Writers and artists in India are making a powerful statement against the Modi Government's patronage of assaults on dissent and pluralism, by returning prestigious awards and resigning from posts in cultural institutions. These gestures of protest come in the wake of the horrific lynching to death of a Muslim man in Dadri on the allegation that he ate beef, and the murders of noted Kannada writer Prof MM Kalburgi, rationalist Narendra Dabholkar and communist Govind Pansare. They are protesting against the fact that India's ruling Government and party are stoking hate to create an India where a person can be killed for what they eat, write, speak or believe.
Hindi writer Uday Prakash was among the first to return his Sahitya Akademi award, followed by Nayantara Sehgal, Ashok Vajpeyi, and Rahman Abbas. Since then, the spate of protests by writers and artists continues unabated. Kerala writer Sara Joseph; Hindi poets Manglesh Dabral and Rajesh Joshi; four Punjabi writers – Gurbachan Singh Bhullar, Ajmer Singh Aulakh, Atamjit Singh, Waryam Sandhu; Kashmiri writer and poet Ghulam Nabi Khayal; noted Gujarat-based literary critic Professor Ganesh Devy; six Kannada writers – Veeranna Madiwalar, T. Satish Javare Gowda, Sangamesh Menasinakai, Hanumanth Haligeri, Shridevi V Aloor and Chidanand Sali and Aman Sethi, winner of a 'Yuva Puraskar' award for young writers, are among those who returned Sahitya Akademi awards, while dancer Maya Krishna Rao returned her Sangeet Natak Akademi award. Writer Shashi Deshpande, poet K Satchidanandan, Kannada writer Aravind Malagatti have quit Sahitya Akademi posts in protest. Carnatic singer TM Krishna has written an open letter to the Prime Minister calling the bluff of his non-response to the Dadri lynching. Novelist Salman Rushdie has expressed support for India's writers and expressed concern about the future of freedom of expression in India.
The writers and artists are protesting not only against the lynchings and murders by Hindu-majoritarian outfits emboldened by the Modi Government; they are also protesting against the explicit rationalization, even celebration and stoking of such acts by Ministers of the Modi Government and elected representatives of the ruling BJP, and the tacit, implicit support of the Prime Minister himself for such acts of violence and the accompanying hate-speech. They are also protesting against the fact that the 'autonomous' cultural Akademis are silent on the killing of writers and the attacks on pluralism led by the Culture Minister of the Modi Government.
The Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma commended the Dadri lynch mob for not having raped the victim's daughter) and described the lynching as an 'accident', and had earlier called for 'cleansing' of cultural and educational institutions of 'foreign influence' (read dissent and plurality). Responding to the writers' protests, he taunted them, saying 'Let them stop writing, then we will see.' In a blatant espousal of impunity and injustice that has now become the hallmark for the Modi Government, Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptullah has said that Dadri is now past and India needs to look to the future.
Meanwhile the Prime Minister has remained totally silent on the serial murders of rationalists and writers, even in the wake of evidence that the suspected killers are from Hindu-majoritarian groups that Modi himself has approved of and endorsed. On the Dadri lynching, the Prime Minister remained silent for long. And when he eventually spoke at an election rally, he refrained from any mention, let alone outright, unequivocal condemnation of the lynching. What was needed from any democratic leader was a simple, forthright affirmation of the right of every Indian to eat, speak, write or believe without fear of being killed for it. What was needed was a clear condemnation of his camp followers who sought to rationalize the lynchings and murders. Instead, Modi merely said that Hindus and Muslims should decide whether they wished to fight themselves or fight poverty. He appealed to people not to listen to hate-speech – but significantly refused to ask his own Ministers and BJP MPs and MLAs to refrain from uttering hate-speech! And in other election speeches in Bihar, Modi himself used 'beef' as an excuse to stoke divisive politics. His words were quickly echoed by Bihar BJP leader Sushil Modi, who said Bihar's voters must "choose between beef-eaters and those who would ban beef." The very politics that killed Akhlaque in Dadri, is being used by the PM and the BJP in the hope of garnering votes in Bihar.
