People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 29, 2007
BJP Rule In Rajasthan: Chaotic And Divisive
RAJASTHAN has experienced massive chaos and divisive conflicts during the last few months. The CPI(M) state committee reviewed the situation arising out of those nightmarish and rioting periods in its meeting held on July 12-13, 2007.
It may be recalled that major parts of the state plunged into unprecedented chaos, following the clashes between Meena and Gujjar communities from May 8 to June 5, 2007. It resulted in the loss of 26 valuable lives. These incidents brought to memory the dark period of post-independence communal riots in the state. Initially, the BJP state government decided to suppress the agitation of Gujjars with an iron hand, using teargas, lathicharge and firing on people, which resulted in 17 deaths in different places. But it failed to control the situation and was forced to run away from the scene. There was no government for a few days and the state was virtually handed over to the agitators by the panicky administration and police. Then the armed forces were called in to bring back peace, but they also remained silent spectators. The state government, particularly the chief minister was fully responsible for the situation.
In the run up to the state assembly elections, chief minister Vasundhara Raje, had embarked on a ‘Parivartan Yatra’ in the name of new ‘social engineering’. During this yatra she had recklessly made promises to various castes with an intention of deriving electoral benefit. As the promise of providing reservation to Jats by Atal Behari Vajpayee before the 1999 Lok Sabha elections bore fruit for BJP, she also expected similar benefit by promising various castes such gains. Apart from promising Gujjars inclusion in the ST list, she also promised reservation for Rajputs and Brahmins. It was through such intensive use of caste factor, Raje led the BJP victory with 120 seats in the assembly. She played the same caste card during the 2004 Lok Sabha and subsequent panchayat and municipal elections and garnered good number of votes. But after these victories, she became “deaf & dumb” as far as her promises were concerned. This only enraged the people of those castes who aspired for the benefits promised by the BJP. All such castes organised their caste-panchayats and reiterated their demands. The complete inaction of the government only added to their dissatisfaction and anger against the government. They alleged that the chief minister had cheated them. Ignoring this growing resentment, the chief minister was busy organising caste conferences under the BJP banner to influence them before the next assembly election in 2008. As part of this programme she organised a big rally on Ambedkar Jayanti, rallied women in the name of “Empowerment of Women Rally”. Using her old tactics of deceiving people, she toured tribal areas and also the Nahar areas where the CPI(M) organised a militant kisan movement. Finally, she could not visit Rawla and Garsana – the hot-bed of the kisan movement – as we threatened to gherao her in protest of non-implementation of her promises to farmers.
Meanwhile, the government was put on the mat by the movement of the Gujjar community for inclusion of their caste in the ST list. The ‘Gujjar Araksan Sangharsh Samity’ decided on May 29 to block four national highways – Delhi-Jaipur, Jaipur-Agra, Jaipur-Kota and Jaipur-Ajmer. Thousand of Gujjars came on to the streets and obstructed the highways. The police resorted to firing and in the unprecedented violence 14 people were killed, including two policemen. There were incidents of firing and teargas in 15 other places in the state apart from lathicharges at many places. What followed in the state is known to all. The entire area was left to the agitators with Jaipur, Dousa, Karoli, Sawai Madhopur, Bundi, Kota, Alwar, Bharatpur, Ajmer, Jhun Jhunu, Bhilwara, etc becoming virtually the war-field for the caste-forces. The people from Meena and Gujjar communities, in thousands, started fighting with lathis, spears and even guns and other deadly weapons and set on fire many police outposts, government offices, hundreds of buses, cars and private properties. Around 250 trains were affected for days together as the agitators removed fish plates of the railway tracks. As per the government estimates, the railways lost Rs 125 crore and the roadways lost Rs 20 crore due to the agitation. Other losses may also be in crores. The ugly face of caste-politics in the state became evident with the MPs, MLAs and leaders of the ruling party openly taking position on their caste lines. The entire government machinery was divided on caste lines with the chief minister also deciding to adopt “divide and rule” policy. This misguided movement spread to neighbouring Delhi, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and other parts of the country. The situation became so explosive that the Supreme Court had to instruct the government to act to maintain law and order and asked for a report. The state government imposed National Security Act in some places. Some BJP ministers from Meena community led armed attacks in certain Gujjar localities. Supply of food and water in many places was suspended. After intense pressure, leader of the Gujjar agitation, Kirori Singh Bainsla reached some compromise with the state government and a committee with a retired High Court judge was set up to look into the demands of the Gujjars. The families of those killed in the police firing were assured of Rs 5 lakh compensation. Inspite of all this, the Gujjars felt betrayed and Meenas felt victorious. So the division remains alive, which is dangerous for the unity of the people.
