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Why Siding with Washington on Korea May Be Dangerous

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By Finian CUNNINGHAM 

In backing the latest US-led sanctions against North Korea at the United Nations Security Council, both China and Russia seem to have made a tenuous bet to resolve the crisis on the Asian peninsula. By deferring to Washington’s punitive sanctions, Beijing and Moscow are calculating that the US will relent on their proposals for comprehensive talks and a freeze on American military exercises with its South Korean ally.

China and Russia may regret their course of action. Since the imposition of new sanctions on North Korea last weekend, the tensions in the region have ratcheted up to alarming levels. US President Trump has even been accused of using «unhinged» language by members of Congress after he threatened to unleash «fire and fury» on North Korea «with a power the world has never seen before». Some American lawmakers were comparing Trump’s rhetoric with that of North Korea’s fiery leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea, predictably, responded to Trump’s outburst by declaring that its leadership was considering a pre-emptive military strike on the US air base on the Pacific island of Guam.

The region is being put on a hair-trigger for war – a war that would certainly involve the use of nuclear weapons. The American side has come to the conclusion that North Korea has finally mastered the technology to fit a nuclear warhead on its already proven intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability, reported the Washington Post this week. That means that if a military confrontation breaks out, the US will be tempted to use overwhelming force.

Trump’s words about deploying «power the likes of which the world has never seen before» are especially icy given the 72ndanniversary this week of the US dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

When the UN Security Council convened last weekend it passed Resolution 2371 unanimously with 15 votes to 0. It was a surprise turnaround by China and Russia. Last month, following North Korea’s ICBM test on July 4, both Beijing and Moscow rejected the US call for more sanctions on Pyongyang. They said then that sanctions policy doesn’t work and instead called for all-party dialogue to resolve the long-running Korean crisis. China and Russia also made the eminently reasonable call for the US and its South Korean ally to desist from their frequent joint war maneuvers, which the Communist North perceives as a threat of invasion.

Over the past few weeks, the US and China reportedly engaged in intense negotiations over the Korean issue. Trump accused his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping of not doing enough to rein in allied North Korea. The US also threatened to take punitive action against China over wider issues of trade and intellectual property rights. Before the weekend vote at the UNSC, Trump inexplicably cancelled a speech in which he was expected to lay out tough American actions against China over commercial disputes. That suggests some kind of bargain was done between Washington and Beijing – and that China voting for further sanctions on North Korea was part of it.

Following the unanimous vote at the UNSC, Trump and his ambassador Nikki Haley reportedly could hardly contain their glee over «the united response» against «rogue state North Korea».

What Russia gets out of it is not clear. Perhaps Russia felt that to veto the sanctions against North Korea would have incurred international wrath. But it seems curious that Moscow should go along with sanctions at the very same time that Washington is provocatively imposing similar measures against it too.

What appears to be in the calculus by China and Russia is that by giving a sop to the American desire to get tough on North Korea, they are anticipating that the US will agree to calls for multi-party talks and a freeze on military activities on the Korean Peninsula.

Both the Chinese and Russian ambassadors to the UN coupled the latest resolution for sanctions against North Korea with the reboot of the six-party negotiations involving the two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the US. Those talks were abandoned in 2009 when the US and North Korea broke off in recriminations.

Last week, before the UN vote, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a significant speech in which he said that the US was not seeking regime change in Pyongyang, nor had any intention of going to war on North Korea.

Following the UN sanctions, Tillerson sounded a conciliatory note while attending the summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations in Manila. The summit was also attended by Chinese and Russian counterparts Wang Yi and Sergei Lavrov. Tillerson said the US was open to dialogue with North Korea if the latter stopped its missile tests. That appeared to be a significant concession from the US side towards resolving the Korean problem.

However, this is where the calculation comes unstuck. The backing of more sanctions against North Korea by China and Russia may have softened the stance of the US somewhat, but at what price?

From the North Korean side, the increased sanctions are tantamount to an act of war. The new measures are aimed at banning the country’s top export earning commodities, including coal, minerals and seafood. The new sanctions will reportedly slash North Korea’s annual export revenue by one-third, down to $2 billion a year. Not surprisingly, Pyongyang responded furiously, saying the sanctions were an attack on its sovereignty.

Given Trump’s propensity for Twitter diplomacy, the spiral of rhetoric could lead to disastrous misunderstanding, as this week is tending to show.

