09 September 2016

‘Democracy? Whose Democracy?’

A public meeting held in London on the eve of Independence Day organized by South Asia Solidarity Group discussed the Indian state’s current offensive in Kashmir and its history, the Dalit Asmita Yatra in Gujarat, the background to the rise of Hindutva and other key issues. Academic, novelist and activist Nitasha Kaul addressed the meeting, titled ‘Democracy? Whose Democracy? India on the 69th Anniversary of Independence’. She said that Kashmiris are facing an existential crisis under Indian army occupation: ‘It is as though there is a hierarchy of lives – for some, many more have to be lost, before people listen’. She said India’s relationship with Kashmir—the humiliating attitude towards Kashmiris, the killing, injuring and blinding of innocent people including children, intimidating of journalists, and clamping down on the media and shutting down internet and mobile communication – a form of collective punishment — was like Britain’s relationship with India under colonial rule. Dr Kaul said that the uprising of Kashmiri people has nothing to do either with religion or with Pakistan. Kashmir happens to be a Muslim majority territory and India is using it as a pretext to demonise a people’s uprising as terrorist. In today’s Islamophobic environment it fits well with the broader narrative, she said. She spoke of India’s oft repeated claim that Kashmir is an ‘integral part of India’ and called it a very ‘imperial’...

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Tribute

Com. Mitranand Singh Com. Mitranand Singh, district secretary of CPI (ML)’s Nalanda district unit passed away on the morning of 14 August. He was in the ICU for several days, battling a brain haemorrhage. His body was brought to the CPI (ML) state office and party cadres paid tributes to him. In the 80’s while working in the private sector in BiharSharif, Com. Mitranand met senior CPI (ML) leader Pawan Sharma. He soon became a part member and in 1986 he started working as a wholetimer of the party. He was assigned the responsibility of Bihar Sharif and he then became the Nalanda district secretary of the AIPF. He was the CPI (ML) candidate from Nalanda in the Lok Sabha elections in 1991 and he received huge support from the poor and Dalits. Besides Bihar Sharif, he also played a crucial role in the expansion of the party in Jagdishpur in Bhojpur. His presence will always be missed. Com. Rajnandan Sharma Com. Rajnandan Sharma (lovingly known as Master Saheb) died in a hospital in Patna at the age of 83 at around 2 am in the morning of 3 August. He had been battling respiratory problems for a long time. Master Saheb worked as a teacher in the Khagaul (Danapur Rail Division), even as he remained active with the Party right from the days of the party’s initial difficult...

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Tribute : Mahasweta Devi & Neelabh Ashk

The unflinching voice of resistance Mahasweta Devi, whose pen was committed to the cause of India’s most oppressed, passed away at the age of 90. In her sixty-year long career, Mahasweta Devi penned more than one hundred novels, twenty collections of short stories and authored innumerable articles. She sketched the saga of anguish and rebellion, often offering precious insights into the lives of the most oppressed, in her iconic works like Aranyer Adhikar (Right to Forest) , Rudali , Chotti Munda and His Arrow, Bashai Tudu and Breast Stories. Her lifetime commitment was to the adivasis of India – not as subjects of anthropological study, but as heroes and heroines of their lives and struggles. She told the stories of the Rudalis and Stanadayinis of the oppressed castes, who were forced to place their tears and breast-milk at the service of the exploiting castes. Mahasweta Devi remains by far the most faithful and seminal chronicler of the Naxalbari rebellion. Her voice undertook to introduce ‘1084’s Mother’ to her Naxalite son, killed in police custody. Her writing sketched the character of Jagdeesh Master – the immortal co-founder of the CPI (ML) movement in Bhojpur. In her chronicling of the “Spring Thunder”, unlike most others Bengali literary figures, Devi said it loud and clear – “Naxalbari is not about a few brave lives lost in a futile battle, but a political...

