Thursday, November 14, 2013

India: Flame of resistance continues in Punjab by Harsh Thakor

The state of Punjab continues  to radiate the burning torch of agitation.

The most significant events have been the upsurge of the students and youth and their unity with the peasant organization demands. 

The author interviewed the secretary of Naujwan Bharat Sabha,Pavel Kussa in Jalandhar.He expressed that the students gave solidarity to the demands of the peasants for land reforms.

A huge conference was held on October 6th on the demands of the peasants demanding compensation for the loss of family members through suicide ,for cancellation of debts etc. An inter-exchange of solidarity took place between the peasant and student organization on demands.

The Naujwan Bharat Sabha with the  Punjab Students Union initiated a campaign in various districts of Punjab on the significance of the Ghadr party which was commemorating it’s centenary this year. A programme was also launched against hike in bus fares and for concession s to students .

On September 29th the students in Bhatindawere demanding that they should be allowed to travel with bus pass even in private buses. Transporters, on the other hand, said they can not do so in view of an official letter by the government barring students from boarding buses without proper tickets.

While some student union leaders protested against the transporters and blocked roads near the Ghudda village, the transporters held a press conference, alleging harassment by some unscrupulous elements among the students. On 30th September a dharna was held outside  Rajndra college,Bhatinda.90 students were first arrested and later 10 were held including leaders Sumeet Singh and Gurpreet Singh.Later they were released.

The students raised slogans against the transporters for not allowing them to travel with passes and said they would intensify their stir.

The transporters, however, alleged that there are some student leaders who are not studying in any school or college and are trying to malign the image of the transporters.

"The miscreants are instigating the students to increase their union's base by misguiding other students. We urge the school and college authorities as well as the parents to ask their children not to indulge in wrongful activities," said Pirthi Singh Jalal, a local transporter.

"We have got the official letter issued by the state government wherein it is clearly stated that the students could not travel free in the private buses. They could use their passes only in government buses," said Harvinder, another transporter, while addressing the media. Transporter Baltej Singh alleged that the role of the administration and the police is also dubious.

"Despite repeated requests to solve the problem, nothing has been done either by the police or the district administration. Neither the police takes any action nor the district administration intervenes to introduce government buses for students on specific routes," said Harvinder.

He added that the students board the private buses in large numbers, without paying anything which affects the transporters economically.

"The students harass the transporters who have to pay at least Rs 1,000 as tax to the state government everyday even if their buses do not ply on the road," said Baltej Singh.

Sumeet, a student leader, who has passed out from the Government Rajindra College and representing the Punjab Students Union (Shaheed-Randhawa) said they have organised a protest against the bus conductors who demand tickets, in Ghudda village today.

"There is no government bus service on the Lambi-Bathinda road and private buses do not allow students to travel with passes. We have urged the administration to intervene or we will intensify our stir," he said.

He said the students from ten villages on the Lambi-Bathinda route have formed a Bus Pass Sangharsh Committee which is taking up the matter with the administration and transporters.The dharna by the students continued for four and a half hours and was lifted only after an assurance by the Naib Tehsildar that a meeting with the Deputy Commissioner for them would be fixed tomorrow. The B.K.U.ekta(Ugrahan)  and the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union supported the bus fare agitation.

Later an agitation was launched in a civil hospital in Bhatinda on health demands. A dharna was staged demanding correct medication in hospitals,better equipment and facilities  and above all for a more progressive health policy whereby the state played a greater role and combated the menace of privatization.The importance of improving the government health sector was highlighted. 

The agitation in municipal schools by the NBS continues  and had a successful result. A government school that was taken over by the ATL(education multi-national) won it’s independence after struggle and the ATL had to retreat. The struggle for a greater number of teachers  in municipal schools continues .

A most significant campaign was launched jointly by the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union and the Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta(Ugrahan) against injustice on the peasantry and their class demands.for land reforms.

A veteran BKU(leader) Baba Bhura Singh succumbed in prison because of poor treatment and negligence by the jail Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union(landless labourers organization),Laxman Singh Sewewala who described the intensity of the desperation of the landless peasants who were often compelled to sell their land and denied rights.

