In this Issue
Niyamgiri to Bellary, Polavaram to Konkan:
Stop All Destructive Projects Now
The cancellation of the Vedanta group’s ‘mining rights’ in the Niyamgiri hills of Odisha’s Kalahandi district surely marks a huge victory for the growing people’s movement against corporate invasion and plunder. The brave resistance of the local people, belonging predominantly to the Dongria Kondh and Kutia Kondh tribes, had begun to find wide-ranging support beyond the borders of Odisha and India. In July, the Annual General Meeting of the UK-based Vedanta group in London attracted angry protests by a broad spectrum of activists, and on August 16, the NC Saxena committee set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests submitted a hard-hitting report documenting the numerous illegal activities of the Vedanta group in collusion with high-level Odisha officials.
The opposition to the Vedanta group’s mining offensive in Odisha has been growing for several years now. And till recently, the central government too had been siding with the state government to rubbish and crush the popular protests and defend and promote the project in every possible way. The UPA-I had granted environmental clearance for the project rejecting the opposition of the tribal people of Niyamgiri and flouting every tenet of the PESA Act. And when the tribal people went to the Supreme Court to challenge the environmental clearance, the apex court went out of its way to ask the government to grant forest clearance as well! And the UPA government followed suit. So what the UPA-2 is doing is nothing but selectively retracing a step or two taken by the UPA-1 without admitting its past mistakes!
The Vedanta mining saga clearly raises some fundamental questions. The group’s claim of ‘mining happiness’ for the people of Odisha has been squarely exposed – but the ministers and officials working hand in gloves with this mining giant are yet to be adequately exposed and punished. We all know that P Chidambaram was on the board of directors of Vedanta Resources till the day before he became the Finance Minister in UPA-1 and we are also aware of the group’s bonhomie with the state government of Odisha led formerly by the BJP-BJD combine and now by the BJD on its own. A similar story is going on in Karnataka with the BJP pulling out all stops to defend the mining loot of the infamous Reddy brothers. Clearly, the people’s movement will have to confront and defeat this nexus between corporate robbers and bourgeois rulers.
This nexus is armed with a policy regime that promotes corporate loot at the cost of every legitimate concern and right of the people – be it over land or livelihood, environment or culture. Even as one Niyamgiri has seemingly been saved, there are hundreds of Niyamgiris all over the country where state-sponsored destruction campaign is going on in full swing. The ongoing Polavaram dam project in Andhra Pradesh and the proposed nuclear power plant in the environmentally delicate Konkan region of Maharashtra are just two glaring examples from two Congress-ruled states. The same Ministry of Environment and Forests which is now being described as a ‘Green Crusader’ has actually been functioning as nothing but a ‘Green Destroyer’. The time has come to press for a complete halt to this indiscriminate state-sponsored destruction.
The people’s movement will also have to challenge the doublespeak of the Congress. On August 26, Rahul Gandhi visited Niyamgiri and projected himself as a soldier of the tribal people in the corridors of power! He was garlanded by Lado Sikaka, a tribal activist of Niyamgiri who had only the other day been badly harassed and tortured by the state as a ‘Maoist’. One hand of the Congress is busy coercing and displacing the adivasis while the other hand garners the sympathy of the people and pretends to be their soldier and saviour. The politics of the Congress revolves around this calculated combination of ‘Operation Green Hunt’ and ‘Operation Greenspeak’ and we must unmask this hypocrisy of Rahul Gandhi’s professed concern for the deprived tribal people.
Veteran journalist and Congress-watcher MJ Akbar sees Rahul Gandhi’s pro-farmer pro-tribal discourse as a sign of a clever Congress attempt to appropriate the left-of-centre agenda. “It is axiomatic that a largely impoverished nation needs a political party that the poor can identify with. The Congress has set out to be the party of the poor in daytime, and of the rich at night. ... This is an extremely clever act whose opening scenes are being played out for a new generation that is vague about Indira Gandhi and amnesiac about Nehru”, writes MJ Akbar in his recent Sunday column in the Times of India (29 August 2010). Well, when the rhetoric of Nehru and Indira could not stop the radical Left even during the heydays of ‘non-alignment’ and ‘mixed economy’, can the ‘clever lines’ of Rahul Gandhi befool a people who are bearing the brunt of the pro-corporate pro-imperialist policies of the Congress?
