New Land Struggles in Andhra Pradesh
Some fresh land struggles have taken off in rural Andhra Pradesh. In Yendapalli village of U. Kothapalli mandal, Kakinada , 200 agricultural labourers began cultivation on an endowment land, occupied by a landlord, which has been a site of contention for the past four years. Now the rural poor cultivate the land, foiling plans to auction it. In Jonnalagaruvu village of the same mandal, 3.20 acres of tank land occupied by a landlord was seized by 100 people under the banner of AIALA, and CPI(ML). In the West Godavari village of Vanka Bothappa Gudem , known for its militant tribal movement in 1997-2001, 23 acres of land was seized on June 15 and was distributed among 70 families by people led by our Party and Girijana Sangham. On June 17, 150 people of Ketchappa Gudem, hoisted flags on 5 acres of land which was illegally occupied by a landlord. The people of Marrigudem village of Koyalagudem mandal captured 9 acres of land under the leadership of Girijana Sangham. In Ayyanagudem village of the same mandal 200 people under the AIALA banner occupied 12 acres of ceiling surplus land from a landlord.
The government vacated nearly 13 villages to construct the Eluru reservoir to supply water for Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. Now 400 acres of reservoir land still remains unsubmerged, and these have been occupied by landlords and rich peasants and some middle peasants despite having been compensated by the government. The agricultural labourers belonging to dalit, tribal, and other backward communities of the above villages have no land and they are forced to migrate for work. Under the banner of AP Vyavasaya Cooli Sangham (AP Agricultural Labourers Association), the poor of these villages organised rallies demanding that the Govt. take control of the reservoir land and distribute it to agricultural labourers. When these protests were ignored by the District Administration, hundreds of people marched through the fields, occupied the lands and hoisted red flags. Protesting cases filed against leaders of the movement, hundreds marched to the MRO office, gheroed the MRO and held a rasta roko demanding withdrawal of false cases. The District Collector appointed an Enquiry Commission which was gheraoed by people while touring the villages. The gherao was withdrawn only when the Commission promised to recommend redistribution of lands. Sec. 145 has been imposed, but the struggle continues in defiance of it.
Agricultural labourers continue the struggles launched during the TDP regime, for redistribution of 770 acres of endowment lands of Srungavruksham and Thondangi Villages of Tuni assembly constituency, which have been occupied by landlords and rich peasants for a long time. Just before elections, the landlords of Srungavruksham Village were forced to surrender 86 acres of the land to our Struggle Committee, which distributed the land among the landless poor. After the elections, when the Endowment Department tried to conduct auctions in collusion with the landlords, the AP Vyavasaya Cooli Sangham mobilised the masses to foil this ploy, with a big rally and dharna at the Collectorate. On the day of the auction, 300 people gheraoed endowment officials and stopped the auction. The District Collector held a joint meeting of endowment officials and decided to purchase 24 acres of endowment lands. Seizure and redistribution of the lands by the rural poor continue, since this decision is yet to be implemented. In Thondangi, on June 22, more than 500 people with red flags marched on to 300 acres of endowment lands, occupied by 7 kulaks and rich peasants. Landlords mobilised nearly 200 goons and supporters who pelted stones and attacked our leaders with spears, but the poor labourers chased away the goons, injuring 25 of them. They then victoriously marched to the fields and hoisted red flags. Despite massive protests, 40 of our people, including leaders were arrested and released on bail. The police declared Sec.144, and a police outpost was deployed in the village. However, people under the leadership of the Struggle Committee defied Sec.144, and seized 295 acres and distributed it to the masses.
This is the area where we polled 1800 votes in the Assembly elections. Here we have organised people of 270 tribal families of two villages -- Govindapuram of Jaggampeta mandal and Kallujoda of Gokavaram Mandal to seize over 627 acres of forest banjar land. Hundreds of people rallied to the District Collectorate demanding a fresh survey of these lands. Out of 627 acres, 160 acres are being claimed by a government residential school, but there are no proofs. When the protests were ignored, 300 people hoisted flags on the land and started cultivation. 80 acres of the land have been cleared for cultivation so far. Such struggles are a response to the agrarian crisis in AP, for which the new Govt. has failed to do anything more than pay lip service. We need to intensify and expand these struggles.
