11th Anniversary of Comrade VM’s Death
Sankalp Diwas to Intensify Struggles for Land, Livelihood, Democracy
December 18th, the 11th anniversary of the death of former party General Secretary Comrade Vinod Mishra was observed by CPI(ML) all over the country as Sankalp Diwas (pledge day) to intensify struggles for land, livelihood, and democracy.
A massive Bhoomi Sudhar Sankalp Sammelan (Convention to Pledge to struggle for land reforms) at Patna was addressed by Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya.
CPI(ML)’s State Secretary Comrade Nand Kishore Prasad addressed the Sankalp Diwas Convention at Siwan’s indoor stadium; Politburo member Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya and CPI(ML) MLA Comrade Ram Naresh Ram addressed the Convention at Arrah, while PBM Comrade Ram Jatan Sharma addressed the Convention at Jehanabad’s aerodrome grounds.
Sankalp Diwas programmes in the form of rallies, demonstrations, and People’s Conventions were held at all district headquarters of Bihar including Darbhanga, Bettiah, Gopalganj, Vaishali, Nalanda, Sasaram (Rohtas), Kaimur, Buxar, Arwal, Aurangabad, Gaya, Nawada, Lakhisarai, Samastipur, Muzaffarpur, Madhubani, Begusarai, Purnia, Araria, Supaul and Bhagalpur addressed by Central, State and local leaders of the Party.
In UP, a GBM was organised at Lucknow addressed by PBM Comrade Ramji Rai. At Sitapur, the Party’s first district conference was held; hundreds of Party members participated in the rally preceding the Conference, which was addressed by State Secretary Sudhakar Yadav and CCM Krishna Adhikari. A march against price rise was held in Kanpur, and large demonstrations were organised at tehsil HQs of Chunar and Madihan in Mirzapur on the question of land. A dharna was organised at the District HQ of Ambedkar Nagar. Programmes were also organised at Varanasi, Sonebhadra, Ghazipur, Ballia, Dewaria, Chandauli, Azamgarh, Bhadohi, Gorakhpur, Jalaun, Khiri, Pilibhit, Allahabad, Gonda and other places.
At Tamilnadu, the Party launched a mass campaign from December 18 to last till December 31. December 18 was observed as pledge day. In Tanjore, Cuddalore, Villupuram and Madurai districts, The December 18 Call was discussed in cadre meetings and committee meetings. In Krishnagiri a Convention on forest rights was held.
A pledge-taking public meeting was held on December 18 at Ambattur industrial area, Chennai. A mobilization of 1000 was planned and a 90% target was reached despite heavy rains for the past few days. Workers of Hyundai, Ashok Leyland, TIDC, women workers of Leela Scottish, trainees of Hyundai, unorganized and construction workers participated in the meeting. Comrades who have left SUCI and have developed a close relationship with our party also participated. Demands for a Trade Union Recognition Act, 50 kg free rice for the rural and urban poor, 2 acre land for the landless rural poor, and 5-cent house site patta were raised.
On December 19, a protest demo of AIALA was held in Punganur panchayat of Nagapattinam district, forcing the BDO to give assurance in writing to implement MGREGS. On 21 December, district-level mass agitations were held at Tiruvallur, Namakal and Salem at their respective district HQs. Around 1200 agricultural labourers and unorganized workers under the AIALA banner held a militant demonstration before the Collectorate in Tiruvallur district. The main demand was reclaiming of lands grabbed by Justice Dinakaran and redistribution among agricultural labourers and rural poor. In Namakkal, around 600 powerloom and unorganized labourers held a militant demonstration demanding 5-cent house site patta. In Salem, more than 700 construction, powerloom and unorganized workers, most of them women, held an impressive demonstration in front of the Collectorate. Here too, the demands were 5-cent house site patta
The Puducherry State Committee and Villupuram District Party unit held an impressive propaganda campaign opposing the anti-fishermen bill moved by the Central Government that the latter has been forced to defer due to protests. CPI(ML) and its mass organisations demanded scrapping of the bill completely.
