ML Update | No. 35 | 2014

August 27, 2014

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 17 | No. 35 | 26 AUG – 1 SEP 2014

By-poll Pointers: Early Warning for the Modi Government

The by-poll results from Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab, and earlier from Uttarakhand, have come as a veritable blow to the BJP’s political ambitions revolving around the Modi government at the Centre. By-polls are of course by-polls and these have all been assembly by-polls at that. Moreover, except Madhya Pradesh and Punjab, the three other states where by-polls have taken place so far are all ruled by non-BJP governments. Political commentators would therefore naturally plead for caution and refuse to jump to any conclusion as to what the by-polls foretell about the forthcoming round of Assembly elections. But viewed together, the by-polls have definitely sent out an unmistakable early warning to the Modi government.

In Uttarakhand, where the BJP had swept the polls in May, all the three by-poll results have gone in favour of the Congress. In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress has wrested one of the three seats that went for by-polls from the BJP. In Punjab, the Congress has retained the Patiala assembly seat despite losing out to AAP in the Lok Sabha elections. In Karnataka, the Congress has claimed the Bellary rural seat by a massive margin while the BJP has managed to retain the seat held earlier by party strongman and former CM Yeddyurappa only by a slender margin of 4,000 votes (the BJP’s lead during the Lok Sabha election from this segment was an astounding 70,000). The most stunning and representative results have come from Bihar where the BJP has managed to win just 4 out of 10 seats – a loss of two seats from its 2010 tally and a much bigger drop of five seats compared to the 2014 LS leads.

The Bihar results are being generally attributed to the coming together of the JDU and the RJD-Congress combine. While the coalition arithmetic has certainly played a big role in the BJP’s defeat, we must note that the BJP’s vote share has gone down by as much as 8% (45.3% in the LS polls to 37.3% in August). Not all these votes have gone to the RJD-JDU-Congress alliance whose vote share has increased by 4.6%. The united Left bloc of CPI(ML), CPI and CPI(M) has also succeeded in improving its vote share, polling close to 50,000 votes from the 9 seats contested, none of which is known to be a significant Left stronghold in recent times.

Another round of by-polls is to be held next month in UP and Gujarat before we go for the next big series of Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi. Assembly elections in Bihar are also only little more than a year away. Viewed in this context, the by-poll results clearly mark an early warning against the BJP government at the Centre and the BJP’s attempt to enforce its corporate-communal agenda and its unilateral political domination over large parts of the country. There were many takers for Modi’s election rhetoric of ‘better days’ and ‘inclusive governance’, but today more and more people are expressing their resentment over the post-poll reality of rising prices and escalating communal violence.

It will be most unrealistic to expect the BJP to heed the democratic voice of the people. The BJP only knows how to pay lip-service to democracy in the interest of its ultimate agenda of communal division and corporate tyranny. Communal polarisation played a big part in the BJP’s stunning poll victories in UP and the party is working overtime to spread the communal venom in the hope of replicating its UP success across the country. While Modi is busy laying foundation stones and inaugurating projects in poll-bound states, thugs of the Sangh brigade are busy invoking every possible bogey to create chaos and spread communal mischief. It should be noted that even as by-poll results were being announced in Bihar, BJP activists were on a rampage in Ranchi in the name of decrying what they call ‘love jihad’.

While serving an early warning to the BJP, the by-poll results have also sent out a message of encouragement for all those who are fighting against the BJP’s authoritarian mode of governance and corporate-communal agenda. The Congress or the RJD-JDU-Congress combine may have been the primary electoral beneficiaries of the developing popular mood in the given situation, but the Left must champion the underlying aspirations of the people and emerge as a stronger political force in opposition to both NDA and UPA.

Gana Mancha Enquires Into Rape-Murder of CPI(M) Supporter

A seven-member delegation team from Ganamancha, comprising of representatives from all the constituents of Ganamancha – Amalendu Chowdhury, Chandrasmita Chowdhury and Archana Ghatak of CPI(ML) Liberation, Prasenjit Bose, Subhanil Chowdhury of Left Collective, Ajoy Bakshi of MKP, Bodhisatwa Ray of Radical Socialist and others – visited Sunai village in Contai on 21 August for a fact-finding on the barbaric gang-rape, torture and lynching of a woman who was a CPI(M) supporter and the wife of a CPI(M) activist. The team was joined in Contai by the CPI(ML) Liberation’s Purba Medinipur leaders Ashish Maity and Sukchand Mandal. The TMC goons who brazenly perpetrated this heinous crime are henchmen of Dipendu Adhikari, the brother of TMC leader and Tamluk MP Suvendu Adhikari.

When the team announced its decision to visit the village, the police at first tried to dissuade them from going there, citing security reasons (that the police will not be able to provide security to anyone who visits the village)! Despite such attempts the team reached the victim’s village around noon. An atmosphere of complete terror and silence loomed large and people were terrorized of political backlash to even talk about the matter. The two women members of the delegation, Chandrasmita Chowdhury and Archana Ghatak, spoke at length with the victim’s family and her mother-in-law. The delegation also spoke to the victim’s husband in Tamluk town, later during the day.

The victim’s family members spoke about the long torture they faced from the TMC henchmen. The husband of the victim, who was a local committee member of the CPI(M), had been forced to flee the village along with their young son ever since the TMC came to power in 2011. The victim had been staying with her in-laws since then. The victim worked as an Integrated Child Development Scheme worker. The woman was under continuous threat for her family’s political affiliation. On 15th, her brother-in-law was kidnapped by the TMC goons and the family was asked to pay ransom for his release. The TMC men came to their home and beat up all members of the family including her, the sister-in-law and even the old mother-in-law and asked them to pay a huge sum of money (12 lakhs) as “fine” imposed by the TMC men. This so-called “fine” was nothing but a pretext for what was to follow. The men threatened to expect them again. When the victim refused to pay and fled to a nearby village in fear she was forcefully dragged, gang-raped, brutally tortured, and lynched to death. Her body was found hanging from the ceiling in her house. Liquor bottles, an iron rod (with blood stains), chilli powder and pointed objects like safety-pins (purportedly used for torture) were found lying at the place of crime. The TMC men tried to masquerade the lynching as ‘suicide’ and the police made the brother-in-law write a coerced statement (supervised by the Tamluk IC himself) to hush-up the brutal rape-murder. Before the truth came to everybody’s attention, the victim’s husband gave the full statement and a hush-up was no longer possible.

During the 2 days (15th to 17th) of kidnap, threat and torture several phone calls were made to the police. But nobody came to rescue till the woman was dead. After the matter came to media spotlight, the police under pressure have arrested three small fries, but the masterminds named by the victim’s husband are at large and continue to roam free. This horrifying incident as well as the continuous assault on democracy in West Bengal’s villages continues brazenly even as TMC leaders like the infamous MP Tapas Pal and his likes continue to instigate their local henchmen to rape, murder, arson in order to silence all political opposition. This trend has been continuing in Purba Medinipur for long, and all the left activists of the CPI(M), CPI(ML) Liberation and others have been on the receiving end of such attacks.

A more detailed fact-finding report will be released soon. In the days to come, Ganamancha, CPI(ML) and other democratic forces, AIPWA and other women’s organizations will jointly take the struggle forward till justice is achieved for the victim. The struggle for democracy and against TMC terror cannot and will not rest in West Bengal.

Tea garden workers rally for rights

Thousands of workers from tea gardens affiliated to 22 labour unions of north Bengal organised a rally at Siliguri in Darjeeling on Wednesday demanding a minimum wage structure for workers of tea gardens.

The workers who had assembled from nearly 300 tea gardens in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri , Alipurduar and even from smaller tea gardens of Uttar Dinajpur district walked a three-km stretch in Siliguri town. The representatives of the 22 labour unions submitted a memorandum to the Joint Labour Commissioner, North Bengal Zone. The protests took place in the wake of starvation deaths of workers of locked-out and abandoned tea gardens.

The protest was addressed by Abhijit Mazumdar on behalf of AICCTU, among others.

Below is an excerpt from the memorandum to be submitted to the Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Reclaiming the rights of the tea workers in West Bengal

India remains the second largest tea producing country in the global arena. Notwithstanding this deep market penetration of the captains of the industry, the huge working population (more than 4 lacs permanent labourers) engaged in the tea sector in West Bengal are rendered impoverished and malnourished, living on a lower than subsistence wage structure and are being deprived of the statutory entitlements due on them as per The Tea Plantation Labour Act, 1951. Presently 6 tea gardens in the Dooars region are lying closed, the resident workers are dying in hordes (the death toll reached beyond 100 in the last 6 months or so) in absence of basic living amenities like food, medical facilities, potable drinking water, access to alternative employment opportunities and minimal wages, suffering from prolonged malnourishment and starvation. The erstwhile managements of all 6 closed tea gardens and scores of purportedly declared sick gardens, as speculators, amassed huge surplus during market booms without spending a farthing either for labour welfare or the rejuvenation of their plantations, and refusing to shoulder the associated social cost or liabilities. They left their gardens leaving the entire working population to their fate, defaulting even on the amount of money to the tune of crores payable to the workers as PF and gratuity.

The very recent report based on a thorough survey of all 276 organised tea gardens, conducted by West Bengal State Labour Department is full of incriminating evidences against the managements of several closed, sick and even open gardens.

The gravity of the prevailing situation warrants a strong and effective intervention on the part of the Central Government machinery to chart out a viable course for immediate opening and revival of the closed tea gardens in West Bengal.

The Tea Plantation Labour Act, 1951 enshrining the basic rights of the working population is rampantly flouted and in the name of revamping the act the planters are pleading to revisit it towards scaling down further such statutory rights vis-à-vis need-based wages (ascertaining the base on 3 consuming units), subsidized rations, proper housing facilities, supply of fuels, medical and educational facilities for the workers and their wards etc.

TPLA ought to be reinforced with vigour and any violation of any sort must be met with penal actions.

The Tea Board of India, formed under the provisions of Tea Act 1953, must ensure its avowed assistance to the tea sector in terms of replantation, rejuvenation of poor yielding and old aged tea-bushes, modernization of operations, spreading popularity of tea domestically and globally, creation of irrigation facility, drainage and transportation facility, assistance of product diversification, improving labour productivity, skill improvement, upgradation, value addition etc. It must look through and monitor that no measure of such assistance be falsified by the planters and engaged in maximizing profit and siphoning off the surplus by adopting unfair means.

Palestinian statement on murder of Mike Brown and solidarity with Ferguson

(Even as it comes to light that the weapons deployed by the US cops against black anti-racist protesters in the streets of Ferguson, Palestinians have come out with a statement of solidarity with the people of Ferguson. The statement, posted on Electronic Intifada, was endorsed by a large number of Palestinian Citizens and activist groups.)

We the undersigned Palestinian individuals and groups express our solidarity with the family of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man gunned down by police on August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri. We wish to express our support and solidarity with the people of Ferguson who have taken their struggle to the street, facing a militarized police occupation.

From all factions and sectors of our dislocated society, we send you our commitment to stand with you in your hour of pain and time of struggle against the oppression that continues to target our black brothers and sisters in nearly every aspect of their lives.

We understand your moral outrage. We empathize with your hurt and anger. We understand the impulse to rebel against the infrastructure of a racist capitalist system that systematically pushes you to the margins of humanity.

And we stand with you.

We recognize the disregard and disrespect for black bodies and black life endemic to the supremacist system that rules the land with wanton brutality. Your struggles through the ages have been an inspiration to us as we fight our own battles for basic human dignities. We continue to find inspiration and strength from your struggles through the ages and your revolutionary leaders, like Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Kwame Ture, Angela Davis, Fred Hampton, Bobby Seale and others.

We honor the life of Michael Brown, cut short less than a week before he was due to begin university. And we honor the far too many more killed in similar circumstances, motivated by racism and contempt for black life: Ezell Ford, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tarika Wilson, Malcolm Ferguson, Renisha McBride, Amadou Diallo, Yvette Smith, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Kathryn Johnston, Rekia Boyd and too many others to count.

With a Black Power fist in the air, we salute the people of Ferguson and join in your demands for justice.

Birth Centenary of Late CPI GS Chandra Rajeswara Rao

On 11th August, leaders of left parties addressed a mass gathering in Hyderabad to mark the birth anniversary of the Communist leader, late Comrade Chandra Rajeswara Rao (popularly called CR), who had been General Secretary of the Communist Party of India for 28 years.

In the gathering of thousands, there were some 1500 volunteers in red shirts. On the dais were CPI General Secretary Sudhakar Reddy, CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat, senior RSP leader Abani Ray, as well as CPI Secretaries from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and organisers of the Centenary Celebration Committee.

Speaking on the occasion, Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya recalled Comrade CR’s participation in the Indian People’s Front Vijayawada Conference in February 1992, and his emphasis on militant peasant struggle and movement-oriented Left unity. All the Left leaders hailed Comrade CR’s legacy from the Telangana days and in anti-communal mobilisation and stressed the need for broad unity of Left and democratic forces and joint struggles against the Modi regime and the heightened corporate-communal offensive.

On 10th August, an international seminar on ‘Social Movement and the role of the Left’ was held as part of Centenary celebrations. Representatives from Cuba and Vietnam, and leaders of Communist Party Bangladesh, and Workers Party of Bangladesh addressed it. It was inaugurated by veteran CPI leader AB Bardhan, and Prabhat Patnaik delivered the keynote address. CPI(ML) Liberation CCM Comrade N Murthy also addressed the seminar.

OBITUARY

UR Ananthamurthy

We are saddened to hear of the demise of towering Kannada litterateur UR Ananthamurthy. Born in an orthodox Brahmin household, his first novel Samskara was a powerful critique of the hypocrisies of Brahminism. He was one of the pioneers of the Navya movement in Kannada literature. His literary oeuvre includes five novels, one play, eight short-story collections, three collections of poetry and eight more of essays.

In his writing, and as a public intellectual, he was a scathing critic of communal and casteist bigotry, earning him physical assaults as well as threats and abuse. In spite of this, he remained one of the country’s most steadfast voices in defence of secular, democratic values. His public stand against the rise of Narendra Modi who personified the fascist danger for him, made him the target of threats to his safety in the past few days. But he continued to defy the threats, declaring that bullies should not be allowed to turn citizens into cowards.

CPI(ML) salutes the memory of UR Ananthamurthy!

Comrade Bishuda

Comrade Bishuda (Biswaranjan Das) of Potiram, South Dinajpur district, veteran of the historic Tebhaga peasants struggle, and former member of Party’s West Bengal State Committee died breathed his last in Balurghat hospital. He was 94. He was a key leader of Tebhaga movement in Khanpur region of Dinajpur. He joined CPI(ML) Liberation in 1994. Despite his advanced age and physical ailments, his mental involvement and ideological commitment remained unshaken till the end.

Red Salute to Comrade Bishuda!

ML Update | No. 34 | 2014

August 20, 2014

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 17 | No. 34 | 19 – 25 AUG 2014

Modi’s Independence Day Speech

Decoding the Reality Behind the Hype and Rhetoric

It is time to parse Modi’s Independence Day speech carefully, behind the hype and rhetoric, for signals of what India can actually expect in terms of policies from his Government.

On a range of troubling questions ranging from rape to sex-selective abortion to farmers’ suicides to communal violence, the Prime Minister’s words, artfully chosen to create an impression of ‘inclusive governance’, contrasted starkly with the actual actions of his Government, BJP leaders, and the Sangh Parivar.

His speech waxed eloquent on parental responsibility in checking rapes. It did not for one moment answer why a rape-accused man had been given a place in his own Cabinet. More significantly, as a measure to curb rapes, he called upon parents to “impose as many restrictions on the sons as have been imposed on our daughters.” Women protesting rape have, time and again, sought that no restrictions be imposed on them in the name of protecting them from rape. Moreover, the fact is that ‘restrictions on sons’ are already imposed – by branding their love of a woman from another caste or community as ‘rape.’ The khap panchayats that kill inter-caste couples and the moral-policing outfits that force couples to tie ‘rakhi’ to each other do, after, all ‘impose patriarchal restrictions’ on both women and men. On the very eve of Independence Day, RSS leader S Gurumurthy declared that Indian women are ‘shy not shameless’, and the very day after Independence Day, a Goa BJP Minister called for a ban on women wearing bikinis on Goa’s beaches. Modi’s words did not convey any hint of censure to his camp followers who seek to curb the freedoms of women; he instead legitimized those restrictions by ‘balancing’ it with talk of ‘restrictions on boys.’

Likewise, Modi’s ‘appeal’ to doctors not to perform sex-selective abortions is lame, coming from the PM. Modi was silent on what his Government plans to do to ensure that the law is upheld and doctors performing such illegal abortions are punished.

Modi rhetorically asked “who has benefited from communalism” and called for a “10-year moratorium on communal violence”. But he chose to be silent about the systematic communalization project being undertaken by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. In UP, it is very apparent “who has benefited from communalism” – none but Modi himself and the BJP. When Modi himself communalized the question of the meat industry by calling it a “pink revolution” involving the slaughter of cattle, was it not communalization? When Amit Shah and the BJP in UP communalize rape, branding the entire Muslim community as rapists and terming even consensual elopements as ‘rape’, is it not communalization? Is the BJP not creating communal flare-ups over every possible event from kids’ quarrels to disputes over loudspeakers?

Days before Independence Day, the RSS chief had issued a challenge to the very idea of India, by declaring that all residents of Hindustan were Hindus. The textbooks that are now compulsory reading for school kids in Modi’s home state, and that the Sangh Parivar promotes for inclusion in national syllabi, have an obscurantist and absurd content, very different from Modi’s claim of progress and forward-looking development. Modi’s studied silence on the RSS’ declarations that India is a Hindu Rashtra, and on Batra’s textbooks, give the lie to his claims of “inclusive governance.”

Modi similarly condemned regionalist violence; even as he Shiv Sena, founded on regional chauvinistic violence, shares power with him at the Centre. Modi also condemned casteist violence, even as the Sangh’s close links with the Ranveer Sena’s Dalit massacres in Bihar are no secret, and the BJP’s Tamil Nadu ally PMK is systematically unleashing violence on Dalits.

The ‘mask formula’ of the Vajpayee days is being recreated, with the PM’s ‘inclusive talk’ serving to mask the free run that the RSS agenda actually gets in the same PM’s regime. In the Vajpayee phase, the NDA CMP imposed at least a nominal check on the Sangh agenda, by formally excluding the pet issues of the RSS. This time around, there is no such formal CMP, and the RSS openly holds parleys with the Government. Even as the RSS and BJP are clearly pushing for a greater legitimisation of the Sangh discourse and practice in all areas from education to women’s rights to communal violence to foreign policy, Modi seeks to camouflage all this as an agenda of “inclusive governance.”

Modi spoke of the pain of farmers’ suicide, only to suggest that bank accounts and insurance of Rs 1 lakh can help families out in a crisis. He failed to confront the fact that the farmers’ suicides are caused by the Government’s policy of leaving farmers and agriculture at the mercy of corporations and calamities. It has been observed that UPA Government’s cosmetic measures of loan waivers failed to curb farmers’ suicides, because it was a case of ‘mopping the floor while leaving the tap overflowing’. Modi’s ‘Pradhanmantri Jan-dhan’ scheme will be no different, unless the Government reverses the policies that trap farmers’ in a debt cycle.

Modi’s talk of ‘Model Villages’ to promote rural development are eyewash, given that he was silent on the Government-promoted corporate offensive on land and livelihood in rural India. Referring to Maoism, he asked people to shoulder the plough instead of the gun in order to put an end to bloodshed. This disingenuous speech masks the reality. After all, guns are being used by police and paramilitary to kill peasants and adivasis defending their land, and this bloodshed is justified by branding those killed as ‘Maoists.’ Not only that, the bogey of ‘Maoism’ is used less against against those armed with guns, and more to silence voices and even songs of dissent. Just a day before Independence Day, the ABVP, student wing of Modi’s party, threatened violence at St Xaviers’ College Mumbai in order to prevent Dalit singer and activist Sheetal Sathe from speaking at a student festival.

Modi issued a rousing invitation to the world’s corporations to ‘Come Make in India’, and he asked India’s youth to feel pride that the world would see the ‘Made in India’ label. It is well known that only countries offering cheap, pliant, exploitable labour – Bangladesh, Taiwan, Mexico, Honduras, China and so on – are favoured destinations for global manufacturing corporations. The countries whose names figure in ‘Made in’ labels are all known for their super-exploited workforce in sweatshops, and for repressive governments that crack down on workers’ right to unionize and protest. Modi’s government is already set to roll back or dilute various labour laws to facilitate and intensify the exploitation of cheap labour, and this agenda is what underpins the rhetorical call to ‘Make in India’.

