January-February 2013

Table of Contents

  1. Delhi CM Sheila Dixit Must Take Responsibility for the Horrific Gang Rape in a Delhi Bus and Resign
  2. FDI in Retail: Entering India through a US-inspired Concocted Majority in Parliament
  3. Bihar Rises against Nitish Kumar’s Liquor-Promotion Drive
  4. Bihar Rebuffs NDA and UPA: Rallies for Transformation and for a Powerful People’s Alternative
  5. Rally Condemns Police Firing at Dubrajpur and Tehatta, Burns Effigy of Mamata Banerjee
  6. Bal Thackeray’s Legacy Spells Doom, While Shaheen’s Courage Holds Out Hope
  7. Protests on 20th Anniversary of Babri Masjid Demolition to Demand an Effective Law Against Communal Violence

  8. 40 Years of Martyrdom of Comrades Jagdish Master and Ramayan Ram

Struggles in India

Delhi CM Sheila Dixit Must Take Responsibility for the Horrific Gang Rape in a Delhi Bus and Resign

– ML Update, 18-24 December, 2012.

(Press statement by All India Students Association (AISA) All India Progressive Womens Association (AIPWA), Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) on 19 December, Delhi)

Students from Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and Jamia Millia Islamia, women from Delhi’s slum clusters, workers, and citizens from many walks of life are protesting today at the Delhi CM Sheila Dixit’s residence, demanding her resignation over the horrific gang rape of a young woman in a Delhi bus. The protest has been organized by the AISA , AIPWA, and the RYA.

We hold the Delhi chief minister (CM )Sheila Dixit responsible for the insecurity of women in Delhi. In the case of the gang rape in a bus, it is shocking that a private bus, unaccountable to any norms or regulations, has been free to ply Delhi’s streets. The state of affairs is such that this bus, manned by a bunch of heinous rapists, has been doubling as a school bus in the capital city!

Further, when a journalist Sowmya was murdered some years back, the CM Sheila Dixit had responded by calling her ‘rash and reckless’ for being out late at night. The Delhi police chief in a press conference some months ago, had declared that the police could not be expected to provide protection if women insisted on venturing out alone at 2 am. Senior police officers in the Delhi region, in a sting operation by Tehelka magazine, had declared that rape complaints were as a rule fake, and that women who dressed ‘provocatively’ should expect to be raped.

The culture of blaming women for ‘provoking’ sexual violence by being out late at night or wearing ‘provocative’ clothing is a shameful attempt to justify violence on women. Those in public positions of government, police or judiciary who blame women for sexual violence must resign. We demand the resignation of the Delhi CM and the Delhi Police Commissioner.

We demand that the rapists in the bus gang-rape case be booked for rape as well as attempt to murder, since their assault has left the victim’s life in danger. This case also underlines the need for changes in the laws on rape. Under the present law, rape by insertion of an object is not recognized as rape. We demand that a comprehensive law on sexual assault be enacted without delay, in consultation with women’s movement organizations.

We condemn the statement of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Sushma Swaraj in Parliament, that even if the rape victim survives, she would be a ‘living corpse’ for the rest of her life. This culture of telling women that ‘there is no life after rape,’ and shaming rape victims, must be condemned in the strongest terms. We must ensure that rape survivors live the fullest possible life with their head held high – and the first condition of this is that they get justice, that the perpetrators spend the rest of their life in jail.

In the Delhi bus gang rape case, the woman victim and her male friend had boarded a bus. When a bunch of men on the bus began sexual harassment, making lewd remarks about the man and the woman, the latter resisted fiercely and boldly. The men then decided to ‘teach her a lesson’ –raping and brutalizing her in the moving bus and dumping her along with her friend on the street.

What we need to recognize is that the widespread and growing rapes in Delhi are, in fact, motivated by the patriarchal urge to ‘teach women a lesson’ for seeking equality and dignity and for asserting their freedom. The problem is that the political parties, police and judiciary are not defending and asserting women’s freedom. Even when they talk of ‘protecting’ women, they do so by advising women to dress and move ‘carefully,’ thereby justifying the rapes by implying it is natural for men to rape women who defy patriarchal norms.

We are appalled by the fact that the Delhi Police’s ad campaign against violence on women features no women – rather, it features a male actor, urging men to ‘Be a man’ and ‘Protect women’! Instead of such campaigns that reinforce patriarchy, we demand that institutions including governments, police and judiciary be accountable to defending and safeguarding women’s unqualified freedom and right to live without fear of violence, in the home or the street; day or night; irrespective of what they wear or do.

AISA students of JNU participated in large numbers in protests called by the JNU students union at the Vasant Vihar police station on 17 December and blockaded the road (chakka jam) near the Vasant Vihar police station in Munirka for 3 hours on 18 December to protest against the rape.

Politics in India

FDI in Retail:

Entering India through a US-inspired Concocted Majority in Parliament

– ML Update, 11-17 December, 2012.

The debate and vote in Parliament on foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail concluded with a dubious victory for the Government, reminiscent of the Nuke Deal vote. While the debate made it clear that the majority opinion in the house was against the policy of introducing FDI in multi-brand retail, opportunism at the time of voting carried the day.

The arguments peddled by the Government in favour of FDI in retail are entirely unconvincing and false. The claim that FDI in retail will benefit farmers and consumers has proven to be false country after country. Just last week, a leading American newspaper reported that American onion farmers are suffering at the hands of Walmart which is selling onions at nine times the purchase price. Walmart and other chain stores also dictated arbitrary size standards as a result of which huge amounts of crops that failed to meet those standards were left to rot.

