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May-June 2012

Table of Contents

  1. May Day 2012

  2. May Day Programmes

  3. Stand by Bathani Tola in the Battle for a New and Just Bihar

  4. Justice for Bathani Tola

  5. Violence on Dalits in Dadri

  6. Life Sentence for Rupam

  7. Who Is the Real Killer of Comrade Chandrashekhar?

  8. Message from the CPI(ML) to the 21st Congress of the CPI

Struggles in India

May Day 2012:

Resist the Onslaught Against Workers’ Rights!

Demand Dignified and Secure Work for All!

– ML Update, May 2, 2012.

International Workers’ Day is an occasion to honour the long legacy of the struggle of workers for their rights, offering a revolutionary challenge to the regime of capital. Even as we salute the memory of the heroic Haymarket martyrs who laid down their lives in the struggle for the 8-hour working day, we are reminded that workers’ hard-won rights are under unrelenting assault today.

Laws to guarantee minimum wages, working hours, the right to unionise, and restrictions on contract labour, are all being blatantly violated in India, even as the Prime Minister loses no opportunity to preach the need to ‘rationalise’ and dilute labour laws! Even in the government sector, the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ stands mocked, with the increasing employment of contract labour.

But if the assault is severe, fresh waves of workers’ resistance are being witnessed. Be it workers in the automobile sector – in factories like Maruti in Gurgaon, Rockman and Satyam in Dehradun, or Pricol in Coimbatore – struggles are being waged for the right to have a recognized union and dignified rights at the workplace. Unorganized sector workers and contract workers are also waging significant struggles are several places.

Ironically, the corporates and their ruling class political representatives in the Government, urge dilution of labour laws in the name of creating jobs! We may recall that the policies of liberalization were ushered into India in the 1990s, precisely in the name of creating new job opportunities for Indians. Instead, the two decades of liberalization are witness to ‘growth’ that is abysmally bereft of jobs. The employment rate in India has fallen from 42% in 2004-05 to 39.2% in 2009-10.

What liberalization has achieved is to shrink avenues for employment – and to drastically alter the character of the work that is actually available. Increasingly, jobs are casualised, contractualised, and completely lacking in security, dignity, and basic rights. Between 2004-05 and 2009-10, the number of casual workers grew by 21.9 million, while growth in the number of regular workers nearly halved (compared with the period between 1999-2000 and 2004-05) to 5.8 million. The number of the self-employed, dominated by agricultural workers, fell by 25.1 million.

In general, employment has become difficult to access – and the workplace has become more exploitative and insecure. At the slightest attempt to organize themselves or challenge labour law violations, workers find themselves being shown the door. In the metros, migrant and contractualised workers are especially vulnerable. Women are disproportionately represented in the least-paid and most-exploitative jobs. Again, even in the government sector (such as the rural health accredited social health activist (ASHA) and anganwadi employees), women’s labour is being exploited, for a mere pittance in terms of pay, as these women workers are denied recognition as government employees.

In this backdrop, the demand for the right to dignified and secure jobs for all gains great urgency. This demand has significance far beyond the trade union or workers’ movement alone. This May 1, the All India Students Association (AISA) and Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) have launched a students and youth campaign, resisting corporate plunder and corruption, and demanding the right to education and employment. The demand for the Right to Employment to be declared a fundamental right – in the sense of dignified and secure employment for all, and a dignified unemployment allowance for all jobless people above the age of 25 – is one of the crucial demands raised by this campaign, which will culminate in a militant student-youth gathering at Parliament on 9 August 2012.

Internationally, May Day 2012 mobilizations reflected the energy of the Occupy movement against corporate plunder and greed, and the huge people’s movements against the austerity measures being imposed by various governments in the name of coping with recession. Workers, students and young people played a very significant role in those movements in the US, as well as European and Latin American countries. In India, too, students, young workers, and job-seekers must join hands to challenge the policies that promote corruption and corporate plunder and exploitation at the cost of young people’s basic rights to education, and to dignified and secure jobs.

Struggles in India

May Day Programmes: Brief Reports from Three States

– Rajiv Dimri, AICCTU.

In Chennai total of 700 workers and cadres participated in various programmes. In and around Ambattur area comrades hoisted flags in 15 factory gates, 15 residential centres mostly where party or trade union (TU) branches exist Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI (ML)] party flags were hoisted at 10 centres. In Tiruvellore district, All India Agricultural Labourers Association (AIALA) flag hoisted at 6 points and All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) flag hoisted at 15 centres. In Kanjipuram May day was observed with flag hoisting at 10 points mostly construction labour areas. At many places veterans and especially women comrades hoisted flags. In the evening there was a pubic meeting in Ambattur, where a good contigent of migrant labours participated along with some 250 workers .

In Tanjore, democratic construction labour union district office bearers and cadres went around in bikes and hoisted union flags at 16 centres where union branches are functioning. In Tiruchi, 75 contract labours of Ordnance Factory took out a rally and hoisted AICCTU flag, in Karur, AICCTU flag was hoisted at Velayudhampalayam, residential area of export furnishing tailors. In Tirunelveli CPI(ML) and AICCTU flags were hoisted in several points . A cycle rally of 50 cadres started from Tirunelveli completing 22 centres which includes beedi union branches, loadmen union and auto drivers union.

In Salem, total of 225 workers took part in various centres of AICCTU flag hoisting to observe may day. Co-optex employees union observed may day by hoisting their flag. In Coimbatore more than 100 cadres went around in motor bikes observing May day by hoisting flags at 20 centres. In Namakkal district, along with flag hoisting , union boards were opened at 10 centres , out of which 9 are powerloom centres and one construction. In Dindivanam, Loadmen working in Civil supplies corporation observed by hoisting their union flag. Newly formed construction labour union also hoisted their flag. In Dharmapuri, there was a convention organized by state Electricity board union and AICCTU state office bearers.

May Day rallies and hoisting flags visibly marked the growth of AICCTU in each passing year in Karnataka. AICCTU began with a single union in readymix concrete industry in Bangalore and now has spread across various sections of workers and various districts of Karnataka. May Day programmes were held in Bangalore, Koppal, Davanagere, parts of Bellary and Mysore.

