Torrent in Punjab

Harsh Thakor

Very recently the landless and landed peasantry in Punjab literally created a tornado. For 7 days from February 12th to 19th the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union and the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) besieged the DC collector's office in Punjab like a swarm of bees. They displayed remarkable courage in thwarting repression from the police launching protracted resistance with a series of demonstrations. It was reminiscent of a spark turning into a Priarie fire. It will be written forever in the annals of the revolutionary democratic movement in Punjab and arguably nowhere in India have people witnessed such a mass upsurge of the peasantry. What was remarkable was that in spite of facing an official ban their protracted relentlessness forced the administration to allow their protest for demands. It speaks volumes of the leadership and cadre of these organisations who put painstaking work in redressing the basic issues of the broad peasantry. Since the dharna ended in Bhatinda on February 19th the struggle continued in pockets of Punjab, district-wise. The struggle received support from huge sections of the people. The activists made their own kitchen and even prepared food for the entire team on the streets, without the assistance of women. This struggle proved the importance of mass revolutionary combat and struggle in a people's movement. On February 20th government conceded the demand for plots for the landless peasantry but had yet not implemented the demand.

This correspondent just returned from Bhatinda attending a rally on March 20th. The police clamped down prohibitory orders on activists in the Mansa region and blocked the activists from going further in Lambi village of Muktsar district. They were demanding compensation for the affected homeless farmer families.

The significant results of this agitation were that the demands of paddy crops, land reforms and struggle against money-lender exploitation were launched and the bridge between the landless (basically scheduled caste) and landed peasantry was reduced who had different demands. Instead of partial demands now basic demands were highlighted.

Quoting a report in the Tribune : "A long wait of more than four decades seems to be ending for homeless farm labourers of Punjab with the state government, bowing to the persistent struggle and protests from farmer outfits, started giving possession of 5-marla (125 sq yards) plots to them in Kili Nihal Singh village of Bathinda district on Monday. The plots given to the homeless were allotted in 1972,1976 and 1997, but possession of these was not given to beneficiaries".

In spite of a great resurgence of peasant movement in Punjab the level of student and youth movement is considerably low. Punjab has a strong tradition of student movement and youth movement as well but the forces of globalisation and global capital have greatly diffused the political consciousness of the youth.

Today in Punjab there is severe unemployment that hardly gets currency elsewhere in the country. To outsiders Punjab is the land of milk and honey which it is not. There is low industrial development to facilitate jobs for youth and very marginal employment facilities in rural areas. The Naujwan Bharat Sabha demands employment for all, and alternative industries with a fixed amount of job opportunities. It blames the weakening of the public sector which has promoted private practice amongst doctors, private transport business and privatisation of education. It demands the creating of new hospital; schools run by the public sector and abolishing of the contract system. The NBS also calls for basic facilities in schools and demands adequate number of teachers who are employed on a regular basis. It demands more grants for colleges as well. It opposed the world bank water works scheme and demanded that the public sector should control the water supply organisations. The NBS also demanded basic facilities for colleges like library, toilets, water, electricity which are not always available. It also demanded adequate apparatus in civil hospitals, new doctors, new electricity line. Another agitation was against the exploitation of youth who wished to go abroad through private agents. NBS also fought for regularising fee rises. It exposed the new economic policies.

In December 2013 in Moga an action commitee was formed opposing the kidnapping of a girl by a politician from a hospital.With the BKU(Ugrahan)it launched a joint agitation against the guilty politician.

A teachers’ agitation was also launched which led to the creation of a union.

On 24th February a state level programme was held by the Naujwan Bharat Sabha on ensuing the elections of 2014. It was propagated that the govt must first redress the problems of unemployment.

What is most important is the orientation of the student and youth movement which needs to inculcate general revolutionary democratic political consciousness amongst the students and youth. Without that base and organsing on class issues education of Marxist-Leninist ideology will have no grounding. Today the Naujwan Bharat Sabha led by the CPI (ML) New Democracy is the strongest force on the far left in Punjab.

Vol. 46, No. 41, Apr 20 - 26, 2014