MLIN

July-August 2013

Table of Contents

  1. CPI (ML) appeal for relief funds in Uttarakhand floods
  2. Uttarakhand’s Himalayan Tragedy: Natural Disaster of Man-Made Origin
  3. The Stage Is Set for the Lok Sabha Elections
  4. The Anointment of Modi and Yet another Resignation Drama by Advani
  5. Movement against gender violence enters a new phase in Bengal
  6. Patriarchal and Anti-Dalit Offensive in Tamil Nadu
  7. Black Day Observed Against POSCO
  8. Protests Continue on the Streets of Tinsukia

 

Relief Effort in India

 

CPI (ML) appeal for relief funds in Uttarakhand floods

– Liberation, July, 2013.

Uttarakhand is suffering a calamity of Himalayan proportions, with heavy rains and cloudbursts causing devastating floods. Thousands of lives are likely to have been lost, and thousands remain stranded, deprived of homes, loved ones, and means of livelihood. Communist Part of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI(ML)] shares the grief of the bereaved families.

Activists of CPI(ML) on the ground, especially in the worst-affected Garhwal and Pithoragarh regions, are organising rescue and relief operations, working closely with rescue teams.

We are launching a nationwide campaign for flood relief in Uttarakhand. We appeal to you to make your contributions by cheque/draft in favour of “CPIML”. Please indicate that the donation is for “Uttarakhand Flood Relief”.

Please mail your donations to:

U-90, Shakarpur

Delhi 110 092, India

The tragedy in Uttarakhand today is more man-made than natural, linked directly with the corporate-driven, anti-people model of ‘development’ undertaken in the State, involving indiscriminate deforestation, big dams in ecologically sensitive areas, plunder of natural resources and rampant absence or violation of environment protection laws. The consequences today are being borne by the poorest people in Uttarakhand. In the days to come, CPI(ML) will also seek your support and cooperation in the struggle to ensure that Uttarakhand’s poor receive the compensation and rehabilitation measures that they need, and that immediate steps are taken to reverse the disastrous course of environmental devastation in the name of development.

Contact numbers of comrades organising relief work in Uttarakhand:

Jagat Martoliya: 09411308833

Indresh Maikhuri: 09412120571

CPI(ML)’s Uttarakhand State Secretary Rajendra Pratholi can also be contacted at 09456188623

Uttarakhand Floods

Uttarakhand’s Himalayan Tragedy: Natural Disaster of Man-Made Origin

– Radhika Krishnan, ML Update, June 25 – July 1, 2013.

The unusually high rainfall and flash floods devastating the Uttarakhand region have cost lives that are yet to be fully counted. Thousands of local people, pilgrims and tourists still await rescue even as the heroic rescue efforts by Armed forces, and relief efforts by local people who are putting aside their own adversity to help others in distress, continue. As we go to press, one rescue helicopter has crashed, tragically killing several people including 8 armed forces personnel.

At the same time, India’s ruling class politics has cut a sorry figure, with a sordid drama of one-upmanship. The macho boasts made by Narendra Modi’s spin doctors of ‘rescuing 15000 Gujaratis’ are not only unsubstantiated, they stand in stark contrast to the modesty of those on the ground who are truly risking lives to save people, without unseemly boasts of body-counts. They are also a shameful display of regionalism at a time when people’s concerns for the disaster-affected are overcoming boundaries of states and nations. The helicopter trips by various political ‘VIPs’ and photo ops by Congress and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leaders ‘flagging off’ relief trucks are no less unseemly and shameful.

The inescapable fact of the matter is that both the BJP and the Congress that have ruled Uttarakhand and the Centre are implicated in this disaster. To call it a ‘natural’ disaster is only a half-truth. The unfolding tragedy of Himalayan proportions has been caused by decades of criminal policies of plundering hills and rivers in the name of ‘development’.

Environmentalists and people of Uttarakhand have pointed out time and again that the Himalayas are young mountains, prone to high intensity rainfall events, cloud bursts, flash floods, and landslides. The rivers in the region are silt-laden and capable of great destruction. Yet the model of ‘development’ imposed on the State – riding rough-shod over the struggles of the local people – has been one of hundreds of hydro-electric projects, big dams, illegal sand mining in river beds, deforestation, unregulated tourism, indiscriminate real estate activity and urbanisation on mountainsides and river-beds in the absence of any zoning laws, and indiscriminate blasting of mountains for roadways. All this has happened without any assessment of the carrying capacity of the region’s delicate environment. And all this brutal ravaging has rendered ‘nature’ less able to cope with cloudbursts and rainfall.

