AISA, CPI(ML), JNUSU Visit to Muzaffarnagar Relief Camps

 

 

muz17A team of leaders & activists of CPI(ML), AISA & JNUSU visited  Muzaffarnagar relief camps on 28th & 29th Dec. and distributed relief aid of  over 1000 blankets. The team comprised of JNUSU Vice-President  Anubhuti, Joint-Secretary Sarfaraj; AISA activist from JNU Abhishek; DU  AISA Secretary Harsh, Vice-President Prerna; Jamia AISA Secretary Farhan,  Com. Prashant; Com. Pradeep from Meerut, Com Alam from Bareily. The  team was accompanied by Com. Prem Singh Gehlawat and Com. Aslam,  leaders of CPI(ML).

The team visited two camps anmuz12d two madrassa. The first was a madrassa at  Hussainpur which sheltered 15 families from Mohammadpur, 10 from  Kheragani & 5 from Bhorkala. Then we visited Budhana camp which had about 500  people living under deplorable conditions as they didn’t even have tents put up  for them. They were forced to live in a single community tent which was   insufficient for so many families. At the next madrassa AISA -CPI(ML) team distributed around 300 blankets .

The last relief camp the team visited was Jaula camp with over 3000 people. The victims of this camp belong to the worst affected areas of Fugana, Kutba, Lisadh etc. At this camp, small tents have been put up, small enough to spill out few family members, who are forced to live out in the freezing winter.

The condition of  Mujaffarnagar camps testify that the UP state government has completely failed to meet the basic minimum standards of providing relief to the victims of Mujaffarnagar riots. When a serious humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the camps of Mujaffarnagar riot victims the Samajwadi Party has decided to drub the riot victims with absolute insensitivity. While Mulayam Singh Yadav, having failed to stop the riots, now wants to project the hapless riot victims as conspirators against the SP government some of his officials have surpassed him in the cruelty of their humour stating: “children [in the camps] have died of pneumonia, not of cold. Nobody can die of cold. If people died of cold, nobody would have been alive in Siberia.”

This was the first dispatch of the collected relief material; soon a team would leave for the second round in the first week of January. CPI(ML) appeals to people all over the country to contribute funds that can be used to buy relief materials (warm clothing, firewood, medicines, food) that are urgently needed for the Muzaffarnagar riot-affected.

AISA-CPI(ML) also appealmuz9s to begin the new year with a resolve to secure justice for Muzaffarnagar’s riot victims.

AISA-CPI(ML) also appeals to people in Delhi to join an all-India protest day on 2 Jan. at Jantar Mantar, demanding immediate arrest and prosecution of all rioters and rape-accused named in FIRs, and demanding that the State Government of UP ensure urgent relief and rehabilitation measures for the riot-displaced and riot-affected people.

 

 

 

 

Demand Relief, Rehabilitation, and Justice for Muzaffarnagar’s Riot Survivors… Observe National Protest Day on 2nd January 2014

muz17 muz12 muz9muzaffarnagarriotvictimsFriends,
The bitterly cold winter has begun. And the stories of Muzaffarnagar’s relief camps jolts our conscience.
Thousands of people, who have watched their loved ones killed in cold blood, and who have been raped, and lost their homes and means of survival, languish in the relief camps of Muzaffarnagar. The Uttar Pradesh Government had pleaded earlier that they were helpless to prevent the communal violence. But why has the Government turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the plight of those in the relief camps?
• 28 children have died in relief camps in Shahpur, Budhana, Malarpuur and Sunhati due to the cold, and lack of medicines.
• There have been instances of rapes in the relief camps. FIRs have been filed in rape cases that took place during the communal violence – but the accused are yet to be arrested.
• Meanwhile, the BJP shamelessly felicitated its MLAs who are accused of leading the communal violence.
• And the Akhilesh Government issued an order forcibly evicting the riot-hit from the relief camps, and pressurising them to accept a Rs 5 lakh payment in exchange for giving up their right to return to the villages from where they were evicted! In exchange for the Rs 5 lakh, they are being asked to sign an affidavit saying “”Main aur mere parivar ke sadasya apne gram mein hui hinsatmak ghatnaon se bhayakant hokar gaon va ghar chhodkar aaye hain, tatha in kinhi bhi paristhitiyon mein ab apne mool gaon evam ghar nahin lautenge (I and my family left our village and our home due to the violent incidents there. We will not return to our village and home under any circumstances).”
• Also, the UP forest department has booked thousands of Muzaffarnagar riots victims for setting up relief camps by “encroaching” on forest land.
• The report submitted to the UP Government by the 10-member committee of Ministers under the leadership of senior SP Minister Shivpal Yadav, appallingly, blames the madarsas running of the relief camp for not wanting to wind up the relief camps in spite of the situation having returned to ‘normal’!
• The SIT constituted to enquire into the riots is doing a mere token job of it and not bothering even to talk to the victims.

We cannot watch this travesty of justice in silence.
AISA appeals to people all over the country to contribute funds that can be used to buy relief materials (warm clothing, firewood, medicines, food) that are urgently for the Muzaffarnagar riot-affected. A team of AISA and CPI(ML) leaders will visit Muzaffarnagar on 28 December to distribute the first batch of relief materials collected.
AISA also appeals to begin the New Year with a resolve to secure justice for Muzaffarnagar’s riot victims.

On 2nd January 2014, AISA and CPI(ML) has called for an all-India protest day demanding immediate arrest and prosecution of all rioters and rape-accused named in FIRs, and demanding that the State Government of UP ensure urgent relief and rehabilitation measures for the riot-displaced and riot-affected people
photo: courtesy Indian Express

Devyani’s Arrest: A Classic Case of US Govt.’s Racism and High-Handedness, and Indian Govt’s Class Bias and Irresponsibility

Devyani_Khobragade_
The charges against Ms. Khobragade are serious. But let us first look at the manner in which the US Government has dealt with them, before coming to the Indian Government’s role in the entire affair.

US Attorney Preet Bharara states that Devyani was not hand-cuffed or arrested in the view of her children, but he does admit that a strip search and cavity search were conducted. But this is-neither here nor there. The question is – would the US Government have treated a diplomat from a non-‘Third World’ country, charged with the same offences, in the same manner? Again, this is not to undermine the seriousness of the charges brought against Ms. Khobragade. Rather, the question is, are the rules somehow different where US diplomats are concerned? When CIA operative Raymond Davis was charged with killing two men in Lahore in broad daylight in 2011, the US quickly claimed diplomatic immunity for him, even though he was not officially a diplomat. It is really this double standard that is the primary factor behind the anger that many Indians feel at the treatment meted out to Ms. Khobragade. It is difficult to evade the conclusion that imperialist high-handedness, and the structural racism of the US criminal justice and prison system, played a part in allowing the US Government to forget diplomatic conventions that it would expect as its due for its own diplomats. Of course, the US was no doubt encouraged in its high-handedness by the fact that the Indian Government never made an issue of the US’ refusal to extradite David Headley or Warren Anderson, of the shooting of an Indian fisherman by a US warship in 2012, or of repeated instances of frisking of senior Indian Government representatives in US airports.

