Over 30,000 people, under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], on Wednesday laid siege to government offices in seven tehsils of Thane-Palghar districts of Maharashtra over a set of demands including the scrapping of the Mumbai- Ahmedabad bullet train project.
With simultaneous rallies of several thousands at Dahanu, Talasari, Jawhar, Vikramgad, Palghar, Wada and Shahapur, the class and mass fronts of the party like the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), Democratic Youth Federation India (DYFI) and Student Federation of India (SFI) have come together raising the demands.
The charter lists demand such as: scrap projects like the bullet train, express highway and river linking scheme that will destroy farmers and their livelihoods; vest forest land, varkas land, temple trust land and pasture land in the names of the cultivating peasants; give priority to water for drinking and irrigation to the people of both districts from the huge dams in existence; and solve local problems of drought, ration, employment, education, health, pension, electricity, houses and roads.
“In the name of the bullet train and highway projects, the government is grabbing thousands of acres of the farming land. The steps to take over the land is in progress,” said Ashok Dhawale, National President of AIKS.
The farmers and tribals from the bullet train project-affected areas of Maharashtra and Gujarat have been protesting for a while. The Gujarat farmers have even moved to the court, and written to the Japanese company that was a partner in the project. Amidst the intensive struggle, the Japanese company has stepped back from the deal.
One another major issue is the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA). “In March, during the Kisan Long March, the state government had accepted the demand of the tribals regarding the implementation of FRA. But, they have not implemented it yet. So, we demand FRA 2006,” Dhawale added.
The third issue is that 20 to 25 villages are expected to be submerged due to the scheme of linking the river in the area. These are all domiciled villages, and there are about 500,000 people residing in these villages. Because of this, the house, the land, and all the property will be submerged, he said.
A concerted campaign is also being conducted during this struggle “against the policies of the BJP government that have led to the back-breaking price rise in petrol, diesel, gas and other essential commodities; the alarming rise in unemployment, poverty, indebtedness and malnutrition; the Rafale fighter plane deal which is steeped in rampant corruption and crony capitalism of the Modi regime at the highest levels; and the communal and casteist atmosphere being incited all over the country.”
Explaining why October 10 has been chosen to launch this movement, Dhawale said that the same day every year is observed as Martyrs' Day and as the death anniversary of the legendary farmers’ leader Godavari Parulekar. Hence, it was decided to resort to the struggle on the same day. “On October 10, 1945, a farmer was killed, and since then the day is observed as Martyr’s day. So far, 61 farmers have been killed in police repression in this area alone,” he said.
The struggle will continue until the local demands are conceded in writing by the officials.