September-October 2012

Table of Contents

  1. Kokrajhar and After: Challenges for Democracy
  2. Visit to Violence-hit areas of Assam
  3. Anti-Corruption Platforms: Political Trajectories
  4. Students And Youth Storm Barricades At Parliament Street
  5. Maruti Workers’ Struggle: Challenges for the Working Class
  6. Forbesganj Struggle Continues: People Construct Bhajanpur-Sheetalpur Road
  7. Successful Jharkhand Bandh Against Land Grab
  8. Release Comrade Tahir Ansari: Withdraw all Cases against Him
  9. London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony: Rebranding British History

Politics in India

Kokrajhar and After: Challenges for Democracy

– Liberation, September, 2012.

The violence that broke out in Assam’s Kokrajhar district in the latter half of July is acquiring murkier political overtones with every passing day. Had the state and central governments responded promptly, the violence could have been contained at a much earlier stage. But crucial time was lost as army intervention got delayed apparently on procedural grounds and violence was allowed to escalate. With the state found wanting in terms of administrative initiative and political will, fear and insecurity rapidly engulfed the lower Assam districts of Kokrajhar, Dhubri and Chirang. In an unprecedented instance of mass exodus nearly half a million people were compelled to seek shelter in relief camps. Low-key violence still continues to be reported from the area, taking the resultant death toll beyond 80 even as more people are dying in relief camps because of extremely poor sanitation and insufficient medical care in these camps.

Unlike previous instances of ethnic violence in Assam, the Kokrajhar incidents have had repercussions far beyond the state. The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) was quick to smell a political opportunity in the Assam violence, blaming it on ‘growing illegal immigration of Bangladeshi Muslims’ and the Congress tradition of ‘Muslim appeasement’ and ‘vote-bank politics’. Advani himself led the charge in the Lok Sabha and the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) launched an aggressive propaganda blitzkrieg across the country against their pet theme of ‘infiltration by Bangladeshi Muslims’. Some Muslim organizations in Mumbai organized a protest demonstration leading to clashes with the police leaving two persons killed and at least fifty injured.

And then began a vicious rumour campaign predicting post-Eid attacks on students and workers from the North-East in different parts of India. Thousands of panic-stricken workers and students began rushing back to Assam and other North-Eastern states from cities like Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune. As trains overcrowded with angry passengers returned to the North East, passing through the already tense and violence-affected areas of Kokrajhar and neighbouring districts, communal polarization was refuelled in the state with reports of fresh clashes and even passengers being thrown out of running trains. Once again we saw the cynical use of modern means of communication including the social networking sites on the internet and cellphone messages to stoke fear and prejudices all around.

Several real facts and legitimate concerns are thus being lumped together to construct a mega myth, spread fear psychosis and serve the politics of communal hate and sectarian fanaticism. There is a feverish propaganda that the native population of Assam is being systematically swamped by Bangladeshi Muslim ‘infiltrators’ overturning the delicate demographic balance in the state and making Assam vulnerable to the mythical project of a ‘Greater Bangladesh’. The bogey of ‘Bangladeshi infiltration’ is then tagged to the issue of ‘terrorism’, demonized all too often as ‘Islamic terrorism’ and now through the sinister rumour campaign the whole thing is being sought to be pitted against the sense of humiliation and harassment that students and workers from Assam and the entire North-East often have to undergo in many parts of India, not the least in the national capital.

The discrimination and harassment felt by the common people of the North-East, whether in their home states or in course of education- or work-related migration to elsewhere in the country, is rooted primarily in the overwhelmingly bureaucratic nature of the region’s integration with the narrowly perceived ‘Indian mainstream’, uneven development resulting in widespread unemployment and repressive measures like the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act throttling the democratic voice of the people. The theory of Bangladeshi infiltration taps into this real resentment and seeks to channelize it in a communal direction by portraying Bengali-speaking Muslims as the biggest internal threat to the North-East. While the Home Ministry has been quick to sugges an external (Pakistani) origin for the campaign of misinformation and hate, we can hardly afford to ignore the internal forces with a potential to promote the same. Some official sources have admitted that at least a substantial portion of the sms and online fear-campaign originated from Hindutva outfits.

The attacks on and exodus of workers and students from the metros has come as a jolt to growing corporate centres. In the recent past, there have been cases of actual attacks on students and workers from Bihar, Jharkhand and UP in Maharashtra by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)/Shiv Sena goons – yet that never resulted in the kind of scare and exodus that has been witnessed in the wake of the sinister SMS campaign and rumour-mongering that is still going on. The exodus reflects the deep-seated insecurity that comes from facing racial profiling and prejudices that permeate the ‘mainstream’ even in normal times. That trend has been seen in numerous cases of sexual assaults on women from the North East in major cities, insensitive attitude of the authorities towards such cases and several highlighted cases discrimination towards students of these regions in metropolitan cities. In many cases, people are returning to the North East, not just because of the SMS scare, but because of pressure exerted by the landlords who are refusing to provide accommodation to them.

