AISA Condoles the Tragic Death of Kanu Sanyal

On 23 March, Kanu Sanyal, one of the senior founding leaders of the CPI(ML) movement and architect of Naxalbari uprising of 1967, met a tragic and painful end.

Kanu Sanyal was a key organizer of the Naxalbari movement, and it was he who made the first public announcement of the formation of CPI(ML) at the historic mass meeting in Kolkata on May 1, 1969. He was jailed for several years for his involvement in the movement.

His political opinions underwent a change after the massive crackdown by the State and the subsequent setback suffered by the movement. He went on to denounce the very formation of the CPI(ML) as well as leaders like Charu Majumdar. Onwards from the late 70s, he launched several groups on the lines of organizing committees of communist revolutionaries in an attempt to unite various groups. Eventually he also launched a new CPI(ML).

He remained active till the end of his years in the Darjeeling district, especially in struggles of tea garden workers against closure and hunger deaths. He lived a very simple life and never gave up political activism. Red Salute to the Legendary Leader of Naxalbari Uprising of 1967!

Observe 1st April 2010 as a Black Day Against the Operationalization of the Right to Education Bill and Moves to Implement the Foreign Universities Bill!

Struggle Against the UPA’s moves to Commercialize and Corporatize Education!

A well-known poem by Rabindranath Tagore spoke of a country “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high/ Where knowledge is free…” These words ring hollow when we consider the education policy that is being implemented in India today.

On 1st April, the Right to Education Bill will become a law. In its true sense, a genuine ‘Right to Education’ should mean that all children upto the age of 14 are entitled to nutrition, healthcare, safety, and education of an equitable standard free of cost. But the RTE in its present form is a farce in the name of providing genuine education: it makes only the hollow promise that 25% seats in private schools will be reserved for poor students and the government will supposedly contribute to paying their fees.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill 2010 has been cleared by the Cabinet. This is a bill with dangerous implications, for it will pave the way for virtually unrestricted entry of foreign private players in higher education, without any controls. Worse still, reservations for SC, ST, and OBC students will not be implemented in these foreign universities. The UPA is in a great hurry to get this bill ratified. It is said to be one of the first files Kapil Sibal requested upon assuming charge in the MHRD.

Both these bills seek to absolve the government of all its responsibilities towards providing affordable, quality education to the citizens of this country. They seek to hasten the neo-liberal agenda of making education a commodity rather than a fundamental right. The corporate media is hailing Kapil Sibal policies with the claim that what Manmohan Singh did to the Indian economy, by instituting the policies of liberalization and globalization, Kapil Sibal is now doing to education by following the dictats of the World Bank and the IMF. These moves do little to improve the accessibility and quality of education available to people in our country, but instead these policies cater to the upper middle class and elite constituency as if they alone have the right to education.

So long as the present neo-liberal regime continues, so long as education is made into a commodity and universities into shops for selling education, the genuine right to education will remain a distant dream for students in this country. On 1st April 2010, the day the Right to Education Bill becomes a law will mark a low-point in the education policy of our country. AISA has decided to observe this day as a ‘Black Day’ against the Implementation of the RTE and the Cabinet Approval granted to the Foreign Universities Bill. Protest action will be held by all units of AISA in various state capitals and campuses. We call upon all progressive sections of the students and youth to join us in this protest!

From “KG to PG”: Resist  Sibal’s Commercialization Drive!

Scrap UPA’s Farcical Right to Education Act 2009! Reject the Foreign Universities Bill!

Demand Free and Quality Education for all!

Hundreds Of Student’s And Youth Rally Against Operation Green Hunt And Corporate Loot In Jharkhand

We want an end to Greenhunt, Corruption and Corporate Loot!
We want Education and Employment!

Hundreds of students from AISA and comrades from the Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) from across six districts marched from Jhanda Maidan to Tower Chowk in Giridih, Jharkhand on 11th March to protest against Operation Greenhunt, blatant corruption and corporate loot in the state. The march culminated in a mass meeting addressed by AISA’s National Vice President Aslam, AISA’s Jharkhand Convenor Hemlal Mahto, RYA State Vice President Rameshwar Chowdhury and CPI(ML) leaders Rajesh Yadav and Parameshwar Mahto amongst others.

Their slogan ‘Nahi chahiye Greenhunt, Nahi chahiye Bhrashtachaar! Hume chahiye Shiksha, Hume chahiye Rozgaar,’ (We don’t want Greenhunt, We don’t want corruption! We want employment, We want education!) captured the essence of the prolonged campaign that AISA and RYA have been carrying out along with CPI-ML (Liberation) against corporate loot, state terror and political corruption.

It is evident that the real agenda behind the Centre’s Operation Greenhunt in 223 districts across Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, AndhraPradesh, West Bengal, Orissa and Maharashtra  is to pave the way for the mining mafia to enter into these mineral-rich areas. The tribal populations in these areas are being made to pay for the systematic loot of these areas with their lives, land and livelihood. At a recent lecture in Aligarh Muslim University, Dr. Binayak Sen commented on how the government, by displacing a large number of people from their homes and their lands is accentuating the problem of malnutrition in tribal areas. The over 700 villages that were burnt by Salwa Judum forces had still not been rehabilitated by the government in spite of a Supreme Court directive to do so, and their occupants are under-nourished and are living in a state of famine.

The signature campaign carried out by AISA activists against corporate loot has been making the following demands:

  • Nationalization of all mineral resources
  • Assets and income of all ministers in government posts related to resources be disclosed.
  • A judicial tribunal against the loot of these mineral resources.

The crooked nexus between political power, mining wealth and state terror needs to be exposed and assaults on the land, lives and livelihood of people must be countered by a determined mass campaign.

Significant Advances in AISA’s Struggle for Ensuring Social Justice in JNU !

