A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 16 No. 35 20-26 AUG 2013
Independence Day 2013:
Rhetoric versus Reality
August 15, 2013 marked the 66th anniversary of India's Independence. For the rulers, the Independence Day has always been an occasion to revel in self-congratulatory eloquence seeking to give a sweet coating to the harsh reality experienced by the people at large. While the President traditionally presents a statesman-like view from above in his Independence Day eve address, the Prime Minister uses his speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort to beat his government's drum. 2013 has been no different except that this year we had the Gujarat CM throwing his hat into the ring hoping that his rhetorical counterpoint would catapult him from his blood-stained provincial throne to the coveted seat of central power.
In his Independence Day eve address this year, President Pranab Mukherjee did touch upon some of the problems ailing the country, but he had no solution to the problems other than the worn-out plea to the people to utilise the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections to elect a stable government. This was a throwback to the old Indira era even as it sounded anachronistic in a situation where the two dominant ruling class coalitions are projected to finish around hundred seats short of the majority mark. Perhaps this was the President's way of responding to the pre-poll surveys predicting a hung Parliament. Interestingly enough, Narendra Modi seems to believe that the call for a strong and stable government could benefit the BJP rather than the Congress and he was prompt to laud the President's address while rubbishing the Prime Minister's speech.
Manmohan Singh's speech this year dealt more with the history of the legacy of Nehru, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi – a clear pointer to the fact that the government is desperately trying to run away from owning up its responsibility for the current crisis. Perhaps it also reflected his premonition that the days of his government are numbered and hence the attempt to put his government in historical context. Of course he did not shy away from tomtomming his government's so-called record of 'growth' and 'empowerment' even as the country reels under an explosive economic crisis and democracy is daily defrauded by an increasingly repressive and intrusive state.
The Indian rupee that stood equal to the American dollar in 1947 has plummeted to an alarming Rs 64 to a dollar, leaving the country clueless as to how it could repay foreign debts or foot the import bill. But the 'solution' peddled by our rulers is to subject the country to still greater external dependence, leaving us 'free' only to survive at the mercy of foreign capital and its domestic collaborators. The current policy regime of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation had been launched in 1991 in the name of saving India from economic crisis, but after two decades of blind pursuit of that policy trajectory India now finds herself in the grip of a still more severe economic ruin. It has been a disastrous jump from the frying pan to fire.
If the Congress is busy appeasing the American bosses by mortgaging the economy, Modi believes he can overtake the Congress by flexing muscles against Pakistan. Appeasement of America and war-mongering against Pakistan remain the two cardinal principles of bourgeois nationalism in India and the BJP is once again trying its best to whip up a jingoistic frenzy against Pakistan. In the name of avenging the killing of Indian soldiers on the LoC, the BJP would like to aggravate the incidents of violation of ceasefire on the LoC into yet another full-scale war with our western neighbour. Sixty-six years ago 'Independence' had come to the subcontinent soaked in communal bloodbath and bifurcation of the country. It was a disaster that badly affected both India and Pakistan and the two countries have had to pay a heavy price for this tragedy in innumerable ways. Today while the majority of the people in India and Pakistan want to move on as friendly neighbours committed to bilateral peace and partnership, the BJP is desperate to perpetuate the legacy of mutual distrust and war.
The competitive 'big power' rhetoric of the ruling classes cannot however suppress the fact that for vast sections of the Indian people everyday reality remains one of unfreedom. And this bitter truth was once again revealed most shockingly on this year's Independence Day in a Bihar village. In Baddi village of Shivsagar block in Rohtas district an elderly dalit resident Vilas Ram was beaten to death, several injured, two dalit houses torched, a Ravidas temple vandalised and the statue of Ravidas disfigured by an armed mob of upper caste feudal gentry – all in broad daylight while Independence Day celebration programmes were underway across the country.
The armed mob wanted to get rid of the Ravidas temple and usurp the land and they chose the temple complex to hoist the tricolour. Vilas Ram and some other people from the dalit hamlet of Baddi protested against this move and this was 'instigation' enough for the armed mob to go berserk. Incidentally the local police outpost is quite nearby and the village comes under high profile Lok Sabha constituency Sasaram that is currently represented by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and was the traditional seat of her father and well-known dalit face of the Congress, Babu Jag Jivan Ram.
India cannot be misled by Manmohan Singh's false assurances or Modi's fascist rhetoric. The country must wake up to the grim reality of economic and environmental crisis that has been imposed on us by the ruling classes and the lack of freedom that still vitiates the social existence of millions of Indians. The reality of people's movement for change must prevail over the rulers' rhetoric of deception.
