A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 17 No. 23
The brutal gang rape and lynching of two minor girls aged 14 and 15 in a village in the Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh is a grim reminder of the gender, caste and class based atrocities that women from Dalit, oppressed castes face on a daily basis in India. Two months earlier, four teenage Dalit girls aged 13-18 were gang raped by higher caste landowners in Bhagana in Haryana, where the survivors are still fighting for justice to take off.
The fact that the higher caste rapists at Badaun chose to finish off their vile crimes by murdering the victims and leaving their bodies on brazen display in full public view, rather than make any attempt to hide their deeds, shows that the act was intended as a chilling spectacle of higher caste dominance over the Dalits and oppressed. It also displays the confidence of the perpetrators, that they would not be punished for commiting crimes against women from oppressed castes. Indeed, less than a percent of rape cases of Dalit women by non-Dalits end in conviction.
In the Badaun case, the police refused to investigate when the girls' families reported them missing. Two policemen have now been arrested with charges of conspiring with the higher caste rapists. The families of the victims of Badaun have been warned with dire consequences for seeking justice. They have been threatened with retribution once media and public watch ends in the village. In Bhagana, the survivors have been forced to travel to and camp in Delhi and stage a long protest to demand the arrest of the rapists after the police refused to register cases against the powerful men – the village Sarpanch and his uncle - named by the girls in their testimonies.
In UP, where Mulayam Singh Yadav, chief patriarch of the ruling Samajwadi Party, declares that rape is a 'mistake boys make', and the Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, instead of giving out a strong message against gender violence, stubbornly tries to defend crimes against women in UP by comparing it with other parts of the country, is it a surprise that the police try to help the rapists and refuse to file an FIR or arrest the culprits? In Haryana, where the all-male Jat-dominated Khap panchayats continue to enjoy social 'legitimacy' and enormous political clout, is it a surprise that bodies of Dalit women are treated as sites of 'dishonour' and entitlement that savarna castes 'enjoy' over the oppressed castes?
That the perpetrators of caste-gender violence enjoy utter impunity can readily be gauged from the role of the police.Neither Badaun nor Bhagana are stray incidents or 'aberrations' as claimed by the respective governments in power. In 2011, a 14 year-old Dalit-Muslim girl was raped and killed by UP police and then hung up on a tree inside the police station. The tree was cut down and evidence destroyed. Police, doctors, ruling politicians, the then government – all united to protect the perpetrators, and tried to bury the crime as deep as the girl's body was buried. Last year in April a Dalit child was raped and murdered in UP, and when her family protested they were beaten up by the police. The beating was caught on camera. In another case in Aligarh, the police refused to file an FIR in the case of a missing Dalit child, and later her body was found - raped and murdered. When the family protested, they were viciously assaulted by a police officer – again, caught on camera. Even as the Badaun case came under intense public scrutiny, in another instance of shocking brutality, the mother of a rape victim was brutally beaten up by the father of the accused in Etawah. A week after the Badaun tragedy, a minor girl was raped, murdered and hanged from a tree at Sitapur. Notably, in Badaun too, the government acted only after there was a huge public outcry.
In the amendments to the criminal law that followed the anti-rape movements of 2012-13, a significant step-forward was Section 166A IPC, that mandates that police personnel who refuse to file FIRs or otherwise refuse to do their duty, must be criminally prosecuted, and can be jailed for a term between 6 months and 2 years. Although there have been multiple instances of police refusing to do their duty, or intimidating the victim's family - in Delhi, Kolkata, UP, Haryana - nowhere have FIRs been lodged against the accused cops.
It is no strange coincidence that at Badaun, Bhagana and Sitapur, the households of the victim girls lacked basic amenities, including toilets. In all the cases, the girls had gone out to relieve themselves in open fields at night. That the girls in some cases went in groups did little to ensure their safety. The utterly insecure environments of day-to-day work and living in a sharply caste-hierarchical society, where women are compelled to travel miles to fetch water or are forced to work and relieve themselves in fields beonging to higher-caste landowners, make Dalit and oppressed caste women several folds more vulnerable and prone to being targets of sexual violence.
