A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 19 | No. 04 | 19 - 25 JAN 2016
A Dalit Scholar Killed By A Saffron Witch-hunt
The suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohit Vemula in University of Hyderabad (UoH) is nothing short of institutional murder. It is undeniable that the scientist, scholar and activist Rohit Vemula had been pushed to despair because of the manner in which the Central University had victimized Dalit student activists under pressure from the ABVP and Ministers of the Central Government.
The Ambedkar Students Association of the UoH had held a protest against ABVP's disruption of a screening in Delhi University of a documentary film on Muzaffarnagar communal violence. Subsequently, Rohit Vemula and four other members of the ASA had been falsely charged with having attacked an ABVP leader. A Proctorial enquiry found neither medical evidence nor testimonies of security staff to back up the ABVP leader's claim. Yet, the students were suspended following pressure from a BJP MLC Ramachandra Rao. However, the then Vice Chancellor revoked the suspension and promised a fresh enquiry.
However, the suspension continued and the fresh enquiry was never held – in large part because of the meddling by BJP's Secunderabad MP and Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatraya. Not only that, an official order by the University subjected the 5 Dalit students to what amounted to a social boycott – they were barred from accessing hostels, library, and other common places, and from contesting students' union elections.
It is on record that Dattatraya wrote to the HRD Minister accusing the ASA of 'casteist, extremist and anti-national' activities. This letter cited an ASA protest against the death penalty for Yakub Memon and falsely claimed that an ABVP leader had been attacked when he protested against this event. In response to this letter, the MHRD sent no less than four letters in a span of three months to the University, demanding that action be taken to curb 'anti-national' activities on the campus. It was in obedience to this witch-hunt that the University reversed a former Vice Chancellor's decision to revoke the suspension of the five students including Rohit.
One of the key culprits responsible for Rohit's death is the systematic misuse of power by the BJP Government at the Centre to harass activists and scholars. The sequence of events in UoH followed the same pattern that has already been seen in the IIT Madras – when the IIT Madras derecognized the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in response to a letter from the HRD Ministry, which cited anonymous letters accusing the APSC of inciting hatred against the Modi Government. The same MHRD that sends insistent letters seeking action on organizations with dissenting ideologies, remains silent when the ABVP repeatedly indulges in violence and vandalism on campuses. When Central Ministers and the HRD Ministry act as an arm of the ABVP or the RSS and sends letters to Universities branding student activism as 'anti-national' and 'anti-Government', it is nothing short of a witch-hunt.
There are several other recent instances of similar witch-hunts on campuses. One is BHU's termination of a teaching contract with Dr Sandeep Pandey following a complaint that his teaching was 'against national interest'. Another is the ABVP protest and pressure from Minister of the BJP Government in Rajasthan that forced police in Udaipur to file an FIR against a professor who delivered a lecture at Mohanlal Sukhadia University in Udaipur.
Another culprit for Rohit's death is the administration of the University of Hyderabad. The University, instead of going by its own investigation that had found the accusations against the ASA members to be false, chose to succumb to political pressure from the Central Government and ruling party. Moreover, the University imposed a blatantly casteist social boycott in addition to the suspension on the Dalit students. Rohit had, weeks before his suicide, written a letter to the Vice Chancellor saying that if the VC could not protect the rights of the Dalit students facing political victimization, it should just provide suicide ropes in every Dalit student's room. Instead of acting with urgency on this bitter and desperate cry for help from Rohit Vemula, the Vice Chancellor chose to ignore it.
The third and final culprit is the institutional failure of our education and political systems to address the deep-seated hostility and injustice faced by students from Dalit and other deprived backgrounds. In 2013 a fact-finding report had documented 24 student suicides in various colleges in Hyderabad till 2013. The Andhra Pradesh High Court, acting on a PIL into which several college and University teachers of AP had impleaded themselves, had recommended several short- and long-term measures to counter the systemic hostility and caste discrimination faced by such students. But colleges and Universities in Andhra Pradesh largely ignored these recommendations.
Nor is the problem limited to Andhra Pradesh. In the last four years, it is estimated that 18 Dalit students committed suicide in the country's higher education institutions. In 2007, the Thorat Committee had found evidence of open, blatant caste discrimination and violence against Dalit and adivasi students in AIIMS. Students who battle caste discrimination and arrive at the halls of higher education are humiliated, demoralized, declared academically 'unfit' - and the epidemic of suicides continues while the various corrective recommendations gather dust.
