On July 25 Team Anna launched yet another fast at Jantar Mantar. Spearheading the campaign this time was Arvind Kejriwal, demanding a Special Investigation Team to probe more than a dozen key members of the UPA cabinet including the Prime Minister and his erstwhile Finance Minister who had by then been elevated to the post of the President. The Anna agitation which had shot into fame in April 2011 as a non-party campaign for a stringent Jan Lokpal legislation was clearly on the lookout for a sharper political edge. Yet the fast could not generate the kind of mass interest that had been witnessed at Jantar Mantar in April 2011 or at Ramlila Maida in August 2011.
Ten days into the campaign, the fast was called off amidst talks of a transition from agitational mobilization to providing the people with a political alternative. Kejriwal promised to build a party through public consultation and stressed the need to intervene in the political process and enter the parliamentary arena to effect political changes while former Army chief VK Singh, the star attraction of the concluding day, delivered a speech that sounded an unmistakable readiness to face an electoral battle. Even as Team Anna members and supporters started debating the wisdom of this decision to go political and electoral, Anna announced that Team Anna's work was over and the Core Committee stood dissolved.
Ardent Anna supporters may liken this Anna decision to Gandhi's suggestion after 1947 to dissolve the Congress now that political independence had been won. The Congress of course paid no heed to Gandhi's suggestion and went on to consolidate itself as the premier ruling party with the full backing of the developing Indian bourgeoisie. But in Gandhi's case, he could rightfully claim that the colonial rulers had quit India, whereas for Anna and his now-dissolved Team even the limited goal of Jan Lokpal is still nowhere in sight. It should of course be noted that while dissolving Team Anna and its Core Committee, Anna too talks about providing a 'political alternative' by fielding honest candidates in the 2014 elections.
The difference between the two approaches – one being apparently advocated by Kejriwal and the other attributed to Anna – therefore boils down to the way the 'alternative' is to be constructed, whether by building a party and taking a plunge into electoral contests or by selecting and helping 'honest candidates' (probably cutting across parties) to win. Anna claims that he has already successfully applied this model in Maharashtra when 8 of 12 candidates supported by him won in Assembly elections. It would be instructive if Anna would let us know who these eight MLAs are and what kind of alternative they have provided in Maharashtra. The two contending dominant coalitions in Maharashtra and even parties like MNS that are formally not part of either coalition are all notorious for the worst kind of political venality marked not only by competitive corruption and criminalization, but also by communal and chauvinistic frenzy. Even if Anna's MLAs can boast of personal honesty, their politics has obviously failed to pose any kind of alternative or challenge to this dominant political paradigm.
While Anna and Kejriwal may differ in their specific modalities, both seem to agree that they have had enough of agitation and it was pointless to continue with the agitation against an apathetic and arrogant government. Well, what has happened in the name of agitation is a series of fasts in which the masses had little scope to participate. There have been talks of other agitational forms like 'jail bharo' but the calls have never been translated into action. The ultimate logic and strength of mass agitation lies precisely in exposing, challenging, isolating, and eventually compelling reluctant and arrogant rulers to concede the people's demands, yet for reasons best known to them, the Anna agitation has avoided the course of a decisive showdown with the powers that be. And now to argue that the agitation has already run its full course belies the hope, enthusiasm and anti-corruption spirit with which young India had welcomed the Anna agitation.
Equally unacceptable are the overtures and signals of a growing bonhomie between the Anna camp and Baba Ramdev. In the initial days of the Anna campaign, there were attempts to maintain some distance and demarcation from Ramdev and his ilk, but even as the Ramdev aura began to fade among his own supporters in the wake of last year's Ramlila Maidan episode and Ramdev began to hobnob openly with the likes of Narendra Modi, Anna Hazare has been making common cause with the dubious Baba.
The anti-corruption movement cannot be run on the lines of the so-called single-issue 'social movements' especially when corruption flows directly from the pro-market, pro-corporate policies of liberalization and privatization and flourishes in the corridors of power. The belated realization of Team Anna about the need to go political and intervene in electoral battles marks a welcome departure and evolution from its initial non-political and even anti-political protestations. But while the interest of people's politics demands a sustained intensification and broadening of the Jan Lokpal agitation in closer alliance with the entire range of anti-corporate pro-democracy struggles in the country, the decision to suspend the very agitation in the name of political alternative can only be treated as a negative lesson, a telling example of how not to go about politics.
