November-December 2007

Table of Contents

1. CPI (ML) 8th Congress Invitation

2. 8th Congress Draft Documents

3. Arrest and Prosecute Modi

4. Scrap the Indo-US Nuclear Deal

5. Obnoxious Nexus that Killed Rizwanur

6. Anti-Imperialism March

7. Conference on 1857 War of Independence

8. Pakistan’s Yearning for Freedom from US Dictates

9. Custodial Killing of CPI (ML) Activist in Sitamarhi

10. Karnataka: Betrayal of the Masses

11. Leading Bolivian Organisers Speak

CPI (ML) Congress

Invitation

Dear Friends,

We are happy to announce that the Eighth Congress of our Party will be held from 10 to 18 December in Kolkata. This is the city where the foundation of our Party was announced on 1 May 1969 and the First Party Congress held a year later. The revolutionary storm of those early years was soon met with a massive setback as the Indian state unleashed a veritable war of extermination against the fledgling party. But in spite of the brutal offensive of the Indian state, the CPI (ML) could not be crushed. In 1974 we picked up the threads of struggle and began the task of reorganizing the Party organisation.

Since then, the Party has come a long way with a steadily expanding organizational network and activities spread over diverse fields of people’s struggles. Every five years the Party has held all-India Congresses and equipped the Party ideologically, politically as well as organizationally to meet the challenges of the developing situation. In December 1992, the Party had reassembled in Kolkata for its Fifth Congress soon after the barbaric demolition of the Babri Masjid. Against the ominous backdrop of communal fascist aggression and growing imperialist domination, the Fifth Congress heralded a new advance in the revolutionary mobilization of the toiling masses and the progressive intelligentsia to thwart the growing communal assault on the people and combat the imperialist offensive against the dignity and sovereignty of our beloved motherland.

Today when we approach our Eighth Congress we are faced with enormous challenges – challenges in terms of the conditions facing our people and the nation as well as the tasks and direction of the communist movement. Successive central governments have pushed the country relentlessly into the strategic stranglehold of the biggest enemy of the world’s people – the US imperialism. The Indo-US nuclear deal is destined to mortgage the country’s strategic autonomy and international role to growing American control while India’s integration with the US-led global war will make India and her neighbourhood increasingly insecure. Washington has already identified Pakistan as a safe heaven of Al Qaeda and there are also growing talks of India’s links with the international chain of terror. The implications are quite clear. After Afghanistan and Iraq, the US war machine is now headed towards Pakistan, and India has certainly enough reasons to feel alarmed.

Big corporations, whether foreign or Indian, are fast appropriating all our natural resources including land and minerals, water and forests. Special corporate enclaves are being created across the country expropriating hundreds of thousands of people to give big corporate houses enormous tax exemptions and a free hand to dictate terms to the workers. Corporate profits have been soaring like anything – three among the world’s top twenty billionaires are now from India and the number of dollar millionaires is also increasing quite rapidly. But Indian agriculture is facing an acute structural crisis – the government has admitted on the floor of parliament that more than 116, 000 farmers have been compelled to commit suicides between the mid-90s and early years of the present decade and the suicides are continuing as unabated as starvation deaths in the countryside. Small traders, shopkeepers and shop employees are also faced with the threat of extinction as big business storms the retail sector across the country.

This economic war is certainly not being waged in a vacuum, it is a war backed by the Indian state with all its might. Wherever the people are rising in protest to defend their land and livelihood or to insist on their right to survival, the state is resorting to brutal massacres. Kalinganagar, Nandigram, Mudigonda … the list is getting longer and longer. And the massacres are becoming a new leveller in Indian politics – Kalinganagar is in NDA-ruled Orissa, Nandigram is in CPI (M)-ruled Bengal, Mudigonda is in Congress-ruled Andhra…

This cannot be accepted as the destiny of the Indian people. This is not the India for which the fighters of 1857 had revolted against the British colonial rule. This is not the India for which Bhagat Singh and his comrades had kissed the gallows. This is not the India for which millions of Indian workers and peasants have unfurled the red banner in the face of all odds.

But the parties of the ruling classes want us to accept this state of affairs and surrender all our resources and rights just as they are surrendering the dignity and autonomy of the nation to their American bosses. This is when the communist movement must rise to the occasion and rescue the country and the people from this destiny of devastation. We must win real freedom, democracy and progress through a protracted and powerful movement of the Indian people. We believe in this goal, and we believe in preparing ourselves for this long haul and making every sacrifice necessary for this revolutionary cause.

We are aware that to fulfil this need of the hour, the communist movement will have to strengthen itself both ideologically and organizationally. The CPI (M) and its Left partners have more than 60 MPs, yet not one of them could raise a voice against the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act when it was allowed to be passed unanimously in 2005. The CPI (M) has been in power in West Bengal for a record three decades, but the country today identifies it more by Singur and Nandigram than Operation Barga and land reforms. Yet instead of taking any lessons from Nandigram, the CPI (M) leaders arrogantly tell us that their job is to build and manage capitalism and who but the Tatas and Ambanis could do it best for them!

We are also aware of the activities of our self-styled Maoists. Devoid of any political initiative or agenda and any organic connection with the ongoing mass struggles of the Indian people, they cling to armed actions as the only form of struggle. And often such arms are used against the common people and political leaders and activists, including those belonging to the Left and CPI (ML) organizations. Many of our comrades in Bihar and Jharkhand have been killed in recent past not by enemy bullets but by guns wielded by self-styled Maoist squads.

The communist movement can advance its cause only by relentlessly combating the ideological derailment and political bankruptcy from both these ends and by forging still closer links with the masses. We appeal to all sincere communists to march with the CPI (ML) towards the shared goal of thoroughgoing democratization of India.

We view the communist movement as an integral part of the diverse democratic struggles being waged by different sections of our people. Be it the struggle for winning equal rights for women and dignity for dalits and adivasis or the battle against corruption and criminalisation, we want to work together with more and more friends, organizations as well as individuals.

The Eighth Congress of the Party will take up all the urgent questions of the people’s movement. Standing firm on communist ideological principles and the glorious tradition of Indian communists and revolutionary masses, we want to respond wholeheartedly and energetically to the developing situation and all the opportunities and challenges that it poses for us.

