November-December 2013

Table of Contents

  1. Khabardar (Beware) Rally Report
  2. Shame on Rahul, Modi’s Competitive Communalism
  3. Nobody Killed the 58 People Who Died in Laxmanpur Bathe
  4. A Massacre of Justice
  5. Boldly Confront Corporate-Backed Corruption and Clamour for Modi
  6. Banking Reforms: Alarm Bell of Denationalisation and Foreign Takeover
  7. Save UP-Save Democracy’ Rally in Lucknow
  8. Modi “Should Feel Ashamed Of Himself In Bhagat Singh’s Company”

 

Struggles in India

Khabardar (Beware) Rally Report

– Kavita Krishnan.

Only CPI(ML) could have had the guts and the ability to successfully hold such a massive Rally in spite of constant talk of bomb threats. Only CPI(ML)’s mass base is such that would defy the atmosphere of fear and turn up steadfastly in such numbers.” This was the unanimous opinion of journalists and other observers in Patna on 30 October. The real “hunkar” (roar) of people’s power was manifested in this Rally of 1 lakh of Bihar’s poorest people, who flocked to Patna on their own will power, determination, and commitment, without the massive backing of money power that Modi’s rally three days previously displayed.

The Rally was held on the historic Bir Chand Patel Path – marked by R Block with Kunwar Singh’s statue at one end, and IT Golambar with a statue of JP in 1974 at the other end – the very spot where JP was lathi charged during a massive agitation in 1974.

An observer commented on Facebook: “The word Khabardar means ‘beware’ in Urdu. The masses issued a warning to feudal-communal-fascist forces who doubled up as facilitators of corporate loot, by raising the slogan of ‘Samanti – sampradayik – fasivadi – looteri taakton khabardar! Bihar ki janata hai taiyar!’ The rally, earlier scheduled for the Gandhi Maidan, was disallowed at the last moment by Bihar police who were inept enough not to be able to clean up Gandhi Maidan even after three days of the bomb blasts. Undeterred by the rescheduling which caused extra hardship for the masses who had been camping in the city for over a day, Birchand Patel Path, the main thoroughfare of Patna was occupied by the toiling masses. Reportedly, the BJP had spent crores for its ‘Hunkar’ rally, hiring 11 trains and thousands of buses, and spending on cash and food for their assembly. But the Khabardar Rally was completely different in flavour. This correspondent spoke to a group of villagers from Siwan, who had travelled all the way from their village on a bus, carrying their own food, tarpaulins (to sit on), and collectively pooling in their bus fares, for which they had to spend Rs. 150 each. The resulting difference in the mood and slogans could not be more stark.”

The Khabardar Rally was a resounding challenge to the corporate-backed communal forces, who are desperate to project Modi as the PM of the country, and to foment communal frenzy to pave their way to power.

The Rally began by paying tribute to martyred comrades with two minutes’ silence. Cultural group Hirawal rendered a revolutionary song in memory of the martyrs. Bihar State Secretary Comrade Kunal welcomed the gathering. The Rally was presided over by Central Committee member Comrade KD Yadav, and conducted by Comrade Anwar Hussain, State President of the Inquilabi Muslim Conference.

Addressing the Rally, CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya said that the 2014 elections must be about policies, not faces and leaders – it must be about reversing the policies of corporate plunder, corruption, price rise, unemployment, communal violence and minority witch-hunt. He said “In the Laxmanpur Bathe, Bathani Tola, Miyanpur, Nagari Bazaar massacres of the 1990s, lower courts gave convictions in 2010. But the High Court acquitted the accused. So have the perpetrators of the massacres come from another planet? The victims are being massacred all over again by this massacre of justice,” adding that the CPI(ML) would collect lakhs of signatures on a petition for justice by Human Rights Day (December 10), and then proceed to Delhi with the signatures on December 18th.

He said the climate in Bihar was being vitiated by communal and feudal forces and in the country at large. BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s survival depended on such an atmosphere. “They want to grab power by carrying out riots, but they will not be able to turn Bihar into Gujarat… innocent Muslim youths are being targeted and jailed after blasts. A few days later, everyone forgets about them. There is no charge sheet or further action and they keep languishing in jail.” He asked why Nitish Kumar was silent on such cases involving Darbhanga’s youth, and demanded a white paper from the Bihar Government on all such pending cases involving Bihar’s youth implicated in terror cases. “If you lack the evidence to file a chargesheet, set them free immediately,” he said.

Commenting on an anti-communal Convention being organised on the same day in Delhi, he said, “We are told this is an anti communal effort and not an electoral alliance. But why is CPI(ML) not invited? The Rashtriya Janata Dal, [although we have our differences with them], has not been invited to it. Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan, [who had resigned from the NDA’s Union Cabinet after the Gujarat riots], has not been invited. But Mr. Kumar, who was together with the BJP for 17 years, is being made the poster boy of secularism.”

He said people were talking as though corruption ended with Lalu Prasad’s imprisonment, forgetting the involvement of prominent leaders from other parties in the fodder scam and other scams, such as Nitish Kumar and Shivanand Tiwari from the JDU. He added, “What about the 2G, coal and a whole lot of other scams where lakhs of crores are involved? The perpetrators should be brought to book, even if it is the Prime Minister.”

Taking on Mr. Kumar’s development plank, he said, “In Bihar, there is just talk, of giving power, water, roads and education. For 20 years, votes have been taken in the name of Dalits, Mahadalits, Muslims, Pasmanda Muslims, but the government functions for the feudal and communal forces.”

He appealed to all Left parties to unite in Bihar, stressing that only such a principled Left unity could really save Bihar from communal and feudal forces, and ensure pro-people development for Bihar’s common people.

Addressing the Rally, Politburo member Kavita Krishnan said that the Sangh’s ‘Hunkar’ (roar) wasn’t heard for the first time on 27 October. The women and children of Bathe and Bathani in 1996-97 and of Gujarat in 2002 had heard that blood-thirsty roar before. And when freedom fighters were giving up lives resisting the British and Dr Ambedkar was writing the Constitution of Independent India with a vision of freedom and equality for all, Modi’s mentors in the RSS were advocating the anti-women, anti-Dalit Manusmriti as the country’s Constitution. But who can fight these forces today? How can Nitish Kumar, who remained a silent partner in the Gujarat 2002 genocide, and has Ranveer Sena men like Sunil Pande among his MLAs, claim to fight the communal forces? Wasn’t Ranveer Sena backed by the RSS? It’s the landless women of Bihar, who snatched dignity and rights from the jaws of the feudal forces and Ranveer Sena, who know how to resist Modi’s fascist roar. It’s the students who defeated ABVP in North India’s campuses at the height of the Mandir and anti-Mandal wave, who know how to answer the Sangh’s ‘hunkar’. It’s Bhagat Singh’s red flag alone that can fight the fascists boldly in every arena.”

