EC Must Deter Criminals, and not Disenfranchise Citizens
The Election Commission of India has asked that names of all those against whom non-bailable warrants (NBWs) are pending for over six months be deleted from voters’ lists. The Commission argues that since voters are expected to ordinarily reside at their given addresses, ‘absconders’ are obvious candidates for deletion. This, the EC would have us believe, would put an effective brake on criminalisation of electoral politics. Ironically, a delegation of RJD MPs that met the EC to oppose this order included the infamous criminal MP from Siwan , Md. Shahabuddin, who has got as many as six NBWs pending against him. The EC must be aware as to why these six NBWs have not been executed so far. Shahabuddin continues to be protected and patronized by the state administration of Bihar , even under President’s Rule. In fact, the state’s response to the recent NBWs has been to transfer the young, courageous SP of Bihar who had found fresh incriminating evidence against the notorious MP!
This takes us to the real crux of the problem – criminalisation of state-power or governance. The malady is much more acute than the much talked about issue of criminalisation of politics or entry of criminals into state legislatures or Parliament. The latter aspect – direct entry of Shahabuddins into Assemblies and Parliament – has only added a new stunning visibility or transparency to the phenomenon and exposed the utter hollowness and hypocrisy of the bourgeois pretension of rule of law. Instead of addressing the crux of the problem, the EC has come out with a ‘cure’ that will only aggravate the malady by curbing the democratic rights of the people who are resisting criminalisation on the ground.
More than a decade ago the Union Government had appointed a committee headed by the then Home Secretary NN Vohra to go into the question of operation of crime syndicates in the country. The Committee came up with a damning indictment of a growing criminal-politician-bureaucrat-police nexus. The report has since been gathering dust and no serious effort has been made to challenge, let alone dismantle, this nexus and streamline the judicial process to ensure prompt prosecution and conviction of criminals. Anybody familiar with the criminal prosecution and justice delivery system in the country knows how difficult it is to file FIRs against big criminals and how rarely do such FIRs lead to issue and execution of arrest warrants. The rate of actual conviction of the big bosses of the crime world is most negligible.
By contrast, people fighting against feudal oppression, economic loot and criminalisation are easily implicated and convicted. False cases and NBWs against political activists working among and for the rural poor are a routine feature in states like Bihar , Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Almost all political agitations lead to FIRs that involve hundreds of unknown and unnamed people and agricultural labour and poor peasant activists are often subsequently framed and even convicted in such cases as and when the ‘need’ or ‘opportunity’ arises. The EC’s order depriving people with NBWs of the right to vote or contest elections is thus heavily tilted against the fighting rural poor and forces of radical transformation while state-protected criminals would continue to call the shots. It may be argued that the people with NBWs may still contest the polls from within jails. But one can easily imagine the difficulty movement activists would face in restoring names that have already been deleted. Moreover, some legal brains in the country have already called for debarring prisoners from contesting elections. They argue that it is anomalous to allow prisoners to contest because after all they are not allowed to caste their votes.
If criminalisation has become so rampant in a state like Bihar , it must be understood that it is no longer an aberration but a characteristic feature of governance in Bihar . Criminals play a purposeful ‘social role’ in the decadent semi-feudal and unproductive milieu of Bihar – they help maintain the status quo by suppressing and terrorising the rural poor and they help accumulate wealth without any production-related hassle! The real battle against criminalisation is therefore a battle against this decadent social order and it can only be won through a more organized and vigorous participation of the masses of people in the political process. The EC’s order would actually hinder this process of people’s participation and real democratization of the electoral process.
By ordering deletion of names of people with NBWs from voters’ lists, the EC has opened one more avenue for manipulating electoral rolls, and provided the powers that be with one more ‘legal’ incentive to harass and disenfranchise the rural poor. The EC must not stop the people in the name of containing criminals. The EC’s approach is akin to the TADA-POTA policy of curtailing civil liberties and democratic rights in the name of taming terrorism. Like TADA and POTA, this order is also liable to result in large-scale denial and distortion of democracy. In the name of deterring criminals, the EC must not disenfranchise citizens.
