September-October 2013

 

Table of Contents

  1. Independence Day 2013: Rhetoric versus Reality
  2. Food Security’ Still a Far Cry
  3. UPA Government: Stop Appeasing US Bosses!
  4. Reminder of Unfreedom on Independence Day: Atrocity On Dalits In Bihar
  5. Convention Held To Commemorate the Centenary of the Ghadar Movement
  6. Rape Culture Rears Its Ugly Head Again
  7. All India Students Union (AISA) Holds Historic Referendum in Delhi University
  8. Be Alert to Rebuff Communal Violence

Politics in India

Independence Day 2013: Rhetoric versus Reality

– Liberation, September, 2013.

August 15, 2013 marked the 66th anniversary of India’s Independence. For the rulers, the Independence Day has always been an occasion to revel in self-congratulatory eloquence seeking to give a sweet coating to the harsh reality experienced by the people at large. While the President traditionally presents a statesman-like view from above in his Independence Day eve address, the Prime Minister uses his speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort to beat his government’s drum. 2013 has been no different except that this year we had the Gujarat CM throwing his hat into the ring hoping that his rhetorical counterpoint would catapult him from his blood-stained provincial throne to the coveted seat of central power.

In his Independence Day eve address this year, President Pranab Mukherjee did touch upon some of the problems ailing the country, but he had no solution to the problems other than the worn-out plea to the people to utilise the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections to elect a stable government. This was a throwback to the old Indira era even as it sounded anachronistic in a situation where the two dominant ruling class coalitions are projected to finish around hundred seats short of the majority mark. Perhaps this was the President’s way of responding to the pre-poll surveys predicting a hung Parliament. Interestingly enough, Narendra Modi seems to believe that the call for a strong and stable government could benefit the BJP rather than the Congress and he was prompt to laud the President’s address while rubbishing the Prime Minister’s speech.

Manmohan Singh’s speech this year dealt more with the history of the legacy of Nehru, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi – a clear pointer to the fact that the government is desperately trying to run away from owning up its responsibility for the current crisis. Perhaps it also reflected his premonition that the days of his government are numbered and hence the attempt to put his government in historical context. Of course he did not shy away from tomtomming his government’s so-called record of ‘growth’ and ‘empowerment’ even as the country reels under an explosive economic crisis and democracy is daily defrauded by an increasingly repressive and intrusive state.

The Indian rupee that stood equal to the American dollar in 1947 has plummeted to an alarming Rs 64 to a dollar, leaving the country clueless as to how it could repay foreign debts or foot the import bill. But the ‘solution’ peddled by our rulers is to subject the country to still greater external dependence, leaving us ‘free’ only to survive at the mercy of foreign capital and its domestic collaborators. The current policy regime of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation had been launched in 1991 in the name of saving India from economic crisis, but after two decades of blind pursuit of that policy trajectory India now finds herself in the grip of a still more severe economic ruin. It has been a disastrous jump from the frying pan to fire.

If the Congress is busy appeasing the American bosses by mortgaging the economy, Modi believes he can overtake the Congress by flexing muscles against Pakistan. Appeasement of America and war-mongering against Pakistan remain the two cardinal principles of bourgeois nationalism in India and the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is once again trying its best to whip up a jingoistic frenzy against Pakistan. In the name of avenging the killing of Indian soldiers on the Line of Control (LoC), the BJP would like to aggravate the incidents of violation of ceasefire on the LoC into yet another full-scale war with our western neighbour. Sixty-six years ago ‘Independence’ had come to the subcontinent soaked in communal bloodbath and bifurcation of the country. It was a disaster that badly affected both India and Pakistan and the two countries have had to pay a heavy price for this tragedy in innumerable ways. Today while the majority of the people in India and Pakistan want to move on as friendly neighbours committed to bilateral peace and partnership, the BJP is desperate to perpetuate the legacy of mutual distrust and war.

The competitive ‘big power’ rhetoric of the ruling classes cannot however suppress the fact that for vast sections of the Indian people everyday reality remains one of unfreedom. And this bitter truth was once again revealed most shockingly on this year’s Independence Day in a Bihar village. In Baddi village of Shivsagar block in Rohtas district an elderly dalit resident Vilas Ram was beaten to death, several injured, two dalit houses torched, a Ravidas temple vandalised and the statue of Ravidas disfigured by an armed mob of upper caste feudal gentry – all in broad daylight while Independence Day celebration programmes were underway across the country.

The armed mob wanted to get rid of the Ravidas temple and usurp the land and they chose the temple complex to hoist the tricolour. Vilas Ram and some other people from the dalit hamlet of Baddi protested against this move and this was ‘instigation’ enough for the armed mob to go berserk. Incidentally the local police outpost is quite nearby and the village comes under high profile Lok Sabha constituency Sasaram that is currently represented by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and was the traditional seat of her father and well-known dalit face of the Congress, Babu Jag Jivan Ram.

India cannot be misled by Manmohan Singh’s false assurances or Modi’s fascist rhetoric. The country must wake up to the grim reality of economic and environmental crisis that has been imposed on us by the ruling classes and the lack of freedom that still vitiates the social existence of millions of Indians. The reality of people’s movement for change must prevail over the rulers’ rhetoric of deception.

Politics in India

Food Security’ Still a Far Cry

– Liberation, September, 2013.

As we go to press, the National Food Security Bill (NFSB) 2013 (promulgated as an ordinance on 5th July on the eve of the monsoon session to circumvent debate) has been tabled in Parliament, and the Government is keen to be able to pass it in the monsoon session. The ordinance, and the Bill in its present shape, however, are very far from ensuring food security and freedom from hunger.

The Bill continues with the system of ‘Targeted PDS (Public Distribution System)’. In practice, ‘targeting’ has meant exclusion of the poor. Targeting should be seen in the backdrop of UPA Government’s claims of having ‘reduced poverty’ and its stubbornness in sticking to inhuman definitions of poverty. With the prices of basics touching the sky, the vast majority of India’s people face difficulties ensuring basic nutritional needs. The NFSB 2013 will exclude 33% of the people from availing of the PDS as a right. Universal coverage excluding only the very rich, is the only way to ensure that the needy get food as a right.

