A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 18 | No. 05 | 27 JAN - 2 FEB 2015
Republic Day Pointers Beyond the 'Namobama' Hype
As Prime Minister, he devoted his first Independence Day speech to inviting foreign capital to come and 'make in India'. Now Narendra Damodardas Modi has used the first Republic Day celebration of his government to demonstrate his government's readiness to accommodate US demands and blandish his million-rupee pinstripe suit, tailored in UK, that had his name embroidered all over. It seems Modi is however not the first to set a precedent by wearing such a suit. Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's ousted President, had apparently already worn his name on his sleeves to deny Modi the opportunity to create a world record. Unfortunately for Modi, narcissism and megalomania are also subject to competition.
Observers of Indo-US relations have noted all the 'right steps' the Modi government has been taking from day one to impress the US. From decontrolled pharmaceutical prices and US-friendly patent norms announced before and during Modi's US trip to increased FDI in insurance, easier land-grab policy and vastly reduced food security cover and all such steps taken or recommended on the eve of Obama's Republic Day visit to India, the Modi government has gone all out to satisfy the Americans. Freeing American suppliers of liabilities in case of any damage inflicted by their reactors on the Indian people has been the latest concession offered during Obama's R-Day visit. Modi and his men now hope that US will now expedite nuclear and military supplies to India.
Modi and his propagandists would like us to believe that foreign policy is more about the 'personal chemistry' among leaders of different countries than about dealing with the global economy and geo-political pulls and pressures. Modi went so far as to say that we need not bother about the text (commas and full stops, in his words) of agreements and joint statements, for the personal chemistry of leaders can obviate or transcend the limits set by such texts. India's experience from the early Nehruvian years of non-alignment through the Indira era of Indo-Soviet friendship to the current phase of strategic subservience to the US, clearly shows that the text and the fine print are of decisive importance in matters pertaining to the foreign policy, no matter whether the policy is conducted with the near-robotic manner of a Manmohan Singh or the melodramatic exuberance of a Narendra Modi.
As the hype over the so-called Modi-Obama 'personal chemistry' dies down, what will really matter are the concessions granted and promised to the US in the nucIear deal and other agreements and the implications in India's neighbourhood of the growing convergence between Washington's Asian design and New Delhi's 'Act East' policy. By making Indian insurance companies subsidise US and other Nuke MNCs in case of an accident, and insulating these suppliers from the risk of being sued by victims of a disaster, the Modi Government has rendered Indian citizens more at risk of such disasters. This is because Nuke Corporations that are confident that burdens of accidents will be borne by the Indian taxpayer, are likely to cut costs on safety provisions in reactors.
In the sixty-six years of India's republican existence, this was the first time an American President was present as the guest of honour at the Republic Day parade. Ram Madhav, the RSS spokesperson turned BJP General Secretary, says that having watched the military parade dominated by old Russian supplies Obama would now feel an urgency to step up American military imports to India. This is the comprador mindset hiding behind the 'make in India' slogan that redefines 'national dignity' only in terms of US certificates and 'national interest' only through the prism of so-called 'natural' alliance with the US.
As far as the Indian people are concerned, the Republic Day marks, first and foremost, the anniversary of the adoption of India's Constitution. Hence it should be an occasion to assess the country's progress in terms of the rights and liberties of the citizens rather than in terms of the power and achievements of the state. Over the years, successive governments have made it more into a show of the state – marked by a military parade with some civilian adjunct in the form of officially approved glimpses of 'Indian culture and public life' – rather than a celebration of common citizens. With the RSS at the helm, the cultural display in this year's Republic Day parade acquired unmistakable religious overtones, with even a state like Jharkhand represented by temples than its rich history and diverse heritage.
Heightened assault on constitutional rights and liberties of the working people, systematic suppression of dissent and attempted homogenization of India's pluralist cultural legacy pose serious threats to the essence of the secular and democratic republic proclaimed in the Constitution. Defying the hype and fiction of the 'Namobama' chemistry, the time has come for all of us join and win the battle for the essence of the Indian republic defeating the forces of communal division, corporate plunder and comprador capitulation.
Nationwide protests against US President Obama's India Visit
On 24 January 2015, there were nationwide protests against the visit of US President Barack Obama as the Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade celebrations in New Delhi. In New Delhi, Left parties – CPI(ML), CPI, CPI(M), SUCI(C), AIFB, RSP and the Communist Ghadar Party of India – jointly held a protest march from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar. The protestors raised slogans against US imperialism, dilution in the liability clauses in the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, enforced changes in the drug manufacturing regime in India to facilitate corporate greed and sell-out of India's sovereignty, and the protest march culminated in a protest meeting at Jantar Mantar. The meeting was addressed by leaders of all the participant Left Parties, including CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, CPI general secretary Sudhakar Reddy, CPI(ML) Politburo member Kavita Krishnan and others.
