A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 18 | No. 44 | 27 OCT - 2 NOV 2015
Students Occupy UGC To Protest Cutbacks in Fellowships
In a historic action, students of various Universities occupied the premises of the University Grants Commission in protest against the UGC's move to scrap all non-NET fellowships for research scholars. The protests continue even after the students were evicted from the UGC premises and severely caned by police, several students were severely injured while dozens were taken to police custody. The Modi Government, rather than speak to protesting students, have instead chosen to rain batons on defenceless students.
Ironically, it was a Committee appointed to address the students' demand to increase the paltry fellowship in keeping with steep inflation rising costs of higher education and living which announced the scrapping of the fellowship, effectively excluding the vast majority of scholars from pursuing research.
The massive wave of protests – intensifying in Delhi and spreading now to Universities all over the country and supported by teachers' unions and intellectuals – by students comes in the wake of other significant protests by students and intellectuals. First, there was the successful resistance by the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in IIT Madras against an attempt at muzzling dissent, followed by the ongoing FTII students' protests against attempts to impose a saffronized and ill-qualified management. Then, there has been an upsurge of dissent and protest by writers and intellectuals against the Government's patronage for forces involved in intimidation and murders of minorities and dissenting voices. The Occupy UGC protests are another powerful chapter in these growing voices of protest against the Modi Government's destructive attitude towards creative arts, research and institutions of education.
The move to scrap the fellowships and restrict fellowships only to those scholars who clear the National Eligibility Test (NET) was correctly diagnosed by students as a move tailored to fit the Modi Government's plans to accept the WTO grouping of higher education under GATS as a "tradable service". The UPA Government had already made an "offer" to this effect in 2005 and in the WTO Ministerial talks due in December, the Modi Government plans to seal this "offer" and accept "binding commitments" to make India's higher education a tradable service. It is well known that if India indeed accepts these "binding commitments" under WTO-GATS, the Indian Government would be "bound" to cut subsidies in public-funded higher education, since such subsidies would be seen by WTO as a violation of its "commitments" to provide a "non-discriminatory" "level playing field" for domestic and international traders in education. Scrapping or restricting the non-NET fellowships in higher education is a move very much in keeping with the plans to comply with the WTO-GATS "binding commitments."
The students of Delhi University, JNU, Jamia Millia Islamia, and Ambedkar University have shown remarkable resilience and farsightedness, braving both cane-charges and detention by the police and abusive violence by the RSS-BJP student wing ABVP.
The attempts by the ABVP and the Modi Government's HRD Ministry to spread disinformation and break students' unity have also been recognised and rejected.
The HRD Ministry tried to diffuse the protests by "assuring" that the fellowships would not be scrapped. But the students rightly recognised that the statement implied only that students already receiving fellowships would continue to do so - but in future, students would only get fellowships based on 'merit' or 'economic' criteria. Moreover the HRD Ministry made this 'assurance' by a tweet, without any discussion with protesting students. Rather they did so only after talks with ABVP leaders - as though the whole issue could be settled within the cozy confines of the 'Sangh family.'
Rejecting such 'assurances', the Occupy UGC movement continues to fight for the rights of existing as well as future research scholars and higher education itself. Students have joined the protests at the UGC from Aligarh Muslim University, Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University, Punjab University Chandigarh and MD University Rohtak. Also protests are being organized in various Universities of the country like Central University Gujarat, Allahabad University, NEHU Shillong, University of Hyderabad, EFLU Hyderabad and Aligarh Muslim University and in Kolkata. Students from across the country are also planning to come to Delhi and join the Occupy UGC Protests .
The protesting students in India can take heart and inspiration from the spirited countrywide shutdown of universities achieved by the ongoing struggles of South African students against fee hikes and privatisation/outsourcing of University services. The resonances between the struggles of Indian and South African students against policies of privatisation is a significant counterpoint to the dominant State-led narrative on the ongoing third India-Africa Summit in Delhi.
