IN THE ONGOING ASSEMBLY ELECTION CAMPAIGN in various states, most notably the state of Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has once again unleashed a communal campaign aimed at consolidating Hindu voters against the imaginary Muslim enemy.
The BJP Manifesto for Uttar Pradesh promises to set up ‘anti-Romeo quads’ outside college campuses. While the BJP President Amit Shah claims these are aimed at curbing incidents of sexual harassment of women students, the BJP’s national co-convenor Sunil Bharala has made the communal and anti-women agenda of ‘anti-Romeo squads’ amply clear. Bharala declared that the squads are aimed at acting against Muslim men involved in “love jehad” – the BJP’s term for consensual relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women.
This is not the first time the BJP has invoked the bogey of “love jehad” in an election campaign. Bharala also recalled that danger of “love jehad” was the rallying cry for the communal violence of Muzaffarnagar in 2013 that had helped Modi win the 2014 polls. During the 2014 poll campaign, BJP President Amit Shah had invoked the Muzaffarnagar communal violence to ask the Jat community to vote BJP, saying “people are forced to riot” when “a community violates the honour of our daughters and sisters.” A recently leaked audio clip also revealed Amit Shah appealing to the Jat community not to desert the BJP in 2017, reminding them that their proximity to “BJP ideology” goes back several centuries, “farther back than riots.” Shah, in this appeal, reminded the Jats that Sanjeey Balyan (Modi Cabinet Minister accused in Muzaffarnagar riots) had “aged 7 years in the past 2 years helping to free riot-accused (Jat) boys.” In flagrant violation of EC rules against communal and casteist campaigns, the BJP is invoking imaginary rapes and real anti-Muslim riots to appeal to Jats and Hindus to vote for the BJP.
The BJP’s star campaigner in UP Yogi Adityanath has also repeatedly invoked the “dangers of love jehad” and campaigned for “anti-Romeo squads.” It may be remembered that the same Adityanath was among the BJP MPs who, in 2010, publicly declared their defiance against the party whip issued to vote for the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament. Adityanath’s attitude sums up the BJP’s ideology towards women: their posture of ‘protection’ only masks their hostility to women’s own autonomy and assertion.
Along with “love jehad”, Adityanath is leading BJP’s UP campaign with another mythical bogey: that of the “exodus of Hindus from Kairana.” Adityanath has compared Kairana in Western UP to Kashmir in 1990, claiming that Hindus are being forced to flee – in spite of the fact that Hindu residents of Kairana have declared such claims of a communal exodus to be bogus. Adityanath claims that Eastern UP is free from such eviction of Hindus and crimes against Hindu women, because of the countervailing presence of his own vigilante Hindutva brigade.
The BJP Manifesto and campaign in UP also promises to abolish the practice of triple talaq – declaration of divorce in one sitting – prevalent among Muslims. A whole gamut of personal laws – including but not confined to Muslim personal laws – require reform to ensure gender justice. By focusing on triple talaq alone, the BJP projects the Muslim community as uniquely opposed to gender justice and progress. The BJP Manifesto’s promises of ‘anti-Romeo squads’ (with the undertone of protecting Hindu women from Muslim men) and ‘abolition of triple talaq’ (to protect Muslim women from Muslim men) offers a platform for anti-Muslim consolidation in a progressive and pro-women guise.
Modi, addressing election rallies, taunted the former PM Manmohan Singh for his ability to ‘wear a raincoat while taking a shower’ – i.e maintain a clean image while being surrounded by scams. The metaphor applies much more aptly to Modi himself. Manmohan Singh could project an appearance for personal honesty in spite of his Government’s involvement in rampant scams and crony capitalism, but he and his Government did face the brunt of public anger for the same. Modi both as CM of Gujarat and as PM of the country has managed to evade scrutiny and accountability not only for cold-blooded encounter killings on his watch, but also for violations of civil liberties and witch-hunt of activists as well as for a series of scams and instances of crony capitalism benefiting corporations like Adani, the Ambani brothers, Raheja, Mallya and Lalit Modi.
