People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 27, 2007
Struggle For House Sites Intensifies
Police Repression Let Loose on Agitators
The poor under the leadership of CPI(M) occupying vacant government land in Nagole, Hyderabad
M Vengopala Rao
THE urban poor in Andhra Pradesh have launched an intensified struggle for house sites braving repression by the police machinery in different districts. Led by the CPI(M), they have started the struggle in Warangal on May 2, in Tirupati and Hyderabad on May 6 and have spread to other districts within a fortnight. Instead of taking the issue of housing for the poor in urban areas seriously and initiate necessary steps for solving the genuine demands of the agitating people, the Congress government in the state has let loose a reign of heavy repression to suppress the agitations everywhere.
Indiscriminate lathicharges on the agitators including the old, women and children, highhanded and rude treatment of the women, razing the huts of the poor to the ground and destroying their household furniture and utensils, imposing prohibitory orders, arrests, registering false cases and sending the agitators to jails have become the order of the day. The police have gone to the extent of raiding the district offices of the CPI(M) in Warangal and Mahaboobnagar and arresting the leaders of the Party. The police indiscriminately lathicharged the agitators in Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Khammam, Warangal, Cuddapah, Ananthapur, Chittoor, Guntur, Srikakulam and Medak districts. Already, more than two thousand agitators, including the leaders of the CPI(M) have been arrested and two hundred among them were sent to jails. False cases including non-bailable ones have been registered charging them with various offences, including land grabbing. Dharnas, gheraos of officers, rallies and rasta rokos at several places were organised protesting the arrests of the leaders and agitators.
The state government and the Congress party is trying to project the struggle of the urban poor for house sites as an anarchic and undemocratic movement ignoring the fact that the issue of house sites and pattas for the poor in the state has been brought to the notice of the government and the concerned authorities several times during the last three years. Twenty five leaders of the CPI(M), including Y Venkateswara Rao, state secretariat member of the Party, had gone on a week long hunger strike in Hyderabad on July 15, 2005. On that occasion, the ministers for Home and Municipal administration had visited the hunger strike camp and entered into a eleven-point written agreement with the CPI(M) on the demands of the poor. One of the points of the agreement is that a list of eligible applicants seeking houses and house sites will be prepared after due verification in a phased manner, that provision will be made to provide pattas over a period of time and that possession will be given to those who were given pattas already. However, the government has not taken any action so far to implement its commitments given in the said agreement, despite repeated representations given to the authorities concerned and several struggles conducted by the poor on these demands for nearly two years since then. It is only in this background of the flippant attitude of the state government in fulfilling its commitments given in the agreement and during the elections that thousands of the urban poor were forced to resort to direct action to occupy lands for house sites in different districts.
Everywhere the urban poor including women in large numbers holding red flags in their hands entered the vacant government lands and occupied them. In Hyderabad and its surroundings about 1.5 lakh poor families have applied for house sites and houses. On May 6, thousands of poor people in different areas started occupying the government lands, put up the red flags and set up huts. The police, unable to resist the surging poor in thousands had resorted to lathicharge at three places and continued to arrest the people and the leaders of the CPI(M) till the evening. Similarly, the urban poor in Tirupati and its surrounding areas set up huts even before the police and revenue officers reached there. At all the four places, the police imposed prohibitory orders, arrested the agitators and removed the tents. At Annecheruvu near Settipalli area, the police misbehaved with the agitating women, dragged them with their sarees, tore their blouses and dumped them in the vans, and resorted to indiscriminate lathicharge, injuring several leaders and workers of the CPI(M) and CPI. Under the banner of the CPI(M), the poor at several places in Warangal occupied about 60 acres of government land, set up tents and cooked food there itself. The next day, land occupation by the poor at several places in the outskirts of Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy district continued, with thousands of them erecting huts on the lands occupied. Protesting the arrests, a dharna was held infront of the Kushaiguda police station. The police arrested the leaders of the CPI(M) near Renigunta industrial estate in Chittoor district when the poor started occupying land. Dharna was held at Renigunta police station protesting the arrests. On the third day, the police indiscriminately lathicharged the poor including women who were erecting huts at Jawaharnagar in Ranga Reddy district. Several people were injured. Led by the CPI(M) MLA from Ibrahimpatnam, the poor held a dharna at the Jawaharnagar Panchayat office protesting against the lathicharge and arrests. A sit-in dharna was also organised at the office of the ACP denouncing his reckless reply and disparaging comments made against the MLA and later a rasta roko on the national highway was held.