A huge fund raising campaign was launched by the P.M.KU for the peasant leaders.In districts all over Punjab a joint programmes  or conventions were launched with the B.K.U(Ekta-Ugrahan) demanding fair remunerative prices for landed peasants,cancellation of all debts and adequate compensation to families of farmers who committed suicide. The main accent of the demands was on the peasant suicides and on the solutions to the agricultural crisis. Mobilizations took place upto 6,000 in certain areas with the greatest mobilization in districts of Bhatinda and Sangrur. Significantly the Naujwan Bharat Sabha gave support and solidarity to the peasant agitation.

Another important event was the response of all sections of Society to Sanjay Kak’s film ‘The Red Ant Dream.’The masses literally stormed the hall where the film was staged  and their hearts literally reverberated like a red torch lighting when seeing the film.

The response was particularly high in Bhatinda where the peasant and youth section  could identify their struggles with those waged by the revolutionaries in Dandkaranya or Orissa.

Film maker Sanjay Kak was very impressed by the methods the broad masses were organized in Punjab both when making the film with scenes from Punjab and when screening the film.He felt that forces like the Lok Morcha or Naujwan Bharat Sabha pooled in every possible resource to organize the masses and took the struggle to the optimum level of militancy. He thought that the class organizing of masses by the Lok Morcha was outstanding.

There was also an outstanding response to the Commemoration of Late revolutionary playwright Gursharan Singh’s death anniversary on September 27th in Barnala.

Below I have compiled a series of important events reflecting the scenario in Punjab from the Tribune.They reflect how the semi-colonial,semi-feudal structure grips the lives of the broad masses.

Even after getting the lion's share of Rs 8.56 crore this year from the total Rs 56 crore sanctioned for the cleaning drains in the state, Muktsar is among the worst flood-hit districts.

Most of its areas are submerged in rainwater that too when there is no rain for the last three days. It has even put the functioning of the Drainage Department under a scanner.
Drainage officials have admitted that they were given as much money as sought by them for the purpose.

"Nearly Rs 5.29 crore was sanctioned for Gidderbaha circle and Rs 3.27 crore for Muktsar for cleaning drains. Even the work was done. The problem arose because of heavy rainfall and overflow of drains in Ferozepur," said PPS Ghumman, Superintending Engineer, Drainage Department, adding that they were now making all efforts to drain out the floodwater.

Meanwhile, the floodwater that has changed its flow from Muktsar to Gidderbaha villages could spell more trouble for officials. "The level of water has risen in some villages in Gidderbaha," said a senior official engaged in flood-control operation.

The residents have blamed the administration for slow pace of rescue operation. On August 20th activists of the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union also staged a dharna outside District Administrative Complex demanding canopies.

Nek Singh, a resident of Bhundar village, said water had almost touching the height of 5 feet, but the administration had not made any arrangement to evacuate them. "After waiting for five days, we finally brought our animals on road by using tyres as boats. The administration must speed up its efforts," he said.

An aerial survey of flooded villages was also conducted in the afternoon.


On September 20th the police arrested hundreds of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU-Ugrahan) activists from various parts of Punjab to thwart farmers from blocking the national and state highways in the wake of their call for a blockade.

The protesters have been pressing for the release of their nine senior activists who were arrested a few days ago from Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts during an agitation against the shifting of power meters outside their homes. Farmers from various parts of the district started gathering at a gurdwara in Machike village in the morning but the local panchayat asked them to leave the premises of the shrine and hold their meeting elsewhere.

When they came out of the shrine, 127 of them were arrested as a preventive measure to maintain law and order. They were later produced in a local court, which sent them to judicial custody, said Senior Superintendent of Police KJS Dhillon.

Eighteen farmers were arrested by the police yesterday.
BKU general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri, who managed to escape, alleged that the SAD-BJP government was trying to suppress the democratic rights of the people by using the police force.
“The police has taken into custody at least 1,500 farmers, including women, from 24 locations in the state. But, the exact figures cannot be ascertained at the moment as the arrests are still continuing,” said Kokri.

The BKU leader said among others places, the farmers had been arrested from Dhurkot-Lehra, Maisarkhana and Jethuka in Bathinda district; Tahlian, Atla Kalan, Diyalpur, Bhikhi and Thalewan in Mansa; Khudi Kalan and Dhaula in Barnala; Takhtupura and Machike in Moga; Lambi and Doda in Muktsar district and Manjiawali in Gurdaspur.

Seeking the release of the farmers arrested by the police, including those arrested earlier in Amritsar and Gurdaspur, the BKU said it would intensify its stir in case the state government failed in doing so. Kokri has also called an emergency meeting of the BKU office-bearers at Machike on September 23 to discuss the next course of action in view of the “repressive” attitude of the SAD-BJP government.

