[Below we reproduce the text of the speech delivered by Kavita Krishnan, Politburo member, CPI(ML) Liberation, at the inaugural session of the CPI(M)’s 21st Party Congress at Visakhapatnam, on 14th April 2015]
On behalf of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, I extend warm greetings to the 21st Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). I take this occasion to salute the legacy of the fighters and martyrs of the freedom struggle, the communist movement, and all people’s movements.
I would like, at the outset, to thank the working people of Visakhapatnam, for hosting this Congress and extending such warmth and hospitality to us all, in spite of the devastation caused by the Hudhud cyclone.
Comrades, your party Congress is being held in the backdrop of extremely challenging times. Today is Ambedkar Jayanti, the birth anniversary of the author of India’s Constitution, and the leader of powerful struggles for social transformation, equality and justice. Today, when the Constitutional rights and liberties of the most vulnerable of India’s citizens are under unprecedented attack, Dr. Ambedkar’s legacy of agitation and organization becomes especially relevant. Here in Andhra Pradesh itself and the neighbouring Telangana, we have recent, brazen instances of state terror, that mock at the rights and liberties promised in the Constitution. 20 adivasis are killed by the police, and the excuse given is that they are ‘smugglers’. The facts suggest that the 20 were in fact picked up at random from buses and other spots, killed in cold blood in police custody. Current and former Chief Ministers have close family ties with the smuggling racket, and this goes on unchecked by the police. Already more than 2000 adivasis are in jail on smuggling charges. Many of them too have been framed in false cases, or are wood cutters who are simply eking out survival. And the TDP-BJP Government, unabashed by the custodial massacre, has in fact gone ahead to arrest more adivasis wholesale, and has filed draconian criminal cases against human rights activists who were part of a fact-finding team that probed the incident. In Telangana, five undertrials, all minority youth accused in terror cases, were shot dead while being transported in handcuffs to Court for a hearing. Such custodial killings, staged as ‘encounters’, have unfortunately become the norm for the State machinery in India. Islamophobia in the name of ‘war on terror’ has further contributed to the normalization of such killings, in which Governments of various hues remain complicit, thus creating fertile ground for the BJP to sow its seeds of communal suspicion and hatred. The culture of impunity for State terror has got a boost in the arm with the BJP President Amit Shah being let off the hook in the series of fake encounter cases of Gujarat. The Modi Government’s promises of ‘good times’ has in fact meant good times for perpetrators of State terror and for corporate and communal forces. The Modi Government is seen acting openly as the agent of Indian and foreign corporations. It is paving the way for corporate grab of peasants’ and adivasis’ land; for increasing prices of life-saving drugs; for using a public sector bank to subsidize Adani; and to appease tobacco corporations. It is hounding activists who are organizing people’s movements against corporations, as ‘anti-nationals’, as ‘desh-drohi’, as ‘vikas drohi’. Communal forces are also aggressively working to push the Hindu Rashtra agenda. The bogey of ‘love jehad’ is being used to attack women’s freedom and spread hatred against minorities, at the same time. Churches are being attacked, and people being forced to convert to Hinduism in the name of ‘ghar wapsi’. Diversity of food cultures are being attacked, with the imposition of the beef ban.
Comrades, we can take strength and hope from the fact that there have been powerful people’s assertions against the pro-corporate and communal agendas, both on the streets as well as in recent elections, the most notable being the Delhi Assembly elections. The official Opposition parties are themselves complicit in corrupt pro-corporate policies, as well as in State repression against dissenters and protesters. Most of them, even if ‘secular’ in name, have also failed to take any principled stand to curb communal violence, or to end the Islamophobic witch-hunt of minority youth in the name of anti-terror campaigns. The BJP has reaped the harvest of people’s anger against these parties. These parties including the Congress and various regional parties thus lack either credibility or will to offer any effective or consistent Opposition to the Modi Government. It is the people’s opposition which offers hope and inspiration.
Comrades, in the wake of electoral setbacks of the Left, there are many ideologues in the corporate media who advise the Left to jettison its ‘outdated’ opposition to neoliberal policies, and to become pragmatic and realistic if it wishes to survive. In fact, reality – in terms of political developments around the world and in India – offers exactly the opposite lessons. The Left can and will rejuvenate itself, and with it the entire spectrum of people’s movements, with the spirited, united, independent Left assertion in every struggle against neo-liberal and pro-corporate policy; in every battle for the freedom and dignity of oppressed castes, of women; and for democracy in all its dimensions, resisting every draconian law, every instance of arbitrary arrests and custodial killings on any pretext; and against state repression and assaults on democratic rights and dissenting voices.
The moves towards Left unity are especially welcome. The axis for rejuvenation and unity of the Left can only be shared struggles and independent assertion of the Left as a whole, around the entire democratic agenda. Vishakapatnam is one of the historic centres of the great Naval Mutiny against the British Raj, a spirited instance of unity across communal divides against an oppressive colonial regime. From the Manyam and Mandasa anti-colonial adivasi and peasant struggles, through the Telangana movement to the Srikakulam movement, this region has been the centre of powerful people’s movements and peasants’ movements. Today, as another Company Raj is in the seat of power, it is indeed time to resurrect the glorious legacy of those struggles, to inspire our resistance against agrarian distress, farmers’ suicides, state repression and communal hate campaigns today!