The events of Delhi University are ominous. ABVP, the stormtroopers of the RSS, rioted for two consecutive days in Delhi University, using bricks, stones and sticks to prevent a seminar from taking place. The Delhi Police colluded with this assault, with its men joining ABVP in assaulting women students and journalists. Three constables have now been suspended – but this gesture only begs the question about who was giving the orders to Delhi Police to permit a riot on the University campus?
Several facts are notable here. The Delhi Police refused to file an FIR against the ABVP cadre that were indulging in open, wanton violence and celebrating by dancing atop a Delhi Police bus. Instead the Delhi Police did a lathi charge on the students peacefully waiting outside the police station for an FIR to be lodged. Rights activists have pointed out that the Supreme Court judgement in Lalita Kumari vs State of UP (2013) has laid down mandatory guidelines for police to register an FIR in case of a cognizable offence. On whose orders did the Police refuse to file an FIR against the many instances of openly recorded violence by cadre of the ruling party’s student outfit?
It emerges that the DCP in charge of the Delhi University North Campus is the same Jatin Narwal who, as DCP in charge of Patiala Court last year, had allowed goons to rough up JNUSU President Kanhaiya as well as teachers, lawyers, journalists and activists inside the Court premises last year. Narwal still faces an ongoing case in the Supreme Court regarding his role on that occasion. There appears to be a clear pattern where the Police officer knowingly allows a pre-planned assault by an organised mob, as the police force stays away from acting to arrest or disperse the mob.
The remarks of Minister for State for Home Kiren Rijiju on the episode further reinforce the conviction that the ABVP riot had the sanction of the Home Ministry under which the Delhi Police operates. Mr Rijiju has declared that “No anti-India slogans will be allowed in the name of freedom of speech. Freedom of expression in the country does not give anyone the right to make college campuses hub of anti-national activity.” This statement begs many questions.
First, the ABVP violently attacked a seminar – on the pretext of the speakers it invited and not on the basis of any slogans. Second, is the Minister implying that the ABVP has the freedom to throw stones and bricks and assault teachers, journalists and students but students do not have the freedom to debate? Third, as a representative of the country’s Home Ministry Mr Rijiju should answer, whether he believes it is nationalist of the police in Bastar to rape and murder adivasi women – but anti-national of a JNU activist to speak about such rapes and murders? Is his Ministry approving of the police-approved vigilante groups that attacked Bela Bhatia or Soni Sori in Bastar, just as the police-approved ABVP attacked students and teachers in Delhi University? Fourth, how can ABVP or the BJP have any right to brand Umar Khalid as ‘anti-national’? The Delhi Police is yet to chargesheet Khalid for his alleged acts of ‘sedition’ last year. Yet the ABVP is using Khalid’s presence at a Seminar to unleash a riot against thousands of students and teachers waiting to hear him speak. Fifth, a number of men accused of being ISI agents have been found linked to the BJP and VHP. Why do arrests of their men for ISI links not make BJP and VHP ‘anti-national,’ but Umar Khalid or Shehla Rashid are declared ‘anti-national’? Is it because of their outspoken views against Hindutva and the Modi Government?
Finally, what views are ‘anti-national’? ABVP leader, former Joint Secretary of JNUSU Saurabh Sharma declares on Twitter that JNU is anti-national because it is a hurdle to India’s becoming a Hindu Nation. Why is it not ‘anti-national’ for ABVP to call for turning secular India into a Hindu Nation, but ‘anti-national’ for students to support – or discuss and debate – Kashmir’s right to self-determination or Bastar’s right to democracy?
On campuses and in the country, the freedom to express dissent, and debate freely is the essence of democracy. For ruling party-backed goons to attack democracy with open violence in the capital city, is a sign of growing fascist forces in India. The students and teachers of Universities are at the forefront of the resistance to fascism however – as displayed by an inspiring march in Delhi University that defended the ‘right to debate and dialogue’ from the violence unleashed by goons.
The CPI (ML) organized a rally in Udaipur and a dharna in front of the Collector’s office to protest against the anti-people policies of the Rajasthan BJP government. The main demands of the dharna were: implementation of MNREGA, and immediate arrest of rape-accused Udaylal, Sarpanch of Sati ki Chori (Salumber Tehsil). Hundreds of people from Salumber, Sarada, Udaipur city, Mavali and other places attended the rally which started from the Town Hall and culminated in a dharna at the Collectorate.
