A state cadre convention of the party on 20 October at Guduvanchery (Chennai – Kanchipuram) decided to undertake a campaign to ‘Go to the Masses’ and also passed a set of resolutions for struggle. It was decided to organise ‘People’s Rights Rallies’ in various districts and was aimed at generating initiatives at grassroots level against the anti-people Edappadi Palanisamy led AIADMK government. A booklet explaining CAA-NPR-NRC was published in Tamil and widely distributed.
The rally at Pudukottai against CAA, NRC and NPR was the first ever major protest in the series. It was held on 18 Dec, the memorial day of our beloved comrade Vinod Mishra. Thousands of people, particularly rural poor, including some from neighbouring districts of Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Karur, Dindigul, Madurai and also Puducherry participated in the rally with great enthusiasm and zeal. The rallyists thundered that they would boycott NPR and demanded revocation of CAA and NRC. Similar protest rallies and demonstrations were also held at Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Villupuram, Chennai – Kanchipuram, Cuddalore, Salem, Kumarapalayam (Namakkal) and Coimbatore. Combined mobilisation of eight districts and Pudukottai surpassed - in fact, it was more than doubled - all our previous records in the recent past in the state. Cuddalore – Unleashing Initiatives
The rally at Virudhachalam in Cuddalore district on 12 December 2019 was quite encouraging because there was not much of activity over there for more than two years. The campaign to go to the grassroots, with people’s issues and with a task of creating awareness on CAA-NRC-NPR, kindled and unleashed grassroot initiatives. Rural poor marched to the Sub-Collector’s office defying prohibitory orders by the Edappadi Palanisamy led AIADMK government. Moreover, the campaign also became an inspiration and various other demonstrations also sprang up on basic issues of the people in the run up to the demonstration on 12th. We have also won a Panchayat Ward Member seat in the district.
Chennai – Kanchi districts organised mass protests at Guduvancherry on 15th Dec. demanding restoration of Panchami land to Dalits by enacting a special legislation in the assembly. Housing for unorganised workers also was another major demand. The Panchami Jyothi, carried from Thiruporur, the land of struggle for Panchami land, where a protestor became a martyr as police opened fire, was handed over to youth leaders by Com Kavita Krishnan, the Politbureau member of the party. The same was to be handed over to the party GS Comrade Dipankar at Pudukottai on 18 Dec. In addition to organising an independent campaign along with joint ones, we held a demonstration on 11th March as a part of state call to observe a Protest Day against Modi’s attack on rights of citizenship.
On the same day, 15 Dec, a ‘People’s Rights Convention’ was held at Coimbatore. The people struggling for housing rights and belonged to our Slum dwellers organisation joined in good strength. We could also witness workers from various areas and categories, including loading and unloading workers of Civil Supplies Corporation, joining in good numbers. The convention also decided to intensify struggles of sanitation workers and also slum dwellers. Resolutions were also passed against privatisation of water supply system to private players, mainly the MNC, Suez.
Subsequent to the convention, sanitation workers meetings were organised in various localities covering more than 1000 workers. The spontaneous two days strike and agitation on 9th March against the Coimbatore Municipal Corporation on the issue of regularisation and unrealistic reservation in appointment of sanitation workers was jointly led by us, CITU and other Dalit organisations. The Collector and the Municipal administration agreed to increase wages to Rs. 550 per day, 16500 per month, from the present wages of Rs --- per day, no victimisations, forwarding a recommendation to state government regularise contract sanitation workers, etc., but is yet to give the same in writing.
Our Slum Dwellers organisation in the city has not only fought for demands of housing pattas and sites but also expressed support to struggling Shaheen Baghs of Coimbatore. Recently, slum dwellers thwarted an attempt by the administration for eviction in several slums, including the ones at Kumarasamy Colony, etc. The recent struggle against disconnection of electric power to slums is also very significant.
Kanyakumari witnessed a massive demonstration on 16 Dec. with an overwhelming presence of women, construction workers and various other sections of the unorganised workforce. The demonstration organised in the midst of Panchayat elections was well attended. The demonstration raised several basic issues of people, including housing, in addition to their opposition to CAA-NRC and NPR. We have also won a Panchayat Ward member. Our intervention in the struggle against CAA-NRC-NPR is quite significant because our comrades played an active role in the protests that attracted thousands of minorities and also Hindus. This is one district where Sanghis are actively against us because of our anti-fascist thrust and have also filed complaints against us.
Beedi workers, construction workers, washermen and Loading and Unloading workers of Civil Supplies Corporation marched on the streets of Tirunelveli on 17 Dec. demanding a minimum wage of Rs 1000 per day, abolition of middle-men – contract system, etc. Good number of women, mainly Muslim workers, also joined the protest. This is the district where we lost our Comrade Mariappan some years back in the course of struggles of washermen in the district. Our beedi work is under revival course and was quite evident in the demonstration.
Agricultural labourers and NREGA workers marched on the streets of Ulundurpettai (Villupuram district) demanding minimum wage, 365 days work and also house sites. They also registered their opposition to Citizenship Amendment Act that questioned the very existence of poor workers. We are consistently active in the district and Villupuram is one of the strongholds of our work among agricultural labourers in addition to Delta districts, Thanjavur, Nagapattinam and Pudukottai. The struggle against corruption in government machinery, against the high-handed attitude of police machinery, etc., has been a regular component of our work here.
