Thursday, March 18, 2010

ML Update No. 03 / 2010 / 12 - 18 JAN


A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 13 No. 03 12 - 18 JAN 2010

Bring Criminals in Uniform to Justice

The case of former Haryana DGP Rathore has revealed to the world the extent to which institutions can be subverted to protect a police officer from facing justice. A hapless teenage girl Ruchika was pushed to suicide because she dared to lodge a complaint against a police officer who molested her. Her school suspended her; her minor brother was arrested on false charges of theft; and the entire government and police machinery of Haryana, was pitted against a young girl to protect her molester. Even the CBI and the judiciary stand under a cloud, with suspicions that they colluded in ensuring that Rathore was prosecuted on a lighter charge and even the sentence against him fell far short of the maximum penalty that could be imposed even under the diluted charge. Rathore was protected and promoted not only by the then Chautala Government but by successive Congress governments too.

The tendency to condone sexual harassment and violence by men in uniform is well-entrenched. The case of former Punjab DGP KPS Gill is another case in point. Gill was convicted sexual harassment of an IAS Officer Rupan Deol Bajaj, but while higher courts consistently upheld the conviction, they also diluted the sentence from three months’ imprisonment to what amounted to a mere rap on the knuckles. Ms. Bajaj’s recent demand that Gill be stripped of his medals as Rathore was is entirely justified, if sexual harassment is to be taken seriously as a crime.

The Ruchika case has, naturally, sparked off national outrage and protests. At this juncture, it is high time to highlight the question of the hundreds of Ruchikas - in Kashmir, the North East and Bastar, to take recent instances – in their brave and unequal struggle against sexual violence by those in power and those in uniform. Asiya Jan of Shopian, was like Ruchika a schoolgirl, whose rape and murder by CRPF jawans has sought to be buried forever as an implausible ‘drowning’ by the might of the Indian State. Women of Manipur stripped naked to protest against the rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama in 2004, but Manorama’s rapists and killers have evaded justice. And in Bastar, adivasi women who have accused Salwa Judum leaders and SPOs of rape are facing a concerted campaign of intimidation. Their rapists roam free (the police have not arrested them claiming they cannot be found), leading mobs raising murderous slogans against the organization that has supported the women and arranged for their legal aid. One of the women complainants is in Andhra Pradesh; AP Police picked up her father and a boy from her village who shares her husband’s name, and beat them up and threatened them to produce the woman before the police. Four other women who are still in a Bastar village were beaten up by their rapists, detained in police custody for five days and made to sign blank papers. The women’s fellow villagers have, as yet, shown great solidarity with the woman complainants but it remains to be seen how long they can hold up under the relentless campaign of intimidation. If a middle class girl like Ruchika could find herself helpless in the face of the power mobilised against her by a police officer, one can only imagine what women from socially and economically more vulnerable sections would face; the more so when their accusations threaten not just the individual prestige of a police officer, but the very legitimacy of an anti-insurgency war waged by none less than the Government of India.

Another shocking case of the blatant misuse of power to harass women was the deportation of a young woman student at FTII from Nepal. She was apparently deported last month on vague charges of ‘anti-national activities’, at the behest of her estranged husband, an upcoming Nepal politician who is said to have close contacts in India’s MEA and intelligence apparatus. The episode has revealed the disturbing fact that the MEA and Government of India lent itself easily to being used as a tool to clip the wings of a young woman by a Nepal politician in his marital battle. It is high time that the young woman, Neetu Singh, be compensated for the harassment she faced, and allowed to return and resume her studies at the earliest; and those responsible for the deportation be identified and punished.

The CBI has recently filed its chargesheet in the Mahendra Singh murder case. The chargesheet itself is testimony to the ploy to protect a powerful police officer accused of serious crimes. The FIR had named then SP of Giridih district Deepak Varma and then State Industries Minister and BJP MLA Ravindra Ray (Mahendra Singh was engaged in exposing their nexus with coal mafia and their role in several fake encounters and murder of advocate Prashant Sahai) but the CBI chose not to investigate the role of these men at all. The charge sheet names two Maoist squad leaders and also admits that the prime accused, a Maoist commander named Arjun Yadav, was killed in an encounter. It is notable that within minutes of the murder, Deepak Varma had declared the ‘Arjun Yadav group’ responsible for the murder. He police under him had also failed to take elementary steps (such as setting up of road blockades) to apprehend the killers; instead Arjun Yadav, a key to unraveling the truth behind the murder, was conveniently killed in an ‘encounter.’ The CBI has chosen to turn a blind eye to these glaring issues, thus helping to shield Deepak Varma and his political protectors.

