In this Issue
Resist All Attempts to Shield
After the initial cautious distancing, the Sangh Parivar and BJP have now shifted their stance to open embrace of the Malegaon blast accused. A recent conclave of the Sangh Parivar in Panipat, BJP President Rajnath Singh declared that politics and religion were inseparable; that his party would oppose the attempt to “malign” saints and the armed forces; and that the very concept of “Hindu terrorism” was “sheer madness”.
It is clear that the BJP itself is playing up the term ‘Hindu terror,’ hoping to erect a saffron shield for the terrorists of the Sangh Parivar and to consolidate Hindu sentiment in their favour. ‘Hindu’ terror is a false and misleading term, however. We should call a spade a spade and give the Malegaon blasts and similar terrorist acts the name they deserve: ‘Sanghi’ terrorism. This brand of terrorism resorts to both communal pogroms and blasts to spread hatred against minorities and whip up communal frenzy. BJP is a direct beneficiary of such Sanghi terrorism. A unique feature of Sanghi terrorism is the fact that its sole purpose is to defame the Muslim community (care was taken to leave tell-tale markers indicating that the bombs were Muslim handiwork). This was intended to whip up atmosphere of fear and hatred against Muslims that would be harvested by the BJP as votes in impending elections.
Some weeks earlier, VHP leader Togadia declared that “No Hindu can be a terrorist.” It is telling (and deeply disturbing) that Togadia’s sentiment is echoed by the Maharashtra police probing the October 5 riots in Dhule. While seeking remand of one of the (Muslim) riot accused, and defending the Hindu Rakshak Samiti (HRS) which is widely held to have sparked off the riots, the police declared on record that “It is an established fact that Muslims are the masterminds behind all terrorist activities across India.”
The Sangh’s and BJP’s posture is marked by the most blatant double standards. To question the conduct of the police or investigative agencies in case a Muslim is arrested amounts to sedition in their book; and custodial torture and fake encounters are invested by the Sangh and BJP with a halo of gallantry as long as the victims are Muslim. The same forces, however, find any sort of investigation of Sangh-affiliated priests or army-men outrageous.
Investigation that relies solely on the dubious evidence of narco-analysis or custodial confessions will certainly be unacceptable to all those who uphold human rights. But let us recall that a Judicial Tribunal found that police and investigative agencies had little else in terms of evidence against the SIMI. The Tribunal therefore recommended lifting of the ban on SIMI; yet the ban continues.
The Sangh Parivar and BJP now claim that the arrest of sadhus and sadhvis indicates that terror investigations are being ‘communalised’ to ‘malign’ the Hindu faith. Terror investigations are all too often communally biased: but against the Muslim minority. Brutal torture and fake encounter of Muslim ‘suspects’ is a routine feature of such investigation. Mecca Masjid blast suspects in Hyderabad, who have been exonerated, have testified to having been subjected to inhuman torture. Branded as terrorists, they are politically and socially untouchable for life. A couple of weeks ago, ABVP cadre spat on Prof. SAR Geelani of DU at a seminar: an act defended by Ravi Shankar Prasad, spokesperson of the BJP. Geelani, in spite of being exonerated by the Supreme Court years ago, has written poignantly about being a ‘target for life.’ In contrast, Sadhvi Pragya, even while a terror suspect, has been offered a ticket in the ongoing Assembly election in MP by at least one party!
The BJP and other saffron allies seem to be speaking in two voices: on the one hand, they claim that the charges against the Malegaon blast accused are fabricated and the Sadhvi and co. are innocent; on the other hand, the actions of the latter are being justified as a ‘reaction’ to ‘Muslim terrorism.’ The Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna has hailed Sadhvi Pragya and Purohit as the “pride of the Hindu community” for their “courage to act.” Himani Savarkar, President of the Abhinav Bharat, brazenly declared, “Why can’t we have a blast for a blast?” The Sanghi forces including their political fronts must be told: you can’t have it both ways. Either the Sadhvi and Co. are innocents who have been framed or they are heroes used blasts to avenge the Hindus: you cannot claim both at the same time!
The claim that the Sanghi acts of terrorism are a ‘reaction’ to contemporary bomb blasts by Muslims does not hold water. The pages of history show us that the aims of such terrorism (couched in terms of ‘militarisation of the Hindus’ and explicitly modelled on the fascist brigades of Hitler and Mussolini) were spelt out by Sangh ideologues and founding fathers long ago.