Seminar on Honour Killings in Varanasi
A Seminar on ‘Honour Killings, Khap Panchayats and the Role of the Government’ was held in a hall near the Banaras Hindu University on 28 August. The seminar, jointly organized by AIPWA and AISA, was well attended by students as well as intellectuals.
At the Seminar, Dr. Chandrakala Tripathi, Champa Singh and Shraddha Singh of the Hindi department of BHU spoke about various aspects of the ‘honour’ killing phenomenon, especially on the political patronage that such crimes enjoyed. Namrata Tiwary, advocate in the Allahabad High Court, drawing on her experience of false ‘abduction’ cases lodged to harass those who opt for self-choice marriages, argued in favour of a separate law to define and address ‘honour’ crimes, and discussed many of the issued involved in drafting such a law. Dr. Muniza Rafi Khan of the Gandhi Vidya Sansthan spoke of ‘honour’ crimes such as ‘fatwas’ against Muslim women. Ramagya Rai, editor, Samayantar, spoke about the origin and role of the khap panchayats, pointing out that these institutions not only killed couples, they are also the ‘seeds of murder of our democracy.’ Usha Kiran Rai from the Management faculty of BHU also addressed the Seminar. Responding to a debate raised in the course of the seminar, Dr. Prabhat, a surgeon in the BHU IMS, intervened to explain how there was no ‘scientific’ basis of opposition to same-gotra marriages. Many students of BHU and Kashi Vidyapeeth including Vishal, an activist of BHU AISA, Prasanto Sahay, a research scholar of psychology in BHU, and several women students shared their ideas and experiences of campaigning for the seminar. One woman student of BHU, Shikha, spoke of the many hurdles that attempt to curb women’s freedom – not just in matters of marriage but even when they choose to be socially or politically active. Commenting on the 6 pm curfew imposed on residents of BHU women’s hostels, she asked, “Why are the victims of violence (women) locked up in the name of ‘keeping them safe’ while the perpetrators are allowed to roam free?” The main speaker at the Seminar was Kavita Krishnan, National Secretary of AIPWA, who spoke of feudal structures, ideologies and forces that underpin ‘honour’ crimes. She discussed the role of the Sangh Parivar and BJP in perpetrating and patronizing ‘honour’ crimes (by imposing dress codes on women, and attacking inter-caste and inter-community couples), as well as the support of Congress leaders for killer khap panchayats. Commenting on Mayawati’s claim that UP was free of ‘honour’ crimes, she said that such killings are rampant in Western UP, and Mayawati’s attitude betrays her refusal to confront feudal forces. The Seminar was chaired by Dr. Archana Kumar, Head of the Department of English, BHU, who shared her own personal experience of facing ‘honour’ threats. The Seminar was conducted by Kusum Verma, Convenor of AIPWA in Varanasi.
