Naroda Patiya Verdict:
Nemesis for Narendra Modi
When impunity has become the norm for political leaders who perpetrate communal and feudal massacres in our country, the verdict of the Special Court in Gujarat stands out as a rare and welcome one. BJP MLA and former Minister in the Modi cabinet, Maya Kodnani, notorious Sangh Parivar leader Babu Bajrangi and 30 others have been convicted for their role in the gruesome massacre of 97 Muslims at Naroda Patiya – one of the worst sites of the 2002 Gujarat genocide.
The verdict observed that the massacre was “brutal, inhuman and shameful,” especially the slaughter of women, aged persons, and children including a 20-day-old infant.
The verdict demolishes the Gujarat Government’s claim that the violence was a spontaneous ‘reaction’ to the Godhra train carnage. The verdict finds, “This was a pre-planned conspiracy and it cannot be mitigated just by saying that it was a reaction of Godhra train burning incident.”
Most significant is the conviction of Kodnani, whom the verdict describes as a ‘kingpin’ of the Naroda Patiya massacre. Kodnani has been sentenced to a 28-year imprisonment term. Kodnani, a doctor and an MLA, was known to be a close aide of Chief Minister Modi. Witnesses testified to her role in distributing weapons and instigating and leading the mob that especially targeted women and children. As though mocking the charges against her, Narendra Modi had inducted her into his Cabinet in 2007 and made her Minister for Women and Child Development! The Gujarat police, and even the Supreme Court-appointed SIT had avoided arresting the powerfully placed Kodnani for long. She was eventually charge-sheeted and arrested by the SIT in 2009, and only then was she dropped from the Cabinet. Kodnani’s conviction gives the lie to Narendra Modi’s claims that his Government had no role in the riots. It is quite obvious that a ruling party leader of Kodnani’s standing could have led the violence only with the blessings of the Chief Minister.
In the sting operation conducted by Tehelka, Babu Bajrangi had boasted on camera of having led the massacre. He had stated that after the massacre he had reported to the Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah. The verdict sentences Bajrangi to imprisonment ‘till death.’ The conviction of Bajrangi and Kodnani holds out a ray of hope that, in spite of the attempts by the police and SIT to cover up Modi’s role, Modi too will not escape justice.
With Gujarat elections due this year, and with Modi being projected as the BJP candidate for PM in 2014, the Naroda Patiya verdict comes as a reality check. Modi’s attempts to project himself as a champion of growth and development rather than communal violence, too, have come a cropper. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, even as Modi boasted of Gujarat’s high growth rate, he was confronted with evidence of Gujarat’s dismal showing on health and nutrition, which is below the national average and worse even than some of the poorer states. Modi glibly tried to trivialise malnutrition by dubbing it a ‘middle class phenomenon’, blaming it on Gujarat’s predominantly vegetarian diet. Most appallingly, Modi blamed the poor health and nutrition indices of women in the state on ‘figure-conscious girls,’ who avoid nutrition for fear of getting fat. Such theories have made Modi a laughing stock, and have exposed the grim socio-economic reality that underlies the claims of ‘Gujarat Gaurav’ (Gujarat pride).
Try as he may, Narendra Modi and the BJP cannot shrug off the taint of communal genocide – that the Naroda Patiya verdict has forcefully underlined.
Meanwhile, the ‘other Modi’ – Bihar’s Deputy CM Sushil Modi of the BJP has suggested that the Bihar CM Nitish Kumar would make a good PM candidate for the NDA. Nitish Kumar, who has been projecting himself as a ‘secular’ alternative to Narendra Modi, has recently spoken against the illegal arrest of a Bihari Muslim migrant in Mumbai, and against Raj Thackeray’s threats to brand all Bihari migrants as ‘infiltrators’. But Nitish Kumar’s rhetorical flourishes against Narendra Modi’s communalism and the MNS’ anti-migrant terror sound rather hollow when he continues to enjoy a cosy partnership with the BJP in Bihar. After all, ABVP goons in BJP-ruled Karnataka are doing exactly what MNS has threatened to do in Maharashtra – they have recently attacked nearly 100 migrant labourers, branding them Bangladeshi infiltrators.
The BJP, and its NDA allies, have been left red-faced by the Naroda Patiya verdict. The verdict has established the inescapable fact that a BJP-ruled Government and its top leaders presided over one of the worst communal pogroms in India’s history. BJP’s hands are blood-stained, and those who hold those hands, too, cannot escape the taint.
