People’s Rights Campaign: A Report

The March 23 Inquilab Rally, the CPI(ML) had called to observe the 150th Anniversary year of 1857 by intensifying the campaign – both at the level of propaganda and mass initiatives – on a ten-point People’s Charter. This Charter included scrapping of SEZ policy and defence of peasants’ inalienable right to cultivable land; implementation of NREGA and ensuring rights of BPL families; against starvation and farmers’ suicides; scrapping of Indo-US nuclear deal and reversal of pro-US foreign policy and other issues.
A prominent focus of this campaign against imperialism and for people’s rights has naturally been on the issue of SEZs and corporate land grab. A series of Conventions against SEZs are being organised all over the country as part of this campaign. 
In Patna on 20 April, Samkaleen Janmat held a Seminar on ‘SEZs: Questions of Development and Democracy’. The Seminar was presided over by the Editor in Chief of Samkaleen Janmat, Ramji Rai. The Seminar was addressed by the Convenor of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Samiti Comrade Rajaram Singh, the Head of Department of Economics at Patna University Naval Kishore Chaudhury, CPI Bihar State Secretary Comrade Badrinarayan Lal as well as CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya. Messages sent by Mahasweta Devi and noted threatre person Bibhas Charavarti were also read out at the Seminar. 
Speaking at the Seminar, the CPI State Secretary categorically called for a scrapping of the SEZ Act 2005. Welcoming this, CPI(ML) General Secretary expressed the hope that this was the new position of the CPI and would soon be the unified position of the entire Left. Comrade Dipankar pointed out that ‘special’ zones would not remain confined to the economic sphere alone; rather, we are already seeing ‘special’ police officers in the Bihar Police Act, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Kashmir and the North East, and politics that only caters to ‘special’ people while speaking of aam aadmi.
At Bangalore on April 15, the Indian Institute of Marxist Studies (IIMS) held a Seminar at St. Joseph’s College on People’s Resistance, Democracy, and Special Economic Zones, attended by several Left-minded intellectuals as well as activists of PUCL and NAPM.
A series of Conventions against SEZs are planned, which will be addressed by the CPI(ML) General Secretary – on May 5 at Hyderabad, May 7 at Vishakhapatnam, May 15 at Parlakhemundi in Gajapati District of Orissa, May 16 at Cuttack, May 18 at Chennai, May 19 at Kumbakonam May 20 at Tirunelveli, May 21 Dharmapuri and May 21 at Bangalore.

Meanwhile, the 150th Anniversary of the 1857 uprising will be celebrated in a series of programmes beginning May 10. On May 10, an event will be held at Jagdishpur, Bihar, one of the centres where Kunwar Singh had led the 1857 battle. This will be followed by an event at Patna on May 11 to commemorate another 1857 hero, Peer Ali, who was hanged in Patna city. Close to the site of his martyrdom, there is a park that is currently named after Deen Dayal Upadhyay – the demand to rename it after Peer Ali will be raised.  In West Bengal May Day will be celebrated at Naxalbari, and a cultural caravan will take up a Naxalbari to Nandigram Campaign culminating in May 25 - the 40th Anniversary of Naxalbari - with a massive Rally at Kolkata.