Down with the Naked Arrogance of Ajit ‘Pawar’

“If there is no water in the dam, how can we release it? Should I urinate into it? If there is no water to drink, even urinating is not possible.”

Down with the Naked Arrogance of ‘Pawar’: First He Filled His Pockets with Murky Deals and Dried the Rivers! And Now He Mocks the Drought-Hit People!

AISA condemns the shameful statement by the Maharashtra strongman and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar where he spoke of urinating into dams so as to make up for the water shortfall in the state.

On April 7, 2013, in an attempt at being ‘comical’ about his inability to bring waters to the dams, Ajit Pawar made these shocking remarks in response to the protest of a farmer (Bhaiyya Deshmukh) from Solapur district who has been sitting on a fast for the last 55 days at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan against the current drought crisis in the state. More shockingly, as Ajit Pawar continued to rant in this vein, his minions sitting in the meeting burst into sycophantic applause!

No apology can wash off the grotesque, power-drunk arrogance that the remark conveys. But it also typifies the rantings of a criminal mind.

Nephew of Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar presently holds the finance portfolio. For the last decade, he also held the Irrigation ministry, until he was forced to resign last September following the expose on the Rs 70,000cr irrigation scam. At least three official investigation reports on the irrigation scenario in Maharashtra have exposed the deep-seated mismanagement and siphoning off of funds which plague the sector, and departmental inquiries are under way. The scale of this scam was such that the Maharashtra Economic Survey states that only 0.1 per cent of irrigated cover was added at a cost of Rs 70,000 crore! But after a “White (wash) Paper” on irrigation authored by another NCP minister, by December 2012, Mr. Pawar had sailed back into the cabinet!

It is widely acknowledged today that the present drought crisis is largely man-made. Despite having spent millions on irrigation projects, despite having the largest number of dams in the country and despite numerous water management institutions in the state, Maharashtra is still facing the worst drought in four decades.

According to South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), the current drought is not a natural calamity like the one in 1972. A comparison of rainfall in the two years clearly indicates that the lack of rainfall is not the reason for the drought. ‘The blame for this lies entirely on wrong decisions about building unviable and undesirable large dams, wrong cropping patterns, diversion of water for non priority uses, neglect of local water systems and unaccountable water management by the Maharashtra government, MWRRA (Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority, set up in 2005 under a World Bank funded programme) as well as the Union Government.’, says SANDRP.

The precarious state of water resources can be blamed on the increasing area under sugarcane cultivation backed by the politically powerful sugar-lobby in Maharashtra. Despite full-knowledge of the possibility of a drought, the planting of sugarcane was done in the drought affected areas in early 2012 and sugar industries owned by politicians sanctioned without any objection from the state government. Real estate builders exploited the land further by coming up with massive construction projects in drought affected areas. These luxurious projects with large swimming pools and gardens are a cause for significant water diversion for the elite and powerful. To top it all, the Indian premier league (IPL) is going to be held in Maharashtra this month. And, the key player in the sugar empire as well as in the IPL is none other than the Sharad Pawar. The cost of water has also increased significantly in the drought affected areas due to the lack of availability and adequate transportation, with the politician-corporator owned water-tanker lobby ruling the roost.

Even as the water continues to be diverted for the people in power, thousands of people from the drought affected areas are losing their livelihood as their cattle and crops are being destroyed and a full blown famine looms large in the horizon.

Down With The Corrupt Maharashtra Government For Creating A Man-Made Disaster And Then Mocking People’s Despair!

Students and Theatre Activists Arrested! Lathicharged while protesting in Kolkata against Modi

Brutal Police Lathicharge on Students Protesting against Modi’s Visit in Kolkata Today!

More than 25 People including Students and Theatre Activists Arrested!

Condemn Mamata Government’s Incessant Attempts to Muzzle Democratic Voices!

Mamata Banerjee’s police brutally cracked down on anti-Modi protestors in Kolkata today. The police unleashed a brutal lathicharge on hundreds of students and activists who had gathered for a peaceful protest against Modi in front of The Grand Hotel, where Modi was addressing a meeting convened by the corporate honchos of Bengal. Comrade Suvajit Maity of AISA, and Joyraj Bhattacharyya, actor and theatre activist, were severely injured in this lathicharge, and later more than 20 students and activist of AISA, USDF, IC and some other organizations were assaulted and later arrested.

Ever since the TMC has come to power inWest Bengal, it has used the state machinery routinely to crush all democratic voices. Be it the forced eviction of poor citizens in Nonadanga, the killing of farmers in Dubrajpur, Mamata Banerjee’s government has always resorted to police crackdown of popular protests. We all have seen that how few days back Mamata Banerjee’s  police ruthlessly killed one SFI activist for raising his voice for students’ democratic rights.

