November-December 2012

Table of Contents

  1. The Sleight of the Congress Hand and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Deafening Silence
  2. All India Left Coordination (AILC) Convention
  3. The Battle of Koodankulam is a Battle for Democracy, Truth, and Reason
  4. W. Bengal All India Central Coordination of Trade Unions (AICCTU) Rally
  5. CPI(ML) Delegation Meets Mamata Banerjee
  6. Violence on Women in W. Bengal
  7. Flagship of Latin American Resistance Sails Ahead

Politics in India

The Sleight of the Congress Hand and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Deafening Silence

– Liberation, November, 2012.

Congress ka haath, aam aadmi ke saath – The hand of Congress is with the common man, thus went the catch-line of the Congress campaign in 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Everybody however knows that the hand of the Congress has been busy doing anything but giving some succour to the common man, now mockingly rechristened as ‘mango people’ by the country’s most well-connected son-in-law. For the common man, all that Manmohan Singh has is the warning “money does not grow on trees”. Yet, Manmohan Singh knows very well that it just takes a casual sleight of the Congress hand to conjure money out of virtually anything. The scams from 2G and CWG to Coalgate have been a testimony to the great magical qualities of the Congress hand. And if we needed to learn more about the diverse magical qualities of the hand, we now have enough revelations on the Vadra – Delhi Land and Finance (DLF) – Congress triangle.

When Robert Vadra had got married to Priyanka Gandhi in 1997, he was known to have a modest family business, dealing essentially in brass handicrafts. In recent years he began diversifying into a whole spectrum of ventures ranging from hospitality to realty and Information Technology (IT), with wonderful names like “Sky Light”, “Blue Breeze”, “Real Earth”, going on a massive property-and-land acquisition spree. In the last four years alone he has bought at least 31 properties and hundreds of acres of land, all in and around Delhi and in areas of tourist/commercial interest like Bikaner in Rajasthan. From just Rs. 7.95 crore in 2008, the declared value of Vadra’s fixed assets and investments jumped to Rs 60.53 crore in 2010, and the current market valuation will only be several times higher. Asked about the possibility of Robert Vadra making a political debut in Uttar Pradesh, a beaming Priyanka Gandhi told the press in February 2011 that her successful businessman husband would not like to change his occupation.

What Priyanka Gandhi did not say, and is now anyway known to the whole country thanks to Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan, is that the ‘success’ of Robert Vadra’s business lies precisely in his political connection. If Vadra can get a huge overdraft from a nationalised bank, if a real estate giant like DLF gives him an unsecured loan of Rs 50 crore, it’s all because he is Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law and Sonia Gandhi is the UPA chairperson. The Congress attempt to defend Vadra as just ‘a private individual’ and the Vadra-DLF deal as a transparent transaction between two private entities has already fallen flat. If Mr. Vadra was just a private individual, why did the Congress find it necessary to try and defend him? If the deal was really transparent, why did the Hooda government have to transfer Ashok Khemka, the upright IAS officer who ordered a probe into the Vadra-DLF deal?

The gains that DLF made are obvious. Why should DLF, which borrows money from the market, give interest-free loan to Vadra (on which he has apparently earned some 2.5 crore as interest!) and sell prime DLF properties at throwaway prices? After decades of steady growth and a spectacular boom in the era of liberalisation, DLF had hit a rough patch by 2008 and there are reports that DLF may well be heading the Kingfisher way. An alliance with Vadra helped DLF lay its hands on land that it might have otherwise found difficult to acquire in the post-Singur period of heightened resistance to defend agricultural land. Vadra with his Z-plus security is not frisked like ordinary ‘mango people’ at Indian airports, he gets similar VVIP treatment in all Congress-ruled states where standard rules and regulations are routinely waived to satisfy the greedy whims of this ‘successful businessman’ who has set his eyes on everything from ‘Sky Light’ to ‘Real Earth’.

The Vadra-DLF deal and the subsequent Salman Khurshid episode have further damaged an already heavily dented Congress. But the BJP too finds itself faced with any number of questions. One is not talking here of Kejriwal’s findings regarding Nitin Gadkari showing how the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government favoured him violating all rules and norms. The revelations have of course forced the voluble Gadkari coin a new euphemism to introduce himself – he now calls himself a ‘social entrepreneur’. It is the BJP’s deafening silence over the Vadra-DLF deal which actually speaks volumes for the party’s anti-corruption credentials. The Vadra-DLF deals were first reported by the Economic Times in March 2011. At that time Sushma Swaraj had said that Arun Jaitley has asked to examine the papers. Didn’t Jaitley manage to gather in the last eighteen months as much Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal have now exposed?

