People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 36

September 06, 2009



A Mammoth Rally of Determination


N S Arjun

from Kolkata


IT was a rally of determination � a determination to counter the forces of anarchy and violence running riot in the state of West Bengal targeting the Left Front. As lakhs of people marched into the heart of Kolkata, the central business district of Esplanade, to participate in a Left Front organised mass rally on August 31 commemorating the 50th anniversary of the martyrs of food movement, one could sense this resolve among the rallyists. It was writ large on their faces.


In the backdrop of the historic Shaheed Minar chowk, these rallyists were not only paying homage to the 80 martyrs who fell at this very place to the brutal lathis of the then Congress government led by B C Roy on this day in 1959, they were also remembering the 276 comrades who were killed by the reactionary forces ranging from the ultra left 'Maoist' goons to Trinamuli lumpens to ultra right BJP goons during the period since the seventh Left Front government assumed office in 2006. A two minute silence was observed by the masses in memory of the martyrs.


Family members of these martyrs � some of who were young widows, brothers, mothers, fathers and a few young kids � were prominently seated on both sides of the dais on specially erected platforms. There were also a few among them who were part of that rally in 1959 and who surivived that brutal repression. The dais itself was erected in such a manner that it could be seen, at least partially, from all the six roads leading into and passing the Dorina crossing near Esplanade. This very place was soaked in blood of the 80 martyrs who were part of the 3 lakh strong rally against skyrocketing prices of essential foodgrains on August 31, 1959. The family members of martyrs were honoured by the Left Front chairman Biman Basu at the start of the proceedings. Both the chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Biman Basu interacted with the family members before the start of the public meeting in a gesture that touched the rallyists.


And as for the strength of the gathering, one could see the crowds as far as the vision permitted, jampacked on all the six roads around the venue. Conservative estimates put it at around 5 lakhs while Party sources claimed it was around 7 lakhs. Even after one hour into the public meeting, streams of rallies from Kolkata and North 24 Paraganas districts were still pouring in and there was no space. We watched senior leaders and former MPs leading their contingents from the districts in huge processions. More than numbers, what struck one most was the electric atmosphere in the rally. With this rally being the first one organised by the Left Front after the Lok Sabha elections, and coming in the wake of murderous assaults on CPI(M) workers/sympathisers, it provided an opportunity to the cadre and supporters of the Left to assert their resistance to the politics of anarchy and terror.




CPI(M) veteran leader Jyoti Basu, who was the leader of opposition during the 1959 events, in a written speech that was read out by Biman Basu, recalled the 'historic mass movement' and said that despite the killings and atrocities of the then Congress government �we did not surrender�. Today also the common people were facing hardships due to skyrocketing prices of essential commodities due to centre's policies.  He accused the opposition parties in West Bengal and 'Maoists' of stalling development through anarchy and terror. He called upon Left Front workers to pledge to fight this anarchy and terror and expressed confidence that �people would not bow down to anarchy and would realise who was their friend and who their foe�. Referring to the recent Lok Sabha election results, Basu said �Many people have voted against us. We have to correct our mistakes. We have to bring them back to our fold. We have also to regain their confidence. The people are our hope in difficult times and we should not lose faith in them�. Accusing the Trinamul Congress, Congress and 'Maoists' of killing CPI(M) workers, setting their houses and Party offices on fire, Basu said �We have to counter it by mobilising the people. I have confidence that the people of our state will never allow opportunistic anti-Left forces to come to power�.




Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in his speech said that even after 62 years after the British left, our country has not got freedom from hunger. He blamed successive Congress governments for the agrarian crisis and the consequent food crisis. Despite tall talk of 'green revolution', the people do not get two square meal a day. The present Congress government at the centre has admitted that 30 crore people in the country go to bed hungry each day. Even while the food production is declining alarmingly, huge speculation is taking place in forward trading which is resulting in the skyrocketing of prices of essential commodities. The chief minister attacked the central government for not heeding the Left parties consistent demand to ban this forward trading. He asserted that the Left Front government in Bengal would take all possible steps within its ambit to provide relief to the people from this price rise. He announced that apart from providing rice at Rs 2 per kg, edible oil and sugar would also be supplied through Public Distribution Scheme not only for BPL cardholders but for the entire people, including middle classes in the coming months of festive season.  However the chief minister sounded a note of caution saying that when the whole country is burning it is not possible to create a paradise here in Bengal. Despite the difficulties involved, the Left Front government would undertake this task with all seriousness, he assured.


Charging the Trinamul and 'Maoists' of trying to create a 'fascist environment' in the state � particularly after the recent general elections � with their politics of terror, murder and intimidation, Buddhadeb asserted that this situation would not be allowed to continue. He condemned the almost daily killings of CPI(M) workers in West Midnapore district and other places by the 'Maoists'. The silence of the opposition parties to these killings was telling. In fact, there seemed to be a neat division of labour between the Trinamul and Maoists, said the chief minister. He said these forces were using the typical fascistic method of trying to create confusion among the poor and middle classes and called upon the poor not to be confused and give in to these fascistic forces. He also appealed to the youth to decide on which side they were � whether on the side of anarchy or on the side of progress represented by the Left Front. Referring to the opposition attempts to create anarchy in the educational institutes, he called for resisting these attempts in order to save these institutes where the sons and daughters of the poor have an opportunity to excel. Saying that this rally marked a turnaround for the Left, Buddhaded concluded by calling upon the Left Front workers to take a pledge to move forward with vigour.




CPI(M) state secretary and Left Front chairman Biman Basu in his speech blamed the neo-liberal policies of the central government for the present agrarian and food crises. The galloping forward trading and hoarding were making things worse. Another major reason for not being able to increase our food production is the lack of land reforms through out the country. Unless centralisation of land is broken and peasants handed over the land, the situation would not improve, said Biman Basu. While this was the necessity, trends are towards undoing whatever meagre land reforms have been undertaken so far. He contrasted this to the situation in Bengal where after the Left Front government's massive land reforms programme, today 84 per cent of the land in the state is with the poor. This has resulted in higher agricultural output in the state when compared to pre-land reforms period. However now the opposition is instigating the former big landlords and asking for their support and assuring them of returning their land. He said if these evil forces come to power, the poor farmer�s land would be snatched away like it was done after the United Front governments fell in 1967 and 1969.


Biman Basu said that the neo-liberal policies which were being pushed by the imperialists needed to be countered by merging the struggle against these policies with the fight against imperialism. He criticised the media for indulging in Goebbelesian propaganda against the Left Front in order to break the unity of the working people. He called upon the cadre to be alert to such nefarious designs. He also called for greater unity among the Left Front in order to take on these challenges.


Leaders of various Left Front constituents also spoke on this occasion. A large contingent of leading intellectuals and artists were present in the meeting.