A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 18, No. 15, 07 – 13 APRIL 2015
BJP National Executive:
Defensiveness and Desperation Over Land Grab Law
Modi, in his radio programme Mann ki Baat, had already tried to persuade farmers to support the Land Acquisition Bill. But farmers, distressed by crop loss due to unseasonal rain, hail, and drought, have remained unimpressed.
The fact that India's ruling party, elected to power in a landslide mandate less than a year ago, dedicated almost its entire National Executive meeting to the agenda of persuading people to support the Land Acquisition bill, is significant. The BJP won the election by promising people 'development'. But farmers imagined that 'development' would mean relief for their distress and for the agrarian crisis. They had not bargained for an even speedier and more ruthless push to grab their land to boost corporate greed.
The Prime Minister's jibe at judicial decisions being influenced by fear of 'five-star activists,' also displays the same defensiveness. It seems that Modi is referring to the Supreme Court's relief to Teesta Setalvad in the anticipatory bail matter; to the Supreme Court's recent verdict holding Section 66A to be unconstitutional; and to the Delhi High Court verdict overturning the Government's attempts to prevent anti-land-grab activist Priya Pillai from traveling abroad. By suggesting that the judiciary is unduly 'influenced by' activists who approach Courts to defend constitutional rights and liberties, the Prime Minister is displaying his own scant respect for those rights and liberties, especially the rights of minorities, dissenting voices and movements against land grab.
But what is even more interesting in the Prime Minister's remark is the attempt to discredit activists as being 'five-star' (i.e. elite and privileged). In his Mann ki Baat broadcast on the Land Acquisition Bill also, Modi had asked farmers not be swayed by 'disinformation spread by those who live in air-conditioned rooms'. Such remarks are symptoms of Modi's own defensiveness over his own image as the recipient of lavish gifts like pinstripe suits from businessmen, and chartered flights by corporations like Adani. Modi's Government, that has arranged for an SBI loan of $1 Billion to Adani, and is now going all out to facilitate corporate land grab, is being called the 'Government of the rich' and the 'Company Raj' by people at large. In the wake of such policies, Modi's attempts to brand activists working among the poor, oppressed and underprivileged as 'five-star' can hardly carry much conviction.
Modi has attempted to say that the Land Acquisition Bill will not apply to tribal forest land. But the fact is that the Modi Government is also moving to revise the Indian Forest Act, 1927; Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; Wildlife Protection Act, 1972; National Forest Policy,1988; and, the National Wildlife Policy, 2002 in order to ensure 'ease of business' for corporations. It has also passed executive orders to make around 100 changes in regulations to facilitate acquisition of forest land. The various changes being made are all intended to do away with the need for holding public hearings or taking consent from adivasis for acquisition of forest land. In a consultation with the World Bank, the Modi Government has said that it is not 'comfortable' with making it mandatory to seek free, informed and prior consent of tribals displaced by World Bank funded projects. The PMO has also chastised the Tribal Affairs Ministry for upholding the Forest Rights Act and other forest protection laws. The PMO has said that the Tribal Affairs Ministry's denial of clearance to projects that violate these laws, shows a 'lack of commitment.' This amply shows that the Prime Minister's 'commitment' is entirely to corporate interests, with none to spare for laws protecting the Constitutional rights of adivasis and peasants.
The Land Acquisition Act 2013 was no gift from the UPA Government. It was won thanks to the blood shed by peasants and adivasis in militant struggles against land grab, from the Narmada Valley to Kalinganagar, Koel Karo, Khammam and Nandigram. Governments of every hue had passed the SEZ Act and used the 1894 Act to grab land by force for corporations. People's resistance eventually forced the UPA Government to pass the 2013 Act offering some minimum protections against such land grab. The resistance to the Modi Government's Land Acquisition Ordinance and Bill also, and to its other moves to undermine the need for consent in acquisition of land from adivasis and peasants, also cannot rely on the Opposition parties that have themselves been partners in corporate land grab. People's movements alone will wage and win the battle this time around, too!
AIALA National Conference held in Bhubaneshwar
AIALA's 5th national conference was held in Bhubaneshwar on 3-4 April 2015, and ended with a clarion call to intensify movements against corporate-communal offensives and for the assertion of the rights of the rural people. The conference started with an impressive rally; cultural troupes from Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar and their protest songs and dances were a point of attraction in the rally. Participants from different states shared their experiences of the ongoing assault on their land and livelihoods. They condemned the moves of the Modi government to snatch lands from the poor, and to curtail the social security of deprived social groups. They also condemned the inadequate provisions of the current Food Security Act and the cuts in MNREGA.
