Report of the Convenor to the 4th All India Convention of the Lok Raj Sangathan,
November 17, 2007, New Delhi
Comrades and friends
The Third All India Convention of the Lok Raj Sangathan was held two years ago on October 1-2, 2005 in New Delhi with the theme "The next step in our struggle for human, democratic and national rights".
The Convention summed up the experience of building LRS and of reaching out to, and uniting politically with, a wide variety of organizations of workers, of peasants, of women and youth, of particular nationalities and minorities. It reaffirmed the basic line of action, program and policy of LRS. It took steps to build and strengthen the organization, both at the base and at the center, the local and regional organizations as well as the All-India Council.
The Third Convention drew the important conclusion that to organise for political power was the central focus that would help bring together all those who are struggling in defence of their rights. It called for building and strengthening organizations of struggle in as many areas as possible, to deal with local issues within the context of overall political opposition to the imperialist and rapacious course of the Indian rulers.
The Third Convention decided to launch two immediate campaigns. The first was to Punish the Guilty, those responsible for crimes against our people — a campaign that was an integral part of the programmatic thrust of LRS to fight for constitutional guarantees for human, democratic and national rights. The second was for Renewal of Democracy and the Political Process — a campaign that initially took the form of a Yatra from Kanyakumari to Chennai during the the winter of 2005.
Comrades and friends
It is two years since the third All India Convention of the LRS.
These two years have been a period of great clashes in India as well as the world over.
The people have been fighting for peace, prosperity and progress. They have been fighting for defence of national sovereignty. They have been opposing imperialism and imperialist war. They have been fighting state terrorism in all its forms. They have been resisting the globalization, liberalization and privatization agenda of the imperialist bourgeoisie. The people are asserting their human, democratic and national rights. They are questioning systems of rule wherein a handful of people can decide the destiny of entire nations and peoples, with the participation of people in the polity restricted to the casting of the vote for this or that candidate.
World over, the big imperialist powers are still dictating the course of developments. Despite the world wide opposition to the Anglo American aggression and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the occupation continues, wreaking havoc and devastation. Feverish plans are afoot to invade Iran. The United States has not given up its plans to organize "regime change" in various countries where the regimes in power are not favourable to it. It has made some gains in Europe, with Germany and France now supporting the US. It has been actively wooing India to forge a strategic alliance. At the same time, the governments that supported the US’ "war against terrorism" — Britain, Australia, Italy, Spain and Pakistan — have become extremely unpopular. Russia is more openly opposing US moves, coordinating with China.
Despite world wide opposition to globalization, liberalization and privatization, the majority of governments the world over continue to push this agenda. They continue to use terrorism to divert and dissipate the resistance struggles of the people.
A complicated situation is developing in the countries neighbouring India. The peoples are fighting for the right to determine their own destiny. The US, other big powers, and the domestic ruling cliques are trying to thwart this struggle in one way or another. In Nepal, the struggle against the monarchy for the establishment of a people’s republic continues. In Myanmar, the struggle against the military junta in power continues. In Pakistan, the people are demanding their rights and opposing the alliance with the US. In Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the internal crisis of the rulers continues to deepen.
In India, the past two years have seen a large scale onslaught on the basic rights of numerous sections of our people. Labour rights as well as the rights of peasants to the land they till have come under attack in the name of Special Economic Zones. The farmers’ right to earn their livelihood from agriculture is being negated by big corporations that are striving to reap maximum profits from agro-business, retail trade and contract farming. Working people have seen their houses being demolished in the name of modernising the cities. Villagers, tribal people and other forest communities have faced displacement and loss of traditional rights over natural resources, so that the Tatas, Ambanis and other big business houses can grow bigger in collaboration and competition with multinational corporations.
The people continue to be victims of state organized terrorist attacks, state organized targeting of specific communities, of bomb blasts and "encounter killings", as well as rape, torture and murder by the armed forces of the Indian state. Despite massive opposition, fascist laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act continue to remain in force. Other fascist laws have entered the statute book, like the amendment to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) act, the Chhatisgarh Public Safety Act, the Uttar Pradesh Control of Organised Crime Act, and so on.
The UPA government came to power more than three years ago, promising "reforms with a human face".
The development of events have clearly exposed the so-called "human face" of these reforms. What the NDA government under the leadership of the BJP was doing earlier has been continued by the UPA government under Congress leadership, with the support of the Left Front. There is nothing progressive about the United Progressive Alliance. The "progress" it is pursuing is only for an exclusive minority, for Indian big business interests that want to grow powerful on a global scale as quickly as possible.
The Third All-India Convention of LRS in 2005 reaffirmed the principle that human rights, democratic and national rights are inviolable and that it is the duty of the State to ensure that they are never violated. This principle has guided all the activities of LRS.
We have defended the rights of the tillers of the land to livelihood and security of tenure over their land. We have defended the rights of slum dwellers to secure housing. Activists of LRS have played a leading role in the struggle against the demolition of homes and sealing of shops in Delhi and other cities. We have supported the struggle for the rights of workers in so-called unorganised sectors to the same terms and benefits that are legally mandated for workers in the organised sector. We have provided moral and political support to a wide range of struggles and movements. These include the struggles against compulsory displacement from forests and mineral rich land, against the seizure of land for SEZs, and against growing penetration and domination by capitalist corporations in retail trade and agricultural markets. We have steadfastly defended the rights of women, as human beings and as women.