In Bangalore alone flags were hoisted in more than 17 places spreading across all corners of the city. Bangalore unit of AICCTU organised a colourful and impressive rally on May Day. Workers of corporate and multinational companies participated in the rally in good numbers. High pitched slogans against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the centre and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the state made a difference in a scenario of apolitical or limited political slogans raised by other trade unions.

CPI(ML) state secretary Com. Ramappa called upon workers to join the political mainstream to challenge the powers that be. He reiterated CPI(ML)’s commitment to raise the level of struggles against capital in the context of liberalisation policies being followed by the central and state governments. He called upon workers to join the political struggle to unseat the anti-worker BJP from state power. Com. Shankar, Vice President (VP) of AICCTU reemphasised the need to launch major struggles once again demanding 8-hour workday and abolition of contract labour system. He called upon workers to join the struggle beyond four walls of the factories.

In Gangavati of Koppal district, AICCTU organised an impressive rally led by Com. Bharadwaj, state president of AICCTU. The rally focussed on the issue of keeping attendance registers and minimum wages to rice mill workers. The rallyists also resolved to carry forward the struggle until the demands are fulfilled. District administration and labour departments were given an ultimatum of 15 May to ensure attendance registers in all rice mills. The rally also demanded Employee State Insurance (ESI) to all organised and unorganised workers. Various cross sections of workers including tractor and taxi drivers, auto technicians, brick kiln and construction workers, vendors and domestic workers participated in the rally.

May Day was observed in Odisha in Bhubaneshwar, Rayagada Puri, Rourkela, Khurdha, Gajapathi. The east coast railway sweeper union, motorboat workers union, construction workers union, Rikshaw Cooli workers union, Garage workers union, steel workers union participated in different places. As per the decision of central working committee the demand was focused on ensure minimum wages , trade union rights and ensure registration within 45 days, provide social security to all unorganized workers as per the central norms and establish welfare board for unorganized workers. Clarion call was given by the workers from all the above unions to unite the workers and fight for their rights and fight against globalization and contractualisation of all works by private agencies.

Struggles in India

Stand by Bathani Tola in the Battle for a New and Just Bihar

– Liberation, May, 2012.

Nearly 16 years ago Bathani Tola had shocked and shamed the nation as yet another site of a gory massacre in Bihar. An obscure sleepy hamlet in Sahar block of Bhojpur district in Bihar, Bathani Tola experienced a brutal feudal assault on a fateful July afternoon in 1996. As many as 21 lives, including 11 women, seven children and two infants were killed with a kind of barbarity that was to be seen on a much bigger scale six years later in Gujarat. Bathani Tola was indeed a precursor to the 2002 Gujarat genocide. With Bathani Tola, the country woke up to the sordid reality of the Ranveer Sena, an upper caste feudal private army massacring the oppressed rural poor with the avowed aim of exterminating the CPI(ML) and the radical peasant movement.

Sixteen years later, Bathani Tola is back in the news. The oppressed poor of this obscure village, who have been waiting for justice for years together, have experienced yet another massacre. This time round, it is a judicial massacre perpetrated by the High Court of Bihar which has overturned the verdict of the lower court and acquitted one and all who were convicted for their heinous role in executing this barbaric massacre. While acquitting the guilty, the High Court has apologised to some of the accused even as it has termed the witnesses liars spinning tales. Nothing could perhaps demonstrate the farcical nature of the judicial system than the failure or refusal of the system to mete out any punishment to anybody for a massacre of 21 persons that had taken place not in the darkness of night but in broad daylight.

When Bathani Tola happened Bihar was being ruled by Laloo Prasad with the slogan of social justice. The government banned the Ranveer Sena but the ban was never enforced and the Sena went on massacring people at will. Laxmanpur Bathe, Shankarbigha, Narayanpur, Miyanpur – the list of massacres got longer even as Laloo Prasad himself told his audience in a public meeting that he was ready to team up with the devil to finish the CPI(ML) off. On one level Laloo Prasad waxed eloquent against the BJP, but in Bihar his own government continued to connive with the most reactionary organ of feudal-communal violence. Sixteen years later Bihar today is ruled by Nitish Kumar with the backing of an increasingly aggressive BJP. The slogan of social justice has given way to the rhetoric of development with justice. But for the predominantly dalit, and as in the case of Bathani Tola also Muslim, victims of feudal violence, justice clearly remains as elusive as ever.

What has happened to the Bathani Tola victims is no judicial accident. This has rather been the norm in Bihar and if this exposes for the umpteenth time the caste-class bias of the judiciary we must remember this bias is reinforced by the government of the day. This was true of Congress-ruled Bihar when upper caste politicians used to dominate in the government, and it has remained true all through the last two decades when Laloo Prasad and Nitish Kumar have been in the helm with slogans of social justice or good governance. We must remember that the first thing that Nitish Kumar did on assuming power was to abandon the Amir Das Commission set up in the wake of the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre to probe the political links of the Ranveer Sena. His government also made sure that Brahmeshwar Singh, the infamous supremo of the Ranveer Sena, came out on bail to vitiate the trial of various massacres cases. And Sunil Pandey, another notorious lynchpin of the Sena had already been acquitted and today he is the Janata Dal (United) [JD(U)] MLA from the post-delimitation Tarari constituency that Bathani Tola comes under.

The abandoning of the Amir Das commission and the subsequent dumping of the Land Reform Commission reports have been two key steps of the Nitish Kumar dispensation that clearly reveal the pro-feudal character of the regime. The verdict delivered by the High Court is just a natural consequence. Equally ‘natural’ in Nitish Kumar’s Bihar is the conviction of people challenging the feudal order. Rupam Pathak, a teacher who had been fed up with being subjected to continuous sexual harassment by a BJP MLA has been issued life sentence and Bodhan Sada and his comrades, who had been fighting for the land rights and dignity of the landless rural poor of the Musahar community, christened Mahadalit by the Nitish government to win the community’s votes, have been handed out death sentences.