Those who have raised environmental concerns have been derided and branded as ‘anti-development.’ Resistance to environmental regulations has been guided, not by the purported concern for local people’s development, but by the powerful public and private sector hydel power and real estate contractors whose interests are threatened by regulations. One glaring fact is the failure to issue a timely warning against the disaster, and the delay in beginning effective rescue operations. In spite of disaster after disaster, India is yet to invest in proper mechanisms to predict disasters and cope with disasters.

The Uttarakhand CM has pooh-poohed the criticisms linking the disaster with the development policy of the State, claiming that all projects commissioned by his predecessor governments as well as in his tenure, enjoyed the approval of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The CM’s claims are belied by the facts. A CAG report has pointed out that Uttarakhand’s disaster management authority formed in 2007 did not hold even a single meeting till date, and had warned that the 53 hydel power projects proposed on the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers would damage the mountains, dry up the riverbeds, and increase chances of flash floods. The CAG report was flouted – and there are now around 680 dams in various stages of commissioning, construction, or planning in Uttarakhand. The CM has claimed that the dams have actually helped to control the floods – but this claim is yet to be substantiated. Instead, there are reports from some areas – such as Srinagar town and Rudraprayag – that release of water from hydropower projects, along with the illegally dumped muck in the river beds resulting in diversion of the river course, contributed to the force of the disaster.

Moreover, the State Government stubbornly refused to learn lessons from past disasters. Just last year, when Uttarkashi witnessed devastation due to flash floods, the State’s Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre report had recommended legislation to “strictly regulate developmental initiatives in close vicinity of streams and rivers.” Needless to say, no steps have been taken in this direction. Similarly, following landslides in Rudraprayag last year, the State’s DMMC had recommended a ban on the use of explosives in the fragile Himalayan terrain for infrastructure developmental works. In spite of this, the use of explosives is rampant. Reports from the ground by CPI(ML) activists indicate that even now, in the midst of the disaster, the Border Roads Organisation is using explosives to clear the roads blocked by landslides. The possibility of the extreme climate events being linked to climate change is also strong – and calls for urgent investigation and corrective action.

While media attention and that of the ruling political class has focused almost exclusively on the pilgrims and tourists, the plight of the people of Uttarakhand has been criminally neglected. Many of the local people working as guides or running shops in the affected areas, agricultural workers, as well as those eking out a living gathering rare herbs and fungi, are yet to be rescued. The numbers of such people missing or killed is yet to be estimated. Their homes and sources of livelihood – cars, transport animals, shops etc – have been washed away. While those pilgrims being rescued are starting to see an end to their ordeal, the local people’s struggle for survival and rehabilitation is just to begin.

Relief and rehabilitation will of course be a priority for people’s movements at this juncture. At the same time, it is equally urgent to struggle to ensure a reversal of the policies that lead to such tragedies in the first place. The State and Central Governments must immediately halt the construction of ongoing hydel power projects and declare a moratorium on new ones, until a comprehensive review of the existing projects and of projected environmental impacts is carried out by an impartial agency. Similarly the use of explosives in construction projects must be stopped, and laws enacted and implemented to regulate constructions in ecologically sensitive areas. The local people must be consulted and their approval taken before initiating any new development project. The only true homage we can pay to the countless people who lost their lives in this tragedy can be to ensure that such a tragedy is never repeated again, and that the right lessons are taken from it.

Politics in India

 

The Stage Is Set for the Lok Sabha Elections

– Liberation, July, 2013.

The stage is almost set for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections and battle lines are nearly drawn. Major parties of the ruling classes – whether ‘national’ parties like the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or the host of regional parties wielding power in various states – are giving finishing touches to their battle plans. The contours of potential pre- or post-poll coalitions have also begun suggesting themselves amidst ongoing political realignments. Several possibilities that were being speculated for quite some time have started taking shape, setting off a chain of rapid political developments.

The only point that now remains to be settled is the schedule – whether elections are to be held ahead of schedule along with the next round of Assembly elections due later this year or we have to wait till early next year when the present Lok Sabha completes its five-year term. Considering the current pace of political developments, it is entirely possible that the Congress may go for elections ahead of the scheduled time.

The BJP has made up its mind to have Modi as its mascot for the coming Lok Sabha elections. The BJP leadership must have anticipated the consequences that followed, like the revolt of Advani and the exit of the JD(U) from the NDA, but the fact that the party still fell for the Modi gamble clearly shows the party’s desperation. Almost all poll surveys have been pointing to the fact that while the Congress is surely losing ground, the BJP is not gaining in proportion. It now remains to be seen whether the Sangh Parivar’s desperate gamble to play the Modi tune to improve the party’s poll prospect pays off or proves counterproductive. Advani and his supporters are openly apprehensive that the BJP’s decision to act in haste in pressing the Modi button may only leave the party with the destiny of repenting at leisure.