Dalit women have been targeted for sexual violence wherever Dalit communities have challenged caste and class exploitation. In Bhagana, the four girls were raped in 'revenge' after Dalits demanded that the upper caste controlled village council hand over the commons land which had been allocated to the entire village community by the government, and protested against eviction, socio-economic boycott and harassment. In Bihar, the Ranvir Sena, a landowners' militia aligned with Narendra Modi's ruling BJP, had targeted Dalit and Muslim women for horrific violence when the rural poor organized for land rights and a living wage.
In the wake of the Badaun rape-murders, the BJP has condemned the appalling levels of gender violence in opposition-ruled UP. But Amit Shah - the BJP's chief campaigner in UP - promised in election speeches to ensure that all FIRs against Jat accused in Muzaffarnagar riots and rapes be withdrawn. The fact that the BJP-led 'Modi Sarkar' has given no less than a ministerial berth to Sanjeev Baliyan, one of the main accused in instigating the Muzaffarnagar communal violence in UP last year which involved mass rapes of Muslim women, gives the BJP's indignation a lie.
We demand speedy trials to bring all culprits to justice. The UP Government must ensure that the cops who have been suspended, are booked and arrested under Section 166A IPC (Criminal Law amended in 2013). We demand that the victims of Bhagana be rehabilitated with dignity, and that the families of Badaun and Bhagana victims be protected against all intimidation. That the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act be invoked in all cases where it is applicable. Rape is an atrocity against women, a display of the male sense of entitlement and dominance over women. Feudal culture has always held that Dalit and oppressed caste women must be 'available' for the 'use' and 'enjoyment' of dominant caste men. From Bathe, Bathanitola, Khairlanji to Bhagana to Badaun, such instances abound, showing that endemic atrocities against dalits and oppressed castes continue to persist and thrive in 21st century India. The last year and a half has seen a powerful movement against gender violence in India. But the Badaun and Bhagana cases painfully underline once again that the struggle continues, and can only succeed if the lethal connections between gender, caste, class and communal violence are recognized and fought.
Police Trying to Evict Protesting Bhagana Dalit Families from Jantar Mantar
In the morning of 4 June, the day 16th Parliament was scheduled to begin its first session, police in large numbers encircled all protesters at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, and forcibly evicted them. Police demolished the tents put up by dozens of families from Bhagana staging in a day and night sit-in since weeks. They were told to leave immediately as 'the Parliament will start its sessions from today'.
Similar treatment was met with many other protesters. They are now sitting in open in scorching summer. AISA and JNUSU called for an immediate protest before Parliament Street police station same day against forceful eviction of peaceful demonstrators of Bhagana.
Attempts to Create Communal Tension in Siwan
Immediately after the Lok Sabha polls there have been attempts in Siwan to create communal tension at many places. Efforts are on to give communal colours to even small or insignificant incidents by the Communal elements. Simultaneously, peoples resistance is also growing against these forces.
There was an incident of simple quarel between two drivers which was given a communal turn to the extent that led to the boycot of shopkeepers of one community in Raghunathpur block. CPIML leader Amarnath Yadav has immediately went to the area to initiate a dialogue and to foil and expose such nasty designs. In Jeeradei block one muslim boy has been attacked after reports of his affair with a hindu girl. He is struggling with life in hospital.
Criminals are also on the loose in the district after the elections. Recently doctors in Siwan town held a protest against an incident of decoity in the house of a doctor.
Protest Against Rape in Fatuha
CPIML held a protest against an incident of gang rape and murder of a teen age girl by criminals on 20 May at the block office. The incident had occured on 16 May when the girl was returning from school.
Fatuha town, near Patna, is witnessing many struggles against rising criminal incidents. People are also struggling against the menace open trade of liquor there.
Bihar Govt.'s Another Attempt to Cover-up Farbisganj Firing Incident
Home Secretary in Bihar has recently stated in public that the village road in Farbishganj which was grabbed by BJP backed industrialist leading to repression of resisting people and killing of four villagers in 2011, will be given to the same industrialist. He has said that efforts will be made to 'convince some people in the village'. As far as justice for the victims is concerned he very arrogantly said that they can be compensated when an inquiry report will come. The government had already rejected the demand for a CBI inquiry.
