Terror Strikes and the Political Challenge Facing India
Close on the heels of the trust vote fiasco in Lok Sabha, two major urban centres in the country have been rocked by serial bomb explosions on two successive days. Before the country could even begin to cope with the Bangalore blasts, came the news of bigger and more lethal blasts from Ahmedabad. The twin terror strikes have claimed a death toll of more than fifty, leaving many more injured and the entire country shocked and traumatised.
Are the blasts a fall-out of the trust vote and the resultant fast forward movement towards complete operationalisation of the nuke deal? Both Bangalore and Ahmedabad are capitals of BJP-ruled states. Not so long ago, Jaipur, the capital of another BJP-ruled state had experienced similar blasts. Do the blasts then reveal any particular pattern of terrorists targeting BJP-ruled states? A senior BJP leader has even termed the blasts a ploy to divert public attention from the cash-for-votes scam.
While the Congress and the BJP are predictably engaged in competitive attempts to score political points over these shocking terror strikes, the country must make a sober analysis of the events and find an effective way to fight and stop such strikes. Can we see the blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad or for that matter the Jaipur blasts that preceded these twin strikes in isolation from similar blasts in Delhi, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Varanasi and many other places in recent past? Instead of treating the blasts as a reaction to one single event or against one particular party, we must obviously see them as a national problem plaguing the entire country.
In the wake of such incidents we always hear a clamour from certain political parties and sections of the media for enactment of strong anti-terror legislations like TADA and POTA. But our experience has clearly proved that far from providing any solution, laws like TADA and POTA have only added to the problem. Thanks to this experience, the clamour for restoration of draconian laws has of late become somewhat milder. The ruling classes and their political-intellectual representatives are now talking in terms of a more effective doctrine of national security and a smarter intelligence and security set-up to match the ‘efficiency’ and ‘precision’ of the terrorist outfits. There are also talks of ‘federal’ policing – a euphemism for creating a more centralised and expanded infrastructure for state repression. No less significant is the growing stress on ‘technological modernisation’ of our security system which involves overt and covert elements of ‘globalisation’, i.e., greater collaboration with the intelligence and security agencies of the US and Israel.
Whether one advocates enactment of more repressive laws or creation of a stronger and smarter intelligence and security network, the recipe revolve round the theory and practice of a harder state with an expanded and ‘improved’ paraphernalia of state terror and repression. Such an approach has always proved and can only prove to be ineffective and even counter-productive. Conspicuously absent in this approach are the political elements that can really effectively combat terror by changing the very soil and environment that breeds and facilitates terrorism.
The biggest weapon against terror is the people and bureaucratic, repressive governance can never mobilise the support of the people. Countries with a sensitive and responsive mode of administration and welfarist governance are clearly less vulnerable to the challenge of terrorism, and also better adept at facing the threat. Also, it is now also increasingly acknowledged that recent incidents of terror in India have less to do with local grievances – rather they are an integral part of the US-led global war. The deeper India’s strategic partnership with the US, the greater is India’s vulnerability to globalised terror. Just as globalisation of India’s economy has led to ‘imported’ crisis on all fronts – be it food, fuel or finance, Americanisation of India’s foreign policy is a sure invitation to terrorism of the globalised variety.
No matter whether the recent blasts have anything to do with the nuke deal, to offer an effective political and popular resistance to terror India will have to root out communal fascist politics and discriminatory laws and governance at home and extricate herself from Washington’s lethal strategic embrace.
Posers Posed – and Left Unanswered – by the Trust Vote
The trust vote is over, but it has left in its trail a series of unanswered questions. We have already commented on the multiple adverse implications of the nuke deal, both in the specific context of India’s energy economics and energy security as well as the larger domain of the country’s national interests, policy options and political future. Let us take a quick look at the immediate political fallouts of the nuke deal debate.