CPI(ML)'s Statewide 'Rail Roko-Rasta Roko' in Jharkhand
More than six months have elapsed since the cowardly killing of Comrade Mahendra Singh, CPI(ML) leader in Jharkhand. But the government and the CBI are yet to come out with any thing substantial in that regard. One may recall that Comrade Mahendra Singh's murder was masterminded by the then Giridih SP Dipak Verma and BJP leader Ravindra Rai and the government was forced to order a CBI inquiry under tremendous pressure of the democratic opinion all over the country. However, the reinstalled BJP-led government in Jharkhand transferred Dipak Verma to Palamau, instead of taking any action against him, obviously, on another 'assignment' by the BJP regime, i.e., to deal with the militant assertion of the rural poor in that district.
CPI(ML) organised a statewide 'Rail Roko - Rasta Roko' agitation in Jharkhand on August 16 to warn the governments, UPA's in centre and BJP's in the state, of more intense agitations if the culprits, including Dipak Verma, are not arrested and CBI failed to complete its investigation in time. While more than two thousands activists were arrested and there were incidents of lathicharge by the police like the one in Gharwa of Palamau region, this agitation forced the state's routine to come to a halt as railway and road traffic was blocked at many places. A procession was taken out in Ranchi which blockaded the roads converging at the Albert Ekka square despite heavy police arrangement. All the roads connecting Ranchi main road were blocked. Later, hundreds of CPI(ML) activists including Polit Bureau member Swadesh Bhattacharya, CC member Rajaram and State Secretary Subhendu Sen, were arrested and sent to a camp jail where a protest meeting was also held by the agitators. Ranchi-Tata main road was also jammed at Bundu.
In Giridih, town which elected Comrade Mahendra Singh to the State Assembly for many terms, expressed its resentment over the governmental inaction and complicity by blocking the Grand Trunk road for a whole day. This was done under the leadership of Vinod Singh, CPI(ML) MLA. Giridih-Jamua road was also blocked for hours. At Saria, place where Mahendra Singh was assassinated, a complete blockade was there. Rail traffic was disturbed as dozens of trains were stopped for hours at Hazaribagh Road and also at Koderma. Dhanbad-Sindri Rail line was also blocked. Trains were also blocked at Nagaruntari station. Roads were blocked at places like Koderma, Nirsa, Dhanbad, Jharia, Baliapur, Garhwa, Daltanganj, many places is Latehar and Bokaro, and also in Jainamor, Kasmar and Santhal Pargana besides several other places.
This statewide agitation has expressed once again people's desire to punish the killers of Comrade Mahendra Singh and if this was not done by the government at will, people have their option of forcing the govt. to do so.
National Convention on Democracy in Campuses Held at Jadavpur University
AISA held a National Convention on 'Democracy in Campuses' at Jadavpur University on August 11. Student activists and leaders from various Universities and colleges of the country participated enthusiastically in the Convention.
The Convention was hosted by the AISA Unit of Jadavpur University, where a massive student movement had been sparked off by police brutality against hunger strikers on the campus in June this year. The Convention began with the presentation of a paper on democracy in campuses by the AISA President. The paper discussed the World Bank sponsored perspective on student movements, based on a World Bank Report which argued that political activism on campuses needed to be ‘restricted’, in order to curb protests against fee hikes and unemployment. It pointed out that the governments in the country, including the West Bengal Government, reflect the World Bank concern that campuses and students should present a 'corporate-friendly’ image. This is why they feel threatened when Engineering students of Jadavpur boycott exams against muzzling of protests, or when JNU students kick out an MNC outlet like Nestle. Similarly, they worry that the workers’ movement of Gurgaon will give India a bad image among investors.
In order to muzzle students’ movements, democratically elected Student Unions as well as all democratic activity is often banned on campuses like BHU, Jamia as well as most Universities in Bihar. The paper discussed a recent judgement of the Rajasthan High Court which tried to ban elections to Unions in all campuses in that State, and pointed out that contrary to the myth that activism discourages academics, academics tend to be most meaningful and rich where student activism thrives.