JNU ADMINISTRATION FORCED TO RETRACT ITS ILLEGAL ADMISSION NORMS FOR OBC STUDENTS!

In 1992, the Supreme Court of India delivered a landmark judgment in the case of Indira Sawhney vs. the Union of India. We know this as the matter of the Mandal Recommendations. In its judgement, the apex court emphasized the role of caste as an institution in Indian society, its structural violence and discriminatory character, and argued that in the struggle to overcome caste special provisions like reservations had an important role to play.

The passing of a law favouring reservations was in itself an outcome of struggle. But it was in no way the end of the struggle. It took nearly twenty years before these provisions came to be implemented in educational institutions. Even when OBC reservations for students was introduced by an act of Parliament two years ago, the casteist forces everything to impede the process of implementation. But after a long legal battle, the Apex Court’s directives upheld reservations and the MHRD issued a circular with directives for the implementation of the law. Yet even now, the casteist lobbies are so deeply entrenched that they are not ready to give up their monopoly, the source of their domination and power.

Over the past three years, AISA has been at the forefront of the struggle to ensure the correct implementation of OBC reservations for students in JNU. However, the JNU Administration has been trying every method of subvert all kinds of reservations — whether for students or teachers. Whether for students or teachers, the casteist logic of “merit” is repeatedly invoked, as if “merit” is the monopoly only of the already privileged.

Reservations: A ‘guideline’ that can be rejected?

In 2009, JNU issued an advertisement for 149 faculty posts in keeping in keeping with MHRD guidelines for implementing SC/ST reservations for faculty posts. Even as the recruitment process had begun, some professors expressed their displeasure against reservations in the associate professor and professor posts. They argued, against all logic, that reservations constitute only UGC ‘guidelines’ that are ‘not binding’ upon JNU. This, when the UGC ‘guideline’ itself states that the recommendations are “statutory” in nature and flow from the provisions of the Indian Constitution!

The myth of the ‘stolen’ seats

Opponents of reservation repeatedly argue that candidates from the reserved categories ‘take-away’ seats that the general category would otherwise have acquired through ‘merit’. But the fact is that new jobs and new seats have been created for both general and reserved categories, entirely because of national reservation policy. When OBC reservation was implemented, the government decided that it would add enough seats to existing numbers to create 27% OBC reservation without disturbing the existing status quo. So rather than leading to a reduction of opportunities, in fact reservation led to an exponential increase in both seats for the students and posts for all categories of the faculty.

But in JNU, the anti-reservationists have been continually misusing their administrative positions to ensure that the expanded opportunities (of both student seats and faculty positions) are usurped entirely by the general category and students and teachers from backward classes and castes are prevented from entering the university.

The underhand tricks of the anti-reservationists

With regard to the implementation of OBC reservations, the Apex Court’s directives and the MHRD circular stated that OBC candidates would get ten marks relaxation below the cut -off fixed for the General category students. These prefixed cut-offs would provide two separate pools for filling OBC and General category candidates, from which respective category seats could be filled based on the respective merit-lists.

But the JNU administration interpreted the directive to mean that OBC students were to be admitted only within the ten marks below the last mark obtained by the admitted candidate in the General category. By deliberately confusing the question of ‘cut-off’ marks and consciously violating the MHRD and Supreme Court directives, the university administration has done all in its power to scuttle the process of implementing OBC reservation for the students. Because of this, seats meant to be reserved for OBC students are going unfulfilled in JNU or else being transferred to the General Quota.

We know that all universities were allowed to implement OBC reservations in a staggered manner over three years. Over the last two years, JNU’s admission policy has led to the following figures:

  • In 2008, the very first year when the OBC Reservation Act came into force, JNU officially fixed OBC quota at 12%. However, only 10% of the OBC quota was filled with as many as 54 out of the 210 seats reserved for OBC candidates going unfulfilled.
  • In 2009 (the second year of implementation of the OBC Reservation Act), while the stipulated OBC quota was 18%, only 14% seats have been filled with 83 OBC seats being transferred to the general category.

This anomaly is taking place because JNU is violating the MHRD and Supreme Court directives on at least three counts:

  1. In JNU, cut-off marks are not decided “well in advance”.
  2. It is fluctuating from discipline to discipline and year to year based on the empirical performance of different batches of general category students rather than on the university’s own standards of education.
  3. It is unfairly tying the fate of OBC candidates to the fluctuating performance of general category students rather than the university’s own standards of education.

What is the Correct Method of implementing OBC reservations?

In JNU, there already exists the rule that 40 for M.Phil and 30 for MA is the general category qualifying mark for admission in JNU.  Therefore, Supreme Court specified relaxation of maximum of 10 marks for OBC students must start from this pre-specified level say 40 (for M.Phil entrance) and 30 (for MA) – the qualifying marks for the General  Category – and relaxation should go down to maximum of 10 marks till reserved OBC seats are filled. This not only conforms to both the SC and MHRD directives but will provide sufficiently large pool of eligible OBC candidates to fill the required OBC quota as promised by the Act.

The debates in the Academic Council Meeting and the Struggle Ahead:

As a result of prolonged struggle of the JNU student community, the administration was pressurized to form a committee. However, despite opposition from students and the AISA-led JNUSU, Prof. Aditya Mukherjee (who is known to have clear anti-reservation opinions) was made the chairperson of this committee. This committee subsequently ratified and upheld the JNU’s administration’s wrong positions.

Over two years, AISA in JNU kept up the struggle, mobilizing both students and techaers to build pressure on the administration. As a result, a number of faculty members wrote a letter to the VC pointing out the specific wrong interpretations of the MHRD and Supreme Court guidelines and urging him to re-examine and correct the anomalies. The Aditya Mukherjee Committee was again asked to reexamine the issue of the ‘cut-off’ criteria. However, once again this committee merely restated its earlier erroneous position despite dissent within the committee.

