Jharkhand and J&K Election Results and the Modi Sarkar's Continuing Corporate and Communal Offensive
With the declaration of the results of the last leg of 2014 elections, the BJP has predictably added Jharkhand to its kitty even as it emerged as the second largest party in a highly polarised and fragmented Jammu & Kashmir. While this has been the best ever showing of the party in the Assemblies of these two states, the outcome has fallen significantly short of what the BJP had expected or most pollsters had generously predicted. In Kashmir, the BJP failed to open its account in the valley and in Jharkhand it could barely cross the majority mark only after it changed tack to seal a last minute pre-poll alliance with the AJSU.
While the BJP's central poll plank that sought a clear and complete majority for the party did not cut much ice with the Jharkhand electorate, what stood out was the electorate's rejection of every leader who has been in power till date. Jharkhand's former BJP CM Babulal Marandi was decisively defeated in his home constituency Dhanwar by CPI(ML)'s Rajkumar Yadav, (although unfortunately this significant victory was accompanied by the loss of the historic Bagodar seat which the CPI(ML) has been representing uninterruptedly since 1990, defying the assassination of Comrade Mahendra Singh during the 2005 elections). Meanwhile, the other BJP CM, Arjun Munda, had to bite the dust in his traditional seat Kharsawan. Notoriously corrupt former CM Madhu Koda lost at Majhganon; Deputy CM, and AJSU chief, Sudesh Mahato was defeated at Silli; and even the outgoing CM Hemant Soren of JMM finished second at Dumka.
For the BJP-AJSU combine in Jharkhand, the key challenge now will be the choice of the new leader, a question that was put off at the time of the election campaign with the projection of a BJP-led government in Jharkhand as just another branch of 'Modi sarkar'. The J&K elections, on the other hand, have produced a hung assembly, leaving the entire issue of formation of the new government at the mercy of intricate post-poll calculations. Even though the BJP in Kashmir has put a temporary tactical lid on its strategic call for abrogation of Article 370, the ascent of the Modi regime in Delhi with its unmistakable agenda of unmitigated Hindutva has already vitiated the political environment in Kashmir no end. Any intervention of the BJP in the formation of the government in Kashmir can only be a recipe for greater instability.
As the year draws to a close and the Modi juggernaut rolls along, albeit with diminishing electoral steam, the coming year will surely pose major challenges on every front of our collective existence. The indications are already crystal clear. On the economic front, the government is moving towards privatisation of all our key sectors. The high decibel 'make in India' campaign is being used not only to promote indiscriminate entry of FDI but also to ride roughshod over all environmental and labour rights safeguards to sell India as a lucrative destination for FDI. And hand in hand with this economic onslaught is the growing communal and sectarian aggression of the Sangh brigade replete with shrill cries of 'gharwapsi' and 'Hindu Rashtra'. Modi and his ministers are also making no secret of their utter contempt for the principles and institutions of constitutional democracy and norms of parliamentary accountability.
The growing offensive of the RSS has renewed the dilemma of India's professedly liberal rightwingers. They would like us to believe that the Hindutva aggression is the handiwork of a few fringe forces and that Modi is serious about disciplining them and confining them to the 'Laxmanrekha' of constitution and governance. Nothing could be more facile than this illusion. In the post-Emergency Janata Party regime, representatives of the Sangh had to face isolation over the issue of their Sanghi identity and allegiance. During the Vajpayee era, the Sangh had to invoke the analogy of the mask to simultaneously legitimise the appearance and the essence. And now while the Sangh hails Modi as its first authentic and organic product occupying the high office, Modi is taking every opportunity to expand the imprint and intervention of the RSS in the functioning of his government. The Sangh-BJP symbiosis could not possibly get any more brazen.
