In this Issue
Campaign against Communalism and Terrorism:
After a lapse of more than three years the National Integration Council met last week against a backdrop of raging communal violence in several parts of the country punctuated by periodic bomb-blasts in major cities. The response of the state to such a situation conforms to a by now familiar, almost predictable pattern. The NIC deliberations only reflected and reaffirmed this pattern.
Beyond the NIC Deliberations
In the face of communal violence unleashed by the Sangh parivar, the state withdraws into a shell of inaction, or openly stands by the perpetrators and protagonists of such violence, depending upon whether the reins of the state are in the hands of the Congress/UPA or the BJP/NDA. In the wake of a terrorist incident, the same state however becomes hyperactive. The police swings into action, arrests and encounters follow suit, and we are treated to an official propaganda blitzkrieg with sensational stories as to how the state has just busted some ‘terror modules’ or killed or arrested some dreaded ‘terrorist masterminds’.
While the police establishment reduces the whole question of tackling terrorism to a no-holds-barred battle between ‘terrorist masterminds’ and ‘encounter specialists’ in which the courts and constitution must not play spoilsport, the political establishment launches a competitive chorus for a hard state and tough anti-terror laws. The BJP demands re-enactment of POTA, the Congress rules out bringing back any law that has already been exposed and discredited in public experience, promising to introduce tougher new laws instead of the good old TADA or POTA.
In his speech at the NIC, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delivered all the customary ‘secular’ and ‘democratic’ shibboleths that we often hear these days even from his ‘counterpart-in-waiting’ Mr. LK Advani who however refused to attend the NIC meeting, reportedly peeved that his name figured at the 137th position in the list of invitees! The PM called for avoiding any “impression that any community, or sections amongst them, are being targeted, or that some kind of profiling is being attempted”. He also reiterated his commitment to the Constitution and the principles of civil liberties and democratic rights: “We should not be provoked to suspend or subvert a democratic process in the search for solutions. A democracy has a special onus in that it has to ensure protection of civil liberties even as it seeks to enforce law and order.”
Perhaps all this talk about not subverting the democratic process was meant to justify the UPA government’s refusal to take any action against Sangh outfits like the Bajrang Dal, VHP or the Hindu Yuva Vahini. In Delhi, the police versions regarding the Jamia Nagar encounter have raised precisely the kind of questions that Manmohan Singh should be avoided, but the UPA government has refused to set up a judicial enquiry headed by a sitting Supreme Court judge to resolve the issue on the plea that such a step would demoralise the police!
With the government limiting its role to empty phrases and deliberate inaction against the perpetrators of communal violence, NDA constituents were emboldened to offer all kinds of arguments in their own support. Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik attributed the Kandhamal attacks on Christians to ‘conflict of interests’ between SCs and STs, leaving it to the Centre to decide if Bajrang Dal should be banned. Rajnath Singh condemned any comparison between ‘banned terrorist organisations like SIMI’ and ‘legal nationalist outfits affiliated to the Sangh’ while Bajrang Dal functionaries openly dared the Centre to ban the organisation and face the consequences! Sushma Swaraj accused the UPA of failing to distinguish between extremism, which is linked to ‘home-grown sentiment’, and terrorism, which according to her, is all about secession!
While the NDA speakers boldly advocated their point of view, the CPI(M) said little except reiterating the party’s unstinted support to any official campaign against terrorism. The party refrained from demanding a ban on the Sangh outfits; and instead of explaining the context in which India is increasingly internalising the threat of terrorism, Yechury only harped on the anti-national argument to denounce terrorism.
By equating terrorism with secessionism, the propagandists and ideologues of the Sangh brigade are trying to pitch their variety of ‘nationalism’ as the most powerful anti-terrorist antidote. And this, like most Sangh claims, is based on complete lies. If secessionist sentiment prevails in any part of the country, that too is very much a home-grown sentiment and this recognition is central to any quest for a political solution to secessionist campaigns. Moreover, the terrorist incidents now taking place across the country have little to do with any secessionist sentiment brewing in any part of the country. These incidents are rather a reflection of, and reaction to, the combination of the following three factors: the relentless Sangh campaign of communal violence, the growing involvement of India in the US-led global war, and the increasingly unmistakable communal bias of the Indian state in most of its affairs and actions.At a time when communalism and terrorism are growing in a dangerous spiral, the campaign against communalism and terrorism must be firmly anchored in the secular, democratic, anti-imperialist agenda of the Indian people.
