A series of terror attacks by the ISIS – killing 128 people in Ankara, bringing down a Russian passenger aircraft, killing 43 in a Beirut suicide bombing and 18 in an attack on a funeral in Baghdad, and the shock-and-awe style massacre of 130 people enjoying a Paris evening – have shaken the entire world. On the heels of these attacks has come the hostage crisis followed by killing of over 20 people in a Mali hotel by an outfit said to have al-Qaeda links.
If the ISIS shares a vicious ideology of hatred and genocide with many others across the world, its scale of operations and its penchant for graphic displays of spectacular violence certainly set it apart. The ISIS attempts to justify attacks on innocent civilians in France as retaliation to French air strikes in Syria, or more generally to justify its whole existence as an answer to wars by the US and Western powers in the Middle East must be squarely rejected. Nothing can possibly justify such heinous massacres of innocents.
At the same time, there can be no evading the grim questions posed by history. The ISIS (and earlier, the al-Qaeda) are not, as some would have us believe, cultural by-products of Islam as a religion. Instead, these terrorist outfits are very much political products of a historical process for which the Western powers are squarely responsible. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted as much in a recent interview, when he conceded that had he and Bush not waged war on Iraq in 2003 on false pretexts and toppled the Saddam Husain regime, the ISIS would probably not exist. Similarly, the role of the US in funding and arming Saudi-backed militants in Afghanistan in creating what eventually became the Taliban and the al-Qaeda is widely recognized. Even today, the US and Western powers continue to back and legitimize the regime in Saudi Arabia, that is not only highly regressive and repressive to its own citizens but also instrumental in the survival of terrorist outfits in the region.
Western powers have meddled in the Middle East – either to bolster up repressive regimes and crush protests, to sponsor regime-change, or to wage wars, bomb civilians and back occupations – to suit their own geopolitical interests and pursuit of oil. Such meddling and even opportunist sponsoring of terrorism has helped destroy or weaken democratic institutions and affected the balance of powers in the region, and has undoubtedly helped the terrorist outfits take root, fill vacuums, exploit disaffections and resentments and grasp power.
To recognize these facts is not to justify the ISIS or the al-Qaeda or accept and endorse the terrorists' own rationale of retaliation. Rather, acknowledging these facts can shape our response to the present situation and prevent a repeat of the mistakes of the past. US, French or Russian policy of bombing Syria, in turn claiming lives of beleaguered Syrian civilians, or of offering military backing to either Syrian rebels or the repressive Bashar-al Assad regime, has proved disastrous – and the response to the Paris attack simply cannot be more of the same. It is to draw attention away from this reality that Western leaders ranging from Obama to Hollande to Putin peddle the rhetoric of 'pitiless war' and identify terrorism with Muslims.
Obama, for instance, said that while Muslims worldwide might not condone the ISIS, they are 'not as willing to challenge some of the extremist thoughts or rationales for why Muslims feel oppressed.' Such a statement is calculated to brand any critique of systematic Islamophobia as a rationalization of 'extremism.' The truth of course is that Islamophobia and wars affecting vast masses of civilians in the Middle East, especially since 9/11, as well as legacies and continuing policies of colonialism and racism (in France for instance) are very real and grave concerns. The ISIS or Taliban or al-Qaeda do not seek to deter or resist Islamophobia or racism, rather they thrive on it. But by seeking to associate any expression of those concerns with rationalization of terrorism, the US President seeks to get a license to continue those disastrous policies.
The Paris attacks have, for instance, provided a pretext to US and European politicians and governments to justify the sealing of borders against Syrian refugees. This is of course outrageous, given that the refugees are fleeing the horrors of the ISIS back home! The intensified racist and Islamophobic rhetoric and the declaration of a prolonged Emergency and ban on protests in France are reminiscent of the US response post 9/11 – and the consequences are likely to be as counter-productive and disastrous.
India's foreign policy too has been, for the past decade and a half, embedded in 'War on Terror' serving Western strategic interests. With the Modi Government, the Islamophobia that seeks to tar all Muslims with the brush of terrorism while condoning and encouraging Sanghi terrorism has intensified alarmingly. Modi's appeal, in the wake of the Paris attacks, to urge the international community to 'give a definition of terrorism' and reject spurious distinctions between 'good' and 'bad' terrorism, is in glaring contrast to his own Government's policy of weakening bomb blast cases in which Sangh elements are implicated. It is imperative for India's own interests that we condemn all forms of terrorism and slaughter of innocents, and remain alert to reject any attempt to fan up communal hatred on the pretext of the IS attacks.
The Turkish bombing of a Russian fighter jet on the Syrian border is another ominous reminder that the war on Syria is not going to stay confined to Syria. It is already escalating and spilling over into Europe – and presenting a threat to peace in the whole world. There is an urgent need for de-escalation and for an unsparing review of the policies pursued by the US, France and Russia in Syria and the Middle East.
