Wednesday, 10 September 2014

ML Update | No. 37 | 2014

ML Update

 A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol.  17 | No. 37 | 9-15 SEP 2014

 Modi Hijacks Teachers' Day

Former President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan wanted his birthday celebrated as Teachers' Day in India – a day set aside for teachers, rather than about his own birthday. 

Till 2014, when Narendra Modi, in the very opposite of Radhakrishnan's spirit, turned a day dedicated to teachers, into a day about himself.

Schools were ordered by the HRD to make arrangements for students all over the country to view Modi addressing an assembly of schoolchildren in the capital, and answering 'questions' that students had been coached to ask. Schools had to change timings in the last minute, to suit Modi's schedule. So teachers spent the day making hectic arrangements for Modi's speech rather than enjoying some well-earned rest, relaxation and respect.

All over the country, thousands of ill-paid, overworked, contractualized 'para-teachers' work in humiliating and exploitative conditions without basic job-security, salary and training. Modi said not a word on Teachers' Day about improving their conditions and regularizing them, in keeping with their long-standing demands.  

The HRD Ministry had said listening to the speech would not be mandatory. But what was the truth? Several schools, including schools in Delhi, warned that students would face tests on Modi's speech, and warned students of 'strict action' for failing to attend the speech. The Delhi Directorate of Education issued a directive warning Delhi schools that "Any laxity in the arrangements shall be viewed seriously."  

Teachers' Day, then, became an exercise in regimentation. Schools and students were roped by force into Modi's image-building exercise, and Modi imposed his views on them.

The speech and 'interaction' was also a political exercise. Kids asked Modi 'questions' that were obviously tutored, to allow him to give a calculated political response, and repeat some of his pet phrases from his speeches.   

In a so-called 'live interaction', a girl student from Bastar asked the PM about education in Bastar, Dantewada, giving Modi a chance to praise BJP CM Raman Singh and commend the girl on asking "a question on education that too from a land where there has been lot of blood due to Maoists." Modi did not speak of the blood of little school-going girls and boys, shed by CRPF in the same areas in firings on harvest festival gatherings of adivasis. In the 2012 Sarkeguda massacre, 15-year-old Kaka Rahul and Madkam Ramvilas, students at a government school in Basaguda who were home on vacation, were shot dead and branded as 'Maoists.' 12-year-old Kaka Saraswati also was killed. Modi also didn't speak of the rapes of little adivasi schoolgirls in Government-run schools in the same region – that the Chhattisgarh Home Minister blamed on 'bad stars'!    

Modi hijacked the day that Dr. Radhakrishnan dedicated to teachers with a mandatory viewing of his speech. Meanwhile Dinanath Batra's textbooks, with a preface by Modi, that are mandatory reading in Gujarat schools, hijack Dr Radhakrishnan himself, turning his name into a vehicle for racist ideas. Those textbooks tell a racist tale of how the country's second president Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan had told the British that white people were like undercooked rotis and Black people were like burnt rotis, while Indians  were "rotis cooked right by God." 

With Modi using Teachers' Day as an image building exercise and Batra's absurd and reactionary textbooks being legitimized by Modi, the 'thought control' in India's schools is entering into a new and intensified phase. However, the struggle against saffronization and privatization of education, and for regularization of contractualized teachers, will also be intensified. 

Delhi Police Files Charge-sheet Against AIPWA, AISA, RYA Activists for Anti-Rape Protests Post Dec 16

The Delhi Police has informed activists of AISA, RYA and AIPWA, including AIPWA Secretary Kavita Krishnan, AISA activists Anmol Rattan of DU and Om Prasad of JNU, and RYA activist Aslam Khan that a charge-sheet has been filed against them for their participation in a protest on December 19th 2012 against the December 16th rape, at Sheila Dixit's house.  

This protest action had been one of the key protests that galvanized more protests all over Delhi and the country. At this protest, the Delhi Police had used water cannons for the first time against the anti-rape protesters. Also, a speech made by AIPWA Secretary Kavita Krishnan at that protest, went viral with thousands of people across the country feeling that it reflected their own sentiments. 57,615 people till date viewed the YouTube video of the speech, that asserted women's right to be "adventurous", rejected curbs on women's freedom in the name of "protection", and demanded that Governments protect women's right to "fearless freedom." The speech had been spontaneously translated into many Indian languages as well as English, and shared. In many ways, that protest, and the speech made at that protest, came to symbolize, for people in India and all over the world, the spirit of the anti-rape protests in Delhi.   

