Revolutionary greetings to all my comrades who are gathered here at this Telangana Samajika Sankshema Samara Sammelanam that marks the culmination of the Mahajana Padayatra. Special greetings to the CPI(M) Telangana State Committee and the secretary Com. Tammineni Veerabhadram, for successfully taking up this challenging task.
I understand that ever since it was launched at Ibrahimpatnam by Dr. B R Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar, over a hundred and fifty days back, the Padayatra has covered more than 4000 kilometers, eliciting the views of the common people of Telangana on a wide range of issues relating to their lives. In these days when helicopter tours, car and bike rallies are more fashionable, the Mahajana Padayatra is a telling example of how the CPI(M) is committed to the people on the ground, their hopes and aspirations.
The fact that the people were asked to obstruct the Mahajana Padayatra is enough proof to understand that we are on the right path. Rather than making such undemocratic calls to obstruct people’s movements, a plan for alternative development of the State should be launched, or the proposal made by the CPI(M) Telangana State Committee should be taken up. I salute the brave people of Telangana for receiving the Mahajana Padayatra with warmth and wide open arms. The unprecedented response we have got is evident in the fact that attempts to obstruct this Convention on flimsy political grounds has also been thwarted by the progressive people of this State. I need not go in to the details of the BJP MLA’s nefarious statements. I am sure that this convention will stay true to the objectives of the Mahajana Padayatra and provide a platform for alternative politics in the State, to discuss an alternative plan of action for social justice and all-round development and solution for the problems faced by the people of Telangana.
The opinions collected from the people during the Yatra has made it clear that the slogan, ‘our share is as much as we are’, which was raised by the Padayatra is the true solution to the problems ailing the State. Several promises were made to the underprivileged sections of this state and none of them have been kept. Sub-plans to devolve funds for the deprived sections is the only way for development of the State of Telangana, as these sections including SC, ST, BC, MBC, and minorities constitute 93 per cent of the State’s population. They are far from the mainstream of the so called development, as proven by their health and education parameters which remain far below the national average. Let me reiterate that social justice can be achieved only through economic, social, cultural and political equality. A radical change in the government’s policies is required to achieve this, as envisaged in the alternative manifesto released by the CPI(M).
I would like to recall the heroic struggle of the peasants of Telangana in the late forties which made the issue of land reforms an agenda in the country. It is with the spirit of that struggle, that powerful movements of the people should be conducted for building a new India. We should not forget that Telangana came into existence, riding on the movements that challenged the socio, political and economic exclusion of this region while it was part of undivided Andhra Pradesh. Naturally the slogans that rallied the public and aroused their sentiments focused on this exclusion, the exclusion of regions and classes from getting benefited from economic development. This enthused the public to plunge into historic protest actions on a sustained basis. Even the formation of a separate state of Telangana did not help in achieving the objectives of social justice. Only certain political leaders who amassed wealth disproportionate to their sources of income, were the beneficiaries. That is why the CPI(M) in Telangana embarked on this historical Padayatra. It was revealed in the Padayatra that those who the people of Telangana thought would fight for their justice are only interested in themselves. They are implementing the same policies of globalisation and liberalisation, which have widened the developmental gap between various sections of people as well as regions, across the country. Instead of pursuing alternative policies, they are branding those who ask for inclusive development policies and put forth alternative development agenda, like the CPI(M), as anti-Telangana.
While all sections of the people of Telangana are struggling for justice under the present regime, they are doubly denied justice, due to the anti people policies of the Central Government. Time and again, we have seen the anti-people and pro-corporate policies of the BJP government. Demonetisation was a thoroughly thoughtless act. South Indian states are facing the severest drought that they have experienced in the last 115 years. The drought may be described as a natural disaster. But the disaster induced by demonetisation is completely man made. More than 100 people lost their lives in the country while waiting for withdrawing money from the banks. Though the Union Government had claimed that by demonetization, black money can be arrested, funding for terrorists can be stopped, fake currency can be seized and corruption and scams can be put to an end, nothing in that direction has been achieved so far. In fact, the recent biggest catch of fake currency was from Gujarat. It was said that everything will be alright in 50 days. Not just 50 days, 5 months have passed and the economy is still in a limp. Even with falsified numbers, the Central Government could not show an increased growth rate.
