Saturday, July 9, 2016

ML Update | No. 28 | 2016

ML Update

CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol.19 | No. 28 | 5 - 11 JULY 2016

Bangladesh Terror Attack:

Bangladesh Government Must Take Responsibility For Its Refusal to Tackle Religious Extremism  

The heinous massacre of diners at a Dhaka cafe by terrorists in the name of Islam has shocked people across the world. The terrorists stormed the café shouting Islamic slogans, and took the diners hostage. They brutally tortured and killed those who failed to or refused to recite verses from the Quran. 20 patrons of the cafe were killed in the bloodbath, and two policemen were also killed. Of the six attackers, five were killed and a sixth has reportedly been arrested.  

Rival terrorist outfits have claimed responsibility for the attack - Ansar-al-Islam, affiliated to the Al-Qaeda , and the ISIS. From photographers of the attackers posted by the ISIS online, it appears that most of them are well-educated youth from Bangladesh's affluent and influential families.  

The Dhaka café massacre is no isolated instance of terrorism. Bangladesh's Government has had ample warning signs of the dangerously escalating radicalisation and violence by terrorist groups. For the past several years, Bangladesh has witnessed a spate of brutal killings of secularists, rationalists, bloggers, writers, gay rights activists, Hindu priests and individuals from the minority Hindu and Christian communities. Bangladesh's Awami League Government had no effective or purposeful response to these attacks. Instead, responsible leaders of the Government indulged in victim-blaming.

Just a month ago, the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, speaking on the occasion of the Bengali New Year, preached 'tolerance' as essential for development. But in the same breath she said, "But if anyone writes filthy words against our religion, why should we tolerate that? Why should the government take responsibility if such writings lead to any untoward incidents?" Similarly, after Bangladeshi atheist blogger Nazimuddin Samad was hacked to death, Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal had said that Samad's writings "needed to be scrutinized to see whether he wrote anything objectionable about religion." Such remarks, like those of communal politicians in India who want to investigate if the lynch-mob victim Akhlaque ate beef, amount to victim blaming and a rationalisation of bigotry and religious fundamentalist violence. 

The roots of Islamic extremism in Bangladesh lie in the Jamaat-e-Islami, the fountainhead of horrendous war crimes during the Bangladesh war of independence. In the period when military dictatorships ruled Bangladesh, the Jamaat-e-Islami was rehabilitated and political Islam instated as a part of mainstream Bangladesh politics. The Jamaat-e-Islami is now an ally of Bangladesh's main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), both of whom make no secret of their espousal of a political Islamism. The Awami League, in spite of its secular posturing, has allowed the Islamic outfits a free rein, trivialising each communal murder as an isolated aberration. 

The refusal of Bangladesh's mainstream political parties to nip political Islam and a growing communal discourse in the bud has much to answer for in the unchecked proliferation of terrorist attacks. The only ray of hope lies in the fact that a considerable section of Bangladeshi society continues to be committed to fighting attempts to turn the country into an Islamic state. The Shahbag movement of 2013, a huge popular uprising demanding punishment for Islamist perpetrators of war crimes, also raised its voice strongly against religion-based politics. In spite of the barbaric killings, young activists continue to courageously raise their voices in support of a robust secularism. During the latest terror attack, a 20-year old Bangladeshi man Faraaz Hossain was offered a chance to save his life and leave, after he recited the Quran verses. But he chose, instead, to stay back with his two young woman friends, one of them an Indian teenager Tarishi Jain, and was killed with them. Another Bangladeshi woman Ishrat Akhond, refused to recite the verses and was hacked to death.

The events in Bangladesh must also push us to reflect on the growing politicisation of religion and resultant communal and terrorist violence in the whole of the subcontinent. In India, outfits espousing political Hindutva have killed writers for their secular writings; and murdered Muslims on charges that they 'eat beef.' They have issued threats against all those who refuse to chant slogans in favour of 'Bharat Mata' – India visualised as a Hindu goddess. In Pakistan and Bangladesh, murders and massacres in the name of Islam refuse to abate. In Sri Lanka, the genocide Tamil had a definite core of communal politics, with anti-Tamil bigotry merging with a political discourse of Buddhist majoritarianism. In Myanmar also, military dictators and mainstream 'democratic' politicians alike have appeased Buddhist bigotry and organised violence against the minority Rohingya Muslims.                         

The Bangladesh Government must be held accountable for the spate of terrorist attacks including the latest attack in the Dhaka café. The Awami League and the Government cannot look the other way and condone killings. We stand with the people of Bangladesh who are fighting the forces of political Islam and demanding an end to terrorism. Secular forces across the subcontinent must speak up and unite against the dangerous forces that are politicising religion and promoting intolerance and violence in the name of religion.      