Modi Minister and BJP leader from Bihar Giriraj Singh has gone even further in venomous and sexist hate-speech; saying that the difference between mutton and beef is like that between a wife and a sister. The BJP seems unaware that such statements reveal that to them, women are like meat – items for consumption.
What must be stressed is that the 'beef ban' and 'meat ban' agenda of the BJP is merely a pretext, a cynical alibi for anti-Muslim hatred. It has emerged that BJP MLA Sangeet Som who made vicious provocative speeches on beef and meat in Dadri, is himself an owner of a company that exports meat and buffalo meat!
At a time when the Modi Government and BJP-RSS leaders are openly trying to turn India into a Hindu Nation with no room for plurality and dissent, it is heartening to see the courage of the writers and artists speaking truth to power. More strength to their pen and their voices!
The Sangh Parivar has once again been trying to disrupt the communal harmony in Ranchi. On 25 September 2015, during a brief period of power cut at night between 9.30 pm to 10 pm, an incident involving throwing of prohibited meat pieces in two temples located in Shivpuri area took place. An uproar followed once the power was restored at 10.30 pm. While it remains unknown as to who threw the meat pieces and who informed the rest about this occurrence, at about 11 pm a massive mobilization of Hindu groups took place to block the roads. According to the sources, however, the pieces of prohibited meat that had been found had been pasted with light colour clothing on animal skin.
Within no time, the gathered group set on fire an egg-selling shop and a hut like club belonging to people from minority sections. They started demanded a ban on sale of prohibited meat in Manitola. People belonging to both Hindu and Muslim religions reside on the Patthar road in Manitola. Soon the communal tension escalated to a level that deafening silence and turning off lights began to mark Muslim mohallas. VHP and Bajrang dal goons begin to incite people by provocative speeches even as the state administration continued to watch in silence.
Incidents of communal violence begin to take place in presence of police forces which had gathered to watch in silence. On 26 September, a popular news daily in Ranchi carried a provocative story that further accelerated the communal tension in Ranchi. On 26 September itself, goons belonging to RSS and VHP tried to further vitiate the atmosphere.
On the same day, on the initiative of CPI (ML) state secretary, Com. Janardan Prasad an urgent meeting of left forces including CPI, CPI (M), CPI (ML), MCC, Forward Block, besides others, was called. Following the decision taken during the meeting, immediately a team of left leaders met the district authorities and demanded arrest of the goons who had been trying to create communal tensions in the state.
On 27 September 2015, a massive peace march was carried out in Ranchi under a united left banner. A fact finding team comprising of representatives from the left parties was also sent to Doranda. Another meeting of left parties took place on 28 September and from 29 September to 1 October 2015, pamphlets appealing for peace were distributed. A team also met the Governor to hand over a memorandum.
On 2 October 2015, on the eve of Gandhi Jayanti, another massive peace march was organized by the left parties. The initiatives taken by the left played a crucial role in foiling the attempts of Sangh Parivar to engineer major communal violence in Jharkhand and influence the Bihar elections through such attempts at communal polarizations.
On 15 September, a contract worker, working in National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) met with an accident while returning from work and died. He was also a member of the NHPC contract workers' union (affiliated to AICCTU). Since the accident had taken place while returning from work, the union decided that the NHPC pay compensation to the deceased worker's family and his dependent also be given a job. It was further decided that each Union member should deposit one day's salary with the Union towards financial aid for the family.On 28 September, Mohd. Akhlaq, a 50 year old resident of Bisahada village in Dadri was dragged out of his home and lynched to death, and his son critically injured, on a conspiratorially-manipulated allegation that he and his family had stored and eaten beef. Soon after the incident, CPI (ML) sent its fact finding team and released the report and a strong condemnation of the incident. Thereafter, several protests have been collectively held by the left forces against the increase in spate of communal lynchings, hate mongering and communal violence in Uttar Pradesh.
