Thursday, September 4, 2014

ML Update | No. 36 | 2014

ML Update

 A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol.  17 | No. 36 | 2-8 SEP 2014

100 Days of Betrayal and Warning

100 days – mostly hard and bitter, not of the dreamy and sweet kind promised before the elections – have elapsed since Narendra Modi was sworn in as the Prime Minister of India's first BJP-majority government. The new government may not yet have unveiled any clearly formulated policy agenda, but we already have enough pronouncements and indications to assess which way the government is headed. And when Narendra Modi and the BJP are at the helm of governance, it does not make sense to focus our attention only on the government. The actions of the party and its numerous Sanghi siblings and coalition cousins clearly have no less impact on the overall milieu.

Talking of policy initiatives, the new government is pursuing the familiar UPA agenda with greater intensity. Almost the entire economy has now been thrown open to foreign capital, with Narendra Modi dramatically inviting foreign capital to "come, make in India" on the anniversary of India's independence from colonial rule. From railway to finance and even defence, every sector will now see greater penetration of foreign capital. And in a bid to make a final rupture with the Nehruvian legacy of economic governance, the new government has decided to do away with the Planning Commission. With systematic disinvestment, private corporations will now have a free run on India's rich resources, cheap labour and growing market.

While giving a freer hand to big capital, the government seems committed to subverting and weakening the framework of rights for the working people. Major amendments are being mooted in labour laws, food security and employment guarantee legislations are being rendered toothless, and safeguards against indiscriminate land acquisition are being planned to be systematically subverted. Instead of ensuring universal rights to food, shelter, sanitation, health, education and employment, the government is promising development through MP/MLA funds and so-called corporate benevolence. The Jan Dhan scheme is high on symbolism and low on substance: it promises financial inclusion through bank accounts, debit cards and pretentious insurance covers without any indication of augmentation of the abysmally low income levels for the toiling masses.

Modi has also been trying to project a range of foreign policy initiatives beginning with the surprising invitation to leaders of South Asian countries during his swearing-in ceremony. The promise of opening a new chapter in relations with neighbouring countries has however already given way to the reality of cancellation of talks with Pakistan. His government's silence on Israel's war on Gaza and the refusal to adopt even a parliamentary  resolution condemning Israeli aggression have signalled a new low in India's international profile, reducing India virtually to an appendage of the US-Israel war machine. While Modi was most unimpressive at the BRICS summit in Brazil, in Japan he went so far as to invite Japanese investment representatives to become a part of India's 'decision-making process.' With his oblique comments against China, he has left no one in any doubt about his government's keenness to drag India into an anti-China axis with US and Japan.

While Modi thus looks determined to shed the last vestiges of the Nehruvian legacy in economic and foreign policy domains, in the arena of governance he is in a hurry to inculcate the Indira style of centralisation of power and authoritarian rule. The PMO has emerged as the super cabinet monitoring every minister. Contrary to the poll rhetoric of 'cooperative federalism', Governors appointed during the UPA period have been forced to step down and are being replaced brazenly with political appointees to tighten the Centre's stranglehold around the states. From appointment of judges to dealing with various institutions – executive interference and partisan control have become the order of the day. The Modi cult has also brought about a metamorphosis in the BJP, reducing the party which once used to ridicule the Congress for its culture of sycophancy to a veritable fiefdom of Modi and his Man Friday who manages the party presidency.

The biggest worry for the common Indian is however not that Modi has forgotten his poll promise of 'achchhe din', it is the impunity and brazenness with which the entire Sangh brigade is enforcing its agenda of communal polarisation. Communal targeting of the Muslim youth is spreading dangerously across the country. The brutal murder of software professional Mohsin Sadique Shaikh in Pune shortly after the May 16 Verdict and Modi's refusal to condemn the killing were dangerous early warnings that have now assumed alarming proportions with the BJP crying 'love jihad' at every instance of a Muslim man marrying a Hindu woman and Yogi Adityanath spewing communal venom as the incharge of the BJP campaign for the forthcoming UP by-polls. Meanwhile RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has begun his sinister campaign to redefine India and Indians – the word Hindu is coterminous for him with Indian! From physical violence to ideological assaults, the power-drunk BJP and Sangh brigade have started going berserk.

