ML Update Vol. 16, No. 20

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 16, No. 20

Sarabjit and Sanaullah:

Paying the Cost of Communal Jingoism and War-mongering

The brutal attack by co-prisoners on an Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh in a Lahore jail, resulting in his eventual death, is a heinous instance of extra-judicial killing and violation of human rights on part of the Pakistani State. The fact that co-prisoners were able to launch this murderous assault on a high-profile death-row prisoner indicates collusion on part of the jail authorities and government in Pakistan. Early this year, another Indian prisoner Chamel Singh had been lynched to death by fellow prisoners in the same jail. In spite of this, no steps were taken by the Pakistan Government and the jail authorities to ensure security for Indian prisoners, especially for Sarabjit Singh, who was especially vulnerable because he was an Indian convicted of a terrorist crime in Pakistan. A credible probe must be instituted at the earliest, to identify and punish the killers and conspirators responsible for the murderous assault on Sarabjit Singh.

Compounding the horror of the lynching of Sarabjit Singh was the retaliatory lynching of a Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah Ranjay by Indian fellow-prisoners in a Jammu jail, rendering him brain-dead. The incidents of lynching have underlined the vulnerability of Indian and Pakistani prisoners in jails in both countries, and the costs of the dangerous game of competitive communal jingoism played in both countries. The attempts to whip up anti-Pakistan jingoism and war-mongering in the wake of the lynching of Sarabjit Singh must be firmly resisted in India.

The shocking indifference of the Indian government to the known threats to Sarabjit’s life is also deeply condemnable and shameful. In spite of the killing of Chamel Singh earlier this year, the Indian Government was apathetic towards pursuing the matter of rights and safety of Indian prisoners in Pakistan’s jails with the Pakistan Government. The Indian Government’s failure to take precautions to protect Pakistani prisoners inside Indian jails following Sarabjit’s death, led to the shameful assault on Sanaullah.

Sarabjit and Sanaullah, like other Indian and Pakistani prisoners and terror-accused/convicted prisoners in jails in both countries, are victims of the lethal mix of communalism and jingoism that drives state policy in the subcontinent. In a climate where hangings and custodial killings are driven by political/electoral calculations in both Pakistan and India, justice and humanity are the casualty. Immediate measures must be urgently taken to ensure the safety of Indian and Pakistani prisoners, as well as all terror-related under-trials and convicts in jails in both countries. A large number of fishermen including several juveniles constitute the bulk of Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails and vice versa. All efforts must be made to secure the release of such fishermen and other innocent prisoners who may have inadvertently crossed the border, with the minimum delay.

The unconscionable crimes committed against Sarabjit and Sanaullah must also serve as a grim reminder of the abysmal state of human rights within prisons in both countries. In India, we must remember that under-trials and convicts from the minority community in terror-related cases have very often been subjected to assaults in court premises, custodial torture by police, as well as lynching inside jails. We should remember the case of Quateel Siddiqui, blast accused from Darbhanga, killed by prisoners in Yerawada jail Pune 8 June 2012. In a mirror image of the lynching of Sarabjit in Pakistan, assaults on terror-related under-trials in court premises and jails in India are justified in the name of blind ‘nationalist’ sentiment. It must be stressed that there is nothing patriotic about such assaults; rather, such assaults are a shame for the country and its claims to being a democracy.

The culture of extra judicial killings of prisoners, be it in Pakistan, or India, is abhorrent and must stop. Democratic and progressive forces in both countries are rightly rejecting and resisting communalism and jingoism and demanding just and humanitarian treatment for prisoners in jails in both countries.

UPA Government in the Dock Again

Once more, the UPA Government is shown to be mired in scam after scam. The latest instance of corruption is the CBI’s arrest of the nephew of the Union Rail Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, on charges of taking a Rs 90 lakh bribe from a member of the Railway Board, allegedly to secure a new post within the Railway Board. The Railway Board is a very powerful body, directly answerable to the Rail Minister. This is not an isolated instance of bribery: rather it is an indicator of yet another instance of the murky nexus between business and politics, since the Rail Minister and his family have manifold business interests that have flourished in tandem with his tenure as a Union Minister. The entire scam calls for a thorough investigation, and there can be no excuse for the UPA Government’s defence of the Rail Minister.

