08 August 2013

On Cover # Shame : India The Only Country To Defend US Spying!

Thanks to Manmohan Singh and his Government, India has achieved the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world servile enough to leap to the defence of the US’ spying – even though India itself is reportedly the fifth most watched country by US spies. India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed said a curt No to Snowden’s appeal for asylum, declaring that “India is not an open house for asylum seekers.” India denied Julian Assange asylum as well. But in that case, at least, India had the excuse that Wikileaks had leaked embarrassing material about India. Snowden has in fact revealed to us that the US is spying on us! Why should such a whistleblower not be welcomed with open arms? Most countries of the world, including European ones, reacted with strong words to the revelations of US spying, though they lacked the spine and conscience to give Snowden asylum. It is the Latin American countries that showed the most admirable courage and principles. Bolivia offered Snowden asylum. When Bolivian President Evo Morales was flying back from Moscow (where Snowden was then rumoured to be), his jet had to be rerouted to Vienna when France, Spain, Portugal and Italy blocked access to their airspace! At Vienna, in an unprecedented act of arrogant high-handedness towards a head of state, President Morales’ plane was searched, and allowed to take...

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On Cover : Dalit Youth Killed By the Politics Against Inter-Caste Marriage

“I now can really understand the horrendous nature of caste and the heinous things it is capable of after falling in love.” This is what Ilavarasan told a journalist after he was separated from his wife Divya. Divya returned to her mother’s house and declared that her father’s suicide would forever haunt her, saying she would not return to her husband. Soon after, Ilavarasan was found dead on the railway tracks, with the police insisting it is a suicide, while his family suspect foul play. Ilavarasan was Dalit and Divya, from the Vanniyar caste, and their lives and happiness together have been sacrificed at the altar of casteist and patriarchal politics in Tamil Nadu. This tragedy has a familiar script. Some years ago, in Kolkata, a similar love story and marriage had a tragic end, with Priyanka Todi returning to her parents’ home and Rizwanur Rehman found dead on railway tracks, apparently a suicide. In Rizwanur’s case, Kolkata’s top cop and the police force had offered itself as the strong arm of industrialist Ashok Todi, in what the Police Commissioner described as Todi’s natural right to prevent his daughter from making a marriage with someone of a lower class and different religion. In the Tamil Nadu case, however, it isn’t the parents of Divya who initiated the violence. Ilavarasan had told the journalist in the same interview, “Divya’s father...

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UPDATES

Protests Demanding Arrest of Comrade Gangaram Kol’s Killers Continue As part of the ongoing protests demanding Justice for Comrade Gangaram Kol, the party held a protest procession on 23rd June in Dibrugarh district (Tingkhong area). The procession began from the party’s office at Rajgarh through the main market to the Revenue Office. 500 people marched in the procession raising slogans demanding arrest of the main accused, Congress MLA Raju Sahu, without delay, and a CBI enquiry into the killing. When the procession reached the main market, a protest meeting was held and an effigy of Raju Sahu was burnt. The procession was led by Assam State Committee member Comrade Arup Mahanta. At the Revenue Office, another protest meeting was held which was addressed by Assam State Secretary of the party Comrade Bibek Das. A memorandum to the Governor was submitted via the Revenue Officer. The procession was led by Comrade Balindra Saikia, Mira Tanti, Suraj Garai, Maitreyi Bagchi, Punti Tanti, Shashi Modha, Bitupon Bokoliyal, Lakshyadhar Kalita, and other CPI(ML) leaders. Protests were also held at 23rd June at Tinsukia, 25th June at Biswanath Chariali, 2nd July at Dibrugarh town, and 10th July at Jorhat. Solidarity with Maruti Workers Exactly one year ago, the management and its hired goons led a brutal attack on the workers inside the factory premises of Maruti Suzuki when talks were going on between workers...

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Mashrakh MDM Massacre: Nitish Government Has Blood of Children on Its Hands

(A report by CPI(ML)’s Bihar State Secretary Kunal) The massacre of 23 school children through the mid-day meal on 16th July in Dharmasati Gandaman village of Mashrakh block in Saran district has not only completely exposed the Nitish Government’s empty boasts about development, it has also brought to the fore the total insensitivity and irresponsibility of the Government. When the CPI(ML) team led by General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya reached the place on 17th July afternoon, the village was grief-stricken and also seething with anger. 4 government vehicles had been torched and reduced to cinders by the roadside. In the open maidan of the Dharmasati temple, JCB cranes had been employed to dig graves for the burial of the children. Two children had already been buried and 21 had been placed in the burial pits. As soon as we entered the village we came upon the house of cook Manju Kunwar whose family was wailing for their dead. 9 children from the family had been killed. We were told that immediately upon consuming the meal, the children tottered, fell to the floor and lost consciousness. They were immediately taken to the Block level hospital at Mashrakh. Seeing no facilities for treatment there, the children were taken to the District HQ in Chhapra. By evening a dozen children had lost their lives. 4 more children died on the way to Patna...

