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Adityanath: A Track Record of Hate-Mongering And Violence

NOVANEWS

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With Adityanath being appointed Chief Minister, influential sections of the electronic and print media in Hindi and English have gone into an overdrive to whitewash his track record and give his communal bahubali (goon/don) a makeover. So we have a host of stories remoulding Adityanath as a ‘Vikas Guru’ and telling us how he loves dogs and cows, what he eats for breakfast, and how he loves and employs Muslims.

These media houses, happy to brand Muslim men as “terrorists” without any evidence, are shy of calling a spade a spade, and calling Adityanath a saffron-cloaked, hate-spewing leader of a terrorist outfit the Hindu Yuva Vahini. They are ignoring the copious, overflowing evidence of Adityanath’s speeches and writings reeking of obscurantism, misogyny, communalism and casteism, as well as evidence of direct involvement in crime and communal violence.

The Gorakhnath Peeth: History of Hindutva Hate

In 1949, the Ram Lalla and Sita idols appeared inside the Babri Masjid following a ceremony by Mahant Digvijaynath, a leader of the Hindu Mahasabha and the then head of the Gorakhnath Peeth. Digvijaynath had also been investigated in the Gandhi murder case. His successor Mahant Avaidyanath was a leading figure of the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign. Adityanath succeeded him in 1994.

From his seat in the Gorakhpur Peeth, Adityanath has not only been a key political figure in Eastern UP but also sought to interfere in bordering Nepal, demanding that Nepal must be declared a Hindu kingdom.

Travesty of Gorakhnath’s Teachings

The Gorakhnath Peeth has evolved in a direction away from the original spirit of the teachings of the 11th century saint Gorakhnath, which are expressed in a set of couplets and verses called the Gorakhbani.

To cite just some of those verses:

While remaining within the mind, not disclosing the secret,

The immortal words (words of nectar) should be spoken.

If anybody in front (of you) is fire,

O avadhūt, you should become water.

A Hindu worships in the temple,

A Muslim in the mosque.

A yogi worships the supreme

Where there is neither temple nor mosque.

Gorakh says Oh avadhūt, listen:

Be like this in the world:

Look with your eyes, listen with your ears,

But don’t say anything with your mouth.

Adityanath is a very far cry from a true yogi of the Gorakhnath tradition. He spews hate speech not “words of nectar.” He pits temple against mosque for political power. He instigates strife – lights communal fires – rather than be ‘water if anyone is fire.’

Adityanath’s Hate Speech

Open Adityanath’s website and you are greeted with the slogan “Hindutva is the conscience of the nation. To attack it to invite the holocaust.”

Here is a sample of Adityanath’s worst hate speeches.

At Etah in 2005, he said – “I will not stop till I turn UP and India into a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation).”

In a TV interview just before the recent UP polls, Adityanath defended changing the names of places with “Muslim” names to Hindu ones in Gorakhpur (Gorakhpur’s Miyan Bazaar to Maya Bazaar, Ali Nagar to Arya Nagar, Urdu Bazaar to Hindi Bazaar). Asked if he would change the name of the Taj Mahal, he said “yes of course.”

In September 2014 at a rally in Noida, he suggested that Muslim population must be regulated to control riots: “There have been 450 riot cases in West UP in two-and-a-half years of Samajwadi Party rule because the population of a particular community is rising manifold. Why are there no riots in Eastern UP? You can easily understand. In places where there are 10 to 20% minorities, stray communal incidents take place. Where there are 20 to 35% of them, serious communal riots take place and where they are more than 35%, there is no place for non-Muslims.”

In February 2015, he declared at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s ‘Virat Hindu Sammelan’ in Varanasi: “Every time a Hindu visits the Vishwanath temple, the Gyanvapi mosque taunts us. If given a chance, we will install statues of Goddess Gauri, Ganesh and Nandi in every mosque.”

In June 2015, at a temple ceremony in Varanasi, Adityanath declared, “Lord Shankar was the biggest Yogi who started Yoga. Mahadev (another name for Shankar) lives in every particle of this country. So, those who want to avoid surya namaskar, Yoga and Lord Shankar can leave Hindustan or drown in the ocean.”

In November 2015, he reacted to Shah Rukh Khan’s remarks against intolerance, saying “These people speak the language of terrorists. There is no difference between the language of Shah Rukh Khan and that of Hafiz Saeed. He (Khan) should remember that if a huge mass of people boycotts his films, he will also have to wander on the streets like a normal Muslim.”
14 December 2014: 6 December (Babri Masjid demolition anniversary) is a matter of valour, pride and unity for Hindus.

In June 2016 he said, “When they could not stop karsevaks from demolishing the Babri Masjid, how will they be able to stop us from carrying out the construction of the mandir?
In various speech videos, Adityanath has said, “if one Hindu dies, we will kill a 100 of (them)” and “If they (Muslims) take (marry) one Hindu girl, we will get 100 Muslim girls … in the rest of Uttar Pradesh Hindu women run away with Muslim but in Gorakhpur, Hindu men marry Muslim women and bring them home.”

At a Virat Hindu Chetna rally in Siddharthnagar in 2007-08 organised by the Hindu Yuva Vahini, Adityanath declared that Hindu culture and Muslim culture can never co-exist and that a religious war is inevitable which is why Hindus need to get organised and face this challenge in the most aggressive fashion possible. He stated that Hindu Yuva Vahini is doing the work of uniting Hindus. At the same rally a speaker called to rape corpses of Muslim women and another called to strip Muslims of voting rights.

On Women

In a detailed write up titled ‘Matrashakti — Bharatiya Shakti ke Sandarbh Mein’ on his own website, Adityanath writes that “women are not capable of being left free or independent…women need male protection from birth to death… a woman is protected in her childhood by her father, by her husband in her youth and by her son in her old age.” This idea of women being under a man’s protection all her life (father, husband, and son) is straight from the Manusmriti.

He writes, “Whereas in our shastras, the greatness of women has been described, at the same time considering their importance and their decorum and dignity, the need to give them protection is also mentioned….Just like if you leave energy free and uncontrolled and unregulated, it may become useless and destructive, similarly ‘shakti swaroopa stree’— woman as the epitome of power — does not really need freedom, but a meaningful role — woman as the epitome of power — does not really need freedom, but a meaningful role with protection and channelisation…. For only such controlled and protected women power will give birth to and raise great men and when required step out of home to the battlefield to destroy evil powers.”

Adityanath writes that women should receive education today, “Else the thoughtless storm of women freedom of the western world will drive them to an even more disastrous condition and it will hamper the creation and stability of the home and family and prevent the glorious rebuilding of the nation and motherland.”

He vehemently opposes the idea of 33% reservations for women in Parliament and Assemblies, saying “Women do already have reservations in many areas. First analyse and assess the impact of this in gram sabhas, panchayats and local bodies. Assess and then decide whether women who are in active politics, and public life like men, whether in this process they may not lose their importance and role as mothers, daughter and sisters.”
He adds, “If men acquire women-like qualities, they become gods but when women acquire men like qualities, they become (‘rakshasa’) demon like. Serious thought must be given to these issues. What if this leads to the creation of the Frankenstien’s monster?”

On Caste and Reservations

In a write up on his website titled ‘A Country Burning In The Fire of Reservation Demands,’ Adityanath elaborates on the idea that RSS leaders too periodically express: the need for a reassessment of the policy of caste-based reservations. He argues here that caste-based reservations for Dalits should be restricted to one generation. Here too he writes disapprovingly about ‘India’s Mother-power developing a strong desire for reservations’ and wonders where this will take society. He ends with a mention of the Sachar Committee report and raises the bogey of reservations for Muslims.

Japanese Encephalitis

Adityanath’s followers on social media are claiming that his efforts have reduced the occurrence of the encephalitis epidemic in Gorakhpur. Gorakhpur-based journalist Manoj Kumar Singh does a reality check, pointing out that “The central government did not release funds for two years for the payment of 108 employees of Encephalitis ward in BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur. Instead, isplaying full insensitivity towards a highly epidemic prone region, these 108 posts were scrapped in August 2016.”

Manoj Singh adds, “As per an August 2016 estimate only 30 crores were needed for maintenance of equipments, pay of doctors and paramedical staff and medicines etc in this hospital. Ten crore more were required for the ICU installation. Union minister of state for health Anupriya Patel made a visit of this hospital in August 2016 till then the government had failed to allocate an amount of merely 40 crores in the annual workplan to regularly run this hospital. Even after that no substantial fund have been allocated for this hospital where 9286 patients (90 percent of them were children) have died of Encephalitis alone and thousands maimed out of 39100 admitted since 1978.”

As for claims of ‘reduced numbers,’ Manoj Singh says this is because Governments and Centre and State “are not following their own guidelines and the hospitals have stopped recording and/or reporting such cases officially. So the its now very difficult to know the exact number of encephalitis cases that have occurred in this region which includes ten districts of eastern UP and at least four districts of Bihar from where people come for treatment to this and other private hospitals in Gorakhpur. It was reported in media (Gorakhpur Newsline) that in 2015 nearly 500 cases from Kushinagar district were not recorded as Encephalitis, out of these more than 250 died of the dreaded disease.”

How Mulayam’s Opportunism Provided Impunity For Adityanath

In 2007, the SP Government headed by Mulayam Singh punished, transferred the DM Hari Om who arrested a riot-mongering Adityanath, and in sundry other ways the Mulayam Government pandered to the saffron forces, even splurging public money on them. The opportunist Mulayam Government helped Adityanath evade consequences for communal violence and hate-speech. Here are excerpts of a report from the archives of Liberation, March 2007:

“Recently, Gorakhpur and around a dozen districts adjoining it fell victim to communal violence spread by Yogi Adityanath, the local MP and his gang. Yogi has emerged as a new symbol of Hindutva offensive in the region. The fascist paratroopers of his Hindu Yuva Vahini have been targeting minorities since a decade. When the then DM of Gorakhpur arrested Yogi and his men, he along with other officials was suspended by Mulayam government. The new DM sent by Mulayam administration to Gorakhpur first visited Yogi in the jail, after taking charge. Obviously, the communal forces were emboldened and thus starting with a minor scuffle, the assault on Muslims spread to Basti, Kushi Nagar, Deoria and elsewhere.

