A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 17 No. 10 5 - 11 MAR 2014
International Women’s Day 2014:
Bring Women’s Freedom Onto the Political Agenda
8 March – International Women’s Day – was born in the struggles that women factory workers in their thousands waged against bondage a century ago. Those women workers – in Chicago, in European countries, in Russia - protested against the exploitative conditions in which they worked. They were also the frontrunners of the movement for women’s suffrage: battling against the denial of political equality and citizenship for women.
In 2014, the legacy of those century-old struggles is as relevant as ever. Women workers continue to labour in exploitative and unsafe conditions – but the theatres of such exploitation have shifted from the US and Europe to Asian and African countries. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 2011 that consumed the lives of women workers in New York City, is being re-enacted as fires and collapses in garment factories in Bangladesh a century later. In India too women are employed, overwhelmingly, in the 3D (Dirty, Dangerous, Demeaning) jobs. And just as they are expected to do unpaid housework as a ‘selfless service’ in the home, the Government too asks them to work without a salary (for instance as ASHA workers) as a ‘selfless service’.
Moreover, women in India are still denied political equality and citizenship. They are grossly under-represented in Assemblies and Parliament, and it has become clear that India’s ruling parties are committed to delaying and denying 33% reservation for women. But the denial of rights as equal citizens goes beyond this.
What is most shameful is that our representative bodies, our Governments, our ruling political parties, and even our Courts are unwilling to uphold our freedom to love or marry a partner of our choice. A Kerala Court has recently decreed that a woman’s right to marry a person of her choice is not absolute, and that parents have a say in their daughter’s marriage. Justifying a father’s action of detaining his daughter when she, a woman doctor, wished to marry a fellow doctor, the judge said, “the liberties guaranteed to citizens could not be stretched beyond limits and should not be used as a weapon to destroy social establishments.” The Supreme Court itself recently recriminalized homosexuality by rehabilitating Section 377. The conclusion is inescapable: judges tend to see themselves as custodians of the ‘social establishments’ – of family, caste, community, homophobic and patriarchal morality – rather than of the Constitutional liberties.
Governments and ruling political parties are much the same. They are happy to talk of ‘women’s empowerment’ and ‘protection’ for women. But they are as a rule supremely unwilling to defend women’s freedom from patriarchal diktats. Last year, women protesters demanded azaadi – freedom – from ‘khaps, fathers, brothers.’ The recent statements by a range of political leaders defending khaps, shows that they have shut their ears – and their minds – to such demands. That slogan showed that for young protesters, ‘khaps’ did not just stand for ‘honour killings’. They were a metaphor for patriarchal and oppressive structures of caste, class, and community. They identified the ‘khaps’ in the daily restrictions imposed by parents and hostel administrations, in the pressure to obey caste/community restrictions in marriage, in the violence inflicted on dalit or Muslim men who love women of dominant communities, in Section 377, in moral policing by cops and outfits like Ram Sene and Bajrang Dal.
Yet, we have seen leaders of Congress, BJP, and AAP, tell us that khaps are valuable social institutions, though these parties hasten to assure us that they will not defend acts of coercion or violence ‘if any’. When political parties act as advocates and apologists of khaps, they are telling us that the freedom and dignity of women and dalits really do not have much place in their vision of politics. On the contrary, patriarchal restrictions on women’s freedom have many political uses, especially to justify violence against vulnerable communities. We have seen the BJP use khaps to fan up anti-Muslim violence in Muzaffarnagar, in the name of ‘saving our women’ from ‘love jehad.’ Khaps have always branded women’s consensual love with dalit men as ‘rape’ and unleashed violence on dalit communities in the name of avenging hurt ‘honour’: this time Muslims were the target. The Congress too has long enjoyed the political support of the khaps, turning a blind eye to the violence they mete out to women and dalits. AAP justified violence against African women in the name of ‘protecting’ Indian women.
The Kerala judge isn’t alone in legitimising the patriarchal idea that daughter’s Constitutional rights are not absolute, and that these can be violated by her father in order to ‘protect’ her from undesirable relationships. The BJP invoked the same idea when they faced with evidence that their Prime Ministerial candidate had deployed state machinery to stalk a woman.
