Saturday, May 21, 2016

ML Update | No. 21 | 2016

ML Update

CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol.  19 | No. 21| 17 – 23 May 2016

Acche Din for Sanghi Terror-Accused? 

Ever since the Modi Government came to power, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is working systematically to protect terror-accused who are ideologically affiliated to the Sangh Parivar. Last year, Rohini Salian, Public Prosecutor in the Malegaon 2006 and 2008 blasts cases, went on record to say that she was being pressured to go 'soft' on the accused. Now, the NIA has moved to drop charges against a key accused in the Malegaon 2008 blasts case, Pragya Singh Thakur (Sadhvi Pragya). Pragya Singh, a former ABVP leader, is known to be a close associate of the RSS and BJP. While continuing to prosecute Lieutenant Colonel Purohit, the NIA has withdrawn MCOCA charges and is invoking only UAPA.

The withdrawal of MCOCA charges makes custodial confessions inadmissible in Court, and therefore many confessional statements obtained in the Malegaon 2008 blasts case have now become useless. By allowing custodial confessions, the draconian MCOCA actually legitimises and encourages custodial torture. In fact, it would be welcome if the NIA were to review every terror case, withdraw MCOCA entirely, and only pursue those terror cases which do not rely on custodial confessions.

In the 2006 Malegaon blasts case, eight Muslim men, held on the basis of custodial confessions obtained under torture, were recently acquitted by a sessions court. These men had remained in jail even after investigations by both ATS and NIA had decisively pointed in the direction of a Hindutva hand behind the blasts. The NIA had admitted that no evidence linked these men to the blasts and recommended their discharge – but the same NIA did a U-turn at the very last minute and recommended against their discharge. This underlines the partisan character of the NIA that is unwilling to release Muslim men whom it knows to be innocent even as it going out of its way to free terror-accused from the Hindutva political camp.

There is convincing evidence beyond custodial confessions against Sadhvi Pragya and other accused persons from the Hindutva camp. It was the then ATS chief Hemant Karkare (killed during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks) who, in 2008 had identified the Hindutva terror network and begun connecting the dots between the Modasa blasts, the Malegaon 2006 and 2008 blasts and several other blasts. Karkare saw through the efforts of the Hindutva terrorists to divert blame onto groups like SIMI, and began uncovering the Sanghi terror network. His work was cut short by his death during the 26/11 attacks – a death about which there are still many unanswered questions. 

In 2010, Swami Aseemanand of the RSS, arrested in the Samjhauta blasts case, made voluntary judicial confession before magistrates, exposing the role of Hindutva and Sanghi terrorists in the Mecca Masjid, Malegaon 2006 and 2008, Ajmer Sharif and Samjhauta Express blasts. These confessions were not extracted in police custody, and therefore would have been very powerful evidence in Court. Aseemanand subsequently retracted his confessions – but in interviews to the media, has repeatedly asserted the role of Hindutva terror outfits in those blasts. He has even declared that RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat gave his blessings to these terror plans, but asked Aseemanand and others not to "link it to the Sangh." Mohan Bhagwat himself admitted while addressing a meeting of the RSS at Surat (Gujarat) on January 10, 2011 that "of the majority of the people whom the government has accused (in various blast cases), a few had left voluntarily and a few were told by the Sangh that this extremism will not work so you go away." Why did the ATS and NIA fail to investigate the role of Bhagwat and the RSS in the blasts?

Pragya Singh's bike had been used to bomb Malegaon in 2008. The NIA is now arguing that Pragya Singh had not been using the bike, and it was Ramesh Kalsangra who had used the bike to bomb Malegaon. But the ATS chargesheet in the Malegaon 2008 case had shown transcripts of an intercepted phone call in which Sadhvi Pragya asked Ramesh Kalsangra "Why did so few people die? Why didn't you park [the bike] in a crowded area?" Surely such a phone conversation is credible evidence? Why, then, is the NIA exonerating Pragya Singh? The case of Pragya Singh can be contrasted with that of Rubina Memon in the 1993 bomb blasts case. The car used to transport bombs was registered in Rubina's name, and she is now serving out a life sentence based on this tenuous connection with the blasts, even though she argue that she was unaware of the use to which her car was put. But in the case of Pragya Singh, the investigative agency itself is withdrawing charges even though her own words in an intercepted call indicate her full knowledge and involvement in the blasts.       

The NIA is also now claiming that the RDX used in the bombs were not sourced by Lieutenant Colonel Purohit. But the NIA still admits that the RDX is military grade explosive. Why is the NIA not asking how it was procured if Purohit did not procure it? The chargesheet in this case also claims that Purohit held a terror training camp under the guise of an 'Art of Living' event. Why has the NIA failed to investigate how the Art of Living organisation could be used as a cover for terrorist training?            

