A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 18, No. 17, 21 – 27 APRIL 2015
Expose BJP’s Attempts to Appropriate Ambedkar
he Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his speech at a BJP rally in Bihar on Ambedkar Jayanti, has made a bid to recast Babasaheb Ambedkar to fit the Sangh Parivar’s agenda. The PM said that Ambedkar represented a combination of ‘Samata (equality) and Mamata (motherly love), which brought about Samrasta (social harmony)’; and that Ambedkar worked to ‘integrate, not divide society’. He further said that it pained him to hear Ambedkar called a “Dalit leader”, when in fact he was a “leader of humanity.” He also implied that Ambedkar was a victim of "political untouchability"; and that he, Modi, too had been forced to battle “political untouchability.”
The Prime Minister’s remarks come in the wake of a concerted campaign by the RSS and BJP to appropriate Ambedkar. The Organiser and Panchjanya carried articles about Ambedkar, claiming that Ambedkar was against Muslims, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad is marking Ambedkar’s 124th birth anniversary year with district-level ‘Samarasata Yagyas’ to encourage “assimilation of dalits with the rest of the society.”
The Sangh Parivar and BJP are, in their attempt to appropriate Ambedkar and woo Dalits, turning Ambedkar’s legacy on its head. Their fulsome praise of Ambedkar, is actually a great insult to his life’s work. Take their claim that Ambedkar worked to ‘integrate society’, that he was a leader of ‘humanity’, not ‘Dalits’; and that he should be remembered by holding Hindu rites to assimilate Dalits into the ‘rest of society’. In fact, these statements hide the fact that Indian and Hindu society was and is deeply divided on caste lines, with the Dalits at the receiving end of severe, systematic discrimination and violence. Dalits are already ‘integrated’ in this society – as the down-trodden, bottom-most rung of this edifice of hierarchy and discrimination. Ambedkar worked all his life for Dalits to make a decisive break with this society, to refuse to be ‘integrated’ with a society that holds them to be untouchable. His greatness and his humanism lies precisely in his status as an emancipator of Dalits, as a leader of Dalit resistance. It does not belittle Ambedkar to call him a leader of Dalits; in fact, it belittles his legacy to erase his role as a leader of Dalit agitations, and instead to re-brand him as an icon of ‘assimilation’ into the very society and politics he rejected!
In the very Nagpur that is the seat of Sangh Parivar power, Ambedkar publicly led Dalits in converting to Buddhism, declaring, “Though, I was born a Hindu, I solemnly assure you that I will not die as a Hindu.” For Ambedkar, conversion was an act of rebellion of Dalits against the Hindu caste stranglehold. In contrast, the Sangh Parivar’s ‘Samrasta Yagna’ is basically another edition of its ‘gharwapsi’ campaign, that seeks to outlaw conversion, and instead pressurizes Dalits to return to the Hindu fold. The Sangh Parivar should at least have the shame not to conduct these ‘yagnas’ of ‘Samrasta’ and ‘gharwapsi’ in Ambedkar’s name!
The RSS and BJP work towards a Hindu Rashtra – a Hindu nation. Ambedkar explicitly rejected the politics of ‘Hindu nation.’ In his essays on ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’, he wrote, “If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt be the greatest calamity for this country. It is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. It is incompatible with democracy. It must be stopped at any cost.” In 1951, on the eve of independent India’s first-ever general election, the manifesto of Ambedkar’s Scheduled Castes Federation (SCF) ruled out “alliance with any reactionary party such as Hindu Mahasabha and Jan Sangh as communal parties.” (cited in Ambedkar & the BJP, A G Noorani, Frontline, February 21, 2014).
