Thursday, January 22, 2015

ML Update | No. 04 | 2015

ML Update

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol.  18 | No. 04 | 20 - 26 JAN 2015

Defeat the Modi Design of Governance by Ordinance

One of Modi's pet pronouncements after coming to power in May 2014 was 'Minimum Government, Maximum Governance'. By the end of the year, the meaning of the slogan became quite clear: 'Minimum Parliament, Maximum Ordinance'! Modi scarcely attends Parliament and his cabinet prefers to take the ordinance route to amend key laws passed by Parliament. Ahead of the budget session, the Modi government has already promulgated more than half a dozen ordinances, a measure that, according to the Supreme Court, should only be resorted to in extreme emergencies. The President of India, despite reports of discomfort with the flurry of ordinances, has chosen to go with the government and give his assent to the controversial measures.

Three of these ordinances have already evoked widespread protests in the country: the decision to raise FDI limit in insurance sector from 26 to 49, a gift to US insurance companies before Obama's Republic Day visit; the ordinance opening up the coal sector for private commercial mining; and the most autocratic and pro-corporate diktat of them all, the land acquisition ordinance that overturns the amended land acquisition law of 2013. While in opposition, the BJP had been opposing FDI in insurance and had supported the 2013 legislation replacing the widely resented colonial era Land Acquisition Act of 1894. Now at the helm of a government in which the BJP enjoys absolute majority on its own, the BJP is brazenly rewriting the laws showing utter contempt for the people's voice, both within and outside of Parliament.

The land acquisition ordinance has exempted several sectors from the mandatory consent and social impact assessment clauses, paving the way for wholesale acquisition of fertile multi-crop land for a pittance in the name of compensation and resettlement. Land remaining idle after acquisition will no longer be returned to the original owners. Along with this draconian ordinance, the government is also busy finding ways to restrict, dilute and deny the powers enjoyed by gram sabhas in tribal areas under the Forest Rights Act and the Fifth Schedule so that tribal communities have no say in regulating land acquisition and mining and construction activities in their traditional habitat. Laws like Chhota Nagpur and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Acts in Jharkhand are also being sought to be amended to deprive tribal communities of whatever legal protection they have been traditionally enjoying over their land.

The thrust of the Modi government's agenda of development has thus become crystal-clear – wholesale acquisition of agricultural and tribal land whether in the name of industrial corridors or mining or urbanisation or private universities, engineering colleges, hotels and housing projects. The other pet slogan of Modi – "Make in India" – relies and revolves completely around FDI. When Modi woos FDI with his favourite formula of 3Ds – demand, demography and democracy – he places the purchasing power of Indian consumers, skilled labour of educated Indian youth and the legislative system of India, all at the disposal of foreign capital, thereby promising it maximum operating freedom and profits. This land-grabbing FDI-dependent model of development means nothing short of a war on the rights and resources of the Indian people – peasants, workers and job-seekers in particular.

The ordinances will have to be subjected to parliamentary debate in the forthcoming budget session. While resisting every act of forcible acquisition on the ground, pressure must now be mounted in every possible way on the government and Parliament for withdrawal of the ordinances and defeat of legislative attempts to turn these ordinances into laws. The first budget of the Modi government signalled systematic cuts in social sector spending and attempts to abandon whatever welfare measures were legislated in the last few years in the spheres of forest rights, employment guarantee and food security. By all indications the forthcoming budget will only seek to intensify this assault on social welfare and people's rights. The working people and their fighting organisations must get united to resist these attacks and push back the government. 

CPI(ML) statement on Muzzafarpur  Riots

The communal frenzy orchestrated in Azizpur village, which comes under the Saraiya police station in Muzzafarpur in Bihar is a shame on humanity. This communal frenzy in Muzzafarpur was planned and organized on the lines of the Muzzafarnagar riots in Uttar Pradesh in 2013.  On 11 January 2015, an FIR was filed by the police regarding the abduction of Bharatendu Sahni. However, instead of investigating this matter with the seriousness it required, the administration adopted a careless attitude. As a result, communal forces in the area got sufficient time in which to create a communal frenzy. At a time when a dangerous communal atmosphere exists all over the country, this slack attitude of the local administration in a sensitive matter of an interreligious relationship raises several questions.

