ML International Newsletter

November-December 2014

An update on news and ideas from the revolutionary left in India.
Produced by: Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation international team
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Table of Contents

1) Left Parties Press Release
2) Towards a Democratic Platform of People’s Struggles
3) Modi’s Cabinet: Green Signal to Crime, Corruption, and Communal Hate-Speech
4) Black Money and the BJP’s Double Standards
5) ‘Love Jihad’ Lie – A Communal-Patriarchal Hate Story
6) Mangala Apparels Workers’ Struggles in Delhi Continue
7) Resisting Communal Hate and Riot Mongering in Delhi
8) ‘Nyay march’ against Escalating Feudal Violence in Bihar
9) Protests against gang rapes and feudal violence in Kurmuri, Bhojpur
10) Water Supply and Sewerage Workers of Bangalore on the Warpath
11) Film Review: Haider
12) Red Salute to Comrade Geeta Das!
13) Red Salute to Comrade Shah Chand!

Struggles in India

Left Parties Press Release

– November, 2014.

A meeting of six Left parties – Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party, All India Forward Bloc, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)-Liberation and Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) was held today at New Delhi. They have issued the following statement:

With the advent of the Modi government in power there is a concerted rightwing offensive fueled by the corporate-Hindutva forces. There is a growing onslaught on the people through the imposition of neo-liberal policies which is going to adversely impact the livelihood of the people. There is no respite for the people from price rise, unemployment and corruption.

The Hindutva forces are resorting to aggressive communal activities. The Modi government’s patronage of the RSS and its outfits is aimed at communalising the educational, social and cultural institutions. There is rise in communal tensions in different parts of the country.

The Left parties decided to conduct a week long protest campaign between December 8 to 14, 2014 on the following issues:
(i) Against steps to curtail and dilute the MNREGA
(ii) Curb price rise; control exorbitant price of medicines and drugs
(iii) No increased FDI in insurance.
(iv) Take firm action to unearth black money
(v) Stop infiltration of the RSS and Hindutva ideology in education, public broadcasting media and other institutions of the State.
(vi) Stop the “love jihad” hate campaign and other forms of communal propaganda
(vii) Stop attacks on minorities and their rights
(viii) Fight violence against women and all forms of gender oppression
(ix) Fight against atrocities on dalits and caste oppression

Those who attended the meeting were:
Debabrata Biswas (All India Forward Block); Kshiti Goswami & Manoj Bhattacharya (Revolutionary Socialist Party); Swapan Mukherjee & Kavita Krishnan (Communist Party of India Marxist Leninist-Liberation); Manik Mukherjee & Ranjit Dhar (Socialist Unity Center of India [Communist]), A.B. Bardhan & D Raja (Communist Party of India) and Prakash Karat & S Ramachandran Pillai (Communist Party of India – Marxist).

Struggles in India

Towards a Democratic Platform of People’s Struggles

– ML Update, 21-27 October 2014.

On 11th October 2014, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Yuva Kendra in Delhi, representatives of several organizations and concerned individuals met to discuss the need and possibility of forging a broad democratic platform – both to take on the intensified offensive on people’s movements and rights in a united way, and to powerfully assert an alternative vision for India.

The resolution adopted by the meeting and endorsed by the participants is as follows:

Representatives of a diverse range of organizations as well as individuals met on 11th October in Delhi, to discuss the possibility of various people’s movements, democratic organizations and concerned citizens coming together on a common platform to assert people’s rights to land, livelihood, education and healthcare, justice, peace, dignity and freedom in the face of the communal-corporate offensive, growing imperialist domination, state repression, social oppression and caste and gender violence and injustice that threatens those rights. We, the undersigned, endorse the concerns and the call issued from that meeting.

The meeting underlined the urgent need for forces of struggle to unite and coordinate their efforts to defend and expand democracy.

The country is witnessing and bearing the brunt of the centralized, intensified offensive on part of the Modi Government and the Sangh Parivar on all hard-won rights and ongoing movements. Communal politics is threatening not only the rights and safety of minorities, but every vestige of existing democracy, diversity and harmony.

Draconian laws like AFSPA or UAPA, continued and intensified militaristic offensive against the country’s own people, the systematic impunity for perpetrators of custodial violence, and the muzzling of voices of dissent are all symptoms of a growing authoritarianism.

Caste violence and atrocities against dalits and adivasis continue to be rampant. Violence against women the offensive on women’s rights and freedom has acquired even more dangerous proportions, with such violence and such an offensive becoming an integral tool, both of state repression as well as of communal politics.

Imperialism, hand in hand with the country’s own rulers and corporate players, is attempting to erode the country’s freedom in all matters of foreign and domestic policy.

The fighting forces face the challenge of combating communal politics, defending people’s land, livelihood, and liberties, asserting and achieving the rights to equitable and affordable health, education and food as well as dignified employment, and asserting an alternative vision of pro-people development.

If times seem dark at present, hope continues to burn bright with the powerful, defiant, vibrant people’s opposition on the streets. We feel that a broad, united, democratic platform of such struggling forces is the need of the hour. Towards forging such a platform, which may simply be called All India People’;s Forum in English and Akhil Bhartiya Jan Manch in Hindi, we propose to hold a Conference in Delhi in early 2015. We appeal to all concerned organizations and individuals to actively participate in this endeavour. We shall dream, we shall fight, and we shall win!

[Signatories: ND Pancholi (Citizens for Democracy and PUCL), John Dayal, Binayak Sen (PUCL/MFC), Anil Sadgopal (AIFRTE), Meher Engineer (AIFRTE), Sumit Chakravarty (Mainstream), Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, Anand Patwardhan, Anil Chamadiya, Rajendra Chaudhary (academic and activist, Rohtak), Kavita Krishnan (AIPWA), SP Udayakumar (PMANE), Akhil Gogoi (KMSS), Dipankar Bhattacharya (CPI-ML Liberation), Vijay Pratap (Samajwadi Samagam), Dr Prem Singh (Socialist Party (India)), Mangat Ram Pasla (CPM Punjab), Govind Chhetri (CPRM, Darjeeling), Rohit (Left Collective), KS Hariharan (Revolutionary Marxist Party (Kerala)), Bhimrao Bansode Lal Nishan Party Leninist (Maharashtra)), Ambrish Kumar (Samajwadi Samagam), Rajeev (Rihai Manch, UP), Father T K John, Md Iftiqar Alam and Suraj Kumar Singh (Insaf Manch, Bihar), Purushottam Roybarman (Secretary, Tripura Human Rights Organisation), Dr Laxminarayana (PUCL and Karnataka Kaumu Sauhardra Vedike), Gautam Mody (NTUI), Roma (AIUFWP), Md Salim (Inquilabi Muslim Conference), Anant Prakash Narayan (JNUSU), Om Prasad and Sandeep Saurav (AISA), Swapan Mukherjee (AICCTU), Ramji Rai (Samkaleen Janmat), Pranay Krishna (Jan Sanskriti Manch), Dhirendra Jha (AIALA), Col (Retd) Laxmeshwar Mishra, Radhika Menon (JSM, AIFRTE), Dr. Mongve Rongpi (United Movement for Autonomous State, Karbi Anglong), Sudhir Suman (Samkaleen Janmat), Radhakanta Sethi (AICCTU, Odisha), Rafiq Jabbar Mulla (SDPI), Harminder Singh Ahluwalia (Sikh Youth Forum), Darshana Pathak (Samajwadi Samagam), Kanwaljeet Singh (RYA), Navkiran Natt (Krantikari Kamkaaji Mahila Sangathan, Chandigarh), Phoolchand Dhewa (All India Kisan Mahasabha), Gurnam Singh Daud (Dihati Mazdoor Sabha), KD Yadav (All India Kisan Mahasabha), Om Dutt Singh (Daman Virodhi Morcha, Allahabad), V Shankar (AICCTU), Amar Singh, Arun Maji, Nadeem (Sruti), Sanjay Kanojia (Samajwadi Samagam), Trilok Singh (GIEA-NZ), Amit Srivastav (PUCL Delhi)]

Politics in India

Modi’s Cabinet: Green Signal to Crime, Corruption, and Communal Hate-Speech

– ML Update, 11-17 November, 2014.

