ML UPDATE 8 / 2010

ML Update

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 13 No.08 16 – 22 FEB 2010

Expose PC’s Posturings on ‘Peace’ –

Demand a Halt to Operation Greenhunt

As the UPA Government intensifies its war on the people in the name of combating Maoism, it brings massive devastation and displacement of adivasis as well as suppression of basic civil liberties and democratic rights in its wake.

In Bastar, democracy appears to have been taken hostage in the war waged by Chidambaram and the Chhattisgarh State Government. 13 adivasi witnesses to a brutal massacre by security forces at Gompad village in November, who had petitioned the Supreme Court, have been held in custody of the Chhattisgarh police for the past several weeks, prevented from moving freely or even from meeting their lawyer. When the Supreme Court demanded that the missing witnesses be produced in Court, the state police, after much delay, produced six of the witnesses. Their statements were recorded in Court without any move to first separate them from custody of the very forces (of police and government) responsible for the massacre. In the course of the hearing, however, the Supreme Court Bench did express concern over reports of around two lakh adivasis forced to flee from Bastar in the wake of the military offensive.

Recently, an activist of the PUCL in UP, Seema Azad, also editor of a Hindi magazine, was arrested at Allahabad along with other civil liberties activists, and booked under the UAPA. Some time back, another young activist Piyush Sethia in Salem, Tamilnadu, has been arrested for the crime of distributing leaflets against Operation Greenhunt.

A Conference of Chief Ministers convened by the Home Minister has recently concluded in Kolkata to coordinate the Greenhunt offensive. The fact that Chief Ministers of Bihar and Jharkhand stayed away from the meet has been the subject of much speculation. Much, however, cannot be read into the absence of Nitish Kumar and Shibu Soren from the meet. While these leaders are trying to minimise the political costs of identification with Operation Greenhunt and state repression, in order to pose as pro-poor and pro-tribal, there is no doubt that the military offensive is a coordinated one across all states. The agenda of repression enjoys a political consensus among ruling parties across the board – as witnessed by the effusive praise by CMs of BJP-ruled states of Gujarat, MP, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka for Chidambaram’s efforts on ‘internal security.’ In Jharkhand, even as Soren seeks to calibrate his political identification with Greenhunt, the fact is that the Jharkhand Police is poised to deploy a contingent of the Indian Air Force to "flush out Maoists."

Within the ruling class, there are various voices (including not just Nitish and Soren but even Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee) which attempt to balance the military offensive on adivasi people with some talk of ‘development.’ Such talk of ‘development’ is nothing but camouflage for the agenda of repression to facilitate corporate loot – a case of the "hidden hand of the market" being used to mask the "hidden fist" of state repression. The blueprint for such development-speak by the ruling class was provided by the FICCI in a ‘Task Force Report on National Security and Terrorism’ released some months back. While the Report mouths platitudes to the effect that “the development approach is even more important than the military approach” and even bemoans the historic marginalisation of adivasis. The FICCI’s declaration that the “tribal areas have to be developed on a crash basis,” however, needs to be seen in tandem with its anxiety that "just when India needs to ramp up its industrial machine to lock in growth and just when foreign companies are joining the party, the naxalites are clashing with the mining and steel companies." Clearly, the crocodile tears shed by FICCI (and by various shades of ruling class leadership) for the tribals’ need for ‘development’ on a ‘crash basis’ is fuelled by its concern that ‘naxalites’ (read tribals protesting takeover of forest land by mining corporations) might spoil the "party" of the MoUs signed by state governments with mining MNCs.

P Chidambaram, at the CMs meet, made a show of readiness for ‘talks’ with the Maoists, with the rider that the latter must ‘halt violence’ as a precondition for talks. Such empty posturing only indicates the hypocrisy inherent in the UPA Government’s platitudes about peace. The indiscriminate arrests of democratic activists also belies the Government’s claims of wanting peace. The recent Maoist attack on a paramilitary camp in Bengal that claimed 25 lives of jawans is a grim reminder of impending civil war if the Central Government continues to refuse to initiate talks. In a recent interview the General Secretary of the CPI(Maoist) has indicated that release of arrested Maoist leaders (who can then represent their party in talks) is a precondition for any genuine initiation of talks. The urgent need of the hour is for the Central Government to call an immediate halt to Operation Greenhunt and unconditionally call for talks with Maoist leaders.

