Tag Archive | "India"

Illegal Bt Brinjal Growing in India: A Call to Initiate Criminal Proceedings against Regulators and Corporations


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What is the point in central government orders and carefully thought out regulatory norms if government officials and regulators act with blatant disregard? This is precisely what we now see happening in India where genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are concerned.

India has the greatest brinjal germplasm in the world with 2,500 varieties, including wild species. Following news in April that (genetically engineered) Bt brinjal is being illegally cultivated in Haryana, prominent campaigner and environmentalist Aruna Rodrigues says:

“These varieties are now under threat of irreversible contamination (cross-pollination) because of cumulative acts over time of senseless and criminally irresponsible regulatory oversight. More properly expressed: a virtual vacuum in GMO regulation.”

The cultivation of Bt brinjal (aubergine/eggplant) contravenes the indefinite moratorium that currently exists on the commercial release of Bt brinjal in India.

The moratorium has been in place since 2010 following a unique four-month scientific enquiry and public hearings regarding field trial data and crop developer Mayhco’s application for the commercialisation of Bt brinjal. Back then, the decision to reject commercialisation was supported by advice that the then Minister Jairam Ramesh received from several renowned international scientists.

At the time, Ramesh’s decision to place a moratorium on Bt brinjal was founded on what he called “a cautious, precautionary principle-based approach.” The moratorium is still in place and has not been lifted. All the environmental and health hazards acknowledged at the time remain.

Legal notice issued

On 12 May 2019, Prashant Bhushan, public interest lawyer in the Supreme Court of India, issued a legal notice in a letter to Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The letter discusses the violation of the moratorium on the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal. Given the gravity of the matter, the letter is also to be distributed to the prime minister, the minister of agriculture and all members of parliament.

The letter also includes a lab report: a definitive test carried out at accredited laboratory SGS in Ahmedabad, which states that the brinjal sample from Haryana sent to it tested positive for a plant GMO: the test confirms that the brinjal in question is genetically modified.

Aruna Rodrigues paid for the test herself and says:

“When this news about the cultivation of Bt brinjal came out in April – knowing our regulators bent of mind, intent, conflict of interest and undiluted support of the biotech industry, knowing they probably welcome this – I decided to get a definitive test done at an accredited lab. I paid for it of course. It is civil society that is keeping a watchful eye on the biosafety of India, not the government.”

She adds that the planting of Bt brinjal in Haryana is an egregious violation of a central government order:

“This is not only an illegal planting of a GMO food that has not been approved, but a gross violation of an active central government indefinite order. This raises the violation to a different level and order of magnitude. It is the most serious breach of India’s biosafety, brinjal genetic diversity and therefore biosecurity of India.”

In a similar vein, Prashant Bhushan’s letter discusses blatant regulatory malfeasance regarding Bt cotton, herbicide-tolerant cotton seeds (now also illegally available in the country) and the illegal import of other GM seeds of various food crops. He also informs the minister in some detail about the issues surrounding Bt Brinjal and the reasons for the moratorium in 2010. Bt cotton is India’s only legal GM crop (a Mahyco-Monsanto venture): that too involved a strategy of illegally cultivate then approve. It’s an industry tactic.

Bhushan notes:

“ln the fourteen years since the filing of a PIL (Aruna Rodrigues v Union of lndia) for a moratorium on GMOs in 2005, there has been a disregard for the most basic norms governing the regulation of GlVlOs in lndia.”

Further on in his letter, he states:

“l am constrained to say that we are looking at a collective failure of our regulatory bodies and connected institutions, with the final blame falling squarely on the apex regulator, the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee) in your Ministry, the body solely responsible for all environmental releases of GMOs. The illegal planting of Bt brinjal demonstrates the vacuum that exists in the oversight of GMOs in lndia.”

Bhushan makes it clear that the current situation represents the most dire and unconscionable violation of lndia’s constitutional safeguards of its biosecurity and biosafety with potentially irreversible consequences:

“These matters justify criminal proceedings being initiated against individuals and corporations that have participated in and facilitated the illegal sale and cultivation of Bt brinjal. ln the event of any contamination, the GEAC/others may be in contempt of the supreme court’s order of “No contamination”. Any delay on the part of your ministry in taking swift and strict action to stop the spread of Bt brinjal may not only be illegal but constitute contempt as well.”

Source of seeds

So, just where did these Bt Brinjal seeds come from?

In a report in the Hindustan Times (12 May), it is stated that the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) says it had not stored any GM seeds from the field trials conducted prior to the moratorium in 2010. Mahyco and the two universities (Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and University of Agricultural Sciences in Karnataka) involved in the trials were in possession of the seeds.