CPI(ML) Demands Ban on MNS and Shiv Sena
Strongly condemning the hooliganism and violence on North Indian candidates in railway recruitment exams, the CPI(ML) demanded a ban on the MNS and arrest and stern action against Raj Thackeray and Bal Thackeray.
Regional chauvinism was against the Indian constitution and ought to have no place in a democracy. The Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna had openly declared that "Shiv Sainiks were monitoring the movements of those who arrived in the metropolis throughout the night and beat the candidates." Raj Thackeray too had made public statements openly inciting violence. The UPA Government should answer why such open violators of the Indian constitution were not being banned, and were instead allowed to boast about beating up innocent youth and students, said Comrade Dipankar.
In a statement issued for the press, the CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya noted that the MNS and Shiv Sena had repeatedly targeted North Indian migrants in Maharashtra – workers, vendors, taxi drivers and students – without facing any stern punishment. This soft treatment by the Congress Government of Maharashtra and the UPA Government at the Centre had emboldened the MNS to intensify its campaign of regional chauvinism and violence.
The CPI(ML) said that the Railways Minister Laloo Yadav and Steel Minister Ramvilas Paswan were paying lip service to the grave issue – if they were truly critical of the soft-pedalling of MNC violence by the Congress-led Governments at State and Centre, they should resign from the Central Government in protest against the inaction and failure to protect North Indian migrants to Maharashtra.
AISA-RYA Protest MNS-Shiv Sena Menace
The MNS-Shiv Sena assaults on examinees from Northern India has led to the death of a student from Nalanda, Bihar. Another student from Muzaffarpur, also in Bihar is said to be in critical condition. MNS activists beat up the candidates, snatched away their admit cards and even tore up the exam papers. The excuse for the brutal attack was that "outsiders" were usurping jobs that the local unemployed should have had. The Maharashtra state government's unwillingness to stop the atrocities of the MNS was evident in the initial police denial of the incident.
In Uttar Pradesh, the protests were held in Allahabad and Varanasi by AISA cadres and supporters.
All India Students' Association (AISA) has launched a nation-wide campaign against the MNS and its allies. The West Bengal unit of AISA organized a protest rally along with Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) on 20 October in Kolkata demanding a ban on the MNS and punishment for those involved in the recent atrocity. Protestors marched with placards and festoons decrying the incident from Hazra to the Maharashtra Nivas where they put up a road-blockade for some time. They were led by comrade Apurba Ghosh, RYA state leader, comrade Debalina Ghosh, state president of AISA, comrade Zul Mukherjee, member of AISA national executive and state secretariat, comrade Ranajay Sengupta, member of AISA national council and state secretariat and comrade Nirmalya Chanda, member of AISA state executive. An effigy of Raj Thackeray was burnt amidst loud slogans by the large number of students and youth activists who had gathered to protest.
In Delhi, dozens of students from Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Milia Islamia assembled at Jantar Mantar and burnt an effigy of MNS-Shiv Sena and demanding from the UPA Govt. to impose and immediate ban on MNS-Shiv Sena. Comrade Aslam, AISA leader from Jamia, said that the attempts of the fascistic MNS-Shiv Sena to spread hatred in the country along regional chauvinist lines and weaken the country will not be tolerated by the students and youths of this country and they will be given a fitting reply. Other student leaders who led and addressed the gathering are Arnav, Shreyansh and Rajan from DU and JNU.
In Bihar the AISA, RYA and CPI(ML) activists came out in protest in every district and also stopped train movements to protest the outrageous attacks by MNS on innocent examinees. The State-wide protests were held on 20th as well as 21st October.
Release the Activists of Anti-Posco Resistance Struggle
CPI(ML) strongly condemns the arrest of Comrade Abhaya Sahoo, leader of the popular anti-Posco resistance struggle in Orissa and other activists of the PPSS and demands immediate unconditional release of all the arrested activists. The arrests have once again unmasked the Orissa government's brazenly anti-democratic pro-corporate character. The government that kills and persecutes the people of the state at the behest of corporate giants has no right to continue in office.
We appeal to all democratic forces to pressurise the Orissa government for immediate unconditional release of Abhaya Sahoo and his comrades and for decisive action against the perpetrators and defenders of anti-Christian violence in the state. The CPI(ML) while stepping up its campaign in Orissa is engaged in organising solidarity action all over the country to demand immediate release of anti-Posco activists and exemplary punishment for the perpetrators of anti-Christian violence in Orissa.
