Elections in Insurgent Iraq
Once again, as in Vietnam in 1967 and El Salvador later, it was a case of manufacturing consent – consent to colonisation, torture, plunder – and in curbing criticism at home. The colonisers wanted to maintain a near-monopoly of political authority, operating from behind handpicked Iraqi Governing Council. But escalating armed resistance and political pressure exerted by Shi’ite grand ayatollah, Ali Sistani compelled them to cede more power, at least symbolically. Of course, there was no question of the elections, conducted by officials appointed by puppets of the occupation armies in contravention of the Geneva Convention and without any independent international monitoring, being free and fair. Even The US based Carter Centre conceded this, for prerequisites like freedom of assembly, speech and press were conspicuous by their absence. There were multiple pressures to vote, such as the setting up of polling stations at centres that distribute food, water and money, and making the receipt of monthly food rations conditional on voting. And yet, millions of Iraqis, mostly Sunnis, boycotted the poll. Real turnout was about 44% of all eligible voters (nearly 58% of registered voters). The popular Shia cleric, Moqtada Al Sadr who led a powerful uprising against the US last April, also stood away from the elections along with his supporters.
The main winners in the election are the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA)—a predominantly Shiite coalition — and the Kurdistan Alliance (KA)—comprising the two major Kurdish bourgeois parties. The UIA received about 48 percent of the vote and the KA some 26 percent. It is estimated that this will get the UIA 140 seats in the 275-member National Assembly and the KA will have 75 seats. Overall, the results have proven to be a devastating blow for those most openly identified with the US-backed regime — above all Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Even with the implicit backing of Washington and the heavily controlled media in Iraq, his political grouping—the Iraqi list—was only able to muster 14 percent of the vote and a probable 20 seats. The Iraqi Communist Party which campaigned on a platform of secular nationalism, not socialism, got just two seats.
Under the framework put in place by the occupation, a two-thirds majority is necessary to choose the president and two vice-presidents, and this presidential council then has to select the prime minister unanimously. The cabinet chosen by the prime minister then requires majority approval in the National Assembly. The complex procedure ensures horse-trading, inter-group clashes and instability, giving the colonisers a pretext to stay put ‘til peace returns’. But their problem is that the emerging government has strong Islamic (Shi’ite) leanings and natural links with neighbouring Iran, a predominantly Shia nation openly hostile to Washington . Bush and Blair are worried over the future roles of Shi’ite clerics in the two countries, particularly in the event of a US attack on Iran. Moreover, none of the leading prime ministerial candidates is strongly pro-American.
The large number of ordinary Iraqis who participated in the polls did so not as an endorsement of the initiatives of the puppet administration, but because the parties making up the Shia List, along with Sistani, promised that an elected government would attend to the burning needs of the working people and would be a step towards independence. Similarly, the Kurdish bourgeois parties campaigned that the reorganisation of Iraq under US occupation will lead to an autonomous or fully independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq, with full control over its rich oil fields. As these hopes are belied, the demonstrated Shia- Sunni convergence in struggle against the occupation armies will certainly get the better of partial and temporary successes of the Bush-Blair divisive policies.
The Anglo-American forces wished to use the elections for perpetuation of colonial rule by other means and with a democratic face. That is not going to be. With little cohesion, legitimacy and power, the coming coalition will find itself in an unenviable position of standing between two stools even as it tries to satisfy the absolutely irreconcilable aspirations of its electors and its imperial masters. A regime like this will fare little better than its Afghan counterpart in containing insurgency. Armed struggle in Iraq will go on and gather strength, till the barbarians are driven out to the last man.
Lakhimpur-Kheri : Massive Dharna at UP Assembly
The arrested leaders of CPI(ML) and the journalist 'Neelu' are released on bail but the movement continues with demand to immediately withdraw cases against them, a thorough inquiry and punishment to the responsible police officers and their nexus with the mafia. Nine comrades including Ajanta Lohit and Allauddin Shashtri were released on Feb 17 while Shamiuddin 'Neelu', Amar Ujala journalist, who played an important role in exposing scams and covered the movement led by CPI(ML) and AIALA, and two others were released on Feb 20. But the opposition to the Mulayam govt. is strengthening and CPI(ML) has resolved to continue the agitation till the cases are withdrawn and the SP of Kheri is removed.
A massive three-day dharna started in front of the Assembly in Lucknow on Feb 20 with these demands along with demands to punish the perpetrators of foodgrain scam and institution of a Land Commission. This was presided over by Comrade Allauddin Shashtri and addressed by Narendra Singh, Arun Kumar, Tahira Hasan, Radhey Shyam Maurya, Gita Singh, Madan Yadav, Ajit Yadav, Kaushal Kishor and many others. Various organisations and eminent personalities also came up in solidarity.
