Repression in Tripura : Is the Tripura CPI(M) Going the West Bengal Way?

On 10-11 July, students and common people in Agartala, the capital of Tripura, were subjected to severe police repression in the wake of an agitation against a new admission system in Tripura Medical College which undermines the state’s reservation policy. Tripura Police and Tripura State Rifles beat up common people, pedestrians, journalists and photo journalists. On 11 July police firing claimed the life of a young newspaper vendor Papai Saha.
Whereas the Tripura state reservation policy with provisions for Tripura-domicile students is supposed to apply in 85 seats barring the 15 central government seats, the Tripura Medical College introduced a new policy whereby the state policy will apply only in 55 seats out of 85, and the central government policy will prevail in the remaining 30 seats.
Except the ruling CPI(M)’s student wing SFI, all student organisations including AISA opposed this policy. The Tripura Medical College also hiked fees exorbitantly.
On 10 July, the date of the Entrance Examination of the Medical College, the Congress called a protest rally against this admission test. The Government declared 144 CRPC in the area. When the Congress procession approached the examination centres, the police, without any provocation, started a lathi charge, injuring many. Pedestrians, journalists, students who were passing by, and auto passengers were all severely assaulted by the police. 12 journalists and photo journalists were seriously injured.
On 11 July, the Congress called another protest procession. When it reached the Agartala Police station, someone threw stones at the Police station. The police then started another lathi charge, and the trigger-happy TSR men began firing indiscriminately. Six persons sustained bullet injuries, and hundreds of the general public were injured. One Papai Saha, a young newspaper vendor was shot in the head and died on the spot.
The CPI(M) State Secretary, in a press meet, did not apologise for the incident; rather he used abusive language against the journalists.
CPI(ML) held protest meetings at several places protesting the police firing, defying the police which tried to prevent the meetings. The party demanded a judicial enquiry into the incident as well as exemplary punishment for the police personnel responsible for the incident.
The party will organize a convention against the Tripura Government’s authoritarian and repressive behaviour in Agartala on 28 July.

Firing on Tribals in Guwahati:
Growing Authoritarianism    

Emboldened by its victorious return to power in the recent Assembly polls, the Congress Government in Assam has begun to show its authoritarian face, with forced eviction of the poor settlers and tribals from hill areas and wetlands around Guwahati, brutal firing on the demonstration against eviction, and the arrest of popular peasant leader Akhil Gogoi.  
On July 22, thousands of adivasis and other poor people facing eviction held a large protest rally in the state capital, Guwahati. The police lobbed tear gas shells and lathi charged the protestors, who resisted this high-handedness. The police then indulged in firing which claimed three lives including that of a nine year-old child. The government, (and incidentally the mainstream media too) branded the protestors as ‘rioters’. And soon after, the leader of the rally, a popular young peasant leader Akhil Gogoi, who heads the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), was arrested on charges of rioting and destruction of public property.   
The Government’s eviction drive is being conducted in the name of clearing ‘encroachments’ from forest areas. However, a large section of the protestors were adivasis who are demanding their rights under the Forest Rights Act. Distinction too must be made between ‘encroachments’ fuelled by need as opposed to that from greed. The poor working migrant population of Assam that has settled in the forest areas near the capital must be rehabilitated and resettled satisfactorily for any clearing of the land to be initiated. The protestors apprehend that they are being evicted in the name of protecting the environment, only to make way for the real estate business.   
Following widespread outrage over the firing, the Government has indirectly acknowledged the legitimacy of the protestors’ demands. However, they are trying to isolate the leadership of the agitation by declaring that they will talk directly to the indigenous people on the issue of land rights, but will not involve any organisation. It is strange that this Government, which owes its re-election to peace talks with militant groups, is now refusing to negotiate with mass movement leaders on the grounds that they are ‘professional agitators’!
Gogoi was granted bail by the Guwahati HC. But the government has been trying to brand him as having ‘Maoist links.’
Elsewhere in Assam too, this pattern of repressive measures and witch-hunt of activists is apparent. In Cachar district, for instance, AICCTU leader Hyder Husain Choudhury has been arrested.
The Tarun Gogoi Government seems to be treading on the same repressive path as the Congress government at the Centre. Land and democracy are emerging as key issues of popular struggle, here as elsewhere in the country.

