ML Update No. 23 | 2015

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 18 | No. 23 | 2 – 8 JUN 2015

Why Does the Modi Government Feel Threatened by Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle?

In the latest instance of saffron crackdown on dissent and freedom of expression, the IIT Madras de-recognised the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, after the Modi Government’s MHRD forwarded an anonymous complaint about the group to the IITM Director and sought comments.

The MHRD letter had alleged “Distribution of controversial posters and pamphlets in the campus of IIT-Madras and creating hatred atmosphere among the students by one of the student group named Ambedkar Periyar.” The anonymous letter to the HRD Minister Smriti Irani had said accused the group of “trying to de-align ST, SC students and trying to make them protest against the MHRD and the Central Government” and “trying to create hatred against the Honourable Prime Minister and Hindus.” The anonymous complaint referred to a talk organised by the Ambedkar Periyar group. This talk was one in which a professor, speaking on the “Contemporary Relevance of Ambedkar,” had criticised the Modi Government for the Bill facilitating land grab, and for encouraging programmes like ‘ghar wapsi’ and ban on beef. The anonymous complaint also attached a copy of a leaflet by the ‘Revolutionary Student Youth Front’ which referred to RTI findings that revealed that IIT Madras was violating the reservation policy both in faculty recruitments and in student admissions.

The IIT Madras management, acting on the letter from the MHRD, de-recognised the APSC, and advised the APSC that the name ‘Ambedkar Periyar’ itself was controversial and provocative and should be changed.

The MHRD (and the anonymous complaint it chose to take notice of) clearly equates criticism of the Government and defence of the policy of reservations as ‘hate-speech’. Why should students or SC/ST people be expected to be ‘aligned to’ (i.e loyal to) the Central Government? Why should criticism of ‘gharwapsi’ and beef ban be equated with ‘hate speech against Hindus’? Why should dissent against the Prime Minister and Government policies lead to de-recognition?

The anonymous letter also referred to posters and pamphlets by the APSC against the MHRD Circular “for separate dining for vegetarians and use of Hindi in IITs.” The reference to the MHRD circular on separate dining is significant, since it reminds us of the pattern followed by the Sangh Parivar, Modi Government and managements of higher education institutions to crush and punish dissent. The modus operandi is that Sangh elements write ‘anonymous complaints’ to the MHRD, which in turn forwards the anonymous complaint to the managements of educational institutions, seeking ‘comments’. The same modus operandi, used to crackdown on the APSC, was also used to push for separate canteens for vegetarians and non-vegetarians. In that instance also, the MHRD circular had forwarded five letters by a group demanding separate dining arrangements, and had sought ‘opinions’ from the IITs.

In both the above instances, what is on display is not just the Modi Government’s intolerance for diversity and dissent. There is also a distinct agenda of imposing upper caste hegemony. Ambedkar and Periyar are both towering figures of modern India, known for their scathing critique of caste-ridden and patriarchal Hindu society. In addition to these two figures, the APSC letterhead also uses the symbol of Bhagat Singh – a freedom fighter and martyr with Marxist ideology and politics. The Modi Government’s discomfort with and hostility for the values that Ambedkar, Periyar, and Bhagat Singh stood for could not be more obvious. The attempt to ban a group named after the author of India’s Constitution Ambedkar, exposes the contempt the BJP and Sangh Parivar have for the Indian Constitution and the rights and liberties of oppressed groups and minorities. The attempt to impose vegetarianism or bans on beef is another instance of imposing the culture and diet of the upper caste communities on the Dalits and other communities that have no objection to non-vegetarian food or beef.

The imposition of upper caste Hindu culture (in the shape of beef ban and other dietary rules for instance) on the rest of the people is not just an act of violence on the identity and culture of the latter. It has real consequences for the health of India’s poor children, when the Chief Minister of BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh withholds eggs from the anganwadi meals. Eggs are the best source of protein and contain all essential nutrients except Vitamin C. For children who prefer not to eat eggs, bananas are served in anganwadis. Being vegetarian can be a personal choice – how can it be imposed on others?

