Indian Holocaust My Father`s Life and
Time - SEVEN HUNDRED SIXTY FIVEPalash Biswas
Glowing tributes paid to noted social activist Dr Vinayan on his fifth death anniversary at the Jan Mukti Ashram founded by him at Nawada village in Jehanabad district. The members of Dr Vinayan's family were also be present on the occasion.Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti was a mass organisation in Bihar, India. MKSS was founded in 1981 by Dr. Vinayan and others.Dr. Vinayan set foot in Bihar in 1974 and was a close associate of Jaiprakash Narayan. He established the dreaded Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti in the '80's.In fact, dalits were prominent among those killed, but there were also members of ...Samiti (MKSS), with the help of an ex-socialist mass leader, Dr. Vinayan.
I personally could Never meet the Brahamin Maoist leader who DECLSSED himself and emerged as the Saviour of the Outcaste demography of Central Bihar. coincidentally, the General Secretary of CPIML was also a Brahamin, comrade Vinod Mishra! Both of them were based in Central Bihar where Class Struggle was translated in Caste Struggle as the Caste Hindus fielded PRIVATE Armies to execute Ethnic Cleansing!
I was rather very irritated in the way the MaoistLeaders were issuing warnings to ranveer Sena and other Private armies without securing Saftey or Safe Guard for the weaker sections subjected to genocide Culture. It was a major cause of Difference which Disilusioned me from the Idea of Armed Revolution as the result of Ideological Exercise often turned into Fresh Genocide as the ARWAL Cas estudy shows.
I believe, Dr Vinayan a Grass Root worker at first did not like the Practice and he voiced against this!
I was a student in Nainital, my Home Town while Dr Vinayan led the MKSS in Gaya in 1974. He was the Product of JP Movement. During the earlier period of Seventies the idea of toatl revolution was fantastic for us, the students and the youth! Specifically the dictatorial Transformation of the Sate and the Militarisation of Democracy and Finally Emergency made JP a Magnet!
But as soon as Dr Vinayan stepped in the Central Bihar where Land reforms were Unknown and the Land was Monopolised by the Powerful Castes, he broke away from the Magnet Field and sought a way out into Maoist Ideology!
As I have seen and witnessed Bihar in Eighties, He had no other Option at all. No Political Process could have relieved the Weaker Castes and the Proletariate in general. It is also True today. Nothing changed since Dr Vinayan Died! Like many of us, perhaps , Dr Vinayan did not read Dr BR AMBEDKAR . it would have been very interesting provided he had practiced Ambedkarite Ideology in Central Bihar!
My friends were in regular contact of Dr Vinayan and we could know his activities! Party Unity was also Very Active in Dhanbad Coalfields. Maoist tare unions were active.
The Maoists were also involved in Jharkhand movement and the question of Nationality problem was on Top Priority. but it was rather ideological Practice.
Dr Vinayan was working rathre in a Tougher Field and he had to develop his Methodology. The Reactions from the State and the Ruling Hegemeny were quite spontaneous but the Maoists seemed to fail to understand the ground realities and they also failed to understand Dr Vinayan and his Methodolgy! Otherwise, the work of Dr Vinayan could have been the base of Land reforms in Bihar hitherto UNWANTED!
I was in Bihar from 1980 to 1984, then Jharkhand. I had gone to JNU, New Delhi for M.Phil in linuistics after I had passed MA from DSB College Nainital. As I had been already involved wth Uttarakhand Mss movements and was quite aware of Nationality Problem, Jharkhand seemed to be attractive for field study. I planned to uderstand the production system and Economy, Industrial Set Up and Trade Union activities. This desire made me a journalist by accident as I Never did dream to be a journalist.I joined Dainik Awaz in dhanbad in 1980 just to feed myself during my stay in Jharkhand. But soon , I was involved deep in the day today problems of Jharkhandi People, the Aborigin landscape full of natural Resources. When Dr Vinayan was fighting in Central Bihar, I was investigati ng Mines Accidents! I had to know Mining technically and as a journalist I was very busy in those days!
IT was a case of bearding the lion in its den. Last fortnight, even as the Bihar state police claimed to have stepped up concerted action against the Naxalites and reactivised its intelligence wing, Dr Vinayan, 40, the president of the outlawed Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samity (MKSS), a militant organisation of the rural poor and landless peasants, held a news conference in Patna. Vinayan—who carries a prize of Rs 1 lakh on his head—and his comrades had gone underground after the state Government banned the MKSS in April last year. The press meet was called to announce that the MKSS had decided to severe all relations with the underground Party Unity Group (PUG)-one of the several Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) groups that are spearheading "people's" battles in central Bihar.
Dr Vinayan's overground feat came in the wake of a report that several of these groups had fallen out on the question of whether to continue the armed struggle, fuelling fears that the state will soon be witness to several inter-group killings. Said Vinayan: "PUG members are busy in the smear campaign against me) and the armed squads are openly saying that we will liquidate the MKSS." Vinayan's brazen appearance in Patna, right under their nose, has humiliated the state police as few things could have done.
In the 1980s, Jehanabad district was the epicentre of a Maoist-led armed struggle against landowning classes in Bihar. The Maoist cadres organized the landless Dalit labourers against upper caste landlords around the issues of land, wages, caste discrimination and sexual abuse of Dalit women. The heightened period of Dalit mobilization and struggle of the 1980s, however, gave way to a period of their demobilization in the late 1990s. In this article I explore the Dalit experience of structural cleavages that gave rise to their initial support for the Maoist movement as well as analyse the reasons for their later demobilization. Central to this discussion is an analysis of the Maoist trajectories of armed struggle and mass mobilization and its implications for Dalit participation in the Maoist movement.
Dr. Vinayan, founder of Majadoor Kisan Sangram Samiti (MKSS) in Bihar , passed away on 18 August at the age of 59. Vinayan, an MBBS from Agra Medical College , went to Bihar in 1974 to join the students' upsurge which later came to be known as the JP movement. He was jailed during the Emergency. After his release, he opened a dispensary at Sikaria village in Jahanabad district to serve the rural poor. In the early 1980s he emerged as the leader of Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti, a mass platform floated by the then Party Unity group which was active in the rural areas of Patna-Jahanabad region. For some time the MKSS was also involved in a combined anti-repression campaign along with the IPF, especially against the infamous Arwal massacre. Subsequently the MKSS suffered a split and he moved away from the Party Unity faction. Bihar would always remember his courageous role in the struggle against oppressive feudal forces and the state under difficult conditions.
CPI(ML) Unity Organisation had launched a mass organisation, the Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti ('Worker-Peasant Struggle Association'), together with Dr. Vinayan (an ex-socialist mass leader). CPI(ML) Party Unity effectively functioned as the armed wing of MKSS. CPI(ML) Party Unity managed to get the Bhoomi Sena (a Kurmi caste paramilitary outfit) to formally surrender to MKSS. In 1986 MKSS was banned. Eventually there was a rupture between Dr. Vinayan and the party, and Dr. Vinayan's MKSS faction denounced the party in 1987. CPI(ML) Party Unity launched the Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Parishad as its new peasant front.
Other mass fronts of CPI(ML) Party Unity included Lok Sangram Morcha ('People's Struggle Front'), Jan Mukti Parishad ('People's Liberation Council') and Bihar Nari Sangathan ('Bihar Women's Organisation'). Jan Mukti Parishad organised land seizures in Bihar, the organisation itself claimed to have redistributed 5,000 acres of land in the state. Through its land seizure struggles, CPI(ML) Party Unity became associated with its slogan jameen jabtee, fasal jabtee ('Seize land, seize crops').
Dr Vinayan was associated with Party Unity.The Central Organising Committee, Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Party Unity, more commonly known as CPI(ML) Party Unity or simply 'Party Unity', was a communist party in India 1982-1998. N. Prasad was the general secretary of the party. Party Unity was the official organ of the party. CPI(ML) Party Unity was one of the predecessors of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
On August 11, 1998 CPI(ML) Party Unity merged with CPI(ML) People's War. The unified party retained the name CPI(ML) People's War. The merger was the result of a five year long process of negotiations between the two parties. Throigh the merger with CPI(ML) Party Unity, CPI(ML) People's War gained a foot-hold in northern India.
The activity of CPI(ML) Party Unity was concentrated in central Bihar; the districts of Jehanabad, Gaya, Aurangabad, Palamu, Nalanda andNawada. The party was also present in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab.The party was founded in 1982, through the mergers of CPI(ML) Unity Organisation of N. Prasad (Bihar) and Bhowani Roy Chowdhury (West Bengal) and the COC, CPI(ML) faction led byM. Appalasuri. CPI(ML) Unity Organisation had been founded in 1978 by a group of Naxalites from the Jehanabad-Palamu area, that had been released from prison in 1977.The Central Organising Committee, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) had been formed by some elements of the erstwhile CPI(ML). The COC, CPI(ML) upheld the legacy ofCharu Majumdar but was ready to retain a critical attitude to some aspects of Majumdar's role.he party advocated agrarian revolution and protracted people's war. CPI(ML) Party Unity conducted armed struggle, advocating attacks on upper castes as a means of mobilizingDalits for agrarian reform. The party denounced participation in elections.
A party congress was held in 1987. The congress issued the following statement regarding the tasks of the party: "We are tackling the steadily increasing armed onslaughts of the state, through mass resistance. But gradually the squads too will have to come forward to participate in this resistance. At the phase of confiscating all lands of the landlords and on the eve of building up the guerilla zone, the activities of the squads will be the main aspect of the people's resistance against the armed attacks of the state."
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti (Hindi: मजदूर किसान संग्राम समिति, 'Worker-Peasant Struggle Association') was a mass organisation in Bihar, India. MKSS was founded in 1981 by Dr. Vinayan and others. The following of MKSS was largely made up of Dalits.
MKSS emerged out of the Jayaprakash Narayan-led anti-Emergency struggles in Bihar. Dr. Vinayan had been a leader of the JP movement. He had founded MKSS to struggle for land reform and minimum wages. The Jehanabad and Gaya districts were the epicentres of the movement. The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Unity Organisation (from 1982 onwards, the CPI(ML) Party Unity) aligned with MKSS. Effectively CPI(ML) Party Unity came to operate as the armed squad of MKSS, confronting the private armies of landlords (senas).
In 1984 the MKSS secretary Krishna Singh was killed by landlord senas. In April 1986 police opened fire on a MKSS rally in Arwal. 23 poor peasants were killed. Following the Arwal massacre MKSS was banned.
In June 1987 MKSS was divided in two. Dr. Vinayan was become increasingly hostile to CPI(ML) Party Unity, citing that the killings conducted by the party damaged the image of MKSS. One MKSS faction remained loyal to Dr. Vinayan, the other (led by Aravind) retained links to CPI(ML) Party Unity. The Dr. Vinayan faction reconstructed themselved as the Jan Mukti Andolan. CPI(ML) Party Unity reconstituted its peasant front as the Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Parishad. However, the names 'Sangram Samiti' or simply 'Sangram' remained in day-to-day conversations in Bihar.
|Vinayan had few parallels in the way he lived|
|Current Comment -Arvind Verma|
| The name was unusual and so was the man. In Bihar since 1974, Dr Vinayan is a well-known name among the downtrodden, intelligentsia and state administration. He impressed each of the three in a remarkable life that has few parallels in the country. We were privileged to call him a friend and dedicate this piece to mark his inopportune death a few days ago. |
Vinayan heeded the call by Jai Prakash Narayan (JP) in 1974 to bring a total transformation of society. He gave up his medical degree to come down to Bihar and work in Jehanabad. He mentioned once how JP would make sure that all those responding to his call understood the sacrifice that was being asked. JP would tell everyone that they were not coming as guests and should not expect to be treated like a groom in the village. They would have to live like the villagers, sharing their lives and struggles.
Vinayan was one of those rare persons who went and did exactly that, spending his next 32 years in Central Bihar, living among the poor and becoming a part of their life. Almost all those who had joined the people's struggles in the 1970's gradually lost their fire and capacity and moved away, or on. Not Vinayan. His peripatetic and monastic lifestyle in the service of Bihar's poor continued uninterrupted.
Only in the last few years he agreed to establish a permanent centre where he lived.
He organised the landless in an association called the Majdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (MKSS) to demand better wages and working conditions. In the feudal society of Bihar this was resisted by the landlords and elite. The politicians, bureaucracy and the landed got together to block any attempts to transform the society and break the feudal relationship. The MKSS was targeted by the police as a Naxalite party, banned and Vinayan was labelled a Naxalite leader. The attacks on his party functionaries and use of force against the struggle brought him in contact with the Party Unity Naxal group that provided armed squads to oppose the onslaught by the landlords.
It is not clear what the relationship between the MKSS and Party Unity was, but the association invariably established Vinayan as a Naxal leader seeking to overthrow the establishment by force. Vinayan himself never participated in any armed action but he did begin to justify armed resistance as a form of defence.
However, the actions of Party Unity were not always in consultation with MKSS.
To his credit, he subsequently broke away from Party Unity and shunned the use of violence. This helped him work openly and come in contact with other thinkers, activists and media. He became a recognised name in academic sessions, conferences and contemplative gatherings, where he impressed everyone with his scholarship and knowledge. He was a fluent speaker and kept his audience captivated. His ability to quote from Marxist scholars to religious texts, was noteworthy. But most important was that his talks were rooted in personal experiences with the daily struggles of Bihar's poor and not an academic formulation arrived at in the air-conditioned comforts of Patna or Delhi's seminar halls.
One of the most remarkable episodes in the history of state violence and oppression in post independence India centred on Vinayan and the MKSS. In 1985 the police opened fire on a peaceful and unarmed MKSS meeting in Arwal killing nearly a 100 people.
But despite widespread condemnation the government of Bihar never took any action against the police officers responsible. In fact, they proceeded to ban the MKSS and announce a Rs l lakh award for Dr Vinayan — dead or alive! This was the low water mark of Indian democracy.
In the 1990s Vinayan also used his contacts and field knowledge to work with bureaucrats, police officers, thinkers and political activists to draft new policies for the poor.
He worked with policy makers in Delhi, Patna and other cities to develop legal mechanisms that could help the 40 per cent downtrodden of the country. In particular he had played a lead role in the passing of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act which is considered a revolutionary initiative of self-governance for tribal people.
Vinayan leaves little of his legacy. He did not publish much and most of his speeches were never recorded. Since a good part of his life was spent underground, little is known about the phases.
We also failed to engage him in discussions about the changes in his perceptions and impact of his work. Like all Marxist scholars he did move away from rigid interpretation of class struggle but remained convinced about his theories.
The new economic policies that have begun to transform even the backwaters of central Bihar left him confused as other scholars. Could capitalism transform a society for better? He seemed to deny this but his arguments were getting weaker.
He did acknowledge sometimes that his activities were not transforming society but he continued to hope he was raising people's consciousness.
MKSS perhaps will disintegrate or lose its strength. But it is clear that for years the poor will remember that a remarkable man gave his life for them.
Arvind Verma is a former Bihar cadre IPS officer and presently is the assistant professor of criminal justice at Indiana University, Bloomington, USA.
|Death of a good man|
|DR VINAYAN, WHO DIED LAST WEEK, WAS A MAN OF MANY PARTS. UTTAM SENGUPTA PAYS A TRIBUTE|
He once carried a reward of Rs 1 lakh on his head. He was said to be running a parallel government and a state-wide alert was sounded to arrest him. But he remained completely unperturbed and there was nothing in his behaviour to suggest that he was on the run.
He walked as briskly and travelled as he always did. And he would drop in without any notice, stay for a day or two and then demand that I reach him to the station on my scooter.
I was always scared that he would be recognised because his photos were being published in newspapers. Why didn't he put on a disguise, I had suggested, worried that if he were to be arrested from my home or my scooter, I, too, could land into trouble. He had laughed it off.
So, there I was, driving him to the station, hoping nobody would recognise him. And nobody did. On several occasions, he would get down in front of a police jeep and nonchalantly walk into the crowd.
The IB chief in the state, Shyamal Datta, who now happens to be the governor of Nagaland, however, told me, casually, that I should ask my friend to be careful. "The police know that he visits you and there is a plan to put your house under watch," he informed.
Shocked, I tried to send word. But there was no mobile those days and he was literally "underground". Several weeks later, he dropped in again. It was a relief to find him at large. But I was anxious that we should arrange for another hideout for him. I conveyed what Datta had told me. As expected, he was unruffled.
"My people are suffering in the cold," he replied: "why don't you ask your friend in the IB to donate some blankets," he said, while preparing khichdi in our kitchen. It was an outrageous suggestion but I still conveyed it the next day.
A week later, Datta called up and asked if we could meet. When I called on him, he asked his men to take out his personal car. Both of us drove to my house and we unloaded 25 blankets. Days later, Datta and Dr Vinayan, the "dreaded" president of Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, a Naxalite-front organisation, met and discussed the political situation in the state. I believe they both developed a mutual respect.
He was, finally, arrested almost two years later. It was early in the morning while he was waiting at a small wayside station to board a train. A policeman on holiday recognised him. What is remarkable is that he apparently apologised to the "doctor" and explained that the "reward" would help him tide over his financial difficulties.
Ironically, one of the accused in the Baroda Dynamite Case during the Emergency, Dr Vinayan never approved of violence. Although during the Emergency he carried dynamite from Baroda to Patna, hid some in the house of a well-known journalist and took the rest with him to Bhojpur to blow up gas pipelines and railway tracks. With no experience of handling dynamite, the exercise flopped and he would laugh while recalling it.
He was a great story-teller (It's a pity he did not have time to write) and recalled with relish his clandestine meeting with George Fernandes at a cathedral in Calcutta.
The media and the government found it convenient to describe him as a "Naxalite" but he actually believed in non-violence and I never saw him carry a firearm.
He had sharp differences with Naxalites underground and argued that while armed squads unleash violence and retreat, the innocent villagers pay for it. An armed squad would hold a court and mete out summary justice by killing a person. But the police would implicate 50 or 60 villagers for it and it would take the poor families six months or more to arrange for bail.
They would also spend time and money on litigation for years. One act of violence, therefore, had the potential of ruining an entire village, he said. The differences became so stark and sharp that he was forced to leave the outfit. For some time he was on the Naxalites' hit-list and they unsuccessfully carried out a campaign to tarnish his image. He was publicity-hungry, they said, and fond of good life.
Even when Vinayan died on Friday last week, the ticker on TV described him as a "Naxalite" leader. But he was more a follower of Gandhi, setting off on padayatras at the drop of a hat. I recall two occasions, one after the Babri Mosque was demolished. He mobilised 100 villagers and set off for Ayodhya on foot. On the way they would talk to people and tell them of the threats from communalism.
On another occasion, he returned from a padayatra to Delhi and complained that there was no provision for pedestrians on the GT Road.
He had great difficulty in keeping the villagers accompanying him from getting run-over and he was incensed at the gross disregard for the common man.
Although he himself was a Brahmin, he identified with the backward classes. In India it is not easy to live down your caste identity and background. As a result, some backward communities harboured suspicion about his intent and upper classes marked him as an "enemy".
He was too strong, too independent and too outspoken to be acceptable to any political party. Therefore, while lesser mortals got nominated or elected to the Rajya Sabha and the Legislative Council, he remained, till the end, a grassroot worker.
His brilliance had prompted Lal Bahadur Shashtri Administrative Academy to invite him, time and again, to deliver lectures to IAS probationers. His inputs were eagerly sought by the Planning Commission, which nominated him to an advisory committee and even the mandarins at the PMO sought his opinion.
He had a large circle of friends, in the bureaucracy and outside, and it would have been easy for him to lead a good life.
It would have been easier to get an assignment and live in Delhi. Had he desired, he could have secured foreign funds and travelled abroad.
But the "Doctor", who studied at Agra Medical College but never appeared at the final examination, had chosen the killing fields of Jehanabad as his karmabhoomi.
While he would fly to the national capital for meetings at the Planning Commission and be put up in India International Centre or the Indian Habitat Centre, he would uncomplainingly return to Jehanabad. Those who have not been to Jehanabad, will find it difficult to imagine the conditions there.
When he died, his people in Jehanabad would not allow the body to be taken away. They insisted on cremating him close to the ashram he had set up. It was Jai Prakash Narayan who had asked him to go and work in Jehanabad, where he landed in 1974. During the last three decades, he had made it his home.
Vinayan will be mourned by anyone, who was fortunate to have spent time with him. The last time he called me up a few months ago, he did it to champion the cause of innocent villagers who were arrested in Garhwa.
The last time I met him was in Ranchi, where he was taking part in a workshop on displacement. I remember him sitting on fast in Patna on at least two occasions to demand that tribals be given back their right over minor forest produce.
On both occasions, the then CM of Bihar, Lalu Prasad, offered him lemon juice and the assurance that the demand would be met.
A god of small things or a champion of lost causes? He was so full of positive energy that setbacks would not daunt him. He was the stuff leaders are made of. But how many were prepared to be led?
Peasant Struggles in Central Bihar
[From the Political-Organisational Report adopted at the Fourth Party Congress, 1987.]
The movement in central Bihar covers seven districts: Bhojpur, Rohtas, Patna, Gaya, Jehanabad, Aurangabad and Nalanda. Our Party is the main leading force behind it. This phase of peasant struggles in Bihar with its genesis in the heroic struggles of Bhojpur and Patna between 1972 and 1979, represents the third milestone after Telengana in 1946-49 and the Naxalbari phase of 1967-1971.
The present phase of peasant struggle began in the rural areas of Patna in the early '80s and soon spread to Nalanda and Jehanabad. A new awakening took place in Bhojpur, Aurangabad, Rohtas and parts of Gaya. The government replied with massive police actions, sometimes termed as Operation Task Force. Assisting the armed gangs of landlords, better known as private armies, undertaking certain administrative and economic reforms, mobilising the support of different political parties, particularly the CPI and Sarvodaya groups, as well as of the news media — thus the government made multi-pronged attempts to suppress the movement. In the face of these governmental measures and due to our own tactical mistakes, we suffered setbacks and losses in certain areas and had to make retreats and readjustments in many other areas of operation. On the whole, however, we successfully countered these measures and succeeded in disintegrating the private armies, restricting our losses to a minimum and retaining the initiative in our hands.
In essence, the entire struggle revolves around three issues:
(i) For an increase in the wages of agrarian labourers who account for 30-40% of the rural population in these areas. Now a considerable section of landowners does not engage in field labour because of feudal traditions as well as the availability of cheap labour. Obviously, the target range of this struggle becomes quite large and provides scope to reactionaries for caste-based mobilisation and formation of private armies. The form of struggle usually resorted to is strike which often develops into armed confrontations. We stand for boldly expanding strike struggles over large areas, if possible including several blocks of a district. This is essential for the development of class consciousness and class solidarity among agrarian labourers and as communists, it is the foremost duty of ours to organise this class, the most advanced revolutionary detachment in the countryside. Contrary to the liberal mode of thinking which prefers to avoid this struggle for the sake of so-called broad peasant unity, in actual practice, organising the strike struggle over a large area alone can break the reactionary alliance of landowners, and facilitate compromise with the middle sections.
(ii) For the seizure of surplus, vested and homestead land under the occupation of landlords, mahants and rich peasants; and distribution of the same among landless and poor peasants. In this struggle the target-range is narrowed down to the possible minimum. Generally, the middle sections possessing vested lands are spared and the course of persuasion and exerting pressure is adopted in the case of rich peasants. In the distribution of land, attempts are made to involve and unify the people. The seizure of lands, crops, ponds, and assertion over fishing rights in canals or rivers etc. often lead to armed confrontations.
In the whole process of seizure and distribution of land, acquisition of patta rights, organising the production, and finally, in preventing usurpation of the gains by dubious elements from among the people, the struggle generally tends to get blocked at one stage or another. There are, perhaps, more instances of failure than success. Of late, with the formulation of proper policy guidelines and stricter implementation, things however seem to be improving.
