September-October 2011

 

Table of Contents

  1. CPI(ML) Hails People’s Victory on Lokpal Bill
  2. Combat Corruption, Protect Land, Defend Democracy

  3. Government’s Lokpal Bill: A Farce

  4. Corruption and Corporate Loot – Quit India!
  5. Scrap LARR Bill 2011 – Protect Agricultural Land By All Means

  6. Karnataka: Politics of Money, Mining and Land

  7. Grave Findings of Kashmir SHRC

  8. 1981/2011 Racism, Injustice and Hypocrisy

  9. The Politics of Prakash Jha’s ‘Aarakshan’

Press Release

CPI(ML) Hails People’s Victory on Lokpal Bill,

Calls for Further Struggles to Ensure an

Effective, Transparent and Accountable Lokpal Bill

– Prabhat Kumar, For Central Committee, CPI(ML) Liberation, August 28, 2011.

The CPI(ML) hailed the people’s movement for getting the Parliament to unanimously adopt a sense of the house resolution in favour of setting up Lokayuktas in all states; bringing of junior bureaucracy under the purview of the Lokpal; and a citizen’s charter and grievance redressal mechanism. It called for people’s continued vigilance and activism to ensure that Parliament does not backtrack on these principles in the days to come.

However, the fate of many other important provisions of the Lokpal Bill is unclear. In particular, the ruling class parties are yet to come out with a clear stance on the selection process to ensure an independent Lokpal; bringing of PM under the ambit of the Lokpal; allowing Lokpal to investigate the conduct of MPs inside Parliament. Concerns regarding the representation and rights of minorities and deprived groups also need to be taken on board and suitable mechanisms for checks and balances incorporated. The definition of corruption needs to expanded to include undue benefits to private corporations and loss to the exchequer as a result of such benefits and the diversion of funds from special allotment plans for deprived sections. Anti-corruption mechanisms need to cover big-funded NGOs, corporates and media as well, as well as election reform.

The CPI(ML) also stressed that such legal mechanisms could only be a partial measure to address the cancer of corruption. CPI(ML) called upon people of the country to fight for the reversal of policies of liberalization and privatization that are breeding corruption.

Struggles in India

Combat Corruption, Protect Land, Defend Democracy

– Liberation, September, 2011.

In a shameful assault on democracy, the very next day after Independence Day, the Congress-UPA (United Progressive Alliance) Government launched an offensive on citizens’ freedom, and arrested anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare and others. Subsequently, a massive countrywide upsurge against this arrest and crackdown on democratic protest forced the Government not only to release Hazare, but also to give him permission to hold his fast at Ramlila Grounds. People have shown that they have the will to resist repression and defend democracy, and in less than 24 hours, their determination forced a corrupt and repressive Congress-UPA Government to beat a retreat.

The Prime Minister (PM)’s Independence Day speech had already shown the way for this crackdown, by warning against peaceful forms of protest, and branded democratic activists as ‘people who are trying to create disturbances.’ The President’s Independence Eve speech also warned that people’s movements could lead to ‘erosion of credibility and authority’ of Parliament. Earlier, the Home Minister P Chidambaram had argued that since the Lokpal Bill has been tabled in Parliament, any ‘extra-parliamentary protests’ on this issue would be ‘unconstitutional.’ The huge people’s protest that greeted the arrest of Anna Hazare is a signal of how thoroughly the people have rejected such dishonest arguments. The people have made it clear that if anything is unconstitutional and a threat to democracy it is the government’s attempts to muzzle protest, and not people’s movements!

The countrywide resurrection of the anti-corruption movement in August has made it clear that the April ‘upsurge’ was no flash-in-the-pan media-created show. The degree of popular awakening and participation has only increased since April and the farcical way the government went about the whole process of drafting the Lokpal bill – virtually dismissing the joint panel – has only hardened the people’s mood against the corrupt and treacherous powerlords of the discredited UPA regime. It is true that with the Baba Ramdev stream effectively pushed out of reckoning, the RSS network has started throwing its entire weight behind the Anna agitation, and the attitudes and views of many of Team Anna including Anna himself are often contradictory and inconsistent on many integral aspects of democracy or a progressive social vision. But that makes it all the more important for all in the progressive camp to step in with all their might and lead the popular anti-corruption awakening in a consistently democratic direction.

In April, it was the new idea of Lokpal which had captured the imagination of the popular anti-corruption campaign. Now the debate has clearly moved beyond Lokpal. With the government coming out with its own version of a farcical Lokpal bill, the anti-corruption movement has rightly called for its rejection even as debates continue about the preferred kind of Lokpal legislation. There are concerns over the prospect of concentration of too much power in the hands of the proposed ‘Jan Lokpal’, there are also concerns over the JLP bill’s silence over corporate corruption given that corruption today thrives not just under the table in government offices but is fuelled most prominently by the private sector, whether thanks to outright privatisation or through the ubiquitous public-private partnership.

But beyond the specific content of Lokpal legislation, the government has made it into a people versus parliament debate and even some in the Left have fallen for the claim of saving parliament from the people or saving parliamentary democracy from the whims of mobocracy as they would like us to believe. Thus the movement has already progressed from ‘Lokpal’ to ‘Loktantra’ – from the specific turf of an ombudsman to the domain of democracy, be it resisting state repression or asserting the rights of the people’s movement.

Whether one focuses on the issue of corruption or the defence of people’s movement in the face of an overbearing corporate-dominated state and government, it is necessary to emphasise the organic links between the anti-corruption movement and the anti-corporate thrust of a whole range of ongoing people’s struggles. With the rural development ministry releasing the draft of the proposed land acquisition bill, it is also clear that the government is bent upon legalising and accelerating the ongoing corporate war on farmland and forest and tribal-inhabited land. The anti-corruption campaign must therefore seek closer unity with the anti-privatisation struggles of the working class and students as well as ongoing people’s movement in defence of land and livelihood.

