Abductions and Political Degeneration among Maoists in Odisha
(The abduction episode in Odisha is still unfolding as we go to press; BJD MLA Jina Hikaka is yet to be released, while the two Italian tourist hostages have been released.)
Social transformation calls for an organized revolutionary mass struggle, which is naturally much harder to achieve than the politics of kidnapping and abductions. The Maoists, having little faith in the painstaking task of mass mobilization and mass movements, have for long had a one-sided emphasis on militarized actions. The increasingly common acts of abduction by Maoists are essentially measures to bargain for some temporary relief like release of some comrades. While the abductions are accompanied by lofty rhetoric and some demands on people’s issues, it has been seen time and again, that the negotiations hinge essentially on release of their own cadres from jail. For instance, some of the points raised by the Maoists in exchange for release of the Italian hostages, and ‘conceded’ by the government are just standard government policies and platitudes that exist on paper but are little implemented on the ground. Such abductions, therefore, do not advance people’s confidence, initiatives, or struggle in any way.
And there are reports that the recent kidnappings in Odisha had more to do with fierce competition between Maoist factions, than with a contention with the State. Observers have widely held that Maoists in Odisha are sharply divided into two warring groups; the larger one led by Daya, Secretary of the Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zone Committee, and another led by Sabyasachi Panda, Convener of Odisha State Organizing Committee.
The Odisha State Organizing Committee led by Sabyasachi Panda kidnapped two Italian Tourists from the Ganjam–Kandhamal border forest area on 14th March, 2012. Within four days he appeared on a private TV channel, owning the kidnapping, calling for the Odisha Government to negotiate their release, and suggesting some names for mediators. The main demand was the release of several Maoist comrades of Odisha, including those who had been jailed in the Nayagarh and Koraput Armory loot case, and Sabyasachi Panda’s wife. Sabyasachi Panda declared a ceasefire till the conclusion of negotiations for the release of the abducted Italians. Meanwhile the Andhra-Odisha Border Committee broke the ceasefire, and abducted BJD MLA Jina Hikaka.
Sabyasachi Panda released a series of audio tapes, in which the tension with the Andhra-Odisha Border faction was evident. One tape mentioned “criticising and condemning violent acts by other Maoist groups and Andhra Odisha Border Committee,” and said that as long as the Odisha Government “does not bring in references to violent acts by Maoists elsewhere including the Odisha Andhra Border Committee, treats us as a separate entity and signs a formal cease-fire pact with us, we promise to abide by it.” Another tape, reported in the Odisha media, reminded the AOB Committee that the raid of the Koraput and Nayagarh arms depots had provided all levels of the Maoist party with ammunition, and yet the comrades who achieved this daring raid remain in jail because no attempts were made to free them during the Vineel Krishna abduction negotiations in 2011. He also threatened to form a separate party in Odisha. Odisha media also carried reports of a press statement by one comrade Nikhil of the Odisha State Organizing committee, appealing to adivasis of Odisha to deny Andhra and Chhattisgarh Maoists shelter and food, because they are anti-Odisha, torture Odisha cadres in camps and sexually exploit Odisha women comrades. There were also reports that the AOB group was seeking to eliminate Sabyasachi.
In this backdrop, both factions of the Maoists in the State are also competing to hobnob with the BJD Government in exchange for concessions and peace talks, forgetting the results of similar opportunist political pacts in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.
This is illustrated by the developments in the Umerkote by-elections last year and the recent election to the Koraput zila parishad. The Maoists called for a poll boycott in the Umerkote by-elections – but in the 5 panchayats which are their stronghold, they adopted their familiar tactics, of enforcing the ‘boycott’ selectively to prevent non-BJD candidates from campaigning, and organizing votes to help the BJD secure a win.
The Chasi Muliya Adivasi Sangha (having a presence in two blocks – Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon), too has been extending support to the BJD. In the recently held panchayat elections in Naryanpatna, where the CMAS is strong and no other candidate dared to contest, the CMAS candidate was elected uncontested to the Zila Parishad. When Zila Parishad chairperson election was to take place in Koraput, Congress and BJD both had 14 members each, and the CMAS ZP member had a deciding vote. Instead of abstaining from voting, the CMAS supported the BJD, reportedly in exchange for an assurance that the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik would release all jailed CMAS members.
These developments point to the growing opportunist and underhand deals between the various Maoist factions and the BJD Government in Odisha, and is evidence of the political degeneration that has accompanied their militarized functioning.