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Bagaha Firing: The Facts

A CPI(ML) fact-finding team visited Bagaha immediately after the firing and ascertained the facts. The team comprosed State Standing Committee member Viendra Prasad Gupta, State Standing Committee member and former MLA Amarnath Yadav, RYA National President Amarjit Kushwaha, and CPI(ML) leaders from Champaran Vishnudev Yadav, Sunil Rav, Dayanand, Dwivedi, Rahim Miyan. Mohd. Kalam and others. A brief summary of the report follows. On 15th June this year, Chandeshwar Kaji, a young singer (of Dardari village, Naurangiya thana, W Champaran), went to Devtaha with his music system. The same night, people from Amva village called him to their village. He did not return home after this. On 16th June, after he went missing, police were alerted. A week passed, and the police’s apathy was apparent. They failed to locate Kaji, or even his corpse. On the night of 25th June, the police arrested a father and son from Amva. Villagers from Dardari reached Naurangiya on the 25th, demanding that the arrested duo be jailed. The villagers said that blood stains and a torch had been found near Ghutri bridge in Kataharva, leading them to suspect that the body might be found in that area. When the police reached Kataharva, villagers asked why the arrested duo had not been brought along, to help locate the corpse. A heated exchange with the police ensued, and police responded by summoning extra forces including...

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Repression and Callousness Claim Lives in Bihar: Nitish Kumar’s ‘Sushasan’ Exposed

Less than a week after Nitish Kumar had secured the trust vote for his government with the help of the Congress, CPI and four independent MLAs, Bihar experienced yet another shocking case of police brutality. On 24 June as many as six persons belonging to the Tharu community in Bagaha district near Nepal border in North-Western Bihar were gunned down by the trigger-happy Bihar police. At least 15 people have been seriously injured. And not long after, the horrific Mid-day Meal massacre, compounded by sheer absence of basic health services, claimed the lives of some 29 schoolchildren. Nitish Raj’s Brutality and Arrogance Agitated by the lack of police response to find a local youth who had gone missing since June 15, people had thronged the nearby police station at Naurangiya (Bagaha) and once again the police knew no other way of tackling the agitated people except opening fire. They opened fire without any warning and they did it not to disperse the people but to kill. All the people killed had bullet injuries above the waist level. The Naurangiya firing is by no means an isolated case in Nitish Kumar’s Bihar. His track record of ‘good governance’ has been routinely punctuated by periodic instances of police brutality. Batraha, Bhajanpur (Forbesganj), Aurangabad, Madhubani and now Naurangiya – there have been several major cases of police brutality during Nitish Kumar’s second...

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Cover Feature : Indictment of AFSPA and Army’s ‘Licence to Kill

(The Supreme Court recently appointed a Committee headed by former Justice Santosh Hegde to examine allegations of fake encounters in Manipur. In January 2013, the Justice Verma Committee report on sexual violence had recommended that “sexual violence against women by members of the armed forces or uniformed personnel must be brought within the purview of the ordinary criminal law… We notice that impunity for systematic or isolated sexual violence in the process of Internal Security duties is being legitimised by the AFSPA, which is in force in large parts of our country. It must be recognised that women in conflict areas are entitled to all the security and dignity that is afforded to citizens in any other part of our country.” Commenting on the Santosh Hegde committee’s report, a bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai blamed the Central Government, saying “This is not the best way to integrate (north-eastern) people. It is the best way to alienate them.” The Bench further commented, “What we find distressing is that the elaborate guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court, series of guidelines issued by Army headquarters, NHRC and the Manipur government have been confined to the papers. Nothing is followed in practice (by armed forces and police while carrying out the operations)….The bench said, “The Army authorities have issued a series of dos and don’ts. But, unfortunately none of...

