People's Democracy

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


No. 12

March 21, 2010

Lakhs of People Knock at Parliament. Decide to Fill up Jails on April 8. Next Onslaught on Government.




Rajendra Sharma


ON March 12, it was a veritable sea of red flags on the roads of Delhi, the national capital, that made a loud knock on the Indian parliament and issued a stern warning to the UPA government led by the Congress party. Raising sky-renting slogans like �Mammohan Sarkar Hosh mein Aao, Mehangai par Rok Lagaao� (the Manmohan government must come to its senses and curb the price escalations), lakhs of people have as if issued to the government a notice for a decisive struggle. It has also been made clear that, at the call of the Left parties, from April 8 will start an unprecedented satyagraha nationwide when more than 25 lakh people will break the law and go to jails. Moreover, it has been made clear that even if the government does not mend its ways after all this, it will have to directly face the onslaught of the secular opposition in the second half of the ongoing budget session of parliament, and that this can jeopardise the existence of the government itself.

To the lakhs of people who joined the �March to Parliament� on March 12 at the call of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat intimated about the next phase of the agitation. He called upon the people that as soon as they return to their respective places, they must get involved in preparations for the envisaged satyagraha and enrol volunteers who would break the law and fill up the jails. He said these volunteers would organise picketing on all the district headquarters, central government offices and the other institutions under it from April 8 onward, bring to halt all work there, and go to jail. He also mentioned how more than 11 lakh people had taken part in the earlier countrywide civil disobedience agitation in August-September 1994. More than 25 lakh people are expected to throng the jails in the coming phase of the mass movement.

Having raised the demands of these people in the �March to Parliament� in both the houses of parliament, Left members walked out of both the houses and themselves joined the March. On behalf of these Left MPs, Rajya Sabha member and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury said the government would have to come to its senses, take steps to control the prices of essential commodities, and withdraw the increases in the diesel and petrol prices in particular. If it fails to do so, the Left would align with the other secular parties in the opposition in the second half of the budget session, making it difficult for the government to get the finance bill passed, which would tell it to quit.

Apart from raising the burning issues facing the people at the national level, like the incessant price rise, unemployment, food insecurity and landlessness, the massive Left rally also raised its powerful voice against the Trinamul-Maoist attacks on the Left cadres and the Left Front government in West Bengal. The rally saw the participation of family members of all the Left martyrs killed by the Trinamul Congress goons and Maoist assassinators. The rallyists gave their red salutes to all these participants and expressed their determination to fight the killer squads, also conveying their solidarity with the Left cadres bearing the brunt of such attacks in West Bengal. From their handwritten placards to the slogans raised at the March to Parliament, the participants conveyed to the Left Front of West Bengal and it is not alone in its struggle against the killer gangs. All the speakers also repeated this message of the rally --- that �Hum Ek Hain� (we are one) --- expressing solidarity with the Left cadres in West Bengal.

All the participants raised sky-renting slogans to welcome Biman Basu, chairman of the Left Front of West Bengal, member of the CPI(M) Polit Bureau and secretary of its West Bengal state unit, when he got up to address the rally. Insisting on realising the real aim of Trinamul-Maoist combine�s attacks on the Left cadres, Basu said these attacks are taking place in a state where the Left Front government has acquired as much as 13 lakh acres of ceiling surplus land and out of it distributed 11.5 lakh acres among the landless and land-poor people. This is as much as 20 per cent of the land distributed at the national level so far. The Trinamul Congress and its cohorts want to stop this very process of land redistribution. Basu said vested interests have been trying their best to break the unity of the toiling people in the name of now language, now religion, and the recent spate of attacks are a vital supplement of these very attempts.

Referring to the barbaric Maoist attacks in the Jungle Mahal areas, Biman Basu said media are seeking to present these attacks as a kind of �tribal revolt.� But the truth is that the Maoists are perpetrating their attacks against none else but poor peasants and tribal people. As many as 178 comrades have been killed by Trinamul-Maoist gangs since the last general elections, and most of these were poor peasants and tribals while some of them were teachers. Basu said �to get money from the rich and kill the poor� is now the line of the Maoists. He, however, forcefully announced that the toiling masses and the Left Front of West Bengal would never allow these motivated attempts to create anarchy in the state succeed.  

