25 member welcome committee constituted of senior citizens of Patna. Apart from peasant leaders and delegates, Dhirendra Jha, GS of All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association (AIALA), AIPWA’s GS Meena Tiwari, RYA’s National President Mohammad Salim among others also addressed the Conference.
CPI(ML)’s state secretaries from different states were also present- Comrades NK Prasad (Bihar), Sudhakar Yadav (UP), Rubul Sharma (Assam), N Murthy (AP), Kumaraswami (TN), and also senior Party leaders – Comrades RJ Sharma, Ramji Rai, BB Panday, Bangar Rao and K Krishnan.
The proceedings of the Conference were conducted by a team of Comrades IP Kushwaha, Rajaram Singh, Shivsagar Sharma, Purshottam Sharma and other peasant leaders. Conference concluded with Com. KD Yadav giving the vote of thanks. The Conference also passed the Manifesto, Constitution and 7-point political resolution of the All India Kisan Mahasabha.
Other highlights of the event
The Conference began by garlanding the statue of hero of 1857 in Bihar- Kunwar Singh. From there and enroute Conference venue the delegates in the form of a procession stopped at Gandhi Maidan where Shaheed Peer Ali was martyred and garlanded his photo. The procession then stopped at Bhagat Singh crossing where his statue was garlanded. At the Conference venue Swami Sahajanand Saraswati’s picture was garlanded and a giant welcome gate in the name of martyr Peer Ali was erected.
A large number of places in Patna that were hosting the delegates and guests were all renamed for the occasion after great martyrs of peasant, communist and radical movements. Memories of many martyrs not so well known outside of revolutionary left movement were resurrected through renaming of dozens of venues. Apart from the above mentioned venues, welcome gates, dais, guest houses, lodging places, registration halls, youth hostels, MLA guest house, women’s hostel were all renamed for the historic occasion in the names of martyrs- Comrades Rameshwar Yadav (comrade with Master Saab), Gambhira Shah (peasant leader, Champaran, 1970’s), Bachchan Singh (Bhojpur-Rohtas, 1980’s), Rajeshwar Mochi (martyred by RJD-PWG goons in 2004 in Paliganj), Birda Manjhi (Patna, 1970’s), Ramayan Ram (Bhojpur, 70’s), Karyanand Sharma (associate of Swami Sahajanand) and the three student-youth leaders who fearlessly sacrificed their lives for Bihar’s progress- Prashant Chaudhary (martyred during Bhagalpur jailbreak, 70’s), Brajesh Mohan Thakur (killed by feudal lords of Purnia, 80’s) and Chandrashekhar (killed by Shahabuddin’s goons in 1997); Virendra Vidrohi (cultural fighter who blackened the face of then CM Bhagwat Jha Azad to protest a series of massacres), Rameshwar Muni (people’s poet, Magahi), Santu Mahato (peasant leader of North Bihar), Mahendra Singh (fierce voice of oppressed and common people of Bihar and Jharkhand, 2005), Nakshtra Malakar and Ajit Sarkar (people’s leaders in Koshi region), Lahari and Sheela (women comrades martyred by marauding police’ bullets in 1970’s) and Manju (CPIML leader and Dist. Councilor martyred in 2002 by Ranveer Sena).
Entire streets and street corners in Patna were decorated with flags and banners.
Backdrop: The Conference was held in the backdrop of a concerted ruling class mobilisation across parties in Bihar against the implementation of the D Bandopadhyaya Commission recommendations on land reform and sharecroppers' rights. The CPI(ML) has been campaigning for implementation of land reform - and has exposed the Nitish Government which, under pressure from feudal forces has betrayed its promise of implementing the Bandopadhyaya Commission recommendations. The CPI(ML) has succeeded in making land reform the key political issue in Bihar today. Just one day before the All India Peasants Conference, various feudal leaders across parties (including the ruling JD(U) as well as RJD and Congress held a 'Kisan Mahapanchayat' in Patna aggressively announcing their fierce opposition to land reform and sharecroppers' rights. The Conference was a fitting answer to the feudal resistance to land reform and an exposure of Nitish Kumar's anti-feudal pretensions.
IIMS Sessions at Trivandrum and Calicut in Kerala
Indian Institute of Marxist Studies (IIMS) Kerala organized a couple of interactive sessions comprising radical and progressive people representing various sections of Kerala intelligentsia with the General secretary of CPI(ML), during his visit to Kerala from 2-4 May. Com. KM Venugopalan, State Convener of IIMS, chaired the sessions.
