Resist Efforts at Fomenting Communal Tensions in Trilokpuri

“We were gheraoed from all sides. When the rioters came in, we asked for police help but they said that they did not have any instructions to intervene. For four hours, the stone pelting continued. Some of the children got hurt, yet the police was a silent spectator”, Testimony of a woman in Trilokpuri

trilokpuri1In the last week of October, Delhi witnessed another well-orchestrated campaign of hate and communal rumor mongering, leading to large-scale violence. Vested interests, led by former BJP MLA Sunil Vaidya, used the situation to spread all sorts of wild rumours, to foment tensions and violence. And in the midst of this communal riot mongering, the Delhi Police refused to intervene, as witnesses’ testimonies clearly show.

It all started on 23rd October in Block No. 20 of Trilokpuri, when a temporary ‘Mata ki Chowki’ was erected. An altercation ensued over playing a  high volume loudspeaker on the  Diwali evening while the prayers were being offered at a nearby mosque. The altercation soon took an ugly turn, and stone-pelting started. However, on the night of 23rd October itself, the altercation had been resolved. It is in this situation that former BJP MLA Sunil Vaidya intervened, to fuel the religious sentiments of the majority community. Sunil Vaidya organizes a closed door meeting in his office, in which he reportedly calls upon his cadres to construct a temple at the place of ‘Mata ki Chowki’. Soon after, in the late evening of 24 October, an unruly crowd of around 3000 people barged into Block 20 and started pelting stones firing randomly. According to locals, these people were outsiders who had been brought to Trilokpuri. Soon the situation went out of control and the Police smd the Rapid Action Force (RAF) was deployed. Two boys got wounded in the firing, and several youngsters got hurt with bricks and stones. They were taken to the hospital by the Police. The tension spread from Block 20 to other blocks in Trilokpuri. The same night, more than 20 youths were picked by the police without following any legal proceedings. On 25th October, the riots spread to different blocks of Trilokpuri; Blocks 15-20-27 are the most affected. The tension spread from Block 20 to 27-28, 15-9, 6-8, Kalyanpuri Block 13; and Indira and Sanjay camps. Police came to Block 27 at night. According to residents, they broke several vehicles which might have been specifically marked as ownned by Muslims. Then the police entered the gorakhSanjay Camp, and here they broke open all locked doors claiming that men had been hidden inside. Various teams visiting the Sanjay camp in the succeeding days (on 26/27th October) have noted the broken doors in this area. They have also met several women with injury marks on their bodies and with visible lathi marks. The injured were not going to government hospitals dreading possibilities of false cases being slapped uopn them.cases being framed against them. Moreover, the local MLA from AAP has not also been seen in the area, except to roam around with the police for a while. There were unsubstantiated rumours of Muslims urinating at the Mata ki Chowki, of pork being placed in front of the mosque and meat and bones in front of Mata ki Chowki, of drunken brawls and lecherous men. From the afternoon of 27th October itself, news of the death of one of the two young boys (both of whom are Hindus) from Block 28 who had been shot during police firing on 24th October was being circulated all over Trilokpuri. There were also rumours that a ‘shav yatra’ of this boy would be organized in Trilokpuri, and that this yatra would result in fresh riots and violence. It later turned out that the news of the boy’s death was false. The instigators of this rumour mongering – former BJP MLA Sunil Vaidya and local RSS leader Ram Charan Gujarati for instance – continue to roam around freely in and out of the police stations and in the area. In the de-facto BJP office at Sunil Vaidya’s residence in Block 21, groups of around 25-30 young men gather regularly even though Section 144 was supposedly imposed. Currently, several Muslim families in the area have either left the area all together, or have sent women and children for the relatives’ places situated in other parts of Delhi for safety. There are also reports that young men as well as women and children are kept locked in their homes for fear of their safety, and for fear that the police will pick them up and frame them in false cases.

Role of the Police

To begin with, the police remained a mute witness for four whole hours on 24th October, even as the tensions kept escalating. This lack of prompt action only encouraged the rioters. The Police came to action on 25th, after the riots having spread to various parts of Trilokpuri. Even while in Action, their obvious bias could be seen in several instances. They arbitrarily picked up construction workers (mostly poor, and from the minority community) from Block 27. They entered the local mosque wearing shoes, and there are also reports that they desecrated books in the mosque. The police used sexually abusive language against members of both communities. According to several narratives emerging from Trilokpuri, the police beat up women and the elderly. Two youngsters were seriously injured in the police firing on 25th October. Some serious concerns have arisen with regard to the arrests and FIRs filed by the police. It appears that the arrests were entirely arbitrary and selective. For instance, Jameel was arrested and thrown into police custody when he accompanied his mother to visit his brother in jail, flouting all existing legal norms of arresting. Some Hindu men have been arrested, but Muslims constitute an overwhelming majority of those arrested. In some of the FIRs, there is no specific mention of the accused – thus leaving the doors open for subsequent false arrests and charge sheets. Most of the accused have been charged under several provisions of the IPC, including under section 307 (attempt to murder) a non-bailable offense. Moreover, when the accused were produced in the Karkardooma court on 26th October, JNUSU representatives present there found the accused  with injuries and limping. according to the accused they were not given food or medical help in jail for two whole days. It was only after interventions made people present there in the court they were provided with food. Moreover, their relatives have not been allowed to meet them. The accused were later sent to Tihar jail, where they are reportedly being beaten up.

