03 March 2008

George Habash’s Contribution to the Palestinian struggle

(Excerpted from The Electronic Intifada, 30 Jan 08) I lived more than half of my life in the US and I never felt the alienation that I felt on the day I read George Habash, the Palestinian revolutionary who passed away last week, labeled as a “terrorism tactician” in a front page obituary in The New York Times. What do you when they want to convince you that a kind and gentle man you met and respected as a person is a terrorist when you know otherwise? Do you go back and see how they wrote glowing obituaries for Zionist militia leader and later Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a man whose record of killing civilians is as horrific and grotesque as that of Osama Bin Laden, former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Fatah Revolutionary Council founder Abu Nidal or Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet? But they can’t invent facts, and they can’t distort the narrative of Palestinian history. George Habash embodied an era that extended from the Nakba, or mass expulsions of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948, until the ending of the first phase of the Lebanese civil war in 1976, when the decline of the Left, and the launching of Sadatism began. Up until that time, when a deep ideological transformation took place in the Arab world, Habash was a major actor on the Arab political stage....

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Long Live Comrade Ramakant Dwivedi ‘Ramta’

Freedom fighter and popular revolutionary poet in both Bhojpuri and Hindi, Comrade Ramakant Dwivedi ‘Ramta’ passed away on January 24, 2008, at the age of 90 in Patna. Ramtaji was born in October 1917 – that epoch-making month and year marking the Russian Revolution. All his life, he remained dedicated to the struggles of the deprived. He was approaching his 91st spring; and yet he was full of the indomitable spirit and revolutionary energy of youth. His life inspired many generations to walk the path of revolutionary struggles. As a young man, Ramtaji threw himself enthusiastically into the freedom struggle. His political life began with the dream expressed in his song ‘A charkha in each and every Indian’s home’. In 1932 he was jailed during the Salt Satyagraha. In 1941 he was jailed again, but by then he was disillusioned with the Gandhian movement. In a poem written in July 1941, he declared, “I am marching on the path of revolution/Swiftly breaking the bonds of restraint, here I come”. In the Quit India movement of 1942, young people really did break the bonds of restraint; Ramtaji too was at the forefront of that movement and was again arrested and tortured in 1943. In a poem of 1943, he indicated his future path, “I am off on the path taken by Bhagat Singh and Azad/Khudiram-Sukhdev-Bismil Ramprasad”. He was never taken...

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Message from Fidel Castro

(Legendary leader of the Cuban Revolution and President of revolutionary Cuba since the overthrow of the Batista regime, Fidel Castro has recently handed over charge to Raul Castro. Fidel Castro’s message to Cuba on that occasion, dated February 18, 2008, with all restraint and humility, display the spirit of an exemplary communist, aware of the challenges and full of determination to overcome. Excerpts are reproduced below.) Dear compatriots: ….There were those overseas who, aware of my critical health condition, thought that my provisional resignation, on July 31, 2006, to the position of President of the State Council, which I left to First Vice-President Raul Castro Ruz, was final. But Raul, who is also minister of the Armed Forces on account of his own personal merits, and the other comrades of the Party and State leadership were unwilling to consider me out of public life despite my unstable health condition. It was an uncomfortable situation for me vis-à-vis an adversary which had done everything possible to get rid of me, and I felt reluctant to comply. … my first duty was to prepare our people both politically and psychologically for my absence after so many years of struggle. I kept saying that my recovery “was not without risks.” My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That’s all I can offer. To my dearest compatriots,...

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Patan Reveals Pandora’s Box of Rape in Modi’s Gujarat

The gang rape of Bilkis Bano and so many others in Gujarat 2002 was part of a cold-blooded campaign of genocide, justified as a ‘reaction’ to Godhra. One wonders how Modi would explain the systematic and, it would seem, habitual rape of poor dalit women students in his glorious, ‘growing’ Gujarat. At Patan Patan PTC College, a dalit young women from a poor family was a victim of gang rape by six male teachers of the college. Using the threat of internal marking, they took the advantage of her poverty, and raped her 14 times in four and half months inside the college and in the village. It came to be known that this woman was not the only victim; rather the sexual exploitation was rampant for a decade, and was patronised by local BJP leaders. Ms. Anandiben Patel, the present Revenue Minister in the cabinet hails from this constituency, and had been the Education Minister of Gujarat for the same past decade when the sexual exploitation took place. The Patan PTC College is situated in the outskirt of the city with 8 feet high boundary walls and controlled by District Institute of Educational Technology (DIET). The victim comes from a very poor background from Jetalvasana village of Visnagar Taluka of Mehsana district. She scored 89% in 10th Std and 70% in 12th Std. Her father, a daily labourer...