In the name of controlling the ‘riots’, Mulayam government deployed PAC in these areas, which is notorious for its blatant anti-minority bias. With the help of PAC, HYV activists looted the houses and business complexes of minorities and set them on fire. In Padrauna, the HQ of Kushi Nagar district, CPI(ML) investigation team found that the communal violence spread there only after PAC was deployed. PAC instigated the mobs to indulge in arson and loot. A similar pattern was repeated in many other centres.

Earlier during the Mau riots also, where at least half a dozen innocent people fell victim to the communal violence, the Mulayam government had remained a mute spectator for full 72 hours and when RSS- BJP launched a mischievous misinformation campaign about Hindu massacre in Mau, the Mulayam Government did nothing to counter it. However, later the truth came out that in Mau communal violence too the key role was played by HYV.

It may appear shocking for those who believe that Mulayam Singh is fighting a messianic battle against the communal forces in UP, that the Chief Minister of UP doled out Rs. 8 crore from the Government exchequer to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad for organizing a Sant Sammelan in Allahabad from February 11-13. And with this money, the most notorious of the RSS outfits, VHP has launched an aggressive fascist propaganda through posters, hoardings and so-called Sant sammelans! A PIL is pending in the Allahabad High Court, urging that the public money be reimbursed from the VHP.

The degree of strategic relations between SP and BJP can be gauged from the fact that the UP government accorded the status of state guest to BJP leaders when they assembled in Lucknow last month for the Party’s National Executive Meet. Public money was wasted on their stay in luxurious hotels. And it was this Executive Committee Meet which heralded the ‘return’ of BJP to its offensive Hindutva agenda. All sorts of rhetorical speeches were made to communally charge the atmosphere and whip up hysteria around the issues of Ram Temple, ‘Muslim appeasement’ and terrorism. Kalyan Singh, who is being projected as next Chief Minister, used highly objectionable language against the Muslim community.”

As Adityanath takes over the reins of UP, the divisive fire has started to spread. Slaughter houses have been shut down on the pretext that they are “illegal” – poor Muslims running these places will have to apply for fresh licenses. Anti-Romeo squads are indulging in full scale moral policing, harassing young men and young women out in public spaces in the name of keeping women safe. In keeping with Adityanath’s views on restricting women’s freedom, such “protection” is not only aimed at targeting Muslim youth but at restricting women’s rights. Several people, mostly Muslim, have already been arrested in UP for posting ‘objectionable’ posts about Adityanath on social media. In a video from Meerut, a Hindu woman can be seen thrashing a group of Muslim women as her husband shouts out from behind her “Your father Yogi is now CM, you’re done for.”

The thinly veiled pretence that Aditynath style Hindutva hate is ‘fringe’ while the Modi ‘mainstream’ stands for ‘development’ has been dropped. It is all too clear that Hindutva is at the core of Modi’s agenda of pro-corporate development. Progressive forces must build resistance both to the anti-people economic policies as well as the Hindutva hate agenda. 

 

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Bengaluru Municipality Contract Sanitation Workers Strike on Women’s Day

NOVANEWS

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The official Government ‘celebrations’ of International Women’s Day came a cropper in Bengaluru thanks to a powerful strike by the city Municipal Corporation’s contract sanitation workers (97% of whom are Dalit women). The BBMP (the local administrative body in Bangalore) had not paid the workers arrears from August 2016. After a series of protests, wages for the contracted powrakarmikas (corporation workers) had been revised from Rs 7000 in most wards to Rs 14000 through a government notification. However, the BBMP has continued to pay the former unrevised wages. While the BBMP claims that the money for the arrears has been released, the passbooks of the workers indicate that they have not received it. The powrakarmikas of the union, the BBMP Guttige Powrakarmikara Sangha decided to Strike on International Women’s Day, to demand that the BBMP pay them their arrears, and also ensure their safety and dignity at work.

‘Know Your Powrakarmika’ Campaign

In the week before 8 March, an intense campaign was held in the Indiranagar, Koramangala, Malleswaram and RT Nagar areas, appealing to residents to ‘Know Your Powrakarmika’ and highlighting the insanitary, inhuman and dangerous conditions under which sanitation work is done. This campaign was all the more important because this work and the workers are kept ‘invisible’. The campaign held photo exhibitions highlighting the lives and work of the powrakarmikas, and involved children in creating street graffiti in support of the workers. On social media, the campaign shared a video of a protest song (with music by Hanumantharayappa) which hailed the sanitation worker, singing “Jhadamali, if you do not sweep the streets, the roosters do not crow, nor does the sun rise in the morning…the life-long struggle for food is soiled by shit and filth in the gutters…” A recent health check-up of powrakarmikas found a very large proportion of them suffering from mouth cancer from the betel-nut they chewed to avoid having to drink water. Drinking water would mean that they would need toilets – and they have no access to toilets while at work on the streets. In most wards, the workers are receiving Rs 7000. In HAL Airport ward the wages are as low as Rs 6000 and in some wards such as Gandhinagar wages are as low as Rs 5000.

On 3 March, five days before Women’s Day, more than 3000 students from St Joseph’s Commerce College, St Joseph’s Evening College, Mount Carmel College, Aloysius College, Jyothi Nivas College, St Joseph’s Arts and Science College and Jain College responded to an appeal by the Union, and gathered at Town Hall in support of the striking workers, where a skit was performed and the photo exhibition displayed. When the Mayor, Ms G Padmavathi came to meet the gathering, students submitted a memorandum to her, pointing out that the workers “clean our drainages, handle the garbage of the city, take out the dirt of our toilets and latrines sometimes even with the bare hands and do all other kinds of menial work,” and “are abused by contractors, not paid just wages by the government and ill-treated by society. Residents insult them, citizens curse and abuse them and they are treated with contempt. They are victims of verbal, physical and even sexual abuse with no recourse to grievance redressal.” The memorandum raised the issue of caste, “All of them belong to the untouchable community of Madigas, mostly women who have no option of moving into another job given their traditional occupation and stigma attached to it. Society simply does not accept them in other occupations.” They said, “What shocks us more than anything else is the treatment meted out to them by the state and government. They are denied a wage for living. …The contractors who have been in charge of the Powrakarmikas have been their greatest exploiters.”

f. Full compliance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013.

Women’s Day Strike!

On 8 March 2017, more than 1000 powrakarmikas gathered outside the BBMP office in protest against the apathy of the government towards their inhuman working condition and the blatant violation of labour laws with non-payment of wages. Contractors in several wards threatened the workers against going on strike. Braving the threats, thousands of workers gathered from Indiranagar, RT Nagar, Koramanagala, Hegganahalli, Kengeri, Ramamurthynagar, Gandhinagar, Banaswadi and Yelahanka outside the BBMP headquarters.

Most newspapers that morning had IWD features raising issues of safety and rights – but mostly even the more serious stories invisibilised caste and raised concerns only of the women of privileged classes. Advertisements and government propaganda meanwhile played to stereotypes of women as consumers of cosmetics, gifts who are obsessed with their looks and body image.

The powrakarmikas arrived at the BBMP office to find that the Karnataka government was hosting its own Women’s Day celebration on the premises of the BBMP office itself, with stalls selling handicrafts and offering body-fat check-ups for women. What a contrast between these stalls and the women with callused hands and lined faces, full of energetic slogans and embodying the real IWD fighting spirit on the other side of the road!

The police was most distressed by the gathering numbers of powrakarmikas, particularly because the Chief Minister was scheduled to make an appearance at the official Women’s Day programme. A police officer told some activists, “Why did you have to protest on Women’s Day? If you want to celebrate Women’s Day why don’t you ask the women to go to the official stalls and buy something?” The powrakarmikas, hearing this, asked the cops, “We haven’t been paid by the Corporation and you now want us to buy stuff at the Corporation’s stalls?”

When the CM turned up in his car, he rolled down his window to greet the women, thinking they were crowds gathered for the government IWD event. He heard the angry slogans of women workers directed at him and hastily rolled up his window again!

A bust representing a powrakarmika had been made by a group of artists. After some hassling with the police who refused to allow it to be installed on the premises, the bust was tied to the outer fence of the Corporation office as a symbol of protest. A theatre group also joined the workers with beats and drums carrying with them a giant giant papier maché figure representing a powrakarmika. The lively IWD demonstration by the powrakarmikas soon attracted the attention of all bystanders while the official government stalls were left desolate. Students who had been tasked with operating the government stalls all came over to the other side, enquiring about what the protests was about. They could all be heard talking amongst themselves, expressing shock and dismay at the government’s treatment of the workers.

‘Varalakshmi Is My Name, Do What You Like!’

An agitated Mayor Ms G Padmavathi came out to demand from the workers why they were striking today. She told them, “You should be careful, you may be fired.” At this, Varalakshmi stood up defiantly and declared her name and ward number, daring the Mayor to “Do what you please, I’m not scared of you!” Other workers asked Ms Padmavathi, “Aren’t we women, don’t our rights matter?”

Contractors from Horamavu and Ramurthynagar also arrived at the scene with one of them threatening to fire the workers for striking. The powrakarmikas responded with even louder slogans.

Several activists, students and filmmakers came out to declare support for the powrakarmikas’ IWD Strike, including film director BM Giriraj, noted activist and writer G Ramakrishna, and leading feminist activist Donna Fernandes.

A journalist came up to ask Meena, a powrakarmika, what her demands were. Meena’s teenage daughter Monisha was by her side, and interrupted her mother to tell the journalist, “My mother has always wanted to visit Cubbon Park, I want her to get a weekly day off, so that I can take her to spend the day at the park!”

A Victory

After a few hours of protest, the BBMP commissioner called the Union members in to his office to discuss the demands. The four main demands raised were:

      1) Immediate payment of arrears which amounts to about Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000

2) Regularisation as has been promised by the Karnataka cabinet and chief minister Siddharamiah

3) Weekly off, festival off and national holiday off

4) Direct payment of arrears and future salaries from the government

The Commissioner responded with the following assurances:

      1) Rs. 21,000/- will be deposited in workers accounts in 2 weeks, the remaining will be deposited in 1 month.

2) BBMP will regularize Powrakarmikas, but modalities need to be worked out so it will take time

3) Weekly off will be started soon. Commissioner will meet with the Union representatives next week to discuss modalities of the weekly off on rotation basis.

4) The Chief Minister has also ordered BBMP to pay arrears and future salaries directly, and this will be started in the next few weeks

The Commissioner came out to speak to the workers and make the agreement public. When he said “the Government wants to ensure that the children of powrakarmikas are not forced to become powrakarmikas in turn, one of the workers, Anjamma retorted, “The only way to ensure this is by regularizing the contract workers today.”

