Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Foreword to "Ideas for the Struggle" by Marta Harnecker

This is an English translation of a Spanish handbook published five years ago. The author Marta Harnecker is a well-known revolutionary who was involved with revolutionary resistance against the CIA-Pinochet coup in her native Chile. In exile, mostly in Cuba where she wrote extensively on that country’s revolutionary process, she is now deeply involved with the revolutionary process in Venezuela.

It is obvious that she is writing for a Latin American audience and the experience she sums up comes mainly from that vast region. Starting from huge mass uprisings—she calls them insurrections—in various countries such as Argentina, she raises pertinent questions regarding their failure to seize power. Her diagnosis is that the heroic, spontaneous mass actions failed because they lacked ‘a political instrument capable of overcoming the dispersion and fragmentation of the exploited and the oppressed...’ This political instrument must be one that ‘can create spaces to bring together those who, in spite of their differences, have a common enemy; that is able to strengthen existing struggles and promote others by orientating their actions according to a thorough analysis of the political situation; that can act as an instrument for cohering the many expressions of resistance and struggle.’

‘And I envisage,’ she says, ‘this political instrument as an organisation capable of raising a national project that can unify and act as a compass for all those sectors that oppose neoliberalism. As a space that directs itself towards the rest of society, that respects the autonomy of the social movements instead of manipulating them, and whose militants and leaders are true popular pedagogues, stimulating the knowledge that exists within the people—derived from their cultural traditions, as well as acquired in their daily struggle for survival—through the fusion of this knowledge with the most all encompassing knowledge that the political organisation can offer.’

Development of such a ‘political instrument’ is and has been thwarted by ultra-democracy and bureaucratic centralist commandism. New militants and leaders of many large-scale movements have, as a reaction to bureaucratic centralism practised by many Left parties, have become highly suspicious of any centralism. Marta tries to allay these suspicions in two ways: first, by showing that movements cannot progress without a centralism that is well grounded in democracy, that respects and creates spaces for minorities; secondly; that a correct ‘political instrument’ would not seek to impose its hegemony but achieve it through the consent that emerges in handling all progressive social and political forces fairly, without impositions and capable of producing a totalizing vision that moves from everyday struggles to seizure of power. The Left’s failure to harness the huge forces that seethe and boil in actions—large and small—against neoliberalism and other capitalist forces and what is to be done to achieve that is the true content of this inspiring book. The major ­sections in the book are descriptions of Left sectarianism, commandism and the failure to come to terms with the various new features of struggle in a globalized world.

She builds on her Latin American experience but from her evidence we find much that we can learn and reflect upon in South Asia. I found uncanny resemblances between that foreign experience and our own. The power of Marta’s generalizations render to us universal truths about the state of the Left movement everywhere. All activists should be aware of this book.

Vaskar Nandy
17 March, 2014 Malbazar, North Bengal

Election Call of the CPI (ML)-PCC

A vicious combination of parliamentarians, military and civilian bureaucrats and very big capitalists have been sucking the life blood out of the Indian people through policies and the corruption of those policies. These policies have many dimensions but their combined message is to make the very rich richer and trickle some of the wealth down to the poor. Over the last three decades of the imposition of such policies by both the big parties that have ruled India alternatively, very little of the trickling down has taken place but the rich have gotten obscenely rich.

Amidst the din of false claims about lifting millions out of poverty, it is instructive to look at the new food security law. There we see that the government itself recognizes that nearly 75 per cent of Indians cannot afford to eat enough to sustain themselves. Some trickle down indeed! What we in fact have is a flood of unemployment, under-employment, low wage unregulated employment, unrestrained price rise in essential and other commodities, malnutrition and lack of healthcare, a farcical system of underfunded primary education, slums and rudimentary housing, and the forcible displacement of millions of rural and urban poor for the aggrandizement of big, comprador corporations.

The country has come to such a pass at full speed since 1991 when the existing export-led growth policy was sought to be strengthened by neo-liberal policies that accord with the dictates of US imperialism through the IMF, WTO and the World Bank. Since the big crisis of the world economy after 2008 our big growth story has dwindled to wishful thinking. More than that, the political system is crumbling, the bureaucracy is leaking through every pore, the judiciary is often exceeding constitutional limitations and is involved in some corruption and the armed forces have overruled executive decisions as in the case of the AFSPA.

The BJP and the Congress now face a general election in a few weeks from now. Both will tell lies and promise much. But the Indian people will not listen; they have not done so in the past and returned hung parliaments in which both the big parties managed to stitch together immoral coalitions with bribes and threatened prosecutions of tainted lesser players such as Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav.

This time around, the BJP hopes for a breakthrough by projecting as the future Prime Minister a man whose hands are dyed red by masterminding pogroms, riots and false encounters against Muslims. Backed by a formidable electoral machinery that has bought into a US company that specializes in black electoral propaganda and dirty tricks, this man Mody strides across India like a fuehrer who will save India by following the Gujarat “model”, which is neo-liberalism and crony capitalism at its worst.

The Congress also follows neo-liberalism and crony capitalism, but unlike Modi, it tries to temper the hardships caused by some pro-people policies such as MGNREGA, cheap rations through the PDS, the Right to Information Act, etc. But as the Congress approaches the current elections, it remains mired in a colossal corruption that has aroused the anger of the poor. The BJP is also tainted by similar corruption as in the coal scam and its alliance with the Reddy brothers and Yedurappa. In fact all parties big and small, including the parliamentary left, are mired in corruption. But the smaller parties have limited access to corporate and imperialist munificence and hence, they are far lower down in the corruption hierarchy.

Before the elections, the two big parties are trying to augment their alliances, but without much success. The smaller parties are mostly regional in scale no matter what their national aspirations are. It is not clear which way they will go after the elections. Certainly, if they unite they can stitch together a government that excludes both the big parties. But the chances for such unity is remote, given the rivalries for votes among them, viz. Mayavati vs Mulayam, Mamata vs CPI (M), etc. What will probably happen is a hung parliament that will add to the forces disintegrating the Indian state. Even that is better than another five years of the NDA or the UPA.

What should the people of India do under these circumstances? The first principle should be to not vote for either of the two big parties. Second, when the choice is only between the NDA and the UPA, the people must vote for the Congress in order to keep out the shameless forces of communalism and crony capitalism, a heady mixture that breeds fascism. Third, among the regional parties, the people should opt for those that have shown no inclination to join the NDA in any post-poll alliance, but the general principle should be to vote for them according to their chances of defeating the two big parties. In West Bengal, the BJP is a force in a few constituency such as Krishnanagar, the forces in contention should be judged according to the balance of forces and either of the two major parties, the CPI (M) and the TMC should be supported to defeat the BJP. The same applies to the Congress strongholds. The TMC and the CPI (M) have track records of authoritarian, violent rule so there is not much to differentiate between them. Where they are in direct combat, if there are no people’s forces fighting the elections, the people should exercise the “None of the Above” option to record their dissent. In all constituencies where genuine people’s forces such as many ML and genuine national and socialist forces, the people should vote for them to accumulate forces for further struggles.