The CPI(ML) seeks precisely to emphasise and embody the linkage between the anti-corruption movement and the broader resistance against corporate plunder of productive resources and state-inflicted denial of people’s rights. The August 9 jail bharo agitation and the August 9-12 student-youth day-and-night barricade at Jantar Mantar marked both the culmination of one phase and the beginning of the next phase with the battlecry “Combat Corruption, Protect Land, Defend Democracy.” Let us take this message to every corner of the country and mobilise the masses in their millions to oust the corrupt and authoritarian UPA government and reject and reverse the pro-corporate policies that are daily ravaging the country and the people.

Struggles in India

Government’s Lokpal Bill: A Farce

– Liberation, September, 2011.

Existing investigative agencies such as the CBI and CVC in India are ineffective because in many cases they are subservient to the very same people whom they are expected to investigate. That is why they have been so susceptible to political manipulation and so few cases of scams involving the powerful have ever been punished. The instance of appointment of CVC PJ Thomas showed how the selection process allows the Government to ensure that pliant officials are appointed. The Government’s draft Lokpal Bill will change none of this. The Lokpal members will be selected by a committee in which the majority of representatives are from the Government.

Restricted Scope of Lokpal

If the Government had its way, most of today’s major scams would fall through the gaping holes in the Lokpal’s net. Take the 2G scam: the Lokpal could not investigate it because it would not cover the Prime Minister.

Since the Lokpal cannot investigate the conduct of MPs inside Parliament, it would be unable to investigate cases such as oil pricing, vote on the Nuke Deal, or cash-for-questions scam, whereby the behaviour and positions taken by of MPs inside Parliament is suspected to be influenced by bribes or corporate interests.

The Lokpal could not investigate the Bellary mining, CWG, Adarsh, UP’s CMO or Bihar’s BIADA scams because it would not have power to investigate state government officials, and it has no provision of appointment of Lokayuktas.

It could not even investigate the scams faced by the rural poor in PDS and NREGA because it would have no jurisdiction over lower bureaucracy. It could not investigate the judges PF scam or any of the other scams involving judiciary.

What would be the point of such a Lokpal, which would not be able to investigate or ensure punishment in any of the huge scams which have angered people in recent times or in their daily lives?

PM, Judges Out of Lokpal’s Scope

The Lokpal Bill excludes the PM from the scope of investigation until he demits office. As of now, the PM is not immune from investigation by CBI. In the JMM ‘suitcase’ scam in Narasimha Rao’s tenure, the CBI has investigated the PM, so the sarkari Bill is actually retrograde even in comparison with the existing system.

The Government’s argument against giving the Lokpal powers to investigate judiciary is that it would affect the independence of the judiciary. It says judicial corruption would be covered by the Judicial Accountability Bill – but the Government’s draft of the JAB stipulates that permission for investigation would have to be sought by a panel comprising two justices of the same court and a retired Chief Justice, also of the same court. This is unacceptable because these judges of the same court are likely to be cronies of the accused judge.

Harassment of Anti-Corruption Activists

The sarkari Bill provides for extraordinary protection for the accused – while it not only fails to protect the whistleblower, it provides ample scope for anti-corruption activists to be harassed.

Right at the outset of the investigation, the accused would be provided with all the evidence against them, and would be asked why an FIR should not be registered against them! This means that the accused would be able to destroy evidence, identify and threaten or even eliminate witnesses or whistleblowers and sabotage the investigation. Further it provides for imprisonment and fines in cases of ‘false complaints.’ The accused can file a complaint against the complainant, and the Government would fund the case!

Janlokpal Bill

The Janlokpal Bill is certainly more comprehensive and serious than the sarkari Bill. Its selection process is more independent of the Government and more transparent and open to public intervention. It also provides for more empowered Lokpal and Lokayuktas. The charge that the JLP would be a ‘Frankenstein’ with draconian powers seems unwarranted. After all the same powers to investigate and prosecute are now enjoyed by existing investigative agencies – the only change is that the JLP would be independent of rather than subservient to government.

The JLP Bill provides for the anti-corruption wing of the CBI to be brought under the control of the JLP, so that it would have the requisite investigative machinery to perform. It also similarly empowers the Lokayuktas in the various states.

The big gap in the JLP is that is has no provisions to deal with corporate corruption or corruption in the army. In most of the big scams like 2G, mining scams etc, it is the corporates who benefited most. Similarly, in the Bofors scam and other defence deal scams, Tehelka scam, coffin scam or Adarsh scam, top army officers were also involved. What would be the mechanism to ensure that they are investigated and prosecuted impartially? The anti-corruption movement must demand mechanisms to investigate corporate and army corruption.

The JLP provides only for government-funded NGOs to be investigated by the Lokpal, while the sarkari draft provides for all NGOs, big and small to be included. It would be just for all big NGOs to be included irrespective of the source of their funding.

The sarkari draft Lokpal Bill must be scrapped. A strong and effective Bill on the lines of the JLP must be introduced in Parliament.

Struggles in India

Corruption and Corporate Loot – Quit India!

– Liberation, July, 2011.

Student Youth Barricade at Parliament and Nationwide Jail Bharo (Fill Jails)

On 9 August, the very day that students and youth from all over the country were pouring into Delhi to be at the Barricades at Parliament against corruption, the papers quoted Delhi Police officials saying that the protest would be allowed only till 6 pm, and no group could be allowed to hold a continuous sit-in for 100 hours.

The Barricade site at Jantar Mantar showed that this was an anti-corruption protest with a difference. Along with the demand for scrapping the sarkari (government) Lokpal and passing a strong Janlokpal, there were a variety of creative banners and placards saying “Privatisation is the root of corruption”, “Stop corporations from scripting our laws,” and supporting the people’s movements at Jaitapur, Jagatsinghpur and so on.

Students and youth from 20 states participated – Punjab, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Rajasthan, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Bengal, Orissa, Assam, Karbi Anglong, Tripura, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. In addition, nearly 500 students from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi University (DU) and Jamia Millia Islamia joined the Barricade. In JNU, entire classrooms emptied as students joined the All India Students Union (AISA) activists in busloads. Hundreds of Jamia students came in spite of the fact that campus security tried to browbeat them and stopped their buses. Eventually the students from Jamia had to come by public transport buses rather than the buses booked for the protest.