The fate of the trust vote has been decided clearly by cross-voting and calculated absence and abstention by nearly twenty MPs. That money plays a big role in determining the political behaviour of these MPs has long been an open and widely known secret, but for the first time the country was treated to the spectacle of televised flashing of cash in Parliament. We also noticed the exorbitant rise in the going rate of MPs. In 1993, the JMM MPs were paid a much less bribe than what MPs have reportedly been offered and paid this time. Clearly, the phenomenon of price-rise has affected the prices of not just cement and steel, rice and wheat, or potatoes and onions, but more than anything it has hiked the prices of MPs. The questions many of them ask and the votes many of them cast or abstain from command the fastest growing price in the market.
A television channel claims to possess a CD of a sting operation containing glimpses of the process of money changing hands to buy support or silence in favour of the nuke deal and the trust vote. The CD must be made public without any kind of censorship and all guilty persons must be brought to book through a speedy and credible probe. The question that will however continue to haunt the people is why the BJP turned out to be the worst ‘victim’ of the deal-behind-the-deal. The BJP’s claim to be the most ‘disciplined’ and ‘honest’ of all bourgeois parties – ‘party with a difference’ – has long been exposed and shattered by real life developments. But discipline or honesty apart, what political conclusion are we to draw from the BJP’s contribution to the passage of the trust vote and the presumed parliamentary ‘approval’ for the deal. We cannot ignore the fact that the RSS had clearly suggested that the trust vote should be left to the conscience of MPs and no whip should be issued by parties in this regard.
The biggest fallout of the trust vote fiasco is of course the refusal by Somnath Chatterjee to resign from the Speaker’s post and the subsequent expulsion order served on him by the CPI(M). A lot of talk is going on in the media about the Speaker’s neutral or above-party role and how Somnath Chatterjee has upheld it as much as the CPI(M) has degraded it by asking him to resign and finally expelling him from the party.
The Speaker should certainly not behave in a narrow or biased matter as long as he is the speaker even though the very convention that the Speaker always comes from the government side obviously circumscribes this notion of neutrality. But the claim that anybody once elected as Speaker automatically ceases to be a party political person defies logic and all previous history. To cite just one example, Shivraj Patil who is currently the Minister for Home Affairs in the current government and a Congress MP was a Speaker not so long ago. Somnath Chatterjee was elected MP on a CPI(M) ticket and the party naturally had every right to ask him to abide by the party’s line.
But the real question is much larger and goes far beyond the issue of the supposed dichotomy between party discipline and parliamentary convention. Prakash Karat has said the Speaker is chosen always from the government side and never from the opposition and hence the CPI(M) could not afford to have one of its MPs continue as Speaker after the party had withdrawn support to the government. But by the same token, why did the CPI(M) accept the Speaker’s post in the first place? The CPI(M) always claimed that it offered outside support on the basis of the Common Minimum Programme and was not part of the UPA government. How come then the CPI(M) had no hesitation in letting Somnath Chatterjee serve as the Speaker?
If Somnath Chatterjee did not agree with the CPI(M)’s position on the nuke deal and the trust vote, why didn’t he resign from the party? By all indications, he has been opposed not only to the party’s insistence that he should resign from the Speaker’s post, but to the very idea that the CPI(M) should oppose the trust vote sought by Manmohan Singh, especially over the issue of the nuclear deal. This is where it becomes a larger issue of inner-party debate within the CPI(M). Echoes of Chatterjee’s position can be heard quite loudly and clearly within the CPI(M) especially within the West Bengal leadership. Were Chatterjee not to be elected as Speaker, he might well have continued to be the leader of the CPI(M) parliamentary party. Why does the CPI(M)’s parliamentary school produce pro-Congress leaders like Saifuddin Chowdhury and Somnath Chatterjee?
Clearly, the answer lies not so much in the concerned individuals as in the CPI(M)’s tactical line and in its historical tradition of parliamentary cretinism. How the CPI(M) leadership will respond to its latest July crisis is of course the CPI(M)’s own ‘prerogative’, but the ranks and well-wishers of the Left movement will undoubtedly find their own answers and carry the movement forward on revolutionary lines.