The signs of sanity have come from the people in the by-polls in July and August. The people have made it abundantly clear that the verdict for Modi in May was no licence for the BJP to ride roughshod on the people's livelihood and civil liberties. Modi has gone on record complaining that he has not been given the kind of honeymoon period that new rulers are traditionally supposed to enjoy. A demagogue who betrays the people does not deserve any benefit of doubt. The developmental aspirations and democratic determination of the Indian people must prevail over every authoritarian whim and communal conspiracy.

Modi Speaks Communal Language in Foreign Lands
While Rajnath Promotes State Terror At Home  

Rajnath Singh, Home Minister in the Modi Government, in his speech to the Rajasthan Police Academy at Jaipur, reminded cops that while he had been the CM of Uttar Pradesh, he had assured cops that they could 'tackle and eliminate Maoists', without any worries about questions asked, since he as CM would shield UP police officers from having to face the NHRC! He assured that now, as Home Minister, he would do the same. He described the questions asked by Human Rights Commissions as 'harassment' of the police. 

If the Home Minister of the country describes 'human rights' and civil liberties as a minor inconvenience and obstacle, he is openly calling upon cops to commit murder and massacre. Civil liberties and rights are mandated by the Constitution of India. The Home Minister is showing his open contempt for India's Constitution, and ironically he does so in the name of 'protecting the nation'! 

Police and security forces treat 'Maoist' as code for 'adivasi' or dalit. Rajnath recounts his days as UP CM as a model, let us recall what that model meant. When Rajnath Singh was UP Chief Minister, on 9th March 2001, UP cops shot dead 16 people, mostly agricultural labourers and 2 schoolboys, all Dalits or adivasis, in Madihan, Bhawanipur, eastern UP. One of the 2 schoolboys was in Class VIII and the other in Class IX. The massacre was claimed to be an 'encounter' with Maoists. The truth was that the villagers of Madihan were sleeping after a feast celebrating the gauna ritual of the son of one of the villagers. 

In Chhattisgarh, similarly, security forces routinely massacre adivasi villagers gathered for the Bija Pandum harvest festival. The Kottaguda-Rajpenta-Sarkeguda massacre of 2012 in Bastar was one such massacre, in which the CRPF shot dead 17 people, including 7 children, including a 10 year old boy and a 12 year old girl.  

Assured that CMs and Home Ministers will shield them from being accountable to Human Rights Commissions, cops rape and kill in custody: all they have to do is declare that the victims are 'Maoists' or 'Naxalites'! The current Bastar IG, SR Kalluri, is accused of having raped Ledha Bai in custody, while another top cop Ankit Garg raped Soni Sori in custody. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Tokyo today, spoke as though he were a PM of his dream Hindu Rashtra, not of a secular democratic India. He commented that "secular friends" would kick up a fuss and TV debates over his gifting a copy of the Bhagvad Gita to Japanese Emperor Akihito. By making the comment, he himself marked the Gita as the property of Hindus alone, rather than part of India's own diverse cultural legacy. His own choice of the Gita as a gift and his comments on top of it, are a calculated insult to India's secularism and diversity.

How can the PM of India mock at and refer to secular people as 'they'? As PM, he himself is duty bound to uphold and protect the constitution of India, a sovereign socialist secular and democratic republic – and yet he openly mocks at secularism, and his Home Minister openly mocks at Constitutionally mandated democratic rights!