Globally, MNC retail giants are not known to have ensured higher prices for producers or lower prices for consumers – if anything, the opposite. Far from ‘eliminating middlemen’ as the UPA Government claims, the MNC retail giants will in fact emerge as foreign middlemen, immensely more powerful than any domestic producer – whether farmers or manufacturers – and will therefore be able to play with prices and eventually enjoy a veritable monopoly.

Another shocking pro-FDI argument is that FDI in retail is necessary to usher in superior technology – specifically, cold chains to prevent wastage. Why should foreign investment be needed for something as basic as cold storage? As we have seen above, preventing wastage is hardly a concern for the MNC retail giants. Not only is produce that fails to meet arbitrary size standards rejected and left to waste, the global food industry controlled by the MNC retailers is known to waste almost half the food it procures.

Even as the debate was underway in Indian Parliament, it was known that an enquiry is underway in the US into allegations of bribery by Walmart in several countries including Mexico, India, China and Brazil. There are indications that Walmart and its subsidiaries paid bribes in order to expand its network of stores in those countries. Further, the Enforcement Directorate in India is probing an allegation that Walmart secretly and illegally invested 100 million dollars in its wholesale partner Bharti Enterprises, way back in 2010 when foreign players were barred from entry into India’s retail business.

At the same time, Walmart itself has disclosed that it spent Rs 125 crore since 2008 on lobbying US senators on various issues, including “enhanced market access for investment in India.” How exactly was the money spent on ‘lobbying’ for entry into India? Who are the alleged recipients of bribes by Walmart in India, according to the ongoing enquiry? These unanswered questions indicate that the process by which the FDI in retail policy has been adopted is murky.

It is ironic that the Indian Government is bulldozing the FDI in retail policy pushed aggressively by the US at a time when the retail giants are facing protests in the US for putting small stores out of business and underpaying employees. US President Obama, just recently, has taken his daughters for Christmas shopping to a small bookstore, to be seen promoting a scheme called ‘Small Business Saturday’ intended to support small ‘mom-and-pop’ stores.

In the Lok Sabha, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chose to walk out of the house after having opposed the FDI in retail policy, thereby ensuring safe passage for the policy. In the Rajya Sabha, the BSP voted for FDI in retail, ensuring a comfortable victory for the Government. Several MPs strategically stayed away from Parliament on the day of the vote, in order to facilitate the Government while avoiding being seen voting in favour of FDI in retail. In the Lok Sabha, the absentees included JMM chief Shibu Soren as well as JVM chief Babulal Marandi, while JMM MP Kameshwar Baitha voted in favour of FDI in retail! In the Rajya Sabha, the sole JMM MP walked out of the house at the time of voting.

The claim by the SP and BSP that they did not vote against FDI in retail so as not to benefit the communal BJP is laughable; the BSP is known to have shared power with the BJP in UP, while the SP is known to have done business with Kalyan Singh, the man who as Chief Minister of UP from the BJP, had presided over the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

The FDI vote outcome is a travesty of the will of the people. It reflects nothing but an opportunistically concocted majority, cobbled together through behind-the-scene deals and under American pressure. It is appalling but altogether unsurprising that the UPA Government now seeks to discredit popular protests against FDI in retail by deeming such protests to be ‘defiance of Parliament and of the law of the land.’ It is the vote in Parliament which has mocked the spirit of democracy and political ethics. And it is the people of India, who by resisting tooth and nail the suicidal policy of FDI in retail, the policy that threatens the livelihood and interests of millions, will uphold the true spirit of democracy.

Politics in India

Bihar Rises against Nitish Kumar’s Liquor-Promotion Drive

– ML Update, 18-24 December, 2012.

Deaths caused by spurious liquor have emerged as the latest form of massacre in Bihar. The victims almost invariably belong to the toiling rural and urban poor, who are otherwise sought to be wooed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as ‘Mahadalits’. Understandably enough, the continuing spate of liquor deaths has triggered a tremendous uproar in Bihar and on 15 December the state observed a day’s bandh at the call of the CPI(ML) demanding a ban on liquor. This is probably the first time since the 1974 movement that the struggle against the liquor mafia has emerged high on the political agenda of the people’s movement in the state.

The liquor deaths are no sudden aberration nor are they being caused only by ‘illicit’ liquor. The unfortunate people who died in Gaya the other day had all bought their drink of death from liquor shops with proper official licence. Death came in liquor sachets bearing the official imprint of Nitish Kumar’s ‘good governance’. On latest official count Bihar was found having a huge network of 5,624 licensed liquor shops. Almost every panchayat in Bihar today has a licensed liquor shop and it is an open secret that for every licensed liquor shop there are at least two unlicensed ones. Contrary to the government’s claims, the expansion of the licensed network has not eclipsed or replaced the illicit network; rather the two have grown in tandem with the legal serving as a front for the illegal.

This rapid expansion of the network of liquor shops is central to Nitish Kumar’s economics and politics of ‘good governance’. The government proudly points to the growing revenue – from a paltry Rs 329 crore in 2005-06 the revenue accrual from liquor has gone up to Rs 2,045 crore in 2011-12. If revenue has recorded a six-fold increase in six years, one can easily imagine how huge must have been the jump in the profit earned by the liquor lobby. Any independent investigation will reveal a massive excise scam thriving behind the curtain. We all remember how Nitish Kumar had summarily sacked his excise minister Jamshed Ashraf in February 2010 for seeking a probe into a Rs 500 crore scam in his department.

