A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 16, No. 41, 01 – 07 OCTOBER 2013
The Fodder Scam Verdict: Lessons and Challenges
The conviction of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Jagannath Mishra and Jagdish Sharma in the Rs 950-crore fodder scam by a special CBI court in Ranchi is now likely to result in the first case of disqualification in the wake of the Supreme Court's July 10 verdict that calls for automatic and immediate post-conviction disqualification of any member of state legislature or Parliament. The government had in fact brought an ordinance to counter the Supreme Court judgement and abort the threat of such disqualification. However much Rahul Gandhi may now dismiss the ordinance as 'complete nonsense' and the BJP may oppose and ridicule it in public, the fact remains that the ordinance was mulled by none other than Rahul's own government and endorsed by all parties including the BJP!
The scam-ridden Indian polity will surely now try to use the fodder scam example to seek some legitimacy and paper over the current crop of 21st century scams that are immensely bigger than the Bofors scam of the 1980s or the fodder scam of the 1990s. This is where the people of India will have to intervene and insist on matching punishment for the architects and managers of scams like the 2G and coalgate ones which have caused far bigger loss to the national exchequer. If Jagannath Mishra and Lalu Prasad are held responsible for having presided over the fodder scam, there is no way Manmohan Singh can escape his culpability for the mega scams that have become the trademarks of his government.
While Lalu Prasad and his party RJD are most centrally identified with the fodder scam, a closer look at the anatomy and trajectory of the scam reveals a whole range of accomplices cutting across social and political divisions. The BJP and many anti-Mandal ideologues would like us to believe that politics was 'cleaner' in the pre-Mandal days of elitist and upper-caste domination in politics and that the proliferation of scams is a post-Mandal phenomenon with SC/ST/OBC leaders and ministers showing a greater proclivity for corruption. The fodder scam clearly refutes this notion and exposes how the baton of corrupt governance actually passed hands from the days of Jagannath Mishra to the era of Lalu Prasad.
If corruption has acquired alarming proportions in the last two decades, it is clearly a fall-out of the neoliberal policy package of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, and the closer nexus between corporate houses, ministers and top bureaucrats that characterises governance in this neoliberal era.
The fodder scam narrative is also a great political leveller where leaders of RJD and JD(U) and Congress and BJP are all exposed as members of the same corrupt club. The CBI of course will have to explain why it spared leaders like Nitish Kumar, Shivanand Tiwari and Lallan Singh who all are mentioned as recipients of fodder scam cash in the testimonies of senior officials of the animal husbandry department. Is it because during the crucial early years of the CBI probe the NDA was in power with Advani as the Union Home Minister and all these leaders were in the same coalition? And incidentally, by the time we got the current verdict Nitish Kumar has switched over from his protracted alliance with the BJP to growing political bonhomie with the Congress!
It remains to be seen how the RJD faces the current blow. In the late 1990s when Lalu Prasad had to go to jail, he chose Rabri Devi as his successor. Today he has no chief ministership to protect, what is at stake is the party presidency. When the RJD was in power the party had fallen in line and accepted the family-centric succession. Today the RJD is in a much weaker shape – Lalu Prasad himself has been reduced to a faded shadow of his former self and his politics of survival with the blessing of the Congress in Delhi and the feudal forces in Bihar has reached a dead end. It therefore remains to be seen how the socio-political constellation that passes in the name of the party called RJD responds to the present juncture, especially if Lalu Prasad once again falls back on the family line.
Rabri Devi has reportedly compared the present juncture of the RJD to the Congress being run by Sonia and her son. But if the culture of dynastic succession is no longer able to arrest the decline of the Congress, the RJD should obviously think again!
To conclude, the law catching up with a few corruption cases is of course a welcome development, not because it will automatically serve as a deterrent but because it will serve as an inspiration for the ongoing people's struggle against corruption, corporate plunder and the corporate-politician nexus that increasingly characterises contemporary bourgeois politics and governance. But nobody will miss the contrast that while a few leaders are being convicted in an old corruption case, those convicted in cases of massacres of Bihar's rural poor are being acquitted by the dozen and the masterminds of communal carnages and fake encounters are bidding for power at the Centre and whipping up communal frenzy with impunity. And to buy the BJP's support for pro-corporate pro-FDI legislations, the Congress simply dumped the Bill against Communal Violence.
The fodder scam verdict should therefore galvanise the people in a more vigorous and determined campaign not only against corrupt politicians and bureaucrats but also against the perpetrators and masterminds of communal and caste violence. The law must deal equally sternly with the looters of national exchequer and enemies of the rights of minority communities, oppressed castes and women.
Withdraw the UPA Ordinance to Protect Criminals
It was the Congress-led UPA government that brought in the latest ordinance which sought to negate a Supreme Court order summarily disqualifying MPs and MLAs convicted for serious crimes. The ordinance cleared by the UPA Cabinet and endorsed by an all-party meeting needs to be viewed in the context of the shameful credentials of our elected representatives.
