March-April 2008

Table of Contents

1) No to the Indo-US ‘Logistics Support Agreement’

2) Aftab Ansari’s Story: Demanding Justice for Victims of Witch-hunts

3) Patan Reveals Pandora’s Box of Rape in Modi’s Gujarat

4) Saffron Experiment in Orissa Laboratory

5) The Parliamentary Left of Sri Lanka and the Nationalist Trap

6) Ganga Expressway : ‘Corporate Hitay, Sarvajan Dukhay’

7) Protest Against Land Grab at Nalanda

8) Draft Political Resolution for CPI(M)’s 19th Congress

9) ‘People’s Assertion Rally’ in Siwan

10) 7-yr Jail Term for Bant Singh’s Attackers

11) AICCTU Achieves Recognition as Central Trade Union Organization

12) Long Live Comrade Ramakant Dwivedi ‘Ramta’

Imperialism and South Asia

Go Back Gates ! No to the Indo-US ‘Logistics Support Agreement’

– Kavita Krishnan, Liberation, March, 2008.

On February 25, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates is due for a visit to India, to ink in a ‘Logistics Support Agreement’ (LSA) between the two countries. It is yet another indicator that far from being on hold, the Indo-US ‘civilian’ Nuke Deal and all its attendant military deals are all well on track.

This LSA’s implications are more far-reaching and comprehensive than the port call by the USS Nimitz or the joint naval exercises. The US Ambassador has described the LSA as “aimed at improving interoperability between the militaries of the two countries,” while the External Affairs Minister, in Parliament, described it last year as “a facilitating framework for mutual logistical support when deploying defence resources in disaster relief operations or joint exercises and without commitment for assistance in situations of armed conflict.” In spite of these bland assurances, it is clear that there is more than meets the eye. The LSA is essentially a barter of goods and services between the Armed Forces of both countries, but it will effectively oblige the Indian Armed Forces to provide a range of services to the US Armed Forces. This will turn the Indian forces into mercenaries of sorts, and is also a backdoor method of enlisting India into a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)-type alliance.

Interestingly, the LSA is actually nothing but a version of the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) (under a US statute that was formerly known as “NATO Mutual Support Act”). These ACSAs were intended to simplify exchanges of logistic support, supplies, and services between the United States and other NATO forces, though the law was subsequently amended to permit ACSAs with the governments of non-NATO countries. In India’s case, the ACSA is termed the ‘LSA’ on special request by the Indian Government which is eager to mask its true purpose. Under US law, such an Agreement is only possible with a non-NATO country if it (1) has a defence alliance with the United States; (2) permits the stationing of members of the US Armed Forces or the home porting of US naval vessels in such a country; (3) has agreed to pre-position US material in such a country; (4) serves as host country for US Armed Forces during exercises or permits other US military operations in such a country. Clearly the LSA, if signed, will imply that India has agreed to the above criteria and is therefore for all practical purposes tied to a ‘defence alliance’ with the USA.

The LSA was mooted first by the Vajpayee Government and during Bush’s visit in March 2006, the Joint Statement issued by Manmohan Singh and Bush indicated that it was underway. Under the LSA, India will be obligated to provide services such as refuelling and port facilities to US warships, bombers, aircraft etc. and even ‘billeting’ (accommodation to soldiers), food etc. In countries like the Philippines where a similar Agreement was signed in 2002, people have demanded that their Congress conduct an enquiry into the presence of US troops on Philippine soil, apprehending that the Agreement was being used as an excuse to allow the country to function as a US base in the region. Why would India be any different? While Pranab Mukherjee assured Parliament that the LSA contained no ‘commitment’ of assistance in ‘situations of armed conflict’, the LSA does not rule out such assistance. With such an Agreement in place India will certainly provide refuelling and other services to US warships and aircraft used to conduct war or maintain occupation of countries like Iraq or Iran. Also recall that recently, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has affirmed that the Indo-US Nuke Deal would be acceptable to the US only if it complied fully with the Hyde Act – thus giving the lie to Manmohan Singh’s assurances in Parliament that the Hyde Act is extraneous to the Deal! Pranab’s assurances on the LSA are surely as hollow and misleading as Manmohan’s on the Hyde Act.

The LSA actually fits into the US’ urgent needs for alternate logistical back-up in Afghanistan and Iraq, in the backdrop of the crisis in Pakistan and the reluctance of USA’s European NATO partners for deeper involvement in Afghanistan. Just a few months back, the Pentagon expressed its need for ‘back-up plans’ as the unrest in Pakistan begins to affect the flow of supplies to American troops fighting in Afghanistan. About 75 percent of the supplies to Afghanistan, including 40 percent of vehicle fuel supplies, either go through or over Pakistan; these supply lines are threatened by the unrest in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The US also fears that hostilities with Iran may expose its supply lines to Iraq to the danger of attacks by Shiite militias backed by Iran. On more than one occasion in the recent past, the selfsame Robert Gates has rebuked the European NATO allies for not sharing enough of the burden in Afghanistan. A US LSA with India must be seen in the light of these urgent needs of the US military, and its strategic plans for alternative logistic supply lines for protecting oil supplies and pipelines and to counter the growing maritime might of China.

Along with the Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture and the Indo-US Nuke Deal, the LSA is also a part of the web of ‘strategic’ relations with the US being spun by the Manmohan Government. It will irrevocably compromise India’s sovereignty and bind India to the humiliating and shameful status of an ally in the US’ many military aggressions and occupations. The US Defence Secretary must be greeted with nation-wide protest during his visit, and the UPA Government must hear the resounding ‘No’ to the move to sign the LSA.

Struggles in India

Aftab Ansari’s Story: Demanding Justice for Victims of Witch-hunts

– Radhika Krishnan, Liberation, March, 2008.

After the serial bomb blasts in November in various courts in Uttar Pradesh (UP), the Muslim community in the state is constantly living under the shadow of unfortunate stereotyping and witch-hunt. Aftab Alam Ansari, a worker of the Calcutta Electricity Supply Corporation (CESC), is one such young innocent who was branded a dreaded terrorist and accused for collusion in a blast case. He was arrested by the UP Special Task Force (STF) and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), and overnight an innocent man’s world turned into a nightmare of torture and interrogation.

For days, the police tortured Aftab and tried to force a confession out of him that was Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) area commander Mukhtar alias Raju Bengali. 22 long days later, when he determinedly refused to succumb to their torture, Aftab was finally released and he was declared innocent by the court.

Recently, Aftab was in Delhi, joined by the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Students’ Union and the Forum for Democratic Initiatives (FDI), to highlight his demand for compensation and justice. He recounted how his petitions for compensation and for punishment of the guilty police officials – both in the UP and West Bengal police force – have been ignored.

Aftab’s story is not unusual, it finds echoes not just in UP and West Bengal, but all over the country. These states, particularly UP, are merely the latest “hotbeds” for suspected terrorists, the most recent in a long list. For years thousands of innocent Muslims have been similarly targeted in Kashmir, picked up without even a formal charge by the Indian army operating under the protective shield of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), after which they simply add to the long and growing list of the “disappeared”. Maharashtra too has a long track record. After every blast, the Mumbai police routinely descend on the entire Muslim community without any defendable explanation. In Modi’s Gujarat, encounter killings aka Sohrabuddin Sheikh have been frequently observed; but also in Congress-ruled Maharashtra.

While the actual terrorists rarely get punished, most of these “suspected terrorists” either disappear from the face of the earth, or languish in jails waiting indefinitely for a “free” and “fair” trail. In some rare cases, they are declared innocent after a harrowing period of interrogation and torture. For the Aftabs in India, there are many stumbling blocks in the fight for compensation. From a legal point of view, Section 197 of the Indian Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) provides the state with a comfortable loophole to protect state machinery from punitive action. According to provisions of Section 197, prosecution of State and Central government officials requires permission from the same State or Central government!