The meeting was addressed by Comrades Mahendra Choudhury, Sucheta De, Prof. Hemendra Chandaliya, AIPWA leader Premlata, Saurabh Naruka and others. The speakers said that the Modi government’s note ban had snatched away the livelihoods of poor workers and farmers while benefiting corporate houses. The government is cutting down on schemes for the poor and displacing the poor in the name of smart cities and the poor must unite and fight for housing pattas, employment, ration-kerosene, and other rights. They demanded that MNREGA should be implemented in Udaipur district to compensate for the loss of livelihoods. The speakers also pointed out that the neoliberal policies were cutting down schemes related to the poor and benefiting big capitalists by tax waivers. The CPI (ML) believes that it is only through unity of the poor and walking on the path of revolution that the rights of the poor can be won.
They also said that the BJP government and Home Minister Gulab Katariya are protecting criminals like rape-accused Sarpanch Udaylal; if Udaylal is not arrested without delay Party workers would undertake a fast unto death. The speakers condemned the government’s open protection of criminals; even after the High Court’s direction and the victim’s statement under 164, Udaylal who has close connections with the BJP is not being arrested. This shows clearly that he enjoys political protection of the ruling party. At the conclusion of the meeting the rape victim addressed the dharna and demanded justice.
The CPI(ML) Sangharsh Sankalp Yatra, resolving to carry forward the struggles of late Com. Srilata Swaminathan, reached Manpura in the evening of 26 February 2017. The Yatra from Udaipur to Ghantali, Banswada passed through Piladar, Gatod, Jaisamand, Veerpura, Kantoda, Sallara, Dingari, Kejad, Sarada, Badgaon, Badavali, Intali Pal, Intali khera, Dagar, Baroda, Dharod, Dudar, Salumber, and Jodsagar Bhagal before reaching Manpura. As it passed through the villages, Party activists spoke to the people and gathered their views on MNREGA, education, health care, ration, women’s safety and other issues.
CPI(ML) State Committee member Shankar Lal Chaudhury said the Yatra had started from Udaipur and had held public meetings at Kewra, Oda, Rela, Devpura, Paluna, Palodara, Amarpura, Piladar and other villages and reached Bovas in the evening. He said that no MNREGA work was going on in any of these villages and the people are deeply troubled by unemployment. In the name of constructing toilets, incomplete structures have been put up which cannot be used; people have no option but to defecate in open spaces as they used to earlier. Party District Secretary Dr Chandra Dev Ola said that the Yatra would move forward the next day and would hold meetings and people’s interaction at Malpur, Morila, Rajpura, Devgaon, Kholri, Bhimpur-Barbadd, Jhallara, Bhagal, Dhikadhola, Payra, Ghated, Dhawda, Sanjola, Hadmatiya, Matasula, Jhadap and other villages.
Addressing the meetings at various villages Party State Secretary Mahendra Chaudhury said that Com. Srilata Swaminathan had for forty years waged a dedicated struggle against oppression in Adivasi regions of the State. She worked hard to organize the rural poor and adivasis against atrocities by feudal forces, moneylenders, forest officers and the police. He said that the Party would organize movements to carry forward her struggles for the poor and adivasis of the State.
A class X student Neetu Kumari died due to the negligence of the administration at the Ambedkar Residential Girls High School. If the district administration had ensured timely treatment and the Sadar hospital doctors had given proper treatment, Neetu would probably have survived. When informed about Neetu’s state, a Civil Surgeon from Ara and another doctor came to the school and declared the girl dead. But they changed their statement in front of the district officials and said the girl is still alive and has to be admitted in hospital. The district administration was also trying to whitewash the whole matter but 400 girl students had gathered at the place and started raising their voice against the administration and for justice. The justice-loving citizens of Ara were also supporting this agitation.
It is to be noted that this school lacks even the basic minimum facilities. If the girls need medical help at night they have to go by themselves. Rice is served at both meals in the school; rotis are never served. There are no arrangements for cleaning and hygiene. In the event of any accident the role of the district administration is to hush up the matter. In the case of Neetu’s death also, fearing an agitation, the entire school was converted into a police camp and the main gate was locked. Even family members and journalists were not permitted to enter the school campus and one journalist was subjected to misbehavior.
However, the girl students continued to raise their voice in spite of the administration’s autocratic attitude. When the girls demanded that the Welfare Department Secretary should be called, the admimistration assured them that they would call him. But when he did not come till 4 PM the angry students, carrying the dead body and led by AISA activists Sabir and Sandeep, blocked the road in front of the main gate. Under pressure, finally the Welfare Department Secretary came and assured them that all issues would be resolved, after which the students ended the road block. The main demands of the students are: 1. A 24 hour Health Centre should be opened in the school; 2. New classrooms should be constructed to replace the dilapidated classrooms in the school; 3. Rs 10 Lakh compensation for Neetu Kumari’s family; 4. Government employment for one member of Neetu’s family; 5. The school should be converted into a 10+2 school; 6. Basic facilities should be provided in the school; 7. Teachers should be appointed in the school for all subjects; 8. Action should be taken against the district administration which is responsible for Neetu Kumari’s death.
