On behalf of the All India Council of the Lok Raj Sangathan, I extend greetings to all of you members and sympathizers of LRS, as well as friends from other organizations.
Yesterday, the 4th All India Convention of the Lok Raj Sangathan was successfully concluded. The Convention assessed the situation in our country, in our neighbourhood and worldwide. It assessed the work of the LRS in the past two years. We summed up the successes as well as the challenges ahead. And the biggest challenge in front of LRS, in front of all the organizations and individuals who are fighting for the rights of people, is to unite and organize the people to take political power in their own hands.
The theme of today’s public meeting is Building the future – Organising for peoples power.
There are many issues which need to be addressed. Given that there are many speakers we have invited to shed light on this theme, I shall restrict myself to a few points.
When we begin to build the future of India, we have to begin from the present. The future of India is inexorably connected with the present as well as the past of India. There is something absent in the present, which is what is making people fight for and create a new future.
PEOPLE HAVE NO RIGHTS
Comrades and friends, what is missing in present day India is rights. The people have no rights. The human rights of the people, their democratic rights, and their national rights are violated day in and day out. This is the reality of our country, behind all the façade of democracy.
People have no right to food, clothing and shelter, to education and health care. People do not have the right to work, nor the right to livelihood. According to a government statistic, majority of Indians have to live on less than Rs 20 a day.
The peasant has no right over his land. He can be forcibly deprived of the land by the government though the colonial land acquisition act, or the modern day SEZ act . Or he can be deprived of it by the state and various capitalists using the brute force of police and goondas.
Two thirds of our people live in countryside. They feed the country, but they themselves have no security of life and livelihood, According to a recent Survey by the MIDS, 1.5 lakh peasants have committed suicide in the last 10 years alone. And these are peasants who are engaged in cash crop production.
The urban poor does not have even the right to live in his miserable shelter in a jhopar pattii or slum. It will be demolished, along with all his or her belongings whenver it suits the powers that be. When the big corporates eye his tiny patch of land, and decide it needs to be “developed” so that they can establish a mall or a commercial complex, the government and the courts will move in to assist, as surely as night follows day.
When the big corporations decide that profits will improve if hawkers and small traders are deprived of the right to do business, then government carries out sealing drives and declares these people illegal. The hawker and trader simply does not have the right to livelihood.
The only “right” that seems to be guaranteed in our country, is the “right” to private profit of big corporations by exploiting the land, the natural resources, and labour of the people of our country.
The stock market is booming. India has become the biggest destination for foreign capital from all over world, competing with China. Americans, Russians, Germans, Japanese, French, British, Brazilians, South Africans – literally everyone are investing in India. There is hectic industrial and commercial activity. Metros, Malls, flyovers, Busways, massive retail outlets, bustling construction activity — these are there to see all over India. The countryside is changing. Corporate farming and forward trading in agricultural commodities has begun. The government has opened up the mineral rich areas for exploitation to Indian and international companies. It has established SEZ’s wherein companies from India and all over the world can set up their plants. Companies of all kinds from all over the world are rushing in to take advantage of the attractive concessions being offered by the government.
What are the rights that are inviolable for all human beings. What are the rights that accrue to women, to children, to the aged, to the disabled? What are the rights that accrue to. nations and other collectives? Anyone who is committed to resolving the conflicts that are tearing apart Indian society today, anyone wanting to build a bright future for the Indian people, will have to answer these questions.
State terrorism, and parliamentarism — twin weapons to keep the people out of power
The flourishing of state terrorism and parliamentarism are two features of the polity of India that stand out. In state terrorism, I include state organized violence against people of both overt and covert variety, including pogroms unleashed by ruling parties with support of state machinery, and bomb blasts and encounter killings organized by the police and intelligence agencies.
It is important to note that both state terrorism and parliamentarism are methods of rule of the ruling class. Together, they block the people from fighting for their rights. Together they prevent the people from coming to power.
State terrorism is routinely organized to ensure electoral victories for this or that party. And victory in parliamentary and assembly elections and formation of governments is justification for any kind of crime against people.
In the hundred of cases of state sponsored massacres, the party in power has invariably justified these massacres flaunting that it has “popular support”. Rajeev Gandhi and his Congress Party did this in 1984. Modi and BJP did it in 2002. And today in Bengal, CPIM General Secretary Prakash Karat justifies the violence and mayhem unleashed by his party cadres in Nandigram saying his party has the “popular mandate”.
Bestial massacres of people in Nellie in Assam (1983) Delhi and Kanpur (1984), Punjab in the 1980’s and 90’s, Maliana (1987) Bhagalpur (1989), Surat, Mumbai and other places (1993), Gujarat (2002) and in many other places have hit the headlines from time to time. The whole of India, the whole world, knows that the entire state machinery has been involved in these massacres, with the political leadership openly leading the killer hoards. The guilty have not been punished.
