I got associated with AISA (All India Student’s Association) during my student life. After playing a role as an activist in student’s movement of Bhagalpur, I became the president of Inquilabi Nawjawan Sabha. Then I decided to become a full-time party worker. In CPI ML-Liberation, I was a member of the district committee from 2006-2012 and worked as the party in-charge in Naugchhiya Prakhand. However, due to growing organizational and political differences, I separated myself from the organization. The experience gained during this period has helped me to shape my understanding. I am presenting you a brief report of my experiences and its challenges.
Bihar has a very old history of land struggles. Even if the history is been written excluding Jharkhand, there are instances which match many mythological legends. From the resistance the Asura people against the Aryan invasion to struggle against the British, it never ended. A big reason behind the struggle is the abundance of rivers in the region as well as the richness of land and the abundance of mineral and forest resources which allured a number of invading forces.
This legacy started forming since the first land movement was built under the leadership of Swami Sahajanand in 1930. This movement gradually started being led by the Communist Party of India (CPI) and with this movement, people like Rahul Sanskritayan, Rambrikshya Benipuri etc. were also connected. Large number of farmers got associated with the Kisan Sabha (CPI peasants’ association) and waged struggle against the landlords for distribution of land, ownership of the land, wages and dignity. Although as a result of CPI’s policy to go along with the Congress party, gradually the landlords also became members of the Kisan Sabha in order to save their lands by controlling the movements. It should also be kept in mind that Gandhi’s policy of alliance actually vowed to keep a friendly relation between the working class and the ruling class in order to pacify class struggle which had an impact on CPI and in the post-1942 period the relation between CPI and Congress got stronger.
During 1947-54, there was an atmosphere of all around tension and with the impact of Telengana movement; condition of the country’s rural parts was simmering. But the opportunist leadership and the politics of negotiation took the whole party into the trap of parliamentary quagmire. This deviation of party leadership from the path of Marxism had occurred also due to infiltration of landlords and small capitalists etc. From 1962-64, the leadership was completely feud-ridden although the newly formed party, Communist Party of India (Marxist) [ here on CPM] which broke away from the CPI, also maintained the above said class structure and raised the slogan of struggle for land occupation only in a bid to create a ground for it. This party also had the same style of functioning as that of the CPI.
As many people may know, actually there was another reason which led to the break of CPI- a letter issued by Amrit Pad Dange at the time of British raj which became a reason of long-lasting controversy. The new foot soldiers of red flag had the primary concern of winning elections and coming to power.
Whereas the peasant activists were ready to be united on the question of land, the issue became secondary leading to the only possible consequence- loud and louder slogan mongering. Under the leadership of CPM, the land question was handled very tactfully so that the landlords who were also party members could remain as a controlling force of land and agriculture while few dominant party members could gain some lands. We can see the results in West Bengal where not only a new-land owner class emerged within the party but the party itself turned into a comprador of corporate giants and joined the bloody campaign to grab the lands of poor peasants and of tribal people.
During that period, sporadic land grabbing incidents were taking place all over in Bihar. This was happening mainly due to local efforts. Perhaps that was the reason why the influence of CPI and CPM remained to the same extent as it was in the beginning. Ideological struggle at the leadership level and efforts to organize the land movements never got stalled and this party emerged as an important political entity after 1964. One of the reasons behind this was ‘the International great debate’ which was polarizing the Marxist praxis towards a new formulation and it got echoed in the Indian communist movement at the time as- “China’s path, our path’. The Naxalbari movement identified the question of land and peasantry as the central axis of Indian revolutionary movement. This was a foray on the heavenly fortress of the old Lefts and it was led by tribals, dalits, landless, peasants, workers, women and students. It was actually the class position of CPI and CPM which made them to denigrate these movements as “lumpen, anarchist and violent”. It was the same class consciousness which led CPI and CPM to take the same side with Congress and Sangh on this issue and they did not hesitate to open fire on the people’s movements only to serve the interest of landlords and corporate.
In 1967, the Naxalbari movement had both the intensity and a very diverse outreach. In Bihar, the wave arrived with the slogans of dignity, wage and land in Mujaffarpur’s Mushari and Bhojpur and gradually became the central question of the entire Bihar region which even today continues to be the prime issue and is yet to be resolved. Difference in praxis and perspectives for solving this question even led to large scale debate as well as prepared the ground for unity and organized struggle.The areas of Bhagalpur that I am going to talk about, i.e. Ganganagar Kadva, Khairpur Kadva of Navgachhiya and villages of Kadva Diyara municipality are part of the history stated above. Today these are facing the challenges of fading out of the movement and struggling to find a new way forward.