In retrospect, it seems astonishing that Beijing and Moscow made the bet they did over new sanctions. The damage cannot be undone. But what China and Russia must do immediately is to insist that all sides proceed to multilateral talks and the standing down of military forces. The onus is primarily on the US to stand down its military power in the region. It needs to cancel its provocative maneuvers with its ally in Seoul – due again later this month – and it needs to halt the ongoing installation of the THAAD missile system on South Korean territory.

It is misplaced for China and Russia to pander to the US over sanctions and to expect something by way of concessions in return. The arrogant Americans don’t know the meaning of concessions, they only perceive weakness and will move to capitalize on weakness.

By indulging American demands for more sanctions on North Korea, the danger comes from emboldening Washington’s hubris and its own sense of impunity. One would think that Russia, above all, should understand that dynamic given its own experience over the US confiscating diplomatic properties and slapping on ever-more sanctions.

What Moscow and Beijing should do as a matter of urgency is to never mind new sanctions on North Korea; they should demand that Washington removes its military threat against North Korea – a threat that has been looming since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Then all sides must open talks without preconditions for a comprehensive peace settlement on the peninsula.

Pandering to a bully is never a good idea.

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Modi revisits Iran ties

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By M K Bhadrakumar 

The decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to depute the minister of transport Nitin Gadkari to represent India at the inaugural ceremony of Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani on his second term is a most appropriate, timely and thoughtful decision. ‘Appropriate’ – because it is a signal that India attaches high importance to relations with Iran. Gadkari is a senior figure in the cabinet – all but prime ministerial material, one might say. ‘Thoughtful’ – because of two reasons. One, Gadkari is also the government’s point person with regard to the strategic Indian project to develop a transit route to Afghanistan and Central Asia via Iran’s Chabahar Port.

Two, it is an assertive statement that India’s cooperation with Iran will not be buffeted by ‘Trumpspeak’. This is timely because the Iran-US engagement has run into difficulties and US officials have spoken of a preposterous ‘regime change’ agenda vis-à-vis Iran. A confrontation seems improbable but a showdown cannot be ruled out, either. If there is a confrontation / showdown, Modi government will come under pressure not only from the US but also from Israel, and India will be in the unhappy position of having to stand up and be counted. Strategic ambivalence, which comes easy to the Indian DNA, may no longer be an option. The previous UPA government of course simply opted to pull down the shutter and fall in line with the US diktat. It will be interesting to see how much spunk the present nationalist government would show to resist pressure on its regional policies, if push comes to shove.

However, India is in good company if it views Iran as a major partner. The presence of the European Union Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherni at Rouhani’s inaugural underscored that EU does not go along with the US’ sanctions bill against Iran. So, indeed, the presence of Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, a close aide confidante of President Vladimir Putin, signals that Moscow has a big agenda to expand and deepen the cooperation with Iran. The Chinese President Xi Jinping deputed He Lifeng, head of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, to represent China. Of course, He is the principal driver of the Belt and Road Initiative in the Chinese government.

Indeed, if the inaugural ceremony was a litmus test of Iran’s integration with the international community, the result is positive and impressive. Nineteen presidents, vice-presidents and prime ministers as well as 18 heads of parliaments attended the ceremony. It is virtually impossible for the Trump administration to ‘isolate’ Iran over its missile development programme or its regional policies. By the way, the participants at the ceremony in Tehran included a high-powered delegation from Hamas and a cabinet minister from Qatar.

Gadkari has promised that the Chabahar transit route will be operational by next year. The country must hold the government to its word. There shouldn’t be any slip-ups. This can be the first significant footfall in an Indian variant of ‘Belt and Road’ initiative. More importantly, perhaps, India must now resuscitate the plans of investments in the Chabahar region for industrial collaboration. The enthusiasm with which we spoke about it two years ago has petered out. Again, a major push is needed to realise the much-talked about North-South Corridor via Iran.

In political terms, a visit by Rouhani to India is overdue. The visit will give an overall verve to the relationship and add momentum to the bilateral cooperation. The Farzad-B gas field project has proved elusive. The revised $11 billion investment offer by ONGC Videsh is pending for a decision in Tehran. The Iranian side has driven a hard bargain, which is understandable since oil is a major source of income for its economy. But then, Tehran must also realize that Farzad-B will be a ‘game-changer’ for the entire relationship with India. Perhaps, this is the single biggest investment offer India has ever made to a foreign country. The business spin-off in the downstream, if the Farzad-B project takes off, will be massive.

