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Bad Taste

Lattars

Witch-hunt of CPI(ML) Activists

C
PI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya and others are being tried in a fast-track court in Ranchi under Sections 147, 114, 148, 149, 353, 323, 324, 307, 188, 431 of the IPC and Section 17 of the CLA (a repealed act that continues to be invoked in Jharkhand!).

It may be recalled that on March 1, 2001 the CPI(ML) had organised a protest demonstration, led by Dipankar Bhattacharya, before the newly formed Jharkhand assembly demanding action against guilty police officials who had killed eight tribal protesters opposing the NDA government’s move to resume the controversial Koel Karo project. The police not only ill-treated and arrested him and other leaders and resorted to brutal lathicharge but also slapped a false case on them!

For the general secretary of a recognised political party, leading a political protest to voice certain issues before a representative assembly, to be charged with “abetting attempted murder”, is probably unprecedented in the annals of Indian politics. For Jharkhand under BJP rule this however seems to be the order of the day. The state has become notorious for wanton violation of human rights. A draconian legislation like POTA has been used most arbitrarily against innocent people in Jharkhand.

Jharkhand had been formed in November 2000, and a shaky new BJP government with a wafer-thin majority, headed by Babulal Marandi, had been installed. Right from the start the Marandi government behaved like a government under siege, living in fear of its own people, rather than like a popular elected government celebrating the culmination of a people’s struggle for a new state. The new government took oath behind closed doors in a high-security auditorium, far from the public gaze, citing the threat of a Naxalite attack. The then home minister L K Advani had advised the Marandi government that its primary task must be to break the backbone of Naxalism. On the ground, naturally, this translated to a war on the rural and tribal poor, minorities as well as on popular leaders of the ML movement.

The first 100 days of BJP rule were marked by a series of police firings, revealing the new government’s hatred and fear of the state’s considerable Christian, Muslim and adivasi population. The CPI(ML) was at the forefront of protest in every incident.

The Jharkhand assembly was in its very first budget session when the CPI(ML) called the assembly gherao to confront the government with the demand for action against those responsible for various acts of police firing; for immediate scrapping of the Koel Karo project and steps to safeguard adivasis from land alienation. On March 1, 2001, 3,000 people led by Dipankar Bhattacharya marched from Hatia station towards the assembly. At the barricade at Birsa Chowk, police launched an unprovoked and ferocious assault on the marchers, with tear gas shells, rubber bullets and lathis. Several activists were left badly injured. Forty activists were arrested including Dipankar Bhattacharya and detained without their whereabouts being made public. Before the event at Birsa Chowk, 100 activists managed to reach the entrance of the assembly and shout slogans. They too were severely lathicharged and arrested. Meanwhile, inside the house, Mahendra Singh led other opposition MLAs to shout slogans in the well of the house in support of the gherao outside. When these MLAs rushed to Birsa Chowk, even they were lathicharged, with Mahendra Singh being specially targeted.

(Continued on p 2392)

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Economic and Political Weekly June 10, 2006

Lattars

(Continued from p 2274)

The BJP government in Jharkhand targeted and assassinated Mahendra Singh – the most consistent democratic voice inside the Jharkhand assembly. The latest attempt of the BJP government in Jharkhand to frame the topmost leadership of the CPI(ML) is yet another display of their commitment to a repressive police force and fear of the growing movement of the poor and adivasi people of the state.

PRABHAT KUMAR

For central committee, CPI(ML) Delhi

Bad Taste

T
he article ‘Anti-Reservation Protest: Shoring Up Privilege’ (May 20, 2006) was in bad taste. It reads more like a pamphlet by a rabble-rouser than an objective analysis of the issue. It tells more about the prejudices of the author than about the issue.

The author’s remarks on the members of the Knowledge Commission are totally unwarranted. The commission is headed by a technocrat whose contributions to the global telecom industry are immense. One of the members who quit in protest is also one of the foremost sociologists of this country. His research on social inequalities in India is too well known to be repeated here. The other member has been a professor at Harvard University. Perhaps they are more qualified to comment on this issue than the author.

The government chose to impose the quota without even consulting the institutions and the various stakeholders. This arrogant behaviour and the assault on the autonomy of the institutions are not condemned by the author.

K RAVI SRINIVAS

Bangalore

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