Upcoming Assembly Election in Bihar: Series of rallies addressed by Party GS
Bihar is scheduled for Legislative Assembly election in a couple of months. CPI(ML), the real fighting opposition and true representative of Bihar’s proletariat and peasants in their struggle against the ruling class offensive on poor is gearing up for electoral battle by mobilising the peasants, workers, dalits, women, youth and poor to take on the anti-poor, corrupt and pro-rich Nitish Kumar’s Govt. In the recent past Party has conducted major political campaigns exposing the anti-poor, pro-feudal and pro-rich agendas of JD(U)-BJP Govt. in Bihar. One of the major issues for the toiling millions of Bihar is the agenda of land reforms which saw massive mobilization of people in CPI(ML) struggles on the issue. In the week just gone by, a string of rallies were organised by the different district committees of CPI(ML) and most of these rallies were addressed by Party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya. Following is a brief report:
Three rallies were held in Siwan on consecutive days – Mairwa (Jeeradei constituency) on 25 August, Darauli on 26th and Husseinganj (Raghunathpur seat) on 27th; two in Jahanabad – Ghosi and Sribigha (Jahanabad) on 29 Aug; and one in Arwal on August 30. The Jahanabad and Arwal rallies were also addressed by comrades Krishna Dev Yadav and Ram Jatan Sharma. Com. KD Yadav also addressed a meeting at Naugachhia in Bhagalpur district on 27th and Com. Rajaram Singh addressed two meetings at Obra on 28th and Dehri on 29th. All meetings have been quite well-attended. The next phase of the campaign will be from September 6 to 15 when rallies will be held in Nalanda, Bhojpur, Rohtas and Patna rural.
Protest in Delhi against cancellation of BPL Cards
Nealy a hundred people, mostly women under the banner of All India General Kamgar Union (Narela unit, Delhi) held a protest on 30 August in front of FSO office against cancellation of BPL Cards and stopping the distribution of BPL ration to the hundreds of poor in the Narela area. Recently Narela Regional office has cancelled more than 1800 BPL cards without any prior notice or citing any reason. It was demanded to reissue the illegally cancelled cards and restart the ration supply to them immediately. The issues of rampant corruption in the PDS system, giving less foodgrains than the allotted quantity, issuing BPL card to every poor and to immediately expedite long pending BPL applications of thousands of poor were also raised by the protesters. The protest was led by comrades Shyamlal, Surendra Panchal, Bishan Singh, Dharmvir Khatri, Harish Pati, Shamshad Alam, and Ayub Siddiqui.
AISA’s Protests in WB for Kashmir & NE
As part of the all India protest demonstration against killings by security forces in Kashmir and North-eastern states, All India Student’s Association in West Bengal organised protest marches in Kolkata and Malda on 14th August, demanding repealing of AFSPA and withdrawal of Troops from these states.
Kolkata: A sizable section of students adorned with colorful banners and placards marched through the College Street area. At the end of the rally an effigy of UPA Govt was burnt in front of the Presidency College after a brief road blockade. Later a street corner meeting was held in front of Indian coffee house and addressed by Moloy Tewari (AISA’s State Secretary), Jul Mukherjee (Jt.Sec. of West Bengal AISA), Balindra Saikia (Assam President of AISA), Souvik Ghosal from RYA and Dwaipayan Banerjee from CPI(ML).
Malda: At Gazol block of Malda district a protest rally was organized by AISA’s district body, a street corner meeting was held after an effigy of Manmahan Singh was burnt. Emanuel Hembrom and Arjun Hansda of AISA addressed the protesters.
Pricol Workers Released after False Criminal Cases on Them are Withdrawn
From 2007 onwards some 25 criminal cases were slapped against the Pricol workers to suppress the workers’ movement for their rights. Perianayakkanpalayam (where Pricol factory is situated in Coimbatore) police continue to deny permission to any of our programmes citing these cases. Now those cases one after the other have been proven to be falsely grafted on the workers and our union.
In July 2007, the Management hired gangsters to frighten and terrorise the workers. But Perianayakanpalayam police, instead of registering cases against the management and its goons, implicated Pricol workers who were the victims. Many of our comrades were in jail for 40 days in these cases. After trials all have been released now. Another team of workers in some other criminal cases were also released. We still have to see whether Coimbatore administration and police learn a lesson from this and stop taking the sides of managements who engage in all sorts illegal and criminal activities against the workers.
September 7 All India General Strike Preparations:
In Chennai all Trade Union Convention was held on 18th Aug attended by national leaders of all TUs. Com. Bhuvaneshwari, National Secretary of All India Central Union in of Trade Unions (AICCTU) addressed the Convention on behalf of AICCTU. 400 workers attended the convention.