National Convention Against Nuclear Deal
CPI(ML) organised a National Convention at the Constitution Club in Delhi on 23rd July “For National Resistance Against UPA’s Pro-Imperialist Betrayal”. Held a day after the trust vote in Parliament, the Convention was attended by hundreds of activists. The Convention was addressed by noted journalist Praful Bidwai who exposed the hollow claim that Nuclear sources can meet India's energy needs. Dr. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Sumit Chakravarti also addressed the Convention. Javed Naqvi warned that the Nuke Deal with India would become an excuse to induct Israel next into the club of nuclear states even though it is not willing to end proliferation. Among the political leaders who addressed the Convention were D Raja of the CPI, who said that the Left had supported the UPA Government in order to keep out communalism and to push for pro-people policies. But the Manmohan Govt had betrayed them. He called for a realignment of political and social forces in order to provide a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative. RSP MP Abani Roy and Forward Bloc leader Comrade Devarajan also addressed the meeting and hoped for joint struggles of all Left forces in the future.
Addressing the Convention as the main speaker, CPI(ML) General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya said that "The real battle in the court of the people has just begun and fiasco just concluded in Parliament must be used as useful fuel to stoke the fire of popular anger.”
Convention at Guwahati
On the occasion of First Political Strike of Indian Working Class, Assam State Unit of AICCTU organized a workers’ convention at Guwahati Press Club on 23rd July, 2008, which was presided over by Comrades Viren Kalita and Naren Borah and Com. Rubul Sarma inaugurated the convention. Apart from leaders of oil, bank and fertilizer trade unions, AITUC and AIUTUC leaders addressed the convention. Speakers laid emphasis on workers’ political role in this critical situation of India. The convention vehemently opposed US-India nuclear deal and raised some demands like wage hike in the perspective of inflation and price rise. It called upon all workers and democratic people to come forward to make 20th August general strike a grand success. In Biswanath Chari Ali of Sonitpur district All Assam Chah Sramik Sangha organized a tea workers’ mobilization, where more than 1000 tea workers gathered. The gathering condemned the Nuke Deal and demanded to raise tea worker’s wage to Rs.100.
Against Nuclear Deal & Price Rise
In Gurgaon of Haryana an activists’ meet was organised against the Indo-US Neclear Deal on 15 July. While in Karnal, a protest demonstration and effigy burning took place on July 21. This was led and addressed by Party’s Haryana in-charge Prem Singh Gahlawat. The protesters demanded to withdraw this anti-nation Deal. They also condemned the rising inflation which is a manifestation of pro-US economic policies being pursued by the UPA Govt.
JHARKHAND: Street corner meetings, marches effigy burning of UPA and State govts. and were held on 21-22 July in various districts of Jharkhand. At Garhwa a march of dozens of people culminated in a meeting on 22 July. Effigies were burnt at Panki, Chhatarpur and Daltongunj in Palamu district. Effigy was also burnt at Barwadih in Latehar dist. Maas meetings and effigy burning were also organised in the Panchpargana blocks and Bundu in Ranchi dist., Dumka, Jamtada and Devghar in Santhal Pargana, Bagodar, Birni, Dhanwar, Jamua, Devri and Giridih in Giridih dist., in Koderma, Bhurkunda, Ramgarh, and Argada in Ramgarh dist. Apart from these places pledge taking meetings were also held at various places in Dhanbad, Bokaro and Ranchi on 23 July. Street corner meetings were also held at Chakradharpur.
