08 March 2011
07 March 2011
|(Publication: The Times Of India Kolkata;||Date: Mar 5, 2011;||Section: Times City;||Page: 4)|
Land struggle in Naxalbari Veterans Lead An Unarmed Movement To Empower The Landless Caesar Mandal | TNN
Naxalbari: In the land that gave Naxalism its name, a new revolution is sweeping through, without guns, without bloodshed, but with the same aim — empowering the landless. And it all started one hot, humid July day on the Mechi riverbank when a poor farm worker was turned away from a traditional grazing ground on the India-Nepal border.
It was vested land but had been strangely ‘taken over’ for a tea garden. Now, nine months later, men can be seen heading for the same land to farm potatoes, a sickle in one hand and a red hammer-and-sickle flag on the other.
Neither the state agencies nor the powerful “class enemies” dare stand against Ratia Singha and Minu Hansda. Exploited for generations, they have snatched back their rights. They have shown a new path.
Naxalbari which had taught Bengal — and India — about “armed revolution”, is now witnessing a Gandhian revolution.
In July last year, Ratia, a Rajbanshi youth, had gone to the Mechi riverbank with his cattle. A father of four, he lives in Ramdhanjote and tries to feed his seven-member family with whatever little he earns as an agricultural labourer. Ratia has three cows too. That day he was told his livestock couldn’t graze in the land. It had been sold.
Like Ratia, hundreds depending on the land, were hit hard. Within days, tea gardens cropped on the same land. “It was a shock to us all. The land belongs to the government. It is also ‘no man’s land’ because of its proximity to the India-Nepal border,” said Khokon Mazumdar, an octogenarian, once close to Charu Mazumdar and a key player in the Naxalbari peasant upsurge.
The anger spread like wildfire. From Ramdhanjote, it spread to Mahipaljote, Bhagwanjote and Chunilal Jote. The government kept mum. Finally, villagers like Kabiraj Tudu and Hapan Mandi — whose forefathers once fought for their rights during Naxalbari movement — gave the call for revolution.
In September, farmers from eight villages along the Mechi river dyke formed the “Terai Sangrami Mancha” with the help of veteran Naxalites Khokon Mazumdar, Gour Baidya, Nathuram Biswas and Ratan Dey. The quartet still believes in a communist revolution, but condemns violence in the name of class struggle.
“Killing marginal croppers and small traders branding them as class enemies cannot be a revolution. Mindless bloodshed cannot be the right way to end state repression. It simply promotes another group of armed hoodlums,” said Nathuram Biswas, a leader of CPI(ML) Janashakti, a splinter group of the erstwhile CPI(ML).
The Sangrami Mancha started their march on October 11, 2010. Thousands of unarmed landless croppers walked on the sun-baked banks of the Mechi, carrying red flags and announcing their right to the land. “We asked the tea gardeners to leave. They had illegally encroached our land. They called up police. Even border guards rushed at us but they could do nothing against our peaceful march,” said Ratia. His children and wife were also in the rally.
“Since then the Terai Sangram Mancha has managed to win back 1,200 bighas (400 acres) of land on a 2-km stretch along the Mechi. Our struggle is on,” said Mancha secretary Gour Baidya.
The acquired land has been distributed among 600 families in eight villages. They have now started cultivating the fertile soil, where a bigha of land can produce 25-30 quintals of potato.
For the administration, it is a Catch-22 situation. “We are aware of the movement. It is peaceful. Officially, we do not accept their claim to the land,” said block development officer Subhasis Ghosh. Darjeeling SP D P Singh said they have received no complaints on the matter.
The CPM is well aware of the movement but has chosen not to go against it. “The people organising the movement may be against our party but it is true that some poor people are getting land. If the movement succeeds in making life better for some people, why should we resist?” said Jibesh Sarkar, CPM state committee member, who looks after Darjeeling.
Khokon Majumdar, member, central committee, CPI-ML (Janashakti)
Gour Baidya, leader, CPI-ML (New Democracy) and secretary, Terai Sangram Mancha
Nathuram Biswas, CPI-ML (Janashakti)
Villagers from Ramdhanjote on the ‘taken over’ near the Mechi river
Universities urged to join jasmine rallies
Beijing warns against 'street politics' as fresh call heard for protests today.
Priscilla Jiao, Mar 06, 2011, SCMP
Beijing warned people yesterday against "street politics" as the anonymous organisers of "jasmine rallies" on the mainland issued an open letter to major universities calling for more gatherings today.
A commentary in the Beijing Daily newspaper, an official Communist Party mouthpiece in the capital, said: "It is worth noting that at home and abroad some people with ulterior motives are trying to draw this chaos into China by using the internet to incite illegal gatherings, create problems and stir up `street politics'. People are strongly against such a self-directed farce."
The warning, published on the opening day of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, called such protests "behavioural art". It said threats to social stability could bring disaster, and stressed the importance of stability to economic development. The warning has been widely published on Chinese state media websites. There have been low-key rallies in some mainland cities on the past two Sundays.
Yang Huanning , deputy chief of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, said he was confident that the security situation was under control. The bureau plans to hold a press conference on social stability at 2pm today, the same time that rally organisers have asked people to gather.
Security has always been extremely tight for the annual meetings of the NPC and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and the Communist Party has made maintaining stability a priority. Public security expenses surpassed those of the military last year, according to a report by the Ministry of Finance.
Beijing has mobilised 739,000 police officers, officials, security guards and residents organised into local patrols to guard against mishaps during the two sessions, China News Service reported.