Unfortunately, the agenda of the Sangh Parivar and BJP is also aided by the fact that non-BJP Governments too have used draconian measures to clamp down on dissenting students and citizens, and have pandered to upper caste hegemony. Many North Indian state governments, for instance, have, under pressure from powerful upper caste lobbies, refused to provide eggs in mid-day meals in anganwadis and schools. Most Governments disallow, discourage, and punish progressive student activism (while themselves sponsoring violence by ruling party student outfits on campuses).

It is encouraging that progressive forces from across the country have risen up to demand that roll-back of the de-recognition of the APSC. It is also significant that apart from the BJP, the AIADMK that rules Tamil Nadu has also chosen to remain silent on the de-recognition of APSC, and has instead allowed the TN police to detain those protesting the crackdown. Once again, the AIADMK and Ms Jayalalitha have displayed their tacit affinity with the Sangh Parivar and BJP and anti-Dalit forces.

CPI (ML) All India National Workshop held in Lucknow

The CPI(ML) held a two-day All India National Workshop for activists at the Gandhi Auditorium in Kaisarbagh, Lucknow on 30-31May 2015.

700 grassroots organizers from 23 States and Union Territories, working in nearly 200 districts and in various sectors, including railways, health, universities, and various mass organizations, participated in the workshop.

Detailed discussions were held on the need and ways to increase membership and expand and strengthen the network of party organization, so as to intensify the ongoing campaigns against the pro-corporate and communal agenda of the Modi Government as well as the anti-people policies of various State Governments.

Addressing the workshop in its concluding session, the party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar said in just one year, the real life experiences of people have exposed the Modi propaganda hype. People’s anger against the government is growing and the time is ripe for large scale mass movements. In these circumstances each activist of the Party must play a conscious role in the planned and systematic growth of the Party. He emphasized the need for a series of movements and protests, booth level strengthening of the organization, and increasing the number of women, workers, youth, and farmers in the Party. The Party took up a target of expanding its membership up to 2 lakhs before its next Party Congress.

AIPF Convention in Delhi

All India People’s Forum (AIPF) held a convention in Delhi on Wednesday, 27 May, to assess the changes caused and challenges posed by the Modi government in the last one year on livelihood, Rights and democratic fabric of the country.

The speakers at the convention highlighted the policy shifts that have been instituted in the last one year of NDA government at the Centre. It is clear that the government has worked overtime to hand over the country’s land, water and forests to corporate houses. The concerns of the common people have been sacrificed as they have been made to bear the brunt of these pro-corporate policies.

The government has been sponsoring corporate loot through Land Ordinance and has even proposed changes to Forest Rights Act, which was won after prolonged struggle. Farmer suicides have once again peaked as Acts, plans and policies have been floated to loot land, labour and livelihood of the people. Those who do not have land are being stolen of their labour through supposed ‘reform’ measures accompanying the “Make in India” slogan that Modi harps upon on his foreign visits. Even the small freedom available to the country’s children is being looted by putting their labour for sale following the cabinet approval to change child labour laws.

While corporates are being wooed with offer of the country’s resources and its future, the poor have faced serious threats to their existence. There have been massive budget cuts in allocations to health, education, food security, women’s empowerment and other public services. Instead it has invited the private companies to make profit out of people’s needs for health and education.

To cover up the surrender of people’s interests to corporate bodies, the government has periodically unleashed the Sangh outfits to drum up communal tension. It has also been saffronising the public institutions of the country including education. The Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) has become the latest ploy to undermine higher education in the country so as to keep it ready for corporate take over.