Baddi Dalit Atrocity
A CPI(ML) team comprising All India Kisan Mahasabha General Secretary Rajaram Singh and Arun Singh, former MLA from the Karakat assembly constituency, visited Baddi on the day of the attack, to find out the facts. Excerpts from their report:
Baddi village, in Shivsagar block of Rohtas district, about 15 kilometres from Sasaram, has about 80 Mahadalit (Ravidas) homes, and 100 Rajput homes. A pucca road leads to the village, one fork towards the dalit tola (hamlet) and one towards the Rajput tola. Near the dalit tola, on the roadside, is a two-storey temple dedicated to Sant Ravidas, after whom the community is named.
In June this year, an idol of Ravidas was installed in the temple; before this, the Dalits used to worship a photograph. The Dalits had collected Rs 1.5 lakh to install a marble idol instead. The Sant Ravidas temple is, undoubtedly, a symbol of the Dalit community and its sense of identity.
The Ravidas temple standing at such a prominent place in the village was resented by the powerful upper castes in the village. For quite a while, they had been trying to wrest control of the 6 dismil of gair mazarua land on which the temple stood. And the pretext for doing so was that they sought to replace the Ravidas temple and idol with one of the freedom movement martyr Nishan Singh. Nishan Singh, a Rajput landowner of the same village, had been active in the 1857 First War of Independence and had been executed by the British. When Nishan Singh's descendants had sought to install his statue on the same piece of land where the Ravidas temple stood, the Dalits had argued that these descendants already owned quite a bit of land, while the Dalits could only use gair mazarua public land. There was another plot of 3 dismils of land at a short distance that was available for a statue of the freedom fighter. Why distort and diminish the stature of the freedom fighter and martyr to that of a symbol of anti-Dalit feudal dominance, by pitting his statue against the temple of the Dalit saint?
A couple of days before 15th August, the Dalit villagers had informed the Baddi police outpost and the SP too, of the impending attempts to forcibly grab the land on which the temple stood, on the pretext of installing a statue of Nishan Singh.
It was the practice, at 8 am on Independence Day every year, for the Dalits to hoist the tricolour flag at the flagpole near the temple. This year, the Bihar CM Nitish Kumar had ordered that the tricolor be hoisted officially in all Mahadalit tolas, and so the Baddi Dalits were expected to wait for the BDO to hoist the flag. The BDO had told the Dalits that he would come at 10 am.
At 8 am, however, the Rajputs came, and on the pretext of hoisting the national flag, began digging to install the statue of Nishan Singh. The Dalits spotted this, and gathered to protest, realizing that if the statue were installed there, it would mean the loss of their control over the plot of land and the temple. They informed the police, and the digging stopped.
The Rajputs went to the police outpost, and sat there for some time. Then, clearly with the blessings of the local police, they returned at around 9 am, armed to the teeth, to attack the Dalit tola and temple with firearms and iron rods. Vilas Ram was dragged off, badly beaten, and shot dead. Women, children, and elderly folk were brutally thrashed with iron rods. The heavy iron gate to the Ravidas temple was broken, the temple set on fire, and the hand of the idol broken. Two Dalit homes were burnt down, with all their belongings. Two teenage schoolgirls were being dragged off by the assailants, but their schoolteachers intervened to rescue them. The water pump and solar light were vandalized.
The SP had been called when the attack began, and he arrived at Baddi withing one and a half hours. His arrival averted an even bigger massacre. However, there has been an obvious attempt to cover up the atrocity, and the collusion of the local police outpost with the assailants. The BDO had the idol and various blood stains cleaned up, thereby destroying important evidence.
Around 40 people were injured badly enough to require hospitalization; some of them were taken to hospital in Sasaram, and 12 of them who were seriously injured were admitted in the PMCH at Patna.
Feudal Assertion in the Shahabad Region
The Shahabad belt of Bihar, especially the Rohtas district, have witnessed a bid at feudal reassertion during the Nitish Kumar tenure. CPI(ML)'s Rohtas Secretary Bhaiyyaram Yadav was killed last year by feudal forces when he protested against the rape of a dalit girl child.
The incident shows that in today's Bihar, where the CM is being hailed by the corporate media for having 'changed the subject' of feudal upper caste violence and ushered in an era of progress, feudal forces actually feel emboldened. The subject is far from changed. In the Baddi incident, it is significant that the forces of upper caste feudal reaction chose to cloak themselves in the garb of nationalism. The Dalit symbol of Sant Ravidas, like the statue of Dr Ambedkar in other parts of the country, is targeted for violence. The act of wresting land legitimately controlled by Dalits was sought to be done in the name of hoisting the national flag on Independence Day, and installing the statue of a freedom fighter and martyr. This is part of the same pattern where the communal and feudal forces seek to disguise their anti-Muslim and anti-Dalit fascist agenda as 'patriotism.'