Based on the assurance given by the commissioner, the strike was withdrawn. There was some scepticism as the same promise had been made about four times before as well. However, in the week following the Strike, the government has slowly started paying the arrears to the workers. While they are yet to reach all the workers, the March 8 Women’s Day protest certainly succeeded in pressuring the government to pay the workers their wages and ensure a minimum dignity of labour. However, there is still a long way to go with the modalities for the weekly off and the proper implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act for powrakarmikas, yet to be worked out. 

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Reports: AIPWA Vidhan Sabha March in Bihar

NOVANEWS

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Thousands of women demonstrated under the banner of AIPWA in front of the Chief Minister on 19 March on the issues of education for women students, especially from dalit and weaker sections, increasing violence against women and attempts by the administration to shield the culprits, and justice for the victims. The protest march started from Gate Public Library, proceeded to the Vidhan Sabha and culminated in a meeting at Gardanibagh.

The speakers said that contrary to the Nitish government’s claims of empowering women, they are actually being attacked in various ways. Lack of adequate number of schools, lack of facilities in existing schools, insufficient number of higher education institutes in districts and inability of guardians to send their daughters to cities for higher education, and paucity of infrastructure and teachers in district level institutions are serious deterrents to women’s education in the State. Moreover, several cases of rape, murder, death due to lack of medical facilities, and molestation have come to light in Ambedkar and Kasturba Vidyalayas. In the Dika rape and murder case the police failed even to add sections under POCSO and gang rape and no charge sheet has been filed even two and a half months after the incident. The Nawada girl student was even forced to change her statement under threat. The speakers stressed their determination to continue the struggle on the issues of education, dignity and security.

Sankalp Yatra in Memory of Comrade Srilata

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The CPI(ML) Sangharsh Sankalp Yatra, resolving to carry forward the struggles of late Com. Srilata Swaminathan, reached Manpura in the evening of 26 February 2017. The Yatra from Udaipur to Ghantali, Banswada passed through Piladar, Gatod, Jaisamand, Veerpura, Kantoda, Sallara, Dingari, Kejad, Sarada, Badgaon, Badavali, Intali Pal, Intali Khera, Dagar, Baroda, Dharod, Dudar, Salumber, and Jodsagar Bhagal before reaching Manpura. As it passed through the villages, Party activists spoke to the people and gathered their views on MNREGA, education, health care, ration, women’s safety and other issues.

CPI(ML) State Committee member Shankar Lal Chaudhury said the Yatra had started from Udaipur and had held public meetings at Kewra, Oda, Rela, Devpura, Paluna, Palodara, Amarpura, Piladar and other villages and reached Bovas in the evening. He said that no MNREGA work was going on in any of these villages and the people are deeply troubled by unemployment. In the name of constructing toilets, incomplete structures have been put up which cannot be used; people have no option but to defecate in open spaces as they used to earlier. Party District Secretary Dr Chandra Dev Ola said that the Yatra would move forward the next day and would hold meetings and people’s interaction at Malpur, Morila, Rajpura, Devgaon, Kholri, Bhimpur-Barbadd, Jhallara, Bhagal, Dhikadhola, Payra, Ghated, Dhawda, Sanjola, Hadmatiya, Matasula, Jhadap and other villages.

Addressing the meetings at various villages Party State Secretary Mahendra Chaudhury said that Com. Srilata Swaminathan had for forty years waged a dedicated struggle against oppression in Adivasi regions of the State. She worked hard to organize the rural poor and adivasis against atrocities by feudal forces, moneylenders, forest officers and the police. He said that the Party would organize movements to carry forward her struggles for the poor and adivasis of the State.

The foundation stone for a memorial for Comrade Srilata was laid in Ghantali village by party Central Committee Member Com. Prabhat and CPI (ML)’s Rajasthan state secretary Com. Mahendra Chowdhary.

Bagmati Dam Construction Stayed Under People’s Pressure

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Thousands of workers, farmers, and common citizens blocked the NH 57 at Benibad (Muzaffarpur) and NH 50 at Vishupur (Darbhanga) on 9 March 2017 on the issue of stopping work on the destructive Baghmati dam construction, responding to a call by the CPI (ML) and the ‘Chaas Vaas Jeevan Bachao-Baghmati Bachao Sangharsh Morcha’. Earlier, about 5000 people led by Comrades Dhirendra Jha, Laxmeshwar Mishra, Jitendra Yadav and Krishna Mohan blocked the NH-57 at Benibad, paralyzing traffic in several districts.

A Satyagraha fast was started on 7 February 2017 at Benibad in Gayaghat village of Muzaffarpur with the following demands: constituting a high level committee for review of the Baghmati dam project on the basis of present geographical conditions; guarantee of housing for the displaced; withdrawal of the ridiculous and false cases slapped on protestors and ending the conspiracy of repression to stop the agitation. Sitting on the fast are 4 women—district councilor Vijnesh Yadav, Sarpanch Kanchan Kumari, social activist Neelu Singh, and Deputy Sarpanch Radha Devi—and social activists including Ramlochan Singh, Dinesh Sahni and ex-Sarpanch Jagannath Paswan. After the satyagraha, the DM had given the assurance of staying the dam construction work but he went back on his word and the construction work continued; the people’s anger against this broken word has resulted in the blockade of the National Highway. The BDO had come to the venue on behalf of the DM and assured that the construction work would be stopped, after which the road block ended.
Morcha convener Jitendra Yadav announced that a ‘Jansunwai’ (people’s hearing) would be held in Patna on 29 March. The Darbhanga blockade was led by Comrades Baidyanath Yadav, Sunil Yadav, Pappu Paswan, Surendra Paswan, Lallan Choudhury, Shivsagar Choudhury and others.

Protest In Koderma Against Killing Of Dalit Villager By Police For Playing Holi

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On the day of Holi the police beat to death Pradeep Choudhury, a dalit in Tehri village, Satgawa block, Koderma district, after a police chowkidar complained that Pradeep had sprinkled Holi colour on him. On 19 March 2017 hundreds of people led by MLA Rajkumar Yadav marched in angry protest against this through Satgawa bazaar, Kolidih and Basodih to Madhopur where a meeting was held. Addressing the meeting Rajkumar Yadav said that clearly Pradeep Choudhury’s death was a result of the police beating but the police is trying to propagate the lie that Pradeep was an epilepsy patient and to register his death as a case of unnatural death which is completely false. He said that if the responsible police personnel are not arrested by 20 March the CPI (ML) would launch a massive agitation.
Following the protest the DIG, SP and other officials met the victim’s family and gave the assurance that an unbiased enquiry would be conducted into the incident.

A huge protest march was also held in Jhumri Talaiyya against Pradeep’s killing. The speakers addressing the meeting said that Pradeep’s wife has also given a public statement that severe beating by the police was the cause of her husband’s death. They demanded that a case of murder should be registered in Pradeep’s death and appealed to the people to participate in the gherao of the Collectorate on 28 March and strengthen the fight for justice.

Youth Conference in Bangladesh

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On 25–27 February, 2017, the 7th National conference of YUB (Youth Unity of Bangladesh), Bangladesh Jubonotri, was organized at Dhaka, Bangladesh. Youth Unity of Bangladesh is the Youth Organization of Workers party of Bangladesh. On behalf of Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA), National vice-president, Com. Navkiran Natt, attended the conference. Com. Abhay Mukopadhyay, National Gen. Secy. Of DYFI, Com. Zamir Mola, State secy. DYFI, Com. Top Bahadur B C from CPMUML Nepal, Com. Stephen from Youth League Rebel, Germany, Com. Alex and Com. Hakki Erman Ergincan from Vanguard Youth Turkey, also participated in the conference.

The Conference started with a huge mass rally starting from Shaheed Minar, Bangladesh to YUB’s office where it was converted into a public meeting. The public meeting was addressed by the leaders of worker’s party of Bangladesh and Youth Unity of Bangladesh, where they raised concerns about the rise of right wing forces in the country, and deplorable conditions of the youth and workers of Bangladesh. Leaders from various countries also addressed the meeting, stressing the growing need of international unity of left and democratic forces to combat the attack of the rise of right wing forces internationally.
On the second day, 26th February, delegate session of the conference was organized. On this occasion, all the foreign guests and participants addressed the delegates.

Com. Sabbaha Ali Khan Collins was elected as National President, and Com. Shaiful Islam Tapan was elected as New Gen. Sec. of YUB.

On the third day of the conference, an international seminar “Raise The Voice For Employment, Secularism, and Democracy” was held. 

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Identifying the Foundations of Womens’ Oppression, Charting the Course of Struggles for Liberation

NOVANEWS

Image result for International Women’s Day CARTOON

8 March – International Women’s Day – was born in the struggles that women factory workers in their thousands waged against bondage a century ago. Communists began the tradition of observing IWD in memory of those struggles. Ironically, the powers-that-be and the advertisements all across try to hide the real legacy of Women’s Day and seek to establish a different narrative. They try to tell us that International Women’s Day (IWD) is an occasion when husbands are supposed to buy women washing machines and kitchen gadgets, when boyfriends are supposed to buy them flowers, and governments are supposed to make promises for ‘women empowerment’. So it is important for us to collectively reassert the fighting legacy of the international women’s day and draw lessons for the tasks and challenges at hand. On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2017 let us reiterate some key concerns of the women’s movement.

Origins of Gender Oppression

Women’s oppression is not ‘natural’ – it came into being in the course of human history. Marxism helps us to identify the material circumstances in which such oppression was born and in which it is sustained. In the most early human societies, women were not oppressed, and there was no rigid ‘gender division of labour.’ That is, women could hunt and gather food just as men did. Women were revered for their ability to give birth, and pregnant women or nursing mothers might stay away from hunts. But as such, there was no concept of gender inequality.

Engels, in his book “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State”, shows us that institutions like ‘family’ and monogamous marriage are historic institutions – i.e. they came into being at a certain juncture in history, coinciding with the rise of private property and class conflict.

Engels looks are historic evidence of how early human societies – and surviving indigenous (adivasi) societies – do not have systematic gender or class inequality and oppression. The knowledge of who is the father of a child is not considered important. Families trace their lineage from mother to daughter.

