Social Transformation rally in Giridih

THE NEW state of Jharkhand completed one year of its formation, and so did Babulal Marandi’s BJP regime here. Within this short period the government’s anti-people policies and misdeeds have become so conspicuous that mass discontent against it is not only growing day by day but getting reflected in agitations of unforeseen intensity. CPI(ML) has taken appropriate and timely initiatives from the day one of Marandi’s rule, and has emerged as the leading movemental force on the streets and also as the most vocal party of the opposition within the Legislative Assembly. (See box) This has raised the profile of the Party quite rapidly in the political scenario of Jharkhand. In comparison almost all of the bourgeois opposition parties are looking dwarfish and totally ineffective. At this turn of the political situation in the history of this new state, the rally held at Rajdhanwar of Giridih district on 8 November will go a long way in fulfilling the objective of building a large-scale mass movement to enforce a new polarisation in the state.

With the central slogan “Ensure employment, security and dignity, or else leave the throne!”, the social transformation rally was a thunderous success. With participation of around 40,000 people, it the largest rally in any district of Jharkhand so far. And the media duly admitted this fact. The intensity of mobilization becomes more pronounced in the light of the fact that only half of the district is covered by the network of the Party.

In the context of Giridih district, the significance of this rally can also judged by the fact that on the same day, the Chief Minister Marandi and Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha were holding meetings in Giridih town and Koderma respectively, only 50-60 km away from Rajdhanwar, but these events hardly got any prominence in the media. CPI(ML)’s Rajdhanwar rally was the front page lead news. This made Marandi lament in Laloo style: I am a poor adivasi, why would media pay heed to me?

In the newspapers, as far as the headlines go, it was a mass uprising in the citadel of BJP, in favour of Maaley. The Telegraph even termed it a “Red storm that swept away saffron dust”. And speakers were quoted saying that the BJP rule was a “Jallad raj” (hangmen’s regime). The rally was addressed by Comrades Subhendu Sen, State Secretary, Mahendra Singh, CC member and MLA, State Committee members Tarun Sarkar, Sukhdev Prasad, Puran Mahato, Loknath Paswan, Parmeshwar Mahato, Pachhu Rana and Giridih District Committee members Vijay Singh, Mustaqim Ansari, Ashok Paswan, Sitaram Singh, Nageshwar Yadav and Bokaro DC member Bikash Singh.

Giridih is a peculiar district in Jharkhand where the competition between the anarchist stream represented by MCC and revolutionary democratic left stream represented by CPI(ML) is very acute. Only a few days ago, the anarchists had had their biggest ever strike on a picket of armed police at the border of Dhanbad district, nearly 80 km away from Rajdhanwar, killing 13 policemen and looting a large storage of ammunitions. And under this pretext, the government had unleashed large-scale repression deploying BSF in this area. A number of rural poor were caught and made to surrender as MCC activists. Among them two belonged to our Party.

People are at the receiving end both from anarchists’ terror and state terror. However, after the rally many people said that only by means of such democratic left movement could the Jharkhand be saved from degenerating into a ‘disturbed area’, only then can it avoid the destiny of becoming another bastion of anarchists.

It is an indisputable fact that such a large-scale mass mobilisation could be made possible because it raised burning issues affecting the overwhelming majority of the people. The issues of democracy, secularism, genuine social justice and control of the rural poor over panchayati institution etc. raised by the rally can really intensify class struggle at grassroots level and give it a wider dimension. Broad masses of the peasantry have become totally disillusioned of Marandi govt. because of its utter neglect of development issues. On the other hand, the govt. has propped up a new strata of exploiters, the development mafia comprising feudal gentry, intermediaries, mafia agents and bureaucrats. Employment and social security has also been an important question because of the bleak future looming large over agriculture, which is the main prop of the overwhelming population of the district. CPI(ML) has been raising these issues from the very beginning and building from strength to strength in the course of agitation. And just as Marandi regime completes its first year of callous rule, people of Giridih under the leadership of CPI(ML) came in a mood to accept the challenge of putting up an independent alternative. And thus people from a very wide range of classes and strata came to attend the rally.

