12 December 2016

Dario Fo

An obituary often mourns and bids adieu. This one will not. Type Dario Fo’s name on any search engine and you will see image after image of this happy looking man with round eyes, on stage and off, laughing, hugging, dancing. It is only in politically minded celebration during and despite dark times that you can remember Dario Fo, for his legacy of humour is an incredibly durable and endearing template for our times. When he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997, as he notes in his acceptance speech, many friends of his said that the Swedish Academy should be applauded ‘for having had the courage to award the Nobel Prize to a jester!’ Dario Fo was no writer who toiled away through the nights to the tap of the typewriter in glum literary solitude. He had no solemnity becoming of a literary figure whatsoever. In fact, in the same speech, in describing those men of letters who were stumped at his winning the prize, he says, “It’s enough to take stock of the uproar it has caused: sublime poets and writers who normally occupy the loftiest of spheres, and who rarely take interest in those who live and toil on humbler planes, are suddenly bowled over by some kind of whirlwind.” Fo was that whirlwind of the stage, a wind that lit political fires, by...

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Feeding ‘the Donald’ – Why Trump Won and What it May mean

When on Donald Trump’s birthday earlier this year, photos were circulating of Modi Bhakts in Delhi feeding cake to cut outs of ‘the Donald’, few people actually expected that Trump might soon be President of America. That a man with his record of boasting about sexual abuse, open links to far- right groups and chumminess with Vladimir Putin, would be elected seemed highly unlikely. Trump’s eventual victory was at first ascribed by some commentators to the anger and resentment of white working class males who had been thrown on the scrapheap by neoliberalism, people who had been neglected by the Democratic party and the Washington elite, who now saw Trump as their champion. In this sense, they argued, the Trump victory was a blow to neoliberalism itself while Clinton was, according to CNN contributor and historian Stephanie Coontz, “simply unable to present herself as a forceful defender of everyone who has been left behind by the march of globalization, professionalization and the emergence of a new just-in-time, winner-take-all economy.” And Cracked’s David Wong, in an article with nearly ten million views, wrote of rural support for Trump: “To those ignored, suffering people, Donald Trump is a brick chucked through the window of the elites. ‘Are you assholes listening now?’” But this analysis (like the assessment by many Indian and international commentators of Modi ‘s 2014 victory) is far from...

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Obituary

Comrade Rohtas Bharati Comrade Rohtas Bharati from Narela, Delhi, passed away in the early morning of 18 November 2016 in a hospital in Faridabad after a long battle with cancer. A veteran comrade, he was active since the days of the Indian People’s Front. He was the Party’s candidate from Narela in the last Assembly elections in Delhi. Till the very last he was active in organising various party initiatives in Delhi. Comrade Rama Gairola It is with deep sorrow and shock that we learnt of the untimely death of Comrade Rama Gairola at the prime of her life and revolutionary political journey at the very young age of 30. She was a CPI(ML) State Committee member and AIPWA Joint Secretary in Uttar Pradesh. She died while being treated for dengue. Dengue has spread in epidemic proportions in Puranpur where the CPI(ML) party office is located. Comrade Rama was involved in helping dengue patients in her locality, when she herself contracted the disease. The fact that she was diagnosed with dengue – a curable disease – on time and yet her life could not be saved is a comment on the state of health services in rural India. Comrade Rama was very much liked by the workers, peasants, and women amongst whom she worked. She had been a model elected member of the Zila Panchayat – a post she...

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A Series of Atrocities In Jharkhand This Year

Mar 18, 2016: Cattle trader Mohammad Majloom (35) and Inayatullah Khan (12), hanged from a tree in Latehar by ‘cow protection’ goons June 13 2016: A teenage Dalit girl subjected to custodial sexual harassment and violence by police in Manika thana, Latehar, while being “interrogated” in the matter of her friend’s elopement; a High Court Bench took suo motu notice of the case and passed an order against what it termed “inhuman torture” by the police June 19 2016: A senior journalist beaten up by police in Bokaro July 8 2016: Rupesh Swansi, a minor Dalit boy, tortured and killed in the Bundu thana police lock-up July 18 2016: Tausif Hussain, a minor Muslim youth, beating to death in the Hazaribagh police lock-up July 27 2016: Five Muslim men Wasim Ansari, Aftab Ansari, Shahbaz, Naseem Ansari, and Aijaz Ansari thrashed on the road from Dumraon village to Pelawal in Hazaribagh district, Jharkhand by a ‘cow-protection’ mob that accused them of transporting cattle for slaughter August 22 2016: Police firing killed two and injuring seven villagers protesting land grab at Gola (Ramgarh) in Jharkhand October 1 2016: 4 killed in police firing at Barkagaon, Hazaribagh for resisting land grab by NTPC October 9, 2016: Muslim youth Minhaj Ansari killed by torture in police custody, after being arrested for a WhatsApp post October 22, 2016: One protester killed, several injured in...

