Wednesday, December 7, 2016

ML Update | No. 50 | 2016

ML Update

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol.  19 | No. 50 | 6-12 December 2016


SC Order On National Anthem Allows Bullies To Pose As Patriots


In a recent order, a Supreme Court bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy ordered the national anthem to be played in movie halls before every film, stipulating that every member of the audience must stand while the anthem is played and the hall doors be shut to prevent audience members leaving. This order has dangerous implications because, by stating that patriotism must trump individual liberties, it emboldens the growing tendency to cloak assaults on dissent as 'patriotism.'

The SC Bench declares that the National Anthem "is the symbol of the Constitutional patriotism," and "People must feel they live in a nation and this wallowing individually perceived notion of freedom must go." The Constitution of India does not even use the term 'patriotism', let alone presume to define it. On the contrary, the Constitution of India does guarantee the right to personal liberty. Instead of doing its duty of defending the Constitutionally guaranteed personal liberties of the people, Justices Misra and Roy have invoked the Constitution to justify the use of notions of 'patriotism' to deny and denigrate the very concept of personal liberties.  

Not long after this order was passed, the same judges rejected a plea to enforce the national anthem inside courtrooms, saying "our order should not be overstretched." Why should the national anthem be enforced in cinema halls but not in Courts? It seems that the judges place the judiciary and judicial system above the common citizens, suggesting that common citizens need a forced dose of patriotism that the judiciary does not. Such a notion itself is dangerous to democracy.

But there is another reason why the SC Bench was more interested in enforcing the anthem in cinema halls rather than courts or other spaces. The fact is that cinema halls in recent years have become the arenas for displays of bullying disguised as 'patriotism', with political outfits mobilizing audiences to heckle, bully or beat individuals who refuse or are unable to stand during the playing of the anthem. In Kerala, a young man who refused to stand during the national anthem in a cinema hall was heckled by a mob and then charged with sedition. In a cinema hall in Mumbai a man was thrashed by a mob because his girlfriend, a South African woman, did not stand when the national anthem was played. In a Goa cinema hall, a disabled man Salil Chaturvedi was heckled and hit for being unable to stand during the anthem.

Chaturvedi later said, "I now believe that even if I could stand up during the national anthem, I would rather not, simply because I am being forced to do so. Is this why we fought the colonialists? Did we get our freedom only to become sheep, and that too led by the most sinister, manipulative brutes among us? I will not participate in this sham." Now, the Supreme Court order by Justices Misra and Roy emboldens the "sinister, manipulative brutes."

In recent times, there is an attempt to equate 'patriotism' with the worst authoritarianism and intolerance. Saffron groups that are involved in violence against minorities, Dalits, women and citizens who challenge their goal of 'Hindu Rashtra' pose as 'patriots' and try to enforce the chanting of 'Vande Mataram.' Lawyers who beat up JNU students charged with 'sedition' shout 'Vande Mataram.' Ministers declare that it is unpatriotic to question mob lynching by 'cow-protection' goons, fake encounters, or even policies like demonetization. It is such anti-democratic forces that the SC order on the anthem legitimizes.

In other countries too, there is an ongoing struggle between democratic and authoritarian forces over national symbols. In the USA, supporters of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement including prominent sportspersons have taken to sitting or kneeling rather than standing during the playing of the US anthem, as an expression of protest against racist violence by police. In that country, racists masquerading as 'patriots' have been insisting that kneeling or sitting during the anthem amounts to 'insulting' the nation.

Be it India, the US or any other country, the real question to ask is, if it is not an insult to the nation to equate patriotism with bigotry, racism, casteism, communalism and attacks on individual liberty? If patriotism is reduced to certain symbolic gestures and acts, then every goon or criminal can become a 'patriot' simply by standing up for the anthem; and every concerned and conscientious citizen who works for the rights and liberties of the country's marginalized and vulnerable people can become 'anti-national' simply by failing to stand up during the anthem!     

In any democracy, every individual must have the right to express dissent or protest in any peaceful way. Every individual must have the right to express love for their country in whatever manner he or she chooses. And above all, the right of every individual to express themselves freely without fear of violence must be safeguarded. The SC Bench of Justices Misra and Roy has unfortunately failed in its duty to safeguard individual liberty and freedom of expression that the Constitution guarantees and has instead given a boost in the arm to the bullies and criminals posing as patriots.