The hate campaign targeting the North East also underlines the widely prevalent racial profiling and ignorance of the specific identities and social conflicts of the North East. In the metropolises, the Muslim minorities and people of the North East alike bear the brunt of profiling and prejudice, whereby they are denied accommodation and subjected to intimidation and violence. Attempt to pit these vulnerable communities against each other must be firmly resisted.

Next only to Jammu and Kashmir, Assam has the second largest proportion of Muslims, roughly a third of the state’s population and there is a significant concentration of Muslims in districts bordering Bangladesh. But much of this concentration happened historically primarily over two phases of mass migration, first during the period of India-Pakistan partition and second during the emergence of Bangladesh. The Assam accord has fixed 1971 as the cut-off year to decide the legality of immigration and a few thousand people have already been deported to Bangladesh over the last two decades. Many Muslims who have taken shelter in the relief camps have lost all their papers in the recent violence and now the Assam government talks of rehabilitating only those who have valid papers. Riots cannot and must not be legitimized as a method of turning people into ‘foreign nationals’.

Census figures show that since 1971, the decadal growth rate of population in Assam has been lower than the all-India growth rate. This clearly refutes the theory of a large and continuing inflow of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, yet the RSS-BJP propaganda machinery is working overtime to scare the people with the threat of a lethal mix of cross-border infiltration and terrorism. This, the BJP hopes, could provide the cutting emotive edge of its coming Lok Sabha election campaign.

Within Assam, the BJP has so far failed to make any decisive inroad thanks to the strong influence of regional sentiment and identity issues. But with the progressive weakening of regional forces like the AGP, the BJP sees the current turbulence as a great opportunity to communalise the Assam situation and emerge as a key political force in the fragmented and yet traditionally Congress-dominated political arena of the North-East. It is ironical that the party which dubs every opposition to Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) as anti-national and seeks to crush every impulse of self-determination of ethnicities or tribal communities by aggressive politico-military means and thus stands in virulent opposition to the real interests and democratic aspirations of the people of the North-East, and which espouses a ‘cultural nationalist’ ideology that is deeply inimical to the identity and rights of the people of the North East and minorities alike, is now trying to project itself as the champion of the region and reap a communal harvest from the intricacies of the present situation. This dangerous communal gameplan must be defeated and communal forces must not be allowed to vitiate the atmosphere and endanger people’s unity and social harmony in any part of the country.

The guarantee of the security and rights of migrant workers and students in any part of the country is central to the notion of democratic national unity and rule of law, and no organization or government can be allowed to play with the lives and rights of the people. Over the years Assam has historically evolved as a melting pot of people of diverse linguistic and religious communities and ethnicities and a harmonious co-existence of the people in Assam is absolutely central to the strength and viability of the larger social mosaic that is India.

Struggles in India

Visit to Violence-hit areas of Assam

– Liberation, September, 2012.

A team of CPI(ML) leaders comprising of Assam State Secretary Com. Bibek Das, State members Com. Naren Borah and Arup Kr. Mahanta, Barpeta district committee members Dulal Sarkar, Babulal Sarkar, Mafijuddin, Harilal Das, Biren Ghosh visited violence-hit BTC areas and relief camps on 2nd August last. During the visit they met affected people of different cross sections of the society and heard about different incidents. Although the violence started on 19th July, the tension prevailed for the last one month or so. The Government totally failed to control the situation; and no effective administrative step was taken either on the part of the state Government or the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) to control situation and help the victims. It seems that there is no local authority to control the clash between Bodos and religious minorities. Administrative inaction, lawlessness, anarchy had permitted to quick spread of violence to the nearby districts.

At first, the killing of two leaders of All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union, and there after killing of 4 ex-BLT members, worsened the situation. No prompt action was taken and no enquiry was ordered. As the Government remained inert, a wave of brutal killing and arson gripped Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD). It is worth noting that illegal fire arms were widely used in the violence and the police officers in BTAD openly expressed their helplessness, and even the Sub-Divisional Police Officer of Bijni has sent his resignation letter to the higher authorities, pleading lack of adequate security forces.

Inmates in the relief camps complained of not receiving adequate food and access to safe drinking water. Low quality medicine is being supplied to some relief camps, due to which one person died in the relief camp. The team demanded punishment of the culprits and a high level enquiry into the matter. The inmates of relief camps want to go back to their villages, but due to lack of security of their life and property, they do not dare to move.

BTC Chief Hagrama Mohiliary resorted some provocative remarks alleging a ‘Bangladeshi’ hand behind this clash. It is nothing but a camouflage to cover up the total failure of the govt. Although Muslim people inhabited in violence-hit Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa (all under BTC, Odalguri, the last district of BTC is not affected) and Dhubri (outside BTC) district, they had no major clash earlier, but clashes started in the process of BTC formation. In BTC area, there is a strong feeling of insecurity among religious minorities, Adivasis and other non-Bodos, and some vested interested groups have been trying to use these sentiments. Similarly, on the part of Bodo leaders, no initiative has been taken to integrate with the minority and other non-Bodo people.