In AP, a political campaign was organised from December 10-17 on land, livelihood and democracy which culminated on December 18. In Visakhapatnam, a team of 15 members conducted propaganda on December 10 and 11, distributed leaflets and held street corner meetings. On December 14, a team of 25 members campaigned in Rolugunta. On December 17 a 15 member team covered Cheedikada, a mandal HQ town. On December 18 a cadre meet was organised; Com. B.Vasu, District Secretary of Visakhapatnam led the campaign.
In Ananthpur district the week-long campaign was conducted in Ananthpur town as well as some rural pockets. On December 18, 150 members participated in the rally which culminated in a dharna before the Collectorate highlighting burning issues. In Krishna district, the campaign was conducted at Issannapeta, Chittapur, Chatrai, Nuzividu, and Vijayawada. On December 18, a Convention was held in which 400 people participated. In East Godavari Padayatras were held in Thondangi, Kotananduru, Routhulapudi, Yeleswaram, Prathipadu and Jaggampeta mandals. 50 to 100 people participated in each Padayatra. Comrades N Murty, Bangar Rao, Arjun Rao, Simhachalam, Ratnakumari, Latchababu, Ganesh, Nageswararao Gagababu and Chanti led these yatras. On December 18, a thousand-strong rally was held at Kakinada which culminated in a convention addressed by Comrades Bangar Rao, Nageshwar Rao and Arjun Rao.
At Delhi, the campaign centred on the rights of Delhi’s unorganised workers and poor, in which street corner meetings were held and handbills distributed in industrial areas and jhuggi clusters. On December 18, around 700 marched in a rally from Ramlila maidan to Jantar Mantar culminating in a massive protest meeting at Parliament Street.
At Punjab, cadre meetings were held at Mansa, Bathinda, Sangrur, Moga and Barnala. At Rajasthan, a Sankalp March and Convention were held at Jhunjhunu and Vuhana respectively.
At Orissa, Sankalp Diwas was observed at the State Headquarters at Nagbhushan Bhawan, Bhubaneswar, as well at Pipili, Delang, and Kanas in Puri District, Pattamundai, Rajakanika and Kendrapada in Kendrapada District, and Gosani in Gajapati District. Around 750 comrades attended the convention at Rayagada, around 150 at Pattamundai, and around 50 each at the other places. Comrades resolved to intensify the struggle on the question of adivasis’ land rights and against illegal mining, corporate loot and state repression in Orissa.
At Karnataka, December 18 was observed as a day of Party consolidation in Karnataka and cadres’ meets were organised at HD Kote in Mysore and Kottur in Bellary districts. The HD Kote meet was attended by a good number of women activists. Comrade Shankar, CCM spoke on the specific implications of consolidation campaign for Kote and called upon the cadres to expand our mass base, activism and also the party membership and structures. Rati Rao, VP of AIPWA explained the significance of the day. The cadres meet at Kottur was presided by Devendrappa, convenor of the party in the taluk. Ramasubramani, IIMS, said that CPI(ML) represented the revolutionary legacy of Bhagat Singh, Charu Mazumdar and Vinod Mishra. E.Ramappa, state secretary of the party traced the local variants of revolutionary trends in the state and called upon the cadres to focus on the consolidation of the party to harvest the gains of consistent struggles on various issues at panchayat level.
At MP, a Sankalp Sabha was held in the Chambal region. The comrades also remembered the freedom fighter and martyr Sher Ali who was arrested and deported to Andaman’s Jail for participating in the 1857 War of Independence. On December 18, he killed Lord Mayo in jail and was then brutally killed by the armed British Guards. The Convention was addressed by comrades Prabhat Kumar, CCM, Devendra Singh Chauhan, as well as District Secretaries of CPI and CPI(M). The newly built Party office at Bhind was named Comrade Vinod Mishra Bhawan on this occasion.
At Uttarakhand, Sankalp Diwas programmes were organised at Haldwani in the Kumaon region and Srinagar in Garhwal region. The Convention at Haldwani was addressed by Comrades Raja Bahuguna and Rajendra Pratholi among others.