The UPA Government’s deep involvement in corruption is again indicated by the undeniable evidence of blatant meddling by the Government in the CBI’s probe into a coal scam charge against the Government, specifically, the amendments in the CBI’s status report on coal block allocations. The CBI’s affidavit to the Supreme Court has contradicted the Government’s claim (made by the Additional Solicitor General to the Supreme Court) that the status report was not shared with anyone. The CBI affidavit states on record that several crucial amendments and deletions were made in the report, at the behest of the Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, representatives of the Coal Ministry and the PMO. The amendments and deletions are all clearly intended to protect the image of the Government.

The UPA Government’s shameless defence of Pawan Kumar Bansal and Ashwani Kumar is unacceptable. These Ministers must resign immediately. The Prime Minister too cannot shrug off responsibility for the blatant interference in the CBI’s status report. With every passing day, the UPA Government is proving its corrupt and anti-people character, and is surviving only due to the fact that the main Opposition, BJP, is itself dogged by corruption scandals.

Sajjan Kumar Acquittal:

Massacre of Justice

The acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar by a sessions court in the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre case is a shocking miscarriage of justice. The acquittal flies in the face of the CBI’s own allegation of a ‘terrible conspiracy’ between Sajjan Kumar and the police, and the evidence of eyewitnesses who have testified to Sajjan Kumar having incited mobs to attack Sikhs.

The evidence of these eyewitnesses has resulted in the conviction of five others, but their credibility has been discounted when it came to Sajjan Kumar.

The anti-Sikh pogrom in India’s capital city in 1984, following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was a state-sponsored massacre in which the highest echelons of Congress leadership – including Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler, HKL Bhagat, and Kamal Nath – were implicated. Shamefully, none of them has been punished, in spite of the evidence against them.

The acquittal of Sajjan Kumar is a judicial massacre to compound the massacre of 1984. The anger of the 1984 survivors and witnesses has unleashed a fresh wave of struggles for justice. However, parties like the BJP and the Akali Dal that are trying to cash in on the 1984 issue need to be reminded that BJP which is in the dock for the Gujarat 2002 massacre and its allies including the Akali Dal have no moral right to speak of justice for 1984.

The democratic forces will continue the struggle for justice for 1984, 2002 and every single communal pogrom.

AICCTU-affiliated ECREU Polls 10% Votes in Railway Union Elections in ECR, Finishes on Top in Samastipur Division

In the recently concluded union elections in the railways, AICCTU-affiliated ECREU (East Central Rail Employees’ Union) finished fourth in the East Central Zone. The union polled nearly 10% of total polled votes (nearly 6,000 out of total polled votes of about 61,000) in the zone. The ECREU emerged on top in the Samastipur division, securing more than 2500 votes out of about 8,500 polled votes. It also polled respectable votes in Dhanbad and Sonepur divisions, but the performance was poor in Danapur and Mughalsarai divisions. The ECREU was the only Left union in the fray in ECR zone. In two other zones (Eastern and North-Eastern zones), AICCTU-affiliated unions could not contest the elections because they did not fulfil the condition of a minimum post-registration period of two years. The election results have indicated the potential of independent Left-led unions in the railways. Incidentally, TMC-led unions have fared poorly in the two West Bengal based zones – Eastern Railway and S-E Railway.

