10 October 2016

Samajik Parivartan Yatra and Conference in Bihar

Samajik Parivartan Yatra and Conference in Bihar The CPI(ML) held a Samajik Parivartan Yatra (March for Social Change) all over Bihar to strengthen the unity and continuity between Bihar’s long struggles for social transformation and the Una uprising in Gujarat, as well as the many progressive and revolutionary movements for social assertion of the poor, oppressed and women that India has witnessed. The Yatra began on 5 September at district centres of Bhojpur, Patna, Siwan, Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, Arwal, Jehanabad, Nalanda and others. At Patna, the Yatra began at Bhagat Singh Chowk, led by Gopal Ravidas, Bihar Secretary of the All India Agricultural and Rural Workers’ Association, peasant leader Kripanarayan Singh, youth leader Sadhu Sharan Das and others. Party Polit Bureau member Comrade Amar flagged off the Yatra. In the hilly regions of Patna district, the Yatra travelled through Bairiya, Sampatchak, Fatepur, Gaurichak, and Beldarichak, holding village meetings along the way. The Yatra then passed through Dhanarua, Masaurhi, Sain, Paliganj, Bikram, Naubatpur, Bihta, Maner and other blocks, ending the journey on 13 September. Tarari MLA Sudama Prasad flagged off the Bhojpur leg of the Yatra, with a team that included RYA State President Manoj Manzil, Raju Yadav, Ajit Kushwaha, and other student and youth activists. In Jehanabad, member of the Control Commission Ramjatan Sharma, peasant leader and party state committee member Ramadhar Singh among others addressed meetings. The Samajik Parivartan...

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Updates

Scholar And Activist Sharit Bhowmick Abhijit Mazumdar Sharit Bhowmick was the first scholar to write on the trade union structures and mobility in Bengal tea gardens, and to expose the plight of tea workers in these colonial labour enclaves from both political and sociological point of view. He ought to be remembered with Amalendu Guha, Nirban Kumar Basu or more recently Rana Behal for their outstanding studies on tea workers both in Assam and West Bengal. I remember meeting him for the first time in the late 1980s in Jalpaiguri Town, where we met attending a conference of social activists. Later I used to hear about him from my friend Khemraj (working with State Workers’ Education Directorate) who did his Ph.D. under Prof. Sharit Bhowmik. I retrieved my long-lost ties with Prof. Bhowmik only since 2014, when we could unite all operating trade unions in Bengal under the umbrella organisation “Joint Forum” and started demanding Minimum Wages in Tea Sector, opening of closed tea gardens and proper implementation Food Security Act for the tea workers. We mutually got benefitted by exchanging our views as he continued with his potent contribution to EPW and other journals articulating the same demands with scholarly insights. Undeterred by the failings of age, in 2015-16 phase he travelled frequently between Mumbai and Dooars, urging and advising the starving tea workers in closed tea gardens...

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A Life Forged in Struggle: An Obituary to Comrade Mulkraj

The octogenarian leader of CPI(ML), Comrade Mulkraj passed away at a hospital in Rohini Sector 6 in Delhi on 27 August 2016. He was 89 years old. His death marks the end of an era. The funeral procession began at his residence in Mangolpuri and ended at the Buddha Vihar Crematorium two kilometres away, where the last rites were performed. CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar bade him farewell with the red flag and flowers. A large number of party comrades and near and dear ones joined the funeral procession. Among those who paid last respects were Member of the Central Committee, Prabhat Choudhury and Sanjay Sharma, Delhi State Secretary Ravi Rai, National Secretary of the All India Kisan Mahasabha Purushottam Sharma, senior party leaders from Delhi such as Amar Nath Tiwari, Rooplal, Surendra Panchal, as well as members and associates of the Mangolpuri party committee. Hundreds of women and children also participated in the funeral procession that was carried out in full communist honours. Com. Mulkraj was born in Multan (in present day Pakistan) in the nomadic Sansi community, a denotified tribe. This tribe had been classified as being one among the ‘Criminal Tribes’ by the British Colonial State. No member of this tribal community was allowed to change their domicile without permission from the police. Bearing witness to this discrimination lit the flame of dissent and of anger...

