Successful Jharkhand Bandh Against Land Grab

Forced acquisition of land from adivasis is all too common in Jharkhand. On 25 July, the entire state came to a standstill in response to a Bandh called by the CPI(ML) against land grab. Several other organisations also supported the Bandh call or gave independent calls for a Bandh on the same day. The Jharkhand Dishom Party independently called for a Bandh, and 21 organisations including the Adiovasi Jan Parishad, the Adivasi-Moolnivasi Chhatra-Yuva Sanghatan, the Sarna Prarthana Sabha, Nagdi-Chaura Zameen Bachao Morcha, and Ulgulan Mahila Manch actively participated in the Bandh, holding a torchlight procession in Ranchi on the eve of the Bandh, and holding a mass meeting on the evening of 24th July at Albert Ekka Chowk which effectively blockaded the Chowk for several hours.

The Nagdi Struggle

The Bandh was called in the wake of the ongoing struggle of adivasis of Nagdi village near the capital Ranchi, against the attempt to grab 228 acres of fertile land. The Jharkhand Government plans to grab land of 35 villages for campuses of IIM, Law College and Triple IIT, and Nagdi was a test case. The land in question was acquired on paper way back in 1957 – but even then, adivasis waged a successful struggle, refused compensation, and retained effective control of the land. Since then the land has been cultivated every year by the adivasis, who even have proof of having paid land revenue till very recently. Some months back, the Government, seeking to regain control of the land, constructed a boundary wall around the proposed site. But the adivasis of Nagdi and all 35 villages launched a determined agitation. They began an indefinite dharna in end April, which was led by activist Dayamani Barla. On behalf of the party, AIPWA leader Comrade Guni Oraon centred in Nagdi to help lead the agitation.

The HC and SC rejected the adivasis’ petition, but the adivasis refused to accept defeat. A massive protest meeting in May was addressed among others by CPI(ML) MLA Vinod Singh, Marxist Coordination Committee MLA Arup Chatterjee, and CPI(ML) leader Bhuneshwar Kevat. On 4 July, the Nagdi adivasis broke the boundary wall – and faced a severe lathicharge. CPI(ML) held a protest march the next day in Ranchi, as did other Left parties and adivasi organisations. The Nagdi protestors blockaded the main road from 5-7 July; Vinod Singh was among those who addressed the mass meeting at the blockade site. On 9 July, the Nagri protestors held a militant Raj Bhawan March, where they clashed with the police, and it was only with Vinod Singh’s intervention that their memorandum could be submitted to the Governor.

Convention Against Eviction and Corporate Plunder

On 12 July, the All India Kisan Mahasabha held a Convention against the corporate grab of land, forests, water, and minerals. Representatives of struggles against corporate loot as well as a range of mass organisations, intellectuals and social activists participated in the Convention, which emphasised the need for broad-based unity in the struggle against corporate plunder of resources and displacement of adivasis and peasants.

Addressing the Convention as the main speaker, CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said that earlier, the Government was instrumental in directly grabbing land to hand over to corporates. Faced with the political consequences of people’s resentment against land grab, however, now the Governments are seeking to take a back seat and allow corporations to acquire land directly. There are changed political circumstances too. Today, Jharkhand is a separate state, several of its Chief Ministers are adivasis, and under their patronage, Jindals and Mittals are blatantly defying laws like CNT and PESA to grab and loot forests and land. Political forces bearing the ‘Jharkhand’ name, once the new state was established, have emerged as agents of corporates rather than champions of the true spirit of a separate Jharkhand. Congress and BJP which compete for pwoer at the Centre, are united on the question of corporate plunder in Jharkhand. Comrade Dipankar called for struggles against corporate plunder and eviction to be united on new principles and a new direction, inspired by the struggles and sacrifices of Siddo-Kano, Birsa Munda, and Mahendra Singh.