Pay Hikes Announced by Government are Paltry  

The pay hikes for Central Government employees announced by the Modi Government in keeping with the 7th Pay Commission recommendations are paltry and shamefully inadequate. The real increase over the previously set minimum pay is only 14.29%, which is lowest in the last fifty years. The minimum wage calculated by the 7th Pay Commission at Rs 18000 is grossly distorted and inadequate. The Central Trade Unions are demanding a minimum wage of Rs 26000.   

The pay hike announced by the Modi Government also adds insult to injury by failing to take into the account the steep increase of prices of essential food items, such as dal and other items of daily consumption. 

The CPI(ML) extends support and solidarity to the employees organisations and central Trade Unions that are agitating to demand a revised announcement in keeping with their demands.

Protests against Corruption

A protest meeting was held in front of the Zonal office, Patratu on 14 June 2016 under the leadership of the Jharkhand Gramin Mazdoor Sabha (Patratu block) on the issue of corruption in disbursement of ration-kerosene. A 22-point charter of demands was submitted to the Jharkhand government. Ration-kerosene has not been disbursed by the dealer for the last 3 to 8 months in the villages of Baridih and Kadru in the remote hilly adivasi areas of Baridih panchayat. The Gramin Mazdoor Sabha had submitted a petition protesting against this, signed by 150 consumers from Baridih and 100 from Kadru village, to the Zonal officer and the Deputy Commissioner. Thereafter, 65 consumers of Baridih village were given rations. However, the rest have still not been given ration and no action has been taken against the dealer. This had created much dissatisfaction among the villagers, hundreds of whom joined the protest.

In another protest, a rally was taken out through the Patratu bazaar to demand "dakhal" (possession) on lands given to adivasis through Bhoodaan in the Hudumgarh village of Jawahar Nagar panchayat and against illegal capture of these lands by dominant forces. The protest was also against the sale of rural raiyati lands to corporate companies by the land mafia in Kurse village (Kurse panchayat), further demanding that the legitimate peasants should be given possession of these lands. The protestors warned that if the issues of the poor were not adequately addressed and if the corruption in the issuance of caste and domicile certificates, dakhal-kharij of lands and distribution of ration-kerosene was not ended, the Gramin Sabha would launch a big and sustained agitation against this.

Women Workers' National Workshop

AICCTU held its national women workers' workshop in Tata Nagar on 25–26 June 2016. The workshop was held in Munniji Sabhagar, Mahendra Singh Nagar. The theme of the workshop was: "Organising Working Women: Challenges and Tasks".

The open session held on 25 June was presided over by AICCTU vice president Com. Shashi Yadav. AICCTU national secretary Com. Suvendu Sen welcomed the participants and AIPWA national secretary Com. Kavita Krishnan inaugurated the workshop. AICCTU General Secretary Com. Rajiv Dimri gave the concluding speech in the open session. The solidarity message sent by Com. Kalpana Wilson of the South Asia Solidarity Group was read out in the workshop. AIPWA National Secretary Com. Chaitali Sen also sent her solidarity wishes for the workshop. 66 comrades from 12 states participated in the workshop. There were ASHA, Anganwadi, mid-day meal, domestic, garment, construction and beedi workers among the participants. Nursing students from Bihar too attended the workshop.

Comrades Bhuvana, Shashi Yadav, Saroj Chaubey, Meena Pal and Premlata Pandey, AICCTU National Council members, presented papers on various challenges facing women workers and discussing in detail the need to organize women workers. There was a lively discussion on these papers and the participants shared their experiences in organizing various sections of women workers.

As a part of the efforts to make the 2 September general strike a success, the workshop decided to organize a campaign in the month of July on the following demands of women workers in the country, apart from state/sector specific demands:

•  Stop budgetary cuts for welfare programs such as the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and mid-day meal. Stop privatisation of the ICDS and NRHM (under which anganwadi and ASHA workers are employed), as well as the mid-day meal schemes and stop handing these schemes to NGOs.

•  ASHA, anganwadi, mid-day meal workers, etc. should be granted the status of government employees. and monthly wages of Rs. 20,000 should be fixed for them.

•  Ensure equal wages for equal work.

•  Ensure maternity and child care benefits for women workers.

•  Strict implementation of Prevention of Sexual Harassment in Workplaces Act.

•  Meaningful social security measures for women workers.

•  Enumeration of women workers in various sectors in the country.

•  Formation of a national-level committee which will investigate into women workers' demands and come forward with recommendations which are to be implemented in a time-bound manner.

