In this Issue
- Stop Making Muslim Youth Pawns of the
Cynical Game Between Competing Investigative Agencies
- Hunger Fast by AIKMS Against Land Grab in TN
- Rice Mill Workers’ Protest in Karatagi, Karnataka
- State Party School in Mysore
- Left Parties’ Delegation Visits Workers Injured in Police Firing at Yanam
- Domestic Women Workers’ Union Conference in Delhi
- Garhwa Update
Stop Making Muslim Youth Pawns of the
Cynical Game Between Competing Investigative Agencies
The recent case of Naqee Ahmad from Darbhanga, Bihar, is a reminder of how Muslim youth are becoming pawns in the cynical and cruel game played by competing anti-terror agencies. This young man, till recently an informer helping the Delhi Police Special Cell with their investigations in blast cases, turned overnight into one of the main accused by the Maharashtra ATS in the 13/7 Mumbai blast case.
As facts unravelled, it was revealed that the two investigative agencies had been having a tug-of-war over Naqee for some weeks. A letter by Naqee’s uncle revealed that the Maharashtra ATS had confined Naqee’s brothers under house arrest in their own factory in Mumbai, on the pretext of ‘protection’ from the Delhi police!
After the Maharashtra ATS announced that it had ‘cracked’ the case and arrested Naqee, the Delhi Police Special Cell and Home Ministry floundered for a while. But instead of defending their informer, they chose to ‘congratulate’ the ATS for solving the case. The Delhi Police and Home Ministry obviously felt that it was better to maintain mutual solidarity and sacrifice the hapless informer rather than risk exposing the tactics of false framing that all investigative agencies, after all, employ!
As the credibility of the anti-terror investigations came under a cloud, the ATS chief hastened to assure that there was no ‘rivalry’ between the agencies. However, he ‘emphatically’ stated that competition between investigative agencies was not only natural but in fact desirable – “Tell me which police officer does not want to detect this kind of blast case.” Unfortunately, what remains unacknowledged is that in the cynical competition to ‘crack’ blast cases and win medals, innocent Muslim youth end up being framed. The framing of Naqee came to light because of the tussle between two agencies over him. Now, when the Home Ministry assures better ‘cooperation’ and ‘sharing of information’ between agencies in future, does it mean that agencies must take care to frame individuals who are not already ear-marked by other agencies?
In the race for ‘gallantry’ medals, truth and justice are victims. In 2008, the CBI told a court how the Special Cell of Delhi Police had framed Md. Qamar and Irshad Ali as terrorists, whereas they were proven to be police informers. The officer responsible for the frame-up was a recipient of the President’s gallantry award. On Republic Day this year, another police officer, Ankit Garg, responsible for heinous custodial sexual violence on an adivasi woman in Chhattisgarh (a medical examination ordered by the Supreme Court found stones shoved inside her private parts) received a gallantry award.
Recently, the Supreme Court has ordered a probe into the long series of encounters which took place between 2002 and 2006 in Gujarat. The apex Court observed that whenever a fake encounter is alleged, the Gujarat Government “initially stoutly denies it” but admits it “when the matter is scratched even slightly” and the facts come to light. Surely this is an observation that holds true beyond Gujarat. Virtually every terror case or encounter anywhere in the country, which has actually been subjected to a searching and impartial probe, has proven to be ‘fake.’
In fact, the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court and NHRC stipulate that every encounter must be presumed a murder till proven otherwise. Yet, in most cases, there is no probe. In the infamous Batla House case, the Central Government has resolutely resisted any impartial probe. Only when the Congress cynically eyes votes in Azamgarh and UP do its leaders term Batla House to be a fake encounter!
After Azamgarh, investigative agencies are now painting upper Bihar as the next site for witch-hunt of Muslim youth. Meanwhile, Raj Thackeray and his ilk have found an ideal opportunity to combine their campaign of regional chauvinism with their communal fascism. In the wake of Naqee’s arrest, Raj Thackeray declared that migrants were responsible for terror in Mumbai, and ridding the city of migrants was the way to free it of terror attacks.
It is urgent that we challenge and resist the politics of false framing and fake encounters which are claiming innocent Muslim youth as its fodder. Investigative officers responsible for such frame-ups and fake encounters must be severely punished. Shameful and heinous crimes cannot be covered up with ‘gallantry’ medals, without an outcry from democratic forces in society.