Modi has mastered the art of wearing a raincoat not only in a scam-shower but in a bloodbath. His lieutenants are openly using communal mud and blood to tarnish the poll climate – even as Modi himself cloaks himself in the raincoat of ‘development.’ In fact, Modi, Amit Shah and the BJP hope that the communal hate-mongering will be able to deflect from widespread public resentment against the Note Ban diktat. The ongoing Assembly polls are an occasion to administer a firm rebuff to the communal propaganda of the BJP and assert the democratic concerns of the people.
It has been a year since the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula and the offensive against Jawaharlal Nehru University, both sponsored by the Modi Government in collusion with ABVP and the respective administrations of HCU and JNU.
In the year that has passed, the offensive on university campuses has only intensified. A research student Najeeb Ahmad disappeared from the JNU campus after being publicly thrashed by members of the ABVP. JNU faculty members have faced threats of action for speaking in solidarity with students. A series of student activists have faced various kinds of disciplinary action for expressing peaceful dissent against the Modi Government and the Sangh Parivar, even as ABVP members who beat up Najeeb have been shielded.
In the latest move the JNU Vice Chancellor has declared the virtual indefinite closure of annual admissions to MPhil/PhD programmes in JNU, on the pretext that the student-supervisor ratio in these programmes exceeds the ideal ratio suggested in a UGC notification. Even as JNU wins the Visitor’s Award for the country’s best Central University, the JNU Vice Chancellor acting on behalf of his bosses in the Modi Government and Sangh Parivar, is out to destroy the research programmes and inclusive admission policy which are the basis of JNU’s track record of excellence.
Meanwhile, even as those responsible for the institutional killing of Rohith go scot free, the Guntur Collector has declared that Rohith was not a Dalit and demanded that his mother submit proof of her Dalit identity. This is a cruel joke in more ways than one. Radhika Vemula’s adoptive mother had, before her death, already given public testimonies that Radhika was from the SC community, and had been adopted and then married into the OBC community, only to be deserted by her husband when he came to know of her Dalit birth. The Guntur Collector, by accusing Radhika Vemula and her dead son Rohith of faking their Dalit identity, is dancing to the victim-blaming tune of the Sangh Parivar.
The powerful movements that arose all over the country demanding justice for Rohith and in solidarity with JNU continue to inspire hope. The renewed attacks on these movements are only a confirmation of how their existence and vigour threaten the Modi Government. The CPI(ML) stands in solidarity with these movements.
Towards the Adhikar Rally on 19 February called by the CPI (ML) Bihar State unit, Adhikar Yatras are being organized across Bihar between 11 and 17 February. The Yatra includes street meetings, marches, and village meetings to disseminate the Rally’s slogans and agenda. The main Yatra started from Beguserai on 11 February led by Party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, Dhirendra Jha, Rameshwar Prasad, Prabhat Kumar Choudhury, Shiv Prakash Ranjan (AISA), Suraj Kumar Singh (Insaf Manch) and other leaders. Hirawal convener Santosh Jha and people’s poet Nirmohi Ji are also participating in the Yatra.
The Yatra began at Beguserai where 5 Left leaders including three from the CPI (ML) were killed by feudal criminals. Addressing the public meeting at Begusarai on 11 February, Comrade Dipankar spoke about the havoc wreaked by the Note Ban on the poor and working class across the country, who have lost their livelihoods and jobs. At the same time, he said, Bihar is daily witnessing incidents of social oppression even as the Modi and Nitish governments are singing a duet praising each other’s Note Ban and Liquor Ban. Mahadalits and minorities are being targeted; mahadalits are being evicted from their lands, but the Chief Minister pretends to be unaware and the Opposition BJP is lending implicit support within the Assembly. In these circumstances it is the CPI (ML) which will play the role of a strong and meaningful Opposition.
The Yatra then proceeded to Baliya where Comrades Dipankar and Meena Tiwari addressed the meeting; from Balliya it went on to Khagariya where AIARLA President Comrade Rameshwar Prasad addressed the meeting. On 12 February the Yatra reached Bhagalpur where the speakers demanded punishment for the perpetrators of the Arariya killings, the Bhagalpur lathi-charge, the Hajipur gang rape and murder of Dika Kumari, the brutal rape of a minor girl of a minority community in Govindpur, and the burning of a basti in Teentenga in Rangra block. Tributes were paid to Bhagat Singh at Tilaka Manjhi Chowk.