On 21 September, however, it came to light that the Union President, Com. Uday Singh had been removed from work. The workers at Power House spontaneously left their duties and by the afternoon workers in the project's residential colony, dam site and at the project headquarters had also left their duties. On 22 September a decision was taken to go on an indefinite strike till the reinstatement of the Union President and compensation paid to the family of the deceased worker. The strike went on for six days during which the NHPC management did not call the workers for talks but tried to break the strike in connivance with officials from permanent workers' unions BMC and INTUC. Contract workers were denied NHPC bus services. NHPC cut the water and electricity connections in the Nigalpani housing colony and put the blame on the contract workers. The management also gave a complaint against the union officers in the Dharchula kotwali. At night attacks were made upon union members living in the colony and their tin sheds were stoned, after which a complaint was immediately registered with the police the following day. However, soon the momentum of the struggle and support received from various places forced the NHPC management to enter into dialogue with the contract workers' union, district AICCTU leaders, trade union coordination committee members, CPI (ML) district leaders and others. The pressure built finally resulted in the management of NHPC agreeing to reinstate Union President Uday Singh and to take all necessary steps to assure compensation to the family of the deceased.
On fulfillment of their demands, the contract workers gathered at the Dharchula headquarters and after a gap of 1½ years the Dharchula tehsil was once again covered with red flags.LeftParties Continue Protests in Uttar Pradesh against Dadri Incident
CPI (ML), CPI (M), and CPI jointly held dharnas and demonstrations on 5 October 2015 at various district headquarters in Uttar Pradesh to protest against the murder of Mohd. Akhlaq in Dadri (Greater Noida). In the capital city of Lucknow, the three parties staged a dharna at GPO Park in Hazratganj. CPI (ML) activists took out a march up in Gazipur. In Allahabad, CPI (ML) and CPI (M) took out a march, held a meeting at the Collectorate and submitted a memorandum to the District Magistrate. The three parties also jointly burnt PM Narendra Modi's effigy at Mau. SUCI (C) joined the three parties at Moradabad in a protest at the District Sessions Court. Protests were also held at Mathura, Jalaun and several other districts and memorandums were sent through the DMs.
It may be noted that most of the accused arrested so far in the Dadri incident are sons and relations of local BJP leaders. The BJP is defending the accused to the hilt, and is ceaselessly engaged in spreading poison against the minorities. Akhilesh Yadav government has once again failed to provide security to the minorities in the state.
Joint protests have also been held in various other parts of the country including Delhi.
Fourth State Conference of Jharkhand Gramin Mazdoor Sabha (JHAMAS)
On the occasion of Com. Ibnul Hassan Basru's Memorial Day the Jharkhand Gramin Mazdoor Sabha (JHAMAS) organized its 4th State conference on 29 September 2015 at the Com. Arun Pandey auditorium in Mirzaganj (Ibnul Hasan Basru Nagar) in Jamua block of Giridih district.
Prior to the conference thousands of rural workers led by CPI (ML) General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, Comrades Janardan Prasad, Manoj Bhakt, former MLA Vinod Singh, sitting Dhanwar MLA Rajkumar Yadav, Parmeshwar Mahto, Usman Ansari, and others took out a 5 km march from Jamua chowk, culminating at the conference venue.
The opening session of the conference started with songs presented by cultural teams from Bengal and Jharkhand. Inaugurating the conference, Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya said that Ibnul Hassan Basru had dedicated his whole life to carrying forward the struggles of the rural workers of Jamua and nearby areas, and he always emphasized the need to strengthen the CPI (ML) for the freedom of rural workers. Referring to the current scenario, he added that the BJP government is working in the interests of capitalists and big multinational companies, and prices are skyrocketing in this regime. The common people were not being benefited in any way. He called for a concerted struggle and emphasized the need to build the rural workers into a force to reckon with.