Cadre Convention of Assam AIPWA
A state-level cadre Convention of the Assam unit of AIPWA was held on 22 July at Nagaon. 39 delegates from 6 districts participated in the Convention.
The Convention was conducted by a Presidium comprising Raju Barua and Bhadravati Gogoi. A perspective on the political situation in Assam and AIPWA's organisational situation was presented by the caretaker Secretary Minali Devi. CPI(ML) Politburo member Rubul Sarma and State Secretary Vivek Das addressed the Convention, and spoke of the challenges before the women's organisation, and the need to strengthen AIPWA.
AIPWA National Vice President Saroj Chaubey, addressing the Convention, spoke of the horrific instance of mob sexual assault on a schoolgirl in Guwahati. Not long ago, an adivasi girl protestor was stripped naked in Guwahati. Women in Assam and the North East are bearing the brunt of draconian laws like AFSPA and violence by security forces. Women workers are facing severe exploitation. She called for AIPWA to intensify the struggle against violence on women and for women's rights.
At the Convention, a reorganised 17-member state committee of AIPWA was constituted, with Anju Borkataky as honorary President, Bhadravati Gogoi as President, Raju Barua as Vice President, Minali Devi as Secretary, Junu Borah as publication secretary.
AIPWA Protest Against Violence on Women in Patna
Contrary to the hype about curbing of crime and empowerment of women in Nitish's Bihar, violence on women is on the rise. The murder of Neelam Sharma, Principal of Ankur Public School, by intruders who entered her home in broad daylight, in the state capital, was reminiscent of the murder of the Papiya Ghosh murder that took place in RJD rule. A woman mukhiya of Kurthaul panchayat near Patna also took place at the hands of intruders in her home in daylight. A schoolgirl was gangraped by four of her classmates, from prominent families in Patna, who circulated an MMS of the rape. They were arrested following an agitation.
An AIPWA fact-finding team headed by General Secretary Meena Tiwari visited the site of Neelam Sharma's murder. AIPWA called for a Patna bandh in protest against the murder. A team of AIPWA's Patna rural unit headed by district secretary Leelavati investigated the murder of the Kurthaul mukhiya, and held a protest in which the effigy of the Chief Minister was burnt.
A joint dharna by women's groups was held in Patna against the MMS incident, which was addressed by Saroj Chaubey on behalf of AIPWA.
Martyrdom day of Comrade Saroj Dutta observed on 5th August
Revolutionary leader comrade Saroj Dutta was assassinated in a fake encounter in Kolkata during the black era of brutal state crackdown coming down heavily on the Naxalbari movement. Comrade SD's 41st martyrdom day was observed on the fifth of this month. A commemoration programme was held at 2 pm, adjacent to Curzon Park in Kolkata, where comrade Saroj Dutta's statue stands a few hundreds of meters away from Aryans Maidan, where police had shot him down in the early hours of 5th August 1971.
In the evening, Paschimbanga Gana Sanskriti Parishad organized a three-hour long discussion, in memory of the fearless journalist-writer-poet comrade SD, at the Mahabodhi Society Hall adjacent to College Square. The discussion focussed on examining the role of intellectuals, artists, singers, writers, filmmakers, scientists and journalists in a society where even basic democratic and civil rights are being threatened with impunity, and yet, a culture of sycophancy prevails in the 'mainstream' cultural arena, intellectuals and artists are sold out on the state payroll and all expressions of resistance are being routinely suppressed. That the need of the hour (in the present political climate of West Bengal) is to resist this culture of sycophancy and abominable co-opting of public cultural space by building a united platform of all democratic and left cultural activists and groups was unanimously agreed. An appeal was made towards the realization of such a platform where people's voice, and not that of the ruling class, would be magnified. Prof. Amit Dasgupta, cultural activists and singers Nitish Roy, Bipul Chakrabarty, essayist Dr. Amitabha Chakrabarty, Shyamal Mukherjee (of Angan Mancha theater), Krishna Bandyoadhyay, Salil Biswas, Jayanta Sen, poet Anik Rudra and several others took part in the discussion.