GWALIOR: A people’s march was organised by CPI(ML) and RYA in Gwalior to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first political strike of the Indian working class on 23 July. The marchers recalled the legacy of the glorious struggles of the working people against the colonial regime and said that it is quite appropriate to take inspirations from these struggles for combating today’s pro-imperialist offensives against the Indian people. They condemned the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, price rise and increasing state repression over the democratic movements all over the country. The march passed through the main streets of the town and concluded in a mass meeting at Maharaj Bara. This was led by Party’s Central Control Commission member Com. Devendra Singh Chauhan, Dist. Sec. Vinod Rawat besides many others. The effigies of Bush and Manmohan Singh were also burnt after the protest.
Party Rally attacked by Bajarang Dal Goons: A rally was also organised in Gwalior on 18 July against the Nuke Deal and Price rise. This was participated by hundreds of people including a good number of women. When the rallyists were passing through Kampu, it was attacked by the lathi-weilding goons of a Bajaranj Dal leader Jagadish Karmani. Many leaders including Comrades Vinod Rawat, Shyamji Kushwaha and Lakshman Singh Bawa were injured in the attack. But the police arrested Party activists Gyan Rawat and Shyamji Kushwada and let the goons to free. This attack was in retaliation of a protest organised by the Party few days earlier against the Bajarang Dal leader because he has been involved in selling adulterated oil for quite some time.
Then more than 70 activists gheraoed the Madhoganj PS in protest. The gherao continued till 1 AM in night when police ultimately was forced to release the arrested comrades.
23 July-20 August Campaign: Also in Gwalior, nukkad meetings were organised on 26 July as a part of Party’s ongoing campaign against Nuke Deal and price rise. These meetings were addressed by Party CC member Prabhat Kumar, AISA General Secretary Ravi Rai, and many local comrades. It was resolved to conduct a massive mass contact programme during the campaign and to make the ‘Jail Bharo’ on 20 August a success.
Women Activists' Party Education Camp
For the first time, a national party education camp, organised by the party's women's department, was held exclusively for women activists in the party. The two-day camp was held at Bardhaman (West Bengal) on 26-27 July.
Around 60 leading women activists from Bihar, Jharkhand, UP, West Bengal, Assam, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Delhi - including women members of the Central Committee and all State Committees - participated in the camp.
The education camp began with Comrade Chaitali Sen, member of the Central Women's Department and also a leading AIPWA activist from the host-state West Bengal, welcoming the participants. Inaugurating the party education camp, CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya stressed that the topics chosen for the education camp - relating to the communist party's approach to issues of gender and the women's movement - were certainly not exclusively for women alone. Rather, there is probably an even more urgent need to educate male comrades on all aspects of this question, and the party would certainly pay special attention to educating the entire party on this question. He explained that this camp especially for women activists was in view of a situation in which a large number of women are fast breaking the barriers and entering the workforce. This process is far from smooth and is full of contradictions and hurdles. The ruling class too is taking initiatives to cope with this changing situation and is making various accommodations, albeit reluctantly. The Communist Party would naturally have to stride ahead of all these changes in order to meet the challenge of mobilising the new forces of women workers as a formidable agent of change in their own lives and in society. He spoke of the party's efforts to correct the gender imbalance in membership and leadership, saying that patriarchal hurdles existing in society tend to be reproduced within the party, and must be vigilantly fought out at every step. Women within the Party too tend to have to shoulder a double burden of domestic work as well as activism - and what was called for is a protracted and relentless struggle to transform the entire consciousness of men and women in the party - to create communists within a highly unequal and discriminatory society. He called upon women activists to boldly lead this crucial task of struggle against patriarchy - within society and also within the party - in their own right as party leaders, without falling prey to discouragement.
The first paper - on the 'Women's Movement and Communist Party' was presented by Comrade Arindam Sen. This paper discussed the basic writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Rosa Luxembourg, Clara Zetkin and others on the women's question. The experience of socialism in Russia and China were also discussed in this regard, appreciating how the revolutions in these countries began by ushering in enormous changes in women's lives and unleashing a potential for transformation of gender relations - and also critiquing the reasons for why this potential was not realised. This was followed by Comrade Ramji Rai's paper on Communist Party Programme and Women's Liberation Movement, in which the CPI(ML)'s programmatic understanding of Indian revolution was discussed in relation to its implications for the women's movement.