What about the Indian Government’s response to the ongoing episode involving Khobragade and Richards? When the issue surfaced several months ago, India’s Ministry of External Affairs took no measures to prevent the matter from escalating. The MEA is well aware of the fact that Indian diplomats regularly employ and under-pay domestic help, drivers, gardeners etc from India. The infamous ‘double contract’ is an open secret – where there is one contract that complies with the US regulations and another ‘real’ contract that actually governs pay and other conditions. In the past couple of years, there have been other cases involving Indian diplomats accused of employing ‘bonded’ or ‘slave’ labour. The diplomats’ complaint has been that the MEA does not pay them enough to employ workers at US rates. This cannot, of course, be an excuse for underpaying workers – the point is that the MEA was well aware of the issue and did nothing to resolve it.

Further, the Indian Government seems to think it owes no duty to the other Indian citizen in the matter: Sangeeta Richards, the domestic worker. Instead, they have endorsed the action initiated by Khobragade against Richards, including charges of blackmail, fraud, theft; making insinuations that Richards was attempting to facilitate illegal immigration of her husband and child; and revoking Richards’s passport. Richards attempted to legally raise her grievances, terminate her employment by Khobragade, seek a fresh passport and visa so that she might work elsewhere, and sought a payment of $10,000 since she claimed to have worked 19 hours a day. The Indian Government seems to have decided that for a worker to raise such grievances against an Indian diplomat, amounts to betrayal of the Indian State and Indian nationalism! Disturbingly, the Indian Government seems to ignore the indications that Khobragade’s conduct towards Richards (and perhaps of other Indian diplomats towards their employees) amounts to human trafficking.

The discourse of much of the media and most political parties in India is equally disturbing. Richards’s actions are being described as a conspiracy. BJP leader Yashwant Sinha talks of how it’s common for servants to get ‘star-struck’ by the ‘glittering lights’ of the US, and to want to illegally immigrate and feel dissatisfied with their lot! People have said to me that the domestic worker should be happy with her wages because she would make less in India. Would these same people agree that an Indian who works in Microsoft in Seattle should make the same as an Indian who works in Infosys in Bangalore?

The Delhi High Court injunction of September 20 restraining Richards from moving court against Khobragade outside India, says: “It is pertinent to mention here that the plaintiff and her family treated defendant No. 1 [Sangeeta Richards] as a member of their own family…The (plaintiff’s) house is equipped with all modern domestic gadgets. Defendant No. 1 was being given leave/off on Sundays when she used to visit a beauty parlour, church and her friends.” In India, the most common euphemism for exploitative domestic labour and even child labour is “we treat them like family.” “Like family” justifies every feudal relationship with the domestic worker, suggesting that a formal work contract regulated by the law would somehow corrupt the “family relationship.” Similarly, of course, any attempt by women to invoke laws regarding dowry harassment or domestic violence inside the household, is painted as a violation of the sacred “family ties.” Domestic workers in India face exploitative work conditions, with no norms of work hours, pay, leave, and vulnerable to sexual violence and even bondage and torture. India is yet to ratify the ILO Convention on domestic workers’ rights.

Yashwant Sinha declared that India should retaliate to the arrest of Khobragade by arresting US diplomats with same-sex partners, since homosexuality is illegal in India. Flaunting homophobia as ‘national pride’ and implying that minimum wage and anti-trafficking laws are ‘foreign’ to India is condemnable and truly shames India as a democracy.

It also needs to be pointed out that while employing highly exploited domestic workers is of course more prevalent in the Indian middle class, it is also a major and growing phenomenon in the US among professionals and elites. In the US, large numbers of households employ Latina, Filipina and other migrant women as maids and nannies. Their work conditions are usually exploitative, and they are often profiled as ‘illegal’ and very vulnerable to harassment. Some years ago, these ‘undocumented’ workers participated in huge numbers in a series of massive protests against being branded as ‘illegal’ by US immigration laws, which, far from protecting such workers, render them much more vulnerable to exploitation. The draconian provisions of the US visa regime under which Khobragade was arrested are in fact primarily targeted at controlling and limiting the rights of these workers themselves.

Instead of muscle-flexing and grandstanding, India and the US must work on resolving the diplomatic impasse, without compromising either on India’s sovereignty and the dignity of its diplomats, or on the rights of Indian workers. India must work to end the exploitative practices and trafficking by diplomats and protect all Indian workers from such practices. And India and the US both need to protect the rights of domestic workers in keeping with the ILO Convention norms in their respective countries.

Pledge of 16 Dec 2013: Commemorating Delhi’s Braveheart, Marching ahead for Women’s Right To Freedom Without Fear

On 16th December, 2013 hundreds of students,volunteers,professors,activists and common people marched from JNU to Munirka bus stop commemorating the unknown braveheart of 16th december and the movement for women’s right to freedom without fear that followed and pledged to keep the flame alive.

 

On December 16 this year, as we pay tribute to the young woman whose life was cruelly taken away…

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We pledge to resist all patriarchal dictats and norms.

We pledge to challenge the sense of ‘entitlement’ that men feel over women: that husbands feel over wives; that Army men feel over ‘enemy’ women; that feudal landlords feel over dalit women; that brothers and parents feel over sisters and daughters on how they will dress and who they will love or marry.

We pledge to respect women’s consent, their autonomy, their right to say No.

We pledge to fight against all forms of patriarchal violence, be these rape, ‘honour’ killings, female infanticide or acid attacks.

We will fight to ensure that no woman ever has to undergo such horrors, just as we pledge to ensure justice, compensation and reparation for survivors of sexual crimes and their right to live a life of dignity.

We promise that we will stand up for the right of Gudiya not to be raped – as well as for her right to study and live life fully after rape.

We pledge to raise our voices against those in authority who defend harassers and rapists, those who undertake surveillance in the name of ‘protection’, as well as those who indulge in misogynistic stereotypes and remarks.

We pledge to uphold a women’s right over her body above the institution of marriage.

