05 May 2015

On 3rd Cover : Peeling Onions, Layer by Layer: An Obituary to Günter Grass

The incredible weight of a writer’s reputation, in formidably turbulent and impossibly exciting times, never seems to rest solely between the hardbacks of a bunch of books. It is a weight that is borne like a silent burden on a restless conscience and thrown like the protestor’s rock through the pretty lace-curtained windows of bourgeois serenity and forgetfulness. That is in a world where the writer places his/her moral compass in the bustling public square, part self-reflection, part historical reproach, but mostly as an indispensible exercise in writing to never forget. As self taught writer, artist, sculptor, politically engaged intellectual, and long term supporter of the Social Democratic Party in Germany, Günter Grass did just that. After the horror unleashed across Europe by the spectre of fascism in Germany ended in a devastating war, writers wrote to understand what had happened and why, to express corrosive and simply unspeakable guilt, wrote to express the loss of an aesthetic language – Günter Grass was one of that generation who wrote to never forget, reminding everyone of the roots of the new republic. It is no surprise that the controversies that he found himself in almost always hinged on his politics – critics defending him have even said that those who lashed out at him were ignoring the ‘literary merits’ of his work. Grass would have been the last one to...

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On 2nd Cover : Breaking The Internet

Net neutrality, to put it simply, is the idea that all data on the internet be treated equally irrespective of its source or content. The internet isn’t really the most radically democratic platform, but it is nevertheless crucial for free speech, equal opportunity and innovation, and we must fight back any attempts to damage its egalitarian nature. Big telecom companies want to segregate the internet to make more profit. The bone of contention here is the Over-the-top content (OTT) like Skype, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp etc. The telecos argue that they invest heavily in building infrastructure to increase penetration and access to the internet while these OTT providers make billions freeriding on their network, and that it also hurts revenue from similar services that the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) themselves offer. So, they want to control the reach, access and speed depending on how much money they are paid. What this boils down to is that they can deny access to or reduce speed of all OTT that fails to pay them for using their bandwidth. This also contradicts the logic of the ‘free market’ as OTT giants (like Facebook, Google etc.) can pay more to have better speed, and also to slow down (and eventually kill) any rivals. What this will do is not just change the very nature of the internet as a democratic medium, but also deny...

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Eduardo Galeano, 1940-2015 : A Voice, Not An Echo

Michael K. Smith, from ‘Dissident Voice’, April 20th, 2015 We are opinionated, yet we cannot offer our opinions. We have a right to the echo, not to the voice, and those who rule praise our talent to repeat parrot fashion. We refuse to accept this mediocrity as our destiny. — Eduardo Galeano, opening speech at “Chile Creates,” an international meeting in support of Chilean democracy, July 11, 19881 In school, he hated history and was a lousy history student. He wanted to be a soccer player, a saint, and a painter. He abandoned the first two ambitions, and achieved the third only by learning to use words in place of paint. He always took the side of the doomed, despised, and damned. Even at the height of the Cold War, with shrieking anti-Communist hysteria the norm, he was not afraid to befriend those Washington denounced as satanic. He praised Che Guevara as a man “who said what he thought and did what he said he was going to do,” a rare example of moral and intellectual coherence in a world of near total hypocrisy, which in his view redounded to Guevara’s perpetual glory. Galeano summed up just how rare an achievement this was by stating that, “In this world, when words and deeds run into each other in the street, they don’t say hello, because they don’t recognize each...

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Name Undisclosed

For long the women’s movement has tried to establish that rape is not a mere manifestation of a ‘sick mindset’ that defines the mindset of a few. Protection from rape cannot be ensured either by locking women in or by identifying and selectively keeping out a few visible ‘others’ who alone can be perceived as capable of rape. Rape is a crime of power and thus the battle against it must target the asymmetrical power structures that make rape possible. The battle against rape must necessarily target the patriarchal foundations of our societal structures and institutions that fuel and keep alive rape culture. And as this battle is fought on ground, every now and then one finds attempts that are made through various media to reflect or shape the discourse around rape. A recent example being Leslee Udwin’s documentary that focused on the 16th December rape incident. In the debates that followed the online release of Leslee Udwin’s ‘India’s daughter’, a question often posed to those critical of the movie was- “Is it really possible to make a movie or a documentary on rape that could really capture most, if not all the aforementioned nuances and complexities that underlie rape and rape culture?” An opportunity to watch a documentary by Mitali Biswas, ‘Naam Poribortito’ (Identity Undisclosed) during the Cinema of Resistance Film Festival in Kolkata and later again during...