(iii) For the social dignity of dalits and backward castes. As it strikes at the root of feudal authority, this struggle tends to become quite intense and the entire range of upper castes of babusahebs, babhans and babajis becomes the target. On the other hand, such struggles draw support from almost all the classes of backward castes. There are always some exceptions though, from both the sides. Generally, in all the villages a small section of progressive people from upper castes cooperate with this struggle, while sections of backward castes join hands with reactionaries from upper castes. Under the impact of struggle over all these years, certain sections of upper castes in several areas have begun to change their traditional attitudes.
To effect a greater polarisation among people on class lines and to unite broad sections of rural population, we are trying to take up many other related issues as well, say, recording of tenancy rights, mobilising people against the corruption of block officials, etc. The question of corruption is linked with agrarian development, as the lion's share of benefits is usurped by these officials in collusion with local reactionaries. Besides, action against dacoit gangs, certain village development works, relief measures etc. are also taken up to unite the broad masses of rural population.
We hold that only an integrated programme of struggles and activities on all such issues can ensure broad peasant unity under the leadership of agrarian labourers and poor peasants. We are often accused by opportunists of all hues of disrupting the broad peasant unity and of pitting agrarian labourers against peasants. By sacrificing the interests of agrarian labourers and poor peasants and by refusing to mobilise them in mass struggles, their class consciousness and class solidarity cannot be developed, nor can their leadership be established over the peasant movement. Naturally, the so-called broad peasant unity simply boils down to unity under the leadership of rich peasants. There is no middle way.
We still cannot claim to have altered the class and caste balance in our favour, but gradually we are heading towards building this unity on a new basis. In certain areas, middle peasants and middle sections of upper castes are also being mobilised under the banner of Kisan Sabha.
It must be mentioned here that the Party Consolidation Campaign was taken up quite seriously and effectively in these areas. Neglecting the task of party building, particularly during the phase of high tides in the movement, has been a common weakness in our Party's history. And this has been the main reason behind long-term setbacks in many areas. Strengthening the Party is imperative for checking negative tendencies which appear in the course of the movement, for formulating correct policies and ensuring their implementation, for transforming the hundreds of activists brought into the fore by the movement into permanent assets of the Party, and of course, for continuing the struggle and raising it to ever higher levels.
Now, there is a certain trend of thought which belittles this role of conscious effort on the plea that it hampers the growth of peoples' independent initiatives. In fact, it is not excess of conscious efforts but the lack of it which derails the struggle, strengthens a narrow peasant mentality, degenerates the fighters into bandits and bogs the struggle down in futile skirmishes, and ultimately blocks the independent initiative of the people. The MCC's indulgence in caste war of attrition in parts of Aurangabad and the COC(PU)'s activities in certain parts of Jehanabad confirm this. We too have similar experiences in parts of Patna, Nalanda and Jehanabad. Fortunately, our Party organisation has, in the main, overcome such negative trends and Party work is now organised in a more rational way. And it was the Party Consolidation Campaign, which brought about the essential breakthrough in this regard.
In the course of our practice in the past few years many new features have come up in the movement which are being popularised in the entire region and the whole work is undergoing a certain reorganisation. Let us briefly discuss these changes and new developments in this chapter.
Forming Village Committees
We found that in a certain village in Bhojpur, local comrades were going about the formation of village committee in a way different from the formal one practised till then by the Kisan Sabha. The village was a local centre of struggle and while forming the village committee a new dynamic concept was introduced there. They vowed to turn the formation of the village committee into a festival of the masses, and step-by-step mobilised them in democratically electing their own committee. We have seen in our past experience that during the upsurge in the movement, people built up their own village committees as the centre of all activities. In contrast, the formation of village committees by the Kisan Sabha as its lowest unit appeared to be too stereotyped, too formal an affair. In many a case, the village committee simply turned into a village development body, devoid of class struggle and detached from the Kisan Sabha. Taking the cue from the Bhojpur experiment the Party subsequently improved upon the concept of village committee. The village committee came to be emphasised as the key to releasing the people's initiative at the grassroots level, as a living mechanism for enhancing their democratic consciousness, integrating into their subjective consciousness the concept of revolutionary democracy. Militant movements or general political mobilisations of peasants do not resolve the problem of revolutionisation of the consciousness of the broad masses which would enable them to grasp the futility of the bourgeois organs of formal democracy. Village committees built upon the basis of developing class struggle and practising democratic norms to the core help the masses differentiate in concrete terms between our democracy and their democracy. Consciously oriented by the Communist Party, these committees may be transformed into revolutionary committees in the future.
To fight the roving style of work of our organisers and strengthen the Party apparatus at the grassroots, we introduced the concepts of pockets. Every organiser is assigned a pocket of 10 to 15 villages by the Party committee concerned and there he is instructed to develop a Party unit and along with it an entire network of organisations so that even in times of white terror he can stay in his pocket, maintain contacts with the masses there and organise them in protest actions. He can leave the pocket only when so instructed by the Party Committee. This concept has lent more seriousness to the work of the organisers, increased the involvement of many organiser comrades who were earlier on the periphery of the Party organisation and also helped them plan and organise their work better. Such pockets are regularly assessed and classified accordingly. The number of pockets and of organisers making serious and successful efforts is increasing and in certain pockets strong Party units have already developed.
Reorganising the Peasant Association
Emphasis has been placed on organising peasant associations at block levels, first concentrating on a belt of 30 to 40 villages and then gradually spreading the work to the rest of the block. As the brunt of the most severe repression has to be borne by the local level peasant associations, a certain restructuring of their leadership has been felt necessary. It is not a wise policy to open all of one's leaders before the enemy. They should, therefore, learn to function in a rather semi-underground way. On the other hand, they have been asked to launch extensive membership drives, mobilise masses in a big way during their conferences and interfere more and more in the affairs of Block offices so as to expose the real nature of the various reforms undertaken by the administration.
Peasant associations in some areas have also organised conferences of tenants and of middle peasants. At some places they have organised sittings with general peasant representatives from different villages, so as to learn first hand about their demands. At many places nowadays they storm the Block offices with hundreds and thousands of peasants and demand explanations from government officials, force government officials' camps for relief and reforms to shift to poor people's tolas (hamlets), and represent the demands of the masses on their behalf. Their slogan is: everything through the peasant associations. This has helped frustrate the government designs to subvert the organisation through distribution of meagre relief.
Organising Village Defence Corps
In comparison to earlier periods this aspect is now receiving greater attention. In certain areas large number of youth are organised in such forces. Armed with spears, they spell panic in the enemies' hearts. It is they who play the main role in resistance struggles, in rescuing peasant leaders and in organising and protecting processions. These village defence forces operate under the command of village committees.
These are the forms of organisations at the lower level which since the beginning of the Party Consolidation Campaign, are being organised with greater emphasis and clarity. Charpokhri in Bhojpur, Islampur in Nalanda and Daoodnagar in Aurangabad are three areas where all the aspects of work discussed so far have been combined to a considerable extent. Many are the old areas of work where some of these aspects have been implemented and there have also emerged many new pockets of work in Rohtas and Gaya districts. In the districts of Nalanda and Aurangabad where the Party structure had been very weak for a long time, the district Party committee as well as the overall Party structure is now much better organised.
People's Armed Forces
Not all comrades know that by the end of 1975 we were left with only one armed unit in Sahar, Bhojpur, and that this armed unit too had developed strong roving tendencies and that it had become difficult even for the political commissar to manage it. And subsequently, we had to disperse its members as individual organisers by the end of 1976. Another armed unit was then just in the making, centring Comrade Jiut in a new area of work. In Patna, too, only one armed unit was left and that too had reached the point of dissolution. The majority of leaders and cadres were either killed or arrested. White terror was prevailing all over our old areas and the masses were subdued. The remaining Party organisers, however, carried on the work defying harsh conditions and kept the flame of struggle alive. Without the Rectification Movement in 1977 and without the drastic changes in the political line in the 1979 Special Conference, there would have been no peasant struggle or armed struggle today. Armed actions with a new spirit were revived from 1977 onwards and, in terms of the number of armed units and firearms, in terms of scale of their operation, today we far surpass our earlier phase. Today's village committees exercise much more authority than the revolutionary committees of those days and today's red patches are far redder than the red areas of that time. This advance in real life has been rendered possible by our retreat in concepts, whereas the earlier advance in concepts meant retreat in real life.
Still, we prefer to call the revolutionary peasant struggle in Bihar as being at its primary stage. This means, we shall have to go a long way in changing the balance of class forces. We must preserve our forces, accumulate strength and step by step expand and raise the struggle to higher levels.
The state of our armed forces is dictated by this reality. For years, we made desperate efforts to build regular armed units in as big numbers as possible. Our experience shows that though many fighters came to join such units, eventually only some could stay. They were basically those who could be developed to the level of Party cadres. Despite all our efforts, the growth of regular and stable armed units remained quite slow.
Basing on these conditions, we decided to put emphasis on building local squads. Now, not much progress could be made in this direction because of our inability to concretise tasks for such squads in the new situation. To begin with, we discouraged the earlier practice of building squads for and through annihilations. Then the concept of armed propaganda squads was clinched and such local armed squads were defined as the link between regular armed units and village defence forces. Areas comprising 15-20 villages were demarcated where these squads would march as armed propaganda squads for a fixed period every month. Many fighters who could not stay in regular armed units were mobilised in these squads. Regular units maintain links with them and whenever necessary they are mobilised in armed action. They take action against local reactionaries and snatch firearms on their own initiatives. They also organise general village youth in village defence forces.
In the present phase of armed struggle, we feel that the main emphasis should be laid on these armed propaganda squads. They also provide the necessary infrastructure for regular armed units, and in future, regular armed units can be developed extensively recruiting forces from these squads.
In the last few years, our regular armed units suffered some serious losses at Kaithi (Aurangabad), Kunai (Bhojpur) and Gangabigha (Nalanda). Analysis of all these cases reveals that agents from within the villages concerned, supplied information to the landlords and from there it went to the police. We had remained in the dark about the activities of these agents and the whole concept of security of our armed units had revolved around remaining alert about the landlords and the known agents and, of course, undertaking nightlong vigil in the darkness.
After these incidents, agents in all the cases were punished with death. But these exemplary punishments have not, and could not have, wiped out the entire intelligence network of the enemy. Class struggle is a very complex process and our enemy is quite capable of recruiting its agents from our own villages. In the face of our sharp retaliations, the enemy network often gets snapped, but then it is soon restored in ways more shrewd and subtle.
Our concept of security had been too simplistic and outmoded for any modern war. Now we are laying emphasis on building our own intelligence network. We should cultivate sources within the enemy camp, and recruit trained personnel for specific intelligence purposes. Apart from a regular armed unit and an integrated system of local armed squads, any complete system of armed formation, even at this stage, must have its own intelligence network, sources for manufacturing and procuring components of firearms, a medical branch and a scout system. Only such a complete system can provide armed units with the necessary freedom in their movements and only then can they have adequate initiative in their operations. We consider it necessary that Party district committees in these areas must appoint a capable comrade at the district level to look after the building of this system. Armed units and armed struggles are not playthings and there should not be any casual attitude towards them.
At this stage of the struggle, the regular armed units should concentrate on organising decisive armed actions against powerful armed gangs of the landlords. They should also defend the masses in the face of police atrocities and mete out appropriate punishments to the erring police officials.
In conclusion, I must say that:
This is for the first time that Indian communists have succeeded in continuing the peasant struggle over such a long period, steadily expanding its frontiers.
This is for the first time that Indian communists have taken up all forms of struggle, legal and illegal, extra-parliamentary and parliamentary, armed actions and mass struggles, and made serious efforts to combine them, without surrendering one for the other.
This is for the first time that Indian communists have tried to tackle the problems of both caste and class struggle, dealing a heavy blow to caste oppression, simultaneously enabling dalits to raise their heads while uniting agrarian labourers, poor and middle peasants on their class demands.
This is for the first time that innumerable leaders and cadres have emerged from among the ranks of the rural poor and it is they who form the main core of the Party. It is they who organise and lead the work and struggle on all fronts. And broad sections of rural poor have been mobilised in direct political struggle of national importance.
And, this is for the first time that Indian communists have succeeded in defending the unity of the party organisation spearheading the struggle, despite all manoeuvrings of ruling classes, despite all disruptionist activities of liquidationists and semi-anarchists, despite all the stresses and strains of setbacks and losses. We have made drastic changes in our line and policies, we had serious differences and debates among ourselves, but we always acted unitedly in a firm, disciplined manner.http://www.cpiml.org/archive/vm_swork/22peasant_struggles_in_central_bih.htm
Prospects of Radical Change in Bihar: Recuperating the Diseased Heart of Indiaby Shishir K. Jha
. . . the battle must break out again and again in ever growing dimensions, and there can be no doubt as to who will be the victor in the end, - the appropriating few, or the immense working majority.
-- Karl Marx: 'The Civil War in France', 30 May 1871.
The sheer persistence of monumental social, economic and political problems of India, provides attestation on the one hand, to the clear exploitative interests of her ruling class and perhaps tragically, on the other, to the seldom realized goals of its social justice movements. The Maoist movements of India have, in the last thirty years, been attempting to give an ardent hope to her revolutionary dreams. Currently there is great euphoria among the upper segments of Indian society regarding the wondrous opportunities being made available by "liberalizing" her domestic economy. This 'opening up' of the economy to mostly western capital is nothing but the slow and sure surrender of her economic and political sovereignty.
After fifty years of Independence, India faces abysmal conditions with over forty percent of the population (around 400 million) living below the poverty line. With high levels of unemployment, no regular source of income for a vast majority of the rural population, a desperate lack of infrastructure for clean water, health care and education, little or no land reform, India cannot afford economic policies that are mostly geared towards satisfying the consumer demands of its elite. India's external debt, a sign of her vulnerability to foreign interests, steadily rose from $20 billion (Rs. 64, 000 crores) in 1980 to around $100 billion (Rs. 320,000 crores) by 1995. India's total debt is around forty percent of her Gross Domestic Product. The rot and corruption among the elite class is becoming more endemic by the day. It is plagued by massive "scams," atleast ten of which with a total worth of around $6.8 billion (Rs. 20, 558 crores) are being investigated by India's Central Bureau of Investigation.
Given such a dismal picture it is expected that the rural and urban working classes will want to resist and organize against the ruling classes. The Indian left however faces a very daunting task of mobilizing, unifying and launching a nationally 'decisive' struggle. In an attempt to examine the response of the Indian left more closely, I will provide an overview of the enduring presence of Maoist revolutionaries in the state of Bihar.
The Withering State of BiharBihar is in the throes of even greater crisis. It is a state where the old (semi-feudal) vestiges are tenaciously clinging to life while the young, dynamic leaders of tomorrow are still waiting to be born. Bihar, a poor state, with an overwhelming 59 per cent of its population living below the poverty line, is largely dependent on a rural based economy. Such an economy, directly or indirectly, sustains 74 per cent of its population and provides for a workforce, of which 44 per cent are cultivators and 35 per cent agricultural laborers.
As the heart of India, atleast geographically speaking, the problems of Bihar have a lasting impact on the body of India. The diseased heart however has been recuperating and gaining fresh strength in the last three decades, thanks to the legacy of the "Naxalite" movement. This revolutionary legacy, borne with the hopes of launching a defiant working class struggle, is but the latest manifestation of a very rich history of 'tribal' and peasant struggles waged in Bihar, since the beginning of the British reign.
A Rich Narrative of StruggleThe Permanent Settlement Act, the famous legislation of 1793 enacted by the British East India company, fostered and consolidated a specific land relation between those who had control over it, the Zamindars, and those who did not. For most of nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Permanent Settlement helped the upper caste land owning classes to continue their traditional dominance over the land in return for 9/10ths of their total rental income. Such attempts at directly controlling Bihar's most fertile and productive lands sowed the seeds of future agrarian struggles.
Peasant and 'tribal' rebellions in Bihar-Bengal, specially the Chotanagpur region, began in the late eighteenth century and were frequent all throughout the nineteenth century. Among the first was the Sannyasi Rebellion (1770), when as a result of a devastating famine, a large number of 'sannyasis' and 'fakirs', along with many village artisans - including the severely exploited silk weavers of Bengal - and thousands of unemployed soldiers from the Mughal army, rebelled and fought against the British. In 1820-21, the Ho tribal peasants of Chotanagpur in Bihar rose twice against the British rulers, the local money-lenders and zamindars. The Oraons - another tribal community - rebelled in the years 1820, 1832 and again in 1890. To quell the ferocious Kol revolt of 1831-32, British troops were requisitioned from as far off places as Calcutta, Danapur and Benares. The Santhal uprising of 1855-57 was one of most widespread. Covering the states of Bihar, Orissa and Bengal, the Santhals were joined on many occasions by poor and landless peasants of lower castes. As many as 10,000 rebels were massacred in a final gruesome battle against the British. The turn of the century (1895) heroic struggle by the Mundas of Ranchi inspired folkloric visions of a new society.
The baton of the peasant struggle was carried to the plains of North and Central Bihar during the twentieth century. This agrarian struggle mainly expressed itself in three forms. The largest of these struggles were around the issue of bakasht lands. These lands were under the occupancy of the tenants but due to a putative lack of payment of rent, had been re-possessed by the Zamindars. From the 1920s until the early 40s, the land alienation was considerable. Between 2.5 to 3.4 lakh (one hundred thousand) occupancy holdings were annually alienated in the time periods of 1938-1940 and 1942-44, respectively. Together with the struggle for the commutation of produce rent and an increasing ecological burden on the peasantry, the structural features were in place for mass upsurges against the Zamindarisystem.
The Bihar peasantry was mostly led by Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha (BPKS), formed in 1929 by a charismatic leader, Swami Sahajanand Saraswati. The Kisan Sabha and the emerging Socialist Party together led a fast evolving peasant organization with a membership, that grew considerably to 400,000 by 1939. The BPKS began to strenuously demand: (1) the abolition of the Zamindari system, (2) the canceling of the agrarian debt, (3) the creation of a system that would allocate land to the tillers and (4) the assurance of employment to landless peasants.
However, the peasantry, both before and after Independence, were repeatedly betrayed by the Congress leaders, who in Bihar, were rather conservative. The leadership of the Kisan Sabha could not muster enough strength to push the Congress into accepting its demands. The Sabha's over-dependence on a few capable leaders, like Sahajanand, and its stronger ties with the tenants and middle peasants at the cost of the landless and agricultural laborers were its major flaws. The first wave of peasant struggle in the plains of Bihar, although not very successful, did certainly put the writing on the wall.
Lighting the Prairie FireThe specter of radical change haunts the semi-feudal interests of Bihar and India. The Congress party which came to dominate Bihar's political scene after Independence, having read the writing on the wall, offered token measures to ameliorate the land problem. With barely any shame and much pretension, the Bihar assembly passed the Bihar Land Reforms Act (1950) and the Fixation of Land Ceiling Act (1962), acts that were severely watered-down with deliberate loopholes, clearly intending to benefit the landholders. It is no secret that most of Bihar's governing elite were deep in collusion with the semi-feudal landed interests and had deliberately conspired to thwart the peasantry from acquiring their minimum share of the land and its produce. So, except for the replacement of the British Raj with an Indian Raj, the pre-independence rural class characteristics of Bihar did not change dramatically, with landlords, rich farmers and money-lenders, ranged on one side against tribal communities, poor and landless peasants and village artisans on the other.
Twenty-five years of pregnant silence in the Bihar countryside was broken in 1968 with a clarion call by Marxists-Leninists (M-L) for a militant peasant struggle, a struggle that continues to stir the hearts and minds of millions of Bihar's rural and urban poor. The Bihar struggle was but a loud echo of a deeply resonant Marxist-Leninist led, 1967 'Naxalbari' struggle. An armed struggle in the countryside against semi-feudal interests combined with area-wise seizures in order to finally capture state power was the leitmotif of the new Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries.
This new radical group has been very critical of the other "parliamentary" tendencies of the Indian communist movement, specially the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), for having betrayed their revolutionary role. Unlike these "parliamentary" wings, the CPI(M-L) officially formed in 1969, emphasized to a great extent and perhaps for the first time, the pivotal role to be played by the poor and landless peasants in smashing the edifice of the semi-colonial, semi-feudal Indian state. The first Congress of the Marxists-Leninists, held in Calcutta in May, 1970, inspired by the Mao Tsetung led Chinese revolution, adopted a full-fledged programme, which held that the 'principal contradiction' of the period was between feudalism and the broad masses of the Indian people, the resolution of which would lead to the resolution of all other contradictions.
The "Flaming Fields" of BiharMusahari and Bhojpur were the first places in Bihar where the silence of the peasants was decisively broken. Heroic lower caste figures like Jagdish Mahto, Ram Naresh Ram, Bhutan Musahar, Rameshwar Ahir, Dr. Nirmal Mahto, were some of the early leaders struggling to ignite that single spark that would light the prairie fire. By late 70s, many central and some northern districts of Bihar were raging with the flames of peasant struggles. Unlike Naxalbari in West Bengal, the place of its genesis, the Marxist-Leninist struggle in Bihar, has been able to endure, against all odds, till the very present.
What are some reasons for such demonstrated success? Unlike the other communist parties, one persisting and defining theme of the M-L struggle, be it in Bihar or elsewhere, has been its ability to draw in and greatly sustain the interest and participation of the poor and landless peasants. These peasants have answered the call for militant peasant activity against the arrogant, brutal, corrupt and pretentious activities of Bihari ruling class. Atleast three dominant M-L sections in Bihar, among half a dozen others: CPI(M-L) Liberation, CPI(M-L) Party Unity and the Maoist Communist Center, have been very active in recruiting and leading the militant peasants. Some of the mistakes committed in the early days of the struggle, specially early to mid 70s, have been apparently rectified, though much organizational and ideological re-direction may still be needed in order to launch a major struggle.
Four issues have come to chiefly dominate the M-L struggle in Bihar. The first and perhaps the most successful has been the relentless war waged on social issues. 64% of Bihar's population is composed of the "backward" and "scheduled" castes, the majority of whom have nursed a justifiable historical grievance against the upper caste (13%) dominated economic, cultural and political structures. The constant battle waged by the lower caste rural poor in acquiring social dignity or "Izzat" against the blood-thirsty and avaricious behavior of upper-caste landlords and rich farmers has been indefatigable and quite measurably successful. The M-L movement has thus greatly helped in dealing a devastating blow to the cultural heart of feudalism.
Secondly, the seizure and distribution of surplus land under the illegal possession of landlords, Mahants and other big landowners, which according to one count, even after the enactment of land reforms, is around 1.4 million acres, is perhaps the most violent and difficult of all the struggles. The land struggle is intense, given that an extraordinary 85% to 90% of Bihar's rural households own less than 5 acres of land each. The success in this struggle has been partial and relatively concentrated in a few central Bihar districts like, Patna, Bhojpur, Nalanda, Gaya, Jehanabad and Palamu. In conjunction with such a struggle and to provide sustenance to the movement at large, the Marxists-Leninists also feel the imperative need to maintain an armed group of peasants.
Thirdly, the struggle for the payment and enhancement of minimum wages of agricultural labourers has been a popular mobilizing demand. Even a minimum wage of Rs. 16.50 ($0.50) per day during non-harvesting periods and 10% of the crops during harvesting periods is not offered to the agricultural labourers. The struggle around wages can however create counter-productive tensions when the middle peasants are not able to pay the minimum to the agricultural laborers. This has been a potentially divisive issue as the M-L strategy clearly depends on achieving a unification of these classes.
Finally, in the last five to ten years a new direction has been established in pressuring the local administration to undertake the promised efforts at rural development. The rural population has been mobilized to ensure that the crores of rupees allocated for rural development projects such as the digging of wells, building of roads, providing of warehouse facilities are actually put to productive use. By articulating this pressure and forcing it to be directly accountable, the Marxist-Leninist's want to intensify the contradictions of the "comprador-bureaucratic" capitalist structure.