Evidently, the entire BJP, the Sonia Maino-bashing Narendra Modi included, preferred to keep silent and let it pass. Why? Is it because Vadra is ‘Indian’ enough compared to Sonia Gandhi’s Italian origin? The reason for the BJP’s deliberate silence perhaps has nothing to do with Vadra, it has everything to do with DLF, the ‘private entity’ at the other end of the deal. The BJP cannot afford to question India’s biggest real estate giant. DLF doesn’t operate only in Congress-ruled states, it has interests in BJP-ruled states as well, Gujarat included. And it is DLF’s stocks which have fallen after the revelations, Vadra does not yet have that kind of stocks, and the value of the stocks of the Congress will be known when the people vote for the next Lok Sabha. Indicators are of course already there, Uttarakhand CM’s son lost the Tehri by-poll, and Pranab Mukherjee’s son won the Jangipur by-poll by a wafer-thin margin.

The BJP is going by the dictum which says people living in glass houses cannot afford to throw stones at others. The BJP has its own share of Vadras, Ranjan Bhattacharya (Vajpayee’s foster son-in-law) has not been forgotten (only the other day his name came up in the Radia tapes), and many have already established some sort of equivalence between Vadra and Gadkari himself. But the problem with the BJP is much deeper than that. The BJP is willing to fight against the Congress, but it will not risk antagonising or damaging any big business house in the process. This is why the BJP can fight – one is not talking of the BJP’s moral right, only of its political will or ability – the old Bofors-type corruption cases, but it cannot fight against corruption that thrives on business-politics nexus. The BJP needs and represents this nexus as much as the Congress does.

The challenge today is not just to cleanse politics, as Kejriwal seems to suggest, but also to control big business, and end the economics and politics of corporate plunder and business-politics nexus. The battle this time has to be fought on till the ruling political dispensation and policy regime are both overturned.

Struggles in India

All India Left Coordination (AILC) Convention on National Crisis and Left-Democratic Agenda:

Towards Unity and Resurgence of Left-Democratic Forces Through People’s Resistance

– Liberation, November, 2012.

The All India Left Coordination held a day-long Convention on the National Crisis and Left and Democratic Agenda on 30th September at Mavalankar Hall in the national capital. The Convention was addressed by leaders of a range of Left parties and democratic movements, as well as concerned citizens.

The Convention called for a united struggle of Left and democratic forces for the ouster of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, holding it responsible for a series of mega scams involving top ministers and even the prime minister (PM), for facilitating corporate plunder, and for unleashing an offensive on the survival and livelihood of common people.

A 7-member presidium comprising Comrades Swapan Mukherjee, Harkanwal Singh, Vijay Kulkarni, Gobind Chhetri, Smitha, Rajaram, and Kavita Krishnan conducted the Convention.

The Convention began by adopting a resolution of condolence for RMP leader Comrade TP Chandrasekharan, who was Secretary of the Left Coordination Committee (LCC), Kerala, which is one of the founding constituents of the AILC. Comrade Chandrasekharan was brutally hacked to death on 4 May. The resolution demanded a CBI enquiry to identify the killers and political conspirators behind Comrade TP Chandrasekharan’s heinous murder. The resolution also expressed condolences for the two fisher-people martyred in the agitation against the Koodankulam nuclear plant: Antony Samy and Sahayam Francis.

Comrade Swapan Mukherjee welcomed the participants and guests at the Convention. Kavita Krishnan placed the 12-point Resolution before the house. Bhimrao Bansod, Secretary, LNP (L), Maharashtra, spoke in support of the resolutions, elaborating on them.

The AILC had invited leaders of all the Left Front parties to address the Convention. Addressing the Convention, D Raja on behalf of the CPI welcomed the AILC’s initiative and expressed his party’s commitment to Left unity. He said that the Left parties in a parliamentary democracy needed to give thought to building a political alternative to the Congress-BJP polarity. People of India, he said, had time and again rebuffed the attempts to keep India’s politics within bipolar confines. The Left’s role, he said, should be to generate confidence in the regional forces to stand by a non-Congress, non-BJP platform. He said that to build unity, the Left should put aside points of difference and work together on issues on which there was agreement.

Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary of the CPI(ML) greeted the gathering on behalf of the AILC. He said that not even the ruling class is able to deny the economic crisis any more. The ruling class, however, seeks to use the crisis as an opportunity: imposing the burden of the crisis on the common people and intensifying the neoliberal offensive in the name of ‘resolving’ the crisis. However, for the struggling Left and democratic forces too, the crisis should be taken as a revolutionary opportunity.

