Wednesday, January 14, 2015

ML Update | No. 03 | 2015

ML Update

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol.  18 | No. 03 | 13-19 JAN 2015

Modi Model of Governance:

Repression on Indian Farmers and Activists, Wooing Foreign Corporations

As India approaches Republic Day, the corporate-communal shadows over the Indian Republic and Indian democracy become darker. The Modi Government, even as it dilutes protections for India's workers, farmers and citizens to woo US corporations and other MNCs, is branding protesting farmers and activists as 'foreign agents' to jail them and prevent them from traveling.

The Vibrant Gujarat jamboree held recently was attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as a range of US corporations and other MNCs, along with Indian CEOs like Mukesh Ambani and Kumar Mangalam Birla. Addressing this gathering, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited them to 'Make in India', promising them 'low-cost manufacturing' thanks to 'India's low-cost and high quality manpower'; and highlighted his Government's initiative in ensuring FDI in construction, railways, defence, and insurance as well as labour law reforms.

'Low cost manpower' is nothing but a euphemism for under-paid and over-worked workers, and lax safety norms at the workplace. In India's factories, labour laws – especially those ensuring payment of minimum wages, equal pay for equal work, and the right to form unions – are already being widely violated. Modi's contribution has been to declare that manufacturers can now 'self-certify' their compliance with labour laws – effectively telling them that the Government has shrugged off any responsibility to enforce labour laws. Recent revelations of women being made to clean spit as punishment for being found with a mobile phone on textile factory premises, and 45 women being strip searched in an SEZ to check for sanitary napkins, are just a small indicator of how workers 'Make in India' in conditions of virtual bondage. Deaths on construction sites, in factories, mines and in sanitation work thanks to lax safety regulations, are extremely common. The Bhopal disaster, as well as countless farmers and adivasis killed in police firing on protests against land grab, are a reminder that not only is labour 'low cost', lives in India are also kept 'low cost' in order to attract and appease Indian and foreign corporations. Kerry has stated that what Obama would like to achieve in the course of his Republic Day visit, is to further dilute the Civil Nuclear Liability law, in order to make India foot the bills for any Bhopal- or Fukushima-style disasters by US nuclear corporations on Indian soil.      

Strangely, while foreign corporations are being given a red carpet welcome and carte blanche to grab land, pollute the environment, poison people, violate labour laws and exploit labourers, it is protesting farmers and activists who are being branded as 'threats' to India's development and internal security!

During the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, Gujarat's farmers were detained to prevent them from protesting against the land acquisition ordinance. A Greenpeace activist was prevented from boarding a plane – on the pretext that the Intelligence Bureau had recommended a ban on her travel. The Government itself has as yet been unable to provide any reason for a ban on the activist's travel, except some shadowy IB recommendation.

BJP representatives have been defending the ban on the activist's travel, citing her role in protests against violations of the Forest Rights Act by the corporation Essar. Essar being a UK-listed company, the activist was planning to apprise lawmakers in the UK about the company's role in violating Indian laws protecting indigenous people's rights to forests.

The ban on the Greenpeace activist's travel can be traced back to the IB report submitted to the PM on June 2014, that had claimed a threat from 'foreign funded NGOs' to India's national economic security.

The ironic part is that the same Government is promoting foreign funding in every aspect of India's economy – at a considerable cost to India's workers, peasants, and environment. The Chief Economic Advisor to the PM – like the Planning Commission Chief and the PM himself in the previous Government – are associated with the IMF. Thanks to these ideologically motivated persons, India's economic policy is being tailored to suit the interests of global capital rather than the priorities of India's people.

The sheer hypocrisy of the Government is apparent from the fact that even a Modi Cabinet Minister – the Railways Minister Suresh Bharadwaj, heads a foreign-funded environmental NGO. Many global corporations also float NGOs to 'greenwash' their assaults on the world's environment. Clearly, these NGOs escape the IB radar because they tend to toe the Government and corporate line in terms of policies! Only those that are voices of dissent are branded as a 'threat' and face curbs on their freedom of speech, travel, and protest.

