UNIVERSITIES HAVE EMERGED AS THE FRONTLINE OF RESISTANCE to the RSS’ communal fascist agenda in India – and that is why they are under a systematic attack by the ABVP – the stormtroopers of the RSS. After the ABVP riot at Ramjas College in Delhi University, attacks by the ABVP have followed in several other campuses. In Delhi University itself, a street theatre festival in Khalsa College has been postponed because ABVP demanded that it be censored. A young woman student Gurmehar Kaur who began a campaign to say ‘I am not afraid of the ABVP’ was subjected to rape threats by the ABVP.
The ABVP tried to disrupt a seminar at Panjab University. ABVP is threatening and intimidating students of Central University of Haryana (Mahendragarh) who are agitating about conditions in their hostel. The ABVP attacked AISA activists including the elected woman representative of the students’ union of HNB Garhwal University, Srinagar in Uttarakhand. The ABVP has been burning the effigy of AISA all over the country, trying to paint AISA as ‘anti-national.’
Meanwhile the Vice Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) disallows faculty and students the right to participate in political or social activism and imposes medieval patriarchal rules on women residents of hostels, declared himself as a ‘proud RSS man.’ The ABVP would like the BHU model imposed on the whole country – where RSS shakhas are allowed and the VC himself can openly flaunt his RSS politics, while ordinary students and faculty will be denied the freedom to hold debates or discussions on any subject!
While the unrelenting assaults by the ABVP on students, teachers and intellectuals continue, the resistance too is unrelenting and powerful. Thousands of students of Delhi University and other Universities in Delhi together marched to reclaim the Delhi University’s campus. Citizens also marched to Parliament in Delhi to demand action by the Delhi Police against the ABVP rioters. Undaunted by the ABVP and by a submissive University Administration, Panjab University students held their disrupted seminar on the streets, where Seema Azad whom ABVP brands as ‘anti-national’, addressed the gathering. Every act of thuggery by the ABVP is increasing the determination of the students and teachers to fight back to refuse ABVP goons the right to censor thought on campuses.
Ministers of the Modi Government – including the Ministers for State for Home Kiren Rijiju and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have weighed in to support the ABVP violence and intimidation, by implying that those at the receiving end of the violence are “anti-national.” Rijiju even asked “Who had polluted” the mind of Gurmehar Kaur, implying that a daughter who lost her soldier father in a war could ask for peace only if her mind were “polluted.” He never asked who had polluted the minds of the ABVP men who sent rape and death threats to Gurmehar Kaur.
Modi’s Ministers and a section of the media have been trying to shift the debate from ABVP’s violence to the ‘limits of free speech.’ But the protesting students and teachers are firm that the RSS cannot be allowed to censor academics and free speech on University campuses or the country. The limits of free speech cannot be set by professional hate-mongers.
It is ironic that the BJP and ABVP should arrogate to themselves the right to hand out certificates of ‘nationalism’ to others, while the RSS itself harbours hatred for secular, democratic India and seeks to replace it with a Hindu Nation. BJP and RSS members themselves stand accused of ISI links (in Madhya Pradesh) and of child trafficking (in West Bengal and Assam).
India as a country looks with hope towards the young people who are courageously refusing to be silenced by the ABVP’s fists and kicks, rocks and sticks. By standing up to the ABVP goons, students and teachers all over the country are offering a critical resistance to RSS attempts to silence critical thought in the country.
Thousands of Students, teachers, civil society members joined the “Justice for DU : Citizens March to Parliament” on 4 March, demanding action against the ABVP who created violence in Ramjas College last month. The protesters once again reiterated their demand of immediate arrest of the perpetrators and strict action against them. It has been over ten days since the incident and with more than dozen of videos and MLC, no individual FIR has been done against them. Also, with hundreds of evidence against the ABVP the Crime Branch which has taken this case fails to arrest them. Earlier, a number of complaints have been sent to the crime branch but the police fails to catch any of the culprits. This clearly shows that the setting up of crime branch was an eyewash and was made to mollify the protesters.