He recalled that in 1992 November, immediately after the neoliberal offensive was first unleashed, the working class organizations with red flags aloft, had held a massive rally in the national capital. But the Left could not give a consistent political shape to that working class resistance. Soon after, the BJP demolished the Babri Masjid and plunged the country in communal carnage.

This time around, when people’s struggles against the neoliberal offensive are again on the rise, the Left must be alert against the communal agenda. The Left must rebuff and resist all versions of BJP-NDA rule, be it the Gujarat model based on naked communal genocide, or the Bihar model based on hollow claims of ‘governance’ beneath which communal and feudal forces are being emboldened.

In West Bengal and Kerala, he said, the Left Front governments put themselves in crisis and weakened the Left because they implemented neoliberal policies instead of resisting these policies. Today Mamata Banerjee is trying to occupy the space that the CPI (M)-led government abandoned. Some people are saying she has ‘hijacked’ the agenda of the Left. The agenda of the Left is consistent resistance – and Mamata’s posturing will be exposed soon. But the Left ought to introspect on their conduct towards their own issues and their own mass base. Left unity, he said, can come about only by addressing rather than evading these questions about the conduct of the Left. Hailing the anti-nuke struggles in India, he said, “The names of places like Chernobyl and Fukushima became well-known after terrible nuclear disasters occurred there. But Koodankulam and Jaitapur have become known the world over, for their brave agitation to prevent a disaster. The Left should stand firmly by these people’s struggles.”

Defence of democracy against the kind of witch-hunt being seen in the name of countering Maoism or terrorism, and opposing draconian laws, he said, must be central to the core agenda of Left politics. He said that various regional ruling class parties had proved their opportunistic willingness to go with Congress, BJP and on occasion with any ‘Third’ alternative. These parties did not seem to suffer any confidence deficit. Rather, it is the Left that must find confidence to assert itself independently without compromising on its core agenda. If a resurgence of the Left is being seen worldwide after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is certain that the Left in India can revive itself irrespective of the electoral defeats in West Bengal or Kerala or anywhere else.

Consistent and uncompromising people’s resistance, he said, against every ruling class offensive on people’s land, livelihood, democratic rights, was the key to forging Left unity and ensuring a resurgence of the Left in cooperation with every other fighting democratic trend. He also appealed to the Maoists to come out of their exclusive emphasis on military action and move on to mass resistance and political assertion. Debabrata Biswas of Forward Bloc and Abani Roy of Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) also spoke, supporting the AILC initiative towards united Left struggles. Speaking on the occasion, Debabrata Biswas reflected on the role of the Left in Parliament, calling for introspection about their failure to put up a fight against the SEZ Act inside Parliament.

K S Hariharan, Secretary, LCC Kerala, said that Comrade TP Chandrasekharan’s martyrdom imposes a historic responsibility to build a consistent, democratic, revolutionary Left platform. The Left should unite for this cause, for which Comrade TPC laid down his life.

Gobind Chhetri of CPRM, Darjeeling, described his party’s resolve to struggle for Gorkhaland while upholding the red flag and Marxist principles. He described the GTA agreement as a fraud on the Gorkha people and called for the Left to consistently support democratic struggles for separate statehood. He called for the Left to uphold the legacy of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru, and struggle for revolutionary transformation.

Leader of the Koodankulam agitation, SP Udayakumar, sent a video message expressing solidarity with the Convention. He questioned the rationale of some Left parties in opposing nuclear plants being set up after the 123 Agreement, but supporting the Koodankulam plant on the grounds that it predated the Nuke Deal. He thanked the AILC for its support and solidarity, and said that the people’s movements hoped that a fighting Left, that would defend people’s rights and our natural resources and environment, would gain strength.

Prasenjit Bose, former leader of SFI and CPI(M), exposed the lies peddled by the Manmohan Singh Government to defend price rise and FDI in retail. He said that the Left could not revive and reassert itself by supporting Pranab Mukherjee or standing alongside Mulayam Singh and Nitin Gadkari – it must assert itself in united, independent struggles on a Left agenda.

Shamsher Singh Bisht, President of Uttarakhand Lok Vahini, said that the plunder of our land, natural resources and environment by greedy corporations and MNCs, must be resisted by uniting the many forces of people’s struggle.

Prof. Nawal Kishore Choudhury, Patna University, said that all the arms of the State, as well as the media and now even Universities, are being hijacked by corporates. He called for united struggles of the Left and other democratic forces to resist corporate control.

