06 June 2010

Red Rebel in Thailand

With the long-awaited military crackdown of May 19, the Abhisit Vejjajiva government has won the latest battle of Bangkok. Well, only for now and at the cost of whatever little credibility it ever had. As soon as the ultimate crackdown began, most protest leaders, who had been negotiating with the authorities since the agitation began in March, surrendered and appealed to supporters to go home. This move was instantaneously endorsed from abroad by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who had been overthrown in a coup in September 2006. But the militant protesters were in no mood to listen. They went on a rampage, setting fire to the stock exchange, South Asia’s second biggest shopping mall, banks, high-rise office buildings all targets of the wrath of the dispossessed and deprived working classes, who comprised the main body of the movement. By common consent, modern Thailand has never seen such a protracted period of mass militancy teetering close to a full-fledged civil war. Agitations had already spread across at least three provinces in the country’s populous northern and northeastern provinces, forcing the authorities to impose dusk-to-dawn curfew in 23 out of the country’s 76 districts until 23 May. The same “precautionary measure” has been taken in the capital city too. The immediate demand of the powerful movement organized by the UDD — the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, commonly called...

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Dantewada Blast and After:

Reject ‘Maoist’ Anarcho-Militarism, Resist Operation Green Hunt! After ambushing 75 CRPF men in early April, Maoists have struck again in Dantewada. On 17 May afternoon, a passenger bus was blown up in a landmine blast that left more than 30 passengers killed and at least another 15 passengers seriously injured, some of them reportedly quite critical. The bus was carrying some 50 odd passengers including some Special Police Officers (recruited by the state in the course of the Salwa Judum campaign), but there were no state police or CRPF personnel. In 2003, the PWG had targeted a bus in Warangal in Andhra Pradesh, for which they had subsequently offered regrets and apologies, but this time around the Maoists have feigned their ignorance about civilians being present in the bus. In terms of casualties, this is the fourth major Maoist action since February. While two of these actions concerned only the state forces (the attack on the EFR camp in Silda in West Bengal in February and the ambush of CRPF personnel in April), the other two incidents, a massacre in a village in Bihar’s Jamui district and the blowing of the passenger bus in Dantewada, involved large numbers of civilian casualties, including many poor adivasis. Such indiscriminate attacks, divorced from any immediate context of people’s struggle, and the resultant large-scale loss of human lives, are clearly indefensible. Removed from...

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Obituary

Comrade Brajendranath Pandey and his wife Saroj Pandey were murdered at 2.30 am on 12 May 2010. The murder is attributed to a family dispute over land. Comrade Pandey was 80. He had joined the CPI in 1959 and when the CPI split in 1964 he joined the CPI(M). He was jailed during the Emergency. In 1994 he joined the CPI(ML) and remained a member till the end of his life. He attended the Party Congresses at Varanasi and Patna and was a member of the Madhya Pradesh State Leading Team. Comrade Pandey always raised his voice against deprivation and feudal oppression in Rewa. His funeral was attended by Central Committee member Comrade Rajaram who bid farewell to him with the red flag. On 14 May a memorial meeting was held in Kothi Compound, Rewa. A condolence resolution was read out by Chhattisgarh State Secretary Comrade Brijendra Tiwari. The meeting was addressed among others by Comrade Rajaram, CPI(M)’s MP State Secretary Comrade Badal Saroj, the UP AICCTU State Secretary Com. Anil Varma, and many lawyers. The meeting demanded the sternest punishment for the killers. The meeting was presided over by Ajay Khare of the Samajwadi Jan Parishad, and conducted by socialist activist Subhas...

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Nepal: Stalemate Continues, No Constitution Still in Sight

Propelled by a powerful people’s upsurge, the process of abolition of the nearly 250-year-old monarchy in Nepal had turned out to be quite swift and surgical. The subsequent process of republican transition has however proved to be extremely slow and tortuous. Even as the extended deadline for a new draft constitution draws near, Nepal is now stuck in a serious political stalemate. The term of the existing Constituent Assembly ends on May 28. The CA was however also meant to double up as the interim government. It seems ‘governance’ became the primary agenda while the job of drafting a new constitution got relegated to the background. The present government which is backed by the CPN(UML) and NC and bitterly opposed by the UCPN(Maoist) wants an extension for the CA, the Maoists want a new national government before anything else. To press for the resignation of incumbent PM Madhav Kumar Nepal and formation of a new Maosit-led national government, the Maoists had launched an indefinite countrywide mass strike preceded by a big protest rally in Kathmandu on May Day. Interestingly, a group of UML leaders too reportedly submitted a memorandum to UML Chairman JN Khanal, “strongly advising” Madhav Nepal to resign and pave the way for a consensus. The Maoist strike, christened “Teesro Janandolan” (Third Phase of People’s Movement), was however called off after six days – though Maoist leaders...