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Resisting Assaults On Its Basic Character

The state of Jharkhand came into being on November 15, 2000, the birth anniversary of Birsa Munda, leader of the anti-colonial adivasi resistance movement. The basic premise of the movement for a state of Jharkhand, separate from Bihar, was the right of Jharkhandis, especially the adivasis, to their own rich resources – land, forests, minerals, water. It was the adivasi resistance – Ulgulan – led by Birsa Munda between 1897-1900 that, although eventually crushed, had forced the British colonial rulers to enact the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act in 1908, to protect adivasi rights over their own lands. The Santhal Hul of 1855 led by the legendary adivasi warriors Sidho-Kanho, had likewise forced the British to enact the Bihar Tenancy Act, later amended and renamed the Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act in 1949. The CNT and SPT Acts, then, represent in many ways the very spirit of Jharkhand. 16 years after Jharkhand’s formation, the BJP Government led by Raghubar Das is launching an all-out attack on Jharkhand’s spirit and the rights of its indigenous adivasi peoples. Overruling all democratic opposition on the streets and in the Assembly, the BJP-led alliance has on 23 November used its majority in the Assembly to amend the CNT-SPT Acts to allow diversion of urban and rural lands of ST/SCs and OBCs for commercial use by corporates and real estate brokers. In recent months, the BJP-led...

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7th AIPWA National Conference in Patna

The 7th AIPWA National Conference was held in Patna on 13-14 November 2016, at the Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir. The Conference called for women’s resistance to patriarchy and the growing fascist threat and intensified struggles to defend democracy and assert women’s freedom. The Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir complex was named after Rama Gairola for the occasion in memory of departed young AIPWA leader Rama Gairola. The hall was named after noted writer and activist, the late Mahashweta Devi and the stage was named after AIPWA Founding President the late Comrade Geeta Das. On 13th November, the conference started with the hoisting of the AIPWA flag by veteran AIPWA leader Arti Devi, and tributes to martyrs and departed leaders of the revolutionary women’s movement. Tributes were paid to the Naxalbari martyrs, those killed in the Bathani Tola and other massacres, Kamleshwari Kunwar, noted activist of the revolutionary Bhojpur struggle and life partner of Comrade Jagdish Master, Rama Gairola, Mahashweta Devi, Geeta Das, Chinta Singh, Jeeta Kaur, Ajanta Lohit, Aparna Tyagi, Siyamani Mukhiya, Manju Devi, Agni, Sheela, Lahri and others. This was followed by the inaugural session of the Conference, which began with the rendering of songs by women’s cultural teams Chorus (of Bihar) and Prerna (Jharkhand). A reception committee headed by Prof. Bharti S Kumar welcomed all the guests and presented mementoes to noted activists of the women’s movement, including...

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Solidarity with the Peoples of Kashmir

(Statement issued by a team of activists after a visit to Kashmir from 11-20 November. Kavita Krishnan from AIPWA was part of this team.) We, twenty five citizens of India, representing people’s movements, women’s organisations, trade unions, human rights organisations, youth organisations and individuals who are journalists, writers and filmmakers, from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Nagaland, Odisha and Tamil Nadu, visited Kashmir from 11 to 20 November 2016 with the objective of understanding first-hand, from ordinary people and civil society, the situation of the peoples of the Kashmir Valley that has emerged over the past four-and-half months since the killing of three Hizbul Mujahideen militants, Burhan Wani, Sartaj Sheikh and Pervaiz Lashkari by the Indian Army and J&K Police on 8 July 2016. In the last 135 days, over 102 unarmed civilians have been killed by the Indian Army, the J&K Police and central paramilitary forces. More than 15,000 people have been injured by armed firing and in pellet firing and shelling, of which around 7,000 are cases of severe injury. A majority of those who have been killed are young and many are minors. This information has been documented by the media. Over the nine days, we visited the districts of Anantnag, Bandipora, Baramulla, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Kupwara, Pulwama, Shopian and Srinagar. We met with families of...