Even as Bihar mourns the deaths of the hundreds of hapless liquor victims, Nitish Kumar had the temerity to suggest that his fancy populist schemes like distribution of school uniform or cycles among girl students could only be funded by the revenue flowing in from the growing production and sale of liquor. Could it not be argued equally emphatically that the revenue from liquor was being used to fund his government’s self-congratulatory advertisements and his wasteful yatras aimed at self-promotion?

It is well known in Bihar that the liquor mafia has emerged as a principal prop of the new regime. In fact, the feudal-kulak kingpins of the infamous kidnapping industry of yesteryear have now turned in a big way to real estate, construction contracts and liquor trade. Nitish Kumar’s vision of ‘development’ is of course not confined to the home-grown liquor mafia; liquor barons like Vijay Mallya are also spreading their tentacles in Bihar. If Nitish Kumar can have his way, the sugar mills of Bihar will all give way to alcohol and bio-fuel. Yet faced with a popular outrage, Nitish Kumar is now waxing eloquent against the liquor mafia, and in a most glaring display of hypocrisy his government observed November 26, the day Nitish Kumar was sworn in for his second term, as a ‘prohibition day’!

The systematic spread of liquor remains a key factor behind the alarming increase in violence against women and the renewed spurt in crimes and social oppression. Girls in Bihar have been right in affirming that if cycles are to be funded by liquor-driven revenue then they would rather prefer to do without such cycles. Bihar cannot afford to bear the social cost of Nitish Kumar’s liquor-promotion drive, a fact realised most acutely by the women of Bihar who are fighting in the forefront of the anti-liquor campaign. The youth must now join hands with the women to challenge the liquor mafia and the government that disburses death in liquor sachets. The anti-liquor movement in Bihar has already thrown up role models like Comrade Bhaiyaram Yadav, the young secretary of CPI(ML)’s Rohtas district committee, who was killed earlier this year for taking on the liquor mafia and rising in defence of the dignity of women. The combined might of Bihar’s fighting youth and women can surely trounce the liquor mafia and their political patrons.

Struggles in India

Bihar Rebuffs NDA and UPA:

Rallies for Transformation and for a Powerful People’s Alternative

– Liberation, December, 2012.

The Communist Party Of India (Marxist Leninist ) [CPI(ML)]’s massive Parivartan (Transformation) Rally on November 9th in Patna powerfully articulated people’s aspirations for thoroughgoing social and political transformation and a people’s political alternative in Bihar and in the country. The rally’s slogan – ‘Neither Delhi’s Loot Nor Nitish’s Lies – Unite for Change’ – clearly struck a chord with Bihar’s poorest and most oppressed, who turned Patna’s Gandhi Maidan into a virtual sea of red flags with their enthusiastic participation.

Many observers commented on the stark contrast between the people’s Parivartan Rally and the ‘official rally’ by the ruling Janata Dal (United) [JD(U)] just five days earlier. Nitish Kumar’s show in the same Gandhi Maidan on 4 November had enjoyed the backing of the entire government machinery. Misuse of government and administrative power to promote the rally was rampant, with district magistrates issuing official orders aimed at ensuring the participation of workers in the rally. Unimaginable amounts of money were spent on the JD(U) rally, including amounts raised and pocketed by JD(U) leaders in the name of the rally. 4 trains and 15,000 buses were booked to ferry people to the rally. 10,000 policemen and 1000 magistrates swelled the crowds in the JD(U) rally. JD(U)’s mafia politicians Munna Shukla, Ranvir Yadav, Anant Singh, and Sunil Pandey flexed all their muscle to boost the rally. The success of the spectacle was supposed to be sealed with money, muscle and media power.

But at the Parivartan Rally five days later, the people of Bihar gave the rulers’ rally a fitting rebuff, effectively cutting it down to size. The Parivartan Rally matched the size and strength of the rulers’ rally without the help of money and government machinery, and outshining the sterile, mafia- and police-dominated official show by far in terms of the sheer energy, response, and discipline of the mass of participants. Among the Parivartan Rally participants were the villagers of Bhajanpura (Forbesganj) where the police firing claimed 4 lives last year; dalit students from Ara; and victims of police lathicharge at Aurangabad and firing at Madhubani. The Parivartan Rally gave voice to the enormous sense of betrayal and resentment felt by Bihar’s poor against the hollow pro-poor and pro-rights posturing of the Nitish Government, which has only protected the privileges of the feudal and communal forces and patronised mafia politicians. If the Parivartan Rally called for a rebuff of Bihar’s NDA Government, it also called the bluff of the kind of ‘change’ being touted by opposition leader Laloo Yadav. For one thing, Laloo’s own 15-year rule in Bihar saw some of the worst scams and massacres of dalits. For another, Laloo today, along with Ram Vilas Paswan, is an arch defender of the corrupt and anti-people Congress regime at the Centre. Any promise of ‘change’ from such a quarter cannot command any credibility.