Hundreds of workers from Delhi – including Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) workers, street vendors, construction workers, security guards and women domestic workers – joined the Student-Youth Barricade in solidarity, under the banner of the All India Central Confederation of Trade Unions (AICCTU) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist -Leninist) [CPI(ML)]. They continued to be volunteers throughout the sit-in.

The mood at the Barricade was full of spirit and determination. As evening approached, the police demanded that they vacate Jantar Mantar but students and youth refused to abandon the protest. Cultural team Yuvaneeti’s rousing songs set the mood and the entire gathering stood up and shouted slogans spontaneously. As the police tried to break the gathering, the students formed a huge human chain and not a single protestor left the spot.

The police arrested the entire gathering, including a large number of women students, en masse and held them in Parliament Street police station. The students and youth refused to budge and continued their Barricade inside the police station. The huge number and the firm determination to continue the barricade even inside the jail, eventually forced the police to release the protestors but warned them that they must not return to Jantar Mantar to continue the barricade. Protestors rejected these completely unacceptable and draconian attempts by police to break the Barricade, and marched back in full strength to reclaim the Jantar Mantar site.

In the days and nights that followed, the young people braved severe rains but without any dampening of their enthusiasm. Cultural teams – Yuvaneeti, Hirawal, Dasta, Sangwari, the Karbi students’ cultural team, and several individual students sang songs in many languages.

Among the many activists, filmmakers, writers and intellectuals who attended or addressed the Barricade were Swami Agnivesh, Prashant Bhushan, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Arundhati Roy, Manglesh Dabral, Anand Swaroop Verma, Chittaranjan Singh of People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Sanjay Kak, Shankar Gopalakrishnan of the Forest Rights Campaign for Survival and Dignity, representatives of All India Students Federation (AISF) Comrade Arun Ghatai of Communist Party Revolutionary Marxist of Darjeeling, Pravin Gawankar of the Jaitapur anti-nuclear-plant struggle and Ashutosh Kumar of Jan Sanskriti Manch, Delhi.

Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary of CPI(ML) addressed the Barricade on 10 August as well as again on the concluding day, 12 August, where he called for a countrywide protest campaign to Combat Corruption, Protect Land, Defend Democracy.

The national leadership of AISA and Revolutionary Students Association (RYA) , Sandeep Singh, President, AISA, Mohammad Salim, National President of the RYA, Kamlesh Sharma, General Secretary of RYA and Ravi Rai, General Secretary of the AISA – spoke of the months-long campaign undertaken by their organisations to deepen the debate on corruption and stress the need to combat the pro-corporate policies that are breeding corruption. Leading student youth activists from AISA and RYA from Punjab, Uttarakhand, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala , Maharashtra and Gujarat participated.

Particularly impressive was the contingent of nearly 200 students from Karbi Anglong, which included a large number of women students. Their journey to Delhi was longest but they remained at the Barricade till the end.

On 9 August, tens of thousands of CPI(ML) activists all over the country courted arrest, barricades streets and rail lines in the ‘Fill the Jails’ (Jail Bharo) call given by the party against corruption, price rise and repression. Demanding that Manmohan Singh quit for the multiple scams and price rise, they also targeted the corruption and repression by various state governments.

At Patna, more than thousand participated in a spirited procession braving rains held from Gandhi Maidan to Kotwali police station. The jail bharo agitation here was led by Party’s General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, Central committee (CC) members KD Yadav, Ram Jatan Sharma, Meena Tiwari and Saroj Chaubey, and they raised the Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA) land scam by the Nitish Government as well as central government scams. Protest processions were held at Ara, Madhubani, Darbhanga and all over Bihar in the rains. In Jharkhand, Jail Bharo was held in six districts of the State with the largest participation at Giridih with 3000 people courting arrest in front of the district court (DC). In Ranchi, hundreds from Ramgarh, Hazaribagh and Bokaro as well as Ranchi district marched from Ranchi Railway Station to Albert Ekka Roundabout in a heavy downpour. Marchers were arrested here and detained at Jaipal Singh Stadium where they held a protest meeting. At Palamu, 2000 people courted arrest. Court arrest programmes were held at Dhanbad, Koderma, Santhal Pargana and Dumka too.

In UP the Jail Bharo targeted the CMO scam and murders and the repressive Mayawati regime as well as central government’s scams. Agitations were held at Mirzapur, Sonbhadra, Chandauli, Gazipur, Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Devaria, Balia, Pilibhit, Jalaun, Lakhimpur Kheri, Muradabad and Varanasi, while thousands courted arrest in the state capital, Lucknow, led by State Secretary Sudhakar Yadav and CC member Krishna Adhikari. At Uttarakhand, Jail Bharo was held at Nainital, Almora, Pithorgarh, Chamoli, and Garhwal. In Haldwani hundreds of people held a spirited march and completely blocked the Nainital national highway in front of the SDM court. A large number of women participated in the blockade.

1500 were arrested in Kolkata, and Jail Bharo was also held at Siliguri, Bankura, Murshidabad, North Dinajpur and other districts in West Bengal. Four hundred courted arrest in Siliguri with gusto. 14 people were injured in police crackdown and 2 people received serious injuries.

In Tamilnadu, the Jail Bharo preceded by an intensive campaign among workers at various centres, including cadre meetings, padayatras and leafleting in workers’ areas and factory gates. As a result, thousands of workers were among those who courted arrested all over TN on August 9 at 14 centres including Chennai, Madurai, Kanyakumari, Villupuram, Kumbakonam, Virudhachalam, Pudukottai, Kanyakumari, Colachal, Salem, Madurai, Karur and Sirkazhi. About 200 courted arrest in Puducherry at two centres. Com. S. Kumarasamy, politbureau member and All India President of AICCTU, who had camped at Coimbatore for a month and stayed at the Pricol Union office for 15 days, led the workers at Coimbatore in courting arrest at a place where even a public meeting is not allowed. In Kumbakonam of Tanjore district, hundreds including a large number of rural poor women were arrested, led by Comrade Balasundaram, State Secretary of the party and other leaders.

