People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIII

No. 42

October 18, 2009

DAHANU (ST) CONSTITUENCY PROFILE

 

CPI(M) Set To Win For The Seventh Consecutive Time



Sitaram Yechury and Manik Sarkar with Narsayya Adam Master, CPI(M) candidate for the Solapur central consituency.

 

N S Arjun

 

WHAT West Bengal is to all India CPI(M), Jawhar (ST) assembly constituency in Thane district has been to the Maharashtra state unit of the Party. It has been winning from here continuosly in the last six elections held since 1978. And the votes it has been polling varied from the highest of 55.02 per cent in 1985 to the lowest of 41.14 per cent in 1999. The margin of victory in terms of vote percentage has varied from a highest 22.85 per cent in 1978 to the lowest of 13.77 per cent in 1999. Even in the recent Lok Sabha elections, the Party candidate from Palgarh Lok Sabha seat led in this assembly segment over his rival by a margin of 29,015 votes. The domination of CPI(M) in this constituency can also be gauged from the fact that out of the 53 Gram Panchayats here, the Party presently holds 42; it also has 9 out of the 15 Panchayat Samitis and 5 of the 7 Zilla Parishad seats.

 

In the present assembly polls, post-delimitation, Jawhar (ST) constituency has been merged into Dahanu (ST) constituency and a new constituency Palgarh (ST) has been formed from parts of Jawhar and Dahanu constituencies. The CPI(M) sitting MLA from Jawhar (ST) Rajaram Nathu Ozare is pitted against the NCP sitting MLA from Dahanu (ST) Krishna Goda. Although there is a candidate from the Shiv Sena (who has some support in Dahanu town), the main fight here is between the CPI(M) and the NCP. The CPI(M) is also fighting from the newly formed Palgarh (ST) constituency, where its candidate Gangaram Sutar is pitted against Shiv Sena nominee.

 

One needs to dwelve into history to understand the reasons for such overwhelming support for the Party among the people here. This is the region where the historic revolt of Warli tribals took place in 1945 under the leadership of the Communist Party. The tribals faced tremendous oppression from the sahukars, landlords and the British. Entire families, including children, were made to work as bonded labour after trapping them under usury credit. Their lands were siezed. Communist Party leaders Shamrao Parulekar and Godavari Parulekar organised these tribals and under their leadership the Warlis revolted. The epicentre of this revolt was Dahanu, Talaseri and Umargaon. The Warlis, who constitute 85  per cent of population, drove away the sahukars, landlords and occupied their lands. The British forces let loose a reign of repression on the tribals and the Communists. On October 10, 1945, for the first time in the struggle, five tribals, including Comrade Jettia Ghangad, were killed in the police firing in Umargaon taluka (presently in Gujarat). Many more firings and attacks could not break the resistance of the Warlis. Party leaders were put in jail, including Comrade Shamrao Parulekar, who later wrote a book “The Revolt of the Warlis” while in jail.  The British banned the book and burned copies of it. Comrade Shamrao died in jail. Comrade Godavari continued Party work in these areas and made the heroic tribals politically conscious. Units of Kisan Sabha and Party consolidated in this effort.

 

Post independence also the bourgeoisie-landlord governments continued their efforts to take back the land from the tribals and the tribals continued to resist them under the leadership of the Communist Party. Although the land is under the occupation of the tribals, the pattas or titles continue to remain in the names of sahukars and their heirs. As late as 1997, during the 

BJP-Shiv Sena regime, a serious attempt was made to snatch away the lands from the tribals. The police entered the villages in Talaseri block and let loose terror against the tribals on behalf of the so-called legal heirs of pattaholders. They dragged the tribals from their homes and brutally beat them up. They even shot six tribals in their homes, of whom two died. Fifty one leaders of the CPI(M), including the former MP from Dahanu and twice MLA from Jawhar, Lahanu Kom, the then sitting MLA Ramji Varatha, the ZP, Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat members, and the entire Thane district committee members of the Party were put in jail. Yet the tribals did not yield. In the local body elections held some time later, the CPI(M) candidates, many of whom filed their nominations from the jail, swept the polls. All the ZP and PS seats were won by the CPI(M). So, in a nutshell, the tribals here have seen in action who their champions are and who their enemies.

 

PEOPLE'S SUPPORT

VERSUS MONEY POWER

 

The NCP candidate's election office, just across the railway station in the centre of Dahanu town, is plush with air conditioners, several phones and all other paraphrenalia. In front of the office several cars, jeeps and motorcycles are parked. The candidate, a sitting MLA from this constituency, is renowned for corruption, a corruption which directly hits the tribals. He has a coterie of ration dealers who regularly siphon off supplies to ration shops and sell them in the open market for huge profits. The tribals, who cannot buy their entire quota of supplies in one go due to lack of money, are denied when they come back for the remaining quota after one or two weeks. They are always greeted with a 'No Stock' sign. Of course, apart from this, there are the regular sources of “income” including from various contracts relating to civil works. Now, he is depending on this ill-gotten wealth to defeat the CPI(M). Reports are that he has marshalled around 7 crore rupees for achieving his aim and he is targeting the educated unemployed youth among the tribals in a big way. There is also the regular anti-CPI(M) campaign being done. Havaldar, an NCP leader from Talaseri told us how due to CPI(M) agitations, no industries are being set-up in the region. Actually, there is a ban on industries being set-up in this region due to the declaration of this area as a 'green zone' by the state government for protecting forestry, and it is the CPI(M) which led an agitation for removal of the ban. 

 

The CPI(M) candidate Ozhare is banking on the strong support among the tribals for the Party as well as for the work done by him during the last five years. After the passage of Forest Tribal Forest Rights Act, the Party has formed committees at village levels to help the tribals do the paper work for obtaining pattas. Around 50,000 applications were thus filled up and submitted around eight months back. As yet no action has been taken by the government to issue the pattas. There is visible development in villages here, with proper roads, electricity, schools etc. However, there is water problem. Water from several big lakes in this region is  being taken to Mumbai, but there is no infrastructure to give water to people of this hilly terrain. CPI(M) has agitated on this issue also. Mention to Ozhare about the “money power” of his opponent, he dismisses it with confidence saying that generations of tribals have stood with the Party and would do so in the future also.