UPA Unmasked: Intensify Mass Struggles against this Corrupt, Callous
and Repressive Regime
It has now been one year since the incumbent UPA government assumed office in May 2009. Going by the poll-time promises and pronouncements of the Congress, "inclusive development" was to have been the keyword for the UPA-II. A government that cares for the aam aadmi, a government that would deliver essentials like employment guarantee and food security – this was the great promise that saw the UPA comfortably return to power in the last Lok Sabha election. But at the end of the first year, the poll promises are mostly forgotten – the rhetoric of food security has been overshadowed by the grim reality of unprecedented food inflation even as the government is preoccupied with Operation Green Hunt, threatening to gag every dissenting voice under the draconian UAPA. It's time the ruling coalition renamed itself as the UAPA government!
The big promise of food security turned into the UPA's biggest act of betrayal. On the one hand, agricultural growth rate went further downhill, turning negative last year, and on the other hand, food prices kept spiraling away. Just when the threat of starvation loomed larger and larger and more and more people badly needed some food support, the UPA government stopped paying even lip-service to its food security rhetoric! A shameless UPA government even went so far as to cite food inflation as the reason for delaying the food security legislation! And the draft of the government's intended food security framework indicated a further dilution of the existing PDS provisions, with no signs of any serious correcting move to end the BPL fiasco.
Along with food prices, fuel prices too contributed heavily to the general surge in prices of almost all essential commodities. Fertiliser prices were hiked on the eve of the budget, while the budget itself announced yet another major increase in fuel prices. Having survived the cut motion voting in parliament, the government has again returned to announcing fresh hikes in fuel prices. As a special anniversary gift to the people, the government has already announced a massive hike in CNG and piped gas prices and an Empowered Group of Ministers headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to meet on June 7 to decide on freeing petrol and diesel prices! As the UPA completes the first year of its second term, the people can expect celebratory fireworks in the form of a fresh surge in prices.
Corruption has emerged as another hallmark of this government. When the country was reeling under back-breaking inflation, UPA ministers were busy with the money-spinning corporate carnival of the IPL. By easing the flamboyant Sashi Tharoor out of office, the government hopes to hush up the entire IPL racket, but the chinks are clearly showing in the armour of different ministries. From A Raja of DMK to Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel of the NCP, the list of tainted ministers is getting longer.
Even after the Central Vigilance Commission recommended a CBI probe into the 2G spectrum scam and the CBI raided telecom minister A Raja's office in October 2009, the UPA government has been protecting the minister in the name of 'coalition dharma'. And now they are trying to brush the 2G scam under the 3G carpet by pointing to the 'unexpected' earnings of Rs. 67,710 crore in 3G auction. Let us however note that even the 3G booty is pretty small by global standards – a similar auction in the UK had fetched almost three times as much amount way back in 2000 (£22.47bn in 2000 as against £8.3 billion yielded by the 3G auction in India in 2010). And if the 3G license could be auctioned through competitive bidding why on earth did the ministry issue the 2G license on a hush-hush first-come-first-served basis?
This corrupt corporate-friendly government is also proving to be extremely callous and arrogant. When Shashi Tharoor equated economy class to cattle class, many might have thought it was a slip of the tongue (keyboard?) on the part of an inexperienced politician who is yet to master the language of mass communication. But what about a seasoned politician like Sharad Pawar who advised the people to stop taking sugar if they found sugar prices too high? Or for that matter, what about the 'leader of the masses' Mamata Banerjee who blames passengers for a stampede caused by the criminal inefficiency and negligence of her own department? These are not aberrations, but characteristic glimpses of governance, UPA style!
The BJP often accuses the UPA government of speaking in multiple voices while some media analysts paint a picture of drift and disarray. Well, Jairam Ramesh's statement issued in China, describing the Home Ministry's attitude to Chinese telecom companies operating in India as "alarmist and paranoid", was surely sacrilegious not only for the Congress but for the entire Indian ruling elite – and Ramesh will surely have to pay a price as Tharoor has had to do for his acts of indiscretion. But to try and find a real contradiction between Digvijay Singh and P Chidambaram, or what is even more ridiculous, between Sonia Gandhi's article in "Congress Sandesh" and the Manmohan-Chidambaram take on Maoism and internal security is only height of wishful thinking. The BJP would of course like to push the discourse further rightward and towards a harder state so it can regain its lost initiative and brush up its faded identity, but the Left and democratic forces will only be befooled if they take the so-called 'differences' within the Congress too seriously.
