Mr Harsh Thakor a research scholar based in Mumbai has an article to
mark the occasion
25th Anniversary day of the founding of The 'All India federation of Organizations for Democratic Rights.'
This day is the 25th anniversary year of the founding conference of the All India Federation of Organizations for Democratic Rights which was held on May 29th 1982. This federation marked the historic trend of an All India trend to promote the democratic Rights Movement as a struggle oriented one, which recognized the right to struggle against socio-economic repression as the fundamental right fro which stems up all democratic Rights.
The organizations that merged into the federation were the Association for Democratic Rights of India(Punjab),the Organization for Protection of Democratic Rights(Andhra Pradesh),the Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana(Maharashtra),the Gantanatrik Adhikar Suraksha Samit(Orissa) ,Janadhipatya Avakasa Samrakshana Samiti,Kerala and the Janatantrik Adhikar Surkasha Samiit(Rajasthan)Although he civil liberties movement started from the 1950's the demarcation of civil liberties with democratic Rights was not made.The fundamental right is which form s the base of all democratic Rights. The historic manifesto was as follows
1. Mobilize public opinion against all fascist laws, acts and atrocities by the ruling classes.
2. Propagate and organize among the people about the democratic Rights
3. Give all assistance o the people whose rights were abused.
4. Build unity among all sections possible explaining the connection between their interests.
To build a movement for the right to political dissent and his demand the unconditional release o all political prisoners.
5. To oppose all capital punishment and build public opinion against it.
6. To protect academy and cultural freedoms and oppose state interference
7. To strive to establish the correct practice o the democratic Rights Movement.
The first such democratic Rights organization representing the correct trend was the Organization for Protection of Democratic Rights formed in Andhra Pradesh in 1975. They fought against the trend where the democratic Rights platform was used as a platform for promoting political ideology. This is what differentiated the O.P.D.R with the A.P.C.LC (Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee)
The first major work of O.P. D.R was the report on the Srikakulam Girjian Movement 1977 with regard to police encounters. This was one of the most significant reports in the democratic Rights. Movement in India and the first of it's kind. Hundreds of Girijan families were interviewed and the agency of Srikakulam area was extensively toured.
The report narrated the historic background f the Srikakulam Girijan Movement which originated in 1967. Earlier O.P.D.R had also propagated against the death sentence of Kista Gowd and Bhumiah I 1975 during e emergency. In the 1980's O.P.D.R highlighted a huge range of issues on all sections, whether tribal, peasants, workers students or middle class employees. (Like teachers)Male chauvinism was opposed as well as caste Chauvinism. It also took out a campaign against the 'Rape and murder of Shakeela' Further reports wee carried out on the East Godavri tribals in 1983 and the issue of
Communalism was also highlighted. Living conditions of quarry workers was researched I Krishna district as well as Guntur district. Mass propaganda was done against Police encounters wit A.P.C.LC, but the struggle-oriented trend was always emphasized. (The author attended 2 conferences of O.P.D.R. in 1986 and 1990)The O.P.D.R also took out several reports on issues of drought where the govt's anti-people policies were explained .Even relief was carried out. This was predominant in Krishna district. Tremendous efforts were made to defend the rights of the rural poor. East Godavri district was given great attention as well as Karimnagar. A campaign was done to defend the 1917 and 1959 Tribal area land regulation act. Mass campaigns were also organized against police firing. Often the platform of the Andhra Pradesh Civil liberties Committee was used as a platform of Maoist groups to propagate ideology. The Organization brought out an Organ ' Janpadam 'O.P.D.R also opposed the trend of individual terrorism in the People's Movement as opposed to mass based Movements.
The A.F.D.R.(Punjab)also did significant work in investigating the Naxalite encounters of he early 1970's .It also played an important role in defending democratic movements .In the early 1980's the A F D R organized trade Unions opposing the black Laws and formed a joint democratic Front which opposed the curbing of trade Union rights. The way the govt was using black laws in the name of curbing terrorist was explained with great depth..Infact he no existence of such an organization in the time o the emergency was the prime reason of the defeat the Communist evolutionary led movements I Punjab in the 1970's.
The federation brought out many historic reports through fact-finding teams. During the Khalistan movement a report was brought out which gave a political analysis of the Punjab Problem in the political and socio-economic light. The report explained the genesis of the Khalistani Movement and how the Congress Govt led by Indira Gandhi (It was Indira Gandhi who created Bhindranwale) used it to subvert the democratic movements and to topple the Akali Dal. The ruling class parties connived with the landlords to suppress the democratic movements and used Khalistani gangs against each other t capture power.
