In less than two weeks after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States, the American political scene is in complete upheaval.
While Trump is rapidly and dangerously changing policy and the focus of the Presidency, there have been protests across the United States and the political establishment has become sharply polarized. While nearly 60 democrats boycotted Trump’s inaugural, the man watched apprehensively by the whole world gave a disturbing inaugural address along now familiar lines that the new presidency was all about jobs, infrastructure, big industry, and wiping out the ISIS from the face of the earth, and the subtext, in its absences, told of how civil and human rights were to be nowhere on the agenda.
The day after the address saw the biggest ever wave of protests across cities and towns in the US since anti-war protests after Vietnam, and in Washington, certainly more than twice as many people protested at the Mall than were present at the inaugural address. This was the Women’s March on Washington. Over a million women, men, and children marched in the city to protest against Trump’s brazen misogyny, and for a reaffirmation of women’s rights. Millions others joined the Women’s March in cities across the US.
In a week since taking office, Trump has rolled back many of the policy and trade measures taken by the Obama administration. He has also signed extremely damaging executive orders banning funding to groups and organizations that facilitate abortion, provide information about it, or lobby for legalization. In keeping with his climate change denial he has given the green signal, via executive order, to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, both of which had been stayed by the Obama administration following prolonged protests by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe from the region, environmental activists and citizens. He also wants to build a wall to stop immigrants from Mexico crossing the border into the US, as a result of which the Mexican president Peña Nieto has cancelled his visit to Washington.
The most damaging executive order yet was signed by Trump on day 8. Again, via executive order, he has banned citizens of seven Muslim majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia) from entry into the US, thus effectively blocking the entry of refugees from these war torn regions where US military intervention has historically been at the core of resulting conflicts. This has led to the detention of people with valid travel documents provided by US agencies at airports across the country, as also at other major airports in the world there were reports of holders of valid travel documents being barred from boarding flights. This led also to massive protests by civil rights groups, citizens, who were joined in solidarity by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. All protests were joined by prominent citizens, as well as Congresspersons.
This last executive order created ripples across the world, and also in the American political fabric, quite apart from criticism from other heads of state. As Democrat senators and other associates joined the protests, the judiciary stepped in with swift hearings and issued orders blocking parts of this ridiculous ban, empowering federal marshals to ensure that border officials comply with the order. This latter move resonated with other federal judges who issued similar orders, raising questions about the legality and constitutional validity of the ban. On the ground, citizens are enjoining and pressurizing their representatives in Congress to take a very clear stand on these issues. It is becoming clear that Democrat leaders are being called upon to go several steps further than joining protests, and making their stand known where it matters. There are vociferous demands that they stop cooperating against the Trump administration, and block the vote against the confirmation of a number of key cabinet appointees who subscribe to Trump’s misogyny, racism, xenophobia, class bias, climate denial, retreat of the state in ensuring people’s rights, and absolutely every other progressive human principle.
The protests, with massive and unprecedented participation by ordinary working people, compelling elected representatives to take a stand, swift and sound judicial intervention, as well as a sharpening discourse on the rights of refugees, the role of immigrant populations in the working fabric of a society, the role of the state in ensuring rights, and a keener public understanding on the borderless nature of capital are extremely heartening even in the face of fear that has ripped through the world with Trump’s election. It does seem that ultimately those who stand by progressive values, even in supporting particular aspects of a politics based on identity, are coming together forming a massive wall with writing in clear bold letters saying in unequivocal terms that an ever growing majority of the American people are not going to stand by while a right wing government tears through the fabric of society.
The emerging Trump doctrine has major implications for us in India. The RSS, which since its inception has a history of being mesmerised by fascist ideas and projects, has predictably found a new icon in Trump. Successive Indian governments have been following an increasingly pro-US line, and the convergence which began with the adoption of the policies of liberalization, privatization and globalization by the Indian ruling classes and went on to acquire growing military-strategic dimensions in the wake of 9/11 and Indo-US nuclear deal, now threatens to reach a new alarming level on the basis of shared Islamophobia and clamour for ‘containment of China’. The worldwide protests against Trump policies provide an encouraging environment for the Indian people to challenge and defeat the collusive convergence between the fascistic Trump doctrine and the despotic Modi dispensation.