More power to the students whose protests are striving to defend not only their rights but the inclusive and democratic character of higher education and the country's autonomy.
CPI (ML) also held a protest outside Haryana Bhawan on 24 October 2015. The protestors not only expressed anger over the burning alive of the two children and the failure of the government to protect them, despite the awareness that the life of the family was in threat, but also over increasing atrocities against Dalits in Haryana. Soon after this gruesome incidence of violence against Dalits that had taken place on 20 October, On 23 October 2015, yet another incident of violence against Dalits was reported. A 15-year-old Dalit boy, who had been charged with theft of a pigeon, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in Haryana's Gohana town today. The boy of the family alleged torture by the police, however, even before the post-mortem report was out, the Haryana Chief Minister went on record backing police claims that the boy had committed suicide. CPI (ML) leaders addressing the protestors pointed out how such incidents of violence against Dalits had been increasing in Haryana. They also pointed out that not only had the BJP government in Haryana failed to protect the Dalits in the state, the statements being issued by the Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar and ministers like V.K. Singh had further exposed BJP's real intentions.
The protestors demanded that the Minister of State for External Affairs V. K. Singh be sacked for his insensitive and shocking remarks comparing deceased Dalit children to dogs and the burning alive of humans to pelting stones at dogs.
Activists from AICCTU and AISA also joined the protest.
In a meeting held on 7 October 2015 with enhancement of non NET fellowship as one of the agendas, the University Grants Commission (UGC) shockingly decided to completely withdraw the UGC non-NET Rs 5000/8000 fellowships. As soon as the news about this anti-student decision came to public, the National leadership of AISA condemned the move and called for a massive protest. In a press statement released by AISA, Com. Ashutosh, Delhi State Secretray, AISA said, "If this fellowship is discontinued, it will be impossible for a vast majority of the country's students to engage in research and knowledge creation". The statement also pointed out that – "The recent decision by UGC is another step in BJP-led central government's series of moves to cut budgetary allocation in education and restructure higher education to make it inaccessible and destroy its quality. This must also be seen in the context of the impending negotiations of the GoI with WTO to commit Indian higher education as a tradable service in the upcoming Xth Ministerial Conference in Nairobi this December".
In Jawaharlal Nehru University, the JNUSU immediately gave a call for a protest at UGC office on 21 October afternoon to demand an immediate withdrawal of this decision. On 21 October, students from JNU, JMI, DU and AUD gathered in huge numbers outside the UGC office to register their protest however the UGC chairperson refused to meet the students. Instead, the protesting students were beaten and several of them were injured. Delhi AISA leader and former JNUSU Vice President Com. Anant Prakash Narayan and DU AISA activist Yashaswini were among those who sustained severe injuries. JNUSU office bearers from AISF and AISA submitted their demands to the UGC officials demanding- revocation of the withdrawal of the non NET fellowship, enhancement of the current fellowship amounts of Rs. 5000 for M.Phil and Rs. 8000 for PhD and extension of non NET fellowship to all state and Central Universities. By evening when the UGC chairperson continued to deny meeting the student delegation, the students from across universities began an #OccupyUGC movement and decided to not leave the premised till the decision was withdrawn.
It is to be noted that JNUSU office bearer from ABVP was not a part of the JNUSU delegation that submitted the memorandum. Instead the ABVP tried its best to demobilise the student community first by claiming that their demands had been met by the MHRD in an exclusive meeting between the minister of MHRD and the ABVP activists, and when the agitating students refused to end the OccupyUGC movement till an official circular to this effect was released by the MHRD and the UGC, the ABVP goons reached the UGC office at night to threaten the common students. However, the students continued to occupy the UGC office on two successive nights, singing protest songs and painting slogans against sale of education in the UGC premises.
On 23 Morning, after having been subjected to ABVP lumpensim the entire night, as the students were waiting for more students to join them, scared by the student might, the Delhi Police detained the protesting students who had been up all night in UGC office and took them, not to the nearest station, but Bhalsava police station on the outskirts of Delhi. However, much to the disappointment of UGC authorities and Central Government, the news of detention only encouraged more and more students in Delhi and outside to join the movement. As students gathered to block the ITO, a brutal lathi charge of students followed.