The Academic Council meeting of 18 March was pivotal because 2010-11 will be the final session for the full implementation of 27% OBC reservation with 54% seat increase. If the Academic Council once again passed the Aditya Mukherjee Committee Recommendations then the OBC quota in JNU would never have been properly filled due to the artificially constructed shortage of “eligible candidates”. As a result, seats mandated for OBC candidates would continue to be wrongfully and unjustly transferred to general category.

Over the past two years, ever since OBC reservations were introduced, AISA has been raising the issue of the faulty ‘cut-off’ criterion for OBC students at every available platform. The fact that a consensus on the exact nature of the problem developed in JNU is a testimony to the long and sustained struggle that AISA has engaged in the past two years. This consensus was built with the help of research and sustained campaigning among students, teachers and progressive individuals. Several RTIs were filed, and over a period of three long months, data on 25 centres was collected to validate our position and expose and nail the JNU Administration.

In February 2010, a common forum called Forum for Defending and Implementing Reservations was formed. AISA extended full support to FDIR and they also fully articulated the position that AISA has maintained on OBC reservations for the past two years. Many programmes were undertaken under the banner of FDIR: from public meetings with faculty members protest marches of students. The struggle for upholding reservations became a campus-wide agenda and the illegal ‘cut off’ point a rallying call for social justice. Students and teachers in campus as well as concerned citizens extended their full support to the struggle.

While several organizations on campus tried to demobilize students by saying that FDIR was an AISA forum, the students remained steadfast to the concern for social justice and did not get deflected by inter-organizational bickering. On 13th March, FDIR gave a call for an indefinite hunger strike. The President and Vice-President of the out-going JNUSU, Com. Sandeep Singh and Com. Shephalika participated in the hunger-strike along with Com. Abhishek Kundan, Com. Anoop, Com. Sandeep Saurav and Com. Martand. A mass relay hunger strike also took place on 17th March in which over a hundred students participated.

The pressure of the movement generated a huge momentum. As a result, the Academic Council meeting on 18th March was forced reject the Aditya Mukherjee Committee recommendations. Due to this, the casteist forces on campus suffered a major setback. A dean’s Committee will soon meet to look into the option of following the Central University of Hyderabad in implementing OBC reservations and correcting the anomalies that have prevailed in JNU so far Yet the possibility still remains that the JNU administration will find new ways to subvert the implementation of reservations and use new tricks to follow their old agenda. Therefore, the student community of JNU will have to remain vigilant and prepared. On its part, AISA is committed to taking forward the struggle for social justice in every way.

See How JNU is Violating the Law on OBC reservations!

Details of the Marks of 2009 Admissions Obtained Through RTI Show How Eligible OBC Students Were Denied Admission through Illegal Cut-Off Criteria

Centre

(A)

Total Offer

(B)

Seats reserved for OBC students as per 18% of total offer

(C)

Actual OBC seats offered

(D)

DEFICIT in OBC reservation i.e. (C)-(D)

(E)

Mark of the Last candidate offered admission in the general category

(F)

Centre-wise “Effective” qualifying mark for OBC candidates by JNU’s wrong criterion

i.e. ( F-10)

(G)

Number of OBC eligible students available  from whom the deficit could have been filled, if JNU’s  had not applied its arbitrary and  wrong Cut-off criterion i.e. (F-10)

(H)

Additional Information on  the POOL of eligible OBC students denied admission by the faulty cut-off criterion

(I)

MA Admissions 2009-10
ECO/

SSS

123 22 3 19 73 63 79 Deficit of 19 could have been filled by going down to 40 marks, instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 63. Even a student with 59.5 marks was denied admission.
MOD/

SSS

39 7 0 7 70 60 53 Deficit of 7 could have been filled by going down to 49 marks, instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 60. Even a student with 59 marks was denied admission.
MED/

SSS

26 5 1 4 67 57 43 Deficit of 4 could have been filled by going down to 45 marks, instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 57. Even a student with 52 marks was denied admission.
POL/

SSS

78 14 4 10 48 38 23 Deficit of 10 could have been filled by going down to 31 marks instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 38. Even a student with 36 marks was denied admission.
LIN/SL 31 6 3 3 71.5 61.5 33 Deficit of 3 could have been filled by going down to 58 marks, instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 61.5. Even a student with 58.5 marks was denied admission.
SAA 31 6 0 6 71 61 10 Deficit of 6 could have been filled by going down to 30 marks, instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 61. Even a student with 57 marks was denied admission.
MPhil Admissions 2009-10
MOD / SSS 21 4 3 1 65 55 9 Deficit of 1 could have been filled by going down to 54 marks, instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 55.
POP/

SSS

20 4 2 2 43 33 0 Deficit of 2 could have been filled by going down to 31 marks, instead of the arbitrary ‘qualifying’ bar of 35. There were 2 students with 31 and 32 marks.
ECN/

SSS

20 4 3 1 53 43 4 Deficit of 1 could have been filled by going down to 42 marks, instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 43.
SOC/

SSS

35 6 1 5 64 54 16 Deficit of 5 could have been filled by going down to 48 marks, instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 54. Even a student with 53 marks was denied admission.
SSP/

SSS

11 2 1 1 66 56 6 Deficit of 1 could have been filled by going down to 53 marks, instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of  56.
INP/

SIS

10 2 0 2 64 54 4 Deficit of 2 could have been filled by going down to 44 marks., instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 54. Even a student with 47 marks was denied admission.
ENG/

SL

21 4 3 1 66 56 9 Deficit of 1 could have been filled by going down to 55 marks, instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 56.
VSA/

SAA

7 1 0 1 70 60 1 Deficit of 1 could have been filled by going down to 51 marks. instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 60.
TPS/

