09 September 2007

Remembering Aini Apa

(Qurratulain Hyder passed away on 21 August. Mahmood S. Farooqi remembers this remarkable Urdu writer, humanist and feminist, who in a world torn apart by communal violence and Partition, sought out and celebrated the syncretic history and culture of the subcontinent.) It turned out that she was being rash. I am referring to Ismat Chughtai’s summation of Qurratulain Hyder following the publication of the latter’s second novel in the early nineteen fifties. She had concluded that “the star that had emerged on the literary horizon with all the promise of becoming a Sun dazzled so strongly in one place that it lost all its splendour.” Chughtai wrote this before ‘Housing Society’, before ‘Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya na Kijo’ and above all before ‘Aag ka Dariya’ were written. She also wrote this before Hyder’s gradually expanding sweep harmonized the dichotomies of History and Past, Civilisations and personal identities, stream of consciousness and feminism and nostalgia into a meta-historical plane where no Urdu writer has ever reached. To say that Aini aapa was an aristocratic writer should not cast an aspersion on her actual, aristocratic, past. She was deeply concerned with history, particularly as it swept up the life of individuals. Again and again, she returns to India’s syncretic past, especially as she lived through it in the pre-independence Lucknow and tries to analyse the causes of the deep fissure that...

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That Promised Dawn…

As the celebratory clamour of ‘60 years of Indian Independence’ accompanied by boasts of our strategic partnership with the US and jingoistic roars against Pakistan threaten to deafen us, let’s take a minute to hear Faiz Ahmad Faiz speak to us. His words are as hauntingly familiar, as evocative, as inspiring as they were 60 years ago. Then, his view of “this night-bitten dawn”, stained by the communal bloodshed of Partition, mocked at the triumphalism of Nehru’s Tryst With Destiny speech which announced that “India will awake to life and freedom”. September 28, 2007 marks Bhagat Singh’s Birth Centenary. Written in August 1947, Subh-e-Azadi resounds with echoes of Bhagat Singh’s own warnings that freedom could hardly be genuine if it just meant replacing white sahibs with brown ones. Both Faiz and Bhagat Singh and their legacy of Communism and anti-imperialism are deeply cherished on both sides of the border. The Indian ruling class does its best to kill the memory of Bhagat Singh the revolutionary; Faiz spent a large part of his latter life in Pakistan’s jails. Come September, the dark clouds of US imperialism blot out the weak light of democracy and sovereignty in both Pakistan and India – with US threats of military intervention in Pakistan and attempts (eagerly supported by the UPA Government) to take India into an even closer strategic embrace with the Nuke Deal....

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Hugo Chavez and the End of the ‘TINA’ Paradigm

“There is no alternative”. The proud proclamation of neoliberalism had long been repudiated in theory by Marxists and in slogans (“another world is possible”) by myriad forces assembled in the WSF. But the man and woman on the street needed a practical demonstration that it was really possible, even in a pre-revolutionary society, to defy American dictates and diverge from the prescribed neoliberal model towards a relatively pro-people, democratic trajectory of development. Venezuela under Hugo Chavez Frias is important because it provides the world with such a demonstration — far from perfect, naturally, but very exciting to be sure. Chavez began to tread this path in short steps right from the start of his career as President. This invited the US- aided, “opposition”-sponsored coup of April 2002. “After the defeat of the coup”, writes Alan Woods, leader of a Trotskyist trend in Venezuela, “it would have been possible to carry out a socialist revolution swiftly and painlessly. Unfortunately, the opportunity was lost…” (“The Venezuelan Revolution” (2006)). But it appears that the President had a better sense of the actual balance of forces and preferred to consolidate his position before going on to the offensive. (One may recall that when in 1992 the military revolt he led against the hated ruling clique failed and he was arrested, Chavez appealed to his supporters to surrender “for now”; he chose a prison...

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Tata’s ‘Titanic’ Bulldozer in Southern Tamil Nadu

Tata’s Titanium project in Tamil Nadu has evoked unprecedented protests from the people of 10000 acres of land earmarked in Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts. Several parties of both camps, the main opposition AIADMK, and also the ruling coalition partners are up in arms. The Chief Minister had no other option but to temporarily shelve the project until an eyewash exercise of ‘eliciting’ public opinion was over. The project conceived by the DMK government was carried forward by the subsequent ADMK government. MOU was also signed. But, the final nod was not given in the face of stiff resistance from the people and also because of Jayalalitha’s closeness to VV.Minerals that engaged in illegal mining operations. The shelved project has now been revived. In spite of continuing war of attrition, both DMK and ADMK are not hesitant to display their loyalty towards Tatas and Colas. The much bloated opposition from the DMK’s coalition partners lacks any sharpness. They have not done anything substantial to stall the project. It’s obvious when they suggest the same to be run by the government. For them, it is not a matter of principle whether to have a Titanium project that is environmentally hazardous and is bound to affect the livelihood of tens of thousands of people; it is only a matter of ‘eliciting opinions’ and ‘scoring points’ over the other. CPI has contained itself...