Agrarian Labour Leaders Booked Under Gangster Act in Lakhimpur
At midnight , on 28 June, the CPI(ML) office of Lakhimpur Kheri district was raided by the police, and the district secretary of the Party, Com. Ramdaras Chauhan was arrested. When the National Councillor of Khet Mazdoor Sabha, Com. KrantiKumar went to the Kotwali to enquire, he was detained and then put under arrest. Subsequently 6 other Party activists along with these leaders were booked under the Gangster Act.
The leaders have been targetted because they are conducting a relentless struggle against the land mafia of the district, who deprive landless and poor peasantry of the area of their legitimate rights.
Land mafias like Kulwant Singh and Sewa Singh have forcibly occupied 104 acres of ceiling surplus land, of which pattas had been alloted to dalit landless-poor, Muslims and extremely backward peasants. On 28 June the goons of Kulwant and Sewa Singh had attacked agricultural labourers working in these plots of land with firearms and traditional weapons. About 6 of the workers were seriously injured in the attack.
Police refused to file FIRs, and the injured were even denied medical treatment. Almost 3 hours later an FIR was lodged on behalf of the assailants against the Party leaders and activists in which they were framed for several serious offences including 307 IPC. On 1 July the District administration booked them under the Gangster Act.
On 8 July CPI(ML) held a demonstration at the Collectorate to protest against the arrest of its activists. Among those who addressed the rally were Central Committee Member of the Party and Vice President of the Khet Mazdoor Sabha Krishna Adhikari and State Secretary of the CPI(ML) UP, Akhilendra Pratap Singh.
The All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) had launched a dharna of unlicensed vendors of Mughalsarai railway station at the Divisional Railway Manager's office to demand that the railway authorities issue identity cards or licenses to them. In its absence, railway police, contractors, officials and other vested interests extort money from poor vendors. Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) too joined in the dharna in a solidarity move.
After nearly 20 days, on 11 August the police resorted to lathicharge to break the dharna. In the brutal lathicharge several leaders of AICCTU, Helper-Vendors' Union , RYA and AIPWA received head injuries, some of which were very serious.
On 31 July, the first anniversary of the death of Comrade Ashok Manohar, General Secretary of the Lal Nishan Party(Leninist), was marked by a massive rally in Pune under the banner of the Krantikari Bhagat Singh Brigade. This youth organisation, affiliated to the Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA), was launched on 23 March, with a widespread campaign for the right to employment. Over 5000 young people, mostly from the working class of the city, became members of this organisation.
On 31 July, a massive march through the city of Pune , upto the Employment Exchange, was held. Thousands, not only from the city but also from the rural districts of Jalgaon, Satara and Karhad flocked to Pune to participate in the March.
The March began with the garlanding of portraits of Bhagat Singh, Comrade Ashok Manohar and Comrade A D Bhonsle. The March was very colourful, full of banners, placards and posters, with slogans like “Employment, Else No Government!”. Most of the participants wore bright badges with the image of Bhagat Singh. The March, led by Convenor of the Bhagat Singh Brigade, Babaji Aher and Kamlesh Sharma, General Secretary of the RYA, progressed through the ‘wadas' (the old city of Pune) and reached the Employment Exchange, where, despite pouring rain, a huge Mass Meeting took place. The meeting was conducted by Medha Thatte, Secretary of the Molkarin Sangathana (Domestic Workers' Union ). It was addressed by Comrade Uday Bhatt, Secretary of the Suraksha Kamgar Union and member of the Secretarial Board of the Lal Nishan Party.