The practical experience of these varied struggles for the rights of the people has brought forward the lesson, again and again, that the necessary condition for actualising rights is for the people to become the rulers, the decision makers. Without political power, without decisive control over public policy decisions, there is no way for the people to stop the violation of their rights. The people must have political power in their hands, to ensure that their claims are not ignored, their rights not trampled in the mud. There is no other way to halt the manmaani, the dictate of self-serving parties in power.
1. People are capable of governing themselves
The existing system of representative democracy, and its political process, excludes the vast majority of people from political power. LRS was born out of the resolve to correct this fundamental flaw, and vest sovereign power in the hands of the people.
The fundamental point of departure of the LRS has been and remains that the people of India — her workers and peasants, her women and youth, her traders and shopkeepers, the people from all regions — are quite capable of governing themselves. They do not need intermediaries, trustees to govern on their behalf.
This is where the great clash in Indian politics is taking place. The majority of political parties in India today, particularly those who are enjoying power and privileges, quite openly declare that people are not capable of governing themselves! They speak unashamedly the language of the colonialists who spoke of the white man’s burden! They openly say that the people are poor, caste-ridden, steeped in communal prejudices, as well as regional, ethnic and other prejudices. That the people need "wise" trustees like themselves to rule on their behalf! This is what the parties in power are saying.
Lok Raj Sangathan has consistently fought against the domination of the political process by the so-called recognised parties. This does not mean that we are against political parties in themselves. We believe that political parties have a definite role to play, in organising different classes of people and in providing a vision for society. The main point of principle is that no political party must be allowed to usurp what belongs to the people – namely, the right to rule. In the existing system of representative democracy, people have to vote to place parties in power. Parties act as gatekeepers to power. They rule in the name of the people, but keep the people excluded from decision making.
In the alternative system that LRS is striving to innovate, people will directly exercise power. Political parties will work to keep the people in power.
All over the country, there are numerous efforts and experiments that people are engaged in, which show that they are not willing to put up with the existing representative democracy that reduces them to mere vote banks. The people are not satisfied with the right to merely choose by whom they should be ruled. They are asserting their right to rule themselves. This is the basis for what is called the movement for people’s empowerment. The aim of all the work of Lok Raj Sangathan is to strengthen this movement by providing it with consciousness and an organised form.
The work of LRS has therefore been two-fold on this question.
At one level, LRS has carried out mass campaigns in this period to educate the workers, peasants, women, youth and other toiling sections, about how the existing political system and process marginalizes them. The people have been involved in actively suggesting innovations in the political process so that they have a say in governing themselves.
The campaign for reform of the political process was initiated following the third convention in Tamilnadu in the form of a padayatra from Kanya Kumari in the southernmost tip of India, to Chennai — a distance of over 1000 Km!. Lok Raj Sangathan, the NCC-UW, and the NAPM came together and mobilized over 60 organisations of workers, peasants, women, youth, and working people to participate in the two week long campaign. The campaign highlighted the concerns of the working people, as well as asserted boldly that the working people would realize their aspirations only with political power in their own hands. We popularised the demands that people must have the right to select the candidates for election, as well as the right to recall elected representatives at any time, and the right to initiate proposals for new laws or amendments to existing laws. We campaigned against political parties selecting candidates and imposing them on the people. The enthusiastic response of the people to these demands showed that activist workers and peasants, women and youth are all thinking on these lines — we must have political power in our own hands. (Hundreds of public meetings, tens of thousands of leaflets)
During the Tamilnadu assembly elections, this campaign was once again carried out for two weeks. By the time the panchayat elections took place in 2006, the effect of the campaign began to show. There was popular demand that LRS should field candidates. Worker, peasant and women candidates approached the LRS saying that they wanted to stand on the LRS platform. Very soon, a slate of candidates was prepared, who were all ready to challenge the monopoly of the officially recognised parties. A most enthusiastic election campaign followed. A number of candidates fielded or supported by LRS won in these panchayat elections.
During these elections, activists of LRS had to face the threat of violence of the state as well as reactionary forces. We fought on the principle of opposing caste divisions, and mobilizing all people around our program independent of caste, while the so called recognized parties were openly carrying on caste based mobilization, exacerbating caste and communal divisions. Immediately following the elections, state terror was unleashed against all the candidates who stood on the LRS platform. Our candidates were threatened by the police with arrest, for participating in elections! The reason? The so called recognized parties were scared that inspired by the initiative launched by LRS more and more ordinary people will begin to challenge their monopoly over political power. LRS refused to be cowed down. Led up front by our President Justice Suresh, we took the struggle against this repression to the State Election Commission and challenged them to answer why the police were working in favour of the officially recognized political parties.
During the Maharashtra Assembly elections, as well as Municipal Corporation Elections, LRS actively carried out a campaign on the need to reform the political process. LRS actively campaigned for candidates who took up the program of LRS as their own. In a month long campaign, the activists of LRS generated huge discussion on what kind of political system the people need to build in order to be able to address their concerns.
In Delhi, LRS joined hands with several other organisations to give rise to a new kind of electoral front in January 2007, three months before the Corporation elections. This was taking forward the participation in the political process to a new stage. All those who came together were agreed that people must be in power, not parties like Congress and BJP. They worked out the Charter, as well as Manifesto of the Jan Pratinidhi Manch. In different colonies, the Jan Pratinidhi Manch organized selection meetings to select candidates. Amidst great enthusiasm, candidates were selected by the people through secret ballot. Constituency committees called ward committees were formed, to supervise the elections as well as the work in the constituency after the elections. Funds were collected in door to door campaigning from the people.
