Hail the assertion by Landless Dalits of Punjab and Gujarat of their right to Land! Land to the tiller-Key to Annihilating Caste!

Come, Strengthen the Forces of New Democratic Revolution.

Friends,

Dalits in Punjab and in Gujarat have unleashed a torrent of movements demanding their share of agricultural land. In Punjab, the share of the Dalits in the 1,58,000 acres of Panchayat land is 52,667 acres. There are also legal entitlements for them in the Nazool Lands. However, the actual possession of these lands has remained with the landlords and rich peasants. As per the agricultural census 2010-11, the SCs in Punjab, who are a third of its population, owned just 6.02% of the land holdings and 3.2%of the land area of the state. Of these operational holdings also a large proportion (nearly 85%) are said to be unviable due to the small size of less than 5 hectares. Since 2014, the Dalit peasantry organized under the banner of ZPSC (Zameen Prapti Sangharsh Samiti) and holding its red flag with the blazing sun firmly aloft, has begun to assert their claim over what is rightfully theirs. These lands used to be auctioned to dummy candidates of landlords; a gaushala in Sangrur district has been given land for 30years at the rate of Rs 7000 an acre by the Akali-BJP Govt. of the state where as the price for Dalits is over Rs 20,000an acre. This spreading struggle in districts of South Punjab has been met with  police and landlord repression , false FIRs against ‘unknowns’ but the struggle rages on like a spreading  blaze.

In August 2016, another struggle has been ignited by caste oppression, this time in Modi’s Gujarat where Dalits are 7% of the population. In the backdrop of this agitation is the growing and systematic campaign of violence against Dalits and Muslims all over India by the communal upper caste, patriarchal chauvinist RSS BJP with their contempt for the Dalits. The latest campaign has been to launch cow-vigilante groups in various parts of the country and attack Muslims and Dalits under this pretext. These extortionist groups are hand in glove with the police and have the blessings of the Central Govt. Following the beating up of four Dalit youth in District Una in Gujarat for skinning a dead cow, the Dalits of Gujarat, with the support of all democratic forces, are on the warpath. They are reflecting the new outpouring of anger, clarity and willingness to struggle that has also been seen recently in the movements against the suicide of Rohith Vemula, banning of Ambedkar Periiyar circle in Madras IIT etc.   They are demanding possession of their share of agricultural lands with 5 acres being given to every Dalit family, they are demanding jobs and arms and arms training for self-protection.  They are taking pledges to abandon their traditional occupations. According to figures available, 1.64 lakh acres of surplus land was supposedly distributed to 37,000 landless Dalits, but hardly any were ever given possession of their land. Other lands were earmarked for Dalit landless in Gujarat but they have never been given possession. As this struggle for land rolls ahead, so also does the retaliatory caste violence organized by RSS-BJP. Dalits returning to their villages in Gujarat on 15th August from the concluding mass meeting of the Freedom March against caste oppression (from Ahmedabad to Una), were attacked at several places and beaten up for daring to speak.

Attacks on Dalits have increased since the advent of the RSS BJP Govt. However caste oppression is the reality of India irrespective of the party in power. While over the years, various ruling class parties have sought to mobilize Dalit vote banks in the name of reservations in education and jobs with its promise of access to a share in the system, they have neither been serious in implementation nor attacked caste discrimination. In reality, the caste system has served as a source of cheap labour and hence source of surplus for ruling classes of society in India for centuries. This is because it gives religious sanction to condemn vast sections of working masses to the lowest standards of life. In the vast rural areas of India the oppressed castes are mostly poor and landless peasants, agricultural land is the principal productive resource and its ownership determines the social, economic and political status of any segment of the population. Thus did the Mandal Commission make land distribution its first recommendation in its Report, but this can never come on the agenda of the parliamentary parties of India who are representatives of the big capitalist and big landlords. Yet, this is the key to caste annihilation by the building of a new democratic society.  Friends, come forward and support in every way the assertion of the Dalits in Punjab and Gujarat for their right over their land and their torrent of struggles to take what is theirs. Develop the movements of all sections of working people to strengthen the forces for New Democratic Revolution for land to the tiller. Such a society alone can form the basis for the annihilation of caste from society.

Delhi Committee, CPI (ML) New Democracy                           23rd August, 2016

Irom Sharmila’s 16years’ fast against AFSPA – The many headed struggle against AFSPA will continue

For years the people of J&K, of Manipur and other North eastern states as well as revolutionary, progressive and democratic organizations and individuals throughout India have been fighting for the repeal of the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act). This is an Act which allows India’s armed forces to legally function virtually as an occupation force in the areas where it operates. There are fully documented cases galore of fake ‘encounters’, mass gang rapes with or without murders thrown in, killing of children, disappearances of thousands of people ‘picked up’ in the midnight knocks for questioning. All these are written off in the name of ‘course of duty’, are legally disallowed from being brought before the criminal courts of the country and no army court has ever admitted any wrong doing. The Supreme Court in a bench headed by the then Chief Justice J.S. Verma upheld the validity of the law. The Army establishment promptly squashes any demand for any reform or repeal from any areas and the Indian ruling classes –politicians, judges, armed forces and even sections of media- have been one in declaring that demanding any accountability will only amount to ‘demoralizing’ the armed forces.

Yet the struggle against AFSPA has burnt bright. There have been powerful movements, for instance, against the mass gang rapes of Kunan Poshpora in Kashmir, against the abduction, brutal gang rape and murder of Manorama in Manipur, in several fake encounters in both Kashmir and Manipur and in scores and scores of other cases. While it is true that the guilty could not be brought to book in even one case, the brutality of the armed forces against the people of this country and the complicity of the different organs of state in them have been well and repeatedly exposed. This entire struggle has borne fruit in other ways- in at least documented lists of ‘disappeared’ persons, in documentations of fake encounters, in forcing the erstwhile UPA Govt. to pretend to review the law, etc. Recently, the documentation has forced a bench of the Supreme Court to take cognizance of such cases in Manipur, to state that crimes under the shelter of AFSPA cannot totally be sheltered from the reach of criminal courts, and to make the all important pronouncement that those perceived as the ‘enemy’ in the AFSPA areas are “citizens with rights under Article 21 of the constitution”. It has refuted the Govt. of India’s contention of a ‘war like’ situation in Manipur and said that the area is merely ‘internally disturbed’. Importantly, it is considering ordering an investigation into some of the cases that have been brought before it. All these are no mean achievements.

This struggle against AFSPA has not been without laborious work, commitment and sacrifice of all those who have fought and are fighting against this brutal law in various ways. A shining spot belongs to Irom Sharmila , the Iron Lady from Manipur, who for 16 long years has been on a fast demanding that AFSPA be repealed. Now 44 years of age, her fight began after she saw 10 people being ‘encountered’ by the Assam Rifles in Imphal. The method of protest she chose involved tremendous personal sacrifice, self torture and discipline. This the Indian state answered with repeated imprisonments, cases under ‘attempted suicide’, repeated court appearances in trials instead of engaging with the very genuine demand of this brave citizen and of respecting her struggle. Sharmila’s struggle has been an inspiration for the fighters against AFSPA. Now she has declared that she has decided to change the form of her fight calling off her indefinite fast. But the struggle for repeal of AFSPA will go on, fought in a hundred different ways as it has been and Irom Sharmila’s years of sacrifice will remain a beacon in this struggle.

( New Democracy News Service)