While the Central Government is keen to protect the interest of their crorepati corporate friends, they have no regard for the interests of the ordinary citizens of this country. There was a long standing demand for ensuring that 100 days of work is provided through the MGNREGA, which gives employment to a vast majority of the people in rural India. Scuttling down of funds for MGNREGA has become a hallmark of the Central Government. The UPA-led government explicitly killed this scheme by reducing budgetary allocation in a cynical way, which also let to huge arrears in wage payments to workers. Now, the present NDA government has gone a step ahead and is on way to openly extinguish the scheme. By restricting the scheme to only the most backward districts, the universal right for all households to livelihood is getting infringed.
The Central Government has time and again violated the federal principles enshrined in our constitution. We have seen such blatant violations while imposing President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Earlier this week, we saw their utter disregard for democratic rights when Governors’ of Goa and Manipur were made puppets in the hands of the Central Government to call the BJP to form the Government in both those states. The people’s mandate was clearly not in their favour, and yet this manipulation was done. The Central Government has a hostile attitude towards states that are not ruled by the BJP. We have seen it manifest in different forms over the last three years. South India has given the stiffest resistance to the Sangh and now they are using all their might to disrupt our peaceful lives.
Minorities in particular have been at the receiving end of saffron terror over the last few years. We have seen the Sangh orchestrated riots in Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Assam and Saharanpur in the recent past. In the Ajmer blast case, members of the RSS have even been convicted. Yet, the saffron brigade is allowed to go scot-free. They are free to roam into our kitchens and beat us up and kill us because of the food we eat. The perpetrators of such violence are then draped in the ‘Tricolour’. Even cattle traders are not spared, despite their profession being legally allowed. The incident from Jharkhand is fresh in our minds, I need not go into the details. It was only recently that the cold blooded murder of 8 Muslim under-trials in Bhopal shook this nation to the core of its heart.
Now, we even have Yogi Adityanath, who has charges against him for inciting communal tensions being made the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Yogi Adityanath has always been the symbol of communal violence, riots, intolerance and hatred. The politics that he championed was meant for doing away with whatever communal harmony that was left in Indian politics. It was he who had spearheaded a series of communal riots in 2007. One cannot forget the fact that he had gone to the extreme of comparing Shah Rukh Khan with Hafiz Muhammed, who was the kingpin of a Pak terrorist group. He had also tarnished a number of socio cultural leaders ranging from Amir Khan to Mother Teresa. Yogi Adityanath also asked those who were reluctant to practice ‘Surya Namaskar’ to leave the country for Pakistan. Even at a time when Ayodhya was relegated to the background of Indian politics, it was he who had triggered off a venomous communal campaign to bring it back to the top of the BJP agenda. Being a leader of Brahmanical Hinduism, he has all through maintained some sort of a contempt towards the politics that has highlighted dalits, backwards and minorities. By making a person of such criminal background the Chief Minister of our largest state, the message BJP sends to the nation is that they will continue to try to capture power by resorting to communal riots. Only a party which has sheer contempt towards secularism and democracy can elevate such a person to the office of Chief Minister. On the one hand, we have so often seen the calls by the right wing to instil nationalism among the minorities, as if they are not Indian citizens. On the other hand, BJP and RSS members have been caught spying for the ISI in India. The Sangh is the epitome of hypocrisy.
