A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 17 No. 20 14 - 20 MAY 2014
Lok Sabha 2014:
Money Power, Media Power, Mockery of Model Code of Conduct
The 16th Lok Sabha elections are finally over. Spread over as many as nine phases this was India's longest electoral exercise in recent memory and perhaps the average voter turnout has also beaten previous records. But beyond the statistical dimensions of this massive exercise and regardless of the final outcome, this has surely been a watershed election in which money power and media power or the nexus or fusion of the two reached a whole new height, the 'model code of conduct' became an object of brazen mockery and majoritarian demagogy dominated the electoral discourse like never before.
The Election Commission and its notion of a free and fair poll have taken a huge beating in this election. In the name of cleansing the election process, the EC raised the expenditure limit for every candidate to seven million rupees. But when parties are allowed to spend any amount of money, the limit set for individual candidates just loses all meaning. The amount of money the BJP has spent in marketing its dream theme of 'Modi Sarkar' will easily run into scores of billions of rupees. Instead of finding ways to curb this massive domination of money power, the EC goes on raising nomination fees and expenditure limits, making the electoral battle increasingly unequal for parties and individuals who have to rely on the people for funding their election campaigns. The EC in this election seized over Rs 331 crore, 225 lakh litres liquor and 1.85 lakh kg drugs.
Another rule that became meaningless is the requirement to stop electioneering 48 hours before the end of voting. The BJP systematically circumvented and violated this rule by running prominent frontpage advertisements on newspapers on polling days, releasing its poll manifesto right on the first polling day and with Narendra Modi himself holding a lotus-waving media session right outside his polling booth and issuing a televised message to the people on the last polling day.
Even more disturbing has been the way BJP leaders were allowed to get away with their vicious hate speeches. The ban on Amit Shah's hate campaign came pretty late after he had already revealed his sordid Muzaffarnagar game plan, but the EC quickly revoked the ban after Shah tendered a so-called apology and the master of hate speech thanked the EC with his mischievous description of Azamgarh as a terror haven. Modi himself time and again injected the 'anti-Bangladeshi' vitriol in his election speeches even going to the extent of alleging that rhinos were being conspiratorially eliminated in Assam to accommodate Bangladeshi settlers. All this became the new 'normal' level of BJP electioneering with the EC being a helpless spectator.
Derogatory remarks about dalits and women are also becoming part and parcel of India's election discourse. Mercifully, Mulayam Singh's remark trivialising rape as 'mistakes boys are prone to make' attracted all-round condemnation. So did Abu Azmi's decree calling for death penalty for rape victims or Baba Ramdev's anti-dalit misogynistic comment accusing Rahul Gandhi of celebrating honeymoon in dalit homes. But the important issue of Snoopgate, of the Modi administration in Gujarat using the state apparatus to carry out the illegal task of snooping on a woman, was not subjected to the kind of public scrutiny it deserved. The Congress and BJP made it look like a trivial private matter of a few individuals with the UPA eventually giving up on the idea of ordering a central probe.
There can be no overstating the point that years of pro-corporate policies and brazen pro-corporate governance have pushed the country into an acute all-round crisis. The scams and the utter failure of the Congress-led UPA government have created a huge disillusionment and vacuum in the country. The euphoria created by the AAP's spectacular debut in the Assembly elections in Delhi in last winter could not sustain itself for long, especially after Kejriwal's ill-conceived resignation after 49 days in power. With the fullest backing of the RSS and the entire spectrum of the corporate media, the BJP has stepped into this vacuum, seeking to present itself as the alternative and market Modi as the magic solution to all that ails India. The CPI(ML) and other forces of people's struggles have run a vigorous and spirited campaign against the policies that have resulted in the current crisis as well as against the BJP's divisive and despotic agenda, upholding the progressive vision of a pro-people shift in policies and priorities. While the Congress seems all set to be voted out of power, the conflict between the BJP's real agenda and the issues and interests of the Indian people is bound to sharpen in the coming days.
Long Live Comrade Suniti Kumar Ghosh
The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) pays homage to the memory of comrade Suniti Kumar Ghosh, one of the founder members of our party and founder editor of our central organ Liberation, who passed away in Asansol, West Bengal, on 11 May. He was 96.
Comrade SKG, as he was better known in the party, joined the Communist movement in mid-1940s. Externed from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1949, he settled in Calcutta. He worked as a lecturer in English in Vidyasagar College, Kolkata. After the formation of the CPI(M), he worked as an important organizer of the party's lecturers' cell. Like many other revolutionary intellectuals, he immersed himself completely in revolutionary political activities in the wake of the Naxalbari upsurge.
Comrade Ghosh was a member of the All India Co-ordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) and a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) – in both cases from the very inception. Liberation started appearing from November 1967 under his able editorship. It became the organ of AICCCR from May 1968 and carried the ideological, political and organizational line of the revolutionary communist party, then in the making, to communists scattered across the country and thus helped unify them on that basis. From April 1969, as the central organ of CPI(ML), it played an exemplary role in revolutionary journalism and party building.