Analysing these patterns of Modi government’s functioning and destruction of public institutions and people’ rights, the speakers at the AIPF convention noted the challenges posed in countering it. Senior counsel ND Pancholi noted how Right to work was being robbed and the absence of democratic measures available to the people to challenge these as the government undertook labour reforms. Journalist-activist Gautam Navlakha, pointed out that while 1 crore 20 lakh young people were added to the workforce each year, the government had only generated 20 lakh jobs. NTUI leader and AIPF member Gautam Modi, pointed out that the Labour Amendment Act , 2014, which offered self certification and compliance by companies was undermining labour rights by equating a profit making company with a citizen of the country to negate the labour rights during industrial disputes. Journalist-activist and AIPF member Kiran Shaheen who also conducted the meeting, said that Modi government’s attempt to sell away the country’s resources was by dumping Indian markets with foreign products despite grand talk of ‘Make in India’.

CPI-ML General Secretary pointed out that restructuring of laws and policies were taking place not only on land and employment but also finance and education to complete the corporate circuit of exploiting the country’s resources. Educational restructuring he said was as much part of the ‘Make in India’ campaign as Indian youth were being offered to foreign investors as pliable cheap skilled labour rather than future makers of the country. Economist and Professor Atul Sood said that the government’s ‘Make in India’ was posing a new definition of nationalism where creating an environment for business was made out to be national duty. State were pushed into a competition for garnering foreign investment and labour rights were being systematically violated in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where these models have already taking off. While capitalist crisis was being softened by the government, its infilitartion was being opened up in peri-urban areas. ‘Smart cities’ were only to soften the blow on the middle classes, who would inevitably fall prey to the capital’s crisis.

Highlighting the patriarchal nature of the communal hate-mongering, AIPWA leader Kavita Krishnan, pointed out that violations were being justified in the name of family. Women were being forced back on families in the name of honour while Sangh goons invoked ‘ghar wapasi’ campaign to undermine minority rights. The family arguments of Sangh parivar, she said was bound to fail as evident during anti ‘love jihad’ drives of the Hindutava goons when girls refused to be brain-washed into surrendering their free-will.

Vijay Pratap observed that there was a greater need for mobilisation of united resistance against the policies. Journalist-activist Gautam Navlakha, stressed that solidarities be made with other movements. He pointed out that there was no dearth of alternatives in popular action, movements, and models from within the Left, democratic, progressive experiments in the country and that dialogue be initiated between various streams to expand these ideas. Gautam Modi said that debating and uniting would continue under AIPF. Dipankar Bhattacharya said that various groups in AIPF were working to build the resistance campaign of 30 June on issues of land, labour and livelihood against the emerging Company Raj.

The meeting was attended in large numbers by students, workers and activists from across Delhi. Theatre group Sangwari’s members sang songs against the loot of labour.

Protest at MHRD against the ban on Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle

On 1 June 2015, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) called for a united protest demonstration outside the MHRD. Several other progressive organisations and groups joined the demonstration including AISA, DSF, Disha, Nishant Natya Manch, PUCL, Anhad, All India People’s Forum (AIPF) and other groups. The Delhi Police tried to detain JNU students and divert the protest to Jantar Mantar, however, the students eventually prevailed, and insisted on holding the demonstration at MHRD itself, surrounded by heavy police and CRPF presence. The demo was addressed by ND Pancholi, Shamsul Islam, Shabnam Hashmi, Malathi Maithri, Navaid Hamid, Kavita Krishnan, JNUSU Vice President Anant and others.

The protestors through their speeches, slogans and placards conveyed to the Union Minister, MHRD that they expected institutes like IITs to be run according to the values of Einstein and not Hitler, according to the vision of Ambedkar and Periyar and not Golwalkar. They resolved to continue the struggle till the ban was revoked.

JNUSU Statement on De-recognition of Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle

We condemn the de-recognition of Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle by IIT Madras, at the instigation of the MHRD, for the ‘crime’ of criticizing the Modi Government and raising relevant concerns about the failure to implement the policy of reservations in the IIT Madras.

This de-recognition of the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle amounts to a majoritarian, casteist crackdown on voices of dissent among students.

