Countrywide Campaign for Student Rights
Against ‘Undeclared Emergency on Campuses’
AISA conducted a nation-wide campaign from 5-20 February for student rights, with the slogans, “Stop importing economic Crisis and terror from USA”; “End the Virtual Emergency in Campuses,” and “Restore Student unions and Democracy.” The campaign consisted wide-ranging protests against the anti-student, pro-privatisation policies of the government; the attacks on student unions in campuses all over the country, including the model JNU students’ union; the witch-hunting of students and youth from among the minorities; the issue of sexual harassment and curtailed rights of women on campuses; the Right to Education Bill that actually snatches away the right to education; and the proposal to do away with SC/ST reservations in appointments to faculty positions in ‘premier’ educational institutions in the country. In these protests, students took on the UPA Government and various state Governments for betrayal of students and crackdown on student rights, raising the slogan, “Privatisation of Education is their Goal – Crackdown on Students Unions is their Tool!”
In the national capital on 5 February, hundreds of students from JNU, Jamia, DU and IIMC held a bicycle rally, which covered the respective campuses and then reached Parliament Street via the streets of Delhi. JNUSU President Sandeep Singh, AISA Delhi State Secretary Rajan Pandey, State Vice President Aslam, AISA DU leader Pooja Bhardwaj, Sucheta De among others addressed the gathering. As part of the campaign, various public meetings on the subject of Right to Education Bill, against draconian laws, and against the saffron moral police were held in Delhi Univerity and Jamia Millia Islamia, while at JNU, AISA and the JNUSU spearheaded a struggle against commercialization and environmental degradation of campus spaces, plans to levy ‘user charges’ on electricity in hostels, and fee hikes – moves taken by the Administration at a time when students are challenging the court-imposed stay on the JNUSU elections.
At Uttarakhand on the same day, students from three districts of Uttarakhand gathered in the state capital of Dehradun to hold a dharna, protesting against the current BJP government’s spate of lathi-charges and jail on para teachers, professors, B.Ed.-B.P.Ed trainees and other educational professionals. The dharna was addressed by AISA President Indresh Maikhuri, as well as CPI(ML)’s Garhwal in-charge Kailash Pandey, AISA State Secretary Pawan Nautiyal, and many other student activists. Subsequently, protest programmes were held at Pithoragarh, Srinagar, and Rudrapur.
In Bihar, AISA held torchlight processions all over the state on 6 February. A Bicycle Rally was held at Samastipur. Conventions for Students’ Rights were held at Ara, Patna, Darbhanga, and Bhagalpur between 10-14 February.
Colonial legacy re-enacted...
Students and youth belonging to left groups were brutally lathicharged when they held a spirited protest on 12 February at the Jallianwala Bagh against commercialisation moves. Women students were also beaten up badly and arrested. Jallianwala Bagh is the historic site where a massive gathering of people protesting against the British Raj were massacred by General Dyer. The crackdown on student protestors is a fresh reminder that our rulers follow the colonial model in crushing dissent.
In UP, similar conventions were held at Lucknow, Allahabad, Faizabad, Gazipur, Ballia, while the AISA State Conference at Banaras was held on the same theme.
At Punjab, AISA held well-attended effigy-burning programmes at Mansa, Sangrur, Barnala and Moga. Apart from the issues raised nationally, the immediate context of these protests was the move to commercialise the historic Jallianwala Bagh.
At Maharashtra, the campaign was observed with a range of events at Pune, Ahmadnagar, Nandurbar and Dhulia.
The campaign culminated with protest marches at many centres all over the country - scrapping of the Right to Education Bill and ensuring quality schooling for all through neighbourhood schools was a major demand. In UP, a March held at the Vidhan Sabha protested against the instance of police violence against women students earlier in the week.
Party Class for Women Activists in West Bengal
A state level party class of leading women cadres was held in Kolkata on 18-19 February. A set of two papers -- "Women's Movement And Communist Party: Basics Revisited" and " Direction Of Work And Policies Of Women's Organisation" -- were presented respectively by comrades Mina Pal and Chaitali Sen, both members of the party’s West Bengal state committee and state women's department. The first one basically summarised comrade Arindam Sen's paper with the same title discussed at the all- India women's education camp for woman cadres held in Bardhaman on July 26-27, 2008. The second consisted of two parts: one dealing with the general orientation and overall policies drafted in light of comrade Kavita Krishnan's paper in the Bardhaman camp and the other dealing with policies for the peculiar conditions obtaining in West Bengal.
Inaugurating the session, West Bengal state secretary Partha Ghosh congratulated the recently formed state women's department for a pair of good endeavours: fixing up pockets of concentrated work for the department members and independently organising this class. The principal aim of the session -- indeed of all Marxist studies -- should be to broaden the horizon of thought, to learn to think scientifically, he said. The In-charge of the state women's department ,Chaitali Sen then explained the political and organisational context of the class. She also said the central women's department in its recent meeting has observed that in future responsible male comrades should also be invited to attend such classes on the women's question. The young male comrades (students/ex-students) -- one of them a member of the party's state committee -- who volunteered to assist the arrangements and to participate in the class deserved to be appreciated, she added.