As far as the Congress is concerned, the only way the party can really hope to gain or salvage anything is by cornering or isolating the BJP or damaging its prospects. In states where there are multi-corner contests or where the Congress has to contend primarily with non-BJP parties, the Congress has little chances of improving its position. So far, the Congress has been successful in dethroning the BJP in as many as four states, directly in Uttarakhand and Karnataka and indirectly in Jharkhand and Bihar. Unlike the BJP, the Congress also has developed the skill of doing business with mutually opposed parties in several states – like the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh (UP), and now the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Janata Dal (United) [JD(U)] in Bihar, or for that matter, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] in West Bengal.

Between the Congress and the BJP, or a possible UPA-III and NDA-III if you will, hangs the prospect of the mythical ‘third front’. The two traditional pillars of a third front – a sizable non-Congress non-BJP party of the Janata Dal variety and a numerically significant Left bloc – have weakened over the years. While the Janata Dal has been splintered into as many as four parties, the Left bloc has lost in numbers. Moreover, having failed miserably in its 2009 attempt to cobble a ‘third front’, the CPI(M) has now become wary of making another experiment. The new noise of a ‘federal front’ comprising a disparate group of ruling regional parties like the TMC in West Bengal, JD(U) in Bihar and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha is more ‘sound and fury’ with little substance. Of course, with the chances of an NDA-III or a UPA-III looking rather slim at the moment, the rise of a somewhat different post-poll coalition arrangement cannot be ruled out.

With the possibilities of multipolar contests in many states and the Congress, BJP and many ruling regional parties all suffering from serious crisis of credibility, the coming Lok Sabha elections promise to be much more competitive than most of our bourgeois ideologues would like. Of course, the BJP and the Congress would try their level best in the coming days to reduce the election to a pro- and anti-Modi contest. The revolutionary Left must counter this game-plan of the ruling classes with vigorous preparations for a well-organised election campaign that must assert the growing strength of people’s struggles as the most reliable bulwark of resistance against corporate fascism. The determination to roll back the plundering pro-corporate policies and secure greater rights for the deprived and oppressed people must be the defining spirit of Left intervention in the coming electoral battle.

Politics in India

 

The Anointment of Modi and Yet another Resignation Drama by Advani

  • – Liberation, July, 2013.

Mr. Advani has done it again. In the evening of his life, the sulking leader once again resigned from all his posts in the party only to withdraw it the next day at the instance of the RSS. His resignation had come just after the BJP national executive committee in its meeting held in Goa, which Advani had skipped, anointed Narendra Modi the mascot of the party’s forthcoming Lok Sabha poll campaign. Ironically, eleven years ago it was in another BJP executive meeting in Goa where Narendra Modi had managed to save his skin in the wake of the Gujarat genocide and it was none other than LK Advani who had vigorously defended Modi even as the whole country wanted his government dismissed.

This was the third time in last ten years that Advani resigned and then withdrew his resignation, but this time the withdrawal came very swiftly making it clear that Advani had acted in haste and realised that he stood thoroughly isolated in the saffron family. In his resignation letter Advani had levelled serious allegations against the entire crop of current BJP leadership. He had said that the party had deviated entirely from the legacy of its founders like Shyamaprasad Mookherjee, Deen Dayal Upadhyay, Nanaji Deshmukh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, leaders who apparently only thought about the country and the people. The present batch of leaders, Advani alleged, was driven only by personal agendas.

Well, Advani knows it very well that these leaders may have laid the foundation of the BJP and its predecessor Bhartiya Jan Sangh, but it was Advani and Modi who raised the party to its current levels of electoral success – Advani on the national level and Modi in Gujarat. And this success has come not by thinking about the country and the people, but by aggressively pursuing the divisive politics of communalism and unleashing bloodbath, by demolishing the Babri Masjid and orchestrating a veritable genocide in Gujarat.

Now that Advani has withdrawn his resignation as advised by the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat his hypocritical resignation letter will become a forgotten piece of paper. The blog he had written on the day Modi was being anointed in Goa invoking the mythological Mahabharata metaphor of Bhisma Pitamaha sermonising the Pandavas from his bed of arrows will also be lost in the euphoric ‘NaMo-NaMo’ chants of the pro-Modi brigade.