We pledge to ensure dignity for the household labour of women and the labour that women perform everyday in factories, establishments and fields.

We pledge to ensure every institution and workplace mandatorily forms anti-sexual harassment committee and make the workplace free from sexual harassment.

We promise not to wait for a Pavitra to die before we support her in her struggle against sexual harassment.

We pledge to carry forward the struggle for the full implementation of the Verma Committee Recommendations.

We pledge to challenge the patriarchies of the parliament, police, entertainment and educational systems in all their myriad forms.

We will raise our voices against the cops and the VCs, judges, editors and the bosses who defend sexual harassers and rapists or blame women for being ‘normal’ after rape.

We pledge to fight for the removal of AFSPA and will no longer allow custodial rapes and torture to be defended in the name of ‘national pride’

We pledge to resist when rapists are defended in our name – in the name of the ‘nation’ – because the rapists are in uniform and the raped are women of the ‘enemy community.’

We will fight to ensure that the dictats of caste groups and khaap panchayats no longer snuff out the lives of young lovers and couples like Manoj and Babli and Divya and Ilavarasan or a Rizwanur Rahman can live together in peace.

We refuse to uphold the colonial and fossilized section 377 of the IPC and pledge to reverse the SC Verdict that criminalises Same-Sex Expressions.

We will fight to ensure that law of the land is held accountable to safeguard constitutional morality against ‘popular’/majoritarian morality and khaap mentality.

We will fight for the rights of the man to wear a sari and the woman to wear a short skirt.

We will stand with the Kashmiri, Muslim and Dalit man who seeks to hold his head high and love a woman without fear.

We will fight for the rights of protestors to walk the streets without fear of bullets and tear gas.

We will fight for the right to love or live with whom we choose, without fear.

We must ask men not only to ‘respect women,’ but also to respect women’s right not to be ‘respectable’.

We pledge to take forward the struggle for bekhauf azadi, for freedom for women from all restrictions and fears.

16 Dec: Keeping the Flame Alive…

Reaffirming the Struggle for Freedom Without Fear, Against Sexual Violence and Gender Discrimination

“What has changed since last December?” is the question everyone is asking a year after the brutal gangrape and murder that sparked off a massive movement. After all, the number of rapes and sexual assaults are higher than ever, and women certainly don’t feel safer.

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 (Photo: At the Munirka bus stop on the 16th December, 2013.On Monday students from JNU, Jamia Millia Islamia & DU, gay rights activists and professors marched with candles from JNU to Munirka bus stop where Nirbhaya and her friend boarded the bus that winter night.)

In fact, the changes are enormously significant and precious. The winds of change that made last year’s slogans of fearless freedom possible, continue to blow strong, in spite of the many obstacles.

Last year, many had wondered why only a handful of the most brutal of gangrapes where slumdwellers were perpetrators, made it to headlines, while the everyday sexual degradation faced by women, or sexual violence by powerful men passed unnoticed. A year later, 16th December saw sexual harassment by a retired Supreme Court judge making it to the headlines and editorials. The fact that sexual harassment and violence faced by women at the workplace, and the need to end the impunity of the more privileged perpetrators, has emerged as a matter of public concern is an important and welcome change.

In the past year, many women have spoken of how the protests made them feel more empowered to raise their voice against sexual harassment and violence. The lawyer who wrote of the harassment at the hands of Justice Ganguly has spoken of how the protests of last December might have helped her to go public. “What has changed,” she said, “is that women …feel there is a small group, a small segment of society that will stand by them. Of course, that number is still very small, but for those who have been at the receiving end, it means a great deal.” The journalist in the Tejpal case could talk of the violence she faced to her male colleagues – confident of their understanding, support and solidarity, and they stood staunchly by her. Soni Sori, the fighter against custodial rape by Chhattisgarh cops, was greeted with long applause this year at a Delhi gathering of last year’s protestors, as she told them, “I got strength from the movement you have sustained since last December. The torture had demoralized and shattered me physically. In jail, I realized there are women in worse conditions than me. I reached out to you and you responded. The movement you launched and the strength I got from it kept me going.” The fight against sexual violence is still long and hard – but it is significantly less lonely, and the ranks of the fighters have swelled.

The other immensely significant change can be witnessed in the spontaneous outburst of outraged protest against the Supreme Court’s Section 377 verdict re-criminalising homosexuality. In another day and age, a Supreme Court ruling that homosexuals are criminals would have further isolated and demoralised an already marginalised group of gay rights activists, who could not count on support even from some of the largest women’s organisations. This year, days before December 16 2013, enormous street protests declared that the Supreme Court ruling bends shamefully to religious reactionaries and fails to protect the rights of homosexuals. Public opinion has forced even most ruling class political parties to break their silence and at least say the right thing. Some prominent supporters of the BJP among young celebrities, who had been touting Modi as the leader of ‘modern, young India’, have been embarrassed by the BJP’s retrograde support for Section 377 and BJP leaders’ homophobic utterances. Even in the mainstream media, the dominant opinion is that Section 377, that declares homosexuality to be ‘unnatural’, is a relic of a patriarchal, unscientific, and discriminatory colonial order. Such a law had no place in India prior to colonial rule, and should certainly have no place in modern democratic India. In a world where even the Pope is having to modify the Catholic Church’s homophobic stances, personal freedoms and constitutional liberties cannot be violated to defer to the opinion of a handful of religious leaders and godmen. A significant section of India’s vocal younger generation finds it troubling that the Supreme Court, which chooses to be vocal about red lights on cars, should be ‘recuse itself’ from protecting people from an unconstitutional law.

Doubtless, the forces of patriarchal reaction too are gathering their forces. The communal rapists of Muzaffarnagar are yet to be arrested even after an FIR has been registered. Communal and casteist forces still seek to curb women’s freedoms and unleash violence on minorities and oppressed castes in the name of ‘protecting women.’ Dalit and adivasi women battling rape continue to struggle for justice. Rapes by Armed Forces continue to be shielded by the AFSPA – the AFSPA that is imposed not only in Kashmir and Manipur but has also recently been given an extension in CPIM-ruled Tripura. Stalking by the Gujarat Government and its ‘Saheb’ is being justified in the name of ‘protecting’ the victim from her male friends. The Chairperson of the NCW, herself a leader of the Congress, echoes the sentiment of the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat when she blames rapes on urbanisation and advises women to keep themselves safe by adhering to ‘Indian culture.’ Justice Ganguly sticks to his post as West Bengal Human Rights Commission Chairperson in the face of sexual harassment charges that have been upheld by a Supreme Court panel – and a former Speaker and a former Chief Justice are part of his team of defenders. A Central Minister and senior judges alike warn that if women complain against sexual harassment, they won’t get jobs.
Still, these forces of reaction are forced to shout louder – because they know they have to work harder to be heard above the slogans of ‘bekhauf azaadi.’ The battle for fearless freedom is a long one, by no means easy – but the fighters’ ranks have swelled, their voices have grown more confident, and their spirits are high. The winds of change won’t be stopped by the wall of reaction.