CPI(ML) holds the Tarun Gogoi Government and BTC responsible for the violence, arson and killings. The Tarun Gogoi Government has lost all moral right to continue in the power. CPI(ML) demands a CBI enquiry into the incidents of ethnic violence, and punishment of the culprits.

The party also demands adequate relief materials for the inmates of relief camps and supply of medicine and proper treatment, as well as timely and proper rehabilitation of the displaced people with adequate security in their villages and areas.

CPI(ML) is of the view that the problem of BTAD must be resolved through dialogue with different representatives of different ethnic groups so that the sense of insecurity can be overcome. Both the State Government and BTC administration have failed to show such political good will, thereby leading to aggravation of the problem.

Politics in India

Anti-Corruption Platforms: Political Trajectories

– Liberation, September, 2012.

Perhaps inevitably, the anti-corruption platforms led by Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev are moving towards a more openly avowed political role.

Baba’s Saffron Show

The Baba’s Ramlila Maidan show that began on 9 August this year made his political affinities clear, if they were ever in doubt. Top BJP and NDA leaders shared the dais with him, espousing his ‘Oust Congress’ call, while he thanked a series of Sangh outfits for their cooperation. Significantly, the Baba also received declarations of support from Mulayam Singh and Mayawati. Those who had opposed the Anna agitation alleging a hidden Sangh hand and a reactionary casteist agenda, have remained conspicuously silent on the open saffron presence on Ramdev’s platform, his embrace of Modi, and his recent defence of khap panchayats’ diktats on same gotra marriages.

From the beginning this time, the Baba made it clear that he would steer clear of any sustained movement, opting instead for a ‘symbolic’ protest on black money and corruption. After an equally symbolic arrest, he ended his fast, merely demanding that black money and corruption find a mention in the Prime Minister’s Independence Day speech! The real purpose of the Baba’s platform was clearly not to conduct any movement or struggle against corporate corruption, black money, or corruption in high places.

Undoubtedly, the UPA Government at the Centre has emerged as one of the most corrupt regimes, and there is need for an all-out movement to teach this corrupt and anti-people Government a lesson and oust it from power. But a political plank that opposes Congress corruption while defending BJP corruption must be thoroughly exposed and resisted.

The End of Team Anna

On July 25 Team Anna launched yet another fast at Jantar Mantar. Spearheading the campaign this time was Arvind Kejriwal, demanding a Special Investigation Team to probe more than a dozen key members of the UPA cabinet including the Prime Minister and his erstwhile Finance Minister who had by then been elevated to the post of the President. The Anna agitation which had shot into fame in April 2011 as a non-party campaign for a stringent Jan Lokpal legislation was clearly on the lookout for a sharper political edge. Yet the fast could not generate the kind of mass interest that had been witnessed at Jantar Mantar in April 2011 or at Ramlila Maidan in August 2011.

Ten days into the campaign, the fast was called off amidst talks of a transition from agitational mobilization to providing the people with a political alternative. Kejriwal promised to build a party through public consultation and stressed the need to intervene in the political process and enter the parliamentary arena to effect political changes while former Army chief VK Singh, the star attraction of the concluding day, delivered a speech that sounded an unmistakable readiness to face an electoral battle. Even as Team Anna members and supporters started debating the wisdom of this decision to go political and electoral, Anna announced that Team Anna’s work was over and the Core Committee stood dissolved.

Ardent Anna supporters may liken this Anna decision to Gandhi’s suggestion after 1947 to dissolve the Congress now that political independence had been won. The Congress of course paid no heed to Gandhi’s suggestion and went on to consolidate itself as the premier ruling party with the full backing of the developing Indian bourgeoisie. But in Gandhi’s case, he could rightfully claim that the colonial rulers had quit India, whereas for Anna and his now-dissolved Team even the limited goal of Jan Lokpal is still nowhere in sight. It should of course be noted that while dissolving Team Anna and its Core Committee, Anna too talks about providing a ‘political alternative’ by fielding honest candidates in the 2014 elections.

The difference between the two approaches – one being apparently advocated by Kejriwal and the other attributed to Anna – therefore boils down to the way the ‘alternative’ is to be constructed, whether by building a party and taking a plunge into electoral contests or by selecting and helping ‘honest candidates’ (probably cutting across parties) to win. Anna claims that he has already successfully applied this model in Maharashtra when 8 of 12 candidates supported by him won in Assembly elections. It would be instructive if Anna would let us know who these eight member of legislative assemblies (MLAs) are and what kind of alternative they have provided in Maharashtra. The two contending dominant coalitions in Maharashtra and even parties like MNS that are formally not part of either coalition are all notorious for the worst kind of political venality marked not only by competitive corruption and criminalization, but also by communal and chauvinistic frenzy. Even if Anna’s MLAs can boast of personal honesty, their politics has obviously failed to pose any kind of alternative or challenge to this dominant political paradigm.

