ML UPDATE 25 / 2010

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 13, No. 25, 15 – 21 JUNE 2010

Nitish Kumar Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai?

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has been angered no end by the appearance of advertisements in Bihar newspapers showing him together with Narendra Modi. The advertisements were issued on the occasion of the BJP’s national executive meeting and state rally held in Patna on June 12-13. An infuriated Nitish Kumar not only threatened to take legal action against the people who placed the advertisements but also cancelled a dinner he was scheduled to host in honour of the BJP leaders. He also said he would find out if any flood relief money donated by the Gujarat government remained unspent, in which case his government would return the money to Gujarat.

Nitish Kumar did not say the photo was ‘fake’ – the photo in question was genuine and most probably taken during an NDA rally in Chandigarh during the last Lok Sabha election. The fact is he did not want the people of Bihar to see or be reminded of this photo on the eve of the coming Assembly elections. Has he got any principled aversion to Modi? Certainly not. When Gujarat happened and the whole country demanded the dismissal of Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar remained very much a cabinet member of the NDA government at the Centre, the government which did everything possible to protect Modi. This belated aversion is entirely artificial and meant exclusively for poll-time public consumption in Bihar. Nitish Kumar hopes to add a ‘secular‘ coat of paint to his image through this publicized display of his aversion to Modi.

The BJP has never disowned Modi or the Gujarat genocide. As far as Modi is concerned, not only has he never regretted the Gujarat genocide, he has always defended it and treated it as a question of Gujarati ‘pride’ or self-‘respect’. If Nitish Kumar is really allergic to Modi, how come he has all along been in alliance with the BJP even as the latter upheld Modi as a national political icon. And Nitish Kumar’s alliance with the BJP is not confined to Bihar, his party is a key partner of the BJP in the NDA and as already noted, he was an NDA minister in Delhi while Modi’s men and government set Gujarat afire in 2002. And indeed, how come Nitish Kumar was ready to host a dinner for the BJP national executive in which Modi would have surely been a star guest!

Probably Nitish Kumar’s office would have made sure that the dinner would not have been photographed or in any case Kumar would not be photographed in Modi’s company. The Nitish Kumar government is known to be the most media-conscious government Bihar has ever seen – the projection of the chief minister in the media is micro-managed by his office through a deft combination of advertisements and political patronage. This is why perhaps the advertisements hurt Nitish Kumar all the more – here was the same game of advertisement being played against him in what he considers his pocket borough, the print media of Bihar. Which media hero can really relish the tables being turned against him?

However much Nitish Kumar may pretend to be annoyed with the BJP, the fact remains that the latter could not have had a share in power in Bihar without his willing cooperation. And the BJP and its Sangh siblings have used this opportunity to the hilt to advance their feudal-communal agenda in Bihar. RSS central sessions are being held in Bihar and the Modis and Togadias now have every freedom and opportunity to run their hate campaigns in the state. On the issue of land reforms too, the BJP has been particularly vocal against the Bandyopadhyay Commission report and the government has done everything possible to appease the feudal lobby by virtually abandoning the entire report and the agenda. And who will forget Nitish Kumar’s service to the feudal bosses, not only in the BJP but also in his own party and other dominant formations, by disbanding the Amir Das Commission and making sure that the killers of the Ranvir Sena and their political patrons will continue to enjoy impunity? Nitish Kumar’s clever protestations and publicized display of his ‘injured innocence’ cannot veil the essential feudal-communal character of his regime.

Shielding Carbide-Dow and US Corporate Interests,

Shedding Crocodile Tears for Bhopal:

Congress-led Governments’ Role Then and Now

Facing flak over revelations of how the Congress Government of Madhya Pradesh in the wake of the Bhopal Gas Disaster helped Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson to flee India and evade justice, the Congress party and UPA Government are in damage control mode. The UPA Government has set up a GoM to look into remedies for Bhopal victims, and the Prime Minister himself has urged the GoM to meet soon. Meanwhile some sections of the Congress are seeking to blame Anderson’s escape on Arjun Singh who was then MP CM, and Pranab Mukherjee has instead sought to defend both Arjun Singh as well as the then Central Government headed by Rajiv Gandhi.