Condemn the Repression of Students Protesting against Coaching Mafias in Patna

On February 8-9, hundreds of students poured out on the streets of Patna in militant protest against private coaching centres which extort high fees and cheat the students. The spontaneous students’ upsurge was met with violence on the part of goons hired by the mafias which run the coaching business, as well as by the police. This violence claimed the lives of two students – Sachin Sharma and Krishnakant Jha.

The Bihar CM’s first response to this grave incident was to dismiss it airily, saying "Such things keep happening in Bihar." Subsequently he has attempted some crisis management by paying lip service to the need for some curbs on private coaching mafias.

The students’ outrage at the coaching centres is actually a sense of anger against the commercialisation and criminalisation that dominates education in Bihar. The problem can be addressed only by ending the collusion and close links of the government machinery with the coaching mafias, and reversing the policies of privatisation of education by massive public investment in education.

Bihar’s student and youth are at the receiving end of exploitation and violence – whether when they go to Maharashtra to seek employment or in their quest for education in their own state. Whenever they have protested on these issues, the Nitish government’s police force has met it with brutal repression. This betrayal of the aspirations and rights of the state’s students exposes the realities behind the Government’s rosy claims of ‘growth.’UPA Government Backs Down over Bt Brinjal

The UPA Government’s Ministry of Environment and Forests has been forced by vigorous protests by farmers and citizens to put on the hold the approval for release of Bt Brinjal. An Experts Committee of the Genetic Engineering Approvals Committee (GEAC) had recently recommended commercial release of Bt Brinjal – but senior scientists had raised questions about the integrity of this decision. Not only were essential tests to ensure safety for human consumption bypassed, it emerged that many members of the Experts Committee were working on projects funded by companies like Monsanto and Mahyco that promote GM food.

The Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, announcing the decision to put approval for Bt Brinjal on hold, said that private companies would not be allowed to dictate biotechnology research – a tacit admission that the approval for Bt Brinjal was been unduly influenced by a lobby funded by corporations selling GM food.

The decision to halt approval for Bt Brinjal is a major victory for the struggle to ensure transparency and democracy in decision-making regarding agricultural and food policy.

AISA’s 7th National Conference Held in Kolkata

AISA’s 7th National Conference was held in Kolkata from 8-10 February. On 8 February, AISA activists from 18 states marched through the streets of central Kolkata and assembled at College Street for a public meeting. The meeting started with the rendition of popular songs by Com. Sanjay Tiwari and a dance performance by AISA activists from Karbi Anglong. Com Ravi Rai, National Secretary, AISA, addressed the gathering from ‘Bharat-Selim-Tapashi’ manch and called for a student movement to resist state repression and Operation Green Hunt and struggling for the right to education and employment. Ramesh Patnaik, educationist and convener of Save Education Council of Andhra Pradesh demanded that education from KG to PG be made free and urged AISA activists to resist Public-Private Partnership in education. CPRM leader Com. Birendra from Darjeeling Hills said that Gorkhas are deemed fit only for guarding the country’s borders and are not recruited to high posts. He reiterated his organization’s demand for Gorkhaland state and thanked AISA for its support to the Gorkha people’s struggle for identity and against discrimination. Com.Partho Ghosh, State Secretary, CPI(ML), called for the students to raise the banner of resistance against the Conference of CMs convened by the Union Home Minister which Kolkata was hosting the next day to give finishing touches to Operation Green Hunt. He also pointed out that Mamata Banerjee’s slogan of "change" in West Bengal cannot change the fact that she is firmly behind Operation Greenhunt. Anil Sadgopal, Convener of Save Education Council of Madhya Pradesh, exposed the agenda of ‘privatisation’ and exclusion of poor students that underlies the UPA Government’s rosy promises of educational ‘reform’ and ‘Right to Education.’ Nabarun Bhattacharya, Bangla poet, said that restrictions on cultural programmes in Jadavpur University are an attempt on the part of the authorities to intimidate students. Com.Indresh Maikhuri, National President, AISA, spoke of the assaults on campus democracy.

