Yakub Memon's Hanging Exposes Double Standards
Blatantly disregarding fresh evidence from Indian Intelligence sources of his cooperation, appeals from mercy from a wide range of Indian citizens as well as an initial split verdict by a Supreme Court bench, Yakub Memon, convicted in the 1993 Bombay Blasts case, was hanged to death.
Yakub Memon maintained till the end that it was his brother Tiger Memon, not himself, who was the mastermind of the blasts. Evidence for Yakub's own involvement rests on the weak ground of a police approver's testimony and the retracted custodial confessions of two co-accused people. Yakub not only escaped ISI protection in Pakistan to return to India but also brought members of his family back to India, trusting in the assurance that the Indian justice system would treat them fairly. Instead, Yakub been executed after being jailed for 22 years.
In the wake of Yakub's hanging, many have raised the very valid objections to capital punishment itself as unjust and vengeful. But the point must also be made that Yakub's case did not meet the bar of 'rarest of the rare' even by the guidelines laid down for death penalty by Indian Courts. Evidence emerged from intelligence agents themselves suggesting strong mitigating circumstances; it is only by ignoring these mitigating circumstances that Yakub was executed.
Yakub's hanging underlines the systematic injustices, biases and double standards built into India's judicial and political systems. It starkly underlines the utter failure of the State to punish the guilty of the 1992-93 Mumbai riots, which killed more than 900 people. The 1993 blasts were perpetrated in the name of avenging the Mumbai riots. The Sri Krishna Commission named Shiv Sena and BJP leaders as well as policemen who perpetrated the riots – yet these guilty were never prosecuted and punished. Instead, the mastermind Bal Thackeray received a state funeral and a memorial in Mumbai.
Similarly, the perpetrators of the Gujarat genocide of 2002 enjoy power. Even those convicted for the Naroda Patiya massacre in 2002 – such as Babu Bajrangi and BJP's ex-MLA Maya Kodnani – are out on bail, and Kodnani's life sentence was suspended recently by the Gujarat High Court. How come the perpetrators of the Hashimpura massacre of Muslims or Bathe and Bathani massacres of the oppressed castes get mass acquittals? Why such lenience for those perpetrators of mass killings who enjoy political support? Why does 'rule of law' become so flexible for Kodnani and Bajrangi and the Hashimpura or Bathe-Bathani convicts, and rigid when it comes to Yakub Memon?
The case of the blasts perpetrated by Sanghi terror groups is even more shameful. A series of such cases are being sabotaged by investigative agencies in the Modi regime. A Public Prosecutor in the Malegaon blasts case, Rohini Salan, has gone on record to say that the NSA was pressurizing her to weaken the case. A witness in the Ajmer blasts case, Randhir Singh, turned hostile – and was rewarded with a Ministerial berth in the Jharkhand BJP Government's Cabinet! The entire file of the Jammu and Kashmir mosque attack case has disappeared. Blasts cases involving Muslim accused are accompanied by a high-pitched patriotic media rhetoric branding any demands for due process or appeals for mercy as 'anti-national' or 'support for terrorism'. Barring a few honourable exceptions, the media is largely silent on this open, systematic sabotage of justice in the Sanghi terror cases.
The Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy branded the mourners in Yakub Memon's funeral procession as 'potential terrorists,' followed by BJP MPs like Sakshi Maharaj who said all such mourners should be sent to Pakistan. Many BJP leaders have branded all citizens who opposed the hanging and pleaded for mercy, as 'anti-nationals.' It is condemnable that Roy should be allowed to occupy a Constitutional post after his communal tweet. And the BJP leaders making such statements need to be asked why they don't find perpetrators of communal and caste massacres and Sanghi terror – and their political protectors in their own party and Government – as anti-national.
The stance of the non-BJP and self-proclaimed 'secular' political spectrum on the Yakub hanging was also shameful. While the Congress and SP toed the BJP line, there was deafening silence from the RJP, JDU and other parties. The united position of the Left parties that boldly mobilized opinion against the hanging was encouraging.