The Bill doesn’t even ensure the proverbial ‘do vakt ki roti’ (two square meals a day). The entitlement provided in the Bill is 5 kgs of food grain per person per month, which comes to 166 grams per person per day. This could barely ensure 2 rotis per day. According to the ICMR norms, the minimum nutritional requirement is 14 kgs per month for an adult and 7 kgs per month for a child. So the NFSB is actually providing to adults, less than the minimum requirement for a child!

Further, the question arises: doesn’t ‘Food Security’ require nutritional requirements beyond cereals? What about pulses, edible oil? The NFSB 2013 sticks strictly to cereals alone. A minimum of 2.5 kgs of dal and 900 gms of edible oil should be guaranteed.

The NFSB 2013 promises to provide grains at subsidized prices (millets at Re1, wheat at Rs 2 and rice at Rs 3) only for a period of 3 years! Subsequently, prices could be raised up to the MSP. This is a fraud in the name of food security. The subsidized rates ought to be protected for at least a decade before any amendments.

The NFSB 2013 provides no income guarantees and higher MSP for farmers. It allows for the back door entry of cash transfers – as part of PDS reforms “such as cash transfer, food coupons…to the targeted beneficiaries in lieu of their foodgrain entitlements”, and as a ‘food security allowance’ in case food rations are not available. Cash transfers or any such substitute for food rations would completely mock at the idea of food security, and would mark a move away from government procurement from farmers.

The NFSB also seeks to make ration provisions conditional on possession of the Aadhaar/UID card. This stipulation is dangerous. For one, the experience with Aadhaar has proved dismal, and in no way has it served as a credible proof of identity. People have even got Aadhaar cards with pictures of trees and animals. Moreover, Aadhaar continues to be discredited because it lacks legal basis, and has the potential for misuse of personal details for corporate interests and surveillance purposes.

The NFSB also tries to smuggle in private contractors and corporate interests in the ICDS food supply, by specifying ‘Energy Dense Food fortified with micronutrients as per 50 per cent of Recommended Dietary Allowance’ in Note-1 in Schedule-II of the Bill. This will mean that ordinary locals will be deemed unfit to ensure nutritional standards of the ICDS meal, and instead corporations will be ushered in! The entry of corporations and private players should be prohibited and there should be explicit emphasis on decentralized, local production of meals.

The NFSB still leaves room for maternal entitlements to linked to the two-child norm, implying that mothers will not get their rights when they have more than two children. This would be highly discriminatory and anti-women.

The NFSB has no provisions for special entitlements for the sections of the people who are most vulnerable to starvation: the homeless, destitute, migrants, single women, disabled people, and the elderly. It has no protocol for monitoring hunger and starvation. Community kitchens for the homeless and destitute, and special provisions for the starvation prone areas are a must.

Strangely, the Bill states that food security provisions can be suspended in case of natural calamity or war – the very situations in which people are more vulnerable to hunger, and expanded coverage is called for! The Bill says that the “Centre …or State Government shall be liable for a claim by any person entitled under’ it, ‘except in the cse of war, flood, drought, fire, cyclone or earthquake affecting the regular supply of foodgrains or meals.”

The NFSB’s grievance redress mechanism is weak. Panchayat/block level grievance redress mechanism that is empowered to punish erring officials is a must.

Passing the NFSB 2013 in this form can only be a mockery of the very idea of food security. Instead, it amounts to a pretentiously tokenist measure by the UPA Government to make electoral capital of the chronic problem of mass hunger, with an eye on the 2014 polls..

Politics in India

UPA Government: Stop Appeasing US Bosses!

– Liberation, September, 2013.

With an eye on the Lok Sabha polls, the government is working overtime to appease the American bosses hoping to impress the angry Indian electorate with an American certificate of ‘good conduct and excellent performance’. With the exchange value of the Indian rupee nose-diving to 60 per dollar, India’s import bill is becoming increasingly unmanageable. Short-term compulsions of debt repayment are also exerting great pressure on India’s forex reserves. It was a similar scenario in early 1990s that led the Indian policy establishment to opt for the neoliberal package of liberalization, privatization and globalization. And after twenty-two years as the Indian economy finds itself in a deeper mess, Indian policymakers can think of no other course but to extend still greater concessions to global capital.

As elections draw nearer and the shadow of economic crisis grows darker and longer, frantic parleys are on between key architects of the Indian policy establishment and their American counterparts. Just as Chidambaram, Anand Sharma and Montek Singh Ahluwalia returned from their appeasement mission to the US, there came the announcement of an across-the-board hike in FDI limits in a dozen sectors of strategic importance including telecommunications, insurance and defence. This has of course made the US establishment hungry for more, as became glaringly evident from the wish list presented by US Vice-President Joe Biden during his recent visit to India. Biden’s visit was preceded by the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry and will be followed by another Manmohan-Obama meet in Washington later this year.

The Congress had signed the Indo-US strategic partnership and the subsequent nuclear deal during its first tenure. Before the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, it now seeks to push the country deeper into the policy trap laid by the US. Biden’s wish list gives us an idea of the kind of concessions the Americans are demanding and the Congress may well end up extending. The US wants not only greater FDI concessions in every sector but a lenient tax regime and still greater Indian reliance on American imports. In particular, the US wants India to completely open up the insurance sector, accept the intellectual property right claims of US pharmaceutical companies and weaken, if not altogether waive, the liability clause in civilian nuclear trade. The US-India Business Council has also written to President Barack Obama complaining about India’s ‘archaic laws in land acquisition’.