If one starts travelling from Bhagalpur district headquarters, the area of Naugachhiya comes after crossing the Ganga and the Kosi Rivers. Locals say that the destruction of the Kosi River and havocs of local landlords run alike in the region. The lands under Ganganagar and Naugachhiya panchayats were totally occupied by Bhumihar (upper caste) landlords of Tetri and Pakda areas, Rajput (upper caste) landlords of Punama and Kavrait Mandal or the landlords of backward castes. The landlords brought a large number of landless peasants from outside to cultivate these lands and resettled them here. Many of the villages came into existence due to this habitation pattern. These peoples were from landless peasant and extremely backward communities.
After 1960’s when people started to get mobilized here also after CPI raised the slogan to occupy the lands, a few of the landlords started selling their lands at a very low price. As a result, many sharecroppers were able to gain ownership over some amount of land and this formed the base for CPI’s electoral gain. Consequently, candidates from CPI started winning elections from this area. During CPM’s regime few more sharecroppers gained land ownership and in turn CPM also got benefited in the electoral politics. But things changed as soon as the Naxalbari movement spread like a conflagration and attacked the very core of the conventional leftist politics of controlled land occupation with a very few beneficiaries. The land movement went beyond this previous format which was under middle class hegemony and eventually put the conventional leftists under challenge by turning land struggle into a greater movement. Mahendra Pandit was the first martyr of this movement in this area and their struggle against the rural ruling class made Naxalbari movement indelible in the history of Indian communist movement.
Case of Naugachiya: Liberation’s movement turned into land-grab!
Communist Party of India ML-Liberation (here on Liberation) started working in the area of Navgachhiya, Bhagalpur during the 1980’s. During that time a section of the landlords in Naugachhiya, Prakhand, Kadva Diara area had already sold their lands and left the place. A section of the shrarecropper has gained land and farming on large parts of lands was going on basis of mutual agreement between sharecroppers and landowners.
CPI ML-Liberation started organizing the sharecroppers to liberate the lands. Saroj Mandal and Satyanarayan Mandal of Lokmanpur village in Kharid Prakhand had approximately 70 Bigha and 100 Bigha lands, respectively. But Sharecroppers were refusing to bow down to these landlords. Eventually the peasants of Guruthan Kadva occupied a big section of the land and started cultivation. They completely refused to give any share to the landowners and organized themselves under the banner of CPI ML-Liberation. In 1982, the landowners in connivance with the criminals attacked the sharecropper’s land to grab it while the administration openly supported the attack. A Liberation activist named Ganga Mandal, resident of Nandgram Kadva was martyred in this attack. However, with the help of peasants Liberation was able to keep their hold onto the lands and they also took this matter to the court. But during this legal battle, the actual possession of the land went out of peasants’ hands and gone to the party. To take advantage of this situation the landlords attempted to sell the land and finally in 1990, in a bid to save these lands, Liberation leadership finally decided to distribute the lands among its party workers and settle a village there. The village was named as Ganga Nagar after the martyr Ganga Mandal.
The land was distributed in the following manner: Leaders / Activists of the party got 3 Katha, normal landless peasants who were associated in this struggle got 1.5 Katha. Besides, the landless peasants had to give Rs. 1000 per person to the party to claim the land ownership whereas the party activists were exempted from this mandate. Moreover, the sharecroppers who started this struggle and were the forerunners to take the struggle forward were also given 1.5 Katha of land in exchange of Rs. 1000. Whereas a large number of people staying here had lands in different villages also.
Here, Liberation did not repeat its own experiments done in central Bihar where the party keeps all the land directly under its hold and takes 50 percent share of the output from cultivators. Here, the lands were primarily distributed among the party workers and activists in turn which they had to contribute regularly to party fund and participate in every events organized by the party.
But this experiment led to many problems. As the proprietary on the lands got cemented, people’s distance from the party also grew. In villages, different groups based on caste lines such as Gangota, Mandal and Kushwaha started coming into existence. The groups collaborated with the criminals so that their dominance remains affixed. Gathering of criminals increased rapidly in this village and a case of sexual harassment against a Liberation worker also came to fore.
In 2012 the village was recorded in official documents. In connivance with the block officials of Naugachia, leaders of CPI ML-Liberation were busy in filling their own pockets i.e. from taking bribes from peasants to land grabbing. This fact becomes clear as daylight as there were 80 families in this village in 2006, among which 11 families were of Liberation’s but it suddenly grew to 30 by 2012. The ongoing politics in the village and the issue of land grabbing sparked controversy within the party but instead of getting resolved, it worsened. Due to this, the voting percentage of Liberation also got reduced from this village. Earlier, Liberation used to get 100% vote from this village in village council election but now they barely get 10 to 50 votes.
