Jalandhar Convention on War against People and the Role of Democratic Forces

DEMOCRATIC FRONT AGAINST OPERATION GREEN HUNT, PUNJAB HOLDS A MASSIVE CONVENTION AT JALANDHAR!
BUILD A BROAD SPECTRUM OF RESISTANCE MOVEMENTS!
OPPOSE NEO-LIBERAL POLICIES AND SUPPRESSION OF PEOPLES’ MOVEMENTS THROUGH ARMED FORCES!

On 17th October, when people were celebrating Dussehra to mark the victory of Good over the Evil, the Democratic Front Against Operation Green Hunt, Punjab, held a massive Convention in Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall, Jalandhar on “War against the people & Role of Democratic Forces.” It was addressed by noted pro-people thinker and Booker Award winner writer Arundhati Roy and Gandhian social activist Himanshu Kumar. Hundreds of people from all walks of life – University Professors, Research Scholars, Students, Artists, littérateur, cultural activists, press-persons, farmers, agricultural and industrial laborers, trade unionists, thinkers etc., participated from all across Punjab and Chandigarh. The Convention Hall having a seating capacity of 900 was overfilled and hundreds of people were left to hear the programme from outside the Convention Hall.

The Convention Hall was tastefully decorated with flex-hoardings having appropriate messages. The theme hoarding had the poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller – ‘FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE COMMUNISTS’, with a painting depicting peoples’ struggle in the background. Two others were having poems by two noted peoples’ poets of Punjab Sant Ram Udasi- MAGHDA RAHIN VE SURJA (Shine O Sun brightly) and Pash- ASIN LARANGE SATHI (Comrade! We will fight). There were quotations from Shaheed Bhagat Singh, ‘HAWA MEIN RAHENGI MERE KHIALON KI BIJLIAN’ (I may or may not live, but my ideas will remain galvanizing the air eternally)

The Convention was presided over by a presidium consisting of Dr. Parminder Singh (Professor Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar), Prof. A.K.Maleri (Ludhiana), Sh. Yash Pal (Retired Teacher and Editor VARG CHETNA), Prof. Ajmer Singh Aulakh (Noted pro-people Punjabi Dramatist), Com Gandharav Sen Kochhar and Sh. Naunihal Singh(both from Desh Bhagat Yadgar Committee, formed to honor the martyrs of Gadar Movement).

Arundhati Roy opened her speech with the remark that the Indian state has been waging a war against its own people in many parts of the country such as North East, Kashmir, Punjab and many other places for the last 60 years using military and the police to ruthlessly suppress them. She paid rich compliments to the poor people and tribals living in the forests of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra, West Bengal and Maharashtra, who were fighting valiantly to save their lands, forests, water and mineral wealth from being plundered by the world’s richest companies. Preaching non-violence to the tribals of Chhattisgarh is immoral. To those, who accuse the tribals of being violent, she asked: ‘When people are forced to die of hunger, when they are uprooted after depriving them of their lands and livelihood, in the name of development, is it not violence?’ Is it not ironic to advise those, who have empty stomachs and empty pockets, to follow the Gandhian tools of Hunger strike and boycott of foreign goods?

She said that to oppose operation Green Hunt, one need not go and fight in the jungles of Dantewada. Fighting against injustice at our own place is also an important contribution to this cause. Struggles against SEZ and the exploitative Commission Agent (ARHTIYA) system in Punjab are part of the fight against operation Green Hunt. She called upon the intellectuals and toiling sections of the masses to build a broad spectrum of resistance movements against the neo-liberal policies of the State and its onslaught on the peoples’ movements in the form of armed operations such as Green Hunt.

Commenting on the ongoing events in the states under operation Green Hunt, she said that there is a strong link between development and genocide. There is genocide under the façade of development. When the people are uprooted from their lands, culture sources of livelihood, they are doomed to die. In India Crores of people suffer from the AIDS of malnutrition. Malnutrition not only leads its victim to death, but casts its agonizing shadow on the next generations also.

She said while the Naxals are fighting a protracted war against the capitalist system and big corporates, the Indian state was fighting war against its own people. She suggested having diverse methods of resistance in a wider struggle to challenge oppressive policies of the state.

She said the Green Hunt began in Punjab earlier than Chhattisgarh, with the advent of “Green Revolution”. Green Hunt is infact the phenomenon to deprive the people of their land and the resources attached to it such as water, forests, mines etc. Green Revolution and the farmers’ suicides in its aftermath is pointer to this. About 1,80,000 debt trapped farmers have committed suicides in the country. She deplored the Punjab Govt for having branded the 17 organization of farmers and agri-labourers as Naxalite front organizations. Those who raise their voice against injustice are branded as Naxalite. If the rulers continued to follow the policies of privatization and liberalization, then they shall have to deploy army in the whole country. In two decades of neo-liberal policies, the number of people below poverty line have increased manifold, while 100 people own 25 percent of national wealth.

She said the Indian democracy has become shallow. Democracy doesn’t mean mere periodic elections. Democratic rights of the people are being trampled under the foot. Indian Constitution has lost its meaning as the judiciary, media and Parliament have all been made to serve the corporates and monied people. Media is in the hands of corporates. Courts have gone beyond the reach of common man and have become a tool to endorse neo-liberal anti-people policies of the State.

There was a lively discussion on her speech and she answered most of the questions raised by the participants.