The saffronization drive of the BJP Government cannot be trivialized as merely a case of political appointments. It is an attack on reason, on academic and political freedom, on struggles for caste and gender equality on campuses, and on dissenting voices among students and teachers. This drive turns deadly when it compounds the systemic discrimination against Dalits in higher education.
Dabholkar, Kalburgi and Pansare were killed by the Sangh Parivar's bullets, and Rohit Vemula was a victim of a saffron witch-hunt by the Sangh Parivar and the Modi Government. His death has exposed, once again, the deep-seated hatred the RSS, ABVP and BJP hold for Dr. Ambedkar and his struggle against the caste system.
All those responsible for Rohit's death must be punished – and the Central Ministers Dattatraya and Irani who led the witch-hunt must not be spared, but must immediately be sacked.
Block Level Protests by CPI(ML) in Koderma
Over 1,000 rural poor under the leadership of block Secretary Com., Munna Yadav and comrades Rajkumar Paswan, Vijay Paswan, Ibrahim Ansari and others staged a forceful protest at the block office in Jaynagar block, Koderma district, Jharkhand on 22 December 2015. Their main demands were: (i) food security, (ii) ending of corruption in ration cards, (iii) immediate distribution of ration cards, BPL, old age pension for women, (iv) 200 days work under NREGA, (v) speedy implementation of occupancy of farmers' lands, and other demands. The protest rally marched through various bazaars and reached the block office where a 10 point charter of demands was submitted to the BDO. Impressed by the forceful slogan chanting during the rally, many people came and stood with the protesters. A special feature of the protest was that every CPI (ML) candidate (winning as well as losing) who had stood in the recent panchayat elections was present with their complete people's support base.
Similarly, on the anniversary of the Markachho firing, (on this date in 2003 three comrades were martyred in the police firing upon the CPI (ML) protest at the Markachho block office) a huge contingent of activists under the leadership of block Secretary Com. M. Chandra staged a dharna protest in front of the Markachho block office. Tributes were paid to the martyred comrades and a charter of demands was submitted to the BDO including the above mentioned demands including demands for making available regular rations under the Antyodaya scheme, 200 days work in a year, Rs 500 minimum wages, and other local demands.
AICCTU Dharna in Kanpur
As part of the state-wide protests against the growing number of incidents of flouting labour laws in Uttar Pradesh, AICCTU organized a one-day dharna in front of the office of the Deputy Labour Commissioner in Kanpur. Addressing the dharna, AICCTU State President Com. Hari Singh said that the State government has been unable to implement labour laws and the factory owners are openly flouting these laws. Illegal lay-offs are being carried out in LML since 2007 and 25% lay-off arrears have not been paid, causing a situation of starvation for the workers. It is the government's responsibility to end illegal lay-offs and ensure employment for the workers. Tanneries are being closed in the name of pollution. It is the responsibility of the State government, in co-ordination with the Centre, to find a solution for pollution so that workers can continue to earn their livelihood.
Addressing the dharna, AICCTU city President Com. Umesh Tiwari said that nowhere in Kanpur are labour laws being followed. Neither are pay-slips being given, nor are workers made members of ESI. Moreover, they are not even being given gate passes, and if they ask for bonus, they are shown the door out.
Addressing the dharna, CPI (ML) leader Com. Vijay Kumar said that the Modi government is trying to change the labour laws to suit the interests of corporate houses. The 2nd September countrywide strike showed that not only workers but also students, youth, and farmers are gradually standing up against the governments at the Centre and the State. He appealed to the workers to build a pervasive unity in order to fight effectively against capitalist attack on the one hand and communal frenzy on the other.
Addressing the dharna, the AICCTU city Secretary appealed to all workers in Kanpur to form a grand unity and build up the organization. He pointed out and condemned the irregularities and corruption in the construction sector and demanded that registration of workers is done by going to the workers' areas. The dharna was presided over by Com. Anant Ram Vajpayee and conducted by Com. MS Zaidi. Comrades Rana Pratap Singh, Netram, Ajay Singh, Manoj Singh, CPI (ML) media in-charge Com. Asit Kumar Singh, zilla mantri Ram Asre and others also addressed the dharna.
CPI (ML) Rally in Valsad to Demand Land for Displaced Adivasis
On 28 December 2015 a huge rally and meeting demanding allotment of land to displaced adivasis was organized under the leadership of CPI (ML) in Kaprada taluka of Valsad district in Gujarat State bordering Maharashtra. In 1980 work on construction of a dam (namely, Madhuban dam) was started in Kaprada-Dharmapur and Dadra-Haveli taluka of Valsad district under the Daman Ganga Reservoir scheme. Hundreds of adivasis were displaced for the construction of the dam without any alternative arrangements being made for them. 17 villages were submerged in the total submersion area, and apart from this, people from 10 other villages were thrown out of their villages. Till today they have not received any compensation. During these past 35 or more years of displacement hundreds of families from these villages have been struggling for employment and livelihood.
