A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 18, No. 20, 12 – 18 MAY 2015
The Janata Merger: Desperate Leaders, Disinterested Supporters
The merger of the six siblings of the erstwhile Janata parivar is a peculiar marriage of convenience where the benefits, if any, would accrue to Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad with the other siblings having to guard their shares of the family fortune on their own. But for Nitish Kumar's JDU and Lalu Prasad's RJD, the areas of influence of the other parties are clearly demarcated and rather mutually exclusive. Samajwadi Party calls the shots in UP while Deve Gowda and Chautala run their own fiefdoms in Haryana and Karnataka. Apart from an enhanced profile in Parliament, the merger will yield no real benefit to any of these parties.
While Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad are naturally most desirous of an immediate merger, the complications and challenges will also have to be faced primarily by them. The reality is both parties are faced with internal divisions. Jitan Ram Manjhi has already moved away from Nitish Kumar and it is well known that others who have stayed on with Nitish Kumar in the Assembly are not all happy with his leadership. Lalu Prasad is presiding over a declining and cracking support base – in the 2014 LS elections, his family members lost from Chhapra and Pataliputra, while Pappu Yadav who won from Madhepura defeating Sharad Yadav has had to face expulsion for challenging Lalu Prasad's family rule within the party.
For the last twenty-five years, Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar have been at the helm of power in Bihar. Lalu had begun with a huge fund of social support and goodwill; but when his party's tenure finally came to an end in February 2005, his government had come to be identified not only with widespread corruption, crime, utter malgovernance and absolute economic stagnation but also with systematic exclusion and marginalisation of dalits and extreme backward sections. The promised reign of social justice had turned into a reign of serial massacres and grave social injustice. Nitish Kumar had replaced Lalu Prasad promising development with justice, but after ten years in power he has little to show except his opportunist track record of feudal subservience, arrogance of power, bureaucratic governance and betrayed promises.
The two previous occasions when the Janata experiment succeeded at the centre, it was marked by hope. 1977 had come with the promise of restoration of democracy after long nineteen months of Emergency. VP Singh had come with the promise of ending corruption and ensuring universal right to work. Even when he left without keeping these basic promises, he had earned considerable goodwill having partially implemented the recommendations of the Mandal Commission and refused to bow to the communal offensive of the BJP. But whether in Bihar and UP, or Karnataka and Haryana, the Janata regimes have been marked by corruption and compromises with feudal-communal forces.
The Samajwadi Party, the leading component of the Janata Parivar and whose leader Mulayam Singh Yadav is the declared president of the planned merger, is currently in power in UP and its tenure has been marked by dozens of communal riots, corruption, crime and corporate land-grabbing amidst deepening agrarian crisis. The UP government is even ready to allow acquisition of as much as 20% of cultivable land in every district. It is this baggage of betrayal and absence of any policy alternative which explains why the merger plan of the Janata parivar has failed to evoke much political interest or enthusiasm even among the supporters or voters of these parties. The revolt of Jitan Ram Manjhi does not of course provide any answer, for Manjhi continues to seek his political fortune through continued hobnobbing with the BJP and its feudal-communal politics.
Ahead of the forthcoming Assembly elections, the political situation in Bihar thus continues to be marked by fluidity and churning. As indicated most recently by the municipal elections in West Bengal, the Modi wave has begun to subside and the BJP is facing widespread disillusionment of the masses. The merger of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad with the sole purpose of holding on to power has failed to generate any wider appeal. The people are of course not waiting for the elections and are out on the streets with their burning demands. The Left and other fighting forces must come forward at this juncture to provide an alternative political agenda and direction to the common people of Bihar.
AICCTU's 9th National Conference Held in Patna
All India Central Council of Trade Unions' (AICCTU's) 9th National Conference was held in Patna on 4-6 May 2015. The conference began with a "workers' and farmers' rights" march from Gandhi Maidan culminating in a massive public meeting in which thousands of workers and farmers participated. The march was led by Comrades Swapan Mukherjee, Kumaraswamy, Nikolas from Greece, Bahadur Khatri and Kamlesh Jha from Nepal, and Tapan Datta from Bangladesh.
Addressing the meeting, CPI(ML) General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya pointed out the atrocities on workers and farmers in the Modi regime and said that this 9th National Conference of AICCTU was an important milestone in the fight for the rights of workers and farmers. He saluted the brave struggles of workers in the Maruti agitation, of contractual workers, of workers in Greece and Bangladesh, and all workers fighting for justice. Comrades Swapan Mukherjee, Rameshwar Prasad, Dhirendra Jha, Rajaram Singh, Shashi Yadav and others also addressed the meeting and pointed out that Bihar's Nitish government is equally guilty of suppressing workers' and farmers' rights as the Central Govt.