On May 11, when the poor led by the CPI(M) and the CPI resorted to land occupation at four places in Tirupati, the police tried to arrest the leaders. When about 500 women encircled the leaders as a measure of protection, the police were restrained for two hours from arresting them. Later, the police beat up and hit the agitators with the gun butts and arrested them, resulting in injuries to many. Two people became unconscious. On the May 13, when the poor minorities had tried to set up huts in an area of about 180 acres of wakf land in Guntur, the police encircled that area and resorted to indiscriminate lathicharge and arrested the leaders. When the poor occupied wakf lands for the second day at Reddypalem, the police arrested about 300 people, including the district secretary of the CPI(M), D Ramadevi. At several places in Khammam rural mandal, the poor led by the CPI(M) and the state unit of AIAWU, occupied about 28 acres of land, after the administration failed to give them land though pattas were given three years back. On May13, the police obstructed the poor who occupied the land belonging to a temple in Yanamalakuduku in Krishna district and arrested several leaders. CPI(M) held rasta roko protesting the arrests and misbehaviour of the police with the agitating women.
Police repression on display in Tirupati
At several places in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy district, the police obstructed the poor from erecting huts on government lands and lathicharged them when they set up huts and occupied lands. Several leaders of the CPI(M) and the poor people were arrested. The agitators held a dharna infront of the Kushaiguda police station and a rasta roko at Nagur. In Warangal and Hasanparthi, the police razed to the ground the huts set up under the leadership of the CPI(M) and repeatedly resorted to lathicharge at several places, injuring 30 people. On May17, the police again lathicharged the poor occupying the government land at Mahendra Hills in Secunderabad and arrested several people. Lathicharge was carried out on the poor occupying lands in Vijayawada, Anantapur , Warangal and Zaherabad in Medak district and scores of people were arrested. The poor occupied lands at several places in Vijayanagaram and Srikakulam districts also.
The state committee and secretariat of the CPI(M) have strongly condemned the repressive measures of the government on the poor people agitating for house sites and houses. The Party strongly condemned the statement of the Home minister which said that the CPI(M), other Left parties and mass organisations were creating anarchy and were acting undemocratically in the name of providing house sites for the poor. The CPI(M) termed it reprehensible that the minister had compared the people, who announced publicly in a democratic manner and set up huts in government lands, with Maoists. The Party felt that the lathicharges, arrests and false cases registered on the poor in several cities and towns in the state were the result of such statements by the minister. The CPI(M) questioned the government as to why it had not taken possession of lakhs of acres of alienated land as announced by the Girglani committee appointed by it. The government did not respond to take any action when the collector of the Ranga Reddy district had announced the survey numbers and names of the encroachers of assigned lands. The CPI(M) found fault with the government for not taking any action but bringing about amendments to see that no cases were filed against the chief minister, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy for enjoying assigned lands for the last thirty years. The Party made it clear that letting the land grabbers go scot-free and suppressing the poor agitating for house sites would not be tolerated. It demanded the government to give up its sinister ideas of suppressing the people’s movements with an iron hand and take necessary steps for solving the problems of the poor.
A delegation of the leaders of the CPI(M) led by the state secretary and Polit Bureau member, B V Raghavulu met the Home minister K Jana Reddy and submitted a memorandum explaining the repressive measures of the police on the poor agitating for house sites. A memorandum issued by the department of police in 1977 states that when landless SCs and STs occupy government lands, the police should provide protection to them. Contrary to that, registering cases on the tribals and dalits is a violation of the law, the delegation made it clear. Explaining some of the important incidents that occurred during the struggles, the delegation said that false cases against the leaders of the CPI(M) were registered deliberately. The leaders of the CPI(M) urged the government to take note of the concern of the poor for house sites, examine the applications and take steps for allotment of house sites to all the eligible people. They also requested the government to withdraw all the false cases registered against the poor and release all the leaders arrested. Meanwhile, the CPI(M) gave a call to observe May 19, the 22nd death anniversary of Comrade P Sundarayya, as the day of land struggles and extend the movement to the rural areas. Having given time up to May 15 to the government to take steps for solving the land issues, 195 mass organisations, led by Andhra Pradesh Agricultural Workers’ Union have also announced commencement of land struggles from May19.