ML UPDATE 8 / 2011

ML Update
A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 14 No. 07 15 – 21 FEB 2011

Mubarak Goes:
When Decades Happen in Weeks

There are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen. Lenin said this nearly a hundred years ago during the turbulent days of Russian revolution. The last few weeks have once again vindicated this Leninist insight when the people of Tunisia and Egypt succeeded in ending decades of autocratic rule through weeks of massive street protests. It took the brave people of Tunisia just four weeks to not only end the 23-year-old autocratic rule of their notorious US-backed ruler, Ben Ali, but also inspire upsurges across the Arab world to put several other Ben Alis on notice. One of them, Hosni Mubarak, the octogenarian strongman of Egypt, the biggest political and military partner of the US in the region, has already had to step down in the face of sustained mass pressure. Protests are also on in countries like Yemen, Algeria, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Sudan, and the rulers have already announced some measures to pacify the protesters and meet some of their demands.

The return of mass upsurges on the Arab street has revealed tremendous potential and struck a chord of global resonance. True, the upsurges had the local rulers as the immediate target and the US-Israel axis was hardly even mentioned. But the fact remains that Egypt has been the lynchpin of the US-Israel strategic axis in the Arab world. Even when Obama tried to ‘reach out’ to the Muslim world, he chose Cairo as the stage for delivering his address. Any mass upsurge for democracy in Egypt therefore has the unmistakable potential to destabilize the US-Israel strategy and pose new challenges for the US policymakers. Washington’s response to the Egyptian developments has been carefully calibrated – it was only when it became crystal clear that Mubarak had no other option but to step down immediately that the US went for a military-monitored transition. It now remains to be seen how the awakened people of Egypt respond to the challenges of transition in the coming days.

It is well known that while the US loves to topple regimes in the name of democracy, it is always afraid of democracy straying beyond the dotted lines of the Empire. Will the Egyptian urge for democracy be satisfied with the mere ouster of Mubarak, the hated and tired dictatorial face, or will it insist on more changes in the set-up that Mubarak had built over the years and in the policy trajectory he followed both internally and externally? With the opening up of the democratic space in Egypt and the larger Arab world, diverse trends in Egyptian society, history and culture will now have a chance to reassert themselves and we will have to wait and see if the once dominant trend of secular Arab nationalism can again emerge as the leading current.

While keeping a close watch on the unfolding developments, one must wholeheartedly welcome what has already been achieved by these popular uprisings. Together with popular victories in Latin America, militant student protests and workers’ struggles in Europe and the continuing people’s resistance in many parts of Asia, the Arab uprising marks a major rejection of neoliberal policies of privatization and corporate plunder. “Bread, freedom and dignity” was the central slogan of Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” (Jasmine is Tunisia’s national flower) and in Egypt too the upsurge is clearly rooted in popular anger against rising prices, growing unemployment and the spectacular accumulation of private wealth at the expense of public resources and rights. The thoroughly modern, secular and popular character of the uprising has also demolished the mischievous imperialist propaganda that demonises Islam and depicts life and politics in almost all Muslim-majority countries as being dogmatic and medieval.

Tunisia and Egypt have not only furnished inspiring examples of popular upsurges in the present phase of global financial and economic crisis, in many ways they have also shown us what people’s upsurges can be like in the twenty-first century. The electronic speed with which the protests spread and the people assembled using every new technological medium – from television and mobile phones to the internet – gave us a glimpse of how revolutionary advances in information and communication technology can be made to serve the cause of a fighting people. The uprising also showed how a modern state with all its repressive apparatus can be effectively immobilized by a united and aroused people. It was truly a people’s uprising when the people reigned supreme and seemingly all-powerful rulers had to give in.

Given the historical reality and objective conditions in the Arab street where years of dictatorial rule had pushed back the organized political parties and the trade union movement, the uprising could only have a party-less and leaderless character. It will be wrong to universalize this as the emerging era of civil society and idolize it as the politics of the multitude. Indeed, now that the pro-US Egyptian Army, bureaucracy and elitist leaders are back at calling the shots, the people of Egypt will increasingly realize the need for sustained and organized political intervention to realize their dream of a meaningful democratic transition.

In many ways Egypt’s evolution in the latter half of twentieth century has been similar to that of India. A close ally of India during the heady days of Non-Aligned Movement, and a big votary of state-led industrialization and public welfare in early Nasser years, since 1980s Egypt has fallen headlong into the trap of neoliberal economics and pro-American geopolitics much the same way as India has. Will the rising tides of the Nile today be followed by a similar upsurge in the land of Ganga and Kaveri, Brahmaputra and Narmada? AILC to Launch Month-long Countrywide Campaign against Price-rise, Unemployment, Corruption and State Repression

“March to Parliament”
on 14 March 2011
to Call upon the UPA Government to Quit Office
for Pushing the Country into a Deep Crisis

Two decades of liberalization, privatization and globalization policies have landed the country in a deepening all-round crisis. Relentlessly rising prices are pauperizing the common people while mega scams and growing black money are robbing the national exchequer. Instead of controlling prices and punishing the corrupt, the UPA government is bent upon protecting the guilty and harassing honest and upright people.

