(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 01, 2009
DYFI Protests Police Repression On Flood Victims
IT is now a common knowledge how the state government of Bihar perpetrated lathicharge and firing on the flood victims in Madhepura and Supaul, on December 29 and 30, instead of giving them the promised adequate relief. It was in protest against this barbarism that the state unit of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) organised an effigy-burning programme the next day, when effigies of the state government were burnt all over the state.
Meeting at Patna on January 6, the DYFI state committee took stock of the situation and decided about the future course of action.
On January 7, the DYFI sent a fact finding team to the flood affected areas, led by its state president Mahavir Poddar and state secretary Umesh Prasad. Other members of the team were Jagdish Prasad, Sanjay Kumar (state vice presidents) and Dharmendra Kumar (state committee member). The last two are running relief camps in the flood affected areas for the last several months.
The team started its investigation work from Beldaur block in Khagariya district, the first flood affected area by road. It also reviewed the working of the relief camp being run here for the last four months. The team noted that relief efforts needed to be continued even though floodwater has receded from several areas.
The team reached Madhepura on January 8, where it received disturbing news. It was told that after having given the first instalment of relief --- Rs 2,250 and a 100 kg of food grains per family --- the state government had stopped all relief work in this excessively affected area. Even though the floodwaters had not receded, the state government had closed down the mega camp as well as all the smaller camps and had begun to compel the flood victims to go back to their respective villages. This was the time these people did not have anything to eat or wear, some had lost their houses, and even the partially undestroyed houses were not liveable. This was also the time when epidemics had started claiming lives and, on the other hand, winter had begun to set in. Circumstances were compelling people in several villages of Alamnagar block to eat snails and weed. However, the Nitish Kumar government was openly flouting the guidelines regarding the national disaster relief and forgotten its own assurance that all the flood victims would be provided free food till the next harvest and that hunger or cold would not be able to claim any life. Its ministers and high officials were visiting the affected areas as if they were on a picnic, and had begun to crack jokes upon the people instead of sympathising with them.
It was in such a situation that the DYFI extended as active support as possible to the CPI(M)’s call for a statewide Chakka Jam action on December 29, in order to bring pressure upon the state government that it must follow the National Disaster Relief standards and issue the second tranche of the promised relief. However, when thousands of victims were demonstrating at the Madhepura Collectorate on the day, the Sadar DSP came along with a number of policemen, tried to force his way in, and ordered a lathicharge when he was resisted. Hundreds were injured, including a good number of women. The DSP himself pulled the hair of several women and tried to tear their clothes. The police implicated 25 DYFI and SFI leaders in cooked-up cases, put 23 of them behind the bars and is still trying to apprehend two of the leaders. The police also took away about 500 bicycles belonging to the demonstrators, and these are still untraceable.
The investigating team reached Triveniganj in Supaul district on January 9. Here, the team learnt that it was the five blocks of this district which bore the brunt of River Koshi’s fury after the Kusaha embankment had a breach; more than a hundred villages were swallowed by the Tonai stream of the river. It is said that more than 25,000 people died during the floods in this district alone while the government recorded only 740 deaths. Some parts of the district are still unreachable but, reaching the height of insensitivity, the Nitish government has stopped relief work here after giving the first instalment of relief.
Here too, the DYFI vigorously participated in the CPI(M)’s statewide agitation for a restart of the relief work in the state, laying siege of the Supaul Collectorate on December 29.
It was at Raghopur in this district that thousands of victims reached the FCI godown on December 30 and asked the manager to distribute among them the grains that were already rotting. But the police opened fire here on peaceful demonstrators and chased them away. The police have instituted cases of loot of grain and some other crimes here, against former MLC Balram Singh Yadav, Bhola Yadav, DYFI district convenor Rajesh Kumar and some other leaders. In their search, the police have been making so many raids that the whole district is now complaining of a terror raj.
In Saharsa, the investigating team was told that, here too, the police have instituted criminal cases against local DYFI leaders and others for having blocked the National Highway 107 at Bhapatiya.
On January 10, the team met some people in Beldaur in Khagariya district where a Chakka Jam agitation took place on December 31 on the same demands. But, what to talk of conceding the demands, the government implicated Shailendra Verma and some other DYFI leaders.
TO PROVIDE RELIEF
While the investigating team was able to reconstruct a picture of the Bihar government’s misgovernance in the four affected districts (Supaul, Madhepura, Saharsa and Khagariya), it was also able to have an idea of the movement’s significant victory on the question of flood relief. The mighty agitation has forced the government to come down from a high pedestal and restart the relief operations. However, it is clear that the government would once again stop the relief operations the day it feels that there is now no threat of a movement.
The team expressed gratitude to the people who extended a helping hand to the volunteers in their efforts to rush relief to the people. While thanking the DYFI cadres for having stood with the affected people in their hour of crisis and congratulating them for their courage and determination, state DYFI president and secretary told them that the no solution has as yet come out of the problems facing the people in the affected districts. Only a protracted and vigorous movement would be able to force the government to compensate for the loss of life and property the people here have suffered. The team noted that only the CPI(M) and some mass organisations like the DYFI have steadfastly stood by the people throughout.
One must note here that the DYFI cadres reached the flood-ravaged areas in the very initial period of the crisis whose magnitude would be unimaginable for the people outside. Along with CPI(M) workers, DYFI cadres reached the PRC Office in Saharsa on September 3, with food materials, matchboxes, salt, dry milk, clothings etc in 112 one-quintal bags and several cartons, though this material was indeed inadequate in comparison to the havoc the Kosi river and its streams had caused in this whole area.
On September 4, DYFI cadres proceeded for Triveniganj in Supaul district, the most seriously affected area. Here, they also saved several persons from getting drowned; Rajesh Kumar of Supaul risked his own life several times while rescuing the marooned people. While the state government had declared three districts as flood affected and started relief operations at a few places, the DYFI opened its relief camp in Beldaur block of Khagariya district also, while the government had refused to consider it flood affected.
The DYFI’s humanitarian work in all these areas has added much to its prestige all over the state. This was evident from the fact that several philanthropic organisations, small soap and oil manufacturing companies, the Jain community and individual donors contacted the DYFI and the CPI(M) for rushing their donations safely to the affected people. As a result of the materials and support thus being received, the number of DYFI camps went up from 2 to 5.
On the other hand, the DYFI was able to reach more than 250 villages and directly contact over 37,000 families there. As a result of its growing prestige, its membership jumped from 0 to 4,000 in Supaul, from 2,000 to 4,120 in Madhepura and from 500 to 2,000 in Saharsa. In Beldaur block, the increase was from 1,800 to 5,000.
Not resting content with that, the DYFI decided to utilise these assets --- its new members and its new image --- for launching a movement on the flood victims’ demands. At the same time, the organisation called for an effigy burning action programme on October 25, in protest against the MNS attacks on non-Marathi students in Mumbai and to highlight the growing threat of separatism and regionalism. Youth all over the state took part in this action in large numbers.