[Marxism] MLIN [July-Aug] Price Hike Protests | Election Analysis | SA Taxi Drivers | and More |

CPI (ML) Intl Liaison Office cpiml_elo at yahoo.com
Tue Jul 1 18:05:01 MDT 2008


  


ML International Newsletter 

July-August 2008 

   

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An update on news and ideas from the revolutionary left in India .  

Produced by: Communist Party of India 
(Marxist-Leninist) Liberation international team  



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Websites: <mlint.wordpress.com> and <www.cpiml.org> 



Emails: <cpiml_elo at yahoo.com>
and <cpimllib at gmail.com> 



   

Table of Contents 



1)       Soaring Prices and
Manmohan’s Nuclear Chess 

2)       Nationwide Outrage
Against Oil Price Hike 

3)       Murder of NREG
Activists in Jharkhand 

4)      
Sri Lanka and Nepal :
A Tale of Two Conflicts 

5)      
South Asian Taxi
Drivers Demand Better Safety Measures 

6)      
Letter from Jaipur 

7)      
Women’s Assertion
Rally by AIPWA in Patna 

8)      
Karnataka Assembly
Elections 2008 

9)      
Message from West Bengal Panchayat Polls 

10)  
Homage to Vijay
Tendulkar 



   



Politics in India  



Soaring Prices and Manmohan’s Nuclear Chess

  

- Liberation, July, 2008. 

   

They had been talking about
double-digit economic growth. Instead, it is inflation which has crossed the
double-digit barrier and the upward climb of the price spiral shows no sign of
slowing down. As we go to press, officially measured inflation has reached a
thirteen-year high, equalling the 1995 level when Manmohan Singh was the
Finance Minister in Narsimha Rao’s cabinet. The official measurement of inflation
is based on the wholesale price index which is obviously quite removed from the
actual prices that consumers have to pay at the retail market. But a quick look
at the major segments accounting for the rise in wholesale prices – food and
food products: 24%, petro products: 17%, iron and steel: 10% – gives us a clear
idea of how badly the poor and fixed-income consumers are being hurt.  

   

Even as prices of all
essential commodities soar sky-high, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)
government keeps telling us that this inflation is a global phenomenon and we
have to bear with it. Instead of taking urgent measures to douse the flame, the
government has instead chosen to fan the fire by dutifully passing on the
‘global’ burden to the people at home. How does it help to know that the fire
raging in the Indian market is ‘imported’ from abroad when prices of every
local produce are going through the roof! Having broken down every potential
protective barrier and opened up the entire economy to all kinds of external
assaults, the UPA government can now hardly excuse itself by attributing the
inflationary surge to global economic factors.  

   

History tells us that when Rome was burning, Emperor
Nero was busy playing his violin. In today’s India , when the market is aflame,
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is busy playing nuclear chess. Media reports have
it that Singh has offered to resign if he cannot push through his favourite
nuclear deal with the US .
The mainstream media is also more perturbed over the future of the deal than
the crushing blow inflicted by soaring prices. Indeed, inflation is being seen
as a spoilsport of sorts by the pro-deal lobby. The deal enthusiasts are wary
that clinching the deal at this stage might lead to somewhat early elections
and many in the ruling coalition do not seem to be ready to risk an election in
conditions of double-digit inflation and face the ire of the electorate.  

   

It is this utterly callous and
anti-people attitude that best indicates the current degree of disconnect
between the powers that be and the people and their plight. This disconnect has
today become the hallmark of the UPA model of ‘secular governance’ and ‘aam
aadmi’ (common person) rhetoric. Soaked neck-deep in the ideology of ‘corporate
industrialisation and development’, the CPI (M) in West
 Bengal has also begun to revel in this disconnect. The panchayat
results have merely provided some early electoral confirmation of the emerging
popular mood in West Bengal . In a way the
situation seems tailor-made for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and the National
Democratic Alliance (NDA). True to the ideology and historical tradition of
fascism, the BJP is evidently capable of exploiting any and every popular
resentment for its own sectarian and retrograde agenda. Karnataka has once
again confirmed this basic truth regarding the BJP.  

   

What should be the Left and
democratic response to this political challenge thrown up by the unfolding
situation? More doses of ‘secular partnership’ with the Congress? Bihar and Karnataka have clearly revealed the basic
fallacy in this approach. A decade ago elections had produced a ruling
arrangement in the shape of a United Front (UF) backed from outside both by the
Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI (M)]. On the face of
it the UF had managed to keep the BJP out of power, but only for a few months.
If today the UPA experiment seems headed in the same direction, it must compel
Left and democratic forces to look beyond such suicidal tactical shortcuts. The
way forward lies only through a bold, consistent and vigorous espousal of the
cause of the people against the growing economic and national crisis
home-delivered by the comprador Indian votaries of imperialist globalization. 



   



Struggles in India



Nationwide Outrage Against Oil Price Hike



- Liberation, July, 2008. 

   

There has been nationwide
protest against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s decision to
hike the prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas. Communist Party of India
(Marxist-Leninist) [CPI (ML)] had given a call for an all-India protest on 6th
June, and on that day and since, the party has organised independent protests
and joined other Left parties in resisting the oil price hike.      

   

In Delhi on 5 June, immediately after the
announcement of the hike in prices, the CPI (ML) held a protest demonstration
at Parliament Street 
and burnt the effigy of the UPA Government.  