While liberals are faced with the challenge of demarcating themselves from the growing communal-authoritarian direction of the Modi regime, the task of resisting the offensive lies squarely with the fighting forces of the Left and various streams of people's movements on the ground. Having effectively replaced the Congress, the BJP under Modi is now increasingly targeting non-Congress ruled states and the Left will have to face this challenge head-on. By all indications, 2015 will be a key year in the battle for the future of India and revolutionary communists will have to intensify the resistance on every front, taking any electoral reverses boldly in their stride.
Lessons for Pakistan, India and the Subcontinent
The barbaric massacre of 132 school children in Peshawar by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has underlined the senselessness and inhumanity of the toxic cocktail of religion and politics. This unspeakable crime must mark the beginning of the end of the Taliban and intensify our resistance against every variety of religious fundamentalist violence.
The Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as the Boko Haram and ISIS plan and execute the deliberate, cold-blooded, planned massacre of unarmed innocents in the name of religion.
The Peshawar massacre, terrible as it is, could mark a turning point for Pakistan. For decades, the Army has had an overbearing presence over Pakistan's democracy, while Pakistan's rulers have appeased religious fundamentalists and US imperialism at the same time. Various fundamentalist and terrorist outfits have been nurtured by the Pakistani State in collusion with US imperialism.
It is well documented how the US in collaboration with the ISI and Pakistani military helped create and cosset the Taliban and other extremist groups in Afghanistan, and fuelled the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan too. In May 2009, the then Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari told a US TV channel that the Taliban "was part of your past and our past, and the ISI and CIA created them together." The same month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said about the Taliban, "We came in the 1980s and helped to build up Mujahedeen to take on the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis were our partners in that. Their security service and their military were encouraged and funded by the United States to create the Mujahedeen in order to go after the Soviet invasion and occupation." Not only the Afghan Taliban but also the al Qaeda were products of this phase of CIA and ISI collaboration, also fuelled by Saudi money.
Even after the cold war ended, the Clinton administration, along with Benazir Bhutto's government in Pakistan, continued to do business with the Afghan Taliban, using it to protect US oil interests in the region. In a later phase of increasing confrontation between the al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, the latter began to use Pakistan's autonomous tribal territories as a hide-out. The US ignored it in return for bases for US troops in Pakistan.
But the moves made by the US supposedly to 'fix' the mess they themselves created in Pakistan, created new dangers. The US began pressurizing Pakistan to send in its Army into the autonomous regions. The tribal chieftains saw the incursions as a betrayal of their traditional pact with Pakistan's rulers. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan took root in this period, nourished by the anger against the Pakistan Army and US drone attacks that took a huge toll of civilian lives in the region. Pakistan's people – and the children in Peshawar – are paying a terrible toll for the deals made by their own rulers and the US, with terrorists.
What is striking and welcome, after recent episodes of terrorism, has been the refusal of people to succumb to the climate of Islamophobia. On the day that hostages were held hostage in a Sydney café, tens of thousands of ordinary Australians flooded social media and real life with the offer "I'll ride with you", offering to travel on public transport with Muslims scared of reprisals. In India after the Peshawar attack, social media was flooded by the spontaneous expression of solidarity – 'India with Pakistan'. And when one of the key accused in the Mumbai terror attack case was given bail by a Pakistan court, Pakistani people reciprocated by echoing the outrage felt by Indians.
This mutual solidarity threatened political hate-mongers in both India and Pakistan. The Delhi Police detained eminent citizens and students seeking to light candles at India Gate in solidarity with the children and people of Pakistan ravaged by the Peshawar attack. Clearly, India's current regime recognizes that Indian people's rejection of Islamophobia and solidarity with Pakistan can deal a blow to their politics of divisiveness and communal hatred.
In many ways, the Peshawar massacre and Pakistan's current situation is a warning to India, of the consequences of the toxic mix of religion and politics and of being a tool of US imperialism in the region. India under Narendra Modi has, in the last six months, already begun its journey down the slippery slope of majoritarian hatred and violence. Nearly every day, a functionary of the Government or the ruling party declares the country to be a Hindu nation rather than governed by a secular Constitution. The RSS has dropped all pretence of being a 'cultural' outfit and is wielding its political influence in key areas of governance more and more openly. Violent intimidation of minorities, imposition of moral policing in the name of 'Indian culture' and suppression of dissent are on the rise. And India's current and recent rulers have been vying to replace Pakistan as the US' favoured ally and partner.
