People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIV

No. 29

July 18, 2010

JULY 5 NATIONWIDE HARTAL IN MAHARASHTRA

 

Brutal Police Repression on CPI(M) in Solapur

 

Ashok Dhawale

 

MAHARASHTRA had not seen such a magnificent hartal in the last several years. On July 5, 2010 it was as if the people of Maharashtra had spontaneously risen in unison to shut down the entire state in order to teach the lesson of its life to the Congress-led UPA regime at the centre and also the Congress-NCP regime in the state.

 

The relentless and astronomical price rise of food grains and all other essential commodities for the last one year and more, ever since the UPA-2 government assumed office in the centre, had already led to rising anger amongst people across the board. The price hike of diesel and petrol three months ago at the time of the union budget had further rubbed salt into their wounds.

 

And now the recent decontrol of petrol along with the massive price hike of diesel, petrol and even kerosene and cooking gas the fuel of the rural and urban poor and the middle classes served like the proverbial last straw on the back of the camel. The people then really rose in revolt against the extreme callousness of the anti-people UPA regime.

 

The nationwide hartal called by the Left and secular parties, which was supported by the rest of the opposition, brought Maharashtra to a grinding halt. All sectors shops, offices and bazaars, factories, mills and docks, banks, insurance and commercial establishments, schools, colleges and universities, autorickshaws, taxis, buses, trucks and airlines, and even central and state government offices themselves were badly affected and wore a deserted look.

 

This massive response of the people was a tight slap in the face of the Congress-NCP regime in the state, and particularly its Congress chief minister Ashok Chavan. Chavan is the son of another former chief minister S B Chavan, who was the CM during the hated Emergency of 1975-77 and the union home minister during the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992. In order to curry favour with his bosses in Delhi, Ashok Chavan threatened to move the Supreme Court against the hartal and its protagonists.

 

FUTILE

EFFORTS

But Chavan did not stop there. He declared that the hartal would be crushed with an iron hand and issued orders to the police to do everything in their power to foil it. Accordingly, the police issued warning notices to thousands of opposition activists throughout the state and made every effort to browbeat them. Needless to say, these efforts proved futile.

 

Hundreds of opposition activists were arrested on the eve of the hartal, and they included almost all members of the CPI(M) Mahur tehsil committee in Nanded district and also a few CPI(M) activists in Mumbai and elsewhere. On the day of the hartal itself, innumerable activists of the CPI(M) and of other Left and secular parties in the Republican Left Democratic Front (RLDF) were arrested.

 

But the main centre of police repression in Maharashtra on July 5 was Solapur city, which is considered by union power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde of the Congress as his own fiefdom. Here, as elsewhere in the state, the hartal was complete and the city had ground to a halt from dawn. The RLDF had called for a massive procession to begin from the CPI(M) office in the working class area of Datta Nagar. The police refused permission for the rally. It was decided to defy the police ban.

 

An armed contingent of over 500 central and state reserve police cordoned off the area around the CPI(M) office to prevent people from gathering there. But, undeterred by this show of repressive strength, hundreds of people nevertheless did gather. They gave resounding slogans against the UPA regime and denounced the fuel price hikes. Led by CPI(M) state secretariat member, CITU state president and former MLA Narsayya Adam and armed with red flags, they began the procession.

 

SAVAGE

LATHI CHARGE

The police could have put the whole mass under arrest for breaking ban orders. But they did nothing of the kind. They immediately began a savage lathi charge on the demonstrators. Not only that, they wantonly entered the nearby houses and beat up everyone whom they could lay their hands on. Even women and children were not spared. Over 50 people were injured in the brutal lathi charge. Of them 12 had to be hospitalised for grievous injuries. Three of them sustained limb fractures. Serious police cases were lodged against 18 people, who also included the 12 that were hospitalised.

 

The repression in Solapur led to a wave of condemnation from all opposition political parties. On July 12, the opening day of the state assemblys monsoon session in Mumbai, an opposition delegation from Solapur met the state home minister R R Patil, condemned the wanton police repression and demanded stringent action against the guilty top police officials. This issue will be raised in the state assembly soon by the RLDF and by the rest of the opposition as well.

 

Elsewhere in the state, Left parties like the CPI(M), CPI and PWP, secular parties like the RPI, SP, JD(S), etc and also other opposition parties worked for the success of the hartal. But the main force that contributed to its success was the will and anger of the people themselves.

 

In Mumbai, several CPI(M) activists were arrested in different places and they included one contingent that was trying to go to the Andheri railway tracks to conduct a rail roko stir. In several tehsils of Thane, Nashik and Nandurbar districts it was the independent efforts of the CPI(M) that made the hartal a complete success. Here rasta roko stirs were held and hundreds were arrested. In Parbhani, CPI(M) activists stopped the Sachkhand Express going to Amritsar, for over an hour.

 

In all other districts Nagpur, Chandrapur, Bhandara, Gondia, Wardha, Yavatmal, Amravati and Buldana in Vidarbha, Aurangabad, Jalna, Parbhani, Hingoli, Nanded, Beed, Latur and Usmanabad in Marathwada, Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Pune, Ahmednagar, Dhule and Jalgaon in Western Maharashtra and Raigad in Konkan (apart from the other districts already mentioned above), the CPI(M) and the Left/RLDF organised large processions on the hartal day and hundreds were arrested.

 

For a week before the hartal, the CPI(M) and mass organisations like the CITU, AIKS, AIAWU, AIDWA, DYFI and SFI led an intensive campaign of street corner meetings, leaflet distribution, microphone propaganda, press statements and so on. Immediate demonstrations were organised against the fuel price hike in almost all districts of the state from June 26-30. The statewide mass agitations of thousands of people, led by the CPI(M) and the Left against price rise throughout March and April 2010, reported in these columns earlier, created an effective backdrop for the immense success of this hartal.

 

The CPI(M) Maharashtra state committee met in Mumbai on July 11, congratulated the people of Maharashtra for their magnificent participation in this struggle, reviewed the work done by the Party and decided to observe August 9-15 as the statewide campaign week on the issues of food security, peasant demands and price rise by means of jathas, padayatras and public meetings.