Violence on Dalits in Dadri
Dalits in Chamravli Ramgarh village of Dadri (Distt. Gautambuddh Nagar) in UP, not far from the national capital, were brutally assaulted by the dominant sections, in order to punish them for refusing to cooperate with attempts to alienate dalits from their rightful land and sell to real estate lobbies and builders.
On March 14, the Gram Pradhan of Ramgarh, Kuldeep Bhati and his goons attacked the dalit settlement of the village, entering homes and beating up men, women, and elderly alike with sticks and iron rods. Several were injured, and three of those severely injured by sharp weapons had to be hospitalised in intensive care. More than 10 men and women had broken limbs. A few narrowly escaped bullets. A large number of women were badly injured. The police, when it finally arrived on the scene, did nothing to arrest the assailants who brazenly remained at the spot. More than a month after the incident, no one hasyet been arrested for this criminal assault in broad daylight. The dalit youth are being threatened, the perpetrators roam free, and the entire dalit community lives in fear.
At the bottom of this attack is piece of gram panchayat land of about 5 bighas, which is part of the panchayati land reserved for the use of dalits, which Gram Pradhan Kuldeep Bhati has illegally grabbed by force. The dalit homes which for years have been on this land, have been surrounded by a 7 foot-high wall. Virtually imprisoned, they have to scale that wall every time they want to go out of their homes. Every day, every time.
Ever since a written complaint about this encirclement and attempted land grab was submitted to the SDM on 24 January, the offensive on the dalit families, especially on youth, has intensified. There have been attempts on the life of Brahm Jatav, the youth who made the complaint.
Quite a while ago, many Valmiki (dalit) families have already been beaten up and forced to leave the village, and their land has been occupied by the dominant sections. In neighbouring Bironda village, too, there have been attacks on dalilts by the dominant sections, over land. The dalits and the poor are the softest target of the drive by corporate houses like JP and Ansals to corner land for huge apartment complexes, malls, elite cities, and so on. The spreading real estate bazaar has, on the ground, created a dangerous nexus of feudal criminals, local authorities, elected representatives, and land mafia.In the entire Gautam Buddha Nagar district, this nexus is conspiring to encircle dalits and forcibly make them give up their rightfully allotted land. And all this is well known to the authorities, and both in the earlier Mayawati regime and now in the SP regime, the nexus is actually being encouraged to alienate dalits from their land by hook or crook.
CPI(ML)’s Noida city activist Comrade Chandrabhan Singh got to know of the incident and made contact with the affected people. A CPI(ML) fact-finding team CPI(ML)’s Gautam Buddh Nagar In-charge Comrade Shyam Kishore; Noida City CPI(ML) leaders Comrades Chandrabhan Singh and Shivji Singh; AISA National President Sandeep Singh, JNUSU General Secretary Ravi Prakash, RYA leader Aslam Khan; and AISA activists Anubhuti, Anmol and Harsh visited the village on 27 March 2012. On 29 March, the villagers under the banner of CPI(ML) demonstrated at the DM’s office, and a delegation including Brahm Jatav, some of the injured women, and CPI(ML) leaders, met the DM, who assured them that action would be taken. But instead of arresting the perpetrators, the latter have been let off on bail one by one on some pretext or the other.
And the district administration is yet to do anything to remove that 7-foot-high wall that stands as a demeaning warning to the whole village of the consequences of daring to protest against injustice.
The village youth, determined not to take things lying down, have formed a unit of the Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA), and have called for a protest meeting in the Ramgarh village itself on 25 April.
All over UP, there have been several instances of attacks on Dalits after the SP victory. In the Noida-NCR region, however, the main factor behind the attacks and harassment of Dalits is the agenda of forcing Dalits to vacate their rightful land which will then be sold by dominant sections to real estate builders – and this agenda carries over from the previous regime to the new one.
Against Life Sentence for Rupam Pathak
The All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) held protests all over the country against the life sentence to Rupam Pathak of Bihar for the culpable homicide of BJP’s Purnea MLA Raj Kishor Kesri, terming the verdict of the CBI Court to be a “gross miscarriage of justice.”
In the national capital on 11 April, women protested with a dharna at Jantar Mantar, in which several of CPI(ML)’s women candidates in the Delhi MCD polls participated.
On the same day, AIPWA held a protest march in Ranchi culminating at Albert Ekka Chowk in a protest meeting. On 12 April, AIPWA held a protest march from BHU gate to Ravidas Gate in Banaras, culminating in a protest meeting.
On 14 April, AIPWA held an impressive ‘Chakka Jam’ all over Bihar in protest against the verdict. All over the state, women blockaded roads, highways, and rail routes, demanding justice for Rupam Pathak.