After the construction of the dam this reservoir has been the chief source of water supply to Valsad city, Vapi industrial area, Daman industrial area, Silvasa, GIDC, and Union Territory Dadra-Haveli. But the poor adivasis who were displaced for the construction are the ones who are bearing the brunt of the suffering even today. On the one hand the entire area gets its drinking water and irrigation facilities due to this reservoir; on the other hand, the area where the displaced adivasis are taking shelter is devoid of any civic amenities. Even the small amenities they have been given are limited only to amenities on paper. In many villages job cards have been made under MNREGA but the cards have not been issued to the workers. In village Astal, the administration claims to have made 400 job cards but investigation showed that no one has got any job card. Environmental problems have taken a serious turn in the vicinity of industrial areas; Vapi is counted among the most polluted cities of the country.
The BJP government in Gujarat has adopted a totally insensitive attitude towards all these issues. The poor people of Gujarat are the greatest sufferers from the so-called 'development model' of Gujarat and the adivasis have borne the severest brunt. The CPI (ML) is ceaselessly fighting against this attitude of the BJP. Focusing on these issues, the party organized a huge rally and meeting on 28 December to highlight the problems of the poor and adivasis. The protest meeting was led by party politbureau member Com. Prabhat Kumar, and addressed by Gujarat in-charge Com. Ranjan Ganguly and comrades Laxman Bhai Patanwadia, Amit Patanwadia, Kaprada taluka leader Kamlesh Gurab, Dhakal Bhai, Ganga Bhai, Sushila Ben, Jayanti Ben, and others.
In the memorandum submitted to the Chief Minister through the Collector, the party has demanded that the long overdue rehabilitation of the displaced should be completed soon, adequate compensation should also be given, arrangements should be made in every home for basic civic amenities such as toilets, drinking water, pucca access roads, lighting, etc. They have also demanded the job cards under MNREGA should be handed over to the workers, corruption and scams in MNREGA should be ended, and officers responsible for this should be punished. All workers should be given regular work as per MNREGA rules, and adivasis should be given land as per the Adivasi Forest Rights Act.
Left Parties Protest in Udaipur
Responding to the state-wide Left parties' call for 'halla bol' protest, the local units of CPI (M), CPI and CPI (ML) held a 'halla-bol' dharna protest on 7 January 2016 in front of the Collectorate. The dharna was to protest against- (i) the anti-people policies of the Centre and the State, (ii) the use of people's hard-earned money for the benefit of corporate interests, and (iii) the failure of the Modi government to honour its promises. AISA, AIPWA, Kachhi Basti Union and other organizations also participated in good numbers in the protest.
Addressing the huge gathering at the protest, district Secretary Com. Chandra Dev Ola said that the people had voted the BJP to power on the issue of development but instead it is protecting the interests of capitalists. The common man has become sorely troubled by rising prices and loot by the government and therefore everyone needs to unite and fight against this and teach the government a lesson. CPI (M) district Secretary Com. Mohanlal Khokhawat warned the government that until the people of kachhi bastis in Udaipur are not given pattas, they will continue the fight and will not rest till they succeed. He further said that it is the duty of the government to give pattas to common people who have been living on a land for a long period of time. Senior CPI (M) leader Rajesh Singhvi said that the fight for the rights of the people living in kachhi bastis ad other needy people in the district would be further strengthened. CPI-ML district Secretary Com. Lehar Singh Chhajed pointed out the autocratic ways of the Modi and Vasundhara governments and said that these two governments have deactivated all the schemes which had been made for direct benefit of the common people. This government is constantly working against the interests of the people and is making policies to benefit the selfish interests of capitalists.
The chief speaker at the dharna CPI (ML) State Secretary Com. Mahendra Choudhary condemned the Modi government's treachery on the issue of black money and other populist promises. Exposing the 'chaal, charitra, chehra' (gait, character, and face) of the BJP, he said that after promising 'achche din', the BJP has actually played the politics of communal divide in the country. The protest meeting passed a resolution to fight against the government's anti-people policies.