Com. Rajkumar Yadav and Com. Vinod Singh highlighted the anti-people policies of the BJP governments in the state and at the centre which included rampant loot of resources, huge cuts in food security, price rise, cuts in MNREGA, weakening of CNT and SPT acts, policies facilitating land grab of the poor and increased state oppression. Jharkhand State Secretary, Com. Janardan Prasad said that the rural poor under the banner of Jhamas would play a decisive role in the forthcoming panchayat elections and in fighting for the political claims of the rural poor.
The delegate session was conducted by a board chaired by eight members and attended by 300 delegates. Currently Jhamas is active in 14 districts where 1 lakh family memberships were targeted, out of which 41,000 memberships have so far been achieved. At the conclusion of the conference a 70 member State Council and 21 member National Executive were constituted with Com. Parmeshwar Mahto as General Secretary and Com. Devki Nandan Bediya as President.
The following responsibilities were undertaken by the Conference: 1. To fight against forcible land acquisition- to oppose any tampering with SPT-CNT Act and ensure implementation of 5th schedule; to fight for distribution of ceiling, gairmajrua, unutilized government land, agricultural, and housing land among the poor; 2. To ensure passing of food security bill and guarantee of 50 kg grains, 5 liters kerosene, and other necessities at affordable prices for the poor; to oppose scams in ration-kerosene distribution; 3. To demand housing; house construction funds in proportion to rising prices and housing for all the poor who do not come in the BPL list; 4. To fight for 200 days' work under MNREGA; fixing minimum wage at Rs 300; ensure weekly payments, and fight attempts to link this with Adhar card 5. Guarantee of free health and education through health centres in every village; appointment of doctors in each health centre; to fight for improvement in quality of primary education; 6. Guarantee of clean drinking water, roads, and other basic amenities in every tola; 7. To fight for social security pension for the aged and helpless even without BPL.
The conference resolved to take up the struggle for these issues by developing them as the focus of the struggle of the rural poor.
The incidents of sexual violence have increased in the past few years and most of the accused continue to roam free. Far from showing a resolve to address the increase in sexual violence, the government has more often been found to engage with blatant victim blaming. Time and again, the people of Bengal have been made to witness threats of sexual violence by those in power. It in this context that AIPWA organized a public hearing against violence on women and for demanding justice on 29 September in Dharmatala Y-channel . The survivors of Kadambagachi [near Barasat, N24parganas], Jagacha [Howrah], Hoogly, Bidhan Sarani[Kolkata]and from several other places of Bengal took part in the public hearing. The face of women's movement like Mousumi and Toompa from Kamduni, Pramila Ray from Sutia(sister of the slain school teacher Barun Biswas') and Aminul's family members were also present in the hearing. The women's movement activists like Soma Marik and Ratnaboli Ray, advocates like Rangta Munshi, Chandranath Banerjee, Ajanta Sarkar, Sharmila Dey, Nisha Biswas, and Dr Debasish Dutta were present as judges. AIPWA general secretary was also present during the hearing. The survivors shared their pain and agony and the form of violence they faced. They also described the problems they faced while lodging complaint in the police stations and while trying to get proper treatment in hospitals.
Rama Karmakar from Hoogly shared how during the court procedures when she clearly said that she had been raped by her brother-in-law, the public prosecutor advised her to compromise. Expressing her anguish she asked as to when will the courts focus on delivering justice rather than suggesting survivors to compromise.
Parboti, from N24parganas informed that though her daughter was killed by her in-laws, the culprits got bail. The women of Kadambagachi vividly described how she was tortured, her dress was torn apart making and how the culprits tried to insert bamboo stick into her vagina till she got senseless. All these were done by her in-laws in full public view on a road. Shockingly, the hospital denied her medical examination and also misguided her that if she does these medical tests she would face physical problems.
