A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 17 | No. 34 | 19 - 25 AUG 2014
Modi's Independence Day Speech
Decoding the Reality Behind the Hype and Rhetoric
It is time to parse Modi's Independence Day speech carefully, behind the hype and rhetoric, for signals of what India can actually expect in terms of policies from his Government.
On a range of troubling questions ranging from rape to sex-selective abortion to farmers' suicides to communal violence, the Prime Minister's words, artfully chosen to create an impression of 'inclusive governance', contrasted starkly with the actual actions of his Government, BJP leaders, and the Sangh Parivar.
His speech waxed eloquent on parental responsibility in checking rapes. It did not for one moment answer why a rape-accused man had been given a place in his own Cabinet. More significantly, as a measure to curb rapes, he called upon parents to "impose as many restrictions on the sons as have been imposed on our daughters." Women protesting rape have, time and again, sought that no restrictions be imposed on them in the name of protecting them from rape. Moreover, the fact is that 'restrictions on sons' are already imposed – by branding their love of a woman from another caste or community as 'rape.' The khap panchayats that kill inter-caste couples and the moral-policing outfits that force couples to tie 'rakhi' to each other do, after, all 'impose patriarchal restrictions' on both women and men. On the very eve of Independence Day, RSS leader S Gurumurthy declared that Indian women are 'shy not shameless', and the very day after Independence Day, a Goa BJP Minister called for a ban on women wearing bikinis on Goa's beaches. Modi's words did not convey any hint of censure to his camp followers who seek to curb the freedoms of women; he instead legitimized those restrictions by 'balancing' it with talk of 'restrictions on boys.'
Likewise, Modi's 'appeal' to doctors not to perform sex-selective abortions is lame, coming from the PM. Modi was silent on what his Government plans to do to ensure that the law is upheld and doctors performing such illegal abortions are punished.
Modi rhetorically asked "who has benefited from communalism" and called for a "10-year moratorium on communal violence". But he chose to be silent about the systematic communalization project being undertaken by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. In UP, it is very apparent "who has benefited from communalism" – none but Modi himself and the BJP. When Modi himself communalized the question of the meat industry by calling it a "pink revolution" involving the slaughter of cattle, was it not communalization? When Amit Shah and the BJP in UP communalize rape, branding the entire Muslim community as rapists and terming even consensual elopements as 'rape', is it not communalization? Is the BJP not creating communal flare-ups over every possible event from kids' quarrels to disputes over loudspeakers?
Days before Independence Day, the RSS chief had issued a challenge to the very idea of India, by declaring that all residents of Hindustan were Hindus. The textbooks that are now compulsory reading for school kids in Modi's home state, and that the Sangh Parivar promotes for inclusion in national syllabi, have an obscurantist and absurd content, very different from Modi's claim of progress and forward-looking development. Modi's studied silence on the RSS' declarations that India is a Hindu Rashtra, and on Batra's textbooks, give the lie to his claims of "inclusive governance."
Modi similarly condemned regionalist violence; even as he Shiv Sena, founded on regional chauvinistic violence, shares power with him at the Centre. Modi also condemned casteist violence, even as the Sangh's close links with the Ranveer Sena's Dalit massacres in Bihar are no secret, and the BJP's Tamil Nadu ally PMK is systematically unleashing violence on Dalits.
The 'mask formula' of the Vajpayee days is being recreated, with the PM's 'inclusive talk' serving to mask the free run that the RSS agenda actually gets in the same PM's regime. In the Vajpayee phase, the NDA CMP imposed at least a nominal check on the Sangh agenda, by formally excluding the pet issues of the RSS. This time around, there is no such formal CMP, and the RSS openly holds parleys with the Government. Even as the RSS and BJP are clearly pushing for a greater legitimisation of the Sangh discourse and practice in all areas from education to women's rights to communal violence to foreign policy, Modi seeks to camouflage all this as an agenda of "inclusive governance."
Modi spoke of the pain of farmers' suicide, only to suggest that bank accounts and insurance of Rs 1 lakh can help families out in a crisis. He failed to confront the fact that the farmers' suicides are caused by the Government's policy of leaving farmers and agriculture at the mercy of corporations and calamities. It has been observed that UPA Government's cosmetic measures of loan waivers failed to curb farmers' suicides, because it was a case of 'mopping the floor while leaving the tap overflowing'. Modi's 'Pradhanmantri Jan-dhan' scheme will be no different, unless the Government reverses the policies that trap farmers' in a debt cycle.