The Sangh’s acts of terrorism and communal violence, aided by its infiltration into the state machinery and bureaucracy, are the deepest and most dangerous threat to democracy in India. We cannot allow investigation into this threat to remain prisoner to pragmatic considerations of the Congress and UPA Governments at states and Centre, which are now allowing some of the hitherto suppressed evidence to be trickling through but may well call a halt at some later date. It is high time the entire web of Sanghi fascism was laid bare.
AISA’s Protest in Kolkata
On 11 November, All India Students’ Association (AISA) held a demonstration in front of Howrah court, demanding release of 8 students of Bengal Engineering and Science University (BESU), while their bail applications were being heard in the court. The students were arrested from BESU after the recent clashes at BESU, along with 3 other students. While the 3 students who were SFI supporters were released by the police, 8 students who owed their allegiance to Independent Consolidation were not released. The ruling CPI(M) has for several months been engineering clashes at this prestigious University with the help of musclemen in order to pave the way for the SFI to take control of the Students’ Union. The latest clashes occurred just ahead of the students’ union elections. Through the demonstration AISA also demanded that the Vice-chancellor of the university be sacked for his incompetence, free and fair students’ union elections be held and that the University authorities desist from imposing Lyngdoh Commission recommendations at BESU. The court ultimately granted bail to the 8 students, but on the condition that they will not enter the university premises for 3 days. This penalty and deliberate humiliation meted out to students who have not committed any offence is grossly unfair and defied the principles of justice.
AISA’s Mass Hunger Strike of Central University Students
Hundreds of students from several Central Universities responded to AISA’s call for a 2-day mass hunger strike on 14-15 November 2008, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Students From AMU, Allahabad University, BHU, Jamia Millia Islamia, Punjab University, DU, JNU, Garhwal University and Hyderabad University collected on the streets of Delhi to protest the growing assaults on campus democracy under the veil of Lyngdoh Committee’s recommendations.
The Lyngdoh committee’s recommendations have been completely unsuccessful in curbing money and muscle power wherever they have been implemented, for instance in Delhi University. On the other hand, student union elections are not being conducted in the majority of the Central Universities, in spite of the Lyngdoh recommendations. In some universities like BHU, instead of holding elections, the university administration has chosen the route of “nominated” student unions, a prescription that the Lyngdoh committee recommended only as a temporary measure under exceptional circumstances. To top it all, the Lyngdoh recommendations have recently been used to stall a thriving, thoroughly democratic elections process in JNU where elections have been conducted for decades without the shadow of money and muscle power. AISA held that the Lyngdoh report is being used not to encourage democratic participation of students in student union elections, but to actually scuttle campus democracy in every manner possible.
A delegation of student hunger strikers from several Central Universities met the Human Resources Development (HRD) Minister Arjun Singh with the following demands:
• Student Union elections must be conducted immediately in each and every university in the most democratic manner possible, with the maximum possible student participation. Currently, elections are being held in just 8 of the 24 Central Universities.
• While it should be mandatory for every college and university to conduct student union elections without the use of money and muscle power, the specific details of the modalities and enabling mechanisms towards dissent should be designed by the individual institutions themselves based on their specific experiences. Given the tremendous diversity of universities and student bodies across the country, implementing one uniform straight jacketed list of guidelines or norms cannot address the stated purpose of the Lyngdoh Committee itself.
• The JNUSU elections must be restored. The JNUSU election process must be allowed to be carried as before as per the JNUSU constitution, which already has enough enabling mechanism s to address the basic stated concerns of the Lyngdoh Committee that student union elections should be free of money- muscle power.
• In view of the concerns elaborated above, the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations must be reviewed by taking into consideration the experiences and opinions of every section of the concerned university communities in different parts of the country.
Several teachers and intellectuals from various universities have come out in support of these demands and struggle for campus democracy. Till recommendations of the Lyngdoh committee that are impinging campus democracy are revoked, AISA will keep up the struggle in universities all over the country, said student leaders.
Student-Youth Struggle Conference in Patna
Hundreds of students-youth and eminent citizens from various parts of Bihar assembled in Patna on 17th November 2008, to participate in Student-Youth Struggle Conference organised by All India Students’ Association (AISA), Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) and Youth for Social Justice (YSJ) for charting a course of struggle against the divisive and anti-national campaign started by MNS-Shiv Sena in Maharashtra against the non-Marathi people from North Indian states. The Conference pledged to protect national unity and save democracy. The students and youth called for a march to Parliament on 12 December 2008.
The Conference began by observing a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of fascist violence of MNS-Shiv Sena. A Pledge Letter was read out in the beginning affirming the democratic rights of all Indians and warning all those trying to suppress these basic rights of those living and earning their livelihood in any part of the country.
