Who Is Afraid of the Fighting Youth of Bihar?

Even as the anti-terrorist squad of Maharashtra police has corroborated the long-suspected involvement of Sangh outfits in the blasts that had rocked Malegaon two years ago, students and workers from Bihar continue to be subjected to relentless fascistic assaults unleashed by the Senas led by the uncle-nephew duo, Bal and Raj Thackeray. And as we go to press, the trigger-happy encounter-crazy Mumbai police too seem to have begun flexing its muscle against the migrant youth from Bihar. While the Sena goons are allowed a free hand to wreak havoc, and Raj Thackeray enjoys the highest level of state security, the migrant youth of Bihar are subjected to ever greater insecurity and injustice. Over the last ten days as many as four young men from Bihar – two job-seekers and two workers – have been killed in Maharashtra, three by MNS or Shiv Sena goons and one by the Mumbai police.

In Maharashtra, the Congress has never had the political will or wherewithal to check the Sena brand of politics of vandalism and communalism much the same way as it has acquiesced before the communal fascist campaign of the BJP and other affiliates of the Sangh brigade on the national plane. As dark clouds of crisis loom large over the entire Indian economy, more and more people are chasing fewer jobs. Against this backdrop, the threat of the Sena variety of chauvinistic protectionism assumes ominous fascistic overtones. If India has to be saved as a united country, such fascistic regionalism will have to be tamed by all means. While insisting on a ban on divisive forces like MNS and Shiv Sena, democratic forces must lay the greatest emphasis on strengthening the counter-mobilisation of the people to foil such fascist designs.

The UPA government at the centre must also be held accountable for its share of complicity in contributing to the current crisis. Going by the previous record of MNS-Shiv Sena attacks on the outstation railway recruitment examinees in Maharashtra, the candidates from Bihar had understandably requested Rail Minister Lalu Prasad to relocate the examination centres. Neither did Lalu Prasad listen to the appeal of the candidates, nor did his government care to provide any security to the examinees. And once again the predictable happened – candidates were deported back to Bihar. In Nitish Kumar’s home district Nalanda, former textile worker Jagdish Prasad, who had spent fifteen years as a textile worker in Maharashtra before being victimised for his involvement in trade union activities, had to receive the dead body of his son Pawan. Lalu Prasad’s railway ministry and the Maharashtra government are now trying to attribute Pawan’s death to an accident unrelated to the violence inflicted on the candidates from Bihar by MNS goons!

In fact, in his characteristic style Lalu Prasad has all along sought to trivialise the issue of insecurity faced by Bihari students and workers in Maharashtra. He has been daring Raj Thackeray and his men to prevent him from offering ‘Chhat puja’ in Mumbai. The Minister can of course hold ‘Chhat puja’ anywhere in the comfort of state security and media limelight, whether in Thackeray’s Mumbai or Manmohan’s best friend George Bush’s Washington. But for students like Pawan or Rahul, who was shot dead by Mumbai police a week after Pawan’s shocking killing, the insecurity has only been on the rise.

No wonder then that students and youth of Bihar have come out on the streets to vent their anger against the insecurity and injustice inflicted on them. They burnt effigies of Raj Thackeray and also asked all Bihar Ministers in UPA cabinet to resign. Incidentally, the current crop of Bihar leaders – Lalu Prasad or Ramvilas Paswan, Nitish Kumar or Sushil Modi – had all begun their political careers as student leaders, and today they are simply obsessed with saving their thrones in Patna and Delhi. Instead of taking up the cause of the students, Bihar government opened fire on the agitating students. Several were injured and hundreds put in jail. Cutting across political affiliations, angry students gave a united call for Bihar bandh on 25 October. The parties in power in Patna and Delhi got alarmed and ordered their respective student organisations to back out. Yet defying the diktats of power-drunk leaders, thousands of students came out on the streets on October 25.

The students of Bihar are perfectly justified in asserting their right to secure education and employment in any part of the country. They deserve the support of all patriotic democratic forces in the country in their struggle against the Shiv Sena-MNS variety of fascistic regionalism. At the same time, they are equally justified in taking to task the whole lot of Bihar politicos who keep denying them their due right to have greater education and employment opportunities within Bihar. CPI(ML) extends all support and wishes every success to the fighting students of Bihar.

Student Movement Against MNS-Shiv Sena Fascism

While parties of the UPA-NDA combine, ruling at Patna and Delhi earned the ire of Bihar’s younger generation for their hypocritical lip-service against the violence of the MNS-Shiv Sena against North Indians in Maharashtra, nothing could suppress the spontaneous student protests, and AISA, RYA and the CPI(ML) emerged as the natural voice and vehicle of resistance.

