A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 18, No. 11, 10 – 16 MARCH 2015
The Message of International Women's Day 2015
It is important to remember that it was socialist revolutionary women who began observing International Women's Day to commemorate the historic strikes by women workers in the United States of America, demanding an 8-hour working day and the right to vote. Those working class women and revolutionary socialists struggled for women's freedom – and for a revolution that would free not only women but the world's people from oppressive shackles.
This is a history that the market and most of our ruling politicians would like us to forget, as they seek to appropriate IWD and empty it of its true historical and contemporary significance.
Many politicians would like us to observe IWD as a day to express gratitude to women for their 'selfless service', and praise women for their 'achievements'. And in the same way, various companies that commercialize IWD would like us to observe IWD as a day to buy gifts for women to express gratitude and praise.
This 'praise' and 'gratitude', ironically, is like a paternalistic "good conduct" prize to women for performing the roles prescribed by patriarchy. While in fact, IWD commemorates women's rejection of those patriarchal roles and the struggle to overthrow patriarchal structures!
Reflecting this patriarchal approach, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a message on IWD saying, "I salute the indomitable courage and stellar achievements of women." In this message, he mentioned the ''Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' (Save and Educate Daughters) scheme and the Sukanya Samruddhi scheme (to "support the marriage and education of young women"). These schemes also reinforce the notion that girls and young women must be 'saved' because they are "good daughters", not because they are equal human beings. 'Sukanya' literally means 'good daughter'. And why should 'marriage' be tagged with 'education' as a goal for women, when there are certainly no schemes for the marriage of men; is it not a tacit appeasement of the dowry system?
Modi's message does not mention that his Government's first full Budget recently slashed the funds for the ICDS scheme by a whopping 51%. This scheme is meant to combat malnutrition and healthcare in children and gender discrimination against girls, and is run by anganwadi workers. How can the PM 'save daughters' by slashing the budget for this scheme? By slashing the budget for this scheme, India's abysmal performance on child nutrition and girl children's rights will take a further beating, and anganwadi workers will continue to be underpaid and exploited.
Moreover, Modi is silent on the fate of the rape survivors of Muzaffarnagar, who were raped at the behest of leaders of Modi's party, as part of the communal violence that helped secure BJP a huge mandate in the Parliamentary elections. The accused men continue to enjoy impunity thanks to the protection of the ruling party, and the quest for justice is being actively obstructed.
The Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's Women's Day message also reinforced patriarchal stereotypes. He said, "When I used to fight against the corrupt system, my wife ran the house and my mother supported me", and asked Delhi men to admire "how easily and honestly women carry out their responsibilities and relationships without expressing the slightest protest … They go about their jobs while taking care of their families." He asked men to refrain from street harassment because "Men who do not respect women outside can never respect women in their household."
Patriarchy expects women to "run the house" for men who lead political struggles; to do household work as their 'responsibility' alone; and do waged "jobs" as well as "take care of families", all "without expressing the slightest protest". The history of the women's movement is a history of women rejecting this division of labour and assignment of roles. It is the history of women expressing vocal, vigorous protest against being asked to bear the burden of housework alone; against exploitation at work and in the home; and against being expected to "run homes" for men who have prominent public roles. It is the history of women leading struggles and social and political movements. Kejriwal's message shows that he has chosen not to credit this history of protest, but has praised women for 'suffering and bearing burdens in silence' – something that patriarchy has always done.
Moreover, why should men be asked to refrain from violence against women, as a show of respect to women in their homes? In effect, this amounts to asking men to keep all women safe, in gratitude for the services women perform for men inside homes. In fact, men are violent and coercive to women inside homes precisely because they feel entitled to women's household services. This fact is clearly indicated by a study based on the based on the India Human Development Survey 2004-05, which found that justifications for wife-beating and domestic violence in India ranged from 'going out alone without permission' (about 39 per cent), followed by 'neglect of household duties' (about 35 per cent), 'badly cooked meals' (about 29.50 per cent), and dowry-related (about 29 per cent).
The BBC film India's Daughter also reinforces the idea of the obedient and well-behaved Indian daughter, who seeks her parents' 'permission' to go out with a male friend. It claims to show the "mindset of the rapist", but it locates the abhorrent anti-women ideas only in the rapist and his lawyers. It fails to show how the custodians of the system, including police officers and politicians and godmen, display the same mindsets. It also profiles poor underprivileged men in India as rapists, failing to show that rape is a much larger problem, occurring across classes both in India and in the world.
Close to IWD, the horrific lynching of a rape-accused man in Dimapur by a mob of thousands is a chilling reminder of how the issue of rape and 'women's safety' is often turned into a patriarchal display of violence rather than a quest for justice for women.