But under no circumstance should the Fascist forces led by Nanrendra Modi and the NDA achieve power in Delhi.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tea Garden Struggles

Vaskar Nandy

Economic compulsion of the worker and the consequent domination of the worker by the capitalist is the characterising principle of all capitalist production yielding surplus value and normal profits by a process of realisation. But capital, whether in advanced or backward capitalism, has always attempted to pay wages at below value by various means of extra-economic compulsion, with or without the backing of the state.

Historically, capital has even created extreme forms of such extra-economic coercion, as in the brutality of the modern slave system in the Americas, the West Indies, Cuba, South Africa, etc. Once slavery was finally abolished through protests, revolts and war (but even before that in the Dutch colonies) a new form of slavery, the plantation system came into being that mainly safeguarded super-profits in indigo, sugarcane, rubber, tea, etc. The strongest survivor of that system is in the tea industry of North East India.

Starting in the 1830s, after the annexation of Assam in 1826, the British found tea to be growing wild in Assam. Exploration and experiments finally decided against the local plant variety and it was decided to plant a Chinese variety suited to the soil in Assam.

Large scale production of tea in Assam was seen as a boon by the East India Company, both as a very profitable proposition in itself and also as a way to snatch the monopoly of Chinese tea in a thriving and growing international market. It would also go a long way towards solving its balance of trade problems with China.

Long decades of civil war—one of the great peasant wars—and following it, a series of genocidal wars by the Burmese King forced many of the survivors in Assam to flee to neighbouring regions. The country lay waste and much of the land went back to forest. The hills of Darjeeling, the Terai plains (Darjeeling district) and the sub- montane tracts of the Dooars (Jalpaiguri district) -all annexed within a few decades—were mainly forest and sparsely populated. The Company, spurred on by the hope of monopolising the sale of tea world-wide, started to make large land grants to all would be British planters without charging any land revenue. British investors, both from among the local functionaries of the company and from the UK., who did not know anything about planting and manufacture of tea, could rely on a new corporate entity, the managing agency. The individual gardens or cluster of them belonging to the same owners were incorporated in England.

Now the problem was to find the large number of workers needed for the estates. The local populations in these regions refused to work in the plantations once they realised that life in the estates was a form of slavery more onerous that any suffered under the Ahoms or other chiefs. It was then thought that Chinese labourers from the tea belts in Southern China, generally impoverished as they were and not averse to migration for work, could be brought in to work in the North East Indian tea estates. But that attempt failed when the Chinese labourers that were brought in initially refused to work in the conditions and demands of the workplace and more or less withdrew.

It was then that recruitment focused on the tribal and semi-tribal populations of Nepal (mainly for work in the Darjeeling hills) and the hundreds of thousands of the tribals and semi-tribals from the mainly eastern part of the central Indian plateau—West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa—to work in the increasingly proliferating number of estates in the Terai, Dooars and Assam. The overwhelming majority of the latter shared a wide ranging socio-cultural ethos in their homeland and which can be called the Jharkhandi ethos. But they spoke various languages belonging to the Mundari subset of the Austro-asiatic group of languages and also several languages of the Dravidian group. The Nepalese group also spoke various Tibeto-Burman languages such as Tainang, Gurung, Magar, Limbu, Newari and Nepali, the last of which was in the process of standardisation.

The military feudalism in Nepal and aggressive expansionist wars fought by the chiefs led by the King had immiserated the Nepalese peasantry, especially the tribals; in the Bengal Presidency, the permanent settlement, rack renting by the Zamindars and usury had created famine conditions. Enticement, chicanery, fraud and violence reminiscent of the West African slave trade were used by agents of the industry known as arkattis to recruit workers. It was not long before that this system of recruitment proved counterproductive. The managing houses then shifted to the sardari system by which some workers were chosen and nurtured through privileges and sent off to their native places to lure workers into the tea estates. On returning from their various forays, these privileged men, known henceforth as Sardars, soon became the supervisors monitoring work and every other aspect of the workers' lives for the management.

Plantations are in remote and backward regions. This has played a major role in the lives of the plantation workers. The first problem was the transportation of the workers over very long distances by train for a small part of the journey, on foot and boat. Thousands died on the way. Hundreds of thousands died after arrival from Malaria, Kalazar, diarrhoea and dysentery. Sanitation, drinking water, housing and medical care were deplorable.

But once inside a plantation, there was no escaping, not even to a neighbouring garden. The state gave the managers limited magisterial powers as Justices of the Peace, allowing them to imprison people for one month and /or deliver up to 15 lashes of the birch. Being found outside the estate attracted both punishments. There were also state sponsored cavalries and militias officered in the main by estate managers. These were meant to search and arrest the many workers who tried to flee and also to intimidate the workers against the frequent protests and demonstrations.

One of the more important elements in the mechanism for keeping the workers confined to the estate was the payment of the meagre wages not in cash but company tokens. The company sponsored shop on the estate would exchange them for rations for the family and a few essentials. This meant that shopping was not tolerated as an excuse for being outside the estate.

This confinement within the estate and the remote location and inaccessibility of those estates created an enclave economy. This economy had exceptionally minimal exchanges with the local economy. Local purchases of grains soon gave way to wholesale purchases by the Calcutta managing agencies and their designated suppliers and distributors. The boxed tea would travel out of the estates by bullock carts, lorries where there were roads, country and steam boats to Calcutta where they would be loaded on to ships for transport to the London auctions. This is an earlier version of the SEZ.

Work on the plantation was so onerous that an ex-planter and the leader of planters as the big boss of the Indian Tea Association, could recollect in the tranquillity of an Oxford college that the heavy physical labour of the women pluckers in the tea gardens could not be sustained by the strongest British workmen. In the plantations it was not just able bodied men and women who had to toil like this. The old and the children, in their hundreds of thousands, had also to labour to almost beyond their capacities. The token provided rations for all and so everyone had to work. And work was from a little after sunrise to a little before sunset except during the lean period of two months during the winter when there was some relaxation.

There was very little technical division of labour. Carpenters, fitters, etc were usually people of Chinese origin or were non-tribals brought in from outside the estate. At first the migrant workers sieved the tea in their grades, packed them in boxes and helped the technical hands; by the 1920s these workers began to master the machines. Towards the end of the 1930s, when motorised transport and some tractor ploughing became general, many had acquired driving skills and some machining. But of course factory and other technical work absorbs around 5 percent of the labour force. All women and a majority of the men have always been assigned to the hazards and toil of field work.