The protest was carried out in response to the police inaction. Also, it must be noted that not just the police is silent on the entire issue but it is also silently siding with the ABVP who are continuously trying to justify the violence unleashed on the students. On Thursday, it was observed across DU campus that ABVP had put up violent images in the entire campus which in a manner called out for more violence. The posters were not only put in broad light but also few of them were put just outside the Police Station. The putting up of these posters clearly shows that the Police is providing complete impunity to the perpetrators and also the ABVP not only is not feeling the smallest of repentance but is aggressively trying to vilify the atmosphere creating binaries of nationalist and anti-nationalist. This violent aggression of the ABVP could not have been possible without the Police and the DU administration silently giving them impunity.
Also, it must be noted that many other cultural programs and seminars have been cancelled because of ABVP’s threat to them. Earlier, it was Khalsa college theatre competition which was called off after security threats from the DUSU and now we saw that similar has happened to Venkateshwara college event. The ABVP is continuously putting censorship in all the events and academic discussions which is continuously destroying the academic environment of DU. It only shows how the DU administration too has succumbed to the ABVP’s diktats.
Kawalpreet Kaur, President of AISA said, “We will not let ABVP go away with this violence. The entire university had seen them rioting but the police fails to name even a single person in their FIR. We will take this struggle further and organise bigger events in DU in coming days if the police continues its inaction. Also, we demand the proctor to put up an inquiry against the ABVP activists who carried out such violence and continues to vilify the academic atmosphere of the campus”. She added that this joint movement of common students and teachers will also fight the attempts at breaking up DU, reduction of government funding in the name of autonomy. ABVP’s violence is also an attempt to divert attention from this sinister plan of NDA government.
The march was also addressed by Com. Sitaram Yechury, CPI (M), Prof. Yogendra Yadav, Jignesh Mevani and Com. Kavita Krishnan and many others.
Solidarity marches with DU organized by AISA across the country: AISA gave the call for solidarity marches across campuses on 4 March to join in solidarity with DU and protest against ABVP violence which has not been restricted only to DU, JNU or HCU.
Muzaffarpur: AISA organized a protest march in Muzaffrpur against the hooliganism and attacks on students and teachers at Ramjas College by the ABVP with police protection. The march resonated with slogans—‘Why the Attacks on Students and Teachers’, ‘Shame on PM Modi’; ‘Why the Goondaism and Hooliganism with police protection on a peaceful Seminar’, ‘Home Minister Rajnath Singh Must Answer’’; Arrest the Attacking ABVP Goons; Remove the Guilty Police Personnel who protected the Violent Goons and Misbehaved with Students’; Stop the Fascist Attacks on Students and Teachers in University Campuses; Stop the Attack on Right to Freedom of Speech.
Guwahati: AISA organised a sitting dharna at Dighalipukhuri, in Guwahati against the violence of ABVP across campuses. The protesting students raised slogans against the hooliganism of ABVP, the state protection to them and also in support of freedom of expression and right to debate and dialogue. A protest meeting was held at the site of dharna which was addressed by AISA activists and the local CPI(ML) leaders. Students from Handique college, Engineering Institutes, and activists from Nagaon and Karbi Anglong too joined the protest.
Garhwal – AISA unit of Garhwal organised a peaceful protest in Garhwal University to express solidarity with DU teachers and students. The peacefully protesting students were attacked by ABVP activists. AISA activists Com. Shivani and Krishna were attacked and abused by ABVP activists. Women activists who were raising slogans demanding right to freedom of expression were subjected to abuses by ABVP. However, this did not deter the protesting students who said they will continue to unite and protest against ABVP violence in campuses and in defence of their academic freedom.