Worse, speaking in a public gathering in Tokyo on climate change, he used a communal 'cow-slaughter' analogy to caution against exploiting nature. He said, "At best you have the right to milk nature. You can milk a cow, but cannot kill the cow." For Modi, climate change also is a topic that can be communalized – even as his Government rushes through environmental 'clearances' of forest land and fertile land, all to benefit corporate and real estate sharks, grabbing this land from adivasis and peasants. 'Building infrastructure to combat Maoism' is the latest excuse to justify the grab of forest land.

When Modi says 'no red tape only red carpet, it isn't only for Japanese investment. He is telling corporations and MNCs that environmental clearances and so on are mere 'red tape' and he will sweep all this aside to spread the red carpet for corporations! Similarly of course, his Home Minister says that human rights of adivasis and Dalits are mere 'red tape' that he will 'take care of', so that cops can shed blood with impunity, so that a red carpet can be spread in forest areas for the corporations!    

Modi also told college girls in Tokyo that "only in India God is conceptualized as a woman" and that "in the Hindu pantheon, Saraswati is education minister, Lakshmi finance minister and Annapurna the Food minister." The irony of course is that in India, women are saying loud and clear that they do not want to be treated as Goddesses, chained to a pedestal, they are demanding equal rights and liberties as human beings. 

AICCTU Dharna to Protest 100 days of Betrayal of Modi Government And Increased Attacks on Workers' Rights

Factory workers, street vendors, DTC workers, construction workers, domestic workers, health and sanitation workers were among those who, under the banner of the AICCTU, held a powerful Dharna at Jantar Mantar on 3 September 2014 to protest a 100 days of the Modi Government's betrayal of its promises to the people.   

Protesters raised slogans demanding to know why the promise of 'acche din' has turned into the reality of 'bure din', and why Modi Sarkar was behaving like UPA-III.

At the dharna, AICCTU National Secretary Rajiv Dimri said, "Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to bring "good days" for the working people in his election campaign. Angered by the anti-people policies of the Congress-led UPA government that led to price rise, unemployment and corruption, the people gave a huge mandate to Mr Modi. After assuming power, however, the same Modi government is pursuing the same economic policies as the UPA Government. Now in power, Modi is asking people to bear hardships for the nation – while continuing to dole out generous sops to corporations. Price hike goes unabated, hoarding has remained beyond control, the hike in railway ticket and freight prices are quite unprecedented and it is likely to maintain an upward trend like petrol prices in the future."

All India Agricultural Labour Association (AIALA) National General Secretary Dhirendra Jha addressed hundreds of workers gathered where he said, "First three months and the budget indicate without doubt that the Modi-led government is implementing the policies of the earlier government even more ruthlessly than before. If good days have come, it is for Ambanis, Adanis, Tatas and Mittals - not the common people of this country." To sell off the public sector, the government has a disinvestment target of 43 thousand crores. It has increased the limit of FDI to 49 percent in the defence sector and 100 percent in the railways. In the planned US trip this September, Modi has two gifts to give - one is insurance sector and the other is defence. On the one hand, the corporate sector has got a relief of 5.32 lakh crore and on the other, much investment of public money has been made in rail, road and ports which through the PPP model would benefit corporate players. The road to acquire forests, land and minerals by corporates is also being made easy by the government. In the social sector, budgetary allocation on health, education, NREGA, social security has not received any favour whatsoever. While the government is claiming to make efforts to generate employment, it's real effort is to try and turn NREGA, that guarantees employment to a certain degree, to a mere scheme now.

AICCTU Delhi State Secretary Santosh Rai said, "Modi, the self-proclaimed 'mazdoor number one', has gone for an all out attack on rights of working class. In these first three months of 'good governance' offered, there is a plethora of proposals to amend labour laws in favour of corporate capital. These amendments would push much of the existing work force out of the purview of labour laws like Factory Act, ID Act, CLARA, Trade Union Act. The right to unionise and attain recognition of their union is going to be taken away. Women workers would be susceptible to more exploitation at the work place, including sexual harassment due to amendments in Factory Act."