In this case, the accused is from the minority Muslim community, and was wrongly profiled as an 'outsider', an 'illegal Bangladeshi immigrant', whereas in fact he was from Assam. But even if he had been Bangladeshi, the fact is that the lynching would still be an instance of xenophobic, patriarchal violence.
The incident highlights how xenophobia and communal hatred against 'illegal Bangladeshis' is being whipped up in the eastern parts of India and also elsewhere in India.
But the Dimapur incident also raises the question of why mobs never 'avenge' rapes committed by men of their own community? Such mob violence is orchestrated and unleashed only when a man from an 'Other' community is accused of raping "our women," that is when the rape is seen as an attack on the community's 'honour'. Women are seen as property and repositories of community honour, and men accused of violating that property and that 'honour' are attacked. This is no different from khap panchayats killing men for having married women from another caste.
In Dimapur, and in the political pogrom unleashed by the BJP in Muzaffarnagar, and in the mob attack on African men in Rajiv Chowk in Delhi, the same patriarchal sentiment was operating. In Khirki, it was African women who were painted by an AAP Minister as the threat to the safety of 'our women.'
Justice for women can never be brought about by unleashing mob violence to 'avenge' them, and it can never be achieved on the basis of asking men to "respect all women like 'their' women." Instead, all men must be asked to learn to respect the autonomy and freedom of all women, including those in their families. And the patriarchal structures of class, caste, gender, race, from the homes to the workplaces, must be challenged. That is the message of International Women's Day!
JOIN Founding Conference of the All India People's Forum (AIPF), 14-15 March, 2015
Ambedkar Bhawan, Delhi
Oil prices are going down globally, but we don't really feel it in India. Even if petrol and diesel prices have been reduced a bit, fares and transportation charges and prices of every essential commodity continue to go up. There is no sign of black money being recovered and BJP President Amit Shah has now said the talk of every family getting Rs 15 lakh through repatriation of black money was just empty poll rhetoric. In contrast, we see that I billion dollar loan from jan-dhan of our public bank is being doled out to favoured corporates like Adani !
While the government is not implementing the poll promises made to the common people, it is working overtime to pass on favours to big companies of Indian and foreign origin. Ordinance has been issued to expedite land grab in corporate interest. Coal and other mines are being opened up for commercial private mining. Foreign investment is being favoured in every sector of the economy. And during US President Obama's recent visit to India, Modi has virtually freed US companies supplying nuclear reactors to India from any liability, compensation and legal action, in the case of any accident. To pander to the greed of US drug companies, the Modi Government is systematically undermining India's patent policy; which will stall domestic production of several life-saving drugs and escalate their prices for common people in India and across the world.
The Planning Commission has been wound up and funds allocated for welfare programmes are being squeezed systematically. In the latest budget, the government has slashed expenditure on welfare and social spending, the worst hit being the health, women and child welfare, and education sectors. A drastic reduction in food security coverage from 75% to 40% is planned. In the name of the 'Make in India' campaign, the government is inviting foreign capital to come and exploit India's labour cheaply while labour laws are being systematically subverted to deny Indian workers any legal safeguard against wage-theft, unsafe workplaces and oppressive working conditions.
Commercialisation and saffronization of education are being given a fresh push. Public-funded education is being weakened through huge budget cuts, autonomy of education institutions are being trampled upon, and obscurantism and communal poison are being promoted both through syllabus changes and appointments.
And accompanying this economic attack on the common people is the mischievous communal agenda of the Sangh Parivar which has the backing of the Modi government. Every small local dispute is being blown up or sheer rumours are being spread to whip up communal frenzy and target the Muslim community. The RSS chief has declared India a Hindu Rashtra, BJP MPs, ministers and so-called sadhus and sadhvis are asking Hindu women to produce four children and more, churches are being vandalised right in the national capital and the Modi government remains a silent spectator.
The time has surely come to rise in powerful protest against these mischievous anti-people anti-democratic moves of the Modi government. And to be sure the protests have very much begun. In sector after sector workers and employees are opposing the government's policies, peasants are up in arms against the land-grab order and the rural poor are insisting on their right to employment guarantee and food security. And now in the elections to Delhi Assembly, the people of Delhi have given a resounding rebuff to the BJP and an emphatic mandate to the AAP to fulfil its promises to the poor and working people and deprived areas of Delhi.