Addressing the opening session of the conference, CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya said that concerted and intensified efforts were needed to build a strong resistance against the onslaughts of the Modi government. He strongly pointed that all rights of the toiling peasants and the rural poor are being snatched by this government that had come to power raising the slogan of 'good days'. He called upon all the participants to strengthen the 100 days' campaign started under the banner of the AIPF on 'land rights and labour rights'. He also emphasized the need to use the Gram Sabhas and the Panchayats, and the need to convert them into platforms of struggle by not letting them pass into the hands of brokers of the ruling class and feudal landlords. He added that India in present times was witnessing another era of 'Company Raj' and the need of the hour was another resolute and intense struggle in order to reclaim democracy.
Addressing the conference, CPI(ML) Politburo member Comrade Ramji Rai said that the 'loot' by the corporate driven government of the day was being facilitated by spreading widespread lies in order to justify the loot. He emphasized that rural poor must come together to not just wage an intense battle to defend their lands against forceful land grab, but also to carry forward the agenda of land reforms and redistribution, that has remained incomplete even after several decades of independence. The conference decided to strengthen the aforementioned 100 days land rights and labour rights campaign of AIPF. Towards this end, AIALA will organize block level demonstrations throughout the country on 16 April 2015. It was also mentioned that the campaign was not restricted to the agricultural labourers but rural poor in general who were forced to find other jobs given the agricultural crisis in rural India.
In this phase of corporate takeover, the conference identified the dire need to develop the rural poor as a conscious political class. The conference focused attention on the growing onslaughts on dalits, tribals, minorities and women. The conference recognized that in several of the resistances being waged in the country today, women have been seen as playing a crucial role. Referring to the massive protest by midday meal workers in Patna, where the majority of participants had been women, the conference emphasized the urgent need to develop the women who were at the forefront of several struggles as cadres and leaders.
Considering the changing scenario of rural India, the name of AIALA was changed and it was renamed as the All India Agricultural and Rural Labour Association (AIARLA). Henceforth, AIARLA will be the common platform of all rural poor and workers of all kinds to assert the rights of the entire rural toiling community.
The conference elected 201 national council members and 61 national executive members. Veteran CPI(ML) leader comrade Kshitish Biswal was elected national honorary President and comrades Rameshwar Prasad and Dhirendra Jha were elected as President and Secretary respectively. The conference saw the participation of more than 800 delegates and observers from 18 States. The membership of AIALA was recorded to be 18 lakh at the time of the conference. The conference was attended by several veteran leaders of the communist movement in Odisha and leaders of workers' and peasants' movements. They were also felicitated by the reception committee.
The conference collectively resolved to increase the membership of the organization, to develop firm organizational structures at the Panchayat and block levels, to work towards more collective, sustained and intense movements, as was the need of the current times and make the question of land, livelihood and rights the central political questions of the day.
AIPWA and Midday Meal Workers' Union Hold Massive Protest in Patna
On 31 March 2015, about 10,000 women protested in front of the office of the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar under the banner of the All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) and the Bihar State School Midday Meal Workers' Association. Women gathered at the Gandhi Maidan from all parts of Bihar to participate in the protest. A huge rally of midday meal workers from East Champaran, Siwan, Nawada, Jamui, Nalanda, Patna rural, Jehanabad, Arwal, Bhojpur, Gaya, Samastipur, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Chhapra, Vaishali, Madhubani, Patna city and other districts was taken out and groups of midday meal workers joined them all along the way. They submitted a 16-point charter of demands which included declaration of midday meal workers as government employees, Rs 15,000 honorarium, and immediate payment of honorarium arrears.
The workers joined in enthusiastically with the slogans raised by AISA leaders, "Ek hazar mein dam nahin, pandrah hazar se kam nahin". The rally was led by South Asia Solidarity Forum leader Kalpana Wilson, AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari, AIPWA Bihar State President Saroj Choube, AIPWA State Secretary Shashi Yadav, AIPWA Bihar Joint Secretary Anita Sinha, Prof. Bharti S Kumar, Prof. Meera Thakur, Bihar State Non-Gazetted Employees Association General Secretary Rambali Prasad, economist Meera Dutt, AIPWA Siwan Secretary Sohila Gupta, AIPWA Patna rural President Leela Verma, AIPWA Patna rural Secretary Damyanti Sinha, AIPWA Nawada Secretary Gayatri Devi, Rita Varnwal, Indu Devi, Sona Devi, Renu Devi, Savita Devi, Poonam Devi and others from the Bihar State School Midday Meal Workers' Association. The rally reached R Block after a 3 km march.
At R Block the DM met a representative body consisting of Meena Tiwari, Saroj Choube, Shashi Yadav, Sohila Gupta, Savitri Devi, Renu Devi and Anshu Kumari who submitted the charter of 16 demands at the CM's Secretariat. They were given an assurance that a response would be given within 2 days.