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Comrade Swapan Mukherjee’s Passing : A Huge Loss to the Left, Democratic and Trade Union Movements

The CPI(ML) Central Committee is deeply shocked and grieved at the untimely demise of CPI(ML) Politburo member Comrade Swapan Mukherjee. He suffered an unexpected heart attack and passed away suddenly around 4.15 am on 6 September 2016 at a comrade’s home in Chandigarh, where he had gone for a meeting. Comrade Swapan was born on 17 November 1953. His father was a central government employee. He played football both for his school and his college, representing the Delhi University team in 1971 when he played as a creative mid-fielder. As a B.Sc. student in Kirorimal College, Delhi University in the early 1970s, he was among the many young people inspired by the Naxalbari struggle to join the ML movement. Even as an undergraduate college student, he became a committed revolutionary, working among workers in the Azadpur area and Delhi Transport Corporation as well as among teachers and students. Even in the midst of the all-pervasive confusion and demoralization in the wake of the setback suffered by the first phase of the CPI(ML) movement, Comrade Swapan stood resolutely for the Party and for the revolutionary orientation and legacy of Comrade Charu Mazumdar. Before the reorganized CPI(ML) Central Committee with Comrade Jauhar as General Secretary was constituted on 28 July 1974, Comrade Swapan along with some other comrades (led by Com. Ishwarchand Tyagi) had already established contact with the party’s Bihar...

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Justice Cannot Be Irrelevant or Unimportant

A Response to Shaibal Gupta In an opinion piece (‘The unimportance of Shahabuddin,’ Indian Express, 21 September 2016) Shaibal Gupta, known to be an advisor to and intellectual defender of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, has argued that irrespective of whether or not Shahabuddin stays behind bars, he is irrelevant and marginalised in modern Bihar. Gupta argues that the Ranveer Sena and Shahabuddin were both products of a bygone feudal political economy in Bihar. Bihar has “moved on,” argues Gupta, thanks to the old feudal-bahubali order being replaced by modern, dynamic, entrepreneurial, competitive capitalism ushered in by Nitish Kumar. In the wake of Shahabuddin’s release, the media was full of stories about a verbal spat between Shahabuddin and Nitish Kumar, and a potential danger to the RJD-JDU gatbandhan (alliance). It is another matter that this verbal sparring sounded a lot like shadow-boxing, helping Nitish Kumar evade responsibility for the taint of Shahabuddin’s release. Shaibal Gupta is clearly trying to salvage Nitish Kumar’s image in the wake of the bad press over Shahabuddin’s release. Let us examine his arguments. Gupta argues that the musclemen (bahubalis) thrive in a feudal society and economy, accumulating wealth through firearms and violence: “In the absence of a capitalist culture, their accumulation does not get converted into productive or industrial capital. In the intensity and ferocity of their atrocities, they resemble the traditional elite castes....

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Siwan, Shahabuddin and the CPI(ML)

The trajectory of the rise and growth of CPI-ML in Siwan has been quite similar to the Party’s development elsewhere in Bihar, most notably in Bhojpur and other adjoining districts like Patna, Jahanabad, Arwal. The revolt of the most oppressed sections of the rural poor against the feudal gentry has been the basis on which the CPIML has grown in Bihar through sustained powerful struggles on the following key and interrelated questions: land redistribution, minimum wages, social/human dignity and political rights. While in Shahabad and Magadh regions the Party emerged and grew in the 1970s and early 1980s, when CPIML worked underground and Bihar was ruled mainly by the Congress but for the brief post-Emergency period of Karpoori Thakur and Ramsundar Das, in Siwan the Party began to rise in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when CPIML expanded through open mass struggles and Bihar witnessed the beginning of the political transition from protracted Congress rule to what has now turned out to be a protracted rule of Janata Dal, from its initial undivided period to the present coalition phase. Darauli block in Siwan was the epicentre of the Party in the late 1980s and 1990s. Under the leadership of the CPIML, the landless poor and marginal peasants, belonging mostly to Dalit and backward castes, took on the well entrenched feudal power of the region, belonging mostly to the...

