Add to this the growing – and deepening – levels of joblessness in the two formerly industrial belts, which for some years have turned desolate, and you have a near-perfect recipe that any political party seeking to make inroads in Bengal’s politics could stir in a communal cauldron.
Kolkata: BJP workers participate in a bike rally organised on Ram Navami in Kolkata, on March 25, 2018.
When the Bengal Sangh Parivar organised Ram Navami processions in 2017 in Kolkata and a few adjoining places, the participants, including school-going children, were armed with tridents, swords and an assortment of other sharp-edged weapons. This was unseen and unheard of in Kolkata, leave alone other sub-divisional towns of Bengal. It was a “dry run”, a mere testing of the waters.
Last year’s bellicosity of the Sangh Parivar, which has been slowly but surely seeking to get a foothold in the state since the BJP national leadership made it absolutely clear in 2014 that it will take to its characteristic politico-religious programmes to challenge the ruling Trinamool Congress, there was no doubt whatsoever that it would marshal all its resources to keep the communal pot boiling.
It was a signal – and a warning – to the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC that not only would the Sangh exploit its Hindutva programme(s) across Bengal to make electoral capital, but it would also unabashedly unleash its characteristic brand of communal politics, for which the state was primed once the Left had been dislodged from power and reduced to a rump grouping incapable of keeping its flock of cadres together.
Branded as a chief minister who had bent over backwards to appease Bengal’s nearly 30 percent-strong Muslim minority, and faced with the BJP’s imminent threat, Mamata resorted to her own brand of communal politics. She first coaxed, then cajoled, and then began to openly woo the caste Hindus who had begun to flirt with Hindutva.
The communal violence in Kakinara, Asansol and even in the tribal district of Purulia was waiting to happen as both the BJP and the TMC resorted to competitive “ethnic outbidding” in which both parties have now begun to adopt ever more extreme positions over a range of issues.
For a state that never cared for Ram Navami, this year, the smallest pockets saw young and old gather to celebrate. These issues include so-called Muslim appeasement, illegal immigration from Bangladesh, defence of Hindus, celebrating Hindu socio-religious functions, etc, that are perceived by political elites to have some bearing on elections. While the BJP has strong incentives to “demonise” the religiously homogeneous Muslims, who are perceived to be captive voters of the TMC, the ruling party has sensed that in order to offset the gains by the former it must do all it can to wean away potential Hindu voters from swinging right.
Now that the process has begun in earnest, with all the usual rhetoric in place, both the BJP and the TMC will try to outdo each other in competing for both Muslim and Hindu votes. The BJP’s high levels of anti-Muslim rhetoric is matched by the TMC’s pro-Hindu flirtations. Needless to say, competing hostilities and defence could reach a tipping point and unleash the communal genie in ways that could prove disastrous for Bengal.
Why are demographic data for Raniganj and Kakinara important from an electoral perspective? While Raniganj, which is on the Howrah-Dhanbad section of the Indian Railways, has about 22 percent Muslims, Kakinara (on the Sealdah-Naihati line) has upwards of 13 percent of people belonging to the minority community.
The Muslims in both Raniganj and Kakinara are Hindi-speaking and both places have a sizeable population of Hindi-speaking Hindus who, years ago, formed the labour force in sundry factories, paper mills and coalfields in these two distinct belts.
Over the last 20-25 years, as factories and other small-scale industries in these two thickly-populated belts ground to a halt, every available square metre of land, especially along the railways tracks, was occupied by Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh.
A giant Hanuman murti at a BJP-organised Ram puja in Bengal’s Rampurhat.
These Bengali-speaking Hindus and the bulk of the Hindi-speaking Hindus, especially in towns easily accessible from Kolkata, have today turned ardent admirers of the BJP’s brand of politics. The rapid inroads of the RSS in these areas has been matched by its target groups’ growing interest in communal politics. In other words, communal politics has found traction among sections of the Hindu population in these belts – a polarising phenomenon that will certainly creep into Kolkata over time.
