Friday, August 19, 2011

Comrade M. K. Pandhe passes away

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo member and long-time President of CITU, Comrade M.K. Pandhe died at the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in New Delhi a little after midnight on Friday following a cardiac arrest. He was 86.

Comrade Pandhe was admitted to the hospital around 8 p.m. after he complained of chest pain. His end came at 12.20 a.m. Saturday.

Born July 11, 1925 in Pune, Pandhe joined the undivided Communist Party in 1943 and rose through the ranks to become a secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), a trade union wing, in 1966.

He joined the CPI-M after the division of the Communist Party in 1965 and was elected secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) in 1970.

He was elected to the CPI-M central committee in 1978 and took over as CITU general secretary in 1990.

Pandhe, a PhD from Pune's Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, became a CPI-M politburo member in 1998. A year later he became the CITU president.

A brief life history below:
  • Born on July 11, 1925 at Pune, Maharashtra
  • M.A (Pune University), Ph.D from Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune.
  • Joined the Communist Party in 1943
  • Secretary Solapur Students Union (1943)
  • Went Underground during 1948-51 for 27 months
  •  Elected Secretary Solapur City Committee of CPI
  • Elected Secretary Goa Vimochan Samity, Sholapur Branch in 1955
  • Joined Central office of AITUC in 1958 and Elected Secretary in 1966
  • In-charge Parliamentary Party office from 1964 to 1969
  • Went underground for 14 months during 1965-66
  • Coopted into the underground CC after arrest of leadership
  • Elected Secretary CITU in 1970
  • Elected to the Central Committee in 1978 At the Jalandhar Congress
  • Elected CITU General Secretary in 1990
  • Elected to the Polit Bureau in 1998 at the Kolkata Congress
  • Elected President of CITU in 1999

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Maharashtra: Police firing at Maval kills three peasants

Shubha Shamim

On August 9, 1942, our people declared at the August Kranti Maidan in Mumbai that the British should Quit India. This day was later named ‘Kranti Din’. Many struggles are taken up on that day every year to commemorate the events of 1942. On the same day this year, when the peasants from the Maval tehsil of Pune district called for a ‘Maval Bandh’, little did they know that they would be facing the police of their own country, who would be transformed into their predecessors from the times before Independence!

The Maval tehsil situated in the Western Ghats is known for its heavy rains and hilly, green terrain. The region is also known for numerous dams – some built by private companies and used for their (proposed) hydro electric power projects, and some by the government primarily for irrigation and drinking purposes. These have been built over the period of the last century in different decades. Despite the time span one experience remains common for the local peasants – that they are promised compensation, alternative land, jobs, water and rehabilitation. But the promises remain unfulfilled after their land is snatched. There are instances where the people have not got any rehabilitation packages even after 40 years.

Take the example of the Pavana dam, around the water of which the current agitation was centred. Built in 1971, it took the lands from peasants of 40 villages along with their homes and livelihoods. Many of the displaced came to settle in the adjoining plains in the same tehsil. Each family was given three to four guntha of land for their housing (1 guntha is approximately 1000 square feet). Some of the people affected by the private dams were not given land even for housing. The compensation paid was paltry and many were forcibly evicted. They became landless labourers and worked in the farms, poultries or factories that came up in the region. Some of them migrated to Mumbai or Pune, worked hard for years and bought back some of the Maval land and they started cultivating on the waters of the same Pavana river. 

This second generation of peasants had to face similar eviction all over again in the 1990s when the land they had bought through their own hard labour had to be parted with for the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Now it is the turn of the third generation to sacrifice all over again for so-called ‘development’. They were again threatened by the authorities that they would have to part with some of their remaining land along with the water they were using from the Pavana dam to quench the thirst of their land. The state government was proposing to take the major share of the water to the Pimpri-Chinchwad industrial township adjoining Pune in a closed pipeline. The idea of a closed pipeline was to ensure that the farmers should not avail of any water of the Pavana dam, whether by way of the run off after the dam or the water that percolates and is used through wells at the banks of open canals. Besides this, their land would also be taken for the pipeline.