Protest March at Delhi demanding Release of KKM activists

More than a hundred cultural activists, painters, litterateurs, filmmakers, theatre artists, singers, journalists, students and intellectuals took out a Protest March from Sriram Centre-Mandi House to Maharashtra Sadan demanding the immediate release of ‘Kabir Kala Manch’ activists and withdrawal of all false cases and fabricated charges levied against them. The Protest March was called by the theatre group ‘Sangwari’, web journal ‘Sangathan’ and a film group ‘The Group’, all affiliated to ‘Jan Sanskriti Manch’ as well as ‘All India Students’ Association’ (AISA). The protest march reached Maharashtra Sadan where a mass meeting was held. A 5 member delegation comprising the renowned painter Ashok Bhowmick, film-maker Sanjay Kak, poet Neelabh, literary critic Ashutosh Kumar and Dr. Uma Gupta from Delhi University met the Resident Commissioner of Maharashtra government and handed over a memorandum addressed to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra demanding unconditional and immediate release of Sheetal Sathe , Sachin Mali (artists belonging to Kabir kala Manch) and Sudhir Dhawale, editor of a Marathi journal (all arrested on Bogus charges).

Demands also included withdrawal of false cases against them and strict action against police officers involved in framing the concerned cultural activists. The memorandum also stated that the practice of silencing intellectuals and cultural activists by the state government, dubbing them as ‘terrorists’ or ‘Maoists’ and framing them under draconian laws on trumped up charges must stop at once and the livelihood and social security of their family members must be ensured. The cultural activists and student protestors declared that a petition to Chief Justice of India shall be submitted with signatures from all over the country asking the apex court to intervene in the matter and to prevail upon the governments who are engaged in blatant violation of the fundamental ‘right to expression’. After handing over the Memorandum to the Resident Commissioner film-maker Sanjay Kak addressed the protestors and said that the government had better not be under the illusion that curbing the right to expression would silence the artists. Just a day ago only the people of Pune and Maharashtra knew about Kabir kala Manch, but today their voices are reaching across the entire country. He asserted that the repressive measures of the state will not scare cultural activists and that they will continue to fight for the freedom of expression. This fight will involve more and more people.

As is well known, repression has continued unabated on cultural activists of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) over the past two years in the state of Maharashtra. The members of KKM who were arrested in May, 2011 on charges of being ‘Maoists’ under UAPA got bail recently. However, almost immediately following that two other artists of KKM- Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali were arrested on April 2, 2013 on the same charges. Both have denied all charges against them and said that they are followers of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and Bhagat Singh.

The protest March started with a recital of the song ‘Bhagat Singh tum zinda ho’ by artists from ‘Paltan’. This song, sung in the voice of Sheetal Sathe, has gained a lot of popularity. During the march which culminated in a mass protest meeting at Maharashtra Sadan, artists from ‘Asmita’, ‘Sangwari’ and IPTA expressed their protest through revolutionary songs. Protestors marched with placards and raised slogans all through the kilometer long stretch in scorching summer heat, till the police stopped them at Maharashtra Sadan, where they started a protest mass meeting. Addressing the meeting, noted Hindi-Urdu writer, Noor Zaheer said that governments alienated from the masses are unleashing repression on artists who are standing in solidarity with the peoples’ struggles. Poet Neelabh said that repression is unleashed on all sections of the toiling people and that we must protest against it at each and every instance. Rekha Awashthi from ‘Janwadi Lekhak Sangh’ expressed support for the protest. Ashok Bhowmick from ‘Jan Sanskriti Manch’ said that the current situation in the country calls for a bigger role of writers, artists and intellectuals in favour of the fighting masses and that would entail continuous confrontation with the oppressive system. National Secretary of ‘All India Progressive Women’s Association’ Kavita Krishnan said that Maharashtra government never stops the voices of those ministers who ridicule the miseries of the people every now and then but finds it necessary to silence the voice of Sheetal Sathe. People love the voices of KKM artists, but anti-people state machinery considers such voices dangerous. Therefore, it is all the more important to raise such voices even more loudly. Sandeep Singh, National Secretary of AISA and theatre artist Lokesh Jain also addressed the meeting. Prof. Chaman Lal & Parnal Chirmuley from JNU, Radhika Menon from D.U., theatre personality Arvind Gaud, literary critics Gopal Pradhan & Vaibhav Singh, film maker Ajay Bhardwaj, cultural activists Raviprakash from ‘Sangathan’, Asit Das from ‘Sanhati’, Kapil Sharma from ‘Sangwari’, Sanjay Joshi from ‘The Group’, journalits Anjani & Shivdas were among those who joined the protest march and mass meeting. Awadhesh, Sanjay Joshi and Sudhir Suman convened the entire proceedings.

