Campaigning in India's general elections, to be held in phases over April 7 to May 12, has already been marked by a reign of terror that has included the assassination of left activists.
The Communist Party of India ― Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) is fielding candidates in about 83 constituencies spread over 15 states and three union states. In a statement appealing for support, the party said these are “all areas of sustained people’s movement and the candidates are mostly activists known for their integrity, commitment and selfless service with years of experience of fighting for the people braving all odds”.
In the 2009 elections, the CPI-ML finished second in one constituency (in Jharkhand) and third in a few constituencies in Bihar, polling more than half a million votes. It said: “Our representatives in State Assemblies of Bihar and Jharkhand and in Lok Sabha (lower house of India's parliament) have always served as consistent and fearless champions of the struggles, aspirations and rights of the people.”
The CPI-ML said its campaign would “put up a bold resistance to the corporate-backed communal fascist politics, and powerfully assert the agenda of people’s movements against corruption and corporate plunder and land grabs; against policies that favour corporates over people and promote price rises and unemployment … for people’s rights to education, health, housing, work and basic services ... [and] for women’s freedom and rights”.
However, its campaign has been the target of a range of right-wing terrorist attacks that have killed several of its activists.
Kavita Krishnan, a CPI-ML activist who has achieved international prominence due to her role in helping lead protests for women's rights after the infamous gang rape of a student in Dehli in 2012, told Green Left Weekly about one such assassination: “[The party] is in the thick of campaigning for the parliamentary elections in the Ara constituency, and Comrade Budhram Paswan was one of the key activists in the area.
“On the night of March 22, he was going to his village Repura on his bike to attend a meeting preparing for our candidate to file nominations, when he was surrounded by feudal upper-caste goons from a neighbouring village. After a scuffle, he was shot dead.
“His body was found by people from his village early on the morning of March 23.”
“Villagers and activists protested the killing, and the police have filed a First Information Report (FIR) naming several accused. Among the accused are some of those who were acquitted by the Patna High Court for their alleged role in a different massacre.
“Budhram himself was from the most oppressed Dalit caste and had been most active in ensuring that witnesses defied feudal terror and intimidation and testified against those accused in the Nagari Bazaar massacre.
“By killing Budhram, the feudal supporters of the far-right party BJP, sensing the possibility of a CPI-ML victory in the Ara Lok Sabha seat, hope to terrorise the supporters of CPI-ML, especially those from the oppressed castes.”
Kavita said it was not an isolated case. “Violence against left supporters has been unleashed in West Bengal as well, where a CPI-ML supporter was killed by goons of the ruling party Trinamool Congress in Nadia district recently.
“The BJP, whose candidate for prime minister, Narendra Modi, is notorious for presiding over the state-sponsored pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat, benefits from such killings.
“They are fanning up violence against religious minorities, as well as feudal violence, in the hope of reaping benefits in the elections.”
[Kavita Krishnan will be a special guest at the Socialist Alliance's national conference in Sydney from June 7 to 9.]