In the past year, Rohini Salian was removed by the NIA as Prosecutor in the 2006 Malegaon blasts; a number of witnesses turned hostile in the Ajmer blasts case, one of whom was made a Minister in the Jharkhand Government; the NIA closed the Modasa bomb case (which was similar in many respects to the Malegaon bomb case); the NIA overturned its decision to discharge the innocent Muslims in the Malegaon 2006 case; and now the NIA has withdrawn charges against Pragya Singh and weakened the case against Lt. Col Purohit in the Malegaon 2008 case. All these are ominous signs of political interference to protect terror-accused who are close to the Modi Government and the Sangh Parivar.  

In the Malegaon terror cases, there is in fact considerable evidence apart from custodial confessions. The NIA cannot be allowed to get away with selective exoneration of terror-accused who enjoy political patronage. The country deserves a thorough, impartial investigation and prosecution to unearth and destroy the entire Sanghi terror network.   


Jharkhand Bandh Against Anti-Adivasi Amendments to Domicile Policy

The CPI(ML) had called for a Jharkhand bandh on 14 May to protest against the domicile policy declared by the BJP government, communal frenzy, and amendments to the CNT and SPT Acts that protect the rights of tribals to land. The JMM had already called for a bandh on 14 May.

The BJP State government in Jharkhand used every possible repressive tactic in vain to stop people from participating in bandh, and large scale arrests were made on the bandh day as well as on the eve of the bandh. But nothing could stop the people from expressing their anger against the policies of the Raghubar Das govt. and the bandh was a huge success.

On 14 May in Giridih district more than 10,000 people came out on the streets in support of the bandh, held road blocks and marched in bazaars, chattis and villages in Bagodar, Birni, Rajdhanwar, Sariya, Khorimahua, Gawa, Teesri, Jamua, Deori, Gand, Bengawad, Dumri, Giridih Sadar, and other blocks. According to newspaper reports, 2,000 people courted arrest. The people's support for the bandh was so overwhelming that there was a dearth of police buses for the arrests. The sea of people surged voluntarily and needed no prompting. The bandh was led by district Secretary Manoj Bhakt, Rajkumar Yadav, Vinod Singh, and several other activists. The entire district was shut down.

Similarly, in Koderma district people marched in support of the bandh in Jhanda Chowk Jhumri Tilaiya and Domchanch. In Ramgarh district two groups of bandh supporters led by Bhuvaneshar Bediya and Hira Gope, marched through the entire town from 6 AM to 10 AM after which they were arrested. Loading of coal at CCL in Ramgarh district came to a complete standstill. At many places coal production was stopped for hours. At Hesalang a road block was held thrice at the same place after clashes with the police. In Hazaribagh district thousands of people came out in support of the bandh at 9 blocks—Chalkusa, Dadhi, Barkattha, Badkagaon, Bishnugarh, Ichak, Barhi, Hazaribagh and Sadar. The bandh was total in the district, in spite of the fact that in the night of 13 May itself, 5 leading activists were arrested and 200 more activists were arrested in the morning of 14 May when they came out on the streets to campaign for the bandh.

In Ranchi city hundreds of people led by State Secretary Janardan Prasad and Ranchi district Secretary Bhuneshwar Kewat were arrested by the police on the main avenue of the town. In Bundu the NH 33 was blocked by people and about 80 people courted arrest. In Tamad, a huge group of people led by Sukhdev Munda came out on to the streets and were arrested. In Rahe, about 60 people led by Santosh Munda and Dileep came out in support of the bandh and were arrested.

In Dhanbad district, 80 CPI(ML) activists blocked Nirsa Chowk where JMM and other parties also arrived later, and all were arrested. At Randhir Verma Chowk in Dhanbad city 150 CPI(ML) activists were arrested while campaigning for the bandh. Similarly, in Sindri and Baghmar activists were arrested.

In the Bermo coal belt of Bokaro district, ML activists campaigned vigorously for the bandh. Eight activists were arrested in Gomiya. In Gumla district 169 activists jammed the main road going to Palkot. The police kept obstructing peaceful bandh supporters the whole day, attacking them four times, and eventually arrested all the activists. Eight activists were arrested in Lohardagga.

In Kundheet block of Jamatada district, 100 activists were arrested when they came out in support of the bandh. People came out in support of the bandh in Nala block. Activists led by Geeta Mandal and Sahdev Yadav marched through the town in support of the bandh, blocked traffic at Tower Chowk, they too were arrested later. In Garhwa, hundreds of people were arrested near the block headquarters. In Utari, a big group of Left activists led by the CPI, including CPIML activists was arrested while campaigning for the bandh. Dozens of activists were arrested in Jamshedpur and Shikari Pada in Dumka district.