While Anna and Kejriwal may differ in their specific modalities, both seem to agree that they have had enough of agitation and it was pointless to continue with the agitation against an apathetic and arrogant government. Well, what has happened in the name of agitation is a series of fasts in which the masses had little scope to participate. There have been talks of other agitational forms like ‘jail bharo’ but the calls have never been translated into action. The ultimate logic and strength of mass agitation lies precisely in exposing, challenging, isolating, and eventually compelling reluctant and arrogant rulers to concede the people’s demands, yet for reasons best known to them, the Anna agitation has avoided the course of a decisive showdown with the powers that be. And now to argue that the agitation has already run its full course belies the hope, enthusiasm and anti-corruption spirit with which young India had welcomed the Anna agitation.

Equally unacceptable are the overtures and signals of a growing bonhomie between the Anna camp and Baba Ramdev. In the initial days of the Anna campaign, there were attempts to maintain some distance and demarcation from Ramdev and his ilk, but even as the Ramdev aura began to fade among his own supporters in the wake of last year’s Ramlila Maidan episode and Ramdev began to hobnob openly with the BJP-Sangh, Anna Hazare has been making common cause with the dubious Baba.

The anti-corruption movement cannot be run on the lines of the so-called single-issue ‘social movements’ especially when corruption flows directly from the pro-market, pro-corporate policies of liberalization and privatization and flourishes in the corridors of power. The belated realization of Team Anna about the need to go political and intervene in electoral battles marks a welcome departure and evolution from its initial non-political and even anti-political protestations. But while the interest of people’s politics demands a sustained intensification and broadening of the Jan Lokpal agitation in closer alliance with the entire range of anti-corporate pro-democracy struggles in the country, the decision to suspend the very agitation in the name of political alternative can only be treated as a negative lesson, a telling example of how not to go about politics.

Struggles in India

Students And Youth Storm Barricades At Parliament Street

– Liberation, September, 2012.

The battle lines became clear. Young people from all over India who marched to Parliament on 9 August, the anniversary of the Quit India movement, declaring ‘corporate plunderers Quit India’, and demanding equitable education and dignified employment as fundamental rights, found that the barricades at Parliament Street were manned by the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB-central Armed Border Force) in large numbers! What can be clearer proof that for the UPA Government, the country’s younger generation and democratic protestors have become an ‘enemy’ force?

Faced with the ominous sight of the SSB contingent in full gear, the students and youth did not baulk. They marched forward and stormed the barricades – and braved a brutal beating by the police and SSB.

Before marching to Parliament, the huge gathering of students and youth, under the banner of All India Students Association (AISA) and Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA), held a massive meeting, which blockaded the Jantar Mantar road. Waving red flags, and colourful painted hoardings and banners, they raised slogans of ‘Corporate Plunderers Quit India’ and ‘Shame on UPA Government that Subsidises Corporates and Sells Out Students’.

The mass meeting was addressed by national leaders of the AISA and RYA, and the main speaker was Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI(ML)] General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya. He said that the battle against corruption not be waged by the likes of Baba Ramdev who hobnobbed with communal killers and made deals with ruling class parties, and who ran away when the police attacked. He also said that Anna Hazare too had failed to target corporate plunder as the root of corruption. He congratulated the students and youth for taking corporate plunder head on – by barricading Parliament Street last year, and now by storming the barricades.

After a rousing call by leaders of the AISA and RYA leaders, the students and youth began marching peacefully towards Parliament. This march to parliament was participated by AISA and RYA leaders and activists from 19 states, including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Karbi Anglong, West Bengal, Darjeeling, Punjab, Maharashtra, UP, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. The March broke down the first two barricades, braving a severe lathicharge by police and Sashastra Seema Bal in which more than 50 students suffered severe injuries.

Several AISA and RYA activists from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh sustained head injuries and a comrade from Madhya Pradesh fractured his leg in the lathi charge. The police also detained AISA and RYA’s national leadership and some activists for a short while but had to release them soon under pressure from thousands of students and youth who refused to walk away from the barricades at Jantar Mantar.

What issues were the young protestors raising? Last year, AISA and RYA had barricaded Parliament for 100 hours, targeting corporate plunder and pro-corporate policies as the root of corruption, and demanding an effective Jan Lokpal Bill. The March to Parliament this year took forward that campaign, highlighting the linkages between corporate plunder and scams, and the rights of students and youth to equitable education and employment.