It is true that the Planning Commission stands heavily discredited, since people associate it with the absurd poverty benchmarks declared by Montek Ahluwalia. But abolishing the Planning Commission entirely represents the final abdication of the last relic of welfare-oriented mixed economy and a complete switchover to the tyranny of corporate-dominated market economy.

In Modi’s speech, there was a marked silence on the promise of ‘acche din’, which each of his electoral speeches had harped upon. Far from the promised relief, change, and new vision and policies, what Modi’s Government, and his I-Day speech are doing is simply to repackage old, unfulfilled schemes as a brand new vision of development.

The people of India will not be fobbed off with rhetoric any more. They will be looking at the Government’s policies and actions on the ground. And attempts to re-package and re-brand price rise, land grab and exploitation of cheap labour by Indian corporations and MNCs as ‘development’; as well as the politics of communalism and patriarchy being pursued with the blessings of the Central Government, will not impress them.

ABVP Prevents Sheetal Sathe From Speaking

Sheetal Sathe, Dalit singer and activist of the Kabir Kala Manch, had been invited to speak at the Malhar Festival in St. Xaviers’ College Mumbai on the eve of Independence Day. The ABVP issued a threat of violent disruption, after which filmmaker Anand Patwardhan gave a talk in her place. Below is an excerpt from the text of Anand’s speech on the occasion.

14th August. Another Sad Day for Democracy

I speak before you today in place of the designated speaker, Sheetal Sathe. It is not that Sheetal Sathe could not come on stage today because she or her baby fell ill. It is not that she had nothing to say. It is not that she was afraid to say what she had to say. And it is not that she did not come because she doubted the sincerity of those who had invited her.

It is precisely because she treasures the love and respect shown to her by the students who had invited her to speak and sing at this year’s Malhar festival that Sheetal Sathe has chosen not to allow the organizers of this festival and all the people gathered here to be exposed to the ugly threats of disruption that have been issued against them in case she spoke and sang here today.

Let it be known far and wide who exactly has issued these threats. These threats have not been issued by a court of law or by the police, or by any instrument of the State or national government. Sheetal Sathe is out on bail precisely because an Indian high court ruled that her liberty did not have to be curtailed while she was undergoing trial to establish her innocence. The court has not taken away her freedom of speech or her right to sing. The court has not sought to officially stifle her voice or the voice of the millions of oppressed and stigmatized people that she sings about.

An extra-constitutional body that threatens the very fabric of our secular democracy has issued this threat. There are many such extra-constitutional bodies that are growing in power today. Such bodies have many names and many duties. Some decide what books the people of India should read. Some decide what films we should see. Some decide what speeches and songs we should hear. There are many self-appointed censors, but make no mistake, they belong to one single family with one single ideology and one set of beliefs. These beliefs have been inculcated from a very young and impressionable age. I will not list all these beliefs except to point out that apart from asserting that the aeroplane and rocket science was invented thousands of years ago in the Vedic era of Brahminism which they call the golden era, it includes an abiding faith in the Manusmriti, an ancient Brahminic law code that deprived Dalits and women of their most basic human rights and permitted untold atrocities upon all those who challenged it.

Today this ideology comes before us in a new disguise of nationalism. It is draped in the flag of India – the very tricolour that it loudly denounced at the time of Independence when its followers insisted on hoisting an orange flag of Hindutva instead. They also refused to sing “Jana Gana Mana” demanding that “Vande Mataram” should be the national anthem. Needless to point out that “Vande Mataram” was penned by Bankim Chandra in his 19th century novel Anandmath, a book that vilified India’s Muslims.

Apart from nationalism there is another even more seductive disguise that has recently fired the lust of India’s elite and middle classes. It is the disguise of “development”. This development lust has trumped even the tricolour for it says “So what if the world’s oil and water is rapidly depleting? So what if there is pollution, global warming and the threat of tsunami and nuclear disaster? Why should we protect India’s air, water, forests, land and ore from the multinationals who wish to grab it?”

They are ready to sell our sovereignty for the short-term gain of a few, as long as they are allowed to make a hologram of the national flag. They then proceed to promote our most primitive, racist and exploitative cultural and economic traditions while making suitable noises about modernity and development.

How do you and I resist? Make no mistake. This is an ideology that brooks no dissent. Today is yet another sad day for India’s democracy. It is a day when an extra Constitutional power backed by a ruling political party has issued a threat against a college run for over a century by Christians. Yes, that is the bottom-line. That is what makes St. Xaviers College and in particular, its principled principal, a specially vulnerable target.

Sheetal Sathe and the KKMDC do not wish to jeopardize this festival. But we wish to put on record that we will never be silenced. And we want the public to know who exactly has issued this particular threat. The threat has been issued by the Akhil Bharati Vidyarthi Parishad (APVP) the youth wing of a political party that came to power by telling the people of India that it no longer stands for the divisive, communal and casteist politics that it had been associated with in the past.

You have to understand the real reason why groups like the ABVP hate groups like the KKM. It has nothing to do with nationalism or Naxalism. It is because their visions of India are diametrically opposed. The Kabir Kala Manch believes in a pluralistic India where caste, religion and race is replaced by the recognition that we are all human beings first who deserve justice, peace and true democracy. The ideologues of Hindutva, no matter how big a national flag they wrap around themselves, have always had a completely different agenda.

Anand Patwardhan, 14 August 2014, St Xaviers’ College Mumbai

Kisan Mahasabha Observes Nationwide Protest Day on August 9

The Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha observed August 9 as Protest Day all over the country and organized dharnas, marches, and meetings to highlight farmers’ demands, especially against dilution of the Land Acquisition Act and approval for field trials for GM crops. Subsequently, the approval for GM field trials has been put on hold, but the Government’s intentions to promote corporate interests over farmers’ interests is clear.

RAJASTHAN:

Many effective programmes were organized by the Kisan Mahasabha in Udaipur, Pratapgarh, Jhunjhunu, Jaipur and Ajmer districts of Rajasthan on August 9 to observe Kranti Diwas, attended by the Party’s people’s organizations and members in large numbers.

JHARKHAND:

A huge dharna and meeting of 2500 farmers was led by Puran Mahto and Sitaram Singh at Giridih district HQ. Addressing the farmers Kisan Mahasabha national secretary Com. Rajaram Singh said that the Modi govt move to further benefit the corporate houses through amendment of the Land Acquisition Bill would leave the farmers bereft of all rights and they would lose even what little they had gained through the Land Acquisition Bill of 2013. The proposed amendments would also increase food insecurity throughout the country. The Modi govt is trying to remove provisions in the existing Bill such as mandatory consent of 70% farmers, estimation of social effect, etc. The existing Bill has a compensation rate of only 4 times instead of 6 times the market rate; but the Modi govt, in addition to removing even this, also wants to do away with giving compensation for workers and artisans dependent on the land and with the provision that acquired land if not in use, can be used by farmers. The attempt is also to remove obstacles to acquisition of multi-crop land. Farmers have long demanded that there should be a land conservation Bill instead of a land acquisition Bill. The Modi govt has given the green signal for dangerous field trials of GM seeds without proper research and investigation, which will have far reaching disastrous consequences. The govt allowed field trials of GM rice, wheat, vegetables, brinjal, pulses and oil crops under pressure of MNCs. The Kisan Mahasabha called for an acceleration of protest against the anti-people and anti-nation policies of the govt at a meeting at Ramgarh district, Chandan Kiyari block HQ in Bokaro district, and Garhwa district.

UTTARAKHAND:

A march was taken out on August 9 at Lalkuan in Nainital district, addressed by Kisan Mahasabha leaders after which an effigy of Modi was burnt. Dharnas and meetings were held at Pithoragarh, Munasyari, Shrinagar, and Garhwal, and memorandums submitted to the President. The dharna protests were attended by farmers in large numbers.

HARYANA:

Kisan Mahasabha organized a dharna at Karnal district HQ in which other people also joined the farmers and heard the speeches. The speakers pointed out that due to the proximity of Delhi, land in Haryana is being acquired at an alarming rate by corporate houses. They demanded that there should not be an amendment to the land acquisition Bill; rather, it should be replaced by a land conservation Bill.

ANDHRA PRADESH:

Protest Day was observed on August 9 in 3 districts in AP. Acquisition of cultivable land has become a major issue in the State. Dharnas, protests, and meetings well attended by farmers were organized at Kakinada, Karnool, and Krishna district.

ODISHA:

20 districts of the State are badly flood-affected, Puri being one of the worst affected. Kisan Mahasabha workers are collecting and sending relief materials to the affected areas. Protests are being organized at different blocks in Puri district to demand proper relief and rehabilitation works. In spite of the floods, over 300 farmers from Puri came to attend the August 9 Protest Day programme in the capital Bhubhaneshwar. After a protest and meeting in front of the CM’s house, a memo was submitted to the CM demanding immediate stopping of amendments to the land acquisition Bill, and proper flood relief works.

WEST BENGAL:

August 9 was observed as Nationwide Protest Day and the week up to August 14 as Statewide Protest Week. Block level protests were held from Aug 9 to 13 and on Aug 14 protests were held in front of the District Magistrates at Burdwan, Nadiya, Darjeeling, North and South 24 parganas. Several street meetings were held where the speakers unmasked the anti-farmer face of the Modi govt.

MAHARASHTRA:

A huge rally of farmers and workers was taken out at Pune, where apart from the above demands, it was also demanded that the closed sugar mills be reopened, new wage fixation for workers and unemployment allowance of Rs. 3000 be fixed.

PUNJAB:

A 14 point memo was submitted to the PM through the SDMs from 14 places in Punjab. The demands included declaring Punjab as drought affected, large scale irrigation facilities, and steps to stop farmer suicides. Dharnas and protests were held at Mansa, Sangrur, Gurdaspur, Barnala, Pathankot, Firozpur, Muksar, and Faridkot.

UTTAR PRADESH:

To mark Aug 9 as Protest day, dharnas, protests, marches and meetings were held at Ghazipur, Gorakhpur, Pilibhit, Phulpur, Bareilly, Mathura, Lakhimpur Khiri, Balliya, Chandauli, Azamgarh, and Kushinagar. Speakers who addressed the meetings, attended by large numbers of farmers as well as other people, pointed out the pro-corporate and anti-farmer character of the Modi govt. Memorandums were submitted to the Prime Minister through the local authorities.

BIHAR:

Kisan Mahasabha organized a huge dharna at Kargil Chowk near Gandhi Maidan in Patna on Aug 9. The dharna saw a good participation by lower middle farmers as well as sharecroppers and also other people. A memo was submitted to the PM through the DM demanding that Bihar should be declared drought affected and proper relief, irrigation, and ration arrangements should be made and proper irrigation should be arranged through ahar-pipes from Punpun, Dardha, and Morhar rivers. Dharnas were held and memos submitted from Biddupur block in Vaishali, Mahua, Lalganj, and Bhojpur district HQ in Ara, which were well attended by farmers. Pamphlets were distributed for wider circulation. Protests were held at Buxar district HQ to demand supply of water to the lower areas of the Son canal, and expedition of the Kadwan reservoir project. Dharnas and meetings were also organized at Rohtas district HQ in Sasaram, Aurangabad, and Jehanabad district HQs. Farmers protested at Arwal district HQ and an effigy of PM Narendra Modi was burnt at Arwal crossroads. Protest marches and dharnas were held at Nalanda district HQ in Biharshariff, Begusarai district HQ, Kahalgaon in Bhagalpur district, Purnea, Siwan, Gopalganj, Muzaffarpur, and Patna City. Speakers at the meetings exposed the anti-farmer policies of the Modi govt and said that the struggle woud be accelerated by observing the week from 29 Aug to 4 Sep as a statewide Protest week when protests would be held at various block HQs and demands would be raised for declaring Bihar a drought affected State and making proper arrangements for irrigation, ration and electricity. “Kisan Jagaran Saptah” would be observed from 6 to 12 Oct during whih padyatras would be undertaken from village to village and extensive contact would be made with farmers.

ML Update | No. 33 | 2014

August 13, 2014

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 17 | No. 33 | 12 – 18 AUG 2014

BJP Agenda Unfolds:

Communal Politics and Corporate-Dictated Economic Policy

The BJP’s National Council meeting was held last week, sending clear signals about the agenda and ambitions of the BJP and the Modi Government.

The new BJP President Amit Shah outlined the plan to repeat the BJP’s spectacular UP success story, ensure BJP victories all over the country, and achieve dominance and hegemony for the BJP’s ideology. Enumerating the reasons for the BJP’s UP success, Shah cited the BJP’s “right approach in social engineering.” Meanwhile, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, breaking a two month long silence with his speech at the BJP National Council meet, referred to concerns about communal polarization in UP, as “vote bank politics.” The obvious question here, of course, is this: in what way is what Amit Shah hails as “social engineering,” different from what Modi calls “vote bank politics’?

The exact nature of the BJP’s “social engineering” can be gauged by the investigative reports by an English daily about communal conflicts in UP. The paper found that there have been more than 600 plus instances of communal tension in UP since the Lok Sabha polls, mostly around the 12 constituencies where by-elections are shortly due. The paper documented how loudspeakers, kids’ bicycles, dhaba bills and runaway lovers have all become pretexts for flaring up of communal polarisation and potential riots. The paper reported that a vast number of these ‘engineered’ conflicts have been between Dalits and Muslims. The BJP’s ‘social engineering’ has involved the deliberate efforts to sow the seeds of hatred among Dalits against Muslims, in order to reap a harvest of votes later.

One of the key tools of this saffron “social engineering” has been to communalize consensual relationships and rape cases alike, to promote the bogey of “love jehad” by Muslim men against Hindu women. Towards this, the RSS launched a vicious campaign to use the Rakshabandhan festival as an occasion to tie Rakhis to lakhs of Hindu men, asking them to pledge to protect their sisters from Muslim men and “love jehad,” and the VHP runs a ‘helpline’ urging Hindus to approach them “if your daughter is being harassed by Muslim boys.” The Supreme Court has had to warn against attempts to communalize rape allegations in Western UP that threaten to destroy the secular fabric of the country.

What is the ideology that Amit Shah for which seeks to achieve unchallenged dominance? The RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has underlined the true nature of that ideology in a recent statement, that the inhabitants of Hindustan are all Hindus. This refrain of the RSS is based on the false suggestion that ‘Hindustan’ is the land of the followers of the ‘Hindu’ faith. The fact is that the word ‘Hindustan’ (and likewise the word ‘Hindu’ and ‘Indian’ both) derive from the Persian word for the land and the people around the Sindhu river. These words themselves are testimony to India’s composite culture, that the RSS’ myth-making cannot erase. Much like the RSS chief, the Goa Deputy Chief Minister also recently declared that “India is a Hindu country. It is Hindustan. All Indians in Hindustan are Hindus,” and a Goa minister Dipak Dhavalikar declared, “We should support Modi as he will develop India into a Hindu nation.” These statements make it very clear that the “social engineering” of the RSS and BJP involves creating a Hindu “vote bank”, in fact a “Hindu nation”, one in which people of other faiths will be subordinated and subjected to humiliation and violence. This agenda was outlined long back by the RSS founders, but Indian people have rejected it till now. Under the Modi Government, the RSS and BJP dream of actually achieving that agenda. After Gujarat, UP is the next saffron laboratory, and the BJP hopes to repeat UP on a larger scale all over the country.

The problem is that the Modi Government was not elected primarily for its communal plank. It rode the dissatisfactions and anger of the people against the Congress regime. And now, the Modi Government is widely perceived as continuing the Congress-UPA’s policies of corporate appeasement and ant-people policies. In fact, Amit Shah’s speech indicates that even the few rights and entitlements that the people’s movements wrested from the UPA Government, such as right to employment (MNREGA) or the Land Acquisition legislation, will now be rolled back. Rubbishing what he called ‘entitlement based policies’, Shah declared that for the BJP, ‘empowerment’ came first and ‘entitlement’ would flow naturally from ‘empowerment’ and ‘good governance.’ He specifically said that the Modi Government consider “neither framing of an act nor an agitation by the people” as required to ensure people’s rights, which should flow “automatically” from the “right conditions.” This corporate- and imperialism-inspired economic and political philosophy was expressed even more blatantly by BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy in a talk recently, where he referred to the poor as “parasites on the state.”

The BJP’s pro-corporate policies call the bluff of its own election-time pro-poor posturing, and the sinister communal agenda of the RSS and BJP threaten the basic fabric of democracy in India.

Gana Mancha Convention in Kolkata

Five left political organisations, namely CPI-ML(Liberation), Left Collective, Samajik Nyay Vichar Mancha, Mazdoor Kranti Parishad and Radical Socialist, came together in West Bengal to form a united platform for ‘working people’s movement for democracy and secularism’ (abbreviated as ‘Gana Mancha’ in Bengali, which loosely translates into People’s Platform) through a joint convention held in Kolkata on August 7, 2014. The convention adopted a resolution which will serve as guideline for coordinated action by the five organisations in the upcoming days. The convention was held at Phani Bhushan Mancha, near Bagbazar, in the state capital. The convention called for building mass political struggles against corporate-fascist offensives of the NDA government at the centre and against anti-people policies and undemocratic measures of the TMC government in West Bengal. 



Partha Ghosh, State Secretary of CPI-ML, in his speech rejected the notion peddled by a section of the media, that this platform is being built by some ‘disgruntled/dissident CPI-M workers’. He said, this is a platform for struggle, for taking effective action against the anti-people policies of the government. “One after another factories are getting closed, and the owners keep getting away with looting PF and gratuity dues of the workers. Yet the government keeps mum. This platform must take up issues like this”, said Comrade Ghosh. He spoke on starvation deaths in the tea-gardens, on how peasants in Singur and Nandigram are yet to get justice, and how the rights of dalits, adivasis and muslims are being trampled upon in the state. Speaking on the threat of corporate communal fascism, he said we must take up the challenge to build the broadest co-ordinated movement to defend both democracy and secularism. “Some in the left camp are still pained about Singur, and sympathize with Tata. They must apologize to the people” he said. Comrade Rezzak Mollah said that we are planting a sapling today which will grow into a big tree in the future. He called out to the youth of the state to build a powerful movement against the oppressive anti-youth policies of the centre and state. Comrade Prasenjit Bose of the Left Collective said the so-called ‘Gujrat model’ of development followed by the erstwhile ruling left in Bengal produced an environment where a dictatorial party like the TMC could usurp power. Building people’s movement in the streets is the need of the hour.

Amitabha Chakravarty of the MKP, and Kunal Chattopadhyay of the Radical Socialist also spoke on the occasion. Comrade Mangat Ram Pasla, General Secretary of CPM Punjab who came to extend solidarity to the convention spoke of building a principled left unity in this critical time in our country. Representatives from other left organisations also extended solidarity to the initiative. Apart from Com. Pasla, Com K K Rema, wife and comrade of slain RMP leader T P Chandrasekharan along with left activists from Tamil Nadu, Maharastra and Kerala were present as guests in the convention.

Struggle Against Repression on Adivasis in Gujarat

In Gujarat’s Valsad district, in the Umergaon, Kapdada, Dharmpur, Vapi and Pardi talukas, adivasis with CPI(ML)’s support have been conducting a struggle against loot of their land. The struggle has been resisting grab of adivasi land by land mafia, handover of adivasi land to industrialists by the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation GIDC on various pretexts, and demanding implementation of the Forest Rights Act. In exchange for the land grabbed, the adivasis receive a pittance as compensation. The BJP Government and local Congress leadership work in tandem to facilitate the land grab.

The terror unleashed against adivasis is enormous here, and CPI(ML) leaders too have faced murderous attacks. CPIP(ML) leader Laxmanbhai Patanwaria was attacked and injured in 2007; Kapila Ben, the CPI(ML) candidate in the Zila Panchayat polls, was attacked in 2010. A delegation led by Laxcmanbhai Patanwaria to the police thana to raise the issue, was also attacked outside the thana – no FIR was lodged by cops. The attacks took place on orders of the local BJP MLA Raman Patkar.

Agaon on 2 July 2014, goons attacked Laxmanbhai Patanwaria at a bus stop, and soon after, goons surrounded and attacked his house. Because of the tremendous resistance from villagers, the goons had to beat a retreat.

The adivasis have been living on the land for generations, but few have any documents to prove land tenure. Land mafia and GIDC take advantage of this to grab the land. The surrounding area is a chemical industry hub and one of the most polluted areas in the country, and the land is very valuable for corporations.

On 5 August, the party organized a protest march to the Collectorate demanding:

1. Survey the forest land under the FRA and distribute the land to adivasis without delay, giving them documents for their land.

