Withdraw the UPA Ordinance to Protect Criminals

It was the Congress-led UPA government that brought in the latest ordinance which sought to negate a Supreme Court order summarily disqualifying MPs and MLAs convicted for serious crimes. The ordinance cleared by the UPA Cabinet and endorsed by an all-party meeting needs to be viewed in the context of the shameful credentials of our elected representatives.

The deadly combination of money power and muscle power has led to a veritable explosion of criminality in the Parliament and State Assemblies. According to their own affidavits, about 58% of our 543 elected members of Parliament are crorepatis. Nearly 30% of them – 162 to be precise – have a total of more than 400 criminal charges pending against them. About 14% or 76 MPs have serious pending criminal charges against them. In the elections to the Lok Sabha and various State Assemblies since 2008, of the 4807 elected members (MPs and MLAs) 1460 (30%) have declared criminal cases against them, while 688 (14%) have declared serious criminal cases.

But only 24 of them, i.e., only 0.5%, have declared in their affidavits that they have been convicted at some point in a court of law. In addition to the general problem of very slow court proceedings, what is responsible for this extremely low rate of conviction is obviously the political clout these powerful people enjoy. So the need of the hour is not only to disqualify convicted MPs and MLAs but also to debar people, against whom charges have been framed in serious criminal cases, especially related to communal, caste and gender violence, from contesting elections till their names are cleared. This is what the election commission also recommended, and so did the Justice Verma Committee with regard to rapists.

The CPI (ML) denounces the content of the proposed ordinance and demands its immediate withdrawal. It also warns the government against any further attempt to lend a hand to criminals in the fray and in Legislatures.

On the “Right to Reject”

The recent Supreme Court order granting voters the right to record a “none-of-the-above” (NOTA) option in the voting machine itself, i.e., to reject all candidates in the fray and make the voter’s rejection counted, is a small step in the right direction. That a NOTA vote should enjoy the same sanctity as a vote in favour of a particular candidate has indeed been a long-standing democratic demand.

It is clear that even with a substantial number of such votes there will still be winners in our first-past-the-post system. But if in any given constituency NOTA votes exceed the number of votes secured by the winning candidate, should not a repoll be ordered? And should not voters also have the option of recalling non-performing legislators who betray the trust of the electors? Indeed, the right to reject must go together with the right to recall.

Such issues – and there are many of them – should be widely discussed and debated within Parliament and without. On that basis we must move forward with a comprehensive electoral reform that puts in place a system of proportional representation, debars parties from luring voters with freebies and false promises, ensures genuinely fair elections that are free from the macabre dance of money and muscle power and communal machinations and guarantees transparency in the funding of political parties. Only as part of such thoroughgoing reform can the recently announced partial correctives become truly meaningful.

 ‘Save UP-Save Democracy’ Rally in Lucknow

A state wide rally was held by CPI(ML) in the state capital of Uttar Pradesh on 21st October, to highlight the rising danger of communalism and betrayal of the promises made by the ruling Samajwadi Party  government  of Akhilesh Yadav. The recently engineered communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and the poor state of law and order in the state have been a source of grave concern for the people.

Addressing the rally, the General Secretary of the CPI(ML) Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya said that the BJP is trying to convert UP into a communal laboratory in the run up to the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls. Tainted ministers of the Gujarat government like Amit Shah have been send on deputation to UP to re-enact Gujarat-like pogroms here and the recent riots in Muzaffarnagar are a testimony to this nefarious design of the BJP. He said that the SP government has failed in the promises it had made to the people of the state after it voted out of power the unpopular government of BSP one and a half years ago. Be it the promise of checking crime, waiver of loans of farmers, unemployment allowance or fighting the communal forces, the SP government has had a dismal performance. The mafia forces are ruling the roost but forces like the CPI(ML) have pledged to give them a befitting reply.

He cited the example of how the party leader Com. Ramesh Senger had intervened against the sand mafia and the party had to pay a price in terms of the brutal attack on its leader. He said that there is a political vacuum in the country. People are fed up by the scam-tainted UPA whose rule has led to widespread joblessness, inflation and corruption and they are in no mood to allow forces like the BJP to fill the gap.  In such a situation, the left and democratic forces can play a major role, particularly in states like UP, Bihar and Jharkhand to consolidate and lead a consistent opposition to the pro-corporate, pro-imperialist policies of Congress, BJP and their regional allies.

The rally was also addressed by Akbar Chaudhary, the president of JNUSU. He said that innocent Muslim youths are languishing in jail and some are even getting killed in police custody in UP like in the case of Khalid Mujahid. There is no justice for them in UP.

Amongst others who addressed the rally include Comrade Arvind Raj Swaroop, the Uttar Pradesh joint Secretary of CPI, Mohd. Shoaib, the Convener of Rihai Manch, which has been leading a struggle for the release of innocent Muslim youth in jail,  Comrades  K.D.Yadav, Sudhakar Yadav, Krishna Adhikari, Mohd. Salim, Central Committee members of CPI(ML), UP State President of AIPWA Tahira Hasan amongst others.

