A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 14, No. 30, 19 – 25 JULY 2011
The Gorkhaland Accord –
A New Turn in the Politics of the Hills and North Bengal
Even as Telangana continues to burn, the UPA government claims to have found a solution to the Gorkhaland agitation with the signing of a tripartite agreement involving the central government, Government of West Bengal and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. The agreement was formalized at a public ceremony in the hills on 18 July, marking the replacement of the existing Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council by a more powerful Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. The formation of the GTA has triggered measured jubilation in the hills of Darjeeling while Siliguri and Dooars region of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts have been marked by repeated bandhs called by various organizations opposed to the existing agreement or jittery about the possibility of inclusion of additional areas within the territory of Gorkhaland.
The GTA will have 50 members – 45 elected and 5 nominated – as opposed to the 42-member DGHC which used to have only 28 elected members and as many as 14 nominated members. Apart from substantially increasing the number of elected members, the agreement also confers considerably enhanced powers on the GTA – 59 departments including school and college education as opposed to the DGHC jurisdiction which covered only 19 departments. This of course means the GTA will have much more funds at its disposal and will also enjoy powers to sanction a larger pool of posts and recruit a bigger contingent of employees. Additionally, the inclusion of the term Gorkhaland in the name of the new administrative arrangement too goes some way to honour the sentiment of the movement. The contentious issue of territorial jurisdiction has however been referred to a committee.
It may however take quite some time for the new arrangement to come into force. The existing DGHC Act will have to be repealed and a new GTA Act will have to be passed. The creation of 45 constituencies will also require fresh delimitation, and the Morcha quite understandably would not like this to happen till the issue of territorial jurisdiction is resolved in a satisfactory manner. At the time of formation of DGHC in the late 1980s, there was an understanding that apart from the three hill segments of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong, several other adjoining areas with sizable Nepali-speaking population would be brought under the DGHC's jurisdiction. But that never happened then and now it will surely be much more difficult given the emergence of several identity-based organizations and movements in Jalpaiguri, Coochbehar and the plain areas of Darjeeling.
The reasons behind the rapid formalization of the GTA deal are not difficult to understand. Within the hills the GJM is obviously keen to consolidate its position. The GJM leader Bimal Gurung was once a lieutenant of the GNLF leader Subash Ghisingh, but over the last few years the GJM has successfully marginalized the GNLF. Rival Gorkha leader Madan Tamang, President of Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League was also brutally killed allegedly by GJM activists on 21 May, 2011. With little contentivon within the hills, the GJM swept the recent Assembly elections in the hills winning not only the three hill segments but also the adjoining seat of Kalchini. Mamata Banerjee too wanted a quick deal to score yet another point for her new government. And to top it all, the beleaguered UPA government battling a powerful Telangana agitation in Andhra Pradesh, wanted to use Gorkhaland as a counterpoint. It is another matter that Telangana is unlikely to be pacified with an autonomy offer of the GTA type, and once the Centre concedes Telangana, it will be difficult to stop the Gorkhaland movement from escalating once again.
It is ironical that communists were the first to raise the Gorkhaland demand way back in the 1940s, but when the movement gathered momentum in the 1980s, the CPI(M)-led government sought to crush it by force. In the process, the CPI(M) also stoked the fires of Bengali chauvinism, virtually forcing the hill wing of the party to rebel and regroup as a separate communist organization called CPRM (Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists). The failure of the CPI(M) to meet the democratic aspirations of the Gorkha people and a section of CPI(M) leadership's opportunist indulgence in chauvinistic political discourse to stall the Gorkhaland demand has thoroughly discredited the CPI(M) in the hills and made it easier for Mamata Banerjee to strike a deal with GJM even as she continues to rule out any potential division of Bengal as a state.
With the emergence of the GTA and the transformation of the GJM as the new ruling party in the hills, politics in the hills will surely enter a new phase. The CPI(ML) will extend every assistance to the CPRM and other progressive forces in the hills to carry forward the democratic movement in the region in the changed circumstances. The people of Darjeeling had been disillusioned with the GNLF and the DGHC – it now remains to be seen how far the GTA arrangement can fulfill the democratic aspirations of the Gorkha people and other communities living in the hills. Meanwhile, all statehood and autonomy agitations in the country will surely draw inspiration from the GTA accord to press for the fulfillment of the pending statehood and autonomy demands.
Land Scam Calls Nitish Kumar's 'Anti-Corruption' Bluff
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has been making appearances with Anna Hazare and promising a Lokayukta in the state, in order to boost his 'anti-corruption' image. After being elected CM, one of his foremost promises was to act against the corrupt. But allegations of a Yeddyurappa-style land scandal have called his bluff.