Jail Bharo Call
Lakhs of People Court Arrest
Demanding Resignation of UPA Govt. over Coal Gate Scam
Protesting Corruption, Price Rise, Social Oppression, State Repression
Lakhs of people responded enthusiastically to the call of the CPI(ML) and All India Left Coordination (AILC) and courted arrest all over the country on 31st August, as part of an all-India ‘Jail Bharo’ protest, demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister who has been caught red-handed in the Coalgate scam, and of the entire scam-ridden UPA Government. They protested the privatization policies that promote corporate plunder of natural resources and public assets, unrelenting price rise, crackdown on the right to dissent and protest, and growing social oppression on dalits, women and minorities. Protests were held at 173 centres, and a total of 1, 35,000 people all over the country, under the banner of CPI(ML), CPM Punjab, Lal Nishan Party (Leninist), CPRM, and Left Coordination Committee (Kerala), were taken into custody in the course of the Jail Bharo protest.
In the national capital Delhi, CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya led the protestors in courting arrest, along with CPI(ML) Politburo member Swadesh Bhattacharya, Central Committee members Prabhat Kumar, Kavita Krishnan, and Delhi State Secretary Sanjay Sharma. Scores of protestors marched to Parliament Street, blocked a street crossing, and broke police barricades before being taken into custody.
In Bihar, a total of 50,000 courted arrest across the state, in protest actions that were held at around 30 centres. At many places, the temporary jails arranged by administration proved too small to accommodate the overflowing protestors.
In the state capital, Patna, 4000 activists marched from Gandhi Maidan to the city’s most crowded Dak Bangla crossroads, which they blockaded for two hours, holding a mass meeting addressed by party leaders before being taken into custody. One contingent of protestors was detailed at Gardanibag Stadium while another was detained at Kotwali Police Station. Several Politburo and Central Committee members of CPI(ML) as well as mass organization leaders were among those arrested.
4000 activists courted arrest at Arwal, holding a massive public meeting against UPA-NDA corruption, after being detained on the premises of the Block Headquarters. In the course of the campaign towards 31st August, meetings were held at 200 villages in Arwal district, and torchlight processions were held on 30 August in all these villages.
3500 activists were arrested in Bhojpur district, breaking the gates of the Collectorate and holding a mass meeting inside the Collectorate premises for two hours. 5500 people marched all over the town in Jehanabad before courting arrest. On 27 August, there had been a militant protest at the Jehanabad Collectorate and Bandh in Makhdumpur against feudal forces who had blinded a girl from an extremely backward community and burnt down her house. The impact of this protest could be seen on 31st August, where a large number of women and villagers from the dalit and extremely backward communities joined the Jail Bharo march.
4000 people in Siwan marched from the Bus Stand to JP Chowk where they blockaded the crossing for hours, and held a mass meeting before being taken into custody.
5000 peasants and adivasis, who have been active in the recent struggles against eviction of sikmi sharecroppers, courted arrest in Purnea. More than 2000 each courted arrest in Darbhanga, Madhubani, Gaya, and Nalanda, while between 1000-1500 people courted arrest at Vaishali, Rohtas, Gopalganj, Buxar, Muzaffarpur, and Samastipur.
Jail Bharo protests were also held at Bhagalpur, Khagaria, Chhapra, Kaimur, Nawada, Shekhpura, Lakhisarai, Jamui, Araria, West and East Champaran, and Sitamarhi.
In Jharkhand, 30,000 people courted arrest in protect actions held at 18 centres all over the State. In Giridih district, in the run-up to the Jail Bharo protest, there had been successful mobilization and protests against the new BPL list from which large numbers of the poor were excluded. These protests had forced the administration to distribute rations based on the previous list. Inspired by the success in these protests, more than 10,000 people courted arrest on 31st August. The campus of the District Collector was packed with protestors, and eventually the administration had to declare the Flag-hoisting grounds to be the camp jail and detain people there. Leading the protestors were CPIP(ML) MLA Vinod Singh and District Secretary and Central Committee member Manoj Bhakta.
In Garhwa district, impressive protests were held both at Nagar Untari as well as Garhwa town, focusing mainly on the police repression unleashed in the area against party leaders and activists in recent times. The demand for the release of local activists arrested on false charges of aiding Maoists, and of senior leader Tahir Ansari who has recently been arrested, were the main demands of the Jail Bharo protest here, in addition to demanding scrapping of coal block allocations and resignation of the UPA Government in the Coalgate scam. In Nagar Untari, 5000 protestors marched to the Block HQs, defying the police’s attempts to intimidate and demoralize them by arresting Tahir Ansari. 1500 protestors marched in Garhwa town and courted arrest at the District Collector’s office. Protestors also courted arrest at Palamu main crossroad as well as Latehar.