Addressing the protest, comrade Kavita Krishnan detailed the reasons for the protest. Reminding the gathering of the Bhopal gas tragedy and the manner in which both the US and the Indian governments had conspired to allow the Dow Chemicals to escape liability for the massive loss of lives and livelihoods, comrade Kavita pointed out that Obama was coming to India to seal a deal which weaken and dilute the liability of US companies in case of industrial disasters in India. Even prior to this visit of Barack Obama, US Secretary of State John Kerry had visited India during the Vibrant Gujarat summit, along with an entourage of US corporate leaders, in order to push for a more 'business and investment-friendly' atmosphere in India. And this, is nothing but a euphemism for cheap land, water and electricity, tax breaks, sops for corporates and a weakened labour rights' regime. In fact, farmers protesting against the Vibrant Gujarat meet were arrested, in a sure signal to the US that the Modi government was more than willing to know-tow to US business interests and that no protests against the regime of corporate profiteering would be tolerated. Various speakers at the protest meeting also pointed out that the protest march was being called against US aggression, racist attacks in the US, and US's interfering in India's economic and foreign policy matters to further its own interests. The protest ended with a burning of Barack Obama's effigy.
Joint protests were also held in various districts of Bihar, in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere. In Patna, a protest dharna was held at the Bhagat Singh Chowk, Gandhi Maidan. The dharna was led by CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, and leaders of CPI, CPI(M), AIFB and SUCI(C). Joint protest marches and dharnas were also held in Bhind, Madhya Pradesh and Bhilai, Chhattisgarh. In Bhilai, a protest meeting was held at the JP Chowk in Sector 6, which was addressed by CPI(ML) Chhattisgarh state secretary Brijendra Tiwari and comrade JP Nair, CPI leader C.R. Bakshi, CPI(M)'s S.P. Dey, SUCI(C)'s comrade Vishwajeet and others.
In Uttar Pradesh, six Left parties, including CPI(ML), CPI, CPI(M), SUCI(C) and AIFB held protests at various district headquarters. In the capital Lucknow, a protest was held from Parivartan chowk, via Hazratganj to the GPO. The protestors pointed out the US's horrific track record of imperialist aggression, wars, occupations, human rights' violations and imposed dictatorships across the world. The recent undemocratic Ordinances passed by the NDA to undermine peoples' rights and facilitate corporate profits were also the result of US diktats which the Modi government was more than ready to heed, pointed out the protestors. The protest was led by the district secretaries of various Left parties. The protest in Allahabad was addressed by CPI(ML) UP state secretary Ramji Rai. Protests were also held in Gazipur, Balia, Bhadohi, Chandoli, Kanpur, Mau, Devaria, Gonda, Faizabad, Ambedkarnagar, Lakhimpur Kheri, Pilibhit, Jalaun, Muradabad, Mathura and Sonbhadra.
Historic Strike Against Coal Ordinance
(India's coal mine workers held a historic two-day all-India strike against central government's move of denationalization and privatization of coal industry through the Coal Ordinance. This was the first major resistance put up by organized workers in the last seven months of the Modi Government. This government, which has been launching an all-out attack on the rights of working class through amendments in labour laws and policies of privatization, disinvestment and FDI, was forced to talk to workers' representatives. The government was forced, in a written agreement, to form a committee comprising of coal ministry officials and trade unions to look into the matter of privatization and other issues raised by the strike. AICCTU affiliate, the Coal Mines Workers' Union (CMWU), participated actively in the Strike. AICCTU leader Sukhdev Prasad reports from Dhanbad.)
The countrywide hartal on 6-7 January 2015 by 5 lakh coal workers of CIL and Coal Outsourcing was extremely effective and successful. After the 1 lakh 86 thousand crore coalgate scam through the coal block allocations came to light, the Supreme Court cancelled 214 allocations. With the exposure of this huge scam the corrupt officials and companies should have been punished but the Modi govt, instead of punishing them, gave these 214 companies compensation for losses and with shameless haste brought an ordinance through which all the coal blocks were re-auctioned and the concerned companies were given free rein to sell coal and the concerned lands were also made over to those companies.