Earlier too, the Nitish Government had been implicated in corruption by the CAG revelations of a treasury scam. The Nitish Government blocked a CBI enquiry into that scam.
Now, the CM and his Government stand implicated of allotting Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA) plots to sons, daughters and close relatives of ministers, MPs and MLAs of the ruling NDA alliance, at throwaway prices, circumventing the procedure of inviting tenders.
The Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority, a government body, allots land for industrial units as per rules and tenders. The BIADA website shows that Bihar Human Resources Development Minister P K Shahi's daughter Urvashi Shahi has been allotted 87,120 sq ft, while JD-U MLA Jagdish Sharma's son Rahul Sharma has been allotted 15,500 sq ft. Similarly, Rehmat Fatima, daughter of Social Welfare Minister Perveen Amanullah and senior Indian Administrative Service officer Afzal Amanullah has also been allotted 87,120 sq ft.
BJP MLAs' sons and daughters have also been allotted BIADA land. Among the beneficiaries from BJP is former MLA Awdhesh Narayan Singh's son, who has been allotted 2,17,800 sq ft. Another BJP member of legislative council Ashok Agarwal's son Saurabh was also allotted large BIADA plots. All these allotments were made without inviting tenders.
It must be remembered that the Forbesganj police atrocity and firing happened when villagers protested when BJP legislative councillor, Ashok Aggarwal, following allotment of land by BIADA for his son's private factory, tried to encroach on a public road with the collusion of BIADA and other authorities. Not only is the Nitish Government using political power to gift away government land to their own leaders and their kin, they are unleashing brutal repression on people who expose illegalities and resist land grab.
Under pressure, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said that Bihar Chief Secretary will conduct an inquiry on the issue. But such a probe cannot carry much credibility.
The CPI(ML) held a protest dharna in Patna on 19 July against the Forbesganj firing, demanding arrest and prosecution of the BJP MLC, Araria DM and SP and police personnel involved in the killing and atrocities. The CPI(ML) held the government's judicial enquiry to be a sham, and also demanded an enquiry into the emerging land-allotment scam, which was also at the root of the Forbesganj firing. Slogans were raised – 'Land to the favoured and bullets for the poor – Nitish Govt must answer for this!'
The dharna was addressed by former MLA and AIKM General Secretary Rajaram Singh, AIPWA National Vice President Saroj Chaubey, AIKM Bihar President K D Yadav, former MLA and CPI(ML) State standing committee member Arun Singh, AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari, and many other CPI(ML) activists. The dharna was conducted by Murtaza Ali and presided over by former MLA Mahbub Alam.
Land Grab Near Varanasi
The Supreme Court, which upheld the Allahabad HC's stand that the land acquisition in Sahberi (Greater NOIDA) was illegal, said that the state was the "biggest land grabber." It held that the UP Govt., launching a "sinister campaign," had taken advantage of the "colonial law" on land acquisition to grab prime agricultural land from farmers, paying the latter a "pittance," and giving the land to builders and real estate businesses for multiplexes, malls, and posh residential complexes. When the advocate representing one of the builders said the residential complexes were for the "needy," the Supreme Court Bench retorted, "Do you think judges live in fools' paradise? You are building hotels, malls, commercial complexes, townships where common men have no access. Does it come under the perception of public purpose for which the land has been acquired?"
Greater NOIDA is just one among the scores of places in UP where land is being grabbed for the poor in favour of the rich. Popular protests against land acquisition have broken out in several places near Varanasi. The AIKM and CPIML) visited each of these places and extended active and consistent participation and support. Below is a brief outline of the major issues in these struggles, based on facts narrated by protesting farmers to the AIKM and CPI(ML) members.
Transport Nagar: 214 acres of land belonging to about 1292 farmers in Bairwan village under Rohania Police Station is to be acquired by the Varanasi Development Authority (VDA) for a transport hub on the Golden Quadrangle at Varanasi, on the Allahabad-Kolkata route. Farmers have been resisting this move on their costly land for the last 16 years. According to the VDA, about 350 farmers have given formal consent to sell their land for this purpose. But villagers say this figure is close to 100. And in order to acquire land from even this small number of farmers, the authorities used contractors and anti-social elements. On 5 July 2011, the VDA secretary visited the dharna where farmers had been agitating against the acquisition. He was detained there by the angry farmers. The DM ordered a brutal lathicharge, and about 5 leaders of the agitation were arrested and sent to jail.
Sewage Treatment Plant (STP): In Sathwa village near Sarnath, acquisition of about 108 acres of fertile farming land is underway for an STP for the multi-crore sewage disposal programme in Varanasi. After notices were served under Section 4 and 6, the farmers sat on a fast under the leadership of a local woman leader, Yashoda Patel. The DM visited the sit-in and told the farmers to sell their land. He told the agitating farmers that even the road to their village would have once been agricultural land. The farmers replied, "We use the road, but we do not need the STP. Moreover, it will be a source of disease for humans and plants."