Behind all these 'multiple voices' there is a singularity of purpose – to confuse the opposition and the people and hold on to power. The way the Congress first accepted the Telangana statehood demand and then referred it to Justice Sri Krishna Committee, not to mention the divisive game it played on this issue by whipping up people's sentiments, or the way it got the women's reservation bill passed in the Rajya Sabha only to put it back in cold storage are no ordinary flip-flops. These are all characteristic features of an unscrupulous power game that India's oldest ruling party is quite adept in playing. It played it at the time of the nuke deal vote in 2008 and it played it again to defeat the cut motions on April 27.
The people of India are however not amused and will certainly not remain silent spectators to the Congress power games. The popular response to the April 27 Bharat Bandh, the renewed spurt in worker-peasant struggles in different parts of the country and the voices of protest against the UPA's UAPA-OGH regime are a clear pointer to the shape of things to come.
The Network of
Almost a year and a half after the Maharashtra ATS arrested Sadhvi Pragya and a serving officer in the Indian Army, Lt. col. Purohit, for their alleged involvement in the Malegaon bomb blasts of 2008, the Rajasthan ATS arrested Devendra Gupta and Chandrashekhar Barod, men with close links to the RSS and its assorted organizations, as key suspects in the Ajmer Sharif blasts of 2007. The CBI has now revealed that in fact Hindutva groups may have been behind all the blasts that rocked the country that year—from the Samjhauta Express (February 2007) to Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad (May 2007) to the Sufi shrine in Ajmer (October 2007). The CBI joined the dots between the three blasts on the basis that all bombs had the same arming devices, which were procured from Indore; further the nature of phone timer devices, kinds of explosives used, common identity proofs used to obtain sim cards point to the links between these blasts.
These 'unusual' suspects in the form of serving and retired army officers, sadhus and sanyasin, and members of groups that go by the names of Hindu Sansathan, Jai Vande Matram Kalyani Samiti and Abhinav Bharat could not be farther removed from the Bashars and Falahis who are routinely rounded up by various anti-terror agencies, to be paraded as prize catches and 'masterminds'. Unusual the CBI's revelations may look initially, but really, civil rights groups have been arguing for a while now that the Pavlovian response of the police and security agencies – of declaring the culpability of a 'Jihadi' organization followed by rampant detention and torture of Muslim youth after every bomb blast – reeks of rank communal profiling. There has been a consistent refusal to acknowledge the presence, extent and scale of Hindutva terror outfits. (And one is talking here of just the plain, mainstream definition of the term terrorism – as in bomb blasts – discounting Hindutva's indulgences in cleansing minority populations, bringing down mosques, burning down churches, forcibly breaking inter community marriages, and attacking women in pubs etcetera).
Our political discourse, in a desperate imitation of the US' 'war on terror', normalizes the use of 'Islamic' in conjunction with 'terrorism', and legitimates witch hunt as an act of national security. No wonder, Raj Kumar Pandiyan, the IPS officer accused of killing Sohrabuddin in cold blood and passing it off as an 'encounter' of a terrorist on his way to 'eliminate' Narendra Modi, lamented after his arrest that he should have been honoured, not hounded. Seeking bail from the Supreme Court, Pandiyan's counsel argued on his behalf that "I am supposed to have killed the most notorious criminal…Maybe he [Sohrabuddin] is killed in a fake encounter, but for that the process of law cannot be subverted" [i.e., his bail application ought not to be rejected on the mere ground that Sohrabuddin was killed by him in a fake encounter]. No wonder too, that the Congress and BJP wish to outdo each other in demonstrating their iron will to combat 'terror': the Congress scored a Batla House against Modi's harvest of encounters; not wanting to sound partisan when it came to matters of national security, the Union Home Ministry's affidavit seconded the Gujarat government's claim that the teenaged college girl Ishrat Jehan was a Lashkar e Tayyiba operative. But what can be surprising is how supposedly secular and respectable media houses such as the Hindu can become willing partners in this propaganda (just google for all the Hindu columns that were written in the aftermath of the Mecca Masjid and dargah blasts, which screamed HUJI and Lashkar connections).