Economic interests apart, the US wants assured Indian assistance in implementing its AfPak policy. As the US and its NATO allies contemplate ‘withdrawal’ of their combat forces from Afghanistan by 2014, the US wants India to step in and fill the void. Indian involvement in Afghanistan in compliance with the US game-plan is fraught with dangerous consequences. It will make India an automatic target of Taliban resistance and terrorist attacks. And it will invariably open up another front of tension and possible conflict with Pakistan. It is one thing for India to extend assistance to Afghanistan within a framework of bilateral as well as South Asian cooperation, but India footing the economic, political and military bill of US design in Afghanistan is a completely different proposition.

The pro-corporate pro-US policies pursued by successive governments over the last two decades have already landed India into a deep economic and foreign policy crisis. The frantic election-eve measures now being taken by the UPA government can only aggravate the crisis. The country must resist these disastrous moves tooth and nail and get ready to vote out the discredited UPA government along with its entire policy baggage.

Struggles in India

Reminder of Unfreedom on Independence Day: Atrocity On Dalits In Bihar

  • Liberation, September, 2013.

For Dalits in India, freedom is still a far cry. The atrocity perpetrated on Dalits in a Bihar dalit hamlet on Independence Day this year brings home this stark reality. A Fact-finding Report by a Communits Party of India Marxist Leninist [CPI(ML)] team comprising All India Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM) General Secretary Rajaram Singh and Arun Singh, former Member Legislative Assembly (MLA) from the Karakat assembly constituency, follows.

The Background

Baddi village, in Shivsagar block of Rohtas district, about 15 kilometres from Sasaram, has about 80 Mahadalit (Ravidas) homes, and 100 Rajput homes. A paved road leads to the village, one fork towards the Dalit tola (hamlet) and one towards the Rajput tola. Near the Dalit tola, on the roadside, is a two-storey temple dedicated to Sant Ravidas, after whom the community is named.

In June this year, an idol of Ravidas was installed in the temple; before this, the Dalits used to worship a photograph. The Dalits had collected Rs 1.5 lakh to install a marble idol instead. The Sant Ravidas temple is, undoubtedly, a symbol of the Dalit community and its sense of identity.

The Ravidas temple standing at such a prominent place in the village was resented by the powerful upper castes in the village. For quite a while, they had been trying to wrest control of the land on which the temple stood. And the pretext for doing so was that they sought to replace the Ravidas temple and idol with one of the freedom movement martyr Nishan Singh. Nishan Singh, a Rajput landowner of the same village, had been active in the 1857 First War of Independence and had been executed by the British. When Nishan Singh’s descendants had sought to install his statue on the same piece of land where the Ravidas temple stood, the Dalits had argued that these descendants already owned quite a bit of land, while the Dalits could only use gair mazarua-public land. There was another plot of land at a short distance that was available for a statue of the freedom fighter. Why distort and diminish the stature of the freedom fighter and martyr to that of a symbol of anti-dalit feudal dominance, by pitting his statue against the temple of the Dalit saint? A couple of days before 15th August, the Dalit villagers had informed the Baddi police outpost and the Superintendent of Police (SP) too, of the impending attempts to forcibly grab the land on which the temple stood, on the pretext of installing a statue of Nishan Singh.

The Incident

It was the practice, at 8 am on Independence Day every year, for the Dalits to hoist the tricolour flag at the flagpole near the temple. This year, the Bihar chief minister (CM) Nitish Kumar had ordered that the tricolor be hoisted officially in all Mahadalit tolas, and so the Baddi Dalits were expected to wait for the Block Development Officer (BDO) to hoist the flag. The BDO had told the Dalits that he would come at 10 am. At 8 am, however, the Rajputs came, and on the pretext of hoisting the national flag, began digging to install the statue of Nishan Singh. The Dalits spotted this, and gathered to protest, realizing that if the statue were installed there, it would mean the loss of their control over the plot of land and the temple. They informed the police, and the digging stopped.

The Rajputs went to the police outpost, and sat there for some time. Then, clearly with the blessings of the local police, they returned at around 9 am, armed to the teeth, to attack the Dalit tola and temple with firearms and iron rods. Vilas Ram was dragged off, badly beaten, and shot dead. Women, children, and elderly folk were brutally thrashed with iron rods. A seven-year-old boy was flung from the roof of the temple. The heavy iron gate to the Ravidas temple was broken, the temple set on fire, and the hand of the idol broken. Two Dalit homes were burnt down, with all their belongings. Two teenage schoolgirls were being dragged off by the assailants, but their schoolteachers intervened to rescue them. The water pump and solar light were vandalized.

The Superintendent of Police (SP) had been called when the attack began, and he arrived at Baddi one and a half hours after the attack began. His arrival averted an even bigger massacre. However, there has been an obvious attempt to cover up the atrocity, and the collusion of the local police outpost with the assailants. The BDO had the idol and various blood stains cleaned up, thereby destroying important evidence. Around 40 people were injured badly enough to require hospitalization; some of them were taken to hospital in Sasaram, and 12 of them who were seriously injured were admitted in Patna.

Feudal Assertion in the Shahabad Region

The Shahabad belt of Bihar, especially the Rohtas district, have witnessed a bid at feudal reassertion during the Nitish Kumar tenure. Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI(ML)]’s Rohtas Secretary Bhaiyyaram Yadav was killed last year by feudal forces when he protested against the rape of a dalit girl child. A week before the Baddi incident, there was another instance of feudal violence in Karakat block of Rohtas district, that underlines the feudal backlash against any sign of independence from feudal bondage on part of the agricultural labourers from the oppressed castes.

On 7th August, Geeta Devi, a woman labourer from the Kahar caste (an extremely backward caste) in Raghunathpur village was approached by Sunil Mishra, a local lumpen, to work at sowing (ropni) in his field. She told him she had already committed her time for both halves of the day, and even taken advance payment from the two employers. She assured him that she would do the sowing in his field the next day. When she was on her way to work, he abused her and ran to attack her. Other women labourers saved her from his attack. At 3 pm, when she and other members of her household were away at work, Mishra used a JCB machine to destroy the cattle-feeding trough at Geeta Devi’s home. At 7 pm, she returned and was sitting at her doorstep, when Mishra came and dragged her off. Hearing her cries for help, her father-in-law came out of the house. Mishra shot him, and beat him savagely with a lathi when he fell. Several other men – Munna Kahar, Hari Kahar, and Ravindra Kahar were also beaten up when they came to the rescue. CPI(ML) leader and former MLA Comrade Arun Singh visited the village, and the party organized a protest. An FIR was lodged, but as we go to press, no arrest has yet taken place, weeks after the incident. The CPI(ML) will hold a protest meeting in the village on 29th August.