Even as Bathani Tola grapples with this judicial massacre, ruling class politicians continue to play their political cards. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram wonders why nobody is speaking out in favour of the Bathani Tola victims, Bihar government says it would now approach the Supreme Court for justice! While challenging the feudal bias on every front and level, the battle for justice for the Bathani Tola victims will have to rebuff this pretentious politics of crocodile tears. The renewed massacre and shame of Bathani Tola has revealed like nothing else what continues to ail and retard Bihar. For everybody aspiring for a better future for Bihar in the centenary of its administrative birth, the message is loud and clear. Bihar can only move forward by effecting a decisive rupture with the still well entrenched feudal forces and mindset, and the continuing politics of appeasement of and alliance with feudal forces is the biggest betrayal to the cause of both justice and development for Bihar. Let us stand by Bathani Tola in this battle for a new and just Bihar.

Struggles in India

Justice for Bathani Tola

Massacred by Ranveer Sena in Laloo’s Bihar –

Massacred Judicially in Nitish Regime!

– Liberation, May, 2012.

The Bihar HC’s acquittal of all the accused in the Bathani Tola massacre case, overturning a lower court’s conviction of 23, has shocked and outraged people across the country. The acquittal has raised urgent questions about justice for the victims of the massacres of rural poor in the 1990s by the feudal landlord army, Ranveer Sena. In the feature that follows, we revisit the pages of Liberation to recall the social and political context of those massacres and the struggle for justice that followed. We also follow the trail of political complicity and patronage that has allowed the perpetrators to go free, and the continuing struggle for justice.

On 11 July 1996, a private army of upper caste landlords (Ranveer Sena) brutally massacred 21 people (11 women; five girls below 10 years; four boys below 8 years; and one man) in the hamlet of Bathani Tola of Bhojpur (Bihar), most of whom were dalit and Muslim landless poor. The massacre began at 2 in the afternoon, and for the next three hours, assailants from the neighbouring Badki Khadanv village set fire to huts, slashed at women and children with swords, and fired shots. There was a police station a mere 100 metres away, and 3 other police camps about 1-2 kms away in different directions. But no police interrupted the dance of death, and Bathani Tola was left to defend itself.

An Ara sessions court in 2010 convicted 23 for the massacre, sentencing 3 to death and 20 to life. And in April 2012, the Bihar High Court acquitted all 23. The Nitish Kumar-led Bihar State Government has announced that it will challenge the acquittal in the Supreme Court. But its real intentions behind this formal posture can be gauged by the comments of one of its Ministers Giriraj Singh, who has opined that the “Bathani Tola massacre case should be nipped in the bud. The issue should not be discussed any more as it could vitiate the atmosphere.” Yet again, this episode illustrates the pro-feudal foundations of the Nitish Government that underlie its pro-poor posturing and rhetoric of ‘Justice with Development.’

Who Butchered 21 in Broad Daylight?”

Nayeemuddin Ansari, one of the survivors and key witnesses, who lost 6 women and children of his family in the carnage, asks, “Who killed 21 people that afternoon, if it wasn’t those we named in the FIR?” Nayeemuddin, Srikishun Choudhury, Radhika Devi, Marwari Choudhury, Lal Chand Choudhury, and other survivors, ask: “Who will take responsibility for our lives, now that all those we gave evidence against are free?”

But the answer to those questions is one that feudal-communal forces and their political patrons seek to suppress and erase from history. But the survivors of Bathani Tola are not just victims – they were, and are, fighters, who refuse to be defeated or silenced. The memorial to the martyrs of Bathani Tola will not allow those 21 innocents to be forgotten – and the quest for justice for those 21 will continue.

So, who killed 21 at Bathani Tola and why?

Ranveer Sena: Fascist, Feudal, Communal Militia

Massacres of dalit rural labourers by dominant-caste armies were nothing new in Bihar. But in its sheer scale and ferocity, the Bathani Tola massacre marked a new phase and signified a new reactionary political mobilisation. The Ranveer Sena comprised of predominantly Bhumihar landed gentry but using the bond of caste and the shared social bias against the downtrodden, Ranveer Sena was able to sway large sections of Bhumihar peasantry as well as a section of Rajput landed gentry. The Sena had deep ideological and political linkages with the Sangh Parivar and BJP, apart from enjoying the patronage of Bhumihar-Rajput politicians from across the spectrum of ruling class parties. And their specific objective was to unleash terror, to suppress the growing mobilisation of agricultural labourers and poor peasants on socio-economic issues, and their political assertion, especially under the banner of the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI(ML)] Liberation.

One key context for the rise of the Ranveer Sena – and for the Bathani Tola massacre – was the victory of CPI(ML) in the Assembly seats of Sahar and Sandesh in Bhojpur in 1995. It was this political assertion that was the catalyst for the formation and virulent feudal reaction of the Ranveer Sena.

At Bathani Tola, one woman was gang-raped before being killed. Another’s breasts were chopped off. A baby girl was tossed in the air and slashed with a sword as she fell. One 10-year-old girl’s arms were chopped with a sword. Small boys lost their lives due to terrible sword injuries. Homes where people were sheltering were set on fire. Such acts by the Ranveer Sena appear to have provided a sort of template for some of the horrors of the Gujarat massacre of 2002.

Bathani Tola’s landless poor dalits and minorities were being punished for the temerity of their political and social assertion with the CPI(ML). After Bathani Tola, other large-scale massacres at Laxmanpur Bathe, Shankarbigha, Narayanpur and Miyanpur followed, targeting variously the social base of the CPI(ML), the Central Organizing Committee (COC) (Party Unity) faction which has now merged with the Maoists, and even poor Yadavs who were the social base of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

In the wake of the massacres at Bathani Tola and Bathe, there was a persistent discourse that ruling class parties, the mainstream media, and even the social democratic Left, sought to peddle. This discourse downplayed the massacres, speaking of them as part of a supposed ‘war of attrition’ or ‘caste war’ between the Naxalites and the Ranveer Sena. The struggles of the poor peasants and labourers for increased wages, land, and dignity were deemed to be a ‘provocation’ – and the Ranveer Sena rationalised as a natural response to such provocation. The CPI(ML) was accused of pitting agricultural labourers against peasants, and the Ranveer Sena posed as the representative of ‘peasants.’ In his press conference following the acquittal, Brahmeshwar Singh has again spoken of how some forces are seeking to break the ‘unity’ of peasants and agricultural labourers.