After the meeting, the inaugural session was held at Ravindra Bhavan. In his report, AICCTU national General Secretary Com. Swapan Mukherjee detailed the challenges before the working class and the dangers of the Modi Govt's pro-corporate policies. He called for greater unity of the working class to fight these challenges. He condemned the proposed amendments in the existing labour laws which would further kill workers' rights. He spoke of the historic all India labour strike of 20-21 Feb 2013 and other workers' agitations, including the 26 February 2015 "jail bharo" agitation and presented the "charter of struggles".
The second day of the conference started with the guest session addressed by Comrades Kumaraswamy (AICCTU's National President), Nikolas (WAFTU representative), Kamlesh Jha (Nepal Trade Union Mahasangh's EC member), Lal Bahadur Pakhrin (KONEP (Nepal) leader), Tapan Datta (Bangladesh Trade Union Centre), AK Padmanabhan (CITU President), DL Sachdeva (AITUC National Secretary), Shivgopal Mishra (AIRF General Secretary), and also by representatives from UTUC, AIUTUC, TUCC, and HMS.
The delegate session started in the second half of 5 May and continued on 6 May. 54 delegates including representatives of construction workers, contractual workers, ASHA and midday meal workers, as well as delegates from organized sectors like rail, steel, bank, coal, tea estates, jute, transport, and government services, expressed their views on the General Secretary's report. They spoke of the challenges faced by workers in their fields and were unanimous in stressing the need for unity of all workers for a successful fight for justice. Com. Swapan Mukherjee said all constructive suggestions would be included in the report, after which the report was passed unanimously.
Finally, a 195 member national council was formed, and from among them a 66 member national executive and 39 office bearers were elected. Com. Kumaraswamy was elected national President and Com. Rajiv Dimri was elected national General Secretary. 21 Vice Presidents and 16 Secretaries were also elected.
The conference resolved to fight for regularization of ASHA and transport workers, stopping of attacks on migrant workers and their voting rights, protesting against the plan to dissolve Coal India, as well as other issues of workers' rights. The resolutions that were passed included- announcement of a nationwide hartal on May 26 during the joint trade union meeting; active participation in the 100-day AIPF workers' and farmers' rights campaign; opposing the amendments in the child labour laws; supporting the teachers' hartal in Bihar, and actively supporting the central government workers' hartal on 23 November. The conference was energized and enthused by songs and programmes by units of Jan Sanskriti Manch and Hirawal. Around 600 delegates participated in the conference.
Kisan Mahasabha Hunger Strike in Lucknow
The Uttar Pradesh State unit of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha sat on a hunger strike at the Lakshman Mela Maidan in Lucknow on 4-5 May with a 13 point charter of demands including passing a law for protection of sharecroppers' rights and including them in compensation for loss of crops through unseasonal rains and hailstorms. Farmers from various districts sat on the hunger strike after a march from Charbagh station, under the leadership of comrades Ishwari Prasad Kushwaha and Jaiprakash Narayan.
Addressing the dharna, Com. Kushwaha said that in a State where farmers were desperate and committing suicide, the plight of sharecroppers was the worst. He pointed out that sharecroppers had to bear the brunt of a double disaster; they had paid 10-20,000 per acre, and now their crops were also destroyed. He exhorted the sharecroppers not to commit suicide but to fight for their rights of compensation and relief. He said that the rich were taking the benefit of the compensation money as the land is in their names. He demanded compensation for the sharecroppers and also waiver of loans for poor farmers and sharecroppers.
CPI(ML) CC member Krishna Adhikari said that while farmers were committing suicide in distress, the Akhilesh government was snatching land from them in the name of the Project Tiger. She demanded immediate scrapping of Project Tiger. The meeting was also addressed by Comrades Ramdarash, Allauddin Shastri, Kamlesh Rai, Rajesh Verma, Rama Gairola, Rajiv Kushwaha, Ram Singh, and Ramesh Singh Sengar.
A 13 point memorandum was submitted to the Chief Minister which included the following chief demands: immediate steps to correct the heavy irregularities in the survey and loot of compensation money; 25 lakh compensation for families of suicide and shock deaths; free diesel, seeds and fertilizers to the affected farmers; minimum monthly pension of 5,000 to farmers above 60 years; MNREGA to be associated with agricultural work; immediate payment of arrears to sugar cane farmers; immediate stopping of oppression of farmers affected by the Kanhar project in Sonbhadra district; and re-issue of the notification on the project.
