In this Issue
- The Mandate from JNU Students: AISA, March on!
- AISA's Victory in JNUSU 2012
- Road Blockade in Tripura
- Some More Reports of the All India Strike
- March to Assembly Against Death Sentence for Innocent Mahadalits in Amausi Case
The Mandate from JNU Students: AISA, March on!
After a gap of four years, Jawaharlal Nehru University students voted on March 1 to elect their union, and the verdict could not have been more emphatic in favour of the All India Students’ Association (AISA), the flag-bearer of radical student politics in the campus. For the second successive term, AISA candidates swept the central panel. What was more, they all won by a thumping margin with the Presidential candidate polling more than 2000 votes leaving her SFI rival way behind, and for the first time AISA also secured a clear majority in the council, its candidates dominating the three biggest centres accounting for the largest number of students in the campus.
On one level, the outcome of the JNUSU election may be seen as just yet another corroboration of the well-known and deeply entrenched Left tradition of the JNU campus. For the last two decades AISA has had a fairly prominent presence in the campus, winning as many as seven presidential elections since its first historic rise in 1993. If it was the SFI-AISF combine which dominated the campus in the 1970s and 1980s, it is AISA which has been the main contender since the 1990s; and over the last few years AISA has also succeeded in reinforcing its ideological-political influence with adequate organisational network and sustained initiatives on every major issue that mattered for the students.
But if we look at the outcome in the context of the ongoing neo-liberal assault on and restructuring of higher education and the developing political situation in the country, the victory clearly sends out a much bigger message than a mere reiteration of JNU’s traditional preference for the Left. The arena of higher education has been witnessing massive commercialisation making it increasingly impossible for students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds to receive quality education or pursue careers of their choice. This implicit pro-rich and elitist bias is now being sought to be reinforced by a targeted truncation of campus democracy and student participation in politics. The Lyngdoh recommendations are essentially aimed at insulating the student community from the larger socio-political environment in the country. The JNU verdict has come as a resounding rebuff to this neoliberal restructuring of higher education.
AISA has been consistently campaigning against the neoliberal assault on higher education and within JNU AISA has emerged as the rallying centre for students fighting against the implicit elitist bias as well as the explicit authoritarian agenda of this neoliberal design. It is significant that the emphatic mandate for AISA has effectively marginalised every rightwing trend in student politics, be it the RSS-affiliated ABVP, the pro-Congress NSUI or the anti-reservation platform Youth for Equality.
The election of the JNUSU coincided on the one hand with the Assembly elections in the five states of Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Goa and Uttar Pradesh and the February 28 all-India industrial and rural strike called by trade unions and agricultural labour organisations. The AISA campaign in JNU, which clearly marked the leading voice in JNUSU election, effectively combined the immediate concerns of JNU students with the democratic demands and aspirations of the people joining the February 28 strike and participating in these Assembly elections. The campaign pulsated with the spirit of the growing popular resistance to corporate land-grab and illegal mining, mega scams and rampant loot of development funds, and repressive steps like Operation Greenhunt and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that are propelling the Indian state’s war on human rights.
The mandate for AISA also meant a clear rejection of SFI/CPI(M) in the celebrated citadel of Leftwing student politics. After West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, JNU is known as the fourth key bastion of the CPI(M). In 2007 in the wake of Singur and Nandigram, JNU had rejected the SFI/CPI(M) attempt to defend the indefensible. As the CPI(M) gets ready for its 20th Congress, it is quite clear that the CPI(M) remains adamant and refuses to acknowledge the disgrace it has brought to the glorious history of communist-led peasant movement in the country and learn any real lesson from the debacle it has suffered in West Bengal. The JNU verdict clearly suggests that the CPI(M)’s own ranks, let alone the broader intelligentsia, remain unconvinced and critical of the CPI(M) leadership’s arrogant refusal to acknowledge its basic mistakes.
It is indeed inspiring to note that while the corporate media have been busy peddling the likes of Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav as youth icons for the new generation, the student community in JNU has reiterated its overwhelming commitment to the legacy of Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar. AISA must now consolidate the gains and use this mandate to strengthen and radicalise the student-youth movement and forge stronger links with the broader democratic movement in the country. That can be the only true tribute to the legacy of Bhagat Singh, modern India’s greatest youth icon, and our very own Chandrasekhar who was killed simply because he tried to connect the student radicalism of JNU to the peasant militancy in Bihar. AISA must march on.
AISA's Victory in JNUSU 2012
In the President's post, Sucheta De from AISA polled 2102 votes – probably the highest ever by a JNUSU candidate – defeating her nearest contender, Zico Dasgupta from SFI (who got 751 votes) with a colossal margin of 1351 votes. In the Vice President's post, Abhishek Kumar Yadav from AISA polled 1997 votes, defeating Anagha Ingole from SFI who got 1357 votes. In the post of General Secretary, Ravi Prakash of AISA polled 1908 votes as against the AISF candidate Durgesh Tripathi who got 989 votes. For the post of Joint Secretary, AISA's Mohd. Firoz Ahamed polled 1778 votes, as against Mohd. Altamash from SFI who got 1199 votes. The candidates from Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) – affiliated to the RSS and the BJP – polled a distant third on most posts.