The deadly combination of money power and muscle power has led to a veritable explosion of criminality in the Parliament and State Assemblies. According to their own affidavits, about 58% of our 543 elected members of Parliament are crorepatis. Nearly 30% of them – 162 to be precise – have a total of more than 400 criminal charges pending against them. About 14% or 76 MPs have serious pending criminal charges against them. In the elections to the Lok Sabha and various State Assemblies since 2008, of the 4807 elected members (MPs and MLAs) 1460 (30%) have declared criminal cases against them, while 688 (14%) have declared serious criminal cases.
But only 24 of them, i.e., only 0.5%, have declared in their affidavits that they have been convicted at some point in a court of law. In addition to the general problem of very slow court proceedings, what is responsible for this extremely low rate of conviction is obviously the political clout these powerful people enjoy. So the need of the hour is not only to disqualify convicted MPs and MLAs but also to debar people, against whom charges have been framed in serious criminal cases, especially related to communal, caste and gender violence, from contesting elections till their names are cleared. This is what the election commission also recommended, and so did the Justice Verma Committee with regard to rapists.
The CPI(ML) denounces the content of the proposed ordinance and demands its immediate withdrawal. It also warns the government against any further attempt to lend a hand to criminals in the fray and in Legislatures.
On the "Right to Reject"
The recent Supreme Court order granting voters the right to record a "none-of-the-above" (NOTA) option in the voting machine itself, i.e., to reject all candidates in the fray and make the voter's rejection counted, is a small step in the right direction. That a NOTA vote should enjoy the same sanctity as a vote in favour of a particular candidate has indeed been a long-standing democratic demand.
It is clear that even with a substantial number of such votes there will still be winners in our first-past-the-post system. But if in any given constituency NOTA votes exceed the number of votes secured by the winning candidate, should not a repoll be ordered? And should not voters also have the option of recalling non-performing legislators who betray the trust of the electors? Indeed, the right to reject must go together with the right to recall.
Such issues – and there are many of them – should be widely discussed and debated within Parliament and without. On that basis we must move forward with a comprehensive electoral reform that puts in place a system of proportional representation, debars parties from luring voters with freebies and false promises, ensures genuinely fair elections that are free from the macabre dance of money and muscle power and communal machinations and guarantees transparency in the funding of political parties. Only as part of such thoroughgoing reform can the recently announced partial correctives become truly meaningful.
All India Kisan Mahasabha Holds Dharna at Parliament St
AIKM held a protest dharna at Parliament Street in the National Capital on 30 September to highlight various demands of peasants, particularly protection of farmers' lands and addressing agrarian crisis. It demanded withdrawal of anti-peasant policies and to enact a land protection legislation, replacing recently passed land acquisition act. A memorandum was sent to the Prime Minister through this dharna.
The AIKM also demanded to intensify relief operations in devastated areas of Uttarakhand and to rehabilitate around 1000 villages to safe places in that state, to stop efforts for eviction of the rehabilitated farmers of Bhakhra-Nangal Dam from Gujarat and Haryana where they were resettled years ago; to resettle all displaced farmers from various projects including DVC and to guarantee their livelihoods; to give proper compensation, employment and rehabilitation for the affected farmers in Bareilly; to stop privatisation of electricity and water, to increase public funding in agriculture, increase subsidy in diesel, fertilizers and agricultural appliances; and relief to drought and flood affected farmers all over the country.
The land acquisition act passed by the last session of Parliament actually talks about compensation, rehabilitation, resettlement and transparency, but amidst jugglery of words this paves the way for the land grab already going on, on a massive scale in the country. First of all it is silent on the private acquisitioning of lands by corporates with the help of local middlemen by hook or crook. Then, the public purpose is defined in such a way that ongoing corporate land grab can be justified as public cause. In the name of 'consent' it only says that private and PPP acquisitions have to be decided after 70 and 80 percent consent; while governmental acquisitions will not require such binding. Moreover, social or environmental impact assessments and recommendations of expert groups will not be mandatory for the government to comply. And to top it all, provision of 'urgency' will overrule all the clauses.
The new legislation talks about 'food security', but instead of taking any concrete steps lands being snatched away in the name of 'corridors' and 'expressways' will continue and without specifying any limit the 'public purpose' remains with the decision and discretion of concerned state governments and district administrations. This is utter hypocrisy that same parliament session that passed the Land Acquisition Act has also passed the Bill on Food Security. But to ensure whatever has been promised the country will need to increase food production and increase effective area under cultivation. Yet the state is paving the way for the steady decline for availability of agricultural lands. It is clear that in the name of increasing yield, the government wants to force the farmers towards dubious and dangerous GM crops and growing corporatisation of agriculture in India.
