A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol.19 | No. 43 | 18- 24 October 2016
Fight for Gender Justice and Equality Reject Communally-Defined ‘Uniformity’
The manner in which the Law Commission and the NDA Government frame the issue of Uniform Civil Code and reforms in personal laws suggests that they are concerned more with imposing a communally-defined uniformity on minorities in the country, rather than address concerns of gender justice. The communal framing of the debate does serious damage to the urgent questions of gender justice.
BJP and RSS propaganda of ‘One Nation One Law’ is a direct assault on the Constitutional norms of respect for India’s religious and cultural diversity. This propaganda implies that it is only the personal laws of the minorities – especially the Muslim minority – that need reform – and that ‘Uniform Civil Code’ is a matter of bringing Muslim or Christian personal law in line with Hindu Personal Law.
In fact, most religious and secular personal laws governing marriage, divorce, inheritance and succession are in need of reform to bring them in line with Constitutional norms of gender justice and equality. For instance, the amendment of Hindu inheritance laws to allow the daughter to inherit ancestral property continues to face great hostility and be widely violated, with no safeguards against disinheritance of a daughter.
Under the Hindu Marriage Act, a divorced man can discontinue payment of maintenance if the ex-wife is ‘unchaste’ or converts to another religion. This provision ties maintenance to patriarchal moral codes and religious identity, rather than the rights of women. The definition of ‘cruelty’ as grounds for divorce under the Hindu marriage law is loose – leaving room for arbitrary and patriarchal definitions of cruelty. A recent Supreme Court judgement is a shocking instance of this when it declared that a wife demanding that her husband live separately from his parents amounts to ‘cruelty’ and can be grounds for divorce.
The one-month notice period of the secular Special Marriage Act also requires reform since the prolonged waiting period allows room for parents and communal-casteist outfits to mobilize violence against inter-caste or inter-faith couples. Polygamy enjoys recognition in Muslim Personal Law, while the ‘Maitri Karar’ (Friendship Pact) practice in Gujarat legitimizes bigamy. It is a communal myth that only the Muslim community enjoys ‘special’ relaxations when it comes to personal law. In fact, the Hindu Undivided Family enjoys special tax exemptions, exemptions which are extended even to Hindu couples who marry under the Special Marriage Act.
From within the Muslim community itself, there have for long been demands for scrapping of the practices of triple talaq and halala that are inscribed in Muslim personal law.
Unfortunately, the Indian State and ruling parties have been cynical and opportunist rather than principled in their obligations both towards women’s rights and the rights of minority communities. The Supreme Court verdict in the Shah Bano case was overturned by a Congress Government in a bid to pander to conservative leaders of the Muslim community, even as the same Government pandered to Hindutva by opening the locks of the Babri Masjid. The BJP gave the demand for a Uniform Civil Code a distinctly communal tone and colour – leading most women’s movement groups to emphasise that they demanded gender-just reform in diverse personal laws – preferably reform from within religious communities themselves – rather than imposition of Hindutva-tinted uniformity.
In 2015, in the course of a Supreme Court hearing on Hindu women’s succession rights, the matter of discrimination faced by Muslim women also came up. In response the SC ordered the filing of a PIL on ‘Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality.’ Subsequently there have been several instances of Muslim women who approached the Supreme Court seeking that the provisions of triple talaq and halala be struck down as unconstitutional. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, responding to these petitions in Court, have argued that the Court cannot encroach on the domain of personal laws. Meanwhile the Law Commission has issued a questionnaire to reopen the debate on the need for a Uniform Civil Code – and the AIMPLB has refused to participate in this process, deeming it to be part of the BJP Government’s communal agenda to undermine diverse personal laws and impose uniformity.
The Law Commission questionnaire’s format is undoubtedly flawed and biased, and misgivings about its agenda have a strong foundation. By reopening the issue of a Uniform Civil Code and polarising the discussion for or against the UCC, the Law Commission is only furthering the communal agenda of the ruling party. The BJP that sheds crocodile tears for discrimination faced by Muslim women is the same party that colludes in the rape and murder of Muslim women during communal violence in Gujarat and more recently Muzaffarnagar.