Narendra Modi’s latest expansion of his Cabinet brings the total strength of Ministers to 66. The compulsions of accommodating leaders from a variety of states, castes and allied parties triumphed over the initial claims of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’.

What is most striking about the Cabinet expansion is the unashamed accommodation of leaders tainted by serious crimes and corruption: the very question on which Modi Sarkar had promised to mark a break from the UPA Cabinet. Seven of the new Ministers have serious criminal charges against them, including those of murder, rioting and rape. In all, a study has shown that 20 (31%) out of entire strength of 64 Ministers, have serious criminal charges against them. Modi apologists have tried to label the charges as ‘flimsy’ – but such defences do not hold much water.

Moreover, one of the new Ministers, JP Nadda, is implicated in getting whistleblower Sanjeev Chaturvedi removed from his post as AIIMS CVO. Allegedly, Nadda pressurised the then Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to remove Chaturvedi, who was investigating an officer close to Nadda for corrupt deals to the tune of crores of rupees.

Then, there is the case of the Suresh Prabhu, who shifted allegiance from Shiv Sena to BJP on the eve of his induction into the Cabinet. Prabhu, former Environment Minister in the Vajpayee Government, ironically has a flat in the Adarsh Society in Maharashtra, notorious for violating a host of environmental laws and regulations. Prabhu’s flat is also larger than the area to which he is legally entitled. The Adarsh Society scam was a serious black mark on the Congress-NCP Government in the State, but Opposition political leaders including Prabhu are alleged to be beneficiaries of the scam. With Prabhu finding a berth in Modi’s Cabinet, the issue of corruption has come full circle – showing the essential continuity between the UPA and NDA regimes on this issue.

The inclusion of Jayant Sinha (son of BJP leader Yashwant Sinha) in the Cabinet is also noteworthy – pointing to the close overlapping of corporate and government interests, and the consequent conflict of these interests with those of the country and its citizens. Jayant Sinha is a former head of the Omidyar Network in India – known to be run by the eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar. Sinha quit Omidyar to join Modi’s election campaign as an advisor. Soon after, Modi publicly endorsed the opening of India’s e-commerce market to FDI – a move that would massively benefit Omidyar who represents one of the foremost global corporate interests in e-commerce.

Cabinet apart, Modi’s chosen Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, too has a record of being a blatant advocate of US corporate interests. As late as March 2013, he had advised US Congress on the “challenges” posed by India’s domestic “protectionism” to US business interests. Why is Modi’s hand-picked Economic Advisor a man with an IMF background, who believes India should stop protecting the interests of its people in order to benefit US businesses?

The inclusion of Giriraj Singh – the BJP MP from Nawada in Bihar – is yet another instance of Modi’s wink to corruption. A few months ago, a huge stash of cash – Rs 1.14 crore – was recovered from a thief who had stolen the amount from Singh’s house. Singh had only reported a theft of Rs 50,000. A red-faced Singh had offered the truly flimsy explanation that the cash belonged to his ‘cousin’ – a real estate builder with interests in Nagpur. But Giriraj Singh’s inclusion as Modi’s Cabinet Minister is significant for other reasons too. The BJP has, till now, claimed to distance the party and the Prime Minister from the poisonous communal and casteist utterances of various figures associated with the Sangh Parivar and BJP. While the ‘love jehad’ lie was a central vehicle of the BJP campaign in Uttar Pradesh, with MP Adityanath making especially vile speeches provoking violence on this pretext, the BJP claimed that Adityanath did not have the party’s and Modi’s approval. But Giriraj Singh’s elevation to Cabinet Minister gives the lie to BJP’s claims.

Giriraj Singh had, during the Lok Sabha election campaign counselled Modi’s critics, especially Muslims, to ‘go to Pakistan’. His statement openly mocked at democratic norms of the space for dissent, and displayed his vision of Modi’s rule as an authoritarian Hindu Nation with no room for minorities and dissenters. Giriraj Singh also openly defended Adityanath’s hate-speech and amplified it, endorsing the ‘love jehad’ lie quite openly. And Giriraj Singh is also notorious for having equated the Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh, who had the blood of massacres of dalit landless poor on his hands, with Gandhi. If Singh’s inclusion in Modi’s cabinet shows the communal-casteist-undemocratic face behind the ‘development’ mask, the inclusion of Nadda, Prabhu and Jayant Sinha reveal that ‘development’ in the Modi regime, as in the UPA regime that it replaced, will continue to mean corporate plunder, corruption and flagrant disregard for the environment and the country’s precious resources.

Politics in India

Black Money and the BJP’s Double Standards

– Liberation, November, 2014.

Repatriation of black money stashed away in illegal foreign bank accounts was a key theme of the BJP’s victorious 2014 election campaign. In speech after speech leader after BJP leader promised to repatriate black money held in foreign banks in 100 days after coming to power. Baba Ramdev and many other BJP cheerleaders even put out fantastic figures of how much each Indian would gain once the black money has been brought home. The BJP’s written manifesto of course avoided mentioning any specific time frame or suggesting any amount, but the first step Modi took after being sworn in was to set up a Special Investigative Team to track black money to showcase his government’s commitment on the issue.

How far the SIT has progressed on the subject is not known. What is known is that the BJP in power has now started singing an altogether different tune on the issue of repatriation of black money. It now says the government is handicapped by treaties with various countries in the matter of disclosure of names. After telling the whole world that the Congress will have to suffer embarrassment after names are disclosed, the government has now finally submitted three names to the Supreme Court – former Dabur group director Pradip Burman, Rajkot-based bullion trader Pankaj Chimanlal Lodhya and Timblo Pvt Ltd, a mining company from Goa owned by Radha S Timblo. Interestingly, records have it that in recent years the Timblos made hefty donations to the BJP as well as the Congress – Rs 1.18 crore to the BJP and Rs 0.65 crore to the Congress. Whether this causes any embarrassment to the BJP or not, the nexus between black money and the BJP, or the Congress for that matter, stands squarely exposed.

It is quite clear that the BJP would like to use the issue of black money as a weapon of wheeling and dealing with selective disclosures and measured noise at opportune moments. The people’s movement against corruption must therefore free this issue from the BJP’s partisan calculations and hold the government accountable on this crucial question. While the BJP would like to keep everybody focused on a few accounts on a few foreign banks, the real issue is evidently much larger. It has rightly been pointed out by knowledgeable experts that the money held illegally in foreign banks forms only a minor part of the problem. Much bigger amounts are actually ‘round-tripped’ to India in the form of FDI. And even bigger mind-boggling sums of black money never go offshore and thrive in India in myriad forms of undeclared transaction and wealth. The issue, as Prof Arun Kumar of JNU has repeatedly pointed out, is not just black money but the much larger black economy and the culprit is the nexus of political power and big business that protects it.

