Presidential Poll 2012 and Beyond
As anticipated, Pranab Mukherjee has won the Presidential race hands down. With the UPA eventually staying intact, and support coming in from sections of NDA as well as the Left Front, as from formally unaffiliated parties like the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal, Pranab Mukherjee’s emphatic victory was a foregone conclusion. Pranab Mukherjee has not just been a prominent Congress leader, but a crucial architect and custodian of the pro-US neoliberal order that has been shaped over the last two decades. Only the future can tell us the implications of having such a key bourgeois leader as the President of India.
The Congress has definitely used this occasion to the hilt to try and shore up its fortunes and corner its rivals. The resounding victory of Pranab Mukherjee in the Presidential election marks an eloquent contrast to the pathetic performance of the Congress in all recent Assembly elections and by-elections. This has certainly been possible only because the Presidential election is an indirect election and it does not directly reflect the public mood or the real situation on the ground. To treat the Presidential election outcome as a sign of turnaround for the Congress will therefore be clearly premature and unrealistic. In fact, the Congress wanted a key leader as President precisely in anticipation of a hung Parliament in 2014 where the Congress could well lose its position as the single largest party.
Yet the fact remains that it is the BJP which has emerged the biggest loser in the Presidential poll. For the BJP it could have been an opportunity to showcase the renewed potential of the NDA as the rallying point for non-Congress non-Left forces. But in the event, two of the BJP’s long-standing allies, Shiv Sena and the JD(U), deserted the BJP and sided with the Congress, indicating clearly that in today’s politics, corporate preference prevails over ‘coalition dharma,’ or more precisely, it is corporate power that can easily make or unmake bourgeois coalitions. Mr. PA Sangma, whose candidature was eventually backed by the BJP, was actually fielded by two regional parties, the AIADMK of Tamil Nadu and BJD of Odisha, and the BJP was left without any initiative.
The Presidential election over, the ruling coalition is now getting ready for the next big battle, the 2014 Lok Sabha election. The drama of political succession in the Congress seems ready for resolution and Rahul Gandhi has declared his intent to play a bigger ‘pro-active role’ in the affairs of the Congress party and UPA government. Meanwhile, the pressure on Manmohan Singh to ‘perform’ has been on the increase from Indian corporates as well as Western powers. The Time magazine ran a cover story branding Singh an ‘underachiever’, Obama openly called for a freer flow of FDI into India, a British daily ridiculed Singh as Sonia’s poodle, and Ratan Tata, while recalling Singh’s role as the architect of neoliberal reforms, also added a quiet reminder that it was time for Singh to step up the gas. By every indication, the Congress will try to use the last two years of the lame duck Prime Minister to intensify the neoliberal economic assault, while doing everything possible to project Rahul and corner the BJP/NDA over the issue of leadership.
The Congress looks forward to a Rahul Gandhi versus Narendra Modi showdown in 2014. The forthcoming Gujarat election would also have the same theme, but this mini battle will be played on Modi’s home turf, while the bigger battle in 2014, the Congress hopes, may work more favourably for the Congress. While it will surely rattle the NDA by forcing parties like the JD(U) to take a final call, the Samajwadi Party and the CPI(M) would have no problem aligning with the Congress in such a scenario. The Congress also hopes that the anti-Congress edge of the anti-corruption public mood would be blunted with time, what with governments led by the BJP and other parties all getting equally embroiled in mega scams.
Against this backdrop, the coming days are crucial for the people’s movement in the country. The mass resentment against corruption and economic crisis and the aspiration for change must be pushed in a radical direction. What need to be changed are the policies that govern the economy and the country, and not a mere rhetorical shift in slogans and a generation change in leadership. The crisis of the Congress and the waning support for the BJP could be an ideal moment for the Left and its politics of social transformation and people’s rights. What the CPI(M)’s decision to support the Congress in the Presidential election amounts to is an injustice to this great possibility, and a complete abdication of the political responsibility of the Left. The organisations and struggles of the working people and the progressive intelligentsia must reject and overturn the suicidal course of the CPI(M), and press for a determined advance against the corporate plunder, social injustice and violation of democracy.
Captain Lakshmi Sehgal Passes Away
Legendary freedom fighter and leader of the women’s regiment of the Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army) Captain Lakshmi Sehgal passed away of a heart attack on 23 July. She was 97.
