02 February 2008

Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1911-1984)

February 13 marks the birth anniversary of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Born in Sialkot (now Pakistan) in 1911, his voice served as poetic witness to the turbulent upheavals of the Indian sub-continent of his lifetime. A member of the Communist Party in undivided India, and one of the architects of the Communist movement in Pakistan, Faiz was charged by the Pakistani regime in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case in 1951, was sentenced to death and spent four years in prison before being released. He served on the National Council of the Arts by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government; and when Bhutto was overthrown by the Zia Ul Haq dictatorship, Faiz was exiled in Lebanon, where he remained till 1982. He died in Lahore in 1982. In Faiz’s voice, it is as if we can hear the voices of today – Pakistan’s and the sub-continent’s pain, its yearnings for democracy, the cries of its “orphan blood” shed by a spotless assassin, and its conviction of hope. The poems below are translated from the Urdu by Agha Shahid Ali. A Prison Evening Each star a rung, night comes down the spiral staircase of the evening. The breeze passes by so very close as if someone just happened to speak of love. In the courtyard, the trees are absorbed refugees embroidering maps of return on the sky. On the roof, the moon – lovingly, generously...

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TRIBUTE : The CIA Man With a Difference

Philip Agee, a CIA agent who went on to expose the CIA’s dirty deeds, passed away on 7 January in Havana. He was 72. Agee succumbed to a surgery for a perforated ulcer, in a hospital where he was admitted on 25 December last, according to his widow, Gisella Roberge. Granma, Leftwing daily of Cuba, described him as a “loyal friend of Cuba and staunch supporter of the peoples’ struggle for a better word”. Born in Florida on 19 July 1935 in a well-to-do family, Agee worked for the CIA in Latin American and other countries. Moved by his conscience, he left the CIA, and to make amends, he published Inside The Company: CIA Diary in 1975, naming dozens of under-cover agents. This damning expose of the CIA’s inner world was translated into 29 languages and was handy for anti-imperialists all over the globe. It was first brought out in Cuba. In an interview to Guardian of London last year, Agee said, “It was a time in the 1970s when the worst imaginable horrors were going on in Latin America – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala, El Salvador – they were under military dictatorships with death squads, all with the backing of CIA and the US government”. Agee had joined the CIA in 1957. Working as a case officer in several Latin American countries, Agee’s personal convictions began...

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OBITUARY

Red Salute to Comrade Rangta Murmu Comrade Rangta Murmu, a member of the Party’s Darjeeling district committee and leader of the Kharibari block committee, breathed his last in Uttarbanga Medical College Hospital, Siliguri, on 5 January. On January 1 while returning home after leading a resistance struggle against eviction of agrarian workers at Bhatajot by the land mafia, he suddenly had a cerebral attack. After struggling with death for four long days, the people’s hero departed from his comrades and the masses of Naxalbari. Survived by his life partner Comrade Bamni and two daughters and one son, he was only 48. It was in 1975-76 i.e., during the period of Party’s re-organisation, that Comrade Rangta along with others like Comrade Patal Singh joined the party as a young peasant militant. A number of women fighters also joined the movement at this time. They were all wholetime organisers of the revolutionary movement who left their homes and hearths and depended fully on the masses. That was a period of intense state repression and Comrades Rangta and Patal used to lead the night marches from one village to another. Thanks to the vanguard role played by such comrades, we were able to spread the party’s work in a number of villages in Fansideoa, Naxalbari and Kharibari areas. A regeneration of the revolutionary movement was soon witnessed among Rajbanshi, Sadri, Oraon and...

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Halla Bol – Street Theatre On the Silver Screen

Safdar Hashmi described street theatre as a militant political theatre of protest whose function is to agitate the people and to mobilize them behind fighting organizations. It was during the performance of a street play Halla Bol, on January 1, 1989 at Sahibabad, that Safdar was fatally attacked by Congress-backed goons. Halla Bol, or ‘attack’, is a slogan that the Left in the country has used to define the thrust of people’s attack: against imperialist and colonial forces. Hence when a film called Halla Bol, is released in the month that marks the beginning of the twentieth anniversary of Safdar’s murder and holds out the promise of having drawn from various contemporary events that have shaken the public consciousness, one does go to watch the film with much anticipation. Besides, when was it that a Bollywood film was promoted through a street play? There have been quite a few films that the Hindi film industry has churned out which have reflected the miseries and concerns of the middle classes or, as the media says, the opinion classes’ outrage. However in this era of NRI-oriented films, even this middle class outrage has got sidelined in the advertising hurry to promote consumption and mansion-car ambitions. But there was a change with Rang de Basanti (RDB) presenting the picture of college kids turning into crusaders of middle class outrage. While over there...