It has been rightly pointed out that Modi, when he was Gujarat CM, had signed an MOU with an NGO 'The Climate Group', that is linked with the former UK PM Tony Blair. Modi's book on climate change has a foreword by the head of this same foreign-funded NGO! In 2009, a cabal of senior Indian ministers, bureaucrats, diplomats and corporate CEOs were exposed having secret conversations with MNCs and US Government officials about how to save Dow Chemicals from its liabilities of clean up and compensation in the matter of the Bhopal Gas Disaster. Clearly, Indian Governments allow their own leaders to have secret conversations and deals with foreign corporations and foreign governments to protect MNCs that have the blood of Indian citizens on their hands! Yet they deplane an environmental activist on the pretext that she has no right to brief UK lawmakers about crimes committed by the UK-listed corporation!

As we approach Republic Day, let Indian citizens rise up against the 'company Raj' regime of the Modi Sarkar – and tell Modi and Obama alike that it is their policies that endanger the security of India and the globe!

Condemn the Paris Attacks, Resist Islamophobia and Expose 'Free Speech' Hypocrisy

The massacre of the journalists and cartoonists at the Paris-based magazine Charlie Hebdo is heinous and condemnable. Terrorist actions like the Paris massacre can only become fodder for the global campaign of Islamophobia that is being used to justify wars, occupations, and torture.

Along with the Paris massacre, the Norway massacre by the Islamophobic Anders Breivik; threats against Salman Rushdie; the persecution of Taslima Nasreen in Bangladesh and in India; the Peshawar massacre; the harassment of MF Hussain, forcing him to leave India; the pulping of Wendy Doniger's book under threats from Hindutva groups; the recent vandalisation of theatres showing the film PK, and the hounding of Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, forcing him to announce his 'death as an author' – all are instances of violence and terrorism in the name of religious fanaticism and xenophobia. There are countless other instances of Governments (from the USA to Israel to France to India) hounding dissenting political journalists, whistleblowers, writers, filmmakers and so on.  

Violence or demands for bans against cartoonists, writers, filmmakers or artists who are irreverent to one's faith, cannot have any place in a democratic world. Undoubtedly everyone has a right to take offence to or express dissent or protest against writings, art or films. But such opposition should be expressed in words, in art, in films, or in peaceful protest. Threats, actual violence or bans stifle the very spirit of democracy. 

Condemnation of the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo staffers, however, cannot mean condoning the content of their cartoons. It is true that Charlie Hebdo did carry cartoons that sought to 'offend' other religions too, including Christianity. The use of images of the Prophet in defiance of religious prohibitions, in itself, is not what makes the Charlie Hebdo cartoons offensive. The fact is that the bulk of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons since 2001 have been of a coarsely racist, misogynist, Islamophobic variety. Steeply rising Islamophobia the world over took the form of anti-immigrant xenophobic politics and hate-inspired violence in France in those years. In this backdrop, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons caricaturing Muslims for wearing beards and veils, displaying humiliating sexual violence against Muslim men and women, and sexist comments on Muslim women getting welfare benefits, are indistinguishable from garden-variety racism and xenophobia. Contrary to their claim, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons cannot be celebrated as Leftist iconoclasm or atheist irreverence. A former staffer of the magazine, Oliver Cyran, had in an article written before the massacre, scathingly criticized Charlie Hebdo for its racist, Islamophobic turn post 9/11.

The official 'secularism' of the French State also is beset with much the same problems as the Charlie Hebdo magazine. France's ban on the hijab or the display of 'conspicuous' religious symbols (which can be interpreted to mean bindis or turbans also) – which France claims is in the best tradition of French secularism – coincides with the xenophobic slurs and attacks on those same symbols. When wearers of bindis, burqas and turbans are vilified as 'pinheads', 'ragheads' and so on in many European countries and USA, the wearing of those symbols becomes a defence of identity and dignity. To ban those symbols amounts to serving the cause of racism, under the cloak of secularism and feminism! A recent article on Charlie Hebdo in a prominent Indian daily, that claimed the magazine was 'anti religion not anti Islam) commented that increasing immigration and "people of colour from former French colonies moving in as citizens of France" has caused "considerable strain on French identity." But if French 'secular' identity comes under "strain" thanks to diversity and immigration from the countries France itself colonized, then surely there is something deeply flawed about such 'secularism'? Can it be called 'secularism' at all if it cannot accommodate the social, cultural and religious self-expression of the 'Other' who are its former colonial subjects?         

