A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 18 | No. 45 | 03 - 09 NOVEMBER 2015
Accusations of 'Ideological Intolerance' and 'Ideological Terrorism'
Modi Government's Offensive on Dissenting Voices
he past month has been witness to an unstoppable tide of dissent against intolerance and bigotry patronized by the Modi Government in India. Hundreds of writers, followed by artists, scientists, filmmakers, sociologists, historians and actors have returned awards or otherwise expressed concern at the growing climate of intolerance and violence in the country. In addition, even members of the ruling establishment, including the President of India and the RBI Governor have also expressed similar concerns. The global investment ratings company, Moody's Analytics, also warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi that his failure to "rein in" the intolerance and sectarian violence promoted by members of his party would harm India "domestic and global credibility."
In the face of this all-out loss of credibility for the Modi Government, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has responded by accusing all the dissenting voices of being "Congress and Left thinkers and activists" who are displaying "ideological intolerance" towards Modi. The Prime Minister, he said, was in fact the biggest victim of this "intolerance." Some days later, the Jharkhand CM from the BJP added that writers returning awards were in fact guilty of "ideological terrorism."
Such a response to dissent, only confirms the accusations of authoritarian arrogance that the Modi Government is facing. Dissent and criticism are crucial for any democracy – and dissent by definition "speaks truth to power." For the party wielding power to claim to be a victim of "intolerance" is laughable. It implies that only possible place the Modi Government envisages for citizens is of cheerleaders. Anyone who does not join the cheering chorus but speaks up in dissent is accused of "intolerance."
Worse, dissenters are accused of being "terrorists" and "Pakistanis." Those who stand up for the right to eat beef or question the killing of Muslims or writers, or criticize Modi in any way are advised by BJP Ministers like Giriraj Singh to "go to Pakistan." The BJP President Amit Shah, in speeches in the Bihar elections, claims that BJP's defeat will be greeted by firecrackers and celebrations in "Pakistan." Such statements slyly use "Pakistan" and "terrorist" as shorthand for Indian Muslims and those who speak up for the rights of Indian Muslims. Citizenship and patriotism are redefined as approval of the BJP and RSS agenda of Hindu Rashtra and corporate appeasement, and every citizen who votes against the BJP, or any activist who agitate against land grab laws or other pro-corporate policies, or stand up for civil liberties, freedom of expression and dignity of minorities can be branded as a "terrorist."
These allegations of "intolerance" and "terrorism" are of course an admission of failure by the BJP: failure to turn the tide of public opinion in their favour in spite of holding all the power. But they are also dangerous – because branding dissenters as terrorists is a ploy to justify cracking down on them.
Jaitley's claim that the "national situation is absolutely peaceful...The country is not intolerant," and wave away incidents like the Dadri lynching as an aberration are belied by facts. Dadri-style lynchings of Muslims on the pretext of 'cow slaughter' happening thick and fast, accompanied by open threats of violence and murder by BJP MPs, Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states and Sangh Parivar leaders against "those who promote beef or eat beef." One BJP leader in Karnataka has threatened to behead the Chief Minister if he dares to keep his word and eat beef.
The very statements of no less than the Prime Minister in the Bihar elections confirm rather than allay the apprehensions of growing intolerance and Hindu-Muslim polarization. Modi has tried to inject communalism into caste-based reservations, by claiming that he will "stake his life" before he allowed Muslims to benefit from such reservations.
It would befit a Prime Minister to say that he would "stake his life" to make sure that no Muslim man is lynched for his supposed diet, and no Professor or a rationalist is murdered in his home for his views, or Dalit children burned alive. Instead the Prime Minister has staked the life of peace, tolerance and democracy in India, to seek votes in the Bihar elections and to allow the Sangh Parivar to push India towards the goal of a Hindu Nation.
But no matter how much the BJP and Modi may issue threats and abuse dissenters, the growing sense of anger, disillusionment and dissent against the Modi Government is unmistakable. The writers, scientists, and other intellectuals have shown the way – and this wave of protest in defence of democratic values is fast growing stronger.