But to return to the recent revelations, this is not the first time that such a link between the three blasts has been suggested. In November 2008 itself, soon after Hemant Karkare's ATS made these daring arrests, Mahant Amritanand alias Dayanand Pande, an aide of Pragya and Purohit, had been questioned in connection with the Samjhauta Express blasts by the Haryana ATS. There were other clues too: the suitcase in the Samjhauta Express was traced to Indore—the epicenter of Hindutva activities (along with Dangs); in 2008 itself the Maharashtra ATS had communicated to the Hyderabad police the sensational claim by Purohit that he had provided the RDX used in Mecca Masjid blast (Times of India, May 06, 2010). Purohit had been chargesheeted for procuring the RDX from the army inventory when he was posted in Jammu and Kashmir in 2006. However, there was no willingness to question and disturb the neat and easy connections between 'terrorism' and 'Jihadist' groups.
The Hyderabad police, already having arrested, illegally detained and tortured scores of Muslim men at private farm houses was in no mood to investigate the Purohit angle. It refused even to take custody of the man for questioning (contrast this with the manner in which various blasts accused linked to a shadowy organization called Indian Mujahideen were made to shuttle between states, as various state police vied to question them). The blame for the Mecca Masjid blasts was conveniently laid at the doors of Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HUJI). Indeed, the Maharashtra ATS was asked not to make this public. Similarly, the attack on the dargah in Ajmer was shown to be the handiwork of hardline jihadists waging war against popular Islam. This is likely where the Pune blasts investigations are headed. After pursuing the Hindutva angle for a month, facing heat from an angry opposition, the Maharshtra Home Minister dropped Raghuvanshi as the ATS chief in favour of Rakesh Maria, who since has faithfully deflected the investigation back to the usual track of Indian Mujahideen. Maria, it will be recalled is the man accused by Vinita Kamte, widow of the slain ATS officer Ashok Kamte, of ignoring the then ATS chief Hemant Karkare's calls for reinforcement on the night of 26/11. The trumpeting of the IM angle in Pune is all the more suspect given that the recent chargesheets filed by the NIA in the Goa blast case of 2009 lead to the radical saffron outfit Sanatan Sansthan in Pune.
As the details of the extensive network of Hindutva terror emerge as also the reality that there has been willful suppression of their activities by the investigating agencies – helped along no doubt by the prevailing political climate – all previous investigations need to be revisited. In particular the Malegaon blasts of 2006, where all contrary evidence such as the recovery of fake beard by a local tailor from the dead bodies, were ignored; the ATS' claim at that time that "RDX is only available to Islamic terrorist outfits" was also belied by Purohit's access to RDX. In a severe and damaging rebuff to the prosecution in the Jaipur blasts case of 2008, as many as eleven witnesses have turned hostile, accusing the Rajasthan police of pressuring them to sign statements under duress.
What is required urgently is a thoroughgoing enquiry into all the bomb blasts that have taken place in the last few years: from the blasts in UP, Mumbai train blasts, Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad as well as Modasa and Nanded, and a strict scrutiny of the Hindutva organizations and their links to the RSS. But above all, there must be an end to impunity. All those who have falsely framed innocents in terror cases, inflicted torture, forged evidence, bullied witnesses, and misrepresented facts in chargesheets ought to be prosecuted. The Special Cells, the ATS, STFs and police departments must be made to realize – through punishments and convictions – that they simply have not been handed a blank cheque, which they can encash every time they spot a Muslim after a bomb blast.