Every year on 8 March, we hear some lip service paid by Governments towards women. But women continue to be denied the simplest needs and services. This year, with Lok Sabha elections soon to take place, we need to bring women’s rights and needs onto the political agenda.
We want no rhetoric about women’s greatness nor promises of ‘protection.’ We instead demand that Governments recognise their duty to ensure free toilets, medical care, education, and safe, regular public transport for women. We expect Governments to provide one-stop crisis centres and compensation and rehabilitation for survivors of gender violence. Children routinely face sexual abuse: is it not the Government’s job to provide safe child-care, especially in poor working class settlements? Why do Governments promote liquor addiction, with disastrous consequences for women? Liquor licences in residential areas should require the consent of the majority of local women.
We want Governments to stop behaving like patriarchal families, and stop asking women workers to work for an ‘honorarium’ instead of a salary. We want to know if Governments will commit to guaranteeing that women workers get equal pay for equal work, that minimum wages are raised, that ASHA and anganwadi workers get their full recognition and rights as government employees, that every work place has toilets, safe and healthy work conditions, and mechanisms against sexual harassment?
We have had enough of Governments encouraging police to do moral policing and crackdowns on consensual couples in the name of women’s protection. Instead, we expect Governments to ensure the accountability of the police, and to ensure strict action against police personnel who fail to do their duty. We also want Governments to stop protecting politicians, police and Army personnel who are accused of rape, and perpetrators of caste and communal rapes. From Chhattisgarh to Manipur to Kashmir, the impunity enjoyed by rapists in uniform, and the continued systematic rapes of dalit women all over rural India, the denial of justice to women raped in caste and communal massacres, exposes the reality of the politicians’ anti-rape rhetoric.
We want to know if Governments will scrap Section 377; enact laws against honour crimes and moral policing, and ensure state-run support centres for inter-caste and same-sex couples?
From International Women’s Day, let’s foreground the above questions as a charter of gender justice, and issue a resounding call that in this year’s Lok Sabha elections, we’ll strive to elect those forces who are champions of this charter of struggle, and reject those political forces who continue to be custodians of patriarchal values.
On Threats of War on Ukraine
Russia’s takeover of Crimea and its threat of war on Ukraine is condemnable. The use of Ukraine as a theatre for the tussle between Russia on the one hand and the EU and US on the other is a blow to Ukraine’s sovereignty.
The uprising that forced Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych to flee was fuelled in part by genuine popular resentment against the corrupt and repressive leader. But the uprising was also backed by right wing forces backed by the EU and the US. For some time now, the US and EU have been seeking to expand their influence in Ukraine. One of the key aims has been to use Ukraine to bring the US-NATO military presence closer to Russia’s borders.
While Russia’s threats of war must be denounced and resisted, the double standards of the US and European countries towards this must be exposed. The latter have brazenly carried out illegal wars and occupations, and have no right to sit in judgement on Russia. But the fighters for peace and democracy worldwide, who have consistently resisted all war-mongering and occupations, must demand immediate de-escalation of the conflict, withdrawal of Russia from Crimea, and also an end to attempts by the EU and US to expand NATO in the region.
On Field Trials of GM Crops
In February 2010, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, under Jairam Ramesh, announced a moratorium on the commercial promotion of Bt Brinjal in India. The UPA, after much fanfare, claimed that it was ‘listening to the voices’ of common people, scientists and civil society in stopping the introduction of Bt Brinjal and genetically modified crops. Now, after just four years, the UPA has given up all pretence and has now once again surrendered to the corporate interests of big agri-business companies such as Monsanto. Environment Minister Veerappa Moily has allowed the field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in India – even as environmentalists, farmers, and several scientists have cautioned against this move.
Across the world, several issues regarding GM crops continue to be raised. Apart from the largely unknown health and safety impacts of GM crops, even the tall claims of ‘high yields’ and protection from pest damage for instance have been proved to be highly questionable. Even the science of genetically modified crops continues to evolve, the UPA seems hell bent to run roughshod over all concerns and push through GM crops at all costs. Time and again, several environmentalists and experts in the field of agriculture have pointed out that the burning questions of food security, malnutrition and agrarian crisis cannot be solved through GM crops.