Successive governments in India have appointed committees and commissions to study the problem of black money. Yet the problem has only gone on to acquire increasingly menacing proportions. Evidently, the measures adopted to tackle the problem have proved to be thoroughly ineffective and even counter-productive. There have broadly been three responses – (i) amnesty schemes to promote voluntary disclosure, (ii) incentives to legitimise investments made from tax havens across the world and (iii) progressive reduction in tax rates in the name of improving compliance and lowering tax evasion. All these measures have failed to make any dent into the problem of black money, if anything they have only proved to be mega facilitators for the rapidly growing black economy. Modi talks of getting FDI from US and Japan to turn India into a manufacturing hub, but the fact is since 2000, it is Mauritius which has been the largest source of FDI into India (accounting for some 40% of FDI while the US accounts for only 6%) and bulk of this FDI is going into the most lucrative real estate sector!

For an effective war on black money India must not only scrap the tax avoidance treaties signed with tax havens like Mauritius and Switzerland and plug the hawala routes through which money is routinely sent abroad but also strictly enforce domestic tax enforcement and mete out harsh penalties to corporate tax defaulters. And as long as major ruling parties will be funded by black money holders as has been exposed in the case of the Timblo donations to BJP and Congress there can be no political will to combat and confiscate black money. The battle against black money must therefore perforce also be directed towards electoral reforms to end corporate funding of political parties and dismantle the unholy nexus between tax evaders, law makers and law enforcers.

Politics in India

‘Love Jihad’ Lie – A Communal-Patriarchal Hate Story

– Kavita Krishnan, Liberation, November, 2014.

Every great love story in the world celebrates the love that breaks barriers of class, caste, creed, and defies narrow social prejudices and restrictions. The saffron campaign warning Hindu girls against ‘love Jihad’ goes against the spirit of love, freedom and rights. It is a hate story, not a love story.

The centrepiece of the BJP’s and Sangh Parivar’s vicious ‘love-jehad’ campaign has just been exposed as a lie. The young woman in Meerut, who was supposedly a victim of ‘love jehad’, has approached the police with the truth. And the truth is that she was in fact a victim of the patriarchal pressures of family and society and the conspiracy of the communal political forces.

As a Hindu woman who fell in love with and was pregnant by a Muslim man, she faced the ire of her family and community. And this all too familiar situation was exploited by the politics of communal hatred. A love story was twisted into a hate-story to feed the myth of ‘love jehad’. Love, elopement, and marriage were distorted to claim rape and forced conversion. And as a result, 10 innocent persons including suffered arrest and jail, and the young woman herself has faced immense coercion and intimidation. She revealed that tghe BJP paid a large sum of money to her father, to ‘encourage’ him to pressurize her to brand her relationship as ‘love jehad’. After the girl escaped from her home and revealed the truth to the police, her father said he would agree to the marriage. But a Hindutva outfit, said they would not ‘permit’ a ‘Hindu beti (daughter)’ to a Muslim man!

In fact, her testimony shows that her lover Kaleem had not only had no problems with her remaining a Hindu, he had fallen in love with her because she was independent. And she in turn had loved him because of his support for her aspirations. Her friend Puja is also happily married to a Muslim man Shariq. When young men in rural/semi-urban Western UP fall in love with women admiring the latter’s independence, when young people ignore caste and religious divides to fall in love, it holds out hope for the country.

The Sangh Parivar’s hate-campaign seeks to snuff out this hope. And it victimises women as much as it does minorities – and the Meerut case itself is a classic example of this.

Love is Not Rape
In patriarchal societies, consensual love between men and women of different castes, communities or classes is often branded as rape by the woman’s parents. A recent study of rape trials in Delhi showed that a whopping 40 per cent of rape complaints in Delhi are actually filed by parents of girls or women who have eloped with a lover. In all these cases, the actual violence faced by the woman had been at the hands of her own family and community, in the name of ‘honour’. And of course, the ‘honour’ killings of lovers who break caste and community barriers continue to abound in India.

Alok Dhanwa wrote – ‘How visible the shackles of the home become/When a girl runs away from home’. Truly, in our society, girls are forced to run away to love and marry, because homes are often like jails for them. Girls and boys are both are killed for the ‘crime’ of loving in defiance of caste and creed. Inter-caste, inter-community and same-sex love stories so often end up tragedies since they end in ‘honour’ killings or suicide.

The BJP’s and Sangh Parivar’s ‘love jehad’ campaign, in order to fan up suspicion and hatred against the minority community, gives political fire-power to such ‘honour’ crimes, coercion and curbs on the freedom of women. Several prominent BJP leaders openly talked of ‘love jehad’; BJP leaders have issued calls against entry of Muslim men into ‘garba’ dance halls; the ABVP, the RSS student outfit, has launched a national campaign against ‘love jehad’, and the RSS’ official organs have carried inflammatory cover stories promoting the ‘love jehad’ myth.

Why Does the State Not Protect the Freedom to Love?
Every person and every woman must have a right to choose who they love, marry or have relationships with. This right is protected by India’s Constitution. How can these rights and freedoms of people, and of women be protected if India’s ruling party openly endorses and conducts campaigns against these rights?

The Special Marriage Act is, on paper, the law that allows people from different religions to marry in a court procedure. But in practice, it is difficult for couples who wish to marry without parental sanction, to avail of the SMA, especially if theirs is an inter-religious marriage. This is because of the mandatory one-month waiting period following the filing of the marriage forms. Sangh Parivar groups are regularly informed by employees in the Court premises, about such couples, and they use the ensuing one month to separate the couple by force and restore the woman to parental ‘custody’. Recently, in Madhya Pradesh, there have been two such cases where couples seeking to get married in court have been threatened, beaten, and forcibly separated by Hindutva groups, acting with the approval of the police.
In India today, a woman in love with a man from a different caste or community cannot count on the Government and state machinery to protect her rights. A Muslim or Christian man in love with a Hindu woman, or a Dalit man in love with any woman, cannot count on the Government and state machinery to ensure his right and that of his lover. Instead, the police and political parties often share the prejudices of casteist and communal patriarchy. And now, to make matters much worse, India’s ruling party is seeking to expand its political influence by promoting the myth of ‘love jehad’, thereby promoting communal hatred and also attacking women’s freedoms.

The Bogey of ‘Conversion’
Some people say, ‘we are for freedom to love or marry anyone, but why do Hindu women convert to the religion of their husband?’ In the first place, this is not always true.

As we saw in the Meerut case, the Special Marriage Act with its month-long waiting period makes it difficult for a couple facing parental opposition, to marry quickly and quietly. The easiest way is often to undergo a conversion on paper. Many women and men are willing to convert to facilitate marriage – because for them, love is more important than religious identity. And even after conversion, usually it is common for them to retain their original religious practices alongside the one they have adopted. The Meerut girl herself has said that her husband did not want her to stop being a Hindu and going to temples, and her friend who married a Muslim continues to visit temples.

But there is an even more important question. In cases where women do convert upon marrying, is it ‘love Jihad’? Or is it part of the usual patriarchal pressure every woman faces, to ‘adjust’ to her husband’s family and culture?

After all, most women in our society, who marry according to their families’ wishes, change their name and their home to ‘adjust’ to their husband’s family. Girls are pressurised to stop wearing jeans or salwar kurta after marriage. If a non-vegetarian woman marries into a vegetarian family, she will often give up her dietary preference. Why raise a hue and cry only when married women change their religion? Yes, we should defend women’s right to be free of all such pressures. But the saffron forces object to women’s change of religion alone – while they celebrate every other patriarchal pressure as part of ‘Indian culture’.

