December 31, 2009

Article: Lalgarh Movement

War Against the People and the Historic Lalgarh Movement

-Amit Bhattacharyya

The Indian ruling classes and the central government they have set up to serve them have very recently declared one of the most unjust and brutal wars against the people which is quite unprecedented in the history of our country. Such a massive mobilization of armed forces, paramilitary forces, police forces and air forces totalling around 1 lakh personnel, along with US-Israel military assistance of various types only highlights the magnitude of the war. They have identified the Maoists as the ‘greatest threat to the internal security of the country since independence’ i.e, the security of the Indian ruling classes. The entire forested region in central and eastern India have been divided into seven Operating Areas, which wants to ‘clear’ within the next five years of all resistance, including that by the Maoists and other Naxalite organizations. A massive amount of money to the tune of Rs.7300 crore has already been earmarked for meeting the cost of this war. Needless to state, this war against the people is being waged in the interests of foreign capital and domestic big comprador capital. Hundreds of MoUs have been signed between imperialists and domestic sharks and the central and state governments that would further intensify the process of plunder and loot of our vast natural resources and bring more displacement and add to the misery and ruin in the lives of the impoverished people of our country. Lalgarh, nay, the Jangal Mahal region, is a region that, as the central home minister Mr.P. Chidambaram declared, would be treated as a laboratory to undertake experiments in dealing with this ‘greatest internal threat’ and then to utilize that experience for crushing resistance in such states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa. We propose to deal with the great Lalgarh movement that has already found its rightful place in the history of just struggles of our country.

The ongoing struggle in Lalgarh, nay, Jangal Mahal has already completed one year in early November 2009. This struggle is totally different from any other recent movement in our country. If Singur faced the initial experience of defeat, Nandigram could take pride in having tasted victory in course of a long bloody battle against the anti-people ‘left-front’ government and terror perpetrated by the hermads backed by the ruling CPI(M). The struggles waged in both Singur and Nandigram were directed against the land-grab movement resorted to by domestic big comprador capital and foreign imperialist capital. In both Singur and Nandigram, the parliamentary parties played some role, although in the case of the latter, the Maoist party that rejects the parliamentary path did play some role. In the case of the Lalgarh movement, on the other hand, parliamentary parties were actually rejected by the people and the Maoist party played a major role.

In one sense, the Lalgarh movement began in a different context. It started as a response against the brutality perpetrated by the police on 5 November 2008. It was, at the same time, a fight against age-old deprivation and humiliation and for the assertion of dignity and the rights of the people. However, if one takes into account the land mine attack on the WB chief minister on 2 November 2008--the day the corporate house of the Jindals inaugurated the Shalboni steel plant(it was a SEZ), then that event possibly acted a catalyst that started a snow-balling process. In that sense, it started as a response to the land-grab movement also, like those in both Singur and Nandigram.

The Lalgarh movement can be divided into Five phases: A) From 5 November 2008 to the day the dates for parliamentary elections were announced. B) From that day to 16 May when results were declared throughout the country. From 17 May2009 to 17 June just one day before ‘Operation Lalgarh’ was started. D) From 18 June 2009 when the joint forces started moving into Lalgarh to 26 October when decisions were taken by the PCAPA to form the people’s militia. E) From the formation of the ‘Sidhu-Kanu Gana Militia’ on 27 October till date. The day coincided with halting the Rajdhani Express by the members of the PCAPA demanding the release of Chhatradhar Mahato, release of political prisoners and the withdrawal of joint forces. Each of these phases has its distinctive features. If one studies the movement, one will be able to see that it was not just a movement against land grab or just for the assertion of the rights of the adivasis or against age-old humiliation suffered by the tribal people; it was more than that. And that broader aspect gradually unfolded itself as movement rolled on. One of those major aspects of the movement is their advocacy of a pro-people new model of development—a model that definitely shows the imprint of the Maoist party. This aspect of the movement hardly received any attention from the urban intellectuals. Let us take up that neglected, but very important aspect first.