Hundreds courted arrest all over Andhra Pradesh. In East Godavari, people heading for the district HQ were stopped at their village police stations, but militant protest forced the police to let them join the district HQ protest where they courted arrest. A majority of the protestors were women. More than 300 people staged a ‘rasta roko’ at Gangavati of Koppal district of Karnataka on 9 August brought traffic to a standstill for more than an hour. Rice mill workers and a large number of women took part in large numbers in the agitation. An impressive demonstration was held in front of Mysore District Commissioner’s office in which construction workers of participated in good number.

The Mumbai Thane committee of CPI(ML) held a dharna at the historic Azad Maidan in Mumbai. More than two hundred fifty including Brihanmumbai sanitation workers ( BMC’s ) sanitation workers, unorganized sanitation workers and the tribal people of Thane participated. Tribal people from Boisar, Dahisar and Kurgaon, which is about 100kms from Mumbai started for Mumbai at 7am to participate. Comrade Uday Bhat of Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) also participated and spoke at the Dharna. People courted arrest at Bhubaneswar, Rayagada, Kendrapara and Gajapati districts of Odisha. A dharna was held at Raipur in Chhattisgarh. In Rajasthan, tribals at Pratapgarh held an impressive protest in pouring rain. 150 were arrested at a big rally at Jhunjhunu, and a protest was held at Ajmer too. Hundreds courted arrest at Guhawati and various districts in Assam.

Politics in India

Scrap LARR Bill 2011 – Protect Agricultural Land By All Means

– Dipankar Bhattacharya, Liberation, September, 2011.

Jairam Ramesh, the UPA government’s Minister of Rural Development, has come up with a draft Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Bill that will replace the notorious Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The draft bill clearly seeks to legalise and intensify the ongoing corporate land-grab campaign in the country even as it talks about addressing “the concerns of farmers and those whose livelihoods are dependent on the land being acquired”.

Before being brought to the rural development ministry, Jairam Ramesh was in charge of the forest ministry where his greatest role was to give a green signal to the Pohang Iron and Steel Company (POSCO) project in Odisha which seeks to acquire 4,000 acres of land in flagrant violation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. And now as the Minister of Rural Development he has declared a veritable war on agricultural land and rural livelihood in the name of urbanization, industrialization and infrastructure development.

The new bill gives complete freedom to all kinds of private companies to purchase land without even bothering about seeking any consent of concerned land-owners. The provision of seeking and obtaining the consent of “at least 80 per cent of the affected families” applies only when land is acquired by the government either for “immediate and declared use by private companies” or “with the ultimate intent of transferring it for the use of private companies”. And the government too is free from the consent clause when it acquires land for its own use whether for erecting dams, setting up nuclear plants, building military bases or constructing any project whatsoever.

The bill talks of carrying out social impact assessments (where acquired land exceeds 100 acres) and keeping irrigated, multi-crop land outside the purview of land acquisition, but only when land is acquired by the government. Who will determine whether some land is multi-crop or not? We have seen in the case of Singur how multi-cropped land was declared as mono-crop by the government. The bill promises compliance with existing land-related laws like Panchayat Extension to the Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, 1996 or Forest Rights Act, 2006, or the land transfer acts in Schedule V (tribal-majority) areas. But the record of implementation of these two acts is marked by extensive violation as can be seen on the ground in states like Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat or Maharashtra. In Odisha, the central and state governments are bent upon evicting as many as twelve villages to hand over 4,000 acres of land to the South Korean steel giant POSCO even as villagers are insisting on their land rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

As for the Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R & R) provisions of the bill, the corporate buyers will have to abide by them only when the size of the land acquired equals or exceeds 100 acres. The R&R provisions are also a big sham. It is common knowledge that sale deeds always hugely understate the market value of land and the new bill promises compensation to land-losers as multiples of average sale deed rate in the area. Apart from one-time compensation, the bill does promise annuity payment for twenty years, but an annuity of Rs. 2000 per month per affected family can hardly provide any meaningful assured income to a family that loses its all. There is talk of providing ‘mandatory employment’ for one person in every affected family, but if employment cannot be provided, a compensation of only Rs 200,000 will do! In other words, the UPA government’s ‘generous’ rehabilitation and resettlement package assesses agricultural income at Rs 2,000 per month and the value of employment at Rs. 200,000!

Global capitalism today is passing through bouts of severe recession. Many manufacturing sectors the world over are in deep crisis. Real estate and construction, mining and commercial agriculture (dedicated more to bio-fuel and horticulture than food production) remain the few most lucrative sectors in these recessionary times. No wonder then that capital is going all out to grab more and more land – the gateway to assured windfall gains in times of acute uncertainty and prolonged recession. This is the twenty-first century version of the predatory colonial occupation and brutal primitive accumulation of early capitalism.

In the name of repealing the land acquisition act of the colonial era, the Indian state has now taken upon itself the task of spearheading and serving global capitalism’s war on Indian land and Indian agriculture. The proposed LARR Bill 2011 is nothing but a manifesto of this war couched in deceptive phrases like ‘informed consent’, ‘rehabilitation and resettlement’, and ‘partnership in development’. Even where the state will not be directly involved in acquisition, the peasantry and landless labourers will be left at the mercy of unmitigated corporate coercion, unleashed by a whole network of intermediaries and facilitated by a pro-corporate state and its administration.

Food security was a key promise of the Congress and the UPA in the last Lok Sabha elections. Today the notion of food security has been reduced to monthly supply of 35 kg foodgrains to families earning less than Rs. 15 per day in rural areas and less than Rs. 20 in urban areas. This is a complete mockery of any meaningful notion of food security for a country like India. If food security has to guarantee the nutritional requirements of 1.2 billion Indians, India needs to produce much more food, and this in turn needs more land for agriculture. There can be no public purpose which is bigger than this. Defending agricultural land from the clutches of capital and its state is therefore the greatest task today of every patriotic and democratic Indian. Not acquisition, but protection of agricultural and forest land by all means is the cry of democracy.