Politics of Saffron ‘Love Jihad’ Campaign
Spreading hatred against certain communities by claiming that ‘their men are taking our women’ is a very old political ploy. See what Hitler, the German dictator, wrote in Mein Kampf, to spread racial hatred against Jews:

“The black haired Jewish youth lies for hours in ambush, a satanic joy in his face, for the unsuspecting girl whom he pollutes with his blood and steals from her own race. By every means, he seeks to wreck the racial bases of the nation he intends to subdue. Just as individually he deliberately befouls women and girls, so he never shrinks from breaking the barriers race has erected against foreign elements.”

Does this not sound exactly like the BJP’s ‘love Jihad’ campaign? Just like Hitler, the BJP is also spreading hatred against minorities and women’s freedom, in order to crush democracy and establish its version of authoritarian rule.
Democratic forces all over the country need to give a fitting rebuff to the BJP’s and Sangh Parivar’s communal-patriarchal campaign, and boldly assert and celebrate the rights of all persons to love and marry according to choice.

Politics in India

Mangala Apparels Workers’ Struggles in Delhi Continue

– ML Update, 30 Sep. – 6 Oct., 2014.

Since July 2014, workers of the Mangala Apparels factory located in the SMA industrial estate in Jahangirpuri, Delhi have been waging an organized struggle against violation of their legally mandated rights. The workers’ struggle began when a worker, Amar, died because he could not avail of medical treatment under the ESI scheme. The factory management had been resorting to the completely illegal practice of asking workers to sign on blank papers before ESI cards were issued – when Amar refused to do so, he was denied an ESI card and ESI services. Since then, the Mangala workers have resisted all threats of the factory management to form their own union affiliated to the AICCTU, and have been demanding implementation of all labour laws in the factory.

Ever since the formation of the Union in September 2014, the management has been employing all sorts of devious means to curb the growing workers’ struggles. First it ‘manufactured’ a fight with Ajay Singh, who was Secretary of Union, on 8 Oct 2014 with the pretext for firing him. The police in the local Mahendra Park thana assisted the factory management in this gameplan and arrived at the factory to pick up Comrade Ajay. Their efforts however were thwarted when hundreds of workers closed operations in the Mangala factory, and marched to the local police station against the arrest of Comrade Ajay. The management was forced to take the legal route to terminate Comrade Ajay, and suspended him pending a ‘departmental enquiry’. Once again, the local police helped the machinations of the factory management. Previously the police had first refused to file an FIR against the management for the crime of ‘Causing death due to Criminal Negligence’ in the worker Amar’s case, then they defended the factory management instead of properly investigating Amar’s death. In the Ajay Singh case too, the police tried to delay the matter in the Rohini court by failing to file their report on the complaint.

Moreover, police force was deployed all around the Mangala Apparels factory to threaten and put pressure on the workers, and this provided the management with another opportunity it was looking for. The factory management also fired the union President Santosh Jha and suspended Vice-President Pitambher in an attempt to break the union and the workers’ struggle. However, the workers did not relent and resolved to fight to defend their right to form a union. The factory management was then forced to concede to some of the workers’ demands. The factory management extended the facility of Provident Fund for many workers. It agreed to pay minimum legal bonus to all the workers, as well as a higher bonus with the rank of supervisor and above.

The situation in the Mangala factory however continues to be tense, with the management using a carrot and stick approach to stall the union’s activities. It is also utilizing the absence of elected leaders to increase the threats on those who try to raise the voice of workers within the factory. In this situation, the ‘Mangala Apparels Workers Union’ approached Labour department for ‘General Checking’ for labour law violations. Following the persistent interventions of AICCTU, the general checking finally took place on 15 October. During this general checking, as expected, the ‘labour inspectors’ failed to cover around 130 workers during their spot visit to the factory and failed to note several of the labour violations.

AICCTU leaders subsequently met the Joint Commissioner of Labour Department, North West District, Delhi on 27 October 2014 to raise the issue of the flawed General Checking, where the factory management failed to produce labour records for two dates and the Inspector refused to cooperate with the written demand that the Inspector should be instructed to inspect the factory again to cover the remaining workers in the ‘General Checking’. In the ensuing heated debate on the issue between AICCTU representatives and the Joint Commissioner, the arguments offered by the Joint Commissioner for refusing the workers’ request basically reflect the impact on the ground of what is coined as the path-breaking ‘Labour Reforms’ to end the ‘Inspector Raj’ which will result in a ‘grand success’ for Modi’s ‘Make in India’ project: he claimed that he could not send the Inspector again to the factory because he would lose his job if he did so. Moreover, he stated that the practice of ‘general checking’ was going to be discontinued as per the instructions of the Modi government. After the repeated interventions of the AICCTU representatives, he merely agreed to allow the workers’ union to inspect the file of the labour inspector and add in written objections as well as the names of the workers not included in the General Checking. In the face of all odds the workers are continuing to defend their right to form a union and have planned to take the campaign to propagate the whole issue among the workers of the entire SMA industrial area in the first week of November.

Struggles in India

Resisting Communal Hate and Riot Mongering in Delhi

– ML Update, 30 Sep. – 6 Oct., 2014.

For the past ten days, Delhi has been witnessing well-orchestrated campaigns of hate and communal rumour mongering, leading to large-scale tensions and violence. Immediately after Diwali, vested interests, led by former BJP MLA from Trilokpuri Sunil Vaidya, helped to spread all sorts of wild rumours and fomented tensions and violence in Trilokpuri. Soon after, the occasion of Muharram was used to spread massive tensions and fear amongst the minority community in Bawana. The Delhi Police, controlled by the Modi government’s Home Ministry, failed to intervene to control the situation and in fact exacerbated the tensions through arbitrary arrests.

In the midst of this communal riot mongering, AISA, AICCTU and CPI(ML), along with several progressive and democratic forces in Delhi, have been actively intervening in several ways to resist this orchestrated violence and hate mongering. Immediately after the violence in Trilokpuri began, at a time when all sorts of rumours were being spread to escalate communal tensions across Delhi, various teams (including members of AISA, CPI(ML) and JNUSU) visited the area to meet the people and document the facts. These teams highlighted the manner in which common brawls between individuals were deliberately being given a communal colour by vested interests. At a time when the media was completely blocking out the role of the Delhi Police – the lack of adequate action to begin with, the arbitrary arrests of people, the injuries inflicted by the police lathi charge on men and women in Muslim dominated areas, the torture and beatings in police custody of those arrested, and moreover the lack of action against the former BJP MLA Sunil Vaidya and other RSS leaders who had clearly played a role in inciting the violence – these teams highlighted the need to demand accountability from the police and the state machinery.

JNUSU took the initiative to organise a Citizens’ Protest against the prejudiced role of the Delhi Police on 1 November 2014. AISA and various left and democratic individuals and organizations, including the Delhi Forum and left student groups such as Democratic Students’ Union (DSU) and Democratic Students’ Federation (DSF) participated in this demonstration. This protest was anchored by JNUSU President Comrade Ashutosh. A delegation consisting of JNUSU office bearers (JNUSU President Ashutosh, Vice President Anant, General Secretary Chintu, Joint Secretary Shahqat) as well JNUSU councillors Rama Naga and Fayaz met representatives of the Delhi Police and submitted a detailed note demanding strong action against responsible police officers who failed to act in time to stop the violence, immediate action against well-known instigators of the violence such as former BJP MLA Sunil Vaidya and RSS leader Ramcharan Gujarati, an end to the arbitrary arrests and chargesheets without evidence and investigation, and provision of proper security, medical and legal aids to those accused persons who are inside Tihar jail. AISA and JNUSU are also actively part of the ongoing initiatives to provide proper legal aid to those arbitrarily arrested and tortured as ‘rioters’ (around 75-80 per cent of those arrested by the police are Muslims) and to provide medical and legal aid to those injured in the Trilokpuri violence. They have been intervening with the Minority Commission as well as with the Delhi Police to demand action and justice in this milieu of violence and communal hate mongering.