The less said about the housing of the workers the better. The bamboo and thatch were provided by management but the workers were obliged to collect them. Enough of those materials were normally provided to build one hut and a makeshift kitchen. Three, sometimes four generations were expected to manage with such housing. Even today, the overwhelming majority of workers do not have latrines of any sort. Apart from the main drains out of the planted area, there were no drains and even today the estate drainage systems are deplorable.

There were no hospitals or doctors and nurses. Delivery was by traditional midwives or experienced neighbours. Frequent epidemics were the norm.

The nineteenth century passed more or less in these conditions. There were very small incremental changes due to many anti-planter disturbances created more or less locally. The history of nineteenth century struggles of the tea workers has not been excavated extensively yet.

One non-violent but very effective protest in the 1920s drew a lot of comment from Bengali nationalists. Thousands of workers defied the management in Assam and daring the police apparatus of the government walked out of their gardens and trekked hundreds of miles to the steamboat jetty in Madarihat in Bengal wanting to board boats travelling towards western Bengal. They were surrounded by the armed forces and fired upon, killing a few hundred workers. The survivors, men, women and children, were force marched back to their plantations. Sections of the nationalist press in Bengal protested the incident and described the situation of the tea workers in horror-stricken cadences. The clandestine participation of tea workers during the preparations for revolt by the martyr Piyali Phukan in 1857 or the spread of the anti-imperialist Tana Bhakat movement among tea workers, especially in Jalpaiguri were noted by British intelligence and prosecutions followed in several cases. But the press took very little notice of them. But it is clear that the extreme domination of the planters left room only for the many violent and non-violent protests and this alarmed the colonial government and metropolitan capital.

By the time of independence, there was a rudimentary healthcare system, primary schools with mud-floored structures for all classes and one teacher, improvements in the roads infrastructure (thanks mainly to war preparations), and railways were constructed mainly for hauling tea and grains, etc.

But the enclave nature of the economy and the extreme domination of the management remained. The domination was now not in the form of policing the workers and juridical powers of the management. The sardars referred to above and a small number of their relatives and friends were slowly elevated to a layer of people who did the ground level management under orders from the management, allowing the top layers to retreat from conflict situations. This layer now has a name—sub-staff. This layer of management, with a wage difference with the workers and with many special privileges, was/is not socially very distant from the workers. This was their strength and the measure of their efficacy while carrying out the unpleasant orders of higher management. They could/can utilise kin/community/tribe/ caste differences to divide and rule for the management. But such differences are vanishing fast under the cudgel of the capitalist work process.

Since 1951, many benign laws have been passed for the benefit of tea workers and many good laws have been extended to the estates such as on the payment of wages, compensation for injury at work, pensions and gratuity, minimum wages etc. These were in the main due to the unionisation process that began in the late forties and picked up a very strong momentum in the early fifties. But for the lack of strong inspectorates and the judicial process remaining out of the reach of the workers due to illiteracy, poverty and the rapaciousness of most lawyers, none of these laws are as a rule implemented properly or at all.

Unions could have done something about it. The beginnings of left unions in the tea estates is a glorious story of sacrifice and resistance by the leading workers in the face of violent opposition from the combined government forces of independent India and the colonial planters. A weak left movement in Assam simply conceded ground to company unions sponsored by V V Giri of the Congress. The leaders of the monopolistic Congress unions at the garden level were all sub-staff people nominated by management.

In West Bengal, the left has also evolved to the same reality. Except the extreme left unions (which have very little influence), all unions are led by the sub-staff at the ground level. Unions are being run by management's lowest, but extremely important, tier. All their central, non-garden apparatuses are more or less manned by extremely corrupt agents of management.

Take two examples. Consider the minimum wage law in the tea industry. This law has never been implemented in North India in spite of the law's requirement to do so. One can understand why the reactionaries of the Congress in Assam were not interested to push for its implementation. But what about the left? With a left government in power, the government convened a meeting with the major unions and the apex body of the planters to declare that all sides have agreed to have the wage negotiated between capital and labour declared as the minimum wage. Government was no longer obliged to fix the minimum wages in tea in accordance with the norms established by law. Naturally, the negotiated wage has remained far below the agricultural minimum wage throughout North Indian tea gardens.

The second example is even more interesting. Workers and members of their families were dying in their hundreds in North Bengal tea gardens during 2001 to 2004 and beyond. The cause was illegal abandonment of many gardens by planters who owed millions to their workers in unpaid wages and other dues. The biggest trade union was a left union and the government was a left government. Both denied that any such deaths had taken place. A distinguished panel headed by a retired High Court judge determined that at least 800 people had died from hunger-related extreme malnutrition. The biggest union was still in denial and so was the government.

This raises the question of class formation among the tea workers. Workers who participate very frequently in violent and militant confrontation with managements accept nevertheless the union-management collusions that violate their legal and fundamental rights and deprive them of their entitlements. During those confrontations, the unity of the participants transcend tribal, caste and ethnic barriers. There have been only two examples of militant change covering, first, the whole of the Darjeeling Hills and, second, the whole of the Terai and Dooars region. Both were ethnic upsurges that toppled the established unions. In the hills, the various tribes and castes united behind the slogan of the Gorkha nation. In the plains, all the tribes and castes united as an independent Adivasi identity. New unions were formed in both places, but these unions have more or less reverted to the style and functioning of the old unions. But the feeling of ethnic solidarity remains strong. A very large working class, perhaps the oldest in India, is coalescing around ethnicity and not moving towards a class for itself may appear to some as undesirable.

The main features of the plantation system were the extreme domination of the workers and its enclave nature. In spite of all the legal and political changes since independence and the changes in the methods of the planters, both of these features remain. The domination is exercised not with political and juridical powers backed by a colonial state but by a coalition of the management, the unions and the state. One example will suffice. A garden that had been abandoned a number of times was the focus of tripartite negotiations. Along with a small extreme left union, all the major unions were there, as was management. Number two in the labour department hierarchy in a left government was presiding. The major unions agreed to delay the payment of arrear wages, pension fund, etc, amounting to several million rupees indefinitely. They also agreed that the workers will only get the current wages at half rate. Only two persons did not sign the agreement (which went into effect immediately). The government official praised the agreement but said that he could not sign it because it was illegal! The extreme left walked out. It would be hard to imagine a more blatant example of domination through collusion that has been spoken about. The workers agreed to work because they were on the verge of starvation.

Without a minimum wage and the presence of this kind of collusion, the wages in tea, after some improvement recently, is still way below the agricultural minimum wage. The tea workers' wage at present is 90 rupees in cash in West Bengal (it's lower in Assam) and what is given in kind adds to hardly 25 rupees. That's 115 rupees, while the agricultural minimum wage is 135 rupees. With such low wages the workers are perpetually on the threshold of starvation. And if they have been abandoned or locked out, they fall back into starvation and extreme malnutrition and disease. It is no wonder when the colluders who ensure such low wages force them to work under such humiliating condition, they do so.

