09 Septembe 2011

Grave Findings of Kashmir SHRC

It’s official now: thousands of ‘disappeared’ Kashmiri civilians did not vanish into thin air or across the border. They lie buried in unmarked mass graves – the victims of custodial murders by security forces in the Valley. A probe by the Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) probe establishes that more than 2000 bodies lie in 38 unmarked graves in northern Kashmir. For the people of Kashmir, this is not a sensational discovery. They can only feel a grim sense of vindication of what they have long been alleging. The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, in March 2008, released a report, ‘Facts Underground’, that pointed to the presence of the unmarked graves. The SHRC enquiry was initiated in response to the APDP campaign. In 2009 a report of the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) on Human Rights and Justice documented 2,700 unknown, unmarked, and mass graves. Now the SHRC has stated that “beyond doubt,” 2156 bullet-ridden bodies have been found in 38 mass graves. Many of these were handed over by police to locals for burial as ‘unidentified militants.’ The SHRC report accepts that “There is every probability that these unidentified bodies may contain bodies of enforced disappearances.” In light of these findings, the SHRC has ordered a state-wide investigation including exhumation of the bodies, DNA profiling and matching with relatives of disappeared people, and lodging of FIRs. Some...

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The Politics of Prakash Jha’s ‘Aarakshan’

The ‘debate’ over caste-based reservations (a settled debate in many ways) was deliberately raked up by Aarakshan’s makers as a conscious marketing strategy. The pronouncements of prominent figures associated with the film prompted natural suspicions about its intent, and led to widespread protests and even bans in some states before its release. It is true that the film, strictly speaking, is not blatantly casteist or openly abusive of deprived castes or of caste-based reservations. Its first scene shows caste and class discrimination in jobs faced by a young dalit man (played by Saif Ali Khan). In the scenes where conflict over ‘reservation vs merit’ is dealt with, it is the powerful dalit rejoinder by Saif has emotive impact, not the casteist taunts by the villainous Mithilesh Singh (peddler of commercial coaching, played by Manoj Bajpai). The idealistic teacher Prabhakar Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) rebuffs casteist parents who say deprived kids stink and demand separate classrooms, by saying “It’s your ideas which stink.” The central character (Prabhakar) does support the Supreme Court verdict upholding OBC reservations, saying that centuries of caste-based oppression call for a caste-based correctives. So far, so good. That said, let us ask if the film is honest in its treatment of reservation and commercialisation of education, the two issues it claims to address? The answer is, unfortunately, no. A film with ‘Aarakshan’ (reservation) in its title would...

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OBITUARY

CPI(ML) Pays Homage to Comrade M K Pandhe CPI(ML) extends deepest condolences on the demise of veteran communist and Trade Union leader, and CPI(M) Politburo member Comrade M K Pandhe. Comrade Pandhe’s loss will be deeply felt by India’s working class struggles and the country’s Left movement. The workers of India will always remember him for his leading role in building a resolute resistance to the anti-labour, anti-people policies of liberalization. He always adhered to the best communist traditions of simple lifestyle, and his activism right till the last days of his life will always inspire communists everywhere. CPI(ML) pays homage to Comrade Pandhe’s legacy, and stands with his family and comrades in this time of loss. Adieu to Historian Prof. R S Sharma One of India’s foremost historians and public intellectuals, Prof. R S Sharma, passed away on 20 August at the age of 92. His work as an authority on ancient India was always deeply engaged with contemporary social realities. He established and defended the relationship between technological development and social changes in ancient India. A Marxist historian to the core, Prof. Sharma’s path-breaking thesis on Indian feudalism ruffled many feathers. He interacted with the peasant leader Swami Sahajanand Saraswati. Ancient India became a bitterly disputed site of political contention with the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign. Debunking myth and defending scholarship, facts and secular values, he along with...

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Norway Massacre: Signal of Rising Right-Wing Climate in Europe

22 July saw Norway’s orderly life blown apart by bomb blasts and the massacre of over 70 youth by a gunman. Scores of others were injured and Norway was left stunned, traumatized, and bleeding. Much of the western media immediately went into a knee-jerk ‘Muslim-terrorism’ reaction. Obama used it to justify his wars against ‘terrorism’. Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper, The Sun, ran a front-page headline that read, “Al-Qaeda’ Massacre: Norway’s 9/11.” In the United States, Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal also initially blamed “jihadists,” reporting that “Norway is targeted for being true to Western norms.” The same media, when they discovered that it was a white Christian male who was the perpetrator immediately dropped the word ‘terrorist’ to refer to him as a lunatic/madman etc. After all, in their vocabulary, the word ‘terrorist’ is strictly reserved for Muslims only. It would be well to remember that of the over 350 ‘terrorist incidents’ in Europe over the past year only 2 involved Muslim perpetrators! No Lone Madman This modern-day Christian Crusader who openly and proudly owns responsibility for these heinous crimes is a young Norwegian citizen called Anders Breivik. There has been a frenzy of speculation about him and the reasons why he committed this crime. Is he a white supremacist, a Freemason, an Aryan racist, an extreme right-wing nationalist, a xenophobic fascist, a rabid Islamophobic, an anti women’s rights male...