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Cochabamba: People’s Fight for Climate Justice

On April 22nd over 35,000 delegates representing different social movements from 140 countries converged to Cochabamba in Bolivia for World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. The conference was a response to the corporations and governments of the “developed” countries in Copenhagen, who in complicity with a segment of the scientific community discussed climate change as a problem limited to the rise in temperature without questioning the cause. The cause, which the Conference most unequivocally declared, was the capitalist system. The Conference represented the people’s voice which was largely shut out in Copenhagen. President Evo Morales of Bolivia, host of this People’s Conference, presented UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon with the People’s Agreement on May 10 and stressed that the voice of the civil societies and indigenous people around the world must be heard and any climate talk is incomplete without it. The Conference represented a rejection of the exclusivity of ‘Copenhagen Accord’ where deals were cut behind closed doors and civil societies and many smaller countries were not included in the negotiations on the premise that ‘too much democracy will not get us anywhere.’ In Cochabamba on the contrary, the participatory process including voices of civil societies and indigenous people all over the world came out with a draft with most transformative and radical vision so far. The Conference demanded a global...

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Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition Assumes Office in Britain: Through the Neoliberal Looking Glass with Tweedledum and Tweedledee…

When Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government swept into power in Britain in 1979, the country faced its first round of neoliberal transformations – massive public service cuts, de-industrialisation, a vicious onslaught on Trade Union rights and blatantly racist immigration policies. Tony Blair, the New Labour prime minister who will go down in history as the man who declared war on Iraq and Afghanistan, continued and accelerated Thatcher’s policies of deregulation, privatisation, dismantling public services, and handing yet more power to finance capital. Blair was glorified by the tabloids as ‘son of Thatcher’. David Cameron, the new prime minister emerging out of a hung parliament, against a background of the implosion of neoliberal capitalism, has nothing like the electoral mandate which either of these predecessors enjoyed, but the centrist facade of his party’s ‘cosy’ coalition with the Liberal Democrats is already showing signs of cracking revealing a particularly vicious brand of right-wing politics. With the new government in office, the UK’s overwhelmingly right-wing mainstream press largely owned by Rupert Murdoch is baying for the blood of two of the Pakistani students, Abid Naseer and Faraz Khan, who were arrested last April and have been incarcerated as Category A prisoners ever since. What is their crime? No one, not even they themselves or their lawyers have been told. The Special Immigration Appeals Court (SIAC) which discusses cases behind closed doors and deals...

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Unearthing the Facts : Corporate Rampage in Orissa

Felix Padel and Samarendra Das’s recent book Out of this Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminium Cartel, which essentially deals with the impact of bauxite mining and the manufacture of aluminium on the tribals of Orissa, has been published at a time when the aluminium industry is desperately trying to acquire land for new projects in the mineral-rich states of the country. It is a much-needed and fitting rejoinder to the myths that corporations, governments as well as the media continuously propagate – that this ‘sustainable’ and ‘environment-friendly’ industry will automatically lead to ‘development’ and prosperity. Out of this Earth explores the impact of the aluminium industry in Orissa over its entire life cycle, from the mining of bauxite to its various end uses. The book talks of the massive scale of destruction of ecology, as well as corporate land grab and the subsequent displacement in Orissa. The authors explain why (despite the obvious and highly visible adverse impacts) India is emerging as a hotbed of mining activity. Mining and metal production today are being ‘outsourced’ by highly industrialised countries to ‘developing’ countries: “In Europe, the US and Japan, the tendency has been growing to shift the industry out … to save costs and avoid environmental criticism back home” (page 53). For anyone who has been following the process of industrialization in the mineral-rich states of Orissa, Jharkhand...

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Updates

Letter from Kerala: Fighting Left Forces Regroup and Realign Onchiyam is a historic village in Kozhikode district in north Kerala. Way back in 1948, when the Communist Party had been banned by the post-colonial Indian state, this village, a communist stronghold, had become well known as a site of police repression and people’s resistance. On 30 April, 1948, a police party had come to raid the village to arrest some leading communist activists. The people protested, and the police opened fire on the unarmed protesters, killing eight persons on the spot. Fierce repression followed and two more villagers succumbed to the injuries they had received in the course of police torture. Ever since then April 30 is observed by communists in Kerala as the Onchiyam martyrs day to pay tribute to the ten martyrs (Comrades Menon Kanaran, Alavakkal Krishnan, Purayil Kanaran, Parollathil Kanaran, V.K. Chathu, K.P. Ravutti, K.M. Sankaran, and V.P. Gopalan all of whom died on the spot and Comrades Mantoti Kannan and Kollanicheri Kumaran who died later in the hospital) who had laid down their lives, standing up for the communist party and challenging the repressive might of the police. Two years ago, Onchiyam was back in the news when on the 60th anniversary of the Onchiyam martyrs day large number of local CPI(M) cadres and members rebelled against the party and formed a new organization called...