Com. Dipankar made a presentation on ‘Contending Trends in Indian Communist Movement (ICM) and the Challenges in India Today’ at the session at Kozhikode on 2nd evening. He made a distinction between three major strands of the ICM, viz., social democracy, revolutionary Left and anarcho-militarist. The presentation was followed by a serious discussion. Many thought provoking ideas on various issues ranging from Marxist approach towards caste and class, bourgeois parties, participation in parliament and the role of armed struggle came up in the course of the debate. The discussion was very lively and participatory. Some important senior activists of ML movement of the ‘70s also took part in the discussion.
The session at Trivandrum on 4th too was quite lively. Activists from various backgrounds ranging from feminist movement to trade union movement and also some academics took part in the discussion. In the course of discussion Com. Dipankar said that looking at Marxism through the prism of ‘Marxists’ in Kerala should be done away with. He also said that revolutionary communist movement is theoretically quite capable of handling complexities of caste and class. He said that identity based struggles too can form part of larger class struggle because class struggle is not merely an economic category. In a country like India with stubborn feudal remnants, class is not always expressed in pure form and hence, feminist movements to dalit movements play a role in anti-feudal struggle in various ways. He said that class differentiation within caste is also assuming significant proportions in the process of capitalist development today.
Onchiyam Martyrdom Day Observed by Left Coordination Committee in Kerala
Left Coordiantion Committee in Kerala comprising various organizations floated by forces which have come out of CPI(M) in recent past, considered to be dissenters and detractors of CPI(M), organized Onjium Martyrdom Day. Onjium village, near Vadakara and part of Kozhikode district, has a significant place in the history of peasant struggles in Kerala along the lines of Punnapura Vayalar and Kaiyur struggles. More than 10 peasants from Onjium village became martyrs in the course of peasant struggle. This time around, Com. Dipankar was the Chief Guest in Onjium Martyrs Memorial Convention organized by the Left Coordination Committee while, quite ironically, Pinarayi Vijayan, state secretary of CPI(M) was the Chief Guest in a similar programme organized by their party in the same village. The seminar was a culmination of a week-long campaign in memory of the martyrs and was attended by more than 1000 people.
Com. Dipankar called upon genuine Left forces in the State to join the struggle for rejuvenation of the Left movement in the State against the political opportunism and degeneration of the government-centric CPI(M) and the forces of social democracy. Comrade Chandrasekar, president of the Left Coordination Committee and Com. Hariharan, State Committee member and editor of Janshakthi, their magazine, also addressed the convention. Com. Hariharan called for the formation of broad Left forum for the revival of the Left movement in the state.
Comrades Shankar, CCM, John K Erumeli, state secretary of CPI(ML), Joy Peter, SLTM, Venugopalan of IIMS, Balasubramanian and Jayaprakash, working class vanguards from Pricol, Coimbatore also participated in the convention.
AICCTU held solidairty meetings and demonstrations on May 10, the day AIKM is being founded. In Chennai, a small public meeting was held in Ambattur Industrial Estate. Speakers lambasted the TN govt, for going back on its promise to allot 2 acres of land for the rural poor and remaining a mute spectator in the Judge Dinakaran illegal land grab issue. Com. Devaki, State VP of AIPWA demanded equal wages be paid for women in NREGA. In Tirunelveli, a demonstration was held in Kallur of Suthamalli panchayat, where agricultural workers live in large numbers. In Kanyakumari, a demonstration was held, in which around 100 unorganised workers participated.
AISA Shows Black Flag to Chidambaram
Hundreds of students participated in a massive protest demonstration on the night of 5th May 2010 in JNU, greeting Home Minister P. Chidambaram with black flags and slogans when he came to address an NSUI public meeting on 'Naxalism: A Threat to Indian Democracy and Internal Security'. A large number of students spontaneously responded to All India Students' Association's (AISA’s) call to protest Chidambaram’s visit. Some other groups including the DSU too called for a protest.
The students protested Operation Greenhunt, draconian acts like the UAPA and AFSPA, the Home Ministry’s refusal to allow a judicial enquiry into the Batla House ‘encounter,’ and reluctance to ban terror-tainted Sangh outfits like Abhinav Bharat, and inaction in bringing those responsible for the Babri Masjid demolition and communal violence to justice.
During the Home Minister's visit to JNU, he found support from activists of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) - who raised slogans in favour of the Operation Green Hunt.
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: 22442790, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.cpiml.org