On the second day of the National Conference, the organisational session began at the Triguna Sen auditorium at Jadavpur University with a ‘John Henry’ ballet mime performance by the Thakurnagar Cultural Association. Comrade Dipankar, General Secretary, CPI(ML), delivering the inaugural address, said that it is the duty of revolutionary student activists to free student politics from the clutches of the establishment and direct it towards the struggle of the toiling masses and for democracy.

Comrade Ravi Rai presented the draft document of the Conference. 309 delegates from 18 states attended the Conference, and discussed the document on the last day of the Conference. The draft was unanimously passed and a 95 member National Council was elected by the house. The National Council elected a 45-member National Executive and a 10 member office-bearer team. A 13-point resolution was also adopted by the house. Comrade Ravi Rai was re-elected General Secretary and Comrade Sandeep Singh was elected President.

State wide Jail Bharo in Uttar Pradesh

Thousands of activists courted arrest in different districts of UP on 8 Feb. to protest the rising prices, police atrocities, loot in NREGS and UP’s BSP Govt. not heeding to the demand of redistribution of surplus land to the landless. The activists had to face police highhandedness even during the courting arrests at many places.

More than 4000 activists led by CPI(ML) Politburo member Ramji Rai UP Standing Committee member Ishwari Prasad were arrested in Gazipur. Party State Secretary Sudhakar Yadav courted arrest with about a thousand and a half activists at Chandauli. A more thousand led by CC member Krishna Adhikary were arrested in Lakhimpur, while nearly 600 women led by Standing Committee member and AIPWA leader Premlata Pandy were arrested in Deoria. In the capital Lucknow, the activists were stopped at Parivartan Chowk while on way to the Vidhan Sabha. They were led by Comrade Bal Mukund Dhuria. People were arrested in thousands in places like Sonbhadra, Mirzapur, Ballia and Sitapur. The courting arrest was organized all around the state including places like Gorakhpur, Bhadohi, Azamgarh, Pilibhit, Moradabad, Maharajganj, Gonda, Jalaun, Mau, Ambedkar Nagar, Kanpur, Varanasi, Bijnaur and Meerut, etc.

Rickshaw-pullers’ Protest in NOIDA

Hundreds of rickshaw-pullers in NOIDA held a protest demonstration to press for their demands of licenses and recognition of their right to livelihood. Urban planners have are usually considered rickshaws to be a blot and nuisance on the beautification of the towns, whereas they provide a convenient and cheap means of transport in cities, besides being the only source of livelihood for a very large number of poor and migrant workers.

There are many thousands of rickshaw-pullers who openly face exploitation by big rickshaw-owning mafia but also the administration and police on a regular basis. They face police beatings and seizure of their rickshaws and many times their rickshaws were seized and crushed by bulldozer in presence of the magistrate in the name of cleaning the roads and removing obstruction of the way. Thousands of them, mostly migrant workers, live in grave insecurity. They are easy targets of police because they have been deliberately excluded from the urban planning space by the elitist urban development policies, as is the case with unorganized sector workers’ sections. They toil and provide important service to the urban population but ironically the status of their labour is rendered illegal.

The licenses to them have not been issued for long time by the Noida authority. Moreover, the conditions for issuing license are such that most of the rickshaw-pullers may not fulfill them. A precondition for licences is to provide proof of residence and identity, which is impossible to get as being migrants they have no property in the City. Despite many efforts in the past by many groups and organizations the administration did not address their problems and continues to brand them as encroachers in the city.

In this backdrop, after a few months planning and mass work a Rickshaw-pullers’ Union was formed in NOIDA last month which received a very good response from among them. A week-long mass campaign was then undertaken, culminating in a protest demonstration on 16 February, which was attended by nearly 200 rickshaw-pullers. The demonstrators submitted a memorandum to the City Magistrate Noida, the same official in whose presence the rickshaws were crushed under a bulldozer. The latter came out to meet the demonstrators, and professed his complete ignorance about the crushing of rickshaws! He accepted the memorandum and assured of every ‘help’ provided the rickshaw-pullers will not harm ‘law and order’ and will ‘abide by the law, rules and regulations’. These assurances are nothing but a threat in disguise but the morale of the poor rickshaw-pullers is high and they are very encouraged by the response to their protest, whereby a large number of rickshaw-pullers spontaneously joined their procession.