To resist the Modi government's assault on the common people and the communal and divisive agenda of the Sangh Parivar and strengthen the Indian people's battle for comprehensive democracy, dignity and justice, a whole range of democratic organisations and individuals have decided to come together and launch a national platform called the All India People's Forum. The founding conference of the AIPF is being held in Delhi at Ambedkar Bhawan on 14-15 March and this will be followed by a massive Jan Sansad at Parliament Street on 16 March to call upon the government to withdraw the land-grab ordinance and other anti-people measures, fulfil its electoral promises of reducing prices, eliminating corruption and bringing back black money and firmly stop the communal and divisive forces.
We appeal to all of you to participate in the AIPF founding conference and the Jan Sansad, contributing with your support, your ideas and suggestions for sustained campaigns.
International Women's Day Celebrated
On the occasion of the International Women's Day on 8 March, AIPWA organised protests and rallies in various states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and other parts of the country. In Delhi, AIPWA and several women's organisations held a massive joint march from the Rajiv Chowk metro station to Jantar Mantar. Thousands of working class women from different parts of Delhi as well as students participated in this march, which culminated in a public meeting and dharna at Jantar Mantar. Representatives from various women's organisations addressed the meeting – highlighting the Modi government's assaults on women's rights, autonomy and freedom for women. Several speakers pointed out that the Modi government, which came to power on the slogan of 'Bahut ho gaya naari pe vaar, abki baar Modi sarkar', was now systematically cutting down on budgets and the Central government's spending on women. The number of the proposed and much needed rape crisis centres had been reduced from 660 to a mere 36. At the same time, Hindutva groups were mounting an even more aggressive assault on women's autonomy and freedom of choice. Addressing the dharna, Comrade AIPWA national joint secretary Kavita Krishnan talked of how the Kiss of Love protests by young men and women across the country had emerged as a challenge to the patriarchal moral police brigade of the ABVP, RSS, Bajrang Dal and Hindu Mahasabha. She also pointed out how the Modi government's much-touted 'Make in India' campaign was a huge assault on the rights of women workers. Not just are women workers bearing the brunt of pathetic working conditions and an exploitative work atmosphere, they are also having to deal with feudal and patriarchal control over their lives by industrial managements. She also pointed out that women's 'protection' was now being aggressively used as an excuse by communal fascist forces to unleash a dangerous campaign of threats and intimidation as well as violence and hate-mongering against Muslims – the love-jihad and the VHP's 'Beti Bachao, Bahu Bachao' campaign in UP being a case in point. AIPWA also held joint protests and programmes with other women's groups in Lucknow, Kanpur, Patna, Bhilai and elsewhere.
Students' March to Parliament Against Lyngdoh Committee recommendations, proposed Central Universities Act and CBCS
For the past two months, leaders of the AISA-led JNUSU have been visiting campuses across the country to campaign against the undemocratic Lyngdoh Committee recommendations (LCR), and various anti-student legislations being mooted by the Modi government's Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD). Responding to JNUSU's call, hundreds of students from JNU, Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Patna University, Veer Kunwar Singh University (Ara), Allahabad University, Tilka Majhi Bhagalpur University, Jadavpur University, Punjab University, Central University of Haryana and Trishur College Kerala participated in a United Students' 'March to Parliament' on 3 March 2015 against the LCR and the MHRD's proposed Central University Act.
Through the 'common' Central University Act, the MHRD is trying to force all central universities to follow a 'common' admission, a 'common' syllabus and 'transferrable' faculty. This will kill the autonomy of central Universities like DU and JNU, kill their uniqueness, kill their respective areas of strength in teaching and research. Through this Act, the saffron brigade wants to achieve its long term ideological agenda of saffronisation of higher education. In the name of 'common' syllabus and course structure, this Act will enable the RSS 'think-tanks' of 'Dinanath Batra variety' to impose their whims on all Universities including JNU, DU etc. By 'centralising all recruitments', the Central Government will have a free hand to dictate faculty appointments of its choice. And the provision to 'faculty-transfer' will act as a weapon to keep the upright faculty members who 'do not fall in line' under permanent threat.
We have seen that in recent years, students have repeatedly been treated as guinea pigs for ill-motivated experiments: the forced impositions of 'Semester system', then 'FYUP' and now a so-called CBCS (Credit Based Choice System). Like the FYUP, the CBCS is also a combination of silly and shallow Foundation, Core and Elective papers. This will dilute the academic quality of Honours courses and over-burden students and teachers with useless courses, when colleges lack both permanent teachers and enough infrastructure. On the one hand, the Lyngdoh recommendations are being used to scuttle campus democracy and effective participation of students in the decision-making process. On the other hand, the Government is trying to thrust anti-student policies on Universities such as the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) and the Central Universities Act.