Police brutality, high-handedness and harassment against protesters were notorious at the time – even the Justice Verma Committee commented on it. 

It is highly unlikely that leading December 2012 anti-rape protesters would have been charge-sheeted by the Delhi Police more than a year later, without a political green-signal from above. The Delhi Police falls under the Union Home Ministry. Why are the charge-sheets being filed against key AISA organisers in DU and JNU, days before DUSU and JNUSU polls where AISA is a major contender?

The BJP, at that time, had attacked the Congress Govt and the Delhi Police for its brutality to anti-rape protesters. Why, now, is the Delhi Police under the BJP Govt filing charge-sheets against the same protesters now?

Clearly, the Modi regime, like the Manmohan regime before it, holds protesters, especially those who speak of women's freedom, to be criminals.

Just as the anti-rape protesters anticipated way back in December 2012, 'protection' for women from 'love jehad' and 'rape' has quickly come to mean moral policing and restrictions on freedom. Even as this charge-sheet is filed against people agitating for women's freedom, Sangeet Som, the BJP MLA who incited mobs in Muzaffarnagar, has again called for a 'mahapanchayat' - this time against 'love jehad'. Leaders of such mahapanchayats are the same khaps that kill daughters and their lovers - in the name of 'honour.' Now, in the name of the 'love jehad' bogey, they will legitimize harassment of inter-community couples, and justify family/community/khap surveillance on adult women. Recently, the Gujarat police issued posters asking parents to maintain surveillance on their daughters' mobile phones. For such reactionary and patriarchal politics, the very idea of 'women's freedom' and the freedom of young women and men to love each other without fear is dangerous.

The AISA, AIPWA and RYA demand that the case against all protesters in the anti-rape agitation of 2012-13, including its own activists, be withdrawn immediately.

The charge-sheeted activists declared, "We and thousands of others will continue to protest and demand the right of women, as well as of every one, including men and women from Dalit, Muslim and other marginalized identities, to be free and adventurous, as we did on December 19th. If this Government and the Delhi Police holds that this a crime deserving our arrest, so be it."  

Contract Workers' Protesting Illegal Retrenchment

22 contract sanitation workers of Raja Harishchandra Hospital, run by Delhi Govt. retrenched illegally by the contractor. They were working there for 5-7 years or more. They and their families are protesting since 8 Aug 2014, sitting in front of the Hospital on an indefinite protest.

They, organised under the banner All India General Kamgar Union, affiliated to AICCTU, had protested on same reasons last year too, but after few weeks of struggle they were all reinstated by the contractor. That was time when elections were near. This year the contractor is adament on not taking them back, he also sometimes reminds workers their last year's 'mistake' of fighting for their job security. Now we have a 'stable' BJP govt. in centre to boost contractor's confidence to the extent that he is even ignoring advice, though a feeble one, of the hospital administrator for taking them back.

The Delhi State Commission for Sanitation (Safai) Workers had given a letter to the workers' Union that no sanitation workers will be retrenched from any hospital in Delhi even if there is a change in contractor. But this direction of a statutory body like the Commission is proving futile in face of the prevailing nexus of the contract workers mafia with hospital administration and Delhi Govt.'s Health Deptt. ! They are adament on teaching lessons to the workers who dare to raise their voice for rights and secure livelihood.

Local AICCTU organiser and CPIML leader Surender Panchal has met the LG of Delhi along with state leadership of AICCTU to submit a memorandum on behalf of the these workers. Though received positive assurances, though not in writing, they later proved to be false promises.

This is not the story of a single govt. hospital in National Capital. Workers in many hospitals had to protest repeated attacks on their livelihood, thanks to draconian and anti-worker CLARA and governmental policy of implementing so called 'reforms'. Recently contract sanitation workers in Ambedkar Hospital held out a protest after sudden retrenchments, though it proved to be one of the unsuccessful attempts at saving their livelihoods. Workers in central govt. hospitals like Sufdarjang Hospital too feel very insecure and terrified in front of contractors highhandedness and repressive tactics. The labour laws are never implemented in favour of the workers by the government and administration. In LRS TB Hospital near Mehrauli almost all contract workers who were employed there for years were retrenched by the hospital administration and contract as soon as they heard of rumours that the contract workers are unionising themselves. Many of those were working in that hospital for decades, first as casual workers and then they were forcibly moved to the hands of the some contractor. Workers and their families are continuing their protests in Narela.