Even as democratic forces were dealing with the situation in Trilokpuri, tensions broke out in Bawana as Muharram approached. Long-standing communal tensions in Bawana (at the outskirts of Delhi) took a vicious inflammatory turn, when a Mahapanchayat was called on 2nd November to provoke hatred against the Taziya (Moharram procession) in Bawana. On hearing of the communal mobilisation in Bawana, JNUSU wrote to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi demanding immediate action to prevent the Mahapanchayat. On the day of the Mahapanchayat, an AISA team visited Bawana on 2 November, met local people and witnessed the Mahapanchayat and the developments around it. They collected concrete evidence of the horrific communal speeches delivered at the Mahapanchayat by the sitting BJP MLA Gugan Singh Ranga, a sitting councillor from the Congress, and several other leaders from BJP. They also met the residents of the JJ colony in Bawana, who spoke of the atmosphere of fear and intimidation, despite the fact that Muslims had already agreed to limit the route of the Taziya procession within the JJ colony. On the day of Muharram (4 November 2014), AISA and JNUSU teams from DU and JNU went to both Trilokpuri and Bawana to resist all attempts to foment violence and communal tensions during the Taziya procession. Even as those who foment communal tensions roam around free in Delhi, AISA activists were detained by the Delhi Police when they tried to enter Bawana – for several hours they were detained in different police stations in the region and were released only late at night.

Struggles in India

‘Nyay march’ against Escalating Feudal Violence in Bihar

ML Update, 21 – 27 Oct., 2014.

The hopes which the oppressed and marginalised sections of society had placed in Chief Minister Jitan Ram Majhi (who belongs to the mahadalit community) have been belied by the spate of recent atrocities, most recent incident being the burning alive of 12-year old dalit boy Sai Ram in Mohanpur (Karakat, Rohtas district) for the ‘crime’ of letting his goat stray into a landlord’s field. Led by the CPI(ML), the rural poor and women in Bihar have registered sharp protest against this unholy attempt to crush the dignity of the poor and their aspirations for justice and democracy. These protests include a march in Tikari on 10 October against the Pura incident, Bhojpur bandh on 13 October against the Kurmuri gang rape, Nyay march in the capital Patna on 17 October, and a march in Dumariya on 18 October. On 18 October, a protest meeting was also organized at Dumariya village, which is the home of the gang rape victim. Moreover, a bandh was also organized in Rohtas against the burning alive of Sai Ram.

CPI-ML leaders as well as CPI-M, SUCI, people’s rights movements, and journalists participated in the Nyay march held in Patna on 17 October 2014 and called for a united struggle against feudal violence in Bihar. Thousands of people participated in the march which began from Gandhi Maidan and moved towards the R block crossroads, increasing in strength as it proceeded. It was led by CPI-ML General secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, Bihar State secretary Kunal, CCW member Com. Ram Jatan Sharma, former MP Rameshwar Prasad, AIPWA General secretary Meena Tiwari, ABKMS national General secretary Com. Rajaram Singh, AIPWA State President Saroj Choube, JNUSU secretary Com. Chintu and others. CPI-M state secretary and block member Com. Sarvoday Sharma, SUCI state committee member Indradev Rai, journalist Nivedita Shakeel, Ashish from NAPM, social activist Sudha Varghese and others also participated in the march. The meeting organized at R block was presided over by Com. Rajaram and conducted by Com. Kamlesh Sharma. The meeting was addressed by former MLA Rajaram Singh, CPI-M’s Com. Sarvoday Sharma, Nivedita Shakeel, JNUSU secretary Chintu, Kisan Sabha leader Com. Sudama Prasad, Gaya district secretary Com. Niranjan Kumar, former MP Rameshwar Prasad, AIPWA General secretary Meena Tiwari, and others.

Various political resolutions were passed at the Nyay march. The resolutions condemned the growing instances of barbaric feudal atrocities in Bihar and demanded that the Bihar government put an immediate end to violence and oppression by taking stringent action against all those responsible including the DM and SP at Pura and Kurmuri who scuttled the process of justice and refused to act on time to protect the lives and livelihoods of the poor and dalits. The resolutions also demanded the reinstatement of the Amir Das Commission so that the convicts in the carnages and their political protectors get their due punishment. The march raised the demand for resettlement of all poor families displaced by feudal forces (such as in Lahsuna (Masaudhi, Patna), Mauri (Paliganj, Patna), Belaur (Udvantnagar, Bhojpur), Bagahi (Jehanabad), Lohanipur and Bhanwarpokhar in Patna Nagar) as well as resettlement of the urban poor displaced with the support of the Patna High Court in the name of ‘beautification’. Even as culprits of several feudal massacres keep getting acquitted, 14 innocent people are serving life imprisonment for the last 13 years under TADA in the Bhadasi (Arwal district) case. The Nyay march demanded that the government release all TADA prisoners without delay.

On 18 October, several people participated in the march from the Ara Party office to Dumariya, protesting against the Kurmuri rape incident. As the march, including hundreds of motorcyclists, proceeded from Ara town, more and more people joined in and the road passing through the district became a sea of red flags. At the Jan Pratirodh sabha (people’s protest meeting) in Dumariya, thousands of mahadalits, poor, and women joined in the demand for immediate punishment to the rapists. The meeting was presided over by Com. Kamta Prasad Singh. Prior to the meeting, ML leaders had also met the victims’ families.

The CPI-ML General Secretary, addressing the Dumariya people’s meeting, saluted the courage of all the rape victims who chose to speak up and fight against their victimisation, a courage which even the Chief Minister of Bihar Jitan Ram Majhi who was persecuted recently could not muster for fear of upsetting the apple cart of votes in the election. He pointed out that the so-called ‘social justice’ parties such as the JD(U) commit injustice, tolerate injustice, and protect feudal-criminals for the sake of votes. He said that the Kurmuri incident had also revealed the true face of all parties in Bihar – while Nitish had been claiming credit for ensuring education and employment for girls in the state, the truth is that young girls have to go rag picking for a livelihood, suffering the hard knocks of life. Carnages were perpetrated in the Lalu regime and the High Court acquitted all the culprits during the Nitish regime, and the Amir Das commission was disbanded thus strengthening feudal forces. Also, the feudal forces had received a major boost with the BJP victory and formation of the Modi government at the Centre and thus they are now attacking mahadalits, poor, women, and minorities without fear. He ended by underlining the need to give a fitting reply to the BJP and the feudal-criminal forces under its patronage.

Struggles in India

Protests against gang rapes and feudal violence in Kurmuri, Bhojpur

– ML Update, 14 – 20 Oct., 2014.

