The euphoria generated by the launch of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service and the three-day visit by President Musharraf of Pakistan is indeed quite overwhelming. The exercises have evoked considerable popular support in the two countries and most crucially in the two parts of Kashmir. With the cricket series serving as the backdrop, the developing component of people-to-people contact across the border was all too visible. A few years ago, the Agra summit between President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee had failed to produce even a joint statement. This time around, Musharraf’s whirlwind visit yielded not only a joint statement, but also promises of a lot of forward movement and action in the coming months.
Soft borders, free trade and flexible approach are the new buzzwords in New Delhi and Islamabad. All these dimensions have been more or less evident in recent exchanges between the two neighbours. While Pakistan has stopped emphasising Kashmir to the exclusion of other issues, India, too, for a change has started displaying greater interest in issues other than ‘cross-border terrorism’. The joint statement, for example, says no more than not allowing terrorism to impede the peace process which is described as having become irreversible. While saying nothing specific about Kashmir, the statement has gone on to promise more bus and rail links, enhanced interaction across the LoC and restoration of diplomatic measures like the reopening of consulates in Mumbai and Karachi.
How long will this new momentum last? The question arises not from a cynical disbelief in sustained peace and friendship between the two countries, but from a lack of transparency and explanation about factors leading to the present juncture. Musharraf has at least shown the candour to admit to the failure of coercive diplomacy. As far as New Delhi is concerned, despite a change of government at the Centre, there has been no review of or departure from the foreign policy being pursued by the BJP-led NDA regime.
Genuine peace and friendship between India and Pakistan can only be based on a conscious rejection and reversal of the jingoistic foreign policy pursued for most of the post-partition years. A peace limited to the post-9/11 context and governed by the strategic perspective of Washington will always be fragile and vulnerable to American manipulations. Circumscribing the present ‘breakthrough’ in Indo-Pak ties, for example, is the well-known US game plan to fuel a fresh round of arms race between the two neighbours. As long as New Delhi and Islamabad will vie with each other for currying greater favour with Washington, Indo-Pak ties will remain hostage to the war games of US imperialism. Contrarily, a real growth of bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, including closer economic cooperation and more extensive trade ties, could prove to be a real bulwark for peace and stability in South Asia and increase the region’s capacity to resist American pressure.
While welcoming the changing complexion of Indo-Pak ties, democratic opinion in both India and Pakistan must therefore remain alert against any kind of American meddling in bilateral affairs. We must press for growing direct exchanges between the two countries, including freer trade and travel across the border. It must be realised that the biggest impetus to betterment of relations has come from within Kashmir. Moving away from the ongoing bitter polemic on cross-border terrorism, the focus must shift to increased cross-border travel and interaction.
Instead of being the biggest bone of contention between two warring neighbours, Kashmir could well prove to be the strongest bridge of peace. It must however be understood that any attempt to take Kashmir for granted will only vitiate the environment. The people of Jammu and Kashmir must be taken into confidence in every possible manner. Greater political initiative in Kashmir, including a general amnesty to all political prisoners and strengthening of internal democracy in the state, must go hand in hand with enhanced exchanges with Pakistan.
The corporate houses and the corporate media have already started talking about peace dividends. The monopoly houses can only calculate dividends in terms of greater market share and bigger profits. For the common man in India and Pakistan, the best realisation of peace dividend can only be in the form of reduced spending on arms and increased public expenditure and investment for meeting the basic needs of the working people of the two countries.
CPI(ML)’s Naya Bihar Banao campaign begins with statewide protest marches, demonstrations, meetings and mass contact programmeson the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti
The campaign for a new Bihar by the Bihar State Unit of CPI(ML) saw an impressive beginning on 14th April, anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. The campaign which will conclude on the 10th May, anniversary of 1857 war for Independence, began with organised protest marches, demonstrations, street-corner meetings, and mass contact programmes in hundreds of villages and dozens of district HQs and many important towns and Qasbahs.
Post election Bihar is witnessing increased attacks on rural poor, Dalits and other toilers. The campaign, participated by thousands of people and hundreds of Party leaders and cadres everywhere is demanding to put an immediate stop on these incidents of murder and repression of the rural poor and Dalits.
It is noteworthy that the political Parties who do not tire by swearing in the name of Dalits and oppressed sections have maintained complete silence on these brutal incidents against rural poor and Dalits. Accusing these Parties of siding with criminal and feudal forces the State Secretary of CPI(ML) said that their falsehood has been exposed. Only CPI(ML) is consistently and relentlessly waging the struggle for life, livelihood and dignity of the Dalit-poor, agricultural labourers and toiling people.