The Yatra then proceeded to Naugachhiya where meetings were organized at Tetri Jiromail and Rangra chowk. Next, the Yatra reached Katihar where a large meeting was organized at Kursela attended by dalits, poor, and adivasis in large numbers and addressed by Com Mahboob Alam. A Sabha at Manihari was attended by adivasis with their traditional weapons. A Press Conference was also held at Katihar.
The Yatra reached Purnea on 13 February and paid tribute at the statue of Com Ajit Sarkar and then proceeded to Arariya district, receiving a huge welcome in Arariya town. Jan Sabhas (meetings) were organized at Bhajanpur, Forbesganj, Rahariya, Pethiya and other villages. Martyr Com Kamleshwari Rishidev’s wife Rekha addressed the Rahariya meeting and said that by murdering our comrades our voices cannot be silenced. Party leaders met the family members of Com Satyanarayan Singh Yadav in Pethiya. Com Dipankar said that the Nitish government’s claims of social justice were false and hollow; otherwise why have they not arrested the culprits of the Rahariya killings? Adivasi Raju Hansda was beaten to death in the Kishangarh thana; a dalit girl was raped and murdered in Eastern Champaran; Ram Pravesh Ram and Garho Paswan, fighting for ceiling land rights in Beguserai, were killed by goons associated with the JD (U); but none of these killers have been arrested yet. In the last 5 years dozens of poor and mahadalits have been killed in Bihar, but the government is not acting against them. The truth is that the claims of social justice are only a pretense; the reality is the reverse.
After Arariya the Yatra proceeded from Triveniganj and Madhepura (Supoul) and reached Saharsa where they were received by Party leaders and a large number of people. A march was taken out from Thana Chowk to Kahra Kuti. A meeting was organized at Purikh where dominant forces had recently killed two mahadalits. The meeting was addressed by the wives of martyred comrades Vakil Ram and Chano Ram and their injured brother and nephew, AISA leader Comrade Shivprakash and others, all of whom stressed the need to fight for justice.
On the fifth day the Adhikar Yatra visited the ongoing agitation against the disastrous Baghmati project at Benibad, Muzaffarpur. The hunger fast of the protesters was withdrawn on that day – the 9th day of the indefinite fast – following an administrative assurance to stop construction work on the project. The Adhikar Yatra then held meetings at Tikapatti, Dekuli and Supaul Bazaar in Darbhanga where people are fighting to defend their land and shelter rights.
On the 6th day the Adhikar Yatra reached Dika Kumari’s village Fetehpur Kasturi in Muzaffarpur, where a large gathering of villagers including Dika’s mother Kusmi Devi welcomed the Yatra, and Aftab Alam of Insaf Manch as well as CPI(ML) leaders addressed a public meeting.
The Yatra will arrive in the Bihar capital Patna on 17 February where a massive public meeting will be held at Kankarbag Tempo Stand, after which the Yatra will end with garlanding of statues of Dr Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh.
The Awami Insaf Manch, Jharkhand organized an Insaf Convention on 30 January 2017 (Gandhiji’s martyrdom day)in Ranchi as an initiative for justice in the cases of atrocities on the minorities, adivasis, and dalits in the State. The Convention was attended by family members of the victims of injustice and more than 300 delegates from various districts of the State including activists from people’s organizations and people from socio-political walks of life.
The convention began with tributes to Gandhiji and the victims of injustice and atrocities, after which senior journalist Javed Islam presented the keynote address in which questioned the Modi and Raghuvar governments for condoning incidents of communal violence and not acting against the culprits; he pointed out incidents such as the hanging of 2 innocent people including a 12 year old boy by so-called “gau-rakshaks” in Latehar, the beating to death of Minhaj Ansari and dalit Rupesh Swansi in Jamatada and Bundu police thanas, and other instances of atrocities on minorities and dalits.
