In this Issue
- Karnataka’s Porn Scandal:
Shame on BJP’s Hypocrisy and Insult to Women
- Congress’ Crocodile Tears for Fake Encounters
- AIPWA 6th National Conference Held at Vijaywada
- Inaugural Session
- Delegate Session
- Cultural Evening
- Protest March at Garhwa Against State Repression
Karnataka’s Porn Scandal:
Shame on BJP’s Hypocrisy and Insult to Women
The recent ‘porngate’ scandal in Karnataka, in which three BJP Ministers were caught by a TV channel, viewing a porn clip inside the Assembly, has exposed the BJP’s bankruptcy and moral double standards thoroughly. The Ministers in question have had to resign, but such damage control measures are far from adequate.
The BJP and its sister organizations in the Sangh brigade are notorious for imposing ‘dress codes’ on women, and assaulting women who defy these codes. In BJP-ruled Karnataka, the Government has defended and protected saffron goons who have attacked women for visiting pubs, or sitting in public with male friends. Around this time every year, there are reports of Sangh goons attacking couples who celebrate Valentine’s Day. Now, the world has seen how these self-proclaimed custodians of morality and self-appointed ‘protectors of Indian womanhood,’ while away their time inside the Assembly, watching clips of sexual violence on women.
One of the ex-Ministers caught in the act, has claimed that, in the context of a debate in the Assembly over a controversial party, they were watching a video of such a party held in a foreign country, in which a woman is gang-raped by the men she was dancing with. In other words, the clip being watched was not just a sex video, it was a video of a gang-rape! The BJP MLA’s bizarre ‘defence’ only underlines how much of pornography involves content that is violent and exploitative towards women. Newspapers have reported that this clip of sexual violence was shared and watched by several more BJP MLAs, before the TV cameras caught two of them on camera.
One of the MLAs caught viewing the clip, was the Women and Child Development Minister CC Patil, who, just a few weeks ago, said that women ‘invited’ rape by dressing indecently. A Minister holding the portfolio for women’s welfare, spends his time in the Assembly watching a gang-rape video with his male colleagues – and then brazenly justifies rape by blaming it on women’s ‘indecency’! There could be no better proof for the fact that those who seek to police women’s dress and conduct have much in common with those who perpetrate sexual violence on women.
Although the BJP, in a hasty damage control exercise, has had to get the three Ministers to resign, the MLAs and the party too remain unrepentant. The BJP has refused to expel the MLAs. The Goa Chief Minister from the BJP has said that the MLAs were ‘only watching’ and not ‘doing anything.’ The Jharkhand Assembly Speaker, also from the BJP, has said there is nothing wrong in watching videos in Assembly, and he would have taken no action on such MLAs if the incident had taken place in his Assembly!
The contrast between BJP’s moral sermonising and moral policing of women, and the conduct of its elected representatives in Assembly, is especially glaring. But violence and exploitation of women by elected representatives is common in other parties too. Former Uttarakhand CM from Congress, ND Tiwari, is accused of granting licenses for petrol pumps etc in exchange for sexual favours. In Rajasthan, Congress Minister Mahipal Maderna and MLA Malkhan Singh, are implicated in the murder of a dalit nurse, Bhanwari Devi, with whom they had sexual relations, in exchange for waiving her transfer to a remote area. A series of MLAs of the ruling BSP in Uttar Pradesh are implicated in rape, kidnapping, and murder of women. Former BJP MLA from Purnea Raj Kishore Kesri was implicated in the long-term rape and harassment of Rupam Pathak in Bihar. Between 2007 and 2010, several other BJP MLAs in Karnataka, too, have been implicated in violence towards women, including rape, blackmail, and murder.
The resignation from Ministerial posts is far from enough. The Assembly membership of all the BJP MLAs who shared and viewed the gang-rape video inside the Karnataka Assembly must be terminated. They have violated every norm of public conduct and women’s rights and dignity, and no longer have any right to call themselves people’s representatives.