In Patna, the protest march began from Ambedkar Statue situated at S.P. Verma road trisection and culminated in a meeting at Patna Junction. In Muzaffarpur a seminar was organised on the issue of violence against Dalits and was participated by many eminent citizens of the city. Protest Demonstrations were held in Darbhanga, Samastipur, Gopalganj, Bhagalpur and Bettiah lead by senior Party leaders. Mass contact campaigns were initiated on this day at block level in Jehanabad, Arwal, Gaya, and Aurangabad. Meetings were held at Arrah, Biharsharif, Nasriganj, Bikramganj, Dumraon, Mairwan and many other towns and qasbahs.
Exposure Campaign against Munda Govt. evokes mass response.
The Jharkhand CPI(ML) Unit ran a fortnight long exposure campaign from 1-15 April, against the fraudulently installed NDA Govt. in the State. During the fortnight dharnas and protest demonstrations were organised at every district and sub-division HQ. This was the first political action against the NDA Govt. after it has been reinstalled. The campaign received massive support from people across the state. The main issue has been to arrest Deepak Verma, S.P., and BJP MLA Ravindra Rai the two accused for Comrade Mahendra Singh’s murder, immediately hold Panchayat elections in the State and to implement the food for work programme immediately. The illegal and reactionary NDA Govt. has tried to complicate the murder case and this too was exposed during the campaign. The UPA front including the JMM, Congress and RJD have maintained complete silence over the issue of arresting the killers and the exposure campaign targeted these anti-people forces too.
Dharna was observed at various centres throughout the State. At Birni Bloc HQ in Giridih Dist, a rally was organised. It was addressed by Com. Vinod Kr. Singh, Party MLA from Bagodar. There, on the same day a Bloc official was forced to return Rs. 6000 taken as bribe from a common man.
Demand letter given to Chief Jathhedar against caste discrimination at religious places.
A delegation of the Mazdoor Mukti Morcha handed over a demand letter to the Chief Jathhedar Balwant Singh of Dumdama Sahib, Talwandi, on the eve of Baisakhi 12th April, demanding to immediately stop discriminatory and humiliating practices against the Dalits and poor at
Gurdwaras and other religious places in Punjab.
It is to be noted that certain Sikh Granthis and other religious leaders have begun to arrange different langars and bathing tanks/ponds for the Dalits and lower castes. The people are viewing this as an attempt to reimpose brahamanism and highly discriminatory casteist practices which were stopped three centuries back by Guru Govind Singh. The delegation affirmed that if the SGPC and Jathhedars do not intervene immediately to stop the discrimination then the Morcha will be forced to begin movement against those responsible for it.
The Jathhedar, Nandgarh, promised to investigate this matter along with Morcha leaders and take stringent actions against such places. Comrades Bhagwant Singh, Jasbir Kaur Nath, Balam Singh, Sukhwinder Singh and scores of workers were part of the delegation.
Action against SHO in Gurgawan and arrest of killers demanded.
The State Incharge of CPI(ML) in Haryana, Com. Prem Singh Gahlawat along with the family members of victim met the I.G. of Police, Deepa Mehta, of Gurgawan range to demand immediate action to arrest the killers of Suman and to take action against the SHO of Pataudi and other police officials who instead of nabbing the killers are siding with them. The incident took place on 3rd February when three goons tried to rape Suman, w/o Krishna of Sherpur village. Suman tried to escape but the goons soaked her in petrol and burnt her. She struggled for 20 days at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi but finally succumbed to her injuries. The local police is instead conspiring to implicate the family members of the deceased. The I.G. gave assurance that justice will be done.
Reports From the Mass Organisations
The All-India Progressive Women’s Association expressed serious concern and criticised the move by the government to amend the Factory Act so as to allow women to work on night shift. In a blatant violation of the stipulations of the 1990 Protocol of the ILO, the Indian government is all set to exploit the cheap labour provided by women workers. The AIPWA General Secretary Kumudini Pati said that all TUs, labour organisations and women’s organisations should reject this move in totality as it is only going to lead to increased exploitation of women workers. The clause ‘conditions to be decided locally’ gives the employers full authority to force the women workers to accept night shift work for fear of loss of employment. She said getting ‘safety measures and security’ is nothing but a pious wish for the women and a fraudulent promise from the government. She said that so far even women working during day shift have to face sexual harassment and have no security, whereas there are reports of women workers being used by the managements as part-time sex workers in many unregistered and private industries. Moreover, health hazards are specifically serious in the case of women working night shift, especially breast cancer and colon cancer. Night shift work can only be allowed in areas where there can be no other alternative, e.g. in hospitals and women police stations.