Obviously, the first step towards justice is that this Section ought to be scrapped. Such provisions cannot exist in a democratic society; if everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, then there can be no immunity from prosecution and the police must be liable to legal action as any ordinary citizen.

Another problem is an ambiguous definition of what exactly constitutes torture. India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT). It has however not yet ratified the CAT, and the existing provisions in the Indian law have not been amended to incorporate the mandate of the CAT. The Convention specifically prohibits the use of torture. There is however no definition under the Indian law of what exactly constitutes “torture”.

In this project of minority witch-hunting, what is particularly disturbing is the role of the media and the judiciary. Both often cooperate enthusiastically with the police in framing innocents. Recently, 5 youth from Azamgarh and Mau in UP were picked up and paraded before the media as the “terrorists” responsible for the Sankatmochan bomb blasts. What followed was a public trial where the media blissfully portrayed them as terrorists rather than as the accused. And the judiciary wasn’t far behind. An institution like the UP bar council refused on “ethical” grounds to fight cases in defence of these suspected terrorists. All of them were later released for lack of conclusive evidence. But the denial of their right to legal representation, and their demonisation by the media, went unremarked.

Another striking aspect is the contrast with the state machinery’s response to genocide or hate campaigns launched by public figures holding responsible positions. The Maharashtra Government, for instance, is only too willing to pick up any young Muslim on scant or non-existent evidence as a suspected terrorist; but the same Government declares that there isn’t ‘enough evidence’ to prosecute Bal Thackeray despite the Srikrishna Commission’s findings of his role in the 1992-93 Mumbai riots – this, despite the pages of Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna full of exhortations to violence.

When Mohd. Haneef was illegally detained by the Australian government, many Australian citizens (both expatriate Indians and Australians), as well as the Indian government (though after some delay and under considerable public pressure!) came out in his support. The Chief Minister of Karnataka gave Haneef a hero’s welcome, and offered to ensure him a job in India, in an attempt to compensate for the injustice Haneef had faced. When will the Indian State accept that there are hundreds of Haneefs in India, thanks to its attitudes and actions? When will it ensure compensation and justice?

Women’s Struggles

Patan Reveals Pandora’s Box of Rape in Modi’s Gujarat

– Dwarika Nath Rath, Liberation, March, 2008.

The gang rape of Bilkis Bano and so many others in Gujarat 2002 was part of a cold-blooded campaign of genocide, justified as a ‘reaction’ to Godhra. One wonders how Modi would explain the systematic and, it would seem, habitual rape of poor dalit women students in his glorious, ‘growing’ Gujarat.

At Patan PTC College, a dalit young women from a poor family was a victim of gang rape by six male teachers of the college. Using the threat of internal marking, they took the advantage of her poverty, and raped her 14 times in four and half months inside the college and in the village. It came to be known that this woman was not the only victim; rather the sexual exploitation was rampant for a decade, and was patronised by local Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.

Ms. Anandiben Patel, the present Revenue Minister in the cabinet hails from this constituency, and had been the Education Minister of Gujarat for the same past decade when the sexual exploitation took place. The Patan PTC College is situated in the outskirt of the city with 8 feet high boundary walls and controlled by District Institute of Educational Technology (DIET).

The victim comes from a very poor background from Jetalvasana village of Visnagar Taluka of Mehsana district. She scored 89% in 10th class and 70% in 12th class. Her father, a daily labourer encouraged her to study. She wanted to be a doctor, but lack of funds made her opt for the PTC teachers’ training course. She was admitted to Patan PTC College July 07.

In less than two months after her admission, on 11-9-2007, she was summoned by a teacher to a classroom and subjected to gang rape. She was intimidated into silence by the teachers with threats of releasing pornographic photos of hers. This continued on several occasions; and the rapists included Prof. Atul Patel, an influential man known to be close to Anandiben Patel. He headed the election campaign of Anandi Ben Patel in 2002, and is said to be the kingpin in this sex racket. The teachers spread the word that she was possessed by an evil spirit in order to explain her fainting fits and disturbed state of mind. The sole woman teacher, Prof. Bhartiben Patel, was appointed in 1997 but was transferred to Palanpur in 2001, because she complained about the sexual harassment of the students.

When the victim told her story on 30 January, and medical examination confirmed rape, 97 other women students filed a complaint in a signed memorandum to the Principal on 31 January. They were joined by parents in their protest, and on 4 February, the PTC students assaulted the accused lecturers with sticks, bricks, and damaged their bikes. 25,000 people of Patan joined in a protest rally. Patan town remained closed for two days. The protesting students and parents have demanded a probe into the role of Education Minister Ramanlal Vora; dismissal of all accused and scrapping of the internal examination system.

The students along with the parents went to Gandhinagar on 7 February but were not allowed to meet either the Chief Minister or the Education Minister. The personal assistant to Education Minister trivialised the incidents, saying “such things go on”. Anandiben Patel claimed that as Education Minister, “no complaint sexual harassment had ever reached her.” But the fact is that in 2004, one Draksha Parmar filed a complaint against teacher Manish Parmar. The case was sealed by the then Principal J.N. Chaudhary and hushed up.

The BJP is conspicuously silent on this matter. The Sangh Parivar and its outfits are absent from the scene. The Chief Minister has avoided visiting Patan, merely ordering a magisterial enquiry which is widely perceived as a cover up job.

The National Commission of Women team which visited Patan suspects more women were raped. There had been recommendations to scrap the internal marks in PTC College after a case of molestation of a girl student in Rajkot private PTC College in 2005 when Ms. Anandiben Patel was the Education minister. It was recommended to reduce the internal marks from 40% to 15% to 10%, but this decision was not taken. It is believed that the sexual harassment has become commonplace in PTC Colleges. In Meghraj Taluka, a Patan-type incident took place 22 years back where 15 women were victims.

There are 65000 PTC teachers unemployed in the state and this year more than 30000 will join their ranks. There are 16000 women studying in 134 women’s PTC colleges in Gujarat. In most of these colleges, there are no lady lecturers or even women wardens; though it is compulsory to stay in the hostel.

To run a PTC College is becoming a big business. National Council of Teachers’ Education [NCTE] introduced the policy of Self Finance in PTC. There are 431 PTC colleges, most of them self financed. The appointments are made on political grounds. There was not a single female teacher in 13 members’ staff for the past six years in Patan. There are 16 DIET colleges for men and six for women.

The Patan incident is just a tip of an iceberg. If such rampant sexual exploitation can happen in the DIET colleges then one can imagine what may be happening in the self financed colleges run by influential people in power. It is necessary to have a thorough investigation of all these self finance colleges, and to ensure implementation of the SC Visaka Judgement guidelines to stop sexual harassment in the workplace.

CPI (ML) Investigation Report

Saffron Experiment in Orissa Laboratory

– D. P. Bakshi, Liberation, February, 2008.

Kalinganagar in January 2006 and now Kandhamal in December 2007 – in both episodes we can see the twin faces of Navin Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) – Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) Government in Orissa, in which the most vulnerable sections of the state’s people – adivasis and dalit minorities – are subjected to corporate land grab and police brutality on the one hand and communal pogroms on the other. Heady with Narendra Modi’s victory, the Sangh Parivar seems all set to make Orissa the next saffron laboratory.

