People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 25, 2007
Convention Against Communalism In Kushinagar
PADRAUNA, the district headquarter of Kushinagar district which adjoins Gorakhpur in Eastern UP, was the first affected during the communal disturbances organised by the Gorakhpur MP, Adityanath. A CPI(M) team had visited the affected areas at the end of February and had also met members of the administration in connection with compensation for those who had lost their homes and all their belongings and also about bringing the guilty to book. Some progress had been made since then. It had also been decided that a convention against communalism would be held in Kasia, a large town of the district, on March 18 by the Party.
The convention was organised in the collectorate in a large pandal. More than 350 people attended and leaders of all the major political parties along with the CPI(M) attended and spoke. Considering that elections have been announced in the state and the battle-lines have been drawn, this was a very positive development. Many women belonging to the district unit of AIDWA also attended. A group of men and women from Gorakhpur also took part. What was very heartening was that many of those who had suffered heavy losses during the clashes and who had been living in a situation of terror also travelled long distances to attend.
Vijay Srivastava, a leading lawyer of the district and a CPI(M) leader presided over the convention which was conducted by Ayodhyalal, district secretary. Shri Harshararan Srivastava, former president of the district Bar, condemned the activities of Adityanath and his supporters and said that the communists must intensify their efforts to organise the poor in the area. He was followed by Shri Kushwaha of the BSP who made the point that Adityanath exploited every incident, however minor, that involved people even young children of the two communities. If two cyclists collided with each other and they happened to belong to the two communities, he would immediately arrive on the spot and create a situation resulting in communal mobilisation and an attack on Muslims. Shri Kushwaha said that people in public like himself and all the others attending the convention had a duty towards society to maintain harmony and they had to ensure that they do not remain silent spectators but play an active role in defusing tension whenever and wherever it was created. Speaking in a very rustic idiom he said that one person making a comment aimed at creating communal trouble could wreck relationships that were decades old but, at the same time, it was equally true that if other intervened to restore normalcy, most people responded very positively because they did not really want a clash.
Shri Iliyas of the SP said that it had to be admitted that the handling of communal incidents by governments was not satisfactory and, therefore, the role of concerned citizens became very important. Siddiqui of the CPI(ML) echoed these sentiments and said that organising united struggles was very important.
Vibhuti Chauhan, a recognised leader of the Musahar community in the area made a rousing speech saying that whenever people like him had intervened and actively organised resistance to communal elements, the poorest of the poor had always responded positively and, where they were organised and had participated in militant struggles, they refused to be used as pawns by communal leaders like Adityanath. Unfortunately, where the poor, the backward communities and the dalits were not organised many of them fell prey to Adityanath’s blandishments and were actively involved in rioting.
A senior journalist from the Hindustan daily, Manoj Singh, who has been active in the movement to defend secularism in the area for the last several years, also spoke. He was very forthright in attacking the media for its partisan and prejudiced role. He said that it was sections of the media and the vested interests that it represents who made leaders like Adityanath larger-than-life. They gave undue publicity to him and his supporters and left very little space for any opposition. Manoj Singh also said that Adityanath had assumed leadership of the Thakur community to which he belonged and, as a result, all political leaders belonging to this community along with members of the administration, the media, the legal profession etc. all extended every kind of support to him. Governments and administrations treated him with kid gloves and added to his aura. Despite all this, the vast majority of people did not support his actions and utterances but they felt that they could neither do or say anything to change things. It was this situation that had to be changed by people like those attending the convention.
CPI(M) state secretariat member, Premnath Rai addressed the convention and assured all those present that the Party would intensify its campaigns and struggles in the area.
I had been invited to the convention as the chief guest and was the last speaker. I emphasised the point that the real problems and suffering of the people of the area were receiving no attention from anyone because of the permanent situation of imminent communal conflict that had been created. As a result, unemployment was rampant while all factories and sources of employment were being closed down; Japanese encephalitis had become a scourge while government hospitals were starved of medicines and facilities; people were being denied ration cards and rations while illicit liquor was flooding villages. The entire area was the victim of the worst kinds of communal, caste and criminalised politics. And yet, whenever and wherever, people organised themselves for struggles and interventions, they could make a difference. In one village, Lakshmipur, of Gorakhpur, during the Moharram disturbances, Adityanath’s followers in the village had refused to allow the Muslims to take out the tazia procession . AIDWA members of the village along with their children took a stand and picked up the tazias. They were then joined by both Muslim and Hindu villagers and the procession was taken out.
The importance of this convention lay not in its attendance but in the fact that it was held at all. In the communally surcharged atmosphere of Eastern UP, voices speaking out against communalism and Adityanath are very few and very far between.