MAHARASHTRA: WE SHALL FIGHT, WE SHALL WIN
RED FLAG VOWS TO RESIST ATTACKS ON TRIBAL RIGHTS
Thousands of Adivasi men and women started pouring into Azad Maidan in Mumbai from the night of May 18. By next day May 19, 2015, more than 25,000 people had gathered for the first-ever statewide Adivasi rally jointly organised by the Maharashtra state committees of the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch (AARM) and Communist Party of India (Marxist). The chief guests at the rally were newly-elected CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, MP, newly-elected CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and AIKS general secretary Hannan Mollah, ex-MP, and CPI(M) Lok Sabha MP and former Tripura state minister Jitendra Choudhary.
The tribals came from far off mountains, valleys and jungles at the call of the Red flag. Braving the searing heat, they came in trains, trucks, tempos and jeeps. The major chunk was from the districts of Nashik (around 15,000) and Thane-Palghar (around 11,000). These districts have been the traditional bastions of the CPI(M)-led tribal movement for several decades. Pune, Ahmednagar, Yavatmal, Nandurbar, Nanded, Buldana, Amravati and Satara districts also sent enthusiastic tribal contingents. The lion’s share of the mobilisation for this rally came from the AIKS, while the DYFI, AIDWA and AIAWU also put in good efforts.
INCREASING TRIBAL HARDSHIPS
The last one year has seen increased hardships for the Adivasis. The Modi-led BJP government not only fooled the poor by making false promises of ‘Achhe Din’ but is now snatching away their livelihood too. There is anger in the tribal population. Since the Modi regime was installed at the Centre with the tremendous financial backing of the corporate sector, the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) has been totally stopped. The forest department has started harassment of the Adivasis tilling forest plots and of women going to the forests for collecting firewood.
Work under the MGNREGA has almost disappeared. Due to non-availability of work in the villages, seasonal migration has massively increased. Many Adivasi villages have a deserted look. Adivasi families live in the most pathetic conditions and engage in sand dregging or brick making for several months before the rains. The public distribution system and the implementation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) is in shambles. Foodgrain supply is reduced to just 2-10 kg per family per month.
The land mafia and contractors have descended on the tribal areas like vultures. They come in tribal areas to buy land, sarcastically laugh and tell the Adivasis, “Now we have our government in power, how long will you fight us? We will throw you out from here and take over all this land”. Activists of the AARM and CPI(M) have taken numerous meetings in villages and hamlets, encouraging Adivasis to unitedly resist these land sharks. Hundreds of women also gather at the call of the Red flag to drive away these vultures.
It is in this background that thousands of Adivasis dressed in tribal attire assembled for this rally and sat in the scorching heat of the blazing sun with determination on their faces to teach this government a lesson. They had brought along their traditional musical instruments like the ‘tarpa’ and ‘dhol’ and danced to their tunes. The cultural squad of the Jaagar Lok Kala Aghadi and activists of the SFI sang revolutionary songs before the meeting began.
Activists and leaders of the CPI(M) Mumbai district committee put in a lot of effort to make arrangements for the rally. The Azad Maidan area was decorated with red flags. The backdrop of the dais had photos of Karl Marx, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Godavari Parulekar, Narendra Malusare and Shaheed Birsa Munda.
The main demands of the rally were - Do not change the present reservations for tribals and do not include any non-tribals in the tribals list; Fill the backlog in the jobs reserved for the ST/SC community; Start new industries and MIDCs in the tribal areas to generate employment for the youth; Ensure quick and strict implementation of the Forest Rights Act and vest the forest plots in the name of the tillers; Withdraw the anti-farmer Land Acquisition Ordinance/Bill; Cancel the 3 May 2010 MOU on the river linkage project between Maharashtra and Gujarat; Block the water of the rivers flowing westwards into the Arabian sea and supply it to the drought-affected areas of Maharashtra; Implement schemes for irrigation in the tribal areas and provide water for agriculture and drinking purposes; Give remunerative price for agricultural produce, ensuring 50 percent profit in addition to the cost of production; Start work under the MGNREGA with daily wage of Rs 300; Stop anti-people changes in the Food Security Act and give all poor including tribals 35 kg foodgrains at Rs 2 per kg: Ensure effective implementation of the PESA Act etc.
SPEECHES OF LEADERS
Congratulating the people for participating in such large numbers in this rally, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said that the FRA was passed after 60 years of struggle and sacrifice. But it has been properly implemented only in Tripura which has a Left government in power. Out of the 3 lakh pending FRA applications in Maharashtra, only 1 lakh have been looked into by the state government. The tribals tilling forest plots have got much less land than what is actually in their possession. Now the BJP central government is trying to weaken the FRA to benefit the Ambanis, Adanis and foreign capital. This government is dead against the peasants, workers, Adivasis, Dalits, minorities and the poor. It made a lot of false promises during the elections. Where is the black money that Modi promised to bring back? None of the promises of ‘Achhe Din’ have been kept!