CPI(ML) Central Committee member Mohd Salim and Politburo member Dhirendra Jha spoke of the witch-hunt of Muslim youth across the country and in Bihar in particular. The JNUSU President Akbar Choudhury and Vice President Anubhuti Agnes Bara addressed the Rally, speaking of students’ powerful protest against Modi’s Delhi visit, and the anti-communal mandate of students in JNU and strong anti-communal vote in Delhi University.

CPI(ML) Central Committee member and Kisan Mahasabha leader Rajaram Singh said, “BJP’s stances on policy issues are indistinguishable from those of the Congress.” He reminded people that when Modi was at the BJP’s National Executive Meeting in Goa, he had commented derisively on the ban on mining in Goa, saying this showed the Congress Govt’s failure. Comrade Rajaram said, “Modi should be reminded that mining in Goa was banned because it was illegal, as it was in Karnataka, which cost the BJP the Government there! It’s people’s protests that resist such illegal plunder, and they will resist it whether Modi does it or Manmohan.”

AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari said that the BJP along with khap panchayats, in the name of protecting women, wages war on women’s freedom as well as unleashes communal violence on minorities. And the same BJP’s talk of ‘protecting women’ stood exposed when they shamelessly defended the rape-accused Asaram. She saluted the determination of the large number of women at the rally, who had remained standing for hours, since the packed road did not admit for place to sit.

Others who addressed the Rally included AISA General Secretary Abhyuday, RYA President Amarjit Kushwaha, CPI(ML) CC member and former MP Rameshwar Prasad, CC member and former MLA Mahbub Alam, and AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari.

The Khabardar Rally ended with a call for a continued campaign – the Jagte Raho Jan Abhiyan (Remain Awake/Alert People’s Campaign) to keep Bihar alert against any attempts to whip up any communal tensions or feudal violence on any pretext.

What the Rally Participants Said

The Dainik Jagaran on 30 October and Hindustan on 31 October spoke to Khabardar Rally participants, asking them, “Aren’t you scared of the bomb blasts?” The answers were inspiring. The rural poor, landless, many from oppressed castes, and many women, said, “Bombs and guns can’t scare us. If we get scared and don’t come, how can our party function? How can we fight for our rights?” Hindustan observed “Aadhi aabaadi ki poori bhagidari” (full participation of half the population, i.e women): “In the midst of bomb blasts in the capital, women flocked in large numbers to the Khabardar Rally from far flung districts. Their enthusiasm in the sweltering sun had to be seen to be believed. With heads covered to shield the sun, and red flags in their hands, they responded in one voice to the slogans of ‘Lal Salaam’ from the dais. When asked if they weren’t scared of the blasts, Mitri Devi and Devti Devi of Jehanabad replied, “Dar lagte hal ta Rally me aiti hali?” (If we were scared would we have come to the Rally?” All papers also observed how the people spent the night sleeping in the open.

Politics in India

Shame on Rahul, Modi’s Competitive Communalism

– Liberation, November, 2013.

Leading campaigners and PM aspirants of India’s main ruling class formations have shamefully sought to stigmatise Muzaffarnagar’s riot-affected in a highly callous and shameful game of competitive communalism.

Addressing a rally recently, Congress’ leading campaigner Rahul Gandhi made the claim that Muzaffarnagar’s riot victims have been contacted by Pakistan’s ISI. It is difficult to imagine a more insensitive, factually unfounded, and insulting remark for the riot-affected, who are yet unable to leave the refugee camps, and are too terrorised to return to their villages.

Rahul’s apologists say that his was not a communal remark – it was merely a clumsy but well-meant attempt to underline that the BJP, by engineering riots, creates a fertile ground for terrorism to breed. But this excuse does not hold water. Because painting riot victims as potential terrorists who are in touch with the ISI can be nothing but crude communal stereotyping.

For one thing, neither the UP Government nor the Home Ministry have admitted any intelligence inputs to back Rahul Gandhi’s claim. For him to suggest that the refugee camps are targets for ISI recruitment is actually to reinforce the communal stereotype that will stigmatise the people who, destitute and homeless, are trying to rebuild their lives after the communal violence.

Besides, the plight of the riot-refugees in the UP camps, vulnerable to hunger, homelessness and epidemics, is equally an indictment of the sheer apathy and neglect of the State and Central governments. After all, what stopped these Governments from acting to prevent the communal pogrom? And what stops them today from ensuring adequate relief, full compensation and timely rehabilitation for the riot-affected? The riot-affected lost their homes, their means of survival and loved ones. What have the Governments at the state and Centre done – ruled by the Samajwadi Party and Congress-UPA respectively – to ensure that those affected can return to a stable and secure life?

The UP Government has mocked the riot survivors with a report of its high-level committee claiming that “additional facilities” that victims of the riots are receiving in relief camps is “a reason for them to not go back to their homes”.

Can Rahul’s remark be brushed aside as a mere gaffe, an embarrassing but well-intentioned faux-pas by him? Unfortunately, the track record of Congress governments at the Centre and in states like Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra show otherwise. These Governments and their police and intelligence agencies have indulged in the same policy of witch-hunt of innocent Muslims – refusing to free such innocents even when faced with evidence that the blasts (like Malegaon, Ajmer Sharif, Samjhauta or Mecca Masjid) were the handiworks of the outfits linked to the hydra-headed Hindutva brigade. These governments have avoided compensating or apologising to those innocents who continue to be victims of witch-hunt, with their families and future ruined. Rahul’s remark only reflects the communal common sense ingrained by the Congress in its cadres.

While the Congress and Samajwadi Party compete to add salt to the wounds of the riot-affected, Narendra Modi’s attempts to cash in on Rahul Gandhi’s statement and attack him for ‘questioning the patriotism of Indian Muslims’ reek of hypocrisy. Mr. Modi needs to be reminded that he had referred to the refugee camps housing those rendered homeless by the 2002 Gujarat carnage, as ‘baby producing factories’. And his bosses in the RSS, with elections in mind, have recently trotted out the bogey of ‘Muslims breeding too many children’, by instructing Hindus to have at least 3 children.

Not only that, there are still more than 20000 of Gujarat’s riot-affected minorities living in ‘transit camps’ – the Gujarat Government is trying to forcibly evict them while they have no homes to go back to, and those who committed the massacre still roam free, creating an atmosphere of terror. In this situation, Modi’s attempts to score points against Rahul by shedding crocodile tears for the dignity of the Muzaffarnagar victims are shameful. Moreover, Modi’s invoking of the ‘national security’ plank in the context of Rahul’s remark again contributes to the profiling of the minority community and especially its riot-affected.