Conclusions:

The incident shows that in today’s Bihar, where the CM is being hailed by the corporate media for having ‘changed the subject’ of feudal upper caste violence and ushered in an era of progress, feudal forces actually feel emboldened. The subject is far from changed. The simple freedom of a woman labourer to choose in whose field she will work (even though she is inevitably paid less than the minimum wage and less than men for the same work), is intolerable for the feudal lumpens who seek to punish her for this.

In the Baddi incident, it is significant that the forces of upper caste feudal reaction chose to cloak themselves in the garb of nationalism. The Dalit symbol of Sant Ravidas, like the statue of Dr Ambedkar in other parts of the country, is targeted for violence. The act of wresting land legitimately controlled by Dalits was sought to be done in the name of hoisting the national flag on Independence Day, and installing the statue of a freedom fighter and martyr. This is part of the same pattern where the communal and feudal forces seek to disguise their anti-Muslim and anti-Dalit fascist agenda as ‘patriotism.’

Throughout Nitish Kumar’s tenure, successive events have given the feudal forces a sense of entitlement and impunity: the scrapping of the Amir Das Commission (set up to probe political links of the Ranveer Sena); the betrayal of the Land Reforms Commission report; the acquittal of the perpetrators of the Bathani and Nagari massacres and the violence unleashed after Brahmeshwar Singh’s killing. In Baddi and Raghunathpur, too, the failure to arrest the assailants continues to send a message of protection to the feudal forces.

Protest Actions

In protest against the Baddi atrocity, CPI(ML) held a successful Shahabad banch, with protest actions.

Around 3000 people protested and submitted demand petitions to the Sub Divisonal Officer (SDO) in Masaudi sub-division of Patna. Similar demands were also made at Sampatchak, Phulwari, Paliganj, Naubatpur, Futha and Danapur in Patna. CPI(ML) and All India Agricultural Laborers Association (AIALA) activists protested in Jahanabad and 1000 people blocked the Patna-Gaya road. Protests were also held in Arwal, Nalanda, Nawada, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Samastipur, Arariya, Supaul, Khagaria, Saharsa, Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur, Gopalganj and other places.

The CPI(ML) will hold a ‘Sasaram Chalo’ campaign with padyatras from four districts in the Shahabad range, culminating in a Swabhiman Rally on 15th September. The campaign will emphasise ‘Swabhiman’ (self respect) of the Dalits and also the Swabhiman of the legacy of 1857 and other anti-colonial and anti-feudal struggles. It will emphasise how figures like Kunwar Singh and Nishant Singh fought alongside brave heroes from the Dalit and other oppressed castes against the colonial rulers, and will expose the attempts by feudal forces to distort that legacy.

Note: Ravidas or Raidas was a saint poet of the 15th century bhakti tradition, from the ‘untouchable’ tanner community, who explicitly attacked the Brahminical order and untouchability and expounded a egalitarian social and spiritual philosophy. A poem of his speaks of ‘Begumpura’ as the ideal ‘land without sorrow’, where none would own property and there would be no wrongdoing or pain, and which clearly saw a vision of liberation for the oppressed castes:

Oh my brother, I’ve come to take it as my own,

my distant home, where everything is right…

They do this or that, they walk where they wish,

they stroll through fabled palaces unchallenged.

Oh, says Ravidas, a tanner now set free,

those who walk beside me are my friends.”

Struggles in India

Convention Held To Commemorate the Centenary of the Ghadar Movement

– Liberation, September, 2013.

With Independence Day approaching, a National Convention was held in Delhi to commemorate the Centenary of a unique chapter in India’s freedom struggle – the Ghadar Movement. The Convention, organised by the All India Left Coordination (AILC) at Mavalankar Hall, was marked by the presence of descendants of the Ghadarites, audio-visual presentations by historians on the Ghadar Movement, and addresses by Left leaders of the CPI(ML) and Communist Party Marxist Punjab (CPM Punjab) on the contemporary relevance of the Ghadar legacy for people’s movements in India today.

A cultural group from the Deshbhakt Yadgar Committee, Jalandhar, presented revolutionary songs at the outset. Among those on the stage were renowned and veteran Marxist scholar and political scientist Prof. Randhir Singh, Justice (Retd) Rajinder Sachar, Savitri Sawhney, daughter of Ghadar Party leader Pandurang Khankhoje, and JPS Kohli, grandson of Ghadar Party leader Dr. Mathura Singh.

Prof. Chaman Lal made an impressive presentation of the remarkable history of the Ghadar movement, with the help of slides with historic photographs. He showed how a 100 years ago, Indian revolutionaries living as immigrants in North America and Canada formed the Ghadar Party to fight for India’s independence from British rule. The movement intensified in mid-1914 when a ship, the Kamagata Maru, full of Indian immigrants was turned back at Canada, and several of the passengers killed and arrested on its return to India in the clash with the colonial police. The Ghadar Party declared the Ailan-e-jang (Proclamation of War) in this backdrop, inspiring thousands of Indian immigrants to return to the homeland to organize an armed rebellion. But in spite of widespread support, the movement was ruthlessly crushed. In Singapore, 37 Ghadar supporters were executed and 41 transported for life. In the conspiracy trials, 45 Ghadar leaders were sentenced to death and more than 200 to long prison terms. The Ghadar movement’s legacy was carried forward by revolutionaries like Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh, and many Ghadarites became communist party organisers.