As the Party gets ready for the Eighth Congress, we earnestly appeal to all our friends and well-wishers to help us in this endeavour in whichever way you can. We look forward to not only material and monetary help but also your ideas and suggestions including any criticisms you may have to help us expand and improve our work and strengthen the Indian communist movement.

Wishing our struggling bond for the common cause be strengthened and widened

Sincerely yours,

Dipankar Bhattacharya

General Secretary,

CPI (ML)-Liberation

CPI (ML) Congress Documents

8th Congress Draft Documents

The Eighth Congress of the CPI (ML) is to be held at Kolkata, 10-18 December 2007. The Draft General Programme and the Draft Agrarian Programme will be available at:

http://www.cpiml.org/

Indian Politics

Arrest and Prosecute Modi and other Masterminds of the Gujarat Genocide

– ML Update, 30 October – 5 November, 2007.

A recent sting operation revealed chillingly elaborate details of the Gujarat genocide 2002, from the mouths of men who feel no remorse or shame, only pride and gratitude for ‘Narendrabhai’ Modi who made it all possible. These revelations unearthed few new facts. Their importance lies in the fact that they confirm what many citizen’s fact-finding teams and eye-witness accounts had documented: evidence of a massive state-sponsored carnage conducted by the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in collusion with all arms of the state machinery.

Leaders of the Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), BJP were heard describing how they raped a young Muslim woman who was “like a flower”; how they ripped open a pregnant woman’s womb; how they chopped up and burnt alive former Congress member of parliament (MP) Ehsan Jaffri; manufactured diesel and pipe bombs on a factory-scale; and distributed truckloads of swords.

Not a single institution – including police and judiciary – remains free of the charge of aiding and abetting the communal killers. The Sangh leaders caught on spy cameras describe how “Narendra bhai got the police on our side”, how the police provided cartridges, how the police “was standing right in front of us, seeing all that was happening, but they had shut their eyes and mouths.” Public prosecutors are busy sabotaging cases against rioters by bribing and intimidating witnesses while judges are ‘induced’ to look the other way. Not even the Nanavati Commission probe into the riots remained untarnished: one of the public prosecutors caught on camera suggested that of the two Justices heading the Commission, one was favourably disposed towards the rioters and the other was busy making money.

BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad has said that the tapes do not prove anything since they might be mere ‘empty boasting’. The very fact that BJP’s activists boast of gruesome barbarities like slitting open a woman’s womb, chopping up a man’s limbs and burning people alive speaks for the communal fascist character of BJP.

Five years after the pogrom, justice remains a far cry for the victims. The killers go scot-free and enjoy power in Gujarat, while Muslims continue to live in terror. And on the eve of Gujarat elections, justice for the victims of communal violence is not an agenda the main opposition party the Congress wants to touch. BJP leaders like Gordhan Zadaphia who led the communal mobs in 2002 are now dissidents against Modi, and are being wooed by the Congress. Asked why the Congress associated with men like Zadaphia who were identified with the 2002 violence, Congress’ Gujarat leader Shankarsingh Waghela, himself an import from the BJP, argued that “the Congress was a ‘samudra’ (sea) that absorbed all ideologies.” (The Hindu Oct 9 2007) The question is: can the likes of Zadaphia wash the blood of their hands in the Congress’ ‘samudra’? Won’t the Congress’ own hands become stained with that same blood?

In the wake of these damning indictments by Sangh leaders of Modi’s personal involvement in that genocide, the immediate arrest and prosecution of Narendra Modi is a minimum first step in securing justice for the victims of the genocide. If the revelations of a sting operation in the ‘cash-for-questions’ scandal could lead to action against MPs, revelations of mass murder surely call for the arrest and prosecution of the man who masterminded it.

Indo-US Nuclear Deal

Neither an Instant N-Deal nor a ‘Paused’ One –

Scrap the Deal Altogether!

– Liberation, November, 2007.

The impasse between the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and its Left allies over the Nuke Deal seems to have come to a sudden end with an apparent climb-down by the Congress; for the time being the government seems safe and the prospect of mid-term polls seems to have receded. The US-led nuclear establishment, the Congress and the UPA Government – all have made a dramatic turn-about in their stance. Will they ever come clear on this sudden nuclear somersault?

Last month, the US Ambassador was admonishing India saying “Time is of essence.” Now, we have International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief El Baradei telling India to take its time, since there is no timeframe to operationalise the deal. The prime minister’s office (PMO) had said time and again that Manmohan Singh was willing to stake his credibility and the life of his government on the deal – but now the prime minister (PM) himself has said with philosophical resignation that there are issues beyond the nuke deal, that if the deal falls through he will be disappointed but “one has to live with disappointments and move on.” Just a few days before this change of stance, Sonia Gandhi had declared that opponents of the Deal were enemies of development. But now she has said that the Left must not be castigated as anti-national; they had their ideology which must be respected in the interests of “coalition dharma.”

What lies behind this dizzying volte-face? As far as the UPA partners are concerned, the decision to halt the operationalisation of the deal seems to have been prompted by the fear of early elections. From Lalu Prasad to Karunanidhi to Sharad Pawar, all UPA partners who had been loudly advocating the deal appear to have developed cold feet over the prospect of facing a poll in the next few months. Despite optimistic projections regarding the outcome of early elections, the Congress too has perhaps developed second thought. But how can the fear of elections sink in so suddenly prompting a go-slow approach on the deal? If from a fast forward mode the government now seems to be prepared to press the pause button for some time, this is surely happening not against the wishes of the Bush administration and the American nuclear establishment. Indeed the White House and leading US Administrators like Nicholas Burns have said that they respect India’s coalition democracy and are confident that the deal will go through eventually. Why did the American side become ready to change its timetable?

