Join the Demonstration against Evictions and State Repression in West Bengal, 11.30 am, 25th April 2012, Outside Banga Bhawan, 3 Hailey Road, (Near Mandi House), Delhi
Comrades, we are witnessing today the militant resistance of slum-dwellers of Nonadanga against the eviction drive of the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) through brute police force. Nonadanga presents us with the determination of the urban poor and working class to constitute an alternative form of social, political and economic power. The residents of Nonadanga have refused to budge from the site, have put up temporary shelters and a community kitchen, and are confronting the police everyday with their bare hands and their indomitable will, trying to hold on to whatever little they are left with. Since April 11, 5 comrades under Ucched Pratirodh Committee have persisted with a fast-unto-death in the site for 12 days with undeterred support of the entire slum, and beyond. Reconstruction and rebuilding of the demolished houses are being undertaken by them.
Nonadanga is a paradigm of struggle and unity that must be generalised across Kolkata, West Bengal and beyond. For, it’s only through the eruption of a hundred, thousand, million Nonadangas across the country – that the working class will be able to effectively pose its might and vision against the prevailing hegemony of neo-liberalism and its authoritarian political executive. In the absence of such a countrywide generalisation of urban resistance, the working masses of this country, including the residents of Nonadanga, have no hope in hell.
We are witnessing in India today, a ground preparing for a rising tide of urban upsurge. However much the ruling classes seek to dazzle the working people with the shine of their developmentist fables, corporate parks and election promises, they cannot hide from us the violence that is intrinsic to this process of capitalist ‘development’. Even as the agrarian crisis daily pushes the peasantry from villages to the cities as a proletarianised mass, capital is busy robbing this ever-growing population of urban workers of its bare necessities such as living wages, adequate land, decent housing and clean drinking water by putting up ever-heightening enclosures of rent and user-charges. Not just that. The political executive of capital does not flinch from turning the misery it produces into an opportunity for further accumulation. Even the demand for rehabilitation is used by neo-liberalism, more often than not, to carry out yet another assault on the reproduction of labour-power. The increase in distance between the place of residence and the source of livelihood that most resettlement and rehabilitation process imposes on the evicted slum-dwellers further devalues their labour-power by lengthening their average labour-day. Worse, any murmur of dissent against such accumulation by dispossession is brutally crushed by the state in order to ensure that the value of our labour-power can be progressively diminished even as the rate of extraction of surplus value is simultaneously enhanced and capitalist class power is reinforced.
The ongoing struggle against forcible eviction of slum-dwellers in Nonadanga, Kolkata, has revealed precisely that. On March 30, 2012, the KMDA, with the full support of the Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal government and its police force, bulldozed and burnt down the houses of over 200 families in the shantytown of Nonadanga in the name of ‘development’ and ‘beautification’. These people, who have lost their homes and hearths, are those whose cheap labour is ‘legally’ exploited to run the economy of the entire city. They are the toilers of unending nights and days, informal-sector workers and unemployed battling precarious living conditions. Among them are either those who were resettled here after being evicted from various canal banks across the city, or those whom the Cyclone Aila (2009) and the farm crisis uprooted from villages in the Sunderbans and other parts of the state respectively.
The state (and the corporate media), acting on behalf of capitalist land sharks eyeing this prime location in the city, are hell-bent on portraying these people as ‘illegal encroachers’. It has unleashed police and ‘legal’ repression, on an everyday basis, on all those who have been trying to resist this. A march of residents, under the banner of Ucched Pratirodh Committee (Resistance-to-Eviction Committee), was brutally lathicharged by the police on April 4, and again a sit-in demonstration four days later, on April 8, was violently broken up and 67 people arrested. Subsequent meetings and rallies held in solidarity with the movement on April 9 and 12 were attacked by goons and hundreds of activists were arrested by the police. Seven activists of various mass and democratic rights organisations, which stood in support of the Nonadanga movement, are either in jail or in police remand till April 26. Cases under Sections 353, 332, 141, 143, 148 and 149 of the IPC have been slapped on them. One of them, Debolina Chakraborty, has even been charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). During a court hearing on April 12, a prosecution team of 40 lawyers made a concerted bid to implicate them in a slew of false cases and paint them as ‘anti-national’, opening earlier ‘Nandigram cases’, even going so far as to claim that Nonadanga was used for ‘stockpiling arms and ammunition’. We remember that this Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool government came to power using the anger of the people over the Singurs and Nandigrams of the previous CPI(M) government to its parliamentary ends. It is they who are now using the instruments of repression at their disposal in a hurry to prove themselves as faithful lapdogs of their class masters.