With the domestication of animals and with agriculture, humans were able to create and preserve a surplus – over and above the bare minimum needed to survive. Class-divisions emerged in society as a section of humans began to control the surplus and treat it as ‘private property’ or private wealth. Coinciding with the emergence of class society, we find the rise of inequality between men and women.

The family and monogamous marriage are institutions that help to ensure that property can be inherited from father to son – and to ensure a legitimate son, women’s sexuality must be controlled and monogamy ensured. Engels shows how throughout the history of monogamy, monogamy has been enforced only on women while men have been free to have sexual relations outside of marriage. We can add here that the ideological privileging of heterosexual monogamy was also accompanied in some societies by the criminalisation of homosexuality and other sexual orientations and identities. Just as there is nothing ‘natural’ about women’s oppression, there is nothing ‘unnatural’ about homosexuality.

With the rise of private property, production moved outside the household and was controlled by men – while tasks of ‘reproduction’ – not only bearing children but the work of ‘reproducing’ society and the next generation, i.e. cooking, cleaning, caring for children, the elderly etc. were relegated to the ‘private’ sphere (the family) and allotted to women. The gender division of labour was born. Engels observed that

    “With the patriarchal family, and still more with the single monogamous family, a change came. Household management lost its public character. It no longer concerned society. It became a private service; the wife became the head servant, excluded from all participation in social production.”

What happens to the family institution under capitalism? Capitalism requires women and even children to be drawn into the workforce as paid labour. But it also requires women to continue to bear the burden of unpaid care work inside the household. Let us understand this problem a little better.

Capitalism Needs Domestic Labour

Marx identified labour power as the source of surplus value. What is surplus value? It is value produced by the worker in excess of the minimum value required to sustain and regenerate the worker and replenish his or her labour power. The capitalist seeks to push down this minimum value as low as possible, so as to increase the surplus value. That is, it seeks to pay the worker as little as possible. To understand this better, let’s look at a poster.

The poster shows workers entering a factory gate in the morning and coming out in the evening. What happens between that entry and exit? How do the workers who exit the workplace exhausted each evening – their labour power depleted – make it to work again the next morning with their labour power replenished? The answer is: the workers’ labour power is replenished by those who cook meals for them, provide various kinds of comfort and care inside the home. And the bulk of such work is done by women.

The capitalist knows that workers need meals, a roof over the head, a bed, sleep – so as to be available for work the next day. Plus, the capitalist also needs the workforce of the future to be reproduced – i.e. children to be born. And it needs future workers (children of workers) to be cared for. It also needs the unemployed – members of the reserve army of labour – to be cared for. Moreover there is the problem of past workers – retired workers, aged and elderly people etc. But the capitalist does not wish to have to bear the burden of this cooking and care, because if either the individual capitalist or the State pays for this burden, it decreases the surplus value produced by the worker. Much of this (unpaid) labour of cooking, cleaning, caring for children and the elderly, providing loving human communication and care is done by people within households, families and communities – and the bulk of this labour is done by women.

Let us look at another poster from the workers’ struggle for the 8-hour day. The poster declares that the 24-hour day must be divided into three parts: 8 hours each for work, rest, and ‘what we will’ (whatever we like or enjoy). Of course, the capitalist wants to increase the ‘work’ part of the day as much as possible, and shrink the ‘rest’ and ‘leisure’ part of the day as much as possible. Contract sanitation workers working for the Bengaluru Municipal Corporation get no leave, no holidays. During a Strike they observed on 8 March, Monisha, the teenage daughter of one of the workers Meena, told a journalist that Meena had always wanted to visit Cubbon Park, and she would take her there if only the corporation would give the workers a day off. (See the report by Sanjana on the Strike in this IWD feature in this issue of Liberation.) Time for leisure – to visit a park, relax with one’s daughter – is still important even for those workers who have other very pressing demands.

But think about this 24-hour day from the point of view of a woman.

If a woman is not a paid worker, she is actually working 24 hours a day – because domestic labour has no fixed working hours: if a baby cries in the night or wets itself, it must be attended to immediately. If she is a paid worker, she is doing a double shift, because after a hard day at work, she still has to come home and cook and care for others. She does not have 8 hours for rest and 8 hours for ‘what you will’ (which can include leisure, enjoyment as well as something like attending meetings of unions and women’s organisations.) She has a much harder struggle than men to make time for these activities.

Think about it – this domestic labour is endless. It involves collecting fuel and water as well as the actual process of cooking. It involves playing with children, wiping the tears of a crying child, waking up in the middle of the night to care for a sick child or adult.

Now some will say – ‘how great women are, they do this wonderful work uncomplainingly, because that is the nature of women. Women’s Day is an occasion to salute such women, give them our respect.’ But we say that such ‘praise’ is an ideological ploy – a way of justifying and glorifying oppression. The women’s movement as well as revolutionary Marxists all over the world have challenged the ideology that claims that such unpaid, unrecognised labour of social reproduction is ‘natural’ to women and is ‘women’s work.’ They have said that a) men must share this domestic labour and b) the employer and the State must be made to bear greater burdens of social reproduction, by providing welfare measures, water, fuel, food, messes or canteens providing cooked food, pensions for the elderly, healthcare, maternity benefits, education and child care etc.

Who Does The Tasks Of Social Reproduction?

Women, as we have already noted, bear the bulk of the burden of domestic labour, which is part of the labour of ‘social reproduction.’ Capitalism needs labour power to be reproduced – and women bear the burden of this reproduction. The tasks of social reproduction do not only comprise unpaid work done inside the home: they also comprise paid domestic work, sanitation work, cooking mid-day meals in schools, teaching, healthcare work and so on. In India such work is often contractualised and extremely underpaid. It is no coincidence that much of this underpaid work of social reproduction is also done by women. And also, Dalits and Dalit women do a disproportionate share of the forms of social reproductive labour that are considered ‘dirty.’

Social reproduction also involves the reproduction of the entire structure of oppressive social relationships of class, caste, gender, race – day after day, generation after generation. In India, controlling women’s reproduction and sexuality is required not only to maintain the patriarchal transfer of private property but also to ensure the reproduction of the caste system. It is in large measure through the institutions of family/household that control of women’s reproduction and sexuality is achieved and women’s unpaid domestic labour is made possible.

Challenging the Patriarchal Commonsense of ‘Private/Public’, ‘Home/World’ Binary

A Marxist approach to the women’s movement helps us to look at the entire structure of society – and the role of women’s inequality and oppression – whole rather than through the binaries of ‘ghare’ and ‘baire’, ‘family’ and ‘workplace,’ ‘private’ and ‘public.’

In the dominant discourse, we find that on the one hand it is argued that women are ‘safe’ within families and face ‘danger’ when ‘forced’ to go ‘outside’ (to work, to defecate, to study etc). On the other hand, gender and caste discrimination, oppression and violence is defined as a problem of ‘culture’ – basically a problem of the sphere of the ‘family’ or ‘community,’ and so the ‘private’ problem of individuals and families or the ‘cultural’ problem of communities rather than the problem and responsibility of the State and public institutions. How do we challenge this dominant discourse?

We can see very clearly how the family/household institution disciplines and schools women in unpaid care work duties; teaches men entitlement over women’s labour, sexuality and reproduction; defines domestic violence as the “chastisement” of women for failure to do her “duties”; and helps to reproduce the ideologies and hierarchies of caste and gender, generation after generation.

In India, National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2005-06 data, as well as data gathered by the Indian Human Development Survey (IHDS) 2012 establish how denial of autonomy is itself a form of violence and discrimination faced by Indian women. It is important to emphasise this point, because State policies as well as patriarchal common sense often prescribe and impose restrictions on women’s autonomy and mobility in the name of keeping them ‘safe’ from violence.

• Only 5% of women in India have sole control over choosing their husbands – IHDS 2012• 79.88% of women need permission to visit a health centre – IHDS 2012

NFHS 2005-06 data shows that the patriarchal sense of entitlement to women’s domestic services, helps legitimise domestic violence. Between 34-62 percent of men and women – ranging from educated to illiterate – believe that domestic violence is justified for one reason or another. Both category of respondents, men and women, tended to justify wife beating on the following ‘grounds’ – if wives argue with the husband, fail to show proper respect to in-laws, neglect the house or children, or go out without telling the husband. Women are tied by very widespread domestic violence to the social reproductive domestic roles ‘fixed’ for them – but patriarchal hegemony ensures that a large percentage of women accept such violence as the norm.

Even rape statistics in India reveal a high level of disguised violence against women’s autonomy. In her article ‘Rape, Rhetoric and Reality’, (The Hindu, December 19, 2014), Rukmini S points out that no less than 40% of “what is classified as rape (in Delhi police files) is actually parental criminalisation of consensual sexual relationships, often when it comes to inter-caste and inter-religious couples.” Each of the women in these ‘rape’ cases, then, are victims not of rape, but of coercion and violence by their own parents, families, and communities in their own homes. But this violence remains an open secret, in which even the police is complicit, and such violence now enjoys political sanction and encouragement from political forces patronised by ruling parties.

Domestic violence as well as restrictions on women’s mobility then are inflicted on women by the families and communities they are born in, in order to prevent them from posing a threat to the caste order. And once married, women are subjected to domestic violence to discipline them into performing social reproductive labour. In India marriage involves moving into the marital home, which is often far away from the woman’s natal home. One of the most common forms of domestic violence is to prevent the newly-wed woman from contacting her parents and friends. The bride is subjected to various forms of humiliation and shaming – a sort of ‘ragging’ that is supposed to break her into her new role. As a result, the newly-wed bride’s situation becomes comparable in vulnerability to that of migrant labour. This isolation and vulnerability of the new bride, a migrant in ‘her own home,’ mostly disguised and romanticised ideologically, becomes starkly visible in instances for example in Haryana where, thanks to the low sex ratio, brides are ‘imported’ and purchased from other states.

Disciplinary Methods Drawn From Caste and Household Systems

Not only households, even the State feel entitled to demand social reproductive labour from women: both unpaid labour inside the home as well as severely underpaid ‘voluntary’ labour from incentive- or honorarium-based workers. The State, then, has no interest in challenging the systematic denial of women’s autonomy or the ‘normalcy’ of domestic violence. This leads to a peculiar situation where state-led campaigns exhort society to allow girls to be born – so that they can grow up to fulfil social reproductive duties later! Beti Bachao campaign slogans such as Beti nahin bachaoge to bahu kahan se laoge (If you don’t save a daughter today how will you get a bride tomorrow) – reflect the fact that such campaigns originated in Haryana with the ‘Unmarried Men’s Union’ (Avivahit Purush Sangathan) who declared that the low sex ratio was preventing them from getting the brides from the prescribed caste and community – brides they felt entitled to having. The Swacch Bharat campaign widely uses slogans and advertisements suggesting that toilets should be built so that daughters and daughter-in-law, who should be veiled and whose place is in the home, should never have to go outside the house.