The Rang Bhoomi Natya Samooh performed street plays exposing the present electoral system and calling for people to support the candidates of the JPM. In burning heat, the youth took their message to the people in far flung colonies, wherever the candidates of JPM stood.
Through the course of these elections, in which 11 candidates stood on the JPM platform, the practical experience of people with the reality and undemocratic character of this political system and process was further strengthened. The money and muscle power deployed by the candidates of these parties, the partisan role of the police, how the election laws were intrinsically in favour of the officially recognized parties, all were witnessed. People also understood how the cleaning up of the election process was actually in favour of these parties and against candidates of the people. This was revealed in the well attended summing up meeting held immediately after the elections. One of the activists, an ex- armed forces officer correctly remarked — in a war, sometimes the first platoon gets completely wiped out, but their experience is what is necessary to prepare for the future.
The eleven candidates of JPM performed honorably, throwing a powerful challenge to the existing parties. This challenge is not reflected in the votes. It is reflected however in the efforts that the various parties began to make to show how they were changing, how they were responding to people’s concerns, how they were putting up clean candidates, etc.
The experience of the Jan Pratinidhi Manch showed that it is possible to bridge the apparent divide between the working class and the middle class. The candidates themselves were from a wide variety of backgrounds – worker, student, teacher, hawker, ex-armed forces, doctor, lawyer, businessman, and so on. Each learnt from the others’ experience. The constituencies were of all kinds, with mixed populations. With great enthusiasm, all the activists of JPM worked together, energizing everyone. They showed it is possible to defeat the pressure of the propaganda that there is no alternative except to choose amongst the parties of the ruling class.
Following the elections, LRS activists have worked to make sure that the Jan Pratinidhi Manch, as well as the samitis in the different areas continue to play an active role in putting forth and defending the people’s interests. They have been acting as instruments of peoples control over the elected candidates as well as the programs and policies of the Delhi government and the Corporation.
Every time there is an election, in any state or city or in the entire country, we face this pressure to be what is called "practical" and "pragmatic". We are told that the only practical thing to do is to line up behind the Congress Party to defeat the BJP, as we are being told today in the context of the state assembly elections in Gujarat. I am proud to report that LRS has consistently and successfully resisted this pressure in the past, and we continue to do so until today. We can and must draw strength and inspiration from our experience with the Jan Pratinidhi Manch, which managed to attract the attention of serious political forces in the city.
Whichever party is in power today in whichever state or in the Centre, the program and policy pursued remains the same. This is the program and policy of the wealthy and powerful. Their method of coming to power is the same. The instruments of rule are the same. LRS is of the view that it is an illusion to be lieve that one such government is a lesser evil compared to another . What LRS is striving for is complete overhaul of the political system and process so that people come to power. The program and policy pursued once the people come to power would be radically different — it would serve the people.
When elections are far away, there are a larger number of people who criticize the system and process. However, the nearer elections approach, many such people come under the pressure of the line advanced by CPM among others, that people must choose "the lesser evil". Thus in effect, the people are asked to remain on the sidelines and choose between one or the other party of the ruling class.
Our aim in participating in elections is not merely to maximise the number of votes polled by the candidates we support, while that is also important. Our main aim is to prepare the people to go against the tide. It is necessary for people to select their own candidates, from amongst their peers, and not merely vote for one of the candidates of parties that want to exclude the people from power.
There are those in the people’s movement who advocate the line of permanent boycott of elections as a strategic line. The reason advanced is that an organization or individual that participates in the present political process will get corrupted and merge with the system. They argue that participation in the political process means creating illusions about the system.
LRS has a different opinion. If an organization or individual is so flimsy that by participating in the electoral process they become corrupted and merge with it, they are not worthy of people’s trust even if they do not participate. The line of boycott of elections actually leaves the field free to the major parties of the ruling class. Just like the advocates of the "lesser evil", it prevents people from challenging the domination of the polity by parties of the establishment. It prevents the people from becoming political.
Towards developing a modern political theory — Ghadar jari hai abhiyan
An important part of the struggle to establish that the people are capable of governing themselves is the work of developing Indian political theory which illuminates the road to Lok Raj.
Indians have had theories of statecraft extending over thousands of years. The political institutions of governance we have in place today are of very recent origin, dating from colonial times. The theory underlining these institutions is borrowed from England. These institutions served the colonial rule and plunder of India by the colonialists. Today they serve the rule of the dominant class. However our education system teaches us again and again that this is the best system in the world and the only problem is with the people who run it!
LRS firmly believes that our people can never hope to come to power or solve the major problems confronting them, if the political system and process and the theories guiding them are alien, and what is more, rooted in the colonial rule.
LRS is also of the opinion that Indian theory will not develop in an ivory tower, but in close connection with the struggle of the Indian people to innovate a new political process
This is why LRS has become an enthusiastic participant in the campaign called Ghadar Jari Hai— which was launched by the Communist Ghadar Party of India, All India Workers Council, and a number of other organizations and individuals.
What were the lessons of 1857 for the Indian people? What are the lessons the colonial rulers learnt and used against the Indian people? Why is it necessary to fight Eurocentrism? These are some of the issues that LRS has taken amongst the people, as part of this campaign.
In Maharashtra, this campaign has been carried out with Jhankis and street corner meetings in a sustained manner over several months.