In his bid to fulfil his Prime Ministerial ambitions, Narendra Modi has been systematically touring  various parts of the country tom-tomming his model of corporate plunder, corruption and mass murder as ‘Development’. But everywhere he has had to face fierce protests from left and democratic sections of society. Back inDelhi, we saw how students and teachers protesting Modi’s attempt to use academic spaces to legitimize his fascist agenda were met with severe lathicharge, rounds of water-cannons, fake cases against the activists, and beating and abuse by ABVP goons, with the help of Delhi Police.

It is to be noted that while the progressive forces are rejecting Modi in one voice braving worst forms of state repression, various state governments, whether it is the Congress govt in Delhi or the TMC Govt in Kolkata, despite their self-styled claims of ‘secularism,’ have been facilitating the Prime Ministerial ambitions of the mastermind of the Gujarat genocide.


In Solidarity with Kabir Kala Manch!!!

In an extension of the ‘Operation Green Hunt’ against cultural expressions which questioned state violence and rampant atrocities against dalits and tribals, activists of Maharashtra based radical Ambedkarite cultural group Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) were framed under  the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) as being ‘Maoists’ and ‘Naxalites’.

The KKM is a cultural organization that has over many years spread its anti-caste, pro-democracy message through music, poetry and theatre. During recent years, when atrocities on Dalits and weaker sections of society began to increase, as witnessed in incidents like the rape and murder of the Bhotmange family in Khairlanji, the songs and words of the KKM admittedly became more militant. It is this militancy that invited the wrath of the police and the state. Anand Patwardhan’s acclaimed documentary film “Jai Bhim Comrade”, which won a National award as well as Maharashtra State recognition, elaborately features the performances  by Kabir Kala Manch. In 2011, the Maharashtra govt slapped UAPA on KKM and arrested several of its activists, while forcing two activists – Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali to go underground to avoid false framing. Recently the Bombay High Court granted bail to the two arrested members of KKM, Deepak Dengle and Siddharth, ruling that unless the police makes out a case that an actual crime has been committed by the accused, they cannot interpret the UAPA to arrest people merely on the basis of any alleged ideology.

Emboldened by these developments in the court that there can still be an iota of justice even in these unjust times, and encouraged by signs of a growing democratic concern against witch-hunt, absconding activists Sachin Mali and Sheetal Sathe decided on their own volition to appear  before Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha and the police on 2 April 2013. In appearing before the police, KKM members stated that their act should not be construed to be a “surrender” but as a form of “satyagraha” to clear their name from false framing and assert their democratic right to fight for justice. KKM activists made it clear that their voluntary appearance before the police must be treated as a matter of public record and that the police must be restrained from either torturing them or implicating them in any false case. Maharashtra  police, however, immediately arrested them and handed them over to the ATS. On the next day, a metropolitan magistrate court sent Sachin Mali to ATS custody till April 10 and Sheetal Sathe to judicial custody till April 17.

Maharashtra police has a long track record of politically motivated framing and witch-hunt. We have not forgotten how dozens of Muslim youths were picked up on false charges after the 2006 Malegaon blasts and how these innocent youths had to spend more than five years in jail, suffer custodial torture and social ignominy for the crimes which were later proved to be the handiwork of the terror network of  Sadhvi Pragya-Col. Purohit-Aseemanand saffron brigade! On the other hand, Maharashtra govt habitually bows down before the open violence and fascist terror tactics of the MNS-Shiv Sena-Sanghi saffron brigade.

Therefore, in the present struggle against witch-hunt and in defence of our freedom of expression, we must not fail the KKM or ourselves.

Speak Out Against State-Sponsored Violence & Brutality Unleashed by the TMC in Bengal!

West Bengal is witnessing an all-out attack on dissent, democracy, and the entire range of Left activists. The custodial killing of student activist of SFI, Sudipto Gupta, and CM Mamata Banerjee’s remark terming the killing to be a ‘petty’ affair, unleashed student protests in West Bengal and beyond. These protests have been met by a deliberate attack by the TMC on students and teachers of Presidency college; and arson, stone-pelting and violence on CPIM party offices. In another incident on 9 April, Mamata’s police brutally cracked down on anti-Modi protestors in Kolkata. The police unleashed brutal lathicharge on hundreds of students and activists who had gathered for a peaceful protest against Modi in front of The Grand Hotel, where Modi was addressing a meeting convened by the corporate honchos of Bengal. Comrade Suvajit Maity of AISA, and Joyraj Bhattacharyya, actor and theatre activist, were severely injured in this lathicharge, and later more than 20 students and activist of AISA, USDF, IC and some other organizations were assaulted and later arrested.

Strangely, the TMC which is indulging in the stone-pelting, the torching of offices, and whose police killed Sudipto Gupta in cold blood and brutally injured student protestors in anti-Modi protest, is holding ‘silent’ demonstrations (!) against what they claim was a ‘murderous’ assault on Mamata Banerjee and the WB Finance Minister Amit Mitra by SFI and AIDWA protesters on April 9th at the Planning Commission in Delhi!!!

