Wednesday, February 4, 2015

ML Update | No. 06 | 2015

ML Update

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol.  18 | No. 06 | 3-9 FEB 2015

Covert Attack on the Constitution

On the occasion of Republic Day, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry of the Modi Government issued an advertisement, with an image of the Preamble of the Constitution minus two key words – 'secular' and 'socialist'. The Preamble of the Constitution declares that "WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; And to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation; IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION."

Scrambling to defend itself on the intent behind the omission of 'secular' and 'socialist' from a 2015 Republic Day advertisement, the Modi Government – as well as the BJP and its allies - found themselves speaking in many contradictory tongues.

First, the I&B Ministry explained that they had merely used a watermark of the original 1950 Preamble, which at the time only had the words 'Sovereign Democratic Republic'. What is wrong in commemorating the original Preamble, they asked innocently? Had the mater remained there, perhaps the apprehensions of India's concerned citizens would have subsided.

But soon enough, Shiv Sena, an ally of the BJP, hailed the 'accident' by which the two words were excluded, and called for the accident to be turned into a 'reality'. And soon after, the Telecom Minister of the Modi Government, senior BJP leader Ravishankar Prasad, called for a 'national debate' on the need for those two words in the Preamble! In support of these calls for outright deletion on the one hand and 'debate' on the other, it was argued that the words 'secular' and 'socialist' had been introduced by Indira Gandhi during the Emergency. These words carried the Emergency taint, it was argued in saffron quarters, and therefore should be deleted.

The Shiv Sena and Ravishankar Prasad revealed the real 'Mann ki Baat' behind the omission of the words 'secular' and 'socialist' from the Preamble as displayed in the Modi Government advertisement. That 'Mann ki Baat' is nothing but the agenda of eroding secularism to head in the direction of a 'Hindu Rashtra' in which minorities will not enjoy equality and freedom. It is extremely significant that throughout, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi maintained a calculated silence on the subject, allowing his Government and party to speak in many voices.    

Many offensive amendments made by Indira Gandhi to the Constitution were deleted by subsequent amendments by the Janata Government as well as by Supreme Court intervention. But no Government in the four decades since the Emergency has ever yet felt the need to 'debate' the inclusion of the words 'secular' and socialist', and there is good reason for this.  

The main reason is that those words simply underlined or amplified the assurance present in the rest of Preamble, as well as in many Articles of the Constitution. The word 'Secular' only reflects the spirit of the Preamble's guarantee of 'liberty of faith and worship', of equality, and of fraternity based on the 'dignity of the individual'. And this spirit is fully reflected in several Articles of the Constitution.

What about 'socialist'? It may be argued that with the passing of the 'public sector' regime and the establishment of liberalization as a policy framework, is has become anachronistic to call India 'socialist.' Others can argue, rightly, apart from the outward trappings of five-year plans and public sector, the Indian State was not socialist in any sense of the term. India was never even a welfare state, let alone socialist in the revolutionary sense. The failure to carry out land reforms and democratise agrarian relations, and the growing subordination of the public sector to the interests of crony capitalism are the two biggest negations of any kind of socialism.

But what these arguments forget is that the term 'socialist' is important in as much as it reflects the spirit of 'social, economic and political justice' promised in both the Preamble and the directive principles of state policy. At a time when Governments are trying to step back from their duty of ensuring basic entitlements of food, shelter, water and so on to the people, the Constitutional commitment to that duty is important. At the present juncture, any move to drop the word 'socialist' is nothing but a ploy to claim Constitutional 'approval' for the rampant flouting of the principles of social and economic justice by Governments.  

In a recent interview, BJP President Amit Shah has reiterated that his party sees no need to remove the words 'socialist' and 'secular' from the Preamble. But it is significant that in the same interview, Shah refused point blank to comment in any way on RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat's declaration that India is a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation). If the BJP is indeed committed to the secular spirit of India's Constitution, why is it unwilling to outright condemn the RSS' 'Hindu Nation' claim that is the worst possible attack on that spirit? In the same interview, Amit Shah defended what his party calls 'ghar wapsi' and called for a 'law against conversions' – both of which fly in the face of the Constitutional guarantee of the freedom to practice and propagate one's faith.

