ML Update 36 / 2013

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 16 No. 36 27 AUG- 2 SEP 2013

Rape Culture Rears Its
Ugly Head Again

In the wake of the gangrape of a young photojournalist in Mumbai, there have once again been encouraging protests by people, expressing anger against sexual violence faced by women. Women have refused to allow fear to rule their lives, and have demanded that the Government take responsibility to safeguard women’s freedom.

While the courage of the rape survivor and determination of Mumbai’s and India’s women not to give up their struggle for unqualified freedom without fear are inspiring, the recent times have also seen an ugly display of rape culture, especially in the political response to rape.

Staring us in the face is a naked display of double standards in the treatment of rape, depending on the power and clout of the accused. In the case of the Delhi and Mumbai rapes, the accused, based on identification by the survivor, were arrested and charged with rape. But godman Asaram charged by a minor girl with sexual assault in the custody of his ashram in Jodhpur, is yet to be arrested, 10 days after the complaint! BJP leaders are openly defending him and his supporters are intimidating the complainant. And the Congress Government of Rajasthan and its police are shamelessly delaying his arrest, on the pretext of ‘investigation’. By failing to arrest him, are they not allowing him to use his clout to intimidate witnesses? Are they not demoralising the complainant? Asaram ought to be immediately charged with aggravated sexual assault under the Prevention of Child Sexual Offences Act, and immediately arrested.

In the wake of the Delhi gangrape, Asaram had met with angry protests for suggesting that the victim was also responsible for the rape, which she could have prevented by calling her assailants ‘brother’ and begging them to spare her. After the Mumbai gang rape, we have been subjected to a spate of victim-blaming and sexist remarks by politicians and ex-cops.

Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal has blamed rape on women’s lifestyle, food habits and clothes. His party colleague Abu Azmi has declared that women are ‘like gold’ – they are bound to be looted unless kept safely locked up. Azmi has blamed women’s clothes for provoking men to rape.

Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil, notorious for his obsession with banning women from dancing in bars, and his support for Mumbai cops who indulge in moral policing, has promised ‘police protection’ for women journalists. And Laloo Yadav declared that girls who choose to become journalists ought to ‘inform police’ when they visit ‘dangerous areas’! Laloo Yadav’s remark shows just how such Patil’s ‘police protection’ will take away the rights of women journalists and be used to blame them for ‘risking’ rape.

The Shiv Sena tried to use the fact that some of the rape-accused are Muslims, to raise a bogey against the minorities, whom they brand as ‘Bangladeshis’. The irony is that just a day before the rape, a Shiv Sena MLA had threatened to have women staff at a toll booth publicly stripped. When an Asaram is accused of sexual assault, the saffron brigade leaps to his defence – but when an ‘Abdul’ is accused of rape, the same saffron forces try to paint the whole minority community as potential rapists. This communal design must be exposed and resisted tooth and nail, emphasizing that rapists’ religion is irrelevant. MNS’ Raj Thackeray predictably used the rape to rant against migrants, and suggested that bangles be offered to RR Patil (implying that he’s not ‘man enough’ to ‘protect’ women). The sexism and misogyny implicit in equating bangles worn by women with lack of courage and political will, escapes the MNS. And of course how can we forget that the ideological forefather of Shiv Sena and MNS, Bal Thackeray, in a Saamna editorial in 2005, had justified the rape of a girl by a cop on Marine Drive, by suggesting that men could not be blamed if they were ‘incited’ by women wearing jeans!

The irony is that all these ruling class politicians are united in their cry for death penalty for rape. The hypocrisy and bankruptcy of this demand is apparent when we see the same politicians openly glorifying men accused of sexual assault: be it Asaram or Chhattisgarh SP Ankit Garg; and blaming women for rape.

Confronted with NCRB figures for 2012-13 showing high rates of rape in Mumbai, an ex-cop YP Singh claimed that the bulk of rape complaints are ‘technical rape’ or ‘false rape’ – i.e, cases of live-in relationships or prostitution deals gone wrong. And to justify this outrageous claim, he explained that most rape complainants do not have serious injuries necessitating hospitalization! Ever since the Mathura rape case of 1980, the women’s movement has struggled against the dangerous idea that rape is ‘genuine’ only if it results in grievous injuries; and even the law no longer holds this view – yet cops entrusted with upholding the law continue to peddle such notions.