As regards the composition of the rally, half of the people came from the rural poor origin, mainly dalits. Significantly, around 10,000 participants were there from the Muslim community. But participation of the people from backward caste middle peasantry, i.e. from Yadavs, Kurmis and Koiris, was no less significant. Then, at least one thousand participants beloning to middle peasantry were from the Bhumihar caste. By all means the rally was different from Laloo style ‘mandalite social justice’ mobilisation. Rather it was a class-conscious mobilization, directed towards social transformation and attendant bid to power. Thousands of women too came to the rally, carrying children in their arms. Small traders and small contractors from market areas of Bagodar, Birni, Jamua etc. and even from outside the district could also be seen in sizeable numbers. Many of them came in Maruti cars along with their families. Even a section of BJP supporters came to the rally. In order to get a picture of the size of the rally, it would be relevant to mention the number of vehicles involved in carrying people to the place of rally. There were 109 large trucks, 10 full-size buses, 153 Tata-407 matadors, 185 small vehicles including tractors, trekkers, jeeps etc., 46 Maruti etc. cars, 487 motor cycles and 4260 bicycles. A vehicle stand had to be marked for parking all these vehicles at 1 km distance away from the rally place.

Thousands of red and green flags and banners (representing CPI-ML and Jharkhad Mazdoor Kisan Samiti) overshadowed the entire ground covered by this well-organised, well-decorated and well-disciplined rally. Large numbers of drums and gongs including traditional musical instruments manders, tasas, dhols, nagaras and two bands kept on reverberating the battle cry for a new Jharkhand. Festoons were hung over a large area. Large number of motor-cyclists were wearing headbands. More than 50 microphones multiplied the thunderous effect of speeches. Looking like a great festival of people, this rally has vindicated the assessment of new class forces made and policies and tactics adopted at the 6th Party district conference in Giridih held recently on 21-22 September, 2001.

The conference had correctly noted that the class composition and the current political situation in this district promises that the future lies only in CPI(ML) hands in this district and this district will either become a citadel of anarchists or it will come up as a concrete experimental ground for revolutionary democracy.

– BB Pandey

Rajdhanwar is Developing as a Center of Social Transformation

— Mahendra Prasad Singh

IN THIS deteriorating situation of the state, it is hard to tell on which front the situation is worse than the others. At the fag end of its one-year rule, Babulal Marandi is facing a tough challenge in his own home district, Giridih. The Chief Minister was supposed to inaugurate bridges over Irga, Remba and Karmai rivers, but the local masses openly declared their intention to inaugurate the bridges themselves and in fact they did just that. Later the people boycotted the chief minister’s programme, when he came along with his cavalcade for inaugurating the already inaugurated bridges. This assertion of the masses has assumed a political dimension. The forces oppressing backwards, dalits, adivasis and minorities enjoy patronage of the chief minister and the minister for mining, who claims himself to be equal to the chief minister. These forces are jubilant nowadays. However, it is against these oppressive social forces that the people belonging to backwards, dalits, adivasis and minorities have girded up their loins. This has added a new dimension to the already simmering discontent against the Marandi government, which has by now spread all over the state, and imparted a new momentum to it. The movement emerging against the loot of funds assigned for development, as well as against oppression, is specific in some respects. There is a resolute and mature leadership behind these movements from district to village level, and the people too have a positive experience of struggle, so they have stayed on despite severe state repression. These areas cannot be compared to the extremist-affected areas, where social supervision over developmental work and general administration does not lie in the hands of masses, and people’s initiatives are blunted. It is also different from the mass struggles erupting all of a sudden against loot and corruption, oppression, etc., and dying down so soon. A leadership having experience of conducting protracted struggle against oppression and corruption directs the ongoing movement in areas like Koderma, Rajdhanwar, Jamua, Bagodar and Gandeya. In the early days of Marandi rule, government-sponsored killings in Tapkara, Dorando, Bokaro, Semri Bejaro etc. had rocked the state. Movement on these issues had exposed the true colours of Marandi government. The event of inauguration of bridges by people themselves in Giridih district and ensuing rapid social polarization further laid bare the unpopular character of Marandi government. However, more important is the fact that the agitating masses here put up a challenge before the government and the powers that be. Will this tendency spread far and wide and take the path of providing a political alternative? It is difficult to tell, but undoubtedly these incidents represent the most befitting reply to the government’s misdeeds.

The chief minister has recently bragged that he would pay back bullet for a bullet. Though he has said this in connection to the extremists, people knew that all along Babulal Marandi has showered bullets only on the Jharkhandi poor, and minorities. With this statement, the chief minister’s failure has also come into open. The police machinery itself is feeling insecure. Common people are already living under the threat of anarchists’ terror. Now the police is also being given governmental authority to shower bullets on them. In a number of northeastern states, extremists have a friendly ‘give and take’ relationship with the governments. The Marandi government has already started treading along this policy of the Congress. Its police character cannot be camouflaged. It is a foregone conclusion that the decisive blow to the twin terror, of police and the extremists, would come only by open, path-breaking mass initiatives and democratic movements. In this context, the significance of the struggles going on in Bagodar-Rajdhanwar-Jamua area for the whole state cannot be overemphasized. These areas are not insulated from the problem of extremism, but they prove that trapped within the spate of mass movements, squads isolated from masses cannot remain for long.