SEVERE BLOW FOR THE BJP
The post-Gujjar agitation situation in the state is still very tense. The hatred between the people of these two communities spread into the villages and tehsils. Both the communities are organising their caste conferences in different places. The Gujjar conference in Puskar on June 24 declared their intention to re-start the agitation after three months. However, the influence of its leaders after their compromise with the state government has declined. Due to erosion of the BJP influence, the Congress became active among Gujjars. It is trying to take advantage of the situation where the government arrested many agitators and lodged cases against them as per the directions of the court. The Congress, which is equally opportunist, has also played the caste card for increasing its influence among these sections. Overall, the BJP has received a severe blow by this agitation. It was forced to suspend two of its MLAs due to their participation in the Gujjar conventions. The BJP also issued notices to its three ministers and 12 MLAs from both the castes, for their participation in their respective caste conferences. Ignoring these threats they continue to openly side with their caste elders. The image of the chief minister Vasundhara Raje in the state has been damaged as a result of all this. The BJP, which often claims to be the most disciplined party and a party with a difference, is today looked upon as the most divided, undisciplined, corrupt and character-less party by the people of the state. The internal conflicts of the party are taking an ugly turn and most often spill over in the open. It could not nominate its state unit president for long and when finally done, he also became a target of other groups.
The administration in the state has almost collapsed. Transfer of government officials is the most profitable industry for politicians today. An IPS officer of the state who has allegedly been involved in the encounter death of Sohrabuddin in Gujarat was arrested. The police administration in the state has deteriorated due to corruption, influence of caste, and it is communalised to an extent. The divisive policy of the government has encouraged the administration against minorities and dalits. There were about 100 communal incidents in the state. The minorities are a scared lot as the police do not take impartial action. Recently, attacks against Christians increased in Kota, Jaipur and other areas. All these show the ugly face of the BJP government in the desert state.
COMPROMISING NATIONAL SECURITY
A very huge scandal was unearthed recently in this BJP-ruled state, which is not only an act of corruption but also dangerous for our national security. Ganganagar is one of the large border districts of our country, It has been revealed that three high level district officials, district collector Raghubanshi, Surajmal Meena and Kunjilal Meena were involved in a big scandal regarding issuance of arms license during the last four years. All these three officials are very close to the chief minister and were posted to the district for the express purpose of suppressing the massive farmers struggle. They led several brutal attacks on the farmers, ordered the killing of the farmers, arrested hundreds of our kisan activists including Hetram and others and implicated them in false cases. Now it has been found that these officials issued a large number of arms licenses on the basis of false documents and in lieu of huge bribes. It is estimated that 15,000 – 20,000 such licenses were issued for guns and other lethal weapons to criminals and even to terrorists, not only belonging to Ganganagar or the state of Rajasthan but also to those of Haryana, Punjab, Kashmir and other places. As soon as the scandal broke out, the officials embarked on destroying most of the papers and files. Still the police could detect few hundred cases. The panicked BJP ministers, MPs and MLAs met the chief minister to hush up this scandal. The government asked the state CID to probe into this, but it is widely perceived as eyewash. The CPI(M) has demanded a CBI enquiry as it involved many states and also the national security. Only then would the truth be established and culprits be brought to book.
In the state committee meeting of the Party, the failures and improper functioning of the public distribution system were highlighted. It has been reported that the situation in the tribal districts is particularly bad as the poor tribal people are not getting food. There is also a massive crisis of drinking water in the state. The poor are not getting sufficient foodgrains under Antyodaya scheme. There is massive unemployment among the tribals. The implementation of NREGA is not at all satisfactory in the state. Nowhere have the beneficiaries got work for more than 30/40 days. The minimum wages are not being paid. The officials are involved in misusing the funds in connivance of the local level BJP leaders. But the role of the Congress party is dubious. Instead of helping people, they are attacking CPI(M) supporters who are fighting for proper implementation of the Act. As the Tribal Act has not yet implemented, the eviction of tribals is also not checked.