Spontaneous Struggles

The non-Maharashtrian students who had gone to Mumbai for appearing in an examination conducted by the Railways were brutally and severely attacked on Sunday 19 October by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) goons and were forced to return from Mumbai. The students from Bihar upon their arrival at Patna Jn. Station next day and learning the tragic death of Pawan (examinee from Nalanda) virtually seized the Patna Railway Station and even firing in air by the GRP did not stop them. The Station was literally in the hands of the agitating students. The students wanted Bihar’s CM Mr. Nitish Kumar and Railway Minister Mr. Lalu Prasad both to come to the Patna Station and meet them. The students’ heightened anger was not just due to attacks only on them, but the fact that prior to the examination they had requested Mr. Lalu Prasad to change the centre and venue of the examinations from Mumbai citing the recent attacks on people and students from Bihar and other north Indian states. This request of theirs had fallen on deaf ears of CM and Railway Minister and students’ apprehension turned into reality. When the students had gone to Mr. Lalu Prasad prior to the examination for change in venue, he did not meet them and the reports of the same were carried in the news papers prior to the incident of attacks. The students gradually spilled over on the streets and the protest spread all over Bihar.

AISA’s Intervention

To orient the struggle towards the just demand of trying Raj Thackeray for murder and sedition and banning the MNS and Shiv Sena, the AISA called for a meeting of all students’ organizations at Patna University on 21 October which was attended by State leadership of the student wings of the ruling JD(U), as well as RJD, LJP and NSUI, and also the student wing of Sharad Pawar’s NCP; in fact most student organizations except ABVP which was not invited for the all party meet. At the meeting a joint decisionwas taken to call for arrest and prosecution of Raj Thackeray; for the forty MPs from Bihar to initiate immediate action in Parliament to demand that the UPA Government rein in the MNS and Shiv Sena or else resign. It was decided to hold a protest march on the following day (22 October) to voice their urgent demands, followed by a Students’ Assembly.

On the morning of 22 October, however, news of police firing on agitating students at Sasaram came in, and the AISA leadership of Bihar felt that Students’ Assembly was not enough, and decided to call for a Bihar bandh. All other student organisations who had attended the earlier meeting issued the Banch call from the platform of a protest meeting and also through a press conference. Meanwhile an all-party meet called by Bihar CM Mr. Nitish Kumar was also going on which was boycotted by the CPI(ML). The meeting was not called so much as to discuss the growing attacks on the north Indians and people from Bihar, rather the agenda of the meeting was the situation in Bihar after the attacks – clearly indicating the Government’s mood to suppress the students and youth protests. Parties like JD(U), RJD, LJP and Congress were just paying lip service to the whole situation and we saw a coming together of all arch rivals who met Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh only to assure him that they had the angry youth under control.

Along with AISA, however, the students’ organizations of all these ruling parties (except ABVP) had declared the support for Bihar bandh on 25 October. The same evening as the all-Party meet ended and they came to know of their students’ wing’s declaration, the parties pressurized their students’ organization to pull out from the bandh. The Chhatra-RJD, was the first to pressure its members to stay away. Many of these ruling parties’ students’ organizations published their declaration of pulling out from the bandh and by 24th morning it was clear that no students’ organization was with the bandh except AISA and Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) which also declared full support for the bandh. At this development the Patna University unit of almost all the organizations (except ABVP), terming this pull-out a betrayal of the student community, declared their intention to defy their State leadership and go with AISA to support the bandh. Students from organizations of ruling parties, including the ruling Party’s Chattra–JD(U), defying their Party’s order, joined the Bandh at many places. At some places even some sections of ABVP ranks defied their organisation’s order and supported the bandh. This trend is reflective of the spirit of unity among common students against criminal and corrupt politics of all mainstream parties.

The bandh was hugely successful in Patna and several districts of Bihar incuding Ara, Buxar, Arwal, Jehanabad, Gaya, Nalanda, Bhojpur, Siwan, Jamui, Lakhisarai, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Sasaram, Sheikhpura, Narkatiagunj, Samastipur etc. The AISA and rebel students from other organizations stopped trains and road traffic at several places in Bihar. Effigies of MNS president Raj Thackeray and Shiv Sena’s Bal Thackeray were burnt at various places despite security forces trying to stop them. At some places even the effigy of railway minister Mr. Lalu Prasad was also burnt. The students everywhere demanded that Raj and Bal Thackeray be booked for murder and sedition. Students declared in one voice that Railway Minister Lalu Prasad and Union Steel and Fertilisers Minister Ramvilas Paswan ought to resign since the UPA Government had failed to ensure safety and security of Bihari people in Maharashtra.

In the course of the Bandh, two thousand students throughout the State were arrested. Police lathicharged the agitating students in several districts and the irony above all is that jailed students were threatened with sedition charges by the police! Hundreds of students and youth are still in jails.