The attempts of the BJP, Congress and SP to use the plight of the riot-affected as political fodder, and to demean and insult them in the process, must be firmly rebuffed. While BJP’s bloody track record of communal pogroms and political campaign of stereotyping Muslims as potential ‘terrorists’ cannot be covered up with the fig leaf of Modi’s carefully scripted ‘Muslim references’ in his speeches, we cannot allow the question of secularism to be trivialised and demeaned by the Congress, SP and other self-styled ‘secular’ opportunists.

Politics in India

Nobody Killed the 58 People Who Died in Laxmanpur Bathe

on 1 December 1997

– ML Update, 29 Oct. – 04 Nov., 2013, 2013.

Predictably enough, the Patna High Court has acquitted all the 26 persons convicted by the trial court in the Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre case. This is the fourth successive instance of wholesale acquittal of convicts by the Patna High Court in cases of massacre of the oppressed rural poor in Bihar. Once again eye witness accounts have been dismissed as being not fully credible and convicts granted acquittal on ‘benefit of doubt’. The judges could not however disprove the fact that 58 people had been killed and post-mortems done, and hence they asked the trial court to calculate the compensation payable to the nearest kin of the victims as per relevant provisions the Motor Vehicles Act on the basis of the minimum wage prevalent in the area at the time of the massacre. They of course did not forget to add that any ex gratia paid after the massacre should be deducted from the amount of compensation!

When the trial court verdicts had been announced in 2010, Nitish Kumar was quick to showcase them as the sure signs of justice for the oppressed poor who had experienced a series of massacres during the reign of Lalu Prasad. Never mind if he had disbanded the Amir Das commission to save the political patrons of the Ranvir Sena from being exposed and punished, at least the perpetrators were being brought to justice. And over a period of 18 months the script has been thoroughly reversed by the High Court. The myth of ‘development with justice’ stands brutally shattered.

The acquittals amount to nothing short of a judicial scam. How on earth can it be possible that the very evidence which the trial courts found sound enough to hand out convictions has become dubious and unreliable in the judicial lens used by the High Court? Are we to believe that trial courts in Bihar do not bother about the nature and quality of evidence? If that is so, then the judiciary has collapsed in Bihar and it is time to reinvent it. And let us not forget that the same High Court has never granted any benefit of doubt to the oppressed poor and their political representatives to annul their convictions, it is only those who have been found guilty of slaughtering the rural poor by the dozen who are being let off through the ‘benefit of doubt’ argument. While the perpetrators of Bathanitola and Bathe walk free, Bodhan Sada and a dozen other people belonging to the Mahadalit Musahar community languish in jail having been falsely implicated and convicted in the Amausi massacre case.

The massacres perpetrated by the Ranveer Sena in Bihar were not isolated events, they were episodes of a bloody war that the Sena waged with complete impunity on the oppressed rural poor in Bihar to crush their fight for freedom, dignity and democracy. The Sena had openly and arrogantly declared that the communist movement had no right to exist in Bihar and that the people must not look beyond the feudal order. Yet the self-styled champions of ‘social justice’ or ‘development with justice’ always made common cause with the Sena. Despite the anti-BJP bravado of the RJD and JDU, the policy of appeasement of Ranveer Sena pursued by both Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar made sure that the BJP kept growing in Bihar. And if one ever needed a proof about the organic relationship between the Ranveer Sena and the RSS-BJP, one only needs to remember how BJP leader Giriraj Singh described the Sena supremo after his assassination: he called him the Gandhi of Bihar.

The judicial issues that have been thrown up by the Patna HC acquittals can only be resolved by the Supreme Court. President KR Narayanan had termed the Bathe massacre as a matter of national shame. What has happened now is even more shameful. There is a growing opinion that the apex court must constitute a Special Investigation Team under its own supervision and re-examine all the massacre cases in which the guilty have been let off. But the battle for justice for Bathanitola and Bathe is clearly much bigger than the question of righting a judicial wrong. It is about checking the feudal-communal marauders who have been strengthened by the politics of appeasement and impunity and now feel emboldened by such shameful judicial acquiescence. This is a battle that concerns not just the oppressed poor of Bihar but whoever cares about the future of India, a battle that we must win.

Protests Against Bathe Massacre Acquittal

At Patna, the CPI(ML) staged a protest march from the Gandhi Maidan to the Buddha Smriti Park on Thursday in protest against the acquittal of all the 26 people accused of massacring 58 dalits in Laxmanpur-Baathe village in 1997.

“An SIT should be set up by the Supreme Court to investigate the matter if justice has to be done to the carnage victims,” said CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya who led the march, christened ‘Aakrosh march’, in the state capital.

Bhattacharya said President Pranab Mukherjee ought to meet the massacre victims during his visit to Bihar later this month. “We would move the apex court against the Patna high court verdict,” Bhattacharya said.

Terming the chief minister Nitish Kumar’s claims that his government was for ‘development with justice’ as a farce, Bhattacharya said Kumar would have to answer about his tall promises to deliver justice to the victims of massacres at Baathe and other places. Several members of the civil society, including N K Choudhary, Bharti S Kumar, Santosh Kumar and P N P Lal, also participated in the protest march.

As the protestors began the march demanding the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the carnage, traffic was disrupted at several places in the city. Protests were also held in district HQ towns. Protesters also disrupted traffic on the Patna-Aurangabad NH 98 and the Gaya-Patna road at Jehanabad on Thursday.

In Delhi, the CPI(ML) held a protest demonstration against the acquittal. The protesters gathered at Jantar Mantar, raising slogans against the ‘massacre of justice’ and the Nitish Kumar Government for its betrayal of the promise of justice for victims of the dalit massacres. Protesters burnt the effigy of Nitish Kumar and a copy of the Bihar HC verdict too.

Addressing the protest demonstration, CPI(ML) State Secretary Sanjay Sharma asked, “On December 1, 1997, a feudal landlords’ private army the Ranveer Sena massacred 58 Dalits, including 27 women and 10 children, in Laxmanpur Bathe in Arwal, Bihar. Does the HC want us to believe that ‘noone killed these 58 people’? Does the HC hold that the dalit eyewitnesses can’t be believed? Or do the lives of dalits have no judicial value?”

AISA’s National President Sandeep Singh said that in repeated cases, the Bihar HC had overturned lower court convictions in the Bathani Tola, Nagari and Bathe massacre cases. In the Bathani case, the HC declared any true witnesses of the massacre could only be dead. But in the Bathe case, the court held that the eyewitnesses were genuine, yet chose to disbelieve their identification of the killers on the technicality that the actual names were added to the FIR a few days after the massacre. The HC, like in the Bathani case, has again held in the Bathe case that the IO and the prosecution have been biased and have weakened the case. But this bias can only be corrected by placing faith in the eyewitnesses who testified at risk to their lives. The HC has insulted the survivors by letting loose the killers – once again putting the eyewitnesses at risk.

Human rights activist Mahtab Alam deplored the Patna High Court verdict and said that struggle for justice must go on.