Congress’ Crocodile Tears for Fake Encounters
Yet again, Congress leaders are attempting to exploit public anger against fake encounters of minorities for votes – while their Government continues to defend the same fake encounters. After Digvijay Singh, it was Salman Khursheed’s turn. Addressing an election meeting at Azamgarh, Khursheed claimed that Sonia Gandhi broke down and shed tears when shown photographs of the Batla House killings, and asked him to take up the matter with the Prime Minister.
NHRC norms require that every ‘encounter’ be treated as a murder unless proved by a judicial probe to have been in self-defence. Yet, in spite of a host of unanswered questions regarding the Batla House killings, no probe was allowed. The very agencies that carried out the ‘encounter’, have given themselves a clean chit, and the Home Minister in Congress’ Central Government repeatedly assures that the ‘encounter’ was ‘genuine.’
Why, in spite of Sonia’s tears, did the Home Ministry and UPA Government refuse to allow any impartial probe into the Batla House ‘encounter’? Khursheed explained to his Azamgarh audience that though the Congress sincerely wished to probe the killings, they dropped their plans to do so, fearing an impact on the 2009 parliamentary elections! In other words, Khursheed is saying that for the Congress, justice for victims of fake encounters can be, and in fact was, sacrificed for fear of jeopardising electoral prospects!
The minority youth of Azamgarh have borne the brunt of the worst witch-hunt and communal profiling in the wake of the Batla House killings. Azamgarh has been branded ‘atankgarh’ (bastion of terror), and Muslim youth from the area have found their safety, dignity, and job prospects badly affected by state-sponsored prejudice. When the very same Congress whose Government has prevented any probe that might establish inconvenient truths about Batla House, and whose investigative agencies are spearheading the witch-hunt of Muslim youth in a host of cases, claims to shed tears for the Batla House victims on the eve of elections, it adds insult to injury.
AIPWA 6th National Conference Held at Vijaywada
The 6th National Conference of All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) took place on 8-9 February at Vijaywada. The entire city was decorated with colourful posters and flags. The women, from around 20 states, marched in a spirited rally from the railway station to Thomalapalli Kalakshetram (renamed Panchadi Nirmala Hall, while Vijaywada was renamed Snehalata Nagar after the martyrs of the Srikakulam movement). Throughout the rally, women raised slogans in Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Bengali, Assamese, Nepali, Hindi, Telugu and other languages, demanding women’s rights and equality. Cultural teams of the Andhra Pradesh Jansanskritika Mandali and of women of the Lambada tribe of Andhra Pradesh, danced in front of the procession, and were spontaneously joined by many women comrades from various states.
On reaching the Thomalapalli Kalakshetram, veteran AIPWA leader Comrade Meera hoisted the AIPWA flag, and AIPWA’s National and State-level leaders paid floral tribute to the martyrs’ memorial, after which a minute’s silence for the martyrs was observed.
The inaugural session began with a revolutionary song performed by the Andhra Pradesh Jansanskritika Mandali. AIPWA leaders and guests were seated on the dais – including AIPWA President Srilata Swaminathan, General Secretary Meena Tiwari, Sanjila Ghising, General Secretary of the Democratic Revolutionary Women’s Front (DRWF) of Darjeeling, Durga Bhawani, State Vice President of NFIW, Challapalli Vijaya, State President of the Stree Vimukti Sangathan, AIPWA Vice Presidents Saroj Chaubey and Pratima Engheepi, National Secretaries Nagmani, Chaitali Sen, Shashi Yadav, Sunita, and AIPWA leaders from all states.
The Conference was inaugurated by AIPWA National President Srilata Swaminathan. In her inaugural address, Comrade Srilata said that governments and the powerful sections of society are only giving women discrimination, violence, and insults. But women are determined to resist all this, and will fight and win jobs, freedom, and dignity. She spoke of the many forms of discrimination and violence being faced by women in India, and of AIPWA’s struggles against the same.