Throughout Nitish Kumar's tenure, successive events have given the feudal forces a sense of entitlement and impunity: the scrapping of the Amir Das Commission (set up to probe political links of the Ranveer Sena); the betrayal of the Land Reforms Commission report; the acquittal of the perpetrators of the Bathani and Nagari massacres and the violence unleashed after Brahmeshwar Singh's killing. In Baddi and Raghunathpur, too, the failure to arrest the assailants continues to send a message of protection to the feudal forces.
Deceit at the Hospital of Truth
Sanitation Hospital Workers Strike at a Delhi Hospital over Non-Payment of Minimum Wages
Sanitation workers of the Satyavadi Raja Harishchandra Hospital, Narela in Outer Delhi have started an indefinite dharna since 8th August, to protest their unjust dismissal when they asked to be paid the statutory minimum wage for unskilled work declared by the Delhi Government, Rs 7254 per month.
They were instead being paid nearly half this amount – just Rs 3500 pm. Further, the workers had not received any salary at all for the past 5 months – since March 2013. The dharna is being organized by the workers under the banner of their Union, the All India General Kamgar Union affiliated to the AICCTU. The Hospital is a 200-bed hospital run by the Delhi Government. Its Chairman is the local MLA of the area, Jaswant Rana of the Congress party. The Medical Superintendent (MS) is Dr. Chandrakant.
It is shocking that minimum wage laws and contract labour laws are being blatantly violated in a hospital run by the Delhi Government, whose Chairman is an MLA of the ruling party. There were 25 safai karamcharis (sanitation workers) employed by the Hospital. Although the work they do is a permanent nature, they are all contract workers. The contractors change from time to time, the workers have remained the same for years. This is a blatant violation of the Contract Labour Regulation and Abolition Act (CLARA Act). The Contract Labour Act also stipulates that contract workers must be paid the same as permanent ones for the same work, according to the principle of 'Equal Pay for Equal Work'.
If these sanitation workers were to be paid at the same rate as permanent workers, they would be paid Rs 25000 a month. Moreover, each worker did the work of two – cleaning two wards instead of one. In July, the workers complained to the Labour Department of North West district, asking to be paid minimum wages, as well as their pending salaries.
On the 31st of July, the contractor said he would no longer work at the Hospital, and since 3rd August, the workers were told that they were dismissed. The principal employer is the Hospital, and according to the Contract Labour Regulation and Abolition Act (CLARA Act), the principal employer must guarantee payment of minimum wages to all workers, taking the amount from the contractor's payment if the contractor refuses to pay the minimum wage. Instead, the MS of the Hospital is openly threatening the workers with arrest on false charges of theft.
On the 3rd of August, the workers were told by a guard that the MS wished to meet their representatives at 6 pm. Two workers, Shiela and Sunil went to meet the MS. He told them they had the option of accepting a Rs 200 wage hike, and working 12 hours a day instead of 8, if they wanted to stay on. If not, he said, they - "should not be seen on the premises, or else I will have the SHO arrest you on false charges of theft."
The Hospital has also removed the Board of the Delhi Sanitation Workers Commission displaying the statutory minimum wages, which by law the Hospital is required to display. Since the workers have been illegally laid off, there is a sanitation crisis in the Hospital, with garbage stinking on the premises. One sanitation worker Praveen Jain said that the MS called him on the phone, asking him to take Rs 500 to throw away the garbage bags. He refused, saying that the Hospital should instead uphold the law and give the workers their legal and rightful wages and rights.
Recently the local MLA visited the dharna spot and promised action, but he failed to persuade the workers to lift the dharna. The workers demanded that they be reinstated first, with arrears paid and minimum wages guaranteed, and then they would raise the dharna. Delhi Sanitation Workers Commission has also been approached by the workers seeking their intervention.
South Asia Solidarity Group StatementNo UK Visa for Mass Murderer Narendra Modi!
Withdraw the invitation to Modi
South Asia Solidarity Group condemns the invitation to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to address the
House of Commons issued by the Labour Friends of India and the Conservative Friends of India. We strongly believe that Narendra Modi, who is responsible for the 2002 genocidal attacks in which over 2,000 men women and children from Gujarat's Muslim minority community were systematically killed, must not be allowed to visit the UK. Modi's past visits to the UK have been used to raise extensive funds and support for communal violence, and a visit at this time when Modi is launching a campaign to become India's next Prime Minister, and continues to try to gain votes using openly fascistic and anti-minority rhetoric, would be particularly dangerous.
In the wake of the 2002 genocide and the extensive documentation of Modi's role in co-ordinating and sponsoring it. the UK, other EU, and US governments were compelled to distance themselves from Modi and the Gujarat state government. However recently we have seen David Cameron take steps to rehabilitate Modi, as evidenced by meetings between the British High Commissioner and Modi in Ahmedabad. This puts the interests of British corporates wishing to invest in Gujarat ahead of any concerns for human rights and justice, and makes a mockery of the rights of the three British citizens who were murdered during the genocide and whose families are yet to see justice. We condemn this collusion in Modi's attempts to deny his role as a mass murderer. We demand that the invitation to Modi is withdrawn and he is refused a visa to the UK.