The students were therefore marching to Parliament to demand an immediate repeal against the undemocratic Lyngdoh committee recommendations which govern student union elections, and to defend campus democracy, academic autonomy and democratic rights of students in higher education. The protest march to Parliament was met with a crackdown by the Delhi Police. Protesting students were lathi charged, several students including women students were manhandled by the Police, and some students including JNUSU office bearers were detained in the Parliament Street police station.
Campaign in Gaya against police complicity in murder
CPI(ML) has been running a campaign against police repression in Gaya district, after the dead body of 35-year Laldev Yadav was found in a jeep parked within the premises of the Tikari police station in Gaya. A week back, Laldev Yadav's wife had been injured after getting hit by a vehicle belonging to Mukesh Sharma from the neighbouring village. It had then been decided that Mukesh Sharma would pay for the treatment of Laldev Yadav's wife. However, instead of keeping to this promise, Mukesh Sharma molested Laldev Yadav's wife on the afternoon of the same day. After Laldev Yadav's wife filed a complaint with the police, on 27 January 2015 both Mukesh Sharma and Laldev Yadav were called to the police station. However, Laldev Yadav did not reach home that night and next morning his dead body was found in the premises of the police station. These suspicious circumstances clearly pointed to the complicity of the police and the local administration.
Under the leadership of CPI(ML), a road jam of the Gaya-Tikari road was organised to demand that the police personnel, including the police station in-charge, be held accountable for this murder. The protestors demanded that the station in-charge be arrested and 10 lakh compensation as well as a job be provided to the relatives of the deceased. A Tikari bandh was also called and successfully organised on 30 January 2015 to press for these demands.
Protest in Gopalganj against feudal-communal forces
CPI(ML) held a one-day protest in Gopalganj on 18 January 2015, against attacks on women by the Hindu Yuva Vahini and other feudal-communal forces. On 19 December last year, members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini had assaulted women in the Musahari bazaar area of the Vijayipur block of Gopalganj. Moreover, these very same feudal-communal forces had attacked several youths including Raju Ram, Vyas Yadav, Ramashankar Gupta and others. CPI(ML) organised this one-day protest against these incidents and the growing assertion of feudal-communal-fascist forces in Bihar.
Addressing the protest, state vice president of the All India Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM) and CPI(ML) state committee member Amarnath Yadav pointed out that ever since the Modi government assumed power, feudal-communal forces affiliated to the RSS are feeling all the more emboldened in launching assaults on women, dalits and Muslims. He also pointed out that forces such as RJD-JD(U) have only provided amply grounds for the growth of communal-feudal forces in Bihar. The protest was also addressed by CPI(ML) leaders Jitendra Paswan, Lal Bahadur Singh, Subhash Patel, Ramnaresh Ram, Ramesh Baitha, Rajesh Yadav and others. The protest was presided over by Sriram Kushwaha.
Red Salute to Comrade Man Singh Pal!
Comrade Man Singh Pal, CPI(ML) Uttarakhand's state committee member and popular leader of the Bindukhatta movement, passed away on 9 March 2015 in Delhi. Born in 1960, Comrade Man Singh came to Bindukhatta in 1979 and had been actively involved with the land struggles there ever since. Since then, he has been known as one of the leading voices in the people's movement in Bindukhatta, participating and leading several struggles. He led struggles for ration cards, construction of schools, hospitals and roads and provision of electricity. In 1985, he was also jailed twice for participating and leading struggles against corruption. In 1988, he was jailed for 33 days for his leading role in the massive movement against the state repression in Mahtosh Modh in Gadarpur block. In 1990, he started a movement for establishing a people's higher secondary school. He faced a 15-year long trial by the forest department for his role in fighting for land rights for the poor. In 1994, he sat on an indefinite hunger strike against the management of the Century Paper Mill, demanding employment of youth in the area. In 2004, he was involved in the milk movement, and recently was involved in the protests against the rape and murder of an 8-year old girl in Lalkuan. Since 2004, he had been involved in struggles related to land and declaration of revenue villages in Bindukhatta.
He assumed various onerous responsibilities both in IPF, and later in the CPI(ML). He had thrice been the area secretary of CPI(ML)'s Bindukhatta unit. He had also been a member of the Uttarakhand state leading team before CPI(ML)'s state conference. After the state conference in 2013, he had been a member of the state committee. In 2012, he had also been CPI(ML)'s candidate for the Lalkuan assembly seat. He was known, loved and respected for his generous nature and close connect with people. Despite his own economic difficulties, he often set aside his problems to help others. A condolence meeting was held in his memory in the CPI(ML) office on 9 March 2015.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.cpiml.org