Against this backdrop, the All India Left Coordination comprising CPI(ML)(Liberation), CPM(Punjab), Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) of Maharashtra and Left Coordination Committee of Kerala have called for a month-long countrywide mass campaign from 14 February to 14 March against the thoroughly corrupt and repressive UPA government and the disastrous policies that are promoting relentless rise in prices of all essential commodities, massive unemployment and rampant corruption. Whoever questions the government’s callous and corrupt rule and pro-corporate and anti-people policies is liable to be subjected to all kinds of repressive measures.

In the course of the campaign the constituents of the AILC will reach out to all sections of the working people to mount public pressure for immediate reversal of the disastrous policies. The campaign will culminate in a “march to Parliament” on 14 March calling upon the UPA government to quit office for its act of promoting price-rise and corruption, unleashing state repression and inflicting an all-pervasive crisis on the country and the people.
The AILC solicits the support and participation of all democratic and progressive Indians in this national campaign and the “March to parliament” on 14 March, 2011.

CPI(ML)(Liberation) CPM, LNP(L), LCC,
Punjab Maharashtra Kerala

13th Death Anniversary of Com. Anil Baruah observed

CPI(ML), AICCTU, AIPWA and Sadou Asom Janasanskritik Parishad jointly observed the 13th death anniversary of Comrade Anil Baruah at Guwahati Press Club on 11 February, the day on which ULFA gunned down the CPI(ML) leader and Lok Sabha candidate in 1998 when he was delivering his speech at an election meeting at Naharani, near Naharkatia of Dibrugarh district, Assam.

On this occasion, a meeting was organised in the Guwahati press club on the topic "Insurgency in Assam and the Peace Question". The meeting was conducted by AICCTU Assam state secretary Viren Kalita and addressed by renown journalist, writer Jatindra Kr. Bargohain, columnist and writer and president of "Niryatan Birodhi Eikya Manch" Dr. Anima Guha, CPI(ML) PB member and state secretary Rubul Sarma, General Secretary of All Assam Janasanskritik Parishad Loknath Goswami, ASCSS state secretary Vibek Das, Arup Mahanta, secretary AIALA, Assam, trade union leader Dhiraj Das. Many trade union leaders of central TUs and leaders of oil, bank and other sectoral trade unions, leaders of cultural organisations including IPTA, journalists and writers attended the meeting.

The meeting was held at a time when ULFA leaders excluding a small fraction under Paresh Baruah had been arrested and subsequently started dialogue with Union Government, and a team of ULFA leaders led by Chairman Aravinda Rajkhowa were in Delhi for talks.

Dr. Anima Guha stressed that the peace process cannot be serious unless the basic problems of the people such as food, health, education, shelter are not resolved. Jatindra Kr. Bargohain, while opposing terrorism, stressed the need to resist state terrorism.

Party’s PB member and State Secretary Comrade Rubul Sarma in his speech pointed out that while terrorism was no solution (as ULFA had realized), surrender to the state could not provide a way out either. The meeting unanimously resolved that no insurgency can be resolved without constitutional guarantee of the rights of local people on water resources, mineral resources such as oil, coal, forest resources, tea, withdrawal of pro-corporate policies, solving problems of tribal autonomy and scheduling of agitating ethnic groups. Comrade Rubul Sarma said that the party is leading a movement against corruption, corporate loot and price rise and called upon all left and democratic forces to come forward to strengthen this movement.

The meeting opposed the state policy of division in the name of pro-talk and anti-talk. The meeting called upon all democratic and patriotic people of the state to unite against individual terrorism and state terrorism. The meeting also demanded withdrawal of all black acts including AFSPA, UAPA, an end to fake encounters and arrest and killing of innocent people, stopping indiscriminate imposition of 144 on democratic movement and arrest of all ruling party leaders and workers linked with terrorist outfits.

Condemn Denial of Bail to Binayak

The CPI(ML) deplores the denial of the bail to Binayak Sen by the Chhattisgarh High Court. Bail has been denied in spite of the overwhelming evidence that he has been unjustly convicted, suggesting that political considerations have weighed with the high court. The entire democratic opinion in India and the world will expect the Supreme Court not only to award bail but also reverse the unjust verdict and ensure justice for Binayak Sen and the other co-accused in the case, Pijush Guha and Narayan Sanyal.

