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The 15th March skipping of classes by millions of school students across the world demanding action on climate change by the governments is one of the significant events of recent years. Greta Tunberg, the 15 year old girl from Sweden spearheading the movement asked the corporate and government heads assembled at Davos: “Why should we be studying for a future that soon will be no more?”. They were telling the corporate world that you have no right to destroy our future. Presently the consequences of climate change are experienced practically every day in all countries. India is no exception. After a severe winter, now 42% of the land is facing draught. Water scarcity is mounting. A bleak monsoon is predicted. Still, almost all ‘main stream parties’ are deaf to the call for urgent action to rescue the humankind from extinction as a result of ecological catastrophe. It is in this context, an initiative was taken by us to convene a meeting of concerned sections for an informal discussion on how the question of threats to Life Sustaining Ecological Support & Climate Justice can find ways into larger political /electoral discourse. Though the meeting took place in the second week of February, except Red Star and few environmentalists, no political parties/groups attended it. This negative attitude is reflected in the manifestos or statements for the 17th Lok Sabha elections of not only the ruling class parties, but of most of the left parties also; this vital aspect, this growing contradiction between capital and nature is seldom  mentioned, or just for names sake.

The seriousness and the extent of climate change demands that such a critical social issue should be brought to larger political dialogue in the general elections, particularly at this crucial time.  As we are seeing more and more frequently, climate and ecological de-stabilization are taking increasing toll on society, hitting the more vulnerable sections harder.  The crisis of marginal and small farmers is only a case in point, where even the demands have been limited to (necessary but not systemic) loan waivers and prices, without addressing the questions of the very sustainability of small holder farming under the existing system. Artisans and workers are worse off, barring those few in the circle of elite fashion-chains.  Most other nature-dependent ways of lives and natural systems are now on the verge of collapse in the next few decades.

Despite the severe ecological /climate impacts now being felt increasingly frequently and more strongly, the political discourse hardly takes cognizance of this.  The many issues of ecological / climate justice - that are critical to the sustenance of marginalized communities as well as the “silent life”  around —  which were at least discussed earlier in some circles, are getting reduced to only local and immediate demands in many cases.  These local issues are no doubt important, but the larger social-political debates seem to have gone under.

This is a grave situation.  In the present corporate world, as the ultra right/neo-fascist coalition of religious fundamentalism and market fundamentalism is in ascendance, there should be efforts to consider whether we can collectively take some effort to at least introduce some of the above discourses in the larger political discussion soon.  We appeal to all concerned scientists, environmentalists and all the organizations active in this field to see the environmental question as a basically political question linked to the whole gamut of development and democratization perspective. We appeal to all struggling left, democratic forces, people’s movements, and organizations of the workers, peasantry and oppressed classes/sections to come together to wage the political struggle for people oriented, egalitarian and sustainable development paradigm and for democratization of all fields leading to achieving people’s power in all spheres. n

The allegation of sexual harassment against the Chief Justice of India (CJI) by a dismissed staffer, a woman, against the CJI, is now turning into a crisis of credibility, not just for the CJI but for the judiciary as well as the constitutional scheme of government as a whole. Without prejudice the veracity of the allegations should have been investigated to find the truth, including allegations of conspiracy raised by the CJI to defame him. But the Supreme Court, the CJI and the government have prejudged the matter. The affidavit containing lot of information can easily be verified or disproved. The complainant did not hold press conference or took any public route. The petition seeks protection and justice. Along with the petition, all conspiracy theories and counter allegations also can be investigated. But instead, the Court and the government have themselves added fuel to the fire of conspiratorial thinking.It shows the extent of degeneration of the judicial system even at the topmost levels. One can imagine the extent of its rot at the lower levels with lower level judges openly getting corrupt and serving the neo-fascist forces. Under Modi rule, like all other institutions, the judiciary has also become more rotten than ever. n

MODI GOVT VIOLATED RIGHT TO LIFE OF TRIBALS

The Narendra Modi government violated the fundamental right to life of tribals by not defending their interests before the Supreme Court during the hearings of a controversial case that will most certainly lead to the displacement of at least 10 lakh forest dwellers, senior lawyer and former legal consultant to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) Shomona Khanna said.  Khanna, who was a legal consultant to the MoTA and worked on this case as well as multiple other matters from July 2013 till July 2017, told HuffPost India that the case pertains to a law that enforces the fundamental right to life of millions of forest dwellers in the country.

