People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 18, 2006
Moneylenders Attack Kisan Sabha Activists
MONEYLENDERS turned land mafias resorted to yet another attack on Kisan Sabha leaders and activists, including large number of women in Shakti Farm under Sitarganj block in Udham Singh Nagar district of Uttarakhand. This attack on June 2, 2006 was made in total collusion with the local police. This is the second such attack in the last 45 days. The earlier attack had been reported in these columns (May 14, 2006 issue of PD)
For the last two years, a struggle is being waged under the leadership of AIKS against the moneylenders who had usurped the land of poor peasants. Since then moneylenders and their henchmen are harassing and terrorising the Kisan Sabha leaders, activities and also those who are the victims of their greed. The latest attack came on the day when a massive protest demonstration was planned at the office of the district magistrate at Rudrapur as part of the ongoing struggle. This was to be addressed by CPI(M) MP and Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat, CITU secretary Dipankar Mukherjee and other leaders and was to be followed by a meeting with the district administration on the same issue. Naturally, there was a good campaign for mobilisation in and around Shakti Farm for that meeting since the last week of May.
Jittered by the good response evoked not only from those who were victims of the moneylenders from years and land mafia, but also from poor peasants, landless and agricultural workers of Shakti Farm and neighbouring villages of tribal people, the moneylenders and vested interested increased their terror campaign. They started threatening all those who they felt were not on their side. Anybody who they felt were supporters of the Red flag were abused, threatened and beaten up. Local leaders of the Kisan Sabha, including their family members and some leading activists of other mass organisations were handed out clear threats forcing many of them to flee from their homes for safety. And the police always sided with the moneylenders. The issue was taken up by CPI(M) state secretary Vijay Rawat who personally spoke with the SHO of Sitarganj. But since the police was openly siding with the moneylenders, it did not have any impact.
What happened at Shakti Farm on June 2 was indeed shocking. To break the morale of the struggling people, the moneylenders, in the presence of local police and some officials, forcibly cultivated the three acres of land in Rajnagar village which they had usurped from the pattedar (title-holder) Ahlad Sardar and on which Kisan Sabha volunteers mainly women were sitting on an indefinite dharna since April 15, 2006. Emboldened by their 'victory’ the henchmen of the moneylenders resorted to mayhem in the entire Shakti Farm. Their first target was Jagdish Biswas, secretary of the local unit of Kisan Sabha. He was mercilessly beaten and the attackers did also not spare his wife. Their house was ransacked and belonging looted. They also threatened their neighbours that no one should dare to take them to hospital. Next was the house of Nirmal Pal, president of the local unit of Kisan Sabha. Not finding him, the goons targeted his wife and other family members who were beaten up. After that they launched a house-to-house attack of Kisan Sabha activists. They attacked whomsoever they could find. It was also so pre-planned that they went to the house of one Gobind Dauka, about three kilometers away from the village, and grievously attacked him with knife and other lethal weapons.
Then in an effort to thwart the scheduled rally in Rudrapur, the goons went around the Shakti Farm market area on motor cycles for hours threatening those whom they saw going with Red flags in their hand to board either a bus, truck or trolly for the rally. Braving such terror, more than 150 people assembled for going to Rudrapur rally. This is remarkable in the light of the fact that the democratic movement does not have much influence here. A large number of those assembled were women and children. But in the presence of police, the moneylenders openly threatened them that if they dare to start their journey for the rally, they will be attacked on their way.
As soon as this information reached the CPI(M) and Kisan Sabha leaders, who had by that time reached Rupdrapur to attend the rally, they immediately took up the matter with the district magistrate (DM), Gopal Krishna Dwivedi. They strongly questioned whether carrying out political activity in the district was banned by the administration citing the manner in which people of Shakti Farm were prevented from attending the rally. They complained that the local police was totally siding with and abetting the moneylenders against the poor peasants. They brought to the notice of the DM how despite repeated lodging of complaints, the police did not intervene to protect the people. Dwivedi deputed the ADM, Godbole and ASP, Uma Gunjal to accompany the CPI(M) and Kisan Sabha delegation to Shakti Farm to get a first hand account of the events.
LEADERS VISIT THE SPOT
Among those who met the DM and later visited Shakti Farm included Brinda Karat, Dipankar Mukherjee, Vijay Rawat, Kisan Sabha president, Bacchi Ram Kanswal, Kisan Sabha secretary, Gangadhar Nautiyal and Janwadi Mahila Samiti secretary, Indu Nautiyal. The delegation first visited Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital, where by that time Jagdish Biswas was brought. He suffered multiple injuries, He and his wife narrated the whole incident to the delegation in presence of the ADM and ASP and also named the attackers. Thereafter the delegation, accompanied by the ADM and ASP, went to Shakti Farm, which was about 40 minutes drive by car. When the delegation reached the Bazar area they were welcomed by loud slogans of 'Lal Jhanda Zindabad’ ‘Kisan Sabha Zindabad’ etc by 150 of those brave people including women and children. They complained in chorus what was going on from the morning in Shakti Farm and how they too have been threatened that they cannot leave to attend the rally. The leaders assured the people that the CPI(M) would remain with them as it had been with their struggle and they will not relent until the culprits who had indulged in the violence are booked.
