A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 19 | No. 24 | 7-13 June 2016
Gulberg Society Massacre: Justice Compromised
The Gulberg Society verdict of an Ahmedabad special court, that has convicted 24 and acquitted 36, and dismissed the conspiracy charges "for lack of evidence", cannot satisfy the quest for justice. The Gulberg Society massacre was one of the worst incidents in a pogrom that was unleashed following the Godhra carnage on February 27 2002. The verdict has convicted some leading Vishwa Hindu Parishad figures but has acquitted an accused BJP Councillor as well as police inspector KK Erda.
On February 28, 2002, 69 people including former MP Ahsaan Jafri were killed at Gulberg Society by a mob, and many went missing who were later presumed dead. Survivors accused the police and administration of collusion in the massacre. The SIT appointed by the Supreme Court in 2008 to probe the riot cases, failed to ask crucial questions that would have nailed the deliberate dereliction of duty by the police, administration and Government headed by Narendra Modi.
There are many reasons why the dismissal of conspiracy charges must be challenged in higher courts. First, the landmark verdict in the case of the Naroda Patiya massacre that took place just 4 kilometres away from Gulberg Society, established that the key convicts Babu Bajrangi and Minister Maya Kodnani were kingpins of a conspiracy. Call records show that Bajrangi and the VHP leader Atul Vaidya convicted in the Gulberg case were in close touch with each other; they also show that several key persons from the Chief Minister's office were in the same area as the Gulberg Society on February 27, a day before the massacre. Call records also belie the claim of Ahmedabad's Police Commissioner and other key police officers that they were unaware of the massacre that took place at Gulberg Society.
These call records establish that top police officers had visited the Gulberg Society, were aware that a huge restive mob preparing for violence, and yet, left the place without calling additional troops to control the mob. Witnesses have testified to the fact that Ahsaan Jafri made hundreds of calls for help, to the police as well as to top politicians including India's then Home Minister LK Advani and the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi – but received no help. The Government and police studiously looked the other way and allowed the mob to rape women, lynch Ahsaan Jafri to death and kill 69 people.
The most damning piece of the evidence of the state's collusion in the 2002 pogrom is the conduct of the then CM Modi who is now the Prime Minister. On February 28 2002, Modi made a televised address via Doordarshan in the evening, after the horrific massacres at Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society had ended – but mentioned only the Godhra carnage, remaining silent on these massacres. He claimed to the SIT that he was informed of these massacres only late that night. If senior police officers failed to keep themselves and the CM informed of massacres lasting several hours in broad daylight in the capital city, why were these officers not punished? Why were they, instead, promoted?
The very next day, 1 March 2002, Modi spoke to a television channel and rationalized the Gulberg massacre and in fact, all the riots, as a 'chain of action and reaction.' Modi claimed that Jafri's action of firing at the mob provoked the 'reaction' of the massacre. The question is, had the police and Government responded to Jafri's frantic calls, would he have been left to defend the Gulberg Society from a murderous mob, with nothing but his own gun? The police chargesheet in the Gulberg case had also initially made the same claim that the violence happened because Jafri fired on the mob. Rahul Sharma, the police officer who pointed out that this chargesheet was not consistent with the FIR, was transferred and has faced harassment and victimisaton ever since.
Even today, the Central Government headed by Modi continues to use its power to harass and victimize crusaders for justice like Teesta Setalvad (whose efforts are in large measure responsible for the Naroda Patiya verdict and the partial justice in the Gulberg case) and Indira Jaising who have taken on Modi and his lieutenant Amit Shah.
The recently published book Gujarat Files by journalist Rana Ayyub, detailing conversations with top police officers recorded by her during sting operations, also confirms the complicity of the state in the 2002 pogrom. These conversations record Ashok Narayan, Home Secretary at the time of the pogrom, stating that Modi would issue verbal orders to his favoured and trusted police officers to support the VHP in the rioting, and that Modi did so for 'Hindu votes.' They also record PC Pande, the Ahmedabad Commissioner of Police at the time of the pogrom, justifying the communal violence as Hindu revenge for previous riots in history where he claimed the Muslims had had the upper hand.
Be it the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom patronized by the Congress or the 2002 pogrom by the Gujarat Government headed by Modi, enquiry commissions and courts have failed the victims and survivors. The political kingpins have escaped unscathed; crucial evidence has been ignored; and at best, some pawns have been punished.
