AIPWA Demonstration at Lucknow Assembly Demanding Justice for Farzana
On 21 November, AIPWA and
Tehrik-e-Niswan held a Protest March and Demonstration at the Lucknow Vidhan Sabha demanding that Mulayam Singh take responsibility for the breakdown of secularism and justice and resign. The Demonstration with hundreds of women from districts all over UP was addressed by AIPWA President Srilata Swaminathan and General Secretary Kumudini Pati, as well as UP State President Ajanta Lohit.
The protestors hailed the courage of Farzana Khatoon, the rape victim of the Mau riots, and Seema Yadav, another rape victim from Kushinagar, and accused the State Government of shielding the rapists. Farzana and her daughter were gang-raped during the Mau riots. The High court has indicted the Administration of protecting the perpetrators and had declared that it is “not possible to expect a fair and impartial investigation by the present prosecuting agency”. Despite two HC orders, the guilty are yet to be prosecuted. Instead, the main accused has been fielded as a candidate by the BJP in the Mau civic polls.
Several women’s organisations joined the demonstration at the Assembly. The protestors demanded swift punishment for the rapists and sacking the Mau SP for failing to record the statements of Farzana and her daughter.
Student Movement in Bhagalpur
A remarkable month-long student movement has recently concluded in Bhagalpur University. It began with PG students demanding extension of exam dates, in view of the fact that the syllabus was as yet incomplete. Bhagalpur University has no VC, and the Zonal DIG was appointed as the Caretaker VC! The movement soon took on a mass dimension when students, most of them women, gheraoed the Exam Officer. Later, Shahnawaz Hussain, the Education Minister, was also gheraoed by women students. The Education Minister promised that the demands would be met within 5 days, but this promise was soon broken. Subsequently, the Governor assured a delegation of students that the gap between exams would be increased though the dates would not be extended. Even this assurance proved to be false.
AISA soon emerged as the leader of this movement. Repression grew, with localities being ‘combed’ to hunt out AISA activists, and women students in particular were targeted and intimidated. Despite all the attempts by the police to scare the families of the women students, local support for the student movement grew, and mass mobilisation and women’s presence in the struggle refused to abate.
AISA State Council members Vimlendu and Janmajay – both bright students – were arrested, tortured in police lock-up and sent to Bhagalpur Jail (one of the most notorious jails in Bihar, supposed to be reserved for hardened criminals). They were denied bail even though they had exams which they ended up missing.
At a public gathering to be addressed by CM Nitish Kumar, students confronted the CM, who in his speech made some vague assurances and accepted a memorandum from the students. But when students sought to meet him, they were beaten up by the police. However, the students’ determined resistance and the public outcry that followed the repression on students in the CM’s presence, forced the Government to extend the exam dates.
The movement was successful - and the struggle to ensure the release of AISA comrades from jail continues.
Readers of Liberationare
already aware of the land struggles in Bisam Cuttack (in Rayagada district of Orissa). A section of notorious landlords, in collusion with corrupt officials and police, has virtually declared war against the most oppressed and deprived of the rural poor, the tribals who dared to rise for their right and dignity. Since July last year this organized offensive resulted in the arrest of nearly 50 activists (including some important dist. leaders), imposition of false cases under Section 302 even on some main leaders like Comrade Tirupati Gomango, killing of one of our tribal women activists, Comrade Yasodha Nauri, attack on the local party office at Bisam Cuttack, partly demolishing it, and burning the houses of our activists in villages.
The feudal forces started spreading an illusion about “village peace” and identified CPI(ML) as the peace-breaker; they also claimed that if ML could be eradicated and “peace” established they could go for “give & take” policy on land conflicts at a village level. In addition, a section of the media also wrongly posed the conflict in Bisam Cuttack as between “villagers” versus CPI(ML) or Naxalites.