Struggles in India

Karnataka: Politics of Money, Mining and Land

– V. Shankar, Liberation, September, 2011.

It is only a beginning and not an end. The plight of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka is not over with the resignation of Yeddy and with the election of a new chief minister, it has only assumed a new dimension of a rather complex nature. Factional infighting has undergone a process of realignment. Money power and the greed for political power have once again assumed its decisive role in defining power equations inside the party.

BJP has emerged as a party of scamsters and opportunists to the core.

The Lokayukta report on illegal mining in Karnataka, scripted by Santosh Hegde and assisted by Dr. U V Singh, Chief Conservator of Forests and his team, spelled doom for Yeddyurappa, the most corrupt Chief Minister Karnataka had ever seen.

The entire country witnessed the corrupt Yeddy dictating terms to the BJP and the so-called ‘value based’ BJP chose to remain content with his dictates for the ‘greed’ of retaining the only state government in the south by hook or crook. The central leaders of BJP did nothing but put a stamp of approval to the Yeddy-scripted end to the drama of resignation. Neither could they expedite his resignation nor could they change the name of the proposed Chief Minister that was decided by Yeddy.

The central leadership of BJP resorting to the method of ‘secret ballot’ to elect the chief ministerial candidate in inner party fora is not out of their love for democracy but because of their loosening grip over the Karnataka party and surrender to Yeddy.

The entire central BJP leadership was put on tenterhooks by Yeddyurappa for more than four days when he refused to resign. Their situation was even more pathetic when the first date of the meeting of legislative group to elect a new chief minister had to be postponed to 3 August because of his refusal to submit resignation. It seems that Yeddy has grown taller in terms of his money power since he took over as chief minister and was all set to challenge everyone.

In the context of the Lokayukta report that indicted him, Yeddy wanted a new chief minister of his own choice who would protect him either by rejecting the report or by making necessary modifications to the actions proposed by the Lokayukta.

It is not just the choice of new chief minister but an assurance by the BJP, as a party, to defend Yeddyurappa and the Bellary Brothers against allegations of corruption, which appears to have formed the basis of the deal behind the screen. This has become amply clear by the induction of V Somanna, a close associate of Yeddyurappa, who is accused by the Lokayukta report, into the new ministry. This is further reinforced by the fact that BJP president Nitin Gadkari is the chief guest this year in place of Sushma Swaraj, in the annual Varamahalakshmi festival being hosted by the Reddy Brothers in Bellary!

The Lokayukta report has not minced any words in accusing the Reddy brothers of running a mafiadom of illegal mining in Bellary. Yet, the BJP is not ashamed of associating with them and this is a sufficient proof that the BJP in Karnataka is being run by none other than land and mining mafia.

BJP’s opposition to corruption is only eyewash as many of its leaders want the most corrupt Bellary Brothers to be inducted into the ministry. Jagadish Shettar, main leader of the rival group to Yeddy is very candid in advocating induction of the Bellary Brothers into the ministry at the earliest.

The Lokayukta report has meticulously collected data running into more than 25000 pages. It has established through hard facts that Yeddyurappa’s sons and in-laws have received Rs.20 crores from Jindals, one of the big corporate companies in steel industry, towards the sale of one acre of land worthy of less than 1.25 crores in Bangalore. Another 10 crores were donated to a trust run by Yeddyurappa’s sons called ‘Prerana Education Trust’ by the same company in the same route. Remittance of this money was done by Jindals not directly but through another company called South West Mining Company Ltd. This transaction, according to Lokayukta, is nothing but a bribe extended as a quid-pro-quo for sending a favourable report by the state government to the central government on some clarification for allotting more than 540 acres of land for mining by three companies related to Jindals.

Yeddyurappa also allotted lands in Bangalore to his sons by denotifying lands out of the way, using his office. Recently, another FIR has been filed by Lokayukta police, under the direction of Lokayukta court, against Yeddyurappa on some scam involving Upper Bhadra Irrigation Project. He is also facing charges of illegal denotification of many other parcels of lands. HD.Kumaraswamy of Janata Dal (Secular) has accused Yeddyurappa of one more scam involving Ratna Cement Company of Belgaum. Many more scams are expected to be unearthed soon.

Floodgates for illegal mining in the state were opened, through a GO in 2003, by de-reservation of more than 11,620 sq.km of land meant for mining by the government and public sector. Another 6832.48 hectares were notified for surrender. This act of the state government paved way for the exploitation of public mineral wealth by private parties. Privatisation of the mining sector is the main reason for the alarming growth of illegal mining activities in the state. This can be undone only through nationalization of mineral wealth, particularly iron ore mining in the state.

This also created a conducive atmosphere for the growth of crony capitalism represented by the land and mining mafia. In order to strengthen its position in the economy, crony capitalism gradually started tightening its grip and increasing its assertion in the political arena. In this process, the entire administration at all levels was destroyed, parallel systems were put in place and thus, it gave birth to the ‘Republic of Bellary’, in the words of Lokayukta.

Recovering illegal wealth to the state exchequer is only a damage control exercise. Action on corrupt ministers and officials is only a mirage under the BJP dispensation. Only Yeddyurappa has been relieved from chief ministership, and even he has not been arrested yet. The Bellary Brothers, who are capable of erasing all evidence, are roaming scot free. None of the 800 officers facing corruption charges by Lokayukta has been arrested. The BJP government is likely to delay action until all evidence is erased by the mighty and the powerful.