Demonstration in Odisha

On 28th August 150 CPI (ML) activist protested in front of Saharapara block of Keonjhar district led by state committee member Mahendra Parida  along with  local committee secretary Sucharu Nayak. A 10 point charter of demands was submitted to the local BDO and Tahsildar, demanding a stop to corruption in MNREGA , forest land rights and permanent land patta to all tribals and dalits living in forest areas, demanding conducting of pallisabhas, an end to police atrocities and witch hunt of adivasis branded "Maoists", also proper education and health care for children. The activists warn that if the demands were not met within three months, the BDO office would be closed by protesters. The Tahsildar assured the activists that the demands would be met. 

Sanitation Workers' Strike in Bangaluru

Sanitation workers of BBMP organised under the banner of Guttige Powarakarmikara Sangha (BBMP Contract Workers Union affiliated to AICCTU) went on strike on 27-29 Aug. 2014 demanding VDA Rs. 2204 and Government declared minimum wages and other benefits, including timely disbursal of wages.

In a subsequent meeting with Labour Minister and Labour Commissioner, the Labour Minister assured he will immediately talk to the BBMP Commissioner to release the pending wages to all contract workers and will arrange a meeting with Labour Secretary, BBMP Commissioner and other concerned officials with AICCTU leaders for releasing VDA as demanded by the union.

The striking workers held out a march to the residence of Labour Minister on 27th.

Hundreds of Sanitation workers of Sunkadkatte and Anjananagara wards of Bangalore city led by AICCTU took part in this strike action.

AICCTU leaders Com. Clifton, Maitreyi, Nirmala, Shankar and AICCTU Vice President and Karnataka State President, Comrade Balan addressed the workers.

Against Victimisation of Trade Union Office Bearers

AICCTU led Hospital Assistants of central government run hospital, NIMHANS, were on a dharna in front of the office of the Director demanding withdrawal of illegal transfers of 21 contract workers and cancellation of the contract of Swachata Corporation. The administration and the contractor have violated Sec. 33 (a) of ID Act, 1947 that prohibits any change or alteration of service conditions prejudicial to the interests of workers during the pendency of an industrial dispute before the conciliation officer or any other competent legal authority. The transfer of 21 workers, including the union General Secretary Basavaraj, Organising Secretary Guru Datt, Vice President Pillamma, Joint Secretary Pramila and ECM Narayan were resorted to by the NIMHANS in spite of clear advise by the conciliation officer on the contrary. The government run hospital authorities refused to follow the advise of another competent dept authorised by the same central govt.

NIMHANS hospital does not have a proper qualified HR officials in spite of employing more than 4000 employees of various categories. The responsible officials do not even know the legal position that ultimately, Principal Employer, in this case, NIMHANS is responsible for the wrongs of the contractor.

It was unfortunate that the Director and other responsible officials of one of the reputed hospitals in the country were completely careless about the welfare of its own employees. They even refused to meet union leaders who rushed to resolve the issues amicably.

Finally, forced by the workers struggle and instructions from the conciliation officer, the administration and the contractor temporarily withdrew the transfers on the same day. Still, transferred workers were not allowed to work for a day in their previous place of work. Second day, all but one was allowed to work in the previous department. It needed written letter from the labour department to reinstate all workers in their previous place. The central government owned hospital which is supposed to be a model employer is violating laws and resorting to unfair labour practices prohibited by the ID Act. The government run institution, NIMHANS, in addition to illegal, victimised transfers of contract workers for being active in the trade union, does not have a transfer policy even. Workers were transferred because they questioned the illegal nature of contractor who has not renewed the license and who has employed hundreds of workers more than the sanctioned strength. AICCTU leaders Comrades Balan, Shankar and Appanna led the demonstrators.

Tribute to Shubhradeep Chakravarty

A voice of dissent falls silent

- By Anand Patwardhan

"En Dino Muzaffarnagar by Shubradeep Chakravorty and Meera Chaudhary is going to be recorded in history as the first documentary film banned under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Gagging order came on 30th June. Today we applied in Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) for redressal of our grievances. We will not go down without a fight."