The Bengal Left front chairman informed the rally that a vigorous campaign would be run in the state in the months of March and April in protest against the anti-people policies of the central government. Terming the March to Parliament as �historic,� Biman Bose said the Left had organised a big rally in the capital after a long gap. This, he said, would give a fillip to the mobilisation of toiling people at the country level against the centre�s neo-liberal policies. The rallyists replied with the slogan �Laal Bengal ko Laal Salaam� (red salute to red Bengal), when Basu concluded his speech with the slogan �Laal Qile par Laal Nishan, Maang raha hai Hindostan� (India is demanding a Red Flag on the Red Fort).   

This rally of the Left parties turned the capital city into a veritable sea of red. People from far-flung areas of the country had begun to pour into the city from Wednesday, March 10, itself. Statewise arrangements for their comfortable stay were made in the Ramlila Ground in the very heart of the city. By the night preceding the rally, more than 50,000 people had already reached here, so much so that the camps had begun to overflow and those coming later had had to be accommodated elsewhere. Then, on March 12 morning, large contingents of people began to pour into the city from western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and other neighbouring areas, including Delhi itself and the National Capital Region. Most of them came in tempos and other vehicles that were decorated with rd flags and banners.

Nay more, even after the procession had begun from the Ramlila Ground, small processions kept on merging with it. This was a unique scene to witness. It was red all around wherever one could see. It was after a gap of about two decades that the Left parties had organised such a joint and mammoth countrywide rally in the nation�s capital.

From the Ramlila Ground, the procession moved towards the Connaught Place area via Ranjit Singh Flyover and, moving through Tolstoy Marg, reached the Sansad Marg (Parliament Street) where it culminated it into a huge mass meeting. The enthusiasm and the restlessness of those participating in the march was so great that the first contingent of the procession had moved out of the Ramlila Ground at about 9.15 a m, full 45 minutes before its scheduled start at 10 a m. In fact, the processionists had queued up quite early in the morning and for the organisers and volunteers it was becoming difficult to hold them back any more.

As for the length of the procession, when the beginning parts of the rallyists had reached the Sansad Marg after having moved for about a year, a good part of the procession had not yet come out of the Ramlila Ground.

The vanguard of the procession comprised the national level leaders of the four Left parties who were moving immediately behind the front banner. The latter proclaimed: Left Parties� March to Parliament against the Rising Prices and for Food Security. Immediately behind the leaders moved the Bengal contingent including the family members of the martyred comrades. Though the participation of Bengal was meant to be symbolic only, in view of the great distance of the state from Delhi, it still ran into thousands. Similar small and big contingents had come to take part in the march from several far-away states --- from Tripura, Assam and Manipur in the east, from Kerala, Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh in the south and from Jammu & Kashmir in the extreme north. Quite naturally, bigger contingents had come from Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh, and still bigger ones from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab. The participation of the workers, poor and middle peasants, agricultural workers, employees, students and women was remarkable. Their slogans conveyed the message that it was the government of the thieves that was responsible for the incessant price rise, and gave a glimpse of the people�s anger against the UPA government on prices of essential commodities and other burning issues.       

In his address, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat explained the main demands of the rally, like the skyrocketing prices of essential goods in particular, the need of food security for the poor, that of land redistribution and employment generation. He said the central government was in the dock on all these issues. He exposed the dismal failure of the centre in curbing the price rise and emphatically held the central policies as responsible for it. He added that the rise in the prices of petrol and diesel and the cuts in fertiliser and food subsidies in the latest budget would add fuel to the fire. Instead of taking effective steps to control the prices, soon after the elections the UPA government withdrew the ban on the futures trading in wheat, which would only intensify the problem. In the same way, the government took retrograde steps in case of sugar as well. In regard to the land issue, Karat drew attention to the moves being initiated to reverse the land reforms and grab the peasants lands; he raised the demand of cancellation of the land acquisition law of 1894 and adoption of a new law to protect the peasant lands.

It is known that the Left has raised the demands, among other things, of subsidised supply of 14 essential commodities through the public distribution system, including the supply of 35 kg of rice/wheat to all people at Rs 2 per kg, and adoption of an urban employment guarantee scheme for the urban unemployed.