New Model of Development

The model of development the Indian ruling classes and their political representatives have adopted ever since they came to power in 1947 was the policy of dependence on foreign capital and technology, which actually means the selling out of our country’s economy, water, land and vast natural resources to foreign imperialist capital and domestic comprador big capital for rapacious plunder and loot. It was the Naxalbari movement and the CPI(M-L) led by Charu Mazumdar that first raised the demand for radical land reforms, opposition to and the confiscation imperialist capital, and at the same time formulated the blueprint for alternative model of development. That programme could not be implemented by the Communist revolutionaries of the first phase of struggle for reasons into which we would not enter at present. At a later period, the Maoists put into practice an alternative development programme in the Dandakaranya area covering mineral-rich states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. The main elements of this programme are the rejection of foreign capital and technology, self-reliance, equitable distribution of resources and property among the people, distribution of land to the tiller, all-round development in the countryside based on people’s initiative and voluntary labour and the weeding out of foreign influence and control over our economy, society, culture and politics. As in Dandakaranya, such attempts are being made even at the rudimentary level in the Jangal Mahal area of West Bengal. This is evident from the following newspaper report captioned ‘Welcome to India’s newest secret state’ by Snigdhendu Bhattacharya: “Here across a 1,000 area bordering Orissa in West Medinipur district, the Maoists over the last 8 months have quietly unleashed new weapons in their battle against the Indian state: drinking water, irrigation, roads and health centres…carefully shielded from the public eye, the Hindustan Times found India’s second ‘liberated zone’, a Maoist-run state where development for more than 2 lakh people is unfolding at a pace not seen in 30 years of ‘left front’ rule. Apart from taking over the organs of the state and most notably the executive and the judiciary, the Maoists here have built at least 50 km of gravel paths, dug tube-wells and tanks, rebuilt irrigation canals and are running health centres, with the help of local villagers”(HT, 10 June 2009). Another daily reported under the caption “Lalgarh Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme(Maoist) Rise and rot of a rebel ‘state’” that the People’s Committee-Maoists began the following schemes: Jobs for landless--work in development projects in lieu of Rs.60-80 per day; building kutcha roads, culverts and water reservoirs and digging deep tube-wells; bringing medical teams from Kolkata; lending money to repair and build cheap houses(The Telegraph 24 June 2009).

The first attempts were made by the PCAPA soon after it was born. It set up village committees each of which consisted of 5 men and 5 women, where decisions were taken on the basis of mutual discussion. That was followed by the formation of women’s wings and youth wings of the committee. These were democratic bodies some of which bear the imprint of the old adivasi society and some, particularly the women’s wing, is new and signified the true empowerment of women.

In June 2009, before the deployment of the joint forces for ‘Operation Lalgarh’ a team comprising seven students belonging to the Democratic Students’ Union, JNU, New Delhi and two journalists visited Lalgarh and adjoining areas for an on-the-spot investigation. That report throws some light, even if at a rudimentary level, on the development programme initiated by the people. Since then, many new steps were taken in this direction, as is reported by different sources. However, because of the existing situation and the imposition of Section 144 against entry into the region, joint fact-finding missions could not be undertaken, despite attempts from several quarters. So this report is the last published on the region. Let us state some of the features.

A) Agriculture and Land distribution: Anyone going to Jangal Mahal would be able to realize that the much trumpeted ‘land reform’ programme of the ‘left-front’ government does not have any presence there. In areas where trees have been cut to introduce land reforms, nothing has been done and vast tracts have been allowed to be converted into waste lands. Although the WB government through an act of 2004 vowed to distribute these lands among the landless adivasis, nothing has as yet been done. On the contrary, the WB government and the CPI(M) that rules it had decided to hand over thousands of acres of those lands for the setting up of a SEZ to the corporate house of the Jindals whom they are committed to serve as its most trusted lackeys against the interests of the people. Faced with such government apathy and deprivation, it was quite natural for the people of Jangal Mahal to organize under the banner of the PCAPA to initiate true land reform programme.

