May-June 2011

Table of Contents

  1. Osama Is Dead: But US Imperialism’s World Wide War Lives On
  2. Assault on the Citadels of Corruption and Corporate Plunder

  3. CPI(ML)’s Solidarity Initiatives

  4. Anna Praise for Modi and Nitish Unfortunate
  5. Stop the Smear Campaign against Anti-corruption Campaigners

  6. May Day: Working Class Marches

  7. Mixer-Grinder in Tamil Nadu, Switzerland-London in West Bengal!

  8. Binayak Gets Bail: When Will All our Binayaks Get Justice?

  9. Heed the Warning from Japan: Scrap Jaitapur Nuke Project

  10. AISA Protests Suicides of Research Scientists at NII

  11. Poem: Free my feet from the shackles

 

International

Osama Is Dead: But US Imperialism’s World Wide War Lives On

– ML Update, May, 2011.

The US has proclaimed its success in its decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, culminating in the killing of Laden by US military operatives in a house in Abbotabad in Pakistan. As the televised triumphalism and images of hyper-nationalist celebrations in the US fade, however, the US’ heroic narrative is being subjected to uncomfortable questions.

Ironically, Osama’s death has come, not in the wake of 9/11 when he was at the peak of his strength, but at a time when Osama and his al-Qaeda were effectively sidelined in an Arab world that is witnessing a democratic awakening and upsurge. This fact too robs the US narrative of some of its sheen.

The US itself has put forward conflicting versions of the night-time raid by its military team. The initial US claim of an intense fire-fight has now been discarded, with the US admitting that in fact, only one man opened fire on the US operatives. The claim that Osama himself opened fire too has been withdrawn, and the US has admitted that he was in fact unarmed. Osama’s killing is said to have been witnessed by his 12-year-old daughter. Apart from Osama and his son (whose bodies were speedily disposed off in the sea), at least three other men and one woman were killed, while many have been injured.

Why was it necessary to kill an unarmed Osama rather than arrest him and bring him to justice? Why has his body been hurriedly disposed off in a way designed to prevent the possibility of any closer scrutiny of the manner and circumstances of his death? The US has yet to answer these questions convincingly. Moreover, an armed attack on a sleeping household including several children, the killing of an unarmed terrorist in the presence of his child, and the killing of other unarmed men and a woman – these are not the stuff of a heroic encounter with a dreaded terrorist.

US President Obama has claimed the killing of Laden to be the crowning achievement in the war on terror. Some have even tried to glorify it with comparisons to the end of Hitler and the defeat of fascism. Such inflated claims are quite baseless. The end of Hitler did mark the end of WWII and a world historic defeat and decline of fascism. The killing of Osama, in contrast, spells neither the end of terrorism as a phenomenon nor the end of the US imperialist ‘war on terror.’

Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda are known to be the most dangerous by-products of the anti-Soviet strategy pursued by the US in the 1980s using the popular resentment in Afghanistan and the Islamic world against the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. Modern-day terrorism is largely a US strategy that has backfired, and this cannot be contained or ended by the end of Osama. Rather, continuing US occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan and wars on Libya are likely to keep spawning more terrorism.

The most immediate political effect achieved by the Osama killing is the sharp rise in popularity ratings of Obama, who is soon to face elections. The Osama coup has effectively taken the wind out of the sails of the aggressive Republican/Tea Party campaign that had been gathering momentum in the backdrop of growing unemployment and continuing economic crisis in the US and the huge politico-economic costs of the US misadventure in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, Obama’s claim to have avenged 9/11 may well outweigh the propaganda of his rivals.

There are indications that the despotic Saudi rulers, threatened by the Arab uprising and seeking a convergence of Arab ruling interests and those of US imperialism and Obama in particular, helped deliver Osama to the US.

Pakistan’s military establishment is facing tough questions within its own country about how much it knew and concealed of Osama’s hideout, which was a stone’s throw away from a military academy. The Raymond Davis episode, Wikileaks revelations of US rulers’ doublespeak on US drone attacks, and now the Osama episode have created some ferment in Pakistani society about the nexus between the Pakistani ruling class, military establishment, terrorism and US imperialism.

The Pakistani rulers and military as well as the US are wary of possible reverberations of the ‘Arab spring’ in Pakistan. Whether Pakistan will indeed witness some version of an ‘Arab spring’ remains to be seen, but it must be stressed that only a democratic and anti-imperialist awakening of the people can be an effective answer to both imperialism and terrorism (which, after all, is nothing but an imperialist ploy gone berserk).

In India, we are witnessing some hawkish clamour to use the US’ Osama operation as a precedent for unilateral action to hunt down the masterminds of 26/11 inside Pakistan. The Indian Army and Air Force Chiefs have indulged in irresponsible statements about India’s preparedness for a similar operation against terrorists in Pakistan. Instead of indulging in such misplaced jingoism, India should re-examine its own relationship with the US in the light of the US treatment of Pakistan.

The Osama operation, like the Raymond Davis episode, has underscored the sheer contempt the US has for the sovereignty and independence of its so-called allies and partners. All US ‘partners’ including new members of the club like India should be warned. Terrorism and imperialism pose similar threats to both Pakistan and India. With the increased US presence in South Asia, with its accompanying spiral of terrorism, people of both countries need to recognise the need to come closer to tackle these twin challenges of terrorism and imperialism effectively.