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Film Review City of Gold – Remembering the Mumbai Mill Workers’ Movement

As the working class, and even the middle class, disappears from the cinematic imagination of Bollywood obsessed with the Yash Chopra-Karan Johar style NRI romances, City of Gold , Mahesh Manjrekar’s latest film, promises to take us back to the gritty realism pioneered by the new wave cinema of the 1970s and 80s. City of Gold is based on the historic mill workers’ strike which began in January 1982 under the leadership of Datta Samant. There are direct references in the film to ‘Doctor Saheb’, as he was popularly known, who appears in the film as a charismatic trade union leader giving a rousing speech at a mill gate. The film follows the travails of a mill worker, Anna, who has been forced into retirement and robbed of all compensation by the mill owner, and his family: The family becomes the narrative vehicle through which the impact of the strike on the mill workers and their community is illustrated – how workers waste away playing cards all day; boys, out of school and unemployed take to petty crime, and everything, from jewellery to vessels, and chawls to women are on sale for survival. Manjrekar has moments of brilliance in delineating gender politics. Anna’s sense of emasculation comes through when he feigns illness and refuses to accompany his wife to the police station to seek his son Mohan’s release; but...

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May Day 2010: Workers Fight Back

We often hear that the historic May Day has lost its lustre, that working class unity and resistance has become a thing of the past. Recent weeks have seen several working class actions that promise to prove these sceptics wrong. In what follows we bring you not only brief reports of May Day celebration from different parts of the country, but glimpses of some significant working class struggles from different sectors. Also included is a review of a film dealing with the tragedy of Mumbai’s forgotten textile workers. May Day 2010: Growing Solidarity, United Resolve Workers all over the country under the banner of AICCTU observed May Day this year as a day of workers’ growing solidarity and resolve against anti-worker policies, price rise and state repression. In Delhi, workers observed May Day with protest marches and mass meetings at Patparganj industrial area, Kondli, Mandavali, Jaitpur, Wazirpur and Bhorgarh industrial area (Narela). DTC workers and technicians held gate meetings at Central Workshop (2nd). At Noida one hundred rickshaw pullers held a rally with their cycle rickshaws well decorated with red flags. In Tamilnadu, a week-long padayatra culminated in a mass meeting at Chennai. In Karnataka, the main May Day event was held near Electronic City, Bangalore, announcing the entry of the union in yet another centre of global capital within Bangalore. Covering a stretch of more than 50 km...

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Manifesto of the All India Kisan Mahasabha

India is still a predominantly rural and agrarian society. Apart from feeding the entire country, agriculture also remains the main source of livelihood for the majority of Indian population. Yet agriculture continues to suffer the most from all that is backward and unjust in our country, be it the prevalence of ugly remnants of feudalism or lack of access to modern means of production or the shallowness of democracy and justice in our political system. Every government in India is elected primarily on the basis of rural votes, especially votes cast by poor and middle peasants, yet agriculture remains the most neglected sector of the national economy, and the poor and middle peasants remain effectively excluded from all official policies and priorities. Thanks to systematic neglect and adverse policies, today Indian agriculture is trapped in a deep and protracted crisis. For the overwhelming majority of poor and small peasants, it is a question of survival, and for imperialist global capital and big corporations, it is an opportunity to appropriate and exploit India’s rich natural and human resources – fertile land, abundant water, resource-rich forests, productive yet cheap labour and a potentially huge rural market. Saving Indian agriculture and the laboring peasantry from this crisis and imperialist offensive is the need of the hour. The key to any real democratization and modernization of India lies in a thoroughgoing democratization and...