Ravishankar Prasad and others may ask, rhetorically, if Ambedkar was less secular because he saw no need to include the word 'secular' in the Preamble. But can there be any doubt whatsoever that Ambedkar was deeply opposed to the notion of India being a theocratic 'Hindu Rashtra'? Ambedkar himself organized mass conversions to Buddhism and declared, 'I may be born a Hindu but I will not die a Hindu'. Can there be any doubt that Ambedkar would find a 'law against conversions' opposed to the basic spirit of India's Constitution as he drafted it?  

A 'Hindu Rashtra' is not just deeply dangerous for India's religious minorities. It also spells an end to the Constitutional promise of equality and freedom for India's Dalits, adivasis, oppressed castes and women. At the time when India adopted the Constitution, the RSS had opposed it and had called for the Manusmriti to be the Constitution of India as a 'Hindu Rashtra'. The RSS organ Organiser, on November 30 1949, had complained that the Constitution had no mention of the Manusmriti – the same Manusmriti that is full of horrific decrees against the basic dignity and freedom of Dalits and women, the same Manusmriti that Ambedkar had publicly burnt.

It is precisely as a rebuff of and safeguard against these forces that seek to turn India into a Hindu nation that India's Constitution and Preamble must continue to declare India's secular character without any room for ambiguity.

Landless Poor Demonstrate in Bihar

Nearly one lakh landless poor demonstrated at over 200 regional centres in Bihar on the issue of dwellings and land for farming, following the call given by All India Agricultural Labour Association (AIALA) and Shehri Gareeb Morcha (Urban Poor Front). Angrily raising slogans of 'Give us land not announcements', the protestors demanded that they be given homestead land, papers for land occupancy, and occupation of the land for which they have been issued papers. In the course of the demonstration, nearly 1 lakh applications were given across the state in which the question of allotting nearly tens of thousands of acres of land for which papers have been issued. Once again the Manjhi government is offering false assurance of homes and farming lands to the poor. While several announcements pertaining to land distribution are being made on papers, in actual the situation is the exact opposite where on an increasing rate the poor are being displaced even from whatever little land they do have for living and agriculture. In the survey report brought by CPI (ML) it had been revealed that nearly sixty percent of people in Bihar were landless. Had the JD (U) government implemented the land reform recommendations then nearly 21 lakh acres of land marked by the committee could have been recovered by the state government and distributed to the landless for accommodation and doing agriculture. Protesting against the false promises of the state government, thousands of people even demonstrated in the cities on the question of land reforms.

The various AIALA leaders leading the demonstrations declared that they will continue to expose the false assurances of the government and intensify the movement to force the government to implement its announcements.

Protest against Exploitation of Women

In the past few days several instances of exploitation of women have been reported in Bihar. In one incident, a minor girl hailing from West Bengal was gang raped on 5 February in Muzaffarpur district collectorate. In yet another case of brutal exploitation, a woman named Geeta Rani, residing in a posh locality of the capital city tortured her 11 year old domestic help, inserting hot rods inside her private parts and had her sons send the dead body to the girl's home. All the accused in this case are absconding.

Amidst all these instances, PMCH nurses continue to protest in order to be regularized. They had started an indefinite hunger strike on 3 January 2015 that had lasted two weeks and during which the health of several nurses had deteriorated.

In light of these increasing occurrences of violence against women and their continued exploitation, protests marches were taken out under the leadership of AIPWA leaders and activists in Patna, Bhojpur and Muzaffarpur on 8 January and organized. The protestors demanded that the district administration of Muzaffarpur take responsibility for the gang rape of a minor and that Geeta Rani, who had brutally tortured a minor help, be arrested along with the other co-accused. In the rallies conducted following the protest marches, it was also demanded that the state administration guarantee safety of women and fulfill the demands of the protesting nurses. In Fatuha, besides the aforementioned demands, the AIPWA led protestors also demanded that the concerns of women working for the midday meal programme be immediately addressed. The protest march in Fatuha was led by State AIPWA President Saroj Chaubey.

