06 June 2014

Dalits Evicted for Protesting Rape

On the night of March 23, 4 dalit teenage girls aged 13-18 were abducted from their village of Bhagana in Haryana’s Hisar district, drugged and raped. They had gone to a field near their homes to urinate, when they were attacked by five men (from the dominant Jat caste), drugged, gang raped in the fields and carried off in a car. They were found outside Bhatinda railway station in Punjab the next morning. On March 23rd, when the parents of the missing girls approached the village sarpanch Rakesh Kumar Pangal and his uncle Virender for help, the sarpanch sent them home with reassurances. Within five minutes, he called them back, saying that all four girls were with his relative in Bhatinda, and were to be fetched the next day. The next day their families, brought to Bhatinda by Rakesh and Virender, found the girls. Rakesh and Virender put the four girls in the car and asked the relatives to go back by train due to lack of space. En-route, the girls allege that Rakesh abused them, beat them and tried to threaten them to stay silent or else lose their lives. When they reached Bhagana around nightfall, Rakesh tried to drive them to his place, wanting them to agree to marry the rapists so he could claim the girls ran away from home to get married. The girls were...

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Long Live Comrade Suniti Kumar Ghosh

The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) pays homage to the memory of comrade Suniti Kumar Ghosh, one of the founder members of our party and founder editor of our central organ Liberation, who passed away in Asansol, West Bengal, on 11 May. He was 96. Comrade Ghosh was born at Shibpur in Howrah and graduated from Ripon College in Kolkata. After attaining Master’s degree in English from the University of Calcutta, he joined the Dinajpur College (now in Bangladesh) as a teacher. There he became closely associated with the Tebhaga struggle in 1946-47 and became a member of the Communist Party of India (CPI). Externed from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1949, he settled in Calcutta. He worked as a lecturer in English in Vidyasagar College, Kolkata. After the formation of the CPI(M), he worked as an important organizer of the party’s lecturers’ cell. Like many other revolutionary intellectuals, comrade SKG, as he was better known in the party, immersed himself completely in revolutionary political activities in the wake of the Naxalbari upsurge. Comrade Ghosh was a member of the All India Co-ordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) and a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) – in both cases from the very inception. Liberation started appearing from November 1967 under his able editorship. It became the organ of AICCCR from May 1968...

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The Dauntless Droplet, Ocean’s Fervour in the Heart

Paying tribute to comrade Saroj Dutta on the occasion of his birth centenary, we published in the March 2014 number of Liberation his biographical sketch[1], one of his best-known poems and the obituary written by comrade Charu Mazumdar soon after the martyrdom of comrade Dutta. In this issue we bring you an essay in tribute to the legacy of the revolutionary artist, journalist, political analyst and senior party leader. “The last phase of Rolland’s life bears remarkable resemblance to the end of Saroj Dutta’s life”, wrote comrade Bela Dutta, his wife and herself a communist cadre, in the preface to the collected works of SD in Bengali (published by Pranati Prakashani, Kolkata, 1988). She quoted comrade Dutta from the translator’s note to Shilpir Nabajanma (meaning The Artist Reborn, Bengali translation, by Saroj Dutta, of Roma Rolland’s I Will Not Rest) – “…’Without a doubt, Rolland died in consequence of the torture he suffered at the Nazi concentration camp. This is why his death makes us more proud than aggrieved.’ In the spirit of the translator, we too, along with all our country people, feel proud of Sarojbabu.” Indeed, this sense of dignified pride for comrade SD is fondly cherished by all left and progressive intellectuals, poets, artists and writers in and beyond Bengal till this day. In life as in death, he was and will remain a role model...

