08 August 2011

Ali Baba’s Cave? :: No – Just Sai Baba’s Chambers!

Hundreds of kilos of gold and silver ornaments. Six crowns studded with gems. 100 suitcases full of bejewelled watches, suitcases full of cameras, artefacts, wall clocks. Pouches full of diamonds. Hundreds of shoes, entire closets dedicated to imported perfume, hairspray, nail polish and shampoos. Necklaces, rings, gold bowls, a silver chair, silver plates, cups and glasses. Closets full of hundreds of silk robes and other silk garments. Hidden vaults fitted into a huge bed. Hundreds of envelopes, bags, suitcases full of cash. Is this the Gringotts vault in the latest Harry Potter movie? Or the fabled wealth of the forty thieves, discovered by Ali Baba? Neither. It’s not even the wealth accumulated by the Travancore kings in the Padmanabhaswamy temple of Tiruvanthapuram. It’s merely what was found in an initial survey of a part of the Sathya Sai Baba’s personal chambers at Puttaparthi. In fact, after that survey, a car was stopped and searched by the police as it was leaving Puttaparthi – with Sathya Sai Trust members attempting to smuggle out around $1 million in cash. Several rooms in that chamber (styled the ‘Yajur Mandir’) are yet to be opened, because they require ‘biometric identification’ – the fingerprint of the Baba’s personal attendant. It is being suspected that the chambers contain false ceilings and secret vaults with more untold wealth. Why did a self-proclaimed man of God, an...

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NSUI Goons Beat Up AISA National President For Asking HRD Minister a Question!

On 24 June, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal addressed a Press Conference, asserting his government’s and Ministry’s commitment to privatization of higher education, and pleading ‘fund crunch’ for expanding publicly-funded colleges and universities. AISA and RYA held a protest outside the venue of the Press Conference. Sandeep Singh, National President of AISA and a research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), entered the Press Conference room and raised a question about the huge drain on public funds in the shape of mega scams and black money; funds which could otherwise be used for ensuring quality education for each young Indian. He pointed out that the HRD Minister had defended the 2G scam publicly, denying that any malpractice had taken place. Immediately, NSUI strongmen manhandled him and pushed him out of the room. After that, they physically assaulted Sandeep as well as other AISA and RYA activists gathered in protest against Sibal. Press photographs of this assault (accompanying this report) show how vicious this attack was. Kapil Sibal had described the Ramlila Maidan crackdown as a ‘lesson to everybody.’ His meaning becomes clear from the Ranchi incident. The HRD Minister is accompanied by muscle-men who physically suppress and assault any student who dares to question the HRD Minister! This assault is reminiscent of the terror of the ‘Sanjay brigade’ of the Emergency days, and strengthens the feeling that an undeclared Emergency...

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The Doping Scandal and the State of Indian Sports

Indian sports have been hitting the headlines for all wrong reasons for the past two years. The shame of the CWG and IPL scams were, for some time, overshadowed by the euphoria over the ICC cricket World Cup triumph. But now the cancer that affects Indian sports has surfaced with a new malignancy. Eight athletes, including four medal winners of the Guangzhou Asian games and Delhi CWG and India’s brightest female track stars, Ashwini Akkunji, Sini Jose and Mandeep Kaur, failed a dope test. Traces of a banned anabolic steroid were found in their urine. It has been revealed that the Sports Authority of India (SAI), in their affidavit dated August 29, 2001 to the Delhi High Court, included a list of 257 Indian athletes who failed dope tests conducted by National Anti Doping Association (NADA). NADA is an autonomous body working under World Anti Doping Association (WADA). Thanks to strings pulled at the “right” moment, around 250 of these dope-tainted athletes, including some of the most respected names in the Indian sports, were protected and went unscathed. This cover up happened during the tenure of Suresh Kalmadi as head of the Athletics Federation of India, who is now in jail on charges of the CWG scam. Following the removal of a few scapegoats like Ukrainian coach Yuri Ogrodnik, the latest doping scandal too is all set to be...

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Voice of Resistance from Ecuador

Interview with CC Member, PCMLE [This is an interview with Comrade Pablo Miranda, a senior member of the central committee of Communist Party of Ecuador – Marxist Leninist (PCMLE). The PCMLE is one of the largest ML parties in Latin America and its front organization Movement for Popular Democracy (MPD) has 5 members in the 124-member parliament. It has recently formed an alliance with Pachakutik, a political organization representing several indigenous communities. PCMLE and MPD have an impressive presence amongst the teachers and students. They have led the struggles of Afro-Ecuadorians and MPD was the first party to represent Afro-Ecuadorians in parliament. For more details of their work in unions, see the September 2009 issue of Liberation. This interview was conducted by Tamarai and Surya.] Can you give us a brief history of PCMLE? Our party was formed in 1964. We have been dedicated to organize and make the Ecuadorian revolution as part of the international proletarian revolution. The PCMLE rose as the historic necessity of the working class and people of Ecuador as a revolutionary political vanguard as the old communist party had degenerated into a revisionist form faithful to Khrushchevite order. We actively participate in the political struggles/situations with the immediate proposals and aspirations of the working class using all forms of struggles, demands, stopping activities, the strike and seizing of land for agriculture and housing, street...