Hunger Fast by AIKMS Against Land Grab in TN
A 136 km stretch of the Ulundurpet-Salem 4-laning project under the BOT model, estimated at Rs 941 core, was awarded to Reliance (RIL). For this project, 460 acre land was acquired by the NHAI from 5000 peasants and farmers, at a very meagre compensation. Flouting all norms and rules, the roadways authority, in connivance with the State government officials, and Revenue and Highways departments, grabbed lands worth several hundred crores. People were cheated by undervaluing the land, and getting thumb impressions or signatures on blank forms. Those who bribed the officials with hefty sums were awarded hefty compensations, while those unable to bribe the officials got a raw deal. Those who refused to bribe faced nightmarish experiences. Even after the project stands completed and opened to traffic, poor peasants, hut dwellers and farmers are yet to get the compensation they were promised.
Affected peasants approached our party. On December 14 2011, peasants and farmers attended a meeting convened by AIKMS at Kallakurichi, where it was decided to go for series of struggles. As decided at the meeting, a hunger fast and demonstration, from morning to evening, was held on January 23 in Kallakurchi in front of the Taluk office. Peasants, small shop owners, farmers and other including women participated in the fasting. The demands are: Rs 10 lakh must be given with 3 years interest per cent of land; jobs must be provided for the very poor families; the Government must order an enquiry to investigate the malpractices; and the erring officials must be severely punished. If the demands were not met within 15 days, the protestors would gherao the collector’s office.
The hunger fast was led by Comrade Gopalakirshnan, convener of the struggle committee. K Periyasamy, advocate on behalf of the committee, introduced the protest. AIALA National Vice-President Balasundaram, State President TKS Janardhanan, CPIML’s Villupuram district secretary Venkatesan, CPIML’s Cuddalore district Secretary Ammaiyappan, SCM and Party in-charge for the Salem district Chandramohan, and others addressed the demonstration. Several peasants who were affected by the project narrated their experiences. At the end the leaders submitted a memorandum to the Tahsildar.
Resolutions were passed, condemning the lethargic attitude of the administration in carrying out rehabilitation and reconstruction work affected by the Thane Cyclone. The fast also demanded immediate arrest of the policemen who raped Irula adivasi women near Tirukkovilur.
Rice Mill Workers’ Protest in Karatagi, Karnataka
Hundreds of rice mill workers marched on the streets of Karatagi, Koppal district on 18 January, carrying AICCTU flags. They demanded better wages and better service conditions, and enforcement of the Factories Act, including introduction of legally mandatory attendance and wage registers. Interestingly, the Koppal district Rice Mill Owners Association leaders were forced to come to the negotiating table in front of District Commissioner only a week back, and agreed to introduce attendance and wage registers. The state of implementation of legally mandated labour laws is so pathetic that the district administration had to issue an order for the same! An agreement was also signed between AICCTU and Rice Mill Owners Association, for giving minimum wages, PF and other service condition related matters that are legally mandatory.
The AICCTU unit among the rice mill workers was formed by the latter when owners beat up one of the trade union leaders and then slapped an attempt-to-murder case on workers’ leaders in connivance with the local police. The incident was a triggering point, and workers and the union got disillusioned with the owners, and decided to affiliate their union with AICCTU.
The area has never seen a fighting union for decades. No other established unions could make an entry for this long. We have broken the tradition and have unfurled the red banner in the fortress of rice mill owners.
The rally was flagged off after the inauguration of office in the main Bazaar by Comrade Shankar, Vice President of AICCTU. The rally was led by Com. Virupakshappa, AICCTU taluk president and Com. Bharadwaj, State President. Mallappa Meti, President of the newly affiliated union, presided over the public meeting that followed. Com.Vittappa Gorentli, Syed Ashmuddin, lawyer, Basavaraj Silavendar, district leader of AITUC and Peer Pasha of a magazine, Labour Line, and Basavangouda, NCM of AICCTU addressed the gathering. Com. Shankar called upon workers to fight the brutalities and blatant exploitation of the rice mill owners in the region.
State Party School in Mysore
The state unit of the party organized a first ever 4-day long party school in Karnataka to facilitate the development of new cadres and leaders. The party in Karnataka is yet to come to grips with the art of party building, in spite of relatively better expertise in developing mass struggles and mass organisations. The school was aimed at overcoming this lacuna by developing a fresh batch of leaders equipped with Marxist ideology.
On the first day, Professor Lakshminarayana lucidly explained ‘basic Marxism’ while Doctor Lakshminarayana, State Convener of IIMS dealt with the subject ‘class struggle and the state’. On the second day, Com. Ayyappa Hugar, editor of ‘Varga Samara’ magazine spoke on ‘Mao and his teachings’. The discussion that followed was very lively. Dr. Lakshmi made a ‘comparative study of political parties, class base and their politics’. The third day began with discussion, led by Comrade Shankar, on party programme and the strategy of Indian revolution. A panel of teachers, including PA Kumar and AIPWA Vice-President Rati Rao, organized discussion on questions of women, nationality, caste, religion and neo-liberalism. The fourth day was the session on ‘Socio-economic, political situation of Karnataka and our strategic perspective’.
