07 July 2016

On Covers :

Attack on Mazdoor Mukti Morcha Leader in Punjab On the morning of 2 June, the Sarpanch of Bodawal village in Mansa, Punjab, belonging to the ruling Akali Dal, came with his son and many goons and brutally attacked the Punjab State President of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha (MMM) Bhagwant Samaon while he was holding a meeting of agricultural dalit workers in the village. Com. Bhagwant was hit with shovels, injuring him severely on the head. A woman MNREGA worker and MMM activist was also injured in the attack when she tried to resist the attackers and protect Comrade Bhagwant. Com. Bhagwant had been mobilising and organising the labourers in the Bodawal Village against the failure of the Akali Dal government to meet any of the long standing demands of the agrarian workers which included- possession of 5-marla homestead plots, debt waiver, and compensation them for the loss of labour due to whitefly attacks. He has also been campaigning against rampant loot of MNREGA funds and denial of MNREGA work in the village. Mansa in Punjab has a history of violent attacks against Dalit labourers and activists. It is here that the limbs of another Mazdoor Mukti Morcha leader Bant Singh were hacked off. It is here that hundreds of women labourers were jailed for occupying homestead plots that had been promised by the Government. The attack on Comrade Bhagwant is...

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‘We are the lions, Mr Manager’ Revisiting the Grunwick Strike

HISTORY: This July marks the 40th anniversary of the celebrated Grunwick strike in Britain, in which mainly South Asian women workers in a photo-processing factory in North London went on strike against low pay, poor working conditions and racist abuse from the management. The strike gained massive support and turned into an unprecedented workers’ movement, but was ultimately betrayed by the trade union leadership. Here Amrit Wilson who wrote extensively about the strike at the time as well as in the following years, reflects on its significance today. (A version of this article first appeared in Ceasefire Magazine) Walking down Chapter Road, in Brent, memories come flooding back – that hot summer of 1976 when I first met the Grunwick strikers here; the first day of mass picketing, named as ‘women’s day’, in June 1977,when the violence of the police knew no bounds. And that amazing day when Arthur Scargill came down that street leading a sea of miners… With these memories, came the questions that haunted me then: What if things had been different? What if, in the summer of 1977, against a backdrop of a mass movement, the trade union leadership had not collaborated with the state and employer? What would it have meant for us all – at the time, and for the future? Back in the reality of Chapter Road today, the 40th anniversary of...

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Orlando Shooting

On the 12th of June, 49 people were killed in Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a gunman. This is one of the worst instances of mass killing in US history. The gunman, not counted among the 49, was shot and killed by the police after a long standoff. Over 50 others were grievously wounded. This chilling incident does not bear mere straightforward condemnation, because it has since laid bare a number of issues that are not only entrenched in the immediate political and social climate in the United States, but because it calls into question the range retrogressive social attitudes and lawmaking the world over. The gunman was Omar Mateen. The mere name set the media and the political establishment in the US and the world over ablaze with the expected cries of ‘radical Islamic terrorism’. However, close examination of eye-witness and survivor statements after the attack tells a very complex story about the shooter, the person. He was American, born in New York, to Afghan parents, had trained to work as prison guard at a Florida corrections facility, but worked as a security guard with G4S Secure Solutions, had an active firearms license, and no prior criminal record. He had passed the required psychological screening. However, it is now known that his first wife has pointed to repeated instances of domestic violence in the past....

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Salute and Farewell, Muhammad Ali! ### The Racist Brexit Campaign And The Murder of Jo Cox

“Cassius Clay is my slave name…I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me” On 3 June 2016, Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74, after years of suffering from Parkinson’s disease. He was a boxer par excellence, but he much more too. His own boxing mantra was “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” He collected every boxing glory that was, and yet this iconic boxer was more than willing to stake and give up everything that an adoring boxing world handed over to him. The medals, the laurels, the titles and championships (and there were indeed many of them) were in his mind no excuse for remaining silent on either racism in American society, or on US imperial wars for global domination. Indeed, his life and his legacy are intrinsically connected to his courageous voice of resistance and his willingness to stand up and be counted when it mattered the most. Whichever cap he chose to don – boxer, actor, singer – Ali’s defiance and his attempts to build an America which truly stood for liberty and equality was apparent. Muhammad Ali was born in Kentucky on 17 January 1942 as Cassius Clay – a name which he later renounced...