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OBITUARY

Father Thomas Kocherry Father Thomas Kocherry passed away on 3 May. Thomas Kocherry was a social activist, priest, and lawyer who helped found the independent fishworkers union, the Kerala Swatantra Matsyathozhilali Federation. He was committed to organising fishworkers against the big fishing cartels and mafias. He was also a Special Invitee at World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) and Executive Committee Member of National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF), India. He had been part of the campaign for justice for Bathani Tola and Laxmanpur Bathe, and had expressed solidarity with CPI(ML)’s initiatives and struggles on many occasions. Just hours before he passed away from a heart attack, he had written an article exposing Modi’s model of development and his communal, corporate-driven politics. When Amit Shah said the Modi wave was a tsunami, Thomas Kocherry had reminded people that fishworkers recognise and fear a tsunami as a force of destruction – and India’s people should, likewise, beware of the Modi tsunami. CPI(ML) Liberation and all democratic movements have lost a very good friend and comrade. But Thomas Kocherry’s legacy will live on – in the struggles of working people, in movements challenging plunder and exploitation, in anti-communal struggles, everywhere. Red Salute to Comrade Mukul Sinha Courageous Crusader for Truth, Justice and Democracy Activist and lawyer Mukul Sinha succumbed to lung cancer in Ahmedabad on May 12. He was 63. A trade union...

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Marx was Right Capitalism is Concentration of Wealth in Ever Fewer Hands

Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty, Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014. $39.95. “A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society. The socialistic bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. To this section belongs economists, philanthropists, humanitarians…. They desire the existing state of society minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements.” – Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) Arefreshing break from the reigning orthodoxy of mainstream economics, the title under review has already created a stir in the academia as well as among the general reading public. New York Times columnist and popular Blogger Paul Krugman has called the book “discourse-changing scholarship” and it has entered the magazine’s (and also Amazon’s) best-seller list – a rare achievement for a “heavy” economics text. First published last year in French and then in English this March, it is an incisive, wide-ranging, 696-page treatise, supported by an unprecedentedly vast array of data covering more than two centuries and more than twenty countries. The discussion revolves round the theme of inequality. As we know, other left-of-centre mainstream writers have been dealing with broadly similar subjects long since, and that with great skill. Good old Amartya Sen published, back in 1973 – when TP was two years...

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May Day in Bangalore

AICCTU organized a colourful and impressive rally on May Day at Bangalore. More than 3000 workers joined the rally making it the biggest in the city on this May Day. At a time when celebrating May Day has become a routine and ritualistic affair, thousands of workers participated in the rally with brimming hope and enthusiasm as a part of their ongoing struggle against managements and to elevate it to the struggle against the onslaught of the capital. The composition of the rally itself was quite encouraging with a wide spectrum of most downtrodden and exploited sections of working class, right from sanitation workers to computer operators, representing different sections of the working class in turbulence. Almost all workers, barring few companies, were contract workers from various segments of industries, including central and state public sectors like HAL, NAL, BHEL, BEML, KSWAN, nurses and hospital assistants from government hospitals, race course, multinationals and domestic corporate companies like BOSCH, Lafarge, L&T Komatsu, Prism Cements, Kennametal WIDIA, Stumpp Schuele Somappa Springs Ltd etc. Hundreds of street vendors also took part in the rally. The rallyists demanded a minimum wage of Rs. 15000 for unorganised sector workers and Rs. 22500 for the unorganised in organised sector, abolition of contract labour system, parity in wages of workers engaged in same and similar kind of work and a service weightage of 10% of basic...

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Protests Follow Suicide of Woman Worker at Factory Gate

(with inputs from a news story titled ‘Activists demand justice for woman who killed self’ by Anumeha Yadav in The Hindu, May 15, 2014) Rakhi Sonkar, a single mother of 3 small kids was terminated by managers of Swiss Auto Pvt Ltd on the pretext of being a few minutes late. After trying in vain to persuade the factory authorities to take her back on the job, she consumed rat poison at the factory gate, in full view of fellow workers and the police. Before doing so, she publicly named the supervisor and other factory authorities who pushed her to take this extreme step. She died in hospital two days later. A 25-year old worker, who worked in the crimping section with Rakhi and other workers alleged that the factory owners had fired Rakhi for supporting Amarjeet Singh, a 22-year-old former line manager at Swiss Auto in contesting his dismissal at the Wazirpur labour court in 2013. Further, she had filed a complaint against the Wazirpur labour court alleging mistreatment on factory premises, they said. “Rakhi helped me get my employment reference letter from the factory when I challenged my termination at Wazirpur labour court. She came to the court during my hearing. She was under tremendous pressure and faced verbal abuse and she had complained about this at the Wazirpur labour court three weeks back,” said Amarjeet Singh....