May Day 2013

The May Day 2013 was celebrated by All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) with the pledge of taking forward the spirit generated in the 20-21 February unprecedented all India general strike and continue the fight for the reversal of neoliberal policies in the country.

Below are some of the reports of May Day celebrations across the country.

The 28th May Day this year was observed in Assam as a day opposing the heinous murder of comrade Gangaram Koul in Borgong, Sonitpur, Guwahati, Jorhat Silchar, Nagoan, Dibrugarh and other places. In Tinsukia, braving a heavy downpour, about 1000 workers from tea gardens took part enthusiastically in the procession covering about 4 kilometres and passing through the main thoroughfare of the town shouting slogans demanding the arrest the killers of Com. Gangaram Koul, time bound CBI probe to be completed in 6 months, against price rice and rampant corruption, increase of the tea workers’ daily wage to Rs. 200, calculate bonus on the total sum of daily wage plus subsidised cost of ration and fuel as per clause 22(2) of the Bonus Act, 1965.

In Tamil Nadu, May Day was celebrated with flag hoisting in 150 centers with a participation of more than 2000 workers. In Coimbatore, it was a dream come true for Pricol workers when they hoisted their union flag in the factory gate in the morning with hundreds of workers raising slogans for workers’ unity. Comrade S.Kumarasami hoisted the flag and in the evening a public meeting was held in which 700 workers from Pricol, Shanthi Gears, Lakshmi Motor Works (LMW) participated. AICCTU in TN has taken up a solidarity campaign for Maruti workers which includes a solidarity fund for the Maruti workers. AICCTU has released 6000 pamphlets with the ‘Letter From Jail’ of Maruti workers and called for the workers of TN to rise in solidarity for them. ‘Letter From Jail’ is also published in Orumaipadu (Tamil Solidarity) which has a circulation of 5000 copies. Co-optex Employees Union also participated. A solidarity fund was collected to help Maruti workers. In the May Day a public meeting held in Coimbatore Rs.24000 was collected from among the participants.

In Punjab, May Day was celebrated in Punjab at Batala, Chandigarh, Mansa, Himmatpura (Moga) and Tapa (Barnala). In Batala, a march of nearly 700 workers was taken out in main market of Batala, in the leadership of Com Gurmeet Bakhtpura, Com Sukhdev, and Com Guljar. In the march, brick-kiln workers, who are on strike for their demands, participated in large numbers. In Chandigarh, a program was organized by AICCTU and CPI(ML). Revolutionary songs and a play on women’s rights by a theatre team of Chandigarh were also performed.

In Odisha, May Day was observed at Nagbhushan Bhavan in Bhubaneswar where 150 workers from different unions came together. A public meeting was conducted at Nagbhushan Bhavan where Comrade Khitish Biswal, secretary of CPI (ML) Liberation and AICCTU state secretary Mahendra Parida addressed the gathering. May Day was also observed in Sambalpur where 2000 construction workers participated in a big rally.

In Delhi-NCR, Central TUs held a procession jointly from Ramlila Grounds, and workers observed May Day in several areas. AICCTU held May Day processions and public meetings at Wazirpur and at NOIDA. At NOIDA, May Day 2013 had a special significance, since it was held in the wake of the wholesale arrest of workers and TU activists, defying the attempts of police to intimidate the workers. A leaflet against state repression, calling for May Day, had been widely distributed in the area in the preceding days. AICCTU and CPIML activists from NOIDA and Delhi held a march from the AICCTU office. In spite of the forbidding presence of the armed police, a public meeting was held following the march, which was addressed by many CPI(ML) and AICCTU leaders.