The ruling class of India and more specifically Bihar is like the "baron of old" who in the words of Karl Marx, "thought every weapon in his own hand fair against the plebeian, while in the hands of the plebeian a weapon of any kind constituted itself a crime." The names of Belchhi (1977), Parasbigha-Dohiya (1980), Pipra (1986), Kansara (1986), Arwal (1986), Khagri-Damuhan(1988), Tishkhora(1991), Bathanitola (1996) Ekwari (1996), Habaspur (1997) among many others are deeply etched in the memories and bodies of Bihar's poor and landless peasants. These are the unfailing moments when the landed interests have struck barbarically and mercilessly at the rural poor, killing thousands. The big landlords with much connivance of the Bihar state have, since the early 1980s, organized themselves into private armies ('Senas'). The sole purpose of these well equipped feudal 'senas' with names like Ranvir Sena, Kunwar Sena, Sunlight Sena, Brahmrishi Sena, Lorik Sena, Bhumi Sena, is to strike terror among the rural poor. Many of these 'Senas' have been liquidated by the organized struggle launched by different wings of the Marxist-Leninist parties operating in Bihar.
CPI(M-L), Liberation, led by its general secretary, Vinod Mishra, is perhaps the one organization that has traveled the greatest political distance since its early gestating moments. In a 'rectification' program launched in 1977, the Liberation group moved away from an emphasis on "annihilation of individual class enemies" to a concerted attempt at organising mass peasant movements under the umbrella of a 'Kisan Sabha'. In 1982, this group took an even more radical step by deciding to enter the thickets of parliamentary struggle under the banner of Indian Peoples Front. In ten years, at its Fifth Party Congress, the party itself decided to come out into the open and participate in all kinds of progressive mass organizations and parliamentary forums.
Though it has won one parliamentary seat (1989) and sent seven members in 1989 (under IPF) and six members in 1995 to the Bihar state assembly, its overall electoral success has been waxing and waning. The Indian Peoples Front was discontinued in 1994 due to its growing absorption of the energies of the mother, Liberation, organization.
It is rather too early to comment on the success of the new electoral strategy. It is certainly a radical break from CPI(M-L)'s past ideological moorings. On the one hand, the obvious benefit is a national presence and the possibility of intervening and giving shape to national debates. However, on the other hand there is a possibility that the electoral participation may dilute the intensity of the struggles over land, thus compromising the heart of the Marxist-Leninist ideological battle. The desire to win electoral victories will surely be seen by many in the Party as the easier struggle and may push some of them to relinquish the harder grounded struggles. Other M-L organizations in Bihar, like the MCC and the CPI(M-L), Party Unity have refused as yet to enter the electoral battle because of this perceived danger.
After a considerable gap of around sixty years, when the erstwhile BPKS was led by Sahajanand, the peasantry of Bihar are once more asserting themselves. The various CPI(M-L) parties are leading this intense struggle against the centrist and very corrupt practices of the Janata Dal on the one hand and the right wing, Hindu fundamentalists on the other. The stakes are becoming higher with each passing year.
Ultimately the Marxist-Leninist ideology will triumph or be defeated depending on the skill with which they negotiate between the scylla of parliamentary struggles and the charybdis of extra-parliamentary struggles. They must work hard to establish a national recognition as opposed to a strong regional presence in a few states like Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Assam. In a country like India with such abysmal conditions, much is riding on the success or defeat of the different communist strategies. Perhaps the call by the CPI(M-L), Liberation, for a National Left Federation of all communist parties, will produce the much needed debate for strengthening India's anti-systemic forces.
- Banerjee, Sumanta. In the Wake of Naxalbari. Calcutta: Subarnarekha, 1980
- Bharti, Indu. Bihar and the Ground Realities in Land Reform in India. (ed.). B. N. Yugandhar & K Gopal Iyer, (ed.). Vol. 1
- Liberation: Central Organ of CPI (ML). New Delhi
Vinod MishraFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Vinod Mishra (Hindi: विनोद मिश्रा, b. March 24, 1947, Jabalpur, d. December 18, 1998, Lucknow) was an Indian communist politician. Mishra served as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation between 1975 and 1998.
Early life and student activismVinod Mishra was born to Suryakesh Mishra. The family moved to Kanpur in 1955. Mishra studied at Adarsh Banga Vidyalaya Inter College. Later he graduated from Kanyakubja Degree College and was admitted at the Christ Church Degree College for post-graduate studies inMathematics. He went on to study at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Regional Engineering College in Durgapur in 1966. Mishra became associated with a group of leftwing students, who soon developed linkages to the AICCCR. Mishra led student rallies and a campus strike. By mid-1969 he had become a party wholetimer, leading a campaign of 'red terror' at the campus.
Mishra became the secretary of the Durgapur Local Organising Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (formed out of the AICCCR) in the early 1970s. However, he was arrested (along with Mahadev Mukherjee). After having pass a period at Asansol hospital following brutal beatings by the police, he was sent to the Baharampur Central Jail. Mishra continued to conduct political activities inside the prison.
1972-1975He was unconditionally released from prison on June, 20 1972 as one year without trial had passed. However, his release arose suspiscion in the CPI(ML). He was deployed to a remote village in the Agradwip area of Burdwan district. Along with Kartick Pal, he organized a peasants movement in the district. At the same time, chaos reigned in the CPI(ML). Mishra and Pal were included in the Burdwan Regional Committee of the party. In 1973 the CPI(ML) was split, with one group led by Sharma and another by Mahadev Mukherjee. Mishra initially belonged to Mukherjee's party, but he and the Burdwan Regional Committee broke with Mukherjee in September 1973. Mishra sought contact with the Sharma group, but the Burdwan Regional Committee was later divided and Mishra denounced the political line of Sharma (a critique, which amongst other things, called for the formation of open mass organizations, a move that almost constituted a heresy in the CPI(ML) movement at the time).
In 1974 Mishra came into contact with Subrata Dutta (Jauhar), a leader of armed struggle in the plain areas of Bihar. On July 28, 1974 (the second death anniversary of Charu Majumdar) a new party Central Committee was formed with Jauhar as General Secretary and Mishra and Swadesh Bhattacharya (Raghu) as members. The reorganized party became known as the 'anti-Lin Biao' group (whilst the faction of Mahadev Mukherjee constituted the 'pro-Lin Biao' group). The party would also become known as the CPI(ML) Liberation.
Party leaderMishra served as West Bengal secretary of the new party organization. Under Mishra's leadership new dalams (guerilla squads) were formed. In November 1975 Jauhar was killed. Mishra became the new party General Secretary in a reorganized five-member Central Committee. Mishra organized a second party congress, held clandestinely in the rural areas of Gaya district in February 1976. The congress unanimously re-elected Mishra as General Secretary.
On January 1–2, 1979 Mishra was encircled by police forces at Badpathujote in the Phansidewa area of Darjeeling district. In the midst of a prolonged gun-battle, Mishra was sustained multiple injuries and his comrade Bakul Sen (alias Amal) was killed. Mishra was able to escape, assisted by the dalam commander Nemu Singh. Mishra secretly visited China in 1979.
After the July 11, 1996 massacre in Bathani Tola, in which 21 Dalits were killed by Ranvir Sena, Mishra declared an 'eye for an eye' policy of vengeance against the perpetrators of the massacre.
Mishra was re-elected General Secretary of the party at the sixth congress of CPI(ML)Liberation in Varanasi October 1997.
Political legacyMishra was the political architect of the process of re-orientation of CPI(ML) Liberation. By 1976 the party had adopted a position that armed struggle would be combined with building a broad anti-Congress democratic front movement. The process further elaborated through an internal rectification process initiated in late 1977. In the early 1980s CPI(ML)Liberation began building an open non-party mass movement (in direct contradiction to the original policy of CPI(ML)), the Indian People's Front (founded in April 1982). The construction of IPF, through which the underground party could develop links to other democratic forces on the basis of a popular, democratic and patriotic programme, was based on interventions by Mishra. After the fifth party congress of CPI(ML)Liberation, Mishra left his underground life. He made his first public appeance in 25 years at a rally on the Parade Grounds of Calcutta in December 1992. However although Mishra broke with the dogmas of the early CPI(ML), he never renounced Charu Majumdar's legacy.
DeathOn December 18, 1998, in connection with a Central Committee meeting in Lucknow, Mishra suffered a heart attack and died later the same day. He was cremated in Patna on December 22, 1998, with thousands of followers taking part in the ceremony. The Internationale was played at the funeral. His body was wrapped in the red flag as it was cremated at the electric crematorium at Bansghat. Guests at the funeral included former Union Minister Chaturanan Mishra (of the Communist Party of India) and the Nepalese communist leader Madhav Kumar Nepal.
Personal lifeMishra married trice; in 1974 to Jyotsna (an underground cadre), in 1983 to Shikha (a party cadre) from Calcutta and in 1991 to fellow Central Committee member Kumudini Pati.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Sen, Arindam. The Life of Vinod Mishra
- ^ a b Karat, Prakash. Naxalism Today; At an Ideological Deadend. The Marxist, Volume: 3, No. 1, January- March 1985
- ^ a b Frontline. The road from Naxalbari. Volume 22 - Issue 21, Oct. 08 - 21, 2005
- ^ Hindustan Times. Formation of private armies
- ^ Indian Express. Vinod Mishra cremated in Patna
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The Central Organising Committee, Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Party Unity, more commonly known as CPI(ML) Party Unity or simply 'Party Unity', was acommunist party in India 1982-1998. N. Prasad was the general secretary of the party. Party Unity was the official organ of the party. CPI(ML) Party Unity was one of the predecessors of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
The activity of CPI(ML) Party Unity was concentrated in central Bihar; the districts of Jehanabad,Gaya, Aurangabad, Palamu, Nalanda and Nawada. The party was also present in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab.
The party was founded in 1982, through the mergers of CPI(ML) Unity Organisation of N. Prasad (Bihar) and Bhowani Roy Chowdhury (West Bengal) and the COC, CPI(ML) faction led by M. Appalasuri. CPI(ML) Unity Organisation had been founded in 1978 by a group ofNaxalites from the Jehanabad-Palamu area, that had been released from prison in 1977. The Central Organising Committee, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) had been formed by some elements of the erstwhile CPI(ML). The COC, CPI(ML) upheld the legacy ofCharu Majumdar but was ready to retain a critical attitude to some aspects of Majumdar's role.
The party advocated agrarian revolution and protracted people's war. CPI(ML) Party Unity conducted armed struggle, advocating attacks on upper castes as a means of mobilizing Dalits for agrarian reform. The party denounced participation in elections.
A party congress was held in 1987. The congress issued the following statement regarding the tasks of the party: "We are tackling the steadily increasing armed onslaughts of the state, through mass resistance. But gradually the squads too will have to come forward to participate in this resistance. At the phase of confiscating all lands of the landlords and on the eve of building up the guerilla zone, the activities of the squads will be the main aspect of the people's resistance against the armed attacks of the state."
CPI(ML) Unity Organisation had launched a mass organisation, the Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti ('Worker-Peasant Struggle Association'), together with Dr. Vinayan (an ex-socialist mass leader). CPI(ML) Party Unity effectively functioned as the armed wing of MKSS.CPI(ML) Party Unity managed to get the Bhoomi Sena (a Kurmi caste paramilitary outfit) to formally surrender to MKSS. In 1986 MKSS was banned. Eventually there was a rupture between Dr. Vinayan and the party, and Dr. Vinayan's MKSS faction denounced the party in 1987. CPI(ML) Party Unity launched the Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Parishad as its new peasant front.
Other mass fronts of CPI(ML) Party Unity included Lok Sangram Morcha ('People's Struggle Front'), Jan Mukti Parishad ('People's Liberation Council') and Bihar Nari Sangathan ('Bihar Women's Organisation'). Jan Mukti Parishad organised land seizures in Bihar, the organisation itself claimed to have redistributed 5,000 acres of land in the state. Through its land seizure struggles, CPI(ML) Party Unity became associated with its slogan jameen jabtee, fasal jabtee ('Seize land, seize crops').
Confrontation and unity
CPI(ML) Party Unity frequently clashed with other leftwing groups in Bihar. It fought over control of the Kurtha and Makdampur areas of Jehanabad district with CPI(ML) Liberation. CPI(ML) Liberation claimed that CPI(ML) Party Unity had killed 82 of its followers, whilst CPI(ML) Party Unity claimed CPI(ML) Liberation had killed 65 of its cadres. 50 people were killed in clashes between CPI(ML) Party Unity and the Maoist Communist Centre. Conflict between CPI(ML) Party Unity and MCC was most intense in areas of Gaya district; Tekari, Konch and Belaganj.
However, there were also moves towards unity between the competing factions. During the 1980s, there was cooperation between the MKSS and CPI(ML) Liberation in the struggle against Bhoomi Sena and state repression. The two parties jointly founded Daman Virodhi Sanyukt Morcha ('United Anti-Repression Front'). After the Arwal massacre of 1986, the two groups organised a historic gherao outside the Bihar Legislative Assembly. CPI(ML) Liberation broke all links to CPI(ML) Party Unity in 1988, after two massacres committed by CPI(ML) Party Unity in Jehanabad district in which 30 CPI(ML) Liberation followers were killed. In 1993 the All India People's Resistance Forum(AIPRF) was founded, a legal organization. AIPRF was co-sponsored by CPI(ML) Party Unity, MCC and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People's War, and functioned as a centre of coordination of activities amongst middle-class constituencies for the three groups.
On August 11, 1998 CPI(ML) Party Unity merged with CPI(ML) People's War. The unified party retained the name CPI(ML) People's War. The merger was the result of a five year long process of negotiations between the two parties. Throigh the merger with CPI(ML) Party Unity, CPI(ML) People's War gained a foot-hold in northern India.
- ^ Joint declaration by Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People's War, and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Party Unity
- ^ Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 27. p 930
- ^ a b Menon, Nivedita, and Aditya Nigam. Power and Contestation: India Since 1989. London [etc.]: Zed Books, 2007. p. 123
- ^ a b c d Nedumpara, Jose J. Political Economy and Class Contradictions: A Study. New Delhi: Anmol Publications, 2004. p. 116
- ^ Singh, Ram Shakal, and Champa Singh. Indian Communism, Its Role Towards Indian Polity. New Delhi, India: Mittal Publications, 1991. p. 127
- ^ Singh, Prakash, The Naxalite Movement in India. New Delhi: Rupa & Co., 1999, ISBN 81-7167-294-9, p. 129.
- ^ a b c d People's March. 30 years of Naxalbari — An Epic of Heroic Struggle and Sacrifice
- ^ Kujur, Rajat. Naxal Movement in India: A Profile
- ^ Clark-Decès, Isabelle, and Christophe Guilmoto. A Companion to the Anthropology of India. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. p. 322
- ^ Singh, Prakash, The Naxalite Movement in India. New Delhi: Rupa & Co., 1999, ISBN 81-7167-294-9, p. 97, 105.
- ^ Hindustan Times: History of Naxalism
- ^ Singh, Ram Shakal, and Champa Singh. Indian Communism, Its Role Towards Indian Polity. New Delhi, India: Mittal Publications, 1991. p. 128
- ^ a b Narula, Smita. Broken People Caste Violence against India's "Untouchables". New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999. p. 47
- ^ Ghosh, Srikanta. Bihar in Flames. New Delhi: A.P.H. Pub. Corp, 2000. p. 60
- ^ a b Frontline. The Jehanabad carnage. Vol. 14 :: No. 25 :: Dec. 13 - 26, 1997
- ^ a b Omvedt, Gail. Reinventing Revolution: New Social Movements and the Socialist Tradition in India. Socialism and social movements. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1993. p. 60
- ^ Nedumpara, Jose J. Political Economy and Class Contradictions: A Study. New Delhi: Anmol Publications, 2004. p. 117
- ^ Kumar, Rabindra. Impact of Rural Development on Scheduled Castes. New Delhi, India: Anmol Publ, 2002. p. 59
- ^ a b Nedumpara, Jose J. Political Economy and Class Contradictions: A Study. New Delhi: Anmol Publications, 2004. p. 268
- ^ Rediff. The Badlands Of Bihar
- ^ a b CPI(ML) Liberation. Experiences of Engaging with the Maoists
- ^ a b The Times of India. Sena men on key PW posts, says CPI (ML)
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Naxalite. (Discuss) Proposed since May 2010.
| * India Bangladesh|
Right-wing paramilitary groups:
Communist insurgent groups:
Supported by: People's Republic of China
Commanders and leaders
|* K Vijaya Kumar, Dir. Gen. CRPF||* Muppala Lakshmana Rao Kishenji|
Casualties and losses
Since 2002: 1,654 killed
Since 2002: 1,777 killed
10,000+ killed overall
564 killed overall (2001)
Since 2002: 4,351 civilians killed
The Naxalite-Maoist insurgency is an ongoing conflict between Maoist groups, known as Naxalites or Naxals, and the Indian government.
In 2006 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the Naxalites "The single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country.". In June 2011 he stated that "Development is the master remedy to win over people" adding that the government was "strengthening the development work in the 60 Maoist-affected districts
Naxalites claim to be supported by the poorest rural populations, especiallyAdivasis. They have frequently targeted tribal, police and government workers in what they say is a fight for improved land rights and more jobs for neglected agricultural labourers and the poor and follow a strategy of rural rebellion similar to that of the protracted People's War against the government.
However frequent killings of villagers, using women and children as human shields, harassment of cadre, illegal mining operations, attacks on schools & infrastructure projects and using children as young as 6 years old have undermined the Naxal claims of 'fighting for people'.
The Indian government's Home Secretary G K Pillai has said that he recognises that there are legitimate grievances regarding local people's access to forest land and produce and the distribution of benefits from mining and hydro power developments, but claims that the Naxalites' long-term goal is to establish an Indian Marxist state. The Home Secretary stated that the government had decided to tackle the Naxalites head-on, and take back much of the lost areas.
NaxaliteMain articles: Naxalite and Communist Party of India (Maoist)
Naxalites are a group of far-left radical communists, supportive of Maoist political sentiment and ideology. Their origin can be traced to the splitting in 1967 of theCommunist Party of India (Marxist), leading to the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist). Initially the movement had its centre in West Bengal. In recent years, it has spread into less developed areas of rural central and eastern India, such as Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
In 2007, it was estimated that Naxalites were active across "half of the India's 28 states" who account for about 40 percent of India's geographical area an area known as the "Red Corridor", where, according to estimates, they controlled 92,000 square kilometers. In 2009, Naxalites were active across approximately 180 districts in ten states of India In August 2010, Karnatka was removed from the list of naxal affected states In July 2011, the number of Naxal affected areas was reduced to (including proposed addition of 20 districts) 83 districts across nine states.
Region affectedSee also: Red corridor
The Naxalites operate in 60 districts in India, mainly in the states of Orissa (15 affected districts), Jharkhand (14 affected districts), Bihar (7 affected districts), Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh (ten affected districts), Madhya Pradesh (8 affected districts), Maharashtra (2 affected districts) and West Bengal (1 affected district). In West Bengal areas west of Howrah are affected by the insurgency. Chhattisgarh is the epicentre of the conflict (2007).
Areas governed by the elected Communist Party of India (Marxist) in India such as West Bengal, specifically those of Jangalmahal andLalgarh, are some off the worst affected by anti-state violence by Maoist groups who cite the accumulation of unaccounted for wealth in the hands of CPI-M leaders and specific failure to counter problems they were elected to address such as caste discrimination and poverty.
There is a correlation between areas with extensive coal resources and impact of the insurgency. Naxalites conduct detailed socio-economic surveys before starting operations in a target area. It is claimed that the insurgents extort 14 billion Indian rupees (more than $US300 million).
In Chhattisgarh, the militia group Salwa Judum (which the BBC alleges is supported by the state government, an allegation rejected by the state) was constituted in response to Naxalite activities, and has come under fire from pro-Maoist activist groups for "atrocities and abuse against women", employing child soldiers, and looting and destruction of property. These allegations were rejected by a fact finding commission of the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC), appointed by the Supreme Court of India, who determined that the Salwa Judum was a spontaneous reaction by tribals against Maoist atrocities perpetrated against them.
In Bihar, the Ranvir Sena, a caste-supremacist paramilitary of the upper-caste landlords and proscribed terrorist organisation by the Indian government, has been known to kill Dalit civilians in retaliation for Naxalite activity.
Similar paramilitary groups have emerged in Andhra Pradesh during the last decade. Some of these groups are Fear Vikas, Green Tigers, Nalladandu, Red Tigers, Tirumala Tigers, Palnadu Tigers, Kakatiya Cobras, Narsa Cobras, Nallamalla Nallatrachu (Cobras) and Kranthi Sena. Civil liberties activists were murdered by the Nayeem gang in 1998 and 2000. On 24 August 2005, members of the Narsi Cobras killed an individual rights activist and schoolteacher in Mahbubnagar district.
HistoryMain article: Timeline of the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency
2002The People's War Group (PWG) intensified its attacks against politicians, police officers, and land and business owners in response to a July ban imposed on the group by the Andhra Pradesh government. The government responded by tightening security, allegedly ordering attacks on suspected PWG members by state police and the "Green Tigers". Police forces continued to have virtual impunity for the killing of PWG rebels during police encounters. The Maoist Communist Center rebels intensified their armed campaign against Indian security forces following the killing of their leader by police in December. ..
2003The conflict in Andhra Pradesh intensified as Naxalite rebel groups, in particular the PWG, continued guerrilla attacks on police and government targets while the security forces stepped up counter-insurgency efforts. An October assassination attempt on Chief MinisterNaidu was consistent with the PWG's practice of targeting government officials to draw attention to their cause.
2004Sporadic, low-intensity fighting between the PWG and government forces continued for most of the year. Attacks on police and TDP party officials, believed to be carried out by the PWG, accounted for most major incidents and deaths. A three-month cease-fire, announced in late June, led to failed negotiations between the government and the PWG. A few days into the cease-fire, an attack attributed to the PWG placed the cease-fire in jeopardy.
2005Violent clashes between Maoist rebels and state security forces and paramilitary groups increased following the breakdown of peace talks between the PWG and the state government of Andhra Pradesh. Rebels continued to employ a wide-range of low-intensity guerrilla tactics against government institutions, officials, security forces and paramilitary groups. For the first time in recent years, Maoist rebels launched two large scale attacks against urban government targets. Fighting was reported in 12 states covering most of south, central and north India with the exception of India's northeast and northwest.
2006Maoist attacks continued, primarily on government and police targets. Civilians were also affected in landmine attacks affecting railway cars and truck convoys. Clashes between state police and rebels also resulted in deaths of members of both parties, and civilians that were caught in the crossfire. Fighting differs from state to state, depending on security and police force responses. In the state of Andhra Pradesh, security forces have been somewhat successful in maintaining control and combating Maoist rebels. The other state that is most affected, Chhattisgarh, has seen an increase in violence between Maoist rebels and villagers who are supported by the government.
2007Fighting continued between Naxalite Maoists and government security forces throughout the year. The majority of hostilities took place in Chhattisgarh, which turned especially deadly when over 400 Naxalites attacked a Chhattisgarh police station, seizing arms and killing dozens. Civilians are now wedged between joining the Maoist insurgence or supporting the Salwa Judum and face coercion from both sides.
In November 2007 reports emerged that anti-SEZ (Special Economic Zone) movements such as the Bhoomi Uchched Pratirodh Committee inNandigram in West Bengal, which arose after the land appropriation and human displacement following the SEZ Act of 2005, have joined forces with the Naxalites since February to keep the police out. Recently, police found weapons belonging to Maoists near Nandigram.
2008Civilians were most affected in the ongoing fighting between Maoist rebels and government security forces. Of the 16 states touched by this conflict, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand were the most affected. One positive note for Chhattisgarh was that fatalities, although still high, were significantly down from 2007. Similarly, Andhra Pradesh, the state with the most Maoist activity a few years ago, has improved security with a corresponding drop in fatality rates. Unfortunately, as conditions have improved in Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, the Maoist forces seem to have shifted their operations to the state of Orissa where conditions have worsened.