Thereafter, the delegation accompanied by local Kisan Sabha activists and ADM and ASP visited the houses of the leaders who were attacked. Wherever they went, large number of women came and narrated the incidents braving fear of the consequences from moneylenders. At the house of Jagdish Biswas, neighbours and relatives showed the bloodstains and told the senior police officials what had happened and how they were even prevented from taking Biswas to a hospital until a bus driver dared himself to take Biswas and wife Binita. After that they also visited the house of Nirmal Pal and spoke to his neighbours and children.
When the delegation wanted to go to the house of Gobind Dakua, the SHO of Sitarganj first pleaded ignorance of anybody bearing that name being injured and later said that he may not be available in his house. Vijay Rawat told the SHO that he was warned about all this yesterday itself but he refused to act. Refusing to be misled by the police, the delegation reached the house of Gobind which was in a remote area. As soon as they reached there, wailing women members of Gobind Dakua came running to them and narrated what had happened and how they were not allowed to take Dakua to hospital even after five hours of the attack. While Gobind was found lying in a semi-conscious state with blood still flowing down from the stab injuries he had suffered, it was found that in the next hut his brother Kiran was also lying in a more or less similar condition. Even Gobind’s teenage daughter, who was to get married shortly, was also not spared by the attackers. The police removed both of them to the district hospital for treatment.
The next spot the delegation decided to visit was the three acre land in Rajnagar village which was forcibly cultivated by the moneylenders in the morning in presence of police. The tent put up by the Kisan Sabha with Red flags was still there, but under that were sitting not the Kisan Sabha volunteers but police personnel. Ahlad Sardar's wife narrated the whole incident, she feared that her only son Santosh will not be spared and prayed for his life to the delegation.
Thereafter the delegation led by Brinda Karat visited few villages where large number of people including women came out and talked about their owes, the harassment by the moneylenders and the role of the police. They also complained against some of the pradhans who were acting as overlords and charging fines and penalties at their will and pronouncing such punishment which was unheard of in the present times. Karat appealed to all of them to maintain calm and not to be carried away by any provocation from the moneylenders and police. She assured that Kisan Sabha and the Party will stand by them in their struggle for genuine demands.
Later on addressing the gathering in front of the Shakti Farm police chowki, she demanded that those who had indulged in violence must be booked under law and action must also be taken against the errant police officer who had sided with the moneylenders and did not intervene to protect the lives of poor.
The moneylenders and their henchmen and the vested interests never expected that CPI(M) and Kisan Sabha leaders led by Brinda Karat would reach the spot where they had indulged in mayhem.And that too accompanied by the ADM and ASP. Some of them came and said that they would like to talk to Karat. She told them that they can talk to the state Kisan Sabha leaders and local leaders with whom they were having series of talks. But as far as the incidents of violence perpetrated by them today are concerned, no one should be spared, she asserted.
The moneylenders and land mafia had illegally sold some of the land that they had usurped to the ex-servicemen. The ex-servicemen who had spent their lifesavings are being misled now by the moneylenders that they will be thrown away from their land. Karat assured that none of those who have served the country would be touched. Even those people who had bought the lands paying huge amount will also not be clubbed with the cases of debt trap. She called for finding a way out through discussions. She also assured the victims of the moneylenders and land mafia that there will be not any let down in the struggle against the moneylenders.
Before returning to Rudrapur, the delegation visited the local primary health centre where they found two more injured women who were beaten as they were supporters of the Kisan Sabha.
ACTION AGAINST GUILTY POLICE
Later on in the evening the delegation met with the district magistrate and superintendent of police in presence of ADM and ASP and apprised them of their visit. The CPI(M) and Kisan Sabha leaders demanded stern action against the police officials who had colluded with moneylenders and who had to be blamed for all the incidents. They also demanded that all those who were responsible for unleashing terror and indulging in one-sided violence on the day must be booked. Both the DM and SP assured that action will be taken against the police officers and also those who had indulged in the violence will be booked. They also assured that all measures will be taken in future for ensuring free political activity.
On the main issue of freeing victims from the clutches of moneylenders, the district magistrate was warned by the leaders that if the administration carries out its threat made in the notices issued to both the pattedars and the present land-holders – in case it was found the land had changed hands, it will be taken back by the government – it would have far reaching ramifications. The land given to the Bengali refugees was allotted as a rehabilitation package for historical reasons and both the buyer and 'seller' cannot be seen in same light. Moreover, they warned that money-lending business is illegal and any suggestion which gives legitimacy to it must not be allowed. It was decided that the next meeting on this issue would be held on June 14.
After the meeting with the district magistrate, the leaders addressed the gathering comprising people who had come from different parts of Udham Singh Nagar district. They thanked the people for their valiant fight despite repression and explained to them the demands they have put forth and the decision taken in the meeting with the district magistrate.
On the night of June 2 itself action was taken against three police officials – the SHO's of Sitarganj, Kiccha and Chowki incharge of Shakti Farm. They were shifted from their postings. Cases were also filed against 17 people, who included moneylenders and their henchmen for violence.
In the subsequent days, the local Congress and the BJP units came out openly in support of the moneylenders. Their leaders warned that they would not allow their area to become "West Bengal". The BJP has also demanded rescinding of the action taken against the police officials and reverting them into their old posts and withdrawal of cases against moneylenders and those who had indulged in violence.