Land Scam Calls Nitish Kumar’s ‘Anti-Corruption’ Bluff 

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has been making appearances with Anna Hazare and promising a Lokayukta in the state, in order to boost his ‘anti-corruption’ image. After being elected CM, one of his foremost promises was to act against the corrupt. But allegations of a Yeddyurappa-style land scandal have called his bluff. 
Earlier too, the Nitish Government had been implicated in corruption by the CAG revelations of a treasury scam. The Nitish Government blocked a CBI enquiry into that scam.    
Now, the CM and his Government stand implicated of allotting Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA) plots to sons, daughters and close relatives of ministers, MPs and MLAs of the ruling NDA alliance, at throwaway prices, circumventing the procedure of inviting tenders.
The Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority, a government body, allots land for industrial units as per rules and tenders. The BIADA website shows that Bihar Human Resources Development Minister P K Shahi’s daughter Urvashi Shahi has been allotted 87,120 sq ft, while JD-U MLA Jagdish Sharma’s son Rahul Sharma has been allotted 15,500 sq ft. Similarly, Rehmat Fatima, daughter of Social Welfare Minister Perveen Amanullah and senior Indian Administrative Service officer Afzal Amanullah has also been allotted 87,120 sq ft.
BJP MLAs’ sons and daughters have also been allotted BIADA land. Among the beneficiaries from BJP is former MLA Awdhesh Narayan Singh’s son, who has been allotted 2,17,800 sq ft. Another BJP member of legislative council Ashok Agarwal’s son Saurabh was also allotted large BIADA plots. All these allotments were made without inviting tenders.
It must be remembered that the Forbesganj police atrocity and firing happened when villagers protested when BJP legislative councillor, Ashok Aggarwal, following allotment of land by BIADA for his son’s private factory, tried to encroach on a public road with the collusion of BIADA and other authorities. Not only is the Nitish Government using political power to gift away government land to their own leaders and their kin, they are unleashing brutal repression on people who expose illegalities and resist land grab. 
Under pressure, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said that Bihar Chief Secretary will conduct an inquiry on the issue. But such a probe cannot carry much credibility.
The CPI(ML) held a protest dharna in Patna on 19 July against the Forbesganj firing, demanding arrest and prosecution of the BJP MLC, Araria DM and SP and police personnel involved in the killing and atrocities. The CPI(ML) held the government’s judicial enquiry to be a sham, and also demanded an enquiry into the emerging land-allotment scam, which was also at the root of the Forbesganj firing. Slogans were raised – ‘Land to the favoured and bullets for the poor – Nitish Govt must answer for this!’
The dharna was addressed by former MLA and AIKM General Secretary Rajaram Singh, AIPWA National Vice President Saroj Chaubey, AIKM Bihar President K D Yadav, former MLA and CPI(ML) State standing committee member Arun Singh, AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari, and many other CPI(ML) activists. The dharna was conducted by Murtaza Ali and presided over by former MLA Mahbub Alam. q

CPI(ML) Leader Arrested in Odisha 

Comrade Tirupati Gamango, CPI(ML) Liberation Odisha state committee member, was arrested by a special squad of Odisha police for addressing a mass meeting in Kashipur block of Rayagada district. Comrade Tirupati had raised the issue of police atrocities and harassment of common tribal people in the name of anti-Maoist operations in the district. The Odisha police said this amounted to “supporting Maoist activities and demoralising the police force,” and arrested him.          
On 18 July, a state-level protest was held at Bhubaneshwar to demand the immediate release of Com. Tirupati Gamango. The protest was led by state committee member Com. Yudhistir Mohapatra, AICCTU State Secretary Com. Mahendra Parida, and AIALA State Secretary Com. Satyabadi Behera.
The march culminated in a public meeting in front of the Odisha Assembly. CPI(ML) leaders at the meeting said the arrest was a part of the witch-hunt of political activists and crackdown on democratic activities in the name of anti-Maoist operations. Ordinary tribal people are being branded as Maoist and arrested or killed in encounters, and democratic political activists were being targeted as well. The CPI(ML) said that if Com. Tirupati were not released, a state-wide agitation would be launched for his release.

AIALA , AICCTU, AIKM Leaders Visit Anti-POSCO Struggle 

A team of AIALA, AICCTU AND AIKM leaders visited the site of the anti-POSCO struggle on 6 July to extend their solidarity. The team comprised Com. Rameshwar Prasad, National President, AIALA, Com. Dhirendra Jha, General Secretary, AIALA, Com. Khitish Biswal, Odisha Secretary, CPI (ML) Liberation, and Comrades Satyabadi Behera (AIALA Odisha Secretary) and Mahendra Parida (AICCTU Odisha Secretary).
The leaders visited Govindpur and Nuagaon villages where villagers are on a dharna resisting land grab. They joined the dharna led by women at Nuagaon and then joined the ‘human barricades’ at Govindpur.
Comrade Abhaya Sahoo, leader of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) welcomed the representatives of the mass organizations. Children participating in the dharna sang revolutionary songs and raised slogans against POSCO.
Com. Rameshwar addressed the protestors, extending solidarity on behalf of the AIALA to the brave struggle which was holding out against the joint moves by the BJD Government of Odisha and the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre to allow MNCs like POSCO to plunder the resources and grab the land and livelihood of the people.