Instead of being taken in by the rediscovered rhetoric of coalition dharma and victory of Parliament, the democratic opinion in India must keep a close watch on the American version of the story and reckon with the threat of a sudden revival of the deal at an opportune political moment. Negotiations leading to nuclear deals and strategic agreements usually remain shrouded in mystery and we must not believe simplistically that the deal has been dumped. The strategic pause in the public eye will be accompanied in all likelihood by “track-II” negotiations behind the scenes, and a fait accompli will be presented at a more opportune political moment. In fact, it is not even the process of pursuing the Deal that has been “paused”; it is rather the intensified debate over India’s strategic autonomy and energy and foreign policies that the rapprochement between the CPI (M) and the Congress seeks to “pause.”

It is interesting to note how some representatives of the UPA-Left partnership have now begun to liken the UPA experiment to the national democratic alliance (NDA) model. It is being argued by some that if the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) was willing to shelve its key Hindutva agenda in the interests of running the NDA coalition government, Congress should surely be willing to put its pet Nuke Deal on the shelf in order to accommodate the Left and keep the UPA Government afloat. The fact is that during the NDA regime, the Hindutva agenda of saffronisation and communal violence were both aggressively pursued; the BJP’s lip service of not foregrounding Hindutva was merely a fiction to allow its partners to make the alliance palatable to their constituencies. In this instance too, the “climb-down” by the Congress on the Nuke Deal will only serve to camouflage the fact that the Nuke Deal as well as other anti-people, pro-imperialist foreign and economic policies will continue unhindered.

Pressure must therefore be intensified for a complete scrapping of the deal, dismantling of the entire architecture of India’s strategic partnership with the US and reversal of the very course of pro-imperialist foreign and economic policies. The UPA and its Left partners must be feeling happy and relieved with their new-found face-saving formula, the country must insist on clear and consistent democratic answers to all the questions that have been thrown up by the nuke deal debate.

Indian Politics

The Obnoxious Nexus that Killed Rizwanur in ‘Secular and

Progressive’ Bengal

– Kavita Krishnan, Liberation, November 2007.

We all know how caste panchayats try to stop inter-caste marriages in the interiors of North-Western India. They hold kangaroo courts and deliver instant and exemplary ‘justice’ hoping such brutal acts would deter all potential ‘deviants’ to try and cross caste boundaries. We also know how freedom of expression often attracts lethal fatwas. But we always tend to think that such incidents happen beyond the realm of our liberal and democratic ‘mainstream’ – either in some remote feudal badland or only in a fundamentalist culture! And we are told such fundamentalism flourishes only in Madrasas and Masjids. But what happens when a young Muslim man from the world of computers and graphics designing decides to marry a Hindu girl he loves? And that too in progressive cosmopolitan Kolkata, the capital of Left-ruled West Bengal?

Well, as Rizwanur Rahman discovered and we all have discovered through his experience, such a marriage is considered a taboo by the rich and the powerful, a ‘crime’ which needs to be punished with nothing short of murder. It is perhaps not difficult to understand that industrialist Ashok Todi, whose daughter Priyanka had legally married Rizwanur in the month of August, could never agree to this marriage. But what is really shocking is that the police took it upon itself to do Todi’s bidding and ‘free’ Priyanka. And imagine the extent to which the top brass of Kolkata police went in its mission! They repeatedly threatened Rizwanur, even calling him and Priyanka over to the police headquarters and ‘advising’ them to part ways. In spite of their full knowledge of the marriage having been legally registered on August 18, they filed a case of abduction against Rizwanur. And finally when Rizwanur’s battered body was discovered on railway tracks on September 21, the Police Commissioner of Kolkata promptly described his death as an unfortunate case of ‘suicide’! In a press conference, he said “After taking care of the daughter for 26 years, if the family finds one morning that she has left them to start a new life with an unknown youth, parents cannot accept it. The Todi family reacted because Rizwanur’s social and financial status did not match theirs; she was a rich girl from a Marwari family while the boy was Muslim and from a middle-class background.” Asked whether the police should have got themselves involved in the parents’ bid to break up the marriage, Mukherjee declared, “Then who will get involved? Do you think the public works department (PWD) will intervene? This is how we deal with such cases.”

Don’t these public statements by the Kolkata Police Commissioner reek of communal and class bias? Don’t they go against the right of an adult woman to marry according to her own choice? Why did Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI (M)] leaders and their state government remain silent on such offensive communal and anti-woman pronouncements by the Police chief? What happened to CPI (M)’s proud claim that Muslims facing persecution by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and communalised police in Gujarat are welcome to settle in West Bengal where the state machinery is secular?

Rizwanur has of course left behind ample evidence of his will to live – he gave intimation to the police and to many of his friends regarding the threat to his life. The Police Commissioner’s role becomes perfectly understandable when one realises that he is also the President of Cricket Association of Bengal; that Todi, apart from being the managing director of Lux Hosieries, is also the kingpin of a betting mafia, and that Todi had ‘facilitated’ the election of the Police Commissioner Mr. Prasun Mukherjee as the CAB chief. What we see here in action is however not at all a ‘private’ relation between the top cop and a city business baron, it is a veritable nexus between the police top brass, big moneybags and the underworld.

But there is more to the nexus than mere financial muscle and licensed and unlicensed gunpower – what enables the nexus to have a free reign is political blessings from the powers that be. Have we forgotten how Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee had thrown his entire weight behind Mr. Mukherjee’s candidature (he however lost the first time he contested before being elected unopposed on the second occasion)? Buddhadeb Bhattacharya refused to order a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) enquiry, reluctantly ordering a Crime Investigation Department (CID) enquiry which meant that the police would have sat in judgement of themselves! Is it just the government’s ‘compulsion’ to keep the police top brass in good humour? The Todis and Sardas (Govind Sarda, the infamous jute baron, who is a prime accused in the notorious blood kit scam) are of course all ‘esteemed investors’ in the eyes of the Left Front government and it does not have the will to take any action against them even if they habitually steal the provident fund of their employees.