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Updates

Movement in Patna Arts College Against Corruption, Casteism, Sexual Harassment and Authoritarianism Students of Patna Arts College have also been waging a protracted struggle against the current Principal of the college who has encouraged corrupt, casteist and anti-women practices on the campus while continuously targeting students who speak against such practices. The movement which has now been on for nearly two months started in April when a student objected to a contractor using old campus wiring for diverting electricity. The contractor had the student mercilessly beaten. When the incident was reported to the Principal, he rusticated the concerned student as well as the accompanying students and also had false cases registered against the students. The anti-student actions do not end here. The Principal has been known to offer casteist comments on students coming from backward castes and encourage discriminatory practices towards them. A student was forced to quit the college due to this and several students in last one year have registered complaints against the principal for caste based discrimination. A dalit student was forced to attempt suicide after facing continuous discrimination in the college. Women students have also complained of continuous harassment by the principal. The student community responded by standing in solidarity with the rusticated and harassed students. A hunger strike was begun to demand the removal of the principal and revocation of rustication. On the twelfth...

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Left Parties’ against Repression in Madhya Pradesh

The recent spate of bans on protests by the Madhya Pradesh government was resisted by the left parties jointly through a convention held on 15 June in Gwalior and a rally held in Bhopal on 20 June. CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML) and SUCI(C) organised a ‘Defend Democracy’ convention in Gwalior against Sections 144 and 133 being imposed in whole of the Madhya Pradesh indefinitely by the Shivraj Singh BJP government. This draconian order has been passed to curb the popular protests against BJP government while mega scams like DEMAT and killings in Vyapam scams go on unabated. A privatisation spree is on in the state of essential public amenities like transport and electricity, crimes against women are rampant, and the recent move of imposing 144 is meant only to suppress the widespread resentment and movement forces who are giving voices to the people’s grievances. The Left parties have decided to jointly lead agitations against such fascist moves by the MP government. The convention was held to raise these issues which was attended by hundreds of activists. The convention was addressed by CPI(ML) leader Vinod Rawat and leaders of other left parties. Comrade Dhirendra Bhadoria presided over this convention. On 20 June thousands of people including youth, students, workers and peasants gathered in Bhopal to hold a rally on above issues. This was addressed by the leaders of the the four...

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Student Movements in BHU and Patna University

Student activism appears to have become the biggest irritant in the eye of the governments at the centre and in several states. The present day BJP led government at the centre and the several BJP and non BJP governments in the states are today in a war against students. From BJP leader Venkiah Naidu to the former cabinet secretary T S R Subramanian, who is heading the government panel entrusted with making suggestions for the new national education policy, all have expressed the need to restrict political activities on campuses. What makes this forced separation of ‘study’ and ‘struggle’ so significant for them? The focus of the recent student struggles in Banaras Hindu University and Patna University is another reminder of how across the years, from the likes of Montek Singh Ahluwalia to the Sangh appointees and apologists, student activism continues to remain the biggest obstacle towards making education privatised, exclusive, discriminatory, unscientific and low quality. Movement for 24 x 7 Library in Banaras Hindu University In Banaras Hindu University, the students have been forced to take to streets to demand a 24 x 7 library. Universities are spaces of higher learning and research, processes that require an in-depth and sustained engagement with academic resources all-round the year. Therefore, any argument that justifies curbing of library access timings either by citing vacation or post-exam period becomes antithetical to the...

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Resisting the UGC Assault on Teaching, Jobs, And Education

The UGC’s move to enhance teachers’ workload and slash teaching posts will affect employment opportunities of young researchers; teaching conditions; and quality of higher education all over the country. The Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) and DU students are at the forefront of the countrywide agitation against this move. It is the fourth summer in a row when DUTA and students’ community are out on the streets in thousands, defying soaring temperature. In the summers of 2013 and 2014 they continued a more than fifteen-month struggle to get the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) rolled back. Last year they were out in protest against a refurbished version of FYUP, called CBCS, which was thrust upon them by the same HRD minister Smriti Irani who was taking the credit of rolling back FYUP. This summer, when the issues with faulty system of CBCS still loomed large, UGC came up with a Gazette Notification amending UGC Regulations (2010), which have forced the teaching community led by DUTA to take the streets. After a historic month-long complete evaluation boycott and many agitations in which thousands of teachers participated, they forced the MHRD and the UGC to assure the withdrawal of the notifications. But the teachers believe that their struggle is not yet over and important issues remain unaddressed. Why Are Teachers And Students Opposed to the UGC Gazette Notification? The UGC Gazette...