The AIPWA said the Maharashtra government headed by Vilasrao Deshmukh is more concerned about its votes than the future of youth in the state while banning dancers performing in the bars of Mumbai. AIPWA GS said that the NCP-Congress government is trying to woo the support base of the Shiv Sena through this move. But it is an open secret that these bars have enjoyed the patronage of politicians, police and the underworld all these years and have been contributing hundreds of crores as revenue. It is for this reason that the government had initially started by banning dances in the rural areas while sparing the ‘geese that laid the golden eggs’ in Mumbai. It was only after people began to raise their voice on the discriminatory move that it was forced to extend the measure to the city.
Ms. Kumudini Pati said that most of the girls who perform are totally illiterate and have no other option to earn a living. The government should have first thought about their rehabilitation through vocational training and interest-free loans for self-employment. Instead, the Home Minister has put the onus of finding jobs on the bar girls themselves. The present move will only force these young girls into flesh trade, she said. AIPWA demands that the government talk to the bar girls and offer a package that will help them with alternative and respectable employment. She condemned the statement of the Home Minister RK Patil that these girls pose a security threat to the country.
Speaking on the topic ‘Life of Dalits: Direction of society, politics and economy’ chief editor of Dalit Asia today Dr. Brij Bihari said that BSP is now organising brahaman conferences and helping the brahminical forces, let alone challenge them. Prof. D.S. Diwakar of Giri Adhyayan Sansthan stated that the Dalit movement should learn from its mistakes and align itself with the Left forces. In the context of UP he said that there cannot be a solution to the Land question by change in power but by struggles and movements alone. The seminar was presided over by editorial member of Dalit Asia Today Shyam Ankuram. Other speakers were Jt. Tax Commissioner J.P. Arya, Suresh Panjam, CPI(ML) Dist. Secretary Shivkumar. AISA District convenor Com. Girsant conducted the meeting.
The agrarian labourers’ movement has the potential to resolve the serious crisis engulfing rural India by forcing the government to withdraw the policies of liberalization being followed under the pressure from WTO, US-led imperialism and its Indian lackeys. To develop a broader unity among various agrarian labour and peasant organizations all over the country is also the need of the hour to achieve this goal. And, the very important task of completing the process of land reforms, abandoned by the Indian ruling classes, must be taken up seriously to address the issue of development in agriculture in favour of the people. These were the few points received much attention in the Seminar held on ‘Agrarian crisis, starvation deaths and the Agricultural labour movement’ at Burdhaman on April 16 under the auspices of West Bengal unit of the All India Agricultural Labour Association (AIALA).
The widely attended seminar was addressed by AIALA General Secretary Rameshwar Prasad as the main speaker. Vice President of AIALA Krishna Adhikari, peasant leader and RSP MLA from Bolpur Tapan Hore and Pashim Bang Rajya Khet Mazoor Union Vice President Arun Ganguly also spoke in the seminar. This was presided over by Sajal Adhikari, W. Bengal State President of AIALA.
AIALA State Secretary in W. Bengal Comrade Shrikant Rana described in detail how the impacts of liberalization in agriculture are precipitating the current crisis to catastrophic proportions in rural India impacting millions of toiling and poor people. There are starvation deaths and farmers’ suicides being reported on a regular basis from all over India. In left ruled W. Bengal such deaths have become a phenomena and after Amlasol there is occurrence of starvation deaths in Sagardighi and Jalangi in Murshidabad district as well as tea gardens in Jalpaigudi. There is large scale corruption continuing in PDS and recently a scam has been unearthed where foodgrains under Antyodaya scheme were siphoned off by the corrupt nexus of ration dealers, bureaucrats and CPM middlemen in Burdhaman district. He told that in spite of increasing police repression AIALA units at various places are engaged in successfully developing struggles of agrarian labourers on the issues like employment guarantee to all, wages, BPL cards at all rural poor, etc. and called upon all left and democratic agricultural labour and peasant organizations to forge a unity in opposition to the governmental policies.
The AIALA National Council met in Burdhaman on 15-16 April and chalked out future course of programme after a review of the work reports from states. The meeting was presided over by Comrade Kshitish Biswal. West Bengal State Secretary Kartik Pal also addressed the councillors.
