A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol.19 | No. 05 | 26 JAN- 1 FEB 2016
Reflections on Republic Day
Republic Day 2016 is no occasion for celebration but one for somber reflection. The suicide of Dalit scholar and scientist Rohith Vemula is a grim reminder of the fact that India continues to live the "life of contradictions" that Dr. Ambedkar warned about 67 years ago: contradictions between formal political equality, and entrenched inequality in our social and economic structures.
The President's speech on the eve of Republic Day, however, failed even to attempt to reflect on these contradictions. The President chose to quote Dr Radhakrishnan's words, that the "End-product of education should be a free creative man who can battle against historical circumstances and adversities of nature." These words ring hollow and hypocritical as we remember Rohith Vemula's anguish at the fact that as a Dalit, he could never be "treated as a mind" and was never allowed to overcome "the fatal accident of (his) birth."
Education in India is shackled by caste discrimination. Dalit students are still subjected to segregation and untouchability in schools. 23 of out 25 cases of suicides in higher education institutions since 2007 were of Dalits. Drop-out rates of Dalits and others who suffer social and economic deprivations are high, with discrimination masquerading as 'meritocracy', and beneficiaries of reservations being branded "less deserving." As the courageous students who raised slogans against the Prime Minister at the BR Ambedkar University convocation at Lucknow observed, Ekalavyas continue to be oppressed by Dronacharyas even today. How can the President's words announcing "generational change" and proclaiming that "Youth have taken centre stage" have any meaning as long as idealistic and committed youth like Rohith – and those demanding justice for Rohith today – are hounded by those in power?
While protesting students, Dalits, peasants, women and common citizens demanding social and economic justice as well as Constitutional rights and liberties are indeed the best expression of the spirit of the Republic, it is ironic that they are being branded 'anti-national' by those ruling at the Centre. The Padma awards this year chose to reward many of those who had condemned the writers, artists and citizens who had returned awards to protest against State-sponsored bigotry.
It is a matter of concern that the official observance of Republic Day reduces citizens to spectators at a parade of military hardware. But it is even more of a concern that for the past two years, the Modi regime has turned it into a foreign policy event.
This year, for the first time ever, India invited foreign troops to lead the Republic Day parade. The French Army's 35th Infantry Regiment's colonial legacy (in particular, the invasion of Algeria in 1830 which was followed by fierce anti-colonial resistance) and its more recent imperialist legacy of invading Afghanistan in 2001 were highlighted in the Indian and international media, along with its joint counter-terrorism exercises with Indian Army personnel earlier this month. India's Republic Day is a tribute to India's anti-colonial resistance; and this legacy is deeply tarnished by a decision to honour this colonial-imperialist legacy. The question to be asked is, if India would next invite British troops that subjugated and massacred Indian anti-colonial fighters, to lead the Republic Day parade?
Modi's choice of Republic Day guests – US President Barack Obama last year, and French President Francois Hollande this year – as well as this unprecedented decision to invite French troops to lead the parade, are worrying indications of the level on which India has begun to flaunt her strategic identification with Western imperialist powers and especially with the most aggressive champions of the 'war on terror.'
At the same time, the Modi Government is also aggressively pursuing the 'Make in India' model, suppressing wages, safety measures, labour laws, environmental protections and industrial democracy and selling out India's land and precious resources to woo Indian and foreign corporations. The notorious Rafale Deal as well as the Jaitapur Nuclear project, being pursued by Modi and Hollande, are symbolic of this devastating model. The moribund French company Dassault is being given a fresh breath of life by India's offer to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets at a hugely inflated price. The protests of the peasants and fisher-people of Jaitapur, and pressing concerns of safety, livelihood and environmental protection are being ignored in order to push the French company Areva's reactor, which even French regulators have deemed to have serious design flaws.
The core values of India's Republic are being eroded rapidly by the Modi Government as it intensifies the assault on freedom to dissent, the rights and dignity of Dalits, women and minorities, and surrenders the interests of India's citizens at the altar of corporate greed. It is the people's movements in the country that are battling brutal repression and injustice to reclaim the republic.