The state, she feels, violates such rights in two ways: through acts of commission and acts of omission. “In this case, I feel, what the Ministry Of Tribal Affairs and the Central government have done, is an act of omission. Not turning up in court, not arguing the matter is an act of omission and is equally reprehensible. It is a very old legal principle. When you are duty bound to do something and you don’t do it, that’s an act of omission,” she explained.  …..

In an order passed on February 13, the Apex Court directed twenty one states to evict tribals and other traditional forest dwellers whose claims over land titles under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, better known as the Forest Rights Act, were rejected. The landmark Act, passed in 2006 to undo the “historic injustice” to the tribals and other traditional forest dwellers, recognises their rights over forest land and other resources which have been a source of their livelihood for centuries….. the February 13 order, the text of which was uploaded on the Supreme Court website only on 20th February, shows the issue has now become one of encroachment on forest land by people whose claims to the pattas (land parcels) have been denied by the forest department.

“Where has this issue come from? How is it that in a writ petition challenging the constitutionality of the act you are suddenly coming into the implementation (of the law itself)?” Khanna wondered.

She also had a strong criticism about the SC order. “This order is completely incorrect in law because it proceeds on the basis that an order of rejection of the forest rights claim is somehow an eviction order; it conflates the two.” She cited Article 300 A of the Indian Constitution according to which no person can be deprived of their property without due process established by law. “If you listen to it carefully, it reflects the language of Article 21 which is the Right To Life. Right To Life provision also uses the same language that no person shall be deprived of their right to life without due process of law,” Khanna argued.

Excerpts from Hindustan Times report n

Modi government in its latest orders has empowered the Assam Rifles deployed all over North-East to arrest anyone, search any place like total control along with AFSPA, in fact further militarizing the region. This fascist action is imposed in view of the growing opposition of the people to Citizenship (Amendment) Act which the Modi rule tried to bulldozer. Many more such autocratic steps can be expected in coming days to suppress people’s dissent, to influence the coming elections. It should be opposed. n

The Indian authorities have delayed investigating a wave of vigilante-style murders of religious minorities, with many instead working to justify the attacks or file charges against some of the victims’ families, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch.

The 104-page report said that since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party took power in 2014, attacks led by so-called cow protection groups have jumped sharply. Between May 2015 and December 2018, at least 44 people have been killed, Human Rights Watch found. Most of the victims were Muslims accused of storing beef or transporting cows for slaughter, a crime in most Indian states. Many Hindus, who form about 80 percent of India’s population, consider cows sacred.

Data cited in the report from FactChecker.in, an Indian organization that tracks reports of violence, found that as many as 90 percent of religion-based hate crimes in the last decade occurred after Mr. Modi took office. Mobs hung victims from trees, frequently mutilated victims and burned bodies. In almost all of these attacks, victims’ families faced significant pushback when they pressed for justice. The police “initially stalled investigations, ignored procedures, or even played a complicit role in the killings and cover-up of crimes,” the report said.

“Indian police investigations into mob attacks are almost as likely to accuse the minority victims of a crime as they are to pursue vigilantes with government connections,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch. Released ahead of national elections this April and May, the report, called “Violent Cow Protection in India: Vigilante Groups Attack Minorities,” also looks at the government’s response to 11 recent attacks that killed 14 people.