The kingpins of the 2002 pogrom are in power at the Centre today and are trying to scuttle justice. But the courageous survivors including Zakia Jafri, and other fighters for justice will not give up. Their struggle is a rallying point for all democratic forces in India.
On the morning of 2 June, the Sarpanch of Bodawal village in Mansa, Punjab, belonging to the ruling Akali Dal accompanied by his goons brutally attacked the Punjab State President of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha (MMM) and Dalit leader, Bhagwant Samaon while he was holding a meeting of agricultural dalit workers in the village. It was while he was holding the meeting that Bodawal sarpanch Surat Singh arrived with his son and other goons and attacked Com. Bhagwant with hovels, resulting in severe head injuries. A female MNREGA worker and MMM activist was also injured in the attack when she tried to resist the attackers in order to protect comrade Bhagawnt.
Com. Bhagwant had been mobilising and organising the labourers in the Bodawal Village against the failure of the Akali Dal government to meet any of the long standing demands of the agrarian workers which included- giving possession of five-marla plots, debt waiver and also to compensate them for the loss of labour due to whitefly attacks.
The recent spate of incidents in Punjab have already shown how the police is a mute spectator in Punjab, completely failing to protect the citizens. While the police have failed to arrest the sarpanch, it is sparing no efforts to try and show that it was Com. Bhagwant who tried to instigate the workers against the government. It is extremely shameful that the local sarpanch and police are acting as musclemen of the ruling Akali Dal. While the state government has no response to the distraught condition of the labourers, it has now become intolerant to the extent that any effort to organise a protest against its anti-poor policies is met by a brutal oppression. Criminalisation and oppression of voices of struggle and dissent have become rampant under the state and Central governments. To protest against the attack on com. Bhagwant and demand the arrest of the attackers a joint protest 'Lalkaar Rally' has been called by the MMM and Punjab Kisan Union.
The CC noted with concern the recent incident of racist violence in Delhi in which a student from Congo was beaten to death. This is the latest in a series of such incidents in recent years – including the stripping of a Tanzanian woman in Bangalore by a mob; the murderous assault in Jalandhar on a student from Burundi that led to his coma and eventual death; the racist campaign by a Minister in Goa against Nigerian nationals; the racist raid on African women by a Delhi Government Minister in Khirki extension in Delhi; and the mob attack on three African men at Rajiv Chowk metro station in Delhi. It is condemnable that external affairs Ministers Sushma Swaraj and VK Singh have responded to the concerns expressed by representatives of High Commissions of African countries by denying the existence of racism in India and blaming the media. Central and State Governments must take up urgent measures to recognise and resist the widespread anti-Black racism in India.
Protest Against Failure to Arrest the Attackers of Com. KK Bora
A workers' protest meeting was held in Ambedkar Park, Rudrapur, Uttarakhand on 6 May 2016, sixteen days after Vice President of AICCTU unit of Uttarakhand, Com. K. K. Bora was brutally attacked. The protestors expressed anger over the fact that even sixteen days after the attack, the attackers had not been arrested.
The meeting was addressed by National Vice President of AICCTU, Raja Bahuguna, CPI(ML) Uttarakhand State Secretary Rajendra Pratholi, Uttarakhand Parivartan Party General Secretary Prabhat Dhyani, Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sabha leader Com. Avtar Singh and several other leaders including Com. K. K. Bora. Representatives from several organisations and progressive individuals joined the protest against the failure of authorities to arrest the attackers. The protest meeting was chaired by state AICCTU President Nishan Singh and it was convened by District AICCTU leader Dinesh Tiwari. A resolution was unanimously passed during the protest meeting that if the attackers were not immediately arrested, a gherao of Kumaon's Commissioner would be done.
Hundreds of farmers staged a Mahadharna under the banner of the All India Kisan Mahasabha in Haldwani and sent a memorandum to the Chief Minister with the demands of the farmers of Bhabhar region and residents of forest villages (Khatta). This farmers dharna was a culmination of a Kisan Sangharsh Yatras taken out from 16 May to 24 May in all the khattas of Terai and villages of Bhabar. Group talks and discussions were held with farmers and other villagers at various places, and efforts were made to understand their problems.
The AIKM demanded construction of banks on both sides of the Gola river and construction of a by-pass road and flyover on Lalkuan railway crossing along with the demands of loan waiver, crop loss compensation, sugar cane arrears payment to farmers, and arrest of the criminals who perpetrated the condemnable attack on AICCTU leader KK Bora.