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Anatomy of a Rape and Its Aftermath – A Report from Kolkata

On 28th April night a seventeen-year old college first-year, an AISA activist, was raped in a lane branching off Bidhan Sarani, one of Kolkata’s busiest streets. She had picked up dinner and was on the way back to her PG accommodation when a middle-aged well-dressed man she does not recall to have met before, called out to her, introducing himself as a family friend and a ‘gynaecologist’ at the Calcutta Medical College. He quickly struck up a conversation involving certain familial details and inquired about the girl’s medical issues. Having masqueraded as a parental acquaintance, he convinced her to cross the road into an alley to his ‘clinic’ where he would quickly prescribe for her a medication or two to ‘help her out’, apparently on her mother’s repeated urgings. Once in the alley, dim-lit and deserted at quarter to ten, he forcibly held and molested her and pushing her to a wall, raped her, violating her multiple times. At the sudden onset of physical violence, she was numb with fear for her life. The whole thing happened so fast that when she was able to push him off and pull herself together, the man had fled. Traumatised, she went to the PG and narrated the assault to her roommates. In half an hour, several AISA and AIPWA activists got informed. The same night we accompanied her to the Police...

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Eclipse at Noon: Shadows over India’s Conscience

(Excerpts from 15th D P Kohli Memorial Lecture by Gopalkrishna Gandhi, hosted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Full speech available at http://cbi.nic.in/speech/15dpk_20140415_chiefguest.pdf) ‘It was the best of times’, Dickens says in the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities, ‘it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…’ I echo those lines time and again. For us in India, in ever so many ways, this is the best of times. Our democracy is in bloom. While in countries around us, democracy has taken bruising and even battering, our elections are in progress to elect the next Lok Sabha, the 16th in a row. Millions are participating in the proceedings with what can only be called elan. They know the process thoroughly and can be said to be post-doctoral experts in it. They know how to re-endorse earlier verdicts; equally, how to reverse them. They can return people and parties to office with generosity; equally they can throw them out of it without mercy. Illiterate they may be, and poor as well, but once in the booth, they are monarchs. We are...

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Communal Poll Rhetoric Takes Deadly Toll in Assam

Venomous communal election rhetoric, adding fuel to long-simmering ethnic and communal fires, took a terrible toll in Assam. Over 30 people, most of them Muslim women and children, were massacred in Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD). The BTAD region has witnessed a communal massacre in 2012, and is well known to be at high risk for such violence. Why, then, did the State Government headed by the Congress’ Tarun Gogoi fail to monitor the activities of militant groups and provide proper protection for the vulnerable minorities? The latest massacre took place in the wake of a series of communal statements during the election. In one such statement, an MLA of the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), Pramila Rani Brahma said that the BPF candidate for the Kokrajhar constituency would lose as Muslims did not vote for him. She indicated that the BPF, which is now an alliance partner of the Congress in Assam, might join hands with the BJP. In its manifesto for Assam, the BJP’s Assam unit promised to identify and evict all ‘illegal immigrants’ from Assam; making it clear that it would treat only Muslims as “illegal immigrants” while welcoming “Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and members of the Scheduled Castes” as “refugees” from Bangladesh. Speaking at election rallies in Assam, Modi had stoked hate against Muslims, suggesting that rhinos were being killed in Kaziranga to clear the ground...

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The Other Verdict of 16 May 2014

In an ironic coincidence on 16 May 2014, alongside the electoral verdict, the Supreme Court too delivered its verdict on Akshardham Temple Terror Attack case (of Gujarat, September 2002), acquitting all the six accused including three who were sentenced to death by a lower court, and slamming the Gujarat Police for framing innocents. Acquitting all the six convicts, the judgment said: “We intend to express our anguish about the incompetence with which the investigating agencies conducted the investigation of the case of such a grievous nature, involving the integrity and security of the nation.” “Instead of booking the real culprits responsible for taking so many precious lives, police caught innocent people and got imposed the grievous charges against them which resulted in their conviction and subsequent sentencing,” The Supreme Court in its judgement categorically slammed the then Gujarat home minister – today, Prime Minister of India – for “non-application of mind” and failure to verify the criteria for granting sanction to prosecute the 6 under POTA. The Verdict The verdict says, “We intend to take note of the perversity in conducting this case at various stages, right from the investigation level to the granting of sanction by the state government to prosecute the accused persons under POTA, the conviction and awarding of sentence to the accused persons by the Special Court (POTA) and confirmation of the same by the...