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1981/2011 Racism, Injustice and Hypocrisy

In early August, the ‘riots’ which began in Tottenham, a working class area of London with a significant black community, spread rapidly to other parts of London and then to other major cities in England. Many commentators have focused on the parallels and differences with the riots which took place in 1981. Like the recent events, the 1981 riots, dubbed ‘uprisings’ by many at the time, were not conflicts between communities. They involved youths of African-Caribbean, Asian and white origin taking to the streets and engaging in running battles with the police. They took place during the first wave of Thatcher’s neoliberal restructuring, attacks on state provision and rapidly spiraling unemployment. A major focus of the anger was the acute racism of the police and the brutality and criminalization faced by black youth. The 1981 riots forced the British state to modify its strategy for controlling working class black (including Asian) communities, introducing ‘multicultural’ policies which involved channeling state funding to ‘community leaders’ who could be manipulated. More recently however this strategy has again been reversed with a return to the promotion of a monolithic ‘Britishness’ and intensified repression in the context of Britain’s ‘war on terror’. While the British media and spokespersons for the state preach ‘morality’, they seem to have forgotten that the riots began as a result of a man being killed on 4th August. Mark...

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US Credit Rating Goes Down: Great Recession Returning With a Vengeance?

As expected, the war of nerves – some see it as shadow-boxing – has ended at the 11th hour, with the US House of Representatives passing a Bill to increase the country’s debt ceiling and U.S. President Barack Obama signing legislation designed to reduce the fiscal deficit by more than 2 trillion US dollars over 10 years. The very next day on August 3, the Dagong Global Credit Rating Co. of China lowered the credit rating of the United States. “The increase in the debt ceiling does not change the fact that the growth of the US national debt has surpassed that of its economy and tax revenues, which will reduce the willingness to pay debts”, the agency said in a statement. American credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S & P) followed suit by reducing the rating two days later. The Chinese concern is understandable. As the world’s largest holder of dollar bonds, it is the biggest creditor of the US. Naturally other nations are also worried. Under the impact of mounting concerns of a global recession, financial markets worldwide saw the worst fall since the financial crisis of 2008, even as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 512 points and more than USD 2.5 trillion were wiped off the value of world stocks. The markets crash is not simply a short term psychological reaction to the rating...

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Release Comrade Afroz Alam, Withdraw ‘Gangster Act’ and other false cases

In the police-mafia regime of Mayawati-ruled UP, ‘Gangster Act’ and custodial torture is the reward for struggling for the landless poor. On the face of it, Mayawati’s government appears to be at loggerheads with the Congress in UP. But when it comes to the nexus with the land mafia in Pilibhit, the UP police and local Congress leaders have united to falsely frame and torture a young CPI(ML) activist. Afroz Alam, member of the CPI(ML)’s state standing committee and National Executive member of the All India Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM) and seven other CPI(ML) activists who have been leading a struggle in the workers’ settlement of Rahul Nagar for land titles, were called by the police station in Pilibhit on 2 July, on the pretext of talks. They were then arrested and serious false charges were filed against them – including arson (Section 436), and SC/ST Act. They were badly beaten and subjected to brutal torture using ‘rollers’ on their thighs. Eventually when the matter came to District Sessions Court and the Court questioned the police’s conduct, ‘Gangster Act’ was invoked against Afroz and the others, ensuring that the hearing for that case will now take place in the ‘Gangster Court’, Bareilly. Comrade Afroz is 34 years old, from a working class, Leftist family of Rae Bareilly. A left activist from his student days, he joined AISA and the CPI(ML)...

