People's Democracy

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


No. 43

October 24, 2010




Massive CPI(M) Rally in Solidarity with Bengal, for Forest Rights


Mariam Dhawale


IN Thane district, October 10 is observed every year both as Martyrs Day and as the death anniversary of Comrade Godavari Parulekar, legendary leader of the CPI(M), the AIKS and of the historic Adivasi Revolt. It was on this day, 65 years ago in 1945, when the British police gunned down the first five martyrs of the Adivasi Revolt. Since then, the number of martyrs of the Red Flag has gone up to 59 in Thane district --- victims of the British, Congress and BJP-Shiv Sena regimes.   


This year the day was also observed to mark solidarity with the fighting people of West Bengal who are, led by the CPI(M) and the Left Front, waging a valiant battle against the thoroughly reactionary Trinamul-Maoist combine. Due to the Ganesh festival in September, the CPI(M) Maharashtra state committee had given a call to observe October 3 to 10 as the Bengal solidarity week.




Another important background for the rally this year was the scandalous implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in Maharashtra by the Congress-NCP state government. Just a few days before this CPI(M) rally, on September 29, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi addressed a rally in the Shahada tehsil of Nandurbar district in Maharashtra, where they distributed Unique Identification Cards to some tribals. They also distributed meagre land pattas under the FRA to just five Adivasis. This gesture was meant to cover up the callous implementation of the FRA in Maharashtra. This is a cruel joke in view of the fact that over three lakh tribals have applied for forest plots in the state.


In stark contrast to this is the excellent performance of the Left Front government of Tripura. And that was precisely why the chief guest at the massive October 10 rally held this year at Dapchari in the Dahanu tehsil of Thane district was the Tripura chief minister and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, Manik Sarkar. Manik Sarkar’s presence and his speech outlining the achievements of the Left Front government of Tripura enthused the entire party in Thane district and also all the rallyists. 


Around 35,000 people from 12 tehsils of Thane district, most of them Adivasis, participated in this rally with great enthusiasm. They came with hundreds of red flags in trucks, tempos, jeeps, buses, and also on foot. They included a large mass of youth and women dressed in red shirts and red sarees, apart from thousands of peasants, agricultural labourers and workers. Mass circulation Marathi dailies like the Loksatta of the Indian Express group estimated the strength of the rally at over 50,000. Thousands of activists of the CPI(M) and of mass organisations like the AIKS, CITU, AIDWA, DYFI and SFI campaigned for nearly a month to ensure its success. 5,000 posters and 30,000 leaflets were used for its propaganda. The rally was also joined by Party activists from Mumbai and Nashik, the union territory of Dadra & Nagar Haveli and the Umbargaon tehsil of Gujarat.


On the same day, Manik Sarkar laid the foundation stone for the new office of the CPI(M) Thane district committee at Talasari which will be named as the Comrade Godavari Shamrao Parulekar Bhavan. A sum of Rs 10 lakh has recently been collected by the party from the people of Thane district for the construction of this office and this fund collection drive will continue over the next few months. Manik Sarkar also visited the Comrade Godavari Shamrao Parulekar College in Talasari. This is run by the Adivasi Pragati Mandal that was set up in the 1960s by these two stalwarts with a view to impart quality education to the children of the downtrodden Adivasi populace.




In an inspiring speech lasting an hour and a half, Manik Sarkar began by paying homage to the martyrs and to the memory of Godavari Parulekar. Referring to her role in the freedom struggle, he said, “Why did all these freedom fighters fight to drive out the British? Why did thousands of martyrs lay down their lives in this struggle? So that the millions of poor may get basic amenities and their lives may improve. But after 63 years of freedom our experience is the opposite: 77 per cent of our people can spend less than Rs 20 per day; 34 crore are illiterate; 17 crore youth are unemployed; half the villages have no safe drinking water, roads, electricity and irrigation. Who is responsible for this state of affairs? Mainly the Congress party, whose prime ministers have unfurled the national flag on the Red Fort for over 50 of these 63 years.” He then recounted the assurances given by the Congress during the last general elections and showed how every one of them had been violated.


“Why do the Congress-led UPA regime in Delhi and the Congress-NCP regime in Mumbai do this? Why are BJP-led regimes no different? It is simply because these parties represent capitalists, landlords, black-marketeers and unscrupulous big traders. They shed crocodile tears for the common man only during elections. They win elections on false promises and by doling out money. This money comes from these same rich sections, who then recover much more of it through government policies favouring them. The poor common people – peasants, agricultural labourers, workers, adivasis, dalits, OBCs, minorities – they are all left high and dry. This is their ruling class politics which all of us must understand and make the mass of people understand.”


Manik Sarkar then came to the record of the Tripura LF government. “The CPI(M) and the Left have been constantly exposing and fighting these ruling class policies. The Left-led governments in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura have been implementing alternative policies in favour of the common people. In Tripura, during 34 years of Congress rule, women were forced to sell their own children to keep them away from starvation; men had to migrate out of the state since they had no employment. But the Left Front regime has changed all that.” He then recounted its achievements in the fields of drinking water, food security, education, employment, health, roads and electricity.


Coming to the work done for the tribals, Manik Sarkar talked of the substantial developmental work done by the autonomous tribal district council, the encouragement given to the tribal language and culture and then came to the main issue of land. Saying that the Left Front government had put an end to the transfer of tribal land to the non-tribals that was rampant during the Congress regime, he called upon the Adivasis in Maharashtra not to part with their land at any cost, since that was their only meagre wealth and means of survival. As regards the Forest Rights Act, he said that it had been implemented in Tripura 100 per cent for tribals. 1.17 lakh tribals who had applied for forest land had all been given pattas and the total land so distributed came to 1.78 lakh hectares.


Manik Sarkar then came down heavily on the reactionary offensive of the Trinamul-Maoist combine against the CPI(M) and the Left in West Bengal. “West Bengal is the strongest base of the Left in the country. This base is being attacked by the ruling classes and by imperialism precisely to weaken the Left in the country as a whole. The Left-led regimes in three states are not working for their people alone; they are working in defence of the working people of the entire country. That is why the working people of the whole country must rise in solidarity with the struggle of the Left in Bengal. Over 300 comrades in Bengal have sacrificed their lives in this struggle in the last one year. I have full confidence that the Left resistance to the ruling class agents in Bengal shall emerge victorious.”


The rally was presided over by CPI(M) state secretariat member and Thane district secretary Rajaram Ozare, MLA. It was also addressed by CPI(M) state secretary and Central Committee member Dr Ashok Dhawale, Central Committee member K L Bajaj, state secretariat members Mahendra Singh, Lahanu Kom, J P Gavit and Mariam Dhawale, and state committee members P R Menon, L B Dhangar, Kisan Gujar, Edward Vartha and Barkya Mangat.


The rally was followed by a two day CPI(M) Thane district workshop on October 11-12 that was attended by around 250 leading comrades. This workshop concretised the agitational and organisational tasks for the months ahead.