Addressing the convention Party General Secretary Com Dipankar Bhattacharya said that the challenge facing us today are not just isolated incidents; it is the pervasive atmosphere of hate and communalism being nurtured in the entire country. Our challenge is to unite and struggle to change this atmosphere of hate. This atmosphere is not confined to our country alone. The Trump phenomenon is in evidence in America. But the American media and judiciary are raising their voice there. In India, the people must stand and raise their voice without depending upon the media or government machinery. Our constitutional values like democracy and secularism are being attacked, and we must defend them to the hilt.
Com Dipankar said that atrocities have been committed in Jharkhand ever since its inception. From the Koyalkaro and Doranda firings to the anti-people amendments to the CNT-SPT Act and the Balumath and Jamatanda atrocities, the BJP governments have consistently brutalized the minorities, dalits, adivasis and poor of Jharkhand. As we are fighting in Bihar against injustice, so we shall fight in Jharkhand and gain a victory against injustice.
The convention was also addressed by JNUSU Joint Secretary Mohd Tabrez, who spoke about the movement for Justice for Najeeb and Justice for Rohith Vemula; adivasi movement leader and AIPF Campaign Committee member Dayamani Barla; as well as CPI(ML) MLA Rajkumar Yadav, Marxist Coordination Centre MLA Arup Chatterjee and representatives from people’s organizations (AIPF, AISA, JSM, Aligarh University Students’ Union, United Milli Forum, Ranchi Anjuman Islamiya) , film maker Meghnath, intellectuals and social activists. A highlight of the convention was the talks by victims and family members of injustices and atrocities: Dr Intazar Ali who was framed on false charges of terrorism and acquitted after agitations by social and political people’s organizations including the AIPF and CPI (ML) was accorded honour by Com Dipankar. Dr Intazar addressed the convention, as did the elder broher of the Balumath firing victim, the parents of Jamatanda victim Minhaj Ansari and the father of Latehar police torture victim Nandini. After hearing the experiences of the victims, the convention pledged that they would fight justice was done and the guilty punished.
CPI(ML) has been leading protests across Bihar on the issue of the massive scam in the Bihar Staff Selection Commission (BSSC)’s job examinations. As a result of the protests, the Bihar government has been forced to cancel the BSSC examinations. CPI(ML) State Secretary Comrade Kunal pointed out that while this cancellation was the outcome of pressure from students’ agitations, it was necessary to ensure that the real culprits who are being shielded by the Nitish government are held accountable and punished. From the topper scam to the BSSC scam, it is evident that education and employment have been reduced to a mockery in Bihar. Students from marginalized backgrounds are the worst affected and bear the brunt of this situation. Nitish Kumar has converted the entire education system in the state into a business, and children of the poor have no place in this ‘business’. The current government which makes tall claims of social justice is actually a government of social injustice.
Comrade Kunal pointed out that there is ample reason to believe that the government is working to shield the true culprits. CPI(ML) has demand that there should be a high level judicial probe investigating the possibility of political protection in this matter. Such a scam would not be possible without political protection. CPI(ML) demanded immediate withdrawal of all false cases slapped on AISA leaders who have been protesting against the BSSC examination scam.
CPI(ML) released its election manifesto for the UP Assembly elections On 2 February 2017 in Lucknow. These elections are to be held in 7 phases from 11 February to 8 March. The 6-page manifesto states that for the first time in the State, 6 Left parties would fight the election jointly and fight for people’s issues.
The Party manifesto exposes the BJP which, realizing that its ploys such as the note ban have failed, is back to its old tricks of creating communal polarization by inciting pseudo-nationalism, spreading rumours on forced migration of Hindus from Kairana, circulating Muzaffarnagar riot CDs, and playing the Ram Mandir card. The manifesto criticized the Akhilesh government in the state and said this government has cheated farmers, youth and minorities. The shadow boxing between the SP and BJP resulted in the lynching of Akhlaq and many other atrocities on minorities, with no concrete action being taken by the state government against the culprits. The manifesto also pointed out the opportunism of the SP-Congress alliance. The manifesto exposed the hypocrisy of the BSP, whose claims to work for Dalits were only words and does not get translated into action. The BSP claims to fight against crime, but it has welcomed criminals and mafia goons into its fold and has even given them tickets to contest elections.