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Gross Gender Injustice from Judges?

Judges and Chief Justices, and Human Rights Commissions in our country are, so it is said, supposed to guarantee justice to the aggrieved and to the socially oppressed. Justice for the legions of oppressed women facing violence and harassment lies in the hands of these eminences. But time and again, women who are victims of violence find that it is they themselves who are in the dock in the courts, accused of the crime of demanding equality and freedom! Time and again, Judges sentence women to ‘life imprisonment’ – a life of imprisonment within the codes of patriarchal ‘morality’. The latest instances occurred in Karnataka on February 9 2008, when two luminaries, both holding public positions that are crucial in ensuring gender justice and upholding the human rights of women, publicly blamed women for the violence they face in our cities. Chief Justice Cyriac Joseph, speaking at a public event on ‘Supreme Court on Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955’ (as reported in The Hindu dated February 9 2008), urged women to dress “modestly” for the “safety and security of the people”; elaborating that “Nowadays, women wear such kind of dresses even in temples and churches that when we go to places of worship, instead of meditating on God, we end up meditating on the person before us.” He added that “provocative dresses that women wear in buses”...

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Reports

‘People’s Assertion Rally’ in Siwan On February 18, CPI(ML) organized a massive ‘Jan Davedari Rally’ (People’s Assertion Rally) in Gandhi Maidan, Siwan. More than 10, 000 participated in the rally. Addressing it as the main speaker Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary, CPI(ML), spoke of the struggles of Siwan that had defied the terror of mafia dons and criminal gangs patronised by those in power. He said that the Nitish Kumar government had been unable to provide good governance to Bihar even in 30 months, let alone in 3 months as claimed by him when he was sworn in as Chief Minister. Nitish’s humiliation at the hands of agitating peasants in his own home district amply demonstrates the deeper resentment accumulating against him. Comrade Dipankar called upon people to participate in CPI(ML)’s ‘Pol Khol’ Rally in Patna on March 18. Others who addressed the rally were Comrades Rameshwar Prasad, CC Member and National President AIALA, Dhirendra Jha, CCM and General Secretary AIALA, Amar Yadav, State Committee member and MLA, Satya Dev Ram, State Secretary AIALA, Javed Beg, Co-convener, Inquilabi Muslim Conference and AIPWA leader Comrades Sohila Gupta. Comrade Ghughali Prasad presided over the meeting.  Pipra Massacre: Sign of Rising Morale of Feudal Forces in Nitish Rule Three CPI(ML) supporters were killed on February 21 in Pipra village of Chhoradano block of East Champaran by the gang of local feudal...

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Movement against Privatisation of Power and Land Grab for Thermal Power Plant at Mansa

There is an ongoing struggle in Mansa, Punjab against the acquisition of 2300 acres of land in four villages for the Talwandi Sabo Super Thermal Plant Project. The struggle is being led by the CPI(ML), the Punjab Kisan Union, the Mazdoor Mukti Morcha and the Thermal Plant-Affected Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (Struggle Committee). The affected people are against the proposal of handing over the plant on the “Build, Operate, Own” basis to a private company, and are also demanding at least Rs 25 lakh per acre as compensation, 80% of the work in constructing and running the Plant to be for the affected people and other unemployed people in Mansa, provision of education, medical care, electricity and drinking water free of cost on behalf of the Project, and compensation not only to the farmers but also to the affected workers. Thousands of people held a dharna with the above demands from 9-11 January at the Mansa District Collectorate. On 18 January, they blockaded the Mansa-Talwandi Sabo road at the main Project site (Banawala village) all day and held a militant mass meeting. When the Government called the mandatory public hearing as part of Environment Impact Assessment, people gathered in very large numbers in protest against it. During this protest demonstration, a sarpanch of one of the affected villages (who on account of being with Akali Dal (Badal) is campaigning against...

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Protest Against Land Grab at Nalanda : Report by a CPI(ML) Investigation Team

On February 8, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar visited Pilkhi village of Nalanda (his home district) along with Ex-President Kalam to show him the proposed site for Nalanda University. Thousands of peasants, angry at the forced acquisition of their land at throwaway prices, assembled there and started raising slogans. It is alleged that the agitated peasants threw stones at the Chief Minister, injuring him on his head. Thus Nitish Kumar became the fourth CM in a row – after KB Sahai, Jagannath Mishra and Bhagawat Jha Azad, to be humiliated by the masses. A CPI (ML) Investigation Team visited Pilkhi to find out truth and understand the reasons behind the agitation and anger of the peasants. The team comprised CPI (ML) CC Member KD Yadav, All India Kisan Sangharsh Samiti President Raja Ram Singh, Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha State Secretary Rajendra Patel, State Committee Member Pal Bihari Lal and CPI(ML) district committee Member Anil Patel. According to peasants, land is being acquired in 18 villages in the name of setting up Nalanda University. Sale and purchase of land has been legally banned in these villages. And under the area to be acquired fall residential areas as well as the cremation ground, public toilets and other public places. The land to be acquired is fertile three-crop land and apart from wheat and rice, commercial crops like potato, onion, garlic and...

