ML Update 46 / 2013

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 16 No. 46 5-11 NOV 2013

CPI(ML)’s Khabardar Rally

Reasserts Bihar’s Fighting Resolve

Defying Modi’s ‘Hunkaar’ and

Conspiratorial Blasts

The last week of October was a week of rallies for Patna. On October 25, the CPI held a ‘Janakrosh’ (People’s Anger) rally, which witnessed arguably the biggest gathering by the party in last ten years or so. The rally clearly reflected the mood of the Left ranks and common people in Bihar – determination to resist the growing fascist threat and anger against the non-performing and anti-poor Nitish Kumar government of Bihar.

Two days later, it was the BJP’s turn to stage its ‘Hunkaar’ (roar) show. The rally turned out to be the BJP’s biggest ever in Bihar, and certainly bigger than the kind of crowd that came to Modi’s recent rallies in Delhi, UP or MP. Even as the rally began, a series of blasts took place around the rally ground, and blasts were all the BJP would be talking about later. But quite surprisingly the rally went on like business as usual with Modi churning out a mythical history of Bihar, full of bloomers for anybody familiar with the rich history and heritage of the state.

Nitish Kumar was quick to take on Modi on the issue of his ‘historical bloomers’ in the JD(U)’s ‘chintan shivir’ (brainstorming session) at Rajgir, but his government left Patna in a state of post-blast panic and uncertainty. The state government could not sanitise the Gandhi Maidan, the venue for all big rallies in Patna and the scheduled site for the CPI(ML)’s 30 October rally, even fifty hours after the blasts. The blasts also overshadowed the entire media and Bihar seemed to have been plunged into terror and panic. Postponement of the CPI(ML) rally seemed almost like a foregone conclusion.

But the rural poor of Bihar and the CPI(ML) network spread across the state once again rose to the occasion and displayed tremendous tenacity and fearless resolve to make the rally an astounding success. Just consider the facts. Around 7 PM on 29 October, the district administration of Patna formally intimated that Gandhi Maidan was unsafe and the allotment stood cancelled. Till then the work of stage construction and decoration was going on at Gandhi Maidan. Overnight, a stage was erected on the new site – on the road near the R-block crossing, and the rallyists who kept pouring in all through the day and night of October 29 spent the night on the road under the open sky. The veil of panic and speculation disappeared as the spirit of hope and determination took over.

To the city of Patna which has been witness to many great gatherings at various turning points of history, the Khabardar rally presented an unprecedented sight of a red wave splashing on the city roads. The stretch from R-block crossing which has a statue of the iconic 1857 hero Veer Kunwar Singh to the Income Tax roundabout, housing a statue of JP, the great inspirational leader of 1974, became a veritable human sea. Old-timers recalled the last time when the area had witnessed such a major assembly: on 4 November 1974 when a procession led by JP was lathicharged injuring JP himself along with many more processionists.

For those who thought that Modi’s ‘Hunkaar’ was the ultimate roar of an aggressive saffron sweep in Bihar, the Khabardar rally has sent out a strong message of resolute resistance. While remaining alert to foil the saffron design to whip up communal frenzy in Bihar, the rally has called for a massive mobilisation of the justice-loving people of Bihar to secure justice for the massacre survivors of Bathanitola, Bathe and Miyanpur. Millions of signatures will be collected across the state and will be brought to Delhi for submission to the President on 18 December, the 15th death anniversary of Comrade Vinod Mishra.

Incidentally, on the same day an anti-communal convention was held in Delhi where the CPI(M) and its LF partners shared a platform with ten non-Congress non-BJP regional parties. The organisers and participants sought to deny the impression that the gathering was an exercise in forging a third front, claiming that the purpose was just to promote a broad-based mobilisation against communalism. But a quick look at the forces that were deliberately excluded from the ambit of the convention exposes the hollowness of the grand anti-communal claim. Apart from the CPI(ML), the most committed and militant defender of secularism, the excluded parties also included the RJD and LJP both of which have far stronger anti-communal credentials than the JD(U) which must be held squarely responsible for enabling the BJP to accumulate strength in Bihar, not just through power-sharing but by allowing feudal-communal forces to go on the offensive.