Prof. Manjit Singh, Punjab University, Chandigarh, noted that the world over, even in the US and Europe, there was an upswing in people’s struggles against pro-corporate policies. But these policies which failed in the countries of their origin are being imposed on India by our own ruling class!

Dr. Sunilam spoke of peasants’ struggles in Multai (MP), where more than a 100 cases have been slapped on him. He spoke about the onslaught of such draconian repression on all democratic protest. He said that while many powerful political parties who claimed the socialist legacy of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia had in fact betrayed it, there were still many struggling streams of socialist forces in the country. He called for Left and socialist streams to join hands in struggle, and hailed the initiative of the AILC in this direction.

Sumit Chakravarty, editor, Mainstream, said that the vacuum of Left movement has given space to communal fascists. He called for recognition of the grievous wrongs of the Left Front in Kerala and Bengal, and for the Left as a whole to learn from this experience. He felt that the AILC could show the way and be a pivot for revolutionary communists.

Prof. Chaman Lal of JNU, who has researched and written widely on Bhagat Singh’s legacy, communicated the encouraging news that Shadman Chowk in Lahore, Pakistan, (the site of the erstwhile Lahore jail where Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged) has finally been renamed Bhagat Singh Chowk in keeping with the long-standing efforts of Left forces in Pakistan.

Concluding the Convention, Mangat Ram Pasla, Secretary, CPM Punjab, said that it was a shame that India had a PM who shamelessly hailed colonial rule, served imperialist forces, and betrayed the Indian people. He said that the AILC had been an effort in the direction of uniting struggling forces of the Left. He said that in the past two years, the AILC had made modest but significant progress. He said that the Left should not compromise on its core principles. While there were serious differences and debates with CPI(M), he said, the AILC is committed to the broadest possible struggling unity with all Left forces, including the CPI(M). He said struggling people everywhere looked with great hope towards the Left to unite on a fighting agenda and provide a consistent political alternative: and the struggling Left must live up to this challenge.

At the Convention, the AILC adopted a 12-point resolution calling for a struggle for the ouster of the UPA Government, reversal of pro-imperialist, pro-corporate policies, resistance to communal forces, against state repression and draconian laws, and against violence on women and dalits.

The following plan of struggle actions, proposed by the AILC, was adopted by the house at the Convention:

1. AILC Solidarity Fortnight with struggle against Koodankulam Nuclear Plant, beginning with visit of Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, CPI(ML) General Secretary, to Koodankulam on 1 October 2012

2. Countrywide campaign and mobilisation against FDI in retail, corporate exemption, price rise, cuts in subsidies, and demanding that UPA Government quit power

3. Punjab Bandh on 5 October (in support of the call by 17 organisations of Punjab)

4. Parivartan Rally (Rally for Change) in Patna, Bihar, on 9 November

5. Call to turn 2-day Strike called by Central Trade Unions on February 20-21, 2013, into a countrywide mass political strike

Following the 9 November Bihar Rally, the AILC will hold a meeting at Patna, after which it will declare its next course of action.

Among those who attended the Convention were Prof. Amit Bhaduri, Madhu Bhaduri, Dr. CD Sharma of Gohana, Haryana, and journalists Jawed Naqvi, Anand Pradhan, and Rajesh Joshi. A colourful photo exhibition displayed outside the Mavalankar Hall greeted visitors with images of AILC’s journey from 2010 to 2012, spanning AILC’s founding convention, its March to Parliament in 2011, various agitational initiatives, and a photographic tribute to Comrade TP Chandrasekharan.

Politics in India

The Battle of Koodankulam is a Battle for Democracy, Truth, and Reason

– Dipankar Bhattacharya, Liberation, November, 2012.

(On October 1, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI(ML)] General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya made a solidarity visit to the Koodankulam struggle site, along with a team of CPI(ML) leaders including Politburo member S Kumaraswamy, Tamil Nadu State Secretary Balasundaram, G Ramesh (State Committee member and Tirunelveli advocate working in support of the Koodankulam struggle) and Chandran from Coimbatore. Police arrested the team to prevent it from reaching the struggle site. Below is an account of the experience by Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya)

On 30 September, 2012, when Left activists from Delhi and neighbouring states had assembled in Delhi’s Mavalankar Auditorium to discuss the Left and democratic agenda to intervene in the deepening national crisis, they had one long-distance participant. In a video message, SP Udayakumar of People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy appealed to the Left to stand by the fighting people of Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu who are being persecuted by the Indian state for daring to oppose the Koodankulam nuclear plant. The convention resolved to observe a fortnight-long countrywide campaign from October 1 to 15 in support of the just demand and struggle of the people of Koodankulam. As part of the campaign, a team of CPI(ML) central leaders was to visit Idinthakarai where local people have been courageously continuing their struggle for more than last 400 days defying state repression.