Historian Prof. Shamsul Islam spoke about the anti-imperialist and staunchly secular legacy of the Ghadar movement, which is in glaring contrast to the role of the Hindutva forces which remained aloof from the freedom struggle.

CPM Punjab Secretary Mangat Ram Pasla said that today, the Ghadar movement’s anti-imperialist legacy has more relevance than ever, when India’s Government shamefully serves the interests of American imperialism, opening up India to plunder through FDI, and telling Indian people to eat meals on Rs 5 a day. He called upon India’s people to complete the unfinished task of the Ghadar movement.

CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya asked if India could really call itself free when the US Government can spy on India, and when India’s is the only Government in the world that is loyal enough to American masters to defend US spying? Comrade Dipankar said that the Ghadar movement’s legacy shows us that true patriotism can only be secular and anti-imperialist, in stark contrast to the communal and corporate-backed fascist agenda being peddled by Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

A film in memory of the Ghadar movement was screened at the end of the Convention, and a resolution was adopted vowing to hold events commemorating the Ghadar legacy all over the country, and to continue the Ghadar revolutionaries’ struggle for a truly free, self-respecting, and democratic India. Resolutions were also adopted condemning the repression unleashed on people’s movements in Uttarakhand and Karbi Anglong, and supporting the struggles of the Indian Gorkhas of Darjeeling for Gorkhaland, and of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao for an autonomous state under Article 244A.

Resolution Adopted At Ghadar Centenary Convention

1. This Convention calls upon the people of India to celebrate 2013 as the centenary year of a glorious chapter in our freedom struggle: the great Ghadar movement. It was a unique agitation that emerged from the Indian, mainly Punjabi, immigrant community in North America and spread back to India with a heroic passion to liberate the enslaved motherland. As our country continues to suffer from stark colonial hangovers and remains to be emancipated from the oppressive alliance of imperialism, big capital and stubborn feudal remnants, Ghadar di goonj (the call of rebellion) still rings in our ears and enjoins on us to speed up our struggle for liberation. This Convention appreciates the consistent efforts of various individuals and groups in Punjab and in the world who have striven to preserve and promote the historical legacy of the Ghadar movement, and resolves to intensify these efforts

2. During the first decade of the 20th century, a large number of poor but highly enterprising Punjabi peasants, agrarian labourers and workers went to the USA and Canada in search of livelihood. Many were refused entry; those who managed to settle there were routinely subjected to all sorts of racial contempt, discrimination and even physical attacks which are so common today, but on a much larger scale than at present. Repeated appeals were made to the British authorities to take up these matters with the US and Canadian governments on behalf of the migrants, but in vain. The British authorities actually encouraged these restrictions and attacks, because they did not like the prospect of more and more of their subjects going to Europe and America and get ‘infected’ with ideas of liberty and socialism.

3. Learning from experience and aroused by intensification of activities of national revolutionaries back home (in particular, a bomb attack on Lord Hardinge, Viceroy of India, in Delhi on 23 December, 1913) the immigrant community came to feel more strongly about armed rebellion as the only path of liberating the motherland. Among the first preachers of this doctrine was Bhagwan Singh, who came to Vancouver in the early 1913, but only to be externed by the Canadian government very soon.

4. A more sustained and broad-based agitation was started in the USA under the leadership of Sohan Singh Bhakna, Lala Har Dayal, Bhai Premanand and others. In the inaugural meeting of the Hindi Association of Pacific Coast held in May 1913 in Portland, Har Dayal, who had served as Secretary of the San Francisco branch of the Industrial Workers of the World and was probably the first Indian to write an article on Karl Marx (published in the Modern Review, Calcutta, in March 1912), set forth a plan of action: “Do not fight the Americans, but use the freedom that is available in the US to fight the British; you will never be treated as equals by the Americans until you are free in your own land; the root cause of Indian poverty and degradation is British rule and it must be overthrown, not by petitions but by armed revolt; carry this message to the masses and to the soldiers in the Indian Army; go to India in large numbers and enlist their support.” Everybody agreed and a headquarters called Yugantar Ashram was set up in San Francisco and a weekly paper – Ghadar – began to roll out from November that year, first in Urdu and Gurumukhi and gradually in some other Indian languages too. Soon the movement came to be known by the name of this highly popular magazine.

5. The Ghadar systematically exposed British rule in India and propagated the views and activities of revolutionary nationalists. It also highlighted the daring deeds of revolutionary nationalist groups in Bengal and other parts of India. Over and above revolutionary zeal, the articles and the many poems (also published separately as Ghadar di goonj) conveyed a robust secularism that stood in bright contrast against the Hindu religious overtones which often marked the nationalist discourse.

6. When World War I broke out in 1914, the Ghadarites decided to utilise Britain’s difficulty as India’s opportunity. Their passions were inflamed further by the Kamagata Maru episode in mid-1914. A ship bearing this name and carrying 376 Indian (mainly Punjabi – Sikhs and Muslims) would- be immigrants to Canada were turned back from Vancouver Port. During the ship’s months-long journey to Canada and back, lectures and agitations were organised by Ghadar activists and others at various ports of call voicing solidarity with the harassed passengers. After a tiring continuous journey back home, the ship reached Budge Budge on the Ganga near Calcutta on 29 September 1914. A clash with the police ensued, nearly 20 passengers were killed and 202 arrested.

7. It was in a charged situation like this that an Ailan e -jang (Proclamation of War) was declared. Ghadar leaders addressed a series of public meetings, urging Indians to go back to India and organise an armed rebellion there. Capable organisers were also sent to countries like Japan, China, the Philippines etc to persuade Indians to do the same. Responding to this call, around 8000 immigrants returned to India. The Government of India arrested the “most dangerous” among them and restricted a good many to their villages. Others toured and lectured a lot to rouse the people but the response of ordinary Punjabi peasants to the call of armed insurrection was rather lukewarm. To make matters worse, the Chief Khalsa Diwan declared the Ghadar followers to be ‘fallen’ Sikhs and criminals and helped the authorities to find them out. A few attempts made in late 1914 to rouse Sikh Army units to revolt also did not succeed.