The protesters demanded license to all rickshaw-walas, return of seized rickshaws and compensation for the ones crushed by the bulldozers, and an end to the repression by police and the administration. They also demanded compensation and guarantee of alternate livelihood if at all evictions are to be considered in very special cases.

The demonstration was led and addressed by rickshaw-union leader Suresh Paswan, CPI(ML) activists Shyamkishore Yadav, Govind Uniyal, Ramesh Kori, Madheshwar, Nandji Yadav, Delhi State Secretary Sanjay Sharma and many others. Bhilai Sanitary Workers’ Struggle

The struggle to rehabilitate the contractual sanitary workers of Bhilai Municipal Corporation (BMC) moved a step ahead when the Municipality’s gates were blockaded on 15th January by 400 women and men workers (the readers of ML Update will remember that a long struggle for rights of sanitary workers has been going on under the AICCTU and AIPWA). The employees of the BMC responded to the appeal to support sanitary workers’ demands.

Attempts are on by the BJP and its affiliates to break the workers’ unity, and contractors having close proximity to the BJP are being awarded zone-wise contracts; these contractors are refusing to include the already inducted workforce (because the workers are organised). CPI(ML) and AICCTU leaders called upon the old workers to assert and demand jobs – and as a result about half of them did get jobs in their respective wards. When the contractors realised this, they stopped inducting these workers, in particular, women workers were not taken at all. Our member workers who had already made it to the new induction were threatened and warned not to be with the Union.

Several formal and agitational initiatives have been taken to respond to this and for recruitment of all women workers as a result of which the Municipal Commissioner has passed some orders to be followed by wards/departments. To prevent the growing influence of AICCTU and to crush the struggle the BJP is fully supporting the contractors while the opposition Congress is a mute spectator.

On 10th February, CPI(ML) and AICCTU again held a dharna at BMC’s office highlighting urgent demands of the sanitary workers.

Party’s Candidates in Chattisgarh Panchayat Elections

In the recently concluded Panchayat elections in Chattisgarh, CPI(ML) supported candidates contested in Durg, Raipur, Bilaspur, Bastar and Rajnandgaon. Party supported two candidates won the Sarpanch seat at Bangoli (Vandana Bairagi) and Kurra (Urmila Kurray) in Raipur. One woman candidate bagged the Janpad member seat in Durg dist. We won panch seats too at many places. We attempted to popularize All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association (AIALA) in these elections.

CPI(ML)’s Bindukhatta Area Conference

CPI(ML) held its Bindukhatta (Dist. Nainital, Uttarakhand) area conference on 5th February. Com. Raja Bahuguna, incharge of the Party in the State, called-upon all the delegates to establish organic links with people’s day-to-day and long term struggles. He also said that BJP’s governance model in Uttarakhand was aimed at misleading people from their basic issues and Party must make those issues a rallying point of the people. Delivering the inaugural address, senior leader of CPI(ML) Com. Bahadur Singh Jangi remembering the land struggle in Bindukhatta said that it was due to bold struggles by the Party and other democratic forces that the peasants who got land are still able to till it and he called upon them to intensify the struggle for making it a revenue village.

A 17 member committee was elected with Com. Man Singh Pal as the new Secretary. Conference venue was named after Com. Deepak Bose and Faiz’s poetry was recited.