Struggles in India

Onward to a More Determined Assault on the Citadels of Corruption and Corporate Plunder

– Liberation, May, 2011.

The indefinite fast launched by Anna Hazare on April 5 demanding a Jan Lokpal Bill (JLB) has ended in an initial victory. The fast has been withdrawn after 98 hours following an agreement between the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and some leading JLB campaigners. A 10-member drafting committee has been constituted with as many members from the government side as from the JLB campaign. The draft of the Bill will presumably be ready by June 30 and Anna Hazare says he would like to see the legislation become effective by August 15. This is surely an encouraging moment for the anti-corruption movement in the country.

The idea of a Lok Pal (ombudsman) has been discussed time and again since the 1960s. Every time corruption in high places has hit the headlines, the idea has been mooted and then shelved. Since 1968, there have been ten instances of a Lok Pal bill being introduced and then being allowed to get lapsed. The Lok Pal bill can thus be described as the oldest member of the club of long-awaited legislations like right to work, reservation for women in State Assemblies and Parliament and comprehensive legislation for agricultural labourers.

How could an idea which has been shelved for decades get ‘clinched’ in less than a week? This can be attributed primarily to two factors – the intolerably high levels of corruption and the groundswell of popular support and activism which would have surfaced much more pronouncedly if the fast were to continue any longer and if it were to move on to the subsequent phase of a countrywide ‘jail bharo’ agitation. The Indian ruling classes and the scam-studded UPA government could not possibly risk a protracted stalemate or a direct showdown on the issue, especially in view of the ongoing Assembly elections in five states and the ‘alarming’ examples of contemporary mass upsurges from Nepal to Egypt.

If the rulers have demonstrated such ‘maturity’ and corrupt leaders and corporate honchos all are now itching to wear the anti-corruption mask, activists of the anti-corruption movement and the people at large will also have to demonstrate their resolve to step up the battle and snatch bigger victories.

We must remember that behind the pleasant surprise of this quick initial victory lay the people and their growing anger against corruption. The people are not particularly concerned about the nitty-gritty of a Lok Pal or the composition of the drafting committee, what they want is rooting out of corruption and firm action against the corrupt. The Jan Lok Pal can of course be an important institutional mechanism in this context and pressure must be kept up to make sure that the country indeed gets an effective anti-corruption legislation and a functional and credible institutional mechanism to prosecute and punish the guilty.

India has not yet ratified the United Nations (UN) Convention against corruption and the government is taking no step either to bring back the money that has been drained out of the country or to confiscate the enormous amount of black money and ill-gotten wealth accumulated within the country. We must insist on immediate and decisive action on all these issues.

While fighting for new laws and institutions we must also realize why the existing laws and institutions are not delivering. The answer clearly lies in the growing shadow of corporate power and the obnoxious complicity between the ruling parties/coalitions and dominant corporate interests. The anti-corruption movement must therefore also take on this growing corporate power and the nexus between the governments, the corporations and US imperialism, the military flagship of global capitalism.

The corporate media, especially most 24 hour television channels, are known to treat every major issue or event as a grand spectacle. Even when they have to deal with a people’s movement, they invariably zero in on personalities – be it an Anna Hazare or a Baba Ramdev – and obliterate the people, and subject complex questions and democratic debates to a simplistic hype. But the forces of people’s movement must not get distracted and seize the moment to launch a more determined mass assault on the citadels of corruption and corporate plunder.

Struggles in India

CPI(ML)’s Solidarity Initiatives

– Liberation, May, 2011.

The CPI(ML), extending support to the movement led by Anna Hazare for an effective Jan Lokpal Bill, held a solidarity dharna at Jantar Mantar as well as daylong solidarity fasts at several places all over the country on 8 April.

Party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya participated in the solidarity fast against corruption at Ranchi, while Comrades Rameshwar Prasad, President of the All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association (AIALA), Rajaram Singh, General Secretary of the All India Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM), Comrade Saroj Chaubey, Vice President of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), Comrades Satyadev Ram, Arun Singh and Kamlesh Sharma sat on the solidarity fast at Patna.

In Uttar Pradesh dharna, hunger fast and marches were organised by CPI(ML) on 8th April in different districts including Lucknow in support of Anna Hazare’s hunger fast for Jan Lokpal Bill in Delhi. In Lucknow Party activists and members sat on a dharna at the Jhulelal Park on the banks of Gomti. A Dharna was organised at Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s statue in Allahabad and at Ramashray Park in Kanpur. Party members held similar programmes at Varanasi, Chandauli, Mirzapur, Sonebhadra and Lakhimpur Khiri among other places. An anti-repression and anti-corruption march was held at Jamania in Gazipur which was addressed by Party’s State Secretary.

In Gorakhpur, the CPI(ML) held an anti-corruption fast and dharna each day from 5-10 April. In this town where the Sangh Parivar has a dominant presence, our dharna site became the rallying point for secular, democratic anti-corruption protestors.

In Delhi hundreds of students and workers under the banner of All India Students’ Association (AISA) and All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) joined the CPI(ML)’s solidarity dharna at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. The dharna was addressed by Delhi State Secretary of the CPI(ML), Sanjay Sharma, Central Committee member Swapan Mukherjee, AISA National General Secretary Ravi Rai, AICCTU leader Santosh Ray and many others. Following this, the gathering marched through Jantar Mantar, raising slogans against corporate plunder and corporate-driven polices and distributing leaflets outlining the party’s perspective on anti-corruption struggle.