The workshop formed a 16- member cell with comrades Bhuvana and Shashi Yadav as joint convenors. This cell of AICCTU will take up further work on this front.

Advocates' Struggle in Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu advocates are on the warpath against the draconian undemocratic amendments to the rule 34(1) of the Advocates' Act 1961, which empowers High court and District judges the powers to debar advocates from practicing in any court without even an enquiry. Already about 50 advocates have been suspended by the Bar Council of India on various charges for fighting against corruption in the Judiciary and for demanding that Tamil be made the official language of the Madras High Court. Contempt proceedings were also initiated against some of the advocates leading the struggle. These draconian amendments to the Advocates' Act have come as the latest in the series of attempts to curb the democratic voices of dissent.

In spite of the repeated attacks on advocates  (Ex-President of the Madurai bench of the High Court Advocates Association was even jailed in a contempt case), the Democratic Advocates Association (DAA) took the initiative and organized a one-day fasting programme in Chennai. CPI(ML) central committee member Com. Balasundaram addressed the advocates on this occassion. DAA also organized a Convention at the Bar Council, which Senior counsels of Madras High court Ms. R. Vaigai, Mr. Vijayakumar and Com. Kumarasamy (also Politburo member of CPI(ML)) addressed along with retired High Court Judge Justice Hari Paranthaman.

CPI(ML) and DAA have been campaigning  against the draconian amendments to the Advocates' Act, demanding its total withdrawal, participating in several state-level meetings of Bar associations on this issue. Protests have also been independently organized defying orders and rules. CPI(ML) and DAA published a pamphlet which was well received by advocates. CPI(ML) took the initiative at the earliest to organize demonstrations in support of the cause of the advocates throughout the state. Programmes at the Madras High court involving various streams of progressive and democratic forces have been organised, which was instrumental in galvanising successful protest actions. A day-long fast at Chennai was also organised in which state leaders of CPICPI(M) and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi took part.

Com. Bharathi, state organizer of DAA, was part of the team that met with the Chief Justice of Tamil Nadu on this issue. The matter could not be resolved at this meeting, and so protests continued.  A day-long fasting programme  was organized at various district headquarters on 24 June 2016. A 'Rail Roko' was organized on 28 June 2016, in which thousands of advocates courted arrest. Advocates and CPI(ML) state committee members Bharathi, Ramesh and Desikan courted arrest at Chennai, Tirunelveli and Trichy  respectively. Copies of the amendments were burnt on 1 July 2016. A state-level conference of advocates was held at Tiruppur on 3 July 2016, in which eminent retired Judges of the Supreme Court and the Madras High Court participated. A continuous sit–in inside the court complexes was also organized, starting from 4 July 2016 onwards.

Meanwhile advocates are on total boycott of the courts throughout Tamil Nadu. Seeing the mood of the advocates, a 5-member High Court Judges' committee has now been formed to prescribe further amendments in the Advocates Act. But Tamil Nadu advocates are determined to get all the undemocratic provisions completely withdrawn.

Protest against Eviction of Street Vendors in Puducherry

As soon as the new Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi assumed office in the Raj Nivas of Puducherry, she issued orders for eviction of street vendors in the Puducherry and Karaikal towns, in the name of 'beautification'. This invoked much resentment amongst street vendors and other small businesses in the area.

In solidarity with agitating street vendors, the Puducherry unit of AICCTU took out a demonstration on 23 June 2016. The demonstration asserted that street vendors are not encroachers, rather big shops and malls owned by the rich are the real encroachers. The demonstration demanded that the central NDA government repeal the draconian Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act 2014. The demonstration was held in the main road of Puducherry town and led by the State AICCTU secretary S. Purushothaman. AICCTU Karnataka state general secretary Clifton D' Rozario, AICCTU National vice president S. Balasubramanian, Jananayaga Kattumana Thozhilalar Sangam (AICEF) Puducherry state secretary Murugan, CPI(ML) Puducherry rural secretary A. Sakthivelu spoke at the demonstration. The other main demands raised in the protest were:

     i)  Sanction Rs.10,000/- to all rain and flood affected street vendors affected in the last year's heavy rains and with 50% subsidy without interest.  Loans of all street vendors should be waived.

     ii) Upgrade Unorganized Workers' Welfare Society into a Welfare Board.

     Iii) Implement Right to Education Act in the current academic year so as to benefit all street vendors and workers in industries which have been shut down.  

     iv) Implement Rs. 7500/- as pension to unorganized workers.

     v) Allocation of 1% welfare fund to street vendors in the Municipalities budget.

     vi) Free supply of power upto 100 units to all street vendors

     vii) Drop the proposal of 'No vendors Zone' in the main thorough fares.

     viii) Provide free godowns, toilets, drinking water and rest rooms to all street vendors.

     ix) Strictly implement ban of plastic bags, and plant tree saplings in all streets.

     x) Take stringent actions against those officials (municipal, Police) who misbehave with street vendors.

     xi) Provide basic amenities to Sunday Market vendors.

