Fifth Convention of Lok Raj Sangathan – An important milestone in building the institutions of people’s power!
The Fifth Convention of Lok Raj Sangathan took place in New Delhi on November 7-8, 2009. Hundreds of delegates from several states of India and from abroad attended the Convention. Excellent presentations and discussions characterized the Convention.
The Secretary of Lok Raj Sangathan, Com Prakash Rao presented the organizational and political report covering the work of the organization during the two-year period since the previous Convention. The report vividly portrayed the growing stature of the organization, extension of the work of the organization to several new areas, interventions in major issues facing the people, active participation in the discourse on the current political process and the articulation of an alternative political process where people can play a decisive role in running the affairs of the country.
The report elaborated on the work of Lok Raj Sangathan among various sections of the people such as garment workers, unorganized sector workers, fishermen, automobile workers, railway workers, domestic workers, peasants, youth, women and so on. The active involvement of the organization in issues affecting the people on a day-to-day basis has certainly increased the reach and impact of LRS.
While presenting the report, Prakash Rao described the political environment in which the organization functioned during this period. This was a period in which the global economic downturn caused immense hardships to the people. The UPA government came to power for a second time promising inclusive growth, but immediately took measures to bail out the capitalists and tighten labour laws. The crisis in agriculture continued to deepen and thousands of farmers continued to commit suicide. The ruling circles have persisted on the path of liberalization, globalization and privatization with the aim of becoming a global imperialist power.
Prakash Rao pointed out that one of the main weapons of the rulers has been the use of state terrorism including the use of communal violence. Even 25 years after the massacre of Sikhs, the guilty have not been punished. Today the government sees economic, social and political problems as law and order problems and doesn’t hesitate to use draconian laws to crush the resistance of the people. LRS, along with other organizations, has played a crucial rule in exposing the lies of the state and awakening the people to the danger of state terrorism. LRS used incidents such as the Mumbai terror attacks, Batla house encounters, rape and murder of innocent people by security forces in the north-east and Kashmir to bring home the truth that state terrorism is a weapon in the hands of the government to consolidate its rule and push through anti-people reforms.
Assessing the recent parliamentary elections the report pointed out that there has been a shift in the alliance of political forces at the centre, with the parliamentary left getting isolated. The Congress has emerged as the most preferred party of the ruling elite.
During this period, the organization has been considerably strengthened. The All-India Council has provided excellent leadership to the work of LRS. Regional Councils have been set up in many areas. The work of building Lok Raj Samitis has gained momentum. The AIC acted decisively at crucial moments, such as the November Mumbai attacks and the agrarian crisis. Statements from the AIC guided the activists of the organization in taking correct positions and winning the trust of the people.
An important area of intervention of the organization has been among workers, belonging to various sectors. LRS has advocated the rights of workers through various conferences. It has supported the struggle of unorganized sector workers for a comprehensive bill ensuring security of livelihood and safety at work. A memorandum of the land acquisition bill and resettlement & rehabilitation bill was widely discussed and circulated.
During the parliamentary elections, LRS put up candidates in several parts of the country with the primary aim of exposing the present political and electoral process and generating a lively debate on the need for a new political process where people play a central role. The election campaign produced tremendous results in terms of popularizing the vision of LRS and strengthening its links with the people.
Regional Councils in several places have actively intervened to protect the rights of people and build political unity among diverse sections.
The Secretary made special mention of the efforts to build a membership-based mass organization during this period and the commendable success achieved so far.
Concluding the report, the Secretary stressed on the need to continue to build and strengthen the Councils of LRS and its Samitis. One of the major tasks in the coming period is to engage the people of India in discussion on the content of the various institutions of power of the ruling class, and put forth what would be the alternate institutions that people must establish in order to defend peoples power.
The President of LRS, Shri S Raghavan, assessed the current global and Indian scenario. He pointed out that the global crisis is far from over and while the Indian government is claiming that the country is out of the crisis, it is not bothered about the millions of unemployed workers and thousands of peasants who continue to take away their lives. The steps taken to bail out big businesses in the western countries without consulting the people exposed the real nature of democracy in these countries. Just as Mahabali, a popular King, was condemned as an asura and sent to patal, the present government has condemned workers, peasants and tribal people and declared them as the main enemy in the path of big business houses and monopolies to exploit the resources of the country and become world class players. Raghavan pointed out that tensions between various powers are increasing. In this situation the Indian government is in competition with other powers in the region to assert its superiority. This is not a factor for peace in the region. Those in power in India want the country to become a super power, but what benefit will this be for the people if this would lead to rivalry and tension in the region? While appreciating the tremendous work done by the organization so far, the President of LRS said that greater tasks await the organization in the coming period. LRS has already initiated the debate on the nature of the present institutions of power and the need for new institutions that would enable people to exercise political power. This effort has to be taken forward in the coming period.
