ML Update 26 / 2010

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 13 No. 26 22 – 28 JUNE 2010

35th Anniversary of Emergency:

Down With the Undeclared Emergencies

June 26, 2010 will mark the 35th anniversary of the imposition of the infamous Emergency. Formally speaking, there has been no second imposition of Emergency since 1975. The Congress party that had imposed Emergency in 1975 suffered its first defeat at the Centre in 1977, in the first post-Emergency election. On the face of it, it may therefore appear that the ruling classes and their parties have drawn their lessons and we can look back at the 1975 Emergency as an aberration. But a closer look at the state of our democracy clearly reveals that 1975 was no aberration but a trend-setter. Indian democracy is now permanently embellished with several undeclared mini emergencies.

In states like Jammu and Kashmir and several North-Eastern states, the armed forces enjoy special powers which grant them not only the ‘right’ to shoot and kill (and also rape) but also impunity. During his recent visit to Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh waxed eloquent about human rights and said human rights violations by armed forces would not be tolerated. But independent observers and even official reports record any number of fake encounters, custodial killings and mass rapes over the last two decades of virtual army rule in the valley. The J&K state police, for example, report 52 rape cases by armed forces between November 2002 and January 2009. From time to time the Government of India talks of improvement in the situation in the valley, but withdrawal of armed forces and scrapping of the AFSPA remains an absolute no-no.

Where there is no AFSPA, there is UAPA and Operation Green Hunt. The other day the whole country was treated to a most shocking glimpse of Operation Green Hunt from Lalgarh in West Bengal. Central paramilitary and state police forces are jointly spearheading a combing operation in the area for last one year. The other day, as the operation approached its first anniversary we were told that the joint forces have had a major success in a close encounter with a Maoist squad and 8 dead bodies and lots of weapon and one injured Maoist had been captured from the site. The identity of the killed Maoists was never revealed, the captured weapons were never displayed, but we had a shocking televised display of how the dead are treated by our security forces.

Security forces were seen carrying the body of a young woman exactly the way the carcass of a wild animal displayed as a ‘trophy’ of a hunt would have been carried – trussed up on a bamboo. How better could we possibly expect the Indian state to treat the ‘preys’ of Green Hunt! The oppressed poor are denied their right to human dignity even in their death. The same security forces presented a mute and mentally challenged young man named Rameshwar Murmu as a hardcore Maoist “too stunned to speak”. The reality of Operation Green Hunt as a war on the oppressed poor could not perhaps have been revealed more graphically than what we saw in the “anniversary victory” footage of the combing operation from Lalgarh.

Even in the rest of the country where there is no ‘insurgency-like situation’, the state is no less repressive while dealing with popular protests and struggles. In rural areas where the poor are asking for land and food, or jobs and wages, or the peasants are demanding seeds, water and power – the state routinely showers lathis or even bullets and imprisons people in false cases. Every struggle of workers is facing victimization by employers, with the administration and judiciary often siding with the employers to crush the genuine grievances and demands of the workers. The scene is similar in most of our university campuses where students are being systematically denied their democratic rights to organize and struggle against injustice. And the Union Home Minister loses no opportunity to target human rights organizations and dissenting intellectuals.

When the footfalls of Emergency get louder, it is surely time for the people to heighten their vigilance and intensify the resistance. Let us insist on the scrapping of all draconian laws and bringing all perpetrators of crimes against the people and democracy to justice.

GoM Recommendations Seek to ‘Settle’ Bhopal with Rs. 1500 crore of ‘Enhanced’ Compensation

Faced with a massive public and media outrage over the ridiculously light June 7 verdict of a Bhopal trial court, the UPA government had appointed a dubious Group of Ministers to review the issue and suggest remedial measures. The GoM has come up with recommendations including enhanced compensation for the Bhopal victims; pursuance of extradition of Anderson; a curative petition against the Supreme Court’s 1997 order that diluted charges against UCC and UCIL from ‘culpable homicide’ to ‘negligence’; and funds and proposals towards clean-up of the contaminated site. In a nutshell, the GoM’s brief and intent seem to be to exonerate Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress leadership from charges of colluding with the US in saving Anderson and the UCC and hushing up the debate by announcing enhanced compensations. In other words, while bailing out the Congress rulers and corporate criminals, the GoM taxes the Indian people to bear the cost of compensation and clean-up.

But even on this score, the GoM uses the dubious figures used in the infamous 1989 sellout brokered by the Supreme court. For example, the GoM puts the number of the dead at 5,300 as against the actual figure of 22,146. Likewise, the figures for the permanently and temporarily injured are also gross underestimations.