According to a survey from NDTV cited by Human Rights Watch, “communally divisive language” in speeches by elected officials shot up nearly 500 percent between 2014 and 2018, compared with the five years before the B.J.P. came to power. Ninety percent of those speeches were from the B.J.P., which has ties to far-right Hindu nationalist groups. “We will hang those who kill cows,” Raman Singh, a member of the B.J.P. and the former chief minister of Chhattisgarh state, said in 2017. The report said this sort of rhetoric, paired with the profusion of stricter cow protection laws, had emboldened mob attacks. They included assaults of Muslim men and women in trains; the stripping and beating of lower-caste Dalits in western India; the force-feeding of cow dung and urine to two men in northern India; the rape of two women and the killing of two men in the state of Haryana for allegedly eating beef at home.

Some of the attacks were filmed, suggesting that the mobs did not fear retribution for their actions, said Harsh Mander, an Indian social worker and writer. “You won’t put your face on video committing a crime if you’re bothered about being punished,” he said. “You’re assured that you’ll be protected and treated like a hero.” Last year, India’s Supreme Court introduced “preventive, remedial and punitive” measures to stem mob violence, noting that false rumors spread on messaging applications like WhatsApp had worsened the problem. And in August, after a long silence, Mr. Modi spoke out against the attacks, saying, “I want to make it clear that mob lynching is a crime, no matter the motive.”

But Mr. Mander said these denouncements were too soft. And he added that changing a culture of “fear” among minorities would take much more than just voting the B.J.P. out of power. “They’ve created an enabling and supportive environment for people to act out their hate,” he said of the government. “Once you let the genie out of the bottle, it’s not going to obey you and just go back in.”

Militancy and Mass Protests Saw a Huge Jump

In the run up to the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, then prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi sought a debate on Article 370, the Constitutional provision meant to protect the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir. For the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had made the abrogation of Article 370 part of its core agenda, this was a softening of sorts. A new conciliatory mood seemed to be coupled with promises of development for the conflict-torn state. But when Modi made his first prime ministerial visit to Kashmir, he was met with shutdowns organised by separatist leaders.

Modi persisted in his attentions, which culminated with the symbolic Diwali visit in October 2014. Soon afterwards, he promised Rs 80,000 crore in Central aid to the flood-ravaged Valley. After the assembly elections of December 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in Jammu and Kashmir for the first time, joining a coalition government led by the People’s Democratic Party.

Since then, the state has seen the rise of militancy, mass protests against the government, a growing death toll, a drift away from electoral politics and polarisation between Muslim-majority Kashmir and Hindu-majority Jammu. In June 2018, the state government collapsed as the BJP walked out of the coalition and governor’s rule was imposed. Overall, the Centre has relied on a military response to militancy and civilian protests in the Valley and an increasingly heated Line of Control.

The Burhan Wani Generation

Early in 2015, a poster of 11 militants posing with guns went viral in Kashmir. Local militancy, which had almost died out after the early 2000s, seemed to have entered a new phase, powered by the social media outreach of Burhan Wani, the Hizbul Mujahideen commander who became a household name in the Valley and was killed in 2016.

Estimates of how many youth have joined up vary, but figures compiled by the Multi-Agency Centre, the nodal body for sharing intelligence outputs, show the rising graph of local militancy over the past few years: from 63 militants recruited in 2014, the number doubled to 128 in 2017. In 2018, 82 had joined militant ranks till just July.

As recruitment swelled, so did anti-militancy operations. In 2017, Operation All Out was launched by security forces, resulting in frequent gunfights which killed 213 militants that year. Already in 2018, 225 militants have been killed.

Meanwhile, civilians began rushing in between militants and security forces. This has meant a heavy civilian death toll in gunfights as well: 51 in 2017 and 50 in 2018. The government remained silent as army chief Bipin Rawat said civilians who intervened in gunfights would be treated as “terrorists”.

Protests of 2016

The drift between government and the civilian population sharpened in the mass protests of 2016, sparked off by Wani’s killing on July 8 that year. The next few months would see curfew and internet shutdowns imposed by the state administration and strikes called by the separatist leadership. Stone pelters chanting slogans for “azadi” were met with bullets and shotgun pellets fired by security forces.Close to a hundered civilians were killed and hundreds more blinded or maimed.