Noted Gandhian Himanshu Kumar, who had gone on a cycle-yatra of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra, after addressing 16 conventions against Operation Green Hunt throughout Punjab on the invitation of the Democratic Front, shared his assessment of the situation prevailing in those states. He said the situation was explosive everywhere. There were many Dantewadas in the making due to anti-people policies of the rulers. He said in Gujrat, the Forest Rights Act envisages grant of land up to 10 acres on lease to tribals in the forest areas. But Modi Government has not granted even an inch of land to them. But the same Govt has gifted away 1,02,000 acres of land to 176 corporate houses. A functioning university has been closed to provide land to Tata’s Nano plant. A hundred people of this country control 25 percent of its wealth. Our Prime Minister says the people are becoming violent. But the question is why after six decades of independence, there is violence. Are only the Naxalite responsible for this violence? In fact the development model, being implemented by the rulers is resulting in the poor becoming poorer and the rich becoming richer. Development has become synonymous with depriving the poor of their livelihood resources, such as land, water, forests, mineral wealth etc., to fill the coffers of the rich. It will definitely breed violence. Instead of following the principles of social justice and equity, we are following the law of jungle, where might is right. This situation has to be changed. Quoting Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave, he said that if injustice and inequity persists in the society, violence is inevitable, because the victims of injustice and inequity cannot be expected to take the things lying down; they will definitely revolt to change the system, to assert their rights. He said injustice must not be tolerated. It should be resisted at all costs. Non-violence should never become an excuse to run away from the fight against injustice.

Both the speakers were presented with the portraits of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, a poster with Pastor Niemoller’s poem, and a set of three books- ‘History of Gadar Party’, ‘History of Naujwan Bharat Sabha’ and ‘Dialogue with the Revolutionaries’. Mrs. Veena wife of Himanshu Kumar, who spent 18 years with him at Dantewada, serving the tribals was also honored.

After the convention Arundhati Roy held an interaction with Research Scholars and students from three universities of Punjab and prominent historians in the Gadar Museum Hall. She along with Himanshu Kumar and his family and Sanjay Kak, went around the museum evincing keen interest in the revolutionary history of Punjab, particularly the Gadar movement.

At the end of the convention the participants passed resolutions with raised hands demanding an end to Operation Green Hunt; withdrawl of military and para-military forces from the tribal areas; disbanding Salwa Judum and such other fascist organizations; recognizing the rights of tribals over their forests, lands, water and natural resources; stopping SEZ and uprooting of tribals in the name of development; roll-back neo-liberal policies of privatization, globalization and liberalization; repeal black laws such as Armed Forces Special Power Act, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act etc.; stop false encounters and implication of innocent people in false criminal cases; revoke the ban imposed on CPI Maoist and its front organizations; allow the pro-people press-persons and democratic organizations to visit tribal areas; hold judicial inquiry in the killing of Maoist leader ‘Azad’ in a fake encounter; stop the conspiracies to foist false cases on Arundhati Roy, Himanshu Kumar, Nisha Biswas, and other noted intellectuals; punish the murderers of peasant leader Sadhu Singh Takhtupura and Pirthipal Singh Alisher and the killers of peasants at Khanna Chamiara in Punjab; Stop implicating leaders and activists of mass organizations of farmers, agri-labourers, employees, unemployed youth in Punjab and other states in false criminal cases and torturing them; Close all the interrogation centers such as the one at Amritsar known as Joint Interrogation Center.

The struggle of Ludhiana powerloom workers

Workers of about three dozen power loom factories in Ludhiana’s Gaushala, Kashmir Nagar, Madhopuri etc. areas are on strike from 16th September 2010 under the leadership of the Karkhana Mazdoor Union (KMU). The workers have revolted against their pathetic living conditions, total absence of labour laws, callous attitude of the factory owners and administration and the opportunistic behaviour of the established trade unions affiliated to parliamentary left parties. They are energised by the recent successful strikes in 42 power loom factories in Shaktinagar area and the Jindal Textiles factory.

Ludhiana is among the big industrial cities in India and the industrial capital of Punjab. The main industries here are hosiery, bicycle, tyre, auto-parts, engineering etc. In recent years the workers in Ludhiana have been fighting for their basic rights e.g. the struggle of the thousands of workers of the big factories of Ludhiana such as Hero cycles, Rockman, Avon, Rolson, Highway, Garetave, Bajaj Sons etc; the militant struggle of the thousands of workers against the factory owners and police-bureaucracy after the Hindustan Tyres episode; the outburst of anger of the workers in December 2009 after the Dhandari episode, the workers hitting the road after a recent disappearance of a workers of Poddar Tyres. These outbursts are just a reflection of the terrible conditions of the life which the workers of Ludhiana are forced to live and the total failure of the governance system to protect even the basic rights of the workers. The anger of workers is expressed at times spontaneously and at other times in a planned and organised manner. It is because of this reason that most of the time section 144 of the Cr. P.C. is imposed in the industrial areas of Ludhiana which prohibits assembly of five or more persons and holding of public meetings besides other restrictions.

Most of the workers of Ludhiana are migrant workers coming from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They are treated as aliens in their own country. These workers are subject to abject poverty and extreme exploitation. Despite toiling for 12-14 hours a day, most of the time they do not even receive the minimum wages fixed for a helper for 8 hours work {Rs 3400 (less than 80 USD) monthly}. In case of the power loom workers, there has been no increment in the piece rates and wages for last 10-12 years while the prices of all basic necessities like food, housing, medical care, travel have been skyrocketing. On the other hand there has been manifold increase in the profit level of the factory owners.

