Protest Against Victimization and Radio-tagging of Indian Students in the US!

AISA strongly condemns the inhuman treatment of some Indian students in the US: shockingly, some Indian students in the Tri-Valley University of the US have been forced by US authorities to wear radio collars around their ankles, in addition to being victimized in several other ways. These students, mostly from Andhra Pradesh, have taken admission in this dubious university, and are now being punished for their ‘crime’ of wanting to study in the US.

Hundreds of Indian students (an estimated 1500) have been duped by a California-based “sham” university, are now frantically knocking at the doors of colleges begging for admission in their desperate attempt to save their academic careers and avoid deportation back home. The Tri Valley University has recently been shut down by the federal authorities in the US last week after investigations revealed massive fraud indulged by it. And now the students are being punished for the crimes of the university!

In some cases students are being asked for bond deposits running into thousands of dollars and a large number of them have been served with Notice to Appear (which is considered as the first step towards the start of deportation process). Some students have been subject to detention, and some have been released on bail.

The experience of students of Tri-Valley University highlights the crisis that the education sector is going through in the market-dominated economic model being aggressively promoted by the US as well as the UPA. This is the real face of the much touted ‘high-quality’ education in the US! This is also an indicator of what will happen when the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) passes the Foreign Universities Bill – it is anyone’s guess how many such spurious universities like Tri-valley will set up shop in India and dupe Indian students!

AISA demands that the UPA take immediate steps to end the horrific victimization of Indian students in the US for no fault of theirs.

Hail Massive People’s Upsurge Against US Puppet Dictatorships in North Africa and the Middle East

“Without beating around the bush or postponing or playing us for fools and without more false promises, we, the people of Egypt, demand all of our long forgotten rights to be granted and this time there is no turning back….we have learned our lesson….we have finally broken free of all fears.” – a pamphlet issued by protestors in Egypt.

We are currently witnessing a remarkable popular movement which has spread over northern Africa and the Middle East: puppet regimes and dictatorships backed by the United States are now facing an unprecedented political challenge, as the working classes in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Jordon and Yemen take to the streets in huge numbers and oppose anti-people regimes and economic policies. Some political commentators in the Middle East have in fact called this remarkable movement a ‘political earthquake’.

In Egypt for instance, on 25th January, an estimated 50,000 people, predominantly young unemployed workers and students, defied the police dictatorship of President Hosni Mubarak, routinely described as a “staunch ally of the US,” to demand his resignation and the lifting of emergency rule. It is to be noted that the legislative elections held in Egypt on 28th November 2010 were blatantly rigged in favour of Mubarak and his allies. The widespread anger against this scuttling of a democratic process found fresh energy when a mass movement in Tunisia suceeded in overthrowing the Tunisian President, General Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and today, Tunisian flags fly all over Egypt in solidarity.

Such a massive uprising has not happened in Egypt since 1977, when Cairo’s Tahrir Square was occupied to protest price hikes mandated by the International Monetary Fund. This movement is continuing to spill out on Egypt’s streets despite the Hosni Mubarak regime’s savage police repression — people are braving tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and truncheons every single day. The regime has also tried to quell the movement by shutting down internet services, a key organising tool of the protests.

The specific political and economic demands of the movement in Egypt include:

  • salary and pension increases;
  • financial aid for unemployed workers;
  • canceling the law of emergency, empowering authorities to arrest people without warrants;
  • demanding Mubarak’s ouster and his son, Gamal, prevented from succeeding him;
  • dissolving Egypt’s fraudulently elected parliament;
  • holding free democratic elections; and
  • banning Egyptian exports to Israel, mainly its natural gas.

Recognising the strategic and geo-political importance of Egypt in its overall plans to maintain its dominance in the Middle East, the US is shamefully supporting Mubarak and his brutal crackdown on the protests. Egypt is the most populous and politically important of the Arab states and the recipient of tens of billions of dollars in US military aid. Egypt is also a key supporter of Israel in the US-Israel’s genocidal war against the Palestianian people.

At the same time, there are indications that the US and other imperialist forces are also trying to co-opt the opposition forces active in the movement. This remarkable ongoing mass movement in Tunisia and Egypt therefore has to ensure that not just the puppet rulers like Mubarak and Ben Ali, but the puppet-masters in the US, IMF and the World Bank are also decisively rebuffed. The real battle at stake is for these countries to ensure that their political and economic sovereignty is maintained, and protected against domination and manipulation by imperialist interests. Devastating neo-liberal policies, and the national missions of the IMF and the World Bank have to be kicked out: meaningful political change can only be ensured if the neoliberal economic policy agenda, and its domestic and foreign promoters are thrown out.

What we are witnessing in north Africa and Middle East has repercussions and lessons for the progressive and democratic movement all over the world. It is time we join the struggling masses in these countries in solidarity with their ongoing battle against authoritarian regimes and neo-liberal policies.