Leaders of the All India Left Coordination, Bihar Secretaries of Communits Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI(M), and some socialist leaders also addressed the Parivartan Rally. The success of the Parivartan Rally pointed to the potential for a genuine third alternative – both in Bihar and in the country. Again, such a ‘third alternative’ cannot be a mere cobbling together of ideologically and politically compromised non-Congress non- Bharatiya Janat Party (non-BJP) forces towards elections or power-sharing. Rather, the Rally asserted the need for and potential of a people’s political alternative, emerging from people’s movements for democracy.

As the sea of red flags fluttered in Gandhi Maidan on 9 November, the winds of change could be felt blowing – not only for a people’s assertion in Bihar but from Bihar towards the rest of the country.

Parivartan Rally: Left Assertion

From all over Bihar, people from villages and towns poured into Patna from the night of 8th November itself, red flags and banners in hand. They had gathered in the state capital for CPI(ML)’s Parivartan Rally in Gandhi Maidan, Patna, on 9 November. With their strength of numbers, enthusiasm, and determination in spite of all the hardships of the journey, Bihar’s poor were making a loud statement. They had stayed away from the Chief Minister’s Adhikar Rally held less than a week ago, and had gathered for ‘Parivartan’ (change) instead.

At noon sharp, the Rally began with songs rendered in memory of the martyrs, by Hirawal and other cultural groups. A memorial for the martyrs had been erected near the dais – paying tribute to Bhaiyyaram Yadav, to those killed in police firing in Forbesganj and Madhubani, and to various other martyred and departed comrades. CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, politburo member of the CPI(ML) Swadesh Bhattacharya and others paid tributes to the martyrs. Bihar CPI(ML) Secretary Comrade Kunal welcomed all participants in the Rally. On behalf of the Bihar State Committee, Comrade Arun conducted the proceedings. Addressing the Rally, Comrade Vinod Singh, CPI(ML) MLA in the Jharkhand Assembly called for an assertion of Left-led people’s movements against corporate loot. JNU Students’ Union General Secretary Shakeel Anjum, who hails from Araria district of Bihar, spoke about the dismal state of education and employment in Bihar, and about the growing communal politics in the Araria region and witch-hunt of Muslim youth in Darbhanga in the name of anti-terrorism. He called for students to defeat the communal forces and representatives of the anti-people Bihar and Central Governments in the forthcoming students union elections in Bihar. Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) Joint Secretary Piyush was also present on the dais. Comrade Bhimrao Bansod of Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) [LNP(L)] and Comrade Mangat Ram Pasla of Communist Party Marxist Punjab [CPM Punjab] called for Bihar to show the way for a realignment and assertion of fighting Left forces. CPI State Secretary Rajendra Singh and CPI(M) State Secretary Vinay Kant Thakur called for Left unity and assertion of the issues of the people. Veteran socialist leader Hind Kesri Yadav, former Bihar Minister and anti-liquor movement activist, recounted how Bihar police watched while liquor mafia brutally beat him up last month in Muzaffarpur. When he showed his wounds, agitated people rose up and raised slogans. All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee called for the people of Bihar to support the all-India strike called by central trade unions (TUs) on 20-21 February 2013. All India Progressive Womens Association (AIPWA) General Secretary Meena Tiwari said that just as massacres had become the hallmark of the Lalu-Rabri regime, gang rape and other assaults on women have become the hallmark of Nitish’s rule. Rajaram Singh general secretary of the All India Kisan Mahasabha, who had recently been severely beaten by police in Aurangabad and jailed for a prolonged period, said that the Nitish Government and the Central Govt were both promoting land grab in the name of development, while the Nitish Govt had appeased feudal forces by abandoning the question of land reforms. CPI(ML) central committee member (CCM) and former MP from Bihar, Rameshwar Prasad, and All India Agricultural Laborers Association (AIALA) GS Dhirendra Jha also addressed the Rally.

The main speaker at the Rally was CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar, who said that the countdown for the Nitish Government had begun. By jettisoning the Bandopadhyay recommendations, allowing Ranveer Sena supporters to go berserk, and by making mafia politicians like Sunil Pandey, Anant Singh, Munna Shukla and Ranvir Yadav the icons of his Government, the Nitish Government had clearly shown its loyalty towards feudal and criminal forces. “Nitish Kumar says he has introduced rule of law in Bihar. But in fact, there are two laws here. When a mastermind of massacres is killed and his supporters ran amok, the DGP preached passivity for the police. But when students, teachers, peasants and minorities raise their demands, the same police rains batons and bullets on them. Perpetrators of the Bathani Tola massacre get a judicial reprieve while innocent Dalits are sentenced to life imprisonment and death in the Amousi case.

He reminded that Nitish Kumar, as a central Minister in 2000, had done nothing to support the demand for special category status for Bihar when the CPI(ML) first raised it. “Bihar is an ordinary state now, but the Government can get Rs 50000 crore from the Centre for All India Central Council of Trade Unions, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA). But as of now, the Nitish Government does not even distribute the amount it does receive, among workers. So, just greater funds will not ensure employment and development. Just the scale of scams will increase.”

At the Adhikar Rally, Nitish Kumar admitted that the criteria for awarding special category status would have to be revised in order that Bihar can avail it. Once that is done, several other states like Uttar Pradesh (UP), Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha would be equally legitimate claimants for the special category status, in view of the relevant indices like poverty, malnutrition, literacy and other social criteria. “Why did Nitish Kumar not opt for the logical route of a united campaign for special category status with similarly placed states, rather than an exclusive agenda for Bihar? Clearly, Nitish Kumar sought to make special category status an exclusive campaign theme for the JD(U) towards the 2014 elections, to divert people’s attention from the glaring failures of the state government, against which people’s resentment was acutely visible in the protests that greeted the Adhikar Yatra every step of the way, eventually forcing it to be called off. The JD(U) would like to make the Special Category status a bargaining chip to do business with whichever party/combination of parties comes to power after 2014.”