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AICCTU Achieves Recognition as Central Trade Union Organization

Founded in 1989 in its Chennai conference, the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) has achieved the status of a recognized Central Trade Union Organization (CTUO). AICCTU represents the trend of revolutionary trade unionism in the working class movement in India and is the trade union mass organisation of CPI(ML) Liberation. As per the finally verified membership of CTUOs (on the basis of membership as on 31 December 2002), AICCTU has recorded a membership of 6,39,962 (6 Lakh Thirty Nine Thousand Nine Hundred and Sixty Two) spread over 32 of 50 scheduled industries (including miscellaneous) and 11 states. It has a total number of 165 unions. The pattern of spread of membership shows that apart from making a notable expansion in the unorganized/informal sector which constitutes more than 90% of the total workforce of our country, AICCTU has made considerable expansion in the organized sector too. Among the unorganized sector workers, AICCTU has registered an expansion in all the important sectors like agriculture, plantations, construction, power-loom, and others. The most notable expansion has been among agricultural workers, mainly in Bihar, with a total membership of more than 5 lakh followed by tea plantation workers (mainly in Assam) with a membership of more than 25,000. Among organized sector workers, AICCTU has made considerable expansion in coal mining (mainly in Jharkhand) with a membership of more than 50,000, followed...

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Campaigning for Change in Jharkhand

The Party launched an ‘Oust UPA Govt., Save Jharkhand’ campaign on January 16, Comrade Mahendra Singh’s martyrdom day, with a massive Sankalp Sabha in Bagodar as well as meetings in other centres of the state. The campaign, involving demonstrations on worker-peasant issues at district HQs on January 25; and organised mobilization of the rank and file down to the village-panchayat level throughout February, will culminate in a March to Ranchi on March 17, when a mammoth rally will be held in the state capital Ranchi. This campaign is aimed at seizing the political initiative from the ruling class parties which are busy looting Jharkhand and giving Jharkhand a leftward political shift of united mass struggles against UPA-NDA. Greeting the mammoth rally in Bagodar on January 16, the martyrdom day of Comrade Mahendra Singh, Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, the Party General Secretary launched the ‘Oust UPA, Save Jharkhand’ campaign. Calling for fresh struggles in the new year, Comrade Dipankar said martyrdom could not silence Mahendra Singh or weaken the revolutionary resolve of CPI(ML). Calling upon for a broad front of workers-peasants-youth and various sections of the society facing devastation, Com. Dipankar said that such a common front – a common course of action – will intensify the battle against the disastrous policies of UPA-NDA and broaden its scope. The day was observed with meetings attended by thousands in Ramgarh, Garhwa, Palamu,...

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Bihar: Nitish Government’s Onslaught on Democracy

In less than two months’ time Nitish Government would reach midway of its scheduled tenure, but there is no sign of the “change” promised to be delivered to the people of Bihar. The crime rate is climbing up, particularly crime against women, and the feudal-criminal nexus is wreaking havoc on downtrodden people in the state with impunity, because most of the ruffians in the state nowadays enjoy JD(U) or BJP patronage. The government has dismally failed in implementation of NREGS and rectification of BPL list. It has also failed to check corruption in PDS, provide relief to the flood and drought affected people, or to check hunger deaths. The Nitish Government’s only significant ‘achievement’ has been its brutal repression on people’s movements. After a few months in power it created a new paramilitary force – SAP – recruiting ex-army personnel specifically to deal with ‘Naxalites’. In March 2007, it passed the notorious Police Act, giving judicial powers to police magistracy. Both these steps were the first of their kind in the country. Thus all the preparations were meticulously made to turn Bihar into a police state. Be it poor peasants, flood-victims, displacement affected people, students, medicos, employees, shiksha-mitras, para teachers, women health workers, even home guards and media persons – none were spared from police lathis and bullets. In particular, the repression unleashed over peacefully agitating Asha health workers...

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Tripura Assembly Elections and Our Intervention

The situation of Tripura is already surcharged, with election campaigns by all parties in full swing, particularly the ruling CPI(M). The CPI(M)-led Left Front has captured power for six terms and consecutively for the last three terms. The Left Front continues to be strong; in the last election the Front comprising Congress (I) and INPTC (Indigenous National Tribal People’s Council) got 19 seats out of 60 and all others were captured by Left Front. Within the Left Front, RSP got 2 seats and CPI got only one seat, all others were in the hands of the CPI(M), so CPI(M) has absolute control both in the Front and the State Government. Congress is the main opposition party, but there is no sign of a Congress revival. The Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh results have been a morale booster for the BJP which plans to contest many seats this time. Earlier the Trinamool Congress had some base, but in the last Assembly elections it became very weak. Other streams of Left, such as SUCI, PDF (Dissident group of CPI(M)) are contesting independently; PCC CPI(ML) has launched a new political party. Before the declaration of elections, the CPI(ML) State Committee attempted to initiate an electoral understanding with these groups, but they were not interested. Within the Left Front, at first the Forward Block pressurized the CPI(M) to allot more seats for them, and independently...