Lokayukta Report

As per Lokayukta estimates, around 2.98 crore Metric Tonnes (MT) of illicit iron ore worth Rs.12,228 crores has been exported from Karnataka. More than 83 exports of the quantity of 17.58 lakh MT of iron ore has been exported after the ban imposed from 28/07/2010 on issue of permits for transporting iron ore. Illegal export of iron ore has gathered momentum after the seizure of more than 8 lakh tonnes of illegal ore at Bilikere Port in Feb. 2010. The momentum increased further after the release of first part of the report on illegal mining by Lokayukta in mid-2010. The direct loss to the state exchequer is estimated to be Rs.16,085 crores. Most of the illegal mining business is run by Reddy Brothers and they are estimated to have amassed a wealth of over Rs.30,000 crores over a period of time. More than 784 officials at various levels and from various departments are estimated to have received more than 2.5 crores as bribe in a short span of time. The rates of bribe for each official right from Port Director and Superintendent of Police to constables and clerks are also fixed.

Politics in India

Grave Findings of Kashmir SHRC

– Liberation, September, 2011.

It’s official now: thousands of ‘disappeared’ Kashmiri civilians did not vanish into thin air or across the border. They lie buried in unmarked mass graves – the victims of custodial murders by security forces in the Valley.

A probe by the Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) probe establishes that more than 2000 bodies lie in 38 unmarked graves in northern Kashmir.

For the people of Kashmir, this is not a sensational discovery. They can only feel a grim sense of vindication of what they have long been alleging. The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, in March 2008, released a report, ‘Facts Underground’, that pointed to the presence of the unmarked graves. The SHRC enquiry was initiated in response to the APDP campaign.

In 2009 a report of the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) on Human Rights and Justice documented 2,700 unknown, unmarked, and mass graves.

Now the SHRC has stated that “beyond doubt,” 2156 bullet-ridden bodies have been found in 38 mass graves. Many of these were handed over by police to locals for burial as ‘unidentified militants.’ The SHRC report accepts that “There is every probability that these unidentified bodies may contain bodies of enforced disappearances.” In light of these findings, the SHRC has ordered a state-wide investigation including exhumation of the bodies, DNA profiling and matching with relatives of disappeared people, and lodging of first information reports (FIRs).

Some of the bodies were defaced; 20 were charred and five only had skulls remaining. 18 of the graves contained more than one body each. The report also suggests that “to stop the misuse of powers under AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) and Disturbed Areas Act, it is necessary that wherever anybody is killed — whether he is a militant or an innocent civilian — his or her identification profile including DNA profile should be maintained properly.” This suggestion itself is an admission of how the draconian AFSPA is being used – as a license to murder civilians and maintain a reign of terror over the people in the areas where it is deployed.

The APDP estimates that around 10,000 people ‘disappeared’ during the last couple of decades. In some of the cases, where the disappeared person had been picked up by police or army officials from his home, the families pursued the matter, and probes were even ordered against the concerned security officials. But such enquiries mostly came to naught. The APDP is headed by Perveena Ahangar, whose son went missing in police custody 17 years ago. She has called for international human rights groups and Indian authorities to identify the people buried in the mass graves.

The families of the disappeared seek closure for the terrible uncertainty and pain they have endured. They also seek justice and punishment for the unconscionable murders, by Indian security forces, of their loved ones.

It is imperative that an unbiased drive to identify the bodies be launched before there is any chance of destruction or further decay of the evidence. As ordered by the SHRC, FIRs must be lodged in the case of all disappeared persons, and pursued at a fast track.

In the unmarked mass graves lie buried the dark reality of civilian life in Kashmir under military jackboots. It is a stark reminder that every Kashmiri family lives in terror of their loved one ‘vanishing’ after being picked up arbitrarily by security forces. This state of terror can end only when the right to self-determination of Kashmiris is respected and a political solution acceptable to the Kashmiri people sought and found.

Struggles in the World

1981/2011 Racism, Injustice and Hypocrisy

– Amrit Wilson, Liberation, September, 2011.

In early August, the ‘riots’ which began in Tottenham, a working class area of London with a significant black community, spread rapidly to other parts of London and then to other major cities in England. Many commentators have focused on the parallels and differences with the riots which took place in 1981. Like the recent events, the 1981 riots, dubbed ‘uprisings’ by many at the time, were not conflicts between communities. They involved youths of African-Caribbean, Asian and white origin taking to the streets and engaging in running battles with the police. They took place during the first wave of Thatcher’s neoliberal restructuring, attacks on state provision and rapidly spiraling unemployment. A major focus of the anger was the acute racism of the police and the brutality and criminalization faced by black youth. The 1981 riots forced the British state to modify its strategy for controlling working class black (including Asian) communities, introducing ‘multicultural’ policies which involved channeling state funding to ‘community leaders’ who could be manipulated. More recently however this strategy has again been reversed with a return to the promotion of a monolithic ‘Britishness’ and intensified repression in the context of Britain’s ‘war on terror’.

While the British media and spokespersons for the state preach ‘morality’, they seem to have forgotten that the riots began as a result of a man being killed on 4th August. Mark Duggan, a 29 year old Black father of three, was shot dead in Tottenham, North London not by rioters but by the police. His family have still not been told why he was murdered. And when on 6th August they and their grieving friends organized a peaceful protest outside the police station, demanding to know the truth, they were treated not with compassion but to further violence – with a 16 year old girl allegedly being assaulted by the police. Meanwhile a false story was circulated in the media that Mark Duggan had fired at the police. Is this perhaps what the state calls ‘morality’?

Not surprising then that the events of early August have been so easily reconstructed not only by the state but also by liberal, even supposedly left-leaning commentators. So while Mayor of London Boris Johnson screams for stiffer sentences for underage offenders, Kenan Malik, for example, tells us that we are misguided in drawing comparisons with the 1981 riots: “Those riots were a direct challenge to oppressive policing and to mass unemployment” whereas today’s riots are about “inchoate anger” [descending] “largely into arson and looting with little sense of political motive or cause”. But aren’t riots always, by their very nature, about ‘inchoate anger’? Can they ever be without burning political causes?