Both the papers generated a very lively collective discussion and debate on various aspects of theory and practice. In all 21 comrades working in urban and rural areas participated. Towards the end of the session they said they gained much political energy and ideological clarity from the discussions. Such sessions must be held more frequently, they demanded, while some declared that they would organise classes in their own districts. If there was one major deficiency it was that a few comrades could not attend the class because of various hindrances including, at least in one case, household responsibilities.
Comrade Arindam Sen, who participated in the interactive sessions, also delivered the closing speech. The purpose of the class as mentioned by comrade state secretary has been achieved to some extent, he said, and now the emphasis should be squarely placed on the other aspect the latter referred to, i.e., developing areas of concentrated work. Supporting the comrades who expressed the desire of organising such classes in their own districts, he said they must stick to this resolve and ensure that the special task of training up women activists is not "forgotten" under the pressure of other "more important" party tasks.
After conclusion of the main session, a short discussion of the international financial crisis was held. In the end comrade Mina Pal gave the vote of thanks. The entire proceedings were conducted by veteran party leader and AIPWA state president Gita Das. q
Nagrakata Police Firing: Fact Finding
On 5 February 2009 a posse of police force, deployed at Nagrakata P.S. in the Dooars (Jalpaiguri District) region of North Bengal opened fire on adivasi protesters and fatally injured at least 2 persons, both leaders of the local unit of Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad (ABAVP), with metal bullets fired from point blank range. They were shot from behind while purportedly trying to secure the protesters, caught under heavy tear gas shelling.
On the previous night, 4 adivasi activists of ABAVP, named in an FIR lodged by Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha (GJMM), were arrested from nearby Naya Saily Tea Estate and taken to Jalpaiguri Kotowali under cover. Since early morning the next day, 5000 adivasi protesters, mostly Jharkhandis, gheraoed Nagrakata Police Station and demanded immediate release of the arrested persons. The arrest was believed to be a ploy of the state police administration despite the prior caution sent forth by the Officer-in-charge of the PS in anticipation of adivasi retaliation. Against such mass outrage, the district police administration, willy-nilly, had to succumb to the pressure and agreed in freeing the accused persons. But the delay in bringing them back from Jalpaiguri Town enraged the masses and some of them started pelting stones on the thana building. A large number of young men and women got trapped in the melee. Without resorting to prior lathi charge, the police force opened fire first with rubber bullets and followed by 3 rounds of INSAS bullets. Kailash Singh, aged 28 years, was shot in his abdomen and Sanjay Kujur of the same age lost his finger. They were later shifted to North Bengal Medical College and had to undergo surgery. A 5-member State committee team under the leadership of Com. Partha Ghosh rushed to the hospital the same night for ensuring post-operative care. Surprisingly, the police authority has been denying the use of metal bullets till date.
Following this incident of police firing, W.B. State Secretary Partha Ghosh and party Politburo member Com. Kartick Pal addressed a Press Conference at Siliguri and demanded Judicial Inquiry into the highhandedness of the police personnel. The State Govt. was also asked to summon an All Party Meeting towards bringing back peace and amity by putting a stop to the ongoing ethnic clashes between the Adivasis and the Gorkhas in the Dooars region. A strong demand to reopen the 13 closed Tea Gardens of the region was also floated.
On 8 February 2009, a CPI(ML) investigation team under the leadership of Jalpaiguri Party Secretary Com. Subrata Chakraborty visited Nagrakata and talked to the local leadership of ABAVP, the officer-in-charge of Nagrakata PS, the local CPI(M) leader Ashu Sarkar (this CPM strongman has already been accused of instigating communal violence in the area) and some other eye-witnesses of the incident.
During this investigation, it was revealed that the ongoing ethnic clash was primarily set off over the GJMM demand to include the entire Dooars region under their proposed Gorkha Land area. The prevailing sense of insecurity of the adivasis of the area was first manipulated by the CPI(M) leadership by inciting their popular sentiment against the Nepali population of the adjacent tea gardens and forest villages. Adivasi Vikas Parishad, an All India NGO network, had been taken into confidence towards perpetrating violence against the Nepalis. Recently 80 Nepali houses were burnt down to ashes within Nagrakata PS. But recently the mass outrage had also taken to task the CPI(M) leadership and on the day of the police firing Ashu Sarkar's house was ransacked and rampaged and he was dragged to the police station by the enraged mob.
