Land Rights Labour Rights Campaign (AIPF)

Since the founding conference of the AIPF in Delhi in March, there have been many initiatives and efforts on a range of issues. Here is a quick update.

Land Rights Labour Rights Campaign

At the AIPF Jan Sansad on 16th March, a 100-day campaign from 23 March-30 June on Land Rights and Labour Rights was declared.

Soon after, on 23 March, the occasion of Bhagat Singh’s Martyrdom Day, 1200 young workers held a rally in Sriperumbudur on the concluding day of the State Conference of Revolutionary youth Association, an AIPF constituent. Speaking at this rally, AIPF campaign committee members S P Udayakumar, A Marx, Mangayarselvan as well as Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary, CPI (ML) launched the 100 Day Campaign for Land and Labour Rights.

On 3rd April, agricultural workers held an impressive and colourful rally in Bhubaneshwar, preceding the National Conference of the All India Association of Rural and Agricultural Workers. On 4th May, a massive “Workers’ and Farmers’ Rights” march took place in Patna, preceding the National Conference of the AICCTU. AIARLA and AICCTU, as AIPF constituents, planned their rallies to reflect the issues of the AIPF campaign.

When repression was unleashed on adivasis in Sonbhadra, UP, who were protesting against the Kanhar Dam, a vigorous protest was held under the banner of the AIPF, bringing together the AIUFWP, the CPI(ML), All India Kisan Mahasabha and other organizations together in solidarity. AIPF Campaign Committee member Kavita Krishnan also visited Sonbhadra as part of a citizens’ fact-finding team.

The All India Kisan Mahasabha held district and block level campaigns and protests against the draconian Land Acquisition Ordinance and Bill, burning copies of these and campaigning amongst farmers in several states.

Hul Diwas Protests

On the completion of the 100 days of AIPF campaign for land rights and labour rights, various programmes were held on 30 June 2015 in different parts of the country. 30 June marks 'Hul Diwas' – the anniversary of the famous Santhal ‘Hul’ upsurge against the British Raj.

In Jharkhand, AIPF held demonstrations against the Land Acqusition ordinance and the anti-people policies of the Modi government and Jharkhand Government. A protest demonstration was held outside the district office in Giridih. Hundreds of people participated with the slogan of "Gaon Shehar se Uthi Awaaz, nahin Chalega Company Raaj" (Call of every village and town, company raj down down!) This protest was addressed by the General Secretary of CPI(ML), Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, and AIPF Campaign Committee member and Jharkhand state in-charge of AIPF, Com. Vinod Singh.

A day earlier, on 29 June 2015, an 'Adhikaar March' (March for rights) was organized in Dhanbad against the anti-people changes being made in the labour laws.

Protest marches were also organized on 'Hul Diwas' by AIPF in Dumka, Garhwa, Gumla and Ramgarh in Jharkhand.

In Uttar Pradesh, protest marches, rallies and meetings were held at Lucknow, Kanpur, Baliya, Gazipur, Gorakhpur, Chandauli, Faizabad, Sitapur and Mau among other districts. In Sonbhadra, on the morning of the AIPF rally on 30 June, the police arrested AIUFWP activists Roma Malik and Sukalo early morning, and detained Avijit and others. Defying police terror, the AIPF rally was a success, with a 1500 people gathering on the street and speakers addressing the rally without mikes! (See box for excerpt from an account of the arrest by Comrade Avijit of the NTUI)

At West Bengal, a massive AIPF rally was organized on 30 June in Kolkata in which hundreds of people participated, raising banners and slogans demanding end to corporate loot by the Modi Government and release of political prisoners.

At Odisha, programmes were organized in various districts between 24-30 June, including a march in Bhadrak, demonstrations in Bhubaneswar and Khurda on 29th June and a huge rally on 30th June at Rayagada and demonstrations at Puri, Kendrapara and Rourkela.

At Puducherry, a People's Rights Convention was held on 30 June that was addressed by Com. S. Balasubramanian, State Secretary, CPI(ML), K. Mohanasundaram, National Council member, AIPF, Prof. M.L. Thangappa, Member, Advisory Panel, AIPF, Social activist and NCM A. Laigat Ali, P. Murthy, Ex. MLA of Puducherry Assembly, Manjakkal Upendiran, former TU leader and presently editor of local monthly journal, R. Muruganantham, NCM, AIPF and R. Mangayarselvan, Campaign Committee member AIPF and others. Various issues relating to land, food and livelihood were raised.