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Updates

Kashmiri Youth Charged With Sedition For Sharing Facebook Post Representatives from the CPI (ML), CPI, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, AICCTU, AITUC, All India Progressive Women’s Association, and All India Youth Federation met the Superintendent of Police, Durg, Chhattisgarh with regard to the arrest on sedition charges of a Kashmiri youth Tauseef Ahmad for liking, sharing, and forwarding Facebook posts on Kashmir. Tauseef had studied in Rungta College of Engineering, Bhilai and then gone on to do his MBA in Srinagar, after which he returned to Bhilai and had been working in the marketing section of Vivo (an electronics and mobile company) for the last few months. Recently he had liked and shared some posts and cartoons critical of India’s Kashmir policy on Facebook. On a complaint by Ratan Yadav, Bhilai coordinator of Bajrang Dal, the Chhattisgarh police registered a complaint against him on charges of sedition. On coming to know about the complaint Tauseef boarded a train to return to Kashmir but was apprehended and arrested at Sagar station, Madhya Pradesh. He was then remanded to 15 days judicial custody and is currently lodged in Durg Central Jail. Com. Brijendra Tiwari of CPI(ML) and Com. Lakshmi Krishnan of AIPWA visited the father and cousin of Tauseef who have come down to Durg after the arrest of their son. His father, who was in a state of dazed bewilderment informed them...

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Women Honorarium Workers’ Struggle In Uttarakhand

The women of Uttarakhand have always played a leading role in various democratic movements including struggle for Uttarakhand state and Chipko Aandolan. Though the governments that came to power after statehood was accorded to Uttarakhand have made tall claims and promises regarding women empowerment, the fact is that despite becoming a separate state, the conditions of the working class and especially, the working class women have been grossly ignored. The examples of this are the working women’s new contingents of ASHA, Anganwadi and midday meal workers. Appointed for implementation of governmental policies, they are denied minimum wages, let alone be granted the status of a government employee. However, a new consciousness has led them to establish themselves as a formidable challenge in front of both the central and the state governments against their detestable neoliberal labour policies and the anti-worker amendments taking place in labour laws. These women workers have added a new dimension to the workers’ movement in Uttarakhand. The regular movemental initiatives by ASHA workers against the neglect of the government towards them and its betrayal of its promises are transforming them as a challenger to the anti-worker government. These initiatives are also important since the state machinery is consistently trying to break the AICCTU affiliated ASHA Health Workers’ union and the Uttarakhand Anganwadi Karamchari Union. However, despite the increasing onslaughts by the government, these unions have...

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Protests Against BJP Government in Assam

The BJP has celebrated its first-ever Government in Assam, as a platform to expand their influence in other NE states. At the BJP’s National Executive Meeting all BJP leaders wore the gamucha (traditional Assamese decorated towel) around their necks. At that meeting the BJP President Amit Shah said that the tactics applied in the Assam election will be implemented in the coming assembly election in UP also, and the Assam election result will have a national impact towards a Congress Mukt Bharat. Within two months of the Sarbananda Sonowal Government assuming power in Assam, however, it has faced protests. In its assembly election campaign, the BJP had committed itself to fulfilling the ‘Assam Accord’ (which is a tri-partite agreement signed in 1985 between the Assam Government, Central Government and the leaders of Assam movement, where it was agreed to deport foreigners). But on coming to power, the Modi Government declared that Hindu Bengalis are not foreigners and are refugees and decided to settle them in Assam. This decision betrayed the essence of the Assam Accord and the BJP is trying to communalise the issue. All the regional forces including the BJP’s alliance partner AGP as well as Assam’s democratic forces have opposed this communally motivated decision. “Foreigners are foreigners”, and there should not be a division between Hindus and Muslims. Both Hindus and Muslims facing persecution in neighbouring countries...

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Travelling through Bastar to Reclaim Democracy and Freedom

Malay Tiwari, CPI(ML) activist from West Bengal, and Anupam Roy, artist and CPI(ML) activist, participated in the August Kranti- Tiranga Padyatra from Dantewada to Gompad in Bastar, Chhattisgarh. Here are their notes from the Yatra, accompanied by photographs by Anupam Roy. In the backdrop of massive state repression – as witnessed in murders, rapes, illegal detentions and custodial tortures – that defines Bastar today, a spirited ‘August Kranti- Tiranga Padyatra’ was organized in Bastar this August. Various political parties and groups as well as concerned individuals are part of the Bastar Bachao Sanjukt Sangharsh Samiti which had organized the padyatra, including AAP, PUCL, CMM, JMM and CPI (ML) Liberation. From 9-15 August, several adivasis, representatives of various groups, social activists and individuals marched across Bastar. Throughout the padyatra, they proclaimed loud and clear that the values of democracy and freedom enshrined in the Constitution are today conspicuous by their absence in Bastar, and that the padyatra was an attempt to reclaim these precious values guaranteed to each and every citizen. The padyatra started from Ambedkar Park in Dantewara at 5 pm on 9 August. At the start of the yatra, Soni Sori garlanded Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue and delivered a short speech. She held the unnamed newborn baby of Hure in her lap and described how the pregnant Hure was harassed and tortured by security forces and ultimately died...