Addressing the gathered women, Comrade Nagamani, State Secretary of AIPWA in Andhra Pradesh, spoke of women’s struggles against exploitative MFIs, against rapes and acid attacks in the state. She said women from all over the country had rejected and protested the shameful statement by Andhra Pradesh DGP Dinesh Reddy, that women ‘invited’ rape by ‘provocative’ clothes.
Comrade Durga Bhawani, State Vice President of NFIW, and Challapalli Vijaya, State President of the Stree Vimukti Sangathan addressed the inaugural session, expressing good wishes for the Conference, and calling for united struggles by women and women’s groups against the many challenges faced by the women’s movement.
Comrade Sanjila Ghising of the DRWF spoke of the dual struggle of the women from Darjeeling: for their national identity, as well as for women’s rights. After her speech, comrades of the DRWF felicitated all the AIPWA leaders and guests by draping scarves representing the Gorkha cultural tradition.
Comrade Meena Tiwari, National General Secretary of AIPWA, gave the concluding address at the Inaugural session. She said that the women marching on Vijaywada’s streets, were raising slogans in different languages – but their spirit was the same: they were determined to resist oppression and win women’s rights. She said that the Prime Minister and President had recently said that India’s scores on sex ratio, maternal mortality, and other social indicators of women’s well-being are a ‘national shame.’ But, she said, these leaders had no right to call the situation of women a national shame, because their own policies are responsible above all for this shameful state of affairs.
Not only the market, but even the Government, she said, were treating women like cheap labour and objects of exploitation. Not only is their labour inside the home unpaid, even their work outside in Government schemes, remains shamefully underpaid. She said, “History is witness that whatever rights women have achieved have only been through women’s own struggles. We’ll carry forward that legacy, and fight and win jobs, freedom, and dignity for women.”
The Inaugural session was conducted by AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishnan.
The delegate session of the 6th National Conference continued in the evening of 8 February as well as on 9th February. 425 women delegates from 17 states discussed their experiences of struggles, and to plan how to confront the challenges facing the women’s movement today. A presidium comprising Comrades Saroj Chaubey, Gauri De, Gunni Oran, Bhadrawati, Jasbir Kaur, Mona Lisa Tissopi, Thenmozhi, Gandhimati, T Aruna and Kavita Krishnan conducted the Conference.
Solidarity Messages from the South Asia Solidarity Group (London) and Working Women Alliance of Bangladesh (Bangladesh Sramajibi Nari Moitree) were read out at the Conference.
Women workers in ASHA, anganwadi, and mid-day meal schemes in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Assam and other states shared their experiences of how they work in crucial health and education schemes of the central government, yet they are paid only a pittance of honorarium and no regular salary, with no job security. It was decided that AIPWA would intensify its efforts to organise these lakhs of women workers to secure their rightful place as government employees.
Women delegates discussed their experiences of struggles against many instances of atrocities against women by police officers and powerful people, including MLAs. They noted that in many cases of rape and harassment, we saw that the perpetrators get open protection of police stations and MLAs. It is difficult even to lodge an FIR, and even if one succeeds in lodging an FIR, the accused are not arrested.
Women from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Punjab discussed the phenomenon of ‘honour’ killings. In these states, ‘khap panchayats’ have harassed and even killed couples who marry by choice, breaking caste traditions. Women from other states said that in fact, this phenomenon is spreading across the country. If women marry by choice, they are either forced to marry someone else, or killed. The Conference stressed that is needed to resist such assaults on women’s right to decide about their own life.
Women discussed the struggles of women who are members of SHGs and exploited by Micro finance institutions. They demanded a ban on MFIs and easy government bank loans for women.
The Conference stressed the need to struggle for women’s right to dignified and secure jobs, which are crucial for women’s self-reliance. The Conference also condemned the Law Ministry’s proposal to dilute and dowry harassment law (Section 498 A).