Yakub's hanging, with its message of the untrustworthiness and double standards of the Indian State, has left a deep scar on the Muslim psyche, comparable to the wound caused by Operation Bluestar and the anti-Sikh pogrom of November 1984 or the demolition of Babri Masjid and subsequent Mumbai-Surat riots and Gujarat genocide.
Democratic forces must take up the challenge of turning the alienation of India's minorities and oppressed sections including Dalits, workers and women, and their anger at double standards, into a shared revolutionary resolve for democracy and justice. Yakub's hanging has revived and strengthened demands for abolition of death penalty and for bringing the guilty of communal riots and caste massacres to justice. This growing democratic voice shows the way forward to broaden and intensify the resistance to the Modi regime's assault on democracy.
14th National Conference of Jan Sanskriti Manch
The two day 14th national conference of JSM was held on 31 July and 1 August 2015 in Nabarun Bhattacharya Hall, Hindi Bhawan, New Delhi. More than 200 delegates from Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and other states participated in the conference.
Renowned painter, Ashok Bhowmik, welcomed the delegates and guests during the inagural session. The session was chaired by Prof. Manager Pandey and conducted by Com. Radhika Menon.
Highlighting the impact of the economic scenario of the current times in his keynote address during the inaugural session, Prof. Arun Kumar said that post 1991, the state had relinquished its responsibility of ensuring the welfare of the people and the people had been left to fend for themselves. The principles of the market dictated that people should not be viewed as poor or rich but only as potential consumers. The market was least interested in moral concerns and even as several technological advancements had been made, the societal transformation had been left behind. Poet-scientist Laltoo expressed concerns regarding the much talked about Indian Consciousness and if it were not merely an illusion. He particularly stressed the need for the activists working on cultural fronts to focus on language issues and the need to strengthen the culture of science. The cultural activists must try to strengthen rational and scientific thinking among people and at the same time also try to forge strong emotional ties with people. Ali Jawed and Murli Manohar Prasad Singh, in their address during the inaugural session focussed on the threats posed by fascist designs of the Sangh Parivar. Karamsheel Bharti of the Dalit Lekhak Sangh said that the India cannot rise only if it rises against casteism and religious discrimination. The chair of the inaugural session, Prof. Manager Pandey said that five kinds of power existed in Indian society- power of the ruling establishment, power of the corporate and the capitalists, power of caste, power of religion and power of men. These powers did not tolerate any kind of disagreement and even as they raise slogans of democracy, they only work to destroy it. He stressed the need for the activists to fight on all these five fronts. A resolution was also passed in the support of activist Teesta Setalvad.
The cultural session saw performances by Hirawal and an audio visual presentation on progressive writers by Saman Habib and Sanjay Mattoo titled- 'Aasman hilta hai jab gaate hain hum" (The sky shakes when we sing). Paintings by Com. Anupam Roy were also displayed at the conference venue.
In the delegate sessions that took place during the two days, draft papers on – drama, painting, media, cinema, education, poetry, people's languages and stories were presented, followed by an intense discussion on the same. In order to intervene creatively in these areas and intensify the debates, new convenors were selected in these areas. A call was given to intensify the struggle against the right wing assaults on social and cultural activists.
The conference ended with constitution of 151 member National Council and 49 member National Executive. Prof. Rajendra Kumar, poet and critique, was elected as the new President and Com. Pranay Krishna was re-elected as the General Secretary.
FTII Students March to the Parliament
The students of FTII have been waging an inspiring and a determined struggle against the sub-standard, partisan and saffronized appointments in FTII for almost 2 months now. These include appointment of Gajendra Chouhan as the chairperson of FTII and appointments of Anagha Ghaisas, Shailesh Gupta, Narendra Pathak, Pranjal Saikia and Rahul Solapurkar to the FTII governing council and FTII society. The selection of the aforementioned persons was made not on the basis of their creative contributions in the field, but solely on the basis of their loyalty to the RSS–BJP brigade. On the 53rd day of their strike, the students of FTII came from Pune to New Delhi to March to the Parliament in order to have their concerns heard and addressed. JNUSU and AISA, extending solidarity with the students of FTII gave a call urging all the progressive sections to join this march. Besides several other progressive and left organizations, the march was also attended by Kavita Krishnan, PB member CPI(ML), JNUSU president Ashutosh, AISA National President Sucheta De. Com. Kavita while addressing the protestors said that filmmakers were often known to provide different lenses with which one could view the world, however, the current lot which had appointed to crucial posts in FTII, were known more for their preference for only a saffron lens and more often than not breaking any other lens that allowed an alternative perspective. The cultural groups Sangwari and the Hirawal team of Jan Sanskriti Manch also performed during the protest. However, even as the students marched peacefully, the Delhi police once again tried to silence a peaceful march by detaining students and seizing the cameras and mobile phones of those participating in the march. Such acts of brute force to silence voices of dissent are extremely condemnable. CPI(ML) and its fronts will continue to stand in solidarity with the students of FTII as they wage a brave struggle against saffronization of education and dilution of quality of higher education.