Addressing the gathering, Kamlesh Sharma, All India General Secretary of the RYA, recalled that Pune was the home of Rajguru, comrade of Bhagat Singh. He called upon the young people of Maharashtra to join hands with the revolutionary youth movement all over the country, an order to make Bhagat Singh's dream of a free and egalitarian India a reality.
Kavita Krishnan, President, AISA, said that the BJP-NDA regime and its allies like the Shiv Sena had tried to divide youth on regional chauvinist lines, pitting youth of Maharashtra against those of Bihar . Whereas it was the policies of the same Govt which were causing desperate unemployment in the first place; it was those policies, not youth from other communities, who were the real enemy. Now the UPA Govt. was breaking its promises and continuing with the same policies; as a result, hunger, starvation, suicides had raised their heads in places like Vidarbha.
Comrade Mukta Manohar, member of the Secretarial Board of the Lal Nishan Party(Leninist), also addressed the gathering, asking the new generation of working class youth, sons and daughters of the safai karmcharis and domestic workers whose labour made the city of Pune run, to unite in the Bhagat Singh Brigade, to demand the right to stable employment rather than casual, poorly paid jobs. The meeting ended with slogans pledging to uphold the legacy of the martyrs. q
A new wave of land struggles began in Orissa in June, when people from Relliguda of Karinagar block of Gajapathi district, led by Comrade Kartiko Sabaro, seized 40 acres of ceiling surplus land belonging to a landlord who possesses 600 acres of land. On 22 June, led by Comrades Tirupati Gomango and Madhava Rao, people from Banduguda, Panasaguda of Gullumunda Gram Panchayat of Ramannaguda block seized 11 acres of ceiling surplus land from one landlord and 3 acres from another.
On 25 June 500 people led by Comrade Meganada Sabaro seized 25 acres of land in Bodo Humma of Sanno Humma GP of Gudari block.This land was being cultivated by these people, before it was occupied by the landlord. Close to 1,000 people were mobilized on 28 June in Banduguda (Hatmuniguda Gram Panchayat), Patruguda and Dappaguda villages of Bissam Cuttack block, and 42 acre of ceiling surplus land belonging to Manmath Rao, a leading advocate and Congress leader, was seized. Subsequently with the connivance of the police, five District Committee members along with Party District Secretary of Rayagada Com. Tirupati Gomango and 25 other men and women were implicated in false cases.
On 4 July, people from Routh Ranga of Indupur Gram Panchayat of Padmapur block led by Comrade Meganada Sabaro captured 15 acres of surplus land of Balu Panda , who had illegally seized this land. This landlord also runs many private educational institutions. On 18 July, people in Marlaba of Raiguda block of Gajapathi district were mobilized to recapture 40 acres of land, which had been once taken away from them by a tout.
Earlier land struggles were confined to Ramannaguda, Padmapur, Gunupur and Kolnora blocks. But now they have spread to Gudari and Bissam Cuttack blocks too, as well as Muniguda, Chandrapur and Katyansingipur blocks of Rayagada district. In Gajapathi district, land struggles were confined to Gusani block earlier. Now the struggle has been extended to Karinagar and Raiguda blocks. The range of its impact covers Mohana block.
-- Malleshwar Rao
“Honour Your Mandate, Guarantee Education, Employment and Democracy”
On the anniversary of Quit In dia Day, August 9, AISA and RYA held a Parallel Student-Youth Parliament in Varanasi , hosted by the Students Union of Kashi Vidyapeeth, where thousands of students and youth expressed protest against the policies adopted during the Budget Session of Parliament. They raised issues of education and employment, and also the question of democracy in campuses and in society, which the UPA had promised to restore. In Varanasi itself, there was the glaring example of Banaras Hindu University (BHU), where Students Union has been banned since 1997. Students remarked that today, HRD Minister Arjun Singh is on record for defying the Sangh and calling the RSS the killers of Gandhi. They demanded, does not Arjun Singh know that the killers of Gandhi continue to hold their saffron sway over a Central University like BHU, while students are deprived of their basic democratic rights? Similarly, the continued ban on SU Elections in Jamia Millia Islamia, and the banning of an Exhibition in DU, under the pressure from the ABVP, show that the era of saffronisation is far from over.