Kandhamal is one of the most backward districts of Southern Orissa. This is also culmination of the violence which has been simmering in Orissa since a coalition government led by the BJP came to power in 1998. 1999 saw the gruesome murder by Bajrang Dal activists of the Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons. This was followed by other sporadic attacks and murders. An investigation into religious communalism in Orissa by the Indian People’s Tribunal, led by Justice K.K. Usha in 2006 noted the “spread of communal organizations in Orissa, which has been accompanied by a series of small and large events and some riots…such violations are utilized to generate the threat and reality of greater violence, and build the infrastructure of fear and intimidation.”

Bloody Christmas at Kandhamal

On 23 December 2007, Sangh outfits marched through Barakhama village, Kandhamal, “Stop Christianity, Kill Christians”; on 24 December despite police promises to control the situation, Sangh Parivar organisations shut down shops and, at night, cut power and telephone lines and felled trees to build road blocks; on 25 December, Christmas Day, a mob of 400 people armed with trishuls, swords, rods, and some guns – rampaged through the area, breaking down the doors of churches, attacking people at prayer, burning down a total of seven churches, looting and torching Christian houses, hospitals, convents, hostels, and other institutions, and injuring hundreds and killing at least eleven people.

Colonial and Feudal Legacy of Tensions in Kandhamal

Kandhamal (formerly Phulbani) is an area with a colonial and feudal legacy of social tensions. Historian Biswamoy Pati notes that in the 19th century, colonial officials and feudal landed classes recruited tribals of Kandhamal as forced labour, and took up a drive of converting a section of them to Hinduism. The Sangh Parivar’s claim that they seek to ‘reconvert’ the Christian tribals ‘back’ to Hinduism are therefore false; the Hindus in this region too were converts from tribal animism to Hinduism. With time the Hinduised Kandhas began to assert their majoritarian identity, and by the 1950s, tribal Kandhas began converting to Christianity in good numbers to defy Hindu domination. Sections of the dalit Panas too converted to Christianity in the 1950s as a “survival strategy”. Panas were not only discriminated in the feudal caste hierarchy; they were also stigmatized by the colonial regime as a ‘criminal caste’. Writes Pati, “Unlike the sections of the affluent Kandhas and other tribal groups who could get integrated into the caste formation, the poorer sections were “integrated” through terror as outcastes.” In the 1990s, the Hindu converts among Kandhas also began intimidating the dalit Panas to prevent their entry into temples, and clashes ensued. Converted tribals and Panas both are known at the receiving end of the terror campaigns by the Sangh Parivar in the name of ‘reconversion’ or ‘protests against forced conversion’.

While the Christian population from both dalit and adivasi backgrounds (only 2.3% in Orissa today) is declining, it is the Sangh Parivar who are involved in aggressive proselytization – converting Adivasis to Hinduism. All along the tribal belt, from Dangs in Gujarat in the West to Orissa in the East, Hindu Samgams, or congregations, are being held, and thousands of Adivasis threatened and intimidated into attending.

The attack on Christians at Kandhamal was orchestrated by Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) leader Swami Lakhanananda Saraswati, one of main organizer of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Orissa (wanted by police in a case related to communal violence in Rourkela) and founder of a big Ashram in Kandhamal as a joint venture of VHP and Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad. Just one year back a big conference of VHP was organised in this Ashram participated by 50,000 from different parts of our country and overseas Indians from different foreign countries. Dara Singh concentrated his operations in the North-Western part of Orissa (Keonjhar-Mayurbhanj district), while Saraswati selected Kandhamala for his hate campaign.

Another factor was the Kui Samaj, an organisation of Kui-speaking Kandha Adivasis who for over a decade have been opposing the Pana Dalit Christians’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status. Since 2002 “Kuis” have achieved Scheduled Tribe (ST) status; but the contention is over whether “Kuis” should be interpreted as Kui speakers and thus include Panas or not. Though the Kui Samaj does not directly associate itself with the Sangh outfits, its Kandha members have often been mobilised by the RSS and its affiliates, and its leader Lambodar Kanhar is another of the key organizers of the December violence.

The Build-Up

Reports suggest that 25-30 busloads of people were brought from Kandhamal to Bhubaneswar on 21 December 2007 to attend a Yagya programme. Under the cover of the Yagya all the Presidents of RSS from caste panchayats of Kandhamal district had a secret meeting from 11 AM to 6 PM at an unknown place on 22 December. On 23 December the Yagya was over and all of them went back to their respective places.

Even before that, on 9 December, Swami Lakhanananda came to Bamunigan and had a secret meeting with Bighneswara Banika Sangh affiliated with RSS and VHP. Since then, the situation in Bamunigan was tense, with threats mounting against Christmas celebrations.

Meanwhile the Kui Samaj had given a call for a bandh on December 25 and 26 against the granting of ST certificates to Panas. Apprehensive of this bandh coinciding with Christmas, the Christian Jan Kalyan Samaj of Kandhamal met the Collector and Superintendent of Police (SP) on 23 December with a written statement against the bandh, demanding that arrangements be made to guarantee the security of Christians celebrating Christmas. The SP visited Bamunigan, but did not care to deploy any force there.

On 23 December itself Ambedkar Banika Sangh of Bamunigan together with 6 Sarpanches of the area also appraised the situation and sent a fax message to the SP, and met him at Bamunigan. They also went to the police station to discuss the tense situation and reported that the Swami planned to perform a Yagya in front of the Church.

On 24 December early morning 6 Sarpanches together along with village heads went to the police station and requested to allow the market to be opened; the RSS and Bajrang Dal opposed this. The ASI came to the market and told the people to open the market. Still Sangh activists forced the traditional weekly market (Haat) to close and attacked the market goers, and also destroyed Christmas pandals on the road. Two Christians (Sillu & Avinash) were shot and injured.

At 2 pm rumours were spread about an ‘attack’ on the Swami, and he got himself admitted to a local hospital. Some TV channels also promoted this report with an inflammatory ‘interview’ with the Swami, though they failed to show any footage of the ‘injuries’ sustained by the Swami.

At about 7:30 pm a 400-strong Sangh mob, raising slogans of “Jai Sri Ram” and armed with guns, swords and other lethal weapons opened the gate of Balligude Church and abused the Christian youths who were busy decorating for Christmas. They came running, shouting “kill the Christians and destroy the Church.” The youths together with priests, nuns, and hostel residents ran to the jungle to save their lives. The mob then collected furniture, worship materials and all other belonging of the hostel and set them on fire.

This was followed by a chain of violent attacks on churches, convents, Christian hostels and Christian people for two days. There was at least one retaliatory action in which Christians attacked a Hindu hamlet.

Initially the police stayed silent spectators and later clamped curfew. The Navin Government made some ridiculous attempts to spread the fantastic theory that it was “Maoists” who were responsible for the attack.

For the first time since 1947, some 3,000 Christian men, women and children are forced to live in two refuge camps. And even now older people and some women, unable to flee, remain in the villages living in sheer terror.

The similarities with Gujarat are many: the rumour of an ‘action’ (the ‘attack’ on the Swami) to justify a ‘reaction; the mobilisation of adivasis on a communal plank; systematic setting of minority establishments on fire; and forcing minorities to flee the villages and live in refugee camps, for instance.

All left, democratic forces in Orissa raised strong voices of protest against this heinous attack of saffron forces on religious minorities and against the tacit collusion of the BJD-BJP Government with the Sangh Parivar. CPI (ML) organised a powerful protest march on 28 December at Bhubaneshwar and Rayagada. The State Government and administration did not allow any visit by opposition political parties, in the name of ‘preventing’ any new tension or provocation.