The myth that the struggle between Ranveer Sena and CPI(ML) was a ‘caste war’ is exposed totally by what a Ranveer Sena sympathiser told the correspondent of The Hindu, after the acquittal. Justifying the massacre as a “reactionary mobilisation” of the upper castes against “those Naxals,” the Ranveer Sena sympathiser declared, “The land is ours. The crops belong to us. They [the labourers] did not want to work, and moreover, hampered our efforts by burning our machines and imposing economic blockades. So, they had it coming.” The very fact that those who had been oppressed for centuries, were having the temerity to organise and assert themselves socially, economically, and politically, was enough to merit being massacred.

A booklet issued by the CPI(ML) (Yeh Jang Zarur Jiten, 2000) pointed out that by calling landlords and even big grain traders ‘peasants,’ and calling for unity of agricultural labourers with these ‘peasants,’ the Ranveer Sena and its apologists, as well as the ruling class parties, were actually rationalising oppressive class and caste hierarchies and atrocities. As long as agricultural labourers were willing to remain subordinate to the landlords, there would be ‘peace’, but as soon as they assert their independent identity and demand rights and dignity, they would be met with the full ferocity of feudal reaction.

The booklet recalled that Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, the Kisan Sabha founder whose legacy the Ranveer Sena was trying to appropriate, had written a book called ‘Khet Mazdoor’ (Agricultural Labourer) while in Hazaribagh Jail in 1943. While advising against an agricultural labourers’ organisation separate from the Kisan Sabha, Swami Sahajanand had emphasised that the Kisan Sabha must keep agricultural labourers at its core. In his words, “Agricultural labourers are the soul of agriculture.” Brahmeshwar Singh’s ‘kisans’ (‘peasants’) are those who massacre the ‘soul of agriculture’ – i.e the poor peasant and farm labourer. The Ranveer Sena is nothing but a private army of landlords and big traders: having nothing remotely in common with peasants.

A Massacre Foretold: What were the events that led to the Bathani Tola massacre?

Bathani Tola is a dalit hamlet attached to the Badki Khadanv village. There was no immediate wage struggle or economic blockade preceding the massacre. In 1988, agricultural labourers of Bathani Tola had launched a strike for minimum wages, which went on for a long while, until the then Distict Magistrate (DM) had intervened and an agreement had been reached between the labourers and landlords.

A young chemical engineer called Mohd. Yunus had defeated an oppressive feudal Mukhiya of Badki Khadanv, and been elected Mukhiya in 1978, supported by dalits and Muslims and a broad unity of rural poor. Ever since, the landlords and feudal forces of Badki Khadanv had sought to victimise the dalit and minority communities. Since then, the landlords had begun encroaching on Karbala (graveyard) land and razed an Imambada to the ground, which had stood on 1 decimal of land owned by the Bihar Government. For years the dalits and minorities had waged a battle in court in order to retrieve Karbala land in Kanpahari and Nawadih villages that had been grabbed by the landlords.

The CPI(ML)’s 1995 victories at the Assembly seats of Sahar and Sandesh were an especially sore point for the feudal forces, which organised themselves as the Ranveer Sena. Since January 1996, the Karbala Mukti Janjagaran Manch led by the CPI(ML) had struggled for the retrieval of the Karbala land. Peaceful protestors returning from a march were attacked by Ranveer Sena brigades – comprising mostly the same assailants who perpetrated the Bathani Tola massacre.

In April 1996, Ranveer Sena goons killed Mohd. Sultan and refused to allow his burial in Badki Khadanv. Nayeemuddin Ansari was among those who led the struggle demanding that Sultan be allowed burial in the Karbala land. Ranveer Sena attacks forced Nayeemuddin and around 58 other poor Muslim families to move from the main village to the dalit hamlet, Bathani Tola. A vicious communal campaign ensued, targeting Bathani Tola. On 29 April, Ranveer Sena declared that the Muslims of Bathani would not be allowed to read namaz on Bakrid. Though the namaz was read in the presence of the Block Development Officer (BDO) and police, the Ranveer Sena subsequently looted Muslim homes, and these attacks continued daily. The police refused even to file an FIR. On 7 June, the Muslim villagers appealed for protection to the then Chief Minister Laloo Prasad in his ‘Janta Durbar’, yet the attacks continued unabated. Ranveer Sena brigades would fire at Bathani villagers on 13 June, 3, 8 and 9 July, and the police station and camps, as well as DM and Superintendent of Police (SP), were duly informed of each attack. Yet no action was taken against the perpetrators.

Delegations of CPI(ML) leaders repeatedly met the DM and SP and warned them that a major Ranveer Sena massacre was in the offing. The authorities were fully aware of the fact that the Ranveer Sena men held a huge gathering at Badki Khadanv, and had amassed weapons. Yet they did not respond to repeated appeals and took no measures to prevent the massacre. And when the actual massacre took place, in broad daylight, the police stayed well away and turned a blind eye. Three police personnel – including the Officer in-charge at Badki Khadanv Police camp, and two choukidars, witnessed the entire carnage passively. Significantly, in the court case, these three deposed as defence witnesses! There can be no more damning proof of the fact that the police and administration in Laloo’s regime had instructions not to discourage the Ranveer Sena in any way.

A Struggle In the Face of All Odds

Right from the start, it was a struggle even for medical care for the survivors, and for an FIR to be lodged. Daily protests swelled in numbers, and the CPI(ML) raised the demand that the DM and SP be penalised for their complicity in the massacre. On July 17, a Sankalp Sabha was held at Bathani Tola, attended by thousands, and addressed by the then CPI(ML) General Secretary Vinod Mishra, MLA and legendary Bhojpur leader Ram Naresh Ram among others.