SAA

7 1 0 1 80 70 1 Deficit of 1 could have been filled by going down to 59 marks, instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 70.
CNS/

SAA

7 1 0 1 78 68 1 Deficit of 1 could have been filled by going down to 45 marks, instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 68.
CLG 25 5 2 3 53 43 4 Deficit of 3 could have been filled by going down to 38 marks, instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 43. Even a student with 42 marks was denied admission.
SAN 16 3 2 1 72 62 6 Deficit of 1 could have been filled by going down to 61 marks, instead of the arbitrary cut-off bar of 62.
ANC/

SSS

10 2 0 2 52 42 0 There were 2 candidates with marks 33 and 34, who could have been selected had the arbitrary cut-off bar of 42 marks not been there.
ECO/

SSS

25 5 1 4 45 35 0 There was one student at 33.5, who could have been selected had the arbitrary ‘qualifying’ bar of 35 not been there. Other than this, there were not enough applicants.
EDU/

SSS

21 4 0 4 54 44 3 No OBC candidate available even by correct cut-off criterion. One candidate had 23 marks
SPH/

SSS

12 2 0 2 42 32 0 No OBC candidate available even by correct cut-off criterion. There were 2 candidates at 22 and 24.
RCA/

SIS

31 6 3 3 47 37 2 The deficit could have been filled had the arbitrary ‘qualifying’ bar of 35 not been there. There was one candidate with 36 marks.
EUP/

SIS

13 2 1 1 40 30 0 The deficit could have been filled had the arbitrary ‘qualifying’ bar of 35 not been there. There are two more candidates at 34 and 31
ITD/ SIS 8 1 0 1 53 43 0 Candidates not available
LIN/

SL

14 3 0 3 57 47 0 1 candidate available at 33, who could have been selected had the arbitrary ‘qualifying’ bar of 35 not been there.  Other than this, there were not enough applicants.

Batla House ‘Encounter’ : Post Mortem Reports of Atif and Sajid Call the Bluff of Delhi Police and NHRC! Institute Judicial Probe into the Batla House ‘Encounter’ Immediately!!

The NHRC has finally released the documents which formed the basis of its conclusion that the Batla House ‘encounter’ was genuine. The post mortem reports of the slain young men, Atif Ameen and Md. Sajid have been made public for the first time. So far, the Delhi Police and AIIMS (which conducted the post mortem) had declined to  provide this information.

It should be noted that when the RTI was filed the first time by RTI activist and Jamia student Afroze Alam Sahil, a few days after the ‘encounter’, there was no direction from the court that such information be withheld. Indeed, frustrated by the Police’s refusal to part with the post mortem report, the Central Information Commission directed the Delhi Police to submit all documents pertaining to the Batla House Encounter before it by March 5, 2009 for inspection by the bench so that it could examine whether the information could be made public. The Delhi Police instead rushed to the High Court, challenging this directive, feigning that such information would be detrimental to investigations. The High Court stayed the CIC directive on 1st April 2009. Meanwhile, the NHRC in its ‘enquiry’, extensively cited the postmortem report of Inspector Sharma to prove that he had been fired upon by alleged terrorists.

The post mortem reports of Atif and Sajid which has now been finally released reveals that Atif Ameen sustained injuries on right knee cap; grazing effects in the inter-scapular region or back region in layperson’s terms, multiple abrasions on right buttock. It is further explicitly stated that one of the injuries was “produced by blunt force impact by object or surface.” Almost all (8 out of 10) the entry wounds on the body of Atif Ameen are on the back side, in the region below the shoulders and at the back of the chest, which point to the fact that he was repeatedly shot from behind.

The post mortem report of 17-year-old Md Sajid, who had five bullet holes on the upper side of the head, shows that he was beaten with a ‘blunt object’. His four-page post-mortem report mentions the cause of death was “craniocerebral damage as a result of gunshot injuries to head.” He had at least two injuries (inter-scapular region and right leg), which had been caused by “blunt force impact by object or surface.”

The gun shot injuries received by Atif are as follows:

Gun shot Wounds (Entry) on the Body of Atif Ameen

Gun shot Wound No. (as In the report) Size Area
14 1 cm diameter, cavity deep left side back
9 2X1 cm, cavity deep having 1 cm abrasion collar Left side back of chest
13 3×1 cm cavity deep with abrasion collar of 9.2 cm Over midline at back, 30 cm below the nape of neck
8 1.5 x1 cm x cavity deep Right scapular region, 10 cm from midline and 7 cm below tip of right shoulder
15 0.5 cm diameter Xcavity deep Lower back midline, 44 cm below nape of neck
6 1.5 X1 cm oval in shape Inner aspect of left thigh (track going upward), communicating with gsw injury no. 20 at left buttock region from where a metallic object is recovered. The GSW 20 is cited as of unusually large size of 5×2.2 cm
10 1×0.5 cm 5 cm below right shoulder tip & 14cm below midline
11 1×0.5 cm Inter scapular region, 4cm right to midline
12 2×1.5 cm Right side back, 15 cm from midline, 29 cm below tip of te right shoulder
16 1 cm diameter Outer and back aspect of right forearm

·     Almost  (8 out of 10) all the entry wounds on the body of Atif Ameen are on the back side, in the region below the shoulders and at the back of the chest, which point to the fact that he was repeatedly shot from behind.

·     Another one (no.6 on the table) is on the inner side of the left thigh but suspiciously, the trajectory of the shot is in the upward direction, thus suggesting that in this case the shot was fired from below. What caused the unusually large wound of 5 x 2.2 cm? Why were metallic objects present in the left thigh?