The Convention was addressed by Prem Shankar, Joint Secretary of the Allahabad University Union, Comrade Saleem, President of the RYA, as well as student activists from Patna University, Bhagalpur Univ., Vir Kunwar Singh Univ. Ara, Mithila Univ., Delhi University and JNU. Also, students from Presidency College, Medical College, Kolkata University, Bagula College and other colleges of West Bengal participated in the Convention. All the participants shared experiences of struggles against Administrative highhandedness, police crackdowns, bans on activism and other assaults on students’ democratic rights.
The Convention passed resolutions demanding a judicial enquiry into the police crackdown on JU students, Student Union elections in BHU, Jamia and Bihar, a code of conduct for University Administrations to prevent highhandedness, and condemning the police crackdown on workers in Gurgaon. The Convention also called upon students to join the March to Parliament on 17 August demanding education, employment and campus democracy.
Dalit march in Madurai : Over 500 Arrested
On August 15 in Madurai a ‘Long March’ was organised by the CPI(ML) and other parties to protest against the naked assault on even the minimum constitutional rights of the dalits as four reserved panchayats in the state remain headless because the dominant castes did not not allow Dalits to hold office for nearly a decade. Over 500 people were arrested defying the ban imposed in the city.
The Joint Action Committee Against Untouchability, comprising the CPI(ML), Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, Thiyagi Immanuel Peravai, DPI, Puthiya Thamizhagam and others, organised the march to bring the issue into the mainstream political debate
The march pressed for the six-point charter of demands which included retention of Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Nattarmangalam panchayats in Usilamaptti taluk of this district and Kottakachiyendal in adjoining Virudhunagar district under the reserved category until Dalits functioned as presidents for ten years.
At the Ambedkar statue on the arterial Azhagarkoil Road, 350 people including CPI(ML) leader D Pandian, Rights activists Rajini, Henry Tiphagne, JAC convenor Guruvijayan, Women’s Collective leader Kameswari and Tamil Desiya Munnai leader A Anandan, were arrested while more than 150 women were detained at Tallakulam area. A small group of people were already taken into custody sometime earlier.
Speakers who addressed the protesters said that this would also serve as a campaign to highlight the issue among the masses. Since 1992 elections were being held, but most of the time the democratic exercise could not succeed as the dominant castes ensured electoral boycott or engineered the victory of puppet candidates who resigned immediately after assuming office. This should not be allowed to continue any further.
Protest by AISA before Assam Assembly
Assam Unit of AISA brought out Assembly March at Guwahati on 10 August to protest the rising unemployment and privatisation in the state. Congress Govt. in Assam betrays the students by fee hike and privatizing higher education. Thousands of posts are lying vacant in different Govt. Departments. No step is taken to fill up the back log of ST and SC also. Rampant corruption is on in different schemes, particularly in the appointment of teachers. While the government is encouraging private educational institutions, AISA has vehemently protested this act of the Tarun Gogoi Government.
AISA demanded to roll back fee hike at all levels immediately. It has also demanded from the Govt. to take over different private schools and colleges and to implement various promises made earlier and to fill up all vacancies in Govt. departments. It was also demanded that proper compensations be paid to the flood victims immediately.
Hundreds of students on 10 August marched through TV center, R G Baruah Road to Last Gate, Dispur shouting slogans. Police tried to block the march repeatedly, but couldn't as it reached its scheduled place and held a dharna there.
AIPWA Dharna at Guwahati
On 10 August, Assam unit of AIPWA brought out a protest procession at Guwahati to demand the immediate tabling and passage of Reservation Bill for women in the Parliament without any distortion and in its original form. The procession was started from Guwahati Railway Station and ended before D C office, Kamrup, Guwahati and sent a memorandum to the Speaker, Lok Sabha through the DC. Later on they gathered before Judges Field and held a brief meeting where AIPWA Vice President Junu Bora and Mrinali Devi addressed the gathering.