Memorial meetings to pay tribute to Dika Kumari and Rohith Vemula were organized across Bihar jointly by the CPI (ML), AIPWA, AISA, and RYA on 26 January, Republic Day. The meeting in capital Patna was held at Ambedkar Park, Lohanipur. Children were present in large numbers. The speakers included Com. Brij Bihari Pandey and other leaders from CPI (ML), AIPWA and AISA. The speakers recalled the true spirit of the Republic and the Constitution that the ‘Republic Day parades’ had forgotten, and said that this spirit was being attacked by the increased assaults on minorities, dalits, women and civil liberties. Rohith Vemula and Dika Kumari were killed because they were fighting for dignity, equality and their rights. Republic Day must be a day of resolve to intensify the struggle to defend and expand our democracy.
A memorial meeting was also held at Musahari in Lohanipur. Memorial meetings-Sankalp Sabhas were also held at Beur, Kankadbagh, Budhmurti and other places in Patna City. AISA organized a memorial meeting at the Patna University gate. AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari visited Dika Kumari’s villge Fatehpur and paid tribute to Dika and Rohith Vemula.
Memorial meetings were also held in Bhojpur, Kaimur, Arwal, Jehanabad, Aurangabad, Siwan and other districts. In Patna Rural, meetings were held at Paliganj, Masaurhi, Fatuha, Naubatpur and other places. A meeting of 184 students was organized by RYA at the Ambedkar Hostel No. 2 in Bhabhua, Kaimur district. Meetings to pay tribute to Dika and Rohith were also held at Silav and Rajgir villages in Nalanda. AISA organized a memorial meeting at the Samastipur SC/ST hostel. Memorial meetings-Sankalp Sabhas were also organized at Nawada, Chandwa and Anaith in Bhojpur.
On 27 January, students from JNU, DU and Jamia Millia Islamia under the banner of AISA and AIPWA held a protest at Bihar Bhavan in Chanakyapuri against the brutal rape and murder of Dika Kumari, a 16 year Dalit student in Hajipur, Bihar. The protestors were also joined by AIPWA National Secretary and CPI ()ML Polit Bureau member Kavita Krishnan. The rape and murder of Dika Kumari took place on the night of 7th January at the Ambedkar Hostel where she was staying. The Bihar police have registered an FIR but have not applied any charge of sexual violence and POCSO as Dika was a minor. The protestors were also demanding that the main accused who Mithilesh Singh be immediately arrested and a high level enquiry be instituted which will investigate as to why no heed was paid to earlier complaints of sexual harassments by Dika. AISA National President Sucheta De, former JNUSU GS Rama Naga, as well as students from various other organsiations including Pinjra Tod, Collective, and BASO also joined the protest and addressed the protesters.
The BJP government led by Raghuvar Das in Jharkhand has unleashed several policies to grab land, water, and forests of Jharkhand to hand over to corporate companies. These include amendments in the CNT-SPT Act, implementation of faulty domicile policy, and also using the excuse of “wrong land records” to snatch away raiyot land given to the poor under ‘bandobasti’ (settlement of village revenue records) and registered in Register 2.
In Garwa district a new method for land loot is being employed. A 1980 survey conducted in undivided Bihar in 1980, which is 95% faulty and not recognized by the present Bihar government, is being implemented online by the Ranka and Nagar Uttari blocks in Garwa district. This survey is controversial even as per the 1932 khatiyan and cancels the registry of “bandobasti” land given legal status in Register 2. There is a provision for Section 87 to settle land disputes and Section 90 giving raiyots the right to appeal, but the survey has been put online without using these sections. Moreover, this survey has been put online only in the Ranka and Nagar Uttari blocks, whereas Register 2 has been put online in Garwa block. Thus the farmers’ land has been made ‘disputed’ to the maximum, facilitating the handing over of these lands to corporate companies. On 21 January 2017 farmers of Nagar Uttari took out a protest march at the Bhadariya zonal office under the leadership of the CPI (ML) Garwa district committee to protest against this move, led by Chhotelal Toppo, Gopal Bhuian, Prashant Toppo, Sushma Mehta, Kameshwar, Vishwakarma and Ramchandra Oraon. Earlier on 9 January 2000 farmers had protested at the Ranka block office. On 24 January protests were held at the Garwa district HQ. The Jharkhand Gramin Mazdoor sabha and Kisan Sabha also joined in the protests with their banners and flags. A 10 point charter of demands with the following demands was sent to the Governor through the DM:
The above agitation in Garwa district has had a positive impact. These struggles are being much discussed in political circles. The administration is also under pressure from the 2000-strong farmers’ protest at the Garwa district HQ. The struggle is on and will be continued further.
