Thursday, November 14, 2013

MAHARASHTRA: Massive Martyrs Day Actions in Thane Nearly Half a Lakh Tribals Mobilised

MAHARASHTRA: Massive Martyrs Day Actions in Thane Nearly Half a Lakh Tribals Mobilised

Mariam Dhawale

EVERY year for the past several decades, thousands of adivasis march on the roads in Thane district with red flags on Martyrs Day, October 10, reasserting their determination to continue the struggle for emancipation against exploitation and injustice, to build a world free of poverty and hunger – a struggle that was begun by their forefathers nearly 70 years ago, in 1945. This year, on October 10, over 47,500 people came to the roads at seven tehsil centres in Thane district, under the banner of the CPI(M).

October 10, 1945 was the day when the first five martyrs of the renowned Adivasi Revolt, including Comrade Jethya Gangad, were killed in wanton firing by the British police who were in collusion with the landlords. The firing took place at Talwada, a village which is now just across the border in Gujarat. After that, there have been a total of 60 martyrs of the Red Flag in Thane district.

The last martyr of the tribal movement in Maharashtra was a woman activist of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), Comrade Mathi Ozare, who was brutally killed on February 27, 2012 by BJP goons, only because she campaigned sincerely for the CPI(M) in the local body elections.

October 10 is also observed as the death anniversary of the legendary CPI(M) and AIKS leader, Comrade Godavari Parulekar. She actually passed away on October 8, 1996, but was cremated at Talasari in Thane district on October 10.


Last year, on October 10, 2012, the CPI(M)’s Maharashtra state committee meeting concluded at Talasari with a massive districtwide rally of 50,000 people; it was addressed by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury, Central Secretariat member Nilotpal Basu, Central Committee member and Gujarat state secretary Arun Mehta, and by state party leaders. On the same day, the Comrade Godavari Shamrao Parulekar Bhavan, the new spacious office of the CPI(M)’s Thane district committee, built with generous contributions from the people, was inaugurated by Sitaram Yechury.

The foundation stone for this office had been laid by Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar on Martyrs Day, October 10, in 2010, followed by another huge mass rally. Two years before that in 2008, the massive Martyrs Day rally in Thane district had been addressed by CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat.

With the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections due in 2014, the party this year decided to replace the central districtwide rally with large rallies at the tehsil level on burning issues of the people. Over 47,500 people, an overwhelming majority of them adivasi men and women, participated in these rallies in strength. Mass organisations like the AIKS, CITU, AIDWA, DYFI, SFI and the newly-restarted AIAWU worked hard for the success of all these rallies. The massive participation of women --- over 23,000 --- was a distinctive feature.

State leaders of the party addressed the various tehsil level rallies. The largest 12,000-strong rally at Dahanu was addressed by CPI(M) state secretary and Central Committee member Dr Ashok Dhawale, state secretariat member Dr Kishore Theckedath and state committee member Edward Vartha.

The 10,000-strong Talasari rally was addressed by CPI(M) Central Committee member K L Bajaj, state secretariat members Mahendra Singh, Rajaram Ozare (MLA) and Mariam Dhawale, and state committee member Barkya Mangat.

The 9,000-strong Vikramgad rally was addressed by CPI(M) state committee members Lahanu Kom (former MP and former MLA) and Kisan Gujar.

The 7,000-strong Jawhar rally was addressed by state secretariat member J P Gavit (former MLA) and state committee member Ratan Budhar.

The 3,500-strong Shahapur rally was addressed by CPI(M) district secretariat member Sanjay Bhole; the 3,000-strong Wada rally by state committee members L B Dhangar and Sanjay Thakur; and the 3,000-strong Palghar rally on October 11 by Mariam Dhawale and Edward Vartha.

These rallies were well covered by the media. Peasants, agricultural labourers, workers, women, youth and students participated in them in large numbers.