Earlier in the decades of ’80s and ’90s, Bagodar had emerged as an important center of anti-corruption movement in the erstwhile Bihar. The movement compelling the officials to return the bribes had earned popularity throughout the state. Then in the decade of ’90s, the movement against police atrocity gained momentum. Those days Bagodar Police Station had faced a boycott under “Hukka-pani bandh” movement (non-cooperation, which in this event meant no supply of materials to the police station by nearby shopkeepers). During the agitation dozens of CPI(ML) activists were sent to jail. But thanks to the Party’s persistence on mobilization and movements, the situation changed and from Bagodar the chain was extended to Birni, Jamua, Rajdhanwar and Koderma. The leader of the anti-crime movement in Rajdhanwar, Rajkumar Yadav, had to languish five years in jail. At the end of ’90s, election of village pradhans conducted on the people’s initiative caught the attention of the whole country. The people in Rajdhanwar, Jamua and Bagodar have launched a new beginning with the phenomenon of inauguration of bridges. In Rajdhanwar, Jamua, Birni and Koderma, the forces pitted against the government are getting mobilized at local levels to safeguard their social dignity. This is a battle for social transformation. But this phenomenon would no longer remain confined to Kodarma and Giridih. It has the capacity to assimilate multifarious issues and prepare the conditions for a larger democratic movement.

Parivartan Rath Culminates in Ranchi Rally

Following the “Social Transformation Rally” at Rajdhanwar of Giridih on 8 November 2001, a Parivartan Rath (Transformation Chariot) took off from there and reached Bagodar on the same day. The Rath was launched to take the message of social transformation rally to several districts of Jharkhand including Dhanbad, Bokaro, Hazaribagh, Gumla, Lohardaga and Ranchi. A five-member Party team, including Comrade Mohan Datta as incharge and Comrades Om Prakash Singh, Devki Nandan Bedia, Vishwanath Prasad Gupta and Jay Prakash Minz manned the Rath. The Rath headed eastward on 9 November and passing through Hesla, Dumri, Rajganj, Dhanbad and Kumardhubi, reached Maithan. On the next morning it started from Maithan and via Junkunder and Badjna collieries and Gobindpur, reached Dhanbad. From there it headed towards Bokaro, and passing through Chas, Simandih, Jaina More, Phusro, Kurpania and BTPS, reached Kathara Bazar. Then on 11 November it marched towards Ranchi and passing through Petarbar, Gola, Angara, Bundu, Tamar and Raidih, reached Khunti. Then on 12 November, starting from Khunti it passed through Torpa, Basia, Kolebira, Gumla and Ghagra and reached Lohardaga. On 13 November, it reached Ramgarh and passing through Giddi, Bhurkunda, Barkakana and Hazaribagh town, it reached Barhi. From there, on 14 November the Rath came back to Hazaribagh town, and passing through Mandu, Charhi and Kuju, reached Ramgarh.

On Nov. 15, the first anniversary of formation of Jharkhand, the Parivartan Rath reached Ranchi. Two other processions coming from Mandar and Burmu joined it in Ranchi, where a rally was held. The Rally was a mark of struggling people’s response to the official show Marandi government had organized in Ranchi.

A calendar of protests

A series of spirited struggles against a saffron regime

IMMEDIATELY AFTER the formation of Jharkhand state in mid-November, Party took a bold political initiative by actively boycotting the oath-taking ceremony as well as the governor’s address. Party legislator Mahendra Singh’s role in mobilizing the whole opposition virtually earned him the status of the “leader of opposition” in the Assembly. Outside the Assembly, a protest march was held by the Party and its mass organizations demanding sacking of the Governor, an RSS man, who was involved in demolition of Babri Masjid in capacity of the then UP Home Secretary. The Party put forth a 20-point programme for the newly founded state.

The Party then convened a “Navnirman Rally” on 30 November 2000. The objective of the rally was to expose the conspiracy of saffron rulers to relegate the dreams and aspirations of the people in this newly founded state to the margin, the dreams and aspiration with which the people of Jharkhand fought for seven decades to achieve a separate state. The main slogan of the rally, therefore, was: “Separate state is just the beginning, extermination of the mafia is the next task”. And for this purpose, “the new dawn of Jharkhand demands hegemony of the red flag”. Participated in by over 30,000 people, this was the largest rally called by the revolutionary left in Jharkhand. The rally gave a call to observe Jharkhand Bandh on 6 December to demand withdrawal of Prabhat Kumar from the post of governor. In the meantime, amidst sporadic raids on churches and Christian missionaries by Sangh parivar, a nun was raped in Kurpania (Bokaro) and when tribal students protested in Ranchi they were brutally lathicharged by the police.