Agriculture is in bad shape. Crops on 18 crore hectares of land have been destroyed either due to drought or unseasonal rains or hailstorms. Thousands of peasants are committing suicide due to the increasing burden of debt. Petrol and diesel prices have been raised twice in the past two weeks. Prices of all essential commodities have increased. Budget allocations for all social security schemes and the Tribal Sub Plan have been reduced. The attempts of the government to include non-tribals in the tribal list will have to be strongly opposed.
Now the new anti-farmer Land Acquisition Bill is sought to be passed. The government has already forcibly acquired thousands of acres of land on the pretext of starting industries and generating employment. But this has not happened. Actually more than half of the acquired land is still lying unused. Earlier agriculture used to be carried out on this land. That has stopped now. Now this very land is being sold to the real estate lobby. So this law is being brought to enrich those corporate who have given the BJP massive funds during the elections.
Attacks on Christians and churches have increased. Communal clashes against Muslims are being engineered. Issues like ‘love jehad’ and ‘ghar vapasi’ are raised to polarise the people along religious lines and this is being encouraged by the RSS-VHP-BJP. We will have to unite the people against these nefarious communal designs of the anti-people government. Yechury called upon the people to mobilise all the exploited sections around both economic and social issues and to launch mlitant struggles to protect the rights of the Adivasis.
CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and AIKS general secretary Hannan Mollah greeted the rally on behalf of the AIKS. He said that the Modi government was enemy no. 1 of the peasantry. The cost of production has increased manifold and the MSP given to farmers is not enough even to recover the costs. Over 3,19,000 farmers have committed suicide in our country. The Kisan Sabha is mobilising thousands of peasants all over India against this pro-capitalist government. 5 crore signatures are being collected against the Land Acquisition Bill. Modi and the Sangh Parivar are creating divisions among the people along communal lines. We have to unitedly resist this divisive politics. The Kisan Sabha message to farmers is – ‘Do not commit suicide, Join the struggle and Fight for your rights’.
CPI(M) MP from Tripura Jitendra Choudhary condemned the exploitation of the poor and especially the Adivasis by the Modi government. The Land Acquisition Bill is going to cause devastation in the tribal areas. 75 percent of the 45,635 hectares of land that was acquired from Adivasis has not yet been used. Only 18,000 hectares have been utilised for industrialisation so far. Yet this new Bill has been brought to further snatch away the land in our possession. Modi’s Land Acquisition Bill has removed the requirement of consent of 80 percent of the peasants whose land will be acquired. The role of the Social Impact Assessment committee has also been scrapped. Now the Mines and Minerals Act has been brought to help corporates like Adani. Adivasis live in around 200 districts in the country. Minerals are to be found in these districts. Both these acts have been made to help the monopoly capitalists. The budget allocation for MGNREGA has been cut and Tripura has been sanctioned less than 50 percent of the requirement. But the Left Front Government of Tripura is committed to protect the land rights of the poor and tribals. Adivasis and Dalits together constitute 25 percent of the population in the country. So the SC/ST sub-plans should be allocated 25 percent of the budget. But this is not done. We will have to concertedly mobilise the exploited sections under the Red flag to protect our rights.
The rally was addressed by CPI(M) central committee member and AIDWA vice-president Sudha Sundarraman, CPI(M) central committee members Dr Ashok Dhawale, Narasayya Adam and Mahendra Singh, CPI(M) state secretariat member and AARM state president J P Gavit MLA, CPI(M) state secretariat members Mariam Dhawale, Kisan Gujar and Nathu Salve, state committee members Ratan Budhar, Hemant Waghere, Lahani Dauda, Dr Ajit Nawale, Shankarrao Danav, Shankar Sidam, Adv Natha Shingade and Prof Ashok Bagul. CPI(M) state secretariat member and AARM state convenor Barkya Mangat presided over this rally. Savliram Pawar made the introductory remarks and Shailendra Kamble placed the vote of thanks. Veteran leader L B Dhangar and other senior leaders were on the dais.
CPI(M) State Secretary Narasayya Adam gave a draft of one lakh rupees collected for the earthquake affected people of Nepal to Sitaram Yechury.
Preparations for this rally by the AARM, the CPI(M) and the mass organisations was going on for more than a month. 10,000 posters and more than one lakh leaflets were printed for the campaign and numerous village and hamlet meetings were held to mobilise the Adivasis.
A jam-packed press conference addressed by Sitaram Yechury was held, since it was the first time that he was visiting Mumbai after being elected general secretary. This tribal rally and the press conference received excellent media coverage. Special attention was paid to publicity. A workshop of SFI and DYFI comrades was held at the Comrade B T Ranadive Bhawan in New Mumbai two days before the rally to organise and coordinate the publicity in the mainstream media and the social media. Over 1,000 copies of the 21st Party Congress special issue of the Party’s state committee weekly ‘Jeevan Marg’ were sold in the rally.
Maharashtra: Huge Tribal Rally
MAHARASHTRA: WE SHALL FIGHT, WE SHALL WIN