04 April 2013

On Cover : Shadow of Sexism and Misogyny Over Anti-Rape Bill

The anti-rape legislation that was supposed to be Parliament’s tribute to the Delhi December 16 braveheart was passed in India’s lower house on 19th March. Far from being a momentous and historic blow to patriarchy, however, the occasion only served to remind us what kind of patriarchal reaction we’re up against. Only 200 out of 545 MPs remained in the house. The top leadership of the Congress party and the UPA coalition stayed away from the house. And the debate in the Lok Sabha – marked by open sexism, misogyny, and misinformation – could not have presented a greater contrast with the sober and painstaking process of learning from activists on the ground as well as international best practices, undertaken by the Justice Verma Committee. Leading the charge was BJP MP Bhola Singh, whose idea of women’s rights meant invoking mythological examples to extol women as models of sacrifice and beauty. Meanwhile, he echoed the RSS chief and blamed westernization for rape! Then, there was Shailendra Kumar of the SP, who, yet again, blamed revealing clothes worn by film stars for rape, and even made a personal sexist dig at his colleague Jayaprada, a former actress. And JD(U) MP Sharad Yadav declared that stalking was a form of courtship (‘Which of us men has never stalked a girl? Girls do not respond till you stalk them for a while’)...

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On Cover : Progressives and Reactionaries Polarised Over Memorial for Dr. Nirmal in Darbhanga

A remarkable mass movement is underway in Darbhanga, Bihar, in which there is a struggle between people’s memory and political amnesia, between a progressive vision of a people’s Bihar, against a Bihar shackled in the feudal-communal mould. It all began when some doctors of Darbhanga Medical College decided to commemorate a remarkable alumnus of their institution –Dr. Nirmal. Nirmal Singh was a bright student, born in a middle class, backward caste peasant sfamily in Bhojpur. He qualified for the Darbhanga Medical College by his high marks is his intermediate school exams – a rare instance where a student from any backward/dalit or oppressed backward could breach the unspoken barrier of entry to medical college. He took on the suffocating Brahminical-feudal hegemony in the DMC hostel and administration (a feature which persists in many medical colleges in India even today). A popular student, he soon rallied progressive students around him in the fight against caste discrimination, braving several attacks on his life in the process. On one such occasion in February 1973, he was injured, abused even in hospital and jailed on false charges. Spurred by a sharp sense of the inherent injustice of the judicial process towards the oppressed communities and the poor, he returned to Sahar, Bhojpur where the CPI(ML)-led movement against feudal oppression was raging. Eventually, on 29 November 1975, Dr. Nirmal was martyred alongside CPI(ML) General...

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REVIEW : Deconstructing “The Idea of India”

Every movement for national liberation has its own dynamics and salient features, which to a large extent shape the basic contours of the nation state that emerges from it. Perry Anderson in his latest book demonstrates this with perfect clarity with reference to India. He shows how the dominant nationalist discourse in this country suppresses certain of those features in the independence movement that are uncomfortable to the self-perception of the nationalist elite, celebrating instead what it projects as grand national achievements and cherished ideals: a stable political democracy, a steadfast secularity and a robust territorial integrity based on multi-cultural unity. He calls this self-righteous discourse “Indian Ideology” and adds, “It is not, of course, the only nationalist ideology of contemporary India. To its right, Hindutva offers a much more aggressive vision of the nation.” (p 3) Though the latter is “more dangerous”, he concentrates on the liberal version, better known as “The Idea of India”, because – he tells us in an e-mail interview to Praful Bidwai in Outlook magazine — “this is the mainstream discourse of the state, the media and the intelligentsia. The book aims to show its limitations.” To do this, Anderson focuses the spotlight on certain “inconvenient historical realities” (p 2) that is on issues which the dominant discourse avoids and obscures. There, in those uncomfortable events and trends in the national movement and...