तिरंगे के नाम पर भाजपाई राजनीति की असलियत

श्रीनगर जाकर तिरंगा लहराने को व्याकुल संघी ‘बहादुरों’ को शायद याद नहीं है कि उनके गुरु गोलवलकर ने राष्ट्रध्वज को ‘मनहूस’ और ‘देश के लिए हानिकारक’ कहा है। भारत की आज़ादी के मौके पर तिरंगा ध्वज का विरोध करते हुए 14 अगस्त 1947 को आरएसएस के मुखपत्र ‘आर्गेनाइजर’ में उन्होंने लिखा-‘‘तीन का शब्द अपने आप में ही मनहूस है और तीन रंगों का झंडा निश्चित रूप से एक देश के लिए बहुत बुरा मनोवैज्ञानिक प्रभाव पैदा करेगा और उसके लिए हानिकारक होगा।’’ यहां दो सवाल बनते हैं। पहला यह कि क्या भाजपा और उसके हमसंघी संगठन अपने प्रिय गुरुजी के बताये ‘धर्म-पथ’ से विचलित हो रहे हैं? दूसरा सवाल यह कि इन दिनों अचानक झंडा फहराने का ख़्याल कैसे उपज पड़ा जबकि पूरे देश में चारों तरफ हाहाकार मचा हुआ है। नीरा राडिया जैसे लोगों के इशारे पर सारा कामकाज चल रहा है-मंतरी से संतरी तक, अख़बार से सरकार तक। सोनिया गांधी अरबपतियों से राष्ट्रनिर्माण के लिए दान करने की अपील कर रही हैं। पूरे पसमंज़र पर निगाह दौड़ाकर देख लीजिए कि इन भयानक हालात में किसी संगठन को क्या वही काम करना चाहिए जिसमें भाजपा के लोग इन दिनों दिलो-जान से मुब्तिला हैं? किसी सांस्कृतिक संगठन को क्या यही काम करना चाहिए? तिरंगा फहराने के संघी-भाजपाई इरादों की चर्चा हम आगे करेंगे, पहले ‘विचलन’ की सच्चाई देख ली जाए।
तरुण विजय को आप जानते हैं। भाजपा के सांसद हैं। संघी हैं। इसी इतवार को ‘जनसत्ता’ में उन्होंने लिखा है कि-‘‘इस तिरंगे से आतंकवादी तालिबान चिढ़ते हैं और माओवादी नक्सली भी। हर देशद्रोही और भारत का शत्रु तिरंगे से चिढ़ता है और हर देशभक्त दुनिया के किसी भी कोने में तिरंगे को देखकर सम्मान से उसे प्रणाम करता है। तिरंगे में हमारे प्राण हैं, हम तिरंगे के लिए प्राण देने में भी संकोच नहीं करते।’’ अब आप तय कर लीजिए कि गुरुजी क्या हैं? तरुण विजय तो कह रहे हैं कि गोलवलकर को ‘भारत का शत्रु’ समझना चाहिए! यही मतलब है उनकी बात का। दरअसल, यह पैंतरेबाजी है। कुछ दिन बाद यही तरुण विजय ‘प्राण देने’ के बजाय जब ‘प्राण लेने’ का तर्क दे रहे होंगे तो गुरुजी दूसरे मुंह से बोलेंगे। यही अनेक-मुखता है। कुछ लोग इसी को ‘अनेकता में एकता’ कहते हैं।
किसी भी हद तक गिरने का तैयार इस अनेकमुखी जंतु का एक अन्य चेहरा स्वामी असीमानंद हैं। स्वामी जी के तो मानो ज्ञान चक्षु ही खुल गए हैं। उन्होंने तो आरएसएस की असलियत ही बखान दी। हालत यह है कि संघियों की समझ में नहीं आ रहा कि मुंह कहां छुपाएं। सबकुछ बेपर्दा हो गया। कहां गए वे पहलवान जो बम विस्फोट का नाम सुनते ही ‘मुसलमान, मुसलमान’ चिल्लाने लगते थे? कहां हैं आडवानी, उमा भारती, सुषमा स्वराज, वेंकैया नायडू, सुदर्शन और मोहन भागवत? नरेंद्र मोदी और अशोक सिंघल को कितना बड़ा अपराधी समझा जाए? असीमानंद के बयान से साफ ज़ाहिर है कि समझौता एक्सप्रेस और मक्का मस्ज़िद समेत तमाम बम धमाकों के सूत्राधर यही लोग हैं! अख़बारवाले सुनील जोशी और रामजी कलासांग्रा की ख़बरें छाप रहे हैं। सीबीआई यहां-वहां छापा मार रही है। बेमतलब। अरे, सूत्रधार और संचालकगण तो यहां बैठे हैं दिल्ली में, तुम वहां भोपाल और कानपुर में क्या तलाश रहे हो यार। भाजपाइयों की धृणित आपराधिक तश्वीर इतनी साफ हो चुकी है कि वे ‘कहां छुपाएं-क्या छुपाएं’ की पोजीशन में पहुंच गए हैं। तिरंगा फहराने का अभियान छेड़कर संघियों ने यह साबित कर दिया है कि उनके लिए देशभक्ति के मायने क्या हैं? तिरंगे के नाम पर किसकी आंख में धूल झोंक रहे हो भाई जी? अपने देशद्रोही-आतंकी चेहरे को तिरंगे की आड़ में कब तक छुपाओगे भाई जी?
संघी देशभक्ति की विडंबना देखिए कि ये किस चीज़ को अपना वतन, अपना देश समझते हैं? इन्हें इस मुल्क की किन चीज़ों से प्यार है? आप जानते हैं कि सेज़ क्षेत्र में भारत सरकार का श्रम या प्रशासन संबंधी कोई नियम-कानून नहीं लागू होता। आप यह भी जानते हैं कि कांग्रेस सरकार ‘लिबरल’ होकर देसी-विदेशी अमीरों को सेज खोलने की अनुमति देती चली जा रही है। ज़मीनों की इस खुली लूट के खि़लाफ पूरे देशभर में बड़ी तादाद में लोग लगातार संघर्षरत हैं। ज़रा याद कीजिए-सेज़ के नाम पर कॉरपोरेट अÕयाशी का अड्डा खोलने के विरोध में भाजपा या संघ के ‘राष्ट्रवादियों’ ने अब तक कुछ किया हो? क्या यह देशभक्ति का विषय नहीं है? क्या यह तिरंगा फहराने का विषय नहीं है? सेज़ के अंदर घुस-घुसकर लहराइये तिरंगा। 2009 में 17385 किसानों ने वही कर लिया, जो 2008 में 16000 किसानों ने किया था। यानी आत्महत्या। इन किसानों के खेतों में और झोपड़ियों पर जाकर फहराइये तिरंगा तो हम भी समझें कि हां, आपको अपनी धरती से प्रेम है। किसानों के लिए निकालिए कभी ‘एकता यात्रा’। इस देश के 84 करोड़ लोग रोज़ाना 20 रुपये में गुज़र-बसर कर रहे हैं। इनकी ग़रीबी और भुखमरी के खि़लाफ कौन लेकर चलेगा तिरंगा? इस देश के किसानों और मज़दूरों की मेहनत की कमाई के करीब 23 लाख करोड़ रुपये विदेशी बैंकों में जमा कर रखे हैं गिरहकटों ने। इसके विरोध में निकलिये तिरंगा लेकर। सुरेश कलमाडी के घर में कौन गाड़ेगा तिरंगा? मुकेश अंबानी के 5000 करोड़ के 27 मंजिला घर पर कौन फहरायेगा तिरंगा? अछूतों और आदिवासियों के लिए कौन लगाएगा नारा? यह सरकार कॉरपोट्स को हर साल बजट में हज़ारों करोड़ रुपयों की छूट दे रही है। निकालिए जुलूस। कीजिए विरोध। संसद और संसद वेफ बाहर लड़ना चाहिए था भ्रष्टाचार के समूल नाश के लिए, लड़ रहे हैं जेपीसी-ज्वाइंट पार्लियामेंट्री कमेटी-के लिए। ये जनता की आंख में धूल झोंकना नहीं है तो और क्या है? चारों ओर मची लूट-मार में हिस्सा ले रहे ये लोग देश के दुश्मन नहीं तो और क्या हैं? जामिया नगर इनकाउंटर से लेकर आज़मगढ़ से हैदराबाद तक तमाम नौजवानों की गिरफ्तारी और प्रताड़ना का वह पूरा दौर याद कीजिए-किसको बदनाम करने के लिए किए गए थे वे बम विस्फोट? किसलिए? वोट लेने के लिए? चुनाव जीतने के लिए? कुर्सी चाहिए? दलाली भकोसना चाहते हो? हिंदुओं के नाम पर बिजनेस कर रहे हो? राम को इस्तेमाल कर रहे हो? उन धमाकों में जो लोग मारे गए, उनका जिम्मेदार कौन है? हत्यारों की हिमाकत देखिए-हम लोगों को देशभक्ति और राष्ट्रवाद का पहाड़ा पढ़ा रहे हैं। क्या ये लोग भारत के राष्ट्रध्वज को सलामी पेश करने लायक हैं?
साथियो! आप देखिए कि संसद के अंदर और बाहर तमाम मसलों पर कांग्रेस और भाजप के बीच किस तरह की जुगलबंदी चल रही है। दोनों एक दूसरे को ‘सपोर्ट’ कर रहे हैं। ‘मिलीजुली लतियौवल’ इसी को कहते हैं। यह नहीं समझना चाहिए कि कांग्रेसी, भाजपाइयों से किसी भी मायने में कम देशभक्त हैं। एक तरफ रेड्डी बंधु हैं, बेलारी है, ताबूत घोटाला है, गुजरात है, नरेंद्र मोदी हैं, दूसरी तरप़फ कलमाडी हैं, आदर्श सोसायटी है, कांग्रेसी राज्यों में ही सबसे अधिक मुस्लिम युवकों की गिरफ्तारी है, कपिल सिब्बल हैं…। विस्फोट के इन मामलों में कांग्रेस के लोग भी शामिल हो सकते हैं! गणतंत्र दिवस के अवसर पर देश की संप्रभुता, संपदा और सौहार्द्र को गिरवी रखनेवालों के खि़लाफ जनगोलबंदी और जुझारू संघर्ष ही इस समय सच्चे अर्थ में देशभक्ति है। आइए सच्चे लोकतंत्र और देशभक्ति के पक्ष में अपनी मुहिम को तेज़ करें।