Farbisganj killings were a direct outcome of BJP-led conspiracy of grabbing village land and road. Last year CPIML led peoples resistance and mobolisation rebuilt the road at the same place, openly declaring strong resistance to any attempt of grabbing lands. People in Farbisganj, besides justice due to them, still want secure their land and road in place, but this statement of Home Secretary Amir Subhani is another attempt to apease corrupt industrialist lobby on the part of the government.
Sanitation Workers' Protest in Bhilai
A demonstration was held outside the Bhilai Municipal Corporation office on 26 May to demand solution of the problems faced by contractual sanitation workers in the Bhilai Municipal Corporation, after which representatives of the protest met the Commissioner and submitted a memorandum. Thereafter, the Commissioner took steps to arrange talks between the Union representatives, contract company CEO Manish, and the Commissioner. The Union representatives included JP Nair, U Shekhar Rao, Gajanand Jangde, Manoj Kosre, Neman, Dileep, Vishnu Pawar, Motam, Raj Kumar Bharti, Ramchandra and Ram Kumar. The demands raised in the memorandum include appointment letters, ID cards, uniforms, security equipment, minimum wages, ESI facilities, and payment of wages by the 10th of the month. Besides these, the issue of threatening workers with removal from work if they participate in dharnas, rallies, demonstrations, etc. was also raised. After the talks the contractor has given the assurance that all demands will be fulfilled.
Demand for Re-investigation of the Shankar Guha Niyogi Murder Case
On 25 May a dharna was organized at Bhilai Power House Ambedkar Chowk, demanding re-investigation of the Shankar Guha Niyogi murder case, naming of Bhilai Power House railway station after Shankar Guha Niyogi, and building a memorial to the martyred workers killed on 1 July 1991. A memorandum was submitted through the local administration to the President of India and the Union Railway Minister. The dharna led by Bhim Rao Bagde of Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha was addressed by activists from CMM, AICCTU, and CPI-ML (Liberation), including Brijendra Tiwari, JP Nair, AG Qureshi, Sariba Tekam and others.
There is shortage of teachers in Uttarakhand and officially they can't be attached to any other department or place of their convenience. Recently two Shiksha Mitra in Pithoragarh district have been 'attached' by the administration! On the one hand governments consider them 'volunteers' only to deprive them of their due wages and rights and are supposedly to be posted in their locality/village, on the other there is a ban in place for any such 'attachment' for even regular teachers in the state, but this has been done to grease hands of some well connected people to satisfy political biggies. There are talks of Uttarakhand CM planning to contest Assembly election from this seat hence an 'amicable' atmosphere is being created. While demanding cancellation of the said order, CPIML's Pithoragarh unit has also raised the issue of existing scarcity of teachers and of new appointments particularly in schools located in distant border areas.
The villages severely affected by natural calamity still awaiting relief and rehabilitation by the state government. Nothing substantial being done so far, the chief minister is making regular visits of the area for his electoral preparations and trying to woo dominant sections with various favours. Jagat Martolia, CPIML leader, has termed this as misappropriation of CM's position and government funds. After a couple of years of the calamity even hill pathways are not repaired and water connections at many places are not restored. Compensation money for many affected people has not yet reached, but the government is busy in manipulating tenders to give contracts to its own people.
Students and Workers Occupy the Administrative Block in JNU
Unite to Demand Hostels and Workers' Rights
In the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), a Dera Dalo campaign was launched by the AISA-led JNU Students' Union on 26 May 2014. Since then, students and workers in JNU have virtually occupied the Administrative Block (Ad Block) to demand that the JNU administration immediately address their basic demands of constructing hostels for students and ensuring the legally mandated rights for workers in JNU.
This 'Occupy Ad Block' campaign -with the slogan 'Hostels for all students, rights for all workers– has now completed 10 days.The demands of the movement are to immediately start construction of a new hostel, upgrading the existing dormitory facilities as well as ensuring an alternative rented accommodation for students, stopping the intimidation and victimization of contractual workers, and guaranteeing ESI/PF, bonus, overtime and safety for workers.
Earlier this year, the workers in JNU had organized themselves under the 'All India General Kamgaar Union' associated with AICCTU.