When a journalist from Asianet asked me if I thought we would be allowed to go there I got the first inkling of what might be in store for us the next day. We had been to Dhinkia and other villages of Jagatsinghpur several times to express solidarity with the people of Odisha fighting against the proposed occupation of their land by Posco. Even as thousands of people were prevented from leaving their villages, activists from outside never had a problem visiting the villages and meeting the local people. I had earlier thought Jayalalitha was also following in the footsteps of Naveen Patnaik and implementing the Odisha model in Tamil Nadu. But on reaching the Tuticorin airport on the morning of October 1, I could realise she had moved ahead of her new found alliance partner. She wants to cordon off Idinthakarai from the rest of the country and physically isolate the brave fighters against the Koodankulam nuclear plant from their innumerable friends and supporters elsewhere in Tamil Nadu and beyond.

We had initially planned to go to Tirunelveli and join our local comrades in a solidarity meeting and then proceed towards Idinthakarai. Soon we got the information that there was heavy police deployment in Tirunelveli to stop comrades from marching to Idinthakarai. We quickly changed plan and headed straight towards Idinthakarai. We managed to get fairly close to the site in a vehicle that had no party flag and could not be recognised from outside as one carrying CPI(ML) leaders. But once we reached Radhapuram we ran into a police barricade, the officials giving us an option of retreating ‘freely’ or facing arrest. We were told a few days ago, Comrade VS Achuthanandan was also likewise sent back from Kerala-TN border. We argued with the police against this paranoia and denial of basic democratic right of free movement of free citizens in their own country, but to no avail. We were arrested by the police. Soon news came that comrades in Tirunelveli had also been arrested as were comrades coming from Kanyakumari district.

We wanted to go to Idinthakarai to salute our brave sisters and brothers who have been holding high the banner of truth and reason in the face of the organised repression and lies unleashed by the Indian state. The Supreme Court recognises safety as a key issue, but obviously does not think that the affected people should have the most crucial say in this matter. The brave and fighting people of Koodankulam deserve all our support and solidarity as they have alerted the whole world against the utterly irrational and autocratic move of the powers that be in inviting a potential disaster. The world heard of Chernobyl and Fukushima after disasters struck, but Jaitapur and Koodankulam are in a different league where the whole world knows about these places for the brave struggle of the people against the ominous nuclear obsession of the rulers. The people of Koodankulam and Jaitapur are fighting not just to save their own land and lives, but for the safety of generations to come. Tamil Nadu (TN) has already suffered the enormous tragedy of a devastating tsunami; must the people be condemned now to live forever in the shadow of the fear of a nuclear tsunami?

Developed countries across the world are increasingly moving away from nuclear energy, yet the Indian ruling elite are dumping the most expensive and outdated 20th century technology in the 21st century when the world is increasingly resorting to safer, cheaper, and cleaner energy options. Ironically enough from the police custody at Radhapuram we could see wind mills all around us, indicating the growing viability of wind power as an energy option.

It is ironical that governments which are systematically sacrificing all our vital national interests at the altar of FDI and humiliating deals with imperialist powers, are trying to malign and muffle the voice of truth and justice in Koodankulam by dubbing the movement as being ‘instigated by foreign agencies’. And in the process the government has already begun treating Koodankulam as foreign territory where the interests of nuclear powers prevail over the basic rights of the Indian people.

We could not physically meet our comrades in Koodankulam, but the police could not stop us from having a telephonic conversation with Comrade Udayakumar, just as the voice of the people of Koodankulam could not be stopped from reaching the September 30 convention in the national capital. These little freedoms of course mean a lot at a time when our bigger rights are at stake. Comrade Udayakumar assured us that the morale of the Koodankulam struggle remained undiminished and the people were planning to lay siege to the TN Assembly on October 29 when the state government has convened a special session to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of the foundation of the State Assembly. We assured him of our unflinching support on behalf of CPI(ML) and all other fighting Left and democratic forces in the country.

The battle of Koodankulam is a battle for democracy. It is a battle as much for public safety as truth and reason. We must all join it and fight on till victory is achieved.

Struggles in India

W. Bengal All India Central Coordination of Trade Unions (AICCTU) Rally

– Liberation, November, 2012.