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Ganga Expressway : ‘Corporate Hitay, Sarvajan Dukhay’

From Greater Noida to Balia, the Ganga Expressway is around 1000 km. long. This 8-lane road passes mainly through the left bank of Ganga, though in Banaras and Chandauli it has to pass on the right bank of Ganga. For this Expressway worth Rs 40000 crore, 631 sq. km land is to be acquired in 36 tehsils of 19 districts. More over, nearly 30000 acres of land around the Expressway is to be acquired in the name of ‘Development Zones.’ In all, around 64000 hectares of land is to be acquired for the Expressway Project. Perhaps, it is the largest one stroke land acquisition in Indian history. Of these 64000 hectares, only 5% land belongs to the Government, while 25% land is sandy, barren land with low productivity. And 70% land, the most fertile land of UP situated on the banks of Ganga, is to be acquired from peasants. Presented as Mayawati’s birthday gift to the people of the state, it is claimed that this ‘dream project’ of the Chief Minister will link the backward region of eastern UP with the developed Noida region adjoining Delhi; rejuvenate the traditional industries in Bhadohi, Kanpur, Kannauj and Khurja; boost tourism and commercial activities in historical cities like Varanasi, Mirzapur and Bithur. Also, vehicles may run at the speed of 120 Kms. per hour on jam-free roads. The Game of Public-Private Partnership...

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Untold Story of Land Grab in Basu’s Bengal

(CPI(M) continues to tell whoever will listen, that in West Bengal, acquisition of fertile land is only for industrial development and employment generation; and also that at Singur, it has ensured a model programme of compensation and rehabilitation. The fate of the victims of an even older land grab project – at the Rajarhat New Township (RNT) in the North 24 Parganas district way back in 1995 – gives the lie to these claims. Nityananda Ghosh reports, using extracts from a booklet issued by the North 24 Parganas district committee of CPI(ML) Liberation, titled ‘Rajarhat: Uponagarir antorale arto manusher kanna’ (Rajarhat: Cries of agonized humans beneath the township), based on the accounts of senior CPI(M) cadres and local leaders who left the party in protest over the anti-poor model of development.) The RNT was a pet project of the erstwhile West Bengal Chief Minister, veteran CPI(M) Politburo member Jyoti Basu and Housing Minister Gautam Deb, a West Bengal State Committee member of the party. Urban development at the New Town has spelt cruel eviction of landless and marginal farmers from their livelihood and homes. As in Singur, the LF government made use of Land Acquisition Act 1894, a British colonial act which the CPI(M) quietly used for years; all talk of ‘amending’ it has come about only due to the fierce struggle of the people of Singur. A survey,...

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Aftab Ansari’s Story : Demanding Justice for Victims of Witch-hunts

After the serial bomb blasts in November in various courts in UP, the Muslim community in the state is constantly living under the shadow of unfortunate stereotyping and witch-hunt. Aftab Alam Ansari, a worker of the Calcutta Electricity Supply Corporation (CESC), is one such young innocent who was branded a dreaded terrorist and accused for collusion in a blast case. He was arrested by the UP Special Task Force (STF) and the CID, and overnight an innocent man’s world turned into a nightmare of torture and interrogation. For days, the police tortured Aftab and tried to force a confession out of him that was Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) area commander Mukhtar alias Raju Bengali. 22 long days later, when he determinedly refused to succumb to their torture, Aftab was finally released and he was declared innocent by the court. Recently, Aftab was in Delhi, joined by the JNU Students’ Union and the Forum for Democratic Initiatives, to highlight his demand for compensation and justice. He recounted how his petitions for compensation and for punishment of the guilty police officials – both in the UP and West Bengal police force – have been ignored. Aftab’s story is not unusual, it finds echoes not just in UP and West Bengal, but all over the country. These states, particularly UP, are merely the latest “hotbeds” for suspected terrorists, the most recent in a long...