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Dalits, Adivasis Demand Independence From Oppression, Exploitation, Corporate Plunder

15 August 2016 – India’s Independence Day – witnessed some unique and inspiring movements. The Dalits of Una and the adivasis of Bastar chose to mark Independence Day by highlighting the freedom and dignity denied to them. In this feature we carry reports from the yatras (marches) in Gujarat and Chhattisgarh and reflect on the political challenge presented to Brahmanism, communal fascism, and state terror by these movements. Una Independence Yatra and Rally “You keep the cow’s tail – just give us our land” – this slogan of the Una Independence March summed up a social revolution in Gujarat and India. In a slap on the face to the Sanghi goons who have been beating up, lynching, and killing Muslims and Dalits on the pretext of ‘cow protection’, the Dalits of Gujarat have risen up in thousands to declare their intention to give up the degrading work of disposing of animal carcasses and going down drains. They have instead demanded allocation of agricultural land and alternative livelihood. Significantly, they made common cause with the Muslim victims of the cow vigilantes, raising the slogan ‘Dalit Muslim Bhai Bhai’ (Dalits and Muslims are brothers). The Dalit Asmita Yatra traversed Saurshtra to culminate in the Azaadi Kooch (Independence Rally) at Una town. Participants in the yatra were mostly Dalit youth from south Gujarat’s rural areas, but also included activists from Gujarat as...

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Women at the Rio Olympics

“I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.” – Simone Biles, Individual all-round, vault, and floor gold medalist. The Olympic Games are relevant, not as a platform for the display of shallow ‘national pride’ in the State’s achievements, but because the beauty of sport continues to mesmerize us in spite of and not because of the media spectacle; because of the little people who now and then, triumph in the face of capitalism, imperialism, racism, and sexism that dominate sports globally. Women have notched many firsts this year, and there are heartwarming, yet disturbing stories about the odds faced by women in the context of the imbalances along gender lines, especially in the respective sporting cultures of their home countries and in the sporting world in general. Sara Ahmed, the first woman medalist ever from Egypt, a country which has competed in the Olympics for over a century, is also the first Arab Muslim woman at the Olympics who has a medal in weightlifting. Simone Manuels became the first black woman from a country where acid was poured into swimming pools to keep black people out, to win an individual medal in swimming. Our own Sakshi Malik has challenged the perception of what is not ‘women’s sport’, namely wrestling. Women have competed in the hijab against a background of overt and covert Islamophobic...

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Hike in Delhi’s Minimum Wages A Welcome Step

While welcoming the Delhi Government’s announcement of hiking minimum wages by fifty percent and proposed amendments to Minimum Wages Act, 1948 AICCTU has drawn attention to the fact that after coming to power, the Kejriwal government, like its predecessors, has failed miserably to implement statutory Minimum Wages in Delhi. Employers in Delhi are able to make a mockery of the existing weak Minimum Wages Act, 1948, CLARA Act and other labour laws with impunity. The Kejriwal Government has failed in implementing labour laws and nailing contractors even in Public Sector and Delhi Government-owned establishments, not to speak of private sector units. At present the penal provisions in Minimum Wages Act throughout the country are so weak that no employers feel any pressure to implement them. Unless these laws are made meaningful – by making the offence of non-payment of Minimum Wages cognizable and non-bailable and ensuring its strict implementation, it’s quite likely that announcement would only benefit a very small proportion of workers of Delhi, while largely it will remain a propaganda gimmick because more than ninety percent of the workers are forced to work on a fraction of prescribed minimum wage rates with full impunity to law breaking employers. By keeping the penal provisions weak, employers are given an incentive to ignore the labour laws in order to weaken the collective bargaining powers of workers. The punishment for...