On 16 and 17 February 2017, a global investors’ summit, ‘Momentum Jharkhand’ was organized in Ranchi under the aegis of the Raghuvar government and it was attended by over 1000 representatives from 219 companies including 62 of the biggest corporate companies from 26 countries. MoUs worth a total of Rs 3.76 cores were signed in 12 sectors—1 lakh in the steel industry, 74000 in energy, 51000 in production, 34000 in basic infrastructure, 23000 in mining. 7 Union Ministers, 46 State guests, Ambassadors from 4 countries were part of this summit. PM Narendra Modi addressed the summit through video conferencing.
It has been agreed through the MOUs to hand out to global investors through land banks lakhs of hectares of agricultural land, gair majarua government land, and bandobasti land belonging to the adivasis and indigenous people of Jharkhand. There are also reports that this time the land is not going to be given on lease; it will be allotted on a permanent basis and payment will have to be made within 5 years. Thus the global investors’ summit is the auction ground for selling off Jharkhand. The government should make public the land deals in each of these MOUs and first get consent from the affected population. The Raghuvar government has attacked land and environment under the pretext of development. Land, forests and water are being handed over to corporate companies. 25 amendments have been made to labour laws in order to make it easy for looting companies to milk the mineral resources of Jharkhand which constitute 40% of the country’s total mineral resources. Tax waivers and subsidies have been granted.
The CPI(ML) avers that the people of Jharkhand will never allow this loot to become a ground reality despite the MOUs being signed. 60 lakh people have already been displaced in Jharkhand due to industrialization. How the government treats the displaced persons is clear from the Badkagaon and Gola firings. If the government really feels that industrialization is the path to development, it shoud open up the factories which are lying closed in industrial areas in every district—Bokaro industrial area, Sindri fertilizer factories, Kumardhuvi refractory plant and several others. Before new land is acquired, why are not the factories on lands acquired earlier made to function? The CPI(ML) believes that agricultural development should be the priority for the true development of Jharkhand. The government should invest in agricultural development, protect agricultural land, forests, hills and rivers, and ensure good irrigation. The lands reserved under land banks should be allotted to the poor of the State. Amendments to the CNT-SPT Act should be withdrawn and closed factories should be rejuvenated.
To oppose the Momentum Jharkhand summit and to demand opening of closed factories, agricultural land development, irrigation facilities, and a summit for migrant Jharkhandi workers, the CPI(ML), CPI, CPM, Forward Bloc, SUCI (C)and MCC held a joint statewide protest from 14 to 16 February. A Jan Panchayat was held in front of the Raj Bhawan on 14 February. Representatives from adivasi and people’s organizations also spoke at the Panchayat. Adivasi organizations also took to the streets to voice their protest. 16 February was observed as Protest Day in all districts of the State. Dharnas and marches were held at Dhanbad, Bokaro, Ramgarh, Bharkunda, Jamatada, Godda, Pedeyahat, Hazaribagh, Giridih, Tata, Lohardaga, Gadhwa, and other districts. A memorandum with the demand to cancel the decisions taken at the Momentum Jharkhand Summit and the other demands listed above was submitted to the Chief Minister through the District Commissioners. The Left parties asserted that they will not allow the interests of the adivasis and indigenous people of Jharkhand to be auctioned off to corporate companies. The other Opposition parties, though they had stood in protest against the amendments to the CNT-SPT Act, are supporting the global investors’ summit and remain silent on the issue of Jharkhand’s people. The Opposition parties in Jharkhand should break this silence and stand up for the rights of the people. The protests by the Left parties and the people of Jharkhand are perhaps a precursor to a greater people’s rebellion in Jharkhand.
A protest by mahadalits, dalits and backward poor, settled for years by the side of the railway line and NH 31, was organized under the joint banners of the CPI(ML) and AIARLA on 7 February in front of the Beguserai Collectorate. Hundreds of people living in hutments in Beguserai town (Lohiya Nagar Railway Gumti, DPS School Jail Gate) and Balliya, Janipur, Kurha and Kalyanpur participated in the protest demonstration. The demands for alternative housing arrangements and flyovers in densely populated areas to be made before making NH 31 into a 4-lane road as per the Bihar government’s Vas Bhumi Policy 2014 for urban and rural areas and the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Policy was made during the protest. The protest meeting was addressed by CPI(ML) district Secretary Diwakar Kumar, AIARLA district Secretary Chandradev Verma and other leaders. Addressing the meeting Com. Diwakar said that Nitish Kumar is silently abetting attacks on and killings of dalits by feudal forces and evicting them from their homes and lands. Hutment residents Suresh Paswan, Ramchandra Mahto, Rambalak Mahto, Rita Devi, Vinod Paswan and hundreds of others also participated in the protest.