The working condition of the power loom workers of Ludhiana is so difficult and so dangerous that it can at best be called inhuman. Serious injuries and deaths at workplace are quite common in the industrial areas. Even basic safety measures and regulations are not implemented by the factory owners. Even the administration does not take any initiative to fulfil its constitutional obligation of implementing the labour laws in these areas. On the contrary in most of the cases, the administration is found connived with the factory owners to serve their interests. No labour law whatsoever is implemented in these factories. Provident Fund, Employees State Insurance, Job Card, Attendance Register have no existence here. The regional labour department is fully hand in glove with the errant factory owners and is suitably compensated for its services. Not only the factory owners have bought up the officials and police, they do not even hesitate to use the services of goons to intimidate the workers if they raise their voices for justice. In the Dhandari episode in December 2010, they unabashedly used the local goons called Bikers’ Gang to brutally attack the agitating workers. Even the police favoured the factory owners and held the workers responsible for the violence. The owners portray any agitation of workers as being launched by “outsiders” and the local politicians and regional media also take the side of the owners only.

The workers of Ludhiana have been fighting for their rights for years through the established trade unions. But of late they have begun to realise that it is because of the betrayal of the leadership of opportunistic and corrupt trade unions such as CITU and due to the lack of well planned strategy that they have not been able to put up an effective resistance and the factory owners manage to crush their struggle. In a number of struggles of workers of large factories of Ludhiana such as Hero Cycle, Rockman, KW,Avon, Rolson, Highway, Bajaj Sons, Moonlight etc since 2004, the opportunistic, compromising, corrupt and pro-management character of CITU has been thoroughly exposed before the workers.

The recent surge of militant agitation among the power loom workers of Ludhiana began with the strike of the 42 power loom factories of Shaktinagar, Tibba Road areas on 24th August 2010 under the leadership of the Karkhana Mazdoor Union. It was the apathetic attitude of the power loom factory owners which was mainly responsible for the inhuman conditions of living which forced the workers to halt the work and choose the path of strike. The main demands of the workers were: hike in the piece rates/wages, necessary provisions for the safety of the workers and implementing all the labour laws including identity cards, PF, ESI etc. The bold, organised and determined fight of the workers forced the power loom owners to relent and they were forced to agree to the demands of the workers. On 31st August the workers withdrew their strike after a written agreement with the owners. It was a glorious victory of the workers after a long time. A remarkable aspect of this victory was that the power loom owners were not only forced to hike the piece rates/wages but they also agreed to give half wages for the days of strike. It is very rare that the factory owners agree to pay for the days of strike. On the contrary, one can find many instances in the labour movement of Ludhiana like the shameful Avon Cycle agreement in which due to the compromising, pusillanimous character of the renegade leadership, the workers were forced to work for 9 days without pay as a punishment for going on strike.

After this a strike broke out in the Jindal Textile factory and there too it reached a successful culmination. It is noteworthy that this was after 18 years that a workers struggle had achieved such success in Ludhiana. During the last one and a half decade the workers of Ludhiana had fought many long struggles but they culminated in shameful defeat due to the betrayal of the established trade unions. The recent victory is important in this respect and it has raised the morale of the workers to a new high.

Meanwhile, workers of some other power loom factories agitating under another union were brutally attacked by armed goons of the factory owners last week. Around 50 workers were wounded in this lethal attack, some of them seriosly. Karkhana Mazdoor Union has demanded the authorities to carry out an investigation and punish the culprits.

Taking inspiration from the recent successes in the Shaktinagar and Jindal factory strikes, hundreds of the power loom workers of about three dozen factories of Ludhiana’s Gaushala, Kashmir Nagar, Madhopuri etc also decided to call a strike on 16th September 2010 under the leadership of the Karkhana Mazdoor Union. These workers are on a strike to force the factory owners to increase their piece rate/salary and to implement other basic rights. They are united and determined to make their strike successful. They have appealed to the fellow workers of other power loom factories who are yet to join the strike to come forward and join the strike to make the struggle more united and strong. Along with this the workers have also organised vigilant squads of their own against the possibility of fresh attacks by the factory owners. A great achievement of these strikes is that the workers are no longer terrified of the police and the goons of the owners. Moulder and Steel Workers Union of Ludhiana has supported the power loom workers in their strike. The workers have also distributed pamphlets among the civilian population explaining to them their wretched working and living conditions and the rationale behind their demands. They have also appealed to other factory workers of Ludhiana to support and join their strike. The workers have warned the officials of the labour department not to work as stooges of the factory owners and perform their constitutional duties otherwise their strike will become more vigorous.

On the third day of the strike i.e. on 18th September 2010, the henchmen of a factory owner attacked the KMU members who were distributing the leaflets in a market and also kidnapped two workers. Immediately hundreds of workers gathered outside the factory where the kidnapped workers were being held. The owner ran away and the workers were rescued. This was another psychological victory for the workers.

Contact for further information:
Rajwinder – 098886 55663, Lakhwinder – 096461 50249
Email: lakhwinder0143@yahoo.co.in
Office: Karkhana Mazdoor Union, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Pustkalaya, Gali No.5, Lakshman Nagar, Gyaspura, Ludhiana, Punjab

Stop war against an alternative model of development

Stop War Against the People
What the State Wants to Destroy is the Alternate Development Model
An Appeal to Thinkers, Intellectuals, Artistes, and Writers

Satnam & Buta Singh
Forum Against War on People (Punjab)

Dear Friends,

The Indian state has amassed troops in central India on an unprecedented scale, to swoop down on the people. It is the latest of the wars launched by the Indian State against the people living in this country. The government says that it has to move against these areas as Maoists hold sway over it and it is not under the control of central or state authority.