Working Women Celebrate IWD Centenary

Combining the IWD centenary celebrations with struggles at the grassroots, the Hoogli district unit of AIPWA organised a protest demonstration-cum-deputation at the DM office in Chuchura on 21 January. Majority of participants were "ASHA" (Accredited Social Health Activists) and mid-day meal cooks, who submitted two separate deputations with their specific demands. Agrarian workers, including adivasis, also took part. The gathering was addressed by the working women themselves as well as AIPWA West Bengal state secretary Chaitali Sen, Hoogli district secretary Shipra Chatterjee and other leaders who spoke on the significance of the IWD at the present juncture. A song-and-dance performance by adivasi women added vibrant colours to the programme.

Investigate ISRO Scam and Punish the Guilty

In the UPA-II’s tenure, one mega scam is speedily being superseded by even larger scams. After the 1.76 lakh crore 2G Spectrum Scam, we now have revelations of a scam of Rs. 2 lakh crore in the Indian Space Research Organisation’s deal to give away S-band Spectrum to a private company. The ISRO, which falls under the Department of Space which is directly accountable to the Prime Minister, secretly made a deal to launch two satellites and give away 70 MHz of high-value S-band for commercial exploitation to a private company, Devas Multimedia Private Limited, at a throwaway price. There is evidence of a cover-up for the past six years, and of active moves to block investigations by the CAG.

The latest scam, like the scams in mining, telecom and land, once again follows the pattern of making available precious natural resources and public assets for private profit. The UPA Government is once again trying to underplay the scale of the scam and shrug off its responsibility. We demand a thoroughgoing and impartial probe into the ISRO scam and punishment for the guilty.

Seminar on Corruption at Jalandhar

The Deshbhakt Yadgar foundation of Jalandhar, set up to uphold the legacy of the Gadar Party martyrs and other martyrs of the freedom struggle and revolutionary movement of Punjab and run by a trust comprising the entire range of left groups in Punjab, held a seminar at Deshbhakt Yadgar Hall on ‘The Indian State and the Cancer of Corruption’, at which the main speaker was Supreme Court advocate and anti-corruption campaigner Prashant Bhushan.
Delivering his lecture, Prashant Bhushan stressed that corruption should not be narrowly defined as ‘bribe-taking.’ Rather, corruption was when those holding public office acted in a biased manner to favour vested interests rather than public interest. In India, the worst form of corruption, he said, was the corporate loot of land, minerals, water, spectrum and other natural resources. The source of this loot was the policy of privatization of natural resources and public sector assets. He called for a mass movement across the country to overturn the policy of privatization and democratize decision making in matters of public policy right down to the grassroots.
The seminar was also addressed by CPI(ML) CCM and Editor, Liberation, Kavita Krishnan. Organisers of the Seminar were office-bearers of the Deshbhakt Yadgar trust including Comrade Mangat Ram Pasla, Secretary of the CPIM Punjab.

Gherao in Koraput over MGNREGA Irregularities

On February 10, over 2,000 activists of CPI (ML) Liberation gheraoed the block office of Dasmantpur, Korapur, Odisha, demanding a probe into irregularities in the execution of many developmental projects including the central employment scheme MGNREGA.

The agitators took out a rally at the block headquarters before submitting a memorandum to the BDO. Leading the rally, party State Committee member Tirupati Gamang pointed out that MNREGA job cards are being withheld but machines are being used in the projects undertaken by the MGNREGA, and in the absence of a sub-dealer for kerosene at Dasmantpur, people are forced to purchase kerosene at Rs 25 a litre in open market.

The memorandum included the demands of issue of job cards under MGNREGA, strict implementation of forest-right act, establishment of a fire station, and provision of street lights at Dasmantpur and 200 days of work in a year and Rs 200 wage a day under the MGNREGA.

Public Meeting at DU against ‘Honour’ Crimes

AISA and AIPWA held a public meeting at the Arts Faculty, Delhi University titled ‘Crimes of Honour or National Shame?’
The seminar, attended by a large number of students, was addressed by many women’s movement activists, journalists and historians. Historian Uma Chakravarty pointed out that the structure of class, caste and gender laid the foundation for patriarchal controls that were at the root of the crimes that were wrongly called ‘honour’ crimes. She said that a less patriarchal term for such crimes could be ‘custodial crimes’ – which occur when individuals are in the (illegal) custody of caste, community etc. She also pointed out that even the very relationships of couples who have defied caste diktats to marry are not free from patriarchal controls – citing the instance of the husband who demands that his wife oblige him by avoiding wearing jeans.