Lalkar March at Mansa
Completion of one year of historic Mansa land struggle was celebrated on May 21st, 2010, with a Lalkaar (defiance) march participated by huge number of landless labourers and Party leaders. The march was welcomed by labourers in each village with great enthusiasm. Vehicles with red flags and revolutionary slogans passed through most of the villages where landless labourers had risen up in assertion for their land rights. In five major villages of the last year's land struggle- Barnala, Nandgarh, Hakam Wala, Gurne Kalan and Khiala -rallies were also held. State Secretary of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha, Bhagwant Singh Samaon and State Secretary of CPI(ML) Com. Rajwinder Rana led the march. AICCTU General Secretary and CC member of CPI(ML) Com. Swapan Mukherjee was the special guest and one of the main speakers. The comrades who were jailed last year were honoured at the occasion. At every rally progressive plays were performed by Punjab Kala Kendra of Surjeet Gami fame. Sukhdarshan Natt, Convenor of Radical People's Forum, AIPWA leader Jasveer Kaur Natt, RYAState Secretary Hasmeet Singh and many other State-level leaders were also present. The successful event was realised through the persevering efforts of many a district level and mass organisations' comrades.
Autonomous State Demand Day in Karbi Anglong
The 24th Anniversary of Autonomous State Demand Day was observed in Karbi Anglong on 17 May – as it has been since the beginning of the AutonomousState movement in hill districts of Assam. This time, CPI(ML) and ASDC(P) jointly observed Autonomous State Day with a colourful procession in Diphu town, starting from the ASDC(P) office premises and marching to the DC office. There a memorandum addressed to the Union Home Minister, P. Chidambaram was submitted to the DC, demanding immediate implementation of Art. 244(A) of the Indian Constitution. After marching through the main roads of the town, the procession culminated in a mass meeting at the ASDC(P) office ground. This meeting was conducted by the secretary of the Diphu district committee of CPI(ML) Com. Daniel Teron and was addressed by KSA President Com. Laisen
Inghi, KNCA General Secretary Com. Pratima Inghipi, CPI(ML) State Secretary and PB member Com. Rubul Sarma, and ASDC(P) President Com. Chandrakanta Terang. Nearly 1000 people participated in the procession and the meeting.
Speakers at the meeting reiterated their resolve never to compromise on this constitutional right of the hill peoples of Assam and warned the Government of intensified struggle if the demand was not met. Addressing the meeting Com. Rubul Sarma said that it was only the CPI(ML) and ASDC(P) combine that was carrying forward the true spirit of "No Autonomous State No Rest." In this long journey of two and a half decades many of the leaders neither rested nor compromised with the Government. During this period some armed outfits were formed demanding self-rule, implementation of Article 3 of the Constitution and even an independent Karbi Anglong. These forces have also come to the ceasefire agreement with the government. On the other hand some breakaway leaders of the Autonomous State Movement, including former RS MP Prakanta Warisa joined the ruling Congress.
The Congress stands exposed as a force fundamentally opposed to Autonomous Statehood. In spite of leading governments both at the centre and the state as well as in the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and having enough scope and power to grant Autonomous Statehood, is indifferent to the issue of implementation of 244(A), even after announcing a new Telengana state. On the other hand rampant corruption in the Congress-led Autonomous Council has rocked the whole of Assam. The CPI(ML) is also fighting against this corruption and against the soaring prices – another gift of the Congress to the people.
Contrary to the consistent and principled movement of the CPI(ML), the renegade ASDC always displays political opportunism and joins forces sometimes with BJP and other times with Congress. Even in the last RS election on 26/03/10, the lone ASDC MLA Jagat Singh Engti voted for Congress candidate. Thus the ASDC is suffering from an identity crisis.
The militant group UPDS, which is under a cease-fire agreement with the Government, has formed a mass platform, PAPA (Peoples Alliance for Peace Agreement) comprising of ASDC, BJP, NCP etc. In the wake of the announcement of a new separate Telangana state, the demand for implementation of constitutional rights in the form of Autonomous Statehood has gained a new impetus. The enthusiastic participation of people in the Autonomous State Day programme this year reflects their aspirations and their determination.
