ML Update | No. 24 | 2015

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 18 | No. 24 | 9-15 JUN 2015

Modi’s Misogyny is Not A Slip of the Tongue

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faced international outrage and criticism when he remarked about Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, that “Despite being a woman, she has declared zero tolerance for terrorism.” This remark is rightly being criticized for its blatant sexism. The remark is especially patronizing and demeaning, coming from a Prime Minister of one country about his counterpart in a neighbouring country. What is important to understand is that this was no casual slip of the tongue – it goes to the heart of the political philosophy of Modi and his party.

The remark implies that it is unusual or surprising for a woman to be a strong leader of her country. The BJP is trying to defend the indefensible by suggesting that Modi only praised Hasina for overcoming the hurdles that patriarchy poses for women. To this, they also insinuate that the remark is justified because Bangladesh, by virtue of being a Muslim-majority country, is particularly oppressive to women. So they are compounding gender stereotypes with communal stereotypes.

The fact is that women in Bangladesh are not worse off compared to India. In the UN Gender Inequality Index, Bangladesh is ranked 12 places ahead of India, performing better on sex ratio, female infant mortality, female literacy, female labour force participation, and lowered fertility rates. In Bangladesh, as in India, work conditions in globalised factories are especially exploitative for women labourers. And in both countries, communal politics targets the freedoms of women, minorities and dissenting voices.

Modi’s remark was not a critique of patriarchy. He did not say ‘despite facing gender discrimination.’ Nor did he say that women political leaders proved patriarchal stereotypes to be wrong. Instead, he invoked the patriarchal stereotype that strength and courage do not normally go with ‘being a woman.’

Another patriarchal aspect of Modi’s remark has received little attention. Modi’s idea of a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to terrorism is a patriarchal one. He means that concerns for human rights and civil liberties in the ‘war against terror’ must be mocked as effeminate, and torture and summary execution of terror suspects are the required macho, muscular attitude to tackling terrorism.

An instance of this approach came not long after Modi’s ‘despite being a woman’ gaffe. The Modi Government has just denied permission to prosecute the Intelligence Bureau officers implicated in the fake encounter of Ishrat Jehan. Ishrat Jehan was a teenage girl killed by the Gujarat police when Modi was the Gujarat Chief Minister. She was branded in death as a terrorist killed in an ‘encounter’, and her killing was one of the instances invoked by Modi to showcase his own ‘zero tolerance’ approach to terror. Another of many such instances was the fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh (also branded posthumously as a ‘terrorist’). In an election meeting in 2007, Modi justified this custodial killing openly, asking the crowd ‘What should be done with the likes of Sohrabuddin’, and eliciting the response, ‘Kill him’. The fact is that in order to claim Sohrabuddin was a terrorist, two witnesses to his killing – his wife Kauser Bi and another eyewitness Tulsiram Prajapati – were also killed in police custody. Modi’s ‘zero tolerance for terror’ has actually meant tolerance and state patronage for politically motivated custodial killings of innocent civilians, including women like Ishrat Jehan and Kauser Bi.

Those who respond to Modi’s remark by reminding him of ‘tough,’ draconian and jingoistic leaders like Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher are also playing into the same patriarchal notion of political leadership. In 2005, VHP leader Giriraj Kishor, for instance, had praised Indira Gandhi by saying, “She divided Pakistan into two. She was the only man in her cabinet. She acted like a He-Man.” Both Modi’s praise for Hasine and Giriraj Kishor’s praise for Indira Gandhi display the same sexism, that believes political leaders must be ‘He-Men’, and that a woman is a good leader only if she is ‘manly’.

This is hardly the first time Modi has made a sexist remark. In his election campaign, he repeatedly referred to his own ‘He-Man’ like qualities, claiming that he had a ’56-inch chest’. This metaphor, too, equates leadership with ‘toughness’, and courage with manliness.

His taunts to political opponents also have displayed crude sexism (such as when he referred to Rahul Gandhi as the ‘hybrid calf of a Jersey Cow’ and to Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor as ’50 crore girlfriend’). As Prime Minister also, he has displayed casual sexism when, in a speech promoting branding and packaging for small industries, he said, “If a farmer sells mango, he gets a little money. If he makes pickles, he makes more money. And if that pickle is packed in a nice bottle, he gets much more. If he puts the bottle in the hands of a girl for advertisement, he will get still more money.”

Even worse, Modi used the state’s police and intelligence machinery as Gujarat Chief Minister, to conduct illegal surveillance on a young woman. His party has not denied the illegality of the surveillance; they have only defended the stalking on the grounds that the it was done to ‘protect’ the young woman – a claim that is not borne out by the transcripts of phone calls between the police and the then Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah.