Referring to the Trinamul-Maoist attacks on the Left in West Bengal, the CPI(M) leader said it is an attack of the reactionary forces on the strongest citadel of the Left in the country. He expressed the hope that the Left Front would successfully fight these attacks, adding that it is not a front for fighting elections and forming governments alone. The Left Front emerged from the hard and strenuous struggles waged by the workers, peasants, agricultural workers, tribal masses and other toiling sections, and Karat was emphatic that no force --- from imperialists to indigenous reactionaries --- can break this unity. Referring to the slogans being raised by the rallyists in solidarity with the Left Front of West Bengal, Karat said the people of India would stand by the Left, in opposition to the violent attacks the latter is facing. In this context, Karat questioned the policy and intentions of the UPA government --- while this government talks of initiating actions against the Maoist violence, Trinamul Congress members in its council of ministers extend all kind of support to the same Maoists. The UPA will have to explain to the people of this country as to how those supporting the Maoists are in its government.

In his emotional address, CPI general secretary A B Bardhan warned the UPA government that the poor are not born to die of starvation. If the government is callous to them, they have the power to overthrow the government itself. He said the foremost role in ensuring the food security is that of the peasants and agricultural workers, but it is they who are being increasingly deprived of their lands. Declaring that the Left unflinchingly stands by the peasants in their struggle for land, Bardhan stressed on the need of giving land to the landless and land-poor. He also referred to the attacks being launched against the Left cadre in West Bengal, adding that we are united and we are quite capable of meeting this challenge.

Earlier, as the first speaker at the rally, Forward Bloc general secretary Bebbrata Biswas said the attacks on the Left cadre in West Bengal are attacks on the Left Front government being launched on behalf of the capitalist government. While carrying the Red Flag, the Maoists are only playing its game of attacking the Red Flag. There is also afoot a conspiracy to break the unity of the exploited people. Biswas stressed that everyone knows whose interests the Maoists are serving in Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. He urged the rally participants to raise their hands and take the pledge to defend and strengthen the Left unity. The rally responded with loud slogans and applause.

RSP general secretary Chandrachudan and CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta also addressed the rally. A presidium comprising Brinda Karat of the CPI(M), S Sudhakar Reddy of the CPI, Amar Singh Kushwaha of the FB and Kshiti Goswami of the RSP conducted the proceedings.

The historic rally concluded with revolutionary songs presented by the cultural troupe Bigul and slogans pledging to continue and intensify the struggle in the days to come.    

In his concluding address, Sitaram Yechury said the national capital had seen a sea of red after a long gap. Terming the rally as the beginning of a long battle, he said the rally had given a loud knock on the parliament�s doors in order to make a deaf government hear. Now, if the government still remains deaf, the people would come to the streets in still bigger strength and overthrow it no doubt. In this context, Yechury reminded that the government has no majority in Lok Sabha on the issue of price rise. Normally, it is only in the third or fourth year of a government that people start raising questions about its majority or a lack of it. In the case of the second UPA government, however, such questions are being raised in its very first year.

Yechury specifically referred to the points that were raised in the two houses of parliament, only a little before the rally started, on the issue of price rise. There the Left members had pointed out that the government could well control the prices by taking four easy steps. First, it could bring out food grains from its excessively high and unnecessary stock of 275 lakh tonnes and get it distributed among the people through the states. Second, the government must ban the futures trading in essential goods. Third, it must act against the hoarders and black-marketers. Fourth, the government must withdraw the rise in the petro prices and restore the fertiliser and food subsidies to the previous levels. However, Yechury said, the government is not willing to provide any relief to the common people and its centre of attention is how to extend concessions to the corporate houses. It is a consequence of the government�s policies that peasants, who provide food to others, are committing suicide in droves.

Referring to the Trinamul-Maoist attacks on the Left Front, Yechury said it was a combined attack of all the reactionary forces who are using the Maoists for the purpose. He reminded the audience that a similar conspiratorial attack against the CPI(M) and the Left had been launched in West Bengal in the early 1970s, but the people there gave it a strong rebuff and continue to side with the Left Front to date. He said in response to all the ruling class attacks, we have a most potent weapon called the �people� who want a better India and would rally with the Left for the purpose. Lambasting the UPA government in context of the latest spate of anti-Left attacks, Yechury said it is only the allurement of power that has brought them in company with the Trinamul Congress even though the latter is openly flouting the government�s policy and aiding the Maoists with arms, money and other things. Appealing to the rally participants to make the April 8 nationwide satyagraha, Yechury paraphrased a couplet that had become a source of inspiration during the freedom struggle days. Now it said: �Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna ab Hamare Dil mein hai; Dekhna hai Jagah Kitni ab Teri Jailon mein hai� (now our hearts are full of the desire to give up our heads; we would like to see how much space is there in your jails).