Giridih – Solidarity marches were organised by AISA-RYA in Giridih on 28 February and also on 4 March. On 28 February, the march started from Hospital Maidan and culminated in the form of a Nukkad Sabha in Saria Jhanda Chowk. Addressing the sabha, AISA leader Com. Sonu said that this march is in defence of freedom of expression and in defence of our democratic spaces. ABVP by assaulting the teachers, students and our academic spaces of discussion has in fact attacked the very democratic ethos of our country. On 4 March also, the march passed through various places in the city and slogans were raised in defence of democracy, freedom of expression and debate and against the violence being unleashed by ABVP across campuses. The students resolved to strengthen their struggles against forces like ABVP in days to come. They pointed out how ABVP had failed to raise any issue of student concern and instead of raising their concerns, it was more occupied in trying to terrorise and attack them. The students in Delhi and across the country are fighting back.
The National Institute of Public Finance and Policy and Policy had recommended that the privatisation of all PSU’s be completed within ten years. Following which a seven-month deadline has been fixed for the privatisation of Salem Steel Plant, Alloy Steel Plant, Durgapur Steel Plant and Bhadravathi Steel plants. The blatantly pro-corporate decision is a brutal attack not only on the lives and livelihoods of the workers but also on the country’s resources which once again have been opened up for corporate loot. In the series of protests launched against this decision, a dharna was called by the major trade unions including AICCTU. The protestors argued that the decision will adversely impact the industrial development of Tamil Nadu. Addressing the Dharna, AICCTU Vice President A. Chandramohan termed this decision as a conspiracy to benefit corporates like the Jindals who despite being defaulter for huge bank loans has been attempting to take over the Salem Steel Plants. The farmers who had given their land for the plant too asserted that they will not allow this plant to be taken over by private players. Com. Chandramohan said that AICCTU will continue to mobilise people in villages against this decision.
A one-day protest dharna was organized by the CPI(ML) on 1 February 2017 against the negligence by doctors at the Supaul District Sadar Hospital. It is to be noted that on 28 January Reena Devi, resident of Ward No. 12, died due to negligence during treatment which resulted in public outrage.
Family members of the victim along with the general public participated in the dharna. Charging Dr Sachhidanand Rai with negligence during treatment the speakers at the dharna demanded his arrest. CPI(ML) leaders Arvind Kumar Sharma, Shankar Prasad Sah and others alleged that the doctors at the Sadar Hospital avoid giving proper treatment to patients because they want to get more business for their private clinics. The speakers demanded that the victim’s family should be given a compensation of Rs 20 lakhs, the false cases slapped on her family members should be withdrawn, and emergency medicines should be made available at the hospital.
The Satyagraha hunger strike by the ‘Chas-Baas-Jeevan Bachao-Baghmati Sangharsh Morcha’ in Benibad, Muzaffarpur against the Baghmati dam project concluded on its 9th day on 15 February 2017 with CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, AIARLA National President Rameshwar Prasad, AIARLA General Secretary Dhirendra Jha and AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari offering juice to those sitting on the hunger strike. Four women—District Councillor Vijnesh Yadav, Sarpanch Kanchan Kumari, social activist Neelu Singh, Deputy Sarpanch Radha Devi—along with social activists Ramlochan Singh, Dinesh Sahni, and former Sarpanch Jagannath Paswan had sat on the Satyagraha hunger strike. Addressing the Satyagraha meeting, Com Dipankar said that the Nitish and Modi governments are bent upon forcibly slapping devastating projects on the people. In spite of strong opposition, the government pays no heed to the interest of the people but instead gives free license for loot by companies and contractors. However, under pressure from the agitation the government and the administration have been forced to agree for talks, and this is a victory for the struggle. Com Dipankar saluted the hunger strikers who had been sitting on the 9-day fast and assured the people that the CPI(ML) would put in every ounce of strength to strengthen the agitation against the destructive Baghmati dam project and would stand in solidarity with the people. Morcha convener Jitendra Yadav announced that the movement against the Baghmati dam project would be further strengthened and all-round protests would be held against the Central and Bihar governments to demand the constitution of a review committee and put a stop to the destructive Baghmati dam project.