The Committee initiated a programme to ensure full rights of the adivasis over forest land to the landless with adequate facilities for irrigation. Opposing the government policy of welcoming multinational seed companies the PCAPA opted to build seed cooperatives through the promotion of organic fertilizers prepared with either forest ash or cow-dung.

Another important step is land distribution. The village committee decided to ensure 1 bigha of land for the landless and 15 kathas for peasants with less land and no land for those having 5 bighas or more. The JNU team visited Banshberia village and were witness to a land distribution meeting. However, one problem was that land was not in an arable condition due to the senseless plantation of eucalyptus trees by the state government as part of its ‘social forestry’ project that was promoted by the World Bank. The plantation of such eucalyptus trees was aimed at drying up the land so as to facilitate future extraction of mineral resources from the region. It is a nefarious anti-people conspiracy deliberately hatched by corporate foreign capital and domestic capital with the backing of both the central and state governments. In order to undo the damage to the soil, the people decided to grow fruits and vegetables there for at least two seasons before it becomes fit hopefully for paddy cultivation again. Side by side, it was also decided that the lands of ‘new landlords’ such as those of the CPI(M) leaders like Anuj Pandey, Bimal Pandey or Dalim Pandey—the rural bosses-rogues-cum-moneylenders who had amassed millions by expropriating the wealth and land of the peasants as also by swindling money from governmental projects would be confiscated and distributed among the real owners.

B) Irrigation: In the dry Jangal Mahal belt, where rainfall is scanty, special attention is needed. However, one cannot see anything of the sort. The government has built a huge canal that runs from Mayurbhanj in Jharkhand to Midnapur town so as to provide water to the field when the rainy season was over. However, because of faulty construction, the huge canal remains dry throughout the year and the pipes that open to the fields remain completely choked. The Committee, in response to this governmental mal-development, started building small check dams and lock gates that would store the water during monsoons and preserve water flowing down from natural streams. Such a check dam was in the process of construction at Bohardanga village when the DSU team visited the place.

December 11, 2009

Stand by the Struggle for a Separate Telangana!

Once again the people of Telangana have come to the streets with their age-old demand for separate statehood. Like any other democratic movement is dealt with by the Indian ruling classes, the AP government is resorting to massive repression of the struggling people. Students are brutally assaulted and illegally detained; several false cases are registered against them. Educational institutions such as the Osmania University, Kakatiya University and Hyderabad Central University, which have been the epicenters of the struggle, are being forcibly vacated and virtually turned into police barracks. "A holiday has been declared in all the colleges in the region till Dec 18 and there is no reason why any student should stay on campus," the AP Inspector General of Police said (Economic Times, 9th Dec). Prohibitory orders have been imposed by the state government over the entire Telangana region under the draconian and colonial Section 144 to prevent any mass mobilisation demanding separate statehood. Hundreds have been arrested and even journalists are being brutally lathi-charged in an attempt to silence any voice which stands for a separate Telangana. DSU condemns the brutal repression of a people’s movement by the state, and reiterates its solidarity with the aspirations of Telangana people for separate statehood.

Separate Telangana Movement: Geographically, the state of Andhra Pradesh consists of three regions: Rayalaseema, Coastal Andhra and Telangana. Telangana remains the most under-developed among the three after being systematically exploited by the dominant classes of the other two regions. Telangana is a land of poor people with rich natural resources. The people here have been historically denied their rights over resources, deprived of opportunities for political, economic, and cultural autonomy. The demand for a separate Telangana state is a long standing one, with the majority of the people from the region firmly supporting its creation. However, this democratic aspiration of the people of Telangana has been trampled underfoot by the various ruling class political parties in power, be it in Delhi or Hyderabad. Given the popular support for the demand, parliamentary political parties have been making promises for creating Telangana, especially before elections. However, this promise has been routinely broken by all the political parties after coming to power. There is also the hostility of the ruling classes from Coastal Andhra against carving out of Telangana from present Andhra Pradesh. Therefore, none of them has taken any concrete step to materialize it. In this respect, the present Congress government too is no exception. But despite the denial of separate statehood after a prolonged struggle, it refuses to die down. The Separate Telangana movement continues to live on, now with renewed vigor, and will continue until the Indian government is made to fulfill the demand.