The Chief Minister of West Bengal Mr. Buddhadev Bhattacharya had to bow ultimately before the unprecedented public outrage and was forced to transfer Kolkata Police Commissioner Prasun Mukherjee, Deputy Commissioner Gyanwant Singh and Ajoy Kumar, Assistant Commissioner Sukanti Chakraborty and Sub. Inspector Krishnendu Das for the role they played in the mysterious death of computer graphics teacher Rizwanur Rahaman after 26 days of the incident. And this decision came just after severe indictment by Kolkata High Court, which ordered for a CBI probe into the whole matter. The CBI enquiry can decide whether Rizwanur’s death was suicide or murder; but the Police Commissioner’s own statements are an open admission and in fact an aggressive ideological defence of the fact that the police did indeed hound Rizwanur to break up his marriage on grounds of class and religion. ‘Transfer’ is hardly sufficient punishment – someone who openly proclaims communal and anti-woman views ought to be dismissed from the police force.

The role of the West Bengal Women’s Commission headed by eminent academic Jasodhara Bagchi too was objectionable. The Commission was silent on the Police Commissioner’s remarks. As late as October 9, they chose to visit Priyanka Todi at her parents’ home; and later, on October 15, they visited Rizwanur’s mother and assured her that they would convey her wish for a CBI enquiry to the Chief Minister. In the statement issued following the visit to Priyanka, they informed the press that Priyanka had said she had returned to her parents of her own accord hearing of her father’s ill health from the police and not under police pressure; she intended to persuade her parents to accept her marriage and then to return to her husband and she failed to understand why her husband had committed suicide; she was traumatised by Rizwanur’s death and still loved him; she did not like the media publicity over her husband’s death and wanted to “move on” and live a normal life. No doubt, for a young woman traumatised by her husband’s death, it is difficult to accept the painful possibility that her loving family on whom she now relies for emotional and possibly material support might have had a hand in his death. But Priyanka has not denied that her parents were opposed to her marriage; neither has she denied that it was the police who told her she should visit her father since he was unwell. She has not accused Rizwanur of any ulterior motive in complaining of police harassment, rather she has reaffirmed that she married him out of love and intended to return to the marriage. Rizwanur’s own written testimony point to insistent police harassment – and above all, the Police Commissioner’s own statements are an admission and in fact an aggressive ideological defence of the fact that the police did indeed attempt to break up the marriage. Priyanka’s remarks in no way undermine any of this evidence of gross communal and patriarchal misconduct on part of the police. The Women’s Commission is not expected to establish whether or not Rizwanur was murdered; but it is expected to demand action from the state government against public functionaries who act to curb women’s rights. Instead, the Women’s Commission remained silent on the ideologically objectionable remarks of the police chief and his own admission that he endorsed the police interference in the marriage, and confined itself to faithfully relaying Priyanka’s words to the press, in a manner that subtly suggests that the media should desist from pursuing the case, that Priyanka absolves the police of the charge of interference and concurs with the police claim that Rizwanur’s death was a ‘suicide’.

After Nandigram., the response of ruling CPI(M), AIDWA leaders and the WB Women’s Commission to the Rizwanur matter are a comment on how the commitment of the state government to corporate heads seriously undermines the CPI(M)’s commitment to secularism and women’s rights.

Birth Centenary of Bhagat Singh

Anti-Imperialism March

– Liberation, November, 2007.

CPI (ML) held an Anti-Imperialism March to Parliament against the Nuke Deal in tribute to Bhagat Singh on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Students and youth from states of UP, Bihar, Punjab, Bengal, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi gathered at Ferozeshah Kotla Grounds. They garlanded the statue of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru. Jan Sanskriti Manch’s cultural team from Patna, Hirawal, sang rousing revolutionary songs. National President of the Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) Mohd. Salim led the assembled students and youth in taking a pledge to uphold the revolutionary anti-imperialist legacy of Bhagat Singh and the martyrs of the 1857 War of Independence and to nurture and cherish the fighting unity of the people of India against communalism, imperialist economic policies and the growing unity of India’s rulers with imperialist forces. Following this, the March was flagged off by veteran human rights activist Justice Rajinder Sachar, who reminded that Ferozeshah Kotla was the spot where Bhagat Singh and his comrades had launched their revolutionary organisation – the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). Justice Sachar exhorted young Indians to struggle for a democratic India truly free from exploitation in keeping with Bhagat Singh’s dreams.

The March then proceeded towards Parliament Street, ending with a mass meeting at Jantar Mantar. The main speaker at the mass meeting was CPI (ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya. Addressing the gathering Comrade Dipankar said that US imperialism had replaced British colonialism and India’s ruling class was playing the role of its agents just as Bhagat Singh had predicted. He said that no inheritor of Bhagat Singh’s legacy can allow a government which is forcing such a slavish Deal on the Indian people to continue for a single day longer. The UPA Government must pass the test of Bhagat Singh’s anti-imperialist nationalism and must scrap the Nuke Deal – or else must quit the seat of power.

The mass meeting was also attended by Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan and writer Arundhati Roy. The mass meeting was conducted by the National President of All India Students Association (AISA) Indresh Maikhuri; other speakers included the General Secretary of RYA Kamlesh Sharma, Jan Sanskriti Manch leader Madan Kashyap, All India Central Confederation of Trade Unions (AICCTU) General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee, and All India Progressive Women’s Organisation (AIPWA) General Secretary Kumudini Pati.

Diaspora

Conference in London Highlights Contemporary Parallels with 1857 War of Independence

– Liberation, November, 2007.

A one day conference was held in London on Saturday 6 October to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1857 uprising. Speakers from India and Pakistan addressing this conference drew parallels with the current situation in South Asia today. Organised by South Asia Solidarity Group, the 1857 Committee and the Centre for South Asian Studies, SOAS, the conference ‘1857/2007 Imperialism, Race, Resistance’ drew more than 120 participants. Speakers included Indian human rights lawyer Nandita Haksar, feminist educationalist Rubina Saigol from Pakistan; historian and writer on colonialism and patriarchy Kumkum Sangari, Editor of Indian CPI (ML) monthly Liberation Kavita Krishnan; spokesperson of Cageprisoners (the campaign for prisoners in Guantanamo) Adnan Siddiqui; eminent civil-liberties lawyer Gareth Peirce; Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation spokesperson Hani Lazim, and historian and writer on British imperialism John Newsinger.