As elections come closer and the BJP becomes increasingly desperate to whip up a fascist frenzy, the task for the democratic movement in the country is clearly laid out. Fascism thrives on the illusive yearning for a ‘magic solution’ to our pressing problems, but the challenge of resisting and defeating the fascist threat cannot be fulfilled through any ‘counter magic’, electoral or otherwise. It calls for bold, organised and sustained mobilisation and assertion of the people for a democratic solution, and the Khabardar rally has shown us the kind of strength, determination and courage that the oppressed poor can contribute to this battle under revolutionary communist leadership.

‘Feudal, Communal Forces Beware’
– A Rally That Defied All Odds

“Only CPI(ML) could have had the guts and the ability to successfully hold such a massive Rally in spite of constant talk of bomb threats. Only CPI(ML)’s mass base is such that would defy the atmosphere of fear and turn up steadfastly in such numbers.” This was the unanimous opinion of journalists and other observers in Patna on 30 October. The real “hunkar” (roar) of people’s power was manifested in this Rally of 1 lakh of Bihar’s poorest people, who flocked to Patna on their own will power, determination, and commitment, without the massive backing of money power that Modi’s rally three days previously displayed.

The Rally was held on the historic Bir Chand Patel Path – marked by R Block with Kunwar Singh’s statue at one end, and IT Golambar with a statue of JP in 1974 at the other end – the very spot where JP was lathi charged during a massive agitation in 1974.

An observer commented on Facebook: “The word Khabardar means ‘beware’ in Urdu. The masses issued a warning to feudal-communal-fascist forces who doubled up as facilitators of corporate loot, by raising the slogan of ‘Samanti – sampradayik – fasivadi – looteri taakton khabardar! Bihar ki janata hai taiyar!’ The rally, earlier scheduled for the Gandhi Maidan, was disallowed at the last moment by Bihar police who were inept enough not to be able to clean up Gandhi Maidan even after three days of the bomb blasts. Undeterred by the rescheduling which caused extra hardship for the masses who had been camping in the city for over a day, Birchand Patel Path, the main thoroughfare of Patna was occupied by the toiling masses. Reportedly, the BJP had spent crores for its ‘Hunkar’ rally, hiring 11 trains and thousands of buses, and spending on cash and food for their assembly. But the Khabardar Rally was completely different in flavour. This correspondent spoke to a group of villagers from Siwan, who had travelled all the way from their village on a bus, carrying their own food, tarpaulins (to sit on), and collectively pooling in their bus fares, for which they had to spend Rs. 150 each. The resulting difference in the mood and slogans could not be more stark.”

The Khabardar Rally was a resounding challenge to the corporate-backed communal forces, who are desperate to project Modi as the PM of the country, and to foment communal frenzy to pave their way to power.

The Rally began by paying tribute to martyred comrades with two minutes’ silence. Cultural group Hirawal rendered a revolutionary song in memory of the martyrs. Bihar State Secretary Comrade Kunal welcomed the gathering. The Rally was presided over by Central Committee member Comrade KD Yadav, and conducted by Comrade Anwar Hussain, State President of the Inquilabi Muslim Conference.

Addressing the Rally, CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya said that the 2014 elections must be about policies, not faces and leaders – it must be about reversing the policies of corporate plunder, corruption, price rise, unemployment, communal violence and minority witch-hunt. He said “In the Laxmanpur Bathe, Bathani Tola, Miyanpur, Nagari Bazaar massacres of the 1990s, lower courts gave convictions in 2010. But the High Court acquitted the accused. So have the perpetrators of the massacres come from another planet? The victims are being massacred all over again by this massacre of justice,” adding that the CPI(ML) would collect lakhs of signatures on a petition for justice by Human Rights Day (December 10), and then proceed to Delhi with the signatures on December 18th.

He said the climate in Bihar was being vitiated by communal and feudal forces and in the country at large. BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s survival depended on such an atmosphere. “They want to grab power by carrying out riots, but they will not be able to turn Bihar into Gujarat… innocent Muslim youths are being targeted and jailed after blasts. A few days later, everyone forgets about them. There is no charge sheet or further action and they keep languishing in jail.” He asked why Nitish Kumar was silent on such cases involving Darbhanga’s youth, and demanded a white paper from the Bihar Government on all such pending cases involving Bihar’s youth implicated in terror cases. “If you lack the evidence to file a chargesheet, set them free immediately,” he said.