Desperate to sow the seeds of anti-Muslim hatred in Dalits, the RSS is propagating that Ambedkar distrusted Muslims. The fact is that Ambedkar advocated unity between the Muslims and oppressed castes. In the same essay on ‘Pakistan and Partition of India’, he writes, “There are many lower orders in the Hindu society whose economic, political and social needs are the same as those of the majority of the Muslims and they could be far more ready to make a common cause with the Muslim than they would with high caste Hindus who have denied and deprived them of ordinary human rights for centuries….Is it not true that under the Montagu-Chemsford Reforms, in most Indian provinces the Muslims, Non-Brahmins and Depressed classes united together and worked the reforms as members of one team from 1920 to 1937? Herein lies the most fruitful method of communal harmony among Hindus and Muslims and of destroying the danger of Hindu Raj”.
A Minister in the Modi Government has called for a ban on the slaughter of cows and buffaloes; the Prime Minister himself makes speeches insinuating that the slaughter of cows is a dastardly ‘Pink Revolution’; and the BJP Government of Maharashtra has banned beef. Can the RSS and BJP, then, digest Ambedkar’s views on beef-eating? Ambedkar, after all, wrote well-researched articles explaining how beef-eating was common among Vedic Hindus; and analyses how in later times, those castes that ate beef were rendered untouchable. He specifically linked the beef taboo with Brahminism.
There is also a mischievous attempt to divorce Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution, from Ambedkar, the leader of Dalit resistance and defiance. In keeping with his egalitarian principles and struggles, Ambedkar drafted a Constitution that would safeguard the rights and liberties of women, Dalits, minorities, and all citizens.
Ambedkar had resigned in frustration over the Hindu Code Bill, when Hindutva leaders along with conservative elements within the Congress had vociferously attacked the Bill’s attempts to reform Hindu personal laws and ensure equality for women. BJP’s hero Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, founder of BJP’s predecessor, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, had said the Bill would “shatter the magnificent structure of Hindu culture.” In his resignation letter, Ambedkar declared, “To leave inequality between class and class, between sex and sex, which is the soul of Hindu Society untouched and to go on passing legislation relating to economic problems is to make a farce of our Constitution and to build a palace on a dung heap. This is the significance I attached to the Hindu Code.”
Today, as the Sangh Parivar, as well as the State machinery all over India tramples over the Constitutional rights and liberties of women, minorities and Dalits, imposing dress and diet codes and attacking conversion, it is Ambedkar’s legacy as an agitator that is relevant to the struggles to defend and expand people’s freedoms.
Last but not least, how can one forget the BJP’s and RSS’ acts of violence against Dalits? Modi himself described manual scavenging as a ‘spiritual activity bestowed by the Gods’, rather than as an atrocity against Dalits. The Ranveer Sena, that shared the RSS ideology and politics in many respects, conducted a series of massacres of Dalits in Bihar in the 1990s. Modi Cabinet Minister Giriraj Singh had described the Ranveer Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh, as ‘Bihar’s Gandhi.’
The attempts by Modi, the BJP and the Sangh Parivar to appropriate Ambedkar smack of sheer dishonesty and opportunism. Ambedkar stands tallest among the leaders of his generation, as a visionary who refused to compromise with inequality and discrimination, and squarely rejected the politics of Hindutva ideologues and vacillating Congressmen too. Ambedkar’s legacy is an inspiration and a resource for all fighters for an egalitarian India. And that legacy will always remain a thorn in the side of hate-filled politics of Hindutva, that Ambedkar described the greatest danger of all for India.
Red Salute to Comrade Ammaiappan
CPI(ML)’s Tamilnadu State Committee member Comrade Ammaippan passed away after a prolonged illness on 09.04.2015. He was 54 years old.
Comrade Ammaiappan played a key role in rejuvenating the party in Cuddalore district. This erstwhile centre of militant struggles was stagnant in spite of the party’s best efforts. But Comrade Ammaiappan helped develop an entirely new team of young cadres from the Virudhachalam and Kamapuram area, developing work on the RYA front as well as among agricultural labourers, students, workers and women.
Comrade Ammaippan became the District Secretary of the party. He organized a massive rural workers’ rally on December 31, 2008. He was also elected to state committee in the Pudukottai conference of the party.