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Kerbside History

(This article is reproduced here from Outlook Magazine, March 18, 2013.) Several misconceptions are afloat around the war crimes trials in Bangladesh, as well as the Shahbag Square protests, that are putting pressure on the government to take concrete steps against the Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh. Critics of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) have voiced reservations about the process of the trial, some have dubbed it ‘unfair’. Another allegation is that the trials are being used against political rivals and ‘opposition’ political figures. Such concerns have percolated through the western media, lobbied by a well-oiled PR machinery working on behalf of a few leading Jamaat figures. What these detractors fail to understand is that the country, after sending a powerful army back to the barracks through a popular uprising in 1989, is trying its best to get back to its founding principles—the syncretic secular values of the Bengali culture. It is also extremely important for them to have a closure to events surrounding the ’71 war of liberation—a massively emotive issue among a majority of Bangladeshis, both in the country and abroad. The ICT is a major step towards these goals. The country and the state hasn’t created lynch mobs or death squads, or set up summary trials and simply kill opposition leaders, many of whom had admitted to have been involved in the atrocities committed in 1971. The ICT...

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OBITUARY

Protests Against Bomb Attack on Anti-POSCO Protestors Pro-POSCO goons in Odisha launched a bomb attack at anti-POSCO protestors, targeting the main PPSS leader Abhaya Sahoo in particular, claiming the life of 3 protesters on 2nd March. 3 left parties – CPI(ML) Liberation, CPI(ML) and SUCI (C), held a protest against the bomb attack at Bhubaneshwar. The protesters marched to the Odisha Assembly and demanded 50 lakhs compensation for each of the victims, arrest of all culprits, immediate withdrawal of police from the Jagatsinghpur area, and scrapping of the POSCO agreement. The protest was led by Mahendra Parida, Radhakant Sethi, and Yudhistir Mohapatra from CPI(ML) Liberation, Shiv Ram from CPI (ML) and Rajendra Verma from SUCI (C). In Delhi also several groups held a joint protest, which was joined by AISA. Police Firing on CPI(ML) Protesters at Garhwa On 2nd March, the police at Garhwa, Jharkhand, fired on CPI(ML) supporters protesting against the alienation of Dalit land and state repression, killing one young CPI(ML) member. In the village Korga, of Ramuna block in Garhwa district, 700 acres of land rightfully belonging to people of the Dalit Bhuiyan caste, had been grabbed by the feudal forces on the basis of forged papers. This dispute dates back to 1932, the High Court has ruled in favour of the Bhuiyan caste on this matter, in spite of which the feudal forces backed by...

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UPDATES : International Women’s Day Protests

On the occasion of International Women’s Day this year, protests were held all over the country demanding implementation of the Verma Committee recommendations and especially the enactment of an effective law against rape and sexual violence. In Delhi, women’s groups held a joint rally from Mandi House to Parliament Street, reflecting the spirit of the ongoing movement against rape following the December 16 gangrape. Participant organisations included AIDWA, AIPWA, CWDS, Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, FORCES, Jagori, JWP, NFIW, Nirantar, Pragatisheel Mahila Sangthan, Purogami Mahila Sangthan, Saheli, Swastik Mahila Samiti, and YWCA of Delhi, as well as student groups including AISA and students from various DU colleges, JNU and Jamia Millia Islamia. At Parliament Street, a protest meeting was held, which was addressed by women’s movement activists including Sudha Sundararaman of AIDWA and Kavita Krishnan of AIPWA. The programme was conducted by Sehba Farooqui of AIDWA. On the presidium, AIPWA was represented by Sucheta De, one of the leading figures of the Delhi anti-rape protests. Addressing the protestors, Kavita saluted the century of women workers’ struggles which were being commemorated on International Women’s Day. She hailed the spirit of the women resisting POSCO at Odisha, who on the eve of Women’s Day had been severely lathicharged and booked for criminal offences when some of them stripped their clothes off in protest against land grab. She hailed the women of Koodankulam...

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9th Party Congress : Draft Resolution on Environmental Protection and People-centric Development

“Man lives from nature, i.e. nature is his body, and he must maintain a continuing dialogue with it if he is not to die. To say that man’s physical and mental life is linked to nature simply means that nature is linked to itself, for man is a part of nature.” — Karl Marx, Capital Vol. 1 1. Destruction of livelihood, grab of land and resources, eviction from land, pollution that endangers health and safety, and devastation of environment, is all being justified by the ruling classes in the name of ‘development.’ At the same time, people are being deprived of basic rights of education, health, housing, and other kinds of social welfare, which ought to be the fundamental parameters of development in any country. 2. Asserting a people’s agenda of development calls for firm measures to reverse corporate-led ‘development’, and counter the rampant privatisation of resources, assets, and services; and for placing people’s own concerns and local, participatory democratic decision-making at the centre of development. The basic principle of development must be redefined as ensuring people’s control over resources; and use of revenue generated from such resources for social welfare as a priority. 3. Over the past few decades, the growing damage to ecosystems and living environments, and the diminishing access to resources that sustain human lives have brought to the fore serious concerns about environmental degradation and...

