A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 19, No. 35, 23 – 29 AUGUST 2016Modi's Foreign Policy and
the Kashmir-Balochistan Conundrum
The cat is now out of the bag. Towards the end of his long and tiring Independence Day address, Modi let the Balochistan cat jump out of the bag of diplomatic silence. He said he had been getting many messages of gratitude from Balochistan and POK. And we are now told this is the new aggressive foreign policy discourse of the Modi regime. It is not just Modi and not just Balochistan, Mohan Bhagwat says the Modi government should do all that is necessary to reclaim parts of Jammu and Kashmir currently under the control of Pakistan and China. From Rajnath Singh to Arun Jaitley, every senior BJP minister is daily blaming Pakistan for the unrest in Pakistan. Occasionally Modi also invokes the much-touted 'constitutional framework' even as the security forces acknowledge the killing of Kashmiri citizens in 'unsanctioned raids' (like the killing of Shabir Ahmad Monga, a lecturer, and severe injuries inflicted on several others in Pulwama district during the intervening night of August 17 and 18).
As far as the international community is concerned, the Balochistan-Gilgit-POK remark of Modi can only mean one thing. Modi believes that he can stop Pakistan from raising the Kashmir issue in international fora by hitting it back with the issue of Balochistan. Whether this blackmail will work or not is anybody's guess (many say it is bound to backfire), but what Modi has already done is to establish an equivalence between Kashmir and Balochistan that can only expose and negate the official Indian narrative on Kashmir. Balochistan is fighting for secession and if India blames Pakistan for suppressing the Balochistan struggle, Pakistan accuses India of doing the same in Kashmir. If India attributes the unrest in Kashmir to Pakistani instigation, Pakistan levels exactly similar charges on India with regard to Balochistan. If Modi expects the world to believe his word about Balochistan, why shouldn't the international community also believe what human rights organizations worldwide say about Kashmir?
Modi has made the Balochistan remark not in any international forum though. The occasion was India's own Independence Day and he was speaking in front of his audience in India. Viewed in the context of Kashmir, his remark can only further alienate and infuriate the people in the valley who are daily losing lives and limbs and eyes to bullets and now the more indiscriminate pellets of the Indian state. According to the CRPF's own admission made to the judiciary, the force used 1.3 million pellets between July 8 and August 11. When asked when the CRPF would stop using pellet guns, Director General K Durga Prasad says 'this is like asking when will you stop beating your wife'! And now here is the Prime Minister of India talking about the gratitude expressed by the people of Balochistan for raising the issue of repression they face at the hands of the Pakistani state.
The BJP never tires of claiming that Kashmir is an integral part of India, but it blames Pakistan for the grievances of the Kashmiri people. If the people of Kashmir come out on the streets to protest, the BJP, which now shares power in the state as well, unleashes the brutal might of the state on unarmed protesters even as the PM sheds crocodile tears about the plight of the people in Balochistan and POK. By refusing to talk to the people of Kashmir, the Indian state has all along played ball with Pakistan in treating Kashmir as a bone of bilateral contention ignoring direct communication and dialogue with the Kashmiri people to address their concerns and grievances including the basic question of self-determination of the Kashmiri people. Especially now that the reins of power are in the hands of the ultra-chauvinist BJP, more than ever before Kashmir has become a game of political football between the two permanently sparring and occasionally warring neighbours. By openly tagging Balochistan to Kashmir, Modi has now made sure that the fire of discord between India and Pakistan will keep burning. And this is above all sheer survival strategy for a government which needs weapons of mass distraction to cover up its glaring failure on every front and betrayal on every promise.
While many former diplomats and foreign policy watchers have questioned the wisdom of Modi's Balochistan-POK discourse, leaders of the Congress have rushed to the defence of this new line. Former UPA Defence Minister and senior Congress leader AK Anthony has endorsed Modi's Balochistan remark, and Karnataka's Siddaramaiah government has acted on an ABVP complaint to slap sedition charges on the Amnesty International India for discussing human rights violations in Kashmir in an Independence Day eve programme in Bengaluru. In the face of nationwide outrage against the sedition charges slapped on JNU students, Rahul Gandhi had expressed his solidarity with the students and teachers of JNU, but here is his party's government in Karnataka leveling sedition charges on noted senior journalist Seema Mustafa for moderating the Amnesty discussion on Kashmir!