On July 22, 1996, thousands of people laid siege to the Bihar Assembly. Inside the Assembly, the CPI(ML) legislators had raised their voice – and been marshalled out. CPI(ML) supporters had made it to the state capital, Patna, braving rains and police intimidation and violence all along the way. At R-Block (close to the CM’s residence), Liberation reported that “a pitched battle between the police and the demonstrators ensued for over two hours in which the police resorted to tear gassing, water cannons and lathi charging. Even the Patna City DM, Rajbala Verma was involved in stone pelting. But nothing, not even the gun-wielding policemen, could scare away the demonstrators who had not forgotten that the same police had quietly watched as Ranveer Sena butchered innocent women and children at Bathani Tola. The militant mood of the mass shook up the police as they were seen scurrying into nearby shelters every time the demonstrators moved forward breaking the barricade.” CPI(ML) MLAs Comrades Ram Naresh Ram and Mahendra Singh were both severely injured in the stone-pelting by police.

For over a month-and-a-half, senior leaders of the CPI(ML) sat on a fast-unto-death, demanding action against the DM and SP. Comrade Rameshwar Prasad began his fast on August 3. He was jailed on the third day itself, and continued the fast for a full month in jail itself. Com. KD Yadav joined him on August 22, and septuagenarian ComradeTaqi Rahim also fasted for 7 days, and was also arrested. The fast ended on September 3, achieving a significant victory when Laloo Yadav was forced to announce the transfer of DM and SP of Bhojpur. The BJP, Congress, Samata Party as well as local JD leaders together protested the transfer, calling for a Rasta Roko, Rail Roko, Bandh, etc, but these reactionary attempts failed for lack of mass support. In 2010, soon after the Ara session court verdict came out, the people of Bathani Tola commemorated the martyrdom day (11 July) of the massacre victims by erecting a memorial. The sculpture by Manoj Pankaj shows the women and children emerging through stone, and in the centre is a child holding a butterfly with a hammer and sickle carved on its wings. The memorial was inaugurated by Comrade Ram Naresh Ram – in what was to be one of his last public appearances before his demise.

Bloodbaths Continued

After Bathani Tola, the Ranveer Sena was banned – yet the same macabre dance of death watched passively by police and administration, was to unfold again and again. 10 were massacred at Haibaspur (Bikram, in Patna rural district) on 26 March 1997. (Incidentally this was one of the immediate of the Bihar Bandh campaign during which Comrade Chandrashekhar was shot dead by RJD Member of Parliament (MP) Shahabuddin’s men in Siwan on 31 March.)

One of the worst of the massacres was at Batan Bigha, the dalit hamlet of Laxmanpur Bathe. On the night of December 1, 1997, armed cadres of Ranveer Sena crossed the Sone river (that forms the boundary between Bhojpur and Jehanabad (now part of Arwal) districts) and arrived at Laxmanpur-Bathe village. Using swords and guns, they slaughtered 61 people including 27 women, 16 children and one infant). President KR Narayanan called this massacre a ‘national shame.’ But even this did not shame the Laloo Government, which continued to covertly encourage the Ranveer Sena.

JD MP Chandra Deo Verma had called for lifting the ban on the Ranveer Sena. And on 25 January, 1999, the latter massacred 23 at Shankarbigha, in Arwal (Jehanabad); 12 at Narayanpur (Jehanabad) on 10 February 1999; and yet again, on 16 June, 2000, 33 were slaughtered at Miyanpur – this time, most of the victims were poor peasants of the Yadav caste (Laloo’s traditional mass base).

The Butcher of Bathani and Bathe

The tale of how Brahmeshwar Singh ‘mukhiya’, chief of the Ranveer Sena and notorious as the Butcher of Bathani and Bathe, has escaped scot free all these years is a shameful one, implicating two Chief Ministers. In the wake of Bathani Tola, the police removed the names of Brahmeshwar and his three lieutenants Bhola Singh, Sadhu Rai, and Bhoda Bhatt from the FIR, and in spite of protests being conveyed to the SP, his name was never added to the FIR. In the Bathe FIR too, Brahmeshwar is conspicuously absent. This decision to omit the Ranveer Sena’s top man from the FIRs in the worst-ever massacres perpetrated by this banned outfit, could only have come from the top man in the Government. Even today, Brahmeshwar Singh continues to be a ‘non-FIR accused’ in these cases.

And of course, the Nitish Government took the greatest care to protect Brahmeshwar.

When the Ara court convicted 23 in the Bathani Tola case in May 2010, Brahmeshwar was pronounced an ‘absconder.’ Strangely, though, this ‘absconder’ whom the police failed to find, had already been arrested in 2002, and was inside Ara jail! A Special Public Prosecutor told The Hindu, “It is hard to fathom as to what is preventing the police and the government in bringing to book this criminal, who has been lodged in Ara jail since 2002. This clearly shows that both the police and the government are not interested in ensuring that justice is meted out.”

Soon after the Ara sessions court verdict in the Bathani Tola case, the Additional District and Sessions Court of Patna sentenced 16 Ranveer Sena men to death and 10 to life imprisonment in the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre case. But both verdicts failed to indict Brahmeshwar Singh – and the fate of the Bathani conviction has shown the way for what lies ahead for the Bathe verdict as well.

Responding to the Bathe verdict, Barmeshwar Singh had given the Janata Dal (United)- Bharatiya Janata Party [JD(U)-BJP] regime his accolade: had a government like Nitish’s been there to guarantee “law and order”, he said, there would have been no need to form the Ranveer Sena. And in July 2011, Brahmeshwar ‘Mukhiya’ became a free man, since the Bihar Govt didn’t oppose his bail plea!

Masterminds of the Massacre Are in Power”

Following the Bathe verdict, Justice (Retired) Amir Das who had headed a Commission of Enquiry into the Bathe massacre and the political linkage with the Ranveer Sena said, “the masterminds of the Bathe massacre are in power in Bihar today.” The Ranveer Sena was known to have BJP and Sangh Parivar backing; during the debate in the Bihar Assembly on the Ranveer Sena’s Bathani Tola massacre of 1996, then CM Laloo Yadav had placed a leaflet by the Sena calling for votes for BJP candidates. A Central Investigation Team (constituted after the Bathani Tola massacre) found that an RJD MLA from Mokama, Dilip Singh, had supplied sophisticated arms to the Ranveer Sena. In the wake of outraged protests following the Bathe massacre, and widespread allegations of political backing for the Ranveer Sena, the Government headed by Rabri Devi set up the Justice Amir Das Commission to probe the political linkages of the Ranveer Sena.