Activists from the CPI, CPIM, and JMM were also on the streets making the bandh a success. This was an unprecedented bandh in which lakhs of people participated, making evident the growing outrage against the pro-corporate, communal and fascist policies of the government. In the days to come the people of Jharkhand will come out in a decisive battle and all-pervasive opposition against the BJP government, in defence of their jan-jangal-jameen (water, forests, and land) and their mineral resources.


ASHA Union's Statewide Protests in Uttarakhand

ASHA workers held protests in many tehsil and block headquarters of Haldwani, Nainital, Pithoragarh and other districts across Uttarakhand on 12 May demanding fulfillment of their long-pending demands.

Uttarakhand ASHA Health Workers' Union affiliated to AICCTU staged a strong demonstration, holding a rally in Haldwani from the women's hospital to the SDM court. Addressing the rally, ASHA Association State Secretary, Com. Kailash Pandey said that ASHA workers were appointed to reduce the mortality rate in infants and mothers. However, they are being made to do other tasks also, and they have already raised objections to this. He said that tasks related to the pulse polio campaign, family welfare, malaria survey, ORS distribution, watching over violence against women, Chief Minister health insurance programme, disaster management training and other jobs have been imposed on them. Despite this, till date they have not been made workers of the health department and they are not being paid a monthly salary. Till now ASHA workers were being paid a pittance of Rs 5000 per month, and even that has been stopped now.

ASHA Health Workers' Union also held a protest in Nainital to demand government employee status for ASHA workers, along with raising other demands. The state president of the union, Com. Kamla Kunjwal led the ASHA workers in a rally which culminated in a meeting near the Gandhi statue at Tallital. Com.Kamla Kunjwal said that the health department is constantly over-burdening the ASHA workers with work, whereas questions of honorarium and other benefits are always evaded. She strongly demanded payment of Rs. 5000 as incentive amount, and ending the role of NGOs in training.

In Bageshwar, ASHA workers demonstrated in front of the tehsil headquarters and submitted a memorandum to the Governor through the administration. The memorandum demanded payment of annual incentive, guarantee of minimum wages, ending of NGOs' role in the health department, and other demands.

In Pithoragarh, ASHA Health Workers' Union held a protest in front of the district headquarters. Rallies were taken out from various blocks in the district and a memorandum with their demands was submitted to the district administration. At the Pithoragarh district headquarters ASHA workers from Bin and Munakot blocks led by block President Com. Urmila Saun took out a rally from the Ramlila maidan which culminated in a meeting at the Collectorate. Addressing the workers, Com. Govind Kafaliya of AICCTU demanded that all training should be given directly by the health department and the role of NGOs should be ended. He also demanded that the Diwali bonus which had been announced by the State government twice on separate occasions should be paid into the ASHA workers' accounts.

In Didihat, ASHA workers took out a rally and submitted a memorandum, led by union district Secretary Com. Indra Deupa and block President Com. Pinky Kalauni. Speaking on the occasion, Indra Deupa said that in several States like West Bengal, Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh, the State governments have started paying ASHA workers minimum wages as per the State norms; she demanded a guarantee from the Uttarakhand government that they too would pay minimum wages as per State norms.

In Dharchula, ASHA workers led by State President Com. Nanda Gand held a protest and submitted a memorandum of demands. In Gangolihat and Berinag, protest rallies were organized under the leadership of comrades Uma Mehra, Uma Bafla and Daya Karki, and memorandums were submitted.

The statewide protest saw enthusiastic participation from ASHA workers forcing the media too to take notice of their long standing demands. 


AISA Forces Tripura University Administration to Revoke Anti-Student Moves

After IIT-Madras, UoH, JNU, this time it was the turn of Tripura University to target to students from deprived and disadvantageous contexts and push them towards exclusion from higher education. A shocking decision was recently taken by the administration of Tripura University, a Central University, whereby, it was notified in the prospectus that every Indian candidate would have to deposit 780 rupees for entrance examination. The notification did not exclude students from ST, SC and PWD categories who until now were granted entrance fee concessions. The university decided to do away with measures that would encourage students from these contexts to apply in the university.

Strongly condemning this move, the Tripura unit of AISA mobilized students and on 12 May, organized a massive rally. Several students joined the rally and protested against this anti-constitutional move. A memorandum was submitted to the Joint Register, Nodal Officer for SC/ST/OBC/PWD & Minorities of Tripura University and as a result of the pressure exerted by the protests, they were forced to agree with the demand to revoke the move.


Tribals in East Godavari Defeat Land Grab Move

Tribals in East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh registered a crucial victory against land grab. They were supported in the struggle by CPI(ML) as they waged a determined battle against land grabbers. In the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, a cooperative society was registered at Kakinada town (also the district headquarters) to establish a slaughter house at D Paidipala village of Rowthulapudi Mandal, a village inhabited by tribal people. Though records showed it to be registered as a cooperative, it was an open secret in the district that a central minister was behind this venture.