Screening of radical films and discussions were organized on all three evenings. Com. Bharadwaj, party state leading team member presided over the 4-day school while Javaraiah, another SLTM, conducted the proceedings. Comrade Venugopalan, the party’s Kerala SLTM who joined the school, made the concluding remarks.
Left Parties’ Delegation Visits Workers Injured in Police Firing at Yanam
The struggle of workers of the Regency Ceramic Company at Yanam district of Puducherry state highlights yet another instance of the abysmal state of workers’ rights and labour laws in the country.
Over a long period of time, the workers have been agitating for proper payment of wages in the company. Among the 1200 workers, only 400 were regularized from the contract. All the other 800 workers were contract employees. Among these 800, many of them were working for more than 5 years and were not regularized. There was united agitation by all the workers for proper payment, for the betterment of working conditions, and for regularization of the relatively senior workers at least. Worst of all, even the permanent employees were not being paid properly and consistently.
There are no labour laws implemented at the work place. The workers were not allowed to form a union to address their issues. Even the registered union was cancelled by the management, which has also used tactics of ‘divide and rule’ to weaken the workers’ struggle. The workers began a strike in protest against the management’s attitude. Instead of hearing the workers’ grievances, the management has deployed police force to crush the agitation. And the police have obliged with brutal violence against workers.
The police arrested the workers’ leader Murali Mohan. On the way to the police station, he was beaten up so badly in the van that he lost his life. The workers followed the vehicle to the police station, and protested to demand the immediate release of Murali Mohan. The police claimed that Murali Mohan died of a heart attack. Once the workers realised the truth, they began a serious agitation in front of the police station against the custodial killing.
The CI then gave orders for firing, directly, without resorting to lathicharge or teargas to disperse the protestors. 9 workers were hospitalised with bullet injuries from the police firing, and the condition of 5 is still critical.
The angered workers then attacked the Vice Chairman of the company, and he died after being beaten up by them. Factory property and vehicles were also burnt by workers in their fury.
Our fact finding delegation found that no damage occurred to the machinery. Among the 11 machines, 3 were stopped by the management themselves for repair. The remaining 8 machines were in perfect working condition. The only damage was to the outside property and vehicles. But the management is trying to hike the estimation of damages heavily, using these exaggerated estimates to book cases against the workers.
Major ruling class parties of Puducherry have tried to play down the serious underlying issues of violation of workers’ rights and labour laws, and custodial killing.
A joint meeting of 11 Left parties from Andhra Pradesh, held on 28/01/12, held the management responsible for the incident, and demanded a judicial enquiry. A decision was taken by all left parties to send a delegation to Yanam on Sunday (29/01/12).
Comrade Satyanarayana (District secretary of CPI(ML) in East Godavari), Comrade Narasaraju (State committee member), and Comrade Nageswara Rao (state president of AICCTU) represented CPIML (Liberation) in the delegation of Left parties. The delegation attended the cremation of Murali Mohan and met the District Collector to submit their report and demands.
The demands raised by the delegation include:
1. 25 lacs ex gratia to Murali Mohan’s family
2. Job to his family
3. 5 lacs ex gratia to each of the persons injured and hospitalised
4. Judicial enquiry into the incident by a judge
5. Cases must be booked against SI and CI under sections 302 and SC/ST atrocities
6. The functioning of the factory must be started immediately considering the problems of workers problems.
7. In case of refusal by management to start the factory, the government must take the responsibility and run the factory, allowing the workers to form unions
8. The labour laws must be implemented strictly and the workers grievances must be solved.
Domestic Women Workers’ Union Conference in Delhi
The Gharelu Mahila Kamgar Union (domestic women workers’ union) affiliated to AICCTU held its first conference at Mayur Vihar Extension, Delhi. The Conference began with an introductory speech by Comrade Shyam Kishor, Delhi Secretary of AICCTU, in which he outlined the issues of struggle and said that all over the country, wherever women domestic workers had organised themselves and struggled, they had forced governments and employers to recognise their rights.
Women workers narrated their experiences at the Conference, in which a considerable number of domestic workers had gathered.
Phula Devi said that “we work in the big apartments and homes of the well-off, where we receive neither minimum wages nor respect. We are not even allowed to use the toilet and are sometimes even denied a drink of water.”
Pushpa Devi said, “I’m from Bihar and my husband is no more. As a rule, domestic workers in Delhi are migrants, coming to Delhi in search of work. But we are denied identity cards and ration cards, and struggle to survive. We do all the house work in hundreds of homes – sweeping, mopping, washing vessels and clothes and even shoes, caring for kids and cooking – but we are underpaid and overworked. Even when we are asked to do extra work, we are not paid for it. We must demand that the Government regulate proper hours and terms of our work and ensure minimum wages.”
