On Saturday 28 July the police of the state of Andhra Pradesh in India entered the village of Mudigonda in the Khamman District to break up a peaceful protest of villagers against the state government for failing to carry out its election promises concerning distribution of land to the poor. Under the leadership of a front of Left parties, some 600 people were staging a
(road block) at Mudigonda bus stand. The police tried to disperse the protesters using
(thick 6-foot long canes) with which they beat the protesters mercilessly. Then, without any warning, the police started firing on the protesters, killing 8 people at random. One of them was in a phone box at the time making a telephone call. No fewer than 100 rounds were fired with the police leaving off only when their ammunition ran out. According to eye witnesses there were no warning shots and no attempt to contain the situation by use of tear gas. The police were clearly under orders to shoot to kill.
The question is why?
The land question in Andhra Pradesh
In the last state elections in 2004, the Congress Party was able to secure mass backing and win a large number of seats in the election on the basis of a manifesto promise that when in government it would provide housing sites for the poor. There was to be no problem finding suitable land because in the 1960’s 4,200,000 acres of land, the “assigned lands”, were set aside for this purpose, enough to give every family in need at least one acre. However very little of the assigned land has ended up in the hands of the poor but instead has found itself occupied by wealthy landlords and political bigwigs, including the family of the current Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr Reddy (although in Mr Reddy’s case the land has now been surrendered).
This abuse was addressed as long ago as 1977 in an Act passed to nullify any alienation of such land which, if purported to be sold, would be liable either to be returned to the original assignee (or his heirs) or returned to the authorities for re-assignment to some other poor family. This Act, too, was observed mainly in the breach and the poor remained pretty much as landless as they ever were. However, in 2004, under pressure from the electorate, the Congress-led Andhra Pradesh state government set up a Land Committee under the chairmanship of a cabinet minister, Koneru Ranga Rao, to ascertain the exact position with regard to the assigned lands. This Committee duly completed its report in 2006, a report which exposes at least some of the malpractices, and makes recommendations both for the correction of past abuse and for preventing future abuse. But lo and behold, the state government of Andhra Pradesh decided it was inopportune to put this report before the state parliament for discussion. Worse, it also moved to bring the most valuable of the assigned lands (mostly in the Hyderabad area) under its own control, but not with a view to assigning them to the poor but in order to safeguard the ‘rights’ of the various ruling class families who had appropriated them.
These actions of the Andhra Pradesh state government have enraged the masses and led to mounting protests that the thieving ruling class of the state along with its political stooges have obviously decided can be cowed by naked violence of the kind displayed at Mutigonda. We are certain that they will find themselves sadly mistaken.
The bourgeois politicians of Andhra Pradesh who undoubtedly ordered this violence have since pretended innocence – to prove which they have ordered the suspension of several top police commanders, including Khamman police chief R K Meena (transferred), M Ranesh Babu, his deputy, (suspended), a circle inspector and a sub-inspector (also suspended). The police are said to be ‘demoralised’ by this iniquity displayed towards the people who simply carried out the orders given to them from above, and there will be many who will be reviewing their loyalties as a result.
These events cannot but further rally the landless peasants of Andhra Pradesh round the revolutionary movement which is gradually expanding in the area. The bourgeois and landlord classes of Andhra Pradesh, far from making their illegal seizures more secure, have demonstrated to the landless masses that they can expect nothing whatever from bourgeois democracy other than empty promises and bullets. Indeed this class is positively pushing the masses into the arms of the revolutionary movement which is building the strength to force its will on the exploiters, in advance of the day when it will force them to disgorge not only assigned lands but all lands for the benefit of those who labour.