People's Democracy

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


No. 34

August 25 , 2013

August Uprising in Kerala

M A Baby

THE virtual siege to the Kerala government secretariat laid by the LDF on August 12 and 13, 2013 turned out to be a resounding success, as it could force Oommen Chandy, chief minister of Kerala, to concede the demand for a judicial probe into the infamous solar scam. The blockade which began from the early hours of August 12 left the nerve centres of the state administration in a totally paralysed mode; forcing the CM to order a judicial probe into the scam by a sitting judge of the High Court. It has also been announced that the terms of reference of the judicial probe will be finalised in consultation with the opposition.

The LDF called off the siege with the declaration that it would continue various other forms of struggles to force the CM to step down, without which an impartial probe won’t be possible.

While announcing the decision of the LDF to call off the secretariat blockade, the LDF leaders made it abundantly clear that the calling off of the siege of the secretariat does not mean, in any way, that the struggles against the corrupt Oommen Chandy regime have come a halt.

The siege, the likes of which was never witnessed in the annals of Kerala, has demonstrated the strength, unity and massive support base of the Left democratic movement and its leadership in Kerala.

The mammoth gathering braving the menacing threats of police and central paramilitary forces reflected the mood of the people of Kerala and the discontentment of the masses over the present UDF dispensation which remains fully immersed in corruption, favouritism, factional feuds and moral turpitude. The UDF led by the Congress and Oommen Chandy resorted to all sorts of anti-democratic steps to crush the surging masses, which reminds the dark days of internal emergency. The government ordered that the residents of Thiruvananthapuram city should not accommodate any one who does not figure in the family ration card; hotels were asked to ensure that no space is given to any one; the public toilet facility was denied to activists who came for the programme! Even the MLA hostel was not an exception. The legislative secretary issued an order to MLAs that no one other than family members are allowed to enter the MLA hostel. The Congress(I) MLA and former KPCC president K Muraleedharan, son of former chief minister late K Karunakaran, challenged this and protested publicly.

All the human rights, civil liberties and democratic norms were thrown to winds as the authoritarian regime tightened its extra-constitutional grip over the democratic way of life. Despite the unethical onslaughts of the government, people took to streets shouting slogans that sought judicial probe and resignation of chief minister, who is prominently found in the company of racketeers and criminals. The High Court’s question, “What is that the government is seeking to hide” really instilled fresh vigour in the minds of the LDF activists and people at large who came from the length and breadth of the state in protest against the corrupt rulers.

This was against the backdrop of the unenviable plight the government found itself these days. The chief minister who, during the initial days of the scam pleaded that he never came across Biju Radhakrishnan, the kingpin of the racket. He later admitted that he had an hour-long parley, in camera, with him. The affidavit filed before the Magistrate under Section 164 of CrPC by one victim, Sridharan Nair, confirmed the charge that he had handed over a cheque for Rs 40 lakhs to Saritha S Nair, the second accused, at the instance of the CM, after a meeting with the latter at his office. The list of phone calls made by four of the personal staff of the chief minister (who does not possess a phone in his own name incidentally!) further confirmed frequent calls between the close associates in CM’s staff and the accused. Even the Advocate General of the state government was entrusted with the duty of getting his gunman Salim Raj, absolved of all the charges leveled against him, and the AG went to the extent of defending him before the High Court in a private complaint. To cap it all, the photographs featuring Saritha S Nair, the accused, murmuring something in the ears of the chief minister was telecast by Kairali TV on the eve of the siege. The CM stood totally exposed and the whole of the state was rocked at the series of media exposures.

It was quiet natural that the hapless chief minister along with his lieutenant Thiruvanjoor Radhakrishnan, the home minister, frantically brought in 20 companies of paramilitary forces, including ITBT, apart from the heavy armed platoon of Kerala police to quell the protest. City colleges and schools were given holidays and many of them were converted into paramilitary camps, keeping students at bay. Yet, transcending the barriers of political divergence, people marched towards the state secretariat to make the siege a great event. All important roads in Thiruvananthapuram especially around the secretariat were occupied by the volunteers of the agitation. Traffic through these roads came to a grinding halt. Shops remain closed.

When the capital city flooded with over one lakh selected volunteers from every nook and corner of the state, even paramilitary forces stood helpless. They were astonished to see the people’s movement which was marked by extraordinary discipline, dedication and determination.

The people’s protest got genuinely echoed in both the houses of parliament on August 12 and Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha were rocked in protest.

Prakash Karat, general secretary of the CPI(M), said in his inaugural speech that the chief minister should have ordered a judicial probe and resigned much earlier without forcing this agitation. Had an iota of democratic propriety left with the CM, he would have faced the judicial enquiry and put down his papers. He also said that the people of Kerala have taken up the agitation and the CM is left with no option but to order the judicial probe and resign. CPI(M) Polit Bureau members S Ramachandran Pillai and Brinda Karat, former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy, RSP general secretary T J Chandrachoodan, All India Forward Bloc leader G Devarajan, other leaders of LDF and CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and leader of opposition V S Achuthanandan also participated.