He led struggles for the implementation of MNREGA in Karkudal Panchayat, which was the first to implement it in this district. He also fought for 100% increase in wages successfully. He also took initiatives in cyclone relief work.
On one occasion Comrade Ammaippan along with Com Ramar went to visit the spot where an inter-caste married couple were burnt alive, and he was surrounded and threatened by casteist elements. Also when the police in a nexus with the AIADMK tried to wipe out the party in Kattumannarkoil area, he valiantly resisted it, braving threats by lumpen elements right inside the police station.
Even after he underwent major surgery in 2012, in spite of his deteriorating health, he participated in the joint left parties demonstration during December 8-14, 2014 and also the Left parties’ protest against Obama’s India visit on December 24, 2014. As long as his health permitted he remained active in the AIALA membership campaign during January 2015.
He acquired great respect not only from party supporters but also from other Left and democratic forces. He was very dedicated to building a united party organization.
The AIALA Conference of Tamil Nadu was to be held in May 15th under his eladership. Now that he is no more, carrying forward his work will be a fitting tribute to him. The CPI(ML) as well as his family members will mourn and miss Comrade Ammaiappan deeply. But his work will give us strength and inspiration.
Countrywide Kisan Mahasabha Padyatra against Land Ordinance
(Under AIPF National Struggles Campaign)
As per the decision of the national executive, the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha held padyatras from 6 April to 12 April in different States against the 2015 Land Ordinance. During this period village meetings were organized at 275 places attended by thousands of farmers who expressed outrage against the Modi government’s tyrannical bid to grab land without farmers’ consent. Many of the farmers said that this was the first time they were getting detailed information about the Land Ordinance.
In Bihar, marches, protests and meetings were held in several villages in Aurangabad, Vaishali, Bhojpur, Kaimur, Muzaffarpur and Beguserai districts. Padyatras and sampark meetings were also organized at 100 villages in 7 blocks of Jehanabad, Arwal, Jamui, Lakhiserai and Rohtas districts. During the meetings, protests and the marches, the farmers and leaders said that the ordinance would further jeopardize food security, and raised the issues of compensation to farmers for crop loss, permanent purchase centres for paddy and wheat, and Rs 2000 MSP for wheat.
In Odisha, a huge protest demonstration was held in Bhubhaneshwar by farmer organizations associated with CPI, CPM, CPI-ML (Liberation), CPI-ML (Red Star), CPI-ML (New Democracy), Chasi Muliya Sangh and others, in which thousands of farmers, dalits, adivasis, and jhuggi dwellers participated. Impressive protests were also held in Puri; a farmers’ convention was organized at Kalahandi. In Madhya Pradesh padyatras were held in Bhind, Chambal, as well as neighbouring Etawah in Uttar Pradesh. Impressive protests were held in Darjeeling, Bardhman, and North 24 Parganas in West Bengal, and Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan.
In Punjab padyatras and gramin sabhas were organized in 117 villages in Mansa, Sangrur, Barnala, Bhatinda, Faridkot and Gurdaspur districts. A farmer’s convention was organized by the party in Anjana tehsil of Amritsar. Padyatras were also organized in East Godavari of Andhra Pradesh and Sonepat in Haryana. In Uttar Pradesh padyatras, marches and meetings were organized in Lucknow, Barelley, Azamgarh, Pilibhit, Jalaun, Ghazipur, Chandroli, Mirzapur, Sitapur, and Lakhimpur districts.
Leaders addressing the meetings and marches across the states, stressed on the pro-corporate, capitalist and anti-farmer character of the ordinance. They called upon the people to fight this open license to land loot and pointed out that AIPF provides a joint platform for a untied struggle against this draconian ordinance. A meeting of the national council of the Kisan Mahasabha will be held on 17-18 May in Bhagalpur, Bihar which will be attended by 100 farmer leaders from various States.