Aslam Khan, Vice President, Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) said that Dalit landless poor who assserted themselves politically by supporting the CPI(ML) were massacred by Ranveer Sena in Laloo’s Bihar, and now justice is being repeatedly massacred in Nitish’s Bihar, exposing the cruel truth behind his claims of ‘justice for mahadalits.’

AISA Delhi President Sunny Kumar said that the first thing that Nitish Kumar did on assuming power was to abandon the Amir Das Commission set up to probe the political links with the Ranveer Sena, because it was well known that BJP and JDU leaders formed the bulk of political support for the Sena, while some RJD and Congress leaders too were known to support the Sena.

JNUSU General Secretary Sandip Saurabh reminded that when Ranveer Sena chief Brahmeshwar was killed recently, the Ranveers unleashed violence on dalit hostel students in Ara – even as Nitish’s police took a leaf from Modi’s book and let them ‘vent their rage’.

Santosh Roy, CPI(ML) State Committee member, said that Rahul Gandhi speaks of Dalits moving ahead powered by ‘Jupiter’s velocity’ – but he’s silent on the Bathe verdict. Meanwhile Congress, earlier partner of Laloo who presided over the massacres, now cosies up to Nitish Kumar, who presides over the massacre of justice! And on Independence Day this year, the Baddi dalit atrocity took place in Bihar, reminding everyone that Bathani and Bathe are not horrors of the past, but terrors of today in Nitish-ruled Bihar.

Many concerned citizens and AISA activists also demonstrated at Bihar Bhavan on the same day.

Politics in India

A Massacre of Justice

– Liberation, November, 2013.

What happened to the blood spilt at Laxmanpur Bathe on the night of December 1st 1997? The blood of 58 people, butchered in their sleep? The blood of the poorest of the poor, the oppressed – who paid with that blood for daring to dream of equality, emancipation, and dignity? Will the blood of Bathe remain ‘orphan blood’ – or will we embrace it, adopt it, join its cries for justice?

Those 58 people didn’t die in a natural calamity. Nor in an accident. The massacre wasn’t even ‘revenge’ against dalit labourers for demanding wages or land – for after all, there were other villages where such struggles over land and wages had been much sharper. The landlord armies themselves had changed sharply from their earlier avatars. Since the emergence of the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI(ML)] as an electoral contender in 1989, they had become explicitly political, with the intention of terrorising the political base of the CPI(ML). To call it a ‘caste war’ is to obscure this essentially political form that class struggle had taken.

So, Bathe was chosen for the bloodbath due to entirely cold-blooded political calculations. As CPI(ML)’s then General Secretary Vinod Mishra had written, “This time the target chosen was a village in Jehanabad that lies close to the districts of Bhojpur, Patna and Aurangabad. The essential purpose was to send the message across the whole of central Bihar. The time chosen was significant as the political crisis at the centre had matured and a caretaker government was in office. Thus, by effecting an upper caste mobilisation of both Bhumihars and Rajputs, it also symbolised the beginning of the political offensive by arch-reactionary forces. As reports suggest, this was first of the trilogy of massacres before the elections. …The whole operation was meticulously planned. Professional killers were assembled from all neighbouring districts apart from Jehanabad. To create a record and grab the international news headlines, the number of persons to be killed was predetermined with the specific targeting of women and children. For a smooth operation, a soft target was selected where people were most unsuspecting, most unprepared and thus chances of resistance was zero.” The purpose was to consolidate upper caste support for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the eve of the Bihar elections.

The Bare Facts

Bathe, quite literally, has a blood kinship with Bathani Tola, which lies just across the Sone river from Bathe. The killers of Bathe included men from Badki Kharaon village across the Sone – the same men who had committed the Bathani Tola massacre in 1996. There were also, of course, many others – from other villages across the Sone, as well as from Bathe and its neighbouring villages like Kamta.

Let us, in the bare words available to us, reconstruct what happened that night.

That night, two big boatfuls of armed Ranvir Sena men crossed over from Sahar to the banks near the Tola. They gagged the two boatmen who ferried them across the river, and later killed them after they ferried them back. Five men found fishing at night in the river were also gagged and hacked to death.

Once they crossed the river, they were joined by a waiting team of Sena men from nearby villages. In all, they totalled about 150 men, who made their way to Batan Bigha, divided themselves into groups of 10, entered houses, and slaughtered 53 sleeping people including 27 women and 10 children which included a baby. Those killed included mostly from people from the dalit and extremely backward castes like the Mallah caste and some from the OBC Koeri caste. In all, the Ranveer Sena killed 58 people that night.

The grieved and enraged people of Batan Bigha refused to cremate the dead. When the local Memeber of Legislative Assembly (MLA) of the ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Ravindra Singh, came to persuade them to cremate the dead, he was chased away. On 3 December, Chief Minister Rabri Devi along with Maqbool Dar, Deputy Home Minister of the Union Government, flew down to Bathe to console the victims and offer consolation, she met with a hostile reception.

Later on 3 December, CPI(ML) leaders Comrade Vinod Mishra, Rajaram Singh, Mahendra Singh and KD Yadav visited Bathe. Only after they went to each house, meeting the bereaved and paying homage to the victims, that the villagers finally brought the dead to the banks of the Sone. The mass cremation took place on the banks of the Sone.

How was the massacre planned?

A day earlier on 30 November, a meeting of the Sena was held at the house of one Dharma Sharma in the neighbouring Kamta village. Apart from Sena men from Kamta and Laxmanpur-Bathe, the meeting was attended by men from the nearby villages of Belsar, Chanda, Sohasa, Kharsa, Koyal Bhupat, Basantpur, Parshurampur etc. The meeting also elected the Sena chief for the district.

CPI(ML) cadres in Bhojpur had got wind of an impending ‘mega-massacre,’ had informed and warned the police, and had intensified their vigil and preparedness in Bhojpur. What is notable that in spite of these warnings, the banned Ranveer Sena was allowed to hold its meeting in Kamta village with no interference, and no follow-up from the police. The police firmly looked the other way.

Unreliable” Eyewitnesses?

The ways of the Indian judicial system are strange. There are some cases in which a conviction and a severe sentence are a foregone conclusion, undaunted by the sheer paucity of evidence. “National conscience” itself, devoid of eyewitnesses or other evidence, is enough to hang an Afzal Guru. It’s also enough to convict a Shehzad for murder in the Batla House case, with the Court obligingly making a fantastic leap in imagination to fill in the gaping holes left by the prosecution. But in other cases, like the series of massacre cases in Bihar’s Patna High Court (HC), acquittals seem caste(e) in stone, blithely dismissing a mass of eyewitness testimony!

