In South Orissa districts of Gajapati and Rayagada bordering Andhra Pradesh, illegal transfer of land from the rural poor, particularly adivasis, has become a growing phenomenon. Also there are many cases of landlords, moneylenders and the mafia illegally controlling ceiling surplus or other government lands and reserve forestlands. In its attempt to revive peasant struggle in this bordering region in the spirit of Srikakulam struggle, our Party has concentrated on developing land struggles of the rural poor and tribal people on these issues and this has been instrumental in our advancement in Orissa.
On the other hand, certain anarchist outfits have misutilised the land question as well as other aspirations of the tribal people in the recent times to increase conflicts between tribals and dalits. In order to counter this trend, we decided to organize land struggles along the proletarian class line through mobilizing broad masses of the rural poor. For this purpose, a campaign for identifying illegally occupied and ceiling surplus lands was undertaken. On the basis of our investigation, last year we were able to seize 75 acres of land in Rayagada district, which we defended against landlords’ attack. We also ensured their cultivation by the rural poor.
In the current year, particularly in the month of June, land struggles have further expanded particularly in Padampur block of Rayagada district. On 6 June 2002, 3 acres of ceiling surplus land was seized in Khomapodar village from a landlord. On 11 June, 12 acres of land was seized in two places in Laruguda village of Indupur Gram Panchayat in Padampur block from a local BJP leader Sura Phadi and 12 acres of land was seized from three other landlords.
On 12 June, 6 acres of land was seized in Indupur village from a landlord. The same day the police went to Laruguda village and threatened the people and removed the flags hoisted on the seized land. To resist this around 500 to 600 people got mobilized and protested the police harassment. The police returned the flags.
Undaunted by the attack the next day, the same villagers occupied another 3 acres of land. On 21 June, 10 acres of land was seized in Koelkota village from a landlord who happens to be a Congress leader and an ex-MLA. On the same day in Koel Patalu village, 14 acres of land seized from a landlord who is an advocate.
All the seized lands belonged to the category of illegally occupied and ceiling surplus lands. In every case of seizure around 200-300 people were mobilized and a new trend was witnessed: poor people of other villages are also coming in support of land struggle in a particular village.
On 29 June Sura Phadi, landlord and BJP leader, went to Laruguda and tried to recapture the land by creating a split among the people. Our supporters immediately assembled and united the people to maintain possession of the land. Then the landlord tried to mobilized outside people and attack Comrade Tirupati Gomago, Party’s Rayagada district committee secretary. As the news spread, around 600 people got mobilized in protest.
After this the police took over the repression drive and on the night of 6 July they raided the dalit tola of Padampur village and arrested 7 persons. Even a pregnant woman was not spared of their torture. The names of the arrested persons are Karuvu Naiko, Rushi Dandasi, Bhagirathi Savora, Syam Naiko, Nando Naiko and Lobbo Dandasi.
The next day on 7 July, 800 people got mobilized with traditional weapons and assembled outside the police station. They demanded release of the arrested people, punishment to the concerned police officials and withdrawal of false cases against our comrades. However, the class struggle had taken a complicated turn and after this the landlords implicated some 60 persons in false cases.
Around 200 acres of land was identified as illegally held in the name of a “Trust” of a temple in Kairini village of Ramannaguda Block of Rayagada district. When CPI(ML) started mobilizing the rural poor of adjacent villages, the administration tried to persuade the villagers to capture only 52 bighas of the land which has already been identified as government land. But all this land belonged to the category of dry land, people were not satisfied with the proposal. The administration invited Party leaders to have another round of talks at Padampur Block office. After the discussion three of our comrades, Tirupati Gomango, secretary of Party’s Padampur Block Committee Ramchandra Das and member Proloy Behara were arrested outside the office on 24 July under a number of false cases. Comrade Tirupati was implicated in 7 cases including sections 307 and 395 of Cr.P.C.
Immediately after the arrest, more than 500 people, armed with traditional weapons, came to the streets and assembled before Padampur police station. There they came to know that the arrested leaders had already been taken to Gunupur court. They rushed to the court and when the leaders were being sent from the court to jail, people in a militant mood blocked the road and then, shouting slogans moved towards the jail. Before the angry mood of the masses the police and administration had to bow down and they brought Comrade Tirupati Gomango from the jail to address them. Comrade Tirupati congratulated the people and urged them to raise the movement to new heights. A call for observing Gunupur Bandh on 25 July was also given in the meeting.
The bandh was highly successful with the active participation of the people in important places like Gunupur, Padampur, Ramannaguda, Gudari, etc. Shops and markets were closed and transport came to standstill in Gunupur subdivision.
