ML Update 48-49 / 2013

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 16 No. 48-49 26 NOV-2 DEC 2013

Tehelka Rape Case:

Test for ‘Free Fair Fearless’ Justice

What the former editor-in-chief of the English magazine Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal, stands accused of is the misuse of his status to rape and sexually molest a young employee twice. Tejpal allegedly violated her bodily integrity in a lift which he manipulated so that it would remain moving. He did so in spite of her clear objections, expressed by word and gesture. And he told her that her cooperation with his assaults were ‘the best way to keep her job’. Moreover, the next day, he once again used his authority as her boss to make her enter a lift once more, in order to molest her once more. His acts of violence, and his subsequent text messages to her, reek of his arrogant sense of unbridled power and entitlement.

The journalist informed three of her colleagues immediately after the first assault, and from that moment till her eventual deposition before the police and magistrate, her statement remained unwavering and singular in describing the assault and seeking justice for it. In contrast, Tejpal’s own stance has run an entire gamut of dishonest postures aimed at escaping the consequences of his crimes.

His initial stance was one of both intimidation and denial: when he referred to his actions in text messages as ‘drunken banter’, and when he lashed out at his victim for having informed his daughter of the assaults. Once the woman filed a formal complaint, he resorted to a self-serving and dishonest ‘apology’, admitting to a ‘sexual liaison’ with her twice in spite of her ‘clear reluctance,’ however avoiding any admission of sexual assault and claiming it was a ‘misjudgement’. At this point, he announced that he was taking a 6-month paid sabbatical to ‘lacerate’ himself in ‘atonement’ for his actions. And once the Goa police took suo motu notice of the complaint and filed a criminal case, Tejpal now came out in full victim-blaming mode. He branded the complainant a liar, claimed there had been a single ‘incredibly fleeting consensual sexual encounter,’ and has been spreading insinuations that the woman’s complaint is politically motivated! At the same time, he has deployed a close family member to attempt to influence and pressurise the complainant’s mother – a clear case of criminal intimidation. Tejpal’s changing postures and his choosing to resort to the familiar and sordid ploys of victim-blaming are ample to indicate his guilt.

The conduct of the Tehelka management, represented by Shoma Choudhury has been one of blatant cover-up and complicity with Tejpal’s ploys of victim-blaming. On receiving the complaint, Shoma Choudhury did not accede to the complainant’s demand for a public acknowledgement of the sexual assault and the setting up of a legally mandated committee against workplace sexual harassment, neither did she inform the police of the complaint, as she was legally required to do. Instead, she accepted Tejpal’s dishonest and misleading apology, and his offer of a 6-month ‘penance,’ referring in her memo to the employees that this was necessitated by an ‘unfortunate incident’ rather than a sexual assault! Subsequently, when the issue was leaked to the media, she tried dishonestly to claim that the ‘complainant was satisfied,’ that the incident was an ‘internal matter’, and that the media should not act ‘more aggrieved than the victim’. Subsequently, she appeared on TV channels dropping hints that there was Tejpal’s ‘version’ to be considered, and that the incident ‘might have been consensual.’ This response was not only a travesty of the law and of the complainant’s own demand for justice, it was a blatantly hypocritical contrast with Tehelka’s progressive and pro-women posture. Currently, like most rape-accused, Tejpal with help from the Tehelka management is busy spreading rumours about the supposedly questionable ‘character’ of the complainant.

The whole episode is a reminder of the extremely unequal gender relations that mark every workplace, and the virtual absence of a safe space for women’s complaints of sexual violence to be raised, maintaining the privacy of the complainant and providing support in the pursuit of justice. The Supreme Court guidelines in the Vishakha judgement had mandated the setting up of complaints committees against sexual harassment at all workplaces, but these guidelines are violated widely. Even the Supreme Court itself has held itself to be immune to its own guidelines. Faced with a law intern who wrote about being sexually harassed by a Supreme Court judge, the Supreme Court itself set up a panel of judges to enquire into the matter, rather than the legally mandated Vishakha committee with at least one representative from outside the workplace. Committees against sexual harassment are necessary to ensure that not a single instance of sexual harassment goes unpunished. They are equally necessary as a deterrent to sexual harassment and violence against women, helping to ensure a workplace atmosphere that is democratic and free of sexism. The law against Sexual Harassment, recently enacted, is yet to come into force because its rules are yet to be notified.