Youth in particular are feeling let-down by the growing crisis of employment and education. According Census 2010 data, more than 50% of India’s population is under 25 years; and 70% of the population is under 35 years. This makes India home to the world’s largest youth population. The Government often seeks to justify disastrous pro-corporate policies – be it land acquisition, FDI in retail, or opening up of crucial sectors of the economy for corporate control – by claiming that they would promote ‘growth’, create jobs for Indian youth, and expand educational opportunities. Facts, however, show that corporate-led ‘growth’ has proved to be an all-out offensive on the rights and potential of young Indians.

Politics in India

Maruti Workers’ Struggle: Challenges for the Working Class

– Liberation, September, 2012.

With the all-out offensive on the Maruti workers, the assault of neoliberal capital on labour in India is intensifying and assuming more dangerous dimensions. Consider the implications of some of the recent developments.

The Maruti plant has reopened on 21 August with a ‘havan’ (religious ceremony), minus its existing workforce. 500 permanent workers have been officially sacked, and the existing contract workforce too is not being taken back. Army veterans with firearms on the shop floor will function as personal security officers (PSOs) for managers, and a special Rapid Action Force will be deployed by the Haryana government outside the factory.

Perhaps for the first time in India, workers on a factory floor will work under the ominous shadow of armed security personnel. Industrial democracy has reached a new low. As it is, workers have been finding the industrial and political climate increasingly hostile to their struggles to avail of the legal right to unionise and to demand wages and rights in accordance with labour laws. ‘Bouncers’ and armed thugs have become common tools brought in by management in most factories to intimidate and quell labour struggles and ‘resolve disputes’. It is not hard to imagine the fate of labour rights and struggles, in the presence of ex-army personnel on the floor and paramilitary at the gates.

Another notable development is the fact that after the 18 July incident at the Maruti factory, a 100 gram pradhans of local Haryana villages are reported to have held a meeting and declared that they wanted ‘peace’; that workers would not be allowed to thwart ‘development’; and that the red flag (symbol of unions and the trade union movement) would not be allowed in Haryana. There were even instances of attacks on workers in villages. And the same pradhans approached the administration to demand that the Honda workers be prevented from holding their annual procession commemorating the police brutality on the workers seven years ago, warning that the procession would be met with violence. Eventually the Honda workers held their demonstration within the factory premises. Who are these pradhans, claiming to represent rural Haryana’s aspirations for ‘development,’ and pitting ‘development’ against the working class? They do not represent the people; they are a neo-rich kulak class, often also the bastion of feudal reaction in the countryside. They represent a deliberate political move to isolate and encircle the working class. Can the working class, in its turn, break this encirclement and mobilize the common people in their support. The experience of the Pricol union showed how crucial it was to mobilize the workers’ families and local community actively in support of the workers.

Trade union struggle, even when it is able to mobilize trade union solidarity and unity across factories, as the Maruti workers have often done, has not been able to compel the Government to stop supporting the corporations’ violations of labour laws. State governments compete with each other to offer a ‘secure’ environment (read a disciplined and cowed labour force) to corporations. If the struggle intensifies in one state, the corporation threatens to move to another.

The working class movement, therefore, faces the challenge of developing a political resistance, that can mobilize democratic sections of the people beyond the factories, and that can establish the workers as a political force to be reckoned with.

Protest Against Sacking of Maruti Workers

On 17 August, thousands of workers from various automobile and other unions in the Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera region held a massive protest march at Gurgaon against the sacking of the Maruti workers. All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) and All India Students Association (AISA) activists and leaders joined this march, holding placards that showed corporations like Maruti pulling the strings of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda.

Sandeep Singh, AISA President, along with other AISA activists, has been meeting the Maruti workers outside jail as well as inside the jail. Several of the Maruti union leaders and workers in jail, were subjected to severe torture (including electric shocks, and rollers on the body) and demeaning acts while on remand. The workers’ lawyer has moved court to demand a medical exam of the workers.

On 22 August, the day the Maruti owner Osamu Suzuki visited India, AICCTU held a countrywide protest burning the effigy of Bhupinder Hooda and Osamu Suzuki, and protesting the sacking of Maruti workers and deployment of police and paramilitary in and around the Maruti plant. At Delhi, the protest was held at Haryana Bhavan.

Struggles in India

Forbesganj Struggle Continues: People Construct Bhajanpur-Sheetalpur Road

– Kunal, Liberation, September, 2012.

Thousands of villagers armed with traditional weapons offered ‘shramdaan’ and volunteered as labourers in order to construct the Bhajanpur-Sheetalpur road at Forbesganj, Bihar, on 16 August. This is a victory for the people’s struggle, which has braved the severest repression and communal encirclement.

This public road, which has been in existence for the past 60 years or so, connects the Bhajanpur village (mainly inhabited by 1000 families of the minority community), to the Karbala, Idgah, hospital and local bazaar. Last year, on June 3, police fired on a demonstration by local people protesting against this same public road being blocked off for a private factory owned by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator’s son. The factory itself was being constructed on Bihar Industrial Area Development authority (BIADA) land that had been illegally allotted. Police not only fired on unarmed protestors, they also jumped viciously on fallen bodies, displaying communal hatred. Four people – Mustafa Ansari, Mukhtar Ansari, Sajmin Khatoon and 8-month old Naushad – were killed in the police brutality.