Kidnapped CPI(ML) Leader Released
after Powerful Mass Protests
Com. Rupesh Kumar Singh, CPI(ML)'s Bhagalpur District Committee member and Revolutionary Youth Association's (RYA) District Secretary's kidnapping and subsequent gherao and protests was reported in this newsletter last week. The gherao continued throughout the night and next day Naugachhia observed a daylong bandh. The Party also organised a protest march in Bhagalpur town while the RYA organised statewide protests. Thanks to prompt protests and concerted efforts of comrades in Bhagalpur, Katihar and Purnea districts, Com. Rupesh was eventually recovered near Purnea railway station on the night of 19 May. The Party has filed an FIR and attempts are on to get the administration to act on it.
Conference of Rickshaw Pullers in Noida
The Delhi State Committee of CPI(ML) successfully organised the 1st Conference of cycle-rickshaw pullers at Sec.25 in Noida, adjacent to Delhi. Two hundred rickshaw pullers participated in the Conference. A 15 member committee with Comrades Shyam Kishore Yadav and Suresh Paswan as President and Secretary respectively were elected through the Conference. AICCTU General Secretary Com. Swapan Mukherjee was the chief guest and speaker along with Delhi State Secretary and CPI(ML) CCM Com. Sanjay Sharma.
The Conference passed resolutions on the immediate necessities of the rickshaw pullers. It demanded – (i) to grant licences and recognition to all the pullers along with covering them under BPL and social security, (ii) construction of cycle-rickshaw stands with shades and drinking water amenities, (iii) grant of easy loan and micro credits from banks to free them from usurers and stop all harassment by the police and administration and (iv) not the least, recognise their service as contribution to environment and ecological sustainability.
Dhikkar Saptaah against BJP-Congress in Jharkhand
The BJP which was voted out by the people in Jharkhand just a few months back tried to hold onto power by supporting a JMM-led Govt., and recently sensing an opportunity tried to wrest the CM's chair by enacting a drama of withdrawal from the Govt. and then putting its withdrawal on hold to get the chief ministership. The CPI(ML) launched a week long dhikkar saptaah (condemnation week) from 18th May to orient people's anger into a political force to end this extremely opportunist regime devoid of any commitment to people's aspirations.
Meeting was organised in Chakradharpur on 18th May led by Com. Bahadur Oraon- CC member, and on the same day Party workers marched with black badges in Ramgarh. Protest march and meeting was held at Chhatarpur in Palamu. Dharnas, demonstrations, street corner meetings and effigy burning were held at many places in various districts. Meetings were held in front of block headquarters at Bagodar, Saria, Birni, Rajdhanwar, Ganwa, Teesri, Jamua, Dewri, Bengabad, Gandeya and Giridih in Giridih dist on 24 and 25 May. On these same days similar programmes were held at Nirsa, Chirkunda, Govindpur, Baliapur and Patlabari and block level dharna at Nirsa, Govindpur and Baliapur in Dhanbad dist. Effigy burning and meeting was held at Mohanpur block in Devghar, Jarandih and Gomia in Bokaro dist. and street corner meeting at Chandankiyari and Nayamore in Bokaro. Othere places where similar programmes were held are – Tilaiya and Domchanch in Kodarma district, Kisko block and Lohardaga town, Vishunpur, Ghaghra and Gumla town in Gumla dist, dharna at Hazaribagh dist. HQ, marches and meetings at Topa, Argadda, Bhurkunda, and Rangarh town in Ramgarh dist., Panki in Palamu, dharna and emonstrations at Garhwa town, Nagar Untari, Ramuna, Dhurki, Sagma, Bhawnathpur, Ketar and Bishunpura. March was taken out from State Office to Albert Ekka roundabout in Ranchi.
Congress seems to be gaining the upper hand in the current power tussle and it also seems that the whole situation was engineered by the Congress to grab the reins of government in Jharkhand. We have been exposing this game of Congress and involved parties. Party has decided to organise a massive protest the day Congress assumes power in the State.
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication, R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22442790, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.cpiml.org