Ironically, in his blog Advani had mentioned a story he had heard in his Karachi schooldays, about Hitler telling Mussolini that the two would have to pay a heavy price after death for all the sins they had committed. Is it a veiled confessional warning for his erstwhile disciple Modi that both of them would have to foot a huge bill in hell? Well, Mussolini and Hitler did not have to wait for the afterlife to pay their bills, both of them met with fitting ends in April 1945. The popular slogan ‘Jo Hitler ki chal chalega, vo Hitler ki maut marega’ captures the sense of relief and justice the world felt when a thoroughly frustrated and defeated Hitler killed himself just two days after Mussolini was assassinated.

In terms of electoral politics beyond Gujarat, Modi is still an untested and unknown factor. We only know that despite his presence the BJP could not avert defeat earlier in Himachal Pradesh and most recently the ignominious rout in Karnataka. The other bit known about Modi is that the Congress too sees him as the best bet for itself – the only factor the party could hope to benefit from in its thoroughly discredited and declining current state is a grand anti-Modi polarisation. Yet the Modi brigade within the BJP and the vocal upwardly mobile middle class support base he seems to enjoy especially in North India are euphoric about the rise of Modi and virtually believe that Modi has already become the Prime Minister! Advani could perhaps be the best person to awaken them to the difference between an aspiring and an actual PM.

Regardless of the electoral future of the BJP/NDA under Modi, it is a fact that Modi has emerged as the most aggressive face of rightwing politics in India. He enjoys the backing of the RSS and the Sangh Parivar, but more importantly he is an organic product of the economics and politics of a neo-liberal policy regime. Advani may be nostalgic about the foundational moorings of the BJP, but there can be no denying the fact that Modi has emerged as the leader of the party that Advani and all other BJS/BJP stalwarts built through the years. India will have to grapple with the rise of this rabid rightwing and the answer to this looming corporate-fascist threat must come from a popular resurgence of the Left and other democratic forces.

Struggles in India

Movement against gender violence enters a new phase in Bengal

– Kasturi, Liberation, July, 2013.

For any movement to reach a point of phase transition where the critical mass shoots up and sparks spread like prairie fire across the society, a few objective conditions must come together. The brutal rapes and murders of young girls and minors in the villages of Kamduni (North 24 Parganas), Gede (Nadia), Gaighata (N 24 Parganas) and Ranitala (Murshidabad) within a fortnight, people’s disenchantment with a thoroughly discredited administration, memories of the uprising of student-youth and women in Delhi on the question of gender violence – all played their part. The final spark came from the defiant and courageous protests led by the villagers of Kamduni, the womenfolk in particular, who stood eye-to-eye with the verbally abusive chief minister of the state and demanded an answer. Just as ‘Aparajita’ (the unvanquished) of Kamduni had become the face of a new phase of protests against gender violence, so did the victim’s friends Tumpa and Mousumi Kayal emerge as faces of Kamduni’s defiance in a matter of days.

India has been witnessing what might be called the third wave (after the Mathura and Manorama uprisings) of a countrywide movement against gender violence and on the question of women’s autonomy and freedom. 16th December 2012, the day when the Delhi student was gang raped and brutally assaulted with iron rods, has been etched in our memories as another black day of the month of December. I still remember the spontaneous outpourings of anger and sadness in a Kolkata rally after the 29th of December when the Delhi brave-heart succumbed to her injuries. That day, people walked hand-in-hand and stormed police barricades in remembrance of Damini or Nirbhaya, as she was named. In fact, West Bengal had been simmering even before Delhi began to boil. The gang rape of a woman in Park Street, in February of last year, followed by a series of denials, cover-ups, blaming and maligning of the victim, transfer of a top police cop who cracked the case, and a series of disgraceful measures and sexist statements by the administration and ruling political party, had whipped up the fury of people who took their demands to the streets. This was followed by several other instances of rapes and gender violence at Jagachha, Katoa, Gurap, Barasat, Satragachi, Shutia, Durgapur, Jadavpur, Rupnarayanpur – to name a few, as if lending live credence to a National Crime Records Bureau report that fetched for Bengal an ignominious top berth in counts of gender violence in the country. On the one hand, while conviction rate for rape in the state lay at an abysmal 11.5% (in comparison to the grim national conviction rate of 26.4%), each time the administration unfailingly resorted to denials and justifications of one sort or the other.

The numerous protests, rallies and citizens’ conventions that took place in Bengal over the period of a year following the Park Street gang rape, had definitely initiated a fresh churning in the society, post regime change of 2011. This was perceptible from conversations on the streets, writings on the wall (literally), newspapers and magazines, or from the direct experience of talking to people while distributing leaflets on the question of gender violence. The media played a considerable role in reporting instances of rapes and other forms of gender violence with regularity. This, coupled with fact-finding reports from grassroots activists and groups, ensured that facts could no longer be hidden from the public. The media did a fairly sensible job in highlighting sexist and misogynist remarks made by men and women in public office, which became rallying points for activists to hold the administration and certain elected representatives guilty of justifying and abetting crimes against women.