Defying inclement weather, thousands of workers marched through the busy thoroughfare of Kolkata with red flags, festoons and banners at the call of AICCTU’s ‘March to Writers Building’ on 12 October, with rousing slogans. The two rallies, which started from Howrah and Sealdah station culminated at Rani Rashmoni Road, Esplanade, where a mass meeting was held. Workers from different sectors, jute, construction, brick kiln, transport, bidi, hawkers, rickshaw pullers, ASHA and mid-day meal women workers actively participated in this rally. But, above all, thousands of workers, along with their family members from closed mills of Gouripur jute mills, Mohini mills added a new feature to this gathering. Women workers, especially from ASHA, mid-day meal and construction were also present in large numbers.

Under the present regime of Trinamool Congress (TMC) government, attack on democratic rights and lumpenisation has become the order of the day. AICCTU formulated a charter of demand on industrial and labour issues and a full-fledged programme for the working class of the state. AICCTU undertook a political campaign on the question of reopening the numerous closed industries, revival of sick industries, disbursal of PF, pension and gratuity to the workers of the closed mills, and demanding financial and social security of these workers. Workers’ conventions were held at different districts along with agitations at PF and labour offices.

Before the mass meeting, a 4 member delegation team of AICCTU state leadership met the state Industry and Commerce Minister, Partha Chatterjee at Writers’ Building and handed over the charter of demands. The delegation team included Atanu Chakravarty, President, Basudev Basu, General Secretary of the AICCTU State Committee, Nabendu Dasgupta, President of BCMF and Dibakar Bhattacharya, Secretary. The delegation team had a detailed discussion with the Minister, who assured that the issues raised would be considered and corrupt Provident Fund (PF) trustee board members booked.The mass meeting began with inspiring songs from the Agneebina cultural team of Naihaty. Basudev Bose explained the demands placed before the Government and the outcome of the mentioned meet. The mass meeting was addressed by Subhendu Sen, National Secretary, AICCTU, Partho Ghosh, Secretary, CPIML-W Bengal, Meena Pal, Vice President,AICCTU and Dibakar Bhattacharya. Atanu Chakravarty presided over the meeting. The entire gathering ended with a firm resolve to carry forward the struggle to a higher phase.

Struggles in India

CPI(ML) Delegation Meets Mamata Banerjee

– Liberation, November, 2012.

In the backdrop of growing authoritarianism and bad governance by the ruling TMC Govt in West Bengal, a 6-member delegation, led by CPI(ML) State Secretary Partha Ghosh, met Chief Minister (CM) Mamata Banerjee recently, and expressed strong opposition to the all-round deterioration in the situation and growing assaults on the democratic rights of the common people under TMC rule.

The issues highlighted primarily concerned the agrarian situation, attacks on women and attacks on democracy. The delegation called for completion of unfinished land reforms in West Bengal, democratization of the Panchayat system, remunerative pricing for the farmers, and stern action against any attempt to evict small peasants, bargadars and pattadars from their land. They also demanded that evictees of Singur be given Rs.7 lakh, and a monthly allowance of Rs.7000 until they get their land back.

The delegation demanded release of all political prisoners and scrapping of all the false cases still pending against activists who took part in the Singur and Nandigram movements. Regarding the issue of a host of attacks on women after the TMC came to power, the deputation demanded that a fast track court be set up to expedite the legal process to punish the culprits.

Trying to throttle each and every dissenting voice has been the most disturbing trend over the past several months. From jailing a university teacher for e-mailing a harmless cartoon, to a full-blown attack on workers’ right to strike, or clamping false charges on activists for taking part in anti-eviction protests in Nonadanga, things have gone from bad to worse. The CPI(ML) delegation condemned such attacks on democracy, and demanded that democratic rights of the people be guaranteed and respected.

The CM’s stock response to most issues was either to blame the previous regime or cite paucity of funds. When asked why the investigation commission for probing the Kashipur-Baranagar genocide has not even convened a single meeting, the flimsiest of excuses like the unavailability of a room was produced! The delegation told the CM that the people who fought for parivartan (change) would not accept this mockery and betrayal of the people’s mandate and that attacks on livelihood, dignity and democracy of the people, if not immediately halted by the government, would be met with fitting resistance by the people.

[As this report goes to press, a 15 year-old school girl was attacked on her way back to school, and another teenage girl has been gang-raped and set on fire. All this, even as CM Mamata Banerjee lashed out at the press for regularly publishing news on rapes – something she deems as ‘rare incidents’ and examples of ‘negative propaganda’ by the media to paint her regime black. And she had again echoed the highly objectionable piece of patriarchal prejudice, blaming rapes on loosening of parental control on intermingling of boys and girls.]

Struggles in India

Violence on Women in W. Bengal

– Kasturi Basu, Liberation, October, 2012.

