Protests against Punjab Crackdown

The CPI(ML) Delhi State unit and AICCTU held a protest demonstration at Jantar Mantar on May 25 to demand the unconditional release of all arrested leaders and workers, which submitted a memorandum to the Home Minister demanding his intervention.
Meanwhile, a delegation consisting of AIALA National President Comrade Rameshwar Prasad, Co-convenor of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Samiti Comrade Prem Singh Gehlawat and CPI(ML)’s Rajasthan State Secretary Comrade Mahendra Choudhary met the Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal on May 25 to demand the release of arrested CPI(ML) and Mazdoor Mukti Morcha leaders, agricultural workers and women. The delegation was assured that the arrests would end and the arrested would be released. However even after this assurance fresh arrests continued.
The All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) held a dharna at Parliament Street in New Delhi on 9th June, 2009, to protest against the severe repression and mass arrest of Dalit agricultural labourers, women and children in Punjab.
The protesting women from various parts of Delhi were joined by Comrade Bant Singh and some of the women who have been released after several weeks in Punjab's prisons. Bant Singh, the agricultural labour activist from Punjab who survived a murderous assault by rich farmers with three limbs chopped off, said, "The Parliament, led by Mr. Manmohan Singh, boasts of a Dalit woman Speaker. Will this same Parliament and the UPA Government remain silent when Dalit rural poor including women and even children are jailed for demanding basic rights of housing and jobs? Be it a Congress or BJP Government in Punjab, the struggles of the rural poor have always been answered in the language of repression and mass arrests. The former Congress State Government protected the attackers who disabled me in 2006; in 2005 the same Congress Government jailed 2500 poor peasants fighting against usurious extortion.” On the same day, AIPWA held a protest in Patna as well.

In Punjab, too, on 9 June, protests were held at 15 places of the State including Jalandhar, Nawashahar, Ludhiyana, Sangrur, Bhatinda, Mansa, Fatehgarh Sahib and Moga. The highlight was a rally and demonstration by three hundred women in Mansa overcoming the intense climate of terror and fear created by the Administration and the Police. 
As part of State-wide protests in Punjab on 9 June a rally was also held in Noormehal where by-elections were scheduled on 12 June. On 8 June, the Punjab and Haryana High Court responding to habeas corpus writ filed by the party, served notices to the State’s Home Secretary and the DC and SP of Sangrur and Mansa. This was in the context that the government was trying to claim that only 9 people were arrested!

Police-sponsored Media Stories Branding CPI(ML) as ‘Banned’

Several stories appeared in the Punjabi dailies and in the Indian Express which tried to paint the CPI(ML) as a ‘banned’ terrorist outfit. A sample can be seen in the story by Harpreet Bajwa in the ‘Punjab Pulse’ page of the Indian Express, Chandigarh, June 13 2009 (see image). Comrade Swapan Mukherjee has also been targeted as a 'top Naxal leader'.
The fact that the CPI(ML) is a registered political party, which has been contesting elections regularly, and even contested the recent Lok Sabha elections in Bathinda and Sangrur in Punjab, polling around 8000 votes each; or the fact that Comrade Swapan Mukherjee, a Central Committee member of the party, is the all India General Secretary of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions, which enjoys recognition as a Central Trade Union Organization (CTUO) by the Ministry of Labour, Government of India – did not stop the Punjab Govt and police from putting out this slander; and the papers obediently carried this 'news’ mischievously fed to it by police or Punjab Government sources.

Interestingly the police source quoted in the story himself concedes that the movement was ‘peaceful’, but suggests that such peaceful means are just a “stage in the Naxalism strategy,” suggesting that future strategy would include “violence” and finally “set(ting) up a parallel authority”! This fairytale about ‘stages in Naxal strategy’ may sound ridiculous. But there’s a method in the madness. The police source’s statement is revealing – it suggests that the Punjab Government and police are trying to brand any peaceful mass movements critical of the Governments, as proof of ‘terrorist’ intent, to justify arresting and jailing thousands. This is in line with the policy being advocated by the Manmohan Government as well – and the ban on Maoists is only intended to further serve this end. Draconian laws – in Chhattisgarh, for instance, only seek to legitimise and lend strength to such practices that are already in place.

Revolutionary Youth Association activists burned effigy of Chief Minister in Machiwara District, Ludhiana on 11 June. RYA's Chandigarh unit has started a postcard signature campaign and fund collection drive in the University, engineering colleges and major market places. These protest postcards will be sent to Prime Minister of India demanding unconditional and immediate release of leaders and fulfilment of genuine demands of rural labourers. Comrade Prem Singh Gehlawat, Co-convenor of All India Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (AIKSS), also visited Punjab from 14-17 June, and met the jailed leaders in Gurdaspur, Nabha and Ludhiana jails.
On 20 June, a Convention in solidarity with the movement was organized by CPI(ML) Liberation and Majdoor Mukti Morcha in Teachers’ Home, Bathinda. The Convention was presided over by a committee comprising Comrade Tarsem Jodhan of the CPI(ML) (Liberation), Comrade Tara Chand (Inquilabi Kendra), Comrade Gurdyal Bhatti (Democratic Employees Front), Comrade Tarsem Peter (Paindu Majdoor Union-CPI(ML) New Democracy), Dr. Ajitpal (Lok Sangram Manch), Comrade Chandrashekhar (MCPI-United), Comrade Gurpreet of CPI(ML) (Liberation) and Comrade Hasmeet (RYA). In his opening speech Comrade Tarsem Jodhan welcomed all other left organizations and paid tribute to the late Comrade Jeeta Kaur.  All the leaders of Left parties and labour organizations at the Convention condemned the state repression and lent their support to the struggle.
It was decided in a joint meeting that state wide conventions would be
held from 10 to 17 July with the following demands:
1. Unconditional release of labourers and leaders
2. Implementation of the 19 May agreement
3. NREGA cards for all labourers and extension of NREGA to 200 days, as well as compulsory work under NREGA for at least one woman from every family
4. Daily wages to be increased to match inflation 
5. Minimum wages to be strictly implemented

On 23 June, death anniversary of Comrade Jeeta Kaur, memorials meetings are to be held all over the state, where people will gather to pledge to continue and intensify the movement. On 26 June, the anniversary of the infamous Emergency, the CPI(ML) will hold state-wide protests, pointing out that the Akali Dal, which always speaks of being a victim of the 1975 Emergency, is now imposing an ‘emergency-like’ situation on the rural poor of Punjab.