The conference looked at 1857 as one of the high points of continuing popular anti-imperialist resistance, in which people identifying with different communities and religions but sharing many aspects of culture consciously came together to resist an aggressively racist colonial power. Against this background, contemporary imperialism, racism and the rise of the religious right, and the struggles against them in South Asia and here in Britain were discussed.

Professor Kumkum Sangari highlighted the way in which the British colonialists involved in suppressing the uprising recorded and relished their own violence and acts of torture in pictures and photographs and letters home mirroring the recent circulation of videos of torture in Abu Ghraib and other US prisons. She talked about the participation of women – not only individual leaders but large numbers of labouring Dalit and peasant women who made up the resistance.

Dr Rubina Saigol talked about the way in which representations of 1857 in Pakistan have been communalised and masculinised. Discussing the current situation she emphasised that the notion of terrorism needs to be questioned since it ignores terrorism by States. Pakistan’s current role as a front line state in America’s war had led to de-democratisation with the protagonists Musharraf and Benazir having been pre-selected by the US – while all national data held on all citizens of Pakistan is automatically transferred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Kavita Krishnan argued that the ruling elites in India are still afraid of the spirit of 1857 in which people have fought not only the colonial rulers but what Bhagat Singh called the ‘Brown Britishers’ who replaced them. Highlighting the thread running through from 1857 to Bhagat Singh and Naxalbari she referred to the current struggles against land grabbing by multinational corporations for Special Economic Zones in which many have lost their lives. She also described the popular opposition to the pro-imperialist Indo-US Nuclear Deal.

Nandita Haksar drew attention to the injustice of the Afzal Guru case where a man was facing the death penalty without any direct evidence against him. She read out the judgement of the Supreme Court of India which sentenced Afzal to death to satisfy “the collective conscience of society.” Can the collective conscience of any people be satisfied if a fellow citizen is hanged without being given an opportunity to defend himself, she asked?

The conference launched an exhibition on the 1857 uprising which will now be touring the UK and will also be made available in India and Pakistan. It concluded with organisers pledging to continue their campaign for justice for Afzal Guru case and around the issue of Special Economic Zones.

South Asia

Pakistan’s Yearning for Democracy and Freedom from US Dictates

– Liberation, November, 2007.

[This article was written before emergency was imposed in Pakistan- Ed.]

Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan has been marked by the worst ever incident of suicide bombing in the recent history of the subcontinent, killing and injuring hundreds of innocent people. Soon after the incident Benazir said that she had been warned by intelligence agencies of a ‘brotherly country’ regarding a possible attack on her arrival. Regardless of whatever input might have been provided by intelligence agencies, it is not difficult to understand what possibly triggered such an enormous tragedy.

“Join the war on terror or be bombed back to the Stone Age” was the ‘option’ given to Pakistan in the wake of 9/11 by none other than Richard Armitage, then US Secretray of State. Pakistan under President Musharraf has dutifully heeded that advice and the bombings have never really stopped. The popular mood on the Pakistani street and the direction chosen by the country’s ruling elite are so diametrically opposite that the conflict can indeed explode anytime anywhere. And with no credible democratic process to reflect this public anger, suicide bombings and terrorist attacks find an obviously fertile ground.

The ongoing convulsions in Pakistan emanate from two closely interrelated concerns. With Iraq and Afghanistan bleeding so profusely under US occupation, the average Pakistani’s sympathy clearly lies with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and Musharraf’s policy of compliance and active collaboration with the US naturally remains a source of tremendous mass anger. Simultaneously, there is a visible yearning for restoration of democracy, for a real end to military rule and not just a civilian facade. Far from satisfying either of these concerns, a US-brokered ‘democratic deal’ only adds insult to injury.

How different was the welcome Benazir had got on 10 April, 1986 when she had returned seven years after her father had been hanged by General Zia ul-Haq! On that occasion she had landed in Lahore, which unlike Karachi, is not a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) stronghold and yet she was greeted by a much bigger crowd than could be managed by her party when she reached Karachi on October 18. It was widely believed that her father had been hanged at the behest of the US and so in 1986 Benazir had the sympathy of all sections of the people of Pakistan who wanted to get rid of both military rule and American intervention. It is another matter that far from fulfilling these twin aspirations, Benazir’s two stints in power (1988-90 and 1993-96) only earned notoriety for unbridled corruption.

Worse still, now in 2007 she has come back from her self-imposed exile only as another pro-US face. Her pro-democracy pretension has also been badly exposed by the deal she struck with Musharraf. While her member of parliaments (MPs) bailed out Musharraf by abstaining during the controversial October 6 presidential poll, the latter fully reciprocated by promulgating a National Reconciliation Ordinance just on the eve of the poll withdrawing all corruption charges against Benazir and her key associates. Meanwhile on the question of the collaborating with the US in the so-called ‘war on terror’ Benazir continues to back Musharraf to the hilt as has been evident during her response to the “Operation Silence” campaign when hundreds of people were killed by the Pakistani Army in the name of freeing Lal Masjid from the control of fanatics and terrorists.

The events happening in Pakistan today are mostly choreographed by the Bush administration. On September 10 Nawaz Sharif was bundled back to Saudi Arabia soon after his plane had landed at Islamabad because he still does not figure in the US scheme of things. But the same Musharraf extended all courtesy and assistance to Benazir thanks to the US-brokered Bhutto-Musharraf power-sharing deal. The US has offered all help to investigate the suicide bombing plot and by all indications US intervention in Pakistan’s internal affairs will continue to grow. The threat of Pakistan being reduced to another Afghanistan in the name of combating terrorism will continue to loom large.

Against this backdrop, we in India can only keep our fingers crossed while hoping wholeheartedly for a real anti-imperialist democratic resurgence in Pakistan that alone can bring some meaningful political change in that country and lasting peace in the subcontinent.

Struggles in India

Custodial Killing of CPI (ML) Activist in Sitamarhi

– Liberation, November, 2007.

A popular leader of CPI (ML) in Runni-Saidpur of Sitamarhi district, Comrade Ashok Sah, was killed in police custody in the local thana after he was arrested at mid-night on October 4 on fake charges. Comrade Ashok, formerly a CPI (M) activist, had joined the CPI (ML) along with many others some years ago and had been at the forefront of people’s struggles. Recently he had been involved in the movement for providing relief to the flood victims in the district and had exposed the nexus of local political leaders with corruption in public distribution system (PDS) distribution.