UPA’s Unique Identification Project (UID): A Corporate-sponsored Attack on Democracy and Civil Liberties

“The national identity card scheme represents the worst of government. It is intrusive and bullying. It is ineffective and expensive. It is an assault on individual liberty that does not promise a great good…” Theresa May (British Home Secretary) announcing the complete dismantling of the UID project in the UK in June 2010.

The UPA’s National Identification Authority of India Bill has been approved by the Union Cabinet, and subsequently the UPA has already launched its much-touted and ambitious Unique Identification project (UID) in some parts of the country. It is to be noted that this massive project, which has tremendous repercussions for democracy in India, is being introduced without even a formal clearance by the Indian parliament, let alone a broad-based, country-wide discussion on its implications. It is also ironical that the UPA is promoting the UID project in India at a time when several countries across the world (including the USA, the UK, Australia, China, Canada and Germany) have scrapped similar projects. As the powers-that-be try to convince us of the ‘advantages’ of the UID project, let us have a look at certain facts about this project:

False Claims of ‘Better Delivery of Social Sector Schemes’:

This project is being promoted under patently false premises – according to the UPA, the UID will enable ‘inclusive growth’ by providing each citizen with a verifiable identity. If we were to believe the likes of Manmohan Singh and Nandan Nilekini (who is in charge of implementing the project), the UID will ‘facilitate delivery of basic services’, and ‘plug leakages’ in public expenditure. However, the fact remains that exclusion from social sector schemes are NOT caused by the inability to prove identity – they are caused by the deliberate manipulation of the system by those who have the power to control the flow of benefits. When BPL families are unable to make use of their valid ration cards, when students from deprived backgrounds are unable to avail of scholarships meant for them, when workers are not paid the legally mandated minimum wages, or when women workers in NREGA schemes are paid less than their due, the reason is NEVER their lack of ability to prove their identity. And therefore, none of these problems will be solved by the possession of a UID number; the UID scheme cannot guarantee benefits.

Violation of Privacy and Civil Liberties:

The UID scheme will mean a large-scale violation of our right to privacy, which has been guaranteed to us both by the Indian constitution as well as by a host of international and domestic laws. The proposed draft bill empowers the National Identification Authority of India (NIDAI) to disclose personal data on an order of a court or in case of “national security”, and therefore opens the doors to gross misuse by persons in power. Now, information collected through the national census process will be made available to several agencies (both public and private), which is in contravention to the provisions of the Census Act. As a result, 11 security and intelligence agencies, including RAW, the IB, the National Investigation Agency, the CBI and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence will have access to the data. This raises the specter of gross violations of human rights. Also, many of these agencies are completely out of the ambit of democratic control – they are not open to public scrutiny (since they don’t even have to adhere to the Right to Information Act) and cannot by held accountable for what they do with the information.