Widespread restrictions on women’s mobility in India are one of the factors responsible for the low workforce participation rate of women. The state and capitalist forces want more women to be drawn into the labour force – but at the same time they want to prevent and curb the likely consequences of women joining the workforce: greater autonomy and mobility and control over their own lives.

In both production and social reproduction work, women workers are disciplined using tools and methods drawn from the social reproductive spheres of the household and the education system, as well as from the caste system. By doing so, the Indian State and Indian Governments seek to offer a docile, disciplined and unlikely-to-revolt (or so they hope) female workforce as an incentive to global capital to ‘Make in India.’ So, young women garment workers (mostly Dalit) in Tamil Nadu factories producing for global brands, keep women under strict surveillance in hostels, prevent any social outing or mobility outside the hostel or factory premises; punish socialisation between female and male workers; ban mobile phones for women workers and mete out humiliating casteist punishments to them for violating these rules. The factory managements justify these restrictions (similar to restrictions in women’s hostels in education institutions) by claiming that the workers’ families demand them.

The social relationships of caste and gender together are also other means of disciplining workers. For instance, in rural Bihar or Andhra Pradesh, the upper caste landlord will assert a feudal sense of entitlement over not only the labour but the sexual being of Dalit women labourers. What happens when the women workers migrate to the city? One woman sanitation worker in Bangalore, a Dalit migrant woman from Andhra Pradesh, referring to the fact that the contractors contractors are also from Andhra Pradesh and inevitably from the dominant Reddy (Kapu) caste, put it this way, “We escaped our villages in Chittur, Nellore, Ananthpuram and other districts of Andhra and ran to Bangalore to escape the caste oppression at the hands of the Kapus and they have now followed us to the cities and force us to shed our sweat and blood for them to prosper!”

Communal Fascism and the Metaphor of ‘Family’

Communal fascists also exploit the widespread anxieties over women’s sexual autonomy as a threat to the caste system. They use the slogan of love jihad to foment communal hatred and violence directed at real and imagined inter-faith love.

It is significant that one of the central metaphors of the Sangh’s ‘social harmony’ rhetoric is that of the ‘home’ – ‘Ghar,’ and its sister-term ‘family’ – ‘parivar.’ This metaphor is evoked to valorize the patriarchal family and subjugation of women – even to the extent of justifying wife-beating as necessary chastisement of erring wives. (‘Holier Than Cow: Wisdom on women from a Rashtra Sevika Sangh camp,’ Neha Dixit, Outlook, 28 January 2013) The RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat describes the RSS as ‘familyist not feminist;’ feminist assertions of women’s autonomy are painted as Western-inspired disruptions of the harmonious Indian family. Oppressive social practices and restrictions on women’s mobility are all rationalized as having evolved to ‘protect’ women from ‘rapacious Muslims’.

Hindu religion is described, moreover, as the ‘home’ for Dalits and Muslims, and to prescribe and order ‘ghar wapsi’ – ‘return home’ for these sections. The RSS and BJP recast relations between workers and bosses as harmonious relations within the ‘industry family,’ whereby justifying erosion and dilution of labour laws. To justify child labour and dilute the child labour abolition laws, in the name of allowing ‘family-based’ occupations to employ children.

The analogy of ‘family’ and ‘home’ are invoked not only to glamourise gender hierarchy but class and caste hierarchies. And communal violence in the name of curbing ‘love jehad’ are as hostile to women’s autonomy and equality as to the claims of Muslim and Dalit men to equality and dignity.

Some Conclusions

What are some of the conclusions that revolutionary Marxists and all those who want to fight patriarchy and structures of oppression can draw?

We cannot say that we must fight ‘cultural’ arena first, change mindsets, and that the task of challenging structures of production can come ‘later.’

Neither can we say that we must fight ‘economic’ oppression first and that the questions of violence and discrimination and attacks on women’s autonomy inside households can come ‘later.’

We can’t say we will fight communal fascism first, women’s rights and equality can come ‘later.’

We can’t say we will fight to annihilate caste first, and questions of gender and women’s freedom can come ‘later.’

We have to fight on all these fronts together – seeing how essential each such fight is to other fights.

It means the asserting the right to autonomy in households and family – women’s azaadi (freedom) inside homes from their own parents, brothers, husbands, control over her own life, decisions, sexuality and reproduction – as central to struggles to annihilate caste, resist communalism, organise working class struggles. It means working class struggles can’t be organised only on factory floors or workplaces – but everywhere, including in the communities where workers live. In those areas, it will mean demanding state support for social reproductive tasks (homes, running water, fuel, public toilets, food rations, children’s education, health, maternity entitlements, pensions for all etc). 
Box

Salt of the Earth

The 1954 film Salt of the Earth, based on a real miners’ struggle of 1950s USA, shows how Mexican-American mine-workers in America realise, during a historic Strike, that they cannot win the battle against the bosses without the unity and mutual equality and respect of the male mine-workers and the women. The male workers and Union leaders initially don’t think the women’s demand for hot running water in their homes (as was provided in the white workers’ homes) was worth including in the Strike’s main demands. They would tell women that the first priority was workplace safety and wage equality between Mexican and white workers, and better sanitation could come ‘later.’ The women in reply remind of the immense labour it takes to chop wood as fuel to heat water needed for daily chores: “We ought to be in the wood choppers’ union. Chop wood for breakfast. Chop wood to wash his clothes. Chop wood, heat the iron. Chop wood, scrub the floor. Chop wood, cook his dinner.” When a court order prohibits male workers from picketing, women take over the Strike’s picket lines. When women are jailed, men have to do the unwaged housework – and quickly realise how housework ‘never ends’, and how important the issue of hot running water is. They realise the need to address “two kinds of slavery, wage slavery and domestic slavery” and the question of “Equality in jobs, equality in the home” together.

In the film, Esperanza, the wife of the Union leader Ramon who resents her activism and independence, says to him, “Yes. I talk of dignity. The Anglo bosses look down on you, and you hate them for it. “Stay in your place, you dirty Mexican” — that’s what they tell you. But why must you say to me, “Stay in your place.” Do you feel better having someone lower than you? Whose neck shall I stand on, to make me feel superior? And what will I get out of it? I don’t want anything lower than I am. I’m low enough already. I want to rise. And push everything up with me as I go …And if you can’t understand this you’re a fool — because you can’t win this strike without me! You can’t win anything without me!”

Ramon eventually understands this truth, and the united action of men and women together wins the Strike. This 1954 film teaches us a lot today – about how issues of ‘equality’ (of race/caste and gender) at the workplace as well as in the community and in households are as central to class struggle as the issues of wages.

It will mean asserting women’s right to toilet breaks, food, workplace safety, healthcare etc – as well as equal wages and committees against sexual harassment at the workplace. It will mean asserting that Dalit men and women will no longer do the work of cleaning human or animal excreta or animal carcasses. It will mean challenging the feudal-style caste hierarchies between maalik (boss) and mazdoor (worker) that are found in rural India but often reproduced in cities. It means fighting for women’s fullest freedom in those communities and in the process confronting caste and communal divisions directly and breaking down these divisions. It will mean asserting the right of all women to leisure and pleasure, liberty and equality.

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Kakkoos – Dirty Secret of Manual Scavenging

NOVANEWS

Image result for Manual Scavenging CARTOON

The All India People’s Forum (AIPF) on 19 March screened Kakkoos, (Toilet) a powerful Tamil documentary film on manual scavenging in Tamil Nadu, directed by Divya. The screening took place in Chennai at the Madras Reporters Guild.

Though the film was released on 26 February 2017, and immediately received much acclaim and positive reviews as a courageous film, the TN police and Government, disturbed by the theme and content of the film, have stopped the screening of the film in Coimbatore, Madurai and Kanyakumari claiming it poses a threat to law and order. Organizations and groups attempting to screen the film were questioned and in some cases even threatened. The AIPF screening was organized to protest against and highlight such draconian attempts to curb free speech and prevent the dirty secret of manual scavenging from being revealed.

Divya, the film’s director and editor, is a CPI(ML) activist from Madurai. She and her team covered many towns and cities in Tamil Nadu on foot to be able to locate manual scavengers – whose work is usually done ‘out of sight.’ The sights and scenes the film covers – men and women cleaning overflowing toilets, toilets clogged with sanitary napkins: cleaning human faeces with their bare hands – are difficult to watch and must have been extremely difficult to film. But it forces the viewer to face facts about the sheer crime of allowing millions of human beings to do such work in India. It shows the unspeakable – and asks hard-hitting questions about caste and class in the process. It is not a film designed to elicit sympathy for manual scavengers: as Divya herself has said many times, she wants people to feel guilt and anger and an urgency to eradicate manual scavenging without a moment’s delay.

The screening was followed by a discussion in which Bezwada Wilson, founder of the Safai Karamchari Andolan and Magsaysay Award Winner, Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna who won the Magsaysay along with Wilson, and Bhasha Singh, activist and author of The Unseen: Manual Scavengers of India participated. The discussion was presided over by R Vidyasagar, convener of AIPF’s Tamil Nadu chapter.

Bezwada Wilson pointed out that Modi who speaks of Swacch Bharat and overnight imposed the disastrous demonetization without a qualm, lacks the political will to abolish manual scavenging. He praised the film for showing a ‘360 degrees’ look at all angles of the question of manual scavenging.

Bhasha Singh commended the film for showing the issues of class, caste and gender as they come together in the lives of the manual scavengers. She said that the Swacch Bharat slogan and campaign and its silence on caste and manual scavenging mocked at the lives of the Dalits condemned to do such demeaning labour.

TM Krishna said he was very much moved by the film and warmly thanked the director Divya and its crew. In the name of culture, he said, there was a tremendous mass movement for Jallikattu and an ordinance was passed with urgency. But what kind of culture sleeps easy while allowing such inhuman manual scavenging, he asked? Caste is not in the shit but in the mindset, he said and that should be eradicated. We need an urgent, powerful people’s movement to annihilating caste and eradicate manual scavenging, he said. He said we saw criminal acts repeatedly done all throughout the film – we also must take responsibility for these criminal acts.