Hailing the popular awakening against corruption in the country, the CPI(ML) called for the anti-corruption movement, for which the starting point has been the agitation for Jan Lokpal legislation, to take the struggle forward to challenge the policies of privatisation that are the breeding ground for ever-bigger scams and corporate loot.

Struggles in India

Anna Praise for Modi and Nitish Unfortunate

– CPI(ML) CC Statement, New Delhi, 11 April.

Anna Hazare’s remark praising Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar on their rural development work is highly unfortunate and unwarranted.

Narendra Modi as Gujarat chief minister (CM) faces charges of having deployed state machinery to orchestrate communal genocide in 2002. Top Ministers and police officials in the state face serious charges of fake encounters which have been linked to mafia interests; the Sohrabuddin encounter being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) currently is suspected to have been a contract killing at the behest of marble mafia. Can such a Government and CM make any pretensions to supporting the cause of the struggle against corruption?

Nitish Kumar evaded facing a CBI probe on the multi-crore treasury fraud in Bihar. The latest CAG report on the state of finances in Bihar has again indicted the Nitish Government, showing that there are no DC (detailed contingency) bills against AC (abstract contingency) withdrawal amounting Rs 15,850.41 crore. DC bills submitted hastily after the High Court ordered a CBI probe have been found to be full of discrepancies. A government that is itself facing such serious charges of corruption and evading even a CBI probe cannot be allowed to bask in the borrowed limelight of the anti-corruption struggle.

Anna Hazare has got widespread support on the issue of corruption, and is now a member of the drafting committee on the Lokpal Bill. Statements from him seeming to legitimize NDA Chief Ministers like Modi and Nitish Kumar are not in the best interests of the anti-corruption movement. Such remarks are liable to be used by discredited rulers while undermining the spirit of the fighting people.

Struggles in India

Stop the Smear Campaign against Anti-corruption Campaigners

– CPI(ML) CC Statement, New Delhi, April 19.

The anonymous circulation of a CD claiming to implicate noted anti-corruption campaigners and members of the Lokpal Bill drafting committee, Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan, is cause for concern. The timing of the CD (released on the eve of the first meeting of the Lokpal Bill drafting committee), accompanied by a concerted attack on the lawyer duo by Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh as well as Amar Singh, is suspicious.

Prashant Bhushan is fighting numerous public interest litigations (PILs) and cases against corrupt Governments and powerful corporations. He has stressed that the fight against corruption will require not only an effective Lokpal Bill but an end to the policies of privatisation that create incentives for corporate plunder and corruption.

Corporations and corrupt political forces therefore have a huge interest in undermining the credibility of the Bhushans. The smear campaign against the Bhushans is a reminder that the anti-corruption movement will face the most virulent and underhand attacks when it takes on pro-corporate and pro-liberalisation policies that are at the root of corruption.

Amar Singh, implicated in a host of corruption charges, has joined the Congress in attacking the Bhushans. He has also declared that the Congress has taken exemplary action in the case of every recent scam.

A scam-tainted UPA Government, opportunistically making common cause with the dubious Amar Singh to target such public-spirited individuals as the Bhushans, only further lowers its own already beleaguered credibility. Those responsible for the fabricated CD should be identified and sternly penalised.

May Day in India

Working Class Marches against Corporate Plunder, Corruption & Violation of Labour Laws

– Rajiv Dimri, ML Update, 3-9 May, 2011.

May Day, 2011, was organized by All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) through out the country against unbridled corruption/scams and corporate loot, price rise particularly of food items and attack on and curtailment of labour rights in the country and American interference in Arab world particularly aggression against Libya.

While commemorating May Day, AICCTU called upon the workers to further intensify the movement against corruption and corporate loot with demand of reversal of economic policy of liberalization, privatization and globalization (LPG), which is the root cause of corruption and corporate loot and to blacklist and prosecute corporate houses that have been implicated in corruption or violations of law. It also called upon the workers to intensify the movement for workers’ democratic and livelihood rights, food for all, jobs for all and for provision of daily wages of Rs. 400 with dearness allowance, a minimum monthly pension of Rs. 7500 and social security to all unorganized workers and rejection of anti-worker recommendations of the Expert Committee on Provident Fund pension.

The May Day programmes were organized by AICCTU among various sections of workers ranging from organized industries like coal, steel, automobile etc. to vast masses of unorganized/informal sections like contract, construction, brick-kiln, agricultural and rural workers, tea plantation workers and honorarium workers particularly women working in various government schemes. Including Delhi, in several states joint left trade union rallies were organized in which AICCTU participated. In overall sense, the left trade unions took lead in organizing May Day events in India. Following is the glimpse of May Day programmes organized by AICCTU.

Bengaluru (Karnataka): All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) organized an impressive rally of workers on May Day that marched through the streets surrounding Information Technology (IT) Park, one of the centres of global capital in Bangalore. Last year May Day was organized in Electronic City which is another major centre of IT industries. Workers of readymix concrete plants from four corners of Bangalore joined the rally after hoisting flags in their respective plants. The workers raised slogans that reverberated all through the centre of global capital. The rally also demanded resignation of Yeddyurappa-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state of Karnataka that is pro-corporate and pro-transnational corporations. The rally accused the BJP government of fomenting communalism and for promoting illegal mining despite tall talks of ban on exports.