On 8th October 2014, 4 minor girls and 2 women, all ragpickers from the Mahadalit community of Dumaria village, visited a scrap dealer in Kurmuri village of Bhojpur. The scrap dealer, Neelnidhi Singh, a known former Ranveer Sena area commander, held them captive at gunpoint and along with two associates, raped the women. It was only after a protracted and militant protest that the local police and administration was forced to file an FIR against the accused and take action. A CPI(ML) fact-finding team consisting of AIPWA secretary Meena Tiwari, Bihar RYA President Raju Yadav, former Ara MP Rameshwar Prasad, AIPWA state President Saroj Chaubey and AIPWA leaders Indu Singh and Shobha Mandal visited the Dumaria village as well as Ara town on 11 October and met the victims and their family members. According to this fact-finding team, the main accused, Neelnidhi Singh is not just a former Ranveer Sena area commander but is also known to enjoy the support of Ara MP RK Singh (from the BJP) and Tarari MLA Sunil Pandey from the JD(U). As a result, the police officials in Tarari as well as the Ara district administration dilly-dallied in taking any action against him, until CPI(ML) leaders and activists intervened and public pressure was mounted. Though the incident took place on 8 October, an official complaint was lodged only after 24 hours, and the medical tests of the victims were done only on 10 October 2014. The local administration and police also tried to tamper with the evidence and the witnesses, and therefore, CPI(ML) has been demanding the suspension of the Ara SP and DM, and the removal of the Tarari police station in-charge. The 3 accused have now been arrested.

This incident points to the sense of impunity and boldness that feudal forces and Ranveer Sena elements have been displaying in the wake of a BJP victory at the centre and the patronage/appeasement by JD(U)-BJP and now JD(U) Govt. in Bihar. The Nitish Government’;s scrapping of the Amir Das Commission that was about to expose the political (mostly BJP and JD-U) links of the Ranveer Sena, and the serial acquittals of massacre-accused Ranveer Sena men have gone far to emboldening such elements. The recent eviction of mahadalits in Gaya and the attack on Dalits on Independence Day at Baddi last year have all been warning signals. And Kurmuri shows starkly how Ranveer Sena men who went scot-free, continue to think they can get away with rape and atrocities against Dalits. If action had been taken against Neelnidhi Singh in previous, pending cases, then he would not have been free to indulge in this latest heinous crime. The need of the hour therefore is to force the reluctant governments at the Centre and in Bihar to restore the Amir Das Commission and to ensure an early tabling of its report.

CPI(ML) has launched a spirited statewide movement in Bihar, demanding justice for the rape survivors of the Kurmuri violence, immediate removal of the in-charge of the Tarari police station, immediate suspension of the local DM and SP, and immediate reinstatement of the Amir Das commission. CPI(ML) called for a Bhojpur bandh and Bihar-wide protests on 13th October 2014 against the gang-rape. On 13 October, around 200 AISA-RYA activists marched in protest on the streets of Ara. The market in Ara town as well as the university premises remained closed. AISA-RYA activists led by Bihar RYA President Raju Yadav, Bihar RYA joint secretary Manoj Manzil and AISA Bihar state secretary Ajit Kushwaha also organized a ‘Rail Chakka Jaam’ at the Ara railways station, which lasted for some hours and disrupted the Patna-Mughal Sarai railway line. Simultaneously, CPI(ML) activists led by CC member Saroj Chaubey, Dilraj Preetam, Kayamuddin and others staged a road block on NH-30 near the Ara bus stop for hours together. Traffic was also blocked at Fatehpur, Jethwar and Kumhari in Tarari. Massive protest marches were held by CPI(ML) activists at Charpokhri, Piro, Sandesh, Sahar and other parts of Ara. In Jagdishpur, CPI(ML) activists were arrested for protesting.

Protests against the Kurmuri gang rapes and against the growing feudal violence in the state were organized by CPI(ML) in different parts of Bihar. In Patna city, a protest march beginning from the Patna radio station was led by comrade Santosh Sahar, Bihar state committee members Kamlesh Sharma and Navin Kumar, comrades Ashok Kumar, Pannalal, Naseem and Murtaza Ali, as well as AISA leaders Mukhtar and Sudhir. In Patna rural too, protests were organised in Masaudhi, Naubatpur, Dulhijan Bazaar, Paliganj, Vikram, Bihta, Dhanrua, Phulwari Shareef, Maner and Phatuha. In Jehanabad, more than 500 activists registered a militant protest at the DM office against the Kurmuri gang rapes and the rape and murder of a girl in Ratni, Jehanabad. The protestors gheraoed the Jehanabad DM office for hours. In Arwal, 500 CPI(ML) activists marched on the streets in protest, and organized a protest meeting within the Arwal block premises. Protests were held in Siwan town, Darauli, Guthni, Aandar and Nautan in Siwan, as well as in Nasriganj, Karakat, Vikramganj and Tilauthu in Rohtas, in Dumrau, Kesath, Sonbarsa and Navanagar areas of Buxar district, and in Darbhanga, Purnea, Betia, Muzzafarpur and Bhagalpur. A ‘Nyay march’ (march for justice) will be organized by CPI(ML) on 17 October against feudal and patriarchal violence, demanding reinstatement of the Amir Das commission and the release of all TADA detainees.

In solidarity with the ongoing struggle for justice in Bhojpur, the CPI(ML) and AIPWA organized protests in different parts of the country on 13th October 2014. In Delhi, a protest demonstration was held at Bihar Bhawan. The protest at Bihar Bhawan was addressed by CPI(ML) Politburo member Kavita Krishnan, Delhi State Secretary Sanjay Sharma, AICCTU leader comrade Mathura Paswan, AISA Delhi President Sunny Kumar, Jan Sanskriti Manch’;s Ramnaresh Ram and JNUSU General Secretary Chintu. In Tamil Nadu, a demonstration against Bhojpur gang rapes was held in Coimbatore on 14th October at the gate of the Pricol factory. Hundreds of Pricol workers led by their union’;s general secretary Com. M. Saminathan raised slogans demanding justice against feudal and patriarchal violence by the Ranveer Sena, and demanding the immediate reinstatement of the Amir Das commission and tabling of its report. On the previous day too, on 13th October 2014, the AICCTU had held a protest at the Pricol factory gate demanding end to violence on women, freedom without fear for women, implementation of the Verma Committee recommendations, prevention of honour killings in Tamil Nadu and action against Haryana BJP CM candidate’;s remarks on dress code for women.

In Uttar Pradesh, the AIPWA organized protests in Devaria, Balia, Gorakhpur, Kanpur, Lakhimpur Kheeri and Sitapur districts. In Devaria and Sitapur, AIPWA protested at the district headquarters, led by AIPWA state secretary Geeta Pandey and district secretary Sarojini respectively. AIPWA leaders submitted appeals to the President, demanding justice for the gang rape victims in Bhojpur and immediate reinstatement of the Amir Das commission, to the district in-charges at various district headquarters in Uttar Pradesh.

Struggles in India

Water Supply and Sewerage Workers of Bangalore on the Warpath

– ML Update, 21 – 27 Oct., 2014.

On 15th October, contract workers of Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) led by AICCTU held a demonstration in front of the Karnataka Labour Commissioner’;s office at Bangalore demanding same pay and service conditions for workers engaged in same and similar kind of works. This parity in wages is mandatory under the existing clauses of the Contract Labour Abolition and Regulation Act (CLARA), 1970. The spirited and impressive demonstration, attended by more than 500 demonstrators, was led by Comrade Balan, Karnataka State President and all India Vice President of AICCTU. Comrades Shankar, all India Vice President and Clifton, State Organising Secretary also addressed demonstrators, among others. Sanitation workers of Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) also joined the demonstration expressing solidarity. Mr. Jinkalappa, Additional Labour Commissioner came to the demonstration spot, received the case petition and assured immediate action. More than 500 individual cases were also filed on the same day. Many more applications kept pouring in.