The Mahadharna held on the anniversary of the completion of 50 years after the Naxalbari farmers' agitation. AIKM State President Purushottam Sharma said that both the Modi government at the Centre and the Congress' Harish Rawat government in the State are neglecting the rights of farmers and farmers are being forced to migrate from Uttarakhand on a large scale. Farmers face ruin today due to drought and debt but the State and Central governments, instead of arranging relief for them, are busy providing relief to capitalists and rich businessmen to the tune of lakhs of crores of rupees.
Com. Sharma alleged that Uttarakhand govt. has made Bindukhatta into a municipality for the benefit of the land mafia and has indulged in political vendetta by slapping dozens of false cases under grave charges on farmers and their leaders engaged in democratic protest. This government has stopped the van gurjars who live inside forest village settlements, from sowing their crops with a view to create communal divide among the khatta residents. The issue of rehabilitation of van gurjars and other khatta residents has also been kept hanging in balance. He said that the Harish Rawat government as well as previous governments held back on the construction of the Jamrani dam under pressure from the mining mafia. The people in the entire State of Uttarakhand are demanding just this one dam, but construction of the Jamrani dam which would provide irrigation and drinking water to Haldwani and Bhabar is not in this government's priority.
CPI(ML) CC member and AICCTU leader Raja Bahuguna said that the recent episode of horse-trading for MLAs in crores of rupees by the BJP and the Congress is a matter of shame for Uttarakhand. On the one hand the Harish Rawat government asks for the people's support but on the other hand it is bent on oppression of workers and farmers. The attack on AICCTU leader KK Bora by criminals with government protection, and the attack by goondas on the democratically protesting farmers of Bindukhatta are two living examples of this.
Kisan Mahasabha district President Com. Bahadur Singh Jangi demanded the immediate removal of stone crushers from the residential areas of Bhabar, pointing out that under pressure from the crusher lobby the State government has not done so even after directives from the High Court.
Addressing the Mahadharna, CPI(ML) district Secretary Kailash Pandey said that the Rawat government, by making changes in land use of hill lands after purchase and by not doing legally mandated raids on factories by Labour Inspectors, has made its anti-worker character clear. The Mahadharna was also addressed by kisan leaders and many guest speakers from other organisations who expressed their solidarity with the struggle. The proceedings were conducted by Kisan Mahasabha State executive member Vimla Rauthan and district Secretary Rajendra Shah.
After the meeting, a 21-point charter of demands was submitted to the Chief Minister through the City Magistrate regarding issues related to the farmers of the Khattas and Bhabar. These demands included: revoking of Bindukhatta as a municipality, right to sow crops for forest gurjars and rehabilitation of all khattas, construction of Jamrani dam, removal of stone crushers from residential areas, banks on both sides of the Gola river, by-pass road, making Lalkuan a municipality, Lalkuan railway crossing flyover, drought relief and loan waiver for farmers, ownership rights for poor farmers in Bindukhatta and Bagjhala, payment of grants for toilets under the Swachch Bharat Mission for all khattas and non-revenue villages and areas.
The 7th AIPWA UP State Conference was held in Lucknow at the Ganga Prasad Memorial Hall (Ameenabad). The Conference began by paying tributes to the martyrs of women's struggles. Com. Geeta Das, Naxalbari struggle leader and President of AIPWA at the time of its inception in 1994, and national committee member Com. Ahmadi Begum were especially remembered for their lifelong dedication to AIPWA.
Inaugurating the Conference, AIPWA National General Secretary Meena Tiwari said that women in different States are uniting and spontaneously fighting for their rights. AIPWA has played an important role in carrying forward these struggles. Exposing the Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar who pats himself on the back for total prohibition in the State, she pointed out that in the early phase Nitish had doubled the liquor contracts, whereas AIPWA had been struggling for prohibition in Bihar for the last 10 years and the entire credit should go to the working women of the State. These women have long been demanding health centres for women in every area with appointed gynecologists, but the government has ignored this demand.
