People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 18, 2007
ON ISSUES FACING PEASANTRY
CPI(M) Plans Sustained Movement Against Rajasthan Govt
THE Rajasthan state unit of the CPI(M) has decided to maintain the pressure on the anti-farmer state government through sustained movement in order to ensure that water is made available to farmers in the areas as per the agreement reached earlier between the farmers and the state government.
The state secretariat of the Party met in Jaipur on March 11 and reviewed in detail the recent phase of farmers’ movement led by the Party in the state for water. Although after the massive and militant rally held by farmers in Jaipur – which was addressed by Party general secretary Prakash Karat – the state government released adequate water to the Phase I area of Indira Gandhi Nahar Project, the secretariat felt that the BJP government cannot be relied upon and it may betray the farmers once again. With news already in circulation that after March 31 only drinking water will be provided in Nahar area and irrigation water will be suspended, the secretariat decided to fight against such conspiracy. The movement will be restarted in a new form. An intensive campaign will be conducted in all villages of the Nahar area in the three districts of Ganganagar, Hanumangarh and Bikaner. The effigy of the autocratic chief minister would be burnt on April 14, 2007 in these places.
Besides, to highlight the anti-democratic actions of the state government which created many obstacles for farmers entering Jaipur for the February 22 rally, it has been decided that the Party and mass organization activists will hold black-flag demonstrations whenever any BJP minister visits any village.
As part of the decision taken by the CITU, AIKS and AIAWU central leadership to observe April 18 as all India Worker-Peasant Demands Day, preparations would be made in Rajasthan to make it a success. A joint convention of these mass organisations would be held in Jaipur on March 24 to work out the details.
The Party state secretariat also decided to conduct a vigorous campaign among tribals on their rights. A tribal Chetna Rath (Awareness Rath) will tour Udaipur, Dungarpur and other tribal-dominated districts from May 5 to 19. Dozens of meetings would be addressed by leaders in these districts explaining the importance of the recently enacted Tribal Forest Rights Act as also the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme so that the tribal people can avail of the benefits of those schemes. A big rally of tribals would be held in Udaipur on May 20, 2007.
With the massive rallies and meetings of 22nd February and release of most of the leaders, this phase of movement ended.
As has been reported regularly in these columns, the farmers of the Phase 1 area of Indira Gandhi Nahar Project comprising Sriganganagar, Hanumangarh and Bikaner districts have been waging struggles for the last three consecutive years. Under the leadership of the Kisan Mazdoor Vyapari Sangharsh Samity, a massive struggle was launched in these areas in 2004. Thousands of people participated in the most militant mass struggle in the recent history of Rajasthan. Massive attacks by the police on agitating farmers and agricultural workers, imposition of curfew, arrest and detention of hundreds of the people, registration of false cases, using National Security Act against leaders of the agitation etc were the forms of repression used by the BJP state government. The fascistic character of the government was exposed. But the determined and unrelenting struggle of the farmers forced the government to accept their demand for irrigation water and it reached an agreement with the kisan leaders in the Ajmer Jail in 2004 and water was released accordingly.
However, the next year the state government discontinued the water supply leading to severe drought in the region. Thousands of acres of land remained uncultivable, forcing the farmers to once again come onto the streets. The Sangarsh Samity led a massive struggle in 2005 against the government demanding that it honour the agreement of 2004. Although the movement faced brutal repression by the police, the resoluteness of the farmers once again forced the BJP government to retreat and release water for irrigation. But the government proved to be a cheater once again and stopped release of adequate water from Indira Gandhi Nahar. It has become a practice for this government to release water when there is a movement and stop after the withdrawal of the movement. It blatantly violated the agreement it reached with farmers. So once again the farmers were forced to adopt the struggle path in October 2006 demanding release of water. Thousands of farmers joined the movement for the third time and it continued for five months. Again the people saw barbaric attacks, a most brutal one on October 16, and many more times after that. Thousands of people braved the police atrocities and strengthened the struggle. Hundreds were arrested once again and AIKS leader Hetram Behiwal was brutally beaten and kept in jail for five months. But the Party, Kisan Sabha and other mass organisations broadened the movement and brought other parties and organisations into the struggle. The AIKS took out a Kishan Chetna Rath, which covered more than one thousand villages in eight districts. It exposed the barbaric character of the BJP government which killed 17 farmers and agricultural workers, including women in the last three years. Hundred of people, including old and women, were injured and detained. Some of them are still in jail. The state High Court has declared Hetram’s detention as illegal. Such was the state government’s fascistic nature that it almost declared war on the farmers and tried its utmost to prevent them from attending the rally organised by the Party and Kisan Sabha in Jaipur on February 22, 2007. But thousands of farmers started their march three days before –– in tractors, jeeps, buses and trains. Thousands of police and para-military forces were deployed to prevent the farmers from reaching Jaipur. Vehicles were stopped before 40 to 50 km and farmers were forced out. Three stadiums in Jaipur were converted into temporary jails to lodge the rallyists. But undaunted by such terror, farmers proceeded and wherever they were stopped, they conducted dharnas at those places. And many of them sneaked into the city. Party and Kisan leaders addressed meetings at different places in the city as well as outside the city. Prakash Karat, general secretary of CPI(M) addressed the farmers’ in two places, as the central rally could not be held in the proposed ground in Jaipur.
The people in general were angry with such undemocratic behaviour of the BJP government. They found a timid and coward government which was afraid of its own people. However this high-handedness of the government could not dampen the spirit of the farmers who resolved to continue their fight for their rights with greater enthusiasm.
The CPI(M) and AIKS decided to hold protest meetings throughout the state on March 7 against this anti-democratic and repressive attitude of the state government. In spite of short preparation, thousands of people came into streets on the day in different tehsils in the districts. Besides the matter was raised forcefully in Rajasthan state assembly by CPI(M) MLA Amra Ram during the governors address. The assembly proceedings were disrupted and Amra Ram along with three other MLAs were suspended from the house. The government was forced to concede the demand of the struggling farmers and release the water to the areas. The people of the state on the whole and farmers in particular are happy and enthusiastic with the outcome of the struggle. The government also declared that there would not be any hike in electricity tariff till 2008. The demands of adequate water and cheap electricity were fulfilled in this continuous movement for the last three years.