Assam: AICCTU and its affiliated organizations observed May Day at different places in Assam. Different central trade unions (TUs) including AICCTU jointly organized a massive protest meeting and a procession in Guwahati city. In the morning AICCTU affiliated trade union (among unorganized and contractual workers) United Workmen Union of Guwahati Refinery brought out a procession and held a seminar on ‘Role of Working Class and Mass Organization in National Building Process’. In Tinsukia district, a tea workers’ mobilization was organized in Panitola Tea Estate under the banner of Asom Sangrami Chah Sramik Sangha (ASCSS).

Tamilnadu: At Redhills near Chennai 1000 strong rally of workers of AICCTU & All India Agricultural Labourers Association (AIALA) was held which culminated in a public meeting. Workers of Chennai, Tiruvellore and Kanjipuram participated in a well decorated rally in red uniforms. Comrade S Kumarasamy, National President of AICCTU was the main speaker.

In Namakkal district, Flag hoisting programmes were held at 17 centres. In Tirunelveli, rally attended mostly by women beedi workers. In Coimbatore, an impressive public meeting was organized in Perianayakkan Palayam near Pricol factory.

Punjab: Many rallies were organized by AICCTU Punjab to mark the International Labour Day. Massive rallies were organized at Mansa, Jhunir, Budhlada, Tapa, Rampura and Talwandi apart from various village grain markets. These rallies were largely attended by the brick kiln workers under the banner of Lal Jhanda Bhatha Mazdoor Union (AICCTU) and Majdoor Mukti Morcha.

Chhattisgarh: May Day was observed by the AICCTU by taking out a rally from Ghadi Chowk, Supela and a public meeting thereafter. The meeting was addressed by AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee among others.

May Day was observed by the workers of Kolvasari, Welcome Distillery, Rayalseema Concrete Sleepers and the workers from Raipur, Bhilai and Rajnandgaon associated with Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha.

Rajasthan: May Day was celebrated in three districts of Rajasthan. In Jaipur District the newly-formed South Jaipur Industrial Area Mazdoor Union which recently got affiliated with AICCTU, took out a rally in the Sanganer area under the leadership of Com. Anand Dheva. This area has 200-300 industrial units mainly involved in paper-making, textile printing, garment manufacture and exports. This was the first time that workers and unit owners in this area had witnessed a workers’ rally with red flags, slogans and speeches. The main speaker was Rajasthan AICCTU-in-charge, Com. Srilata who emphasised the importance of Mazdoor Divas, problems of unorganised workers and the need to form a strong workers’ union. The rally culminated at the gates of Rainbow Paper Factory where a worker had completely lost his right arm when it was crushed by a machine and he had not received any compensation. This gate meeting demanded that he be compensated at once. On the evening of May Day a joint press conference was held in Jaipur at the AICCTU office addressed among others by Com. Srilata.

Uttar Pradesh: At Allahabad, hundreds of workers of Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) Contract Workers’ Union (CWU) (affiliated to AICCTU) marched 4 km in the form of a rally from their factory gate to Babuganj Bazaar on the eve of May Day with red flags, slogan placards and banners in their hands. Peasants and other workers too joined in at different places on the way. The meeting at the end of the rally remembered the immortal and unforgettable martyrs of Chicago 1886.

On May Day, IFFCO (CWU), Allahabad Medical Workers’ Union, sanitation workers of Municipal Council and hundreds of other workers marched to Suhash Chauraha where a meeting was organised by May Day Celebration Committee.

Bihar: May Day programmes were organised under AICCTU banner at Gaya, Bhagalpur, Patna, Nalanda, Bhojpur, Jahanabad, Darbhanga and Vaishali. At most places rally was taken out that transformed into public meeting at the end of march. In Patna, joint rally was organised in the evening organised by Central TUs.

Jharkhand: May Day programmes were centred on the protest against eviction of poor in the name of removing encroachment apart from national issues. On 2nd May, the bandh called in Coal Belt and Jharkhand against the evictions was a complete success. Prabhat Pheri (dawn time parade) was held at Steel Plant Colony in Bokaro and Flag was hoisted at Balidih office. Flag hoisting and pledge meetings were held at Dhanbad’s various centres of our work participated by coal workers in large numbers and rally was held at Bermo’s Kurpania village and Chandan Kiari. A big meeting of thousand workers by the name “People’s movement and rights’ day” was held at Bagodar organised by AICCTU affiliated unions.

Delhi: A huge rickshaw rally was held at Noida. Rickshaw pullers, factory workers and students from Delhi holding red flags jointly marched and celebrated May Day here. At Wazirpur Industrial Area, a militant march was taken out by the workers and joined in by students in the morning, street-corner meeting was held in East Delhi’s Mandawli locality where building workers participated.

Haryana: May day call was given at Sonipat Industrial area.

Orissa: May Day was observed in Bhubaneswar, Rayagada , Kendarpara and Puri. At Nagbhusan Bhaban in Bhubaneswar members of various AICCTU affiliated unions participated and joined in the Flag hoisting ceremony. Later, a public meeting was held. Flag was hoisted at Rourkella participated by workers from various unions. At Puri, hundreds of construction workers participated in a public meeting. At Rayagada, motor workers union, construction workers and agricultural workers participated and initiated movement for Rs.400/day as minimum wage and in Kendrapara Aganwadi workers, transport workers union and rickshaw workers union participated.

Elections in India

Mixer-Grinder in Tamil Nadu, Switzerland-London in West Bengal!