The arrests are also a ploy to divert public attention from the government's dismal failure to stop the anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal. The attacks have in fact spread from Kandhamal to Boudh district and other parts of Orissa. While the police administration in Orissa turns a blind eye to the attackers, at the meeting of the National Integration Council, Naveen Patnaik shamelessly sought to save the Sangh Parivar and legitimise the attacks by attributing them to so-called conflicts of interest between SC and ST communities in Orissa.
CPI(ML) Condemns Arrest of Victims of Mining Mafia in Goa
Ten activists including Sebastian Rodrigues of Mand Adivasi Resource Centre struggling against mining activities in the area for the past two decades were been arrested at Quepem Police Station on 11 October. It is to be noted that the police shamelessly watched the activists being beaten up by local mining mafia at the site of struggle clearly exposing the nexus between the mining mafia-corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and local police.
The CPI(ML) strongly condemns the illegal arrests and demands immediate release of the arrested people, arrest and initiate police action against the goons who physically assaulted the activists and immediately halt mining in the area.
The clearance for mining in the area has been given in complete violation of Wildlife Protection Act. It is clear in the Wildlife Protection Act that no such activities should be allowed in the area. The mining authorities, here Tarcar Mines have been consistently using their nexus with politicians, police to get easy clearances for their activities making a mockery of all the environmental laws.
Politics Dictated by US is the Source of Terrorism
(People's Convention in Azamgarh Against Harassing Muslim People)
In a people's convention titled "Terrorism, Muslim Harassment and Democracy" on 19th October in Azamgarh (UP), CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya said that root of terrorism is the politics dictated by the US and not Azamgarh. He said that the communal attacks on the religious minorities in the name of terrorism is in reality an attack on the past and future of India, and this attack can not be resisted and defeated in parts but rather holistically and in novel ways. The convention was organised by the CPI(ML), People's Union for Human Rights (PUHR), Revolutionary Youth Association, All India Students' Association (AISA), Jan Sanskriti Manch, All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) and Rajnarayan Vichar Manch.
Human rights activist and Supreme Court lawyer Nandita Haksar said that Human Rights Organisations should premise themselves upon anti-imperialism. She also said that many human rights groups are working for US interests. The Convention demanded an enquiry into Batla House encounter by a Supreme Court Judge, banning of VHP and Bajrang Dal for attacking and killing the Christians, preventing the attempts to divide the Hindus and Muslims by calling Muslim community terrorists and abrogating Indo-US nuclear deal and implementing the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project. The Convention was presided over by a 4-member presidium of Jayprakash Narayan, Vijay Bahadur Rai, Manoj and Dr. Salahuddin and it was conducted by managing editor of Samkalin Janmat K.K. Pandey. The Convention was also addressed by JSM’s General Secretary Pranay Krishna, Tahira Hasan- National Vice President of AIPWA, PUHR President Manoj Singh, Advocate Wasiuddin, Aslam from Jamia Milia Islamia University, RYA National President Mohammad Salim and Liberation editor Kavita Krishnan among others.
He further said that there were two types of terrorism in the country – bomb blasts in urban centres, which no human being can accept and there should be thorough and transparent investigations of these blasts. The other is blatantly open terrorism as going on in Orissa, Karnataka and elsewhere. This terrorism is being termed nationalism by Sangh Parivar (RSS). As a matter of fact the Manmohan Singh Govt. sweats in its palms in the name of reining in the forces involved in this. Both the State Apparatus and the Sangh gangs are belligerent upon the minorities of this Country. The politics today has entered a new phase wherein the old model of Sangh sponsored politics of violence was Ayodhya and Advani. In the new phase its Gujarat and Modi. Also new is that Indian economic and foreign policy is directed by the US. The attacks on the minorities in the name of terrorism is basically to subjugate and subvert the people’s anger as a result of these policies and to emphasise legislation of draconian laws for this.
Therefore any fight against communalism and state repression cannot be fought without fighting against pro-Americanism and imperialism. Comrade Dipankar also mentioned that Congress and BJP are competing against each other for being the most pro-American. The real face of Samajwadi Party has also been exposed and the BSP has always fostered the politics of Sangh. The CPI(M)-led Left’s talk of fighting only the BJP weakens the battle for democracy. If we have to defeat communal fascist forces, challenge state repression in the name of terrorism or any thing else, then we must wage and conduct anti-feudal militant struggles of peasants on the issues of livelihood and dignity and against loot and plunder. Only a multi-pronged struggle can ensure their comprehensive defeat.