Protest Sit-In Demands Justice for Chandrashekhar
Marking the 15th Anniversary of the killing of former JNUSU President Comrade Chandrashekhar, hundreds of students from JNU, Jamia Millia Islamia and Delhi University, along with teachers, workers, intellectuals, writers and cultural activists gathered at a Protest Sit-in at Jantar Mantar this evening. They raised slogans in protest against the recent verdict of a Patna court, which convicted three of the hit-men for the murder, but was silent on former RJD MP Mohd. Shahabuddin at whose behest the murder took place.
AISA’s All India General Secretary Ravi Rai conducted the sit-in, which was addressed by Prof. KJ Mukherji of JNU, Prof. Tripta Wahi, Kavita Srivastava of PUCL, social activist Himanshu Kumar, Kavita Krishnan, former JNUSU Joint-Secretary and Central Committee member of the CPI(ML), CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, Anand Pradhan from Indian Institute of Mass Communications. JNUSU President Sucheta De and Joint Secretary Firoz Ahmad, CPI(ML) Central Committee member Prabhat Kumar, Delhi State Secretary of CPI(ML) Sanjay Sharma, Sudhir Suman and Bhasha Singh of Jan Sanskriti Manch, and several journalists, teachers, writers and democratic individuals also attended the protest.
Artist Shubnum Gill’s paintings of Comrade Shandrashekhar were displayed in an exhibition at the sit-in, which brought alive memories of Chandrashekhar. Several poets - Anamika, Manglesh Dabral, Madan Kashyap, Sanjay Kundan, Mukul Saral, Shobha Singh and Vidrohi - presented poems in Chandrashekhar’s memory. Cultural teams of students of Jamia Millia and DU, and Asmita, presented rousing songs. Lokesh Jain’s team presented a ‘marsiya’ dedicated to Chandrashekhar.
A petition addressed to the Director, CBI was signed by many at the gathering, saying, “Chandrashekhar’s murder generated outrage because a criminal mafia politician, backed by the clout of the then Governments at Bihar and the Centre, ruthlessly eliminated a young activist who chose to work in rural India, to organise the struggles of the poorest of the poor. Now, 15 years after the murder, we reject any notion of closure or justice done - until and unless Shahabuddin, the main political conspirator behind the assassination, is charge-sheeted, convicted, and given the sternest punishment. We demand that the CBI, without further delay, pursue the case to ensure that Shahabuddin is punished for the murder.”
The meeting concluded with an address by AISA President Sandeep Singh who have an inspiring call to take Chandrashekhar’s struggle against injustice forward. Students raised rousing slogans saying, “Chandrashekhar we’ll take your mission to its conclusion!”
Campaign in Jharkhand Against Corruption
in the RS Polls
On 16th April, the CPI(ML) in Ranchi flagged off a state-wide campaign (16 April-3 May) calling for popular vigilance to monitor the rampant corruption and horse-trading in the Rajya Sabha polls. The RS polls, which had to be cancelled in view of evidence of corruption, is being held again in the State.
The campaign, pointing out that MLAs were found engaging in rampant horse-trading and corruption, will again demand that all MLAs and MPs need to be brought under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill. Reminding that the Rajya Sabha had been envisaged as the Council of States, the campaign will point out that Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee began the trend of undermining this spirit of state-specific representation. The campaign will demand a return to the constitutional spirit of state-specific representation, demanding that activists and individuals connected to the Jharkhand movement and other democratic concerns in the State must be candidates for election to the Rajya Sabha. The JVM led by Babulal Marandi has been posing as the champion of the protests against corruption in RS polls. But the campaign is pointing out that the JVM has no right to speak on this issue, since it is yet to initiate any action against its own MLAs from Rajdhanwar and Jamua, who were implicated in the scandal!
These issues were raised at a Citizens’ March called by the CPI(ML) in Ranchi on 16 April, where a large procession marched from Sainik Bazaar to Albert Ekka Chowk and held a public meeting there. Participants in the march and public meeting included Prof. B P Kesri, activists Dayamani Barla, Faisal Anurag, and Gladson Dungdung, and journalist Srinivasan, and CPI(ML) leaders including State Secretary Janardan Prasad, Bagodar MLA Vinod Singh and CC Member Bahadur Oraon. The public meeting was presided by Comrade Anil Anshuman, and Comrade Sunil Minz thanked the participants. Till 3 May, the campaign will continue in various forms in districts all over the State.