Read the Patna HC verdicts in the Bathani and Bathe cases, and it’s clear how eyewitnesses have been deemed unreliable on one or the other pretext. The HC in the Bathani case held the eyewitnesses couldn’t have been present – if they were, they would have been dead. Moreover, the HC in both Bathe and Bathani cases holds the hiding places to have been ‘improbable’. It is obsessed, in the case of one Bathe witness, with asking why the police failed to verify (soon after the massacre, with the dead and injured to be attended to and chaos all around) whether he in fact did hide in the thatched roof as claimed by him.

What about the ones who were injured – there is one such in Bathani and several such in Bathe? Surely the fact that they were injured proves they were there, and therefore their word must be true? Not so fast. In the Bathani case, the HC quibbles over injuries – asking how come Radhika Devi, shot in the chest, failed to mention a crushed finger to the doctor!

In the Bathe case, though, the main –and easy – plank adopted to dismiss eyewitness testimony has been the fact that there was a delay in getting the FIR, filed on 2 December, to the Jehanabad Civil Court till 4 December. Though the eyewitnesses stated that they told the Investigating Officer (IO) the names of the accused in their very first statement, the HC has chosen to interpret the delay to mean that the names absent in the first FIR were supplied later during the gap of two days. The HC has not quarrelled with the case precedents cited by the prosecution to show that eyewitness identification has been held reliable even when the incident occurred in darkness or torch light; and that persons may be recognised thanks to the witness’ familiarity with their manner of ‘speech, walking, gesticulating.’

But if the 26 men convicted by a lower court got the ‘benefit of doubt’, who killed the 58 people? According to the HC, the killers – all of them – had escaped across the Sone into the Bhojpur villages; the police of Jehanabad district contacted the Bhojpur police with a view to identifying and finding them; but eventually dropped that effort. So, the Court concludes conveniently, the 26 men positively identified by the witnesses are innocent, the real culprits escaped unrecognised across the Sone.

There is, however, a rather obvious flaw in this neat tale. Eyewitnesses had always maintained that the assailants numbered around 150; and it is true that many of were from Bhojpur villages and escaped over the Sone. The survivors never claimed to have identified all 150. But, right from day one, survivors had categorically said that their neighbours, on whose fields they labour, were among the assailants and were positively identified beyond possible doubt. Moreover, they could also easily identify men from Bhojpur villages bordering the Sone, who were familiar to them since it was common for residents of villages on both sides of the Sone to cross the river regularly, as well as some prominent Sena leaders who were well-known and dreaded by the rural poor in the whole region. The trial court acquitted 19 accused, mostly those from the Bhojpur side, but the 26 men convicted are almost overwhelmingly from in and around Bathe.

Courage and Dignity

What the High Court verdict has been entirely callous towards, is in its failure to accord a measure of respect to the courage and dignity of the survivors who bore witness.

What the verdict calls ‘benefit of doubt’ to the accused (a laudable principle of criminal justice), is in this case something else entirely: it is selective doubt for the eyewitness and the victim! What the verdict has chosen to believe is that the prosecution witnesses took the first two days after the massacre to falsely name the accused, letting off the real culprits. Let us for a moment explore this possibility.

Why would those who lost loved ones, want to protect the real culprits or frame someone falsely? Moreover, why would they – people already in terror following the massacre – take the real social and physical risk of falsely framing those whose families wield daily social and economic power over them? Would they not be afraid of reprisal?

Further, the eyewitness testimony recorded in the trail court in 2010 is testimony that survived more than a decade of actual intimidation and acute pressure. Not all witnesses remained firm – several turned hostile. After the Nitish Kumar Government came to power and the Amir Das Commission was scrapped, it was a real morale booster for the feudal forces and a clear message to these witnesses that they could not hope to win. The pressure on them redoubled. And the shameful fact on the ground is that the pressure didn’t just come from Janata Dal (United) JD(U) and BJP quarters. One of the key agents to exert this pressure and turn several witnesses hostile was Dularchand Yadav, MLA of Arwal in the crucial pre-trial period between 2005-2010, who was from the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) headed by Ram Vilas Paswan. A party claiming to represent the Dalits was an active agent in the betrayal of justice.

If the witnesses had indeed falsely named people in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, would they really be able to stick to their testimony in the face of overwhelming intimidation and coercion, if that testimony were really false? They did so at considerable cost and personal risk. In a sense, they have stuck to their testimony in spite of what can be deemed prolonged torture, watching those around them succumb. Surely the fact that they survived this tortuous test makes them reliable? To deem them ‘unreliable’ is to set up a standard of ‘reliability’ that callously refuses to take into consideration the real test of reliability in the given conditions of social, economic, and political power.

Not Only Police and Prosecution, HC Too Showed Biased

The investigation and prosecution were undoubtedly biased in the various massacre cases. But the acquittals in the HC can’t be put down to prosecutorial mishandling alone. After all, the trial court, while acquitting many, did hold that the prosecution fulfilled its burden of proof, and did therefore award convictions.

The evidence placed on record in the trial court will remain the only evidence available to the apex court. The various gaps on the part of the investigation and prosecution in the trial court cannot now be corrected in the apex court; failure of the police and prosecution to forensically match weapons with spent cartridges cannot now be corrected; nor can the delay in getting the FIR to the Jehanabad Civil Court now be remedied.

The only question on which justice hangs, then, is about the objectivity and sensitivity of the Court to the testimony of the eyewitnesses. The verdict itself mentions a whole host of legal precedents in which convictions have been granted on eyewitness evidence of crimes committed in darkness and semi-darkness, where the criminals escaped and were arrested only later. The trial Court found enough evidence to convict – not all, but some of the accused. The High Court acquitted all. Two Courts have diametrically opposed readings of the same body of evidence, presented by the same prosecution (complete with all its biases and failures).

Bela Bhatia’s fine special article (‘Justice Not Vengeance: The Bathani Tola Massacre and the Ranbeer Sena in Bihar’), on the Bathani Tola verdict, puts her finger unerringly on the biased lens with which the Patna HC viewed the evidence. She draws on her own research to situate the massacre and the struggle for justice in the actual social conditions of rural Bihar. Her article helps us to ‘meet,’ and empathise with, the actual individuals who seek justice (for instead Naeemuddin and the little son he lost, Saddam). But her empathy for the individual never makes her lose sight of the social landscape, which she brings alive with a thick description of actual daily struggles for dignity, economic justice and survival.

Her observations regarding the HC verdict in the Bathani Tola case are equally true of the Bathe HC verdict: “Even in a generous mood, it would be difficult not to find the high court judgment on the Bathani Tola case as anything but unconscionable. What the verdict does is to prepare the ground for the acquittal of the 23 found guilty by the sessions court. It uses old tactics: overdrawing upon the weaknesses of the prosecution and discrepancies in witness accounts to discredit the investigation and garnered evidence as unreliable. Having effectively done away with the witnesses, it invokes case law to justify its decision. The high court judgment reveals a clear leaning in the direction of the accused…. On closer examination of the two judgments, it is clearly the High Court judgement that is guilty of the bias it attributes to the lower court judgement.”