In the year 2011, West Bengal with 7.5% share of country’s population has accounted for nearly 12.7% of total crime against women by reporting 29,133 cases. Torture cases in the country have increased by 5.4% over the previous year. 19.9% of these were reported from West Bengal (19,772 cases). The highest crime rate of 21.6 was also reported from West Bengal as compared to the National rate at 8.2.West Bengal recorded 2,363 incidents of rape in 2011, over the previous year’s 2,311. This constitutes 9.7% of the total number of registered cases of rape (24,206) across the nation.[Data published by National Crime Records Bureau- NCRB]

In West Bengal, the almost-daily incidents of molestation, harassment, rape, as well as longer term statistics published by the NCRB, are as much a result of lumpenisation of political forces as of a vicious cycle of denials by the Mamata government coupled with gross apathy and inaction of her police forces.

Spate of Rapes

February 5, 2012, Kolkata: Rape of a woman in Park Street; subjected to sexist taunts by the police; Mamata brands her a liar, and gets the woman police officer who cracked the case, transferred.

June 26, 2012, Gurap: A 30-year old mentally challenged woman Guria, raped, killed and buried in the backyard of a privately-run rehabilitation centre at Dhaniakhali in Hooghly district. At least four inmates of the same home had died mysterious deaths in last few months. Police, however, protects those who run the institution.

July 5, 2012, Sutia: Barun Biswas, a teacher who had organized the local people for more than a decade into a peoples’ forum called Pratibadi Mancha to stand up against more than 40 rapes of local women committed by a politically protected lumpen gang operating in the area, is murdered in broad daylight.

July 25, 2012, Satragachi: A middle aged woman worker was raped near the Satragachi bridge in Howrah district. When the profusely bleeding woman reached the Jagacha PS, the assistant sub-inspector refused to register her FIR or assist her medically. The police continued not to take down her complaint repeatedly even after her relatives came to her aide later in the day. It was only after the matter got released in the media that the police performed their primary duty, by which time the culprit got away.

July 27, 2012, Barasat: An 18-year-old girl was abused and molested by a pack of men near Barasat police station. When the girl’s father rushed to her aide, he was beaten up.

August 18, 2012, Jadavpur: Six men raped a woman near Jadavpur police station in Kolkata.

September 10, 2012, Durgapur: A 38-year old woman was gang-raped by several men near the city center of Durgapur Town in Bardhaman district, while her husband was beaten and tied up to a tree by the assaulters.

Administrative Cover-up and Sexist Justifications

Mamata Banerjee accuses Park Street victim of hatching a ‘conspiracy’ against her government

Kolkata Police Commissioner R.K. Pachnanda parrots the line of ‘fabricated allegation’

Minister Madan Mitra comments on the ‘morals’ of the victim, asking what kind of a mother visits a pub

When the Joint Police Commissioner (crime), Damayanti Sen, refused to toe the official line and announced after investigations that indeed a rape had happened and arrested three accused, she was promptly transferred from her position in the detective department.

After the Barasat incident, Chiranjeet, the actor- Member Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Barasat blamed the way a woman dresses, for provoking rape.

Chairperson of the state Women’s Commission, Sunanda Mukhopadhyay said, “I don’t think that cases of rape and molestation are on the rise in West Bengal” (Bartaman daily, 10th August 2012), and says cases of violence against women are being ‘politicized’. Her words are echoed by Director General of Police, Naparajit Mukhopadhyay, at a press conference.

All India Women’s Progressive Association (AIPWA) Convention

In the backdrop of rising violence, AIPWA held a mass-convention on 12th September, in a packed auditorium at Moulali Yuva Kendra in Kolkata. AIPWA state secretary Chaitali Sen conducted the meeting.

Serina Khatun, sister of the victim of rape at Jagachha, shared the harrowing experience at the police station. She stressed the need for women to organize and collectively combat the ongoing sexual violence. Other notable speakers included poet and author Nabarun Bhattacharya, poet Krishna Basu, professor Saswati Ghosh, Deshabrati editor Animesh Chakraborty on behalf of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI (ML)] Liberation, All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) leader Meena Pal and AIPWA leader Indrani Dutta.

The recent move to shrug off administrative responsibility by paying ‘compensation’ to the victim was strongly condemned. ‘We demand fast-track courts for justice to the victim and punishment to the culprit, not ‘compensation’ for rape’, said a speaker. Saswati stressed the need to use the word narir izzat (dignity of women) with caution while referring to instances of gendered violence. “The word izzat carries the connotation of ‘shame’ and losing one’s honour. However it’s certainly not the woman victim who loses her dignity when a crime like rape is committed; the perpetrators are the ones who should be held in shame,” she reminded, to a huge round of applause. Nabarun cited systemic instances of sexual violence in the country and the world and connected it to the plight of the working women and increasing commodification of women. The presence of huge number of working women in the thousand-plus audience was noteworthy.