If minorities are the victims on one side, on the other side the victims of the Sangh hooliganism has been the dalits. Even children were not spared, as we saw in Haryana. Yet, a BJP central minister had the audacity to equate them to dogs. Self styled ‘Gau Rakshaks’ went to the extent of publicly flogging four young dalits for allegedly skinning a dead cow in Gujarat. Imagine what our country has come to. With the growing Sangh influence, life for dalits have become so miserable that even educated young dalits are driven to a spot where they do not have any option but to commit suicide, unable to fight the injustices meted out to them. We have seen it in this very city, with Rohith Vemula. Yet, the man who pushed him to suicide was honoured by the Central Government. We saw it recently in Delhi also, in the case of Muthu Krishnan of JNU. Allocation for Dalits scholarships have been cut down by the Central Government. Even funds for institutions studying discrimination and exclusion is being withdrawn, forcing them to close down. Our leaders wax eloquent about skill development. How do they think skills can be developed without financially supporting those who are trying to acquire them?
The attack on educational institutions in our country is not just limited to reducing the funds made available to them. The larger issue is the planned effort at saffronisation of our educational institutions and texts. We know what has happened with text books in Gujarat. Active members of various organisations with declared commitment to the RSS vision are being placed in institutions of importance, without any reference to academic or professional credibility. The saffronisation of the ICHR even led to the resignation of its Member Secretary. We have seen students’ struggles against the right wing attacks on our educational institutions in Pune, Hyderabad, Delhi, Puducherry, Himachal Pradesh, Jadavpur, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Allahabad and so on. I salute the students who have bravely fought the Sangh, against cooked up charges of sedition. At the same time, I would remind the students that their movements need to have organic links with the farmers and workers movements around them for a true resistance that is worth its weight, to be built. We should make conscious efforts to create such lasting resistances.
Women are possibly the worst affected by the saffronisation of our society as a whole. When it comes to their political, social, and economic rights, women become invisible to the Hindu fundamentalist ideology, which the Sangh Parivar and the BJP uphold. The Khap Pancayaths which take the law into their own hands and carry out legal dispensation on gender and caste based lines, as per the dictates of Manusmrithi and such other obscure social laws do immense harm to the liberation of women. It was in the wake of rising honour killings and rapes, that the Nirbhaya Fund was set up. It was supposed to take care of women who faced violence but sufficient funds have not been allocated. The government has time and again revealed through its actions that it is not serious about such measures for women’s safety and security. More than enough proof for it lies in the fact that it takes the implementation of Justice Verma Committee recommendations and the observations made by the Supreme Court in the Vishakha Case too lightly. The growth of right-wing fringe groups, the Ram Sena, Bajrang Dal etc. as the self styled protectors of Indian culture is posing further threats to the choice, freedom and security of women.
A conscious attack is being made on efforts to uphold scientific temper and rationalism. It is not surprising that public conscience goes on such tangents, when the highest offices of the country itself are peddling myths as facts, like the existence of aeroplanes, stem cell research and plastic surgery in the vedic period. The killings of Narendra Dhabolkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi are blots on the conscience of this nation. It is the price we have to pay for upholding principles of scientific temper and rationalism. The Left will gladly pay this price to ensure that our society remains sane, on the basis of logic and rationale. Even freedom of speech is under threat. I was stopped from attending a program in Bhopal and threats were issued against me in Mangalore. Yesterday, even our General Secretary’s programme was cancelled by the Nagpur University, following the dictates of the Sangh. We have come to such times that even national leaders of political parties are not free to move about and do their politics. This also means that we are on the right path, when the Sangh sees us as their primary opponents.
While they say they are nationalists, the BJP keeps the gates of our industries open to multi national corporates. They are keen to sell off our public sector companies to private entities. Even the railways, our biggest national asset is under the threat of privatisation. They are giving up our land, water and natural resources to big corporates, when it should be the collective wealth of our country. They have ruined our public distribution system, and soon ration shops will become history. Even mid day meals for our school children is being meddled with by the BJP. They have done away with price ceilings on medicines making health care unaffordable to the vast majority of Indians. They even plan our country’s defences to the tune of the imperial forces. One should not expect anything better from them, as they belong to the RSS, who disowned our freedom struggle, wrote apologies to the British and killed Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation.