– Liberation, May, 2011.

Election time is manifesto time. On the eve of elections we are used to the spectacle of ruling parties releasing eye-catching manifestos with spectacular promises. Former Haryana Chief Minister Chaudhary DeviLal had once famously said that all manifestos read alike, the difference lying only in cover pages showing the names and election symbols of respective parties. There is surely an element of truth in what the earthy leader had said – almost every ruling party manifesto today for example echoes the same rhetoric of ‘good governance’ and ‘inclusive growth’ even as in real life governments vie among themselves in promoting corporate plunder, curtailing democratic rights and enacting multi-billion scams. Yet reading between the lines, manifestos still help us in getting an idea about the forms of politics practised by different parties and holding them accountable after they come to power.

Dominant politics in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh has never had any dearth of cinematic gloss. Once again, the manifestos of both Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) gave us a glittering picture of competitive populism. The DMK manifesto promised free mixers or grinders for women, free laptops for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe SC/ST engineering students and 35 kg free rice for Antyodaya card-holders, and Rs. 400,000 loan for women self-help groups with a maximum subsidy component of Rs. 200,000. The previous DMK manifesto which had promised colour TV sets and 2 acres of land for every landless poor household had been termed the hero of the 2006 poll. It is another thing that while many families did get colour TV sets, hardly any landless poor family in the state got the promised 2 acres and the government subsequently resorted to an utter lie to claim that the state did not have enough land to fulfill this promise!

Karunanidhi described his current manifesto as the ‘heroine’, only to find a ‘super heroine’ overshadow her in no time. The AIADMK manifesto promised 20 kg free rice to all ration card holders and 20 litres of purified drinking water for below poverty line families (BPL), mixer, grinder and fan for every woman, 4 grams of gold and Rs. 25,000 as marriage assistance, up to Rs. 10 lakh loan for women self help groups (SHGs), free laptop for all students in colleges and polytechnics, and 3 cents of land as house-site for landless poor families or BPL households. This politics of doles has truly reduced citizens to subjects with modern-day kings and queens promising freebies to come to power and then using state power as a license to systematically rob the people of all their rights and resources. The freebies are meant not just to fetch votes but also to mint money for the expanding business empire of ruling politicians. It is not difficult to see the huge benefits the mass distributed colour televisions have meant for the cable and channel business run by the ruling family of the DMK.

While the competitive populism of the dominant Dravidian parties makes big news in Tamil Nadu, the focus of national attention in the coming Assembly polls is of course on West Bengal where the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is widely predicted to dislodge the more than three-decade-old Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)]-led government. The TMC has had a dramatic rise in recent years, and with its plank of ‘change’ and accent on mass agitation it has come to acquire a political identity quite distinct from the standard complexion of all-India/regional ruling parties in the present phase of neo-liberal policies. Reinforcing the mystic aura about the TMC has been its enthusiastic endorsement by large sections of progressive and Left-leaning intelligentsia and parties like the Socialist Unity Center of India (SUCI). But as the TMC comes closer to its cherished goal of coming to power in the state, it has started revealing its true colours though its manifesto and its choice of candidates.

The TMC manifesto is full of lofty phrases with very little concrete promises. It promises to transform North Bengal into Switzerland, Kolkata into London and Digha into Goa and usher in green revolution in both agriculture and industry – just by waving the magic wand of ‘public-private partnership’. There are also talks of ‘curbing state terror’ and probing all cases of human rights violations in last 35 years (interestingly, the manifesto also includes the infamous Kashipur-Baranagar massacres of 12-13 August 1971 in this list) within six months. But the manifesto does not forget to blame militant trade union struggles for the industrial crisis in West Bengal even as it is common knowledge that capitalists have had a free hand in CPI(M)-ruled Bengal violating every labour and industrial law with impunity. The manifesto has an entire chapter devoted to the railways but is conspicuously silent about the other ‘achievements’ of the UPA government – the unprecedented rise in prices and the lengthening list of mega scams not to mention the Wikileaks revelations – which the entire country is discussing.

Particularly revealing is the TMC’s list of candidates. The TMC candidate against the Left Front’s Finance Minister is none other than Amit Mitra, the secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), one of the premier organizations of Indian big business. Mr. Mitra has all along been a loud votary of liberalization, privatization and globalization and a vocal opponent of Singur-type agitations. The TMC nominee against Buddhadev Bhattacharjee is Manish Gupta, former Home Secretary and Chief Secretary of the West Bengal government and currently one of the directors of a Tata company (Tata Metaliks Ltd). And then there are the Rachpal Singhs and Sultan Singhs, former police officers who have been notorious for suppressing popular agitations under Left Front rule. A party which loves to describe itself as the party of ‘Ma-Mati-Manush’ (the soil and people of Motherland Bengal) is systematically packing itself with corporate representatives and former bureaucrats and police bosses.

Struggles in India

Binayak Gets Bail: When Will All our Binayaks Get Justice?

– Dipankar Bhattacharya, Liberation, May, 2011.

Dr. Binayak Sen has finally got bail following a favourable directive from the Supreme Court. In granting him bail, the apex court has also questioned the flimsy basis on which the Chhattisgarh government has charged him with sedition. The judges, Justice Harjit Singh Bedi and Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad, are reported to have said that Binayak may well be a Maoist sympathizer but that does not automatically attract charges of sedition. They have also said that just as mere possession of Gandhi’s autobiography does not make one Gandhian, the same also holds good for the works of Marx, Lenin or Mao. It should however be noted that the comments made on the issue of sedition, though made in open court and reported widely in the media, are not part of the court’s order. In fact, the judges did not give any reason “lest they prejudice any party” in the case!