2009In September 2009 India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh admitted that the Maoists had growing appeal among a large section of Indian society, including tribal communities, the rural poor as well as sections of the intelligentsia and the youth. He added that "Dealing with left-wing extremism requires a nuanced strategy - a holistic approach. It cannot be treated simply as a law and order problem." In the first half of 2009, 56 Maoist attacks have been reported.
2010During February the Silda camp attack killed 24 paramilitary personnel of the Eastern Frontier Rifles in an operation the guerillas stated was the beginning of "Operation Peace Hunt", the Maoist answer to the government "Operation Green Hunt" that was recently launched against them.
On 6 April, Naxalite rebels killed 76, consisting of 74 paramilitary personnel of the CPRF and two policemen. Fifty others were wounded in the series of attacks on security convoys in Dantewada district in the central Indian state of Chattisgarh. The attack resulted in the biggest loss of life security forces have suffered since launching a large-scale offensive against the rebels.
On 17 May, a Naxalite landmine destroyed a bus in Dantewada district, killing up to 44 people including several Special Police Officers (SPOs) and civilians.
On 28 May the derailment of a Kolkata–Mumbai night train killed at least 150 persons. Maoists were responsible for the sabotage which caused the disaster.
On 29 June, at least 26 policemen are killed in a Maoist attack in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.
On 29 August, a joint team of BSF and district police was attacked by the rebels in Bhuski village (Chhattisgarh) under Durg Kondal police station in the district while they were conducting routine search operations in the wee hours. Following the attack, the forces retaliated and in the action they lost five security personnel, including three BSF jawans.
On 29 and 30 August, rebels ambushed a joint paramilitary-police team in Bihar, killing 10, wounding 10 more, taking 4 prisoners and robbing more than 35 automatic rifles from the state forces. The Naxalites later freed 3 of the policemen after Naxal leader Kishenji met with worried family members.
On 12 September, Naxalites killed 3 policemen and took 4 more hostage in an ambush in Chhattisgarh. The 4 policemen were later released without conditions after Naxal leaders listened to the appeals of family members. The freed policemen also promised the Naxals to never take up arms against the insurgency again.
On 5 October, rebels killed 4 Police officers as they were on their way to a market in Maharashtra.
On 7 October, Naxalites attempted derailment of Triveni express ,a train of Singrauli-Bareilly route, by removing 4 fishplates and 42 sleeper clips.
On 8 October, Naxalites triggered a landmine in the border area between Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. The attack killed 3 Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)jawans, wounded 2 more and destroyed a military jeep.
2011During May, Naxalites killed and dismembered ten policemen, including one senior officer in the Gariyaband, Chhattisgarh area on the border with Orissa. In June, the total fatalities of both the police and the paramilitary was 43.
On 21 July 2011, Maoist rebels in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh blew up a bridge, killing four people and wounding five others. The attack happened when the Congress party chief of the state, Nandkumar Patel, was returning from a party function.
Human tollThe first combat deaths of the insurgency were in 1980. Around 1,100 people are known to have died during 2009. The number includes 600 civilians, 300 security personnel and 200 rebels.
There were more than 40,000 displaced people in 2006.
According to the Institute of Peace and Conflict studies, Naxal groups have recruited children in different capacities and exposed them to injury and death. However the same accusation has been levelled at the state-sponsored Salwa Judum anti-Maoist group, and Special Police officers (SPOs) assisting the government security forces.
Deaths related to violence
Total per period
Total per period
According to the BBC, more than 6,000 people have died during the rebels' 20-year fight between 1990 and 2010.
Based on the above displayed statistics, it can be determined that more than 10,000 people have been killed since the start of the insurgency in 1980, of which more than half died in the last ten years.
- Salwa Judum
- Red corridor
- Chhatradhar Mahato
- Operation Green Hunt
- List of Naxalite and Maoist groups in India
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- Living on the edge of a disappearing world, June 16, 2011 14:56 IST, rediff.com
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Left-wing Extremist group
Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist)
The Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCC) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People's War (also known as the People's War Group or PWG) merged to form a new entity, the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) on September 21, 2004, somewhere in the projected 'liberated zone'. Officially, the merger was announced on October 14, 2004, by the PWG Andhra Pradesh 'state secretary', Ramakrishna, at a news conference in Hyderabad, on the eve of peace talks between the PWG and the State Government.
The merger is the consequences of initiatives that date back five years, when the PWG approached the MCC with a proposal of merger. In fact, since its inception on April 22, 1980, the PWG had been trying to bring all the Left Wing extremist groups (also called Naxalite) in India (numbering around 40) under its umbrella with the objective of overthrowing 'the bureaucrat comprador bourgeois and big landlords classes who control state power in collusion with imperialism' and 'to establish in its place the New Democratic State under the leadership of the proletariat' with the ultimate aim of establishing socialism and communism. The MCC had been its first target and talks had been on since the early 1980's. However, the discussions failed to progress initially as a result of turf wars and differences at the leadership level. Despite ideological commonalities and shared objectives, the pathways to the merger have been full of obstacles, with territorial and leadership clashes giving rise to an internecine conflict that lasted through much of the 1990s, as the two groups struggled for supremacy in different parts of then undivided Bihar, resulting in the death of hundreds of cadres and sympathisers. However, continuous interaction resulted in declining hostility between the two groups over time, and gradually increased operational cooperation and consolidation. The creation of Jharkhand State in November 2000 and anti-Maoist operations launched by the administration pushed the MCC and PWG into closer cooperation, and a truce was announced between them three years ago. Significantly, the PWG had earlier merged with the CPI-ML (Party Unity) of Bihar in August 11, 1998.
The first ever meeting between the PWG and MCC was held in 1981, when Kanai Chatterjee of the MCC and Kondapally Seetaramaiah of PWG met for over 12 days. Both leaders, though belonging to different streams of the Naxalite movement, stated that the grounds to merge are strong as both were pursuing a similar end. The PWG and MCC subsequently set out the procedure for a possible merger. However, such possibilities were premature, as in 1982 Chatterjee died of illness and Seetharamaiah was arrested in the Secunderabad conspiracy case.
Though the initial desire of PWG and MCC for unity was strong, not much progress was possible. Differences over tactical and strategic issues, personality clashes and a 'turf war' to control territory were predominant. Attempts to further the unity process, however, continued with talks commencing in 1992. Later, in September 1993, the PWG, MCC and the CPI-ML (Party Unity) decided to jointly intensify the Naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and other States and constituted the All India Peoples Resistance Forum to build a strong anti-feudal and anti-imperialist movement. The process of unification continued for three years, after which it finally broke down due to some differences on international issues pertaining to the Revolutionary International Movement. Both outfits issued a joint statement for the failure of the talks, outlining the differences and its momentary suspension, but decided to deliberate the unity at a later date.
Relations between the two outfits also soured, particularly after the merger of PWG and another left-wing extremist group, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [Party Unity], in August 1998. After 1998, armed clashes between the PWG and MCC intensified and this period is referred to by Naxalite outfits as the 'black chapter'. These clashes occurred despite the PWG's claim that "serious efforts were made by all the three (groups) to unite and build a united revolutionary proletarian party in India." The clashes were reportedly a result of the 'wrong handling of contradictions among the people.' "Instead of solving the contradictions with a class approach … (and) in a non-antagonistic manner, we adopted a parochial and non-proletarian approach", admits a PWG statement. In one of its self-critical note, the PWG 'central committee' has pledged to "learn from this negative experience and never again (to) take up arms against our class friends, no matter how sharp may be the differences. Political differences must be settled by polemical debates and by proving correctness of our politics through revolutionary practice, but not through the gun."
MCC took the initiative in declaring a unilateral cease-fire in January 2000, a gesture reciprocated by the PWG. This was primarily due to a rethinking in the MCC and appeals from 'revolutionary forces' within India and abroad. Subsequently, the dialogue process between the two outfits commenced in August 2001. At the first meeting, the two sides engaged in an introspection exercise, and decisions were taken to initiate joint activities at the Bihar/Jharkhand level. The introspection, much of it reportedly in written form, was circulated to the rank-and-file of the Bihar/Jharkhand party. Throughout the latter part of 2001 and entire 2002, joint activities were undertaken in Bihar-Jharkhand. Further, during November 2002, a joint statement issued by the two groups at Patna, capital of Bihar, claimed that the indiscriminate use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) against the Naxalite cadres and sympathizers by the Jharkhand Government had "compelled them to iron out differences" and fight jointly against the state.
It was at the February 2003-meeting that a decision was taken to initiate concrete steps towards discussions on ideological issues with the clear direction and purpose of a merger. In this meeting, an extensive introspection exercise was put forward by both outfits for the 'Black Chapter' period and this was later made public. Both the outfits decided not to resort to clashes with 'class friends' irrespective of how severe the differences were. The meeting also laid ground for the advancement and finalisation of the process of merger. Towards this end, the two groups decided to draft five documents: Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Party Programme, Strategy and Tactics, Political Resolution on the International and Domestic Situation, and the Party Constitution.
Subsequently, during four rounds of negotiations between high-level delegations of the two outfits and the respective Central Committees (CC), a final agreement was reached in September 2004. The documents were adopted and also decided to be translated in about 10 regional languages for wider deliberations throughout the outfits' bases across India. Some minor differences that remained were to be decided at a later date after further discussion and study. Finally, the joint CC meeting of both outfits took the merger decision and a Central Committee (Provisional) was established.
Both organizations shared their belief in the 'annihilation of class enemies' and in extreme violence as a means to secure organizational goals. However, significant ideological divisions did exist in the past, with the PWG adhering to a Marxist-Leninist 'line', while the MCC embraced Maoism. These differences have now been ironed over, with Maoism prevailing, in the words of PWG Andhra Pradesh State 'Secretary', as "the higher stage of the M-L (Marxist-Leninist) philosophy. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism will be the ideological basis guiding its (CPI-Maoist's) thinking in all spheres of its activities." The new entity has reaffirmed its commitment to the classical Maoist strategy of 'protracted armed struggle' which defines its objectives not in terms of the seizure of lands, crops, or other immediate goals, but the seizure of power. Within this perspective, participation in elections and engagement with the prevailing 'bourgeois democracy' are rejected, and all efforts and attention is firmly focused on 'revolutionary activities' to undermine the state and seize power.
According to a CPI-Maoist press release issued by Muppala Lakshman Rao alias Ganapathi, the 'General Secretary' of the Party, the unity was aimed at furthering the cause of "revolution" in India. The new party also pledged to work in close collaboration with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). As part of its strategy, the CPI-Maoist would fiercely oppose the Central Government run by the Congress and its mainstream communist allies, the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the CPI-Marxist. Ganapathi also announced the formation of a 'People's Liberation Guerrilla Army' and extended support to "revolutionary struggles" in Nepal, Peru, the Philippines, Turkey and "other places".
The CPI-Maoist intends to carry on the new "democratic revolution, which would remain directed against imperialism, feudalism and comprador bureaucratic capitalism." The new party believes that the merger would cause "fear among the ruling classes" and would fulfil "the aspirations of the masses" for a strong revolutionary party that would usher in a "new democratic society" by advancing towards socialism and communism.
In a press statement dated October 14, 2004, General Secretaries of the Central Committee of the two outfits, Kishan of the MCC and Ganapathi of the PWG, declared that
"The immediate aim and programme of the Maoist party is to carry on and complete the already ongoing and advancing New Democratic Revolution in India as a part of the world proletarian revolution by overthrowing the semi-colonial, semi-feudal system under the neo-colonial form of indirect rule, exploitation and control… This revolution will be carried out and completed through armed agrarian revolutionary war, i.e. protracted people's war with the armed seizure of power remaining as its central and principal task, encircling the cities from the countryside and thereby finally capturing them. Hence the countryside as well as the Protracted People's War will remain as the "center of gravity" of the party's work, while urban work will be complimentary to it."
The five documents drafted by the Central Committee, Hold High the Bright Red Banner of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the Party Programme, Strategy and Tactics of the Indian Revolution, the Political Resolution on the International and Domestic Situation and the Party Constitution, lay down the objectives and strategy to be adopted by the CPI-Maoist.
Hold high the bright Red Banner of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism shows how Mao Tse Tung developed Marxism-Leninism to a qualitatively new and third higher stage in the fields of philosophy, political economy, military science and scientific socialism.
In Programme, the CPI-Maoist points out that in India the ruling classes, subservient to imperialism, have transformed the country into a prison-house of nationalities under the so-called slogan of "unity and integrity" of the country. While claiming that "It is in such a context that the ongoing nationality struggles in various parts of the country today are advancing by assuming various forms including armed struggle," the Programme unequivocally supports these 'nationalities struggles'.
The Strategy and Tactics of Indian Revolution states that a concrete class analysis of Indian society reveals that the character of Indian society is semi-colonial and semi-feudal. This determines that the Indian revolution would have to pass through two stages. The task of first stage is to change the semi-colonial and semi-feudal society into an independent new democratic society. To carry on and advance the people's war, an immediate task of the present stage of the revolution would be to arouse and organize the people, in a planned way, for agrarian revolutionary guerrilla war in the countryside - specially in the remote countryside (which is most favourable for the building up of the guerrilla war, the people's army and the base areas), and to build up the people's army and the rural red base areas through guerrilla warfare.
The Political Resolution deals with both the international and the domestic situation. At the international level, it states that the present day world is under great disorder, turbulence and instability, rarely witnessed after World War II. On the internal scenario, it states that the 'imperialist offensive' around the world is also clearly reflected in India.
The CPI-Maoist put forward a new Constitution based on the "Bolshevik principles of democratic centralism, with the core comprising of professional revolutionaries." According to the document: A wide network of part timers will facilitate the Party to exist deep within the masses. It will be underground for the entire period of the New Democratic Revolution and its members will comprise the cream of society — principled, selfless, courageous, dedicated, modest, hard-working and fully committed to the cause of the Indian revolution and to socialism and communism. All members will put the interests of the Party and the people before their own personal interests. It will continuously view itself and its members self-critically in order to correct non-proletarian tendencies that inevitably enter the Party and seek to corrupt it from within. The ideological basis of the Party is Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
Leadership, Cadre and Command Structure
While declaring the formation of the CPI-Maoist on October 14, 2004, the Andhra Pradesh 'state secretary' had also informed that the 'general secretary' of the PWG 'central committee', Muppala Laxman Rao alias Ganapathi, has been elected 'general secretary' of the new outfit. Although no further information with regard to the organisational structure has been declared or ascertained, reports indicate that the structure within the new outfit retains all the hierarchies that were present in the erstwhile outfits, including a Central Committee, Regional Bureaus, Zonal or State Committees, District or Division Committees and Squad Area Committees.
The two guerrilla armies of the PWG and the MCC - the People's Guerrilla Army (PGA) and the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) respectively - have also merged under the agreement. The new armed force reportedly operates under the name of PLGA since December 2, 2004. Available reports indicate that the CPI-Maoist is currently strengthening the formations of all three forces of the PLGA – the Basic, Secondary and Main forces.
According to official sources, the merger will have serious implications in all States facing the Maoist threat, and will increase the 'firepower', 'battle ability' and levels of modernization of the two groups. The PWG is estimated to have 3500 armed cadres and around 3000 firearms, including a large number of rifles of AK variety, light machine guns, self-loading rifles, carbines, .303s, grenades, revolvers, pistols, and landmines technologies. The PWG also has a technical squad, which manufactures 12-bore guns and its ammunitions, repairs all kinds of weapons and assembles grenades. The MCC is estimated to have cadre strength of between 3000-3500, and around 2500 firearms of similar varieties.
Areas of Operation
Following the merger, the outfit, according to current estimates is active in 156 districts of 13 States that include Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttaranchal and Kerala. The outfit has also been making attempts to establish and expand its presence in several other States such as Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.
The MCC's current areas of influence extend over Bihar and Jharkhand, with some sway in Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, Uttaranchal and a few pockets of Madhya Pradesh. The PWG's areas of dominance include Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
The merger now makes the CPI-Maoist a pan-Indian revolutionary group, and brings the Maoists closer to their objective of 'liberating' their proposed Compact Revolutionary Zone (CRZ), which extends from Nepal through Bihar in the North to Dandakaranya region (forest areas of Central India) and Andhra Pradesh in the South. The intention is to have a continuous stretch of territory under their influence and control, with the ultimate goal of eventually "liberating" the entire zone. Large parts of this territory have already been brought under the extremist influence with only some link-ups now necessary in the remaining pockets to make the CRZ a reality. Once achieved, the CRZ will virtually drive a wedge through the vital areas of the country, and would help crystallize linkages with other Maoist groups operating in South Asia, including the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) and the Communist Party of Bhutan-Maoist (CPB-M).
Behind The Killings in Bihar
Record Number : CL010012
Click to browse by keyword: Bihar Caste Civil Rights Crime Human Rights Land Law and order Police Political society Private Violence Date : July 1986
Title : BEHIND - The Killings in Bihar
Source : PUDR
Rec.No. : CL010012
PEOPLE'S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS
C/o Sudesh Vaid
D-2 Staff Quarters
President PUD R
New Delhi 110003
(For private circulation)
Suggested contribution Rs. 3/-
Printed by: Suruchi Printers, Delhi
Arwal, Banjhi, Samastipur, Bhagalpur, Parasbigha, Gua, Pipra, Beichi. The names of these otherwise obscure places of Bihar are now well known throughout the country. For, periodically a horrendous massacre brings the oppressed people of Bihar into the headlines of the national media. Soon they slip back into their uncared for existence to again reappear in another headline some months later. Large scale killing, sensational media focus, a few reports and some pretense of action by the state, the pattern is same every time, only the people and the places change. And each time civil rights organisations also publish a detailed investigation. In fact, our teams investigated Singhbhum in 1979, Patna in 1981, Jehanabad twice in 1983, Santhal Parganas in 1983; general repression in 1982-83. and Aurangabad in 1985.
In this kind of response that is essentially monitored by the magnitude and the frequency of the massacres, what is often obscured is the larger social process in which these events are connected together. The massacres thus appear as aberrations of either individual officials of the state, or wayward sections of the landed gentry. But as a matter of fact in no other state of the country lawlessness by the legislators and the law enforcing authorities is as institutionalised as it is in Bihar. Periodic killings of rural poor and tribals, the failure of both the penal system and the judicial system to fulfill their functions, the rule by ordinances which bypasses the legislature routinely, the sickness of the ruling politicians and the inhumanity of the police are part of the state of affairs in Bihar that every one acknowledges and then ignores. Periodical headlines thus have actually become the relievers of our troubled conscience. It is to bring into focus the chain of processes in which incidents, like the Arwal firing, are but a part, that PUDR decided to send a fact-finding team to investigate the social origins of repression in Bihar.
But given the vastness of the state (with 35 districts, 70 million population, Bihar is India's second largest state), the complexity of the situation where the plains of the northern parts and the plateau of the southern parts defy uniform patterns, and given the limitations of our own organisation, we could not cover all the aspects and areas that need to be covered. This report confines itself to Patna and Gaya districts in the plains and Singhbhum in the plateau. Together it focuses on eight specific instances of repression, two from Singhbhum and six from Patna and Gaya, including the Arwal killings.
During the third week of May, two teams set out, one from Delhi and the other from Calcutta, both meeting later in Patna. The team from Delhi consisted of Prof. Ashwini Kumar Ray (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi), Dr. (Ms) Sudesh Vaid and Mr. Ashok Prasad (both from University of Delhi) and Bharat Dogra, journalist. The team from Calcutta consisted of Dr. Anjan Ghosh (Center for Study of Social Sciences), Dr. Pranab Basu (Calcutta University) and Dr. Vikram Das Gupta (Jadavpur University). The team visited a number of villages and interviewed, both in districts and in the state capital, a number of people including journalists, academics, senior officials of police and administration, activists of different peasant and tribal organisations, and leaders of political parties including two former chief minister under whose rule some of the massacres took place. Following is the report of the team.
I Introduction 01
II Singhbhum: The Case of South Bihar 04
III Gaya and Patna: The Social Contradictions 11
IV Peasants, Landlords and Dacoits 31
V Police: Policy and Practice 32
Bihar Police Policy Document
VI Conclusion 49
VII Appendix 52
The state of Bihar can be divided into three zones: the plains area north of the Ganges, the central plains south of the river, and the southern area of the hills and plateau region of Chotanagpur.
The central belt comprises of the districts of Rohtas, Aurangabad, Bhojpur, Patna, Gaya, Nawada, Munger, Nalanda, and Rhagalpur. Through this belt flow the Punpun and Son rivers which join the Ganges as well as a number of small rain-fed streams. The region is primarily dependent on agriculture, chiefly cultivation of rice. Here the social contradictions arise from the agrarian structure. Disparity in landholdings, pitifully low wages, non-implementation of land reform laws are the principal sources of tension; to a limited extent, the problem of bataidari (share-cropping) also leads to social conflicts in this region.
During British rule, the zamindari land tenure system prevailed in this region, with the zamindars drawn principally from the upper castes- Bhoomihar, Rajput and Brahmin —though a few were also from the backward castes, such as the Yadav and Kurmi. After the abolition of zamindari, a section of the Yadavs and Kurmis became landowners, though a large section continue to remain "kisans", cultivating small landholdings. The richer section among the Yadavs and constituting what is often termed the rich peasantry, is attempting to gain political power commensurate with the economic and social power it wields in the rural areas. It is this newly emergent rich peasantry which is engaged in an aggressive and ruthless repression of the present agrarian movements of agricultural workers and poor peasants, forming at the village level, an alliance with the entrenched upper caste landowners. The latter, enjoying virtual domination in the legislature and bureaucracy, on their part, are helping the new rural elites through the political and social power they continue to wield both by tradition, and now from their vantage position within the modern state apparatus.
In the last two decades, commercialised farming has increased in these districts due to better irrigation Facilities and agricultural inputs. 'This has led to an increased demand for agricultural labour which consists not only of the scheduled castes-Dusadhs, Musahars, Chamars
but also of some Yadavs and Kurmis. The trend towards commercialized farming has led to a conflict of interests between the landowners and the agricultural labour. Though the old forms of bondage and servitude have practically disappeared, new forms have emerged in response to protective legislations in favour of the poor. Hence, though formally 'free', the majority are virtually dependent on the landowners for their subsistence, and given the caste-hierarchy, also victims of social oppression. A contributing factor in this dependency is the virtual absence of industry, even of agro-based industry, which would provide alternate employment and better bargaining power to the labourers.
The region has known many peasant movements originating from the inequities of the agrarian structure. But these have mainly been led by and benefitted the upper and backward castes. In the present decade a significant movement of the agrarian poor has emered on the scene. Various private landlord "armiess", called senas, organised on a caste basis, have emerged to combat the peasant organisations. The senas are patronised by politicians and are generously assisted by the police. What we wish to draw particular attention to is a new development, namely, the role of dacoits in assisting the landlords' attempts to suppress the movement. Many of the senas sometimes are headed by and include dacoits. Hence, at the village level, the distinctions between landlords, dacoits, and senas is often blurred, rendering the situation complex, and at times, diffusing the issues. Peasant organisations which are presently active in the region belong to a wide political spectrum ranging from socialists to Naxalites.
Turning to the Chotanagpur region we find a complete contrast to the central belt. The southern belt comprising the districts of Singhbhum, Palamau, Hazaribagh, Giridih, Dhanbad, Santhal Pargana s and Ranchi has a large tribal population. Chief among these are the Santhals, the Hos, the Mundas, and the Oraons. The region is rich in natural and mineral resources. The hills are forested and the region traversed by the Subarnarekha and its tributaries.
The relatively stable economy of the tribals was first shaken when British administration gained control over the resources of this region. The process of modernization and development which began during colonial rule with the exploitation of forest and mineral resources has been such as to marginalise the tribals in their own homeland. This process has rapidly accelerated in the post-independence period. More than one third of the investmen ts in the public sector in all Five Year plans has been pumped into this region. The exploitation of forests for commercial purposes, the harnessing of river resources for hydroelectric power and irrigation, and of mineral wealth for industry, have led to the trihals being deprived of their traditional land and forest resources. In compensation for this loss of their means of livelihood, they have gained little by way of employment in the public works and industrial sector in this region. Outsiders have invaded the region in the wake of commercial forestry and development projects exposing the tribals to the worst forms of. economic and social exploitation at the hands of moneylenders and contractors, who are often protected by the police and bureaucracy, in flagrant violation of all the laws meant to protect the tribals. In this process the tribals have lost clan-autonomy and community rights without gaining the benefits of modern democratic institutions and the rights ensuing from the Constitution.