   

In Bihar ,
the CPI (ML) along with other Left parties including CPI and CPI (M) called a
bandh on 10 June. The bandh was a great success, and was vigorously implemented
with demonstrations at almost all district headquarters. In Patna alone, 6 separate, massive contingents
comprising more than 2000 people marched on the streets to implement the bandh.
Over 1000 CPI (ML) activists were arrested in Patna including the State Secretary Nand
Kishore Prasad, central committee members (CCMs) Ram Jatan Sharma, K D Yadav
and Meena Tiwari and All India Progressive Women Association (AIPWA) leader
Shashi Yadav, while around 85 activists from CPI and CPI (M) were arrested. All
the National Highways were blockaded by people, and train routes blockaded at
Buxar, Muzaffarpur, Siwan, Ara, Leheriasarai, Narkatiaganj, Hilsa, Bihar
Sharif, and Masaurhi. At Jehanabad, CPI (ML) activists clashed with the police
during the bandh.         

   

In Jharkhand, the CPI (ML)
gave a call for bandh on 7 June, which was highly effective. As many as 1,000
party activists and leaders were arrested by the police in different parts of
the state, who were later released. In Ranchi ,
party activists blockaded the Main
  Road and brought traffic to a standstill. The
bandh got a very good response in Bokaro, Ramgarh and Dhanbad districts. In
Giridih district, the bandh was led by CPI (ML) member of legislative assembly
(MLA) Vinod Singh with over 2,000 activists. CCM and former MLA Bahadur Oraon
led the workers in the bandh in Chakradharpur. The bandh had an effect in
Lohardaga, Garhwa, Barwadih, Nirsa and many other places. The traffic on the Ranchi-Tata Road 
came to a halt for over an hour as over 100 workers blocked the road at Bundu. 

   

In Uttar Pradesh, a
demonstration was held and an effigy of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)
Government burnt outside the assembly building at Lucknow on 6 June. CPI (ML) State Secretary
Sudhakar Yadav condemned the lathicharge against CPI (ML) demonstrators
protesting at the Mirzapur district headquarters and the arrest of several
activists including the party’s district secretary Nandlal and Revolutionary
Youth Association (RYA) National President Mohd. Salim. In spite of these
arrests, protest demonstrations were held at the block headquarters at Ahiraura
and Narayanpur in Mirzapur. Demonstrations were held and effigies of the central
government burnt at the Sonebhadra District headquarters at Robertsganj, as
well as at the block headquarters at Anpara, Duddhi, Babhani, Gherawal and at
Mughalsarai and Chakia block headquarters in Chandauli district. At Varanasi , CPI (ML)
activists burnt the effigy of the UPA Government near the Cantt. Railway
Station. In Lakhimpuri Kheri town, as well as in Gorakhpur, Devaria,
Maharajganj, Gazipur, Mau, Jalaun, Moradabad, Bijnaur, Sitapur and other
districts, protest marches were held. Earlier on 4 June, immediately after the
hikes in prices were announced, effigies of the UPA Government were burnt at
Jamalpur in Mirzapur, as well as at Faizabad and Mau. 

   

In Tamilnadu, demonstrations
were held against petrol price hike in Chennai, Tiruvallore, Kanchipuram,
Villupuram, Cuddalore, Nagappattinam, Coimbatore ,
 Salem , Namakkal, Tirnelveli, Krishnagiri,
Kanyakumari and Madurai 
districts. In Krishnagiri, on 5 June, 30 comrades were arrested for burning an
effigy, and were released later. In Kanyakumari, comrades pulled an auto by
ropes. In Chennai more than 100 workers mobilised by CPI (ML) participated in
the protest. Demonstrations were also held in Pudukottai district in two points
on 6 June against petrol price hike. The CPI (ML) supported the CPI – CPI (M)’s
call for statewide bandh on 7 June, and our comrades were active in
implementing the bandh at Vridhachalam (Cuddalore), Kotakuppam (Vilupuram), and
Tirupanandal (Thanjavur). In Pondicherry 
too the bandh was a success and our comrades actively participated in it.  

   

In Orissa, a road blockade was
held at Rayagada on 6 June in which 100 people participated. A dharna was held
at Laxmipur Block, Korapur district, in which 300 people protested against
price rise, corruption and irregularities in issuing of below poverty line (BPL)
cards and National Rural Employee Guarantee Act (NREG) implementation.    

   

In Andhra Pradesh, the CPI (ML)
Liberation along with CPI (ML) New Democracy, and MCPI held a rasta roko (road
blockade) in Vijaywada on 6 June. In Prathipadu district of East Godavari, in
Jaggampeta, in Gollaprolu, in Kakinada Rural, CPI (ML) held rasta roko
programmes. In Vissampeta (Krishna District), a dharna was held at the
Tehsildar’s office. In Jangareddygudem (West Godavari District), and in Visakhapatnam also, CPI (ML)
Liberation, CPI(ML) ND, and MCPI held a rasta roko. 

   

In Rajasthan, demonstrations
were held and memoranda submitted on 6 June at district headquarters of
Pratapgarh, Udaipur , Jaipur, Ajmer , and Bhuhana (Jhunjhuna). In Ajmer , the demonstration
comprised a large number of women activists.  
 

   

At Rewari in Haryana, CPI (ML)
activists held a demonstration and burnt the effigy of the UPA Government on 6
June. In Gwalior 
(Madhya Pradesh), a street corner meeting was held and an effigy of the central
government burnt. In the Andamans, CPI (ML) conducted a protest demonstration
at the Secretariat gate in Port Blair on 5 June. At Gangavati in Karnataka on 6
June, a demonstration was held and an effigy of the Prime Minister burnt. 



   



Struggles in India 

   

Murder
of NREG Activists in Jharkhand 

   

- Liberation, July, 2008. 

   

On 14 May, a young activist
Lalit Mehta, who had been active in the right to food campaign and had the
previous day initiated a social audit to expose corruption in implementation of
National Rural Employement Guarantee (NREG) in Palamu District, was killed on
14 May while on his way from Daltonganj to Chatarpur. The social audit
threatened to expose corruption in high places. His murder was met with
outraged protests all over the country, and eventually, after much delay, the
demand for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) enquiry into the murder was
accepted by the State Government.     