The newspaper reports that minutes of GEAC meetings held in February and May of 2010 reveal the committee decided that NBPGR would store Bt brinjal seeds from all three seed developers and take affidavits from the company and institutions confirming that all seed stock has been deposited with NBPGR. But this was never done.

Bt brinjal has been grown in Bangladesh since 2013. The seeds could have come from there or might be old seeds that were supposed to be deposited with NBPGR. Further ‘event identification’ (involving an analysis of the construct of the genetically modified organism) tests might be able to determine the original source.

In a letter (11 May) to Minister Harsh Vardhan, the Coalition for a GM Free India stated:

“For any illegal cultivation of Bt Brinjal found in India, the crop/event developer should be held responsible… and it is clear that Mahyco and the two state agriculture universities have to be investigated immediately.”

Of course, as Prashant Bhushan implies, it’s not just the crop developers who should eventually have their day in court.

The GMO biotech sector has not been able to mount a convincing argument for the introduction of GM crops in India, whether it has involved Bt brinjal in 2010 or the ongoing case in the Supreme Court concerning GM mustard. Aruna Rodrigues’s many submissions to the Supreme Court have shown that the crop developer’s field trials and the overall case for GM mustard have failed to establish a need for this crop and are based on scientific fraud and unremitting regulatory delinquency.

But the push for GM continues unabated because Indian agriculture presents a potentially massive cash cow for the industry. It’s a case of any which way, as Kavitha Kuruganti, convener of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, notes:

“The biotech industry’s strategy of ‘leak illegal seeds first, contaminate and spread the cultivation and present a fait accompli’ for obtaining approval is well known.”

It’s exactly what happened with Bt cotton in India.

Read Prashant Bhushan’s letter here.

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Millions in India take to the streets to fight far-right government


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Millions in India take to the streets to fight far-right government

Communist Party of India (Marxist) rally. Photo: Jaffar Theekkathir

Millions of people have poured into the streets in recent days to join courageous protests challenging the far-right government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India. Modi has failed to accomplish his major campaign promise of economic development. Instead his government has given India four years of anti-worker, anti-farmer, ethnic and religious chauvinist and anti-women policies. Modi’s far-right Bharatiya Janata Party is deeply concerned about its prospects in upcoming national elections later this year.

The BJP came to power in 2014 with flowery promises of development and anti-corruption measures, but the material reality of a controversial currency policy, the anti-Muslim mob violence, persecution of Dalits, murder of journalists and intellectuals, lack of action on dire hardships faced by workers and farmers, and blatant misogyny have proven to the Indian people that the BJP has neither the ability, nor intention, of helping the majority of Indians.

In November, the BJP lost to the center-left Congress Party in the BJP’s Hindi-speaking heartland. November saw state elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. All were firmly in the hands of the BJP, but switched to Congress, a massive display of the dissatisfaction held by the BJP’s electoral base. This has sent the BJP into panic mode.

Women fight back against far-right offensive

The BJP’s go-to tactic when dealing with dissatisfaction with its base is to whip up interreligious or intercaste conflict. This is done through the BJP’s proxies, such as the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its youth wing the Bajrang Dal. These proxy groups, plus the BJP and the RSS, make up the Sangh Parivar — a collection of far-right Hindu nationalist groups bent on imposing a theocracy. The RSS is the fascist ideological core of the Sangh Parivar.

The most recent example of these tactics would be the incidents surrounding the Sabarimala Temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala. On Sept. 28, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that the Sabarimala Temple could not bar women “of menstruating age” (10-50 years old) from entering the temple. Immediately the BJP stepped up in defense of “tradition” calling for protests to block women from entering the temple. They viewed this as a golden opportunity to try and grow their support in the state. Many women tried entering the temple in November and December, but they were shoved and stoned by mobs called out by the Sangh Parivar.

Kerala is governed by the Left Democratic Front, which consists of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and various smaller communist and left-wing parties. Communism has always had a very strong presence in Kerala because of the land and education reforms implemented under the leadership of the Communist Party in the 1950s. Since then, the state has been controlled either by the LDF or the United Democratic Front led by the Congress Party.

The Congress Party initially made a statement supporting the Supreme Court’s decision, but then fearing the loss of their conservative and upper-caste supporters to the BJP, they opportunistically backed and participated in demonstrations against the Supreme Court’s decision. They may soon regret this decision.

With the Congress Party and BJP united, only the LDF stood for the progressive Supreme Courts decision. On Jan. 1, an astonishing five million women of all castes and creeds lined up in a protest which stretched across the entire length of Kerala. This massive protest was organized by the CPI(M) and clearly showed that the people reject the ultra-reactionary, sexist politics of the Sangh Parivar.