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Bail for Shahabuddin, Jail for Activists : Stories of Impunity and Power in Bihar

(A version of this article appeared in The Wire on 13/09/2016) The sleeves of each assassin are spotless. No sign of blood: no trace of red, not on the edge of the knife, none on the point of the sword. – Faiz Ahmad Faiz, In Search of Vanished Blood, translated by Agha Shahid Ali On 13 September 2016, in the midst of festive Bakrid celebrations, Rajpur village in Andar Block of Siwan was in mourning. There, villagers and CPI(ML) activists marked the anniversary of a brutal killing that took place 20 years ago. On 13 September 1996, henchmen of the RJD leader and notorious mafia don Mohammad Shahabuddin came with murderous intent to the home of Ghulam Haider, who was a CPI(ML) activist. Not finding him home, they killed his aged father, a young relative and his 3-year-old baby daughter Juhi – a mass murder the memory of which continues to haunt Rajpur. Shahabuddin, convicted in a series of murders and with several pending cases against him, has just been released on bail. Accompanied by a cavalcade of cars, he breezed past a toll bridge where, on police instructions, he received ‘VIP treatment’ and was not required to pay the toll tax. His clothes spotless, his demeanor suave, Shahabuddin speaks of himself as a scholar whose bags are full of books, a pious and god-fearing man, a loved political...

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Statement Against Arrest of Kashmiri Activist Khurram Parvez

(Excerpts from a statement signed by intellectuals and activists globally. Since this statement was released, Khurram Parvez was released on orders of the Court and then rearrested immediately and booked under the draconian Public Safety Act.) We, the undersigned, call for the immediate release of Khurram Parvez, a distinguished and courageous human rights defender, and write in support of the enclosed statements issued by Advocate Parvez Imroz An executive magistrate in Srinagar issued the order against Khurram Parvez, invoking Sections 107 and 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) (pertaining to detention for breach of peace and design to commit a cognizable offence). The actions against Mr. Parvez are symptomatic of the escalated repression in Kashmir by institutions of state since July 8. We note with horror that since July 2016, over 80 persons have been killed, over 11,000 persons have been injured, over 1,000 persons have been arrested and over 100 ambulances have been attacked. For 70 days now, curfew has been imposed in various parts of Kashmir. Pellet cartridges with about 400-500 pellets each have been fired, aimed above the waist, permanently blinding youth at civilian protests. Communication systems have been repeatedly shutdown; mobile Internet and pre-paid calls have been repeatedly banned, post-paid phone lines have been suspended for a number of days, and even newspapers have been shut down for a couple of days. The...

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Singur Verdict : Inspiring Victory for Peasants Warning To Governments Against Land Grab and State Repression

The Supreme Court verdict setting aside land acquisition for the Tata Nano project in Singur and ordering return of the illegally-acquired land to the peasants of Singur is a historic victory for the peasants’ movement. The verdict vindicates the position argued by the Singur peasants and a range of democratic supporters throughout – that the land acquisition was illegal and immoral and robbed the peasants of their land, livelihood and rights in order to appease the corporate Tata. The CPI(M)-led Left Front Government that had all along defended the Singur land grab was punished with electoral debacles. Now, faced with the Supreme Court verdict putting paid to its stubborn defence of the land grab, the CPI(M) leadership has continued to claim absurdly that the blame lies with the 1894 Land Acquisition Act “which was the only legal instrument available at that time.” This plea fails to convince, however, since the Supreme Court has held the acquisition at Singur to be a violation of the 1894 Act, not the present Land Acquisition Act. The West Bengal Government led by the CPI(M) violated even the norms for acquisition set down in the 1894 Act and unleashed repression on peasants resisting land grab. Instead of continuing to defend the indefensible, the CPI(M) ought to accept the Supreme Court verdict as a vindication of the fighting peasants, apologise and introspect for its high-handed...

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Socio-Economic Emancipation, Social Equality and Equity Vs the ‘Social Harmony’ of Modi and the RSS

The Una uprising – in the BJP’s own ‘model’ state Gujarat – organically raised the issues of dignity, land and livelihood. Dalits, rebelling against the Gau-Goons, declared they would no longer handle animal carcasses and demeaning forms of labour – and instead demanded land and livelihood. ‘Gai ki poonch tum rakho – hame hamari zameen do’ (You keep the cow’s tail – just give us our land) was the slogan they raised. In Bihar in the 1980s and 1990s, also, landless Dalits and oppressed castes had raised the issues of dignity, land, livelihood as well as political assertion as an organic whole. Just as the Una uprising is being met with a Sanghi and feudal backlash today in Gujarat, the BJP-backed feudal backlash in Bihar had taken the form of the horrific bloodbaths of Bathani Tola and Lakshmanpur Bathe and many other places. Bihar’s BJP leader and Modi Cabinet Minister Giriraj Singh had described the Ranveer Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh as “a Gandhian thinker and a farmer leader, who had faith in peace and social harmony.” Indeed, Brahmeshwar Singh himself had said in his last interview to Dan Morrison of the New York Times, “Violence for the restoration of peace and harmony is not a sin.” So, some of the worst massacres of Dalit landless poor in India are described by the BJP leaders as actions in the pursuit...