In London, the South Asia Solidarity Group, which has vigilantly campaigned against the covert foreign funding of Sangh outfits in India, issued a strong statement of protest. Holding that the Judicial Review Commission set up by the Navin Government to investigate the violence did not inspire any confidence of justice, SASG demanded that the Centre set up a CBI enquiry; sufficient relief to the refugees in camps and safe and speedy return and rehabilitation; and also that the Centre institute an independent inquiry into the Sangh Parivar’s “infrastructure of fear, intimidation and violence in Orissa”. SASG also demanded that the British Government “investigate the international arms of the Sangh Parivar organisations in Britain who support and fund the criminal activities of Hindutva groups in India”.

Events of the last decade reveal that Orissa may be the third major experimental ground after Gujarat and Jharkhand, where the Sangh Parivar strives to develop a strong base among tribal people. As the BJD-BJP Government seeks to grab land from adivasis and the poor to hand over to corporates, and also looks the other way as the Sangh increases its influence, the we face the urgent challenge of building up a powerful people’s resistance, both against the policies of liberalisation and loot as well as against the communal hate campaign.

Politics in South Asia

The Parliamentary Left of Sri Lanka and the Nationalist Trap

– S. Sivasegaram.

The Sri Lankan left has several features that distinguish it from the left in India. The first Marxist party, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), formed much later than that in India in 1935, was Trotskyite dominated. The Communist Party of Ceylon (CP) was formed following the expulsion of ‘Stalinists’ in 1940. Hostility to Stalin also meant that the LSSP would not support the war against fascism when the Soviet Union was dragged into World War II. Also, the CP was less under the influence of the Communist Party of Great Britain than was its Indian counterpart, a factor that is said to have helped in the struggle against revisionism in Sri Lanka in the early 1960s. The CP, although weaker than the LSSP in electoral politics, had a strong working class base and more influence than the LSSP among the Tamil and Muslim left intellectuals and oppressed masses.

The LSSP and the CP were a world apart from their social democratic predecessor, the Ceylon Labour Party with roots in the fledgling trade union movement and an anti-communist agenda that deteriorated into chauvinist politics aimed at workers of Indian origin by 1930. The LSSP had a split in 1945, and a merger and a split in 1950 so that there were two Trotskyite parties until 1956. The weaker, VLSSP (revolutionary LSSP), went into an alliance called Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP or People’s United Front) with the Sinhala chauvinist Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) in 1956. The alliance fell apart in 1958, but the VLSSP inherited the name MEP as well as its Sinhala chauvinism.

The opportunism of the VLSSP may seem the first betrayal of the minority nationalities by the left, but its roots lie in the remarkable performance of the left in the elections to the first parliament in1947. The hopes that the LSSP leaders nurtured about being elected to power faded since the elections of 1952, partly because the Citizenship Act of 1948 disenfranchised the Hill Country Tamils, constituting around a tenth of the population. Although the left as a whole opposed the Act, the left leadership, the LSSP in particular, since then, began to neglect political work among the Hill Country Tamils, constituting a backward but the most numerous section of the working class. The political weakness of the LSSP leadership has been traced to the propertied class origin of the bulk of its leadership, and it took less than two decades for the LSSP to switch from ultra-left Trotskyism to parliamentary social democracy.

While there is no doubt about the opportunism of the left parties, the charge that the left betrayed the Tamils on the language issue is not quite correct, since the LSSP and the CP voted against the Sinhala Only Act in 1956. The shift in language policy towards one of protection of Tamil language rights within the framework of the Sinhala Only Act occurred well after the Federal Party, the main Tamil nationalist party then, expressed willingness in 1957 to find a solution within the framework of the Sinhala Only Act.

The real betrayal was the class betrayal in 1963, when the LSSP, CP and MEP formed the United Left Front (ULF) and planned a powerful trade union campaign based on twenty-one demands, which put fear into the national bourgeois SLFP government of the day. The LSSP leadership was tempted in 1964 by a cabinet post for its leader; and the ULF fell apart as did the trade union campaign. The LSSP split later in the year, but the rebels who formed the LSSP(R) were politically weak. The CP also split in 1964, based on the international debate on the road to socialism, and the Marxist Leninist faction that rejected the parliamentary path was politically strong and had with it the bulk of the party’s trade union membership. Although subsequently weakened by a combination of factors including the rise of nationalist politics, Marxist Leninists remain a significant political force among the Tamils and the Hill Country Tamils.

The degeneration of the LSSP and CP was inevitable since their opportunistic alliance with the SLFP, which eroded their vote bank and their trade union base. Squabbles with the SLFP led to parting company in 1975-76 and contesting the elections as a left alliance in 1977. The result was a humiliating defeat for the SLFP and the decimation of the parliamentary left, which crawled back to the SLFP nest in the late 1980s to ensure its parliamentary presence. The Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP) – its subsequent factions included – split from the LSSP only after the electoral disaster of 1977.

The case of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP, meaning People’s Liberation Front), mistakenly or mischievously dubbed Marxist, is different. Despite the origins of several founder-leaders in the two factions of the CP, it rejected the working class as a revolutionary force. Its chauvinism was so blatant that it labelled the Hill Country Tamils an extension of Indian expansionism. It attracted a sizeable section of left-inclined youth whom it misled into the misadventure of April 1971. It was revived as a political force in 1978 with help from the pro-imperialist United National Party (UNP) government, which wielded unprecedented power from1977 until its defeat in 1994, and the blessings of a Trotskyite Fourth International. With the planned aggravation of the national question by the UNP government, the JVP became increasingly chauvinistic. It rejected the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987 to stage an uprising because the Accord offered some autonomy to the Tamils, and murdered left and centre-left leaders who supported the Accord for its positive features in addressing the national question. Marxist Leninists, it may be noted, criticised the Accord for its inadequacies and its accommodation of Indian hegemonic interests, issues that the JVP was not in the least concerned with.

The decimation of all but one member of the JVP Politburo by state terror in 1989 meant that the JVP had to wait until the defeat of the UNP in 1994 for its second resurrection. The JVP grew at the expense of the old left in the South which was by then a spent force, but slowly. However, the combination of a chauvinistic agenda and an opportunistic coalition with the People’s Alliance led by the SLFP in 2004 helped it to secure 34 (or 15%) of the 225 parliamentary seats, despite a less than 7% share of the vote nationally when it contested independently. The emergence of the right-wing Sinhala chauvinist Jathika Hela Urumaya as a political force with 9 seats has made the JVP even more chauvinistic and obstructive in its approach to the national question.

In fairness to the CP and the LSSP, they cannot be said to uphold a chauvinistic ideology. But they have consistently failed to protest in the slightest against the chauvinistic agenda of the SLFP, their major political partner, or against the pursuit of war by the present government in which they are partners.

The lesson for the left movement as a whole is that opportunism of any kind only morally weakens a left party and inevitably leads to its degeneration into a centre-left reformist party that would participate, passively or even actively, in acts of national oppression and compromise with imperialism. Even worse, it could be compelled to do the dirty work for a repressive state in the name of combating ‘terrorism’ and separatism.

Struggles in India

Ganga Expressway : ‘Corporate Hitay, Sarvajan Dukhay’

– Sunil Yadav, Liberation, March, 2008.

From Greater Noida to Balia, the Ganga Expressway is around 1000 km. long. This 8-lane road passes mainly through the left bank of Ganga, though in Varanasi and Chandauli it has to pass on the right bank of Ganga. For this Expressway worth Rs 40000 crore, 631 sq. km land is to be acquired in 36 tehsils of 19 districts. More over, nearly 30000 acres of land around the Expressway is to be acquired in the name of ‘Development Zones.’ In all, around 64000 hectares of land is to be acquired for the Expressway Project. Perhaps, it is the largest one stroke land acquisition in Indian history. Of these 64000 hectares, only 5% land belongs to the Government, while 25% land is sandy, barren land with low productivity. And 70% land, the most fertile land of UP situated on the banks of Ganga, is to be acquired from peasants.

