ML Update | 39 | 2014

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 17 | No. 39 | 23 – 29 SEP 2014

By-Poll Reality Check
For Modi Euphoria

Three rounds of by-elections have been held since the stunning May 2014 verdict, and the outcome of each round has been full of political surprise. In July, the Congress swept the Uttarakhand by-polls, winning all the three seats on offer including two seats held previously by the BJP. In August, the BJP tasted defeat in six of Bihar’s ten seats that faced by-polls and lost some significant seats in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. And now in September, the BJP has lost big time in UP and Rajasthan, holding on to only three out of eleven seats in UP and one out of four seats in Rajasthan. And, horror of horror, the party has also had to concede three of the nine seats that went for by-polls in Gujarat. The only consolation for the BJP has come from West Bengal where it managed to reopen its account in the state Assembly after a lapse of fifteen years.

BJP propagandists are trying their best to devalue and depoliticise the by-poll results. We are told that Assembly by-polls are no referendum on the performance of the central government, that by-polls always tend to favour parties ruling in concerned states, that by-polls are decided by local factors, that the real test will be the next round of Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana followed by Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir, and so on and so forth. There is also the general cautionary remark that it is too early to judge a new government and hence not much should be read into the by-poll reverses suffered by the BJP.

Admittedly, there are some contextual differences in by-polls and general elections to a state Assembly or to Parliament. But the fact is when by-elections take place on such a significant scale as in Bihar, UP and Gujarat, it is only fair to try and read the by-poll pointers politically, and when the results are reversed and the BJP vote share is found to have dropped by an average of ten percentage points not only in Bihar and UP but also in Rajasthan and Gujarat within weeks of the May 2014 verdict, only an ostrich will refuse to see the fact that the wave has certainly begun to recede. If by-polls as a rule go in favour of the incumbent state government, the BJP must answer why it lost as many as three out of four seats in Rajasthan where its government has not yet completed its first year in office.

Particularly significant are the UP by-poll results. The BJP and its ally Apna Dal held all the eleven seats in the state Assembly and their votes had only risen dramatically in the 2014 LS election when the BJP swept the state to win nine out of every ten seats in the state. But now the BJP has managed to retain only three seats – the predominantly urban seats of Noida and Delhi and the highly polarised seat of Saharanpur. The BSP customarily not contesting the by-polls has certainly helped the SP to an extent, but that certainly does not explain why the BJP’s vote share dropped so drastically. And most importantly, the defeats have come in the face of the BJP’s virulently communal high-pitch election campaign planned by Amit Shah and spearheaded by the likes of Yogi Adityanath.

We can therefore reasonably infer that while the mesmerising appeal of the much talked about Modi magic has begun to fade, the unfolding communal agenda of the Sangh brigade is also alienating the common people. Viewed in conjunction with the student unions results in Delhi where AISA successfully warded off the ABVP challenge in JNU and emerged as a powerful contender to the ABVP in Delhi University, the by-poll results will surely encourage the whole range of forces and movements that are fighting to save India from the corporate-communal offensive of the Modi regime.

Communal and Anti-Dalit Atrocity by the RSS-BJP in Jharkhand

On 8 September around 11 am Munna Das was travelling by motorcycle through Gumhariyatand, Tisri in the Jamua district of Jharkhand. A mob of people on motorcycles came from behind, surrounded him, kicked his motorcycle, and, pointing towards the sacks loaded on the motor cycle, asked, “What is in these?” The motor cycle and sacks fell on the ground, and Munna Das himself fell from the force of the blow.

Munna Das replied that the sacks contained hides of buffaloes, bulls, and goats. Some in the mob shouted Gau Mata ki Jai (Long live Cow-Mother) and started hitting him with fisticuffs and kicks. They hit him so badly that his nose began to bleed. Munna Das tried to tell them that he was a Dalit who traded in the skins of dead cattle, and this was his hereditary trade. One of his assailants said, strip him naked and see if he is telling the truth (i.e to check if he is circumcised and therefore a Muslim). Munna Das was forced to strip naked to ‘prove’ he was not a Muslim. A little further ahead, they beat him again, and again stripped him, and threatened him with dire consequences if he went to the police to report the attack.