At Andaman, an agitation and Dharna under AICCTU banner was held at Secretariat Gate on local demands of the working class, mainly the demand to regularise services of DRMs working under various departments and self governments like Municipality before abolishing Group D posts by the Administration as per CPC recommendation. More than 250 DRM workers from various departments participated in the Dharna. Other workers joined the programme and together pledged to continue the struggle, after a brief introduction by Com. NKP Nair. Thereafter the participants proceeded in a rally culminating in a Public Meeting.
At Haryana, the Sankalp Sabha was held at Gohana pledging to intensify the struggle for land, livelihood and democracy. The meeting was addressed by Party’s Haryana in-charge Comrade Prem Singh Gahlawat. Comrades RK Khokhar, RP Singh, Karmaveer Kashyap, Rajendar Kashyap and Naresh Khandelwal also addressed the Convention.
The Battle for Land, Wages and Dignity Is Still the Biggest Agenda of Class Struggle in the Countryside
(Transcript of Comrade Dipankar’s address to the Bhoomi Sudhar Sankalp Sammelan at Patna on December 18.)
Over the four decades of its existence, our Party has developed a distinct and powerful identity as the party of class struggle in the countryside of Bihar. It is widely recognized that the CPI(ML) movement has grown around the three key issues of land, wages and dignity. In a state like Bihar, where the implementation of bourgeois land reforms had all along been a victim of stubborn feudal survivals, where the concept of minimum wages in agriculture had been confined to pious platitudes and impotent official pronouncements, and where feudal oppression denied any notion of dignity to the rural poor, the battle for land, wages and dignity was bound to be met with stiff resistance. Comrade VM built and led the Party in the face of this combined challenge of feudal violence and state repression. The Party marched ahead, pushing back private armies from the Bhumi Sena to the Ranvir Sena and defying a whole series of massacres from Arwal in 1986 to Bathanitola and Bathe in the late 1990s.
We are proud of this glorious history, we are proud of the Party’s distinct identity that has been built out of the blood, sweat and tears of the fighting rural poor. Are the key issues of land, wages and dignity still valid? Undoubtedly, yes. Not only are they still valid, the struggles have now reached a higher plane and acquired a bigger scope. The land question today does not refer to only points or pockets of land struggle in the villages, today it has grown into a key political question which the state cannot ignore but cannot resolve, it is a weapon with which the people can challenge and encircle the governments of the day.
We have the Bandyopadhyaya commission report in Bihar; we have the Ministry of Rural Development Task Force report at the Centre. Both reports talk about providing agricultural land to the landless and homestead land to the homeless, both talk about recognizing the rights of the tenants and share-croppers. The central report even talks about lowering of land ceiling, yet all over the country governments are desperately trying to evade the agenda. In Bihar, Nitish Kumar now talks about giving a few thousand rupees to mahadalits , which will ostensibly buy them land for shelter. It is not difficult to understand that like the corruption-ridden Indira Awas Yojana, this will only open a new avenue for systematic loot of funds. How far the landless will really be able to buy land with whatever little funds they will be left with after paying the mandatory bribe will be anybody’s guess.
While governments are desperate to subvert the agenda of land reform, they are exploiting every possible pretext to promote capitalist land concentration not just in agriculture but perhaps more in the arena of real estate, converting agricultural land or the land belonging to closed industries into lucrative property for the land mafia. Most state governments have done away with the concept of urban land ceiling and the draconian SEZ Act has unleashed a veritable state-corporate land grab. Faced with stiff popular resistance to SEZs and forcible land acquisition, the state is now talking of making a retreat, leaving the people to face the brunt of corporate land grab with the state chipping in in favour of the corporate campaign whenever necessary.
The land struggle today is thus as much to resist corporate land grab and save agricultural land as a fight for implementation of land reforms. And we have seen how decisive these issues and struggles can be. In West Bengal, Singur and Nandigram triggered a drastic political change, giving an unprecedented jolt to a government that has been in power for more than three decades. In Bihar, the land reform debate has come to the centre stage of state politics and we must now strike while the iron is hot, by intensifying local-level struggles as well as encircling the government and other ruling class parties opposed to land reforms. Land reforms will mark a big jolt to the feudal survivals in Bihar and hence the battle for land reforms is bound to shake up the entire society and invite stiff resistance from all pro- feudal quarters. We must therefore mobilize all possible forces to defeat this feudal resistance.