Presented as Mayawati’s birthday gift to the people of the state, it is claimed that this ‘dream project’ of the Chief Minister will link the backward region of eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP) with the developed Noida region adjoining Delhi; rejuvenate the traditional industries in Bhadohi, Kanpur, Kannauj and Khurja; boost tourism and commercial activities in historical cities like Varanasi, Mirzapur and Bithur. Also, vehicles may run at the speed of 120 Kms. per hour on jam-free roads.

The Game of Public-Private Partnership

Public-private partnership is being presented as Mayawati’s magical economic formula. It is claimed that thanks to public-private partnership, construction of the 1000 km. long road will not cost a single pie from the Government exchequer. The entire cost of the construction will be borne by one private company ‘JP Associates’. In the process of land acquisition also, Government will only play the role of facilitator.

However the facts reveal that in the name of public private partnership, private capital is being allowed to reap unbridled profit at the cost of the public. JP Associates are given the right to collect toll tax on the Expressway for 35 years. Moreover, in the name of ‘Development Zones’, 30000 acres of land is being handed over to JP Associates. They will be free to engage in real estate business on this tract of 30000 acres, and also on other profitable parts of the expressway. It is the same JP Associates which was given the contract for the construction of Taj Expressway during the earlier Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) – Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) regime; a project that was put in cold storage amidst accusations of scam and loot. JP is also notorious for firing by security guards on the agitating workers of the Golf Course at Noida. Obviously scams and loot make the road construction costlier. The honest, young engineer Satyendra Dubey had raised the issue of similar scams in Vajpayee’s Golden Quadrilateral Project for which he had to pay with his life. The cost of the Golden Quadrilateral road was assessed to be Rs. 6.34 crore per km. However surpassing all records of investment cost in road construction, the cost for Mayawati’s Ganga Expressway is assessed to be 30 crores per km: slated to be the costliest ever road in India.

Recipe for Environmental Devastation

The BSP Government boasts that such a mega project has been conceptualized only in a short period of 6 months. However the biggest casualty is the environmental devastation involved in such a huge project. Not only has the BSP Government ignored these concerns, the Congress- United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre too did not find it necessary to address the long-term issues of flood, pollution and environment. BJP too, has started communalizing the issue in the name of faith, blunting the edge of rational-scientific aspects of the environmental concerns related with Ganga. But in all likelihood, BJP will not succeed in its design of linking the Ganga Expressway to the Ram Sethu issue.

However, according to river engineers and environmentalists, the construction of this road as an embankment to the Ganga will affect the natural flow of the river. It will distort the flow of tributaries, canals and other natural flows. Consequently there may be disastrous floods in newer areas, sand logging on fertile land, changes in soil conservation and water level. The water ecology of the Ganga itself, as well as agriculture and the people dependent on it may be caught in this cycle of environmental devastation.

UP: Emphasis on Roads, Neglect of Surplus

It is said that in contrast to average national growth rate of 9%, UP’s growth rate is around 5% while the growth rate of eastern UP is around 2.5 to 3%. The agricultural and industrial surplus in extremely backward eastern UP does not really require a new road. The density of road network in UP is not lesser than national average. Also the districts through which Ganga Expressway passes are already connected to national highways and railways.

Many economists believe that instead of one more road in UP, if investment could be increased in power sector, education, health and agriculture etc and weaving, tannery and brass industry could be helped, it would have increased the surplus of agricultural and industrial production as well as the purchasing power of the people. Without this, just by creating some ‘development zones’ near Ganga Expressway, there can be no development of the state. Such development zones will be ‘islands of development’ for some corporate houses. Such islands of development can only give us the mirage of sensex celebrations and misleading growth rates.

SEZ, Mega SEZ and Agrarian Crisis

With acute agrarian crisis engulfing the country, per capita food grain availability has already come down to 444 grams in 2004-2005 from 503.1 grams in 1996-97. In such a scenario, the acquisition of 64 thousand hectares of land for the Ganga Expressway which is the largest-ever acquisition so far, will definitely adversely affect the availability of food grains and accentuate the agrarian crisis.

In fact the idea of development through Ganga Expresway is similar to the idea of corporate development via special economic zone (SEZ). This SEZ model only means super profits for real estate business and corporate land grab in the name of industries and infrastructure building. The SEZ model is counterproductive because it targets agriculture land, which cannot be reproduced. In this age of increasing imperialist pressure on India, the issue of agricultural land and self-reliance in the field of food grains cannot be ignored. But oblivious of all these considerations, Mayawati has imposed this Mega SEZ on the people of UP in the name of Ganga Expressway. Compared to 55000 hectares of land covered by all 362 SEZ proposals cleared till July 2007, the land to be acquired for the Mega SEZ of Ganga Expressway is 64000 hectares!

Mass Struggles Against Official Surrender

Governments have crossed all limits of brutality to defend corporate land grab at Kalingnagar and Nandigram. When the SEZ Act 2005 was passed in Parliament all parties of diverse hues, in a unique show of solidarity, showed complete consensus. It is the people who are challenging this anti-national, anti-peasant SEZ Act. SEZ proposals are being scrapped under the pressure of people’s movements. The new outpost of the victorious march that started from Nandigram is now in Goa. All SEZs had to be scrapped in Goa under the pressure of mass agitation. Mulayam has already tasted the bitter fruit of his attempt to grab land of farmers in Dadri. One can safely predict that people will not accept Ganga Expressway, the Mega SEZ of Mayawati. BSP’s slogan of ‘Sarvajan Hitay, Bahujan Sukhay’ is actually turning out to be ‘Corporate Hitay, Bahujan Dukhay’! It is need of the hour to consign the Ganga Expressway, dream project of hypocritical BSP and rapacious corporate houses, to the dustbin of history.

CPI (ML) Investigation Report

Protest Against Land Grab at Nalanda

– Rajendra Patel, Liberation, March, 2008.

On February 8, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar visited Pilkhi village of Nalanda (his home district) along with Ex-President Kalam to show him the proposed site for Nalanda University. Thousands of peasants, angry at the forced acquisition of their land at throwaway prices, assembled there and started raising slogans. It is alleged that the agitated peasants threw stones at the Chief Minister, injuring him on his head. Thus Nitish Kumar became the fourth chief minister (CM) – after KB Sahai, Jagannath Mishra and Bhagawat Jha Azad, to be humiliated by the masses. A CPI (ML) Investigation Team visited Pilkhi to find out truth and understand the reasons behind the agitation and anger of the peasants. The team comprised CPI (ML) central committee (CC) Member KD Yadav, All India Kisan Sangharsh Samiti President Raja Ram Singh, Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha State Secretary Rajendra Patel, State Committee Member Pal Bihari Lal and CPI (ML) district committee Member Anil Patel.

According to peasants, land is being acquired in 18 villages in the name of setting up Nalanda University. Sale and purchase of land has been legally banned in these villages. And under the area to be acquired fall residential areas as well as the cremation ground, public toilets and other public places. The land to be acquired is fertile three-crop land and apart from wheat and rice, commercial crops like potato, onion, garlic and spices are also produced here. With their hard labour peasants have irrigated the land. For example, there are 70 families in village Mudaffarpur who possess 50 hand pumps and 5 transformers. Obviously the Government’s claim that all land is unirrigated is false. While the market rate of the land is generally nowhere less than Rs. 22000 per kattha, the government is providing only Rs. 7750 per kattha for all types of land.