What is really at stake is not just the privacy of individuals: the UID has all the ingredients for dangerous and fascist social control of the state over its citizens. Sensitive personal information will be provide to state as well as private agencies, which can be used as a weapon of war, and to victimize ethnic groups, minorities and political adversaries. The UID project in fact leaves us with a distinct sense of déjà vu: let us not forget that during the Second World War, the Nazis used extensive databases created by the International Business Machines (IBM) for targeted profiling of the Jews and subsequently for confiscating their assets, pushing them into ghettos and finally killing them.

The fact of the matter is that the UID shows that the state wants to treat each of its citizens as potential ‘criminals’, ‘terrorists’ and ‘security threats’! This is the very basis of tracking and profiling of individuals. For a long time, the state has shamefully routinely treated poverty as a ‘crime’ to be ‘punished’ (the laws governing beggary are proof enough of this). Time and again, the state machinery has been accused of being communal; various governments have been indicted of involvement in torture, fake encounters and forced disappearances. Given this situation, the UID will be potential weapon of war in the hands of any government – and that is something no democracy can accept.

The Smokescreen of ‘Voluntary Participation’:

The UPA is trying to hide the draconian aspects of the UID project by claiming that providing information will be ‘voluntary’. However, it has already become clear that this claim is completely bogus, since several agencies (like banks and the LIC) can and in fact will insist on their customers having UID numbers! The upcoming legislation on the UID does not even bother to speak the language of democracy – according to the provisions of the proposed bill, one can be penalized for not updating the information provided to the UID project.

Possible Exclusion of the Poor From Schemes:

Shockingly, instead of facilitating inclusion, around 150 million people are likely to be excluded from benefits because of the UID scheme. This is because of the inappropriate and unproven technology which will be used, which will lead to so-called ‘low-quality’ fingerprints taken from millions of Indians working in agriculture, construction workers and other manual labourers who have worn-out fingers due to a lifetime of hard labour. Ironically, the UID scheme is being introduced in the name of precisely these people (who are most likely to be excluded).

Unjustifiable Costs:

The current costs are estimated at whopping Rs.45,000 crores. And this is probably a gross underestimate. Operationalising the UID scheme on the ground for NREGA and the public distribution system would require placing fingerprint readers at every panchayat office and every ration shop. The total costs of placing fingerprint readers in each PDS outlet and in each of India’s 600,000 villages have not been taken into account in official cost calculations.

Bypassing of Democratic Decision-making Processes:

The UID Authority has been set up with considerable powers and resources, without any approval from Parliament or discussion in the public domain about the necessity of such a scheme. India already has 15 different identification schemes: why then do we need yet another scheme? When there are so many grave issues involved, why is the government promoting the UID scheme in such a secretive manner, without sufficient debate? And, if the poor as merely the excuse being used to promote this scheme (as progressive and democratic voices have pointed out), then who is the real driver behind it?

In order to implement the UID scheme, the UIDAI (UID Authority of India) has already signed several MOUs with various national and multinational companies (including several banks and the LIC), state governments and other ministries. Notable amongst these is L-1 Identities Solution, a company which works with various US intelligence agencies and whose main client is the US government’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). According to the company, American and foreign military services, defense and intelligence agencies rely on it to help determine ‘ally from enemy’. Another company involved in the UID project is Accenture, which is working with US Homeland Security in their Smart Borders Project. The company states that its “solutions include developing prevention tactics, streamlining intelligence gathering and maximizing new technologies.” And these companies are implementing India’s UID project!

Also, actively promoting the UID project is the World Bank, which has a long history of promoting similar initiatives and is currently funding 14 projects related to e-government and e-ID around the world. It is therefore clear from all the available information that all the data collected under the UID scheme will be leaked to the global public domain sooner or later.

The proposed NIAI Bill must be looked at along with other Bills in the offing such as Draft Land Titling Bill, 2010, Draft Paper on Privacy Bill, 2010, Draft DNA Profiling Act, 2007 and Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations (PIII) for a National Knowledge Network. Besides this, National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid), meant to integrate existing 21 databases with Central and state government agencies and other organisations, and National Population Register (which is quite different from Census) will end up undertaking surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting of Indian residents.

The UID scheme is a blatant attempt to convert a resident into a number, the Indian population into a global market and then citizens in to subjects. The revolving door phenomena – where corporate honchos dictate, guide and execute public policy – is very much visible in the UID project too. Which explains their unadulterated enthusiasm for this project. Clearly, the UID project will open the doors to an unprecedented access of our personal and financial information to the corporate world; paving the way for misuse and manipulation of such information.

AISA Protests Against Ragging in Patna!

On January 28th 2011, AISA protested against ragging at Patna Medical College and Hospital in Bihar. Recently, a first-year student of MBBS at the PMCH committed suicide after being ragged. Highlighting the complete inability of the college administration as well as the state government to take strong action against ragging, students marched from Darbhanga House to PMCH and gheraoed the principle of PMCH.

AISA has demanded a through enquiry into the circumstances that forced the first-year student to commit suicide. AISA has also demanded that students should also be represented in committees that investigate cases of ragging, so as to ensure a proper and impartial investigation. The absence of student representation is also a violation of Supreme Court guidelines on ragging that were issued after the Aman Kachroo suicide case. AISA will intensify its struggle against ragging in the days to come.

AISA’s National Campaign Against Corruption and State Repression

Convention Against State Repression at Jadavpur University

In the backdrop of massive scams and corporate loot, intensified crackdown on movements, state repression, and the conviction of Binayak Sen, AISA organised a nation-wide campaign between 11-19 January 2011. The slogan was “NO to rampant corruption, NO to loot of our national resources, NO to state repression.” As part of the campaign, on 11th January, rallies and strikes were organised in various campuses.