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Why Indian workers abroad are indebted to a former Jharkhand MLA

(A piece by Shahnawaz Akhtar in DailyO on 11 September 2016) Early this year, Hulas Chandra Singh, Ruplal Thakur and Deewakar Mahto along with 40 others went to Malaysia. All coughed up around Rs 50,000 each to work abroad. Before taking a flight, all were declared medically fit in India. But after three months of employment, they were told by their respective companies that they were unfit. The companies neither wanted to give them salary nor send them back to India. It was only after contacting Vinod Kumar Singh, a former MLA, that the 43 labourers could return home. You must have watched the movie Airlift, which was made on an Indian businessman living in Kuwait who helped evacuate hundreds of Indian labourers during the Gulf War. You must also have read about foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and minister of state VK Singh bringing back stranded labourers from foreign soil. But do you know that Vinod Singh, a leader from Jharkand’s Bagodar constituency, has since 2009 helped hundreds of labourers come home from exploitative jobs not only in Malaysia, Kuwait and Kango (Africa) but different states of India as well. Singh’s tireless efforts, sometimes single-handedly, have saved more than 500 labourers from being stuck abroad. The CPI-ML leader was a legislator from Bagodar, the largest assembly segment of Giridih, from 2005 to 2014. Earlier, Mahendra Singh, his father, was...

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Left Sweeps JNUSU, AISA Emerges as Third Force in DUSU

The vicious campaign by the Sangh Parivar, Modi Government and sections of the media to brand JNU as ‘anti-national’ and ‘Shut Down JNU’ received a resounding rebuff in the 2016 JNUSU elections, with the Left Unity (AISA-SFI) panel sweeping all the Central Panel seats and most Councillor seats. The ABVP was reduced to a single Councillor post and left far behind on the Central panel posts. The ABVP had used the ‘nationalism vs anti-national’ plank in both JNUSU and DUSU elections, giving the slogan ‘9 ka jawab 9 se’ (Make 9 September a Reply to 9 February). 9 February was the date of the events in JNU which the Modi Government had sought to project as ‘seditious’, and students union elections in JNU and Delhi University were held on 9 September – so the ABVP was attempting to turn the elections into a referendum for its campaign against ‘anti-nationals’. That plank boomeranged on the ABVP badly. The JNU students did indeed ‘Make 9 September a Reply to 9 February’ – they trounced the ABVP and overwhelmingly elected those committed to defending JNU against the Sangh Parivar and Modi Government offensive. In DU also, while the ABVP retained three seats, it lost the Joint Secretary post as well as the College Representative posts in 33 out of 40 colleges to the NSUI. Further, the AISA, which the ABVP had attacked...

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The Lives of Muslims, Dalits, Kashmiris and Even Soldiers Are Cheap in Modi Rule

‘Cow protection mobs’ continue to remain absolutely confident of impunity thanks to patronage from the ruling regime in India, even after the Una uprising and the outrage over the Dadri lynching. The latest atrocities in the name of ‘protecting cows’ include the horrific murder and gangrape in Mewat and the brutal killing of Mohammed Ayyub in Ahmedabad. Mewat is a region of Haryana where Muslims have a significant presence. In the run-up to Eid, the BJP Government of Haryana launched a series of ‘raids’ on eateries to check biryani for illegal use of beef. This move was a measure calculated to harass and intimidate the Muslim community on the occasion of their festival, and to create a climate of hatred and violence against Muslims. In the midst of this toxic climate, a gang forced its way into a farmhouse in Mewat and indulged in a brutal assault against a Muslim family. A couple was thrashed to death; another couple assaulted, and a 20-year-old woman and a 14-year old girl gangraped as a warning against ‘eating beef.’ The two gangrape survivors said that they were asked if they ate beef; and told that the rape was to make sure they stopped eating beef. The assailants were in no hurry; they indulged in prolonged violence, robbed the household and left. The response of the Haryana Government has left no one in...

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