Manifesto of People’s Demands and Release of Political Prisoners

August 23, 2012

by Committee for Release of Political Prisoners and People’s Demands

Click here to read the original Bengali pamphlet

Cremation and burial of promises

Today there is no point in remembering those words.

Words which expired one year ago.

Promises used to blow in the wind then.

Promise to release political prisoners. Promise not to slap cases under the draconian UAPA. Promise of democracy in place of ‘partycracy’. Promise to provide education and health. Promise not to snatch away child from its mother through sheer neglect at the hospitals. Promise that the children will not have to be sent to earn instead of attending school.

All these promises had merged into hope. Our hope touched the sky. The slogan of that day echoed in the horizon of Bengal—We want Change, We want Poriborton!

Just one year later, we are witnessing the journey of the promises to the cremation ground. The Janaza of promises. The drowning of promises.

The political prisoners have not been released, not a single one has been released. Arrests have started afresh in Jangalmahal. More and more political activists are being imprisoned under the black act UAPA. Everyday is bringing in new harvest.

Those who had demanded investigation of the death of Azad before the elections have rejected the demand for investigation of Kishenji’s death now that the elections are over.

Partycracy is reigning supreme to this day. Democracy is nowhere to be seen.

Even now vigilante forces are shaking Jangalamahal. The Harmad force of yesterday has turned into the Bhairab force.

Even today peasants are committing suicides. The peasants are scared after buying inputs from the black market, because their expenses may not get covered. After distress sale of his belongings the peasant kills himself. Tightly leashed to the trap of the moneylender the peasants die. The peasants die: somewhere out of hunger, somewhere due to harassment of the creditor, somewhere trapped in the web of mal=development, somewhere in the trap of development.

Even now the main mantra is exploitation. Money is soil, soil money. That is why the land begets money’s offspring. Promoters make rounds to catch the money swirling in the wind. Syndicates of construction business are on the look out too. The mafia goons turn rich. Land sharks and crocodiles follow suit. The old goons and the upstarts share the loot.

That old tradition of capturing students’ union through muscle power continues in colleges and universities. It’s done at the behest of the ruling party, by employing local toughs and goons. Only the men have been replaced. The colour of the kamiz/kurta has changed. Students are guinea pigs as before. After abolishment of the pass-fail system, education in ordinary schools is headed towards hell. There are expensive schools for the children of the rich. Foreigners have been allowed to make quick bucks by opening shops of education.

Babies and children continue to die in the hospitals. People are compelled to seek the service of private hospitals because the government hospitals are in a pathetic state. They sell their bare essentials to cover the cost. The lucrative business of health is booming. With it walks the procession of death.

Women are continuing to be raped. In the cities and villages, everyday. Women become news. We ask ‘Where? When? How many?’ Our eagerness quenched, questions end.

During earlier times the ruler used to say, “Such things are routine.” Today the new ruler says, “There has been no rape, don’t lie.” The new ruler says, “Those who have committed suicide are not farmers.”

Those who had declared a jehad against displacement are now displacing. In Nonadanga, in Bypass eviction of slums, displacement of hawkers displacement of shops, displacement in all spheres are ongoing in full steam. They are throwing dirt on the rice plate to displace people. They are snatching away rice, clothes, roofs and environment to evict. Protesters have to face police persecution.

Kings come and go, Kings change

Only the colour of the clothes change,

Only the style of the mask change,

Days do not change.

The Familiar Face of the Ruler

65 years ago the tri-colour flew in this country at midnight. People dreamed, in the free country one will find rice, clothes, roof, schools, medicine. They will find work, get respect. They will be freed from threats, khaki uniform, beatings, guns and prisons. The loot will come to an end. They will find a new identity.

What we saw at the end is rampant disuse and misuse of people’s money. We saw the silencing of the people with sticks and rifles.

35 years ago the sickle, hammer and star flag flew joyously over entire Bengal. People dreamt once more. This is the government of the poor, not the rich. The poor will drink milk and the rich will be put in jail. Finally, the government of the poor turned into government of the promoters. The government of construction syndicates, of contractors, of Tata, of the harmads and mass killings.

Cut to the present. One year ago, Bengal dressed itself in grass and flowers. The new government is of Maa-Mati-Manush. A regime determined to dig out old skeletons. A regime with a human face. This humane regime turned into the regime of eviction in just one year. The regime which arrests those who protest against displacement, a regime to fill up jails, a regime which in fake encounters kills people in Jangalmahal, a regime which throttles people using police and cadre, the Kalbhairab regime of the Bhairab bahini.