The CPI(M) is continuously taking up people’s issues in the state. In February of this year, a ‘Kisan Chetna Rath’ was taken out for fifteen days and it travelled through nine districts and campaigned against the anti-people policies of the government. It was a tremendous success as thousands of people were mobilised in the campaign.
Encouraged by that success, the Party decided to take out another ‘Adivasi Chetna Rath’ from May 5 to 20, 2007 to highlight the main aspects of Tribal Forest Act and explain about NREGA. The Kisan Sabha took out the led this campaign in the entire tribal area. The districts of Banswara, Dungarpur, Udaipur, Pratapgarh and 23 Tehsil of Sirohi district are designated as tribal areas by the government. NREGA is being implemented in these districts. This entire region is educationally, economically and socially very backward. The tribals of this region are totally ignorant of the above mentioned two Acts.
The yatra began from Rajsmand and passed through Kumbhalgarh, Gogunda, Kotra, Jharoh, Falasia, Kherwada, Bichivada, Simbalwada, Dungarpur and arrived at Udaipur. It covered around 2500 km and during its course a total of 79 public meetings were held in those 15 days. Thousands of tribal people attended those meetings. Party leaders Vasudev, Amra Ram MLA, B L Sighvhi, Dulichand, Girdhari Singh, Prem Pargi, Naresh and others participated in this tour and addressed the meetings. The yatra culminated finally in a big rally at Udaipur, which was addressed by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat. The campaigners met directly around 40,000 tribals and talked to them about NREGA. More than 2000 booklets on this issue were sold and around one lakh hand bills distributed. The small contributions from the poor tribals for this yatra amounted to around Rs 60,000.
During the yatra it was found that the number of days the tribals got work was usually 25 to 50 days, and nowhere was 100 days work provided. The wage also varied from Rs 25 to Rs 50, not the minimum wage. Job cards were not given to many and even to those given, they were incomplete. There was corruption at the stage of preparation of master-roll. There were scandals in accounting also. Those living below poverty line did not get work. There were no arrangements for water, shade or medical care for the workers. The yatra enlightened the poor tribals about their rights vis a vis the schemes. After the yatra, in many places tribals organised dharnas and gheraoed officials on these issues. They got more work, wages and other benefits. The most inspiring feature of the yatra was the participation of large number of women in the campaign.
The state committee reviewed other issues also. During the Gujjar agitation, the Party leadership reached the agitation areas and meet people there. This was at a time when no other Party could reach the people. The Party opposed the police atrocities and organised rallies before the district collector's office. It condemned the brutal killing of people by the police firing and demanded adequate compensation. Besides this, the Party took up this matter vigorously in the all party meeting called by the chief minister. As mentioned earlier, the Congress played a meek role in the meeting also as they were only trying to derive benefit from the caste-divide. The CPI(M) demanded peace and unity among all communities and campaigned all over the state.
As part of the central committee call, joint campaigns and rallies were organised in different parts of the state on April 18 by kisans, khet mazdoor and trade unions. An anti-communal meeting and demonstration was held at Jaipur in front of chief minister’s residence protesting the attacks on Christian clerics. The 30th anniversary of West Bengal Left Front government was also observed by holding a big hall meeting. Through all these activities, the Party was trying to unite the people in the struggle for the betterment of their lives and strengthen the democratic movement and unity of the people.
During this period, the Party also took up organisational activities. The renewal of Party membership could be completed. A three-day Party class was organised at Jaipur, which was attended by the state and district level leadership. Besides a seven day school of students and two day school of tribal students were also organised along with conducting of some district and tehsil-level classes.
In the context of the 19th Party Congress, the state committee finalised the timetable of the Party conferences at various levels. The branch and tehsil conferences will be completed between September 1 and October 15, 2007; the district conferences between October 16 and November 15. The state conference will be held on December 14-16, 2007 in Ganganagar. A huge rally is planned on the concluding day of the conference which will be attended in large number by the farmers of the district who were engaged in so many struggles for the last few years.
To highlight the anti-people policies of the governments – both central and state – the Party has decided to organise a massive campaign from August 16 to 30, 2007. The unprecedented price-rise, problems of education and unemployment, problems of the farmers and agricultural labourers, implementation of NREGA, 33 per cent reservation for women, communalisation of the society by Sangh Parivar, etc. will be taken to the people during the campaign at village and tehsil level. On August 31, huge rallies will be organised before the district collectors offices and memorandums submitted on the above issues.