Letter From Siwan District
— Nayeemuddin Ansari and Kunal
CPI (ML) leaders were attacked on 24 September 2017 when they had gone to Navtan Bazaar in Siwan to resolve a dispute regarding land sale and purchase. Bricks and bundles of cloth soaked in petrol and set afire were thrown at them and as soon as they retreated they were attacked with lathis and sticks by Hindu Yuva Vahini goons. 4 comrades had cracked heads and injured ears and many others suffered injuries. Sanghi goons also formed a gang and attacked the house of Comrade Bharat Prasad. 4 motorcycles were damaged and a ruckus was created and the road was blocked to demand that State Committee member Sohila Gupta, Block Secretary Surendra Prasad and other comrades staying at the house should be handed over to the Sanghi goons. This occurred in the presence of Navtan Thana junior Daroga Vinod Singh. But instead of nabbing the attackers, the police caught the injured victims and put them into jail. They did not even register an FIR against the attackers and instead slapped a false case on Com Sohila Gupta.
The CPI (ML)’s cause in the land dispute was entirely just. About thirty years ago Doodhnath Sah had sold land to 5 people. Mohd Mansoor, Mohd Mahfooz and Vipin Jaiswal built houses on the land. But when Sher Mohammad and Motilal Yadav came there to build their houses, the late Doodnath Sah’s son Kanhaiya Sah brought a stay on the proposed construction. He was not willing to return their money or to give some other land in exchange for this one. Now Sanghi people had also started the campaign that Muslims should not be allowed to settle here (2 Muslims had already settled on that land.) The administration was not willing to do anything in the matter. The entire Bazaar was witness to this injustice and communal propaganda. After the incident, the JD (U) MLA from Jiradei (earlier expelled from the CPI (ML)) arrived there and started inciting the Hindu Vahini to ‘teach a lesson’ to the CPI (ML).
Navtan Block falls in the Jiradei Assembly constituency and is adjacent to the Uttar Pradesh border district of Devariya. Apart from Navtan, 5 other Blocks in Siwan (Siswan, Raghunathpur, Darauli, Guthni, Mairwa) are adjacent to the border districts of Devariya and Ballia in UP. Gorakhpur district (home to the Hindu Yuva Vahini chief and UP CM Yogi Adityanath) is also nearby from which Kushinagar district has been carved out and adjoins Gopalganj. Except for Siswan, our Party is very active in the other 5 Blocks.
The morale of the BJP-Sanghi-feudal forces is on a high after usurping power in Bihar through the back door following their electoral victory in UP. There has been a change of atmosphere in Siwan also. A new energy is visible in the feudal villages which had been subdued after the earlier struggles. Kavita Singh is the JD (U) MLA from Daraunda Assembly constituency. Her criminal husband Ajay Singh was made State President of the Hindu Yuva Vahini after the BJP usurped power in Bihar. The organization is named ‘Hindu’ Yuva Vahini but in reality it is a private army of the Rajput feudal caste, run by the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who belongs to this same Rajput caste. Today, feudal-minded youth in Siwan have developed a fancy for sporting the saffron turban. Their feudal aggressiveness is palpable as they whizz past on motorbikes.
Strong and sharp struggles have been carried out in Navtan in the past against feudal-criminal forces. 8 comrades were martyred in 2001 in the struggle against the Suresh Yadav and Satish Pandey gangs in Jagdishpur. The feudal forces of the region which had been frustrated by the CPI (ML) are evincing a new energy, getting encouragement from the BJP governments at Delhi and Patna. After this incident the Hindu Yuva Vahini tried to incite the traders and shopkeepers of the Bazaar against the CPI (ML) but they were not successful. In the past our Party had also fought against extortion by feudal-criminal forces from shopkeepers and traders in the Bazaar.
A huge protest meeting was organized on 8 October against the Navtan incident. Thousands of people attended the meeting. The Hindu Yuva Vahini tried to make shopkeepers close their shops for that day, citing fear of an attack by the CPI(ML). But their attempt was unsuccessful. The CPI(ML) leaders demanded that the activities of the Hindu Yuva Vahini should be stopped; the attackers should be arrested; the false cases slapped on Comrade Sohila Gupta and all other comrades should be withdrawn; the Party called upon the people to fight against the unjust forces perpetrating violence and communal poison.
The BJP, frustrated by the mass mobilization against feudal-criminal forces, saw that they would not be able to mobilize a meeting bigger than the ML meeting, so they organized a ‘Milan Samaroh’ (Get Together) for the shopkeepers and traders on 29 October addressed by several senior BJP leaders including Shahnawaz Hussain; MP Omprakash Yadav; MLA from Siwan Sadar, Vyasdev Prasad; former BJP MLA Ramayan Manjhi, and other district level leaders. Despite their efforts, neither the rural farmers or workers, nor the Bazaar shopkeepers attended their function. But a selection of feudal people from across the district, sporting ‘tikas’, attended the meeting. Instead of a traders’ and shopkeepers’ ‘Get Together’ it became a ‘Feudal Get Together’. The speakers at the meeting spewed venom in plenty. Shahnawaz Hussain and Ramayan Manjhi flaunted the clout of BJP governments at Delhi and Patna and said that the CPI (ML) would be finished; the red flag would be left with no place to hide; they also said that corruption is acceptable but terrorism – which they equated with CPI (ML) – is not acceptable. Ramayan Manjhi used especially abusive language for the CPI(ML). While the meeting boosted the morale of feudal forces on the one hand, it created a sense of deep anger in the minds of the poor.