Convention against eviction held by Nonadanga Sanhati Mancha
The ongoing eviction drive at Nonadanga has brought larger questions of urbanization-induced displacement to the fore. To protest recent eviction drives, imminent evictions, and share experiences of struggles against earlier forced displacements, a Convention was held on 27th July at Student's Hall, Kolkata. Bidhu Naskar, Maya Samaddar, Khokon Bar, Jaya Ghosh, Khokon Mandal, Prashanta Seth and other victims of eviction shared the dais. Prabir Das of Nonadanga Sanhati Mancha delivered the keynote address. Other notable speakers included Santosh Rana and Dhiresh Goswami.
Visit of violence-hit areas by CPI(ML) Team
A team of CPI(ML) leaders comprising of Assam State Secretary Com. Bibek Das, State members Com. Naren Borah and Arup Kr. Mahanta, Barpeta district committee members Dulal Sarkar, Babulal Sarkar, Mafijuddin, Harilal Das, Biren Ghosh visited violence-hit BTC areas and relief camps on 2nd August last. During the visit they met affected people of different cross sections of the society and heard about different incidents. Although the violence started on 19th July, the tension prevailed for the last one month or so. The Government totally failed to control the situation; and no effective administrative step was taken either on the part of the state Government or the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) to control situation and help the victims. It seems that there is no local authority to control the clash between Bodos and religious minorities. Administrative inaction, lawlessness, anarchy had permitted to quick spread of violence to the nearby districts.
At first, the killing of two leaders of All Bodoland Minority Students' Union, and there after killing of 4 ex-BLT members, worsened the situation. No prompt action was taken and no enquiry was ordered. As the Government remained inert, a wave of brutal killing and arson gripped Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD). It is worth noting that illegal fire arms were widely used in the violence and the police officers in BTAD openly expressed their helplessness, and even the Sub-Divisional Police Officer of Bijni has sent his resignation letter to the higher authorities, pleading lack of adequate security forces.
Inmates in the relief camps complained of not receiving adequate food and access to safe drinking water. Low quality medicine is being supplied to some relief camps, due to which one person died in the relief camp. The team demanded punishment of the culprits and a high level enquiry into the matter. The inmates of relief camps want to go back to their villages, but due to lack of security of their life and property, they do not dare to move.
BTC Chief Hagrama Mohiliary resorted some provocative remarks alleging a 'Bangladeshi' hand behind this clash. It is nothing but a camouflage to cover up the total failure of the govt. Although Muslim people inhabited in violence-hit Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa (all under BTC, Odalguri, the last district of BTC is not affected) and Dhubri (outside BTC) district, they had no major clash earlier, but clashes started in the process of BTC formation. In BTC area, there is a strong feeling of insecurity among religious minorities, Adivasis and other non-Bodos, and some vested interested groups have been trying to use these sentiments. Similarly, on the part of Bodo leaders, no initiative has been taken to integrate with the minority and other non-Bodo people.
CPI(ML) holds the Tarun Gogoi Government and BTC responsible for the violence, arson and killings. The Tarun Gogoi Government has lost all moral right to continue in the power. CPI(ML) demands a CBI enquiry into the incidents of ethnic violence, and punishment of the culprits.
The party also demands adequate relief materials for the inmates of relief camps and supply of medicine and proper treatment, as well as timely and proper rehabilitation of the displaced people with adequate security in their villages and areas.
CPI(ML) is of the view that the problem of BTAD must be resolved through dialogue with different representatives of different ethnic groups so that the sense of insecurity can be overcome. Both the State Government and BTC administration have failed to show such political good will, thereby leading to aggravation of the problem.
AIPWA Protests At Kolkata
From Park Street to Gurap, from Barasat to Belpahari, from Shibani Singha who consumed poison after being raped by the Jangalmahal police, athlete Pinki Pramanik who underwent harrowing humiliation and sexual abuse in the name of 'medical tests to establish her gender (sic)', or Barun Biswas of Sutia who had organized the local people for more than a decade into a Pratibadi Mancha to stand up against more than 35 rapes of local women committed by a (politically protected) lumpen gang only to be martyred in broad daylight on July 5th: violence on women is escalating at an alarming pace in West Bengal. Instances of Police not registering FIRs of victims, the Chief Minister smelling "conspiracy against her regime", and TMC's elected representatives (of the likes of Chiranjeet) issuing veiled fatwas on women's dress code, perpetrators of each crime going scot-free while blaming and harassment of the victim has become order of the day.