The fast and sit-in continued for 59 days and finally the people won a temporary victory when the administration was forced to give in writing that the land would not be acquired and formal request for cancellation of Section 4 and 6 was sent by the District Administration to the State Government.
Garbage Dumping Ground (GDG): 75 bighas of farm land have been illegally acquired by the district administration in Karsana village, on the Varanasi-Mizrapur border. Section 4 and 6 were notified in 2007. The DM of Varanasi told the villagers that a handsome compensation of Rs. 32,000 per bissa (20 bissas make one bigha) would be paid to the affected farmers, while the farmers were demanding Rs 60,000.
In the beginning of 2010, some Pattedars were intimidated by local agents to sell their land. 9 Pattedars were paid cheques at the rate of Rs 4000 per bissa. This infuriated the farmers, and they refused to sign on the land mutation papers. Even the remaining 60 farmers have refused to hand over their land. As a result, all the 75 bighas of land are still officially in the name of the farmers. Yet, the administration moved ahead and perforce had a boundary wall built. A farmer threw himself in front of the JCB machine but was beaten up.
The pits and compost sheds are being made by a private company called A-to-Z, which has been given the contract by the Nagar Nigam for collection and dumping of garbage in Varanasi. The farmers have started a sit-in in the village from 29 June 2011 onwards. On 9 July the SDM reached the dharna with a large police contingent and assured the villagers that their land would not be taken without their consent.
Interestingly, the Environment Department has given its clearance for the project in spite of the fact that the river Ganga is only about half a kilometer from the GDG, and there are villages just 200 m from the site.
The protest against the GDG continues. On 17 July, around a dozen BHU teachers visited the dharna to meet the protesting farmers. The team of teachers was met with police making intimidatory gestures and raised lathis. If BHU teachers face such naked intimidation, one can imagine what the farmers are facing here.
Lotus Park: In Baraipur village near Sarnath, 85 bighas of land were to be acquired for building a Lotus Park. This low-lying waterlogged land had been allotted on an annual basis to 112 farmers. Without any prior information, their pattas were cancelled and the land transferred to the Nagar Nigam, Varanasi. One day the JCB machine reached the site but was met with resistance from the villagers. The work has stopped temporarily.
Protest Against Com. Tirupati Gamango's Arrest in Odisha
Comrade Tirupati Gamango, CPI(ML) Liberation Odisha state committee member, was arrested by a special squad of Odisha police for addressing a mass meeting in Kashipur block of Rayagada district. Comrade Tirupati had raised the issue of police atrocities and harassment of common tribal people in the name of anti-Maoist operations in the district. The Odisha police said this amounted to "supporting Maoist activities and demoralising the police force," and arrested him.
On 18 July, a state-level protest was held at Bhubaneshwar todemand the immediate release of Com. Tirupati Gamango. The protest was led by state committee member Com. Yudhistir Mohapatra, AICCTU State Secretary Com. Mahendra Parida, and AIALA State Secretary Com. Satyabadi Behera.
The march culminated in a public meeting in front of the Odisha Assembly. CPI(ML) leaders at the meeting said the arrest was a part of the witch-hunt of political activists and crackdown on democratic activities in the name of anti-Maoist operations. Ordinary tribal people are being branded as Maoist and arrested or killed in encounters, and democratic political activists were being targeted as well. The CPI(ML) said that if Com. Tirupati were not released, a state-wide agitation would be launched for his release.
AIALA , AICCTU, AIKM Leaders Visit Anti-POSCO Struggle
A team of AIALA, AICCTU AND AIKM leaders visited the site of the anti-POSCO struggle on 6 July to extend their solidarity. The team comprised Com. Rameshwar Prasad, National President, AIALA, Com. Dhirendra Jha, General Secretary, AIALA, Com. Khitish Biswal, Odisha Secretary, CPI (ML) Liberation, and Comrades Satyabadi Behera (AIALA Odisha Secretary) and Mahendra Parida (AICCTU Odisha Secretary).
The leaders visited Govindpur and Nuagaon villages where villagers are on a dharna resisting land grab. They joined the dharna led by women at Nuagaon and then joined the 'human barricades' at Govindpur.
Comrade Abhaya Sahoo, leader of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) welcomed the representatives of the mass organizations. Children participating in the dharna sang revolutionary songs and raised slogans against POSCO.
Com. Rameshwar addressed the protestors, extending solidarity on behalf of the AIALA to the brave struggle which was holding out against the joint moves by the BJD Government of Odisha and the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre to allow MNCs like POSCO to plunder the resources and grab the land and livelihood of the people.