Occupy UGC Movement Gains Strength and Spreads across Cities and States
he #OccupyUGC movement begin on 21 October 2015, following the shocking decision taken by a UGC committee (constituted for enhancement of non NET fellowship) to scrap the non NET fellowship being currently provided to researchers pursuing M. Phil. and Ph.D. in Central Universities. In the memorandum submitted to the UGC by JNUSU (including representatives from AISF and AISA), it was demanded that the decision to scrap non NET fellowship be immediately revoked; the scholarship amount be increased from 5000 to 8000 for M.Phil. and from 8000 to 12,000 for Ph.D.; that the fellowship also be extended to research scholars in all State Universities; and that government of India refuse to sign on the WTO agreement in December this year. However, despite several protests and the refusal of the students to leave the UGC premises, the UGC authorities have refused to address the demands of the students. The Union Minister for MHRD too has refused to meet the protesting students (only choosing to speak BJP's own student wing ABVP and instructing it to confuse and demobilise student movement). Further, the committee formed by the MHRD as a result of the pressure exerted by the OccupyUGC movement, far from addressing the demands of the students, aims to further restrict the scope of the fellowships by subjecting them to various merit and income based conditions. The students have outrightly rejected such diversionary tactics of the government to not address the real issue.
After a brutal lathi charge afflicted on protesting students on 27 October, where several common students and student activists including several from AISA, the students have remained undeterred. Not only have they refused to end the movement, they have courageously continued to occupy the UGC and turn into a site of day and night protest. In the last week, several eminent scholars and teachers have gathered at ITO to express solidarity with the students. Members of JNUTA, DUTA, AUTA, faculty members from Jamia, IIT, former members of UGC like Prof. Yogendra Yadav, have regularly been joining the protesting students in an expression of solidarity. Several teachers like Prof. Janaki Nair, Dr. Naveen Gaur, Prof. Hargopal have been conducting open classes at the barricades on topics ranging from 'Feminism and the Democratisation of Higher Education' to 'Science Research in Times of Fund Cuts. The open classes are being accompanied by regular performances by various cultural groups like Sangwari, Swar, Janrang and others. Movie screenings have also been organised at the site of protest. The arrival of winters has failed to dampen the zeal of students, as lighting fire on the streets near ITO, they continue to OccupyUGC.
The last week has not just witness the movement intensify at the UGC office but also the spread of the movement across the country. The movement has spread to colleges and universities across the country like Hyderabad, NEHU Shillong, Sikkim, Gujarat, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Wardha, Allahabad, Pondicherry, Chandigarh, Sagar, Rohtak and elsewhere. Regional offices of the UGC across are being bombarded by students. Over the past two weeks, the OccupyUGC movement has received inspiring solidarity from #FeesMustFall movement of South Africa, FTII and also various other progressive sections. However, as in case of Delhi, the spread of movement in other places too have been met by brutal crackdowns. On 2 November 2015, an occupy UGC call was given by AISA, USDF, PERIODS, RADICAL, SFI, AISF, AISB, PSU and AIDSO. As the protest began, the students were mercilessly beaten up the state police and several students including AISA activists like Com. Abhishek and Com. Ipsita were brutally beaten up. 26 activists were arrested and taken to a police station whose location was not disclosed to them. Unfortunately for the state and central governments keen to sell out education, as was witnessed in Delhi, the state crackdown failed to deter the students who are continuing their protest in even larger numbers.
As the December deadline approaches for signing the WTO agreement which will confirm the status of education as a tradable commodity, the OccupyUGC movement that is gaining strength with every passing day has shown the firm resolve of the student community in India that will not allow access to higher education and opportunity for knowledge creation to be converted into privileges for some and denied to others. CPI (ML) salutes the student movement and expresses solidarity with them.
First AIPF Conference in Tamil Nadu
The All India People's Forum held its first Tamil Nadu State Conference at Tirunelveli on 11.10.2015. The Conference began with a Presidential address by Comrade G Ramesh. In the run up to the Conference, activists of the various AIPF constituent groups campaigned vigorously in various parts of Tamil Nadu. There was enthusiastic participation from working people, and intellectuals and activists from all over Tamil Nadu. A large number of women from the anti-nuclear Koodankulam movement participated.
The Conference was inaugurated by CPI(ML) Politburo member Kavita Krishnan, who spoke about the Modi Government that was at the same time selling out India, and dividing India too. Both the corporates and the RSS are trying to make hay while the Modi sun shines. There were several inspiring instances of anti-corporate and anti-communal resistance. And the AIPF had emerged out of a felt need for uniting various streams of fighting forces.