In fact the natives of these jungles have been living there for thousands of years and have protected these forests as they ensure life to them and is their only source of livelihood for survival. These tribals are the most poor and wretched in our land. Popularly called adivasis, they are the oldest inhabitants of our country, still living in an ancient age. For thousands of years they have lived an archaic life. In all these years, no one has been able to subjugate them. The British Empire tried to do this in 1910 but their marauding armies were repulsed and forced to beat a retreat. The resistance of the tribal people against the British forces was led by the great warrior Gundadhur. This is popularly known as the Bhoomkal Baghawat. Earlier, they had fought the British under the leadership of Birsa Munda in the famous Munda Rebellion in the nineteenth century.

Since then, no regime has dared to attack and attempt to subjugate them, whether they were the British or the post-British rulers sitting at Delhi. They have remained a free people all along, with their own culture, customs and a unique way of life. The central and state governments have been exploiting their forests and mineral and metal resources at an unbridled pace but have never done anything to provide them with basic requirements like drinking water, education, medical facilities etc. The loot of their resources has been enormous, to the tune of billions of rupees every year, with all the money going to the industrialists, bureaucrats, politicians, contractors and the police. All this was going on smoothly, till the the tribals awakened to their rampant exploitation and inhuman oppression and took to the path of resistance. This resistance has been characteristic of their traditions and in accordance with their nature as an independent people. Their struggle is to put an end to this onslaught which has made their life, hell like. That is why they identified with the ideology of revolutionary Marxism which promises a world free of loot, exploitation and oppression. That is why they found common cause with the revolutionary Maoist rebels, who want to put a stop to every kind of exploitation and tyranny and build an egalitarian, humane society, free of any kind of discrimination.

Of course, as is well known by now, they are living on lands which are blessed with the richest minerals, metals and other natural resources like iron, coal, bauxite, manganese, gold, diamonds, uranium etc. The Indian state has never considered that tribals have a right to their land and jungles, and have constantly tried to usurp them in various ways. The State wants to further intensify this exploitation now, and has invited the foreign imperialist companies and Indian big industrial houses and their collaborations, to set up new projects on these lands. The Indian government has signed Memorandums of Understanding to the tune of lakhs of crores of rupees with the foreign and Indian industrial houses for this purpose. The contents of these MOU’s are secret and confidential and people have no access to them! The current offensive of the Indian state is to wrest back these areas from the control of these people and hand it over to these Companies. All this is being done in the name of development. But this development in fact is in no way the development of the material conditions of the life of the tribals and the people living around these areas. This is amply demonstrated in the earlier projects like Bailladilla, Balco, Bokaro, Bhilai, Jaduguda and numerous others.

Quite recently we have seen the people of Nandigram, Singur, Kashipur, Kalinga Nagar, Lalgarh, Pullavaram, Tehri and Narmada Project areas resisting the setting up of car factories, dams, huge mining pit centers, SEZ’s and other projects which have nothing to do with the development and well-being of the masses of ordinary toiling and poor in these areas or in the country elsewhere. It is meant to enrich the already handful of rich, who live a parasitic life, or to fill the coffers of foreign imperialist capitalists whose only religion is to loot, plunder and exploit. The people here have struggled and fought against the state for their rights over their lands and against the capitalist sharks on whose bidding the government acts.

The government has deployed lakhs of armed forces to destroy the resistance of the people, especially at places where it is strong and formidable and hampers the capitalists from acquiring resource rich lands. When government says it wants to take back the areas controlled by Maoists, in fact, it wants to smash the resistance of the people and snatch their lands to offer these to the mining giants, industrialists and super rich businessmen. Maoism is nothing but the rebellion of the people against injustice, notwithstanding whether the government calls them terrorists or whatever. Millions of people in these regions identify themselves with the cause of the Maoists and when millions become a movement for a just cause, they can’t be called terrorists.

The state admits that there are 223 districts out of a total of 600 where Maoists are active. This means that there are 223 districts where the people espouse this ideology and want an end to exploitation. That lakhs are support this resistance or are up in arms. That it has become a people’s movement. And what of the people in the remaining districts? Are there not workers, peasants, students, employees, petty shopkeepers and toiling masses who have no stake in this system, want a change for the better, and have the same dreams? If the 223 are up against injustice and the rest have the same aspirations then the state loses the right to use the invective of terrorism.

What the Indian state wants to destroy is not just the Maoists, but the aspirations of millions upon millions in this country, the dreams of every oppressed Indian.

It is using the media and all the propaganda machinery available, to denigrate and destroy this. To destroy the resistance of the down-trodden, their movement for change, which is the only thing that can bring them real happiness, in this wretched land of ours called Hindustan. This land, of the hungry. Of the exploited. Of the peasant who commits suicide. Of the youth facing a bleak future. Of the worker who is being laid off and kicked out of the factories. Of the employees of the organized sector who are losing all the rights gained over the years when their jobs are being contractualised. Of the government employees who have been booted out with a few crumbs in the name of VRS or Golden Handshake. Of the petty shop keepers and traders, whose enterprises are being gobbled up by the malls and the SEZs. This is the land crying for justice.