This incident is a classic case of an atrocity against a Dalit man – stripping naked as an act of humiliation is among the most common atrocities inflicted on Dalits. But in this case there is also a communal twist. The idea that the RSS-BJP cadres can brazenly claim the ‘right’ to strip a man to ‘check’ if he is Muslim, without facing any action from the police, is a comment on the state of India’s democracy.

When CPI(ML) came to know of this incident, Party leaders went to the Tisri thana to register an FIR, but the thanedar refused to register an FIR. On the contrary, he started threatening Munna Das, and showed him a representation from the RSS organization, Bajrang Dal demanding his arrest. The constable clearly sided with the RSS, accusing Munna of indulging in illegal work.

If the goons from the BJP were really concerned about cows and bulls, they could have agitated for an additional allowance for farmers for cattle rearing. Goondaism in the name of gau-raksha (cattle protection) is merely a ploy to tyrannise and attack dalits. Even today in most places, traditional methods are used to get rid of dead cattle, or they are left to rot. Munna Das and thousands like him have to do this work in the most inhuman conditions, and it is the governments that are supported by these same feudal and communal goons, which are responsible for this. The people baying for ‘gau raksha’ have no aim except to spread communal tensions. They, and their Parties, have no concern for the welfare of dalits, farmers, or cattle.

This is not an isolated incident in the district or the State. Earlier, in Gawan block of Jamua, people from the BJP have beaten up people in the name of ‘gau raksha’. In Ramgarh and Nirsa they are stopping vehicles transporting cattle and trying to create trouble and spread communal tension. The people they are attacking come from extremely poor backgrounds, and in every community it is the dalits who are engaged in this occupation. Along with inflaming communal passions, the BJP is using this matter for social polarisation against the poor. Farmers who want to sell cattle which are not of use are specially harassed by this ploy of the BJP. Just before the Lok Sabha elections the BJP candidate Ravindra Rai along with the entire Sangh Parivar tried to gain political mileage by creating communal tensions in Birni block on the issue of the Ramnavami flag route.

The second pillar supporting communal-social polarisation is anti-adivasi polarisation. In entire Jharkhand the BJP is making capital out of strong anti-adivasi polarisation so that it wins all the seats reserved for adivasis. With great cunning they attack the social unity of the adivasis by giving issues a ‘Christian adivasi versus Sarna adivasi’ colouring. Before the Lok Sabha elections during Christmas, they succeeded in fanning up communal hatred in Ranchi over the the issue of a statue of Mary dressed in ‘Sarna adivasi’ attire. Similarly on the occasion of Eid in July the Sangh Parivar sowed discord between communities by giving a communal colour to a land dispute. They tried to distract attention from the growing dissatisfaction of women and youth against the Modi government by the vicious propaganda of ‘love jehad’ over the case of cheating and domestic violence faced by sportswoman Tara Shahdeo.

All the ruling class Parties surrender to the BJP on these casteist-communal issues. The JVM, JMM, and the Congress are maintaining a deafening silence on the brutal attack by RSS-BJP forces on Munna Das. The entire government machinery is refusing to ensure dignity and justice for Munna Das and for the minority community, by refusing to act against the perpetrators. CPI(ML) exposed the communal ploys of the BJP and organized a dharna in Giridih as well as protests in several blocks of the district. This initiative taken by the CPI(ML) has put the BJP on the defensive in the district.

