Barhania Massacre: Popular Protest Forces Administration to Reject Police’ Version
On the eve of phase one of 15th Lok Sabha election the CRPF forces in Jharkhand picked up five innocent tribal villagers from Barhania village, massacred them in cold blood and tried to portray the victims as Maoists, in an attempt to pass off the whole incident as a successful police operation and bravery in the fight against Naxalism. Initially, they won accolades from the higher-ups in Administration. But this attempt was soon exposed after a courageous and timely action by the villagers and CPI(ML) in association with other democratic and progressive organisations. In the face of people on the streets demanding punishment for the CRPF personnel who perpetrated the massacre, the Administration and the police concocted various stories to save the criminals in uniform and tried various means to ‘prove’ the killed villagers as extremists. However, the mass outburst and anger was such that the DIG and SP of police had to change their statements but they still contrived to propagate that the villagers were not killed by the CRPF personnel but by the explosion carried out by Maoists. But the bullet marks were all too prominent on the bodies of all the victims to mislead the people with false versions. The Administration roped in middlemen to convince the families of the victims of their concocted ‘explosion version,’ tempting them with compensation in return. However, the resolve of the families of the victims proved too much for all these dirty tricks and they refused to accept any money from the administration which was trying to shield the killers. Lastly, the Government had to transfer the SP, DIG and the District Collector in order to quell people’s anger and declare a magisterial enquiry into the incident. It has also asked the enquiry team to publicise its report in a week’s time.
The investigation has started, but there is general suspicion among people regarding the probe’s efficacy in implicating the policemen involved in the massacre. So far, police in Jharkhand have routinely been killing innocents and proving them Naxals in order to win promotion. CPI(ML) organised a Barhania march on May Day in which more than one thousand villagers participated. The march was led by Party’s Central Committee member Com. Bahadur Oraon and other comrades – Janardan Prasad, State Secretary CPI(ML), Kalicharan Mehta, SCM, Jayprakash Minz, Party State Spokesperson, Sunita, AIPWA Secretary and Sukhdeo Munda among others. Through this “resistance march” Party has declared that unless the perpetrators of this heinous crime are arrested the movement will be intensified. q
Convention of the Unorganised & Contract Workers in Pune
A Convention of the Unorganised Workers and Contract Workers organised by the Maharashtra Rajya Sarvashramik Mahasangh held in Pune on 25th April, 2009 at the Ganesh Kala Krida Rangmanch was a Grand Success. Over 3,000 workers from unorganised Sector attended the Convention. They came from as far away as Vidarbha, Khandesh, Marathwada, Mumbai, Ahmednagar, Kolhapur and Konkan apart from the City and Suburbs and the District of Pune itself. Retired justice of the Supreme Court Justice Shri P B Sawant inaugurated the Convention.
In his remarks, Justice Shri Sawant spoke about the Constitutional rights of the working people. Com. Medha Thatte then gave a brief speech, outlining the objectives of the Convention. She said they were opposed to the false debate about the organised Sector workers being responsible for the fate of the unorganised. She asserted that it is the organised and unorganised workers, who together organised this Convention. The Convention demanded implementation of the recommendations of the Arjun Sengupta Commission as also what the standing Committee of Parliament recommended - including setting aside at least 6% of GDP for unorganised workers through a proper and reliable delivery system.
Com. R.N.Thakur, leader of the Landless Labourers and Construction Workers Association from Patna, Bihar, then narrated the struggles against feudal conditions of the dalit workers in Bihar, struggles in the course of which he had been jailed for seven years. As a result of those struggles, he said, dalits had won a measure of dignity and confidence. He also narrated the four points he had raised in the Indian Labour Conference recently held in Delhi, such as prohibiting contract workers being used against permanent vacancies etc.
Reports from Chhattisgarh
On May Day, CPI(ML) and AICCTU held a ‘Workers’ Respect Rally’ (Mazdoor Swabhimaan Rally) and mass meeting. Around 1000 workers marched in the Rally, which started at Ghadi Chowk, Supela an culminated in a mass meeting at Ravan Bhata. In preparation for the Rally, around 2000 leaflets were distributed in a mass contact drive and meetings of workers organised.
Sanitation workers, of whom a large number were women, had a significant presence in the Rally. The mass meeting was addressed by Bhimrao Bagade and A G Qureshi of the Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha, Comrades Adalat Ali, Jayprakash Nair, Shivkumar Prasad, Ashok Miri of the CPI(ML) and AICCTU and Poonam Sahu of AIPWA, while the meeting was conducted by Shyamlal Sahu.
The meeting resolved to intensify the struggles against the government for violation of labour laws and severe exploitation of contract workers. Speakers demanded an end to the contract system and BPL cards for all contract workers. Comrades Tulsi Devdas and J P Nair sang revolutionary songs.
Similar programmes, attended by 100-150 workers, were held at stone quarries of Bastar and Raipur also.
On 6 May, CPI(ML) observed the 19th martyrdom day of Comrade Daraswam Sahu at Lal Khadan, Bilaspur. A rally and meeting were held at the village. The meeting was presided over by Comrade Darasram Sahu’s wife Sushila Bai, and the chief guest was CPI(ML) State Secretary Brijendra Tiwari. A photograph of Comrade Darasram Sahu was garlanded and the party flag hoisted in the martyred comrade’s memory. The meeting was conducted by district secretary Comrade Lalan Ram. Comrade J P Nair presented revolutionary songs on the occasion. Comrades Brijendra Tiwari, Adalat Ali, Shivkumar Prasad, Shyamlal Sahu of CPI(ML) as well as A G Qureshi of the CMM addressed the meeting. The meeting stressed the need to organise agricultural workers to complete Darasram Sahu’s unfilled tasks. 15 sanitation workers from Bhilai also took part in the meeting.
A 2-member fact-finding team of the CPI(ML) comprising Comrades Brijendra Tiwari and Ashok Miri investigated the clash between workers of the Lohia Paper Company and villagers of Akoli village of Durg district. The team members spoke with factory workers as well as villagers. The clash was the result of a deliberate attempt to fan up tension between local villagers against ‘outsider’ workers. The CPI(ML) team found that pollutants from the factory were being allowed to flow into the village. Only 4 men and 2 women from the village are employed in the factory. Workers in the factory are ill-paid and overworked. The CPI(ML) team demanded that work be provided under NREGA for the workers, measures be taken to curb the pollution, arrested villagers be released, and local villagers too be provided employment in the factory. The team also demanded hat labour laws be implemented strictly in the factory.
The CPI(ML) has actively supported the struggle of residents of Gori village, Dhamdaha block, Durg district, against land grab for a liquor factory. Villagers have been protesting since April against the forcible and fraudulent grab of 50 acres of arable land for a liquor factory. The Sarpanch and janpad member had given the NOC for land acquisition without convening a gram sabha meeting, and the villagers were infuriated at this betrayal. BJP and Congress are both supporting the liquor factory project. Workers at Bhilai Steel Plant who hail from the village contacted our party and party activists attended a large rally of villagers on 30 April. Finally after a long protest, a gram sabha was convened by the villagers themselves on 19 May (Comrades Brijendra Tiwari and Shyamlal Sahu were also present in solidarity), and forced reluctant police officials and the janpad member to attend the sabha, and they publicly accepted their fault and gave an undertaking in writing that they would intimate the Collector that the NOC given earlier was false. The protest will continue till the land acquition is withdrawn.