Exception or a common incident?
If the actual facts of this village remained within the village then it could have never have become a subject of general concept, it would have remained as an exception. However this situation is very common.
Seat share of Liberation in Bihar assembly elections from 1990 to 2010 gradually decreased from 7, 6, 5, 5 to 0 in five elections. How this situation should be understood and explained? If the land question were directly linked to vote shares then Janta Dal, Samta Dal or parties like BJP, Congress would not have got any single seats. These parties are associated with big Capital and landlords at the local and national level. They get direct help from World Bank to US. The system of legislature is designed in such a way that “people’s concern and assertion” could never become the central question. Here the central question remains as how to deceive the masses by manufacturing opinions in order to get votes. But for parties like Liberation, the central question claimingly remained as “people’s concern” because for them election is only a “tactics of revolution” by which it is possible to get into the assembly or parliament and this would give them the space to raise people’s voice and discontent towards the system and thus the bourgeois system would be exposed. However, their own history has taught us that after securing seat in both the assembly and the parliament, neither they could raise people’s voices nor could expose the bourgeois system.
The important part of land liberation struggle has always been to consolidate mass in an orientation to nurture people’s power and building up the conception of people’s alternative governance outside the present parliamentary structure where the focus is to arm the masses with the weapon of self-assertion. To consolidate people’s power, people’s militia and people’s army are also needed. Land liberation struggle has always been led by a Communist Party which gains its strength from mass organizations and united fronts and thus takes up the cause people’s revolution forward. This whole process is conducted under the guidance of the party and where the party leadership is absent, the same process is undertaken by workers/peasants/tribals. They also form militia, leadership committee, village council etc. and take the struggle forward. Application of these processes can be seen today also in a lot places across the country. As a reaction to this struggle, the state promotes NGO’s and parliamentary parties which first infiltrate the village councils, teach the mass to be ‘non-violent’ and denigrate other non-parliamentary means as “anarchism” etc , delude the mass by advising them to register their protest or to express their discontent through such means which are actually parts and parcels of state’s mechanism to pacify class struggle and finally try to make them obedient by bringing them into the legal or the same old “constitutional’’ framework. These type of efforts and organizations are in abundance these days.
In fact, CPI ML-Liberation kept the land liberation struggle limited to land occupy. Due to this, lands were primarily came either under the direct control of the party or in the hands of party leadership / party worker. Hence self-interest regarding land ownership started forming within the party and cases of factionalism, manipulations and corruption came to fore. Due to solely resorting to legal means and by taking recourse to subjugate people instead of keeping reliance on the people in order to keep the hold on the lands, a lot of opportunist and criminal type persons joined the party. Distribution of lands and extraction of levy from the farmers of such villages to meet party expenses made the land liberation struggle secondary. The call for people’s power, people’s army, people’s organization and party and united front, all got trapped in Vinod Mishra’s “mixed socialism” by 1985 and the central question of revolution shifted to acquiring seats in legislative and municipality elections.
The situation has become so bad that neither the party’s central leadership (that is CC, Central Committee) has any control over the lower committees nor the lower committees or the party ideology has any control over the Central Committee or the General Secretary. The meaning of united front has been reduced to create alliance with the parliamentary parties.
Very recently the CPI ML-Liberation secretary, Dipankar has not only demanded martyr status for a policeman who died serving the UPA govt.’s war on people (read Operation Green Hunt) but went to an extent of demanding a stadium and a railway station after his name!!! Is this party’s official stand? Does the party see this UPA govt.’s war waged on its own people (where the govt. is using lakhs of paramilitary force personnel air force helicopters, and external collaborations) from a martyrdom point of view? Does it support Chidambaram’s intent to push the country into a civil war?
Then can it be assumed that the party has distanced itself from the ideology of people’s resistance and call of Naxalbari movement?
It is quite obvious that there are a lot many numbers of people in Liberation who don’t think like that. But it is also true that people like Dipankar are not only present in large numbers but they are actually in a position of controlling the party. From 1980 – 2010, there have been changes at the class level in CPM ML-Liberation party’s structure, people’s base, curriculum and strategy, ideology and leadership. If we closely see the activities of Liberation and its leaders from this point of view, then we can also find out the challenges being faced by the revolutionary politics and can plan our strategy accordingly. As per Mao’s words, the vehicle has already overturned, what matters is what we are learning from it. It is important to learn lessons from Liberation. For the cause of people’s salvation, we must put together these lessons and walk accordingly.
(translated by Arup Keshri)