Another view that has emerged is that the fomenting of trouble in Raniganj, which is part of BJP MP Babul Supriyo’s Lok Sabha constituency, was partly an outcome of the leader’s sagging popularity. Some political observers believe that party functionaries owing allegiance to Supriyo, who is Union Minister of State for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, “engineered” the violence using the occasion of Ram Navami and the attendant parades as a means to bolster Supriyo’s image. Supriyo went a step further: as groups battled on the streets with swords, bombs and fire, the minister posted a torrent of tweets and graphic-content videos on social media, which he explained away by claiming to be his version of the “truth”. Reports from Kolkata indicate that not just in Raniganj, Kakinara and Purulia, but the Sangh and the BJP organised Ram Navami parades at Kandi in Murshidabad and Chandannagar in Hooghly area.
The growth, extent and the violence engendered in the name of Ram has been characterised as “people’s enlightenment” by Bengal BJP chief Dileep Ghosh. His colleague in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Sachindranath Sinha, has claimed that the Sangh will organise a series of rallies, marches and parades till 31 March when different units of the political right will observe Hanuman Jayanti.
A distinguished advocate for the protection of human rights, Justice Sachar was a former Chief Justice of Delhi and Sikkim High Courts.
He vociferously promoted the cause of human rights and poor and had special love for the people of Kashmir and Northeast who are fighting for their right of self-determination. All through he was active in the socialist movement and was a close front of all communist revolutionary organizations. Many of his articles were published in Red Star
Justice Sachar was also head of People’s Union of Civil Liberty (PUCL). He authored many reports on Kashmir and human right movement.
The CPI(ML) Red Star expresses its deep sorrow in the departure of its close friend Justice Sachar.
If a party is not only in words, but genuinely communist, its tactical line adopted through the PR in Party Congresses should strengthen its strategic line; all forms of struggles and all forms of alliances should help strengthening of independent communist assertion in all fields. To find out whether the PR adopted by the 22nd Congress of CPI(M) serve this purpose, we are quoting extensively from its PR below:” 2.86 The Congress party has the same class character as that of the BJP. It represents the interests of the big bourgeois-landlord classes. Its political influence and organisation has been declining and it has conceded the space as the premier ruling class party to the BJP. The Congress professes to be secular but it has proved to be incapable of consistently fighting the communal forces. The Congress had pioneered the neo-liberal agenda and forged the strategic alliance with the United States when it was in power. As the main opposition party, it continues to advocate these policies. It is necessary to oppose these policies.
“2.87 The three basic tasks of the People’s Democratic Revolution are anti-monopoly, anti-landlord and anti-imperialist. As the Party Programme points out: “However, these basic and fundamental tasks of the revolution in today’s context cannot be carried out except in determined opposition to, and struggle against, the big bourgeoisie and its political representatives who occupy the leading position in the State”.
“2.88 The political representatives of the big bourgeoisie at present in our country are the BJP and the Congress. Based on our programmatic understanding, the Congress represents the interests of the big bourgeoisie and landlords and adopts pro-imperialist policies. Therefore, we cannot have a tactical line which treats them as allies or partners in a united front.
“2.89 But it is the BJP which is in power today and given its basic link to the RSS, it is the main threat. So, there cannot be a line of treating both the BJP and the Congress as equal dangers.
“2.90 Our tactical approach should be to cooperate with the Congress and other secular opposition parties in parliament on agreed issues. Outside parliament, we should cooperate with all secular opposition forces for a broad mobilisation of people against the communal threat. We should foster joint actions of class and mass organisations, in such a manner that can draw in the masses following the Congress and other bourgeois parties”.
As far as CPI is concerned, it had blindly embraced the Krushchov line from 1956. As a result it faced a vertical split in 1964, went on weakening and now is reduced to a mere skeleton, ready to embrace any opportunist alliance for its mere survival. It has abandoned the path of revolution, and no serious political forces consider it as a communist party. As every party congress takes place, its strength gets eroded continuously.
