People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIV

No. 01

January 03, 2010

MAMMOTH ANTI-PRICE RISE RALLY IN GUWAHATI

 

CPI(M) Opposed to

Break-up of States: Karat

Isfaqur Rahman

 

CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat opposed the splitting of states into smaller states and exhorted the people of Assam to build up a united movement through waging mighty struggles for a better future. He suggested that a meaningful autonomy, rather than splitting the state into smaller ones, would serve the multi-ethnic and multi-national societies in a better way. He asserted that a unified Assam with people's unity in tact would bring peace and prosperity to the people. He was addressing a mammoth rally organised by the Assam state committee of the CPI(M) on December 20, in Guwahati.

 

The state-level mass rally was organised as part of the nationwide protest movement launched by the CPI(M) against galloping rise in prices of food items and other essential commodities and for ensuring food security. Thousands of people, carrying Red flags and banners, came from every nook and corner of the state and participated in the rally with roars of anger and protest. People from all walks of life, cutting across ethnic and religious barriers — tribals and non-tribals, Hindus and Muslims — joined hands and registered their protest against the failures and inaction of the government in arresting the abnormal rise in prices of food items.

 

The protesters were crying out for immediate halt to the rise in prices; strengthening and universalisation of Public Distribution System (PDS); ban on speculative futures trading in food items; immediate crackdown on hoarding; enactment of a just and proper legislation for food security; recognition of the problems of floods and erosions in Assam as a national problem; proper implementation of the schemes under NREGA and massive public investment in agriculture and infrastructure etc.

 

Addressing the massive gathering at the Sonaram School Field in the southern bank of mighty Brahmaputra river, Prakash Karat severely criticised the Congress-led UPA dispensation at the centre and the Tarun Gogoi-led government in Assam for failing to arrest galloping price rise of essential commodities. Reiterating the CPI(M)'s stand, Karat demanded immediate ban on futures trading and stern actions against black-marketeers and hoarders. The price-rise of essential commodities is inseparably linked with the dismantling of the PDS, he said. The neo-liberal policies of the central government are primarily responsible for the appalling state of affairs. The woes and sufferings of the people of Assam have, however, been accentuated by the insensitivity of the state government, Karat asserted. Citing examples, he said, "Assam is one of the few states where the price of a kg of rice for BPL card-holders is Rs 7 whereas in states like Kerala, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu it is Rs 2. There is a need for massive people's movement to force the government to bring down the prices and to distribute rice through the PDS at Rs 2 a kg in Assam, too."

 

VIVISECTION OF

STATES OPPOSED

It is pertinent to note, for a sensitive and problem-ridden state like Assam, the centre's decision on Telengana has created fresh problems and emboldened the protagonists of separate states. Even the coalition partner in the Congress-led government in Assam, the Bodoland People's Front (BPF), has thrown down the gauntlet by demanding separate Bodoland. Protagonists of the separate 'Dimaraji state' in North Cachar Hills and an Autonomous State under Article 244 (A) of the Constitution comprising the two hill districts ot North Cachar and Karbi Anglong have also intensified their agitations alongwith the Kock-Rajbanshis for 'Kamatapur'.

 

In his speech, the CPI(M) general secretary said Assam should not be divided further into small states even as several organisations are demanding the same on ethnic lines. He lambasted the central government and the Congress party for its hasty and unilateral decision in carving Telangana as a separate state out of Andhra Pradesh leading to slew of similar demands across the country. "Further division of Assam is not going to benefit the ethnic groups. Rather people with vested interests and a section of ruling class will benefit from such fragmentations. Take the case of Chattisgarh. Today, a majority of Adivasis there are still deprived, while a section of ruling class and big mining companies are getting the benefits", argued the CPI(M) general secretary. In a country like India, more powers to the states and greater decentralisation of power is a must to meet the aspirations of the people of different regions, said Karat. Referring to Assam, he advocated for increasing the scope of autonomy by amending the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. He, however, stated that the Congress has always been scared of granting autonomy and decentralising powers. Bifurcation or trifurcation of any state would only make the centre more powerful while allowing MNCs to carry on more effectively their loot and plunder of resources, he added. He demanded greater   efforts should be directed towards acceleating the pace of development of the backward areas.