Mahendra Singh Martyrdom Day Observed All Over Jharkhand
Sankalp Sabha held in Bagodar, Call for 'Ghera Dalo' for Food Security & Ration Cards from 9 February
The 11th martyrdom anniversary of people's hero Comrade Mahendra Singh was observed as 'sankalp diwas' (pledge day) all over Jharkhand on 16 January.
People thronged in huge numbers at the Jan Sankalp rally held at bus terminal ground in Bagodar in Giridih district of Jharkhand to remember their beloved leader who had led a fearless struggle against all oppressive forces and embraced martyrdom eleven years ago.
The rally was addressed by CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya. He said that today there is once again a situation similar to the 1975 Emergency days; the promise of 'achhe din' has changed to the reality of 'bure din' (bad days); stoking communal passions and working for the interests of corporate houses is being done in the name of 'development'; minorities are facing increased intolerance and being victimised in the name of terrorism; adivasis are being discriminated against in the name of counter-insurgency; voices of dissent are being ruthlessly crushed. There is not a single deed accomplished by the Modi Government which can be said to be in favour of the poor. Com. Dipankar stressed the need for pledging to fulfill Mahendra Singh's dreams, which is the only way the anti-people policies of the Central and State governments can be resisted and the agenda of the fascists can be given a befitting reply.
He also mentioned the recent incident of Birni block panchayat Chairperson's election where a ruling party candidate was declared elected in spite of the fact that he did not enjoy majority support and expressed confidence in people's struggles which will certainly give a befitting reply to the district administration's blatant act of electoral malpractice.
The meeting was also addressed by former MLA Vinod Singh and Rajdhanwar MLA Rajkumar Yadav. Marxist Coordination Committee's MLA from Nirsa Arup Chatterjee addressed the rally and remembered the legacy of martyred comrades Mahendra Singh and Arup Chatterjee.
Early in the morning, the life size statue of Mahendra Singh at his native village Khambra was garlanded by leaders, who then proceeded to Bagodar town to pay tributes at his statue at Kisan Bhawan.
People also pledged to intensify the movement for food security and BPL ration cards and to resist the ongoing land grab by the corporates, announcing a district-level sit-in (Dera Dalo Ghera Dalo) campaign on 9 February on the issue of food rations.
On the same day, a Sankalp Sabha was organized at Albert Ekka Chowk in Ranchi which began with party's veteran leader Sukhdev Prasad and social activist Father Stan Swamy paying floral tributes to the martyr. The meeting was addressed by Comrades Shubhendu Sen, Bhuvaneshwar Kewat and many others. They said that successive state governments had ensured that even after 12 years the killers of Mahendra Singh have not been punished.
They also condemned the verdict of double life imprisonment against the 8 Pricol workers in Coimbatore and termed it as a step taken to strike terror in the hearts of the working class. They reiterated the resolve to fight against 'Company Raj' to save 'jal, jangal, jameen' (water, forest and land resources). Filmmaker Meghnath said that when the real heroes of the country fighting for the rights of the oppressed come on the political stage, those in the echelons of power tremble. That is the reason why the governments serving the corrupt corporates are afraid.
The CPI State Secretary KD Singh said that Mahendra Singh will always be remembered in the annals of Left movement as a brave fighter. CPIM State Secretary Gopi Kant Bakshi said that a united Left would carry forward Mahendra Singh's fight.
A march was held in Ramgarh, in which protesters condemned the move to create land banks by snatching gair-mazarua land (commons lands) from the poor only to hand it over to the big corporates. Protesters also demanded land rights for the poor and condemned the ongoing process of exclusion of almost 80% poor from the ambit of the Food Security Act.
Hundreds of activists paid tributes to comrade Mahendra Singh in Hesalong village in Hazaribagh district while a talk was organised in Dhanbad on 'Current Political Challenges and the Path Shown by Comrade Mahendra Singh'. Cadre conventions were organised in various blocks of Deoghar and Jamtara districts and thousands marched in Palmou, Garhwa, Latehar, Gumla and other places. Similar programmes were held in Koderma, Bokaro, Lohardaga and other districts.