Those defending the de-recognition on the grounds that the IITs as institutions of excellence need to crack down on ‘politics’, need to answer why there was no crackdown when students of the same IITs launched political agitations against the policy of reservations? Why are they so allergic to the values of Ambedkar, Periyar, and Bhagat Singh? These are the values embraced by the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle, and it is these values which continue to hold out a hope for a truly free and egalitarian India?

Innovation and fresh scientific research will be stifled to death if denied the oxygen of free speech, expression and action. Human minds that are restricted from free expression of social and political dissent, can never feel free to come up with fresh and new scientific research or fresh academic thinking of any kind. The best poets, scientists and thinkers have never been products of ‘darbari’ culture.

Speaking about Nazi Germany, Albert Einstein said, "…The liberty of the individual brought us every advance of knowledge and invention….If we want to resist the powers which threaten to suppress intellectual and individual freedom, we must keep clearly before us what is at stake…Without such freedom there would have been no Shakespeare, no Goethe, no Newton, no Faraday, no Pasteur, and no Lister. It is only people who are free, who create the inventions and intellectual works which to us moderns make life worthwhile." We hope the MHRD and those who run the IITM and other institutions of higher education, will remember these words of one of the world’s greatest scientists, before they try to tell us that scientific or academic ‘excellence’ demands a ban on free speech.

The current Central Government, in cracking down on freedom of expression in colleges, universities and other institutions of higher education, is imposing an undeclared emergency. And this emergency is the biggest threat not only to free speech and expression, but to the excellence of our institutions of higher education.

It is clear to the world that the de-recognition of the student group is a direct result of MHRD intervention. The MHRD cannot now try to distance itself from the de-recognition. We demand that the MHRD ensure that de-recognition of Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle be rolled back with immediate effect.

We stand committed to resisting every assault on free speech and expression anywhere in the country, and to defending the rights of students and people to free speech and association.

AISA protests against the CBCS and the violence unleashed by the ABVP

After having been forced to take back the anti-student FYUP programme last year, following a massive movement by students and teachers, the Delhi University is once geared to introduce another ill-conceived programme on students- ‘Choice Based Credit System (CBCS). The programme, as in case of the FYUP, only aims to add to the existing burden of the students and the teachers without adding any substantial quality to the education offered. Further, the university at the current juncture even lacks the basic infrastructure in terms of a well developed syllabus, prepared after due consultation with subject experts, the needed classroom spaces or the teacher strength to run such a programme. Protesting against this new onslaught on students’ right to quality higher education, the Delhi AISA unit started its campaign against the CBCS programme on the very first day of the orientation session in Delhi University. The activists had prepared pamphlets with detailed explanation on the problems with the CBCS and these pamphlets were also distributed among students and parents.

In keeping with the campaign, on 28 May 2015, AISA organised a protest against CBCS outside the Arts faculty in University of Delhi. Just when AISA activists were distributing the pamphlets, ABVP activists, including one of their current representatives in Delhi University Students Union (DUSU), along with their DU unit leaders, tried to stop AISA activists from distributing pamphlets and interacting with the new students. When AISA activists asserted their right to protest, a brutal lathi charge followed whereby ABVP hoodlums beat up AISA activists with thick lathis, hurling misogynist abuses at them while the Delhi Police continued to watch in silence. An FIR was lodged against the ABVP hoodlums who were captured beating AISA activists in several videos and photographs. An official complaint was also registered in the Proctor’s office, however no action has been taken on them so far.

AISA activists, undeterred by such onslaughts have been carrying forward their anti-CBCS campaign in the interest of the student community receiving solidarity from the Delhi University Teachers’ Union and also other left progressive groups on the campus. The activists in a united protest held a day after this incident reaffirmed their pledge to carry on their struggle for students’ rights and against renewed attempts to make Guinea Pigs out of Delhi University students by frequent experiments.

Workers’ and students’ protest in JNU

In JNU, workers and students have been waging a collective struggle over the years to ensure workers’ fundamental and legally mandated rights. Various contractors operating in JNU have a horrific track record of violating workers’ rights – and the JNU administration refuses to accept responsibility in its role as the principle employer. There are around 1300 contractual workers employed in JNU, excluding construction workers. Time and again, JNUSU as well as workers have had to struggle against retrenchment, and to ensure implementation of labour laws.