The Rape and Murder at Kamduni

On the 8th of June, a 20-year old student was gang raped and brutally murdered in Kamduni, a village of Barasat in the North 24 Parganas, when she was returning home from college. It was revealed that the accused were habitual offenders and their regular crimes against women in the area, including harassment, stalking and threatening, were widely known and had been reported to the police by the local people in general, and the victim’s father in particular. It was also alleged by the local people that the chief accused who led the criminals was a Trinamool Congress foot-soldier. Hence the police’s sitting on the earlier complaints did not come as a surprise. Like numerous past instances, it exposed once again the openly operative criminal-police nexus and political patronage enjoyed by rapists and molesters, that has brought shame and disgrace to Barasat over and over again.

When food minister Jyotipriya Mullick turned up in the aftermath, he was driven away by the people of Kamduni. Mr. Mullick displayed the audacity to keep mum on the continued police inaction and abysmal failure of the law and order machinery but had the temerity to offer a job to the victim’s brother as ‘compensation’! This further enraged the villagers who identified and shamed this as an attempt of a political gimmick on the eve of the panchayat polls, and the victim’s brother scornfully rejected the minister’s ‘offer’. A number of activist groups, women’s organizations, and civil society members have since visited Kamduni to express their solidarity with the village folks. A group of 22 theatre activists and student activists walked a 52 km padayatra (march) from Kolkata’s Academy of Fine Arts to Kamduni, and met with the victim’s family and her neighbours. The villagers kept vigil and welcomed the solidarity of the activists. Rallies, protest meetings, and street corner meetings were held at Barasat, Chinsura, Shibdaspur, and rural and urban areas of different districts, besides Kolkata, where it was perhaps the most televised. Several groups submitted memoranda and petitions registering their condemnation and demanding immediate redressal of the scenario. The Barasat Police Station was gheraoed and roads blockaded in spontaneous protests. A public interst litigation (PIL) was filed at the Calcutta High Court demanding a special probe.

A deafening 10 days after the rape-murder, the Chief Minister (CM) Mamata Banerjee visited Kamduni under mounting public pressure. On being confronted by women protesters, some of whom were the victim’s classmates and friends, she snapped and indulged in bullying and verbal abuse, with her convoy leaving the village in a hurry after having labeled the women as ‘Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] cadres’ and having identified ‘Maoist outsiders’ who were supposedly orchestrating the protests. Mamata Banerjee even made a dramatic allegation of CPI(M)-assisted villagers trying to assassinate her, while paramilitary troops and police personnel paraded and guarded the village before and during the CM’s whirlwind visit. The CM’s shameful conduct, followed by threats from Trinamool Congress Panchayat representatives (who went door to door looking for the women protesters and demanding that they apologize publicly for having argued with ‘Didi’), and Trinamool Congress’s bizarre attempts to assuage discontent by arranging free Khichri meals and a game of football in the village, were all rejected and condemned by the people of Kamduni.

One might wonder how things came to such a pass in Barasat? It was not long back when Kakali Ghosh Dastidar, the current Trinamool MP from Barasat, had gone public denying and dismissing the Park Street rape attack as a ‘deal gone wrong between a sex-worker and her clients’. The ruling party member of legislative assembly (MLA) from Barasat, one Mr. Chiranjit Chakraborty, on the other hand, had advised women to dress with modesty to avoid being attacked. Such overt justifications of gender violence, defense of criminals and denials of crimes against women by the ruling political class coupled with inaction of the police has thus ensured that rape culture prevails and thrives in Barasat. And most often it is the working class and lower middle class people who face the ugliest attacks, like it was in this particular case, where the victim was the first-generation college-goer in a working class family struggling to make ends meet.

Brutalized women lead heroic protests against Gender Violence

The protests over the Park Street rape have come a full circle after a year and four months. “Why should I hide my identity when it was not even my fault? Why should I be ashamed of something that I did not give rise to? I was subjected to brutality, I was subjected to torture, and I was subjected to rape, and I am fighting and I will fight,” said 38-year old Suzette Jordan, after she came out in the open with her identity and walked a rally with Maitree, a network of several women’s organizations. Suzette refuses to remain nameless, faceless or just tagged as the ‘Park Street sexual assault victim’ in the face of the recent rape-murders of young girls. “I could no longer sit back and watch what was happening, the monstrosity that has been perpetrated,” she said. Suzette has been fighting not only rape but also the covert and overt threats and sexist blame game thrown her way by the powers that be. I remember, the All India Progressive Women’s Association had invited her as a speaker for a citizen’s convention against gender violence held on the 12th of September last year, when she sent her support but was unable to make it in the last minute, being subjected to a lot of pressure from various quarters. We salute her brave fight, exemplary courage and resolve as she leads the protests on the streets today.