Condemn Police Repression on Adivasis’ Movement against Kanhar Dam in Sonbhadra, UP
CPI(ML) strongly condemns the police firing and lathi charge on the adivasis protesting against the Kanhar Dam in Sonebhadra on the mornings of 14th and 18th April. It is extremely unfortunate that when it comes to forcible land grab and contempt for Forest Rights Acts, the Samajwadi Party (now a part of the Janata Parivar) has shown itself to be no different from the Modi government at the centre. CPI(ML) also strongly condemns the treatment of the political and social activists who had gone as part of fact finding team by the police. The state administration made all attempts to ensure that the activists were not allowed to meet the victims and mobs with police patronage were sent to threaten the activists. CPI(ML) stands in solidarity with the protesting adivasis fighting to safeguard their rights and resources.
Protest Against Army Rape of Three Women in Karbi Anglong
Women’s and students’ groups held a protest at Assam Bhawan on 18 April 2015 against the rape of three women in Karbi Anglong, Assam, by Army personnel on 6 April 2015. The protest was joined by All India Students’ Association (AISA), All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), Student Youth Council (SYC), North East Forum for International Solidarity, Pooberun and Manipur Students’ Association of Delhi (MSAD).
Mongve Rongpi of the Student Youth Council (who had also been to the site and met the victims) said that the Army’s latest claim that the ‘the rapist jawan’ had committed suicide inside the Army camp was ill founded as three women were gang raped by at least eight men. There was no single ‘rapist.’ The protesters demanded investigation and prosecution of the entire regiment and its commanding officer. AIPWA national secretary Com. Kavita Krishnan said that although protests have been ongoing in Karbi Anglong ever since the rapes, none of the jawans have been arrested. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act – AFSPA – is offering the Army a shield of impunity, and a licence to rape and murder. She also added that the Assam government cannot wash its hands off its responsibility and it must immediately seek permission to prosecute the rape-accused Army personnel, and file an FIR.
Several protestors pointed out that the Justice Verma Committee had recommended that the continuance of AFSPA in the law books be reviewed and that the requirement of central government sanction for prosecution of armed forces personnel should be specifically excluded when a sexual offence is alleged. The protestors submitted a memorandum to the Home Ministry demanding that the Home Ministry withdraw AFSPA – which provides a shield of immunity to army personnel, that the Central government must immediately allow the Assam police to file a rape FIR against the accused Army personnel in Karbi Anglong and that the Central government must ensure that the Army is not allowed to influence the justice process and intimidate witnesses.
20th State Conference of Mahasangh
The 3 day 20th State conference of the Bihar Non-Gazetted Workers’ Mahasangh took place in Patna on 10-12 April 2015. General Secreatary Com. Rambali Yadav welcomed the gathering and the conference was inaugurated by AICCTU General Secretary Com. Swapan Mukherjee. Addressing the conference Com. Swapan said that the hard-fought rights of workers are now being snatched back as- the number of regular workers is being drastically reduced; contractual-honorarium workers are being given no rights; and the pension and gratuity of regular workers are being drastically cut. In this situation it is incumbent upon the inheritors of Yogeshwar Gope’s legacy to fight for the rights of the workers by launching a massive agitation. He appealed for making the AICCTU national conference on 4 May in Patna a grand success. RN Thakur gave the inaugural address, Rambali Prasad read the annual report and Kanti Kmar Singh presented the fiscal report. Both reports and related suggestions were discussed, after which they were unanimously passed. Resolutions were passed for protests on long-delayed State workers’ issues, “Ekjutta March” on 16 April in solidarity with contractual-honorarium teachers, the AICCTU national conference in Patna on 4-6 May and the “Mazdoor Kisan Adhikar Rally” on 4 May. A 3 member election commission oversaw the election of office bearers for the next session. The conference concluded with the release of the Mahasangh organ “Mehnatkash Awaam”.