Comrades Dhirendra Jha, Khitish Biswal, Satyabadi Behera and Mahendra Parida and Ashok Parida addressed the protestors.
Repression in Tripura
On 10-11 July, students and common people in Agartala, the capital of Tripura, have been subjected to severe police repression in the wake of an agitation against a new admission system in Tripura Medical College which undermines the state's reservation policy. Tripura Police and Tripura State Rifles beat up common people, pedestrians, journalists and photo journalists. On 11 July police firing claimed the life of a young boy Papai Saha.
Whereas the Tripura state reservation policy with provisions for Tripura-domicile students is supposed to apply in 85 seats barring the 15 central government seats, the Tripura Medical College introduced a new policy whereby the state policy will apply only in 55 seats out of 85, and the central government policy will prevail in the remaining 30 seats.
Excepting the ruling CPI(M)'s student wing SFI, all student organisations including AISA opposed this policy. The Tripura Medical College also hiked fees exorbitantly.
On 10 July, the date of the Entrance Examination of the Medical College, the Congress called a protest rally against this admission test. The Government declared 144 CRPC in the area. When the Congress procession approached the examination centres, the police, without any provocation, started a lathi charge, injuring many. Pedestrians, journalists, students who were passing by, and auto passengers were all severely assaulted by the police. 12 journalists and photo journalists were seriously injured.
On 11 July, the Congress called another protest procession. When it reached the Agartala Police station, someone threw stones at the Police station. The police then started another lathi charge, and the trigger-happy TSR men began firing indiscriminately. Six persons sustained bullet injuries, and hundreds of the general public were injured. One Papai Saha, a passer-by, was shot in the head and died on the spot.
After the incidence all over the State were virtually under the capricious torture and tyranny let loose by the CPM Govt. Police and the T.S.R. personal.
The CPIM State Secretary, in a press meet, did not apologise for the incident; rather he used abusive language against the journalists.
CPI(ML) held protest meetings at several places protesting the police firing, defying the police which tried to prevent the meetings. The party demanded a judicial enquiry into the incident as well as exemplary punishment for the police personnel responsible for the incident.
The party will organized a convention against the Tripura Government's authoritarian and repressive behaviour in Tripura on 28 July.
The CPI(ML) has been campaigning against intimidation and an attack by the MLA Raman Patkar from Umargam taluka in Valsad district of Gujarat. This attack took place on the villagers of Ghoriparha and Gadikparha villages on 13 June 2011, in which around 15 adivasi and dalit villagers including CPI(ML) leader Kapila Ben were seriously injured.
Even a month after the incident, the police failed to lodge any FIR against the perpetrators and the injured are yet to receive proper medical attention.
For the past three years, CPI(ML) has been organising adivasi peasants here against attempts by land mafia to grab their lands. On 15 July, a demonstration was held demanding an FIR against the perpetrators of the attack including the BJP MLA and arrest of the land mafia who have grabbed adivasis' lands. 300 adivasis including 80 women participated in the demonstration in spite of heavy rain. The demonstration took place at the DM's office and a memorandum of demands was presented to the DM and DSP.
The demonstration was led by Central Committee member Comrade Prabhat Kumar, State in-charge Ranjan Ganguly, Valsad district secretary Laxman Vadia and RYA leader Amit Patanwaria.
A similar memorandum had been sent to the Home Minister of the Central Government, and a delegation also met the Gujarat Governor.
On 9 August, in response to the national call of the party, a big dharna against corruption and price rise will be held at the Umargam taluka.
Condemn the Serial Bomb Blasts in Mumbai
In a statement issued from New Delhi, the CPI(ML) strongly condemned the serial blasts in Mumbai that have claimed the lives of 21 people and critically injured hundreds. The CPI(ML) termed such terrorist attacks dastardly and inhuman, and demanded that all efforts be made to bring the perpetrators to book.
The CPI(ML) extended heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed in this time of grief. Pointing out that those injured and the families of those killed in previous blasts received inadequate compensation and rehabilitation, and struggled even to meet medical expenses, the party demanded that the government ensure adequate compensation, medical care, and a life of dignity for all those affected by the blasts.
The party demanded a judicial enquiry into the custodial death of a man under police interrogation. In several cases in the past including the Batla House, Malegaon and Mecca Masjid cases, serious violations of human rights have taken place. Those incarcerated in jail have later been found to be innocent, and encounters have taken place under suspicious circumstances. Such violations of human rights and witch-hunt of minorities are not only unacceptable, they are also damaging to any credible investigation and effort to bring the real perpetrators to book. The party demanded that the highest standards of justice and human rights be maintained in the investigations into the blasts.
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: email@example.com, website: www.cpiml.org