A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 18, No. 26, 23 – 29 JUNE 2015
Resist BJP's Agenda of Yoking Yoga to Communal Politics
The long-standing global appeal of yoga as an easy and affordable choice for staying fit and healthy has now been recognised by the UN with the declaration of June 21 as the International Yoga Day. The interest and participation witnessed on the occasion of the first IYD in India and beyond reflected this popularity.
But for the Modi government and RSS-BJP leadership, yoga has turned into yet another weapon of political propaganda, cultural homogenization and communal targeting, apart from promoting the interests of a select few who have made fortunes by commercializing yoga. It is therefore imperative to make a clear distinction between yoga as an Indian heritage as well as a modern-day fitness choice and the Sangh-BJP politics of yoga.
As part of Indian heritage and tradition, it is important to recognise the plural origin and development of yoga with multiple schools and exponents contributing to its popularisation. Most yoga positions and postures are inspired by natural phenomena and the animal world and have no overt religious connotation or symbolism. Yet by trying to make it compulsory in schools and blaming Muslims for non-adherence (BJP leader Ram Madhav, for example, questioned the absence of Vice President Hamid Ansari in IYD celebrations in Delhi before withdrawing his communally motivated tweet), the BJP is bent on using yoga as an item of cultural regimentation and communal polarisation.
In his IYD message, Modi cautioned against commodification of yoga. Yet, the BJP scheme of yoga promotion revolves primarily around Baba Ramdev who has built up a massive business empire by selling yoga and a growing array of products with dubious claims of curing diseases and reinforcing sexist attitudes and superstitious beliefs. Of the 600-odd camps where IYD was observed under official patronage, a good many were outsourced to centres run by Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravishankar. Instead of promoting yoga as a free personal choice and private experience, the Modi government has turned yoga into a state-sponsored televised public spectacle.
Let us now consider the issue in the context of public health. Contrast the Modi government's all-out promotion of yoga to the growing neglect of public health infrastructure and services, and it becomes clear that for the BJP the yoga campaign is not really part of any public health agenda. For all its health benefits yoga is no panacea for India's acute public health crisis. And a government which is busy slashing its health budget and social welfare spending, and is systematically abdicating the state's responsibility of providing universal healthcare, cannot absolve itself of its guilt by just patronizing yoga promotion events and subsidising dubious yoga commerce. Indeed, Bhopal gas disaster survivors used the IYD occasion to tell the world how the government has shut down yoga centres meant for them. Like the much-touted 'swachhata abhiyan', the yoga campaign too promises to be another grand televised exercise in tokenism.
The IYD celebrations came close on the heels of the surfacing of the first major scam of the Modi government. The government which came to power promising repatriation of black money and corruption-free governance now stands deeply implicated in patronizing the kingpin of IPL scam defying the law of the land. The mass resentment generated by the land grab ordinance, escalating prices, and cases of complicity in corruption is not going to be swept aside by the IYD hype.
We are approaching the 40th anniversary of the infamous Emergency. The agenda of cultural regimentation in the wake of IYD is one of symptoms of Modi's authoritarian, 'Supreme Leader' style of governance that presents the undeclared but very real threat of Emergency in India today. We must resolve to resist this undeclared Emergency and defend our diversity and freedom with all our might.
Government Concedes Demands after an Effective Strike by Bihar State Karyapalak Sahayak Sangh
The recently formed Bihar State Karyapalak Sahayak Sangh (Bihar State Peons and Assistants Union) staged an effective state wide strike from 8 June to 11 June with a 7 point demand charter including regularization of service, increase in honorarium (from 9,000 to 20,000), and maintaining seniority of those who are removed after a project is finished so that they may be re-employed. The BSKSS, associated with the Mahasangh (Gope group) and AICCTU, had on 26 May submitted their demands to the Chief Secretary, General Administration, who had called them for talks on 5 June and also asked upper Project Director, Bihar Administrative Reforms Mission Society to be present. However, on 27 May the upper Project Director issued directives for honorarium raise which was very discriminatory (from 9,000 to 10,500 for karyapalak sahayaks, from 30,000 to 40,000 for IT managers, from 10,000 to 17,000 for IT assistants). The talk to be held on 5 June was also mysteriously cancelled. The Sangh submitted a letter of protest on 29 May.
Outraged, the BSKSS gave notice of the strike on 5 June and a 4 day strike was successfully carried out. On the first day itself, the administration started putting pressure for ending the strike. On the second day Chief Secretary Amir Subhani issued a directive notice ordering appointment of new karyapalak sahayaks and sacking of the striking sahayaks. On 10 June, copies of this directive were burnt in protest in 35 district HQs of Bihar. On the same day a fresh notice was issued repeating the 9 June directive with an added note, "As the number of applications received for Bihar Lok Seva Adhikar in 32 dstricts is zero, the process of removing the striking sahayaks from service should be started immediately".
