02 February 2009

14.12.2008, Iraq

Alright, Mr Bush! Today, with great pride I’m getting old shoes fixed. Those Iraqi shoes, Scorched by burning sands, Sands, which in that land have been mixed with gunpowder. Those Vietnamese shoes, Found buried in their own land, On whose graves no identification could be recorded. Those Palestinian shoes, Which lost their way within their own home, And were made captive by killers. Those Afghan shoes, Dipped in oil-wells and then set on fire, Where even clouds did not burst into rain. There are so many things we’ve to fix about you Mr Bush! Which is why, today, I am returning once more, Thinking compared to writing a poem, to fix shoes, Or to fix poetry with the civility of shoes, is more effective. Till today I wrote poems With the civility of the hammer and sickle But now I will write armed with the civility of shoes. They say that that shoe has been destroyed. How many shoes will you destroy Mr. Bush? There are so many shoes – Enough to hurl every single day At the history of the White House From George Washington to Obama, From the Patriot Act to the Nuke Deal, From the World Bank to the WTO, From Hiroshima to Abu Gharib, At the history of all the institutions you created. The entire century is stacked with blood-stained shoes. How many shoes remain...

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Thieves of Delhi

A B C D Chaida Mainu, Vadi Biddi Chaida Mainu Ctvv Chaida Mainu, Lcd Bhi Chaida Mainu Laal Murseri Chaidi Mainu, Laal Kila Bhi Chaida Mainu Haa Haa Chaida Ho Ho Chaida Oye Lucky Lucky Oye is about a real life superchor Devender alias Bunty, a compulsive thief whose niche was burglarizing independent bungalows in posh Delhi colonies. He is reported to have committed more than 500 burglaries, amounting to loot worth millions of rupees. From luxury cars to flower pots and cutlery, his range was truly eclectic. He was finally caught in 2002 after dodging different state police departments in the most creative ways possible. What director Dibakar Bannerji and his co-script writer Urmi Juvekar have done to this story of a real life character is to turn it into a much larger comment on the sleaziness of Delhi. While it is true that Delhi is often characterized as such, owing to its wheeler-dealer population of politicians and bureaucrats, the film’s originality lies in looking at this sleaziness from a non-bourgeois perspective. Far from seeing the whole package of corruption, kickbacks, and conspicuous consumerism with superior disdain, the film presents everything as a product of the nexus between the capitalist market and a more informal economy, embodied in the triple persona of Paresh Rawal. Rawal plays a sleazy adulterous father who trades in peanuts, a sleazier puff-haired showman...

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OBITUARY

Red Salute to Comrade Madhukar Katre Comrade Madhukar Katre, President of Lal Nishan Party (L), passed away on 16 of January, 2009 in a hospital in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Born in Pune on 05.02.1927, Com. Katre joined the freedom movement even as a young schoolboy in Kolhapur. Later, he embraced Marxism-Leninism, took active part in the freedom struggle as well as the Praja Parishad struggle against abolition of the princely state of Kolhapur. He was jailed for 17 months for his participation in the movement. Later he also took leading part in the Goa Liberation struggle and also the movement for the formation of Sanyukta Maharashtra. Later still, he led the struggle for implementation of tenancy legislation of the Maharashtra State. Later along with Comrade Sataram Patil, he founded the movement of Co-operative Sugar Factory Workers in 1982. He had also been the General Secretary of the Maharashtra Rajya Sahakari Kamgar Mahasangh, from which platform he helped organize a militant Trade Union movement of the Co-operative Sugar Factory Workers, which created a broad rural base for the Lal Nishan Party. He was also the founder of the organization for the much exploited Sugarcane Cutters of the Co-operative Sugar Industry and was the General Secretary of their State-level organization. As a leader of Lal Nishan Party, he played a leading role in the movement of the peasantry for relief and elimination...