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Chaitanya Tamhane’s ‘Court’ Dissecting Judiciary And Society On The Stands

Chaitanya Tamhane’s first feature-length film ‘Court’ is not just an indictment of the functionings of the Indian judiciary. It opens a two-hour window of unadulterated realism into the multilayered and complex Indian reality that embeds the judiciary within it. ‘Court’ sees with a dispassionate yet keenly observant eye, uses the language of the absurd and examines every cog in the wheel of the machine it damns. It creates a powerful cinematic language where lines between fiction and non-fiction often get blurred. Tamhane’s ‘Court’ is sharply political yet not propagandist in its form. Like an artist with sensitivity and empathy, Tamhane dissects law and society with the calm deftness of an expert surgeon, and shows us entrails of our own oppressive order. A young sewage worker, Vasudev Pawar, on contractual service with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, goes down a manhole and suffocates to death. Days later, the police investigation makes it out as a ‘clear case of suicide’. They go on to arrest well-known lokshahir (people’s balladeer), the aged and fiery Narayan Kamble, from a cultural protest meeting in quite a dramatic fashion. He is charged with abetment of Pawar’s suicide. The medium of abetment, the police claim, is one of Kamble’s songs. A protest song that Kamble is said to have composed and sung near the dingy workers’ quarters where Pawar lived with his wife, child and brother. The...

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OBITUARY

Red Salute to Comrade Ammaiappan CPI(ML)’s Tamilnadu State Committee member Comrade Ammaippan passed away after a prolonged illness on 09.04.2015. He was 54 years old. Comrade Ammaiappan played a key role in rejuvenating the party in Cuddalore district. This erstwhile centre of militant struggles was stagnant in spite of the party’s best efforts. But Comrade Ammaiappan helped develop an entirely new team of young cadres from the Virudhachalam and Kamapuram area, developing work on the RYA front as well as among agricultural labourers, students, workers and women. Comrade Ammaippan became the District Secretary of the party. He organized a massive rural workers’ rally on December 31, 2008. He was also elected to state committee in the Pudukottai conference of the party. He led struggles for the implementation of MNREGA in Karkudal Panchayat, which was the first to implement it in this district. He also fought for 100% increase in wages successfully. He also took initiatives in cyclone relief work. On one occasion Comrade Ammaippan along with Com Ramar went to visit the spot where an inter-caste married couple were burnt alive, and he was surrounded and threatened by casteist elements. Also when the police in a nexus with the AIADMK tried to wipe out the party in Kattumannarkoil area, he valiantly resisted it, braving threats by lumpen elements right inside the police station. Even after he underwent major surgery...

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Vidhansabha Gherao by Jharkhand Midday Meal Workers’ Association

Under the banner of the Jharkhand State School Midday Meal Workers Association, midday meal women workers and conveners gheraoed the Jharkhand Assembly with a 30 point demand charter on 27 March 2015. Thousands of women workers across Jharkhand blocked the Assembly gates for hours causing traffic between Birsa Chowk and Dhruva to come to a standstill. They warned the State government that if it continued to exploit the workers, they would launch a massive agitation. Demanding regularization of the midday meal workers, they said that this is a strong link in the chain of the fight against privatization and liberalization. Addressing the meeting the Midday Meal Workers Association President said it is a matter of shame that half the population goes hungry in the regime of the Raghubar government which claims to stand for good governance. It is a matter of injustice and inhumanity that midday meal works get a mere pittance of Rs 833 per month; they require not the status of honorarium workers but the full rights which are due to all workers. The chief demands of the midday meal workers association are: minimum wages of Rs 200 for all workers, life insurance benefits, two uniforms per year, 4 bath and washing soaps per month, service regularization, and other...

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Midday Meal Workers’ Protest in Patna

On 31 March 2015, about 10,000 women protested in front of the office of the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar under the banner of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) and the Bihar State School Midday Meal Workers’ Association. Women gathered at the Gandhi Maidan from all parts of Bihar to participate in the protest. They submitted a 16-point charter of demands which included declaration of midday meal workers as government employees, Rs 15,000 honorarium, and immediate payment of honorarium arrears. The workers joined in enthusiastically with the slogans raised by AISA leaders, “Ek hazar mein dam nahin, pandrah hazar se kam nahin”. The rally was led by South Asia Solidarity Forum leader Kalpana Wilson, AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari, AIPWA Bihar State President Saroj Choube, AIPWA State Secretary Shashi Yadav, AIPWA Bihar Joint Secretary Anita Sinha, Prof. Bharti S Kumar, Prof. Meera Thakur, Bihar State Non-Gazetted Employees Association General Secretary Rambali Prasad, economist Meera Dutt, AIPWA Siwan Secretary Sohila Gupta, AIPWA Patna rural President Leela Verma, AIPWA Patna rural Secretary Damyanti Sinha, AIPWA Nawada Secretary Gayatri Devi, Rita Varnwal, Indu Devi, Sona Devi, Renu Devi, Savita Devi, Poonam Devi and others from the Bihar State School Midday Meal Workers’ Association. The rally reached R Block after a 3 km march. At R Block the DM met a representative body consisting of Meena Tiwari, Saroj Choube, Shashi Yadav,...