However, the administration had to finally bow down in the face of the effectiveness of the strike and on 11 June Amir Subhani called a delegation (which included Rambali Yadav, Ranvijay Kumar, Ashish Kumar, and Mohd. Belal) for talks, during which Shri Subhani gave positive assurance on all the 7 demands of the striking sahayaks. He promised to raise the issue of regularization strongly in the committee constituted to look into the regularization of sahayaks. Agreeing that the honorarium rise was unfair to sahayaks, he promised to rectify and increase it within a month. He also promised that the validity of the seniority panel would be increased from 1 year to 3 or 5 years. In case of theft or damage to the computer system (which belongs personally to the sahayak), the honorarium would be maintained, and pending honorariums in various departments would also be paid without delay. After the talks, the strike was conditionally called off with the caveat that if the promised assurances were not fulfilled within the stipulated time limit, a stronger strike would be organized. A letter to this effect was submitted to the department on 12 June.
Sahayaks from 33 out of 38 districts participated in the strike, and were joined later by 2 more districts. Work came to a standstill in about 500 out of 523 blocks. Dharnas were held simultaneously during the strike by sahayaks in various districts. In Patna the dharna was held in front of the Collectorate.
Eight Day Hunger Strike in Ara by CPI(ML) Leaders
Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha State Secretary, Com. Sudama Prasad and RYA President Com. Raju Yadav sat on an 8 day hunger strike in front of the Ara Collectorate from 6 June to 13 June to demand – (i) payment to farmers for paddy purchase, (ii) crop damage compensation to farmers and sharecroppers, (iii) arrangement for water in canals, (iv) quick completion of the Dedhua project, (v) to end cuts in ration, kerosene, MNREGA, and Indira Awas, (vi) to give 5 decimal residential land to all poor, (vii) revoke the Land Grab ordinance, (viii) take back all false cases on CPI(ML) leaders, and (ix) to regularize contractual and honorarium workers and teachers. The district authorities paid no heed to and did not even bother to meet the protesters, who then did a chakka jam on 10 June and called for a bandh on 12 June.
On 13 June the leaders broke their fast and accepted juice from CPI(ML) General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya and State Secretary Com. Kunal. Addressing the meeting on the occasion, Com. Dipankar said that the 8 day hunger strike held up the mirror to the anti-people and anti-farmer policies of the central as well as Bihar governments. He pointed out that farmers, workers, shikshakarmis, anganwadi workers, and others are being cheated of their rights. Instead of rule of the people, these governments have brought in Company Raj. Farmers' suicides have spilled over from Maharashtra and Punjab into the entire country. The livelihoods of workers, youth, and small shopkeepers are in jeopardy. The jan-dhan accounts are only another means to cheat the people. Com. Dipankar said that Nitish's opposition to the Land ordinance is not credible because he himself is guilty of grabbing land through BIADA, and liquor factories that are being run on bhoodaan land in Patna. He said that Bhojpur, true to its revolutionary traditions would fight to overturn these governments and their anti-people and anti-poor policies.
The meeting was also addressed by AIARLA National President Com. Rameshwar Prasad, Kisan Mahasabha National General Secretary Com. Rajaram Singh, Com. Sudama Prasad, Com. Raju Yadav, AISA State Secretary Com. Ajit Kushwaha, Kisan Mahasabha Bhojpur district Secretary Com. Chandradeep Singh, and Com. Sudhir Suman. A 12 point political resolution was read out and a mass protest against the Land ordinance was announced for 26 June. A resolution was also passed against the insensitive behavior of the Bhojpur DM which did not befit a public servant.
News was received that after this agitation, the Bihar State Co-operative Bank sent Rs 370 crores to the central co-operative banks of all districts for payment of paddy purchase to the farmers. Com. Sudama Prasad and Com. Chandradeep Singh said that this was a victory for the protesters. They asserted that the financially burdened farmers of Bhojpur would not commit suicide but would fight to keep their land, their agriculture, and their dignity.
AIPF fact finding team visits Palamu to Investigate Cases of State-police Repression and Social Oppression
The team comprising of ex-MLA from CPI(ML), Vinod Singh, Ananta Prasada Gupta, Dayamani Barla, Jugal Pal and Anil Anshuman, investigated the incidents of – murder of civil rights activist Prahlad Sao by the coal mafia in Chandwa of Latehar district, killing of 12 people by the police in a fake encounter in Bakoriya (Satbarwa) of Manika, molestation of a minor girl by a CRPF jawan in Betla, and burning of dalit-adivasi homes in Anharidhodha (Chainpur) of Palamu district.