Farmers' Dharna in Vaishali
33 mahadalit families have been for years settled on Bihar government land in Chainpur Baghel village of Sahdeyi Bujurg block. The government had arranged for 1.5 decimal housing land for each of them, in which houses had been built under the Indira Awas Yojana. Now the number of families has increased to 150 who manage by living in thatched houses made of dried grass. These 150 families are mainly sharecroppers who also do construction work in their spare time. As they refused to work in a neighbouring landlord's land, a case of encroachment of Bihar government land was put against them in the High Court and a fake impostor was produced in court who gave it in writing that they had encroached upon government land meant for roads. The HC had issued directions in 2011 for removal of the encroachments. These poor mahadalits had no knowledge of any of these events. They came to know about it when on 1st March the authorities came with JCBs to raze down their settlement. People protested in hundreds and the administration had to turn back.
Under the banner of the Kisan Mahasabha it was decided to hold protests and agitations and file a petition in the HC for review of the verdict. Poor from the neighbouring villages also extended support and solidarity to these families. A case for review of the decision was registered in the HC on 11 March and on 12 March hundreds of farmers staged a dharna in front of the DM demanding– suspension of the old verdict until fresh directions from the HC; 5 decimal housing land for each family; and fixation of sharecropping rates by the government.
Presently the district administration has stayed the proceedings to implement the HC decision of removing the settlement. The dharna was led and addressed by Kisan Mahasabha leaders comrades Vishveshwar Prasad Yadav, Arvind Kumar Choudhury, Pramod Kumar, Harinarayan Singh, and CPI(ML) District Secretary Com. Yogendra Rai.
CPI(ML) Leader Brutally Attacked in Bihar
Com. Upadhyay Yadav, a young CPI(ML) leader and a member of Jahanabad Zila Parishad, Bihar, was shot by miscreants on the morning of 2nd May and was admitted to hospital battling for life. Com. Upadhyay Yadav had been in the forefront of a movement in Ratni block on the issue of paddy purchase. During the movement, the block headquarters had been blocked completely for three days and due to the pressure generated by the movement the administration had to relent. The daylight attack on leaders raising the issues of the marginalized and oppressed once again expose the shallow claims of 'good governance' (sushaasan) in Bihar. Protesting against the attack on Com. Yadav and demanding immediate arrest of his attackers, a Jahanabad-Arwal bandh was called on 3 May 2015. The call for bandh found massive support from the people and the roads remained swarmed with the protestors. CPI(ML) has called for another protest in front of the DM's office on 15 May demanding the arrest of the attackers.
CPI(ML) Leader Arrested for Leading Popular Agitation for Electricity
Com. Vinay Santhalia, CPI(ML) leader from Rajdhanwar (Giridih, Jharkhand) who has been leading a popular agitation in Giridih for electricity, was arrested on 10 May on false charges filed against him for leading this agitation. Several CPI(ML) leaders and locals have been framed in false cases. In fact it was the police which had injured several agitators by firing bullets at them. Under the pressure from CPI(ML) leadership, the administration had apologized and promised to withdraw false charges, however, this arrest exposes the administration's plan to repress the struggle. The agitation and resistance will continue till the demands of the people are met and false framing withdrawn.
AISA's 8th National Conference held in Delhi
AISA's 8th national conference was held in New Delhi on 10-11 May, in the north campus of the Delhi University. The inaugural session of the 2-day national conference was addressed by CPI(ML) general secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, human rights activist Prashant Bhushan, DUTA President Nandita Narain, AIPWA secretary Comrade Kavita Krishnan and leaders of SFI, AISF, DSF and AIDSO. Around 300 delegates from Delhi, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Karbi Anglong, Madhya Pradesh, Maharshtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu attended the conference.
Welcoming the delegates and guests at the inaugural session, AISA's national president Sucheta De pointed that the conference was being held in the backdrop of several dangerous policy changes being mooted by the Modi government. She stressed that the student community and the student movement has the historic responsibility to oppose the systematic saffronisation of education, the choice-based credit system, the common Central University Act and RUSA.
DUTA President Nandita Narain said that the proposed CBCS was just FYUP in another form, and should be opposed by another movement on the scale of the anti-FYUP movement. She underlined the fact that the blueprint of privatisation of education was put in place by the previous UPA government, and is now being aggressively pursued by the Modi government. Pointing out that various Indian governments are following WTO diktats to declare education as a 'tradeable commodity', she added that the script of selling out education is being written globally. Human rights advocate Prashant Bhushan also addressed the conference and said that sycophants and ideologues of the RSS are being placed at the head of all the institutions of our country. All dissent is being curbed and activists are being hounded. Prof Saibaba who is 80% disabled is denied bail, while Salman Khan who has been clearly convicted is granted bail immediately, he added.
CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, addressing the conference, noted that the conference was being held on the anniversary of the historic 1857 war of independence against the colonial British rule. He said that the significance and relevance of 1857 is all the more relevant now, when the ruling government is hell-bent on instituting a new form of 'Company Raj' and carrying forward the British legacy of divide and rule. Kavita Krishnan welcomed the conference on behalf of AIPWA as well as the All India Peoples' Forum (AIPF), and said that students have a historic role to play in challenging the ideological assaults of the ruling powers. "Today, the likes of Dinanath Batra try to tell us that it is 'anti-national' to blow candles and cut a cake on one's birthday, while it is perfectly patriotic to deny Indian students the right to a decent, quality and affordable education! They try to tell us that it is 'women's empowerment' to prevent women from marrying men of their choice - the entire patriarchal and communal Love Jihad campaign is being run in the name of protecting women's rights. In such a situation, it is students and youth who can play a very crucial role in redefining the meaning of 'nationalism', and women's rights", she said.
Addressing the conference, Vishwajeet, national secretary of AISF, said that the need of the hour was to unitedly oppose the blatant commercialisation of education as well as the replacement of history and science with myth. Ashok, national secretary of AIDSO, also spoke in detail of the nature of assaults on the education sector. Sunand, Delhi secretary of SFI and Ishan from the DSF also addressed the conference, and stressed on the need for collective, united resistance of left and progressive student organisations to the ongoing policy assaults. Several speakers pointed out that the so-called 'reforms' were actually 'deforming' the education sector as well as workers, peasants and the poor.
During the 2-day conference, student leaders and activists deliberated in detail on the need to oppose CBCS, RUSA, the common Central University Act and the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations. Detailed documents on the intent and content of all these policies were presented at the conference. The conference discussed AISA's initiatives and plans for the future in various states. It also planned nation-wide protests and agitations against these policy assaults - demanding their roll back and also demanding thoroughgoing efforts to ensure social inclusion in education. Implementation of the Thorat Committee report, the Sachar committee recommendations, setting up cells to address sexual harassment in all campuses, enhancement of funds for financial assistance, and for SC/ST hostels and scholarships were also discussed. It was also resolved to oppose the Modi government's plans to officially accept the addition of education under WTO/GATS.
A 57-member National Executive and a 115-member Council was elected. Comrades Farhan Ahmed, Ranjeet Kramsa, Rinki and Ranajoy were elected as Vice Presidents. Comrades Sunil Maurya, Ajit Kushwaha, Saikat Maity and Abhilasha were elected as joint secretaries. Comrade Sucheta De was elected as AISA's National President, while Comrade Sandeep Saurav was elected as national General Secretary.
AIPF's Convention against Communal Riots Held in Bhagalpur
The All India People's Forum (AIPF) held a day-long convention against communal riots, violence and hate-mongering on 10 May at the Gandhi Peace Foundation in Bhagalpur. It has been twenty five years since the horrific communal riots in Bhagalpur, and AIPF's convention, titled 'How to understand and fight communalism: Questions arising 25 years after the Bhagalpur riots', was organised to reflect on the current challenges of aggressive communal fascism in India. Several riot survivors, intellectuals and human rights activists participated in this convention.
At the convention, several riot survivors talked about the horrors they had faced, and the nature of their ongoing battle for justice. Many of them pointed out that for two decades, so-called forces of 'social justice' have been ruling in Bihar, and yet they have received absolutely no justice. A film on the Bhagalpur riots was also screened at the convention. This film showcased the sham behind the so-called 'relief and rehabilitation' of the riot victims. The riot survivors pointed out that after the riots, hundreds were displaced from their homes. Even now, twenty five years after the riots, feudal forces in the area are still in control of the victims' homes and hundreds continue to remain displaced. The atmosphere of fear and intimidation still continues, even as riot victims as well as activists continue to take forward the battle against communal hate-mongering, riots and violence.
Activists who have been campaigning against communal fascism, such as Mani Khan, Prof. Manoj, Prof. Farooq Ali, Anisur Rehman Qasmi, Mohd. Shahbaz, Mallika Begum, as well as CPI(ML) Politburo member Comrade Dhirendra Jha, former MLA Satyadev Ram and Dr. Sharad Jaiswal from Kanpur also addressed the convention. The convention was conducted by AIPF's national council member Dr. Mukesh Kumar, and RYA leader comrade Om Sudha gave the valedictory speech. The convention resolved to strengthen the struggle for adequate compensation, rehabilitation, pension, basic rights such as education, healthcare and housing and justice for the victims of the Bhagalpur riots.
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