Mahapanchayat by All India Kisan Mahasabha in Uttarakhand

On 28 January 2015, thousands of people took part in the mahapanchayat called by the Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Mahasabha in Bindukhatta in Nainital district, demanding the status of a revenue village for Bindukhatta and protesting against the state's decision to make Bindukhatta a municipality. The residents of Bindukhatta have been demanding the status of village since 1970's under the leadership of CPI (ML) and its mass organizations. Though, for a considerable period, no other political party was willing to support this demand, of late the demand for a village hood has become a part of the manifestos of most parties in the state. However, despite this, ignoring the long standing demand of the residents of this forest land, Bindukhatta was made into a municipality and the anger of the people could be clearly seen in the streets of Laalkuan. It is important to note that though members of bureaucracy had cautioned the state government against making Bindukhatta a municipality and pointed out several legal hurdles, the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Harish Rawat chose to ignore people's genuine demand along with the suggestions of his own bureaucratic advisors. CPI (ML) believes that the decision to make Bindukhatta a municipality is solely guided by the motive to enable some Congressmen become councilors, chairmen and also find employment for several Congress contractors. This is a conspiracy to deny to the common people of Bindukhatta ownership rights to their land.

Flustered by the participation of thousands in the protests organized by the Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Mahasabha, the Congress workers burnt the effigy of those who participated in the demonstrations. The burning of effigy of protesting masses only exposes the political bankruptcy of the Congress.

Movement in Ramgarh against Gang Rape and Murder of Tribal Women

On 15 December 2014, two minor tribal women were gang raped in Vasundhara Vatika hotel, located in Rajrappa Road in Chitarpur (district Ramgarh, Jharkhand). One of the victims had to be referred to Ranchi following excessive bleeding, however, her life could not be saved. On 27 December 2014, a team led by CPI (ML)'s  Bigendra Thakur, Jaglal Soren, Mahadev Manjhi, Heeralal Mahto and RYA's Amal Kumar Ghoshal and Krishna Munda, went to Tikahara Tola in Bokaro to meet the families of the parents. The information gathered by them revealed that one of the girls, aged 16, was working as a sweeper in hotel named Vasundhara Vatika owned by Dilip Saav for a wage of Rs. 3000. Within a few days of joining work, Dilip began to sexually assault her and also forced her into sex work with other guests in the hotel. On 15 December, when the victim and another 14 year old girl from the same village who had joined work were sleeping in the same room, Dilip along with two other men came to their room and gang raped them. After FIRs were filed by surviving victim and the father of the girl who died, Dilip was arrested, however, the issue of a sexual exploitation racket was thrown into cold storage. The report prepared by CPI (ML) and RYA team revealed that several girls from outside areas were brought and forced into sex work and also that the incharge of Rajrappa Police station, Lileshwar Mahto had been staying in one of the hotel rooms for nearly four months.

After returning, a press conference was called in Ramgarh office in which the district secretary Com. Bhuvneshwar Bediya, Com. Saryu Bediya and the members of the fact finding team exposed the rape incident and demanded that the culprits be arrested, the hotel premises be sealed, the rapists be charged for murder and Lileshwar Mahto be suspended. On 28 December 2014, thousands of women and youth took out a protest march under the leadership of AIPWA leaders Rupa Besra and Jhuma, RYA leader Amal Kumar Ghoshal and several other CPI (ML) leaders. On 29 December 2014 again thousands of people marched from Chitarpur bazaar to Rajrappa Mod, under the joint leadership of CPI (ML), AIPWA and RYA leaders demanding immediate action on the culprits and Lileshwar Mahto and compensation for the survivor and the family of the dead victim. The administration is still attempting to cover up the issue exposing BJP government's view on security of rural tribal women. The movement led by CPI (ML) has resulted in several people from rural and urban areas coming out on streets in protest. 