If Maoists are branded by the Prime Minister as the biggest internal threat to the country, then the rulers must think about what they have given to the people in the last 62 years of independence. Why have things come to such a pass? They have been ruling and organizing society and have utterly failed in the six long decades that they have been at the helm. The present state of affairs is their doing. Not that of the Maoists. Their development strategies have backfired and that can’t be blamed on the resisting people and the Maoists. The Maoists have come into the picture only recently, but what has the state been doing about the promises it made to the people at the time of independence? Where has the promise of a Tryst with Destiny vanished? The promise sworn by Jawaharlal Nehru from the ramparts of Lal Quila on the midnight of 14-15 August 1947? People are not to be blamed for that promise not being kept, nor are the Maoists.

So now, Operation Green Hunt is not being executed just because the government wants to wipe out the Maoists in an all out war, in the name of fighting terrorism. It is their attempt to annihilate the yearning of the people, their struggles, their resistance, their resolve for a better life, whether they are led by the Maoists or not. And when the tribal heartland refuses to cow down before such an attack, it deserves admiration. The state intends to bring in the might of the Air Force against its own people. This is the result of the 60 years of misrule and the anti-people policies, they have been imposing. The people have never given them a mandate to carry out these policies. Over these years they have only opposed these policies through petitions, protests, strikes, sit-ins, struggles, resistance and also through hunger strikes and work to rule agitations. And god knows how many times the so-called people’s democratic state has fired on the protesters. How many times they have killed people. How many millions they have cane-charged and how many millions they have put into jails, not to speak of the thousands of custodial deaths and mass scale encounter killings. They never stopped the repression. All these decades, rather than listen to the grievances of the people, this state, which swears by the non-violence of MK Gandhi, has been resorting to never-ending violence. Like a mafia. Yet, the resistance continued and revolts grew.

And now it has created the borders within, against its own countrymen.

The current attack on the poor in central India is nothing but an enhanced and more deadly version of the same state violence that has continued since 1947. It is meant to break the fight back of the people there, the fight of the poorest of the poor, of the tribal peasants, and workers working in the mines. It is meant to tell others everywhere in the country, not to stand up for their rights, not to oppose the policies of the state though they go against the interests of the people and the country.

The centre of resistance is being encircled not just to break it, but also to destroy the new things which the people have created during the course of their struggles and which they have toiled hard to build. The government has started a vilification campaign against those who refuse to budge, who refuse to kowtow and who refuse to be further misled by the never ending empty promises of development and progress. They know that this development is not for them. For a government which has discarded the ideal of a welfare state can’t genuinely embark on a thing which it has abandoned at the behest of imperialist capital, the World Bank and the WTO.

The people under attack have built their own local government, the Jantana Sarkar, at various levels, taking their future into their own hands, for a real tryst with destiny.

Let us have a look in brief, at what the people have built through their Development Committees in the villages in Dandakarnya, and what the State wants to destroy. It will give us a glimpse of what the Maoists hold as a vision for the progress and development of our country – development which is indigenously and self reliantly built, one which is people oriented and is constructed in the course of the people’s democratic participation, and one which cares for this land and its resources. Such development which will free us from the stranglehold of imperialist capital and its dictates. A course of action which can only be executed by the truly patriotic.

* The biggest reform undertaken is that of land. They have distributed lakhs of acres of land among every peasant household. And no one is allowed to keep more land than one can till. Thus doing away with unnecessary hiring of labour in agriculture. Even the Patels who used to oppress people and fleece them through unpaid labour have been allowed to retain land they can manage with their family’s labour. No non-tribals are allowed to own land there.

* Women are also given property rights over land.

* They have developed agriculture from the primitive form of shifting every one or two years, to systematic settled farming. They were taught to sow, weed and harvest the crops. They cultivate both their own private lands as well as co-operative fields for community use. The development of agriculture is being done without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

* They have introduced a wide range of vegetables like carrot, radish, brinjal, bitter gourd, okra, tomato etc., which the tribals of remote areas had never seen or tasted.

* They have planted orchards of bananas, citrus fruits, mangoes, guavas etc.

* They have built dams, ponds, and water channels for breeding fish and for the purpose of irrigation. All this has been done through collective labour and the produce is distributed free to every household.

* They have dug wells for safe drinking water.

The industrial projects have destroyed underground water resources, and streams have been polluted to such an extent, that the fish and water life have died as also the vegetation around it. Many fruit trees have stopped flowering around these water resources.

* They have set up rice mills in a number of villages. These mills have freed women from the daily pounding of paddy for extracting grain. Many of these mills have been destroyed by Salwa Judum which was launched by the government, which talks so much about development in these areas.

* They have built a health care system which reaches every tribal peasant in every village. Each village has a Medicine Unit which has been trained to identify diseases and distribute medicines to the villagers. The health of the tribals rates only second in priority to the fight against exploitation and oppression.

* The women participate equally in these developmental activities. Special attention is paid to the issue of patriarchy and that is why they come forward equally to defend their rights and lands.

* They run schools.

The schools built by the government are completely non-functional and are usually used by the police and paramilitary forces when they raid villages. That is one reason the people pull down these pucca structures which have become symbols of repression.

