People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 04, 2007
Peasants Hold Historic Jaipur March, Defy BJP Govt’s Barbarism
Prakash Karat addressing mammoth rally in Jaipur
IT seems the communal BJP government of Rajasthan has nothing else but repression to give to its peasants. On February 22, the Vasundhara Raje Scindia government of the state erected barricades all over in the state capital, Jaipur, and turned it into a police camp when the struggling peasants of the Indira Gandhi Canal First Phase area organised a Jaipur March to press their eminently justified demands. These peasants are fighting for months for the release of their arrested leaders, compensation for the dead and the injured because of police brutalities in the earlier phases, punishment to the police officials responsible for these brutalities and stop to further repression against people’s agitations. Along with the demand for adequate power and irrigation water, for resurrection and strengthening of the public distribution system and for the start of famine relief programmes, the most important demand of these fighting peasants is that the state government must implement the agreement it had reached with their leaders in Ajmer Jail on December 14, 2004.
On February 22, one witnessed an excessively large deployment of police force to prevent the marching peasants from reaching the state capital. Not only were police personnel called from other districts, they were also fully equipped with bullets, tear gas shells and water cannons, ready to be let loose any time. The National Highway and other roads leading to Jaipur were barricaded from 15 km outside the city and electric poles or tree trunks were used to block the roads at every 500 metres. Nay, an undeclared curfew prevailed in the areas surrounding the Amroodon Ka Bagh (Guava Orchard) where a mass meeting was to be held. The police not only surrounded the railway station and bus terminals but also converted the Chitrakoot Stadium, Vidyadhar Stadium and Pratap Nagar Stadium into temporary jails. Bus owners were intimidated into not carrying the suspected demonstrators from other districts, and several buses were detained in police stations. Hundreds of peasants were arrested in Khivsar, the town the state energy minister belongs to, after detaining dozens of buses in police stations. The same method was resorted to in Ganganagar, Bikaner, Hanumangarh districts and at Ranoli in Sikar district. Some 30 buses, coming from Nagaur, Jodhpur and Ajmer were detained on the Jaipur-Ajmer Road and hundreds of demonstrators arrested there. A large number of tribals from Udaipur and Dungarpur were arrested at the railway station when they reached there by train. More than 300 vehicle owners protested the police high-handedness.
Yet, thousands of peasants had reached the capital on February 21 evening itself.
The peasants coming via the Sikar Road were stopped at the Wadi river, 15 km away from Jaipur. By 12 in the noon, the area witnessed a line of more than 300 vehicles by the riverside, and the National Highway remained closed for more than 10 hours. More than 25,000 peasants detained in this area then held a public meeting on the spot. It was a scene to be seen, when there were thousands of peasants on one side of the river and a large police contingent on the other side, and a confrontation could take place any time.
And in between the police force and the peasant mass stood the Kisan Chetna Rath, the symbol of protest here. This rath had started its journey from Rawla-Gharsana, the area where a number of peasants courted martyrdom in the last few years, and travelled more than 5,000 km distance through Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Churu, Sikar, Nagaur, Bikaner and Jaipur districts to reach here on February 22.
Addressing the mass meeting here, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat greeted the “revolutionary comrades” who had defied the severe police repression to reach there in tens of thousands. He said the state government did not give the permission for a rally in front of the state assembly on the plea that a rally could be held there only when the assembly was in session. He said it was just a ruse to prevent the rally, just like the central government’s ruse that a rally in the vicinity of parliament could not be held when the parliament was in session. He strongly condemned the BJP government of Rajasthan for unlashing a regime of terror against the struggling peasants, including the use of army, instead of implementing its agreement with kisan leaders that conceded their justified demands.
Karat warned the state government that peasants all over the country were observing February 22 as a Protest Day, and demonstrations were taking place in Delhi and at numerous places from Kerala to Bengal. He reminded the chief minister that there was no longer a feudal regime in the country but a democratic set-up in which the right to protest was granted by the constitution.
Greeting the peasants of Rajasthan, Karat said the CPI(M) would always stand by their side, raise its voice against repression and do everything possible to take their struggle to success. He said the peasant agitation in the Indira Gandhi Canal First Phase area must go on till all the demands of the peasants are met, and that the CPI(M) would take steps to mobilise the workers and peasants of the country in support of their Rajasthan brethren.
CPI leader Atul Anjan said the peasants of Rajasthan have set an example before the whole of Indian peasantry at a time when peasants are committing suicide in several parts of the country.
CPI(M) state secretary Vasudev, CITU state secretary Ravindra Shukla, SFI state secretary Sanjay Madhav, DYFI state secretary Ram Prasad Jangad, JMS state secretary Durga Swami, All India Kisan Sabha vice president Amra ram (MLA), Sant Lekha Singh, Hanuman Kauwasar, Lakshman Singh, Professor Om Jaju, Bhuramal Swami and several other leaders of the CPI(M), CPI, various mass organisations and of the Peasants-Workers-Traders Struggle Committee spearheading the Rajasthan agitation also spoke on the occasion.
At the end of the rally, Amra Ram declared that the peasants would prevent the state’s governor from addressing the next session of the assembly. As the government had taken steps to stop the peasants from coming to the state capital, they will organise black flag demonstrations in the coming days whenever a minister would come to a district. On March 7, no work will be allowed in the block offices all over the state.
Following the rally, peasants and their leaders courted arrest by violating Section 144, then in force.
On the other hand, thousands of peasants held another mass meeting on the Jaipur-Nagaur Road, 15 km away from Jaipur, when the police detained hundreds of vehicles there. Led by the CPI(M)’s Nagaur district secretary Narayan Ram Duddi, more than 5,000 peasants blocked the highway here for 10 hours, and a situation of possible confrontation prevailed.
But an intense confrontation did take place between the police and the peasants at the Ghatwa police post in Nagaur district, and the police resorted to lathicharge, injuring several men and women including the Sikar district board member Santosh Vijariya.
On the Jaipur-Ajmer National Highway, the police tried to prevent the peasants coming by trucks and tractors from Thawla town in Nagaur district, but they successfully broke the police blockade. They were finally arrested near Jaipur and kept in the temporary jail in Chitrakoot Stadium.
Coming from Taunk, hundreds of peasants were arrested on the Kota-Jaipur Road. They included the CPI(M)’s Taunk unit secretary Akhtar Jang and the Kisan Struggle Committee’s Jhiral unit president Zakir Hussain.
However, all these police preparations and precautions ended in failure as thousands of peasants did reach Jaipur despite all the police barricades; more than 200 reached the Amroodon Ka Bagh as well. These peasants finally gathered at the MLA Quarters in Jalupura and took out a procession, but it was stopped in front of Anand Bhawan. It was here that the demonstrators were addressed by CPI(M) general secretary, Prakash Karat. Others to address them were the CPI leader Atul Anjan, state AIKS secretary Dulichand, state CITU secretary Ravindra Shukla and state SFI secretary Sanjay Madhav. The police also surrounded the CPI office and arrested the demonstrators assembled there. In the meantime, all the main roads of the city including the MI Road witnessed jams.
In all, the historic Jaipur March of the peasantry in Rajasthan has set an example for the future peasant struggles in the state and in other parts of the country.