There are also innumerable cases of police officers who specialise in fake ‘encounters’. Despite repeated indications that such officers are in fact hand-in-glove with criminals (witness the recent party hosted by a mafia don and attended by Mumbai top cops), such ‘encounters’ are more often than not justified as part of the ‘war’ on terror and organized crime.

It is time to end the impunity enjoyed by criminals in uniform and to expose their political patrons and protectors.

CPI(ML) MLA Votes against Confidence Motion in Jharkhand Assembly

On January 7, the CPI(ML) MLA Vinod Singh spoke and voted against the confidence motion moved by the Soren-led Government in the Jharkhand Assembly. He raised the issue of the opportunist alliance between BJP and JMM. Noting that already the BJP and Soren were speaking in two voices on Operation Greenhunt, he demanded that the JMM clarify its position on its alliance partner’s stand on the offensive against adivasis in the name of countering ‘Maoism’. He said that the issues of corporate loot of resources and state repression on people’s movements would continue to be burning issues in Jharkhand – issues on which the people of Jharkhand would place every Government in the dock.

In the Assembly elections concluded last month, CPI(ML) retained its sitting seat, with Vinod Singh polling 54436 votes, an increase by more than 2,000 over the votes polled in last Parliamentary elections in this Assembly segment. Party candidates secured generally an increased vote tally than the last elections in most of the seats Party has contested. In Dhanwar and Jamua constituencies Rajkumar Yadav and Satyanarayan Das came second after securing 45,419 and 24,297 votes respectively, while in Mandu and Bhavnathpur constituencies our candidates Chandranath Bhai Patel and Sogara Bibi came third with 25,902 and 20,901 votes respectively.

Pricol Struggle Update:

TN Women’s Commission Shows Pro-Pricol Bias

Within a span of 6 days, from 24 September to 29 September 2009, Coimbatore police, as part of its systematic campaign to harass Pricol workers in the wake of the death of a management official, had baselessly targeted several women workers. They arrested two women workers of Pricol after 11.30 pm (in violation of regulations about arrests of women) and took them to the police station only the next day morning. These women were asked to identify the houses of other Pricol workers. They were detained in the police station till the police figured out a case under which to remand them. 6 women workers were arrested inside the factory premises and later remanded and sent to jail. The police also detained two other women workers of Pricol for 2 days in the police station in the name of investigation.

TN AIPWA made a complaint to the TN women’s commission on 29 September about the police harassment of Pricol women workers. When AIPWA comrades complained about women being arrested after 6 pm, the Women’s Commission chairperson Ms. Ramathal assured AIPWA comrades that she would take steps in this regard. On that very day 6 women workers were arrested inside the factory premises before 6 pm.

Ms. Ramathal, then, ordered a one-woman enquiry commission to enquire into the complaints made by AIPWA: complains including adverse working conditions resulting in a medical condition requiring removal of uterus, cut in the salary, women workers being monitored for time spent in the toilet, etc.

Ms. Vanitha, IPS, SP Perambalur, was the enquiry officer who went to the factory and conducted the enquiry on a single day. She spoke to 17 workers, 2 management officials, the ED of the company and 3 police officials. She then submitted a one-sided report which has rejected all the complaints made, and has claimed all is well with the factory and with the women workers.

The enquiry officer did not care to speak to the 2 women workers who were arrested around 11.30 pm. Without even talking to them the enquiry officer rejected the compliant about arrests in the night. Her report says that due procedures were followed in arresting women! It is clear that the enquiry officer’s own report has not followed due procedures!

The report says that there is no medical evidence that removal of uterus is a direct effect of working conditions (such as having to stand for hours on end). The enquiry officer has not taken opinion of any medical specialist in this regard and simply adds that in Pricol’s Japanese collaborator Denso also women’s work involves standing for long hours. But surprisingly she adds that she has asked the management to think of some arrangement for the workers so that they can sit and work. If she believes that standing and working for 12 hours a day does not result in removal of uterus, why should she ask the management for an alternative arrangement? The report also fails to cite any medical opinion that removal of uterus is not caused by adverse working conditions.

The report in its conclusions part says that ‘the management never tried to repress the unions.’ The TN Labor Minister himself listed all the illegal steps taken by the management against the workers, on the floor of the Assembly itself. The TN government has issued prosecution show cause notice to the management about its unfair labor practices. Then why does the enquiry officer in her conclusion rush to say that the management is not suppressing the unions?!