Uttarakhand:

In Uttarakhand, 11th January (which is also the martyrdom day of Comrade Nagendra Saklani) was observed as ‘Anti-corruption’ day. On this occasation, a dharna an effigy burning was organized at Gandhi Park in Dehradun. A convention against state repression, and against Dr. Binayak Sen’s conviction was also held in Dehradun on 18th January.

Convention Held at Dehradun

West Bengal:

AISA held a protest demonstration in Kolkata on 11th January against corruption, as part of AISA’s national campaign. This demonstration was held at Jadavpur University, and was followed by an effigy burning.

On 14th January, Friday an open convention was organized by AISA in Jadavpur University, demanding unconditional release of Dr. Binayak Sen and annulment of IPC 124a Sedition Act. The convention was addressed by Poet Nabarun Bhattachariya, Sabyasachi Deb, Prof. Samantak Das, Prof. Sanjay Mukhopadhyay, Prof. Kunal Chattopadhyay, Dr. Debashis Mukherjee from Forum for Peoples Health, and student representatives from other organizations such as FETSU, AIDSO and USDF.

All speakers univocally supported the demands of the convention. The convention initially was planned to be held at Vivekananda Hall, but the Authority did not allow this programme to be held, saying that it is not an “academic” but a “political” program. Nitish Roy, Raka Bhattachariya, Sanjay Tiwari, Piku of Paschim Banga Ganasanskriti Parisad sang in the convention.

Tamil Nadu:

In Kumbakonam of Thanjavur, Tamilnadu, a total strike was observed in the Government Arts and Science College; and the strike was also observed in another college, with the total participation of more than 2000 students.

New Delhi:

On 11th January, a rally was held in Delhi University. Also, a protest poetry writing workshop was held in Jamia Millia Islamia. At JNU, AISA organised a slogan writing programme against corruption and state repression. On 19 January, a massive convention against state repression was held at Delhi University. The convention was addressed by a large number of DU faculty, Prof. Jean Dreze, Nandini Sundar, Shamsul Islam, Neeraj Malik, Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan and poet Viren Dangwal amongst others.

In both Jadavpur and Delhi University, authorities tried to stop the conventions by withdrawing permission, and in Delhi University ABVP goons physically attacked the convention. However due to massive participation of students, teachers and democratic academics and intelligentsia, both the conventions were a great success.

Bihar:

On 19 January, students’ strike was successfully observed in Patna and Magadh University and their affiliated colleges, Tilka Majhi University (Bhagalpur), Bir Kunwar Singh University (Ara), Lalit Narayan Mithila University (Darbhanga). In Bhagalpur, students also gheraoed the senate meeting on the same day which was met with severe police repression and several AISA leaders were framed under false charges. Students continued with the protest on the 20 January also. Police reacted with still greater repression and arrested several AISA leaders and booked five of them under Section 307 of IPC.

Hum Sab Binayak ….

After years of jail, unlawful delay in grant of bail, a sustained campaign in the country and abroad, the system reluctantly granted Dr. Binayak Sen bail. But he was not free for long – the Raipur Sessions Court in Chhattisgarh’s capital city chose to heed the farcical and obviously fabricated Chhattisgarh police charges against Binayak Sen and sentenced him to life imprisonment under a handful of draconian laws including the colonial sedition law. While Binayak still awaits justice and freedom, however, it is true that finally, after so many years of struggle, he stands vindicated for his social commitment and courage in the court of public opinion. In that people’s court, it the Chhattisgarh Government, the Central Government and the Indian judiciary that stand in the dock. It is indeed a victory of the people’s movement that leading newspapers, magazines and news channels, as well as some parties and intellectuals otherwise supportive of Green Hunt, have finally broken their silence and ambivalence and have been forced to critique the Raipur Sessions Court verdict in the Binayak case.

Binayak’s case has given the entire country a close look at what passes for police investigation and judicial process in India, especially in cases involving marginalised people, minorities and political activists and dissenters. Binayak has come to represent all those thousands of people today who are routinely framed in false cases on fabricated evidence, tortured in police custody and convicted in political judgements. In a way, each of us who dares to challenge government policies and voice our dissent is a potential Binayak – We are all Binayak… Binayak Sens all over the country are targeted because they are a threat to the system run by the Corporate-Radia-government-media nexus. We have witnessed in the Radia tapes how corporate powers have ruling class politicians in their pockets, how they rig the media and even courts to suit them. In the landmark Binayak Sen case, the Radias have not succeeded – we must use this partial victory of people’s struggles to throw light on all the other Binayaks who are struggling for a better society and better world.

The Many Binayaks….

This all-out assault on dissent, trampling democracy and rights underfoot is not restricted only to the judicial process. Extra-judicial executions (otherwise called ‘encounters’) are another common tool of ‘governance’ and policing in India.

Encounters in Orissa : Recently, even as Union home minister P Chidambaram holding meeting with DGPs of nine ‘Maoist-affected’ states in New Delhi, the Odisha police gleefully claimed a major victory: the ‘encounter’ killing of a large number ‘Maoists’ at key anti-mining and anti-land-grab struggle areas of Kalinganagar, Rayagada and Gandhamardhan hills. At Kalinganagar, newspapers reported without any question that the killed ‘Maoists’ included 3 women including a 12-year-old girl, Janga. Can we recall the Radia tapes where Niira Radia assured Vir Sanghvi with ‘hand on her heart’ that ‘we are fighting Maoists in Kalinganagar’? The Kalinganagar struggle is well known to be a mass movement of adivasis devoid of any Maoist leadership. At Gandhamardhan, two men killed and branded as ‘Naxals’ have been identified by villagers as local BJP members who were active in the anti-mining struggle, and in recent times had been especially active against Vedanta’s plans to shift its mining operation to Gandhamardhan after being denied permission at Niyamgiri. A prominent Niyamgiri activist, Lenju, who in the Frontline (June 5-18 2010) had predicted that he would be branded a Maoist and killed, is also suspected to have been killed in the recent spate of ‘encounters’. These ‘encounters’ raise the serious doubt that the police is now paving the way for the corporates by massacring activists of people’s movements and, with the help of the Radia-run media, branding them as ‘Maoists.’ After this series of encounters, on cue,Vedanta has announced its plans to challenge its expulsion from Niyamgiri, and Tata has released a statement promising to turn Kalinganagar into Jamshedpur.