A Satyagraha fast was started on 7 February 2017 at Benibad in Gayaghat village of Muzaffarpur with the following demands: constituting a high level committee for review of the Baghmati dam project on the basis of present geographical conditions; guarantee of housing for the displaced; withdrawal of the ridiculous and false cases slapped on protestors and ending the conspiracy of repression to stop the agitation. Sitting on the fast are 4 women—district councilor Vijnesh Yadav, Sarpanch Kanchan Kumari, social activist Neelu Singh, and Deputy Sarpanch Radha Devi—and social activists including Ramlochan Singh, Dinesh Sahni and ex-Sarpanch Jagannath Paswan. The satyagraha and agitation are being led by CPI (ML) leader and convener of ‘Chas-Bas Jeevan Bachao Baghmati Sangharsh Morcha’ Com. Jitendra Yadav.
The protest was addressed by PB member Dhirendra Jha and other leaders and activists. Prior to the Satyagraha from 3 to 6 February an Adhikar Yatra was taken out through the affected villages and panchayats in which hundreds of people participated.
A First Year student of BDS at the Dental College in the Vananchal of Farthiya (Garhwa), Sonali Kumari was killed and it was only after a whole week passed that the SP was forced to publicly acknowledge the incident. The post-mortem report did not show evidence of suicide and no marks of hanging could be found on the neck, whereas the victim’s friends, when they returned from class on 1 February, found her hanging with a dupatta round her neck. The killers did not get an opportunity to tamper with the post-mortem report due to the alertness of organizations like AISA, RYA, AIPWA and Insaf Manch.
As the circumstances of the death came under suspicion, a protest march on 14 February organised to highlight the conspiracy of murder. A memorandum was submitted to the Deputy Commissioner with the demand that the Chief Warden of the hostel should be arrested and tried under Section 302, and a CBI inquiry should be instituted to probe into the matter. It is to be noted that the warden Meena Singh encourages ragging, embezzles students’ fees and other facilities and if the students protest they are either failed in the examinations or thrown out of the college or the hostel. Meena Singh has a good rapport with the BDC College Principal Dinesh Singh who has connections in high places.
With continuing protests for a week, the SP admitted that Sonali Kumari was murdered, and this was not a case of suicide. The police is proposing a DGP level enquiry but the CPI(ML) is continuing the agitation to press for a CBI enquiry.
On 3 February goons who had gathered to take part in a BJP function vandalized the life-size image of people’s leader Com. Mahendra Singh at the bus stop by cutting it with knives and scissors. A mass protest march was organized on 4 February in Bagodar against the vandalization and the administration was cautioned that if the culprits are not arrested within 10 days, the CPI(ML) would launch an agitation. On 14 February hundreds of people took out a lathi march and demanded for the immediate arrest of the culprits. The protest sent out the message that the patience of the people cannot be stretched beyond a point.
The CPI(ML) organized a protest and gherao at the Ranchi Municipal Corporation on 23 February against the exorbitant increase in holding tax and the approval by the Raghuvar government of the decision to collect holding tax from movable properties. This is a conspiracy to displace low-income urban poor from Ranchi while the govt. continues waivers for big companies by increasing burden on the poor.
The protest march culminated at the Municipal Corporation office where a 7 point charter of demands was submitted to the Deputy City Commissioner. Addressing the protesters Bhuvaneshwar Kewat said that the Municipal Corporation has become an agency for earning profit and has forsaken the aim of public service. The Corporation is taking decision upon decision which are anti-people. He further said that citizens residing in the HEC area have been left to die without water. Neither the Municipal Corporation nor the HEC is providing basic essential facilities to these people. Com. Ajablal Singh said that it is illegal to charge separately for sanitation services. Ranchi has become a city where dogs and mosquitoes create havoc. The Corporation is ridden with corruption. He cautioned that if the corruption does not end and if adequate arrangements for drinking water are not made before summer sets in, the agitation would be further strengthened.
CPI(ML) Darbhanga District Committee member Com. Ram Bahadur Das passed away on 19 January 2017 due to blood cancer. He was a resident of Dharora village in Benipur block. A condolence meeting was held as soon as news of his demise reached the Party district office on 20 January. Addressing the meeting, Mithilanchal in-charge of party Dhirendra Jha said that the demise of Com. Ram Bahadur Das is an irreparable loss to the Party. The condolence meeting was also addressed by Abhishek Kumar, Devendra Kumar, Kalyan Bharti, Laxmi Paswan, Md. Mojim, Rani Sharma and others. Com Ram Bahadur’s final journey was accompanied by District Secretary Baidyanath Yadav, RK Saini, Prince Karn, Sandeep Chaudhury, Sandeepan Mukhiya and others. A condolence meeting was also held at the cremation ground. Red Salute to Com Ram Bahadur Das!