November-December 2011

Table of Contents

  1. Liberation’ of Libya: Challenges for the Arab Spring and American Autumn
  2. Scrap AFSPA! End the Repressive Rule of Armed Forces in the North East and Kashmir!
  3. Occupy Wall Street: Revolt of the Ninety Nine Per Cent

  4. Dethrone UPA Scamsters, Unmask NDA Pretenders: Intensify the Battle against Corruption
  5. Bharat Sanchar Nigam limited (BSNL): Grave Yard For Workers

  6. People’s Rights Over People’s Resources! Left Resurgence Through People’s Resistance!

  7. Maruti Workers’ Strike

  8. New Mining (MMDR) Bill: Promoting ‘Profit-Sharing’ or Land Grab?

  9. Communal Violence Bill

  10. Obituary: Gursharan Singh

 

International

Liberation’ of Libya: Challenges for the Arab Spring and American Autumn

– ML Update, 25 – 31 October, 2011.

It was Iraq in 2006. It is Libya today in 2011. In 2006 Bush Administration had celebrated the conquest of Iraq by exhibiting the mutilated body of Saddam Hussein as a prized trophy. The spectacle of celebration of Libya’s ‘liberation’ is turning out to be remarkably similar. On 20 October 2011 the world came to know about the ruthless elimination of Libya’s deposed ruler Muammar Gaddafi. He was captured alive – and unlike in the Saddam case there was no pretence of a trial – only to be murdered brutally and his blood-streaked body was put on display in a commercial freezer at a shopping centre in Misrata town. Around the same tIme his son Mutassim was also captured and killed in Sirte, reportedly the last stronghold of the Gaddafi regime. While Obama Administration and NATO immediately hailed the ‘liberation’ of Libya, American and French flags could be seen being waved on Libya’s streets alongside Libyan flags.

It is indeed a queer irony of history. On the one hand, the Arab Spring that had started in Egypt and brought an end to the three-decade-old reign of Hosni Mubarak has reached the American soil in the form of the Occupy Wall Street movement, on the other hand the US-NATO war campaign is desperately trying to subvert and subjugate the Arab Spring to its strategic objectives and calculations. Libya is strategically no less important than Iraq – both for its oil reserves and its standing as the geo-political gateway of Africa. The post-Gaddafi transition in Libya will be as messy as post-Saddam Iraq providing enough opportunities to the US and other NATO powers to tighten their grip on Libya and use it as a launching pad for a veritable invasion of Africa and for toppling other regimes in the Middle-East.

There can of course be no denying the fact that in recent years the Gaddafi regime in Libya, like the Saddam regime in Iraq, had lost its legitimacy and momentum. There was a period in the 1970s and 1980s when Gaddafi led the building of modern Libya – he nationalized the oil economy in this former British colony, built the infrastructure of a modern country, stood by Palestine against Zionist aggression and occupation, and extended full support to the anti-colonial anti-racist assertion all over Africa. But over the years Gaddafi earned increasing notoriety as a ruthless dictator. Meanwhile, the sanctions imposed in the wake of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing incident (in which Libya was falsely blamed) had also crippled the Libyan economy considerably. In the wake of the collapse of the USSR and more recently, the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, Gaddafi was known to have developed a working relationship with Britain and other Western powers perhaps in the vain hope that Libya would be left alone.

Mired militarily in Afghanistan and Iraq, and faced with a stubborn recession at home, the US has been looking for a different tactic to cater to its strategy of global domination. It has chosen to ride piggyback on the Arab Spring. Using the local resistance and opposition to dictatorial and unpopular regimes in the Middle-East, the US is seeking to effect regime changes and acquire greater economic and political control over the process of transition. The tactic seems to have worked quite effectively so far in Libya. Apart from gaining control over oil and gas and other key natural resources including land, the US also looks to counter the growing economic presence of China in Africa. It is well known that while the US is busy spreading its military tentacles all over the world, China has deepened its economic role in Africa through growing infrastructure projects and other related investments.

The ‘liberation’ of Libya would surely encourage the US to intensify its scramble for Africa. Towards the end of the second term of Bush Presidency, the US had established a unified military command called AFRICOM to direct US’ military role for all the 54 countries of Africa. Fully operational since 1 October 2008, AFRICOM is aimed at protecting US national interests ‘from transnational threats emanating from Africa’ and remaining ever prepared ‘to prevail against any individual or organization that poses a threat to the United States, our national interests, or our allies and partners’. With Libya secured, the US is already busy strengthening its military role in Africa in the garb of ‘humanitarian intervention’ and ‘peaceful engagement’ in countries like Congo, Uganda, recently bifurcated Sudan and several other African countries.

This US-NATO game plan clearly poses a frontal challenge to the spirit of both Arab Spring as well as American Autumn. While the Arab people want to run their countries independently and democratically, the Occupy Wall Street movement has come out against both corporate greed and plunder and US military bases and interventions across the world. The OWS movement is informed by a painful realization that the working people of the US are reeling under the burden of not just economic recession and enormous bailout packages handed out to Wall Street but also the crushing weight of the Empire what with the growing cost of US military expeditions the world over. The spirit of the OWS movement is thus directed as much against Wall Street as the Pentagon. But while acknowledging the frustration of the American people and the stubbornness of the recession, the Obama Administration continues to fuel the US war machine. The democratic aspiration underlying the Arab Spring and the American Autumn will therefore have to squarely challenge the US imperialism’s entire design of global domination.

Condemn the Heinous Killing of Muammar Gaddafi

(Party General Secretary’s statement – 21 Oct)

Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has been killed at the hands of NATO-backed fighters. Reportedly, he offered no resistance when discovered in hiding, and even requested his captors not to shoot. Yet he was shot dead in cold blood.

It is ironic that such a blatant war crime is being welcomed by the imperialist US and its allies, as a harbinger of democracy in Libya! The US-NATO aggression on Libya is yet another instance when the imperialist quest for oil and strategic dominance in the region is being dressed up as an altruistic support for democratic regime-change.

After its costly military misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US is trying a new tactic in Libya to usurp the spirit of the Arab Spring, capture precious resources like oil and strengthen its geo-political stranglehold in this region of strategic importance. The US-NATO gameplan in Libya must be condemned and resisted as strongly as the whole world has rejected the US-led war, occupation and intervention elsewhere in the world.

Struggles in India

Scrap AFSPA! End the Repressive Rule of Armed Forces in the North East and Kashmir!

– ML Update, 1-7 November, 2011.

On November 2, 11 years back, a young woman in Manipur, disturbed by the terrible Malom massacre in which the Assam Rifles killed 14 civilians, went on a hunger-fast in mourning and protest. Some days later, on November 5, she decided to begin an indefinite fast – to be broken only when the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 (AFSPA) – instrument of the humiliation and repression imposed on Manipur and the North East – was scrapped.