When the adivasis had pushed Vedanta out of Niyamgiri, Rahul Gandhi had gone there to declare that ‘I will be a soldier in Delhi for adivasis of Odisha.’ Why is the brave soldier silent now when 12-year-old girls are being gunned down in Odisha as ‘Maoists’? Why does he not at least ask for an enquiry into each of these encounters, as according to the NHRC directives?

In Chhattisgarh itself, there are many adivasi activists – including Gandhian and CPI acvtisists – who have been branded as ‘Maoists’ and jailed. In West Bengal, we can all remember the young girl (claimed to be a Maoist killed in an ‘encounter’) who was carried by CRPF personnel tied to a pole like a hunted animal.

Targeting of CPI(ML): Meanwhile mass movements and dissenting political forces of every description are being branded as ‘Maoists’ in order to subject them to harassment and crackdown. A small example is when the Odisha unit of CPI(ML) Liberation issued a statement condemning Binayak Sen’s conviction, the party office was raided by a large number of policemen the very next morning. When the party Secretary asked the reason for this forced intrusion into the office, he was told by a senior police official, “Why did you issue a statement on Binayak?”

In another recent incident in Gazipur district of UP, the police fired on unarmed people protesting against the arrest of a youth from the Bind community on false charges of theft. People reacted by beating up the police and an SI lost his life. The ADG then issued a fabricated story (obediently reproduced in several national newspapers and channels) that CPI(ML) Liberation, which he alleged to be a ‘Maoist’ group (!!!), had led a pre-planned attack armed with guns on the thana under the banner of another party, the Shoshit Samaj Dal! The amazing thing was neither CPI(ML) nor the Shoshit Samaj Dal had any protest programme on that date. Further the ADG had claimed that the SI was shot dead and even displayed spent bullets to ‘prove’ it; but the autopsy revealed no bullet injuries! Yet the media carried the police-inspired fiction as through it were fact – and even after the Commissioner of Police was forced to declare the ADG’s version to be wrong, never uttered even a word of apology for peddling such lies.

All over the country, the works of Marx, Mao and even Bhagat Singh are being declared ‘seditious’. The PM continues to declare ‘left extremism’ to be the ‘greatest threat’ to the country while remaining silent on saffron terror. After all, saffron terror is not a threat to the system; rather it is deeply entrenched in the system and enjoys the backing of army officers, bureaucrats, as well as national parties like the BJP. But people movements have to be branded as ‘extremist’ and suppressed to serve the Tatas, Ambanis and Radias…

To challenge the witch-hunt of dissenting voices and salute the courage of Binayak Sen and others like him, let us declare ‘Hum Sab Binayak’!

AISA Organizes Massive Convention Against State Repression in Delhi University

Banner Prepared by AISA for the Convention

Students Protesting Against State Repression After the Convention

The speakers pointed out that the sentence against Dr. Sen, who has spent his entire life amongst the poor, raising issues of rampant poverty and state-sponsored exploitation, and who protested against state repression and brutal genocidal campaigns like Salwa Judum, is a farce in the name of justice. All the speakers also pointed out that the issue at hand was not merely the injustice done to Dr. Binayak Sen. The verdict against Binayak Sen was a symbol of the manner in which various governments are trying to counter the growing opposition to their policies through the use of draconian laws like the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) and the Unlawful Atrocities Prevention Act (UAPA).

Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan stated that the verdict against Dr. Sen is not tenable even from a purely legal point of view. Prof. Nandini Sundar (who is member of the one of the fact finding teams that investigated the Salwa Judum campaign in Chhattisgarh) said that everyone in Chhatisgarh who opposed the state-sponsored Salwa Judum campaign is now behind bars – held under draconian laws, or charges with false cases. She mentioned the case of Kopa Kunjam and Kartam Joga who, like Dr. Sen are now in jail. All the speakers similarly voiced their outrage at the manner in which dissenting voices are being punished in this manner in India.

The convention also included performances by various cultural groups in Delhi in solidarity with Dr. Sen’s battle against state repression. Eminent Hindi poet Viren Dangwal read out revolutionary poetry, and many student cultural groups made the audience sing with them to the the tunes written by Faiz and Habib Jalib. The convention ended with a march by around 500 students through the DU Arts Faculty and other colleges of North Campus, DU.

Sangh Brigade’s Terror Network Exposed Once More!

With every passing day, more and more skeletons of terror plots are tumbling out of the saffron cupboard. The RSS-BJP brigade has predictably resorted to a ridiculous denial mode. For all these years, fighting “terrorism” has been the only political fodder for this communal-criminal brigade. Drawing on the international climate of an anti-Muslim witch-hunt in the wake of George Bush’s ‘war on terror’, the Sangh began to package their claims to patriotism in the garb of ‘anti-terrorism,’ equating Islam and Muslims with terrorism. This kind of anti-Muslim jingoism gained some legitimacy because even the so-called ‘secular’ ruling parties like Congress, and the entire state-police machinery too were participating in the branding and witch-hunting of Muslims youth as ‘terrorists.’ The communal common-sense propagated by the saffron brigade was that every terrorist had to be a Muslim – a sentiment that was shamefully shared by several forces who claimed to be ‘secular’!