A notable feature of the rally was the 10 km long march on the streets of the State capital from the railway station to the Jyotiba Phule park, the rally ground. Thousands of peasants, workers, youths and a large number of women carrying red flags and posters made for a very impressive sight. 

All India Kisan Mahasabha Holds Dharna at Parliament Street

AIKM held a protest dharna at Parliament Street in the National Capital on 30 September to highlight various demands of peasants, particularly protection of farmers’ lands and addressing agrarian crisis. It demanded withdrawal of anti-peasant policies and to enact a land protection legislation, replacing recently passed land acquisition act. A memorandum was sent to the Prime Minister through this dharna.

The AIKM also demanded to intensify relief operations in devastated areas of Uttarakhand and to rehabilitate around 1000 villages to safe places in that state, to stop efforts for eviction of the rehabilitated farmers of Bhakhra-Nangal Dam from Gujarat and Haryana where they were resettled years ago; to resettle all displaced farmers from various projects including DVC and to guarantee their livelihoods; to give proper compensation, employment and rehabilitation for the affected farmers in Bareilly; to stop privatisation of electricity and water, to increase public funding in agriculture, increase subsidy in diesel, fertilizers and agricultural appliances; and relief to drought and flood affected farmers all over the country.

Rajaram Singh, General Secretary of AIKM said that the land acquisition act passed by the last session of Parliament actually talks about compensation, rehabilitation, resettlement and transparency, but amidst jugglery of words this paves the way for the land grab already going on, on a massive scale in the country. First of all it is silent on the private acquisitioning of lands by corporates with the help of local middlemen by hook or crook. Then, the public purpose is defined in such a way that ongoing corporate land grab can be justified as public cause. In the name of ‘consent’ it only says that private and PPP acquisitions have to be decided after 70 and 80 percent consent; while governmental acquisitions will not require such binding. Moreover, social or environmental impact assessments and recommendations of expert groups will not be mandatory for the government to comply. And to top it all, provision of ‘urgency’ will overrule all the clauses.

It is utter hypocrisy that same parliament session that passed the Land Acquisition Act has also passed the Bill on Food Security. But to ensure whatever has been promised the country will need to increase food production and increase effective area under cultivation. Yet the state is paving the way for the steady decline for availability of agricultural lands. It is clear that in the name of increasing yield, the government wants to force the farmers towards dubious and dangerous GM crops and growing corporatisation of agriculture in India.

AIKM leaders Prem Singh Gehlawat from Haryana, Purushottam Sharma and Indresh Maikhury from Uttarakhand, Afroz Alam from UP, Gurmeet Singh from Punjab and RYA’s Aslam Khan also addressed the dharna.

March to Rajbhawan in Karbi Anglong 

About 500 people at the call of CPI(ML), KSA and KNCA, condemning attack on democracy in Karbi Anglong and demanding release of all CPI(ML) and KSA leaders, marched to the Rajbhavan on 16th September. Protesters strongly condemned the act of arresting and jailing of CPI(ML) and KSA leaders in false cases. Congress Govt. has virtually imposed a state of emergency in the hill district and no political dissent is being allowed. Karbi Anglong is virtually turned into police raj and no leaders and activists in the jail get justice, on the contrary instead of granting bail, additional non-bailable sections are imposed on arrested leaders.

The protesters shouted slogans like “no autonomous state no rest”, “release all CPIML and KSA leaders’, “hold talk on autonomous state issue with sincerity and political will”. The procession reached Rajbhawan and submitted a memorandum to the Governor of Assam. The memorandum demanded: (1) unconditional release of arrested leaders, (2) restore democracy in Karbi Anglong and democratic voice of the people be allowed, stop state terrorism in the hill district, (3) Constitute CBI enquiry into the police firing on 31 July 2013 at Diphu as there are instances of Human rights violation by the Assam police personnel, and (4) Provide Rs. 50 lakhs as compensation to the family of Martyr Rahul Singnar who was shot dead by police from behind.

Leaders of CPI(ML) Hill Party Committee, KSA, KNCA, AISA, AIPWA, KANKIS, RYA including CC member Com. Pratima Inghipi, Selawar Bey, Sem killing, Kharsing Singnar, ex EM L N Subba and Politburo member Rubul Sarma, secy. of Assam State Committee Bibek Das participated in the protest programme. CPI(ML) leaders declared that they will continue the movement until and unless release of the jailed leaders.

Cyclone Phaillin: Devastated People Await Relief  

On the night of 12 October cyclone Phaillin with a wind speed of 250 kmph hit the entire coast of Odisha with the eye of the storm centred at Gopalpur in Ganjam district. Around 17 districts were affected, Ganjam, Puri and Khurda being the worst hit. Other districts like Jagatsingpur, Kendrapara, Nayagarh, Kandhamal, Gajapati were also affected.

Two days after Phaillin severe floods affected 6 districts including Baleswar,   Bhadark, Jajpur and Mayurbhanj. In addition to loss of human lives, Phaillin wreaked havoc on agriculture, natural resources, educational institutions and infrastructure. The combined disasters of cyclone and floods took a toll of around 44 lives. 1.37 lakhs were affected, and over 6.71 lakh hectares of agricultural land, 4.19 lakh houses and 26 lakh trees damaged.