Divya on behalf of the film’s crew thanked everybody who supported the film and AIPF for screening it. She expressed gratitude to Bhasha Singh’s book for inspiring her own work.
A large number of people – young students, intellectuals, artists, journalists, social media activists, professionals, left activists – participated in the screening and discussion, bought the film’s DVD, and contributed to the expense of the event. Noted environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman, noted Carnatic vocalist Sangeetha Sivakumar, AICCTU All India Secretary Bhuvaneswari, and State President A S Kumar were also present.

The guests were presented with the DVD copy of the film. Divya, the film’s director presented Bhasha Singh with a copy; journalist, social activist and theatre personality Gnani presented TM Krishna with a copy while Comrade Balasundaram, CPIML Central Committee member, presented Bezwada Wilson with a copy.

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The BRICS New Development Bank meets in Delhi: Dashing Africa’s green-developmental hopes?

AP

Will the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) bloc ever really challenge the world financial order? The BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) leadership is meeting in New Delhi from 31 March to 2 April with a degree of fanfare unmatched by accomplishments. It is a good moment to assess progress since the BRICS Summit in 2013 when rumour had it that the then host city of Durban would also be the NDB’s home base. (It ended up in Shanghai, launched in 2015.)

BRICS leaders often state their vision of establishing alternatives to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Indeed the NDB leadership began with environmentally-oriented loans last year, and in 2017 wants to add $3 billion in new credits.

But looked at from South Africa, questions immediately arise about key personnel, as well as the willingness of the only local NDB borrower so far – the electricity parastatal Eskom – to support renewable energy, and perhaps most importantly whether the country and the continent can afford more expensive hard-currency loans.

Greenwashing finance as Africa loses IMF power

Why green loans? The original NDB designers were two former World Bank chief economists, Joe Stiglitz and Nick Stern. Although their public endorsements of the NDB stressed sustainable development and climate change, in private Stern offered a different rationale during a 2013 conference of the elite British Academy (which he chairs): “If you have a development bank that is part of a [major business] deal then it makes it more difficult for governments to be unreliable.”

Stern asked, “are there any press here, by the way? OK, so this bit’s off the record. We started to move the idea of a BRICS-led development bank for those two reasons. Coupled with the idea that the rich countries would not let the balance sheets of the World Bank and some of the regional development banks expand very much, and they would not allow their share in those banks to be diluted.”

While this is true, the BRICS gained substantial IMF voting power increases in the 2015 restructuring (e.g. China up 37%, India 23%, Brazil 11% and Russia 8%), but with negligible United States or European dilution. Instead, the rising BRICS shares were as a result of Nigeria and Venezuela losing 41% of their vote, along with Libya at -39%, Morocco -27%, Gabon -26%, Algeria -26%, Namibia -26%, Cameroon -23%, Mauritius -21% and even South Africa lost 21%.

Four BRIC countries stood on African and Latin American heads to get better executive director seats at the IMF table. When they got there, the BRICS directors approved the reappointment of Christine Lagarde in 2016 and after she was convicted on a $430 million corruption charge last December, the IMF directors unanimously endorsed her continued employment.

The NDB’s first loans did boost environmentally-oriented projects, as $300 million went to Brazil, $81 million to China, $250 million to India and $180 million to SA, the latter to connect renewable Independent Power Producer generators to the main grid. But these processes are accomplished with mostly local-currency inputs, hence the US$ loans were inappropriate. Like the other multilaterals, NDB repayments are in US dollars, which adversely affect the borrower’s balance of payments, although the NDB has started fund-raising from yuan and rupee markets so this may eventually change.

But worse, Eskom’s two most recent leaders, Brian Molefe and Matshela Koko, simultaneously announced that they wanted nothing more to do with renewable energy. A massive battle over renewables was only resolved a month ago when Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s Budget Statement recommitted to the IPP contracts. (Koko may well have to step down after last week’s conflict-of-interest revelations involving a scandalous $100 million tender suspiciously won by his stepdaughter’s company.)

In that budget, Gordhan refused Eskom further nuclear energy financing, beyond an initial $15 million: a tiny downpayment on the in-principle reactor purchase agreement that President Jacob Zuma had made to Moscow-based Rosatom, with anticipated costs of $50-100 billion. The principle supplier of raw inputs to the nukes – if they are built – will be Oakbay, a uranium (and coal) company owned by the notorious Gupta brothers.

Gupta gyrations

This week the Guptas are in court fighting Gordhan over his failure to reverse the main SA commercial banks’ boycott of Oakbay and other Gupta-owned firms. This boycott is the widely understood reason that Gordhan was recalled from a UK-US investment trip on Tuesday morning: to be fired.

For the NDB, such turmoil is extremely important because SA’s Governor to the NDB is Gordhan. And the oft-rumoured ascension to the Treasury by Molefe is vital in part because he was SA’s BRICS Business Council leader until recently – following his own humiliating resignation as Eskom chief executive last November. That was the result of the Public Protector’s “State of Capture” report revealing influence over Molefe by the Guptas.

After he (incorrectly) claimed that the Gupta’s luxurious Saxonwold neighbourhood contained a shebeen (pub) that might explain his regular presence there, Molefe’s credibility was utterly destroyed. Nevertheless, in January, Molefe was appointed to parliament amidst fresh controversies over Gupta meddling.

Just before the Eskom resignation, Molefe made an articulate appeal for a replacement of “the current ‘casino’ financial system or ‘law of the jungle’ with a project that expressly promotes the common good among nations, provides credit for high-technology development projects, on youth education and training and meets the growth challenges of the future.”

Molefe bragged that “BRICS and its allies are taking bold corrective measures by building a world system based on real value and to create a system capable of fundamentally shaping socio-economic growth and development. There have been some significant steps taken, in particular the launch of the NDB, which has already started funding key projects.”

Yet these are the very ‘key projects’ – renewable energy – that Molefe was sabotaging at that time, suggesting his NDB pronouncements simply cannot be taken seriously.

The NDB website itself observes “a need for Multilateral Development Banks to reinvent themselves” on the one hand, but on the other, its president KV Kamath last September signed a deal with the World Bank for “co-financing of projects; facilitating knowledge exchange… and facilitating secondments and staff exchanges.”

NDB personnel

In contrast to Molefe, two other executives from SA receive regular praise. Ironically, SA’s NDB Director is former Reserve Bank Governor (1999-2009) Tito Mboweni, who had slammed the NDB as “very costly” in 2013. Upon accepting the NDB directorship two years later (as the only one of the five not employed by a BRICS state), he promptly declared that nuclear energy financing “falls squarely within the mandate of the NDB.”

Mboweni is International Advisor to Goldman Sachs. That should have been an embarrassment in January 2016 when, according to financial journalists, the bank “identified shorting the rand as one of its top trades for this year due to falling commodity prices and SA’s current account deficit.” At that point the SA currency was rapidly pushed down to its historic low of R18/$. (It since recovered to R12/$ after the speculative wave ebbed, but recent Treasury turmoil just drove it below R13/$.)

SA’s NDB Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Leslie Maasdorp, also worked at Goldman Sachs (and Barclays and Bank of America), led Pretoria’s failed privatisation strategy and was an unsuccessful, short-lived chief executive of privatised education firm AdvTech.

One other NDB job remains open: the much-advertised head of the NDB Africa Regional Centre in Johannesburg. In December 2015, Zuma announced that his 2014-15 finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, would urgently take that job. It appeared to be a fig-leaf appointment, so as to replace the fiscally-conservative Nene with a man – Desmond van Rooyen – considered close to the Guptas.

This caused such an uproar that not only did three top white bankers communicate to Zuma that he must reverse course, but also a “critical intervention” (according to the country’s leading business writer, Peter Bruce) was made by Beijing’s owners of the Johannesburg-based Standard Bank, leading to van Rooyen’s firing within four days, and Gordhan’s appointment.

Zuma, acting as clumsily as usual, never had a guarantee of Nene’s job from the NDB officials, who subsequently stalled the Africa Regional Centre’s launch. It was originally scheduled for March 2016. Then last September, the BRICS Business Council website declared that the new Centre’s Johannesburg headquarters would be ready by November. (The Africa Regional Centre is still to be launched, now more than a year late.)

The location was ‘well received’ in the rest of Africa, according to the Business Council, because the NDB will lend to other countries, not just the BRICS. Leading Ugandan official Louis Kasekende argued that Africa should “have access to credit as quickly as possible at low rates,” especially to “reduce the timeframe of projects finalisation and approval process.”

Inappropriate finance for Africa

Reducing the timeframe would logically mean reducing attention to environmental and social dimensions (the critique of development banks most often made by civil society). But the larger problem is the exceptionally high debt burden African countries now shoulder, following the world crash of commodity prices from 2011-15. The NDB would offer Africa only hard-currency loans that are extremely expensive when currencies crash.

As the Financial Times recently reported, “One factor Africa’s indebted countries have in common is sharp devaluations of their currencies against the US dollar. Since mid-2014, the Mozambique metical is down 56 per cent against the dollar, the Angolan kwanza 41 per cent and the Ghanaian cedi 36 per cent, for example.” In 2011, 6.3 South African rand bought a US dollar; today it costs twice as much.

After multilateral lenders’ and G7 debt relief in 2006, the foreign debt of SubSaharan Africa was cut by $100 billion, to $200 billion. But thanks mainly to Chinese state loans (associated with the extractive industries), it is now up again above $400 billion, with countries like Angola, Chad and Ghana paying more than 30% of their governments’ revenues on debt servicing.

South Africa’s own payment obligations to the BRICS NDB will become onerous as well. To capitalise the NDB, $680 million was allocated by Nene in 2015-16, rising steadily to $3.2 billion this year and $6.2 billion by 2020. The NDB’s capital base, which is notionally $100 billion, is shared equally by all five (unlike the $100 billion Contingent Reserve Arrangement which treats South Africa the way the IMF does, with a much smaller share of the quota: $10 billion). Other multilateral financiers cost South Africa $19.2 billion in ‘provisions’ made in the current budget (i.e. to be paid when called for by the financier); indeed only the IMF capital subscription will be more costly ($6.4 billion this year, rising to $7.2 billion in 2020) than the NDB.

