THOUSANDS of people held a rally to parliament street in Delhi on June 13 to protest against the recent hike in petrol and diesel prices as part of the All India Protest Day called by the four Left parties responding to the call given by the CPI(M), CPI, AIFB, RSP and supported by Rashtriya Lok Dal and Samajwadi Party for opposing the hike in petroleum prices.

The procession started from Mandi House and culminated in a mass protest rally at parliament street. This rally was addressed by CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, CPI general secretary A B Bardhan, AIFB general secretary Debabrata Biswas, RSP leader Abani Roy, RLD leader Sarfaraz Choudhary, Samajwadi Party leader Usha Yadav and socialist leader Surendra Mohan.

Addressing the rally, Prakash Karat severely castigated the UPA government for increasing the prices of petrol and diesel. This step is totally unjustified and will further fuel the already spiralling inflation. He lambasted the justification being made by the government for increasing petroleum prices. The central government levies heavy duties on petroleum products. At the same time private exporters of refined petroleum products are exempted from custom duties. Reversing these policies, as suggested by the Left, would render these price hikes unnecessary and help stabilising petroleum prices, he said.

Karat also described as hypocritical the attempt of the central government to evade its responsibility by asking state governments to reduce cess on petro products without itself reducing the cess that it levies. He demanded that the central government fully roll back the petro-price hike by reducing cess levied by it before asking state governments to take such steps. The struggle to ensure a complete roll back will continue, he asserted. CPI general secretary A B Bardhan called upon the UPA government to take appropriate lessons from the downfall of Nepalese monarchy.

The programme concluded with a mass court arrest programme. Over 1500 people, including Prakash Karat, A B Bardhan, Debabrata Biswas, Abani Roy and Surendra Mohan, courted arrest.

Effigies of prime minister Manmohan Singh, finance minister P Chidambram and petroelum minister Murli Deora were also burnt at the the mass rally.

More than 30,000 volunteers including 5,000 women courted arrest in various centres all over the state on June 13, as part of the All India Protest Day against hike in petrol and diesel prices. Leaders of CPI(M) and CPI led the volunteers.

In South Chennai, thousands of volunteers led by CPI(M) central committee member T K Rangarajan, and CPI national council member S S Thiagarajan ourted arrest in front of the AG's Office. Traffic on Anna Salai, the main artery of Chennai, was disrupted for a long time because of the picketing.

In Nagercoil, the district police resorted to brutal attack on protestors, seriously injuring nine volunteers, including CPI(M) district secretariat member, M Annadurai who were hospitalised. This attack was led by the district superintendent of police himself. A V Bellarmin, MP, who led the volunteers was also manhandled and his shirt torn by the police.

The state committee of the CPI(M) condemned this brutal attack and demanded action against the guilty police officials. The state committee also greeted the Party workers and sympathisers for making the court arrest programme a big success.

Agitations in different forms protesting the recent hike in prices of petrol and diesel were organised on June 13 all over the state by the CPI(M), Left parties and other non-Congress parties, demanding withdrawal of the hike. Leaders and others participating in rail roko, rasta roko, dharnas, half-naked demonstrations and processions were arrested at several places by the police and released later. These protest programmes reflected the resentment of the people against the hefty burdens imposed by the Congress-led UPA government.

In Hyderabad, rasta roko was conducted by the CPI(M) and the Telugu Desam Party at RTC x Roads for more than one hour, raising slogans against the Congress president Sonia Gandhi and chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, till the police arrested the agitators. State secretary and Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M) B V Raghavulu, CPI(M) MP and central committee member P Madhu, CPI(M) state secretariat member Y Venkateswara Rao and Party city committee secretary P S N Murthy were among those arrested. TDP leaders T Srinivas Yadav and G Sayanna were also arrested. Raghavulu warned that if the price hike is not withdrawn the agitation would be intensified. He criticised the Congress government for ignoring its assurances given during the elections and imposing heavy burdens on the people by increasing prices of petroleum products six times during the last two years.

Rasta roko was conducted by the CPI at Liberty chowrasta and by the CPI(ML) New Democracy, MCPI, SUCI and CPI(ML) at Basheerbagh. Dharnas were organised in the surrounding municipalities. The CPI(M) organised rasta rokos all over the Medak district and rail roko at Zaheerabad. At Sangareddy, the CPI(M) and TDP organised rasta roko. In Ranga Reddy district, the CPI(M) held dharnas at all the centres in Ibrahimpatnam division. At Tirupati, the CPI(M), CPI and TDP conducted dharna at the railway station. At Srikalahasthi, leaders and workers of the Left parties and TDP sat on the railway track and stopped the Ongole passenger. The CPI(M) held half-naked demonstration and rasta roko. In Nellore, the Left parties and the TDP organised demonstrations and rasta roko separately. In Cuddapah, while the Left parties held dharna at the collectorate, the workers of TDP took out a procession with bullock carts and organised rasta roko. In Vijayawada, people under the banner of the CPI(M) and CPI stopped the super fast Coramandal express for more than half an hour. East Coast express was also stopped for some time. The city committee of the DYFI collected signatures of the people against the price hike.