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Message of Greetings from CPI(ML) for the 21st Congress of the CPI(M)

[Below we reproduce the text of the speech delivered by Kavita Krishnan, Politburo member, CPI(ML) Liberation, at the inaugural session of the CPI(M)’s 21st Party Congress at Visakhapatnam, on 14th April 2015] Dear Comrades On behalf of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, I extend warm greetings to the 21st Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). I take this occasion to salute the legacy of the fighters and martyrs of the freedom struggle, the communist movement, and all people’s movements. I would like, at the outset, to thank the working people of Visakhapatnam, for hosting this Congress and extending such warmth and hospitality to us all, in spite of the devastation caused by the Hudhud cyclone. Comrades, your party Congress is being held in the backdrop of extremely challenging times. Today is Ambedkar Jayanti, the birth anniversary of the author of India’s Constitution, and the leader of powerful struggles for social transformation, equality and justice. Today, when the Constitutional rights and liberties of the most vulnerable of India’s citizens are under unprecedented attack, Dr. Ambedkar’s legacy of agitation and organization becomes especially relevant. Here in Andhra Pradesh itself and the neighbouring Telangana, we have recent, brazen instances of state terror, that mock at the rights and liberties promised in the Constitution. 20 adivasis are killed by the police, and the excuse given is that they are ‘smugglers’....

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Message of Greetings from CPI(ML) for the 22nd Congress of the CPI

[Below we reproduce the text of the speech of (ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, delivered on March 25, 2015 at Puducherry at the 22nd Congress of the CPI] Dear comrades, I feel really happy and honoured to have been invited here to greet the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of India. On behalf of the entire membership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) I convey our warm wishes to all of you for the success of this Congress and for great victories in your future struggles. I would also specialy congratulate Puducherry comrades for hosting the Congress in this historic centre of working class movement and bringing alive the great legacy of Comrade V Subbiah. As I stand here to greet you I am also keenly aware of the great losses you have suffered in the run-up to this Congress, most notably the pain of losing Comrade Govind Pansare to the bullets of the coward assassin. We bow our heads in fond remembrance of our great martyrs and departed leaders and resolve to carry forward their unfinished mission. Let me also take this opportunity to extend our best wishes to other communist and progressive organisations present here and also to express our profound solidarity with the international communist and progressive movement and all the ongoing struggles for freedom, peace, justice and equality in different parts of the...

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Rural poor and agrarian labourers will organise to resist the Company Raj

Report of the 5th National Conference of AIARLA The Fifth National Conference of AIALA, held in Bhubaneshwar on 3rd and 4th April 2015, squarely addressed the contemporary challenges and tasks of organizing the rural poor in the backdrop of the changing village in India. AIALA, by now famous as the khemas in the Hindi belt, Mazdoor Mukti Morcha in Punjab and AIALA in other parts of the country will continue its work as All India Agricultural and Rural Labour Association (AIARLA) from now on as per the resolution passed in the 5th National Conference. The change in name is in recognition of the varied organizing work being taken on; and required in rural areas for the assertion of rural poor and agrarian workers. The Conference began with tributes paid to the heroic struggles of the activists and leaders who had laid down their lives in the struggle for a life of dignity and rights of the rural poor and workers. The halls accepted the legacy of the struggles led by the martyred adivasi comrades Ganga Ram Kol and Purnendu Gomango. It was followed by an impressive rally on 3rd April through the streets of Nagabhushan Nagar (Bhubaneshwar).The city was decorated for the conference in red flags, festoons and wall writing. As the rally proceeded back to the conference site, dancing cultural troupes from Andhra, Jharkhand and Bihar celebrated the...