AICCTU’s 1st Uttarakhand Conference
AICCTU held its first Uttarakhand State conference on 12 April in Haldwani. Addressing the conference Com. Rajendra Pratholi said that Modi’s “achche din” is a synonym for full freedom for corporate loot. He added that on the one hand corporate houses were being facilitated and on the other, farmers and workers were being driven to desperation. This is the time for the farmer and working class to bring about revolution. Com. Anil Verma stressed on the need for close unity between farmers and workers to fight the anti-poor policies of the Modi government, as “Extract full work and pay cheapest wages” had become the policy of the government and the capitalist class. Com. Raja Bahuguna pointed out that a second Company raj was being ushered in, and a communal atmosphere was being fostered in order to thwart the unity of farmers and workers. The inaugural session of the conference was addressed by Purushottam Sharma, NC Khulbe, Anil Kumar and others. The organizational session began with the reading of documents which discussed the political scenario in the country, challenges before the working class, and the role and responsibility of AICCTU. Following this, a 23 member State council and a 9 member committee was elected. Com. Nishan Singh was elected the State President, Com. KK Bora as the State Secretary, and Com.KP Chandola, Com. Deepa Pandey and Com. Kamla Kunjwal were elected as State Vice Presidents. Com. Raja Bahuguna, Com. Kailash Pandey and Com. Pankaj Tiwari were elected committee members. The council also has 3 women members apart from the 2 Vice Presidents: Com. Shama Parveen, Com. Rita Kashyap, and Com. Indira Deupa. The committee passed a resolution demanding minimum wages of 20,000; end of contractual system; declaration of Asha and Anganbadi and midday meal workers as State government employees; repeal of amendments weakening the labour laws, and other pro-worker demands.
Vidhansabha Gherao by Jharkhand Midday Meal Workers’ Association
Under the banner of the Jharkhand State School Midday Meal Workers Association, midday meal women workers and conveners gheraoed the Jharkhand Assembly with a 30 point demand charter on 27 March 2015. Thousands of women workers across Jharkhand blocked the Assembly gates for hours causing traffic between Birsa Chowk and Dhruva to come to a standstill. They warned the State government that if it continued to exploit the workers, they would launch a massive agitation. Demanding regularization of the midday meal workers, they said that this is a strong link in the chain of the fight against privatization and liberalization. Addressing the meeting the Midday Meal Workers Association President said it is a matter of shame that half the population goes hungry in the regime of the Raghubar government which claims to stand for good governance. It is a matter of injustice and inhumanity that midday meal works get a mere pittance of Rs 833 per month; they require not the status of honorarium workers but the full rights which are due to all workers.
Addressing the meeting AICCTU State General Secretary Com. Shubhendu Sen said that employment and minimum wages are fundamental rights and workers will not let any government to snatch these hard won rights. The chief demands of the midday meal workers association are: minimum wages of Rs 200 for all workers, life insurance benefits, two uniforms per year, 4 bath and washing soaps per month, service regularization, and other rights.
Another Victory for Contract Workers Union in PGIMER, affiliated to AICCTU
After more than a decade old struggle for abolition of contract labour system at the PGI which had been started in 1996 and had been continuing since, the Central Government has finally issued a Gazette Notification to prohibit contract labour at PGIMER, Chandigarh. More than 2000 workers will be directly benefitted by this move. PGI Contract Workers Union that is affiliated to AICCTU had been working relentlessly on the issues of abolition of contract labour and of workers’ wages.
First District Conference of AISA- Madurai
On 18th April AISA Madurai Unit conducted its first District Conference in Madurai. The event took place MUTA Hall rechristened as Comrade Chandrashekar Hall. Comrades Prof. Vijayakumar (Save MKU) Com Balsubramanian (Madurai Kamaraj University Faculty Association- MUFA) and a well known artist Com Ravikumar (MUFA) addressed the conference. The conference was conducted by Com. Sathyakrishnan (State Vice President of AISA), and Com. Michel (State Vice President greeted the efforts of AISA Madurai Unit. The Conference elected a 15 member District Committee with Com Pandiyarajan as the new district president and Com. Arun as the secretary. The Conference decided to launch movement against privatization Corporation School of Madurai and campaign against appointments of worthless ‘Political’ VCs.
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication, R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22442790, e-mail: mlupdate, website: www.cpiml.org