WE SHALL MARCH AHEAD
Today a very unexpected incident took place. Bathinda unit of the Association For Democratic Rights was to hold a meeting in the local Teachers Home, which has till today welcomed all trade unions and democratic mass organizations for holding their meetings. It is managed by a Trust under the Chairmanship of Sh. Jagmohan Kaushal – a trade unionist, educationist and mass activist. There is an article published in today’s Nawan Zamana (AITWARTA), written by a prominent Punjabi writer Jaspal Mankhera, highlighting Jagmohan Kaushal’s contribution to trade union movement, education and social service, particularly his role as Chairman of the Teachers Home Trust.
The meeting was to chalk out a programme against the DC Bathinda’s illegal, undemocratic and draconian order through which protest rallies, dharnas, demonstrations etc by trade unions, mass organizations and even by individuals have been banned in the city. A desolate place, about 5 Kms away from the city has been earmarked for holding protest rallies and entry of the protestors in the city has been completely banned. AFDR has invited some other trade unions and mass organizations for this meeting to make the programme as broad based as possible.
When we reached the Teachers Home at about 9AM, a contingent of police was already positioned inside it. The police refused to let the leaders of trade unions and mass organizations invited for the programme to enter the building. There was a notice put up by the Teachers Home Trust that except the organizations of teachers and employees, no other organization is allowed to hold a meeting etc there.
We met the representatives of Teachers Home management, but they refused to help saying that they have consciously taken a “unanimous” decision not to permit there meetings of any organization except that of teachers and employees, to save the Teachers Home from administration’s attack.
It will not be irrelevant to mention here that Bathinda Police and District Administration, have been striving hard to curb the democratic space with the people, to crush their agitations and struggles. A few months ago when BKU Ugrahan was to hold a sit-in before the Distt Administrative Complex here, the police turned the city in to a fortress, barricading all its entry & exit points and even did not allow the buses to reach the bus stand, disembarking all the passengers many kilometers away from the main city. Although despite the ban, some organizations have held protest demonstrations in the city facing police repression & arrests.
It is an Emergency-like situation. The administration at the behest of Akali-BJP Govt of Punjab is adamant to curb mass protest activity of all sort by all means. However a few days ago when a pro-Akali organization of Teachers, held demonstration here to support Education Minister Maluka, who is embroiled in a scam involving purchase of vulgar books at inflated prices from a non-existent publisher, the same administration not only allowed it, but also arranged tea and snacks for the participants. The message is thus clear and loud.
The management of the Teachers Home Trust must see through the game of the District Administration and the political forces behind it. Their intention is to make it out of bound for trade unions and mass organizations. To achieve this a lot of arm twisting is being done. To protect the inherent worth of the institution of Teachers Home, its doors must have to be kept wide open for the struggling people. This is the only guarantee to resist the Govt’s onslaught. Capitulation to illegitimate pressure is not the trait of those who founded this institution.
It must be understood that loss of a prominent meeting place, cannot curb the growth of a genuine mass protest movement, when there is all-round attack on the lives and livelihood of the working people. They will find thousands other venues. During the Emergency, people’s movements could not be curbed despite draconian laws and measures. The AK-47 wielding Khalistani terrorists, too could not do so despite their open threats and indiscriminate killings. People’s struggles are bound to march ahead, not withstanding such crude roadblocks.