One more glaring fact was reported to the investigation team that Rs. 38 crore was issued from the Government treasury for compensation to the peasants but instead of distributing it to the farmers, the district magistrate (DM) deposited this money in his own account to reap a handsome interest. And when the programme for Ex-President’s visit was declared, a compensation camp was set up in a hurry on February 6. This was also one reason behind the anger of the peasants and the resultant pandemonium. The DM and superintendent of police (SP) of Nalanda, known as CM loyalists, are also notorious for brutal suppression of democratic movements.

Returning back to Patna, Nitish Kumar said that he was not aware of the peasants’ resentment. This was an obvious lie as the peasants were consistently agitating for the last one year, organizing demonstrations and dharna at district HQ as well as Patna.

The acquisition will result in landlessness of a large number of peasants. In many villages the entire population dependent on agriculture will be deprived of their only means of livelihood. Agricultural workers will be the worst hit, losing their dwellings and employment. However in utter disregard for the popular opposition, the Chief Minister arrogantly declared that the proposed plans in Nalanda will be completed at any cost.

Regarding the official propaganda about ‘planned conspiracy of murderous assault on the CM’, peasants said that it was patently false and fabricated. They said that no stone was thrown as there were no stones at all in the vicinity. They said that it is possible that someone among the agitated villagers threw mud, as the soil was wet there. False cases under Article 307 (attempt to murder) have been lodged against 25 villagers, and this has further angered the peasants. It is interesting to note that the agitating peasants have mainly been voters of Janata Dal (United) [(JD) (U)].

Whatever Nitish Kumar may claim, acquisition of so much land in Rajgir seems to be part of the special economic zone (SEZ) model of ‘development’, through by the backdoor. Such a large tract of land could not be required just for a university and a police camp. Peasants are also wondering what good the Nalanda University will do for their lives. Why should they accept homelessness and joblessness for a University where their own children won’t be able to study?

Politics in India

Draft Political Resolution for CPI(M)’s 19th Congress:

Reconciling ‘Anti-imperialist’ Rhetoric with ‘Neo-liberal Constraints’

– Liberation, March, 2008.

The draft political resolution released by the CPI (M) for its ensuing 19th Congress provides quite a revealing commentary on the opportunist political trajectory of the party. The resolution is characteristically elaborate about the description of the international and national situation. But when it comes to spelling out the concrete positions and role of the party, the resolution is rather vague and evasive. And as for the debate that the party now increasingly faces in its own circles, the resolution dismisses everything as a big anti-CPI (M) conspiracy!

The draft resolution devotes several paragraphs to the global economic situation under imperialist globalization and the US-led ‘war on terror’. It calls for a mighty worldwide anti-imperialist resistance that combines both anti-war and anti-globalisation sentiments and struggles on a global scale. But what task does the CPI (M) derive for itself from this global analysis and advocacy? The answer sounds pretty innocent – “rousing the anti-imperialist sentiments of the Indian people and mounting pressure on the Indian government to pursue a steadfast role in promoting multipolarity, defending sovereignty of nations and the non-aligned movement.”

Let us probe a little deeper. The CPI (M) resolution quite correctly identifies imperialist globalization and the global war on terror as the two principal prongs of the global offensive spearheaded by US imperialism. Now, where do the Indian ruling classes stand in relation to these key components of the imperialist agenda? There can be no denying the fact that in both economic and foreign policy spheres the Indian ruling classes are moving towards ever closer integration with imperialism in general and US imperialism in particular. And this integration is increasingly assuming a strategic and military dimension as well. This policy course has remained unchanged through all the periodic changes of governments over the last two decades and the UPA government has officially embarked on a course of strategic partnership with the US. Yet the CPI (M) resolution talks of mounting pressure on the Indian government to promote “the non-aligned movement”!

The CPI (M) never offered any serious opposition to the Indo-US strategic partnership. The official announcement regarding the partnership was made during Manmohan Singh’s US visit in July 2005. ‘Non-aligned’ India also voted duly with the US against Iran at the IAEA, not once but twice. The CPI (M) did nothing ‘commensurate with its strength and stature’ except making some noise in the media. It was only when negotiations over the nuclear deal entered the near-final stage that the CPI (M) stepped up its opposition. That too was diluted in the wake of Nandigram and the government was allowed to proceed with the ‘nuclear safeguard’ negotiations in the IAEA. While the UPA government binds India into ever closer strategic integration with the US, the CPI (M) voices only piecemeal opposition from time to time. So much for the CPI (M)’s claimed contribution to the anti-imperialist consciousness of the Indian people.

What about the CPI (M)’s role in ‘resisting’ imperialist globalization? Its governments in West Bengal and Kerala are now routinely borrowing funds and ‘vision’ from imperialist funding agencies and consultancy firms. Asian Development Bank (ADB), Department for International Development (DFID), McKinsey are not only well-known names in the CPI (M)-ruled states but they are increasingly the last word in the CPI (M)’s new-found discourse of ‘development’. Regarding the economic direction to be pursued by the Left Front government of West Bengal, the draft resolution calls upon the government to maintain a careful balance without accepting wholesale privatization in all economic and social spheres. How is this talk of ‘careful balance’ and moderated, calibrated privatization any different from the economic policy advocated by governments of other hues in other states or at the Centre?

The CPI (M) resolution claims credit for ‘slowing down’ the pace of neo-liberal reforms. Insofar as neo-liberal policies have to co-exist in India with a parliamentary democratic framework and the ruling classes have to renew their license every five years, an element of moderation or cautious calibration is built into the very scheme of things. The credit for slowing down of reforms should go to the popular protests that are building up against the predatory policies of the government and it is no secret that in CPI (M)-ruled states such protests have to face stiff resistance from the party and the government.

Let us take some recent examples. The SEZ Act was passed unanimously in Parliament in 2005. The CPI (M) owes an answer to the people of India why its forty-plus MPs voted in favour of the Act; or for that matter, under what ‘compulsion’ its model government in West Bengal had to anticipate the Central Act with its own 2003 version of the same land-grabbing legislation. If the UPA government has now been forced to introduce some elements of ‘moderation’, it has been in the wake of the people’s resistance at Nandigram and popular mobilization against SEZs elsewhere in the country. And the whole country knows what role the CPI (M) has played at Nandigram – it has only perpetrated and patronized massacres at regular intervals in a desperate bid to thwart the resistance of the people. Likewise, if there is now talk of amending the Land Acquisition Act 1894, it is all because of the debate that has been generated by what has happened at Kalinganagar and Singur. It is indeed strange that a party that fraudulently uses an arbitrary law like the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 to acquire one thousand acres of fertile land for monopoly capital should wax eloquent about the need for ‘amending and updating’ this antiquated legislation! We know how CPI (M) ideologues rationalize this hypocrisy. To them it is simply a case of ‘distinction’ between a state government operating under ‘neo-liberal constraints’ and a communist party applying its ‘freedom of expression’, and if we are not able to grasp this distinction we are guilty of ‘inversion of reason’!

‘Liberalism’ in economics is always complemented by illiberalism in governance. The deepening of neo-liberal reforms in almost every sector of the economy has been matched by a proliferation of special legislations of control to incriminate every form of public dissent and protest. The so-called ‘national security’ doctrine of the UPA government is fast degenerating into a gospel of unmitigated state repression and systematic truncation of democracy. The CPI (M)’s critique of neo-liberalism is remarkably reticent, if not silent, about this growing danger. Even when it comes to the demand for repeal of the most draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the CPI (M) merely advocates replacing the AFSPA “with a suitable law which can enable the army to be deployed in disturbed areas to combat insurgency that will do away with the draconian features of the existing law!” Obviously, one will look in vain for any word of criticism in the CPI (M) document regarding the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act that has incorporated several features of the POTA or draconian state laws like the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act which is being invoked by the BJP government in the state to trample upon press freedom and civil liberties. The CPI (M)’s opposition to the BJP revolves only around the issue of communalism, with very little attention paid to the fundamental question of democracy.