* They have published books and magazines in the Gondi language. As a result, it is for the first time that this language has found a place in the written world. Songs, articles and anecdotes written by the Gond people are published in the magazines brought out by the movement. These are the initial steps to develop this ancient language which has been neglected, just as the people have been. Though there is no existing script in Gondi, they use devnagri script.

* The remunerative prices for Tendu leaf collection and wages for the cutting of bamboo and timber is fixed by the Maoist movement taking into consideration the interests of the tribals.

* Trade in the movement area goes on without hindrance. The traders are not allowed to cheat the tribals in haat bazaars. The movement announces remunerative prices for the jungle produce and paddy which the traders agree to. The presence of guerrillas ensures fair trade practices. On the other hand, the traders feel happy that there is no danger of theft or robberies in the movement controlled areas and they can move about there, freely.

* They have their own justice system. People’s Courts are held to settle various disputes among the people, as well as with the oppressors.

* Theft, robbery, cheatings, murders for property and personal gains have vanished.

* Sexual harassment and rape by the forest department, the contractors and the police has become a thing of the past. Now the women walk freely in the jungle whether it is day or night.

* Democratic functioning has been introduced at the village level onwards. The Gram Rajya Committees (now called Revolutionary Peoples Committees) function at the head of various committees like Development Committees which look after agriculture, fish farming, education, village development, Medicine Units etc.

* The women and children have their own organizations in almost every village. The tribal peasants have their separate organization, with units in every village.

* Almost every village has units of People’s Militia which take up the responsibility of defense of the village.

* Cultural organizations thrive in these jungles as the tribals have great affinity for cultural activities. These organizations propagate through songs, dances, plays and other art forms, on all the issues whether local, national or international.

* The movement has been able to prevent starvation deaths in its areas.

Salwa Judum – the Privatization of State Violence

Salwa Judum was a terror campaign launched by the government, where the police recruited tribal youth at Rs.1500 per month as Special Police Officers (SPOs). The SPOs were given arms and let loose on the villagers in the movement areas. They burned, killed, raped and forced people to flee their homes, with the help of paramilitary forces and specially trained Naga Battalions standing guard.

Salwa Judum restricted and destroyed trade in these areas by closing down the haat bazaars and trying to demolish their economy to force the tribals into submission. From 2005-07, this went on for two years They destroyed standing and harvested crops, burned or poisoned the grain and other jungle produce kept by the tribals for exchange in the haat bazaars to procure other essentials of life. Even all this could not force the tribals to submit. Rather than surrender, they lived on bamboo seeds.

The bloody campaign of Salwa Judum killed hundreds of tribals, burned hundreds of villages, raped hundreds of women, forcing about 50,000 tribals to live in enclosures called relief camps, set up by the police, which the tribals ultimately fled. This campaign forced about 30,000 people to flee their villages for other provinces. Lakhs of people were forced to leave their homes and to roam in the interiors of the jungles. In fact the government tried to destroy their whole economy and sources of livelihood even threatening to poison open water sources in the forests.

But the resistance continued. It could not be broken.

And Now

Bitter with its failure to make the people yield to them, the government has now embarked upon Operation Green Hunt, a military campaign with nearly one lakh personnel. Under various pretexts, the Indian Air Force is weighing its wings to swoop down on the forests, in spite of promises to the contrary by the Prime Minister.

We have been told that Maoists are the biggest internal threat to the country. Who are these Maoists? They are just the people themselves who have taken to the path of resistance, to struggle against the various Indian governments, who one after the other, do not allow them a life of dignity or one of peace. The state is attacking its own people threatening to wipe them out, if they don’t vacate the lands they have lived on for centuries. And we know about the term collateral damage – the killing of the civilian population in a war. Salwa Judum killed the people without a declared war, now they intend to kill on a much huger scale. They want to break the back of resistance by killing people. They want to hand over the resource rich lands of the tribals to the greedy foreign capitalist lords. They want to destroy the alternate development what the people have created with their enormous toil and persistent struggles.

Let us think. Let us awake. Let us spread the word. Let us awaken the people everywhere else. Let us raise our voice against injustice. Let us tell the government that it must stop this war against its own people and instead listen to them, respect their aspirations and attend to their demands.

This is an unjust war which the government has declared on its own people. It must stop.

