Tuesday, November 10, 2015

ML Update | No. 46 | 2015

ML Update

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol.  18 | No. 46 | 10 - 16 NOV 2015

The Essential Bihar Story:

Roaring Rebuff against an Autocratic Communal BJP,
Aggressive Campaigning by a Compact JDU-RJD-Congress Alliance,
Vindication of the Core Strength and Developing Potential of the Left

After sundry exit polls and post-poll surveys did their rounds, we finally know what Bihar has spoken. The Bihar verdict has left the loud and foul mouths of the ruling Sangh-BJP establishment speechless while amplifying the voice of every defender of democracy in an India ruled by an openly RSS-driven government. Contrary to what the Modi-Shah duo had notoriously foretold, the Bihar verdict has ignited celebratory crackers not in Pakistan but all over India. If the Delhi mandate in early 2015 gave the first resounding rebuff to the arrogant autocratic rule of Narendra Modi, Bihar has now unfurled a real banner of revolt. And defying the pressures of a bipolar election and a massive wave in favour of the JDU-RJD-Congress alliance, revolutionary communists have creditably defended their citadels of struggle and sacrifice.

The direction of the Bihar outcome was not at all difficult to see. Any political observer keeping his or her ears open could easily hear the distinctly audible whispers that eventually grew into a roaring rejection of the BJP as the marathon poll campaign drew to a close. Yet the way exit polls failed to read the writing on the wall, and the way respectable TV channels continued to report pro-NDA trends till minutes before actual results started coming in, point to nothing short of a scary censorship syndrome. Unlike the Emergency era media censorship four decades ago, this one is perhaps more corporate-driven and even 'voluntary', but that does not diminish the danger. Has indicating or reporting the truth now become too risky an undertaking inviting accusations of indulging in some 'anti-national' and 'anti-state' activity?

The JDU-RJD-Congress alliance in Bihar had an arithmetic advantage to begin with. Even in the height of the Modi wave of 2014, the combined vote shares of the three parties would have given the alliance a comfortable majority of 145 seats. The new factors that could have dented this arithmetic advantage were revolts by Jitan Ram Manjhi and Pappu Yadav and the entry of the SP or AIMIM.  The mainstream media hyped up these factors like anything, projecting a non-existent SP-NCP-Pappu Yadav coalition as the 'third front' for Bihar, while systematically ignoring the Left bloc, the only policy-based alternative platform with a recorded history of not only powerful struggles but also consistent electoral strength. As it turned out, the 'third front' broke down midway through the elections, the AIMIM could not make any inroad, while the BJP's allies collapsed spectacularly, failing even to match the modest CPI(ML) tally of three seats.

What has really surprised the general political observer is the stunning scale of the victory of the Nitish-Lalu-Congress alliance. What transformed the assumed 2014 arithmetic of 145 seats into an actual 2015 statistic of 178 seats is the real political story of the Bihar elections. Admirers of Nitish Kumar are keen to explain it as a pro-incumbency vote, as a vindication of Nitish Kumar's record of 'development and good governance', but this explanation is more wishful than objective. The Nitish-Lalu alliance drew its strength primarily from the negative campaign and arrogant divisive politics of the BJP. The Modi-Shah campaign reeked of absolute political arrogance and unmitigated communal venom. While the Mohan Bhagwat and VK Singh 'mann ki baat' on reservations and dalits, and the desperate obsession with Pakistan and cows and beef, ripped apart the deceptive 'development' facade and laid bare the ugly feudal-communal face of the Sangh-BJP persona, the fact that two Gujaratis were storming Bihar with this feudal-communal campaign, gave a strong resonance to the Nitish campaign theme of 'swabhiman' or 'Bihari self-respect'. And the smart and innovative Nitish-Lalu campaign drove this message home with clear focus and great energy.

The CPI(ML), CPI, CPI(M) contested these elections as a united and independent bloc of six Left parties. While the outcome of three seats marks only a modest improvement of the 2010 ebb of only one Left member in the Assembly, the combined Left vote share of close to 4% coupled with a seat tally of three in the Assembly, marks out the Left as the only credible and potential third force in an otherwise bipolar  Bihar. Defending the Left base built through decades of struggles and translating the Left's undisputed credibility and goodwill in terms of honest pro-people politics into votes is no easy challenge in a wave election and the CPI(ML) had to dig deep into its core strength to win its three seats in the midst of this electoral storm. The solid support of the rural poor, spirited and dynamic role of the youth and increased participation of peasants and women gave the CPI(ML) campaign its basic strength and energy. What makes this modest victory truly memorable is the extremely unequal nature of the electoral battle and the inhospitable media environment. In Bhojpur CPI(ML) activist Satish Yadav was killed just on the eve of the elections and three of CPI(ML)'s most prospective candidates – agricultural labour leader Comrade Satyadeo Ram, who has won from Darauli in Siwan and youth leaders Amarjeet Kushwaha and Manoj Manzil who finished close third from Zeradei (Siwan) and Agiaon (Bhojpur) respectively – were arrested on fabricated charges at the time of filing their nomination.