   

Lalit Mehta’s killing was no
exception. On 7 June, Kameshwar Yadav, of Khatauri village of Deori Block
(Giridih District Jharkhand); a Block Committee member of CPI (ML) in Giridih;
also an activist on NREG-related issues, was shot dead as he was returning home
from Kisgo on a motorcycle in the evening. He is survived by his wife Babita
Devi, two sons and a daughter.  

   

The suicide of adivasi Turia
Munda, due to failure to get his due wages under NREG act, exposed the sorry state
of implementation of NREG scheme in Jharkhand. The murders of Lalit and
Kameshwar are part of a spate of such killings and harassment of activists
exposing rural corruption. There have been several recent murders of rural
activists in Giridih itself. Last month, Rajinder Das, a dalit activist of CPI (ML)
at Rajdhanwar, Giridih, who had been at the forefront of the struggle against
grabbing of land allocated to dalits by local land mafia, was killed. Two
months back, another dalit CPI (ML) activist Munshi Tori had been killed. In
these two cases, the perpetrators of the murder – leaders of the Jharkhand
Vikas Morcha (Babulal Marandi’s party) – have been named in the first
information report (FIR), yet they are yet to be arrested. Deuri Block is the
same area where CPI (ML) waged a powerful struggle against public distribution
system (PDS) black-marketeering, and a key leader of this movement, Comrade
Osman Ansari is in jail since May 2007. 

      

The CPI (ML) conducted a
campaign for justice for Kameshwar from 16-25 June culminating in a Giridih
March on 25 June. In Delhi ,
party mass organisations participated in a protest at the Jharkhand Bhawan
along with other groups. Following this, a delegation comprising Central
Employment Guarantee Council member Annie Raja, Kiran Shaheen and CPI (ML) CCM
Kavita Krishnan met with Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh to
apprise him of the situation in Jharkhand. The Minister claimed that Jharkhand
was one of the few states where corruption was least because all wage payments
were being done through bank or post office ( PO )
accounts. This rosy picture was challenged by the delegation, and a comptroller
and auditor general (CAG) enquiry, especially for NREG in Jharkhand was
demanded. 

   

Letter
to PM from Activists and Intellectuals  

Activists and intellectuals
submitted a letter to the Prime Minister, Rural Development Minister and
Jharkhand Governor, excerpts of which are below:       

We the undersigned would like
to bring to your notice the serious problems in the functioning of NREG act in
Jharkhand. These also include the murders of prominent activists like Lalit
Mehta and a general atmosphere of terror against those who expose corruption in
NREGA. 

   

The announcement of a request
for a CBI enquiry into Lalit Mehta's murder by the Jharkhand government is a
welcome development but insufficient. However the extent of terror and
corruption in Palamu and adjoining districts is very high. A CBI enquiry into
Lalit Mehta's murder is not sufficient. There should be a high level enquiry by
the CAG's office into the corruption in the NREGA scheme in Palamu and
elsewhere. A special CBI task force should also investigate the  murders of other social activists in Jharkhand
like Kameshwar Yadav [CPI (ML)] and Jawahar Singh (People’s Union of Civil Liberties)
and the general atmosphere of terror unleashed against activists and labourers
who expose corruption and stand up for their rights.  

   

Regarding NREG Act (NREGA) and
the safety of activists we have the following demands:  

   

1] The safety of activists and
others monitoring NREGA should be ensured, especially in districts like
Palamu,  Koderma and Singhbhum.  

   

2] A political intervention be
made to remove all hindrances to establish the panchayati raj institutions in
Jharkhand at the earliest.  

   

3] The Central Employment
Guarantee Council should meet in Palamu and suggest measures to the Central
Government regarding the eradication of corruption and the security of
activists. It should also do an overview of the functioning of NREGA in
Jharkhand and the weakness thereof. In particular it should ensure that social
audits are conducted regularly and reports be made public.  

   

4] Within 30 days necessary
action be taken against NREGA irregularities, brought out during the
investigations and on the registered complaints. 

Signed by  

Aruna Roy, Arundhati Roy,
Nikhil Dey, Swami Agnivesh, Subhashini Ali, Kuldip Nayar, Annie Raja, Medha
Patkar, Prof. Kamal Chenoy, Dunu Roy, Babu Mathew, Kavita Krishnan, and others.
 



   





South Asia


Sri Lanka and Nepal :
A Tale of Two Conflicts

  

- S. Sivasegaram. 

   

Both Sri Lanka and Nepal have faced long periods of
insurgency, but the armed conflicts concerned different issues and the degree
of success in resolving them differs vastly. They, nevertheless, have lessons
for each other. Important social and political differences between the two
tower over obvious geographical factors, despite the importance of the
geographic location of each to its course of social and political development. Sri Lanka ’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean caused it to be subject to one of the
longest, (if not the longest) uninterrupted colonial rules, by three successive
colonial masters, lasting over four centuries. Landlocked Nepal , although subject to British Colonial
domination from the 19th Century, was only a protectorate, declared independent
in 1923 by treaty with Britain .
 

   

Modernisation of the Sri
Lankan polity started in the late 19th Century under colonial rule, much after
the Kandyan Kingdom , the last feudal monarchy, ended
early that century. But vestiges of feudalism like the caste system and modes
of agricultural production remained untouched by colonialism, which also
created an elite class of landed gentry with feudal links. Nepal was slower to
modernise; and the Indian successors to the British Raj, helped to restore the
Shah dynasty in 1951 and dominated Nepal, whose geography made its trade and
hence economy dependent on India.  