Pithoragarh villagers stage hunger strike
(From The Hindu, dt 14 August 2013, by C. K. Chandramohan)
Starving and irate residents of about 13 villages staged a token hunger strike before the office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Munsyari, in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand on 13th August to protest against the failure of the Government to provide food and essential supplies to them even after two months of the mid-June deluge and landslips.
Hundreds of residents of villages Senar, Pyanti, Kultham, Dilam, Tall Dummar, Jimighat, Dhapa, Ranthi, Gardhaniya, Bhadeli and Patharkhani are living without proper shelter and food with the local administration seemingly failed to provide them rations, tents, medicines and other supplies, said Sita Martolia and others from various flood and landslip ravaged villages.
The villagers accused the SDM of carrying out relief works only in villages pointed out by the local Congress MLA Harish Dhami. "We hope the Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna would order the District Magistrate to end this step-motherly treatment to us," said Jagat Martolia district secretary of the CPI (ML).
Describing the recent flash floods as a result of illegal riverbed mining by unscrupulous elements, the villagers accused the MLA of supporting the mining mafia instead of helping the hapless victims.
Another villager Ram Singh Ghangaria said the victims would be forced to launch an indefinite fast at the SDM's office if relief was not sent to the flood-ravaged villages within a week.
Reports of food scarcity have also come in from various cut-off villages of interior Uttarkashi where the authorities were sending rations and other essential supplies to the villages that were near the road head. "Why can't the authorities repair the mule tracks so that rations could be transported to cut-off villages of Bhatwadi and Dunda," asked Sanjay Negi, a social worker in Uttarkashi.
AIALA Unit in Odisha Demands Proper Policy For Agricultural Labourers
AIALA Odisha observed the national agitation day in different districts of the state, demanding a proper policy with homestead land rights to all agricultural laborers throughout the state. The demonstration took place in Puri, Rayagada, Kalahandi, Bhadrak, Kendrapara and Keonjhar. AIALA state units distributed around 10,000 leaflets in different districts. Around 5000 workers participated in the protests. In Puri, Yudhistir Mohapatra, CPI(ML) CC member, Ashok Pradhan, and Satyabadi Behera, President, AIALA Odisha addressed the protesters in front of the district collector of Puri. Protesters demanded proper PDS, and Rs 250 as wages per day to the agricultural laborours. The protesters criticised the BJD government and UPA Government for failing to provide 100 days work to rural workers in the state as well as in the country. In Kalahandi, Nilanjan Bhattacharya, in Rayagada Tirupati Gamango, Brundban Bidika, in Bhadark Comrade Samarbal and Kendrapara Comrade Bidhan Das submitted a memorandum to the district administration.
Public Meeting Demanding Justice at Batla House
The AISA and RYA held a public meeting at the Khalilullah Masjid, Batla House, titled 'Conviction of Shehzad: Question Mark on Justice'. The meeting was well attended by students of Jamia Millia Islamia as well as local residents.
Addressing the meeting, Shehzad's lawyer Satish Tamta outlined the glaring holes in the prosecution case against Shehzad, and in the police version of the Batla House 'encounter' generally. He showed how the police had failed entirely to prove Shehzad's presence in the L-18 flat, his manner of escape, or evidence of him having fired a gun, let alone shot anyone. He expressed concern about the verdict's observations explaining away the police's lack of independent witnesses by implying that members of the minority community would not be reliable witnesses.
Kavita Krishnan, PB member of CPI(ML), said the verdict had only added fresh questions to the burning questions about the Batla House 'encounter.' Challenging the communal campaign that those raising questions about the genuineness of the 'encounter' were anti-national, she spoke of the former Karnataka DGP's observations in the Santosh Hegde commission of enquiry set up by the Supreme Court in the Manipur fake encounter cases. The former cop has said that local people always know when an encounter is fake, and fake arrests and encounters make us less, not more secure as a country. She suggested that a commission of enquiry similar to the Hegde Commission be set up to look into the Batla House encounter. She spoke of BJP's politics of communal pogroms and fake encounters, as epitomized by Modi. "Digvijay Singh and Salman Khursheed of the Congress shed crocodile tears for the martyrs of Batla House and Azamgarh: but it is their own Congress-led governments, their own P Chidambaram, who blocks any enquiry into the Batla House encounter," she said.
The meeting was conducted by Farhan of AISA, and also addressed by Zeeshan of RYA and Sandipan of AISA.
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: 22518248, e-mail: email@example.com, website: www.cpiml.org