Save Farm Land, Peasants and Agriculture!
Get Rid of the Reign of Loot and Plunder!!

Fighting Peasants Launch
All India Kisan Mahasabha

Kavita Krishnan

10 May 2010 marked the 153rd Anniversary of India’s First War of Independence, 1857. At Patna that day, it appeared as though the entire city was paying tribute to the peasant martyrs of 1857 and other historic peasant struggles. The city had been named ‘Swami Sahajanand Nagar’ after Bihar’s historic anti-colonial and anti-feudal peasant leader, Patna station had welcome arches named after peasant martyrs, and streets and street corners wreathed in banners, festoons and flags in preparation for the All India Peasants’ Conference for Dignity, Democracy and Development. Right since the early hours of the morning, peasant leaders from all over the country began arriving in the city to attend the Conference, which was to be held at the Srikrishna Memorial Hall, named after Comrade Master Jagdish for the occasion. The Conference raised the rousing slogan – “Save Land, Agriculture and Peasants, Get Rid of the Reign of Loot,” and following a day-long discussion on various aspects of the agrarian crisis and peasants’ resistance, an All India Kisan Mahasabha was formed.
In the days towards the Conference, class polarisation sharpened in Bihar around the issue of land reform (implementation of the Bandopadhyaya Commission recommendations, especially registration of sharecroppers and extension of peasants’ rights to them.) The Nitish Government, on the pretext of fierce opposition to land reform by feudal forces, betrayed its promise to implement the Bandopadhyaya Commission recommendations. Just one day before the All India Peasants Conference, various feudal leaders across parties (including the ruling JD(U) as well as RJD and Congress held a 'Kisan Mahapanchayat' in Patna, aggressively threatening ‘civil war’ if land reform and sharecroppers' rights, in particular registration of sharecroppers, were implemented. The CPI(ML) is the only political force in Bihar that has consistently campaigned for land reform, making it the key political issue in Bihar today.

Martyrs Remembered

A large number of places in Patna that were hosting the delegates and guests were all renamed for the occasion after great martyrs of peasant, communist and radical movements. Memories of many martyrs were resurrected through renaming of dozens of venues for Karyanand Sharma (associate of Swami Sahajanand); Rameshwar Yadav and Ramayan Ram (comrades of Master Jagdish); Birda Manjhi (Patna, 1970s); Butan Ram (Bhojpur, 1970s); Gambhira Shah (peasant leader, Champaran, 1970s); Rajeshwar Mochi (martyred at the hands of RJD-PWG goons in 2004 in Paliganj); the three student-youth leaders who fearlessly sacrificed their lives for Bihar’s progress- Prashant Chaudhary (martyred during Bhagalpur jailbreak, 1970s), Brajesh Mohan Thakur (killed by feudal lords of Purnia, 1980s) and Chandrashekhar (killed by Shahabuddin’s goons in 1997); Virendra Vidrohi (cultural fighter who blackened the face of then CM Bhagwat Jha Azad to protest a series of massacres) and Rameshwar Muni (people’s poet in Magahi) – both killed by PWG, Santu Mahato (peasant leader of North Bihar), Mahendra Singh (fearless voice of oppressed and struggling people of Bihar and Jharkhand, martyred in 2005), Nakshatra Malakar and Ajit Sarkar (people’s leaders of the Kosi region, the latter killed at the behest of Pappu Yadav), Lahari and Sheela (women comrades martyred by police bullets in the 1970s) and Manju (CPIML leader and District Councillor martyred in 2002 by Ranveer Sena).