CPI(ML) which is fielding candidates in 32 Assembly constituencies has in its manifesto pledged to fight for the following demands on 27 peoples’ issues: compensation for the losses due to demonetization; affordable rations for all and free rations for the poor; strict action against officials responsible for starvation deaths; equal education system for all; comprehensive health facilities in rural areas; laws for employment and livelihood; state government employee status for all honorarium workers; all workers engaged in regular work to be given wages equal to those of regular workers; law for accountability to be fixed for government officials who fail to stop communal violence; law against caste discrimination and violence; strict action against those who perpetrate violence against Dalits and adivasis; protection of women’s freedom and curbs on honour killing; punishment for corrupt officials; no land acquisition without prior consent; law for protection of sharecroppers’ rights; housing and agricultural land for the landless; brain fever in Gorakhpur to be declared epidemic; drinking water arrangements for areas with shortage of water; and environment protection. The manifesto has called for the defeat of the BJP, rejection of SP and BSP, and for votes for the CPI (ML) to carry forward the struggles of the poor.
The CPI(ML) Sangharsh Yatra from Ulihatu to Ranchi culminated in a Sangharsh Sabha in front of the Raj Bhavan on 8 February 2017. Thousands of people including adivasis, Sadans (non-adivasi original Jharkhandis), and urban poor participated in the yatra, to protest against the amendments to the CNT-SPT Act and to demand ownership rights to gair-majurwa and forest lands. A 7-point charter of demands with 50,000 signatures was submitted to the Governor.
The meeting began with tributes and a 2-minute silence for late Comrade Srilata Swaminathan and the martyrs of the Bundu, Gola and Badkagaon police firings. The meeting was addressed by former Bagodar MLA Vinod Singh and other leaders. The speakers said that the BJP government in the state has perpetrated the most number of attacks on adivasis and their land – Tapkara, Koyalkara, Khunti, and Bokaro incidents being some examples. The CNT-SPT Act had come into being after long struggles such as the Santhal agitation and the Birsa Ulgulan, and protesters asserted that they would not allow the Raghuvar government to snatch away the lands, water and forests of Jharkhand and subsequently hand these over to corporate houses. The government’s ‘Global Investment Summit’ is a fresh chapter in the series of land loot, the speakers pointed out. The displaced receive police batons instead of employment and compensation. The issues of workers and farmers are absent from Raghuvar-Modi’s “achhe din”. MNREGA wages are far from the state’s minimum wages. The domicile policy of the state government is a cruel joke on unemployed locals. Scams are rife in recruitment and appointments. The Union budget proposes to give tax benefits to big companies. Those who died due to demonetization must be compensated before toll tax companies are given compensation. The government’s policies are anti-poor, as is evident from the increase in holding tax, LPG cylinder prices, electricity, water and other services. The government is snatching away peoples’ ownership rights by denying receipts to “dakhalkars” of gair-majurwa lands and forest lands.
The speakers said that if the Raghuvar government does not take back its anti-people policies and stop working in the interests of corporate companies, the people of Jharkhand would throw them out of power in Jharkhand.
In the Musahar basti of Govindpur Diyara (Bihpur block) in Bhagalpur, Prabhash Choudhury, a forward caste criminal protected by the RJD-BJP, raped a 7-year old minor Muslim girl who was alone in her hut on 21 January 2017. When she protested, he brutalized and injured her and she is currently in hospital battling for life. The rapist Prabhash Choudhury is notorious in the region for atrocities against Dalits and minorities and is wanted in several cases of atrocities. Yet, the police has not yet arrested him.
A CPI(ML) enquiry team visited the site of the incident on 24 January 2017. Govindpur is inhabited almost entirely by mahadalit Musahar families. The victim girl’s family is the sole minority Muslim family whose hut, a “bansa” to keep a watch on the fields, is far away from the main population. The irony is that men and women from most Musahar families had gone to Bihpur to take part in Nitish Kumar’s “anti-liquor human chain” on that day. The rapist has offered Rs 1 lakh as bait to hush up the matter. Although a case has been registered in the Naugachhiya Mahila thana, no action has been taken so far.