People's Hearing on Demonetization

Against the misleading propaganda being launched by the government on the dangerous demonetization and to protest the same, the CPI(ML) in Bihar has launched a 'Pol-Khol, Hallabol' (exposure) campaign from 2 December. The campaign began in Patna through a Jan Sunwai (people's hearing), held jointly with other organizations at the Gate Public Library, Gardanibagh. The Jan Sunwai was aimed at providing a platform to those affected by demonetization including daily wage labourers, construction workers, small shopkeepers, ASHA workers, midday meal workers and others, to present their concerns and expose the misleading campaign of the government.

The Jan Sunwai was joined by CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, noted economist Jean Dreze and former director of A.N. Sinha Institute Prof. D.M. Diwakar. The jury comprised of Prof. Diwakar, Bihar State ASHA Workers Association President Shashi Yadav, Dr BNP Yadav, retired bank worker Kaushal Karma, and AIARLA National President Rameshwar Prasad.

After the participants shared their problems and the brutal ways in which the move had affected them, Prof. Diwakar gave a statement on behalf of the jury. The jury stated that among those who expressed their views in the Jansunwai, none was in favour of the demonetization. Farmers, farm workers, construction workers, auto drivers, vegetable sellers and small traders—they are all bearing the vicious brunt of this demonetization. The jury said that the discussion brings out clearly the fact that this demonetization is anti-poor, anti-farmer and anti-worker. There is disquiet and unrest in all fields. The country is in the grip of an economic emergency. The interests of the common people are being thwarted ruthlessly. The verdict of jury was as follows:

1.            Peasants, agriculture and rural life have taken a huge hit. They are not getting a support price for their paddy and the government is least bothered about this. In this peak farming season they are able to buy neither fertilizer nor seeds.

2.            Workers' livelihoods have been snatched away. Workers are either going back home or are being forced to work for extremely low wages. Day-hire, MNREGA and construction workers are being forced to accept old notes as wages for work.

3.            Women who had kept some little cash saved for a rainy day have been looted of their hard-earned savings. Demonetization has created an atmosphere of mistrust within households.

4.            Demonetization has left an extremely negative impact on the unorganized sector. 70% of the country's business is in the unorganized sector and work in this sector has been brought to a grinding halt by stopping the flow of cash. There will be a drastic fall in employment in the days to come and the negative impact of this will be felt in our growth rate.

5.            This demonetization is against all workers—contract workers, rickshaw and auto drivers, rasoiyas (mid-day meal workers) and others.

6.            Citizens are being deprived of basic facilities. Either they do not have cash, or if they do, they have Rs 2000 notes for which they are unable to get change. People are not able to buy even medicines.

7.            So far, more than 80 people have died in bank queues due to demonetization. This is a violation of basic human rights. The victims and their families must be compensated according to Constitutional law. Constitutional and democratic rights are being flouted daily.

8.            Demonetization has encouraged and increased corruption. Even earlier, banks have been a medium for conversion of black money into white. After demonetization, banks are playing an even bigger role in converting black money into white. Thus, demonetization is synonymous with the campaign for conversion of black money into white. First it was 'voluntary disclosure' and now it is 'income tax amendments' which are facilitating conversion of black to white. Loans of big businessmen to the tune of lakhs of crores are being waived.

9.            This demonetization is a conspiracy to benefit the capitalists in favour of a 'cashless system'. It is a sinister attempt to push the consumer from small shopkeepers to big malls.

10.        The public should be shown accounts of lands being bought by political parties for party offices or other purposes and use of black money for election campaign purposes.

11.        The reality behind the printing of forged currency is not being shown to the people.

12.        The real black money is owned by real estate barons, industrialists, insurance businessmen, jewelry dealers, builders, contractors, bureaucrats, and politicians.

13.        This demonetization is having a very adverse effect on the country's economic development and employment situation. In totality, it is dragging the country backwards and having a very dire impact on progress and development.