Starting with the revelations by Hemant Karkare’s team about the involvement of Sadhavi Pragya Singh Thakur and Col. Purohit in the Malegaon Blasts of 2008, the real role of the Sangh Parivar vis- a- vis terrorism has gradually come to be revealed. The recently revealed confessions of Swami Aseemanand have further helped to connect the wires of the wide web of Sanghi terror in a range of bomb blasts all over the country, including Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Sharif, Malegaon, and the Samjhauta Express blasts.

The Initial Signals

The initial signals pointing towards the involvement of the Sangh Brigade in perpetrating bomb blasts emerged when in 2006 when two activists of the Bajrang Dal were killed in a bomb-making accident in a house in Nanded, Maharashtra. Later on, fake beards and ‘Muslim-looking’ clothes were found in the house, clearly indicating an intention of implicating Muslims in the bomb blasts perpetrated by the Sangh Parivar. Investigations revealed that the two Bajrang Dal activists killed in Nanded had been responsible for bombing a mosque in the Parbhani District in April 2006, and were also responsible for blasts in Purna and Jalna in April 2003 which had injured 18 people. In August 2007, two Bajrang Dal activists, Rajeev Mishra and Bhupendra Arora, were killed in Kanpur while assembling bombs. On 24 January 2008, there was a pipe bomb attack on the RSS office in Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu. The RSS-BJP created an uproar claiming to be targets of ‘Islamic terrorism’, hoping that the resulting sympathy wave would fetch votes for the BJP. But it emerged from police investigations that activists of the Hindu Munnani – an RSS-affiliated organization – were responsible for the blast!

The Underlying Agenda

The above incidents amply indicated that groups affiliated to the Sangh Parivar were planning and conducting bomb blasts, while seeking to implicate Muslim groups in the blasts – all with the political agenda of whipping up anti-Muslim hysteria and creating a favourable political climate for the BJP. But the ruling establishment and police turned a blind eye and refused to probe deeper and unravel the threads of saffron terror – instead continuing to blindly arrest innocent Muslim youth branded as ‘masterminds’ in every case of terrorism.

It took Hemant Karkare’s brave investigation into the Hindutva terror network to reveal for the first time the role the Hindutva Brigade vis- a- vis terrorism. Clearly understanding the impact such revelations will have on the saffron campaign against ‘Islamic terror’, the BJP and Sangh Parivar have been trying their level best to rubbish the investigations and also distance themselves from the main accused. Even now, despite Aseemanand’s confession, the entire state machinery and the mainstream media seem to be reluctant to pin down the Sangh Parivar for its role in orchestrating terror acts across the country, indicating that it is only a lunatic ‘fringe’ of the saffron brigade who are responsible.

Sanghi Terror: Terrorism with a Difference!

Most terrorist groups claim responsibility for the blasts they perpetrate. They do this in order to cash in on the heinous terror created by their actions. But Sanghi terror is unique – it never admits nor owns up to its acts of terror. Instead, it tries to pass the blame of its terror acts on the Muslim community since the main political agenda is to whip up an anti-Muslim communal frenzy. This is precisely the core ideological-political agenda of the RSS-BJP brigade, without which they cannot survive.

The Sangh Brigade has managed to spread its network of terror modules across the country through a massive propaganda network, employing the most diverse and modern means and methods to run systematic hate campaigns against all their chosen targets ranging from the minorities and socially weaker sections to the whole spectrum of progressive and consistent secular democratic forces. Depending on the context and convenience, the targets may vary in different regions – it may be migrant youth and workers in Maharashtra, Christians in Orissa and Karnataka, Muslim youth in UP and the rural poor in Bihar.

Now that investigations have begun revealing a different face of terrorism and the Sangh Parivar has come under the scanner for its dangerous role, the BJP has started twisting the agenda. It has started crying foul that Hindus are being framed in India. This is yet another glaring example of the characteristic hypocrisy of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar. To question the conduct of the police or investigative agencies in case a Muslim is arrested amounts to ‘sedition’ in their book. Custodial torture and fake encounters are invested by the Sangh and BJP with a halo of gallantry as long as the victims are Muslim. The same forces, however, begin to cry foul the moment some ‘swami’ or ‘sadhvi’ or some army official from their own ranks come under the scanner.

The response to the various evidences of manifestations of Sanghi Terror – of which Assemanand’s confession is one – has been severely compromised by majoritarian communal prejudices. The political, space and the financial muscle enjoyed by the RSS and its subsidiary BJP has for long safeguarded it against legal scrutiny and action. The political clout and the organisational network of the RSS have become entrenched in the various arms of the state including the bureaucracy, the police and the army. The complicity of the Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh police in the murder of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife, and the killing of Ishrat Jehan and her friends is now clearly established, the Batla House fake encounter where the Delhi Police gunned down two innocent Muslim youth, the communal witch hunting of Muslim youth form UP are manifestations of this.

The UPA Govt. which misses no opportunity to prove its secular credentials has showed no political conviction to bring the perpetrators of Saffron terror to book. It is a pointer towards the sham of a democracy we live in that while perpetrators of acts of terror like Inderesh Kumar (of the RSS) and B.L.Sharma (a well known BJP ex-MP) roam free, the people’s doctor Binayak Sen has been falsely accused and jailed for speaking out against corporate land grab and state sponsored private militias in Chhattisgarh!

What Must be Done Now?

Aseemanand’s confession exposes the bias hitherto inherent in the investigative agencies’ approach to these blasts; their obstinate refusal to probe Sanghi terror links and their widespread witch-hunt and torture of minority youth instead. A large number of innocent youth from the minorities have been subjected to grievous torture, unjust incarceration and tarnishing of their reputation as a result. The people named in Aseemanand’s confession hold responsible positions in the Sangh Parivar. It is high time that a through investigation is ordered into the role of the Sangh Parivar in all the blasts. Not only must the Union Home Ministry ensure that the real culprits of the terror blasts are punished, it must also reveal the entire list of those wrongfully arrested or charged for these blasts, unconditionally release those still in custody and apologise to and compensate all such wrongfully arrested individuals. It must also ensure that those responsible for torture of such minority youths are prosecuted and punished.