'Jabab Chai' Rally at Shahid Minar in Kolkata
Against Mamata Misrule and CPIM's Betrayal
Several processions of peasants, agricultural labourers, workers from jute, tea, construction and other non-formal sectors, students and youth, and others marched to join the 'Jabab chai' (Demand Answers) rally at Shahid Minar in Kolkata on 21 January. They came holding banners and placards from different corners of the state to the Maidan braving a chill in the wind. Women constituted a large segment of the rally.
The meeting began with rousing songs reflecting the rally's mood, by cultural activists Halishahar Sanskritik Sangstha, Chalar Pathe from Bujbuj, Mira Chaturvedi from North Bengal, Raka and Sanjay, Biswarup Basak, Nitish Roy and Ashok Chakravarty. An adivasi team from Bankura also gave a dance performance.
Party General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, State Secretary Partha Ghosh, Politburo members Swadesh Bhattacharya, Kartick Pal, Arindam Sen, and Dhurjoti Bakshi as well as state committee members and mass organization leaders were on the dais.
In his opening address CCM Abhijit Mazumdar spoke briefly on the deplorable situation prevailing in Bengal under Mamata regime with special emphasis on the starvation deaths of tea workers. Partha Ghosh then spoke, exposing the ruling TMC's deliberate plans for unleashing terror on any sort of democratic protests. Peasantry and the working population in Bengal are reeling under severe crisis pertaining to price hike, lack of access to food, deprivation from minimum wages, unemployment, poor people have already been fleeced of their petty reserves by the chit funds run and supported by the MPs and ministers of Mamata cabinet. He also vehemently criticized the Chief Minister for letting loose lumpens in all sectors and called it a 'Syndicate Raj'. He also stressed the need to resist every attack on democratic rights and the need for a massive left and democratic resistance that would keep away from opportunistic coalitions with the corrupt Congress. He warned that TMC is only an off-shoot of the autocratic Congress and it would be suicidal for CPIM to join hands with them. Comrade Mina Pal spoke of the struggles of working women and working people in West Bengal, and the need to strengthen these. Kartick Pal took on the CPIM for committing shameful criminal deeds in Singur and Nandigram and asked CPIM leaders to accept the responsibility of their wrongdoing and apologise before the masses. That only can pave the way for a consolidated left counter-offensive in the forthcoming assembly election.
As the principal speaker of the rally, Comrade Dipankar said that in 2011 only the 'signboard' of the ruling party in Bengal had changed and the people of Bengal has been suffering the bane of misrule for the last 5 years. In 2014 there had been a change in the Central Government too with BJP coming to power with absolute majority. And an uncanny similarity is being seen in the function of both the governments, with tall promises amounting to nothing. All over the country people's protests are taking on to the streets in large numbers. In Bengal similar protests are also visible. A concerted left resistance is needed now to overthrow the Mamata regime. He expressed his surprise over the CPIM view and insisted that the people of Bengal will never accept a CPIM-Congress unholy alliance that denies the historic legacy of left movements here. The need of the hour is to call for a struggling left unity on the bulwark of mutual faith and respect. The future of leftism depends much on the united struggle, not in opportunistic electioneering. The people of Bengal have already discarded the efforts of the communal-corporate BJP to expand their strength. BJP has no future in Bengal. Our immediate task is to reiterate the urgency and strengthen the unity of the toiling masses to fight out the enemies of the people.
The rally was presided over by State secretariat member Com. Basudeb Basu.
Countrywide Solidarity With Struggle for Justice for Rohith Vemula
(Some of the solidarity actions in which CPIML and its mass organizations have participated in, are summarized below)
After Rohith Vemula's tragic suicide on 17 January, AISA and CPI(ML) have led as well as been part of several joint actions against the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula.
On the day after Rohith's suicide, there was a massive joint protest at the MHRD office in Delhi. Students were brutally lathi charged where AISA DU activist Sudhanshu Shekhar was badly injured in the head and had to be taken to the hospital. Several others too, including AISA JNU President Shweta Raj, were injured. On 19 January, AISA-RYA called for a National Protest Day on the issue, and subsequently protests were held across the country where the MHRD letters to the administration of University of Hyderabad were released and the role of the MHRD nailed.