And the biggest betrayal is once again on the issue of Dow’s liability. While the State Government of MP and the Centre will now argue about who foots the bill and bears the responsibility for clean up of the site, and Indian taxpayers will pay for compensation, there is virtual silence on Dow. The recommendations include no proactive measures to push Dow to pay for compensation and clean up or penalise it for not doing so. Rather, the attempt is to tacitly ‘settle’ the Bhopal issue without bringing Dow to book. It is significant that Chairman and CEO of Dow Chemicals Andrew Liveris will not attend the Indo-US CEO Business Forum meeting scheduled to be held in Washington on June 22 even as a high-level Indian delegation led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee alongwith Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and prominent corporate leaders from India will be attending the meeting.

The GoM recommendations are also silent on the prevention of future Bhopals: they ignore the protection offered to future corporate offenders by the Nuclear Liability bill.

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 made to pay for cleaning up the polluted sites and for medical care of the victims and 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. Only these measures can ensure that the tragedy of Bhopal and its shameful consequences are never repeated on Indian soil!

RSS Goons Attack CPI(ML) Leader in Kalahandi –

Police Station Gheraoed in Protest

In protest against the brutal attack by RSS, BJP and BJD goons on Orissa state committee member Com Nilanjan Bhattacharya and demolition of tribal and dalit Christian houses in Ulladani village panchayat of Rampur block in Kalahandi district, nearly 500 activists of CPI(ML) gheraoed Kalahandi police station on 19 June. The CPI(ML) has been fighting for last four years for land and housing rights of local tribal and dalit Christian people. The local RSS unit however has been trying its level best to stop these people from getting their land rights so that communists did not get any foothold in that area. Yet defying RSS pressure, the land rights campaign succeeded in securing patta for some people. The RSS-BJP-BJD goons then forcibly demolished the huts set up by the CPI(ML) supporters on 9 June. When on the next day, Comrade Nilanjan went to investigate the case, the RSS-BJP-BJD goons assaulted and abducted him. Following intervention by the State Committee and a visit to the area by State secretary Comrade Khitish Biswal on 11 June, Comrade Nilanjan was eventually released. On 19 June nearly 500 people led by Comrades Nilanjan Bhattacharaya, Mahendra Parida,Arjun Majhi, Sanjay Naik, Balaram Hota and Joseph gheraoed the Kalahandi police station and asked the SP to take immediate action against the RSS-BJP goons. It may be noted that the area borders the Kandhamal region where the RSS-BJP had repeatedly unleashed anti-Christian communal violence in recent past.

CPI(ML) Team Visits Anti-Posco Struggle Area

A CPI(ML) team of leaders from Odisha comprising State Secretary Comrade Khitish Biswal, State Committee member Comrade Yudhisthir Mahapatra and AICCTU leader Comrade Mahendra Parida visited the anti-Posco struggle area on 7 June 2010 and talked to several activists and local people involved in the anti-Posco people’s struggle. Five years ago, Posco had signed an MoU with the Odisha government for setting up a steel plant in Jagatsinghpur. Billed as the biggest ever FDI project in India (involving an investment of $12 bn or Rs. 52,000 crore), the project has invited tremendous mass opposition ever since the MoU was signed five years ago. The project involves more than 4,000 acres of land including 3,000 acres of forest land and a proposed port at Jatadhari near the Bay of Bengal which clashes with the jurisdiction of the Paradip port.

While the local people have successfully resisted the Posco project for so long, official pressure for the beginning of the project has intensified in recent months. CPI leader Abhay Sahoo had a leading role in the movement, but during the last Lok Sabha elections the CPI entered into a seat-sharing alliance with the ruling BJD and won from Jagatsinghpur (the constituency that covers the proposed Posco project area) with BJD support. And then this year, the South Korean President was the guest of honour for the Republic Day parade and he threw all his official weight behind the project. In a clever move to divide the anti-Posco movement, Naveen Patnaik has requested Posco to relinquish its claim on the 300 acres of privately owned land leading to speculation that the government would like to facilitate a deal by separating the state land from privately owned land. In their discussion with movement activists, the CPI(ML) leaders cautioned against the government’s ploy and reiterated the party’s unflinching support for the land and livelihood issues of the people over the entire 4,000 acres of land and against any attempt to reduce the movement to the question of defending only the 300 acres of privately-owned land. Unfortunately, during the Rajya Sabha election the CPI had a discussion with the BJD under which the movement leaders have been persuaded to allow Posco officials to enter the area in the name of carrying out land survey.

