12 December 2009

Challenging Israel’s Impunity

(The Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, named after its chief author, eminent international jurist Richard Goldstone, has established a historic milestone by indicting Israel for war crimes during its 22-day war in Gaza between December 2008 and January 2009. This marks a rare occasion when an international body like the UN has taken a bold and unequivocal stance on Palestine, recognising that Israel has hitherto enjoyed impunity, and recommending that Israel be brought to book for imposing “collective punishment” on the people of Gaza. Predictably, Israel has lobbied intensely against the report. The Obama administration has condemned the report as ‘biased,’ and undeserving of legitimacy, and as has the US House of Representatives. In November, UN General Assembly overwhelmingly affirmed the report, with 114 countries voting in favour, 14 against, and 44 abstentions. Earlier, the UN Security Council debated the report but refused to take a vote, mainly because United States which enjoys a veto power, opposed a vote. Naturally the US and other imperialist powers are motivated not only by the goal of protecting Israel but also by the fear that if Israel’s impunity can be challenged, it will set a precedent whereby their own impunity might receive a blow and they might be forced to face justice for their own war crimes! Shamefully, the Indian Government has betrayed India’s traditional...

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Shootout in US Army Base

When a psychiatrist in the US Army went berserk, killing 12 and wounding 30 in a shooting spree at Fort Hood where he was posted, the news shocked the world. The fact that the man, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, was of Palestinian descent and a Muslim, have predictably resulted in frenzied Islamophobia and accusations that he was in league with terrorists. The Socialist Worker (The Making of a Tragedy, November 9, 2009) notes several instances of the open Islamophobia that the incident has sparked off: ‘Debbie Schlussel, a frequent columnist for the New York Post and Jerusalem Post, urged readers of her Website to think of Hasan: “whenever you hear about how Muslims serve their country in the U.S. military….Well, actually, they do serve ‘their country’ in the U.S. military. And their country is Dar Al-Islam and greater Koranistan. It’s Islamic terrorism, stupid. Wait, that’s repetitive. It’s Islam, stupid.”… ‘Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin: “I’ve said it many times over the years, and it bears repeating again as cable TV talking heads ask in bewilderment how all the red flags Hasan raised could have been ignored: Political correctness is the handmaiden of terror.” What really caused the Fort Hood rampage? Some of Major Hasan’s neighbours have spoken up to reveal an endless series of racist taunts and abuse to which he was subjected. A bumper sticker that said “Allah is...

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Justice Dinakaran and Land Grab in TN

The revelation of the illegal wealth amassed by the Karnataka High Court Chief Justice P D Dinakaran hit the headlines just as the campaign to declare assets of the Judges gained momentum. The ignominious revelation not only underscored the importance of the movement for judicial transparency and accountability. The very ethical and moral foundation of the highest judiciary of India was shaken, since it had tried its best to save the Justice in question. Eventually the Supreme Court collegium was forced to drop P D Dinakaran’s name from the panel of Supreme Court Justices. The Dinakaran episode has two dimensions: one, judicial corruption; the other that of land and land reform in the country. The Justice had amassed 440 acres of land (one fourth of the village land, worth Rs 110 crore) in Kaveri Rajapuram in Tiruvalluvar district in Tamil Nadu, of which 197 acres was Government poramboke land. The Judge repeatedly denied this, but his lie was nailed by the Collector’s report supported by documentary evidence. The Supreme Court, however, overlooked the fact that the Judge got land in violation of the land ceiling law of the state, and only sought clarification from the District Collector whether his report contained the details of encroached Government poramboke land. The Collector in his second report confirmed his earlier findings supported by land survey numbers. The Supreme Court then resorted to...