NHPC Contract Workers in Uttarakhand

The NHPC Contract Workers Union affiliated to AICCTU in Dharchula held a General Body Meeting where it decided to step up the struggle for Equal Work, Equal Pay and regularization. It was also decided to take legal action against NHPC for its failure to pay bonus.

Addressing the meeting, AICCTU State General Secretary KK Bora said that the Modi government at the Centre has created a grave crisis for workers through demonetization. The Modi government which always said that workers' strikes brings loss to the nation, has itself destroyed the nation's economy. No action is being taken against black money owners named by Swiss banks and the Panama papers.

He demanded that the Modi government at the centre and Harish Rawat government in the State should take cognizance of the Supreme Court verdict of 26 October 2016 and start paying all temporary and contract workers equal pay according to their grade without delay. He appreciated the struggle by the NHPC Contract Workers Union and said that the Union's struggle is a just struggle whereas the Management is flouting the Constitution of India, labour laws, and the Supreme Court verdict.

Addressing the meeting, CPI (ML) District Secretary Com. Govind Kafaliya said that workers are being exploited as bonded labour in the name of contract labour and made to work overtime without being paid for this. NHPC Contract Workers Union President Uday Singh presided over the meeting and the proceedings were conducted by Indra Kumar. The meeting was also addressed by Union General Secretary Vinod Kumar and others.

Rural Workers' Protest

Rural and agricultural workers under the banner of Akhil Bharatiya Khet Gramin Mazdoor Sabha (AIARLA) held a protest on 22 November 2016 in front of the Motihari District headquarters in Eastern Champaran to demand homestead land and employment from the government. They took out a march to the Collectorate led by AIARLA District Secretary Jeetlal Sahni and comrades Bhola Sah, Tarachand Bhagat, Atiullah Miyan, Kishun Mukhiya, and Virendra Gupta.

The meeting started with a minute's silence in memory of the victims of the Kanpur rail accident. Addressing the meeting CPI(ML) District Secretary Prabhudev Yadav said that the Modi government and Nitish government are both running away from their responsibility to implement the recommendations of the Land Reform Commission and provide work for MNREGA workers and unemployed youth. Instead, they are aiding land thieves and dominant feudal forces.

The Bandopadhyay Commission had found, through surveys in different districts of Bihar, that 21 lakh acres are with land-thief landlords and said that these lands should be distributed among the poor. The Modi-Nitish governments are not bothered in any way about the livelihood of the poor. Modi is trying to divert the people's attention from his failed promises through diversionary and divisive politics but we will not allow this ploy to succeed.

CPI(ML) leader Bhaiyyalal Singh said that Nitish's declarations for the development of the poor are limited to papers and office files. Expressing deep condolences for those who lost their lives and sympathy with the injured in the recent Kanpur rail tragedy, he demanded that the families of the dead should be paid 10 lakhs as compensation. A 17-point charter of demands was submitted to the district officials.

AISA Seminar on Ambedkar in Allahabad University

AISA organised a seminar on 5 December to commemorate the 60th death anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar in Allahabad University. However, before the seminar could be held, there were several attempts by the ABVP led union to obstruct the seminar. Despite having the permission to hold it in the Student Union office, the student union President took the keys of the venue from the staff and refused to allow the seminar to be held. Hundreds of students however gathered in protest and after taking out a protest march in the campus, the seminar was finally held in the Nirala auditorium. It is noteworthy that the DSW of the university and other administrative officials incharge of ensuring discipline were seen as bowing down in front of the ABVP.


Mohit Pandey (President, JNUSU) addressed the seminar and asked that even as the BJP leaders were planning to take out a 'Parivartan Yatra' and talking of 'parivartan' (change), where in this change according to them are Najeebs and Rohiths. What will be the treatment meted out to Rohiths in the change that BJP talks about. Today, the BJP talks about fighting against vandalism, criminalisation and corruption but what happens when their own student wing attacks Najeeb and their appointed VC refuses to take any action. Today, people who decide to bring about a change by carrying forward the ideas of Ambedkar are either brutalised, murdered or declared as anti-nationals by the BJP-RSS brigade. Today, there is need to fight fascists by adopting the slogan of Dr. Ambedkar- "educate, agitate and organise".


