A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 16, No. 12, 12 – 18 MARCH 2013
We are All Chavez"
Right, where is the time to mourn? The people of Venezuela know they have a protracted war ahead to fight and win, if they are to prove worthy of their dear departed "commandante".
The first of a series of battles is scheduled to be fought on 14 April, when Chavez's chosen successor, Vice President (now acting President) Nicolas Maduro confronts the opposition in presidential election. That by itself may not prove very difficult, but the real challenge will be to defeat the US design of regime change and continue the journey initiated and so far led by the departed President.
The very next day after the passing away of Hugo Chavez, the Wall Street-funded American Enterprise Institute (AEI) sponsored by the likes of the current presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski and his party Justice First issued a "Post-Chávez checklist for US policymakers." It was declared that the US must move quickly to "defend the right of Venezuelans to struggle democratically to reclaim control of their country and its future. …. Any attempt to suppress their self-determination with Chinese cash, Russian arms, Iranian terrorists, or Cuban thuggery" must be sternly met with, it added, and warned that "Syria-style repression will never be tolerated in the Americas."
It is easy to see why the US and its lackeys in Venezuela, not content with the physical absence of Chavez, are so desperate to completely erase his entire legacy from the soil of Latin America.
Not only did Chavez nationalise oil, steel, aluminium and other industries, forcing out foreign MNCs; under his guidance Venezuela in league with Cuba developed a mighty bulwark against Western hegemony -- the Bolivarian Alliance for our Americas or ALBA, which is building an alternative to the US- dominated trade with the aim of regional economic integration, and several other bodies including the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States or CELAC, which comprises 33 sovereign countries in the Americas excluding USA and Canada. He maintained close cooperation with Tehran, Washington's number one enemy in the Middle East. He emerged as one of the world's most vocal critics of U.S. foreign policy, strongly condemning US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, and opposing Israel's attack on Gaza.
The militant opposition to imperialism went hand in hand – and this was what panicked the Empire even more – with a massive exercise in building a radical alternative. Chavez was probably the most important leader in the past quarter century to have reclaimed and re-popularise the vision of socialism, reinterpreting it as a new collective life in which equality, freedom, and real and deep democracy reign, and in which the common people plays the role of protagonist. His idea was to take existing reality as the point of departure and consciously create conditions for changing it. In the political platform on which he sought re-election last year, Chavez said, "We shouldn't let ourselves be deceived: the social and economic system that still prevails in Venezuela is a capitalist and rentier system" while "socialism has just begun to impose on us its own internal dynamics." And he added, "In order to move towards socialism, we need a people's power capable of disarticulating the oppression, exploitation and domination plots that still exist in the Venezuelan society."
Hugo Chavez fought and died for life – for a decent, humane life on earth. With his words and actions, the great communicator fired the imagination of the masses in his country and continent and the reverberations were felt all over the world. The people of India will always draw inspiration from him and, together with the people of the world, strive to make his magnificent dreams come true. Long live Hugo Chavez!
International Women's Day Protests
In Delhi, women's groups held a joint rally from Mandi House to Parliament Street, reflecting the spirit of the ongoing movement against rape following the December 16 gangrape. Participant organisations included AIDWA, AIPWA, CWDS, Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, FORCES, Jagori, JWP, NFIW, Nirantar, Pragatisheel Mahila Sangthan, Purogami Mahila Sangthan, Saheli, Swastik Mahila Samiti, and YWCA of Delhi, as well as student groups including AISA and students from various DU colleges, JNU and Jamia Millia Islamia. At Parliament Street, a protest meeting was held, which was addressed by women's movement activists including Sudha Sundararaman of AIDWA and Kavita Krishnan of AIPWA. The programme was conducted by Sehba Farooqui of AIDWA. On the presidium, AIPWA was represented by Sucheta De, one of the leading figures of the Delhi anti-rape protests. Addressing the protestors, Kavita saluted the century of women workers' struggles which were being commemorated on International Women's Day. She hailed the spirit of the women resisting POSCO at Odisha, who on the eve of Women's Day had been severely lathicharged and booked for criminal offences when some of them stripped their clothes off in protest against land grab. She hailed the women of