We are being asked to believe too that the riots this time –unlike in the eighties – were not about racism. And yet we know that they started with the murder of a Black man, and came against a background of police killings of black people – 333 people , the vast majority of whom are black, have been killed in police custody since 1998 (with not a single officer convicted). And yet these murders rarely make the front pages of the national media, and are often not reported at all. As a Black passerby interviewed in Hackney recounted bitterly “two dogs died in a police car… They started an enquiry there and then, officers got suspended. When [Mark Duggan] got shot, nothing got said, they didn’t even go and see the family. This told everybody in this environment that we’re nobody…”

Today, as in the eighties, the laws on Stop and Search are being used to routinely to harass and criminalise Black and Asian men. And as in the eighties, the rioters were not only black people but in each area represented the ethnic make up of the locality.

Then, as now, political commentators outdid each other to declare that the riots were really about a problematic culture which was imported into Britain. In the wake of the recent riots, the BBC subjected us to historian David Starkey pontificating about white people ‘becoming black’ and glorifying Enoch Powell; and in another programme a white interviewer insulting veteran campaigner Darcus Howe and accusing him of having ‘taken part in riots’ himself. In one Channel 4 discussion programme, a question about Mark Duggan’s death was quickly fobbed off by the anchor saying that this was not really the subject of discussion. Over and over again, we see attempts to raise the underlying causes of the riots suppressed with the accusation that the speaker is ‘trying to justify’ what happened, and the message being promoted by all major politicians – that the riots are primarily about ‘criminality’ and ‘immorality’ is once again reinforced.

David Cameron talks about “attitudes and assumptions that have brought parts of our society to this shocking state” and proceeds to blame it on “children without fathers, schools without discipline and communities without control” where the “twisting and misrepresenting of human rights that has undermined personal responsibility”. Behind this apparently garbled nonsense characteristic of such utterances is the attempt to use the riots, which have come in the wake of devastating cuts to public services and benefits, to disengage even further from any state responsibility for people’s welfare or even survival – and to justify further attacks on human rights and civil liberties.

Thus police numbers are to be cut massively, but at the same time they have been given even more powers – plastic bullets and water cannon will now be available for use on demonstrators, climate change activists, those defending their communities from fascists, and all others who oppose the state.

Here once again there are echoes of 1981, when the police were given increased powers and methods used in the north of Ireland were imported into Britain. So if these are similarities, what has changed between July 1981 and August 2011?

Firstly, laws have become even more racist and state violence has intensified. While the US and Britain attack and loot countries whose resources they want, they now have the powers to silence all those who oppose these policies at home, with draconian anti-terrorism laws.

Secondly, poverty now stalks vast areas of the country. Recent figures showed that 1.6 million children were growing up in severe poverty in Britain, with this set to increase sharply with job losses and welfare cuts. Everywhere communities have been fragmented, trade unions shackled, collective action stamped on, and individualism and consumerism glorified. Corruption has grown to gigantic proportions at the highest levels of society – from bankers to MPs to police commissioners – venality has become commonplace and goes unpunished. As big corporates hypocritically complain that their ‘brand image’ has been tainted by the looting which can be seen as the logical extension of the brand-based identities they have promoted, people in Britain are being shown once again that property under capitalism is more valued than human life, as the government which ignored so many young people’s deaths in custody and through gang violence instructs courts to hand out draconian jail sentences for looting during the riots.

So what are the causes of the 2011 riots? Was it the rage of youth who feel betrayed, feel they have no future and nothing to lose? Was it the cruel cuts to public expenditure which have already claimed lives and are likely to claim many more? Was it a response to the neoliberal doctrine that acquiring commodities is the ultimate goal in life? Was it perhaps all of these embodied in the periodic release of the pent up tensions building up for years in the intolerably unjust society created by capitalism in decline?

Culture

The Politics of Prakash Jha’s ‘Aarakshan’

– Kavita Krishnan, Liberation, September, 2011.

The ‘debate’ over caste-based reservations (a settled debate in many ways) was deliberately raked up by Aarakshan’s makers as a conscious marketing strategy. The pronouncements of prominent figures associated with the film prompted natural suspicions about its intent, and led to widespread protests and even bans in some states before its release.

It is true that the film, strictly speaking, is not blatantly casteist or openly abusive of deprived castes or of caste-based reservations. Its first scene shows caste and class discrimination in jobs faced by a young dalit man (played by Saif Ali Khan). In the scenes where conflict over ‘reservation vs merit’ is dealt with, it is the powerful dalit rejoinder by Saif has emotive impact, not the casteist taunts by the villainous Mithilesh Singh (peddler of commercial coaching, played by Manoj Bajpai). The idealistic teacher Prabhakar Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) rebuffs casteist parents who say deprived kids stink and demand separate classrooms, by saying “It’s your ideas which stink.” The central character (Prabhakar) does support the Supreme Court verdict upholding OBC reservations, saying that centuries of caste-based oppression call for a caste-based correctives. So far, so good.

That said, let us ask if the film is honest in its treatment of reservation and commercialisation of education, the two issues it claims to address? The answer is, unfortunately, no.

A film with ‘Aarakshan’ (reservation) in its title would naturally be expected to do justice to the issue of reservation. Strangely, the title is misleading. The opening part of the film does deal with the question of reservation, but soon the film abandons that plot entirely. Instead it moves on to the confrontation between the idealistic teacher and the peddler of commercialised ‘coaching’. It is almost as if one is watching two separate films.

The most glaring dishonesty lies in the way Prakash Jha connects the ‘reservation’ plot with the ‘commercialisation of education’ plot. What Jha does is to peddle the fiction that coaching classes and the marketisation of education are by-products of reservations! This argument has been made time and again by Jha, Bachchan and others connected to the film. Prakash Jha said, “Reservation came, the number of seats decreased, competition increased and encouraged private coaching. Ironically, reservation’s main aim was to bring equality but it ended up dividing us further.” (Indian Express, June 17) In a similar vein, Bachchan (TOI July 28) suggested, “We must find out if commercialization of education is the result of a mad race for seats triggered by reservation.” The film’s argument goes something like this: after the Supreme Court verdict upholding 27% reservations for OBCs, upper caste students were pushed out of education, and therefore flocked to commercial coaching institutes in a desperate attempt to compete for the shrinking seats. In the film, Prabhakar, while supporting the SC verdict, talks of the need to understand the ‘pain’ of the upper caste students who lose out on admission due to reservations.