Modi’s sexism is of course no exception; Indian politics across parties is rife with examples of blatant misogyny. But it cannot be ignored that Modi’s own misogyny reflects the ideology of the RSS, to which he owes his political and ideological grooming. The RSS is a militarized, majoritarian political outfit which has no women members. While the RSS name means ‘National Volunteer Corps,’ its ‘women’s wing’ is called ‘Women Servants of the Nation.’ The contrast between the male ‘Swayamsevak’ (volunteer), and the female ‘Sevika’ (servant) is telling.

The RSS today, emboldened by Modi in power, has intensified its campaign to impose dress and moral codes on women in the name of ‘Indian culture’, especially its offensive against love marriages and inter-caste, inter-community marriages. The Prime Minister maintains a silence this aggressive campaign against women’s autonomy.

Modi’s misogynist remark about the Bangladeshi Prime Minister is not a stray one that can be taken lightly. It is a symptom of the sexism that is dictating policies towards women in the Modi Government. What offers hope is that such sexism and misogyny are being met with vigorous resistance by women and common people in India.

Booklet on “Debates on Religious Conversions“ Released

Chennai city committee of CPI (ML) organised a programme to release a booklet on “Debates on religious conversions”, published by Theepori – organ of CPI(ML) in Tamil on 23 May 2015 in Chennai .The meeting was presided by Com. Sekar, secretary, Chennai district committee. Speakers on the occasion included among others- CPI (ML) Politburo Members, Com. S. Kumarasamy and Com. G. Ramakrishnan, state secretary of CPI (M), Com. Veerapandian, state Deputy secretary of CPI, Com A. Marx, Campaign committee member of AIPF, Com Janakiraman, Thiruvellore district secretary of CPI(ML). Workers of industries such as MRF, Asian paints, Diamond engineering and others also took part. The booklet release was attended by nearly 200 people, mostly youth.

The booklet release programme was also held at Coimbatore, presided by Com. Balasubramanian, district secretary of the party. Com. Balasundaram, state secretary CPI(ML), Com .Ramamurthy, district secretary CPI (M) Com. K. N. Selvaraj, district secretary CPI, Novelist Murugavel and city secretary of Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, Com. Sajith were the main speakers at the meeting. Com. Damodharan, state committee member CPI (ML) greeted the audience. The Book release was attended by workers of Pricol, Shanthi Gears and other industries.

Tirunelveli District committee of CPI (ML) also organised a programme to the booklet at Hotel Sakunthala. The meeting was presided over by Com. G. Ramesh, Member editorial board, Theepori. District secretary of CPI, Com. Kasi Viswanathan, District secretary of CPI (M) Com. K. G. Baskaran, Com. Narum Poonathan of Progressive Writers and Artists Association, state committee members of CPI (ML) Com. K. G. Desikan and Com. Sankarapandian and the district secretary of CPI (ML) spoke on the occasion. All left party leaders who participated in the meeting welcomed the initiative and expressed that the unity of left and democratic forces to combat communal fascist forces is the need of the hour. Cadres of CPI (ML) and democratic sections of the city attended the meeting.

CPI(ML) and All India Kisan Mahasabha’s Hunger Strike in Bhojpur

CPI (ML) and All India Kisan Mahasabha have been leading an indefinite hunger strike in Bhojpur district since 6 June. Com. Sudama Prasad and Com. Raju Yadav have been sitting on the indefinite strike. The hunger strike has been organised to raise the basic issues of the farmers in the region. Some of the key issues being raised have been mentioned below.

A few days back the state government procured food grains from some farmers but even two months since the purchase, the payments have not been made. According to the state’s own policy, the payment must be made within 24 hours of the purchase. This delay in payment is therefore in violation of state’s own policy.

Again, a few days earlier, following massive hail storms and untimely rainfall which had caused severe damage to various crops, both the central and the state governments had announced that compensations would be paid to the affected farmers. However, none of these pronouncements have yet been implemented on ground. Nowhere have the farmers been paid the promised compensation.

The government has further made no efforts to procure grains and other rabi crops from the farmers as a result of which they are forced to sell the same to middlemen at very low prices. The weather department has already cautioned regarding the delay in monsoons and the possibility of the rainfall being less than normal. Despite this, the state government has so far made no effort to ensure water provisions to the farmers. Though Prime Minsiter Modi had made abundant promises during the election campaign regarding providing irrigation facilities to the farmers, but today, far from having lived up to his promise, his ministers have been found to make irresponsible and unfortunate statements even on a matter as serious as farmers’ suicides. The state government too has been silent on all these issues. Worse, it has started a targeting of CPI (ML) leaders just prior to the elections by framing them on false charges, to try and silence any opposition to their misdeeds.