During the bandh a people’s court was held in Padampur to try police officials and selected landlords, in which around 2000 people participated. On 26 July, more than 500 people once again staged a militant demonstration before Padampur police station with traditional weapons and continued it for 5-6 hours. A 5-member Party delegation met the Collector and the SP and demanded the release of arrested comrades.
On 29 July an impressive rally was organized at Gunupur, culminating into a mass meeting in front of the sub-collector’s office. More than 3,000 people with flags and traditional arms participated in the rally. The meeting was addressed by secretary of Orissa State unit Comrade Khitish Biswal, Ex-MLA Radhanath Sethi who has recently joined our Party, Central Committee member Comrade Malleshwar Rao and state Party leaders Bidyadhar Patro and Dandapani Mohanti. Speakers demanded immediate release of Comrade Tirupati and other leaders and withdrawal of false cases against them. A call was issued to intensify the just land struggle launched by the rural poor and tribals.
After one round of resistance struggle, our emphasis is on Panchayat level mass mobilization in the present phase so as to expand the land struggle in a more organized way and to develop mass resistance against terror of police and administration. In addition, a signature campaign has been undertaken to compel the MLA of Gunupur take a clear-cut stand siding with the recent land struggle and police terror, or face the popular campaign of recall of the people’s representative.
-- Malleshwar Rao
Around fifty thousand Party activists and supporters came out on the streets, held militant demonstration and courted arrest all over the country on August 9, 2002, the 60th anniversary of historic ‘Quit India Movement’. Shouting “Saffron fascists, quit India” they joined the CPI(ML)’s “Jail Bharo” agitation called to oppose the communal frenzy being instigated by Sangh Parivar, protest brazen violation of democratic norms by the BJP-led governments and condemn the beleaguered Vajapyee government for scams after scams by its ministers. The agitation marked culmination of the first phase of ‘Save Democracy, Save Independence’ Campaign launched by the Party on June 26, 2002 in a National Convention held in New Delhi against communal fascism and imperialist intervention.
The CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya along with several left leaders, namely CPI(ML)-Red Flag General Secretary K. N. Ramchandran, CPI(ML)-Unity Initiative leader P.K. Murthy and CPM (Pasla) State Secretariat member Tarsem Jodha, former MLA (Punjab), and hundreds of Party activists and supporters from Delhi and Punjab courted arrest at Parliament Street Police Station in New Delhi. Also marching in the van of the procession were Party leaders Akhilendra Pratap Singh Dr Jayanta Rongpi, M.P., PV Srinivas, B.B. Pandey and Swapan Mukherjee; Ranjit Abhigyan, AISA president Kavita Krishnan, Punjab State unit secretary Rajvinder Rana and Delhi State unit secretary Rajendra Pratholi.
Before courting arrest, the protesters held a mass meeting at Jantar Mantar and burnt the effigies of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, Home Minister L.K. Advani and Petroleum Minister Ram Naik, man responsible for the recent petrol pump scam, before Parliament Street Police Station. Addressing the meeting Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya said that sixty years ago the whole of India had roared in unison asking the British colonialists to quit India. Today, the entire country is crying for deliverance from the fascist and corrupt reign of the very forces who had launched their political career as agents of British imperialism and who are today mortgaging the country’s dignity and vital interests to American imperialism.
Taking potshots at the BJP’s election time promise to free people from terror, hunger and corruption, Comrade Dipankar said that today the Vajpayee-Advani regime has come to be identified with three Ps — POTA, Privatisation and Petrol Pump Scam. He said, “while the NHRC Chairman has described the situation in Gujarat as so grave that the genocide victims are facing war conditions, the Narendra Modi govt. is basking in the presumed glory of the blood bath.” He called upon the election commission to foil the BJP’s plans for forcing an early election on Gujarat.
Expressing serious concern over the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir the CPI(ML) General Secretary accused the Vajpayee govt. of playing into American hands on the issue of Kashmir. He demanded immediate release of political prisoners in Kashmir to set the tone for free and fair elections in the state.
The CPI(ML) General Secretary said that at a time when millions of people in twelve major drought affected states are struggling for survival, food grains are rotting in FCI godowns. “If the government does not come forth with urgent and adequate relief, the activists of the peasant organisations and the rural poor will have every right to storm the godowns to save the starving people”, he warned amidst thunderous applause.
Apart from Delhi, ‘Jail Bharo’ agitation was held at almost all state capitals and important district centers, including Kolkata, Patna, Ranchi, Lucknow, Agartala, Guwahati, Bhubneshwar, Vijaywada, Chennai, Jaipur, Raipur, Haldwani and Karnal, where the agitators blocked the roads and subsequently courted arrest.
