CPM, Left parties plan day of protest during Obama’s visit

CPM, Left parties plan day of protest during Obama’s visit

New Delhi: After officially deciding not to boycott US President Barack Obama or organize protests against him during his state visit to India next week, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, along with other Left parties, has announced a “countrywide day of protest on 8 November".

Obama is to arrive in India on 6 November for a four-day visit and is likely to address Indian parliamentarians in a joint session on 8 November, the day of the planned protests.

The four Left parties, including the CPM, Communist Party of India (CPI), the All India Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party of India (RSP) on Friday issued a statement declaring a nationwide protest during Obama’s visit to “highlight" policies of the US “which are inimical to the national sovereignty and the people’s interests of many countries".

“The President of the United States, Barack Obama is visiting India. Being the first Afro-American President and coming after the neo-conservative Bush regime, there were expectations of positive changes. These, however, have not materialized. On this occasion, the Left parties have decided to organize a countrywide day of protest," said a joint statement by the four Left parties.

The parties have called upon their units to organize demonstrations and rallies across the country. The CPM, which spearheaded mass protests against what it refers to as American imperialism during visits by US presidents earlier, had decided not to boycott President Obama’s visit, even saying the party may allow its members, if invited, to attend Obama’s official functions.

CPM leaders, however, are quick to dismiss the possibility of the latest decision indicating a rethink on the Left’s strategy during Obama’s visit.

“This is nothing. We are just protesting against the general policies of the US," said S. Ramachandran Pillai, a politburo member of the CPM.

The CPM, along with other Left parties, the Samajwadi Party and some Muslim organizations, held nationwide protests when then US president George W. Bush visited India in March 2006. They also observed 21 March 2000—the first day of then US president Bill Clinton’s visit to India—as “anti-imperialist" day.

On the day of the protest next week, the Left parties plan some sort of a repeat by raising a range of issues, including justice for the victims of the Bhopal gas accident, US policy towards opening up agriculture, retail trade, education and other services in India, withdrawing US troops from Iraq and the Indo-US Defence Framework Agreement, among others.

The CPM, along with the other Left parties, had withdrawn support from the first Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in 2008 to protest the signing of the India-US civil nuclear deal.

The party had charged the second UPA government, which came to power in 2009, of pushing through the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill 2010 in the monsoon session of Parliament earlier this year in order to please the US ahead of Obama’s visit.