 

Describing the problems of recurring floods and continuing erosions in Assam as 'very grave', Karat charged both the central and state governments of doing precious little for seeking a permanent solution to these problems. Referring to the problems of extremism and terrorism, the CPI(M) general secretary urged the government and the ULFA to sit for dialogue without any preconditions from either side and to find a political solution to the insurgency problem through negotiations. However, there is no sign of such an initiative, he lamented.

 

SOLIDARITY WITH

BENGAL COMRADES

 

Urging the people of Assam to raise their voices against 'Maoist' attacks on CPI(M) members and workers in West Bengal, Karat said the Party has decided to politically resist 'Maoists', whose only agenda is to finish off the CPI(M). He added that in the three 'Maoist'-infested districts of Purulia, Bankura and Midnapore, the Party would do this with the support of the people and defeat the evil designs of Trinamool Congress-'Maoist' combine.

 

“We are fighting for the better life and livelihood of all sections of the people. In spite of the vicious campaigns and attacks against the Party, the CPI(M) has been unrelenting in its struggle against the imperialist-driven neo-liberal economic policies and India's growing strategic alliance with US imperialism”, said Karat firmly. In conclusion, the CPI(M) general secretary called upon the people of Assam to join the nationwide struggle against the anti-people policies of the UPA government.

 

HUGE PARTICIPATION,

PROCESSION AND RALLY

 

More than 15,000 people assembled in the rally ground. The huge participation of women and youth has been awe-inspiring. Large section of flood and erosion affected people also came in thousands from far-flung areas. A contingent from the far-east Dumdooma town bordening Arunachal Pradesh, around 500 km from Guwahati, also came and added colour and vigour to the rally. Similarly, people from flood-ravaged parts of Dhakuakhana Sub-Division had to spend three sleepless nights to join this shoulder-to-shoulder protest action. Large number of poorer sections, irrespective of caste and community, participated with robust enthusiasm. The participation from the riverine ‘char’ areas was also encouraging. On December 20, the capital city of Guwahati reverberated with roaring slogans. Slogan-shouting processions were taken out in the city from different directions only to converge in the rally ground. Two huge processions — one from the Guwahati Railway Station and the other from the Maligaon (Kamakhya Railway Staton)— were unique in spirit and vitality, in splendour and grandeur.

 

Addressing the protesters, the state secretary of the Party, Uddhab Barman asserted that the CPI(M) would carry on the campaigns and movements against the anti-people policies of both the central and state governments and would organise the peasants on their just demands. Barman said that efforts should be made to mobilise all sections of the people for the farmer's struggle for a better deal. The CPI(M) leader pointed out that the cultivators in Assam remained deprived of irrigation facilities although crores of rupees were siphoned off every year from the public exchequer. Barman added that the growers of vegetables in some parts of Assam were selling their produces at a throw-away prices while cousumers were paying much higher prices thus causing hardship both to the growers and the cousumers.

 

The PDS had completely broken down in the state and the central government had retracted from its commitment to ensure food security to all, said Uddhab Barman. He demanded that supply of 14 essential commodities be distributed through PDS to all families of the state. He also expressed surprise at the reduction in the number of BPL families from 19.06 lakh to 10 lakh in Assam at the instance of the Planning Commission while in reality the number of poor families is growing at a faster pace in the state.

 

The mass-rally and the public meeting was chaired by senior Party leader and central committee member Hemen Das. Addressing the rallyists, Das came down heavily on the Congress and its government for trying to reap political mileage out of anguish generated among the backward sections of the people. Referring to the demands for creation of separate states of Bodoland, Kamatapur etc., he said that Congress was solely responsible for the backwardness of different ethnic groups living in Assam. Previous experience had shown that creation of separate state was no solution to their problems, Das added.

 

The Guwahati rally was the culmination of a series of campaigns and local level movements across the state in protest against price-rise and related issues. On November 10, a massive state-level convention was held at Kumar Bhaskar Natya Mandir in the city with great success. The convention gave a call to organise sustained movements. In response to the call of the convention, 'Jail Bharo' movement was organised throughout the state on November 30 with massive success. More than 15,000 CPI(M) volunteers courted arrest and prepared the ground for success of the December 20 rally. The Guwahati rally was, in fact, a crusade against the imperialist-driven neo-liberal policies being pursued by the Congress-led UPA dispensation at the centre. It mirrored the unity and struggle of the multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-national people of Assam.