On 18 January 2015, a mob openly indulged in looting, arson and murder in broad daylight, between 12 pm and 3 pm, while the local police merely watched the entire horrific proceedings from a distance of a just 1 km away. When riots were being orchestrated in Azizpur village, the local BJP MLA as well as the DSP, the SHO and other police personnel were present. They however allowed the violence to continue and the village to burn. The police and the BJP leaders entered the village only after the frenzied crowd had dispersed after the violence and arson.  These facts were highlighted by CPI(ML) leaders at a press conference in Patna, after a CPI(ML) team visited the area and investigated the issue. The CPI(ML) fact-finding team consisted of CPI(ML) politburo member comrade Dhirendra Jha, AIPWA general secretary Meena Tiwari, Iftikhar Alam of the Insaaf Manch, Aftab Alam, Suraj, Prof. Arvind De and Prabhat Bharadwaj.

CPI(ML) leaders stated at the press conference that five people had been killed in the communal frenzy, more than thirty houses had been completely burnt down, and all houses belonging to members of a particular community were looted. The village is now practically deserted; only a few elderly people have been left behind. Women and children have taken refuge in the neighbouring villages. An atmosphere of fear prevails in the entire area. Property worth crores has been looted, and property worth many more crores has been burnt and destroyed in the arson. There are also apprehensions that several people in the village are missing. However, many Hindu families in the village risked their own lives and the safety of their families in order to provide protection to the Muslims of the village. This indeed highlights Bihar's syncretic culture and the strong communal harmony that prevails.

The evidence of looting, violence and arson clearly shows that several weapons such as hammers and spades were used in a large scale. According to eyewitnesses, the mob consisted of only around 500 people – the local administration is claiming a figure of 2000 in order to hide its incompetence. The nature and character of this incident appears to be very dangerous. A united response to such communal forces is the need of the hour. CPI(ML) appealed to all people to maintain peace and harmony in this situation.

CPI(ML) has also demanded the immediate suspension of the DSP and police station incharge, who are responsible for the incident. Moreover, CPI(ML) has demanded an enquiry against the SP and the DM of the area. Moreover, the local administration must not just ensure the safety of the residents of the village, but should also provide compensation for the loss of life and property. Bharatendu Sahni's family should also be provided compensation. CPI(ML) has demanded a time-bound judicial enquiry to look into all aspects of the incident, which will submit its report within three months. This enquiry should also cover the role of the Paru BJP MLA Ashok Singh. CPI(ML) also demanded that the Bihar government apologise to the people of Bihar for its inability to prevent this incident.

(A more detailed report on the entire Muzaffarpur incident will be release later)

Protests against the acquittal of all the accused in the Shankarbigha massacre case

After shameful verdicts acquitting all the accused in the Bathani Tola, Laxmanpur Bathe and Miyapur massacres, last week all the accused in the Shankarbigha massacre too were acquitted by a lower court.  CPI(ML) launched massive protests in Bihar against this travesty of justice. The Party called for a Bandh in Jehanabad and Arwal on 16 January 2015 – and subsequently, normal life was completely disrupted in both these districts as a result of the CPI(ML) bandh.  In Jehanabad, thousands of CPI(ML) activists flooded the streets from the morning itself, and blocked rail traffic in the area. Several trains including the Intercity Express were halted for some hours. As a result the traffic on the Patna-Gaya rail route was severely disrupted. 

In Arwal, thousands of CPI(ML) supporters participated in the protest led by CPI(ML) district secretary comrade Mahanand, demanding action against the perpetrators of the Shankarbigha massacre and justice for the victims. Addressing the protestors at the Bhagat Singh crossing in Arwal, comrade Mahanand pointed out that the very same government and administration which never tires of claiming that it stands for Dalits and deprived communities in the state, is one by one acquitting and releasing all those accused of orchestrating feudal massacres of the rural poor in Bihar. These massacres had been orchestrated during Lalu Prasad's RJD regime, and  when the JD(U)-BJP was in power,  these murderers of the rural poor were acquitted and released in a well-organized manner. One of the first decisions taken by the Nitish Kumar government was to disband the Amir Das Commission, set up to investigate the political connections of Ranveer Sena and the feudal caste militias in Bihar. Now, even though BJP is no longer in power in the state, and the so-called social justice parties are running Bihar, rural poor in the state are being denied justice. Their struggle and battle for justice continues. The murderers in the Laxmanpur Bathe, Bathani Tola, Miyapur, Narayanpur and Nagari massacres, and now in the Shankarbigha massacre, have been acquitted. This shows clearly that the government in Bihar is a government which protects feudal-criminal forces, and which betrays the poor in the state after seeking their votes.

