A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 17, No. 06, 05 – 11 FEBRUARY 2014
The Ugly Reality of Politics of Racism and Xenophobia in India
The murder of Nido Taniam is the latest in a long line of racist prejudices and attacks against people from the North East in Delhi. The young man was taunted for his features and dyed hair, and when he protested, he was brutally beaten up by shopkeepers with iron rods. The conduct of the police in the matter is equally condemnable. Not only did they fail to ensure medical care for the injured youth, they imposed a ‘fine’ on him for a broken window glass, and allowed the assaulters to go without even registering an FIR!
The prejudices of the Delhi Police towards people from the North East are nothing new. The Police had failed to respond to an SOS in the Dhaula Kuan rape case, claiming that they did not follow the language or accent of the woman who complained of her friend’s abduction! The Delhi Police had issued a booklet to people from the NE states, advising them to stay safe by avoiding wearing ‘revealing’ clothes and offending people with the smell of their food. In a recent murder of a woman from the North East in South Delhi, the police did not register an FIR against the accused until a prolonged protest. And a media sting operation on senior policemen in the Delhi-NCR region revealed that they automatically held rape complaints by women from the North East, Darjeeling or Nepal to be false since they assumed these women to be prostitutes.
It cannot be forgotten that the Indian State’s own discriminatory policy towards the North East, fosters bias and violence against people from the region. The draconian AFSPA continues to shield murder and rape of people from the North East by the Indian Army – marking off people from the North East as second class citizens. Rahul Gandhi addressed a protest dharna against the murder of Nido Taniam in Delhi, saying “There is only one India. And that India belongs to all of us. We are going to ensure you get respect in this country.” He should tell us how come murder and rape are protected by ‘Special Powers’ in some parts of India, if indeed all citizens enjoy the same rights?
Bias and police harassment of Kashmiris and people from African countries have also been common in Delhi. Kashmiris are branded as ‘anti-national’, and the BJP has been known to fan up xenophobia against Bengali speaking labourers (branded as ‘Bangladeshi infiltrators’). Recently the AAP’s newspaper Aap ki Kranti also disturbingly mentioned a witch-hunt of ‘Bangladeshi infiltrators’ as one of the key achievements of the AAP’s Delhi Government.
The Delhi Government’s defence of the Law Minister’s illegal and racially motivated ‘raid’ of African women in Khirki recently has further signalled support for racist policy – veiled as action against ‘drug and prostitution mafia’. The AAP Government has cited recent complaints of trafficking by Ugandan women, as ‘vindication’ of the raid by its Law Minister. This defence only further underlines their racist mindset – since they suggest that complaints of some African women vindicate the violation of rights of other African women! After all, many Indian men are rapists, but would that justify racist violence on Indian men in Australia?! The existence of drug and trafficking trade (in which Indians are just as complicit as people of other nationalities) cannot justify racist, sexist of homophobic politics – such as the leaflet by the Residents’ Welfare Association of Khirki that called for ‘eradication of Nigerians and eunuchs’ by denying them homes on rent.
The BJP calls the AAP’s Delhi Government ‘racist’, while its Goa Government has actually perfected the practice of witch-hunting Africans in the name of cracking down on drug mafia. The BJP in Goa ran a campaign with the slogan “We want peace in Goa. Say no to Nigerians. Say no to drugs.” The Goa CM called for the eviction of all Nigerians from Goa, asserting that most of them are involved in drug trade. A BJP Minister in Goa equated Nigerians with cancer.
It is hardly surprising, then, that the RSS leader Sheshadri Chari, speaking on a news channel, denied that the murder of the boy from Arunachal Pradesh was an act of racism. He tried to rationalise racism as a mere ‘perception of difference.’
Denial of racism is perhaps the most subtle and commonplace form of racism in India. It is high time that India faced up to the widespread racism and xenophobia – in social prejudices, but even more so in State policy and politics. The killers of Nido Taniam must be punished, as must be the police officials responsible for trying to suppress the case. Racist propaganda by political leaders must be sternly punished. Governments at the Centre and State must frame and adopt a policy to actively counter racist biases through widespread public education campaigns. And the discriminatory and draconian AFSPA must go!
When Lajpat Nagar Was Occupied by Anti-Racism Protestors
People were not thinking of shopping and they weren't thinking about food. All they wanted was to be treated fairly, treated at par. The extremely unfortunate murder of Nido Taniam seemed to have sparked a revolt. The attack was seen not only an attack on Taniam but on the identity that is India's “Northeast”. While anyone who knows the Northeast well enough knows that there is no homogenous “Northeast” identity. However, the perpetrators would not have known the difference between an Arunachali and an Assamese person. Taniam was mocked at because he looked a certain way. He was attacked because he challenged the racist slurs and fought back. Was he fighting back merely against the racist slurs directed at him? I would like to believe that he protested against decades of racial discrimination and injustice that the “Northeasterners” have been facing in what is termed “mainland” India.