This is the first time that AICCTU was invited to the joint platform in Coimbatore and Kanyakumari. Public meeting was held at 7 places jointly in Coimbatore. In Tirunelveli AICCTU is preparing to enforce the strike involving thousands of beedi workers both independently and jointly. Tirunelveli has already crossed 40,000 signatures in our campaign on various demands of the toiling people.
Signature campaign in Kanyakumari with active participation of women workers is going on with propaganda to participate in 7th September strike. In Tiruchi Ordnance Factory Contract Labour Union (affiliated to AICCTU) served a strike notice and is preparing for the strike. Construction workers affiliated to our union are conducting wider campaign in Salem, Tanjore, Pudukottai, Kanyakumari, Kanjipuram, Dindugal, Tirunelveli and Villupuram districts.
All TUs in construction industry are jointly campaigning and Joint Preparatory Conference was held at Salem. Com. Ayyandurai, State Secretary of AICCTU addressed the Conference. In Chennai, Some 400 workers were involved in a single day on 22 July in the signature campaign, out of which half were women belonging to a garment factory. Signature campaign with a call to participate in strike is going on at factory gates, bus stands, railway stations, university gates, bazaars and residential areas throughout the state.
Delhi University Students’ Union Election 2010
All India Students’ Association (AISA) has presented a full panel for the central posts in DUSU election 2010 to be held on 3rd September. AISA also organised a protest demonstration in the main campus on 31st August to demand disqualification of those NSUI and ABVP candidates who threatened and attacked AISA’s candidates and campaign. AISA’s main campaign issues are: (i) opposing the forcible evacuation of hostellers because of Commonwealth Games and the Dictatorial Imposition of Semester System, (ii) demand for a Functional Gender Complaints Redressl Cell with elected students’ representation at the University level, (iii) initiation of Election Reforms in DUSU such that it becomes a representative of and platform for common students’ issues and (iv) rejection of the anti-student and muscle-flexing cult of NSUI and ABVP in DUSU. AISA is continuing with its uncompromising struggles on the issues of students’ rights, academic vibrancy and campus democracy.
The central panel comprises of: Shweta Raj, a student of Hindu College is contesting for the President’s post, Akram Akhtar, who is studying Law is contesting on the Vice President’s post, Sushil Kumar of Hansraj College is AISA’s Secretarial Candidate and Rajshekhar of Zakir Husain College is the candidate for the post of Joint Secretary.
(Following reports could not be covered in the previous issues which is being published in brief here)
6 Aug – Hiroshima & anti-Imperialist Day Protests
Rajasthan: Protests were held in Jaipur and Buhana in Jhunjhunu. 100 people assembled in Jaipur led by CPI(ML) Central Committee member Comrade Srilata Swaminathan and Party’s State Secretary Comrade Mahendra Chaudhary with scores of placards demanding scrapping of the Nuclear liability bill. Protest was held in front of the State Secretariat and then a memorandum was given to the Governor. Similar programme was held in Buhana led by Comrades Ramchandra Kulhari and Omprakash. Dozens of our comrades participated in the programme and a public meeting that followed.
Chhatisgarh: Similar programme was held at Bhilai Steel Plant gate and Boria gate. Leaflets were distributed demanding scrapping of nuclear liability bill. The protests were organised by CPI(ML) and AICCTU and were led by comrades Rajaram, Brijendra Tewari, Shekhar Rao, RP Gajendra, Shiv Kumar Prasad and Lalan.
Bihar: Rally and protest demonstrations were held by CPI(ML) at Bhagalpur city and Naugachhia in Bhagalpur district. At both the places protesters marched through the busiest streets of the towns raising slogans to abrogate the Civil Nuclear Liability bill and condemning the US imperialism.
Tamil Nadu: A convention was held in Chennai on August 6 in which 250 workers and others participated. A booklet on Bhopal titled “On Injustice” was released by Chennai Party Committee. The booklet was released by Com. G Radhakrishnan. The convention was presided over by Com. S Sekar, District Party secretary. Comrades S Eraniappan, and Bharathi, both State Committee members (SCMs), addressed the convention.
