Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In Contest From Jail

India News Network
Rajender Sharma reports from Supaul:
SUPAUL is the headquarters of one of the three districts that fall in the Kosi division of Bihar. But what distinguishes this decrepit town from other district headquarters is the District Jail here. It is another thing that this prison house is just an old-style though specious building. You have to visit this jail if you want to meet Balram Singh Yadav, the CPI(M)’s candidate for the Supaul Lok Sabha seat. Moreover, here you can only see him from the other side of the iron bars in a barrack type room, from 11 a m to 12.30 p m. The room is full of visitors in this period everyday and you can meet Yadav only when these regular visitors vacate this place on the consideration that you have come from afar to meet Yadav.

Yadav was arrested just outside the District Election Office when he came out after filing his nomination papers. Unlike Varun Gandhi of the BJP, he was not involved in inciting the basest feelings against a particular religious community. Nor was he accused of breach of social peace. Yet he is behind the bars for over a month and a half, and the probability is that he would not be allowed to come out at least till the polling is over. It is obvious that even the highest court of the land is not going to allow this militant communist leader to come out on parole.

Yadav faces the charge of dacoity under Article 395 IPC, in connection with the Raghopur incident, along with as many as 32 more CPI(M) and Kisan Sabha workers. In fact, these other workers are in jail for about four months.

The case pertains to the situation in all the three districts of the Kosi division – Saharsa, Supaul and Madhepura – after the breach in the Kusaha dam on the Kosi river in Nepal. Though the breach caused devastating floods in these districts, the state as well as the central government displayed extreme callousness towards the agony of the flood victims. The floods have worsened the already huge problem of endemic migration of people from this district. If anyone came forward to fight for these poor and hapless flood victims who had lost everything, it was the workers of the CPI(M) and the mass organisations led by the Party.

Though the Nitish government of Bihar promised to provide foodgrains to the flood victims for one year, it refused to do so just after one month. The CPI(M) then came forward to give expression to and mobilise the flood victims’ agony and anger. There were gheraos of the tehsil and district headquarters, curfews imposed by the flood victims and other militant actions, causing desperation to the JD(U)-BJP government. In Raghopur, tens of thousands of people gheraoed the government godown to demand implementation of the chief minister’s promise of grain distribution, and government officials simply ran away in face of the people’s fury. The agitating flood victims then distributed the grains among themselves.

At the behest of the state government, then, the administration and the police implicated more than 500 persons including prominent CPI(M) leaders in a case of dacoity. Though Balram Singh Yadav was nowhere near the spot on the day and was addressing a mass meeting in far-away Balua Bazar town at that time, he too was implicated in the case.

It is not surprising that Yadav’s appeal to the people, for their support in return for his sacrifices, is touching the people’s sentiments. He is undoubtedly a fighting and reliable leader of the area. He is pitted against the sitting MP, Mrs Ranjana Yadav, who deserted the LJP to land in the Congress camp, and against the LJP candidate Suryanarayan Yadav who was involved in the parliamentarians bribery case during the P V Narasimha Rao regime. The JD(U)-BJP alliance has put up Vishwamohan Kumar, an MLA, who Nitish Kumar had ousted from his ministry for poor performance.

However, despite his popularity among and support from the people, the incarceration of the CPI(M) candidate and dozens of Party workers is posing a severe problem in the way of mass mobilisation during the poll campaign. Can the Party overcome this obstacle before the April 30 polling? This was the basic question facing the Party in Supaul.

--- Rajendra Sharma from Supaul

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