Rajaram Singh, General Secretary of AIKM said that UPA-II's economic liberalisation has intensified attacks on livelihood and democratic rights of peasants-workers and students-youth. The acquisition of land and natural resources on a massive scale and continuing agrarian crisis has rendered peasants into paupers forcing them towards suicide. This is happening at a time when country is facing severe economic and monetary crisis.
AIKM leaders Prem Singh Gehlawat from Haryana, Purushottam Sharma and Indresh Maikhury from Uttarakhand, Afroz Alam from UP, Gurmeet Singh from Punjab and RYA's Aslam Khan also addressed the dharna.
Convention against Politics of Communalism and Minority Witch-hunt
A convention against politics of communalism and minority witch-hunt was held in New Delhi on 25 September. This was addressed by CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, many relatives of victims of minority witch-hunt, senior journalist Syed Muhammad Kazmi, Akhlaq from the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), CPI(ML) CC member Mohd. Salim, and representatives of the JNU Students' Union.
Comrade Dipankar said that at a time when Muslims are being framed in the name of fighting terror, when we are seeing a witch-hunt of people's movements in the name of fighting Maoism, there has to be a concerted struggle against the US scripted neo-liberal policies, against communal witch-hunting and orchestrated communal violence, and against the pro-corporate policies that both the UPA and NDA are deeply committed to. He also mentioned that in Bihar, where Narendra Modi's 'Hunkar' rally has been announced by the BJP with much fanfare, CPI(ML) and the poor and deprived sections of the state would be organising a 'Khabardar' rally in defence of democracy and secularism.
Addressing the convention, CPI(ML) Central Committee member Mohd. Salim talked of the US's carefully scripted global campaign of Islamophobia which is playing itself out in India in the form of framed cases, custodial torture and killings, and fake encounters that have become common phenomena in many states. In the few landmark cases where court proceedings have exonerated the falsely accused youth, there has been no acknowledgement of wrongdoing on part of the police and anti-terror squads, no apology, and no compensation or rehabilitation for those who suffered jail and torture on the strength of baseless charges. "With the Congress, SP, and UPA desperate to obediently follow the US path of Islamophobia, such cases have increased alarmingly," he added.
Akhlaq from the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) talked of the roots of communalism in India, of the policies to divide and rule and the manner in which minorities are being denied their basic rights. "Our fight is not only to free innocent Muslims who have been framed, tortured and thrown in jails. Our fight is also to ensure that those really responsible for the bomb blasts and terror attacks, those who receive training for terror attacks even in military schools, are actually prosecuted," he said. Niaz Ahmed from Darbhanga talked of how the innocents in Samastipur and Darbhanga are being framed, "So-called secular forces such as JD(U) and Congress remain silent and never ensure justice for victims of communalism and witch-hunt." Anwar from Kunda in Pratapgarh and Sher Ali from Rampur shared their experiences of how their relatives were falsely framed. JNUSU Joint Secretary Sarfaraz Hamid and Vice President Anubhuti who had been part of fact-finding teams to Malegaon and Muzaffarnagar respectively addressed the convention and spoke of how innocent Muslims were framed in Malegaon and jailed for years together and how the Muzaffarnagar riots were cynically orchestrated.
Journalist Ajoy Ashirwad, who has reported extensively on the Muzaffarnagar violence pointed out the use of patriarchal protection in orchestrating communal violence: "in Mangalore (Karnataka), in Gujarat, and now in Muzaffarnagar, we have seen how false stories of Muslims trapping Hindu women, of the alleged 'love jihaad' are an integral part of the communal programme". He also talked of the demographic transformation of villages in the wake of communal violence, where there are deliberate attempts to destroy the homes and livelihoods of Muslims, to destroy mosques and spread hatred. Noted journalist Syed Mohammad Kazmi, who is himself battling a protracted legal struggle after being falsely framed in a terror case, said "after the communal violence during partition, during the razing of the Babri Masjid on 6th December, communal fascist forces are now trying to ride to power by literally walking over the dead bodies of Muslims". At the end of the convention, several resolutions against minority witch-hunting, orchestrated communal violence, and demanding justice for victims of communal violence were passed.
Aslam Khan from the Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) pointed out that the convention was being held in the backdrop of a deliberate communal offensive spearheaded by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, and unfortunately condoned by various governments of all hues.
RESOLUTIONS PASSED AT CONVENTION
That the proposed anti-communal violence Bill ¼Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparation) Bill, 2011½, not even presented in Parliament under pressure from the BJP, has now been laid in cold storage for so long is the biggest proof of how superficially the UPA government views the important issue of communalism. This Convention demands that this pending Bill should be strengthened, presented immediately in Parliament and passed.