8. Ghadar leaders then invited Rash Bihari Bose to help organise a coordinated mutiny in several army units in Punjab, UP and certain other places on a single day. But the plan was leaked out and most of the leaders got arrested, although Bose made good his escape to Japan. A few scattered mutinies were ruthlessly crushed, e.g., in Singapore where 37 were executed and 41 transported for life. Conspiracy trials were held, 45 Ghadar leaders were sentenced to death and more than 200 to long prison terms. Some attempts were then made to organise a revolt in Indian troops stationed abroad, but again in vain.

9. Despite the apparent failure, the Ghadar was eminently successful in spreading an intense patriotism and spirit of sacrifice among all Indian immigrants – not only in North America but also in other countries – and that on a strong secular, democratic and egalitarian foundation. Among the leaders and martyrs of the Ghadar movement there were Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus from different regions of India. As Sohan Singh Bhakna, one of the top leaders who would become an important leader of CPI, said later, “We were not Sikhs or Punjabis. Our religion was patriotism.” The same feeling was expressed by the young Abdullah, one of the rebel sepoys executed in Ambala, who when lured by the authorities to betray his kafir (non-Muslim) comrades, retorted: “It is with these men alone that the gates of heaven shall open to me.”

10. Ghadar leaders and activists held the first war of independence in high esteem. They were imbued with a broad internationalist outlook, drawing inspiration from Irish, Mexican and Russian as well as Indian revolutionaries. The movement based itself on the fine revolutionary traditions of Indian freedom struggle and left for future generations of Indians within the country and abroad a noble legacy of uncompromising struggle against colonialism and imperialism. Among those who carried the torch forward even after the movement was physically annihilated were the Kirti Kisan Party, Babar Akali movement, and the Naujawan Bharat Sabha led by Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh, while many of the Ghadar leaders and activists later developed into peasant organisers and communists.

11. The Ghadar movement has more relevance than ever, when India’s Government shamefully serves the interests of American imperialism, while its leaders tell Indian people to eat meals on Rs 5 a day. The Government is hell bent on opening up every sector to FDI, allowing foreign and Indian corporations to plunder the country’s resources and rob people of land, forests, and livelihood, and brutally repress every people’s movement. Edward Snowden revealed that the America Government spies on the world, including India – but India is shamefully the only Government in the world that is loyal enough to American masters to defend US spying. At such times, we know that the battle of the Ghadar heroes is far from over – and this Convention resolves to continue their struggle for a truly free and self-respecting India.

12. Today, we see politicians of India’s ruling parties defending massacres of Muslim, Sikh and Christian minorities. Narendra Modi, directly implicated in massacres and fake encounters, is being promoted as a potential PM. Corporations are backing Modi because his rule in Gujarat represents a ‘successful’ model of corruption, corporate plunder and repression, while his aggressive politics of communal hatred has helped him to avoid the political consequences that other corrupt and repressive governments have faced. The Sangh Parivar projects itself and its representative Modi as ‘nationalist’ heroes. The fact, though, is that the RSS never played any role in the freedom movement, and true revolutionaries in the freedom movement – including the historic Ghadar movement, resolutely rejected any notion of ‘Hindu nationalism’, and robustly defended secular values. This Convention calls upon democratic people of India to resist communal and corporate fascism with all their might, doing justice to the principles of secularism, democracy and anti-imperialism that we have inherited from the Ghadar revolutionaries.

On the occasion of the centenary of this great movement, we pay deep tributes to the courage, commitment and self-sacrifice of Ghadar fighters and rededicate ourselves to the great cause they fought for.

Further Resolutions Adopted at Ghadar Centenary Convention

1. This Convention holds the devastating natural calamity in Uttarakhand to be the result primarily of the policies of corporate plunder followed by its successive governments. This Convention condemns the Uttarakhand Government’s complete apathy towards the urgent question of relief work, due to which the affected are yet to receive comprehensive medical care, relief and rehabilitation. This Convention condemns the repressive approach of the Uttarakhand Government towards people’s movements, especially the move by the Nainital police and administration to brand the popular peasant leader and CPI(ML) leader Bahadur Singh Jangi as a Maoist and threaten to charge his associates with sedition; and to book AISA activists for a draconian 1932 law against effigy-burning. The Convention demands the immediate suspension of Nainital SSP Sadanand Date and withdrawal of the cases lodged against AISA activists.

2. This Convention condemns the repression unleashed on the people’s movement for autonomous statehood in Karbi Anglong, and demands the immediate release of all arrested activists including CPI(ML) CCM Rabi Kumar Phangcho. This Convention demands that the UPA Government without further delay honour the aspirations of the people of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao for an autonomous state under Article 244A and of the people of Darjeeling and Indian Gorkhas for a separate state of Gorkhaland.

Struggles in India

Rape Culture Rears Its Ugly Head Again

– Kavita Krishnan, Liberation, September, 2013.

In the wake of the gang rape of a young photojournalist in Mumbai, there have once again been encouraging protests by people, expressing anger against sexual violence faced by women. Women have refused to allow fear to rule their lives, and have demanded that the Government take responsibility to safeguard women’s freedom.

While the courage of the rape survivor and determination of Mumbai’s and India’s women not to give up their struggle for unqualified freedom without fear are inspiring, the recent times have also seen an ugly display of rape culture, especially in the political response to rape.

Staring us in the face is a naked display of double standards in the treatment of rape, depending on the power and clout of the accused. In the case of the Delhi and Mumbai rapes, the accused, based on identification by the survivor, were arrested and charged with rape. But godman Asaram charged by a minor girl with sexual assault in the custody of his ashram in Jodhpur, is yet to be arrested, 10 days after the complaint! Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) leaders are openly defending him and his supporters are intimidating the complainant. And the Congress Government of Rajasthan and its police are shamelessly delaying his arrest, on the pretext of ‘investigation’. By failing to arrest him, are they not allowing him to use his clout to intimidate witnesses? Are they not demoralising the complainant? Asaram ought to be immediately charged with aggravated sexual assault under the Prevention of Child Sexual Offences Act, and immediately arrested.