In Bihar, although the transport unions had given a call for Bihar bandh, which made it difficult for the people to assemble, around 1,000 people marched on the streets in Patna and courted arrest. Protesters were led, among others, by Party Politburo member Ram Naresh Ram, Bihar State Secretary Ramjatan Sharma and CC member K.D. Yadav.
At Arrah, the district headquarters of Bhojpur, around 1,200 Party supporters took out an impressive ‘Jail Bharo’ march and courted arrest. A large contingent of nearly a thousand people courted arrested at Biharsharif in Nalanda district. More that a thousand people were arrested at Sasaram in Rohtas district. In east Bihar, around a thousand people marched on the streets in Katihar. In the Northwest region of the state, nearly 2000 people held a massive mass meeting at Siwan and courted arrest. In West Champaran district, the Party District Committee had given a call of bandh on August 9 in protest to the feudal-mafia-police terror unleashed against the rural poor in the region. Enforcing the bandh call and observing the Jail Bharo programme, around 2,000 people were arrested at Bettiah, Narkatiaganj and Bagaha. At Bettiah, the headquarters of West Champaran, the police conducted lathicharge and even fired to kill Comrade Ramji Patel in a cold-blooded manner at the railway station. ‘Jail Bharo’ agitation was also held at Darbhanga, Samastipur, Mujaffarpur, Motihari, Chhapra, Begusarai, Dhamdaha (Purnea), Shekhpura, Jamui, Nawada, Gaya, Aurangabad, Bhabhua, Mohania, Kudra and Jehanabad.
In Uttar Pradesh, around 1,200 Party supporters staged a militant demonstration in Pilibhit and 700 people courted arrest in Lakhimpur Kheri. In eastern UP, around 1,000 supporters courted arrest at Varanasi, 800 at Balia, 700 at Ghazipur, 500 at Mirzapur, 500 at Sonbhadra. In Deoria, there were around 400 women among the 500 Party supporters participating in Jail Bharo campaign. Among other places, around 500 supporters courted arrest in Allahabad and 200 in Lucknow. People in hundreds joined the agitation and courted arrest in Azamgarh, Kanpur, Jalaun, Muradabad, Mau and Bijnaur as well.
In Jharkhand, around a thousand people were arrested at Albert Ekka Chowk at Ranchi. Party supporters from Bokaro and Hazaribagh joined the agitation in Ranchi. The programme was led by Comrades Jay Prakash Minj and other state leaders. Similar programmes were held in Dhanbad, Giridih, Garhwa, Dumka, and Latehar as well.
In West Bengal, the Party mobilized forces to hold ‘Jail Bharo’ at three centers — Kolkata, Siliguri and Bankura. Around 1500 people, led by State Party Secretary Kartik Pal, Party leaders Partho Ghosh and Arijit Mitra, converged at Subodh Mullick Square marching from Sealdah and Howrah railway stations in two rallies. The procession reached Rani Rasmoni Road and there the protesters raised the issue of growing police repression in West Bengal and condemned the anti-ML campaign launched by the Left Front Govt. in the state before courting arrest.
In Orissa, Party state secretary Comrade Khitish Biswal led 200 Party activists and supporters to court arrest at Bhubaneshwar. Similar ‘Jail Bharo’ programmes were held at Gosami-Gajapati, Padampur, Ramannaguda and Munigoda of Rayagada district, where 150 to 350 comrades courted arrest.
In Andhra Pradesh around six hundred people led by Party Central Committee members N. Murthy and Bangar Rao courted arrest, amidst heavy rains, at Vijayawada.
In Tamil Nadu, around 800 people courted arrest at Chennai, Madurai, Kombakonam, Erode, and Tuticorin. Around 250 comrades from Chennai, Kanchipuram, and Tiruvelluvar districts participated in the ‘Jail Bharo’ movement in Chennai. Here, Mr. Haaja Kani of Tamizhaga Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam also joined the programme.
In Karnataka, a public meeting was organised in Peenya industrial estate on 9 August, attended by more than 200 workers and addressed by Comrade Govindarajan and others. In the rural areas of Mysore district, a dharna was organised at H.D. Kote taluka office, addressed by Comrades Javariah and another in front of the Asst. Commissioner’s office at Hunsur, addressed by Comrades Nanjunda. The demonstrators condemned the State government intelligence wing’s proposal to include the Dalit Sangarsh Samithi (DSS) in the list of terrorist organisations under POTA.
