Elections in Chhattisgarh: To solve the problems of Chhattisgarh, political power should be vested in the hands of the people!
Elections to the Chhattisgarh state assembly are being conducted in two phases on 11 and 19 November. The monopoly media, reflecting the interests of the biggest monopolies, is viewing the elections in Chhattisgarh through the prism of how it will impact the General Elections in 2014. The concerns of the working class, peasantry and tribal people of Chhattisgarh find no place in this viewpoint. The two main parties of the ruling establishment, the Congress and BJP are battling it out for power. Since Chhattisgarh attained statehood in 2000, the state was ruled by the Congress till 2003 and by the BJP since then.
Apart from the Congress and BJP, a united front of various political parties such as the CPI, Chhattisgarh Swabhiman Morcha, Loktantrik Samajwadi Party and Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha have come together under the banner of the Chhattisgarh Samyukta Morcha. The CPI (Maoist) has appealed to the voters to boycott the elections.
These elections are once again being held literally under army siege. In the name of ensuring "free and fair elections", the armed forces have been deployed in many areas of the state, especially in the areas which went to the polls on November 11. In regions of the state like Bastar, they are planning to post one heavily armed soldier for every 30 citizens! The armed forces have been carrying on so called "combing operations" in several districts, forcing the villagers to flee their homes. The Chief Election Commissioner has announced that the Commission is considering the option of moving some polling stations to convenient places tens of kilometres away from the villages where the electors resided! On November 5, the Election Commission announced that the location of polling booths in "sensitive" areas would be revealed only two days before the elections! Air Force helicopters will be used to airlift polling teams., making a mockery of the electoral rules!
What does this "free and fair" elections mean for the affected tribal people of Chhattisgarh? It does not matter how many times the Election Commission and the monopoly media claim "free and fair" elections, this is nothing but a travesty of truth. Elections held under the gunpoint of the armed forces cannot be "free" let alone "fair". Villager are caught in a quandary. According to press reports, villagers are supposed to have said that if they do not vote, they will be considered Maoists by the armed forces, and if they voted, they would be targeted by the Maoists. Press reports have also quoted villagers as "requesting" the army not to put ink on their fingers after voting, as they did not allegedly want to be identified as having voted. In other words, these elections will be conducted like similar elections have been held in the past in Kashmir, with the armed forces conducting them, and possibly rigging them.
The manner of conduct of elections in Chhattisgarh puts a big question mark over the recent Supreme Court ruling that the right not to vote was a democratic right that must be as much respected as the right to vote. On this basis, the Election Commission was asked to provide the None of the Above (NOTA) option in the Electronic Voting Machines. It stands to reason that neither the right to vote nor the right not to vote are being guaranteed in Chhatisgarh, and this is happening in broad daylight under the nose of the Supreme Court. Such is the reality of the "free and fair" elections that are being conducted by the Election Commission, and heralded as such by the national media.
In this state, over 80% of the population depends on agriculture with paddy, wheat and groundnut being the major crops, and the central region of the state is also known as the rice bowl of India. Nearly 30 % of the population comprises tribal people. Forests, rivers, and mineral resources of all kinds abound. The state is a major producer of steel and cement. Apart from the Bhilai Steel Plant, there are numerous other steel plants in this state. Skilled workers and technicians from all across India have made the state their home over the past few decades. Chhattisgarh is a power surplus state and its potential to generate power is immense. Located in the heart of India, it is easy to supply power to any of the four national girds. All this has made Chhattisgarh the favourite destination of Indian and foreign monopolies.
Most of the investments (68.9 %) were in the electricity sector. On November 3, 2012, the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh claimed to have received proposals amounting to Rs 1.22 lac crores Rupees during a two – day ‘Global Investor Meet’. According to the Planning Commission the state economy grew at over 10 percent for two consecutive years since 2010. On the other hand, the UN Human Development Index ranks Chhattisgarh 18th out of 19 states. The standard of living of the masses of people in Chhattisgarh is not only extremely low, but that there are also huge disparities due to inequality in respect of income, access to health, education and social services. The life expectancy for Chhattisgarh is again one of the lowest among Indian states – only 58.0 years – against the all India average of 63.5 years. There are many villages without power and proper roads.
Economic development in the state has not showered prosperity, but only disasters on the working class, the peasantry and the tribal people. The wealth of the people has been plundered by Indian and foreign business houses in typical imperialist and colonial fashion, taking out much more than what has been put into the economy. Labour laws are openly violated. The forest produce belonging to the tribal people are systematically robbed by the forest officials and the contractor mafia. The biggest Indian and foreign monopolies have been permitted to take over the rich lands belonging to the tribal peoples to extract the minerals, while the people have been forcibly displaced.
The workers, peasants and tribal people have refused to take these attacks lying down. They have fought heroically to assert their rights, in the face of the most savage state repression. The state has seen some of the major struggles of workers and of the tribal peoples against the efforts of the monopolies to sink their claws into this rich land endowed with so many resources.
People of Chhattisgarh are daily facing unbridled state terror. The notorious Salwa Judum was created here to organise civil war amongst the tribal population and clear the land of more than 150 villages. The Chhattisgarh Public Safety Act has enabled the state to arrest and torture all those who oppose injustice. Both Congress and BJP justify this state terror in the name of "wiping out the Maoists" and ensuring "development". In fact, their target is the peoples struggles, and their aim is to ensure maximum profits for the Indian and foreign monopolies through the most intense exploitation and plunder of the labour and resources of the people.
No matter which party comes to power in Chhattisgarh, the problems facing the people will not be resolved. The root of the problems facing the people of the state lies in the economic and political systems in place in our country. Big business interests drive the economic and political systems of the country. These interests allow the imperialist plunder of the land and labour of the people. The Indian Union is a prison house of nations and peoples. Within this prison house, the rights of the different nations, nationalities and tribal peoples are brutally trampled under the ground. The present system of democracy merely ensures that only political parties committed to preserving the status quo and imperialist domination, and to the trampling of human, democratic and national rights of the people will be allowed to form a government.
The people of Chhattisgarh have a proud history of fighting against exploitation and injustice, both during the anti colonial struggle, and in the sixty six years since independence. Lok Raj Sangathan is fighting for an immediate end to state terror, for the revocation of all fascist laws including the Chhattisgarh Public Safety Act, and for the release of all political prisoners. We are committed to replacing the present system of democracy with one in which people will be empowered, and will be able to set the orientation of the economy to fulfil the needs of all. We are demanding the reconstitution of the Indian Union as a voluntary union of nations and peoples, based on relations of mutual benefit. Only when political power is vested in the hands of the vast majority of the people and their political marginalisation is ended, can our people hope to progress towards a bright future.