   

Sri Lanka had universal
suffrage in 1931, three years after Britain , an influential left party
soon after, and a mature political party system when the British left in 1948.
But, failure to address the national question made chauvinism and narrow
nationalism emerge as major forces, and only the left was truly national in
approach.   Nepal had its first general
elections in 1959, but royal interference ensured that, despite popular
protests leading to restoration of democratic elections to parliament, the
monarch prevailed and elected governments were dismissed at will. Thus
democracy itself became a central political issue. 

   

The Sri Lankan national
question was deliberately aggravated by Sinhala chauvinists to degenerate into
war by 1983. Despite heavy blows to the economy by a quarter century of war and
untold suffering of the people, especially in war-affected regions, the
dominant players lack the will to resolve the national question. Nepal , besides its complex national question,
faced oppression by class, ethnicity, religion, caste and gender, certainly
more severe than in Sri
  Lanka at any stage. Attempts to resolve some
of the grievances were frustrated by the monarchy aided by the ruling elite and
reactionary political parties. The withdrawal of the Maoists from parliament in
1995 to launch its People’s War in 1996 transformed Nepal ’s political landscape in one
decade.  

   

Sri Lankan parliamentary
democracy though severely eroded is still formally intact. The weakening of the
Sri Lankan left started in 1964 with its bulk losing its way in parliamentary
politics. The left failed the working class and the minorities, since electoral
alliances with bourgeois parties meant compromise and accommodation of policies
pandering to base communal sentiments. Its decimation at the 1977 elections demoralised
the working class; and the reactionary government that came to power in 1977
escalated the ethnic conflict, and used it as a smokescreen to negate the
achievements of progressive and popular struggles led by the left, including
democratic and fundamental rights, and to introduce a disastrous open economic
policy. The Nepali left was, in electoral terms, stronger than that in Sri Lanka , but
it too indulged in parliamentary folly. The parliamentary left failed to learn
from the royal subversion of its short-lived government in 1992, and the
country paid the price.  

   

The first and only successful
armed struggle in Sri Lanka 
was the Marxist-Leninist mass campaign (1966-1970) against caste oppression in
the North. Care for the safety of the masses ensured that the number of deaths
was small. Since then, the adventurist insurgencies led by the chauvinistic
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna in 1971 and 1987-89 claimed nearly 100,000 lives,
anti-Tamil violence several thousands, and the war of national oppression and
internecine killings since 1983 well over 100,000. The war also displaced
around a million internationally, besides up to 500,000 displaced internally.
But there is little to show by way of progress on the national question,
despite various political deals up to 1983, and efforts since 1983 to resolve
the armed conflict, including the Indian intervention in 1987 and the Ceasefire
Agreement of 2002, ritually abandoned early this year. In contrast, ten years
of armed conflict in Nepal cost 13,000 lives, with the state’s armed forces
answerable for over 10,000; and a peace process, born of a crisis created for
the parliamentary political parties by the monarch who assumed absolute power,
made way for the securing and consolidation of important victories for the
people and an end to the monarchy. 

   

Escalation of national
oppression, war and armed struggle in Sri Lanka , along with the weakness
of the Sinhala left, let the initiative be with the Sinhala chauvinists,
irrespective of party label, and the Tamil militants. With the genuine left in
disarray and chauvinism dominating politics in the South, and democracy denied
on the pretext of the armed conflict in the North-East, the national question
remained over-simplified as a Sinhala-Tamil conflict to the neglect of all
else. The war, now portrayed as war against terrorism, takes precedence over
mounting economic problems and the denial of democratic, human and fundamental
rights. All peace initiatives including the failed ceasefire came about under
external pressure; and subject to interference by hegemonic powers.
Negotiations did not progress beyond formal cessation of hostilities and a
vague demarcation of domains of authority that allowed the two sides to
conserve and rebuild. Where even humanitarian relief to the victims of war and
tsunami has faced stiff chauvinist resistance, efforts to resolve the national
question will certainly be sabotaged by disruptive forces within the country
and without. As long as the present group of players dominate the scene, there
is scant hope for any peace and even less for a solution to the national
question; and foreign intervention will use pretexts of human rights and
democracy to control the country rather than resolve the national question. 

   

In Nepal, a mass struggle
aimed at ending a dictatorial monarchy under a leadership with a working class
perspective also dealt constructively with several contradictions, some hostile
like that between landlords and agricultural labour, and others ‘friendly’ like
those based on identity. But there can be no complaisance since vested
interests will kindle ethnic, caste and religious conflict, as seen in the
Terai region a year ago, and the opportunist ‘left’ joining hands with the
right to undermine the people’s democratic structures secured through mass
struggle. Besides subversion in the form of foreign investment, ‘development
projects’ and ‘aid’, the corrupting influence of the bourgeois parliamentary
system on individuals is a potential danger from within. Yet, even if the new
democratic structure anticipated by the Maoists fails to materialise, the
politicisation and empowerment of the masses through struggle will act as an
immune system to combat attempts to subvert democratic rights and restore
oppression by class, gender, ethnicity, caste and religion.  

   

Sri
  Lanka’s hope could be embedded in
its impending tragedy. The deterioration of the political situation will sooner
than later make it necessary for the entire people to struggle for democratic
and fundamental rights against a reactionary repressive regime backed by one
hegemonic power or another. Given the record of narrow nationalism on all sides
thus far, only a genuine left leadership can show the way out of the morass. 

   

The lessons for Nepal can be
from the experiences of the Sri Lankan left and the dangers of allowing issues
of identity dominate over issues of class and class struggle. Such a risk can
be averted only through the Maoists holding on to their revolutionary
initiative. 

   

   



   



South Asian Diaspora 

   

South
Asian Taxi Drivers Demand Better Safety Measures 

   

- Lionel Bopage. 