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Reports

Saffron Offensive in Karnataka Further emboldened by its victory in the by-elections in 5 out of 8Assembly seats, the ruling BJP has intensified its communal fascist onslaught. At Mangalore, a coastal district is the nerve centre of Sangh Parivar’s saffron offensive. B V Seetaram, Editor of a Karavali Ale, a magazine that had been a bold voice against the BJP Government, was arrested recently on flimsy charges and even displayed in handcuffs. The arrest came on the heels of months of harassment, fake cases, attacks on the magazine’s office and public bonfires of copies of the magazine. In Mangalore, the Sangh Parivar’s moral policing is not confined to a few incidents. Groups of young people are routinely attacked on the grounds that Hindu women are fraternising with Muslim or Christian men. A bus in which college students were being taken on a trip was stoned on the same grounds. A Hindu school girl visited a Muslim girl, her schoolmate; both were beaten up and the Muslim girl’s home ransacked. Sangh activists boast that mostly, girls ‘behave’ if thrashed and humiliated in public, but it is more difficult to make boys obey the ‘moral code.’ Recently the office of the PUCL’s Karnataka Working President D’sa was attacked by the Bajrang Dal. The inmates of a jail in Mangalore were attacked brutally within the jail premises by Bajrang Dal members, who...

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The Gaza Bloodbath

(Abridged from an article in Counterpunch, January 6, 2009. Ed/-) In a rare moment of honesty, the New York Times divulged the real motive behind the bombardment and invasion of Gaza. In Ethan Bronner’s article, Israeli Vice Premier Haim Ramon said, “We need to reach a situation in which we do not allow Hamas to govern. That is the most important thing. If the war ends in a draw, as expected, and Israel refrains from reoccupying Gaza, Hamas will gain diplomatic recognition…No matter what you call it, Hamas will obtain legitimacy.” According to the Times: “In addition, any truce would probably include an increase in commercial traffic from Israel and Egypt into Gaza, which is Hamas’s central demand: to end the economic boycott and border closing it has been facing. To build up the Gaza economy under Hamas, Israeli leaders say, would be to build up Hamas. Yet withholding the commerce would continue to leave 1.5 million Gazans living in despair.” If Israel wants to prevent Hamas from “obtaining legitimacy,” than the real objective of the invasion is to either severely undermine or topple the regime. All the talk about the qassam rockets and the so-called “Hamas infrastructure”, (the new phrase that is supposed to indicate a threat to Israeli security) is merely a diversion. What really worries Israel is the prospect that Obama will “sit down with his...

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Explaining the Paradox of J&K Elections

The large number of people who turned out to vote in the 2008 J&K elections surprised most observers and political commentators. Despite all the apprehensions stemming out of the turmoil that the state witnessed from June onward in connection with the Amarnath Yatra land issue, the polls were a success with a 61.23 per cent turnout, the highest since the militancy started in 1989. The success was acknowledged by the whole political spectrum across the State. Both the mainstream parties as well as the separatists – barring Syed Ali Shah Geelani – acknowledged that no forced rigging took place. In fact, separatist leaders like the Mirwaiz and Sajjad Lone conceded that the large voting turnout was indicative of the popular mood, when they emphasized the need for introspection in the separatist camp post-elections. Also, unlike the earlier elections, 2008 saw a complete absence of – threatened or real – militancy-related violence in the State. The elections were held in the backdrop of a high degree of political mass mobilization reflected in the massive rallies and demonstrations that took place from June onwards at different times in the Kashmir and Jammu regions separately. The precipitant for this was the issue of transfer of 800 canals of land to the Shri Amarnath Yatra Shrine Board (SAYSB) for housing the Amarnath pilgrims during the Yatra period. The government order was perceived by...

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Sri Lanka: Déjà vu all over again

In over two decades of being a journalist it was the first time ever that I have cried upon reading a newspaper editorial. Having watched closely the shameful decline of the media in India – and indeed around the world – from being a force that once spoke Truth to Power to one that now Sups with the Devil I have not surprisingly become cynical about my own profession. And yet there I was just a few days ago unable to control my tears while reading the editorial written by Lasantha Wickramatunga, Editor of the Sunday Leader in Sri Lanka, that he asked to be published upon his murder. On 8 January 2009 Lasantha was murdered by masked gunmen in Colombo – an event he not only predicted but also pinned the blame for on the Sri Lankan government of President Mahinda Rajapakse. Addressing the President directly Lasantha writes, “In the wake of my death I know you will make all the usual sanctimonious noises and call upon the police to hold a swift and thorough inquiry. But like all the inquiries you have ordered in the past, nothing will come of this one, too. For truth be told, we both know who will be behind my death, but dare not call his name. Not just my life, but yours too, depends on it.” Accusing the President of turning...