Though the state government resorted to all sorts of anti-constitutional measures, the vigorous upsurge of the masses could defeat the nefarious designs of the powers that be. The government was visibly perturbed and they shut down the secretariat on August 13 and 14, thereby virtually closing it for three consecutive days as August 15 being Independence Day, bringing all the governmental activities into a grinding halt. This was an unprecedented move by any government. This was, of course, the first indisputable step towards the clear victory of the struggle. When the agitation was at its zenith, the government offered to discuss with the opposition. But LDF refused to negotiate as what required at that point of time was action by the government and not negotiation as the two demands of the struggle were clear and public.

Naturally, the government got further weakened and was forced to concede. On August 13 noon, the second day of the struggle, they accepted one of the main demands and assured that it was prepared to order a judicial probe into the scam with a sitting judge. They also clarified that the terms of reference will be finalised in consultation with the opposition. Following this, the LDF leadership met and decided to withdraw the siege. CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, on behalf of the LDF, announced that there will be further strengthening of the agitational pursuit for the resignation of the chief minister. Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan, CPI state secretary Panniyan Raveendran, JD(S) leader Mathew T Thomas, RSP leader Aziz, Congress(S) leader Kadannappally Ramachandran, NCP leader A K Sasindran, All India Forward Bloc leader G Devarajan, CPI leader C Divakaran and CPI(M) Thiruvananthapuram district secretary Kadakampally Surendran also greeted the spirited volunteers who cheered and shouted slogans celebrating the victory and determined for further struggles for the ouster of the corrupt CM.

It is to be noted that a section of the UDF itself came in support of this agitation. A section of youth front leaders belonging to Kerala Congress(M) openly came in defence of the agitation. P C George, the chief whip of the UDF government with cabinet rank, openly demanded resignation of the chief minister.

The crisis within the UDF got further escalated with Kerala Congress leader and Finance Minister declaring in a public meeting that his party would even think of contesting the Lok Sabha elections on its own. Earlier Indian Union Muslim League, the second biggest constituent of the UDF also made similar declaration after their meeting of top leadership. It is a different matter whether they would actually put to practice this threat or not. The frequent flights State Congress leaders including the C.M and KPCC President to have parleys with their High Command with the hope of coming out with some cosmetic changes in the cabinet and party to create some illusion came to naught as Ramesh Chennithala, the PCC chief declared with anger that he will never think of joining Oommen Chandy government. All these developments further invigorated the mood of the LDF volunteers participating in the struggle at different levels.

The willingness demonstrated by the volunteers to suffer hardships was also worth mentioning. Different types of cultural programmes presented before comrades squatting on various entry point roads enthralled onlookers also. The items highlighted corruption and anti-people policies of the UDF government, apart from popular struggle songs, famous poems etc.

In spite of the heavy downpour, people attentively listened to the address of the leaders during the inaugural session. On August 12 night, volunteers of the struggle in thousands slept on the roads of the city spreading newspaper. Even a midnight rain did not deter the determination of the volunteers. Leadership was no exception.

During lunch time on August 12, there was some tension at Bakery Junction near secretariat following police provocation which could snowball into a face-to-face confrontation. Timely intervention of the leaders pacified the masses and avoided a possible deterioration.

It is also noteworthy that the chief minister is now trying to back out. Of late, he says that CM’s office need not be brought within the ambit of the judicial probe as there are no complaints! The LDF categorically stated that such an enquiry will only be a farce. The LDF is determined to ensure that the terms of reference include CM and his office. Similarly, till CM tenders his resignation, more vigorous struggles will continue, including protest and black flag demonstrations wherever the CM goes for official function.

The agitation has turned out to be truly historic. The print and electronic media and people at large supported the struggle wholeheartedly. Over a lakh agitators lived and struggled in a city without proper facilities and amenities being provided. They did not create any problem to any one. This discipline to adjust with material inconveniences and iron-discipline and political awareness displayed by the volunteers, selected from each village of 14 districts of Kerala is a great asset of the democratic movement of Kerala.

Over 8000 residents of Thiruvananthapuram city received batches of volunteers and shared their meager facilities in the morning time on August 13 to help them to get fresh.

The prestige and respect for the Left and democratic forces in the state and country got enhanced tremendously as a result of this unique form of struggle and the manner in which it was systematically organised and conducted. Due to the same reason, there are efforts from a very small section, including BJP – those who are inherently anti-Left – to spread disinformation about the struggle and also about its balance sheet. Their illusion of creating confusion among few would be exposed soon as the indisputable gains of the struggle can be seen by all, except those who are deliberately refusing to see the obvious. Moreover, the next stage of the struggle to force the chief minister Oommen Chandy to resign, in order to make the judicial probe meaningful is also being planned and organised by the LDF. The days of the present CM, who doesn’t have any compunction in protecting corrupt criminals, are numbered.