Protest Demonstration By AICCTU in Coal Belt

Organized and unorganized coal workers and construction workers held a protest demonstration Koylanchal (coal belt) of Dhanbad district on 9 Sep 2014 against the pro-corporate and anti-working class policies of the Modi government. The demonstration took off from Randhir Verma Chowk in Dhanbad and ended in a public meeting in front of the district Labour Commissioner’s office. The meeting was addressed by AICCTU general secretary Shubhendu Sen, Upendra Singh, Krishna Singh, Nagendra Kumar, Manoranjan Mullick, Jagdish Sharma, Om Prakash Singh, Kartik Ghadi, Suval Das, Madheshwar Prasad, Saron Devi, Nakul Singh, Arvind Rai, and Radhamohan Singh. A memorandum was submitted to the President of India through the Labour Commissioner demanding repeal of amendments in labour laws, scrapping of FDI in railway, defence, and insurance sectors, and including construction workers’ unions in the State Welfare Board in Ranchi. A charter of demands was also submitted to the district Labour Commissioner demanding registration, identity cards, and other facilities for unorganized workers, implementing the minimum wages for unorganized coal workers as determined by the high power CIL committee, implementing second level Jharkhand State minimum wages for unorganized labour, as well as demands relating to education and health.

A victory march for AISA’s victory in JNUSU elections was held in Ramgarh by RYA-AISA on 16 Sep 2014. The rally started at the CPI-ML office, marched through the city, and culminated in a meeting at Subhash Chowk. The meeting was addressed by RYA State secretary Amal Ghosh. Slogans were raised and speeches made which highlighted AISA’s victory as the victory of students and youth over privatization and saffronization of education on the one hand, and people’s victory over the Modi government’s pro-corporate economic policies and shameless inflammation of communal passions.

Construction workers protest in Puducherry

Jananayaga Kattumana Thozhilalargal Sangam (Construction Workers’ Federation) held a massive demonstration on 17th September 2014 in front of the Labour Commissioner’s Office at Puducherry demanding a monthly pension of Rs 3000 to all construction workers who reached 50 years of age.

On 11th September 2014 the Chief Minister while presenting the half yearly budget announced Rs.1000 as monthly pension to workers enrolled in welfare board who reached 60 years of age. That announcement provoked strong resentment among the construction workers. Construction workers union affiliated to (AICWF) swiftly went on a big protest. They demanded Rs.3000 instead of Rs.1000. The demonstration was led by P Murugan, WC member of AICWF, S Balasubramanian, All India President, Motilal, AICCTU State secretary, CPIML District Secretary Palani, and AICWF Vice Presidents Akbar, Singaraveu and AICCTU Villupuram Secretary Ganesan addressed the general public. The other important demands were

1.Rs 10 lakh compensation to wards of construction workers who met with fatal accidents

2. Rs 30000/-as maternity benefit to women workers

Rs.50000/-as vehicle purchase grant

4. Rs. 5 lakh as housing subsidy

Joint Dharna in Assam against Atrocities on Women

On 14th August 2014 several women’s groups of Assam, including the Assam Mahila Parishad , All Assam Pragatisil Nari Santha, Nirjaton Birodhi Akya Manch, Assam Mahila Sangha & Nikhil Bharat Ganatantrik Mahila Samiti and some distinguished journalists and writers, artists etc jointly staged a protest dharna against repression on women, in Lakhidhar Borah Khetra, Guwahati. This programme was held immediately after submission of facts of increased rape, violence, dowry death, witch-hunting, trafficking and kidnapping of women. Protesters held a brief meeting in the dharna place also. All leaders and activists opined that the Tarun Gogoi Government of Assam has miserably failed to provide security to the women as well as the people of the state and to maintain law and order in the state.

These women’s organizations decided to meet the Governor of Assam and submit a memorandum on these issues. Subsequently the signatories of the memorandum submitted the same to the Governor of Assam in person on 9th Sept, 2014.

