People's Democracy

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


No. 11

March 17, 2013


Dalit Woman Poet

Flags off Western Jatha


N S Arjun


ON the international working women's day, March 08, 2013, a dalit woman poet and writer of repute, Pradyna Daya Pawar, flagged off the Western Sangharsh Sandesh Jatha in Mumbai by handing over the Red flag to jatha leader, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and MP, Sitaram Yechury. She did this at Hutatma Chowk (Martyrs Square) in the presence of other jatha members, CPI(M) central secretariat member Nilotpal Basu, central committee member Mohd Salim and Maharashtra state secretariat member Mariam Dhawale.


Also present were Maharashtra state secretary Ashok Dhawale and central committee member K L Bajaj, Mumbai city secretary Mahendra Singh, and scores of Party workers and sympathisers, large contingent of Forward Seamens Union of India and CITU workers. A cross section of people from all walks of life also attended.


Before the flag off ceremony, the leaders paid homage to the martyrs of United Maharashtra state formation movement who were killed by police firing in 1960. As this place is a designated silence zone, no speeches were made. However, speaking to media persons, Pradyna Daya Pawar lauded the CPI(M) for taking up the basic issues of working masses in this jatha programme and expressed her total support to the effort to present an alternative economic programme. She said dalits are the worst affected due to the implementation of neo-liberal policies and called upon them to join this struggle for a better and more equal India.


Sitaram Yechury in his remarks said that the country has all the resources, natural and demographic, needed to build a better India where every person gets education, job and access to healthcare. If this is to be made possible, then the present economic policies have to be changed. And this change can only be brought about through waging militant struggles. He said the present Sangharsh Sandesh Jatha is a vehicle to sharpen those struggles in the coming period.


The first stop of jatha after flag off was at Azad Maidan, a centre for political demonstrations, rallies and hunger strikes since independence movement. Today, as the jatha arrived there, the ground was filled with thousands of degree college lecturers who have been agitating on their demands. Also, there were parallel demonstrations by Sarva  Shiksha Abhiyan workers, Mumbai municipal workers and domestic workers union. The college lecturers are on statewide strike on demands relating to wages, regularisation etc. The nearly 3000 odd gathering warmly greeted the jatha leaders with prolonged clapping as they walked into the place. Addressing them, Yechury expressed solidarity with their strike and demands. He called on them to continue the struggle.


Apart from receptions at various places, two big meetings were held at Andheri and Bhandup.  Addressing the public meeting in Andheri West, Yechury underlined the need to intensify struggles to beat back the loot-mongering, pro-rich economic policies and for implementation of pro-poor alternative economic regime. He appealed to the people to remain united and join this struggle to build a new and better India.


The meeting took place right in front of the bustling Andheri West railway station and apart from those who participated in the meeting, hundreds more stopped by to listen to the speeches. Significant was the participation of a large number of Muslim minority women in the meeting. Nilotpal Basu in his speech illustrated the rising inequalities in the country by drawing attention to Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani's obscenely large Rs 600 crore house near to the meeting venue and over 70 per cent of people living on less than Rs 20 per day.


Mohd Salim explained how this Sangharsh Sandesh Jatha has taken up the basic issues of common people and is spreading the message of the need for struggles to achieve the basic demands relating to land, house sites, education, employment, health etc. Attacking those who seek to pit Hindus against Muslims or Marathis against Hindi-speaking people, Salim said that it is only the instigating leaders who benefited out of these divisive politics, not the common people. He called on the people to remain united and join the struggles for bettering their lives.


Mariam Dhawale said the major issue facing the women today is access to cheap foodgrains and quality education to children. She explained how the CPI(M) has put such issues on the agenda of politics and appealed to the people to strengthen that effort.  CPI(M) central committee member and veteran trade unionist K L Bajaj in his brief speech said the remarkable success of the two day nationwide strike called by trade unions shows how the people are ready to join the struggle as also the strength of the working class.


CPI(M) state secretary Ashok Dhawale, veteran educationist K K Theckedath and others were present while the meeting was conducted by state committee member Shailendra Kamble. Representatives of street hawkers association submitted a memorandum to Yechury about their problems, especially the harassment from police.