As far as the CPI(M) is considered, towards the Great Debate against the Soviet revisionist line and on using parliamentary struggle to serve the non-parliamentary struggles, right from the beginning it took a centrist line. In 1967 when it led united front governments in Bengal and Kerala, it started degenerating to parliamentary cretinism, abandoning the path of class struggle and agrarian revolution. When Congress splitted in 1969, like CPI it also supported the Indira Congress and helped survival of its government, adopting the ‘lesser evil’ theory. When Indira Gandhi declared emergency, instead of spearheading the struggle against it, as Sundarayya called for, it took the line of ‘protecting the party’ by refusing to take active role in the struggle against Indira autocracy. It compromised with the Janatha regime after 1979, and with the Indira govt after 1980. During this time though its parliamentary strength increased and it emerged as ruling party in Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, it had no left line to put forward against the ruling class line. Internationally it toed the line of Soviet social imperialists and the line of the capitalist roaders who had come to power in Eastern Eurpean countries, in China and Vietnam. In 1989 general election following the line of opposing Congress which was evaluated as the main enemy and “enemy’s enemy is our friend’ it made electoral understanding with BJP and made V P Singh the new prime minister. In this bargain while its communist values further degenerated and it did not benefit inside parliament also, the BJP’s strength leaped from 2 to 85. Using this opportunity, BJP launched the Rathayatra and went on increasing its strength and establishing its Hindurashtra line.
In 1991, under the Congress ministry led by Narasimha Rao, when finance minister Manmohan Singh launched the neoliberal regime, when even many Congress leaders were skeptical, Bengal CM Jyothi Basu lauded it saying ‘there is no alternative’ to it. From that time, though CPI(M) claims to oppose it, its governments in Bengal, Kerala and Tripura always implemented thse policies in practice, repeating that the state governments have no other option. That is why in 1996 elections, when Congress lost majority, the corporate lobby supported Jyothi Basu as next premier. Though it could not materialize as CC majority opposed, even now powerful sections and the ‘intellectual lobby’ inside consider it was a Himalayan Blunder. Still, the two united front governments in which CPI(M) played important roles, went ahead with the globalization-liberalization-privatization policies. In 1998 when BJP led Vajpayee government took over, CPI(M) had no hesitation to allow it Bengal finance minister Asimdasgupta to become chairman of the finance ministers’ committee which launched VAT and proceeded to GST. In 2004, accepting the speaker’s post, it played an important supporting role to help the UPA govt to speed up the neoliberal policies. Though it lost heavily in 2009 Lok Sabha elections and later in 2011 Bengal elections, it refused to break away from the neoliberal policies and to denounce what it did in Singur and Nandigram. Even after losing Tripura elections also, still it clings to the line that there is no alternative to neoliberal policies and still implementing the same policies speeded up by Modi, faithfully in Kerala! Similar to Congress and other ruling class parties, its opposition to Modi government is only for the Hindurashtra communal fascist policies.
Based on this overview if the last five decades of CPI(M) practice is evaluated, one can see that it goes fundamentally against what is stated in its Party program. Karat and the Kerala leaders wanted to avoid even any understanding with the Congress as was stated in the draft PR, only to preserve their election politics in the state. The debate between Karat and Yechury was never on utilizing the parliamentary work to serve “the three basic tasks of the People’s Democratic Revolution which are anti-monopoly, anti-landlord and anti-imperialist” as stated in their PP. Again, it was not at all on utilizing parliamentary work including functioning of the state governments to strengthen independent communist assertion, to develop class struggle towards the PDR. On the contrary, the 34 years rule in Bengal, the 25 years rule in Tripura and altogether more than three decades of rule in Kerala has only taken the CPI(M) away from communist positions. As far as the PDR is concerned, instead of pursuing anti-monopoly, anti-landlord and anti-imperialist, it has advanced from apologists of neocolonialism to faithful implementation of neo-colonially dependent policies of the ‘big capitalist- big landlord’ government at the centre, whether led by Congress or BJP.
