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Marxists, Gandhians, Lohiaites, Ambedkarites come together in Kolkata to Varanasi yatra

By Harsh Thakor* 

A Jan Chetna Yatra, organised by a conglomeration of Left-wing associations -- trade unions, students’ organisations, women's groups and citizens rights groups -- with the slogan Fight Fascism and Neoliberalism written in the central banner, was planned from Kolkata to Varanasi from 6th to 20th December 2023. It aimed at raising awareness among people about the “communal agenda” of RSS-BJP and their “corporate-friendly anti-people and pro-imperialist policies.”
The organisations which took part in the yatra constituted Akhil Hind Forward Block (Krantikari), Azad Gana Morcha, BAFRB, Bihar Nirman va Asangathit Shramik Union, Chay Bagan Sangram Samiti), CCI, CPI-ML, CPI-ML (ND), CPI-ML (RI), FIR, Janwadi Lok Manch, Marxist Coordination Committee, MKP, Nagrik Adhikar Raksha Manch, PCC CPI-ML, PDSF, SNM, and other individuals.
More than a thousand people joined the inaugural rally in Kolkata. Around 50-100 people continuously marched on the whole path, while people from the several regions through which it traversed kept integrating and hosting local programmes.
The first day of the yatra was concluded in the district of Hooghly. It raised its voice to the optimum to wage a war against the fascist and neoliberal onslaught on the people, to consolidate and develop the struggle for democracy, equality and progress.
On the second day, amidst a heavy downpour, the yatra transcended the district of Hooghly. On the streets of the Hooghly industrial area as well as the important towns of Serampore, Chandannagar and Chinsurah, raising revolutionary slogans, songs and spirited speeches, participants gave the call to struggle against fascist and corporate aggression. It established a link with industrial workers.
On day 3, the yatra, bisected the streets of East and West Bardhaman district. It traversed the towns of Bardhaman, Galsi and Panagarh.
On day 4, the yatra encompassed the Bankura district of West Bengal. Rally and protest demonstrations were held in Barjora, Bankura town and Beliatore. Peasants, workers, student-youth, representatives of Adivasi community organisations joined the yatra.
On the 6th day, starting from Barabani, West Bengal, the yatra set foot in the state of Jharkhand. Marching through the coal mines of Jharia and Dhanbad, the yatra raised slogans against the privatisation of coal mines and corporate loot of Jal-Jangal-Zamin.
On Day 7, the yatra passed through the coal mines and the steel city of Nirsa, Putki, Munirdih and Bokaro in Jharkhand, protesting against the privatisation of mines and deciding to decisively struggle against the forces of corporate raaj.
On Day 11, the yatra traversed Nokha, Rajpur and Sasaram in Bihar.
On December 13th an impactful convention was staged in Gandhi hall, in Patna, attended by 160 persons, followed by a march of 50 persons. The speakers summarised all the root causes and inter-linked aspects of fascism, particularly its correlation with the monopoly capital and rule of the corporates, giving emphasis on building people’s movements.
Speeches were made by Alik Chakraborty of CPI (ML) Revolutionary Initiative, Arvind Sinha of CPI (ML) and Preeti Sinha of magazine ‘Filhaal’. Speakers highlighted attacks on democratic rights of people, attempts to divide people on religious and caste lines, and economic exploitation in relation to the goal of an egalitarian society.
From December 16 to 19, the yatra passed through Gaya, Rohtas, Konch, Daud Nagar, Gorarai and Nasriganj, and crossed over to Uttar Pradesh with a public meeting held in Chandauli, UP. It culminated in Varanasi at Benares Hindu University Lanka gate on 20th December 2023. Around 50 activists, comprising around 10 groups converged at the Trauma Centre and marched along in a procession to Lanka gate, which was addressed by a wide spectrum of speakers.
A discussion on 'Equality in Contemporary India' was held in in the afternoon at the Paradkar Bhavan to discuss the struggle ahead. Around 20 organisations spoke, encompassing diverse trends.

Feedback of rally

During the yatra, street corner programmes were a routine feature where speakers addressed issues specific to the region and placed the need for fermenting a revolutionary struggle against neoliberal fascist forces who, they claimed, are dividing society by poisoning people with communal hatred.
“Based on the discussion with the local activists we feel that nationalised mines are gradually shifting towards corporatisation and in the process, the workforce is being outsourced to contractors. All these are leading to violation of labour laws and have become the core issues confronting the labour class,” said Delhi-based activist and representative of the yatra, Shreya Ghosh.
“We found that the non-BJP parties are not able to resist corporatisation of mines and contractualisation of the workforce and have not shown the intent to fight against these issues. We have sensitised the people during the yatra on these issues,” she added.
“We also found that several government schools in Jharkhand were closed in the name of the merger during the previous government (Raghubar Das-led BJP government) in Jharkhand which is in a way encouraging the privatisation of education, and we made people aware about it too,” Shreya said.
The yatra, when in West Bengal earlier, conducted campaigns in the old industrial belts of Hooghly which was trampled under the crisis of de-industrialisation and has recently come under the sway of intense communal mobilisations, with saffron forces taking advantage of rampant unemployed youth in the region.
It then traversed the agrarian belt of Singur, once a site of anti-neoliberal land acquisition resistance, East Bardhaman, which is currently facing a deep agrarian crisis with the peasants lacking effective support from government to earn their livelihoods and the agricultural labourers lose jobs due to import of harvesters.
In the next phase, the yatra entered the Bankura district, largely inhabited by the tribal population. It explained how the newly framed amendments to the Forest Act by the BJP-led government, patronising the MNCs, who are being given free licence to plunder the natural resources, which would result in a brutal attack on the livelihood of the large tribal sections of the country.
At the same time, it emphasised how the RSS is hoodwinking he Adivasi population by trying to mobilise them within the umbrella of Hindus and giving them false aspirations of bringing them into the mainstream of Hindu society and thus the promise of a better-dignified life.
I was present in the conclusion of the yatra, and was enthralled with the relentless or unflinching determination of those who traversed the entire mission from West Bengal, through Bihar and Jharkhand, and finally to Uttar Pradesh. Such activists are the best sons of our land, who, braving all the odds, undertook the mission to extinguish the saffron fascist poison at their strongest points, which is today engulfing the nation at a magnitude unscaled.
While the rally penetrated every strata of society be it workers, peasants, tribals, labourers, students or youth, with a diverse spectrum of political trends participating, be it Marxists, Gandhians, Lohiaites or Ambedkarites, it failed to connect its political propaganda with day to day class struggle. Also, the CPI (ML) groups prematurely projected their party banners at a time when diverse mass organisations were part of the yatra.
*Freelance journalist



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