In Tamilnadu, a Ghadar Jari Hai organizing committee was formed with LRS and dozens of other organizations of workers, peasants, women and youth. A mass campaign has been going on in the different districts of Tamilnadu. Through this campaign, the historic significance of the uprisings against colonial rule in the South are being brought to the people, as well as appropriate lessons drawn for the struggle for people’s power today.
The work on this front has been carried out in Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, Punjab, Delhi and other states as well.
Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform
As the campaign of the Indian ruling class to transform itself into a world class imperialist power has gathered steam, the attacks on human rights including the right to life have increased. There have been massive onslaughts on the right to life and livelihood of people in both urban and rural areas, as the state and the big corporations want to seize the lands of the people for their mega projects and displace them.
The people fighting for their rights have faced a judiciary that is defending proactively the interests of the state and the big corporations, Indian and foreign. High Courts and the Supreme Court have delivered numerous anti people judgments. In such circumstances, activists in the people’s movement came together to launch a campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform.
The work of this Committee is directed at not only exposing the total lack of accountability of the judiciary. It is exposing the colonial underpinnings of this judiciary, and discussing the kind of reforms that are necessary in the judicial system so that there will be an elected judiciary under control and supervision of the people.
2. In defence of the rights of people to livelihood and shelter
All over India, these past two years have seen major struggles over land in rural and urban areas.
In some of the rural areas, the struggle has been over the establishment of SEZs by taking over the land of the peasants. The "compensation" promised to these peasants will not guarantee them their livelihood.
In other rural areas, especially in the mineral rich states of Chattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand, big corporations, Indian and foreign, are taking over the land to establish their projects. These people, many of them tribals, will lose their source of livelihood.
In the coastal areas of Tamilnadu and other states, fishermen are being uprooted for various "development" projects.
In the urban areas, it has been over the demolition of slums and workers’ homes, as well as the transformation of prime factory land in cities into real estate after closing down profit making enterprises and depriving workers of their livelihood. Workers are losing their livelihood as well as their homes in one stroke.
LRS has conducted a principled defence of the right to livelihood and shelter of the peasants and workers and working people.
LRS has opposed the SEZ act. It has supported the struggles of the people of Nandigram, Singur, Navi Mumbai, and of the project-affected people of Orissa, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur and other states. It has supported the slum dwellers in their struggle against evictions.
Behind every major dispute over land in India today, if the facts are investigated, you will find the rapacious greed of big business of one kind or another. The demand of big corporations to acquire land for expanding their private wealth is accorded top priority by the central and state governments. The interests of all other individuals and collectives are then adjusted to make this possible. Those who are willing to give up their land are promised a lump sum of money. Those who refuse to give up their land will be compelled to yield to the "force of law". This has been the standard pattern for the creation of so-called Special Economic Zones, export oriented industrial estates, IT parks, etc. It is also the basis for the acquisition of land rich in mineral resources by the corporations, and for "development" projects in the ecologically fragile hills and coastal areas.
Whichever party is in power, the pattern has been the same. The choice of land is made by some big capitalist group, such as Reliance or Tata or Salim, and then the government declares that this demand must be fulfilled, allegedly in the national interest, or the interest of the state! The colonial Land Acquisition Act is brought to bear, to deprive people of the land they till. And now the injustice of colonial land legislation has been raised to further heights in the form of the SEZ Act.
What is required for solving the problem of land use in modern conditions is a mechanism through which the people can arrive at a collective decision. It must be recognised that the tillers of the land have interests that need to be protected. It must also be recognised that industrialisation is needed for society to progress, and suitable land should be identified and allocated for industrial use. Land shouldbe allocated for industrial use in such a way that not a single peasant family is left in poorer conditions than before. The livelihood of the peasant must be guaranteed, or an alternative source of livelihood ensured.
LRS is firmly opposed to the use of force by the state machinery to resolve land disputes in favour of the big Indian and foreign corporations. LRS calls for the abolition of both the land Acquisition Act and the SEZ act.
As long as the orientation of the economy is towards maximum profits for the big corporations, the peasants and tribal people will surely be deprived of their livelihood. The interests of peasants and other small land holders will inevitably get trampled in the mud. "Development" will be accompanied by displacement.
The experience of Indian people over the past 60 years shows that over 60 million people have been displaced as a result of various "development projects". The pace of development being pushed by the corporate houses today means that there will be a great increase in the number of displaced persons. This kind of "development" cannot be accepted at all.
It is when people are collectively in power, and are able to ensure that the orientation of economy is to fulfill their needs, that there a satisfactory solution to this problem can be found.
Sealings and demolitions
In the name of urban renewal, the homes of millions of workers and working people in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkota and other cities are being demolished.
LRS was at the head of the struggle of the people of Transit Camp, in Kalkaji, New Delhi, in May 2006 when the state tried to send its bulldozers to demolish their homes. These people had been allocated their homes nearly twenty years back, after having been displaced from their earlier homes. For days and nights, braving scorching heat as well as thundershowers, the residents of the colony — working men, women and children protected their homes by putting up barricades on all the highways leading to their colony. This brave struggle received widespread support. Finally, the demolition squads of the government had to back down temporarily. The Central government passed an ordinance stopping sealings and demolitions for a year.
During the course of the struggle in Transit Camp, the role of the corporators and legislators of the ruling class parties was exposed for all to see. People could see that if they had to defend their homes, they needed to build organisations of self defence and struggle, which would be under their own control. LRS played an important role in enabling the people to build their organisations of struggle.