One can't help but think about the similarities between Nido Taniam's murder and Nirbhaya's murder. Both were targeted because of their identity. Both were attacked in South Delhi. Both sparked a revolution that was almost spontaneous, unrelenting and full of anger. This time, Jantar Mantar would not do. Assurances would not do. People wanted justice. However, it would be naive to think that the justice being demanded is merely legal. This was an assertion of citizenship, demand for social justice, equality and non-discrimination. While some scholars would opine that, for a Northeast student to shout “I am Indian” is similar to a woman shouting “I am chaste”, I would like to believe that these students from the Northeast also meant to assert and demand their citizenship rights rather than to reify the already problematic construct of nationalism.
However, the fight for dignity is only a baby step in the assertion of democratic rights by people of the Northeast. It will be several decades before Irom Sharmila gets regular front page coverage for her unmatched feat. It will be a while before draconian laws like AFSPA rake up the conscience of this nation. After all, these do not affect people in the “mainland” India.
-Shehla Rashid, AISA activist from JNU
Assam Bandh Against Chauldhua Massacre
On 29 January, 100 gunmen from Arunachal Pradesh opened fire on people in Chauldhua of the Bihali forest area in Sonitpur district. 11 were killed, 14 badly injured, and 6 are still missing, feared dead. Jawans of the Indian Reserve Battalion of Arunachal Pradesh were present during the massacre.
Those killed were poor labourers, who had built makeshift camps on the land, and had continuously been at the receiving end of threats and even firing from land mafias of Arunchal Pradesh. The Assam Government failed to respond to any appeals to ensure protection for the people nor to resolve the border land dispute.
CPIML held an Assam Bandh in protest on January 31st, and protests are continuing demanding arrest of the perpetrators of the massacre, compensation for the victims and injured, protection for border villages by the Assam Government, and resolution of the dispute over forest land on the Assam-Arunachal border.
AISA-RYA Initiatives against Racist Murder in Delhi
“Racial discrimination, comments and violence are an ugly everyday reality for us. We don’t feel secure, and we don’t have any confidence in the Delhi Police. Such an environment of insecurity, racism and police victimization of victims needs to be changed immediately. We cannot stay scared anymore, we have to come out” – these were the words of Alka, a Ramjas College student who addressed a gathering of hundreds of protesting students who were at one with her words and emotions. This protest was organized by AISA in Delhi University where around 300 students participated; for three hours the DU north campus reverberated with one slogan 'We are all Nido Taniam, Stop the racism'.
The tragic death of Nido, a young 18-year old student from Arunachal Pradesh, after being brutally beaten up by shopkeepers, has seen massive protests across Delhi – at Lajpat Nagar where the public lynching took place, at Jantar Mantar, in the Jawaharlal Nehru University organised by the AISA-led JNUSU and in the Delhi University. In the aftermath of this latest incident of racist violence, democratic voices are pointing out that the racism is not just deeply embedded in our society, but it requires a principled and effective response from the powers-that-be.
This tragic death might once more exposed the terrible consequences of racism, but the fact remains that racism is often only recognised when such incidents take place. It is often not sufficiently recognised, and not highlighted, when derogatory comments are made on physical features, dress, culture and cuisine; when breathtaking generalisations questioning life style and ‘morality’ pass off as ‘aam’ common sense. It is not recognised when people from the north east and other marginalised ‘others’ find it specially difficult to rent rooms, to file complaints, to travel in public transport. It is this brand of seemingly innocuous ‘everyday’ othering, profiling and racism that ultimately leads to the tragic mob lynching of a young boy doing something as normal as walking and shopping in a South Delhi market. Nido Tania was subject to racist taunts on his looks and the colour of the hair. He was beaten up by a mob, not just once, but twice. Even after his death, it took sustained protests to get an FIR filed by the Delhi Police.
At the AISA protest in DU, another student Brian, from Dayal Singh College said, “The students from north east regions are considered to be people from outside India. The derogatory and enraging taunt ‘chinki’ reminds us all the time that our own neighbours, landlords, people in the government and most of all our police, think that we are from China. We are the ones paying the price of claiming that we are Indians and deserve rights of Indian citizens.”
AISA has been actively involved in the recent movement on the streets of Delhi against racism, participating in the protests at Jantar Mantar and Lajpat Nagar, organising protest marches in JNU and Delhi University, and resolving to address racism in every form – not just horrific racist violence, but also the everyday alienation and discrimination that routinely takes place. As Rahul, an AISA activist at the DU protest pointed out: “The fact remains that racism is not an issue of individuals and circumstances but is structural and is institutionalized into the very fabric of our society.”