The Convention was also addressed by noted intellectual and Jharkhand Jan Sanskriti Manch President Dr. BP Kesri; Father Stan Swamy, a noted activist in struggles against displacement and state repression; CPI(ML) CC Member Bahadur Oraon on behalf of the presidium; Ramashray Singh, leader of the Ghatwar Adivasi Mahasabha who spoke of the struggles of those displaced by the Maithon DVC Project at Dhanbad; CPI(ML) leader Sarayu Munda who is heading an agitation against land grab by Jindal at Patratu in Ramgarh, who also spoke of the struggle against land grab by Reliance in Badkagaon area of Hazaribagh; AIPWA leader Geeta Mandal who reported about the notorious Devghar land scam; CPI(ML) leader Rajkumar Yadav who spoke of the anti-eviction struggles in Koderma; and noted poet and JSM’s national Vice President Dr. Shambhu Badal. Comrade J P Verma proposed a 9-member Struggle Committee Against Eviction, which the Convention adopted unanimously. Comrade Chandranath Bhai Patel presented a set of political resolutions, and CPI(ML) State Committee member Anant Prasad Gupta thanked the gathering.

Jharkhand Bandh

The Jharkhand Bandh of 25 July was very successful – and the capital Ranchi wore a deserted look, with shops, schools and transport halted, and protest marches held by various organisations. At Ranchi, the CPI(ML)’s protest march on the day of the Bandh was led by CCM Bahadur Oraon, State Secretary Janardan Prasad, State Standing Committee member Anant Prasad Gupta, Bhuneshwar Kevat, Anil Anshuman, Guni Oraon, Sarojini Bisht, and Rajendrakant Mahto. The scores of protestors were arrested at Firaylal Chowk, and taken first to the Women’s Police Station at Bazaar, and later to the Jaipal Singh Stadium Camp Jail. Party leaders including State Secretary Janardan Prasad have been booked by the police under several sections, in a completely vindictive way.

In Giridih, thousands of CPI(ML) activists made the Bandh successful. At Bagodar, the protests were led by Vinod Singh, and the GT Road was blockaded from 6 am to 1 pm. Road blockades were held at Rajdhanwar (led by Rajkumar Yadav); Bengabad (Rajesh Yadav); Jamua (Jaiprakash Verma) as wekk as Saria, Gandey, Tisri, Chatro, and several other places.

At Tilaiyya in Koderma, the Asansol-Varanasi Passenger was stopped for 1 hour. Blockades were held at Domchanch (in spite of heavy rain); Hazaribagh (led by Chandranath Bhai Patel); several places in Hazaribagh and Ramgarh districts as well as the NH-33 in Ramgarh. Hundreds of protestors at Ramgarh led by JHAMAS State President Devkinandan Bedia were arrested after a clash with the police. Blockades were held at several places in Bokaro district, and at Nirsa in Dhanbad, the National Highway was blockaded for 2 and a half hours. Protests were held at Devghar and Mohanpur in Santhal Parganas.

CPI(ML) activists were arrested at Gumla; distributed leaflets at Tata; blockaded the NH at Bundu; and were arrested while implementing the Bandh at several places in the Palamu range. At Garhwa, protestors led by Kalicharan Mehta blockaded streets and railways.

This Bandh was the first ever political state-wide strike on the burning issue of land grab, corporate plunder, and eviction. Its success reflects the political assertion of the adivasis and rural and urban poor, their anger against corporate plunder and eviction; and their disillusionment and anger with the political parties that have enjoyed power in Jharkhand. The CPI(ML) is determined to expand the unity of fighting organisations on the issue of corporate plunder and eviction, and to prepare for even more powerful and effective statewide agitation on the issue.

Box 1

Release Comrade Tahir Ansari, Withdraw all Cases against Him

On 17th August 2012, Comrade Tahir Ansari, a fighting mass leader of the CPI(ML) in Garhwa district, Jharkhand, was arrested by police in Chana village of Nager block at 11AM.

Com. Tahir belongs to a very poor family. He made contact with the party as a kaleen (carpet) worker in the adjacent area of UP. At a very young age he joined our party and within short time he was actively leading anti feudal struggles, particularly land struggles, against the Nager Untari Estate. He played a key role in mobilizing rural poor in large numbers to capture thousands of acres of land that was illegally occupied by upper caste feudal forces in Garhwa district.