Comrade Dipankar called for a ‘third alternative’, but emphasised that such an alternative could not just be an opportunist realignment for the sake of power. It must in fact be an assertion of people’s movements, with a radical, fighting Left at its core. Bihar, he said, had always shown the way – be it during the freedom struggle or the 1974 movement for democracy – and now again, it was time for Bihar to show how a vigorous Left movement could rejuvenate politics and pave the way for a people’s political alternative.

Rousing slogans and responsive applause greeted Comrade Dipankar’s speech. At the end, All India Students Union (AISA) State Secretary Abhyuday read out an 8-point resolution, which included resolutions against the corruption, corporate plunder and pro-corporate anti-people policies of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government; against repression and feudal-communal politics promoted by the Nitish Government; demanding CBI enquiry into the murders of Bhaiyyaram Yadav and Chhotu Kushwaha and the Forbesganj massacre; and to turn the February 20-21 Strike called by central TUs into a Bharat Bandh.

Coming on the heels of Nitish Kumar’s 4 November Rally, comparisons were inevitable. All observers, including many intellectuals of Patna, as well as media personnel, remarked on the stark contrast between the Government-sponsored rulers’ rally of 4 November, and the lively, responsive gathering at the CPI(ML) Rally. Even in terms of sheer numbers, the CPI(ML) rally had comfortably matched the ‘official’ rally, flooding Gandhi Maidan with red flags. Many media reports recounted how the CPI(ML) rallyists had come, without the aid of any sponsored trains and cavalcade of buses; how they sustained themselves with little bundles of sattu and chana; and on their self-discipline and boundless enthusiasm. One paper recounted how, a group returning from the Rally, rendered rousing revolutionary songs and spontaneously composed songs in Bhojpuri against the Nitish Government, late into the night as they waited for a train at Patna junction.

The Parivartan Rally was a vigorous and timely assertion of the urgent need of Left politics and people’s movements against the corruption, corporate plunder, and repression unleashed by Governments at the State and Centre alike, and by UPA and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) alike.

Struggles in India

Communist Partuy of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI(ML)] Rally Condemns Police Firing at Dubrajpur and Tehatta, Burns Effigy of Mamata Banerjee

– Liberation, December, 2012.

Of late Mamata Banerjee’s Administration has brought back haunting memories of Singur and Nandigram with police forces firing indiscriminately at villagers, first at Loba village of Dubrajpur (Birbhum district) on the 6th of November, and subsequently at Haulia village of Tehatta (Nadia district) on the 14th. In Dubrajpur, villagers have been resisting land acquisition in the Singur-Nandigram style by Bengal EMTA (Eastern Minerals and Trading Association), a private company that is out to set up an open cast mine in a vast tract (three times that acquired at Singur) of fertile agricultural land. During the Left Front (LF) rule, EMTA acquired 700 acres of land from the absentee landlord through their agents. In 2009, an agreement was signed between EMTA and DVC (Damodar Valley Corporation) on land acquisition but the details have still been kept under wraps. Since then, the villagers have been demanding adequate compensation and price for their land. They confiscated an earth mover machine when EMTA officials attempted to start digging the land in December 2011. Ever since, Partha Chatterjee, Minister for Industry and Commerce, had been pressurizing the local administration for police action to retrieve the machine.

A huge police contingent was sent to Dubrajpur on the 6th whereupon villagers were tear-gassed, lathi-charged and fired upon. Five villagers sustained bullet injuries as they put up a heroic resistance to police brutalities. A CPI(ML) fact-finding team report published earlier in ML Update exposes the ugly nexus existing between DVC-EMTA and the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) administration, from the district level all the way up to the ministerial level, which explains why the police acted in such a highhanded manner at DVC-EMTA’s behest. 8th November was observed as a state-wide protest day against the Dubrajpur firing, with protests and dharnas held at block level. Protest meetings, rallies and marches were held respectively in Murshidabad and Jalpaiguri, Siliguri and Kolkata.

Close on the heels of Dubrajpur came Tehatta. Under directions of the Sub-divisional Police Officer (SDPO) of Tehatta, police constables cracked down on villagers with tear gas, batons and bullets. Ashok Sen, a construction worker was killed by police bullet on the spot, and four other villagers hospitalized with bullet injuries. A CPI(ML) team led by the Nadia District Secretary went to the spot on 15th November. They spoke to the grieving family of the deceased and demanded that the West Bengal (WB) Govt provide compensation and job to family members of the deceased and take immediate action to punish guilty police officers.

The way a local dispute over a piece of Public Works Department (PWD) land situated next to the Eidgah, where a section of the Muslim community wanted a road, and a section of the Hindu community sought permission to hold their annual Jagaddhatri Puja was allowed to blow out of proportions and finally settled with police bullets costing a worker’s life is condemnable in the strongest terms. The administration failed to reach an amicable solution by involving all parties concerned and instead fuelled further communal divide presumably keeping narrow electoral gains in mind. CPI(ML) Nadia State Committee called for a 12-hour Bandh in Tehatta on the 16th in protest of the police firing.