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Draft National Education Policy 2016 : Blueprint for Commercialisation and Saffronisation

The MHRD document ‘Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016’ is being challenged and protested by students all over the country, who are instead demanding an “egalitarian education system from KG to PG.” Privatisation and Fee Hikes The document promotes FDI in education and Government subsidies for private and corporate players in education, disguised as ‘incentives’ and ‘corporate social responsibility.’ Even the scholarships announced for EWS students and ‘open’ learning students will actually go to footing the bills of private institutions. Students are demanding that instead of promoting and pampering private profit-seekers in education by handing over public resources to them, the government must invest public funds in public education. The document specifically recommends fee hikes in public-funded educational institutions. The experience of the ‘high fees + fee waivers for the poor’ model worldwide has excluded and marginalised the poor and disadvantaged. The document promotes centralization of curricula and bureaucratization of administration through setting up of an ‘Indian Educational Service’ (IES) cadre under MHRD. It also proposes to corporatized accreditation. In keeping with WTO and other similar trade agreements, it seeks to create separate ‘tribunals’ for grievance redressal – this will mean that students or teachers in the face of violations of their rights will be prevented from approaching Courts for justice. The document’s move to institute ‘education tribunals’ is specifically designed to ‘free’ the rapacious private/foreign/corporate players...

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Modi’s Foreign Policy and the Kashmir-Balochistan Conundrum

The cat is now out of the bag. Towards the end of his long and tiring Independence Day address, Modi let the Balochistan cat jump out of the bag of diplomatic silence. He said he had been getting many messages of gratitude from Balochistan and POK. And we are now told this is the new aggressive foreign policy discourse of the Modi regime. It is not just Modi and not just Balochistan, Mohan Bhagwat says the Modi government should do all that is necessary to reclaim parts of Jammu and Kashmir currently under the control of Pakistan and China. From Rajnath Singh to Arun Jaitley, every senior BJP minister is daily blaming Pakistan for the unrest in Pakistan. Occasionally Modi also invokes the much-touted ‘constitutional framework’ even as the security forces acknowledge the killing of Kashmiri citizens in ‘unsanctioned raids’ (like the killing of Shabir Ahmad Monga, a lecturer, and severe injuries inflicted on several others in Pulwama district during the intervening night of August 17 and 18). As far as the international community is concerned, the Balochistan-Gilgit-POK remark of Modi can only mean one thing. Modi believes that he can stop Pakistan from raising the Kashmir issue in international fora by hitting it back with the issue of Balochistan. Whether this blackmail will work or not is anybody’s guess (many say it is bound to backfire), but what...

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August 15, 2016: Modi’s Deceptive Rhetoric versus the Inspiring Una Resolve

When the people of India fought for freedom from British colonial rule, there was one ideological-political stream which not only stayed away from that great struggle but tried its best to disrupt and derail it with its thoroughly communal and casteist agenda of Hindutva. Today that stream holds the reins of ‘governance’ in the country and is bent upon appropriating the mantle of freedom even as it uses the state machinery to the hilt to subvert the values and aspirations of the freedom movement. Halfway through his term, Modi asked the BJP to celebrate a ‘festival of freedom’ around the Independence Day this year as he delivered his third August 15 lecture from the ramparts of the Red Fort. True to his demagogic track record, Modi made a few astoundingly misleading claims in his speech. He said while previous governments were all surrounded by complaints and allegations, his government only has to confront the expectations of the people. Well, to tell the truth, the expectations were based on the promises he had made in the 2014 election campaign, and with his government going back on those promises much of those expectations have today turned into frustration and anger. The much touted promises of 2014 were of course conspicuously missing once again in Modi’s Independence Day address. Modi claimed to have brought down the rate of inflation when the common...

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Intensify the Struggle against Price Rise and Hunger

India observed her 62rd year of independence with a solemn Prime Ministerial pronouncement: not a single Indian citizen would be allowed to go hungry. The Premier was immediately contradicted and lampooned by fresh reports of starvation deaths (from Jehanabad) and farmers’ suicides (from AP). More ominously, we know that for every starvation death we have at least a thousand men, women and children eking out a miserable existence on one or half-a-meal a day. It is evident that 62 years of independence have not given us freedom from either extreme hunger, which results in starvation deaths and grabs headlines, or from endemic hunger, the silent killer which slowly slaughters tens of thousands across the land unnoticed, the deaths being explained away as those caused by “disease” or “improper food habits”. The situation is going to deteriorate further in the coming months, the Prime Minister and the Agriculture Minister have told us, with rising prices and plummeting stocks of edibles. The reason: the failure of monsoons and consequent drought conditions in 246 out of 593 districts – nearly half the country. Well, quite a plausible argument. But wait, have not food prices been rising through the roof also during the past few years of good monsoons? Did India need unusual droughts or floods to report a chilling series of starvation deaths and farmers’ suicides during the rule of UPA I,...

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