On 24 Nov 2014 all the 5 unions in the JBCCI called for a hartal. 4 out of these 5 unions postponed their hartal after an assurance from the coal minister, but the coal workers stood up against this decision. As a result the above 4 recognized unions called for a 5 day hartal from 6-10 Jan 2015. CITU and AICCTU, supporting the 5 day strike call, decided on 13 Jan as their hartal day and gave a strike notice to this effect, closing any possibility of the 4 recognized unions taking back their strike call.
When the hartal started on 6 Jan, AICCTU and CMW came out in full force in ECL, BCCL, and CCL, i.e the entire coal belt of Jharkhand. The coal workers joined the strike with a voluntary energy fed by years of anger and injustice. Generally, a hartal sees a bigger strike in the morning shift and average strike in the afternoon shift. Work starts again in the night shift. But this time on 6 Jan there was such total strike in all the 3 shifts that the hartal was prolonged and carried over to 7 Jan. Generally in a one day hartal a few workers report for work, but this time this did not happen. All processes of coal transportation, whether truck loading or wagon loading, were totally closed for 2 days.
Some emergency services of the coal industry had been kept out of the hartal but even in these cases the management had to first get the permission of the striking workers. This was the scenario throughout the entire coal belt of Jharkhand. All attempts to break the hartal by influencing sections of the striking workers through TMC in Bengal, JMM, Dadai group (INTUC), AJASU etc in Jharkhand proved unsuccessful and the workers refused to go to work. Another unique feature of the hartal was the solidarity shown by the local rural people with the coal workers.
The ruling parties as well as the media tried propaganda to break the hartal—claiming that only 4 days' coal was left in the power houses and the entire country would be plunged into darkness due to the hartal. The Congress backed Dadai group in Bermo coal belt, AJASU in Ramgarh coal belt, and JMM in other areas of CCL tried to break the hartal by use of force but the CMW opposed them strongly and kept the hartal unbroken.
An additional achievement of the hartal is that during the negotiations the coal minister was forced to give in writing that CIL would not be privatized. It was also decided during the negotiations that a review committee would be formed to review the terms and conditions of 42 coal block allocations, and this review committee would include trade union representatives.
The striking workers submitted a 10 point list of demands including stopping of privatization of CIL, scrapping the coal block auction ordinance, guarantee of security of jobs of all workers in CIL, and stopping of dissolution of CIL in the name of reorganization.
Rapists of Dalit Girls in Kurmuri Convicted
All 3 rapists of the 6 Dalit teenage girls in Kurmuri village, Bhojpur, Bihar, have been convicted in a remarkably short time, within three months. This verdict is a tribute to the courage of the survivors and the prompt and sustained efforts of the CPI(ML) Liberation and AIPWA.
It may be recalled that the main accused in the case, Neelnidhi Singh is a former Ranveer Sena area commander and known to be close to Ara MP RK Singh (from the BJP) and Tarari MLA Sunil Pandey from the JD(U). As a result, the police officials in Tarari as well as the Ara district administration dilly-dallied in taking any action against him. Right from getting the FIR filed, it was CPI(ML) and AIPWA activists who struggled for justice, every step of the way.
Leftist SYRIZA Registers Emphatic Electoral Win in Greece
The Left has registered an emphatic win in Greece in the recently concluded elections, with the SYRIZA winning 36 per cent of the votes and 149 out of the 300 total seats. The SYRIZA, a coalition originally comprising of a broad array of forces – including democratic socialists, green Left as well as Maoist and Trotskyist groups in Greece – became a unitary party in 2013. In the elections this year, SYRIZA has conclusively defeated the previous center-right New Democracy party, which was reduced to a distant second. Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi, far-right, anti-immigrant came third in the elections after polling 6.3 per cent of the votes.
The election results in Greece are hugely significant, considering that the SYRIZA ran its entire election campaign on an anti-austerity plank. As several political commentators have pointed out, it is the working class of Greece, the poor, the unemployed and the retrenched workers who have powered this victory – thus delivering a huge blow to the EU-IMF dictated austerity measures that have plunged Greece into a chaos of debt and humanitarian crisis. Moreover, this is the first time since the Spanish revolution of 1936 that a Left party has won general elections in Europe.