Immediately after the ‘Get Together’, some incidents occurred at Navtan. When the meeting was over, feudal of the Rajput caste Hareram Singh, Bhagrasan Singh and Rajendra Singh had 6-foot deep ditches dug by JCB machines around the houses of Mohan Ram, Kundan Ram, and Hridaya Ram in Balua Tola (Khalwa Panchayat) with the intent of asserting feudal dominance in this Dalit hamlet. An FIR was registered and Hareram Singh and the others were directed by the CO to fill the ditch but so far it has not been done. This Tola has a total of 33 houses. 26 of the houses belong to Dalit Ravidas families and 2 to Lohar (ST) families. Only 5 belong to Rajput families but in spite of their lesser numbers they are very aggressive.
Similarly, immediately after the ‘Get Together’, Brahmin caste landlords in Siswa village (Navtan Block) tried to grab 3 bighas of parcha land. The excuse was that the land would be used for collective public activities. This was prevented after the intervention of the Party and the administration was also forced to intervene. Siswa village is adjacent to Jagdishpur where 8 Party comrades were martyred in 2001.
The struggle at Chilmarva (Guthni Block, Darauli Assembly constituency) has also taken a new turn. In Chilmarva, homestead land allotted to Dalits had been captured by Brahmin landlords, and the administration had failed to secure repossession for the Dalits. The Dalits organized by CPI(ML) built their homes on the land. On July 5, 2013, a violent mob of landlords led by the then BJP MLA attacked the Dalits’ homes. CPI(ML) leaders Amarjit Kushwaha and Satyadeo Ram intervened to demand protection for the Dalits, and left after being reassured by the local administration and police that the situation would not be allowed to escalate. Instead, the next day, the mob arrived again and fired on the Dalits. Footage aired by a TV channel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JjtxAh-t5A) recorded how the landlords and armed criminals fired at the Dalit villagers while police and the district administration did nothing. The Dalit villagers were forced to defend themselves against a potential massacre – and in the process two of the assailants were killed and CPI(ML) activist Srinivas Ram was injured. The police, which had stood mute as an armed mob attacked a Dalit settlement, booked Amarjit Kushwaha and Satyadeo Ram – who were not even apparently present at the spot and were at the time in a District Committee meeting – on charges of firing the shots that killed the two criminals! The SDO himself has been at the spot at the time of the firing and knew full well that the two CPI(ML) leaders were not present and it was the criminals who were the assailants.
Comrade Satyadeo Ram – who was subsequently elected the MLA from Darauli in the 2015 Assembly Elections – managed to get bail in this case, but the High Court denied bail to Amarjeet Kushwaha. The BJP has made Dharmendra Singh, whose nephew was one of the assailants killed in Chilmarva, President of its Guthni Block unit. The BJP and JD(U) have united against the CPI(ML) here.
The Chilmarva struggle has become a prime example of the biased attitude of the administration and the judiciary. The Party had appealed to the administration to find out the ‘mobile location’ of Amarjit Kushwaha and Satyadeo Ram, which would establish their presence far from Chilmarva at the time of the firing. But the administration – which found the call records of Shahabuddin after 9 years – says there are no records, even though barely a year had passed at that time. An example of the skewed attitude of the judiciary: JD(U) MLA Ramesh Kushwaha was granted bail in a murder case despite the victim naming him in the ‘dying declaration’, but Comrade Amarjeet was denied bail in spite of there being no evidence against him.
In the Navtan incident, the administration finally registered our FIR after an entire month of protests on our part, but so far none of the attackers have been arrested and the administration has not given Sher Mohammad and Motilal Yadav possession of their land. In the Chilmarva matter, a protest will be held at the Guthni Block HQ on 4 December 2017 to demand parchas to the poor for gairmajrua land and taking back of the false cases against our comrades. Preparations are also on for an agrarian strike and social boycott against Amar Singh and Dharmendra Singh, the feudal leaders who led the assault to grab the Dalits’ land at Chilmarva.
Meanwhile, communal tension was also whipped up in Navtan as well as other places in the district. When Muslims started calling out ‘azaan’ at a newly built mosque in Mahua Bhusa (Gambhirpur Panchayat) the Rajput feudal elements in the village started propagating that when a new mosque is built, a cow is killed and buried in its foundations. Keeping people from the Yadav caste at the forefront, the minorities were beaten up and attempts were made to incite a communal riot. The matter died down after the CPI (ML) intervened.
Similarly, at Hathonji (Angauta Panchayat, Navtan) attempts were made to whip up communal tension. Binesari Sah (70) was teased by the youth of the village, due to which he fell and was injured. Such teasing is common in villages but when the young men who tease are Muslim, it does not take long for the incident to take on a communal colour.