In the Bathe case, the Patna HC has delivered the ultimate insult by recommending that the survivors and victims’ families be compensated in keeping with Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and that “In absence of any documentary proof of any of the victim, trial court will calculate the income of the victim on the basis of minimum wage payable on the date of occurrence…of course after adjusting ex gratia amount already paid.” Bihar in 1997 boasted some the lowest agricultural wages in the country. The minimum wage, which had hovered around Rs 27, had been recently raised at the time of the massacre to Rs. 38.61 (Source: Report On the Working of Minimum Wages Act, 1948 for Year 1998, http://labourbureau.nic.in/mwtab61.htm#bihar). The CPI(ML) used to organise struggles to raise the actual wage being paid; getting the minimum wage paid was virtually impossible then as it is now. Women, of course, would be paid even less than what the men were paid. But the dalit labouring women and men, denied in life the paltry statutory minimum wage fixed for their labour, will find in death that their lives are valued at that same paltry rate!

Bela Bhatia’s conclusion underlines the tremendous courage and restraint shown by the survivors:

Justice for the Bathani Tola massacre victims was long in coming, and when it did, it came on a false note. What is public knowledge could not be proved in a court of law.

The Bathani Tola residents exercised restraint for many years. It must not have been easy for the survivors of the carnage and families of victims to live alongside those they know to be killers of their loved ones. The fact that “the court” was looking into the case however provided them some hope. Fighting for justice has made them even more vulnerable. We must not forget that in these regions, until recently (and to a large extent even now) just looking into the eyes of the malik while talking to him was held as audacious. Taking them to court is an unimaginable affront. Had justice been accorded judiciously it would have given strength to the victims, and worked as a deterrent. Many other lives could have been saved – lives that were lost in the interim as the Ranbeer Sena’s activities continued and many other “successful” massacres of the dalits and other oppressed groups in this region were perpetrated, especially against those who dared to rebel. The Bathani Tola residents were seeking justice, not revenge….”

The survivors of the Bathe massacre will appeal the Patna HC verdict in the Supreme Court, as must the Bihar Government. In July last year, the Supreme Court admitted appeals (filed by survivor Sri Kishun Choudhury and also by the Bihar Government) against the Patna HC verdict in the Bathani Tola case. More than a year has passed, but the hearing is yet to begin, mainly because the accused have been evading notices that have to be served to them. They will continue to evade and stall until non-bailable warrants are issued against them.

Political Patrons of the Killer Army

It is also important to demand that the Justice Amir Das Commission report be completed and made public. Why was a Commission set up to look into the funding and political support for a terrorist outfit starved of resources in the RJD regime and then wound up within the first couple of weeks of Nitish Kumar’s tenure?

The list of the politicians whose names figured in the Amir Das report is a veritable who’s who of Bihar’s powerful politicians, across parties. Links to these politicians were established through the personal diary of Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Mukhiya. Speaking to the CNN-IBN, Ram Nagina Prasad, Secretary Amir Das Commission said, “Had the report been submitted by the chairman, many people would have had to face some sort of punishment.” He also said there was proof that Brahmeshwar took funds from the rich and politically powerful, and did political services in turn for them.

And the Ranveer Sena links are common knowledge. Just how commonplace this knowledge is, is illustrated by a gaffe made by the Station House Officer (SHO) of Darihat police station in Rohtas district in June 2011. The good (SHO), in a weekly confidential report with an update on a conflict over land dating back to 2003, referred to JD(U) MLA Sunil Pandey as “former Ranveer Sena legislator.”

Some of the prominent names in the Amir Das investigation will grace PM aspirant Narendra Modi’s ‘Hunkar Rally’ at Patna on 27 October. They’ll be in good company. The communal fascist mobs in Modi’s Gujarat 2002 had, after all, learnt several lessons from the Ranveer Sena. The Ranveer Sena chief Brahmeshwar had made no secret of his Sangh background and his hope to see Modi as Prime Minister (PM).

The survivors and families of the victims of the Ranveer Sena’s butchery will not cower in terror at the Hunkar, however. They will join thousands to say ‘Khabardar’ (Beware) at CPI(ML)’s Rally on 30th October. All over Bihar, in preparation for the Rally, activists from amongst Bihar’s most oppressed sections are campaigning “Communal-feudal fascists be warned, this isn’t Gujarat, this is Bihar,” and also warning the people of Bihar against the true face of Modi.

Politics in India

Boldly Confront Corporate-Backed Corruption and Clamour for Modi

Liberation, November, 2013.

Even as the Congress tries hard to hit an emotional pitch over its food-for-vote campaign, the spectre of corruption keeps coming back to haunt it hard, challenging its survival in power and threatening to reduce it to its lowest ever tally in the coming Lok Sabha elections. The CBI, the caged parrot of the powers that be as the Supreme Court famously described it, has now named a top industrialist and a retired bureaucrat in a fresh FIR on coal-block allocations. While the naming of Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of AV Birla group and former Coal Secretary PC Parakh has raised eyebrows in some circles, what the nation really wants to know is why the third side of the triangle has been left out.

The corporate-bureaucrat nexus is actually an abbreviated form of the corporate-bureaucrat-minister triangle and in this case the minister was none other than the Prime Minister who officiated over the coal ministry for three years during the first UPA government. The Prime Minister’s Office has sought to justify the allocation on the part of the Prime Minister while saying the CBI was free to investigate the case as it deemed fit. The PMO statement also links the allocation to strong recommendations of the Odisha government.

The PMO reply may at best point to the involvement of an additional party in the form of the Odisha government, but it cannot absolve the PM and the CBI has absolutely no excuse not to name the PM in its FIR when it has accused the two other sides of the triangle alleging conspiracy and irregularity. The PM and his Office stand incontrovertibly implicated in the dust and fume of coalgate and even if the CBI is used selectively and shamelessly to save the PM for the time being, or the CBI closes down the case against Birla and Parakh, the government will have to pay for it in the coming elections.

In a significant coincidence, the Supreme Court has now asked the CBI to probe the Radia tapes, bringing not only the 2G scam but the bigger story of corporate grab of resources and manipulation of power and policies back in limelight. Let us also not forget the other scam which has been crying out for years together for due media recognition and judicial cognisance – the oil and gas scam that would expose the true face of India’s biggest corporate house and its ever-expanding influence on the Indian state. The real issue for India today is not just corruption but where it springs from and what it signifies – indiscriminate privatisation, unbridled plunder of resources and growing corporate subversion of democracy.

It is obvious that while the BJP is desperate to reap the political benefit of the anti-Congress mood of the people propelled by the scams, soaring prices and all-round economic crisis, it has no alternative policy trajectory or perspective. In fact, the very basis of the corporate clamour for Narendra Modi lies in the expectation that he would replicate the Gujarat model of unrestricted corporate freedom at the Centre and facilitate corporate plunder on an even bigger scale. The BJP therefore wants no policy debate in the elections, and is desperate to employ its tested and trusted tactic of grabbing votes in the shadow of communal polarisation and terror.