The vociferous demands by a variety of Muslim women’s groups and individual Muslim women for reforms in personal laws are an extremely welcome development. These groups (such as the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Bebaak Collective and others) and individual women have put both the communal BJP as well as the patriarchal AIMPLB on notice. They have made it clear that they will no longer brook any delay in addressing their demands for equality and justice. If the self-proclaimed custodians of Muslim personal law prove unwilling to heed the demands for change, they have asserted their rights to approach the Courts and the State for justice.
The Left and progressive forces in the country, while firmly opposing any agenda of forced imposition of a communally scripted Uniform Civil Code, must support the ongoing women’s movements demanding personal laws that uphold women’s equality and dignity.
On Communal Violence in Bengal
The CPI(ML) condemns the organized communal attacks on Muharram tazia processions that took place in several districts of Bengal, including North 24 Parganas, Kharagpur, and Malda, and the resulting communal violence. The Hindutva outfits – often in collusion with the police and administration under the TMC regime – have instigated these acts of violence, resulting in ransacking of homes and shops.
A recent Calcutta High Court order striking down the Government’s restrictions on timing of Durga idol immersion processions to prevent clashes with tazia processions is highly unfortunate. The vocabulary adopted by the order had a distinct communal bias, suggesting that Muslims should avoid the tazia procession and observe Muharram mourning at home, and deeming any attempts to regulate Durga idol immersion processions as ‘minority appeasement.’
The CPI(ML) demands arrest of the perpetrators of communal violence and speedy relief and rehabilitation for the victims of such violence, as well as disciplinary action against those police and administrative personnel who colluded with the violence instead of acting to prevent and end it.
CPI(ML) Marches against Communal Violence in Naihati
Since 12 October 2016, Communal clashes took place at Hazinagar and Halisahar in North 24 Parganas district which have left several people injured. An estimated 30 homes and several shops, apart from four vehicles, were ransacked or set on fire. The initial violence began in Hazinagar’s Naihati Jute Mill area where the Jama Masjid is situated. In wake of these communal clashes, the CPI(ML) took out a march against communal violence and appealing for peace in Naihati.
On Anti-Dalit Violence in Nashik
The CPI(ML) expresses deep concern over reports of widespread anti-Dalit violence by mobs of the dominant Maratha caste as well as by the police in Nashik district of Maharashtra. The police in the BJP-Shiv Sena ruled state have failed to register cases against the perpetrators and have instead unleashed violence on Dalits inside their own homes in the name of combing operations.
In recent times, huge silent processions of Marathas had been witnessed in Maharashtra. While the agrarian crisis, farmers’ suicides and joblessness were factors in the Maratha unrest, the agitations had a disturbing anti-Dalit edge right from the start. The agitations began following the gang rape and murder of a Maratha minor girl allegedly by Dalit youth, and the demand for dilution of SC/ST Atrocities Act was raised. In Nashik, again, the alleged molestation of a minor Maratha girl by a Dalit teenager was the pretext for the latest round of anti-Dalit violence accompanied by demands to dilute or scrap the SC/ST Atrocities Act.
For allegations of rape and molestation to be used as pretexts to raise the bogey of ‘misuse’ of the SC/ST Atrocities Act is highly condemnable. The issue of justice for women and girls should not be pitted against that of justice and dignity for Dalits and tribals. Incidences of rape in which Dalits happen to be accused must not be used to profile Dalits as sexually predatory. Atrocities against Dalits and tribals – including instances of organized sexual violence and gang rapes – continue to be rampant, and justice is hard to come by in these cases thanks to police collusion with the perpetrators.
The CPI(ML) demands stern and prompt action against all the perpetrators of anti-Dalit violence in Nashik. The BJP-Shiv Sena Government must be held accountable for the safety of the Dalits in the state, and all police and administrative personnel involved in anti-Dalit violence must be punished. Political leaders attempting to instigate the Maratha community against the Dalits must also face action.