None of these attempts, however, can conceal Congress’ culpability in the crime of shielding and exonerating Bhopal’s perpetrators. In the first place, the attempts to shield the Rajiv-led Central Government’s role by blaming Anderson’s exit on Arjun Singh alone holds no water. A CIA Document dated 8 December 1984, a day after Anderson fled India, observed: “The Central Govt’s quick release of the Union Carbide Chairman from house arrest yesterday, however, suggests that New Delhi believes state officials were overly eager to score political points against the company.” If this is not proof enough of the Central Government’s full involvement in pulling Anderson safely out of the clutches of justice, there is the additional fact that Anderson actually was given an audience with the then President of India before leaving India!

Nor is Congress’ culpability restricted to spiriting Anderson away from justice. In a bid to protect Union Carbide, the MP Government in 1984-85 even banned treatment of the disaster victims by sodium thiosulphate, for fear that success of this treatment would establish that the poisonous Methyl Isocyanide had entered the bloodstream and result in heavier damages for Carbide. In other words, the Congress-led MP Government was callous enough to withhold the only effective treatment for the victims because for it protecting Carbide was more of a priority than saving lives!

Pranab Mukherjee’s defence of the then MP Government is that Anderson had to be removed from Bhopal to avert potential unrest that his presence might provoke. This claim begs the question: if keeping Anderson in Bhopal posed a law and order problem, why could he not be detained in Delhi instead? Why was he allowed to flee justice in the CM’s own official plane?

More than 25 years later, nothing much has changed. Even today, the Congress-led UPA Government is busy shielding Union Carbide and its successor Dow Chemicals while shedding crocodile tears for the victims of these companies, denied justice as well as clean-up and compensation. In 1984, the CIA document quoted above had expressed the apprehension that “Public outcry almost certainly will force the new government to move cautiously in developing future foreign investment and industrial policies and relations with multinational – especially US – firms.” Governments from 1984 till the present have bent over backwards to prove to the US that these apprehensions are misplaced, and that they are willing to ignore or trample upon any public outcry in order to protect MNCs, especially US MNCs.

If Anderson remains an ‘absconder’, his successor, Dow CEO Andrew Liveris is a proud member of the US-India CEO Forum, which continues to play a key role even in the recent Indo-US Strategic Dialogue. Liveris, along with Indian counterparts like Ratan Tata have for years lobbied to free Dow from responsibility for cleaning up the Carbide factory site and other affected areas. Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia as well as Congress leaders and UPA Ministers P Chidambaram and Kamal Nath have since 2006 been actively pushing Dow’s and Tata’s suggestion that a ‘Site Remediation Trust’ be set up, funded by Indian CEOs, that will effectively free Dow of any responsibility to clean up the disaster area. Kamal Nath is on record for backing this suggestion on the grounds that this would “an appropriate signal to Dow Chemicals, which is exploring investing substantially in India and to the American business community.”

Can it be a coincidence that the very same Chidambaram and Kamal Nath are members of the GoM on Bhopal? It is apparent that the GoM today, far from delivering justice to the victims of the gas disaster, is planning to betray the victims yet again by implementing that recommendation to let Dow off the hook! Not only that, the UPA Government is further seeking to send suitable signals of submissiveness and sell-out to US MNCs by pushing the Nuclear Liability Bill which will protect US reactor supplier firms in advance from any responsibilities towards compensation or clean up in the event of any disaster.

The third member of the GoM is Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh – who, on the 25th anniversary of the disaster in December 2009, insulted the victims by holding up a handful of earth from the factory site and declaring that since he was still alive, the site was free of all contamination! The GoM clearly comprises of the very leaders who have defended Carbide and Dow and insulted the victims. No such GoM can pretend to deliver any credible compensation, clean up or justice for the victims of the Bhopal disaster.

The BJP, which is trying to score political points over the Congress over Bhopal, too must be confronted with the fact that it has partnered the Congress in betraying the people of Bhopal. The Vajpayee Government never demanded that the US extradite Anderson. And in December 2009, the BJP State Government of MP joined Union Minister Jairam Ramesh in declaring that the factory site was free from contamination and proposing to turn it into a ‘tourist site’!

The GoM with a brief to implement a recommendation that protects Dow is meaningless and mere eyewash. If justice is to be served, what we need and must demand is an independent and time-bound probe to fix culpability for the escape of Warren Anderson, and for subsequent attempts to absolve Dow Chemicals of responsibility. Dow must be blacklisted forthwith, the Nuclear Liability Bill must be scrapped, and Bhopal victims must be guaranteed not only comprehensive compensation and clean up, but also justice.