Before I conclude, I think it is imperative to burst the myth that the BJP and the Sangh Parivar are undefeatable. In the wake of the current assembly election results, many are expressing the opinion that they cannot be defeated. However, I do not think that it is true. I mentioned earlier how in Goa and Manipur, the BJP used undemocratic means to form the Government, despite clearly being the losers. In Punjab, they came fourth, winning only 3 seats. Let us take the example of UP. In 2014, the BJP had won 42.3 percent of the votes. However, in this election they have won only 39.7 percent of the votes. Those who are saying that the BJP has won a stellar victory are conveniently overlooking the fact that more than 60 percent of the people in UP have voted against the BJP.
In UP, the BJP won by spreading communal hatred, through heavy injection of money and the concentration of the entire machinery of the Central Government in the state. Let us also not forget that against the right wing, the opposition was not united in UP. We should not be led to believe that this victory is here to stay. Take the case of Bihar for example. Though the BJP won hands down in 2014, the very next year they were routed in Bihar as the opposition stood together against communalism and fascism. Even in the entire country, in 2014, the BJP got only 31 percent of the votes. It means that close to 70 percent of the entire voters of the country do not agree to the politics of the BJP. Therefore, it is more than clear that in the fight against communalism, the people of India will win, provided they stay together.
Who can we count on to fight communalism? In Goa, out of the 40 seats, Congress won 17 and BJP had only 13. In Manipur, Congress won 28 of the total 60 seats, when BJP got only 21. Despite coming first in both these states, the Congress did not even stake claim to form the Government. It means they were clearly helping the BJP. There are several examples of Congress leaders joining the BJP in recent times. S M Krishna in Karnataka, Rita Bahuguna Joshi in UP, Krishna Thirath in Delhi and Rao Inderjit Singh in Haryana are only a few to mention. Even historically there are plenty of instances where the Congress has been soft to communalism. Thus, they have lost their identity and those who once used to call themselves the guardians of secularism, are not even a force to reckon with now. The Congress has ceased to exist as a political party. PR companies take political decisions for them. We have seen its results in the last few elections. Therefore, we have to be vigilant against such forces that pander to the right wing.
History has shown us that any political party that goes soft on the right wing will be devoured by the right wing itself. The Congress dug their own grave and is now no more a credible ally against communalism. Therefore, it is clear that the time has come, for all democratic and progressive forces to come together, to let go of old and spent political forces and to forge people's alliances to defeat communalism and neo-liberalism; which are the bedrock of all injustice, inequality and misery that exists in our society today.
The Red Flag has a distinct significance in the politics of the country and it has been in the forefront of the fight for social justice, democracy and secularism, none of which can be achieved by forgoing each other. It has a history of sacrifice. With the cooperation of the people the CPI(M) would put forth a people’s alternative programme for development, like we are doing in the state of Kerala, within the purview of the Constitution. We realise that a solid commitment to the people’s interests alone can make a government relevant to those it govern. It is precisely why we have developed a two-pronged strategy that will guide us. On the one hand, we will vigorously champion long-term projects to achieve comprehensive development of the State and on the other, we will relentlessly proceed with short-term relief measures to provide succour for our disadvantaged sections in their distress. To ensure that the aspirations of those who have not received the benefits of development are catered to, we are implementing four missions to build a ‘Nava Kerala’.
Haritha Keralam Mission will manage our waste, reclaim our wetlands and cultivable lands and ensure agricultural self sufficiency. LIFE Mission will provide housing to all the homeless in the state and give them means of livelihood as well. Ardram Mission will make our hospitals people friendly and make health care affordable to all. We are also administering a Mission to Protect our Public Education, so that while our public schools develop to international standards, our students will acquire the same set of skills and knowledge that can make them at par with any student of their age, across the world.
The time has come for us to forge larger unity, larger alliances, as comrades, with students, youth, women, labourers, farmers, workers, dalits, tribals and minorities, to resist and overcome the onslaught of the neo-liberal forces who are in collusion with the right wing communal forces in our country. The point that we should bear in mind is that the liberation of each of those sections, is essential to the liberation of our society as a whole.
Once again, I salute you all. Thank you.