Early the next morning under police protection, two women entered the temple and prayed. This sparked a massive violent response from the RSS. A hartal (forced general strike) was called and CPI(M) members, women and journalists were attacked. RSS members armed with swords and bombs attacked police stations and other government buildings in order to spread fear among the people of Kerala. But the people of Kerala and the ruling LDF stood firm and the violence unleashed by the RSS was quickly defeated. With people refusing to comply with the hartal, progressive people fought against the riotous RSS and their supporters, even chasing them out of town in one case.

As of the writing of this article, over 50 women have visited and prayed at the Sabarimala Temple thanks to the support of the LDF and the people of Kerala. After the violence that had taken place, the leader of the Congress Party Rahul Gandhi has come out with its latest position stating that both sides have valid points.

200 million workers on strike

Between Jan. 7 and 8, 200 million workers across India took part in a strike called by the Joint Committee of Trade Unions (JCTU) which consists of 11 trade unions, most of whom are connected to various communist parties. This strike was by many accounts the largest in human history. The strike affected the whole country to varying degrees, with many regions completely shut down. The major industrial belt surrounding Delhi saw massive disruptions. Finance shut down as bank workers in Gujarat and Maharashtra joined the strike. Workers from transportation, energy, telecommunications, education, auto-taxis, steel, manufacturing and even workers in the informal economy, like maids, brought the economy to a halt and demonstrated the power of the working class. Farmers and students took part in solidarity.

These workers’ protests were held to bring to light the plight of the working class. With a 12-point list of demands, which included calls for a minimum wage, a social security net, better conditions for scheme workers (those employed in government employment programs), and an end to privatization and contracting.

Workers and farmers in India have been suffering under the neo-liberal policies of the two major parties for many years. The Congress Party implemented the neo-liberal reforms in the 1990s that have pushed more and more Indians into extreme poverty. Their notorious corruption, dynastic rule, and inability to help workers or farmers is what led to the BJP taking power in 2014.

In many regions of India there are viable third parties, but they are regionally limited and the Congress Party along with the BJP are the only parties with the funding and infrastructure to be national parties. Still these third parties are slowly growing, representing local interests, lower caste interests, or in the case of the LDF, the interests of the working class and oppressed. At the same time the workers and peasants through left-affiliated groups like JCTU and the farmers’ federation All India Kisan Sabha are fighting back against the callous policies imposed on the people by either of the ruling class’ two parties. Millions of women are taking a courageous stand against the patriarchal fanaticism of the religious rightwing.

U.S. imperialism is working closely with the Modi government, lending it international legitimacy and diplomatic support as it seeks to enlist India in its campaign to encircle and contain China. As we in the United States fight against our own far-right government, we can look to the determined and massive resistance in India for inspiration.

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India interested in training military in Russia


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An Indian paramilitary trooper stands guard in Srinagar, January 15, 18. (Photo by AFP)

India is interested in training its military at the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, the Russian Defense Ministry informed on Thursday on the outcomes of the visit by India’s Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba.

“During his visit to Russia, Admiral Sunil Lanba has delivered a lecture for the students of the General Staff’s Military Academy on the role of the Indian Navy in the maintenance of peace and stability in South Asia. During the meeting with the academy’s leadership, the Indian military commander commended the level of training of the academy’s graduates, expressing the interest of the Indian side in training its military personnel within a special faculty of the academy,” the Russian Defense Ministry stated.

The Military Academy of the General Staff is the chief higher education institution in Russia, a leading center of scientific research in defense and national security.

The academy offers training and refresher courses for senior and supreme officers, representatives of Russian ministries and agencies, as well as servicemen of foreign armed forces.

More: http://tass.com/defense/1034760

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India’s Water Resources: Save Activist Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand, Save River Ganga


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Swami Gyanswaroop Sanand is an important figure in the field of environmental engineers in India. Formerly known as Professor G.D. Agarwal, he has been a faculty member in the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and Member-Secretary Central Pollution Control Board.

At the age of 79, the engineer took diksha and became a sanayasi. He has played an important role in stalling 3 hydroelectric projects to ensure uninterrupted flow of Bhagirathi, which becomes Ganga after meeting Alaknanda, for the initial 175 kms.

The swamy now, 86, has undertaken another unto death at Haridwar since 22 June, 2018, demanding a law for conservation of river Ganga.

