India

Karl Marx, born nearly two centuries ago, had in 1867 (in the first volume of Capital) laid bare the “intimate connection between the pangs of hunger of the most industrious layers of the working class, and the extravagant consumption, coarse or refined, of the rich, for which capitalist accumulation is the basis”.

The 8th congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) ended with a massive 100,000 strong all-India rally in Kolkata on December 18. A key focus of the rally was solidarity with the peasants of Nandigram against attempts to drive them off their land by the West Bengal government in order to establish a Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

In a sign of solidarity with the struggle by the peasants of Nandigram against the West Bengal state government’s attempt to seize their land for a Special Economic Zone, the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist), publisher of Liberation magazine, held its 8th congress in Kolkata, the state’s capital, December 11-16.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation’s eight-year effort to seek justice for one of its party activists who was kidnapped in 1999 in the north-east Bihar state concluded on May 8 when the alleged culprit — MP Mohammad Shahabuddin — was sentenced to life imprisonment. Chhote Lal Gupta, the victim, is officially presumed dead.

With 80 million inhabitants, West Bengal is the fourth most populous state in India. It has been ruled by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front (LF) coalition for three decades. This government, however, has regularly used police repression against workers and peasants to defend big-business interests.

On March 23, hundreds of thousands of people from all over India converged in Delhi to express their anger at the killing of peasant protesters on March 14 by police and thugs aligned with the West Bengal Left Front (LF) government. Those killed were resisting eviction from their land in Nandigram. Similar killings also happened on January 7. The mass rally was preceded by two days of cultural protests.

On march 19, the Madhya Pradesh government agreed to meet some of the demands of the survivors of the 1984 chemical explosion and deadly gas leaks at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, which killed thousands of people and left tens of thousands with severe health problems. After hunger strikes by survivors and an international solidarity campaign, the government agreed to provide clean water, medical care and rehabilitation to victims, as well as to release information about the water and soil contamination around the abandoned factory site and to construct a wall to contain it. Pragya, a Bhopal activist, said following the decision, “Thanks to all who sent their prayers and faxes and other good vibes. Bhopal remains not only ground zero of the chemical industry’s global wounding, but also ground zero for the fight for people’s basic human rights to live in a poison-free environment, to drink water that is free of toxic chemicals, and receive basic medical care for their injuries.” If the government fails to implement its promises, protests will take place in India and around the world during April and May. For more information visit <http://bhopal.net>.

On March 22, World Water Day, more than 40 people were arrested in New Delhi while protesting against water theft by Coca-Cola and Pepsico. The India Resource Centre reports that more than 300 people marched to the planning commission’s offices to demand action from the government over the soft-drink companies’ creation of severe water shortages and contamination of soil and groundwater. An organiser of the march and one of those detained, Nandlal Master from Lok Samiti and the National Alliance of People’s Movements, said the protest was aimed at “one of the world’s worst abusers of water, the Coca-Cola company”, which has “destroyed the lives of thousands of people in India as a result of its thirst for water”. For more information, visit <http://www.indiaresource.org>.

In an effort to attract investment, the Left Front (LF) government in the state of West Bengal has tried to drive thousands of petty landowners, poor cultivators and wage labourers out of their homes and off their fields, despite this depriving many of them of any means of livelihood. When they resisted, it sent in gun-toting police, killing more than 20 people on January 7 and March 14.

In 1989, 39 pharmaceutical giants sued the government of AIDS-stricken South Africa, seeking to stop it from implementing a law to improve the poor’s access to life-saving AIDS drugs. That aggression sparked a public outcry within South Africa and elsewhere, leading to an international campaign that only ended in 2001 when the 39 companies dropped their case.

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