In a second incident also at Hathonji, Dharmesh Tiwari set fire to Meghnath Sah’s hut at night, burning up a cow, a goat, and some paddy along with the hut. Attempts were made to put the blame on Muslims and create communal tension. But the truth finally came out and the rioters could not succeed due to our Party’s intervention. During Durga Puja shops belonging to Muslims were looted at Karbala Bazaar in Badhariya Block, led by the two BJP Mukhiyas of Koirigawa and Badhariya Panchayats. The RJD which claims to oppose the BJP took no initiatives in any of the above incidents; not even a statement was issued by any RJD leader.
The BJP is constantly trying to highlight RJD leader and mafia don Shahabuddin’s criminal activities in order to kindle the fire of communalism in Siwan. The attempt is to convert anti-Shahabuddin feeling into anti-Muslim feeling. Only a single BJP MLA could win from Siwan in the last Assembly election but there is a high level plan to spread communal poison in Siwan by the BJP people. The conspiracy is to communalize the political atmosphere of Siwan and Bhojpur—both districts where the CPI (ML) has a strong identity—and to co-opt the dalits and the poor in this attempt.
Recently a so-called ‘religious’ extravaganza was organized in Bhojpur at the cost of crores of rupees, attended by heavyweights including Mohan Bhagwat. Actually this was a Sangh-sponsored event. This year during Durga Puja incidents of decentralized, low-intensity but extensive communal tension were perpetrated in 17 districts across Bihar. The intention was not to create full-fledged riots but to keep up a simmering communal tension resulting in communal polarization especially in rural areas. The aim which feudal forces could not achieve through Shahabuddin is sought to be achieved by spreading communal poison in the poor and thus weakening their strength. A conscious effort is being made to communalize each and every religious event.
To counter this conspiracy the Party is exposing the BJP‘s ideology and politics in the villages. On the occasion of the centenary of the Russian Revolution on 7 November, programmes were organized in villages with this aim. Such programmes were held at 125 villages. Efforts are also being made to organize struggles on people’s issues so that an extensive class unity may be established among the people. Land Satyagraha is being organized in Siwan as well as other districts in the State on the issue of land, especially homestead land. In the first phase at Siwan, a 4-day Satyagraha was held at the SDO office. Later, Satyagrahas were held at 15 Blocks. About 7,000 applications for homestead land were submitted. Under pressure from the movement the administration has started measurement of land at many places. Measurement of land has been done at Shahpur in Navtan and possession has been given to parcha-holders in a few places. During this period 105 huts have been put up and the poor have been settled in 4 bighas of land at Kadsar in Raghunathpur Block.
A huge meeting was held on 3 October at Siwan during the 4th phase of the Kisan Mukti Yatra which was well-attended by farmers. An effective and well-attended programme was organized when the Student-Youth Adhikar Yatra arrived in Siwan.
The poor and women are being humiliated and terrorized in the name of the campaign against open defecation—ODF—in Siwan. Children are being taught in schools to abuse their parents—“Mummy Papa sharm karo; khule mein hagna band karo” (Mummy Papa, shame on you; stop defecating in the open). This is a slogan the children are taught to chant daily. On 31 October the Party organized protests at 10 Blocks against humiliation in the name of ODF, demanding land and funds for proper toilets to be constructed instead. 6,000 people participated in these protests and 4,700 applications for land for toilets were submitted. After these protests the administration backed down a little. They have stopped flashing torches and whistling at women found defecating, and some of the lumpen acts in the name of the Swacch Bharat campaign have ended. Now, a big toilet scam has been added to the series of scams in Bihar. A 17 crore scam has been exposed in Patna.
At present Siwan has 1 MP, 1 MLA, and 1 MLC from the BJP. There is 1 MLA each from the JD (U) and the CPI (ML). The MP Omprakash Yadav won as an Independent but later joined the BJP. The Muslim community lives in fear due to the aggressiveness of the BJP. The people are very angry at the JD(U)’s betrayal of their mandate and the back-door entry to power by the BJP. Although the RJD has a larger number of MLAs, they take no initiative in the face of the BJP’s aggressiveness. During the ‘BJP Bhagao Desh Bachao’ rally by the RJD, old RJD leader Awadh Bihari Choudhury left the JD(U) and rejoined the RJD. He was the MLA from Siwan for 20 years and Rural Development Minister in the RJD government for 15 years, after which he joined the JD(U) in 2009. Along with Awadh Bihari Choudhury, the former Water Resources Development Minister Indradev Prasad also joined the RJD. In his rally address Lalu Yadav sang praises of Shahabudin. Lalu cannot abandon Shahabuddin, and therefore the BJP is provided with the constant opportunity of converting anti-Shahabuddin feeling into communal sentiment.
CPI(ML), which grew roots in Siwan through struggles against feudal-communal forces, and which has a consistent record of democratic resistance to Shahabuddin who too had backed the same feudal forces, is challenging the communal ploys of the BJP, Sangh and Hindu Yuva Vahini head-on, underlining the feudal as well as divisive communal character of these forces.