Like Suzette, the rape survivor of Jagachha and her sister Selina Khatun have been battling rape and its aftermath with a steel resolve. Selina has been a tireless crusader, fighting for justice for Sakina, a domestic worker who was raped at Jagachha in July 2012. Selina has been taking off from work, and traveling to conventions and protest meets to share her sister’s harrowing experience at the police station – while trying to get her complaint registered, to continuing intimidation in the guise of interrogation of the victim while the culprit remained at large for more than a year (he was caught only a couple of weeks back). Her appeal to all people to come together and her compelling words stressing the need for working women to get organized and collectively combat the ongoing sexual violence, still ring in my ears.

The protests in Kolkata culminated in a citizen’s rally against rape on the 21st of June, where an estimated 10,000 people walked from College Square to Esplanade. The march was called by poet Sankho Ghosh and others who urged people to join without organizational banners. About 60 villagers of Kamduni, including women, led the march. Students from Derozio College, where ‘Aparajita’ was a student, also joined the rally. There was enthusiastic participation by villagers from Gede, and a delegation of the Pratibadi Mancha of Sutia, including rape survivors. This unprecedented participation of women who were victims themselves, shedding off the stigma associated with rape and leading protest rallies against gender violence has distinguished and glorified the recent phase of uprisings.

A spectrum of voices

One can only attempt to summarize the myriad experiences in the numerous protest marches and meetings that took place in Kolkata, as a renewed round of churning shook the society’s conscience to the core. The coming together of people from all walks of life – villagers, theater activists, student-youth and women activists, citizens’ organizations, government employees, LGBT groups, local forums against gender violence, and mass mobilizations by political parties and their mass organizations to reclaim the streets has characterized the movement. The societal churning has also stirred up sharp debates. While certain voices still clamour for the death penalty for rapists, there are voices against the death penalty arguing convincingly for harsh and swift punishment of perpetrators and pushing for a 100% conviction rate. A street corner meeting in College Street on the 13th of June stirred up a debate on how far the commodification of women in commercials can be held responsible for rape, and another exchange forcefully busted the myths that portray rape as a crime of desire. Live debates addressed the slippery slope between fighting commodification and issuing dress diktats by public figures. In one of the rallies, alongside students walking with posters against patriarchy and gender violence walked a young woman with a message reclaiming a woman’s autonomy over her body and decisions ‘Pink or Brown/Not your choice/My nipples are mine/Just like my voice’. The state-sponsored rapes and rape-murders, custodial rapes and rape as an instrument of communal and casteist violence were invoked in slogans and placards – with calls for justice for Soni Sori, Kunan Poshpora, Manipur, Tapasi Malik, the women of Nandigram, the women of Gujarat, or the women of Bathani Tola.

Although the grim instances of rape do not seem to get arrested, this is not a moment of despair or resignation, but one of hope that an entire spectrum of fragmented solidarity will snowball and crystallize into a mass uprising against gender violence.

Struggles in India

 

Patriarchal and Anti-Dalit Offensive in Tamil Nadu

– Kavita Krishnan (with inputs from Bhuvana), Liberation, July, 2013.

For the past few months, Tamil Nadu has been witnessing an orchestrated political offensive against the rights of Dalits. There have been several instances of mob violence against Dalits, including the attack on Dalit colonies in Dharmapuri district in November 2012 and the attack on a Dalit colony in Marakkanam in April 2013. Along with the physical assault, however, the present offensive against Dalits is marked by an ideological offensive against inter-caste marriage, specifically, marriage of non-Dalit women with Dalit men, and against the supposed ‘misuse’ of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act by Dalits. The offensive underlines the inseparable relationship between casteism and patriarchy: the control of women’s freedom and sexual/marital choices is a crucial element in maintaining the caste hierarchy. It is no coincidence that the attacks on the rights and freedom of Dalits are accompanied by attacks on the rights and freedom of women.

The Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) is the party that has been spearheading the ongoing offensive. The PMK is a party with a base primarily among the backward Vanniar caste. The PMK hopes that by whipping up frenzy against inter-caste marriage and Dalits, it can consolidate the Vanniar community (whose loyalties are currently scattered across various parties) and forge a broader ‘backward’ alliance, making inroads into the base of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).