At a time, under more than four years of Modi rule, when the corporate communal fascist regime has posed unprecedentedly greater danger to Indian polity, no doubt the left forces should adopt flexible tactical approaches to weaken and defeat it. But what we critic is that the CPI(M) leadership which has already abandoned the basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism long back is using Modi’s corporate fascist rule as a justification to embrace the policies of the big capitalist-big landlord state lock stock and barrel. Though the PR says no alliance with Congress, already it is in alliance with Congress in Bengal. The PR adopted in 22nd Congress provides license for making alliance with Congress in all states except Kerala, if Barquis is willing, that is if Congress is willing. This is CPI(M) brand independent left or communist assertion! The struggling left and democratic forces should expose and defeat this right opportunist line and develop the capability to utilize parliamentary work as complementary to people’s struggles for social change.
Two BJP ministers of J&K, Choudhary LAL Singh and Chandler Prakash Ganga had led the rally by RSS affiliated Hindu EKTA Manchester along with advocates of the 'Rape Parivar' for obstructing the filing of charge sheet by the police in the court. In Unnao too, the intervention of Allahabad High Court was needed to arrest the BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar who along with his Parivar accomplices abducted and raped the minor girl followed by cold-blooded blooded murder of her father with the backing of official machinery. The tragedy in Unnao and Kathua like similar cases in Gujarat when Modi was the chief minister is that the law and order machinery was also in league with the Parivar rapists.
Rape of women especially minor girls and children is a time tested device practiced by the Nazis to subjugate opponents. Indian fascists emulating this practice has been systematically using this weapon against Minorities and Dalits. Savarkar himself had advocated rape as a strategic weapon against Muslims and in his writings he even criticised Shivaji for letting free the daughter-in-law of the Muslim Kalyan king whom Shivaji had defeated.
In Kathua too, the perpetrators of this crime against humanity was imbibed by the Brahmanical ideology of 'rape as a strategic device' to target the nomadic Muslim community to which the girl belonged.
While the Modi regime and BJP leadership are sidelining the issue as insignificant, the Sangh Parivar outfits are spitting venom on the victims and their family with intensified vigour. It is high time on the part of all democratic forces to rise to the occasion to end this biggest-ever threat the country is facing - Article by Comrade P J James for Red Star Weekly, Issue # 12 (Vol 7), 14th April 2018
THE UNDERLYING CLASS BASIS OF EXPLOITATION OF WOMEN
INTERNATIONAL Working Women’s Day is much more than a celebration of past struggles and achievements won by working women. International Working Women’s Day links the present demands and struggles for equal rights, justice, respect for women and an end to the exploitation of working women, to the movement for a socialist system where women can fully develop and realise their rights and potential. We fight for immediate demands that lessen the heavy burden of capitalism on working women and to strengthen our collective power in the long fight for fundamental change.
Aboriginal women of Australia continue their fight against oppression and exploitation imported by the British invasion and occupation of the country 240 years ago. In 1880 Aboriginal women at Coranderrk station defied the white manager’s orders and went on strike demanding that they be paid in wages, not sugar and flour. (See Vanguardarticle 8 March 2016.) This fight is continuing today by the First People, including the young militant Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance.
For more than 100 years working women in Australia have fought without let-up for equal pay and decent working conditions, affordable and quality child care, workers’ rights, respect and safety in the workplace, community and at home; against sexual harassment and assault, discrimination and domestic violence.
Women’s persistent struggles have won some limited relief. However, most gains have proven to be temporary and tenuous, eroded or vanished in the past 25 years under constant pressure and demands by capital to intensify exploitation, and increase profits. Child care is again unaffordable for many working women, equal pay for work of equal value has not been realised. Sole parents women live on or below the poverty line, attacked by both major parliamentary parties, relentlessly hounded and demonised by the government bureaucracy, often unable to pay for housing, their children’s education and power bills. Public spending on welfare payments and community services like affordable child care and the health needs of women are constantly cut back, while people’s taxes are syphoned off to multinational corporations.
Legislation on equal opportunity, sex discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying, maternity leave and child care leave entitlements and other rights and provisions that women had fought for and won, are often scraps of paper, unenforceable. In reality they have proven to be mainly window dressing. Under capitalism, the overriding needs of capital to maximise profits from intensified exploitation of workers takes precedence over the rights and wellbeing of working people.
