September 10, 2023

WB: Massive Gathering amid Rain in Kolkata for Martyrs’ Day Meet

Subinoy Moulik

MARTYRS ' Day was observed in Kolkata on August 31, in memory of the martyrs of the 1959 food movement that had culminated into a rally of thousands of hunger marchers who went to Esplanade, Kolkata, on August 31 to demand adequate food for all and were brutally lathi-charged by the police without any warning and without any provocation whatsoever, leaving 80 dead.

Since then, August 31 has been observed as Martyrs Day on a massive scale every year.  The Left Front announced a meeting on August 31 this year at Esplanade in memory of the martyrs. What made the occasion all the more remarkable was that this year marks the 80th anniversary of the 1943 Bengal Famine, which killed more than 3 million people and was pre-independent India's last and largest famine.

Abiding by the decade-old unwritten rule that nobody except Mamata Banerjee’s ruling party shall be allowed to hold a rally in the heart of the city, the police did not give permission for holding the meeting, giving superficial reasons that the meeting would block vehicular traffic on the adjacent road.

Nevertheless, the meeting was held, and people rallied to the central business district of the city by thousands, braving heavy rains. At this public meeting, the Left leaders asserted their conviction that more and more cheated, robbed and persecuted people would take to the streets to protest against the kleptocracy in Bengal.

CPI (M) state secretary Mohammad Salim said that the chief minister may try her best to manipulate the media, resort to theatrics, may try to garner the support of Narendra Modi or even Rahul Gandhi, but she shall not be able to save her thieving government. The deceived people of Bengal are getting ready to ‘settle all the accounts’. We swear by the martyrs that all perpetrators of murder, loot, arson shall be brought to book and justice shall be delivered, he said.

Both lanes of the Jawaharlal Nehru Road in front of the Grand Hotel at Esplanade were packed with people, and many did not even have space to stand. During his speech, when it started raining heavily, Salim said, “Will the meeting continue?” The spirited crowd shouted in unison, yes.

Salim said, our panchayat polls were soaked in the blood of the people of the state,  so who cares about the rain today! We are taking an oath in the name of all the martyrs of the panchayat elections, the martyrs of the food movements, the martyrs of the mass movements, that Bengal shall be built anew. In his poem 'Amar Kaifiyat ' (My Explanation), Kazi Nazrul Islam wrote: “May my writings in letters of blood write the nemesis of those who rob and eat the food of thirty-three crores of hungry mouths.” Today is the time to renew the pledge, Salim added.

He said all ill-gotten money squeezed from job seekers, all that filthy money amassed from coal, sand and cow smuggling, has ultimately made its way to Kalighat. The ‘loyalist’ media does not dare to publish anything, but now the High Court has ordered the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to provide updates on its investigation into the CEO of Leaps and Bounds, who is allegedly none other than Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee. 

“We have long understood that ED/ CBI will not do anything about those who have a set-up with the political bigwigs in Delhi, rented women's accounts abroad and laundered money.   If they remain inert and inactive, the cheated people of Bengal must unite and seek justice. If the nephew is not arrested and interrogated within a month, there will be a march to the Central Government Office (CGO) complex against ED and CBI. And that will be a bigger rally than today. Will it be so?” he asked.  The resounding response of the rain-soaked crowd was, ‘Of course’.

Salim said the TMC and BJP have won in the panchayats by looting votes, but they have lost the faith of the people. People's anger has intensified against Trinamool and BJP. Now, the people of the state need to be united regardless of caste, religion and language in their mission to secure justice. Otherwise, the right to food, right to nutrition, and right to work cannot be protected. The working people of Bengal migrate to different states and cities in search of employment and work and face indescribable hardships and even death due to occupational exposures to hazardous situations, as has happened recently in the railway bridge collapse in Mizoram's Aizawl district.

Highlighting the food crisis and the plight of livelihood in today's background, Salim said in the meeting that through the food movement, land movement, and other people’s movements waged vigorously raising high the red flags, the people of Bengal gained confidence and stood tall to face all adversities. The right forces never wanted that, so the slogan “Oust the Red” (Lal hatao) came into being. What is the result? The people of the country are starving; India has become the 160th country in the hunger index. The central government is looking to hand over the agricultural system to corporate hands to bring back the hoarding, black market days of yesteryears. Here also in Bardhaman, rice mills are being handed over to Adanis. PM Modi has now become a true businessman who, after escalating the sale price of cooking gas from Rs 400 to Rs 1,200, has announced a discount of Rs 200 and proclaimed it to be a great relief. Funds for ICDS nutrition and mid-day meal money are being looted. To cover up the loot, they are dividing people in the name of religion.

Left Front chairman Biman Basu, moving the condolence resolution said, on August 31, 1959, it was raining like today. The ruthless lathi charge by the police on peaceful marchers killed 80 people. The protests continued until September 6, and a total of 112 people lost their lives in police attacks. We observe this day as Martyrs Day, paying tribute to the memory of those martyrs and the numerous martyrs of the mass movements that happened later.  We honour the memory of those who died as martyrs in the struggle to protect democracy in the last panchayat elections. The massive gathering then observed a minute's silence.

Biman Basu said the BJP at the centre and Trinamool have brought peril to the state. Trinamool's biggest crime is that they have brought BJP to the state. Media shows conflict between them, but they do not expose the understanding between the two. No matter how many obstacles are thrown in our path, this darkness must be overcome to pave the way for a democratic mass movement. Trinamool and BJP must be separated from the people and overthrown from their seats of power.

Youth leader Meenakshi Mukherjee asked why Bengal’s rural youth had to migrate to other states for a handful of food. And she (chief minister) is shamelessly telling the bereaved mothers (of the deceased), rest assured, the government will make arrangements to bring the dead bodies in official coffins! If these thieves are not jailed within a month, the people of Bengal will not sit quietly, she remarked.

In the rally, CPI state secretary Swapan Banerjee said that fascists are in power in India. Those who have no history of patriotism, acted as agents of British imperialism, now speak of nationalism. If they come back to power, they will take away all the rights of people. Naren Chatterjee, secretary of the Bengal Committee of Forward Bloc, said that by handing over the entire system of food production and marketing to the corporate hands, the BJP is not only ruining the farmers but also causing price hikes and food crises. And the chief minister of Bengal has established a culture of corruption. RSP state secretary Tapan Hore said, on the one hand, BJP is spreading violence and riots across the country, and on the other, the chief minister is creating a lumpen society and destroying villages and towns. Both these dangers must be fought against.

CPI (M) Polit Bureau members Surya Mishra, Ramchandra Dom, Marxist Forward Bloc leader Ashish Chakraborty, RCPI leaders Subhash Roy and Mihir Bain, Workers Party leader Shibnath Sinha, Bolshevik Party leader Prabir Ghosh and state leaders of the Left Front were also present in the rally.

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