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Cover Feature : The Battle For Justice Against State Sponsored Violence

(Mukul Sinha, an advocate and activist based in Gujarat, has been active in the efforts to expose fake encounters in Gujarat. He also represented Manipur fake encounter victims before the Commission appointed by the Supreme Court. In a response to some queries by email, Mukul Sinha told Liberation his views on the ongoing struggle for justice.) “The CBI’s charge sheet in the Ishrat Jahan case is definitely a significant development. Despite all obstructions made by the BJP and its supporters, and a very weak central government to support it, the filing of the charge sheet against top police officials and also naming the IB special director, Mr Rajinder Kumar is definitely a significant step. However it is not adequate and we are waiting for the supplementary charge sheet to bring the actual motive of the entire conspiracy and the political bosses who were involved. The UPA Government, far from being overzealous in its pursuit of the Ishrat Jahan case, has in fact done very little to help the investigation and has buckled down to the political pressure created by BJP and therefore the charge sheet is incomplete. In the media and in public perception, Ishrat Jahan is being put on trial about whether she was a terrorist or not. The two so called paragraphs that have been leaked by the IB are nothing but a red herring. They are...

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Cover Feature # The Ruling Class Political Discourse :

Seeking to Silence Burning Questions of People’s Movements The recent years have been years of sustained democratic struggles, intense people’s movements and people’s assertion. There were massive waves of protest against corruption, corporate plunder and the policies that promote it, against rape and rape culture and for women’s freedom. Pitched battles have been waged at Nagri near Ranchi and against the Koodankulam, Jaitapur, POSCO, Vedanta projects, that threaten to grab land and livelihood and endanger safety. Workers have held unprecedentedly successful mass scale all-India strikes, and have struggled against crackdowns on labour laws and industrial democracy, most notably at the Maruti’s Manesar factory. Firing by police or Army/paramilitary on peaceful protests have claimed lives in several parts of the country – everywhere, people have struggled for justice. The struggle to free Binayak Sen spurred the widespread demand for abolition of the sedition law. Sustained campaigns to expose and demand justice in fake encounter and custodial torture and custodial death cases and against witch-hunt of Muslim youth are taking place – in the Batla House, Ishrat Jahan, Malegaon and Mecca Masjid cases, at Azamgarh and Darbhanga, to name just a few. Efforts of activists have yielded results in exposing extrajudicial killings under cover of the AFSPA in Kashmir and Manipur, and Irom Sharmila’s heroic fast has drawn enormous support in her crusade against the AFSPA. Even as perpetrators of Dalit...

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Special Report : Uttarakhand People’s Struggle for Rehabilitation

(In Uttarakhand, for the hill people, disasters are not a single calamitous televised event. Daily, they live in the shadow of disaster. Every year, there are calamities, their homes are washed away, lives are lost. This time, the presence of thousands of pilgrims focused national attention on the State. But now, their painful struggle continues, in the face of criminal apathy and callousness of the Government. A report from CPI(ML) activists on the ongoing efforts ar relief and the struggle of the local people for rehabilitation.) As the people of Uttarakhand struggle to rebuild their lives in the face of the intense disaster, they are not being helped by the fact that the efforts of the Uttarakhand government to provide relief are lackadaisical and insufficient. Most affected areas are still cut off from road access and the government has failed to construct temporary helipads, as promised, to supply essential provisions. In addition, lack of medical services makes these areas extremely prone to epidemics. The CPI(ML) has asked that government must open up road access on a priority basis and take the help of the army and ITBP for this purpose. The Chief Minister has announced the constitution of the Uttarakhand Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority. This is a futile exercise, as there already exist many bodies like the State Disaster Management Authority which have not had even a single meeting...

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New Government in Jharkhand Will Mean Manifold Increase in Loot

(An interview with CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya) CPIML had demanded dissolution of the Assembly. Now a new coalition comprising JMM, Congress, and RJD has emerged to form a government led by JMM’s Hemant Soren. How do you see the current political developments? The new government is yet another opportunist pro-corporate coalition. Congress can offer only more Coalgates. Even when Congress was not directly in power in Jharkhand Congress, Ministers and MPs like Subodhkant Sahay and Naveen Jindal have been heavily involved in looting and plundering the precious resources of Jharkhand. Now that they are directly in power, the loot will go up manifold. JMM has no problem in partnering either BJP or Congress. Congress has no problem supporting JD(U) in Bihar and sharing power with RJD in Jharkhand. We had demanded dissolution of Assembly and holding of fresh elections because we wanted the people of Jharkhand to get a chance to punish the power-hungry opportunists and managers and promoters of corporate loot. It has not happened but we are determined to intensity our battle against opportunism and corporate loot. Congress and other partners claim that this coalition has kept communal forces at bay. Do you agree? Congress has always appeased and emboldened communal forces. It has at times also practised competitive communalism to outsmart the BJP and the Sangh Parivar. Congress has no record of combating communalism. How...