For the last four years the CPI (M) has been actively associated with a government at the Centre. How does the CPI (M) describe its association? The CPI (M) is a signatory to the Common Minimum Programme which is the ruling UPA’s commonly drafted and commonly monitored manifesto of governance. Yet the CPI (M) would have us believe that its association with the government is only selective. In fact while it claims credit for legislations on rural employment guarantee (will the CPI (M) tell us if it has been instrumental for the NREGA, why the rural poor in CPI (M)-ruled states have not even got ten days’ employment a year instead of the assured 100 days?), right to information and prevention of domestic violence, and for the presumed slowing down of reforms, it blames the Congress for everything neo-liberal and pro-imperialist in UPA policies! Whatever may be the CPI (M)’s formula for apportioning credit and blame, the fact remains that the CPI (M) cannot hide its actual status as a participant and major stakeholder in the UPA government.

The draft resolution boldly rules out any alliance or united front with the Congress. In state after state the CPI (M) enters into electoral adjustments with the Congress (Gujarat was the most recent example), and at the Centre the CPI (M) underwrites a Congress-led coalition government, albeit without any ministerial portfolio. The resolution would like us to believe that it is a one-way relationship where the Congress depends on the CPI (M) with the latter remaining completely independent! Jyoti Basu was clearly closer to the truth when he had once famously described this relationship as one of mutual interdependence. The CPI (M) has no problem with sharing a common minimum programme of governance with the Congress and with having seat adjustment wherever possible, yet it claims to be steering clear of any ‘united front’ with the Congress.

With Lok Sabha elections approaching, the CPI (M) will of course now be more in the denial mode regarding its relations with the Congress. A typical expression of this denial mode is the renewed advocacy of a third alternative. The notion of the third front would come in handy particularly in states like Andhra Pradesh and Assam where the CPI (M) may well seek electoral adjustments with regional parties like the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Assam Gan Parishad (AGP). Never mind if the CPI (M) had teamed up with the Congress against the TDP in the last Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh – the draft resolution describes the TDP as a regional party that seeks cooperation with the Left! In a way the draft resolution marks a near-complete liberalization of the CPI (M)’s political line where ideology, elections and governance are neatly compartmentalized. Phrases like ‘left and democratic unity’ and ‘third front’ are used more for ideological posturing and political consumption while policies regarding electoral adjustment and governance are sought to be rationalized in the name of ‘neo-liberal constraints’ and ‘constitutional compulsions’!

The draft resolution calls upon the entire party to “defend the Left-led governments from the attacks coming from the ruling classes, right wing reactionaries and the ultra-Left.” The call must be read in the context of the countrywide opposition and criticism that the CPI (M) has had to face following the forcible land acquisition at Singur and the massacres at Nandigram. Now this opposition has come primarily from the affected and aggrieved people of Singur and Nandigram which in turn has found widespread support from the broad democratic opinion not only in West Bengal but in every corner of the country. In the case of Nandigram, the local people who opposed the West Bengal government’s move to set up a chemical hub were all long-standing supporters and activists of the CPI (M) itself. But a rattled CPI (M) establishment could not tolerate this unexpected resistance from within its own base and responded with a series of massacres.

The violence naturally evoked all-round condemnation. Yet instead of paying any heed to the voice of protest senior CPI (M) leaders took it upon themselves to justify the killings – following the third massacre in November 2007 the Chief Minister openly said that trouble-makers had been “paid back in their own coin” – while heaping scorn and ridicule on whoever condemned the killings and questioned the CPI (M)’s discourse of corporate-led ‘industrialisation’ and neo-liberal ‘development’. Even a thoroughly partisan Prabhat Patnaik who had questioned the neo-liberal direction of West Bengal was dismissed by the Chief Minister as an armchair economist devoid of any connection with reality! An eminent Marxist historian became an enemy of the people in the eyes of Prakash Karat simply because he had drawn a parallel between Gujarat and Nandigram! This paranoid arrogance has now been made Party policy in the draft resolution.

The CPI (M) may club the ruling classes, rightwing reactionaries and the revolutionary left (ultra-left in its vocabulary) as its common enemy. This does not however prevent the CPI (M) from doing brisk business with significant sections of the ruling classes and their oldest political party, the Congress! In sharp contrast to this arrogant sectarianism of the CPI (M), the revolutionary left knows how to distinguish between the ruling classes and the opportunist left. The CPI (ML) has serious differences with both the CPI (M) and the self-styled Maoists, but it never subscribes to the anti-communist tirade of the ruling classes and their ideologues. Inside West Bengal, the CPI (ML) has been the only party to have always maintained its independence and demarcation from the entire spectrum of rightwing forces, working consistently for a Left and democratic alternative. The misdeeds and arrogance of the CPI (M) are providing a fertile ground for the right and the CPI (ML) is there to counter this process in the best interest of the Left movement. The CPI (ML) does not have to indulge in any exercise to malign the CPI (M), but it is certainly the political responsibility of the CPI (ML) to counter the negative impact of the CPI (M)’s utterly indefensible acts like Singur and Nandigram. And this is not a separate task for the CPI (ML), but only an integral part of its overall mission: “people’s resistance, left resurgence”.

Resistance in India

‘People’s Assertion Rally’ in Siwan

– Liberation, March, 2008.

On February 18, CPI (ML) organized a massive ‘Jan Davedari Rally’ (People’s Assertion Rally) in Gandhi Maidan, Siwan. More than 10, 000 participated in the rally. Addressing it as the main speaker Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary, CPI (ML), spoke of the struggles of Siwan that had defied the terror of mafia dons and criminal gangs patronised by those in power. He said that the Nitish Kumar government had been unable to provide good governance to Bihar even in 30 months, let alone in 3 months as claimed by him when he was sworn in as Chief Minister. Nitish’s humiliation at the hands of agitating peasants in his own home district amply demonstrates the deeper resentment accumulating against him. Comrade Dipankar called upon people to participate in CPI (ML)’s ‘Pol Khol’ Rally in Patna on March 18.

Others who addressed the rally were Comrades Rameshwar Prasad, central committee (CC) Member and National President All India Agricultural Labour Association (AIALA), Dhirendra Jha, CCM and General Secretary AIALA, Amar Yadav, State Committee member and member of legislative assembly (MLA), Satya Dev Ram, State Secretary AIALA, Javed Beg, Co-convener, Inquilabi Muslim Conference and All India Progressive Women’s Organisation (AIPWA) leader Comrades Sohila Gupta. Comrade Ghughali Prasad presided over the meeting.

Resistance in India

7-yr Jail Term for Bant Singh’s Attackers

– Liberation, March, 2008.

Seven of the attackers of Bant Singh Jhabbar, responsible for the assault in January 2006 that cost him three of his limbs, have been sentenced by a local court to seven years of rigorous imprisonment. The court also handed out a fine of Rs 7,000 to each accused.

The verdict, however, while being an acknowledgement of the assault, is far from satisfactory or adequate. The bench took a very narrow interpretation of the scheduled caste/scheduled tribe (SC/ST) Act, and refused to apply it, holding that Bant in his initial statement had not claimed it to be a caste assault. This interpretation negates the complex social reality of class, caste and political identity. The attack on Bant was an act of intimidation to him as a Dalit agricultural labour leader, cultural activist and CPI (ML) activist, fighting for justice for his raped daughter, to ‘punish’ him for confronting the feudal forces of Mansa; and also a gruesome warning against others of his class and caste against political assertion.