Movement for Protection of the Roofless

Shri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry is getting ready to celebrate the centenary of Shri Aurobindo’s arrival in the Union Territory. Shri Aurobindo, a great freedom fighter and poet and philosopher who had inspired many young Indian patriots in the battle for national liberation from the clutches of British colonialism, had reached this French Protectorate to evade the dragnets of British Rule.

Today, Shri Aurobindo Ashram has about 1400 inmates from different countries, living in about 500 spacious bungalows spread over 1000 acres. The Ashram also has about 2000 acres of vacant lands and around 1000 acres of Garden Estates Land for agriculture, horticulture and dairy farming. The Ashram Trust that was formed on the basis of the cardinal principle of “liberty, equality and fraternity” now presides over different kinds of businesses and commercial and industrial activities employing hundreds of workers and a large number of domestic helps, men as well as women, who are all being paid meagre wages, contrary to the founding principles of the Ashram and minimum wages and other relevant labour and social legislations of the country.

On the eve of the Centenary celebrations in Puducherry, the Movement for Protection of the Roofless has submitted a memorandum to the Aurobindo Ashram Trust management highlighting the following demands:

Ensure payment of minimum living wage to the workers and domestic helps who are working in different industrialand commercial units, and agricultural/horticultural/dairy operations run by the Ashram Trust and its subsidiaries and in Ashram housing quarters and shops;

Construct housing quarters for these workmen and domestic helps;

Run separate shools exclusively for the children of workmen and domestic helps; and

Provide a free hospital for the general public in Puducherry.

The memorandum, signed by S. Motilal, General Secretary of the Movement for Protection of the Roofless, has been submitted on June 7.

AICCTU leads Determined Struggle in Wazirpur Industrial Area of Delhi

A workers struggle has been on for past several months in the Wazirpur industrial area in Delhi. The workers of W.C. Steel factory have been fighting a protracted struggle for ensuring their basic mandated rights and facilities as the owner of the factory continues to deny them even the minimum wages. The struggle started in January with a petition submitted to the labour minister who is yet to take any action on the matter. With the Delhi government, labourv office and courts all siding with the recalcitrant owner, the workers faced retrenchments and all kinds of threats. However, the workers, despite being thrown out, have chosen to organise themselves under the banner of AICCTU and strike back with determination. For the past few weeks, the retrenched workers along with workers from other factories in the area have been sitting on a dharna at the factory gate braving all the usual intimidatory tactics, including a court case, by the factory owner to break the struggle.

On 21 June, AICCTU organised a massive demonstration at the local Deputy Labour Commissioner’s office. A large number of demonstrators with significant participation of women gheraoed the DLC office protesting against the collusion of the labour department with the guilty factory owners and demanding implementation of minimum wages and other legal provisions in the industrial area. The demonstration was led by AICCTU State Secretary Com. Santosh Roy and All India General Kamgar Union General Secretary Com. VKS Gautam. Several student leaders and activists from AISA also joined the demonstration in solidarity.

Addressing the demonstration, Com. Mathura Paswan of AICCTU unit of North-West Delhi accused the Delhi govt of wilfully allowing the violations of labour laws to continue in all the industrial areas. The fact that the labour laws are so brazenly violated even in the national capital exposes the real anti-working class politics of both the Congress and BJP, who have ruled Delhi all these days only to benefit the factory owners, he added. Com. Santosh Roy said that while the Sheila Dikshit govt is draining thousands of crores to project the Commonwealth Games as a symbol of ‘Delhi’s pride’, the wilful denial of legal rights of the millions of workers in Delhi’s vast unorganised sector and their abysmal working and living conditions should indeed be a matter of Delhi’s shame.

The demonstration forced the DLC to ask the factory owner to come for negotiations. The factory owner, however, refused to come to the spot. In fact, while staying away from negotiations on pretext of illness, the factory owner has mobilised other factory owners in the area to speak to the leaders of the struggle. In this meeting, they said that minimum wages were not paid anywhere in Delhi and they (the owners of other factories) would not allow it to be paid in a single factory. Local MLAs from the Congress and the BJP are clearly active on behalf of the owners.