Why don't they run away? Where will they go? They have hardly any connexions in the lands they left behind more than 150 years ago. There are no industries within hundreds of miles of their estates so they could find work there. Even if there were, they do not have the social and technical skills that can compete with the outsiders.

More than 90 percent of the workers are functionally illiterate although there are many primary schools in or near the estates. The reason for this is simply that the children who go to the pre-primary ICDS centres or the primary schools do not learn anything on account of instruction being given in languages (Assamese, Bengali and Hindi) that they do not understand. All pleadings with the leftist government about this situation have been rejected. Government and the international experts continue to count success as a function of attendance without realising that the mid-day meal alone accounts for attendance by hungry children.

Hungry and illiterate, without the chance to acquire any skills and holed up in remote places, these workers, separated from the dominant populations of the states where they reside by prejudice, cultural disdain and caste hatred, have nowhere to go except to remain in the estates—an isolated population living in remote economic enclaves.

The recent ethnic upsurge has already provoked a strident and widespread discussion on the recognition of the Sadri language, a language based on Sadani Hindi of Jharkhand that has been constructed by the workers from many languages originally spoken by the tribes and castes that inhabit the estates. The primary focus of this discussion is education and the need to have ethnic assertion to get that education. Class struggle in the tea gardens can never start up in a system-breaking way without an ethnic upsurge that ensures educational rights without which the masses of workers remain ignorant about laws, about the obligations of the police and the bureaucrats, about the rights of workers and about what is being done in their name by the leaders. Besides, a cultural renaissance among workers will propel class consolidation to new levels, levels that can construct socialism the workers' way. Revolutionaries must critique and help this ethnic upsurge that clears the way to more intense and more thoughtful class struggle.

Frontier, Autumn Number Vol. 46, No. 13-16, Oct 6 - Nov 2, 2013

Friday, June 8, 2012

Leader of SC/ST organisation has been issued charge sheet by Kolkata Municipal Corporation

The following report has appeared in The Statesman of Kolkata dated 3 June 2012:
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has issued a show-cause notice to an employee for visiting the backward class welfare department secretary’s office during duty hours.

The incident has created a flutter among the employees belonging to the SC & ST categories. They have sought the intervention of chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

Mr Aloke Hazra, general secretary of 14th April Committee, which fights for SC & ST people was issued a show-cause notice by the Chief of Municipal Finance and Audit  on 31 May.

The notice reads, “whereas the secretary of the backward class welfare department informed over telephone that Mr Aloke Hazra, municipal accountant attended the office secretary, BCW department around 11AM and 12 noon on May 29, during duty hours without obtaining permission from his superior authority.” Mr Hazra had gone to lodge a complaint against the authorities of a school in Kalyani for flouting an order of the chief secretary while admitting SC & ST students. KMC employees are however baffled at how the authorities could possibly issue a show-cause notice to Mr Hazra on the basis of a complaint by the secretary of BCW department. Mr Hazra had gone to see him in his capacity as the general secretary of a union, they said. “Office bearers of unions are given certain relaxation as they have to work for the union. It is a convention and is followed in all government offices,” they said.

Comments by Santosh Rana, General Secretary of PCC, CPI(ML:

The new government in Writers Buildings had promised to defend the constitutional rights of the SC, ST and OBCs but they are flouting the system of reservation. The 14th April Committee has always been fighting to defend the constitutional safeguards of the Dalits and Adivasis. Mr Aloke Hazra is a dedicated  Dalit Activist and is General Secretary of 14th April Committee. By issuing a show-cause notice to Mr Aloke Hazra, the state government is launching an attack on the Dalit movement. It is part of a general attack on democratic rights of the people of West Bengal.

The CPI(ML) severely condemns the attack on Aloke Hazra and demands that the show-cause notice be withdrawn and the government strictly implements the reservation system for the SC, ST and OBCs.

The 14th April Committee has called a protest meeting on 15th June at 4 PM to be held at SC&ST Employees Welfare Office at 11A, Mirza Glalib Street.

All parties, organisations and individuals who stand for social justice and democratic rights have been invited to join the protest meeting.

SANSAD Deplores Government of India's Ban on Jan Myrdal

South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy deplores the Government of India's decision to ban the noted Swedish writer, Jan Myrdal, from visiting India. 

On May 16, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Jitendra Singh, declared in the Rajya Sabha that there would be a complete ban on Jan Myrdal’s future visits to India because he had advised the CPI (Maoist) in regard to strategy, particularly on the importance of reaching out to the middle class, and attended Naxalite conventions in Kolkata, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Ludhiana.

Jan Myrdal has a long connection with India, which he has visited since his youth, where his mother had been an Ambassador for Sweden, and where his Nobel Laureate parents were friends of Jawaharlal Nehru. His first book on India, India Waits, was based on his visit to Andhra in 1980 and published in 1984. His latest book, Red Star Over India: Impressions, Reflections and Discussions when the Wretched of the Earth are Rising, is based on his visit, at the age of 83, to the Maoist-held forest land of Dandakaranya in 2010. Published in English in Kolkata in 2012, it has already reached its second edition and been translated into Bengali, Telegu, Hindi, Punjabi, and various European languages. It is soon to be published as an e-book. Myrdal visited India in January-February, 2012, at the invitation of Kolkata Book Fair, where his book was released, and gave talks at the various cities mentioned by Jitendra Singh as sites for Naxalite conventions, including the First Naveen Babu Memorial Lecture organized by the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

Jan Myrdal is an internationally renowned writer, who from his first book on China in 1963, Report from a Chinese Village, has been known as a consistent sympathiser of Maoist politics. He is also well known for his sympathy for the oppressed and championship of their right to struggle for liberation. He has always opposed imperialist policies and wars of the West led by the United States. At the same time he has been a staunch defender of democracy and the freedom of expression that lies at its basis.

Myrdal has openly declared that there is a war on the people of India, particularly the most oppressed section, the dalits and adivasis, and that this war is waged for the simple economic reasons of greed and profit. His movements and his views have been well known. That he sympathises with the victims of what even the government’s own report calls “The Biggest Grab of Tribal Lands after Columbus” (“Committee on State Agrarian Relations and Unfinished Task of Land Reforms,” Government of India, Vol. 1 [Draft Reports], March 2009) and their resort to armed struggle against the corporations and governments engaged in destroying their land, livelihood, and life ways, is no secret.

In this light the Government of India's current reaction to Jan Myrdal can only be seen as a symptom of its growing desperation in the face of the Maoist insurgency that now covers a third of India. It is particularly a response to the international attention the government's repressive measures have received in the cases of Dr. Binayak Sen, a pediatrician who had been imprisoned and sentenced to life imprisonment on account of his Maoist sympathies, and Soni Suri, a tribal school teacher who has been raped and tortured in custody and still languishes in prison. The government's panicky response is also a part of its general attempt to silence all criticism of its violation of human rights that led it to deport David Barsamian, Director of Alternative Radio in Boulder, Colorado, on his arrival at Indira Gandhi Airport in September 2011.