In November 2012, the attack on Dalits in Dharmapuri was orchestrated on the pretext of the marriage of a Vanniar woman Divya with a Dalit man Elavarasan. A kangaroo court of the backward castes was held which demanded that the couple separate. In a planned move, politically motivated men from the Vanniar community taunted Divya’s father until, egged on by them, he committed suicide. His funeral procession was promptly used to launch the attack on the Dalit Natham colony. 350 Dalit homes were looted and then torched, forcing the Dalits to flee to the forest. Schoolbags, books, and cycles of school-going children were burnt – sending the clear message that Dalits should not aspire to education. The social mobility and prosperity of the Dalits was the target.

The role of the police in the Dharmapuri incident reeked of bias. The police refrained from acting or getting additional force to the spot for four full hours. The SP of the district was the same officer who headed the Madurai police at the time of the Paramakudi massacre of Dalits.

It has been pointed out that inter-caste marriages are fairly common in the region. Tamil Nadu is the land of Periyar who had vocally advocated inter-caste marriages and women’s freedom. The marriage of Divya and Elavarasan was therefore not a ‘spontaneous’ trigger of caste violence. Some months before the incident, local PMK MLA Kaduvetti J Guru, who heads the Vanniyar Sangam had publicly warned that Dalit men who married Vanniar women would have their hands and heads chopped off. Clearly, there was a premeditated campaign against Dalits and women’s rights, predating the actual marriage.

After the Dharmapuri incident, PMK founder S Ramadoss said of Dalit youth, “They wear jeans, T-shirts and fancy sunglasses to lure girls from other communities,” alleging that backward caste women who married Dalit men subsequently suffered desertion, exploitation and harassment. He advocated “Keeping a vigil on girls and ensuring that they do not fall prey to love is the duty of parents and elders in the family as well as community”, and raising of the age of marriage for women to 21!

Several months later, in April 2013, the PMK had given a call for a Vanniar rally at Mahabalipuram celebrating the Chiththirai (1st month of the Tamil New Year) full moon day festival. Vanniars from all over North Tamil Nadu were mobilized in a charged atmosphere, and there was a planned attack on a Dalit colony in Marakkanam en route to Mahabalipuram. Again, Dalit homes were torched, again the police did not act in any preventive way to protect the Dalits, though there was a clear danger that such violence might occur. In fact, the police arrived on the spot two hours after the attack began. The destruction would have been much greater but for the fact that Dalit youth organized to resist the violence, holding a road blockade.

The AIADMK Government headed by Jayalalithaa has taken a posture of opposition to the PMK’s anti-Dalit campaign, with senior PMK leaders being arrested and booked in cases following the Marakkanam attack. But this posture is very superficial. The Government has failed to acknowledge its own complicity in failing to provide protection to the Dalits both at Dharmapuri and Marakkanam, and in the collusion of the police force in allowing the mobs to commit carnage without any interference. For a whole year, the PMK carried out its aggressive anti-Dalit mobilization and provocative speeches, and yet the Government failed to take adequate protective measures for Dalits even when a massive PMK rally was to take place.

The entire episode also highlighted the superficiality of ‘Tamil nationalist’ and Dravidian politics in Tamil Nadu, which is marked by empty symbolism, opportunism, and a lack of grounding in any firm democratic commitment. The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi-VCK (Liberation Panthers Party) headed by Thol Thirumavalavan is projecting itself as the champion of the Dalit cause against the PMK offensive. But till recently, the VCK and the PMK were closely allied with each other, with S Ramadoss garlanding Amkedkar statues, and the VCK conferring honorific titles of ‘Tamil Kudithaangi’ (Upholder of the Tamil People) and ‘Ambedkar Sudar’ (Ambedkar Flame) on Dr. Ramadoss. On the question of women’s rights and freedom, none of Tamil Nadu’s Dravidian parties – DMK, AIADMK – or the VCK or PMK – acknowledge the radical writings of Periyar on the subject. Rather, their rhetoric is full of imagery of the ‘Tamil Mother’ and chaste Tamil femininity. Hearing them, one would never guess that Periyar, the founding figure of the Dravidian movement, earthily denounced the very notion of chastity as a feminine virtue, and argued vehemently for women’s complete sexual freedom as well as freedom from the compulsions of motherhood and domestic drudgery.

The unhappy postscript to the Dharmapuri incident is that Divya has told the High Court that she wishes to separate from her husband Elavarasan. In spite of the pressure, however, she made no allegations or complaints against him. She declared that he was a good man, but that the situation had made it impossible for her to continue in the marriage. She sought to live with her mother for the time being.