2) 17-year-old Md Sajid also displayed at least two injuries (numbers 13 and 14, interscapular region and right leg), which had been caused by blunt force impact by object or surface.”  The gunshot injuries received by Sajid are as follows:

Gun shot Wound no. 1 Right frontal region of the scalp (forehead)
Gun shot Wound no. 2 Right forehead
Gun shot Wound no. 5 Tip of right shoulder (going vertically downwards)
Gun shot Wound no. 8 Back of left side chest (12 cm from root of neck)
Gun shot Wound no. 10 Left side of occiput (in layperson’s term, back portion of the head)

The entry points of each of these gunshot wounds—and the fact that all but one bullet is travelling in a downward direction—strongly suggests that he was held down by force (which also explain the injuries on the back and leg region), while bullets were pumped down his forehead, back and head.

In which genuine cross fire do people receive injuries only in the back and head region??

The all-important question is at why the NHRC deliberately ignored this incriminating and suggestive evidence? In its refusal to pursue any contrary line of investigation, it has proved itself to be in collusion with the Delhi Police, discarding even the minimum pretence of impartiality.

The Police’s version of the Batla encounter was that the moment they entered the L-18 flat in search of ‘IM’ suspects, they were shot at, and in the ensuing crossfire, Atif and Sajid were killed. In every crossfire, there are necessarily FRONTAL injuries – which are conspicuously absent in BOTH Atif’s and Sajid’s case. ALL the injuries which they received were from BEHIND, and in Sajid’s case also on his head. Also, the presence of injuries due to ‘blunt’ objects, caused BEFORE their deaths point out that they had been overpowered and then shot dead. Clearly, this calls the bluff of the ‘cross fire’ version which the Delhi Police has been peddling so far and decisively points to a case of calculated killing in a fake encounter.

The all-important question is at why the NHRC deliberately ignored this incriminating and suggestive evidence? In its refusal to pursue any contrary line of investigation, it has proved itself to be in collusion with the Delhi Police, discarding even the minimum pretence of impartiality and objectivity in investigation.

However, the post mortem report is only one of the documents that been released by the NHRC to the appellant Afroze Alam. Documents accessed through RTI also include statements by senior police officers and a “Note on Investigation of the Serial Blasts at Delhi” (which became the basis for NHRC’s report and also the LG’s decision that no magisterial probe was required into the encounter’). The Note on Investigation is high on allegations but cipher on any hard evidence.

·     The cell phone number 9811004309 is shown to be at the heart of the investigations. According to the police, this number was in touch with three cell numbers from Gujarat, which were under surveillance by Gujarat Police following the Ahmedabad blasts (which took place on 26th July 2008). Further, this number was found to be present near Nizamuddin station on 21st July 2008, from where according to the police, ‘terrorists’ booked train tickets for Ahmedabad. According to the police, the cell number belonged to Md. Atif Amin and the police even lists how this cell number was switched off on 23rd September 2007 (UP court blasts).

However, by the police’s own admission in the Note, this number came to be acquired by Atif Amin on 11th August 2008 (much after UP court blasts and after Ahmedabad blasts and the supposed booking of train tickets at Nizamuddin station). Atif got this number as a post paid connection on 11th Aug and all the address details furnished by him were found to be true (that is how the police arrived at L-18 on 19th September 2008 in the first place).

So the only piece of evidence that the police had to nail down Atif Amin was his cell number, which he did not even possess at the time the Gujarat Police was tracking it. None of the material and evidence supposedly seized by the police has any procedural validity.

·     The Note also mentions that immediately following the shootout, photographs of the “deceased Atif and Sajid were sent through Intelligence Agency to Afzal Usmani, who confirmed that they were indeed involved in the blasts.

Recall that the ‘encounter’ took place on 19th September 2008, and the Annexure ‘A’ submitted by the police to the NHRC states that Usmani was arrested on 23rd September 2008, full four days after the ‘encounter’. So when was Usmani arrested? When were the supposed confirmations made?

Despite overwhelming evidence and grounds for contesting Delhi Police claims, the UPA government has repeatedly dismissed the demand for a judicial probe into the Batla House ‘encounter’.

The simple truth is that the Congress is pandering to the jingoist frenzy about ‘Islamic’ terrorism and does not dare to disturb this majoritarian communal logic. Indeed, the Lieutenant Governor of the Delhi government actively stalled a magisterial enquiry—as is required under the NHRC guidelines—by expressing his satisfaction with the “impartial and scientific investigation” being conducted by the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police. This is in stark contrast to the Congress’ leading role in the agitation demanding a fair enquiry into the tragic encounter killing of a youth Ranbir in Dehradun, which culminated in a CB-CID probe and the suspension of several senior police officers of Uttarakhand. Clearly, for the Congress, Atif’s and Sajid’s lives were dispensable and did not merit a fair probe.

At the same time, the Congress is desperately trying to save its face by providing a ‘healing touch’ to the Muslim community. Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh recently visited Azamgarh – which is reeling under a spate of arrests of alleged ‘terror accused’ and also battling the tag of ‘epicenter of terror’ – in an attempt to ‘reach out’ to the Muslim community. However, the shallowness of the Congress’s claims was soon made evident. During his visit, Mr. Singh shockingly tried to persuade the people of Azamgarh about the futility of a judicial probe into the Batla House ‘encounter’!

In light of these revelations and in the persistent refusal of the NHRC to take into account evidence which vitiates the Delhi Police claims that the ‘encounter’ was genuine, it is clear that a judicial probe into the Batla House ‘encounter’ should be conducted immediately. All those arguing that judicial probes are protracted and futile exercises are simply asking us to forget that two young men were killed under highly mysterious circumstances. Given that a separate FIR has not even been filed in the case of their killings, nor a magisterial probe conducted, as required under NHRC guidelines, a time bound judicial probe is the only solution.

