The Divisive Agenda of the Jaipur Blasts Must Not Succeed!
Yet again, terrorism has targeted Indian people. The serial blasts that rocked Jaipur on May 15 have claimed over 60 innocent lives and injured hundreds. Such heinous acts of terror, aimed at fanning up fear and divisive sentiments, and causing untold pain and destruction, deserve the strongest condemnation and their cold-blooded master-minds, the severest punishment.
As the Rajasthan state government ruled by the BJP and the Congress-UPA-led Centre trade blame for the incident, it is evident that these Governments have failed dismally to protect the people. During the regimes of both the NDA Government as well as the UPA Government, terrorist strikes have taken place unabated time and again.
The exemplary humanitarian response of the people of the Jaipur has certainly thwarted the divisive ploy of the terror attack. Reportedly, efforts of communal forces to ignite violence in several parts of Rajasthan have failed.
Investigative agencies have claimed that the blasts are likely to be the handiwork of a Bangladeshi group, the HuJI, which is also credited with serial blasts in UP. An email by another group calling itself the ‘Indian Mujahideen’ has also claimed responsibility for the Jaipur blasts. While all possible investigative steps should be taken to bring the culprits to book, there is ground to be wary of witch-hunting and targeting of innocents. In the UP blasts case, a so-called “HuJI mastermind” who was arrested from W Bengal turned out to be an innocent state government employee. The police case against two other young men, supposedly HuJI operatives, arrested from UP appears to be a flimsy fabrication, riddled with holes, and there is evidence of torture being used against the accused to force a ‘confession’ out of them. The Special Task Force of UP was especially active in these framing operations; and as Vasundhara declares that Rajasthan will soon have a special anti-terror task force, it is necessary to be alert to prevent any harassment and framing of innocents in Rajasthan, which can never help the cause of combating terrorism.
The Rajasthan Government and the BJP have, predictably, sought to make political capital out of the blasts, with communally charged hate-mongering against ‘Bangladeshi infiltrators’ on the one hand and clamouring for POTA and a Rajasthan-specific anti-terror law on the other. Voices in the mainstream media and even the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court have provided grist to the BJP mill by pronouncements in favour of POTA-type laws. L K Advani has declared that the repeal of POTA was guided by “vote bank considerations”, making it clear that for BJP, POTA was primarily a tool to target the minority community and brand it as a breeder of ‘terror’. It is another matter that terror attacks never abated even when POTA was in effect, and POTA only provided the means for the suspension of civil liberties of those ‘suspected’ of terror: namely, individuals from vulnerable minority communities and nationalities. CM Vasundhara Raje has been clamouring for a MCOCA-type law in Rajasthan; but it self-evident that MCOCA did nothing to prevent the Mumbai blasts.
The Rajasthan Government has begun the process of checking identity cards in order to weed out ‘Bangladeshi infiltrators’ whom they claim are the hub of the latest terror attack. Several people from this community have reportedly been arrested as well. This community presents a ‘soft target’ for the police and Governments: it is easier to brand and evict poor Bengali-speaking Muslim workers, be they from W Bengal or Bangladesh, as ‘terrorists’, than to seriously investigate the actual crime. There is a deliberate refusal to recognise that migrants from Bangladesh are, as a rule, poor workers, driven by their desperate search for employment and survival across the border. Further, given the fact that ordinary migrants within Indian borders too rarely have the papers to ‘prove’ their nationality (even ration cards are routinely denied); inevitably the process of ‘identifying’ Bangladeshis will degenerate into a communal witch-hunt for poor Bengali-speaking Muslim people. Vasundhara Raje has claimed that the Central Government had, even before the blasts, directed her state to round up Bangladeshi migrants and place them in ‘transit camps’ (local Guantanamo Bays, so to speak.) The spectre of poor Muslims being rounded up and placed in ‘camps’ or evicted from the country is BJP’s dream – and the UPA Government seems to be providing the rationale to make this nightmare come true.