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Some others Reports

AISA Protests at Allahabad In Favour of Freedom of Expression The AIPWA issued a statement condemning the attack by MIM MLAs in Hyderabad n writer Taslima Nasreen. AIPWA demanded that the UPA Government stop delaying the process of granting citizenship to Taslima Nasreen. Kumudini Pati, General Secretary of AIPWA said that the shameful ban imposed on Taslima’s novel Dwikhandita by the CPI(M)-led West Bengal Government emboldened anti-woman forces to attack Taslima and her work. Taslima’s writings were not against a particular religion – they are against the hypocrisy and patriarchal double standards of all religions, she said. The Women’s Advisory Board at Allahabad University had invited Taslima Nasreen to speak on her life and struggle on August 14. In anticipation, a fanatic group in the University had burnt her effigy on 10 August. AISA organised and led a citizens’ protest march in Allahabad University against the Hyderabad attack on Taslima. 250 people participated in this march –including students as well as teachers and intellectuals like Profs. Rajendra Kumar, Anita Gopesh, Ranjana Kakkad, Lalsa Yadav, Kalpana Dwivedi, Suryanarayan, Deepika Varghese, Anshu Malaviya and others. The March was followed by a Mass Meeting on the campus against the attacks on freedom of expression. When the fanatics held an abusive procession in reaction to the citizens’ protest, AISA also burnt an effigy representing patriarchy. The VC of Allahabad University, who had originally...

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Women’s Tribunal Puts the UPA Government in the Dock

“I was raped when I was sixteen and have been sexually exploited by the rapist, an influential doctor, for eight years since. For the past five years I’ve battled to get an FIR lodged – and in the process have been jailed twice myself. In Modi’s Gujarat, women have the choice of committing suicide or demonstrating in the nude by Pooja Chauhan of Rajkot if their voice is to be heard. But I’m determined to keep fighting.” 28-year old Shilpi Indra Mohan from Ahmedabad shared her determination to resist women’s oppression in Gujarat – and she was not alone. On 8 August at the Women’s Tribunal organised by the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) at Parliament Street, women from 10 states took part, and shared their experiences of resistance. They indicted the Governments in their respective states and at the Centre on three major counts: violence against women, increasing unemployment and economic insecurity, and false promises of political empowerment. In the backdrop of celebrations of 60 years of Independence, these women declared that in these 60 years, ruling establishments had only given them new forms of oppression – and any measure of freedom and justice were to be had only through fierce struggles. Above all they put the Manmohan Singh-led UPA Government in the dock for its pro-imperialist new economic policy, for SEZs which were robbing them of...

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Battling Floods and the Nitish Government’s Callousness

Dateline Darbhanga: A brief account of the flood-relief work by CPI(ML) in Darbhanga Darbhanga is the worst hit in the current floods in Bihar. The people of Darbhanga have lost their homes, and are forced to take shelter in the Mithila University campus, on embankments and higher places under the open sky – open to the furious rains and the vicious sun. Leaders and cadres of our party spend the days reaching out to people who need help – using boats or even swimming in the murky waters to do so. They pressurise the Administration to arrange for boats, polythene, chura, jaggery, khichdi and so on. 31 July The first political protest against the floods was held by our party in the face of a heavy downpour. Following this demonstration, a memorandum was submitted to the DM. we informed the DM that wherever and whenever volunteers would be required, our party would be happy to provide them. Our comrades took pains to distribute whatever food and polythene was provided, and helped to arrange treatment for the sick. Meanwhile, the Chief Minister chose to visit Mauritius – and this was taken by people to be the height of callousness and contempt for the flood-affected people of Bihar. Thanks to our campaign, this became a burning issue among the people of Darbhanga. 3 August: Protest at the Chief Minister’s Visit Eventually,...