The Pakistani State needs to urgently introspect, take stock and correct course. Religious fundamentalist politics, terrorism and violence perpetrated by stoking religious emotions, have taken a terrible toll in every country in the sub-continent. The solidarity forged across countries following the Peshawar attack must help the democracy-loving people of the entire sub-continent to defeat the hate-mongers and achieve peace and unity.
Arwal-Paliganj bandh, and statewide protests in Bihar against feudal carnage
After the recent Pura massacre in Gaya district, the Kurmuri rape in Bhojpur, and burning alive of Sai Ram in Rohtas, feudal criminal forces have perpetrated yet again carnage – this time in Bhaisasur Jalkhar in Kosdihara (Paliganj). Four fishermen were brutally murdered and 2 others injured on 14 December; the victims were CPI(ML )activists and supporters.
On hearing news of the murders, thousands of CPI(ML) activists and supporters blocked the Jehanabad-Arwal road demanding the immediate arrest of all the six accused. A CPI(ML) team consisting of former MP Com. Rameshwar Prasad, Com. Mahanand, Com. Anwar Hussain and Com. Rambali Yadav conducted a detailed enquiry into the incident and met the families of the victims. Com. Kunal, Amar, and Lalan Singh met the injured at the PMCH in Patna. Expressing his views on the brutal carnage, Com. Kunal said that the Bihar government has failed miserably in reining in these feudal criminal forces. Despite talks of empowerment of the poor, oppression is sharply on the rise. The JD (U), along with the BJP, is responsible for boosting the morale of these forces, resulting in a renewed spate of massacres. He pointed out that the dissolution of the Amir Das commission has raised the morale of these forces to its peak. The Kosdihara victims were fishermen belonging to the Bind caste and were killed by a gang led by Chandrakant Sharma, Subhash Sharma, Jumhan Khan and Raju Khan who wanted to stop their fishing work and establish control over the Bhaisasur Jalkhar.
On 16 December, a bandh was called in Arwal-Paliganj and the day was observed as Protest Day across the State. Protest marches were held and Chief Minister Jitanram Majhi's effigies were burnt at several places. The last rites of the victims were performed on the banks of the Son river at Arwal. Addressing the condolence meeting which followed, Party leaders said that the 5 lakh rupees compensation announced by the Bihar government is not justice for the poor but a cruel deception. They asserted that the protests would continue unless the perpetrators were immediately arrested and strict punishment given to them. Thousands of Party activists and supporters poured out into the streets and blocked the Patna-Aurangabad road. A huge public meeting was also organized at the Jehanabad crossing.
The Paliganj and Dulhin bazaar bandhs in Patna district were also effective, with all shops remaining closed and traffic coming to a standstill. Effective protests, bandhs, and road blocks were also organized at Bikram, Masaudhi, Dhanrua, Naubatpur, Bihata, Punpun, Phulwari, Sampatchak and Fatuha. In the capital Patna, a protest march led by Com. Santosh Sahar was taken out from the radio station to station Golambar demanding the immediate arrest of the feudal criminals who perpetrated the Kosdihara carnage. Protest marches were also held in Bhojpur, Sahar, Charpokhri, Jagdishpur and Siwan district. A public meeting was organized at the Jehanabad road-Arwal crossing. Protest marches were taken out and effigies of Chief Minister Jitanram Majhi burnt at Nalanda, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Purnea, Bhagalpur and other places.
