A Mammoth Rally Of Determination
From India News Network (INN)
Kolkata: August 31, 2009
It was a rally of determination – a determination to counter the forces of anarchy and violence running riot in the state of West Bengal targeting the Left Front. As hundreds of thousands of people marched into the heart of Kolkata, the central business district of Esplanade to participate in a Left Front organised mass rally commemorating the 50th anniversary of the martyrs of food movement, one could sense this resolve among the rallyists. It was writ large on their faces.
In the backdrop of Shaheed Minar chowk, these rallyists were not only paying homage to the 80 martyrs who fell at this very place to the brutal lathis of the then Congress government led by B C Roy on this day in 1959, they were also remembering the 276 comrades who were killed by reactionary forces ranging from the ultra left ‘Maoist’ goons to Trinamuli lumpens to ultra right BJP goons during the period since the seventh Left Front government assumed office in 2006. A two minute silence was observed by the masses in memory of the martyrs.
Family members of these martyrs – some of who were young widows, brothers, mothers, fathers and a few young kids – were prominently seated on both sides of the dais on specially erected platforms. There were also a few among them who were part of that rally in 1959 and who surivived that brutal repression. The dais itself was erected in such a manner that it could be seen, at least partially, from all the six roads leading into and passing the Dorina crossing near Esplanade. This very place was soaked in blood of the 80 martyrs who were part of the 3 lakh strong rally against skyrocketing prices of essential foodgrains on August 31, 1959. The family members of martyrs were honoured by the Left Front chairman Biman Basu at the start of the proceedings. Both the chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Biman Basu interacted with the family members before the start of the public meeting in a gesture that touched the rallyists.
And as for the strength of the gathering, one could see the crowds as far as vision permitted, jampacked on all the six roads around the venue. Even after one hour into the public meeting, streams of rallies from Kolkata and North 24 Paraganas districts were still pouring in and there was no space. We watched senior leaders and former MPs leading their contingents from the districts in huge processions. With this rally being the first organised by the Left Front after the Lok Sabha elections, and coming in the wake of murderous assaults on CPI(M) workers/sympathisers, it provided an opportunity to the cadre and supporters of the Left to assert their resistance to the politics of anarchy and terror.
CPI(M) veteran leader Jyoti Basu, who was the leader of opposition during the 1959 events, in a written speech that was read out by Biman Basu, recalled the ‘historic mass movement’ and said that despite the killings and atrocities of the then Congress government “we did not surrender”. Today also the common people were facing hardships due to skyrocketing prices of essential commodities due to centre’s policies. He accused the opposition parties in West Bengal and ‘Maoists’ of stalling development through anarchy and terror. He called upon Left Front workers to pledge to fight this anarchy and terror and expressed confidence that “people would not bow down to anarchy and would realise who was their friend and who their foe”. Referring to the recent Lok Sabha election results, Basu said “Many people have voted against us. We have to correct our mistakes. We have to bring them back to our fold. We have also to regain their confidence. The people are our hope in difficult times”. Accusing the Trinamul Congress, Congress and ‘Maoists’ of killing CPI(M) workers, setting their houses and Party offices on fire, Basu said “We have to counter it by mobilising the people. We should not lose confidence on the people”.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in his speech said that even after 62 years after the British left, our country has not got freedom from hunger. He blamed successive Congress governments for the agrarian crisis and consequently the food crisis. Despite tall talk of ‘green revolution’, the people do not get square meal a day. The present Congress government at the centre has admitted that 30 crore people in the country go to bed hungry. Even while the food production is declining alarmingly, huge speculation is taking place in forward trading which is resulting in the skyrocketing of prices of essential commodities.. The chief minister attacked the central government for not heeding the Left parties consistent demand to ban this forward trading. He asserted that the Left Front government in Bengal would take all possible steps within its ambit to provide relief to the people from this price rise. He announced that apart from providing rice at Rs 2 per kg, edible oil and sugar would also be supplied through Public Distribution Scheme not only for BPL cardholders but for the entire people, including middle classes in the coming months of festive season. He said it is a difficult task but the Left Front government would undertake it.
Charging the Trinamul and ‘Maoists’ of trying to create a ‘fascist environment’ in the state with their politics of terror, murder and intimidation, Buddhadeb asserted that this situation would not be allowed to continue. He said these forces were using the typical fascistic method of trying to create confusion among the poor and middle classes and called upon the poor not to be confused and give in to these fascistic forces. He also appealed to the youth to decide on which side they were – whether on the side of anarchy or the side of progress represented by the Left Front. He called upon the LF workers to take a pledge to move forward with vigour after this mammoth rally.
CPI(M) state secretary and LF chairman Biman Basu in his speech blamed the neo-liberal policies of the central government for the present agrarian and food crises. These policies being pushed by the imperialists needed to be countered through a simultaneous fight against imperialists. He criticised the media for indulging in Goebbelesian propaganda against the Left Front in order to break the unity of the working people. He called upon the cadre to be alert to such nefarious designs. He also called for greater unity among the Left Front in order to take on these challenges.
Leaders of various Left Front constituents also spoke on this occasion. A large contingent of leading intellectuals and artists were present in the meeting.