Besides Delhi, protests were also held in other parts of the country. AISA unit of the Madurai Kamaraj University held protests in their campus. In Patna, students, youth, cultural activists, Left-democratic activists and citizens took out a protest march which culminated in a meeting attended by CPI (ML) General Secretary Com. Dipankar, State Secretary Com. Kunal, CPI (M) leader Com. Arun, as well as Prof. Nawal Kishore Choudhary. Protests and effigy burnings were also held in Jamui, Samastipur and Bhagalpur in Bihar.
On 21 January, responding to the call issued by the Joint Action Committee in Hyderabad, a protest march was held in JNU where the effigy of MHRD Minister Smriti Irani was burnt, and in DU, AISA was a part of a protest march called by Save DU in the Arts Faculty, North Campus. On 23 January students, youth, intellectuals and other progressive sections held a protest in Chandigarh demanding action against Union ministers Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya. CPI (ML) and RYA activists actively participated in the protest.
On 24 January, AISA took the initiative to organise a public meeting in JNU. This meeting, which was addressed by ICSSR chairperson Prof. Sukhdeo Thorat, Prof. Satish Deshpande, journalist Dilip Mandal and others, was very well attended. The speakers and students also saluted the courage of students who had protested against Modi during the convocation ceremony in BBAU.
On 25 January, AIARLA, AIPWA and CPI(ML) held a protest march at Tuni in Andhra Pradesh and also gave the call for 'Solidarity Day' in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana on 28 January. In Delhi, a massive public meeting was organised by AISA at the DU Arts Faculty on the same day which was addressed by several faculty members and intellectuals in Delhi including DUTA President Nandita Narain, Aditya Nigam, noted journalist Dilip Mandal, artist Shuddhabrata Sengupta, AISA national president Sucheta De, JNUSU VP Shehla Rashid, and the students who protested against Modi at the BBAU convocation ceremony. AISA Bihar unit gave a call for state-wide protests on 25 January. Responding to this call, Patna University observed a strike, and protests were held at Ara, Samastipur and in other parts of the state.
On Republic Day, the AISA-RYA unit of Villupuram, Tamil Nadu, demonstrated demanding the arrest of district authorities, Vice Chancellor and others related to suicide of three girl students in SVS college; they also demanded justice for Rohith. Comrades were arrested and later released in the afternoon.
AISA has been in close touch with the JAC in Hyderabad, and has promised all possible support for the students' struggle there. Apart from the solidarity visit on 20-21 January by a team consisting of CPI (ML) Politburo member Kavita Krishnan and former JNUSU Gen. Sec. Chintu, along with JNUSU VP Shehla, AISA leaders- former JNUSU VP Anant and former JNUSU Joint Secretary Piyush Raj have also gone to Hyderabad to be part of the 'HCU Chalo' call on 25 January.
A Delhi chapter of the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice has been formed, and in solidarity with the ongoing protests in Hyderabad, a massive protest has been called on 27 January 2016.
AICCTU Observes PRICOL Workers' Solidarity Day
On 18 January 2016, AICCTU organized demonstrations in many parts of Tamil Nadu demanding justice for the eight Pricol workers who are languishing in jail with double life sentence. State and District leaders of all central Trade unions including CITU, AITUC, HMS, LPF, INTUC, BMS, MLF, NTUI and other state level unions also took part in the 'Free Pricol Eight' campaign. Campaigners also voiced for the release for Maruti workers who have been condemned to prison without trial for months. Demonstration in Chennai was presided over by Com. Jawahar, state Honorary President AICCTU and inaugurated by Com. Balasundaram, state secretry of CPI(ML). Other speakers who addressed the demonstration were A S Kumar, State Deputy General secretary of AICCTU, A Marx , Human right activist, Geetha of Unorganised workers' federation, Kumarasamy, National president of AICCTU. Activists of Democratic Advocates' Association, AISA, RYA and AIPWA also took part.
