Murders, kidnapping, rapes and the bullets of police and criminals had mortally wounded the soul of the people of Bihar; still, they were waiting for the dawn of the New Year. But as a parting shot, the old year inflicted a brutal police assault once more. On 28 December ’02, three innocent students were shot dead in cold blood in a false encounter by local police in Ashiana Nagar of Patna. Only days before the Patna incident, police had shot dead two innocent people driving on the streets of Begusarai. Even after the Patna incident, police rained bullets on people in Koch and Naubatpur. Police brutality was fast on the rise and the Bihar State Government, notorious for protecting, rather than punishing, criminals showed no signs of changing its ways. For people of Bihar, whose patience had already been strained to breaking point by anguished fury, the Patna incident proved to be the proverbial last straw. People’s outrage burst its banks and flooded the streets of Patna with spontaneous protests. The people of Bihar welcomed the New Year with a fresh spirit of determination and change, declaring a militant resistance to the murderous RJD Government. The anger and resentment which had been building up and simmering within the people of Bihar during 13 years of misrule by the Laloo-Rabri regime, now boiled over on the streets with volcanic force.
Prisoners Fast in Support of Bandh
On the day of the Bihar Bandh, prisoners at the Phulwari Sharief District Jail observed a daylong fast under the banner of the Bandi Jankalyan Samiti. 50 prisoners, belonging to CPI(ML), CPI(M) and the People’s War Group participated in this fast.
Communal Harmony March in Gaya
To resist communal fascist forces’ attempt to spread communal frenzy
and tension in Gaya town, a “Communal Harmony March” was held in Gaya on 10 January 2003 by CPI(ML) which was led by Party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya. On the pretext that the wall of a temple had been damaged, local units of ABVP, Bajrang Dal, VHP and Shiv Sena in Gaya had raided a religious place of the minority community besides damaging a tailor shop belonging to a Muslim in the city.
Party’s senior leaders including Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya and other CC and State Committee members were also present in the van of the march. Participated in by leading intellectuals of the town, teachers, students-youth and women in hundreds, the march ended in a meeting at TV Tower Chock addressed by Comrade Dipankar and others. Participants vowed to smash the saffron conspiracy to foment communal trouble and divide people; and held the RJD government responsible for deterioration of communal situation in the state where saffron forces are daring to fish in troubled waters.
Prior to this, a seminar was held at Town Hall in Gaya on “Gujarat Election Results and Communalism”, which was addressed by Com. Dipankar and intellectuals of Gaya.
The initiatives taken by CPI(ML) against communal frenzy have left positive impression among the democratic and secular people as well as the minority community and instilled the faith in them that the Party can truly champion the movement for building a modern and secular Bihar.
‘Build A New Bihar’ Cadre Convention in Patna
Mass Convention to be Held on 23 February
On 23 January 2003, a CPI(ML) cadre convention with the central slogan ‘Build A New Bihar’ was held in Patna. It was attended by Party District Committee members and leading cadres of mass organizations all over Bihar. The convention decided to take up an intensive mass contact campaign for one month in February. From 8th to 15th February a mass contact yatra will be undertaken by Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha and Bihar Pradesh Khet Mazdoor Sabha. From 15th to 22nd February student and youth organizations will undertake the yatra and on 23rd February a ‘Build A New Bihar Mass Convention’ will be held in Patna, in which broadest possible mobilization will be ensured, taking all the progressive and democratic forces and individuals of Bihar.
Addressing the convention Party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya said that with the recent powerful mass movement the people have pushed back the government. Now it is time to push it back further and encircle it on all fronts.
On the Patna Bandh day on 31 December, the CPI(ML)’s campaign vehicles were greeted with widespread support by people who declared their solidarity with the Bandh. On that day the AISA had called for a statewide Black Day. All of Patna seemed war-like, with the most crucial front being at Ashiana Nagar where the incident had occurred.
Earlier on 30 December, CPI(ML) had burnt an effigy in protest against state-sponsored police brutality, and, along with RYA, had organized a march through the city and held several street corner meetings.
On Patna Bandh day students under the banner of AISA marched from Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chowk to the Dak Bangla Crossing, where they held a mass meeting. Addressing the people AISA leader Abhyuday called upon them to unite to overthrow the murderous Laloo-Rabri regime. Rousing revolutionary songs by Santosh Jha, convenor of Hirawal, roused people even more. To make the Bandh successful, thousands of activists and leaders of CPI(ML) marched on the streets of Patna and courted arrest.
Turning a blind eye to the militant mood of the people, and success of the Bandh, the state government sponsored police once again fired on people. And this further strengthened people's resolve to go all out to overthrow the RJD regime. The spark of protest at Patna spread like a wildfire – all over the state. CPI(ML) called for a Bihar Bandh on 3 January. This call was supported by several other parties.
The scale of mass participation which made the Bihar Bandh an unprecedented success, had not been seen since the ’74 movement. Anticipating the scale and militancy, the state government had massed up its police force; meanwhile the Railway Ministry had cancelled all trains passing through Bihar, and bus drivers had refused to run the buses. And on 3 January, all of Patna became a battlefield, with not just one but two fronts opened at Ashiana as well as at Dak Bangla Crossing. At the crossroads and localities of the city, people clashed with the police and administrative machinery and rendered it helpless.
On the day of the Bihar Bandh, several thousand CPI(ML) activists defied the formidable police force and marched through the city, courting arrest at Dak Bangla Crossing. The march was led by Comrade Ram Naresh Ram, PB member and leader of Party’s legislature group in Bihar, State Secretary Comrade Ramjatan Sharma, CC members Comrade KD Yadav, Bihar Pradesh Khet Mazdoor Sabha General Secretary Rameshwar Prasad, RYA leaders Mithilesh Yadav, Kamlesh Sharma, and others.