While the ruling party's game plan stands exposed, it seems that Congress and TMC are gaining ground in the electorate by keeping surreptitious contacts with the ABAVP leadership. The Hills and Dooars bandh called by GJMM on 6 February had taken a toll of two lives. Sporadic backlashes are spreading like prairie fire in the entire Dooars region without much control. It may, at any moment, take a massive riot proportion to the detriment of peace in the Dooars and the Hills. Citizens' unity rallies in Siliguri and other troubled areas of Dooars region to quell the tensions are being undertaken under the active initiatives of our party activists. q
CPI(ML) Protests against the War in Sri Lanka
The Delhi State Committee of the Party held a demonstration outside the Parliament in New Delhi on 16 February in protest against the ongoing war on the Tamils in Sri Lanka. The protest meeting was addressed by CPI(ML) Delhi State Secretary Com. Sanjay Sharma, AISA State Secretary Rajan Pande, Delhi State Committee member Santosh Rai, AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishnan and others. Co- inciding with the Delhi demonstration, all over Tamil Nadu & Puduchery CPI(ML) activists came out on streets demanding the Manmohan-led UPA Govt. to stop all military aid to Sri Lanka and pressurize the Rajapakse Govt. to stop the war massacring the Tamil minorities in Srilanka immediately and start a political process for a democratic resolution. Starting from Kanyakumari to Chennai, Sirkazhi (Nagappattinam dist.) to Coimbatore, Party and mass organization leaders and activists assembled on the streets. Politburo member Com. S. Kumarasamy participated in Pudukottai demonstration. Com. Balasundaram, State Secretary of the party took part in Ulundurpet (Villupuram Dist.). Apart from these, demonstrations were held in Salem, Kumarapalayam, Kattu Mannar Koil (Cuddalore dist.) and Tirunelveli. In Puducherry, Balasubramanian, State Secretary and Balasundaram, State secretary of Tamil Nadu, led the demonstration. Also on February 4th, CPI(ML) State units of Tamil Nadu and Puduchery observed a state-wide general strike on the same issue. Party cadres were arrested in Villupuram Dist. for enforcing the strike call. q
CPI(ML) condemns the arrest of activists in Urai
CPI(ML) and The Khet Mazdoor Sabha (KMS) has condemned the arrest of nearly a dozen activists of the party and KMS, who burned an effigy of the Mayawati government in Urai.
During the past weeks agricultural workers were on a hunger strike at the Block Office in Sitapur in connection with demands related to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). Among them, a Dalit youth, Keshav (aged 30) died at the dharna in the night of 12 February. In response to the government’s insensitivity to the death of the Dalit youth, KMS called for a state-wide protest on 16 February. State Secretary Com Sudhakar Yadav condemned the arrests and said that the incident indicated to what extent the Mayawati government was facilitating the access of the rural poor to provisions under the NREGA.
The protesters were demanding that the family of the deceased be compensated and that the state register a case of murder against the concerned BDO and other officials. Among those arrested are KMS Rajya Parshad Kashiram Varma, and K. S. Rana, Pradhes Sachiv of the Inquilabi Naujawan Sabha. There was also a protest outside the Vidhan Sabha in Lucknow, and a memorandum was also given to the Governor. Protests were also organised in other districts of the state. q
Cadre Meetings Held in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa
On 15-16 February, CPI(ML) held a cadre meeting in Kakinada. The cadre meet called for an intensive campaign with the demand for the Government to confiscate all lands from corrupt corporates like Satyam, as well as those lands grabbed by MNCs and other corporations for SEZs and should redistribute them among the poor. The meet called for militant land struggles to restore such land to the poor, should the Government fail to do so. The campaign would also demand a white paper on the underhand relations and political patronage between Satyam, Chandrababu Naidu and YSR Reddy. The campaign will take place between 21 February-7 March, involving padyatras, meetings, and street corner meetings, will also raise demands related to implementation of NREGA and BPL. At all Block HQs, rallies will be held on 2 March.
The cadre meet also planned for CPI(ML)’s intervention in the forthcoming elections to Assembly and Parliament. CPI(ML) will be contesting Assembly seats in Srikakulam (at Palasa, historic centre of the Srikakulam struggle), Rayalseema, Telengana and Khammam. Speaking at the cadre meet, CPI(ML) State Secretary Comrade N Moorthy called upon the party ranks to assert the revolutionary legacy of the party. He said the party would remind people of Congress’ history of betrayal of the Telengana region – right from the time of the Nizam down to the present day. Andhra Pradesh was looking for a revival of the legacy of revolutionary struggles of Srikakulam and Telengana, he said.
Party PBM Swadesh Bhattacharya, the main speaker at the cadre meet, said that in AP, CPI(ML) had on several occasions been part of loose formations of Left platforms ranging from CPI and CPI(M) to various ML groups. In the forthcoming elections, he said the party would call on all Left forces to strengthen the Left by cooperating with each other. However, he said, it seemed that the CPI and CPI(M) were yet to make up their minds and still seemed to be making a choice between tailing behind TDP on the one hand and Chiranjeevi’s Prajarajyam on the other. At the same time, he said the Maoists, who had in the last Assembly polls, supported the Congress, and this time too, it was a matter of common discussion that they might support one of the ruling formations. He reminded that after all, Prajarajyam too consisted of former Congress and TDP leaders – and all these forces stood tried, tested, and exposed among the people of AP.Cadre meets were also held between 17-19 February at Pippili 9Puri), Satyavadi, Chilika and Kendrapada in Orissa.
Octogenarian communist revolutionary Com. Shibnath Prasad breathed his last on 27 January 2009 at Siliguri, Dist. Darjeeling. He was 82.
Red salute to Comrade Shibnath Prasad !