Ganamukti Parishad Holds 20th Conference
AMIDST great festivity and enthusiasm that was displayed by both tribal and non-tribal people of Khowai subdivision, the Tripura Rajya Upajati Ganamukti Parishad (GMP) held its 20th central conference at Khowai on November 9-11, 2013. The conference ended with a vow to promote Tripura to a ‘self-reliant’ state in all respects. The conference also vowed to wage mightier struggles for an alternative to the neo-liberal policies that have attacked the land and livelihood of the tribal masses, pushed them into the darkness of illiteracy and compelled millions of them to lead a shameful destitute life throughout the country. Khowai, a place that boasts of a glorious tradition of many heroic battles led by late Comrades Dasarath Deb and Bidya Debbarma --- first against the tyranny of the erstwhile monarchy and then against the repressive rule of the Congress, seemed to have got overwhelmed on getting the opportunity to host a conference of the Ganamukti Parishad, their beloved organisation. The entire Khowai subdivision was spectacularly decorated with GMP flags, festoons, banners, red flags. The people of the subdivision came forward in large numbers to make the conference a success, by offering their generous help with money and materials. GEN SECRETARY’S PRESENTATION The Khowai Town Hall, the venue of the conference, was named after Comrade Bidya Debbarma, a legendary communist leader and one of the founders of Ganamukti Parishad, while the dais bore the names of six Central Committee members who passed away since the preceding conference and had made immense contributions for the organisation. Dr Nilmani Debbarma, a nonagenarian colleague of the founder leaders of GMP during its inceptive days, hoisted the conference flag in presence of other leaders and delegates. The flag was carried from Behalabari, the birthplace of stalwart communist leader Comrade Bidya Debbarma. Thereafter, GMP martyrs were paid homage through garlanding the martyrs column erected at the venue. In the evening, following the formation of a six-member presidium, Niranjan Debbarma, general secretary of the GMP, presented the political organisational report to the house. While presenting the report, Debbarma evaluated the implementation of the decisions made by the preceding conference that had issued a call to achieve cent percent literacy, alongside the restoration of the peace and tranquility in the state, making it free from ruthless attacks of the secessionist extremist outfits. Though not fully accomplished, Niranjan Debbarma declared, the state had made significant achievements in both the aspects. Though GMP is the oldest tribal organisation of the state, it does not suffer from any tribal sectarianism. Rather it steadfastly stands for harmony and amicable relations between tribals and non-tribals and addresses the problems of all sections of the people for all round development of the state, Debbarma asserted. Pointing to the organisational position, Niranjan Debbarma continued, GMP membership has increased to 1.97 lakh families at present against the 1.74 lakh at the time of the 19th conference. (One must note that not individuals but families become GMP members.) He stressed on enhancing the political awareness of its members and sharpening ideological consciousness. The report identified some weaknesses and loopholes, and urged the members to remove them. In the post-election situation, frustrated leaders of the INPT are trying to raise the slogan of an ‘independent Twipra land’ which is nothing but a secessionist slogan. Knowing fully well that they are playing with fire, the Congress party is tacitly sponsoring this provocative demand only to destabilise the state. This provocation must be fought back with facts, logic and wisdom, the GMP general secretary advised. The report detailed out the necessity of proper use of the patta land allotted to the tribals under the Forest Rights Act. Since land is limited in the state mainly because a large area of it falls under forest reserved category, we must fight for protection of these patta lands and against their transfer to richer sections, Niranjan Debbarma stressed. He highlighted that the GMP should have an awareness programme against social superstitions and for more involvement in progressive cultural activities. NEW & MYRIAD CHALLENGES Altogether 512 delegates participated in the conference, of which 103 were women. Thirty delegates including six women participated in the discussions on the political report. They strongly advocated for fighting against provocative slogans of the so called “Twipra land,” being raised by the INPT and their allies. They pointed out that the political commitment of tribal families today is not what it was in the fifties or sixties. Nowadays we cannot say all the adult members of a family may adhere to a single organisation or a political party. So it is time to review the practice of the GMP: whether it should continue family-wise membership. The socio-economic uplift of the tribal people has generated a new middle class among the tribals, thanks to the implementation of the package programme of the Left Front government for tribals, scheduled castes, minorities etc. They are prone to consumerism, corruption and other vices of the neo-liberal policies. Some of the delegates argued that the new generation of GMP workers should be aware about its functioning during its hard days when it was facing the wrath of the king, its glorious struggles against state sponsored terror and against the landlords, hoarders, dishonest traders, contractors, and also against social superstitions. The GMP has a glorious history of battle to rescue people from famine. Even today, the GMP can well show the nation the right path for tribal emancipation. The delegates also pointed out some organisational drawbacks in building up campaigns and movements. Replying to the discussion, Niranjan Debbarma congratulated the participants for their rich deliberations. He said GMP did not mushroom from under the soil, nor is it a windfall organisation. It gathered strength bit by bit and took its present shape through relentless and innumerable struggles for decades. The organisation that first began its struggle for universal literacy, defying the angered eyes of the erstwhile, ultimately had to fight against state sponsored repression, against neglect and deprivation of legitimate rights enshrined in the constitution and, lastly, for democracy, peace and harmony between