Four women organizations viz. AIPWA, AIDWA, YWCA and NFIW (Assam) on 28th August staged a dharna at Dighalipukhuri in protest against the barbaric killing of a school girl Priya Basumatary, by the NDFB(S) in Chirang district of BTAD. Protesting women organizations demanded immediate arrest and exemplary punishment to the killers and security of the people. They sent a memorandum to the Governor of Assam through the DC, Kamrup(M).

On 30th August, AIPWA Dibrugarh district committee along with Sonowal Kachari Nari Santha and Nari Mukti Sangram Samiti jointly organized a convention in Lakshmi Nath Bezbaruah Bhawan, Dibrugarh town on women issues. Different student and youth organizations including AJYCP, Bangali Yuva Parishad, AATSA, Mushlim Student organization, KMSS, Chatra Mukti Sangram Samiti, Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti, Press Club took part in the convention. The Convention vehemently condemned repression on women in Chabua, Banipur and the murder of Priya Basumatary and warned the Govt. to take stringent measure to stop violence.

Massive Rally in Kolkata Against Brutal Attack on Jadavpur Students Protesting Molestation

On 28th August, a woman student of JU was harassed and molested by a group of hostel boarders. On the concluding night of the college fest, she and her boyfriend were subjected to what was a shameful case of moral policing, followed by a scuffle, her phone being snatched, her friend taken away and beaten. She was dragged to a room in the men’s hostel where she alleged that the drunk students touched her inappropriately, pushed her around and twisted her fingers. On complaining to the VC on 29th, she was told to come back later. She filed an FIR with the Jadavpur PS under sections 354 (criminal assault on a woman to outrage her modesty) and 379 (theft) of the IPC. She identified some of the accused, but no arrests have been made so far! She also filed a complaint with the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of JU, under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act. For days the VC kept dilly-dallying. He said he would require at least 15 days to set up an investigation committee and advised her not to come to college for as long!

On September 3, her fellow students held a general body meeting, and drew up a charter of demands for an immediate, impartial investigation committee in accordance with the Vishakha guidelines. More inaction followed and the students marched to the VC’s office and the police station two days later. Meanwhile two members of the ICC turned up at the victim’s house and in a classic case of victim-blaming, interrogated her on her dress and state of sobriety when she was attacked! Infuriated students marched to the VC’s office again. On September 8, a 11-member delegation from AIPWA along with protesting students met with the pro-VC and the OC of Jadavpur PS with a memorandum listing demands, but neither were able to give answers or assurances.

From September 10, the students sat on an indefinite sit-in protest in front of the VC’s office with their demand of fair and thorough investigation into the incidents of 28th. Several comrades from AISA and other students’ organizations joined with general students to form one united voice under a common banner. The peaceful sit-in continued uninterruptedly for 150-odd hours, replete with slogans, music concerts, posters, film-screenings and constant attempts at dialogue. The nonchalant VC entered and left the university every day but did not address the sit-in or yield to the students’ demands. ‘It is beneath my dignity to talk to agitating students’, he said.

On the night of 16th, state terror descended on the students’ protest. After the Executive Council meeting ended, the students demanded that the VC give a public statement on the university’s handling of the case. They put up a peaceful body barricade saying the VC would have to step on their bodies if he were to leave without an answer. A massive police contingent was called in, accompanied by police personnel in civil dress, the Rapid Action Force, bouncers and miscreants associated with the ruling Trinamool Congress. At around 2:30 am in the night, phone calls and SMSes started coming in about a brutal attack on the students. The police and bouncers lashed out at the protesters to create a safe passage out for the VC. They beat up the students severely. Forty students had to be taken to the hospital. One student, Shibam of the engineering faculty, had to be hooked up to a ventilator. Some, like comrade Prosenjit of AISA sustained critical injuries with days of hospitalization. Tens, (including AISA activists Maitreyo, Ipsita, Abhishek) had broken/damaged knees, arms, fingers, legs, ribs. Several (including comrade Saikat) got bruises on the back, shoulder and body.