The writ of AFSPA runs in most of the North East states, as well as in Kashmir – in all regions where there is heavy deployment of armed forces in the name of combating insurgency. The very presence of such huge contingents of armed forces in civilian areas, of course, brings severe repression and rights violations in its wake. What the AFSPA does is to provide a cloak of impunity to the armed forces in case of any act of violence meted out by them to civilians. It gives the armed forces a licence to kill civilians on ‘suspicion’, and it protects the armed forces from prosecution in case of any such acts of violence on civilians.

Irom Sharmila has been virtually imprisoned in hospital in Imphal, to prevent her ongoing fast from reaching the national capital and generating greater awareness among the general public and pressure on the central government. In 2004, following the rape and murder of a young woman, Thangjam Manorama, by jawans of the Assam Rifles, a huge protest movement erupted on the streets of Manipur. The Meira Paibi women of Manipur protested without clothes outside the army headquarters in Imphal, with banners saying, ‘Indian Army Rape Us.’ In an effort to contain those protests, the UPA Government set up the Justice Jeevan Reddy committee to look into the AFSPA.

The Jeevan Reddy Committee did recommend that the AFSPA be scrapped. But the UPA Government has taken no action on that recommendation. Even now, as the support for Sharmila’s fast and the demand for scrapping AFSPA has gained momentum, the UPA Government continues to say that a ‘consensus’ is required in order to heed the demand. In other words, by ‘consensus’ the Government means that the Army itself must be willing to do away with the AFSPA! The Government ought to ensure that its laws and its armed forces do not overstep the constitutional boundaries. Instead the Government is retaining the AFSPA – a blatant violation of all constitutionally guaranteed civil rights – and justifying it in the name of the Army’s own sentiments and opinions!

In Kashmir, in the wake of an uproar over the discovery of over 2000 mass graves in which it is suspected that victims of custodial ‘disappearances’ lie buried, and an incident of custodial killing of a worker of the ruling National Conference party, the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has offered to lift AFSPA from some of areas of Kashmir. This is a highly inadequate offer. Not only must the AFSPA be scrapped since its very existence is in violation of constitutional principles; in both Kashmir and the North East, the culture of impunity must be ended and security personnel responsible for custodial or fake ‘encounter’ killings of civilians must be brought to book.

As we salute the courageous struggle of Irom Sharmila and express solidarity with her ongoing fast, we must demand the immediate scrapping of AFSPA. The scrapping of AFSPA can only be a first step in restoring peace and justice to the North East and Kashmir. The truth about custodial disappearances, rapes and ‘encounter’ killings must be established and the guilty punished. And above all, the army deployment in civilian areas must be withdrawn so that the people of these regions can breathe free and without fear.

International

Occupy Wall Street: Revolt of the Ninety Nine Per Cent

– Liberation, November, 2011.

After the Arab Spring and (South) European Summer, now it is the turn of American Autumn to unfurl the banner of resistance. The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) or the “99 per cent” movement (a reference to the deprived Americans who find the going increasingly tough even as the top 1 per cent control 40 percent of US wealth) is fighting, in the words of its website, “against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. Inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, Greece, Italy and the UK, it aims to expose how the richest 1% of people who are writing the rules of the global economy are imposing an agenda of neoliberalism and economic inequality that is foreclosing our future.”

The protest was not planned by any political party or group, nor was it proposed by some charismatic personality. It had its origin in a suggestion mooted by a Canadian anti-consumerist online magazine that was endorsed by a group of computer hackers and then spread via Twitter and Facebook across America. The whole thing is run by consensus through a loose, horizontal system comprising a General Assembly, a number of Working/Volunteer Groups and a Direct Action Committee comprising, for the most part, the original organizers of the protest and other full-time activists.

Given the fact that both Republicans and Democrats coddle Wall Street and rely on campaign contributions from top corporate honchos, and with hardly any organised Left or consistently democratic political formation in sight, it is but natural that any genuine mass struggle against corporate power in the US would be avowedly independent, non-party (and also non-political, as many participants in the current movement insist). The spontaneous evolution from grassroots, the broad-based non-party character and the method of direct democracy have no doubt helped earn the trust of people from myriad political/apolitical trends and ensured their active and energetic participation.

At the same time, in the absence of a well-knit and ideologically coherent leading body the OWS runs the risk of losing focus, failing to formulate specific demands and appropriate policies at different junctures. Thus it is that the otherwise excellent Declaration of the New York City General Assembly does identify the class enemy – which by itself is a very big thing, particularly in the American context – and vividly expresses the grievances of broadest cross-sections of people; but does not specify any immediate demands (say higher taxes on the rich or a financial transactions tax or a cap on executive pay) nor declare how, through which steps or measures, the angry protesters propose to achieve their goal.

However, one should understand “the inevitable confusion of the first start” and “give the movement time to consolidate”, as Frederick Engels advised a comrade in New York way back in 1886, when the American working class was embarking on the path of organised agitation. Today’s multi-class popular struggle too is young and unique and needs time to learn from experience. We have reason to be hopeful, for the OWS has already proved itself the most sustained popular agitation since the one against Vietnam War and earned the support, according to a Time poll, of some 79% of the people of America and evoked tremendous international response.

Whatever be the immediate outcome of this particular battle, with the economic outlook darkening further the war will rage more fiercely on. Let us express warm solidarity to the American “99 per cent” exactly the way the people in Italy, Greece and other countries have done – by intensifying our own ongoing battle against our increasingly unjust social order.

Struggles in India

Dethrone UPA Scamsters, Unmask NDA Pretenders: Intensify the Battle against Corruption

– Liberation, November, 2011.

With Finance Minister (FM) Pranab Mukherjee formally distancing himself from the March 25, 2011 note sent by his ministry holding former FM P Chidambaram responsible for not stopping the 2G scam, Chidambaram has described the whole thing as a closed chapter. But the Finance Ministry note and Pranab Mukherjee’s subsequent clarification has not only made Chidambaram’s culpability clear but also exposed the complicity of the entire government in the scam as well as in all the ugly cover-up bids that have followed. Pranab Mukherjee has described his ministry’s note as nothing short of an inter-ministerial background paper based on inputs from the law ministry as well as the prime minister’s office PMO even though he says he does not agree to all the inferences contained in the note.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) ministers know that they must swim or sink together and so it is not difficult to understand how the instinct of political survival has prevailed over both Mukherjee and Chidambaram prompting them to reach a truce. But the Finance Ministry’s note does not disappear with the Finance Minister personally distancing himself from some of the observations and inferences. From the day the lids blew off the 2G scam, anybody familiar with the parliamentary mode of governance could guess that a scam of that magnitude involving such a key sector and major players could not just be a matter of omission or commission by just the telecom minister alone. It could only be a case of ‘collective responsibility’, the cardinal principle that is so often invoked by governments in parliamentary democracy.