Workers have decided to continue with their dharna at the factory gate till the guilty factory owner is brought to the negotiating table, all the retrenched workers are taken back and all pending payments according to the minimum wage laws are cleared. The ongoing struggle has become a rallying point for other workers in the area, who for too long had been browbeaten into submission and denied their mandated rights by a nexus of local police, labour department and govt officials, labour courts and the factory owners. AICCTU is determined to intensify the struggle and ensure that the unholy stranglehold of factory owners, local goons and government officials is decisively challenged by the collective unity of the workers in this industrial area.

RYA Indicts Nitish Kumar for Betraying the Bihari Youth

Thousands of activists and members of Revolutionary Youth Association took out a protest march in Patna on 10 June indicting Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for his act of betrayal against the youth of Bihar. The march led by RYA National President Mohammad Salim, General Secretary Kamlesh Sharma and Bihar State RYA Secretary Amarjit Kushwaha focused on the issue of increasing unemployment and job insecurity facing the Bihari youth. The marchers insisted on immediate filling up of 600,000 vacant posts in government employment in Bihar. They termed Nitish Kumar’s development rhetoric hollow and empty. “How can there be ‘development’ without employment, and how can there be employment without land reforms and industrialization”, asked the RYA marchers. The march also condemned the UPA government at the Centre for its shameless act of appeasement of US imperialism on the question of justice for the gas victims of Bhopal.

Rural Poor Resist Pro-BJP Feudal Conspiracy to Stop Construction of Rural Road in Patna

Like the Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), Bihar Chief Minister too has a scheme of construction of rural roads in the name of “Mukhyamantri Gram Sadak Yojana” (Chief Minister Rural Road Scheme). But the scheme of a 300 metre road linking village Ghurnabigha in Paliganj to the main road, which was recommended by the local CPI(ML) MLA and approvedin 2006 itself could not be completed because of the stubborn resistance pro-BJP feudal elements.

Ghurnabigha is a predominantly dalit-backward village – it has 80 dalit households, 50 Yadav households and 20 families belonging to Extremely Backward Castes. Before the road was approved, all concerned households in Ghurnabigha and neighbouring villages had given their consent. Ghurnabigha residents even readjusted their houses to make room for the road, but pro-BJP feudal elements in neighbouring Bhedariya village refused to part with the 45 cents of land belonging to 9 families in their village and blocked the construction of the road.

Nitish Kumar government which brandishes roads as its single biggest achievement and loses no time to acquire poor peasants’ lands for building 4-lane roads (meticulously avoiding the land of the rural rich and feudal elements, even redesigning roads if necessary) could not settle the issue with 9 families for mere 45 decimal land. Comrade NK Nanda, CPI(ML) MLA from Paliganj repeatedly raised the issue in the Assembly and with concerned administrative authorities, but to no avail. Paliganj Area Committee of the CPI(ML) organized a dharna in front of the Paliganj SDO on May 26 and announced direct action on 14 June if the administration failed to resume construction work till June 13.

With administrative inaction continuing, hundreds of people led by Comrade NK Nanda began construction work on 14 June. Some miscreants from Bhedariya village had threatened to invite the Ranvir Sena to settle scores, but had to retreat in the face of the advancing contingent of the people which stormed barricades put up by the CRPF and Bihar Police commandos to proceed towards the road construction site. The people eventually relented only after the administration gave assurance of completing the construction work within 15 July.

Protesters Block Israeli Cargo Ship at Oakland Port in US

In a historic action in the early morning hours of 20 June, over 800 labour and community activists blocked the gates of the Oakland docks, the sixth largest port of the US, prompting longshore workers to refuse to cross the picketlines where they were scheduled to unload an Israeli ship.

From 5:30 am to 9:30 am, a militant and spirited protest was held in front of four gates of the Stevedore Services of America, with people chanting non-stop, “Free, Free Palestine, Don’t Cross the Picket Line,” and “An injury to one is an injury to all, bring down the apartheid wall.”

Citing the health and safety provisions of their contract, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)workers refused to cross the picketline to report for duty.

To loud cheers of “Long Live Palestine!” Jess Ghannam of Free Palestine Alliance said, “This is truly historic, never before has an Israeli ship been blocked in the United States!”

The ILWU has a proud history of extending its solidarity to struggling peoples the world over. In 1984, as the Black masses of South Africa were engaged in an intense struggle against South African apartheid, the ILWU refused for a record-setting 10 days to unload cargo from the South African “Ned Lloyd” ship. Despite million-dollar fines imposed on the union, the longshore workers held strong, providing a tremendous boost to the anti-apartheid movement.

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: 22518248, e-mail: mlupdate, website: www.cpiml.org

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