Vol. XLI No. 44 October 29, 2017

BPMO JATHAS IN BENGAL: Woes in Hearts, Marches on Streets

From our Special Correspondent

GULJAR Hosaain is on the walk. Sixty-eight-year-old Hossain is walking as his mind is pulled back to the lost land beside the Kaljani river, where he used to produce an adequate amount of rice. A resident of Deocharai in Cooch Behar, Hossain and his neighbours found no support from the administration after their lands were devoured by the river.

Mangal Murmu is on the walk. Murmu, a youth in Shibpur of Bolpur, witnessed how an area, acquired for industry has been given away for real estate. It dashed the hopes of the local people.

Sirajuddin is on the walk. He is among thousands of youths in Murshidabad who had to return to their villages after their jobs were lost post demonetisation. More and more youths of Murshidabad are joining the migrant workforce as the entire district is suffering from lack of industries, except for bidi.

Workers of closed industries in Asansol-Raniganj; employees of PSU Alloy Steels Plant, ready for privatization; rickshaw-pullers in Bankura; and students in Shalboni are on the walk.

They are part of thousands of people who have come on to the streets at the call of the Bengal Platform of Mass Organisations (BPMO). From October 22, marches have started from different parts of the state, raising the demands of the people. Eleven central Jathas will be joined by regional- and district-level jathas. In fact, a wide network of rallies, processions and marches with mass organisation flags have engulfed large parts of the state.

In North Bengal, two main jathas from Cooch Behar and Malda are moving towards Siliguri. On the way, they have been joined by district and regional marches. On November 1, there will be a mammoth public rally in Siliguri. Similarly, jathas from Asansol, Jhargram, Suri, Purulia, Farakka, Haldia, Digha, Basanti and Raidighi will traverse different districts to reach Kolkata on November 3.

Inaugurating a march from Purulia, CPI(M) state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra said that both the state and the central governments have taken anti-people measures. The livelihoods of the working people are under attack. The chief minister of the state takes ‘salute’ in the so-called carnival march after Durga Puja, but refuses to distribute digital ration cards to all people in the state. Raising demands is not enough, achieving some of them should be part of our struggle.

CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Biman Basu, inaugurating another march from Suri in Birbhum, said that the toiling people of the state are suffering, whereas the state government is involved in festival after festival.

Defying Terror

In many areas, the marchers are traversing through terrorised localities. In Birbhum, the jatha is being led by Biman Basu. As the schedule was to enter Nanur, an area virtually enclosed by TMC goons, notorious TMC district president Anubrata Mondal directly threatened that there might be some harms to Left Front chairman Biman Basu is he defied that dictum and entered Nanur. He stayed in a cultural centre in the tribal village of Durgapur. Bombs were lobbed in and around the place to terrorise the villagers. The tribals guarded the house where Biman Basu was staying with bows and arrows. In fact, the whole village stayed awake. In the morning, hundreds came out and joined the march, painting the entire area with red.

Biman Basu went through another terror zone of Parui. Braving TMC threat, people came out there to shake hands with Basu and the women talked to him. He even had to accept requests from youths for ‘selfie’ with them.

Jathas marched through areas in Jhargram where the Red Flag has been ‘banned’ for years now. A march started from Salboni school, where the Maoist-TMC combine killed teacher Dibakar Mahato in 2009. Tribals in this Jungle Mahal areas complained about abnormal hike in power tariff. Many of them are unable to pay such high tariffs and their power connections have been cut off. Hostels for tribal students are being closed. Many names are being cut off from food security list. 

Unity of People

On October 16, communal tension gripped villages in Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar. RSS and TMC leaders played their parts in fueling clashes. The area is fraught with fear and police atrocities after the clashes. Men have fled from many villages. In such a situation, the BPMO jatha started from Khalishamari village, where the trouble started. Biren Burman, Nikhil Burman, Sultan Mian, Bajle Mian and others belonging to different communities joined in the jatha. For the first time in one week, this unity was achieved and slogans were raised ‘Defend Communal Unity”. Slogans were also raised demanding remunerative prices for jute and tobacco. The jatha, led by Left Front Legislative Party leader Sujan Chakraborty reached Golokganj, where the market was closed due to terror. The BPMO held an impromptu street-corner meeting there. They called upon the people to open the markets and maintain normal life. It worked like magic. The shops were opened and the villagers came out on the streets, once again pointing to the fact that it is only the Red Flag which can guarantee communal harmony.

The marches are raising the important demands of the people. The charter of demand consists of 17 burning issues of people. It includes remunerative prices for famers, digital ration cards to all, food for all, founding of new factories to provide jobs, opening of closed factories -- particularly in tea and jute industries, no to privatisation and sale of public sector enterprises in the state such as Alloy Steels, continuing ICDS and Mid-day meal, minimum guaranteed wages for workers of unorganised sectors and social security to them, transparency in appointment of schoolteachers, compensation to victims of chit fund scams, and security for women in the state. Restoration of democracy and strongly defending communal harmony are two major slogans. Local level demands are too being included.