The party is working overtime to make this tactic work especially in UP and Bihar where the Congress has little presence left and the non-Congress non-BJP centrist parties stand increasingly discredited. After the groundwork done by his deputy Amit Shah in UP which left Muzaffarnagar ravaged in communal fire, Modi has already made his first appearance in the battleground of UP and is now slated to address his first rally in Patna on 27 October. But however much the BJP/RSS machinery and the corporate media seek to hype up the Modi factor, even to the point of reinventing and repackaging him as a tea-seller who rose from the ranks of the underprivileged poor and made it big in politics through sheer hard work, the people have little difficulty to see the fact that it is the corporate world which has rallied most solidly around Modi.

While boldly resisting the BJP’s communal game plan, the Left must not reduce the 2014 poll campaign to a single-point communal versus secular debate. Any coalition exercise in the name of secularism with discredited and opportunist forces, many of whom have joined hands with the BJP in the past and may well cross over once again for the sake of power-sharing, will lack credibility and only trivialise secularism. And it will weaken the necessary political thrust of a powerful people’s campaign at this critical juncture to stop corporate plunder of national resources, reorder developmental priorities in the interest of the broad masses of Indian people, and free India’s basic policies and international role from strategic subservience to global capital and US imperialism.

While the Congress is rapidly losing ground, the projection for the NDA in all pre-poll surveys is still short of the 200 mark, not to speak of the magic number of 272. By all indications, the forthcoming Assembly elections will turn out to be a major reality check for the BJP and its Modi hype. Revolutionary communists must make the best use of the developing situation to confront the corporate clamour with the bold voice of the people.

Economics in India

Banking Reforms: Alarm Bell of Denationalisation and Foreign Takeover

– Rajiv Dimri, Liberation, November, 2013.

RBI Govenor Raghuram Rajan’s recent proposals made before the American financial establishment and press in Washington portend an ominous future for the Indian banking sector. Together with the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill 2011 passed by Parliament during the 2012 Winter Session, his open invitation to foreign banks to take over Indian banks and the assurance to mete out near-national treatment to such foreign banks clear the decks for a veritable denationalization of the Indian banking Industry, where the scene is still dominated by public sector Indian banks with an industry share of 80% with private Indian and foreign banks accounting for the rest, 15 percent and 5 percent respectively

.

Announcing that the policy for entry of foreign banks is in the making and will be unveiled soon, the former IMF chief economist and current head of India’s apex bank, Rajan assured his audience of the Indian financial establishment’s readiness to provide a big opening for foreign banks in India. “That is going to be a big big opening because one could even contemplate taking over Indian banks, small Indian banks and so on”, declared Rajan, adding “if you adopt a wholly owned subsidiaries structure and we are coming up with details on that in next couple of weeks, we will allow you near national treatment.”

Undoubtedly, Mr. Rajan’s words must have been music to the ears of the sinking banking giants of America who can now think of laying their hands on more than Rs. 70 lakh crore of public money held by the Indian banks. What a grand bailout package from Raghuram Rajan for his crisis-ridden bosses!

In spite of the devastating international experiences of 2008-10 global financial crisis, especially the spectacular collapse of American banks and financial institutions, the UPA-2 government is bent upon exposing the banking and insurance sectors in India to heightened risk through increased global integration and private penetration. It is being argued by the advocates of reforms that “foreign banks incorporated as local subsidiaries and, thus, following Indian laws will be more effective for risk control.” But recent experience shows that many foreign banks, irrespective of their entry through subsidiary or branch route, withdrew from the credit market in many counties including in India during the global financial crisis of 2008-10 plunging them into deeper crisis.

This highlights the true character of footloose finance capital – making hay while the sun shines and fleeing at the first sign of crisis to greener pastures. Not only this, some of the foreign banks operating in the country have also been found to be involved in various scams in the past but went scot free without their licences being cancelled. It is very clear that foreign banks have never contributed to the country’s economic growth and development as they are interested only in profits and have no role in social banking.

Apart from facilitating greater forays by foreign banks in the Indian banking industry, the banking reforms also mean go-ahead signal for in-house banking by corporate groups. With big corporate groups like the Ambanis, Tatas, Birlas all eagerly waiting to launch their own banks, the country is being pushed back to the pre-nationalisation pattern wherein all big corporate houses had their own banks and all big banks were owned by corporate houses, and these banks without any social control used to amass and loot public money in their own private interests.

Already, government policies have bled public sector banks white, forcing them to loan out huge sums to corporate houses and accumulating NPAs in tens of billions of rupees thanks to the virtual immunity granted to corporate defaulters. The Banking Bill also seeks to remove restrictions on voting rights of foreign shareholders and increase voting rights of private investors in the PSBs (increase in the voting rights of shareholders in the private sector banks from 10% to 26% and from 1% to 10% in public sector banks). This will also pave the way for private corporate banks to form cartels to take over nationalised banks. This apart, 74 per cent FDI is allowed in private sector banks.

Clearly, if these banking reforms are allowed to be implemented, the Indian banking industry will be left effectively denationalized with increasing domination of corporate and foreign banks. This will deal a severe blow to the social role of the banking industry. The already crisis-ridden agricultural sector and various other priority sector lending commitments will face severe credit crunch. This will also reduce the election year flagship scheme of food security to a big farce, because it can only be sustained with sufficient flow of cheap institutional credit to peasant agriculture.

Besides, these reforms would encourage the ongoing closure and merger of existing banks leading to further downsizing and outsourcing of so-called ‘non-core services’ to outside agencies, even as vacancies pile up in the banking industry. In the meantime, this will create two separate compartments in banking industry with corporate and foreign banks, infamous for money laundering and hawala business, attracting the creamy layer as their clients and taking the cream of banking profits, while the PSBs remain burdened with routine official responsibilities like carrying out cash transfers and opening of zero balance accounts etc. for the beneficiaries of various government schemes.

The movement of bank employees has successfully resisted the drive to privatize and open up this key sector of the Indian economy for the best part of the last two decades of neoliberal reforms. Now, the current threat of denationalization and foreign take-over must be resisted by even more determined working class action in close alliance with various ongoing people’s movements against corporate and MNC takeover of all our key resources and assets.

Struggles in India

Save UP-Save Democracy’ Rally in Lucknow

– Liberation, November, 2013.

A state wide rally was held by CPI(ML) in the state capital of Uttar Pradesh on 21st October, to highlight the rising danger of communalism and betrayal of the promises made by the ruling Samajwadi Party government of Akhilesh Yadav. The recently engineered communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and the poor state of law and order in the state have been a source of grave concern for the people.