According to the report of the CPI(ML) enquiry committee, on 14 December some fishermen from Mungila village in Paliganj block were fishing in Bhaisasur Jalkhar for which Anil Chandravanshi had already obtained rights through an auction. A feudal criminal gang led by Chandrakant Sharma and Subhash Sharma of Rampur Aiyara, and Juman Khan and Raju Khan of Jamharu stopped the fishermen in their work and the controversy escalated as this gang wished to establish its rights over the Jalkhar. The fishermen tried to run from the place, and at around 10 pm the gang fired on them, killing four and critically injuring two. The four persons killed were Manish Bind (20), Janardan Bind (17), Rameshwar Bind and Uday Bind. Rameshwar Bind was a member of the CPI(ML), while Uday Bind's father Lali Bind is a village level Party activist. The injured Rajni Bind and Anil Bind are being treated at PCMH Patna.
Protests in Delhi against sexual violence and for women's freedom
Two years after the brutal gang rape of a young woman in Delhi, which sparked off massive protests not only in Delhi but across the country, protests were held to reiterate demands for women's freedom from sexual violence and moral policing. Onwards to 16 December, the JNU Students' Union commemorated and saluted the spirit of the anti-rape movement which followed the brutal gangrape and murder in December 2012. A public meeting organised by JNUSU in JNU, which was addressed by AIPWA secretary Kavita Krishnan and noted Supreme Court advocate Vrinda Grover. Raising the issue of the recent rape in an Uber cab in Delhi, as well the continuing patriarchal and communal diktats to control women's dress, choices and movement, Com. Kavita talked of the need to place women's freedom and autonomy at the centre of the discourse around sexual violence. She pointed out that coercion and violence against women and couples who defy caste, creed and gender norms to love, is as much against women's consent as is rape. Vrinda Grover, addressing the meeting, talked of the need to challenge the State's response to sexual violence, which invariably centres around awarding the death penalty in a few cases while it refuses to respect and acknowledge freedom of women. After the public meeting, hundreds of students marched to the Munirka Bus Stop, where the victim and her friend were picked up by a private bus two years ago, and then raped.
On 16 December, various women's groups in Delhi – including AIDWA, AIPWA, NFIW, PMS, Jagori and others – held a united protest at Jantar Mantar. Com. Kavita addressed the meeting on behalf of AIPWA.
Workshop for women workers at Haldwani
AICCTU organized a State-level workshop for women workers on 7 December 2014 at Haldwani in Uttarakhand. Inaugurating the workshop, AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishnan said that Prime Minister Modi's "Shrameva Jayate" in reality translates into "no respect, no identity for work " and, along with "Make in India", is actually the key for corporate houses to loot labour freely. She pointed out that women's labour has become a synonym in all work sectors for maximum work, minimum payment, and minimum safety. The onus of improving the abysmal state of rural health has been put on ASHA and anganwadi workers, but they are being deprived of their rights and identity. She said that the government is denying these women workers government employee status on the shameful pretext that as they give these services free to their family, similarly they should give these services free to society also. This is a huge insult to the women's work force, she pointed out. Com. Kavita said that crimes against women are on the rise as powerful perpetrators go unpunished and projects for women' s safety such as shelters for working women and crisis centres have been shelved on the pretext of lack of funds. She pointed out that incidents of violence against women are rising in Uttarakhand also but there is no system in place for prevention and effective punishment.
AICCTU leader KK Bora presented a report on the state and organization of women workers and possibilities of movements and struggles in the future. Several women workers related their experiences of work and struggle. AICCTU National Vice President Raja Bahuguna said that governments boasting of women empowerment are openly exploiting and oppressing women workers, who have never got their due in Uttarakhand. He stressed that organization and struggle are the two key tools through which anti-worker governments can be challenged. The workshop was also addressed by Kamla Kunjwal, Saraswati Punetha, Rita Kashyap, Janaki Gururani, and Kulvinder Kaur. Bahadur Singh Jangi, Kailash Joshi, Vipin Shukla, Lalit Matiyali, Ruby, Kamal Joshi and others were present at the workshop.