In Pondicherry, CPI and some other organizations joined the demonstration held by our Party.
In Andaman, around five hundred Party supporters brought out a rally at Port Blair. The mass meeting held subsequently was addressed by Party leader N.K.P. Nair as well as by AICCTU and RYA leaders.
In Assam, while observing ‘Jail Bharo’ in Guwahati on 9 August CPI(ML) brought out a militant procession from Guwahati Railway Station, participated in by over 1,500 supporters from different districts of the state. Since the morning the police had been trying to disturb the programme; they arrested a contingent of 50 Party supporters from Sonitpur district while coming out of the railway station in the morning.
Breaking the police cordon the procession marched towards Deputy Commissioners’ office. However, they were stopped by police again near Cotton College hostel, where a large mass meeting was held. Subhas Sen, State Committee member, addressed the gathering. Police later arrested the participants from there. State Committee Secretary Comrade Rubul Sharma and all the State committee members were in the van of procession. Participation of women and workers, particularly from tea gardens was noticeable. In Silchar, Cachar District Committee observed “Jail Bharo” by holding road blockade before India Club successfully for two hours, after which the police arrested them.
‘Jail Bharo’ was observed at eleven centres in Karbi Anglong, particularly at the district headquarters in Diphu.
In Tripura, hundreds of party supporters led by State Committee secretary Mrinmoy Chakrabarty courted arrest at Agartala. Around two hundred people courted arrest at Kailashahar and Amarpur.
In Chhatisgarh, five hundred people led by Party CC member Comrade Rajaram courted arrest at Raipur. Similar programmes were also held at Durg and Bilaspur.
In Uttaranchal, around a hundred people led by Central Committee member Raja Bahuguna courted arrest at Haldwani.
In Rajasthan, three hundred people led by Central Committee member Comrade Srilata Swaminathan courted arrest at Jaipur. Similar programmes were also held in Jhunjhunu, Udaipur, Banswara, and Chittorgarh.
In Haryana, party activists and supporters blocked the road at Ambedkar Chowk in Karnal. The protesters led by Party State Incharge Comrade Prem Singh Gahlawat were arrested by the police.
On 25 July, CPM(Punjab) led by Comrade Mangat Ram Pasla held a massive colourful rally at Deshbhagat Yadgar Complex at Jalandhar attended by over ten thousand people from all over Punjab. Supporting the rally CPI(ML)-Liberation Punjab unit also participated in it. The rally was addressed by, among others, Party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, Comrade Jagjit Singh Lyallpuri of MCPI and VP Saini of Forward Bloc.
Addressing the rally Comrade Dipankar said, "It is heartening to note that Left has taken the lead in opposing the Congress misrule in Punjab and CPI(ML) wholeheartedly supports this joint Left move." He said that the peasants of Punjab have been duped by the green revolution for the past 30 years and now the situation has reached to a pass where they are compelled to commit suicide. Amrinder Singh's government is bent on privatising electricity which will only add to the burden on the backs of peasantry. Citing experience of constant power failure in Delhi following the privatisation of electricity distribution there, he said that people everywhere would have to pay more for a much worse service following privatisation. Comrade Dipankar expressed his hope that with this united Left move had risen against exploitative policies and administrative highhandedness, Punjab will show the way. He also highlighted the plight of toiling people coming to Punjab from Bihar that they get no ration cards, no right to vote and urged the Left forces to ensure equal rights for them. He also held that the split in Punjab was not an internal matter of CPI(M), as claimed by Comrade Surjeet, but related to the ongoing battle between two tactics of Left movement in India. Elaborating our Party's initiatives in launching campaign against saffron fascism and imperialist globalisation, Comrade Dipankar appealed to the audience to join "jail bharo" campaign on 9 August.
On 12 August, activists of AIPWA took out a well-decorated procession from Subodh Mallik Square to Esplanade crossing in Kolkata, where they blocked the roads for more than an hour and held a meeting defying police orders. They were protesting against the spate of police repression on political activists in West Bengal, particularly against an incident in late July when agitating women activists of the SUCI were brutally beaten up and sexually assaulted by male constables in Kolkata. The meeting was addressed by AIPWA state president Geeta Das and state secretary Chaitali Sen. They held the highest authorities, including Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya, responsible for the beastly behaviour of the police in a series of atrocious incidents. For instance, Mithu Roy, an ex-activist of the PWG now in custody, was repeatedly threatened that she would be raped if she did not divulge the names and whereabouts of other activists. The meeting demanded exemplary punishment of the guilty constables and officials and immediate release of all political prisoners.
— Chaitali Sen