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Mayawati’s Uttar Pradesh: Emerging Dissent

Despite its own peculiarities, the by-election for the Ballia Parliamentary seat, held within months of a spectacular Mayawati victory in the State, was Mayawati’s chance to reaffirm the electoral invincibility of her new magic wand of Sarvajan politics. Though she fielded the son of the biggest icon of eastern UP’s Brahmin power groups and the entire state machinery along with a battery of Ministers was at her service, she lost, to her shock, by quite a big margin of more than one lakh votes! Notwithstanding various explanations offered by Mayawati and certain factors definitely favouring Niraj Shekhar, son of late PM Chandrashekhar’s son, such a decisive defeat must also undoubtedly be understood in terms of the evolving people’s response to the ongoing Maya-Raj. Particularly worrying for Mayawati may be the reported passivity among the poor and dalits resulting in their low turn-out, as well as sections of Brahmin peasantry shifting away. By all indications, the peasant question is emerging in a big way in the state and may in the coming days prove decisive for the Mayawati-regime, just as it once proved to be the nemesis of her bête noire Mulayam Singh. Farmers’ suicides continue unabated in various parts of the state, most notably in the Bundelkhand region. Recently two brothers committed suicide in Lakhimpur when their land (8 bighas) was auctioned by the government for non-payment of a...

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Gujarat: Encouraging Beginnings

In Gujarat, the Party has in the past few years developed work in Sabarkantha, Valsad, Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar, Anand, and Khera districts. Sabarkantha district, situated in North East Gujarat bordering Rajasthan, is predominantly populated by Dungri Gadasia and Dungri Bhil adivasis. The forest area in this district comes under the Fifth Schedule category of forests. Here, we began work after 2002, unionising daily wage labourers in the PWD. Through the All Gujarat Jaher Bandh Kam Mazdoor Mandal (Union) we organised daily wagers nearly all over the district. Struggles were waged to demand fixed work, timely disbursal of wages, regularisation of government employees, bonus, and other issues. Many militant demonstrations and gheraos were held at the office of the district’s PWD officers. Some partial demands and bonus were achieved. PWD daily wage workers have achieved bonus only in Sabarkantha district. Their militant struggle influenced the daily workers and guards in the Forest Department too. There are a significant number of these forest workers in the district and most are either adivasi ‘Dungri Gadasiyas’ or Dalit ‘Bankars’. This section has for long been associated with the ‘Eklavya Sena’ of local Congress MP Madhusudan Mistry. But in spite of the fact that it was led by an MP, the Eklavya Sena was unable to achieve the long-pending demands of the forest workers or to rein in the high-handedness of the Forest Department Officers....

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CPI(ML) Activists Arrested in Anti-SEZ Agitation at Kakinada

The Kakinada Special Eonomic Zone (KSEZ) is one among the first three in the country which got permission two and a half years back. KSEZ is the promoting agency started acquiring lands long back at cheaper rates. The government has not acquired the land directly through the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation but allowed private organizations to do the same. The Government declared that export-oriented large and medium industries will be promoted in this region, by which large scale employment will be generated. Initially central and state governments propagated that a refinery with a capacity of seven and a half million tonnes will be started by ONGC and many subsidiaries will be floated. They estimated that 8500 acres land is necessary. Later ONGC dropped its proposal in the name of non-feasibility of the project with less capacity. Due to pressure from local level lobbies, the Central Government made ONGC start its project with a 15 million tonnes capacity. In the meantime KSEZ promoters developed an understanding with Reliance to start a refinery here. Any way, it is not yet clear what industries will be promoted here. But so far, 6000 acres of land have already been acquired by KSEZ with the help of ruling machinery. Revenue officials, including the Collector, toured the villages coming under the SEZ and tried to influence the people with false promises, and even threatened...