We deplore these attempts by the Government of India to silence its critics from abroad and all who have the courage to speak truth to power at home. It is the courage of such people that keeps democracy alive. We urge the Government of India in the name of democracy to reverse its decisions on suppressing the critical voice of people such as Jan Myrdal.

Board of Directors

South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD)
2779 Commercial Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5N 4C5
e-mail: sansad@sansad.org

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Blood and the Land

Jaya Mehta, Vineet Tiwari and Sunita Kumari

The first reaction of anyone who is from Bihar or who knows Bihar well, was like, “No. Mushars can’t do it.” The issue was holding 14 Mushars responsible for Amousi carnage by sessions court of Khagaria. The court ordered death sentence to ten and life imprisonment to four Mushars from Amousi village. Seeing the news in newspaper, we were puzzled that the judgment came so fast and 10 Mushars were sentenced to death. We talked to various people in Patna and Khagaria over the telephone. We were told by CPI comrades that those accused and convicted in the case were innocent and seven of them were members of CPI. The case required further investigation. We then decided to go there ourselves and see the land and the people.

Judgment on Amousi Massacre

In a judgment delivered by sessions court of Khagaria, ten people were sentenced to death and four were given life imprisonment. They were held responsible by the court for the massacre which took place in Amousi village of Khagaria district in Bihar. Sixteen people were killed in the night of 1 October 2009 at around 11 pm in Amousi. All of them were from Kurmi community except for two who were Kushwaha. Eight of them were young boys in their teens.
On the basis of FIR lodged at Morkahi police station, the police arrested 30 or more people from Amousi village. A trial took place in sessions court of Khagaria on the 28 persons accused in the case. Twenty six of them belonged to Mushar community and the remaining two were Dhanuks. The judgment was delivered on 14 Feb 2012, in which 14 persons have been acquitted and 14 have been given punishment. An appeal has been filed in Patna high court.
Two more persons accused in the case are awaiting trial in Khagaria jail.

Investigating Team and the Scope of Enquiry

Jaya Mehta, Vineet Tiwari and Sunita Kumari went to Khagaria town and from there to Amousi village on 1st and 2nd April 2012. The purpose of the visit was to make a preliminary enquiry to ascertain if there existed sufficiently many factual details to indicate that those accused were indeed innocent and had been falsely implicated in the case.

  1. We talked to the local party comrades of CPI and a reporter of ‘Hindustan’ who is stationed in Khagaria and who covered the case.
  2. We interrogated the two under-trials in Khagaria Jail.
  3. We talked to the relatives of those convicted in the case and other residents of Amousi village.
  4. We read carefully the judgment delivered by sessions court, the PUCL enquiry report (enquiry conducted on 11th October 2009), the relevant news coverage and some papers related to land conflict in Amousi.
We were assisted in our investigation by Comrade Puneet Mukhia, (Anchal Mantri of Alouli Block, CPI), Advocate Chandra Kishore Yadav (assistant to Adv Durgesh Pandit Singh – one of the defense lawyer in the sessions court), Comrade PP Singh (Khagaria District Secretary, CPI), Manoj Sada (Branch Secretary, Amousi, CPI), Bharosi Sada and some other villagers. Veteran public figures Comrade Satyanarayan Singh (Ex MLA, CPI) and Comrade P. S. Singh (Ex District Secretary of Khagaria, CPI) facilitated our trip. They also provided an overview of case and the background details.

A Background of Khagaria District

Khagaria district was carved out of Munger district in 1981. The entire district is criss-crossed by number of rivers and a large part of it constitutes an extremely difficult terrain. The region gets flooded during monsoons. Further, the topography of the region changes frequently because the rivers change their course. As a result cultivable land gets submerged in water at one place and land emerges afresh at another.

Historians have recorded that when Raja Todarmal, the revenue expert under Akbar reached this area for measurement of land, he could not measure the land because of river streams and thick Khagaria grass that grew in the area. He abandoned the exercise separating the area from others and named this area as Farakiya land i.e. separate or different land. The area remained un-surveyed during the British period also. As a result, a number of Zamindars belonging to other districts took possession of land in this region. No accounting has been possible of this illegally possessed land. When Zamindari was abolished and ceiling was imposed, many of them did not disclose their land situated in this district.
The non-resident Zamindars protected their unaccounted land and obtained income from it by employing local musclemen (popularly known as Bahubalis). This continues even today. The local population is mostly landless, cultivating land either as landless labour or as bataidar. Some were allotted land, which was given under Bhoodan or which was released under land ceiling act, but the allotment remained mostly on paper.
People do not obtain physical possession of land. Some others have taken possession of small holdings, which they have been cultivating for long but they do not have the legal papers for it. Even today, the land records available with district revenue administration present a great deal of disorder and a number of anomalies. Bandhyopadhyay commission reports that when the commission asked for proper records, they were told that original records must be with Munger district. On further probing they were told that most of the records have got drowned in the flood of 1987.

As the revenue administration, till date, is being run without proper land records, It is not surprising that there are a large number of land disputes spread over the area. There has been a recurrence of militant Maoist struggles also in certain parts of the district. Most of the grievances arise out of inability of people to take physical possession of land that has been allotted to them on paper. Bandhyopadhyay commission also heard many complaints from Bataidars. Bataidars, even when cultivating their land for a long time, get arbitrarily thrown out by the non-resident Zamindars and their Bahubalis.
The state government or local administration have taken no action till date to get rid of this unjust and illegal control of land by erstwhile Zamindars.