In Andhra Pradesh, weeklong protests and rallies on 'Land and Labour Rights' were held in East Godavari, Srikakulam and Krishna districts. On 30 June, protest programmes were held at Kakinada and Vijaywada. Around 1500 people attended the dharna organized in Kakinada.

AIPF organised a demonstration at Villupuram in Tamil Nadu on 30th June, demanding that the state government to take necessary action for the release of Tribal people of Tamil Nadu languishing in Andhra Pradesh prisons falsely framed in cases of red sandalwood smuggling. They are forced to migrate to Andhra Pradesh for livelihood since they have been deprived of their traditional lands and the continued neglect by Tamil Nadu state government. The AIPF demanded legal assistance for the jailed tribals, implementation of the Forest Rights Act and various measures to promote employment in Tamil Nadu and curb distress migration.

Against Undeclared Emergency

In several states, the AIPF units culminated the 100-day campaign by protesting today’s Undeclared Emergency on 26th June, Emergency Day.

More than 400 people attended a public meeting organised at Coimbatore on 26th June against the undeclared emergency in the country. The meeting was addressed by Com. Kumarasamy, Politburo member of CPI(ML), Com. Balamurugan, state GS of PUCL, Com. NK Natarajan, State President of AICCTU, Com. Chandramohan, National Campaign Committee member of AIPF and Com. Balamurugan, GS of Shanthi Gears Employees' Union. On the same day a convention was also organised at Sriperumputhur. Com. Rajaguru, state president of RYA presided the meeting. It was addressed by Prof. A. Marx, National campaign committee member of AIPF, Advocate Prakash, NCM and also President of the United Labour Federation, Com. Sujatha Modi, member of the AIPF National Council as well as National Secretary of NTUI, and others. Workers from factories like Diamond engineering, Nippon express, Hyundai and C &F participated. A convention was also held at Nagerkoil.

In Andhra Pradesh too anti-emergency day dharnas were organized on 26 June in front of 12 mandal revenue offices. Hundreds of people participated in these dharnas.

In Delhi, an evening of protest was organised at Jantar Mantar to voice protest against the 'Emergency then and now'. This was preceded by distribution of AIPF leaflets in Delhi working class areas and metro stations, exposing an year of Modi rule. The 26th June programme was conducted by Kavita Krishnan. Activist and lawyer N. D. Pancholi talked about the RSS & BJP leaders' apologies offered to the government during the emergency and their cowering before Indira Gandhi, quoting none other than current BJP member, Subramanian Swamy. The evening also saw protest songs sung by Sangwari and a beautiful rendition of 'Bol ke lab azzad hai' by Roma Malik. She also spoke about the struggles being fought by the adivasis to keep their land from being forcefully grabbed. Shabnam Hashmi sang a song composed to mock Indira Gandhi during the emergency. Prof. Atul Sood of JNU spoke about the undeclared emergency that the country was facing today. Poems were read out by Viren Dangwal and Vishnu Nagar. A ragini on Modi was performed by Satbir Shramik. Select film clippings were also presented by Sanjay Joshi, national convenor of Cinema of Resistance during the programme.

In Patna, an AIPF organized an evening of protest on 'Emergency then and now' in Gandhi Maidan in Patna. Programmes were also organized in Bhagalpur and several other places in Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh where anti-emergency rallies were held protesting against increasing assaults on people's democratic rights and livelihood in current times by the incumbent government.

Protesting for Civil Liberties and Justice

In Delhi, the AIPF also held protests against the acquittal of the accused in the Hashimpura communal massacre by the police, and along with various civil liberties’ groups organized a protest against the custodial killings of tribals in Andhra Pradesh and Muslim undertrials in Telangana.

In Bhagalpur, the AIPF has conducted a series of programmes to give a voice to the survivors of the Bhagalpur communal violence of 1989, who continue to wait for justice in vain. They have painstakingly documented the present condition of the survivors and families of the victims, and are about to publish a booklet on the same.

Purushuttam Roy Barman, Secretary of the Tripura Human Rights Organisation and AIPF campaign committee member, wrote to the Home Minister seeking scrapping of the draconian AFSPA.

An AIPF team visited Palamu to investigate a series of human rights violations and custodial violence cases there (see Liberation July 2015 for a detailed report).

An AIPF team comprising Vinod Singh, Anant Gupta and Xavier Kujur also visited Jamshedpur recently following reports of communal violence there.
An AIPF team comprising Girija Pathak and Prem Singh Gehlawat visited Atali village in Haryana following the second round of violent eviction of Muslims. A detailed report of this visit can be read in this issue of Liberation.