2. Investigate attacks on CPI(ML) leaders and punish the perpetrators and conspirators.

3. Stop the pollution spread by chemical corporations in collution with GIDC, punish companies for poisoning fields and drinking water, making them pay for clean-up and compensation. Close down polluting industries and set up an effective pollution control board.

4. Put a stop to police terror against adivasis

5. Investigate corruption in MNREGA implementation in the whole district and punish the guilty

The demonstration was led by CPI(ML) PB member Prabhat Kumar, the party’s Gujarat in-charge Ranjan Ganguly, State leading team member Laxmanbhai Patanwaria, RYA in-charge Amit Patanwaria, youth leader Kamlesh as well as Kamla Ben and Damayanti Ben.

Rallies in Rajasthan to Mark Quit India Day

On 9th August 2014, events were organized at Udaipur, Pratapgarh, Jhunjhunu, Jaipur and Ajmer to mark Quit India Day.

In Pratapgarh, 300 party cadres led by CCM Mahendra Chaudhury held a rally in the city. The rally culminated in a public meeting addressed by Mahendra chaudhury, district secretary Shambhu Rawal, Zafar Husain and others, who condemned the Modi Government for selling out people’s interests in favour of corporations. After the meeting, a delegation submitted a 21-point set of demands including MNREGA work and proper pay and various civic amenities; roll back of approval for GM crops and proposed amendments to the Land Acquisition Act.

In Udaipur, the Construction Labour Union district secretary Gautam Lal Morila and AIKM leader Chandradeo Ola addressed a mass meeting at the district administration office. A demand charter was submitted addressed to CM and President of India.

Similar protest events were held at Jhunjhunu, Jaipur and Ajmer district HQs.

Peasants Asks GM Crops to Quit India

On 9th August, Quit India Day, All India Kisan Mahasabha held nation-wide protests against the Government’s move to approve GM seeds and to roll back crucial and hard-won protections in the Land Acquisition Act.

A detailed report of the protests will be carried in the next issue.

At Karnal in Haryana, the AIKM Vice President Comrade Prem Singh Gehlawat addressed the protest gathering of peasants, along with Comrades Mahindra Chopra, Rajendra Phoosgarh, Krishn Saini Asandh, Ishwar Pal, Ramu Uplana, Satyawan Valmiki, Karmvir Mistri, Natthi Kashyap Ladobagdi, Som Prakash, Ram Kumar Pal and Lalit Saini.

Women’s Tribunal In Lucknow Puts State and Central Government in the Dock

The AIPWA held a Women’s Tribunal in Lucknow, attended by around 700 women from various districts across the state. The tribunal put the State and Central Governments in the dock over the unabated violence against women in the State.

Survivors of violence, and relatives of victims testified at the Tribunal. One woman from Lakhimpur Kheri spoke of the sexual harassment she faced at the hands of cops, followed by cops jailing her husband on false pretexts.

Another woman spoke of how her 11 year old daughter was raped and hung from a tree in 2011, a case in which the perpetrators are yet to be punished.

A woman from Pilibhit spoke of her daughter being killed for dowry, and the accused openly sharing sweets with cops, ensuring that no FIR was even registered in the case.

Several women from Pilibhit spoke of the harassment of peasant women in the name of the Tiger Reserve. “When we collect firewood and other small forest produce,” said Halka Devi, “the forest officers and cops sexually molest us and beat us up. If we complain they say, don’t come into the forest if you don’t like it. How can we survive without firewood?”

AIPWA activist Saroj from Ghazipur spoke of a series of attacks on women that showed the deep nexus of cops with criminal elements. Jeera Devi was beaten by criminal Sanjay Singh, who was not arrested. Kamrunnissa and her son were beaten up by cops and warned not to complain against criminal elements.

AIPWA activist Anita from Mirzapur and Sarojini from Sitapur testified to more incidents, speaking of the experience of supporting survivors of violence. One woman from Sitapur spoke of how her 14 year old daughter was raped. She identified the rapists but the cops delayed filing a case for 2 days. On the third day they demanded Rs 8000 as a bribe. Rs 4000 was paid, and the FIR lodged, but the family was coerced into saying that no rape had occurred, and the FIR did not mention rape! AIPWA activists and CPI(ML) took up this case and are in the process of fighting for justice, with the 14 year old survivor very bravely standing firm.

Arti Rai, AIPWA VP, also spoke of the situation in the state, where both SP and BJP, State and Central Governments seem more interested in moral policing than in defending women’s rights.

Speakers discussed the experiences of the Badayun and Mohanlalganj rape and murder cases, pointing out that neither UP cops nor CBI seemed interested in justice for the victims. Instead these cases were being sensationalized and distorted. And in Meerut and Muzaffarnagar, rape complaints were being communalized by the RSS and BJP to serve the BJP’s political agenda.

The main speaker was Kavita Krishnan, secretary AIPWA, who pointed out that neither state nor central governments were spending on more shelters for women and more courts to ensure speedy trials. Neither was taking action against errant cops or ensuring accountable policing. Rather, the UP Government was busy making atrocious sexist comments to make rapes appear ‘normal’. While the Modi Government, to cover up its lack of action on urgent measures, was instead amending the dowry and domestic violence Acts to make it more difficult for women to get justice and protection under these Acts. She slammed the Government’s move to amend the Juvenile Justice Act, saying that sending juvenile offenders to jail would only turn them into hardened criminals, and would make women no safer. Further, she pointed out that a large number of ‘rape’ cases involving juveniles are actually elopement cases, which have been criminalized by the raising of age of consent. Now, if the JJ Act is amended, such innocent young boys who have been affectionate with a girl of same age, might not only be booked for rape but even jailed! Kavita warned of the attempts by RSS and other groups to take away women’s freedom to marry by choice, by raising the bogey of love jehad. Such a charged communal atmosphere, she said, will make it difficult for women to choose their own partners from another religion; but also make it difficult for them to complain against rape for fear of communalization.

AIPWA State President Tahira Hasan and Secretary Geeta Pande as well as AIPWA National Executive member Vidya Rajwar, and CPI(ML) CC Member Krishna Adhikari addressed the gathering.

The event was also addressed by distinguished women’s rights activists Prof Rooprekha varma, Nivedita from NFIW, Sudha from Humsafar, Anupama from Save Womnen, Naz from Bahin and Gita Singh from Domestic Workers’ organization.

Red Salute to Comrade Tripti Trivedi

Comrade Tripti Trivedi, health workers’ national leader and senior CPI(ML) leader, passed away on 25 July 2014 after a battle with cancer. He was born in Murshidabad district and at a young age was drawn to rationalist ideas and progressive thought. In the late 1960s he joined the Naxalbari movement when he was studying to be a doctor in the RG Kar Medical College.

Later he worked as a part time party organizer in Jalpaiguri town of North Bengal. He took admission in Jalpaiguri Pharmacology college from where he graduated.

In 1974-76 he began working in the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS), where after some years he felt ht need to form a workers’ union. This was easier said than done, but Comrade Tripti worked very hard to form Unions of CGHS all over the country. Through the union – the All India CGHS Employees Union – he helped organize workers to raise various questions of health workers. The Union affiliated itself with the AICCTU. Comrade Tripti helped establish a women’s unit of the Union that worked with AIPWA and AICCTU. Eventually Comrade Triti helped establish the Health Workers’ Federation nationally. Tripti da retired in 2006 and worked as the party’s district secretary in Murshidabad.

Comrade Tripti Da’s energy and commitment is an inspiration to us all. Long Live Comrade Tripti Da!

ML Update | No. 32 | 2014

August 6, 2014

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 17 | No. 32 | 5 – 11 AUG 2014

Red Salute, Nabarun Da!

​Nabarun Bhattacharya is no more. The revolutionary poet, short story writer and novelist, passed away on 31st July evening in a Calcutta Hospital after his prolonged battle with cancer.

In the world we live in, his iconic poem, ‘This Valley of Death Is Not My Country’ could be the anguished cry and resolve of any citizen of the world; of the people of America or Israel; Iraq or Syria; Sri Lanka or India… The spirit of that poem lives in the struggles of people: struggles that, in renouncing the ‘Nation’ that the ruling class equates with violence, cruelty, and devastation, actually expresses a profound love for one’s land, one’s people and humanity at large.

Born in 1948 in Baharampur of Murshidabad district, Nabarun was the child of renowned actor-playwright Bijon Bhattacharya and Magsaysay award-winning writer Mahasweta Devi.

Nabarun won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1997 for his novel Herbert, a landmark in modern Bengali literature which synthesizes the lives of contemporary urban marginalized and stylised poetic sensibility into political statements.

Bhattacharya relentlessly wrote about marginalised sections living on the city streets, in slums and dark alleys, using political satire, dark humour, and magic realism to telling effect to highlight oppression and exploitation of our times. He persistently challenged the dominant ideas associated with Bengali literature through his subversive writing style.

Bhattacharya was also a very close witness of the radical left movement of seventies’ Bengal, which is evident in his works. But it is not the romantic nostalgia for a radical past, but the turbulent seventies coming back to haunt the apparent peace of the present, which is a very familiar motif in his writings.

A fearless voice against state power, Nabarun always remained, in his own words, “an outsider to the circus of literature”. He returned the Bankim Award in 2007 against West Bengal Government’s Nandigram carnage. He was also a staunch critic of the Trinamool Congress government that is stifling democratic protests and civil rights.

Nabarunda’s writings will always kindle fire, he will live on in our hearts and our struggles.

In memory of Nabarun Da – and Saroj Dutta’s whose martyrdom anniversary was observed on 5th August, below is an excerpt from a translation of ‘Ei Mrityu Upatyaka Amar Desh Na’

This Valley of Death is Not My Country

I spit on the father who fears to point at his child’s corpse

I spit on the brother and his shameless sanity despite everything

I spit on the teacher, the intellectual, the poet and the clerk

who do not seek to avenge this bloodbath out in the open

Seventeen corpses

lie stretched across the pathway of reckoning

I am losing my senses bit by bit

Seventeen open pairs of eyes look at me in sleep

I scream out

I will turn insane

I will kill myself

I will do whatever I want to do

I will eat the sun, the moon and the stars

I will smash all bridges between the viewer and the viewed

This is the exact time for poetry

Through stenciled manifestos on naked walls

A collage crafted of own blood, tears and bones –

now is the time for poetry

in the torn face of severest pain

right now is the time to hurl poetry

face to face with real terror –

keeping eyes fixed at the blinding headlight of the vans

at the three naught three and whatever else the killers have

It is time to face them with poetry

Through stone-cold lock-up chambers

Shattering the yellow lamps of crime investigation cells

In courthouses run by murderers

In seats of learning that teach lies and spew venoms of hatred

In the state machine churning abuse and terror

In the heartless chest of gunmen who serve that machine –

Let the anger of poetry echo out in fury

Let the poets of the world prepare themselves, like Lorca,

for their strangled corpses to disappear

let them be ready to be stitched up by machine-gun bullets

the hours beckon

the city of poetry must be surrounded by villages of poetry.

this valley of death is not my country

this executioner’s theater is not my country

this vast charnel-ground is not my country

this blood-drenched slaughterhouse is not my country

I will snatch my country back

I will pull the fog-kissed white kans flowers, the crimson dusks and the endless rivers

back into my chest

With all my body I shall surround the fireflies, forests burning in ancient hills,

countless crops of hearts, flowers, humans and horses from fairytales

I shall name each star after each martyr

I shall call out to the howling breezes, lights and shadows playing across the fish-eyed lakes of dawn

And Love – banished to places lightyears away ever since I was born:

I shall call it too, to join the carnival of the day of Revolution.

I reject

Days and nights of interrogation with a thousand watts of electricity blazing straight into eyeballs

I reject

Electric needles inside fingernails

I reject

Having to lie naked on chunks of ice

I reject

Being hanged upside down till blood gushes out of nostrils

I reject

Spiked boots pressed on lips, burning iron rods on every inch of skin

I reject

The sudden blast of alcohol on whiplashed back

I reject

Stark electric jolts on the nerves, pieces of rocks shoved inside vaginas, scrotums mangled to pulp

I reject

Being beaten and thrashed to death

I reject

Revolver-muzzles stuck against craniums

Poetry is eternal, irrepressible

Poetry is armed, poetry is free, poetry is fearless

Behold the warriors –

Mayakovsky, Hikmet, Neruda, Aragon, Eluard –

Look at them looking at you from the clouds.

Call out loud.

A Selection of Nabarun’s Poems

(translated from Bangla by Avijit Basak)

A bunch of bulletproof poems

A bunch of bulletproof poems

Stand in front of the Firing Squad

With their shirt buttons open, fearless

They stand.

The bleeding lips of a bird

Hang biting the hand of a big metal clock

Harpoon struck whales

Stare at the scene with eyes overturned

Stars watch the blood bathed sea

In their lights from far off days

Stupefaction dissolves

On the leaden pipe the Great Flag

Freezes in fear.

The head of the city spins

Cool air from the slaughterhouse

Runs after the school children

Those lost in love become

Between one kiss and another

Stunned photographs

Stones sweat

The heart of the terror-bomb weakens

Lawyers with black robes walk

Pocketwatch of moon in their dirty pockets

The news just came in

That long before men

Birds and butterflies conquered moon

We just learned

That each pole is affected with destructive melting

Seventy one Noble laureate scientists have confirmed

Men don’t watch t.v. after death

When newspapers throughout the world

Publish of us having no future

When all political leaders say

Our last efforts have failed

Inevitable missiles fly

Void swells within fixed deposits

Between fingers burns

The last cigarette of the world

Then, yes, right then

A bunch of bulletproof poems

Stand in front of the Firing Squad

With their shirt buttons open, fearless

They stand.

Life As We Live”

The Philosopher said, Son

Life is indeed like watching

‘Sholay’ on big screen

A couple of daredevils run

With mouthorgan

Effortlessly, to catch the goon Gabbar

My child, go to sleep in night therefore,

Without fear, and with your eyes see

The garden is graced with gals and madrigals

But thinking of the world whole,

Which was supposed to be changing

A bunch of amateurs,

Fashionably revolutionary leaders

Metamorphosed into professional ministers

By night, and nobody cared

Villagers, oppressed, do not fear, well

Courage is like a soft towel

We can hear that comforting oracle from the stable

And that healthy poison, watertight and pure

Reaches every household for sure.

Apart from these mechanisms

We have kick-thief lawyers

Palm scratching police

And inhuman doctors

Due to whose indifferent cheers

The vat-ground is busy with supplies.

But what would we do with all these boss

WE THE PEOPLE, or ant-ish public

We are just toothless idiots

Slave-waiter class

Busy with frequent sex-tax drives

Feeding on flies

And casting votes with sickly wives

It is far better

To threat cut or chase in car

And very often than not

By different penal parliamentary acts get caught.

Buttons

I don’t party with the homeless

I have a room

I own one.

When lost, torn apart

The homeless me

Find my mouth

Agape in void.

The Living and the Dead

The Coward and the Daring

I know of their different heartbeats.

In the Name of Humanity, Stop the Israeli Slaughter in Gaza: More than 1,800 Killed and almost 10,000 Injured

Press Release Gaza Ministry of Health, Palestine

The Ministry of Health Gaza condemns in the strongest possible terms the Israeli breaking of the humanitarian ceasefire in a murderous attack on the Al-Bakri family home in Al-Shaati refugee camp in west Gaza City, killing an eight-year-old child and injuring 30 other people, mostly women and children.

This attack on a home in one of the most densely populated residential areas on earth only minutes after the commencement of a humanitarian ceasefire can only be seen as a calculated and deliberate attack on civilians.

This attack can only be seen as calculated and cynical disregard for the ceasefire agreement – the same cynical disregard Israelis have evidenced towards each and every agreement they have ever signed, whether ceasefire, international convention, treaty or peace agreement.

This attack in breach of all legal and humanitarian law can only be seen as yet another example of the complete contempt and disdain in which the Israeli authorities hold all standards of civilised behaviour, organisations and instruments of international law, and humanity itself.

This attack comes amid the ongoing massacre in Rafah in which at least 170 have already lost their lives, as the death toll continues to rise.

Since July 7 more than 1,800 Gazans have been killed and almost 10,000 injured, the vast majority of them women, children and the elderly.

Its own actions in the past four weeks have stripped the thin mask of civility from the Israeli face, and revealed its abject savagery to the world.

In the name of humanity, the Ministry of Health Gaza demands that the international community act immediately to end the slaughter of innocents in Gaza, and hold the Israeli war criminals to account.

Witnessing the systematic destruction of Gaza

August 4, 2014

(Interview with Joe Catron is a journalist and activist in Gaza, where he works with Palestinian groups and international solidarity networks. He co-edited The Prisoners’ Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, an anthology of accounts from detainees freed in 2011, and blogs at joecatron.wordpress.com. Catron spoke with Tithi Bhattacharya, a Purdue University professor and member of the International Socialist Review editorial board.)

WHAT CAN you tell the world about the morale of people in Gaza now living almost a month under Israeli bombs?

MORALE REMAINS strong, even among those facing the toughest circumstances. Whenever I walk into al-Shifa hospital, I pass through an encampment of displaced people, mostly from Shejaiya to the east, erected on the grounds. I’m always struck by the visible strength and determination of its residents, as well as the paramedics, nurses, doctors, journalists and coffee vendors within the hospital itself.

Nearly all in Gaza are tired of endless bombardment and hope for a cease-fire, of course. But there’s a broad consensus that any cease-fire worthy of the name must include an end to Israel’s siege, allowing Palestinians to travel, trade, fish, farm and conduct their political affairs without restrictions, by definition. In fact, while I’m not a pollster, I don’t personally know of anyone here willing to settle for less.

SINCE THE mainstream media is still deceptive about the impact of Israel’s assault, can you talk about the actual extent of the devastation? What do neighborhoods in Gaza now look like?

IT VARIES by area. Some, like my neighborhood by the Gaza seaport on the west coast of Gaza City, have sustained shellings and air strikes, but remain intact with localized damage. Days of saturation bombing have reduced others–like Shejaiya, Khuza’a and Beit Hanoun–to rubble.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Israel has ethnically cleansed large regions of the eastern and northern Gaza Strip adjacent to its separation barrier. After ordering residents to leave their homes, it systematically destroyed them, while shooting anything that moved.

The process has seemed very reminiscent of the Nakba of 1948. Looking at the results, I think it’s clearly part of Israel’s plan to prevent these areas from becoming fully habitable again for years. And with Israeli forces having ordered evacuations from 44 percent of the Gaza Strip, it’s hard to predict how much of it will be recognizable when they finish.

This was a flaw in my analysis when we stayed at Al-Wafa hospital. I thought the Israelis saw the building as a strategic asset because of its size and location, something they would want to seize quickly during any invasion of the city from the east. I didn’t realize they actually planned to purge the whole area of Palestinian life.

DURING OPERATION Cast Lead and other Israeli operations, people in Gaza have continued to build a sort of grassroots infrastructure. For instance, we know of underground schools that people ran to continue educating children and youth. Are there similar efforts going on today?

IT’S SUMMER, so the kids might not like the underground school idea! But it’s been amazing to watch an entire grassroots infrastructure come together, with very little centralized coordination, to support Palestinians displaced from their neighborhoods. In addition to hundreds camped out at Shifa, thousands more have found shelter in schools, mosques, churches and anywhere else there’s room.

As of July 30, the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that 240,000 had been displaced to these shelters, while 200,000 more were staying with host families. Everyone’s resources are stretched thin, but neighbors are doing what they can to help the displaced with food, clothing, etc., when not opening their own doors to house them.

HOW WOULD you assess the military resistance mounted by Hamas? We have read encouraging reports of even elite Israeli forces such as the Golani Briagde facing a military challenge. Is this is the reason why Netanyahu wants to continue the bombing?

GROUND OPERATIONS by Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades and other resistance groups have done a great deal to inspire people and keep spirits high. News of these daring raids, which have killed dozens of Israeli soldiers, have shown that while Israel’s troops may be able to push buttons on billion-dollar machines, they aren’t so good when it comes to actual fighting.

It’s notable that while Israel has massacred more than 1,000 Palestinian civilians, Hamas fighters have repeatedly bypassed civilian settlements across the Green Line to reach military posts. Israel can yell all it likes about its civilians being targeted, but the numbers tell a very different story.

Israel may have anticipated a barrage of rockets. But rather than prolonging its offensive, I suspect the fierce resistance its army has met on the ground is one of the main factors, along with rising global outrage, pushing its leaders to seek a truce. Of course, they hope for a lopsided one–in practice, a unilateral cease-fire by Palestinians–allowing Israel to preserve the siege.

HOW DO people in Gaza feel about the silence of the leaders of the Arab states and the collusion of states like Egypt with Israel and the U.S.?