(i) Murder of Civil Rights Activist Prahlad Sao
On 15 May, Prahlad Sao, well known activist and Jan Kalyan Samiti President was murdered. Till date the killers have not been caught. The AIPF team reached Tori on 17 June, and came to know many facts about the deadly business of mining and mafia in the region. For the last 7 or 8 months hundreds of trucks have been bringing illegally mined coal to platform 3 of Tori railway station from where it was sent by train route to Reliance, Amrapali, Dhanuka, BK, Hindalco and other companies. Local people informed the team that this illegal business received the protection and patronage of police and administration. Prahlad Sao's family told the AIPF team that they used to get phone calls from IAS and IPS officers in Ranchi telling them to make their father stop the agitation. Some days ago, coal trader Dhanuka had come and said they could take as much money as they liked, but should stop obstructing the coal loading. The AIPF team has demanded CBI enquiry into the whole matter and stressed that the more important issue is not who fired the revolver but who is behind the firing.
(ii) Bakoriya (Satbarwa) Encounter Case
Twelve people were killed by the police in the name of Maoist encounter on the night of 8 June. Local people and media personnel told the AIPF team that this was a strange encounter where only people from one side were killed. The police did not suffer even a scratch. The dead received bullets on their chests. The police have said that four of the dead were Maoists, but are silent on the rest. The dead include four minor boys. The team visited the home of the victims and talked to their families and local villagers. While all of them gave statements in a mechanical way as if they were under pressure to speak as instructed, the general talk in the area was that the killings had been carried out by a criminal outfit JJMP which enjoys police patronage, and the police was taking vicarious "credit" for this fake encounter.
(iii) Betla Molestation Case
10 May, when a minor girl from Akhra village came to a primary school hand pump in Betla to draw water, one jawan from the Betla national park CRPF camp caught her and took her into a school room. He was accompanied by another jawan. A woman who was passing by raised an alarm to collect the villagers. The angry villagers went into the camp and demanded that both culprits be produced. But the camp officials denied the whole matter and said it was a false accusation. CPI(ML) leaders Birju Ram and Kanhai Singh reached the spot and, along with the angry people, demanded the immediate arrest of the molesters, and blocked the Barwadih main road. When the enquiry team reached the spot, the victim, her family, and hundreds of villagers gave full details of the incident. Eye witness Jeera Devi and many other women described the misbehaviour of the CRPF jawans.
(iv) Andharidhodha Case
On 18 June the AIPF team reached Andharidhodha village in Chainpur block of Palamu district where strongmen with political patronage had recently burnt down dalit-adivasi homes. CPI(ML) and Jharkhand Vanadhikar Manch, Chainpur, called a public meeting in village Navadih. A dalit-adivasi victim of the brutal arson incident described to the team how, at the instance of the Forest Department, armed strongmen (from the dominant Yadav community) from nearby village Jhalar came and abused them, beat them up, broke and destroyed all the things in their houses, and then doused the homes with kerosene and set fire to them, ordering the dalit-adivasis to leave the place.
Following the enquiries, a press conference was held in Daltonganj where AIPF leaders condemned the incidents at Chandwa, Bakoriya, Betla, and Andharidhodha and raised demands pertaining to investigation of these incidents, arrest of the culprits and punishment for the guilty. The team informed that a mahapanchayat would be held on 9 August in front of the Governor of Jharkhand at Ranchi to press the above demands.
School Building Construction Starts after Agitation
The school grounds in Agiaon (Bhojpur) had been under the control of dominant forces for many years, whereas 400 students had to study in merely 2 rooms of the school. This affected the working of the school badly and teaching came to a near standstill. The government was seen to be playing with and destroying the future of the children.
The people of the village had raised the issue with the block and district authorities. On 27 September 2014 they held a dharna at the block HQs. Beginning from 16 January this year, the school was kept under lock-out for 3 months. Despite everything, the dominant forces retained capture of the grounds, and construction of the school building could not be started.
Finally the people of the village, under the leadership of CPI(ML) and RYA, carried on a sustained struggle, cut down the trees and broke down the wall put up by these forces, and freed the school grounds. After this, the police administration, at the behest of the current MLA, former MLA, and his powerful brother, slapped false cases on 15 young men of the village. Instead of acting against the land grabbing dominant forces, the police continuously harassed RYA leader Manoj Manzil and other youth. When the 50-strong police came to arrest them, they had to face the wrath of the villagers and had to go back empty-handed. Protesting against this police action, hundreds of villagers including school children, students, youth and women took part in a gherao. Senior district officials assured them that the false cases would be taken back and construction of the school building would be started soon, after which the gherao was withdrawn. Addressing the gherao, Party leaders said that Nitish Kumar is destroying the future of the children, workers, and farmers of the village, but the CPI(ML) would not tolerate this and would launch widespread agitations for ensuring proper education for rural children.