Vasanthi Devi, former Vice Chancellor of Manonamanian Sundaranar University, said that Hindutva politics was founded on Brahminical patriarchy, and stressed the need to draw on the resources of Ambedkar and Periyar to combat it. S Balamurugan of the PUCL spoke about the challenge of resisting the all-round attack on activists, movements and freedom of speech. Prof. Murali, former Principal of a Madurai College, spoke about the moves to make education a tradable commodity under the WTO, and the moves afoot to discipline and morally police college students in order to produce campuses compliant with the WTO regime.
Leader of the anti-Koodankulam PMANE, Dr SP Udayakumar said that the AIPF Conference was the beginning and not an end in itself. He stressed the need for mutual unity and solidarity. He spoke of the experience of the Koodankulam women activists who had not been silenced or scared by killing, arrest, or sedition charges. He spoke on the dangers of nuclear energy. Com. Deebak of December 3 Movement, a Disability Rights Alliance, spoke very inspiringly about the rights of the disabled and the need for all platforms of people's movements to be sensitive to those rights.
Others who spoke included A Simson, writer Samsudeen Heera, scientist Dr Lal Mohan, omrade KM Sherif of Tamilnadu People's Democratic Party, Comrade Kathiravan of Athi Tamilar Katchi, Comrade Arivalagan of Dalit Research Centre, and Comrade Sujatha Modi of NTUI, Comrade Bharathi of Democratic Advocate's Association, Comrade Thirumalaisami of TTSF, Comrade RR Srinivasan of Kanchanai Film Society, Comrade Mukilan of Makkal Sananayaga Kudiarasu Katchi,Comrade Pandiarajan of AISA, Comrade Abdulrahman of Satta Panjayathu Iyakkam, Comrade Jawahar of AICCTU, Comrade A Chandramohan and Mangaiyarselvan, AIPF NCCM members, and Com Balasundaram Tamil Nadu State Secretary CPI(ML). Comrade S Kumarasamy, PB member of CPI(ML) also attended the Conference. A State-level Council, Campaign Committee and Advisory Committee were elected from the Conference.
Effigy Burning of the State Govt by All India Kisan Mahasabha in Bindukhatta
On 23 October 2015, the All India Kisan Mahasabha burnt the effigy of the state Congress government at Car Road in Bindukhatta to protest against the government's move to hand over 350 naali land in Dwarson (Almora) to the corporate and against the repression and crackdown unleashed on the protestors.
Addressing the protestors after the effigy burning, the area secretary of CPI (ML), Com. Lalit Matiyali said that during the time of the previous BJP government led by Khanduri, this 350 naali of barren land not owned by anyone, was recovered after ceiling. However, the control over the land was kept in the hands of the state government. At that time the CPI (ML) had demanded that the authority to manage and distribute this land recovered after ceiling from Dwarson and other areas be handed over to the Gram Panchayats, else the state government would hand it over to the land mafias and the corporate. Today when the Congress government has handed this land to the Jindals, the concerns of the CPI (ML) have been proved right. The Congress and the BJP have been conspiring to sell the entire land of the state to the corporate at throw away prices. He also added that despite massive protests by the people, it was extremely shameful that the Chief Minister still decided to go for the inaugural function of Jindal Group's International School.
Com. Matiyali appealed to all the democratic forces to raise their voice against such anti-people policies of the state government. Com. Gopal Singh, district committee member of the All India Kissan Mahasabha said that the state government is only keen to protect the interests of the land mafia and the corporate, when it also had the option of giving this land to those who had been affected by the calamities. He added that the crackdown on the protestors and their arrest by the state police only exposes how the state government has turned dictatorial. The dictatorship of the Congress government had also come to light during the lathi charge unleashed on protestors who had earlier gathered to protest against the inauguration of Bindukhatta municipality and it had been proved once again.