Moreover, even the Supreme Court appointed Expert Committee and the UPA’s own parliamentary standing committee on Agriculture has recommended against field testing of GM crops, given the widespread concerns over the health and environmental impacts of GM crops. From the experience of Bt Cotton in different parts of the country, it is clear that only huge multinational agri-business interests benefit from GM crops – making huge profits, establishing a virtual monopoly over agricultural inputs. Clearly, it is this dangerous unholy nexus between biotech agricultural companies and a subservient government that has resulted in the lifting of the moratorium on GM crops in India. CPI(ML) strongly condemns this move by the UPA.
On Extending OBC Reservation to Jats
The politically expendient move of by the Congress-led UPA Government, to extend OBC reservations to the Jats in nine states on the eve of Lok Sabha elections, makes a mockery of the principle of reservations.
The National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) unanimously rejected the proposal for reservation for Jats, finding that they are "not socially and educationally backward communities". In fact, the Jats are usually socially dominant communities. To extend OBC reservations to them in blatant disregard for the NCBC recommendations, in the absence of the well-established criteria for social and educational backwardness, is an injustice to other genuinely backward OBC communities, which will now find themselves having to compete for OBC benefits with the more dominant Jat community. The BJP has lost no time in upping the ante and demanding extension of OBC quotas to Jats all over the country, not just in nine states. Such competitive opportunism does deep damage to reservations as a tool of social inclusion and justice.
All India Kisan Mashasabha National Conference
The Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha, held its second national conference on 24-25 Feb at Mansa (Punjab) where important questions like the agricultural crisis, agricultural land grabbing by corporate houses, and farmers' suicides were discussed.
Addressing the meeting at the rally CPI-ML General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya said that just before the Lok Sabha elections attempts are being made to focus all attention around the persona of aspiring PM candidates. But forces fighting for the rights of workers and farmers will have to do their utmost to endure that these elections are centred on the need to change those policies which for the past 20 years have destroyed the lives of the country’s farmers, workers, students and youth. He said that Ambani-Adani, all the national and multinational corporate houses, and the US want that after looting maximum benefits from the Manmohan regime, they can now loot even more if Modi comes to power. Ten years ago it was NDA government in power and farmers were committing suicide even then, mass murder was being perpetrated in Modi’s Gujarat, and the NDA was boasting of “India Shining”. The Congress came to power with the slogan “Congress ka hath aam admi ke sath” but the Congress cheated the aam admi of his hard earned earnings. This time the Congress’ slogan is “Har hath shakti, har hath tarakki” but the hands and pockets of the working people are empty. Into whose hands then have the benefits of “tarakki” (progress) gone? Com. Dipankar stressed that the country’s farmers, workers and youth want their rights; the common people want their rightful space in democracy. The country has never faced the problem of not being able to form a government and have a PM but a government which does not solve the common people’s problems will not be allowed to run.
Com. Dipankar said that the Muzaffarnagar riots were an example of the BJP’s attempts to grab power through dividing the country. Farmers had to bear the brunt of the adverse effects of the riots. While the sugar cane farmer is in dire straits, the sugar mill owners are raking in huge profits. Advocating a pervasive unity among forces of struggle Com. Dipankar said that when power hungry forces are uniting to divide hearts and society, they can be stopped only by the cohesive unity of forces fighting for the rights of farmers, workers, dalits, adivasis, women, and minorities.
A day prior to this rally of farmers and farm workers, Modi had held a rally in Punjab. Comparing both the rallies, CPM (Punjab) Secretary Com. Mangat Ram Pasla said that this working people’s rally is a befitting reply to Modi’s rally funded by the rich, blackmarketeers, land grabbers and drug dealers. Commenting on the Third Front Com. Pasla said that the CPI and CPM may win a few seats here and there by tagging on to corrupt opportunists like Mulayam, Nitish, and Jayalalithaa but principles will be sacrificed in the process. He said that a fighting Front of farmers, workers, and small shopkeepers is the need of the hour.
AIKMS National President Com. Ruldu Singh said that only 8% of the people in this country lead a life of comfort. These people have captured all resources including political power and factories. The other 92% farmers, workers, and small shopkeepers live in a state of want. Therefore we have to rise above caste and religion and convert this majority into a united class. If 92% are united for their rights, they can easily overcome the rich 8%. He stressed that land rights belong to farmers and not to corporate houses.