Historical Background: The present Telangana region was under the rule of Nizam’s Hyderabad state before 1947. Hyderabad state consisted of three regions of the present AP state, along with five districts of Marathwada region and three districts of Karnataka region. Nizam surrendered both coastal and Rayalaseema districts to the British as part of settling debts with colonial rulers in 1788 and 1800 respectively. The districts that constitute present Telangana remained under Nizam State. Telangana was not under direct colonial rule, whereas the other two regions were exposed to British colonialism, reform movements and English education, among other things. Several irrigation projects were constructed during colonial rule in Andhra region whereas till the date Telangana does not have any major irrigation project. People were exploited and suppressed by the feudal regime of the Nizam. The appropriation of surplus that created through the sweat and blood of people of Telangana made Nizam’s state among the wealthiest of princely states in India. While there were social reform movements in Andhra and Rayalaseema to free the people from its societal shackles, the Nizam state reinforced class and caste hierarchies in Telangana. The seeds of uneven development and regional difference were implanted much before transfer of power in 1947.

People of Telangana waged relentless mass struggles against feudal oppression, at times with arms. The Telangana Armed Struggle is a glorious chapter in the history of revolutionary peasant movements in the subcontinent, which fought the feudal Nizam, the Indian Army as well as the opportunist CPI leadership at the same time. When the Nizam understood the impossibility of continuing as monarchial ruler given the massive opposition from people, he made an agreement with the new Indian ruling class and agreed to join the Indian Union in 1948. When Indian government put forward the proposal of Telangana joining the Andhra Pradesh state, there was widespread opposition from the people. But this was completely ignored by the rulers by once again violating the political aspirations of Telangana people. Andhra Pradesh state was constituted, and this was the first state to be established on linguistic basis. Whether it is feudal oppression or it is in the name of democracy, the nature and response of the ruling classes has been one and the same. The people of the land, both in feudal and the so-called democratic rule have remained targets of state repression. People were in no way party to the decisions ruling classes had taken before and after 1947. Voices have often been raised in favor of separate Telangana by parliamentary political parties. They were silenced by ruling class strategy of offering them some positions and they had also betrayed the cause repeatedly. Several opportunistic leaders tried to take advantage of the genuine aspirations of people without taking the movement for statehood forward. Such leaders varied from right wing parties to parliamentary left parties. All these parties used the aspirations of the people and gained out of it.

Underdevelopment of Development: For the present economic system it is necessity to keep certain regions underdeveloped which gradually becomes peripheries, in order to develop some other regions which emerge as centers. The material and natural resources of Telangana region has been diverted for the development of Andhra, while Telangana region has been pushed to a position of continuous dependency due to lack of development. From the time of united Andhra Pradesh Telangana people has been kept socially, culturally, politically oppressed and economically looted by a combination of feudal and comprador-capitalist forces of Andhra ruling clique. All the major cities in Andhra region have been developed by concentrating the wealth of Telangana there. Even the city of Hyderabad was taken over by the powerful families of Andhra whereas Telangana till the date does not have a single city or major town except Hyderabad. In view of the crucial interest of Andhra ruling class in the city of Hyderabad and the big landlords of Andhra in major water resources of Telangana, they are hell-bent on crushing the democratic movement of Telangana by using force.