Film Review: Haider

– Radhika Krishnan, Liberation, November, 2014.

What happens when a well-known saga of revenge and intrigue, of complex relationships and personal anguish is situated within the tragic narrative that is Kashmir? After Maqbool and Omkara, Vishal Bharadwaj has come up with yet another Shakespearean adaptation, ‘Haider’, based on Hamlet. Haider remains more or less loyal to the original Shakespearean plot. A young Kashmiri Muslim, Haider Meer, who is a student of literature at Aligarh, returns home when his father ‘disappears’ after being arrested by the Indian Army. It is 1995, and as a practicing doctor in the political chaos of Kashmir, Haider’s father, Hilal Meer doesn’t want to take ‘sides’ between the separatists and India; he just wants to do his job as a doctor, treating all patients who come to him regardless of their political affiliation. Not so easy to do that in Kashmir, and soon Meer finds himself arrested when he treats a ‘militant’ for appendicitis. He ‘disappears’ – which in Kashmir is a euphemism for being arrested, tortured or even killed by the Indian Army – his house gutted, his wife Gazala turned into a ‘half widow’ who like thousands of other Kashmiri women has no idea whether her husband is dead or alive.

If Oedipal relationships are an crucial part of the Hamlet narrative, in Haider too, we find Haider grappling with his deep emotions for his mother Gazala, with his anger at Gazala’s growing closeness to Hilal Meer’s brother Khurram, and at her attempts to find happiness with Khurram. Haider searches for his father in the ‘qaidkhaana’ (jail) that his home Kashmir has become. He is exposed to the overwhelming military presence, to routine curfews and the daily humiliating searches by the police and the army, to having to prove his identity everywhere in the place he thought of as ‘home’. His search for his father leads him nowhere, as the military is protected by the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). And slowly but surely, Haider is sucked into a mire of desperation, anger and a desire for revenge. Meanwhile, Khurram, who is an opportunist lawyer, chooses to enter politics and simultaneously gets ‘elected’ in the elections conducted by India which are mostly boycotted by the local Kashmiris.

Haider then meets Roohdaar (the ghost in Hamlet), a separatist who had been in jail with Hilal Meer. Roohdaar (a character played by Irrfan) tells him that Hilal has been killed by the Army, after being betrayed by Khurram, and conveys to him a message from his father exhorting him to take revenge on his scheming uncle. With Roohdaar’s help, Haider then discovers his father’s body – in one of mass graves that dot Kashmir. What follows is Haider dilemma ‘to be or not to be’, which is brilliantly juxtaposed with Kashmir’s own tensions with India ‘hum hain ki hum nahi hai’. However, after sticking to the Hamlet script, Bhadarwaj ends up delivering a moral homily against the perils of ‘inteqaam’ (revenge), and Haider ultimately decides not to kill Khurram.

Haider is surely remarkable in many ways. The brilliant photography and competent acting by most of the characters (Tabu as Gazala deserves a special mention here) apart, Haider shows us a Kashmir where Bollywood has rarely dared to reveal. In a break from the lakes and shikaraas of ‘Kashmir ki Kali’, and from the portrayal of the India-hating ‘militant’ in the likes of Roza or Dil Se. It is a Kashmir under the jackboots of the military shielded by the AFSPA, the Kashmir of fake encounters, curfews, security checks, mass graves and half widows, the Kashmir where slogans of Azaadi are to be found on the walls and in the minds of people. And moreover, it is a Kashmir where common people struggle often unsuccessfully to live ordinary lives, unable to do what should be normal. In possibly one of the most poignant moments of the film, a young Kashmiri is so overwhelmed by his circumstances that he stands at the entrance of his own home, refusing to enter. So used is he to coercion and humiliation, such a stranger has he become in his own ‘home’ that he needs the humiliating experience of being ‘searched’ and having to show his identity card before he can enter his house.

That apart, Haider unfortunately seems to be too strongly hamstrung by the Hamlet script to be able to do justice to the Kashmir narrative. The experience of the common Kashmiri, or search-and-cordon operations, of crackdowns and disappearances, appear as mere props to lend some authenticity to the Hamlet/Haider narrative – props to be dealt with as soon as possible so that the film can get on with its overarching theme of personal angst and revenge. Where Vishal Bharadwaj really fails is in his attempt to wed a saga of revenge with the Kashmir narrative – because Kashmir is not so much about ‘revenge’ as it is about aspirations, betrayals, humiliation, power and occupation. In his quest to remain true to Hamlet, he repeatedly ends up undermining the Kashmiri experience. So, even after the Indian army ends up destroying everything that Hilal Meer cares for, he tells Haider to take revenge against Khurram rather than directing his anger at the political state of affairs which led to torture and death. As Gazala searches for her agency and happiness in the midst of chaos, her independent choices find little room to show up within the Hamlet narrative. Even as she chooses to marry her brother-in-law, she ends up being the ‘unfaithful’ woman who betrays her son and husband. As it explores Haider’s angst and desire for revenge, the film repeatedly tells Kashmiris that real ‘azaadi’ is only possible when they free themselves of inteqaam (‘revenge’).

Moreover, much like in Mani Ratnam’s ‘Bombay’, one sees an attempt not just to portray “both” sides of a political narrative, but also to equate them. If in ‘Bombay’ the Thackeray figure’s diatribes found ample echoes in the Muslim leader’s fulminations, both of them inciting common Hindus and Muslims, in Haider the common Kashmiri’s experiences are juxtaposed with the Indian Army’s ‘justifications’. While ‘Bombay’ refused to recognize the elephant in the room in the form of organized, state-sponsored communal riot-mongering in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition, Haider shows an almost equal reluctance to nail the elephant in the Kashmiri room which is the Kashmiri experience of conditional accession and betrayals, denial of freedoms, debilitating militarization and their just aspirations for self-determination. Bharadwaj appears too eager to please all audiences, a tendency which is most visible in his end credits where he praises the ‘return of peace’ and tourism in Kashmir, and the Army’s laudable flood relief efforts.

That said, at a time when in Kashmir the Indian Army boastfully proclaims “catch them by the balls, their hearts and minds shall follow”, any portrayal of AFSPA, of disappearances and mass graves in mainstream cinema is surely a step ahead, however small. As a film which is clearly made not for Kashmiri audiences, but is meant to talk to Indians, it opens up a small window into aspects of Kashmir that mainstream media and cinema usually rigorously block out. One wonders, though, how effective it will turn out to be. Many of us who watched this film in Delhi’s theatres were struck by the complete lack of connect of the audience with the Kashmiri experience. Delhi audiences, therefore, actually found the scene where the Kashmiri man can’t enter his own home without a body-search, funny rather than tragic. The psychological damage caused by the constant experience of militarization was a joke to the Delhi multiplex viewer. The sniggers in the hall at this scene, adding to the tragedy of the on-screen humiliation. Delhi’s audiences fail to recognise and experience the imagery of Haider’s beautiful monologue at Lal Chowk in Srinagar, where he talks of a bank robber who loots the entire bank and then returns to open a legal account in the same bank. It is a long way to go, perhaps, before minds in Delhi can open up to the experience and sensibilities of Kashmiris.


Red Salute to Comrade Geeta Das!

– November, 2014.