Land Conflict in Amousi

Amousi village is a hundred year old village situated in Alouli Block in Khagaria district. Alouli Block has a higher proportion of scheduled caste population compared to the rest of Khagaraia District. According to the 2011 census, the proportion of scheduled caste population in Khagaria is 10 percent, while in Alouli Block it is more than 25 percent. Most of these SCs are Mushars. Mushars are mainly landless agricultural labourers living in remote areas. Especially in Bihar, 95.3 per cent Mushar workers are agricultural labourers. Only 2.5 per cent are cultivators and 2.1 per cent are in other services.[1]
Amousi village (mouza) is comprised of around 100 Mushar households. Some may be Dhanuk (lower rung of OBC) households also. There is only a cluster of huts in this village. People live in extreme poverty. There is no pucca construction, no road and no market in the village. It is situated in diara[2]  land and is not easily accessible. One has to cross three streams of Kamla (Bagmati) river in boat and a sea of cement like Baluwai (fine and sandy) soil to reach the place.
The Kurmis who were killed in Amousi Bahiyar[3] on 1st October 2009 were not the residents of Amousi village. They belonged to village Icharwa, which is situated on the other side of three streams of Kamla river. The distance between the two villages is three kilometres or more. Icharwa is a relatively big village with a population of 5000. Situated by the roadside the village is dominated by Kurmis (the upper OBCs).
In the 1960s, the Government of Bihar took up river embankment programme in a big way. A dam was constructed over river Bagmati and the river changed its course. This led to the emergence of a big chunk of cultivable land (around 400 acres) in Amousi Bahiyar. The Zamindars of Samastipur, Munger and Begusarai claimed their right over this land. According to Bihar Government, the land was Gair Mazarua[4] government land. There is a reference to a court case — Lakhmeshwar Prasad vs. state of Bihar for 170 Beegha of land, which was settled in favour of the State of Bihar by Patna high court in 1998. There is also a reference to land owner Ram Bahadur Sigh and his contractor Kamla Sahay for 366 Beegha of land in Amousi Baharia. It is noted that Ram Bahadur Singh or Kamla Sahay never personally cultivated the land, neither did they file any returns for it. Eventually, the land in question was merged with government land.

This kind of boat is used to cross the streams with jeep

The legal dispute over ownership of land in Amousi Bahiyar has apparently been settled in favour of the Government of Bihar.
The de-facto control over this land was, however, with the Kurmis of Icharwa village. The details of how they took possession of this land are not clear but such a practice is not un-common in diara land. There are many villages in diara, where land is owned (or possessed) by families residing across the river. It is said that some Kurmi families made the agreements with the Zamindars when the case was sub-judice. They paid some amount to the Zamindar to get the permission to cultivate a particular piece of land. The term of the negotiation was that if the Zamindar won the case; he would sell the land fulfilling the legal requirements (It is called Kewala). It is also possible that some of the families just occupied the land because it was not guarded by any one. In either case, it is not likely that the Kurmis in Icharwa village cultivating the land in Amousi Bahiyar have proper legal titles for the land that they possess. There are big land holders among Icharwa Kurmis like Vashishth Narayan Singh possessing 30 Beegha of land. He is the JDU president for Alouli block. There are also small farmers possessing 1 or 2 Beegha of land. Many of the Kurmis are also cultivating land as share croppers.

As the river changed its course, the fertile land emerged

On the other hand the Mushars in Amousi and other neighbouring villages worked as agricultural labourers in the fields. After the land was legally settled as government land in 1998, Mushars made claims that the land be settled in their favour-1 acre per family. As many as 81 families had papers showing that the land was allotted to them under Bhoodan. Bharosi Sada (CPI member) and 80 others made application for settlement of Bhoodan land. The SDM issued orders for the settlement but the Circle Officer waylaid the case.

Residences of the convicted in Amousi

Some others did not wait for the administration to settle the case and started cultivating the land holdings, which they thought should be legally transferred to them. This was resented by the Kurmis. There are reports of small skirmishes between Mushars in Amousi and the Kurmis in Icharwa. There is a complaint filed by O.P. Mahto (CPI member) and others in 2005 that they were being threatened by the goons. They were asked to surrender their land, otherwise the consequences would be serious.
This conflict over land between Mushars and Kurmis provided the motive for killings. In addition the region has presence of militant Maoist groups, who would facilitate the carnage. The immediate reaction from every quarter was that Mushars were organised by Maoist to indulge in this brutal killings. However, things are more complex than this apparently straightforward story knitted so simply.
The Maoist denied having any hand in it. The government and police also did not repeat the involvement of Maoists. One fails to understand if no organised support base was available how did the poor Mushars obtain the guns for shooting and how could they muster the courage to indulge in such a heinous crime collectively? One hears of rivalry between two groups of Kurmis in Icharwa village. The basis of the division was political rivalry. One group associated itself with the existing MLA and younger brother of Ramvilas Paswan, Paras Paswan. Another group was with the Nitish Kumar. The two groups of Kurmis had some clashes between them because of the local elections. The Paswan group was unhappy with Nitish’s appeasement of Mahadalits. If it could be established that Mushars were responsible for brutal killings of Kurmis, it would embarrass Nitish. It would also give credence to the charge that Nitish was unable control Naxal violence in the area. At the same time if Mushars were implicated in gruesome killings, their legal battle for land claims would be quashed forever and illegal hold over land by the Kurmis would continue unchallenged. Those who were leading the legal battle for getting land settlement have been selectively convicted in the case. This insidious political plot cannot be ruled out in the semi feudal milieu of the remote areas of Khagariya.

Incident on 1st October 2009

Sixteen people were killed in the night of 1 October 2009 at around 11 pm in Amousi Bahiar. All these people were residents of Icharwa village. The farm land and basa (shelter for a person to guard his land and cattle) of these Icharwa villagers was in Amousi bahiar which is more than a kilometer away from the residential area. At the time of the tragedy the Icharwa villagers were sleeping at their basas.
The incident is reconstructed on the basis of account narrated by Paro Singh who claimed to be the eyewitness (!). There are two versions available to us. One, given in the PUCL report based on enquiry conducted on 11th October 2009 and the other recorded as evidence in the judgment delivered by session court on 14th Feb 2012.

PUCL Report

PUCL team visited Icharwa and Amousi villages on 11 October 2009. In Icharwa, they met, several members of the families of the deceased who had congregated by the wayside for Dashkarma i.e. getting their heads shaved. They also met Paro Singh there. According to PUCL team, Paro Singh was the only person who claimed to be an eyewitness of the incident. As narrated by the villagers and Paro Singh. The chronology of event is given below:

Some people forced a boatman of Icharwa to ferry them to Amousi Bahiar late in the evening. The boatman was later killed and no details could be traced. Presumably, after crossing the river, another group of armed persons joined them. From the river bank they followed nearly a straight line to reach the basas of Icharwa Kurmis. The miscreants picked up young men sleeping in their basas. All the picked up persons were allegedly tied up with ropes and they were huddled together in an open area on the dera of Chhotelal Singh. Here, they were shot by guns. Paro Singh said that he feigned death lying motionless with other corpses making the killers think that he was dead. The team did not find his version of hoodwinking the killers very convincing. There was no injury on his body. The killers dispersed after shooting. Paro singh managed to flee from there and reached village Icharwa to tell others about the carnage. The villagers informed the local Alauli police station. Icharwa village comes under the jurisdiction of Alauli police station. The police was reluctant to go to Amousi at that late hour of night. The villagers mustered courage and crossed the river in large number and brought back the dead bodies by five in the morning.

Among the persons killed while 14 were Kurmis, two were kushwahas. In the morning police inspector from Morkahi Police station arrived and Paro Singh lodged an FIR with him. (Amousi Bahiar falls under the jurisdiction of Morkahi Police Station). As many as 37 persons are accused in the FIR with names. Besides, 20 to 25 unidentified persons are also mentioned as part of the group of killers. The list is headed by Bodhan Sada and O.P. Mahto.