AISA team visits Azamgarh; Reiterates demand for Judicial Probe into ‘encounter’ in light of the Post mortem reports of Atif and Sajid

A three member team from AISA Jamia and Allahabad University visited Azamgarh on 16th and 17th March 2010 in order to ascertain the facts behind the recent spate of arrests of alleged members of Indian Mujahideen. The Delhi police and the UP ATS have alleged that the arrested youth, Shahzad and Salman, were involved in the various bombings across Indian cities since 2007. It may be recalled that Azamgarh has been stigmatized as an epicenter of terror ever since scores of its youth were arrested in the aftermath of the Batla House ‘encounter’.

The team met with a wide cross-section of people in Azamgarh (including Khalispur and Sanjarpur), including university teachers, lawyers, friends and relatives of the arrested youth. They also visited the homes of Shahzad and Salman. They found that people were not convinced about the guilt of the arrested boys as their conduct had been impeccable and they had no criminal record. There was also a very strong resentment against the manner in which the police and administration were deploying massive police force in the town and Muslim-dominated villages of the district, for instance when Shahzad was taken to Azamgarh after his arrest. Such exercises were creating a communal polarization and fanning a fear psychosis. The team noted that there was an increasing unwillingness of parents to send their wards to Delhi or other cities for education, for fear that they might be targeted by police and security agencies. This will exclude Muslim youth from Azamgarh from education itself.

The team noted that the Congress, following Digvijay Singh’s visit to Azamgarh, had been spreading a malicious propaganda against the long-standing demand for judicial enquiry into the ‘encounter’ on grounds that it would be long-drawn and futile. AISA strongly condemns this propaganda, and reiterates that there can be no conceding on this demand, as till date there has been no fair and free enquiry into the ‘encounter’. While the demand for clubbing of all blasts cases and fast tracking of trials is urgently required, it is to be noted that this legal battle will not cover the killing of Atif and Sajid. This is all the more urgent as the post mortem report made public yesterday clearly establishes that they were hit by blunt objects. This has exposed the real face of the Congress, which while pretending to reach out to the people of Azamgarh, is itself manufacturing opposition to the demand for judicial probe, even as arrests of innocents and minors continue unabated.

The team made the following demands:

1)      Judicial enquiry into the Batla House ‘encounter’

2)      Clubbing of all blasts cases and fast tracking of the trials.

3)      All police officers guilty of framing innocent Muslim youth in terror charges must be punished.

4)      Protection must be provided to lawyers defending terror accused. An enquiry must be ordered into Shahid Azmi’s murder.

Sd/-

Aslam Khan (National Vice President, AISA)

Ramayan Ram (State Secretary, UP AISA)

Zarin Khan and Md. Sameer

AISA activists in BHU detained for protesting against Kapil Sibal !

On 8th March, Kapil Sibal, Minister for Human Resources Development, visited Benares Hindu University as the Chief Guest of the ‘Deeksha Samaroh’ function. While the university officials and administration were engaged in praising Sibal and seeking favours, AISA activists raised their protest against his policies which are part of the neo-liberal agenda for education.

While raising their demands against the Right to Education bill in its present form and demanding the restitution of campus democracy in BHU, thirty AISA activists were detained by the police. In a campus like BHU, the writ of the administration runs large and the police are regularly used to clamp down on student protest. Curfew prevails inside the campus and students cannot assemble freely nor hold any programmes. Elections to the Student Union have not been held since 1997, although a nominated student council exists which rarely raises the genuine demands of students.

The protesting AISA activists were kept in police detention until the programme was over. The protestors included Comrade Savita, AISA’s District President. Several women comrades also participated in the programme and were arrested.

AISA is committed to taking forward the struggle for campus democracy and against the neo-liberal agenda which seeks to make education a ‘privilege’ available to a very few rather than a right that can be accessed by all.

Silencing Women: Patriarchal Violence and the Struggles of women

Even after you’ve tied the chains of domesticity,

Shame and modesty around my feet

Even after you’ve paralyzed me

This fear will not leave you

That even though I can’t walk

I can still think

Kishwar Nahid

In the Centenary year of International Women’s Day, as we celebrate the courage of women, as we raise their concerns and celebrate their struggles, we need to also unitedly resist the tremendous violence that is perpetuated against women.

As women’s movements grow in scope and scale, and as women assert their voices, the backlash by patriarchal society is even greater and reflects its desperation. Violence against women is a way of silencing them. It is part of the submissiveness that patriarchy forces upon women. The structural violence of patriarchy denies women education, health facilities and the basic rights of choice and dignity. When women assert themselves, they are “put in place” by the the age-old patriarchal weapons of sexual slander and violence.  Just a few recent instances indicate how such patriarchal violence overlaps with other kinds of brutal social oppression:

  • In Lakshmisagar village in the Chitradurga taluk of Karnataka, when a Nayaka girl Mamata eloped with a Dalit boy Kumara, her act bred resentment among the socially and politically dominant nayaka community. Bhagyamma, a Dalit woman, was accused by Mamata’s family of having abetted the love affair. Bhagayamma was stripped naked and dragged to the Panchayat office in the presence of the whole village and beaten with a rod, resulting in head injuries.
  • Chithralekha, a Dalit woman from Payyanur in Kerala was one of the first women to start plying an auto in Kerala. For this, she has been repeatedly targeted by CPI(M)’s CITU-led auto drivers’ union. In January 2010, she was arrested on false charges and manhandled in a police station, while CITU mobilised its contingent of auto-drivers against her. It is indeed shameful that a Union backed by the CPI(M) should thus target and witch-hunt a dalit woman, rather than supporting her struggle for a life with dignity.
  • In Gompad, a remote village in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, the State’s war against its own people took its most brutal form on women. In a massacre perpetuated by the security forces, women adivasis were also killed, their bodies shot, slashed and burned. One of the witnesses of this massacre, Sodi Sambho who was also severely injured petitioned the Supreme Court, but continues to be intimidated and threatened.
  • In Shopian in Kashmir, the rape and murder of two young women, Asiya and Nilofer, represents the violence and totally lack of democracy that marks militarized zones. It demonstrates also the total refusal of the state administration to bring those who perpetuated these crimes to book.