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Protest against land grab at Chunar

The recent events around the J.P. Cement factory at Chunar (Mirzapur District) show how the privatization of a PSU is initiated by Mulayam and later Mayawati’s government abuses state power to defend the new owners against the local population. Ironically when Jaiprakash (JP) Associates bought the Chunar Cement Factory, they had promised to ‘adopt’ five villages surrounding it. These villages were promised uninterrupted supply of electricity, schools and health centre etc. Instead, the villages have been robbed of water, their fields polluted, denied access to the pathways in their own villages, and beaten up, branded as ‘gangsters’ and jailed when they protested! So much for ‘corporate social responsibility’! The main demands of the agitating villagers were -1. The new management of the factory was employing contract labour brought from far off places. Employment should be provided to the locals whose land had been acquired for the factory. 2. The pollution from the factory and the newly constructed 38 MW coal based power plant was destroying the crops of the farmers as well as adversely affecting their health. Reckless exploitation of ground water was causing scarcity of drinking water for the villagers. They demanded a check on the pollution and compensation for the damaged crops and 3. A pathway passing through the factory and connecting the outskirts of a village to its centre had been closed by the management of...

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Jails Cannot Break Our Struggle: Speaking to Women Pricol Workers

8 women workers were arrested on old and false charges (dating back to 2007 and 2008) and were jailed for ten days. They are Comrades Kalavathi, Valarmathi, Rajeswari, Premalatha, Shanthini, Lakshmi, Premalatha and Chandra. They were released on conditional bail. Except for Comrade Valarmathi, who is already under dismissal, others go to work. Apart from these 8, Comrades Indrani and Manonmani were arrested, kept in Thudiayalur PS for 2 days and later released. Valarmathi was arrested on September 25, at 11.30 p.m. Her husband, who is a heart patient, told her to go along with the police. She got into the police vehicle and was asked to identify more Pricol women workers’ houses. She told them that she did not know anybody’s house. She was then taken to Thudiyalur P.S,. kept there for the whole day and was only remanded the next day. Shanthini was also arrested the same day around 1 a.m. She was also kept in the same station and remanded along with Valarmathi. Others were arrested inside the factory premises in the HR department on September 29. Rajeswari was on leave for a hysterectomy and had joined work only a few days before the arrest. Comrades Shanthini and Lakshmi are close friends. Their husbands were working in Pricol as administration staff and were terminated by the management for not preventing their wives from being active in...

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CPI(ML) at the Hustings in Jharkhand

Nine years since Jharkhand achieved statehood, elections are on for the second time to the Jharkhand Assembly. In the past nine years, Jharkhand’s ruling politicians have made their fortunes. While former Jharkhand CM Madhu Koda stands implicated in a massive scam involving huge commissions for mining contracts, money-laundering and loot of state funds for welfare schemes, it is clear that Koda is no exception. Koda clearly had links with several top politicians of major ruling class parties including Congress and RJD. Most Jharkhand politicians multiplied their wealth several times over in the past nine years. This state of affairs is a comment on the how, since Jharkhand achieved statehood, ruling class parties and corrupt and opportunist politicians have used political power for all-round loot to line their pockets. Hoarders and blackmarketeers have a field day; meanwhile Jharkhand’s adivasi poor – in the name of whom the state was formed – die of starvation. People like Turia Munda, denied wages for NREGA work, commit suicide; 100 MoUs were signed, which if honoured would require the handover of 2 lakh acres of land to corporations; activists challenging corruption in NREGA and PDS have been killed or jailed; adivasis resisting land grab have been killed in police firing (the most recent incident being the firing at Kathikund, when Shibu Soren was CM). Land laws intended to protect adivasis have been flouted openly...

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Healthcare: For Patients or Profits?

(In India, the UPA Government is on the point of enacting a National Health Bill that promises health care ‘reforms’. Will the ‘reforms’ ensure access to healthcare of a uniform standard to all, irrespective of wealth? Or will it take us a step closer to a US model of health care – with the poor left at the mercy of the markets? Interestingly, the US too has recently passed a Health Reform Bill after intense debate. Padma looks at the recently enacted US Health Bill to see if it offers any substantial ‘reform’ of the privatised and unequal healthcare model prevailing in the US; while Indira Chakravarthi looks at the UPA’s Draft National Health Bill to assess its agenda. Dr. Debashish Dutta, President, People’s Health (a W Bengal-based organisation of health activists) shares the experience of the impact of privatisation of health care in West Bengal. While history is witness to the fact that existing healthcare provisions have been won by Left-led working class struggles the world over, and countries like Cuba, in spite of their economic weakness still boast better healthcare than their mighty superpower neighbour, it is unfortunate that West Bengal ruled by the CPI(M)-led Left Front has also capitulated to the neoliberal prescriptions as have most other Indian states.- Ed/-) Draft National Health Bill: Health ‘Reforms’ for Markets, Not People Indira Chakravarthi In January 2009 the...