Look at what is happening in Chattisgarh. The state is openly organizing civil war, using the tribal people. Here it is a BJP ruled state.The excuse advanced is that Maoists need to be fought. In Nandigram, the same thing is happening. The armed goon quads of the ruling party the CPIM have invaded Nandigram, raped and murdered people, under the protection of the state security forces and the ruling party. They want to “liberate” Nandigram from whom? From the people, whom they accuse of being naxalites, and with other labels. In other states too, political parties in power routinely carry out murder and mayhem with full protection of state machinery.
In the North East, Kashmir and other parts of the country, the state has also set in motion mercenary groups who are charged with spreading mayhem and terror and killing militants as well as people suspected of being anti state. At the same time, the armed forces, under the cover of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, openly carry out murder, torture and rape.
Routinely, the agencies of the state organize bomb blasts leading to the horrific death of hundreds of innocent people of all faiths and regions. The intelligence agencies name this or that organization as responsible. The guilty are neither caught nor brought to trial nor punished. The Muslim community is terrorized. It seems the main aim of these bomb blasts is to divide and disorient the people, terrorise them, and create conditions for unleashing sectarian violence. This is a preferred tool in the hands of the ruling class to keep the people under leash, a justification for unleashing fascist laws and repression on the people.
Comrades and friends
The Indian ruling classes are past masters at organizing elections in order to legitimize their rule. The system of representative democracy that we have in place ensures that the only power people have is to caste their vote for this or that candidate. The people do not have the right to select candidates from their midst. They do not have the right to recall a elected representative who is unfit. They have no right to legislate.
A small executive comprising the Union Cabinet exercises power. The majority of members of parliament themselves have very limited powers. Parliament is a talk shop, and the real business of state is carried on behind the scenes. The financial oligarchy, the big monopolies control power.
Various political parties of this ruling class rule in the name of the people. They depoliticize the people, keep them disorganized, and divided and diverted, All the political parties of the ruling class are united on two things — to serve loyally the interests of the ruling class, and to ensure that people are forever kept marginalized from power.
Comrades and friends,
What is the future of India that we envisage, and who will bring it about?
The future of India is one where Sukh and Raksha is guaranteed to one and all. It is one wherein human rights, including democratic and national rights, are guaranteed and inalienable.
The constitution of India must guarantee it and there must be enabling mechanisms to ensure the same. The economy of India must be oriented in such a way that guaranteeing the right to livelihood for all is ensured.
This means that the human rights of every one is guaranteed by law and there are enabling mechanisms for ensuring realization. No one should be persecuted for their religion, for their caste, for their gender, language, region, race and so on. No one should be persecuted for their views.
This means that no nation or people should feel exploited or treated in step motherly fashion. No one should be held at bayonet point. Together, we should reconstitute a voluntary union of consenting peoples. That is the union should be constructed on the basis of each people having the freedom to decide their own destiny— including the freedom to secede from the union.
Lok Raj Sangathan is convinced that such a society is possible to create. It is those who are are deprived of rights today, deprived of power today, who will build such a society. This means that the vast masses of our people, who are marginalized in the present system, have to come together and organize to change society.
And the first change in this society will be that we have to organize the people to come to power.
We have to challenge this system of representative democracy in full view of the masses. We have to involve the people in challenging this system that marginalizes them. We have to smash any illusions that are created about this system, illusions which assist the ruling class to perpetuate their rule and keep the people out of power.
Why should the people not select and elect candidates from amongst their midst? Why shouldn’t people not recall representatives who betray their mandate? Why should not people also have the right to initiate legislation? Why should political political parties rule in the name of the people? What should the role of political parties in a system where people are to bein power?
LRS has been discussing these issues right in the midst of the people, We have not only been discussing, we have been working to innovate the new process that will place the people in power. Once the people realize that they do not have power, and start putting forth the alternative themselves and fighting for the same, then no force on earth will prevent people from coming to power. We will certainly establish a system of direct democracy suitable for India!
I call upon all of you to address this question of replacing system of representative democracy by direct democracy.
Comrades and friends
If people have to come to power, we have to organize them for the same.
For thousands of years, our people established forms of organization to ensure that at a the village level, through their sabhas and samitis they could rule, even while the rajas ruled at the top. The colonialists tried their level best to destroy the organizations of the people and their forms of rule.
As the bourgeoisie intensifies its anti social offensive of liberalization, privatization and globalizations, all sections of our people are getting hit. They include workers and peasants and working people, women and youth, the adivasis, the traders and shop keepers. In the course of the struggle to defend their rights, they have given birth to fighting organizations that advance their interests.