But the above argument is a deliberate fiction – resting on an absolute falsehood. For one thing, OBC reservation in education came with a corresponding increase in seats for general category candidates. So, the plain fact is that OBC reservation in education has not led to loss of a single seat for general category candidates. But isn’t it a fact that the competition in education is steadily increasing, leading to desperation and even suicides among students? Isn’t commercialisation – in the shape of privatisation, steep fees, predatory teaching/coaching shops, donation/capitation fees etc a grim reality? All this is true – but none of it can be blamed on reservations!

The film makes a deliberately wrong diagnosis of the ‘pain’ that Prabhakar speaks of, and its prescription too is all wrong. Upper caste students do not have a monopoly on the pain of being pushed out of higher education thanks to shrinking opportunities. The policies of privatisation and commercialisation of education date back to 1990, and preceded those of OBC reservations in education (2008). It is those policies that have led to the steady shrinkage of seats in colleges and universities. Those policies are not just pushing out upper caste students who can’t afford high fees or donations or who can’t

meet the steep marks required for admissions. Reserved category students too are at the receiving end – because 22.5% or 27% of a shrinking pie means fewer students of these sections can benefit. Also they are, in general, even less able to afford the steep fees and donations.

The ‘painful’ situation in education today, where seats are ‘reserved’ (by the power of money) for the rich and the poor pushed out; and where students getting 90% marks are denied admission in DU colleges; can be changed only by resisting privatisation and demanding publicly funded education for all. The film hides the truth of privatisation behind a smokescreen of ‘reservation.’ It also situates ‘commercialisation’ only in the coaching classes; the private college of which Prabhakar is the principal is never accused of ‘commercialisation’!

The final confrontation takes place when Prabhakar starts free coaching in a ‘tabela’ (cowshed), and, when its success threatens his coaching institute, Mithilesh gets the police ready to bulldoze it. But this conflict between the idealistic teacher and the coaching shark (backed by the Government and police) is resolved by – believe it or not – the power of money! The rich and spiritual founder-patron of the private college (Hema Malini in a cameo role) turns up as a deus ex machina, and with a single phone call to the CM, makes the police beat a retreat, and dismisses the coaching-walas from the college.

Prabhakar’s wife articulates the familiar argument – ‘Reservations are unfair to the upper castes; instead, give primary education to the deprived castes and then let them compete on merit.” Prabhakar rejects this argument. But the film leaves the reservation debate unresolved, eventually ending on a note that tacitly upholds the ‘education is the solution’ view.

The initial part of the film gives us acrimonious debates over reservation, where the dalit Deepak, played by Saif, asserts his identity, demands reservation as a right, resents Prabhakar’s ‘charity’ to him and tells him there’s no middle road on the question of reservations. The tensions caused by this dalit assertion all vanish painlessly in the face of the paternalistic upper caste teacher (Prabhakar) who selflessly imparts education to all, irrespective of caste. Sushant (played by Prateik), who represents the upper caste student who protests against reservation, is never shown to come to any new realisation about reservation. Rather, both Saif’s character and Prateik’s come to a realisation that they’ve misjudged Bachchan, whose commitment to teaching, they are shown to recognise, is far nobler than any petty debates over reservation!

The prickly issue of whether private colleges should implement reservation is quietly dropped in the latter part, and instead the film ends on a triumphant note when the rich patron of the private college starts free remedial classes for weak students!

The film also tacitly endorses the myth that reservation has ‘divided’ youth on the basis of caste. It shows love and friendship among young men and women of different castes. This state of caste-less innocence, the film suggests, is rudely broken by the loss of innocence caused by OBC reservations. This pre-reservation paradise of castelessness is pure fiction. Don’t we live in a world where, reservations or not, khap panchayats and families kill inter-caste couples, and where matrimonial columns are as a rule rigidly divided on caste lines? Our youth never lived in a state of castelessness – they have always been hyper-aware of caste.

Given this basic dishonesty at the core of the film, it is hardly surprising that it has angered dalits and OBCs. What has contributed to the anger is the pronouncements of the actors during promotional events. Bachchan, (TOI July 28), for instance, begins by paying lip service to the reservation policy on a purely technical ground: “Since it has been endorsed by the Supreme Court and the Parliament and sanctioned by laws, Indians have no choice but to obey and accept it.” But he then goes on to call for a ‘review’ of reservations: “But we need to assess whether it’s really helping uplift the backward classes or widening the rift between the privileged and the have-nots. …the time has come to examine if reservations have really been able to create a level playing field for students from all sections of the society.”

Jha was also criticised by dalits for casting Saif, a son of a nawab in real life, in the role of a dalit. The question is not whether Saif is convincing in his role or not. Saif’s own attitude is ground for serious outrage. For instance, Saif has repeatedly said reservations are needed because they might have kept a revolution at bay: a truly self-serving reason for royalty to support reservations! Speaking to one paper (HT August 10), Saif said, pointing out that his father too had sent him abroad for studies, “I’m going to work really hard to send my children abroad. And if necessary, ensure that they don’t need to work. I know it’s an escapist attitude but how do you change the system and bring equality in a huge country like ours?” Breathtaking gall, indeed, for nawabs who can afford to pay for a foreign education and whose kids never have to work, to complain of ‘inequality’?! Most revealing of all was Saif’s assurance that in order to prepare for his role, he “met some people from that (dalit) strata of society!”

Be it caste discrimination or commercialisation, the film offers a fairy tale solution in noble individual teachers and the charity of the rich. Prakash Jha should have known better than imagine he could get away with exploiting the reservation and commercialisation issues for profit, and then expect people to swallow a facile and false formula.

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