Comrades Dhirendra Jha, Khitish Biswal, Satyabadi Behera and Mahendra Parida and Ashok Parida addressed the protestors.

Mayawati Govt : Mired in Land Grab, Corruption, Murder

On the heels of the custodial rape, killing of a minor girl at Nighasan, and the subsequent cover-up came the death of Deputy CMO YS Sachan right inside Lucknow jail.
Sachan was the main accused – and a key witness – cases of the murders of two CMOs. The Mayawati Government tried to pass off the death as a suicide, claiming he hanged himself in the jail toilet with his belt. But a post-mortem report has put paid to that defence, because it shows that the cause of death was bleeding from nine injury marks on different parts of the body. Sachan was dead before he was hanged. Just like in the Nighasan case, the ‘hanging’ was a crude attempt to pass murder off as suicide.
The murder of two persons – Dr. B P Singh and Dr. Vinod Kumar Arya who held the post of CMO (Family Welfare) and of Sachan (Deputy CMO, Family Welfare) – has blown the lid off a multi-crore scam in the implementation of the NRHM (National Rural Health Mission) in the state.   
It has emerged that in 2010, the Mayawati Government violated norms to bring the NRHM under the ambit of the ‘Family Welfare’ Ministry (then under Babu Singh Kushwaha, considered close to Mayawati) rather than the Health Ministry. Separate CMO posts were created under the Family Welfare Ministry to handle the huge funds that flowed into the NRHM. The Ministry avoided creating any Central Medicine Supply Depot (CMCD) or other stipulated mechanisms to ensure transparency. There was a scramble for the CMO posts and several senior doctors apparently paid big sums to secure the post.     
Dr B P Singh, as General Secretary of Uttar Pradesh Provincial Medical Service Association (UPPMSA), had filed a petition in 2010 in the High Court on behalf of the UPPMSA asking for the post of CMO (Family Welfare) to be scrapped. He was subsequently appointed CMO (Family Welfare) himself! Apparently he was pressurised to withdraw the petition but he refused. It seems that this refusal might be behind his murder in broad daylight.
Vinod Arya, appointed CMO next, was also shot dead. Y S Sachan was made the fall guy by the UP Government, which claimed that Sachan was responsible for both murders.
A ‘guideline’ was circulated to health officials, mentioning how much each of the 54 departments, which received NRHM funds, were supposed to ‘save’. According to this guideline, CMOs were supposed to ‘save’ between 5% to even 100% of the NRHM funds flowing into their department. The money ‘saved’ (read siphoned off) would then reach higher-ups. There was also major leakage, with funds being falsely shown to have been spent for minor repairs and maintenance, for buying fuel for generators, local purchase of emergency drugs when in short supply, providing shelter to patients and attendants, etc.
The NRHM is a scheme meant to provide rural health, in a situation where most rural people, especially women and children, have very little access to quality healthcare. This shameful loot of NRHM funds also meant that UP’s rural poor were being robbed of their basic rights.  
In the wake of the CMO murders and the unravelling scam, Babu Singh Kushwaha resigned. After the Sachan murder and the failed cover-up attempt, Mayawati has desperately tried to salvage her image by ordering a CAG probe into the NRHM funds, though she continues to deny any scam.   
Meanwhile the Allahabad High Court and Supreme Court verdicts cancelling land deals in Greater Noida have revealed that the UP Government grabbed farmers’ land at throwaway prices in the name of industrial development, only to sell the same to builders for real estate projects! And then, when farmers protest, repression is unleashed, as at Bhatta Parsaul.   
Trying to take advantage of Mayawati’s discomfiture after Bhatta Parsaul, Rahul Gandhi conducted a padyatra in UP among those affected by land grab. The UPA Government’s own record, as well as various Congress-led State Government’s records on land acquisition, however, expose Rahul Gandhi’s padyatra as a hollow gimmick. The UPA Government has colluded in illegal land grab for POSCO, for instance; the Congress Government in Maharashtra has shot dead protesting farmers at Jaitapur, and similarly the Congress’ Andhra Pradesh Government too has shot dead villagers protesting land grab at Sompeta.     
Meanwhile, Mayawati’s repressive spree continues. In Pilibhit, the Congress and the State Government are together in targeting CPI(ML) activists.
Standing member of the CPI(ML)’s UP State Committee and National Executive Committee member of the All India Kisan Mahasabha, Comrade Afroz Alam, has been jailed along with 8 others on trumped-up charges including arson and the SC/ST Act. He was also physical assaulted inside jail.
In Pilibhit, one Congress leader BM Singh, aided by the administration and police, has been trying to grab village and forest land from the poor. The CPI(ML) has been leading the poor in defending their land and demanding implementation of the Forest Rights Act.  