The Conference elected a 95-member National Council, which in turn elected a 31-member National Executive. Comrades Srilata Swaminathan and Meena Tiwari were re-elected National President and Secretary, while Comrades Saroj Chaubey, Tahira Hasan, Kumudini Pati, Rati Rao, Medha Thatte, Mukta Manohar, Bharti S Kumar, Pratima Engheepi, Susheela Tigga, Anju Borkataky, Premlata Pandey and Sudha Choudhury were elected Vice Presidents, and Comrades Sunita, Anjali, Shashi Yadav, Chaitali Sen, R Nagamani, and Kavita Krishnan were elected National Secretaries.
The Conference passed resolutions demanding cancellation of the Assembly membership of the BJP MLAs of Karnataka Assembly who were caught watching a gang-rape video inside the Assembly; demanding that the Andhra Pradesh DGP who blamed women for provoking rape, be made to quit; condemning the Norway government’s decision to separate two children of Indian origin from their parents on flimsy grounds; rejecting the Government’s food security bill as a farce, and demanding a genuine food security bill that would truly address the widespread malnutrition and hunger, especially of women and children; expressing protest against the gang rape and murderous assault of a dalit girl by goons of the ruling BJD in Odisha, and condemning the Odisha Women’s Commission report that denied the gang rape took place; expressing solidarity with the struggle for a separate Gorkhaland and Telangana; and condemning the violence on anti-nuclear protestors including a large number of women at Koodankulam, and demanded scrapping of the Koodankulam project.
Comrade T Aruna delivered a vote of thanks to all those who helped to make the Conference a success. CPI(ML)’s Andhra Pradesh Secretary, Comrade Murthy, expressed good wishes for the AIPWA Conference and confidence that AIPWA would grow stronger in the days to come.
Delegates at the Conference responded to a call for funds for the forthcoming 9th Party Congress of the CPI(ML), and contributed to a collection in the Conference hall itself.
All the volunteers from Andhra Pradesh and other states were warmly felicitated and thanked for their immense efforts in making the Conference a success.
On the evening of 8 February, a cultural evening was organised, in which women from almost all the states participated with great enthusiasm, expressing the progressive and struggling cultural aspect of the women’s movement very well. The artists depicted their local struggles through folk dances and songs, as well as in individual compositions and poetry. The music and dance expressed struggles against the corporate plunder of land and resources, repression on people’s resistance, women’s resistance against inequality and violence, and their struggle for dignity and rights.
An important part of the cultural aspect of the Conference was a painting exhibition on the theme, “Women’s oppression, Women’s Resistance,” by two young artists, Anupam Roy and Bablu Paul, and a poster exhibition by Kusum Verma from Varanasi. The exhibition of posters and paintings began on the first day, and continued till the end of the Conference. The paintings, prepared over a period of two months of painstaking and tireless efforts by the artists, were appreciated by several intellectuals as well as by the delegates from various states.
In the morning, Lambada women dressed in their traditional costume, and comrades of the Andhra Pradesh Jan Sanskritika Mandali dressed in red with red flags aloft, had led the Rally, while women from many states spontaneously joined them in dancing.
The cultural evening began with a graceful Bihu dance by Assam AIPWA comrades. Comrade Nagamani of Kakinada along with her team members, presented rousing songs that had the audience clapping to the beat, and also performed a musical play. Tamilnadu’s AIPWA comrades presented a song and dance, and Jharkhand’s women’s cultural team, Prerna, presented a traditional ‘jhoomar’ dance. Narender Kaur and Kiran of Punjab, Sunetra Sengupta of West Bengal, Kusum Verma of Varanasi recited poetry related to women’s lives and struggles. The team of Karbi Anglong women comrades presented progressive and revolutionary Karbi songs. Many women comrades sang individual songs –in Kudukh and Santhali languages, in Tamil, Assamese, Kannada and in many of the languages of Bihar. Comrade Meera Chaturvedi of West Bengal sang several songs in Bhojpuri, Bengali, Nepali, and, when requested by the audience, in Assamese too.