Comrade Ashok’s wife Manju Devi, (who had also lost the use of one of her legs in police firing on a 1998 protest for relief to flood victims) reached the thana immediately after the arrest where she witnessed a brutal beating of her husband by the thana in-charge and other policemen. Seeing her, the thana in-charge told her “Let us see which [district magistrate] DM or [chief minister] CM now comes to save the life of this fellow who keeps on sending petitions against us. Today we will end his game.” The police roughed her up and sent her back home. She mobilised people and again went back to thana, but was told her husband was not there.

CPI (ML) comrades immediately organised a road blockade in protest, which forced the police to hand over the mutilated body to the kith and kin. The corpse had the tongue bulging out of the mouth, and there were marks of laceration on the neck. These signs were noted by the PUCL fact-finding team that examined the body; though the inquest report fails to mention anything unnatural about the state of the corpse.

Comrade Ashok Sah told the Chief Minister in the latter’s Janta Durbar on 24 September that his life was in danger because he exposed some politicians and officers in the scam appropriating the flood relief fund and he had been implicated in fake cases of murder and rape by the local politician-police-mafia nexus. He had named the husband of local JD [Janata Dal] (U) member of legislative assembly (MLA) Guddi Devi (noted criminal Rajesh Kr. Chowdhury who is now in jail), and had also implicated a local corrupt politician Devendra Yadav (of the CPI (M)). In response to his appeal at the Janta Darbar, the Joint Secretary, Chief Minister’s Secretariat, sent a letter to the superintendent of police (SP) dated 25/09/07, Sitamarhi, asking him to personally conduct an enquiry and commenting that it appeared that Ashok Sah had been framed on false charges due to local politics. This was followed by a letter from the deputy inspector general (DIG) to the SP dated 29/09/07 reiterating the same.

Comrade Ashok Sah was currently the District Convenor of All India Agrarian Labourers’ Association (AIALA) and Block Secretary of CPI (ML). Ashok Sah had exposed politicians, officers, police and feudal forces involved in corruption of the area. He successfully fought the struggle to rehabilitate 256 patta-holders and stopped the eviction of Dhaangar Scheduled Caste people from their lands. He also fought against the corruption in PDS, in MLA local area development fund, and for the rights of vendors working on footpaths. He had filed a case against local politician Devendra Yadav, associated with the CPI (M), having unearthed evidence of his involvement in a scam in PDS rations. In reaction to this, it was Devendra Yadav along with MLA Guddi Devi’s husband who had framed him in June 2007 on false charges of rape.

An inquiry through Commissioner, Tirhut range and by IG, Muzaffarpur, has been ordered by the state government, owing to the immense mass pressure and widespread condemnation of this heinous killing by the police-mafia nexus. However, it is clear that any enquiry will be an eye-wash unless the thana incharge, the BDO and other accused policemen are arrested and the DM and SP of Sitamarhi are removed and action taken against them before the commencement of the inquiry.

The Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Bihar, has also come up with its investigation report which holds the police as well as criminal-politician nexus responsible for this murder. The report notes that police officials had no business to arrest Ashok Sah as the fake case against him was under investigation by the IG, Muzaffarpur, and the police was supposed not to take any action till the inquiry was over. The report also notes that Ashok Sah was arrested at 12 AM (mid-night) on 4 October but the concocted case diary shows his arrest was made at 3.30 AM. Further, the dead body was returned to the family members after the post-mortem although, in case of custodial deaths, it is mandatory for the police to inform the family members of the deceased immediately.

Thousands of people held a Protest March on October 12 at the Sitamarhi district headquarters to demand immediate arrest Comrade Ashok’s killers. This march was led by AIALA National President Rameshwar Prasad and CPI (ML) CC member Meena Tiwary along with many local leaders and cadres of Sitamarhi and Darbhanga districts. A statewide protest day was also called by the Party on October 10 and demonstrations and dharnas were organised in almost all districts of Bihar on these demands. The CPI (ML) will also protest before the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Patna on October 24.

Patna March against Custodial Killing of Com. Ashok Sah

CPI (ML) organised a protest march in Patna on October 24 and condemned the Nitish Govt. for giving a free hand to the criminal-police-politician-bureaucrat nexus in the state. Thousands of people from districts like Bhojpur, Rohtas, Kaimur, Nalanda, Arwal, Jehanabad and Patna including women, agrarian labourers and poor peasants came to join this march, led by led Party State Secretary Nand Kishore Prasad and Ramjatan Sharma, KD Yadav, Saroj Chaube, Mina Tiwary, Ramadhar Singh, Kamlesh Sharma, Shashi Yadav and others. They condemned the brutal killing of Comrade Ashok Sah in Sitamarhi and expressed their outrage over not arresting the thana incharge and block development office (BDO) of Runni Saidpur block and other accused. Bihar government’s deliberate silence speaks enough of the protection extended to the mafia they said, and reiterated for their demand of a judicial inquiry.

Comrade Nand Kishore Prasad said that this killing is indicative of the fact that criminal-mafia-politician nexus is getting stronger day by day in state led by Nitish Kumar, and all hype of ‘good governance’ practically means an open threat to those who try to raise their voice against oppression and loot. The CPI (ML) pledges to carry forward the struggles and issues for which Comrade Ashok sacrificed his life, he said. AIALA President Rameshwar Prasad, AIKSS President Rajaram Singh, CPI (ML) MLA Arun Singh and others also addressed the gathering.

The meeting passed several resolutions condemning the anti-people criminal nexus in the state, to intensify the movement against the government, and demanding the arrests of the killers of Comrade Ashok Sah. One resolution criticized Nitish Govt. for its failure to provide employment to the rural poor and for excluding them from the below poverty line (BPL) lists and demanded proper implementation of national rural employment guarantee scheme (NREGS) and to bring every poor under PDS. It also asked for compensation in case of governmental failure in doing so. The increasing attacks on poor, dalits, agrarian workers and women by feudal-criminal-police-bureaucrat nexus were condemned in another resolution and demand was made for punishing the concerned DM and SP if such oppression continues. The government was severely criticized for a high rise in crimes under the Nitish rule. While its apathy and criminal insensitivity towards the sorry plight of flood affected people in Bihar was condemned as thousands of people have been left unattended in face of starvation and epidemics. It was demanded to give them proper compensation besides ensuring free rations and medication to the needy.