After the setback in the revolutionary communist movement around 1972, comrade SKG devoted most of his energy in writing books and articles with the same revolutionary fervor and theoretical rigor. The books he wrote include The Indian Big Bourgeoisie: Its Genesis, Growth and Character; India and the Raj 1919-1947: Glory, Shame and Bondage (in two volumes); Imperialism's Tightening Grip on Indian Agriculture; The Indian Constitution and Its Review; Development Planning in India: Lumpen-development and Imperialism; The Himalayan Adventure: India-China War of 1962 — Causes and Consequences. He also edited The Historic Turning Point: A Liberation Anthology (in two volumes), a selection from the writings which appeared in Liberation during 1967-1972. Published in 2009, Naxalbari: Before and After: Reminiscences and Appraisal was his last major work.
Red salute to Comrade Suniti Kumar Ghosh!
- CPI(ML) Liberation Central Committee
Red Salute to Comrade Mukul Sinha –
Courageous Crusader for Truth, Justice and Democracy
Activist and lawyer Mukul Sinha succumbed to lung cancer in Ahmedabad on May 12. He was 63. A trade union activist, Sinha also fought many landmark battles for civil liberties and justice – many of them in the heart of Narendra Modi's Gujarat, valiantly keeping alive the hope of justice for victims of communal pogroms and custodial murders.
As a young researcher in a university in Ahmedabad, Mukul Sinha became a trade union organiser when 133 persons were laid off from the university in 1979. Throughout the 1980s, he, along with his wife and lifelong comrade Nirjhari, organised many labour struggles. He acquired a law degree to be better equipped to take up such struggles.
He and Nirjhari formed the civil rights organization Jan Sangharsh Manch, which did sterling work in the struggle for justice for the victims of the 2002 pogrom.
Manoj Mitta, in his book The Fiction of Fact Finding: Modi and Godhra, recounts how in proceedings before the Banerjee Committee, Sinha representing the Jan Sangharsh Manch, sought evidence of the Gujarat carnage: "The upshot was that the mobile phone evidence of the Gujarat carnage became officially public. This enabled lawyers, activists and victims to cite the data...while pressing for action against influential persons such as (former Gujarat minister) Maya Kodnani, (former Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader) Jaydeep Patel, and senior police officers in carnage cases".
Zahir Janmohamad writes of him, "After the 2002 pogrom, Sinha became known as a human rights lawyer and a Gujarat riot activist. Neither term sat well with him and he always saw himself, and his work, through the lens of a labour organiser. 'What both 1992 and 2002 did was to fool people into believing that the communal divide is greater than the class divide,' Sinha said. 'As soon as you convince a society that Muslims or whatever group is the problem, you have tricked them into overlooking the real problems like labour laws, corruption, housing shortages, and poor infrastructure.'"
Mukul Sinha played an immensely courageous part in the legal struggle to expose the truth of the fake encounters in Gujarat, involving Sadiq Jamal, Ishrat Jahan, Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsi Prajapati.
Mukul Sinha will also be remembered for assisting families of fake encounter victims in Congress-ruled Manipur to secure justice. The Supreme Court set up a high powered commission chaired by former Supreme Court Judge Santosh Hegde and two other members, former Chief Election Commisioner JM Lyngdoh and a former DGP of Karnataka, to look into some of the 1000s of custodial killings by security forces in Manipur. Assisting Manipur's young widows' association before the commission, Sinha conducted most of the cross examinations of the police and Manipur Rifles personnel. The result was a landmark report by the Commission that declared all the 'encounters' to be cold-blooded murders. Writing about the Gujarat and Manipur fake encounters, Comrade Mukul Sinha observed, "The encounters of Gujarat and the encounters of Manipur have several similar trends, but the motives appear to be quite distinct and different. While Gujarat encounters are purely politically motivated to profile the Chief Minister as a Hindu icon, the Manipur encounters are entirely in connection with the siphoning of Government grants. The common thing is that the ordinary citizens are being slaughtered for the benefit of the political leaders be it BJP or Congress."
Mukul Sinha was among the founder members of a Left party, the New Socialist Movement (NSM).
Comrade Mukul Sinha fought so-called 'lost causes' in Gujarat, challenging Modi's authoritarian regime: as a result of those battles, many of Modi's top cops are in jail, and the battles for justice continue to be fought.
Regardless of which party forms Government after May 16th, we know that Governments will not defend democracy and fight for the rights of workers, minorities, women, activists. It will always be the Mukul SInhas of the world who are the true life and soul of our democracy. The likes of Mukul Sinha do not die – they live on in the struggles they inspired and in the courage and perseverance of other activists.
At a time when ruling class politics peddles the cult of the individual, it is worth recalling what Zahir Janmohamad says about Mukul Sinha: "Sinha was also mistrustful of the term leader because his whole life was dedicated to finding new voices and empowering them. During the many times I visited Sinha, I met some of Gujarat's most respected judges, journalists, and activists. But just as often, I also met bus drivers, railway workers, and labourers, each of whom Mukul was training. This was perhaps his finest quality—he taught others and amplified their voices, even if it meant muting his own." Mukul Sinha's legacy will live on in those bus drivers, railway workers and labourers, as well as young lawyers and activists.
And Mukul Sinha's outlook on activism – as told to Zahir Janmohamad - is a useful reminder to us all: "If you believe in a person or work against a person, you are bound to be disappointed. You will develop false hope and you will become fatigued. But if your goal is to change ideas, then this will sustain you."
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication, R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22442790, e-mail: email@example.com, website: www.cpiml.org