The massive Janadhikar Rally of 30 March at Gandhi Maidan, Patna, had expressed people’s aspirations for land reform and paved the way for the Peasants’ Conference. The Conference was a fitting answer to the feudal resistance to land reform and an exposure of Nitish Kumar's anti-feudal pretensions. The media too commented on the contrast between the ‘Kisan Mahapanchayat’ of 9 May and the Kisan Sammelan of 10 May. In a story titled ‘This Peasants’ Conference and that Mahapanchayat” the Patna edition of Hindi daily ‘Hindustan’ commented, “Vehicles flooded Patna’s streets on the day of the Mahapanchayat; while delegates for the Conference made their way to the Hall from the station and bus stands on foot. The Mahapanchayat opposed land reform while the Conference supported it.... Small peasants and agricultural labourers attended the Conference. Rajo da of Siliguri asked, “How can any peasant oppose sharecroppers’ rights? These people at the Mahapanchayat do not appear to me to be peasants.”
Before the Conference, CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, All India Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (AIKSS) Convenor Rajaram Singh along with several senior peasant leaders garlanded the statues of the 1857 warrior - Veer Kunwar Singh, Bhagat Singh and Shaheed Peer Ali which stand at various places in Patna. At the Conference venue, where a giant welcome gate in the name of Shaheed Peer Ali had been erected, Swami Sahajanand Saraswati’s picture was garlanded.
The Conference began with the Patna-based Jan Sanskriti Manch team Hirawal as well as Comrade Nitish of the Pashchim Banga Ganasanskritik Parishad presenting songs in memory of the fallen and departed comrades, followed by two minutes silence for the martyrs. Then, economist Prof. N K Chaudhary welcomed the delegates and guests to the Conference on behalf of the 25-member reception committee comprising eminent citizens of Patna from different walks of life.
The flag for this founding Conference was hoisted by veteran CPI(ML) leader Comrade Ram Naresh Ram. Veterans of the peasant movement – including veteran communist and peasant leader Comrade Triveni Sharma Sudhakar; Nemu Singh, a veteran of the Naxalbari movement; veteran communist leaders Comrade Ramswarup Singh and Comrade Azad were felicitated by CPI(ML) Politburo member Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya on behalf of the Conference. Veteran leader from Bhojpur Comrade Paramhans Tiwari and Comrade Kamli Devi of Araria, who also were to be felicitated, unfortunately could not attend the Conference.
Guests – Comrade Abdus Salaam, PB member of the Revolutionary Workers Party of Bangladesh and General Secretary of the Biplabi Krishak Sanhati, and a four-member delegation from the Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) of Maharashtra including Comrades Subhash Kakuste, U N Sinde, K P Mude and Rajendra Bavke were also similarly greeted and presented with mementos. Comrade Abdus salaam addressed the Conference exhorting the revolutionary peasant movement in India to forge stronger bonds of anti-imperialist solidarity in the sub-continent. Comrade Subhash Kakuste, addressing the Conference on behalf of the LNL (L), spoke of the agrarian crisis and peasants’ struggle in Vidarbha and other parts of Maharashtra and declared his party’s intention to work as a part of the All India Kisan Mahasabha.
Statements of greeting by renowned historian R S Sharma (see box) as well as senior advocate of Patna High Court and communist Indushekhar Prasad Singh and R N Thakur on behalf of AICCTU Bihar were read out. Central committee member of the CPI(ML) including Comrades Kartick Pal, Ram Jatan Sharma, S Kumarasami, Ramji Rai, editor of Lokyuddh BB Pandey, Bangar Rao, Saroj Chaubey, Meena Tiwari, Kavita Krishnan and CPI(ML)’s state secretaries from different states - Comrades NK Prasad (Bihar), Sudhakar Yadav (UP), Rubul Sharma (Assam), N Murthy (AP), S Balasundaram (TN) were present on the dais.
The Conference was inaugurated by CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya (see text of inaugural speech). Following this, Dhirendra Jha, GS of All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association (AIALA), AIPWA’s GS Meena Tiwari, RYA’s National President Mohammad Salim among others also greeted the Conference.