Trained as a doctor, Captain Lakshmi had been working a doctor in Singapore when she came in contact with Subhash Chandra Bose. She came to lead the Rani Jhansi women's regiment of the Indian National Army in 1943. She was captured by the British and brought back to India in 1946. She married another INA comrade, Prem Sehgal.
As a doctor in Kanpur, she worked tirelessly and generously to provide the best medical care to the poor, especially women and children. She was dedicated to the cause of women's liberation, and was staunch in her lifelong commitment to the Left movement. In 2002, she contested as the Left candidate for the post of President.
Captain Lakshmi will always be fondly remembered and revered by people all over the country for her unassuming nature, her simplicity, her anti-imperialist role, and her spirit of public service. And Left ranks will always find inspiration in her unwavering commitment to revolutionary struggles for social transformation. CPI(ML) dips its flag to the memory of Captain Lakshmi Sehgal, and expresses heartfelt condolences to her family and comrades.
Red Salute to Captain Lakshmi Sehgal!
Atrocities on Dalit Youth Leading Struggle Over Land
On July 15, Tika Ram was among the youths from Ramgarh village in Dadri who attended the Convention on Bathani Tola in Delhi, and spoke of their struggle against the grab of land allocated to dalits by the gram pradhan Kuldeep Bhati.
On July 20, Tika Ram was found on the railway tracks, his body mutilated and both legs severed. Doctors at the AIIMS Trauma Centre have had to further amputate his legs to save his life, which is still in danger. Meanwhile, four other youth leaders of the struggle against land grab have been jailed – on fabricated charges of shooting a girl.
The murderous assault on Tika Ram, and the arrest of his comrades, is the latest in a series of violent acts – all aimed at punishing those dalits who dared oppose the grab of land by the powerful gram pradhan who is of the dominant Gujjar community.
Way back when Mayawati was still in power, Brahm Jatav and some other dalit youths raised their voice against the move by Kuldeep Bhati, gram pradhan, to grab 4.75 bighas of panchayat land allocated to dalits as homestead land. Bhati and his supporters encircled the dalits’ land and homes with a 7-foot-high wall. On March 14, to punish Brahm Jatav and others for daring to protest, Bhati and his thugs attacked the dalit hamlet, seriously injuring around 30 people, mostly women.
In spite of repeated protests since then, Gautam Buddh Nagar district administration has not lifted a finger to end the illegal encirclement of dalit land, and the perpetrators of the March 14 attack were not arrested. Bhati and his supporters repeatedly warned that they would ‘teach a lesson’ to the dalit youths and ensure that they never dared to raise their voice again.
On the night of July 19, a dalit girl was injured by a bullet inside her own home. The same night, Tika Ram went missing from the front yard of his house, where he had been sleeping. In the early morning of July 20, police arrived and arrested Brahm Jatav, Veerpal, Roshan and Guddan from their homes, charging them with shooting the girl. They charged Tika Ram also with the shooting. It was then that Tika Ram’s family realized he was missing, and looked for him. They found him lying mutilated near the railway tracks. When Tika Ram regained consciousness, he told his family that four people – Nepal, Dayaram, Anil Bhati alias Kalu and Kuldeep Bhati, kidnapped him at gun-point from the front of his house.
Throughout the day of July 20, while Tika Ram battled for life, the police refused to arrest those whom he had named as his attackers. It was only after a gherao of the police station for several hours by dalit women and children, led by RYA leader Aslam Khan, that the police finally agreed to lodge an FIR in the night. Subsequently Dayaram and Kalu (Anil Bhati) have been arrested, but Nepal and Kuldeep Bhati continue to be at large. The main accused Kuldeep Bhati, in fact, is seen openly moving around the village with a police gunner – yet the police claim inability to arrest him. The dominant Gujjars have been audacious enough to protest against the arrest of Anil Bhati – and the Greater NOIDA police and administration are clearly under their thumb. They continue to terrorise the dalits daily, and there is every danger that more atrocities and acts of violence against dalits may occur at any time. The police has even withdrawn the security that it had initially provided for a short time.
Right from the beginning, a small section of dalits in the village have been acting as agents for Kuldeep Bhati and his supporters. With their help, Bhati has falsely implicated the main dalit youth leaders, in order to deflect from the land struggle. As a result, the land struggle has indeed been pushed back, with the main dalit leaders having to fight to prove their innocence against the cooked-up 'attempt to murder' charges. The sheer horror of Tika Ram’s mutilation too is aimed as a deterrent for the dalits to continue with their struggle to defend their land.