Modi's talk of 'Model Villages' to promote rural development are eyewash, given that he was silent on the Government-promoted corporate offensive on land and livelihood in rural India. Referring to Maoism, he asked people to shoulder the plough instead of the gun in order to put an end to bloodshed. This disingenuous speech masks the reality. After all, guns are being used by police and paramilitary to kill peasants and adivasis defending their land, and this bloodshed is justified by branding those killed as 'Maoists.' Not only that, the bogey of 'Maoism' is used less against against those armed with guns, and more to silence voices and even songs of dissent. Just a day before Independence Day, the ABVP, student wing of Modi's party, threatened violence at St Xaviers' College Mumbai in order to prevent Dalit singer and activist Sheetal Sathe from speaking at a student festival.
Modi issued a rousing invitation to the world's corporations to 'Come Make in India', and he asked India's youth to feel pride that the world would see the 'Made in India' label. It is well known that only countries offering cheap, pliant, exploitable labour – Bangladesh, Taiwan, Mexico, Honduras, China and so on – are favoured destinations for global manufacturing corporations. The countries whose names figure in 'Made in' labels are all known for their super-exploited workforce in sweatshops, and for repressive governments that crack down on workers' right to unionize and protest. Modi's government is already set to roll back or dilute various labour laws to facilitate and intensify the exploitation of cheap labour, and this agenda is what underpins the rhetorical call to 'Make in India'.
It is true that the Planning Commission stands heavily discredited, since people associate it with the absurd poverty benchmarks declared by Montek Ahluwalia. But abolishing the Planning Commission entirely represents the final abdication of the last relic of welfare-oriented mixed economy and a complete switchover to the tyranny of corporate-dominated market economy.
In Modi's speech, there was a marked silence on the promise of 'acche din', which each of his electoral speeches had harped upon. Far from the promised relief, change, and new vision and policies, what Modi's Government, and his I-Day speech are doing is simply to repackage old, unfulfilled schemes as a brand new vision of development.
The people of India will not be fobbed off with rhetoric any more. They will be looking at the Government's policies and actions on the ground. And attempts to re-package and re-brand price rise, land grab and exploitation of cheap labour by Indian corporations and MNCs as 'development'; as well as the politics of communalism and patriarchy being pursued with the blessings of the Central Government, will not impress them.
ABVP Prevents Sheetal Sathe From Speaking
Sheetal Sathe, Dalit singer and activist of the Kabir Kala Manch, had been invited to speak at the Malhar Festival in St. Xaviers' College Mumbai on the eve of Independence Day. The ABVP issued a threat of violent disruption, after which filmmaker Anand Patwardhan gave a talk in her place. Below is an excerpt from the text of Anand's speech on the occasion.
14th August. Another Sad Day for Democracy
I speak before you today in place of the designated speaker, Sheetal Sathe. It is not that Sheetal Sathe could not come on stage today because she or her baby fell ill. It is not that she had nothing to say. It is not that she was afraid to say what she had to say. And it is not that she did not come because she doubted the sincerity of those who had invited her.
It is precisely because she treasures the love and respect shown to her by the students who had invited her to speak and sing at this year's Malhar festival that Sheetal Sathe has chosen not to allow the organizers of this festival and all the people gathered here to be exposed to the ugly threats of disruption that have been issued against them in case she spoke and sang here today.
Let it be known far and wide who exactly has issued these threats. These threats have not been issued by a court of law or by the police, or by any instrument of the State or national government. Sheetal Sathe is out on bail precisely because an Indian high court ruled that her liberty did not have to be curtailed while she was undergoing trial to establish her innocence. The court has not taken away her freedom of speech or her right to sing. The court has not sought to officially stifle her voice or the voice of the millions of oppressed and stigmatized people that she sings about.
An extra-constitutional body that threatens the very fabric of our secular democracy has issued this threat. There are many such extra-constitutional bodies that are growing in power today. Such bodies have many names and many duties. Some decide what books the people of India should read. Some decide what films we should see. Some decide what speeches and songs we should hear. There are many self-appointed censors, but make no mistake, they belong to one single family with one single ideology and one set of beliefs. These beliefs have been inculcated from a very young and impressionable age. I will not list all these beliefs except to point out that apart from asserting that the aeroplane and rocket science was invented thousands of years ago in the Vedic era of Brahminism which they call the golden era, it includes an abiding faith in the Manusmriti, an ancient Brahminic law code that deprived Dalits and women of their most basic human rights and permitted untold atrocities upon all those who challenged it.