In confronting this two-pronged offensive we adopted the course of organizing some instant resistance and protest campaigns. We intensified exposure campaigns, maintained links with the people of Bisam Cuttack even in difficult times of repression, activated the people of adjacent areas in the protest campaign and mobilized them in the struggle for implementation of NREGS, BPL card scheme etc., pressurised the state govt. and involved civil liberty forces to undertake fact-finding visits to expose the terror campaign.
In this backdrop, we decided to organize a powerful show of strength on the soil of Bisam Cuttack after 4 months. A month-long political campaign among the rural poor in Rayagada dist. was also planned on land, employment, and dignity. It was not easy to organize this rally; rather we had to face a chain of obstacles and complexities. Firstly, the police in the initial stages refused to permit this rally in Bisam Cuttack with a plea of law & order problem. Just 3 days before the rally, permission was granted under continuous pressure of mass-opinion.
Secondly, the notorious landlords gang continued their threats to the people in some pockets to create a climate of terror before rally. They even threatened to launch a parallel rally on the some day and eventually issued a “Bandh call” on that day in Bisam Cuttack; but later were forced to withdraw it under public and police pressure.
Thirdly, Bisam Cuttack is an interior place without any developed means of communication and transportation system and landlord tried to threaten the owners of the vehicles which we had engaged to transport people. On the day of the rally when a small number of people from Kalahandi district arrived in a nearby railway station early in the morning, the landlords’ gangs chased them.
On our part, we took a determined stand to go for the rally in a peaceful way. Defying all odds and provocations, we ultimately went for the rally on the historic day of 7 November — anniversary of Russian Revolution. The procession started from our local office in Bisam Cuttack after the Party flag was hoisted and it was led by Politburo Member Comrade DP Bakshi, CCMs Khitij Biswal, Malleshwar Rao, Bangar Rao and Krishna Adhikary along with Bihar SCM Comrade Virendra Gupta and most of Orissa SCMs. The procession of rural poor and tribals passed through the entire town and culminated into a mass meeting. The speakers exposed the conspiracy of the Navin Patnaik Govt. of Orissa for a rapid reversal of land reform by offering thousands of acres of land to MNCs & corporate houses and unleashing brutal suppression on the rural poor who dared to organize themselves to fight for land.
A letter addressed to the participants of rally and written by 5 leading cadres in Gunupur jail including Comrade Meghnath Sabaro and Sarat Ch. Tripati was also read out. In this letter they said that their jail life was natural price for the struggle for rights & dignity of the poor and they had full confidence on the poor people of Bisam Cuttack that they would raise their united voice defying all obstacles & terror.
The successful conclusion of the November rally at Bisam Cuttack boosted the morale of the poor in that area and caused frustration in the landlords’ camp. Growing conflicts in the landlords’ camp are being reported and many sections of people have started realizing how a few notorious landlords utilized them for their narrow interests. Now we are preparing for the next round of more organized and planned offensive of rural poor by combining the issues of land, employment & corruption and through strengthening our organisation in the light of Barddhaman Convention guidelines.
Resolves to Uphold and Lead the People's Movement to New Heights
The state-level Cadre Con
vention in Agartala, on November 12-13, ended amidst spirited and confident slogans: ‘Uphold and lead the peoples movement and resistances throughout Tripura!’ The participants of the convention comprised Branch Secretaries, local, area, District and State committee members and other leading cadres from among women, tribals, tea garden workers, teachers, employees, student-youth. Many of them, disgruntled with CPM’s degeneration and betrayal of the people`s cause, joined CPI(ML) in the recent past. Comrades Swadesh Bhattacharya and Rubul Sharma, PB members of the Party, also attended and addressed the convention. The venue was dedicated to the memory of martyr Comrade Govind Teli. The Party flag was hoisted by Com. Swadesh Bhattacharya and homage was paid to great martyrs. Comrade Rubul Sharma, while inaugurating the convention, hailed the timely initiative, and called upon the comrades to firmly grasp the lessons, spirit and tasks of Burdwan Convention and seize the time and new opportunities for a brave and vigorous advance in Tripura.