Peasants’ protest in Hajipur

Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha organized a protest on Jan 18 in Hajipur with the demands of allocating money to the PACS for purchase of fertilizers, seeds and pesticides as well as of agricultural produce and construction of godowns. The issues of land to the landless, building of roads to connect poor dalit hamlets in villages, recommendations of land reforms commission, Identity cards for the share-croppers, to bring banana farming under the ambit of insurance scheme, payment of insured crops and diesel grants, restarting/ commissioning of canals and govt. boring wells, tax-free electricity and diesel supply for farmers, and increase of govt. investment in agriculture were also raised in the protest. A meeting held in front of Block office on this occasion was addressed by BPKS Bihar state President KD Yadav, Secretary Rajendra Patel, suman Kumar, Dr Arvind Chaudhary, Krishna Murari Singh, Bhikhari Patel, Narottam Kumar Munna, Shivpujan Sahay and Sanjay Yadav. The speakers condemned Nitish Govt for continuously ignoring the agriculture in the state and said the in spite of severe drought the government bore well were not started, canals remained dry and black marketing of fertilizers and other essential inputs continued. The claims of insured peasants are still pending unpaid. They also emphasized for the sharecroppers rights which is become of the major obstacles in the agricultural development. The speakers condemned the central government for removing subsidies on agriculture and petroleum products and increasing price rise of every commodity, which is done only to serve the interests of corporate and big capital at the cost of common man. A two-day Kisan Sangharsh Yatra was also organized on 16-17 Jan in preparation of this protest. The Yatra covered dozens of villages and held forty mass meetings were held at many places during these two days.

AIALA Activists Meet at Kottur

State level Cadre Convention of AIALA was held at Kottur on 4 Feb. More than 75 representative-activists from Bellary, Davanagere, Koppal and Mysore districts participated in the convention. The convention decided to intensify struggles at panchayat level and to develop and concentrate work, at least, in 10 panchayats in each taluk. The meeting also discussed reorientation of our work among agricultural labourers that included organising struggles of more militant nature depending on the intensity of the issue and regularizing organizational structures at grassroots. Com. Shankar, CCM, called for intense and more profound struggles of agricultural labourers who are the most neglected lot in the state. Struggles of ‘Raitha Sangha (farmers associations)’ (various factions of KRRS) in Karnataka this far has represented only the interests of rich farmers, despite overwhelming participation of small and marginal farmers and agricultural labourers in their struggles. Organising agricultural labourers and small and marginal farmers as a class under the banner of AIALA is the sole initiative of CPI(ML) (Liberation) and no other party, including the Left, has taken any initiative in that direction in the state. No other party has any organization for agricultural labourers but for their own brands of ‘Raitha Sanghas’. He also said that developing struggles on the burning issues of agricultural labourers can only be the fitting reply to the communal, corrupt and non-performing BJP government in the state.

Com.Ramappa, state secretary of the party called for building struggles against the domination of mining and real estate mafia in the region and in state politics. He also outlined that AIALA has inherited the legacy of Bhagat Singh and other revolutionary and progressive strands of movements against the status-quo. He greeted the cadres for organizing the convention at Kottur in Bellary, for the first time, the hotbed of mining mafia and one of the the most backward taluks in the state. Com.Bharadwaj, state president of AIALA who chaired the convention called upon the cadres to intensify struggles at grassroots and to develop certain areas to be that of AIALA. He declared that AIALA will turn 2010 into the year of struggles of agricultural labourers. Comrades Javaraiah, state secretary of AICCTU, Chowdappa, state secretary of AIALA, Lingan Gowda, Vice-president, Joint secretaries Devendrappa, Hanumanthappa and Parasuram also addressed the gathering.

New AIALA Unit at HPHalli

AIALA formed its new unit at Aracknahalu village in HPHalli taluk on 21 Jan. and the inaugural meeting was addressed by Com. Ramappa, party secretay, AIALA leaders Chowdappa, Parasuram, Devendrappa and Mylappa. AIALA name-board was also opened at Hullikatti village in the same panchayat. More than 150 people, including large number of women, participated in the programme.

Social Welfare Officer Suspended

All progressive organization of HDKote taluk, including CPI(ML) and DSS, came together and organized two-day dharna in front of taluk office on 5-6 Feb. demanding suspension of taluk social welfare officer who was responsible for discrimination against dalits in various places in the taluk. including student hostels. Following the protest and the people’s pressure, the taluk social welfare officer was suspended by the higher authorities. CPI(ML) and AISA played a major role in the struggle.

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