These are the last words posted on Facebook by Shubhradeep Chakravorty, one of India's bravest documentary filmmakers. Shubhradeep passed away from a brain hemorrhage on August 25, while battling a numbing censorship bureaucracy and the pain of cynical rejection.

I first met Shubhradeep in 2002 after he had made his debut film, Godhra Tak. He had been a journalist but the horror of Gujarat turned him into a filmmaker. He focused on the train-burning incident that killed 59 Hindu passengers. The Gujarat government had allowed a public display of the charred bodies and when pogroms against Muslims began, allegedly looked the other way. Word spread that Muslims had poured petrol into the train. Godhra Tak looked at forensic evidence that questioned this theory as well as the systematic demonization of Muslims. With BJP led governments in Gujarat and the Centre proclaiming that "Islamic terror"was breeding in Gujarat, several strange incidents followed.

That year "Muslims terrorists" attacked the Akshardham Temple with firearms, killing 33. Two attackers were killed. 6 more were arrested, of which 3 were sentenced to death. In May 2014 the Supreme Court acquitted all six and pulled up the Gujarat police for shoddy investigations.

A series of encounter killings followed in Gujarat. Shubhradeep's next film Encountered on a Saffron Agenda looked at four separate "encounters", the most infamous being those of Ishrat Jahan and others in 2004, and Sohrabuddin and others in 2005. In every case the authorities claimed that the dead Muslim "terrorists" were on a mission to kill Narendra Modi. Shubhradeep's brilliant investigation exposed in meticulous detail how each encounter was probably a cold-blooded murder. The courts finally took cognizance and several encounter perpetrators were jailed for varying periods of time including top police officers like D G Vanzara, and Modi's right-hand man, Amit Shah. Some of them are free today, but few doubt that fake encounters took place.

Following screenings in Jaipur and Bhopal, Shubhradeep was physically attacked, narrowly escaping serious injury. But his courage and determination never waned. In 2012 he made two important films, Out of Court Settlement about the ordeal of human rights defenders like the martyred lawyer Shahid Azmi and After the Storm about youths who had been acquitted of terror charges but still faced trauma and stigma.

In April 2014 we invited Shubhradeep to Vikalp@Prithvi in Mumbai to screen his work-in-progress, En Dino Muzaffarnagar. Newly married, he was accompanied by his partner and co-director, Meera Chaudhary. They were like teenagers in love and it was infectious. In the Q and A after the film Shubhradeep attributed all the moments when the camera was in the right place at the right time, to Meera. "Whenever she is there something happens. She is my lucky charm," he beamed.

The film itself was a departure from his earlier work. Always compelling in content, his films tended to be utilitarian in form. Now camera and sound were excellent and the film was complex, showing not just the perpetrators of atrocities but also ordinary individuals from warring communities who had resisted the communal urge. Jat and Muslim farmers had historically worked together in unions and the region enjoyed communal harmony even in times of national strife.Shubhradeep's partner Meera is a Jat from Muzzaffarnagar, which gave her access and insight. Above all, the film dissected the story of how a riot can be created from scratch and how peaceful neighbours can become mortal enemies once a Machiavellian force begins its handiwork.

As we watched the film at the end of April with elections underway, the writing was already on the wall. The very word 'secularism' was under attack, both in the electronic and print media.

Whoever rules India, censorship is always hard. At times it gets harder. In 2002, under the NDA, our anti-nuclear War and Peace was denied a CBFC certificate. Of the 21 cuts demanded, the first was: "Delete the visuals of Gandhiji being shot by Nathuram Godse". History books at the time were being rewritten to say merely that a madman killed Gandhi. The Censor Guideline 2(xii) used to justify the cut was "visuals or words contemptuous of racial, religious or other groups are not presented". A year later the high court ordered our film passed without cuts.

The CBFC has used the same clause to ban En Dino Muzzaffarnagar. The Appellate Tribunal confirmed the rejection. Their order states: "It (the film) is highly critical of one political party (BJP) and its top leadership by name and tends to give an impression of the said party's involvement in communal disturbances."

They may as well issue an outright ban on investigative journalism.

These are dark days Shubhradeep, but times will change. Some day this nation will remember its real heroes — those who fought not for their own narrow caste or creed but for the truth and humanity that will never die.

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