Evidence Recorded in the Judgment

The judgment records the eye witness account of five persons as evidence. All the witnesses are interested parties as their sons have been killed in the incident.
Paro Singh’s evidence in the court does not mention people arriving in the boat from other side of the river. There is no mention of any boatman. The evidence as recorded in the judgment only says that at 11’0’ clock he was at his basa with his son Chandan Singh. His son was sleeping while he was awake. He saw 40 to 50 people armed with rifles and guns coming from south west side. They were flashing torch. He describes how these armed people caught hold of 10 to12 people from their respective separate basas. After that 10 to 15 people came to his basa. Paro Singh tried to wake up his son but his son Chandan Singh did not wake up. Paro Singh hid himself in a nearby paddy field. The miscreants picked up his son and took every one to Chotelal Singh’s dera. They tied the hands of all the victims.
Paro Singh states that Bodhan Sada asked the victims why they had not vacated their deras when they had been ordered to do so. Paro Singh’s son replied that he would vacate his dera next day. But Bodhan Sada ordered that they all be shot dead and the group shot the victims with their guns. Paro Singh states that the miscreants wanted to make sure that the victims were actually dead and they flashed light on the victims. In this light Paro Singh identified 16 miscreants with names. After making sure that the victims were dead they fled towards north. Paro Singh also reports hearing two rounds of firing at Chhotelal Mahto’s dera.
Paro Singh stated that he then came to bank of the river where he met Chotelal Singh, Jaichand Singh, Anrudh Singh and Kamli Singh. These are four other eyewitnesses who narrated similar stories and identified the miscreants by names. Like Paro singh they are affected parties having lost their sons in the carnage
All five of them went to Icharwa village and narrated the incident to other villagers. Around 100 to 150 people crossed the river at night and went to Chhotelal Singh’s dera. They brought the dead bodies back to Icharwa chouk. In the morning Mukesh Kumar S.H.O. Morkahi came. Paro Singh lodged his FIR at 7.45 a.m. on 2 October 2009.
We also got the version of local party comrades, the family members of the accused and other villagers in Amousi. We were told the there was no eyewitness of the incident and no one knew who the miscreants were. They could only say that those charged with the crime were innocent. All those convicted in the case had alibi for the night of 1 October 2009. According to them no Mushar from Amousi village was involved in the crime.

The Judgment of the Sessions Court

The judgment delivered by the sessions court seems to rely entirely on the eye witness account given by Paro Singh and others. We do not have the entire case file and we are not trained to probe into such matters but there are points on which we feel clarification is required.
  1. Evidence of Paro Singh as recorded in the judgment raises at least three questions.

When he describes the miscreants picking up 12 persons from their separate deras, one needs to know if all the deras were visible from the place where he was stationed. And did it not give him enough time to wake up his son?
He refers to miscreants flashing torch light at the victims and says that he recognised the culprits in that light. But actually reverse is the case. If someone flashes torchlight in your direction, his or her own image becomes less distinct.
Paro Singh reports the conversation that took place between his son and Bodhan Sada at Chotelal Singh’s dera. But Paro Sigh was hiding at his own dera .Was this conversation loud enough for him to hear from the paddy field, where he was hiding.

2.      The judgment refers to postmortem reports, empty cartridges, blood stained clothes and other items put as exhibits. However, no mention is made of the guns and rifles which were used on that day? One would like to know what search was made for the guns and rifles.

3.      There is some discrepancy regarding Police inspector’s presence at Icharwa chowck on 2nd morning. There is also some use of whitener. This raises doubts about the genuineness of FIR lodged by Paro Singh on 2nd morning.

Appeal in High Court

An appeal is filed in High Court against the sessions court judgment. The lawyer Ajay Thakur has been retained as the defence lawyer by Mushar Seva Sangh. We consulted some friends in Delhi and we were advised that for a case dealing with 14 accused one lawyer is not sufficient. You need more than one lawyer in the case. When we met the wives of those pronounced guilty in the case they were ignorant of the appeal that is filed with High Court.

Women of Amousi village whose men are in jail

Lakhubai, whose husband Harinarayan Sada and son Sanatan Sada are in jail

A recent development

After we came back from Amousi and were preparing this report, we got the information from Khagaria that on the evening of 17 April, 2012, one more resident of Icharwa was killed at  Amousi Bahiyar. This time the person who was accused for the killing was no other than the Paro Singh himself. The incident was narrated by advocate Chandrakishore Yadav whose residence is also near Amousi and Manoj Sada who lives in Siripur village which is hardly one km away from Amousi village.
Pandav Kumar, who was killed on 17 was the son of Dhana singh of Icharwa village.Dhana Singh lost his other son in the Amousi carnage of 2009. He was one of the witnesses in the sessions court trial.
On 17 April 2012, Paro Singh, Phoolchand Yadav (a resident of a nearby village Kashimpur), Ramashish Singh and Pandav Kumar (both from Icharwa) were seen going to a neighborhood village Saharwa, 1 km of Amousi where liquor is sold. Phoolchand Yadav is not a resident of the village but he has a basa where he keeps his cattle at Amousi Bahiyar.
Manoj Sada and his companion Sadarath Sada (Amousi) found all four of them coming back from Saharwa on the way to Amousi. They were drunk and they tried to obstruct the way of Manoj Sada. Manoj dodged and avoided any skirmish with them. Later, according to Advocate Chandrakishore Yadav, other villagers of Amousi also saw them passing through the village in drunken state. He also said that Paro Singh misbehaved with a woman of Amousi for which a policeman scolded upon him. (A team of some policemen has been stationed permanently in Amousi since the 2009 carnage). Many villagers witnessed them passing through the Amousi village. The time was around 6 or 7 pm.
Later, some villagers of Icharwa found that Phoolchand Yadav was running away with his cattle and they asked him that what happened. He was nervous and told the villagers that somebody murdered Pandav Kumar. Meanwhile, Paro Singh reached Icharwa village and said that Pandav Kumar was killed by Amousi Mahadalits. Villagers did not believe him as some of them heard the version of Phoolchand Yadav also. The villagers had seen all four of them going together. When Paro Singh realized that villagers are not ready to trust him, he absconded. But villagers did not allow Phoolchand Yadav to abscond till the police came in midnight. Police also arrested Ramashish Singh from the village.
The body of Pandav Kumar was found. He was strangled by gamchha cloth. The father of the deceased Pandav Kumar, Dhana Singh, filed an FIR accusing 5 people. These included the above mentioned three and Chhotelal Singh and Pappu Singh.
According to local people, some dispute came up between Dhana Singh and Paro Singh regarding their stand on 2009 case. It is assumed that Dhana Singh was asking Rs. 50,000 to continue his stand in high court. Paro Singh got agitated with his demand and when son of Dhana Singh, Pandav Kumar was with him and he was drunk, Paro Singh thought it would be easy to kill him and once again implicate the Mushars of Amousi in the case. But Phoolchand Yadav could not digest this and the conspiracy of falsely implicating Mushars in the murder case failed.
Paro Singh’s involvement in such a serious crime has to be investigated. It certainly puts a big question mark on the evidence given by him in the trial of 2009 carnage. His eye witness account is central to the judgment pronounced by the sessions court.