The director of transgender organizations 'Kolkata Rishta' , Dr Santosh Giri mentioned that not only women , transgender people also face sexual violence, however no discussion takes place on the subject and there are no demands for justice. Aditi, an organizer with Anjali [organization working for the rights of people having mental problems] said that nobody thinks about the people with mental problems. She pointed out that several of them were subjected to torture in government hospitals and even sexually harassed. Swati Chatterjee who deals with the acid attack cases said that if hospitals seriously follow medico-legal directives, the way to achieve justice would be smoother but most of the hospitals are not aware of the directives. The girl student of Bidhan Sarani Rape Case confirmed that the hospital did not follow health directives while doing her examination.
The representatives from domestic workers, mid-day meal workers, ASHA workers and construction workers also shared that sexual harassment often took place at their workplaces and they were regularly deprived of their proper wages .The stage of the public hearing became a stage of protest.
Toompa and Mousumi of Kamduni movement raised their voice of protest while saying that they were marked as Maoists as they protested against the rape cases and added the WB CM Mamta Banerjee had failed to keep her promise that she had made in front of the villagers.
The activists also strongly condemned the recent incident in Bakura Khayerberi Gram Panchayat where a class 12 student was killed in a salisi sabha [kangaroo court ] organized by Trinamool Congress for having an affair.
Towards the end of the hearing and protest, state AIPWA secretary Com. Chaitali Sen assured that this demand for justice would be turned into a powerful movement and to ensure swift action, a gherao of CM's office would be called.
The tea garden workers in North Bengal had been fighting for their bonus since a prolonged period. Several rounds of talks were held between the trade union leaders, including members of the Terai Sangrami Cha Shramik Union (Affiliated to AICCTU). After nearly five rounds of fierce debates between the trade union leaders and the tea garden owners, on 7 October 2015, the owners were forced to agree on paying twenty percent bonus to the tea workers. This is an important victory for the workers' towards getting an increased bonus packet calculating the increased daily wages since 1 April 2014. Com. Basudeb Basu represented the Terai Sangrami Cha Shramik union at the last bipartite talk that was held at Bengal Chamber of Commerce, in Kolkata on 7 October.
The 18th Nagbhushan Memorial Day was commemorated on 9th October as "Smruti Divas" at Nagbhushan Bhawan in Bhubaneshwar. Many left leaders and intellectuals of different streams spoke on "Necessity of left unity in the present political juncture" on this occasion. Prominent among them were Kshitish Biswal, Radha Kanta Sethi and Ashok Pradhan from CPI(ML), CPI state secretary Dibakar Nayak, CPI(M) state secretariat member Dushmant Das, SUCI(C) leader Raghunath Das and Forward Bloc State convener Purna Padhi, Prof. Birendra Naik, senior journalist Rabi Das, Samadrusti editor Sudhir Pattanaik and many others. Com. Yudhisthir Mohapatra chaired the programme. Comrades paid tribute to the great revolutionary.
At Gunupur, Comrades Phanibhushan Pattanaik, Tirupati Gomango, James Sabar, Anasim Sabar and many others led a procession from Union office in memory of comrade Nagbhushan Patnaik and garlanded his statue. This was followed by a mass meeting.
Com. Virendra Kumar SinghCPI(ML) Supaul district committee member and Khet Mazdoor Sabha district President Com. Virendra Kumar Singh passed away due to a heart attack at 2 AM on 12 July 2015. On hearing the news of his death a pall of gloom descended on district party workers and well-wishers in his village Rajeshwari. Com. Virendra had plunged into student politics while he was a student at Patna Law College. He was arrested during the emergency and after his release in 1977, he became a member of the CPI(M) dedicating himself to people's struggles. Fighting against the personality-based and bureaucratic tendencies in the CPI(M), he finally left the party in 1994 and became a member of the CPI(ML), taking active part in the people's struggles initiated by the party.
Workers in large numbers took part in his funeral procession and the condolence meeting chaired by Com. Achhe Lal Mehta.
Red Salute to Com. Virendra Kumar Singh!