Demonstrations by Footpath Shopkeepers in Jehanabad

On 29 December 2014, all the footpath shopkeepers of Jehanabad carried out an angry demonstration outside the district council office under the banner of the 'Footpath Shopkeepers Association', led by CPIML activists. The demonstration followed a massive procession from Unta Sabzi Mandi to the district council office. The programme was led by district councilor Upadhyaya Yadav, AICCTU leader Dheeraj Gupta, ML city incharge Santosh Keshri and Footpath Shopkeepers Association leaders Arvind Kumar Chopra, Bablu Kumar and others. Through the programme, demands were raised pertaining to – permanent arrangement for footpath shopkeepers, provision of pukka shops, drinking water and toilets for shopkeepers, entry of footpath shopkeepers in BPL list and immediate vacation of shops by those not involved in business. While there has been a long standing movement on these demands, no concrete steps have yet been taken by the district authorities. A delegation of leaders handed over a four-point demand letter and pressurized the district administration to assure that immediate action will be taken, failing which the movement would be intensified.

CPI (ML) Ensures Return of Land to a Tribal Family in Maharashtra

About 100 km away from Mumbai, in a Dhabon village of Palghar district, some non tribal hooligans had snatched the land of a tribal family. On 16 January 2015, under the leadership of CPI (ML), the land was recovered from the goons and restored to the family. On the instructions of a goon, Chaubey, the family was told by some of the local tribal leaders working as brokers for Chaubey that the family had no ownership over the land and they must take accept Rs. 25,000 and vacate the land. Having no knowledge about ownership rights of the tribals, the family vacated the land. When the local CPI (ML) leadership came to know about the incident they obtained the property documents on which it was mentioned that land belonged to the family that had been forced to vacate. On 16 January 2015, the party cadre along with the family launched the occupy movement and captured the land by putting red flags on it.  At the start of the movement, Com. Mahendra Singh was remembered on his 10th martyrdom day. 

Protest against Suspension of AISA Leader from Lucknow University

AISA activists organised a protest rally in GPO, demanding the revocation of the expulsion of their leader Sudhanshu and re-establishment of the women's cell in Lucknow University. Earlier this month, in a shameful assault on campus democracy, the Lucknow University (LU) administration had 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.

Addressing the protest rally, AISA leader Puja Shukla said that the actions of LU administration show that there is no space or permission in the University for discussing the rights of women to exercise their choices. AISA Jt. Secretary, Sandeep Sen said that the expulsion was an outcome of AISA's attempts to expose the corruption in the university and raise questions about the mismanagement. Protest was held by AISA activists in Delhi in front of UP Bhawan.

Unveiling the Statue of Mohan Singh

On 31 December 2014, in Bahedi village of Bareily district, the statue of Comrade Mohan Singh was unveiled. Com. Mohan Singh was a leader of CPI (ML) and the Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Mahasabha.  He had died in an accident on 31 December 2013 while he was leading an indefinite hunger strike by the farmers fighting for the outstanding payment of 44 crore for sugarcanes.  On the initiative of the party and the local farmers, it was decided that his statue would be established in the Kisan Bhawan, Bahedi on his first death anniversary. The statue was unveiled by the CPI (ML)'s central committee member and the general secretary of Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sabha, Com. Rajaram Singh.

On this occasion a pledge-taking rally was also organized for the farmers. Addressing the gathering, Com. Rajaram Singh said that when the communal forces were busy breaking the unity of farmers and killing many in Muzaffarnagar last year, and the farmer's unions instead of coming to their rescue had chosen to ally themselves with the saffron brigade, it was the Kisan Mahasabha under the leadership of Com. Mohan Singh that sent a strong message of united farmer's movement. He added that in current times when Modi Government has launched an unprecedented attack on the farmers, the legacy of Com. Mohan Singh will help in providing the direction. The rally was chaired by veteran Communist leader Com. Atri Kumar Rishi and was moderated by Com. Javed Akhtar.

More than 300 people including late Com. Mohan Singh's wife Rachna Singh, participated in the programme.

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