And now comes absolute intolerance of political opposition and the muzzling of protest. The police didn't give permission to AIPWA to hold a rally on August 1. AIPWA activists as well as women and men from Sutia were protesting against recent attacks on women, and had planned to march from College Square to Mahakaran to submit a deputation. Mamata's administration, scared by the proposed women's march, sent three police vans and arrested 34 protesters after initial slogans and even before the rally could begin, who were subsequently kept in Lalbazar lock-up till late evening. In spite of all the administrative paranoia and pre-emptive arrests, the women were spirited throughout. They burnt an effigy of the police and administration, and gave rejuvenating slogans till our release. A set of brilliant posters were on display, songs were sung and the walls of the lock-up painted with slogans and amazing 'jail art' by Anupam Roy. When they were let out, the women's steel resolve to carry the fight forward had only strengthened.
Protests in Solidarity with Maruti workers
On 3rd August, at least 300 people, braving heavy downpour, marched from Subodh Mallik square to Camac street in Kolkata in solidarity with the fighting Maruti workers of Manesar plant. AICCTU, IFTU along with the worker's union from Hindmotor, Bauria cotton mill, Kalyani spinning mill, Garden Rich Ship Builders, and Hindusthan Lever participated in the march. A 5-member team met the regional head of Maruti-Suzuki company and submitted a memorandum demanding immediate release of all arrested workers, cessation of lock out etc. Outside the Maruti office a protest meet was organised. Basudeb Bose, State general secretary of AICCTU spoke on the occasion along with other TU leaders. On 26th July, another solidarity protest demonstration was organised by AICCTU along with NTUI and IFTU in the same venue.
On 27th July 2012 the Democratic Advocate Association organized a demonstration in the Madras High Court campus to support the Maruti workers' struggle. This programme was headed by Bharathi (DAA Organizor) and it was addressed by senior advocates K M Ramesh, Ayyadurai, and M John Selvaraj (Organizer of Indian Lawyers Union). In this programme the protestors demanded release of the Maruti workers, and action against the Maruti management, and also demanded the Tamilnadu government to enact the trade union act and undertake the Nokia, Hyundai, Ford and other foreign and Indian companies.
Protest Against Rape-Murder of Dalit Girl in Uttarakhand
In the early hours of 10 July, the raped dead body of 8 year old dalit girl Sanjana of Tiwarinagar village in Bindukhatta, abducted the night before, was found in the village itself. In spite of heavy police picketing and assurances by the police as well as Cabinet Minister Harishchandra Durgapal (who comes from the same region) that the culprits would be apprehended within 48 hours, no arrests were made even after 10 days.
The Party took steps in this matter and organized a public meeting attended by hundreds of villagers under the banner of the Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha on 19 July. In spite of administrative pressure warning against participation in the meeting, 500 villagers including many women gathered at the Shaheed Smarak for the rally which arrived at the Tehsil by way of the main Bazaar. The demonstration vociferously demanded the immediate arrest of Sanjana's killers.
The meeting was addressed by CPI-ML State secretary Com. Rajendra Pratholi, Com. Raja Bahuguna, District secretary Com. Kailash Pandey, Com. Anand Sijwali, Com. Vimla Rauthan, Com. Man Singh Pal and others. The meeting was conducted by District President of Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha Com. Bahadur Singh Jangi.
Symposium in Nagpur on Bathani Tola Massacre
A symposium on the Bahani Tola massacre was held on Saturday 14. 7. 2012 at the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan Mor Bhavan Auditorium in Nagpur. CPI-ML (Liberation) Polit Bureau member Com. Swapan Mukherjee was the chief speaker at the symposium. Other speakers included CPI-ML (Liberation) Mumbai-Thane Committee secretary Com. Shyam Gohil, Com. C. H. Tumram of the Adivasi Vikas Sabha, Dalit litterateur Dr. Yashwant Manohar and Founder-President of All India Muslim Bahujan Samaj Javed Sheikh. The symposium was presided over by Com. Saroj Meshram, member, CPI-ML (Liberation), Nagpur. Com. Sandhya Talware of CPI-ML (Liberation) Nagpur welcomed the speakers and introduced them to the gathering.