Lights in the building were turned off from inside (to prevent the press from recording) as fifteen women students (including AISA activists Arumita, Ipsita, Sudhanya) were manhandled, groped, molested, dragged, kicked on their stomach, stomped by boots, punched, walked over by male police even as the female police personnel stood watching. Phones, laptops, glasses were broken and stolen. Rape threats and abuses were hurled at women in the dark. 36 students (including AISA state secretary Ranajoy, Abhishek and one female student – AISA activist Sudhanya) were arrested. Sudhanya was dragged by her hair while her dress was lifted and she was thrown into the police van by four male police/bouncers in civil dress while being abused and threatened. No woman constable was present during her arrest. A media cameraperson was beaten up for recording the atrocities and his camera broken.

The shocking police brutality blasted all floodgates of patience. As the horrific visuals flashed on television all through the morning of 17th, rage grew on the streets and there was condemnation from all quarters. Except two. The VC’s office and the education ministry! The VC and the Commissioner of Police added fuel to fire with their remorseless lies of ‘peaceful police and violent armed students’. Their lies were rejected by the public and within a few hours, a huge turnout of 5,000 at a protest rally called by students took over the stretch from Jadavpur to Golpark for several hours. The front banner read ‘We demand the VC’s resignation’ till which an indefinite academic boycott was called. In addition to the original demand for gender justice, demand for punishment of the police and goons responsible for the atrocities on students including a fresh round of gender violence on women protesters was made. The upsurge had begun.

The next day saw another spontaneous protest rally from Jadavpur to Anwar Shah Road crossing and back. This time numbers doubled to 10,000. Students poured in solidarity from colleges and schools across the city to form one river of youth flooding the streets. Student protest rallies in solidarity sparked off locally in all corners of Bengal. Girl students in a district high school decided to boycott classes in solidarity, defying TMC terror threats.

Finally on 20th September, the numbers swelled a further five-fold in what was the grandest united show of strength by the youth. Students marched in pouring rain from Nandan to Rajbhavan as an estimated fifty colleges across Kolkata and neighbouring districts took part. A memorandum of demands was submitted to the Governor, who is also the Chancellor of the University. The main demand has been that of removal of the Vice Chancellor and action against perpetrators of molestation.

The rally was replete with slogans reflecting basic demands of the movement, but there was a unifying chant, rather a call to action, that instantly bonded with and caught the fancy of the first timers that hit the street – Hok, Hok, Hok Kolorob (‘let there be clamour’).

the beloved Left cries of ‘Inquilaab Zindabaad’ (Long Live Revolution), and ‘Paaye paaye comrade, gorey tolo barricade’ (March together comrade, to overturn the barricade) were among the handful of favourite slogans, along with the spirited ‘Lathir mukhe ganer sur/dekhiye dilo Jadavpur’ (Sing in the face of baton blows/this is what Jadavpur shows). The rally was anti-authoritarian, anti-state terror and for gender justice and campus democracy, and it stood united by consciously putting aside organizational banners. This effectively attracted students in such huge numbers. The collective conscious of student identity as an undivided whole stood out.

An emphatic assertion of student solidarity cutting across organizations came as a direct response to the administration’s attempts at dividing up the students into separate campuses. The tag of ‘bohiraagoto’ (outsider) carries a sense of deja vu and brings back memories of 2006-07 in West Bengal politics when the same phrase was used to discredit peasant movements against corporate land grab. This time, when the Jadavpur University (JU) students were subjected to police brutality under instructions from the Vice-Chancellor – an appointee of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) – many students from other colleges instantly responded to SOS calls and flocked to the JU campus at midnight to stand with their friends. Many of them braved batons and boots together with JU students. The VC and the police tried to tag them as ‘outsiders creating trouble’ and used it as a lame afterthought-justification of police violence.

Protests have been held in solidarity with the Kolkata students all over the world. In Delhi, the JNUSU participated in the protest held at the Bang Bhawan.

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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