But the crucial challenge that confronts all is this—political power vests with the big bourgeoisie and the people are marginalized from power. Therefore, the people can fight, they can protest, but the power to take decisions affecting their lives eludes them.
There are two choices before the organizations that emerge in the course of the struggle.
One is to merge with the existing political process and political system, and support this or that party of the ruling class. In such a case, such organizations get effectively paralysed, or become tools of this or that party of the ruling class. This paralysis becomes most visible at election time.
The other is to recognize that political power must be wrested from the hands of the bourgeoisie into the hands of the people. That is the organizations that people have given birth to must challenge the existing political system and process, and become part of creating the alternative to this system.
Lok Raj Sangathan is committed to building the alternative political system and process.
Wherever we organize the people in struggle for their rights, we must strive to build Lok Raj Sabhas and Lok Raj Samitis. In the villages and mohallas, in factories and fields, in schools and universities, everywhere let us work amongst the people to build Lok Raj Sabhas and elect Lok Raj Samitis. In these samitis, people must discuss the different problems confronting them and put forth solutions. These problems could be problems of their local area, they could be problems confronting the country as a whole. They must organize around these solutions. They must actively participate in the electoral process, selecting and electing candidates, as well as supervising the work of the candidates.
Apart from the Lok Raj Samitis, we must establish area councils in different areas, district councils in the districts, regional councils in different states.
These Lok Raj Councils and Samitis must vigorously participate in the existing political process. At the same time, they have the crucial task of elaborating a new political system and process.
The Indian people need a mechanism by which they can rule themselves.
Lok Raj Sangathan was formed to be that mechanism.
It is the duty of every one who wants the empowerment of the people to pour his or her energy into the building of such a instrument for the empowerment of people.
It does not matter that you are a member of a political party or not. It does not matter what your ideology is. What matters is your commitment to the cause of empowerment of people. If the people do not have one centralized mechanism by which they can exercise power, they will always be deprived of power. This is why, each and every one of you who is commited to the empowerment of people must take up the most important task of building and strengthening the Lok Raj Sangathan.
Comrades and friends
Throughout India, there is opposition to India joining the US led war against terror. There is opposition to the Indo US strategic alliance. We saw, during the campaign against Bush’s visit how millions of Indians rallied under one banner, despite the efforts of the government and its agencies to divide the people. We have also seen that there is massive opposition to the Indo US strategic alliance. However the ruling class is trying to crush this opposition by dividing the people.
It is made out that only Muslims and communists are opposed to this alliance and to this war against terror, and that communists must not join with Muslims and vice versa. This is a diabolical game. Muslims are part of the people, communists are part of the people, and their can be communists who come from Muslim families as well. And all sections of people, including sadhus and sants are opposed to the Indo US alliance.
Why should we not campaign for a referendum on the strategic alliance with the US? Why should all organizations opposed to the strategic alliance not organize country wide joint mass protests demanding a popular referendum?
I call upon other speakers give their view on this proposal.
Throughout India, people are agitated about state terrorism, the organizing of bomb blasts, as well as the persecution of innocent people for these crimes. Many organizations and individuals in different parts of the country are fighting to defend the rights of the people against state terrorism.
Lok Raj Sangathan is of the view that a sustained united political campaign to expose and oppose state terrorism in its varied forms must be carried out. We must expose who the guilty are and fight that the guilty are punished. We continue to fight for the repeal of black laws like AFSPA, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) act, the Chattisgarh Public Safety Act, the Acts in Maharashtra and UP allegedly to put down “organized crime” etc.
December 6 is the 15th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. December 10 is International Human Rights Day. LRS proposes that we mark the International Human Rights Day with mass rallies and public meetings all over the country to highlight the absence of human, democratic and national rights and to affirm that we the people of India will never give up the struggle for rights or cease fighting to punishing the guilty.
I call upon other speakers gave their views on this proposal too.
Comrades and friends
Lok Raj Sangathan has had the privilege of working with so many organizations and individuals in different fronts of work and struggle. From this podium I mention a few such as the Communist Ghadar Party of India, the Jamaat Islami e Hind, the Hind Naujawan Ekta Sabha, the Jamiat Ulema e Hind, the NPMHR, the COHR, the Manipuri Students Association of Delhi, the Peoples Consultancy Forum of Assam, the Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha, NCC –UW, NAPM (Tamilnadu), the Purogami Mahla Sangathan, Kamgaar Ekta Chalwal, Insaaf, CNDP, the Sikh Forum, the UNI employees union, the Punjab Human Rights Organization, Ladaku Kamgar Union, the Bangladesh Bharat Pakistan Peoples Forum, and several others. From this podium, we declare that in future too, from our part we will strive to work closely with these and other organizations so that the great goal of power in the hands of the people is realized.
