By naming the 14th round of the week-long quarterly Janmabhoomi as Raita Janmabhoomi, Chandrababu Naidu wanted to get some mileage from the ongoing crisis of the peasantry in the state by showing that his government was concerned about them. Contrary to his calculations, the programme encountered a spate of mass protests so much so that his ministers and MLAs were gheroaed in hundreds of villages at the call of the coordination committee of Left-led peasant associations. Chandrababu himself was heckled at two places including by CPI(ML) activists in Chebrolu village of East Godavari district. Generous distribution of one lakh LPG connections, rice coupons to destitutes under Annapoorna scheme, and pattas for house-sites and agricultural land etc. failed to pacify the masses.
The people of Chebrolu got wind of Chief Ministers visit to their village only the previous night when the police swooped down on the village and arrested the village committee president of Andhra Pradesh Kisan Sabha led by CPI(ML) Liberation and a woman whole-timer from AIPWA. The houses of CPI(ML) activists and leaders in nearby villages were also raided. That day in the morning Comrade Pilla Mariamma, Party incharge of that mandal, was arrested when she was proceeding towards Chebrolu village. There was a huge mobilisation of police force in that village to prevent any demonstration by Liberation activists. The entire area was cordoned off and outsiders and regular traffic were not allowed. Despite such security measures, Comrade Arjun Rao, District Secretary of the Kisan Sabha managed to enter the gram sabha meeting being addressed by Chandrababu Naidu. While Mr. Naidu started speaking he challenged Chandrababu Naidu saying that if he was really keen on discussing with the people about their problems why had he let his police trample peoples democratic rights by arresting left activists. He also dared him to answer his questions about the problems of different sections of peasants. Chandrababu merely abused him saying that he was a red-flag waving trouble-maker. He accused the communists of disturbing all his meetings to gain political mileage. After two minutes of such dialogue Comrade Arjun Rao was beaten up by the police and physically removed from the spot.
Earlier, in the course of the week-long programme, in 12 different villages two MLAs, two MPs, one minister and several officers were geraoed by CPI(ML) and Kisan Sabha activists and the masses.
In Kottapadu village of Krishna district, the convoy of the Chairman of Marketing Committee was stopped and he was gheraoed by CPI(ML) Liberation comrades.
Now, there are two issues which are creating a fresh wave of awareness and initiative in all districts of our work -- famine and electricity. Over the past six months Udaipur, Jhunjunu, Dungarpur, Banswara, Rajsamnd, Chittorgarh and Jaipur have seen an escalating series of protests -- from dharanas to gheraos, road bloacks, gheraoing of minister, chief minister, zilla parishads etc. These two issues have revitalised our kisan front. As economic hardship is hitting greater and greater sections of the rural masses -- third year of famine, and rising prices of diesel, kerosene, and other agricultural inputs etc. -- the people are spontaneously turning against the Congress and the BJP. Even the middle peasants and sections of the rich peasantry, who have been their traditional supporters, are having second thoughts and are searching for an alternative. In many areas spontaneous protests led by local leaders have increased. Such protests against the government have taken place in Tonk, Devali, Jhunjunu, Kotpatli, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Rajsamand and, the other day, in Nagaur, the farmers, in a public meeting, stoned and chased away the Chief Minister and Power Minister.
In Jhunjunu district, 400-500 farmers under the CPI(ML)-RKS leadership forced the Zilla Parishad to pass a unanimous resolution opposing the privatisation of electricity, on 4 January 2001. The gherao went on the whole day till the Congress-dominated ZPgave in.
The gherao of the Vidhan Sabha on 1 November 2000 proved to be a milestone for us and and we are getting a positive response from the rural masses.
In October 2000, a District Coordination Committee of RKS was formed in Jhunjunu with 41 members. Their membership target is 5,000 by March 2001 and they will also hold tehsil and district conferences.
Dungarpur district unit of RKS has taken up a target of 1,000 members while the Salumbar-Dhariwad area of Udaipur district has targeted a membership of 3,000.
State-level reorganisation of RKS is also being planned with a membership target of 20,000 by the end of 2001. There is great potential for small, poor and even middle peasants joining our organisation. The Fourth State Conference (which is now two years overdue) would be held by the end of this year.