Susheela said, “We women work at ‘Ashiana’ and other apartment blocks in the area, but we ourselves have no stable homes. Prices, house rent, water and electricity bills keep rising, but our employers see no need to raise our wages. All of us, whether we come from Bihar, Bengal, Odisha or UP, must unite struggle for our rights.”
Meena talked of how the women are on the go from 6 am onwards even in cold weather – and even if they are five minutes late they get a scolding. If they take leave for a child’s sickness, too, they are in danger of losing their job, and there is always some other woman desperate enough to take the job at a lower wage. Women workers needed to unite to make sure that no one worked for less than an accepted minimum wage.
Gharelu Mahila Kamgar Union leader Shyamli spoke of the experience of creating the union in NOIDA in the NCR region, and the need to strengthen the AICCTU and CPI(ML). She said, “Women are enslaved – at birth to their father, then to their husband, then in old age to the son – and when we seek to stand on our own feet at the workplace, there too we find ourselves enslaved. We need to say, we’ll not tolerate such slavery anymore!”
Comrades Anjana and Renu also spoke at length about the issues that needed to be raised.
As the concluding speaker, AICCTU State President Gautam spoke of the ILO Convention on Domestic Labour, which obligated countries to protect the rights of domestic labourers, the bulk of whom were migrants and women. He called to draw large numbers of women workers into the union and intensify the struggle to force the Government to pass a law protecting domestic workers’ rights.
The Conference was conducted by AIPWA Secretary Kavita Krishnan. At the end, the Conference elected a 15-member committee including Comrades Pushpa Devi as President, Vimla as VP, Anjana as Secretary, and Meena, Meena Devi, Nema, Rohini, Savitri, Sushila, Phula Devi, Renu, Geeta, Premvati, Maya and Meena Ojha as members.
The Conference passed a charter of demands to be presented to the Delhi government, including a law for Domestic Workers, minimum wages, regulated work, hours of work, and mandatory holidays, payment of full salary in case of being sacked, toilet and drinking water facilities at the workplace and social security for domestic workers.
Comrade Sanjay Sharma, Delhi State Secretary of CPI(ML) was also present at the Conference.
Among those CPI(ML) activists of Badgad village arrested on January 21, Budlal Kerketta and Mahfuz Ansari, were missing from custody since January 25. Following intense protests, they have been released on January 29. They had been taken to Chhattisgarh and tortured severely. The others arrested - mukhiya Ramdas Minz and Fida Husain - are said to be in jail, but their families are not being allowed to meet them.
The security guard of the elected Chairperson of the Zila panchayat is still a hostage of the Maoists. Some efforts at mediation are reportedly underway but there is no headway yet. The wife and mother of the security guard attempted self-immolation outside the thana in Garhwa on January 28, accusing the police of inaction.
The police are still peddling the theory that the villagers and comrades doing the road blockade on January 21 had laid a trap in collusion with Maoists. The police men’s association has in fact petitioned that CPI(ML) leader and Zila Panchayat chairperson Sushma Mehta too be charged as a conspirator in the blast. The Maoists, by timing their blast to coincide with the mass protest, have facilitated the repressive drive by police, allowing them to brand each and every mass protest on the most innocuous of issues as 'Maoist-inspired' or 'Maoist-instigated'.
The CPI(ML)’s protests in the region and in Jharkhand are on, in the face of all odds, demanding that the arrested villagers be released, those responsible for custodial torture and the appalling rights violations be punished, an end to the repression of mass movements in the name of curbing Maoists, and steps to secure the safe and speedy release of the hostage guard.
Comrade Govindarajan, aged 78, former state secretary of the party in Karnataka, breathed his last on 27 January 2012. He suffered multiple haemorrhages on the morning of 21 January, that could not be arrested, and was in the Intensive Care Unit of a private hospital since then.
Com. Govindarajan upheld the red flag and stood firm in the most difficult times for the party in the state. He played a major role in getting the party’s first trade union in the state, Karnataka General Labour Union, registered and also played a key role in the second phase of our trade union work in Bangalore.
He also spent 22 days in jail for supplying medicines to the women activists including AIPWA activists who protested against Beauty Pageant in Bangalore in 1996.
When the party office was raided for opposing police brutalities on the virtual uprising by garment workers in Peenya in 2001 on the issue of PF settlement, he was also arrested along with Com. Shankar.
He also played a big role in publishing our first Kannada magazine “Kannada Liberation” in its initial years. A large number of workers also benefited from his legal knowledge, acquired through practice of struggles. The working class work initiated in Peenya by our party under his leadership in the beginning of 2000 sowed the seeds for the party's development in Karnataka today.
Red Salute to Com. Govindarajan!