There has been a total neglect of the tribal areas with hardly any development. Poverty and backwardness are major issues in the tribal areas. Basic needs like adequate food, drinking water, land, homes, education, healthcare, etc are beyond the reach of a large number of people. There are few sources of employment in the region. This results in thousands of families migrating for six to nine months a year in search of livelihood. “We migrate just to keep alive” --- this statement is often heard in the tribal areas. There are regular reports of severe malnutrition and starvation-related deaths of small children. The Party and the mass organisations took up some of these major issues in these rallies.

The AIKS has been constantly waging a battle for stringent implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and against the land sharks who have been trying to grab the land that is in the occupation of the tribals for generations. Due to its proximity to Mumbai, the land mafia has been eyeing the tribal areas of Thane district. False land records are prepared in connivance with the revenue officers to evict the tribals. Courageously facing police repression and the goons of this land mafia, thousands of tribal men and women with red flags in hand, in various villages in the above tehsils, are unitedly saying, “We will not give up even an inch of our land.”  Hundreds of CPI(M) leaders and cadres are being implicated in false cases since they are vehemently opposing the land mafia.

Work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) with fair wages; urgent issues of irrigation and power; water for drinking and agriculture from the various dams in Thane district to be given to tribal areas on a priority basis --- these demands were also raised in these rallies. Many of the dams in Thane district have been constructed with tribal sub-plan funds, and yet the tribals have been consistently denied access to water for drinking as well as for irrigation. Large-scale displacement with poor rehabilitation has led to increased impoverishment of tribals in the dam areas.

The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has been taking up the issues of the Anganwadi, ASHA and other sections of unorganised workers. Keeping their factories closed, all the workers led by the CITU in Thane district participated in these rallies in large numbers.

The AIDWA has been taking up the issue of inclusion of the poor in the below-poverty-line (BPL) lists; universalisation and strengthening of the public distribution system (PDS); starting of the doorstep ration scheme; demands related to water, education, employment and health; and the question of roads, infrastructure and other issues of development.

A month-long programme of village-level women’s meetings in Thane district was independently organised by the AIDWA in September as preparation for the October 10 rallies. A total of 63 village meetings in seven tehsils were held, with 4,107 women activists present. Many local problems of supply of ration grains, issuance of caste certificate, ill-treatment of patients in primary health centres (PHCs) and rural hospitals, implementation of the Indira Awaas Yojana, repairing of wells and bore-wells, issues of atrocities on women etc were taken up in these meetings. This enthused the women, resulting in their massive turnout in the rallies. Due to this campaign, AIDWA membership in Thane district has crossed the 20,000 mark.

The Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) has been in the forefront of the struggle against corruption and black-marketing of ration grain and kerosene. Keeping a day and night vigil on the movement of trucks transporting these items, DYFI activists caught them red-handed when they were going to the black-market. Thousands of quintals of grain and lakhs of litres of kerosene were confiscated. Leaders of the BJP and NCP who were involved in these scams were arrested. The Students Federation of India (SFI) has been fighting on the various problems of students concerning education.

On all the above issues, memorandums were submitted to the subdivision officers (SDOs) and tehsildars. Due to mass pressure of the rallies, the authorities were forced to concede and to begin the implementation of many of the local demands.

The speeches of the party leadership combined the burning issues of the people with the political challenges of the day, like the neo-liberal policies of the UPA regime at the centre and the Congress-NCP regime in the state, the stench of the massive corruption scandals in the country and their dire impact on the lives of the people, the anti-national conspiracies of communal forces led by the RSS-BJP-VHP combine, their shameless projection of the ace rioter Narendra Modi as a future prime minister, the threat of imperialism to our country, the defence of the Left in Bengal, the big struggles led by the Left in Kerala and the sterling work for tribals carried out by the Left Front government of Tripura.  


The CPI(M) has decided to hold a workshop for Thane district at Talasari on November 14-15, 2013 to prepare for the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections. This workshop will be attended by around 300 leading activists of the party and mass organisations. It will be attended by Nilotpal Basu and Dr Ashok Dhawale. The workshop will also seriously take up the implementation of the party state committee’s call to collect a Struggle Fund from party members as well as common people --- on the lines of the inspiring Kerala fund drive in September.


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