Post Scripts

Post Script 1: Judgment on Bathani Tola Massacre: Two judgments, Two parameters

In the recent judgment of Patna high court on Bathani Tola massacre, all the accused were acquitted. On 11 July 1996, Ranvir Sena killed 21 people in Bathani Tola in Bhojpur district of Bihar. 12 women and 8 children were murdered. The abdomen of a pregnant woman was slit open. A little infant’s tongue was cut off. Another baby’s fingers were severed from her hand. A girl in the prime of her youth was raped and before she was put to death, her breasts were chopped off. The victims belonged to poor muslim families, who had been displaced from Kharaon village.The conflict was regarding access to village common land for buriel and namaz. Ranvir Sena had forcibly occupied the Kabristan and Karbala land of Muslims in surrounding villages.When the muslim families protested, they were taught a lesson.
On 16 May 2010, the sessions court in Ara convicted 23 accused. Three were given death sentence and 20 were given life imprisonment. Patna high court on 16 July 2012 acquitted all the 23 convicts. According to the high court, the prosecution failed to prove the involvement of the accused in the crime beyond reasonable doubt.

Post Script 2: Those awaiting trial

We met two under trials in Khagaria jail, Gorelal Sada and Devendra Chowdhry.Their profiles once again point out that anyone, who defies the unjust land order in rural Bihar will be punished.

Gorelal Sada
Gorelal Sada (age 55 years) is a member of district Counsel of CPI Khagaria. He has a house and family in Shravita village in Ananthpur Panchayat. He has been cultivating 3 bighas of land as a sharecropper for last 30 years. The land belongs to a zamindar Kesar Babu from Sanhouli. For last 5 years he has stopped paying any rent for the land that he cultivates. The zamindar is angry because of his land is illegally taken possession of. According to Gorelal Sada, he has falsely been implicated in 2 other criminal cases because of the conflict over these 3 bighas of land. In Chikkani Tola village of Saharsa, where one cop was killed in an encounter in May 2009 between Maoists and SAP (Special Auxiliary Police). Gorelal Sada spent one year in jail and was released on 25 September 2009. The Amousi massacre took place on 1-2 October 2009 and once again he saw his name in the list of accused. When he found out that there was an arrest warrant in his name, he absconded and remained in hiding for 2 and ½ years. He was finally caught by the Police on 25 March 2012 from his house. His trial will begin on 19th April 2012 in Khagaria court.
Gorelal Sada has six sons and four daughters. Although he himself can barely sign his name but his sons are educated till class X. One of them has a grocery shop and others migrate to Punjab in search of employment. When we asked him if his family has visited him in the jail, he said, “No. They will get time to see me only after harvesting of rabi crop (Maize) is over.”
On the night of 1 October 2009, Gorelal sada was sleeping in the Party Office of Khagaria district. He was there because he was campaigning for Advocate Chandrakishore Yadav in PACS elections. He said that he did not know anybody in Icharwa village, and knew some people in Amousi village.

Devendra Chowdhry s/o Surendra Choudhry, Age 40 years
Devendra Choudhry lives in a village called Jheema in Amousi Anantpur Panchayat. He has five sons and 2 daughters. He belongs to Kewat or Mallah community. Amousi, the place of occurrence is about 1 kilometre away from his village Jheema but there is a stream in between.
His case is rather more surprising. He said that his father has land title for 5 bighas of land which he also cultivates along with four other brothers. He explained that there is 120 bighas of land in the village which has long been cultivated by villagers. The land is distributed like this that 40 bighas of land is given to Sada community people for cultivation and 80 bighas of land has been cultivated by Choudhry, i.e. Kewat-Malhar community. This arrangement was done by villagers themselves depending upon the population distribution. The land was under possession of Rai Bahadur of Munger in pre independence period. Devendra Choudhry said that some Neeraj Singh, who is a Bahubali of the area, claimed that he purchased 40 bighas of land. That became the conflict between Neeraj Singh and villagers. Devendra Choudhry said that he was falsely implicated in some case of extortion, kidnapping and attempt to murder, etc. The case was registered in Khairi village and it has been there for five years so he was absconding for many years. After that the October incident happened in Amousi and he saw his name in the Amousi carnage too as an accused, so he surrendered to Police on 16 November 2009. He was arrested in both the cases. His trial has yet not begun.
He said that he was in his house only on and around that time when carnage took place.

Post Script 3: The main accused among the convicts

The list of accused is headed by Bodhan Sada and O.P. Mahto. Death sentence is pronounced for Bodhan Sada and O. P. Mahto has been given life imprisonment.

Bodhan Sada
Bodhan Sada, aged 60 years, was earlier the area commander of a maoist group of the region. As reported by local people, when Bodhan was asked by Party to shift to Saharsa, he rebelled and was consequently expelled from the party. A new area commander was given charge. Yogi Mahto and Bodhan Sada naturally had tussles between them. Bodhan Sada is said to have considerable influence among Mushars of the area. His wife was the Mukhia (chief) of the village when the massacre took place. Since then, his wife has been killed and Yogi Mahto has been accused in her murder’s case. While in Jail, Bodhan Sada was put up by CPI (ML) as a candidate for 2010 assembly elections.

O.P. Mahto
At the time of massacre, O. P. Mahto (age 72 years) was the branch secretary of CPI. He was one of the prominent leaders in the Amousi Mushars’ legal battles to claim the Bhoodan land in the region. We were given a copy of the written complaint made by O. P. Mahto to the Distict Collector. In his complaint he has said that he was threatened for life by some Bahubalis of the area. They warned him that if he doesn’t give up his legal battle, he will face dire consequences.
Contact: jaya_mehta@hotmail.com, comvineet@gmail.com, janamfoundation@gmail.com

Jaya Mehta is a senior Economist. She is associated with the Joshi-Adhikari Institute of Social Studies.
Vineet Tiwari is a writer and activist. He is associated with Joshi-Adhikari Institute of Social Studies.
Sunita Kumari is an activist associated with JANAMFoundation.

[1] No_Border.pdf, Daanish Books.
[2] The land which emerges as the river changes its course.
[3] The farm land around the village is called Bahiyar in local dialect.
[4] Land, usually not under cultivation for long stretch of time. It could be private (khas) or common (aam).