Odisha State Conference

The first state level conference of All India People’s Forum (AIPF) was held in Bhubaneswar on 11-12 July 2015. The conference was attended several leaders and representatives from various people’s movements and struggles in Odisha. In the inaugural session of the conference, CPI (ML) General Secretary, Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, AIPF Campaign Committee member Dayamani Barla and several others addressed the participants and spoke at length about the need to broaden and strengthen the AIPF initiatives.

The two day conference saw several discussion sessions focusing on the burning issues of the day. In the first discussion session, the focus was on the issues pertaining to land, livelihood, and food security.

Participants speaking in the session pointed out the hypocrisy of the BJD government in Odisha, which while claiming to be opposed to the Land Acquisition Ordinance of the BJP government, was itself pushing forward anti-poor land related policies in Odisha. The anti-land grab prohibition ordinance of the BJD was not aimed at protecting the land and livelihood of the poor or the farmers, but instead it was aimed at snatching back the gains of various pro-poor land struggles and land reforms. The second session focused on ‘caste, gender based and communal violence and the rights of sexual minorities’. The speakers in the session included AIPWA national secretary Com. Kavita Krishnan, transgender activist Menaka, activists Amiya Pandab, Romita Kundu and others. The post lunch sessions on the first day saw discussions on ‘health, education and housing rights’ and ‘labour law reforms’.

On the second day, the pre-lunch sessions saw activists from various people’s movements and fronts including such as POSCO Virodhi Sangram Samiti, Chilika Matsyjivi Sangh, AIARLA, Koraput Adivasi Ekata Sangathan, and others share their experiences and talk on ‘State repression, draconian laws and the need to defend democratic rights of people’. (See detailed report of this session below).

AIPF Advisor Vijay Pratap and Campaign Committee member Kavita Krishnan spoke on the AIPF process and the challenges before it.

In the last discussion session of the conference, CPI (ML) central committee member, Com. Yudhistir Mohapatra and human rights activist Manas Jena raised concerns pertaining to electoral reforms and the proportionate representation system.

In the concluding session of the conference, resolutions pertaining to the need to strengthen pro-people’s struggles, fight against state oppression and victimization of activists and condemning the Modi and Naveen Patnaik governments’ anti people policies were tabled and passed. Members were also selected to AIPF state campaign committee, state council members and the convening group from among the several fronts, groups and rights’ activists who participated. The next state level conference of the AIPF will be held in Jharkhand on 9 August 2015, and in West Bengal on August 20th.

Odisha Activists Share Experiences of Struggle

The first state level conference of All India People’s Forum (AIPF) was held in Bhubaneswar on 11-12 July 2015. One of the key sessions of the two day conference was on the issue of ‘State repression, abolition of draconian laws and defending of democratic rights. The session witnessed participation of several leading activists of Odisha who have been engaged in sustained struggles against the pro-corporate and anti-people policies of the state and the central governments.

The session was moderated by Narendra Mohanty. One of the first panellists to speak on the issue was Com. Padma Charan Nayak, a leading figure of the anti-liquor movement in the state. Com. Nayak, expressed grave concerns over the state government’s apathetic attitude towards this issue which had been effecting the health and economic conditions of several thousands in the state. He pointed out the vested interests that were responsible for state’s neglect of this issue that caused much harm to several families.

The next panellist to share his experience was Com. Biranchi Behera of the Chilika Matsyajeebi Mahasangha that has been waging a sustained battle against the prawn mafia and against the attacks on the rights of the fishing community. The CMM has also fought the ‘Fishing in Chilika (Regulation) Bill 2002’ which was aimed at snatching away the traditional fishing rights of the fishers and was backed by the powerful lobby favouring the prawn mafia. Com. Behera said that the social repercussion of prawn culture was manifested in the growing conflict between the traditional fishermen and non-fishermen. However, even as the local fishing communities were organising themselves to fight ill-intended state policies, the state far from responding to their concerns had from the outset tried to brutally oppress their struggles. He shared recollections from the fateful night of 29 May 1999, when during a night protest for ‘Right to life’, the police had opened fire on the fishermen without any provocation and killed 4 persons. Com. Behera added that the reduction of the area reserved for the traditional sources of fisheries had resulted in the decline of employment opportunity for the local fishermen in the fishing sector of Chilika. He demanded prohibition of prawn culture in Chilika, a permanent lease to be given to the fishermen and eviction of all the illegal prawn gherries. He pointed out that the growing state repression coupled with state backed private violence to suppress the fishermen's protests was a major challenge that the movement faced.