Today this ideology comes before us in a new disguise of nationalism. It is draped in the flag of India – the very tricolour that it loudly denounced at the time of Independence when its followers insisted on hoisting an orange flag of Hindutva instead. They also refused to sing "Jana Gana Mana" demanding that "Vande Mataram" should be the national anthem. Needless to point out that "Vande Mataram" was penned by Bankim Chandra in his 19th century novel Anandmath, a book that vilified India's Muslims.
Apart from nationalism there is another even more seductive disguise that has recently fired the lust of India's elite and middle classes. It is the disguise of "development". This development lust has trumped even the tricolour for it says "So what if the world's oil and water is rapidly depleting? So what if there is pollution, global warming and the threat of tsunami and nuclear disaster? Why should we protect India's air, water, forests, land and ore from the multinationals who wish to grab it?"
They are ready to sell our sovereignty for the short-term gain of a few, as long as they are allowed to make a hologram of the national flag. They then proceed to promote our most primitive, racist and exploitative cultural and economic traditions while making suitable noises about modernity and development.
How do you and I resist? Make no mistake. This is an ideology that brooks no dissent. Today is yet another sad day for India's democracy. It is a day when an extra Constitutional power backed by a ruling political party has issued a threat against a college run for over a century by Christians. Yes, that is the bottom-line. That is what makes St. Xaviers College and in particular, its principled principal, a specially vulnerable target.
Sheetal Sathe and the KKMDC do not wish to jeopardize this festival. But we wish to put on record that we will never be silenced. And we want the public to know who exactly has issued this particular threat. The threat has been issued by the Akhil Bharati Vidyarthi Parishad (APVP) the youth wing of a political party that came to power by telling the people of India that it no longer stands for the divisive, communal and casteist politics that it had been associated with in the past.
You have to understand the real reason why groups like the ABVP hate groups like the KKM. It has nothing to do with nationalism or Naxalism. It is because their visions of India are diametrically opposed. The Kabir Kala Manch believes in a pluralistic India where caste, religion and race is replaced by the recognition that we are all human beings first who deserve justice, peace and true democracy. The ideologues of Hindutva, no matter how big a national flag they wrap around themselves, have always had a completely different agenda.
Anand Patwardhan, 14 August 2014, St Xaviers' College Mumbai
Kisan Mahasabha Observes Nationwide Protest Day on August 9
The Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha observed August 9 as Protest Day all over the country and organized dharnas, marches, and meetings to highlight farmers' demands, especially against dilution of the Land Acquisition Act and approval for field trials for GM crops. Subsequently, the approval for GM field trials has been put on hold, but the Government's intentions to promote corporate interests over farmers' interests is clear.
Many effective programmes were organized by the Kisan Mahasabha in Udaipur, Pratapgarh, Jhunjhunu, Jaipur and Ajmer districts of Rajasthan on August 9 to observe Kranti Diwas, attended by the Party's people's organizations and members in large numbers.
A huge dharna and meeting of 2500 farmers was led by Puran Mahto and Sitaram Singh at Giridih district HQ. Addressing the farmers Kisan Mahasabha national secretary Com. Rajaram Singh said that the Modi govt move to further benefit the corporate houses through amendment of the Land Acquisition Bill would leave the farmers bereft of all rights and they would lose even what little they had gained through the Land Acquisition Bill of 2013. The proposed amendments would also increase food insecurity throughout the country. The Modi govt is trying to remove provisions in the existing Bill such as mandatory consent of 70% farmers, estimation of social effect, etc. The existing Bill has a compensation rate of only 4 times instead of 6 times the market rate; but the Modi govt, in addition to removing even this, also wants to do away with giving compensation for workers and artisans dependent on the land and with the provision that acquired land if not in use, can be used by farmers. The attempt is also to remove obstacles to acquisition of multi-crop land. Farmers have long demanded that there should be a land conservation Bill instead of a land acquisition Bill. The Modi govt has given the green signal for dangerous field trials of GM seeds without proper research and investigation, which will have far reaching disastrous consequences. The govt allowed field trials of GM rice, wheat, vegetables, brinjal, pulses and oil crops under pressure of MNCs. The Kisan Mahasabha called for an acceleration of protest against the anti-people and anti-nation policies of the govt at a meeting at Ramgarh district, Chandan Kiyari block HQ in Bokaro district, and Garhwa district.