In May 2015, M/s G.A. Digital Web Word Pvt Ltd., which employed 443 contract workers in JNU, finished its contract in the University. This contract, which was being repeatedly extended since 2012, expired on 30 April 2015. These contract workers employed by G.A. Digital Web Word Pvt. included gardeners in JNU’s Horticulture department, sewer men in the Civil and IHA departments, computer operators and office attendants. There are several instances of PF dues, bonus and over time payments to workers still pending with the contractor. Sybex Computer Systems Pvt Ltd took over this contract and decided that it would recruit fresh workers. They asked existing workers to attend written tests and interviews. This clearly was a means to ensure that workers who had been employed for several years in JNU would lose their jobs. In this context, the workers and JNUSU called a massive protest in JNU on 22 May 2015.

Hundreds of workers and students participated in the protest. The protest was addressed by workers’ leaders, JNUSU representatives including JNUSU President Ashutosh and School of Languages convenor Vijay, AICCTU leaders, and representatives of various student organisations in JNU. As the JNU administration intensifies its offensive against contract workers, the real stakeholders of the university protested and pledged to oppose any layoffs. The ongoing ‘reforms’ of the Modi government, will only embolden anti-labour practices everywhere, pointed out the speakers at the protest.

As a result of the protest and the constant vigilant intervention of students and workers in JNU, the layoffs were averted. The JNU administration, the new contractor and AICCTU representatives signed an in-principle agreement in conciliation proceedings currently underway at the Deputy Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) office at Parliament Street that the workers employed through the old contractor would be retained by new contractor. In the days to come, the struggle to protect employment, oppose retrenchment and ensure workers’ rights will continue in JNU.

AICCTU demonstration in Odiansalai against the policies of the NDA government

AICCTU activists staged a demonstration at Odiansalai on 26 May 2015, to protest against the policies of the Modi led NDA government at the centre. The agitated protestors expressed that the central government was adopting a pro-corporate approach which was severely hurting the lives and livelihoods of the working class. In specific they pointed out the anti-poor nature of the government’s decisions to enhance the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), make amendments in the Labour Act and introduction of the Land Acquisition Bill. They demanded immediate withdrawal of the Land Acquisition Bill. The agitators also raised slogans against the Puducherry Government for frequently hiking the electricity tariff, additionally demanding that the Government reopen the AFT mills.

Obituary

Comrade Hirendra Nath Chatterjee or “Mesomashai”

Comrade Hirendra Nath Chatterjee passed away on 23rd May, 2015 at Ranchi. He was 96 years old. He is survived by three sons and one daughter.

Comrade Hirendra Nath or ‘Meshomoshai’ as he was known among friends and comrades, played a very important role in the re-organisation of the CPI(ML) in the 1970s. Durgapur was a major centre of this re-organisation between 1972-77, after much of the first generation leadership and cadres of the party had been martyred or incarcerated in jail.

Comrade Hirendra Nath was a civil engineer who used to work in various construction companies including British Enterprises. He shifted to Durgapur Steel Township to run a small business. When his second son Comrade Prasun became a whole time party worker on the rural front, he too decided to be more active in the party. His home was one of the most reliable shelters for the party, where leaders including Comrade VM, DP Buxi, Kartick Pal and many others used to take shelter. He and his wife Comrade Bela Chatterjee incurred considerable risk to themselves and their family in thus providing shelter to revolutionaries of an underground party. Their entire family would stand vigil on rooftop and balcony when comrades were sheltering in their home.

After 1977, Meshomoshai became active in the Indo-China Friendship Society, the Kotnis Committee and other such mass activities. Eventually he and Comrade Bela shifted to Ranchi.

He and Comrade Bela will always be remembered for their commitment to the party and their willingness to put their home at the disposal of the party, even at great personal risk.

Red salute to Comrade Hirendra Nath Chatterjee!

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