The report reported the progressive movements led by left organizations combating the Khalistani terror and upheld all the Communist martyrs I the struggle. The fact finding team interviewed all sections of people from peasants, to workers to students to politicians and to very useful information. The constituent of he Federation, the A.F.D.R (formed in 1977) played a major role investigating false police encounters ad standing by and giving solidarity to al the anti-Khalistani democratic movements by organizations like he Front against Communalism and state repression and the Revolutionary Centre. Several reports per brought about explaining the nexus between the landlords with the Khalistani forces. Great anti-communal propaganda was done which as appreciated by the oppressed sections and many a policeman was brought to the book. The organization brought out a monthly paper alee 'Jamhoori Hakk'. A protracted and sustained campaign was carried out exposing state and Khalistani terror.
Another famous report was brought out by the Federation based on the peoples Movement against the building of a missile base I Baliapal in Orissa. The report covered all the areas of Baliapal and explained the policies of the government which promoted military expansionism at the cost of the economic welfare. The class angle as also elaborated but unity with the better off sections like rich farmers was supported .The report highlighted the false propaganda of he government which stressed hat too little was spent on defense. In Orissa the G.A S.S.made all efforts to promote the movement opposing the Baliapal Missile base. It also supported the movement of the Adivasi Sangh of the Malkangiri region an gave al support to the anti -people development policies of the govt. promoting high-tech.
In Maharashtra the Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana(formed in 1978) did significant work in bringing out reports on repression on slum dwellers where the relationship with the trade Union movement was projected.L.H.S also did a campaign against police torture ,fought against he retrenchment of workers in Mukesh Mils in Mumbai in Colaba area, took up poster and leafleting campaigns against communalism(against the Ram Janmabhoomi and Rath Yatra or Mandir propaganda).With regards to communalism emphasis was placed on the role of the working class.LHS also brought out reports on drought and in 1983 and 1989 brought out a report on repression by the C.P.M on Kashtakari Sanghatana,a struggling organization of Adivasis in Dahanu.(A tribal region of Maharashtra)
The report brilliantly explained the relationship between the socio-economic conditions of the Adivasis and the repression by the C.P.M. L.HS also did propaganda in working calls areas opposing state repression in Bihar and in Andhra Pradesh. Peasent leaders from Bihar were invited to address the gathering. Significant work was done in 1992-93 during the Mumbai riots to build struggle committees promoting communal solidarity .L.HS brought out reports o Contract workers at the Airport in Mumbai and on the closure of the Mills in Mumbai with a historic socio-economic angle.
In Rajasthan also significant solidarity work was done with regards to black laws and communalism
the federation held 2 Sammelans, one in 1990 in Udaipur and he other in 1995 in Faridkot..Here was no great mass mobilization but the methods of work and issues we of historical significance.A.I.F.O.F.D.R also brought out reports on drought and on the massacre of Christian missionaries in Orissa in 1999.
Historic resolutions have been passed by the Federation on repression on Kashmiri People, Punjab Problem, ,state repression in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, retrenchment of workers in West Bengal, Black Laws .Upto the early 1990'sthe Federation progressed at an All India level but sadly by the late 1990's the trend declined. The A.F.D.R hardly now displayed the same militant orientation and nor did the O.P.D.R.
The author of his article wishes that the readers of this site could get hold of the earlier issues of he A.I.FO.F.D.R organ called "In Defense of Democratic Rights .'and help in reprinting and re-distributing the issues .Brilliant portrayals have been done on communalism, Repression on peasants and Workers Struggles Etc. The genesis of the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition s and communal riots in the aftermath is well explained.
Today a struggle oriented democratic Rights Movement is very much needed which relates the cause of democratic Rights as different rom mere civil liberties. Civil liberties are what exists in the Constitution, but democratic Rights have always been won over by the people .E.g. the rights of Black people in America or the Working Class in England. Today in light of the advance of he Special economic Zones and repression on the Nandigram peasant struggle a united democratic Rights movement is the need o the hour.
Let us remember this day when a federation was formed 25 years ago to promote he Democratic Rights Movement.
The author wishes that readers could obtain articles on the history of the Democratic Rights Movement and get the earlier reports of the Federation. All readers could kindly request the author of he article. It is impossible in this article to refer to all of the reports and struggles. Please also read the 1985 December issue of Democratic Rights which historically differentiates civil liberties from Democratic Rights. Also purchase reports of A.I.F.O.F.D.R.
By Harsh Taker