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Unfinished Task of Land Reforms: Will the UPA Govt. Heed the MRD Report?

(The Committee On State Agrarian Relations and Unfinished Task of Land Reforms has submitted its report to the Ministry of Rural Development at a time when land is once again emerging as a key issue of struggle all over the country. We are witnessing an upsurge in movements against corporate land grab, and struggles for sharecroppers’ rights and homestead land – in the face of severe state repression and a virtual ruling class consensus to betray the agenda of land reform. In this backdrop, the observations and recommendations of the above Committee, set up by the Ministry of Rural Development, are timely and significant. The Committee has also termed the Salwa Judum operation in Chhattisgarh to be the “biggest land grab since Columbus” [see entire quotation in the previous article, ‘Maoism’, State and the Communist Movement in India]. Will the UPA Government heed the recommendations of a Committee set up by its own Ministry? We reproduce excerpts from some of the report’s recommendations. – Ed/-) 1.6 It may also be emphasized that the changes in overall macroeconomic policy regime since the early 1990s may have significantly contributed to acceleration in loss of land and other critical natural resources from the vulnerable segments of the country’s population. This may be at the root of the significant spurt in increasing rural unrest and ‘extremist’ violence in 220 districts of the country,...

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‘Maoism’, State and the Communist Movement in India

(This is the first part of a three-part article to be continued in the next couple of issues – Ed.) In our last number, and partly also in some previous issues, we discussed the contours of the Indian state’s ongoing war on “left wing extremism”, a sister project of the national-international “war on terror”. From previous reports and bits of information the big picture that emerged there was that the Salwa Judum – meaning “Purification (or Peace) Hunt” in the Gondi language – which started in June 2005 as India’s most scandalous PPP (where private stands for Tata, Essar and other business interests, public stands for Chhattisgarh state government (ruled by BJP) and the union government (ruled by Congress) – see box) has since spread over the entire country in diverse forms and with greater or lesser intensity. The UPA Government’s politico-military offensive against Maoism constitutes a veritable war on the people of India, a multipronged assault on their basic democratic rights. The central as well as state governments are bent upon using the state-Maoist confrontation as a pretext to suppress people’s struggles on basic issues and crush the voice of protest and resistance against the state-sponsored corporate plunder of the country’s resources. The growing opposition that the footfalls of emergency have evoked from wide cross-sections of the Left and democratic forces calls for a broad unity of these...

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Firmly Grasp the Party’s Revolutionary Line and Unleash Bold Mass Initiatives on Every Front

Ever since Comrade VM breathed his last in the midst of a CC meeting in Lucknow on December 18, 1998, we have been observing December 18 as Sankalp Diwas or Pledge Day. Comrade VM will always be remembered for his historic role in spearheading the post-setback revival of the CPI(ML) into a major Communist current in the country, freeing it from the vestiges of dogmatic thinking and one-sided practice and opening the doors for objective analysis and multi-dimensional expansion while deepening the Party’s roots in revolutionary Marxist theory and practice. Fighting simultaneously against right opportunism and petty-bourgeois revolutionism, he had led the Party in developing its revolutionary line and ensuring its vigorous implementation on all fronts of Party practice. Today as the entire Party wages a determined battle to overcome its weaknesses, we must learn from Comrade VM to grasp the Party’s revolutionary line and unleash bold mass initiatives on all fronts of struggle. The tactical line of a communist party translates its programme into everyday practice. The programme, as we all know, contains goals and objectives that are fairly long-term and it is the tactical line which through a suitable combination of diverse forms of struggle leads the party towards attaining these goals. In Lenin’s precise words, “Marxist tactics consist in combining the different forms of struggle, in the skilful transition from one form to another, in steadily...