The CPI (ML) has decided to appeal against the mild verdict in the high court, demanding life imprisonment for the attackers.

Trade Union

AICCTU Achieves Recognition as Central Trade Union Organization

– Rajiv Dimri, Liberation, March, 2008.

Founded in 1989 in its Chennai conference, the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) has achieved the status of a recognized Central Trade Union Organization (CTUO). AICCTU represents the trend of revolutionary trade unionism in the working class movement in India and is the trade union mass organisation of CPI (ML) Liberation.

As per the finally verified membership of CTUOs (on the basis of membership as on 31 December 2002), AICCTU has recorded a membership of 639,962 (6 Lakh Thirty Nine Thousand Nine Hundred and Sixty Two) spread over 32 of 50 scheduled industries (including miscellaneous) and 11 states. It has a total number of 165 unions. The pattern of spread of membership shows that apart from making a notable expansion in the unorganized/informal sector which constitutes more than 90% of the total workforce of our country, AICCTU has made considerable expansion in the organized sector too. Among the unorganized sector workers, AICCTU has registered an expansion in all the important sectors like agriculture, plantations, construction, power-loom, and others. The most notable expansion has been among agricultural workers, mainly in Bihar, with a total membership of more than 5 lakh followed by tea plantation workers (mainly in Assam) with a membership of more than 25,000. Among organized sector workers, AICCTU has made considerable expansion in coal mining (mainly in Jharkhand) with a membership of more than 50,000, followed by Road Transport (mainly in Delhi and Bihar) and local bodies (mainly in Bihar). The expansion of AICCTU continues in last five years (2003-07), most notably among agricultural, tea plantation, construction and brick kiln workers in the unorganized sector and contract/casual workforce employed in organized sector, apart from permanent workforce, particularly in coal, steel and local bodies and companies owned by corporate houses.

The status of recognized CTUO was accorded by the government to AICCTU on the basis of General Verification of membership of registered trade unions affiliated to CTUOs with 31.12.2002 as the date of reckoning (i.e. membership as on 31 December 2002) conducted under the Ministry of Labour, Government of India. AICCTU participated in this exercise for the first time. The last verification was conducted in 1996.

According to the procedure adopted, the CTUOs having verified membership of at least 5 lakh and spread over at least four states and four industries were to be recognized by the government as CTUOs. The recognized unions are given representation in International and National conferences, Committees, Councils, etc. As per the final results of verification issued by Ministry of Labour, 12 CTUOs including AICCTU have been declared as recognized accounting for a combined trade union membership of around 2.5 crore (25 million). Apart from AICCTU, the other recognized unions are BMS, INTUC, CITU, AITUC, HMS, UTUC (LS), LPF, UTUC, TUCC, NFITU-Dhanbad and SEWA. BMS has emerged as the largest CTUO among all and AITUC has emerged as the largest CTUO among left unions. Interestingly for the first time, a NGO called SEWA has also been accorded the status of recognized CTUO.

AICCTU thanks all its affiliated unions for their cooperation in the membership verification exercise that has led to its successful recognition as a central trade union. AICCTU’s Seventh National Conference is due to be held this year. The status of central trade union brings new responsibilities and challenges in its wake. AICCTU must gear up to meet these challenge, expand its base amongst the working class, fight the reactionary, legalistic, and economistic trends within the working class, and orient the working class movement not only to defend workers’ rights in this age of all-round assaults, but also to take on the political task of resisting pro-imperialist policies, fighting the communal fascist forces, and defending the nation’s sovereignty. Encouraged by its growing appeal, AICCTU is committed to rising up to this challenge.

Culture

Long Live Comrade Ramakant Dwivedi ‘Ramta’

– Liberation, March, 2008.

Freedom fighter and popular revolutionary poet in both Bhojpuri and Hindi, Comrade Ramakant Dwivedi ‘Ramta’ passed away on January 24, 2008, at the age of 90 in Patna.

Ramtaji was born in October 1917 – that epoch-making month and year marking the Russian Revolution. All his life, he remained dedicated to the struggles of the deprived. He was approaching his 91st spring; and yet he was full of the indomitable spirit and revolutionary energy of youth. His life inspired many generations to walk the path of revolutionary struggles.

As a young man, Ramtaji threw himself enthusiastically into the freedom struggle. His political life began with the dream expressed in his song ‘A charkha in each and every Indian’s home’. In 1932 he was jailed during the Salt Satyagraha. In 1941 he was jailed again, but by then he was disillusioned with the Gandhian movement. In a poem written in July 1941, he declared, “I am marching on the path of revolution/Swiftly breaking the bonds of restraint, here I come”. In the Quit India movement of 1942, young people really did break the bonds of restraint; Ramtaji too was at the forefront of that movement and was again arrested and tortured in 1943. In a poem of 1943, he indicated his future path, “I am off on the path taken by Bhagat Singh and Azad/Khudiram-Sukhdev-Bismil Ramprasad”.

He was never taken in by the promises of the post-1947 regimes of independent India. In one Bhojpuri song he wrote, “I said so right from the start that the ‘Suraj’ (freedom/good rule) would turn into ‘Kuraj’ (misrule)/ Those whom we looked towards with hope and trust betrayed us.” Since then his attraction towards Left politics grew, and initially he joined the CPI (M). While in CPI (M) he was jailed during a Bihar Bandh in 1966. Soon after that he joined the CPI (ML). In 1980-81, he became a formal member of the CPI (ML) and remained active with the party’s activities and movements all his life. He faced jail terms many times in the course of active struggles.

He was one of the founder members of the ‘Bihar Rajya Janwadi Deshbhakta Morcha’ which was formed during the early 80s, and was elected the President of IPF in its founding conference. Ramta ji was also elected the member of Central Control Commission of the CPI (ML) in its Varanasi Congress.

CPI (ML) was home for Comrade Ramta ji. When he came to Ara just a week before his death he insisted on being taken to the Party office, despite his fragile health, saying “take me home”. In spite of his failing health he was very keen on attending the Party Congress at Kolkata, and was dissuaded with great difficulty. When CPI (ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar was arrested in Jharkhand and a protest was held there, he too arrived there along with the contingent from Bihar. He was one of those senior comrades who played an important role in establishing the Party’s roots in Bhojpur’s soil.

The tradition of people’s songs established by Ramtaji was developed by Gorakh Pandey and Vijendra Anil. Ramtaji’s song on Kunwar Singh has a sharp and popular political perspective, and in this song we can see the backdrop of the political debates surrounding 1857. Ramtaji’s songs were popular and sung even by activists from other Left and democratic streams, often without the knowledge that he was the author of the songs. Some of Ramtaji’s best known songs are: “Rajniti sabke bujhe ke, bujhave ke pari/desh phasal bate jaal mein, chhodave ke pari”( All must understand and explain politics/The country is caught in a trap, we must free it); his satire on Emergency and Indira Gandhi whom he lampooned as ‘Dilli wali raniya” (queen of Delhi); “Hamar suni”; and many others. The spirit of his defiant and bold creativity is captured in his lines, “Kranti ke ragini ham ta gaibe karab/Kehu ka na sohal ta ham ka kari/ Lal jhanda hava mein udaibe karab/ Kehu jarike butala ta ham ka kari” (I’ll sings the songs of revolution come what may/ If anyone objects there’s nothing I can do/ The red flag with fly high in the wind/ if it bothers anyone what can I do?”

Red Salute (Laal Salaam) to ‘Ramta ji’!

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