LRS has collaborated with other organisations working against demolitions of slums, to build a Saanjha Manch against evictions and demolitions. Under the banner of this manch, residents of different threatened colonies have come together in joint actions, as well as to support each other.
LRS has worked with other organisations on this question in Mumbai as well.
These two years have also seen a major attack on shopkeepers in the form of sealing of shops in residential areas.
This entire drive in Delhi was organised through court orders. The livelihood of lakhs of small and medium traders and shopkeepers, who were operating out of their homes, or through rented premises in residential areas, was affected. There were massive protests. LRS supported the struggle of traders and shopkeepers and exposed the nefarious aims of the government and the two main political parties – Congress and BJP – in facilitating the demolition drive while pretending to be on the side of the affected traders.
Struggle over corporatisation of retail trade
The struggle over corporatisation of retail trade has also been developing.
The entry of big retailers – Indian and foreign -, such as Reliance Fresh, Bharti-Walmart and many others, is being challenged by traders. These big retailers are targeting amongst other sectors, the retail trade in agricultural produce. Their entry is affecting the livelihood of hawkers, street vendors and small shops. It will affect the livelihood of peasants. Hence the corporatisation of retail trade is being opposed by peasants’ organisations as well.
The Indian state is using force to favour the entry of large corporations into the retail sector, so that the competition from small traders and hawkers is eliminated. It is banning hawkers and sealing the shops of small traders, so that people are forced to buy what they want from these large retailers.
LRS has supported the struggle of the hawkers, small shopkeepers and peasants in defence of their livelihood and against the corporatisation of retail trade. We have called for the nationalisation of wholesale trade in agricultural produce, so that the peasants will get a price for their produce which will ensure security of livelihood, and not let them be at the mercy of corporate wholesalers and retailers.
3. Towards a Voluntary Indian Union
Lok Raj Sangathan has always opposed national oppression of any of the nations and peoples constituting India.
The nations and peoples constituting India are not recognised in today’s India. They have been deprived of their sovereignty because of the manner in which the present Indian Union has been constructed.
The striving of people for sovereignty is being brutally crushed using force and black laws. This is what is happening in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur, in Kashmir, as well as other regions of India.
LRS has openly worked for the transformation of the present Indian Union into a voluntary union of consenting nations and peoples, with each nation enjoying the right to self determination, including secession.
LRS has worked to bring the concerns of the people of Manipur, Assam, Nagaland, Kashmir, to the center stage of Indian polity. In this regard, we continue to work closely with the organisations of people of these states who are working in defence of human rights and for a political solution to the problems facing the people.
4. Against state terrorism, for punishing the guilty
In a few weeks from now, it will be 15 years since the destruction of the Babri Masjid. That event was the pretext for unleashing communal violence all over the country. It is 23 years since the genocide of 1984 following the assassination of Indira Gandhi. It is the sixth year since the communal holocaust in Gujarat. The movement for justice continues to this day, with people demanding that those guilty of such mass crimes be tried and severely punished.
The existing State and its judicial system have not ensured justice in any of the above mentioned cases. To quote the words of the 1984 victims, as depicted in the award winning film "Amu", "One government went and was replaced by a second, then that was replaced by a third, but justice has not been delivered". The UPA claimed to be secular and opposed to the communal NDA. However, this regime has not punished any of those guilty of mass crimes against the people. Those responsible for organising and spearheading communal genocide continue to not only roam freely, but even hold high offices in state and central governments.
Indian political theory holds that it is the duty of the State to provide protection to all members of society. For the State itself to commit communal crimes is the worst possible form of adharma. Where will the people turn to for protection?
One of the important decisions that were taken by the Third Annual Convention of LRS in October 2005 was to step up the demand, in campaign mode, to punish those guilty of communal violence and genocide. This decision has been implemented honourably by LRS during the past two years.
In the course of the campaign to punish the guilty, LRS has built close working relations with lawyers involved in the really difficult task of trying to get the guilty punished, as well as get the victims compensated. We have worked closely with those who have tried to expose the hidden hand of the state behind the massacres, through films and documentaries.
We are grateful to the director and producers of the film "Amu", for giving special permission to LRS to screen this film in many parts of India and among Indians in other countries. LRS has used this film as an effective instrument to break the conspiracy of silence on the part of the powers that be about the massacres of November 1984, and to raise the level of discussion among the people on the necessity to ensure justice.
In the course of the campaign to punish the guilty important questions have been posed about command responsibility as well as the necessity for a law on genocide.
When the UPA government tried to involve those demanding punishing the guilty in discussion on a Bill to prevent communal violence, LRS openly exposed the fraud being perpetrated on the people. How can those who are the source of state organised communal violence be expected to protect the people from the same?
State organised communal violence is not the work of people, it is the work of an organised force– the state.
Our demand to punish the guilty is in essence the demand that the State should fulfill its duty. It is the demand that the existing State, which is incapable of discharging its duty, must be replaced with a new State that would fulfill its duty to all members of society. It is a call to our people to organise for a new type of political power.
Terrorism – preferred weapon to smash the unity of the people
These past two years have been a period where terrorist strikes have been organised all over the country to divide and disorient the people. These attacks have taken place in market places, in trains, as well as in religious shrines. Hundreds of innocent people of all faiths and all regions have died in these attacks.
LRS has firmly condemned these attacks, which are the handiwork of the enemies of the Indian people. After every such attack, the Indian government immediately names this or that Islamic sounding organisation as responsible, and provides a queer logic for the same. They then carry out the indiscriminate arrest and torture of Muslim youth, incarcerating them for months and years.