In Jharkhand, flags were hoisted in the entire coal belt and mass meetings took place against the ongoing loot and scams and privatization of coal industry. In Bokaro Steel Plant, the flag was hoisted and a public meeting was held. Rallies of unorganized workers and women workers working on an honorarium in various government schemes were held throughout the state including the capital Ranchi.

In Bihar, May Day rallies, demonstrations and flag hoisting progammes were held in most of the districts including Patna with the participation of thousands of unorganized workers. In Patna a joint rally was held.

In UP and Uttarakhand all affiliated unions in different districts with participation of unorganized workers held progammes. AICCTU-affiliated unions held a procession in Allahabad and submitted a memorandum to the Collector. In Uttarakhand, joint rally of workers was held in Rudrapur, an Auto Hub. In most of the districts including Haldwani and Pithoragarh joint programmes were held.

At Gujarat, a rally was held by AICCTU in Himmat Nagar with participation of hundreds of unorganized workers. In Mumbai, a joint mass meeting of trade unions was held at Azad Maidan. In Bhilai a workers’ meeting was held in Bhilai Steel Plant and also a meeting of municipal contract sanitation workers.

Solidarity For Maruti Workers

TN AICCTU has taken up a solidarity campaign for Maruti workers which includes a solidarity fund for the Maruti workers. AICCTU has released 6000 pamphlets with the ‘Letter From Jail’ of Maruti workers and called for the workers of TN to rise in solidarity for them. ‘Letter From Jail’ is also published in Orumaipadu (Tamil Solidarity) which has a circulation of 5000 copies.

Cooptex Employees Union which organized its 49th GB distributed the pamphlets and read out the letter among the 300 delegates. The delegates contributed a fund of Rs.8000 immediately.

In the May Day public meeting held in Coimbatore Rs.24000 was collected from among the participants.

In the May Day public meeting held in Chennai a signature campaign was launched.

TN AICCTU delegation will meet the jailed Maruti workers and visit their union office and hand over the solidarity fund in the first week of June.

AIALA Holds Militant Procession to Bihar CM Demanding Land Rights and Wages

AIALA held a massive procession and mass meeting in Patna, in which thousands of agricultural labourers and sharecroppers expressed their anger at the Nitish Government’s betrayal of its promises to the poor.

The protestors marched to the CM’s home, protesting the cuts in MNREGA wages, and the broken promises of 3 dismil homestead land, 1 acre of land for the landless, and sharecroppers’ legal rights. The March was led by AIALA National President Rameshwar Prasad, AIALA National General Secretary Dhirendra Jha, AIALA State Secretary Virendra Gupta, and former MLA Satyadev Ram. The massive gathering was addressed by AIALA leaders as well as CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya.

Comrade Dipankar said that Nitish had made a show of raising the issue of special state status for Bihar in March in Delhi; and in April, had himself meted out ‘special’ treatment to Bihar by cutting back on his Government’s contribution of Rs 30 to the MNREGA wage, which are the lowest in Bihar. In Bihar, the Government talks much of empowering ‘mahadalits’ – but the reality is that more than 1 crore MNREGA workers – mostly from the most oppressed castes – get only 10 days work on average instead of the promised 100, and moreover are not paid the proper wages for this work!

In Bihar, land is being looted by landlords, corporates and families of political leaders from the ruling combine, and the poor are evicted from this land. The Government is evading the sharecroppers’ demand for identity card and registration, in order to appease the landlords’ lobby. Mocking the slogan of justice, the Ranveer Sena men guilty of massacring the dalit landless poor, are being acquitted in case after case.

Comrade Dipankar called upon Bihar’s poor to teach Nitish a lesson in the elections for his betrayal of his

promises of justice. In the past 8 years, he said, the Government elected with the votes of the poor worked in service of the feudal and criminal forces. He called for a determined movement to free Bihar from the clutches of these forces, and exhorted people to show black flags to Nitish in every yatra.

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