Koodankulam protesting against the nuclear project. She demanded justice for the women of Kashmir and North East and for Soni Sori, subjected to rape by security forces and the police. She commented on the fact that both the Government and the main Opposition party, BJP, were united in the agenda of diluting and subverting the Verma Committee recommendations and introducing anti-women provisions in the rape law. She pointed out that the Government's ordinance as well as the Bill prepared by the Standing Committee headed by BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu had identical provisions, recommending that men be allowed to accuse women of rape; that the age of consent be raised from 16 to 18; retaining the protective shields for public servants and army officers accused of rape; refusal to amend AFSPA or recognise marital rape. Only the relentless pressure from the protests on the street and efforts of the women's movement, had forced the Government to reconsider the move to make the accused in the rape law 'gender neutral' and the move to raise the age of consent. Women are not going around raping or assaulting men, so why should they be accused of sexual assault? She pointed out that raising the age of consent would make young teenage boys branded as rapists even for consensual sexual activity with girls of the same age. She demanded strict provisions for errant police officers to ensure accountability for the police. Reminding of the rapes in Kunan Poshpora, and of Thangjam Manorama and countless others in conflict areas, she demanded repeal of AFSPA. She demanded that the offensive provisions of exemption of marital rape be removed from the rape law, since wives were not sexual property of men. She pointed out that death penalty for rape would in no way make women more secure, since it would only provide rapists with an incentive to kill their victims. She saluted the spirit of the Delhi December 16 braveheart who had lit the torch of struggle that had revitalised the movement against rape and sexual violence in India and across the world, and demanded that the Government and Parliament should respect her memory, not with lip service but with a gender-just law based on the Verma panel recommendations.
In Bihar, protests were held by AIPWA at district HQs all over the state, demanding a law based on JVC recommendations; reversal of the Nitish Govt's alcohol promotion policy, and demanding withdrawal of suicide charges against Irom Sharmila and scrapping of AFSPA. In Patna, a large procession of women from rural and urban Patna marched to the Bihar Assembly and held a protest meeting there. AISA and RYA also held a march from the Magadh Mahila College in which many women and men students participated, demanding 'Freedom without fear'. On the same day, powerful protests were held in Siwan, Buxar, Bhojpur and other districts of Bihar.
In Kolkata, women workers along with women, student and youth activists in large numbers participated in the women's day rally organised by AIPWA state committee, West Bengal. Decorated with posters, placards, flags, and banners and resonating with slogans against gender violence and demands of women workers, the spirited rally started off from College Square and ended near the Sealdah railway station. Women workers from unorganised sectors like beedi-rolling, domestic work, zari work, ASHA and mid-day meal, construction sector participated from five districts. Following the rally a street cultural protest was held at Sealdah.
In Andhra Pradesh, AIPWA held a dharna at Kakinada in front of the collector's office; a protest march in Sathupalli – mandal headquarters of Khammam district; a dharna at Ananthapuram before collector's office; a protest meeting at Vijaywada; and a dharna by mid-day meal workers at Nuziveedu at the Revenue divisional office.
In Uttarakhand, protests were held by AISA and AIPWA at many places demanding freedom without fear and implementation of the Justice Verma recommendations as well as punishment for the police officers responsible for the mass rape of Uttarakhand statehood movement protestors at Muzaffarnagar in 1994. At Pithoragarh, AISA held a seminar at the Municipality Hall, followed by burning a copy of the Government's ordinance in protest against its provisions of gender-neutrality of the accused. The seminar, chaired by women's activist Namrata Bora, was addressed by AIPWA activist Sheela Punetha, AISA's Hemant Khati, CPI(ML) District Secretary Jagat Martoliya, and many others. In Bhikyasain, the ASHA workers' union affiliated to AICCTU and AIPWA held a protest march in the marketplace and held a protest meeting which was addressed among others by CPI(ML) leader Purushottam Sharma. AISA held a seminar at Rudrapur, where students read an article on the subject of sexual violence and capitalism, and AISA activist Ruby Bharadwaj led a discussion on the issue. CPI(ML) leader KK Bora also addressed the gathering and the seminar was conducted by Lalit Matiyali. Journalism students at the Garhwal University at Srinagar held a seminar in which CPI(ML) and AISA activists participated. CPI(ML)'s Indresh Maikhuri and Kuldeep Sailani of AISA addressed the seminar.