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Legacy of Rabindranath: Discard the Dead, Uphold the Living

IV In this article we have so far perforce left untouched what is obviously most important about Rabindranath – the way he revolutionised art and literature in Bengal and thereby contributed to the development of Indian culture – and his other social activities. Our purpose was to use the available space for an assessment of the political Rabindranath. But let us, if only to get a sense of perspective in this concluding part, take a break here for a brief glance at some of those aspects and then come back to the main thread of our investigation. Educationist and Social Reformer In his own way the poet was also a most energetic activist. He travelled extensively in India (in some cases with his cultural troupe) and undertook more than ten foreign trips – harrowing journeys across land and sea – some of which (like the one in 1920-21 which extended over a year) were really world tours. In most of these the main purpose, apart from the ever-present eagerness to expand ties of friendship and cultural exchange with peoples near and far, was to raise funds for Visva Bharati and to convey, through lectures and other forms of intercourse, what he believed to be the timeless message from India. He was a tireless traveller also across art forms. Drawing extensively on such varied sources as the Upanishads and the...

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Corruption and Corporate Loot – Quit India!

Student Youth Barricade at Parliament and Nationwide Jail Bharo On 9 August, the very day that students and youth from all over the country were pouring into Delhi to be at the Barricades at Parliament against corruption, the papers quoted Delhi Police officials saying that the protest would be allowed only till 6 pm, and no group could be allowed to hold a continuous sit-in for 100 hours. The Barricade site at Jantar Mantar showed that this was an anti-corruption protest with a difference. Along with the demand for scrapping the sarkari Lokpal and passing a strong Janlokpal, there were a variety of creative banners and placards saying “Privatisation is the root of corruption”, “Stop corporations from scripting our laws,” and supporting the people’s movements at Jaitapur, Jagatsinghpur and so on. Students and youth from 20 states participated – Punjab, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Rajasthan, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Bengal, Orissa, Assam, Karbi Anglong, Tripura, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. In addition, nearly 500 students from the JNU, DU and Jamia Millia Islamia joined the Barricade. In JNU, entire classrooms emptied as students joined the AISA activists in busloads. Hundreds of Jamia students came in spite of the fact that campus security tried to browbeat them and stopped their buses. Eventually the students from Jamia had to come by public transport buses rather than the buses...

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Government’s Lokpal Bill: A Farce

Existing investigative agencies such as the CBI and CVC in India are ineffective because in many cases they are subservient to the very same people whom they are expected to investigate. That is why they have been so susceptible to political manipulation and so few cases of scams involving the powerful have ever been punished. The instance of appointment of CVC PJ Thomas showed how the selection process allows the Government to ensure that pliant officials are appointed. The Government’s draft Lokpal Bill will change none of this. The Lokpal members will be selected by a committee in which the majority of representatives are from the Government. Restricted Scope of Lokpal If the Government had its way, most of today’s major scams would fall through the gaping holes in the Lokpal’s net. Take the 2G scam: the Lokpal could not investigate it because it would not cover the Prime Minister. Since the Lokpal cannot investigate the conduct of MPs inside Parliament, it would be unable to investigate cases such as oil pricing, vote on the Nuke Deal, or cash-for-questions scam, whereby the behaviour and positions taken by of MPs inside Parliament is suspected to be influenced by bribes or corporate interests. The Lokpal could not investigate the Bellary mining, CWG, Adarsh, UP’s CMO or Bihar’s BIADA scams because it would not have power to investigate state government officials, and...

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UPA’s Food Security Bill: Recipe for Dismantling PDS and Procurement

The draft National Food Security Bill 2011 that has finally been approved by the empowered Group of Ministers contains several dangerous provisions that point towards a tendency to curtail and dismantle the PDS system itself. It directs Central, state and local governments to strive to “introduce scheme of cash transfer in lieu of entitlements.” And it also provides for a “food security allowance” to be given “in case of failure to supply the entitled persons,” which is nothing but a license to replace food rations with a cash “allowance.” For the needy, cash is no substitute for food in hand. For one, the cash amount will not cover food costs in times of speedily rising prices. For another, there are multiple urgent demands on cash in such households – in case of a medical emergency, pressing debts etc. in such circumstances, diversion of cash is all too likely, and therefore cash amounts cannot ensure food security. Further, cash transfers are a recipe for dismantling the PDS. Since in case of cash transfers, the Government will no longer need to procure grain for the PDS, it will also spell doom for procurement, and therefore rob farmers of MSP. The Government’s eagerness to shift to cash transfers from food rations needs to be seen in the context of its push for FDI in the retail sector. It wants to expand the...