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Inaugural Address of Comrade Dipankar at AIKM Founding Conference

“May All India Kisan Mahasabha emerge as a powerful platform of peasant unity and peasant struggle, linking backward regions with advanced areas, peasants with workers, and the peasant movement with the wider current of patriotic-democratic assertion of the Indian people” Comrades and friends, It gives me immense pleasure to inaugurate this important all-India assembly of revolutionary peasant activists. On behalf of the Central Committee of CPI(ML), I extend my warm revolutionary greetings to all of you assembled here, delegates from the four corners of the country and our esteemed guests from Maharashtra and our close eastern neighbour, Bangladesh. Special thanks are also due to our comrades outside of this hall, especially comrades of Bihar who have defied all odds to organize this conference. Today is the 153rd anniversary of the great uprising of 1857, the first war of India’s independence which was a powerful peasant war in its essence. And this state of Bihar and its capital Patna were among the leading theatres of that glorious national awakening. We recall this legacy with great pride, and resolve to carry forward the great spirit of peasant revolts against imperialism and feudalism, for real freedom and democracy. Indeed, 1857 signalled the beginning of a long history of militant peasant struggles in Bihar and several other parts of the country. Bihar also served as an early Gandhian laboratory where Gandhi got the...

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Fighting Peasants Launch All India Kisan Mahasabha

10 May 2010 marked the 153rd Anniversary of India’s First War of Independence, 1857. At Patna that day, it appeared as though the entire city was paying tribute to the peasant martyrs of 1857 and other historic peasant struggles. The city had been named ‘Swami Sahajanand Nagar’ after Bihar’s historic anti-colonial and anti-feudal peasant leader, Patna station had welcome arches named after peasant martyrs, and streets and street corners wreathed in banners, festoons and flags in preparation for the All India Peasants’ Conference for Dignity, Democracy and Development. Right since the early hours of the morning, peasant leaders from all over the country began arriving in the city to attend the Conference, which was to be held at the Srikrishna Memorial Hall, named after Comrade Master Jagdish for the occasion. The Conference raised the rousing slogan – “Save Land, Agriculture and Peasants, Get Rid of the Reign of Loot,” and following a day-long discussion on various aspects of the agrarian crisis and peasants’ resistance, an All India Kisan Mahasabha was formed. In the days towards the Conference, class polarisation sharpened in Bihar around the issue of land reform (implementation of the Bandopadhyaya Commission recommendations, especially registration of sharecroppers and extension of peasants’ rights to them.) The Nitish Government, on the pretext of fierce opposition to land reform by feudal forces, betrayed its promise to implement the Bandopadhyaya Commission recommendations....

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Nirupama’s Murder:

The Violence of the ‘High-Born’ In every home a burning ghat In every home a gallows In every home are prison walls Colliding against the walls She falls Gorakh Pandey, 1982 Nirupama, a bright young journalist, had made her break for freedom from the prison walls of home and feudal society. As a graduate from the IIMC, living independently in a small rented room, and employed as a journalist, she must have felt reasonably free. The khap panchayats might have seemed remote from her life – the stuff of stories she would investigate as a journalist, perhaps. But of late, the prison walls, hitherto hidden in the mists of parental love, had begun to cast their shadows on her life. She had fallen in love with a classmate, Priyabhanshu, and intended to marry him. Her father had written her a letter, reminding his daughter that in his eyes, social laws were defined not by the 60 year-old Indian Constitution but by centuries-old ‘Sanatan Dharma’ – according to which a ‘girl from a high-born family’ was not allowed to marry a boy from a caste ‘lower’ than her own. Since Nirupama was a Brahmin, and Priyabhanshu a Kayastha, a match between them was unthinkable, he said, and counselled them both to give it up. A civilised letter from a ‘high-born’ father! Quite a contrast to that post mortem report which...

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Jharkhand: New Act in the Political Theatre of Opportunism and Corruption

Jharkhand is witnessing a new act in the theatre of the absurd that has marked the state’s politics in the decade since its formation. In the past ten years, the state saw seven governments, with the state’s ruling parties appearing willing to display dizzying political gymnastics in keeping with every opportunistic compulsion. Once again, the Jharkhand government was pushed to the brink of anarchy as partners of the opportunist NDA Government as well as the Congress manoeuvred among each other, displaying their total absence of scruples and principles as they blithely made and unmade partnerships. The drama began with the Chief Minister and JMM Chief Shibu Soren (who is the Dumka MP and yet to be elected an MLA) unaccountably led his party to vote in support of the Central Government on the cut motion moved by the Opposition. The JMM’s alliance partner in the Jharkhand Government, the BJP, reacted to this “betrayal” by announcing its withdrawal of support, but then shamelessly turned around to withdraw this threat in exchange for the possibility of a BJP leader as the next Chief Minister, even as the Congress hinted at a new alignment of the JMM-Congress-JVP. Shibu Soren offered an absurd explanation for his cross-over on the floor of Parliament by pleading confusion induced by Alzheimer’s! Meanwhile a factional struggle within the JMM also unfolded, with various contenders vying for the...

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