The symposium commenced with the address of Com. Shyam Gohil who pointed out that the common factor in all the massacres like Bathani Tola massacre, Ramabai Ambedkar massacre in Mumbai, 92-93 riots, Khairlanji massacre was that till today the chief accused have not received punishment and are roaming freely with the full protection of the government. Com. C. H. Tumram elaborated upon the atrocities committed on dalits and backed his statements with relevant statistics. Javed Sheikh said that dalits who fight for their rights are branded Naxalites, just as muslims who fight for their rights are branded terrorists. Dr. Yashwant Manohar laid the blame for these massacres at the door of collusion of bourgeois ruling parties with feudal powers.
The chief speaker Com.Swapan Mukherjee pointed out that the real purpose of the Bathani Tola massacre was not just to kill dalits and muslims but to suppress the revolutionary red flag of CPI(ML). The Presidential address was given by Com. Saroj Meshram. Com. Jinda Bhagat of the Republican Aghadi proposed a vote of thanks. The symposium was attended by intellectuals, workers, unorganized workers and other sections of Nagpur.
AIPWA Statewide Protests in UP
Violence against women has increased alarmingly in the SP regime in U.P. which claims to stand for social justice and security. FIRs are not registered, women are raped inside police stations, high police officials publicly make anti-women statements, Khap panchayats pass anti-women diktats and the Chief Minister and police remain mute spectators. AIPWA organized protest meets in various parts of the State on 23 July to include women in a movement to form a new political alternative. These protests were held in Lucknow, Lakhimpur, , Pilibhit, Deoriya, Maharajganj, Gorakhpur, Varanasi, Gazhipur, Chakiya, Baliya, Mirzapur and Sonbhadra. AIPWA has submitted a 5-point memorandum of demands to the Governor. Briefly, these demands are:
1. The culprit arrested for the murder of AIPWA member Sunita Giri in Lakhimpur should be tried and punished, and Sunita's children should be provided free education.
2. A central law should be passed immediately to safeguard women's safety and dignity and fast track courts should be set up to try related cases.
3. Feudal and police attacks against poor tribal women have witnessed unprecedented increase. The murder of the woman village Pradhan in Sukrit village by the privileged classes in connivance with the police is a case in point. AIPWA demands immediate punishment for the culprit policemen and legal rights for the State Women's Commission to take action in such matters.
4. FIRs should be registered immediately by the police on the basis of women victims' complaints. Police staff who misbehave with women should be severely punished.
5. Khap panchayats in Western U.P. which are issuing anti-women diktats should be banned and a central law should be passed against honour killing.
AIPWA Protest in Pilibhit
Incidents of barbaric violence against women have come to light in Pilibhit district of U.P. against which AIPWA has organized women in successful protest movements.
On 16 July in Susvar village, Jehanabad Thana, a minor girl was raped and her private parts and other limbs cut off by notorious goon Amar Singh, known to have links with the ruling SP and under protection of the police as well as the village Pradhan. AIPWA leaders along with district panchayat member Rama Gaurela took steps to protest, which led to the arrest of the culprit. AIPWA has further increased the level of protest to ensure that the culprit is not released from jail.
In Majhar Paun Acre village, Thana Madhotanda, a minor girl was raped and a video clipping of the incident is being circulated and viewed widely in Uttarakhand. On a complaint by the family of the girl, an FIR has been registered but no arrests have been made and the video has not been banned. AIPWA district coordinator Rama Gaurela led an enquiry team which found that the girl's family had left the village out of shame and fear.
On 23 July AIPWA and CPI-ML staged a demonstration at the district headquarters of Pilibhit to protest against the tremendous increase in oppression on women. Com. Rama pointed out that atrocities against women were very high in the Mayawati regime and they have increased manifold in the present SP regime. AIPWA submitted a memorandum to the DM and avowed that unless the guilty are punished in the above incidents, the villagers would be mobilized into further protest and hunger strikes.