Various alleged masterminds of terrorist crimes are declared killed in encounters in Kashmir. Never is a single accused actually brought to court and tried. It is clear from this that the state is afraid that the truth about these terrorist crimes should not be known to the people at large. Instead, the people must be fed with the lies that it is Muslims that are behind these terrorist crimes and therefore the Indian state’s "war against terrorism" is justified.
5. Indo-US alliance, and principled opposition to imperialism
In these past two years, as the crimes of US imperialism and its allies have mounted, so too have the struggles of the people against US imperialism.
When British imperialist leader Tony Blair came to India in 2005, and George Bush in March 2006, LRS called upon all organisations opposed to these imperialist powers and their conquest of Afghanistan and Iraq, to join hands in protest. We worked to unite all forces cutting across the political spectrum.
Three crore people came out on the streets in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai and towns and villages all over the country. LRS was an active participant in those demonstrations. We declared that Bush was a war criminal and was not welcome in our country. We did not succumb to the pressure of many parties, including the left parties in parliament, against uniting in action with various Islamic organisations to demonstrate against Bush. LRS united in action with all those who were opposed to US imperialism and its crimes, irrespective of their ideology or beliefs. As a result, we earned the respect of all the anti-imperialist forces.
LRS has stood on the side of the Iranian people in defence of that country’s sovereignty at a time when the US has been daily issuing threats. We have organised joint demonstrations with other organisations against the onslaught of Israel on Lebanon.
Lok Raj Sangathan has considered opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal as being a component part of the worldwide opposition to US imperialism, and of the efforts to isolate this criminal power by building unity of all anti-imperialist forces. All over the world, the vast majority of nations and peoples are demanding that the US armed forces must get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which they have aggressed upon and illegally occupied. For India to become a strategic ally of the US in these conditions means to betray the peoples of the world. It means to contribute to legitiminge the conduct of the US and whitewashing its crimes. To argue that this is alright because India has some economic benefits to gain, such as supply of nuclear fuel, is to be extremely unprincipled, narrow minded and selfish in the international arena.
LRS has opposed the Indo-US strategic alliance as a matter of principle. The United States of America is a superpower with a long track record of aggression, assassination and violent conquest of territories, in gross violation of the rights of peoples and entire nations. Entering into a political and military alliance with such a power is not in the interest of Indian society.
The proposed nuclear deal and the 123 agreement need to be viewed within the overall geopolitical context. They cannot be looked at in isolation, without at the same time considering the growing military relationship and joint exercises, the political relationship and the role of India as a so-called responsible democracy. Becoming a political and military ally of the US is a course that will inevitably place India as a criminal power in the international arena, earning the hatred and enmity of many other peoples in Asia and other continents. It is a course that increases the danger of imperialist war for the redivison of South Asia.
6. For peace and friendship amongst peoples of South Asia
In these past two years, Nepal has been in the throes of a revolution. The people have risen against the hated monarchy and are fighting for a republic. US imperialism and the Indian government have been trying to sabotage the revolution in Nepal. They wish that the monarchy not be overthrown completely, or that a parliamentary republic of the kind in India is established. Reactionary forces from India are openly interfering in Nepal.
LRS has always supported the struggle of the Nepali people to determine their own destiny, free from all foreign interference. We have worked and will continue to work closely with all other democratic forces in defence of the Nepali people, and against Indian and US political and military interference in Nepal. The people of Nepal are trying to innovate a political process that they think will place power in their hands. They have the full support of the Lok Raj Sangathan in this great initiative.
Pakistan is in the throes of a deep crisis. The people of Pakistan have risen up against the pro US regime of Musharraf. They have expressed their opposition to the Pakistani government and military establishment’s active participation in the US war against Afghanistan. The rebellion has spread to all sections of society including the Army. US imperialism is trying to manipulate the rebellion in its own favour by bringing one or the other party of the ruling class to power who would continue to defend US interests.
The problems facing Pakistan stem at this time from the alliance with US imperialism. The solution is to break the alliance with US imperialism, and throw out all those political forces who are for an alliance with the US. LRS is confident the people of Pakistan will find a way out of the crisis engulfing their country.
The military junta in Myanmar is facing a popular rebellion. US imperialism is trying to organise a regime change in Myanmar trying to ride on the discontent of the people. LRS stands with the people of Myanmar who are opposed to the rule of the military junta. It is important that the people of Myanmar not repose faith in any of the imperialist powers, particularly the US.
Bangladesh is in deep crisis, with the US actively intriguing in that country. Sri Lanka too continues to be entangled in its long drawn out crisis.
What is clear is that all the countries of the subcontinent are in crisis. US imperialism is actively interfering in this region to advance its interests. The ruling cliques are unable to address the problems of the people. The political systems and processes in place in these countries need urgent renewal. People are not satisfied with the present state of affairs, and are seeking solutions.
In this situation, LRS has worked actively to forge the unity of the peoples of the region, directed against US imperialism, and upholding the right of each people to determine their own destiny.
7. Organising workers, peasant, women and youth
LRS has actively worked to contribute to the building of organizations of workers, peasants, women and youth in defence of their rights.
LRS has consistently supported the work of the Hind Naujawan Ekta Sabha, organization of Indian youth, in the same manner as HNES has contributed greatly to the building and strengthening of the LRS.