Preparation for Mass Agitations, Rallies All Over Bihar
As LS elections approach, CPI(ML) leaders in Bihar are being arrested to create a repressive atmosphere. In Patna, students, youth, farmers struggling against land acquisition, Anganwadi workers, electricity consumers etc are being harassed and hounded in different ways.
Recently CPI-ML Patna District Rural Committee member Com. Gopal Singh was thrown into jail as he was leading a farmers’ agitation against acquisition of BIADA land in Bihada (Patna District), and several false cases have been slapped against him. Party State Committee member Com. Ranvijay Kumar was arrested while leading an agitation by Data Entry operators in Patna. Earlier, false cases were foisted on RYA National President Amarjit Kushwaha and Party State Committee member and former MLA Satyadev Ram while they were leading a land agitation. RYA State Joint Secretary Manoj Manzil, arrested in Bhojpur, has been in jail for the past 4 months. Several false cases have been filed against AISA State President Rinki, and Darbhanga District Committee member Com. Hari Paswan was arrested while leading the Darbhanga land agitation. The government has so far slapped cases against 4000 electricity consumers, and is unleashing a spate of repression on teachers, anganwadi workers, and others. The CPI-ML strongly condemns such undemocratic repressive measures by the government.
From 10 January to 25 January, CPI-ML had organized a Jansamwad programme in 18 LS constituencies of Bihar, during which about 100 teams held around 3000 meetings in 2500 panchayats of Bihar and established direct dialogue with around 3 lakh people. During the dialogue it was clear that the people are thoroughly disillusioned with the governments in Delhi and Bihar and want a change. People want the next LS elections to be fought on people’s issues and wish to change policies, not merely exchange leaders. While the BJP wants to give a fascist direction to this aspiration for positive change, Nitish Kumar is harping on the issue of special State status in order to divert attention from his failed responsibilities. The RJD and LJP have also betrayed the people by joining hands with the Congress, which has led the country to ruin. During the programme, a number of people across the State stressed that the sitting MPs, once elected, have never bothered to visit their constituencies. The people were angry against such MPs and MLAs and were clear that they do not want an MP who would neither raise their issues in Parliament, nor fight on the streets for them.
Important issues like electricity, education, health, dignified employment, and housing, and cancellation of liquor licences have emerged as demands of the people, based on which the CPI-ML State standing committee has chalked out the strategy for agitation. One of the key issues is that of fake and inflated power bills. Nitish Kumar had declared that if electricity didn’t reach villages, he wouldn’t seek votes. The reality is that electricity hasn’t reached villages – but huge power bills have reached villages where electricity cables haven’t even been laid! In any case, the power rates are too steep. CPI(ML) has issued a call to not pay fake and inflated bills, and is demanding halving of power rates. Another huge issue is the state policy of issuing liquor licences in virtually each village. Villages are demanding that liquor licences be cancelled, since it promotes alcoholism to fill state coffers.
Jandaavedari (People’s Assertion) Rallies will be organized in different districts in Bihar from 8 Feb to 21 Feb, which will be addressed by senior Party leaders. At the rallies, people will submit fake and inflated power bills and sign petitions demanding cancellation of liquor licences.
Teams have been constituted under the leadership of Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, Bihar State Secretary Kunal, Politburo members Kavita Krishnan and Dhirendra Jha, former MP Rameshwar Prasad, AIP WA General Secretary Meena Tiwari, CC member Com. KD Yadav, ABKMS National General Secretary Com. Rajaram Singh, AIPWA Bihar Secretary Shashi Yadav, former MLA Satyadev Ram, Com. Anwar Hussain, and others.
The rallies will raise 5 central slogans:
1. Daam bandho, kaam do, kaam ka pura daam do! (Fix Prices, Ensure Work, Ensure Full Wages for the Work!)
2. Takht badal do, taj badal do, loot-khasoot ka raj badal do! (Change the Regime and Rule of Corruption and Plunder!)
3. Badlo neeti, badlo raj, sansad mein janta ki awaz! (Change Policies, Change Rule, Ensure People’s Voice in Parliament!)
4. Khet, kheti, kisan bachao, corporate loot ka raj mitao! (Save Farmland, Agriculture, Farmers, End the Regime of Corporate Loot!)
5. Sharab nahin rozgaar chahiye, bijli-ration-awas chahiye! (We Want Employment and Electricity, Rations and Housing, Not Liquor!)
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: email@example.com, website: www.cpiml.org