Signed (up to November 24th) by:
1. Gursharan Singh, Dramatist-Activist, Punjab
2. Prof. Bawa Singh, Guru Sar Sudhar College, Sudhar, Ludhiana
3. Jaswant Kailvi, Ghazalgo, Writer, Ferozepur
4. Baru Satwarg, Novelist-Activist, Rampuraphul, Bathinda
5. Dr. Baldev Singh, Deptt. of Economics, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, Delhi
6. Jaspal Singh Sidhu, Veteran Journalist (Presently Media Consultant with Punjabi University, Patiala)
7. Samual John, Director Peoples’ Theatre, Lehra Gaga, Sangrur
8. Jatinder Mauhar, Film Director, Mohali
9. Megh Raj Mitter (Shiromani Lekhak), Barnala, Punjab
10. Dr. Mohan Tyagi, Poet, B.N. Khalsa Senior Sec. School, Patiala
11. Master Des Raj Chhajli, Lok Kala Manch Chhajli, Lehra Gaga, Sangrur
12. Jagdish Papra, Writer, Lehra Gaga, Sangrur
13. Narinder Nath Sharma, Advocate, Patiala
14. Dr. Tejwant Mann, Literary Critic, Sangrur
15. Prof, Harbhajan Singh, Writer, USA
16. Yadwinder Kurfew, TV Journalist, Delhi
17. Harbans Heon, Writer, Banga, Nawanshahr
18. Ajmer Sidhu, Writer, Nawanshahr
19. Gurmit Juj, Poet, Singer, Krantikari Sabhayachar Kendar, Punjab
20. Balbir Chohla, Activist-Journalist, Taran Taran
21. Prof. Bhupinder Singh (retd), Sociology, Punjabi University, Patiala
22. Satnam, Writer-Freelance Journalist, Patiala
23. Buta Singh, Publisher, Baba Bujha Singh Prakashan, Banga, Nawanshahr
24. Jasdeep, Software Engineer, Delhi
25. Harpreet Rathore, TV Journalist, Delhi
26. Veer Singh, Research Scholar, JNU
27. Narbhinder, Activist-Writer, Sirsa
28. Karam Barsat, Columnist, Sangrur
29. Sukirat, Journalist-Writer, Jalandhar
30. Makhan Singh Namol, Advocate, Sangrur
31. Davinderpal, TV Journalist, Delhi
32. Partap Virk, TV Journalist, Delhi
33. Dr. Bhim Inder Singh, Lecturer, Punjabi University, Patiala
34. Jasvir Deep, Journalist and Social Activist, Nawanshahr
35. Paramjit Dehal, Poet & Literary Activist, Nawanshehar
36. Prof. Jagmohan Singh, Democratic Rights Activist, Ludhiana
37. Dr. Gurjant Singh, Punjabi University, Patiala.
38. Iqbal Kaur Udaasi, Progressive Singer-Activist, Barnala
39. Balvir Parwana, Editor Sunday Magazine, Nawa Zamana, Jalandhar
40. Jugraj Dhaula, Poet-Singer, Barnala
41. Dr. Ajit Pal, Writer-Activist, Bathinda
42. Rajinder Rahi, Writer, Barnala
43. Bhupinder Waraich, State President, Democratic Teachers’ Front, Punjab
44. Didar Shetra, Poet, Nawanshahr
45. Baldev Balli, Poet, Nawanshahr
46. Jagsir Jeeda, Lyricist-Singer, Giderbaha, Bathinda
47. Hakem Singh Noor, Poet-Activist, Barnala
48. Charanjeet Singh Teja, Freelance Journalist, Amritsar
49. Attarjit, Short Story Writer, Bathinda
50. Rajeev Lohatbaddi, Advocate, Patiala
51. Harvinder Deewana, Chetna Kala Kender, Barnala
52. Balwinder Kotbhara, Writer-Journalist, Bathinda
53. B.R.P. Bhaskar, Journalist, Thiruvananthapuram
54. S.S. Azaad, Writer, Mansa
55. Sadhu Binning, Writer, Vancouver, BC, Canada
56. Hiren Gandhi, Ahmedabad
57. Vijay Bombeli, Feature writer, Hoshiarpur
58. Paramjeet Singh Khatra, Advocate, Nawan Shehar
59. Daljeet Singh, Advocate, Nawan Shehar
60. Baldev Singh, Advocate, District Courts Patiala
61. Paramjit Kahma, Doaba Sahit Ate Sabhiachar Sabha, Jejon (Hoshiarpur)
62. Dr. Ramesh Bali, Nawanshehar, Activist
63. Puneet Sehgal, programme executive, DoorDarshan, Jalandhar
64. Harkesh Chaudhry & Other Artists, Lok Kala Manch, Mandi MulanPur, (Ldh)
65. Prof. Ajmer Singh Aulakh. Dramatist, Mansa
66. Dr. Maninder Kang, Writer, Jalandhar
67. Charanjit Bhullar, Journalist, Bathinda
68. Dr. Anand Teltumbde, Human Rights Activist and wirter, Mumbai
69. Dr. Puneet, Patiala
70. Taskeen, Critic, Kapurthala
71. Chanda Asani, social researcher and activist, Mumbai
72. Sanjay Joshi, convener, THE GROUP, film group of Jan Sanskriti Manch
73. Alok Kaushik, Photographer, Delhi
74. Nisha Biswas, Kolkata
75. Ravinder Goel, Associate Professor, Delhi University
76. Saroop Dhruv, Poet, Ahmedabad
77. Shamsul Islam & Neelima Sharma (Nishant Natya Manch), Delhi
78. Manu Kant, Journalist, Online Media, Chandigarh
79. Dr. Pyare Mohan Sharma, Retd. Professor, Medical College, Patiala
80. N K Jeet, Advocate, Bathinda
81. Mejar Singh, Senior Journalist, Jalandhar
82. Ram Sarup Ankhi, Punjabi Novelist, Barnala
83. Manmohan Bawa, Sharomani Punjabi writer, New Delhi
84. Dr. Krantipal, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh
85. Balwinder Singh Barnala, Tarksheel Society Punjab, Barnala
86. Jasvir Singh Rana, Punjabi Writer, Amargarh (Distt. Sangrur)
87. Neel Kamal, Journalist, Barnala
88. Narain Dutt, President, Inqulabi Kender Punjab, Barnala

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Curfew in Ludhiana after migrant workers’ protest

Ludhiana which is considered to be the richest district of Punjab and a major industrial centre saw a curfew imposed on Friday (December 4) after militant protests by migrant labourers, and the subsequent police-instigated violence against them by a section of the local youth. The labourers were protesting against “inaction by the police in acting against gangs of motorcycle riders who rob them of their earnings during the first week of every month”.