Demonstration held in Coimbatore was presided over by Damodharan, state President of AICCTU. Leaders of CITU, LPF, HMS, INTUC, MLF and BMS also took part. Protest demonstrations were also held at Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Karur. In Salem AICCTU cadres met workers and distributed pamphlets and booklets during the campaign for seeking justice for pricol workers. Comrades in Tiruvellore organized a poster campaign demanding release of Pricol right. On 17 January massive signature campaign was organized at Vandalur. All central Trade union leaders criticized the unprecedented repression let loose on Pricol workers and expressed their solidarity to take up the struggle for their release.
AICCTU Dharna in Lucknow
AICCTU and its affiliated labour unions held a dharna in front of the Deputy Labour Commissioner's office in Lucknow on 12 January to protest against anti-worker amendments to the Labour Law by the Modi regime and the growing corporate-fascist attacks against the working class. The speakers on this occasion said that the BJP led Modi government, in the interests of corporate houses, is bent upon making ineffective the labour laws won after hard struggles. A calculated move is on to break the spirit of workers by weakening workers' unions and slapping false cases on workers and punishing them. The latest example of this is in the Pricol factory in Tamil Nadu where 8 workers have been sentenced to double life imprisonment because they participated in workers' struggles. Condemning this action severely, the speakers demanded the release of these 8 workers. They also condemned the Central and State governments for failing to alleviate the socio-economic conditions of construction workers. The dharna was addressed by CPI(ML) leader Ramesh Singh Sengar, AICCTU district convener Surendra Prasad, Construction Workers' Union President Naumilal among others. A 9-point charter of demands was submitted to the President through the Deputy Labour Commissioner.
Midday Meal Workers Protest
Before the elections the Bihar government had raised the honorarium of midday meal workers by 25% due to pressure from the district and state level series of agitations. As a result of these struggles, the midday meal workers should have got Rs. 1,250 instead of Rs 1,000 from August 2015 onwards. However, the ground reality is that in most schools honorarium for only three months has been paid in 2015. The government had also announced that in case of death of a midday meal worker, the family of the worker would receive a compensation grant of 4 lakhs; however, as they have no identity cards, on what basis can their families receive this grant?
With the above demands the Fatuha unit of the Bihar State Rasoiya Sangh staged a protest at the Fatuha block office on 8 January 2016 led by the association's state President Saroj Choube and Joint Secretary Sona Devi. Fatuha unit Joint Secretary Shanti Devi, Treasurer Savitri Devi, Subhadra Devi, Kanchan Devi, and CPI(ML) Fatuha Secretary Shailendra Yadav addressed the protesters. The midday meal workers from Belchhi and Daniyawan also joined the protest.
The rally proceeded from Fatuha railway station, with women shouting slogans such as 'Saadhe barah sau mein dum nahin, 1500 se kam nahin' (Even Rs. 1250 is not enough, No less than 1500), 'give government employee status to midday meal workers', 'pay honorarium arrears immediately', 'pay honorarium into midday meal workers' accounts', 'issue ID cards to midday meal workers', 'issue 4 cotton saris as uniform', and 'give the benefit of insurance'. In spite of being informed, the BDO was missing from his office.
Addressing the meeting, the speakers said that the government extracted the votes of the midday meal worker by making a paltry increase of Rs. 250 in their honorarium, but now that they are coming to the government with their problems the concerned officers are fleeing away from their offices. The midday meal workers are not being paid the money they have earned and therefore, they must strengthen their organization and further sharpen their agitation.
CPI(ML) Protest at Garhani
On 19 January 2016, a protest was held at Garhani block for a 7 point charter of demands which included: (i) giving land entitlements to the landless poor who had settled on the land of an absentee landlord; (ii) entitlements for the poor who were settled on embankment of the pond in Morsiya Ahar;(iii) enquiry into the bhoodan land in Barap-Baligaon and redistribution of the land among the poor; (iv) to conduct the panchayat elections on party basis and revoking the pre-condition of toilets for the panchayat elections; (v) repairing defunct hand pumps in villages, besides other demands. A memorandum was submitted to the Garhani Zonal Officer following the protest.
Kashmiri Flood Victims Yet To Be Rehabilitated