Manmohan Singh always knew that action against any individual minister would trigger a chain reaction. That is why he delayed taking action against A Raja for as long as he could. With Raja in jail, Dayanidhi Maran, his predecessor in the telecom ministry has already followed suit, and whatever Mr. Pranab Mukherjee may now say in defence of his ‘valued colleague’ Chidambaram, we all know it very well that A Raja has also been insisting that Chidambaram be summoned as a witness! Manmohan Singh and his ministers may now bend all rules and subvert all norms of propriety to save their skin, but as far as public perception is concerned the Congress party and the UPA government just cannot go out of the coverage area of the tainted network of 2G scam.

Even as prices soar and scams multiply under the UPA regime, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is making a desperate bid to regain power. While Narendra Modi, the director of the 2002 Gujarat genocide, now talks of ‘Sadbhavna Mission’, Advani is on a yatra for ‘clean politics’ even as two BJP chief ministers have had to resign in the wake of disclosure of massive scams, one of whom is now in jail.

Bihar chief minister (CM) Nitish Kumar flagged off Advani’s rath from Bihar. It is a grand convergence of political opportunism – while Advani seeks to appropriate the legacy of Jayprakash Narain by launching his yatra on JP’s birthday from his place of birth, Nitish Kumar sees this as an opportunity to project himself as an anti-corruption crusader and push up his brand value within National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

This is an outright mockery of the legacy of the 1974 JP movement and an insult to the spirit of the ongoing anti-corruption movement of the Indian people. The JP movement was about dethroning the corrupt and not replacing one set of corrupt with another. BJP’s former Karnataka CM Yeddyurappa has been arrested even in the midst of Advani’s ‘anti-corruption’ yatra. And before Nitish Kumar certifies Advani’s mission of ‘clean politics’ he owes an answer to the people of Bihar and India about the credentials of his own government. The treasury fraud has grown to Rs 16,000 crore and the Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA) land allotment scam has just hinted at the kind of corruption and nepotism that is thriving under Nitish Kumar.

While intensifying the battle against the scamsters of UPA, consistent fighters against corruption will also have to reject the BJP-NDA politics of pretension and hypocrisy with the contempt it deserves.

Politics in India

Bharat Sanchar Nigam limited (BSNL): Grave Yard For Workers

– Liberation, November, 2011.

Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Kapil Sibal, a staunch proponent of no-loss theory vis-à-vis the 2G scam, has unveiled the New Telecom Policy (NTP) 2011. This has come out in the midst of charges against the erstwhile Finance Minister P Chidambaram for his complicity in 2G scam, differences within the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) cabinet on the issue and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raids in the former Information Technology (IT) minister Dayanidhi Maran’s houses and offices. The policy’s rhetoric about ‘maximizing public good’, ‘enhancing equity and inclusiveness’ and ‘furthering the national development agenda’, however, cannot protect the UPA from the continuing loss of credibility and public anger against the mega scams and cover-ups.

The concluding paragraph of the draft policy, which is available for public feedback, says that ‘direct revenue generation would continue to remain a secondary objective’. Before one could appreciate the UPA policy’s priority for service to the people over revenue, the next sentence promptly hastens to emphasize ‘the predominant role of the private sector’. Thus as a policy, private sector will be boosted to spread its greedy grip on the telecom sector and consequently the government would get no revenue!

In the earlier paragraphs, the policy explains how it intends to tend the private sector by pressing the government into its service, by evolving a framework for finance sector, facilitating access to financial resources on favorable terms and fiscal incentives required by indigenous manufacturers of telecom products and Research and Development (R&D) institutions, promoting domestic production of telephone equipments, providing preferential market access for domestically manufactured telecommunication products including mobile devices, One Nation–One License etc. Now who else can be these ‘domestic’ forces other than Tata and Reliance?

Quite understandably, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) president is happy about the “declaration that revenue generation will be a secondary objective, and the government’s intention to ‘rationalize’ taxes and levies.” The business interests in the country do not find anything in NTP to raise new concerns and it is a welcome framework for them. The policy promises to abolish national roaming charges for mobile services. If the roaming charges are abolished, the corporates in the telecom sector would lose revenue to the tune of approximately Rs.20,000 crores, so the policy is silent about any time frame for this.

The policy lists the achievement of the earlier telecom policy put forth in 1999. What it avoids to mention is the corporate plunder in the sector in these 11 years of consistent implementation by UPA and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regimes in the centre. Behind the façade of this declared policy for the telecom sector, the ministry has an undeclared policy for the 3 lakh employees in the government telecom sector, which is being implemented over a period of years. Measures to systematically weaken the Public Sector Unit (PSU) include 7 years delay to allow the PSU in mobile services, abolition of access deficit charges that the private players were paying for the PSU, universal service obligation fund (USO) being stopped. Apart from this, the policy for the work force is being implemented piecemeal, and indirectly, through various dubious methods. These measures together are spelling doom for the livelihood of employees in the government telecom sector.

The 2G scam is notorious for the huge loss to the exchequer. Kanimozhi, Raja, Maran, Chidambaram and Manmohan are implicated in this scam. But in truth they are all guilty of an even bigger crime – of rendering the lives of 3 lakh BSNL employees and their families vulnerable.

BSNL is a disturbing example of how an army of lakhs and lakhs of PSU employees, who are known for their glorious struggles against the anti-worker measures of the different central governments, are facing a large scale assault, which is a culmination of calculated deprivation and denial of their hard-won rights in a phased out manner, which were hardly met by serious protests.

BSNL has entered into an agreement with Swan Telecom, an Anil Ambani group company in 2008 for infrastructure sharing, as soon as it was allocated 2G spectrum. When 2G scam and the cover ups have hit a new low with the UPA government running out of ideas to defend its actions on the issue, a Congress Rajya Sabha MP has recently sent a letter to the UPA government asking how BSNL has entered into an infrastructure sharing contract with Swan Telecom, when the company does not entertain such a contract with any other company. The UPA Government asked for an explanation from the Ministry. The Minister for State Milind Deora has informed the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on September 7, 2011 that it is true that the company has entered such an agreement and that there is no irregularity.

This contract would enable Swan Telecom to use the infrastructure of BSNL which was raised by the sweat and blood of Indian working people over years, pay a meager sum as charges, and mint profits. When competition is God in capitalist society would any company share its infrastructure with a competing company? Would Reliance share its infrastructure with any government company?

This is only one of the examples for the policy pursued by the PSU to augment its growth! Thus the policies only help the private players in the sector and stunt growth of the government company.