AIARLA Viluppuram District Conference Held
AIARLA district conference of Viluppuram district of Tamil Nadu was held at Ulundurpet town in a Hall named after Com. Ammaiappan. A four Member presidium comprising of Comrades Kaliyamurthy, Babu, Dakchinamurthy and Kannammal conducted the proceedings. Com. Venkatesan, state Deputy General secretary of AIARLA and Com. Balasundaram, state secretary of CPI (ML) addressed the delegates. Several resolutions were passed in the conference, which included among others, the demands to- (i) disperse the arrears of MGNREGA wages, (ii) withdraw the cases booked against the workers protesting for this demand, (iii) evict occupiers from Panjami land and redistribute it to Dalits, (iv) stop the loot of natural resources, (v) Implementation of Forest act in Kalvarayan hill areas, (vi) take steps to release tribal prisoners languishing in Andhra jails, (vii) establish rural based industries, (viii) provide house site pattas and houses to the rural poor, (ix) provide potable water , and (x) establishing primary health centres and schools with increased teacher strength, proper kitchen etc.
Hunger Strike by Inmates of J.P. Central Jail Demanding Release;
CPI (ML) Dharna in Support
In support of the hunger strike started by the inmates of the J.P. central jail in Hazaribagh district, CPI (ML) and AIPF staged a dharna in front of the deputy district magistrate on 17 October 2015. The protest event was conducted by Sudhir Yadav and several AIPF and CPI (ML) leaders addressed the participants. The leaders handed over a memorandum addressed to the Chief Minister through the dharna and demanded that the inmates' demands be met and the hunger strike be brought to an end.
The leaders who addressed the dharna shared that 56 inmates who had completely their sentence in the Jai Prakash Central Jail, had sat on a nine day, demanding that they be released now. In their support, nearly 650 other convicts who were still serving their sentence too had come forward. Several women inmates along with their children to had joined the hunger strike in solidarity. The hunger strike started on 6 October and continued till 15 October, during which health of several hunger strikers got deteriorated. With several hundred inmates joining the strike in solidarity, the work of the jail had come to a standstill. Printing press, powerloom, handloom, agriculture, kitchen, tailoring and several other works involving participation of the inmates remained shut. This added to the difficulties of the jail administration. The inmates demanded to know why those who had completed their sentences were not being released. Was the government waiting for their death?
CPI (ML) leaders pointed that at the time of sentencing the date on which the sentence would be over was fixed. There was no legal provision for keeping inmates locked up after their sentence was over. The fact that despite there being no such provision, inmates were languishing in jails exposed the weakness in the legal system. At present, nearly 6000 innocent poor tribals were languishing in jails of Jharkhand but the state government had no concern for them. The AIPF has been running a continuing campaign against such negligence by the state. CPI (ML) leaders demanded that besides immediate release of inmates who had completed their sentence, the jail manual be implemented properly and completely and also that there be quick execution of cases involving innocent under trials.
On 17 October, CPI (ML) and AIPF also organised a march in Ranchi from party office (Com. Mahendra Singh Bhawan) to Alberta Ekka Chowk, followed by a sabha. The combined pressure built by the movements inside and outside the jail forced Chief Minister Raghuvar Das to visit the jail and get the inmates to break their fast by assuring them that their demand would be met.
AIPF Protest Convention in Delhi on 'Politics of Fear & Hate unleashed by RSS-BJP'
AIPF organised a protest convention against the reign of terror of the RSS-BJP combine on 29 October at the Gandhi Peace Foundation in New Delhi. The speakers included Manglesh Dabral, Asgar Wajahat, Prof. Shamsul Islam, Cultural activist Kapil Sharma, AIPF leader Com. Girija Pathak and CPI (ML) activist, Com. Aslam Khan, among others. The cultural group Sangwari also sang songs of protest during the convention.
While addressing the audience, the speakers focussed on how the atmosphere of hate and fear was being created by the RSS-BJP and their associated groups. The current times have seen the attacks unleashed by the reactionary forces become more organized and brutal. From the genocide in Muzzafarnagar just prior to General Elections in 2014 to the cold blooded murders of Com. Govind Pansare and Prof. M.M. Kalburgi and the continued attacks on minorities and Dalits taking place throughout the country, are clear indicators of this well thought out majoritarian ploy to instil fear in the minds of minorities and Dalits by spreading hatred. The social political fallout of the growing failure of the Modi government in fulfilling its election time promises to people is being sought to be covered up by stoking the communal card and spreading the politics of fear, hatred and violence. In response to this onslaught, people have been protesting throughout the country and for the first time since independence, India has seen so many writers, intellectuals, academics, scientists and artists return their awards and give up their posts to announce very clearly their principled opposition to the present onslaughts. The speakers also expressed their solidarity with all those who had taken a stand to voice their protest against such onslaughts by returning their awards.