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BHUBANESWAR: FIGHT AGAINST SLUM DEMOLITION

On 27th February CPI(ML) RED STAR Khorda District Secretary & TUCI State Joint Secretary Comrade Ranjan Mishra was arrested by police and beaten by police-bouncers of Builders’ mafia for leading the resistance against forcible slum demolition started with hundreds of bouncers and JCBs by the city administration. Slum dwellers militantly resisted the demolition drive. The authorities were forced to immediately stop the forcible demolition and release all arrestees including Ranjan Mishra.

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

War only benefits a handful of influential profiteering interests who feed on hatred and fear. It is the people who never wish for war that face its repercussions.” At a time when divisive and warmongering narratives have strained Indo-Pak relations to virtually breaking point, Indian and Pakistani scholars and students of Oxford University held a solidarity demonstration at the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford on Saturday. The group also issued a statement, reproduced in full below:

We are a group of Indian and Pakistani students at the University of Oxford who are deeply disturbed by the escalation of tensions over an impending war between India and Pakistan. We strongly condemn the suicide bombing in Pulwama, Kashmir on February 14, 2019 which claimed the lives of around 44 Indian soldiers. We denounce terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

As students in a land that is foreign to our homes – India and Pakistan – we’ve always marvelled at how we seamlessly gravitate towards each other, and how we are able to come together in community in ways we can’t back home. We often talk about the similarities we share in our food, culture, histories and the challenges we face. The Indo-Pak community has emerged as a place of refuge and comfort for us. However, when we imagine visiting each other’s homes we realise all the ways in which visas and politics restrict us. As we sit together now, watching the increasingly violent direction the current discourse is taking, we are frightened.

We come from parts of the world where the rhetoric of war isn’t new, and its consequences aren’t abstract. War only benefits a handful of influential profiteering interests who feed on hatred and fear. It is the people who never wish for war that face its repercussions. It is a luxury to be able to debate the possibility of war when the death, grief and loss that accompany it are not part of your everyday. For some people, especially the already dispossessed, the human cost of war is no cliché. It is lived reality.

We urge our fellow Pakistanis and Indians both within and outside the subcontinent to stand together in unity, focus on our commonalities, and reject divisive narratives. We call upon the leaders of our countries to develop de-escalation protocols, organise constructive peace talks and dialogue for the resolution of all bilateral issues.

War and warmongering are always unequivocally deplorable. At a time when India and Pakistan are lurching from crisis to crisis, we condemn the irresponsible rhetoric flooding the media in both countries in the strongest possible terms.

We dare to imagine a future that is free of divisions and violence, and unshadowed by the politics of war. We refuse to succumb to this environment of fear and suspicion. We refuse to see our friends as enemies. We refuse to hate those we hold dear.

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Protesting against the SC order calling for forcible eviction of millions of adivasi families from their habitats, the leading Adivasi organizations called for Bharat Bandh on 5th March joined by the Adivasi Bharat Mahasabha (ABM). Under the banner of the ABM at Ganjam in Odisha, Kodagu in Karnataka, Palamau in Jharkhand, Mahasamund in Chhattisgarh hundreds of adivasis and progressive forces organized rasta rook and other programs. In Odisha about 50 comrades were arrested while they were staging Rasta Roko movement. Many adivasi and dalits organisation participated in the bandh. Supporting the bandh call, president of Adivasi Bharat Mahasabha, comrade Bhojlal Netam issued following Statement.

Adivasi Bharat Mahasabha (ABM) Declares Solidarity with the Bharat Bandh on March 5. The Adivasi Bharat Mahasabha (ABM) upholds the genuine demands raised by various Adivasi organizations and whole-heartedly supports the Bharat Bandh called by them on March 5.

In spite of the temporary stay issued by Supreme Court against the eviction of Adivasis from their habitat, there is every possibility that it can be overturned. What is required is an appropriate law to protect the habitat and livelihood of the tribal people in accordance with the Forest Right Act. The double-speak of the Modi regime in this regard needs to be exposed.

In this context, the ABM calls upon all progressive democratic forces to join hands with the struggling adivasi organizations and make the March 5th Bharat Bandh a success. 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

SAY NO TO NUCLEAR POWER

Even as a growing list of countries from Belgium and Denmark to Germany and Japan – among many others – pledges to phase out nuclear power, the Indian ruling class has reaffirmed its allegiance to US imperialism by signing a fresh deal to build six American nuclear power plants in India. This was declared in a joint statement issued by India and the US at the conclusion of the 9th round of India-US Strategic Security Dialogue, co-chaired by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security this week. “They committed to strengthen bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation, including the establishment of 6 US nuclear power plants in India,” the joint statement said. Nuclear power projects have always met with stiff resistance throughout our country. However, the government is determined to go ahead with more and more nuclear plants, endangering millions of lives. A strong and determined anti-nuclear movement is needed to foil this nefarious plan. 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.