The political siutuation in India took an important new turn last week as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in several major cities denouncing rising food prices.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) estimated 2 and a half million workers and activists from CPI-M, Communist Party of India (CPI), Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) took part in the protests.
The CPI-M said over a million people protested in West Bengal and Kerala, with some demonstrators picketing outside central government offices objecting to what they said was New Delhi's failure to curb rising prices of essential commodities.
The government has failed to check shooting prices of food and other essential commodities," said CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat at a rally in New Delhi. Earlier the CPI-M had called a "jail bharo" campaign in all districts to fill the jails on 8th April.
Police used water cannons to disperse the protesters when they tried to cross police barricades, he said. In his speech, Karat asked the government to strengthen the public distribution system, implement land reforms and provide employment opportunities.
"A meeting of the leaders of Left parties and secular parties will be held April 12 to decide further course of action," Karat said. Left parties have started consultations with almost all parties barring the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to further strengthen the movement against the Congress-led government's "anti-people policies".
Despite these important developments there are big issues and debates in the Indian movement. The main Communist Parties have implicated themselves in the support of neo liberal economic programmes and have failed to show solidarity with the maoist struggles in support of indigenous people.
Nevertheless, demonstartions on this kind of scale can start to build real resistance on the ground to government austerity measures which are causing terrible suffering for the Indian poor.
Feyzi Ismail teaches at Goldsmiths, University of London, and is active in UCU
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