The RYA and CPI(ML) are demanding that, since the Greater NOIDA administration’s bias is apparent, an impartial judicial enquiry be ordered to establish who in fact shot at the dalit girl, and who are responsible for the murderous attack and mutilation of Tika Ram. The four innocent youths who have nothing whatsoever to do with the shooting of the girl, that happened within the four walls of her own house, must be freed without delay, and the charges of attempted murder withdrawn. Round-the-clock police protection must be provided for all the dalit families in the village.
The Greater NOIDA administration must answer as to why the illegal 7-foot wall erected around common panchayat land is yet to be demolished. The wall must be demolished and the land allocated amongst dalits, and the latter must be given possession of the land. The UP Government and Greater NOIDA administration must also answer why Kuldeep Bhati, who himself is guilty of grabbing panchayat land and unleashing a spate of violent atrocities on dalits, is yet to be removed from his position as gram pradhan.
Protest Against Witch-Hunt of Maruti Workers
On 18 July, yet another scene of violence in the auto industry was enacted, which claimed the life of an HR manager. What was responsible for this tragic sequence of events – which keeps being repeated in factory after factory in India?
The mainstream media is baying for the blood of the workers, accusing them of being bloodthirsty, ‘instigated by Maoists’, and so on. More than 90 workers have been jailed. The incident is being used as a pretext to prescribe stringent ‘reform’ in labour laws. The very root of the problem is being touted as the solution.
What made the workers erupt in fury that day? According to the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU), negotiations were underway on the charter of demands submitted by the Union. On 18 July, a supervisor on the shop floor made a casteist remark against a dalit worker of the permanent category. The latter protested – but he was suspended, while no action was taken against the supervisor. It is a tribute to the unity of the workers that all the permanent and contract workers, irrespective of caste, rose up to protest this discrimination. The workers approached the HR to revoke the suspension and act against the supervisor, but the HR officials refused. Negotiations were ongoing, but meanwhile the HR officials, as is common, brought in ‘bouncers’ (thugs) to intimidate the Union members. Hearing this, the gathered workers entered the factory. When the thugs attacked with sharp weapons and arms, the workers retaliated. In the ensuing mayhem, the HR department caught fire – and it was that fire that claimed the life of the HR manager.
Clearly, it is not just the khap panchayats that are a sign of stubborn feudal remnants in Haryana’s industrial semi-urban belt. The use of casteist slurs to discipline workers in a prestigious Japanese collaboration automobile factory is yet another such sign. Compounding this state of affairs, is the fact of blatant, open, violations of Contract Labour and other labour laws; and the total denial of industrial democracy, whereby thugs are routinely called in to deal with any instances of collective bargaining or Union negotiation. Unless some modicum of democracy and dignity can be guaranteed to the workers in India’s industries, the tragedies of Pricol, Graziano, and Maruti will keep being repeated.
The AICCTU called for a countrywide protest day on 19 July in solidarity with the Maruti workers. A protest demonstration was held at Jantar Mantar, which was addressed by AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee as well as AICCTU leaders from Delhi. In Tamilnadu, AICCTU released a poster on 19 July demanding unconditional release of arrested workers and a stop to further arrests. Over 500 Pricol workers staged a demonstration at the factory gate on 19 July demanding release of the workers and a high level judicial enquiry into the issue. They also demanded that the factory be opened immediately. A demonstration was held in Ambattur on 20 July, in which over 175 workers participated. Comrade S Kumarasami, PBM of CPI(ML) and AICCTU All India President addressed the gathering.
AIPWA Protests Violence on Women in UP
AIPWA held protests in several districts against the mob sexual assault on a schoolgirl in Guwahati and on the khap panchayat diktat curbing women’s rights in Baghpat district of UP.
At Varanasi, AIPWA organized a protest march against the Guwahati mob assault, in which university students and teachers as well as human rights activists wore black badges and demanded prosecution of all those responsible for the assault and demanding resignation of the Assam Chief Minister. AIPWA also observed that the NCW had displayed the worst insensitivity during its visit to Assam, and demanded that representatives of women’s organizations and the women’s movement should find a place in the NCW rather than ruling party nominees. The protest was led by AIPWA National Executive member Kusum Verma.