Renowned Historian Ram Sharan Sharma’s Greetings to the Peasant Conference

Peasant leaders and activists, delegates and all guests at the All India Peasant Conference for Dignity, Democracy and Development – my heartfelt best wishes and congratulations!
Feudalism in India is very old. When capitalism nurtured in the lap of British colonialism came to India, it too colluded with feudalism. This played a major role in keeping this country backward and in keeping the peasantry in dire straits. Peasants in this country have time and again waged fierce resistance to this nexus of feudalism and imperialism and have conducted massive movements. History is replete with such instances – be it the adivasi revolt of Siddho-Kano and Birsa, the 1857 rebellion of peasants and soldiers, or the movement of raiyats led by Swami Sahajanand Saraswati against the landlords in the decade of 1930-40 or the tebhaga and Talangana peasant movements.
Today, when the agricultural policy of this country is being drafted on the diktats of America and corporate houses, when on the one hand there is talk of reversing land reforms to introduce corporate and contract farming and on the other hand feudal forces are uniting against land reforms and sharecroppers in a state of unfinished land reforms like Bihar, then the formation of a revolutionary peasant organisation on a national level is welcome. I salute this effort and extend my warm wishes to you to take this forward.

AIKSS Convenor Comrade Rajaram Singh presented a report of the organisation’s work since its formation and also the manifesto (see the text elsewhere in this magazine) and constitution of the proposed All India Kisan Mahasabha. Peasant leaders and delegates from various states including Gurnam Singh Bhikhi from Punjab; D Harinath from Andhra Pradesh; Subimal Sengupta from W Bengal; Afroz Alam from UP; Arun Singh from Bihar, Subirajit Sinha from Tripura; Phoolchand Dhewa from Rajasthan; Nilanjan Bhattacharya from Orissa; Purushottam Sharma from Uttarakhand; Devendra Singh Chauhan from Mashya Pradesh, Jaiprakash Varma from Jharkhand; and Rajendra Pargania from Chhattisgarh participated in debate and discussion over the above documents.
The Conference then elected a 101 member National Council and a 35 member National Executive for the All India Kisan Mahasabha. Peasant leader Ruldu Singh from Punjab and CPI(ML) CCM and former AIKSS Convenor Rajaram Singh were elected its President and General Secretary respectively.
The Conference has also elected eight vice presidents and seven national secretaries among whom are many well known faces from West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Chhatisgarh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. The eight VPs are Comrades Kartik Pal (W.Bengal), Kshitish Biswal (Orissa), KD Yadav (Bihar), Rajaram (Chhattisgarh), Heera Gope (Jharkhand), Prem Singh Gehlawat (Haryana), DS Chauhan (Madhya Pradesh) and Subhash Kakuste (Maharashtra); and the seven national secretaries are Comrades Ishwari P.Kushwaha (UP), Arun Singh (Bihar), Puran Mahto (Jharkhand), Subimal Sengupta (WB), Ashok Pradhan (Orissa), D Harinath (Andhra Pradesh) and Purushottam Sharma (Uttarakhand).
Apart from the above, the 35 member NE includes names of Gurnam Singh Bhikhi (Punjab), Ramchandra Kulhare (Rajasthan), Rajendra Bhawake (Maharashtra), Jay Prakash Verma, Chandranath Bhai Patel and Anwar Hussain (Jharkhand), Ananda Prasad Bhattacharya, Pavitra Singh and Tapan Batbyal (WB), Afroz Alam (UP), Jagat Martoliya (Uttarakahnd), Subirajit Sinha (Tripura) and Amarnath Yadav, Ramadhar Singh, Sudama Prasad, Chandradeep Singh, Shivsagar Sharma and Rajendra Patel from Bihar.
The participants to the National Peasant Conference included 1475 delegates from 16 states, 251 guests and 500 observers. The proceedings of the Conference were consducted by a team of Comrades IP Kushwaha, Rajaram Singh, Shivsagar Sharma, Purshottam Sharma and other peasant leaders. Conference concluded with Com. KD Yadav giving the vote of thanks. The Conference also passed the Manifesto, Constitution and 7-point political resolution of the All India Kisan Mahasabha..