Rama Naga (Former JNUSU General Secretary and AISA leader) said that today we have a government that brands people as anti-nationals for merely asking questions. The criticism of government is being equated with criticism of the state. How would Babasaheb Ambdedkar have responded if he were alive today. Former AISA leader, Ramayan Ram said that by putting a ban on the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle, soon after coming to power, the government had made it clear that there will be an attack on the freedom of expression in campuses which can be seen now in BHU, HCU, FTII, JNU and in today's programme, which witnessed ABVP attempts to disrupt.

The chief editor of Janmat magazine, Ramji Rai shared that Dr. Ambedkar had said that we are entering an era of contradictions where in political terms we will have one person-one vote but in social life, the rejection of 'one person-one value' will continue. He added that the students will have to keep alive the truth today by retaining the courage of calling wrong a wrong, and right a right. Today we need intellectuals who if they see a spot on the sun, can have the courage to point it out and say so. The seminar was moderated by AISA state secretary Sunil Maurya.

'Mukhyamantri Jawab Do' March In Muzaffarpur

The CPI(ML) and AIARLA took out a 'Mukhyamantri Jawab Do' (Chief Minister, respond to the questions) march in Muzaffarpur during Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's 'Nishchay Yatra' (Decision Yatra). The march demanded answers from the Chief Minister on seven questions related to common people's lives and running parallel to the seven 'decisions'. The seven issues raised during the march included: land reforms and sharecroppers' rights; land and housing for all poor; food security guarantee and large scale rigging in the ration lists; employment or Rs 5000 monthly unemployment allowance for all unemployed; arrangement and regular payment of Rs 5000 as pension under social security; regular work under MNREGA and ending of large scale cheating and corruption; increasing oppression and violence against dalits and poor; and rise in crimes against women; regularization of honorarium workers, school rasoiyas and ASHA workers. Large numbers of women and workers participated in the march.


Gherao Of Executive Engineer in Darbhanga

The CPI(ML) Bahadurpur block committee organized a gherao of the office of the Executive Engineer (Rural Works Department) a day before the Chief Minister's Darbhanga visit to protest the fact that construction has not yet been started (in spite of the announcement to that effect) on the road bridge at Pirdi Panchayat, Darbhanga district. The march, mirroring the people's anger, culminated in a gherao of the office of the Executive Engineer at Saeed Nagar. The gherao was led by CPI(ML) state committee member Abhishek Kumar, AIARLA District President Jangi Yadav, Neyaz Ahmed of the Insaf Manch and Ramshankar Sahni. Speakers in the march said that villages located in Bahadurpur block at a distance of only 7 to 8 km from the Darbhanga headquarters and having a population of 3000-4000 dalits and mahadalits are still unconnected to the main road even 67 years after independence. For years, people have been waiting for a bridge on the River Kamla. Four months ago, after protests by panchayat representatives, the executive engineer and district administration had given the assurance that the work would be started in October-November. However, the work has not yet started and the executive engineer must answer the people.

The gherao lasted for hours, after which the Executive Engineer gave a letter to the protesters stating that work on the road-bridge would be started in 1 to 1 ½ months. During the gherao the DM of Darbhanga spoke on the telephone to the leaders of the protest and assured them that construction of the Chhaprar road-bridge would be included in the list of important works to be discussed with the Chief Minister.


Memorial Meetings for Com. Rama Gairola

Sankalp meetings in memory of CPI(ML) State committee member and AIPWA State Joint Secretary Com. Rama Gairola was organised on 20 November 2016 at various places in the State. The untimely demise of Com. Rama occurred on 5 November 2016 after an illness.

A memorial meeting was held in Lucknow. Recollecting the struggles waged by Com. Rama for the rights of workers, farmers and women, speakers at the meeting said that her sudden demise at a time when a more intense and comprehensive struggle against corporate fascism is the need of the hour is an irreparable loss not only for the Party and AIPWA but for the Left people's movement. The Sankalp Sabha resolved to carry forward Com. Rama's incomplete struggle for a democratic society against patriarchal and communal-feudal forces. Party district in-charge Ramesh Sengar, Jan Sanskriti Manch convener Shyam Ankuram, Nirman Union Secretary Surendra Prasad, and many others attended the memorial meeting which was presided over by AIPWA Vice President Tahira Hassan and conducted by Meena.