The Commission complained of non-cooperation even from the RJD Government. In 2006, when the Commission was on the point of preparing its final Report and had requested for a final extension of its tenure, the JD(U)-BJP alliance headed by Nitish Kumar disbanded the Commission in one of its first actions after it came to power.

According to Justice Amir Das, his Report had the evidence to indict 42 political leaders across the political spectrum, mostly from the BJP and JD(U) but also the RJD and Congress; leaders including BJP leaders like the present Deputy CM of Bihar – Sushil Kumar Modi and former Union Minister C P Thakur and former RJD Minister Shivanand Tiwari who is currently the JD(U) spokesperson. In response to a petition by the CPI(ML), the Patna High Court had then ordered that the findings of the Amir Das Commission be made public – an order that has been ignored. The Nitish Government, in blatant betrayal of his poll promises of land reform and his rhetoric of ‘mahadalits’ and ‘most-backwards’, has essentially remained loyal to the traditional feudal support base of the JD(U)-BJP, and has proved that loyalty by disbanding the Amir Das Commission and jettisoning the recommendations of the Land Reforms Commission set up by his own Government.

In Nitish’s Bihar, 10 mahadalits are sentenced to death for the Amausi massacre while perpetrators of feudal atrocities against dalits and the rural poor go scot free. The hatred shown by the police to the poor Muslims at Forbesganj is reminiscent to what was seen at Bathani Tola. It is ironical that today, the forces which patronised the medieval barbarism and feudal reaction in the form of the Ranveer Sena, are in power, being feted by the corporate media as messiahs of ‘development’ and ‘progress.’ Bathani Tola is a reminder of the real face of the BJP-JD(U) combine, which masquerades behind the talk of mahadalit empowerment and corporate ‘development.’

Calling the bluff of Nitish’s slogan of ‘Nyay ke saath vikas’ (Development with justice), the CPI(ML) will conduct a month-long Nyay Yatra from 22 April. The statewide campaign will link the massacre sites in Shahabad and Magadh region with other sites of feudal-patriarchal violence and state brutality elsewhere in Bihar and seek to bring together all justice-loving people in a shared quest for justice. The CPI(ML) will also challenge the Bihar High Court (HC verdict )in the Supreme Court, and will seek Supreme Court intervention to ensure justice in the range of Ranveer Sena massacre cases in Bihar.

Politics in India

Violence on Dalits in Dadri

– Liberation, May, 2012.

Dalits in Chamravli Ramgarh village of Dadri (Distt. Gautambuddh Nagar) in UP, not far from the national capital, were brutally assaulted by the dominant sections, in order to punish them for refusing to cooperate with attempts to alienate dalits from their rightful land and sell to real estate lobbies and builders.

On March 14, the Gram Pradhan of Ramgarh, Kuldeep Bhati and his goons attacked the dalit settlement of the village, entering homes and beating up men, women, and elderly alike with sticks and iron rods. Several were injured, and three of those severely injured by sharp weapons had to be hospitalised in intensive care. More than 10 men and women had broken limbs. A few narrowly escaped bullets. A large number of women were badly injured. The police, when it finally arrived on the scene, did nothing to arrest the assailants who brazenly remained at the spot. More than a month after the incident, no one has yet been arrested for this criminal assault in broad daylight. The dalit youth are being threatened, the perpetrators roam free, and the entire dalit community lives in fear.

At the bottom of this attack is piece of gram panchayat land of about 5 bighas (1 bigha = 2428.80 square meters), which is part of the panchayati land reserved for the use of dalits, which Gram Pradhan Kuldeep Bhati has illegally grabbed by force. The dalit homes which for years have been on this land, have been surrounded by a 7 foot-high wall. Virtually imprisoned, they have to scale that wall every time they want to go out of their homes. Every day, every time.

Ever since a written complaint about this encirclement and attempted land grab was submitted to the SDM on 24 January, the offensive on the dalit families, especially on youth, has intensified. There have been attempts on the life of Brahm Jatav, the youth who made the complaint.

Quite a while ago, many Valmiki (dalit) families have already been beaten up and forced to leave the village, and their land has been occupied by the dominant sections. In neighbouring Bironda village, too, there have been attacks on dalilts by the dominant sections, over land. The dalits and the poor are the softest target of the drive by corporate houses like JP and Ansals to corner land for huge apartment complexes, malls, elite cities, and so on. The spreading real estate bazaar has, on the ground, created a dangerous nexus of feudal criminals, local authorities, elected representatives, and land mafia.In the entire Gautam Buddha Nagar district, this nexus is conspiring to encircle dalits and forcibly make them give up their rightfully allotted land. And all this is well known to the authorities, and both in the earlier Mayawati regime and now in the SP regime, the nexus is actually being encouraged to alienate dalits from their land by hook or crook.

CPI(ML)’s Noida city activist Comrade Chandrabhan Singh got to know of the incident and made contact with the affected people. A CPI(ML) fact-finding team CPI(ML)’s Gautam Buddh Nagar In-charge Comrade Shyam Kishore; Noida City CPI(ML) leaders Comrades Chandrabhan Singh and Shivji Singh; All India Students Association (AISA) National President Sandeep Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) General Secretary Ravi Prakash, Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) leader Aslam Khan; and AISA activists Anubhuti, Anmol and Harsh visited the village on 27 March 2012. On 29 March, the villagers under the banner of CPI(ML) demonstrated at the district magistrate (DM)’s office, and a delegation including Brahm Jatav, some of the injured women, and CPI(ML) leaders, met the DM, who assured them that action would be taken. But instead of arresting the perpetrators, the latter have been let off on bail one by one on some pretext or the other. And the district administration is yet to do anything to remove that 7-foot-high wall that stands as a demeaning warning to the whole village of the consequences of daring to protest against injustice.