Report of the CPI(ML) Fact Finding Team on Anti-Christian Violence in Kandhamal (Orissa)
A Fact Finding Team constituted by CPI(ML) visited Orissa’s Kandhamal District on 15-16 October, 2008, and went to different villages and relief camps after making way through interrogations and checking by Orissa Police and the CRPF. The fact finding team also met District Magistrate and various police officials of Kandhamal District. The Team comprised of CPI(ML) CC members Comrades Rajaram and Bahadur Oraon, Orissa State Committee members Comrades Yudhistir Mahapatra and Radhakant Sethi, AICCTU’s national councilor Com. Mahendra Parida, Jharkhand State Committee member Com. J.P. Minz, Hills Party Committee (Assam) members Comrades Samuel Roghang and Daniel Teron.
Our Demands: (1) The VHP and Bajrang Dal should be banned (2) Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik responsible for the violence should tender his resignation immediately (3) The accused for the riots be immediately arrested (4) The orissa Govt. must reconstruct all houses, Churches, Schools, hostels, hospitals and other social-religious structures demolished during the pogrom and for other damages adequate compensation be granted after a proper survey (5) The relief camps be run for another six months and proper civic arrangements for food, medicine and sanitation be made in these camps (6) Arrangements be made for registering FIRs at all police stations (7) Peace process be initiated and guarantees be made for reopening and running of schools, hospitals and other institutes run by the Christian missionaries
District magistrate’s Statement: DM informed that there has been no violence since ten days. Earlier there were fifteen relief camps, and now only seven were operational having 12641 people. He informed that breakfast, meals, compliment food for children is available in these camps as well as doctor is available 24 hours. Also, iron and calcium tablets for pregnant women and books for children and they are made to read. Blankets, sarees, buckets and mugs and similar essential necessaries have also been provided.
Condition of the Relief Camp: The Fact Finding Team visited Phulbani, Tikabali, Ji Udaygiri and Rakiya relief camps and found that the inmates of the camp are living in extremely vulnerable condition. In the name of breakfast they get only fifty grams of chura (beaten rice) and rice-dal for meals which is not enough to satisfy the hunger. In the name of compliment food, the children are occasionally given biscuits. Bathing soaps have been given just once in the camps. The doctors do come but the patients are told that there is no medicine. There is no arrangement for pregnant women. The camp inmates sleep on the plastic mat on the ground. They have to go in the open to defecate where there is no security and hence the life is always in danger. One inmate of Ji Udaygiri camp was killed when he had gone to defecate.
Role of the VHP and Bajrang Dal: The victims in all the relief camps unanimously told the fact finding team that it’s the VHP and Bajrang Dal cadres who have sowed the seeds of communal division in the villages. They used to organize meetings of the Kandh tribes and incite them to attack the Christian hamlets and also provided funds for doing this.
Conclusion:- (1) This violence was anti-Christian and in no way was it a struggle between Tribals and the Dalits (2) This violence which had full support from the Biju Janta Dal Government was planned and executed by VHP and Bajrang dal (3) The Sangh’s propaganda about “indiscriminate religious conversion” is far away from any fact as the Christian population of Orissa is only 2.5 per cent of the total population. It is to be noted that Christian missionaries began working in Orissa 150 years back (4) The factual data used by Sangh parivar to incite the Kandh Tribals are far from any truth. Dalits have far less proportion of land in comparison to the Tribals. In Kandhamal 90 per cent land is government land, 5.5 percent belongs to Tribals and rest 4.5 per cent belongs to Dalits, Ogissi and Oriya (businessmen). There is not much difference in the economic conditions of the Tribals and the Dalits. The Dalits are slightly better as they engage in petty businesses.
Land Grab for Liquor Factory in Tamil Nadu
The party is conducting an agitation in Kallakottai, a panchayat in Gandarvakottai block of Pudukottai district in Tamil Nadu, against a liquor factory which is coming up on fertile land at the cost of livelihood of over 30,000 poor peasants and agricultural labourers in over 30 villages.
Now the police have registered false cases against 19 party activists including Com. Aasaithambi, District Secretary and SCM of the Party. A public meeting was planned on October 18 against the police’s barbaric lathi-charge. But the permission was denied on the ground that Kallakottai is a ‘troubled area’. We have now planned to intensify the campaign in the area against any attempt to reopen the factory.