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Radical Ideas and Initiatives in Women’s Movement And the Communist Party

Across the world, and in our country, since the new millennium, the women’s movement has witnessed a veritable explosion of novel ideas, radical slogans and new forms of protest and sensitisation. The same can be said about other movements as well. But in the case of other movements, it has not been so pronounced, nor has it generated so much attention and positive response, so much adverse reaction and heated debate. In the Wake of the December 2012 Movement In December 2012, following the brutal gang rape and murder of a young girl student, the national capital and the whole country burst into protests, forcing the Indian Parliament – that citadel of patriarchy – to pass an amended anti-rape law amidst misogynist comments of reluctant male legislators. But there was a far more important gain of the surge: a revolutionary leap in the consciousness of activists and the emergence of new activists from amongst students and youth, media-persons, lawyers, artists and literary workers, bolstered by a newfound courage and confidence among Indian women to speak out, stand-up and demand justice. The leap manifested itself both in a burst of activities based on new demands/slogans rising directly from the battlegrounds (Delhi’s India Gate and Jantar Mantar for example) and as a sustained social churning that continues to generate new ripples to this day. Positioning itself in contrast to the old...

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Killings of Youth in Kashmir

The Kashmir Valley is boiling again – after yet another bout of custodial killings of youth by security forces. On 13th April 2015, Army personnel claimed to have shot dead a militant in an encounter in Tral. It turned out, however, that the 24-year old victim, Khalid Muzaffar, was a civilian, not a militant, though his brother is a militant. The killing has all the appearances of being a custodial killing, done in full knowledge that the victim was not a militant. Again, the AFSPA acts as a shield for such killing by Army personnel. Protests erupted against this killing, and leaders of the protests were arrested on the pretext that they were leading ‘anti-national’ protests. We can imagine the impact on the ordinary Kashmiri, when they see cold-blooded killings of their youth projected as acts of ‘nationalism,’ while protests against such killings are branded as ‘anti-national’. Such an approach only reinforces the alienation and isolation of Kashmiris. In a peaceful protest demonstration against the arrests of the leaders, police firing claimed the life of yet another youth – this time a 16-year-old boy, Suhail Ahmed Sofi. The boy’s uncle has said, “The police officer took my nephew aside and then shot him point-blank as we watched.” The police have admitted that the firing was “in violation of SOP (standard operating procedure)” and have arrested two policemen for the...

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Firing and Repression on Adivasi Anti-Dam Protests in UP

[The Uttar Pradesh Government has unleashed severe repression on adivasis and people protesting against the proposed Kanhar Dam in Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh. Around 87 villages and vast tracts of forest land will be submerged if the project comes up. The project lacks the requisite green clearances, yet it is being built by terrorising villagers who have not given their consent for land acquisition. The agitation is being led by the All India Union of Forest Working People, which is also a constituent of the All India People’s Forum.) A Fact Finding team comprising of Kavita Krishnan (Campaign Committee, All India People’s Forum), Abhishek Srivastava (Journalist), Purnima Gupta (Women’s Rights Activist) Deboditya Sinha (Researcher and Petitioner in Kanhar National Green Tribunal case), Priya Pillai (Activist, Mahan Sangarsh Samiti and Greenpeace India), and Om Prakash Singh, CPI(ML), visited the region on 19th and 20th April 2015. Below is a summary of the team’s findings and experiences.] On 14th April, the police brutally lathi-charged peaceful protesters at a dharna at the dam site. When Aklu Cheru of Sundari village raised a voice of protest against women being beaten by male cops, the police officer Kapildev Yadav opened fire at him. The bullet pierced his chest and came out through his back. The villagers themselves carried the injured Aklu to local hospitals from where they brought him to Sir Sunderlal Hospital,...

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Meena Khalko’s Rape and Murder

A one-woman judicial enquiry commission has recently found that 16-year old Meena Khalkho was raped and murdered by Chhattisgarh police in 2011. The police had then claimed that she was a Maoist who had been killed in an encounter. Today, as the judicial enquiry confirms that she was indeed raped and murdered by Chhattisgarh police, we reproduce excerpts from an article by Akhil Katyal that underlines the conditions in Bastar that make such rape and murder by police possible. We also reproduce excerpts from a report by Malini Krishnan in Scroll, on the findings of the judicial enquiry. No One Killed Meena Khalkho? [Excerpts from ‘No One Killed Meena Khalkho?’, an article by Akhil Katyal in September 2011 in Kafila.] On 6 July 2011, Meena Khalkho, a sixteen year old tribal girl from Karcha village in the state of Chhattisgarh was raped and murdered by the local police and it barely made a dent on our news universe. A search for her name on most television news websites returns nothing. The police in Chattisgarh immediately hit upon a strategy that has now long been in circulation. They subsume Meena’s horrible rape and murder within what goes these days as a laudable mission, one that manages to neutralize all rage against police atrocities, by claiming Meena to be a Naxal and by claiming her to be fatally wounded in an...

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