06 June 2009

Severe Crackdown on Land Struggle in Punjab

The Akali-led NDA Government in Punjab has launched an all-out witch-hunt and attack on agricultural labourers in Mansa district – for the crime of demanding that the Government keep its promise of house plots to rural poor. As we go to press, around 3000 agricultural workers, mostly Dalits, have been picked up by the police, and leaders of the CPI(ML) and Mazdoor Mukti Morcha are under arrest. Shockingly, the All India General Secretary of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Comrade Swapan Mukherjee, as well State Secretary Comrade Rajwinder Rana, was picked up from the home of a comrade, and has been jailed. Agricultural labourers in Mansa, under the banner of the Mazdoor Mukti Morcha and CPI(ML), launched a protest since April against the betrayal of the Akali Government’s promise of housing plots. A mass movement developed, in which the workers, even as elections were underway, occupied panchayat land. A third of panchayat land is supposed to be available on lease for workers for agricultural purposes – but it is usually grabbed by more powerful wealthy land owners. The land occupied by the workers is land legitimately available to them, even by the law of the land. Workers planted red flags on the land, and began constructing homes on the land and moving in. From 17 May onwards a dharna began. On 19 May, a massive...

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Reading the Past to Challenge the Present

“Since that day in Cuba, other countries have set off on different roads on the experiment of change: perpetuation of the existing order of things is perpetuation of the crime. Recovery of the resources that have always been usurped is recovery of our destiny. The ghosts of all the revolutions that have been strangled or betrayed through Latin America’s tortured history emerge in the new experiments, as if the present had been foreseen and begotten by the contradictions of the past. History is a prophet who looks back: because of what was, and against what was, it announces what will be.” – Open Veins of Latin America, p 8. Eduardo Galeano wrote the above passage in 1971, in the Spanish original of Open Veins of Latin America; the “new experiments” he wrote of at that time, for instance Salvador Allende’s government in Chile, were “strangled and betrayed” brutally not long after those words were written. When, 38 years later, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez chose to gift a copy of this book to US President Barack Obama at last month’s OAS Summit (see Liberation May 2009), he was no doubt acutely aware of the ironies and significances involved. Venezuela, along with Bolivia, are two Latin American countries that have not only recently set off on the road of change, but have also taken along many other sister countries in the...

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Updates

Barhania Massacre: Popular Protest Forces Administration to Reject Police’ Version On the eve of phase one of 15th Lok Sabha election the CRPF forces in Jharkhand picked up five innocent tribal villagers from Barhania village, massacred them in cold blood and tried to portray the victims as Maoists, in an attempt to pass off the whole incident as a successful police operation and bravery in the fight against Naxalism. Initially, they won accolades from the higher-ups in Administration. But this attempt was soon exposed after a courageous and timely action by the villagers and CPI(ML) in association with other democratic and progressive organisations. In the face of people on the streets demanding punishment for the CRPF personnel who perpetrated the massacre, the Administration and the police concocted various stories to save the criminals in uniform and tried various means to ‘prove’ the killed villagers as extremists. However, the mass outburst and anger was such that the DIG and SP of police had to change their statements but they still contrived to propagate that the villagers were not killed by the CRPF personnel but by the explosion carried out by Maoists. But the bullet marks were all too prominent on the bodies of all the victims to mislead the people with false versions. The Administration roped in middlemen to convince the families of the victims of their concocted ‘explosion version,’...

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Talibanisation, Women’s Rights and Imperialism

(The following is an excerpt from Pakistani feminist scholar Humeira Iqtidar’s ‘Who are the Taliban in Swat’, www.opendemocracy.net) Much media attention has focused on the worsening plight of women in Swat, particularly after the video-taped public flogging of a 17 year-old girl. Unfortunately, the kinds of atrocities perpetrated by the TNSM against women also occur in the feudal holdings of many of the “secular” political elite of Pakistan. Yet these incidents do not make headlines in the same way. Few Pakistanis can ignore the fact that restricting women’s mobility and reducing their educational opportunities (as the TNSM intend to do) along with gang rape, abduction, and honour killing have a long history in southern Punjab and Sind, areas where both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani have vast landholdings. The alleged video recording the public flogging of a woman by Taliban in Swat has not been conclusively proven as authentic. A woman named Chand Bibi was initially identified as the one being flogged. However, she was reported to have sworn before a judge that the video was not hers (Jang newspaper, 11 April, 2009, front page). It is entirely feasible that she did so under duress. Quite rightly, the video generated debate and outrage within Pakistani print and television media. Along with the very legitimate concern for women’s rights, sectors of the Urdu language press...