In response to ‘Why this Kolaveri,’ (‘kolaveri’ means ‘killer rage’ in Tamil), Comrade Srilata Swaminathan sang a spirited ‘We want Kolaveri,’ on the women’s movement and AIPWA’s struggles.
The cultural evening was conducted by AIPWA National Executive member Uma Gupta. The number of women participants in the cultural evening kept growing longer, and eventually, the programme had to be regretfully concluded, though the songs and dances continued even at the places where the delegates were staying! What was remarkable was that the participants ranged from 20-year-old Lakhimani from Jharkhand to 70-year-old Lakhrani Kunwar from Bihar.
Protest March at Garhwa Against State Repression
On 13 February, a massive and spirited protest march took place against the ongoing state repression and witch-hunt of ordinary villagers and CPI(ML) activists in the name of combating Maoists. Defying rain, and heavy intimidatory police deployment, thousands of men and women participated in the march and mass meeting.
Marching with red flags aloft, protestors demanded the release of CPI(ML) comrades Ramdas Minz (elected mukhiya of Badgad village), and Fida Husain, and an end to the harassment and repression of villagers and CPI(ML) activists in Garhwa and the rest of Jharkhand in the name of combating Maoists. Comrades Ramdas Minz and Fida Husain had been arrested in the course of a struggle on a local issue, and were subsequently tortured and booked for collusion in a land mine blast conducted by the Maoists. While both were taken into police custody on 21 January itself, their arrest has been shown on 23 January and they were produced in court on 24 January.
CPI(ML)’s Comrade Sita Paswan's family has not yet been provided with the seizure list of items confiscated during the police raid, though the police has claimed that false currency was found during the raid.
Recently, facts came to light regarding the brutal killing of a deaf and mute cattle herder, Lucas Minz, by CRPF personal in Latehar district of Jharkhand. The incident reportedly took place on January 31, 2012, during the joint operation by the CRPF and District Police, who claimed to be conducting an operation against Maoists. Lucas Minz, who was herding cattle near Koel River, was reportedly shot dead when, being mute, he failed to respond to queries by CRPF and Police Jawans. Having shot him dead, the security forces buried him in the sands. His family hunted in vain for him, and only on 6 February, villagers found the body and identified it. But the police then threatened the villagers and Minz’s family with dire consequences, and forced them to bury the body again. Only on February 12, did the family, assisted by CPI(ML)’s Latehar comrades, forced the police to file an FIR against the brutal killing. In another incident on January 1, a driver named Rajendra Yadav was also branded a ‘Maoist’ and gunned down by police. The CPI(ML)’s protest march on 13 February demanded justice for Lucas Minz and Rajendra Yadav, and severe punishment for their killers.
Marching at the head of the procession were Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary of CPI(ML), Comrade Janardan, State Secretary of the party in Jharkhand, Rajaram Singh, Central Committee member of CPI(ML), Vinod Singh, CPI(ML) MLA in the Jharkhand Assembly, Sushma Mehta, Zila Parishad Chairperson, Rahina Begum, pramukh of Danda panchayat, Comrades Sogra Bibi, and Kishore Kumar. The mass meeting was presided over by Comrade Kalicharan Mehta. Comrade Ravindra Rai conducted the proceedings. The chief speaker at the meeting was Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, and other speakers included Comrade Vinod Singh, Comrade Rajaram Singh, Comrade Rahina Begum, Comrade Sogra Bibi, Comrade Kanhai Singh of Latehar, and Suneeta Kerketta, wife of Comrade Ramdas Minz.
Jharkhand CM Arjun Munda had visited Garhwa on February 12 and was in Garhwa till the morning of February 13. The protestors raised spirited slogans against Munda, and demanded that the CM answer for the killing of Lucas Minz and arrests of innocent villagers and CPI(ML) activists.