CPI(ML) Demands Action against DM of Sonbhadra
CPI(ML) UP unit has demanded from the UP State Election Commission to take action against the DM of Sonbhadra who defied formers order of allowing 16 tribal castes to contest the panchayat elections. This act of the DM has deprived nearly 40 village panchayats inhabited mainly by these tribals, and lakhs of poor people of their most basic democratic right. Party has also critcized the State Election Commission for taking a very late decision in this regard, otherwise the situation could have been different. Party has demanded that voters in all such panchayats by given opportunity to file nomination and contest elections.
Dharna against Coca Cola at Plachimada
A dharna and strike was held against American soft-drink giant Coca Cola at Plachimada (Palakkad) in Kerala by CPI(ML) on Quit India day, August 9.
The Party has demanded an immediate shut down of Coca Cola Factory which has already caused immense harm to the local agriculture and environment.
State Secretary John K. Erumeli led the protest along with RYA State Convener Kanool Thumarampara, Coimbatore Auto drivers Union Secretary T.K. Rajan, activists of Lohya Vichar Vedi and Plachimada agitator Mayilamma. Leaders of the Plachimada struggle Vilayodi Venugopal and Velur Swaminathan were also present on the occasion.
Leather Workers' Agitation Continues in Unnao
Agitating Unnao leather workers led by CPI(ML) State Committee member Ramesh Senger went on hunger strike for 48 hours in front of UP Assembly in protest of continuous violation of the terms and conditions of the tripartite agreements with workers. The latest agreement being the one made in presence of LDC, Lucknow wherein the management agreed to end the lock-out and take back the workers in phases, distribute the salary and implement all earlier agreements. But, this time again, the management refused to implement the terms of the agreement forcing the workers to take their battle to the state capital.
CISF Kills innocent Youth in Dhanbad, Protesting CPI(ML) Activists Lathicharged
CISF personnel killed an innocent youth and injured his younger brother in village Nayadih Kusunda of Dhanbad district. Their 'crime' was that their goat, while grazing, entered the coal dump area. First the younger brother, Sunil, who went to spot to take his goat back, was severely beaten up and when the elder brother Dharmendra, 21, reached to the spot to register his protest, he was shot dead. The CISF later fabricated the story that the two brothers were part of a gang of coal thieves who in a group of around hundred attacked CISF jawans to snatch rifles.
An investigation team of Dhanbad district committee, led by District Secretary Sukhdev Prasad, visited the spot. Local people and party activists blocked the Dhanbad-Bokaro road in protest. CISF resorted to brutal lathicharge. Even women, elders and onlookers were not spared. Party has demanded immediate arrest of killer CISF jawans under charges of murder, job and monetary compensation to the family of deceased, and punishment to the police officials responsible for lathicharge on the agitating people.
Veteran Party leader, Comrade Rabin Ghosh died on 13 August at 3.30 A.M. in a private hospital in Kolkata at the age of 75. He had been suffering from Cancer.
Comrade Rabin Ghosh joined the communist movement in his youth. He joined Indian Air Force in the year 1952. There he started building communist party in secret. When it came into the notice of Air Force authority he was terminated from the job In 1955. He came back to Kolkata and started communist activities. Comrade Rabin Ghosh after completing graduation from Kolkata University took a job as a photographer in public relation department of Durgapur Steel Project. In 1967 he stood in support of great Naxalbari movement and joined CPI(ML) when it was formed. He started party work among workers of Durgapur area. He took exemplary role in the heroic struggles of Durgapur workers in the year of 1966 and 1971. In the turbulent days of 70s, Rabin da’s house was one of the important underground shelters of the party. He left his service in 1974 and went to Jalpaiguri district as a wholetime party worker. He was arrested by police there in the year 1976.
After coming out of the Jail, he again started party work in Durgapur and became a member of Durgapur Industrial committee of the party. Besides regular party work he was also associated with many little magazines there and became president of Durgapur Press Club. Later, he came to Calcutta and became secretary of Tollygaunj area committee of the party.
Comrade Rabin Ghosh from beginning to end was a dedicated communist. He was modest, hard working, full of enthusiasm and very popular among party members and common people. He passed away leaving his wife Namita Ghosh and a son and a daughter.
Party deeply mourns the sad death of Comrade Rabin Ghosh.
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication, R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22518248, e-mail: email@example.com, website: www.cpiml.org
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