   

Adelaide and Melbourne witnessed
thousands of South Asian students, predominantly Indians holding direct action
to demand better safety conditions in the pursuit of their role as taxi
drivers. In Adelaide 
they held up traffic at the airport after a colleague was bashed and robbed. In
 Melbourne they
staged a sit down protest at peak hour in the middle of the central business
district (CBD) after a colleague was stabbed. In Melbourne their action was spontaneous,
vocal, passionate and peaceful. Their action took the state government and the
police by surprise. Even though government concessions did not go far enough
and was limited to boosting driver safety and security it served as an example
for our pensioners, who staged a similar protest in the CBD to get their
concerns across. They followed the taxi drivers’ example in taking off their
clothing in protest to prove they were ‘fair dinkum’. The reason for the taxi
drivers protests are not hard to discern.  

   

The state government has not
addressed the broader issues of the overseas students that underpin these
protests. Globalisation allows capital to freely move but does not allow labour
to do so. In India 
the process has exacerbated the gap between the rich and the poor but also has
created a bourgeoning entrepreneurial middle class caught up in trappings of
consumerism. Traditional jobs do not provide sufficient opportunities to
maintain such life styles. Hence, those who miss out try moving overseas to countries
like Australia . 

   

Overseas students are allowed
to work a maximum of 20 hours a week to repay their loans and to pay their
exorbitant tertiary fees! Of course, they cannot survive by working 20 hours.
If they get caught working more hours they are taken to a detention centre and
are instantly deported with no chance of appeal. Melbourne alone has over three thousand such
students who mostly work night shifts. Driving taxis is not considered a safe
or well paid job by the majority community. 

   

If overseas students are
considered Australian for tax purposes, they should be given the same
opportunity and security provided to the majority of taxpayers. However, taxi
drivers in the majority of cases are considered independent contractors. As
such, they do not enjoy the employment rights most other workers are entitled
to. The federal minimum wage and work conditions do not apply to them. Hence
most drivers are paid less and work longer shifts. After deregulation taxi
licences were bought by speculating investors causing licence plates to be sold
at extremely high prices, the current costs running up to about $500,000 per
plate. In their desire for profit maximisation, the licence-owners not only
take advantage of drivers in terms of their pay and conditions, but also
passengers in terms of the service provided, to pay for the over-priced
licenses.  

   

Many of these protestors have
not played an active role in any of the previous protest actions held by the
organised trade union movement against the employers and the state implementing
their neo-liberal industrial relations agenda which is to sack workers as and
when necessary. Nevertheless, the trade union movement needs not only to learn
from these exploited students on how to stage direct action but should organise
and harness their enthusiasm and guts to raise the consciousness of their own
workers.  

   

The trade union movement
should immediately start a campaign to ensure taxi drivers are entitled to the
normal wage and working conditions enjoyed by the rest of the Australian
drivers such as working eight hour shifts enjoying minimum wage and working
conditions with entitlements for superannuation. An industrial union for the
whole transport industry covering all types of drivers is in the order of the
day. 



   



Struggles in India 

   

Letter
from Jaipur 

   

- Srilata Swaminathan, Liberation,
July, 2008.  

   

Tuesday, 13 May, 1900 hours
saw the first of a series of bomb blasts in the crowded Pink City of Jaipur. In
all, seven powerful blasts shook the old city, one after the other, and all
within thirteen minutes and within a one kilometre area. An eighth bomb was
found and diffused by the police.  

   

>From the point of view of the
bombers the timing was perfect to cause the most damage and havoc. All the
places targeted were in the over-crowded, shopping and commercial areas,
tourist-oriented spots, mainly residential areas, and the temple areas of
Chandpol, Johri Bazaar and Tripolia where, being a Tuesday, there was a good
crowd of devotees plus lines of beggars and destitute who get fed by the
temples. To make matters worse, it was also the rush hour, and roads were
packed with a profusion of pedestrians and vehicles. The colourful confusion of
Jaipur’s congested markets which is a great attraction to both foreign and
Indian tourists was at its height. At the end of the day, there were 65 dead
and 280 wounded. Many of the residents, survivors still complain of hearing
defects from the deafening explosions.  

   

Both the Communist Party of
India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI (ML)] and All India Progressive Women’s
Association (AIPWA) were active and helped collect one lakh (100, 000) rupees
which was donated to the poor victims of the blasts that were hospitalised. One
was struck by the reaction of people in Jaipur who, from the humble rickshawala,
vendor and flower-seller to the rich trading communities, intellectuals,
teachers, lawyers as, one and all, they have come forward, without being asked,
to help in whatever way they could. Immediately after the blasts, people rushed
into action. The wounded were immediately taken to the hospital by rickshaw
pullers, on cycles, scooters and whatever was handy. Many groups of citizens
immediately started collecting fruit, food and drinking water so that the
patients and their families did not go thirsty or hungry. Hundreds of blood
donors rushed forward. The first to donate blood were the Muslims who donated
so much that they met almost the full demand. The lawyers also came forward in
hundreds to donate blood as did the employees of the state roadways department,
a motorcycle club and hundreds of individuals.  

   

We are also heartened by the
mood in the old city. While many are mourning the loss of loved ones, there is
no communal tension. Many Hindutva forces tried to raise anti-Muslim slogans
both in some residential areas in the affected city and in the hospital where
the victims were being treated. They were swiftly dealt with by the local
residents, both Hindu and Muslim, and speedily sent on their way.  

   

All this is even more amazing
when seen in the light of how the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government and
Hindutva forces have been working overtime for several years to spread
anti-Muslim sentiments throughout Rajasthan, saffronising textbooks to paint
Muslims as traitors, encouraging ghettoisation of Muslims and taking lessons
from Modi’s Gujarat . Although it is early days
yet, it is remarkable that Rajasthan has not burst into a communal
conflagration. Forces in Jodhpur , Ajmer , Kota 
and elsewhere tried to light the communal fire but failed. 