December 16th: 1st Anniversary of Nirbhaya Case

Demonstrations in West Bengal: Women and student-youth activists of AISA, AIPWA and RYA held a day-long protest-demonstration at College Street on December 16, marking the anniversary of the spark that lit a prairie fire of movements against gender violence in the country. A stretch of the busy street, facing the legendary Coffee House, was lined with posters decrying the Supreme Court verdict on article 377, calling for justice for countless rape victims of the State, demanding Justice Ashok Ganguly’s resignation as chairperson of the WBHRC, and calling for a CBI inquiry into the Chit-fund scam that robbed the poorest toiling masses of Bengal by a nexus patronised overtly by the TMC Govt. The protest was addressed by Comrades Bhuvana, Partha Ghosh, student activist Debmalya, women activists Shukla Sen, Chandrasmita, Kasturi, Krishna Bandyopadhyay, LGBT activist Anurag and many others. Several songs were sung as passers-by stopped over and joined with their voices. A street play was also performed. Protests were held at Hooghly and other places in the State.
(Below we carry two reports published in the ToI of 17th December 2013, Delhi edition, with minor changes)

Nirbhaya case: At JNU, the cause has grown wider

NEW DELHI: Students of JNU have kept alive the flames of protest they sparked a year ago after city girl Nirbhaya was gang-raped and brutalized on December 16, 2012. On Sunday they held a night vigil where through soul-stirring performances and inspiring speeches they extended their movement to encompass issues such as marital rape, the Armed Forces (Special powers) Act and the draconian Section 377.

On Monday, they kept their solidarity show going. Joining hands with students from Jamia Millia Islamia and Delhi University, gay rights activists and professors, they marched with candles from Ganga Dhaba in JNU to Munirka bus stop where Nirbhaya and her friend boarded the bus that winter night.

Sunday evening started with a five-minute short film – “In the Body of Justice” by Eve Ensler, author of ‘The Vagina Monologues’. Prof Nivedita Menon of JNU delivered a moving lecture on how the common man must “take back the republic”.
She called for a new sexual assault law. “We need a freshly-designed law that will reflect gender neutrality.” This legislation, she said, should take into account mass violence during communal riots, violence on women in caste situations where dalit women are raped. “We need a law that reflects the realities of our society.”

Actor Maya Rao presented a skit called “Walk” developed against the backdrop of the Nirbhaya incident. Her message: “The battle got much bigger since 2012”. Freedom, not protection, is what this battle is about, she said.
The longest applause was for Soni Sori, a suspected Dantewada Maoist, who was allegedly tortured and raped brutally by policemen. “I got strength from the movement you have sustained since lastDecember. The torture had demoralized and shattered me physically. In jail, I realized there are women in worse conditions than me. I reached out to you and you responded. The movement you launched and the strength I got from it kept me going,” she said.
On Monday nearly 800 students marched to Munirka where Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association and gay right activist Gautam Bhan addressed the gathering with Prof Kamal Mitra Chenoy. Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover addressed the students before the march began.
Nirbhaya fire burns bright, heat on ex-judge

NEW DELHI: A year after the Nirbhaya case, activists and protesters find women’s liberty a far cry. They came together once again at Jantar Mantar on Monday to assess the changes brought by the yearlong campaign that catapulted the issue to the forefront of Delhiites’ consciousness.

Topping their list of demands was removal of Justice A K Ganguly as the chairman of West Bengal Human Rights Commission. Women who had experienced sexual assault also came forward to share their stories. At a protest organized by All India Democratic Women’s Associaton ( AIDWA), All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) and several others, activists presented a memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister, demanding the removal of former Supreme Court judge Justice Ganguly besides taking steps for the creation of committees against sexual harassment at every workplace.

“When people were protesting against Nirbhaya’s gangrape here on December 24, Justice Ganguly, in a five-star hotel nearby, was sexually harassing this law intern. The PM has to assure us that whether it is a man from jhuggis, a high-profile journalist, or a Supreme Court judge, no one will escape punishment,” said human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover as protesters shouted slogans.
Aruna Kumar, senior private assistant to the principal of ARSD college in DU, spoke about how her position had not been restored even after a chargesheet was filed on her complaint of a sexual assault by the former principal. “My room at the college office has been closed. I have not been given any work since I filed the complaint and am still being discriminated against. Many such harassment cases in DU are now coming out,” she said.

Tribal schoolteacher from Chhattisgarh, Soni Sori, attended the protest but did not address the gathering. She sat quietly as other activists described how she was allegedly stripped naked and faced brutal sexual abuse in custody.

Revati Laul, journalist and a friend of the Tehelka journalist allegedly sexually assaulted by editor Tarun Tejpal, said she and the victim had been covering Nirbhaya’s case extensively and couldn’t imagine that their editor would assault somebody. “If there was a sexual harassment committee at work, my friend would have had the option to see her case pursued systematically.”

Salma (name changed), who used to be the national programming head with a radio channel, recollected the trauma after she was allegedly assaulted by the CEO of the company. “I have been fighting the case for three years but have got no support,” she said.
Gourab Ghosh, a JNU student leader, had come with many other students. “Every institution should have a gender sensitization committee against sexual harassment like that in JNU.”

Kavita Krishnan, secretary, AIPWA stressed that the government should immediately start a public education campaign on women’s rights and freedoms.

(Courtesy CPI ML’s ML Update. http://cpimlliberation.wordpress.com/ml-update-weekly/)

The Anti-Rape Movement -The Political Vision of ‘Naari Mukti/Sabki Mukti’: Kavita Krishnan

By KAVITA KRISHNAN

Anti Rape Protest at CM Shiela Dixit's House, Photo by Vijay Kumar

(Anti Rape Protest at CM Shiela Dixit’s House, Photo by Vijay Kumar)

A year ago, a massive movement erupted on the streets of Delhi and the country – against the brutal gangrape of a young woman on a bus, leading to her death. Looking back at that movement a year later, it is clear that the questions, concerns and above all the tensions and debates embedded in that movement are with us still – and are quite crucial to the political discourse around us.