It is as a result of this situation that movements have emerged in this region—for forest, land, fishing rights, for local autonomy, employment and in recent times, movements against the construction of dams. As the principal grievances orginate from state policies, the movements arc primarily aimed at the government for redressal of their grievances, The organisations leading the struggles are often of local origin and politically have a less sharp and distinct ideological character than those in the central plains. Nevertheless, their struggle too have met with brutal repression, though unlike in the plains, the violence inflicted on them has been primarily through the state.
The organised repression of rural poor either by the state, or by state backed landlord armies, is uniform throughout Bihar, irrespective of the political ideologies of the groups. Hence our investigations include cases of repression against Naxalite-influenced peasant organisations, Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Vahini, Commun ist Parties' peasant organisations and autonomous tribal groups. Thus state repression forms the uniform factor in an other wise complex situation.
The Case of South Bihar
Singhbhum is the southern most district of Bihar bordering on Orissa and West Bengal. It forms a part of the Chotanagpur region and is largely inhabited by tribals (44% of the population). The Kolhan and Porahat estates in the western part of the district is the land of the adivasis.
For a district rich in mineral resources like iron ore, manganese, copper, limestone, china clay, etc. the poverty of its people is a stark reminder of the nature of economic growth which has taken place in the region. While the land has been denuded of its natural wealth the people have hardly shared in the prosperity, its fruits have been reaped by the non-tribals (dikus) who have left a trail of deprivation and destruction for the original inhabitants of the region.
At the root of the social conflicts in this region lie three interrelated problems of land, forests, and industry. Significantly it is not the absence of industries which is the reason for Singhbhum's backwardness. Its very presence has marginalised the adivasis in their own land. The adivasis are evicted from their lands by the construction of large scale public works like dams and reservoirs or factories and plants, by the encroachment of mining leases, by the machinations of moneylenders (mahajans) who appropriate tribal lands against mortgages. Alongside, the adivasi habitat has also been jeopardised through extensive deforestation occasioned by commercial exploitation of the forest. In 1969-70 the State Forest Department of Bihar spent Rs. 25.3 million to earn a revenue of Rs. 37.9 million from forests (Forest Statistics Bulletin No. 12, Central Forestry Commission, Ministry of Agriculture). This has deprived the adivasis of a substantial source of subsistence.
Industrial enterprises and government projects have attracted an influx of non-tribals who occupy the permanent and higher positions in these institutions while the adivasis are utilised as contract labourers at the bottom of the industrial hierarchy. The tribals remain utterly dispensable notwithstanding the indispensability of the industrial enterprise. Alienation of land by non-tribal moneylenders has also generated hostility and suspicion of "dikus". This has served as the point of organisation and mobilization for the adivasis and has crystallized in the demand for a separate Jharkhand state.
In the following sections we will recount some of the cases of violation of democratic rights and the role played by the state.
Gua, June 1, 1983
Gua is a small mining town in the heart of the Sarenda forest in Singhbhum about 84 kms. from the district headquarters Chaibasa. The Indian Iron and Steel Company (IISCO) a public sector company, is involved in mining iron ore and the Company's ore handling plant is located in this area. The township and the bazaar are situated at a lower level than the mines. The company employs about 1400 permanent workers and another 100 through contractors, with about half of both categories being adivasis. The other major source of employment in the area is the lumber operations of timber contractors. Most of the inhabitants of the area are adivasis who live in decrepit tenements known as huttings. They live and work in thoroughly unhygenic conditions, drinking the water of the nearby Karo river 'a reddish concoction of ore and mud".
Police repression is not unknown in Gua. In September 1980, a demonstration, led by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) protesting against police highhandedness and demanding the restoration of traditional rights to the forest, was set upon by the police and dispersed. During the clash three adivasis werc killed and a number injured including some policemen. When the injured adivasis were brought to the Gua hospital for treatment the police entered the hospital premises and killed some 9 adivasis.
To coincide with the Silver Jubilee Celebrations of IISCO during the last three days of May 1983, the workers of the ore handling plant had drawn up a charter of demands to place before the management. The principal demand was jobs for the relations of those who had retired, or were retrenehed or discharged on medical grounds. As a result of acute unemployment the tribal youth were aggrieved that few jobs came their way, while the outsiders, using their connections were able to get jobs in the Company. On the morning of May 30 a demonstration was taken out to place their demands before the managing director of IISCO, Mr. Sangameswaran, who was in Gua rn connection with the Jubilee celebrations. With the managing director being unavailable, the demonstrators went individually to the senior administrative officer, M.P. Aghouri, the personnel manager J.M. Minz, and the deputy personnel manager S.K. Mohanty, in turn, The official version claims that the adivasis simply assaulted the officers without even a pretext of negotiations. But the tribals claim that they took their charter, individually, to each of the officers and asked them to specify the demands which each one thought reasonable. On refusal the officers were assaulted.
Later the same afternoon Bidernag Munga, Jitu Lohar, Shyam Tanti, Julien Bhengra and Kishore Pandey were arrested from different places in the town on allegation of having assaulted company officials. Of the five arrested the first four were tribals. The local people say that none of the arrested were involved in the demonstration or assault. In fact, Bidernag had been on duty at the plant during the day.
Eyewitnesses note that the arrested were detained at the Gua P.S. for three nights. They were severely beaten by the jamadar, lswari Prasad on May 31. Earlier when Bidarnag's second wife Budhni had enquired at the thana, she had been told that he was not there. Later, however, the jamadar informed her that he was in the lock-up. The local police had planned to produce the arrested in Chaibasa court the next day (June 1). But the DSP of Kiriburu, Dipak Verma, who arrived on the scene the next day decided to mete out 'exemplary punishment' to the tribals for daring to assault officers. So the five were tied to Verma's jeep and dragged from the police station to the chowk in the bazaar—a distance of 150 metres. There they were suspended by their feet and beaten in public view by Verma and other policemen. Brought back to the police station, Bidernag succumbed to his injuries the same night.
The surviving detainees along with Bidernag's body were taken to Chaibasa on the morning of June 2. Budhni was also taken to Chaibasa by the police on the pretext of being allowed to meet her husband. There she was forced at gun point to affix her thumb impression on a statement which was not even read to her. She was then shown the dead body of Bidernag at which she fell unconscious. When she recovered she found Rs. 200/- tied to her saree. She was later brought back to Gua by some workers. The body was cremated by the police after a hasty post mortem.
The rest of the arrested were produced in Chaibasa court on June 2 and later released on bail on July 18. Kishore Pandey who went back to his native village is reported to have died soon after. Five other people, Abenezer Tirkey, Macehua Tanti, George Guria, Moses Gagrai and Mahesh Das were subsequently arrested on the same allegation and later released on bail. The case was finally dismissed only a month ago. During that time police repression had created an atmosphere of terror among the tribals so much so that for about two months after, all the young male adivasis fled into the surrounding Sarenda jungles for safety.
A departmental enquiry was instituted into the incident and the IGP Ranchi enquired into the matter a month later. The DSP, 'daroga' and jamadar were suspended during the enquiry. But no judicial case was subsequently instituted against them. The daroga who the local people claim was not involved in the atrocities—has since retired. The other two have been reinstated. No compensation was paid to any of the victims. The terror unleashed has since prevented any organised resistance to the Company's designs.
The Bharbaria police firing
Bharbaria is a small tribal village in Manjhari P.S. of Singhbhum district. In the early hours of July 9, there was a confrontation between the police and thousands of tribals. The tribals were demanding that the police hand over to them the headman of the village, Harish Chandra Birua and twenty others. The police opened fire killing at least six and injuring another three persons (unofficial sources claim 20 killed). In the clash 18 policemen along with a magistrate were injured.
This violent episode is the outcome of a peculiar legacy left by the British and followed by the Indian Government. The Kolhan estate was by the Wilkinson rules (Bengal Regulations XIII, 1833) permitted internal autonomy and continuation of their indigenous administrative system, followed then by the tribals. This agreement lapsed in 1977. The Kolhan Raksha Sangh (KRS) was formed in that year and they sent petitions to the central government asking clarification of their status. In 1983, another organisation Gram Raksha Dal (GRD) was formed whose main objective was to control crime in this area. Although both drew support from the same group of tribal leaders, soon tensions developed between them. A police picket was placed in the area shortly before the incident. When the leader of GRO came at the head of a huge procession to attack the village and capture Harish Chandra Birua, Birua fired killing two. At this point the police took custody of Birua. The mob demanded that Birua be handed over to them. The police opened lire to disperse the mob, killing six and and injuring two.
The Subarnarekha Multipurpose Project
The Subarnarekha Multipurpose Project (SMP) comprises one big dam at Chandil across the Subarnarekba river and another at Icha across the river Kharkai, a tributary of the Subarnarekha and two barrages one at Ganjea and another at Ghatsila. All of them are located in Singhbhum district. The project is expected to be complete by 1993-94.
The project according to official declarations will facilitate the development of the tribals of the region by
1. irrigation for 2.8 lakh hectares of land;
2. provision of 4 million litres of water per day for industrial and domestic use in Adityapur, Jamshedpur, Ghatsila and other adjacent industrial centres;
3. protection of the downstream areas of the Subarnarekha from recurring annual floods;
4. establishment of a direct link with a sea-port (i.e. Paradip) on the Bay of Bengal in Orissa:
5. generation of electricity.
The total cost of the project as estimated in 1974 was Rs. 129 crores which had escalated to Rs. 480.9 crores in 1981. By 1982 financial assistance in the form of a loan to the tunc of half the total cost of the project was assured by the World Bank. A sum of Rs. 104.36 crores has already been spent on the project till the end of the last financial year in which the World Bank contribution amounted to 1.27 million dollars. Notably the state government of Bihar has proposed to allocate funds for the project from the funds allotted for the Tribal Sub-Plan since, according to official contention, the main beneficiaries of the project will be the adivasis.
It is estimated that some 180 villages will be submerged either totally or partially. This would lead to the displacement of 12,000 families or about 70,000 people excluding those evicted by the acquisition of land for the canal systems. The two dams will submerge an area of 85,000 acres of land including 10,000 acres of forest land.
Compensation for the land acquired was calculated at the rate of 15 years of crop compensation and fixed at Rs. 19,650 per acre of first class land (it was increased to Rs. 29,000 later, The Telegraph May 29, 1986) and Rs. 3,950 per acre for inferior land including wasteland. Yet the actual amount of compensation paid to the displaced was much less. Villagers of Chaliama, Bankasai and Telai received Rs. 3483 per acre while it was still less for the (villagers of Kasarkedia, Rs. 1408 per acre for the 406 acres of land acquired from the village.
The adivasis of the area have traditionally enjoyed control over the land, forest, and forest produce but the SMP raises the prospect of eviction from their land. It has been suggested that the evicted people be rehabilitated in Santhal Parganas after suitable modification of the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act. The project area falls within the scheduled area and most of the affected people are the scheduled tribes and castes, hence the rehabilitation of the displaced is to be done at the cost of the depressed sections. On the other hand, the real benefit will accrue to the non-tribals who will accompany the project into the area as has already occurred, and the adivasis loss will be the non-tribals' gain, entirely transforming the social and cultural environment of the area,
Most of the adivasis (about 90%) are small agriculturists and marginal farmers who can ill afford the accessories necessary for utilising the waters of the dam for irrigation purposes. Moreover as thc tribals have small holdings of land which would remain at a higher level than the bund of the reservoir it would be difficult to lift water to the small plots of land. A total of 342 kms of canal area are to be covered by the SMP. But canal irrigation in such an undulating area is of little help. In sum, such large scale dams are not conducive to tribal agriculture which eventually result in their pauperisation.
It has been claimed that the SMP would generate employment for 20,000 workers for a period of 7-8 years. But would the local adivasis benefit from this'? A survey conducted by the officials of the project reports that among the Grade IV employees less than 10% of the displaced adivasis had been employed while in Grade III they constituted less than 5%. Meanwhile thousands of employees of the Patna Flood Control Project and Gandak Project have been transferred to the SMP. In a sense the SMP is thus a means of resettling north Biharis in the place vacated by the adivasis. All this is of course to ensure tribal development
The large scale displacement of adivasis and the resettlement of non-tribals, primarily north Biharis, in their stead has embittered relations between these groups. The tribals have tried to resist eviction from their 'homeland'. The resistance to the project has already taken a toll of four adivasis who were killed at Chandil (Unit No. 1), and Ganga Ram Kalundia of Illigara village, leader of the Kharkai Dam Sangharsh Samiti who was brutally murdered by the police on April 4, 1982. Meanwhile the local M.P. along with the village headmen of the area have forwarded a memorandum to the Prime Minister in 1985 to stop the project.
Thus the SMP has jeopardised the existence of the adivasis in the area. It has already led to the eviction of the tribals from their settled areas and holds out the prospect of more large-scale eviction in the future if the project is continued. It has led to a destabilisation of the social and cultural fabric of adivasi life with the large scale incursion of non-tribals into the region. The tribals are exploited on a massive scale and are denied minimum wages even when they get work; land is alienated from them by the mahajans and eventually many of the adivasis end up as bonded labourers in the brick-kilns near Calcutta. In this way large scale public works like the SMP threaten the fundamental right to life and livelihood of the tribals in Singhbhum.
The leading industrial area not only in Bihar but in the country, presents thus, in a microcosm, the fate of the adivasis, who contrary to proclaimed public policy, are not being "protected" or "brought into the mainstream." Instead, they are being deprived of their land and forests and reduced to a destitution which exposes them to the worst forms of social and economic exploitation. Their struggles to retain their homes and rights over their land are met with political machinations and police brutality, their efforts to enter the "mainstream" via jobs in the modern sector are met with bureaucratic apathy, arrests, and killings.
For too long the adivasis have been caricatured either as exotic tribals eternally dancing and singing in idyllic innocence, or as back ward, ignorant, and savage. It is time that they are regarded as citizens entitled to all the rights in the Constitution and that development policies are so framed as not to have adivasis bear the costs of modernization. While the incidents of Gua and Chandil have faded from public memory, the issues remain live, and will continue to generate social conflict. Of this the Banjhi massacre, where Father Anthony Murmu and 14 tribals were killed, recent is a gruesome reminder.
Gaya and Patna:
The Social Contradictions
Gaya is of great historical interest as parts of it, along with those in adjoining Patna district to its north, formed Magadh of olden days, the centre of Buddhism and of the Mauryan and Gupta empires. The district covers 6545 sq kms. and is divided into the Gaya Sadar sub-division within which Bodh Gaya is located and the Jehanabad sub-division, centre of the present agrarian struggle, within which Arwal is located. The latter has seven development blocks, each with a police station. Recently, just before the Arwal killings it was made into a police district, with an ADM in charge.
The Jehanabad sub-division has been one of the leading areas for rice production, but the villages here have poor facilities. The roads are few, badly maintained, and the transport so limited that villages located even 60 Kms from the capital are considered remote,
'interior' villages. As may be expected, medical faciltties are poor and electricity is not available for most of the 114 villages in the subdivision. Literacy rates, however, are higher than for the rest of the district.
As 89% of the population is rural and dependent on agriculture, we have to note certain Features peculiar to the Jehanabad region. The region is semi-arid, but rendered fertile by the silt carried by a number of streams from the Cho tanagpur plateau in the south towards the northern Gangetic plains.. These streams swell up for a few days, then subside to a trickle or even dry up. Given the topography and the character of the streams, proper water management is essential for irrigation purposes if the land is to be productive. Throughout the 19th century, this was done through an indigenous system of reservoirs (ahaars), formed by blocking the strcams and an elaborate networks of channels (pains), which ensured consistent high productivity in the area. The system was maintained by a form of community labour, called goam, which due to various factors has been declining leading to a breakdown of the system. Since 1945, the area has been subjected to floods and drought previously unknown to the region. In 1967 the area experienced the worst famine known in the post-independence history of the country. Though the government launched a programme for boring tubewells, it had limited success due to unfavourable terrain.
Expansion of canal irrigated area, presently limited to a small part of the sub-division fed by the century-old Son canal system, has not taken place. The Uderasthan Canal Project, for instance, which was to provide additional irrigational facilities has even after twenty years been only partially completed. Since modern irrigation infrastructure has not compensated for the break-down of the indigenous system, there is wide variation in productivity, and for the marginal and small farmer an uncertainty in the returns he can make from the land. Demand for better irrigation, such as by building a dam on the Punpun, the only river with all-round water supply, raised by peasant organisations, has been one of the factors attracting the 'kisans' to them, particularly, to the new organisations.
Comprising a much smaller area than Gaya (3202 sq. kms.), Patna district is also a plains area but its physical terrain is very different. The streams that flow through Gaya are exhausted by the time they reach this district, hence it does not have the irrigation system which had developed in that region. The river Punpun flows through the district to join the Ganges, the Son forms the western boundary across which is Bhojpur, while the Ganges forms the northern and eastern part of the district. Here we have what is known as diara land, created by the shifting bed of the river. This land is highly fertile hut is also the cause of a lot of disputes between cultivators as new land formations emerge and old ones are submerged along the river bank. In the course of its gradual shifts, the river also leaves behind small lakes and pools causing disputes about fishing rights.
Patna has a higher literacy rate than that of Bihar state. The district has also more roads, schools and colleges (including premier educational institutions) and hospitals than Gaya. This is mainly due to the development of Patna city, the state capital.
Patna district has 4 sub-divisions-Patna city, Patna Sadar, Dinapur and Barh. The two largest agrarian sub-divisions are Dmapur in which Bikram falls and Barh in which Saheri village falls. T he district has a higher urban population and workforce than Gaya. But nevertheless, as in Gaya, the majority of the workforce, around 60% is dependent on agriculture.
Patna district also has fertile soil but the area irrigated is less than in Gaya, mainly because of the absence of an indigenous system of water management which Gaya posseses. Only 57% of the cultivated area is irrigated, most of which (73%) is by government canals or tube wells. Only four development blocks have irrigation by the Son canal. Compared to Gaya however a larger part of the land has modern systems of assured irrigation (40% of cultivated area is irrigated by canals and tubewells in Patna as compared to 20% in Gaya). Irrigation by these sources is confined to a belt along the Son and the Ganges, leaving 60% of the cultivated area to depend on uncertain local systems or on the monsoons. There is thus a striking imbalance in the availability of irrigation within the district. Though the agriculture in Patna is relatively more mechanised than in Gaya, the need for irrigation facilities is as important as in Gaya.
But preceding the issue of irrigation facilities is that of owning land in the first place, and this the majority do not have, being either landless or owners of small uneconomic holdings. Hence the question of land-ownership and implementation of land reforms.
After the Bihar Abolition of Zamindari Act (1951), the permanent tenants emerged as a new class of landowners in Bihar; but the erstwhile zamindars still held a considerable amount of land in their names. This was sought to be removed a decade later by the Bihar Land Reforms (Fixing of Ceiling Area and Acquisition of Surplus Land Act, 1961 or the Land Ceiling Act). It was to strengthen the provisions of this Act that an amendment was passed in 1972. The basic thrust of these legislations was to impose land ceiling and to acquire surplus lands for distribution. An elaborate administrative machinery with a Land Reforms Commission at the apex was set up to implement the Act.
But after three decades of implementation of the Land Reforms policy and periodic exhortations to speed up the work, upto 1983-84, only 1.26% of the total cultivated area has been acquired and of this only 53% been distributed. As is well known, a large chunk of the land officialy shown as having been distributed is not in effective possession of the allottees. According to the draft Seventh Plan for Bihar, 1.98 lakh acres of land will have been distributed by the end of the Sixth Plan; 1.5 lakh will be available during the Seventh Plan period for distribution. Thus even if the stated target is achieved, only a little over two percent of the total cultivated land of this state would be redistributed under the ceiling laws till 1990.
It is the failure of the state to implement land reforms which is the most important factor causing agrarian tensions in Bihar as a whole. This is also true of Patna and Gaya districts where till 1984 only 0.3% and 0.6% respectively of cultivable area had been acquired and distributed.
There are very few extensive landholdings in these districts such as those of Rai Rajeshwari Prasad Ojha of Arwal who reportedly holds 6875 acres, or the Mahant of Bodh Gaya owning 7480 acres. in general, even holdings of 50-100 bighas are limited to one or two families in a village. Ownership of 5-10 bighas(l/6 to 1/3 acre) is considered substantial, for if there is assured irrigation, the land is very productive. The majority of the people in these districts consist of landless agricultural workers and small cultivators with tiny plots of land. They comprise the majority of the labour force (76%). For them the questions of land and of minimum wages are primary..
Wages and Labour
In Patna and Gaya districts the major social conflict is between the landed elite and the landless agricultural labour. The agricultural labourers are the most depressed sections of the agrarian population In Patna and Gaya they form 31% and 39% respectively of the workforce. The growing importance of agricultural labour in the agrarian economy of Bihar can be gauged from the fact that their proportion to the working population has risen from 23% to 35.5% (1961-81). As noted earlier a substantial number of them are scheduled castes, others are drawn from the backward castes such as Kahar, Sao or even Yadavs and Kurmis. ln Patna district 47% of agricultural workers are scheduled caste while in Arwal and Bikram blocks (in Gaya and Patna respectively) the proportion is 49% and 52% respectively.
Traditionally, agricultural operations were done by farm servants and agricultural labourers. The labour was commonly attached to the landlord. With the abolition of zamindari and the enactment of protective legislation, the landowners have found new forms of labour relations to continue their hold on labour while remaining within the confines of the law. This, for instance, is the case of labourers like the haiwaha (ploughman) and chargah (those who graze cattle). In addition to daily wages the landlords give them a small piece of land to build their dwellings and for cultivation for personal consumption. These labourers are formally hired annually on a contract basis though in practice they continue to be attached to the landlord from generation to generation. The annual contract saves the landlord from the provisions of protective legislation which would otherwise have made these labourers the owners of the land they have been living on and tilling. Since they do not even own the land on which they build their houses they are dependent on the landlord, thus making it difficult for them to be assertive.
The number of such labourers is small. The majority of the labourers are choota or casual labourers. They are not directly dependent on the landlord. But, as we shall see, this is not 'free' labour in the modern sense of the term. Scarcity of alternative employment, indebtedness, caste hierarchy, and payment in kind have made this casual labour in essence a subjugated labour. Thus, despite the changes in the past two decades in the agrarian scene, the landlords continue to bind labour in relationships in which, though the traditional ties of dependence have disappeared, the labour has no bargaining power. They are socially abused and paid wages which are far below the statutory minimum.
We will give a brief description of the nature of the exploitation of agricultural labourers on the basis of our interviews in Madan Singh Ka lola, a small village on the bank of the Son, about a kilometer away from Arwal.
Madan Singh Ka Tola consists of about 55 households of which around 50 are those of agricultural labourers. All the agricultural labourers are from the scheduled caste. The landed families are Rajputs. One family possesses a large holding of about 100 bighas (62.5 acres), the remaining possess about 10-15 bighas (6.25 -9.37 acres). The main crops grown are rice, wheat and arhar dal. The land in the village is irrigated by the Son canal which passes through Arwal.
The agricultural labourers of this village work on the fields of the landed families in this and the surrounding villages. The demand for labour is not uniform throughout the year but varies.with the season and is dependent on the cropping pattern. Generally men get employment for about 6-7 months while women are employed for 2-3 months. The women are employed in tasks like ropni (transplanting of rice), Icatni (harvesting) and mati dhona carrying of mud to fill the ditches and for strengthening the field boundary known as the aal). The rest of the year both men and women seek employment as unskilled labour, though this is generally not available.