No amount of POTA-type laws or ethnic cleansing of ‘Bangladeshis’ can wish away the fact that the only effective way to tackle terrorism is to address its actual causes and contexts: unresolved nationality issues complicated by state terror in the troubled regions; organised and state-sponsored communal violence and failure to provide effective justice for its victims; and the increasingly closer ‘strategic’ tie-up with the US ‘war on terror.’ Investigations into terror attacks in India have tended to make matters worse, by communally targeting innocent people. Investigative agencies and governments have turned a blind eye to evidence of involvement of RSS in plots to stage bomb blasts allegedly by Muslim groups (in Nanded in Maharashtra in April 2006 and Tenkasi in Tamilnadu in January this year). Even before investigation has begun, the involvement of Muslim terrorist outfits is assumed.
The BJP Government of Rajasthan, beleaguered by peasant resistance and unrest over quotas, might in the election year hope that the blasts will deflect attention from the other burning issues and give the party an opportunity to highlight its ‘core’ agenda: anti-Muslim hysteria, anti-Pakistan/Bangladesh jingoism, and shrill demands for a ‘hard state’ and draconian laws. Left and democratic forces must vigilantly and effectively resist this agenda, and not allow terror to derail the people’s agenda in the state.
“Create Autonomous State or Jail Us”
Massive Jail Bharo Programme Observed At Diphu
The air and sky is again trembling in Karbi Anglong, Hill District of Assam with the slogan “No Autonomous State No Rest”. On 17 May, 1986 the peoples of K A and NC Hills, the twin districts of Assam, vowed to intensify the movement for creation of an autonomous council covering the region, by implementing the article 244 A of the Constitution. But after a 22-year- long mass movement led by CPI(ML), the basic demand was denied by the successive Congress and BJP-led Govts. The ruling classes have not only refused to grant this basic demand, rather they systematically and deliberately divided the people by pitting one community against another. Even in the last 8 years of Congress rule, the hill districts of Assam experienced no less than seven large-scale massacres.
Recently the Central Government has been discussing proposals to create new states like Telengana, Vidarbha and Bundelkhand by amending the constitution, and on the other hand the Gorkhaland movement is again raising its voice for effective autonomy. In this backdrop the Hills Party Committee (HPC) had taken the decision to intensify the mass campaign for autonomous statehood. The campaign started from 22 April 2008 - the 39th Foundation Day of CPI(ML) - and culminated on 17 May 2008, which is the starting day of the autonomous state movement. The campaign began with a ten days mass contact programme where all HPC leaders including leaders of the fraternal organizations camped in the villages and conducted various meeting with all sections of the society, and observed May Day in those areas.
In the second phase they again met people with the slogan “Diphu chalo – Jail Bharo” on 17 May, declaring, “Immediately create autonomous state or jail us”, “Give hundred days work under NREGA for every family” and “Withdraw anti-people land policy of KAAC”. This campaign generated enthusiasm and a warm response among people.
On 17 May, giving a strong signal to the Union and State Govt. that the people of Karbi Anglong (KA) and North Cachar Hills will not relent until the goal of autonomous statehood is achieved, a massive mobilisation of more than six thousand drawn from every nook and corner of the hill region, representing all communities, made Diphu, the head quarter of KA, reverberate with slogans of the above demands.
The District administration at the behest of one of the most controversial cabinet ministers Mr. Himanta Biswa Sharma, who was camping at Diphu to foil the CPI(ML) Jail Bhoro programme, tried its best to disturb the programme by clamping 144 Cr.PC and other suppressive measures. But the strong determination and indomitable spirit of people especially that of rural poor who reached Diphu on foot and on bicycles even from remotest corner ensured the unprecedented success of the programme where several thousands participated.
A massive and spirited procession decorated with red flags was stopped near the statue of Rongpharpe Rongbe where the District Administration declared the procession illegal and arrested the masses and took them to a temporary Jail.