In covering the Tehelka case involving a prominent figure among their own fraternity, the media has not covered itself with glory. Graphic details of the woman’s private complaint have been leaked and reproduced in print, and the rape was even re-enacted on news channels – all on the flimsy pretext of exposing the seriousness of the crime and ensuring justice for it. When the graphic details of rape are ‘re-created’ for the purpose of sensation, rape becomes recreation, and such coverage actually violates the woman all over again.

The political narrative around the Tehelka case also threatens to overshadow justice. Tejpal has attempted to suggest that the rape complaint against him, taken up by the police in BJP-ruled Goa is politically motivated. This is identical to Asaram’s claim that the rape complaint against him was politically motivated because the complaint was filed in Congress-ruled Delhi! BJP leaders have given public statements and press conferences on the Tejpal issue: one wonders why they have not done so in the cases of rape by Asaram and his son (who is still absconding); or in the case of the Muzaffarnagar rape cases, where named accused are yet to be arrested? In the case of the ‘Stalk-gate’ case in which the Gujarat Chief Minister is implicated in using the ATS to illegally snoop on a woman’s private life, the Gujarat Government, after long silence, has now announced an in-house enquiry! Why does the Gujarat Government not file a criminal case of violation of the Telegraph Act, and initiate an impartial judicial enquiry to bring out the truth? The conduct of the Congress and BJP when their own leaders have been accused of violence against women, leaves them with no moral standing to speak on the Tehelka case.

The spark of hope in the Tehelka case lies with the courage of the journalist who made the complaint, and several of her colleagues within Tehelka who have spoken out in support of her, at risk to their careers. This case should inspire all people to struggle for the implementation of sexual harassment complaints committees in all workplaces – media houses, schools and colleges, Courts, police and Army, hospitals, as well as local committees for unorganised sector workers.

CPI(ML) demands steps against communal tensions in Bihar

A deputation from CPI-ML including Bihar State secretary Kunal, Polit bureau member Dhirendra Jha, Central Committee member Com. KD Yadav, Inqalabi Muslim Conference State convenor Anwar Hussain and State committee member Kamlesh Sharma, called on the Bihar Home Secretary on 13 November 2013 to apprise him of the conspiracy to inflame communal passions in Bihar and demanded immediate and proper steps to end this dangerous atmosphere. The deputation demanded that 1.) Immediate steps should be taken to put an end to the BJP conspiracy to inflame communal passions and create a fear-charged atmosphere in Bihar, and directions to this effect should be sent forthwith to the District administrations, 2.) Undemocratic and arbitrary hounding and arrest of minorities without sufficient proof, in the name of conducting enquiries should be stopped immediately, and youths arrested without proof should be released immediately, 3.) Recommendations of the Human Rights Commission be implemented in the Aurangabad firing case, the false cases against Com. Rajaram Singh, Com. Satyadev Ram and Amarjeet Yadav be withdrawn, and the erring police officials be punished, and 4.) Concrete steps be taken to stop the rising graph of political murders in the State, and the killers of Com. Ramdev Yadav in Bhagalpur be immediately arrested.

Dharna by Coal Mines Workers’ Union

A one-day dharna-demonstration was organized in front of the Coal Chairman’s office at Darbhanga House, Ranchi on 23 October 2013 under the banner of the Coal Mines Workers’ Union (CMW) affiliated to AICCTU. Around 500 workers and displaced villagers participated in the protest, led by AICCTU General Secretary Com. Shubhendu Sen, CMW Working President Com. Baijnath Mistry, CMW Central Committee member Com. Jagannath Oraon and Baleshwar Gope. Earlier, a team of activists led by Jagannath Oraon held meetings with workers from collieries in Pindra, Ara, Sarubeda of Kuju and Argada areas to discuss their problems, and also interacted with the residents of workers’ colonies. The team also held meetings with villagers displaced due to the collieries and mobilized a campaign to demand for their rehabilitation and employment.