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India’s Bloodless War against Pakistan

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By Sajjad Shaukat for Veterans Today

Although India has been targeting the civilians and military personnel near the border of Pakistani side of Azad Kashmir by continuously violating the Line of Control, yet India has, also, been waging the bloodless war against Pakistan by stopping the water-flow of rivers to Pakistan.

Unlike the past wars, being fought through the traditional armies with tanks and machine guns, the arena of war has changed, encompassing all the spheres. In the modern era, electronics have made it difficult for the military to serve as the automatic dominant sphere in every war, covering all the land, sea and space domains. Now, war with non-lethal weapons can be more harmful in damaging the interest of a rival country or enemy. It will be conducted in non-war spheres, entailing non-military means and tactics as part of the new warfare.

New technology is being utilized by the new warriors to carry out all forms of financial, network and media attacks. Most of these attacks are of non-military-types, yet they can be completely viewed as equal to warfare actions. In other words, bloody warfare has been replaced by bloodless warfare as much as possible.

Judging in these terms, New Delhi’s construction of several dams and new plans for more dams in the Indian Occupied Kashmir is part of its most dangerous scheme of bloodless warfare, being conducted against Islamabad in order to further harm all political, economic, financial and social spheres of Pakistan.

It is notable that in March, 2011, speaking in diplomatic language, Indus Water Commissioner of India G. Ranganathan denied that India’s decision to build dams on rivers led to water shortage in Pakistan. He also rejected Islamabad’s concerns at water theft by New Delhi or violation of the Indus Water Treaty of 1960, assuring his counterpart, Syed Jamaat Ali Shah that all issues relating to water would be resolved through dialogue. However, ground realties are quite different from what Ranganathan maintained.

Besides other permanent issues and, especially the dispute of Kashmir which has always been used by India to malign and pressurize Pakistan, water of rivers has become a matter of life and death for every Pakistani, as New Delhi has been employing it as a tool of terrorism to blackmail Pakistan.

In this regard, Indian decision to construct two hydro-electric projects on River Neelam which is called Krishanganga is a blatant violation of the Indus Basin Water Treaty. The World Bank, itself, is the mediator and signatory for the treaty. After the partition, owing to war-like situation, India deliberately stopped the flow of Pakistan’s rivers which originate from the Indian-Held Kashmir. Even at that time, Indian rulers had used water as a tool of aggression against Pakistan. However, due to Indian illogical stand, Islamabad sought the help of international arbitration. The Indus Basin Treaty allocates waters of three western rivers of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab to Pakistan, while India has rights over eastern rivers of Ravi, Sutlej and Beas.

Since the settlement of the dispute, India has always violated the treaty intermittently to create economic crisis in Pakistan. In 1984, India began construction of the Wullar Barrage on river Jhelum in the Indian Occupied Kashmir.

In the past, the issue of Wullar Barrage has also been discussed in various rounds of talks, being held under composite dialogue process between the two rivals, but Indian intransigence has continued. In the mid-1990s India started another violation by constructing the Baglihar dam on the Chenab River. In 2005, Pakistan had again sought the World Bank’s help to stop construction of the Baglihar dam. Although WB allowed India to go ahead with the project after a few modifications, yet it did not permit the interruption of the agreed quota of water flow to Pakistan.

In 2008, India suddenly reduced water flow of the Chenab River to give a greater setback to Pakistan’s autumnal crops. Islamabad on September 17, 2008 threatened to seek the World Bank’s intervention on the plea that New Delhi had not responded to its repeated complaints on the issue appropriately. But, India did nothing to address the problem.

It is mentionable that India has been using water as an instrument to pressurize Islamabad with a view to getting leverage in the Pak-India dialogue especially regarding Indian-Held Kashmir where a new phase of protests against the Indian illegitimate occupation has accelerated. In this respect, the then Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said on February 8, 2010 that Pakistan’s case on Kashmir and water was based on truth, and the government would fight it with full strength.

Indian diplomacy of bloodless war could also be judged from some other development. Online reports suggest that New Delhi has secretly offered technical assistance to the Afghan government in order to construct a dam over Kabul River which is a main water contributor to Indus River.