The Bihar elections were fought in an unmistakably national context and the verdict will clearly have a major national resonance and ramification. Apart from signifying obvious encouragement for opposition politics within the parliamentary arena, and a major setback to the BJP's dreams of securing a greater Rajya Sabha presence, the verdict will clearly inspire the whole range of ongoing democratic protests and people's struggles in the country. As for Bihar, Lalu Prasad has termed the new phase as Mandal-II while Nitish Kumar continues to harp on his familiar planks of 'good governance' and 'development with justice'. While holding the new regime accountable to its promises, the CPI(ML) and the Left in Bihar will have to champion the alternative direction and priorities articulated in the joint Left appeal with a clear focus on employment, agriculture, education, health, opportunities and rights for youth and women, and basic democratic rights and justice for all, especially for the vulnerable sections of the Bihari society. It is a major political juncture for Bihar and India, and revolutionary communists will have to advance in bold steps with full clarity of purpose and courage of conviction.

CPI(ML) Victories:
In the Face of All Odds

The CPI(ML), it must be remembered, had no spin doctors hired at exorbitant expense to run a high-decibel media campaign. It had no huge hoardings, no vans playing videos, and no helicopters, no TV coverage of leaders' election speeches, and only very minimal coverage in the print media. In contrast to the other contenders enjoying state machinery of Delhi or Patna, many CPI(ML) candidates contested from jail, arrested in false cases slapped on them for leading people's struggles. The CPI(ML)'s only medium of election campaign was the people themselves – and this was turned into a strength, not a weakness.

In spite of these enormous odds, the CPI(ML) managed to emerge victorious because of the enormous trust gained as a result of struggles, movements and sacrifices.          

Comrade Satyadev Ram – Jailed for Supporting Dalits' Struggle For Land

Satyadev Ram (Darauli, Siwan), who defeated the BJP candidate by a margin of 10,000 votes, contested from jail. He and the CPI(ML) candidate from Ziradei, Siwan - Amarjit Kushwaha are both in jail thanks to false cases slapped on them in 2013 during a struggle by Dalit landless labourers to occupy land that was rightfully theirs. BJP-backed landlords led by the local BJP MLA had fired on the Dalits. Comrades Satyadev Ram and Amarjit Kushwaha had gone there later to intervene and ask the administration to arrest the BJP-backed goons and allot land to the Dalits. Instead of punishing the BJP MLA and his goons, the administration in Nitish-ruled Bihar foisted murder cases on both the comrades and arrested them! Comrade Amarjit also polled third after giving a close fight to BJP and JDU both – and by electing Comrade Satyadev Ram in Darauli, the people of Siwan paid tribute to the countless martyred comrades including former JNUSU President Comrade Chandrashekhar who resisted the RJD's mafia leader Shahabuddin and who have braved jail and bullets to defend the rights and dignity of the Dalit landless poor.    

Comrade Sudama Prasad- Tarari's Anti-Feudal Assertion 

Comrade Sudama, who defeated the NDA candidate in a photo finish by a margin of 296 votes, has been at the forefront of anti-feudal resistance of poor and oppressed caste peasants in Bhojpur, continuing the glorious legacy of the late Comrade Ram Naresh Ram who used to be the iconic leader and unbeaten MLA of the party from this region.

Ironically, at Tarari, all the other candidates – be they from MGB, LJP or Samajwadi Party – had connections with the Ranveer Sena.

The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) led by Modi ally Ram Vilas Paswan had fielded Geeta Pandey, the wife of Ranveer Sena man Sunil Pandey, who had been the sitting MLA from Tarari, elected from the JDU!

The Mahagatbandhan had fielded Akhilesh Prasad Singh – former RJD MP and Union Minister who now contested on a Congress ticket. Akhilesh Prasad Singh, at the funeral of Ranveer Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh had had referred to the architect of the massacres of Dalit labouring poor as "a towering personality the likes of whom are born once in 100-200 years…His stature remains higher than any MP or MLA." And the Samajwadi Party had fielded none other than the son of Brahmeshwar Singh, Indubhushan Singh, who now leads the organization that is the front of the Ranveer Sena.

This state of affairs in Tarari is a reminder of how hollow the talk of 'social justice,' 'socialism' and 'Dalit pride' are when it comes to opportunist ruling class parties. In the soil watered by the blood of Bathani Tola's poor, Laloo's Government that boasts of having stopped Advani's riot-Rath, allowed the BJP-RSS' Ranveer-Rath to rampage for over a decade, massacring with impunity. The JDU and Nitish Kumar then helped BJP share the seat of power in Bihar for the first time ever – and in order to do so, buried the Amir Das Commission and truth and justice about the Ranveer Sena massacres. And in 2015, defying history and insulting the victims, all the other rival formations fielded Ranveer-linked candidates!

But Tarari upheld the legacy of Bathani Tola's fighters. Remember, Bathani Tola was where Muslims fighting for Karbala land, chased by the Ranveers, took shelter in the homes of the oppressed castes. This bond of unity across communal lines was forged by the CPIML. The Ranveer Sena could not kill that legacy – and in 2015, Tarari once again rebuffed the communal-feudal Ranveer-linked candidates and elected Comrade Sudama from the CPI(ML).