Dharmapuri used to be a Naxalite stronghold some 30 years ago. The village where the incident occurred is one where the statues of CPI(ML) leaders Appu and Balan still hold pride of place. The fact that vested interests are able to whip up sentiment against inter-caste marriage and Dalits in such a village is testimony to the social consequences of the repression and decline of the revolutionary Left movement. It is also a reminder for us in the revolutionary Left movement, of how the agenda of challenging the structures of caste and gender oppression is as much part of the struggle as issues of wages and land for the landless poor.

Struggles in India

 

Black Day Observed Against POSCO

– Liberation, July, 2013.

On 22nd June, a Protest Day was held by four Left parties, the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI(ML)] Liberation, CPI (ML), CPI(ML)ND and Socialist Unity Center (SUCI) Communist (C) throughout Odisha, demanding to scrap the POSCO project and withdrawal of all police cases against the anti-POSCO farmers.

The protest day was observed at Bhubaneswar, Angul, Berhampur, Rayagada , Kendrapara, Bhadrak and at the POSCO project sites at Patna and Govindpur areas. This is the first time the protest was organized as a black day in different places.

A big rally of about 500 protesters started from Bhubaneswar railway station to Odisha Vidhan Sabha Marg, raising slogans against corporate land grab and police atrocities, and against the Naveen Patnaik and Manmohan Singh Governments.

The meeting was addressed by Comrade Radhakanta Sethi, State Committee member of the CPI(ML) Liberation and the meeting was presided by Comrade Yudhistir Mohapatra, CCM of CPI(ML) Liberation, Comrade Sivram of CPI(ML) and Comrade Santosh Rath of SUCI spoke, declaring that the Naveen Government was acting as MNC agent in the state. All speakers congratulated the anti-POSCO movement on completing 8 years of heroic struggle.

Struggles in India

 

Protests Continue on the Streets of Tinsukia

– Liberation, July, 2013.

Since the assassination of Comrade Gangaram Koul, on 25th March 2013, not a single day has passed without protests in the Tinsukia district and Assam, demanding the arrest of the accused, all of whom are Congress leaders, the prime accused among them being Mr. Raju Sahu – one of the Parliamentary Secretaries and an Member Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Chabua Legislative Assembly Constituency and also a member of the faction within the Congress that is opposed to the Chief Minister of Assam.

On 12th June 2000 protesters took part in a street march in Tinsukia, and slogans of ‘Arrest Raju Sahu immediately, Tarun Gogoi Down Down, Oust Tarun Gogoi to Save Democracy, to Save Assam, Down with Gogoi’s killers’ Raj and Mafiadom’ reverberated in the air.

The march, which started from the Durgabari Hall, Tinsukia was led by Comrade Subhas Sen, Rubul Sharma, Vivek Das, Arup Mahanta, Shubhrajyoti Bardhan, Balindra Saikia, Haripada Sarkar, Shikha Das, Gangaram Koul’s life-partner Shakeela Munda, Subhas Singh, Pawan Majhi, Gobin Proja, Sunil Tanti, Govinda Namashudra, Chandan Handique,(Brihattar Asamiya Juba Manch) and others. The march became a road-blockade that lasted for more than an hour at Tinsukia, the busiest spot of the town. The protesters, braving the scorching heat, demanded that the District Commissioner come to the spot of the road blockade to accept the memorandum addressed to the Governor of Assam. At this spot the effigy of Raju Sahu was burnt. Then the marchers pushed in though the main gate of the Circle Office (S.D.C.) who accepted the memorandum. Inside the complex of the Circle Office, a protest meeting was held which was addressed by Comrades Subhas Sen and party State Secretary Bibek Das. The processionists then again marched back to the Durgabari Hall where a mass meeting was held which was presided over by Comrade Harendra Nath Borthakur – the veteran CPI (ML )member and the President of the Sodou Asom Janasangskritik Parishad.

A Souvenir named “Uttaran” (Transformation) in memory of Comrade Koul was released by noted intellectualual and economist Dr. Jyoti Prasad Chatiha, and party Polit Bureau member Rubul Sharma, State Secretary Bibek Das, Shakeela Munda, Raju Bhumij, Gobin Proja, Bojen Konwar and others addressed the gathering. Comrade Balindra Saikia Sang a popular song composed by Comrade Bibek Das depicting the arduous life of tea workers and a Jhumair song was also sung by Shri Suman Tanti. The leaders gave a call to the gathering to come in large numbers to join CPI (ML) to take Comrade Koul’s struggles forward. A resolution was passed in the house asking the Govt. to arrest Raju Sahu by the 15th of August (Independence Day) 2013 or the people will have the right to gherao Raju Sahu when and where he will be available after that date, and administer a fitting punishment.

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