It is nevertheless refreshing to hear such words of sanity from the apex court at a time when the state has identified ‘Maoism’ as the biggest threat to internal security and cutting across ideological divides, central and state governments are joining hands to wage a veritable war on democracy in the name of combating the Maoists. Indeed such sanity is quite rare and on plenty of occasions the apex court has just upheld lower court verdicts without giving any relief to victims of state repression and lower court injustice. To remind our readers of just one such case, Comrade Shah Chand and thirteen others from Jahanabad district in Bihar who had been sentenced for life by a Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court in Bihar in 2003 got no justice from the Supreme Court. No arms were recovered from these comrades; the inventory of articles found with them included copies of the Communist Manifesto, Mao’s articles and manuals of Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha and studies on Bihar’s agrarian economy. The TADA court had dubbed this literature ‘terrorist’ and the Supreme Court merely upheld this fiat of the TADA court!

Let us not forget that even in Dr. Binayak Sen’s case, he has just got bail and acquittal is still a long way off. It took nearly two years and a sustained campaign across the country and an international outcry by human rights campaigners to secure the first bail after Sen had been arrested in May 2007 on charges of ‘sedition’. Yet we know the Raipur trial court went on to convict him and once again the High Court rejected the bail plea. And let us also remember that while Dr. Sen has been granted bail there are many languishing in Chhattisgarh jails on sedition charges including tribal activists Kopa Kunjam and Kartam Joga and businessman Piyush Guha and hundreds of tribal people from entire Chhattisgarh villages designated as hotbeds of sedition! In spite of periodic interventions by the Supreme Court and repeated directives to the Chhattisgarh government to disband the unconstitutional Salwa Judum campaign, Chhattisgarh remains a veritable graveyard of human rights.

In the second week of March, Chhattisgarh police claimed to have fought an encounter battle with Maoists in the jungles of Dantewada. A fact-finding team visiting Chintalnar, Morapally, Timmapuram and Tadmetla villages in that area found the police claim to be nothing but a hoax. They said what had happened in reality was a full-scale rampage by state-sponsored Koya commandos and the “CoBRA” unit of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) from March 11 to 16 in the course of which at least three tribals were killed, three women were raped and over 300 houses/huts, granaries and other properties were set on fire. A few days later when Swami Agnivesh took a relief team to the villages, he was attacked forcing the NHRC to take notice and the Supreme Court to call for yet another hearing on the Salwa Judum case which is going on for four years now. And the latest SC hearing once again brought out the real truth that Chhattisgarh is experiencing a systematic war on human rights and that the war is being jointly sponsored by the state and central governments.

While welcoming the bail granted to Dr. Binayak Sen and the remarks made by the judges, the human rights movement cannot lose sight of this larger ongoing war. In fact, the time is now absolutely ripe for a powerful countrywide people’s movement for democratic rights. The draconian laws – some of them archaic, and some are of recent origin – must go. The sedition law (Section 124A of IPC), the AFSPA, the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005, the sweeping and draconian provisions of the UAPA – these are all utterly incompatible with the notion of a functional democracy. The awakened public opinion which has forced on the government the agenda of drafting an anti-corruption legislation must also call for repealing all these terrible laws which make a complete mockery of our constitutional liberties and rights. Let anti-corruption campaigners and human rights activists march together and unfurl the common banner of a democratic India free of corruption and repression.

Nuclear Issue

Heed the Warning from Japan: Scrap Jaitapur Nuke Project

– Radhika Krishnan, Liberation, May, 2011.

Just over than a month since the partial meltdown of the Fukoshima nuclear reactor, Japan is still coping with this disaster, which scientists have officially termed ‘at par’ with the explosion and meltdown that happened in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986. The full impacts of this catastrophe are yet to reveal themselves. The tragedy has intensified the resolve of the people of Ratnagiri on the Konkan coast of Maharashtra not to allow the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power plant to come up.

The Congress- National Congress Party (NCP) Government in Maharashtra and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government at the Centre have responded to the well-founded apprehensions and opposition of the people with draconian crackdowns and an outright refusal to reconsider the project. The entire area close to the project site has been converted into a virtual police state, dissenting voices have been detained, and protesters have been fired at by the Maharashtra police. Tabrez Sayekar, a resident of the fishing village of Sakhri Nate was killed in the police firing, and eight others injured.

One paper (the Indian Express) recently carried an editorial holding the presence of “village posters using Fukushima images to scare villagers about what’s in store for them” to be proof that anti-nuclear activists are exploiting the lack of “nuclear literacy” and branding the resistance to the Jaitapur project as a blind ‘Luddite’ opposition to ‘development. What the people of Ratnagiri are expressing is not unreasoning fear and hysteria, stoked by anti-nuke ideologues. They do not need Fukushima posters to ‘scare’ them. They have watched the tragedy in Japan unfold on their TV screens, and the plight of the people there has struck a chord with them. After all, the Jaitapur project too, like the one at Fukushima, is in a seismic zone on the seashore. They can see that the people of Fukushima too were assured that the reactors were safe from the dangers posed by quakes and tsunamis: but these assurances proved empty when disaster struck. To cap it all, the design given by the French company Areva is untested and questionable. Every man, woman and child in Sakhri Nate and Madban and other affected villages can tell you these facts. It is not their ‘illiteracy’ that is the problem for the power-that-be – it is their well-founded arguments to which the latter have no answer.