Close to Rs. 500 crores was spent as part of the previous Ganga Action Plan and now Rs. 7,000 cr. out of Rs. 20,000 cr., proposed budget for Namami Gange project under the current government, has been spent but most of industrial waste and sewage continues to flow untreated in Ganga similar to other rivers like Sabarmati in the country because, firstly, the installed capacity of Sewage Treatment Plants and Common Effluent Treatment Plants is woefully short of the total waste generated and, secondly, whatever capacity has been built remains non-functional for various reasons, including corruption.

The scientist turned swamy is unhappy with the state of affairs at the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA). He is sure that the Clean Ganga-2020 mission will also fail as the previous mission Ganga Action Plan launched in 1986. In both these projects crores of rupees have been invested.

It is shocking that this government which projects itself as champion of Hindutva and changed the name of Water Resources Ministry to include Ganga Rejuvenation in its name is completely silent on Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand’s fast and the media is colluding in this conspicuous conspiracy.

Several activists, intellectuals, film makers, theater artists, former colleagues and students of the swamy and academicians have all demanded the government to take corrective steps to save the rivers and other water bodies and enter into dialogue with the Swamy thereby stopping his fast and saving his life.   Some of the prominent names are that of Medha Patkar, Swami Agnivesh, Mallika Sarabhai, Ram Puniyani, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Samar Bagchi.

Those interested in joining this demand and want to add their names may mail to Prakarsh Srivastava at srivastava.prakarsh@gmail.com or call or send sms to 9818554465.

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Tougher Than in Parliament: No Confidence Motion For Modi Government On the Street


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Tougher Than in Parliament:  No Confidence Motion For Modi Government On the Street

— Purushottam Sharma

Prime Minister Modi’s government defeated the Opposition’s No Confidence Motion inside Parliament on 20 July and won the motion. The ruling party, the Opposition, and the people of the country and the world were aware in advance of this Parliamentary arithmetic and what the result would be. That is why interest was focused not upon victory or defeat of the government but on the debate inside Parliament and the Government’s answer to substantial issues raised by the Opposition.

But there was another No Confidence Motion outside Parliament on Parliament Street by thousands of farmers from all over the country raising their voice against this government, calling it anti-farmer and anti-people. The farmers told the government, “You will defeat the no confidence motion inside Parliament but this no confidence motion passed by us on the street will throw you out of power in 2019”.

About 200 farmers’ organizations under the banner of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti has kept the farmers’ movement alive and kicking across the country for the past one year. It is the pressure from this movement that Minimum Support Price and farmers’ loan waivers have come into the country’s political agenda.

Leaders from almost all the parties raised the farmers’ issues in the debate in Parliament. However, nobody spoke about the huge farmers’ non-confidence inside Parliament except the independent MP from Maharashtra and representative of the farmers’ agitation on the street Raju Shetty. The tabling by Raju Shetty of two private Bills prepared by the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti (AIKSCC), ‘Loan waivers for farmers’ and ‘Profitable price for crops’ was part of the agenda in Parliament on 20 July. 21 political parties had promised support for these two private Bills, including the Left parties, Congress, Shiv Sena, TMC, RLD, RJD and other parties.

The main issues of the farmers’ No Confidence Motion were: 1) The Modi government has betrayed its election manifesto and promise and has failed to give farmers the Minimum Support Price as per the Swaminathan Commission recommendations. The government tried to cheat the farmers by just this month declaring MSP for only kharif crops. The new MSP declared by the government has not been calculated properly as per the correct input cost and C2 system, and this amounts to blatantly cheating the farmers. 2) The Modi government did not give any relief to farmers during droughts and disasters, giving the excuse of financial constraints; but indirectly the government played a helpful role in giving corporate companies thousands of crores of rupees profit through the Crop Insurance Scheme. 3) The Modi government has flouted the 2013 Land Acquisition Act, PESA Act, and other land-related rules and acts by relating them to States and thus forcibly grabbing land for several big Projects. The livelihood and existence of adivasi farmers have been attacked by forcibly snatching their ‘jal, jangal, jameen’ (water, forest, land). 4) The Modi government has given corporate companies lakhs of crores of rupees as waivers and helped them to acquire huge profits in crores. The gap between corporate companies and farmers has been greatly widened. Schemes like the Bhavantar Scheme in Madhya Pradesh serve only to increase businessmen’s profits. 5) Farmers have no regular income; their labour is given no respect and dignity; suicides due to the burden of loans are on the rise; in spite of countrywide demands, total loan waivers are not being given. The farmers of the country consider the Modi Support Price tantamount to cheating the farmers and have passed this No Confidence motion in view of all these anti-farmer activities of the Modi government.