The enquiry officer also justifies the cut in the salary and employment of apprentices for a lower wages, which is sub-judice, which is absolutely outside the purview of the enquiry and her capacity.

The enquiry officer goes ahead and recommends to the women commission that ‘this Kumarasami has Marxist Leninist ideology. He is not connected with any industry. He wants to develop his party by using the ignorance of women and creating a base in Pricol. It is recommended that this Kumarasami’s activities are to be monitored.’ Such a recommendation is not only baseless and out of the purview of the enquiry (not even management witnesses have deposed against Comrade Kumarasami till now), it attacks the right of women to political affiliation of their choice. Such remarks in the report only underline the fact that the entire witch-hunt against workers at Pricol was motivated not by any investigation into the incident in which a management official was killed, but by a politically dictated campaign to crush the political mobilization of workers.

Following AICCTU’s initiatives and widespread protest, the Dy.CM of TN was forced to intervene on October 2 and assure an end to the witch-hunt of workers. Subsequently, the indiscriminate arrest of workers stopped. But the intimidation tactics continue in more subtle ways. Now the Women’s Commission has overstepped its limits and is not only giving the Pricol management a clean chit in terms of allegations of unfair labour practices and absolved the police and management of exploitation and harassment of women workers, it has even recommended that Marxist-Leninist views cannot have a place in TN!

AIDWA has also recently raised a demand to remove Ms. Ramathal as the chairperson of the commission, since the Women’s Commission under her leadership is not helping women and is siding only with offenders.

The AIPWA, AICCTU and CPI(ML) have also demanded removal of Ms. Ramathal, scrapping of the biased ‘enquiry’ report and a fresh enquiry into the allegations by women workers.

End Operation Greenhunt, Stop Intimidation of Democratic Activists in Bastar

Reports indicate that early in the new year, ‘Operation Greenhunt’ has been intensified in Bastar, Chhattisgarh. Combing operations and massive movement of troops is reported. Meanwhile, democratic activists both from Chhattisgarh as well as from across the country, women’s groups engaged in peaceful padayatras/jansunwais and even academics engaged in research have faced severe intimidation by police as well as mobs protected by the police. Women complaining of rape by SPOs have been intimidated while their rapists roam free.

CPI(ML) demands an immediate end to the war in the forest and adivasi areas of Chhattisgarh, immediate withdrawal of troops, protection and guarantee of free movement to all activists and democratic forces in the region; and ensure of safe return of all displaced adivasis to their land and villages.

AISA Activists Arrested While Protesting at Australian HC against Racist Attacks

Activists of the All India Students' Association (AISA) were arrested for organizing a protest demonstration at the Australian High Commission on 12 January against the recent spate of racist attacks on Indian students and workers in Australia.

In the past two weeks, racist attacks on Indians in Australia have claimed two lives (Ranjodh Singh and Nitin Garg) while 29-year old Jaspreet Singh is now recovering from burns to 15 per cent of his body on his hands, face and legs.

The protestors were arrested as soon as they began raising slogans outside the High Commission, demanding that the Australian Government stop denying the racist overtones in the series of attacks. Protestors also condemned India’s Minister for External Affairs, S M Krishna, for toeing the Australian Government’s line of denying that the spate of attacks reflected racism.

The arrest made it clear that the Indian Government is willing to suppress even a peaceful, democratic students’ protest in order to keep the Australian HC in India from facing the slightest heat of the outrage against the attacks.

The students were detained for several hours at the Chanakyapuri Police Station. Students from DU, Jamia and JNU gathered outside the station and continued with the protest.

More Pledge Campaign Reports from Tamil Nadu

As part of the December 18-31 Pledge Campaign, several mass programmes were held in Tamil Nadu. (Reports of many of these have been carried in previous issues of ML Update.]

On December 23, around 800 rural poor rallied in Ulundurpet of Vilupuram district. Comrade S Janakiraman, State General Secretary of AIALA, flagged off the procession and Comrade Venkatesan led the march. A Large number of women assembled in the procession. State Secretary Com. Balasundaram also addressed the protesters. The main issue raised was the betrayal of the DMK Government’s election promise 2 acre land and 5 cent house site patta to the landless and houseless. As the Tehsildar was not available to receive the memorandum, the protestors staged a sit-in. At the intervention of the police, the Tehsildar rushed to the office and received the memo. On 29 December a protest demonstration was held at the Tindivanam Sub-Collector’s office condemning the woman Sub-Collector for ill-treating AIPWA leader Com Suseela.