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A Day in the #Cashless City of Delhi

We have been advised to shift to plastic money and digital wallets- well actually, one particular brand of it- by the head of the Central government. So I decide to do a reality check of some places, which can be considered as its fancy houses. I first go to Mandi House, to a state supported cultural institutions’ library. I have to pay a fine, so I ask the librarian ,” Shall I pay by card?” he looks up and laughs. “Pay by cash please.” He can’t stop smiling. I then go to a shop run by another government art institution, and want to purchase a few items. “Shall I pay by a digital wallet please.”The store keeper looks up and frowns. “No, No, No.” I persist, “Shall I pay by a card.” He replies,” We had a machine for reading cards, but it has not been working. We have applied for another one. It will come in a few months…maybe”. I go to one of the official canteens. I order tea and some snack. “You take digital money , don’t you?” The canteen boy looks irritated. “You don’t have money on you Madam?”. He has already served me. I give him the money I have, and quickly calculate how many minutes of standing in a queue Rs 25 amounts to. Well, how is it that the head of the...

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Countrywide Anger Against Anti-Poor Demonetization

CPI(ML), AISA and AICCTU are conducting a campaign against demonetization from 16 November onwards in different working class settlements of Delhi, which is due to culminate in a March to the PM’s House on 26 November to demand its rollback. Demonetisation is causing harm in tragic proportions in working class colonies. The first day of campaign was conducted in the Wazirpur industrial area in Delhi, where workers and their families living in slum clusters said that they are struggling to meet expenses of food, medical expenses, school fees, transport and other essentials ever since the demonetization move. One 70-year-old woman said that after she had waited in the queue for hours, a policeman shoved her away and told her to come another day. Another woman who had stood in the queue from 3 am onwards was told that she could not be allowed to withdraw money because they claimed she had already made a withdrawal. One worker lacked enough cash to get medicines for his wife who is a cancer patient. Several people said they are eating once a day so that they can stand in lines and not miss their chance to get their hard earned money. Children are going hungry because parents are standing in the line. Workers are being forced to convert their factory owners’ money and they just can’t refuse because otherwise they risk losing...

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Demonetization Disaster : The People Suffer, the King Enjoys

Demonetization: Claims and Facts Many tall claims have been made about the dramatic and draconian demonetization move made by the Modi government. Modi himself is trying to divert from hard questions using emotional blackmail and baseless propaganda. Here, Liberation examines these claims – alongside the actual facts. Claim: Demonetisation will hit black money Fact: K.C. Chakrabarty, former deputy governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) between June 2009 and March 2014, says, “What is black money? No notes are black. All notes are white. It is the process that creates the black money. When a person does not pay tax, it becomes black money. Here you are killing the notes and not the fellow who is not paying tax.” 90% of black money is not kept as cash, nor is it stored in sacks under beds. Rather, it is kept in the form of gold or as dollars or other foreign currency in Swiss banks or invested in real estate. Modi himself declared that 90% of the black money is in foreign countries, which he promised to bring back. Instead, he made it easier to send wealth abroad! As per the LRS (Liberalised Remittance Scheme) introduced by the Modi government, the upper limit of money that can be sent abroad has been raised to 2,50,000 dollars from 75,000 dollars! Making use of this new ‘reform’, 2,047.2 million dollars have...

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50 Years Of Naxalbari

“… Naxalbari is alive and will remain alive because this is built on the foundation of Marxism-Leninism and that of Mao. We know there are many barriers before us, many difficulties, treason, upheavals but Naxalbari shall live on. … Naxalbari is not over and will not be over. – Charu Mazumdar, 1969 (Marking the 50th anniversary year of the Naxalbari movement, the CPI(ML) Liberation held a People’s Awakening March on 19-21 November through Naxalbari, Kharibari, Phansidewa. Below is the campaign leaflet issued on the occasion, followed by a brief report of the March.) Naxalbari. A small town on the banks of the Mechi river at the eastern edge of India along the Indo-Nepal border. Birthplace of class consciousness of workers, landless peasants and tea plantation workers. Rearing ground for the collective struggle of people of this area against exploitation and oppression. Naxalbari is the name of the politics of struggle that rejected the parliamentary Left path and showed a revolutionary path. On the foothills of the Himalayas is this Terai region. Most people are peasants. But in the books of the local landlords, large farmers, and moneylenders, these people were bonded labour tied to them over generations. Despite this, these people started organising themselves since before India’s independence. During the Tebhaga movement they demanded two-thirds of the produce of the land they tilled. The united call of the peasantry...