In Bohisar (in Dahisar of Mumbai, Maharashtra), 8th March was observed by women of many villages in the Tarapur gram panchayat. Women gathered at the community hall of Dalits and held a meeting there. The meeting was presided by Comrade Leela Dubla of CPI(ML)'s Jambhalpada unit, and was addressed by many CPI(ML) activists. Following the meeting, a women who had shared her experience of domestic violence, was inspired to go to the police station with the comrades and file a complaint against her abusive husband.
In Ranchi, AIPWA held a rally to Albert Ekka Chowk where a protest meeting was held demanding 'Freedom without fear', implementation of Justice Verma recommendations including an effective law against all forms of rape and sexual violence, dignity and proper remuneration of women workers and domestic workers; a policy for women in Jharkhand. The protest meeting began with a rousing women's movement song which said, "A new star shines on the world's map, half the earth and half the sky is ours!" AIPWA State Secretary Sunita, President Gunni Oraon, Ranchi district Vice President Shanti Sen, and JSM's Anil Anshuman addressed the gathering. AIPWA secretary Sarojini Bisht conducted the meeting. JSM's Prerna team convenor and AIPWA leader Soni Tiriya rendered inspiring songs.
In Ruabandha Sector of Bhilai, Chhattisgarh, AIPWA held a meeting on the theme of women's freedom, safety and rights, demanding implementation of the JVC report and demanding release of Soni Sori and punishment of the police officers and Salwa Judum leaders accused of rape.
AIPWA and Mahila Mukti Morcha held a dharna at Ghadi Chowk, Supela in Bhilai, in which contract worker women participated.
Jan Pratirodh Rally in Madhubani
A people's protest rally was held at Madhubani demanding release of all the 135 people arrested in the wake of the October 12-13 police firing. CPI(ML) GS Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, Retd Colonel Lakshmeshwar Mishra, SJD(D) State leader and ex-MLA of Phulparas Ramkumar Yadav, CPI(ML) CCM Dhirendra Jha addressed the rally. The rally was chaired by CPI(ML)'s Madhubani Secretary Jitendra Kumar.
Crackdown on Peasants in Punjab
A platform of 17 peasants' and workers' organizations had given a call for protests at district headquarters on 6 March demanding increase of MSP for wheat. On the night of the 5th itself, the police conducted raids and arrested peasants' leaders and activists wholesale. Mass arrests also took place on the 6th where peasants managed to hold protests (such mass arrests took place at Gurdaspur, Jalandhar and other places). Around 2500 peasants are now in jails. A large number of CPI(ML) members and leaders are now in jail, as are those of other Left parties. Arrested CPI(ML) leaders include SCMs Gurmeet Bakhpura, Gulzar Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Ruldu Singh, Gurjant Singh, Gurnam Bhikhi, and Gurpreet Rudeke, as well as party activists Ola Samaon, Gurpreet Kotdunna and AISA activist Harman Himmatpura. 200 CPI(ML) members are in Gurdaspur jail and 150 in Mansa jail. CPM Punjab leaders Comrades Raghvir Singh, Lal Chand, Atmaram, and others are also in jail.
In spite of the severe crackdown, protests have continued defying the repression. While effigies have been burnt in villages and towns, CPI(ML) activists have initiated a relay hunger strike in Mansa jail, which is likely to spread to other jails as well. On 18 March, an indefinite dharna has been called by the 17 organisations at DC offices all over Punjab demanding release of all those arrested. The Supreme Court has taken note of Punjab police brutality against a woman at Tarn Taran. Such frequent mass arrests to muzzle protests in Punjab is another instance of the highhandedness of the Punjab police and Badal Government.
Statewide Protests in Bihar against Teachers' Repression and Acquittal of Massacre Accused
The CPI(ML) held statewide protests on 6th March in Bihar against the severe crackdown on teachers' protests at Patna, which was termed by the Supreme Court as another Jalianwala Bagh.
Protests and agitations were held at Patna, Arrah, Siwan, Jahanabad, Arwal, Gaya, Darbhanga, Patna rural and Muzaffarpur among some other district head quarters. Effigy of Nitish Kumar–led Bihar Govt was burnt in these protests. At Patna a march was held from JP Chowk to Station roundabout. The protests demanded Nitish Govt's resignation, equal pay for equal work, and demanded from the State Govt to accept the demands of the agitating teachers. The march was led by CPI(ML)'s Central Committee member Comrade KD Yadav, AIALA's General Secretary Comrade Dhirendra Jha, State's Standing Committee member Comrade Santosh Sahar, AIPWA's Comrade Sashi Yadav, AISA leader Abhyuday, RYA's National President Amarjit Kushwaha among others.