In fact, India wants to keep its control on Kashmir which is located in the Indus River basin area, and which contributes to the flow of all the major rivers, entering Pakistan. It is determined to bring about political, economic and social problems of grave nature in Pakistan.

In this context, China Daily News Group wrote in 2005: “Another added complication is that in building a dam upstream of Pakistan, India will possess the ability to flood or starve Pakistan at will. This ability was witnessed in July of 2004 when India, without warning, released water into the Chenab River, flooding large portions of Pakistan. The history of conflict between these two nations makes it possible for New Delhi to use nature as a real weapon against Islamabad.”

According to an estimate, unlike India, Pakistan is highly dependent on agriculture, which in turn is dependent on water. Of the 79.6 million hectares of land that makeup Pakistan, 20 million are available for agriculture. Of those 20 million hectares, 16 million are dependent on irrigation. So, almost 80% of Pakistan’s agriculture is dependent on irrigation.

Notably, many of Pakistan’s industries are agro-based such as the textiles industry. Besides, 80% of Pakistan’s food needs are fulfilled domestically. Thus an interruption of water supply would have broad-ranging effects. For example, when the country suffered a drought from 1998 to 2001, there were violent riots in Karachi.

It is noteworthy that half of Pakistan’s energy comes from hydroelectricity, and at present, our country has been facing a severe crisis of loadshedding which is the result of power-shortage in the country. During the recent past summers, people in a number of cities like Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad etc. lodged violent protests against the loadshedding, culminating into loss of property and life.

It is of particular attention that Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif warned on February 10, 2015 that although the electricity shortage in the country would be overcome within two to three years, the scarcity of water is another issue looming in the country.

While, Pakistan has already been facing multiple challenges of grave nature coupled with phenomenon of terrorism like suicide attacks, bomb blasts, targeted killings etc., committed by the militants who are being backed by Indian secret agency, RAW. As part of the double game, based in Afghanistan, US-led CIA and Israeli Mossad are also in connivance with RAW and the militant outfits such as ISIS and are supporting acts of terrorism in Pakistan like Syria and Iran.

In this connection, as part of the latest wave of terrorism, at least 26 people were killed and several others injured in a suicide blast near Arfa Karim Tower on Ferozpur Road in Lahore, today (In the afternoon of July 24, 2017). Details regarding the casualties are still coming.

However, New Delhi also employs water as an instrument by increasing its scarcity, making life too often miserable for Pakistanis with the ultimate aim of creating poverty which could produce more terrorism in turn. And, India is likely to deepen differences among Pakistan’s provinces over various issues which are directly or indirectly related to water.

It is worth-mentioning that in January, this year even the US administration has initiated the process for peacefully resolving the water dispute between India and Pakistan—the latest dispute which concerns two hydroelectric power plants—Kishanganga and Ratle, which India is building on the Indus rivers system.

In this backdrop, after a pause of two years and ‘water war threats’ from the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Pakistan and India on March 20, 2017 resumed talks in Islamabad over the water issues with Pakistan welcoming the development, but vowing to defend its rights with ‘full zeal and vigour’. The two-day talks of Indus water commissioners of the two countries marked the first formal engagement between the arch rivals, during the Mod-led India. Under the Indus Waters Treaty, New Delhi is bound to hold such meetings with Islamabad. Notably, last year, Premier Modi had threatened to revoke the water accord with Pakistan.

Nonetheless, since the 9/11 tragedy, international community has been taking war against terrorism seriously, while there are also other forms of bloodless wars, being waged in the world and the same are like terrorism. Political experts opine that modern terrorism has many meanings like violent acts, economic terrorism etc., but its main aim is to achieve political, economic and social ends. In these terms, India’s bloodless war against Pakistan amounts to water terrorism.

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35 Civilians Injured After Indian Forces Clash with Protesters in Kashmir

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35 Civilians Injured After Indian Forces Clash with Protesters in Kashmir

At least 35 civilians were injured after clashes broke out between protesters and security forces across the Indian-controlled Kashmir, police and witnesses said Tuesday.

The protests erupted after police raided Southern Bahmnoo village, police Inspector-General Muneer Ahmed Khan said. Witnesses said troops blasted and destroyed three civilian homes during the fighting, Star Tribune reported.

Khan said three people were killed during the fightings and soldiers were searching for the body of a fourth militant in the debris. At least six police and soldiers were injured in the fighting.

The gunfight triggered intense clashes after hundreds of civilians marched near the site to help the trapped militants escape.