In JNUSU, students directly elect the entire Students' Council, comprising the four office-bearers and Councillors representing various Schools or Centres. This time, AISA won 14 of the 29 Councillor seats in different Schools and Centres of JNU. The three biggest Schools in JNU, each with 5 Councillor posts, are the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies (SLL&CS), School of Social Sciences (SSS), and School of International Studies (SIS). By winning a majority of Councillor posts, AISA secured the post of School Convenor in each of these Schools. In SLL&CS, AISA candidates defeated ABVP to sweep all 5 Councillor posts. In SIS and SSS, AISA won four of the 5 seats, with the fifth seat going to SFI. This is the first time the SFI has lost the Convenor-ship of the School of Social Sciences in the past two decades, possible much longer. AISA also won the post of Convenor in the School of Arts and Aesthetics.
The Lyngdoh norms and suspension of elections for the past four years was a deliberate ploy on part of the ruling establishment to foster depoliticisation among JNU students. Indeed, the stay on elections had led to disarray and passivity among other student groups in JNU. AISA, though, had remained very active – mobilising students in several landmark struggles in this period, in spite of there being no elected JNUSU. Key struggles in recent times, in which AISA played a leading role, include a sustained struggle against the Lyngdoh recommendations; a massive agitation against attempts to commercialise various facilities like electricity and levy 'user charges'; a long and successful struggle resulting in a landmark Supreme Court verdict with national implications, correcting the faulty definition of 'cut-off' marks in implementation of quotas for Other Backward Classes; and a successful struggle for recognition of madarsa certificates in JNU admissions.
Other significant struggles between 2004-2006, with a lasting impact, in which AISA played a leading role, include an agitation for the rights of contract workers on the JNU campus, and a struggle to get rid of a Nestle outlet on the campus, which threatened the livelihood of small tea vendors.
AISA has also campaigned and mobilised students in large numbers to challenge the UPA Government's package of education-related legislation that are a blueprint of privatisation. Hundreds of JNU students participated in AISA's August 2011 barricade at Parliament Street against corruption and corporate plunder. AISA stood in solidarity with people's movements at Jagatsinghpur against the POSCO steel plant, at Jaitapur and Koodankulam against nuclear plants, and mobilised students against the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, communal violence, against state repression, fake encounters and custodial killings in the North East, Kashmir, forest areas, and other parts of the country.
The mandate for AISA is a mandate for all these consistent struggles and initiatives over the years.
Road Blockade in Tripura
On 22 February, CPI(ML)'s South Tripura DC and the District Unit of AIKM organized a road-blockade in Udaipur-Kankaban in support of the demand for compensation to flood-affected peasants, support-price for paddy, 65% NREGA fund for agricultural activities, and other demands. The blockade continued till the SDM came to the spot and assured a tripartite-meet to discuss the issues and find a solution. This blockade was a culmination of protests and deputations for the last six months. The Party DCS Com. Parths Karunakar, AIALA state president Com. Gopal Roy, Com. Lokman Hossain, Babul Duta and other led the agitation.
Some More Reports of the All India Strike
In Tamilnadu, AICCTU participated in the February 28th strike in all important industrial centres and areas of our work. In Chennai, AICCTU participated in a total of 3500 strong joint demonstration in two centres with 300 members. A 100% strike was ensured in all industries under AICCTU’s leadership. The workers under the banner of AICCTU also ensured the participation of workers of TVS and TI groups in the strike. At Thiruvottiyur, another centre of big industries, AICCTU’s presence ensured strike in almost all industries. There was an overwhelming response among transport workers and only very few buses were plying in the metro. AICCTU leaders Sekar, Palanivel , Jawahar , Kumaresh and Bharathi led the Strike initiatives.
In neighbouring Guduvancheery, AICCTU participated in a joint Rally along with AITUC with 80 members. In Thiruvellore, a Rally of 300 members under the banner of AIALA marched and 150 courted arrest. It was led by Janakiraman, state GS of AIALA and Bhuvana, Deputy GS of AICCTU.
In Coimbatore, the strike in Pricol, ITPL and Suba plastics was total. Traders in the Periyanayackanpalayam area also closed their shutters in response to our call. In Salem, 100 workers of AICCTU, the majority of them women, participated under the leadership of Chanramohan, state vice president of AICCTU. In Kuppanur of Salem, 16 AIALA members were arrested for picketing. Comrades Gopi and Ayyandurai led the agitation.
In Dindigul, a 250 strong rally was held which went through important roads and culminated in a mass meeting under the leadership of K G Desikan, state secretary AICCTU , Manivel, state executive member AICCTU, and Jayaveeram, District organising secretary of CPI(ML).
In Tanjore town, more than 100 members participated in a joint rally of 300 workers under the leadership of AICCTU state secretary Rajan. In Tanjore and Nagapatnam districts, there were demonstrations and road roko agitations at 6 centres in which more than 650 members took part.