LIKE MANY political questions, the answer depends very much on whom you ask. I think it’s fair to say that there’s been broad disappointment with, if not outright hostility toward, the tepid responses of Arab governments. At the same time, many have been gratified by new support from unexpected quarters, like Latin America.

SINCE THE massive demonstrations broke out in the West Bank, there has been some talk in the news media about a third Intifada. Do you think there is such a possibility?

I THINK it’s a possibility, but not the only one. In some ways, yearning for a third Intifada foists an unfair burden onto the minority of the Palestinian people who live under direct occupation, facing challenges to mounting a successful resistance that don’t exist elsewhere.

For four decades before the first Intifada, although Palestinians obviously resisted within occupied territory, the core of the struggle lay elsewhere–in the refugee camps of the diaspora. With the decline of the Tunis-Oslo paradigm, which roughly characterized the first two Intifadas, as well as the rapid growth of global networks like the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, the next phase of the Palestinian struggle may combine both these models and more.

I can’t say that the spark won’t be struck in Bil’in. But it could also come from Beirut, or Brooklyn.

THOUGH WORLD leaders and Western governments have turned their back on Gaza and actively aided Israel, there has been an outburst of global protests in solidarity with Palestine. How do people in Gaza see these protests?

THESE EVENTS have encouraged a number of them during difficult times. On Twitter, I’ve seen nearly as many pictures of solidarity protests in North America and Western Europe tweeted by friends in Gaza as by friends from these regions. While the role of solidarity activism in shifting worldwide public opinion and government policies is crucial, its impact on morale here shouldn’t be underestimated.

ML Update | No. 31 | 2014

July 30, 2014


MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 17 | No. 31 | 29 JUL – 4 AUG 2014

​​
Saffron Downgrading of Education Rears Its Head Again

The Modi Government has been in power for a very short time – and already, we can see the disturbing signs of saffron forces downgrading the quality of schooling, higher education and research.

The appointment of Y Sudarshan Rao as Chief of the Indian Council of Historical Research is the first signal that the Government is allowing saffron ideology rather than academic worth be the criterion for heading academic institutions.

Rao lacks publications in peer reviewed journals, and his academic work is confined to blog posts. Without such academic publications, Rao’s writings are no better than ideologically-coloured opinions. And those opinions in themselves are cause for concern. Rao in his articles has declared that in ancient times the caste system worked well, and that this system in the historical past should not be viewed through the lens of modern democratic values.

This justification of a Brahminical hierarchy that epitomises discrimination is nothing new for Sangh ideology. Sangh founder Golwalkar rationalised caste hierarchy by comparing it to different limbs of the body: “If a developed society realizes that the existing differences are due to the scientific social structure and that they indicate the different limbs of body social, the diversity would not be construed as a blemish.” (Organiser, 1 December 1952, p. 7) Deendayal Upadhyaya, another prominent RSS figure, similarly argued, “In our concept of four castes (varnas), they are thought of as different limbs of virat purush (the primeval man)…These limbs are not only complimentary to one another but even further there is individuality, unity. There is a complete identity of interests, identity, belonging…If this idea is not kept alive, the caste instead of being complimentary can produce conflict. But then that is a distortion.” (D. Upadhyaya, Integral Humanism, New Delhi, Bharatiya Jansangh, 1965, p. 43) Now, this open rationalisation of the unconstitutional and discriminatory caste system will head of India’s premier historical research body.

Even more disturbing is the fact that Rao’s writings extol the ideas of those who have openly called for India to relinquish its secular Constitution and become a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation).

It has come to light that the Gujarat Government has printed textbooks authored by Dinanath Batra on a mass scale, with a foreword by former Gujarat CM Narendra Modi (who is PM today), and has made them mandatory supplementary reading in Gujarat schools.

The content of these textbooks would be laughably absurd – except that when they carry the endorsement of the PM and a State Government uses taxpayers’ money to promote them, it is no longer funny. It becomes a cruel joke with the minds of young impressionable students.

It is embarrassing that the man who is India’s Prime Minister today, officially endorses textbooks that teach students to reject the map of India and instead learn to draw the map of the Sangh fiction of ‘Akhand Bharat’ that includes India’s neighbouring countries and regions.

Batra’s books claim to promote ‘Indian culture’ instead of ‘Western culture’, but only promotes caste Hindu rituals of North India. Why are the cultural practices of dalits, minorities, or of various Indian regions, not considered Indian culture by him?

Worse still, his textbooks include stories that would be considered offensively racist and communal by any professional educationist. These stories refer to a Black person as a ‘negro’ and compare him to a ‘buffalo’; to Indians’ colour being that of ‘a roti cooked right’ as opposed to being ‘burnt’ like that of Blacks; comparing ‘foreigners’ to the shoes on the feet of an Indian; and suggesting that a Muslim freedom fighter’s objection to Vande Mataram made him anti national. Batra is also on record objecting to the use of ordinary spoken Hindustani words which he claims are words of ‘foreign’ origin.

Apart from these, the books are full of historical absurdities that claim ancient Indians invented cars, stem cell therapy, and so on.

Batra has boasted that the HRD Minister has promised to introduce his proposed changes in syllabi on a national scale. Parallel to the Modi Government’s move to set up a commission to reform education, Batra has set up a Non-Governmental Education Commission (NGEC) that is pushing the Government to ‘Indianise’ education.

The Prime Minister needs to break his silence and explain why his name is used to endorse and promote Batra’s absurd books. And the HRD Minister needs to tell the country what her Ministry’s stand is on the Gujarat Government’s promotion of obscurantist, unscientific, communal and racist material among young children.

The Gujarat Model was promoted by Mr Modi at corporate expense, as the epitome of ‘development’ and ‘progress.’ Today, Gujarat’s model of school education stands exposed as the worst joke with the country’s students. We have seen Shiv Sena MPs shamefully force feed a Muslim man to make him break his fast, with no action taken against them. The Modi Government cannot be allowed to force feed the myths and falsehoods of the RSS shakhas, to the country’s children in the name of education.

CC Call for 28 July 2014:

Expand and Strengthen the Party for Effective Resistance against the Modi Regime’s Corporate-Communal Offensive

July 28, 2014 marks the 42nd anniversary of the martyrdom of our founder leader Comrade Charu Mazumdar. It also marks the 40th anniversary of the reorganisation of the Party in the wake of the setback suffered in the early 1970s. As we face India’s first BJP-majority government at the centre, which in its first two months in power have already given us unmistakable glimpses of its thoroughly corporate-friendly agenda and authoritarian and communal character, we are reminded of the last words of Comrade Charu Mazumdar and the lessons we learnt in our battle with Indira autocracy in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Riding on the appeal of bank nationalisation and the call of ‘garibi hatao’, Indira Gandhi had secured a clear mandate in 1971 defeating the Congress old guards. She then went on to consolidate her power with the victory over Pakistan in the Bangladesh war which had left the RSS awe-struck and led Vajpayee to compare Indira Gandhi with the demon-slaying image of goddess Durga. History tells us how quickly this ‘garibi hatao’ mandate and the nationalist appeal had translated into a brutal paramilitary crackdown on the CPI(ML) and gone on to envelope India’s parliamentary democracy in the darkness of Emergency.

Comrade Charu Mazumdar had clearly sensed this danger when days before his martyrdom he called for broad-based unity against the onslaught on the people, asserting that the interests of the people were the interests of the party. The reorganisation of the Party Central Committee on 28 July 1974 and the subsequent revival of the party upheld the spirit of CM’s powerful last words through waves of peasant awakening, all-out mass initiatives and bold assertion of the agenda of radical social transformation and consistent democracy. A rejuvenated CPI(ML) successfully resisted the autocratic onslaught of the ruling classes, building brick by brick a committed communist party organisation dedicated to the interests and struggles of the people.

The situation today is both markedly similar and dissimilar to the situation four decades ago. Indira Gandhi was full of Left pretensions and socialistic rhetoric. Narendra Modi flaunts his rightwing politics and intimate corporate ties with great pride. The Congress under Indira Gandhi’s stewardship was busy writing the obituary of the CPI(ML). Modi’s mission of a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ seeks to establish and consolidate rightwing hegemony under the exclusive leadership of the BJP, he would love to see India purged of the entire array of Left forces, marginalising in the process even various non-Left liberal streams of social and cultural discourse.

Just as Indira Gandhi, backed by her own coterie of close confidantes, wanted to rule with an iron hand, Modi too would like to rule as a supreme leader enjoying the unabashed adulation of his bhakts and allegiance of his colleagues. And to be sure, the nationalist demagogy is central to the rhetoric employed by the two leaders – while Indira’s accent was on ‘national unity and integrity’ and officially proclaimed ‘secularism’, Modi’s nationalism is openly majoritarian and the emphasis is on a hard state that curbs liberties in the name of ‘national security’ and corporate-led developmentalism that would bulldoze every voice of dissent and sanctify every destruction of natural resource and people’s livelihood in the name of economic growth.

Our job today is to rise against this mounting rightwing onslaught and corporate-communal offensive. We have to bounce back against the triumphalist rightwing clamour of marginalisation of the Left. And as we take up this challenge, we must go deep among the people and organise and mobilise them on their everyday issues. We must pit the aspirations of the people, which the BJP had invoked in the election campaign to come to power, against the BJP’s rapidly unfolding corporate-communal agenda and the harsh reality of rising prices and growing mockery of people’s welfare. When the rhetoric of ‘achchhe din’ (good days) turns into the reality of ‘bitter pill’, fight back the people will and the CPI(ML) must discharge its role in the frontlines of people’s struggle.

As the Modi government unleashes its authoritarian mode of governance and seeks to impose its corporate-communal agenda, we can hear the voices of disenchantment and dissent all around us. From the man on the street complaining about the soaring prices to the Chief Justice of India slamming the government for its interference in the appointment of judges – protests can be heard everywhere. This is the time to reach out to various fighting forces and build the broadest possible unity in struggle.

Today the opposition in Parliament has evidently become quite weak and most sections of the opposition have no credibility when it comes to the question of defending the rights and livelihood of the people, the pluralist fabric of the country and the autonomy of various institutions. Regardless of the role of the Opposition inside Parliament and the response of various institutions to the challenges posed by the Modi government, the voices of protest and resistance must be raised boldly on the streets. Extensive interaction with various progressive democratic forces and effective solidarity and cooperation with wide-ranging struggles of the people are the needs of the hour.

And sure enough, we need a stronger party organisation than ever before. When the Central Committee was reorganised in July 1974, we had to begin the task of Party reorganisation from above, starting almost from scratch. Today, after nine Congresses we are on a much stronger footing with a Party membership of more than one lakh and presence of Party organisation in more than 20 states and 100 districts. But the recent elections have once again made it clear that we need a much more effective Party organisation at the grassroots. We have a nearly 3-million-strong organised mass membership, but our votes barely crossed one million which clearly shows our weakness in terms of political and electoral mobilisation of our members and supporters.

All said and done, polling booths are the key site of electoral struggles. The money-, muscle- and media-power and social engineering equations of dominant ruling class parties play themselves out through booth level mobilisation of the electorate. Given that the electoral domain is no level-playing field and the power balance in electoral struggles is heavily tilted against the poor and working people, it becomes all the more imperative that communists are able to put up effective ground-level resistance against the politics of the ruling classes through intensive counter-mobilisation at the grassroots.

The grassroots organisation that won big victories in the struggle against feudal domination and state terror in the formative years of our Party is also our main weapon in the battle in the electoral arena. It must be understood that unlike the Congress and various identity-based parties, the BJP is a cadre-based party which pays serious attention to its organisation and propaganda and indoctrination campaign at the grassroots. Communist resistance to the BJP must therefore be waged most decisively in the sphere of organisational and ideological-political mobilisation at the grassroots. On the 40th anniversary of Party reorganisation, let us resolve to raise our grassroots organisation to a higher level in terms of mass strength as well as political mobilisation and organisational functioning. The battle against the corporate-communal fascist threat must be won decisively by powerful communist organisation of the working people working in tandem with broader democratic forces on every front of people’s struggle.

42nd Martyrdom Anniversary of Comrade Charu Mazumdar

The 42nd anniversary of Comrade Charu Mazumdar’s martyrdom was observed all over the country by party members.

In Delhi, a Cadre Convention was held at Charu Bhavan, which began by paying floral tributes to Comrade Charu Mazumdar’s statue.

Subsequently, Comrade Sanjay Sharma (Delhi State Secretary) and Kavita Krishnan (PB member) elaborated on the CC’s Call, outlining the orientation of building a mass movement and democratic unity against the anti people policies of the Modi Government and strengthening and expanding the party. The Convention was attended by PB member Prabhat Kumar, CCMs Rajiv Dimri and Ravi Rai, and was addressed by a range of CPI(ML) activists working in Delhi.

In Haryana, the occasion was marked by a protest dharna at Sonepat against Dalit atrocities. Many activists from various Haryana districts participated in the dharna, against the attack on a Dalit Sarpanch of the Janti Khurd village. The protesters demanded to know from the local administration why there was a delay in acting against the perpetrators. The dharna was led by Prem Singh Gehlawat, party in charge for Haryana.

The Bangalore unit of the party and AICCTU organised a Public Hall Meeting on 28 July 2014 in memory of Comrade Charu Mazumdar. The speakers spoke on the "Corporate, Communal Fascism and the Role of the Left".

Dr. Venkataramaiah Lakshminarayana, Professor Lakshminarayana, AICCTU State Organising Secretary Clifton addressed the gathering while Com. Shankar, Central Committee Member of CPIML Liberation presided over the meeting


and Com. Bharadwaj, Karnataka state secretary of the​
.​party introduced the agenda.

Worker activists from various public and private sector companies (national and multinational) and government departments participated in the programme with enthusiasm. Similar Programmes were held at Harapanahalli and Gangavati as well.

Left Parties Will Unite for Bihar Assembly By-Elections

At a joint press conference on 29th July in Patna, the CPI(ML), CPI and CPI(M) announced their intention to contest the Bihar Assembly by-polls in a united way. The Left parties said that this unity was forged in the backdrop of the urgent need to counter communal and corporate fascism, and to assert a people’s alternative against the offensive of price rise, unemployment and assaults on democracy.

CPI will contest 2 seats (Jale and Banka), CPI(M) 3 (Chhapra, Mohiuddinnagar, Parbatta), and CPI(ML) 5 seats (Narkatiyaganj, Rajnagar (SC), Bhagalpur, Hajipur, Mohania (SC)) in the by polls.

The Press Conference was addressed by CPI(ML) State Secretary Comrade Kunal, CPI State Secretary Comrade Rajendra Prasad Singh and CPI(M) State Secretary Comrade Vijaykant Thakur.

Outlining the dangers of the Modi Government’s policies and the BJP’s communal offensive in Bihar, Comrade Kunal said that the front of Congress, RJD and JDU was an opportunist one. The Congress was highly discredited in Bihar and the rest of the country; and the JDU is responsible in large measure for allowing BJP to gain a foothold in Bihar and pursue its communal agenda. And the RJD’s rule in Bihar is also one in which communal and casteist forces had a free run and indulged in massacres of rural poor. Moreover the BJP and the Congress, JDU, RJD are all united by the commitment to pro-corporate, anti poor policy that are devastating Bihar and the country. Such an opportunist front cannot counter the saffron offensive and defend people’s interests, rights and secular values. The unity of Left forces was the need of the hour, and the decision to contest by-polls together is a welcome one.

CPI(ML)’s Homage to Comrade D Prempati

CPI(ML) deeply condoles the passing of Comrade D Prempati, a relentless campaigner for democracy, secularism, social justice and human dignity who stood consistently by a whole array of revolutionary struggles of the Indian people. He was a Marxist who was closely acquainted with the writings and thoughts of Ambedkar, Periyar and Phule and drew on his insightful studies and observations to vigorously challenge Brahminical propaganda and resist feudal-communal onslaughts.

We in CPI(ML) cherish fond memories of Comrade Prempati’s consistent contribution to the party’s multifarious activities and initiatives in the 1980s, especially in the launching of Indian People’s Front and a Marxist theoretical periodical called Marxism Today, of which he was the editor. He was one of the Convenors of the Nagbhushan Patnaik Release Committee in the early 1980s, and he enjoyed a close and warm relationship with Comrade Nagbhushan after the latter’s release from jail.

Comrades visiting his house at any hour of the day in connection with any work always received the warm hospitality of Comrade Prempati and his family. For generations of his students in Delhi College of Art he was an affectionate teacher of English literature, and for activist circles in Delhi and elsewhere he was a comrade they could look to for guidance and cooperation.

Whether it was the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination when Delhi witnessed a horrific pogrom against the Sikh community, the days of casteist frenzy against the adoption of the Mandal Commission report, the barbaric demolition of Babri Masjid and the riots that preceded and followed in its wake or the state-sponsored genocide in Gujarat in 2002, Comrade Prempati could be seen and heard in every protest meeting as a courageous and tireless campaigner for sanity, social justice and human rights.

We have lost Comrade Prempati at a crucial juncture in India’s political and social life. As we rally today in defence of our hard-won democratic rights, social dignity and pluralistic legacy, he will be sorely missed, but his writings and memories will continue to inspire activists in a whole range of circles to better understand the country and fight harder for our cherished goals of social transformation and human dignity. On behalf of the CPI(ML) Central Committee, I pay my heart-felt homage to Comrade Prempati. His legacy of study, analysis and activism will live on and inspire us in all our struggles for a better tomorrow.

Dipankar Bhattacharya

General Secretary, CPI(ML)

Tribute To Writer Madhukar Singh

Eminent Hindi litterateur Madhukar Singh, who led ‘Samantar Kahani Andolan’ in story writing along with noted writer Kamleshwar and others in the 1970s, died at his residence at native village Dharahara, on the outskirts of Ara in Bhojpur district, on 15th July. He was 87.

CPI(ML) and progressive cultural organisations were part of his final journey, and paid tribute to this pride of Bhojpur and Bihar.

The final journey of writer Madhukar Singh started from Dharhara on 16th July morning. Earlier, CPI-ML Patna State secretary Com. Kunal, Politbureau member Com. Amar, State standing committee member Santosh Sahar, writers Ashok Kumar and Shivnarayan met and consoled the bereaved family.

Poet Shriram Tiwari, story writer Anant Kumar Singh, CPI-ML leader Sudama Prasad and many others were present. On behalf of the Dharhara branch of CPI-ML, the Party flag was placed over the body of the departed writer, after which the final journey started. At Dharhara the body was brought to the CPI-ML district office where Party workers, litterateurs, and cultural activists including Com. Kunal, Com. Nand Kishore Prasad, Com. Amar, and Com. Santosh Sahar paid tribute to him.

Addressing the condolence meeting, CPI-ML State secretary Com. Kunal said that Madhukarji wrote lifelong about people’s struggles. He was against the system of people’s oppression, and his dream was to establish the rule of the poor and the working class.

Com. Santosh Sahar said that Madhukarji was the pride of Bihar. Along with the Soviet Land Nehru award he was also the recipient of Bihar’s highest award. But the irony is that no representative from the government or the administration has come to pay tribute to this pride of Bihar.

Last year the Jan Sanskriti Manch and the people of Bhojpur not only honoured Madhukarji but also organized an important programme to highlight his literary contribution. The people of Bhojpur proved that a people’s writer is not beholden to any government for help.

Com. Sudama Prasad said that Madhukar Singh wrote stories about the poor and dalits fighting against imperialistic oppression. Poet Jitendra Kumar pointed out that when the poor and the working class started their political struggle in the 70’s, Madhukarji helped to develop their cultural tools. Raju Yadav said that Madhukarji would remain immortal in the people’s struggles. Janmat editor Sudhir Suman recollected that Madhukarji was a teacher at the Jain School along with the founder of the Bhojpur movement Jagdish Master. From those early days he had a deep association with Jagdish Master, his comrades and his Party the CPI-ML. In the 90s he became a member of the Party and retained his membership throughout his life.

The funeral procession which began from the Party office proceeded through the main roads and reached Sinha ghat where Madhukarji was given a final farewell and his younger son Jyoti Kalash lit the funeral pyre at 3 in the afternoon. His second son Ajitabh, grandsons, relatives, and many people from his village were also present.

The All Bihar Progressive Advocates’ Association President Amit Kumar Bunty also paid tribute to Madhukar Singh.

ML Update 30 | 2014

July 23, 2014

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 17 | No. 30 | 22 – 28 JUL 2014

BRICS Summit

Potential and Inherent Limitations

The sixth BRICS summit was held at Fortaleza, Brazil on 15 July 2014 in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup football tournament, also hosted by Brazil. The Fortaleza summit produced a 72-point declaration and a 23-point action plan, and was followed by a larger meeting with leaders of UNASUR, the regional forum of South American nations including Brazil. The highlight of the sixth BRICS summit has been the announcement of the agreement to launch the BRICS bank, called the New Development Bank (NDB), and a common fund called the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), to help member countries cope with any possible short-term balance of payments pressure.