Left Parties Protest in Uttarakhand
On the call of the main left parties to observe a nationwide protest day on 20 July 2015, CPI, CPI (M), CPI (ML) and SUCI (C) organized a protest march in the state capital of Uttarakhand, Dehradun. The massive protest march was followed by burning the effigy of the Modi government at the Lansdown Chowk.
The left leaders addressing the protest said that though the BJP government had come to power riding on the anti-corruption wave against the Congress, having completed only one year in office, the involvement of some of its own ministers in various acts of corruption and scams have become already become a major talking point. In the Lalitgate, the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Chief Minister of Rajasthan who have been found involved along with their family members. The Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh has turned into a killer scam in which the direct involvement of the MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and several RSS leaders has been brought to light.
The speakers said that with several scams involving Centre and state governments of BJP, Congress and other parties seems to suggest as if the various central government and the state governments are in competition with each other as to who can create bigger records in looting the masses. They also said that in Uttarakhand too, the Harish Rawat led Congress government too has been found involved in serious cases of corruption. The corruption during the relief efforts following the 2013 calamity has already been exposed through R.T.I. Now the government is trying to do a major cover up. The report on the disaster relief related scam by the Chief Secretary appears to be one such attempt towards cover up.
The public meeting following the protest march was addressed by the comrades Bacchiram Konswaal, Surendra Singh Sajwaan of CPI (M), comrades Samar Bhandari and Jeet Singh of CPI, Com. Indresh Maikhuri, State Committee Member of CPI (ML) and Com. Mukesh Semwaal from SUCI (C). The meeting was moderated by the district secretary of the CPI (ML), Com. Rajendra Singh Purohit.
CPI (ML) Protests Communal Statement by the Tripura Governor
While on one hand the BJP government was quick to dismiss the voices that called for the abolition of death penalty and pointed out various lacunae in the justice system in general, and particularly in the case against Yakub Menon, there also have been several prominent people associated with the BJP that have been quick to term those who mourned the miscarriage of justice as terrorists. The governor of Tripura, Tathagat Roy who had been a senior BJP leader before he was appointed to the post had tweeted following Yakub's hanging that "Intelligence should keep a tab on all (except relatives & close friends) who assembled before Yakub Memon's corpse. Many are potential terrorists". To call all those who mourn this travesty of justice and act of revenge by the state –'potential terrorists', reflects Tathagat Roy's disdain for voices of reason. Further, the selective terming of only those who mourn the death of Yakub as potential terrorists while choosing to remain silent on those who carry forward or support the agenda of a Hindu nation or are known to have close links with those convicted for their role in Gujarat riots, exposes his own double standards. The CPI (ML) Tripura unit organized a protest on 1 August at Jagannath Dighi of Udaipur, Tripura, where the effigy of the governor was burnt. The protest meet was addressed by the state CPI(ML) secretary Partha Karmakar and Lokman Hussein and Swapan Banik.
AICCTU State Conference in Puducherry
The 7th AICCTU state conference of Puducherry (UT) was held on 5 July 2015 at Puducherry. The conference started with a massive worker-peasant solidarity rally. The rally was led by Com. S. Balasubramanian, state president AICCTU and Com. P. Murugan, state secretary Jananayaga Kattumana Thozhilalargal sangam (AICWF). The rally passed through main thoroughfares of the town.