At the state capital Ranchi, protestors gheraoed the Assembly, which began its session on the same day. More than 1000 protestors marched from the Rachi railway station to the Assembly, protesting in particular against the land grab and eviction of adivasis as Nagri as well as on the central demands and slogans. They were stopped and detained at Birsa Chowk, where they held a massive public meeting.
Scores of protestors courted arrest in Gumla and Lohardaga districts in South Chhotanagpur, Devghar, Dumka and Jamtada in Santhalparganas, as well as Koderma, Hazaribagh, Ramgarh, Bokaro, Dhanbad, and Jamshedpur.
In Uttar Pradesh, more than 7000 people courted arrest in protest actions at around 19 centres. At Varanasi, the protestors who had marched to the District Collector’s office to court arrest, were lathicharged by the police. However the protestors refused to disperse, and eventually the police had to arrest them. Protestors, including activists from Gonda, Kanpur, and Ambedkarnagar districts courted arrest at the State capital, Lucknow.
Protestors courted arrest at Ghazipur, Chandauli, Sonebhadra (at district HQ at Robertsganj as well as Tehsil HQ at Duddhi), Mirzapur, Devaria, Balia, Bhadohi, Sitapur, Pilibhit, Lakhimpur Khiri, Jalaun, Gorakhpur, Allahabad, Azamgarh, Maharajganj, and Mau.
In Punjab, the CPI(ML) and CPM Punjab jointly organized state wide protests where 15000 people courted arrest at 17 centres spread over 15 districts, including the state capital Chandigarh. The number of women nearly equalled men at most places, and outnumbered men at some. 2500 workers were arrested at Mansa and Pathankot, detained for a few hours and later released at far off places. More than 1000 protestors each also courted arrest at Gurdaspur, Barnala, Sangrur, and Jalandhar. CPM Punjab Secretary Mangat Ram Pasla led the protestors in courting arrest at Jalandhar. At Gurdaspur, Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal was visiting the city, due to which the police cracked down with greater force on the protestors. At the State capital, Chandigarh, protestors assembled at the City Centre Plaza to defy Sec. 144, and held a dharna raising slogans for over an hour. The police and administration retreated after a brief confrontation.
At Mumbai, 8000 protestors from all over the Maharashtra, mobilized by Lal Nishan Party (Leninist), CPI(ML), Maharashtra Sarva Shramik Mahasangh, Kachra Vahatuk Sangh, and other unions together, hekd a 12-km- long March from Currey Road to Azad Maidan. The protestors included workers, peasants, adivasi people, and anganwadi women workers, and 80% of the marchers were women. Workersfrom Dahanu (in Thane district), adivasis and workers from Palghar taluka, and workers from Pune, Srirampur, Jalna and other districts were present in large numbers. The protest march passed Byculla and JJ Flyover to reach Azad Maidan, where a mass meeting was held. The main leaders of this protest were LNP(L) General Secretary Bhimrao Bansode, CPI(ML)’s Mumbai-Thane Committee Secretary Shyam Gohil, Comrade Uday Bhatt, Dhiraj Rathod, and others. Protestors under the banner of CPI(ML) also courted arrest at Nagpur.
In West Bengal, AILC partners CPI(ML) and CPRM participated in the Jail Bharo campaign and protests. Around 10,000 people all over the State courted arrest at 18 centres.
In the extended jute mill belt in North 24 Parganas, 2000 workers stormed into the SDO office in Barackpore. Agricultural workers also courted arrest in Basirhat and Barasat. In Nadia, 1200 protesters entered the DM building in Krishnanagar, and were lathicharged by the police, leaving four comrades were wounded. In Bardhaman, CPI(ML) Politburo member Kartick Pal led 1000 protestors in courting arrest after marching into the DM building-court compound. In Bankura, demonstrators broke barricades into the district headquarters, and were arrested following a scuffle with the police. The presence of tribal people, agricultural workers and farmers was conspicuous among these protestors. Jail Bharo was also observed in Murshidabad district, after a protest meeting at the district headquarter Berhampore.
In Hooghly, a rally of 1000 agricultural labourers, sharecroppers, farmers and workers marched from the Chinsura railway station and circled the town for an hour-and-half, before offering civil disobedience at the DM bulding and courting arrest.