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Debt Ceiling Deadlock in US

Even as large swathes of Europe reels under a stubborn debt crisis, from the other side of the Atlantic comes the news of another version of essentially the same problem – the federal debt ceiling crisis! The US government has reached its debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion which is the present legal limit of the nation’s debt. If this ceiling is not raised by 2nd August the US treasury will be forced to default on the nation’s financial obligations, an unprecedented event in American history! This means that the US government will be unable to borrow any money to cover its payments from 3 August onwards whether it is towards social security cheques to over 50 million recipients or interest payments on US government bonds that are due later in the month. The coveted AAA credit rating of the US would be downgraded, which would send interest rates soaring, make the US Treasury bonds unattractive and destabilise the dollar thus sending tremors throughout the international financial markets. The White House and Congressional Republicans agree in principle that the debt ceiling needs to be raised, but they are at an impasse on how to constrain the deficit’s rapid growth. For over a month we have been witness to the most ugly debates and mudslinging between the two parties, with each coming up with different formulae and trying to gain as...

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Legacy of Rabindranath: Discard the Dead, Uphold the Living

[Continued] III It was Rabindranath’s firm conviction that (a) occasional issue-based protests against excesses committed by the Raj are necessary, but these should never be allowed to transgress or disturb the framework of long-term mutual co-operation between the king and the subjects and (b) Indians themselves are often to blame for state repression.[i] Naturally he stood aloof from massive agitations like the non-cooperation and civil disobedience movements and fiercely opposed the activities of national revolutionaries. “Our Most Dangerous Enemies” Yes, Robi Thakur went to this extent in depicting those who were allegedly “spoiling the holy yagna” of swadeshi “by throwing sinful materials into its sacred fire”–i.e., revolutionaries who were destroying the sanctity of the cause by indulging in bloodshed.[ii] The novel Ghare Baire or Home and the World (serialised in a Bengali periodical in 1915, the year “Bagha (Tiger) Jatin” embraced martyrdom in a heroic confrontation with the police) remains a powerful polemic against the major mistakes of the swadeshi movement in its later phase. However, the portrayal of Sandeep – a selfish, hypocritical, cowardly villain – as a typical leader of the agitation came in for widespread criticism, and not without justification. The most bitter and biased attack on national revolutionaries was launched in Char Adhyaya or Four Chapters (1934). The utterly disgraceful portrayal of revolutionism – cruel, conspiratorial and absolutely dehumanising – came as the rudest shock...

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Demonstration in Gujarat

The CPI(ML) has been campaigning against intimidation and an attack by the MLA Raman Patkar from Umargam taluka in Valsad district of Gujarat. This attack took place on the villagers of Ghoriparha and Gadikparha villages on 13 June 2011, in which around 15 adivasi and dalit villagers including CPI(ML) leader Kapila Ben were seriously injured. Even a month after the incident, the police failed to lodge any FIR against the perpetrators and the injured are yet to receive proper medical attention. For the past three years, CPI(ML) has been organising adivasi peasants here against attempts by land mafia to grab their lands. On 15 July, a demonstration was held demanding an FIR against the perpetrators of the attack including the BJP MLA and arrest of the land mafia who have grabbed adivasis’ lands. 300 adivasis including 80 women participated in the demonstration in spite of heavy rain. The demonstration took place at the DM’s office and a memorandum of demands was presented to the DM and DSP. The demonstration was led by Central Committee member Comrade Prabhat Kumar, State in-charge Ranjan Ganguly, Valsad district secretary Laxman Vadia and RYA leader Amit Patanwaria. A similar memorandum had been sent to the Home Minister of the Central Government, and a delegation also met the Gujarat Governor. On 9 August, in response to the national call of the party, a big dharna...