The open letter to major universities across the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan appeared on a Boxun.com blog yesterday. It said: "We, as the organisers of the rallies, are also your peers and participants in the rallies, and we are your alumni and as young as you are." The recipients included Peking University, Tsinghua University, Renmin University, Fudan University, Sun Yat-sen University and Xiamen University.
"We cannot keep silent in a cruel reality in which a son of a police official in Baoding , Hebei , received a light sentence after running over and killing a person and another student was beaten to death by a train administrator," the letter said.
It added that the privileged elite could easily make fortunes by stamping on social order.
It called upon students to take a stroll on the main squares of their campuses, in front of university administration buildings or other locations mentioned previously.
Since mid-February, online messages have encouraged people to take a "stroll" in busy locations of some big cities to express their discontent with social problems. These include rising housing prices, inflation and the poor employment prospects of university graduates.
Despite a heavy police presence, people turned up in Beijing and Shanghai last week but it was impossible to distinguish demonstrators from regular shoppers.
A renewed call this week asked people to gather in 41 cities, up from 27 last Sunday, with more than two separate locations designated in over 10 cities. A Facebook account holder has also called on Christians in 38
cities to pray at 2pm every Sunday, with many of the designated locations matching those of the so-called jasmine rally calls.
With inouts from : TONY HENDERSON
Police out in force again to stop 'jasmine' rallies flowering Foreign journalists fall victim to pre-emptive clampdown
Staff Reporters in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong Mar 07, 2011. SCMP
Major mainland cities were under heightened security yesterday, as authorities were put on high alert by online calls for "jasmine" rallies for a third Sunday in a row.
But again, no apparent protests or mass gatherings were spotted in crowded city centres or busy shopping districts in Beijing, Shanghai and dozens of other cities listed as designated protest cities by the anonymous organisers.
Apart from tens of thousands of police, plain-clothes officers and security guards, a vast number of people wearing red armbands of "public security volunteers" were also mobilised. Helicopters were used in the capital to help patrol areas deemed sensitive, such as university districts.
Foreign journalists fell victim to sweeping pre-emptive security measures for a second consecutive Sunday, with more than a dozen overseas reporters detained in Shanghai and Beijing.
Highlighting the government's hypersensitivity, Communist Party mouthpieces - the Beijing Daily, the Jiefang Daily in Shanghai and its affiliate the Shanghai Morning Post - issued stern warnings on the front pages against mass gatherings.
"A handful of people with ulterior motives at home and abroad have been plotting against China's rise and are trying to cripple the country's development by stirring up unrest," said the Beijing Daily.
A commentary appeared on the front page for the second consecutive day, urging people to reject online calls for pro-democracy rallies, which it said had destabilised the Middle East and North Africa.
In Shanghai, at least 15 overseas reporters and one local assistant for a Japanese television station were detained by police and immigration officials after being picked up for "visa checks" in and around the Raffles City shopping mall in the heart of the city. Some of the journalists were held for nearly three hours.
Spanish, French and German correspondents and a South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583, announcements, news) reporter were also detained.
"You are more than welcome to go shopping, drink some tea or buy a coffee," an immigration official told the Post reporter. "You just may not conduct interviews."
But within 25 minutes of arriving at the Raffles mall he was approached by two uniformed police officers, demanding to see his passport and press card.
The Post reporter was then taken to a small, unmarked, single-storey building with a traditional Chinese roof, and shortly afterwards led into an underground bunker. He was not released until about three hours later after being briefly interrogated about his motives for visiting the mall and the "coincidence" of so many other foreign journalists having shown up.
Beijing's Wangfujing and Xidan, the busiest shopping areas in the capital, were packed with crowds as usual yesterday afternoon despite the heavy police presence.
While there were fewer uniformed police than last week, plain-clothes officers and security guards were everywhere. Adjacent roads leading to the areas were blocked by dozens of police vans.
Foreigners entering the areas were asked to show their passports.
In Zhongguancun, home to the capital's most famous university district - including the campuses of Peking, Renmin and Tsinghua universities - a visible display of police force was staged outside a major electronics
market, which had been named as one of the gathering places by a purported rally organiser.
Several police cars were parked outside a Peking University entrance and the nearby road junction, but at Tsinghua University, security appeared much more lax. Universities in the capital were rumoured to have issued
bans forbidding students to take part in jasmine rallies or show up at designated protest sites.
A reporter from Al Jazeera was detained for about 2-1/2 hours.
Although Beijing's massive show of force and the clampdown on activists and internet dissents have smothered protest calls so far, the situation appeared to be tense.
Even NPC delegates from Hong Kong staying in the Beijing Hotel near Wangfujing complained about the heightened security. Peng Qinghua , director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, had to
go through a security check into the hotel yesterday morning, unlike on previous days.
Another deputy, Michael Tien Puk-sun, was barred from using the hotel's side door to go to Wangfujing Street directly while in a hurry to attend an appointment.
"I am an NPC member. I am very unhappy. Why is that door shut? Why are you asking me to detour? What does it mean?" He complained to a hotel employee, who then said the door "was not working".
In Shenzhen, thousands of policemen, plain-clothes officers and security guards stood outside two McDonald's outlets in Huaqiangbei, the busiest shopping district, while hundreds of anti-riot policemen waited in cars and buses nearby.
In Guangzhou, the police presence outside People's Park and Tianhe Sports Stadium appeared to be much smaller than the previous two weeks. But it was more tense outside the Starbucks at Gongyuanqian subway
station near People's Park, where uniformed officers filmed passers-by from every busy corner.
In Hong Kong, about 10 activists from the League of Social Democrats rallied outside the Beijing authorities' representative office.
With inputs collected by TONY HENDERSON