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Reliance’s Krishna Godavari D6 Basin venture: Multi-Layered Cronyism From Day One

“You should not do anything illegal. First of all, the law should be changed”- Dhirubhai Ambani, quoted in the book Polyester Prince by Hamish McDonald. Natural resources like hydrocarbon reserves are a sovereign wealth of the nation which belong to the people of the country and state is supposed to be their custodian. It is Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) which is in charge to ensure the exploration and production of natural resources while an office of Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) was created in 1993 to act as the regulator for the petroleum business in the country. As neo-liberal juggernaut rolled on, the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) 1999 during the NDA-Vajpayee rule threw open the country’s oil and natural gas basins for private players. In no time, the undivided RIL cornered the contract for exploring deep water D6 block of the Krishna Godavari (KG) river basin in Andhra Pradesh stretching over an area of 7645 square kilometres and a production sharing contract (PSC) was struck in April 2000 between the government and RIL and its minor (10 percent) partner, NIKO Resources Ltd (a Canadian corporation), for exploration and production of gas and oil. The PSC has two key features: (a) provision of gradual surrender of exploration area back to the government as the contractor ‘discovers’ gas for commercial production in specific pockets while certain other...

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Pricing Natural Gas: UPA’s Latest Gambit for Reliance

With barely few months to go for polls, UPA-II, is in utter haste to meet its deadlines, clinch as many corrupt crony deal as it can. Latest being its no-holds-barred manipulations to change the Pricing Policy of natural gas, used mainly for power, fertilizer and the extraction of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Using the fig-leaf of the so called “expert” Rangarajan Committee recommendations, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCAE) on 28 June, 2013 announced the doubling of the price of natural gas from $4.2 per million metric British thermal unit (mmBtu) to a flexible $8.4 per mmBtu for five years from April 2014. The govt would like us to believe that the hiked pricing will benefit the current producers of natural gas in India which includes two public sector majors (ONGC and OIL) and not just the private player Reliance, encourage future explorations and help India become self-reliant in oil and natural gas production by 2030! But it doesn’t require much logic to see that the claimed benefits for the public sector is only a smokescreen; the single largest beneficiary of this pricing decision is going to be the private giant, Reliance Industries! The reasons are obvious: the huge cost jack-up that the user industries – mainly power, fertilizer and LPG- will face, are mostly in the public sector! So the benefits of higher gas price that the...

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The Plummeting Rupee and an Economy in Doldrums

In yet another indication of the precarious and deteriorating state of the Indian economy, the rupee breached the “psychological benchmark” of Rs 60 to the dollar on June 26, touching an all-time low of Rs. 60.21 to the dollar on July 8. Over the last one year, while the rupee has depreciated by 29% against the dollar, it has fallen by as much as 23% vis-a-vis the pound and 18% vis-a-vis the troubled euro as well. A proximate cause was the US Federal Reserve’s hint that it could roll back its easy credit policy. For India the implication was that this would make external commercial borrowings (ECBs) much more costly for the Indian corporate houses and will harm foreign players too. This possibility served to intensify speculative pressure on the rupee. When, on July 11, the US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made a reverse comment to the effect that the state of the US economy won’t allow him to withdraw the easy money policy immediately, the rupee recovered to 59.32 per dollar. But how does the appreciation and depreciation of the Indian currency relate to the US monetary policy? Actually what has been happening for quite some time, particularly since the abolition of capital gains tax in the 2003-04 budget (which for all practical purposes converted India’s equity market into a tax-free enclave) is this. Foreign Institutional Investors...

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Midday Meal Tragedy in Bihar – Innocent Victims of Callous Governnace

The midday meal tragedy at Gandaman village of Masrakh block of Bihar’s Chhapra district has come as a severe blow to the tall claims of the powers that be in both Delhi and Patna. The central government treats the midday meal (MDM) scheme as a great innovation that has improved enrolment and retention rate of students at primary level in rural areas while ensuring some basic nutrition to children. And Nitish Kumar is always busy congratulating himself for the great turnaround he claims to have brought about in Bihar. Both these claims lie shattered in the wake of the Masrakh MDM massacre of at least 25 kids (some local people however claim the figure is no less than 29). The state government instituted a routine probe but even before the probe could reach any conclusion, the education minister of Bihar who recently lost in the Lok Sabha by-poll in the same area, started invoking the conspiracy theory. The school principal who fled away the moment children began to fall ill is apparently related to some leader of the RJD and the minister would want us to believe that the whole tragedy was actually a grand conspiracy hatched by the opposition to discredit and destabilise the government of Bihar. Forensic reports have indicated the presence of a pesticide in the food served to the children, and chances are that the...

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