Later, Comrade Tahir also took very effective initiatives alongwith other party activists to face the onslaughts of Maoists to wipe out CPI(ML) in this region. Our militant mass resistance forced Maoists to beat a retreat, though of course many of our valuable comrades had to sacrifice their lives in this struggle.

In this process Comrade Tahir and other leading cadres of this area had to face continuous police repression and harassment, including many fabricated criminal cases. Defying all these odds, Comrade Tahir sustained his mass work and mobilized thousands of the poorest of poor people towards their political assertion. In last assembly election, we secured nearly 20,000 votes in the Bhawnathpur segment.

After the arrest on 17 August, the police initially tried to deny it. But through our prompt initiatives like interaction with the media, pressuring the DGP and Home Secretary, and most importantly, massive mass protest, the police was forced to declare Comrade Tahir’s arrest. Thousands of people from villages came to the street to protest the arrest of their beloved leader in false cases, and the protest march turned into a big mass meeting attended by 4000 people. 18 August was observed as a “protest day” throughout the state, and Garhwa and Palamu pramandal in particular witnessed vigorous protest. On the afternoon of 18 August, Comrade Tahir was prduced in the CJM court. Thousands of people entered the court premises to register their solidarity with Comrade Tahir. The appeal against his remand was rejected and he was sent to jail custody. The SP of Garhwa presented Comrade Tahir before the court as a terrorist, a criminal, a commander’ etc, and he was falsely implicated in 32 cases including some cases of attacks by Maoists on the police.

Comrade Tahir’s arrest is part of the political conspiracy, dictted from the top, against the CPI(ML) movement and leaders in Garhwa. Some months back, CPI(ML) activists were arrested on charges of abetting a Maoist blast follwoing the abduction of Zila Parishad Chairperson from CPI(ML), Comrade Sushma, and a CPI(ML) procession protesting the arrest was met with brutal police repression. On 21 August, a no-confidence motion against the Chairperson Comrade Sushma, was defeated in the Zila Parishad. The arrest of Comrade Tahir was meant to demoralise the party to face the no-confidence motion, but this ploy failed.

The CPI(ML) continues to battle the political conspiracy against its mass leaders with mass protests and political resistance. The party is now preparing for a massive Jail Bharo protest on 31 August against the arrest of Comrade Tahir.

Box 2

Dharna Against Witch-Hunt of Muslim Youth

On 6th August, during the Assembly session, the CPI(ML) and Inquilabi Muslim Conference held a day-long dharna at R-Block Crossing against the witch-hunt of Muslim youth in the name of countering terrorism, and against growing oppression of dalits in Bihar.

The dharna was addressed by CPI(ML) GS Dipankar Bhattacharya, AIKM General Secretary Rajaram Singh; CCMs KD Yadav, Saroj Chaubey, Dhirendra Jha and others. Families of victims of the Forbesganj firing, minority youth, intellectuals and citizens participated in large numbers.

The dharna was presided over by Moinuddin Ansari from Araria; Wasi Ahmad form Jehanabad; Qayamuddin from Bhojpur and Neyaz Ahmad and Sadiq Barti from Darbhanga.

Comrade Dipankar said that BJP is the aggressive political party of the feudal-communal forces; forces which were strengthened and appeased by the RJD to begiun with and now the JD(U) too. The JD(U)’s double-faced attitude to the Muslims and Dalits need to be exposed and resisted. A powerful Left alternative is called for in order to uphold the dignity and rights of Dalits and minorities.

Nitish Kumar claims to be the champion of minorities’ rights and secularism, but this hypocrisy stands exposd by the Forbesganj firing and the fact that 32 Muslim youths from the Seemanchal-Mithilanchal region, especially Darbhanga and Madhubani, have been arrested on dubious charges of ‘terrorism.’

Comrade Dipankar said that Bihar has the notoriety now of topping the country in cases of atrocities against Dalits. But the Government is doing nothing to act against feudal and communal forces. When feudal forces attacked Dalit hostels in Ara, the Government did nothing to ensure compensation and rehabilitation, while being all too prompt in giving compensation for the accident that occurred during Brahmeshwar Singh’s shraddha. He said that the CPI(ML) would organise a Privartan Rally (Rally for Change) to champion the cause of justice and democracy and resist feudal and communal forces.

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