In Jehanabad, a protest meeting was also organized at the Arwal crossing. This protest meeting was attended by Party district secretary comrade Sriniwas Sharma, AIKM leader comrade Ramadhar Singh, AIPWA leader comrade Kunti Devi and others. Protests were also held in Agiaon, Sahar, Piro, Charpokhri, Gadhani and other parts of Bhojpur, where effigies of the Bihar Chief Minister were burnt. Protests against the acquittal of the Shankarbigha accused were also organized in Aurangabad, Bhabua, Nalanda, Siwan, Darbhanga and other districts.

Public Hearing in Tamil Nadu on the impact of BJP and AIADMK's economic policies

A public hearing was organized by the CPI(ML) Madurai district committee on 10 January 2015 in Madurai. Comrade T.N. Gopalan, Dr. Vijaya Baskar from MIDS Chennai and Mr. Karunanidhi who is an advocate in the Chennai High Court Bench in Madurai were part of the panel which examined the witnesses at the public hearing. These witnesses included rural poor who had travelled several miles to depose their plight due to cuts in government expenditure on rural development programs.

Several facts were highlighted at the public hearing. The people of Tamil Nadu are being denied jobs under the MGNREGS. Card holders lucky enough to get jobs are waiting for almost 3 months to get wages. The AIADMK Government on its part has affected drastic cuts in social welfare assistance. Around 20,00,000 people were removed out of the total of 35,00,000 people who were getting welfare assistance under various schemes such as the Old Age Pension (OAP) scheme, schemes for assistance for handicapped, widows, destitute women and so on. These curtailed lists was prepared by the Revenue Department without informing the beneficiaries and got 'approved' by Gram Sabha meetings, which were never really held but were nevertheless recorded on paper.

Ninety nine percent of witnesses who deposed at the public hearing were women. Most of them were destitute or widows. They also shared their experiences of denial of ration card/ MGNREGA jobs as one cannot get 'double benefits' from the Government. They stated that 'direct to the beneficiary' clause is actually causing fraud and delayed payments. The biometric method to identify the person has failed many a time, resulting in people having to wait in front of rural bank counters for days. The cut in lists was arbitrary; while many landowners and supporters of ruling parties earn Rs. 1000 per month under various social welfare schemes, the poor and weaker sections are left high and dry.

Members of AISA had worked for several days to record cases, which were presented to the panelists. The facts were then verified by the panel by cross examining the persons who deposed. Many of the witnesses stated that the Government that they had voted for had vetoed their right to life.

The panelists concluded that the actions of the state and Central governments were arbitrary, and denied the welfare of the rural poor. The panel said that they would come out with a report soon and make all efforts to lobby in favor of the people. Comrade Balasundaram spoke at the public hearing and said that we need to conduct a 'clean India' campaign to remove the rulers' loot and pro-corporate, anti-people policies. 

Demonstrations against the arrest and imprisonment of NVH workers in Tamil Nadu

NVH is the South Korean auto ancillary of Hyundai, situated in the auto hub of Sriperumputhur. It employs about 150 permanent and 500 contract workers. The permanent workers formed a union under the banner of the United Labour Federation, but the Management has not yet recognised it. The workers subsequently went on a warpath demanding recognition, basic amenities, revision of wages and against the practice of employing workers under contract.

As a punishment for the protests, 10 workers were suspended and another 5 workers were terminated for demanding drinking water and water in the toilets. The workers' movement then demanded the reinstatement of those suspended and terminated; workers went on a strike by assembling inside the factory premises. State leaders of the Federation and workers who were thrown out by the management gathered at the gate of the factory in support of the strike. Irked by the action of workers, the South Korean officers attacked them violently. This was videographed and the video subsequently went viral in many social media networks. Around 40,000 people watched this video on the day it was uploaded.

The police went into the factory by midnight on 1 January 2015, and arrested the striking workers including 3 women. They also arrested the workers assembled at the gate. While hundreds of workers arrested were released by the evening, 28 workers who had spearheaded the movement were sent to the Vellore prison. But the Korean officers who had attacked the workers went scot free. Condemning the incident, AICCTU and RYA jointly organised a demonstration on 5 January 2015 at Sriperumputhur, on 6 January in Coimbatore and on 8 January in Ambattur.

Massive Rally Marks A Decade of Comrade Mahendra Singh's Martyrdom

A massive rally on 16 January 2015 at Bagodar marked ten years of Comrade Mahendra Singh's martyrdom. The entire Central Committee of the CPI(ML), as well as people's movement activists including Dayamani Barla attended the rally. Comrade Mahendra was assassinated in 2004.