Later, the leaders including Dr. Jayanta Rongpi, Central Committee member CPI(ML), Rubul Sarma, Politburo member CPI(ML), Rabi Kr. Phangcho, President KANKIS, Jivon Bey General Secretary KSA, Bharat Ranghang, President, AISA KA and others addressed the participants in the KASA stadium field.
Leaders vowed to intensify the movement for the above three demands, declaring a series of protests in the days to come. Dr. Rongpi demanded an explanation from Congress as to why it could not materialize the autonomous state aspiration of the hill people in spite of having its own Government at Delhi, Dispur and Diphu. He also exposed BJP’s die-hard anti-autonomy stand whereby the party advocates smaller states in other part of the country except the north east. In such a situation he demanded why some of his former colleagues of autonomous state movement have aligned with BJP?
It is interesting to note that ASDC (renegades from the CPI(ML)) who are now very close to the BJP could not mobilize people on 17 May which is also the Foundation Day for them: only 20 workers of ASDC gathered at their office. The Jail Bharo programme has once again resolved that not only the red flag is the banner of peoples’ struggle, it is also the banner of unity and victory.
Seminar on DD Kosambi & Gorky’s Mother
Indian Institute of Marxist studies, Karnataka chapter conducted a Seminar on DD Kosambi’s birth Centenary and the relevance of Maxim Gorky’s novel Mother on its 100th year of publication, in Bangalore on 20th April 2008 at St. Joseph’s College. Prof. G Ramakrishna a Left theoretician, Marxist thinker and Editor of Hosathu, a cultural magazine, spoke on the relevance of Kosambi and his works in our times. Prof. BM Puttaiah of Hampi University spoke of the relevance of Gorky’s novel Mother. Com. Shankar, CC member CPI(ML) Liberation spoke of the changing patterns of workers’ struggles under globalization. The Seminar was presided over by Com. Divakar and introductory remarks were made by Com V Lakshminarayan. The Seminar was attended by some 40 intellectuals from various fields.
Bhagat Singh's Statue Unveiled in Jehanabad
On May 10, the anniversary of the Great War of 1857, Shaheed-e Azam Bhagat Singh's statue was unveiled by Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya in the premises of Party district office in Jehanabad. Afterwards, Comrade Ram Jatan Sharma, PB Member, inaugurated the Shaheed Bhavan; while the Martyrs’ Column with names of comrades killed in struggles in Jehanabad was unveiled by Comrade Dipankar. In memory of martyrs, flag hoisting was performed by old Party activist Com. Ram Krit Mochi. The Martyrs column contains 444 names.
People assembled in very large numbers and came not only with flags-festoons and banners, but even with drums and other musical instruments. Thus the programme turned into a mega people’s festival. Around two thousand people participated from Jehanabad city alone.
Before commencement of the mass meeting, families of martyrs were felicitated. Addressing the mass meeting, Com. Dipankar reminded the people that it was on this day, May 10 in 1857 when the anti-imperialist war on a national level had started against the Britishers. Today, when once again the imperialist noose is tightening around our sovereignty and freedom, it can be combated only through following the path of 1857, Bhagat Singh and Naxalbari. He spoke of the pro-US policies of the UPA government that are responsible for price rise and hunger here, and called for the exposure of the Nitish Kumar Government in Bihar.
Comrades Nand Kishore Prasad, Secretary Bihar State Committee, Kunal, CC Member, Raja Ram Singh, President, All India Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Pavan Sharma, State President AIALA, Kamlesh Sharma and Mahanand, State Committee Members also addressing the masses on this occasion. The meeting was presided over by Com. Ramadhar Singh.
Dharna Against Price Rise in Gujarat
A dharna against price rise was organised at the tehsil headquarter of Kherbrahma in Sawarkantha Dist. Of Gujarat. This was the first Party programme of CPI(ML) in this Tehsil. This whole block is primarily populated by Tribal people, has the distinction of most backward area of Gujarat and is an important region for Party’s work. This region being hilly and in the absence of any arrangement for irrigation the agriculture has to depend on rain. But this area is facing constant drought situation.