Five of these families are attached, through the "contractual" system described above, to a landlord in this village. The attached labour families have been given about 4-10 kathas of land each (1/30 to 1/8 acre). This is the land on which their dwellings stand and they grow vegetables and keep animals, if possible.
The statutory daily minimum wage (in kind) is 3 kg. rice along with food or sattu. In this village however, only 1.25 kg. rice (pucca) is paid to a worker for a day's labour. A little nashta (snack) is also given. Men and women are paid roughly the same wages. During harvesting no daily wages are paid but the labourers are allowed to take one bojha (bundle) out of every 17 bojhas harvested. The harvesting lasts 4-5 days. In one day, we were told, one worker can harvest about 4-5 bojhas. One bo]ha produces about 6 kg. rice. If a worker finds work for 4 days, this would mean he or she would be able to harverst a maximum of 20 bundles out of which a little over one bundle would be paid in wages. Including one day spent in threshing, for which extra payment is not made. This works out to an average of 1.4 kg. rice per day, only marginally above the daily wage for the rest of the year.
Rice of the quality the labourers are given sells for about Rs. 3/- per kg. in Arwal. However, a labourer converting the payment in kind to money would normally receive less than this. Assuming that on the average they. receive Rs. 2.50 per kg. rice, the money equivalent of the daily wage works out to be Rs. 3.13, much below the statutory minimum.
Given the low level of wages and the level of underemployment, theagricultural labour families live at the subsistence level. This makes them dependent on loans. Loans are given by local landlords and interest rate of 25-30 per cent are common. Many of the families are indebted.
The condition of agricultural labour at Madan Singh Ka Tola is by no means unique to the village. In fact it is the norm in the villages of this area except where peasant organisations have succeeded in improving them. In Bikram block, for instance, statutory wages are being paid since 1981 after the struggle by agricultural labourers. In villages where the agrarian struggle has not forced the level of wages up, the position with regard to wages is the same as it was five years ago. In 1981, a PUDR investigating team found that in Patna district the cash value of the daily payment in kind, excluding the meal, varied between Rs. 2.25 (Naubatpur) and Rs. 2.33 (Masaurhi). Discounting the rise in prices (Rs. 2/- per kg. in 1981) this is the same as the cash value of the daily wage at Madan Singh Ka Tola in
In an economic environment where the costs of' the basic necessities of life are steadily rising, it is simply the need for survival which has resulted in the demand for increasing the wages and therefore, the organisation of the agricultural labour. The need for such organisations has even been recognised by the policy makers of the government.
But the enforcement of statutory wages is not enough as wage rates alone are not a sufficient index to the annual income of the worker. For this the number of total working days in the year have to be taken into account. As we have seen, acute underemployment and unemployment is prevalent in these areas. The problem has not been mitigated by the National Rural Employment Programme (NREP), that replaced the food for work programme in the 1980s.
For the agricultural labour, in addition to wage increase and access to alternative employment, the question of land is extremely important.
In Madan Singh Ka Tola we were told that one katha (about 1/30 acre) is needed for dwelling purposes for a small family. Cultivation for self-consumption would require at least six kathas, as one katha can yield about 12 kg. rice (assuming a high productivity rate of 900 kgs. per hectare). Another two kathas would be needed for keeping animals and growing vegetables. The total thus would be a requirement of 8-10 kathas per family. Those who own 8-10 kathas, and these are only three in this village, are all attached labour mentioned above, who cannot hope to get legal rights to the small plots they cultivate.
The majority own 1-4 kathas. Even if they received minimum wages and had full employment throughout the year, they can not raise themselves above subsistence level. For this they need more land. As it is highly unlikely that they will be able to buy land at the prevailing rates which are Rs. 25,000 per bigha (roughly (2/3 acre) in these districts, their only hope of acquiring land is through the implementation of the land ceiling and surplus land distribution laws. And this implementation has been extremely poor. Hence the struggle over gair mazarua land.
Gair Mazarua Land
During the zamindari period there were two types of such land:l gair mazarua aam and gair mazarua khas. Both were in the control of the zamindar but the aam was meant for community use such as for grazing, collecting fodder, cremation or burial grounds market area or for recreational purposes, village jheels and pokhars, (small water pools). The khas was cultivable land. Unlike the khas, the aam could not be given in tenancy. After zamindari abolition both types are now government ' owned; however, the former distinction between the two is maintained. Invariably the landlord and rich farmers have established legal and illegal control over the khas land. In all the villages we visited for instance, all the khas was illegally cultivated by the landowners. These landlords also exercise control over the aam land—for instance, by fencing off an area for their own use or by putting up small structures or by preventing the poor from grazing their animals. In Madan Singh Ka Tola, for instance, when one labourer attached to a landowning family had to absent himself from work for about 4 days during the harvesting season because of illness in his family, the landlord was so enraged that he did not allow the family the use of grazing land or of the village pokhars.
On the part of the peasant organisations, the struggle for aam land is for the right of the poor for access to land meant for community use; that for the khas is for seizing it from the control of the landed and distributing it in favour of the poor.. What is important to note is that although gair mazarua land is often termed wasteland it has several important uses and that in these areas 90 per cent of the khas land is cultivable. A village may have 100-200 acres of khas land, though in exceptional cases it may be upto 300 acres. Generally, the organisations concern themselves with land which has no official record of tenancy prior to 1952. The common practice by the socially powerful has been to get legal rights to the khas land in their control. Apart from entering into legal disputes over such land, the organisations attempt to cultivate some of the land or forcibly confiscate the crops grown by the rich landholders.
In addition to the struggle for control over khas land, there is also the struggle for the use of the aam land. The aam land includes pokhars and jheels, small water pools which are used by the villagers for watering buffaloes, washing utensils etc. They are also important for fishing. Earlier only the local elites had right to the fish from the village pokhars. Fish sells in the market for Rs. 10-15 per kg. Fishing rights in small lakes are normally auctioned by the revenue authorities to the highest bidder, thus ensuring that the poor do not get them. However, even when the government authorities decide as part of welfare schemes, to form cooperatives of Harijans to catch the fish, the socially, dominant groups manage, through fraud or by influence in government circles, or even by sheer muscle power, to retain their control. We were told of one incident at a place called Rahee Chilka, near Phatua (where the Punpun joins the Ganges) in Patna district. Fishing rights which were normally auctioned used to go to a Bhoomihar landed family. There was a small struggle for control of fishing rights between this family and the poor. T his struggle ultimately led to the death of two persons. Then in 1985 the government decided to give fishing rights to a Harijan cooperative. The same landed family formed a fake cooperative with Harijan names and gained access to the lake. One major killing this year, at Kansara village in Gaya district, is directly related to the issue of fishing rights.
Control over and occupation of khas land in a village is difficult becauses it is fragmented. If all the khas land were to be taken control of and distributed among the most deserving, it would amount only to a few kathas each. But as we have noted earlier, gaining additional kathas is extremely important for the poor. For the landless, the situation is so severe that they cannot even benefit from welfare schemes of the government. The team was told of an incident which happened in Aurangabad district last year when the District Collector went to allocate loans to landless harijans to buy buffaloes. The Harijans politely refused the loans offered as they simply had no land to keep buffaloes. All land, apart from their house-sites, belonged to the landlord. For those in a less deprived situation, a fe v more kathas w o uld reduce their economic depen dency on the landlord. This ultimately lessens control of the landed in extracting extra labour as well as helps in pushing up the wage rates.
Apart from the economic benefits, acquisition of even meagre plots of land is important in terms of mitigating the social oppression the poor suffer due to the caste factor. Ownership of land and social control over a village are inextricably connected with position in the caste hierarchy. Even if a village has a single upper caste landed family, not only that family, but even small plot-holders belonging to the upper-caste, enjoy tremendous traditional authority and control over the lives of the poor. One of the recurrent themes in their talk with us was the insult and humilitation that they, the agricultural labourers and especially the women, have to suffer all the time.
The women workers told us that the landlord or his men sit down on the boundary of the field where they are working. Quite often they are drunk. The women are not allowed any time off to eat their food and they are even forced to answer calls of nature in the field itself, under the eye of the landlord or his lackeys. They are abused all the time and even beaten.
In this social milieu where dependence and servility from the low-caste agricultural workers is taken as a norm, to demand increase in wages or rights to gair mazarua land, is not solely a matter of economic loss to the landed. It is to put into question the entire structure of authority and power which the landed take as a birthright. On the part of the poor too, these economic issues are also crucial to achieving a sense of self-respect and social dignity.
it is because of these interlinked factors that the peasant organisations have been able to build strong support among the poor.
Peasants, Landlords and Dacoits
A few weeks before our team visited Bihar an incident took place in Bharatpura where three young villagers were found killed by unknown assailants. Six weeks after the incident no one is clear about the motives behind the killings of three innocent men though the killings have stirred up the whole of Bikram Block of Patna district in which the village falls. Our detailed investigation of these baffling killings in a sense suggests the state of confusion that informs the situation in central Bihar today. Such a confusion, in fact, is part of the scheme of repression ag ainst the rural poor.
Two hours of bus journey from Patna, followed by about a 15 minutes ride in a tumtum (pony-drawn cart), brings you to the huge sun temple near the village, which was once part of a zamindari estate. A good midile school and a library of national importance are now almost the only remnants of the zamindari era. The zamindar family sold off most of its property, and most of the descendants have settled in Patna. In the past twenty years a group of Yadav families have, bought a part of the zamindars' land. Located near the Son canalthe village has what in official parlance is described as "assured irri. gation." But the villagers claim that the water is not released in time They even face the problem of drinking water during the summer.
We were told that two to three families have 50-100 bighas (about 31 to 62 acres), while a hundred have about 5-10 bighas (3 to 6 acres). The rest are either small peasants, or, more predominantly, landless agricultural labourers. But the land cannot offer employment to all people throughout the year. Most villagers go in search of work to other villages or to cities like Patna, or even to distant Calcutta. in fact, the three young men killed, were working, at the time of their untimely death, as casual labourers in the state electricity board in a nearby village.
The Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha (BPKS) has been active in this village as in other villages of Bikram block since 1980. In the initial phase BPKS had violent conflict with the Bhoomisena, the notorious private army of the Kurmi landlords. The Bhoomisena threat subsided last year, but the landlords have reorganised themselves and sought the help of the Lorik sena, organised by the richer Yadavs of neighbouring Gaya district. The conflict with the landlord sena did not particularly affect Bharatpura itself where the increase in wages was arrived at by a negotiated settlement. T here have been no serious conflicts with the police either. in fact, the only armed police in the village is posted to guard the library of the former zamindar family from where a rare book was stolen sometime back.
But Bikram block does have a serious and violent problem that originates from the presence of powerful dacoit gangs in the area. Some of the dacoits, according to the villagers, are from local Yadav families. The dacoit problem being what it is, the peasant organisations both in Patna and Gaya have organised peoples defence committees. In the face of the organised peoples resistance, the dacoits have been attacking members of the peasant organisations. They have also killed activists of the CPI (ML). In retaliation for the killing of two of their activists, a CPI (ML) group killed two notorious dacoits Mandeo Singh and Beni Singh in the past year, both in the neighbourhood of Bharatpura. It is in this background that thc bizarre. incident of the Bharatpura killings took place.
On 3 April, 1986, Pyare Yadav, Naresh Yadav and Dcvi Yadav of the village Panseri hardly five minutes walk from Bharatpura village were found dead, killed by unknown assailants. Their bodies were discovered in the morning with their heads chopped off. According to all accounts the young men were well behaved and liked, and had no known enemies.
Six weeks after the incident when we visited the village the old father of Naresh Yadav broke down weeping and said that he didn't know who could have killed his son. However Rajinder Singh Yadav, an uncle, asserted that they were killed by Naxalites. According to him the killings are a result of clash that took place with a "Naxalite leader" in the local market in Kharma village. He added that Naxalites are killing innocent villagers like Mandec Singh and Beni Siugh. But according to the BPKS the youngmen were killed by followers of Beni Singh (now led by a Bengali Singh) as part of their scheme to alienate upper sections of Yadavs from the BPKS and draw them towards the Lorik sena. Yet another version reported to us was that the yougmen had been killed by persons in the electricity board from Kharma village as they had supplanted some daily workers by accepting a lower wage. Meanwhile police, acting on the verson of Rajinder Singh Yadav which no one else corroborates, including the father of the dead, arrested three members of Bharatpura BPKS. Mahajan Mochi, Mohammed Riaz and Kedar Paswan, on April 28, were taken to Dulhan ka Bazar police station, kept in illegal custody, tortured and were eventually charged with the murder. . Presently all three are lodged in the prison at Phulwari, beyond Patna. The BPCS is engaged in an active campaign demanding the withdrawal of the false cases against their activists and demanding the arrest of Bengali Singh who according to them is the real culprit.
In a nutshell the bizarre Bharatpura incident present in a microcos m all the dramatis personae of contemporary rural Bihar. The landlords and their private armies, often based on caste, the state and its armed police with their unambigous support to the private armies of the landlords, the dacoits who intrude into political and social conflict at the behest of the landlords, the peasant and youth organisations of different shades, and the political parties including the different CPI-ML groups—all are present confounding a complex situation. It is by deliberate fostering of the confusions that the, establishment, is projecting the conflict as that between 'dacoits and Naxalites to obscure the essential contradictions betwcen the peasants and the landlords.
Peasants and their Organisations
Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabba (BPKS) and Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti (MKSS) are presently among the leading peasant organisations of the Patna and Gaya districts, BPKS came into existence in 1981 initially in Patna district. Later it spread to Gaya also. It is a constituent member of the Indian People's Front (IPF). MKSS also came into existence around the same time, and is based primarily in the Jehanabad sub-division of Gaya district. In addition, in parts of southern Gaya, another organisation called Krantikari Kisan Samiti (KKS) is also active. Sections of BPKS, MKSS and KSS adhere to Marxist-Leninist ideology. In addition, another well known rganisation is the Chhatra Yuva Sangarsh Vahini which is active in the Bodh Gaya area. The Vahini is an offshoot of the famous Bihar movement led by the late laya Prakash Narayan. Besides, the All India Kisan Sabha of the CPI (M) is also present in the district.
But more active is the Khet Mazdoor Union (K MU) of the CPl. These organisations, especially the KMU, are the legacy of the peasant movement of thc thirties. Except f)r the Jehanabad constituency which is represented by the CPI, almost the entire two districts are represented by' Congress (I) in the state assembly. The CPI (M-L) groups which resurged after the emergency in these parts from the Bhojpur struggle of the seventies are also active in the two districts. As far we were able ascertain there are three such groups in these two districts. The Marxist-Leninist groups also have their armed squads which are known to be involved in incidents of violence. According to the police, in the period from 1981 to 1985 in the five districts of Patna, Gaya, Nalanda, Aurangabad and Bhojpur, the CPI -ML groups are responsible for 160 murders, 108 incidents of gun looting and 417 other crimes. But judging by the manner in which the police have foisted cases in Bharatpura and other incidents we are not in a position to ascertain in how many of the incidents that they are held responsible, the Marxist-Leninist groups are actually involved.
However what emerges from our investigations very clearly is the fact that whoever be the organisers and their political leanings, the repression against the people and their organisations is uniform. We give below two incidents that speak for themselves.
In 1978 the Vahini initiated a struggle for the distribution of the surplus land held illegally by the Mahant Gin of Shankaracharya Math of Gaya district. The Math owns about 12000 acres of land in different parts of Gaya district, a large part of which is concentrated in Bodh Gaya, Sher Ghati, Mohanpur, Fatehpur and Imamganj blocks. The Vahini's movement covers an area of 6000 acres of the Math's land, spread mostly in these blocks. Intitially the movement, thanks to the personal intervention of Jaya Prakash Narayan, was able to force the Janata government, then in power, to appoint a committee. The committee popularly known as the KB. Saxena committee held that about 9947 acres of the land held by the Math in these six blocks is through benami transactions. It was found that 17 of the 18 trusts through whom most of this land was controlled were fictitious and the earnings were being siphoned off by the Mahant. The Math has its own parallel government in these villages with well entrenched oppressive kutcheries (courts). The normal laws of the land like, minimum wages, prohibition of forced labour, etc. are not respected under this fiefdom of the Math.
By August 1979 the Vahini's movement had spread to nearly 40 villages. The Math resorted to bringing in outside labour to cultivate the-land, a move resisted by the Vahini. This led to a confrontation with Math pitting its musclemen against the Vahini movement. In Mastipur village located near the Math, these goondas attacked the Vahini workers and opened fire on them, leading to the death of of two- Ramdev and Paanchu-and injuring others. When the Vahini workers lodged a complaint with the police, the workers were arrested and brutally beaten up. A DSP is reported to have personally participated in the thrashing which has left long term injuries. The police also took action on the Vahini workers on the basis of false charges made by the Math.
As the movement progressed, the administration and the police force was time and again used against the movement, particularly after the Congress-I government came to power in 1980.
In 1983, the movement entered a new phase when it decided to carry out collective farming operations on land that was illegally held by the Math. In November of. that year, nearly 30 police camps were set up to prevent the Vahini workers from cultivating the land. In Pipargatti village of Shergati block alone at least a hundred were arrested. Altogether 300 were arrested during this phase. The workers could harvest only half of the cultivated land as the police seized the other half. In Gosai Pesgra village of Barahachatti block, several arrests were made and Vahini activists were beaten up ruthlessly. Despite the fact that the Vahini was conducting a legal and peace ful struggle, many were forced to function as "underground" activists, because of police harrassment.
The present position in this area is that out of the 11,000 acres of disputed land, nearly 1,000 acres has been legally handed over to the weaker sections of the area (that is, less than 10% of the land). On an average, they have received about an acre of land. An additional 500 acres is also being cultivated by them though the legal ownership has not yet been confirmed. Some Vahini activists are still functioning in the area. The false cases have not been withdrawn. Minimum wage laws are still being flouted. Some new sources of tension have emerged as the land which has to be actually distributed has been sold off to the medium level farmers.
On 9 April, ten days before the Arwal killings, two people were killed by the police in the village Saheri, P. 5. Mokmah in Patna district. According to the police the deceased were criminals involved in giving shelter to dacoits. But according to KMU they were its members and were actually bataidars of the village who were involved in a long drawn out legal battle against the local landlords.
Bataidari prevails only to a very limited extent in the districts of Patna and Gaya districts. A bataidar is usually a person with no. land or any other means and who takes land on lease from the landlord. The bataidar is completely dependent on the landlord and has no occupancy rights. Right from colonial times there have been attempts by the state to protect the bataidars through legislation. But the system survived many changes in central Bihar and continues to be in vogue in parts of these two districts. The relationship of the bataidar with his landlord had all the features of bonded relationship where the bataidar "willingly" does service for the malik like reaching milk or curds to the city, accompanying the malik on visits to his relatives, doing services on festive occasions etc. His economic social and political life is completely controlled by the malik. Legally the share of the produce is around 27 out of 40
mounds of rice. However this is seldom observed in practice. In cident
On the morning of 9 April, around 6 am., a police party led by Bindeshwari Prasad Sinha, daroga, thana Ghosvari, entered village Saheri and shot dead Ramcharitra Mahto and his brother Janardhan Mabto, sons of Haridev Mahto. They were bataidars on the land owned by Kamal Kishore Singh, Nawal Siugh, Sohan Singh and Bhusan Singh, sons of late Bindeshwari Siugh. The four sons reside in nearby Chintamanchak village, PS Mokamah and own 12,000 bighas of land (7500 acres) of which they hold 135 bighas (about 84 acres) in Saheri village. Ramcharitra Mahto was a leading member of the KMU.
According to the police since September 1985, there have been reports of looting of buses on the Mokamah—Barbigha Road in which villagers from Saheri were suspected to be involved. On the night of 8 April; the daroga received secret information that criminals were hiding in the house of Raw charitra Mahto. He set with the police party and around 4.30 a.m. entered the village. On reaching the baithan (small quarters in the field) of Ramcharitra Mahto the police claimed to have found a dacoit, sleeping covered with a blanket. They arrested him, broke into the baithan and found looted blankets and a large number of firearms and ammunition. The village mukhia was asked to sign the seizure list. But he went to the village and returned with 10-15 persons who attacked the police, freed the dacoit and beat the daroga. The police then had to open fire and Ramcharitra and Janardhan were killed. The villagers returned fire and threw bombs. No policeman was injured. In all this commotion the dacoit escaped and the police could retain possession of only one single country rifle of the firearms they had seized. Police has registered 9 cases under the IPC.
According to Mr. Ojha, General Secretary, KMU, 99 bataidars of village Saheri had filed a case under the Bihar Tenancy Act against Kamal Singh and other successers of Bindeshwari Singh in the court of the Deputy Collector Land Reforms (DCLR) Barh, in 1976-77 (case nos. B/188-287/76-77) for lands over which they claimed their rights as under raiyats. A Batai-Board was constituted with C.O. Mokamah as its chairman and a report was sent to the DCLR in March 1978. In May 1978 the DCLR rejected the claims of the bataidars who then filed a case in the Patna High Court. in February 1981, the High Court sent the case back to the DCLR, Barh for reconsideration after constituting a fresh Board. The petitioner appeared before the new Board in February 1981 but till now the case has not moved. It appears that the papers concerning the dispute have been "lost."
Matters on the legal front have remained static for two years till in September 1983 an impetus was received from a new quarter. The Collector declared the landlord family as holders of surplus land in Mouza-Alinagar, Ishanagar, and Saheri. The landlo family promptly filed a writ petition in the Patna High Court again the declaration of land as surplus and in March 1984, Rameharitra Mahto and others filed a petition to be added as parties to the case (no 4778 of 1983.)
Thereupon the landlords started evicting old tenants from their lands in a neighbouring village and negotiating terms with new tenants. This move to settle new tenants was successfully resisted through the efforts of Haridev and his son Ramcharitra. Things started coming to head in early 1986 when Kamal Singh and his men attacked the Saheri bataidars on March 7 and looted their harvest under the protection from the police who arrested many bataidars. Haridev Mabto filed a petition in the court of the sub-divisional Magistrate, Barh seeking protection from the landlord and his men who had come to his house and threatened him and his family (March 22). A memorandum was submitted by the Secretary of the CPI, in Mokamah Anchal and the Vice President and Secretary of the C.P.I. in Patna district to the Revenue Minister on April 2. The petition for protection was futile.
According to Ramcharitra's mother Mangali Devi, she and an aunt had reached the baithan in the morning and were clearing it when the police accompanied by the landlord Kamal Singh arrived and immediately shot Janardhan. When Ramcharitra emerged from the baithan, Kamal Singh told the police, "This one is Ramcharitra," at which the police shot him dead.
The police have a single country rifle as evidence for their story. The history of the litigation by the Saheri bataidars for getting their rights under the provisions of the Bihar tenancy laws is a mute witness to the actual implementation of these laws. For nine long years the bataidars have moved the DCLR, and the High Court; they have also petitioned the Revenue Minister and the Collector for protection against the landlord and his goons. Instead of being granted land and protection, the law enforcers saw it fit to treat them as criminals and shoot two of them dead.
In general central and northern Bihar has four well known senas. Bhumisena comprising of Kurmi landlords, Brahmarshi sena comprising of Bhumihar landlords, Kuar Singh Sena of Rajput landlords and Lorik sena of Yadav landlords. The caste complexion of these senas is not totally homogenous and there is a certain mixture of castes depending upon the caste composition of the land-owning class. Of them Bhumisena in Patna district, and Lorik sena in Gaya district are active.
One of the most striking aspects of central Bihar is the brazenness with which the police and the administration gives support to the illegal and violent activities of these senas. During the Task Force Operations in Gaya district last year 200 gun licences were issued by the administration which in one form or the other have reached these senas. In fact this is a continuation of the policy adopted during the seventies in the counter insurgency operations against the Naxalites in Bhojpur and other areas, when a large number of firearms were issued to landlords and even centres for training them were set up. Thus the present DGP's statement that the police permitted the formation of caste-based senas is in fact an acknowledgement of what has been locally known all these years. Along with the administration which permitted the formation and growth of these private armies, local politicians including some MLAs and MPs have backed them. The operations of these senas appear to have been well co-ordinated with that of the police. For instance, after the Bhumisena entered into a settlement with the peasant organisations and withdrew from the scene, Operation Task Force was launched. Now after what appears to be the retreat of Operation Task Force, the Lorik sena is being propped up.