A march was taken out on August 9 at Lalkuan in Nainital district, addressed by Kisan Mahasabha leaders after which an effigy of Modi was burnt. Dharnas and meetings were held at Pithoragarh, Munasyari, Shrinagar, and Garhwal, and memorandums submitted to the President. The dharna protests were attended by farmers in large numbers.
Kisan Mahasabha organized a dharna at Karnal district HQ in which other people also joined the farmers and heard the speeches. The speakers pointed out that due to the proximity of Delhi, land in Haryana is being acquired at an alarming rate by corporate houses. They demanded that there should not be an amendment to the land acquisition Bill; rather, it should be replaced by a land conservation Bill.
Protest Day was observed on August 9 in 3 districts in AP. Acquisition of cultivable land has become a major issue in the State. Dharnas, protests, and meetings well attended by farmers were organized at Kakinada, Karnool, and Krishna district.
20 districts of the State are badly flood-affected, Puri being one of the worst affected. Kisan Mahasabha workers are collecting and sending relief materials to the affected areas. Protests are being organized at different blocks in Puri district to demand proper relief and rehabilitation works. In spite of the floods, over 300 farmers from Puri came to attend the August 9 Protest Day programme in the capital Bhubhaneshwar. After a protest and meeting in front of the CM's house, a memo was submitted to the CM demanding immediate stopping of amendments to the land acquisition Bill, and proper flood relief works.
August 9 was observed as Nationwide Protest Day and the week up to August 14 as Statewide Protest Week. Block level protests were held from Aug 9 to 13 and on Aug 14 protests were held in front of the District Magistrates at Burdwan, Nadiya, Darjeeling, North and South 24 parganas. Several street meetings were held where the speakers unmasked the anti-farmer face of the Modi govt.
A huge rally of farmers and workers was taken out at Pune, where apart from the above demands, it was also demanded that the closed sugar mills be reopened, new wage fixation for workers and unemployment allowance of Rs. 3000 be fixed.
A 14 point memo was submitted to the PM through the SDMs from 14 places in Punjab. The demands included declaring Punjab as drought affected, large scale irrigation facilities, and steps to stop farmer suicides. Dharnas and protests were held at Mansa, Sangrur, Gurdaspur, Barnala, Pathankot, Firozpur, Muksar, and Faridkot.
To mark Aug 9 as Protest day, dharnas, protests, marches and meetings were held at Ghazipur, Gorakhpur, Pilibhit, Phulpur, Bareilly, Mathura, Lakhimpur Khiri, Balliya, Chandauli, Azamgarh, and Kushinagar. Speakers who addressed the meetings, attended by large numbers of farmers as well as other people, pointed out the pro-corporate and anti-farmer character of the Modi govt. Memorandums were submitted to the Prime Minister through the local authorities.
Kisan Mahasabha organized a huge dharna at Kargil Chowk near Gandhi Maidan in Patna on Aug 9. The dharna saw a good participation by lower middle farmers as well as sharecroppers and also other people. A memo was submitted to the PM through the DM demanding that Bihar should be declared drought affected and proper relief, irrigation, and ration arrangements should be made and proper irrigation should be arranged through ahar-pipes from Punpun, Dardha, and Morhar rivers. Dharnas were held and memos submitted from Biddupur block in Vaishali, Mahua, Lalganj, and Bhojpur district HQ in Ara, which were well attended by farmers. Pamphlets were distributed for wider circulation. Protests were held at Buxar district HQ to demand supply of water to the lower areas of the Son canal, and expedition of the Kadwan reservoir project. Dharnas and meetings were also organized at Rohtas district HQ in Sasaram, Aurangabad, and Jehanabad district HQs. Farmers protested at Arwal district HQ and an effigy of PM Narendra Modi was burnt at Arwal crossroads. Protest marches and dharnas were held at Nalanda district HQ in Biharshariff, Begusarai district HQ, Kahalgaon in Bhagalpur district, Purnea, Siwan, Gopalganj, Muzaffarpur, and Patna City. Speakers at the meetings exposed the anti-farmer policies of the Modi govt and said that the struggle woud be accelerated by observing the week from 29 Aug to 4 Sep as a statewide Protest week when protests would be held at various block HQs and demands would be raised for declaring Bihar a drought affected State and making proper arrangements for irrigation, ration and electricity. "Kisan Jagaran Saptah" would be observed from 6 to 12 Oct during whih padyatras would be undertaken from village to village and extensive contact would be made with farmers.