Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Brief Report on the Adivasi Rally on April 24 at the heart of Kolkata

[A rally was organized in Kolkata on 24 April in solidarity of Lalgarh movement. Pleople of Lalgarh under the leadership of People's Committee Against Police Atrocities have been boycotting police. Thousands of people from Lalgarh and adjacent areas came on 24 April to participate in the rally. People of Kolkata and representatives of different mass organizations also participated. Although Red Barricade was in the rally, due to unavoidable circumstances, we did not able to publish pictures and report of it. However, Sanhati has published report along with pictures. We request you to visit. We also publish the report from Sanhati.]

Koustav De, Sanhati. April 25, 2009
The rally was a huge success with adivasis from across Midnapore, Puruliya and other areas of Jangal Khand participating in numbers. It was an enormous rally, next only to the rally on November 14, 2007. However there were several obstacles: a large number of adivasis were not allowed to join the rally and their buses were stopped and the drivers heckled by the police. Reportedly some 150 buses came from Lalgarh area alone. The rally was participated by people from Nandigram, Khejuri, Singur, Puruliya, Bankura, Asansole and several other regions.
A clear point was made as to the spirit of the adivasi movement and it’s mass base. The theme was to make a call upon all people to protest against state violence all over. And the call was thoroughly successful.
Trouble broke out near Kalamandir when six buses from Lalgarh unloaded it’s passengers and were returning. The police stopped the empty buses and demanded bribe (which happens to be the common practice for buses from outside Kolkata); when they refused the police dragged a driver out, beat him up and broke a glass of that bus. The other drivers informed the adivasi passengers who had alighted and were moving in a rally towards the meeting point. Soon some 1500 people gathered and blockaded the road in protest. They demanded immediate apology and compensation for the harassment and damage.
At the other end, the rally was being addressed from a stage near the decided point at Esplanade. As the news of trouble near Kalamandir came in, a team left to look into the matter. Even as a beautiful program, combining speeches and adivasi songs and dance was going on, in sharp contrast a heated exchange was going on between demonstrators and the police. The police decided to wait and watch thinking that the people who has traveled some six hours already were going to loose all their energy with time. However the protesters were adamant that without an apology they would not budge.
As the program at Esplanade ended, everyone decided to stand by the sit-in at Kalamandir and decided to blockade at Esplanade. Overcoming some minor obstacles and provocations of the police and the RAF, thousands of adivasis blocked the heart of Kolkata. The two groups at Esplanade and Kalamandir co-ordinated and decided that a consolidated blockade will be continued into the night at Esplanade. As the massive rally from Kalamandir arrived at Esplanade, their anger was quite visible and the RAF decided to keep safe distance and retreated. From the evening, well into the night the heart of Kolkata was virtually occupied by the people of Jangal Mahal. Media flocked in and their voices were heard. The police decided that it was no longer safe to assume that their enthusiasm would burn out. Chatradhar Mahato got a call from the commissioner and soon a high ranking police official was sent to Esplanade to receive the complain. The complain was received and the official agreed to look into the matter and punish the police officer responsible after a enquiry, within seven days. The people erupted in slogans and rallied towards Sahid Minar where the buses were parked.

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