Indeed, the Congress has historically often been complicit with the Sangh in matters of chauvinism and foreign policy. Beginning with Nehru inviting the RSS to join the Republic Day Parade after the 1962 India-China war, and RSS hailing Indira Gandhi in the aftermath of the 1971 Bangladesh war, to this latest occasion, there have been many instances of reciprocity and convergence between the two. The democratic opinion of India must squarely reject this competitive chauvinism along with the anti-people neo-liberal collaboration between the BJP and the Congress (as witnessed at the time of the passage of the SEZ Act a decade ago and the GST Bill the other day) and not let the Modi regime play the Balochistan-POK card to legitimize the ongoing suppression of Kashmiri protests as well as other voices of dissent and struggles for justice elsewhere in the country.
RYA Conference in Bihar
The 6th Bihar State RYA Conference was held in Jehanabad on 3 August. The conference was attended by over 500 delegates from over 25 districts from Bihar. As a tribute to the recent student-youth upsurge in the country, especially the clarion call of 'Utho Mere Desh', Jehanabad town was named Bhagat Singh-Ambedkar Nagar. The venue of the Conference (Jehanabad Town Hall) was named Rohith Vemula-Chandrasekhar Hall, the stage was named after the progressive author and activist Premchand and the gate was named after Com. Shah Chand who passed away last year after being imprisoned under the draconian TADA and Com. Mariappan, RYA and CPI (ML) activist who was slain by Hindu fundamentalist forces in Tamil Nadu.
The conference started with an enthusiastic march from the Marwari Dharamshala to the venue of the conference. The march stopped at Ambedkar Chowk to pay tributes and garland the statue of Dr. Ambedkar, before proceeding to the venue where RYA General Secretary Com. Om Prasad hoisted the flag and paid floral tributes to the martyrs.
The conference started by electing a 5-member presidium and Com. Manoj Manzil conducted the proceedings. The inaugural speaker of the open session was CPI (ML) Central Committee Member, former MLA and General Secretary of AIKMS Com. Rajaram Singh. In his inaugural he emphasized that the student-youth upsurge against the Modi government will turn out to be the death knell for the Sangh Parivar and that the infectious nature of this upsurge will come to haunt Nitish Kumar as he continues to betray the student-youth of Bihar. RYA General Secretary Com. Om Prasad said that in Bihar, RYA can become the synonym of the youth movement as during the recent student-youth movement, RYA was the only youth organization in Bihar which had taken the most prompt and regular initiatives. Com. Raju Yadav, RYA Bihar State President, Com. Ramjantan Sharma Chairperson of Central Commission, Com. Mahanand CPI (ML) Arwal District Secretary, Com. Shriniwas CPI (ML) Jehanabad District Secretary and Com. Ajit Kushwaha AISA Bihar Secretary also addressed the open session.
This was followed by the delegate session where the draft put forward by the outgoing State Secretary Com. Navin was discussed. At the end of the discussion, an 85-member state council was elected which in turn elected Com. Manoj Manzil as State President and Com. Navin Kumar as State Secretary. The conference also wished farewell to the outgoing State President Com. Raju Yadav from his responsibilities in RYA and wished him all solidarity for his future responsibilities. The conference ended by passing political resolutions especially to launch all-out efforts to make the National Program of AISA-RYA in Delhi on 28 September an outstanding success.
Sankalp Sabha at Ranchi
On the fourth death anniversary of Com. Khudi Ram Munda, a Sankalp March was organized on 17 August from Rahe Bank Mor till the Bhagat Singh Chowk in Ranchi. Floral tributes were paid to the photo of Com. Munda, and a two-minute silence observed in his remembrance. The Sankalp March was undertaken to protest against the loot of the land being indulged in by the state government in the name of cancelling settlements and against the killing of the Dalit student Rupesh.