The cumulative result is loss, and the employees who are in no way responsible for this loss, have to bear the consequences. If they lost the right to bonus last year, this year medical allowance and LTC are withdrawn. Much more was lost before last year. Every employee would have lost somewhere from Rs.50,000 to Rs.1 lakh by way of delayed implementation of pay revision, promotion etc., and one can compute the amount of money the ministry has denied for the 3 lakh workers together. The management says that it is constrained to take such measures as the company has incurred loss over Rs.6000 crores. When the private sector in the telecom is making huge profit, how come a government company, which has such a mammoth infrastructure, would incur loss? If, as a policy, the company is left to its ruin to facilitate the growth of private sector, what can the government expect other than loss?

Now with the argument of loss, and in the absence any meaningful protest against the anti-workers measures all these years, the management has proposed Voluntary Retirement Service (VRS) for one lakh workers as recommended by Sam Pitroda, PM’s personal advisor. Here too, VRS is projected as a measure to save the company from making further loss, as the company has to pay 46.5% as salary for the employees. The ministry which is working overtime to facilitate the growth of private sector in telecom, is not able to accept the fact of employees are getting pay hike after 6th Pay Commission implementation. It is another issue that even these recommendations are yet to be completely realized for the BSNL employees. The ministry is thus trying to cover up its pro-corporate measures and its effective implementation of anti-workers measures all in the name of cost to the company.

This latest attack of VRS has shaken the work force and it is very unfortunate that the unions, including the left trade unions (TUs) in BSNL, while taking up token protests, are not gearing up for any meaningful struggle against VRS.

Thus one lakh permanent employment in a PSU, which is a very high order in these days of contractualisation, will be lost in the coming year. This would then be followed by the much-cherished plan of the ministry for calling up investment portals (IPOs) for the company. Subsequently Tatas and Ambanis will plunder the company with a wealth worth more than Rs. 1 lakh crores with no hindrance. The ministry already has a successful example in Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) formerly owned by the government of India, which has disappeared and is now known only as a company of Tata.

The TUs with strength of 3 lakh workers, who have a history of glorious struggles and a readiness to fight, can do wonders in reversing these policies and set a powerful example.

Now it is a question before the TUs in BSNL, whether to discourage the workers by citing examples of Air India, which is not paying its employees their monthly salary, or kindle the fighting spirit of the employees by invoking the example of the young workers of Maruti; whether to drive the employees to fill in the blanks as the management wishes or think of the larger interest of the country; whether to convince the workers about their existential crisis or to inspire them for a struggle against the policies; whether to keep blaming each other or to work for unity and turn the employees’ anger against the Ministry; and whether to resort to token protests or meaningful struggle.

Even at this stage, the work force of the PSU can rise up to save not only their livelihood but also the wealth of the country. One can only hope that the TUs rise to the occasion.

Struggles in India

People’s Rights Over People’s Resources! Left Resurgence Through People’s Resistance!

– Liberation, November, 2011.

(Resolution adopted at All India Convention of Left Coordination (AILC) at Jalandhar, 10-11 October 2011)

A year ago, in August 2010, we, representatives of Communist Party Liberation [CPI(ML)], Communist Party of India Punjab [CPM Punjab], Lal Nishan Party Leninvadi (LNP)-L and Left Coordination Committee (LCC), Kerala, had met in Delhi in an All India Convention and launched the All India Left Coordination (AILC) and adopted the Delhi Declaration as a common charter to advance the Left movement in the country. The Coordination was born out of the widely shared urge for a powerful, united intervention of the Left forces in the burning issues that face the country.

As we look back on the past year, we see that indeed, the AILC has moved forward and has been warmly welcomed by forces of resistance and well-wishers of the Left everywhere. We have held People’s Conventions at different centres in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Punjab, Maharashtra and Kerala, which have drawn a warm response. We have held countrywide protests against repression in Kashmir; sent a solidarity team to the struggle against the nuclear plant at Jaitapur.

In March 2011, following an intense countrywide campaign, we held a massive March to Parliament that expressed people’s anger against the United Progressive alliance (UPA) Government which is responsible for massive scams, soaring prices, widespread unemployment and relentless assaults on democracy. Recently in the month of August AILC has conducted a renewed countrywide campaign against corruption and for democracy.

We meet again here in Jalandhar at a time when the country has just witnessed a huge outpouring of popular anger and protest against corruption during the fast undertaken by Anna Hazare. While the immediate rallying point for this protest was the demand for a Janlokpal Bill, the protests have been fuelled by all-pervasive instances of massive corporate loot and obnoxious mega scams, the ugly cover-up bids and the arrogant and repressive response of the UPA Government. The scams resulting from the implementation of neoliberal policies of liberalization, privatization and globalization are of course no exclusive hallmark of the UPA government but a common denominator of the entire range of bourgeois governments in the country.

As billions of rupees are being plundered by corporates with politicians sharing the spoils, ordinary people reel under relentless price rise. The Government, far from protecting the poor, is hell bent on promoting price rise, and dismantling any fragile existing protection. Corporate plunder of land and minerals also results in massive eviction of peasants and tribals from their land and livelihood, and endangers the country’s food security. People’s protests against corruption, corporate land grab and loot all over the country are being sought to be suppressed with brute force. The recent defeat of the Communist Party of India [CPI(M)] led governments in West Bengal and Kerala, resulting from the stubborn attempts of these governments to implement the neo-liberal course, has further provided an impetus to the ruling classes to launch an all out ideological offensive against the entire left.

However, the rising tide of protests against the corruption, price rise, joblessness caused by liberalization, vindicates the need for a powerful political assertion of the Left. It is a challenge for fighting Left forces to intervene in this situation and work for a powerful resurgence of the Left as the most consistent and comprehensive stream of democratic movement and discourse in the country.

In this backdrop of an all-out offensive by the ruling classes and Central and State governments of every hue on people’s resources, democratic and civil rights, livelihood and survival, the AILC is meeting again at this Convention at Jalandhar. We believe that at this juncture, a powerful all-India assertion of fighting Left forces is called for to give a consistent democratic direction to the people’s awakening and movemental spirit.