Consequently, price rise in Gujarat has the most adverse effect in this region. The main demand of the dharna is to provide all essential commodities to be made available through PDS at cheap prices. CPI(ML)’s CC member Com. Prabhat Kumar, Party’s Gujarat incharge Com. Ranjan Ganguli, Party leaders Comrades Maqbool Massey, Reshma Bhai, Pramila Bai and Dashrath Singhali were among those present at the dharna.
UP: Conspiracy to
Repress CPI(ML) Movement in Sonbhadra Dist.
The CPI(ML) State unit of Uttar Pradesh has recently said that with a view to launch large scale repression on the CPI(ML) leaders, activists and its support base, the Sonbhadra Dist. Administration is involved in slander campaign against CPI(ML) in the name of fighting Maoism.
In Sonbhadra the CPI(ML) has emerged as the main Left force among the poor, Tribal, workers and has a popular democratic appeal. The Party has been consistently fighting against feudal-administrative repression and this has created political awareness among the poor for fighting for their dignity and rights. It is precisely to check this trend and finish off the democratic struggles of the oppressed that the UP State as well as the Central Govts and its agencies are raising the bogey of Maoism. Recently the Union Home Ministry has taken “Naxal affected” Sonbhadra Dist. under its control after a nod from the UP Govt.
The CPI(ML) will firmly oppose this attempt and intensify its movements for democracy.
In reports prepared by the police and other intelligence agencies Rajesh Sachan (AICCTU Dist. Convenor), Surendra Pal (President, Contract Workers Union), Engr. Durga Prasad (Convenor of Workers Solidarity Forum) and other CPI(ML) activists have been alleged as conducting “Naxal activities” and recommendation made for initiating action against them. This report has been published in media and basing on this the Administration of State Power Generation Corporation has not taken back Surendra Pal for work. The AICCTU has declared state-wide protest against this on 21 May.
Hunger Strike in Gorakhpur Against Arrests of Sanitation Workers
On 14 May in Gorakhpur the Administration arrested the Sanitation Workers Union members and CPI(ML) activists who were on a hunger strike for last five days at the Commissioner’s office for a simple demand that the Town Corporation take them under a direct contract who are presently severely exploited by the private contractors. Protesting the arrests the CPI(ML)’s UP State Committee member Com. Rajesh Sahni along with activists of the youth organization sat on hunger strike on the same day of the arrests.
It is to be noted that the Mayawati Govt. has not yet acted on its announcement to make permanent all casual sanitation workers. Besides the arrested workers were only demanding a direct contract with the Corporation to break free from the exploitative conditions imposed by private contractors. It was only after a written assurance by the Administration that the hunger strike was withdrawn on 16th May.
Police Attack on CWU Dharna Condemned
The police in Sonbhadra’s Dist. attacked a peaceful dharna of Contract Workers Union affiliated to the AICCTU. The dharna was called for demanding justice for casual workers working in different thermal projects of the State Power Generation Corporation at Anpara. The police justified their attack saying that the workers are Maoists and Naxalites. In Sonbhadra Dist. all the movements and agitations for democratic rights being led by Left forces is being branded as Maoist for preventing any working class movements by cracking down.
The contract workers, CPI(ML) and AICCTU leaders-activists have gone in for a sit-in gherao of the police station at Anpara for last 24 hours until the arrested workers are released and justice is done.
Oppression by Goonda-Police Nexus Protested in Delhi
At Karawal Nagar in Delhi the CPI(ML) held a mass meeting to protest the oppression of workers by employer-police-goonda nexus. Hundreds of workers took part in the protest meeting and demanded minimum wage and labour rights. Party State Committee member and General Secretary of General Kamgar Union VKS Gautam and Om Prakash Sharma addressed the meeting.