Commenting on an anti-communal Convention being organised on the same day in Delhi, he said, “We are told this is an anti communal effort and not an electoral alliance. But why is CPI(ML) not invited? The Rashtriya Janata Dal, [although we have our differences with them], has not been invited to it. Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan, [who had resigned from the NDA’s Union Cabinet after the Gujarat riots], has not been invited. But Mr. Kumar, who was together with the BJP for 17 years, is being made the poster boy of secularism.”

He said people were talking as though corruption ended with Lalu Prasad’s imprisonment, forgetting the involvement of prominent leaders from other parties in the fodder scam and other scams, such as Nitish Kumar and Shivanand Tiwari from the JDU. He added, “What about the 2G, coal and a whole lot of other scams where lakhs of crores are involved? The perpetrators should be brought to book, even if it is the Prime Minister.”

Taking on Mr. Kumar’s development plank, he said, “In Bihar, there is just talk, of giving power, water, roads and education. For 20 years, votes have been taken in the name of Dalits, Mahadalits, Muslims, Pasmanda Muslims, but the government functions for the feudal and communal forces.”

He appealed to all Left parties to unite in Bihar, stressing that only such a principled Left unity could really save Bihar from communal and feudal forces, and ensure pro-people development for Bihar’s common people.

Addressing the Rally, Politburo member Kavita Krishnan said that the Sangh’s ‘Hunkar’ (roar) wasn’t heard for the first time on 27 October. The women and children of Bathe and Bathani in 1996-97 and of Gujarat in 2002 had heard that blood-thirsty roar before. And when freedom fighters were giving up lives resisting the British and Dr Ambedkar was writing the Constitution of Independent India with a vision of freedom and equality for all, Modi’s mentors in the RSS were advocating the anti-women, anti-Dalit Manusmriti as the country’s Constitution. But who can fight these forces today? How can Nitish Kumar, who remained a silent partner in the Gujarat 2002 genocide, and has Ranveer Sena men like Sunil Pande among his MLAs, claim to fight the communal forces? Wasn’t Ranveer Sena backed by the RSS? It’s the landless women of Bihar, who snatched dignity and rights from the jaws of the feudal forces and Ranveer Sena, who know how to resist Modi’s fascist roar. It’s the students who defeated ABVP in North India’s campuses at the height of the Mandir and anti-Mandal wave, who know how to answer the Sangh’s ‘hunkar’. It’s Bhagat Singh’s red flag alone that can fight the fascists boldly in every arena.”

CPI(ML) Central Committee member Mohd Salim said that the communal fascist Modi was being projected by the forces of corporate plunder. Resisting such corporate-communal fascism called for a robust resistance to pro-corporate economic policies, US-sponsored Islamophobia, and communal violence. Both he and Politburo member Dhirendra Jha spoke of the witch-hunt of Muslim youth across the country and in Bihar in particular.

AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari said that the BJP along with khap panchayats, in the name of protecting women, wages war on women’s freedom as well as unleashes communal violence on minorities. And the same BJP’s talk of ‘protecting women’ stood exposed when they shamelessly defended the rape-accused Asaram. She saluted the determination of the large number of women at the rally, who had remained standing for hours, since the packed road did not admit for place to sit.

The JNUSU President Akbar Choudhury and Vice President Anubhuti Agnes Bara addressed the Rally, speaking of students’ powerful protest against Modi’s Delhi visit, and the anti-communal mandate of students in JNU and strong anti-communal vote in Delhi University.

CPI(ML) Central Committee member and Kisan Mahasabha leader Rajaram Singh said, “BJP’s stances on policy issues are indistinguishable from those of the Congress.” He reminded people that when Modi was at the BJP’s National Executive Meeting in Goa, he had commented derisively on the ban on mining in Goa, saying this showed the Congress Govt’s failure. Comrade Rajaram said, “Modi should be reminded that mining in Goa was banned because it was illegal, as it was in Karnataka, which cost the BJP the Government there! It’s people’s protests that resist such illegal plunder, and they will resist it whether Modi does it or Manmohan.”