The meeting at R Block was presided over by the State Joint Secretary Anita Sinha. Addressing the meeting, the speakers said that the midday meal workers in Bihar are paid only Rs 1,000 per month. Moreover, they are not paid for 2 months in the year. They are subjected to insulting behavior from the school teachers. The speakers further said that the Bihar CM talks of women's empowerment but the midday meal workers have been made to work for a pittance of Rs 1,000 from the year 2007, whereas according to the Resolution Number 2401 20.7.2007 of the general administration department of the Bihar government, midday meal workers should get a total salary of Rs 15,040. But at present the workers are not getting appointment letters, their signature is not taken, and the payment of the honorarium is not done into their accounts. For the same work, midday meal workers in Tamil Nadu get Rs 5500-7500; in Kerala they get Rs 4500-6000, in Puduchery they get Rs 5000-9000, and in Lakshadweep they get Rs 6000. The meeting concluded with the passing of a 7-point resolution. The need of the hour is to channelize these fast mobilizing midday-meal workers into a movement against their economic, social, and mental, and cheap labour exploitation. To channelize and politicize them is a challenge and we must accept this challenge.
Charter of demands submitted to the Chief Minister: Midday meal workers should (1) be paid 15,000 as per the Resolution Number 2401 20.7.2007 of the general administration department of the Bihar government, (2) be declared government employees, (3) be paid honorarium arrears immediately, (4) get appointment letters and their signature taken daily, (5) get 4 cotton saris per year as uniform, (6) get accident insurance and health insurance, (7) not be made to do jobs which are outside their work area—such as sweeping, washing vessels, cleaning toilets etc, (8) have a common room in the schools where they can rest, (9) be treated with dignity and respect, and should not be made to work under the constant threat of losing their jobs, (10) be given social security pension. (11) Monthly honorarium payment should be paid into a "zero account balance" bank account opened for the midday meal worker. (12) Women midday meal workers should get the benefit of maternity leave and other special leave. (13) Arrangements for kitchen shed should be made in schools which do not have kitchen sheds. (14) Adequate arrangements for vessels and fuel should be made in the schools.
On the CJI's Insistence on Judges' Conference on Good Friday
The Chief Justice of India's insistence on holding a conference of Supreme Court Judges on Good Friday this year raises disturbing questions.
Questioned by Justice Kurian Joseph on the scheduling of an important conference on Good Friday, which happens to be one of the most significant days for believing Christians, the CJI HL Dattu rebuked his concerns, and asked for 'institutional' interests to be placed above 'individual' interests. Justice Joseph had pointed out that such Conferences are never held on Diwali or Holi or Eid.
Is respect for religious festivals of the minority community only an 'individual's' interest, or is it a right guaranteed by the Constitution of India, of which the judiciary is the custodian?
Last year, the Modi Government sought to replace the Christmas Day with 'Good Governance Day'. Since then, churches have been attacked and vandalized in several places. Aggressive ghar wapasi (forced re-conversion) programmes are being organized by the Sangh Parivar on the occasions of Christmas and Easter. In such a backdrop, the CJI's insensitive remark may be construed as encouragement of the deliberate alienation of and attacks on minorities.
On Chittoor and Nalgonda Fake Encounters
The CPI(ML) strongly condemns the massacre of 20 tribal men shot dead by the Andhra Pradesh police in Seshachalam forest in Chittoor district.
The police is claiming that those killed were smugglers and that the firing was done in self-defence. But all evidence as yet points to a cold-blooded custodial massacre. Those killed were not red sandalwood smugglers as claimed by the police. They were members of denotified tribes of Tamil Nadu, who are extremely poor and deprived, and who cut wood for survival. Unemployment and land alienation mean that they have few viable livelihood options but to be employed by smugglers to cut red sandalwood trees. The Tamil Nadu Government that is condemning the massacre, is itself responsible for the situation, because in spite of representations from tribal associations, the Government has failed to rehabilitate the tribal labourers to free them from dependence on the smuggling-driven economy. Politicians including MLAs of the ruling AIADMK are known to be involved in supplying cheap adivasi labour to the smugglers.
The smugglers' mafia is extremely powerful politically in both Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. While the police does not touch these well-connected dons who run the Red Sanders mafia, hapless poor tribals are arrested and jailed on false pretexts and killed in fake encounters.
This latest massacre is no exception. Last year, too, more than 20 tribals from Tamil Nadu were shot dead in Andhra Pradesh. Inside Tamil Nadu also they are subjected to regular custodial torture and humiliation.
The CPI(ML) also condemns the incident in Nalgonda where Telangana police shot dead 5 suspected SIMI undertrials while transporting them to Court. This too appears to be a case of custodial killing, in which the men were killed while wearing handcuffs.