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JNU Students’ Victory for Workers’ Rights and Against Rustications

Following JNUSU’s Agreement of July 12 with the JNU Administration, the Administration constituted a Committee with students’, teachers’ and karamcharis’ representation to ensure workers’ minimum wages and rights. In a major victory for the students’ struggle, the Administration also revoked all the rustications on the students. The JNU students succeeded in their determination not to let students be thrown off campus for speaking out against violation of workers’ rights. However, the Administration took advantage of the rift in the student movement caused by the SFI in order to replace the rustications with fines. Ever since the Agreement was signed, the SFI and its office bearers in JNUSU including the President had refused to abide by it. According to the Agreement, all the punished students were to submit letters to the VC appealing for their punishments to be reconsidered – following which the Administration had promised to ensure registration for all the students. The SFI argued that this stipulation applied only to the 8 students who had been rusticated- and not to the JNUSU office bearers who had been fined. They said it was beneath the dignity of JNUSU office bearers (who in any case were charged with “failure to control the mob” rather than leadership of the gherao) to submit letters of appeal. The SFI launched a campaign blaming the ‘ultras’ (AISA and DSU) for the gherao and claiming...

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Rejoinder to Amartya Sen’s Defence of LF Government over Singur

[In an interview to the Telegraph, July 23, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen defended the CPI(M) Government’s policy at Singur. Prof. Dipanjan Rai Chaudhuri (retired from Presidency College, Kolkata) responds. Courtesy Sanhati (www.sanhati.com). – Ed] Professor Amartya Sen’s interview (The Telegraph, July 23) makes us sad. 1. “The market economy has many imperfections, on which I have written extensively. But it also creates jobs and incomes, and if the income goes up, government revenues go up, so there is money available for education and healthcare and other things.” So said Amartya Sen. Textbook (neoclassical) economics is a strange discipline. It is timeless. There is a history of economic thought but no history of economic phenomena. Prof. Sen has given above a perfect textbook lecture, which he applies, in the best traditions of textbook economics, equally to the early capitalism of 17th century England, the colonial economy of 19th century Bengal, and the late capitalism of present-day India. Centuries have rolled by, nevertheless, and the lecture given above has become irrelevant in the era of “Jobless Growth.” The burden of Prof Sen’s intervention is that the present inflow of big capital into West Bengal will bring jobs. How many jobs, Prof. Sen? The water tank manufacturers Patton proposed a 13 million dollar investment in Falta SEZ in July, 2006, employing 250 people — 3 to 4 jobs per crore of rupees...

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Agrarian Confusion

(The following article is excerpted from the original that appeared in The Statesman, 27 July 2007) Ever since the dubious duo in Left politics – the West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his second-in-command on industrialisation, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirupam Sen – took the centre-stage in the arena of industrialisation in the state and policy-angle thereof, the magnitude of confusion about the land or agrarian question has been expanding. The latest one – how many land-owners at Singur gave written consent for acquisition to the department of land and land reforms through the district collector – is its symptomatic manifestation. But for the assertive statement by the Land and Land Reforms Minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah that 2,552 farmers owning 326 acres did not accord consent, the duo would have staged a walkover. Bhattacharjee’s desperate face-saving bid that owners who gave consent owned 954 acres of land there may at the most pacify the rank and file, especially those that are more roughs than comrades – like Milton’s angels who only listen, never question. Let’s quote from the LF government’s Status Report on Singur. “Declaration of award for the entire 997.11 acres in five mouzas was made by the Collector of Hooghly on 23 and 25 September 2006. On 4 October 2006, the Collector took possession of the lands and handed them over to the WBIDC the same...

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CPI(M) lies about Tapasi Malik’s death

The brutal rape and murder of Tapasi Malik, the 18 year-old girl who was a highly motivated member of the Save Farmland Committee spearheading the struggle against land acquisition in Singur, had sent shockwaves through the body politic of West Bengal last year. The Save Farmland Committee had accused the CPI(M) cadre who double as night-guards for the fenced off area of land, forcibly acquired for setting up Tata’s factory at Singur. The CBI had taken up the investigation due to strong protests against the incident. However, CPI(M) leaders and the police had tried to pass it off variously as suicide, result of a love affair etc. Most vociferous and prominent among these was Debu Malik, who appeared on several TV channels claiming to have seen Tapasi go towards the fenced off area with a can of kerosene in her hand. Soon, and sure enough, some intellectuals serving the CPI(M) took up the task of adding a new twist to the story. In a widely circulated article which appeared on the prestigious American leftist newsletter Counterpunch on May 23, 2007, Sudhanva Deshpande and Vijay Prashad wrote the following about the death of Tapasi Malik: “Stories were blown out of context, and allegations flew around (sexual assaults, murders) that have since been shown to be false. The most sensational was the murder of a young woman, Tapasi Malik, who had...