Some time back, the people of D Paidipala village were shocked when they heard that some official had visited the village and that they were going to give clearance for a slaughter house. The land proposed for slaughter house is very near the village, which through inhabited by tribals, has not been notified as a schedule tribal village under the Constitution (Schedule 5).

The Jaldam Panchayat under which this village comes, conducted an emergency meeting and passed a resolution opposing the slaughter house so close to the village. The District Collector sent a notice to the Gram panchayat questioning the resolution. The villagers found that the co-operative had already been granted all the necessary permissions like land conversion (from agriculture to non-agriculture use), industrial permission, and environmental clearance to establish the slaughter house – without consulting the village panchayat. 

Using the Right to Information act, CPI (ML) sought documents including basic revenue records of the particular land for which the permission had been granted for industry - land conversion files from the Revenue Divisional office at Peddapuram, environmental clearance and other related documents from the AP Pollution Control Board, and the land registration certificates from the sub-registrar's office. Within one month, the party was able to get all the necessary documents pertaining to the slaughter house. Careful study of these documents revealed several truths about how the local officers flouted established procedures and laws to give clearances to the slaughter house company.

The land records of the village showed that this land was government land and not private land. It was also revealed that the land had long ago been assigned by the government to the local tribal poor as D-form-pattas (homestead land). As per the state's Act 9/77, lands thus assigned should not be transferred to third parties. At the same time the owners of the company continued to claim that they had purchased these lands which only signified a violation of act 9/77.

The local revenue officer tampered with the village records when they sent true copies to the RDO, Peddapuram for land conversion from agriculture to non-agriculture use and also in case of permissions from other departments. Fraudulently, the status of government land assigned to tribal poor for houses was changed into private land to get permission for industry. Comrade Bugatha Bangaru Raju, Central Committee Member of the party met the Tehsildar and submitted a petition for action against the land grab. He also met RDO, Peddapuram and submitted a petition for action against the officers who tampered with the records and requested to cancel the land conversion certificate issued to the company.

The party mobilized the people of the Jaldam Panchayat and several mass protests and rallies were held. The tribals participated in these rallies in huge numbers and with tremendous determination. On 13 April, a fact finding team visited the site and spoke with adivasis of Jaldam and D Paidipala. As a result of the pressure built by the struggle, the local Tehsildar was forced to agree in writing and confirm that the land records had been tampered with by their staff and the land in question was government land and not private land. He sent a report to the RDO for action and copies of the same were given to the party leaders. This was a significant victory for the villagers. 


Court Stays JNU Punishments, Students End Hunger Strike

The students lifted their heroic hunger strike after the Court stayed all punishments and directed the JNU VC to respond to the appeals.   

The JNU VC had, quite literally, been running away from facing the demands by JNU students and teachers that he review and revoke the punishments recommended by the 'High Level Enquiry Committee (HLEC)'. In spite of 52 Academic Council members passing a resolution to this effect, the JNU VC fled the Academic Council meeting rather than implement the resolution. Thus, he became the first Vice Chancellor of a Central University to jog away from an Academic Council meeting. In spite of a 16-day hunger strike by students peacefully appealing that he revoke the HLEC punishments, he refused to respond.  

What the High Court order of 13 May 2016 does is to firmly tell the JNU VC to face the students' appeals rather than run away.  

The JNU VC had been trying to hide behind the fig-leaf of the HLEC process and punishments being 'subjudice', claiming that the University cannot revoke the punishments since the matter is in Court. This is what the 'Urgent Appeal' by the JNU Administration on Day 12 of the hunger strike claimed. The High Court order clearly indicates that the JNU VC's claim was a lie. The High Court orders the VC to hear and respond to the appeals made by students – and stays all punishments until the appeals are heard. Not only that, the Court order states that in case the VC rejects the students' appeals, he cannot implement the punishments for two weeks after the rejection; students can approach the Court for relief in those two weeks. 

After the Court order, the hunger strike was ended on its 16th day. Comrade Chintu Kumari and Anant Kumar of AISA had remained on fast for 16 whole days, while the JNUSU General Secretary Rama Naga had withdrawn from the hunger strike on the 15th day after his medical condition severely deteriorated. Teachers and students celebrated the end of the hunger strike and the stay on the punishments, and the hunger strikers accepted juice from the parents and sisters of Chintu Kumari and Umar Khalid. The parents and sisters also addressed the gathering, with Comrade Chintu's father Comrade Ramlakhan Ram speaking about the struggle for rights and dignity of oppressed people in Bhojpur, where Chintu was born. 

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