Addressing the march, Jharkhand state CPI (ML) secretary Com. Janardhan Prasad said that in a country of such enormous economic disparity where on one hand there were people like Tata, Adani, Ambani and Jindal and on the other hand there was large population of poor Dalits, tribals and farmers, how could one tax system be imposed on the entire country under the GST. Referring to the Raghubar Das government in Jharkhand, he said that oppression on Dalits and tribals had become synonymous to 'governance' in the BJP regime in the state. To ensure that more Rupeshs are not killed, the struggle demanding punishment for guilty police officials will continue.
Former MLA from CPI (ML), Com. Vinod Singh said that the calling of a special session in the Jharkhand legislative assembly on the issue of GST proves that the Jharkhand state government is standing against the interests of the people. Before thinking of implementing GST, the government should first implement minimum wages throughout the country. The Modi government was implementing a uniform tax system to ensure profits for big companies. In a country where 70 to 80% of the population are daily wage workers or MNREGA workers and are reeling under huge inflation, it is shameful that inflation is a matter of no concern for the government. The government must break its silence on this issue. While no amendments are made in the law to provide relief to the poor, amendments are made to provide land to Tata and Adani. The government will now to have to talk about not its own mind but about the people (not 'mann ki baat' but 'jan ki baat'). Com. Vinod also said that in the name of domicile policy, the state was betraying the youth of Jharkhand. Oppression is being unleashed on the Dalits, tribals and the displaced. The wife of late Com. Khudi Ram Munda was also present in the meeting following the sankalp march.
Dalits Beaten by 'Cow Vigilantes in AP
On August 9th, three Dalits - Mokati Yelush aged 58, Mokati Venkateswara Rao, aged 53 and Mokati Lakshman, aged 23 – were beaten up by a cow vigilante mob in Sudapalem of Uppalaguptham Mandal of East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh. The Dalits had been disposing of the carcass of a cow that had been electrocution, as requested by owners of a farmhouse. They were severely injured with sticks, rods and knives.
Left party leaders Com Jalli Wilson, MLC, CPI, Com Dadala Subbarao from CPM, Com Bugata Bangaruraju, CC member of CPI ML Liberation, Com U. Venkateswara Rao CPI ML New Democracy and Com Katam Nagaraju, MCPI visited the victims in hospital and protested at the police office. Left parties also held protests on 16 August on this issue. CPI(ML) Liberation held protests in Eleswaram, Tuni, Prathipadu, Jagamepeta in Kakinada also.
'Democracy? Whose Democracy?': public meeting in London on the eve of Independence Day
A public meeting held in London on the eve of Independence Day organized by South Asia Solidarity Group discussed the Indian state's current offensive in Kashmir and its history, the Dalit Asmita Yatra in Gujarat, the background to the rise of Hindutva and other key issues.
Academic, novelist and activist Nitasha Kaul addressed the meeting, titled 'Democracy? Whose Democracy? India on the 69th Anniversary of Independence'. She said that Kashmiris are facing an existential crisis under Indian army occupation: 'It is as though there is a hierarchy of lives – for some, many more have to be lost, before people listen'.
She said India's relationship with Kashmir—the humiliating attitude towards Kashmiris, the killing, injuring and blinding of innocent people including children, intimidating of journalists, and clamping down on the media and shutting down internet and mobile communication – a form of collective punishment — was like Britain's relationship with India under colonial rule.
Dr Kaul said that the uprising of Kashmiri people has nothing to do either with religion or with Pakistan. Kashmir happens to be a Muslim majority territory and India is using it as a pretext to demonise a people's uprising as terrorist. In today's Islamophobic environment it fits well with the broader narrative, she said.
She spoke of India's oft repeated claim that Kashmir is an 'integral part of India' and called it a very 'imperial' attitude. 'Why do you have to keep on repeating it? And why do you have to kill people to keep it integral?' She said that Kashmir is not like any other Indian state. It has its own history. She stressed that until 1953 when Sheikh Abdullah was arrested by Jawaharlal Nehru, Kashmir had its own flag and own Prime Minister, not a Chief Minister.