Workers of the World are Uniting
About 500 taxi drivers at Melbourne in Australia, majority of them youth from Indian and Pakistani background blockaded a major intersection by parking their cars in the middle for 22 hours till they won in their demand. Though the militant protest and blockade was sparked off by the near fatal stabbing of a young driver Jalvinder Singh, yet the reasons for frustrations and anger are much deeper. The taxi drivers mainly from India and Pakistan face constant racist bias and police do not take their complaints seriously and even their emergency calls are not responded by the police. Even the Federal minimum wage do not apply on them and they are paid lowly as compared to a native Australian. The agitation called by Victorian Taxi Drivers’ Association (VTDA) was supported by Transport Workers Union and its representative John Parker along with VTDA contingent met Transport Minister Lyn Kosky who initially refused to meet the delegation until the blockade was removed. Many of these taxi drivers are also students.
Indian workers' hunger strike in front of the White House: A group of five Indian workers have launched a hunger strike in front of the White House demanding a US Congressional investigation into their exploitation by American company Signal International. The five workers who began the 'water only' protest at Lafayette Park opposite the US presidential mansion Wednesday were among more than 500 Indian welders and pipe fitters who had paid up to $20,000 apiece for false promises of green cards and work-based permanent residency in the US. Seeking justice from their former employer Signal International and Indian and US recruiters’, the workers union got the support of the American Federation of Labourers-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). “The AFL-CIO and its 10 million members are proud to support the hunger strike by these Signal workers, and their campaign to shed light on the abuses of the US Government's H2B guest worker programme”, Jon Hiatt, general counsel for the AFL-CIO, was quoted as saying. “We know the US is a powerful country, and we know that Signal is a powerful company. That is why we are asking the Indian government to support us as we stand here with our lives shattered”, said hunger striker Muruganantham Kandhasami. “If we, the workers of India, can have the courage to talk to US Congressmen and US federal authorities, then surely the Indian government can do the same so that no other Indian worker suffers as we did”, the workers' statement said.
The workers are demanding that Indian parliamentarians press the US for a Congressional investigation into abuses in the US guest worker visa programme. They also want the ministries of foreign affairs and overseas Indian affairs to press the US State Department to secure the workers' right to participate in a human trafficking investigation into Signal International and its American and Indian recruiters. “Indian envoy to the US Ronen Sen offered the workers only symbolic reassurances and apologies for protocol. Now they are risking their lives in the hope that the Indian government will find the courage to pressure the US government to grant them dignity, and protect future workers”, said Saket Soni (a worker's advocate who directs the New Orleans Workers' Centre for Racial Justice) referring to a meeting with the envoy in March. They had among other things demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into their case. Coming to Washington, after a nine-day satyagraha, or 'journey for justice' from New Orleans, the workers had in March taken their protest to the White House where they raised slogans and tore up photocopies of their H-2B visas in a symbolic rejection of the guest worker programme.
Homage to Vijay Tendulkar
Noted playwright Vijay Tendulkar passed away on May 19 2008 at the age of 80 following a protracted illness.
Tendulkar revolutionised Marathi theatre with his ruthless exploration of social and political issues. His plays were a weapon to change society and challenge all hidebound ideas and injustices. They exploded the hypocrisies of polite society, broke new ground in their treatment of gender issues, and evolved a fresh genre of political satire full of vitality and contemporary meaning.
‘Shrimant’ (1956) jolted the conservative audience of the times with its portrayal of an unmarried young woman decides to keep her unborn child while her rich father tries to "buy" her a husband in an attempt to save his social prestige. ‘Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe’ ("Silence! The Court Is In Session", which went on stage in 1967) was a remarkable comment on the double standards of society towards women. ‘Sakharam Binder’ (1972) explored the different implications of unconventional lifestyles for men and women, and faced accusations of ‘obscenity’.
‘Ghasiram Kotwal’ (1972), based on the life of Nana Phadnavis (1741-1800), the prime minister in the court of the Peshwas, was a fearless satire on the rise of the Shiv Sena, and was met with violent attacks by political opponents. Tendulkar never lost that fearless voice against communal fascism: after the Gujarat genocide he raised the same bold voice against Narendra Modi.