The media coverage of the Mumbai rape is also disturbing in its total lack of sensitivity and responsibility. For one thing, the media largely ignores rapes happening in rural India, rapes accompanying caste atrocities and communal violence; or those committed by security forces. The media focuses almost exclusively on some gangrapes, also downplays and even questions the veracity of the daily misogyny and violence faced by women in their ‘normal’ lives. In their quest for sensation, media houses covering the Mumbai rape have chosen to reveal the name of the magazine for which the survivor worked; and have alerted the neighbours and staff in the survivor’s apartment complex that she has been raped. One reported even tried to climb 16 floors to interview the survivor in hospital. There is nothing shameful about being a rape survivor: but the survivor has the right to privacy, so that her identity and her life need not be marked forever by this act of violence. This appalling violation of the survivor’s privacy, and the sensational attention to graphic details of the rape by the media is highly condemnable.

The battle cry of women’s right to ‘freedom without fear’ is what we must continue to raise and emphasise, as we expose and challenge the rape culture of those blaming women for sexual violence and protecting powerful rapists.

Bihar State Committee Announces Several Major Programmes in the Next Two Months

The CPI(ML) Bihar State Committee meeting held in Gopalganj on 20-21 August announced several major initiatives for the months of September and October. The State Committee took serious note of the growing incidence of feudal-communal violence in Bihar and resolved to launch a statewide mass awakening and resistance campaign to counter this danger. Following a daylong dharna in the state capital, the Party will launch an intensive Swabhiman Yatra in the central Bihar districts of Rohtas, Kaimur, Bhojpur and Aurangabad which will culminate in a massive Swabhiman Rally at Sasaram on 15 September. Terming the incident of Independence Day attack on dalits at Baddi village in Rohtas district an alarming assault on the freedom, dignity and security of dalits as well as an insult to the glorious legacy of freedom movement in Shahabad and Bihar, the Party State Committee has called for a powerful counter-mobilisation against the forces of social oppression and injustice.

Along with renewed feudal offensive, Bihar is also witnessing a spurt in communal violence and minority witch-hunt. Like Sanjarpur in Ajamgarh district of UP, Bar-samela village of Darbhanga seems to have been specially singled out for carrying out indiscriminate arrests of Muslim youth on trumped up charges. A ‘Rihai Sammelan’ will be held in Darbhanga on 19 October to demand an immediate halt to this witch-hunt, withdrawal of all false cases and release of all those who are languishing in Bihar jails on fabricated charges.

Finally on October 30, the Party will organise a state-level rally on the historic Gandhi Maidan of Patna to raise the people’s voice against the growing failure and betrayal of the Nitish Kumar government on one hand and the communal campaign of the BJP on the other. The rally will also highlight the Left agenda in the national context and press for a reversal of the pro-corporate policies that have pushed the country into acute economic crisis and alert the people against the competitive attempts by the BJP and the Congress to deflect and divert the people’s attention from the real crisis by raking up emotive issues like Ayodhya and war-mongering against Pakistan. In view of this overall context, the Bihar State Committee has decided to christen the October 30 rally as Khabardar Rally to sound the bell of warning against the growing crisis. Incidentally, the rally will be preceded by the BJP’s first post-split show of strength in Bihar, the ‘Hunkar Rally’ which is scheduled to be held on October 27 and addressed by Narendra Modi.

AISA Holds Historic Referendum in Delhi University

More than 10,000 students of Delhi University participated in a Referendum on the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) which had been arrogantly imposed in Delhi University, overriding the concerns of teachers, professors, and students alike. The AISA conducted this Referendum on 22nd August, and more than 91% of the participants voted a resounding “NO” to the FYUP. This referendum was historic because for the first time students of stood up to say: "We do have a right to give OUR opinion on OUR University, OUR courses, OUR future…."

Today, as the FYUP unfolds, its dismaying impact is obvious to all. The first year students are clueless and frustrated. It has been more than three weeks but still there is no attempt by authorities to listen to their issues and queries. Newspapers have carried extensive reports on the ridiculous content of the foundation courses, the students’ sense of being forced to waste time on courses that yield no knowledge, the chaotic situation of infrastructure, the frustration of teachers and massive downsizing of workload and employment avenues for early career teachers – and also the DU Administration’s enforced silencing of all these questions.

The TOI reported recently (15th August) that at a meeting with teachers, the DU VC declared that there could be ‘no further discussion on FYUP’ and that ‘the damage has been done, and nothing can be done about it now.’ In interaction with students, the DU VC has recently snubbed a query from a perturbed student by asking her why she chose DU when she was free to take admission elsewhere!