At the meeting Comrade Dhirendra Jha declared that "the CPI(ML) will fully support the bandh called by teachers' organisations next day (7 March)." He said that the barbaric manner in which the Nitish Govt went after the teachers who were sitting on hunger strike since 21 February and then again the brutality on teachers' protest demonstration the next day, clearly shows that the Nitish Govt is acutely insensitive to education and educators, and that it has degenerated completely into a police state. Education in Bihar has slumped further and all lies of the Govt stands exposed. One can easily imagine the real condition of education in a State where a teachers' movement is repressed in such a high-handed manner.
Meanwhile, protesting students too have been subjected to more of the same repression by the Bihar police. Effigies of the government were burnt at Patna as well as in other districts. CPI(ML) and AISA-RYA hit the streets of Patna on 7 March in support of the Bihar Bandh called by teachers' organizations and courted arrest. Comrades Santosh Sahar, Abhyuday, RYA's State Secretary Navin, CPI(ML) leaders Murtaza Ali, Ram Kalyan Singh, Subhash, Dharmendra, AISA leaders Markandeya Pathak, Sudhir Kumar, Neetu, Divya Gautam, Jasam's Santosh Jha etc. courted arrest. Several leaders of the Parivantankari Sikshak Sangh were also arrested. At Hilsa also 15 AISA-RYA activists were arrested. The bandh supporters led by AISA-RYA and CPI(ML) leaders blocked the Dak Bunglow Crossing. At Siwan, RYA and AISA jointly held a rally led by Amarjeet Kushwaha and blockaded the roads to effect the bandh.
The Bihar State Primary Teachers' Association (Gope Faction) affiliated with CPI(ML) and Bihar Panchayat and Town Basic Education Association and Newly Appointed Teachers' Association held a march in Patna.
Protests were held all over Bihar against the Bihar HC's acquittal of all convicts in the Nagari massacre case of 1998.
Jadavpur University Seminar on Gender Violence
The All India Students' Association (AISA) and the All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) jointly organized a one-day seminar on March 1 on the topic of gender violence and the ongoing countrywide women's movement demanding 'Freedom without Fear'. AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishnan, Professors Ranjita Biswas, Samantak Das and Saswati Ghosh, Poet Nabarun Bhattacharya and Anganwadi worker Selina Khatun (also the sister of a rape survivor from Jagachha) addressed the 150 odd audience at Jadavpur University's Vivekananda Hall. How the central government's hastily-issued Ordinance - purported to check gender violence - blatantly omits the progressive and radical bits from the Justice Verma Committee (JVC) recommendations and instead brings in additional changes that subvert the basic spirit of JVC recommendations (upholding women's autonomy over their bodies) was discussed at length. Kavita shared her first-hand experience of the massive public protests in Delhi and the ensuing movement with the call of 'Bekhauf Azadi'. Selina shared her continuing harrowing experience at the Jagachha police station trying to get the cops to book the culprit (more than a year after the attack) and fighting reinstatement of the ASI who was earlier suspended for not registering the victim's complaint.
The students' round-table session and the post-seminar interaction session with the audience was lively and raised various issues which are at the forefront of the women's question in India today.
Comrade Thakuri Ram: Comrade Thakuri Ram, born in a landless labouring family in Bhadaula village under Kaimur district in Bihar, passed away on 22nd February 2013 at the age of 76. From a very early age he started challenging the feudal forces in his village. He became a Party member in 1975 having met the comrades involved in revolutionary struggles in Bhojpur. Since then he continued as active Party member. Even during setbacks and repression he courageously stood firm. Very recently during the two-day Nation-wide strike of 20-21 February 2013, he played an active role in ensuring Bihar Bandh called by the CPI(ML). He participated in the 20th February bandh and was met the last time by other Party comrades. A Sankalp meeting was organised on 7th march to keep alive his memory.
Comrade Markandeya: Comrade Markandeya, who had been a Party member in Khanawn village under Bhabhua block for last 20 years, was always in the forefront in land struggles against zamindars and never missed any Party programme, passed away on 19 February 2013 due to illness at the age of 65.
CPI(ML) shares the grief of his family and comrades. Red salute to Comrade Markandeya.
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication, R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22442790, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.cpiml.org