Shri T S Sankaran, Honorary Chairperson of LRS, quoting the famous poet Subramania Bharathi that India speaks 18 languages but has one thought, felt that while participants from several regions expressed their ideas in several languages, their thought was one. The proceedings at the Convention showed the tremendous unity in thought that the organization has achieved and the day is not far when destiny will be in the hands of people. Spending thousands of crores on the Commonwealth games, land grab in Lalgarh and other places, ministry making in Karnataka and Maharashtra, events such as these show that those in power today are not fit to govern and makkalatchi (people’s power) has to be established. Shri Sankaran condemned the harassment of LRS activists by the police, particularly in TN.
Justice Suresh, Honorary Chairperson, was of the opinion that every election has weakened democracy in our country. While the UPA government claims it represents the people of India, not more than 10% of people voted for it. Our Constitution has very noble objectives but what we have today is representative democracy in a very unequal society. That is why there is a need for an organization like LRS, because without the empowerment of the people, democracy cannot work. LRS has to involve itself in every struggle of the people. Every where I go I see injustice. People have to wait for years for justice while the Ambanis get a hearing within 20 days. The government has to address injustices being meted out every day to tribals and other sections. It has to punish the guilty. How can we call present day India as a democracy when force is being used in Kashmir and north-east. People have lost faith in the judiciary. We need a system where human rights are recognized, violation of human rights is prevented and human rights are fulfilled. Justice Suresh cited the example of eviction of forest dwellers from Borivali national park by the Bombay High Court and his efforts to stop the eviction. In conclusion he said that we need change, but it will not come from the judiciary or the government, it has to come from the people.
Comrade Sanjeewani Jain who spoke on behalf of the Communist Ghadar Party of India appreciated the content of the Convention and the active participation of the delegates intervening in several languages. She pointed out that the measure of progress of any society is the level of participation of women. In this Convention, 40% of delegates were women and they were frontline participants. She urged that we have to discard eurocentrism and modernize our institutions of power. Many thousands of communist have given their lives for the emancipation of our country. At the same time there are also those who call themselves communists and spread illusions among the people about today’s parliamentary system. Ghadar party will certainly march shoulder to shoulder with all people and organizations who are fighting for lok raj.
Dr Pardesi Singh, Vice President of LRS, made a strong case for organizing big yatras and prachar for taking the message of LRS to the crores of people of India. He described the serious situation in Manipur and the mounting protests of people against the draconian laws.
Thought provoking interventions from delegates enlivened the proceedings. As Mr. T.S. Sankaran said, the Convention was itself like a mini-India, with participants coming from places as varied as Rajasthan, Tamilnadu, Bengal, Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, UP, and so on. Particularly noticeable was the participation of women, who formed a sizeable proportion of those present, showing that the cause of lokraj is close to their hearts. The overwhelming majority of delegates were youth, who spoke ardently of what their hopes and demands were, and of how they had to take forward this movement. One of the young women present said that she had been participating in LRS programs for a number of years, but that it was now that she really understood the importance of what LRS is trying to achieve, and she appealed to the other youth present to work together to realise its aims.
The proceedings were enriched by the interventions made by people from different regions and from different sections of society, who shared their experience of struggle. A delegate from Rajasthan spoke about how exploitation is increasing in all sectors. For instance, the government is now resorting to hiring teachers, whom they call “Vidyarthi Mitra”, at the paltry salary of Rs 3000 per month on contract basis. A participant from Himachal spoke about the struggle against hydro-electric projects in that region that are displacing thousands of people and damaging the environment. The leader of a union of domestic workers in Mumbai spoke powerfully about the struggle of this section of workers to come together and jointly fight their extremely exploitative conditions of work. From Haryana, a delegate spoke about how farmers are being exploited in the name of land acquisition and how agriculturally productive lands are being given off to wealthy corporates by the government. A delegate from the Indian Community in Canada told the gathering how happy he was to see people from all corners of India talking passionately about how to build the organization and reminded that the whole world is watching India. Another delegate from the Indian community in the US reiterated that the mission of LRS is to enable people to take power in their own hands and that LRS has been opposing the imperialist attack on the anti-war movement and has been steadfastly working for peace in south Asia. All these and other interventions drove home the point of the immense amount of work that LRS needs to do to bring all those deprived under the prevailing system on the common platform of lokraj, which alone promises them a future.