The village youth, determined not to take things lying down, have formed a unit of the Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA), and have called for a protest meeting in the Ramgarh village itself on 25 April.

All over Uttar Pradesh (UP), there have been several instances of attacks on Dalits after the Samajwadi Party (SP) victory. In the Noida-national capital region (NCR) region, however, the main factor behind the attacks and harassment of Dalits is the agenda of forcing Dalits to vacate their rightful land which will then be sold by dominant sections to real estate builders – and this agenda carries over from the previous regime to the new one.

Politics in India

Life Sentence for Rupam:

Is Life Sentence for Women’s Resistance to Rape

– Liberation, May, 2012.

In a gross miscarriage of justice, a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Court in Patna passed a life sentence on Bihar school teacher Rupam Pathak, holding her guilty of culpable homicide of Bihar’s Purnea member of legislative assembly (MLA) Raj Kishor Kesri.

It must be remembered that the Bihar chief minister (CM) was forced to order a CBI enquiry into the Rupam Pathak case precisely because of public protests against the Bihar Government’s attempts to smear Rupam Pathak’s character and suppress the history of her complaints of rape and sexual harassment against the BJP MLA Kesri and his aide BN Rai. But the CBI enquiry has merely probed the killing of Kesri, and has failed to investigate Rupam Pathak’s complaint of sexual harassment. Not only that, BN Rai was not even arrested – allowing him to be free to influence and threaten witnesses. While rape-accused BN Rai remained free, Rupam Pathak herself was denied bail, and prevented from having any opportunity to clear her name!

Rupam’s long-standing complaint of rape and sexual harassment by Kesri and his aide BN Rai had been ignored by the Bihar police and the Bhartiya Janata Party- Janata Dal (United) [BJP-JD(U)] alliance, of which Kesri was a prominent leader. She had sought justice by filing an first information report (FIR), but had withdrawn her case on the eve of the Assembly elections, obviously under political pressure. Seeing no hope of justice, Rupam Pathak was pushed to take the desperate step of confronting Kesri in his own house, in full public view.

After the incident, prominent leaders in the Government including the Deputy CM of Bihar, as well as Opposition leaders such as Laloo Yadav, branded Rupam Pathak a blackmailer and a killer, while extolling praises of Kesri’s pure character and heroism.

The verdict, by failing to take into account the extreme provocation and desperation Rupam felt, due to the faint prospect of any justice against her powerful rapists and sexual harassers, and awarding her a punishment as severe as life sentence, displays a gender bias. In the landmark Kiranjit Ahluwalia case of Britain, a life sentence awarded to a woman victim of domestic violence who took her husband’s life, was relaxed following a sustained campaign by women’s groups, which resulted in domestic violence being recognised as a mitigating circumstance of extreme provocation. The Rupam Pathak case ought to be a similar instance in Indian jurisprudence, where desperate acts by women who have been subjected to sexual violence ought to be seen in the context of the failure of our systems to provide a credible prospect of justice for women. This ought to hold true especially in cases of repeated and prolonged sexual abuse or harassment, where attempts to secure justice through the police have been subverted or crushed.

The Rupam Pathak verdict is reminiscent of other cases of skewed justice in Nitish’s Bihar, where the ruling forces patronise criminals and perpetrators of atrocities towards women and Dalits.

The rulers of Bihar are eager to consign Rupam to jail and suppress her accusations of rape and sexual harassment because they threaten the image of the ruling political alliance. The life sentence to Rupam is a life sentence for a woman’s voice demanding justice against rape and sexual harassment and taking on the ruling political establishment to which the rapists belong. We must demand bail and justice for Rupam Pathak, the immediate arrest of BN Rai, and a re-investigation by the CBI into the whole case in the light of Rupam Pathak’s complaints of sexual violence.

Politics in India

Who Is the Real Killer of Comrade Chandrashekhar?

– Liberation, May, 2012.

On 23 March this year, a court in Patna passed a sentence in the case of the murder of former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) President Comrade Chandrashekhar, and his fellow CPI (ML) activist Shyam Narain Yadav. The sentence came 15 years after Chandrashekhar and Shyam Narain were shot dead at JP Chowk, Siwan. The court, acting on evidence provided by the CBI investigation, convicted three men – Dhruv Kumar Jaiswal; Sheikh Munna and Illiyas Warsi – for the murder, and sentenced them to life imprisonment.

A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Press Release on 23 March tells us that the CBI filed a charge-sheet against these accused on 30.5.1998, “after thorough investigation”. The question is, why, according to the CBI’s ‘thorough investigation’, did these men kill Comrade Chandrashekhar? They were hit-men, well-known criminals. Why did these criminals feel the need to kill a former JNUSU President who had come as a CPI(ML) activist to Siwan just two months back? It did not require much ‘investigation’ on CBI’s part, to establish that it was these men who fired the bullets that killed Chandrashekhar –since they were notorious in Siwan and were recognized by eyewitnesses. The real purpose of any genuine investigation would be to establish who ordered these men to kill Chandrashekhar. And that is exactly what the CBI has avoided doing – because the answer was politically embarrassing. The answer was that the real killer – the man who ordered the killing and benefited from the killing – was a political leader from a party allied today to the ruling party at the Centre. He is Mohd. Shahabuddin, former member of parliament (MP) from the RJD.

The CBI was forced to begin the investigation into the murder because a massive movement of students and concerned citizens forced the Governments at the Centre and Bihar in 1997 to agree to a CBI enquiry. But for the past 15 years, the CBI, for obviously political motives, has been willfully blind to the real motives behind the murder, and to the identity of the real killer, Shahabuddin. The CBI has deliberately acted as though Chandrashekhar’s killing was a random shooting rather than a political assassination, committed to silence and terrorise activists who dared to challenge the regime of the criminal mafia politician Shahabuddin, and the Bihar Government led by his party. Chandrashekhar and Shyam Narain were killed because they had the courage to stand in a public square in Siwan town, where no one dared to fly a flag of any party except Shahabuddin’s own party, and where no one else dared to speak out against Shahabuddin.