I stress ‘tensions and debates’ because of course, there’s a tendency to speak as though ‘the movement’ was one homogenous entity. That it spoke in one voice – ‘for the nation’. That the ‘nation’ wanted to ‘protect women’ and ‘hang the rapists’. The truth, of course, has more layers to it. If we could hear the voices seeking to protect women and avenge rape, there was an equally significant counterpoint striving to be heard, and made itself heard in spite of all the odds. These were the voices demanding ‘freedom without fear’, challenging the culture of victim-blaming, and seeking accountability from the State towards women’s freedom and autonomy.

Posters from Anti Rape Protests in Delhi, Photograph by Vijay Kumar

(Posters from Anti Rape Protests in Delhi, Photograph by Vijay Kumar)

I’m not trying to suggest the two sets of voices were mutually exclusive or even hostile to each other. It’s more probable that both voices wrestled each other within the same persons. Nevertheless, these two sets of voices did represent two models of political vision; two kinds of political possibilities. A year later, the political contest between these two political possibilities is more relevant than ever.

 Beyond Patriarchal Protection and Vengeance

Many moments in the movement reminded us that there is a new, emergent alertness towards the politics of patriarchal protection. Early in the movement, a video of a street speech rejecting ‘protection’ that came with the baggage of benign patriarchal restrictions, and demanding instead protection for ‘freedom without fear’, went viral on the internet, getting some 55000 hits and being translated into several Indian languages. It so happens that it was I who made that speech. But to me, it doesn’t feel like ‘my speech’; the speech itself was born, after all, from the hand-made placards around me, that angrily challenged rape culture, and from the anger that women protestors felt at being asked by a well-meaning reporter if the Government should not at least protect women who ‘can’t help having to go out at night.’ What caused that speech to strike the chord that it did?

Individual communications indicated that the speech had struck a chord especially with women, who resented being accused of ‘risky behaviour’ that ‘courted rape.’ The ideas in the speech weren’t exactly new, but the shape they took as a political slogan was certainly new. As the months have passed I have realised that many of us women had been mulling those thoughts in our heads, even before December 16th. And that post December 16th, thousands of people, especially women, were able to connect empathetically with each other and articulate a new political idea.

The speech that went viral said:

“We will be adventurous. We will be reckless. We will be rash. We will do nothing for our safety. Don’t you dare tell us how to dress, when to go out at night, in the day, or how to walk or how many escorts we need!…Even if women walk out on the streets alone, even if it is late at night, why should justifications need to be provided for this, like ‘she has to work late hours’ or ‘she was coming home from a BPO job or a media job’? If she simply wants to go out at night, if she wants to go out and buy a cigarette or go for a walk on the road — is this a crime for women?…Freedom without fear is what we need to protect, to guard and respect.”

Shuddhabrata Sengupta, writing about the movement and about ‘Confronting the Rules of Rape’, talked about the protestors and the woman assaulted on December 16th together occupying the subversive position of the Jugni or Abhisarika: “A woman who goes out into the night—to claim the night, to revel in its promise, thrill and comfort.”

And as the movement progressed, the slogan of ‘freedom without fear’ was embraced by others beyond women. The right of the protestor at the barricades, the Muslim, the Kashmiri, the woman or man from the North East, the working class slum-dwelling man or woman, the sex-worker, came to be asserted with the right of every woman, to access the streets and public spaces freely without fearing violence, without being seen as ‘suspicious.’ It was a revelation to see college-going women respond to the slogan of ‘naari mukti’ (emancipation of women) with an emphatic ‘sabki mukti’ (emancipation of all). In the course of the movement, women students of Delhi University colleges demanded to know (in the face of angry reprimand from their Principals) why curfews and restrictive hostel timings were imposed on them in the name of safety; and why Delhi Police could put up posters outside their college advising them to head home straight after college instead of loitering.

In 2011, a book titled Why Loiter?: Women And Risk On Mumbai Streets (Penguin Books India) was published. Its authors, Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan, and Shilpa Ranade, wrote about how women in public space had to conduct themselves with a concern for proving the respectability of their purpose, rather than actual ‘safety’. They sought to articulate a political agenda against violence in terms of the right to enjoy ‘loitering’ aimlessly and even take ‘risks’, for the sheer pleasure of it, in the city. They wrote, “The quest for pleasure actually strengthens our struggle against violence, framing it in the language of rights rather than protection.” They asked us to imagine what public policies (such as, for example, 24/7 public toilets) we should expect from the State, that would make women welcome in public spaces instead of seeing them as a source of anxiety. Instead of framing the agenda against gendered violence as one in which women need ‘protection’ from potential aggressors (profiled as working class, jobless youth, Muslim, migrant, etc), Why Loiter asserted the right of women as well those profiled sections of people to access public space freely:

“It is only when the city belongs to everyone that it can ever belong to all women. The unconditional claim to public space will only be possible when all women and all men can walk the streets without being compelled to demonstrate purpose or respectability, for women’s access to public space is fundamentally linked to the access of all citizens. Equally crucially, we feel the litmus test of this right to public space is the right to loiter, especially for women across classes. Loiter without purpose or meaning. Loiter without being asked what time of the day it was, why we were there, what we were wearing and whom we were with.”

Indeed, Why Loiter could have been a manifesto for those in the December 16th movement, who had asserted the right of women to be risky and adventurous instead of a constraining ‘protection’, and who had called for ‘naari mukti/sabki mukti.’ Yet, most of us who raised those slogans or gave those speeches hadn’t actually read the book (in my case, I only read the book months later). The movement did reveal the fact that those ideas don’t inhabit academic books alone, they do have a social, material life, and they can be the stuff of people’s political imagination.

And the anger against victim-blaming and ‘dress codes’ to keep women ‘safe’ weren’t confined to women in Delhi saying ‘meri skirt se oonchi meri awaaz’ (my voice is higher than my skirt). In rural Siwan, Bihar, 500 women gathered in February 2013 to protest Asaram’s visit there, incensed by his suggestion that the December 16th rape could have been avoided if only the woman had called the rapists ‘brother.’ Fuelling their rage were some other factors too. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had said rapes happened only in India, not Bharat (implying that women who embraced ‘westernised’ clothes/culture got raped). Closer home in Siwan, both Hindu and Muslim panchayat leaders had competed to issue ‘bans’ on women’s using mobile phones or wearing jeans or skirts. The women protestors not only came armed with eggs and tomatoes for Asaram; they gave speeches there declaring that if anyone tried to impose a ban on women wearing jeans, they would beat up men who wore shorts (a reference to the RSS uniform), pants, shirts, or anything but ‘dhoti and khadaun’ (loincloth and wooden clogs). Subsequently, Asaram himself has been arrested for raping a 16-year-old girl in his ashram. A comrade told me recently that in his village in Begusarai, Bihar, the Laxmi Puja pandals included figures of Asaram with women beating him up with footwear. Asaram’s fall from godman to folk-devil started long before the rape charge, with the widespread disgust for his attempts to blame a young woman for her own rape.