In Salem, our work among slum dwellers, particularly among those residing in houses of Slum Clearance Board demanding ownership has assumed significance, next to our consistent struggles and a temporary victory regarding 8-lane corridor. The government says that they have mortgaged all houses under Slum Clearance Board to the World Bank and they can get it back only if they repay the loans to World Bank. Despite the willingness of the people to pay some money and get ownership rights, in spite of willingness on the part of local administration to do the same, the central and state governments that mortgaged the houses are not willing to give ownership rights to the dwellers who reside there for more than a decade. Slum Dwellers held a massive demonstration on 23 Dec defying prohibitory orders in force. We also have significant presence among powerloom workers, construction workers and such other unorganised workforce in the district, in addition to our influence among small farmers under AIKM.
But for bonus and wage issues in powerloom centres, Kumarapalayam and Pallipalayam, no organisation is capable enough to organise powerloom workers. But, it was surprising to witness more than 500 workers demonstrating under the banner of DPLU-AICCTU-CPIML demanding housing on 24 Dec. Democratic Powerloom Labour Union (DPLU) affiliated to AICCTU, operating in powerloom workers belt of Salem, Namakkal and Erode is well known for its militant struggles since 80s, well before the present leaders joined the workforce. The movement has been consistently active since then. In the present situation, it is heartening to watch all those generations of leaders – past and present – coming together to reclaim and uphold the banner, DPLU which is inseparably integrated with the politics of CPIML and AICCTU.
We could also witness various cross sections of people, including minorities and various political forces, mobilised at the call of our organisation against the draconian citizenship amendment act for a demonstration on 9th Feb at Pallipalayam.
In Pudukottai, our main workforce is agricultural labourers. We have also won the post, Panchayat President and two ward members in one block in the recently concluded local body elections in January. We held several block level demonstrations, public meetings on people’s issues, in the first round, upto 18 December. Then again, we were engaged in Panchayat elections contesting several posts from Ward members to Panchayat Presidents in at least 15 places in the district. We are working in more than seven block and are a significant force, at least, in five. Then began our own struggles in March, against CAA-NRC-NPR and also several other interventions, jointly with Left parties on the one hand and also with several other organisations, on the other. We have been actively supporting many Shaheen Baghs in the district.
In Karur, we organised an elaborate campaign and demonstration of Tex workers, construction workers and EB workers demanding increase in wages and housing sites. A Hindi leaflet was also distributed in order to reach out to large section of migrant workers in Karur. There was also a convention against CAA-NRC-NPR addressed by Comrade Sai Balaji, All India Coordinator of Young India and President of AISA along with Comrade Shankar. The convention was preceded by a rally that began with garlanding Periyar statue.
In Dharmapuri, we have expanded our work among construction, EB, hospital and Transport workers recently and also into Pennagaram block. We have a vast network of construction workers in several panchayats in two blocks of the district. We have also established an office in the district recently.
In Dindigul, we are a force in some blocks, including some Panchayats. We put up a brave fight in elections to the President of the Kottanatham Panchayat. Comrades participated in Pudukottai rally with renewed enthusiasm. We are also working among agricultural and rural workers and also among poor farmers.
In Madurai too our work among agricultural labourers and student youth is growing. We have relatively greater following among women in one block. In fact, they form the backbone of our work in the district.
Nagapattinam, Mayiladuthurai and Thanjavur districts participated in good numbers in Pudukottai rally on 18 Dec. Anti-CAA-NRC-NPR campaign is also taken up in addition to several initiatives on local issues and on issues of construction workers. We contested in some wards and for the Panchayat presidents too. We are also fast expanding our work in Thiruvannamalai district.
We had several joint demonstrations with Left parties and active support to Shaheen Baghs in Madurai, Dindigul, Coimbatore, Tiruppur, Vannarpettai – Chennai, etc.
Our participation in 8th January all India Strike was very encouraging. We joined the joint demonstrations in more than 35 – 40 centres which is more than number of centres we participated in the past. We declared Rail Roko at Kanchipuram independently and all our workers were arrested. Similar independent initiatives were there in other places as well. The challenge is to reflect our full participation and higher mobilisation and meaningful presence in joint platforms.
AIPWA recwently reorganised its state convening team. Our recent intervention in women issues, including the issue of the plight of lightning struck women agricultural labourers in Pudukottai, the issue of rape victims, etc., generated support. The state’s presence and size of delegation in the all India conference of AIPWA was also significant.
Reorganising our student – youth work began with a cadre meet attended by Com Sandeep Singh, GS of AISA at Trichy in November. The meeting decided to undertake a campaign towards its all India conference at Hyderabad in Jan. A large delegation from the state also attended the conference. Subsequently, many student strikes were organised in many colleges in the state and also many demonstrations against the Sanghi government’s targeted and brutal attack on students of JNU, Jamia and AMU. Student – youth cadre meetings were also held at Karur and Trichy in the presence of Com Sai Balaji, when he was there to attend Makkal Adhikaram’s Convention at Trichy, to initiate Young India Coordination in Tamil Nadu.
A recent meeting of concerned friends and progressives decided to float a Tamil version of Insaaf Manch that can address issues of Minorities, Dalits and also can be a platform to protect progressive political and social values of Tamil society, including that of Periyar’s ideas, that are under systematic attack by right wing forces.
Our advocates in Tirunelveli, Chennai, Coimbatore and Trichy played a key role in organising legal community against CAA-NRC-NPR in alliance with other progressive and Left lawyers in the beginning. Later, several demonstrations by various groups of lawyers followed. We took the lead in a lawyers demo with others when 17 Dalits died because of the collapse of the ‘Untouchability Wall’ in Mettupalayam. The State Secretary Com NK Natarajan also visited the spot and met families in grief.
The party is now working towards holding district conferences and state conference on 19-20 May at Villupuram to consolidate the organisationand intensify people's movements.