Through the demonstration, the leaders pointed out that huge scams were taking place in the coal industry and on the other hand, citing crisis in coal production, coal blocks are being allotted to big and powerful companies. Through outsourcing, there is a conspiracy to retrench the workers and new methods are continually being adopted to oppress the workers. They called upon the people to get mobilized under the banner of AICCTU and CMW and fight against these anti-worker policies and methods.

A 10 point memorandum was submitted to the Coal Chairman, with the following demands:

1. Speedy reopening of the closed collieries in the Kuju area.

2. Employment in lieu of land for the villagers-raiyyats.

3. Payment of wages fixed as per the agreement between the CIL and the workers’ representatives to workers engaged in outsourcing work in Pindra, Thopa and Hesagada.

4. Speedy rehabilitation of the displaced raiyyats.

5. Proper use of CSR funds.

6. Employment for women workers.

Obituary

Comrade Dilip Mondol

Veteran revolutionary leader Comrade Dilip Mondol (Probodh Bardhan) breathed his last at around 8 am today on 22 November 2013 at Sangamahal village (Shyampur-B colliary), Nirsa area of Dhanbad district. He was around 70. He was a member of the Jharkhand State Committee of the party.

After passing his junior engineer training Comrade Probodh Bardhan had joined Chittaranjan Locomotive Works in West Bengal as a supervisor. He spent his early childhood and got his primary education in Comillah, now in Bangladesh. Thereafter his father shifted to Behala, Kolkata, where he continued with his education. It was in Chittaranjan that he came into contact with Naxalbari movement. A very popular leader among co-workers, he led workers’ militant movements within the CLW before he became underground and left his service in 1972 and started working as a whole timer among coal workers in Kumardhubi area of Dhanbad.

To integrate with coalworkers he himself joined a coalmine as worker and soon assumed leadership of trade union activities. It was then he took the name of Dilip Mondol as a cover and started residing in Sangamahal village of Nirsa area. However, this cover was to become his real identity and the family he lived with became his real family for the rest of life.

He undertook fractional work within Bihar Colliery Kamgar Union led by AK Roy and soon became a very popular leader, in fact one of its top leaders. After 1973, when the Party got disintegrated, he lost contact but never went back and still continued to work among coalworkers on his own. In 1978 he renewed his contact with the Party and took an active role in building Party organization from scratch in Dhanbad district. Since then he has served in different responsibilities in Jharkhand and became a member of its State Committee and Standing Committee.

Comrade Dilip was a hardworking revolutionary full of initiative who considered no difficulty as insurmountable. He strictly followed the principle of plain living and high thinking and was a model of self-sacrifice. He integrated himself fully with the masses he was working among and adopted their language and style of living so closely that he became one among them.

A revolutionary of the first Naxalbari generation, Comrade Dilip was always prepared to go anywhere to assume any responsibility entrusted by the Party, even if it was to build an organization from a scratch. He was sent to Santhal Pargana region and there he started developing the Party organization. He was instrumental in the Party’s expansion in the Dumka and Jamtara districts and the Santhal Pargana region as a whole. He gave energetic and inspiring leadership in struggles of sharecroppers and resistance to corporate landgrab.

It was there that he, along with a promising young leader Babudhan Kisku, contracted the fatal disease of cerebral malaria before the 8th Congress of CPI(ML). While Comrade Babudhan could not survive, Comrade Dilip could not recover fully from the attack and his health deteriorated day by day. Later he developed Parkinson’s Disease that made him nearly immobile and he had to stay at his home in Sangamahal. He attended the Charu Bhawan inauguration ceremony held in Delhi and recently the 9th Congress of our Party braving his illness. But at last he suffered a stroke and died of heart failure.

Comrade Dilip’s untimely demise is a great loss of the Party and with his departure the Party lost one more valuable and longstanding asset of the first Naxalbari generation.

The sad news of Comrade Dilip’s demise has sent a wave of grief among comrades throughout the Party. His example will continue to inspire comrades to accept every challenge and build the communist movement in the most tough of conditions.

Comrade Mahesh

Born in a poor peasant family, Bechu Ram (popularly known in the party and among the people as Comrade Mahesh) was extremely hard-working and committed activist strongly grounded in working class consciousness.