Also speaking at the meeting was the editor of Urdu Media Monitor M. Ghazali Khan. He said that every controversy being used and exploited by the BJP, for example the Babri Mosque, Muslim Personal Law, Urdu and the minority character of Aligarh Muslim University, was created by the Congress. During its tenure Congress engineered anti-Muslim riots. The BJP developed and systematized communal violence which is integral to its Hindutva ideology, leading to the "Gujarat Experiment" and adopting new elements such as "Love Jihad", "Ghar wapsi" and "Gau Raksha" as the situation requires.
Mr Khan added, 'Soon after the partition a totally false and mischievous premise was created in India that Muslims alone were responsible for that historic blunder and was used and continues to be used as a weapon to victimize them. However, the publication between 1970 and 1983 of secret and official documents (Transfer of Power 1942-47) present a different picture of that period: Gandhi, Nehru and particularly Patel appear to be as much responsible for the partition as was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan.' Mr Khan stressed the importance of an alliance between Dalits, Muslims and all other secular forces in India.
Dalit activist and Chair of CasteWatch UK Satpal Muman who was also due to speak could not personally attend the seminar but sent a written speech that was read out by at the meeting. In his message Mr Muman sent his solidarity with the hugely inspiring and significant Dalit Asmita march taking place across Gujarat, to culminate in a mass rally on Independence Day at Una, the scene of the recent brutal attack on Dalits by self-styled Gau Rakshaks which sparked the movement. He added that the "stinking caste system" had followed Indians to the UK and the current British government was acting undemocratically by ignoring legislation passed by parliament safeguarding Dalits from discrimination in the UK.
Kalpana Wilson, chairing the meeting on behalf of South Asia Solidarity Group, also expressed her solidarity with the Dalit movement in India. She said this was a hugely significant moment with the Dalit movement putting forward the agenda of land redistribution as one of its key demands. As one of the leaders of the movement Jignesh Mevani has said, this hits at the base of Hindutva economic policy of unscrupulously handing over land to corporates like Ambani and Adani. She also highlighted the initiatives for unity between Dalits and Muslims which are being taken by the movement, which is taking place in Gujarat, till now known as the 'laboratory' for the Hindu right, where the genocidal attacks on the Muslim community had taken place in 2002.
The seminar also heard a powerful narrative on Dalit lives inspired by the Una incident 'Black and Blue' written and read out by actor and story writer, Saunvedan Aparanti.
Statement in Solidarity with the 'Azaadi Kooch' or Freedom March in India
(On 21st August, a protest demonstration of various Dalit and other democratic organisations at London expressed solidarity with the Dalit movement in Gujarat and India. The protesters performed a skit with cow-vigilantes wearing Modi masks, killing Dalits and Muslims in the name of 'cow protection.' They displayed placards saying 'We Want Justice' and 'Land for Dalits, Not For Ambanis and Adanis!' They issued the following statement in solidarity.)
As representatives of Dalit and South Asian organisations in the UK we send warmest solidarity greetings to our Dalit brothers and sisters in struggle in India as they march from Ahmedabad to Una in the 'Azaadi Kooch' (Freedom March), reaching on Independence Day to hoist the Indian flag at the place of the Una atrocity.
As India enters its 70th year of independence, the country is in turmoil as never before. The Hindu supremacist BJP government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which has been in power since May 2014, together with the numerous Hindutva killer gangs who stand behind it, has unleashed an increasingly violent reign of terror and repression on Dalits, Muslims and other minorities.
Dominant castes, who in rural India are the landowners, perpetrate the most heinous crimes of rape, arson, and murder of Dalits, specifically targeting women and children. Dalit women are forced to parade naked sometimes for the most minor of disagreements, or else even for 'not showing respect'. There is also a propensity by the ruling elites to dismiss atrocities as 'law and order' issues. Studies show, however, that Dalits are specifically targeted because of the resentment felt by upper-castes, particularly when Dalits try to rise above the down-trodden status ascribed to them, or when they try to assert their human rights.