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Of Security and Insecurity : Rulers who Live in Fear Can only Rule by Fear

(This piece was written for publication in The Little Magazine, in its issue on the theme of ‘Security’, Vol. VII, Issue 3&4.) To say that security is a basic human need may sound like stating the obvious. Yet I think it is extremely important to emphasise this essential human dimension of the question at the outset. It is not only the nation-state or global capital that needs security, we all want to feel secure – not only in our own original or usual surroundings but also when we migrate to other situations, or negotiate and contend with various challenges in life. In other words, security should be as central to any notion of human rights as human dignity and the very right to life. How far is this right guaranteed in India? Ideologues of the Indian state would like us to believe that as a rule this right is perfectly secure in our parliamentary democracy. Periodic pogroms and massacres, Armed Forces Special Powers Act, ‘licensed’ and unlicensed police and paramilitary atrocities are just exceptions that only go to prove this rule. Compared to Palestine and Iraq, or Afghanistan and Pakistan, we may surely consider ourselves luckier. But over time are we achieving higher standards of security in India? I think it is impossible to escape the reality that more and more people are feeling more and more insecure in...

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The CPI(M) As Labour Lieutenants of Predatory Capital

In the Aftermath of Nandigram (EPW, 26 may 2007) saw Prabhat Patnaik (PP) coming forward with an indirect, partial but deep critique of the model of ‘industrialisation’ being pursued in Buddhadeb’s Bengal. The three main points in his submission were: (a) the Left Front government (LFG), instead of opposing the neoliberal policy regime imposed by the Centre, has accepted that; (b) Nandigram-type tragedies are inevitable so long as such policies continue; (c) the present day corporate industrialisation is “necessarily anti-people” and it creates less employment (including “downstream employment generation”) than the jobs lost by evicted peasants. These views were promptly and rudely dismissed by the West Bengal Chief Minister, in an interview with CNN-IBN on 30 June 2007, as those of an “academic” who does not “understand the real situation”. And now when the party prepares for its 19th congress in an atmosphere of intense debate over the same policies of Left-led governments, we find PP offering a vigorous defence of the builders of the very same neoliberal model of capitalism in West Bengal. (The Communists and the Building of Capitalism, EPW, 2 February 2008) Of course, he has a stratagem to make the shift appear less shocking: he skirts the real, concrete issues of Left polemics, presents a ridiculously oversimplified and de-contextualised version of the debate, and on that ground pretends to get his job done simply by...

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Draft Political Resolution for CPI(M)’s 19th Congress

Reconciling ‘Anti-imperialist’ Rhetoric with ‘Neo-liberal Constraints’ The draft political resolution released by the CPI(M) for its ensuing 19th Congress provides quite a revealing commentary on the opportunist political trajectory of the party. The resolution is characteristically elaborate about the description of the international and national situation. But when it comes to spelling out the concrete positions and role of the party, the resolution is rather vague and evasive. And as for the debate that the party now increasingly faces in its own circles, the resolution dismisses everything as a big anti-CPI(M) conspiracy! The draft resolution devotes several paragraphs to the global economic situation under imperialist globalization and the US-led ‘war on terror’. It calls for a mighty worldwide anti-imperialist resistance that combines both anti-war and anti-globalisation sentiments and struggles on a global scale. But what task does the CPI(M) derive for itself from this global analysis and advocacy? The answer sounds pretty innocent – “rousing the anti-imperialist sentiments of the Indian people and mounting pressure on the Indian government to pursue a steadfast role in promoting multipolarity, defending sovereignty of nations and the non-aligned movement.” Let us probe a little deeper. The CPI(M) resolution quite correctly identifies imperialist globalization and the global war on terror as the two principal prongs of the global offensive spearheaded by US imperialism. Now, where do the Indian ruling classes stand in relation to...

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Bubbly BSE Goes Bust!

The “laws” of the Indian stock markets, when the speculative bubble building up over them is at its relative zenith, are simple: if Mr.Chidambaram sneezes, they would crash. And they would as well crash if Chidambaram doesn’t sneeze either! No matter how mesmerising and alluring the bubbles are, they are always transient, whether in soapy waters or in choppy seas of the stock market. But what is new about the stock market soiree of these supposedly booming days? The days of the Bounty and the Bub(b)ly. The days of mindboggling quantities of liquid finance, crisscrossing across frontiers and currencies and ever ready to make the best of any opportunity. When speculation is the loftiest and legitimate “business”. But when the bubble burst, it was not a one-time crash. Thanks to the enormous liquidity, much like a string of soap bubbles blown by kids out of their straws, the markets also witnessed a series of booms and busts in the course of their recent convulsions, not over long periods but within days and even hours. Not only the wave lengths were short and amplitudes high but the frequency of fluctuations was also quite fast. Today, as always, the markets crash and the panicky investors sell at a loss and the big speculators immediately start buying again, the markets move up, luring the small fish again, but the big fish start...

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