  

But the blame game between the
BJP government in the state and the Congress at the Centre has begun with each
holding the other responsible for lack of warning, information etc. The BJP is
also desperate to find the culprits especially after their bungling the Ajmer bomb blast
investigation last year where they are still to trace or arrest the culprits.
They are busy harassing innocent ‘Bangladeshis’, who are very poor and work as
rag pickers or unskilled labour but happen to be Muslim, in their frantic
attempt to make arrests. They are also threatening them with deportation even
though these ‘Bangladeshis’ have ration and voter identity cards and swear they
are from West Bengal and are also wooed for their votes by every party! Democratic
forces in Jaipur are vigilant, refusing to allow the blasts to provide a
pretext for the Sangh Parivar’s and BJP Government’s communal agenda. 



   



Struggles in India



Women’s Assertion Rally by AIPWA in Patna



- Liberation, July, 2008.  


The Bihar 
unit of All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) organised an impressive
rally on 30th May consisting of large number of women demanding to rein in the
growing incidents of victimisation and rapes of women in the State. Despite the
scorching sun, women came in thousands from various corners of Bihar to participate in the rally. Stopped by police
barricades, and told that the chief minister (CM) would not meet them, the
rallyists held a spirited protest meeting. The march was led by AIPWA National
Secretary Meena Tiwary, State President and Secretary Saroj Chaube and Shashi
Yadav and others. 

  

Addressing the mass meeting
the speakers said that the projects for women’s empowerment in Bihar have proved to be a damp squib. They expressed deep
resentment and anger at the rising graph of assaults on women’s life and cases
of rape, saying that even women’s dignity is not guaranteed in the State. Among
the main demands addressed to the CM in a memorandum are: holding the
administration and police accountable for the incidents of victimisation and
rape of women, increasing the number of primary schools for girls’ education,
stopping distribution of licenses to liquor shops in the name of excise tax
collection, declaring Asha and Aanganbadi workers as govt. employees and fixing
a minimum of Rs.5000/- for the Asha workers. On the occasion AIPWA also
released a booklet titled “Women’s victimisation in Nitish rule – an open
letter to Chief Minister: Governmental claims vs. ground realities”  



   



Elections in India



Karnataka Assembly Elections 2008: 

Congress- JD (S) -Opportunism Paves the Way for
BJP’s Rise to Power

  

- N. Divakar, Liberation, July, 2008. 

   

Within a week after assuming
power in Karnataka, the communal fascist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has come
out in its true colours by killing four and injuring many innocent farmers who
protested by demanding seeds and fertilizers at Haveri. Instead of coming down
heavily on corporate and multinational houses that refused to supply the much
needed inputs inspite of pocketing heavy subsidies, the killer BJP government
has fired bullets on innocent farmers. With this incident, the BJP has made its
class position obvious against small and marginal farmers who are the worst
sufferers wanting inputs for the already crisis-ridden cultivation. Perhaps,
the BJP did mean ‘development’ – at the graveyards of small and marginal
farmers and the rural poor. The incident of police firing at Haveri is a mere
taste of the repressive BJP tenure to come. 

   

BJP’s victory in Karnataka
assembly elections – 2008 is not a surge of saffron but a failure of the United
Progressive Alliance (UPA) model of soft Hindutva to halt the communal and
neo-liberal BJP. It is also a rejection of the opportunist Janata Dal (Secular)
[JD (S)] variety of ‘secularism’. The UPA model of governance and alliance has
failed to halt the progress of Hindutva forces all over the country and
Karnataka has also witnessed the same pattern. 

   

Like most other poll outcomes
in recent period, the Karnataka result too reveals the people’s anger against
the raging agrarian crisis and spiralling prices, both of which are direct
offshoots of the neo-liberal policies being implemented by the UPA and in this
regard the UPA has proved to be perfect successor of the National Democratic
Alliance (NDA). In the absence of any credible democratic alternative, people
voted for BJP which was not in power in the state independently so far. BJP won
not because of its assertion of communal brand of politics, not because of any
one national issue but because of a combination of both ‘national’ and ‘local’
factors. 

  

The BJP’s rise in Karnataka
has been a steady process spread over the last two decades. In 1983, the BJP
had 18 members in the Karnataka state assembly; went down to 2 in 1985; again
rose to 4 in 1989 and saw a phenomenal increase to 40 in 1994. Since then, it
has steadily increased its tally - 44 in 1999, 79 in last elections in 2004 and
110 in 2008. Karnataka has witnessed various avatars of Sangh Parivar outfits
from the days of Jan Sangh right up to the BJP. On the face of it, the BJP
victory has been won on the plank of development, anti-price rise and
stability, but the BJP’s politics of communal propaganda and communal violence
has obviously played a catalytic role. The party has systematically exploited
the Idgah Maidan issue in Hubli and Baba Budangiri issue in Chikmagalur, and
has engineered anti-Muslim riots in Mangalore and Bangalore on various occasions. Having struck
roots in the state, the BJP now seeks to conceal its communal colours behind
the garb of ‘social engineering’, pro-farmer postures and advocacy of
‘development’. 

   

The Assembly elections have
also indicated a certain realignment of social and political forces in the
state. The moot point is the shift in a section of hitherto vote banks of
established parties, viz., Dalits and Vokkaligas, and the BJP’s victory in
Malnad region which is claimed to have been the region of Left influence, and
also in most backward districts like Bellary .
BJP has secured more seats in Malnad region because of its communal politics,
whipping up communal frenzy centering on the Baba Budangiri issue. Its victory
in coastal districts too can well be attributed to communal clashes and the
extremely active Sangh Parivar outfits. But, its victory in Bangalore is mainly because of its success in
convincing middle classes and the elite about its ‘commitment to development’.
The BJP has secured 17 seats out of 28 in Bangalore 
urban areas. This is an indication that the elitist section of middle class
that benefited out of liberalisation policies has lent a much needed helping
hand to the BJP in the metro city. Likewise, aggressive sections of real estate
and mining mafia have also played a decisive role in the victory of the BJP,
even though the backing of the mining mafia is equally enjoyed by other
bourgeois parties like the Congress and JD (S). It is an assertion of mafia,
the lumpen variety of bourgeoisie, and an offshoot of the process of
liberalisation. The entire industry sector has faced a decline in recent months
with the exception of the mining sector, which has, contrary to the general
pattern, witnessed tremendous growth. 