The particular demands that are being raised by the protestors are:

1. Pay compensation to all farmers and share croppers who have been affected by the hailstorms and untimely rains.

2. Provide water till the lower most base of main canal and other canals and start all the closed state run tubewells.

3. Revoke the pro-corporate and anti-farmers land acquisition ordinance.

4. Take back all the false cases that have imposed on ML leaders.

5. Stop all the cuts in ration and kerosene provisions and Indira Awaas scheme. Provide 5 dismil land to all the poor.

6. All the contractual para teachers, ASHA workers, mid day meal workers, aanganwadi workers and all such others who are paid honorarium should be regularised and their wages should be decided.

The governments have left no stone unturned to assault the livelihood of farmers. All governments since independence have had the same attitude towards agriculture leading to the crisis situation today. However, as the indefinite hunger strike to raise these issues enters the fifth day, no administrative official had bothered to meet the agitators and inquire what their concerns were. This reflects the attitude of the government towards the farmers. On the fourth day of the strike, i.e. on 9 June, several nukkad sabhaas were organized in Bhojpur district to mobilize masses to unite in order to strengthen the ongoing struggle. A call for ‘Chakaa Jaam’ has been given all over Bhojpur on 10 June, in light of continued apathy of the state government towards farmers’ issues and the refusal to pay heed to the ongoing movement.

CPI (ML) statement on the revocation of de-recognition of Amebdkar-Periyar Study Circle, IIT Madras & refusal of MHRD to act on the complaint received against Pondicherry University officials

CPI (ML) welcomes the re-recognition of Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle by IIT Madras administration and congratulates the students of APSC who refused to bow down in front of the autocratic dictates of the institute. The re-recognition is a victory of students of APSC, IIT Madras and all the progressive organizations and individuals who took to the streets to ensure that such steps that were aimed at curbing dissent and freedom of expression and also towards imposing upper caste hegemony, were resolutely fought defeated.

However, it is unfortunate that despite being forced to take back its oppressive dictates, both the IITM administration and the MHRD have not yet offered an apology for acting on the basis of anonymous complaints while giving no chance to the concerned group to present its case. Both IITM and MHRD owed an apology to the students of APSC.

It is extremely shameful that MHRD that immediately shot off a letter to IIT, Madras on receiving an anonymous complaint about the activities of APSC, for over a year has been sitting over a complaint of a student of Pondicherry University who was illegally detained and tortured and forced to strip by the institutional authorities over false charges. The student in his complaint had named the Director of Academic Staff College, a faculty of department of International Business, two security officials and the Vice Chancellor of the University. While there is ample evidence backing the student’s complaint and exposing the ruthlessness of the concerned authorities, the MHRD has not thought it worthy to act on this complaint and question any of the university officials who were involved in the harassment of the student. Such double standards in acting on complaints reveals the agenda of the ruling government which is to curb all critique of the government while having no problems with actual hatred being spread against students coming from socio-economically disadvantaged homes by university authorities.

CPI (ML) condemns this shocking abuse of authority by Pondicherry University administration and demands that MHRD act on the complaint immediately. Besides suitable action against the culprits, the institute must tender him an apology and compensate him for the trauma he has been forced to undergo.

Gherao IIT-Madras against Ban on APSC

Cadres of AISA, RYA, AICCTU and CPI (ML) jointly Gheroed the Indian Institute of Technology – Madras campus at Chennai on 3 June, 2015 against the ban on the activities of Ambedkar- Periyar study circle inside the campus based on the anonymous complaint. More than 100 activists , both men and women assembled and raised slogans against the Modi government’s intolerance to alternate ideas. They also criticized the Jayalalitha government for its silence over the issue. The programme was led by Com. Bharathi, National secretary of RYA. Other leaders who participated included Com. Seetha , state secretary of AISA, Comrades Rajaguru and Dhanavel , state President and Secretary respectively of RYA, Com Munusamy and Mohan, state leaders of AICCTU. Com. Kumarasamy, PB member of CPI (ML) participating in the gherao also addressed the protestors launching a scathing attack on the pro-Corporate and communal Modi government and the state’s Jayalalitha government for their silence over the matter. There was a scuffle between police and activists during Gherao in which all the cadres were arrested by the police. However, the participants remain undeterred in their protest against the anti-democratic step and the silence of those in power.

Meet on Freedom of Expression in Solidarity with Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle, IITM

AISA, Madurai organized a meet on Freedom of expression to express solidarity with the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle, IITM and to their repression. Comrade Mathivanan, District Secretary, CPI (ML) gave an insightful prelude for the discussion with his introduction on Ambedakar, Periyar and Bhagat Singh and the extremely crucial role they played in Indian politics. He stressed on the need for upholding the politics they stood for and to forge ahead with their legacy in the contemporary context. Comrade and academician Rabeek Raja participated in the event and facilitated the discussion among the students. The urge to counter the saffron emergency and curb down the moves of infiltrating Indian education system to ensure the existence of Brahminism was reflected sharply among the comrades and participants.