Land is actually a symbol of the rich natural resources we have in our country, and today like land, other resources are also under corporate attack. There is a huge conspiracy going on in this country and all over the world to deprive poor people and weak countries of their resources and establish imperialist or corporate control over key natural resources. We know that in a way the ongoing US-led war in Iraq and Afghanistan is an oil and natural gas war, with the US and its allies trying to secure firm control over these major energy sources available aplenty in this region. Within India, in states like Jharkhand we always mention land together with water and forests, as jal-jangal-zameen (water-forest-land) and all the three resources are now corporate targets for large-scale acquisition and privatization, a source of mega profit. Along with land rights, we must therefore intensify the battle for securing people’s rights over forests and water.
And now in mineral-rich states we can see a massive corporate drive for mineral resources – states like Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Andhra, Goa, and Assam are all witnessing this trend. The public sector is being systematically undermined and sidelined and big private players like the Tatas and Ambanis, the Jindals and Mittals, the Bellary Reddys and the Vedanta group are carving out their own mining empires by capturing our minerals. The demand for complete nationalization of the mining sector, a halt to mineral exports and utilization of minerals for local industrialization with job preferences for the local unemployed must therefore be taken up as a key movement task in all mineral-rich states.
Like the question of land and other natural resources, the wage question too has come to acquire wider scope in today’s rural economy. The question of unemployment and minimum wages, including that of equal wages for men and women, is still a burning question in agricultural operations and we must of course intensify the struggle to enforce legal minimum wages. Wage strikes can and should be attempted on bigger scales and the spirit of class unity and assertion must be strengthened among agricultural labourers. In addition we now also have a whole range of allied and non-farm economic activities in the countryside. As rapidly rising prices continue to push real wages down, we must continue to fight for legally stipulated minimum wages in all occupations. And then there is the question of wage loot under NREGA. The UPA government claims that NREGA is the world’s biggest rural employment programme, but it is turning out to be the world’s greatest fraud on rural workers. The fight for improvement in NREGA conditions and timely and full payment of NREGA wages is an urgent task of wage struggle in the countryside today.
Coming to the question of dignity, thanks to years of sustained struggle, today the rural poor certainly enjoy a degree of dignity and rights. Feudal forces cannot subject the rural poor to the kind of humiliation and oppression that used to be the order of the day even a couple of decades ago. Gone too are the days when dalits in Bihar could not think of casting their own votes. But dignity is still a big issue for the rural poor. Deprived of their own resources and without any fair opportunity to earn a decent livelihood, the poor are compelled to depend on the paltry doles handed out by the state. And the doles are invariably controlled by the locally dominant feudal-kulak forces and their political representatives, enabling the latter to perpetuate their domination with the help of state funds. There can be little human dignity if the poor are to live like refugees in their own land, having to beg for government doles to fulfil every basic need of life. Beyond paltry doles, the rural poor’s struggle for dignity must now aim at establishing popular control over development schemes and funds and improved conditions of life with guaranteed rights to basic necessities including education and health.
This basic agenda of class struggle has enabled us to effectively withstand the political offensives of the ruling classes. Remember the early 1990s? Many people believed that Lalu Prasad had finished off the revolutionary movement with his mesmerizing slogan of social justice. We boldly rejected this illusion and raised the banner of social transformation to expose and challenge his fraudulent talk of social justice. Soon it became clear what Lalu Prasad really stood for – he became a byword for not only corruption and criminalization but also collusion with feudal forces as massacres ripped off his mask of social justice. Four years ago, Nitish Kumar had come to power promising good governance and development with justice. Today, the mask is already slipping off – Nitish Kumar is busy appeasing the feudal lobby while the landless and the sharecroppers demand their rights and the poor demand their full BPL and PDS benefits.
Overcoming the losses suffered in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, we have already unleashed a whole array of powerful mass initiatives all over Bihar and in the coming year we must raise these initiatives to greater heights and get ready to deliver bigger blows to the feudal-communal forces who are currently ruling Bihar.