The ray of hope lies in the growing voice of popular protest that combines the condemnation of terrorism with rejection of Islamophobia, racism, suspension of democracy at home and war in the Middle East. In France for instance, it is heartening that some 15,000 people marched in Toulouse in defiance of the Emergency. The marchers responded to efforts of France's largest public sector education union among other groups, and raised slogans of 'Their wars, our death!', 'For freedom and peace, against the barbarity of coalitions', and 'Against the state of emergency, let's intensify our fight'! In the US too, many have spoken up in protest against the attempt of Republican leaders to call for profiling and 'registration' of US Muslims or allowing entry only to Christian refugees while denying asylum to Muslim ones.
The peace-loving people of the world must unite to resist the ideologies of hatred, terrorism of all hues.
In its 70th anniversary year, WFTU held the World Congress of Working Women in Cyprus on 2015, November 1 – 2. The congress was hosted by PanCyprian Federation of Labour (PEO) of Cyprus, a federation of 8 trade unions of the country.
73 delegates from 45 unions in 28 countries participated in the congress. From India 7 delegates of AICCTU, AITUC, CITU and AIBEA participated.
Delegates from Vietnam, which gave a fitting rebuff for imperialist aggression, Greece, which resisted anti-austerity measures of imperialist economy, Pakistan and Nepal, the neighbors, Venezuela and Chile, which are inspiring anti-imperialist struggles, Palestine and Syria, which are ravaged by imperialist wars, Panama, Somalia and Congo, where people are fighting against imperialist loot of natural resources, shared their view on onslaught of neo-liberal policies, on the exploitation and inhuman working conditions women workers are facing every day, the urgent need to organize them in trade unions to rise up against the capitalist onslaught and raise their demands, the need to bring the issue of unpaid labour of women at home to the fore and the need to strengthen left trade unions to protect the interests of women workers.
On November 1, a rally and public meeting was held on the beach. The message of the congress reached the people of Cyprus who were gathered in the beach-side restaurants in large numbers. The meeting began and concluded with performances of a cultural team which rendered songs in the beginning and traditional dances toward the end.
The session continued on November 2 with delegates from various countries delving into the issues of women workers in their countries and called for a resolute struggle against neo-liberal policies.
Along with passing resolutions on many issues of protecting the rights of workers in general and women workers in particular, the congress called for reunification of Cyprus which was divided by Turkish aggression, immediate withdrawal of imperialist military troops from Palestine and Syria and called for an end to imperialist war.
The congress decided to observe March 8 every year on behalf of WFTU from 2016 and bring focus on various women workers' issues. On March 8 2016 WFTU will raise the issue of ensuring maternity benefits for women workers. It was also decided to form a women secretariat for WFTU in the forthcoming conference of WFTU which will be held in South Africa and to bring out a publication with the papers presented by the delegates in the congress.
The delegates then visited PEO office in Larnaca. PEO runs a museum in this office which portrays the conditions of workers of Cyprus before trade unions were formed, the history of struggle of Cyprus working class, important milestones in the history of PEO including significant collective agreements reached by PEO. The museum also has a collection of tools used by workers during different periods on display. The delegates then visited a hospital in a nearby building which is run by PEO. Members of PEO and their family members are entitled for treatment in these hospitals. PEO has entered into an agreement with a panel of doctors throughout the country for attending patients in PEO hospitals. Fund for running the hospital is raised by a contribution from the management and the workers through a collective agreement.
The delegates then visited Nicosia, capital of Cyprus where they were taken to the 'green line'. This is the area in Nicosia which demarcates North Cyprus which is occupied by the Turkish forces and is under the rule of Turkish Cypriots from the South Cyprus which is ruled by Greek Cypriots. The Greek Cypriots have built a monument of the devastating conditions of war in their part of the city and have also displayed the aerial view of Nicosia showing the broken city. Cypriot delegates said their main demand is reunification of the country into a united Cyprus.
Bahadur Oraon, Jharkhand movement veteran, Former Jharkhand MLA from Chakradharpur, and former CPI(ML) CC member, has returned the award he had received from the Speaker on the occasion of the 15th foundation day of the Jharkhand assembly. He returned the award on the spot itself, following up with a note of protest saying that he felt ashamed to receive an award as an MLA, when the Assembly had failed "to protect tribal rights in a state that was carved out of Bihar for protection of tribal identity." Tribal land continued to be plundered in violation of the CNT and SPT Acts, he said. Bahadurji has on previous occasions refused awards from the hands of Lalu Prasad and Madhu Koda also. His gesture this time has resonated with the protests of concerned citizens all over the country who have returned awards to protest against acts of discrimination and violence against vulnerable sections of India's society.
The BJP and Modi Government functionaries have been seeking to allege that the return of awards by intellectuals was a political ploy aimed at influencing Bihar elections, and that these protests have dried up since the Bihar results. But the vigorous protests and voices of dissent continue to go strong.