   

Its victory in the Hyderabad
Karnataka region is mainly because of the people’s anger against the extreme
backwardness in the region, and the generous supply of money and muscle to BJP
by the mining mafias. The pattern is amply evident in the BJP’s victory of 7
out of 9 seats, most of which are reserved (ST) seats, in Bellary region. Its victory in Harapanahalli
is a case in point, where Karunakar Reddy, a powerful mining mafia leader, was
the candidate. Notes of the denomination of Rs. 500 and Rs.1000 were not only
delivered at the doorsteps of voters but were literally flying in the air in
this drought-ridden, most backward constituency. The fact that neither the
Dalit parties (including the Bahujan Samaj Party [BSP]) nor the Left forces
were effective in channelising the discontent brewing among Dalits and other
downtrodden is a warning signal for progressive forces in the state. The BJP
has won 22 out of 36 seats reserved for scheduled castes (SCs) against 10 by
the Congress and 7 out of 16 seats reserved for scheduled tribes (STs). Prof.
Assadi says that most of the reserved seats that BJP won are from Lingayat
dominated areas, which means that the dominant community of Lingayats has
supported Dalit candidates for the victory of the BJP. Dalits have by and large
backed the BJP in this election with the Bahajun Samaj Party (BSP) hardly
succeeding in making an inroad. It managed to finish second only in two
constituencies, that too mainly because of locally popular candidates. 

   

At the same time, it’s also a
lesson for the progressive forces in the state that are not yet successful in
mobilising and asserting the agenda of the poor and the downtrodden. This is
evident from the performance of Left forces, including the new platform of
Sarvodaya Party. Perhaps, the Sarvodaya platform of Dalit and farmers
organisations paid a heavy price for adopting a soft approach towards the
Congress. In fact, they declared open support to the Congress in constituencies
where they were not in the fray. 

  

Performance of all Left
parties are almost similar barring the Communist Party of India-Marxist [CPI (M)]’s
performance in one seat where though they lost their MLA they secured more than
30000 votes and became the runner-up. In all other constituencies, maximum
number of votes that the Left could secure was only around 10,000. The
Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist [CPI (ML)] polled nearly 7,000 votes
in the SC reserved seat of Kanakagiri and polled nearly 2000 and 1000 in two ST
reserved seats.  

  

Overall, the BJP has tasted
victory by emerging as a party of dominant castes, Lingayats and Brahmins while
winning the support of elitist sections of the middle class and the aggressive
backing of the money- and muscle-power of the lumpen bourgeoisie represented by
real estate and mining mafia. Its main success lies in tilting the balance in
its favour by engineering a divide among certain sections - Vokkaligas and
Dalits that were hitherto interchangeable social base of the Congress and Dalit
parties. With the BJP coming to power, the degeneration of Lohiaite, socialist
influence and also the influence of the much acclaimed Dalit movement in the
state has come a full circle. With communal fascism in state power, the polity
has offered an excellent opportunity for the Left, democratic and progressive
forces to wage a direct battle against the forces of obscurantism and of the
status quo. It is for the progressive forces to grab the opportunity without
displaying any vacillation towards the so-called ‘secular’ potential of the
Congress and the JD(S).  



   



Elections in India 

   

Message
from West Bengal Panchayat Polls  

   

- Liberation, July, 2008. 

   



The arrogant
Communist Party of India-Marxist [CPI (M)] leadership in West
 Bengal had predicted that the panchayat election in the state
would serve as a referendum on the state government’s ‘industrialisation’
programme. The word ‘industrialisation’ for them is, of course, only a
euphemism for everything they have done to suppress the people’s voice in, and
over, Singur and Nandigram. The poll results are now here for everyone to see.  

   

The CPI (M) has
faced a veritable rout in East Midnapore , the
district Nandigram is in. The party has also lost as badly in Singur in Hooghly district. For the first time in thirty years the
party has lost control over four district councils and its control over two
more district councils is clearly tenuous. More significantly, the grip of the
party has become considerably weaker in the two lower rungs of the panchayat
hierarchy almost all over the state. Far from endorsing the ‘Brand Buddha
strategy of industrialisation’, the poll results have once again echoed the
slogan “amaar gram, tomaar gram – Nandigram, Nandigram” (My village is
Nandigram, your village is Nandigram), and that in the face of relentless
violence, intimidation and manipulation. 

   

The media spotlight
is understandably on Nandigram and the issue of land acquisition. But the real
story is indeed much bigger and deeper. The agrarian and livelihood crisis that
pervades much of rural India 
is quite acute in rural Bengal as well. Here
too, the below poverty line (BPL) list has become an opportunity for excluding
the poor and rewarding the supporters of the ruling party. Implementation of
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is riddled with holes that deny
the deserving people the promised ‘employment guarantee’ and minimum wages, but
fill the coffers for the nexus of the rich and powerful that lords over the
countryside. The public distribution system is known no longer for supply of
subsidised foodgrains to the poor but for pilferage and profiteering by a
corrupt dealer-leader-babu(bureaucracy) chain. And with the government pushing
for reverse reforms, every sixth person who had once benefited from Operation
Barga and land redistribution has already been deprived of his/her gains and
rights.  