Meanwhile, in Parliament, jingoistic speeches asserted that Kashmir was an “integral part” of India and blamed Pakistan for fomenting unrest. Modi, whose frequent visits to the Valley had long ended, broke his silence more than a month into the protests. Youth in the Valley should have “laptops”, not “stones” in their hands, the prime minister said, invoking the old binary between “terror” and “development”.

Surgical Strikes

Delhi’s answer to the protests and rising ceasefire violations was a fresh show of strength against Pakistan. On September 28, the army announced that they had conducted “surgical strikes” along the Line of Control, killing militants lodged in “terror launchpads” in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir

If the alleged strikes were meant to curb ceasefire violations, they did not work. The Indo-Pak Conflict Monitor has compiled both Indian and Pakistani estimates of ceasefire violations over the years. According to Indian estimates, there were 583 violations in 2014, 405 in 2015, 449 in 2016, 971 in 2017 and 1,432 in 2018. The figures also show a sharp rise from the United Progressive Alliance years.

The Human Shield

In the Valley, sporadic protests continued, spiking during the Lok Sabha by-polls in April 2017, where at least eight civilians were killed. It was also during these elections that Leetul Gogoi, an officer in the Indian Army,tied up a civilian to the front of a jeep, allegedly to ward off stone pelters. While pictures of the “human shield” went viral, sparking outrage in the Valley, Gogoi was commended by the army. His actions were also supported by then Defence Minister Arun Jaitley.

Attempts at Dialogue

But in the Independence Day address that year, Modi suggested Delhi was willing to soften its approach: the Kashmir conflict could not be solved with bullets and abuse, he said, but through “embracing” Kashmiris. In October 2017, the Centre appointed Dineshwar Sharma, a former chief of the Intelligence Bureau, to start engaging various stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir. But the conditions for dialogue were not promising.

Shortly before the interlocutor was appointed the National Investigation Agency started a crackdown on separatist leaders, charging them with involvement in “terror funding”. Besides, the scope of Sharma’s engagement was circumscribed. The Centre announced that he was to hold dialogue to understand the “legitimate aspirations” of the people. It soon became clear that these aspirations did not extend even to demands for greater autonomy, let alone “azadi”. When Congress leader P Chidambaram suggested the “azadi” demand really represented a desire for greater autonomy, Modi termed it an “insult” to soldiers at the front.

In May 2018, the Centre announced a ceasefire for the month of Ramzan, an overture rejected by militant groups. After a month in which militant attacks on security forces escalated, the ceasefire was called off.

Hindutva Mobilisations

While the conflict deepened, growing saffron mobilisations in Jammu, which had largely voted BJP, also had reverberations in the Valley. They peaked after an eight-year-old Muslim Bakerwal girl was allegedly gangraped and killed in Jammu’s Kathua district in January 2018. All the accused were Hindu. Rallies launched in defence of the accused were attended by prominent leaders of the BJP. Meanwhile, in the Kashmir Valley, there were protest marches demanding justice for the murdered child.

Government Collapse

Soon after the ceasefire ended, the BJP walked out of the coalition and the state went under governor’s rule. In a Valley already disillusioned with electoral politics, the collapse of the state government was greeted with indifference.

Anger against government was apparent as early as June 2016, when bye-elections for the Anantnag assembly seat were held. Amid boycott calls by separatists, it was evident that the People’s Democratic Party, which came to power promising to keep saffron forces out of Kashmir, had lost support because of the alliance. After the protests, election turnouts touched record lows. In the violent Lok Sabha bye-elections of April 2017, it was 7.14% and bye-elections to the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat had to be postponed indefinitely.

After the coalition collapsed, regional parties made a last push to form government. In November, an unprecedented coalition of the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party, traditional rivals in the Valley, joined forces with the Congress to make a bid for power. The BJP propped up the People’s Conference in a rival claim to government formation. Governor Satya Pal Malik responded by dissolving the assembly altogether.