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9th Party Congress : Draft Resolution on the National Situation and our Tasks

1. India is passing through turbulent times. On the one hand we have a growing crisis of the neo-liberal policy regime and a desperate corporate/state offensive to transfer the burden of the crisis on the people; on the other hand we are witnessing massive outbursts of people’s anger. Whether we look at struggles against corporate land-grab, against corruption, against sexual violence or for workers’ rights, we can see an encouraging upswing in popular assertion. The historic upsurge of the youth in Delhi against the December 16 incident of gang-rape has triggered a countrywide awakening among women and in the society at large for women’s rights. We also witnessed a powerful assertion of the working class in an unprecedented two-day all-India strike on February 20-21. In spite of the economic hardship and repressive offensive of the state, the present juncture is pregnant with great possibilities for the democratic movement of the Indian people. 2. Two decades of uninterrupted pursuit of the economic policy regime of reckless liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation have pushed India into a deep economic crisis. All these years the ruling classes sought to justify the policies by pointing to the increased rate of economic growth, but now the growth balloon has also been deflated with the growth rate hitting the lowest point in a decade. Agriculture and manufacturing sectors are in deep stagnation, and the much celebrated...

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Cover Feature # President Chavez: A 21st Century Renaissance Man

President Hugo Chavez was unique in multiple areas of political, social and economic life. He made significant contributions to the advancement of humanity. The depth, scope and popularity of his accomplishments mark President Chavez as the ‘Renaissance President of the 21st Century’. Many writers have noted one or another of his historic contributions highlighting his anti-poverty legislation, his success in winning popular elections with resounding majorities and his promotion of universal free public education and health coverage for all Venezuelans. In this essay we will highlight the unique world-historic contributions that President Chavez made in the spheres of political economy, ethics and international law and in redefining relations between political leaders and citizens. We shall start with his enduring contribution to the development of civic culture in Venezuela and beyond. Hugo Chavez: The Great Teacher of Civic Values From his first days in office, Chavez was engaged in transforming the constitutional order so that political leaders and institutions would be more responsive to the popular electorate. Through his speeches Chavez clearly and carefully informed the electorate of the measures and legislation to improve their livelihood. He invited comments and criticism – his style was to engage in constant dialogue, especially with the poor, the unemployed and the workers. Chavez was so successful in teaching civic responsibilities to the Venezuelan electorate that millions of citizens from the slums of Caracas...

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Covre Feature : Mourning Chávez on the Web

It’s been fascinating seeing the response to the death of Hugo Chávez playing out on the web, for it not only confirms his status as a world historical figure, but because of the high symbolism of the event, which clearly exposes the fundamental ideological rift of our days—not simply the chasm between the rich and poor countries of the world, but the confrontation between Eros and Thanatos: the love of social justice, represented in the adored figure of the defunct leader, against the destructiveness unto death of the empire of capitalism, with its headquarters four-and-a-quarter hours flying time due north from Caracas (or less than three to Miami, where rich Venezuelans go to do their sumptuary shopping). Web platforms like Twitter and Storify produce a fluid form of instant montage. An editorial in the Dallas Morning Herald, is quite brazen: ‘During his 14 years as president, Chávez fooled Venezuelans into believing he would improve their lives and strengthen their democratic powers. In reality, he accomplished exactly the opposite…Chávez squandered his nation’s vast oil wealth on socialist gimmickry.’ As if in direct response, a tweet points out that ‘Being vilified by the political & media establishment usually signifies you’re a threat to US-corporate world hegemony.’ The ‘socialist gimmickry’ in question consists in the redistribution of wealth, in particular by repatriating the country’s huge oil revenues and ploughing them into healthcare,...