LRS has actively worked to build and strengthen the Kamgaar Ekta Chalwal in Maharashtra, as well as contributed to the strengthening of other organisations of workers, like the JAC of UNI Employees, the Kanpur Textile Union, , the Ladaku Garment workers union and so on. LRS has participated in and supported the work of the Right to Work Campaign. LRS has contributed, together with other workers organizations, to building a center for workers called the All India Workers Council.
LRS has actively supported the organizing of women, for their rights and emancipation, and in this connection it has paid attention to contributing to the work of Purogani Mahhila Sangathan. PMS has played an important role in mobilising women politically for power.
LRS has worked to assist the peasantry in Tamilnadu and in Rajasthan in building their own organizations of struggle, around their own immediate and long term demands. It has consistently supported the struggle of the peasantry in these and other places.
LRS has supported the work of organizations in Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland, Assam and other places which unite the people in struggle against state terrorism and fascist laws, defend the human rights of the people, and work to unite the peoples in struggle for an end to national oppression.
8. Building and strengthening the Lok Raj Sangathan – organising for peoples power
The constant work of defending the rights of all is closely linked to the work of raising the political consciousness and level of political activity of the people. People need to be conscious of their rights, so that they will fight to defend them.
Encouraging the people to demand what is rightfully theirs, and helping them to organise themselves into Lok Raj Samitis in order to wage the day-to-day struggle effectively — this has been the main permanent activity of LRS. This is the work that will prepare the people, organised in their places of work and residence, to become the rulers, to hold and exercise political power. Hence, in the period since the Third All India Convention, the All India Council of the LRS has paid attention to this aspect of the work.
All activists in the movement are well aware that whenever the people wage resistance struggles, they give rise to sangharsh samitis to voice their immediate demands. These samitis generally come into being with the high tide of struggle and die away when the struggle is at an ebb. It is the conscious activity of building Lok Raj Samitis that will ensure that people continue to remain organized and fight for nothing less than political power in their own hands.
LRS has worked on a continuous basis to politically activate the people, to make them conscious of national and international affairs, to enable and mobilize them to participate in political meetings and demonstrations. It has concentrated on enabling people to build their organisations, their Lok Raj samitis, in mohallas, workplaces, and villages. These organisations enable the people to act as a political force capable of raising their own concerns, as well as intervening in the political system and process at different levels. LRS has in this manner fought the constant depoliticisation of the people which the ruling class parties carry out.
In the period since the Third Convention, the All India Council of the LRS has been strengthened. The All India Council meets regularly and leads the work of the organization. A Constitution of the LRS has been prepared and the organization is working according to this constitution. Regional Councils of the LRS have been elected in a number of regions and are functioning well. In many areas, local samitis of LRS — the Lok Raj Samitis– have been established.
9. Attitude to political parties
LRS believes that political parties have an important role to play in the polity. The role of a modern political party must be to organise and make the people conscious, for their empowerment. Unlike the Congress, BJP and some others, such a party must not try to acquire power itself in place of the people. Such a party may participate in the electoral process to make the people aware of its program, but not use this as a stepping stone to come to power itself.
There are political parties that are organising the people for political power, and contributing to the innovation of new mechanisms by which people can exercise power. Such parties, like the Communist Ghadar Party of India, have contributed to the work of people’s empowerment, including through the creation and strengthening of non partisan organisations and mechanisms for people’s empowerment, like the Lok Raj Sangathan. The Lok Raj Sangathan salutes the work of such parties and organisations. The Indian people need an organisation, a mechanism like the Lok Raj Sangathan, for their empowerment. All parties and organisations which are defending the rights of people, organising them, making them conscious, and working to ensure that those currently marginalised are empowered, must devote their energies to building and strengthening the Lok Raj Sangathan.
10. Towards the Fourth Convention and beyond
The struggles of the people for their human, democratic and national rights, against the liberalisation and privatization program, against state terror and state organized sectarian violence, against imperialism and war and the strategic alliance of India with US imperialism, have reached a definite stage. They have contributed to deepening the crisis of the present political system.
For the struggle of the people to advance beyond this stage, systematic organizing work on the part of Lok Raj Sangathan and all other parties and organisations working in defence of the rights of this or that section of our people, is absolutely crucial.
The big monopoly bourgeoisie and the political parties it patronises are already preparing for various options to come out of the present situation at the expense of the people. Among other things, they are deliberately creating an atmosphere of governmental crisis, holding out the threat of imminent elections at any time. At the same time they try to resolve, through secret and open deals and maneuvering, the conflicts among themselves over how to strengthen the alliance with the US imperialists and at the same time also develop closer relations with other imperialist powers.
Lok Raj Sangathan has the opportunity to take the struggle over the nature and content of Indian foreign policy forward. The foreign policy of India must be an anti-imperialist foreign policy, which serves the cause of peace and friendship amongst all peoples. It cannot be a policy dovetailed to serve the imperialist ambitions of the big monopoly capitalists.
Lok Raj Sangathan has already raised the demand that all international treaties be subjected to a vote in a referendum, apart from requiring parliamentary approval. The Constitution must be amended to make this mandatory. LRS could mobilize public opinion around these demands.
Every struggle of the people reveals that they have been deprived of rights under the present system. Even those rights that exist in the Constitution of India have no enforcing mechanism.
Lok Raj Sangathan is of the view that the Constitution must be renewed to guarantee human, democratic and national rights, along with the necessary enforcing mechanisms. There must be countrywide discussion on what constitute human, democratic and national rights, and what kind of enforcing mechanisms are needed to ensure these.