Historic injustice towards Telangana: Telangana waters have been diverted to irrigation projects in Andhra. Successive governments have blatantly violated the water-sharing agreements between the two regions. In the name of homogenization of state culture, Andhra rulers have tried to impose its culture particularly in terms of language and food habits. The government public distribution system in Andhra supplies only rice whereas the rain-fed areas of Telangana cultivates bajra, jowar, raagi and such other food grains. This has resulted in extra pressure on Telangana peasantry to grow only rice at the expense of their indigenous crops. Telangana youths have also been deprived of opportunities in government services. At the level of culture, even the cinematic representation of Telangana is extremely biased and prejudiced, whereby the Telangana language and names are mostly projected negatively in Telugu cinema. Print and electronic media considers only the heartland Andhra language as the official language. Telangana water resources are diverted to Andhra even if the proposed Polavaram project which is intended to supply irrigation water to Andhra is going to engulf 13 mandals of Telangana with adivasi inhabitants. There have been attempts to divert waters from Telangana to Rayalaseema through the Pothireddypadu project by holding water more than dam’s capacity in Sree Sailam through ‘Jala Yagnam’, resulting in unprecedented floods in Rayalaseema and Telangana districts in the recent past. The huge revenue extraction from Telangana was invested in Andhra region for its development, while Telangana was deprived of basic infrastructural facilities needed for industrial growth.

Parliamentary opportunism and the betrayal of Telangana: The CPI and CPM has taken a stand against separate statehood for Telangana in spite their cadres taking active part in movement, violating the leadership’s decision. These parties cherish the utopia of united Andhra Pradesh even when there is a widespread mass movement for separation. The Telugu Desam party has been keeping silent on the whole issue since the formation of state is going to harm the interests of its supporters from Andhra. Telangana Rastra Samithi, yet another regional party, opportunistically raises the slogan of Telangana whenever they are politically cornered. The misery of Telangana and the exploitation it faces was conveniently forgotten by it when it was enjoying power in center government. Now once again the TRS chief has sat for a ‘fast unto death’ for Telangana. In the ruling Congress party, some of the Telangana elected representatives wants a separate state where as Andhra representatives are vehemently opposing the demand. Andhra representatives are lobbying with the Congress central leadership not to allow Telangana state in order to safeguard their huge capital investments, and SEZs in and around Telangana. This is supported by some of Tealnganas MP’s too, since they hold land in and around Hyderabad for SEZs.

What is happening in Telangana at present: While there is a democratic demand from various sections of society for separate statehood, the state is responding in the only way it knows to deal with popular movements: by unleashing fascist force. Andhra Pradesh government has deployed huge forces in the state to curtail the movement. Paramilitary forces, Grey Hound squads, Rapid Action Force etc are deployed in the university premises without the knowledge of Vice Chancellors of Osmania University, Agriculatural University, Kakatiya University, University of Hyderabad etc. University students were beaten and two students lost their lives in police crackdown. More than 28 students have committed suicide. Even media personal were attacked. The elected representatives who went to express solidarity with the movement were also brutally beaten up. The Chief Minister has given orders to the police officials to take action on the spot without waiting for any order. In the girl’s hostel premises of Osmania University, women students were chased by the police for giving slogans in favor of separate state. Students were chased out of the campus and dragged to the neighborhood areas where huge force was deployed. These forces are attacking not only students but also the residents. At present more forces are being brought from different states and deployed in Hyderabad. In the view of the call for “Chalo Assembly” on 10th December by the Joint Action Committee, the government had ordered close down and mass evacuation of students from universities. The state government has blocked different roads to Hyderabad to prevent protesting students form reaching the city.
Fight for an autonomous and democratic Telangana! We know that the mere formation of a separate state does not lead anywhere until and unless there are revolutionary changes in the society. It is not just about achieving a terroritarially separate Telangana. It is about creating of a democratic Telangana free from social, economic and cultural oppression by demolishing relations of caste and class, which can only be achieved by combining this struggle with that of the other oppressed masses of the subcontinent for a revolutionary social transformation. DSU stands by the people of Telangana who fought the historic armed struggle against feudal oppression and continue to struggle for a separate state