CPI (ML) organized a campaign in Mumbai to gather people’s opinion on demonetization. This survey was conducted in Mira Road, Matunga, workers’ colonies in Grant Road, Sandhurst Road and a slum area in Vile Parle. The question asked in this campaign was ‘Do you think that due to demonetization, common people suffered more than those with black money?’ 78% said that common people suffered more than those with black money. 19% said they didn’t suffer, or if they did, it was necessary in the interest of the country. 3% people weren’t sure about what to say.
The 78% people, who said that common working people suffered more than those who have black money, were mostly working people.
19% said that common people didn’t suffer due to demonetization and even if they did, it was in the interest of the country. In order to support their statement they mentioned that several people had to throw bags full of money. They’d watched that on TV. When asked how much black money was recovered so far, they said that it didn’t matter. At least, some black money was recovered. When told that 97% of the money was already deposited by 30th December and NRIs still have to deposit their money, in this situation how much black money they think can be recovered, they insisted that the data we presented to them wasn’t correct and a lot of black money was recovered. Most of the people, who argued in favour of demonetization were college students.
3% people claimed that they couldn’t say anything in this regard. Most of these people were either students or housewives. Most of the housewives were hesitant to share their opinion. But at some places, like Mira Road, women openly voted against demonetization.
This campaign was concluded by organizing a discussion on demonetization on 28th January. A report of the campaign and observations were present at the program. The act of demonetization was connected with institutional murder and institutional oppression and Rohith Vemula, Deeka Kumari from Bihar and Najeeb were also remembered. After this, Comrade Ajit Patil spoke about demonetization, followed by a question answer session. The program was concluded by a play named ‘Honge Hum Azad Ek Din’ directed by R S Vikal.
A Sangharsh March was organized at Karnal on 28 January 2017 as part of the Pol Khol Halla Bol campaign. The march started from Mahatma Gandhi Chowk and culminated in a meeting at the Secretariat gates, after which the PM’s effigy was burnt. Addressing the meeting, Haryana Party in-charge and Kisan Sabha Vice President Prem Singh Gehlawat said that PM Modi’s note ban decision has pushed the common people into great distress. Production and livelihoods have been direly affected and the economy is in tatters. Farmers and workers are reeling under distress while black money hoarders have been given scope for converting their black money into white at 50%. The BJP and its cohorts are enjoying lavish weddings and huge land purchases. Through the Sankalp March, the CPI(ML) makes the following demands:
(1) Pay Rs 1 lakh to citizens as compensation for the loss caused by the note ban. (2) Guarantee free food grains and free medical treatment in hospitals. (3) Waive all loans of farmers and school/college fees of students. (4) Make public the names of bank defaulters and black money hoarders in foregn banks. (5) Make it mandatory for all political parties to disclose all sources of their income. (6) Why has not the Modi government appointed a Lokpal yet? A Lokpal should be appointed without further delay.
Left and Democratic Parties in Assam organised a Joint Convention on 18th January at Rabindra Bhawan, Guwahati against forcible eviction of people and issues with the process of registering Assam’s people under the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Left and Democratic Manch (LDM) comprising of eleven left and democratic parties – CPI(ML), CPI, CPI(M), RCPI, AIFB, JD(S), Liberal Democratic Party, AAP, NCP, Asom Samgrami Manch and RSP, has been jointly fighting against anti-people policies and steps of BJP Government in Assam. It has taken up a series of movements – against privatization of oil fields, against forcible and communally motivated eviction and against communally motivated proposals to amend the Citizenship Amendment Bill in a way which would undermine the Assam Accord.