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Bellary Brothers and the Crisis in the BJP

The BJP, ‘the party with a difference’ has become a ‘party of differences and factions’ everywhere. It is not surprising that the entire central and state leadership of the party, including its ideological leadership, the RSS, had to, unashamedly, kneel down before the mining mafia in Bellary, given the nature and process of its growth in Karnataka. In fact, it was the mining mafia, more than the BJP’s ‘characteristic’ communalism, which was instrumental in installing the BJP in the seat of power in this state. The process of internalization of the mining mafia, to the extent that it would not just dictate terms, but be installed at the helm of affairs, started since 1999, when Sushma Swaraj contested the Bellary LS seat. The mafia was consciously nurtured as the king of North Karnataka and a kingmaker in the state BJP by the central leadership from the beginning. In fact, the Reddys were calling the shots even when the previous BJP-JD(S) coalition government was rocked with the accusation of corruption against the then Chief Minister Kumaraswamy. Venkaiah Naidu who visited Bellary to warn the mafia had to return empty-handed and the central leadership bowed before the mafia. The BJP might not have attained the state power without the ‘generous’ contributions from the mafia. ‘Operation Kamala’ was basically an ‘Operation Money Power’ of the mafia; the requisite numbers of MLAs to...

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‘ Love Jihad ‘ : Communal Myth Recycled

Recently, Bajrang Dal leaders of Mangalore beat up three young Muslim men who were found travelling with some Hindu girls, claiming that these boys were a part of the ‘love-jihad’ racket and ‘our girls’ have to be ‘protected’ from the terrorists. The RSS propaganda machinery has been aggressively pushing the story that professional ‘jihadis’, many a times from across the border, are out there plush with foreign funds to lure innocent Hindu girls into converting to Islam, marrying them, and producing four children to be used in the ‘Jihadist’ project; over 4000 Hindu girls have been lured into conversions, according to them. Even the Courts have given credence to the Sangh propaganda. High Courts of Kerala and Karnataka, in different habeas corpus petitions, have directed the state administration to investigate the alleged ‘love jihad racket.’ In one case, the Karnataka High Court discounted the statement by the 23-year-old software engineer Siljalraj that she had gone with Azghar of her own accord, and has said that the case had “national ramifications… concern security, besides the question of unlawful trafficking of women”! The Kerala Court has even written to the Home Ministry at the Centre to take due care as this project has national security ramifications. These court rulings were preceded by an order from the Congress-led Maharashtra Government for a CID investigation into all marriages between Hindu women and Muslim...

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Between Corporate Loot, Political Power and the State’s War on People

Even as influential police officers talk of the Home Minister’s offensive to ‘eradicate Left-wing extremism’ lasting at least five years, a host of events are laying bare the intimate linkages between corporate loot, state terror, political power and political corruption – in the very areas that are the main theatres of the war. Take the case of Madhu Koda – who served in every government in Jharkhand in influential ministerial positions, including as Minister for Mines and as Chief Minister. He is now being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate on charges of money laundering, and preliminary investigations indicate that he received commissions for mining contracts to the tune of Rs 4000 crore. And Koda is no exception. In Karnataka, the Reddy brothers – BJP legislators of the powerful mining lobby – held the BJP-led State Government to ransom in protest against a cess imposed on transportation of iron ore towards flood relief. The BJP has in the past used the Reddy brothers’ enormous wealth towards wooing legislators from other parties; this time around, the same tactic has boomeranged on the BJP. Events in both Jharkhand and Karnataka have offered a glimpse of the enormous power of mining corporations over politics, throwing some light on the shadowy and sordid linkages between corporate loot and political power. Indeed, illegal mining on a vast scale is a grim reality that all governments...

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