Struggles in Rural Bihar

(In the last issue, we had carried excerpts of the Bihar State Conference report on the agrarian struggles waged in the last three years. We continue and conclude this below. )

Struggles against Feudal Assaults on Social Dignity

The issue of social dignity has always been a matter of fierce struggles in rural areas. In a dozen villages of Benipur, Singhwara and Hayaghat blocks of Darbhanga district, struggles were waged with the slogan, “We won’t suffer the indignities of being called ‘Re, Be, Tum-Tam’; We’ll not call anyone ‘master’!”

The struggles have been against insults and abuse, rural poor not being allowed to use lanes in the fields, or being prevented from collecting firewood from gardens, and other similar issues. Such struggles against Brahmin feudal powers played a great role in our Party’s expansion in Benipur and Hayaghat blocks. The struggles often resulted in the accused having to apologise in public gatherings or even pay a fine.

In Mekna in the Bahadurpur block, the people of the village waged a powerful struggle against a false sadhu of the Yadav caste, who had killed a sadhu of the math and appropriated 7 acres of land. The false sadhu was notorious for making mischief and harassing women in the village. The people took control of all his illegally acquired land and chased him out. However, he got the protection of Laloo, and the Darbhanga DM himself ordered him to be reinstated in the village with 1 acre of land. But when he turned to mischief again, the people once again harvested his crops and captured his land.

In 2003, there was an incident in the Baheri village of Rampur Block of Kaimur District, a person of the Ravidas caste went to offer prayers in the Durga Puja pandal. For this ‘crime’, the feudal powers shot him dead. In protest against this, a mass meeting was held in Baheri and a People’s Tribunal was held in Bhabhua, in which thousands took part.

On June 3 this year, in Allahganj village of Makhdumpur block, Jehanabad, a groom of the Ravidas caste and also a Panchayat Committee member from the same caste, were beaten up by goons of the Yadav caste for visiting a temple after the wedding. A mass meeting was held to protest this, and the movement forced the Yadav goons to plan to construct their own temple.

In Sarta village of Ratni block, Ranveer Sena strongman Arun Sharma beat up a youth of the Majhi caste simply because he had ‘dared’ to wear pants, shirt and glasses, and was playing a radio to boot. The fierce struggle that followed forced Arun Sharma to flee the village. In the last Lok Sabha elections, the poor villagers did not allow the Ranveer Sena goons to go anywhere near the booths.

In Mohiuddinpur village of Kako block, a struggle is on against a lumpen teacher from the Yadav caste. His acts rival those of the feudal goons of upper castes. In order to obtain the thumb impression of a poor old man of the Nai (barber) caste, to snatch his land, this teacher cut off the right-hand thumb of the old man. When the lawyer said the left-hand thumb impression was needed, he then cut off the other thumb as well. He also killed the son of a poor widow, captured her land and chased her from the village. The widow has been rehabilitated in the village, but the struggle to punish the perpetrator of barbaric feudal violence goes on.

In Gopalganj, a Brahmin thief stole a cycle belonging to a person from the Jyotshi Tola. He was caught red-handed, thrashed and handed over to the police by people. The local Brahmin feudal goons could not tolerate this, and attacked the Jyotshi Tola. Villagers offered militant resistance to this assault, and the ensuing protest included a road blockade, an agrarian strike as well as several physical clashes with the goons. The police stepped in to defend the feudal goons, and arrested 20 of the villagers. In protest, enraged villagers beat up the police, after which the police repression abated. The struggle went on for 6 months before the goons were pushed back.

In Kwetsa village in Gaayghat block, Muzaffarpur district, a feudal goon of the Rajput caste, thrashed a boy of the Tatawa caste for no reason. The next day, when he abused villagers in a drunken state, it was the last straw, and people gave him a sound thrashing. Enraged landlords surrounded the poor people’s tola, beat up 3 people and took them to the mukhiya. The mukhiya handed the three over to the police. In protest, people blockaded the National Highway, and gathered in large numbers the next day to surround the homes of selected individuals including the mukhiya. The mukhiya fled his house, and several homes were damaged by the people. A March was held in Kwetsa and a mass meeting was held at the village, to protest the case filed by the landlords. The landlords eventually beat a retreat and withdrew the case.

In this same block, Rajput feudal goons attacked the Tatawa tola, beat up several people and looted the booths to prevent them from voting for RJD. Disappointed with the RJD, the people turned to CPI(ML). We took several initiatives to challenge the goons, including a procession and a dharna at the block, and at present the goons have backed off.