The Jaitapur protests are also being dubbed by the Congress as a political gimmick of the Shiv Sena. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Shiv Sena, as an opposition party, is naturally seeking to fish in the troubled waters of Jaitapur. But the resistance in these villages is not manufactured by the Shiv Sena. In fact the people of the area are fully aware of the Shiv Sena’s betrayal on the Enron issue. The people’s movement a Jaitapur cannot be ignored further; the nuclear project must be scrapped.

Fukushima – Wake-Up Call

After Fukushima, which has been a world-wide wake-up call, it is appalling that the UPA is presenting Jaitapur and other new nuclear projects flowing from Indo-US Nuke Deal commitments as a fait accompli to the Indian people, brushing aside the possible risks involved.

The world over, people are forcing governments to rethink their dependence on nuclear energy. Germany for instance has announced a moratorium on its plans to extend the operations of 17 of its existing nuclear plants; a decision has been taken to shut down two of the Germany’s oldest nuclear plants. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Party have already had to pay for their pro-nuclear stands in the past: the recently concluded regional elections in Germany saw a marked shift in favour of the German Green Party in regions which have traditionally been strongholds of the Christian Democratic Party.

Going against this tide, India, instead, is proposing to increase its dependence on nuclear power. India currently meets less than 1 per cent of its total energy requirements from nuclear energy – and the UPA proposes to meet a whopping 25% of India’s total energy demands from nuclear energy by 2032. Nuclear capacity addition across the world has fallen sharply since the late 1980s, despite a huge increase in energy demands. In the past 15 years, the contribution of nuclear energy towards meeting the world’s electricity demands has been decreasing, even as the nuclear establishment claims the emergence of a ‘nuclear renaissance’.

Given the enormous problems and risks inherent with dependence on nuclear energy, and given the dubious nature of claims of the nuclear establishment (see Box: Exploding the Myths), the case against nuclear energy is very strong. Why then is the UPA so keen on promoting nuclear energy? Why are governments resorting to repression, crackdowns and complete scuttling of voices opposing this myopic promotion of nuclear energy in India?

India’s Nuclear Overdrive:

National’ Interest or US-dictated Disaster?

A CAG report clearly shows in the 1990s, the Nuclear Power Corporation was routinely denied the funds demanded to it: for instance, in 1995-96, it required 2032 crores. Out of this requirement, only 214.29 crores was actually allocated to it. This story was repeated year after year in the 1990s. Why did the Indian government wake up suddenly to the miraculous realization that nuclear power was the panacea for India’s energy woes?

The reason is clear: the clamour for nuclear energy is not about ensuring ‘clean’, ‘cheap’, ‘sustainable’ energy to millions of Indians. It is, rather, the direct fallout of the India government’s overtly pro-US economic and foreign policy. In 2006, as the debate over the Indo-US Nuclear Bill was raging in India, the then US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice testified to the House International Relations Committee that the main reasons for the proposed Indo-US nuclear initiative was to deepen Indo-US ‘strategic partnership and create opportunities for US business. This is what Rice had to say:

Civil nuclear cooperation with India will help it meet its rising energy needs without increasing its reliance on unstable foreign sources of oil and gas, such as nearby Iran.” In other words, nuclear energy was required only so that India need not get oil from the India-Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline. And that too of course because Iran was an ‘unstable’ source of oil, according to the US! Rice continues: “Diversifying India’s energy sector will help to alleviate the competition between India, the United States, and other rapidly expanding economies, for scarce carbon-based energy resources.” So India was supposed to go for an expensive, unsafe, and unreliable energy option (at a huge risk for the Indian population) only so that the US could safeguard carbon-based resources from further competition! Rice went on: “The initiative will also create opportunities for American jobs, as many as 3,000-5,000 new direct jobs and about 10 to 15,000 indirect jobs as we engage in nuclear commerce with India..Nuclear cooperation will provide a new market for American nuclear firms…”

In December 2010, Jairam Ramesh has spilled the beans about the Jaitapur nuclear project when he pleaded, “I can’t stop the project. It is going to come up because it is not just about energy but also about strategic and foreign policy.” India is going for this nuclear overdrive at the cost of our sovereign foreign policy, putting the health, lives and livelihoods of millions of Indians at risk.

The recently passed Nuclear Liability Bill too was drafted under direct US pressure. It exempts both the supplier and operator from any compensation in case of damage due to natural disasters such as earthquakes and puts the burden on the public exchequer. So, if a Fukushima were to be repeated in India, the supplier and operator would escape having to pay any compensation whatsoever!

The fears of Jaitapur’s people about safety are being pooh-poohed by the nuclear establishment and corporations like Areva. The question arises – if the nuclear industry and corporations are really so sure that their plants are safe and can withstand any quake or tsunami, why are they so insistent on ‘caps on liability’ and exemptions in case of natural disasters? Why not offer full liability?