RYA Organisers & Engg. Students

Suspended in Punjab

Statewide Protest on 18 June

The Management of famous Punjab Engineering College located at Chandigarh illegally suspended five students and fined one girl student for raising the issues of mess workers who have long been compelled to work on exploitative terms. Most of the suspended students belong to the dalit community. These students are also members of Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA). It is to be noted that the mess workers agitation had been going on for long for gaining basic democratic rights and minimum wages. These six students were also part of the agitation for workers’ basic rights.

The management has long been using the police to clamp down on workers to the extent that on 23rd March – Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom anniversary – the police were all over the Campus to stall any celebration and association of workers and students. The immediate context of the latest suspension and fining of these students was the launching of a signature campaign by these students to mobilize referendum against terminating the current mess workers and contractualising the whole mess system. The management had decided to adopt the contractual system from the new session of 2010. The institute was closed for summer vacation, most hostels empty and hence there were few students when the suspension order was announced. The RYA, Punjab, held a press conference on 15 June and announced it will hold a State-wide effigy burning and protest demonstration on 18 June. The Institute is elitist in its administrative functioning where it does not tolerate any democratic assertion by students and the staff.

Reports from Uttarakhand

All India Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM) has taken a string of initiatives on people’s issues in Pithoragarh dist. of the Himalayan State of Uttarakhand. Block Conference of AIKM was held on 29 May at Munsyari where presence of women participants was significant. State’s Party incharge Comrade Raja Bahuguna was also present. A rally was held on 26 May to call for cancellation of NTPC’s project at Munsyari and to highlight and demand action on issues of water, power, roads, health, education and essential commodities. Demonstration was held at Dharchula’s Dy.Collector’s office on 1st June on same issues. A meeting of gram pradhans, area panchayat and dist. panchayat members and forest panchayat sarpanchs (chief of panchs) was organised at Munsyari on 10 June in which it was decided to involve and integrate these elected members also with the movements. Road blockade was organised for five hours at Thal-Munsyari on 12 June on the issues of Sainranthi, Bedumhar and Kimkhet villages. The blockade was lifted after a written agreement from the Tehsildar.

Members of All India Students’ Association (AISA) burnt the effigy of BJP Govt. at Gandhi Chowk in Pithoragarh to protest the decision to fill the 75 thousand posts of Group C and E through UPSC and demanded that the seats be reserved for youth from the State. AISA leaders Narendra Singh, Naresh, Ravi, Pawan, Rakesh and Brijesh led the campaign.

AISA Condemns Corrupt AMU V-C’s Suspension Spree and Repeated Crackdowns on Students’ Rights

AMU under its present VC is being run in a style that will put even any medieval monarchy to shame. A prestigious Central University with a glorious past is being turned into a concentration camp for the students and faculty alike, with not-too-hidden blessings of the UPA govt at the centre. Continuing with his authoritarian and draconian crackdowns on the students, the AMU VC has suspended one more student, Mohd. Adil Hossain, of M.A. (Previous) Mass Communication on 3 June, 2010, ostensibly for “incessantly indulging in rumour mongering, canard spreading, defaming the Aligarh Muslim University,” and that he has “lowered down and tarnished the image of the University over the internet”! Can anything be more absurd and outrageous than this, where a university systematically throws out its students for merely airing their opinions about the institution they study in?

We have not forgotten how a senior faculty member, Dr. Siras, was witch-hunted for his homosexual orientation, illegally suspended and finally pushed to death by the AMU administration. The VC and his cohorts orchestrated and enacted this barbaric show even in the face of nationwide public outcry and condemnation.