In Ghuranbigha, Aurangabad district, there was a militant protest against the human sacrifice of a small boy on the instructions of an ojha who claimed this would revive the fier in the brick kiln of a feudal lord. The protests that followed this horrific and medieval murder resulted in the arrest of the ojha and the feudal lords, as well as the closure of the kiln.

There has also been a long struggle against the feudal oppression by Radheshyam Yadav, mukhiya of the Kachanpur panchayat of the Obra block. The mukhiya’s son assaulted a party worker merely for asking the mukhiya where he intended to set up the 3 hand pumps sanctioned by the MLA quota. Later, when two comrades visited the mukhiya’s village to campaign for a Khet Mazdoor Sabha dharna, they were beaten up all night and handed over to the police in the morning. Enraged, the people surrounded the thana, blocked the road and eventually freed the comrades and booked the mukhiya under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Several protest programmes were held demanding the arrest of the mukhiya and seizure of his powers, but he continues to be free, protected by the Congress and RJD.

A Variety of Other Rural Struggles

Struggles Against the ‘Red Card’ Scam: There was a statewide agitation against the ‘Red Card’ scam by the Bihar Government Food Supplies Minister Puranmasi Ram, in which people’s courts were held at the Block level, where people gave evidence against the scam. The Minister retaliated by kidnapping CPI(ML) leader Dayanand Dwivedi and falsely booking him under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. The movement forced the Supreme Court to order a CBI enquiry into the scam. We mobilized rural poor all over Bihar to fill forms for the Red Card, pressurizing the Administration to issue Red Cards accordingly.

Struggles Against Booth-Capturing: There were movements against booth-capturing at several places in the last Lok Sabha Elections. Rural poor defended their votes in booths like Benipur in Darbhanga, Dhuriari, Sonva, Tajpur, Kurre, and Keur; in all except Sonva where the struggle continues, the guilty had to apologize in public and even pay fines. At the Arianva booth in Dumraon (Buxar), feudal lumpens punished the rural poor who voted for CPI(ML) by destroying several bighas of their vegetable crops. Later, in a mass meeting, the goons had to beg pardon. In Thori Pandepur in the same area the masses surrounded the booth and chased away the goons who had beaten up our polling agent. In Tandva in the Ghosi Assembly Constituency, there was a spectacular protest against booth-capturing, where thousands surrounded the village, even facing bullets from the goons. On person was killed during the protest. Seeing the popular protest getting the better of them, the goons hid in their homes. The masses entered the village, and captured the landlords’ livestock and other possessions, and also destroyed property. The landlords and feudal goons wanted to retaliate with a big counter-mobilization, but did not dare, in the face of the militant mood of the people.

Movements For Withdrawal of Cases: In Kamta village in Arwal District, several comrades had been booked, after the former mukhiya of Kamta panchayat, the Ranveer Sena District President and mastermind of the Bathe massacre, Sudarshan Sharma, had been given the death sentence by the people. After an agrarian strike, several witnesses including Sudarshan Sharma’s son surrendered to the Party, and the process for withdrawal of the cases is on. The strike continues against two of the witnesses.

In Nadhi village, Sahar block of Bhojpur District, eight goons were killed during a struggle against Ranveer Sena chiefs. After a focused struggle lasting three years, some of them apologized in public and withdrew cases from several people.

Struggles to Rehabilitate Displaced People: In the course of struggles against the Ranveer Sena, PWG and feudal forces, rural poor have been displaced at several places, where there have been struggles for their rehabilitation. In Kurmuri village, Tarari block of Bhojpur, a 6-day indefinite dharna took place to rehabilitate those displaced by feudal violence. On the 7 th day, the Administration conceded the demand, but are yet to actually rehabilitate the people. After a long struggle, those poor people displaced by the PWG in Bara village, Patna District, could finally be rehabilitated. In Ijarta village of Paliganj block, Patna, 100 Majhi families, displaced by the Ranveer Sena since 1997-98, were recently rehabilitated. In Jehanabad District, there have been movements demanding rehabilitation of Majhi families of Bagahi, displaced by the Ranveer Sena, as well as dalit landless poor of Vamchik, Anjani and Madua, displaced by the PWG. But more powerful struggles are needed in order to succeed.

