October 22, 2023
Maha: People under Red Flag Block Mumbai-Ahmedabad National Highway

Kiran Gahala

OCTOBER 10 is widely observed each year as Martyrs' Day in the Thane and Palghar districts of Maharashtra. It was on October 10, 1945 that the first five martyrs of the Warli Adivasi Revolt were shot dead by the police of the British regime. October 10, 1996 was also the day when the legendary leader of the CPI(M) and the AIKS, Comrade Godavari Parulekar was cremated at Talasari in Palghar district in the presence of thousands of people.

This year, on October 10, 2023, over 30,000 people from almost all tehsils of Palghar and Thane districts conducted a massive hour-long road blockade at Charoti in Dahanu tehsil of Palghar district on one of the busiest national highways in India – the Mumbai-Ahmedabad-Jaipur-Delhi National Highway. This action was jointly organised by the Thane-Palghar district committees of the CPI(M), AIKS, CITU, AIDWA, DYFI, SFI, and AARM.

The two impressive statewide AIKS-led kisan long marches in March and April 2023 – the 10,000-strong Dindori to Vasind march in Nashik and Thane districts, and the 15,000-strong Akole to Loni march in Ahmednagar district, had led to several demands related to land, food security, MGNREGA, education and other sectors being conceded by the state government in writing. In May 2023, four massive and separate AIKS and AIDWA-led rallies on the Palghar and Thane district collectorates were held. The Palghar rally of the AIKS was 25,000-strong and the AIDWA rally was 12,000-strong. The Thane rallies of the AIKS and AIDWA were 3,000 and 1,500-strong respectively. These forced the district administration to give concrete assurances on land and ration issues. But the pace of implementation was very slow. That is why the call for this massive districtwide rally and national highway blockade was given.

The major demands of this struggle were: Vest various types of lands – forest, temple, inaam, pasture, and varkas (absentee landlords’ lands) – in the names of the peasants cultivating them for several generations; scrap all anti-people, anti-environment and pro-corporate projects like the Vadhwan Port, river linking scheme, bullet train, eco-sensitive zone and so on; ensure water for drinking and irrigation to the rural areas from the massive water reservoirs in both districts; give sufficient and regular ration grain to all the needy; give houses to all the needy; double the days of work and wages under MGNREGA; stop sending massive electricity bills and court notices; and stop the neglect of education of adivasi students.

It was only after the tahsildars of Talasari and Dahanu brought a signed letter from the district collector pledging to complete the implementation of all the earlier agreed demands of vesting lands in the names of the cultivating peasants, and demands concerning food security and PDS, MGNREGA, electricity, education, health etc within a deadline of two months, that the national highway blockade was withdrawn.

After that a huge public meeting took place at Charoti. It was presided over by CPI(M) state secretariat member and CITU state secretary Vinod Nikole, MLA, and it was addressed among others by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and AIKS president Ashok Dhawale, Central Committee member and state secretary Uday Narkar, Central Committee member and AIDWA general secretary Mariam Dhawale, state secretariat members Kisan Gujar and district secretary Kiran Gahala.

All the speakers recalled the glorious legacy of the Warli Adivasi Revolt, and came down heavily on the anti-people, anti-tribal, pro-corporate, communal and dictatorial policies of the BJP-RSS government at the centre and the BJP-led government in the state. The central government was attacked for its anti-adivasi and pro-corporate amendments to the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), the neglect in implementing the Forest Rights Act (FRA), and the watering down of the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA).

Specifically, this rally denounced the dastardly attack on NewsClick and on press freedom and the arrests of Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakraborty. The state government was condemned for the scandalous deaths of several people in government hospitals in Nanded and Aurangabad due to lack of medicines.

The public meeting ended with a call to resoundingly defeat the BJP and to work for the victory of the CPI(M) and the INDIA grouping in the coming Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections, and to strengthen the Party and all the mass fronts manifold.

As preparation for this massive action, the CPI(M) Thane-Palghar district workshop was held at Talasari on August 31 and September 1, 2023. General body meetings of the Party were then organised by almost all the local committees in every tehsil. Every mass front led its own independent campaign throughout both the districts. A total of 30,000 leaflets were printed and distributed, as were 1,000 posters, and several hoardings in prominent spots.

One of the specialities of this rally was the massive sale of Party literature among the masses, the total sales amounting to over Rs 80,000. They included hundreds of recent issues of the Party weekly Jeewan Marg, a special issue of the AIKS Marathi journal Kisan Sangharsh, two historic books by Godavari and Shamrao Parulekar on the adivasi revolt, the biography of Shamrao and Godavari Parulekar, many more titles of other progressive books brought out by the Janashakti Prakashan, CPI(M) and AIKS.