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The Spectre of Campus Activism Haunts the Liberalisers and Saffronisers

And the people in the houses All went to the university, Where they were put in boxes And they came out all the same, And there’s doctors and lawyers, And business executives, And they’re all made out of ticky tacky And they all look just the same. – Malvina Reynolds, 1962 Like the Birla-Ambani Report of Vajpayee’s days; like the Report of a World Bank Task Force on Higher Education in Developing Countries, February 2000, of which Manmohan Singh was a member; like the Lyngdoh Committee report, the TSR Subramanian Panel report on the New Education Policy has spent several pages recommending the restriction of campus activism. The TSR Subramanian panel imagines that the vast, ‘silent’ majority of students are adversely affected by student activism. It then recommends that the Constitutional liberties and freedom of association be restricted. It seeks a “large public discussion” on the question of restricting such freedoms – but a discussion in which it, strangely, wants “vocal segments of the community who are votaries of ‘free speech’” to be silenced. It further recommends that “student groups explicitly based on caste, religion, or any political party should be abjured through the statues governing the universities and institutions.” How do we read these recommendations in light of recent events? The Government of the day chose to brand Ambedkar Student Association and Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle as explicitly ‘casteist’,...

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Bastar: Where The Constitution Stands Suspended

The Nobodies Who don’t speak languages, but dialects. Who don’t have religions, but superstitions. Who don’t create art, but handicrafts. Who don’t have culture, but folklore. Who are not human beings, but human resources. Who do not have faces, but arms. Who do not have names, but numbers. Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the police blotter of the local paper. The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them. – Eduardo Galeano, translated by Cedric Belfrage An 8-member fact-finding team of All India People’s Forum visited four districts Chhattisgarh (Bastar, Dantewada, Sukma, Bijapur) between 8-11 June 2016. The AIPF team comprised former Madhya Pradesh MLA Dr Sunilam of Samajwadi Samagam, former Jharkhand MLA and CPIML Central Committee member Vinod Singh, Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association, Brijendra Tiwari of AICCTU, Amlan Bhatacharya, State Secretary of PUCL West Bengal, Advocate Aradhana Bhargava of Chhindwara, Advocate Ajoy Dutta of Kolkata and Amlendu Choudhury. The AIPF team is also grateful for the participation of researcher Bela Bhatia and Dantewada-based activist Soni Sori who accompanied the team. Excerpts from the team’s report are published here. Preface Bastar today is witness to the most cynical mockery of constitutional values and civil liberties. Under cover of a war to ‘save Bastar from Maoism,’ or ‘make Bastar safe for democracy’, the Constitution is in...

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Resisting the Hindutva Fascist Offensive: Notes by an Activist

(Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary, CPI(ML)(Liberation) was invited to attend the EMS Namboodiripad memorial event titled ‘Idea of India: A New Agenda for Reclaiming Social, Economic and Environmental Justice’ in Thrissur, Kerala, 13-14 June. He was unable to attend but sent a paper which we are publishing here.) With the rise of the BJP as the largest political party in India, entrenched in power at the centre and in several states and backed by the shady and proliferating network of the RSS and its numerous affiliates, we are witnessing an intensified and concerted communal fascist offensive across the country. The fascist potential and implications of the communalism of the majority community, more specifically the fascist character of the project of Hindu Rashtra, were clearly anticipated by several key thinkers of modern India, by the communist leadership as well as leaders like Nehru and Ambedkar. Indeed, the proponents of Hindutva and so-called cultural nationalism – from Savarkar to Golwalkar – had openly eulogised the fascist models of Italy, Germany and Spain. But given the comprador pro-colonial nature of Hindutva, the Hindu Mahasabha or RSS variety of communal nationalism could not win much broad support during the protracted phase of popular anti-colonial awakening and assertion. The ‘communal’ could not be camouflaged as ‘national’ – acts of communal mobilisation and violence, conspiracy against the anti-colonial unity and spirit of the people, and eventually...