Nearly 300 families have been evicted from several villages by feudal mafia, goons and the police. An entire village, Langda, was devastated and looted in the presence of police Narkatiaganj. In another Narkatiaganj village, Charihani, 68 homes were burnt down in presence of the police. Here, 40 homes have been rebuilt with wood chopped from the forest. The struggle for rehabilitation goes on.

The home of the Secretary of CPI(ML) in Sahar and State Committee Member, was destroyed by the police; it was rebuilt by people of the village.

People marched to Mania village in Dumraon block of Buxar, demanding rehabilitation for 7 families displaced by feudal forces, and crops were sown on 10 bighas of the displaced families’ land.

Movements for Roads, Education, Housing and so on: In Sahar block of Bhojpur District, the local CPI(ML) MLA Ramnaresh Ram led a 15-day long “lockout” (Talabandi) protest demanding construction of a road, which was called off only when the Administration took steps towards making the road.

In Posanda and Bhodkur villages of Hilsa block, Nalanda district, a movement is on against the attempt of local powerful people to take control of the proposed school building in the dalit hamlet. An approach road to three dalit hamlets in Bahadurpur and Kaveti blocks of Darbhanga, was constructed as a result of a struggle.

A statewide struggle has been launched demanding Indira Awas housing for the poor. At several places, bribes taken for Indira Awas by middlemen and employees, amounting to lakhs, have been returned.

Construction of Martyrs’ Memorials: Construction of martyrs’ memorials was given the shape of a movement last year on the occasion of the All India Agricultural Labourers Association at Bhojpur. 20 memorials were made for martyrs including Comrade Jagdish, Comrade Ramishwar Yadav, Comrade Sheela and Comrade Butan. In Jehanabad, the memorial for the martyred Comrade Manju Devi was attacked and disfigured several times by Ranveer Sena goons, calling for fierce struggles. In Obra, Aurangabad, an imposing memorial was built for one of the martyrs of the 1942 freedom struggle, Jagpati Kumar, in his ancestral village Kharati, and thousands of people participated in the inauguration programme.

Movement to Allocate Grounds for a Graveyard: In Daudnagar, Aurangabad, work was on to mark off the grounds for a graveyard as part of the MLA quota of our Party’s MLA. An unholy nexus between RJD and BJP-RSS tried to spread communal tension by attacking the workers. But due to our prompt intervention, this attempt was foiled.

Movements Under the Kisan Sabha Banner

Movement of Betel-leaf Growers: In Bihar, cultivators of the famous Magahi paan have a raw deal, since there are no specific pesticides, nor is there any processing unit for paan in Bihar. Paan growers take their produce to Banaras for processing, and then bring it back to Bihar for sale. Last year when their crop was destroyed by severe cold, a massive protest march was organized demanding compensation from the government.

Movement of Milk Producers: Milk producers’ associations have been formed at Vaishali, Nalanda and Patna, as well as at the state level. Protests have been held demanding subsidy as well as lowering of prices of cattle feed. This developing field is the victim of severe neglect by the Government.

There have also been a range of struggles of vegetable producers, popular movements for flood relief and demanding the unblocking of the mouth of the rivers and against the privatization of the Sone Canal.

Resistance to Feudal-Kulak Violence and State Terror

Our movement has faced systematic assaults by the Ranveer Sena, feudal gangs, police as well as RJD-sponsored attacks by the PWG-MCC. Our leaders have faced state terror, repression and incarceration under false cases. Some of our most significant struggles have been against these assaults.

In Western Champaran, there has been a spate of attacks, alternately by feudal mafias and by the police. When police terror has been resisted, our leaders like Comrade Virendra Gupta have been arrested, Comrade Ramji Patel has been shot dead in cold blood. Women have faced police brutality on a massive scale. Nearly 2000 people have been booked in false cases of murder and kidnapping in Western Champaran. Against all this, there have been determined struggles, protest actions and assertion of the rights of the rural landless poor against feudal mafias.

In February last year, in Kudra block of Kaimur District, police remained a mute witness when feudal goons fired on a mass meeting. People not only resisted the goons and chased them away, they also took the police to task. But the police, far from intercepting the attackers, arrested 23 of our supporters who were organizing a Kudra Bandh. One 60-year old man, Ramkrit Pal died as a result of police brutality.

There have been many struggles against the killing of Manju Devi in Jehanabad by the Ranveer Sena, the killing of 5 comrades in Paliganj by the PWG, backed by local RJD MLA Dina Yadav, against the imposition of TADA on agrarian labourers and party leaders in Jehanabad, and other instances of feudal and state-sponsored violence. q