In Khammam, the CPI(M) and TDP conducted demonstration and dharna in which the central committee member of the CPI(M) Tammineni Veerabhadram, district committee secretary P Sudarsan, DCCB chairman T S Prasad and former minister of the TDP Tummala Nageswara Rao participated. In Nalgonda district, rail roko was conducted at Miryalguda and the police arrested the CPI(M) MLA J Ranga Reddy, TDP leaders and others. All over the Guntur district the CPI(M) organised dharnas and rasta rokos and rail roko at Guntur. At several places the CPI(M) and TDP organised the protests together. In Krishna district, the Left parties organised rasta roko at Nuziveedu and the CPI(M) and TDP conducted rasta roko at Nandigama. In Prakasam district, the Left parties and TDP conducted a demonstration at Ongole and stopped Navjeevan and Howrah expresses for some time during the rail roko. Rasta rokos and dharnas were organised at several places in the district, as also at Rajahmundry, Kakinada, Amalapuram, Peddapuram and Rampachodavaram in East Godavari district. In West Godavari district, dharnas were organised by the CPI(M) and CPI at Tadepalligudem, Bheemvaram, Jangareddyguden, Nidadvolu and other areas and rail roko at Eluru, stopping Simhadri express and Yaswanthpur express for some time. Dharnas and protest demonstrations were conducted at several places in Karimnagar district by diferent political parties. The CPI(M) laid seige to the collectorate in Nizamabad and rail roko was organised at Kamareddy and Nizamabad. In Adilabad and Mahabubnagar, the CPI(M) organised rasta roko. In Anantapur district, the CPI(M) and TDP conducted agitations, while the two parties and BJP and TRS organised agitations at Warangal, Kazipet, Janagaon, Narsampet, Mahaboobabad and Parakala in Warangal district, besides in Khammam and Nalgonda districts.

The CPI(M) Maharashtra state secretariat, which met on June 6, a day after the unjust and unjustifiable price hike of diesel and petrol announced by the UPA central government, roundly condemned the price hike which was effected, ignoring the alternative proposals submitted several times before by the Left parties to the central government. As per the CPI(M) Polit Bureau directive, the state secretariat called upon all Party units in Maharashtra to organise immediate joint protest actions at district and tehsil centres to culminate in militant statewide mass actions on June 13.

Accordingly, as per the reports that have come to the state centre, tens of thousands of people in over 100 district and tehsil centres spread over 30 districts of the state held militant demonstrations, rallies, rasta roko actions and dharnas denouncing the hike in diesel and petrol charges in particular, and condemning the neo-liberal and pro-imperialist policies of the UPA regime in general. These mass actions ridiculed the hypocritical opposition to the price hike that was being voiced by the BJP, which had increased the diesel and petrol prices several times during its own stint in power, and focused on the alternative proposals submitted by the Left parties to the UPA regime.

In several places, the actions were jointly organised by the CPI(M) and CPI and/or the PWP; in some places, notably Nagpur, along with the Left parties, other parties like the JD(S), SP and Republican Party groups also joined the demonstration; but in most places the actions were organised independently by the CPI(M) since no other party is active there. In most districts, the Party published thousands of leaflets setting out why we oppose the price hike and also stating our alternative proposals. All these statewide actions were excellently covered by the local print and electronic media. On June 6 itself, CPI(M) state secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale was interviewed on the Doordarshan Marathi news channel Sahyadri', where he placed the reasons for the Party's opposition to the diesel and petrol price hike, our alternative proposals and the Left and secular parties' plan for struggle.

On June 7, a demonstration was organised at the busy Churchgate railway terminus in Mumbai by the CPI(M) and the CPI. It was led and addressed by Mahendra Singh, Sayeed Ahmed, Hemkant Samant, Ashok Banerjee, Ramsagar Pandey, Vivek Monteiro, P R Krishnan, Shailendra Kamble, Sugandhi Francis and others of the CPI(M) and by Sukumar Damle, Narayan Ghagare, Prakash Narvekar and others of the CPI. Again, on June 13, another big demonstration was held at the Churchgate station, this time by the Trade Unions Joint Action Committee comprising CITU, AITUC, NRMU, HMS, HMKP, Kamgar Aghadi, Sarva Shramik Sangh, Solidarity Committee, unions of bank and insurance employees and others. It was addressed by Ahilya Rangnekar, K L Bajaj, P R Menon, Dada Samant, A D Golandaz and others. The same day, the CPI(M) held large independent demonstrations in several places in the city like Andheri, Goregaon, Bhandup, Dharavi, Wadala, Mira Road and Vasai.