In Kolkata city, a decorated rally marched from College Square to Esplanade, and the agitators, including State Secretary Partha Ghosh, courted arrest after storming police barricades.
In Darjeeling, over 350 protesters courted arrest after demonstrations at the Siliguri SDO office in Hill Cart Road. Among those who led the protest were CPI(ML) leaders Basudev Bose and Abhijit Mazumdar as well as CPRM leaders Gobind Chhetri, Arun Ghatani, and Kishor Pradhan. Protestors also courted arrest in Jalpaiguri town, Alipurduar, Balurghat of South Dinajpur, Raigunj of North Dinajpur, Howrah, South 24 Parganas, Malda and Birbhum.
On 25 August, a DCPM rally led by Comrade Alak Nandy at Banton (West Midnapore) was attacked by TMC goons, and a mass meeting was held on 30 August to protest the attack. During the campaigning for Jail Bharo, TMC goons in Bardhaman assaulted CPI(ML) District Secretary Salil Dutta on 29th August. The statewide Jail Bharo protests on 31st August demanded arrest and punishment for the perpetrators of this political attack, and an end to the culture of political violence in the State. Apart from the demands against corporate loot and Coalgate scam, the protests in West Bengal also focussed on the assault on democracy and rising violence on women in the state. Protestors demanded scrapping of Operation Green Hunt and UAPA, release of political prisoners, siphoning off of NREGA funds for the CM’s tour of districts on the eve of Panchayat polls, and rampant ground-level corruption.
In Assam, the Jail Bharo programme, in addition to the central slogans, also demanded an end to the ethnic violence and communal campaign in the State. Protestors courted arrest at the state capital, Guwahati, as well as Nagaon, Jorhat, Bargang, Rajgarh (Dibrugarh), and Tinsukia. In Barpeta, Jail Bharo could not be held because of curfew, and so a delegation led by Com. Dulal Sarkar and Naren Borah handed over a memorandum to the DC, Barpeta, addressed to the Chief Minister of Assam.
In Diphu, Karbi Anglong, a protest procession from the CPI(ML) office to the DC office was arrested en route, and the protestors detained at a temporary jail, where they held a protest meeting, addressed by CPI(ML) PB member Rubul Sarma, as well as Karbi Anglong Secretary Com. Rabi Kr. Phangcho, KNCA leader Com. Pratima Inghipi, KSA leader Com. Laisen Ingleng and others. The protest meeting passed resolutions demanding dismissal of the Tarun Gogoi Government for failure to control the ethnic clashes in the BTAD area, to intensify the movement against the deprivation and betrayal of the Govt. on Autonomous Statehood, and demanding CBI enquiry into the cases of rampant corruption of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council.
In Tamilnadu, an intensive campaign preceded the Jail Bharo protest, with cadre meetings, workers’ GBMs, and over a 100 padayatras were held all over the State, mainly in Chennai, Coimbatore, Tiruvallore, Kanyakumari, Salem, Tirunelveli and Namakkal. Jail Bharo protests were held at 19 centres in 16 districts, and 60% of the participants were women. A significant number of migrant workers participated in the protest at the state capital, Chennai.
In Andhra Pradesh, protestors courted arrest at East Godavari district HQ (Kakinada) followed by an impressive rally. Activists courted arrest at Prathipadu, Krishna District divisional HQ at Nuziveedu, Roluganta and Narsipatnam in Visakha district; Ananthpur, where an impressive rally was held; and Velugodu and Nandikotkuru mandal offices in Kurnool.
In Odisha, protestors courted arrest at Koraput, Puri, Dasmantpur, Bhadrak, Rayagada, Keonjhar, Gajapati as well as the state capital, Bhubaneshwar. At Koraput, the police, on the pretext of curbing Maoism, disallowed protestors from holding a rally, arresting them at the Railway Station itself. All over the state, the protestors demanded resignation of PM Manmohan Singh as well as Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik for their role in the Coal scam, and an end to Operation Green Hunt’s war on adivasis.
In Karnataka, 1000 protestors courted arrest at Gangavati. Impressive protests were also held at Bangalore, Mysore, and Davangere. The attack by communal forces on migrant workers travelling to the State on the night of 30th August was one of the major issues in the protest at Bangalore.
Jail Bharo protests were held at Jhunjhunu, Udaipur, Pratapgarh, and Salumber in Rajasthan.