In the wake of the Delhi gangrape, Asaram had met with angry protests for suggesting that the victim was also responsible for the rape, which she could have prevented by calling her assailants ‘brother’ and begging them to spare her. After the Mumbai gang rape, we have been subjected to a spate of victim-blaming and sexist remarks by politicians and ex-cops.

Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal has blamed rape on women’s lifestyle, food habits and clothes. His party colleague Abu Azmi has declared that women are ‘like gold’ – they are bound to be looted unless kept safely locked up. Azmi has blamed women’s clothes for provoking men to rape.

Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil, notorious for his obsession with banning women from dancing in bars, and his support for Mumbai cops who indulge in moral policing, has promised ‘police protection’ for women journalists. And Laloo Yadav declared that girls who choose to become journalists ought to ‘inform police’ when they visit ‘dangerous areas’! Laloo Yadav’s remark shows just how such Patil’s ‘police protection’ will take away the rights of women journalists and be used to blame them for ‘risking’ rape.

The Shiv Sena tried to use the fact that some of the rape-accused are Muslims, to raise a bogey against the minorities, whom they brand as ‘Bangladeshis’. The irony is that just a day before the rape, a Shiv Sena Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) had threatened to have women staff at a toll booth publicly stripped. When an Asaram is accused of sexual assault, the saffron brigade leaps to his defence – but when an ‘Abdul’ is accused of rape, the same saffron forces try to paint the whole minority community as potential rapists. This communal design must be exposed and resisted tooth and nail, emphasizing that rapists’ religion is irrelevant. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray predictably used the rape to rant against migrants, and suggested that bangles be offered to RR Patil (implying that he’s not ‘man enough’ to ‘protect’ women). The sexism and misogyny implicit in equating bangles worn by women with lack of courage and political will, escapes the MNS. And of course how can we forget that the ideological forefather of Shiv Sena and MNS, Bal Thackeray, in a Saamna editorial in 2005, had justified the rape of a girl by a cop on Marine Drive, by suggesting that men could not be blamed if they were ‘incited’ by women wearing jeans!

The irony is that all these ruling class politicians are united in their cry for death penalty for rape. The hypocrisy and bankruptcy of this demand is apparent when we see the same politicians openly glorifying men accused of sexual assault be it Asaram or Chhattisgarh Superintendent of Police (SP) Ankit Garg and blaming women for rape.

Confronted with National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures for 2012-13 showing high rates of rape in Mumbai, an ex-cop YP Singh claimed that the bulk of rape complaints are ‘technical rape’ or ‘false rape’ – i.e, cases of live-in relationships or prostitution deals gone wrong. And to justify this outrageous claim, he explained that most rape complainants do not have serious injuries necessitating hospitalization! Ever since the Mathura rape case of 1980, the women’s movement has struggled against the dangerous idea that rape is ‘genuine’ only if it results in grievous injuries; and even the law no longer holds this view – yet cops entrusted with upholding the law continue to peddle such notions.

The media coverage of the Mumbai rape is also disturbing in its total lack of sensitivity and responsibility. For one thing, the media largely ignores rapes happening in rural India, rapes accompanying caste atrocities and communal violence; or those committed by security forces. The media focuses almost exclusively on some gang rapes, also downplays and even questions the veracity of the daily misogyny and violence faced by women in their ‘normal’ lives. In their quest for sensation, media houses covering the Mumbai rape have chosen to reveal the name of the magazine for which the survivor worked; and have alerted the neighbours and staff in the survivor’s apartment complex that she has been raped. One reported even tried to climb 16 floors to interview the survivor in hospital. There is nothing shameful about being a rape survivor: but the survivor has the right to privacy, so that her identity and her life need not be marked forever by this act of violence. This appalling violation of the survivor’s privacy, and the sensational attention to graphic details of the rape by the media is highly condemnable.

The battle cry of women’s right to ‘freedom without fear’ is what we must continue to raise and emphasise, as we expose and challenge the rape culture of those blaming women for sexual violence and protecting powerful rapists.

Struggles in India

All India Students Union (AISA) Holds Historic Referendum in Delhi University

– Liberation, September, 2013.

More than 10,000 students of Delhi University participated in a Referendum on the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) which had been arrogantly imposed in Delhi University (DU), overriding the concerns of teachers, professors, and students alike. The AISA conducted this Referendum on 22nd August, and more than 91% of the participants voted a resounding “NO” to the FYUP. This referendum was historic because for the first time students of stood up to say: “We do have a right to give OUR opinion on OUR University, OUR courses, OUR future….”

Today, as the FYUP unfolds, its dismaying impact is obvious to all. The first year students are clueless and frustrated. It has been more than three weeks but still there is no attempt by authorities to listen to their issues and queries. Newspapers have carried extensive reports on the ridiculous content of the foundation courses, the students’ sense of being forced to waste time on courses that yield no knowledge, the chaotic situation of infrastructure, the frustration of teachers and massive downsizing of workload and employment avenues for early career teachers – and also the DU Administration’s enforced silencing of all these questions.

The Times of India reported recently (15th August) that at a meeting with teachers, the DU Vice Chancellor (VC) declared that there could be ‘no further discussion on FYUP’ and that ‘the damage has been done, and nothing can be done about it now.’ In interaction with students, the DU VC has recently snubbed a query from a perturbed student by asking her why she chose DU when she was free to take admission elsewhere!

In this situation, if teachers are feeling silenced, students were feeling even more so. Education, after all, is not a product which students can ‘return’ or ‘exchange’ or even buy a new one if unsatisfied! The FYUP is playing a cruel experiment with their future, even as they acutely feel its impact. And their voice and opinions on the education that will affect them worst of all goes unheard even though thousands of them participated in the class boycott and protest rally on 7th August.