For the first time the AIKSCC invited all the political parties which had promised support for the farmers’ Bills in Parliament. The representatives of political parties who spoke in support of the farmers’ No Confidence motion included CPIM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, Samajwadi leader Sharad Yadav, RLD leader Trilokchand Tyagi, Shiv Sena leader Aravind Sawant, JD(S) leader Danish Ali, AAP leader Sanjay Singh, and former MP Ali Anwar. Earlier, braving heavy rain, thousands of farmers gathered at Mandi House and marched with black flags and black bands to Parliament Street. Thousands of farmers led by ABKSSS conveners VM Singh, Yogendra Yadav, Prem Singh Gehlawat, Gurunam Singh, Dr Darshanpal, Jagmohan Singh, Atul Kumar Anjan, Ashish Mittal, Medha Patkar, Kavita Karuganti, Dr Sunilam and MP Raju Shetty passed the No Confidence Motion against the Modi government and resolved to throw out this government which has treacherously cheated the farmers.

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India: The Assault on Scholar and Social Activist Swami Agnivesh


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The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) is shocked to learn that the prominent Indian social activist, Swami Agnivesh, was assaulted on the 17th of July 2018 in the Pakur area of Jharkhand State while leaving a hotel where he had participated in an event.

The assassins are allegedly from the youth wing of the BJP, the ruling party. They had torn his clothes and hurled abuses at Agnivesh. They were angry that the activist had made a statement defending the consumption of beef. In recent months, the consumption of beef in a society where the cow is venerated has become a volatile issue with cases reported of Muslims being killed because they had eaten the meat of the animal even within the confines of their homes.       

The BJP has denied that its youth workers were involved in the Agnivesh assault. One hopes that a fair and unbiased investigation will be carried out by the authorities. The culprits should be severely punished according to the law. 

It is a shame that intolerance and aggressive bigotry of this sort is gathering momentum in parts of India. It has been facilitated according to certain sources by the increasing legitimization of a narrow notion of religious identity which in a sense is a travesty of the universalism and inclusiveness of the Hindu faith. Those who wield power and influence in politics and religion should not lend credibility to such gross misinterpretations of the sacred beliefs of the majority of the populace. 

Swami Agnivesh is one of those few Indians who has always sought to combat bigotry and hatred propagated in the name of religion, any religion.  He has adopted principled positions on major controversies in his country with courage and integrity for many decades. A multi-religious, multi-cultural democracy should eulogise – not assault – such individuals. 

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Featured image is from The Indian Express.

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India: Historic Victory for Farmers of Maharashtra


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The farmers in Maharashtra won a historic victory after 50,000 farmers threatened to siege the state assembly. The Devendra Fadnavisgovernment of Maharashtra has agreed to the demands of protesting farmers.

A committee has been set up, which will consider all aspects of their demands, which includes loan waiver, free electricity and a higher price for their produce.The government has given its acceptance in writing, said state minister Chandrakant Patil, after a delegation of farmers met government representatives this afternoon. Mr Fadnavis said the Chief Secretary will do the follow up.

The Fadnavis Government has decided to table a bill in the Monsoon session of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, which will assure minimum price for agricultural products. If traders offer lower price below minimum price then it will be considered as a criminal act.

The Maharashtra Government is also planning to revise milk prices and appoint an independent observer for dairy business to help farmers. The decision on hiking milk prices would be taken by June 20.

The Government has also agreed to waive off penalty and interest on pending power bills and also look to set up more cold storages and agro-processing units in the state.

Nearly 50,000 farmers assembled in Mumbai after a grueling 180-km, six-day march from Nashik, with plans to gherao the assembly. The protest was called off after the government’s acceptance.

The Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha or AIKS, which spearheaded the march, wants the implementation of recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission that mandates farmers be paid one-and-a-half times the cost of production and the Minimum Support Price be fixed for their produce.

The adivasis or tribal cultivators, who joined the march in huge numbers, want the land they have been tilling for years to be transferred to their names and implementation of the Forest Rights Act, which they say will benefit them.

The farmers want the state government to stop forceful acquisition of farm lands for projects such as super highways and bullet trains. Inter-linking of rivers and to discontinue sharing of waters with Gujarat was another concern that they wanted to discuss.

They also want a compensation of Rs. 40,000 per acre for farmers whose crops were hit by hailstorm and pink bollworm.

Source: Countercurrents

Even though the farmers planned to begin their march towards the Vidhan Sabha after 11 am, they chose to walk at night so that the students appearing for their Board exams weren’t affected and the traffic ran smoothly.

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


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Image result for Indian Republic DAY CARTOON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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India: BJP’s Poisonous Poll Campaign


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Image result for imaginary Muslim enemy CARTOON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dance of Fascism in Delhi University


NOVANEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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