Addressing the Conference, AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishnan said that the policies of the Modi government at the Centre and the Akhilesh government in UP are both anti-women. This is well exemplified by the role played by the SP and the BJP in the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013. She pointed out BJP President's statement both during the riots and during his campaign for Modi that 'riots are done to protect the honour of mothers and daughters'. She said that the Modi government talks of 'Beti Padhao Beti Bachao' but it is under their rule that the greatest violence is being perpetrated on women of all ages, from tiny children to elderly women; women are not getting due wages for their labour; the right to food Bill is not being implemented wherein every pregnant woman should get Rs 6000 per month. These governments attribute a shallow logic to ASHA-Anganwadi and midday meal workers not being paid adequate wages, the logic offered being that as these women work free of cost in their homes, they can also do 'service' for a small honorarium. Com. Kavita said that the more the government tries to imprison women in the name of culture, tradition, and safety, the more women are raising their voices and coming out on the streets with slogans demanding 'freedom'.
CPI(ML) Politburo member and the Chief editor of Samkaleen Janmat, Com. Ramji Rai said that brave women like Jhalkaribai, Laxmibai, and Begum Hazratmahal came out fighting against British imperialism; similarly, today's women must come out fighting against patriarchy, caste and gender discrimination.
The proceedings of the inaugural session were conducted by Tahira Hassan. The cultural team of 'Chorus' led by Samta Rai presented people's songs.
In the delegates' session, activities of AIPWA over the past 3 years and the current organizational and political situation were discussed. Different aspects of strengthening the women's movement in the State were also discussed. More than a dozen delegates put forward their thoughts in the session and a 9-point resolution was passed. A 33-member Council and 19-member State executive were elected who then elected Com. Kusum Verma as State Secretary and Com. Krishna Adhikari as State President.
The CPI(ML) organized protest marches in Siwan, Begusarai and Katihar against the murder of journalist Rajdev Ranjan of the newspaper 'Hindustan' in Siwan. Former CPI(ML) MLA and popular leader Com. Amarnath Yadav and Siwan district Secretary Com. Naeemuddin Ansari met the bereaved family of Rajdev Ranjan and extended condolences on behalf of the party. The leaders condemned the extremely shameful of the journalist and extended heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family members and staff of 'Hindustan'. They stated that once again the confidence of criminals in Bihar is sky high; it is a matter of great shame that journalists are now being targeted and killed. Some days ago CPI(ML) leader Com. Chaurasiya was murdered in Siwan and his killers are still at large. They also pointed out that the law and order system in Bihar is going from bad to worse. Instead of handing out platitudes in this matter, the government should take stern measures to control crime.
AISA activists held a one-day dharna in Patna in protest against persecution of student leaders and common students in Patna University on the lines of the witch-hunt in JNU. Addressing the dharna at the University gate, AISA national executive member, Akash Kashyap said that while the students of the Arts and Crafts College have been victimized by the College administration, AISA State Joint Secretary Tariq Anwar and 3 other student leaders have been charged with involvement in terrorist activities by Patna University. Clearly, Patna University and the Bihar government are treading on the same path as the Modi government at the centre. Addressing the dharna, RYA leader Com. Ramji Yadav said that Patna University accusing students of terrorist activity was totally ridiculous, as the truth is that the students and student leaders have been agitating for the past so many days for their legitimate rights. This action against them is totally undemocratic. RYA leader Com. Manish Kumar Singh added that both the Central government as well as the Bihar State government are both anti-student; while one is persecuting the students on false charges of sedition, the other is persecuting them on false charges of terrorism. He further said that if the Patna University does not revoke its tyrannical action, a strong agitation would be launched in the coming days. It was also announced at the meeting that the second phase of the 'Uttho Mere Desh' campaign would be carried out by AISA and RYA from 10 May to 9 August 2016 in order to expose the fascist campaign of the BJP to the common students.
A 2 day film festival organized by Gorakhpur Film Society and Jan Sanskriti Manch started in Gorakhpur on 14 May. This film festival has been held for the past 11 years without corporate funding and has established a progressive tradition and lent a new inspiration to film screening across the country.
Inaugurating the festival, poet-thinker Prof. Laltu said that it is a matter of great strength that all thinking people are fighting in unison in these dark times. President of the organizing committee and senior writer Madan Mohan said that we must fight together to save democracy and freedom of expression. A souvenir of the film festival was released on the occasion. The session was conducted by festival convener, Chandrabhushan Ankur. Senior journalist, Ashok Chowdhary read out a resolution condemning the murders of journalists Rajdev Ranjan and Akhilesh Pratap Singh.