The Liability legislation was prepared, ignoring the concerns expressed by the Government’s own Ministries before a Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Bill. For instance Secretary for the Ministry of Health Sujata Rao testified before the committee that the health ministry was not consulted while drafting the bill. She warned that because hospitals are not well-equipped “it is natural that mortality and morbidity due to multiple burns, blasts, radiation injuries and psycho-social impact could be on a very high scale and medical tackling of such a large emergency could have enough repercussions in the nearby areas of radioactive fallout.” She admitted that her Ministry had no wherewithal to meet such a nuclear emergency.

The Indian Government’s claims about nuclear ‘safety’, ‘preparedness’ for a nuclear disaster, and nuclear power as essential to meet energy needs are all proving hollow. It is high time the Jaitapur project is scrapped; a moratorium on future nuclear projects announced; a credible and independent review of India’s nuclear programme set in motion and the Nuke Liability Bill (which now awaits Presidential assent) be sent back for reconsideration by Parliament.

Update on the struggle

Currently, people in Jaitapur, Fatehabad (Haryana), Haripur (W Bengal), Mithivirdi (Gujarat) and elsewhere are fighting a spirited and protracted battle against proposed nuclear power plants in their backyards which will destroy their lives and livelihoods. From 23-25 April, activists from all over the country are holding a yatra from Tarapur to Jaitapur in solidarity with the resistance to the Jaitapur project. All India Students’ Association (AISA) National President Sandeep Singh joined a team of activists of the Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) in this yatra.

Dalit Struggles

AISA Protests Suicides of Research Scientists at NII

– Liberation, May, 2011.

The recent suicide of a 27-year old dalit Ph.D. scholar, Linesh Mohan Gawle, at the National Institute of Immunology (NII) opened up a can of worms of institutionalized discrimination, victimization and harassment at premier science institutes. It has emerged that Gawle’s suicide is the third such tragic case in a row in the recent past.

On 18 April, AISA initiated a protest demonstration at the NII, which was joined by students and faculty members of JNU and Indian Institute of Mass Communications (IIMC) as well as representatives of other student groups AIBSF, AISA, DSU, SFR and UDSF. They demanded an immediate enquiry into the factors leading to the suicide of Gawle and other NII students in the past year.

To begin with, the NII administration refused to allow the students to hold a condolence meeting within the NII campus. Several students of NII then assembled at the gates (clearly on the instructions of the administration and some NII faculty members) and tried to persuade the protestors that Linesh had committed suicide due to ‘personal’ reasons, and not due to any institutional pressures or discrimination. The protestors persisted in holding the condolence and protest meeting at the NII gates, and after that, a delegation consisting of representatives of various organizations went to meet students, teachers, and officials of the NII administration.

The delegation put forward the primary demand that an independent enquiry should be instituted into the various allegations of inhuman working conditions, discrimination and harassment. The NII administration refused point blank to institute any enquiry, and continued to deny any institutionalized harassment or discrimination in NII.

Much as the NII administration and faculty members are trying to hide it, it is clear that there are deep and systemic problems being faced by students – whether it is the inhuman work pressure, dictatorial attitude of the institution’s administration or the entrenched discriminatory attitude of some faculty members.

It is also clear that there is immense pressure from the administration on the students not to complain, and not to raise their voices even on basic genuine democratic concerns. There is every chance that the students who did not turn up in vocal support of the administration on the day of the protest will be targeted, pressurized and victimized.

The NII is affiliated with the School of Life Sciences, JNU, and students there acutely feel the contrast between the freedom of expression and democratic student-teacher relations enjoyed by JNU students, with the authoritarian culture in the NII. At NII, public shaming of students who fall short of standards that keep getting more demanding, is common. Students from reserved categories, even if they perform well, face discrimination in addition to the other pressures and humiliations. Gawle was a bright student, who scored 98 percent marks in the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) test; yet he was pushed over the edge to take his life.

The tragedy of Gawle’s death underlines the need to democratize science institutions, private institutions and all such educational centres where students are subjected to intense stress and denied their democratic voice. AISA, which has long demanded democratization of campuses, has mobilized science scholars and students to highlight the conditions in science institutions.

Poetry

Free my feet from the shackles

– Liberation, May, 2011.

Free my feet from the shackles

Like bangles made of thorn

Confined inside a narrow room

My fault lies in

Being incarnated as a bird.

Inside the dark room of the prison

Many voices echo around

Unlike the sound of birds

Not the merry laughter

Not that of a lullaby

A child snatched away from the mother’s bosom

The lamentation of a mother

A woman separated from her husband

The cry of anguish of a widow

A cry springing out of a sepoy’s hand

A ball of fire is seen

Dooms day follows it

The ball of fire was lit

By the product of science

Because of oral experimentation

Servants of sense organs

Everybody is in trance

Intoxication – the enemy of thinking

Wisdom of thinking is annihilated

No experimentation of thinking

Laughing with smiles on the face

By the traveller of coming beyond the hill ranges

Nothing remains but my laments

Nothing saved by the seeing eyes

Strength cannot show itself

Human life is precious

Before life comes to an end

Let me be light of darkness

Nectar will be sown

A true of immortality will be planted.

Putting on artificial wings

All the corners of the earth will be covered

Near the joining line of life and death

Morning songs will be sung

The chores of the world will be performed.

Let the gate of the prison be flung wide

I will not go on another path

Please remove the shackles of thorn

Let me be not accused

For being incarnated in the life of a bird.

Poem by Irom Sharmila,

translated from Manipuri to English

by Wide Angle Social Development Organisation

Irom has been on fast against AFSPA for over a decade- When will the Government heed her voice?

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