Apart from coastal damage, Phaillin has devastated forests as well as communication and tourism infrastructure, with the electricity board suffering a loss of 900 crore. 1.70 lakh birds have died. In all 18,374 villages and 2164 grampanchayats of the State have been affected.

In spite of continuous news and alerts about the cyclone in the print and electronic media, a panic situation prevailed with prices of essential commodities spiraling and the BJD government unable to control it. The Naveen Patnaik government is basking in the praise being showered from different quarters for the success of the much publicized evacuation exercise. While timely evacuation has certainly minimized human casualty, the real challenge now is to rehabilitate the evacuated people most of whom have lost their all and will have to virtually rebuild their lives.

Relief measures in cyclone shelters are far from adequate or satisfactory. Even after 7 days of the huge devastation in Ganjam, people are yet to receive any relief or rehabilitation in spite of the state and central governments declaring compensation of Rs 4 lakh and 2 lakh respectively to the families of the dead. 

The Central government is trying to compete with the state government to claim credit for disaster management, but is yet to make any specific commitment to expedite and improve relief and rehabilitation efforts.

The CPI(ML) is trying to organize relief work in some of the worst affected villages. Party workers braved the violence of ruling party goons in Pipli block where they organized a gherao demanding proper relief work with full transparency and without any discrimination. In the Chilka area, many fishermen have lost their boats and nets, but so far no government officials have even undertaken an assessment of their losses. The CPI(ML) and mass organizations like  AIKM, AIALA and AICCTU are fighting for provision of adequate compensation and effective rehabilitation measures for the disaster-hit population.

CPI(ML) Leader Jagat Martoliya Arrested to Prevent Calamity-Affected from Meeting Uttarakhand CM 

CPI-ML activists conducted State-wide protests against the arrest of Jagat Martoliya and 40 comrades who have continuously been fighting for the cause of those affected in Dharchula-Manusyari by the Uttarakhand disaster in June. Protesting against the arrest, Uttarakhand Chief Minister’s effigy was burnt at the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chowk, Car Road, in Bindukhatta.

It is noteworthy that the CM was to arrive at Dharchula on 22nd October when the flood victims, under the leadership of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha, were to discuss with him the question of rehabilitation on the basis of “land for land” and “house for house”. However, the people who wished to put their points forward in a democratic way were arrested before they could do so, on the 21st itself. 40 comrades were released late on the night of the 21st, but Jagat Martoliya still remains under police lock and key at the time of going to press.

AIPWA Leader Addresses Talks in the US and UK

AIPWA Secretary and CPI(ML) Politburo member Kavita Krishnan delivered the 3rd Maharaj Kaul memorial lecture on September 26th at the behest of the Centre for South Asian Studies, University of California Berkeley. Her lecture was titled ‘Women Want Freedom’: Shifting the Terms of Debate in the Anti Rape Movement.

On October 3rd, she addressed an open meeting and discussion in London at the SOAS on ‘India’s anti-rape movement – experiences, reflections and strategies for the future’ organised by the Freedom Without Fear Platform, a loose coalition of women’s organisations and individual women inspired by India’s post-December 16 2012 anti-rape movement. The Freedom Without Fear Platform aims to provide an arena for Black, South Asian and ‘Minority Ethnic’ women to lead discussions on the violence against women and girls; to highlight the co-opting of violence against women and girls issues by various groups who seek to further their own racist and imperialist agendas; and to expose the implicit and explicit violence against women and girls in the economic policies imposed by international financial institutions and governments. The meeting was chaired by Amrit Wilson on behalf of the Platform. 

At this meeting, Kavita reflected on the experiences and lessons of the anti-rape movement in India. She said that such movements push against patriarchy only if they serve to make visible the discrimination, coercion, and violence inherent in the normal, the everyday structures of family, society, state. Pointing out the racism inherent in some of the reporting by media of US or UK of sexual violence and gender discrimination in India or other South or West Asian countries, she said it would be comforting to patriarchy in the West to draw a binary between ‘unfree Indian women, free Western women’. She said that instead of gasping at the horrors of Indian patriarchy, what is needed is to make visible the coercion and unfreedom of women which appear ‘normal’ in the context of Western countries. She spoke of the need to interrogate policies of the British Government against ‘high risk’ domestic violence cases or legislation against forced marriges, and propaganda against grooming, that seeks, in the name of ‘protecting women’, to take away any control an immigrant or working class woman has over her life, and the profiling, surveillance and discipline of working class and immigrant communities. She also pointed out that while rape culture and victim blaming flourish in the US, UK, and Europe, it is equally important to point out how state policy itself in these countries in times of austerity measures, moralises against women in non-sexual ways too, for instance by telling women who are granted welfare that they are ‘bad/failed mothers.’ She called for genuine international solidarity which would interrogate the ways in which global capital and imperialism is implicated in violence against women all over the world. The talk was followed by lively discussion.

Kavita also addressed a talk at the London School of Economics Gender Institute and another at Cambridge University organised by the Students’ Union.