In the last couple of days, protests against UGC have been held in North-Eastern Hill University (Shillong), Aligarh Muslim University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad Central University and many others. Students have carried protest marches in Wardha, Mumbai and elsewhere. AISA activists organised protest in Allahabad and also an effigy burning Minister of MHRD, Smriti Irani.
Beginning on 26 October, a joint call for ReOccupyUGC was issued and this time students from across the country have joined. While students from universities like Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University, Punjab University, Aligarh Muslim University, MD University, Rohtak have arrived in Delhi to join the OccupyUGC call, several others have been holding protest demonstrations in their own universities and cities.
Once again, just prior to the ReOccupyUGC call, the MHRD and the ABVP tried to confuse the student community and demobilise them by issuing confusing circulars. However their farce was again seen through by the student community. Soon after the MHRD circular was released, AISA immediately released a press statement pointing out the several flaws and problems in the circular. Terming the MHRD circular as fraud, it was pointed out how the MHRD was trying to introduce economic and merit criteria in the award of fellowships, which as per students' demand must extended to all researchers. Rejecting the attempts to restrict the scope of the fellowship, the movement continues and the students have vowed to strengthen it till their demands are met. Since 26 October, the students in much more numbers have once again occupied the UGC office and the slogans that had since then be wiped out have been repainted.
On 27 October, the protesting students were lathi charged yet again and several had to be rushed to G.B. Pant hospital. Several students have been detained and taken to police station even as several hundred more continued to join.
The message of this historic student movement, where for the very first time in history of India have the students occupied the office of the most important educational body in the country, is clear- Education is Not for Sale!! CPI (ML) salutes the revolutionary zeal of the students and expresses solidarity with the movement.
Democratic Advocates' Association's day long fast demanding Democracy in Judiciary
Recently, 14 advocates who had been protesting to demand that Tamil be made an official language of High court of Madras were suspended from practicing by the Bar council of India. In another case, contempt proceedings were initiated against Madurai Bar association President and Secretary for criticising judgements and leading protests aimed at exposing corruption in Judiciary. In light of these events, the Democratic Advocates Association organised a day long fast in Chennai demanding democracy in Judiciary and pressing for the following specific demands- (i) to revoke suspension orders of advocates, (ii) declaring Tamil as official language in High court of Madras in the interest of common people and (iii) for filling up of vacant posts of Judges in High court. The protest event was presided over by Com. Bharathi, state organiser of DAA. Com A. S. Kumar, state committee member CPI (ML ) inaugurated the event. More than hundred advocates participated from various parts of Tamil Nadu. The protest was also attended by Advocate Senthamil Selvan who had been recently released from prison in the struggle for Tamil as official language of High court. Com Vidya Sagar and Com. Jawahar on behalf of AIPF, Com Seetha of AISA, Com. Rajaguru of RYA, Advocate Gini Immanuel , Vice President of Madras High court Advocates' Association, Comrades Sivakumar and Pradhaban of AILU , Advocate Athiyaman along with DAA activists and also scores of advocates from other left and democratic streams took part.
CPI(ML) March in Gurdaspur District in View of Increasing Tensions in Punjab
In view of the increasing tensions in Punjab and the rising communal tensions, a march was organised by the CPI (ML) in Gurudaspur district appealing that for calm and restoration of peace. The several hundreds who joined the march also condemned the increasing atrocities against Dalits in Haryana and condemned the state and central government ministers who instead of taking initiatives for peace, had only been fanning communal and casteist sentiments and adding to the existing tensions. Com. Gurmeet Singh Bakhutpur addressed the march.