This appalling state of affairs has got far worse in the last two years, deteriorating first during Modi's election campaign in 2013, and then deteriorating, even more acutely, since he has come to power in 2014. The primary reason for this is the BJP's polarising upper-caste Hindu supremacist ideology
As official figures show there has been a 44 percent increase in violence against Dalits in 2014 as compared to 2010, with 30 percent of the 47,064 crimes in 2014 committed in four BJP-ruled states -- Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh.
In the last few months 'Gau Rakshaks' or Cow protection vigilantes have become the latest face of Hindutva's killer gangs. They roam the countryside attacking and killing Muslims and Dalits whom they accuse of cow slaughter, or of consuming or intending to consume beef.
Gujarat has been seen as a 'laboratory' by the Hindu right since the genocidal attacks on Muslims in 2002 and on 11 July this year, in Una, Gujarat, the Cow goons launched a horrific attack on four Dalit men, tying them to a car and beating them brutally with sticks and iron pipes. They accused them of cow slaughter, although in reality, they were skinning a dead cow as part of their work – since this unpleasant task, like that of getting rid of dead animals carcasses, is still regarded as work suitable only and exclusively for Dalits. They filmed the attack (which took place with the collusion of the Gujarat police) and circulated it widely on social media. The aim was clearly to cause intense humiliation and to intimidate the community.
As we now know the video of the attack, which went viral, had a very different effect. It acted as a spark which ignited the already simmering anger and resistance of Dalits in Gujarat and other parts of India giving rise to a massive Dalit uprising. Dalits refused to clear cow carcasses, and they were left rotting all over towns in Gujarat. Already the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Anandiben Patel, has been forced to resign. The movement has continued to grow and is spreading all over India. Muslim organisations have joined Dalits in solidarity and so have Left and progressive organisations.
We will urge the Indian Government to meet the demands of the movement:
• Arrest and charge all those who participated in the attack on the Dalits in Una under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activity Act (PASA). • Withdraw cases filed against Dalits during recent protests and launch an immediate investigation into the 2012 police firing in Thangadh, Gujarat in which 3 Dalits were killed. • Immediately ban the murderous Gau Raksha Samitis (Cow Protection Vigilante Groups) • pose exemplary punishment to perpetrators of caste violence with national media coverage to act as a deterrent. • Set up Special Courts for offences under the Atrocities Act, as required by the law. • Make the jobs of Safai Kamdars, or sanitation workers, (all exclusively Dalits) secure, by making them permanent posts paid according to the regulations of the 6th Pay Commission. • Allocate Five Acre Plots of land to Dalits forthwith as is required under Section 3(1)(f) of the Atrocities Act. • Immediately enact a Reservation Act in Gujarat (All reservations/affirmative actions in Gujarat are currently at the discretion of the Executive and are initiated or effected only through a government resolution). • Provide housing units to Dalits in urban areas because they continue to be socially boycotted, discriminated against and exploited socially, economically and sexually in villages. • Use budgetary allocations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs/STs) exclusively for these sections and not divert them elsewhere. • The Gujarat Government must apologise publicly to Dalits for withdrawing and pulping the book on Dr Babsaheb Ambedkar which described his radical thoughts on Hindusim and the 22 point oath he took to convert to Buddhism in 1956.
CasteWatch UK; South Asia Solidarity Group; Ambedkar International Mission, London; Dr Ambedkar Buddhist Action Group Birmingham; Dr Ambedkar Buddhist Organisation; Central Valmik Sabha; Shri Guru Ravidass Cultural Association, Birmingham; Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha, Manor Park, London; Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha, Wolverhampton; Dr Ambedkar Memorial Committee Great Britain; Voice of Dalit International UK; International Asian Christian Front; South Asian Alliance
Com. Ghanshyam Mahto
Com. Ghanshyam Mahto, a dedicated and a fighting leader of the 1990s passed away on 4 August in his ancestral village of Baruhaatu in Bundu in Jharkhand. He was 76 years of age. He became associated with CPI (ML) in the year 1990 and thereafter remained in struggles being fought for the poor and tribals. Despite economic hardships, he never looked back. On 4 July, despite ill health, he participated in the sankalp sabha organised on the martyrdom anniversary of Com. Parmeshwar Singh Munda. Red Salute to Com. Ghanshyam Mahto.