Mired in numerous charges of financial and administrative corruption and facing high-level enquiries, the corrupt VC is hell bent upon quelling any criticism in any form. For this the campus has virtually been turned into a Prison Cell with 57 CCTV cameras, night-vision devices and other high-tech gadgetry worth Rs.10 crore have been installed for a 24×7 vigil on the campus. All kinds of posters and notices have been banned. In reply to an RTI filed on the issue of pasting of posters, the Proctor’s office has replied that “pasting of news paper cuttings/posters on the walls of the Hall and other premises of the university would also be dealt harshly with the students( they may face severe punishment).” The earlier notice board at the entrance of Moulana Azad Library was also removed making it impossible for students to convey any information through this medium. Clearly, there is no way a student can register dissent on campus – neither through posters and leaflets nor through holding signature campaigns or rallies as that gets them suspended from the university. To cap it all, the spy network in the campus called the ‘Local Intelligence Unit’ (LIU) has been made omnipresent. Its criminal role in the witch-hunt of the senior faculty member Dr. Siras is well known by now. In a report in the Indian Express dated April 10th 2010, AMU Proctor Md Zubair Khan confirmed: “There is such a proctorial team on the university. You can call it a local intelligence unit where students give information about campus activities and unwanted elements.” After a huge public outcry over the presence of a ‘spy agency’ -a first of its kind- in any educational institution in India, the AMU administration, including the Vice-Chancellor, went over to deny its presence and have started calling it a mere “watch and ward” team. In an RTI filed to confirm details regarding the existence of the LIU, the Proctor’s Office has admitted that the LIU exists in AMU and that they spend 1.2 lakh per month in paying salaries to people employed to carry out its activities. The PIO (Budget) of AMU in its response to an RTI (vide D.No.990/FO dated 30.10.09) stated that “AMU doesn’t have any fund meant for anything called LIU”. So the obvious question that arises is- who pays for the 14 lakh per annum spent by the administration on this spy agency and whether funds from other heads are being diverted for its functioning?

Ostensible ‘reasons’ for Adil’s suspension “that he has been incessantly indulging in rumour mongering, canard spreading, defaming the Aligarh Muslim University,” and that he has “lowered down and tarnished the image of the University over the internet” arise from the fact that Adil has been raising concerns about each of these grave violations of basic democratic rights of the campus community through sustained RTIs and write-ups in the blogs. However, Adil is not the only victim. He is the 149th student to be suspended or rusticated during the term of the current Vice Chancellor. Recently, another Mass Communication student, Mr. Afaq Ahmed has also been suspended from the university since April 22, 2010 for the ‘crime’ of filming the experiences of the student-managed Dining Hall system at V.M.Hall. This was also a case of total denial of his fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression. Recently suspended Adil filed an RTI to the PIO of AMU ( Ref No. 98/CAPIO/F/10-11 dated 28/04/2010) about the grounds for arbitrary suspension of Mr.Afaq Ahmad. In the reply to the RTI (vide D.No 93/BRH dated 29.05.2010) to the question “whether a student need permission from Provost or not to shoot a video inside a Hall”, Provost accepted “there is no Rule/Ordinances/ Regulation explicitly prohibiting making of video clip of Hall without the permission of the Provost.” And yet Afaq stood suspended! And now with Adil’s suspension, the VC seeks to assert that students are debarred from airing any opinion even on blogs and websites!

With students getting more and more vocal about the official surveillance, the number of suspensions and rustications is likely to rise. What is most unfortunate is that in this reactionary game of the AMU administration, it has found support from the powerful Prof. Irfan Habib lobby of ‘progressive’ CPI(M). In a shocking stance (reported in Tehelka, UP edition, 30th April), Prof. Habib has justified the presence of spies and LIUs in AMU – since such agencies free teachers from administrative chores and enables them to concentrate on academics! It is indeed shocking that such a defence of blatant violation of civil rights in a university campus has come from a historian of Prof. Habib’s stature. The fact that he commands considerable sway in the AMU campus and draws clout from CPI(M)’s political establishment, makes his stance doubly detrimental and goes against the struggle for democratising the AMU campus.

Adil’s suspension is just the last example in a long list of autocratic decisions that the VC of AMU has taken since his term started. The University was closed Sine Die last September amidst protests regarding the murder of a student on the campus and the bad safety conditions and poor security facilities prevailing on campus. Six students were then suspended for voicing their protest against the security conditions prevailing on campus. The shameful role which the university played in the witch-hunt, suspension and subsequent death of Dr. Siras was nothing short of criminal. Student Union Elections remains banned on campus and clearly so is speaking out against the administration.

AISA condemns this state of worst ever emergency in the AMU campus. It would be a national ignominy and shame if a public funded central university of the country of AMU’s repute is allowed to become the burial ground of the very ideas and values that define a university. We call upon all the democratic voices in different university campuses and larger civil society to join us in this campaign to uphold the right to freedom of expression and basic rights of the students and faculty of AMU.

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

ML Update -13-25.pdf

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