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Scrap LARR Bill 2011 – Protect Agricultural Land By All Means

Jairam Ramesh, the UPA government’s Minister of Rural Development, has come up with a draft Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill that will replace the notorious Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The draft bill clearly seeks to legalise and intensify the ongoing corporate land-grab campaign in the country even as it talks about addressing “the concerns of farmers and those whose livelihoods are dependent on the land being acquired”. Before being brought to the rural development ministry, Jairam Ramesh was in charge of the forest ministry where his greatest role was to give a green signal to the POSCO project in Odisha which seeks to acquire 4,000 acres of land in flagrant violation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. And now as the Minister of Rural Development he has declared a veritable war on agricultural land and rural livelihood in the name of urbanization, industrialization and infrastructure development. The new bill gives complete freedom to all kinds of private companies to purchase land without even bothering about seeking any consent of concerned land-owners. The provision of seeking and obtaining the consent of “at least 80 per cent of the affected families” applies only when land is acquired by the government either for “immediate and declared use by private companies” or “with the ultimate intent of transferring it for the use of private companies”. And the government too is free...

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Rising Saffron Offensive in Bihar

In Bihar, three incidents of killing of Muslim minorities by police or security forces have taken place in a space of months. The Forbesganj (Bhajanpura) firing in Araria district, on poor villagers protesting land grab, which took four lives including a woman and a child, is fresh in everyone’s mind. In horrific video footage, a policeman was seen viciously stomping on an injured man till he died. That incident undoubtedly reeked of communal hatred. In spite of this, the SP and SDO are yet to face disciplinary action. In December 2010, in the same district, Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB) killed four Muslims in firing at Batraha village. The firing took place when Muslims came to the SSB camp to protest that SSB jawans had entered their village the previous night and attempted to rape a woman. In Muzaffarpur, within three months of the Forbesganj firing, a trainee sub-inspector (SI) in the Town police station of Muzaffarpur beat a 50-year-old tailor, Shamsuddin, to death. The SI was enraged when Shamsuddin intervened to save two Muslim youths who were being beaten up by plainclothes police led by the SI during ‘questioning’ in regard to suspected arms hoarding. The SI and two other cops turned on Shamsuddin and beat him up in the thana till he died. These atrocities by police on Muslims point to a growing saffron offensive in the state....

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Modi Government Targets Whistleblowers

IPS officers who have given evidence to investigative agencies, exposing the Gujarat Government and state machinery’s role in the 2002 genocide of Muslim minorities and in several fake encounters, are being victimized by the Modi regime. Earlier, IPS Sanjiv Bhatt, a senior Intelligence officer in the state, had told the Supreme Court that the SIT appointed to investigate the communal violence, ignoring his offer to provide evidence, has instead leaked information about his testimony to the Government (Liberation June 2011). Bhatt’s affidavit in the Supreme Court has stated that he attended a meeting at Modi’s home, in which the CM had instructed the police and administration to “let Hindus vent their anger” against the Godhra incident – a clear signal to allow a free hand to communal violence. Bhatt was suspended on August 8 with immediate effect on the grounds that his conduct was unbecoming of an IPS officer, citing various flimsy charges. Rahul Sharma, who had been Deputy Commissioner of Police in the Police Control Room in 2002, is another IPS officer to be victimized. In 2004 he had submitted CDs of call records between the police, politicians and Sangh Parivar members during the 2002 riots to the Nanavati Commission. The Modi Government issued a show cause notice to him asking him who gave him permission to hand over the records, which show that BJP and Sangh leaders...

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Victory for AISA’s three year-long struggle: SC Verdict Stops Sabotage of OBC Reservation

An extremely significant Supreme Court verdict of 18 August finally clarified that 10% relaxation for OBC admissions would be calculated from a ‘minimum eligibility or qualifying mark’ and not from the mark obtained by the last general category candidate to get admission. It thus put an end to the ploy used by universities all over India to keep OBC students from availing seats reserved for them. This victory is a result of three years of struggle which the AISA began in JNU in 2008, but which then spread to other universities too, resulting in a verdict of national significance in defending OBC reservations. How Universities like JNU, DU etc Robbed OBC students of their seats… In the verdict, Justices Raveendran and Patnaik describe the process by which JNU and other institutions stole OBC seats: “During those years (2008-09 and 2009-10), JNU would fix the minimum eligibility marks as say 40% when the admission programme is announced. JNU would apply it only to general category candidates. It would not say what was the minimum eligibility marks for OBC candidates, but would decide the same, only after all the general category seats were filled, by fixing a band of marks upto 10% below the marks secured by the last candidate admitted under the general category. If an OBC candidate secured the marks within that band, he would be given admission. Otherwise...

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