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Khammam, Nandigram and the CPI(M)

Once again, poor peasants on the warpath, for land, gunned down by the police… This time it was at Khammam, and the peasants were mobilized under the banner of CPI(M), demanding that the Congress Government of Andhra Pradesh keep its election-time promises of land reform. But coming on the heels of Nandigram, Khammam has inevitably invited comparisons. And CPI(M) CCM Sitaram Yechury’s declaration that “YSR must resign” inevitably invited observers to ask – “YSR must resign, yes, but why not Buddhadeb?” CPI(M)’s response to such comparisons has been revealing. The massacre of peasants at Nandigram on March 14 had evoked an explosion of outrage among the Left intelligentsia. Intellectuals close to the CPI(M), however, had issued a statement that had expressed pain and anguish at the incident while continuing to assert faith in the progressive intentions and democratic credentials of the CPI(M)-led LF Government in West Bengal. Of course, this statement, while expressing pain at the loss of life and injuries of the Nandigram victims, had stopped short of expressing solidarity with the Nandigram peasants’ struggle to defend their land. One can’t but help contrasting this with the excellent statement signed by many of the selfsame intellectuals in the wake of the Khammam firing. That statement unstintedly expresses “our total solidarity with the mass upsurge of the poor for land”. But what is probably more significant is that these...

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Land Struggle in Andhra Pradesh

The firing on peasants agitating for land reform at Mudigonda (Khammam) in Andhra Pradesh is an indication of the scale, militancy and revolutionary potential of the land issue in Andhra Pradesh. Successive Governments have tried to declare the question of land reform to be dead – but the unfinished and betrayed promise of land reform is a spectre which keeps haunting those in power. Andhra Pradesh in particular has been witness to vigorous land struggles at different junctures. Land reform was a major electoral plank of the Congress and land had a prominent place in the early talks of the Y S Rajasekhar Reddy Government with the Maoists. Sensing that the land question was gradually capturing the central stage of AP politics, CPI(ML) Liberation had intensified its mobilisation on the issue, and held conventions at Hyderabad, Rajamundry, Vijaywada, and many other rural centres in the coastal districts on the question of ‘land and democracy’. Land struggles at the grassroots began to intensify. CPI(M) had been in an alliance with the ruling Congress, but in the panchayat polls in June-July 2006, had chosen to ally with the TDP instead, after the Congress refused to allot zila parishad posts in Khammam and Nalgonda districts to the CPI(M). In April 2007 CPI(M) launched their state-wide Bhoomiporatam (land struggle) – initially in the big cities and towns for house sites for the urban...

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Message from Andhra Pradesh

The July 28 Mudigonda massacre in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh has once again drawn the country’s attention to the actual state of democracy in rural India. For the last few months, Andhra Pradesh has been witnessing the rise of a statewide popular land struggle. Instead of heeding the demands of the land movement which is led by almost the entire spectrum of Left forces from the CPI and CPI(M) to the CPI(ML), the Rajshekhar Reddy government has responded by framing and arresting activists in large numbers. On July 28 the state was having a united Left-sponsored bandh to demand the setting up of an autonomous land reforms panel and withdrawal of repressive measures unleashed by the state government. The Reddy government chose to meet the bandh with brutal repression, gunning down eight unarmed persons, including a woman, in Mudigonda village of Khammam district. The Andhra incidents clearly tell us that land remains a central demand for the rural poor and that whenever the landless poor forcefully assert this demand the state sheds all democratic pretensions and answers with cold-blooded murder. Almost all state governments have begun to reverse in practice, if not also overtly in terms of legislation, whatever land reforms had been implemented in the early decades after Independence. While a small house site or an acre of cultivable land remains a distant dream for millions of...

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Manusmriti Prevails in Mayawati’s Sarvajan Raj

‘He is fulfilling his jatigat kartavya (caste obligation).’ – that’s what the President of the BSP Pratapgarh Unit said when asked about the local Brahmin BSP MLA who had harboured (in his own home) the killer of a Dalit college student (reported in Tehelka, 25 August 2007) The Manusmriti decreed that if a dalit were to recite the Vedas, his tongue must be cut off, if he dared to listen to a recitation of the Vedas, molten metal be poured into his ears. Mythology tells us that Shambuk had his head cut off for daring to recite the Vedas. Ekalavya’s teacher demanded his thumb. Education, for dalits in the age of Manu, was punishable with humiliating mutilation – then death. In the 60th year of Independent India, in the state ruled by India’s first dalit Chief Minister, the Manusmriti with its regime of ‘caste obligations’ and brutal caste punishments seems to be alive and well. Chakrasen’s eyes held dreams of college and career. According to the feudal goons of his village, his eyes had no right to house such dreams. They didn’t just kill him. They first punished his temerity by smashing that eye that dared to dream of education. Lucknow, the capital of UP, sports huge hoardings of a smiling Mayawati, assuring dignity, security, rights and employment for dalits, poor and women in the state. To dalits in...

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