It is evident that Mamata Banerjee and her trigger-happy administration have learnt nothing from the Singur-Nandigram episodes. On 22nd November, CPI(ML) held a large protest rally in Kolkata condemning the police firing incidents at Dubrajpur and Tehatta. The 500-strong rally led by polit-bureau member Kartick Pal started from Raja Subodh Mallick Square and proceeded towards Esplanade. The Metro Channel was blocked off and protesters burnt an effigy of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. WB State Secretary Partha Ghosh addressed the rally, which then marched further to end at Moulali. Several demands were raised from the rally – among them (1) judicial enquiry into the Tehatta police firing, (2)compensation of Rs. 10 lakhs to the family of the deceased, and (3) punishment of guilty police personnel. With regards to Dubrajpur, demands were raised for – (1) judicial enquiry into the police firing, (2) compensation of Rs. 1 lakh to the injured (with the state government shouldering the responsibility for their treatment), (2) scrapping of the dubious agreement between West Bengal Power Development Corporation and DVC-EMTA, and (3) punishment of the guilty police personnel forthwith.

Politics in India

For India’s Democracy:

Bal Thackeray’s Legacy Spells Doom, While Shaheen’s Courage Holds Out Hope

– Kavita Krishnan, Liberation, December, 2012.

The events that followed the death of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray raise questions about the health of India’s democracy. Thackeray – whose political career of four and a half decades was one of calculated hate-mongering, and who built the Shiv Sena around an agenda of vicious communal and regional-chauvinist violence, was given an official state funeral by the Maharashtra Government. He was wrapped in the national tricolour, and received a 12-gun salute. The President of India praised his work for the ‘ordinary man’, and the Prime Minister, likewise, praised him for his efforts on behalf of Maharashtra. A few days before Thackeray’s death, Digvijaya Singh, the designated propagandist for Congress’s secular posturing, said Thackeray was a “fighter” all his life and would also “fight” his illness. Laloo and Nitish alike expressed grief at the passing of the Bihar—basher. In death, therefore, Bal Thackeray achieved the success of having his brand of fascist politics endorsed in precisely the terms he sought – as equivalent with ‘nationalism’ and Maharashtra’s pride. His funeral was a virtual Who’s Who of film and cricket stars.

The Congress government of the late 1960s promoted Thackeray and the Shiv Sena as an (ultimately successful) ploy to destabilise and decimate Mumbai’s powerful working class movement. The Shiv Sena made its political debut in 1967 by burning down the CPI’s legendary Girni Kamgar Union office, followed by the assassination of popular Trade Union leader and Communist Party of India (CPI)’s sitting Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Krishna Desai in 1970. Thackeray congratulated the Sainiks for that assassination, declaring that it should serve as a warning to the ‘Lal Bhais’ (Red Comrades). In the by-election that followed, the Shiv Sena defeated the CPI, and elected the first-ever Shiv Sena MLA. So, the first targets of the Shiv Sena’s bloody campaign of fascist terror were the Red unions and working class militancy. The Shiv Sena, which began life as the Congress’ muscle against the working class, then emerged as a force in its own right.

It was a time when the mighty mills of Mumbai were being closed down, to pave the way for a textile industry dominated by private corporate players like Dhirubai Ambani. The Shiv Sena, having waged war on and defeated the Left-led trade union movement with the backing of the Congress Government, then proceeded to divide the working class by mobilising Marathi workers on a son-of-the-soil plank against the migrant workers. The Shiv Sena tested out its son-of-the-soil plank with violent attacks on Kannadiga workers in 1969. (It is ironic that today, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Sangh Parivar are trying to recreate the same Shiv Sena type of son-of-the-soil politics in Karnataka, mobilising Kannadiga workers against the other migrants!)

The Marathi manoos political plank resonated mainly in the metropolis of Mumbai. The Shiv Sena acquired a wider base only when it adopted a virulent communal politics masquerading as nationalism, targeting the Muslim minority. Thackeray made no secret of his admiration for Hitler’s fascist politics. The crowds at Thackeray’s funeral indicated the hegemony his brand of fascist politics achieved in Mumbai: a hegemony that has destroyed the life-spirit of the city that once called upon people from all over the whole country to sing ‘Ye hai Bombay meri jaan’ (This is Bombay my love).

The corporate media, top TV anchors and print columnists, all abandoned any measure of rational or honest assessment, valorising Thackeray as a Marathi and Hindu hero. The communal pogrom of Mumbai 1992-93, and organised violence against migrants, have been sanitized to become innocuous sounding “social issues of immigration and communalism” and examples of “national well being and welfare”!

But the media’s rosy remix of Thackeray’s legacy got a jarring reality check. A young woman, 21-year-old Shaheed Dhada, dared to declare that the Emperor wore no clothes. In a post on Facebook, she said “With all respect, every day, thousands of people die, but still the world moves on. Just due to one politician died a natural death, everyone just goes bonkers. They should know, we are resilient by force, not by choice. When was the last time, did anyone showed some respect or even a two-minute silence for Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Azad, Sukhdev or any of the people because of whom we are free-living Indians? Respect is earned, given, and definitely not forced. Today, Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not due to respect.” Her friend Renu ‘liked’ the post. Within half an hour the police (in a Congress-ruled state!) were at her door, and both young women were arrested, to be released later on bail. A Shiv Sena mob vandalised Shaheen’s uncle’s dental clinic. The fact that Shaheen is a Muslim who dared to express a critical opinion of Thackeray’s funeral was enough to mark her as a fit target for Shiv Sena’s reign of terror. Congress governments and their police never arrested Thackeray (or his nephew Raj Thackeray) for publicly spouting vitriol and whipping up violence against Muslims and Biharis. But a Congress government rushed to arrest two 21-year-old women for expressing an opinion!