Over the years, SYRIZA which started mobilizing support against the disastrous liberalization-globalization regime dictated to Greece, has been steadily increasing its support base. It climbed from 4% to 27% in the 2012 elections, when it managed to represent the social dynamics of the massive social movements rocking Greece. After 2012, when the New Democracy-PASOK coalition government pushed harder on the neoliberal 'restructuring', SYRIZA captured the growing discontent and disillusionment in Greece. As Owen Jones points in the Guardian, it is the middle-aged working class women who have played a major role in this victory. He reports: "Outside the Greek finance ministry are cleaners who used to work there, until 16 months ago – like so many Greeks – they lost their jobs. 'We were just numbers, not human beings,' one tells me. Ever since, they've camped outside, battled riot police, and become iconic figureheads of the struggle against austerity. Plastered around their camp are defiant posters: a clenched fist in a kitchen glove, a cleaner sweeping away Greece's discredited, despised political elite. 'We hope to take back our lives, our jobs,' I'm told. 'After so many years, to be happy again'... Greece is a society that has been progressively dismantled by EU-dictated austerity. Outside one polling station, I speak to Georgia, who works at a hospital clinic manned by volunteers which caters for the impoverished. For unemployed Greeks denied access to the public healthcare system, such clinics are lifelines. Georgia has one clear ambition – that after a year or two of a Syriza-led government, her clinic will no longer be needed and will close. Syriza supporters speak often more as though they are in a disaster zone than competing in an election. Dealing with the "humanitarian crisis" is described as the new government's number one priority."
SYRIZA has won the elections on two specific proposals: (1) a social salvation plan to ameliorate the consequences of the neoliberal onslaught on the lower classes, and (2) a plan to re-negotiate the Greek public debt with the EU and the IMF, in order to make it sustainable. The emphatic win to these proposals is surely a mandate for the massive anti-austerity protests in Greece and Europe. Moreover, this mandate is an inspiration for movements in India and the rest of the world against anti-people, neoliberal policies. After Latin America, now Europe too is challenging the 'There is No Alternative' (TINA) narrative, and is reasserting the Left, defying those who had announced the demise of the Left and victory of capitalism long ago. No wonder then, that the IMF, as well as the powerful elite in Europe, have already stated that the victory of SYRIZA might have a huge 'destabilizing' effect in the whole of Europe.
Veteran political scientist and civil libertarian, Rajni Kothari passed away on 19th January 2015. He was 87. He was among the founders of the People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) and later its President. He was also the founder of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, an institute that continues to produce important and original research in the social sciences. He set up the Lokayan as a forum for dialogue between activists and intellectuals.
Rajni Kothari helped draft the manifesto of Jayprakash Narain's Janata Party. However, he became critical of the Janata experiment. In the wake of the anti-Sikh massacre in 1984, he was among the authors of the meticulous and damning fact-finding report by the PUCL and PUDR, titled "Who are the guilty?", that named the guilty Congress leaders.
He was a close observer and friend of the Indian People's Front; especially of the IPF's rise in the Hindi belt, its opposition to the draconian press bill, and the powerful peasant movement led by the CPI(ML) and IPF in Bihar that also blazed the trail for social justice. After the Bathani Tola massacre in Bihar in 1996, he was part of a committee to pursue justice. Rajni Kothari will be remembered as a path-breaking social scientist and political commentator, who inspired and influenced many political scientists and activists.
Veteran academic and women's movement activist, Prof Jasodhara Bagchi passed away on January 9 at the age of 77. She taught English Literature at Jadavpur University in Kolkata since 1963, till her retirement in 1997. She was a Left activist, close to the CPI(M), and a dedicated activist of the Left women's movement. She helped found the discipline of Women's Studies in Jadavpur University and India. She initiated the publication of the Bengali Women Writers Reprint Series, to safeguard and showcase women's writings that might otherwise be lost. She wrote extensively on women's struggles.
The launch of her latest book, Parijayee Nari O Manabadhikar (Migrating Women and Human Rights), at the Kolkata Book Fairwas stalled by the Mamata Banerjee Government which termed it as "politically controversial", presumably for its Left perspective.
She served as the Chairperson of the West Bengal State Commission for Women from 2001 to 2008. Salute to Jasodhara Bagchi, whose legacy will inspire the Left movement and women's movement in India.
Mike Marquesee, academic, writer and activist, passed away on 13 January 2015, after a long battle with multiple myeloma. Mike, an American school student of Lithuanian Jewish ancestry had been influenced by Malcolm X and black resistance. He shifted to England in protest against the Vietnam War, and ever since lived primarily in Britain. He raised his voice against various forms of religious fundamentalisms – opposing the diktats against Salman Rushdie, and the communal campaign to destroy to Babri Masjid in India.