Ranjit Pangi, convenor of the Koraput Adivasi Ekata Sangathan, who has also been engaged in issues pertaining to implementation of Forest Rights Acts, shared the experience of Koraput. He reported that while the concerned officials often failed to ensure that individual forest rights (IFR) titles were distributed properly, any attempt by the local adivasis to point out the problems were met by vindictive actions, often involving persecution of the complainants by calling them Maoists.

Shri. Hazaru Mallick, president of the Lok Adhikaaar Sangathan, expressed solidarity with the movements that were aimed at ensuring rights for the Dalits and the other socially excluded groups. He also pointed out the lacunae and apathy of the State government towards effective implementation of Forest Rights Act in the State.

Com. Satyabadi Behera of AIARLA stressed on the urgent need to intensify the fight against corporate loot in Odisha. He also pointed out the sustained efforts by the state authorities to target activists and leaders who were involved in struggles against the corporate loot.

Prof Banshidhar of ‘Committee for the release of political prisoners’ demanded ‘political prisoner’ status for every person arrested for involvement in mass movements, and sought greater unity in demanding the immediate release of political prisoners.

Com. Tirupati Gamango, state CPI (ML) leader from Rayagada district, who himself has been arrested several times for leading land struggles in Rayagada and resisting witch-hunt of adivasis in the name of countering ‘Maoists’, shared how the state had captured the land of people for the benefit of Graphite companies in Bolangir. Demanding an end to the illegal mining operations and the return of land to the people, he added that the fear of jail could not dissuade people’s movements.

Social activist Sandeep Pattnaik pointed out some very relevant facts about the recent Odisha Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Ordinance, 2015. He shared that the ordinance was aimed at apprehending the land rights of Adivasi, dalits and other vulnerable groups living on government land who were yet to receive legal entitlement over land in many areas that they have been cultivating for decades. The ordinance did not differentiate the persons who had acquired the government land for mere sustenance and the persons who had grabbed huge amounts of government land to meet their greed. This ordinance had no specification about the protection of landless people whose livelihood depends on the acquired government land. These lands are not just crucial for the livelihoods of people in the region, but for many their lands are also intimately linked to their culture, identity and way of life. An enumeration by the Government of Odisha placed a figure of 236,000 landless in the state. He appealed the house to unite and fight against this unjust ordinance.

Concluding the session, activist Dayamani Barla from Jharkhand, who is also a leading member of the AIPF campaign committee, said that the experiences shared by the activists in the session were especially inspiring and affirmed the need for the AIPF and greater unity amongst people’s movements.


Eyewitness Account of Sonbhadra Arrest

About 6.15 AM in the morning on 30 June (at the AIUFWP office in Robertsganj), there was loud banging on the door. As I opened the door, dozens of police officers, brandishing revolvers and using the choicest and filthiest of language, barged in. They immediately snatched our mobile phones and pushed and shoved us around asking for Roma. In the mean time Roma came out of her room and asked them to behave themselves. “I know you have come to arrest me and I am not running away. Wait till I change my dress”, Roma told them. Despite this the CO of Robertsgunj Kotwali , barged in to Roma’s room and tried to pull her out of the room, slapped two other women who were there and threatened Sukalo and despite one woman in the process of changing her dress the C.O. of Robertsgunj Kotwali– Kapil Yadav did not have the decency to come out of the room and stood there threatening them and abusing them. There was no lady constable to be seen though they had primarily come to arrest a woman leader. They were all standing outside the house.

Around 7 am , we were packed in to police jeeps – Roma and me in one jeep, Sukalo and another comrade in another jeep. There were atleast 10 more jeeps packed with police officers and a van full of heavily armed police personnel . So all in all about 150 -200 heavily armed police personnel had come to arrest one women leader.

During the day time, while we sat in a room bustling with activity around Roma’s arrest, we heard that people coming to participate in the days demonstration (jointly called by AIPF and Bhumi Adhikar Andolan against land grab) were being held back, and some leaders were also arrested/ detained.

In spite of the obstacles and harassment by the local administration to disrupt the protest rally more than one thousand people managed to reach the district court in Robertsgunj to protest against the atrocities and illegal land acquisition currently going on in Kanhar. Several leaders of AIPF and AIUFWP addressed the rally which took a resolution to continue the struggle and demanded the immediate release of Roma, Sukalo and other detained leaders and sympathizers.

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