Comrades, Nonadanga has shown us the way. For, the sword of eviction hangs not just on a Nonadanga, or for that matter a Bhalaswa (Delhi). Today in India, 256 lakh people are homeless or live in abject conditions in slums, and this number is progressively on the rise. Forget jobs or providing decent education, the state is retreating from all its responsibilities of providing us with the cost of living and reproduction. Evicting us from our homes has become the norm, as the cities are restructured according to the needs of the ruling classes. In Delhi, Shiela Dixit’s Congress-led government has drawn up a list of 44 colonies to be evicted in the next few months- 33 in the first phase. The criteria for being allotted the meagre government flats is possession of voter identity card, aadhar card and ration card as of 2007, and a capacity to make a down-payment of Rs 80,000. We are thrown into these legalisms even as we suffer the already inadequate housing and water situation. Even in the six resettlement colonies in Delhi, the conditions are horrendous. When one of our comrades from Bhalaswa presented Delhi CM Shiela Dixit with a bottle of water from her area, the CM was at first deceived by the colour of the water to think that she was being offered Pepsi-cola to quench her thirst. People living in slums in various parts of the city are the ones who make the city what it is, who make the super-profits of the capitalists possible. It is these people who become an embarrassment for the government, whichever party is in power, and whatever their false election promises. We remember the spate of demolitions which was the run-up to the Commonwealth games 2010, and how the political managers of capital attempted to hide our ‘dirty’ dwellings and crush our then disunited voices of protest. This continues daily, even today. On 20th April 2012, the DDA with over 2000 police force, attempted to demolish and evict slum-dwellers from Gayatri Colony near Anand Parbat industrial area in Delhi, but were forced to retreat faced with the unity and resistance of the residents.
Even here in Delhi, we have daily struggled on the streets for our rights and demands. We have, however, also been disunited owing to our precarious existence and localised struggles. When in Kolkata, our brothers and sisters are fighting it out not merely for survival but for the right to live a dignified and free life, let us wish it all power and condemn the authoritarian actions of the government of West Bengal. Let us stand with them in solidarity, and also intensify our struggles at our own locations.
We condemn the action of the Trinamool-led West Bengal government and the brutal lathicharge on the Nonadanga residents and their supporters on April 4, and the threat of impending everyday violence. We also condemn the arrest and framing of activists who stand in support of the resistance.
- Immediate and unconditional release of all the activists arrested on April 8. Drop charges against all seven of them: Debolina Chakraborty, Samik Chakraborty, Abhijnan Sarkar, Debjani Ghoah, Manas Chatterjee, Siddhartha Gupta and Partha Sarathi Ray.
- Drop the draconian UAPA and all charges on Debolina Chakraborty, and release her immediately and unconditionally.
- The state must stop further harassment of residents and activists, and apologise to the people for having infringed upon its democratic right to organise and dissent; and take action against the police officers involved in the lathicharge on April 4.
- The right to housing and rehabilitation of the slum-dwellers and hawkers in Nonadanga must be immediately ensured in a fair and just manner so that that their labour-power is not further devalued.
- All construction in Nonadanga by the KMDA must come to an immediate halt. The eviction drive in the city, and the anti-people programme of neo-liberal capitalist development of which it is an integral part, must be stopped.
- The process of slum-eviction in Delhi must be stopped immediately and inhabitants of the jhuggi-jhopri clusters in the city should be provided with adequate land, and respectable housing with clean drinking-water sources and proper sanitation amenities.
All India Federation of Trade Unions(New), All India Students Association, All India Revolutionary Students Organisation, Bigul Mazdoor Dasta, Disha Chatra Sagathan, Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra, Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association, Krantikari Naujawan Sabha, Krantikari Yuva Sangathan, Mazdoor Patrika, Mehnatkash Mazdoor Morcha, New Socialist Initiative (NSI), Peoples’ Democratic Front of India, Progressive Democratic Students Union, People’s Union for Democratic Rights, Posco Pratirodh Solidarity-Delhi, Radical Notes, Sanhati-Delhi, Shramik Sangram Committee, Students For Resistance, Vidyarthi Yuvajan Sabha