So, there was a very significant part of the movement that challenged the discourse of patriarchal protection and vengeance, and the class, caste, and communal pathologies that accompany it. But that is not to undermine the fact that the discourse of patriarchal protection and vengeance was also a very strong current in the movement, shaped and harnessed by well-calculated political signals from the ruling class.

‘Protection,’ Profiling and Patriarchy    

The Patriarchal-Protectionist Response - asking the State to don 'bangles/choodiyan' - Photograph by Vijay Kumar

(The Patriarchal-Protectionist Response – asking the State to don ‘bangles/choodiyan’ – Photograph by Vijay Kumar)

There are ways in which a brutal, graphic rape like what took place on December 16th – as opposed to the ‘normalcy’ of everyday discrimination and violence – can suggest that the patriarchal State is ‘not man enough to protect our women.’ This was expressed quite literally in some of the protests which used bangles to represent effeminacy and emasculation of politicians and police. One young woman held a placard at India Gate during the December protests that declared, “MPs in Parliament break your bangles, leave it to us to deal with rapists.” Aam Aadmi Party cadres protesting the rape of a child in Delhi raised slogans inviting the Delhi Police Commissioner to wear bangles. In Mumbai, the gang rape of a young woman was followed by Shiv Sena women presenting bangles to the Police Commissioner in protest. In this backdrop, the demand for a graphic retribution – like hanging – for rapists in such a case can serve to reassure patriarchy of its ability to punish; to assert that ‘We are man enough to avenge our women’.

Protection, as we have already seen, is coded to connote various patriarchal restrictions for women. The Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi said recently, spelt out the logic underlying dress codes, “women are like gold…if you don’t keep it locked up, it’ll be stolen.” Other leaders across parties (Congress, BJP, even CPIM) have of course advocated dress codes and curfews for women as protection from rape.

Protection also implies that not all women are worthy of it. Women who fail the test of patriarchal morality; women whose caste and class identity does not spell sexual ‘respectability,’ fall outside the embrace of protection.

And protection also implies the projection of the ‘Other’ from whom women need protection. In the wake of the December 16 rape, it was easy to profile slum-dwellers as the source of the fear of rape. About 10 days after the rape, the Prime Minister of India said ‘footloose migrants’ from rural areas represented the ‘menace’ that gave urbanisation a ‘monstrous shape.’  Recently, a Delhi Police ad had a photograph of a little boy, obviously from an urban poor background, with the ad-line “Help him learn to chop an onion. Before someone teaches him how to chop a head.” This ad implied that the child was doomed to become a dangerous criminal unless he became a child labourer, chopping onions at dhabas. The ad was well in line with the shrill campaign in the wake of the December 16th rape, demonising the ‘juvenile’ – a word inevitably applied to poor, never to privileged teenagers.  Following the Mumbai gang rape in which several of the accused were Muslim slum-dwellers, the Shiv Sena and MNS began a vicious campaign suggesting that ‘Bangladeshi’ migrants were responsible for rape.

The Politics of ‘Protecting Women’

In the year since last December, we’ve seen the fear of sexual violence and the narrative of ‘protection’ from such violence being harnessed by various brands of political mobilisation. The profiling of certain sections of men as a sexual threat as a justification for violence against those sections, has been wedded to an agenda of controlling women’s sexual autonomy in the name of ‘protecting’ them. As Kum Kum Sangari observed, “Patriarchies provide a potentially hospitable space where racism, casteism, communalism could meet.” (Sangari, ‘The ‘Amenities of Domestic Life’: Questions on Labour’, Social Scientist, Vol 21, Nos 9-11, 1993)

Not long before the December 16th rape, Dharmapuri district of Tamilnadu had witnessed vicious anti-dalit violence, orchestrated on the pretext of a Dalit youth Ilavarasan marrying a Vanniar caste woman, Dhivya. In the months that followed, the hate-campaign and violence against Dalits intensified, and on July 4, Ilavarasan died in suspicious circumstances. Leaders of the Pattali Makkal Katchi and its front the Vanniyar Sangham have given speeches declaring that young Dalit men wearing jeans, T-shirts and sunglasses, riding motorcycles and wielding mobile phones are indulging in ‘love dramas’ to lure girls of the Vanniyar caste. ‘Protecting’ Vanniyar girls from predatory sexualised Dalit men of course also involves preventing them from exercising autonomy in whom they love or marry.

A very similar campaign underway in Western UP has preceded the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar. In Muzaffarnagar, khap panchayats had been in the news last year for seeking to impose bans on women having mobile phones or wearing jeans. Khap panchayats in Haryana and Western UP are notorious for custodial (‘honour’) killings of couples who marry in defiance of caste norms.

Poster Against Mohan Bhagwat - RSS Supremo, for his misogynist comments, 26 January Protest in Delhi - Photograph by Monica Dawar

(Poster Against Mohan Bhagwat – RSS Supremo, for his misogynist comments, 26 January Protest in Delhi – Photograph by Monica Dawar)

The same khap panchayats were the vehicle for a concerted RSS campaign raising the bogey of ‘love jehad’ – i.e Muslim youth who seduce Hindu women away from the Hindu fold on the pretext of ‘love’. The ‘love jehad’ campaign revives the older communal myths of lustful Muslim aggressors and unbridled Muslim population growth and combines it with the more recent profiling – by State agencies as well as communal outfits – of Muslim youth as terrorists.

The ‘love jehad’ myth claims that good-looking Muslim men are identified, given neutral names like Sonu and Raju,  given jeans, t-shirts, mobiles, and bikes and trained in madarsas to seduce women. As in the Tamil Nadu anti-Dalit campaign, here the markers of sexualised Muslim masculinity are ‘jeans, t-shirts, mobiles and bikes.’ Whereas ‘skullcap and beard’ were already propagated as markers of potential ‘jehadis’, the ‘love jehad’ campaign sows suspicions towards Muslim youth in secularised clothing, that is projected as dangerous precisely because it doesn’t distinguish them from Hindu youth.