The 8th West Bengal State Conference of the All India Kisan Mahasabha was held on 8 and 9 February 2017 at Prahlad Gorai Nagar (Bankura). The conference began with a huge rally on 8 February which passed through different places in Bankura town and culminated in a public meeting at the Bang Vidyalaya grounds. Addressing the meeting, CPI(ML) General Secretary Com Dipankar Bhattacharya pointed out the historic relevance of the great Naxalbari peasants’ agitation and said that on the completion of 40 years of Naxalbari, Bengal had seen agitation at Singur. Now, on the completion of 50 years of Naxalbari, the awakening of kisans on the issue of land rights can be seen in Bhangar in West Bengal as well as in Bastar in Chhattisgarh and Una in Gujarat. The Left movement can be energized only by remaining at the forefront of this farmers’ movement. The meeting was also addressed by Kisan Mahasabha National Vice President Kartik Pal, CPI(ML) Bengal State Secretary Partho Ghosh, Bankura District Secretary Bablu Banerjee, Kisan Mahasabha State Secretary Tapan Batbyal. Revolutionary peasant leader Com Bholanath presided over the meeting.
The main session of the conference commenced on the Dileep Mukherjee dais at the Dulal Mandal auditorium (Dharmashala) after paying tributes to the martyrs and flag hoisting by Com Umesh Singh. 195 delegates from 17 districts as well as 15 guests participated in the conference which was presided over by a 5-member Board headed by Annada Bhattacharya. Com Tapan presented the report on behalf of the outgoing committee.
Apart from the delegates, Comrades Dipankar Bhattacharya, DP Bakshi, Arindam Sen, Meena Pal, Vasudev Bose, Sajal Pal and Titas Gupta addressed the conference. A 9-point resolution was passed unanimously at the conclusion of the conference. The conference elected a 71-member State Council, which in turn elected a 21-member Executive and 11 office bearers. Comrades Annada Bhattacharya and Tapan Batbyal were re-elected as President and Secretary respectively.
The Rajasthan government has implemented a steep rise in electricity rates for the agricultural sector and for domestic consumers. The electricity rates for connections to wells used for agricultural purposes have been increased by 30% and this additional burden has become an insufferable burden for the farmers already reeling under debt due to losses in agricultural production. The All India Kisan Mahasabha and CPI(M)-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha jointly with two local Sangharsh Samitis (Malsisar and Surajgarh blocks) have formed the Electricity Consumers Sangharsh Samiti and have launched a struggle. Symbolic ‘Holi’ was burnt at villages against the rise in electricity rates. Dharnas were held in front of all Assistant Engineer offices on 16 January 2017. Dharnas were held at Khetdinagar, Chanana, Bisahu and Buhana blocks, and at Badagaon, Sulana and Chidawa blocks.
Thousands of farmers gathered at a protest meeting in front of the Jhunjhunu Collectorate on 3 February. Addressing the meeting, Kisan Mahasabha National President Ruldu Singh said that farmers are committing suicide under severe pressure of debt burdens and crop losses. In Punjab, famed for the Green Revolution, 3 farmers are committing suicide daily on an average. They should have been given free electricity long ago; instead, the government has put this additional burden of increased rates on them. He warned the Vasundhara Raje and Modi governments that the farmers have now awakened, and if the injustice against them is not stopped they will agitate on such a scale that the governments would not be able to stand. Kisan Sabha President Com. Amara Ram appealed to the farmers to march to Jaipur during the Assembly session. The meeting was also addressed by Ramchand Kulhari, Pemaram, Vidyadhar Gill, Phulchand Barbar and Phulchand Dhewa. A memorandum to the Chief Minister was submitted through the Collector. The Collector also arranged talks with the Chief Engineer and Supervising Engineer of the Electricity Distribution Corporation who agreed to fulfill all the regional demands.