On 2 July, Congress supporters brought unknown persons to the locality and tried to illegally capture land. Police did not act even after receiving a complaint. Meanwhile, the Congress supporters set one hut on fire, and then tried to frame CPI(ML) leaders Comrades Afroz and Prahlad on arson charges.
The police, which had watched the violence passively, now swung into action and slapped all sorts of cases on 8 CPI(ML) activists. The Party held a protest dharna in Pilibhit on 4 July. On 28 July, the AIALA State Conference is being held at Pilibhit. Coinciding with that, a massive demonstration will take place to demand the release of the arrested comrades.   
Land Grab Near Varanasi 
 Greater NOIDA is just one among the scores of places in UP where land is being grabbed for the poor in favour of the rich. Popular protests against land acquisition have broken out in several places near Varanasi. The AIKM and CPIML) visited each of these places and extended active and consistent participation and support. Below is a brief outline of the major issues in these struggles, based on facts narrated by protesting farmers to the AIKM and CPI(ML) members.  
Transport Nagar: 214 acres of land belonging to about 1292 farmers in Bairwan village under Rohania Police Station is to be acquired by the Varanasi Development Authority (VDA) for a transport hub on the Golden Quadrangle at Varanasi, on the Allahabad-Kolkata route. Farmers have been resisting this move on their costly land for the last 16 years.  According to the VDA, about 350 farmers have given formal consent to sell their land for this purpose. But villagers say this figure is close to 100. And in order to acquire land from even this small number of farmers, the authorities used contractors and anti-social elements. On 5 July 2011, the VDA secretary visited the dharna where farmers had been agitating against the acquisition. He was detained there by the angry farmers. The DM ordered a brutal lathicharge, and about 5 leaders of the agitation were arrested and sent to jail.
Sewage Treatment Plant (STP): In Sathwa village near Sarnath, acquisition of about 108 acres of fertile farming land is underway for an STP for the multi-crore sewage disposal programme in Varanasi. After notices were served under Section 4 and 6, the farmers sat on a fast under the leadership of a local woman leader, Yashoda Patel. The DM visited the sit-in and told the farmers to sell their land.  
The fast and sit-in continued for 59 days and finally the people won a temporary victory when the administration was forced to give in writing that the land would not be acquired and formal request for cancellation of Section 4 and 6 was sent by the District Administration to the State Government.
Garbage Dumping Ground (GDG): 75 bighas of farm land have been illegally acquired by the district administration in Karsana village, on the Varanasi-Mizrapur border. Section 4 and 6 were notified in 2007.  The DM of Varanasi told the villagers that a handsome compensation of Rs. 32,000 per bissa (20 bissas make one bigha) would be paid to the affected farmers, while the farmers were demanding Rs 60,000. 
In the beginning of 2010, some Pattedars were intimidated by local agents to sell their land.  9 Pattedars were paid cheques at the rate of Rs 4000 per bissa. This infuriated the farmers, and they refused to sign on the land mutation papers. Even the remaining 60 farmers have refused to hand over their land. As a result, all the 75 bighas of land are still officially in the name of the farmers. Yet, the administration moved ahead and perforce had a boundary wall built. A farmer threw himself in front of the JCB machine but was beaten up.
The pits and compost sheds are being made by a private company called A-to-Z, which has been given the contract by the Nagar Nigam for collection and dumping of garbage in Varanasi. The farmers have started a sit-in in the village from 29 June 2011 onwards.  On 9 July the SDM reached the dharna with a large police contingent and assured the villagers that their land would not be taken without their consent.
Interestingly, the Environment Department has given its clearance for the project in spite of the fact that the river Ganga is only about half a kilometer from the GDG, and there are villages just 200 m from the site. 
The protest against the GDG continues. On 17 July, around a dozen BHU teachers visited the dharna to meet the protesting farmers. The team of teachers was met with police making intimidatory gestures and raised lathis. If BHU teachers face such naked intimidation, one can imagine what the farmers are facing here.

Lotus Park: In Baraipur village near Sarnath, 85 bighas of land were to be acquired for building a Lotus Park. This low-lying waterlogged land had been allotted on an annual basis to 112 farmers. Without any prior information, their pattas were cancelled and the land transferred to the Nagar Nigam, Varanasi. One day the JCB machine reached the site but was met with resistance from the villagers. The work has stopped temporarily.