A whole year has passed – but the people of Forbesganj are yet to get justice. The one-man enquiry commission has barely taken off the ground. Following the firing, the villagers had already constructed the road once last year at the time of Ramzan. But under pressure from above, the road was again destroyed. And the road continued to remain destroyed in spite of repeated appeals to the local administration. Recently, even the Home Secretary was approached, but the Government and administration did not act. Faced with a Government that obstinately closed its ears to pleas for restoration of the road, the villagers decided to construct the road on their own.

Id was approaching, and this road was needed for the villagers to approach the Idgah. Because of the condition of the road, they were even unable to reach the Masjid, though it was the month of Ramzan.

The construction of the road took place in the presence of the large gathering of adivasis and minorities, as well as Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI(ML)] central committee member and former Member of Parliament (MP) Rameshwar Prasad, State Committee member and former Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Mahboob Alam, State Committee member Pankaj Singh, as well as other CPI(ML) leaders and activists.

Addressing the mass meeting following the construction of the road, CPI(ML) leaders observed that the Bhajanpur-Sheetalpur road was not part of BIADA land, and had been forcibly grabbed by the local legilative council member Ashok Agrawal from the BJP. Yet, the Government had taken no action against him and had instead unleashed repression on the villagers protesting the grabbing of a public road. Keeping a public road in a deliberate state of disrepair and destruction is in itself illegal, since the Government has not acquired the land on which the road stands. There is nothing illegal, in such circumstances, in constructing a public road. It is the Government which is upholding an illegal act of encroachment and land grab, under pressure from corrupt, communal, and powerful local politicians. The CPI(ML) leaders demanded that in public interest, the Government ought, in fact, to make the newly constructed road pucca without delay. Following the mass meeting, a victory procession marched from Bhajanpur through the main road of Forbesganj up to the railway station.

The BJP and Sangh Parivar are making all efforts to incite communal frenzy in the Araria district, in the name of preparing for ‘Mahaviri Jhanda’ to coincide with Id on 19 August. Local BJP and Janata Dal (United) [JD(U)] leaders like Ashok Agrawal and Moolchand Golccha are terrorising the witnesses of the Forbesganj firing. 12-year-old Talmun Khatun, who got a bullet in her back in the firing, was due to stand witness before the enquiry commission on 18 July. But the BJP-JD(U) leaders threatened her father Mohd.Zaheer Ansari, warning against her giving evidence. Though Talmun Khatun did reach Araria, intending to give evidence, Ashok Agrawal and his goons chased her away. The Government, instead of ensuring protection for the witnesses, is protecting Ashok Agrawal and Moolchand Golccha. Ashok Agrawal has been arrested on charges of murdering his employee, but he is yet to be prosecuted on the murder charges relating to the Forbesganj firing, which took place at his instigation. The Court is yet to take cognisance of the case. The CPI(ML) has demanded that the judicial enquiry commission should hold hearings in Bhajanpur rather than Araria, so as to ensure greater security for the witnesses.

Struggles in India

Successful Jharkhand Bandh Against Land Grab

– Liberation, September, 2012.

Forced acquisition of land from adivasis is all too common in Jharkhand. On 25 July, the entire state came to a standstill in response to a Bandh called by the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI(ML)] against land grab. Several other organisations also supported the Bandh call or gave independent calls for a Bandh on the same day. The Jharkhand Dishom Party independently called for a Bandh, and 21 organisations including the Adiovasi Jan Parishad, the Adivasi-Moolnivasi Chhatra-Yuva Sanghatan, the Sarna Prarthana Sabha, Nagdi-Chaura Zameen Bachao Morcha, and Ulgulan Mahila Manch actively participated in the Bandh, holding a torchlight procession in Ranchi on the eve of the Bandh, and holding a mass meeting on the evening of 24th July at Albert Ekka Chowk which effectively blockaded the Chowk for several hours.

The Nagdi Struggle: The Bandh was called in the wake of the ongoing struggle of adivasis of Nagdi village near the capital Ranchi, against the attempt to grab 228 acres of fertile land. The Jharkhand Government plans to grab land of 35 villages for campuses of Indian Institue of Management (IIM), Law College and Triple Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), and Nagdi was a test case. The land in question was acquired on paper way back in 1957 – but even then, adivasis waged a successful struggle, refused compensation, and retained effective control of the land. Since then the land has been cultivated every year by the adivasis, who even have proof of having paid land revenue till very recently. Some months back, the Government, seeking to regain control of the land, constructed a boundary wall around the proposed site. But the adivasis of Nagdi and all 35 villages launched a determined agitation. They began an indefinite dharna in end April, which was led by activist Dayamani Barla. On behalf of the party, All India Progressive Womens Association (AIPWA) leader Comrade Guni Oraon centred in Nagdi to help lead the agitation.