Major struggles have taken place over the SEZ question, in Bengal and other places. The demand that the colonial land acquisition act and the SEZ act be repealed has gained ground. At the same time, the ruling parties, from left and right, are coming together to work out an arrangement which will keep the peasantry and the working class out of the discussion on SEZs, and serve the interests of Indian and foreign multinationals. The Fourth All India Convention must take steps on this question to unite the forces inside and outside parliament fighting in defence of the rights of peasantry.
The entry of Indian and foreign corporate houses into retail and wholesale trade, especially trade in agricultural commodities, creates a serious situation for the peasantry, for the urban working people, as well as small traders and shopkeepers, hawkers etc. The livelihood of crores of people is going to be affected, as the biggest trading corporations first take over the nerve centres of trade, get the peasantry into their grip, and then squeeze all sections of the people. How should trade be organized so that the peasant and the urban city dweller both benefit? What should be the role of the state in this? The major parliamentary parties are playing a devious game on this issue. They do not want the people to engage each other in discussion on this vital question affecting everybody. Lok Raj Sangathan must, at its 4th All India Convention, take steps to involve the people of India in the solution of this problem. Workers’ organizations, peasants’ organizations, traders’ organizations and so on — all must be engaged in the working out of a harmonious solution to the problem of wholesale and retail trade that is in the service of the people.
The people of India are also waging a powerful struggle over who should control natural resources. In Jharkand, Orissa and Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and other states, foreign multinationals together with Indian multinationals are ruthlessly taking over the lands of peasants and tribals, in order to grab control of the rich mineral wealth lying beneath the soil. The State’s security forces have been deployed to crush the resistance of the people which is declared to be "naxalite inspired". In other parts of the country, like in the coastal regions, fishermen are fighting in defence of their rights, in the face of multinationals taking over the best fishing grounds in the seas. The question of who controls the resources of India has become a central issue to be addressed. The rulers declare that these resources are owned by the state and that the state can and will hand them over to private parties for their exploitation. The Fourth All India Convention of the LRS must take steps to unite people in solution of this problem.
The question of urban renewal, affecting the livelihood of crores of urban poor, has been in the forefront for some time. LRS has been in the front ranks, together with other organizations, in defending the livelihood and rights of the people, including the right to adequate housing. The UPA government is vigorously pursuing the JNURM, under which the state completely abdicates its responsibility to provide housing and shelter. The Fourth Annual Convention must resolve steps to further develop the struggle to guarantee the right to housing.
Three years after coming to power, the UPA government’s promise of "reform with a human face" stands more and more exposed on all fronts. Its alliance with the Left is under pressure of breaking down. The "opposition" BJP too remains quite discredited at this time. In these conditions, the ruling circles are resorting to old tried and tested methods to divert and divide the people, and paralyse them.
The weapons being deployed include bomb blasts and terrorist attacks against the people in different parts of the country. They include inciting of sectarian violence on such issues as reservation of jobs and reservation of seats for people of this or that caste. They include rousing passions of different peoples and communities, by deliberate acts of provocation and slander against the religions and faiths of people.
Lok Raj Sangathan will continue to take measures to unite the people in struggle against state organized terrorism and state organized sectarian violence. The Fourth Annual convention must take measures to unite the people on this front, and thwart the efforts of the ruling class parties to drown the struggles of people in a sectarian bloodbath.
The Fourth All India Convention must prepare LRS to be an organization capable of playing a central role in bringing together all the fighting forces of India under one banner so that in the coming period, both in the electoral arena as well as otherwise, the people and the people’s agenda will occupy the centre stage of politics.
To achieve this, the Fourth All India Convention will review and adopt the draft Constitution of Lok Raj Sangathan as a political organisation.
The Fourth Annual Convention will take steps to engage all the political forces in India who are committed to the empowerment of the people, in working out a common platform to intervene in the political arena, including in the electoral arena.
Assembly elections to Delhi, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and MP are due in 2008. The General Elections are due in 2009, but could be held at any time earlier. We need to prepare right from now to actively intervene in all these elections. Lok Raj Sangathan is aware that many other political forces are already engaged in similar initiatives, and it will try its utmost to work closely with all such forces, putting the cause of the empowerment of the Indian people at center of our concern.
December 6, 2007 is the 15th anniversary of the fall of Babri Masjid. December 10th is Human Rights Day. Can we organise joint actions all over the country in December, in defence of human rights, against black laws, and to punish those guilty of communal violence and genocide? This is one immediate task before us.
There is the all-important task of deepening and scaling up of the work of building Lok Raj Samitis in work places and residential areas, and building and strengthening the Regional Councils of the LRS.
There is the task of organizing the workers, peasants, women and youth, and other sections of the oppressed and marginalized people.
India today is a seething cauldron of unrest.
People are looking for a way forward. They are waging many courageous struggles.
The present political system and process is bankrupt and outdated. It has no solutions to any of the problems of the people.
LRS has the vision. The vision is an India in which people will govern themselves, without intermediaries. The vision is of an India wherein prosperity and security will be guaranteed for all. The vision is of an India where no nation or people will be oppressed, or forced at gunpoint to be part of a Union. The vision is of an India which is a factor of peace and friendship in the region and the world.
LRS has the solution. The solution is to organize the people to build their own organizations, around their own concerns, for people’s power. The solution is to build LRS as the mechanism by which people can govern themselves.
Lok Raj Sangathan must rise to the occasion! The Fourth All-India Convention must take the decisions that would enable LRS to play its vital role at this crucial time.