On the burning issues that confront the Indian people today, the AILC calls for heightened initiative and vigorous struggles on the following key points:

Resist Corruption and Corporate Plunder:

In the backdrop of huge scams-Commonwealth Games (CWG), 2G, Krishna Godavari (KG Basin), Adarsh (housing scandal), Bellary (illegal mining) – we are witnessing a welcome popular upsurge against corruption. Three chief ministers – two from the BJP and one from the Congress – have already had to resign. Two former central ministers and two more MPs are in jail. The complicity of former finance minister (currently minister of home affairs) P Chidambaram in the 2G scam has been hinted by none other than the current Finance Minister. In the wake of all these disclosures, this government has no moral right or political credibility to remain in power. It should immediately resign and seek fresh mandate from the people.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making a shameless attempt to cash in on the anti-corruption anger prevailing in the country and Advani is once again riding on his rath, this time from the birthplace of Jaya Parakash Narayan (JP) on his birth anniversary, and Nitish Kumar, chief minister of Bihar whose government too stands implicated in several major scams including a mammoth treasury fraud and a major land allotment scam is flagging off Advani’s yatra. This is a mockery of the spirit of both the JP movement of the 1970s and the prevalent anti-corruption upsurge of the Indian people. This convention denounces this crude and farcical BJP/ National Democratic Alliance (NDA) attempt to play the anti-corruption card and calls upon the people to reject both UPA and NDA on the issue of corruption, corporate plunder and anti-people neo-liberal policies.

The UPA Government’s draft Lokpal Bill is a joke, and its arrogant denial of scams and repression on anti-corruption protests proves that it has no intention of combating corruption. This Convention respects the people’s aspirations for a genuine anti-corruption Lokpal that can effectively ensure impartial investigation, exposure and prosecution of scams involving government personnel at every level from the lowest officials to the Prime Minister (PM), corporate houses as well as NGOs that indulge in corrupt practices.

At the same time, this Convention holds that the biggest instances of scams – 2G, mining and land scams, KG basin gas scam etc – all are a result of the neo-liberal policies that promote corporate plunder of the country’s precious resources. Policies of privatization hand over the precious resources like land, minerals, forests, water, spectrum etc. along with the huge infrastructure built and developed by the public sector, which belong to India and its people, to plundering, profit-hungry corporations. In the process, the country’s exchequer is looted, environment destroyed, and people robbed of land and livelihood. Every day, more than Rs 250 crore is gifted away to super-rich corporates in the name of tax waivers etc; and the same amount bleeds away daily through black money. Corrupt, pro-corporate policies rob us of these massive funds that could have been spent on public welfare such as education, health and food security that is desperately needed by people.

This Convention calls for an effective anti-corruption legislation that can ensure punitive and deterrent action against the corrupt at all levels; and that can effectively hit at the nexus between corrupt corporations, politicians and bureaucracy! The legislation must cover all posts from the patwari to the PM and all institutions from the army and the judiciary to the bureaucracy and Non Governmental Organizations ( NGOs). To hit at the root of growing corruption, this Convention calls for a sustained campaign and agitation to reverse the policy regime that promotes corruption and corporate plunder!

Resist Land Grab, Demand Protection of Agricultural and Forest Land and Coastal and Fishing Zones!

All over the country, land is being forcibly acquired in the name of development, robbing peasants and tribals of their means of survival. Very often this land is handed over to private corporations at throwaway prices, while land losers suffer displacement and impoverishment. Protests against land grab have been met with batons and bullets in many places. But land grab and repression have emerged as a major political issue, with parties facing electoral losses as a result, and even courts being compelled to take a note of the injustice being meted out to land losers. These pressures have forced the UPA Government to come up with the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Bill 2011 to replace the notorious 1894 Land Acquisition Act.

But the LARR Bill is nothing but a document to legalise land grab. If enacted in its present form, it would be of no use to prevent land grab in Singur, Nandigram, Jaitapur, POSCO or any of the recent or ongoing instances. Not only does it not have any will to prevent forcible land acquisition or protect fertile and forest land; its provisions for compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement are also extremely weak and inadequate.

This Convention calls for a countrywide assertion to reject the LARR Bill 2011, and demand a fresh legislation that will have adequate provisions to impose severe restrictions and safeguards against indiscriminate acquisition or purchase of fertile and forest land; prevent any forcible land grab (whether through acquisition or purchase) by making people’s informed consent mandatory; preventing any land acquisition for private companies; and ensuring adequate compensation and R&R for land holders as well as affected agricultural labour and other toiling people who lose their livelihood, both in cases of land purchased by private companies or land acquired by the government. Agricultural and forest lands, coastal areas and traditional fishing zones must all be declared out of bounds for acquisition by the corporate or the governments.

This Convention extends full support to the ongoing struggle in Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu against the commissioning of the nuclear power plant. The coastal areas in South India have already experienced the devastation of tsunami and no government can be allowed to invite Fukushima-type disasters on any part of India by reckless installation of nuclear power plants in coastal India. We also express our fullest solidarity with the ongoing struggles against nuclear power and land acquisition in different parts of the country, Jaitapur in Maharashtra and Fatehabad in Haryana being two most prominent examples.

Stop Price Rise:

Prices of food, essential commodities and fuel have been constantly on the rise, imposing an unbearable burden on the common man. The UPA Government for the past several years has been making promises to bring down inflation, but it is impossible to recall an occasion in these years when prices have ever dropped. With petroleum companies announcing a hike in petrol/diesel/kerosene prices every couple of months, the UPA Government tries to take refuge in the claim that global factors are responsible for the rise in prices. Nothing could be a bigger lie. The Government has deregulated prices of petroleum products and has given petroleum companies a free hand to hike prices to further enhance the profit margins; and now it pleads helplessness!

This Convention calls for countrywide protests against price rise, and demands that the UPA Government reverse deregulation, undertake nationalisation of wholesale trade in essential agricultural products, control black-marketeering, hoarding, and forward trading in food products, in order to control the prices of fuel, food and other essential commodities.

Along with food grains and essential items of consumption key services and public goods like education, healthcare and electricity are also becoming increasingly expensive thanks to the policy of privatization and commercialisation of these sectors. This convention strongly rejects this privatization drive and calls for an immediate halt to privatization and commercialization of all essential social services and public goods.

Ensure Food Security, Universalise Public distribution System (PDS):

India has the shameful distinction of being among the countries of the world with the worst record of malnutrition and hunger. As per the ‘Global Hunger Report’ about 20 thousand people in India die due to hunger and malnutrition every month. With rising prices, the ranks of the vulnerable, needy and hungry keep growing. But the UPA Government plays cynical number games to claim that the poverty is on the decline. Recently, the Planning Commission has insulted the poor by telling the Supreme Court that those who consume above Rs 26 per day in rural areas and Rs 32 per day in urban areas are not poor! The UPA Government’s ‘Food Security Bill’ not only fails to expand the existing rations system; it actually takes away several existing provisions! Further, it paves the way for replacing food rations with cash transfers – a move which can only benefit corporate and Multi National Corporations (MNC) retailers.