The familiar face of the ruler returns time after time, wearing many dresses and in many disguises. Over and over again they give the hope of something new to the people. They teach them new slogans. Show new mirages to the heartbroken people. In the end the leaders elevate to the corridors of power and receive piles of money. The crafty and the devious amass wealth. And you and we are left with the daily drudgery. This is the diary of survival. That same history of struggle to make ends meet.

The Prison was built for You

Poriborton (Change) comes.

The duck sweats and toils. The Daroga (Officer-in-Charge) eats the eggs.

What remains at the end is the battle to survive with clenched teeth. People’s struggle.

People must fight this daily battle. They have to fight for water, jungle and land. They have to fight for even the drinking water. They have to fight to get fertilizer at the official rate. They have to fight to secure the just price for their crop. They have to fight to find work. They have to fight for health and education. They have to fight against nepotism and corruption. They have to fight for respect and justice. They have to fight for the democracy of the ordinary people.

This is why the struggle of the masses does not stop ever. You have to fight if you want to live.

The farmer does not get the right price for his crop, and at the same time the market is boiling with high prices. Lakhs of people apply for just a hundred jobs. People are hopelessly deceived, they do not get jobs even after selling their land and paying bribes. Ordinary people have no money to educate their children. They withdraw their children from the school, so that they can work and earn. Out of sheer neglect at hospitals mothers lose their children. This is when people have to fight for survival. They have to get down to the streets, and raise slogans.

Whose child has a parched face, he does not get milk,

Come together, Be ready.

In whose room there is no lamp, permanent darkness,

Come together, be ready.

This is the battle to survive, the battle for dignity and development, the battle for a new identity, the battle to change the day. The leaders of this battle are born in ordinary people’s homes. In the thatched rural houses, in the slums and shanties, in the fields and ghats, in factories and mills, in villages, towns, fields, mountains and ports. The people give birth to them. The soil of the country gives them birth. The conditions give them birth. History gives them birth. The flowing time gives them birth.

People are beaten up by underdevelopment, or by development. People get displaced, sometimes out of hunger, sometimes by force. When people protest and come down to the streets, those who wield power, break their spirit through harassment, or simply beat them up and break their back. As survival and the fight for survival both are caught in the same quicksand people give birth to their leaders. To their heroes, the spirited young men and women who show the road to people. They show them the light, give them courage, hope. Repairing the broken hearts they teach people to challenge the mountains, to revolt for justice. A new identity is forged for farmers in fields, workers in factories, the middle class and the youth. This is not the helpless identity of people who are thrashed. This is the identity to snatch away a blooming dawn from the stalk of dark night.

That is why prisons, jails, iron doors are there. They are there to keep them tied up. To keep common people in a helpless state by beating them up repeatedly, throughout the entire life, generations after generations.

This is why to the political prisoner Saratchandra once said, “The prison was built for you, there lies your glory.”

They have gone to the prison for the country’s work, not for any other work.

Sitting in that prison they talk of the country alone.

Political prisoners are the brothers of Khudiram, of Bhagat Singh, of Sidhu-Kanu. They are brothers of you and me. They are the frontline soldiers in our battle for survival. They used to bring breeze of joy to our daily lives. They were the sentinels who showed us the ray of hope in the dark days of crisis.

People have to live. To live they must fight. They have to fight against the cruel unity of the exploiter and the ruler. They have to fight by looking at the face of their children, by looking at their future. They must fight for themselves, for the country, for the rise of the masses, to articulate people’s demands alound.

The ruler will try to suppress the fight. They will come to inscribe letters of helplessness on the heart of the people. They will come to break the soul of the people. They will come to paint the picture of terror on people’s heart. The rulers will come to put the leaders of this fight in jails over and over again.

That is why the demand for the release of the political prisoners, the demand for rice-clothes-roofs-schools-medicines-environment-respect-justice for the people. The demand for the release of political prisoners merges with the other demands. The demand of the people for a dignified life and the demand for the release of political prisoners raise slogans in unison. People’s demands and demand for freeing of political prisoners are just the two sides of the protesting people’s identity.

Brothers and sisters, raise your voice! Let the slogan for rice-clothes-roof-education-environment-health-respect-justice and democracy merge with the slogan for freeing political prisoners. Be loud! In the villages, cities, fields, mountains and ports. Let the people’s demand and the release of political prisoners be inscribed on the flags of the masses. Together.