Young comrades at the dharna energized the protesters with songs like 'Le mashaalein chal pade hain log mere gaon ke' and 'Gar ho sake to ab koi shamma jalaiye'. A delegation of Left parties met the administration and informed them about democratic demands such as pattas for people living in Udaipur's kachhi bastis, licenses for thela drivers, and occupancy for dalits and adivasis on their lands. The Collectorate was gheraoed and a symbolic 'road block was done. In the talks with the delegation the administration assured them that the work of giving pattas to the people of the kachhi bastis would be completed in the next 2 months. After consulting the people at the protest, the delegation informed the administration that if this assurance was not implemented within the next 2 months, a prolonged and forceful protest would be launched in the coming days.
CPI(ML) Dharna in Triveniganj
On 30 December 2015, CPI (ML) held a protest demonstration in the Triveniganj subdivision in Supaul district in Bihar. The protest focussed on 11 point charter of demands and was led by CPI (ML) leader, Com. Sita Ram Yadav. Addressing the protest meeting, district secretary Com. Jai Narayan Yadav said that the grand alliance government had given a free reign to the criminals. From block to the state level, corruption was rampant. The poor could are not being able to get any work done without having to pay bribes. CPI (ML) activists protesting against the rampant corruption are being framed in false cases and sent to jail. From entitlement in property matters to public distribution system, there is open illegal extortion that is taking place. Arbitrary amounts are being extorted from farmers in exchange of spurious seeds and fertilizers. Crimes like theft, robbery, murders, kidnapping are on the rise all around. After the protest demonstration, representatives from CPI (ML) handed over a list of 15 point memorandum which included demands for- (i) ration cards for the poor, (ii) an end to the illegal extortion in the public distribution system, (iii) compensation to farmers who suffered losses due to the spurious seeds sold to them, (iv) implementation of Dr. Bandopadhyay commission recommendations, (v) provide occupancy to parcha holders of homestead or bhoodan land, (vi) appointment of a female doctor in the referral hospital, (vii) release of CPI (ML) MLA Com. Satyadev Ram along with Com. Amarjeet Kushwaha and Com. Manoj Manzil, who have been framed on false charges for having participated in struggles for defending land rights of the poor, (viii) an end to illegal extortion in child welfare department, along with several other demands.
Activists' Convention in Gwalior
An activists' convention was organized on 3 January 2016 in Gwalior to further teaching, training and agitation on issues of struggle and party organization and expansion. In addition to activists from Gwalior, farmers, trade union activists, youth and women activists from Bhind and Sheopuri also participated in the convention.
Addressing the convention chief speaker and party PB member Com. Prabhat Kumar said that under the incumbent BJP government in MP the people of the State continue to suffer from unemployment, price rise and corruption. There is no relief in sight for the people in spite of the same party being in power at the Centre. No section of society, be it farmers, youth, workers, or women appear to be getting any relief. The Vyapam scam has clearly shown that the echelons of power from the Chief Minister downwards, as well as the bureaucracy, are fully entrenched in the mire of corruption. On the other hand, there is a calculated conspiracy to render constitutional values and principles irrelevant. Com. Prabhat said that progressive, democratic, justice-loving and Left forces have registered protest against this not only in the State but also at the national level, and voices of dissent have been raised from every corner. In this phase the role of a revolutionary communist party like the CPI (ML) is very important. In order to strengthen our role, we must strengthen the party and our people's organizations; to do so it is essential that we interact extensively with workers and farmers and all sections of society, make them aware of the current situation and the necessity to join the struggle. Through such efforts we can strengthen our party and people's organizations in Madhya Pradesh and also strengthen people's struggles.
Prior to the convention, programmes were held in the Gwalior region under the month-long 'Save democracy-Save India' campaign. On 26 October 2015 a campaign was run in minority populated areas Noorganj, Sewa Nagar and other areas against attempts to spread communalism and to maintain peace and harmony and defeat the evil designs of communal forces. In the same series, a ''silent juloos' and human chain were organized on 29 October. On 6 December all Left parties jointly took out a march from Dal Bazaar and held a rally at Phulbagh gate. Between 26 December and 2 January nukkad sabhas were organized at Mama ka Bazaar, Abarpur, Sabji Mandi, Khajanchi Baba ki Dargah, Purashani, Chhoti Madaiyya, Kedarpur, Barauan (all small villages and mohallas near the city) as well as Dal bazaar. The nukkad sabhas placed before the people local issues such as electricity, water, sewers, access roads, etc. as well as state level and national issues.
The convention was also addressed by Central control commission member Com. Devendra Singh Chauhan, district Secretary Com. Vinod Rawat, Com. Anwar Ali, Com. Anita Bai, Dhirendra Bhadoriya, Munni Kushwaha, Naro Bai and others. At the start of the convention condolences were paid to departed senior communist leader A B Bardhan.