The last session was a discussion led by Comrade Kavita Krishnan on Policies, Positions and Orientation of work for the women's organisation. This covered various debates relating to gender and class, Communist movement and feminism, and a close and self-examination of AIPWA's and CPI(ML)'s own practice and that of Communist movements in general.
SDO Runs Jeep Over NREGA Activists
Another black episode of repression of agrarian workers was added to Darbhanga of Bihar when protesting All India Agricultural Labour Association (AIALA) activists had to face ire of the SDO in Darbhanga when the latter ran over his jeep on protesting activists seriously injuring dozens of people. Gangia Devi’s pelvic bone was badly crushed while Ramswarth’s legs are broken in this ghastly incident. Some of the seriously injured have been referred by the hospital in Biraul to the DMCH in Darbhanga.
This incident happened when hundreds of people gathered at the SDO office in Biraul to demand proper implementation of NREGA, besides minimum wage, BPL cards to all poor and subsidised food-grains through PDS at the rate of Rs. 2 per Kg. This programme was held as a part of statewide call of AIALA on July 23, the hundredth anniversary of the first political strike of Indian working class. An agrarian strike was witnessed in more than 5,000 villages all over Bihar on this day. The rural poor protested at their respective panchayat offices, block offices and also in streets.
But the SDO in Biraul could not tolerate rural poor and agrarian workers speaking up for their just demands. And he chose the age old feudal and colonial style to teach them a lesson. Even police and local administration did not register a case after the incident and an FIR was lodged the next day after massive protests forced the administration to do so, but an FIR had already been filed by the police against the protesting activists on 23 July to save the SDO. As usual, no action has yet been taken against the SDO. AIALA General Secretary Dhirendra Jha has demanded immediate arrest of all those involved in this brutal repression. He has also demanded from the Government of Bihar for a special discussion on the plight of agricultural workers and rural poor in Bihar in the current session of the state Assembly.
AIALA has called for intensification of the agitation if the SDO was not punished soon or the state government tries to save the culprits.
Against Nitish’s Demagogy of ‘Good Governance’ and ‘Development’: Three-Day Dharna in Front of Bihar Assembly
CPI(ML) Bihar unit organised a dharna in front of Bihar Assembly to protest the betrayal by Nitish Govt. which had promised a good governance and development in the state, but itself as insensitive towards the plight of poor people in the state as the earlier regime. Thousands of people from neighbouring districts participated in the protest.
Party’s PB member Ramjatan Sharma said, while addressing the protesters, that the government is busy in making promises one after the other, but the sad fact is that none of them has yet been implemented and the government in the state is not at all serious towards realising its own promises. The Nitish Govt. scrapped the Amir Das Commission immediately after it came to power, and then it maintained a silence over the High Court’s verdict of taking action on this Commission’s report which was meant to provide justice to the poor families whose relatives were killed in various incidents of massacres in the state. Now this self-styled ‘pro-people’ government is hesitating from implementing the reports of Land Reforms Commission and Common School System Commission. Nitish’s Agriculture Road Map is meant to ignore poor peasantry and it has nothing to do with the land reforms and providing agricultural inputs at an affordable cost to make the agriculture viable for the peasants. This govt. has failed on all fronts and corruption, crime, police repression, dalit and women’s oppression and attacks on democratic aspiarations of the people have increased manifold. Resolution was passed to intensify the struggle for various demands of the people including agricultural Minimum Wage to be raised to Rs. 100 and NREGA wages to Rs. 200 a day.
Against Caste Oppression of Dalits
CPI(ML) Haryana unit represented to the IG of Haryana against an incident of oppression of a member of dalit community in Asandh block of Karnal district. Some domineering people are continuously oppressing a dalit family and they have also stopped the irrigation water towards his fields. Instead of taking any action against the oppressors, the administration and police are protecting them.