This Convention demands that the vast majority of India’s population excluding the upper middle class and rich, be entitled to PDS rations. Let us intensify countrywide agitation to demand 50 kg of food grains at subsidised rates, as well as subsidized supply of other essential requirements like dal, cooking oil, vegetables and milk for all such needy households. This convention demands universalisation of PDS and other essential social benefit schemes.

Make Right to Work a Fundamental Right:

Neo-liberalism offered many dreams to India’s youth – but after two decades all these dreams lie shattered, proving to be nothing but a mirage. Liberalised ‘growth’ has proved to be jobless growth, with job cuts and retrenchment galore. Those jobs that have been created are casual, contractual, highly exploitative and insecure and lacking in basic dignity and rights.

This Convention calls upon the country’s students and youth as well as workers to build a sustained movement to demand that the Right to Work be recognized as a fundamental right; that the government put a stop to exploitation of casualised and contract labour and violation of labour laws and ensure equal pay for equal work and fullest democracy at the workplace; and that in case of inability to provide dignified and secure employment, the Government be obligated to pay adequate and reasonable unemployment allowance.

Defend Democracy, Resist Feudal-Mafia Assault and State Repression:

Across the country, we are witnessing a virtual undeclared Emergency. People’s protests against land grab at POSCO, Jaitapur and at several other places in the country are facing severe repression. Activists heading struggles against land grab as well as plundering of forests and minerals; workers leading struggles in factories; agricultural labourers fighting for their genuine demands, dalits opposing social repression, youth agitating for jobs, anti-corruption activists and whistle blowers, human rights defenders – all are being branded as a threat to security, persecuted and put behind bars.

In the name of Operation Green Hunt, hundreds of adivasis are being killed in fake encounters and military operations, in order to facilitate corporate plunder in forest areas. People protesting such repression and plunder are jailed under draconian laws like sedition. In the North East (NE)and Kashmir, draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA) amount to virtual army rule. Rapes, massacres and custodial ‘disappearances’ abound in the NE states. Thousands of bodies have recently been unearthed from mass graves in Kashmir – suspected to be victims of custodial killings.

With the ascent of the Trinamool Congress (TMC)-Congress combine to power, there is now a growing assault on Left activists and the social base of the Left movement in West Bengal, including systematic eviction of share-croppers and occupiers of ceiling-surplus and other redistributed land. All over the country leaders and activists of people’s struggles are being systematically harassed and persecuted by the state and also subjected to feudal-mafia assaults, communal-patriarchal violence and organized attacks by the paid hirelings of capital.

The fight for withdrawal of false cases and release of political prisoners and bold mass resistance to every attempt to evict the people from their land and livelihood, in short the defence of democracy and protection of the dignity and rights of the people, has therefore become an urgent task for the Left on all fronts and in all states. This convention fully supports the demands of the working class including the new generation of workers engaged in insecure and low-paid jobs for security, dignity and democracy in the work place and extension of full trade union rights to all sections of workers and employees.

Comrades, we must make sure that we respond promptly and adequately to the challenges of the day. The more we step up our movemental role and initiative for the redressal of people’s problems the more will we be able to reach out to and unite with all genuine and fighting sections of the Left. Intensification of people’s struggle against the ruling classes, their state and the disastrous policies and draconian rule of their governments, and ideological-political struggle against the forces and trends of opportunism, class collaboration and capitulation as well as anarcho-militarism must go hand in hand. The time is absolutely ripe for us to move towards greater mutual cooperation and stronger political intervention. Let the motto of “People’s Rights over People’s Resources!” and Left Resurgence through People’s Resistance!” guide us towards forging closer unity among all fighting Left forces and powerful Left assertion against the ruling class parties of all hues.

Other Resolutions Adopted at the Convention:

1.The global economic crisis of 2008 was caused mainly by the greed and corruption of US financial institutions and corporations. But since the crisis, the corporations which profited from corrupt practices – both in the US and in India too – have gone unpunished and have even prospered further due to government incentives. The burden of the crisis has been outsourced by the US to its working people and to developing countries like India. This Convention welcomes the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement in the US which is a popular expression of protest against the citadel of US capitalism and imperialism. In India, too, the UPA Government’s policies have invited the global economic crisis onto Indian soil, resulting in ever-rising prices and slashing of jobs in many sectors. This Convention calls for intensified protest against the UPA Government’s policies which are forcing Indians to bear the burden of the US crisis.

2.This Convention calls for countrywide protests to expose the hypocrisy of Advani’s rath yatra and its claims of championing the values of anti-corruption and democracy. The BJP-NDA Governments all over the country are neck-deep in corruption and notorious for perpetrating communal genocide and brutal repression. This Convention expresses the confidence that the people of the country will reject Advani’s hypocrisy and hate-mongering.

3.This Convention expresses concern about the growing communal violence in the country, and condemns the recent instances at Bharatpur (Rajasthan) and Rudrapur (Uttarakhand). Holding the respective state governments responsible for this violence, this Convention demands compensation and security for the minorities who were at the receiving end, and punishment to the communal forces who were the perpetrators. This Convention demands immediate release of Sanjeev Bhatt, the Gujarat cop who blew the whistle and gave evidence of Narendra Modi’s direct role in communal genocide and fake encounters.

4.This Convention condemns the police firing on the jute farmers demonstrating for remunerative prices in Assam, in which four farmers were killed. This Convention also condemns the repression on farmers protesting against corporate land grab at Gobindpura, Punjab. This Convention demands punishment for the police personnel responsible for such repression on unarmed protesters, speedy redressal of the Assam jute growers’ grievances and a stop to forced land acquisition in Punjab.

5.This Convention demands the constitution of a Second State Reorganisation Commission to ensure a speedy and sympathetic resolution to the ongoing struggles for separate statehood at Telangana and Gorkhaland.

6.This Convention demands the swift fulfillment of the abandoned agenda of land reforms all over the country, and a guarantee of homestead land for all agricultural labourers, plantation workers working in tea gardens and cinchona and rubber plantations, and forest settlements.

7.This Convention resolves that the AILC will hold nationwide protests/demonstrations/rallies/dharnas during November-December 2011 on the issues of price rise, corruption, land grab, unemployment, food security, and state repression and take initiative to organize public opinion to stall any anti-people legislation during the forthcoming winter session of Parliament. In this direction, the AILC will extend full support to the initiatives of mass, class and sectional organisations of peasants, workers, women, student and youth.

Struggles in India

Maruti Workers’ Strike

– Liberation, November, 2011.

The prolonged lockout at the Maruti’s Manesar plant had ended on October 1 with a setback for the workers. In the agreement with the management, the workers agreed to sign the thoroughly illegal ‘Good Conduct bond’ that the management imposed as condition for entering the factory. The agreement obligated the management to take back the workers who were suspended or terminated. However, soon after, the management violated its side of the bargain, refusing to take back around a 1000 contract workers and several suspended permanent workers. Once again, the workers rose up in protest. This time, the workers went on strike, supported by comrades at the Suzuki Powertrain India Ltd.; Suzuki Motorcycle India Ltd., and other nearby Maruti-Suzuki plants.

