On 10 January 2012, thousands of toiling people under the banner of CPI(ML) rallied at Rani Rashmoni Avenue, Kolkata, demanding “Land, Livelihood, and Democracy”. Protesting against the anti-people policies of the new State Government, and the betrayal of the left legacy of West Bengal by the CPI(M)-led Left Front, the rally sent a powerful message that CPI(ML) is the only Left alternative and voice of resistance against the State Government led by the TMC-Congress combine.
Unregistered agrarian labourers who had been evicted from their land, landless poor peasants, farmers who have been denied of their remunerative price, minorities, workers of the transport sector, contract workers particularly from the Public Health Engineering department, tea garden workers, women bidi workers, women ASHA and Midday Meal workers, students, youth, intellectuals, and cultural workers – all participated enthusiastically in the Rally.
Three contingents of people, from Sealdah and Howrah stations and from Subodh Mallick Square, marched with red flags, festoons, banners, and slogans to gather at Rani Rashmoni Avenue. CPI(ML) State Secretary Comrade Partha Ghosh presided over the mass meeting and read out a charter of demands before the gathering. The rally was addressed by Taramani Rai, General Secretary of Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM), noted poet Nabarun Bhattacharya, CPI(ML) PB member Comrade Kartick Pal, CC member Comrade Abhijit Majumdar, Malay Tiwari of AISA, Chaitali Sen, National Secretary, AIPWA, AICCTU leader Basudev Bose, AIKM leader Suvimal Sengupta, and AIALA State Secretary Sajal Adhikari, among many others.
Addressing the rally as the main speaker, CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said that people of West Bengal had voted for a change in favour of land, livelihood and democracy and taught the CPI(M)-led LF Government a lesson for its arrogance and repression, and one could be sure that they would again teach the new government a lesson if their hopes and aspirations were betrayed.
Recalling the deaths of 174 people in the hooch tragedy; suicides of 21 peasants; and killing of women in police firing at Magrahat, he said the Chief Minister of the self-proclaimed ‘Ma-Mati-Manush’ Government didn’t care even to visit the sites of these tragedies or meet the survivors.
He asked, “The legislation enacted by the Government to return land to Singur farmers is yet to be implemented due to some legal complications: but what stops the Government from giving proper compensation to the peasant of Singur?” The new Government which came to power by promising support to peasants’ struggles against eviction and land grab, is itself leading the land grab effort and branding sharecroppers as ‘land robbers.’
Comrade Dipankar noted the many ways in which there was continuity between the new government and its predecessor. The TMC now plunders panchayat bodies, as the CPIM did before; privatisation is rampant; the hooliganism of CITU has been replaced by that of TMC; educational institutions, which witnessed CPIM’s violence and goondaism, is also fast coming under the clutches of TMC goons; terror on adivasis by central forces continues with renewed vigour.
Comrade Dipankar said, “Congress and TMC are claiming to be the real opposition in Bengal and Delhi respectively. But this is nothing but shadow-boxing. TMC is the second largest coalition partner of UPA, and Congress is very much within the ruling dispensation of West Bengal. People are calling their bluff, and saying that if they are indeed in Opposition to each other, let TMC withdraw from UPA, and Congress from the State Cabinet.” The Central Government in which both parties are partners are preparing a new Land Acquisition Act, bringing some cosmetic changes in the 1894 Act. But the proposed Act is an even bigger blueprint for land grab. Rather than any law for land grab, we demand legislation for protection of agricultural land, forest land, and coastal land.”
Comrade Dipankar observed that the fate of Leftism in West Bengal is not dependant on the rise and fall of CPI(M). Leftism lives in people’s struggles – and it is here to stay in West Bengal. Those committed to and concerned for the Left can be found in many Left parties, and even outside the fold of Left parties. “The Left Front model has been rendered redundant by history, and West Bengal now strives for a new model of Left unity forged in struggle. We have therefore offered a platform of coordination of fighting Left forces, the AILC.”
He said, “Even before the elections, we had said that it would be wrong to imagine, as the Maoists and their friends did, that TMC would usher in democracy and release all the political prisoners. Our apprehensions have been borne out. This Government promised to release all political prisoners and formed a committee of interlocutors. But at least 500 political prisoners still languish in West Bengal’s jails. Mamata Banerjee, who called for a judicial probe into Azad’s death before assuming power, has enacted another fake encounter, killing Kishenji, in her regime.
The only road ahead for Left resurgence in West Bengal and in the country, he said, is to build and nurture strong mass movements and build the independent assertion of the fighting Left. “We firmly hope that the banner of struggling Left shall again assert itself with all its glory and cherished legacy.”