The Sarbananda Sonowal led BJP Government in connivance with the Sangh Parivar in Assam is conducting an eviction drive on communal lines, spreading rumours that the evicted people are suspected Bangladeshis and therefore to be evicted immediately. People were evicted in different places like Kaziranga, Mayeng and Sipajhar and even in the state capital Guwahati. Most of these people are Muslims, and have already suffered displacement due to flood and erosion. The Government has not offered any compensation and rehabilitation t the evicted people.
The BJP government is trying to set up a ‘land bank’ and grab land to allot to the corporate houses and big business. In Chirang district of BTAD area 3800 bighas, 45 bighas of land in Mirza, nearing Guwahati, 250 bighas of land in Balipara of Sonitpur district have already been grabbed and allotted to the Patanjali corporation of Baba Ramdev and the process is on to further allot 2100 bighas of land on the Assam-Arunachal border. This has spelled eviction for many as well as environmental destruction.
A presidium comprising of representatives from all 11 parties – including Comrade Subhas Sen from CPI(ML) – conducted the convention. Assam State Secretary of the CPI(ML) Comrade Rubul Sarma addressed the Convention along with leaders of all other Left parties. Eminent intellectual Dr. Hiren Gohain, former Principal of Cotton College Prof. Udyaditya Bharali, leftist writer Abani Barthakur, former principal of B Baruah College Dr. Dinesh Baishya also addressed the Convention, and expressed solidarity with the movements against the communally motivated evictions.
People evicted from Kaziranga and Sipajhar attended the convention and shared their experience. Kasem Ali from Kaziranga spoke about how eviction was accomplished by massive police force and police firing that killed two people on 29th September 2016. The Administration promised to ensure rehabilitation and compensation within 40 days, but till date, neither compensation nor rehabilitation has been done. Saddam Husain from Sipajhar, said that evicted people are living under tents by the riverside in these cold winter days, suffering diseases. One newborn baby girl died soon after her birth. Describing the eviction move, he said that the district administration issued eviction notices in the evening and started the devastating eviction the following morning. It was totally inhumane as they gave no any chance of any alternative arrangement.
The convention demanded an immediate stop to the eviction drive and resolved to build up a movement against the inhumane eviction of poor and landless people particularly those from the Muslim community. The convention vehemently condemned the allotment of thousands of bighas of land to the corporate houses and organizations like Patanjali. The convention demanded immediate compensation and rehabilitation for the evicted people of Kaziranga, Sipajhar and Mayeng. The convention demanded an immediate survey of land and adoption of a land policy in the interests of the poor and landless people of the state. The Convention also demanded a White Paper on land occupied by political leaders, tea planters, bureaucrats, big businessmen, as a step towards distributing such land amongst landless poor people.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is in the process of being upgraded in keeping with the March 24, 1971 deadline fixed by the Assam Accord – those who cannot prove their presence in Assam prior to this deadline would be considered illegal immigrants and deported. But the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 drafted by the Modi Government proposes to give citizenship to non-Muslim migrants/refugees from neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The BJP Government of Assam seems to be delaying the upgrading of the NRC till the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 so that Hindu migrants from Bangladesh are included in the register.
The Left parties have made it clear that they are not opposed to giving citizenship to refugees – the issue is why India should discriminate between refugees on grounds of religion; why Indian citizenship should be offered on grounds of religion; and why Assam should bear a disproportionate share of responsibility for hosting refugees.
The Convention demanded that the Government waste no time in publishing the draft NRC before 31st March 2017, and opposed all sorts of political intervention in NRC process. The Convention strongly demanded immediate withdrawal of Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016. After the Convention a protest procession was held in the Dighalipukhuri area.