This is the story of Shamrao Tupe (killed by the Pune police on August 9, 2011) and many others like him. Evictions without any compensation from generation to generation, over and over again.

The issue of denying water to the rural people and giving it to cities for drinking or for industries is a delicate issue. There has to be a balance between the two and it should be done in a democratic and participatory way. In this case, the procedure adopted completely lacked transparency and was thoroughly arbitrary and heavy-handed. The farmers were never told how much land they would have to part with, or how much water would be given to the city and how much would be left for them. The unrest had been brewing for the past three years. The last straw came when, without taking the people into confidence, earth moving vehicles were brought into Baur village and the work of digging was started by the administration. The people reacted by giving a call for Maval bandh and a Rasta Roko on August 9 by an All Party Agitation Committee of Maval.

On the fateful day people gathered on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway near Baur village and set up a road-block. A public meeting was held at the spot. Just when the programme was coming to an end the police tried to grab the local leaders who were in the midst of giving a speech. The people at first tried to reason with the police and said that they would disperse within ten minutes – and the police was well aware of this. But they pulled two local leaders Eknath Tile and Dnyaneshwar Dalvi and tried to drag them away. Naturally the people resisted and tried to prevent the police from arresting their leaders. Instead of trying to disperse the people with standard procedures like lathi charge, tear gas etc, most shockingly the police did the most gruesome thing and fired at people from close range – that too directly at the neck and chest and not below the waist. Three people died on the spot and 18 were injured by the bullets. Kanta Thakar of village Yelase, Moreshwar Sathe of Shivane and Shamrao Tupe of Sadawali lost their lives on the spot. But the police were not satisfied only with the firing. The police who are supposed to control riots, vented their ire by indulging in a mindless rampage, smashing the vehicles standing by. The shocking actions of the Pune rural police, recorded by live television, press photographers and other civilians, have sent shock waves through not just Maval or Pune, but through people from across the country.


On August 12, a state level delegation of the CPI(M) visited all the three villages of the martyrs and the hospitals where the injured peasants were admitted. A press conference was held in the evening at Pune where the Party’s stand was put forth. The members of the team were: Dr Ashok Dhawale, State Secretary, CPI(M); Rajaram Ozare, MLA, CPI(M); J P Gavit, ex-MLA, CPI(M) and State President, AIKS; Ajit Abhyankar, State Secretariat member and Pune District Secretary, CPI(M): Kiran Moghe, State President, AIDWA; Shubha Shamim, State General Secretary, Anganwadi Karmachari Sanghatana (CITU); Kisan Gujar, State General Secretary, AIKS; Rajan Kshirsagar, State General Secretary, AIAWU; Adv Milind Sahasrabuddhe, Pune district committee member, CPI(M); Mahendra Thorat, District Secretary, Pune AIKS; Siddharthya Roy – Joint Secretary, Pune DYFI; Anita Kute, Anganwadi worker, Kamshet, Maval; Sunita Joshi, Anganwadi worker, Kamshet, Maval; Mangal Kalekar, Anganwadi worker, Yelase, Maval and four local Anganwadi workers.

The visits to the three villages Yelase, Shivane and Sadawali were facilitated by the Anganwadi workers who are close relatives of some of the victims of the police firing and many of them are themselves affected by various projects.

Kanta Thakar’s village – Yelase

The team met the husband, the son and the brothers of Kanta Thakar. Kanta’s son was an eye witness to the firing and narrated the incident. He said, “People were staging a dharna on the Expressway and nobody indulged in any violence – it was never on the agenda. Trouble started when Eknath Tile was being pulled away by the police and the police refused to be reasonable. When the police got violent many crossed the fence and started to go away from the road including myself and my mother – who was approximately six feet ahead of me. She turned around to see whether I was coming or not, and the moment she turned, a bullet hit her on the chest and she fell.” He also said that when they got his mother’s body after the post mortem, the police had decamped with all the ornaments that she was wearing, including her mangalsutra!