The relative new entrants to the complicated scene of central Bihar are the dacoits. Actually the phenomenon of organised gangs as criminals operating against the people and their property is nothing new to Bihar. Along with Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, Bihar has a serious and endemic problem of dacoity. But what is new is the political significance that this menace is assuming in Bihar. The police can make ready use of the dacoity problem to kill peasant activists, as in Saheri village. But a more complex problem is posed in incidents like these of Kansara and Jeenpura villages where landlords, dacoits, and senas are acting in close collusion to suppress the peasant movement. Here the police can project the problem as between Naxalites on the one hand and landlord-dacoits, and dacoits on the other, enabling them to take a "third party" position as maintainers of law and order between the conflicting groups. Notably; both these incidents which occurred a week before Arwal, were utilized in the first police version of the massacre. According to this version, soon to be withdrawn, police intervened and resorted to firing to prevent a conflict between Naxalite-led peasants and landlord-dacoits.
Kansara is a village in Karpi block of Jehanabad sub-division of Gaya district. The MKSS has been working in this village organising the landless and the poor peasants. Tensions between the landlords and the landless have been rising. The most powerful landlord in this area is Bengali Singh. He is also the leader of the Brahmarshi Sena, the armed gang of the Bhumihar landowners and a noted dacoit.
The immediate cause that provoked the incident at Kansara was a dispute over fishing rights in a small jheel near the village. Earlier only the elites had a right to fish. This was challenged by the landless agricultural labour. In response, the gang of Bengali Singh kidnapped four sympathisers of MKSS-Mustafa Ansari, Halim Ansari, Habib Ansari and Sailum Ansari. These four people were not residents of Kansara; they stayed in a village called Aminabad and they were picked up when they were returning from Imamganj, a nearby town. inPatna district. All four of them were bidi workers. MKSS activists then reportedly kidnapped five of the landlords men. At this stage the police intervened. An agreement was reached between the two parties that the kidnapped persons would be released. Following this the five landlords kidnapped by the Samiti were released.
The four bidi workers were however not released. On the 12th of April as the MKSS was holding a meeting in Kansara village gunshots were heard from nearby. Police, investigating on the
morning of the 13th found in a field, the corpses of the four kidnapped bidi workers.
Jeenpura is a village with a population of about 800 in Paliganj block of Patna district. The incident here can be traced to the tension between a noted dacoit, Ramanand Yadav and the M KSS which is working in this village.
Ramanand Yadav is a dacoit who has been at large for the last ten years. The police has records of dozens of cases against him. A list prepared by the MKSS shows that he is alleged to have been responsible for at least 33 murders, 12 rapes, 13 dacoities and several other offences in the last few years alone. it is also alleged that he has political connections and has been involved in booth capturing on behalf of the ruling party in the last elections. When the Lorik sena was formed last year in these districts he became one of its leaders.
Ramanand Yadav on several occasions threatened activists and sympathisers of the MKSS. On February 20, the MKSS held a public meeting at Kinjar in Jehanabad to discuss the issue of the Lorik sena and Ramanand Yadav. According to. reports in the press, about 10,000 people attended this meeting. The SSP of Gaya and the SDO, Jehanabad were also present at the spot. The MKSS demanded the immediate arrest of Ramanand Yadav.
Following the meeting, in Bela village also in Jehanabad, two sympathisers of the MKSS were killed by Ramanand Yadav and his gang,' which by now was simultaneously a dacoit gang and a landlord sena. In Souharaiya village Yadav threatened some sympathisers of the MKSS that if they went for demonstrations, they would be killed and he even had one of them beaten up. On March 14, in Sigodi village in Pali, he with his gang attempted to disrupt a public meeting by firing on the people assembled.
After these incidents, the MKSS decided to take direct action against the dacoit. On April 11, the MKSS organised an estimated 5000 people who raided the house of Ramanand Yadav, destroyed his property and stuck a red flag on top of his house. In retaliation, Ramanand Yadav and his sena attacked Jeenpura village on April 13.
About 20 to 30 assailants attacked the village at midnight. They first started firing at some people who were sleeping outside their huts and then entered the huts, dragged out people whom they shot at point blank range. Six people died in the firing. Three of them, Awadesh Kumar, Amrendra Kumar and Ranvijay Kumar were boys about 12-13 years old. The rest were old men-Bechan Singh, Baldeo Singh and Ramjanam Siugh. Though Ramanand Yadav and his gang have been publically identified by the villagers, there have been no arrests made so far.
Varied though the issues may be,wh at emerges from the Bharat pura, Bodh Gaya, Saheri, Kansara, and Jeenpura episodes is the pattern of local landlords and their goons or senas pitted against the agricultural poor fighting for their rights. The political intervention of dacoits has served to obscure the issues and provide the police with a new pretext for repression. But, in essence, what all the episodes reveal, whatever be their local specificities, is the partisan role of the police. The best illustration of this is Arwal.
Police : Policy and Practice
On 19th of April 1986, 21 people were killed according to official figures in a police firing in Arwal, a small town in Jehanabad subdivision. of Gaya district just 88 kilometers away from Patna. The PUDR fact finding team visited Arwal on the 23rd of May, a month after the incident. By this time reports by our sister organisationsthe PUCL (Bihar) and APDR (Calcutta)— as well as reports by the CFD and the Press had already appeared. The immediate catalyst to the Arwal killings was the new policy document of the Bihar police which we shall shortly analyse.
In Arwal the team members talked to the local police officers, though the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of the thana was not present when the team arrived. We talked to a wide cross-section of the people including the affected families, activists and sympathisers of the MKSS, several of whom were eye witnesses to the incident as well as uninvolved citizens. We also interviewed K.D. Singh, a local contractor whose house is next to the scene of the firing. Apart from these, in Patna the team also interviewed senior police officials including the IG(Law and Order), Lalit Vijay Singh, members of the administration including the former SDO of Jehanabad, Vyasji Misra, the Collector of Gaya district, Ashok Kumar Singh and political party leaders including the Lok Dal leader Karpoori Thakur(a former Chief Minister), the Bihar State Secretary of the CPI(M) Ganesh Shankar idyarthi and the dissident Congressman Jagannath Mishra (also a former Chief Minister). We also talked to activists and leaders of the Indian People's Front (IPF) and the Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha (BPKS) as well as local journalists.
The following is the report of our finding
The Arwal incident began with a dispute between nine landless families and the family of Baidyanath Rajak over 27 decimals of land (0.27 acres or approximately 1300 Sq. yards) reportedly worth Rs. I lakh. It is registered in old land records as Khata No. 30, plot No. 459 and as Khata No, 65, plot Nos. 211, 212, 213 in the new land records. This piece of land is situated on the western side of the Patna— Aurangabad National Highway, in the Wasilpur area of Arwal. The land lies between the town and a canal of the river. Son, which forms its western boundary. On the town side the land is bordered by nine mudhuts in which live the families of Siyasaran Ram, Lalan Ram, Jamuna Sao. Ganauri Sao, Shyama Sao, Janak Sao, Bharat Sao, Ramehandra Sao and others, A little distance away, towards the south is the large, two storeyed house of Baidyanath Rajak.
These nine families are by caste Kanu, Kahar and Sao, all backward castes. They sell vegetables, paan and betel nuts in the town. Two or three of them own cycle-rickshaws which they ply in Arwal. They own no land exceptfor the homestead plots granted to them by the ex-zamindar, on which their huts now stand. The Rajak family is Scheduled caste but it is well to do, with most of the earning members employed in government. Baidyanath Rajak is an engineer in the irrigation department. The family reportedly owns 19 acres of land in Arwal.
The members of the landless families we talked to said that the land behind their houses was once a ditch. This land was registered as Gair Mazarua Khas in the survey and settlement records of the Government of Bihar. As their families grew, their huts became congested. Siyasaran Ram's hut, for instance, consisted of two small rooms in which he, his wife and the families of his two sons stay. From about 1980 these families started filling in the land and putting up small huts there. They also planted a few vegetables.
In October 1984, Baidyanath Rajak, produced a "Sada Hukamnama" allegedly from the ex-zamindar of the Salona estate dated 19th January, 1932, in which the zamindar granted this 27 decimals of land to the Rajak family. On the basis of this he applied for the possession of this laud in the name of Rameshwar Rajak, his brother. On the basis of this hukamnama the Anchal Adhikari of Arwal, on June 22, 1985, fixed the rent of this land in favour of Rameshwar Rajak. The nine families filed petitions against this order to the Additional Collector, but no action was taken. On September 29, 1985 the Subdivisional Magistrate of Jehanabad issued an order declaring the land to be in the possession of Rameshwar Rajak.
On 31st December, 1985, the nine families jointly applied for possesion of the land in an application filed before the SDO Jehanabad, Vyasji Misra. The team members were shown a copy of the application on the margin of which the SDO had written to the Circle Officer, Arwal, that if these people are landless than the procedure for registering the land in their name should be started. However no action was taken by the Circle Officer.
On 24th January, 1986, some men of Baidyanath Rajak arrived at the disputed piece of land and started to demolish the huts there. They were accompanied by police jawans who also helped to demolish the huts. The residents also told us that the DSP accompanied the police party. When the people tried to protest the police arrested four of them. They were later released. Subsequently they sent a telegram to the District Magistrate, Gaya apprising him of the incident. They also filed appeals before the DCLR. We were told that the officials concerned did not respond.
In February 1986 the Rajak family got a brick wall constructed around the disputed land. When Pradeep and Ganauri Sao protested about this they were arrested by the police.
Meanwhile the wall had blocked all the waste water drains from these huts. Water started accumulating in the houses. Siyasaran Ram told us that in his congested hut almost six inches of water had accumulated. In desperation, Bharat Sao, who had emerged as one of the spokesmen of these families contacted the MKSS, an organisation of poor and landless peasants in this area. We were told by some people that the MKSS organised small meetings on the 6th and on the 15th of April on this issue. Later, a public meeting was announced by the MKSS on the 19th of April in which people from several villages were expected to participate..
Here the story breaks up into two parallel versions, the police or the official version and the people's version.
The Official Version
When the team members reached Arwal the OC of the police thana, Trilokanath Ojha, was not there. Present there was an ASi who pleaded that he was unable to give any definite statement since he was not present on the day of the firing. The official version we give below, is based on what we learnt from the officials in Patna, from the FIR filed, and from the statement of the DG (Police) on the 21st of April.
On 19th April at about 1.30 p.m. a procession was entering Arwal from both sides of the main road. Police posted on both sides tried to prevent the crowd from entering. The crowd was armed with traditional weapons— pharsa. bhala, taiwar, sickles etc.—and also with firearms. The people turned violent and indulged in brickbatting with the police. Tear gas shells were used by the police and the magistrate ordered the firing of two shots in the air. However the people managed to reach the disputed land and started demolishing the brick wall around
it. Meanwhile the crowd was throwing stones at the police. The police arrested four persons and returned to the thana. Four more persons were arrested, though reportedly from another part of Arwal. The crowd, according to the police, was abusing them and shouting provocative slogans. After demolishing the wall they put up two red flags and a signboard saying 'Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti, Wasilpur Branch, Arwal". The team members saw the remains of the wall and the sign board and the red flags still there on the deserted land.
By about 3 p.m the crowd was moving towards the small Gandhi Pustakalaya maidan for a public meeting. The maidan, which houses a primary school and a library, lies on the national highway. Adjoining it is the thana and the two are separated by a wire fence which is broken at one point, affording an easy entry from the thana. The eastern boundary is again a barbed wire fence, also broken at one point. Beyond this fence are open fields. The northern and the western boundaries are brick walls. On the west the main entrance, about 12 foot wide, opens on to the road and on the north there is a two foot gap in the wall from where an exit is possible. At the entrance, just within the maidan is a well. The verandah of the Pustakalaya was serving as the rostrum for the public meeting.
At about 3 30 p.m. a crowd of about 500 persons had gathered in the maidan. A mike had been hired for the occasion and an ultimatum was given to the police to release the arrested people otherwise direct action would he taken against the thana. A short while later the mob started brickbatting, surrounded the thana and some people also fired at the thana. The OC had sent a wireless message to the newly appointed S.P. of Jehanabad, C.R. Kaswan, for reinforcements. Shortly after 4 p.m. the SP himself arrived accompanied by the SDO and armed policemen The SP drove straight to the gate of the mnaidan Just as he alighted from his jeep he was attacked by a pharsa. The blow missed and hit the jeep instead. The attack was repeated at which the SDO gave the order to open fire. As the police opened fire the crowd started shouting that the SP had been killed. Then the thana police also opened fire. According to the police some people from the crowd also fired back at them. In all 53 rounds were fired. Only rifles were employed. After the firing was over there were 11 dead and 20 injured on the field; 19 policemen were also injured. The police had taken 44 persons into custody and also claim to have recovered some country-made guns and documents.
The local medical officer, Ramashray Singh, arrived at the scene and administered first aid to the injured. The police requisitioned the services of a private truck into which the dead bodies were piled. The injured were seated in a police van and driven to the Patna Medical College and Hospital at Patna. They arrived there at 10.30 at night. On arrival it was discovered that 8 more persons had died, bringing the toll upto 19. Two more persons including a 12 year old girl, died later in hospital.
The 11 dead bodies were driven out of Arwal and - cremated by the police. The police claim that since the dead bodies could not be identified, their families could not be informed and hence the police had to cremate all of them. No post mortem was performed.
In his FIR dated 19th of April the O.C. of the Arwal thana has registered case under sections 147, 148, 188, 32 3, 324, 337, 307, 343, 397, 447, and 411 of the Indian Penal Code as well as section 27 of the Arms Act against the injured, the 44 arrested, "absconding" Dr, Vinayan (President of the MKSS), Jang Bahadur Singh (Anchal Pradhan and a leader of the MKSS), Bishnudeo Singh (a leader of the MKSS) and 6 00 other unnamed people. Incidentally the three leaders named were not present at the meeting on the 19th.
The People's Version
When the first journalists and fact finding teams arrived at Arwal they found the town in the grip of terror. The streets were deserted and none was willing to talk to them. When we arrived at Arwal on the 23rd of May it was bustling with activity. It seemed difficult to believe that just a month back so many people had died here in a police firing. But the memory of that incident was still fresh in the minds of the people—in the minds of those men and women who had participated in the meeting on the 19th, the nine landless families who fought in vain for the 1/4 of an acre of land, and in the minds of the uninvolved bystanders and residents. Thanks to the importance this incident attained in the political life of Bihar and the publicity given to it by the local and the national press, people were coming out openly to talk to us. The team members talked to sympathisers and activists of the MKSS, many of whom had participated in the events of the 19th, the members of the nine landless families as well as uninvolved eye witnesses. All the eyewitness accounts agree that when the demonstrators reached Arwal, there was brick batting between them and the police and the police fired tear gas shells and also fired two rounds in the air. Some people alleged however that the brickbatting was started by the goons of the Rajak family and the police and they merely replied back in kind. However, according to them when the crowd had managed to reach the disputed land and was demolishing the wall, the police told them, "You have won. Please conduct your meeting peacefully and then depart in peace" and that the land was theirs. Saying this the police went back to the thana. The police had arrested four persons from the crowd and four others on their way back to the thana.
When the police departed the crowd raised some slogans. They then demolished the wall and stuck up the signboard and the red flags. They were carrying traditional weapons with them but said that it was the normal practice, since they would be returning at night, walking long distances back to their homes, and they feared attack by landlords or dacoits. They denied that any of them possessed firearms on that day.
At about 3.30 p.m. the meeting started. An appeal was made to the police to release the people arrested but no ultimatum was given. After this the meeting started with some revolutionary songs. The speeches were just beginning when at about 4 p.m. the S.P. arrived in his jeep at the gate of the maidan.
Almost all the people we met were completely taken by surprise by the police firing. Eye witnesses report that the SP got down from his jeep and shouted "Goli maro" and then the police accompanying him took up positions and started firing. Some people claimed that the police was also armed with stenguns and that the firing lasted about 20-2 5 minutes.
Within the maidan there was no escape for many. The police was firing from the western exit to the main road. The policemen in the thana had taken up positions along the southern boundary of the maidan along the thana and also on the eastern side. Two exits were thus completely blocked, the third effectively covered and the only exit remaining was the 2 foot gap in the brick wall on the north. Within the maidan there was total chaos as peopie tried desperately to escape the deadly crossfire of bullets. Some people we met ran out of the eastern exit running in a zigzag manner to escape the bullets, some, particularly the women pressed themselves to the ground. Many women also ran towards the rostrum and protected with their lives the life of the MKSS activist Jamilur Rahman there. The field was full of the screams of the injured.
When the firing was over the police started a brutal lathicharge. Even the injured were not spared according to eyewitness accounts. Some women we met said that their saris were torn off their bodies and they were beaten with rifle butts and lathis on their back and legs. We met an old woman of about 55 who had been beaten on her chest with rifle butts—she still complains of breathing trouble and pain in her chest. A young girl of 20 whom we met said that her sari had been torn off her by policemen and she was beaten with canes. A small girl of 12 was still limping—she had a lathi injury on her right leg. According to another woman we interviewed one of the women who had been hit by a bullet had a child of about 2 years of age in her lap. When the woman fell the child was thrown on the ground. When the narrator ran to pick up the child, she was kicked from behind by a police jawan who said "tumko kya parvah hai" (why are you bothered) and started kicking the child with his boots and stamped on it. According to this woman the child died.
None of these people had witnessed the arrival of the SP. And when the firing started there was panic. When the police started the laihicharge, some old women told us that they fell at their feet saying "humni kya kasoor karni hai malik? humni ke chhor dehe. Hamni appan pet khatir chali thi" (What crime have we commited malik? Please spare us. We had come here for our stomachs.) But the police was merciless.
When the police reached the rostrum the verandah of the Gandhi pustakalaya—they dragged out Hira Sao and Bharat Sao who were still alive. Shanti, Bharat Sao's wife, tried to stop them but she was pushed aside and beaten with lathis. The two were taken to the police station. The body of Bharat Sao was later discovered in a ditch beside the maidan. The people allege that Bharat Sao, the spokesman of these nine families, was killed in police custody.
Somehow the survivors, many of them injured, managed to escape. The field was covered with bloodstains and the walls and floor of the Gandhi Pustakalaya was splashed with blood.
Some participants of the meeting allege that firing was also coming from the roof of a nearby house, the house of K.D. Singh, an ex-military man who is also a local landowner and contractor as well as a right hand man of Sardar Krishna Singh, the MLA from this region. According to some residents of adjoining villages, when the meeting was starting K.D.Singh had shouted from his rooftop "Either I will play holi with your blood today or you will play holi with my blood" When the police started firing, K.D. Singh also fired from the roof of his house, into the crowd. According to some women there were other men with their faces masked with a cloth who were also firing into the crowd. The team members met one person with pellet injuries and we were told about some more. The police, incidentaly, do not use pellets.
After the firing was over a few people were called to identify the bodies. At least four bodies could be identified immediately. The police however piled these bodies along with all the rest in a private truck and cremated all of them. The names of the injured were meanwhile noted and they were given minimal first aid by the local medical officer. They were then piled into a police van and driven to Patna. There was no medical officer in attendance during the three hour journey. When the injured arrived at Patna, eight more had succumbed to their injuries.
The first detailed official statement on the Arwal massacre was given in a high level press conference on the 21st of April, addressed by the DG (police), the IG (Law and Order) and the Home Commissioner, that Naxalites had been killed in an encounter. Soon accounts differing from the police version started appearing in the press. A public meeting was organised on the 27th, defying prohibitory orders which had been imposed on the town immediately after the incident, which was addressed by opposition party leaders, including Karpoori Thakur. These meetings did a lot to remove the atmosphere of fear and terror in the town.
All the opposition parties categorically condemned the Arwal incident. Karpoori Thakur mentioned to the team certain Congress (I) leaders whom he said were responsible for the massacre. Narendra Ojha of the CPI-led KMU categorically said that the meeting was peaceful, that the police had opened fire without a warning and had aimed to kill and that this incident was meant to "teach the Naxalites a lesson." The CPM State Secretary stated that the firing was unwarranted.
An umbrella organisation of political parties and mass organisations, called the Arwal Narsanhar Sangharsh Morcha, was soon formed, consisting of about 16 organisations. The week ending the 22nd of May was proclaimed as Arwal week and the Morcha held a week long programme culminating in a padyatra to Arwal which reached there on the 22nd. A public meeting was also held there. It was reported that this meeting was sought to be disrupted by some unknown people who fired gunshots in the air. Several people started fleeing in terror on hearing the gunshots. On the 19th of May the BPKS had held a meeting in Arwal and it was reported to us that the police were telling villagers that if they attended thc meeting then they would repeat the massacre.
In the ruling party only the dissident faction led by Jagannath Misra has visited the area. The dissident Congressmen sent a 15 member fact finding team to Arwal. The team came to the conclusion that the Ar wal massacre was unprovoked and also preplanned.
The local Congress (I) office is within a stone's throw of the spot where the incident took place. The PUDR team found that the office had stopped functioning since the incident. But it is ironical that the most vocal champion of the oppressed people of Arwal, at least within the Congress-I Party, should be none other than the dissident ex-Chief Minister, Jagannath Mishra, whose impeccable credentials as a defender of the rights of the poor has been demonstrated earlier in the Parasbigha carnage, the Samastipur jail firings, the Gua police firings on tribals (followed by the killing of the injured inside the hospital), the Bhagalpur blindings, all of which occured during his tenure. Through his paper, The Patliputra Times, Mishra has been hitting at the tactics used to terrorise the poor in Arwal. In his interview with the PUDR. team he said that such tactics will "crush the genuine rights and aspirations of the poor" and that landless people are being killed as naxalites at the instigation of local interests. The Congress-I dissidents have joined the opposition in demanding the resignation of the Bindeswari Dubey government.
The government itself has rejected the demand for a judicial enquiry and has appointed a magisterial enquiry to be done by Vinod Kumar, a member of the Revenue Board. The Chief Minister announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 10,000 to the families of those Scheduled castes killed in the police firing - a reprehensible attempt to exploit casteist feelings. The government itself has continued to stick by. the official version though there have been a few dissenting voices from the bureaucracy. The Collector of Gaya district, Ashok Kumar Singh, is reported to have sent a telegram to the Patna secretariat saying that the police went out of control and that permission of the magistrate was not taken before the firing. 1-le was sent an official letter informing him not to send any more situation reports. CID SP. Thivchandra Jha alleged that a minister in the Bindeswari Dubey cabinet had a hand in the Arwal killings. He has recently been suspended.
By the end of April two more of the injured had died in hospital. One of them was Manmato, a twelve year old girl. According to a Navbharat Times correspondent who managed to visit her before her death, she had not been given even the elementary precaution of an anti-tetanus injection. Reportedly two other persons have died since April end bringing the official toll to 23. The family members of the injured have not been allowed to meet them in hospital.
It was commonly felt in Arwal that Baidyanath Rajak misused his position as an engineer in the irrigation department to get the disputed land transferred in Rameshwar Rajak's name, and that the ex-zamindar's hukamnama was a forgery. It was argued by members of the affected families as well as by K D. Singh that the land of the Salona estate was sold to the Dumraon estate in 1937, but no mention was made of the 27 decimals of land allegedly granted to the Rajaks. After zamindari abolition in the survey and settlement records of the Bihar government this land is shown as Gair Mazarua Khas. It is also noteworthy that the Rajaks saw fit to apply for the legal posse. sion of the land 52 years after it was allegedly granted to them.