The next part of the festival saw presentations of musical videos: Sambhaji Bhagat's 'Yeh Hitler ke Sathi' in solidarity with FTII students, 'Chal Chaliye' by Majma group remembering Kabir and other poets in this era of intolerance, and Hirawal's song in remembrance of Rohith Vemula.
The next presentation was the screening of Chaitanya Tamhane's 'Court' which powerfully takes apart the justice system of our country and shows that the poor have no place in this system. It was followed by screening of 'I am Nageshwara Rao Star' made by students of HCU which deals with the discrimination against Dalit students in institutes of higher education. This film has greater significance as it was at HCU that dalit student Rohith was institutionally murdered. The next film was Rahul Roy's 'Factory' which focused on the Maruti workers' fight for justice against the oppression unleashed by company management as well as government. After the screening, the director Rahul Roy had a long discussion with the.
The second Prof. Ramakrishna Mani Tripathi memorial lecture was delivered by eminent poet and revolutionary thinker Prof. Laltu. Delivering his lecture on 'Nationalism', Prof. Laltoo said that though nearly one fourth people of this country are illiterate, more than half the people spend their lives in abject poverty, the systems for education and health care are in shambles, and despite all this nearly one fourth of the country's wealth is spent on maintaining the oppressive structures and the oppressor class. All this happens in the name of nationalism. However, today, Dalit-Left-Minority-Women are coming together and their unity is evident in the struggle against oppression and loot of the resources. The Sangh Parivar, on its side is doing its utmost to break this unity as exemplified in JNU. Today we must choose from two options: ether to go with this aggressive oppressive nationalism or to forge a multi-cultural, multi-lingual nationalism where not geographical boundaries but the all-round development of people would define love for one's country. He said that 'We fight and protest against hatred for the love of humanity'.
The second day of the festival saw films discussing the struggles of Niyamgiri, Odisha and Kashmir. The film 'Referendum' directed by Tarun Mishra is a tale of the struggles of tribals in Niyamgiri. Dongriya who fought the battle to defend their forests and were successful in sending back a ruthless company like the Vedanta. The film 'Khoon Diy Baarav' (Blood leaves its Trail) directed by Iffat Fatima sheds light on the situation in Kashmir. Sharing the woes of those missing since last ten years in Kashmir, this film provides a voice to the deep seated sadness and anger among the Kashmiri people. A children's film 'Kanche aur Postcard' showed the indifference of our society to children's issues. In this era of prohibitions on our freedom of eating and drinking, 'Caste on the Menu Card', a meaningful film made by Ananya Gaur and others, received much appreciation from the audience. Pushpa Rawat's 'Mod' presented a realistic image of lower middle class youth. The audience interacted with both Tarun Mishra and Pushpa Rawat after the screening of their movies.
The final programme on the second day was presented by Dr Aziz Ahmed who opened the door to the world of Sahir Ludhiyanvi through anecdotes, songs, and pictures. Youth singer Aamir also kept the audience enthralled with his songs during the breaks. In the end, the convener of the Gorakhpur film society, Manoj Kumar, expressed gratitude towards all. He shared that Cinema of Resistance film festival has now also started in Maharajaganj and Devariya. This year, the festival will also be organized in Mau and Kushinagar. Besides this, the Gorakhpur film society will now strive to organize regular screenings in different parts of the city.
Tribute to Muhammad Ali
The boxing legend, symbol of Black pride and inspirational anti-racist, anti-imperialist and anti-war icon Muhammad Ali passed away on 4 June 2016 at the age of 74.
Born Cassius Clay, he took the name Muhammad Ali when he converted to Islam.
He will be remembered as one of the 'greatest' in the world of boxing. But above all, he will be loved and remembered all over the world for his bold stand, at the height of his sporting success, against racism, imperialism and war. He was stripped of his title and sentenced to jail for refusing to fight in Vietnam as an American soldier. He expressed solidarity with the Palestinian cause, and his opposition to Zionism and US imperialism. He was known as much for his punches in the boxing ring as for his anti-racist punches which he delivered to the racist and imperialist establishment in the USA. Asked by the media why he refused to fight in Vietnam, he retorted, 'I ain't got no quarrel with them VietCong – no VietCong ever called me nigger.'
In tribute to The Champ, we reproduce an excerpt from his statement explaining his refusal to fight in Vietnam – a statement which will always inspire as an expression of anti-racist internationalism and of anti-imperialist solidarity:
"Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?
No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.
But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…"