In Namakkal dictrict , AICCTU participated at 3 centres in a joint rally. In Gandarvakottai of Pudukottai about 150 members participated in a rally organized by AIALA under the leadership of Comrade Valathan.
In Villupuram, 175 AIALA members courted arrest at Thirunavalur led by Comrade Venkatesan and 90 members courted arrest at Chenji. In a joint demo at Nagarkoil in Kanyakumari district, 100 members of AICCTU took part under the leadership of Comrade Antonymuthu.
About 200 Contract labours of the Ordnance Factory, Tiruchi went on strike and 50 members participated in a joint TU demo at Tiruverumbur. In Karur also AICCTU participated in a joint TU rally.
In Tirunelveli, more than 100 AICCTU workers participated in a joint demonstration. There was a scuffle when police, after giving permission for demonstration, tried to arrest the workers citing election code for the by-election in Sankarankoil in the district. It was led by Sankarapandian, state GS, Ramesh, state vice president and Ganesan, state EC member.
In Assam, the All India General Strike took the Shape of Assam Bandh. In Silchar, out of the 250 arrested while picketing the Deputy Commissioner’s Office, more than 150, most of whom were ASHA women, were affiliated to AICCTU. At Badarpur Railway junction, Rail traffic was totally disrupted.
The oil sector too witnessed significant participation. The Digboi and the Numaligarh Refinery were totally at strike. The most remarkable was the scene in Oil India Head Quarter at Duliajan where the main organizer was the contractual and Motor Shramik Worker’s Unions and unrecognized unions of regular workers. In Guwahati Refinery, the INTUC-affiliated Guwahati Refinery Workers’ Union betrayed totally and was also exposed. However, the strike was 50%, due to efforts of AICCTU-affiliated united workmen’s union – the only struggling contractual workers’ union.
The all Assam contractor workers’ union affiliated to AICCTU took active part in paralyzing works in Dinjan Army cantonment, Chabua Airforce Station and Mohanbari Air Port (partly).
Throughout the state, at various points, there was a road blockade. The Jorhat road-block was a joint initiative of AISA, AICCTU, ASCSS etc. and 50 were arrested. Due to call of strike by various transport workers union the General Strike took here a complete shape.
March to Assembly Against Death Sentence for Innocent Mahadalits in Amausi Case
On 21 February, the CPI(ML)led a massive protest march to the Bihar Assembly in Patna, to protest the recent verdict of death sentence to 10 and life sentence to 4 Mahadalits in the Amausi (Khagaria) massacre of 2009. Large numbers of mahadalits participated in the march, expressing angry protest against the biased verdict and the attitude of the Nitish Government towards the most oppressed mahadalits.
The Amausi carnage of 2009 was a fallout of the Nitish Government's adamant refusal to implement land reforms and give the mahadalit musahars the land that was their due. But instead of identifying the real masterminds of the massacre, the verdict of the local court in Khagaria has passed a death sentence on 10 innocents, including the popular mahadalit leader Bodhan Sada, and life sentence to 4 others. Participants in the March protested this verdict as reflective of deep bias and injustice.
The March began at JP roundabout and concluded at the Station roundabout. The procession was led by CPI(ML) leaders Arun Kumar Das from Khagaria, Ramesh Manjhi and Sharifa Manjhi from Patna district, AIPWA National General Secretary Meena Tiwari and State President Saroj Chaubey, RYA General Secretary Kamlesh Sharma and State Secretary Naveen Kumar, AISA State President Abhyuday, Patna city councillor Tota Chaudhury, workers' leader Murtaza Ali, Anita Sinha of AIPWA and others.
Scores of mahadalit women participated in the march, with placards and slogans saying, "Atrocities on Mahadalits, Shame on Nitish Govt", "Reality of Nitish's 'Sushasan' – Death Sentence for Mahadalits, While Ranveer Sena Chief Brahmeshwar Singh Goes Free", and "Nitish Kumar Come to Your Senses – Keep Promises to Mahadalits".
The protestors demanded a judicial enquiry into the Amausi massacre and a strong punishment for the real perpetrators. The death sentence to Bodhan Sada and the other convicts is a mockery of justice.
Speakers who addressed the gathering pointed out that Bodhan Sada is being painted as a 'Maoist Area Commander' and a ruthless killer – but the fact is that he is a popular mahadalit leader. His wife Amla Devi had been elected mukhiya from Barai panchayat, and had been killed by a Maoist squad, and the killers of Amla Devi are yet to be punished.
There are dozens of cases of land dispute in Khagaria district. Years ago, mahadalits got the land papers for ceiling surplus land that had belonged to absentee landlords, yet they are yet to get custody of the land. Instead these lands have been grabbed by others. And there are innumerable cases of false charges on mahadalits, of which the most common charge is that of being a Maoist extremist. Clearly the 'Maoist' tag is being used to deprive mahadalits of their rightful share of land. The protestors demanded a Legal Commission to investigate cases of land dispute and ensure justice for mahadalits.
The struggle against the unjust conviction of mahadalits in the Amausi case will continue.