Resolutions passed by the Student-Youth Conference include – (1) demanding immediate resignation from Chief Minister of Bihar Mr. Nitish Kumar and strong actions against the police officials of Patna, Sasaram, Biharsharif, Motihari, Narkatiyaganj and other places for arresting and jailing the protesting students on trumped-up charges against them; (2) strongly condemning the Manmohan Singh-led UPA Govt. and Vilashrao Deshmukh’s Maharashtra Govt. for their tacit support to the MNS-Shiv Sena fascism; (3) condemning RJD, LJP, Congress and NCP of the UPA coalition and JD-U and BJP of the NDA coalition for betraying migrant youth on this burning issue and demanding that all Bihar MPs including Central ministers Lalu Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and others from Bihar immediately tender their resignation from Parliament and Government., (4) demanding judicial enquiry headed by a Supreme Court Judge into the fake encounter killing of Patna youth Rahul Raj (5) demanding an outright ban on the MNS and Shiv-Sena and trial and sentencing of Raj Thackeray for murders of Pawan (Nalanda), Dharmadev Rai (Gorakhpur), Harendra Manjhi (Gopalganj) and many others; (6) demanding immediate and unconditional release of all the arrested and jailed students and withdrawing all the cases filed against them.
The Conference was addressed by CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, former HoD of Economics Dept. of Patna University Prof. Naval Kishore Chaudhary, student leader during 1974 movement Arshad Azmal, General Secretary of All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association Dhirendra Jha, Shri Kundan Singh -father of martyred Bihar youth Rahul Raj, Shri Parmanand Prasad -father of jailed student in Motihari, Gen.Secy. of RYA Kamlesh Sharma, YSJ leader Awadhesh Kumar Lalu, Vijay Dubey of Daroga Abhyarthi Sangha and Amarjit Kushwaha of RYA. Abhyuday – State Secretary of AISA in Bihar and AISA National Vice President conducted the programme.
Dipankar Bhattacharya said that if the student, youth and workers of Bihar are increasingly finding it difficult to return safely to their home State, then it’s a big question on the Constitution, democracy and national unity of the Country where certain Raj Thakeray and Narendra Modis think of India as their fiefdom. Holding the UPA and NDA polticians from Bihar responsible of betraying the Bihar youth on every front, he called upon them to intensify their struggle for release of the jailed students and for overall progressive change in Bihar.
RYA Marches to State Assembly in Lucknow
UP unit of the Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) took out a march in Lucknow on 17 November 2008, against the failure and inaction of the legislators and MPs from the State in ensuring arrest of MNS chief Raj Thackeray and action against the Maharashtra Govt. for tacitly supporting the MNS-Shiv Sena violence. The protesting activists demanded resignations of all UP MPs. The RYA leaders also said that the policies of the Mayawati Govt. like those of Nitish Kumar’s policies are destroying more and more jobs within the State forcing the students and youth to migrate en masse to distant places for finding employment. When these youth and workers from the State are being attacked there is no concern shown by the Mayawati Govt other than paying lip service. On the other hand the Mulayam-Amar combine continues to support the Congress-UPA, failing to force the Central Govt. to take remedial steps. It was also declared that the students-youth will march to Parliament on 12 December on this issue. The march was led by RYA State President Balmukund Dhuria, RYA national secretary Om Prakash Singh, AISA State Secretary Manish Sharma and AISA State President Ramayan Ram apart from others.
Student-youth fact-finding team Visits Lalgarh
A 15 member team comprising of AISA activists, RYA activists and West Midnapore district CPI(ML) activists visited Lalgarh on 15 November. The team was led by Malay Tewari, State Secretary, AISA, Apurba Bose, State Secretary, RYA and Sailen Maity, West Midnapore District Secretary, CPI(ML). Another 3-member team from Bankura, comprising Bablu Banerjee, Bankura District Secretary, CPI(ML) and Subir Murmu visited the same area. They visited Boropedia, Chotopedia and Bashdare villages, which are the epicentre of the ongoing tribal agitation against police atrocities, and spoke to the school students who were arrested after the Maoist attack on Ram Vilas Paswan’s convoy, as well as with local leaders who are leading the agitation. The visiting teams found out that the ongoing agitation is a spontaneous mass movement which is not led by any particular political party. So claims by the West Bengal government that the Maoists are creating unrest are totally baseless. If indeed the Maoists are participating in the agitation, it is a welcome change from their militarist practice into a mass-based practice. The CPI(M) on the other hand is trying to create a rift between Bengalis and tribals by suggesting that the movement is a conspiracy of the Shibu Soren-led JMM in order to realize its dream of creating a Greater Jharkhand.