Government forces fired bullets, shotgun pellets and tear gas to stop the march by rock-throwing protesters who were chanted slogans like “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom.”

At least 35 civilians were injured and five among them were reported to have sustained bullet wounds.

In recent years, Kashmiris, mainly youths, have displayed open solidarity with anti-India forces and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations against the militants.

The anti-India protests and clashes have persisted despite the Indian army chief warning recently that “tough action” would be taken against stone throwers during counterinsurgency operations.

India and Pakistan control part of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for Kashmir’s independence or merger with neighboring Pakistan. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting and the ensuing Indian crackdown.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep among the region’s mostly Muslim population and most people support the cause against Indian rule despite a decades-long military crackdown to fight the armed rebellion.

India has accused Pakistan of arming and training the kashmiri forces, which Pakistan denies.

Kashmiri groups have largely been suppressed by Indian forces in recent years and public opposition to Indian rule is now principally expressed through street protests.

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Journalists Increasingly Unsafe in the Indian Subcontinent

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  • Journalists in India.
    Journalists in India. | Photo: Reuters
India and Pakistan headed the list with seven of the professional journalists killed in the last six months.

The Indian subcontinent as a whole today stands on the cusp of being a danger zone for journalists, as the region witnessed the murder of over 10 journalists in the first half of 2017.

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India and Pakistan headed the list with seven of the professional journalists killed in the last six months; with Bangladesh, Myanmar and Maldives added one casualty each.

The year started with sad news for India as the dead body of a Jharkhand-based journalist was recovered in Hazaribagh in the first week of the year.

Hari Prakash, 31, whose body was found on Jan. 2, on a roadside was missing for some days. The family members of Hari, who was a law graduate working for a Hindi daily, alleged that he was kidnapped and later killed.

More bad news was awaiting the families of media professionals as a Bihar-based journalist was shot dead at a Samastipur locality on Jan. 3, by some
unidentified assailants. Brajesh Kumar Singh, 28, received serious injuries to his head and died on the spot. It was the third assassination of a journalist in Bihar within a year after Rajdeo Ranjan and Dharmendra Kumar Singh were killed in 2016.

The third and fourth incidents involving the murder of working journalists were reported in Madhya Pradesh. Shyam Sharma, 40, who worked for a local evening newspaper, was stabbed to death in the Anshul neighborhood of Indore on May 15. Shyam received multiple injuries and died on the spot. Meanwhile, the local police have arrested two suspects for their alleged role in the murder.

Kamlesh Jain, 42, was shot dead in his office in the Pipliyamandi locality of Mandsaur on the evening of May 31. Kamlesh was rushed to a nearby hospital, where the attending doctors pronounced him dead. According to the police on duty, two people entered Kamlesh’s office and one of them shot him. The culprits quickly fled from the location on motorcycles.

Working for Nai Dunia, a Hindi daily, the journalist had recently exposed a few local people involved in illegal liquor trades through a number of roadside Dhabas, or restaurants. He was also threatened with dire consequences a few days before his death. The police took prompt action and arrested two individuals.

Various journalists organizations from Jharkhand, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh along with Journalists’ Forum Assam, Indian Journalists Union, National Federation of Newspaper Employees, Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, International Federation of Journalists and others, expressed serious concerns over the murder of the journalists and asked the responsible authorities to find and arrest the culprits.

Condemning the assassinations of Shyam and Kamlesh, the IFJ commented, “two murders in nearly two weeks illustrate the dangerous conditions
that journalists in India are facing.” The global media group called on Indian authorities to immediately and thoroughly investigate these murders and bring those responsible to justice.

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In a recent statement, the IFJ, representing over 6,00,000 journalists in 140 countries, disclosed that 93 journalists were killed in 2016 around the world. Iraq witnessed the highest number of journo-killings (15); followed by Afghanistan (13); Mexico (11); Yemen (8); Guatemala, Syria, and India (6), and Pakistan (5).

Pakistan lost three professional journalists and a media student to assailants in the last six months. Muhammad Jan, who was working for an Urdu newspaper in Baluchistan province, was shot on Jan. 12, and later died from his wounds. A television reporter, Abdul Razzaque was gunned down on May 17 in Punjab province and another news channel reporter Bakshish Ellahi was shot dead by unknown gunmen on June 11, in Peshawar.