The CPI (ML) units of Patna district and Patna city jointly held a convention for party workers at the IMA Hall on 20 January 2017. Speaking at the convention Party General Secretary Com Dipankar Bhattacharya said that the poor of Bihar and of the entire country are bearing the brunt of the Modi government’s note ban on the one hand and the Nitish government’s liquor ban on the other. The Bihar government which makes tall claims about social justice is silent on three basic issues: education, employment, and land reform. On the contrary, those who are fighting for these rights are being attacked and killed. In recent days Bihar has witnessed a deluge of attacks on dalits, poor, women and minorities, of which the murders of Comrades Satyanarayan Yadav and Kamleshwar Rishidev who were fighting for land rights, and the gang and rape and brutal murder of Dika Kumari are only two instances. The Nitish government is silent on these serious issues but is today making a human chain to for the liquor ban which has become their single point agenda.
Com Dipankar said that the Party would undertake an agitation across Bihar for true social justice. This would begin on 26 January. After the flag hoisting, memorial meetings would be held for all our martyred comrades and for mahadalit student victim Dika Kumari in every village and tola to fight for the rights of the people. The Adhikar Yatra (Rights Yatra) will start on 11 February from Beguserai district and will proceed through Bhagalpur, Seemanchal and other places to culminate in Patna on 17 February. The Yatra and the subsequent rally on 19 February would appeal to the people of UP to give a sound drubbing to the anti-democratic and anti-people BJP, as the people of Bihar had done during the Bihar Assembly elections.
The convention was also addressed by State Secretary Com. Kunal, CPI (ML) leader in the Legislature Com. Mahboob Alam, CC member Com. Shashi Yadav, RYA State Secretary Com. Navin Kumar, AICCTU State Secretary Com. Ranvijay Kumar, and others.
More than one thousand people participated in a people’s awareness rally at the Markachho block headquarters in Koderma district on 22 January 2017 to mark the 13th anniversary of the Markachho firing in 2003 during which Mahesh Singh, Ashok Yadav, and Ratan Baranwal were martyred. The wives, children and families of the martyrs also participated in the rally which culminated in a meeting at the Shaheed maidan.
District Secretary Com. Mohan Dutta and other leaders addressed the meeting. They said that from its inception, the aim was to make Jharkhand a police state and a happy hunting ground for corporate companies; the Tapkara, Doranda and Semri-Banjari firing incidents were initial efforts to this end. During that period, Com Mahendra Singh had ignited a flame against the government’s pro-corporate policies. In order to brand the CPI (ML) as militant and to kill Com Rajkumar Yadav, the police used the false excuse of Maoism to fire from the roof of the Markachho thana, killing 3 brave party members who came to the rescue of Com Rajkumar Yadav. There was a state-wide agitation against this firing and finally the BJP government had to back down and announce a compensation of 2 lakhs to the families of the martyrs.
Com Vinod Singh said that the Modi-Raghuvar governments take away the people’s livelihoods, cash, and land and then resort to firing (as in Badkagaon and Gola) when the prople protest. Goons and criminals like BJP MLA Dhullu Mahto go scot free while ML leaders like BN Singh are jailed on false charges. CPI (ML) MLA Rajkumar Yadav said that the note ban has put the people in great distress; farmers are forced to sell their paddy at throwaway prices as the government is not purchasing it at the declared price of Rs 1600 per quintal. MNREGA funds are being looted. Amendments to the CNT-SPT Act have been passed by-passing all democratic institutions. The speakers said that we must continue and strengthen the agitation for justice to the martyrs, arrest of their killers, and against the government’s anti-people policies.
CPI (ML) senior leader and Udaipur district committee member Com Chatra Bhai, aged 65, passed away on 26 December 2016. He was consistently engaged in struggles on workers’ issues, farmers and adivasis in the Sarada region. From a young age he had been at the forefront of workers’ struggles in Jawar Mines (Sarada). He played an important role in agitations on the issues of irrigation, NREGA work and wages, drinking water, education and teachers’ issues, forest land pattas, and other issues.
A condolence meeting was held at his home in Sarada, Udaipur, attended by people from Devpura village and district Party workers. Speakers at the condolence meeting remembered his long struggles and victories on people’s issues and farmers’ rights. State Committee member Shankar Lal Choudhury said that Com Chatra was a selfless warrior who fought for the rights of the poor; we shall keep alive the fight to fulfill his dreams. A 2 minute silence was observed to pay tribute to Com. Chatra.