Several mass campaigns and agitations were held at the Panchayat level. On 26th December an AIALA demo was held in Tiruvalnchuzhi Panchayat. Around 300 memoranda were submitted to the Panchayat President demanding immediate start of MGREGS. Around 160 people participated in the protest. On 28th December in Manalur panchayat of Tanjore district more than 500 people staged a militant protest demo under the AIALA banner. People virtually seized the Panchayat office and forced the Panchayat President to own responsibility for the corruption and failure to implement MGREGS. The President gave an undertaking to return the amount of Rs 16500 illegally collected for photographs under the MGREGS. A list of corruption details was placed before the people; the President assured that corruption would be dealt with severely. Comrades Rameshwar Prasad and Kannaian led the protest. On 29th December, 250 people at Veppattur assembled in front of the Panchayat President's office demanding housing sites. Comrades Masilamani, Ilangovan and Saravanan led the protest. Several hundred petitions were submitted to the President.

On 30th December, an impressive March of the rural poor was held in Madurai demanding 2 acre land and 5 cent house site, TU recognition act, elimination of corruption in PDS etc. The March started from Tamukkam Maidan, and was flagged of by Comrade Balasundaram, State Secretary. AIPWA State Secretary and Party State Committee member Com. Usha, Maniraj, AICCTU and Gundumalai spoke. Meeting the AIPWA, AIALA and AICCTU representatives the Sub-collector assured to implement some of the demands immediately. More than 600 petitions were submitted to the collector’s office.

Seminar at Uttarakhand against Displacement in the name of Development

Comrades Nagendra Saklani and Molu Bhardari laid down their lives fighting the rulers of the erstwhile Tehri province of Uttarakhand. They were shot dead in Kirtinagar, five kilometers from Srinagar on 11 January 1948 (five months after India got freedom and the tricolour was declared the national flag) when they tried to hoist the national flag. Nagendra Saklani was a full-time activist of the communist party and Molu Bhardari was a candidate member of the party. Their martyrdom proved to be the last nail in the coffin of the monarchy in Tehri. Commemorating their martyrdom, the CPI(ML) held a seminar in Srinagar on ‘Hydroelectric projects in Uttarakhand and the direction of development.’ A large number of hydropower projects have been introduced in Uttarakhand by successive Congress and BJP governments in the name of making the state an ‘urja pradesh’ (energy state).

Addressing the seminar Comrade Raja Bahuguna said that the agitation for a separate Uttarakhand state was for people’s rights over natural resources like land, forest and water and for developmental policies which are pro-people. But in the last nine years after the formation of the state, successive governments have instead intensified the anti-people model of development. The hundreds of hydropower projects in the various river valleys of Uttarakhand will only plunder natural resources, devastate ecosystem, and uproot and displace more than one-fourth of the state’s population.

Comrades Vijay Rawat, State Secretary of CPI (M) said that vested interests of the nexus of politicians-bureaucrats is the key to these projects. Noting the need to develop effective resistance movements against these projects, he suggested that left and democratic forces should develop at least one pocket of movement each in all the thirteen districts of the state. He said that the government itself had announced after Tehri Dam (2400mw) that such large projects will no longer be constructed but now Pancheshwar dam (6500mw) is in the pipeline whose reservoir would spread up to 200 sq. km. and which will displace around one lakh people in the hilly areas of Nepal as well as Uttarakhand.

Conducting the seminar, Comrade Kailash Pandey, Garhwal in-charge of CPI(ML), said that the same forces in BJP and Congress which helped the monarch of Tehri to be the honorable member of the Lok Sabha for decades are now organizing fairs in the name of Comrade Nagendra Saklani. More than 500 power projects in Uttarakhand will play havoc in this ecologically fragile region. Even government agencies are warning of the speedy receding of the glaciers but this fact is not being taken into account while new hydro power projects are being announced. Comrade Gangadhar Nautiyal of the CPI(M) said that it is a criminal offence to buy or displace SC and ST people of their land but no action is being taken against the construction companies which are grabbing the land of the SCs and STs for the construction of hydro power projects. Presenting the draft paper for the seminar, Indresh Maikhuri, Nationa President, AISA, said that baseless claims of power generation are being made by the government. Citing an example he said that when Vajpayee was the PM, a 50000 mw. power generation initiative from hydro power was undertaken nationally in 2004 and this target was to be achieved by 2017. But now the government of Uttarakhand alone is claiming 40000mw as its generation target! The seminar was also addressed by land consolidation activist Ganesh Singh ‘Garib’, and retired teacher and activist Gajpal Singh Negi.

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