The day the verdict came out, there was a story in a leading English daily, saying that a certain proposed film about Chandu could now go ahead. The actor who we are told is to play the role of Chandu is quoted as saying, “After so many years of confusion, accusations, chaos, finally, justice has come to Chandrashekhar.” A noted film director said to be backing the film project is quoted as saying that the verdict has finally given “some sense of closure to this horrible tragedy.” Were the actor, director and others associated with this film ‘confused’ about who killed Chandrashekhar? Did they feel that the slogan raised by the student movement – ‘Shahabuddin ko phansi do’ was a mere ‘accusation’? Do they feel that ‘justice’ has been done because three hit-men were sentenced to life in prison?

Well, all those who share Chandrashekhar’s vision and commitment, reject any such idea of ‘closure’. Such a verdict is not justice, it is a mockery of justice. Thousands of people hit the streets against Chandrashekhar’s murder because they were angry that in our country, a criminal mafia politician, belonging to the ruling party I Bihar, and whose vote in Parliament supported the then UF Government at the Centre, cold-bloodedly got a young activist killed, who had chosen to join the struggles of the poor and deprived people. Until and unless Shahabuddin, the main political conspirator behind the assassination, is punished in the most severe way, there can be no justice for Chandrashekhar.

Politics in India

Message from the CPI(ML) to the 21st Congress of the CPI

Dear Comrades,

It is a great pleasure to see the oldest communist party of the country hold its 21st Congress here in Patna and I feel honoured to have this opportunity to address the open session of this important event. Thank you for your comradely invitation. On behalf of the Central Committee and the entire membership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), I extend warm revolutionary greetings to all of you assembled here and convey our best wishes for the success of the Congress.

Let me also take this opportunity to express our solidarity with the international communist and anti-imperialist movement and reiterate our shared commitment to defeat the sinister design of the US-led imperialist camp and the predatory offensive of global capital.

As we meet here today we keenly feel the loss of many of our veteran leaders and dear comrades. Comrade Bhogendra Jha, Comrade Jagannath Sarkar, Comrade Chaturanan Mishra are no more amidst us. We have also lost veteran CPI(ML) leader Comrade Ram Naresh Ram who had begun his communist life in the undivided CPI. I pay homage to all our departed leaders who have guided the communist movement in Bihar all these years.

Comrades, for all the tall claims of record-breaking economic growth, poverty is increasing in Bihar. And contrary to the professed gospel of good governance, the people are witnessing growing attacks on democracy. Communist leaders and activists continue to be targeted by feudal-communal forces and criminals enjoying political patronage. Recently Comrade Surendra Yadav of the CPI(M) was killed in Samastipur. Just two weeks ago, Comrade Bhaiyyaram Yadav, secretary of CPI(ML)’s Rohtas District Committee and a popular leader of people’s struggles was gunned down by JD(U)-backed goons at Nasriganj. Red salute to all our martyrs who have laid down their lives for the cause of the people!

Implicated in false cases and convicted on false charges, many communists are languishing in the prisons of Bihar. Comrade Shah Chand and 13 other CPI(ML) comrades are undergoing life imprisonment under the draconian TADA. I salute all our imprisoned comrades who continue to inspire us from behind the bars.

Comrades, your Congress is taking place in a changing international environment. Capitalism is facing a serious crisis not just in the periphery but at the centre, and this growing crisis has begun to find its echo in the political arena as well. From the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement, we have seen an inspiring upswing in class struggle and popular protests across the world. Quite significantly, this is also energising a renewed quest for socialism, for a systemic alternative to an increasingly decadent and crisis-ridden capitalism.

In our own country, we are witnessing powerful struggles against the ruling neo-liberal policy regime. Under popular pressure, the government has had to withhold the move to allow FDI in multi-brand retail and withdraw large-scale fare hikes announced in the recent rail budget. The response to the February 28 general strike has been quite encouraging as have been results of student union elections in some premier universities. The time is ripe for all of us in the Left to intensify the movement and press for a decisive reversal of the whole gamut of pro-corporate pro-imperialist policies, insisting especially on protection of agricultural and forest land and public control over mineral resources. Simultaneously, the Left must also emerge as the leading current in struggles against corporate loot and state repression across the country. In the face of systematic assaults on democracy and human rights whether under the banner of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or Operation Greenhunt or UAPA or minority witch-hunt in the name of combating terrorism, the Left must establish itself as the most consistent and courageous defender of democracy.

Results of the recent Assembly elections have once again highlighted the decline of the two big all-India parties of the ruling classes. The coalitions led by the two parties have naturally come under pressure. Yet, we cannot miss the fact that most of the non-Congress non-BJP governments are treading the same neo-liberal policy trajectory and are more interested in bargaining with the central government and bailing it out at critical junctures than offering any sustained opposition on the growing assault on the people and their democratic rights. For any credible third front to take shape, the Left must raise the level of its own assertion on the basis of shared struggles against the neo-liberal assault, imperialist offensive and communal mischief.

The country looks to the Left for a real political alternative. If we can accord the highest priority to the interests of the people and uphold the best traditions and the core vision of the Left movement, we can surely unite and move ahead in this direction. We in the CPI(ML) remain committed to this course and look forward to marching together with the broad spectrum of Left and democratic forces. We hope your Congress will strengthen the political will in the Left camp to forge a broad-based struggle-oriented model of Left unity. Recent electoral reverses have emboldened the forces of right reaction to mount a strident anti-Left ideological campaign and even violent physical attacks on the Left which must be rebuffed with all the strength at our command.

Comrades, in a decade or so from now, the communist movement in India will complete its centenary. As we approach this historic milestone, let us resolve to work tirelessly to bring about a powerful communist resurgence in the country, ensuring greater unity among all communist and Left forces, enlisting greater participation of the youth and spreading the communist message far and wide across the country. Once again, I wish you all a successful Congress and thank you for inviting us to the open session.

Red salute to the glorious legacy of the communist movement in India! Inquilab zindabad!

(Dipankar Bhattacharya)

General Secretary, CPI(ML)

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