Politics in India

Karnataka: Betrayal of the Masses

– Divakar N., Liberation, November, 2007.

In Karnataka, ‘Swamijis’ are turning into politicians while politicians are queuing behind astrologers. Pejawar Mutt Swamiji of Udupi, who belongs to a Lingayat mutt, is taking an active part in installing a BJP-JD(S) government in the state. He is also prepared to rope in the services of few more Swamijis in the attempt. The corporate media and political pundits are cautioning of a possible ‘backlash’ from the powerful Lingayat community if the JD (S) does not honour its agreement of transferring power to the BJP. One is not sure if they really mean a backlash from a community or from a section of industrial mafias in mining and real estate businesses.

The Congress, once ditched by the very same JD (S) 20 months back, is weighing its options of fresh elections, horse-trading and forming a good old JD (S)-Congress coalition government. It is also keenly watching the national situation to see if there are chances of snowballing into mid-term elections. The party expects a situation of simultaneous elections to the state and the centre to be more beneficial to the party in the state. The Congress is biding time as immediate elections in the state may not go in its favour in the backdrop of its not-so-impressive or poor performance in the recently concluded municipal elections. The Congress is also a little worried of unnecessarily carrying an anti-incumbency factor to the next elections if the coalition materialised.

The BJP – in spite of a major setback to its lifetime dream project of installing the first ever communal government in the state that is considered to be the gateway of communal politics in the South – is courting ‘martyrdom’ eyeing a sympathy wave in the future elections to get an independent majority.

JD (S), on the other hand, is conditioned by its so-called secularism that is expected to lead to retaining the Chief Ministership in another round of coalition either with the Congress or with the BJP. Kumaraswamy and his MLAs, inspired by their remarkably improved performance in recent municipal elections, are pinning their high hopes on a piece of master strategy from Deve Gowda to retain the post of the Chief Minister with them.

Hence, Devegowda has come up with five conditions for the BJP aiming to reinvigorate its discredited secular credentials and to keep the powerful lobby of steel mines that call the shots in the form of corruption and murder charges against the Gowda family either through Janardhan Reddy, MLA or Sriramulu, minister of the BJP from Bellary, under control. Hence, they want the BJP hands off from the issue of riots in Mangalore and of the Baba Budangiri in Chikmagalur. JD(S) is also facing a crisis of reconciling the interests of its own immediate base of farmers in Mandya – Mysore region and the larger class interest that the party represents in the era of globalisation, where state policies favour corporate big bourgeoisie in governance. This is self evident in the issue of the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC). But Deve Gowda wants only the removal of its MD leaving a whole lot of affected farmers and people in the lurch. In order to offset the effect of BMIC controversy in the overall orientation of state policies, JD(S) offered 7000 acres of land in Nandagudi on a platter to corporate houses in spite of stiff resistance from farmers. Neither the BJP nor the JD(S) had any quarrel in terms of policy, just rival interests of competitive politics representing this or that section of real estate, construction, industrial mafias and corporate houses.

In fact, in the past 20 months rule, the JD(S) has played into the hands of the BJP and the BJP has emerged as the ultimate gainer in the whole exercise in spite of losing its term in the rule. The BJP has cut into the vote-bank of both the Congress and the JD(S). Recent municipal elections are the best indicators. It has played the communal card very effectively in order to cultivate its own brand of politics in the state which was not so influential otherwise. It was evident in the Mangalore communal riots, the arrest of an editor of a secular magazine in Mangalore as a part of suppression of freedom of expression, scores of fake encounter deaths in ‘Naxal’-dominated Western Ghats, attack on Christians, Dalits and progressive intellectuals and so on. The BJP used Baba Budanagiri issue to the hilt in order to use it as a constant source of whipping up communal frenzy in the region. Ananthakumar, MP went to the extent of promising conversion of ‘Bababudangiri’ into ‘Dattapeetha’ if it was voted to power with independent majority. Quite understandably, the JD(S) had no quarrel with the BJP all these months but for sermonising, at times, in order to protect the overall class interests of the bourgeoisie. On the other hand, the BJP has also made much progress in emerging as the darling of the ruling classes in the state, particularly to the industrial and mining mafias and the forces of the new economy. In fact, neither BJP nor JD(S) had any real quarrel over any real issue of policy that affected the social fabric and economic matrix of the society.

Some political pundits in Karnataka are worried over the ‘betrayal’ to the coalition dharma. Unfortunately, many of them tend to forget the larger picture of fundamental betrayal to masses who gave the verdict against the policies of liberalisation in the last elections. They also conveniently forget the politics of class interests that guide any adherence or betrayal to any ‘dharma’ of any variety whether it is religion, politics or coalition. Ultimately, it is the hard economics that determines the hard politics.

International

Leading Bolivian Organisers Speak

– Surya.

The struggle in Bolivia has significantly intensified in the last few months. While the Bolivian oligarchy is plotting a coup against President Evo Morales in cahoots with the United States of America (USA), the people have taken to the streets. In the first half of September 2007, 100,000 people from various streams including peasants and indigenous movements converged on Sucre, the judicial capital of Bolivia, for a Social Summit in defence of the Constituent Assembly.

Bolivia is a country of 9.1 million people who are largely of Quechua, Aymara or mixed ethnicity. Quechua and Aymara are among the indigenous people of the region. Bolivia is also one of the poorest countries in Latin America. La Paz, located at a height of 11, 910 ft, is the highest capital city in the world. Evo Morales, the first indigenous president, was elected in December 2005 with a 54% vote after years of massive peasant, workers and indigenous peoples’ protests.

In July 2007 as the crisis was brewing Surya and Tamarai met with activists in Bolivia. The interviews were conducted on July 2 in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. Below are excerpts from interviews with important organisers of the ongoing movement to change Bolivia.