AIPWA burnt the effigy of khap panchayats in the state capital, Lucknow, to protest against the recent diktat announced by a khap panchayat in Baghpat, banning women from wearing jeans, using mobile phones, going to the market alone or having love marriages. AIPWA Vice President Tahira Hasan led the protest.
At Patwara village of Paliya Kalan block of Lakhimpur district, a local thug Paramjit Singh (who owns a liquor factory and is an agent of the ruling party) held a 45-year-old woman captive in his house, beat her up, stripped her naked, put spice powder in her private parts and threw her on the streets. The police had not even registered an FIR. Hearing of the news from the media, an AIPWA team led by District President Arti Rai met the victim and organized women in her support in the village. AIPWA organized a protest demonstration at Paliya block, in which 200 women from the village participated, demanding the immediate arrest of Paramjit Singh, and protection and compensation for the victim. The protestors also submitted a memorandum to the President against the incidents at Guwahati and Baghpat. AIPWA leaders Arti Rai, Sudha Singh, Mala Singh, and others participated in the protest.
AIPWA units of Devaria and Gorakhpur, led by Geeta Pandey and Jagdamba respectively, also submitted memoranda to the President against the incidents at Guwahati and Baghpat.
AICCTU Workshop in Tamil Nadu
TN AICCTU held a State Council cum workshop in Chennai on 21 – 22 July. Preparations started a few months back. The topics taken up in the workshop are as follows:
1. a) wage labor and capital; b) value, price, profit
2. What is to be done?
3. Discussions on tactics.
4. Presentations of Papers for different sectors and a general paper on future work.
On the first topic some 35 questions were formulated and circulated through Orumaipadu (Tamil Solidarity magazine). On 'What is to be done?' A separate note was circulated with crucial extracts from 'What is to be done?' and other writings of Lenin. An article on how to grasp 'What is to be done?' was also circulated. On the fourth subject, papers were presented on construction labor, migrant labor, beedi, power loom work and contract labor. The state conference report’s concluding part of tasks and challenges were taken up as the general paper. Since a popular booklet on the issues of trainees was published with 5000 copies, there was no separate paper on that subject.
The state council cum workshop was presided over by comrades S.Jawahar, N.K.Natarajan, T.Sankarapandian, A.S.Kumar, Bhuvana. The meeting was inaugurated by Balasundaram, Secretary, TN CPIML. S.Kumarasami, AICCTU National President was also present and spoke on the first, second and fourth topics.
Jawahar presented the first topic and initiated the discussions. N.K.Natarajan presented the second topic. Gurusami, a Pricol worker leader captivated the house with his rousing presentation of different tactics at different situations. Paper on construction was presented by Desikan, on contract labor by Eraniappan, on beedi by Sankarapandian, on power loom by Govindaraj, on migrant labor by Sekar and the general paper was presented by A.S.Kumar.
Teams from MRF, defence, electricity board, TN civil supplies corporation, co-optex and representatives from beedi, power loom, construction, migrant labor and employees from Pricol, Government Press, TI Diamond Chain, Hyundai, Onload gears, Gymkhana club, Kanchi Kamakoti Hospitals and other factories and organization in Chennai participated. There was a constant participation of 120 and a varying participation of 80.
2 comrades from Karnataka AICCTU attended the meeting. Balasubramaniam AICCTU National Secretary from Puducherry, also spoke in the meeting.
The meeting resolved to take up a campaign from August 15 on working class issues in the form of padayatras which will culminate in the CPIML jail bharao program on August 31. For this purpose in all districts a general body meeting will be held on August 15.
The meeting also resolved to launch a big campaign demanding the convening of a special session of the Assembly to discuss working class issues by the end of this year or in early 2013. In this campaign a signature campaign and two yatras from Kanyakumari and Coimbatore may be clubbed. All comrades felt that this meeting will be a stepping stone for AICCTU’s next round of progress in the state.
Inauguration of Charu Bhawan
[Central Office, CPI(ML)]
Installation of Bust of Comrade Charu Mazumdar
28 July 2012
And Book Release:
Charu Mazumdar: The Man and His Legacy
U-90 Shakarpur, Delhi-92
1 pm onwards
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication,
R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22518248, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.cpiml.org