The work of the Lok Raj Sangathan would never have advanced but for the great and tireless contribution of the youth. These young men and women have been inspired by the political line and program of LRS. They have dared to implement, in their areas, the alternative political process in full view of the masses. In the process, they have shown that the youth, particularly the working class youth, are the force that once organised will surely transform the face of India.
We will continue to pay first rate attention to establishing and strengthening organizations of workers, peasants, women, youth, and other deprived and disadvantaged sections of the population. We have had the honour of working with others to establish organizations that have been necessary for the struggle, such as the Ghadar Jari Hai Organising Committee, All India Workers Council, the Jan Pratinidhi Manch (which has played a yeoman role in the Delhi Corporation elections), the Committee for Judicial Accountability and Reform (which has taken up the struggle to reform the judiciary), the Saanjha Manch, (which has brought together different organizations working in Delhi against demolitions) as well as the Peasants Union in Tamilnadu.
Comrades and friends,
I want to bring to your attention that two years ago, one of the main decisions we took at the LRS convention was to carry out a campaign for reform of political process. We successfully carried out this campaign and took the next logical step of fielding candidates in the panchayat and corporation elections in Tamilnadu, Maharashtra and Delhi.
The experience of this participation has been truly exhilarating. Elections are like a war in, no less. They are not for the weak minded. For the bourgeoisie, the elections are a means to decide which of the parties which serves their interest should rule. Every effort is made, using money and muscle power, the propaganda of the media, as well as the official machinery of state including the election commission, to make the people extremely marginal to the process. The system does not want people to put forth candidates from their midst and challenge the domination of the political parties of the ruling class.
We of the Lok Raj Sangathan are fighting to establish a new political system and process in India in which the very mechanism will ensure that people will rule. Those who participated in the election campaign in Delhi would have seen the excitement on the face of the people and the prospective candidates when after sustained campaign, selection meetings were organized in different constituencies to select a candidate.
The entire process of electoral participation has been a huge learning experience for all – for the candidates for the members of the Samitis and ward committees, for all who participated in the campaign. Cutting across class divide, the activists of the JPM, in their summing up meeting, highlighted the anti democratic character of the existing system and process and their determination to continue to fight it in the future.
The bourgeoisie wants that no one should challenge the domination of Congress, BJP and some others in the electoral arena. Most importantly it does not want people to start thinking about alternative political system and process. It wants to restrict peoples participation in political system and process to merely casting the vote. This is where the great clash is taking place.
LRS does not agree with those political forces who say that electoral arena should be left to Congress, BJP and some others, that question of participation should be decided by winnability, etc. Quite a few of our candidates have won the elections too. We are not participating to lose, but the crucial question is to define victory.
How do we define victory for the people? Victory is first and foremost the advance in consciousness and organization of people towards political power in their own hands. We have always judged our participation from this standpoint. Whereever we have participated, one of the things that has been unleashed is the boundless energy of the youth, Another, is that the whole constituency is engaged in discussion on the alternative. A third is that organizations of the people have been built and strengthened in the struggle. And from this standpoint, I can say with confidence, we won in Tamilnadu, we won in Maharashtra, and we won in Delhi. And we will win in the future too.
In the coming period, a number of elections to state assemblies are going to take place, and there is also a general election due in 2009.
Once again, the Congress and the BJP will be fighting for power with alliances around them.
These elections will provide an excellent opportunity to showcase the alternative political system and process as well as expose the present system.
The ruling class parties are divided and discredited. They do not have the support of the people. What they have is the state machinery in their hand, money and muscle power, and the machinery to win elections. The forces challenging the ruling class are many. They are there all over the country. They are truly fighting for empowerment of people. If all those opposed to the exploitative and oppressive rule get together under one political platform of peoples power, LRS is confident we can give a serious challenge .
LRS calls upon all political and social forces who are working for empowerment of people to come forward and actively work to intervene in the parliamentary and assembly elections in a manner that will take the struggle for political power forward.
Comrades and friends
All of you present here are fighters for the cause of the people. You have been working day and night for the empowerment of the people. Lok Raj Sangathan is committed to the cause of building a new India wherein the people will be truly in power. Wherein the present system of representative democracy will be replaced with a system of direct democracy through which people can exercise power.
I call upon all of you to regard the Lok Raj Sangathan as your own organization, the organization of the Indian people! Pour all your energies into building and strengthening it! The future of India will then surely be bright!
Lok Raj Sangathan Zindabad!