However, given the Congress’ track record in dealing with the saffron goons, one wonders whether present investigations will be carried to their logical conclusion. The way Congress governments have acted on the incidents of terror in Maharashtra, Andhra and elsewhere, the way they have buried the Sri Krishna Commission Report on Mumbai riots of 1993, the way the UPA refused has to take action on the Liberhan report on Babri Masjid demolition amply prove that the Congress has never brought saffron goons to the book. People of this country must ensure that the present set of revelations are not once again opportunistically used by the Congress as bargaining sticks to strike deals with BJP to come out of its present quagmire of all round corruption charges.

Therefore, instead of relying on the state and the political will of the so-called saner elements within the ruling classes, progressive democratic forces must meet every instance of fascist assault by unleashing the widest possible popular initiative and mass struggles and holding the state accountable in every possible way.

Unmasking the True Face of Corruption

The 2G Spectrum scam has caught the attention of the entire nation due to the sheer scale of the loot of public money. The defenders of this corporate loot try to project the 2G Spectrum scam as a mere ‘aberration’, a rare instance for which a few ‘corrupt’ individuals can be conveniently blamed. They try their level best to hide the fact that what we call ‘corruption’ and ‘corporate loot’ is institutionalised in the present economic regime of neo-liberalism and globalisation.

Let us have a look at some bare facts:

  • As much as 12 times the public money lost due to the 2G Spectrum scam has been illegally siphoned off from our country to Switzerland and other tax havens. Between 1948 and 2008, over Rs 20 lakh crores of public funds have been lost in this way according to the research body Global Financial Integrity (GFI). And this is a very conservative estimate, adds GFI.
  • Nearly half of this amount exited the country after 1991 (when neo-liberal policies were first introduced). Also, the rate of this loot of public funds has been increasing by around 11.5% a year (concomitant with the increasing liberalization of the Indian economy), and about one-third of the total outflows occurred between 2000 and 2008, a period when more and more sectors were privatized.

Under the neo-liberal regime, it becomes acceptable for land, minerals, water and other public resources to be removed from the public ownership and control, and be transferred to corporate houses for them to exploit. Even if no ‘corruption’ were to be involved in this process (if no bureaucrat or politician were to benefit), it would still involve an enormous loss to the public exchequer and transfer of public assets like natural resources into private hands. Corruption on a scale unimaginable in previous times is, however, embedded in this process, as corporate interests vie to secure these huge assets.

The Saga of Scams

The Rs 9000 crore waiver to Reliance: Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance gained Rs 9000 crores through a single piece of legislation passed in the parliament; supported by both the UPA as well as the NDA. JD(U)’s official spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member N.K. Singh enthusiastically promoted this loot, and argued in favour of Reliance. The Niira Radia tapes reveal how the BJP too is involved in this shameful saga of state-sponsored corporate loot of public resources.

Paddy export scam: Rice from our PDS stocks (meant to be sold at low prices to the poor) was diverted via selected private operators to the international market. This scam (which resulted in a loss of Rs 2500 crores) involved blatant scuttling of a host of well-established rules and regulations. In the name of helping ‘needy’ countries, deals were struck which made it possible for some private operators to access our PDS stock and make huge profits. The list of ‘needy’ nations include countries which have a higher per capita income than ours, countries that are rice exporters themselves, as well as countries that do not even consume white rice.

Karnataka land scam: Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddyurappa from the BJP has been implicated in this scam, wherein government land has been denotified and transferred to family members of the CM as well as senior BJP leaders in the state. And Yeddyurappa remains in power, justifying himself by claiming that chief ministers before him too have been equally corrupt.

TN land scam: Here again, the DMK government distributed land belonging to the state housing board to well-known politicians, bureaucrats and judges in Tamil Nadu. The DMK claims it cannot fulfill its election-time promise of providing land to the landless, but it has land to dole out for the rich and powerful in the state.

The list of scams is long and grows longer day by day …… corruption in Prasar Bharti, in the Scorpene deal, in IPL…..

Who Is Responsible?

Governments of all hues are implicated: committed as they are to the neo-liberal agenda, ruling class political parties are not willing to take strong action to curb corruption. Time and again, we have seen how some implicated politicians have been ‘forced’ to resign when exposed, only to be resurrected soon after in some other coveted position of power. Commissions that are meant to investigate the root cause of scams are rigged and manipulated; bureaucrats who themselves have been implicated in scams are asked to head the Central Vigilance Commission! The real beneficiaries of corruption and the loot of public resources – the business houses – remain completely unscathed and are allowed to operate without any hindrance. In fact, they are allowed to dictate policies and even ministerial berths in this so-called ‘democratic’ country.

The Human Cost of Corporate Loot: What Do the Scams Mean for the Common People of the Country?

What is the truth behind claims that governments have no money for public projects, that privatization of resources is inevitable? Do governments really lack funds? The 2G Spectrum scam (which resulted in a loss of a whopping Rs 1,76,379 crores of public funds) and other such scams expose the falsity of these excuses: the amount lost due to the 2G Spectrum scam alone equals an astonishing 3% of our GDP.

What could the government have done with this money?

  • We could have cleared half of the country’s fiscal deficit
  • The amount lost in the 2G Spectrum scam is almost Rs 40,000 crore more than the total amount that would be required to universalise food security – i.e provide 35 kg of food grains at Rs 3 per kg to all Indian households
  • The amount lost due to the scam is:
    • 4 times the NREGA’s annual budget
    • 4 times this year’s education budget
    • More even than our this year’s entire defence budget
    • It is double the Union budget for infrastructure spending this year
    • The amount is roughly the same amount that would be required to ensure education FOR ALL for next five years (as per the estimates of National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration, NIEPA)

So, instead of spending on food security, health and education, the ruling governments of the days are determined to divert public funds and resources to increase the profits of super-rich corporations! This is the real human cost of corruption; the price we pay for corporate loot.