Protests began Thursday night after police shooed away the workers when they went to “report another incident of looting”. They blocked Delhi-Ludhiana-Jalandhar highway. Violence began after daybreak when the callous police administration refused to act. In fact, as Indian Express reports further:

“Desperate to contain the rioting, police encouraged youth in Dhandari Kalan to combat the migrant protesters,most of whom live in Dhandhari Khurd village. As a result, what began as a clash between migrant labourers and police, quickly turned into a clash between Punjabi’s and migrants. Police claimed the locals came out on their own after protesters torched their vehicles but they did nothing to stop them. Instead the cops were seen encouraging the attackers, armed with swords, gandasas and baseball bats,and used them as shields to launch baton charges against the protesters.”

Subsequently, curfew was imposed in five worst affected parts of the city. In other areas too police flag marched “to discourage other migrant communities from joining the protests”. Further, the State administration has already requested “the Union Home Ministry…to send two battalions of paramilitary forces for deployment in Ludhiana.” Hence, the so-called “War on People” is not just limited to jungles and only for securing natural resources, but also to discipline “human resources”; after all, all these are needed to secure a 9% growth rate.

Farmers’ organisations under attack in Punjab

NK Jeet,
President, Lok Morcha Punjab

The peasants’ organizations in Punjab have been in the forefront in the struggle against the anti-people new economic policies of globalization, liberalization and privatization. They have fought for remunerative prices for agricultural produce, its procurement by state agencies, writing off farm loans, and against arrests of farmers due to non-payment of farm loans advanced by Cooperative Societies, attachments and sales of their lands at the instances of Commission Agents and money lenders etc. They have also led glorious struggles against setting up of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the state, forcible acquisition of agricultural land for setting up giant industrial complexes, power projects, multi-lane roads etc. and against unbundling and ultimate privatization of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB). Faced with stiff resistance from the farmers’ organization, the Punjab Government was forced to abandon or curtail many projects. Irritated at this, the Akali-BJP Government in Punjab launched a massive offensive against the organizations of the farmers. A large number of leaders and activists of these organizations were implicated in false criminal cases. On September 8 2009, when Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta (Ugrahan) held a massive demonstration at Chandigarh to oppose unbundling of the State Electricity Board, 4 FIRs were registered against all of its State Office-bearers. The leaders of Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union and Lok Morcha Punjab were also implicated in these cases. Hundreds of farmers were injured in the brutal lathicharge by the police. Their vehicles were badly damaged. As a result of the police brutalities, four persons lost their lives. The sacrifices of these farmers did not go in vain. Akali-BJP Govt was forced to postpone the unbundling/ corporatisation of the PSEB, till mid-December.

Now as the day of reckoning is reaching near, and the farmers’ organizations have started mobilizing the people against the privatization of the PSEB, the Akali-BJP Govt has launched another attack. On November 17 2009, President of BKU (Krantikari), Sh Surjit Singh Phul was arrested from the court premises when he had gone there to attend a hearing. The police would have kept him in illegal confinement and subjected to torture, but the democratic-minded advocates and farmer activists approached the Sub Divisional Judicial Magistrate (SDJM) and apprised him of the illegal act of the police. The SDJM immediately called the SHO of the concerned police station. Fearing exposure, the police registered a case under Section 10, 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against Mr. Surjit Singh, branded him a member of the CPI (Maoist), planning to illegally overthrow the Government through armed struggle. He was immediately arrested in this case. Next day the police obtained his custody for 8 days by producing him before the Magistrate at his residence after court hours, and he was immediately sent to the infamous Joint Investigation Centre, Amritsar, which is Punjab’s Guantanamo.

On November 26 2009, Mr. Surjit Singh was to be produced before the SDJM Phul for further remand. The police with a view to hoodwink his lawyers, made elaborate security arrangements at Phul Courts. Riot-police commandoes in full battle gear were deployed not only in and around the court-premises, but also on all entrances of the town, and at important road-junctions leading to this town throughout the district. But it was merely a drama. In fact the police filed an application before the District and Sessions Judge Bathinda, expressing false and baseless apprehensions that people at Phul might take away Mr. Surjit Singh forcibly from the police, and obtained permission to produce him before the CJM at Bathinda. The real intention was to deprive Mr. Surjit Singh of any legal aid and exposure of the third degree methods adopted by the police. The police succeeded in obtaining his remand in its custody for another 8 days till December 3 2009.

As soon as this information reached his lawyers, who were camping at Phul Town, they immediately moved the court to obtain permission to meet Surjit Singh in police custody and for his interrogation only in the presence of his lawyers. The court allowed the lawyers to meet him on November 26 and 27, and informed the police about this order. But the police did not care about the Court’s order and sent him to Joint Interrogation Centre, Amritsar again without informing the Court. When the lawyers tried to contact the Investigating Officer to fix the venue of the meeting, he switched off his mobile phone.

On November 27, the lawyers filed another application before the CJM Bathinda, seeking initiation of contempt of court proceedings against the police officials, and fixing new time and date for meeting with Surjit Singh. Acting on this application, the court granted permission to the lawyers, to meet Mr Surjit Singh during his detention at Joint Interrogation Centre Amritsar, everyday from 5 to 6 PM from November 30 onwards.

Although the game-plan of the police has been foiled for the present, but its attack can be repulsed only by mobilizing masses against these anti-people, undemocratic, and repressive measures.