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The Left and the Ambedkarite Movements Need Dialogue and Unity

(This letter by AISA leader Chintu Kumari was in response to an open letter to her by Chinmay Mahanand, leader of the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (BAPSA). We reproduce it here in full, in the context of the Utho Mere Desh campaign and in the interests of unity and understanding between Left and Ambedkarite forces. The letter is translated by Ardra Neelakandan.) Dear friend Chinmay, I apologize for the delayed response. As you know I was very weak and unwell after the 16-day long hunger strike and under medication. Still, I don’t feel completely well in terms of my health I attempt to write this considering the significance of our ongoing debate. At the outset itself, I would want to make one thing clear. My intention behind writing this has nothing to do with providing prompt and complete responses to all the questions you raised earlier. Nor do I, in my good senses, aspire to wrap up the larger debate by giving a comprehensive response here. Rather, my sole motive is to inquire into the possibility of a more meaningful and real discussion among the left and Ambedkarite activists and movements. I am searching for a truthful and honest space of debate between the two forces as the country in which we live, its constitution and the democratic structure are under attack from a fascist, Sanghi government. And...

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Blaming Victims of Communal Violence

The recent verdict of a special SIT Court in the Gulberg society massacre case of Gujarat 2002 is a massive travesty of justice. It has not only acquitted several key masterminds of the massacre, it has shamefully blamed the massacre on provocation by the victims while absolving the perpetrators of conspiratorial intention. The Gulberg society massacre was one of the worst massacres that took place during the Gujarat 2002 pogrom. Gulberg society was set on fire in broad daylight, killing 69 people. Ehsan Jafri, a former MP, was singled out, stripped, and paraded with his limbs chopped off before being burnt alive. Hundreds of Jafri’s neighbours took shelter with him, and for hours from 9.30 am to 1 pm, Jafri made desperate calls to the police, to political leaders, to the Chief Minister of Gujarat and the Home Minister of the country. These calls went unheeded and the senior police officers who visited Gulberg Society, did nothing to disperse the murderous mob that was baying for blood. The verdict ignores eye witness testimonies regarding the armed mob that had gathered outside the society for several hours. It ignores the undisputed fact that senior police officers visited the site, saw the mob, and yet failed to call for reinforcements to disperse the mob. Instead the verdict condemns the eyewitnesses for ‘selective amnesia’ regarding ‘private firing’ by Ehsan Jafri. It claims...

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The Crisis of the CPI(M) And the Struggle Against Opportunism

The debacle of the CPI(M) in West Bengal Assembly elections has given rise to a sharp debate within the Left movement, and for once, within the CPI(M) itself. The post-election meeting of the CPI(M) PB had mildly expressed its disapproval of the party’s alliance with the Congress in West Bengal by recording in the PB communiqué that the line pursued in West Bengal was not in consonance with the party’s central political line. The PB remark has since been openly rubbished by senior CPI(M) leaders in West Bengal, including the state committee secretary as well as several other Bengal-based PB and CC members. A month after the declaration of the Assembly election results, the matter finally came up before the Central Committee and the inescapable question as to how this was allowed to happen was finally raised quite forcefully by the gutsy woman leader from Haryana, Comrade Jagmati Sangwan, who had been inducted into the CC only a year ago at the CPI(M)’s Visakhapatnam Congress in April 2015. Not satisfied with the wishy-washy ‘not in consonance’ description which just states the obvious without any fixation of responsibility or adoption of any concrete measure to stop the Bengal line, she eventually resigned in protest, briefed the media waiting outside the CPI(M) central office where the CC was in session, and characteristically the CC expelled her for what it called her...

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Resist Modi’s US-Centric Foreign Policy and FDI-Dependent Economic Design

Even as Americans are preoccupied with the race to choose the successor of President Obama, Narendra Modi made sure that he had one more round of meeting with the US President in this last leg of his Presidency. This was Modi’s fourth US visit and his seventh meeting with Obama in two years. Figures tell us that including his latest foreign trip Modi has already visited 38 countries making 19 international trips and spending 97 of the 743 days he has been in office which works out to one day abroad for every week spent in India. The four visits to the US and seven meetings with Obama obviously top this list and clearly indicate that whatever degree of importance America may attach to its ties with India, as India’s PM, Modi has taken a great fancy to America, perhaps making up for all the opportunities denied to him earlier to visit the country in his previous avatar as the genocide-tainted Gujarat CM. Modi bhakts and BJP propagandists are extremely happy with the response Modi got to his 48-minute-long speech to the US Congress complete: 9 standing ovations and 64 rounds of applause. No doubt Modi left his American audience thoroughly entertained and they in turn left him visibly happy with abundant applause and ovations. But if Modi is a tenacious and stubborn salesman, the Americans are among the...

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