Significantly, JMM joined the bandh call and other left parties actively supported it. Minority community had also taken an active part in the bandh. In Ranchi, police conducted brutal lathicharge particularly on Muslims supporting the bandh. Police even resorted to firing on a contingent bandh supporters in Bagodar and ransacked Party office there. A good number of activists were arrested on that day.

On 28 December, the Id festival day, police killed four Muslim youth in Doranda of Ranchi town when thousands had gathered to protest the killing of a 5-year old Muslim girl who was run over by a BMP vehicle. Paramilitary forces were allowed to run riot, spreading terror among Muslims and arresting a large number of Muslim youth.

The state-level cadre convention held on 31 December 2000 came to the assessment that a situation of upsurge was prevailing in Jharkhand. It was decided to launch a vigorous protest movement against police atrocities, for employment and declaring the whole of Jharkhand as a drought-hit state. It decided to convene a parallel assembly on the question of withdrawal of the governor and a special campaign to force new assembly elections in Jharkhand.

On 2 February 2001, the police fired on people agitating against Koel Karo dam in Topkara of Torpa block in Ranchi, killing 8 tribals and injuring several of them. The incident shocked the Jharkhandi people and a series of protests culminated in a bandh on February 5 sponsored by CPI(ML) and other opposition parties. And when police in Garhwa killed 7 dalits claiming that it was an encounter with a PWG squad, it was CPI(ML) that sent an investigation team to the village and exposed the fact that it was an incident of cold-blooded killing of innocent villagers, and organised protests against the massacre.

Then, after two days into the first budget session of Jharkhand, Party organized an Assembly gherao on 1 March 2001 on the issues of instituting judicial enquiry into the recent incidents of police firing, filing criminal cases against guilty police officials, immediately scrapping Koel Karo project, effective steps in the Ranchi land scam case and safeguarding tribals from land alienation etc. Party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, who was leading a 3,000-strong march was arrested along with 40 other activists, and several non-bailable sections were clamped on them. Opposition parties boycotted the proceedings and the entire opposition sat on a dharna in front of the Assembly, demanding action against police officials guilty of brutalities against CPI(ML) activists. The Marandi Govt. had to agree to an all-party enquiry into the incident. The next day, on March 2, a road blockade was organized throughout Jharkhand and even Rajdhani Express was blocked for four hours. An indefinite dharna was started from March 3 at Albert Ekka Chowk of Ranchi. Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar, former Janasatta editor Prabhash Joshi, former Chief Justice of Bombay High Court SM Daud attended the dharna. Under growing pressure Marandi Govt. decided not to pursue the cases and Comrade Dipankar and others were finally released on March 7, and from jail they reached the dharna spot in a procession. Party organized a very successful Ranchi March on the slogan “Save Democracy, Save Jharkhand” on 14 March, in which 10,000 people participated defying all prohibitory orders imposed by Marandi Govt. in Ranchi.

CPI(ML) has continued to protest each and every incident of police repression or killing. For instance on July 26 an ‘anti-massacre’ protest march was held by CPI(ML) from Ralligarha (Hazaribagh) to Nawadih village of Keredari PS in Hazaribagh, the site of killing. The marchers protested the carnage of 8 rural poor in Nawadih. Although police washed off its hand saying that it was result of clash between two Naxalite groups, there were enough reasons to infer that the police itself perpetrated it.

In this situation, Marandi took a policy to harass CPI(ML) activists wherever possible. For instance in Garhwa, police arrested one comrade and then raided Party office on August 4 when Party’s Garhwa district unit had started their district conference. Party activists resisted their arrest. The police then resorted to lathicharge on the procession and arrested some comrades from there. The issue was raised in August 9 ‘Rasta Roko’ agitation in Jharkhand. Party also organized a protest demonstration in Ranchi.

It is clear that from the very beginning CPI(ML) has occupied the frontline in opposing Marandi’s saffron rule on the streets and also within the assembly. Because of this role, a process of polarization has started in Jharkhand in which adivasis, minorities, dalits, extremely backward castes, and democratic forces are increasingly coming over to CPI(ML)’s fold. Social base of RJD has come over to us in a big way, particularly in Giridih where we are already a formidable force. Even the social base of JMM is shifting towards us because the party never fought resolutely either against RJD or against BJP. Moreover, our Party is attracting left forces because it has already established its credentials as the leading left party in Jharkhand and its parent state, Bihar. The situation is thus heading towards a heightened conflict between the saffron regime and the new social build up around CPI(ML).