V.K.S Gautam, President of Delhi State Unit of AICCTU said that Delhi is now governed by the LG on behalf of the BJP government and here too the same anti-people policies are making headway. Owing to the policy of privatisation of transport, electricity, water and education, the plunder by corporates and contractors is at the highest level and so is rampant corruption. The entire unorganised sector has come under the grip of contractualization. The Labour Dept. has become incompetent, corrupt and totally ineffective now. Access to BPL card and election I- card has become more difficult. He added that the recent Jan-Dhan Yojna of Modi is a gimmick which can't fool working class. He said that if PM Modi thinks by giving a bank account with an accidental death cover of Rs 1 lakh workers won't assert for their rights to get Minimum Wages, PF/ESI than he is living in a fool's paradise.

AICCTU appeals to the working people of Delhi to strengthen and continue the struggle against the Modi government, exposing its true colours testifying its betrayal of the people. AICCTU also appeals that the working class should be cautious and stand strongly against the ploy of 'Modi Sarkaar' to divide their unity by divisive politics based on promoting hatred among people on religious line.

CPIML Politburo member Prabhat Kumar and Delhi State Secretary Sanjay Sharma also addressed the protesters. Others who addressed included AICCTU leaders Saurabh Naruka, Ardhendu Roy, Munna Yadav, Ajay Kumar, Surender Panchal, Virender Kumar, Satvir Shramik, Jagnarayan, Omprakash, Shankaran, Balmiki Jha, Rajesh Kumar, Shakuntala, Jan Sangharsh Morcha Narela's President Ramkumar Bauddh, Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) vice-president Aslam Khan, Mahesh Upadhyay and many other others.

The meeting was conducted by AICCTU Delhi Vice President Mathura Paswan.

Rally held to demand 6th phase of Bhilai Steel Plant House Lease Scheme

The House Lease Sangharsh Samiti took out a rally on 17 August demanding the implementation of the 6th phase of the Bhilai Steel Plant house lease scheme. The rally started at the main gate of the steel plant and, after passing through the different sectors, culminated in front of the residence of the CEO. More than 500 people along with cars, motor cycles, and autos participated in the rally. Rajendra Parganiha and Shyamlal Sahu from the Centre of Steel Workers played a leading role in organizing this rally. Workers of the Bhilai Steel Plant as well as former workers who are around 1500 in number are struggling for the implementation of the 6th housing scheme.

During the recession between 2001 and 2003 the Steel Authority of India had introduced the house lease scheme in all their units in order to compensate their losses. Under this scheme around 4500 workers in Bhilai obtained a 30 year lease on company quarters. In 2007-2008 various workers' organizations as well as the Officers' Association launched a struggle for the 6th phase of this house lease scheme, following which the Steel minister in the UPA government Ram Vilas Paswan announced at a meeting in Bhilai that the 6th phase would be implemented. However, it has not been implemented till date.

Under pressure from the rally on 17 August, the General Manager (Personnel) of the BSP came to the CEO's residence where he heard the demands of the people and assured them that he would arrange a meeting with the Executive Director (P & A). An 11 member delegation of the House Lease Sangharsh Samiti met the ED on 19 August, who said that this matter was not within his jurisdiction but that he would forward a copy of their demands to the SAIL Board. It is noteworthy that the CITU, the officially recognized union by the BSP, was against the movement for this demand, and the attitude of the other unions was also wishy-washy. Around 1500 former workers are living in BSP quarters under the license system and they are the backbone of this movement. The representatives of the Sangharsh Samiti also met the local MP and people's representatives in this regard. The MLA from Bhilai Nagar and Minister in the State government Prem Prakash Pandey has rejected the demand for the implementation of the 6th house lease scheme and has termed the movement for its demand as playing around with the people's emotions.