In this situation, if teachers are feeling silenced, students were feeling even more so. Education, after all, is not a product which students can ‘return’ or ‘exchange’ or even buy a new one if unsatisfied! The FYUP is playing a cruel experiment with their future, even as they acutely feel its impact. And their voice and opinions on the education that will affect them worst of all goes unheard even though thousands of them participated in the class boycott and protest rally on 7th August.

It is in this backdrop that AISA decided to hold the Referendum. We did so, relying on common students to volunteer and make the Herculean effort possible, knowing full well that the NSUI-ABVP led DUSU is in the pocket of the DU VC and has supported the FYUP.

The result was overwhelming. 11,556 students from 20 colleges cast their votes, defying administrative and police intimidation. The total number of votes polled was 11,556, of whom 10,519 voted NO to FYUP, 936 voted YES, and 101 were invalid. Newspapers reported that even those 1st year students who voted ‘YES’, had not voted approving of FYUP, but rather for fear that if the FYUP were scrapped, theirs might be the only generation forced to be the ‘guinea pigs’ of the experiment gone wrong, while future generations would escape it.

Nearly 20 colleges polled in the process and this did not include most of the evening colleges. Many teachers were observers through the process of voting and counting. In spite of all the hurdles and administrative and police intimidation, there was an overwhelmingly high-level of participation in the first hour of the Referendum itself. Many students eagerly stood in long queues to be able to finally be heard in a system that had chosen to let their and their teachers’ cries against the FYUP fall on deaf ears.

This transparent and most peaceful exercise of direct democracy was one that alarmed the DU administration and the Vice-Chancellor so much that it sent College Principals and Delhi Police at several places to snatch the ballot boxes, and remove the polling booths and shut them down. Even as the result was declared, the police continued to surround the students counting. Indeed, Satyawati College Principal confiscated one of the ballot boxes and even now, as the result is declared, the box is still in his office.

This reign of terror and intimidation where the Police and the Principals, at the instruction of the VC, collude silence the voice of the students from coming to the fore tells us about the edifice of lies on which the FYUP’s so-called ‘popularity’ is based.

At a time when the concerns of large sections of the university community were being silenced, students had no other method to speak up against FYUP through this Referendum. This Referendum was the students’ creative and democratic response to the stifling of their voices against FYUP. We have demanded that the VC accept the results of this referendum and roll-back the FYUP, not scuttle students’ voices. Students will not accept being treated as guinea pigs for experimentation in a course with bad syllabus and no infrastructure!

AIALA Initiatives in Puducherry

On 19th August 2013 All India Agricultural Labours Association (AIALA) units in Puducherry and Karaikal districts of Puducherry Union Territory went on a big demonstration infront of District Magistrate Offices of Puducherry and Karaikal respectively.

At Puducherry the demonstrators took out a procession and culminated with a demonstration demanding complete food security to all families/individuals who live below poverty line and inclusion of all rural workers as well as all construction workers including unorganised workers below poverty line list. They also demanded Rs. 3,000/- as monthly pension to all unorganised workers. The demonstrators also insisted right to livelihood and political rights to the unorganised workers and rural poor. In Puducherry the demonstration was led by R. V. Lenin, District Organiser, AIALA, S. Balasubramanian, National Secretary AICCTU, G. Palani District Secretary CPI (ML), AICCTU Puducherry State Secretary S. Motilal, P. Murugan, Co-Organiser AIALA and M. A. Akbar (AICWF) addressed the protestors, Com. J. Sakthivelu, Organiser Movement for protection of roofless flagged off the procession. A detailed memorandum was submitted to the Chief Minister of Puducherry through the District Magistrate.

At Karaikal the demonstration was led by Com. Ramesh District Secretary Movement for protection of roofless P. Sankaran, Vice President AICCTU, A. S. Singaravelu Local Committee Secretary CPI (ML) and others spoke among the demonstrators.

Initiatives Against Dalit Atrocity at Baddi

A successful bandh in the Shahabad belt of Bihar was observed on 19th August against the Independence Day atrocity at Baddi, Bihar, with rail and road blockades being witnessed at Ara, Khutha, Fatepur (Tarari), Piro, Agiaon, Sahar, Shahpur, Jagdishpur, Gadhani, Charpokhri, Sasaram, Vikramganj, Dinara, Tilauthu, Dumraon, Sonbarsa, Brahmpur (Buxar), Kaimur and other places.