BRICS is a unique cross-continental grouping of five countries with little in common in terms of their specific historical, cultural or geo-political background. It is a peculiar reflection of the developing situation where the former number two and current number two of the world economy – Russia and China – have joined hands with three emerging economies across continents to defend their shared economic interests. It is significant that the grouping has taken shape in the backdrop of the global financial crisis which has had a more adverse impact on the three traditionally dominant centres of post-War global capitalist economy – the US, Western Europe and Japan – than these emerging players.

It is futile to look for signs of any radically alternative economic policy approach in BRICS declarations. All five members of BRICS are closely integrated with the existing processes of economic globalisation. But the commitment to the UN and multilateralism as against the unilateral domination of the US and other western powers, the quest for greater freedom for developing countries from the domination of dollar and the Fund-Bank establishment, and the stress on infrastructural investment and state-owned firms and small and medium enterprises as opposed to the unmitigated domination of speculative finance and MNCs do mark some areas of contention within the ongoing processes of globalisation.

The real challenges to the development of the BRICS potential come from the conflicting strategic priorities of member countries, particularly India. If BRICS really has to emerge as a platform of economic cooperation for the global south in opposition to the disastrous hegemony of the Fund-Bank establishment, the spearhead must be directed consistently against the US. Yet, the Indian ruling classes remain bound by the dictates of New Delhi’s strategic partnership (a euphemism for subservience) with Washington. The insistence on a pro-US foreign policy reinforcing the Indian ruling classes’ growing integration with the structures of neoliberal globalisation undermines India’s potential as a responsible contributor to BRICS.

The contrast between Modi’s BRICS braggadocio and India’s shameful silence and advocacy of neutrality on the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza has once again exposed the foreign policy hypocrisy of the Indian ruling classes. The BJP’s inability, nay refusal, to boldly advocate and stand by the Palestinian people’s integral right to peace, dignity and independence in the face of the US-backed Zionist offensive of Israel, only goes to expose the hollowness of India’s pro-global south posturing in the global economic arena.

While BRICS remains relevant in the context of the growing worldwide quest for multipolarity and freedom from the oppressive domination of the Fund-Bank establishment and the hegemony of dollar, popular pressure must be developed within India for reorienting India’s economic and foreign policies in correspondence with the BRICS theme of greater assertion of the global south. Brazil is trying to dovetail its role in BRICS with the perspective of greater economic and political cohesion with other South American countries; India must also combine her commitment to BRICS with closer cooperation with SAARC and other Asian countries.

Dharna at Lucknow Against Rape and Murder

AISA activists held a dharna at Saraswati Vatika in Lucknow University on 22 July 2014 to protest against the brutal incident of rape and murder in Mohanlalganj, the subsequent attempts by the administration to cover up the incident with false stories, and attempts of the Samajwadi Party leaders to hide behind false statistics.

Addressing the dharna AISA State President Sudhanshu Bajpayi said that today the incidents of sexual violence in the State as well as the country are on the rise. Putting the central government also in the dock he said that our Prime Minister is silent on such an inhuman crime, and these crimes are being perpetrated on the very home ground of the Home Minister, and yet our Home Minister remains silent. Cornering the State government he said that it is evident from the manner in which the top officials of the administration are giving evasive reports about the incident, that the administration is bent on shielding the criminals.

Sudhanshu Bajpayi also strongly opposed the ploy of hiding behind false statistics by the Samajwadi Party leaders. He pointed out that the State government has totally failed to maintain the law and order system in the State; moreover, the SP leaders are defending their failure by saying that in a State with such a high population like U.P., these incidents are actually quite low. He said that if the government is incapable of maintaining the law and order system, it has no right to remain in power.

AISA campus secretary Nitish Kanaujiya, campus Vice President Ashwini Yadav, Apoorva Verma, Shalini, Chandrakant, Rajiv Gupta, Sushant and others participated in the dharna.

Ramgarh’s Dalits Threatened As They Testify in Court Against Attack

Dalits of Ramgarh village (Dadri, UP), have begun testifying in court against the gram pradhan Kuldeep Bhati and his henchmen, who had subjected them to a murderous attack on March 14, 2012. They have been waging their battle for justice under the banner of the CPI(ML). To prevent them from testifying in court, or to pressure them to turn hostile, the gram pradhan and his men have intensified their campaign of intimidation.

A CPI(ML) team comprising PB member Kavita Krishnan, State Committee members Aslam Khan and Shyamkishor, as well as Anas Kidwai, Mohit Kashyap, Rituparna Biswas and Prashant Gupta of RYA, Susanne Adley visited Ramgarh on July 20, 2014.

The March 14th Attack

On March 14, 2012, the Dalit Jatav families of Ramgarh (Dadri, UP) had been subjected to an assault by the gram pradhan Kuldeep Bhati, and his henchmen. This attack, happening soon after the UP Assembly poll results, had the purpose of punishing the Jatavs from having staked claim to panchayat land that had been allocated to Dalits as homestead plots.

Men, women and even old people were attacked with rods and axes in their houses, which left dozens of them with broken bones and skull injuries.

One of the youths who had been at the forefront of this battle, Tikaram, had his legs chopped off in July 2013 by Bhati and his supporters.

Fresh Intimidation

The first testimony in the case against the perpetrators of the 14th March, 2012 attack, was registered in the Gautam Budh Nagar District Court (Surajkund) on 2nd June, 2014. Brahm Jatav was to appear in court again on 23rd July, where the lawyer for six of the accused would cross-examine him.

Brahm is the first and one of the key witnesses in the whole case. There are 19 other witnesses from the Dalit community, apart from the police witnesses. Now, ‘Operation Intimidation’ is on, to silence their voice.

Brahm told us that the Dalits were asked to attend a Gujjar Panchayat on 8th June to ‘settle’ the ‘dispute’. He and other Dalits were reluctant to go, but some of Bhati’s men came to Brahm’s home and pressurised him and other Dalit youth to attend. Brahm asked that the Panchayat be held on neutral ground. Instead it was held in an area completely populated by the dominant caste, locally known as the Dak Bangla.

At Brahm’s home, Bhati’s men accused Brahm, Tikaram’s brother Bhuvanesh and other Dalits of ‘harbouring Pakistani terrorists’ in their homes. This was a transparent insinuation against CPI(ML) activists Aslam Khan as well as RYA activists Anas Kidwai and others who happen to be Muslim. At that time, RYA activists Anas Kidwai and Prashant Gupta were at Tikaram’s house. Seven of Kuldeep Bhati’s henchmen, packed with pistols, arrived there to ‘meet’ Anas and Prashant. Barely veiling their threats, they told Anas and Prashant, “Why are you interfering in village matters? We would not like something bad to happen to you. There are more than a 100 of us gathered close by.” The henchmen then coerced seven of the Dalit youths to go to the panchayat.

This was the day after the murder, in Dadri, of BJP leader Vijay Pandit. As a consequence, Section 144 was imposed in the area, prohibiting mass gatherings. Yet, when Brahm and the handful of Dalit youth arrived at the panchayat, they found 150 people gathered there. This was a gathering of dominant caste men, from a total of 12 villages. Though this massive armed gathering was in clear violation of Section 144, the police were nowhere to be seen; they had turned a tacit blind eye.

“They had lathis and pistols with them,” said Brahm, “The gathering was menacing and did not inspire confidence in us.” The panchayat began by reminding the Dalits of the borrowed money they owed to the dominant case lenders. They asked for the money back, on the spot: “We’ll tie you here and keep you till you pay.” Having begun on an offensive note, they then began to talk of a ‘compromise.’

Bhati’s men said that they would clear the occupation of the 4.75 bighas of panchayat land, and would pay medical expenses incurred by the Dalits injured in the attacks, and in return the Dalits must agree to sign an affidavit on a ‘stamp paper’, stating their willingness to withdraw statements against the accused in the 14 March 2012 attack. They were told that they could be killed anywhere as they had nowhere to go, being surrounded by villages that are dominated by the Gujjars: “Even if some of us go to jail, we will still manage to kill you from inside the jail.” The Dalit youth, fearing for their lives, stated their agreement but resisted the pressure to sign the affidavit then and there, saying they would do so the next day.

In the next couple of days, immense pressure was brought on Brahm and others to sign the compromise affidavit. He stalled, asking for the land to be cleared of illegal occupation first. As a gesture that he was willing to clear the land of occupation, Bhati had an illegal shop demolished, that had been blocking the road used by the Dalits to access the panchayat land. But Bhati’s emissaries then told Brahm and his father Harpal that they would have to pay Rs 2 lakh for the demolition of the shop!

On 20th July, the Dalits, though clearly disturbed and terrorised, expressed their intention to stand firm and not give in to the intimidation and pressure to ‘compromise’. Prakashi, one of those worst injured on March 14, 2012, declared, “I’ll identify the accused in court and face the consequences. I refuse to be scared of them. We do need the land, but we know they’ll never clear the occupation or let us use it. It’s a fight for our dignity now.”

A young man, Virpal said, “They too are scared of us, else they would never have to collect 150 people in order to talk to us! They are scared that we might stop fearing them. And their fear is justified.” He recounted an instance where he and another youth were accosted by some powerful men of the dominant caste. In such an altercation, in normal circumstances, the latter would have slapped the Dalit boys. But this time, Virpal said, they did not, and that only indicated that the court case was acting as a fetter on Bhati’s henchmen.

Vikas, an RYA activist from the village, said, “We all know they’ll never let us have the land. Moreover, the ‘affidavit’ they’re asking us to sign is meaningless, since it is the State that files the case, not us. So the affidavit, even if we were to sign it, would not end the case, but it would merely weaken our side of it. It would require us to lie and turn hostile in Court. We are not going to do that.”

Observations

1. It is clear that the UP police and administration have taken no lessons from Muzaffarnagar. How come dominant caste ‘panchayats’ of armed people are allowed to gather in defiance of Section 144, in an sensitive area where horrific violence has already taken place many times? Section 144 is used often enough to prevent peaceful protests; yet it is not enforced to prevent actual rioting and organised violence!

2. Moreover, the echoes of Muzaffarnagar can be heard in the ugly insinuations against activists who happen to be Muslim. The ease with which such activists can be branded as ‘Pakistani terrorists’ and threatened with violence is of great concern.

3. The coercive nature of the caste ‘panchayats’ is also underlined by the episode. We often hear khap panchayats legitimised as a community’s way of dispute resolution, avoiding litigation. The actual nature of such ‘dispute resolution’ is exposed by this episode, whereby Brahm and his Dalit friends did not have a real choice not to attend the ‘panchayat.’ Note, this was a dominant caste panchayat where the Dalits were ‘summoned’; this was no dispute resolution between ‘equal’ members of a rural ‘community’. The Dalits were outnumbered by an intimidating gathering of armed men from the dominant caste. The Gujjar ‘panchayat’, in the name of dispute resolution, was staged to threaten the Dalits into turning hostile as witnesses in an atrocity against Dalits. And the sheer absence and apathy of the police and local administration gave the Dalits an unmistakeable message that they are isolated, and left to fend for themselves. The police apathy creates a situation where it is possible for perpetrators of unmistakeable crimes – a daylight assault on Dalits and dismemberment of a Dalit youth – to force the victims to ‘compromise’ in the name of dispute resolution rather than stand their ground in Court.

Demands

It is clear that there is an immediate threat of fresh violence against the Dalit witnesses and their families.

1) We demand that the witnesses in the 14th March 2012 attack case, and their families, be provided with police protection, as they face very serious threats to terrorize them into not appearing in court.

2) We also demand that the occupied land be immediately cleared of occupation and handed over to the rightful claimants of the Jatav community.

Dalits Observing Memorial Day for Ilavarasan Face Brutal Repression in Dharmapuri, TN

A public hearing was held in Salem on 13th July, in which Dalits of Natham Colony testified to the brutal police repression unleashed on them by the Dharmapuri police. The repression was unleashed when they attempted to observe the first death anniversary of Ilavarasan, a dalit youth, who was found dead in mysterious circumstances on 4thJuly last year after he married a Vanniar girl, Divya. The marriage of Ilavarasan and Divya was used as a pretext by the Pattali Makkal Katchi party to organise arson and violence against dalit villages in Dharmapuri.

When Ilavarasn’s family members and the people of Natham village began talking about observing the first death anniversary of Ilavarasan, the Dharmapuri police clamped Sec 144 on June 27th in Dharmapuri block, and latter expanded it to the entire district. Six members of the village, illegally held in the police station, later had several cases slapped against them. They were jailed on charges of engaging in a conspiracy to eliminate PMK leaders, possessing lethal weapons, and getting arms training with Naxalites. After 11 days, the arrested Dalit youth were charged with NSA!

More than 1500 police were engaged to encircle the entire village. From dawn to dusk, houses were ‘searched’. Members of the villages and relatives were restricted from even entering or leaving the village.

The women, elders and children spent several sleepless nights. The family members, mostly women, ran from pillar to post to every police station to know if their loved ones were alive. From every police station they got only arrogant responses and threatens.

Women in large numbers with their children approached the district collector and demanded to stop the police brutality. If not, they declared, they would surrender their voter ids and family cards and walk out of the village. Even then the inhuman police repression continued.

The village people approached the high court for a remedy, seeking to be allowed to observe the memorial day. Instead of upholding civil and democratic rights enshrined in the constitution, the HC placed restrictions, stating that only Ilaravarasan’s immediate family members could observe the memorial day from 3-4 pm, and other relatives could join from 4-5 pm! Moreover, the HC banned political parties and organizations entering the district even! In such a background, the public hearing was held in Salem.

The jury of the public hearing comprised Rathinam, a senior HC advocate, Balamurugan, an advocate and novelist and Murugavel, an advocate and writer.

Six women from Natham colony deposed before the jury. Ramani, a native of the village, who is also an SCM of Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)(People Liberation), said that the repression was staged under the direct supervision of the District SP Asra Garg. When the women complained about the brutality, he arrogantly replied, “I will plant bombs in your houses and send you all to jail.” She also revealed the police-PMK nexus. Even before the FIR could be filed before the magistrate’s court, PMK founder Ramadoss and his newly elected MP-son Anbumani Ramadoss were reading out the FIR in their press conference, she said.

Sumathi, Saalammal and Selvi, residents of the Natham colony, who were leading the women in the trying times, narrated the police brutalities with tears in their eyes.

Sumathi said, “The police called our kith and kin to the station for a routine enquiry on 27th June around 12 noon, but illegally held them. We were made to run to every police station to look for our people but in vain. Starting from 1 pm of 27th June to 4 am of 28th June, we ran from one police station to another. Several of us fainted, unable to withstand hunger, thirst and sleeplessness. While our people suffering inhuman tortures inside the police lock-up, we were subjected to intimidation and insult by the women police outside the police station! And when we were able to see through the window, six policemen were standing on the knees and thighs of our people, and beating them all over, even as they shouted out in unbearable pain.”

Selvi said, “On Nov 7, 2012, the fatal day when our villages was razed to the ground by the frenzied mob of PMK, AIADMK, and DMDK men, the police was a mere mute spectator. But now when we just wanted to observe the death anniversary of Ilavarasan, we have been subjected to such inhuman tortures. Don’t we have even the right to observe death anniversary of our loved one?”

Ramachandran of Karur spoke about the role of the police and administration in another incident. Instead of arresting the culprits who did the heinous crime of rape and murder of a dalit student in the area, the police harassed the friends of the victim in the name of inquiry, and planted stories assassinating the character of the victim!

Rajasankar from Cuddalore district narrated their fact finding report about attacks on Dalits in Vadakkumangudi village, that took place to deter Dalits from voting for Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (the party allied with DMK and headed by Tirumavalavan) and to tilt the balance in favour of PMK in this reserved constituency.

One participant, Venkatesan from Villupuram district, recounted how an upper caste (Thevar) DSP had encouraged the Vanniar mob to attack a Dalit colony there, when the Dalits of Kunnathur claimed their due share of drinking water from the panchayat president. Throughout the attack, the said DSP simply sat in his jeep, having tea and biscuits.

A college girl Sofia, narrated her bitter experience of humiliation and castiest slurs even in the city of Salem.

After the depositions, Balamurugan on behalf of the Jury concluded that the Dharmapuri police’ case against Dalits is a fabricated one. He pointed out a gaping hole in the police FIR: the named accused are in police custody right from 27th June onwards, but the FIR says the accused were apprehended on 28th June. The cases framed are illegal and the repression unleashed is totally against constitutional rights.

The Public Hearing was organized by CPIML (Liberation), Marxist Party and Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (People Liberation). Gunasekaran of Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (People Liberation), Gangadaran of Marxist Party and Balasundaram State Secretary of CPIML also spoke at the hearing. CPIML SCM Chandramohan, District secretary Mohanasundaram also participated.

Resolutions were passed condemning the police repression and demanding a judicial enquiry; that the November 7th 2013 attack on 3 dalit villages by a PMK mob be tried by a fast track court and the culprits punished speedily; all the police excesses in Kodiyankulam, Tamirabarani, Paramakudi and Dharmapuri, Chidambaram must be re-enquired by a special Judicial Commission and the culprits punished.

Several Left and Dalit intellectuals, professors, students, TU activists, CPIML activists, and women in large numbers participated in the hearing.

More Protests Against Attack on Gaza

CPI(ML) held protests demanding an end to the attack on Gaza in Puducherry, Chennai and Kanyakyumari. In Kanyakumari, the CPI also joined the demonstration. The Chennai demo was addressed by Politburo member Comrade Kumarswamy, State Secretary Balasundaram, and the Chennai City Secretary Sekar. The Government’s refusal to allow a Parliament resolution condemning Israel’s attack was strongly condemned by the protestors.

ML Update | No. 29 | 2014

July 17, 2014

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 17 | No. 29 |15 – 21 JUL 2014

Indian Government Must Break Its Silence

And Demand End to Israel’s Racist Genocide in Gaza

The ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza has now claimed nearly 200 lives of Palestinian civilians, and still counting. The abduction and killing of three Jewish young boys in the occupied West Bank is condemnable. But, instead of identifying those responsible, Israel used this crime as a pretext for yet another massacre of the Palestinian people.

The fact that the abduction and killing are only a pretext is underlined by the words of Israeli hardliners who in 2012 had referred to the annual massacre of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli state, as “mowing the lawn.” Israeli political leaders have a long history of using such language to dehumanize the Palestinian people and justify occupation and genocide. In 1969, Israeli PM Golda Meir had declared that Palestinians ‘didn’t exist.’ In 1982, Israeli PM Menachem Begin described Palestinians as “beasts walking on two legs." In 1988, another Israeli PM Yitzhak Shamir declared that the Palestinians “would be crushed like grasshoppers.”

Even as major world powers maintain a shameful silence on this massacre, the Israeli PM Netanyahu has declared that "world pressure will not stop us…there is still more to go." The Israeli PM has openly and shamelessly justified deliberate bombardment of homes, hospitals, and other civilian locations. Yet, this blatant admission of war crime has invited no serious action from the United Nations to ensure an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, even as the UN reports that the 80% of those killed in Gaza are civilians.

The silence of the Indian Government on the ongoing genocide is a mockery of India’s long history of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. Indian solidarity with Palestine is forged in India’s own experience of anti-colonial freedom struggle. This is why India’s freedom fighters, including Gandhi, unequivocally recognised and resisted the colonial occupation of Palestine. Gandhi famously declared that “Palestine belongs to the Arabs as England belongs to the English or France to the French.” This is the understanding that informed India’s long standing foreign policy approach to Palestine. As India’s ruling class drew closer to the US imperialist regime in the past couple of decades, it began advocating a ‘pragmatic’ relationship with Israel. During the last NDA Government, this relationship acquired even closer ideological affinities, with Zionism and Hindutva echoing each others’ Islamophobia. And of course, cementing the bonhomie between Israel andIndia’s rulers from both Congress and BJP, is India’s position as the biggest client of Israel’s arms industry. Now, with the Modi Government in power, the cadres of Sangh Parivar are striving to erase the memory and legacy of the strong shred anti-colonial ties between India and Palestine. By doing so, they are seeking to mould India in Israel’s image in the subcontinent – both in its treatment of neighbours and of its own minority populations and oppressed nationalities.