The perspective paper presented by the Party State Committee and presentations made by 45-odd participants vividly picturised the situation prevailing in Tripura and the growing discontents and protests against the long tenure of CPI(M) rule. One of the women cadres recalled her experiences during the 1970s. She was then a young CPI(M) cadre. Tripura was reeling under the bloody grip of Congress misrule and terror. But sporadic initiatives and organized painstaking efforts by the small groups of committed and determined cadres brought about a miracle – which has now been betrayed by the opportunist and degenerated leadership of CPI(M). Now again, she asserted, Tripura, under CPI(M)-led misrule and terror is crying out for a new birth, and we must play the role of mid-wife. We can and we shall do it under the leadership of CPI(ML), she declared amidst thunderous applause.
In his last days, Nripen Chakravarty, an ideologue and one of the founder leaders of the CPI(M) and ex-chief minister of Tripura, came-up with a frank statement that the leftist governments in Tripura and West Bengal, were corrupt and barbaric and that a rule of jungle prevails in both the states. This generated a lot of in those days. And finally the CPI(M) leadership termed him ‘mad’. But now, even a section of the local CPI(M) leaders and ranks and some of the left front partners assert that things are even worse than what Nripen Babu had described. The Finance Minister is allegedly involved in on-line lottery scam. Corruption charges and sex scandals are not isolated incidents. Several CPI(M) leaders and ministers are alleged to be involved in such cases. Rural Development, Tribal Area Upliftment, Panchayati Raj, etc. symbolise unbounded, open, loot. Bribery, corruption-scam-scandal-loot etc. have become the established work-culture and set norms for the Panchayat, Autonomous District Council(Tribal Area), Block to leader-MLA-MP-minister and bureaucracy. The CPM-led Govt. is desperately neo-liberal policies in the name of ‘development’ in this tiny state full of nature`s gifts with self-sufficiency in food crops, cereals and other essential commodities. Employment generating projects/industries, health-care, education, etc. are pushed to the back-seat. Price rise is all-time high and far above the all-India scale. Unemployment, starvation and starvation-deaths, and suicides have grown significantly. Yet, the CPI(M) Govt. does not show any sincere political will to introduce the Agricultural Labour Law, 1986, and to bring the districts of Tripura under NREGA. Attempts are being made to introduce ‘Panchayati-Law’ within the ADC(tribal area) in a bid to curb the already limited autonomy. On the matter of illegal transfer of tribal-land, the CPM is often found siding with the illegal occupants. Ration cards are not distributed, and are instead used as a weapon of subordination and exploitation at will. BPL cards are issued to partisan families, no matter if they are well-to-do. Tea garden workers are denied even minimum wages and livelihood and are left to semi-slave conditions. A section of the CPM and even the women’s commission Chairperson defends rapes by its cadres and by Armed Forces by lamenting that ‘such things are normal in tribal society’. The CPI(M) Government has imposed the notorious AFSPA in several thanas in Tripura, and did not even bother to depose before the Jeevan Reddy Committee set up to enquire into the AFSPA.
But nothing could stop the voices of growing protests and popular resistance, the participants declared, and our initiatives are resulting in new expansions and growing assertions of our Party. The convention resolved: to leave no stone unturned to heighten people’s protests; to expose and resist the anti-people ‘Development’ policies; to raise a state-wide voice for implementation of NREGA in all the districts, and above all to frame a people’s charge-sheet against the CPM- led government and to form parallel People’s Committees of the Khet Mazdoor Sabha with the Party branch at its core at village and panchayat levels, as platforms of people’s revolutionary opposition. These apart, the convention drew a package programme to strengthen the Party further, including re-doubling the Party membership, bringing more and more women-members in the active role of party affairs, expanding the role of TUs, student- youth and employees.