The Brigade Parade Ground in the city of Kolkata in West Bengal, India, turned into a ‘red sea’ of humanity on February 3, as over a million people gathered for a Left Front-led rally. These people pledged to oust the far-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government from the Centre and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government from the State of West Bengal in the forthcoming elections. From the morning, the air resounded with inspiring people’s songs by progressive artistes, such as the Indian People Theatre Association, Rabindra Sangeet and songs by Salil Chowdhury and Kaifi Azmi, among others.
This rally was held in the face of the impending national elections in India. Under the present government led by prime minister Narendra Modi, India has been witnessing some of the worst manifestations of religious identity-based communalism in its history. The TMC government in the State of West Bengal, led by Mamata Banerjee, is guilty of similar actions.
The TMC has also launched an all-out attack on the leftist opposition since coming to power in the State of West Bengal in 2011 after over three decades of leftist rulee. The violence escalated after the TMC returned to power in 2016 and peaked during 2018’s local body elections when opposition members, a lot of whom were Left candidates, were attacked and prevented from contesting. More than 11 Left activists lost their lives in this violence.
The People’s Brigade rally was called to oppose this violence and other anti-people policies of these governments.
“The anti-people policies need to be changed and alternative policies need to be pushed if our country is to be saved from further disaster,“ said Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), while addressing the rally called by the Left Front.
Terming it as one of “the largest assemblies of downtrodden people –farmers, workers, students and youth”, CPI(M) polit bureau member and Lok Sabha member of parliament, Mohd Salim, said, “Any attempt to stall the march of this ‘red sea’ (lal samandar) will create a tsunami in the political scene and will sweep away anti-democratic and communal forces like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his communal brigade and their covert ally, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee and her party in Bengal.”
Indeed, the Left Front’s call to oust “BJP for the country’s sake and TMC for Bengal’s sake” resonated among the crowd which in unison supported the call with a loud pledge and shouting of slogans.
CPI(M) state secretary Suryakanta Mishra, while referring to the million-strong people as “real leaders”, appealed to each one of them to reach out to at least 50 persons in their area to carry forward the pledge. Once the BJP is ousted from the Centre, it will take just days to oust the TMC-run government in Bengal, he said, adding that it was the “covert” understanding between the BJP and TMC that was keeping both the parties “alive”.
He said the struggles of workers, farmers and common people was not only for their own benefit but for the greater good of people across the country.
Addressing the rally, Left Front chairman Biman Basu called for building hundreds of such “mini Brigade rallies” at the area level and taking the fight to the “enemy camp”.
CPI(M) leader and former State minister, Deblina Hembrem, gave an inspiring speech and enthused the participants by speaking in her mother tongue, Santhali, and sometimes in Bangla. She highlighted the plight of the Indigenous people of the country who were struggling for food, education, housing and jobs, but were being treated like “display objects” for showcasing famous art forms.
“We tribals stay in nature’s lap. Dance comes naturally to us, we don’t need impetus for that. We need education, recognition and prestige for our language. We need schools, colleges and housing,” she said, adding that it was the, “Left Front that had given us honor. That honor is now missing. We cannot be bought over by money, which the TMC is trying to do after looting us for these seven years.”
The rally was addressed by leaders from all key Left parties in the country.
CPI(Marxist-Leninist) Liberation leader Dipankar Bhattacharya said the rally had shown that Leftist policies were deep-rooted in West Bengal and fascist forces like BJP and the TMC cannot weed them away with their mock fight.
Communist Party of India leader Sudhakar Reddy said that a unified movement by Left forces and a people’s movement on the ground would change the dimension of politics in the coming days. Its effect would be felt in the coming Lok Sabha [parliament] elections also, he added.
Revolutionary Socialist Party leader Kshiti Goswami said Bengal was passing through a dark phase, and this huge rally would electrify the red flag bearers in their struggle to end the rule of the anti-democratic forces in the State and in the country.
Forward Bloc leader Debabrata Biswas said the real fight was to dislodge “tyrannical forces” like Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee from power, adding that the million-strong rally indicated the “mood change” in West Bengal.