The following demands were raised from the convention platform and voted for unanimously:

1) The state women’s commission must be reconstituted by including representatives from progressive and democratic women’s organisations.

2) The guilty must be identified and be given exemplary punishment in each of the reported cases of violence against women.

3) If the police is found guilty of not registering complaints by affected women then the concerned personnel must be promptly punished.

4) Special cells must be set up in each block of every district to register grievances and complaints of women.

5)Exemplary punishment must be meted out to those responsible for abuse of women in police custody.

6)The police personnel guilty of harassing athlete Pinki Pramanik must be booked and the licences of the doctor and the nursing home where her ‘gender determination’ test was held in controversial manner should be immediately revoked.7.

7) The state administration must take full responsibility to ensure safety and well being of the victims of gendered violence.

International

Flagship of Latin American Resistance Sails Ahead

– Arindam Sen, Liberation, November, 2012.

I have never failed you, I’ve never lied to you.” Probably there is only one head of state in the world today who can make a statement like this after holding office for fourteen years at a stretch and sound profoundly convincing. He is Hugo Rafael Chavez Frías of Venezuela.

Battling a malicious propaganda campaign by the country’s dominant corporate media and domestic as well as international money power freely utilized to manipulate the elections, Chavez recently scored his fourth electoral victory since 1998. He won a majority in 22 of the country’s 24 provinces including in the state of Miranda, where Capriles Radonski (candidate of the united opposition, who was an active collaborator in the 2002 coup and the subsequent oil lockout that temporarily paralyzed the entire economy) was governor. A cancer patient, Chavez had disappointed the opposition by refusing to be limited to televised propaganda and campaigned almost all over the country. The people responded with a record 81% participation, for they knew the stakes were high. The polling was so free and fair that Jimmy Carter went on record saying it was “the best in the world” and even the most shameless among the right wing media found no pretext to complain.

When the result – yet another slap on the face of Washington and its lackeys – was out, the people’s leader declared, “Venezuela will never return to neoliberalism and will continue in the transition to socialism of the 21st century”.

The electoral mandate is a clear popular endorsement of government policies that resulted in substantial reductions in poverty, unemployment and inequality. According to UN statistics, Venezuela is the least unequal society with the highest growth rate in Latin America. Thanks to innovative welfare programmes supported by popular activism, there is noticeable improvement in access to education and health services. More important is the great flourish of participatory democracy through the Bolivarian Circles or communal councils for community self management, the Worker Control Movement which is putting factories in the state sector and many closed-and-reopened factories under workers’ management, and other measures like these. People enjoy full freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the press, right to a fair trial, right to privacy; they have enough reason to defeat every effort to push the country back to the horrible days of old.

Compared to the last elections, however, Chavez’s vote share decreased from 62.9% to 55.25%. This is mainly attributed to problems like inflation and chronic water shortage and power cuts, which have alienated sections of the middle class in particular, and vices like bureaucracy, corruption and a rising crime graph in Caracas, which are a cause of concern for all. The reelected President has promised to vigorously address these maladies, placing land reforms and the workers’ control movement high on his agenda.

Right from the last years of the 20th century, Venezuela under the leadership of Hugo Chavez has been the flag bearer of Latin American resistance to imperialist economic and political domination. Starting with an initial endeavour to provide “an economic alternative to dehumanized capitalism” from within a capitalist setup to the present project of building “Socialism of 21st Century”, it has negotiated a long and difficult path in theory and practice. To try and build socialism by utilising the old state machine – instead of smashing it and building a new one – and by unleashing popular initiatives from below in numerous forms is a unique experiment in history. Ahead lies a set of tougher challenges, for the very idea of 21st century socialism is opposed not only by the US and Venezuelan elites but also by sections within the government and the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Moreover, the latter is too precariously dependent on the will and vision, charisma and personality of one single leader.

Problems and pitfalls notwithstanding, at the moment let us all join our comrades and friends in Venezuela as they celebrate the hard-won victory against domestic and international reaction and prepare for the next round of a very difficult and protracted war. This is a victory of not just one individual or party, but of a sustained mass political movement with deep inspirational and social roots in the history of Latin America – indeed a victory for all peoples across the world who are searching for a humane alternative to the moribund neoliberal world order.

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