All these actions were led by the state and district leadership of the CPI(M), along with the leadership of other Left and secular parties in several places. All the class and mass organizations like the CITU, AIKS, AIAWU, AIDWA, DYFI, SFI, as well as unions like the NRMU and MSMRA participated in these actions in strength.

The Assam units of the seven political parties CPI(M), CPI, RSP, CPI(ML), Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Samajwadi Party and ASDC(U) jointly organised massive protests on June 13 throughout the state demanding immediate roll back of the hike in prices of petrol and diesel.

In Guwahati city, the members, supporters and sympathisers of the participating parties jointly organised a sit-in demonstration from 11 am at the Lakhshidhar Bora Khetra, near Dighalipukhuri. Braving drizzle in the morning and scarcity of transports due to the strike call given by the bus owners, several hundred people assembled in the field and joined the protest actions. A meeting was also held at the place of sit-in, conducted by the CPI(M) state secretary Uddhab Barman.

Addressing the protestors, the CPI(M) central committee member Hemen Das thundered against the Congress-led UPA government at the centre and charged it with violation of the CMP. The hike in prices of petrol and diesel was a glaring instance of such violation, he asserted and demanded immediate roll-back of the prices. He welcomed the stance taken by the AGP in Assam in joining the nation-wide call of the Left parties. He further appealed to the regional party to strengthen and broaden the joint struggles of the Left, democratic and secular parties on people's issues in the near future too.

The AGP general secretary Chandra Mohan Patowary reciprocated the sentiments and called upon the non-Congress and non-BJP parties to strengthen the struggle against the anti-people policies of the central government. He also lambasted the Manmohan Singh government for rejecting the alternative proposals of the Left parties in controlling and stabilising the prices of petroleum products.

The protest meeting was also addressed, among others, by Bhugeswar Dutta (CPI), Rabul Sarma (CPI-ML), Ratneswar Gogoi (RSP) and Syed Gulam Akbar (SP). All the speakers demanded immediate reduction of central excise duties/taxes and creation of a price stabilisation fund to check the prices of petroleum products. The CPI(M) state secretary Uddhab Barman ridiculed the proposals to reduce the sale-tax by the state governments and termed it as an infringement on the rights of the states and an attempt to further squeeze the limited resources of the state governments. He also called upon the non-BJP, non-Congress parties to broaden the platform of joint and united struggles on people's issues and livelihood.

Later, a protest procession was taken out from Dighalipukhuri to the deputy commissioner's office and a demonstration held there. Amidst shouting of slogans, the leaders of the participating parties presented to the DC a memorandum addressed to the prime minister demanding immediate roll-back of prices of petrol and diesel.

Hundreds of workers, employees, students, youth, women converged sharp near Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chowk (Gandhi Maidan) at Patna carrying banners, placards, flags and marched through main streets raising slogans against the anti-people policies of UPA government and demanding rolling back of oil price hike. The protest demonstration was organised on June 13, 2006 at the call of Left parties and sponsoring committee of trade unions jointly.

The protestors reached railway station where effigies of the central petroleum and finance ministers were burnt. Slogans of 'Roll back oil price hike' and 'Down with the anti-people policies of the UPA government' rent the sky.

The protestors were led by the leaders of Left parties CPI(M), CPI, and CPI(ML). Prominent amongst them were Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, central committee member, Vijay Kant Thakur, state secretary, Sarvodaya Sharma, Arun Kumar Mishra, Sarangdhar Paswan and Rampari [all CPI(M)], Badri Narain Lal, secretary, CPI, Ram Jatan Sharma, secretary CPI(ML).

The truck owners association, bus owners association, auto-rickshaw chalak union (CITU) gave a call for complete bandh which evoked good response.

To make the all India protest day a great success, hundreds of corner meetings were organised by the parties and mass organisations. Thousands of pamphlets were distributed explaining the alternatives put forward by the Left parties. Trade union sponsoring committee comprising of AITUC, CITU, AICCTU, UTUC, UTUC(LS) and TUCC, separately campaigned for the success of the All India Protest Day.

Scorching sun and humid atmosphere could not dampen the determination of the protest marchers in which a good number of women workers also participated.

In thousands of people belonging to the CPI(M), CPI, AIFB, RSP, Rashtriya Lok Dal and Samajwadi Party, CPI(ML) and central trade unions CITU, AITUC, AIKS, AIDWA, etc held rallies in Rajasthan to protest against the recent hike in petrol and diesel prices. The protest rally in Jaipur was addressed by former MLA Hari Ram Chauhan.

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