Paying these substantial subscriptions is onerous, given that they contribute to enforcing the neo-liberal ideology that continues oppressing the continent’s people. But moreover, South Africa also faces a terrifying rise in its own foreign debt, which according to the March 2017 SA Reserve Bank Quarterly Bulletin had risen to $143 billion in September 2016, a $10.6 billion rise over the prior three months. At 50% of GDP, this is the highest debt burden in the country’s modern history; the only prior default was in 1985 when the ratio was 40%.

The reason for soaring foreign debt is that multinational corporations are taking SA-sourced profits and dividends to London and other offshore financial headquarters. Indeed, as Chinese lenders, Indian steelmakers, other BRICS mining houses and the Gupta family externalise their own funding flows, the tragic irony of the NDB emerges.

In sum, the unnecessary NDB loans to Eskom contribute to more BRIC country power over the one African country, South Africa, that once had the potential to stand up and fight for justice. But perhaps Molefe in the Gupta’s suburb of Saxonwold, that might just have been shebeen talk.

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The Resolve of the Republic Day 2017 for an India of Liberty and Equality

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On the 67th anniversary of its proclamation, the Indian Republic finds itself in a veritable state of siege. The government of the day and the corporate-communal cabal that it represents and serves so brazenly have mounted a multi-pronged assault on the constitutional basis and framework of the Republic of India. The principles and values enunciated in the Constitution are being subverted in every possible way and the institutions that had been built to promote and protect the rights of the citizens and the collective interests and aspirations of the people are being systematically hijacked and destroyed.

Indeed, the RSS has time and again made it clear that it does not recognise the Constitution as the basis of the modern Indian Republic. For the RSS, the Republic is just an ornamental attire for the ancient civilization of India; and the RSS notion of civilization is more a matter of mythology than history. Manusmriti, that obnoxious charter of social slavery and human indignity is the real constitution for the RSS. Just the other day, speaking at the Jaipur Literature Festival RSS ideologue Vaidya yet again questioned the inclusion of the word ‘secular’ in the Preamble to the Constitution while calling for an end to the system of reservations. Caste is the essential pillar of the RSS’s its cherished Brahminical order so reservation continues to be an anathema.

What makes the situation really alarming is that the RSS war on the Constitution and the secular democratic character of the Indian Republic is today being waged from the vantage position of state power. And Narendra Modi is spearheading this war with his brazenly dictatorial style of governance. The absolutely arbitrary way the government has imposed the disastrous demonetization decision on an unsuspecting citizenry has no parallels in the history of the Republic. Defying every tenet of economic rationality and established procedures of collective functioning and parliamentary accountability, the Prime Minister subjected the country to an unprecedented spell of economic disruption and devastation. NarendraModiis invoking the common people’s desire to punish the corrupt and check growing inequality, but the fact is in the first two years of his rule, the share of the top 1% has jumped from 49% to 58% of the total wealth in the country.

Nearly three months since the scrapping of 86% of currency in circulation, the cash crunch still continues to dog the people. And the chaos on the cash front has now triggered a serious economic slowdown. What is really galling is that instead of making any efforts to address the grave situation and mitigate the crisis, the government is coercing the predominantly cash-reliant unorganised sector and small and medium enterprises that account for the lion’s share of employment in India to go for digital transactions, thereby subjecting the entire economy to a severe squeeze. The coercive push for cashless transactions is exposing the cash-dependent and digitally ill-equipped Indian economy to increased financial uncertainty and unprecedented domination of global capital and big corporations.

The Modi government is also trying to redefine the Republic by amending the Citizenship Act of 1955. In keeping with the BJP’s well-known concept of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to introduce a distinction among refugees on the basis of their religious affiliation and identity. According to theAmendment Bill, non-Muslim refugees coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan without valid travel documents would not be treated as illegal migrants and would be allowed to apply for Indian Citizenship on easier terms than are currently prescribed for persons seeking the status of naturalised Indian citizens. This is a brazen attempt to define citizenship on a religious basis and sanctify the hounding of Muslim immigrants as infiltrators.

People with diverse religious affiliations may and do come to India to seek refuge and asylum. They are propelled by a variety of circumstances ranging from social and political persecution to economic misery, natural calamities and climate change. In a secular democratic republic, religious affiliation must not be made the basis to decide on either citizenship or the question of treating refugees with justice, dignity and humanitarian considerations. The Bill also seeks to cancel the registration of Overseas Citizens of India if they are found to violate any Indian law ‘for the time being in force’. While the government provides safe passage to economic offenders like Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya, it evidently seeks to stifle dissent among NRIs and OCIs by threatening them with deregistration for opposing injustice and oppression in India which can easily invite prosecution under one of the many draconian laws currently in force.

Clearly, the Sangh brigade wants Indians to behave like docile subjects blindly obeying the rulers and not as free citizens equipped with fundamental rights including the right to dissent which is absolutely central to democracy. Their idea of citizenship is derived from the obnoxious Manuvadi order that justifies coercion and domination while incriminating every quest for justice, freedom and equality. The Sangh brigade champions the worst of India’s feudal traditions and colonial customs, albeit with the full backing of India’s crony capitalists and the masters of the imperialist world order. We can see this idea in action whether in the treatment meted out to Indian citizens in the name of demonetization or in every other coercive attempt to impose their parameters of pseudo-patriotism and communal nationalism.

Republic Day 2017 therefore calls upon us to uphold the dreams and rights of free citizens to develop modern India on the cardinal principles of liberty, equality and fraternity and defeat every dictatorial attempt to subject the Indian people to a renewed reign of social slavery and submission.

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India: BJP’s Poisonous Poll Campaign

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IN THE ONGOING ASSEMBLY ELECTION CAMPAIGN in various states, most notably the state of Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has once again unleashed a communal campaign aimed at consolidating Hindu voters against the imaginary Muslim enemy.

The BJP Manifesto for Uttar Pradesh promises to set up ‘anti-Romeo quads’ outside college campuses. While the BJP President Amit Shah claims these are aimed at curbing incidents of sexual harassment of women students, the BJP’s national co-convenor Sunil Bharala has made the communal and anti-women agenda of ‘anti-Romeo squads’ amply clear. Bharala declared that the squads are aimed at acting against Muslim men involved in “love jehad” – the BJP’s term for consensual relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women.

This is not the first time the BJP has invoked the bogey of “love jehad” in an election campaign. Bharala also recalled that danger of “love jehad” was the rallying cry for the communal violence of Muzaffarnagar in 2013 that had helped Modi win the 2014 polls. During the 2014 poll campaign, BJP President Amit Shah had invoked the Muzaffarnagar communal violence to ask the Jat community to vote BJP, saying “people are forced to riot” when “a community violates the honour of our daughters and sisters.” A recently leaked audio clip also revealed Amit Shah appealing to the Jat community not to desert the BJP in 2017, reminding them that their proximity to “BJP ideology” goes back several centuries, “farther back than riots.” Shah, in this appeal, reminded the Jats that Sanjeey Balyan (Modi Cabinet Minister accused in Muzaffarnagar riots) had “aged 7 years in the past 2 years helping to free riot-accused (Jat) boys.” In flagrant violation of EC rules against communal and casteist campaigns, the BJP is invoking imaginary rapes and real anti-Muslim riots to appeal to Jats and Hindus to vote for the BJP.

The BJP’s star campaigner in UP Yogi Adityanath has also repeatedly invoked the “dangers of love jehad” and campaigned for “anti-Romeo squads.” It may be remembered that the same Adityanath was among the BJP MPs who, in 2010, publicly declared their defiance against the party whip issued to vote for the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament. Adityanath’s attitude sums up the BJP’s ideology towards women: their posture of ‘protection’ only masks their hostility to women’s own autonomy and assertion.

Along with “love jehad”, Adityanath is leading BJP’s UP campaign with another mythical bogey: that of the “exodus of Hindus from Kairana.” Adityanath has compared Kairana in Western UP to Kashmir in 1990, claiming that Hindus are being forced to flee – in spite of the fact that Hindu residents of Kairana have declared such claims of a communal exodus to be bogus. Adityanath claims that Eastern UP is free from such eviction of Hindus and crimes against Hindu women, because of the countervailing presence of his own vigilante Hindutva brigade.

The BJP Manifesto and campaign in UP also promises to abolish the practice of triple talaq – declaration of divorce in one sitting – prevalent among Muslims. A whole gamut of personal laws – including but not confined to Muslim personal laws – require reform to ensure gender justice. By focusing on triple talaq alone, the BJP projects the Muslim community as uniquely opposed to gender justice and progress. The BJP Manifesto’s promises of ‘anti-Romeo squads’ (with the undertone of protecting Hindu women from Muslim men) and ‘abolition of triple talaq’ (to protect Muslim women from Muslim men) offers a platform for anti-Muslim consolidation in a progressive and pro-women guise.

Modi, addressing election rallies, taunted the former PM Manmohan Singh for his ability to ‘wear a raincoat while taking a shower’ – i.e maintain a clean image while being surrounded by scams. The metaphor applies much more aptly to Modi himself. Manmohan Singh could project an appearance for personal honesty in spite of his Government’s involvement in rampant scams and crony capitalism, but he and his Government did face the brunt of public anger for the same. Modi both as CM of Gujarat and as PM of the country has managed to evade scrutiny and accountability not only for cold-blooded encounter killings on his watch, but also for violations of civil liberties and witch-hunt of activists as well as for a series of scams and instances of crony capitalism benefiting corporations like Adani, the Ambani brothers, Raheja, Mallya and Lalit Modi.

Modi has mastered the art of wearing a raincoat not only in a scam-shower but in a bloodbath. His lieutenants are openly using communal mud and blood to tarnish the poll climate – even as Modi himself cloaks himself in the raincoat of ‘development.’ In fact, Modi, Amit Shah and the BJP hope that the communal hate-mongering will be able to deflect from widespread public resentment against the Note Ban diktat. The ongoing Assembly polls are an occasion to administer a firm rebuff to the communal propaganda of the BJP and assert the democratic concerns of the people.

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Dance of Fascism in Delhi University

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The events of Delhi University are ominous. ABVP, the stormtroopers of the RSS, rioted for two consecutive days in Delhi University, using bricks, stones and sticks to prevent a seminar from taking place. The Delhi Police colluded with this assault, with its men joining ABVP in assaulting women students and journalists. Three constables have now been suspended – but this gesture only begs the question about who was giving the orders to Delhi Police to permit a riot on the University campus?