1. At such a time when the Muzaffarnagar riots have once again brought to the fore the communal brutalism and unholy nexus of the opportunistic political parties and the way in which the contextual meeting of the National Integration Council concluded without any concrete work plan, it is clear that achieving political gains rather than a safe and secure atmosphere for the minorities is the priority of the Congress. This Convention strongly condemns this attitude of the Central government and demands that a concrete policy against communal violence should be put in place with provision for stern action against Parties or representatives of Parties who indulge in communal or casteist violence.
2. This Convention demands that an immediate end should be put to witch hunting of innocent Muslim young men in the name of terrorism and spreading of canards by the government and security agencies about certain areas in the country being terrorist hubs. It has been seen that Muslim youths have been arrested without proof and later pronounced innocent and released by the courts. There is no accountability for this injustice against them and the government has taken no steps for their rehabilitation. This Convention demands that such unjust actions be immediately stopped and the responsible officials be punished, and that legal provision be made to guarantee compensation and rehabilitation by the government in cases where such false charges of terrorism are slapped.
3. This Convention demands the release and rehabilitation by the government of the number of innocent Muslim youths in various parts of the country who are under prolonged arrest on false charges.
4. This Convention demands the implementation of the Nimesh Commission in Uttar Pradesh.
5. This Convention demands action against the officials responsible in the recent cases of custodial death of a Muslim youth Khalid Mohammed in Uttar Pradesh and the murder of Kateel Siddiqui in Yerwada jail in Maharashtra.
6. Anti-minority attitudes can be observed from time to time in the actions of security agencies including the IB, which aggravates the communal common sense already prevalent in society. This is made clear by the role played by these agencies in the case against Pilibhit MP Varun Gandhi during the last general elections. This Convention demands strict action against agencies or other bodies indulging in such prejudicial behavior.
7. This Convention reiterates the demand for a judicial enquiry into the Batla House "encounter" and further demands that a National tribunal be constituted to enquire into all cases of witch hunting and harassment of minorities.
8. This Convention considers the BJP primarily accountable for the recent riots in Muzaffarnagar. It is only the well planned attacks and false propaganda by communal and casteist forces which could blow up a common quarrel into the gigantic proportions of a riot. That the ruling Samajwadi Party government took no effective steps despite prolonged mischievous propaganda by communal forces shows that their objective also was to score political points out of the riots. The CPI-ML demands that all parties involved in the riot be probed by an independent agency and the guilty be given stern punishment.
9. This Convention demands that MPs, MLAs and members of local bodies accused in cases of communal or casteist violence or violence against women should be expelled from such institutions and be banned from contesting in elections in future.
10. This Convention demands a concrete plan for compensation and rehabilitation for the families of those killed as well as for all those affected in the Muzaffarnagar riots. It further demands strict action against communal and casteist forces and the creation of a safe and secure atmosphere so that the displaced families can go back safely to their homes.
11. This Convention demands that all persons arrested in Kashmir without a trial or chargesheet under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (wherein a person can be put in jail without any proof, merely on the basis of suspicion), should be released without delay and draconian laws in various States of the country such as Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the North Eastrn States and other similar Acts should be immediately repealed.
March to Rajbhawan on Karbi Anglong Issue
About 500 people at the call of CPI(ML), KSA and KNCA, condemning attack on democracy in Karbi Anglong and demanding release of all CPI(ML) and KSA leaders, marched to the Rajbhavan on 16th September. Protesters strongly condemned the act of arresting and jailing of CPI(ML) and KSA leaders in false cases. Congress Govt. has virtually imposed a state of emergency in the hill district and no political dissent is being allowed. Karbi Anglong is virtually turned into police raj and no leaders and activists in the jail get justice, on the contrary instead of granting bail, additional non-bailable sections are imposed on arrested leaders.
The protesters shouted slogans like "no autonomous state no rest", "release all CPIML and KSA leaders', "hold talk on autonomous state issue with sincerity and political will". The procession reached Rajbhawan and submitted a memorandum to the Governor of Assam. The memorandum demanded: (1) unconditional release of arrested leaders, (2) restore democracy in Karbi Anglong and democratic voice of the people be allowed, stop state terrorism in the hill district, (3) Constitute CBI enquiry into the police firing on 31 July 2013 at Diphu as there are instances of Human rights violation by the Assam police personnel, and (4) Provide Rs. 50 lakhs as compensation to the family of Martyr Rahul Singnar who was shot dead by police from behind.
Leaders of CPI(ML) Hill Party Committee, KSA, KNCA, AISA, AIPWA, KANKIS, RYA including CC member Com. Pratima Inghipi, Selawar Bey, Sem killing, Kharsing Singnar, ex EM L N Subba and Politburo member Rubul Sarma, secy. of Assam State Committee Bibek Das participated in the protest programme. CPI(ML) leaders declared that they will continue the movement until and unless release of the jailed leaders.
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