The CPI(ML) demands that FIRs of murder be lodged against accused police officers in the Chittoor and Nalgonda cases, and a thorough time-bound judicial probe be ordered in each. Compensation must be paid to each of those killed. Steps must be taken immediately to free the 2000 tribals who lie in Chittoor and Cudappa jails and withdraw all cases against them, and to ensure rehabilitation and livelihood for the denotified tribes of Tamil Nadu.
Construction Workers' Protest in Faizabad
On 25 March 2015, the construction workers' union in Faizabad held a massive protest at the labour office. Thousands of workers participated in this protest. Addressing the protest, AICCTU state president comrade Hari Singh said that though the Modi government had come to power promising achchhe din (good days) for workers, the government was systematically working in the interests of corporates, multinationals and the rich. AICCTU state secretary comrade Anil Verma said workers across the country were determined to oppose the curtailment of workers' rights being mooted by the Modi government. Currently, not just the central government but also several state governments are trying to push through the anti-worker policies. State convenor of the Construction Workers' Federation, Comrade Babulal said that the ruling SP government in Uttar Pradesh was also hell-bent on denying workers their rights and instances of exploitation and abuse of workers in the state are continuously increasing.
CPI(ML) Faizabad district in-charge comrade Ateek Ahmed warned the labour department that unless workers' rights were ensured, the workers would give a fitting reply to the labour department and the government. The massive presence of workers at the protest was an indication of the workers' resolve.
The protest was presided over by the President of the Construction Workers' Union, Comrade Gurudayal. Proceedings were conducted by the secretary of the CWU, Comrade Ram Bharos, and CPI(ML) leader Ateek Ahmed delivered the concluding address. The protest was also addressed by RYA leader Umakant Vishwakarma, Rajesh Verma, Afaque Ullah, Sunita Goud, Sandeep Yadav, Vivek Yadav, Navamilal Yadav, Pavan Mishra, Parashuram Nishad and others.
Copies of Land Acquisition Ordinance Burnt in Protest Across the Country
On 6 April 2015, the All India People's Forum organised protests all over the country against the re-promulgation of the Land Acquisition Ordinance. Copies of the Ordinance were burnt in villages, towns and cities across India, with protesters demanding scrapping of the Ordinance and the Land Acquisition Bill. Protesters demanded 'Land Rights, Not Land Grab'.
In Delhi, AIPF joined the Bhoomi Adhikar Sangharsh Andolan at Jantar Mantar, in burning copies of the Ordinance. At block-level AIPF protests organized by the All India Kisan Mahasabha, copies of the Ordinance were burnt at Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Tamil Nadu.
On Garissa University Massacre in Kenya
CPI(ML) condemns the horrific attack by Al-Shabaab on students in the Garissa University college in Kenya, which left at least 148 dead. By most accounts, the attackers specifically targeted Christian students – they separated Muslim students from the Christians and massacred the Christians.
Garissa university is located in Kenya's north-east, a region that has long suffered from marginalization, poverty and inequity. Religious, ethnic and socio-economic differences of this region from the rest of Kenya will only be exacerbated by such acts of violence. For genuine and long-lasting peace, all efforts should be made to address the pervading social inequities in the region, and to reject all attempts to stoke ethnic and religious tensions in Kenyan society.
On the ongoing crisis in Yemen
A huge US-backed military offensive is currently underway in Yemen, as Saudi Arabia leads an attack in the name of restoring 'democracy'. The Saudi-led alliance of at least ten countries is currently bombing Yemen and intends to halt the advance of the Iranian-backed Houthi forces and to restore Abd-Rabbuh Mansour Al-Hadi as President. Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi had been installed as President after the dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced out of power in 2012 as part of the Arab Spring revolutions. Hadi however went on to crush the people's movement, fuelling a Houthi rebellion. Subsequently, he was ousted by the Houthis. The Houthis are now allied with erstwhile dictator Saleh, who still controls much of the Yemeni military despite being in exile.
The ongoing bombings in the civil war in Yemen have already claimed the lives of dozens of civilians and wounded many more, burying entire families. In its endeavour to take sides with the Hadi forces in Yemen's civil war, Saudi Arabia has found allies and support pouring in from the US, France, Israel, Turkey, Pakistan, Sudan, Jordan, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Morocco and Egypt governments. It is indeed ironical that some of the world's worst human rights violators are today waging war in Yemen in the name of defending democracy.
This smokescreen of 'democracy' however hides the real reason behind the ongoing assault on Yemen and the consequent civilian casualties. It is US and Saudi's fear of Iran's growing influence in the Middle East which has sparked off this latest war. Such offensives, even as they cruelly claim civilian lives, only add to the sectarian strife in the Middle East. Progressive forces need to robustly reject all such military offensives launched by imperialist forces with the intention to maintain global hegemony.
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.or