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Central Committee Meeting at Boddapadu

Party Central Committee (CC) met from December 18 to 21 in the historic Boddapadu village in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh. The village has been a stronghold of the revolutionary communist movement for decades and has been associated with the lives and struggles and sacrifices of legendary martyrs like Comrades Tamara Ganapati, Panchadri and Nirmala Krishanmurti, Subbarao Panigrahi, Vempatapu Satyanarayana and several others. December 18 this year marked the tenth anniversary of the demise of Comrade Vinod Mishra. The CC therefore chose this historic occasion and venue to initiate the month-long Pledge Campaign (December 18, 2008 – January 16, 2009) and step up all-round preparation for the important battles ahead, and also to prepare for 2009, the 40th anniversary year of the Party’s foundation. Before the CC began its meeting, Comrade Malleswar Rao hoisted the flag of the Party and Central Committee members (CCMs) paid floral tribute to the portrait of Comrade VM. Members of martyrs’ families were then felicitated by CPI(ML) General Secretary in the presence of CCMs, local comrades and several leading cadres of the Andhra state unit. Throughout the four days of the meeting, Andhra comrades set a new standard of hospitality and people’s participation and involvement in making the meeting a memorable experience for the entire CC. The entire village – young and old, men, women, children and young college students alike – all had...

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A Murder for Mayawati’s Birthday

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s birthday bash this year lacked the usual fanfare and display of cash. Widespread protests and people’s anger against the gruesome murder of a PWD engineer Manoj Gupta by an MLA of her party, Shekhar Tiwari, allegedly for failing to pay up a sum of Rs. 50 lakh towards Mayawati’s ‘birthday gift’, put a dampener on the event. Mayawati has been put on the back foot, perhaps for the first time since she came to power in May 2007, when she formed the first single party government in UP in more than a decade. “Chadh Gundon Ke Chati Par- Mohar Lagao Hathi Par” (Crush the criminals – vote for the elephant) was her election war cry against the erstwhile Samajwadi Party-led government headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav. Mayawati’s credibility among varied sections of people has suffered a blow with Manoj Gupta’s murder. The middle class is seeing the murder as comparable with Satyendra Dubey’s murder during the Vajpayee regime at the Centre, and Manjunath’s murder during Mulayam-Congress rule in UP. For the poor, Manoj Gupta’s murder is yet another instance of the institutionalization of bribery which has marked Mayawati’s regime, and which they confront daily as they seek to avail of widow’s pension, ‘red card’ for the poor, etc. in political circles in UP, the murder, on the eve of Lok Sabha elections, is seen...

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A Beginning for Bigger Struggles!

[This piece is a sequel to the commentary on the unorganized labour bill that appeared in the April 2006 and July 2007 issues of Liberation. It has been prepared by V Shankar with inputs from B Sivaraman.] At last, the Parliament has passed the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Bill 2008. The UPA Government has brought into effect an Act which does not have any binding on the government, and yet which it hopes to cash in the coming election. The Labour Minister said, “when the income of our people is only Rs. 20, our Parliament, through this Bill, has given an income of two dollars a day to our people in the rural areas. Anybody can stand up and say that I want a job. You get a job of two dollars a day. What a jump it is from Rs.20 to Rs.80, and to Rs.135 in states like Delhi, Haryana and Punjab!” Perhaps, the minister wanted to conceal the fact that the workers had to fight a major battle even to get the declared wages of Rs.80 even in the much trumpeted NREGA. In the government’s own reply to the debates, the Minister has clarified that the scheme will be implemented in a phased manner to cover six crore unorganized workers, and in turn their family members of 30 crore people, over a period of five years, extending...

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Are Stronger Laws the Answer ?