AICCTU convention in Rudrapur

AICCTU organized a convention at Rudrapur (Uttarakhand) on 26 June against the State government's repressive anti-worker stance and the undeclared labour policy of the Uttarakhand government (no labour laws, no unions, no democratic rights, no adherence to the minimum wages law, and no right to strike), and to demand restoration of democracy in SIDCUL and the arrest of the attackers of labour leader KK Bora.

The convention was attended by AICCTU National Vice President Com. Raja Bahuguna, CPI (ML) State Secretary Com. Rajendra Pratholi, CITU State President Com. Satyaprakash, Uttarakhand Transport Party President PC Tiwari, North-Eastern Railway Workers' Union President Kulwant Singh, Munish Kumar, Qaisar Rana from RDF, Akhil Bharatiya Kisan National Executive member Afroz Alam,CPI(ML) Uttarakhand State President Purushottam Sharma, Kumaoni writer Ratan Singh Chirmoliya, progressive intellectual Ajit Sahni, writer and cartoonist Suresh Lal, senior farmer leader Bahadur Singh Jangi, Mukul from Mazdoor Sahyog Kendra, AICCTU State secretary KK Bora, Lattha Mazdoor Union President Mubarak Shah, Lalit Matiyali, Kamal Joshi, Gopal Gadiya, Kishan Baghri, and workers and activists from the unions in Mantri Metals, RML, MK, Delphi-TVS, MINDA, Auto Line, Mahindra CIE, Century Pulp and Paper Mills and other unions. The convention was presided over by AICCTU State President Com. Nishan Singh and conducted by District secretary Dinesh Tiwari.

AISA Leader Assaulted by ABVP Goons in Delhi University

On 1 July 2016, AISA Delhi University unit leader Abhinav Kumar was brutally beaten up in the premises of his college, Deshbandhu college, by ABVP goons including Himanshu Bidhuri (son of BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri), Rajat Choudhary and three more ABVP cadres. In the previous DUSU elections, Comrade Abhinav was AISA's DUSU Joint Secretary candidate. He had secured more than 10,000 votes, thus providing a massive challenge to the ABVP's politics of money and muscle power, and to their fascist agenda and propaganda. On 1 July, Comrade Abhinav was helping new students with admission formalities. Without any provocation, Abhinav was surrounded by these goons from ABVP, who asked him to stop admission assistance in his own college. When he refused, they demanded that he shout 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'.  When Abhinav ignored them and continued with assisting students with admission-related queries and formalities, the ABVP goons slapped him so many times that now his hearing in his left ear is severely impaired.

Following this assault, AISA as well as other student organisations in DU have been demanding action against those who perpetrated this assault. More than three hundred students participated in a massive protest held outside the Delhi Police Headquarters. AISA, CYSS, DSU as well as Disha participated in this protest. After the protest a delegation consisting of JNUSU Vice President Shehla, AISA national president Sucheta, AISA leaders Sudhanshu and Abhinav met the DCP of South East District Mr. Randhawa. He refused to act on the demand for the immediate registration of an FIR to investigate the violence, claiming that "further investigation by doctors" is necessary. He also promised that a doctor would contact Abhinav regarding the same. However, some days have passed now since this promise, and no FIR has been filed despite repeated demands from AISA. Clearly, the Delhi Police is trying its level best to protect the perpetrators of the violence, especially given their political connections with well-known BJP leaders. Bureaucratic hassles are being created, and even though copies of the MLC clearly mention injuries to Abhinav, the Delhi Police appears to be succumbing to political pressure.

Forced by a spirited protest against its hooliganism, the ABVP has launched a vicious tirade of threats, intimidation and lies against AISA leaders. Himanshu Bidhuri's father Ramesh Bidhuri has jumped to his son's defence and claims that Himanshu is being politically targeted because he is a BJP MP's son. ABVP's DU leadership too is defending Himanshu and is threatening to file defamation cases against AISA leaders including JNUSU Vice President Shehla. The ABVP-RSS-BJP's entire PR machinery is being used to claim that Ramesh Bidhuri's son is innocent. Last year, when AISA activists were campaigning against the imposition of the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) in DU, they had been attacked by ABVP activists. Progressive and democratic minded forces in DU have been opposing this culture, and hence have been at the receiving end of ABVP violence.


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