Joint Anti-Imperialist Rally in Kolkata by Left Parties

On September 1st, a joint anti-imperialist rally by 15 Left parties including the CPI(ML) Liberation was held in Kolkata against US-Israel aggression on Gaza. Starting from Ramlila Maidan in central Kolkata, the rally marched to Deshbandhu Park urging people to come together against the attack on Gaza, against US interference in India and to seek answers from the NDA government on why it was cozying up to Israel and caving in to US pressure to embrace FDI across crucial sectors. The rally called for reverting back pro-US, pro-Israel foreign policies of the government of India. The rally was held on the day that marks the beginning of the Second World War with fascist Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939.

The CPI, CPIM, CPIML Liberation, RSP, Forward Bloc and SUCI as well as other parties and groups, participated in the protest demonstration. Thousands of people joined the demonstration and raised slogans "Us imperialism Hands off Syria", "End Us aggression in Middle East and Israel's aggression on Palestine".  

Starting from Ramleela Park in central Kolkata, the rallyists marched up to Deshbandhu Park. The rally was addressed by CPIML Politbureau member Com. Kartick Pal, Suryakanta Mishra of CPI(M), Manju Majumdar of CPI, Manoj Bhattacharya of RSP, Hafiz Alam Sairani of FB, Soumen Bose of SUCI (C), and Santosh Rana of PCC-CPIML.  

Struggle Against Sexual Violence in Vishwa Bharati

The students of Vishwa Bharati University in West Bengal are engaged in a struggle against cases of sexual harassment and violence in the University, and the apathy and collusion of the University authorities as well as the police.  

A woman student of the University, from Sikkim, has complained that she was abducted, disrobed, and molested by three senior students on repeated occasions, who then blackmailed her and extorted money from her, threatening that they would circulate photographs of her if she complained. The exploitation and even severe violence continued for two months.       

When the woman student eventually complained, the University authorities tried to hush up the matter and restrict the complainant and her father from approaching the police. But they persisted, and students of the University also protested vigorously, and eventually an FIR was filed against the accused, who were also suspended from Vishwa Bharati.

On 30th August, the AISA Unit of Vishwa Bharati, along with the USDF, led a mass deputation of common students of the University to the main office of the University and met with the Registrar, demanding expulsion and arrest of the accused, setting up of an elected GSCASH body, and measures to ensure that the woman student could continue her studies safely.   

The University, instead of responding by acting to prevent and punish sexual harassment, has imposed restrictions on women students' movements and timings on the campus! Students are further protesting against this moral policing.   

Again, on 2nd September, the AISA as well as USDF and North East students' groups, together held a massive demonstration at the VC's office demanding justice.

 It is indeed ironical that the University is trying to control the comings and goings of women students in the name of their safety, given that their own VC and even senior administrators face sexual harassment charges! In 2004, when the current Vishwa Bharati VC was a Director at the SN Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, a colleague had accused him of sexual harassment, a charge that had been confirmed in March 2005 by a committee set up by the Science and Technology Ministry.

In spite of this, it is a shame that the same person was appointed VC of Vishwa Bharati, and the last UPA Government had even tried to award him a Padma Shree (this was perhaps withdrawn following letters of protest by many women's groups). 

Last year also, a student from the North East had accused a teacher of sexual harassment, and the latter had only been transferred. A Dean had also been charged with sexual harassment, and had received a most nominal punishment. Two woman students have apparently left the campus and discontinued their studies as a result of sexual harassment.

The Vishwa Bharati functions in an extremely undemocratic manner, with little democracy allowed to students and teachers. The Central Governments of various dispensations are squarely responsible for this state of affairs.

But many other educational institutions in West Bengal too have an undemocratic and sexist milieu, again, nurtured by the current TMC dispensation now and earlier by the CPIM dispensation too.

In another horrific incident of sexual violence, a woman student of Jadavpur University has complained that a gang of 10 male students dragged her into a men's hotel and molested her. In this case, too, the University has tried to delay action, and hush up the incident.  

The culture of sexism, bred by political dispensations in Kolkata as well as the Centre, is fertile ground for sexual harassment. The struggle for democratization and gender justice in Vishwa Bharati continues.  