When women are subject to violence, justice takes its time coming. And as the case of Ruchika Girhotra showed, when justice comes it is often too little and late. Many stories rarely make it to the headlines and we have bred a culture of impunity where those accused of violence against women often go scot free. The 172nd report of the Law Commission suggested sweeping changes to laws relating to rape, molestation and sexual harassment in the Indian Penal Code along with changes in the CrPC and the Evidence Act to make legal procedures more sensitive to women. But demands by different activists for these changes have repeatedly been ignored by successive governments.

Every act of silencing and violence also brings with it stories of resistance and courage. On the eve of International Women’s Day, AISA salutes the resilience and courage of women and commits itself to the struggles for ensuring women’s dignity, equality and liberation.

Husain Exiled: Fascist Threats, Freedom of Expression and Indian Democracy

Husain Exiled: Fascist Threats, Freedom of Expression and Indian Democracy“In India, a new Puritanism is being carried out in the name of cultural purity and a host of ignorant people are vandalizing art and pushing us towards a pre-renaissance era,” — Delhi High Court while quashing all charges against M.F. Husain in its 8th May 2008 judgment.

Maqbool Fida Husain is one of India’s most noted painters. But he is known today for all the wrong reasons. In 1996, at the age of 81, he became the centre of attacks by the Hindu fascist forces, who took issue with his portrayal of Hindu deities in the nude. Charged with ‘hurting Hindu sentiments’, Husain was confronted by death threats and endless harassment. At one point, there were 1,250 cases pending against him across the country. The fascist brigade stalled his exhibitions, often violently, whether in Boston, London, or New Delhi. On more than one occasion, they vandalized his property and damaged his work. In 2006, the ninety-one year old artist had to leave India, fearing for his life.

Eventually, the Indian Court quashed most of the cases against Husain. In his remarkable 74-page judgment, Justice Kaul termed the allegations against Husain “baseless.” The judgment ends evocatively, stating that: “A painter at 90 deserves to be sitting in his home and painting his canvas.”

Yet though the courts ruled in his favor, Husain continued to remain in exile in Qatar. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which spearheaded the attacks, repeatedly proclaimed that it would not allow him to return. Worse still, the Congress-led UPA government, for all its professed ‘secularism’ and commitment to freedom-of-expression has not even provided lip service towards defending Husain’s right to live in his own land. Now, the matter appears to have come to its sorry end with the news that Husain has accepted citizenship of Qatar, thus relinquishing his Indian citizenship.

The debates over freedom of expression that arise in the case of M.F. Husain are more than a turf war between different political forces. Rather, they are questions of vital import for the health and survival of our democracy. As Justice Kaul observed in his judgment of 8 May 2008:

“Our Greatest problem today  is  fundamentalism which  is  the  triumph  of  the  letter  over  the  spirit.  In  a  free democratic society tolerance is vital especially in large and complex societies comprising people with varied beliefs and interests. An intolerant society does not brook dissent. An authoritarian  regime  cannot  tolerate  expression  of  ideas which  challenge  doctrines  and ideologies  in  the  form  of  writings,  plays,  music  or  paintings.  Intolerance  is  utterly incompatible with  democratic  values.  This  attitude  is  totally  antithetical  to  our  Indian Psyche and  tradition.  It must be realised  that  intolerance has a chilling,  inhibiting effect on  freedom  of  thought  and  discussion.  The  consequence  is  that  dissent  dries  up. And when  that  happens  democracy  loses  its  essence.”

The main allegation against Husain is that his portrayal of Hindu female deities is ‘offensive to the sentiments of all Hindus’ in India and abroad. Rather, he should paint Muslim icons like Mohammed, Mariam, and Allah. The forces who advance these arguments have no knowledge of the different Indian art traditions that have existed in India. In both Indian folk traditions and Hindu classical tradition there is no concept of nudity. Husain’s crime is not that he lacks the understanding of ‘Indian Culture’ or is disrespectful to the Hindu sentiments. He uses subjects and styles that have been used to represent Hindu gods and goddesses since ancient times. His crime is that he is a Muslim artist with deep love and awareness of Hindu art traditions, at a time in Indian politics, when communal mobilization and vote bank politics to seize power has become a norm.

It is also interesting to note that the subjects of all three of Husain’s controversial paintings are female deities. For most self-appointed guardians of morality like the VHP, there could be no subject more ‘emotive’ than the body of a woman which comes to represent a community. The romanticization of woman as a mother, a daughter, a sister, or a whore and the inability of most to think outside these constructs has only helped such forces. Further, fundamentalist groups are always ready to join hands when it comes to safeguarding their terrain, especially when the issues involved concern the representation or agency of women: think of how fundamentalisms of all hues joined together, whether this be the campiagn against Taslima Nasreen or ‘Love Jihad’.

Today, Husain is (in)famous for many reasons. We know how much his paintings sell for, his obsession with Madhuri Dixit, and his extravagant new life in Dubai. Few know that he started his career as a young artist painting movie hoardings in Mumbai or that his work helped establish a progressive style which took its points of reference from Indian culture but used modern techniques. Fewer still know that he has spent his life understanding and depicting the totality of Indian tradition: he spent eights years painting the Ramayana with over 150 canvases dedicated to the epic, and as many years painting the Mahabharata. It is important to bring the figure of Husain out of the art-galleries and archives and to celebrate the tolerant, inclusive notion of Indian culture that he stands for, rather than afford the fascist brigade the opportunity and liberty to manipulate public debate and public opinion.