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IF THE WOMEN WANT, THE WORLD STANDS STILL

With the initiative of a women’s strike in Argentina and Poland, the call for an international women’s strike on 8 of March has spread in more and more countries since 2017.

With the women’s strike, an old means of working class struggle is claimed and applied by the women.

Drawing on the experiences of previous historical strike actions by women, the women’s strike is one of the symbols of the rise of a new international women’s movement. The masses of working women are using the means of strike for their most basic rights on the streets: right to abortion and any decision about one’s own body, equal pay, the right to physical integrity, an end to violence and feminicides are just a few common ones in addition to numerous concrete demands.

These demands, as well as the resistances of women against sexist, fascist elected state representatives such as Trump and Bolsonaro, have gained an incomparable mobilizing power.

In the 21st century, the achievements of all past struggles for women’s liberation have raised gender awareness to an unprecedented level. Women’s movements are increasingly becoming the engine of social struggles and are more and more taking the lead in them. The gender of women is re-forming as a social and historical force. We can compare this phase with the time of the First International (3), in which the working class has formed itself as a historical force. A similar meaning is given to today’s phase for the role of the female gender in the social revolution. Together with the women’s revolution in Rojava (4), as a concrete experience and guidepost to the women’s liberation struggle, today’s mass movements reiterate that this century will pave the way for women’s freedom as a precondition for communism.

International Bulletin of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party Turkey/Kurdistan February  n

STORM OF PROTESTS AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULTS IN TN

A Storm of protests and outrage has broken out in Tamil Nadu in the fortnight since the case of serial sexual assault and extortion in Pollachi in Coimbatore district came to public attention. Leaked video and audio recordings, police missteps, and alleged political interference have fuelled the protests.  On March 13, students from 150 colleges and universities in the State boycotted classes to carry out demonstrations. 

The issue came to light in the third week of February when a woman approached the police, initially with a complaint of chain snatching. It was later revealed that four men had allegedly sexually harassed and blackmailed her. The arrest of the suspects revealed a huge racket of blackmailing women for sexual favours or money which has been going on since 2013, with officials stating that at least 50 women may have been sexually harassed. On March 12, the case was transferred from the Tamil Nadu Police to the CB-CID and the next day, the government announced that the CBI would conduct the investigation. Despite these steps, there is a general distrust of the fairness of the probe, especially due to the lapses in the investigation so far.

For instance, Coimbatore SP R. Pandiyarajan, who was initially responsible for the investigation, actually revealed the name of the survivor in a press conference. Both the Pollachi police and a Government Order reportedly also revealed her name too. Though the IPC clearly protects survivors from such disclosures, the repeated instances of such revelations are being viewed as a means of intimidation to prevent women from coming forward and complaining. “This is gross injustice. Just this one act will function in keeping other women from coming forward, threatening them effectively into silence.

The Editor of Tamil journal Nakheeran, has come under fire from the state wing of the Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI). In a statement shared by a member on Facebook, they strongly condemned “…the publication of audio-visual content pertaining to a horrific incident of rape through various platforms. The content, unambiguously, belongs to Nakkheeran, and Mr. Gopal has also urged people to “watch the video” … Contrary to the claim that the video has served the purpose of initiating outrage, it has only taken perversion into homes via mobile and television screens, as perverted and voyeuristic content, and we do hope you will take all efforts to remove that content forthwith from all fora, including social media.”

These events have led to massive outrage in the State. Opposition parties and civil society organisations have mobilised strongly on the issue. The protests intensified after an AIADMK worker, A. Nagaraj, was reported to have assaulted the brother of the survivor. Nagaraj was expelled, citing ‘actions that run contrary to the beliefs and aims of the party’ in a statement co-signed by Chief Minister  Most of the opposition organisations have expressed scepticism of SP Pandiyarajan’s claim that there is no “political connection” to this issue. n

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The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.