Comrade Mahboob Alam– Victory of People's Struggles         

Comrade Mahboob Alam, was once more elected from the Balrampur seat in Katihar district, defeating the BJP candidate by a margin of nearly 23000 votes. The CPIML has been elected thrice before from the Barsoi/Balrampur seat.

Comrade Mahboob Alam has faced countless false cases against him – all for having taken up the struggles of poor Dalits, adivasis and Muslims in the area, against powerful landlords. But he has earned the unflinching love and trust of the poor in this extremely backward region – they all know they can count on none but Comrade Mahboob and CPI(ML) in the face of every instance of harassment, injustice and violence.      

The CPI(ML) struggles here are living instances of staunch secularism on the ground – a secularism crafted not by opportunistic unity of leaders for power, but the solidarities of the powerless against the powerful.

Demonstration in Tamilnadu against Communal and Castiest Forces

At the  call of the state committee of CPI(ML) against Hindutva communalism and castiest forces,  state wide demonstrations were held on November 2, 2015  all over Tamilnadu. Demonstrators demanded to protect the life,  liberty and dignity of Muslims, Dalits and women, and stringent punishment to Hindutva communal and casteist forces.

The protesters also condemned the arrest of Comrade Kovan, folk singer of People's Art and Literature Association on a sedition charge for having composed and sung a song criticising the Chief Minister for failure to implement prohibition of alcohol.

While Comrade Kumarasamy, PBM, attended the demonstration at the Demonstration in  Chennai, State Secretary Comrade Balasundaram attended the demonstration at Vilupuram along with Comrade Balasubramanian , Puducherry state secretary. Demonstrations were also held at Sriperumputhur, Salem, Coimbatore, Kandarvakottai, Madurai, Tirunelveli, Myiladuthurai, and Karur. Constituents of AIPF also took part in many places.

Pricol workers of Coimbatore Fast For Bonus

The management of Pricol announced 8.33% Bonus unilaterally to workers without even talking to the recognised AICCTU union. Even last year it has dispersed the bonus of 35.34%. Angered by the move of the management hundreds  of workers went on a day long fast at Periyanaikan Palayam on 4.11.2015. Workers working inside the factory also refused to take food on that day. Each and every worker has also sent a memorandum to the management demanding bonus of 35.34% as given by the management last year. AICCTU National President Comrade Kumarasamy addressed the workers at the fasting venue. A Gate Meeting was also held by workers paying tributes to the departed state President of AIARLA Comrade TKS Janardhanan.

#OccupyUGC Protests Continue And Swell

The students' occupation of the UGC demanding restoration and enhancement of the Non-Net Fellowships continues even as the fire of students' enthusiasm fails to be dampened by the colder weather.

On 3 November, former UGC member Prof. Yogendra Yadav along with activists from Swaraj Abhiyan, and Prof. Chaman Lal joined the OccupyUGC movement and spent the night with the students. Journalists like Dilip C Mandal and academics like Prof Mary John took Open Classes at the barricades nearly every day.

 On 4 November, students held a solidarity rally at Jamia Millia Islamia in support of #OccupyUGC movement. They also organized a protest in ‪‎DU Arts Faculty and raised slogans against scrapping of non- net fellowship, the WTO and the BJP government.

On 5 November, students, teachers and activists from various Universities in the NCR region held a massive ‪#‎OccupyUGC March to the MHRD. The sheer strength of students, teachers and activists who had gathered outside MHRD, forced the minister to come out and address the protesters. The students demanded a complete scrapping of the review committee which has been formed by the UGC to "look into" the distribution of Non-Net Fellowship from the next academic session. The Minister refused to make any commitment to students and stood by the press release which was released by MHRD after first round of demonstrations under Ocuppy UGC movement.

The students too refused to budge from their demanded and resolved to continue their movement until and unless higher education becomes a right of every citizen of India.

#ModiNotWelcome Protests in the UK

Preparations are on to ensure that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is greeted with massive protests on his impending visit to the UK. In the run up to a huge Day of Protest on 12 November, several groups held a 'Reclaim Diwali' celebration on 6th November, with music and a feast including vegetarian and non-vegetarian and beef items. This Reclaim Diwali event was organised by the South Asia Solidarity Group, Dalit Solidarity Network, South Asian Women's Creative Collective London, and Freedom Without Fear Platform as part of the Modi Not Welcome campaign.  

On 8th November, the Modi Not Welcome Campaign projected the words "Modi not welcome" onto the Houses of Parliament building. The projection showed Modi wielding a sword in front of "an OM sign that is tragically being transferred to a Nazi swastika."

The Modi Not Welcome protests are being organised by Awaaz Network, South Asia Solidarity Group, Sikh Federation UK, Southall Black Sisters, Dalit Solidarity Network UK, Indian Muslim Federation, Indian Workers Association, Muslim Parliament, and Voice of Dalit International.

After facing a rout in the Bihar elections and a wave of dissent and protest from writers and intellectuals in India, Modi is all set to face massive protests in the UK as well.

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