The Parallel Parliament called upon its participants to make their voice heard in Delhi when the Budget Session of Parliament reopened. Following this, a massive March to Parliament was held on August 18, where students and youth from UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Delhi marched from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament Street where they held a mass meeting. The March was led by AISA State Secretary of UP, Manish Sharma, and RYA State Secretary of UP, Ramkishore, as well as Delhi State Secretary Ravi Rai and All India President Kavita Krishnan.
Despite pouring rain, the protestors participated enthusiastically in the mass meeting. Addressing the meeting, students indicted the UPA's Budget for failing to allocate anywhere close 10% of the Budget on education, and for refusing to take any effective measures to guarantee employment. Protestors demanded that the Govt. provide employment as a fundamental right, and unemployment dole in the event of failing to provide employment.
Arjun Singh has refused to scrap the saffronised texts, saying the texts would continue because it was “in the best interests of the students” not to change the texts immediately. Students demanded to know whether Arjun Singh felt it was ‘in the best interests' of students to force their young impressionable minds to imbibe communal, obscurantist poison even for a minute longer. Youth leaders challenged Arjun Singh to remove the portrait of the traitor and Hindutva ideologue Savarkar from Parliament, and to replace it with one of Bhagat Singh, as part of the agenda of detoxification.
Students saluted the memory of young activists and martyrs, from Chandrashekhar to Manorama Devi and Pebam Chittaranjan in Manipur, and called for the retrospective withdrawal of all cases under laws like TADA and POTA, as well as repeal of POTA and AFSPA.
The Bihar State Conference of AIPWA was held on 8 August 2004 in Bhagalpur with the slogan ‘Resistance Against Repression, Fight for A Share in Political Power'. The conference was preceded by a rally which marched through the streets of Bhagalpur . The AIPWA flag was hoisted by veteran communist leader and freedom fighter Sandhya Devi. A 2-minute silence was observed in memory of the martyrs of the women's movement.
The inaugural session was addressed by Ms. Ajarawali, ex-head of the department of Economics of the SM College. The session was also addressed by Madhavi Sarkar of Purnea, who said that it was really sad to see that the CPI(M) leader and chief of the women's commission of Bihar Manju Prakash had turned a deaf ear to the several instances of atrocities on women. Com. Meena Tiwari narrated an incident which took place in Muzaffarpur in which a woman Sumitra Devi was stripped, beaten up and sexually assaulted by RJD leaders. The Bihar Women's Commission as well as political leaders of BJP who visited the spot for an inquiry, chose to hush up the matter. Among others who addressed the session was Kunti Devi, Vice president the All India Agricultural Labourers' Association, who said that women like Manju Devi, who were asserting for their rights in Bihar were being targeted by the State, but the struggle would continue, since there is no other path to liberating women. Inaugurating the conference, AIPWA General Secretary Kumudini Pati said that the task before the women's movement in Bihar and in India is to protect the hard-earned rights of women, and to intensify their struggle for social and political rights.
The Secretary's report was placed by Shashi Yadav, and discussion was open to the house. Tetra Devi of Bhabhua mentioned the case of police repression in Kudra, where women had been arrested and subjected to 3 rd degree torture. She said that AIPWA should take state level initiative to get the women released and the offenders sent to prison. Sunaina from Nalanda recounted several cases in which rapists had been made to surrender through AIPWA's initiative. In Nawada, AIPWA organised a dharna of beedi workers and talks had been initiated with the district administration on their problems. Gyanti Devi from Siwan recounted experiences of anti-liquor struggle and against cases of violence on women where the culprits had been brought to book through AIPWA's initiative. A 55-member council and a 15 member executive committee were elected and Shashi Yadav and Saroj Chaubey were reelected Secretary and President respectively. Several tasks were taken up for the future.