During the Emergency, Comrade Mahesh came into contact with revolutionary comrades, and he became a party member in 1978-79. He played an important role in organising agricultural labourers and peasants and leading many struggles in Lakhimpur Kheri and Pilibhit districts of Uttar Pradesh. He also worked in Deoria district for a time, and had been a member of the UP State Committee, and former secretary of the Pilibhit District Committee.

Jailed for long periods in the course of struggles, he organised prisoners in jail as well, raising their issues and pressurising the jail administration to comply with their just demands. A cheerful and enthusiastic comrade, Comrade Mahesh’s good cheer never dimmed even during the long periods of incarceration in jail. He remained fearless in extremely unfavourable situations. Ever ready to work anywhere that the party required him to, he had been ready to begin working in Sultanpur district recently, but his poor health did not permit him to do so.

He suffered his first heart attack on 2004. Comrades took pains to ensure timely treatment and he recovered. But the disease retained hold of him nevertheless. In spite of his illness, he remained active and committed. Recently, doctors installed a pacemaker in his heart and he triumphed for a while over the disease.

On November 3, he fell extremely ill and was rushed to AIIMS in Delhi and admitted there. In spite of the doctors’ best efforts, he passed away on November 18th at 11.50 pm. His loss is a huge blow to the entire party.

A memorial meeting for him was held on November 20th at which party PB member Ramji Rai, State Secretary Sudhakar Yadav, Central Committee member Krishna Adhikari, senior leader Allauddin Shastri, advocate Kishanlal, Comrades Raja Bahuguna (CCM), Bahadur Singh Jangi KK Bora from Uttarakhand, Lakhimpur Kheri district committee members Jawahar, Ramdular Bharti and other comrades paid him tribute. His mortal remains were cremated at Rahul Nagar (Pilibhit). Comrade Mahesh’s commitment, his courage, and unshakeable faith in the party and the people are an example for us all. Long live Comrade Mahesh!

Omprakash Valmiki

Noted Hindi litterateur, revolutionary thinker and author of world-famous autobiography Joothan, Omprakash Valmiki is no more. His untimely demise is an irreparable loss to Indian literature committed to democratic values and social change. Born on 30 June 1950 in Barla of Muzaffarnagar district in U.P., he had been fighting cancer for the past few years and was to have undergone a kidney surgery, but the operation could not be done as his immune system had become too weak. After treatment in Delhi, he was brought to Max hospital in Dehradun where he passed away on 17 November. Apart from Joothan, his other notable works are Salaam, Ghuspaithiye, Ab Aur Nahin, Safayi Devta, Dalit Sahitya ka Saundaryashastra, Dalit Sahitya: Anubhav, Sangharsh Evam Yatharth, Sadiyon ka Santaap, and Bas Bahut Ho Chuka.

Literary, cultural, and socio-political movements against oppression and inequality have lost a true comrade in Shri Valmiki. Hindi literature as well as the literature of other Indian languages cannot be called truly progressive and people-oriented without the realistic and heartrending portrayal of dalit life which came into Hindi literature through his writings. His literary and critical works hold permanent significance not only for Hindi literature but for all Indian literature. Always struggling against Brahminism, feudalism, capitalism and gender bias, he made an important contribution towards making Indian literature democratic and pro-people.

Valmikiji threw light on the necessity, strengths and contradictions of dalit literature. Fighting discrimination and oppression against human beings on the basis of caste, feudalism and capitalism, he was ever concerned with unifying the weak, dalit and marginalized sections of society. His autobiography Joothan has a poignant scene where the boy Omprakash enters, dusty and blood-spattered, with a bundle of animal skins on his head, when his mother weeps and his sister-in-law cries out in anguish, “Don’t make him do this! We will remain hungry…but don’t drag him into this filth!” At the end of the autobiography he writes, “I have come out of that filth, but there are myriads still forced to live that despicable life.” All his works are concerned with freedom for those forced to live in inhuman socio-economic conditions and the ‘dalit aesthetics’ he demanded is also concerned with ensuring human dignity for the marginalized. We reiterate our commitment towards his dreams and struggles for the empowerment of the dalits and the marginalized sections, and pays tribute to him with his own words:

We of this generation have engraved struggle on

Our breast,

No flood of tears shall course down

Our cheeks,

But the spark of revolt shall light up

Our eyes,

Rising smoke from burning hutments shall give strength to

Our clenched fists

To shape our own history anew.

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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