(Slightly abridged from the original. The author is a senior advocate of the Supreme Court.) The terrorist attack on two five star hotels in Mumbai has led to a lot of jingoism and muscle-flexing in the media, and on the streets. “Get tough on terror” is the new mantra and among other things, getting tough means bringing tougher laws. The UPA government which repealed POTA just 4 years ago because it was found to be draconian, misused and counter-productive has now used the jingoism to enact a “tougher terror law” in the form of amendments in the already draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. These amendments were introduced in Parliament on 15 December 2008 and passed the next day with virtually no debate and without any opportunity for civil society to study, digest and debate the implications of the amendments. Those who have been clamouring for tougher laws often do not know what makes the law tough, and how “tougher” laws would deter or prevent terrorism. In the first place, it must be understood that a law can only help to keep in custody and prosecute and convict any person who has been arrested. No law, however tough or draconian, can deter or deal with suicidal terrorists who are willing to die before they are caught. The prospect of no bail or the prospect of being convicted is hardly likely...

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Combating the Corporate Idolisation of Modi

The Vibrant Gujarat Global Investor Summit held recently in Ahmedabad produced some strange sights and sounds. Pictures of a smiling and kite-flying Narendra Modi greeted newspaper readers across the country. And then there was this corporate chorus contemplating ‘Narendrabhai’ as the future leader of the country. Anil Ambani said the progress registered by Gujarat under Modi’s stewardship had made him “a proud Indian and a proud Gujarati”. Sunil Mittal of Bharati Group joined the Ambani scion to lavish praise on Modi’s “capacity to dream with open eyes” and his “drive for achieving results”. “If he has done so much for Gujarat, imagine what he would do for India?”, they exclaimed. British MP Barry Gardiner went one step ahead to proclaim: “Gujarat can lead the world.” The corporate discourse of ‘good governance’ has thus finally zeroed in on its most ideal ‘Indian idol’. The reasoning of the corporate honchos is pretty straightforward. They see themselves as the country and the nation and hence it seems obvious to them that what they consider best for them must also be best for the country. Ratan Tata, who had called Modi the ‘good M’ (he might well have called him his ‘God M’) after announcing the relocation of his Nano plant in Gujarat, has been quite explicit with his argument. “In the Nano case, we had our land and approval in just two...

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A-Satyam-eva Jayate

On January 7 2009, R. Ramalinga Raju, the CEO of Satyam Computer Services (the fourth largest company in the Indian IT industry) sent shockwaves throughout the financial world, already reeling under the global financial meltdown, by announcing his resignation and a fraud of over Rs. 7000 crores over several years. Satyam has reported an operating margin of 24%, hiding the actual figure of just 3%. This low figure (3%) for the company’s operating margin has baffled experts, since most IT giants report corresponding figures above 20%. While the actual picture is as yet extremely hazy, with people still trying to make some sense of the concocted figures doing the rounds, what is clear is that funds worth several crores have been siphoned off without a trace. “Call of Conscience” or Call for Protection? It is apparent that Raju’s public “confession” was driven less by a “call of conscience”, than by the impending dragnet of trial and punishment in the US for innumerable frauds. He clearly chose to get tried in India, where his tremendous clout and political connections could help him escape a rigorous punishment. He has placed his trust in the Indian political and legal system to let him off the hook easily, and the developments till date seem to prove how well-placed his decision was. Raju and his family are being shielded not just by the Hyderabad...

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Obama Accession and the Change the World Demands

The US – and the world – has just witnessed Bush’s exit from and Obama’s entry into the White House. The mood at Obama’s inauguration – an event replete with symbolic resonances, situating the Obama Presidency in the history of the civil rights movement against racism in the US – indicates the endurance of that groundswell of popular hope in the US which powered Obama’s campaign. For a US people reeling from financial crisis and the highly unpopular Bush presidency, Obama has offered a promise of ‘change’. Obama is quite aware of this crisis of confidence – domestic as well as global – in the hegemony of the US empire. He began his inaugural speech by acknowledging the economy weakened by greed, the lost jobs and homes, expensive healthcare, and schools that fail many, and tried to address the “sapping of confidence … a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable.” Clearly, for Obama, ‘change’ must mean a restoration of the deeply damaged credibility of the US. At the same time, for the people of the US, and much of the world too, it is clear that their hopes rest on a more thoroughgoing definition of change – a break with the long history of imperialist war-mongering and aggression and capitalist hubris. While wholeheartedly reiterating the immense significance of a popular victory of an African American in a US...

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