The Guardian 23 November, 2005

Bengal: 1.5 million protest
over Indo-US joint military exercises


From the Darjeeling district in north Bengal to Kolkata, Kalaikunda and beyond to the southern Sunderbans, more than 1.5 million people came out in strident protest against the Indo-US military duet in the sky. The Communist Party India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) and the Left Front had earlier called for a state-wide protest on November 7 against the joint exercises.

The biggest rally was held at Kalaikunda air force base where the joint exercises took place. More than 150,000 people gathered at the Kendua grass field adjacent to the air force base and started to raise tumultuous slogans against US imperialism and against the joint exercises, right from the morning until sundown. The assemblage covered the full 20 acres of the field.

Such was the pressure created by the rally on the air force personnel concerned that a reinforced barricade was quickly thrown up beyond the Kalaikunda perimeter. However, as Anil Biswas and Biman Basu had repeatedly stressed, the rally remained very peaceful.

During the rally, an effigy of Bush was burnt. Significant also was the burning of a replica of the Indo-US defence agreement. The flames leaped high, the chain put around a large-scale relief map of India broke in several places and fell to the ground.

The huge rallying cry that went up from the assemblage must have created more than just unease among the participants of the joint exercises and their lackeys in the corporate media. The latter has for some days now been acutely trying to run down the protest demonstration of the CPI(M) and the Left Front and has been offering support for and justification of the joint air exercises.

Principal speakers at the Kalaikunda rally were CPI(M) leaders Dipak Sarkar and Sudhir Giri, as well as Prabodh Panda of the CPI.

Protest rallies were held in all the districts of Bengal throughout November 7.

The Kolkata rally held opposite the USIS in the core of the metropolis, and addressed among others by State Secretary of the Bengal CPI(M), Anil Biswas, saw thousands of people from all walks of life come forth to show their condemnation of the joint exercise.

The people were visibly angry with the government for having been callous enough to organise the air exercise with the leading imperialist power, a power that has always been against humanity, nationhood, sovereignty, and independence around the globe.

Kolkata and Bengal, which remain deeply in love with the people of Vietnam and Cuba for their heroic struggle against US hegemonic attempts, could never learn about, except in great fulminating anger, the manner in which the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government chose to agree to hold the joint military exercises on Indian soil, and that too, on the day of the October Revolution. (The UPA is led by Congress party).

Anil Biswas said that the joint exercises would surely undermine the national security imperative of India. The exercises were but the advanced post of more evil things to come and these would certainly include the setting up of military bases in India.

The US, pointed out Anil Biswas, aimed at taking over the national assets of the countries of South and Southeast Asia through intervention, militarily if necessary. The CPI(M) would not remain a spectator to the train of events that would follow and it would mobilise popular opinion against the moves.

Addressing a rally at Krishnagar on November 6, Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee described the joint exercise as an attempt to drown in the river the sovereignty of the nation itself. He wondered why the union government would go ahead with organising joint exercises with a power whose imperialist credentials were impeccable.

Two long processions — one from Barasat and the other from Ultadanga crossing converged on the Kolkata airport in the morning of November 7. A vast assemblage gathered near the airport with a myriad of red flags and banners to shout slogans against the joint exercises. The principal speaker here was senior CPI(M) leader and Bengal Left Front Chairman, Biman Basu.

Biman Basu said that the exercise was aimed at interfering with India’s sovereignty and security. He pointed out that the present union government by acquiescing to the US pressure in holding the exercises has committed a grave blunder.

The independent foreign policy of India was being jeopardised, said Biman Basu. The CPI(M), he said, would continue to organise protests against the joint military exercises by taking the mass of the people along. Other speakers included Subhas Chakraborty (CPI-M) and Naren De (Forward Bloc).

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