Veteran revolutionary women’s leader of the party Comrade Geeta Das breathed her last on 24 October at her daughter’s house in Santoshpur, West Bengal. Comrade Geeta Das, popularly known among her comrades as ‘Geetadi’ was 78 years old and was suffering from several age related ailments. Geetadi hailed from Kotalipara in Faridpore district of East Bengal, presently Bangladesh. She studied till class VIII in the face of tremendous poverty and completed the Matric degree after marriage. Her unswerving courage and dedication towards studies was evident from her completion of basic teachers’ training with the distinction of being first class first even as she was raising her child and living in a hostel. She joined the Calcutta Corporation School as a teacher and retired from her job in 1996.

Geetadi came from a family where many members were associated with the Left movement. From the time when the undivided Communist Party of India worked in Bengal, many Left activists used to visit to her house and she grew up inculcating values of the Left from an early age. She also married a Left activist Dilip Das. During the Naxalbari movement, when the entire state and national politics was reeling under the spring thunder, her four siblings joined the movement and she continued to support the struggle steadfastly inspired by the spirit of revolution. In the 70s she used to act as a courier between the party and the incarcerated comrades which often affected her family. But nothing could stop Geetadi’s commitment to the party and her love for her comrades. Her autonomy as a woman was manifest in her denunciation of many feudal anti-women religious customs and rituals in her own life. She used to say that women should first rid themselves of these everyday forms of discrimination. The short-statured, tireless and ever inspiring Geetadi was always prompt in her actions against all incidents of injustice or discrimination.

In the 80s she was the state and national leader of the Indian Peoples Front (IPF). Before CPI(ML) started functioning as an open party, she was the organizer and the secretary of the Bengal Progressive Women’s Association (PWA). In 1994, when AIPWA was constituted nationally, she was elected the national secretary of the organization. She was also a member of the Central Control Commission of the party for fifteen years.

She was noted for her intervention in challenging the Shankaracharya of Puri in 1994, infamous for his anti-women and anti-Dalit statements claiming that ‘women and shudras have no right to read the Vedas.’ Geetadi stormed the meetings of Shankaracharya when he visited Kolkata in 1994 after he objected to a woman scholar reading from the Vedas during a talk, and unequivocally conveyed the message that casteists and misogynists like the Shankaracharya of Puri had no place in a civilized society. Geetadi became one of the leading voices for Bandi Mukti Andolan (Movement for the Release of Political Prisoners), and for justice in the Bantala rape case, the Singur land struggle and against all forms of state repression. Irrespective of ideological differences, Geetadi played an important role in uniting different organizations and individuals in joint platforms and struggles especially on issues of women and gender discrimination. Her amiable demeanor and pleasant nature earned her respect and friendship across diverse sections of activists and intellectuals. As the Editor of Pratibidhan, the Bengali organ of AIPWA, her role was crucial in incorporating intellectuals like Mahashweta Devi, Nabanita Dev Sen, Maitreyi Chattopadhyay and others in the editorial board.

Age could never stop the spontaneous and youthful struggle of Geetadi against all forms of oppression. As a speaker, she used to earn the respect of her audience and as a human being the love of her comrades. Against all forms of oppression and torture Geetadi remained an uncompromising warrior who will inspire generations of Left and women activists. Comrade Geeta Das will continue to inspire us forever in the actual fields of struggle. Long Live Com. Geeta Das.


Red Salute to Comrade Shah Chand!

– ML Update, 4 – 10 November, 2014.

Comrade Shah Chand Mukhiya, beloved popular leader from Jehanabad-Arwal, loved and respected as the “Nelson Mandela of Bihar”, passed away on 2 November. A wave of grief enveloped the whole area with the news of his demise. His funeral procession was taken out from his village Bhadasi on 3 November, and a sea of people turned out for one last sight of their beloved leader. Long queues of men and women lined both sides of the road from Bhadasi to Karbala, and more joined in as the procession proceeded. The mourners included Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, Com. Kunal, Com. Ramjatan Sharma, Dhirendra Jha, Amar, Meena Tiwari, Saroj Choube, Anwar Hussain, Rajaram Singh, Raldu Singh, Wasi Ahmad, Suhail, and other leaders. Earlier, Com. Dipankar met Com. Shah Chand’s wife Com. Jameela Khatoon and sons, and consoled them with the assurance that every single Party worker stands with them.

Com. Shah Chand was an extremely popular leader of entire Bihar, particularly Jehanabad-Arwal. After passing his Matric from Umairabad, he graduated from BN College, Patna. After higher studies he associated himself with the struggle for social change. In 1977 he became the mukhiya of Bhadasi panchayat for the first time. For his memorable achievements in the panchayat, he got the award of best mukhiya in the whole district. In 2001, when there were elections for mukhiya after a long period in Bihar, he was once again elected by a huge margin of votes. In 2003 while he was still holding the office of mukhiya, he was sentenced to life under TADA.

Shah Chand was born in a zamindar family but his life was dedicated to the poor and he was greatly feared by feudal forces in society. Soon after becoming active in political life he joined IPF in 1985. By then he was convinced that the committed farmers’ struggle under CPI(ML) was the only hope for the poor. Feudal forces in the Arwal area were shaken to the core by the forceful rise of the poor. In 1988 the Bhadasi incident took place, after which false cases were slapped at the behest of feudal forces on 13 people including Shah Chand. The draconian act TADA, meant for controlling ‘terrorism’, was also unfairly slapped on all 14 prisoners. Subsequently, a forceful movement for removing TADA was organised during the Lalu-Rabri regime. CPI(ML) MLAs regularly raised questions regarding TADA in the Assembly, but the Lalu-Rabri government deliberately ignored them. In the 2000 Assembly elections, Shah Chand stood from Arwal as the CPI(ML) candidate. There was a huge mobilisation of the poor in his favour, but because of the double game played by the administration, he lost by a mere 1000 votes to the RJD candidate Akhilesh Singh. But this near victory put the fear into the feudal forces and they left no stone unturned in their attempt to punish him. In 2003 the Supreme Court sentenced him and his 13 comrades to life imprisonment. The sentence was upheld even after 3 appeals, proving that the administrative machinery as well as tyrannical judgements was against those fighting for the rights of the poor. The sentence did not reduce the revolutionary fire in comrade Shah Chand. He carried on peoples’ struggles from jail, started organizing prisoners on various issues, and fighting for prisoners’ rights.

For the past few months comrade Shah Chand was in very bad health. He had spent 13 years in jail and his release was being demanded so that he could get proper treatment. In this regard, a CPI(ML) delegation met Home Secretary Amir Subhani and later CM Jitan Ram Majhi. But the attitude of the Nitish-Jitan government towards this champion of the poor was no different from that of Lalu Prasad. His release on parole met with administrative obstacles, and in the absence of proper treatment his life could not be saved. The attitude of the Bihar government is the height of insensitivity, exposing the true face of the so-called ‘social justice’ of Lalu-Nitish.

After comrade Shah Chand’s funeral procession, comrade Dipankar and other mourners spoke of his courage and commitment, condemned the role of the government and administration in his death, and pledged that his work for the rights of the poor would be taken forward by the Party and people’s struggles. Earlier, a condolence meeting was organized and 2 minutes’ silence was observed. Com. Tribhuvan Sharma, Ind Mehta, and others spoke at the meeting. Moreover, all 449 prisoners in Jehanabad jail went on a 24 hour hunger strike to protest the death of Com. Shah Chand Mukhiya. Red Salute to Comrade Shah Chand!


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