The spree of violence continued with the fake encounter of Rahul Raj in Mumbai and the killing of a young labourer from UP. After the bandh, CPI(ML) General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya and AISA State leaders visited Pawan’s family in Nalanda to share their grief and their struggle for justice. It came out that Pawan’s father was an employee and a trade union activist in Maharashtra’s textile mills before being thrown out of the job in the 90s. A son is killed in the State where his father toiled in mills to bring prosperity to that State. A couple of days before the Bihar bandh, a day-long Nalanda Bandh was also called by AISA and RYA to protest Pawan’s death. Nalanda happens to be home constituency of Bihar CM Mr. Nitish Kumar. He was slated to hold some kind of meeting in Nalanda, however, the enraged students uprooted all the arrangements being made for his meeting and the Bandh was a huge success in Nalanda too.

Student-Youth Struggle Conference in Patna

The movement continued with a Student-Youth Struggle Conference in Patna on 17 November 2008, organised by the AISA, RYA and Youth for Social Justice (YSJ). The Conference pledged to protect national unity and save democracy, and called for a march to Parliament on 12 December 2008.

The Conference expressed students' outrage that the UPA-NDA Governments of Maharashtra, Bihar and Delhi were meting out jail for students and bail for the likes of Raj Thackeray. The Conference adopted a Pledge affirming that any citizen had a right to seek a living anywhere in India. A set of resolutions were passed – demanding immediate resignation of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and strong action against the police officials of Patna, Sasaram, Biharsharif, Motihari, Narkatiyaganj and other places for arresting and jailing the protesting students on trumped-up charges; condemning the UPA Govt. and Maharashtra Govt. for their tacit support to the MNS-Shiv Sena fascism; condemning RJD, LJP, Congress and NCP of the UPA coalition and JD-U and BJP of the NDA coalition for betraying migrant youth on this burning issue and demanding that all Bihar MPs including Central ministers Lalu Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and others from Bihar immediately tender their resignation from Parliament and Government; demanding a judicial enquiry headed by a Supreme Court Judge into the fake encounter killing of Patna youth Rahul Raj; demanding an outright ban on the MNS and Shiv-Sena and trial and sentencing of Raj Thackeray for murders of Pawan (Nalanda), Dharmadev Rai (Gorakhpur), Harendra Manjhi (Gopalganj) and many others; demanding immediate and unconditional release of all the arrested and jailed students and withdrawing all the cases filed against them.

The main speaker at the Conference was CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya. The Conference was also attended by Rahul Raj’s father Shri Kundan Singh. Asked by mediapersons why he was on a political platform, he retorted that this was a platform for justice and that’s why he was there, having been let down by all ruling political forces. Shri Parmanand Prasad, father of jailed student in Motihari, also attended the Conference. Among others who addressed the Conference were former HoD of Economics Dept. of Patna University Prof. Naval Kishore Chaudhary, student leader during 1974 movement Arshad Azmal, General Secretary of All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association Dhirendra Jha, General Secretary of RYA Kamlesh Sharma, YSJ leader Awadhesh Kumar Lalu, Vijay Dubey of Daroga Abhyarthi Sangha and Amarjit Kushwaha of RYA. Abhyuday, State Secretary of AISA in Bihar and AISA National Vice President conducted the programme. A statement by noted documentary film-maker from Mumbai, Anand Patwardhan, was read out at the Conference.

Statewide protests in UP

Statewide protests and effigy burning of Vilasrao Deshmukh Govt of Maharashtra were held in Uttar Pradesh on 31 October. In Lucknow CPI(ML) members burnt the effigy of Vilasrao Deshmukh Govt. in front of the UP State Assembly. Protest demonstrations and effigy burning took place at Urai (Jalaun), Akbarpur (Ambedkar Nagar), Sonbhadra, Gonda, Deoria, Ghazipur, Mirzapur, Mradabad, apart from various other districts. In Mughalsarai a bicycle rally was held and in Allahabad a protest meeting was held.

The UP unit of the Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) held a protest march in Lucknow on 17 November 2008, demanding resignations of all UP MPs. The RYA leaders also said that the policies of the Mayawati Govt. like those of Nitish Kumar’s policies are destroying more and more jobs within the State forcing the students and youth to migrate en masse to distant places for finding employment. When these youth and workers from the State are being attacked there is no concern shown by the Mayawati Govt other than paying lip service. On the other hand the Mulayam-Amar combine continues to support the Congress-UPA, failing to force the Central Govt. to take remedial steps. The protestors declared that they would join the all-India march to Parliament on 12 December on this issue. The march was led by RYA State President Balmukund Dhuria, RYA national secretary Om Prakash Singh, AISA State Secretary Manish Sharma and AISA State President Ramayan Ram apart from others.

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