Meanwhile, a student of journalism, Mashal Khan, fell prey to an angry mob in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on April 22, over the alleged blasphemy
charge against him.

The CPJ called on Pakistani authorities to investigate all the killings related to media personnel. The New York-based media rights group also expressed concern over the situation in Afghanistan, where four media workers namely Mohamad Amir Khan, Zinullah Khan, Abdul Latif and Ghani were killed in a suicide attack on May 17 in the Jalalabad locality.

Later two more media people, Mohammed Nazir and Aziz Navin, died in a Kabul blast on May 31.

Infamous for many atheist bloggers’ deaths, Bangladesh witnessed the murder of one rural reporter in the Sirajganj locality. Abdul Hakim Shimul, who used to work for Dainik Samakal, was shot dead on Feb. 2, while he was covering the clashes between two factions of the Awami League ruling party. Bangladesh Manobadhikaar Sangbadik Forum strongly condemned the assassination.

Relatively peaceful Myanmar reported one murder in the first half of 2017. Wai Yan Heinn, 27, a Rangoon-based weekly editor was killed on April 16. The reason behind the attack was yet to be confirmed.

Along with local media outlets, the RSF urged the Myanmar authorities to identify and bring the culprits to justice immediately.

The Paris-based media rights group expressed concern that the investigation had gone slowly in last year’s murder on Dec. 13, of Soe Moe Tun, reportedly for exposing illegal loggings in his locality.

Benjamin Ismaïl, the former head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, recently commented that Soe’s family was still waiting for justice, but in vein.

A small nation like Maldives drew the attention of international media recently with the sensational murder of a prominent journalist and human rights defender. Yameen Rasheed, 29, who remained an outspoken critic of corruption and human rights violations on the island nation, was stabbed to death on April 23 in the capital of Male, putting the country on the list of risky nations with growing intolerance toward free information flow.

India’s other neighbors including Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Tibet have not reported any incidents of journo-killings in the last six months. In contrast, India has emerged as one of the worst places for working journalists, where they are attacked deliberately and justice is rarely delivered to their bereaved families.

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The Betrayal of India: A Close Look at the 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks

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Book review of “The Betrayal of India: Revisiting the 26/11 Evidence” by Elias Davidsson
 

These days we rush from one media story to another, trying to keep up with the latest terrorist attack. Yesterday Paris; today London; tomorrow, who knows? These attacks are tragic enough when they are acts of violence by religious extremists who have outsmarted our police and intelligence agencies. But, of course, many of them are actually violent acts facilitated by our police and intelligence agencies, directly or indirectly. The tragedy in such cases lies not only in the immediate human suffering but in the way our civil society and elected representatives are betrayed, intimidated, disciplined and stripped of their power by our own security agencies. The War on Terror, which goes by different names in different countries but continues as a global framework for violent conflict, thrives on this fraud.

But if the very agencies that should be investigating and preventing these attacks are involved in perpetrating them, what is civil society to do to protect itself? Who will step in to study the evidence and sort out what really happened? And who will investigate the official investigators? Over the years, civilians from different walks of life have stepped forward–forming groups, sharing information and methods, creating a tradition of civilian investigation.

Related image

One such investigator is Elias Davidsson (image on the right). Some readers will be familiar with his meticulous book, Hijacking America’s Mind on 9/11 or his more recent work, Psychologische Kriegsführung und gesellschaftliche Leugnung. Davidsson has now produced a book on the 2008 attacks that occurred in Mumbai, India. The book is entitled, The Betrayal of India: Revisiting the 26/11 Evidence (New Delhi: Pharos, 2017).

To remind ourselves of these attacks–that is, of the official story of these attacks as narrated by the Indian government–we can do no better than to consult Wikipedia, which seldom strays from government intelligence narratives:

“The 2008 Mumbai attacks were a series of attacks that took place in November 2008, when 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic militant organization based in Pakistan, carried out a series of 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across Mumbai. The attacks, which drew widespread global condemnation, began on Wednesday, 26 November and lasted until Saturday, 29 November 2008, killing 164 people and wounding at least 308.”

This description, however faulty, serves to make clear why the events were widely portrayed as a huge crime—India’s 9/11. When we bear in mind that both India and Pakistan are armed with nuclear weapons, and when we consider that these events were widely characterized in India as an act of war supported by Pakistan (Davidsson, 72-74; 511 ff.; 731 ff.), we will understand how dangerous the event was for over a billion and a half people in south Asia.