Kanta Thakar’s anguished brother trained his guns on the political leaders and asked “Where were the leaders who had given a call of Maval Bandh at the time of the Rasta Roko? It was an all party call and the leaders were supposed to be there, but no big leader turned up. Except for Dnyaneshwar Dalvi and Eknath Tile nobody was present. People are asking now why Sanjay Bhegade the BJP MLA of Maval did not turn up for the protest, although it was he who had appealed to the people to gather there. He had arranged the vehicles for people in the villages to go to the spot of protest but he himself was not to be seen!”

Moreshwar Sathe’s village – Shivane

At the time of the visit nearly the whole village had gathered to console Ranjanabai Sathe, the widow of Moreshwar Sathe, whom the police had murdered brutally. Many of the villagers were present at the spot and all of them narrated the ghastly story unanimously. They said that he did not indulge in any violence at all. He was just participating in the protest and when the police started dispersing them, they all started moving towards the fence so that they could go away. Suddenly the police got hold of Moreshwar Sathe and a couple of others. They tried to push the tall and well-built Sathe inside the police van and they almost managed, but Sathe fought back and they seemed to change their mind and let him go. When Moreshwar Sathe started walking away, they suddenly opened fire, the bullet hit him in the neck and he fell down.

Ranjana Sathe, the widow of Moreshwar is not keeping well for a month and is suffering from jaundice. Moreshwar was looking after his wife and told her on the fateful morning that he had to go with the villagers for the protest, but he would come back soon and take her to the hospital. She waited for him to come back. He never came, but news of a bullet hitting him came first and was followed by the news of his demise. She has not eaten anything since and her sister-in-law has been trying to force-feed her, but to no avail. She has become so fragile that her daughter is worried that they have already lost their father, and may have to face the tragedy of losing their mother as well. The paradox is that Moreshwar was not in the list of affected farmers because he owned only 8 gunthas of land, and that too in a stretch which was not very arable. He and his brother depended solely on daily wage labour, and his brother had migrated to Pimpri for his living.

The villagers discussed the problems they were facing after the firing. Some of them had gone there on their vehicles, but the police damaged their vehicles, seized them and also took the parked vehicles to the police station. The police have threatened that if they go there to claim them, they will book them instead for rioting and causing damage to property. The police have not entered their village, sensing the wrath of the villagers, but they have gone to adjoining villages like Kothurne and have started arresting people at random, picking them up from their homes in a bid to terrorise them and their family members so that they abandon their homes and flee elsewhere, bringing the opposition to an end.

Shamrao Tupe’s village - Sadawali

In Sadawali too, people had gathered to console Housabai (the 22 year-old widow of Shamrao), his brothers and their ailing mother. One of their relatives Anil Bhaguji Tupe was an eyewitness to the horrifying incident and narrated the happenings in detail. He too corroborated the story of Moreshwar Sathe being pushed by the police in the van, thrown out and shot at a point blank range in the neck. The police had caught Anil as well, but he resisted, succeeded in freeing himself, went behind the van, but saw that bullets were fired on the group in which his relatives were trying to get away from the police. He saw his nephew Yogesh Tupe hit by a bullet, so he ran towards him and tried to take him away from the spot. Yogesh was later admitted to hospital and is recovering. Ajit Choudhari and Surekha Kude from the same village were also injured in the police firing and they were admitted to hospital. But Shamrao Tupe was not so lucky. He was shot straight in the neck and died on the spot.

Many are still admitted to hospitals in and around Pune city. The people were agitated that no leader from the Congress or the NCP had turned up to meet the aggrieved family members, neither had any senior or junior government official turned up to enquire after them. The people were afraid that once the ten days of mourning are over, the police will unleash terror in their village. The police would terrorise them so that nobody would dare to participate in any struggle in the future, and thus give impunity to the ruling party politicians in their plans to grab first the water and then the land and use it for commercial purposes.