At such a time, it is crucial to underline that ordinary Indians who protest the Israeli occupation and aggression, are in fact defending the highest traditions of India’s own freedom struggle. And they are also standing by the millions of people across the globe who are resisting their own governments’ support for the Israeli occupation and calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

The Indian Government cannot be allowed to play havoc with India’s precious anti-colonial legacy and conscientious foreign policy towards Palestine. Democratic and anti-imperialist Indians must demand that the Indian Government immediately condemn and call for a halt of the Israeli aggression, convey relief to the Palestinian people, and appeal to the UN to intervene to enforce an immediate ceasefire. The Indian Government must also reaffirm its commitment to support the cause of a free Palestine, and must walk the talk of this commitment by ending arms purchases from Israel.

Palestine today is the longest ever people’s resistance to colonialism, occupation, and racism. It is ironic that the Israeli state, supposedly a monument against Nazi racism and genocide, is itself the worst perpetrator of racism and genocide in today’s world. Ending this racist occupation and genocide is a call for conscience for the whole world.

Delhi Police Assaults Peaceful Protesters at Israel Embassy

Nearly 100 people peacefully gathered on July 14th near Hotel Claridges on Auragzeb Road to protest against the Isreal’s bombardment of Gaza.

Protesters from JNUSU, AISA, AISF, RYA, NAPM, DSG and many other civil society organisations marched from Hotel Claridges towards the Israel Embassy. The Delhi police made all-out attempts to stop the bus carrying the protesters from leaving JNU.

Finally, the bus was forced to stop around 2 kilometres from the Embassy, from where the students marched on foot towards the Embassy. On way to the Embassy, the police tried to stop protesters by the use of force and lathicharge. The police beat up activists ruthlessly and when some students reached the embassy, they were not allowed to stage a silent sit in! Women activists were roughed up and manhandled, and male activists were thrashed, leaving several injured. The protesters were forced into a bus and taken to Tughlaq Road police station where they were greeted by abusive language, use of unprovoked force and hostile treatment. Student leaders were thrashed without any reason. All this took place on the orders of the DCP.

Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, and Politburo member, CPI(ML), was dragged away from in front of the Embassy and hit on her lip by a policewoman’s helmet when she raised a slogan.

In all, nearly 100 people including JNUSU President Akbr Choudhury were bundled together in two police vans and taken to Tughlaq Road police Station. Inside the thana, Kavita Krishnan was also stopped from talking to the press, was dragged inside and verbally abused. When the JNUSU President questioned the language that was being used, he was also slapped and abused – all this in the presence of and on the orders of the SHO Pramod Joshi.

Activists from several organisations were injured, and clothes were torn. Inside the thana, the police selectively asked students with beards (presumed to be Muslims) for identity cards.

It is to be noted that, while protests at the embassy were allowed the day before, JNU students were specifically targeted, halted, beaten up and misbehaved with. The police were heard saying, inko sabak sikhao, inko mat chodna, baar baar aa jaate hain (teach them a lesson, don’t spare them, they repeatedly return to protest). The JNU students in particular are being targeted repeatedly by the Delhi police in the past month.

Two activists from AISF, who were returning home after the detention was over, were targeted outside the police station, and one of them was beaten up. This is a totally unprovoked attack on two citizens who were simply going home. It is a shame that present political establishment in India, known for its pro-Israeli stance, has not only failed to condemn the Israeli war offensive on Gaza, but are going the extra mile of cracking down on democratic protests by Indian people against this racist offensive. However, these attacks on activists cannot silence the voice for justice and democracy.

The protesters were eventually released in the evening. Another joint protest will be held at the Israel embassy on 17th July.

CPI(ML) Statement on Union Budget

The Modi Government’s first Union Budget has continued and severely intensified the offensive on common people and benefits to corporations that marked the previous UPA-II regime.

The Budget has opened the floodgates of disinvestment of PSUs to the tune of 43000 cr, with FDI being increased to 49% in defence, insurance and e-commerce.

The Budget is remarkably silent on MNREGA and Food Security that directly affect the poorest sections, also on concrete measures to quell inflation, such as taking essential items off the list of commodities that can be traded in the futures and forward trading market. The Finance Minister, on being asked, said that the existing allocation for MNREGA will stand. Allocations for MNREGA have not been increased for years, in spite of steep inflation, and the Modi Government has continued with the same policy.

Total social sector expenditure has plummeted steeply from 10.8 % in 2013-14 to 4.42 % of the total budget in 2014-15, and from 26.7 % in 2013-14 to 16.7 % in 2014-15 of total planned expenditure.

The huge infrastructure outlay in railways, roads, and ports has been allocated in the PPP framework. Experience has shown that PPP has been a system which has involved huge corruption, and which has meant private profits at public cost. In this case, the huge outlay will prove a bonanza for the real estate sharks who will use the PPP model to milk profits.

The allocation for schooling and higher education is highly inadequate and reflects the Modi Government’s lack of any concern for the country’s youth. The Budget allocates a mere 500 cr for 5 new IITs – contrast this with the 200 cr allocation for a single statue of Sardar Patel, a pet project of Modi’s Gujarat Government that the Centre has now adopted! The Budget indicates that education will be left to predatory mercies of privatisation, which will put it out of reach of the vast majority of students in the country.

When it comes to employment too, the Budget fails to recognise the vast army of para teachers, ASHA, anganwadi and other rural health and education workers as government employees. The Modi Government continues with the model of insecure, casualised employment that exploits youth and women and also affects the quality of education and health services.

Similarly, the Budget allocates a mere 500 cr for 5 new AIIMS like medical institutions in 5 states. Again, this amount can be put in perspective by contrasting it with the 200 cr allocation for a single statue.

Some of the Budgetary decisions have immediate benefits to specific corporations. FDI in e-commerce has also been introduced; this in spite of an earlier white paper by the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) stating that FDI in E-commerce would go against the spirit of restrictions imposed on FDI in multi-brand retail. BJP’s posture has been one of opposition to FDI in multi-brand retail, yet it is allowing it in by the back door with FDI in e-commerce. Modi’s team is known to have close connections with the e-commerce giant, eBay CEO Pierre Omidyar, with BJP MP Jayant Sinha having earlier served as head of the Omidyar Network in India.

The Finance Minister has also virtually put a hold on the restrospective taxation legislation that was enacted after the Supreme Court’s ruling in favour of Vodafone in 2012. This legislation allowed for retrospective taxation of overseas transactions which involve assets primarily in India. Now, the Finance Minister has set up a high-powered committee to vet each case before invoking this law. It may be remembered that the Finance Minister Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently recused himself from matters pertaining to the Rs. 20,000 crore Vodafone tax dispute and delegated decisions in this matter to his junior Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. It may be presumed that he recused himself because of a conflict of interest emerging from possible prior association with the corporation in his capacity as a lawyer. Surely a conflict of interest is also indicated if the retrospective taxation legislation that directly pertains to the Vodafone case and similar matters, is weakened by the present Finance Minister?

The Budget extends the 10-year tax holiday to power companies.

The Finance Minister has also indicates that ‘hurdles’ in the path of mining will be removed and mining will receive a boost. Those hurdles, of course, have been the adivasis fighting for their survival and their rights to forests and land. The need of the hour was the nationalization of mining, to end to open plunder of our precious mineral resources by corporations and MNCs, resulting in huge corruption. Instead the Budget Speech indicates that hurdles in the path of this plunder will further be removed.

The Economic Survey also indicates a shift to a regime of cash transfers and erosion and undermining of the MNREGA.

All in all, the Modi Government’s first Budget is openly pro-corporate and anti-poor in its orientation, and does nothing to alleviate price rise and usher in the relief promised to the people by Modi’s election campaign.

ML Update | No. 28 | 2014

July 9, 2014

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 17 | No. 28 | 8 – 14 JUL 2014

Modi Sarkar:

Rolling Back Hard-Won Rights, Intensifying Ongoing Assaults

Even as the Parliament session begins and the Budget is soon to be presented, it is clear that the Modi government is intensifying various offensives that the UPA Government had begun; and rolling back various hard-won rights and entitlements.

The UID Aadhaar scheme is a case in point. This is a scheme that the UPA Government had rushed in, without Parliamentary approval and steamrolling various substantial concerns about privacy, surveillance, and corporate access to personal data of citizens. A parliamentary Standing Committee headed by Yashwant Sinha of the BJP had endorsed many of these concerns and had rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill. Now, the Modi Government is rushing through the same Aadhaar scheme. Moreover, though a March 2014 ruling of the Supreme Court said categorically that the Aadhaar card could not be made mandatory for government subsidies, the Modi Government is proposing to make Aadhaar compulsory for allotting cooking gas cylinders. A meeting headed by Narendra Modi himself has reportedly decided to bring back the Aadhaar-based Direct Benefit Transfer DBT scheme, which had to be withdrawn following the March 2014 Supreme Court order.

Following the Rajasthan Government’s lead, the Modi Government is now planning to usher in what it is euphemistically calling ‘job-oriented labour law reforms’. In essence this is to facilitate hire and fire, make widespread exploitation of contract work legal, and loosen the labour laws in favour of employees.

The Rajasthan Government has also initiated a move to dilute and dismantle MNREGA. The Rajasthan CM has written to the Centre asking why MNREGA needs to be a law, and why it should not be a scheme. Prior to MNREGA, there have already been multiple rural employment guarantee schemes – but these did not imply a legal entitlement. What is new and significant about MNREGA that a reluctant UPA enacted, is that it imposes a legal responsibility on the Government to guarantee employment. The fact is that Governments all over the country and the Centre have resented this legal obligation, and have tried their utmost not to implement it. But the MNREGA has galvanised the rural poor in struggles to claim and avail of their legal entitlement to jobs. Now, the Modi Government proposes to do away with this legal entitlement.

The Land Acquisition Act enacted by the UPA Government itself left many loopholes to allow land grab. But still, the people’s movements against land grab did win significant protections to check the untrammelled plunder of land. Now, the Modi Government proposes to dilute the Land Acquisition Act, in particular to change the criteria of consent of farmers required for acquisition to take place.

Meanwhile, the Modi Government is proposing to retain spending capacity of Rs 32 per day as the cut-off for rural poverty, while raising the urban poverty cut-off to Rs 47. Both these rural and urban ‘poverty lines’ are ridiculous, in that they exclude the vast majority of the obviously poor. The Governments that shamelessly impose steep price hikes on the poor, also refuse to acknowledge the poverty of India’s people.

The Modi Government, emboldened by the lack of even a semblance of Parliamentary Opposition, is rushing to do the bidding of corporate, roll back pro-people subsidies, rights and entitlements. But the Parliamentary Opposition, even in earlier times, has done little to safeguard the rights of peasants from land grab or the legal rights of workers, or the interests of the people and the poor. It is the people’s opposition on the streets that will have a crucial role to play against the ongoing offensive. The Modi Government that exploited people’s aspirations to ride to power, cannot be allowed now to betray those aspirations and impose hardships on people demanding relief and rights. ‘Acche din’, from being the broken promise of the Modi Government, will become the battle cry of people on the streets against price rise and land grab, demanding the expansion rather than erosion of legally mandates right to employment and labour laws.

CPI(ML) Statement on Rail Budget

New Delhi 8.07.14

The Modi Government’s first Rail Budget is a step in the direction of handing over the precious national asset of Indian Railways over to private interests and FDI – at the cost of the common passenger and the health of the Railways in general.

99% of Indian passengers demand safety, amenities, affordability and adequate availability of accommodation. The Modi Government’s budget sacrifices all of the above in the name of the fad of a ‘bullet train’ for a tiny minority.

One of the burning concerns of people has been the spate of Railway accidents. The Rail Budget of the new Government does nothing to address these concerns. The main reason for the repeated accidents has been the failure to fill up 3 lakh vacant posts, leading to a situation where the Railways lack adequate staff to carry out basic safety procedures, and drivers are overworked and forced to work long inhuman hours without sleep. The Kakodkar Committee Report on railway safety in 2012 had estimated that some 15000 people die every year in railway accidents and fires, and had termed this an unconscionable ‘massacre’. The Committee had recommended an expenditure of Rs 20000 crore per year on safety measures. The Rail Budget totally fails to allocate such an amount or outline measures to bring down accidents by employing sufficient staff, upgrading maintenance, and shifting to fire-resistant materials in coaches.

In the name of shortage of funds, the Railways are being privatised through the PPP route and by introducing 100% FDI in Railways. The experience of airports has shown that PPP is a gateway for corruption and for facilitating exploitation of a public asset for private profits, inevitably leading to greater cost burden borne by the passenger and no improvement in efficiency, safety or comfort.

The Rail Minister has admitted that only one out of 99 projects sanctioned in the last decade has been completed – but has failed to outline a comprehensive plan to complete these projects.

The Rail Budget has tried to divert attention from its failures in these crucial areas by highlighting the Bullet trains.

Are the Railways short of funds, necessitating privatisation and FDI? On December 31 last year, the Times of India reported that a CAG test audit revealed that iron ore exporters had cheated the Railways of close to Rs 50,000 crore during 2008-12 (as reported by RUPE in its January 2014 Report ‘The Truth about the Railways’). The iron ore exporters illegally availed of the subsidised rates offered for those moving iron ore for domestic consumption. The RUPE report had observed "Thus, in order to provide a giant subsidy to firms plundering the country’s natural resources, the Government starves Railways of safety and developmental expenditures, in which the travelling public and the Railway workers have a common interest."

Even before the Rail Budget, rail passenger and freight fares were massively hiked. Fares will also go up with every increase in fuel prices, since the Budget links future fare increases with fuel adjustment.

The Rail Budget is a blueprint for privatisation and corporatisation, imposing greater burdens on common people and displaying complete callousness to the existing crisis of passenger safety and rail workers’ conditions.

- CPI(ML) Central Committee

Message of Greetings from CPI(ML) CC to the 9th Congress of CPN(UML)

(A CPI(ML) delegation comprising Central Committee member Comrade Rajaram Singh and Bihar State Committee member Comrade Virendra Gupta attended the 9th Congress of the CPN(UML). Comrade Rajaram Singh addressed the inaugural session of the 9th Congress. CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya sent a message of greeting on behalf of the Central Committee, which is reproduced below).

Dear Comrades,

On behalf of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and the progressive and democracy-loving people of India, we send our warm revolutionary greetings to all comrades who have assembled for the 9th Congress of CPN(UML). We also take this opportunity to extend our felicitations to all foreign guests and express our solidarity with the international communist and progressive movement, especially with all our comrades from South Asia.

Communists and democrats in India have been watching with great admiration and joy the victories won by the communists and democrats in Nepal resulting in the historic abolition of the monarchy and the initiation of the process of transition to a constitutional democratic republic. We also share the dismay of the people of Nepal that the First Constituent Assembly of Nepal could not accomplish the task of constitution-making just as we share the hope the current Constituent Assembly will be able to accomplish it to the satisfaction of the people of Nepal in their quest for a democratic republic upholding the rights of the people in diverse spheres of life.

The reckless speculative ways of global finance, the insatiable greed of corporations for super profit and for ever greater control over the resources of the planet and the complete collusion of the ruling classes in most countries with the interests of global capital coupled with the abdication by states of their responsibilities to fulfil even the basic needs of the people – all these trends have contributed to a deep and protracted global economic crisis. The least developed and developing countries of the world are being subjected to great hardship, condemned as they are to bear a heavy burden of this crisis and pay a disproportionately high price in terms of aggravated misery of the people and heightened degradation of the environment.

The global environment is being further vitiated by the dominant global powers’ policies of promoting and manipulating various local and regional conflicts, with the threats of war and devastation looming large almost permanently over large parts of the world. Multiple patterns of terrorism, fundamentalism and sectarian violence keep getting reinforced in this situation of conflict, terror and imperialist intervention. Forces of democracy, freedom and progressive social transformation all over the world have to grapple with this complex situation and we in South Asia have more than our fair share of such complexities and challenges.

We in CPI(ML) greatly cherish and value our relationship of mutual trust and cooperation with the CPN(UML) and draw great inspiration from the struggles and victories of our Nepali comrades. We wish your 9th Congress every success and look forward to many more victories in the days and years to come. CPI(ML) will continue to stand by the people of Nepal in their quest for a democratic republic and fulfilment of their aspirations for progressive social transformation.

Long live CPI(ML)-CPN(UML) friendship and cooperation!

Long live Indo-Nepal friendship!

Victory and power to the people of Nepal!

(Dipankar Bhattacharya)

on behalf of

Central Committee,

CPI(ML)

Exhibition of Ashok Bhowmick’s Paintings

To Mark Emergency Anniversary

Amidst pouring rain in Kolkata today well-known painter Ashok Bhowmick held an exhibition of 12 of his paintings in the verandah of Vivekananda Hall at Jadhavpur University campus, after which in the afternoon he gave a talk on “Progressive Trends in Indian Painting”.

It was the occasion for remembering the Emergency in today’s context. During the Emergency Ashok Bhowmick was in Azamgarh town of U.P. Those were the days when he was gaining an understanding of well-known Hindi poet Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh’s poem “Andhere Mein”. The paintings in the exhibition, inspired by Muktibodh’s “Andhere Mein” and other poems, have an impact similar to that of paintings by Goya and also Picasso’s “Guernica”. All the 12 paintings included in the exhibition were painted in the 1980s.

The exhibition was organized under the joint aegis of the Kolkata chapter of Pratirodh ka Cinema (Cinema of Resistance) and the art group Jan Kala Samooh of the Jan Sanskriti Manch. Introducing Ashok Bhowmick, Pratirodh ka Cinema Kolkata chapter convenor Kasturi said that he is one of those rare artists of today who relate art and politics. Inaugurating the exhibition, lyricist, singer and musician Nitish Roy (associated with Gana Sanskriti Parishad) appreciated the significant contribution of Bhowmick in taking the identity and work of Indian progressive artists to the people and compared his contribution to Hindi literary society to that of Kolkata artist Khaled Choudhury. Speaking on the occasion national convenor of the Pratirodh ka Cinema campaign Sanjay Joshi highlighted the importance of the cultural-political atmosphere nurtured by Bhowmick along with the Progressive Students’ Association (now AISA) in Allahabad and credited him as the creator of the poetry-poster movement and the new genre of calligraphy. On this occasion Bhowmick gave the audience a detailed introduction to the context of each of the pictures in the exhibition.

In his talk on “Progressive Trends in Indian Painting” Bhowmick explained to the people the identification of progressive elements in Indian painting and the finer points and politics of painting. His talk was divided into sub-headings and accompanied by slides of examples from world art. In this context he stressed that the responsibility of today’s artist is to take art to the common people. He discussed the progressive elements in Indian painting under different sections. In the first s section titled “Modern Indian Painting in Search of its Roots” he said that the emergence of what is called modern poetry must be seen in juxtaposition with the formation of the Indian Society for Oriental Art. In this phase the work of painters such as Avanindranath Thakur, Asit Haldar, Nandlal Bose, Raja Ravi Varma and Hemendra Majumdar show that our early painting was limited to the female body, kings and queens, and the quest for religion. Sister Nivedita’s remark on Nandlal Bose’s painting “Sati”, that “becoming a sati is the ideal of Indian womanhood” is a telling commentary on the early development of Indian painting. Taking a small diversion here Bhowmick analysed the reasons why some paintings triumph over time and death, and mentioned Goya’s “Facing the Firing Squad: the 3rd of May 1808” and Picasso’s painting (1951) “Massacre in Korea” as two such immortal creations.

Bhowmick then took up the section “Art in Times of Trouble” and spoke about “Gassed”, a painting by American artist John Singer Sargent which depicted the heinous use of gas by Germany during the war and which is today counted as a great anti-war painting. In the same section he also spoke about George Clausen’s painting “Youth Mourning” and Picasso’s “Guernica”. Bhowmick considered it very significant that Picasso broke his form and created a new form when he painted “Guernica” in 1936.

Bhowmick then spoke about Indian painting in its new avatar, calling this section “The New Face of Indian Painting”. He felt that the post-independence transformation of Delhi into a new art market was significant and was possibly due to the many foreign embassies located in the capital facilitating a new market here. During this phase the old People’s Art Group also changed. According to Bhowmick the PAG on the one hand blindly followed Picasso and on the other developed “mechanical” art. Citing the example of Souza he said that unlike Picasso, Souza had no reason to break his form, and therefore his pictures do not have the same significance. In the context of the new avatar of Indian painting he cited near-replicated paintings by G.R. Santosh, Raza and Sohan Kadri to show how they were mechanically replicating ideas and were far removed from new ideas and the people.

In the penultimate section “Metro Art” Bhowmick commented sharply on the outlandish institutes that are coming up in the name of art. Citing Subodh Gupta’s work, he explained how art is now being run according to the market rules. He said that art, instead of communicating emotions, has become trapped in the play of glamour and size; that is why we see Subodh Gupta painting “Absolute Vodka” in the shape of a bottle, or shaping a measure with 1 kg gold and calling it art, and Thukral and Tagra coming up with “Gold Flake”. Bhowmick regretfully owned that the number of fools inhabiting the world of painting today is greater than that in any other art form. He deemed it unfortunate that one can “buy” painting whereas even today poetry and prose are beyond price.