National General Secretary of Kisan Mahasabha Com. Rajaram Singh said that the economic policies of the last 20 years have pushed agriculture into loss and farmers into the quagmire of debt. The loot of agricultural land by national and multi-national corporate houses will increase the food insecurity in the country. The use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes is pushing the country towards starvation. He said that the country needs a Land Conservation Bill instead of a Land Acquisition Bill.
There was a time when Western UP was a stronghold for the kisan movement. But the recent Muzaffarnagar riots have changed this centre of farmers’ struggle into a land of riots. These riots have seen veteran kisan leader Mahendra Singh Tikait’s organization Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Union and his sons Naresh Tikait and Rakesh turn into riot leaders. These colours of the Tikait sons have broken the kisan union. Long time confidant of Mahendra Singh Tikait, Ghulam Mohammad Jaula, grieved by this riot-inciting face of the Tikait brothers, has broken away to form his own organization Kisan Mazdoor Ekta Manch. Addressing the rally in Mansa Ghulam Mohammad Jaula said that the Muzaffarnagar riots, which most affected workers and especially farm workers, were engineered for the sole purpose of electoral gains. Strongly conveying the message of communal harmony Jaula said that though his ancestors had changed religion generations ago, the blood running through his veins also was after all the blood of this soil. He stressed that mischief mongering forces could be defeated by the unity of workers and farmers.
Prior to the convention a mazdoor-kisan ekta rally was held in Mansa town in which thousands of workers and farmers participated. The rally started with the singing of revolutionary songs, after which a play “Boycott” written and produced by noted playwright and actor of Punjab Samuel John, was staged showing how the farm worker, beset by rising prices, asks the rich farmers to increase the “lavai” rates only to be rebuffed not only by the rich farmers but by everyone from administration to dharmagurus. Playwright Samuel John has rightly commented that the moment the workers stand up for their rights it is branded as a caste issue. The play shows how the rich farmers who are from the upper castes boycott the farm workers who come from the so-called lower castes and how the leaders of the workers are arrested on trumped up charges of being Naxalites and Maoists. The play ends with the message that the united struggle of workers and farmers will triumph in the end. Actor Balwinder, skilled in mono-acting, convincingly played the roles of farm worker, rich farmer Bakhtawar Singh, Granthi of the Gurudwara, and police personnel.
Farmers and workers, women and men who participated in the rally marched through Mansa town and the entire town echoed with the reverberations of their revolutionary slogans.
The delegates’ session of the kisan mahasabha began after the rally with the flag hoisting by veteran kisan leaders of Punjab Com. Gamdura Singh and Com. Kripal Singh Veer, whose entire lives have been committed to farmers’ struggles. Inaugurating the delegates’ session CPI-ML General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya said that the government has declared war on farmers in order to grab agricultural land in connivance with national and multi-national corporate houses. As land is a resource which cannot be reproduced, corporate powers are doing everything possible to evict farmers and grab their lands. The new Land Acquisition Bill is also a facilitator in this process of evicting farmers from their land. He stressed that this war which has been imposed upon the farmers can be won only through organizational unity. He said that during the Green Revolution only big farmers’ agitations were considered to be agitations but the kind of crisis looming over agriculture and farmers today can be fought only by organized struggles of small and medium farmers.
About 400 selected delegates from 15 States participated in the convention. Through their talks the delegates threw light on the special characteristics and problems faced by the farmers’ movement in the different States.
Com. Taramani Roy of the CPRM (Darjeeling) said that the government in place is constantly trying to break the unity of the democratic movement of the Gorkhas in Darjeeling. He pointed out that agriculture in Darjeeling is totally dependent on the rains, and the Gorkha people are also going through an identity crisis.
Com. Rajendra Bhimji Bhauke of the Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) from Maharashtra told that the compensation for crops destroyed by wild animals given today by the government is still the same amount which was given during British times. He also said that agriculture used to be second in priority for water supply after drinking water, but now this priority has been changed and industry has been given second priority instead of agriculture. Com. Balbir Singh of the Jamhuri Kisan Sabha (Punjab) spoke in detail about the history of revolutionary kisan movements in Punjab and pledged to stand united with the AIKMS.
Leader of anti-POSCO agitation Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti shared his experiences of the movement with the convention. He said that governments are supposed to be for the welfare of the people but during the anti-Posco movement it became clear to us that this government does not care anything for us.