The claim that freedom of expression is absolute – in France in general as well as in the Charlie Hebdo magazine – is false. France and other European countries have laws against anti-Semitic hate-speech. Charlie Hebdo sacked a staffer who was misleadingly accused of anti-Semitism on the grounds that he mocked at a French politician for marrying a Jewish heiress for money. Yet the same magazine saw nothing racist or Islamophobic in content mocking at Muslims or immigrants for their clothes or colour, with crude images of sexual violence. The problem seems to be France's inability to recognize Islamophobia and anti-Arab xenophobia as hate-speech at all. 

It is no coincidence that France is the first country in the world to ban pro-Palestine protests. It is no excuse that some of those protests were violent or anti-Semitic. After all, innumerable instances of Islamophobic violence has not resulted in any bans or curbs on Islamophobic 'self-expression' in France! The French State could and should have acted to prevent and punish any anti-Semitic violence, as also Islamophobic and xenophobic violence. But banning pro-Palestine demonstrations smacks of high hypocrisy on its claims of holding high the standard of 'Liberty' and 'free speech.' In France, sociologist Said Bouamama and rapper Saidou have been put on trial, under pressure from a far-right group, for a book and song they brought out in solidarity with French working class youth, and in protest against racism. In a statement after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Said and Saidou have called out the hypocrisy of the French State and warned against an explosion of racism and Islamophobia against working class immigrants.

The response of most ruling regimes to the Paris Attacks has been marked by hypocrisy and a self-serving agenda of boosting Islamophobia. One article exposing such hypocrisy notes, "The only person in prison for the C.I.A.'s abominable torture regime is John Kiriakou, the whistle-blower. Edward Snowden is a hunted man for divulging information about mass surveillance. Chelsea Manning is serving a thirty-five-year sentence for her role in WikiLeaks." A cartoon on the internet points to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's hypocrisy, with a caption saying "I assassinated 17 journalists, among 2143 other Palestinians in Gaza, only last summer. Today I walked in the first line in the Paris Rally, protesting terrorism and assuring freedom of speech is a basic right."     

The instances of hypocrisy from India also abound. The Sangh Parivar is trying to use the Paris massacre as a pretext to spread hatred against Islam and Muslims. It must be remembered that the Sangh Parivar and other Hindutva groups are the ones responsible for acts of horrific violence in the name of 'defending' their faith. These acts of violence include the assassination of MK Gandhi, the burning alive of Graham Staines and his two little sons, and numerous communal pogroms targeting Muslim and Christian minorities, as well as the organized intimidation against writings of Wendy Doniger, Perumal Murugan, Rohinton Mistry, AK Ramanujam; Anand Patwardhan's films; Facebook posts by Mumbai girls; MF Husain's art, to name just a few. Anders Breivik who massacred many young people in Norway, was inspired in part by the ideology and violent actions of the Sangh Parivar in India. The Modi Government is treating protests against land grab or destruction of forests as a form of 'blasphemy' against pro-corporate development, and has just prevented an activist from flying out of the country on these grounds.

Any attempt to frame the Paris Attacks – as 9/11 was framed – as an attack by Islam on Western values of 'democracy' and 'free speech' and to stoke Islamophobic panic and hatred, must be firmly resisted. Yes, the attacks are a heinous, terrible, unconscionable crime. But this crime cannot be used to shield and justify the crimes against humanity and freedom committed by the very same powers that masquerade as defenders of 'democracy' now. Racism, Islamophobia, communalism, wars and occupation, as well as repressive muzzling of critics of capitalism and imperialism, are real and present dangers to democracy as much as are the ISIS, the Taliban, the Boko Haram and other such outfits.      

Excerpts From Statement by Said and Saidou

Our book and song came about in the middle of former president Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign to impose a racist definition of national identity.

One spontaneous response from young people in working class areas was to write graffiti on the walls saying "Nique la France"—"Fuck France".

This graffiti was political, and showed the youth's opposition. Of course, the mainstream media presented it instead as a danger to the republic.