Striking workers have been subjected to intimidation by goons sponsored by one of the contractors. The contractor’s men fired in the air and threw broken bottles at the workers. Though the main demand this time hinges on reinstatement of the workers, the matter at the core of the Maruti workers’ struggle is their legally mandated right to form a union of their own choice. And this question of industrial democracy touches a chord with workers not just in Manesar and Gurgaon, but the entire automobile industry and in fact the entire working class all over the country.

As the workers confront the Maruti management with its blatant violations of labour laws, Maruti has resorted to the usual arm-twisting and threats. A la Tata Nano, Maruti too hinted that they might pack their bags from Haryana and head for that dictatorial paradise – Modi’s Gujarat! The attitude of corporations pampered by governments is: ‘a subjugated populace and workforce (in addition to all kinds of freebies) is our basic requirement; fail to deliver on these and we will leave.’ In turn, governments at the states and Centre act as though the suspension of democracy is the birthright of the corporations and the very foundation of ‘investment.’ Even as the Maruti struggle is ongoing, the Prime Minister announced that the “government is working on streamlining labour laws.” The PM said, “There is a view that the labour laws are too rigid and are a constraint on our growth impulses,” and stressed that there is “a need to strike a balance between the needs of a growing economy and interest of the workers.” In other words, what the PM wants to do is to get rid of the very same labour laws which managements are currently violating!

A solidarity team of the Delhi State Committee of CPI(ML) comprising State Secretary Sanjay Sharma, All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) leader Santosh Roy, VKS Gautam and Mathura Paswan, All India Students Association (AISA) leader Sandeep Singh and Uma Gupta of Left and Democratic Teachers’ Federation (LDTF), Delhi University visited the striking Maruti workers on 12 October. Teachers of Delhi University visited the workers again, and sent a memorandum to the Haryana CM demanding that rights of the workers be upheld, and Maruti management be penalised for violating labour laws. On 15 October, CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya visited and addressed the striking workers. Student activists consistently joined the workers’ rallies at Manesar in large numbers, and mobilised support for the workers in universities.

In the name of ‘balance’ between the needs of growth and the interests of farmers, the UPA Government is set on legalising land grab. In the name of ‘balancing’ the interests of ‘growth’ and workers, the Government is seeking to jettison the hard won rights and liberties of workers.

As we go to press, the workers strike appears to be nearing its end. However, the management is still refusing to reinstate several of the leading workers’ activists. And the issue of recognition of the independent union is one that is going to continue to simmer even after this particular strike ends.

Politics in India

New Mining (MMDR) Bill: Promoting ‘Profit-Sharing’ or Land Grab?

– Radhika Krishnan, Liberation, November, 2011.

India’s mining sector is notorious as the source of some of the country’s biggest corruption scandals. Illegal mining activity and blatant violation of existing legislations is rampant in the mineral-rich areas of several states. Moreover, mining companies wishing to acquire land for new projects are facing strong opposition from local communities. It is in this context that the UPA government’s Union Cabinet has approved the new Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill (MMDR Bill) 2011. This bill, which intends to replace the existing MMDR Act 1957, is an attempt to institutionalise the vision of the National Mineral Policy (NMP) 2008.

The MMDR 2011’s ‘profit-sharing’ clause has drawn outraged protest from the mining sector. The bill proposes that in addition to the existing structure of taxation and royalties, coal miners will have to part with 26 per cent of their profits, and in the case of other mining activities, companies will have to pay an amount equivalent to the royalties they currently pay to the state government. All this will get deposited to the newly formed district-level ‘Mineral Foundations’. Therefore, the MMDR envisages a mechanism wherein a share of profits and royalties from mining activity could be shared with the local communities who have been displaced, or used for development of local infrastructure. For super-rich mining corporations, this sharing of profits is obviously complete anathema and their stocks in the share market immediately fell in an orchestrated reaction and protest.

In the midst of the furore that the MMDR 2011 has created in the mining sector, it is important to note that the bill finally approved by the Cabinet (according to which non-coal miners have to pay an amount equal to royalty) is a diluted version of the original draft, which had recommended that all mining companies (and not just coal miners) should share 26% of their profits with the local community as annual compensation. Royalty rates vary from mineral to mineral – they are either calculated on a per tonne basis, or else they are a fixed percentage (ranging from 0.2% to 20%) of the total value of minerals mined. Currently, state governments charge 10% royalties on total value of iron ore mined, while the royalties for zinc, copper, lead and bauxite are 8%, 4.2%, 7% and 0.5% respectively. In any case, royalties extracted by the state government are most often not a substantial proportion of the total profits.

It is well-known that coal mining is still predominantly in the public sector, while mining of other minerals such as iron ore and bauxite has been rapidly privatized. Clearly, the Tatas, the Jindals and other private players like the Reddy brothers, who have huge stakes in the mining sector, have pressurized the UPA to reduce the amount they have to pay as benefits to the local community. What we are seeing is yet another evidence of the State policy to “nationalize the losses and privatize the profits”! How else can one explain why the new legislation stipulating profit sharing will apply only to coal and not to other minerals dominated by private sector miners?

Even before the proposed bill gets tabled in the Parliament, there are ample indications that yet more concessions for the mining sector is in the pipeline. Back in June 2011, Reuters had reported a ‘Ministry source’ as having assured the mining industry that while the bill is likely to retain a reference to 26 per cent as a ‘ballpark’ figure, it would include a clause that would allow companies to approach the government for a “concession”! In other words, the final legislation might provide a loophole wherein industry-friendly governments can reduce or waive off the 26% profit-sharing clause! In the days to come, one will have to keep a close watch to see what the final MMDR has in store.

There is absolutely no doubt that mining companies make obscenely high profits, which certainly do not reach the people who live in mineral-rich areas. Therefore, any step towards changing this situation is welcome. However, one also needs to understand what ‘profit-sharing’ will actually mean. Essentially, it will mean more money available for the state to spend for ‘local infrastructure’ like hospitals and schools – basic needs that the state should anyway be providing. After all, people should not have to give up what little they do have (homes, land, livelihood) in order to access these basic facilities! It might also mean some money or ‘remuneration’ for people as compensation for having lost their only source of livelihood. Is this what the people in mineral-rich areas really want? Are they only demanding a share of profits?

In Jagatsinghpur for instance, the main concern is the loss of livelihood that will happen if the POSCO project comes up. The people of Jagatsinghpur know full well that “profit sharing” will not address this concern; it will not provide jobs or an alternative livelihood. It is precisely for this reason that people in several mineral-rich areas in Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh have rejected “lucrative” compensation packages that even offer company shares.