AIALA has decided to hold a Dharna and Parliament march jointly with the All India Kisan Sangharsh Samiti in New Delhi on 10 May 2005 to press upon the demands of: i. A complete reversal of agrarian policy and reforms based on well being of the poor peasants and rural labourers; ii. Employment guarantee for all and a central legislation for agricultural labourers and food-for-work scheme to be implemented in every district and each village; iii. Scrap loans on small peasants, provide cheaper inputs including irrigation, electricity, fertilizers, etc.; iv. Scrap amendments in Forest Acts and other anti-peasant Bills under the dictates of World Bank and WTO; Stop evictions and ensure rights of the adivasis over forest lands; v. Ensure proper rehabilitation of Tsunami victims; vi. Arrest ex-Minister of BJP Ravindra Rai and former Giridih SP Deepak Verma - who masterminded the assassination of Comrade Mahendra Singh - in Jharkhand; and vii. Withdraw all cases framed under draconian laws like TADA, POTA, Gangster and Goonda Acts, from the people’s leaders.
AIALA’s next National Conference will take place in Rajamundry in Andhra Pradesh. It has been decided to conduct a massive and widespread membership campaign before the Conference. National Council has called upon to give due emphasis in inducting women agricultural workers into the organisation and at all levels of committees as well.
The Election Commission has come out with a Proposal of “amendments to the recognition – conditions..” which seeks to bend the rules in favour of the bigger Parties, while making award of recognition tougher for smaller Parties. CPI(ML) GS Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, in the written reply to the CEC said that the stated objectives by the EC “appear to be aimed at reducing the number of recognised political Parties. The amendments are clearly biased in favour of the big Parties and are skewed against smaller parties that generally represent the interests of the weaker sections of our society, backward regions and various minorities. It should also be noted that in a country as vast and diverse as India, the smaller Parties have historically been playing an important role in defending democracy and pluralism”. The Party also sent letters to other political Parties stating that “such move will…ultimately harm the evolving democratic process in our country”, and said that such amendments “which are detrimental to the interests of smaller Parties and democracy in our country must be opposed, tooth and nail”. Party also appealed them to oppose this move jointly to foil all such attempts.
The New Delhi edition of Hindustan on 17 April carried an interview of
CPI(ML) GS Dipankar Bhattacharya on the issue of
Left consolidation and communist movement in Hindi belt.
Hindustan: What is your opinion about the recent pledge by CPI and CPI(M) in their congresses to consolidate themselves in Hindi states?
DB: It’s good, but both the Parties will have to introspect their past and present mistakes. In fact it is not for the first time that CPI(M) is talking about gaining foothold in Hindi belt. Way back in 1978, in its Salkia Plenum it had resolved to achieve this. So, they should first, find out the reasons for their isolation from the masses in Hindi belt. Unless this is done all talks of expansion in Hindi regions is useless.
Hindustan: You talk of Left unity but your Party is opposed to the Left Front in WB?
DB: We oppose the Left Front on some policy matters. But the CPI(M) that leads the Front should let everyone know as to why it considers the differences in Bengal as an obstacle to Left unity in Hindi belt. As regards our attitude towards CPI(M) there will be hurdles as long as it is not ready to shed its prejudices and sectarian attitude on the question of Left unity.
Hindustan: But Left Parties claim success of their policy by keeping the communal forces out of power and forcing the UPA to implement CMP?
DB: In matters of economic policy there is absolutely no difference between the previous NDA and the present UPA. Recently the manner in which Left acted to get the Patent’s Bill passed is very shocking. It is being dished out that the peculiar act was to isolate the BJP, but we believe that supporting the UPA over such blatantly anti-people issues will only strengthen the communal forces like BJP.
Hindustan: What other reasons do you attribute for failure of the Left in Hindi states?
DB: Biggest reason was ignoring the struggles of the rural poor. There was no emphasis on the practical methods of improving the lot of the masses and small and marginal farmers yearning for livelihood and employment. Apart from their dependence on decadent feudal forces the policy of blindly supporting the misrule of Parties like RJD in Bihar eroded the strength of Left.
Against Privatisation, FDI and Curbing of Trade Union Rights
For Social Security, Employment and Protecting National Sovereignty
Make the 6th National Conference of
A Grand Success
21-23 May’05, Comrade Mahendra Singh Hall
Comrade Anil Baruah Nagar (Guwahati)