Workers' Protests in Bangalore
Thousands of workers participated in a demonstration by AICCTU and BBMP Guttige Poura Karmikara Singha against the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), demanding implementation of minimum wages, arrears since April 2013 and prompt payment of wages on the 10th of every month.
About 2000 contract sanitation workers protested at the BBMP office at Bangalore on 10 December from 11 am to 6 pm, demanding notified minimum wages with dearness allowance at the rate of Rs 8558. Net payable amount after PF and ESI deduction, is Rs. 6553. The union leaders Com. S. Balan, Clifton, Com. Shankar and others held discussions with the labour minister and labour commissioner on 27 August 2014. As there was no substantial result of this meeting except for the Labour Commissioner's letter reaching the BBMP Commissioner's office, union leaders headed by Com. Balan demanded that the BBMP commissioner take immediate action. The BBMP commissioner announced that the said payments would be made, and he instructed his deputies to make arrangements to ensure prompt payments. He assured that erring contracters will be blacklisted and prosecuted.
In order to mobilize workers, the union had organised a series of meetings for three weeks prior to the 10 December protest. The union has also filed 1200 cases with the Labour Comissioner under rule 25(2) (v) (a) of CLARA, citing multiple violations of workers' rights.
Left activists protest against Taliban in Lahore
In the wake of the horrific killing of school children in Peshawar in Pakistan, Left parties in Pakistan held a massive protest in Lahore on 21 December against the Taliban. The following press statement was released:
Press Release - The Left Stands United Against Religious Fascism and State-Sponsored Terrorism
Hundreds of Left activists demonstrated in Lahore against Peshawar school massacre, and Talibaisation of the state and society. The protest was jointly organized by Awami Workers Party (AWP) and Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP) this afternoon at Charing Cross, Lahore. The rally chanted slogans against the rise of religious fundamentalism, Taliban and terrorism, demanded separation of state from religion.
Farooq Tariq, General Secretary, AWP said that religious fundamentalism has emerged as the biggest challenge and an obstacle to development of our society. It has not only engulfed large section of the middle class but also a significant section of working class. However the Peshawar attack has shaken the consciousness in a very dramatic manner. Today all those who were supporters of Taliban are forced to speak against them, including right-wing political parties who have been actively supporting them including PTI and JI. He demanded arrest of Mullah Aziz and all those defenders of terrorism in Pakistan. He said that most madrasas have become breeding-homes of fanatic ideas and demanded that all the madrasas should be nationalised. He also demanded separation of state from religion.
Taimur Rehman, General Secretary, CMKP presented a charter of demand/communique of the left that included demands: no dialogue with the taliban, nationalization of the all madrasas and converting into regular schools, delinking of links between the state and religious fascists, separation of the state and religion, and continued measures by the state to root out religious fascism.
Zahid Parvez, President Lahore- AWP and Comrade Irfan Ali from CMKP also addressed the rally. They said that hanging won't absolve the state and the government from many hard decisions. The continued Islamization and militarization of the state, which was started by General Zial-ul-Haq, must be stopped. Baba Najmi also attended the rally.
The rally raised slogans against Taliban, terrorism and expressed solidarity with the families of those who were martyred or injured in Peshawar school massacre.
Farooq Tariq, General Secretary, AWP
Protests were also held in Delhi; JNUSU and AISA participated in a joint citizen's protest and candle light vigil which was held at India Gate against religious fundamentalism. Several students, teachers, intellectuals and activists from Delhi participated in the protest. However, as soon as the protestors gathered at India Gate and lit candles in memory of the children killed in Peshawar, the Delhi Police arrived and detained all those assembled. The protestors were taken to the Parliament Street police station and detain for some hours.
In Patna, AISA, AIPWA, RYA and Jan Sanskriti Manch held a candle march against war and terrorism from J.P. Golambar to Buddha Smriti park. The march culminated in a condolence meeting for the children killed in Peshawar.