The incident that became the pretext for the communal violence was narrated as one in which two Hindu youth killed a Muslim youth who was ‘stalking their sister,’ leading the Muslims to come and kill the two Hindu men. There was no evidence of any stalking or sexual harassment, yet the campaign gained force. Moreover it was propagated that the Muslim family who lost a son had several other sons left, whereas the Hindu families whose boys were killed had no sons left, having used ‘family planning.’

The khap mahapanchayat which was the launching pad for the worst of the communal violence at Muzaffarnagar deployed the slogans of protecting ‘women’s safety and honour’: ‘Beti Bachao, Bahu Bachao, Samman Bachao’ (protect daughters, daughters-in-law and honour). The slogans were available ready to hand – being the same slogans that are deployed to justify ‘honour’ killings and bans on same-gotra and inter-caste marriages.

More recently, audio tapes were released by a media website which showed that BJP’s Uttar Pradesh in-charge Amit Shah, when he was Gujarat Home Minister, directing the minute-by-minute illegal surveillance by the Anti Terrorist Squad of a young woman, to relay information to his ‘Saheb’ – presumably the Gujarat Chief Minister. The intimate and obsessive nature of the surveillance on her male friends and private life point to stalking. The tapes have not been denied, yet a bizarre defence has been offered by the BJP. The BJP claims it was all for her protection – at the request of her father. BJP’s national spokespersons have declared on TV that such surveillance is essential to ‘protect’ women from rape! The BJP is banking on the hope that public common sense – if not a Court of law – will be willing to buy the idea that illegal snooping may be justified to ‘protect’ an adult woman from her ‘dangerous’ male friends.

Poster seen in Delhi during 'Reclaim the Republic' Protest against Rape on 26, January 2013 - Photograph by Monica Dawar

(Poster seen in Delhi during ‘Reclaim the Republic’ Protest against Rape on 26, January 2013 – Photograph by Monica Dawar)

Azaadi: An Essential Agenda for Democracy 

The developments at Tamil Nadu and Muzaffarnagar and the Stalk-Gate tapes are an urgent warning bell that the fear of sexual violence – conflated with the fear of women escaping patriarchal sexual control – is being exploited politically to justify restrictions on women’s freedom, profile Dalit and Muslim communities and unleash violence on them.

The young women’s slogans of ‘bekhauf azaadi – khap se bhi, baap se bhi’ (fearless freedom – from khap panchayats and even from our fathers) were cause for some embarrassed and uneasy smiles even among comrades. At one workshop, some young male comrades said, “Those slogans may be ok for Delhi, but how can we explain or justify them in rural areas?” Others comrades also confessed that they would probably use the ‘freedom’ slogan without quite spelling out what kind of freedom was sought, and from which structures. The question is: can the Left and democratic forces possibly hope to challenge the bogey of ‘love jehad’ and the campaigns against Muslims and Dalits in rural areas, without confronting the culture that denies women ‘azaadi’ from fathers, families, and caste panchayats? Without exposing the custodial character of the household? Without reminding ourselves of the lines in Alok Dhanwa’s ‘Runaway Girls’: “how visible the fetters of home become/when a girl runs away from home”? Or of Gorakh Pandey’s lines “In every home a burning ghat/In every home a gallows/In every home are prison walls/Colliding against the walls/She falls”? Engels stripped the family of ideological mystification, and spoke of it as an institution linked to the State and private property. Our poets on the revolutionary Left spoke in the clearest terms possible of the fetters and prison walls that confront a woman in her home. Yet, often, we’re reluctant to confront the violence implicit in the family, and tell ourselves that the Marxist women’s movement must confront only “the State” (as though ‘the family’ had nothing to do with ‘the State’).

As long as the idea of patriarchal control over women in the name of their protection remains ‘available’ as a ‘hospitable space,’ violence against women will continue to be justified by victim-blaming, and communal fascist and casteist politics will keep breeding there. Shrinking that ‘hospitable space’ is absolutely crucial. It is all the more urgent to recognise that such ‘azaadi’ for women from the patriarchal structures of the household, caste, and community – including financial, social and sexual autonomy – has to become a priority political agenda for the Left and for all democratic, progressive movements.

Capitalism Doesn’t Set Us Free  

The US Ambassador to India, Nancy Powell has recently said that American students feel insecure about coming on study trips to India because they fear rape. This statement has come a few months after a blog post by an American woman student which spoke of experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the relentless sexual harassment and violence in India, generated a huge response. The woman student is white; another black woman who had been with her on the same tour had written a response saying that the relentless harassment was indeed traumatising, but cautioning against the dangers of racial profiling, which she as a black person in America had experienced. (http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1023426) Many Indian women actually responded to the first blog post with empathy, saying it was terrible that they accepted this daily trauma as ‘normal’. I’ve been asked, “Why don’t you admit that sexual violence is worse in India?’ Other Indian women have responded with accounts of the fear of violence they felt when travelling in the US or Europe.

An interview where one of the authors of Why Loiter described her experience of the US and India, describes the problem accurately: “Ironically, although the fear of actual rape loomed much larger in America than it ever did for me in India (there was a serial rapist at large around my campus), it did not limit my sense of freedom in the way that the small everyday acts self-policing did here.” (Mumbai Hollaback website, March 7,2011.

Speaking about the issue to audiences in the US and UK recently, I pointed out how even within India, there is an attempt to keep the discourse around rape reassuring by locating the problem outside one’s comfort zone. So, there are attempts to address rape as though it’s a danger emanating from strangers on streets or certain profiled communities as opposed to the ‘safe havens of the homes.’ The only useful movement against sexual violence can be one that brings the problem home, right into the comfort zone, that challenges rather than reassures patriarchy, that exposes the violence found in the ‘normal’ rather than locating violence in the far-away and exotic. For people in the US or Europe, it might be reassuring to imagine that sexual violence and gender discrimination happens ‘out there’ in India, rather than to look around and question the violence embedded in the ‘normal’ around them. The questions to ask would be: how does the politics of ‘protecting’ women, and of propaganda about ‘good and bad women’ play out in advanced capitalist societies? In what ways are countries like the US and UK complicit in the violence and discrimination that women face in India or Bangladesh?

In the UK, too, policies projected as ‘protecting’ women from violence actually rob women of any control over their situation, and are being used to profile immigrant and working class men. The Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs), supposed to support ‘high-risk’ cases of domestic violence, are an instance. Decisions (including, in the case of immigrants, deportation of a partner deemed to be abusive or ‘high-risk’, for instance) can be taken without the woman herself being present at the Conferences! In other recent instances, there has been a concerted campaign to profile Asian Muslim men as guilty of ‘grooming’ young white women. The ‘grooming’ campaign is very similar to the ‘love jehad’ campaign in India. In fact the actual instances of sexual exploitation has little to do with the ethnicity of the perpetrators, and more to do with organised businesses that were profiting from the exploitation. Ironically, the cases of systematic, prolonged sexual abuse or exploitation of children by powerful white men such as BBC’s Jimmy Savile, is rarely described as ‘grooming’!