In the morning, Central Committee members of the party went to pay respects at Comrade Mahendra Singh's ancestral village Khambra. Party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, people's movements leader Dayamani Barla, CPI(ML) MLA Rajkumar Yadav and former MLA Vinod Singh as well as other central leaders of the party were among those who joined the village people in offering flowers at the bust of Comrade Mahendra Singh.  Schoolchildren lined the road to Khambra, with flowers and red flags in their hands, in memory of the man who had pioneered the setting up of schools in the village.

Back at Bagodar, the CPI(ML) leaders and people's movement activists paid tributes at the bust of Comrade Mahendra outside the CPI(ML) office. Speaking here, Politburo member Comrade Ramji Rai said that Comrade Mahendra was a true people's representative, in a much more profound sense than just an elected member of the Legislative Assembly. Falsely accused of violating Assembly norms, he had made history by resigning in the House itself; it was the Assembly which had to expunge the accusations and take him back. He was the one fearless voice of people's movements inside the Assembly.

Speaking at the Rally, the newly elected CPI(ML) MLA from Dhanwar, Rajkumar Yadav said that Amit Shah and Modi failed in their bid for a 'CPIML-free Jharkhand' because they can never succeed in creating a 'struggle-free Jharkhand'. 

Comrade Vinod Singh addressed the Rally, underlining the many issues that face the youth and people of Jharkhand. AIPWA GS Meena Tiwari and AIKM GS Rajaram Singh also addressed the Rally. Dayamani Barla spoke of the great pillar of support that Comrade Mahendra Singh was to people's movements, and how the CPI(ML) continued that legacy.  

CPI(ML) GS Comrade Dipankar said that the CPI(ML) was a party of struggle on streets, fields, factories – when given a chance, the party would also represent those struggles inside the Assembly, but even when we fail to win the seat, the struggles would continue undaunted. He saluted the coal workers for their historic strike against the Coal Ordinance and farmers' struggles against the Land Grab Ordinance. He said that the people of Bagodar had proven wrong those who imagined that they could wipe out the CPI(ML) by killing Comrade Mahendra Singh. He said that the BJP Government wanted to hand over the country and Jharkhand over to 'company Raj' and foment hatred between communities. The JVM had proved to be the B-Team of the BJP. It is the time of the hour to raise high the red flag and join hands with people's movements to defend democracy and people's rights.       

Several resolutions were also passed, condemning the anti-democratic manner in which Ordinances are being promulgated by the Modi government by bypassing all forums of debate, condemning the Land Acquisition Ordinance which seeks to facilitate corporate land grab by doing away with the need for social impact assessment and peoples' consent in several projects and expressing solidarity with the coal miners' ongoing struggles against the recent Coal Ordinance.  Resolutions were also passed against the growing saffronization of education and institutions of the State and against growing communal fascist assaults and threats and intimidation of religious minorities. The Rally also condemned the brutal assault on Krishnadev Verma in Birni, and demanded a CBI enquiry in the matter as well as justice and compensation for the victim's family. The Rally demanded that the state government take active steps to increase employment opportunities in the state, and also ensure unemployment allowance for the unemployed youth.

Anti-communal campaign in Jehanabad

On 12 January 2015, CPI(ML) held protests all over Jehanabad town against the communal assaults launched by BJP and Bajrang Dal activists on a prayer meeting in a church in Madhavnagar in Jehanabad. On 11 January, a group of BJP activists had entered a Protestant church during a routine prayer meeting. They abused those present, looted the church and the organisers of the meeting, vandalized the premises, and broke chairs, mikes and other property in the church. A CPI(ML) team which investigated the whole incident, also came to know that the DM and SP of the area refused to take any action during the assault – even though the Christians in the church kept calling them for help. The police arrived only much later, and even then refused to arrest or any action against those who had perpetrated the violence. In fact, the BJP and Bajrang Dal activists abducted two of those present in the church, falsely accused them of conducting 'conversions' under 'coercion'  and handed them over to the Police after beating them up.

The CPI(ML) protest march, which was held on 12 January began from the CPI(ML) district office, went through the town and culminated in a public meeting at the railway station campus. The protest march demanded action against those communal forces which had attacked a prayer meeting of Christians in Jehanabad. The protest was led by CPI(ML) central committee member comrade Ramjatan Sharma, district secretary Sriniwas Sharma and others. Addressing the protest, comrade Ramjatan Sharma pointed out that ever since the Modi government has come to power, the emboldened communal fascist forces in the country are increasingly indulging in communal hate mongering, violence and intimidation of religious minorities.

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