On the same day, AISA organized a march from the Science College (Patna University) led by AISA leaders Abhyuday, State co-convenor Navin, Patna convenor Dharmendra Shushant and others. The march encountered and clashed with the police at Pirbahor PS, and later the police arrested the participants of the march near BN College. After being arrested, as AISA leaders were being taken to BS College police camp, RJD-backed goons launched a murderous assault on them near BN College and LCT Ghat. Several AISA activists were injured in this attack, while the police remained mute witnesses. In the same way, Party activists were assaulted by RJD supporters at Income Tax Circle.
All over Bihar, popular protests were witnessed. Party activists came on the streets to make the Bihar Bandh a success at towns and rural areas in Bhojpur, Patna, Jehanabad, Nalanda, Muzaffarpur, Samastipur, Bettiah, Motihari, Purnea, Saharsa, Bhagalpur, Mohania, Dehri-on-Sone, and Gaya.
Meanwhile, BJP kept making shameful attempts to communalise the issue. CPI(ML) and all its mass organizations, throughout their campaign, alerted people about this gameplan of the BJP, and the Party distributed a leaflet exposing these intentions of the BJP.
After the Bandh, parties pursued separate initiatives on 4 January. CPI(ML), AISA and RYA burnt effigies of the Chief Minister all over the state. In the next stage, RYA and AISA organized “People’s Courts” all over the state on 6 January, which gave the verdict that neither the present nor the future of the people of Bihar is safe in the hands of the RJD Government.
As decided by the “People’s Courts”, on 22 January a state-level Student-Youth Protest March was held at Patna with the central slogan: “Save Bihar, Oust the Rabri Government!” Despite the biting cold wave, thousands of student-youth assembled in Patna and challenged the murderous Laloo-Rabri regime.
The murder of three students was the catalyst which sparked off this movement, but in fact it is the natural explosion of the people's aspirations for change. So the movement can only advance towards the ouster of the Laloo-Rabri regime and building a new Bihar.
-- Dharmendra Shushant
Bihar: Turbulence for Transformation
-- Dipankar Bhattacharya
In Bihar, the New Year has begun with a bang. The cold-blooded slaughter of three students by the police in Patna on December 25 has triggered a wave of unprecedented mass protests in a state which has become internationally notorious for the reigning nexus between the police and criminal gangs and feudal armies. Defeating the state government’s desperate attempts to cover up the entire incident as a case of ‘real encounter’ between the police and a criminal gang, citizens of Patna have not only forced the truth out, but have also pushed the thoroughly discredited government on the back foot.
‘Enough is enough’ is the thunderous New Year message that Bihar seems to be conveying to the Laloo-Rabri regime in no uncertain terms. Five years after he had to pave the way for his wife in the face of a powerful anti-corruption movement, Laloo Yadav is once again discovering a different Bihar. The BJP and its NDA partners must also be realizing to their chagrin that if Bihar is fed up with the repressive and corrupt RJD rule, the people are not amused by the antics of the BJP leadership either. Bihar has never relished the prospect of being ruled by a BJP-led coalition and Bihar will surely not brook the BJP’s current attempts to whip up communal tension and derail and distort the massive anger and agitation of the people.
The resolve of the people has been clearly articulated time and again in Patna and also at Gaya where the saffron agenda has been making mischievous attempts since December 28 to foment trouble and divide the people on communal lines. It is time that the various fragments of the erstwhile Janata Parivar which have tied up with the BJP in search of a short-cut to power realized that the BJP in Bihar was no asset but a big liability. Laloo must also be realizing that the people of Bihar are not prepared to buy his Gujarat bogey.
BJP will not be allowed to make a Gujarat of Bihar, goes the rhetoric of Laloo Prasad. Well, Gujarat happened in a BJP-ruled state and for all we know Bihar is still ruled by the RJD in coalition with the Congress. How then does the question of the BJP doing a Gujarat in Bihar arise at all? The question can only arise on the basis of Laloo toeing the Congress line of ‘soft Hindutwa’ and unleashing an onslaught on the people and their basic interests and rights that makes his government indistinguishable in public perception from any BJP — or Congress-led dispensation. There are already enough indications that the RJD regime in Bihar is moving precisely in this direction.
Change is what Bihar is crying for. Not cosmetic change, but significant socio-economic transformation. And that in turn demands a different kind of politics. Bihar needs a paradigm shift from the politics of social engineering and power management that has been dominating the scene. The language of power and plunder has to give way to the language of mass struggle and popular awakening.
The anti-corruption struggle in the mid-1990s tore asunder Laloo’s pretension of social justice. It forced the CPI to sever ties with the RJD and forced Laloo to join hands with the Congress and thus set the stage for a new configuration and consolidation of Left and democratic forces. The process has to be intensified and carried forward in the midst of the ongoing turbulence.
Many analysts and activists are remembering the stormy days of the 1974 movement. Some are lamenting the absence of a JP in today’s politics and attempts have begun to reinvent a suitable JP for the present occasion. The tendency to look back at the last major point of reference is quite natural. But there can be no wishing away the bitter reality and if we are to transform this reality we must look beyond 1974.
The 1974 movement had ironically forged a link between Gujarat and Bihar. In Gujarat, the children of 1974 have authored the genocide and reaped the harvest of hate; in Bihar they have been busy adding new chapters to the ruling classes’ history of economic corruption, social betrayal and political degeneration. In 2003, Bihar thus not only has to look beyond 1974, it also has to fight against the products of 1974. In 2003, the anger of Bihar’s educated urban unemployed and disillusioned middle classes must merge with the heroic battle of rural Bihar for justice and progress. The stage is all set for the revolutionary Left to march forward and lead Bihar’s battle for democracy and development, for political change and social transformation.