It is in this backdrop that AISA decided to hold the Referendum. We did so, relying on common students to volunteer and make the Herculean effort possible, knowing full well that the National Students’ Union of India- Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (NSUI-ABVP) led Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) is in the pocket of the DU VC and has supported the FYUP.

The result was overwhelming. 11,556 students from 20 colleges cast their votes, defying administrative and police intimidation. The total number of votes polled was 11,556, of whom 10,519 voted NO to FYUP, 936 voted YES, and 101 were invalid. Newspapers reported that even those 1st year students who voted ‘YES’, had not voted approving of FYUP, but rather for fear that if the FYUP were scrapped, theirs might be the only generation forced to be the ‘guinea pigs’ of the experiment gone wrong, while future generations would escape it.

Nearly 20 colleges polled in the process and this did not include most of the evening colleges. Many teachers were observers through the process of voting and counting. In spite of all the hurdles and administrative and police intimidation, there was an overwhelmingly high-level of participation in the first hour of the Referendum itself. Many students eagerly stood in long queues to be able to finally be heard in a system that had chosen to let their and their teachers’ cries against the FYUP fall on deaf ears.

This transparent and most peaceful exercise of direct democracy was one that alarmed the DU administration and the Vice-Chancellor so much that it sent College Principals and Delhi Police at several places to snatch the ballot boxes, and remove the polling booths and shut them down. Even as the result was declared, the police continued to surround the students counting. Indeed, Satyawati College Principal confiscated one of the ballot boxes and even now, as the result is declared, the box is still in his office.

This reign of terror and intimidation where the Police and the Principals, at the instruction of the VC, collude silence the voice of the students from coming to the fore tells us about the edifice of lies on which the FYUP’s so-called ‘popularity’ is based.

At a time when the concerns of large sections of the university community were being silenced, students had no other method to speak up against FYUP through this Referendum. This Referendum was the students’ creative and democratic response to the stifling of their voices against FYUP. We have demanded that the VC accept the results of this referendum and roll-back the FYUP, not scuttle students’ voices. Students will not accept being treated as guinea pigs for experimentation in a course with bad syllabus and no infrastructure!

Struggles in India

Be Alert to Rebuff Communal Violence

– Liberation, September, 2013.

Instances of communal violence are flaring up in various parts of the country, and it is important to remain alert to and rebuff the efforts of certain political forces to make communal capital by fomenting violence.

In Kishwar in Jammu and Kashmir, a communal conflagration has claimed four lives, left many injured, and devastation of houses, shops, and property. In spite of intelligence alerts warning of communal violence, the J&K Government failed to take steps to avert the violence. The Home Minister of the State, Sajjad Kitchloo, who is also the MLA from Kishtwar, has rightly had to resign in the wake of the violence.

Whether the initial clashes with an Id procession were spontaneous or engineered by political forces must be investigated. It is all too clear that the BJP and the Sangh Parivar are making an all out effort to fan the flames of communal violence. The BJP’s effort is to capitalise on the J&K clashes in order to put communal wind in the sails of its election campaign towards the next Lok Sabha polls. Every communal conflagration for the BJP, especially one in J&K, is an occasion to boost its hate campaign that paints the Muslims as ‘enemies of the nation.’ Anti-Pakistan jingoism therefore goes hand in hand with their attempts to foment communal hatred by identifying Muslim minorities with Pakistan.

In other states as well, there is a rise in instances of communal violence. In Nawada in Bihar, communal violence has flared up in an organized way, and is still ongoing. In Bhojpur too, there was an incident of communal mischief recently, where CPI(ML) comrades played an important role in resisting the communal campaign and maintaining harmony. There have been other instances of communal violence in Bettiah, Khagaria and Jamui.

A news daily has reported that in the six weeks since the JD(U)-BJP split, two dozen instances of communal clashes have been reported in Bihar, several times the average for the state in recent years. In July alone, Bihar reported 16 cases of communal violence. It is impossible to ignore the political implication of this sharp rise in communal violence. When the JD(U) and BJP were in alliance for the past 8 years, the BJP ran a calculated and concerted campaign of communalization in the state, especially in North-east Bihar, with the approval and patronage of its ally the JD(U). The Sangh held several conferences of backward and even adivasi and dalit communities during this period, seeking to communalise. The police brutality in Forbesganj, backed fully by local BJP leaders, bore the stamp of this communal campaign. The spate of arrests, torture, and even custodial death of Muslim youth of Darbhanga on extremely flimsy and questionable terror charges went without protest by the Bihar CM, who failed to speak for the rights of these sons of Bihar. The Sangh Parivar’s student wing ABVP ran a vicious campaign against the proposal to set up a branch of the Aligarh Muslim University in Bihar. Just last year, Nitish Kumar, contrary to his secular posturing today, inaugurated a Sangh-backed event at Srikrishna Memorial Hall in Patna to commemorate the centenary of Sangh founder Golwalkar. Now, after the split, the BJP has intensified its communal offensive, while the JD(U) hopes to benefit from the communal polarisation and the resulting insecurity of the minorities.

In Uttar Pradesh too, there has been a recent instance of communal violence at Meerut, and an escalation in communal violence ever since the Samajwadi Party Government came to power. The Samajwadi Party’s own politics of opportunist hobnobbing with communal forces and attempts to foster communal polarisation are to blame, as are the efforts of the Sangh Parivar and BJP – including its top national leadership – to revive its cow protection and Ram Mandir campaigns. There were 27 instances of communal violence in UP between March and December 2012, and 24 instances between January and March 2013. The Samajwadi Party’s complete failure to act against communal forces and curb communal violence can be contrasted with their opportunist attempts to give an anti-communal spin to their vindictive action against an IAS officer who had been acting against the sand-mining mafia.

Those responsible for fomenting communal violence in J&K, Bihar and UP must be identified and brought to book. With the Lok Sabha polls approaching, it is important for all people to remain alert to expose and rebuff any attempts to whip up communal tensions and engineer communal violence by vested interests.

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