In the meantime, the harsh anti-worker industrial relations laws are swiftly and viciously enforced by the full weight of the capitalist legal system against working women and men and their unions for taking action to defend their rights, wages, safety on the job and solidarity with other workers.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, during the unstoppable tsunami of struggle for women’s rights, capitalism in that historical period had some economic capacity to make a few minor concessions and diverted the struggle away from working class women’s fundamentally far reaching economic and social demands. Capital co-opted some of the women’s struggles that didn’t challenge its own existence. The working class origin and content of working class demands and struggles which were taken up by the founding women of the International Working Women’s Day were pushed aside.
This year’s IWD is taking place on the eve of a nation-wide mass walk out and protests by early childhood educators across the country on 26 March. It’s been a long struggle by early childhood educators and their union, United Voice, fighting to win equal pay for low paid women workers. On 6 March, in a disgraceful ruling, the Fair Work Commission rejected early childhood educators’ application to increase their pay above $21 per hour.
“The Fair Work Commission has failed us. They failed to hear from a single educator about what it’s like to live on half the average wage.
Early educators are qualified, trusted and have a huge responsibility caring for and educating the very youngest members of our community. Yet they can be paid as little as $21 an hour. After years of fighting for pay equity, early childhood educators have had enough. It is not acceptable that educators can be paid as little as $21 an hour.”
Working class women are doubly exploited by capitalism. At work women, like all workers, create the surplus value from where profit is extracted and kept by the boss class. At home, women provide unpaid labour for the capitalist class. We do unpaid work as society’s primary carers of children, who are the next generation of labour for the capitalist class to exploit. Women’s unpaid work at home re-produces and maintains the present and future generations of workers at no cost to the exploiting class. Women look after the society’s elderly and the sick with little financial or material support from the state.
The double exploitation of women economically, socially and culturally is imbedded in the exploitative system of capitalism which depends on the unpaid labour of women at home and raising the next generation of workers for exploitation. This economic exploitation and inequality of women is reinforced and promoted by the mainstream culture of abuse, degradation and violence against women.
For communist and socialist women, the struggle for gender equality and an end to the economic, social and cultural exploitation of women is inseparably linked to the working class struggle for socialism.
Report by Alice M in Vanguard, organ of CPAML
The Supreme Court order will not only delay justice but make victims more vulnerable to threats, which goes against the stated object of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015, which seeks to protect the life and property of vulnerable groups.
Latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data shows reported crimes against SCs increased by 5.5 per cent in 2016 while crimes against STs has increased by 4.7 per cent. The highest number of cases recorded were against women, including cases of sexual assault and rape.
Merely 25 per cent of the total cases of atrocities against SCs and 20 per cent in case of STs ended in convictions in 2016 — a drop from the already low conviction rate of 27 per cent for both categories in 2015. “A majority of these crimes are serious and not something that can be misused. The high acquittal rate already points to the shoddy investigations in cases of atrocities,” said VA Ramesh Nathan of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights. He said that despite the Atrocities Act, those accused in mass killings of Dalits — from the 1997 Laxmanpur Bathe massacre to the Khairlanji massacre — have all been convicted by the Sessions court only to be acquitted by the High Court due to the failure of investigations.
The two-judge bench of Justices UU Lalit and AK Goel have, in their order, aimed at preventing the “misuse of the law”, allowed for anticipatory bail for the accused in certain situations. It also mandated prior sanction to prosecute anyone under the Atrocities Act, and in case of public servants, with the approval of the appointing officer and for others, prior sanction from the Senior Superintendent of Police.
Nitish Nawsagaray, Professor at ILS Law College in Pune who is also part of Dalit Adivasi Adhikar Andolan, said that prior sanctions would further derail a system where arrests are not made even for heinous crimes. “This is disturbing for the Dalit movement. Denial of anticipatory bail in atrocities cases was upheld by Supreme Court in the State Of MP vs Ram Krishna Balothia order of 1995. It was meant to ensure that the perpetrators do not use their political clout to get away.”