Following a national uproar, the Congress Governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra have promised to punish police officers responsible for the arrest. But even as the Maharashtra Government had to retreat from the arrest with embarrassment, senior Congress leaders like Harish Rawat and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, instead of apologising for this outrageous assault on civil liberties which befits a totalitarian state rather than the ‘world’s largest democracy’, advised people to be ‘careful and cautious’ about what they say and when, on an occasion of the death of a man of Thackeray’s ‘stature’!

Yet again, the ‘secular’ Congress, the much-vaunted Indian free media, and other proud democratic institutions have given us little cause for hope, in the face of the fascist brand of politics. But the ray of hope does come from young Shaheen and Renu – whose courage exposed the real content of Thackeray’s legacy, and forced the media and ruling class to change the discourse surrounding Thackeray’s death.

Struggles in India

Protests on 20th Anniversary of Babri Masjid Demolition to Demand an Effective Law Against Communal Violence

– Liberation, December, 2012.

The CPI(ML) held a dharna on 6 December 2012 New Delhi to mark the 20th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The dharna demanded punishment for the guilty of the Babri demolition; and demanded that Parliament enact a law to prevent and punish the perpetrators and political masterminds of communal violence.

Addressing the dharna, Kavita Krishnan, Central Committee member of the Party, said that 20 years after the Babri Masjid demolition, Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and other BJP leaders are yet to be prosecuted for the Babri Masjid demolition. Similarly, the Srikrishna Commission indicted Bal Thackeray for the communal pogrom of Bombay 1992-93, yet Thackeray went scot-free. After his death recently, he was given a state funeral, as Government and media tried to whitewash Thackeray’s role in instigating communal hatred and violence. This December, elections to the Gujarat Assembly are due to take place, and Narendra Modi, mastermind of the communal pogrom of Gujarat 2002, is once again aiming to be Chief Minister. The political masterminds of the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984 were never brought to justice.

In almost all instances of communal violence against minorities, the police has colluded with the perpetrators, acted as an extension of the communal mob, and betrayed their duty towards protecting the vulnerable minorities. When the UPA-I Government came to power, they promised to pass a law against Communal Violence. However, the UPA-I and UPA-II have failed to draft and enact a law that will truly prove capable to protecting minorities from communal violence. The Government has succumbed to pressure from communal forces led by the BJP, who are virulently opposed to such a law.

The activists said that the UPA Govt and Parliament must draft and pass a law that will hold governments, police and administrative machinery accountable to preventing communal and targeted violence, will provide for justice to the victims and survivors of communal and targeted violence, and will have provisions for justice for the victims of sexual violence that takes place as part of communal and targeted violence.The speakers condemned the deliberate incidents of fabricated cases against innocent Muslims and demanded punishment for the police officials. Recently, a Delhi High Court found that two Kashmiri youth, jailed for 16 years as terrorists, had been falsely convicted and were innocent.

The dharna was also addressed by Prabhat Kumar, Sanjay Sharma, VKS Gautam, Santosh Roy, Anmol, Ravi Rai, Ums Gupta of LDTF, Aslam Khan, and many others. Girija Pathak conducted the programme

A protest dharna on same day was also held at Gohana district headquarters in Haryana. The activists led by Party’s Haryana Incharge Prem Singh Gahlawat demanded an effective anti-communal violence Act that can set precedent for rioters and their political conspirators. Such an Act must fix accountability of police and administration as well as responsible politicians in incidents of communal violence. The dharna was also addressed by Jagjiwan Ram, Jay Narayan Singh, Gulab Bhagat and Dipak Dahiya.

South Asia

Inferno in Bangladesh Garment Factory:

Death Traps of Globalisation

– ML Update, 4-10 December, 2012.

On November 25th this year, a fire engulfed a garment factory – Tazreen Fashions – outside Dhaka, claiming the lives of 120 workers, who were killed because the exits were locked, preventing their escape. Among the charred remains, were found clothes with the labels of leading global retailers, including the American Wal-Mart, Sears, and Disney.

The Tazreen fire exposed the ugly underbelly of globalization, whereby the giant clothing brands and retail chains outsource their production to benefit from cheap labour in Asian and South Asian countries. Appallingly exploitative conditions of labour, which would no longer be countenanced in the advanced capitalist countries, are the norm in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and India. The Tazreen fire is not a one-off tragedy; since 2006, over 500 Bangladeshi garment workers have reportedly been killed in factory fires. In September, two factory fires in Pakistan claimed the lives of more than 300 workers.

Bangladesh’s garment industry has seen fierce struggles by the workers against the low wages and exploitative conditions. In December 2010, a fire broke out in a garment factory, claiming 24 lives, in which workers were forced to jump from the ninth floor of a 10-storey building because management had locked the exits. Police fired on the garment workers’ agitation that month, killing four workers, injuring hundreds, and arresting the leaders. The Ashulia industrial zone, in which the Tazreen factory stands, has witnessed repeated eruptions of workers’ protests. In June this year, workers of Ashulia campaigned for a hike in the abysmally low wages, and the owners responded by shutting down all 350 factories in the zone. Following the Tazreen fire, thousands of workers hit the streets in militant protests, forcing factories to close, blockading highways, and clashing with the police, who unleashed batons and tear gas.