The HC and SC rejected the adivasis’ petition, but the adivasis refused to accept defeat. A massive protest meeting in May was addressed among others by CPI(ML) Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Vinod Singh, Marxist Coordination Committee MLA Arup Chatterjee, and CPI(ML) leader Bhuneshwar Kevat. On 4 July, the Nagdi adivasis broke the boundary wall – and faced a severe lathicharge. CPI(ML) held a protest march the next day in Ranchi, as did other Left parties and adivasi organisations. The Nagdi protestors blockaded the main road from 5-7 July; Vinod Singh was among those who addressed the mass meeting at the blockade site. On 9 July, the Nagri protestors held a militant Raj Bhawan March, where they clashed with the police, and it was only with Vinod Singh’s intervention that their memorandum could be submitted to the Governor.

Convention Against Eviction and Corporate Plunder

On 12 July, the All India Kisan Mahasabha held a Convention against the corporate grab of land, forests, water, and minerals. Representatives of struggles against corporate loot as well as a range of mass organisations, intellectuals and social activists participated in the Convention, which emphasised the need for broad-based unity in the struggle against corporate plunder of resources and displacement of adivasis and peasants.

Addressing the Convention as the main speaker, Communist Party of India [CPI(ML)](Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said that earlier, the Government was instrumental in directly grabbing land to hand over to corporates. Faced with the political consequences of people’s resentment against land grab, however, now the Governments are seeking to take a back seat and allow corporations to acquire land directly. There are changed political circumstances too. Today, Jharkhand is a separate state, several of its Chief Ministers are adivasis, and under their patronage, Jindals and Mittals are blatantly defying laws like Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT ) and Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) to grab and loot forests and land. Political forces bearing the ‘Jharkhand’ name, once the new state was established, have emerged as agents of corporates rather than champions of the true spirit of a separate Jharkhand. Congress and BJP which compete for power at the Centre, are united on the question of corporate plunder in Jharkhand. Comrade Dipankar called for struggles against corporate plunder and eviction to be united on new principles and a new direction, inspired by the struggles and sacrifices of Siddo-Kano, Birsa Munda, and Mahendra Singh.

The Convention was also addressed by noted intellectual and Jharkhand Jan Sanskriti Manch President Dr. BP Kesri, Father Stan Swamy, a noted activist in struggles against displacement and state repression; CPI(ML) central committee (CC) Member Bahadur Oraon on behalf of the presidium; Ramashray Singh, leader of the Ghatwar Adivasi Mahasabha who spoke of the struggles of those displaced by the Maithon Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) Project at Dhanbad; CPI(ML) leader Sarayu Munda who is heading an agitation against land grab by Jindal at Patratu in Ramgarh, who also spoke of the struggle against land grab by Reliance in Badkagaon area of Hazaribagh; all India Progressive Womens Association (AIPWA) leader Geeta Mandal who reported about the notorious Devghar land scam; CPI(ML) leader Rajkumar Yadav who spoke of the anti-eviction struggles in Koderma; and noted poet and Jan Sanskriti Manch (JSM)’s national Vice President Dr. Shambhu Badal. Comrade J P Verma proposed a 9-member Struggle Committee Against Eviction, which the Convention adopted unanimously. Comrade Chandranath Bhai Patel presented a set of political resolutions, and CPI(ML) State Committee member Anant Prasad Gupta thanked the gathering.

Struggles in India

Release Comrade Tahir Ansari: Withdraw all Cases against Him

  • Liberation, September, 2012.

On 17th August 2012, Comrade Tahir Ansari, a fighting mass leader of the CPI(ML) in Garhwa district, Jharkhand, was arrested by police in Chana village of Nager block at 11AM.. Com. Tahir belongs to a very poor family. He made contact with the party as a kaleen (carpet) worker in the adjacent area of Uttar Pradesh (UP). At a very young age he joined our party and within short time he was actively leading anti feudal struggles, particularly land struggles, against the Nager Untari Estate. He played a key role in mobilizing rural poor in large numbers to capture thousands of acres of land that was illegally occupied by upper caste feudal forces in Garhwa district.

Later, Comrade Tahir also took very effective initiatives alongwith other party activists to face the onslaughts of Maoists to wipe out CPI(ML) in this region. Our militant mass resistance forced Maoists to beat a retreat, though of course many of our valuable comrades had to sacrifice their lives in this struggle.

In this process Comrade Tahir and other leading cadres of this area had to face continuous police repression and harassment, including many fabricated criminal cases. Defying all these odds, Comrade Tahir sustained his mass work and mobilized thousands of the poorest of poor people towards their political assertion. In last assembly election, we secured nearly 20,000 votes in the Bhawnathpur segment.