The Shramik Vikas Sangh affiliated to AICCTU organized a spirited rally in Shahkund block, Bhagalpur, on 21 February 2017 on the issues of social security, food security, MNREGA and other welfare projects and against the loot, corruption, increasing injustice, violence and oppression on dalits and the poor. Hundreds of people participated in the rally led by Shamik Vikas, Shramik Vikas Sangh President Rajkumar Manjhi.
AICCTU State Secretary Mukesh Mukt said that the Block headquarters had become a hub of loot and corruption. MNREGA wages have not been paid for years; fake rolls have been made and the scheme funds are being looted. Huge amounts are being collected as bribe from workers and poor for Indira Awas. Old age, widow and disability pensions have been put on hold for years. Dominant land mafia, with the cooperation of the administration, has taken possession of parcha-holding poor and dalits’ lands. The note ban has snatched away the livelihoods of rural workers and now MNREGA also is being restricted.
The dharna was also addressed by Panchayat mukhiya Upendra Das. A delegation met the Shahkund BDO and submitted a memorandum.
Workers’ union of Chaudhary Hira Singh Fruit & Vegetable Market, Delhi popularly known as Azadpur Mandi held its 13th annual conference. The conference started with Comrade VKS Gautam, President, AICCTU Delhi’s inaugural note after which tributes were paid to Comrade Swapan Mukherjee, founding Secretary, AICCTU. The conference elected Comrade Mathura Paswan as President and Comrade Omprakash Badola as Secretary.
Comrade Mathura Paswan, himself a terminated Mandi worker, remarked after presenting the annual report of the union – “We have seen days when no one could dare to question the wrongdoings of the agents. Thirteen years down the line, we have succeeded in overcoming the fear of the owners, the commission agents. But we still have many unfulfilled tasks, our union shall leave no stone unturned in fighting for the rights and dignity of the workers” Comrade VKS Gautam said, “Three years have passed since Modi had fooled many with his ‘jumlas’. His anti-worker, anti-farmer, anti-poor policies leave no one with doubts about his intentions. In Delhi too the promises made by AAP government remain far from being fulfilled. Labor offices are vacant without officers and minimum wages continue to elude most of Delhi’s workers. We must realize that neither BJP, nor Congress-AAP can do any good to workers, we have to unite under the red flag.”
The conference passed the following resolutions:
2. The conference resolves to extend all support and solidarity to the jailed workers of Maruti and to fight united battles against neo-liberal assaults on the working class.
3. The conference draws much inspiration from the decade long struggles of the Pricol workers. It resolves to extend all support and solidarity to comrades who still remain in jail.
The newly elected office bearers promised to the union members that their union would do its best to extend union activities to other ‘mandis’ of Delhi and would see even more accomplishments during this year.
Team CHORUS organized a poetry reading programme by 3 upcoming women poets in Patna on 20 February 2017. The talented poets who presented their poems were Astha from South Bihar Central University, Richa, English Literature student from Gaya, and Sana Asif from Patna University. Literature lovers and activists were present in large numbers at the auditorium to hear the poetry reading.
Astha read her creations “”Neeli Roshnai Mein”, “Mama”, “Didi ka Biodata”; Richa presented “Itihas aur Smriti”, “Main Kavita Banaungi”, “Ek Tokri Gyan”, and “Maal”; Sana Asif presented “Jootey”, “Pata Hai”, “Chand” and some ghazals.
Speaking on the occasion Chief Editor of Janmat and critic Ramji Rai said that these are the new poets who see the future expression of beauty in protest. Poet Arun Kumar said that these talented young poets hold out a potential which is like an oasis in the desert. Alok Dhanwa, Dr Vinay, Vyasji Mishra, Prof Shankar Ashish Dutt, and Sanjay Kumar Kundan also spoke on the occasion. Pratibha Verma conducted the meet and CHORUS Secretary Samta Rai proposed the vote of thanks.