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Letter From Jharkhand

With the BJP being trounced by the JVM in the Jamshedpur Lok Sabha By-elections, the people of Jharkhand have given the Arjun Munda Government its eviction orders. The Munda Government has been unleashing bulldozers to evict ‘unauthorised’ constructions and ‘encroachments’; but the people have made it clear that the BJP Government supported by JMM and AJSU is itself founded on unauthorized and illegally grabbed power. The Government’s department-level review meetings and introduction of welfare schemes like meals for Rs. 5 are being seen as desperate attempts to steady its wobbling throne. The JMM is seizing this moment to flex its muscles within the coalition, and make a bid for its turn to run the Government. It is reminding Munda of the agreement that JMM and BJP would run the government for 28 months each. The government’s anti-encroachment drive has emerged as a major issue in Jharkhand politics. Localities inhabited for years in big cities and small towns have been demolished in minutes, rendering thousands of poor families homeless. The number of those evicted is much greater than the total number of Indira Awas houses distributed by the government in the state! The Government is callous to the question of rehabilitation of the lakhs who are now homeless and forced to live on the streets. Arjun Munda is claiming credit for the panchayat elections that have taken place for the...

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Uttarakhand Struggle Update

The All India Kisan Mahasabha has raised the issue of the rights of forest dwellers (living in khattas) and Van Grams (forest villages) for quite a long time. The inhabitants of these villages and khattas have been deprived of even their basic minimum rights in spite of the fact that they exist there for hundreds of years. They have not been given status of ‘villagers’ and the panchayati raj is a distant dream for them even after 65 years of independence. They are not eligible for schemes like NREGA and Forest Rights Act 2006 has failed to give them any relief. They cannot even acquire identity cards, ration cards, voter I-cards and even birth and death certificates which are mandatory requirements for various government facilities. They are left to live on the mercy of forest department officials, who extort bribes for everything they need for their livelihood, including taking dry grass to thatch their huts. These khatta dwellers held out a big rally under the AIKM banner in Haldwani on 2 February (see report in Liberation March 2011). This was followed by some promises by the Chief Minister, which remained unfulfilled. The main demand of these khatta dwellers, for decades, has been that they be granted revenue village status. The AIKM launched an intense mass contact campaign in these khattas which are spread all around in terai and bhabar...

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Mayawati Govt: Mired in Land Grab, Corruption, Murder

On the heels of the custodial rape, killing of a minor girl at Nighasan, and the subsequent cover-up came the death of Deputy CMO YS Sachan right inside Lucknow jail. Sachan was the main accused – and a key witness – cases of the murders of two CMOs. The Mayawati Government tried to pass off the death as a suicide, claiming he hanged himself in the jail toilet with his belt. But a post-mortem report has put paid to that defence, because it shows that the cause of death was bleeding from nine injury marks on different parts of the body. Sachan was dead before he was hanged. Just like in the Nighasan case, the ‘hanging’ was a crude attempt to pass murder off as suicide. The murder of two persons – Dr. B P Singh and Dr. Vinod Kumar Arya who held the post of CMO (Family Welfare) and of Sachan (Deputy CMO, Family Welfare) – has blown the lid off a multi-crore scam in the implementation of the NRHM (National Rural Health Mission) in the state. It has emerged that in 2010, the Mayawati Government violated norms to bring the NRHM under the ambit of the ‘Family Welfare’ Ministry (then under Babu Singh Kushwaha, considered close to Mayawati) rather than the Health Ministry. Separate CMO posts were created under the Family Welfare Ministry to handle the huge...

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AIALA , AICCTU, AIKM Leaders Visit Anti-POSCO Struggle

A team of AIALA, AICCTU AND AIKM leaders visited the site of the anti-POSCO struggle on 6 July to extend their solidarity. The team comprised Com. Rameshwar Prasad, National President, AIALA, Com. Dhirendra Jha, General Secretary, AIALA, Com. Khitish Biswal, Odisha Secretary, CPI (ML) Liberation, and Comrades Satyabadi Behera (AIALA Odisha Secretary) and Mahendra Parida (AICCTU Odisha Secretary). The leaders visited Govindpur and Nuagaon villages where villagers are on a dharna resisting land grab. They joined the dharna led by women at Nuagaon and then joined the ‘human barricades’ at Govindpur. Comrade Abhaya Sahoo, leader of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) welcomed the representatives of the mass organizations. Children participating in the dharna sang revolutionary songs and raised slogans against POSCO. Com. Rameshwar addressed the protestors, extending solidarity on behalf of the AIALA to the brave struggle which was holding out against the joint moves by the BJD Government of Odisha and the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre to allow MNCs like POSCO to plunder the resources and grab the land and livelihood of the people. Comrades Dhirendra Jha, Khitish Biswal, Satyabadi Behera and Mahendra Parida and Ashok Parida addressed the...