Sangrur: The police foiled an attempt by the BKU (Ugrahan) district unit to converge at the ITI Chowk at Sunam, 13 km from here, for a protest. Hundreds of farmers were detained in various parts of the district.

BKU leader Dilbag Singh Harigarh claimed that around 150 farmers were detained at Jakhepal (Dharamgarh), 200 at Kanjhla village (near Dhuri), 100 at Namol village (near Longowal) and over 90 at Khadial village (near Sunam).

Harigarh said the main leaders of the union could not be arrested as they had gone underground.
Senior Superintendent of Police Mandeep Singh Sidhu said that over 450 BKU activists were detained and let off after a few hours. 

Mr Anurag Aggarwal, District Magistrate, Bathinda, has ordered a magisterial probe into the incident pertaining to the death of a farmer, Gurdev Singh while sitting in dharna on the Bhai Bakhtaur level crossing on September 30 and the circumstances which led to the police lathi charge on the farmers on October 1 while they were trying to stage a dharna on that crossing.

Talking to TNS today, he said Mr Narinder Singh Bath, SDM, Talwandi Sabo, had started the probe and would submit his report shortly. He would find out who instigated the violence which forced the police to resort to the lathi charge.

More than 12 farmers were severely injured on October 1 in the lathi charge while they were trying to stage a dharna at the level crossing on Bathinda-Delhi rail section to lodge their protest against the refusal of the district administration to hand over the body of Gurdev Singh. An activist of the BKU, Ekta (Ugrahan) group, he died on September 30 after he along with others were hit by a goods train while they were trying to stop it during the rail and rasta roko agitation at Bhai Bakhtaur railway.

Eight policemen were also injured when they were allegedly attacked by activists of the BKU, Ekta (Ugrahan) group when they tried to stop them from sitting on the railway line. The activists also damaged the Gypsy of Mr S.P. Singh Bawa, AIG, General Railway Police (GRP).

The same day, in the Bathinda Civil Hospital, the president of the BKU (Ugrahan), Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahan, Lok Morcha Punjab general secretary, Jagmail Singh, general secretary, of the Khet Mazdoor Union Laxman Singh and representatives of students’ union also faced the wrath of the police when they insisted that they should be handed over the body of Gurdev Singh for cremation. They were beaten up and bundled into various vehicles and taken to different police stations. However, some of them were released on October 2.

Two criminal cases, one in police station, Kotfatha, and the other in police station of General Railway Police were registered against farmers’ leaders, including Mr Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, Mr Bhola Bugger, Mr Shingara Singh and many others.

A third criminal case was registered against Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahan and others for creating hooliganism in Civil Hospital, Bathinda. About 20 activists of farmers’ organisation were arrested.
After the two incidents, the Bathinda administration authorities have been leaving no stone unturned to maintain law and order situation. It has reached a compromise with a section of farmers’ organisations and promised compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of farmer Gurdev Singh and Rs 50,000 each to those who were injured when the goods train hit them. Mr Aggarwal also ordered a magisterial probe into these incidents as per the compromise.

Meanwhile, activists of the BKU, Ekta (Ugrahan) today decided to burn the effigies of Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh from October 4 to 9 in all parts of the state. They also held a rally at Maur Charat Singhwala village to which deceased Gurdev Singh belonged.

On September 27th  more than 10 farmers were hurt in a clash with the jail staff here today. Three prison employees too sustained injuries in the fight, learnt to have broken out after the death of a farmer inside the jail.

Hailing from Mansa, the deceased, Bhoora Singh (75), was arrested during a protest in Mansa on September 20. The police said Bhoora Singh was ill and his condition deteriorated late Thursday evening. The farmers alleged that instead of shifting the deceased to a hospital, the jail officials gave him medicines inside the barrack. His condition reportedly worsened and he died after some time.

As the jail officials tried to take the body to the hospital for a post-mortem, the farmers objected and a bloody clash ensued. It was only after a struggle lasting a few hours that the jail staff succeeded in the wee hours. The body was shifted to the Nabha Civil Hospital.

As the word spread, a large number of farmers gathered outside the hospital. Tension prevailed as the injured farmers alleged that the jail officials launched an orchestrated attack on them under the supervision of their seniors.

Bharti Kissan Union (Dakaunda) senior leader Ram Singh said, “The farmers were ruthlessly beaten with sticks.”

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