Concluding the discussion on the document Rajaram Singh said that it is the responsibility of the Kisan Mahasabha not only to fight for farmers’ rights but also for the equal rights of women and against caste and religious prejudices and all archaic and outdated values and beliefs.
At the close of the convention kisan representatives were elected to a 111 member council and 41 member executive to lead the farmers’ struggles in the country. Com. Ruldu Singh and Com. Rajaram Singh were re-elected President and General Secretary respectively. Various political and organizational resolutions were adopted by the convention which came to a close with the singing of “Hum Honge Kaamyaab”.
Hunger Strike in Ambattur
Palanivel State Secretary of AICCTU and Bharathi, National Secretary of RYA , sat on an indefinite strike from 9 Feb 2014, demanding the state government to ensure Minimum Wage of Rs.15000 for all working people, house-site pattas to all without homes, 1000 bed Government hospital with modern facilities, Government’s Arts, science and medical colleges to Ambattur, higher secondary school for both boys and girls, removal of garbage dumping yard from Vanagaram, playground with all facilities and closure of Tasmac wine shop in the area.
The Fast was inaugurated by Chandran, Coimbatore District President of AICCTU and addressed by Jawahar, Honarary President of Tamil Nadu AICCTU, Thenmozhi, State President of AIPWA, Malarvizhi, State President of AISA and Sekar, City Secretary of CPI(ML) also addressed the gathering. Local people, prominent polical personalities, lawyers, students and workers visited the fasting venue in hundreds daily and offered their support for the cause. Also a team of workers from MRF, President of Surface Transport Union, CPI(ML) state committee members Janakiraman and Iraniappan greeted them.
After a few rounds of talks with officials it was agreed to close down the wine shop immediately and they have promised to look into other demands. After a written assurance from RDO, both of them concluded their fast in a well attended public meeting on 13 February. The public meeting was addressed by Com Bharathi and Palanivel. Com Kumarasamy concluded the programme with a speech.
“Peoples demand” rally at Pudukottai
When CPI and CPM reached out an electoral understanding with Jayalalitha and they portray Jayalalitha as Prime Minister in waiting, about 1000 people (majority of them women) with red flags thronged Pudukottai town raising slogans against Jayalalitha government in a Rally organized by CPI(ML) on various demands of the people of this district is a significant one.
The rally demanded announcing the district as drought hit and writing off of all agricultural loans of small and marginal farmers, cancellation of land and house tax, 300 days of work in MNREGA with legal wages, land and house site pattas for those who applied for, end to practices of untouchability prevalent in this district, punishment to forces of caste domination, adequate compensation for the family of Kumaravel who was the victim of accident in Singapore, protection to all those employed abroad, ensure fearless freedom of women, and to stop discrimination in government welfare schemes”.Rally culminated at District collector’s office where a memorandum was submitted.
Struggle for homeless in Kanyakumari
Struggle for House site patta for homeless people assumed significance on 26th January, with more than 700 people, mostly women assembled to march towards the land occupied by Ex-MLA Appu Natesan. It was led by Antony muthu, District Secretary of the CPI(ML), while Balasundaram, CPI(ML) State Secretary flagged off the rally. Deputy Superindent of police and Revenue officials assured the protesters who dispersed dispersed with the warning that if their demand for land pattas are not met next round of struggle will be on a bigger scale.
Later, police booked cases on some 250 cadres of CPI(ML), AICCTU and AIPWA.
Tiruvellore district committee member of CPI(ML) Com.Raja passed away on 19 February 2014. He was also a state council member of AICCTU and state secretary of the construction labour union. He has served the party for more than two decades. He was affront in mass movements at Ambattur area with utmost dedication and hard work. Comrades in Ambattur area recalled his role in overcoming crisis during the course of the movements. His participation in meetings used to give encouragements to the participants. He used to give emphasis on ideological development of comrades along with developing struggles. He was always eager to help comrades overcoming their personal difficulties. When his family was reeling under severe financial crisis, he has not disclosed anything about it to the comrades. Party has lost a comrade with such a wonderful qualities and great dedication.
Comrades S. Kumarasamy, Bhuvana, A S Kumar, Janakiraman, Bharathi, Iraniappan, Jawahar, Thenmozhi, Malarvizhi all SCMs along with all district committee members and hundreds of people participated in his Funeral.