Tribute to Balraj Puri

-N.D. Pancholi

In the sad demise of Shri Balraj Puri at Jammu India has lost a great champion of human rights and a political analyst of high repute. He was 86. He was participant in momentous political events such like 'Quit India Movement' of 1942' and  'Quit  Kashmir Movement' of 1946'   in association with Sheikh Abdullah and Pt. Prem Nath Bazaz against Dogra Ruler Maharaja Hari Singh. He did his utmost to prevent outbreak of communal violence or check its spread  in Jammu  in 1947  and  on many occasions thereafter- even at the risk of his life. Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India,  sought his opinion on Kashmir affairs on crucial occasions. Puri always tried to bridge the gap between Nehru  and the Sheikh Abdullah. He  rendered great help in the conclusion of Indira-Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah Accord in 1974. 

Puri's activities encompassed various fields– from active social and political to academic  and journalistic work of high standard. His friends and associate are writing about  his many-faceted work  elsewhere. However, I would confine here myself  to some aspects of his human right work  in which I had the privilege to associate with him on few  occasions.

Jayprakash Narayan had inaugurated the Citizens For Democracy in April 1974 at Delhi  and he became its founding member.  I came in touch with him at that time. He  was also founding member of the PUCL in 1976.  He was member of the National Council of both the organizations for several years and was very  active.  

Militancy had started in Kashmir at the end of 1989 and by the start of  January 1990 Jammu & Kashmir was  under Governor's rule under Jagmohan.  Militancy was at its height leading to killings of large number of people– both Muslims and non-Muslims whom the militants suspected as government agents and it led to exodus  of Kashmiri Pandits  on large scale. On the other  hand  the  entire Kashmir valley was placed under army rule and the Kashmir police was sent to the barracks by Jagmohan as he  suspected almost all the Kashmiris. Clashes between militants and security forces were the daily occurrences and indiscriminate firings by the security forces in retaliation was resulting into large number of casualties of the innocent people.  Curfew used to be imposed  between 21 to 22 hours daily which was causing great deal of misery and hardship  to the people and this situation continued for several months. Patriotic Indian journalists were crying for blood and asking Governor to block the electricity, water supply and the other essential necessities from reaching the people with a view to discipline them. There were frantic messages to the PUCL and CFD from the people in the valley  requesting for  sending a team to investigate into human rights violation by the security forces.   

It was with the initiative and assistance of Balraj Puri  that a team of PUCL & CFD was formed for the purpose which  visited the valley in the last week of March 1990. The team members were  Justice V.M. Tarkunde (Retd.), Justice Rajinder Sachar  (Retd.),  Balraj Puri, Inder Mohan, Ranjan Dewedi, T.S. Ahuja and myself. On the first day when we were at Hazaratbal in Srinagar in connection with an incident, suddenly 4/5 militants with AK-47 rifles appeared and began to enquire about us and our purpose. Our  local guide conversed with them in Kashmiri. However he told the militants  that we were Christians and not Hindus as he felt afraid that militants might do some harm if they come to know that  team members were Hindus. We did not know Kashmiri but Balraj Puri knew and as soon as he heard the team members being described as Christians he became angry and reprimanded our guide.  He told the militants that we were not Christians but Hindus and that we were not representing the Govt. or any party but were representing Indian Human Rights Organizations and had come to the valley for the cause of 'Insani Haquq'. Militants appeared to be confused and after some deliberations among themselves disappeared from the scene. 

The report which was brought out  by the team exposed the darker side of the rule of Jagmohan at that time and was widely discussed and debated nationally and internationally. Subsequently several  human rights teams used to visit the Kashmir valley and in most of them Balraj puri  either used to be part of the team or adviser. He not only took up the issues of human rights violations in Kashmir but also of Punjab, North-East and other parts of India.

He had deep commitment for human rights issues and  his whole life was a supreme dedication to the cause of secularism.  He has always been a great inspiration to me and many others in the human rights movement.   

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