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November Revolution Centenary: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

A silent revolution in the realm of philosophy and politics took place in 1845 when the young Karl Heinrich Marx concluded his Thesis on Feuerbach with the assertion “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” The most advanced class, the modern proletariat, set the ball rolling in real life from Paris. The first proletarian state came up there in 1871. That was, of course, a violent revolution which went down in blood in a little over two months. But, as Marx commented, “a new point of departure of worldwide importance has been gained.” From that point, the next series of offensives were made in Russia – a country with very acute social, political, national and other contradictions and a rich revolutionary heritage — in quick succession: the ‘failed’ revolution of 1905, the February Revolution in 1917, and finally the November Revolution (NR) in the same year. Between them, the first acted as a dress rehearsal that gave the historical actors an opportunity to soberly assess their flaws and fine points; the second, by sweeping away the Czar, cleared the ground for an open, direct and decisive battle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat for control over state power; the third saw the proletariat in league with peasants and soldiers seizing power and founding the Soviet Socialist Republic. Uninterrupted Revolution...

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Delhi Pollution Needs Political Will Not Piecemeal Responses

Once again, Delhi is almost choking. The 20 million residents of Delhi are suffering from persistent coughs, burning eyes, itchy throats, asthma and bronchitis. And yes, this is simply because they have the temerity to dare breathe the air. As the pollution reached truly hazardous levels, Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal pointed out that Delhi now resembled a gas chamber. What we are witnessing is quite simply a violation of basic rights, a denial of the right to breathe air without dying. No numbers – details of escalating PM2.5, PM10 levels, increasing nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide – are needed to convince us that we indeed have a huge problem on our hands. The mere experience of being out for some hours brings home the toxic truth. As usual, the powers-that-be have resorted to immediate knee-jerk measures as a response. 1800 schools across Delhi were closed down for some days. All construction activity in Delhi was banned for five days. A 700-megawatt coal-based power plant was shut down. These measures, typically short-term in nature, actually fail to take cognizance of the nature of pollution in Delhi. They fail, in other words, to look at long-term trends in pollution, and consequently at long-term solutions. What is needed right now is political will to implement long-term solutions. It is precisely this will that is missing. Let us try and understand pollution...

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Say a Firm and Loud NO to ‘Encounter Raj’

In Gujarat, Narendra Modi had consolidated his rule first by giving a free hand to the Sangh brigade to carry out the infamous Gujarat genocide and then by manipulating the state machinery to engineer a string of extra-judicial killings. And to legitimize this total subversion of the tenets of rule of law he used to invoke the tested and trusted rhetoric of aggressive provincial chauvinism (Gujarat Gaurav) and anti-Pakistan jingoism (his election speeches often used to target Miyan Musharraf). Halfway through his first term Modi seems to be repeating the same trusted tactic on a countrywide scale. The Gujarat model is now truly being sought to be replicated aggressively across the country. Let us take the case of the Bhopal encounter. On 31st October we all woke up to the news of a daring jailbreak by 8 undertrial prisoners belonging to the SIMI from the high security Bhopal central jail. We were told that the prisoners had made good their escape by slitting the throat of constable Ramashankar Yadav. Within a few hours television channels broke the news of all those eight undertrials having been killed by the MP Police in an ‘encounter’. While for large sections of the media the encounter became a cause for celebration of a ‘quick and smart retribution’ by the police forces, it soon became clear that the versions put out by different responsible...

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‘Not Notes, Change the Regime’

Two weeks have elapsed since the dramatic announcement of demonetization of 500 and 1000-rupee notes. In one fell swoop, the government has withdrawn more than 80 percent of the total value of the currency in circulation in the country. While the withdrawal has thus been massive and immediate, the transfusion of new notes has been painfully slow. Only about 10 percent of the value has since been replaced in the first ten days, and that too largely in the form of notes of 2000 rupees. The result has been a traumatic cash crunch, a massive disruption in the economy and incalculable hardship for the common people – in short, an unmitigated man-made disaster. On top of it, we have already experienced the shocking reality of dozens of demonetization deaths – people collapsing in queues, succumbing to stress and dying for sheer lack of timely medical care because of the cash crunch. The government defends demonetization as a decisive blow to corruption, a so-called surgical strike on black money. Now, it is well known that only a small fraction of unaccounted-for income and wealth, which is popularly known as black money, is temporarily held in cash. How much of this cash hoard will indeed be flushed out is anybody’s guess. Certainly it is not the corrupt hoarders of black money who are queuing up outside banks and ATMs. On the...

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