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Money Power and Media Bias

(The 2014 elections witnessed a new high in the explosion of money power. And the media’s role in shaping/distorting political opinion was never more apparent. The paid news phenomenon acquired a new dimension altogether – with entire media houses, under pressure from their corporate masters, going all-out to act as the wind in the sails of the Modi wave. The media, in its defence, would claim that it merely reflected Modi’s popularity, and that other parties (such as AAP) got media coverage disproportionate to their votes. But the question that needs to be asked, is not just how much coverage Modi was given, but what kind of coverage. In a series of interviews, which all appeared scripted to a greater or lesser degree, mediapersons outdid themselves in failing to ask questions that needed to be asked. For instance, most omitted to ask Modi about his role in Snoopgate, his definition of ‘faith in Durgapuja’ as the litmus test to separate ‘refugee’ from ‘infiltrator’, his remarks on ‘pink revolution’, his aide Amit Shah’s suggestion, in a public speech, that the Muslims are “a community that raises its hand against the honour of our mothers and daughters”, VHP leader Togadia’s threats, in Gujarat, to ‘evict Muslims from Hindu areas’, his stance on the massacre of Muslims in Kokrajhar whom he had branded as ‘Bangladeshis’, Gadkari’s remarks that ‘caste is in Bihar’s...

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Verdict 2014: Challenges Ahead for Defenders of Democracy

Verdict 2014 will surely go down as one of the most stunning outcomes in the history of Indian elections. India has just voted in its most rabidly rightwing government till date, a government with unmistakable streaks of majoritarianism at that; and defying almost all opinion and exit polls the verdict has given the BJP on its own a clear and comfortable majority, the allies only adding more strength to the new regime. The last time we saw a one-sided verdict was in 1984 when the Congress had been voted to power with an unprecedented 400-plus majority and the BJP had to remain content with just two seats. That abnormal verdict had come in the wake of the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the anti-Sikh pogrom that followed, when the BJP found itself completely overshadowed on its own home turf of aggressive nationalism. This time round, it is the BJP which has romped home with more than 280 seats and the Congress has been reduced to its lowest ever tally of just 44 seats. If the Congress under Rajiv Gandhi rode the ‘sympathy’ wave in 1984, the BJP under Narendra Modi has harvested votes of public rage, of course spicing it up with a note of hope and promise of ushering in an era of ‘acche din’ (good days). No government in the past probably generated the kind of mass...

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Modi’s Landslide Victory: Implications and Challenges

The landslide victory that Narendra Modi has eventually notched up in the 16th Lok Sabha elections has stunned one and all. That the BJP under Modi was placed in the most advantageous position in this election was well known. As the main opposition party it was expected to be the biggest beneficiary of the vacuum created by the UPA government what with its record of massive scams, soaring prices and an utterly unresponsive and incommunicative leadership represented by the troika of Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. But Modi had the blessing of many more factors. The explicit corporate preference for a stable Modi-led government, the loud pro-Modi campaign by almost the entire spectrum of the corporate media, a massive propaganda blitzkrieg most lavishly funded by corporate India, a highly determined RSS-BJP network on the ground and the highest all-India voter turnout till date all contributed to the final one-sided outcome. Of course, the Modi vote is still not more than 31% (or 38.5% if we include the votes of the allies, but then the allies also have their contribution in the BJP’s own vote-share), and it has brought to the fore the inherent anomaly and imbalance in the first-past-the-post system where the winner takes all, and millions of votes go unrepresented. There is indeed an urgent need for electoral reforms to counter the inherent imbalance and disparity...

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