Mrinal Vallari, sub-editor of Jansatta drew upon her experience as a journalist to speak of the many kinds of killings and crimes being falsely attributed to ‘honour.’ Challenging those who claimed that ‘same gotra’ marriages were incestuous and genetically harmful, she asked why, if such people were so worried about genes, did they oppose inter-caste and inter-community marriages? AIPWA Secretary Kavita Krishnan commented on how both Congress and

BJP were tacitly or openly defending the perpetrators of such crimes, and called for laws against crimes committed in the name of ‘honour,’ ‘culture’ or ‘tradition.’
PhD scholar and freelance journalist Gayatri Arya spoke of her experience of reporting on girls of Muzaffarnagar, UP, who are defying bans on wearing jeans. Alpana Mishra, writer and Associate professor in the Hindi Department of DU spoke about the ideological underpinnings of such crimes.

Well-known Hindi poet Anamika read out powerful poems against ‘honour’ crimes, and poet Vidrohi also recited inspiring poetry.
The meeting was conducted by Uma Gupta, AIPWA National Executive member and Assistant Professor, IP College.

Forest Dwellers Rally under AIKS Banner in Haldwani

On 2 February, villagers from the khattas (forest settlements) and forest dwellers of a large number of villages came together for a spirited rally at Haldwani. This ‘Unity Rally’ was held to demand that Bindukhatta be declared a revenue village; the scattered khattas be united and brought under the ambit of the Forest Rights Act 2006; extortion and exploitation of van gujars (forest dwellers) be stopped; a stop to pollution by paper mills and a guarantee of jobs for locals in these mills; Rs 10 lakh compensation for the families of those killed by tigers in the Corbett Park and effective measures to protect the people from the wildlife; and various rights and amenities for milk producers. Khattas are the settlements created within forests for cattle grazers by the Forest Department, and their residents are called ‘van gujars’, mostly from the Muslim community. In spite of being residents of the settlements for decades and coming under the FRA 2006, they are deprived of any citizens’ rights.

Thousands of villagers from around 30 villages attended the rally which was addressed by AIKS National Secretary Purushottam Sharma, CPI(ML)’s Uttarakhand In-charge Raja Bahuguna, and AIKS Haldwani district president Bahadur Singh Jangi and Vice President Man Singh Pal among others.

Cadre Conference of the Delhi Street Vendors’ Association

On 31 January the Delhi Rehdi-Khokha Patri Mahasangh (street vendors’ association) held a cadre conference opposite the Samachar Apartments at Mayur Vihar-I. The conference raised the question of livelihood of the street vendors which was being jeopardized by eviction in the service of corporate retailers. In the backdrop of corruption and price rise, the street vendors demanded the right to pursue their livelihood on the streets of the capital city. Secretary of the Mahasangh Comrade Ramsevak Rai presided over the conference, which was addressed by CPI(ML) CCM and State Secretary Sanjay Sharma, AICCTU State President VKS Gautam, Secretary Shyam Kishore Yadav, Vice President Mathura Paswan, AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishnan, and activists of the General Kamgar Union and Janvadi Rickshaw Chalak Sangh.

Protest at Varanasi against Violence on Women
On 7 February, AIPWA held a demonstration and dharna at Varanasi to protest the growing incidence of violence on women in UP. Around 200 working women from Varanasi, Gazipur and Bhadohi participated in the protest, citing the string of incidents in the state – the Banda gang rape involving a BSP MLA; the rape of a young girl at Kanpur; custodial molestation of a woman at the Varanasi Cantt. Police station; murderous assault on a dalit girl when she resisted gang rape at Fatehpur; the self-immolation of a school principal at Jaunpur alleging sexual harassment; as well as other incidents of gang rape at Mau, Lucknow, Allahabad – and the role of the police and administration in all these cases, which was one of protesting the perpetrators.

AIPWA demanded that police officers found to be obstructing justice in such cases be penalized and special fast-track courts set up for speedy justice in matters relating to violence on women. More powers be given to the State Women’s Commission, which should work more closely with grassroots women’s groups. Complaints cells to look into allegations of sexual harassment be set up in accordance with Supreme Court directives in all government and private sector workplaces, and the Bill against Sexual Harassment be speedily passed after having brought all working women in organized and unorganized sector under its ambit. AIPWA activists Saroj, Vimla, Shanti, Subhavati, Kusum Verma and Sarita Patel as well as other social activists of the city participated in the dharna.

Earlier, AIPWA also held many programmes in Varanasi to commemorate 100 years of International Women’s Day, including poster-exhibitions on the theme of the origins of IWD and the history of the women’s movement, exhibitions of posters with original poetry by students; and a discussion on ‘The Young Generation and Modernity’ in which Dr. Binda Paranjpe, Dr. Madhu Kushwaha, Dr. Muniza Rafique Khan, Dr. Shahina Rizvi, Dr. Chandrakala Tripathi, Dr. Shraddha Singh, as well as AISA activists Shikha, Akriti, Shruti, Vishal, Renu and many others expressed their views. AIPWA Joint-Secretary Kusum Verma conducted the discussion.

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

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