In the final section Bhowmick focussed on “Paintings of Drought” and showed the audience the true progressive elements in Indian painting. He introduced the audience to the works of Zainul Abedin, (Drought series), Sudhir Khastigar (woodcuts), Ram Kinkar, Gobardhan Ash, Atul Basu, Kamrul Hassan, Gopen Roy, Somnath Hod, and Debabrat Mukhopadhyay. According to him Chitta Prasad was an Indian painter in the true sense, who painted a variety of subjects like the Bengal famine, Tebhaga peasants’ revolt, Birsa Munda, Durbhiksh of Kolhapur, and the fighting people of Kashmir. The trend of giving space to the common man in art started by Rabindranath in 1931 continued with K.K. Hebbar, B. Prabha, N.S. Bendre, Sadequain and Kamrul Hassan. It was this awareness and sensitivity which enabled Kamrul Hassan when he went to Dhaka after partition, to disregard dictatorial rule and include training in sculpture as well as enrol girl students in the art college he established. When the time came, he also created the poster “Aise Janwaron ki Hatya Karni Hogi” against a powerful ruler like Yahya Khan.

After the talk Bhowmick had a 45 minute question and answer session with the audience. Answering a question on whether the progressive legacy is still alive post Kamrul Hassan (in this era of Metro Art), Bhowmick replied that there are certainly some young painters who are preventing their paintings from becoming “goods for sale” and whom he would definitely discuss in a future talk.

The programme was conducted by Pratirodh ka Cinema Kolkata chapter convenor Kasturi.

Tapas Pal isn’t alone, remember Sanjeev Baliyan and Amit Shah

Tapas Pal’s remarks should be treated as distinct from the common or garden variety sexism that politicians regularly spout. This is incitement to rape, riot, and murder, plain and simple. So, ‘apology’ just isn’t enough, and the TMC has no excuse for not expelling him; the police have no excuse not to arrest him; and the Speaker has no excuse not to dismiss him from Parlliament.

It also needs to be said: Tapas Pal isn’t the only MP who has incited violence including rape, with toxic hate-speech. We also have Sanjeev Baliyan, a Cabinet Minister, one of those whose inflammatory speeches resulted in the communal violence and rapes in Muzaffarnagar.

Now, the BJP’s answer to why Baliyan is a Minister is that the Samajwadi Party Government has apparently not tried very hard to garner evidence to nail Baliyan. So Samajwadi Party and BJP will now furnish each other’s excuses and clean chits!

The other man whose inflammatory speeches are captured on camera is Amit Shah, likely to become BJP President after being furnished with his own personal ‘clean chit’ in fake encounter cases. But what ‘chit’ can wipe out the footage of him telling a Muzaffarnagar audience in an election meeting that the Muslim community is a community of rapists, and that ‘no one likes to riot, but riots happen when a community rapes our mothers and daughters’?

So when BJP spokespersons say ‘No BJP leader has ever called for rape’, we must remind the country of Baliyan who incited rape and riots and Shah who justified rapes and riots and stoked up more hate for votes.

BJP Leader Promises ‘Bihari Brides’ for Haryana Men

BJP’s Dhankar thinks of women as instruments of production, as a ‘commodity’ to which men are entitled. He says in acche din, wives from Bihar will be supplied to Haryana men to correct the ‘shortage’ created by sex selective abortion and female infanticide. Leaders of the same BJP accuse Left women leaders of standing for ‘free sex’. The situation is summed up perfectly by the Communist Manifesto quote below:

"But you Communists would introduce community of women, screams the bourgeoisie in chorus.

The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production. He hears that the instruments of production are to be exploited in common, and, naturally, can come to no other conclusion that the lot of being common to all will likewise fall to the women.

He has not even a suspicion that the real point aimed at is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production."

AIPWA’s Bihar unit held protests at various places in Bihar including the state capital Patna, stressing that Dhankar’s shocking remark exposed the BJP’s humiliating ideas on women, as well as their contempt for Bihar and women of Bihar.

ML Update Vol. 17 No. 27 1 – 7 JUL 2014

July 2, 2014

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 17 No. 27 1 – 7 JUL 2014

Prices Continue to Soar Unabated:

Modi Breaks His Biggest Election Promise

One of the main planks of Narendra Modi’s election campaign was his promise to curb inflation. With people reeling under the relentless rise in prices of essential commodities, Modi’s ‘Enough is enough of the blows of price rise – Vote Modi Government’ (Bahut ho chuki mahengai ki maar – ab ki baar Modi Sarkar) slogan touched a chord with people. However, in Modi’s first month in power, his Government has intensified the blows of price rise all around, without even waiting for any discussion in Parliament. Such arbitrary and ruthless price rise marks only an accentuation of the UPA-II’s policies. And even the excuses peddled by the Modi Government are the same old ones peddled by the Manmohan Singh Government!

Huge hikes have been effected in passenger rail fares. Freight charges have not been spared either, which would have a cascading effect on the prices of essential commodities that are transported by rail. Sugar prices have gone up. And the prices of essentials, especially retail prices of onions, are also soaring. Petrol and diesel prices have been hiked, and non-subsidised cooking gas (LPG) has been hiked by Rs 16.50 per cylinder. Gas prices are due to be hiked, which will lead to a hike in the prices of urea. In sum, common people, the poor, and farmers are feeling the brutal blows of price rise – and the blows are especially painful because they carry the sting of shamelessly broken election promises.

Hoarding and speculation are responsible in considerable measure for the hikes in prices, and the BJP Government is yet to take any effective measures to crack down on the hoarders and speculators.

Neoliberal apologists of the Modi Government have tried to blame the price rise on the nominal increases in Minimum Support Price (MSP) of paddy and pulses announced by the Government, accusing the latter of ‘buckling to demands of farmers’. In fact, the increases in MSP are far from adequate, given the fact that the costs of production have steeply risen and government support for farmers has been severely cut back. The Government does not even acknowledge the urgent need to tackle the deeper structural causes of price rise – i.e, the need to invest in farm subsidies for fertiliser, irrigation, power, and infrastructure, so as to bring down production costs.

Moreover, price rise does not benefit the farmers. Take the example of the hike in sugar prices. The Modi Government announced substantial benefits to the sugar mills, with a hike in import duty and reduction in export duty as well as continuation of doles by way of massive interest free loans. But the Government made no attempt to ensure that the sugar lobby paid its astronomical arrears (to the tune of 110 billion rupees) to sugarcane farmers!

Increase in import duty on sugar could be a welcome measure if it were accompanied by measures to ensure that the benefits reached the cane farmers. Instead, although there is no supply constraint, the hike in import duty was treated by the sugar lobby as a signal to hike domestic sugar prices instantly! It is also to be noted that the Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, who has substantial sugar lobby interests in Maharashtra, attended the meeting which took the decisions that have brought a bonanza for the corporate sugar mills, no relief for sugarcane farmers, and woes for consumers.

The impending hike in gas prices will, likewise, benefit Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance. Since gas accounts for 4/5ths of the costs of making urea, the hike in gas prices will undoubtedly push urea fertiliser prices up, creating an extra burden on fertiliser subsidies and farmers.

The Modi Government is busy blaming all its anti-people decisions on the previous Government. Modi, in his blog on completion of one month of the Government, has said that the Government, while working in ‘national interest’, has not ‘communicated’ its decisions properly. Justifying burdens on people and bonanzas for corporate lobbies in the name of ‘national interest’ is something that all neoliberal regimes, including the previous UPA-II Government, excelled in. The people of the country are not willing to wait indefinitely for Modi’s ‘acche din’ promises. If the Modi Government imagines that corporate-backed ‘communication’, that brought it to power, can keep people’s disappointment and anger at bay, it will be sorely mistaken.

Protests Against Rail Fare Hike

The rail fare hike was greeted with protests by CPI(ML) from the very first day.

Party workers all across Bihar came out on the streets on 21 June as part of a nationwide protest and expressed strong protest over the Modi government’s stiff rail fare hike of 14.2% in passenger fares and 6.5% in freight charges. The Patna-Gaya passenger was stopped at Masaudhi due to which rail traffic in that sector was obstructed for hours. In the capital Patna scores of ML leaders and activists took out a protest march from the radio station to station circle. Protest marches were also taken out and effigies of PM Narendra Modi burnt at various places including Ara, Fatuha, Paliganj and Naubatpur of Patna rural, Jehanabad, Darbhanga, Siwan, Aurangabad, Gaya, Arwal, Nalanda and Madhubani.

The march in Patna was led by Party leaders including Central committee members Com. Meena Tiwari and Shashi Yadav, State standing committee member Com. RN Thakur, Patna city secretary Santosh Sahar, Patna city leader Murtaza Ali, and a meeting was organized at station circle. The meeting was presided over by Com. RN Thakur.

Earlier during the march from the radio station, party workers shouted slogans such as “Achhe din ki shuruaat”, “Abki baar sabse mahangi sarkar”, “Modi sarkar sharm karo, janadesh ka samman karo”, “Petrol diesel rasoi gas moolya vriddhi nahi sahenge”, “”Rail kiraya badhotri vaapas lo”, “Corporate poonjipatiyon ki samarthhak Modi sarkar sharm karo”.

At Masaudhi (Patna rural) Com. Gopal Ravidas led the campaign to stop the Patna-Gaya passenger train. At Fatuha about 200 party workers led by State committee member Com. Umesh Singh and Block secretary Shailendra Yadav blocked NH 30 and burnt the effigy of Narendra Modi. Protest marches were also taken out at Naubatpur, Paliganj and other places.

A protest march was also taken out at Ara, and State committee member Naeemuddin Ansari, AIPWA leader Sohila Gupta, Jainath Yadav and other leaders led the march at Siwan. 50 party workers led by ML youth leader Com. Neeraj Singh marched in protest at Aurangabad and burnt the effigy of Narendra Modi. Protest marches and effigy burning were also conducted at Jehanabad, Arwal, Gopalganj, Gaya, Darbhanga, Samastipur, Bhagalpur, Betiya, Muzaffarpur, and other places. CPI-ML leaders said that strong protest movements would be organized against this government which is attacking the democratic rights of the people.

On 23rd the CPI(ML) held protests all over the country against the massive hike in railway fares by the BJP Government.

In Delhi, at Jantar Mantar, CPI(ML) activists gathered to protest the rail fare hike. The protesters raised slogans and displayed placards saying “Acche Din Poll Rhetoric Has Turned Into Bure Din Reality – Shame On Modi Govt.” Mocking the Modi campaign poster of ‘Bahut Hua Mahengai ki Mar, Ab ki baar Modi Sarkar’ (Enough of being hit by price rise, This Time Elect Modi govt), protesters displayed posters saying ‘Ab ki baar phir mahengai ki maar, sharm karo Modi sarkar’ (This time again we’re hit by price rise – shame on Modi govt). The protest gathering was addressed by Delhi State Secretary of CPI(ML) Sanjay Sharma, AICCTU Delhi State President VKS Gautam, AICCTU leader Mathura Paswan, CPI(ML) Politburo member and AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishan, AISA leader Agnitra Ghosh, Jan Sanskriti Manch’s Sudhir Suman, CPIML Delhi State Committee member Surender Panchal and trade union leader Shambhu Kumar and Munna Yadav.

Protests were held at various places in Uttar Pradesh also, the very day that the fare hike was announced. In response to the national call for protest on 23rd June, a protest march with a massive effigy of Narendra Modi was held at Lucknow, from the party’s office at Lalkuan through the busy Husainganj crossing, where the effigy was burnt amid slogans. Protests were also held at various places in Ghazipur district, as well as Balia, Chandauli, Mau, Bhadohi, Jalaun, Ambedkarnagar, and Pilibhit. At Mathura, CPI(ML) held a protest jointly with CPI.

Protests were held at Puducherry, and statewide protests were held all over Tamilnadu. At Chennai, on 22 June, workers demonstrated in front of the Ambattur Railway station. At Coimbatore, demonstrations were held in Pricol plant 1 and Plant 2 in which hundreds of workers participated. Both the programmes were addressed by Com Kumarasamy, PB member of CPI(ML), as well as State committee members N K Natarajan, Damodharan, and Balasubramanian. At Vilupuram, the Ulundurpet Railway station was gheraoed on 25 June, and police arrested party cadres including state secretary of the party Com Balasundaram and district secretary Com Venkatesan. They were later released in the evening. At Pudukottai, demonstrations were held at Athanakottai and Gandarvakottai. At Nagapattinam, a demonstration was held at Mayiladuthurai on 26 June; at Namakkal on 30 June and at Cuddalore, the RYA held a demonstration.

On FYUP in Delhi University

The students and teachers of Delhi University must be congratulated for their victory in restoring the 3-year degree programme.

Since last year, March 2013, the teachers and students of DU had been waging a relentless struggle against the DU VC’s hurried and forced imposition of the ill-thought out and disastrous FYUP. The reasoned arguments of the DUTA, students and noted academics and educationists were trampled upon by the VC using important bodies like the Academic and Executive Councils as mere rubber stamps to push through his dubious agenda with the blessings from the UPA Government.

It is the sustained campaign and agitation by students and teachers that made the FYUP an issue of national debate, forcing the new Government and UGC to finally accept the illegality and undesirability of the FYUP programme. Most importantly, the first batch of students affected by the FYUP had, in a historic referendum in August 2013, expressed their rejection of the FYUP and its substandard courses.

By refusing to abide by the UGC order for a week, the DU VC put lakhs of admission seekers from all over the country to immense stress, uncertainty, and trouble.

The Spirit of University’s Autonomy

The DU VC claimed that the UGC instructions violate the University’s autonomy. This is a specious and self-serving logic. The DU VC dealt body blows to the University’s autonomy and internal democracy on multiple occasions. It is in fact the movement of students and teachers that best expressed and defended the University’s autonomy.

To ram down the FYUP, the well-established processes in DU of framing syllabi for new courses and papers – such as departmental councils, and committees of courses – were summarily violated through administrative fiats within a month. Courses were formulated by hand-picked individuals and hastily passed through Academic Councils and ECs called overnight. The result was a bundle of courses of a laughable standard, that would not withstand any serious academic scrutiny.

The FYUP never got the requisite approval from the Visitor or the UGC, yet it was implemented.

The VC’s autocracy cannot pass off for University’s ‘autonomy’. The VC had been violating all internal processes and checks and balances, squashing debates and discussions, ramming down decisions in the face of massive opposition from the University’s main stakeholders (its teachers and students). By doing so, it is the DU VC who has made himself autonomous from the rest of the University community.

The University must have the fullest autonomy in terms of composition of courses, syllabus etc from outside political influence and so on. But a central University like Delhi cannot have a structure that is at odds with the structure (10+2+3) prevalent in the rest of the country. To bring DU in line with an American course structure, while pitting it against the National Education Policy of 10+2+3 cannot be accepted under any pretext of ‘autonomy’.

The DU VC refused to defend DU’s autonomy when it really was attacked by saffron goons.At the VC’s personal initiative, DU meekly removed AK Ramanujam’s scholarly essay ‘300 Ramayanas’ from the English syllabus, against the reasoned arguments of concerned departments, following threats from the Hindutva brigade.

Safeguard the Students Already Enrolled

Students already enrolled under the B Tech programme must be safeguarded, as the B Tech programme runs for 4 years all over the country. All that UGC and AICTE must ensure is that the content of DU’s B Tech programme conforms to national standards and equivalence.

To ensure that those already enrolled in 2013 under FYUP, are able to complete their Honours Degree within 3 years, the coherent and reasoned formula suggested by students and teachers must be adopted.

Onwards to Struggles Ahead

In the days to come, there are likely to continuing assaults of privatisation of higher education and fresh assaults of saffronisation of syllabi. The FYUP struggle has shown that students and teachers can indeed score a victory in the face of all odds. This inspiring example will certainly be wind in the sails of the movement against privatization and saffronization.

AISA’s Role in FYUP Struggle

AISA first protested outside the Delhi University’s Academic Council (AC) and Executive Council (EC) meetings on 7 and 9 March 2013 in which the first draft on FYUP circulated by DU VC was passed.

AISA campaigned outside all the ‘open house meetings’ held by the University with new entrants in different colleges and schools in May 2013, and students who asked questions inside the meetings were snubbed or ignored. Outside the last open house meeting held on 30th May in the Conference Centre, AISA organised a big students’ open meeting – genuinely open to students’ participation and questions – to expose the farcical nature of the ones organised by the University.

AISA then held a protest rally in the North Campus of DU on the first day of sale of forms on 5 June 2013. AISA also protested at the MHRD and were detained while protesting at India Gate in June 2013.

When the campus opened on 21 July, AISA carried out an intensive campaign of two weeks, speaking to new students about their own experience of FYUP, and sharing AISA’s own critique of FYUP. In almost all the colleges, students spoke of the huge chaos and irregularities due to lack of infrastructures, faculties and even books and syllabus. Students were also upset that neither the University nor even the DUSU nor anyone but AISA had come to hear their complaints.

As the problems compounded, AISA conducted a two week campaign, after which AISA called a university wide Class Boycott and massive rally in North Campus on 7 August 2013, in which more than 1500 students participated.

As the situation worsened and the campaign intensified, AISA felt the need to create a platform for students’ own opinions to be voiced. So, at the end of one month of classes under the FYUP, AISA organised a historic referendum on FYUP on 22 August outside more than 20 colleges of DU. More than 10,000 students participated in the referendum, with the vast majority voting strongly against the FYUP. AISA gave the University 10 days to respond to the referendum mandate, after which, on AISA’s call, 5000 students sent submitted postcards to the Vice Chancellor on 2 September after a massive rally in North Campus.

AISA held a Students’ Public Hearing on 4 October, where students testified to the many problems of syllabus, teaching, and evaluation of ‘Foundation Courses’ – which were of a scadalously bad quality. As similar scandals were witnessed in the first semester exams and its question paper, AISA organised an open meeting on 15 January on the experiences of the first semester.

AISA then initiated the ‘Our DU Our Right Our Fight’ campaign on the issues of quality and affordable education, transportation, accommodation. More than 15000 students were approached from more than 20 colleges, who filled up forms about their experience and their demands on these issues. More than 500 students then marched to Delhi Secretariat in a Mass Students’ Delegation to the Delhi CM on 31st January.

On 14 February AISA marched to Sonia Gandhi’s residence, and on 18th February AISA participated in a 2000-strong joint teachers’ and students’ March to Parliament, led by the DUTA.

Against the unresponsive attitude of government AISA decided to make FYUP the biggest students issue in the Lok Sabha elections, and organised a Delhi-wide Yatra from 26 February to 12 March, which ended with a Delhi-wide bikers’ rally which covered more than 20 colleges.

On 9th June 2014, AISA held an Open Meeting on ‘No More FYUP, The Alternative is here’ , in which AISA placed its blueprint for an alternative scheme by which FYUP could be scrapped and the present batch under FYUP could be given an honours degree in the three years. Apart from First year students sharing their experiences of one year under FYUP, the meeting was also addressed by Dr. Nandita Narain, President, DUTA and Dr. Saikat Ghosh, Executive Member, DUTA.

AISA participated in the Halla Bol protest called by the DUTA on 19 June 2014. On 23 June, AISA burned the effigy of the DU VC and held a demonstration outside the MHRD demanding intervention by the MHRD to ensure that the Visitor of DU, the President of India intervene through the powers vested upon him by Section 31(6) of the DU Act.

AISA activists were detained by the Delhi Police and taken to the Parliament Police Station while trying to March to Rashtrapati Bhavan on 26 June (Emergency Day), to demand that the President of India intervene as Visitor of DU. AISA continued its protest inside the Police Station. Kavita Krishnan, National Secretary of AIPWA also came to express her solidarity with the AISA activists protesting inside the Parliament Street Police Station. A Memorandum was submitted to the President.

Later in the day AISA held a Protest Demonstration at UGC protesting against the DU’s last ditch proposal to salvage FYUP. AISA also submitted its own alternative for students of 2013 batch. AISA leaders Om Prasad and Niraj Kumar met UGC Joint Sceretary Jitendar Kumar.

On 27 June, AISA held a victory procession from the VC House to Arts Faculty Gate hailing the rollback of FYUP. AISA also demanded that the current batch of students must be provided a degree in 3 years and that the B Tech course must be made to meet AICTE standards and allowed to remain. AISA also demand that the present VC and his team must not go scot free, and an inquiry must be initiated against the VC and his team to probe the many allegations of financial and administrative irregularities against them.