The team found that tribals are agitated over the police atrocities on women and children in the name of investigation into the landmine blast. Another factor is the spectre of land grab for the Jindal’s factory at Salboni.
Sankalp Sabha at Gandey, Jharkhand
On the occasion of release of pro-poor, people’s leaders from jail after one and half years and to renew the pledge for ensuring justice for slain leader Kameshwar Yadav and others who raised voice against atrocities and corruption – the CPI(ML) held a Sankalp Sabha in Gandeya in Jharkhand. The arrested leaders were sent to jail for 18 months under various false charges when they raised voices against loot and corruption in the NREGA. The people of the surrounding villages and blocks participated enthusiastically and militantly in the Sankalp Sabha (meeting to make a pledge).
Addressing the mass meeting, CPI(ML) General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya said that all the claims of Shibu Shoren being the real leader of Jharkhand have proved to be as pretentious and his Government being original Jharkhandi Govt. as duplicate as Madhu Koda’s, Babulal Marandi’s and Arjun Munda’s governments in past few years. In contrast, only CPI(ML) has kept up the fight and struggle against repression and loot and so it has picked up strength in the State. In Jharkhand the Para-teachers have been threatened with imposition of ESMA on them when they raised the issue of dignified, living salary and the NREGA workers are not given minimum wages but the Capitalists are being gifted land and mines at throw away prices in the name of MoU’s.
Prior to the meeting a minutes silence was observed to keep alive the memory and unfinished tasks of the martyrs. Com. Dipankar garlanded the people’s leaders released from jail for their noble and brave fight.
A 8 point resolution was adopted in the end of the meeting: (1) immediate arrest of the killers of Munshi Turi, Rajendra Das and Ramzan Mian and vacate the feudal lords and land mafias from illegal control of common and government land, (2) fulfill the demands of the Para-teachers, (3) arrest the black-marketeers and corrupt dealers and those behind the framing-up of Comrades Usman Ansari, Bhola Verma and Shekhar under false charges, (4) scrap all MoU’s signed during NDA-UPA and returning all the land to the original owners that were grabbed in the name of mining and industry, (5) granting legal protection to the coal workers quarrying coal on individual basis and forming a co-operative for them, (6) the officials responsible for committing of suicide by Turia Munda and Tapas Soren due to non-payment of NREGA wage be arrested immediately and they be tried for murder, (7) holding of immediate elections under PESA and (8) mobilize broader masses in the 2-month campaign from 15 Nov’08 to 16 Jan’09 for fulfilling the dreams of Comrade Mahendra Singh.
Bidding Farewell to Comrade Ashok
On 13 November 2008 a massive procession accompanied the funeral cortege on Comrade Ashok’s final journey. From 12 November uptil 13 November, people streamed in to pay homage and floral tribute to Comrade Ashok and share their memories of him. CPI(ML) general Secretary Comrade Dipankar said that it was difficult to believe that Comrade Ashok is not with us. From grassroots activist in Maharashtra to editor of Lokyuddh to political secretary of the party’s MLA team – he performed a range of roles with the same energy and dedication. PB member Ramji Rai recalled what a remarkable scholar he was, and how he would never say ‘no’ to any task given to him by the party. Close comrade Brij Bihari Pande who shared the work of editing Lokyuddh with him for many years paid him emotional tribute. Leaders of various Left parties and trade unions, including CPI Bihar State Secretary Comrade Badrinayaran Lal, as well as intellectuals and cultural activists Agnipushp, Srikant, Shekhar and others paid floral tributes and joined his last journey.
In Haldwani, a memorial meeting was held on 13 November, in which many comrades including CCM Comrade Rajendra Pratholi as well as Uttarakhand in-charge Comrade Raja Bahuguna, Girija Pathak, K K Bora, former Secretary of the Nainital Bar Association Kailash Joshi and many others paid tribute to Comrade Ashok.
On November 14, a condolence meeting was organised at Vileparle, Mumbai, in which CPI(ML) Comrades Shyam Gohil and Dhiraj Rathod as well as Comrade Uday Bhatt of Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) shared memories of their long association with him. They recalled how in the late 70s he made contact with a range of Left and Dalit intellectuals and writers, workers’ leaders like Datta Samant and also held several classes with workers of Dharavi and other slum clusters of the city.
In Delhi, a condolence meeting was held on 13 November at the Gandhi Peace Foundation. PB member Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya, senior comrade Ganesan, CCM Prabhat Kumar, Delhi State Secretary Sanjay Sharma, as well as many other comrades shared memories of Comrade Ashok. Prof. Nishat Kaisar of Jamia Millia Islamia paid him tribute and recalled his seminal intellectual contribution to Left understanding of caste and class.