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What Really Happened at Nandigram

Writing in defence of the West Bengal government, ‘Intellectual’ apologists of the CPI (M) have decried the persistence of the militant peasants’ movement in Nandigram as an illegitimate ‘struggle’ once the Chief Minister had asked the people of Nandigram to tear up the notification announcing the acquisition of land in the area. Why indeed should the people of Nandigram have continued on the warpath even after this supposedly benevolent assurance from the CM himself? Why should they have dug up trenches and cordoned off the area in the manner of a “liberated” zone? Why did they refuse to display grace, and by extension, also implicit faith in the government once “all the demands of the original struggle were met”? Why did they continue to sulk and behave badly? Those still ignorant would do well to turn to Nandigram: What Really Happened, the report of an independent Peoples’ Tribunal held at Gokulnagar and Sonachura in Nandigram and at Kolkata towards the end of May last year. Remember, this is months before the early November Operation ‘Nandigrab’, an utterly bloody and violent programme executed by the CPI (M) goons to reclaim the so-called ‘liberated zones’. The Report covers the ground from May to November 2007 through a chapter at the end, which unlike the rest of the report, is based, not on the testimonies and depositions, but largely pieced together on...

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Singur Land Grab for ‘Public Purpose’?

“Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law” – Oliver Goldsmith Much before Marx’s inference that in a class-based society justice can only be in the interests of the class in power, Oliver Goldsmith wrote in the 18th Century that law was a shot in the arm of the rich to ‘grind’ the poor. Little wonder, Reuters wired a story gleefully, featured in the Guardian of London, stating that an Indian court “threw out a slew of complaints against a factory to build the world’s cheapest car, saying there was no anomaly in the acquisition of land for the project by Tata Motors.” The division bench of the High Court of Calcutta comprising Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh said the acquisition of 997.11 acres of land at Singur was made following all proper methodology and the process was quite legal. In other words, the 217-page judgment held the acquisition was in ‘public purpose’, according to Section 3 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, thus rejecting about half a dozen of public interest litigations which challenged the acquisition as improper. The perception that $2500 Tata Nano cars, scheduled to roll out from the Singur plant, is for public purpose is questionable. The 1985 Amendment to the 1894 Act, defining “Public Purpose” for land acquisition, lists inter alia educational institutions or schemes such as housing,...

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‘People’s Car’ at People’s Cost

The Indian media is full of celebratory paeans of praise for Tata’s ‘revolutionary’ new ‘People’s Car’ – Nano, which costs a mere Rs. 1 lakh and is all set to replace two-wheelers as India’s small-budget vehicle of choice. A typical sample is the editorial in the Hindu which hailed Ratan Tata as a ‘visionary’ who turned the ‘utopian’ dream of a low-cost car into a reality, and branded protests against the car as ‘murmurs of doubt and jealousy’. This editorial echoed Ratan Tata’s own claim of how he was motivated by the social responsibility of providing a family car for people who use scooters. Ratan Tata has also claimed that he decided to locate his factory in W Bengal as a favour to the state, as a “leap of faith”, “so that more investment could flow to the region”. With the Tata’s car plant at Singur, what is the truth? Has Tata’s investment flowed to Bengal, or have Bengal’s taxpayers’ money flowed to subsidise Tata? Is the ‘world’s cheapest car’ a generous gift of the ‘visionary’ Ratan Tata to India and the world? Or does its affordability come at a heavy cost of the land, lives and livelihood of the people of Singur? A year ago, the CPI(M)’s West Bengal Government had claimed that land acquired for the Tata factory at Singur was single-cropped and not fertile, and moreover...

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Remembering Kalinganagar, Nandigram

(As we observe the anniversary of the Kalinganagar firing and the Nandigram crackdown, Liberation takes stock of the struggles against corporate land grab: the successes, such as the scrapping of SEZs in Goa; the setbacks such the Singur HC verdict. We also review a new publication – a Report of a Tribunal on Nandigram. And interspersed with these are reports from the field of an ongoing struggle against an SEZ at Kakinada and news clippings which are an ironic counterpoint to the propaganda surrounding Singur and the Nano. – Ed/) New Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Bills: Ample Leeway for Corporate Land Grab This January marked two years of the Kaliganagar massacre and one year of the first assaults on the peasants of Nandigram. In the ensuing period, Kalinganagars and Nandigrams have multiplied, even as ruling parties of all hues are united in their policy of SEZs, corporate land grab and state repression on movements, and the people and peasantry are united in their determination to intensify their resistance. In the first week of January this year, Congress’ Digambar Kamat Government in Goa was forced to bow to overwhelming public opinion and people’s movements and scrap all SEZs in Goa; Congress in fact has blamed the SEZ lobby for trying to destabilise its Goa Government! In the same week, Union minister for Commerce Kamal Nath sent a detailed report to...

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