the tribals and non-tribals. Scathingly coming down upon the resistance of the INPT and its allies to the shifting of the state museum to Ujjayanta Palace, and to a renaming of the Stable Ground as ‘Swami Vivekananda Ground’ on the pretext of preservation of the king’s so called heritage, Debbarma said these fake preservationists should be asked where they were when the Ujjayanta Palace was sold out by the king for personal gains. How does the name ‘Stable Ground’ carry the heritage of a king? Terming the INPT as an organisation patronised by Congress leaders, Debbarma said the lone programme the TUJS and its successor, the INPT, pursued was to weaken the GMP and expand the base of the Congress among tribals by means of dividing and creating mistrust between the tribal and non-tribal the people. We should unmask the façade of these fake champions of tribal interests, refuting each one of their lies with data, facts and logic, he urged. WHERE TRIBALS HAVE ALL THEIR RIGHTS Congratulating the delegates, Bijan Dhar said because of the capitalist system at work, accumulation of land in fewer hands is inevitable. Since there is a growing middle class among the tribals, alienation of land from tribals to tribals may also take place despite whatever safeguards against transfer of tribal lands exist. This may shake the traditional political commitment among the newly grown up tribal middle class. Yet, we cannot treat them as enemies; we have to win them over, Dhar emphasised. In the last session, following the address by Samir Deb Sarkar on behalf of the preparatory committee, and presentation of credentials report, a 143 member Central Committee was elected; 25 of these are newly elected. The newly formed Central Committee, in its first meeting, re-elected Narayan Rupini and Niranjan Debbarma as president and general secretary respectively, besides electing a 25-member Central Executive Committee. Apart from the condolence resolution, the GMP conference passed nine other resolutions. These were for strict adherence to the cent percent roster in all government employment, against price rise and the faulty food security bill, for central allocation for rehabilitation of the tribal families who were provided land pattas under the FR Act, for adequate central allocation for an alternative highway and double-laning of the NH-44, for inclusion of Kokborot language in the eighth schedule of the constitution, for more empowerment of the ADC with additional fund allocation, condemning torture on women and demanding an early passage of the women reservation bill in parliament. One of the resolutions conveyed solidarity with the people of West Bengal fighting for restoration of democracy. Earlier, on November 9 afternoon, the GMP organised a mammoth rally at Khowai High School ground where, among others, Polit Bureau members Brinda Karat and Manik Sarkar spoke. Narayan Rupini presided. While addressing the rally, Brinda Karat respectfully remembered Kumari, Madhuti and Rupshree, three women who courted martyrdom at Padmabill in Khowai, in their fight against the brutal Congress rule. She also recalled the invaluable contribution of Comrade Dasaratha Deb who showed a direction to the tribal movement in the entire country. While thousands of tribal masses are being evicted from their ancestral lands and being robbed off their rights in other states, while tribal mothers and sisters are being meted out inhuman sexual harassment, and while their livelihood and culture are under thereat there, tribals have got a friendly government in Tripura and are carrying forward their movement against the neo-liberal policies which divide the tribals and unleash hostility between various sections of tribals in the name of an identity crisis, Brinda Karat said. The people of Tripura cannot even imagine that tribals in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh are being jailed and fined Rs 10 lakh if they dare to cultivate jhum. Seventy percent of tribal boys and girls in the country drop out from schools. In the struggle for forming a government at the centre with alternative policies, Ganamukti Parishad of Tripura can be a guiding force for the country, Brinda Karat said. Regarding the possible outcome of the next Lok Sabha elections, Manik Sarkar said people of the country have already decided to replace the Congress. The countrymen would remember the Congress misrule for the next 50 years for its rampant corruption in which several central ministers including the prime minister are indicted. However, since the BJP pursues the same neo-liberal policies and also indulges in corrupt practices, it cannot be a real alternative to the UPA. A valid alternative means a policy alternative that may be built only through struggles. The democratic movement in Tripura can well inspire the struggle for an alterative in the whole country, Sarkar hoped. Referring to the great contribution of GMP to the democratic struggle in the state, Sarkar stated the history of the state would have been different if GMP had not been formed 65 years back. Though the GMP has got a big base among the tribal masses of the state, Sarkar said a large section of them including the poor are still with the opposition parties that have no other programme except dividing the people on caste and communal lines. With the same object in view, a section of opposition is raising the slogan of a separate state in the ADC area, which is akin to the ‘independent Tripura’ slogan that was raised by secessionist outfits, Sarkar said. He urged the GMP cadres to steadfastly oppose this separatist slogan and expose the real face of the so called well-wishers of the tribal people. GMP Demands for Future Actions THE 20th conference of the GMP adopted a 20-point charter of demands, on whose basis it will launch still bigger movements in the coming days. Its salient demands are as below: 1) Provision of land to all the landless and homeless families. 2) Revision of the MGNREGA guidelines to cover agricultural operations in the ambit of this scheme. 3) Allocation of central fund for rehabilitation of the tribal families allotted land under the Forest Rights Act. 4) Institution of a universal rationing system with 35 kg rice or wheat per family per month at Rs 2 per kg. 5) Striking down the anti-farmer provisions from the central Land Acquisition Bill. 6) Inclusion of Kokborok language in the eighth schedule of the constitution. 7) Earmarking at least 10 per cent of the central budget for the tribal sub-plan areas.