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Pakistan’s War on Taliban and America’s Af-Pak Gameplan

Even as the US military offensive intensifies in Afghanistan, a parallel offensive by the Pakistani Army, clearly under US pressure, in the country’s autonomous region of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and North West Frontier Province (NWFP), is underway. Estimates suggest that over 10 lakh civilians are being forced to flee the Swat Valley, one of the major theatres of the war, in what is being called the biggest displacement of people since the Partition (1947). While US air strikes recently massacred 150 civilians, mostly women and children, in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s military strikes are said to have killed hundreds of ‘militants’ – many of whom are also suspected to be civilians. The re-intensification of the US ‘war on terror’ on Pakistan’s soil is the outcome of the Obama administration’s so-called ‘AfPak’ strategy – a new incarnation of the Bush era policy of shifting the war theatre from already occupied Afghanistan and Iraq towards Pakistan’s tribal territories. US drone strikes since August 2008 – ostensibly targeting the Taliban in Pakistan – claiming a large number of civilian lives and seriously undermining the credibility of the Pakistan Government. Candid Confessions The role of the US and its overt collaboration with the ISI and Pakistani military in the creation and cosseting of the Taliban and other extremist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan is common knowledge. But what is interesting is the sudden...

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Sri Lanka’s ‘Final Solution’ for the Tamils

On May 18 2009, the Sri Lankan Government declared its ‘final victory’ over the LTTE, by displaying the body of the slain LTTE chief Prabakaran. Since then, the Sri Lankan regime and its army have indulged in an obscene orgy of humiliation. The body of Prabakaran, an international icon for the Tamil movement for self-determination, was displayed by jeering soldiers as a trophy – reminiscent of the manner that Saddam’s capture and killing was displayed by the US. Not content with months of unremitting shelling and chemical assaults on thousands of Tamil civilians, nor with the extermination of the Tamil self-determination struggle’s leadership, the Sri Lankan government is determined now to humiliate the surviving Tamils and flaunt the victory of its racist war. Prabakaran is being slandered as a psychopath and a coward, and his body is being cast into a mass, unmarked grave – to obliterate and tarnish the very memory of the Tamil struggle. And the Sri Lankan State is sponsoring ‘celebrations’ all over the country of the ‘victory over terrorism.’ President Rajapaksa’s rhetoric of ‘equal rights’ and ‘peace’ now that the ‘war’ is at end, is exposed as a lie by this dance of ‘celebration’ over the corpses. What kind of ‘peace’ or dignity for the Tamils is possible when the death of their loved ones, and prospect of a prolonged incarceration in camps under military...

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Fresh Crisis for Fledgling Democracy in Nepal

The recent developments in Nepal should take no one by surprise. When parties with antagonistic class interests (like the NC and the UCPN (M)) join others with very different political agendas of their own (the CPN (UML) and the Madheshi Janaadhikar Forum for example) to try and run a government on the basis of an impossible “consensus” — and that too with a very influential regional hegemon constantly playing its cards from across the southern border — breakdown of the fragile arrangement becomes inevitable sooner or later, for one proximate cause or another. In the event, the current crisis was precipitated by a showdown between the most advanced contingent of the anti-monarchical republican forces and the strongest bastion of the old feudal state power — the unreformed (saved in name) armed forces. Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Rookmangud Katawal had been doggedly resisting the integration of the PLA with the national army as agreed in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the nine-year civil war. However, both New Delhi and Washington mounted a strong pressure on the sovereign Nepali government not to remove their trusted General and the UCPN (M) made it clear that they had no objections to Gen. Katawal serving out his tenure so long as he recognised the supremacy of civilian authority. But this he never did. Matters came to a head when the CoAS was...

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Indian Foreign Policy and Immediate Neighbours

Even as India was engaged in elections, the infamous role of the Indian government in its policy towards its immediate neighbours was being played out. The Manmohan Singh-led Government has been sworn in for another term; and democratic and progressive forces will have the challenge of further intensifying the struggle for a paradigm shift in our foreign policy in the neighbourhood. New Delhi’s antipathy to the Sri Lankan Tamils who are being slaughtered by the hundreds and thousands is fully consistent with its role in the island nation since 1980s. It is well-known that at one time India had extended support to the Tamil insurgency, and then sent a ‘peace-keeping force’ that engaged in series of war crimes including the Operation Pawan and the Jaffna teaching hospital massacre. And today India’s diplomatic initiatives actually boil down to keeping the Sri Lankan government in humour while simultaneously pretending to try and restrain the inhuman military offensive launched by the latter. If the former motive is guided by an urge to maintain and strengthen its influence in what it considers to be a traditional backyard, the second concern is dictated by the compulsion of wooing Tamil parties and voters ahead of Lok Sabha polls. Where India extends covert support to the repressive national chauvinist government in its southern neighbour, in the north too it has chosen to side with the regressive...