Several facts are notable here. The Delhi Police refused to file an FIR against the ABVP cadre that were indulging in open, wanton violence and celebrating by dancing atop a Delhi Police bus. Instead the Delhi Police did a lathi charge on the students peacefully waiting outside the police station for an FIR to be lodged. Rights activists have pointed out that the Supreme Court judgement in Lalita Kumari vs State of UP (2013) has laid down mandatory guidelines for police to register an FIR in case of a cognizable offence. On whose orders did the Police refuse to file an FIR against the many instances of openly recorded violence by cadre of the ruling party’s student outfit?

It emerges that the DCP in charge of the Delhi University North Campus is the same Jatin Narwal who, as DCP in charge of Patiala Court last year, had allowed goons to rough up JNUSU President Kanhaiya as well as teachers, lawyers, journalists and activists inside the Court premises last year. Narwal still faces an ongoing case in the Supreme Court regarding his role on that occasion. There appears to be a clear pattern where the Police officer knowingly allows a pre-planned assault by an organised mob, as the police force stays away from acting to arrest or disperse the mob.

The remarks of Minister for State for Home Kiren Rijiju on the episode further reinforce the conviction that the ABVP riot had the sanction of the Home Ministry under which the Delhi Police operates. Mr Rijiju has declared that “No anti-India slogans will be allowed in the name of freedom of speech. Freedom of expression in the country does not give anyone the right to make college campuses hub of anti-national activity.” This statement begs many questions.

First, the ABVP violently attacked a seminar – on the pretext of the speakers it invited and not on the basis of any slogans. Second, is the Minister implying that the ABVP has the freedom to throw stones and bricks and assault teachers, journalists and students but students do not have the freedom to debate? Third, as a representative of the country’s Home Ministry Mr Rijiju should answer, whether he believes it is nationalist of the police in Bastar to rape and murder adivasi women – but anti-national of a JNU activist to speak about such rapes and murders? Is his Ministry approving of the police-approved vigilante groups that attacked Bela Bhatia or Soni Sori in Bastar, just as the police-approved ABVP attacked students and teachers in Delhi University?

Fourth, how can ABVP or the BJP have any right to brand Umar Khalid as ‘anti-national’? The Delhi Police is yet to chargesheet Khalid for his alleged acts of ‘sedition’ last year. Yet the ABVP is using Khalid’s presence at a Seminar to unleash a riot against thousands of students and teachers waiting to hear him speak. Fifth, a number of men accused of being ISI agents have been found linked to the BJP and VHP. Why do arrests of their men for ISI links not make BJP and VHP ‘anti-national,’ but Umar Khalid or Shehla Rashid are declared ‘anti-national’? Is it because of their outspoken views against Hindutva and the Modi Government?

Finally, what views are ‘anti-national’? ABVP leader, former Joint Secretary of JNUSU Saurabh Sharma declares on Twitter that JNU is anti-national because it is a hurdle to India’s becoming a Hindu Nation. Why is it not ‘anti-national’ for ABVP to call for turning secular India into a Hindu Nation, but ‘anti-national’ for students to support – or discuss and debate – Kashmir’s right to self-determination or Bastar’s right to democracy?

On campuses and in the country, the freedom to express dissent, and debate freely is the essence of democracy. For ruling party-backed goons to attack democracy with open violence in the capital city, is a sign of growing fascist forces in India. The students and teachers of Universities are at the forefront of the resistance to fascism however – as displayed by an inspiring march in Delhi University that defended the ‘right to debate and dialogue’ from the violence unleashed by goons.

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How Orientalism Pitted Hindus against Muslims in India?

NOVANEWS
 
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The most outstanding feature of Islam is its history; if you study Islamic history, you would come to realize that Islam did not spread by force alone, it was the superior moral appeal of its peerless ethics that won the hearts and minds of medieval masses. For instance: Mongols conquered most of the eastern lands of the Islamic Empire during the thirteenth century, however, the Muslims of those lands did not convert to the religion of the conquerors: that is, the Mongolian Shamanism. Instead, the conquerors adopted the religion of the vanquished, i.e. Islam. Not only the Mongols, but several Turkish tribes also voluntarily converted to Islam. Such was the beauty of Islamic teachings and its sublime moral appeal in ancient times.

During the medieval times, when Europe was going through an age of intellectual and moral regression, Islamic culture thrived and flourished under the Abbasids, Ottomans and Mughals. Muslims ruled over India for more than six centuries; despite that, at the time of the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, Hindus outnumbered Muslims three to one (there were only 100 million Muslims in the population of 400 million Indians in 1947). That’s how tolerant and inclusive Islamic culture was back then. By comparison, the Red Indians of America and the Aborigines of Australia were reduced to a tiny minority of those continents after the European invasions.

The Sultanate of Delhi and the Mughal Empire were regarded as benevolent rulers by ancient historians. But when India was conquered by the British Empire, their Orientalist historians deliberately propagated the myth of supposedly “savage and rapacious” rule of Muslims in India in order to sow the seeds of dissension between Muslims and Hindus. In the nineteenth century, the newly established British education system in India deliberately portrayed Muslim rulers of India as marauders, rapists and looters in order to malign them. By contrast, the British rule in India was portrayed in a positive light: that the British Empire built roads and railways and established schools, colleges and hospitals in India.

If we were to compare the British and Muslim rules in India, the Muslim rulers at least resided in India and shared their wealth and fortune with their subjects. The British rule, on the other hand, was a foreign rule; the affairs of the state were run by viceroys and governors on the behalf of the monarchs of England who resided thousands of miles away in London. A small number of European colonizers in India treated their subjects as untouchables; they traded raw materials for pennies and sent finished goods back to the Indian market with huge profits, thus enriching themselves and the British Empire.

Up until 1857, the Hindus and Muslims of India were united enough to rise up in arms together against the British colonizers under the nominal command of the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar. But after that, the British education system introduced by Lord Macaulay in India entrenched communal divisions and made it virtually impossible for Hindus and Muslims to understand each other, even though both religious communities were the victims of exploitation of foreign rule.

Regarding the notion peddled by the Orientalist historians that Muslims or Islam were somehow foreign to India, we need to settle on the definition of nativity first. If an Indian settles in the US, for instance, how would you define such a first generation immigrant? Since he was brought up in India and subsequently migrated to a Western country, therefore such a first generation Indian-American would have more in common with Indians than Americans, as such. But how would you identify the children of an immigrant who have been brought up and educated in the West? The second generation Indian-Americans, for all practical purposes, would be more American than Indian in their outlooks.

Similarly, although I concede that the invading armies of Muslim rulers from Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iran were foreign to India; but once they settled in India, made Delhi their seat of governance, intermarried and gave birth to Indian children, then how come the descendants of such benevolent rulers be labeled as foreign invaders? Excluding a few odd adventurers, like Mahmud of Ghazni, who had his seat of government in Afghanistan but plundered the wealth of India by conducting raids on Somnath, the Muslim rulers of India, particularly the Sultanate of Delhi and the Mughal Empire, were as much native to India as the Hindu and Sikh rajas and maharajas.

Notwithstanding, the only true sociological definition of nation is ethno-linguistic group. The concept of modern nation state, particularly in multiethnic federations like India and Pakistan, is an artificial construct which is predicated on nothing substantive but on myths, fables and symbols. Rather than monolithic communities, the Hindus and Muslims of India were more parochial and tribal in character.

The astute Orientalist historians of British India debunked the myth of six centuries’ old Muslim rule in India by calling them “marauders” and substituted it with the fables of the pre-Christ Maurya Empire in order to forge and reify Hindu identity against Muslims. The primary concern of impoverished Indian masses was to earn bread and butter for their families. The metanarratives of Hindu and Muslim nationalism were taught by the British rulers, Hindu elites and Muslim ashrafiya to their subjects in order to distract and exploit them.

Here, let me clarify that I am not giving a free pass to the Muslim rulers of India. Their rule must have been as tyrannical as any other undemocratic, elitist rule throughout the history has been. I am only contending that the Muslim rulers were deliberately singled out and vilified in order to sow the seeds of dissension between the two communities.

After all, if the British rulers who resided in England and ruled over India can be hailed as saviors who built roads and railways and established schools, colleges and hospitals, not by academics but by common Indian citizens, then why can’t the Sultanate of Delhi and the Mughal Empire that ensured peace and stability in India and built architectural wonders in Delhi, Lahore and Agra be granted a similar level of deference?

By the British divide-and-rule policy in the Indian context, it is generally assumed by Indian historians that the British rulers used the Muslim minority against the Hindu majority by giving the former preferential treatment, separate electorates etc. but the fact is often overlooked that the British imperialists in equal measure used the Hindus against the Muslims by vilifying the latter’s culture, rule and religion.

Moreover, the partition of Bengal on religious lines in 1905 was another classic instance of the British divide-and-rule policy through demographic change. In this case, the British imperialists cleverly partitioned the Hindu-majority Bengal province into the Muslim-majority East Bengal and the Hindu-majority West Bengal. As a consequence, the Hindus felt aggrieved and launched a mass movement against the partition; the Raj obliged the Hindus by accepting their demand of reunifying Bengal in 1911 which created a sense of alienation and deprivation among Muslims.

This time around, however, despite unifying the province along linguistic lines, at the same time the British rulers split up Bihar and Orissa province to the west and Assam province to the east; thus, reducing the initial Hindu majority (pre-1905) that included Bihar, Orissa and Assam, in favor of Muslim majority (post-1911) in the reunified Bengal. Additionally, the British rulers also devised separate electorates for Muslims in 1909; thus, pitting one community against the other which had lived peacefully for centuries before the arrival of British in India.

Finally, rather than cultivating inclusive Indian nationalism that would glorify Hindu, Muslim and Sikh identities and histories in equal measure, the British rulers maliciously nurtured exclusionary Hindu and Muslim nationalism in order to divide the communities and prolong the British rule. As several contemporary Indian historians have contended that Muslim nationalism in India was a reaction to exclusionary Hindu nationalism.

The political leadership of India was the product of British education system that forged artificial identities and entrenched communal divisions, therefore it was not possible for them to rise above their communal prejudices and work for the betterment of all Indians as a nation. This self-serving, divide-and-rule policy by the British rulers and their Hindu, Muslim and Sikh collaborators eventually led to a carnage and mass exodus of people on the eve of independence the likes of which history has seldom witnessed.

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