The first interview is with Antonia Rodriguez, a women’s leader from Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) working in capital La Paz. Diane did the translation. Antonia has been a MAS electoral candidate from Al Alto section of La Paz. MAS came into being as a result of the struggle for the right of peasants and indigenous people to grow coca leaves, which are deeply rooted in the culture of Bolivia. MAS works for indigenous peoples rights and is for the nationalisation of natural resources of Bolivia. President Evo Morales is the leader of MAS. The full interview will be published in Women’s Voice.

S&T: What has been achieved since MAS won the election in 2005-06?

MAS: There is tranquility and free speech but economically there has not been much gain. Before the shoe shine boys and other poor people would be afraid and would hide themselves out of shame. People are now proud of who they are.

In decision making the humble people have more of a voice. Now for instance in the assembly for writing a new constitution they have more of a voice. The constituent assembly will be writing the new laws on which there will be a referendum. We are hoping the new laws will be beneficial to common and humble people.

S&T: When will the constituent assembly process be complete?

MAS: Recently there was a ruling to extend the deadline for 3 months starting August. The delegates have to come up with the draft of the new constitution by then. The elections will follow in the following year.

It is estimated that the new constitution will come into effect by August 2008.

S&T: What is the role of major industries in Bolivia?

MAS: The large industries are controlled by the private owners. Recently it was found that large companies are not paying taxes while the small businesses pay a lot more taxes. The hope is that it will be more transparent in the future.

S&T: In the next 5 years what are the major challenges for MAS?

MAS: They are going to take back the natural resources. The revenues from these natural resources will be used for the benefit of the country. The taxes will also be used for the benefit of the country. Bolivia will be well known for its achievements in the next five years.

S&T: MAS stands for Movement towards Socialism. Is MAS trying to move towards Socialism?

MAS: This is a process that will take several years and we will suffer during this process. If it is immediate there will be a civil war. We prefer to have a slower process to take conscious moves and we can wait for the results.

The second interview is with Salutiano Laura, Executive Secretary of the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB) i.e. the Bolivian Workers Center, in La Paz. Jose Louis did the translation. COB was founded in 1952 after the revolution. It is the largest and most militant workers federation in Bolivia. COB is the umbrella organisation that includes the Union Federation of Bolivian Mineworkers, the backbone of organised labour in Bolivia.

S&T: Could you provide a brief history of COB?

COB: Welcome to the house of labourers. [We are sitting in the COB office/auditorium.] COB is an independent workers union. It was formed on 17 April, 1952. It was formed as a result of the anti-imperialist, peasants, workers struggles and struggles of other sectors of Bolivia. It was formed after the national revolution. The fight against injustice was both in urban and rural areas as the government was pro-imperialist. It has branches in La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Oruro, Potosi (mining), amongst other cities and regions.

S&T: How many workers does COB represent?

COB: The COD (Bolivian Workers Centre’s La Paz Department (COD)), which is a constituent department of COB, consists of 67 different union and federations in La Paz. I (Mr. Laura) am the president of the textiles union and the executive secretary of COD. COD represents textiles workers, teachers (rural and urban), mine workers, construction workers, student and university workers, municipal workers in telecommunications, water, and electricity. The total number of workers in COD are around 150, 000. All over the country the COB represents 500, 000 workers.

S&T: COB supported MAS in the 2005 elections. What was its position?

COB: After 2005, the opposition to the neo-liberal policies is intensifying. Politically, we are an independent workers union. The most important position of the COB is the nationalization of the hydrocarbons.

S&T: In May 2006 nationalisation of hydrocarbons was announced. What do you think of that?

COB: On May 1, 2006, the only positive change was that 18% came into public hands but 82% stayed in private control. COB wants the complete nationalisation of hydrocarbons i.e. 100% under public control.

S&T: Then, who controls the hydrocarbon industry in Bolivia?

COB: The YPFB [Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos is the state-owned hydrocarbons company] is the owner of hydrocarbons in Bolivia but they in-turn license to Multi-National Corporations (MNCs). There has been protection of MNCs since 2006.

S&T: Evo Morales promised to invest in education, healthcare etc. What do you think?

COB: The funds that will be received from the nationalization of hydrocarbons can in turn be invested in education, healthcare, etc. It seems to be a priority of Evo Morales.

S&T: Have the promises that were made during the election of 2005 been met?

COB: This is part of an anti-globalization process. Before this government, especially in the public sector, there was a lot of corruption. Since 2006, the victories for the workers have only been partial. Still the stability for workers does not exist. Right now it is impossible to have stability. For each worker that is inside there are five workers outside looking for work. The workers can easily be fired. There is no justice for workers but justice for the enterprise.

S&T: What can be done to bring stability to the workers?

COB: There is no stability for workers in Bolivia, except for teachers. All workers work on short term contracts. Some have a 3 month, some have a 6 month and some one year contract. This is another cause for instability.

The demand of the textile workers is to have a more export oriented products. Workers also should have health care, social security etc. Only very few workers have this now. All workers should have these benefits.

S&T: Any demands in the short term for the workers, maybe in the next 5 years?

COB: The unemployment is very high. It is about 17%. We would like that to be addressed. Also, more than 50% of the workers are in the informal sector. We would also like this to be addressed.

S&T: Is it possible to have a Workers’ party in Bolivia?

COB: At this point it is very difficult to have a workers’ party in Bolivia, especially in urban areas. The unemployment is so high and there is so much competition between the workers that the conditions are very difficult.

The experience we have had is very difficult. The political crisis, economic crisis and social crisis is making it very difficult. The only solution for COD and organizations affiliated with COB is to have a social revolution of workers, peasants, students, marginalized, and join social movement for revolutionary social change under the leadership of the workers.

S&T: Is it similar to Cuba?

COB: Yes, we agree with the direction of Cuba.

S&T: What is the position of COB on Cuba and Venezuela?

COB: Cuba is undergoing a very good process. It is anti-imperialist. Venezuela is not the best process. It originated in the military. It does not have a democratic and stable process and vision for the evolution of the society.

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