The CPI (ML) took out a protest rally against the rape on 24 January and submitted a memorandum to the district officer demanding action. Party leaders said that the Nitish government turns a blind eye to attacks on Dalits and minorities, and its “social justice” promise remains nothing but a farce. The Party demanded the immediate arrest of Prabhash Choudhury, speedy trial and punishment, full and proper treatment for the victim child, Rs 10 lakhs as compensation, and removal of the Bihpur thana in-charge.
The CPI(ML) staged a dharna in front of the Motihari Collctorate on 23 January 2017 to protest against 3 murders committed within the space of a fortnight. All 3 victims were young men under 35 years, and belonged to Dalit, poor, and backward communities. The killers are professional killers with feudal backgrounds who alternatively call themselves “Azad Hind Fauj” or “New Ranveer Sena”. They possess considerable political and administrative clout due to which they are able to perpetrate their crimes with support from a strong network within and outside jails. They inspire such terror that traders, Dalits, backward classes and the poor in the entire district live in an atmosphere of fear and insecurity. The police on their part are merely slapping false cases on people from the weaker sections, rather than address the situation of intimidation and violence.
This makes the Nitish government, which claims to champion social justice, stand exposed as its administration and its police openly support feudal and criminal forces. In the meanwhile the BJP MP and MLA shed crocodile tears and are busy protecting their vote bank. The CPI(ML) held a protest dharna outside the Motihari Collector’s office and made the following demands: suspension of Motihari SP Jitendra Rana for failure to control crime; a high level enquiry into the political connections of the various armed vigilante armies (Senas); punishment for all the police personnel guilty of negligence of duty; and Rs 20 lakhs and government employment as compensation to the families of the victims.
Odou Asom Gramin Shramik Sanstha and AIARLA held a protest demonstration at Dighalipukhuri at Guwahati. About a thousand rural workers/tea garden workers raised demands of land and food rights. They strongly demanded a stop to inhuman eviction of landless poor people. Currently, thousands of acres of land is being handed over to corporate houses and people close to the BJP-RSS such as Baba Ramdev. The protestors demanded an end to this continuing land alienation and corporate land grab.
Regarding food security, the protestors demanded that food and not cash should be distributed to the poor. There is currently a conspiracy to abolish or curtail the distribution of food, and this needs to be resisted. Moreover, it was noted that communal politics was ripping apart the social fabric of society in Assam, a process which is being exacerbated with the BJP government in power. Protestors also demanded the enactment of a new policy to ensure land for the landless. The Sanstha sent a memorandum to the Chief Minister of Assam through the Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup district. The rally was addressed by CPI(ML) Assam state secretary comrade Rubul Sharma, AICCTU Assam state secretary comrade Subhas Sen, AIARLA national Vice President comrade S. Bardhan, Gramin Shramik Sanstha’s state President Pankaj Kumar Das, Gramin Shramik Sanstha’s state secretary Arup Kumar Mahanta and prominent singer Loknath Goswami.
The TADA Act enacted during the phase of terrorism in Punjab is no longer in force, but social activists of Bihar jailed under this Act in Bihar are dying one after the other in Bihar’s jails. The government which boasts of social justice refuses to review this situation. Comrade Baleshwar Choudhury aka Pahalwan Ji was a resident of Ibrahimpur. He passed away in jail on 30 January 2017 at the age of 82. He had been in jail from 2003 for the Bhadasi TADA incident. He used to farm singharas (water chestnuts) in the Bhadasi pond when he was framed on false charges and jailed under TADA. 5 of the 14 TADA convicts have died due to negligence by the government and the administration. 9 people are still in jail. Some of them are old and some ailing. They have completed the terms of their sentences, but the government has not released them. These include Comrade Tribhuwan Sharma, Comrade Chudaman Bhagat, Comrade Dr Jagdish Yadav, Comrade Arun Bharti, Comrade Laxman Choudhury, Comrade Shyam Choudhury, Comrade Ajit Kumar, Comrade Arvind Kumar and Comrade Madho Choudhury.
Red salute to Comrade Baleshwar Chowdhury!