In designing a mineral policy for the entire country, it is important to ask: will state policy be decided by corporate profits, or by the larger interests of the people? Today, there is an urgent need to rethink our mineral policy – how much to mine, where to mine and more importantly where not to mine, how to utilise our mineral resources, whether or not to export minerals, and so on. These questions cannot be given short shrift by merely talking about ‘profit-sharing’. And unfortunately, this is exactly what the MMDR has ended up doing.

The UPA is crystal clear about why the new MMDR 2011, with the profit-sharing clause, is needed – Coal minister Prakash Jaiswal says that the new bill is all about “speeding” up the land acquisition process! The spectre of the prolonged and spirited resistance to POSCO and other projects has clearly forced the UPA to think of new methods to defuse public anger against mining projects, and the MMDR 2011 is the result. Several provisions of the MMDR make the intentions of the UPA even clearer. According to the MMDR 2011, mining leases as large as 100 square kilometers can be granted to a company and the time frame for granting various permissions has been reduced. Gram sabha “consultation”, and not approval, will be mandatory in tribal areas before mining leases are allotted.

The NMP 2008 advocated pro-industry concepts of ‘seamless transfer’, ‘security of tenure’ and ‘voluntary compliance’. MMDR 2011 is the logical culmination of the NMP 2008, which promotes large-scale mining, shifts the balance in favour of the private sector and uses all social and environmental jargons while deliberately leaving the mechanism to tackle them open-ended and vague.

Struggles in the World

Communal Violence Bill

– Liberation, November, 2011.

The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparation) Bill 2011 prepared by the NAC has been sharply attacked by the BJP, on the grounds that it is biased against the majority community. Nitish Kumar of the NDA and Mamata Banerjee have also attacked it on the pretext that it violates the federal rights of states. Are these accusations justified?

Unlike previous versions, this Bill clearly defines the duties of public servants to prevent communal violence, protect the vulnerable community, and take action against perpetrators. It spells out punishments for public servants who fail in these duties. The Bill also spells out the rehabilitation and reparation provisions to which the victims of communal violence are entitled. It provides for the setting of National and State-level Authorities to monitor the official response in instances of communal violence.

Is the Bill divisive? Does it paint the majority community alone as perpetrators of violence? The BJP is alleging this on the basis that the Bill defines the “group” requiring protection as “a religious or linguistic minority, in any State in the Union of India, or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.” Does this amount to discrimination against the majority?

Regarding rehabilitation, reparation, compensation, etc, the Bill makes no distinction between majority and minority – a victim of any community is entitled to the same provisions. However, the strict provisions of the Bill governing the conduct of public servants during communal violence apply only in case the victims belong to the “group” – i.e the linguistic/religious minority or SC/ST group. Why is this necessary?

Clearly, because the Bill makes the assumption (based on the experience of communal violence in India) that in cases where the perpetrators belong to the minority, or victims are of the majority community, the public servants, police etc have no bias and will perform their duty.

The strength of this Bill is that it recognizes the reality that in independent India, it is the minority that is targeted in most organized acts of communal violence. This does not mean that Muslims/Christians have never been or can never be guilty of violence against Hindus. But the evidence shows that although the Muslims and Christians represent a minority in society, they constitute a majority of the victims in cases of communal violence, and they bear the brunt of biases within political leadership, police and bureaucracy. To recognize this truth is not be biased or divisive. The SC/ST Act and the Domestic Violence Act are instances of laws that recognize that certain communities are vulnerable of targeted violence and require protection. Effective protection is possible only if the truth is recognized.

The Bill has already been amended on the few points where it could be said to be out of sync with federal principles. As of now, the Bill has no provisions allowing the Central Government to interfere in the administrative or policing functions of state governments. Even the National Authority has only recommendatory powers. State governments can reject these recommendations – but have to put such rejection on record.

At the recent National Integration Council (NIC) meeting, BJP’s aggressive attack on the Bill was predictable. NDA leaders like Nitish Kumar and even the UPA’s Mamata Banerjee have also opposed the Bill on the pretext of ‘federalism.’ But what is interesting is that the ruling Congress and other avowedly ‘secular’ ruling class parties did not defend the Bill!

The vacillation of the Congress is quite characteristic – how can the party which allowed Babri demolition and failed to take any punitive action against Modi summon the political will and legislative courage to push through such a bill which recognises targeted communal violence as a socio-political reality of India?

The motivated propaganda of communal forces against the Bill and vacillation of the Congress must be exposed and the secular and democratic forces need to strive to get the Bill passed without dilution.

However, mere enactment of the Bill is not enough. The instance of the SC/ST Atrocities Act 1989 should be remembered. The worst attacks on dalits and adivasis have taken place in the last two decades after the Act came into being. Mayawati-ruled UP has seen a deliberate dilution or suspension of the act and a palpable increase in the incidence of atrocities on dalits. This experience is a reminder that legislative measures are meaningful only to the extent there is mobilisation and assertion on the ground. Still, the enactment of a strong Bill to prevent Communal Violence may generate some deterrent effect, and will also no doubt strengthen the hands of those resisting communal violence on the ground.

Obituary

Gursharan Singh

– Liberation, November, 2011.

Liberation salutes Comrade Gursharan Singh, revolutionary playwright and theatre-person, who passed away on 27 September at the age of 82 after a long illness.

Gursharan Singh joined the communist party at the age of 16 and remained committed to communist values the rest of his life. He took theatre to the people, performing plays in villages, public squares, streets and towns with minimal equipment. His plays challenged feudal oppression, capitalist plunder, state repression and imperialism.

He played a major role in the formation of Jan Sanskriti Manch (JSM), and was elected its founding President in the founding conference of JSM in October 1985.

Gursharan Singh fearlessly performed plays committed to Bhagat Singh’s values, at the height of the separatist frenzy in Punjab. He worked closely with trade unions, a range of people’s movements, and civil liberties movements. Jailed during the Emergency, he became a symbol of the campaign against fake encounters and assassination of revolutionaries. His home was always a shelter for communist activists. He was a member of the national advisory board of the Indian People’s Front (IPF).

The 150 or so plays that he scripted and directed addressed political and social issues from a revolutionary perspective. Some of his memorable plays include ‘Baba Bolta Hai’, ‘Jangiram ki Haveli’ and ‘Gaddha.’ After Bant Singh’s limbs were mutilated by feudal forces, his play on the incident was performed in many parts of Punjab.

Comrade Gursharan Singh will remain a model and an inspiration for revolutionary cultural activists.

Long Live Comrade Gursharan Singh!

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