Others who addressed the Rally included AISA General Secretary Abhyuday, RYA President Amarjit Kushwaha, CPI(ML) CC member and former MP Rameshwar Prasad, CC member and former MLA Mahbub Alam, and AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari.

The Khabardar Rally ended with a call for a continued campaign – the Jagte Raho Jan Abhiyan (Remain Awake/Alert People’s Campaign) to keep Bihar alert against any attempts to whip up any communal tensions or feudal violence on any pretext.

The day when Patna was occupied

– Dwaipayan

Patna wore a different look on the day of Khabardar Rally. From early in the morning one could see streams of people walking down Station Road, in groups of varying sizes. Red flags held aloft, processions walked under the Mithapur overbridge, past the GPO Golambar, down Hardinge Road. The adjacent Hardinge Park was one of the sites where people who came from far-flung districts of Bihar had camped overnight in the open. With rows of trucks, buses, tractors, camps and vendors Hardinge Road wore the look of a carnival. Taking a sharp right-turn into Beer Chand Patel Path at the intersection, one could see a sea of red flags and people who had taken over the 1.5 Km long stretch from R block to the IT roundabout.

Beer Chand Patel Path hasn’t seen a mass political rally in a long time. Lining this historical road are the offices of all the major political parties represented in the Bihar assembly. The road also had important government offices and the MLA club. All these offices remained effectively shut as 1 lakh of the poorest of Bihar occupied the road and all the adjacent lanes and neighbourhoods. A friend who had climbed atop the terrace of the 8-storeyed AG office said it was impossible to see the ends even from there. Many participants could hardly see the dais from where they were seated. But, “their enthusiasm in the sweltering sun had to be seen to be believed. With heads covered to shield the sun, and red flags in their hands, they responded in one voice to the slogans of ‘Lal Salaam’ from the dais.” Though Gandhi Maidan was made unavailable, but the occupied streets of Patna turned the heart of the city into Gandhi Maidan for half-a-day.

One could immediately make out the large presence of women. Hindustan observed “Aadhi aabaadi ki poori bhagidari” (full participation of half the population, i.e women): “In the midst of bomb blasts in the capital, women flocked in large numbers to the Khabardar Rally from far flung districts.” When asked if they weren’t scared of the blasts, Mitri Devi and Devti Devi of Jehanabad replied, “Dar lagte hal ta Rally me aiti hali?” (If we were scared would we have come to the Rally?)

Little children – boys and girls – came with their parents. Some young boys and youth sported red headbands with the Party’s name written on them. A middle-aged woman mukhiya from Siwan was leading her folks, alongside a male comrade, the mukhiya of the adjacent village. She said that an estimated 20,000 people were expected to arrive from Siwan alone. They had chipped in their meagre resources to book buses to Patna. A passerby enquired about what the rally was about. Pat came the reply, ‘Modi ka jabab dene ko Patiya ka rally’ (It’s our Party’s rally to give a fitting reply to Modi). What was most significant is that the people had come with their families and children defying bomb-scares, rumours of more blasts and braving the trouble and confusion created by Bihar Police’s last-minute shifting of the rally venue from the earlier slated Gandhi Maidan. The Dainik Jagaran on 30 October and Hindustan on 31 October spoke to Khabardar Rally participants, asking them, “Aren’t you scared of the bomb blasts?” The answers were inspiring. The rural poor, landless, many from oppressed castes, and many women, said, “Bombs and guns can’t scare us. If we get scared and don’t come, how can our party function? How can we fight for our rights?” The sheer resolve and resilience set the mood for the day.

After the rally got over, Beer Chand Patel Path was gradually taken over by the usual traffic. Red flags over their shoulders, people were returning to their villages, carrying their lofty red ant dream. With a steely pledge never to let Bihar turn into a Gujarat. Never to let another Laxmanpur-Bathe on the soils of Bihar ever again. As the rally song summed it up: ‘Gareeb ke gaddar, suno samantan ke yaar! Khabardar khabardar! Gujarat na ha, houve ee Bihar!’ (Betrayers of the poor, friends of feudalism! Beware, beware! This ain’t Gujarat, this is Bihar)

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