The construction work for the factory started all of a sudden on 20 acres of fertile land in the beginning of August. Local people had no idea what was being constructed; they came to know only when some workers from the neighbouring villages were denied work and those from Trichy were brought in to work at the site. Then an investigation was conducted by the party, which revealed that a liquor factory was coming up, and that too based on faked documents like panchayat No Objection Certificate, environment authorities’ clearance etc. Further investigation about the factory revealed that the factory will draw 6.21 lakh litres of water per day for its operations and only 200 jobs will be generated. Construction work was started and bore wells were dug without due approval. The investigation also exposed that the local bigwigs and ruling party leaders were well aware of the project and only the people were kept in dark.
As Party took up a campaign against the factory explaining the impending dangers to the resources, particularly ground water, those in support of the factory started campaigning that the factory would generate employment for thousands in the area.
To begin with, a memorandum was sent to all concerned government departments and the CM, demanding an immediate stop to factory construction. The Kallakottai panchayat president’s husband acts as the de-facto president. The panchayat presindent and her husband, both were gheraoed and an explanation for the NOC sought from them. When the husband started explaining, people insisted that only the president would answer. The president simply said that she just did not know that a liquor factory was planned there. Party demanded, in that case, the president should pass a resolution in the panchayat that the permission given for the factory must be cancelled and send it to the collector. The president had to promise a panchayat meeting on this agenda in a week and had to pass the resolution as demanded.
A campaign was taken up by the party in more than 10 panchayats in and around the factory. The campaign was well received, and people united across caste and party lines: mostly poor peasants and agricultural laborers who would lose their livelihood to the liquor factory.
As the campaign gathered momentum and people’s support for the campaign increased, the local administration called for a meeting at a short notice. Sensing foul play, people foiled this attempt and meeting could not be held as planned by the RDO. This compelled the RDO to invite the Party. The party in turn demanded to hold the meeting in public. There was a mobilization from all the affected villages and the meeting was held in their presence.
Our campaign ensured that the meeting would only discuss time-bound removal of the factory, and all attempts of the administration to convince people about the ‘benefits’ of the factory failed miserably. Local DMK chairman was subdued by the united will of the people when he tried to get an upper hand. The MLA, who is from CPI, had to fall in line when he tried talking in support of the project. We put forward 3 demands – immediate scrapping of the liquor factory; apology by district administration for failing to take people into account before giving any permission to the factory should apologize to the people; and payment of Rs 1 crore by factory management, which has already caused damage to the area, to the people as compensation. We issued an ultimatum, as a result of which the construction and bore-well digging work were stopped in the factory.
We took up a campaign in 20 panchayats in and around Kallakottai and demanded that a resolution against the factory must be passed in the August 15 Gram Sabha meetings. Kallakottai Panchayat did so. On August 26, a ‘Conference Against Liquor Factory and For Security of Agrarian Workers and Poor Peasants’ was held. Comrade Balasundaram, Party State Secretary, addressed this gathering which was attended by more than 250 villagers.
The RDO was then replaced and the new one tried to subvert the struggle by convening an informal meeting with the ‘supporters’ of the factory. But as people came to know about this and the Party was informed, we invited media and mobilized hundreds of villagers and proceeded toward the venue and filled all the seats before those who were actually ‘invited’ for the meeting could arrive. As there was no formal invitation for anybody, the RDO was not able to forbid people from attending the meeting. A local bigwig owing allegiance to the Congress and a strong supporter of the factory, refused to sit along with the people. Finally the meeting could not take place!
Pudukottai was the venue for the 8th State Party Conference held on October 9 and 10, and comrades were in the middle of preparations. The factory management and the administration wanted to avail this opportunity and to start work in the factory. On 6th of October, people found a priest heading for the factory to perform pooja. They stopped him and sent him back. Leaders spoke to the Tahsildar and DSP, who denied any attempt on the part of the factory to begin work. More than 1000 villagers including over 300 women gathered near the factory. Some supporters of the factory were allowed inside the factory by the police. When questioned about this, the police said it is only a pooja and people are attending that. When those opposing the factory tried to enter the factory premises, they were stopped by the police who used abusive language and started attacking the people, leaving many injured. The Tahsildar apologized to the people for the police action. A DMK leader along with a local bigwig, Ambalam, came to the factory in 5 vehicles but they were chased away from the place. Work in the factory could not be started due to the relentless struggle of the people.