In India or elsewhere in the world, neoliberal economic policies require women to bear a great burden of domestic labour and to be available as pliant labour in the workplace. Rape culture and victim-blaming discourse that has been heard loudly from cops, politicians across the world help to maintain the gendered discipline by reinforcing the notions of ‘good/bad’ women. And the ‘good/bad’ dichotomy isn’t restricted to rape culture and sexual violence. Black women receiving welfare in the US are stigmatised as ‘bad mothers.’ In India, ASHA workers are profiled as ‘good’ women who will labour for public rural healthcare without a salary – as an extension of women’s ‘selfless service’ within the household!

Multinational corporations are implicated in the sexual and other forms of violence that women resisting those corporations in India face. They are also implicated in the continued subordination of women in, say, Bangladesh, since they profit from the underpaid and insecure labour of these women, who work in factories that might catch fire or collapse!

Gendered violence in India isn’t a mere vestige of the past that can be wiped out by capitalist modernity. Freedom isn’t something with an MNC label that can be bought at a mall. Today, the slogans of ‘bekhauf azaadi’ continue to resonate with urgent relevance: in the struggles against the rapist godmen and editors, judges indulging in sexual harassment and rape, and against rape-speak and victim-blaming by people in authority; in demanding a change in social and material structures of class, caste and gender oppression; and in the sustained challenge we need to offer to communal fascist politics.

(This is a slightly expanded version of a piece that has appeared in the December 2013 issue of Liberation)

Kavita Krishnan is the Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), an editor with Liberation, and a member of the Politbureau of the Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist (Liberation)

Assertion of AISA in the Academic Space of Madurai

The 47 year old Madurai University faces for the first time indefinite closure from 10th December. The struggle started on 4th, continued for 8 days, till the police evacuated students, demanding revoking of dismissal of AISA leaders comrades Arun and Pandiyarajan and redressal of demands raised by AISA.
It all started in January, 2013, just 11 months ago when AISA Madurai, decided to intervene in the happenings of Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU). The universities in Tamilnadu have become fiefdom of the ruling party of the State and are being looted. The education system is collapsing due to semi-privatization, corruption and suppression of dissent.
The present Vice- Chancellor of Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU) is a family member of an AIADMK leader (late). She started to fill all the legal bodies (Senate, Syndicate) with her loyalists and the Registrar was frequently changed to suit her needs. The new VC created self financed courses of her liking without any infrastructure and funding from UGC or any relevant agency and closed a girls’ hostel to create space for a theatre. She took little interest in providing atmosphere for teaching-learning, for example fellowship to the research scholars has not been paid for the last 10 to 12 months. She had taken no effort to spend Rs 2 Crore, which the University has to spend this academic year out of 10 Crore transferred by the UGC towards scholarship for M.Phil and PhD students. However the VC is now listing out that she had added Wi-Fi, solar energy and so on, for reasons well known. However, no Wi-Fi or washing machine or refrigerator or inverter is found in hostels (as per UPE standard) as mentioned in the Self Assessment Report by the university for NAAC.
AISA tried to resist VC’s move to disintegrate the integrated education institute. It organized several protests in various forms this academic year. On the Convocation Day (23rd October) Comrades Arun and Pandiyarajan tried to meet the Vice Chairman of UGC demanding early release of fellowship. However the MKU administration used police to prevent the leaders and students from meeting him. The students turned towards the collector office, which is 15 KM away and presented the petition to him. It was widely covered in the local media.
The MKU management has tried to browbeat the movement and the students, however, we have resisted them at every step. After trying several ways for silencing and threatening the AISA leaders, on 3rd December the Syndicate decided to rusticate Arun and Pandiyarajan. The Syndicate decision to suspend a worker who is also SC/ST Union leader, who fought for reservations in employment, demotion of a reputed professor to non-academic post and sending out PDF scholar who is differently abled single woman and also an associate of the demoted professor infuriated the entire campus.
AISA’s organization is relatively new. However, it knew its strength is its drive for better academic atmosphere and aspiration of the academic community for democratic environment. We decided to go for what was required and started our protest on 4th December in which more than 100 students participated. Madurai Kamaraj University Faculty Association (MUFA), as it got another blow from the VC, joined the protest. In a matter of 2 or 3 days hundreds of students, defying authoritarian grip of VC through the Chair Persons, HoDs and others joined the struggle.
AISA joined hands with SFI and also initiated an idea of creating ‘Save MKU Coalition’. On 12th December students and professors were arrested. All the students sat in front of VC’s office demanding revoking of undemocratic decision of the Syndicate. The management invited the students and MUFA for discussion. The so-called peace committee constituted by the VC demanded unconditional apology from our leaders, our comrades staged walk out.
However no solution was possible as the peace committee was just a stooge of the VC and the academic community staged bigger mobilization with vigor. The management announced closure of all schools, departments and hostels of the university at dusk, throwing all the students including girls on the street. Unprecedented struggle in the history of MKU happened as girls and boys marched the roads of university and gheraoed the VC’s office at midnight. AISA and SFI leaders declared indefinite fast which emboldened the students. However, the intervention of RDO made it possible to open the hostels late at midnight.
The next day morning the management forced the students out by cutting electricity and water. In the early morning students walked to the main gate with their luggage and started to protest. The fast continued. As the hostels were closed, students organized community kitchen.
The RDO intervened again and the management came down to revoke the dismissal of scholars unconditionally. However, the students were not ready to conclude struggle without winning their demands. The struggle continued and the police damaged the community kitchen and warned the students to disperse. However, the students decided to court arrest. 400 students including 92 girls and 12 professors were evacuated to halls. Protest continued there too, demanding food and access to hostels and to provide accommodation to girls who cannot reach home safe. Later all of them were released and the MKU was compelled to open hostels to girls till morning.
The struggle has created new hope among academic community. MUTA (Association of teachers of 4 southern universities and affiliated colleges), UCC (Coordination committee of teachers associations) and TANFUFA (Tamilnadu Federation of University Faculty Associations) joined in the struggle and conducted agitations. The MKU students struggle gathered support from other universities of the State too.
AISA took initiative again and sat with SFI and formed AISA-SFI Coordination to sustain the struggle and the coordination has decided to organize signature campaign in affiliated colleges and bigger joint struggles and mobilisations.