Thus the government and the administration had to bow down in the face of strong agitation and the construction of the school building has finally started. The success of this agitation has enthused the people of the entire area and their faith in the CPI(ML)'s commitment to fight for people's rights has increased.
Historic Bandh in Kaler Block (Arwal) for Electricity as Thousands Take to the Streets
Of the 5 blocks in Arwal district, Kaler is the only one which does not have electricity even in its Headquarters. In spite of several agitations, the people have so far received nothing but assurances from the administration. Several initiatives have been taken by the Bijli Lao Sangharsh Samiti which includes many Party leaders. Responding to the concerns of the villagers who have been raising the question of electricity, the CPI(ML) Arwal district committee held a meeting on 20 May 2015 and announced a bandh in Kaler block on 26 May. After a sustained campaign, the people gave a positive response to the bandh call. On 26 May people came out on the streets from 7 am. Most shopkeepers closed shop and gathered on NH 98, blocking the road. Soon people took to the streets in Validad, Parasi, Belasar and Amir Bigaha also. The bandh took on historic proportions, paralyzing the entire district. The bandh continued till late evening and meetings were organized at various places. Leaders addressing the meetings pointed out the step-motherly treatment meted out to Kaler by the Nitish government. The block headquarter was shut down and the BDO was obliged to come out on to the streets.
Finally, the electricity department officials and SDO assured the people that work on electrification would start within one week, after which the bandh was called off. The bandh had a visible effect, as a truckload of poles was unloaded very soon in Kaler, and a junior engineer conducted a survey in Validad for electrification. It is noteworthy that agitations by the CPI(ML) have been instrumental in bringing transformers and electricity to dozens of villages in Arwal. The people have been enthused by the initiatives taken by the Party for electrification.
Effective Agitation for Electricity in Giridih
As part of a series of agitations launched by the CPI(ML) against irregular electricity supply in Rajdhanwar block of Giridih district, a decisive "Ghera Dalo Dera Dalo" agitation was held on 21-22 May, led by Party MLA Rajkumar Yadav.
Hundreds of people under the leadership of Com. Rajkumar Yadav and Com. Rameshwar Choudhury marched from the block headquarters to the electricity office in Barjo and started the Ghera Dalo Dera Dalo. A huge gathering of people from Rajdhanwar, Gaava and Teesri blocks joined the agitation under the leadership of Kishori Agarwal, Nagehwar Yadav and Jainarayan Yadav. Posters at the venue declared that if the demands were not met by 22 May, the CPI(ML) MLA would sit on an indefinite hunger strike from 23 May.
Work at the electricity was brought to a standstill from 21 May, with the people at large participating actively in the bandh. The demands included changing of transformers in Rajdhanwar, and connecting the Rajdhanwar Vidhansabha line to the Giridih 33 KV line instead of to the Kodarma line which was full of faults and could not give a regular supply. Getting no positive response from the administration, the CPI(ML) MLA started his indefinite hunger strike on 23 May as announced. This news spread like wildfire and people from far and near started gathering at the venue, and even collected Rs 10,000 for the program. The response of the people shook the administration and they had perforce to take note of the agitation. On 24 May, about 4,000-5,000 people were gathered at the site of the strike. The administration hurriedly started talks at the hunger strike site itself, in which the electricity department General Manager, supervising engineer of DVC, Kherimahua civil SDO, Rajdhanwar BDO-CO, and Jharkhand State Electricity Board supervising engineer also participated. At the conclusion of the talks the administration bowed down and agreed to all the main demands of the people.
An Eight Day Strike Called by ASHA Workers Union in Bihar From 21-28 June
The ASHA workers union in Bihar (Gope group) has called for a strike from 21 to 28 June with support from CPI(ML) and AIPWA. The working conditions for ASHA workers in Bihar are in a terrible state. The workers do not receive monthly wages, are not provided with even basic toilet facilities in health centres where they work and there is not even changing room for their needs. Several doctors and other health centre staff mistreat them on a regular basis. They are paid a paltry sum of Rs. 75 per day for providing polio and other vaccinations. One month prior to the strike, the ASHA workers had submitted their demands to the government and to their department but there was no response. Instead of responding to the demands of ASHA workers, the government has instead chosen to resort to threatening and oppression. However, the ASHA workers remain undeterred in their spirit to carry on their struggle for their rights.
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication, R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22442790, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.cpiml.org