Com. S Kumarasami, member of the Polit Bureau, called upon the workers to rise against the subservience of UPA government to imperialist powers particularly the US. He said workers should make the five lakh signature campaign a success and participate in large numbers in September 7 all-India general strike. He also said that all out efforts should be made to implement the September 7 strike in Sriperumbudur - Irungattukottai belt where the fight between the Indian wage labour and foreign capital is intense.
In Pudukottai district AISA and RYA together held a demonstration in Pudukottai Town for the first time. Around 120 students and youth participated in the demonstration. A few advocates too participated in the demonstration. Com. Aasaithambi, SCM, addressed the demonstration.
At Namakkal a hall meeting was held in Kumarapalayam in which 50 unorganised workers participated. Comrades NK Natarajan and A Govindaraj, both SCMs addressed the meeting.
In Tiruvallore a street corner meeting was held. Comrades Janakiraman and AS Kumar, both SCMs, addressed the meeting. At other places in the State Poster campaign was conducted.
“No More Bhopal” Convention in Coimbatore
After the death of a management executive in Pricol, the local police had launched a witch hunt against the Pricol workers and all their democratic rights such as organising public meetings, hall meetings in Perianaickenpalayam area were disallowed. It is now almost after one year that the local police had given permission to hold a meeting in Perianaickenpalayam area on August 9 to observe Quit-India Day.
More than 600 Pricol workers attended the Convention. Comrade S Kumarasami, CPI(ML) Polit Bureau member addressed the convention, presided over by Com. Janakiraman, AICCTU State Working council member. Com. NK Natarajan, SCM of the Party, Com. Krishnamurthy, State Secretary, AICCTU, Com. Chandran of LMW also spoke in the convention.
Mass Hunger Strike in Lucknow
The Uttar Pradesh State Committee of CPI(ML) organised a 30 hour long mass hunger strike at Shaheed Smarak in Lucknow on 9th and 10th August under the leadership of Central Committee member Comrade Krishna Adhikari. Two thousand and five hundred cadres and members of CPI(ML) from different districts of UP came to Lucknow to go on 30-hour hunger strike.
The main demands were: all the village community land in the State including in Khiri, Pilibhit and Mirzapur that is illegally occupied by the land-mafias and repressive elements along with all the fallow and parti land be immediately distributed among the poor and the landless; all the fabricated cases including Goonda-Gangster Act thrust on CPI(ML) leaders and cadres in Ghazipur and Pilibhit be immediately and unconditionally withdrawn and a stop to all repression of people’s movement; the reserved seats in panchayat elections for adivasi people be increased in proportion to their population and several other demands.
Comrade Krishna Adhikari said that the Mayawati Administration is not even touching the illegal occupation of commons land in villages by the land-mafias and powerful men while it is making hollow claims of distributing land to the dalits and landless. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land is illegally occupied in the districts from where the people came for the hunger strike. The Gangster Act is being used arbitrarily against our comrades who are leading struggles for freeing these lands for redistribution among the dalits and poor.
Among those who addressed the hunger strikers were- Comrades Kranti Kumar Singh, Afroz Alam, Shankar Kol, Balmukund Dhuria, Ramdaras, Arjun Lal (all State Committee members), Comrade Tahira Hassan, AIPWA’s National Vice President, Jasam’s National Vice President Comrade Shobha Singh, Shashikant Kushwaha, Dewashish and Ramkrit.
It is to be noted that the Administration of Sonbhadra led by SDM forcibly prevented one hundred cadres at Robertsganj when they were on their way to Lucknow for participating on hunger strike. The SDM and the accompanying police forced the CPI(ML) cadres to disembark from the train in which they were going to Lucknow. These hundred comrades later took out a protest march in Robertsganj condemning Mayawati Govt’s clamp down on basic democratic rights.