December 8, 2009

What difference does a Revolution make? A Contrast of China and India

The Indian ruling class opened the floodgates of globalized imperialism in 1991, almost fifteen years after China entered the path of capitalism and after the death of Mao Tsetung in 1976. In India, this move has resulted in massive assaults on the working class as well as the peasantry was exposed to the unbridled exploitation and vulnerability characteristic of the phase of Liberalisation-Privatisation-Globalisation (LPG). At the same time, this has also helped in drawing the class contradictions more sharply in the Indian society, thereby intensifying the class struggle manifested throughout the country today. This militant assertion of the masses against the imperialist dictated policies of the Indian government is perceptible in a diversity of ways, with people’s movements breaking out in all corners of the country. The most potent and politically advanced of these movements which has organised and consolidated the worst victims of the state-big corporate-landlord juggernaut has been the Maoist movement in India. While it has been identified by the ruling classes as the ‘biggest internal security threat’ and the biggest hindrance in the way of implementing LPG, the movement has been able to voice the aspirations of the fighting multitude.

This intensifying crucible of resistance is bound to reach new heights as global capitalism is facing its gravest challenge with the deepening of the present economic crisis. As the attempt of the state and big business is to characteristically pass the burden of the crash onto the working class and the peasantry to tide over the crisis, it is also opening up new grounds for the larger unity of the struggling masses across regions and countries, garnering their energies against the repressive states, ruling classes and imperialism. It is this threat from the resilient masses that has forced the Indian state to launch a full-scale offensive the Operation Green Hunt on behalf of the MNCs and to implement the MoUs, in the vast stretches of central and eastern India.

The developments in China after more than three decades of ‘market socialism’ under the aegis of the Communist Party of China have traversed somewhat different trajectory. The revolutionary socialist policies in China that had been carried out under the leadership of Mao has been steadily dismantled over the years by the present ruling class under the garb of ‘Communism with Chinese characteristics’. The set-back of socialism and return to the capitalist Road has left the working class as well as the peasantry in an increasingly precarious situation. This has been manifested in a widening polarization of classes in the Chinese society with workers and peasants at the bottom facing extreme hardships after the breakdown of the communes, collective ownership and the loss of state and political power by the working class. The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few who uses their hold in the Communist Party and the state to exploit the growing ranks of the working people has deprived them of their entitlements won during the days of the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. In this regard, the insights provided by the path-breaking works of Professor Robert Weil are very inspiring.

What is most notable in this context is the tendentious but growing assertion and emergence of the revolutionary forces in China and the rising unity of consciousness among the various sections of the working class, the peasantry as also the youth. The Chinese working classes, as Professor Weil shows, has been far from passive in the face of their deteriorating conditions and the loss of rights won over decades through struggle and sacrifice in the socialist revolution. Class conflict and social turmoil have surged to levels not seen for decades. The workers, peasants, and migrants in China today are mounting some of the largest demonstrations anywhere in the world, at times involving tens of thousands.
Much like in India, violent clashes with the authorities is growing in China too, as the state and the ‘Communist’ Party tries to cope with the present economic recession with the same technique of cushioning the capitalists by hitting hardest at the working class. But in spite of the above similarities in the trajectories of the two ‘Asian Giants’, there is something that definitely demarcates the two. And it is in this context that we look into the question as to ‘What difference does a revolution make?’ A significant section of the working class in China as well as the peasantry has the advantage over those in India of actually experiencing and being a part of the rising tide of socialism during Mao’s leadership. They had enjoyed the resultant social security, pride and power that the Great Revolution endowed on the working class. Older workers understand the present historical context and most of them who went through the Mao era and the Cultural Revolution and experienced Mao’s Thought, today wants to bring China back to ‘Mao’s Road’, or Socialism. This experience of a successful Revolution gives them the vantage position to understand more clearly the dynamics of a “two-line struggle,” as a clear demarcation between the socialism of the revolution and the capitalism of the present, which is now coming out primarily from the working classes themselves, and not mainly from the intellectuals.
As the working class in China is increasingly showing the historic maturity to roll back the reactionary reforms of the post-Mao era and re-engaging in a heightened spirit with Maoism, we too, being in largely similar objective conditions must comprehend the significance of and strive towards the building a larger revolutionary unity of the toiling masses as taught by Marx, Lenin and Mao. This is imperative not only for China, but also for India and a larger international struggle to tread the socialist path fighting the onslaught of imperialism.