   

Compounding the
economic miseries of the people and the gaping holes and leaks of the delivery
system is the atmosphere of institutionalised terror, domination and corruption
that has now become the most hated hallmark of the three-decade-old CPI (M)
rule in West Bengal . Nandigram is only the
most horrifying symbol of this rot. The serial massacres and rapes did not
happen just on the issue of land acquisition – they were the CPI (M)’s way of
stopping a people from having their legitimate say. Viewed from the angle of
the protesting people of Nandigram, the killings and rapes were the price they
had to pay for having their say.  

   

A mere statistical
summary of the panchayat results does not convey the real political import of
the developments in West Bengal .
Statistically, the CPI (M) still controls all but mere four districts of the
state. A little erosion here and a little dent there after thirty years of
uninterrupted rule may appear quite ‘normal’. But those who have been closely
observing the social and political dynamics of West Bengal 
have no difficulty in recognising the great change that has taken place. The
rural poor have revolted in a big way. Nandigram was one expression of that
revolt, the ration ‘riots’ were another link in that chain and now the
panchayat polls have provided a third major glimpse of the same simmering
revolt.  

   

The CPI (M) may well
see the result as further ‘confirmation’ of a grand ‘conspiracy’ against its
rule – a grand coalition of the ‘Ultra Left’ and the ‘Ultra Right ‘with the
civil society jumping in, as ‘analysed’ by the party’s recent Coimbatore
Congress. Their ideologues will doubtless treat us with profound bits of
‘analysis’ on the coming together of the old enemies of land reform and the new
enemies of industrialisation. And the fact that the Congress – whether of the
Trinamool variety or the good old non-Trinamool variety – has emerged as the
biggest beneficiary of the anti-CPI (M) revolt will surely prompt it to sharpen
its anti-‘reactionary’ rhetoric. Ironically, however, while the panchayat votes
were being counted in Bengal, top CPI (M) leaders in Delhi were busy celebrating the fourth
anniversary of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the company of Sonia
Gandhi and Manmohan Singh.  

   

Reactionary
rightwing forces in Bengal as well as
elsewhere will definitely try to utilise the emerging political situation in the
state as best as they can. But any serious analysis of the Bengal 
developments should begin with a critical look at the strategy and tactics of
the CPI (M) itself. At one point of time the CPI (M) was known as the party
which had established ‘panchayat raj’ in West Bengal ;
today it is accused of imposing a ‘cadre raj’ on the people. The rural poor,
for long the main support base of the party, are giving vent to their pent-up
sense of betrayal and alienation. And if Muslims in West Bengal are also seen
turning away from the CPI(M), it is not as though they have suddenly developed
some new fondness for the Congress or the Trinamool Congress (TMC), which is
till date a constituent of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), or because
the Sachhar Committee Report has revealed their miserable socio-economic
plight. It is primarily because the CPI (M) too has begun treating the
community and its concerns much the same way as other ruling parties do.  

   

We must understand
that the panchayat vote in Bengal has not been
for the TMC or the Congress, it has been against the CPI (M)’s wrong policies
and priorities and the increasingly corrupt and undemocratic nature of its
governance. And the motive force behind this change is not the traditional
social base of the Congress, but the aggrieved and alienated social base of the
communists. It is only through a sincere, firm and close integration with the
rural poor that the Left can be rejuvenated and rebuilt in West Bengal and the
CPI (ML) is determined to do all it can to realise this challenge. 

   



Culture



Homage to Vijay Tendulkar



- Liberation, July, 2008. 



   

Noted progressive
playwright Vijay Tendulkar passed away on May 19 2008 at the age of 80
following a protracted illness.  

   

Tendulkar
revolutionised Marathi theatre with his ruthless exploration of social and
political issues. His plays were a weapon to change society and challenge all
hidebound ideas and injustices. They exploded the hypocrisies of polite
society, broke new ground in their treatment of gender issues, and evolved a
fresh genre of political satire full of vitality and contemporary meaning.   

   

‘Shrimant’ (1956)
jolted the conservative audience of the times with its portrayal of an
unmarried young woman who decides to keep her unborn child while her rich father
tries to "buy" her a husband in an attempt to save his social
prestige. ‘Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe’ ("Silence! The Court Is In
Session", which went on stage in 1967) was a remarkable comment on the
double standards of society towards women. ‘Sakharam Binder’ (1972) explored
the different implications of unconventional lifestyles for men and women, and
faced accusations of ‘obscenity’.  

   

‘Ghasiram Kotwal’
(1972), based on the life of Nana Phadnavis (1741-1800), the prime minister in
the court of the Peshwas, was a fearless satire on the rise of the Shiv Sena,
and was met with violent attacks by political opponents. Tendulkar never lost
that fearless voice against communal fascism: after the Gujarat 
genocide he raised the same bold voice against Narendra Modi.  

   

Tendulkar’s writing
always retained its sharp and unsparing eye for the exploitative and
hypocritical attitudes in society towards women and sexuality. In Kamala, he
took the real-life story of a journalist who bought a woman in the rural sex
trade to expose the police and political powers involved; only to abandon her
once his purpose was served. His ‘Mitrachi Goshta’ took up a theme inspired by
the real-life story of an actress whose career was ruined after her same-sex
affair became public knowledge.   

   

Tendulkar also
turned his pen to writing scripts for cinema and left his mark there too - with
stark social commentaries like Manthan, Nishant, Aakrosh and Ardh Satya in
Hindi and Samana, Simhasan and Umbartha in Marathi.   

   

Tendulkar’s plays
never maintained an artificial separation between society and the stage: his
theatre spilled on to the streets while the streets resonated in his plays. The
curtain has fallen on his life: but his work lives in the hearts of all those
who seek the vital link between literature and lived life. 

   







      


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