At Chhattisgarh, protestors at Supela including CPI(ML) and Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha leaders were jailed at Durg Central Jail before being released. Dharnas were held at Raipur and Bilaspur, where participants courted arrest.
In Uttarakhand, Jail Bharo protests were held at Pithoragarh, Lalkuan, Bhikyasain (Almora), Rudrapur, as well as Srinagar, Gauchar and Joshimath in Garhwal district.
In Tripura, an impressive protest procession led by the CPI(ML) State Secretary Mrinmoy Chakraborty marched at Kailashahar, (Unakoti District), towards the SDM office. Thye first police barricade was broken and activists were arrested after a scuffle at the second barricade.
Protestors were also arrested at Udaipur, Dharmanagar, Belonia, and at Karbook Sub-Division in the Autonomous District area in Tripura.
Jail Bharo was also observed at Puducherry, and at Port Blair (Andamans).
Workers' Convention in WB
On 11th August, a workers' convention was held at Budge Budge in South 24 Parganas in West Bengal demanding reopening closed industries, revival of sick industries and reclaiming workers' dues all over the state, and in particular in the Budge Budge industrial belt. The convention was part of a continuous campaign launched by AICCTU, following the hugely successful 16th May workers' convention held in Naihati earlier this year. Factory workers, jute mill workers, organized unions like the Bata workers' union, construction workers, women workers, as well as artists-writers-doctors from the civil society assembled at the packed Public Library hall in Budge Budge. Comrades Kishore Sarkar and Nabendu Dasgupta of AICCTU addressed the assembly and comrade Atanu Chakrabarty conducted the convention.
Issues like the plight of workers of closed factories, claiming workers' dues (like PF dues) running into crores of rupees, oppression of unorganized sector workers like construction workers, demand for housing for factory and mill workers etc. were reiterated in the convention proposal and the anti-worker response of the administration and labour ministry towards workers' problems was condemned.
Representatives of other trade unions like UTUC, CITU, AITUC, National Union for Jute Workers, construction workers' union from the Bata Riverside Project also addressed the convention. The need for a broad and united trade union movement to reinstate workers' rights and demands was agreed upon by all. In keeping with this spirit, AICCTU had undertaken a sustained campaign in preparation of the convention which included involving the civil society to petition for workers' demands, campaigning in extensive areas, arranging several group meetings with workers, deputations to the New Central Jute Mill authorities, demonstrations at the BDO level with specific demands of construction workers - thereby stirring up the Budge Budge industrial belt with issues of workers' demands and health of industries becoming the center of discussions. A 'Mazdoor Bachao Manch' has been constituted to bring different trade union workers and workers' sympathizers under a common umbrella. The response and enthusiasm so far looks promising to strive for a relentless struggle on workers’ rights.
AIPWA Convention in Guwahati
The Assam unit of AIPWA organized a state level convention at Press Club, Guwahati on 25th August on the topic of ‘Increasing violence on women and role of society’. The Convention was addressed by leaders of different women’s organizations including the Assam unit of AIDWA, NFIW, KNCA, All Tiwa Women Association, Niryatan Virodhi Oikya Mancha, Nari Mukti Sangram Samiti, Bihattar Noonmati Nari Niryatan Virodhi Oikya Manch, Women Studies Research Centre (Gauhati University), North East Network, Purva Bharati Trust, Asom Lekhika Santha, Mahila Karmachari Santha, Sadou Asom Janasanskritik Parishad, Natun Sahitya Parishad, Datal Para Cultural Women Organisation, ASHA Santha, Anganwadi Santha and a group of women students from Cotton College took part in the convention.
The Convention was conducted by AIPWA state leader Anju Barkatoky and two appointed speakers Arupa Baruah, writer and journalist and Dr. Akhil Ranjan Dutta, progressive writer and Associate Professor, Guwahati University, delivered their speeches on the topic. Sri Mukul Kalita, a local journalist, who came to the help of the victim of 9th July G S Road molestation, described his experience as an eye witness. Leaders of the said women organizations placed their views and suggestions on the subject matter of the convention.
The convention unanimously resolved to unite all struggling women organisations and develop a united movement against cases of violence on women.
An approach paper from Assam State Committee of AIPWA was presented by AIPWA leader Junu Bora and state secretary Mrinali Devi spoke about the aims of the convention. AIPWA leader Raju Baruah, state president Bhadrawati Gogoi, state member Kanaklata Dutta were present in the convention. The convention was well organized and enthusiastic and more than 150 women attended the convention.