The CPI(M) team has made the following observations and has come to the conclusions given below:
  1. The police firing was totally uncalled for and unjustified, since there was no threat to the lives of police personnel that compelled them to open fire. The police could have avoided the firing and resorted to lathi-charge or teargas shelling to disperse the crowd.
  2. Even if we accept for a moment that the police were forced to resort to firing, they clearly violated the police manual that directs them to fire below the waist. In this case the police flouted the rules and fired on the people, chasing them when they were dispersing or standing peacefully in groups.
  3. Police fired from close range on people, which resulted in the death of three, including a woman, and serious injuries to 18.
  4. The police damaged the vehicles parked by the side of the road and resorted to rioting themselves. They also seized the vehicles which were parked at some distance from the spot.
  5. Police have registered cases of attempt to murder and rioting against nearly 1400 people. Now they may arrest anybody they feel like and implicate anybody in these false cases. They have already arrested eight persons and are now searching for the local leaders.
  6. The local people have alleged that the leaders of the ruling NCP, especially Ajit Pawar, Deputy CM and Guardian Minister of Pune district, had instructed the police to break the back of the agitation at any cost and held him responsible for the firing. Without his patronage it would not have been possible for the police to resort to such draconian measures.
  7. The local people have also blamed the leaders of the main opposition party, the BJP, for abdicating their responsibility to lead from the front, due to which the situation worsened. Some of the leaders, including Sanjay Bhegade, the local BJP MLA who had called for the Maval Bandh and Rasta Roko, did not turn up for the event themselves. Had they been present, the situation could have been different.
  8. The people are afraid that, not content with killing their near and dear ones, the police will now terrorise the people and try to demoralise them by implicating them in false cases. The ruling party leaders, especially Ajit Pawar, have stakes in land deals in Pimpri-Chinchwad and other rural areas of Pune district. They do not want any peoples’ struggles against the loss of livelihood, land and water.
  9. The people are agitated and hurt because no ruling party leader or senior government officer has visited the villages to study the situation or pacify the people. They fear that the promise of compensation to the families of the victims of police firing will be forgotten, just like the promises given to their forefathers affected by the dams.
  10. The six constables and two officers who have been suspended are juniors, but the seniormost officer, the District Superintendent of Police Sandip Karnik (who gave the orders for firing and shot at the people himself) has not been held responsible for the firing. He should be strictly penalized.

The same evening, at a jam-packed press conference held in Pune city, state secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale and district secretary Ajit Abhyankar denounced the Congress-NCP state government and its police for the totally unwarranted firing and made the following demands:

  1. The state government should give a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of those killed in the firing, and take responsibility for the education and employment of the children of the deceased.
  2. The state government should give a compensation of Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh to those injured, and pay for the entire medical treatment of all the injured. Right now they are paying for their own treatment.
  3. All police officers and constables responsible for the firing should be removed from service and cases under IPC 302 should be lodged against them.
  4. There should be complete rehabilitation of all those affected by the Pavana dam on a priority basis.
  5. All efforts by the government to take away the right to water of the peasants should be stopped.
  6. An enquiry into all those factories responsible for pollution of the local rivers should be conducted and strict action taken against them.
  7. The greed of the builder lobby in Pimpri Chinchwad, which demands water under the plea of drinking water for the city, should be exposed and curbed.
  8. A meeting of all concerned should be convened to discuss and decide on the water distribution from the Pavana dam. Until this time, the construction of the closed pipeline should be stopped.
  9. All police cases on the agitators should be withdrawn and police repression on, and threats to, the people in the Maval area should be brought to an end.
The AIKS and the CPI(M) has promised all possible help to the affected people, has encouraged them to take forward their struggles for justice and assured them that the Party and its activists will be by their side at all times.