We are not however in a position to say anything authoritatively about these matters. From the incidents narrated to us what emerges is that the correct procedure before settling this land on the Rajaks was not followed, and the acceptance of the Rajaks claim of the land seems arbitrary. We would also like to draw attention to the lack of interest shown by the relevant authorities to the applications and appeals made by these nine landless families, even though the settlement of Gair Mazarua land on the landless has been an accepted policy of the Bihar government and an implicit part of the 20 point programme. XVe would like to contrast this lack of interest to the undue interest shown by the police in demolishing the huts on the land even though they had not been given any official order to do so.
The police version of the incident does not stand up under scrutiny. There is no evidence which could be produced even a month after the incident to substantiate this version. While it has been commonly claimed by the police that 19 policemen were injured, to date not a single name of an injured police constable has been produced even though all teams, including ours, as well as many journalists had asked for the names. Similarly no evidence has been produced to show that the SP was attacked.
We were not shown any physical signs of attack on the thana. The PUCL (Bihar) team was shown pellet marks on the walls of the thana, and so were some journalists, but this practice seems to have been discontinued after it was pointed out to the police that these shots could not have come from the Gandhi Pustakalaya maidan. Further none of the bodies of the dead or injured were found inside the boundary of the thana or even near it—a strange situation if the crowd actually attacked the thana. The arms which the police claim to have recovered consist of one country made shot-gun and two country made pistols—all of them old and in a bad state of repair. Further only one of the several eyewitnessess we interviewed agreed with the police version. Perhaps predictably this is K. D. Singh, who it is alleged, himself fired on the crowd.
It was not possible for the team to ascertain the number of persons killed. While the police say that it cannot be over 21 (now 23), local people s ay that since people came from so many different places it is likely to be more. The method of the police in disposing off the dead bodies lends weight to this suspicion.
Though the number of persons killed is unverifiable beyond the 23 mentioned above, it is certain that many more people have been injured than is officially stated. Most of the injured have taken private medical treatment. in one village alone, the team members saw about 10 injured people who had injuries suffered from bullets and lathis.
It is the conclusion of the team that the massacre at Arwal was a barbarous and unprovoked firing at a peaceful meeting, which will rank as one of the worst cases of police excesses in postindependence India. But the massacre at Arwal was not the result of a land dispute over 1/4 of an acre, neither was it due to Baidyanath Rajak's clout, conspiracies by Congress (I) leaders, or C. R. Kaswan's described by local people as the General Dyer of Arwal— trigger happy nature or even the corruption and brutalisation which characterises Hihar's administration. All these had a part to play, but are in the final analysis incidental. To understand why Arwal happened we have to understand why people here are organising themselves on questions of economic justice and human dignity and the response to this by the local elites and the state. The background of this we have already given. But it is the response of the state to Arwal which marks, in a sense, a turning point. The sub-division of Jehanabad was declared a police district on first of April, shortly after the Chief Minister in Paliganj is reported to have given local landowners a promise that the "naxalites" would be dealt with. C.R. Kaswan was appointed S.P. on the 16th of April and the massacre at Arwal occured on the 19th of April, only three days later. This conjunction of dates is too close to be a mere coincidence and it lends weight to the suspicion that Arwal was a preplanned mass murder. To substantiate this we will consider in some detail the response of the police to the movements in Bihar's countryside..
New Policy Document of Bihar Police
No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except by procedure established by law.
Article 21, Constitution of India.
"Every shot will be answered by ten shots, firmly and with full aim. They have already tested this at Arwal." S.B. Sahay, DO (Police) Bihar
The new policy document of the Bihar police titled "Extremists and Sena Activities in Bihar," submitted to the government early this year, provides the immediate background to the Arwal massacre.
The document begins by building a case that the present law and order problem is created by the extremists. it gives a table entitled 'Crimes Committed by Extremists" during 1981-85. Listed are murders (160), gun snatching from police (35), from public (73), and "other offences" (417). Some caution has to be exercised regarding the figures given. For instance, the FIR filed in the Arwal massacre has cases against 600 persons under 13 sections of the CrPC, IPC and the Arms Act. 'these 600 persons. are unnamed, which means that the police will add names as and when it chooses to harass members of the peasant organisations. The main point, however, is that these cases will no doubt figure in police records as crimes committed by extremists for the year 1986.
Turning to the alleged involvement of "extremists" in dacoities, while there has been an increase in dacoities in Bihar in general, there is no substantial evidence of "extremist" involvement in them. in fact, combatting the problem of dacoity is one of the main issues of the peasant organisations, which has drawn on them the wrath of dacoit gangs, who have killed many activists. Further, contrary to the allegation of the document, the team found that crimes, including dacoities, have declined in "extremist" districts. This finding was corroborated by the former DG Bihar police in our interview with him.
Finally, as to gun-snatching, the team found that Bihar is a gun. runner's paradise, with large scale illegal traffiking and manufacturing of guns. Apart from feudal mores which make the carrying of firearms, even on social occasions like weddings, a mark of social status and power among the upper castes, the problem has assumed menacing proportions due to a variety of factors. Chief among these is the liberal issue of firearms by the government to the rural elite, the inefficiency of the police in maintaining law and order in the rural areas, and thc corruption among police and army personnal Often guns are stolen and sold by corrupt personnel and passed off as incidents of "gun-snatching by extremists."
Thus, the figures of crimes committed by "extremists" appear to us highly inflated. This is not to say that no crimes have been committed. There have been instances of murders of notorious dacoits, of criminal-landlords heading senas, or of police informers. In such instances of crime, the team feels that the laws provide ample powers to the police and judiciary to arrest, prosecute and punish the guilty.
After building up its case against the "extremists", the document turns to what it terms as "so-called" senas. It attributes the rise of the senas to the "unchecked extremist activities over the past several years." The document attests to the caste and class character of the senas. The senas comprising of landlords lack "radical ideology", and place their reliance on "caste affinity. Carrying further its class analysis, the document states, the senas of the upper castes (the Brahmarh and the Kuar) are relatively dormant as compared to the Bhoomisena and the Lorik sena, the latter consisting of the "Yadavs and Kurmis who form the bulk of the middle peasantry which is prepared to take up arms against the radical militants."
However, the bias of the police document towards the senas is clear in its description of the senas as "self-defence groups" which indulge only in "retaliatory violence", and most notably by the complete absence of any list and number of the crimes committed by them. The terror they have unleashed is well-known arson, looting, burning of entire villages, mass murder of the poor, rape, etc. The landless poor in villages like Sikaria (Jehanabad sub-division) and Kansara (Patna district) provide examples of the depredations of the senas. In no sense of the term can such violence be called "retaliatory" or such organisations as "self-defence groups. For, as should be clear from this and other investigative reports, the senas have arisen as a direct consequence of the struggle for social and economic justice by agricultural labour and poor peasants- It is the latter who have had to form self-defence committees in the face of ruthless attempts by the landowners to suppress the peasant organisations.
But the most significant part in the analysis is towards the end of the document. It states "The very emergence of the 'senas' as self-defence groups is an indication of abdication of effecttive role performance by the police. ln fact there was a tendency among police functionaries to encourage the defence groups to organise themselves in order to fight it out with the naxalites." (emphasis added).
In fact, this damning admission is an understatement. In the past five years not only have the police remained passive when several villages in Jehanabad sub-division have been "taken over" by the Bhoomisena and allowed it a free hand, but, have also directly colluded with the senas as in Jaitpur (Nalanda district, Nov. 1985), where police and the Lorik sena surrounded this village for several hours and shot dead many persons.
It appears from the document that one section of the police by abdicating its responsibility had encouraged the formation and activities of the senas while another had "soft-pedalled" the problem of "extremist violence" by advancing the "alibi" that such "violence was a problem of socio-economic unrest and had to be treated on a separate footing." This statement is apparently directed towards such high-ranking officials like the former DG Bihar police who advanced socio-economic arguments for understanding the extremist violence.
Whatever be the factional battle beiiig fought here, the statement that extremist violence had been "soft-pedalled" will not stand close scrutiny.
For, the police has certainly never been inactive as far the "extremist" peasant organisations are concerned. Whenever the senas have failed to "handle" the problem, the police has stepped in, the latest being the Task Force operation launched in 1985, a culmination to the continuous process of intimidation, harassment, arrests, implication in false cases, torture, encounters, and police violence on public meetings.
Yet the document admits that "accumulation of grievances arising out of atocities on weaker sections, exploitation of their women folk for immoral purposes by feudal elements, etc. could have been forestalled if each case of atrocities was dealt with firmly as a part of normal policing. By impartial and correct investigation, implication of weaker sections at the instance of feudal elements could have been prevented." It aiso states that the "extremists", "organise mass activities like processions, rallies, demonstrations, to agitate on socio-economic issues like minimum wages, land reforms, etc., "while the senas have"degenerated into militant caste-groups indulging in retaliatory violence to settle past scores."
Having admitted the failure of the police to protect the socially oppressed, and unwittingly pointed to the mass character and legal nature of the forms of the activities of the peasant organisations, the document nevertheless, labels, with an apparent show of neutrality, both the problem of the "senas" and extremist violence as a problem of law and order. But consistent with the analysis that the document has made, laying the main responsibility of political violence in the rural areas on the "extremists", the "neutral" stance is quickly abandoned when the tasks for dealing with the problem are outlined. All measures, save one, are directed against the "extremists", as by the logic of the document, if they are eliminated, the senas "would become irrelevant with the restoration of a sense of security." With the crushing of the peasant movement, the senas would indeed become irrelevant, but the sense of security would be restored only to the landowners and their henchmen who will regain their dominance and power over the rural poor.
The document concludes with the measures to be taken with the following tasks
Affected areas to be identified; Jehanabad sub-divisions to be upgraded into a police district under an SP; with effect from 1st April in order to deal with the problem effectively.
Approach to the problem to be-changed to ensure a more posi tive policing of the affected areas in place of the 'permissive policy" prevalent in the past. Vigorous efforts to locate the hideouts of activists, recovery of stolen guns, etc. For this a sanction of' Rs. 58 lakhs for purchase of 140 police vehicles, weapons, imparting commando training to selected groups to be specially deployed to carry out raids in "extremists affected areas".
This document containing the reinvigorated policy of the Bihar police immediately before the Arwal massacre needs to be s een in the context of a few other measures taken by the government partly as contingency planning and partly to remove the immediate administrative bottlenecks for implementing the new policy. Possibly, the visit of a group of senior army 12 officers to the A.N. Sinha Institute for social Studies of the rank of Brigadier was part of a contingency planning against "extremist activities"
As for administrative measures, Mr. Vyasji, the young IAS sub-divisional officer of Jehanabad was overnight transferred to Patna as Under Secretary Relief. Mr. Vyasji is among the few such outstanding officers of integrity in the state who had taken the letter of the law, the constitutional obligation to enforce land preforms, and the oft repeated promises of the government to improve the lot of the oppressed and downtrodden, seriously, in fact too seriously, to be of any good to him professionally. The new Superintendent of Police (S.P.) officer. an ex-Army was handpicked by Lalit Vijay Singh.
Within three days of his appointment, he found the relatively minor provocation provided by the MKSS activists at Arwal to be the most appropriate occasion to prove the efficiency of the new policy.
Already reprts suggest that a witch hunt is an effort against those in the bureaucracy who have pointed to the high-handedness of the S.P. of Jehanabad. rhe District Collector, who reported to the Chief Minister recommending a judicial enquiry, has been ordered not to send a situation report on Arwal. He has barely managed to escape the fate of Mr. Vyasji Mishra, the former SDO. The S.P., Intelligence Branch, who squarely blamed certain Congress-I bosses, including a Rajya Sabha member and a cabinet minister, has already been superseded.
In certain respects the oft repeated comparison of the Arwal massacre to Jalianwalabagh has a point. In the latter case, as claimed by General Dyer at his trial, it was intended to make an example by killing as many people as possible at a public protest meeting, with the exits being cut off. After four decades of in dependenee. Arwal also was intended to be an example to create the maximum effect of state oppression.
Yet there are also striking differences The nation protested as one, and among its intellectuals, Tagore refused his knighthood. Arwal has had little impact upon public opinion in the country. More significantly, even colonial British justice was compelled by democratic public opinion at home to put Dyer on trial. Independent India with its constitutional commitment to a policy of protective discrimination in favour of the socially oppressed, has failed even to concede a judicial enquiry.
At the roots of social protest in Bihar lie the policies and performance of the state. In the plains of central Bihar the source of social tensions is the failure of agrarian reforms coupled with the brazen flouting of minimum wage laws. In the tribal region of Chotanagpur the source of tension is the development policy followed by the state which alienates tribals from their land without offering any viable alternatives It is in such a background that popular movements have taken shape in Bihar. It is quite common in contemporary India to see any form of legitimate social protest being branded as "extremist." The state builds itsjustification for its repressive policy on the grounds of violence, and lawlessness of anti-social elements. If this rationale is false everywhere, in Bihar it flies in the face of facts. The magnitude of violence perpetuated or abetted by the state, and the wide range of its victims, tell a tale of their own.
PUDR published in 1983 a report which documented Bihar's grim catalogue of death from January 1980 to June 1983. in that period a total of 185 people were killed in a span of 182 weeks. The information from July 983 to December 1984 remains incomplete. But still the list indicates at least 26 killings in that period, Out of them 6 were killed by police, 13 by landlords or their men. The victims include 8 alleged naxalites, 14 of the CPI (M) and 4 others.
We again compiled a catalogue of the dead in the course of making this report. Our information is necessarily incomplete and partial, but it is an index to the extent of the violence against the poor in Bihar. In a span of 70 weeks from January 1985 to April 1986, 144 people were killed. The information relates to 16 of Bihar's 35 districts, 6 districts from the northern plains, 8 from central Bihar, (of which Patna and Gaya account for 59 killed) and 2
districts in the Chotanagpur region. Out of these 144, 83 were killed, by the police and as many as 67 by landlords, or landlord senas, or by dacoits. Of these, 8 were killed by landlords and police together.
Unchecked assaults on the poor have been justified under the rubric of extremism and lawlessness by the state. That this change is patently false is indicated by the figures. Of the 144 killed, only 64 fit the official description of naxalites or extremists. rn fact it includes 10 of KMU; 5 of AIKS. 15 from voluntary groups, 15 not affiliated to any social or political organisation and 35 unknown. 82 of the 144 are agricultural labourers or marginal peasants, 18 arc tribals, 27 are political activists and there are 17 others. We would like to note here that according to the CPI (M) Bihar Secretariat between 1980-83, one hundred of their activists or sympathisers were killed. The list of those killed was submitted to the State Assembly. Reportedly 45 of their sympathisers have been killed since 1984 to now.
It is the grim irony of the process that those who seek to make the government follow its own laws got transformed into criminals in the eyes of the law. The transformation of complainants into criminals takes place through the respectable term "law and order." This respect for law and order by the state agencies does not go far. Tgohuh there were 47 police firings in the past one year, only one Enquiry Commission has been appointed in all these incidents, and that too has yet to submit its report one year later (Banjhi massacre). Given that the press with some up exceptions willingly or unwillingly, exercise its own censorship, and given the rarity of independent enquiries, the government acquires the monopoly of placing the "truth" before the public. Through this monopoly the right to information is suppressed, and the public persuaded to give its assent to whatever measures the government may choose to take against the movements of the oppressed. Government and media propaganda which form so essential a part of the repression, follow a familiar pattern-—the movement is projected as ant-isocial, the meetings and rallies proclaimed a threat to law and order, the participants a mob who assault the police, and the police as forced to resort to firing in self-defence. So naturally, there is no punishment for the police personnel involved.
The failure of law to take its course, one should note, does not indicate the decay and atrophy of democratic institutions. They are very much alive and active. In Arwal, when nine landless families struggled for legal entitlement to nine kathas of land, law and order is restored by killing 23 people. In Saheri, a bataidar who heads a protracted legal battle is shot down for "habouring a dacoit". In Bodh Gaya two activists are shot dead for fighting against the parallel government of the Mahant. In Bharatpura three peasant activists are charged with murder for the mysterious killings near their village. In Gua adivasis who petition the country's premier public sector undertaking for jobs are tortured to death. Thus in Bihar perverted use of the instruments of law has come to be institutionalised.
The losers are not only the rural poor and the tribals, but also, a fact not often recognised, the general public, on whose assent this suppression of the deprived depends in a crucial manner within the modem Indian state. Hence the massacres-Belchi, Pipra, Gua, Parasbigha, Banjhi and Arwal—pass off as "atrocities," and not as central questions of the democratic rights of the Indian people as a whole.
State/ Population Urban Literacy SC ST
District (in millions) Population Population Population
(% of total) (% of total) (% of total)
Bibar 69.91 12.5 26.2% 14.5 8.3
Patna 3.02 37.1 39.7% 15.4 —
Gaya 3.13 108 30.0% 25.6
Singhbhum 2.86 32.0 34.6% 5.0 44.0
(Source: Census of India, 1981)
State/ M'ain Workers Agricultural Labour Cultivators
District (% of total population) (% of main workers) (% of main workers)
Bihar 29.7 35.5 43.0
Patna 27.6 31.0 28.5
Gaya 30.8 38.8 43.0
Singhbhum 22.7 7.1 13.41
(Source: Census of India, 1981)
Implementation of Land Reforms
(all figures in acres)
State! Target for acquisition Land acquired Land distributed District of surplus land upto upto 15.5.84
Bihar 323,800 271,838 (84%) 170,517 (53%)
Patna 4,000 2,638 (66%) 1,780 (44.5%)
Gaya 12,000 9,342 (78%) 6,732 (56%)
Singhbhum 2,000 2,021 (101%) 1,519 (76%)
DETAILS OF THE KILLINGS
January 1980—June 1983 (182 weeks).
Description of Attackers Number of Killings
Landlords or their men 108
Police 60 (65)
Landlord & Police 05
Total 185 (190)
Nature of Attack Number of Killings
Armed mob attack 54
Selective murders 19
Police Firings 42 (47)
Police Encounters 18
Not Nnown 48
Total 185 (190)& PUCL
July 1983—December 1983 (26 weeks)
information not compiled
January 1984—December 1984 (52 weeks)
Description of Attackers No of Killing'
Landlords & landlerd armies 13
Landlords & police
Nature of Attack No. of XIllings
Armed mob attack 11
Selective murders 03
Police firings 01
Police encounters 02
Not known 09
(NOTE: information for this period is insufficient!
January 1985—April 1986 (70 weeks)
Description of Attackers
Landlords & landlord armies 59
Landlord & Police 08
Nature of Attack
Armed mob attack 49
Selective murders 18
Police firings 48
Police encounters 18
Not known 01
Social Background of the Victims Number Killed
Agricultural labour &
marginal peasant 82
Political activists 27
Total 144& PUCL
Political Affiliation of the Victims
Khet Mazdoor Union (CPL) 10
All Indian Kisan Sabha (CPI(M))
Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti 42
Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha 19
Krantikari Kisan Samiti 03
Voluntary Groups 15
Gaya 43 Sitamarhi 5
Nalanda 17 Ranchi 3
Patna 16 Nawada 2
Sahebganj 15 Madepura 2
Munger 15 W.Champaran 2
Aurangabad 9 Katihar 2
Palaman 6 Purnea 1
Bhojpur 5 E Champaran 1
The PUDR team deeply appreciate the help extended by a large number of people without whom this investigative and documentary report would not have been possible. The Bodh Gaya, Jeenpura and Kansara incidents have been written on the basis of interviews with activists and press reports, while the Saheri incident is based on an interview with the Secretary, KMU and the PUCL (Bihar) report.
We would like to acknowledge the help from police and administrative officials, journalists and lawyers in Gua and Chaibasa Our special thanks to PUCL (Bihar), peasant organisations and activists of MKSS, BPKS, KMU, AIKS and Sangharsh Vahini; political leaders, Jagannath Mishra, Karpoori Thakur, Ganesh Shanker Vidyarthi ; former DG Bihar police, present IG (Law and Order), former SDO, Jehanabad, the police at Arwal thana and the local contractor, K.D. Singh ; journalists, Arun Sinha, Surendra Kishore, Nabendu, Urmilesh, Kiran Shaheen who is also an activist in a women's organisation; academics, Professor Pradhan Prasad, Shashi Bhushan,
B. Patnaik (all from A.N. Sinha institute, Patna) and Nirmal Sengupta (MIDS, Madras).
Finally our deep gratitude to the villagers' both peasants and tribals who remain anonymous to the rest of India, but whose struggles are receiving some attention from the democratic public.
PUDR has produced a number of booklets on Bihar. These are" Repression in Singhbhum" (1979, PUCL&DR), "Agrarian Unrest in Patna" (1981). "Sabarjori—Abandoned Miners of Santhal Parganas" (1983), "Police Repression in Jehanabad" (1983 with APDR), "Jehanabad : Peasant Movement and Police Represssion" (1983 with PUCL (Bihar), "And Quiet Flows the Ganga" (1983).
Though a Delhi based organisation we have investigated and documented attacks on the democratic tights of the people all over the country. In addition to the reports mentioned above, PUDR has taken up the issues of tribals and peasants in Telengana, Adilabad and Bastar, industrial workers of Faridabad and Modinagar, mine workers of Chattisgarh and Meghataburu, slum dwellers of Delhi, cultural workers of Kerala, Nagas of Manipur, minorities of Delh, and Aligarh, academic freedom in Delhi and Warangal and others. It has fought a number of legal cases in the Supreme Court in relation to the rights of political prisoners, bonded labour, construction workers, tribals and atrocities committed by the police and army.
PUDR members are lawyers, journalists, teachers, students and artists. It draws its finances from small donations as well as sale of the its literature, and does not accept funds from potitical parties the government or foreign agencies.
PUDR appeals to all democratic sections to help in as many ways as they can-especially with donations and the popularisation of its literature.
Organizations in India[Last revision: Nov. 25, 2008. This information is subject to further correction and updating.
For more information about a specific organization, click on its name in the tables below.]
Table 1: Current Maoist or Mao-influenced Organizations in India
Name aka Publications Political
Notes Communist League of India (M-L) CLI(ML) Lal Tara
Founded on Feb. 20, 1978 as a splitoff from CPI(ML) COC.
At least 4 active factions.
Communist Party of India (Maoist) CPI (Maoist) Engaged in
war in many
Formed on Sept. 21, 2004 as a merger of CPI(ML) People's
War and MCC(I). This is by far the largest and most
important revolutionary party currently engaged in guerrilla warfare
Communist Party of India (M-L)
[A new formation as of 2005]
Centrist This new party was formed in January 2005 by a merger of
CPI(ML) [Sanyal Group] and CPI(ML) Red Flag. Both of
these groups were substantial, so the new party is one of
the more important center-right M-L organizations in India.
CPI (M-L) Bhaijee Group S. R. Bhaijee Group Formed in 1990. Active in Bihar. CPI(ML) Central Team Surkh Rekha Formed in 1977. In Aug. 1994 the Punjab section of Central Team
merged with 3 other groups to form the CPRCI(ML), but the
Maharashtra and West Bengal sections refused to go along.
CPI (M-L) Janashakti
— Rajanna group
— Ranadheer group
— Chandra Pulla Reddy group
— Other factions
Formed in July 1992 by merger of 6 CPI(ML) groups. There are now
many independent groups with this same name. Active in at least
8 states. The Rajanna faction is critical of the "mass line" groups
which it says do not really seem to be advancing toward people's war.
After a period of internal confusion, it seems to have settled on
a strategy of guerrilla warfare.
CPI (M-L) Jan Samvad CPI (M-L)
CPI (M-L) Liberation Liberation,
Claims to be the main continuation of the original CPI(ML). Backed
away from armed struggle in the 1970s. Probably the largest CPI(ML)
group. Active in many states including Assam, W. Bengal and Bihar.
CPI (M-L) [Mahadev Mukherjee] CPI (M-L) [MM] Bharater Iskra,
Split from CPI(ML) 2ndCC. They claim to be the "real" CPI(ML).
Small, doctrinaire and idiosyncratic; they continue to support Lin Biao!
CPI (M-L) Maharashtra [Maharashtra is a state in west India.] CPI (