Noted Odisha poet and writer Jayanta Mahapatra is the latest to return his Padma Shri in protest against the growing climate of bigotry in the country. Film star Aamir Khan's patriotism is being questioned because he shared the intensely personal insecurity and disquiet his wife felt for their child. The basis for this insecurity is apparent to all: it flows not only from the cold-blooded murders of minorities and dissenting voices, but from the unstoppable spate of bigoted comments from Ministers, MPs, MLAs and even Governors justifying such murders. BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargeeya has suggested that Aamir Khan's remarks on intolerance are a ploy to cover up black money. BJP MP Adityanath has made yet another remark associating Muslims with overpopulation, saying that it would help reduce the country's population if Aamir Khan were to leave India. Such nakedly bigoted statements only confirm the concerns expressed by so many Indian citizens about the growing climate of intolerance.
It is strange that Aamir Khan should be branded ant-national because his wife expresses fear for the safety of their child and wonders momentarily if they should move to some other country; but BJP MPs, Chief Ministers and Governors appointed by the Central Government are not branded anti-national for asking anyone who questions the Government or eats beef to "go to Pakistan." It must also be pointed out that that the Prime Minister indulges in extravagant displays of Indian patriotism among NRI audiences in Silicon Valley and Wembley in the US and UK – clearly he does not consider those Indians who chose to live outside India to be anti-national. In fact, the BJP hails all its supporters – be they living in India or settled abroad – as "patriotic", while it brands all its critics whether in India or broad, as "anti-national." BJP equates itself to India, and when concerned citizens say that the BJP is intolerant and bigoted, the BJP accuses them of shaming India by branding the country as intolerant!
It is ironic that as the Government prepares to celebrate the anniversary of adoption of the Constitution of India on the coming 26th November, the Governor of Assam PB Acharya has repeatedly declared that "India is for Hindus, no Bangladeshi will be allowed to register in Assam" and "Muslims can go to Pakistan or Afghanistan." His remarks are the exact mirror image of some of the bigoted US leaders who are recommending that the US accept Christian refugees from Syria but refuse Muslim ones. Even his "clarification" exposes the fact that he considers Hindus living anywhere to be Indian – but that he considers Muslims – even those living in India – to be "free to go to Pakistan"! The Governor of Tripura Tathagata Roy is also notorious for regular flow of bigoted tweets decrying secularism.
It is the dissenting voices that are moved by true concern and love for the country, while the BJP has from Babri to Dadri, from Bihar elections to Assam, from the Prime Minister to its foot-soldiers, shown its willingness to divide and polarize the country and poison peace and harmony to get a chance to rule.
In Dr Ambedkar's centenary year and on the occasion of the anniversary of the Indian Constitution, it will not do for the Prime Minister and the Government to merely use the Constitution as a fig leaf behind which to hide their continuous promotion of bigotry. India's citizens must reclaim and reassert the true spirit of the Constitution – a spirit that Dr Ambedkar embodied, a spirit that does not lie in branding dissent as disloyalty, but in fact lies in boldly speaking up for the country's diversity and the rights, freedom and dignity of the minorities, oppressed castes, women and all human beings.
Ashraf Fayadh, a Palestinian poet and artist, has been sentenced to death by Saudi Arabia on charges of blasphemy and atheism. He was arrested by members of Saudi Arabia's Committee on the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. He faces the prospect of execution, possibly by beheading.
Such laws and courts in Saudi Arabia that allow people to be arrested by morality police and sentenced to death and punishments like flogging and executions for the views are barbaric and inhumane.
CPI(ML) condemns the regressive regime in Saudi Arabia, and demands the release of poets and writers like Ashraf Fayadh and Raef Badawi and a stop to the practice of draconian and barbaric sentences for such dissenting voices.
The students of Allahabad University including Richa, the first woman President of Allahabad University Union, and various progressive and Left student organisations, are to be congratulated for taking a principled stand to oppose the University's move to allow the vicious hatemonger, BJP MP from Gorakhpur Yogi Adityanath to inaugurate the Students' Union Office Hall. Adityanath and his organisation are notorious for vicious hate-speech targeting minorities and democratic values, and for his role in many episodes of organized communal violence. The Students' Union office bearers from the ABVP unilaterally took a decision to invite Adityanath, riding roughshod over the dissenting opinions of common students of the University as well as the Union President herself.
The students' success in ensuring that Adityanath stayed out of Allahabad University is reminiscent of the students' movement led by AISA in 1992, which braved severe repression to keep VHP leader Ashok Singhal out of the same University campus, at the peak of the toxic 'Mandir' and anti-Mandal agitations in which the RSS and VHP had a big hand.
Shakuntala Prasad (affectionately called Munni ji), passed away on 24 November 2015 at the age of 60. Raised in Jamshedpur, she had become a CPI(ML) member and activist. She had been Patna town AIPWA President as well as a member of the AIPWA Bihar State Committee. Her first husband had passed away. She had then married the late Comrade Ashok, former editor of Lokyuddh. She is survived by her son Santosh from her first marriage, with whom she had been living in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh, where she passed away after a protracted illness.
Red salute to Comrade Shakuntala!