The global brands amass huge profits by sourcing clothes from countries where workers work for low wages, in exploitative and unsafe conditions. In the dense web of contractors and sub-contractors, responsibility can be easily shrugged off. The government of Bangladesh colludes in the exploitative conditions, unleashing severe repression on workers’ protests.

In March 1911, 140 garment workers, most of them women, were killed in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York. Finding themselves locked in the burning factory, women jumped to their death from the windows. 100 years later, the same macabre scene is reenacted – but this time the death-trap factories have moved to Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The ongoing resistance of the Bangladeshi garment workers calls for our wholehearted solidarity and support. From Karachi to Dhaka and Delhi to Colombo, the ghettos and death-traps of globalization will have to be challenged head-on by united waves of South Asian resistance.

In Memory

40 Years of Martyrdom of Comrades Jagdish Master and Ramayan Ram:

Inauguration of Martyrs’ Memorial at Ekwari

– Liberation, December, 2012.

December 10th, 2012, was the 40th anniversary of the martyrdom of Comrades Jagdish Master and Ramayan Ram. They were martyred at Bihiya in Bhojpur district on 10 December 1972.

Jagdish Master was born in 1935, 10th December, at Ekwari village under Sahar block where feudal oppression and violence dominated everyday life. The non-landed class, poor peasants and the minorities did not have any freedom, not allowed to improve their living conditions, not even to conduct their daily personal affairs in their own way. Growing up in such a suffocating social environment, Master Jagdish was witness to social discrimination and repression towards dalits, poor and lower castes, routine humiliation and undignified conduct of feudal class towards women. Battling such a social setup and overcoming severe odds Master Jagdish was successful in education and getting a socially honoured profession of a teacher, in Bihar then. He was employed as a science teacher in Arrah’s Jain School. He was loved by his pupils. However, he could not be satisfied with his position, he was constantly troubled at heart due to the incidents of repression and exploitation of poor and toiling class. In Arrah town, he organised the dalits to defend their dignity and rights. Initially, he along with other revolutionary activists, held a large rally in Arrah for demanding “Harijan-istan”. Soon, the Naxalbari revolt happened and they were attracted to it, also realising that this was the way to transform a feudal society into democratic one. He deliberately travelled without ticket to get arrested and meet naxal leaders in jail.

In the 1967 Assembly elections he chose to be the electoral agent for Comrade Ram Naresh Ram, a daring task in itself. He was attacked brutally when he opposed bogus voting against his candidate. Since then he quit his job as teacher and became a full time activist. The struggles that he waged along with Comrades Ram Naresh Ram and Rameshwar Ahir from here on, attracted the attention of the world. People’s poet Baba Nagarjun hailed these as heroes of oppressed people of Bhojpur as Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh. He succeeded in driving out fear from the hearts of poor and toiling people as the poor of Bhojpur stopped being afraid of the feudal forces.

In a tribute befitting such a hero, the memorial for Master Jagdish and Ramayan Ram was unveiled on 10th December 2012 at Bihiya. People had tried constructing a memorial earlier too but the police were successful in forestalling the move. The land for the memorial, which is now highly priced, was given by Dinesh Musahar. The memorial stands at the very place where they were martyred. 40 years back, when Master Jagdish and Ramayan Ram were returning after ending the life of a cruel and repressive land lord Thana Singh (who used to assault women, play with the lives of poor and controlled the police and administration), the agents of feudal forces raised hue and cry accusing them to be dacoits and thieves and following an attack from the adjacent hamlet of Musahars, they died. They did not use their firearms, which could have saved them, as it was against Party’s rule to open fire on poor and toiling people. Ramayan Ram asked Jagdish Master to scoot, but he would not leave his comrade behind.

Later when the Musahar community learnt who died at their hands they slumped into deep grief. On the 40th martyrdom anniversary, Dinesh Musahar and rest of the community had a sense of pride that the memorial of the people’s heroes stood on land donated by them. At the time of martyrdom Comrade Jagdish was CPI(ML)’s State Committee member. The memorial was inaugurated by Party’s Politburo member and veteran communist Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya. He said that since his martyrdom many governments came to power in Bihar all in the name of the poor. But all have pushed the poor further towards hunger and death. To those whom Nitish Kumar termed mahadalits and lured them with the promise of land, were serviced with poisonous alcohol, land being a hollow promise. The number of deaths of poor is on the rise in Arrah due to alcohol that according to Nitish will bring him excise tax. The people who are dying are poor people for whom Master Jagdish sacrificed his life, and towards whom the rulers are ruthless to date. People who want change therefore must walk the path taken by Master Jagdish. His life has also inspired work of art by pro-people intellectuals. Mahashweta Devi’s “Master Saab” and Madhukar Singh’s “Arjun Jinda Hai” centres around his struggles and life.

The red flag at the smarak (memorial) at Ekwari Village was hoisted by Dinesh Musahar. A public meeting was held at Arrah town bus stand next to where the Smriti Bhavan’s foundation stone was laid. It was addressed by senior Party leaders including Comrade Swadesh.

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