Indergarh in Datia district is a typical small, dusty Madhya Pradesh town teeming with the poorest of poor on the narrow streets. Small kirana shops competing with tens of haath thela walahs (push cart vendors) are a common sight. But it appeared there are not enough buyers for either of them.
The progressive movement is very weak in this district. In fact the CPI(M) does not have a district committee in place. There is only one local committee in the entire district and that is the Indergarh local committee of the Party. But what was startling for us was that the jatha public meeting in Indergarh on Thursday, March 14, was by far the most enthusiastic and vibrant one after we crossed Bhopal. Two-thirds of the audience was youth and students and among them were a large number of jatavs belonging to SC community. A significant number of anganwadi workers were also present apart from a sprinkling of kisans in the audience.
Naresh Kumar Jatav is a popular DYFI leader in Indergarh and appeared to have mobilised a big section of the audience along with student leaders. In his brief speech, he made a fiery warning to the police to stop harassing dalit youth by filing false cases against them. He announced that otherwise in a week's time the CPI(M) would gherao the police station. Such militancy was cheered by the youthful audience. But it is not just speeches, the local committee here has taken up in a serious manner the issue of atrocities against dalits and that its work has inspired confidence of the dalits was reflected in their large participation in today's meeting. Apart from taking up atrocities against dalits issue, the DYFI has also conducted campaign here on unemployment and ration cards.
Naresh Jatav later told that the harassment of dalits is largely by police and tehsil administration. They in particular target dalit youth who run small businesses or are street vendors for bribes. He also runs a small shop of clothes in the town and has faced such harassment. Asked about social forms of discrimination, he said it is prevalent in the rural areas, largely by landlord elements of Brahmins and Jats. There was this practice of dalits being responsible for removal of dead cattle from the villages. This practice was successfully removed in this area around 20 years back largely due to the effort of a communist leader Mangal Singh Jatav.
Nilotpal Basu and Md Salim garlanded the protrait of Shaheed Bhagat Singh on the dais at the start of the meeting. A musical band, complete with electric piano and tablas and two singers, sang a progressive song giving a message of unity between religious communities. With the large presence of youth in the crowd, Md Salim was in his elements, connecting with the crowd through large doses of humorous anecdotes while at the same time making the elderly and women nod their heads in agreement on the serious points he made about the purpose of the jatha.
Nilotpal Basu called upon the youth to work constructively on people's issues and build on the support they have been able to gather. Madhya Pradesh state secretariat member and member of jatha, Sandhya Shaili spoke about the problems facing women.
Earlier, Basu and Salim addressed a press conference in the circuit house at Datia district headquarters. They charged Congress and BJP and corporate media of engineering a false competition between individual leaders for prime minister's post. They reminded that both BJP and Congress together do not account for more than 50 per cent of votes polled and that ours is not a presidential form.
The jatha moved into Bhind district with a small reception at Mau and a public meeting later in the night at district headquarters.