Two contract labours of Madurai Corporation died due to asphyxiation when forced to enter into underground drainage. They had not been provided with any protective equipment by the contractor and corporation officials. The Workers' right movement affiliated to AICCTU unit of Coimbatore organised a demonstration before the taluk office demanding the arrest of Contractor and Corporation officers, and also a compensation of Rs.25 lac for the families of the victims. The protestors also demanded- (i) Government employment (other than scavenging work) be provided to one of the family members of deceased, (ii) strict implementation of 'The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavenging and their Rehabilitation Act 2013' and (iii) 3 cent House site pattas within corporation limits. Com S. Kumarasamy, Politburo Member of CPI(ML), state committee members Comrades N. K. Natarajan and Venkatachalam, District secretary of CPI(ML) Com. Balasubramanian, AICCTU District General Secretary Com. Damodharan addressed the protestors. Hundreds of workers including sanitary workers of Coimbatore corporation took part. They have also decided to observe strike on 26th October on the same demands.
CPI (ML), CPI (M), CPI and SUCI (C) held a joint protest at Shakti Bhawan, Panchkula, Haryana against the hike in electricity tariff. Thousands of people joined the protest. The changes in the slab system, increase in rate of electricity and the increased surcharge in the fuel rates had been effected in April 2015 as a result of which there has been a considerable increase in the electricity bills of people. Despite some changes in slab system made by the Electricity Regulatory Commission, there is no respite for those consuming under 500 units of electricity as they would get a relief of a mere 50 to 70 rupees. As a result of this there is a considerable anger among the rural and urban poor, workers, peasants, small shopkeepers and small artisans.
The leaders pointed out that since 1997, when the electricity board was broken down to five corporations, the situation had only got worsened. A memorandum consisting of the following demands was also submitted which included the demands to- (i) Withdraw the increase in the electricity rates and fuel surcharge and reinstate the old slab system; (ii) Cancel the arrears of the new rates effected from April; (iii) Revoke the decision to give 23 sub divisions on contract; (iv) revoke the condition to not give tubewell connections to farmers with land only upto 2 acres; (iv) review the decision to form corporations in order to put an end to the process of privatisation and contractualization; (v) reduce administrative expenditures and put an end to massive corruption in the corporations; (vi) stop the theft of electricity in big industries and commercial enterprises; among others.
Com. Prem Singh Gehlawat, Com. Kanwaljeet, Com. Mahendra Chopra were among those who participated.
In view of the unabated activities by some communal groups leading to insults, attacks and horrible murders of progressive intellectuals, Dalits and minorities, on 23rd October 2015 at Puducherry, AIPF held a massive demonstration near Periyar Square, against silencing of progressive thoughts, hate campaign, intolerance, killings and imposition of food code. The protest demonstration was led by Prof. M. L. Thangappa, the Advisory panel member of AIPF. Com. S. Balasubramanian, State Secretary (CPIML), Com. Liqat Ali, AIPF advisory panel member, and R. Murugnandham, K. Mohanasundaram, National council members, S. Thamilmani, Friends of Earth movement also participated in the demonstration and addressed the protestors.
Com. S. Balasubramanian strongly condemned the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over these continued attacks and demanded stern action against the culprits. He also demanded withdrawal of beef ban in some states which had created undue advantage for Hindu communal forces. A large number of activists, workers took part in the demonstration.
CPI(ML) Salutes the Historic #FeeMustFall Movement in Africa
CPI (ML) salutes the historic #FeeMustFall movement that has been launched by students in South Africa against the 10-15 percent fee hike that will be come to effect in 2016. Expressing their anger towards attempt to exclude a large section of students from the ambit of education, students have managed to mobilize thousands of students from across different province in the country through a social media campaign to turn out on the streets and resist fee hike. From Europe to North America to Asia and elsewhere, the students are now coming out on streets and protesting the universal sale of education. In times when WTO is compelling countries to convert higher education into a tradable service good, the students across countries are coming out in protest.
CPI(ML) expresses solidarity with #FeeMustFall movement in Africa, #OccupyUGC movement in India and all such student movements across the globe against privatization and marketization of education.
Red Salute to Comrade TKS Janardhanan !