We will also understand how easy it was, on the basis of such a narrative, to get a bonanza of funds and equipment for the Mumbai police (735-736) and why it was possible, given the framing of the event as an act of war, for India’s armed forces to get an immediate 21% hike in military spending with promises of continuing increases in subsequent years (739 ff.).

Wikipedia’s paragraph tells a straightforward story, but the straightforwardness is the result of much snipping and smoothing. Both Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba denied responsibility for the attacks (65; 513) and, Davidsson argues, they did so for good reason.

In his Conclusions at the end of the book Davidsson encourages us to assess separately the actual attacks and the Indian state’s investigation of the attacks (865 ff.) It is “highly plausible,” he says, “that major institutional actors in India, the United States and possibly Israel, were complicit in conceiving, planning, directing and executing the attacks of 26/11” (873); but the evidence of a deceptive investigation is even stronger:

“The first definite conclusion of this book is that India’s major institutions, including the Central government, parliament, bureaucracy, armed forces, Mumbai police, intelligence services, judiciary and media, have deliberately suppressed the truth regarding 26/11 and continue to do so. I could discover no hint of a desire among the aforementioned parties to establish the truth on these deadly events (865).”

This distinction is useful for civil society investigators. We will frequently find it easier to prove that an investigation is deceptive, and that it is obscuring rather than illuminating the path to the perpetrators, than to directly prove the event itself to have been fraudulent. And there are two good reasons to pay attention to evidence of a cover-up. First, to cover up a crime is itself a crime. Second, those covering up a crime implicate themselves in the original crime. If they were not directly involved in the commission of the crime, they are at least accessories after the fact. To begin by exposing the fraudulent investigation, therefore, will often be wise. When this has been done we shall often find that we can begin to discern the path to the attack itself.

Davidsson gives a wealth of evidence about both the attacks and the investigation, but for this brief review I shall focus on the investigation.

Here are three recurring themes in his study that may serve to illustrate the strength  of the cover-up thesis.

(1) Immediate fingering of the perpetrator

When officials claim to know the identity of a perpetrator (individual or group) prior to any serious investigation, this suggests that a false narrative is being initiated and that strenuous efforts will soon be made to implant it in the mind of a population. Thus, for example, Lee Harvey Oswald was identified by officials of the executive branch as the killer of President John F. Kennedy–and as a lone wolf with no associates–on the afternoon of the assassination day, long before an investigation and even before he had been charged with the crime. And we had major news media pointing with confidence, by the end of the day of September 11, 2001, to Osama bin Laden and his group–in the absence of evidence.

In the Mumbai case the Prime Minister of India implied, while the attack was still in progress, that the perpetrators were from a terrorist group supported by, or at least tolerated by, Pakistan (65; 228; 478; 512; 731).

Image result for Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai

The Taj Mahal Hotel burning after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai (Source: Haunted India)

Likewise, immediately after the attacks Henry Kissinger attempted to implicate Pakistan. Three days prior to the attack on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, one of the main attack sites, Kissinger had been staying in the hotel. He “sat with top executives from Goldman Sachs and India’s Tata group in the Taj to ‘chat about American politics’” (331). Kissinger’s presence on the scene with Indian elites (the Tata family is one of India’s wealthiest, and the Tata Group owns the Taj) would be peculiar enough to cause raising of the eyebrows, but when combined with his immediate fingering of Pakistan it becomes extremely suspect. As Davidsson shows, what investigation there was came much later, and even today the case against Pakistan remains full of contradictions, unsupported allegations, and absurdities.

(2) Grotesque failure by official investigators to follow proper procedures

Incompetence is a fact of life, but there are times when the incompetence theory is strained to the breaking point and it is more rational to posit deliberate deception.  In the case of the Mumbai investigation, Davidsson depicts its failures as going well beyond incompetence.