Addressing the rally, the General Secretary of the CPI(ML) Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya said that the BJP is trying to convert UP into a communal laboratory in the run up to the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls. Tainted ministers of the Gujarat government like Amit Shah have been send on deputation to UP to re-enact Gujarat-like pogroms here and the recent riots in Muzaffarnagar are a testimony to this nefarious design of the BJP. He said that the SP government has failed in the promises it had made to the people of the state after it voted out of power the unpopular government of BSP one and a half years ago. Be it the promise of checking crime, waiver of loans of farmers, unemployment allowance or fighting the communal forces, the SP government has had a dismal performance. The mafia forces are ruling the roost but forces like the CPI(ML) have pledged to give them a befitting reply.

He cited the example of how the party leader Com. Ramesh Senger had intervened against the sand mafia and the party had to pay a price in terms of the brutal attack on its leader. He said that there is a political vacuum in the country. People are fed up by the scam-tainted UPA whose rule has led to widespread joblessness, inflation and corruption and they are in no mood to allow forces like the BJP to fill the gap. In such a situation, the left and democratic forces can play a major role, particularly in states like UP, Bihar and Jharkhand to consolidate and lead a consistent opposition to the pro-corporate, pro-imperialist policies of Congress, BJP and their regional allies.

The rally was also addressed by Akbar Chaudhary, the president of JNUSU. He said that innocent Muslim youths are languishing in jail and some are even getting killed in police custody in UP like in the case of Khalid Mujahid. There is no justice for them in UP.

Amongst others who addressed the rally include Comrade Arvind Raj Swaroop, the Uttar Pradesh joint Secretary of CPI, Mohd. Shoaib, the Convener of Rihai Manch, which has been leading a struggle for the release of innocent Muslim youth in jail, Comrades K.D.Yadav, Sudhakar Yadav, Krishna Adhikari, Mohd. Salim, Central Committee members of CPI(ML), UP State President of AIPWA Tahira Hasan amongst others.

A notable feature of the rally was the 10 km long march on the streets of the State capital from the railway station to the Jyotiba Phule park, the rally ground. Thousands of peasants, workers, youths and a large number of women carrying red flags and posters made for a very impressive sight.

Struggles in India

Modi “Should Feel Ashamed Of Himself In Bhagat Singh’s Company”

– Liberation, November, 2013.

Recently, there has been news that Modi will release a coffee table version of Bhagat Singh’s jail notebooks. Bhagat Singh’s family members have vehemently opposed this move, and Bhagat Singh scholar Prof.Chaman Lal has placed all the facts to expose the lie that the Jail Notebooks are being published for the first time (‘A short publication history of Bhagat Singh’s Jail Notebook’, EPW Web Exclusives, Vol – XLVIII No. 42, October 19, 2013.)

What is laughable about Modi releasing Bhagat Singh’s Jail Notebook is that the Notebook itself is testimony to Bhagat Singh’s Marxist ideology and temperament, including detailed quotes from Marx on religion, Lenin, Trotsky and other communist revolutionaries who are anathema for Modi and his RSS.

It is well known that Bhagat Singh, during his trial, had sent a telegram to the Russian Bolshevik Party on Lenin’s death anniversary: “ON LENIN DAY WE SEND HEARTY GREETINGS TO ALL who are doing something for carrying forward the ideas of the great Lenin. We wish success to the great experiment Russia is carrying out. We join our voice to that of the international working class movement. The proletariat will win. Capitalism will be defeated. Death to Imperialism.”

In his article ‘Why I Am an Atheist’, Bhagat Singh writes: “Up to that period (1925) I was a romantic revolutionary. Up till then we were to follow. Now came the time to shoulder the whole responsibility. Due to the inevitable reaction for some time the very existence of the party [Hindustan Republican Association] seemed impossible. Enthusiastic comrades – nay, leaders – began to jeer at us. For some time I was afraid that someday I also might be convinced of the futility of our programme. That was a turning point in my revolutionary career; “Study” was the cry that reverberated in the corridors of my mind. Study to enable yourself to face the arguments advanced by opposition. Study to arm yourself with arguments in favour of your cult. I began to study. My previous faith and convictions underwent a remarkable modification. The romance of violent methods alone, which was so prominent amongst our predecessors, was replaced by serious ideas. No more mysticism, no more blind faith. Realism became our cult. Use of force justifiable when restored to as a matter of terrible necessity: non-violence as policy indispensable for all mass movements. … As there were no important activities in the field of action, I got ample opportunity to study various ideals of world revolution. I studied Bakunin, the anarchist leader, something of Marx, the father of communism and much of Lenin, Trotsky and others – the men who had successfully carried out a revolution in their country.”

His last major writing, the “Draft Revolutionary Programme”, which conveys the collective understanding of comrades incarcerated in Lahore Central Jail, states clearly, “We want a socialist revolution, the indispensable preliminary to which is the political revolution. That is what we want,” while putting the ‘abolition of feudalism’ as the first point on the General Programme. The General Programme clearly owes a debt to his study of Lenin: “The present situation demands of us a clear and responsible programme of revolution. Just before the revolution of October 1917, Lenin mentioned three necessary conditions of a successful revolution: Political and economic situation; the spirit of rebellion among the masses; a revolutionary party, fully trained to lead the masses at the decisive hour….In India the first condition has already been fulfilled while the other two are waiting for complete realisation. To work for their fulfilment is the first task of every fighter for freedom and the programme should be worked out with this end in view.”

In the context of Modi’s attempts at appropriation, it’s worth reading what Jagmohan Singh, Bhagat Singh’s nephew and former Professor at Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, had said in a 2007 interview (Frontline Volume 24 – Issue 21 :: Oct. 20-Nov. 02, 2007). The interviewer, S. Irfan Habib, had asked, “All political parties today seem to appropriate Bhagat Singh to push their political prospects. What do you have to say about this phenomenon?”

To which he replied, “It is our duty to liberate Bhagat Singh from current misinterpretations. Mere emotional reference to Bhagat Singh’s sacrifice by most of the political parties helps them to misuse his legacy for selfish political ends. Bhagat Singh cannot be frozen merely in a cheap emotional and nationalistic frame. How could a communalist propagating hatred against one another feel comfortable with his thoughts. Rather he should feel ashamed of himself in Bhagat Singh’s company.”

Further, he was asked, “How does Bhagat Singh inspire us in the era of globalisation and neoliberal politics?”, to which he replied, “Bhagat Singh’s views are very relevant today in the context of globalisation. He stood for the end of exploitation of man by man and nation by nation. His slogan of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ was always followed by ‘Down with Imperialism’. For him revolution was the complete reorganisation of society so that everyone gets an opportunity to grow and contribute to the national progress. We got rid of colonial imperialism but today, under globalisation, we have the imperialism of corporations, most of the time led by the U.S. Bhagat Singh provides the most clear ideas to fight against this 21st century monster.”

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