The conference town Puducherry was named as Com. Murali Mohan Nagar and the Conference hall was named as Danasekar hall. The conference flag was hoisted by Com. G. Palani and all the participants paid homage at the martyrs column set at the conference venue.
Com. S. Mothilal gave the welcome speech in the opening session. Com. S. Balan, All India Vice President of the AICCTU was the central observer and he gave rousing speech. The others who addressed the gathering were Com. . S. Balasubramanian, State secretary CPI(ML), Puducherry, Com. G. Danavel, district secretary CPI(ML) Cuddalore Tamilnadu, R. Mangayarselvan, campaign committee member AIPF, P. Murthy, Ex-MLA AIPF, Manjakkal Upendran AIPF, and R.V Lenin, organizer AIARLA.
The delegate session started after the lunch. 74 delegates and 5 observers took part in the conference. Detailed discussions and deliberations were held in the entire session. The conference unanimously elected a 31 member state council including 9 office bearers. Com. S. Balasubramanian was elected as president and Com. S. Purushothaman was elected as the state general secretary along with three vice-presidents and four secretaries.
The conference passed 22 points resolutions. The important resolutions were as follows.
1. The conference strongly condemned Modi government's proposed amendments in various labour legislations in favor of employers.
2. The Conference demanded National minimum wages to be fixed as Rs 17000/- per month.
3. Reopening of all closed state public sector mills, Co-operative Mills and private industries.
4. The conference called for the working class of Puducherry to oust corrupt, anti labour and anti people four years old N.R. Congress from power.
5. The conference demanded a minimum pension of Rs 3000/- for all unorganized workers.
6. Conference demanded the state and central government to protect the handloom workers and the industry.
Voices from the Midday Meal Workers' Struggles
The midday meal workers in Bihar went on a three day long hunger strike from 8th to 10th July 2015 demanding regularization, a monthly honorarium of at least Rs.15000/- besides other necessary provisions that they should be entitled to. The call for the hunger strike received a massive response from the midday meal workers. Some of the experiences voiced by women midday meal workers' who joined the 3 day strike have been shared below:
Sona Devi, a midday meal worker, who till 6 months back was too shy to speak in public, delivered a long speech in midst of her fellow workers as the joint secretary of the Bihar Rajya Vidyalay Rasoiya Sangh. She recalled that she had spent her early childhood years in the Masaurhi block of Patna district, and the anti-feudal struggles of the CPI(ML) in that area left a lasting impact on her. This memory, sleeping within her, was revived after she came into contact with the party again in the past few months. She began her speech with a song – 'Jhuki jhuki piyava goliya chalave, shaheedva bhaiya ho nanadi' – about the militant anti-feudal resistance. She used the song to tell her fellow workers that the militant Left activists had sacrificed their lives in the movements of the 1980s, thereby achieving increased wages of agricultural workers from 1 kg to 5 kgs of grain. She said, "We can achieve an increase in our wages today by being part of this same movement and radical Left politics. The Government can kill one, it can't kill a united and strong organisation."
Kalavati Devi, Secretary of the Maner block unit of the BRVRS union, said in her address to the other mid day meal workers- "We should neither support Modi nor Nitish. We should support and strengthen AIPWA that is with us in our struggle". Kalavati had contacted AIPWA after reading newspaper reports about the mid-day meal workers' struggles.
A mid-day meal worker hailing from East Champaran, holding a small baby in her arms, had joined the protest demonstrations in the burning June sun and the July monsoon rain. She did not get a chance to speak publicly at Patna because there were so many other speakers, but after the dharna she came up to Com. Saroj Chaubey, state president of the Rasoiya Sangh and said "Didi, being part of the struggle with you has opened my eyes. I'm ready to come anywhere to be part of the movement."
Kamli Devi, the joint secretary of Fatuha block has established herself in her school as a fiery activist, whose very presence deters authorities from wrong-doing. She said, "We became mid-day meal workers expecting that the Government would recognise us as Government employees. After 8 years of toil, we find that the Government has just ignored us. We are not begging for charity – we are demanding what is our right. If any administrative officer makes food at my house I will pay them Rs 2000 – I expect them to pay us for cooking in Government schools!"