In The Feudal Heartland of MP

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

At a time when the entire nation was celebrating the dawn of independence on August 15, 1947, the people of Gwalior-Guna region of Madhya Pradesh were forced to light off diyas in their homes and mourn the leaving of British “friends” from the country. This order came from their Scindia maharaj who was collaborating with the British and opposing the freedom movement.

The maharaja system may be long gone but the remnants of that feudal order are still very strong in this region. The descendants of that Scindia family, the late Madhavrao Scindia or his son and present union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia rule the roost here. Jyotiraditya's grandmother and BJP leader late Vijayaraje Scindia also had immense influence here due to this fact. The poor dalits and the poorest of tribals, Sahariya tribe people in this region still are made to be in awe of their maharajas, Jyotiraditya represents Guna constituency. Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh, known popularly here as Diggy raja, is from neighbouring Raghavgarh where his family was a feudal lord under the Scindia riyasat (kingdom).

As the Sangharsh Sandesh jatha rolled into Guna town, spearheaded by a group of 40 motorcycle riders with red flags fluttering, people were giving curious looks. Among the motorcycle riders were employees and workers of the National Fertilisers Ltd (NFL) unit in Guna, the lone major industrial unit in the district. Despite represented by top leaders in the ruling parties, this region has seen minimal industrialisation.

The NFL unit has around 400 permanent employees and nearly 2000 contract workers. These workers know what Sangharsh is and what it can achieve. Shailendra, an employee, told INN about the bitter struggle they waged to save their company being privatised during the NDA regime. “Dipankar babu in Parliament and we on the ground here fought to the maximum and succeeded in saving the unit”, he says referring to the late CPI(M) MP in Rajya Sabha and remarkable trade union leader Dipankar Mukherjee's role. He also told how many workers and employees from this unit rushed to Delhi on hearing the news of sudden passing away of Dipankar Mukherjee. The CITU-led NFL Ekta Mazdo has succeeded through relentless struggles in raising the wages of contract workers to Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 along with benefits such as bonus, PF etc. The general secretary of the union was recently attacked by hired goons of feudal lords in a bid to terrorise the workers.

The venue of the meeting in the centre of the town had a gathering of few hundreds to listen to the sandesh. Most of them were dalits and tribal women and daily wage earners. There have been instances when these poor people who go to meetings organised by the red flag have been beaten up by Jat landlords and warned not to go in future. Clearly, they are afraid of the sandesh of red flag. Nilotpal Basu, Mohs Salim and CPI(M) Madhya Pradesh state secretariat member and member of jatha in the state, Sandhya Shaily spoke in the meeting.

Earlier, the jatha had meetings in Biora in Rajgarh district and Ruthiyai in Guna district. A late night meeting is scheduled in the district headquarters of Sipri.