Budget 2010: Promoting Inflation and Putting the Burden on the Aam Aadmi

UPA-II’s Union Budget 2010 does nothing to rein in runaway inflation – rather, it proposes to promote inflation and make sure that the lion’s share of the burden of inflation is disproportionately borne by the poor and working people. Meanwhile, the ‘Sensex salute’ that followed the Budget announcement is a testimonial tribute to the Budget’s policy of promoting privatisation and continuing with generous tax sops to the corporate sector.

While announcing a hike of more than Rs. 2.50 per litre of petrol and diesel, the FM also indicated that proposals made in the Kirit Parekh report on fuel price deregulation will be taken up by Petroleum Minister Murli Deora in due course. The Damocles sword of even sharper rise in fuel and other prices thus continues to hang over the people.

The budget does nothing to tackle the pressing issue of food inflation either by way of strengthening and expanding the public distribution system or by addressing the structural roots of the persistent and deep agrarian crisis which lies at the heart of food insecurity and food inflation. The budgetary allocation for Food and PDS has  in fact been slashed from Rs.56720.98 in 2009-10 to Rs.56133.05 in this year’s budget!! The Budget makes no move to hike public investment in agriculture or irrigation, or to increase the inflow of rural credit. Apart from some token announcements – such as Rs. 400 crore for ‘green revolution’ in some Eastern Indian states, and some talk of developing ‘climate resilient agriculture’ and developing ‘pulse and oilseed villages,’ or extending the deadline for farm loan repayment by another 6 months, the budget has no initiative on the agrarian front.

A particularly disturbing aspect of the budget lies in the field of tax revenue. Direct tax yield is set to decline by Rs. 26,000 crore (corporate surcharge has been reduced from 10% to 7.5%) while indirect tax revenue is estimated to increase by Rs. 45,000 crore (thanks primarily to an across the board excise hike of 2%). This makes the tax system in India further regressive because the brunt of indirect taxes is always borne disproportionately by the poor and low-income consumers who constitute the overwhelming majority of buyers in Indian markets.

This budget has proposed huge tax reliefs for the top most income holders in our country. Individuals in the lower tax bracket have not got any benefit. They will be affected by the inflation and rising petroleum prices. Changing of slabs will only benefit persons earning above 3 lakhs per annum. Even in this category of ‘benefits’ the extent of tax savings/benefit is extremely skewdly designed so that those in the higher income brackets of above Rs 10 lakhs per annum or more will get maximum of the benefit. This tax relief, as explained by the Finance Minister is to offset the inflationary effects. Well Mr. FM, will you tell us that who are the people worst affected by this inflations the rich or the poor? This tax relief on personal income tax mostly privileging those in the very high income brackets is going to cost Rs 26000 crore deficit to the exchequer.

This particular class bias of the government is also visible in their own admission of “revenue foregone”. The budget statement on “Revenue Foregone” notes the figures as follows: Revenue foregone on account of direct and indirect taxes was Rs. 41,4099 in 2008-09 and this has increased to Rs.50,2299 in 2009-10. The budget document itself admits (quite shamelessly) “.. the amount of revenue foregone continues to increase year after year. As a percentage of aggregate tax collection, revenue foregone remains high and shows an increasing trend as far as Corporate Income-tax is considered for the financial year 2008-09. In case of indirect taxes the trend shows a significant increase for the financial year 2009-10 due to reduction in customs and excise duties… “ Now in a year when profitable PSUs like NHPC and NTPC are being disinvested in the name of curbing Fiscal deficit, this budget clearly shows that whom this government is going to subsidise and at whose cost!

The increase in allocation for rural and social sectors is also extremely inadequate. NREGS has got just Rs 40,100 crore. The Indira Awas Yojana scheme’s unit cost has been raised only marginally to Rs 45,000 in plain area and Rs 48,500 in hilly areas – while agricultural labourers across the country have long been demanding a minimum grant of Rs 1 lakh for housing. A ‘Social Sector Security Fund’ has been announced – but backed with a meagre allocation of just Rs 1000 crore.

In contrast to the inadequate and token allocations for agricultural investment, rural development and social security, the allocation for defence is a whopping Rs 147,000 crore.

Meanwhile the Budget goes full steam ahead with the agenda of privatisation. The government will raise Rs 25,000 crore from disinvestment of its stake in state-owned firms; banking privatisation is being promoted with RBI to give license to some more private sector players and NBFCs; “a firm view on opening up of the retail sector” has been recommended; and gradual coal sector privatisation is also clearly on the agenda. What with the setting up of the Coal Development Regulatory Authority? PSUs like Rural Electrification are also likely to be disinvested. We can well imagine the condition of rural level electrification once it is left to the profit mongering private players!

In higher education, the fund allotted for all the major institution has been slashed to severe degree. For the IITs the fund has been decreased from 1665 crore (last year) to 1660 in this year. The funds of IISc, IIMs and AIIMS has also been reduced by 24 crore, 12 crore and 86 crore respectively.

There has been a slight increase from Rs.25,338 crore in 2009-10  to Rs.33,214 crore in 2010-11 for  primary and secondary education sector.  But still this amount falls short of the estimated reqirement of Rs. 40,000 crore to fulfil the Kapil Sibal’s much trumpeted Right to Education Bill!

AISA calls upon the Finance Minister to withdraw the hike in petrol and diesel and excise duties, expand the public distribution system, provide at least Rs. 10,000 crore for the social security fund, and increase rural and social sector allocations while reducing the defence outlay and increasing corporate tax. AISA appeals to the working people and mass organisations of the rural poor and peasants as well as trade unions and student-youth and women’s organisations to exert pressure on the government to withdraw inflationary measures and corporate sops and ensure immediate relief for the common people.