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CPI(ML) Leader Arrested in Odisha

Comrade Tirupati Gamango, CPI(ML) Liberation Odisha state committee member, was arrested by a special squad of Odisha police for addressing a mass meeting in Kashipur block of Rayagada district. Comrade Tirupati had raised the issue of police atrocities and harassment of common tribal people in the name of anti-Maoist operations in the district. The Odisha police said this amounted to “supporting Maoist activities and demoralising the police force,” and arrested him. On 18 July, a state-level protest was held at Bhubaneshwar to demand the immediate release of Com. Tirupati Gamango. The protest was led by state committee member Com. Yudhistir Mohapatra, AICCTU State Secretary Com. Mahendra Parida, and AIALA State Secretary Com. Satyabadi Behera. The march culminated in a public meeting in front of the Odisha Assembly. CPI(ML) leaders at the meeting said the arrest was a part of the witch-hunt of political activists and crackdown on democratic activities in the name of anti-Maoist operations. Ordinary tribal people are being branded as Maoist and arrested or killed in encounters, and democratic political activists were being targeted as well. The CPI(ML) said that if Com. Tirupati were not released, a state-wide agitation would be launched for his...

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Land Scam Calls Nitish Kumar’s ‘Anti-Corruption’ Bluff

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has been making appearances with Anna Hazare and promising a Lokayukta in the state, in order to boost his ‘anti-corruption’ image. After being elected CM, one of his foremost promises was to act against the corrupt. But allegations of a Yeddyurappa-style land scandal have called his bluff. Earlier too, the Nitish Government had been implicated in corruption by the CAG revelations of a treasury scam. The Nitish Government blocked a CBI enquiry into that scam. Now, the CM and his Government stand implicated of allotting Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA) plots to sons, daughters and close relatives of ministers, MPs and MLAs of the ruling NDA alliance, at throwaway prices, circumventing the procedure of inviting tenders. The Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority, a government body, allots land for industrial units as per rules and tenders. The BIADA website shows that Bihar Human Resources Development Minister P K Shahi’s daughter Urvashi Shahi has been allotted 87,120 sq ft, while JD-U MLA Jagdish Sharma’s son Rahul Sharma has been allotted 15,500 sq ft. Similarly, Rehmat Fatima, daughter of Social Welfare Minister Perveen Amanullah and senior Indian Administrative Service officer Afzal Amanullah has also been allotted 87,120 sq ft. BJP MLAs’ sons and daughters have also been allotted BIADA land. Among the beneficiaries from BJP is former MLA Awdhesh Narayan Singh’s son, who has been allotted 2,17,800...

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Firing on Tribals in Guwahati: Growing Authoritarianism

Emboldened by its victorious return to power in the recent Assembly polls, the Congress Government in Assam has begun to show its authoritarian face, with forced eviction of the poor settlers and tribals from hill areas and wetlands around Guwahati, brutal firing on the demonstration against eviction, and the arrest of popular peasant leader Akhil Gogoi. On July 22, thousands of adivasis and other poor people facing eviction held a large protest rally in the state capital, Guwahati. The police lobbed tear gas shells and lathi charged the protestors, who resisted this high-handedness. The police then indulged in firing which claimed three lives including that of a nine year-old child. The government, (and incidentally the mainstream media too) branded the protestors as ‘rioters’. And soon after, the leader of the rally, a popular young peasant leader Akhil Gogoi, who heads the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), was arrested on charges of rioting and destruction of public property. The Government’s eviction drive is being conducted in the name of clearing ‘encroachments’ from forest areas. However, a large section of the protestors were adivasis who are demanding their rights under the Forest Rights Act. Distinction too must be made between ‘encroachments’ fuelled by need as opposed to that from greed. The poor working migrant population of Assam that has settled in the forest areas near the capital must be rehabilitated and...

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Repression in Tripura: Is the Tripura CPI(M) Going the West Bengal Way?

On 10-11 July, students and common people in Agartala, the capital of Tripura, were subjected to severe police repression in the wake of an agitation against a new admission system in Tripura Medical College which undermines the state’s reservation policy. Tripura Police and Tripura State Rifles beat up common people, pedestrians, journalists and photo journalists. On 11 July police firing claimed the life of a young newspaper vendor Papai Saha. Whereas the Tripura state reservation policy with provisions for Tripura-domicile students is supposed to apply in 85 seats barring the 15 central government seats, the Tripura Medical College introduced a new policy whereby the state policy will apply only in 55 seats out of 85, and the central government policy will prevail in the remaining 30 seats. Except the ruling CPI(M)’s student wing SFI, all student organisations including AISA opposed this policy. The Tripura Medical College also hiked fees exorbitantly. On 10 July, the date of the Entrance Examination of the Medical College, the Congress called a protest rally against this admission test. The Government declared 144 CRPC in the area. When the Congress procession approached the examination centres, the police, without any provocation, started a lathi charge, injuring many. Pedestrians, journalists, students who were passing by, and auto passengers were all severely assaulted by the police. 12 journalists and photo journalists were seriously injured. On 11 July, the...

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