Emergency Anniversary Observed as Anti-Repression Day

On 26 June, a mass meeting was held by the CPI(ML) in the Wazirpur slum cluster in Delhi, to mark the anniversary of the Emergency, and also to protest against the ‘undeclared Emergency’, whereby repression is unleashed on protesting workers, dissenting voices are jailed, students are booked for jokes against the PM Narendra Modi, and fake encounters and custodial torture are a daily reality. Party Area Secretary Mathura Paswan and union leader Munna Yadav addressed the meeting.

Tamil Nadu Updates

On June 19, a demonstration was organised at Mayiladuthurai by RYA demanding implementation of the Verma committee recommendations on sexual atrocities and also a 13 point programme announced by CM of Tamilnadu.

Public meetings were held at Sriperumputhur and Ambattur demanding protection of workers of Nokia and its ancillaries, in the backdrop of 10,000 Nokia workers below 30 years of age being compelled to go on VRS. More than 300 workers attended the meeting in Ambattur. At Sriperumputhur, workers of Asian Paints, Tenanco, Nippon Express, OLG, and GE Topaz Tools took part.

In Salem, residents of the slum clearance board demonstrated in front of the collectorate demanding house site pattas on 23 June.

On 20 June, the AIKM held a demo at Salem condemning Private Toll plazas collecting toll from Yercaud tribals in the Hill areas.

AISA demonstrated at Madurai demanding resignation of the VC of Madurai Kamaraj University, after the Maduarai bench of Madras High Court held that her appointment was not as per norms. AISA also held a ‘Save University’ demonstration and petitioned the collector.

When party cadres Avudaiyappan, Sundar Raj and Kannan petitioned the Mayor demanding renovation of the public toilet at Thanchanallur area, they were ill treated by the Mayor. Condemning this, a demonstration was immediately held under the leadership of Sundar Raj , DC member. Com Balasundaram, state secretary, Com Ramesh state VP of AICCTU , Com Anbu selvi of AIPWA and other district committee members took part.

Women gheroed the PDS ration shop at Tirunelveli against the move to hand over kerosene distribution to private outlets. The move was withdrawn after the CPI(ML) District Committee gheraoed the shop.

A Public meeting was held at Tirunelveli by AIPWA demanding roll back of Railway fare hike, an end to atrocities on women and Dalits, against the impending increase in prices of cooking gas, kerosene etc. The demonstration was at the Pettai area under the leadership of Com Sumathy, and more than 70 women took part.

ML Update | No. 26 | 2014

June 25, 2014

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 17 | No. 26 | 24 – 30 JUN 2014

In Lieu of Editorial

AILC Statement

Protest the Massive Railway Fare Hike

New Delhi, 21 June 2014

The All India Left Coordination (AILC) strongly condemns the massive hike in railway fares by the BJP Government.

The hike, to the extent of 14.2 per cent in all classes and 6.5 per cent in the freight charges, will place a huge additional burden on ordinary people, who are already battling price rise. Commuters and monthly season ticket (MST) holders are the hardest hit by the fare hike, with MST fares being almost trebled in some routes and more than doubled in almost all routes. The increase in freight rates will undoubtedly result in a further escalation of prices of essential commodities that are transported by rail. The ‘achhe din’ (good times) rhetoric has turned very quickly into ‘bure din’ reality for hard-hit common passengers and working people who commute everyday for a living. This decision of the Modi Government to hike fares by the backdoor, ahead of the rail budget, is in continuation of the UPA Government’s policy of delinking the Rail budget from fare fixation.

Narendra Modi’s high-powered election campaign that swept him to power, had promised that “Modi Sarkar” would mean an end to the “blows of inflation” (mehengai ki mar). Ironically, in 2012, Modi who was projecting himself as the would-be PM, had written a scathing letter to then PM Manmohan Singh, protesting the UPA-II decision to hike freight fares ahead of the rail budget! Modi had then pointed out how such a hike would escalate the costs of food grains and fertilizers, as well as the cost of coal and power generation. Modi has then asked Manmohan Singh, “Was the Central Government waiting for the results of the elections to five State Assemblies to impose an anti-people and anti-farmer policy?” Today, the people of India might well ask Modi if he was waiting to become PM, in order to drop the mask of “acche din” (good times) and impose the “hard times” of anti-people and anti-farmer policies?

The Modi Government today is disclaiming responsibility for the decision to hike rail fares, claiming it was a pending decision of the UPA Government. The ‘Modi Sarkar’ is showing that, far from delivering any relief from the UPA regime of price rise and plunder, it is merely going to continue and intensify that anti-people regime.

The All India Left Coordination (AILC) demands immediate rollback of the price hike, and calls on people to hold vigorous protests between 23-25 June against the increase in rail fares all over the country.

-This statement and call are issued by the All India Left Coordination (AILC) that is now in session in Mumbai and is being attended by leaders of four of the constituent parties

Dipankar Bhattacharya,

General Secretary, CPI(ML) Liberation

KS Hariharan, Revolutionary Marxist party (RMP), Kerala,

Mangat Ram Pasla, Secretary, CPM Punjab,

Bhimrao Bansod, LNPI(L) Maharashtra

Bury Rajasthan’s Anti-labour Amendments in the Sands of Thar

- Bhuvana

‘With adequate profit, capital is very bold. A certain 10 per cent will ensure its employment anywhere; 20 per cent certain will produce eagerness; 50 per cent., positive audacity; 100 per cent will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300 per cent., and there is not a crime at which it will scruple….’

- Marx, quoting from T J Dunning, in Genesis of Industrial Capital

The BJP government in Rajasthan is emerging as BJP’s laboratory for its intended onslaught on labour. The Rajasthan cabinet has cleared some major anti-labour amendments in the labour laws such as Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour Act and Factories Act. These amendments will come into force once they are passed in the State Assembly and then get Presidential assent.

The amendments seek to further facilitate the already existing hire and fire process by raising the minimum limit of employed workers for an industrial establishment to need permission from the government for retrenchment, from 100 workers to 300. An industrial dispute has to be raised within 3 years. Only a trade union with a membership 30% of total workforce can register, contract labour legislation will apply in an establishment only where the number of such workers is 50 (earlier it was 20) and Factories Act will apply to an establishment which uses electricity and employs 20 workers and which does not use electricity and employs 40 workers (earlier it was 10 and 20 respectively).

These amendments are sought to be done in the name of ‘creating 15 lakh jobs per year’ in the state. The chief secretary of Rajasthan government says the existing labour laws are anti-employment and without these amendments it is not possible to generate employment. Let us examine this claim more closely.

As per the ASI 2011-2012, the report published in March 2014, the total number of factory workers, and thus protected by the existing labour laws, in the country is 1,34,29,956. They are distributed in 1,75,710 factories. TN has the highest number of factory workers with 19,40,819 workers in 26,654 factories, which is closely followed by Maharashtra 18,80,606 in 22,615 factories and distantly followed by Gujarat by a difference of around 5 lakhs (13,83,773 in 17,529 factories). Rajasthan has 4,74,883 workers in 7,622 factories. In none of these states, the average number of workers in a factory exceeds 100.

Of the total 1,75,710 factories 1,25,301 factories employ less than 50 workers which is 71.31%. Factories employing 200 or more workers constitute just 8.94% of the total factories. Factories employing 5,000 or more workers constitute a meagre 0.21% of the total factories. 1,60,009 factories employ less than 200 workers. The number of factories with 200 – 499 workers is 9,094. In Rajasthan, where amendments to labour laws are proposed, the number of factories employing workers less than 200 is 7,102. There are 343 factories with 200-499 workers. Even if an average of 150 from this is added to the factories employing lesser number workers it will be 7,252. The remaining number of factories in Rajasthan is then just 370. Of the 1,34,29,956 factory workers in the country 36,10,056 workers are employed through contractors. In Rajasthan these corresponding numbers are 4,74,883 and 1,33,080.

These numbers fly in the face of Rajasthan government’s claim of creating 15 lakhs jobs a year.

Creating jobs should essentially mean creating a livelihood for the whole life of the worker and his family. It is not creating a temporary, insecure green patch for a while. Employment generation has got to do with the lives of the workers and not just numbers. The number of ‘jobs being increased’ by the proposed amendments means just throwing the existing workers away and recruiting new workers in their place! Even if this is done, Rajasthan cannot see 15 lakhs jobs a year. The announcement about amendments is not accompanied by any statement regarding setting up new industries in the state, private or public, which can bring jobs as claimed. In the existing conditions, if the amendments get clearance, workers of 7,252 factories in Rajasthan can be thrown out by their employers without seeking any permission from the government.

The first round of struggles of Maruti workers was for registration of their new union. The Haryana government refused to register their union, and workers could succeed in this only after persistent struggle. Now BJP government in Rajasthan is legalizing such refusal by amending that 30% workforce should be members of the union to make it eligible to register. This essentially takes away the right of collective bargaining of the workers.

What about the rights of workers of some 370 factories in Rajasthan which are employing more than 300 workers? The latently turbulent industrial scene in TN can explain why they too are not protected by labour laws. AIADMK and DMK rulers usually claim they have made TN numero uno in terms of attracting foreign and domestic investment. ASI figures correspond positively to this claim too. But Nokia, which has enjoyed tax reliefs and other related investor benefits of an amount equal to that it invested, has closed shops in TN after the Microsoft take over. Microsoft did not take over the 9,600 permanent, contract and trainee workers employed by Nokia. They are in the age group of 25-28. The contract employing 3,000 workers was terminated in January 2014. 750 trainees had to take the compensation Rs.2.5 lakh offered. 5,000 permanent workers have opted for the VRS offered by Nokia. The amount ranges from Rs.6.2 lakhs to Rs.3 Lakhs based on the years of service.

It is being argued that this amount is hefty in the general standards of VRS offered these days. With Rs.6.2 lakh they cannot invest in another Nokia company! This will vanish in a few months’ time in feeding the families of the workers. All of them have joined the army of unemployed and have started looking for a livelihood. This virus of VRS for young workers below 30 years old is now spreading to the factories which are supplying spare parts for Nokia such as Foxconn and BYD (Build Your Dream). 600 BYD workers were arrested for blocking the road on June 21. They are not demanding employment. They are forced to demand a better compensation package at least on par with Nokia workers. BYD employs 1,000 workers and Foxconn has another 1,700 permanent workers, 3,600 contract workers, and close to 1,500 trainees. Hyundai and its subsidiaries in Sriperumbudur sent out 5,000 trainees, who were filled with dreams of going in a Hyundai car after being regularized, three years ago. They are yet to get a decent job.

Thus all these numbers, 9,600, 1,000, 5,000, 6,000 have not done anything to protect employment created, which were claimed as success stories by AIADMK and DMK. These numbers once added at the time of setting up the factories will remain ever in the statistics and get counted as ‘jobs created’. This side of industrial situation seldom attracts attention of mainstream media and the affected workers are washed away in the floods of next round of talks about investment and job creation. While Jayalalitha at the age of 66 and Modi at the age of 63 will continue to be government employees and Karunanidhi at the age of 90 will make another bid to become Chief Minister, workers at the age of less than 30 will go on VRS!

If the Rajasthan model is photocopied (as suggested by neoliberal ideologues like Manish Sabherwal) to create ‘29 centers of job creation in the country’, we will have 29 centers of slave generation in the country. We will have permanently temporary workers, permanent trainees and permanent contract workers who will be constantly under the pressures to produce more and receive depressingly less, forced to compete among themselves to grab any job for a temporary oasis of survival in a sea of despair.

To quote T. J. Dunning again, “Capital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.” While the ‘Mazdoor No.1’ has a posh, sprawling, security-decked government house, office, hefty salary laced with attractive allowances, special but free air travel, different helps for different tasks including simple ones such as holding his cell phone, giving him a sip of water every now and then and so on and so forth, the nth Mazdoor of this country of 121 crores will be denied the dignity of being human, of even having the right to visit the toilet as often as s/he needs.

The TN government passed an amendment to the Industrial Establishment Standing Orders Act which has the scope of limiting the number of trainees in an industrial establishment in 2008 during the DMK regime. The amendment was unanimously passed by the TN Assembly. But it has not got the mandatory Presidential assent to take effect. Around 4 lakh powerloom workers in TN have raised the demand of announcing their workplace as factories under Section 85(1) of Factories Act. This will bring them the rights of a factory worker. Workers of Pricol and Hyundai are in the forefront in raising the demand to amend Trade Union Act for recognition of TU with majority of workers. These demands are alive as they are related to the day-to-day lives of the workers.

The BJP’s Election Manifesto had promoted the concept of ‘Industry Family’, in which “industry owners and labours bond as a family.” Inside a ‘family’, there can be no room for Unions and workers’ struggles and entitlements; and the BJP Manifesto had, likewise, promised to “bring together all stakeholders to review our Labour laws”. But the Rajasthan Government’s amendments to Labour laws have not even been through a nominal tripartite process. In the tradition of the good old feudal-patriarchal family, the ‘mai-baap sarkar’ has snatched away the rights of workers to promote the profits of industrialists.

Any amendment made to labour laws will have to widen the contours of industrial democracy in the country and improve the working and living conditions of the workers. The number of workers in this country is far larger than the number of industrialists in the country. The new government at the center and government in Rajasthan will have to bury the anti-labour amendments in the sands of Thar else the workers of this country will take the lead in doing it.

(With inputs from Comrade Desikan)

Jute Workers’ Plight – And Resistance

- Atanu Chakravarty

The jute industry is in the news nationally – with sensational headlines about a CEO being killed. Unfortunately, the lives of the jute workers and other workers get scant attention unless in the wake of such tragic and unfortunate incidents. Let us take a look at the facts and background of this particular incident.

On 15th June, a workers’ agitation took place at North Brook Jute Mill, which is located at Bhadreswar, Hoogly District. The management took a unilateral decision to run the mill 3 days a week. In this mill, all the labour laws are violated (which is a common phenomenon in all the jute mills of West Bengal) with impunity. The legal dues of statutory leaves were paid in 4-5 instalments, and workers were thrown out of employment at the drop of a hat. All sort of undignified, undemocratic, feudal and exploitative work conditions are prevalent in the mills. The workers were seething with anger and discontent, and the decision to reduce the working days was the last straw. The actual circumstances of the unfortunate death of the CEO are not clear. But as a consequence, work was suspended in the factory, and there have been indiscriminate arrests of local TU leaders and police terror unleashed on ordinary workers – following the same pattern as has been seen at Maruti and Pricol. TMC leaders denied their presence in the mills but the fact remains that the Board of PF Trustees is controlled by a fraction of TMC union.

Even as the Chief Minister points accusing fingers upon the ‘BJP-CPIM nexus’, the ‘owner’ of the Mill, Prakash Churaria blamed ‘some miscreants from outside’ and said workers were not all involved in this incident. Sanjay Kajaria, ex-Chairman of Indian Jute Mills Association(IJMA) squarely blamed both the state & Central Governments for the present crisis in the jute mills.

New Central Jute Mill (NCJM), is actually the only factory in the state which is run by a ‘workers’ co-operative’, located at Budge Budge, south 24 Parganas. In this sham co-operative, the workers and state government have 52 & 42 percent share respectively (some others have the rest), and the Managing Director is appointed by the Industrial Reconstruction Dept of the state government. Interestingly, the present ‘owner’ of North Brook controls the day to day affairs of the NCJM management. After colluding with Ashoke Deb, the local MLA of Trinamool Congress and some Trade Union leaders of the mill, Prakash Churaria forcefully ‘took over’ the affairs of the company. The management, in league with some TU leaders of the mill decided to sell the machines & replace it with the ‘new’ ones, under the pretext of modernisation. The AICCTU-led Bengal Chatkal Mazdoor Forum (BCMF), a fraction of CITU and one more union, opposed this move. BCMF organised a massive deputation against this decision in one of its units (Albion).

The news of this agitation spread fast and the workers of another unit (Lothian) struck work, and gheraoed the management. In a shrewd move, the management tried to divert the workers’ ire towards the TU leaders and named a few leaders alleging that they ‘compelled’ him to sell the machines. The next day the workers gave a befitting reply to those leaders, the agitation continued, and all the management staff fled. To foil the management’s attempt to declare suspension of work, the workers virtually took over the mill, peacefully stayed inside their workplace, defying all the threat of the bouncers.

After active intervention of AICCTU state leadership, the SDO of south 24 parganas convened an urgent meeting with all the stakeholders of the mills on the following day. In the meeting, the management was forced to withdraw their notice and was ordered to pay the due wages by 17th June. The management stopped purchasing raw materials and daily maintenance of the machines was ignored. The workers became apprehensive and when wages were not disbursed on the said date, by 10am, thousands of workers blocked the adjacent railway line and GT Road. Despite huge police bandobast, the blockade continued. The top brass of district police forced the management to put up a notice regarding wage payment. After it was displayed, the blockade was withdrawn at midnight. Wages were disbursed the following day.

On 19th June , nearly 1000 workers took out a militant rally from the mill premises and marched through the locality under the leadership of AICCTU & Shramik Suraksha Manch.

The workers of this mill are the lowest paid and the industry-wise wage structure has not been implemented despite repeated assurances, job security of even permanent workers is a myth in this mill after the present management took over, the statutory dues of the retired workers are not paid. The Secretary of BCMF’s union was refused work for leading the agitation a month before. Only after the Labour Directorate intervened, the management was forced to back track.

The workers of the Finishing Department of Victoria jute mill of Bhadreswar, Hooghly, ceased work when the management refused to give scheduled jobs to 10 workers of that department.

Auckland Jute and Waverly jute mills of north 24 Parganas declared suspension of work w.e.f 17th and 18thJune respectively, after the workers’ agitation. The workers of Auckland jute were demanding reimbursement of their deducted wages on the day of LS election.

Why have things come to such a pass?

This century-old labour intensive industry employs more than 2.5 lakh workers directly in the mills. These are now owned & controlled not by the industrialists, but by the raw jute suppliers, promoters and intermediaries who have found a happy hunting ground in all these jute mills. The wages of the jute industry are governed by industry-wise tripartite agreements, which the present owners want to dismantle. The jute owners are trying to introduce daily wages, sans fringe benefits. Gradually, unregistered, casual-contract-voucher workers have outnumbered the permanent work-force and the ultimate goal of these owners is to transform the composite mills into smaller units .The present owners are only interested to extract huge profits within the shortest possible period without reinvestment. The textile ministry in their report has mentioned that the annual turnover of jute industry is more than 10,000 crores, but data reveals that, between 2007-2011, the industry spent Rs 274 cr, a paltry 2.7 % of the annual turnover, on modernisation and technological upgradation. All the statutory laws (PF, ESIC, Gratuity) are violated. The Factory Act is not followed and the workers are forced to work under suffocating, highly uncivilized, medieval working condition. The staggering amount of PF default , as on 31.03.2013 is a telling example. Let’s cite a few examples:

NORTH BROOK JUTE 125.43LACS

NEW CENTRAL JUTE MILLS 1172.85 LACS

KANORIA JUTE 1097.78 LACS

VICTORIA JUTE 1155.51 LACS

NUDDEA JUTE 3419.03 LACS

MEGHNA JUTE ( Arjun Singh, TMC MLA from Bhatpara assembly segment is a de-facto owner of this mill) 308.24 lacs (Labour in West Bengal, 2012-13)

Under the Jute Packaging Mandatory Act,1987 (JPMA),the industry enjoys a sheltered market and JCI purchases the jute bags meant for packaging food grains. Of late, the National Fibre Policy, 2011 has already recommended on phasing out protection, sheltered market and subsidy to jute sector through JPMA, 1987. Widespread use of synthetic bags have told upon this sector. The Central Govt has cut down the previous guaranteed order of jute bags, resulting in a market crunch.

The Mamata Government introduced the Industrial Policy in 2013 which is termed as Industrial and Investment Policy, 2013. The thrust of this policy was to revive Jute and Tea industry, but no meaningful steps have been taken yet to stem the rot. In the above-mentioned policy, the State Government declared its commitment towards a ‘No Bandh’ regime, and the policy statement says “there has been a significant decline in number of mandays lost due to strike in the state. Mandays lost drastically reduced in from 65,80,000 in FY 2010-11 to 5,200 to FY 2012-13’’. But, on the contrary, mandays lost due to lockout in the FY 2012-13 was 99.97% (according to Labour In West Bengal, the annual report of the labour department)! The shameless pro-employer industrial policy has helped the management to unleash an unprecedented attack upon the workers & employees of the State.

All the operating Trade Unions of the Jute mills submitted a fresh charter of demand (COD) after expiry of the previous one on January 30, 2013. Till date, the State Government has miserably failed to settle the COD, which has led to widespread discontent among the jute workers in general. Without delving deep into the problem, the State Government is describing the situation as a breakdown of law and order within the jute industry.


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