Around 3000 people protested and submitted demand petitions to the SDO in Masaudi sub-division of Patna. Similar demands were also made at Sampatchak, Phulwari, Paliganj, Naubatpur, Futha and Danapur in Patna. CPI(ML) and Khemas activists protested in Jahanabad and 1000 people blocked the Patna-Gaya road. Protests were also held in Arwal, Nalanda, Nawada, Darbhanga, madhubani, Samastipur, Arariya, Supaul, Khagadiya, Saharsa, Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur, Gopalganj and other places.

On Rail Tragedy in Bihar

CPI(ML) expressed deep grief at the death of 40 persons in the Rajdhani Express rail tragedy on the Saharsa-Patna sector and extended heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families and demanded proper medical care for the injured. The Party also demanded a high level enquiry into the tragedy.

Attack on CPI(ML) Leader by UP Mining Mafia

Senior leader and member of the CPI(ML) State Standing Committee of UP Ramesh Senger was grievously injured when mining mafia attacked him at the Bakshi ka Talab Teshil, barely 30 km from the state capital Lucknow on 24th August while he was returning with few other comrades from a mass contact campaign in a neigbouring village. He suffered multiple fractures in his leg and hands. Others injured in the attack include AICCTU leaders Surendra Prasad, Keshav Mishra and Santosh Kushwaha.

Of late the party had started its political work in this region adjacent to the state capital. On 10th August, a mass meeting was held to raise the burning issues of the rural poor of the region including illegal land grab of GS land, atrocities on Dalits and the rampant illegal mud mining going on with the connivance of the local police in the region. News about the ongoing illegal mining in the area was prominently covered by the press two days later. This angered the local Mafia Sarabjit Yadav who threatened ML leaders with dire consequences. On 14th August, he along with his dozen henchmen attacked the house of a local ML cadre Ramsewak Rawat who hails from a Dalit origin.The report of this attacked was lodged in the Madiyoan police station. SC-ST Act along with other serious charges were registered in the case but the police did not dare to arrest the mafia. Emboldened by police patronage, Sarabjit again attacked Com. Ramsewak’s house on 15th August, ironically, the Independence day. To protest against the repeated attacks and police inaction, a two day sit-in was organized in front of the DMs office on 16-17 August. A memorandum was presented to the DM demanding action against the belligerent Mafia. Here too, there was no action taken by the district administration.

Although a named FIR has been registered against the Mafia and his men, only two arrests have been made so far while the Mafia continues to roam around freely. Such is the state of the rule of law in ‘Akhilesh Sarkar’. After the Durga Shakti episode about the rampant illegal mining activities going on unabated in UP made headlines, the Mr.Akhilesh Yadav went on record saying that his government would leaving no stone unturned in ensuring that such illegal activities are stopped. His government claimed that there is no illegal mining activity going on in UP and the allegations against the state government were baseless.

In the meanwhile, to press for the arrest of the Mafia, a two day fast was observed in front of the state secretariat (Vidhan sabha) on 26 th August. Com. Surendra, Sudhanshu, Ramsewak, Ramkali , Naumilal and Sarabjit sat on the fast. A state wide protest was organized by CPI(ML) to press for the arrest of the mafia and against the continuing police protection to the attackers. Protest marches and sit-ins were organized at Ghazipur, Chandauli, Mirzapur, Sitapur, Allahabad, Bijnor, Saharanpur and Moradabad. A memorandum addressed to the Governor of UP has also been sent from different centers of protest. It has been demanded that (1) The Mafia be immediately arrested (2) The Station Officer of Madiyoan police station be suspended for protecting the Mafia and (3) protection be provided to Com.Ramsewak Rawat who is facing threats from the mafia.

AIKM Demonstration at Dharchula, Uttarakhand

Villagers of 3 villages of the Gothi town of Dharchula, survivors of the devastating natural calamity in Uttarakhand, held a protest demonstration at Dharchula under the banner of the All India Kisan Mahasabha.

On August 1st, villagers had held a mass hunger strike to demand rations and a new transformer to end the erratic electricity supply. The district administration turned a deaf ear for 25 days.

So on 26th August they gheraoed the Tehsil and raised slogans against the district administration and the State Government. They gave an ultimatum to the SDM Pramod Kumar, who was absent from his office, to present himself within an hour, declaring they would otherwise put a lock on the tehsil premises. When the SDM failed to assure the villagers of action within the stipulated time, the demonstrators announced that they would blockade the National Highway at Gothi on September 5th.

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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