CPI(ML) Decries State Inaction against Communal Tension in Bhojpur
In a statement issued on 14 October 2016 on communal tension in Peero and other areas in Bhojpur, CPI(ML) state secretary Kunal said that the continuation of the communal terror tactics of the miscreants on the second consecutive day in Peero in Bhojpur is extremely worrisome. The so called ‘social justice’ government and the district administration has completely bowed down in front of the communal elements. He further said that besides the BJP, even some of the people associated with RJD were behind the communal tensions prevailing in Peero. On the second day too, RJD backed trouble makers tried to attack the Muslim tola. The communal tension could have been curtailed in Peero and Jagdishpur in Bhojpur and in other regions in the state, however the state administration was never found to be alert. Com. Kunal also said that Lalu Prasad never stops raising the cry of secularism and yet in recent days, his party has been found to be involved in several communal incidents. Recently in the communal riots in Saran district people belonging to RJD were found to be involved to the extent that they looted the houses and property of the Muslims. What kind of behaviour is RJD demonstrating towards the minorities? He said in Bihar, Lalu and Nitish had received votes against the communal forces led by BJP but today these parties are openly walking the path of the BJP. He also expressed concern regarding the communal frenzy witnessed in Sugauli.
A fact finding team from CPI(ML) comprising of MLA Sudama Prasad, party state committee members Com. Qyamuddin Ansari and Com. Ajit Kushwaha along with Com. Chandradeep Singh visited Peero and Jagdishpur as soon as they heard of the incidents of communal violence and tension.
17th World Trade Union Congress of WFTU
6-Member Delegation of AICCTU Participates
The 17th Congress of the WFTU (World Federation of Trade Unions) was held on 5-8 October 2016 at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban city of Republic of South Africa, the land of the heroic liberation and anti-apartheid struggle. The Congress culminated in a spirited rally and a mass meeting at historic Curries Fountain Stadium on 8 October. As part of the closing ceremony, a workers’ memorial plaque was unveiled at the entrance of the stadium. The theme of the Congress was “Struggle, Internationalism and Unity, For attainment of the workers’ contemporary needs, Against poverty and wars generated by capitalist barbarism”.
In the country where the people fought hard and victoriously against the apartheid, 1500 workers’ and employees’ delegates from 111 countries and more than 210 central trade unions and sector based Trade Union Internationals representing 92 million workers from five continents participated in the Congress. The gathering comprised of 340 women trade-unionists and 31% of the delegates were from the Public Sector and 69% were private employees. From India 62 delegates participated from AITUC, CITU, AICCTU, AIUTUC and TUCC. From AICCTU 6-Member Delegation participated namely, Rajiv Dimri (General Secretary), SK Sharma and S. Balan (both vice-presidents), Bhuvaneswari and Uday Bhat (both Secretaries) and AS Kumar (Tamil Nadu state President and national councilor).
The Congress was greeted by leaders from South Africa, namely, COSATU President Sdumo Dlamini, General Secretary of South African Communist Party Blade Nzimande and ANC leader and President of South Africa Jacob Zuma. Several solidarity messages were also sent to the Congress.
In total, 112 speakers took the floor and spoke about the international situation and situation of the working people in their countries. On behalf of AICCTU, Rajiv Dimri addressed the Congress. AICCTU moved the resolution for observance of centenary of Russian Revolution. The speeches of delegates comprehensively reflected the growing crisis of global capitalism and its neo-liberal policies and shifting of the burden of this crisis on to the shoulders of working people, in the developed countries, growing attacks on the working people, notably the imperialist machinations to topple the democratically elected socialist-orientated governments in Latin America and in response the growing resistance of the masses. The Congress discussed the ways and means to respond effectively from WFTU to the challenges facing the working class all around the world and also to consolidate and strengthen the principles of working class internationalism.
The Congress was jointly hosted by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) affiliated unions, namely the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU), the Police Prisons and Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) and the Chemical Energy Print Paper and Allied Workers Union (CEPPWAWU).