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Cover Feature : “We are All Chavez”

“Chavez did not die, he multiplied!” “We are all Chavez!” “The struggle continues!” – chanted the huge red tide, overflowing with love and commitment, which flooded the streets of Caracas. Fittingly for a man who at times sang and danced on his weekly TV shows, the eight kilometres long funeral procession was full of music. A favourite tune was people’s singer Alí Primera’s “Those who die for life cannot be called dead/ From this moment on, mourning is prohibited.” Right, where is the time to mourn? The people of Venezuela know they have a protracted war ahead to fight and win, if they are to prove worthy of their dear departed “commandante”. The first of a series of battles is scheduled to be fought on 14 April, when Chavez’s chosen successor, Vice President (now acting President) Nicolas Maduro confronts the opposition in presidential election. That by itself may not prove very difficult, but the real challenge will be to defeat the US design of regime change and continue the journey initiated and so far led by the departed President. The very next day after the passing away of Hugo Chavez, the Wall Street-funded American Enterprise Institute (AEI) sponsored by the likes of the current presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski and his party Justice First issued a “Post-Chávez checklist for US policymakers.” It was declared that the US must move...

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Brutal Repression in Kashmir

On March 6, a protest demonstration was held in Baramulla against Afzal guru’s hanging, demanding the return of Afzal Guru’s remains to his homeland. Protestors pelted some stones at an army truck. In retaliation, the army men sprayed the protestors with bullets, killing a young Kashmiri man, Tahir. Stones being met with bullets is an old script, played out again and again in the Valley. Kashmir has lost count of the number of times that it has had to mourn the murder of its children at the hands of Army firing, for the crime of a moment of anger against a symbol of oppression. In the Kashmir Assembly, the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah made an emotional speech, asking “Do people in a procession throwing stones deserve to be shot at?” He expressed his helplessness and justified the Opposition walk-out of the Assembly. Whether this speech was a calculated political move or a spontaneous outburst, it underlines the hollowness and fragility of the façade of ‘democracy’ in Kashmir, when the writ of the Army counts for more than the opinions of the elected Chief Minister, leader of the ruling coalition at the Centre. Meanwhile, when Kashmir mourned, Pakistan and India played a cynical game of competitive resolutions. Pakistan’s Parliament passed a resolution condemning the hanging of Afzal Guru and demanding that his body be handed over to his family, as...

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Italian Marines: India’s Lack of Will to Ensure Justice

In February last year, two Indian fishermen from Kerala were shot dead by Italian marines when their fishing boat came close to an Italian merchant ship. Ever since, the families of the fishermen, and the entire country, have watched with dismay as justice has been eluded with arrogance by the Italian marines. Right from the start, Italy has maintained that its marines were justified in firing since they thought the fishermen were pirates; moreover Italy has questioned India’s right to try the marines since the incident happened, according to them, in international rather than Indian waters. The Italian marines were allowed to go home to cast their vote in the elections following a promise made by the Italian Ambassador to India’s Supreme Court. Subsequently, Italy blatantly violated its commitment and refused to return the two marines to face the judicial process in India. What gives Italy the confidence that it can get away with mocking at India and the Indian Supreme Court? The main reason is that Italy is clearly banking on India’s concerns to protect investment by Italian firms in India. Another possibility is that Italy is hoping to bargain on the Indian Government’s need to cover up the facts regarding the Italian chopper deal, which is being investigated in Italy. Under pressure from the political consequences of the embarrassment of Italy’s breach of trust, PM Manmohan Singh...

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Decoding Nitish Kumar’s Politics of ‘Adhikar’

On March 17 Nitish Kumar held an impressive show of strength in Delhi. While the rally was officially projected as a platform to raise the demand for special category status for Bihar, and by implication for all states that have been victims of persistent socio-economic backwardness, it has come to be seen as a signal of a potential political realignment in the context of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. The rally talked of ‘adhikar’ (rights) but instead of outlining any agenda of struggle for securing it, it only hinted at political deals with the Centre. Nitish Kumar had already voted for the UPA nominee in Presidential election and had praised Chidambaram’s budget and he followed up the rally with cordial meetings with the troika of Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram and Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Instead of speculating on the possibilities of political realignment, let us try and decode Nitish Kumar’s rhetoric of ‘adhikar’ which has silently replaced his earlier 2005 keywords of ‘nyay’ (justice) and ‘vikas’ (development). In 2010 Nitish Kumar won an emphatic victory in Bihar with the people of Bihar asking him to deliver on his promise of ‘nyay ke saath vikas’ (development with justice). But as the government faces growing anger in Bihar for its failure and betrayal on this front, Nitish Kumar cleverly wants to shift the agenda to the issue of special category status posing it...

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