The roughing up of Amit Mitra is unfortunate, doubtless. But was this a premeditated attack? Was it ‘condemnable’ as the CPIM Polit Bureau has called it? Was it ‘rowdyism’, as DSF Convenor (and also as JNUSU President!) Lenin Kumar have termed it?

The facts clearly show otherwise. The protests were, doubtless, angry – how could they not be, given that Mamata Banerjee had added salt to wounds by terming the cold-blooded killing of Sudipto in police custody to be a ‘petty affair’? But the police advised Mamata Banerjee and her team of Ministers to enter the Planning Commission premises in a car, as is the usual practice – instead they insisted on alighting from the car and entering on foot in order to confront the protestors. Had they not insisted on entering on foot, there could have been no question of any of the TMC leaders being roughed up, since the protestors could not have approached close enough. So the physical clash with Amit Mitra does not appear to be in any way premeditated.

The West Bengal Governor has issued a solemn statement terming the incident at the Planning Commission as an ‘unprecedented’ premeditated attack on democratically elected leaders and a ‘blot on India’s democratic values’. This is strange, to say the least. What a strange definition of ‘democratic values’ – where the Governor sheds tears and expresses condemnation only when an elected leader faces some public anger, but remains silent when a young boy is beaten to death by the police of the State which he, as Governor, heads?

Can there be any comparison between an unplanned and unfortunate scuffle, caused at least in part by the CM’s decision to taunt the protestors by walking past them on foot, and the cold-blooded custodial killing of a young boy by police? We hold the incident involving Amit Mitra to be unfortunate – there is no question of condoning it; moreover, the incident has inadvertently provided fodder for the TMC to deflect from the main issue of their own crime. But can such an incident – clearly not planned or premeditated – be in any way compared with the state-sponsored cold-blooded violence by West Bengal police and rampaging TMC cadre ongoing even today? The right of common people to protest must be upheld and defended against the perverse ‘common sense’ manufactured by media and ruling class that equates such protest with state-sponsored brutality.

Certainly, the protest at the Planning Commission in Delhi was very different from the planned goondaism witnessed today in Presidency College by TMC cadre who indulged in vandalism and targeted violence. The TMC is, as it is, branding the SFI protestors in Delhi as rowdies and goons – and instead of strongly defending the SFI students against such allegations, the CPIM and even the DSF are also joining the chorus of condemnation and castigation. Why has the CPIM Polit Bureau chosen to ‘condemn’ its own student cadres for an incident which was at worst unfortunate and avoidable? Why, too, has the DSF spoken in the same voice as the CPIM Polit Bureau, and branded the protest as ‘rowdyism’? It is quite usual for the CPIM to condemn student protests that are not tightly ‘scripted’ and ‘controlled’ (the black flag protests against Manmohan Singh and the student protests for workers’ rights in JNU come to mind). But why is DSF too speaking the same familiar CPIM language instead of defending the student protests against the TMC canards? 

Let us recall that when JNU students protested Comrade Chandrashekhar’s murder at the Bihar Bhawan in 1997, the Bihar CM Laloo Yadav had tried to accuse the protesting students of being goons intent on a murderous assault on his life. The students’ anger, on that occasion, while being largely peaceful and thoroughly democratic in spirit, had not always followed any tightly scripted ‘rules’ of polite protest. However, Laloo’s attempts to malign the genuine expressions of student anger and equate it with rowdyism had failed badly, because democratic public opinion had stood firmly with the protesting students, recognizing that the state’s violence and its callousness was the real culprit, not the spontaneous outbursts of anger of a few grieved students against the brutal state-sponsored killing of their comrade.     

Strangely, the DSF statement, also castigates the protest on the ground that some of the protestors were ‘non-students’. Why is it wrong for non-students (workers, women, youth) to join a protest called by a student group against the heinous killing of a student activist? Again, the protests against Chandrashekhar’s killing come to mind, where a large number of ‘non-students’ (ex-JNUSU office-bearers, teachers, workers, etc) joined the protests.

It must be recalled that CPIM too has the blood of dissenting student activists killed by state-sponsored might, on its hands. The killing of Sudipto Gupta ought to be a sober moment of introspection for the SFI, to recall students like Comrade Halim, an SFI activist who joined AISA in Burdwan district, who was beaten up and hospitalized, and then dragged from hospital and killed brutally by CPIM goons. Or Tapas Malik, the young anti-land-grab protestor raped and killed at Singur. After all, CPIM leader Benoy Konar’s statement that Tapasi must have been killed by her family to avoid the burden of marrying her off, was no less insensitive than Mamata Banerjee’s about Sudipto.

The memory of Halim, of Tapasi, of Sudipto, of Chandrashekhar, and countless other young fighters assassinated by those enjoying the power and patronage of the State will continue to inspire us with the determination to defend the student movement against those who wish to muzzle and shackle it.