People's Democracy

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


No. 12

March 21, 2010

The Struggle Will Not Be Publicised!

G Mamatha

MANY rallies, dharnas and other forms of protest demonstrations take place whenever parliament is on session. Participants to these rallies are as varied as their issues. Many of them confined to the designated �expression zone� for protests, the Jantar Mantar area, fail to get noticed both by the media and the public. Whether a particular protest gets reported or not depends not only on the issue or by the number of participants, but also on the willingness of the ruling classes to hear them. If they are willing, even if you are 10 people lighting candles, distributing roses, you would be front page news. If they are not, even if you are multitudes raising genuine burning issues of the people, you can consider yourselves lucky to find a single column mention.

Let me illustrate. A rally was held recently. Around one lakh people marched in the national capital on March 12, responding to the call of the Left Parties. After more than a decade and half, the city of Lal Qilla, turned red. Red, not just due to the flags and banners the rallyists carried, but also because of their seething rage. Their anger was expressed in a resolute and determined manner in which they had marched through the streets, after undertaking a gruelling journey.

The ruling classes do not like it and so does the �national media�. This does not make news for them. And these are not the people who can �pay� for their news. They are all just ordinary people � around us and just like us � not prone to 'sensationalism' and histrionics. They live in our villages, in our slums; do ordinary chores, till our farms, lay our roads, build our houses, carry our loads, transport our goods, wash our utensils and do many such �trivial� and �menial� chores. They are not considered �fit� to be in our drawing rooms � either on our TVs or in our newspapers. After all they are not our heartthrobs, Hollywood divas, Bollywood beauties.

Why should Gaudi Devi, a daily wage labourer of Balia district in Uttar Pradesh make news? She is not even Kalawati, whom our 'prince' visited, NGOs took notice and 'philanthropists' moved in. She hardly earns rupees five or ten on an average per day. She is a 'lazy soul', a daily labourer, who says �there is no agriculture and no work for us�. She lacks �skill-diversifying� techniques and �survival skills� but is 'audacious' to state �How can we live in these conditions? The rising prices are ruining our lives. We are cutting down on the minimum basic food that we were having. And because of this our health is also shrinking�. Is there anything 'new' in her story or 'news' in her life? She is no exception, there are millions like her. And it is exceptions that make news these days. �Nobody remembers the second person who had set foot on the moon!�

But this does not prevent Guliya from Chhapra, Bihar working as agricultural labourer pour out her anger, �We used to fill our stomachs with potatoes, which were affordable. But now even these have gone beyond our reach�. There is an 'exception' in her case (for many amongst us who have not known the following 'common' fact in many rural villages). She does not listen to all those Bollywood beauties who exhort her to buy soaps. �Since the prices of soaps have risen, we now go and take our bath under the running water streams and use mud to clean our bodies�. If anyone thinks their sense of 'decency' is hurt by what she said and busy re-arranging wardrobes to suit the changing seasons, listen to this. �Earlier we used to buy a pair of clothes for the family once a year, now we cannot even imagine of this, since even affording a plate of meals per day has become very difficult with the rising prices of food�. Ah! Another general feature among the millions in our country, isn't it? But here there is another common feature she and her ilk share with our Page 3 regulars. Surprised? Page 3 fashionistas tear their clothes for the look while Guliya too wears torn clothes.

And I was desperately looking for some exceptions from the 100,000 strong rally and suddenly stopped staring at a point. No, I was not looking at the man who wore small sample packets of all essential commodities pinned to his shirt, stating that this is what he could manage to buy from his salary. I was looking at a 5 year old boy named Ranjit from Madhya Pradesh who was sitting beside his mother. His stomach was bloated and the rest of the body was lean. Remember those pictures you have seen captioned as from Somalia, Ethiopia or some sub-Saharan country. They are not from our country, so could make it to the papers. But Ranjit is an Indian national, just like you and me. He is an exception, suffering from malnutrition. But alas he is not! According to the Madhya Pradesh state government�s own submission, 71 kids died daily since 2005, and that it has the highest infant mortality rate in the country where 130,233 children died in the state before attaining the age of five between 2005 and 2009. Children are dying because they are not being fed enough to survive, are being malnourished. But again Ranjit is an exception, fortunately he is not part of the above statistics, which occasionally find way into our drawing rooms.

I thought my search for 'exceptions' would be a failure and this was confirmed by Munni from Gaya district of Bihar. �The public distribution system is very bad in our village. First thing is not all the poor people have ration cards. The other thing is that the ration shops open only once in four-five months. We have to stand in long queues till evening to get the ration and we do not get all the items too. We have to forgo the days work to be able to buy ration. Earlier we used to get 15 kilograms of wheat, now we only get 10 kgs�.

And there is Bachcha Prasad from Saran district of Bihar who disputes government's claims that the prices of food items are on a downward spiral. He also rants like many amongst us, sugar Rs 50, arhar dal Rs 100, masoor dal around Rs 80 and atta Rs 18 per kilo. He is not sure about what job he would undertake tomorrow or whether he would be able to earn more tomorrow than what he did today. But he is sure about one thing, prices are going to rise.

Then there is Sukhvinder Singh, a middle aged farmer from Punjab who still retained humour in this life to state that only �sukh� left for him in his life is found in his name. The strains of market are showing on his otherwise sturdy frame. Being both a buyer and seller in the market, it had taught him some bitter lessons, unlike the food that he grows. �When I sell I don�t even get remunerative prices, but when I go to buy I am fleeced�. Sorry I cannot mention all the expletives he had got for the corporates, black marketers and middle men as they too are general and used by majority of the people.

What exceptions can you expect when the rally represents the entire country and the majority of our country people? But yes, there are some. Right at the front of the rally, towards the left of the dais, sat a group of people. They are real exceptions. Proud exceptions. They are the ones who have lost one among their family, their near and dear ones fighting in defence of the rights hard won by them. They are the proud defenders of the Red Flag and all the achievements of the Left Front government in all its years in office. They represent the families of the 170 and more martyrs who were butchered by the opportunistic Trinamul-Maoist alliance. They were given pride of the place, not only in the rally but also in the hearts of all the participants of the mammoth rally. Rightly, because their sacrifices are exceptional.

And there are some more exceptions. Like Dayavathi whose eyes had 'sparks' in them. She was watching a street-play of the JANAM group in the camp, the day before the rally. It was about price rise, PDS and the government policies that are wreaking havoc with the lives of the common people. She was angrily responding to the dialogues of the minister and the policeman character in the play. Surprisingly they were exactly matching the dialogues of the 'activist' character in the play. She was so involved in the play, that her comrades sitting by her side had to control her with some force and prevent her from hitting the 'minister' and the 'policeman'. There can be no better example of art learning from the common people and arming common people. Her eyes had this spark.

It is this spark that the rally intended to ignite not only among all the participants of the rally but also among all the people of our country. When the leaders, noticing this spark gave a call for Jail Bharo, Civil Dis-obedience movement on April 8, eyes gleamed and hands clapped. Yes, this is what we are waiting for, let us show what we can achieve, to those who ignore us, generalise us and trivialise us. The message is loud and clear:

Ignore Us At Your Own Peril!