While in Lakhimpur and adjoining areas, protests have taken place in all the towns involving cross-sections of the people to condemn the arrest of the journalist and government's pro-mafia role, protest demonstrations and effigy burnings continued throughout the district in Lakhimpur-Kheri against the revengeful and illegal arrest by the police of the journalist Shamiuddin 'Neelu' and CPI(ML) leaders. Various democratic organisations are also coming up to defend the innocence of 'Neelu' and have demanded immediate removal of Kheri SP NJ Padmja and a thorough enquiry into the matter. Uttaranchal Khalsa Seva Samiti has condemned the incident terming it an attack on free speech. All India Students' Association, Kheri, held a torch-light procession on Feb 18. Akhil Bharatiya Vishwakarma Utthan Parishad passed a resolution against Kheri SP, while Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU- Ambabata group) demanded a high level inquiry. All political parties in the district expressed anguish at the arrest and condemned the police. SJP also lent its support to the agitation. Udyog Vyapar Mandal and almost all political parties in Kheri and adjoining areas strongly condemned the arrest and the SP's atrocious acts. Similar was the response from small towns like Gola, Paliakalan, Tikunia, Laharpur and other places.
In Badaun of Bareilly district, protesting journalists were lathicharged by the police. In Pilibhit district, protests are being organised by CPI(ML) and other organisations. Sherpur Kalan town witnessed an unprecedented bandh and chakka-jam on 18 Feb. This was called by an all party forum led by CPI(ML). CPI(ML) activists held a demonstration at Bhagawantpur, journalists held a protest at Bilsanda. Traders burnt effigy of the SP at Bisalpur. Although Mulayam Singh govt. still doesn't seem to relent but the increasing anger and people's opposition against this authoritarian act of Kheri SP has exposed the true colours of Mulayam govt. and it will certainly have to pay a heavy price.
Agri. Labourers’ Agitation For Tsunami Affected People's Demands
Agricultural Labourers led by the AIALA virtually forced the District Collector of Nagapattinam to meet out their demands. Around 2000 workers blocked the traffic for more than 3 hours and swamped the Sirkali Tahasildar office and officials for hours together on their just demands. As the busy traffic, connecting Tanjore and Chidambaram towns collapsed, the district administration has no other option but to go for conceding the demands of the workers. This Tsunami ravaged district has witnessed several agitations from 3 January onwards. The 4 Feb gherao organized and led by AIALA was the latest one which acquired vast impact forcing the collector to intervene and concede to the workers demands.
Even after 40 days the district administration under the direct guidance of the state administration failed to rebuild the lives of the affected people. But the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa asserted in the State Assembly that two phases of the three phased rescue–relief-rehabilitation operations were over. Along the coastal line of the worst-hit fishing hamlets, agricultural labourers and poor peasants have also been badly hit. Of the 22 villages affected in the Sirkali Taluk alone thousands of agri. labourers and peasants are affected. Lands were washed away – more than 2500 hectares – and thousands of farm hands rendered jobless. This was ignored by the administration but the issue has been forcefully brought forward by AIALA in the course of the relief campaign.
A convention was also held in Poomphuhar on 29 January. This convention decided to hold a mass dharna to press the demands of suffering peasants and agri. labourers. Around 150 representatives of agri. Labourers and poor peasants took part in it. But massive response and militant mood of the affected workers turned the dharna into a road blockade and ghearo. Workers from five panchayats- Perunthottam, Vanagiri, Thirumullaivasal, Thennampattinam and Poombuhar – (18 villages) rallied in the agitation. The Sangam put forward demand of Rs. 2000 and 60 Kg rice for affected family, Implementation of food-for-work scheme in every panchayat, and reclamation of land and compensation to the peasants. As the repeated talks with the RDO and Tahsildar failed and the masses were in no-go-back mood and they continued the protest, the Collector had to come and intervene. Talking with the AIALA leaders he agreed that the Govt. actually wound-up the relief operations as the cash demand couldn’t be met out. Though he agreed to carry out an assessment of the land loss. Finally he promised on his own that the affected families will be provided 20 kg rice and food for work scheme (to the tune of 15,00,000 for every panchayat). He also agreed for the supervision by the Sangam during implemention. This assurance was given in writing. The RDO and the Sangam leaders signed the papers. The agitation was led by Gunasegaran, Ilangovan, Abimannan, and TKS Janarthnan, all AIALA leaders.
Intervention with Workers Agenda
Small powerloom owners of Kumarapalayam ended their nine-day long strike on 8 February night while workers continued the strike demanding their share since the next morning. On 9 Feb, a huge gathering of workers was addressed by N.K.Natarajan, All India Secretary and Govindarajan, State Secretary of AICCTU along with CITU and AITUC leaders. While the powerloom units were open waiting for the workers, who were out on streets enforcing strike call. On 10 Feb, AICCTU’s efforts to force the small owners of the area in its stronghold to accept a wage increase and then to force others, paid dividends. On 11 Feb, small owners of other areas, ironically the originators of the strike call, refused to relent and workers continued strike along with demonstrations and street corner meetings. Police intervened in favour of employers and around five of our comrades were arrested for enforcing strike call. Timely intervention by AICCTU forced the employers of other areas to come around the negotiating table in the presence of police officials. On 12 Feb, the employers had to accept workers demands and the strike concluded with an agreement involving our union. The fact that it was a wage struggle in that area after nine years also added an importance to the movement.