Our book and song were intended to make sure this youth wasn't left isolated, by bringing the visible support of a sociologist and a musician.

They highlighted the France that we don't and can never love. The France of the counter-revolutionaries that put down the Paris Commune in 1871, Nazi collaborators, police searches, racist crimes, Islamophobia and Zionism.

A far right group attacked us for racism against "white people"—and the court decided to take their complaint seriously.

Apparently the book's tone is unforgivable. It is a call for the mobilisation and self-organisation of people in working class areas.

What's also unforgivable is that we've linked together different fights in one common denunciation of the global system.

In France's crisis-stricken society, the mere expression of revolt is considered dangerous.

Our trial is an attempt to intimidate activists in the hope that they stop expressing the anger that's present in the poorer classes and especially among young people from migrant backgrounds.

Now politicians and the media have captured the emotion that people feel at the Charlie Hebdo attack.

They are sending out a message of fear to justify repressive measures against working class areas that are living through massive impoverishment and racial discrimination.

The debate in the media is already focusing on the need for a French equivalent of the US Patriot Act passed after 9/11.

The calls for national unity are actually an attempt to divide ordinary people according to their religions—or their assumed religions. To do this, the state has to present young Arab and black people as a danger to safety.

In three days 50 Islamophobic acts have taken place in France.

The anger is great among people from migrant backgrounds. But the media hype is drowning it out.

Thousands of school and college students refused to take part in the minute's silence of the "I am Charlie" campaign.

Others put up their own posters, graffiti or tweets such as "I am Palestine" or "I am against Islamophobia".

We need to bring together these forces to refuse national unity and respond to the official campaign.

We want to send a message to working class areas of refusing to be intimidated, cowed or afraid. And it's a call for self-organisation and solidarity against the unprecedented repression that is on its way.

Nationwide protests against Land Acquisition Ordinance

After announcing the closure of the Parliament session two days before schedule, the Modi government, sensing all-pervasive opposition within as well as outside Parliament, issued an ordinance to amend the 2013 Land Acquisition Act, putting an end to the provision for farmers' consent before land acquisition. Immediately after this ordinance was issued, the All India Kisan Mahasabha strongly condemned this undemocratic and anti-farmer step of the Modi government and called for nationwide protests on 2 January 2015 demanding the repeal of this ordinance. Responding to this call, AIKM units across the country organized various protests.

In Uttar Pradesh, protests were held in the capital Lucknow, at Ghazipur district HQ, Jamania, Bhadora, Mhow district HQ, and Bareilly and at Moradabad, Pilibhit, Lakhimpur, Mirzapur, Kanpur, Banaras, Bhadouri, Sitapur, Kushinagar, Azamgarh and Mathura. Public meetings and protest marches were held in Giridih, Bagodar, Deori, and Ramgarh. In Jhunjhunu (Rajasthan), Bhind (Madhya Pradesh), Odisha, and in Durg (Chhattisgarh), memorandums were submitted by CPI(ML) demanding repeal of the ordinance.

In Andhra Pradesh, kisan marches, meetings, and effigy burnings were organized at several places including at the Eastern Godavari HQ Kakinada, in Karnool district, Krishna district, Srikakulam and Palasa, attended by farmers in large numbers. In Bindukhatta (Uttarakhand) farmers took out a protest march and burnt effigies of PM Modi. In West Bengal, protest marches, meetings, and effigy burnings were held at Darjeeling, North Dinajpur, South 24 Parganas, Hooghly, Nadiya and Bardhman.

In Punjab, 2 to 7 January 2015 was observed as protest week against the Ordinance, as well as against the Punjab government's "sarkari, gair sarkari, niji sampatti nuksaan rok" Bill. Protest rallies and meetings were held at Mansa, Bhikhi Bazar, Gurdaspur, Patiala, Bhatinda, Ferozpur and Karnal.

In Bihar, protest marches and effigy burnings were held at 9 block HQs in Patna district. During the rally in Patna city, it was announced that 27 Jan to 12 Feb 2015 would be observed as "statewide Kisan fortnight" to protest against the ordinance and to demand purchase of paddy from sharecroppers at purchase centres across the state. Protests were also held in different parts of Bhojpur as well as in Aurangbad, Arwal, Bhagalpur, Jehanabad, Vaishali, Rohtas, Western Champaran, Jamui, Siwan, Samastipur, Nalanda, and Buxar districts.