The Congress elected 47-member Presidential Council. Michael Mzwandile Makwayiba, South African trade union leader was elected as President and George Mavrikos was re-elected as General Secretary of WFTU for next five years.
The Congress wore festive look with dances and spirited peoples’ songs performed by South African worker delegates from time to time and reverberated with the slogans “Amandla”- “Awethu” (power to the people) with all delegates joining them.
The Congress adopted many Resolutions including observance of centenary of Russian Revolution throughout the world.
19th Memorial Day of Com. Nagbhushan Patnaik
The CPI(ML) Odisha unit observed the 19th Memorial Day of Com. Nagbhushan Patnaik on 9 October 2016. CPI(ML) state committee members Com. Khitish Biswal, Com. Radhakant Sethi, Com. Yudhishtir Mahapatra and Com. Bansidhar Parida shared the life narrative of Com. Nagbhushan Patnaik and their memories of him. They called upon the activists to follow path of Com. Patnaik to strengthen the party in Odisha. Com. Mahendra Pardia, who was presiding of the memorial meeting, condemned the anti-labour policies of both the BJP and the BJD governments in the centre and the state respectively. He recalled the legacy of Com. Patnaik who consistently fought for the working class and called for a fight against these policies of Modi and Naveen Patnaik.
CPI(ML)’s Protest in Darbhanga
Protests were held in front of the Superintendent of Police, Darbhanga, on 5 October, following a brutal assault of a 12 year old boy by a feudal lumpen in the Mekna village in Bahadurpur block. A 12 year old student Dileep Sahni was kept tied for 12 hours and brutally beaten up by a feudal lumpen Parikshan Yadav. The protestors demanded immediate arrest of Parikshan Yadav and other accused, along with withdrawal of false complaints against those who protested against this. Hundreds of protestors took out a march from the Polo ground that culminated in front of the SP’s office. The protestors blocked the road to conduct a meeting and raised slogans. Thereafter they held a public meeting which was addressed by CPI(ML)’s Darbhanga district secretary Baidnath Yadav and state committee member Abhishek Kumar. The speakers warned that if the police administration does arrest the accused within a fortnight then this struggle will be further intensified. They also called for a Jan Panchayat to be organised on 19 October in Mekna village.
Against Corruption in Ration Distribution in Hajipur
Hundreds of consumers from Rasulpur Mubarak Panchayat in Mahua block, took out a demonstration on 1 October 2016 in the streets of Hajipur town to protest against the irregularities in the public distribution centres. They held a demonstration in front of the district officials and handed a memorandum to the Hajipur SDO. The demo was led by CPI(ML) district secretary Yogen Rai, Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Mahasabha state president Vishweshwar and others. Later a mass meeting was organised. The speakers pointed out that irregularity in the public distribution happened due to the collusion between the block supply officer and the dealers. They said that the protests will continue till the irregularities are addressed.
Rasoiya Sangh’s District Conference in East Champaran
The East Champaran unit of the Bihar State Rasoiya Sangh (Mid-day Meal Workers) held its inaugural district conference on 25 September 2016. Despite the rains nearly one thousand midday meal workers participated in the conference. The conference was inaugurated by state president of AIPWA and the Bihar State Rasoiya Sangh Saroj Chaubey. Addressing the participants, she said that in the last one and a half years the Rasoiya Sangh had established a distinct identity for itself in the east Champaran district on the strength of its struggles. It is due to the movement of the Rasoiya Sangh that a slight increase of Rs. 250 in the honorarium was achieved and an announcement of an amount of Rs. 4 lakh compensation post death, was made. However, the same had not yet been implemented in the state. Though several protests including hunger strike, demonstrations in front of the Chief Minister and dharnas had been organised to press for this, the Chief Minister had still not bothered to meet the representatives of the delegations. Instead, in March this year, a decision was taken to hand over the mid day meal scheme to NGOs. AIPWA and the Rasoiya Sangh have been protesting against this decision and their movement continues. She sharply criticised the anti-people policies of the state and the central governments. Bhairo Dayal Singh called the midday meal workers to intensify their protests. In the delegate session, discussions took place on the report of the Rasoiya Sangh Convenor Dinesh Prasad Kushwaha, after which it was unanimously passed. A ten point demand charter was also passed. In the concluding session, a 33 member committee was elected. Baby Devi was elected as the unit president and Dinesh Prasad Kushwaha as the unit secretary. The new committee comprises of 18 women members. The conference ended with songs and slogans.