AISA Conference in Uttarakhand
AISA's Uttarakhand State Conference was held on 15-16 Feb at Dehradun with a resolve to fight against the policies of the UPA Govt. which are not different from its predecessor Govt.. The Conference pointed that the central govt. is carrying forward the imperialist agenda endangering democracy and only way left before the students and youth is to strengthen the revolutionary left opposition in which they have a very important role to play.
A march and rally was held on the first day of the conference where speakers attacked the policies of the government by saying that depriving majority of the population of education and employment is an attack on basic constitutional rights. Education is now being monopolised by a privileged class and the question of employment is no more a priority issue for the ruling establishment in this era of globalisation.
The open session of the conference deliberated on the subject 'Students' movement needs a left turn', while the delegate session discussed various organisational issues and future programmes. The open session was also addressed by the leaders of SFI, PSF, Uttarakhand Mahila Manch, Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sangthan, Parivartankami Chhatra Sangthan, PUCL, etc. Nepal Vidyarthy Sangh sent its solidarity greetings to the Conference.
The report presented to the conference criticized the increasing privatisation of education and diminishing employment opportunities in Uttaranchal. Although these were the major issues during Uttarakhand movement, people are feeling left out while those who opposed the separate state formation are now ruling the state.
The Conference elected a 23 member State Council and 9-member State Executive with Indresh Maikhury as President and Mahip Pilakhwal as Secretary. Awadesh Kumar Singh, AISA National Executive member, addressed the Conference as the main speaker while CPI(ML) Uttaranchal Incharge Raja Bahuguna was the chief guest.
The conference concluded after adopting a thirteen-point resolution that included demands like declaration of state education policy by the state govt, withdrawal of self-financed curricula and implementation of a common fee structure, closure of private institutions, to immediately fill all vacant posts of teachers, closure of 22 private B. Ed. institutions in the state who have failed to maintain the proper standards of education, Rs. 2000 per month unemployment allowance, 80 percent reservation for the local youth in the industries being set up in the state, to withdraw all cases imposed during Uttarakhand movement, to repeal all anti-people projects and to rename the state as Uttarakhand and make its capital at Gairsain as demanded by the people.
Rally in Deoria
A massive demonstration and rally was held on Feb 12 in Deoria in UP to press upon the demands of withdrawing cases against CPI(ML) leaders in Lakhimpur-Kheri, red-card to every BPL family, waiver of loans and to put a check on corruption rampant upto block level offices and banks, punishment to perpetrators of food-grain scam and for institution of a Land Commission in UP. A large number of women agri. workers were present in this rally participated by thousands of people.
Speakers condemned the Mulayam Singh govt. for working to serve the interests of the nexus of big mafia, corrupt bureaucracy and politicians, increasing the plunder of the funds allocated for the poor people's development in the state. A false illusion is created by highlighting Birla, Bajaj and Ambanis while the agenda of the poor has been sent to the background, they said. Big businesses are being benefitted by the SP govt. in UP by handing over valuable resources to them at almost free of cost while the rural poor in eastern UP and Lakhimpur are being subjected to unprecedented police repression. The rally was addressed by CPI(ML) State Committee member Yashwant Singh, RYA State Secretary Ram Kishore Verma, AIPWA leaders Premlata Pandey and Sushma Shrivastav, and Shriram Kushwaha among others.
Initiatives in E. Godavari in Andhra Pradesh
Demanding distribution of ceiling lands and protesting the falsely framed cases against AIALA leaders by the police, a rally was held on 21 Feb at Kakinada, district headquarters of E. Godavari in AP. As usual the Congress govt. in the state is not willing to implement land reforms and several false cases have been imposed on the leaders who are spearheading the land struggles.
After the rally, a dharna was held inside the premises of RDO office resisting police attempts to stop the protest. The dharna was lifted only when the RDO gave an assurance to fulfill the demands.
Similar protests were also held in Elleswaram and Prathipadu Tandangi Mandals.
In Payakraopeta mandal in Visakhapatinam district same 500 members of AIALA rushed into the MRO office and gheraoed it for three hours. Landless agri. workers from many villages participated in the agitation and demanded redistribution of local endowment lands.
AIALA rallied to demand the distribution of land among agri labourers and held a dharna at MRO office on Feb 15. A demonstration was also held at Tuni Mandal headquarters.
AIPWA held a dharna before Kakinada rural MRO on Feb 14 and burnt the effigy of the Chief Minister and opposed the governmental order issued recently that entitles opening of liquor shops even in many small villages.
Oppose Patents Ordinance
Which is going to seriously damage our Industry and Agriculture and allow the Multinational Companies to widen and harden their grip over the country's economy
Threatening the food security, earnings and livelihood of millions of rural poor
Going to hand over the Indian drug industry into the hands of MNCs
Going to hamper Industrial development of the country
Is a surrender to the WTO regime
Massive Demonstration Before Parliament
on February 26, 2005 (Second day of the Budget Session)
Organised by: Trade Unions and various Mass Organisations