In the course of the discussions and debates, comrades came out with two resolutions. The first resolution was to initiate Ambedkar-Periyar-Bhagat Singh Study Circle based in Madurai city. The second resolution was to strengthen the AIPF more actively. The forum expressed its conscious interest in making the motto of APBSC effective in practice and not to limit the same to forums of discussion. Comrades Hari and Tamil will act as the organizers of APBSC, Madurai. Comrade Arun coordinated the event and Comrade Pandiyarajan concluded the session with AISA’s perspective on the Freedom of expression and solidarity with the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle, IITM.

AISA’s ‘Reject CBCS and Save Universities’ Campaign Gains Momentum

Momentum is being built up all over the country against imposition of the disastrous Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) programme. As a part of this campaign AISA activists have been initiating interventions in several universities.

Last week an eight member delegation of AISA met Prof. Pradeep Bhargava, member of academic council member, Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute, Jhusi, Allahabad and also a part of the 5 member Parliamentary committee for implementing CBCS. They updated him on the disastrous effects of the CBCS. A member of the representative team and a Political Science research scholar Ankit Pathak said that in case of Allahabad University, the university was already facing a shortage of nearly 523 teachers as a result of which it was becoming difficult to manage the regular semesters and fulfil the basic requirements of the students. A programme like syllabus, on the other hand requires a large strength of teachers and provisions of basic infrastructural necessities. A member of the national council of AISA, Saurabh Yadav, said that CBCS was a step towards destroying the higher education system. He also added the other upcoming acts like Central University Act (CUA) and Rashtroya uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) (National Higher Education Mission) were also assaults on the autonomy of the higher education institutes. Another member of the AISA national council, Shakti Rajvar pointed out that this entire set of changes were being forced on by WTO-GATS on countries like India under the pressure of the World Corporate Powers. A heated debate took place between the AISA delegation and Prof. Bhargava. The AISA delegation insisted that CBCS be immediately revoked and students and teachers be informed about these upcoming proposals and the opinions of students and teachers of various departments of the university be sought. The members added that in light of the massive movement across the country against the proposed onslaughts on higher education, the specific concerns of students of AU be also taken up and addressed. Later the delegation invited the students to participate in the ‘Reject CBCS, Save Universities Campaign.

Meanwhile the ‘Reject CBCS’ campaigns are being organized in campuses across the country and AISA activists have been regularly meeting students, distributing leaflets and organising them against the ongoing onslaughts on education.

Elections in Turkey: Mandate against authoritarian, majoritarian dictatorship

In the recently held elections in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lost majority in the Turkish parliament for the first time in 13 years since 2002. In an election which saw a massive 86% turnout, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 258 seats in the 550-seat parliament. Though the AKP is the single largest party in the Parliament, it lacks the numbers to form the next government on its own. The AKP moreover suffered a 10% decline in its vote share.

This mandate assumes significance for several reasons; the people of Turkey have voted for more inclusion and against the AKP’s policies of divide-and-rule. The left-leaning People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has won 79 seats, and around 12% of the vote. This mandate ensures a significant presence in the Turkish parliament for left forces and to the Kurdish minority of Turkey.

AKP, which has been seen as espousing a dangerous divide-and-rule policy in order to rally its religious-conservative base, was challenged by the HDP’s campaign. The AKP and Erdogan had plans to rewrite the Turkish constitution to establish Erdogan as the executive-President. HDP, on the other hand, ran on a platform defending the rights of ethnic minorities, women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The HDP moreover formed an electoral coalition with the Kurdish minority in Turkey’s south-east and progressive forces in Istanbul and elsewhere. The election results will therefore give the Kurds – who, with 20% of Turkey’s population, are the country’s biggest minority – true representation in parliament. In 1980, the military-dictated constitution of Turkey had decreed a 10% threshold of vote share in the elections before a party could enter the Parliament. This clause has over the years often restricted the representation of minorities in the Parliament. The HDP has surpassed the 10% threshold and entered the parliament.

Significantly, 40 percent of the HDP’s newly elected MPs are women, while women hold only 17 per cent of the total seats in the country’s Parliament. Along with Kurdish rights and the rights of women and the LGBT community, the HDP also raised the issues of minimum wages and anti-corruption.

This mandate is also being seen as a culmination of the Gezi Park protests which rocked Turkey in 2013. During the protests, which spread to large parts of the country, several issues were raised, including defending Turkey’s secularism and defending freedom of expression.

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