  • Neither the police, nor the judge charged with trying the sole surviving suspect, made public a timeline of events (188-189; 688-689). Even the most basic facts of when a given set of attacks began and when they ended were left vague.
  • Key witnesses were not called to testify. Witnesses who said they saw the terrorists commit violence, or spoke to them, or were in the same room with them, were ignored by the court (e.g., 279 ff.).
  • Contradictions and miracles were not sorted out. One victim was apparently resurrected from the dead when his testimony was essential to the blaming of Pakistan (229-230). A second victim died in two different places (692), while a third died in three places (466). No one in authority cared enough to solve these difficulties.
  • Eyewitnesses to the crime differed on the clothing and skin color of the terrorists, and on how many of them there were (328-331). No resolution was sought.
  • At least one eyewitness confessed she found it hard to distinguish “friends” from terrorists (316). No probe was stimulated by this odd confusion.
  • The number of terrorists who committed the deeds changed repeatedly, as did the number of terrorists who survived (29 ff.; 689).
  • Crime scenes were violated, with bodies hauled off before they could be examined (682-683).
  • Identity parades (“line-ups”) were rendered invalid by weeks of prior exposure of the witnesses to pictures of the suspect in newspapers (101; 582).
  • Claims that the terrorists were armed with AK-47s were common, yet forensic study of the attack at the Cama Hospital failed to turn up a single AK-47 bullet (156).
  • Of the “hundreds of witnesses processed by the court” in relation to the attacks at the Café Leopold, Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Oberoi-Trident Hotel or Nariman House, “not a single one testified to having observed any of the eight accused kill anyone” (40).
  • Indian authorities declined to order autopsies on the dead at the targeted Jewish center in Nariman House. The dead, five out of six of whom were Israeli citizens (427), were instead whisked back to Israel by a Jewish organization based in Israel, allegedly for religious reasons (453). Religious sensitivity seems to have extended to a large safe at the crime scene, which the team also transported to Israel (454).

(3) Extreme secrecy and the withholding of basic information from the population, with the excuse of “national security”

  • The surviving alleged terrorist had no public trial (661).
  • No transcript of his secret trial has been released (670).
  • One lawyer who agreed to defend the accused was removed by the court and another was assassinated (670).
  • The public was told there was extensive CCTV footage of the attacks, despite the mysterious malfunctioning of the majority of CCTV cameras on the days in question (97-98; 109 ff.; 683 ff.); but only a very small percentage of the claimed footage was ever released and it suffers from serious defects–two conflicting time-stamps and signs of editing (111).
  • Members of an elite Indian commando unit that showed up with between 475 and 800 members to battle eight terrorists (534) were not allowed to testify in court (327; 428-429).
  • The “confession” of the suspect, on which the judge leaned heavily, was given in secret. No transcript of this confession has been released to the public and the suspect later renounced the confession, saying he had been under threat from police when he gave it (599 ff.; 681).
  • The suspect, after being convicted and sentenced to death, was presumably executed, but the hanging was done secretly in jail and his body, like the bodies of the other dead “terrorists,” was buried in a secret place (37; 623).

It is difficult to see how the investigation described above differs from what we would expect to see in a police state. Evidently, the “world’s largest democracy” is in trouble.

Meanwhile, motives for the “highly plausible” false flag attack, Davidsson notes, are not difficult to find. The attacks not only filled the coffers of national security agencies, creating as they did the impression of a permanent threat to India, but also helped tilt India toward those countries claiming to take the lead in the War on Terror (809 ff.; 847). The FBI showed great interest in the attacks from the outset. It actually had a man on the scene during the attacks and sent an entire team directly after the event (812 ff.). The Bureau was, remarkably, given direct access to the arrested suspect and to his recorded confession (before he even had a lawyer), as well as to eyewitnesses (651-652; 815). The New York Police Department also sent a team after the conclusion of the event (816-817), as did Scotland Yard and Israeli police (651; 851). There seems to have been something of a national security fest in relation to Mumbai as ideas of closer cooperation in matters of security were discussed (e.g., 822).

In case Israel seems too small to belong with the other players in this national security fest, Davidsson reminds us that India is Israel’s largest customer in defense sales (853).

So, what can we learn from Davidsson’s book? For patient readers, a great deal: this 900-page study is as free of filler and rhetoric as it is rich in detail. (In correspondence the author told me that he was determined to produce a work dense with primary source material so that it could be of maximum help to activists in India striving for an official inquiry.) For readers with less patience, Davidsson has provided regular summaries. And both sets of readers will find that the book discusses not only details of the Mumbai attacks, but patterns of deception common in the War on Terror.

For all these reason, this book is a highly significant achievement and is of objective importance to anyone interested in the War and Terror–the structure and motifs of its ongoing fictions and the methods through which civil society researchers can lay bare these fictions

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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

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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). 
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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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