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Current Economic Crisis and India

(The following is excerpted from the larger article ‘New Great Depression and India’, from Aspects of India’s Economy, No. 47, March 2009.- Ed/-) Indian bubble bursts India’s GDP grew during 2003-08 at its fastest pace in any five-year period. Its rates of investment soared to levels comparable to East Asian economies. Its share market values more than quadrupled. Bankrolled by international finance, India’s private corporate sector began acquiring firms overseas. And the country’s business and political elite began to preen themselves as the ruling class of a new economic superpower. In the space of a few months everything has changed. GDP growth is falling, and the manufacturing sector has gone into a tailspin; the best-known Indian firms are making losses and cancelling planned investments; the share market has crashed; foreign acquisitions are proving to be albatrosses round the necks of many corporate firms; and the smugness of the ruling elite has evaporated. The Indian economy, as it has historically developed, lacks a powerful internal dynamic such as would emerge from a healthy, widely dispersed, domestic demand. Especially since the 1980s, it has turned increasingly to inflows of foreign capital to boost its growth. Hence it is systemically vulnerable. The last time the flow of foreign capital (in the form of loans) dried up, in 1990-91, the Indian economy went into a tailspin. It was forced to undergo IMF-directed ‘structural...

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A Closer Look at the Mandate

The success of the Congress and its UPA partners at the hustings have put it in a position to call the shots: fair-weather friends and many foes alike queued up to offer letters of support to the Congress. As we go to press, the Congress and UPA have formed Government; albeit not without some tensions within the UPA partners over ministries. Let us take a closer look of the performance of the major political players in this election, and the implications of the verdict. The Rise of Congress and the...

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A Preliminary Note

There were 80 CPI(ML) candidates in the fray in the 15th Lok Sabha elections. For nearly two months, the entire organisation dedicated itself to an intensive election campaign defying the summer heat and a busy harvesting season in many parts of the country. Through hundreds of local meetings in villages and rural markets, door-to-door canvassing and well-attended mass gatherings, the election campaign directly reached out to hundreds of thousands of voters. Printed and audio-visual campaign materials too played an important part in the campaign. The campaign revolved around a mix of basic day-to-day issues facing the rural poor and the common people as well as the larger questions of resisting corporate-imperialist offensive, communal and feudal violence, bureaucratic apathy and corruption and state repression. Unlike most of the parties and coalitions that harped on competitive claims of government formation at the Centre, our campaign stressed the need for the people’s movement to find its voice inside Parliament and sought votes for discharging that role. The total votes polled by Party candidates have been 10,44,560, as compared to 12,74,962 in 2004, an overall decline of nearly 230,000 or 20%. In two constituencies our candidates polled more than 1,00,000 votes – in Koderma in Jharkhand Comrade Rajkumar Yadav finished second with more than 150,000 votes and in Arrah in Bihar, Comrade Arun Singh finished third with nearly 1,16,000 votes. We came third...

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Lessons and Tasks

The results of 2009 elections can be described as a string of surprises not only for many well-entrenched parties and seasoned politicians but also for a host of commonsensical notions about contemporary Indian political reality. Of late, it became rather customary to look at elections in India through the prism of coalition politics, caste equations and regional diversities. Verdict 2009 has given a serious jolt to this facile view and reasserted the underlying structural dynamics of Indian politics. Conventional wisdom would not have given the Congress anything more than 150 seats, but the fact that the Congress managed to notch up as many as 206 seats from across the country clearly reveal a national verdict which cannot be reduced to a mere sum total of the poll outcomes in different states and regions. The NDA had long been expecting the 2009 elections to go its way and LK Advani had been duly designated its Prime Ministerial candidate. ‘Iron Man’ Advani saw Manmohan Singh as the weakest link of the Congress chain and hoped the chain would snap if only he could make it a direct clash between the UPA’s ‘weakest’ and the NDA’s ‘strongest’! He tried to fight and win the elections in true US Presidential style, but even before his campaign could take off he found himself overshadowed by two more self-appointed PMs-in-waiting, the redoubtable Narendra ‘Nano’ Modi...

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