Over the past few months, the JNUSU and the workers had carefully and painstakingly documented various violations of workers' rights taking place in JNU. For instance two 2-day PF camps were organized and extensive data on the illegal siphoning of PF was documented and submitted to the JNU administration.
In the 10 days of the DeraDalo till now, as students and workers occupy the Ad Block, everyday protest meetings and activities like movie screenings are organized. Apart from iconic films on the nexus of the big business, corporate media houses and governments (such as Neecha Nagar and Jaane bhi do Yaaron), a documentary film made by JNU students on the lives of the sanitation workers in JNU 'Sehar se Pehle' was also screened. Sehar se Pehle is a chilling reminder of the conditions of sanitation workers in JNU and how they work each and every day without even basic health protection to clean up the campus of all the dirt. JNU students and workers are also joined by the Sangwari group for several long sessions of protest songs. Cultural groups in JNU, such as Janrang have also participated in the DeraDalo campaign – with performances of various songs of resistance and workers' unity.
JNUSU and the workers have also been campaigning amongst the faculty members of JNU to build broad-based support for the ongoing campaign. An appeal with the detailed demands as well as the underlying vision guiding the demands – has been circulated amongst the faculty members. A solidarity meeting with faculty members was also organized at the site of the DeraDalo campaign – which was addressed by several faculty members of JNU and DU including noted labour historian Prabhu Mahapatra, Prof Bimol Akoijam from JNU, Prof. Arun Kumar (JNUTA president), Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Prof. Vivek Kumar, Prof. Maninder Thakur, and Prof. Kaustav Banerjee.
As a result of the campaign, there have been some significant developments regarding workers' rights:
• The JNU administration was forced to send notices to all JNU Departments and contractors to resolve following labour issues latest by 20th June, 2014:
1. Payment of salary by 7th of the month, with proper salary slip.
2. Refunding of all arbitary deductions (in the name of Uniform etc).
3. Proper Overtime Payment (double rate), those working extra hours in any day, weekly and national holidays.
4. Workplace safety for ALL - boot, gloves, mask for sanitation workers, umbrella and cabin for security guards, helmet, safety belt and net for construction workers.
5. Proper First Aid Box in every work-site.
6. Permanent ESI Card to all workers.
• The JNU administration has also agreed to hold a PF camp in JNU on 12-13 June to document the violations of workers rights. Moreover, the JNU administration has promised to take action against all those companies who have defaulted on making proper PF payments to the workers.
• Balaji contractor was forced to provide proper PF Account Number to all mess staff.
• The Vayudoot contractor was forced to provide boots, gloves and masks to sanitation workers.
In the midst of this intensive campaign, the contractors in JNU however resorted to open threat tactics. The CCTV cameras installed in JNU's Ad Block are being used to monitor and record which workers are participating in the ongoing movement, and there have been attempts and threats by contractors to remove workers. The supervisor of the SIS company in JNU (which provides security services in JNU) for instance issued new 'guidelines' that no SIS guard should carry a mobile phone while on duty! The SIS guards were also made to work for 16 hours, apart from a 2-hour briefing every day. Fines of Rs 1000 are being charged on the SIS guards for the flimsiest reasons, and those who are joining the movement are being threatened and even shifted out of JNU by SIS. However, as a result of the continuing struggle, some of these moves to threaten, intimidate and punish workers for demanding their rights were revoked. One of the important demands of the movement is that women workers should be allowed to avail of maternity leave without any punitive action. Recently, a worker (who was in the position of a supervisor) was removed because she took maternity leave. After sustained protests during this movement, she has been offered a job in JNU. However, she is not being reinstated as supervisor and therefore the movement continues to demand justice for her.
The AISA-led JNUSU leaders have constantly been reiterating that this is not merely a movement for some 'infrastructural' demand for more hostels – this movement is to defend the idea of an institution which will open its doors to people from all sections of society. The absence of hostels effectively means that women and students from deprived backgrounds are denied the opportunity to avail of higher education, and blatant violation of workers' rights means that the university is built on a foundation of oppression and exploitation of those who keep it going. Therefore, the ongoing DeraDalo campaign seeks to reclaim the idea of a just society with all rights for the most marginalized people. It is moreover a campaign that refuses to accept artificial divisions between students and workers, and forges a combined organic resistance.
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