After the arrest on 17 August, the police initially tried to deny it. But through our prompt initiatives like interaction with the media, pressuring the deputy general of police (DGP) and Home Secretary, and most importantly, massive mass protest, the police was forced to declare Comrade Tahir’s arrest. Thousands of people from villages came to the street to protest the arrest of their beloved leader in false cases, and the protest march turned into a big mass meeting attended by 4000 people. 18 August was observed as a “protest day” throughout the state, and Garhwa and Palamu pramandal in particular witnessed vigorous protest. On the afternoon of 18 August, Comrade Tahir was prduced in the CJM court. Thousands of people entered the court premises to register their solidarity with Comrade Tahir. The appeal against his remand was rejected and he was sent to jail custody. The SP of Garhwa presented Comrade Tahir before the court as a terrorist, a criminal, a commander’ etc, and he was falsely implicated in 32 cases including some cases of attacks by Maoists on the police.

Comrade Tahir’s arrest is part of the political conspiracy, dictted from the top, against the CPI(ML) movement and leaders in Garhwa. Some months back, CPI(ML) activists were arrested on charges of abetting a Maoist blast follwoing the abduction of Zila Parishad Chairperson from CPI(ML), Comrade Sushma, and a CPI(ML) procession protesting the arrest was met with brutal police repression. On 21 August, a no-confidence motion against the Chairperson Comrade Sushma, was defeated in the Zila Parishad. The arrest of Comrade Tahir was meant to demoralise the party to face the no-confidence motion, but this ploy failed.

The CPI(ML) continues to battle the political conspiracy against its mass leaders with mass protests and political resistance. The party is now preparing for a massive Jail Bharo protest on 31 August against the arrest of Comrade Tahir.

International

London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony: Rebranding British History

  • Kalpana Wilson, Liberation, September, 2012.

How does an ex-imperial superpower now in deep decline represent itself to the world? How does one celebrate ‘Britishness’ without either projecting an openly offensive jingoism or satirizing the very notion? And how does one acknowledge Britain’s multicultural present while steering well clear of the entire colonial history and ongoing struggles which have shaped it? These appear to have been the questions haunting Danny Boyle, the British film director best-known for Slumdog Millionaire who was entrusted with directing the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

Parachuting royals aside, the eclectic ceremony with its theme of Britain’s 19th and 20th century history, was noted firstly for its visually impressive reconstruction of the Industrial Revolution, complete with William Blake, the uprooting of trees representing a pre-industrial rural idyll, and the strikingly choreographed emergence of an industrial working class which erects towering chimneys and ultimately smelts gigantic fiery Olympic rings. Secondly, virtually the centrepiece of the ceremony was a performance representing Britain’s post-1945 universal free healthcare system, the National Health Service. This had a particular resonance with the current onslaught on the National Health Service and the public sector as a whole by the Conservative-led coalition government and the popular resistance and protest it has generated, and was seen by some commentators in Britain as indicating a left-inspired or at least subversive flavour to the event.

Yet while the welfare state theme struck a chord, overall the Opening Ceremony represented one of several competing ruling class versions of ‘Britishness’, albeit not the one espoused by the current government. The narrative of the last two centuries of Britain’s history was marked by the absence of any indication of struggle or people’s organizing – bar fleeting appearances by the Depression-era Jarrow hunger marchers and the suffragette campaigners for women’s right to vote. The East End, the historic working class migrant area on whose still-deprived extension the Olympic stadium has been built under highly exploitative conditions, was represented by faux-traditional Pearly Kings and Queens, not for example by the celebrated battle of Cable Street where the people defeated fascist thugs.

Most strikingly, the entire history of slavery and colonialism which made the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath possible was miraculously erased from the record. British people of African, Caribbean and South Asian origin were present in all the scenes of the ceremony performance, among those playing the top-hatted capitalists, as well as the workers, but their different histories and perspectives was never acknowledged – a fleeting reference to the passengers of the Windrush, the ship which brought the first post-War immigrants from the Caribbean, was thus devoid of all context. Ultimately, this was closest to the version of Britishness promoted by the previous New Labour governments, who scrapped multicultural policies in favour of ‘community cohesion’, the slogan under which anti-Muslim racism reached new heights, while leading Britain into Afghanistan and Iraq as junior partners in 21st century imperialist war. Under ‘community cohesion’ policies, ‘Britishness’ could be extended to those who were not white, but only on condition that they demonstrated their allegiance to Britain’s ongoing imperial project.

But even this was clearly not ‘British’ enough for the current government, which as the crisis deepens is now daily trying to cover up the bankruptcy of its neoliberal model and deflect popular anger with open attacks on black and ethnic minority people and migrants. The world may have been watching, but for PM David Cameron the Olympics was just another opportunity for whipping up domestic racism, as evidenced by his extraordinary allegation that children were spending time being taught ‘Bollywood dancing’ instead of sports in British schools and this could hold back the performance of British athletes!

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