A memorial meeting in Pilibhit was attended by large number of people on 20 November. Com. Rama was fondly remembered by all including Politburo Member Swadesh Bhattacharya, State Secretary Ramji Rai, and CC member Krishna Adhikari. Memorial meetings were also held in Chandauli, Ghazipur, Sitapur and other districts.


CPI(ML) Condemns Bihar Government for Police Brutalities on Agitators

CPI(ML) Bihar state secretary Kunal has condemned the response of the Bihar state government to the police firing in Katarwa in Bagaha and the police action during Lalganj violence. Com. Kunal termed the justification of police firings by the government as a murder of justice for the poor. He said the response of the government was extremely shameful and castigated the government for still failing to find Chandeshwar Mahto, after whose kidnapping people had started a movement and had to suffer police brutalities. He termed this failure as extremely shameful and also the fact that instead of trying to find Chandeshwar Mahto, the government is busy punishing the agitators. In this state, the justice to the poor has become a travesty. The punishment to leaders of Ranvir Sena in several cases has not been met, and the poor and the activists have had to face disappointment. While murderers, rapists and criminals are being set free, those fighting struggles for the oppressed are being punished. The so called 'social justice' government is adopting a double standard for poor and agitators.

Protest in Samastipur

CPI(ML) activists protested in front of the Collectorate at Samastipur on 22 November 2016 on the following issues: land for the landless, parchas for those settled on government land, kabja (possession) for parcha holders, housing for the needy, registration of names in ration lists, toilets, tap water, free electricity for farmers, parity in education, employment, unemployment allowance, strengthening hospitals, curbing corruption and other issues of people's welfare. After the protest in front of the Samastipur District Magistrate more than one thousand activists sat on a dharna at the government bus stand under the 2-day "ghera dalo, dera dalo" agitation.



Comrade Ganeshan

Comrade Ganeshan (PV Srinivas), passed away at 2.30 am on 6 December 2016 in a hospital in Delhi, where he had been admitted with respiratory illnesses and tubercular meningitis some weeks ago. He was 78. 

PV Srinivas was born in Kerala. Poverty drove his parents to migrate to Chennai. He studied only up till Standard V. He worked as a hotel employee and was among the first in Tamil Nadu to form a Hotel Workers' Union. As a labour organiser, he would also argue many workers' cases in labour court. He joined the communist movement, becoming a leader of the CPI(M). Together with Comrade Appu, he had helped launch the CPI(M) Tamil organ Theekadir. However, he along with Comrade Appu and several other comrades developed several differences with CPI(M), over the nationality question and support for the anti-Hindi agitation. He came out of CPI(M) and joined the CPI(ML). 

When a young student comrade Ganeshan - an engineering student at Annamalai University who had joined the revolutionary student movement inspired by the Naxalbari uprising – was killed, PV Srinivas adopted his name to keep his memory alive, and has been known as Comrade Ganeshan ever since. 

Comrade Ganeshan was arrested and jailed during the Emergency. He led many militant working class struggles in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Thiruvalluvar. 

Comrade Ganeshan became a Central Committee member of the CPI(ML) in 1980, and was Polit Bureau member of the CPI(ML) between 1982-88, and was elected to the Central Committee in 6th Party Congress of CPI(ML) in 1997.

Comrade Ganeshan will be remembered as a revolutionary and organic intellectual of the working class. All his life, right up to his final illness, he enthusiastically followed the progress of Left movements, working class movements and people's movements in India and the world over, maintaining a dialogue with intellectuals and activists in India and abroad across parties and across all sectarian boundaries. Comrade Ganeshan's warm comradely hospitality to all guests and comrades at the CPI(ML)'s Central office in Delhi endeared him to all.

His mortal remains were kept at CPI(ML) headquarters in Delhi where comrades and friends paid him hearty tributes. The cremation took place at Nigambodh Ghat, Delhi. 

Red Salute to Comrade Ganeshan !  

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