Cultural Activists Protest Firing on Farmers in Jharkhand
In order to loot the land, forests and natural and mineral resources of Jharkhand, the corporate forces consider it the ‘world’s one of the easiest places to do business in’ and since then the Modi-Raghuvar governments have trying to ensure the same by imposing a police-raj in the state. Two brutal incidents of police firing on farmers protesting against forcible land grab by NTPC have taken place in the last one month in Badkagaon and Gola. On 5 October, a people’s protest was held in Ranchi under the banner of Jan Sanskriti Manch. Various cultural activists and intellectuals gathered to raise the questions- “Yeh kiska lahoo hai, kaun maraa?” (Whose blood is this, who died) and “Acche din ki aas mein, log badal rahe hain laash mein?” (In the anticipation of better days, people are turning into corpses). Several social and cultural activists including -veteran filmmaker Shriprakash, Shekhar from Samvaad, Prof. Mithilesh (Pragatisheel Lekhak Sangh), M.Z. Khan (Janwadi Lekhak Sangh), Xavier Kujur (JSM, Jharkhand), Gautam Singh Munda, Sonia Tiriya (Prerna, cultural team associated with the Jharkhand unit of Jan Sanskriti Manch), Josephina Panna (a youth social activist), Jagmohan Mahto (RYA), and Saba Parween and Navreen (AISA), participated in the programme. The venue of the programme had various posters with lines from poetry of Brecht, Paash and other revolutionary poets. The activists demanded that the culprits of this planned massacre be punished and also that state oppression being unleashed on the farmers of the region be immediately stopped.
Convening the programme, Anil Anushman of Jan Sanskriti Manch said that this people’s protest is cultural activists’ warning to the Modi- Raghuvar governments that they should recall how a state government of Bengal tried to forcibly snatch land from the farmers of Nandigram and Singur and began their oppression, cultural and social activists and intellectuals gathered in streets in huge numbers to confront the government. In Jharkhand too, the activists will intensify people’s movement in favour of the farmers and the tribals by way of ‘Meri Zameen, Meri Kavita’ (My land, my poem) campaign. Massacres in the name of development will not be tolerated.
Protests Against the Death of a Woman in Domestic Violence
A 22 year old woman, Mita Das, hailing from Sukantapally, was found hanging from the ceiling of her house in Uluberia (in Howrah District of West Bengal) on 11 October. She had been married for six months. The post mortem report revealed marks on her body indicative of physical fight. Her family have accused her in laws and husband of subjecting her to consistent domestic violence. In a report released in 2015, West Bengal was found to top the list in cases of domestic violence. Voicing resistance against the increasing spate of such incidents, AISA and students of Jadavpur University, of which Mita was an alumni gave a call for observing protest day on 17 October. A large number of students-youth participated in these protests demanding justice for Mita and strong laws against all forms of domestic violence. Students holding placards and shouting slogans took out a massive rally from the Jadavpur to Dhakuria flyover. The students gathered there also raised slogans demanding justice for other victims like Payel of Kirshnanagar who was burnt to death after dowry demands, Nazia, a victim of dowry related torture and Nabamita Biswas who was found hanging from the window of her bathroom. She left a note behind holding responsible her husband for the suicide. The placards carried the slogans- ‘Justice for Payel’, ‘Justice for Nazia’, ‘Justice for Mita, ‘Fight Patriarchy from womb to the world', ‘zero tolerance to domestic violence’ and with demands to criminalise marital rape. They said that protests against these incidents will continue till justice is ensured for the victims.