Convention in Coimbatore in support of Perumal Murugan

CPI(ML) Coimbatore city unit organised a convention on 11 January 2015 in Goundampalayam, Coimbatore, against the attacks on Tamil novelist Perumal Murugan and against the growing dangers of fascism. Speakers at the convention included CPI(ML) Politburo member comrade Kumarasamy, PUCL Tamil Nadu's general secretary comrade Balamurugan (who is also the author of the Tamil novel "Solagar Thotti" describing police atrocities on tribal people), author of the Tamil novel "Milirkal" comrade Murugavel, district executive committee members of CPI and CPI(M) comrades Subramanian and Arumugam, as well as state committee members of CPI(ML) comrades N.K. Natarajan and Chandramohan. The convention strongly condemned the call for a ban on Perumal Murugan's Tamil novel "Madhorubagan" (One Part Woman in English) by communal castiest forces and barons of private educational institutions. Though this book was written way back in 2010, the demand for its ban was raised in 2014 after the BJP came to power. The convention condemned the attitude of the state government, which is choosing to remain a silent spectator even as this fascist assault is being orchestrated.

Issues related to workers' rights in Tamil Nadu were also raised – the convention demanded that the state government protect the rights of the workers in the Foxconn factory in Tamil Nadu, and also take necessary steps to curb the rampant retrenchment in the IT sector. The convention demanded the arrest of the Korean officer of the Huyndai ancillary factory in Tamil Nadu, who violently attacked striking workers. The convention condemned the harassment and arrest of RTI activist and President of the Satta panchayat Siva Ilango based on a dubious complaint filed by the State Information Commission, and demanded the resignation of K.S. Sripathi, the State Information Commissioner.

Students' movement in Jadavpur University forces JU VC to resign

In a massive victory for the student movement the Vice Chancellor of Jadavpur University (JU) has had to resign following unrelenting students' protests against the JU administration. The Hokkolorob movement has battled lathi charges and massive repression, as well as threats from the JU administration and from the West Bengal government, to constantly evolve fresh modes of resistance. In November 2014, a Referendum was conducted in JU – where students voted overwhelmingly in favour of the demands raised by the Hokkolorob movement. More than 90 per cent of the students demanded the resignation of the JU VC, the reconstitution of the ICC in order to ensure more democratic participation of students and gender justice, and against surveillance in the name of women's security. Subsequently, when the JU administration refused to respect the democratic mandate of the student community, students boycotted JU's annual Convocation ceremony as a mark of protest.

Given the continuing refusal of the JU administration to listen to students' voices and demands, JU students began an indefinite hunger strike in JU this January. When all means of repression and intimidation failed, the Vice Chancellor of JU finally had to resign. AISA and the JU student community are now preparing for the next round of battle to take forward their demands. They are planning to press very strongly for their demands to restructure the existing ICC in JU in order to democratize it and ensure gender justice. Moreover, the movement is also demanding strong action against one of the JU faculty members in the History department – who has a track record of sexual harassment and molestation complaints against him.

Expulsion of AISA UP State President for Organizing a Seminar Exposing 'Love Jihad' Bogey

In yet another shameful assault on campus democracy, the Lucknow University (LU) administration has expelled comrade Sudhanshu Bajpai, UP state president of AISA, from LU for the 'crime' of organizing a seminar on LU campus on the Love Jihad bogey and for burning the effigy of the UP Chief Minister at a subsequent protest held by AISA. The seminar against 'Love Jihad', which was to be addressed by AIPWA national secretary comrade Kavita Krishnan, was disrupted by ABVP.

LU is a UP state-run university, and even as the SP government in UP tries to claim its secular credentials, it exposes its real face by expelling a student for organizing a campaign against the Love Jihad lies. Even though the LU administration had initially given permission for AISA's seminar against the BJP's Love Jihad campaign, they yielded to ABVP's demands and on the day of the event, they orally claimed they had never given permission. In the days to come, AISA will be organizing sustained protests in UP, Delhi and elsewhere against Comrade Sudhanshu's expulsion.

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