Currently, there is a heavy police presence in many parts of Trilokpuri. However, in the name of ensuring ‘peace’ and ‘security’, the police has now de-facto gheraoed block 15 and 27, where majority of the Muslim population of Trilokpuri resides. Just last month, we saw an orchestrated campaign of communal hate mongering in Bawana. Moreover, apart from Trilokpuri, there are reports of increasing communal tensions in other parts of Delhi such as Majnu ka tila and Nand Nagari. Clearly, as the Delhi polls approach, these attempts at communal polarization are only going to increase – attendant with violence and hate-mongering.

CITIZENS’ PROTEST IN FRONT OF THE DELHI POLICE HQ

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JNUSU President Comrade Ashutosh Addressing the Citizens’ Protest

Concerned by the Serious police inaction, prejudiced behaviour towards minority community a Citzens’ Protest by organised by the students and intellectuals of the city On 1st November. AISA, JNUSU and various other left and democratic organizations participated in this demo. AISA took an important role in organizing the Demo. Despite being called in a short notice, more than hundred students and citizens participated in it. Representatives of organizations and individuals expressed their opinion questioning Delhi Police.
JNUSU President Comrade Ashutosh raised the inadequacy and stereotypical biases with which Police acted in Trilokpuri. AISA national President Comrade Sucheta demanded immediate arrest of Ex BJP MLA Sunil Vaidya. Delhi University Unit Secretry Comrade Aman addressed the meeting.

A delegation consisting of JNUSU office bearers (JNUSU President Ashutosh,Vice President Anant, General Secretary Chintu, Joint Secretary Shahqat) as well JNUSU councilors Rama Naga and Fayaz met representatives of the Delhi Police and submitted a detailed note with the following demands:

1. Strong action against responsible police officers who failed to act in time to stop the violence.

2. Immediate action against well-known instigators like Mr. Sunil Vaidya and Ramcharan Gujarati.

3. The police must come clean on the number of FIRs filed and arrests done till now. Any FIR without proper name and description of the accused must not be pursued by the police in the court.

4.  Further arrests without warrant and legal norms must be stopped immediately.

5. Those accused persons who are inside Tihar jail must be provided proper security, medical and legal aids.

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Citizens’ Protest in front of Delhi Police HQ

AISA led JNUSU stands in Solidarity with the Struggle Against Escalating Feudal Violence in Bihar. JNUSU General Secretary, Com. Chintu Kumari Visits Ara

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The JNUSU General Secretary Com. Chintu recently visited the Bhojpur district in Bihar in wake of increasing atrocities in the state on dalits, women, poor and the minorities. During her visit, she visited Veer Kunwar Singh University, which was in news a couple of years back when the goons of Ranveer Sena had burnt and ransacked the dalit hostels. She met the students of the Dalit hostels of this university and listened to their concerns which largely focussed on the continued discrimination and the lack of infrastructure they had to deal with. The following day, she went to Dumaria village as part of a solidarity fact-finding team; here she met the victims of the recent gangrape by a former Ranveer Sena area commander. She also participated in a seminar organized in the Veer Kunwar Singh University on ‘Feudal Communal Assaults and the role of the Youth’. On the last day of the visit, she participated in the united ‘Nyay March’ that took place in Bihar to protest against the increasing feudal-communal violence in the state.

In recent times, the increasing attacks on dalits, poor, women, farmers and minorities in Bihar expose the falseness of the JD(U) government’s self-claimed credentials of being the ‘saviour’ of the dalits in Bihar. On the eve of the elections to the Primary Agriculture Cooperative Society [PACS] in Bihar, Arjun Manjhi, the brother of Vakil Manjhi who wanted to contest for the post of President of the PACS was murdered in Tekari block by dominant feudal forces. Moreover, the land-owners-criminal gang nexus which orchestrated this murder has also been intimidating and threatening members of the musahar caste in the region for this ‘crime’ of Vakil Manjhi aspiring to contest elections. After the murder and subsequent intimidation, 300 mahadalit families of the Pura village fled from the village fearing their lives. On 8 October, in Kurmuri village of Bhojpur district, feudal goons led by a former Ranveer Sena area commander Neelnidhi Singh brutally gangraped 6 mahadalit women including 4 minors. For 24 hours after the incident, the local police refused to lodge an FIR. It was only after sustained protests and pressure by the local CPI-ML cadre that an FIR was finally lodged. Recently in Rohtas, a 12-year old child was literally burnt alive just because his goat had strayed into the fields of the feudal landlords of the area.

Ever since the BJP government has come to power in Delhi, the casteist feudal forces are feeling doubly boldended in Bihar, even as the entire state machinery including the police, bureaucracy and the judiciary fail to take any action and in fact ensure complete immunity to the perpetrators. On 15 October, a team under the leadership of JNUSU General Secretary visited the Dumariya village where the victims of the recent gang rape live. Two of them are aged 18 and 25, while the rest are all minors. The victims described their experiences of trying to get justice, and informed the visiting team that they were still being issued death threats. No security had been provided to them by the state.

If on the one hand there is a history of oppression, there is also a parallel history of struggles and resistance against feudal and patriarchal violence. Over the past few weeks in Bihar, there have been sustained protests all over Bihar against the escalating feudal violence. On 17 October, a huge ‘Nyay March’ was held in Patna – where a wide range of democratic forces joined to demand action against the perpetrators of the recent crimes, and an immediate reinstatement of the Amir Das commission so as to nail the political forces which overtly and covertly provide support to feudal forces such as the Ranveer Sena. The JNUSU General Secretary also participated in this rally. JNUSU appeals to the student community to strengthen the struggles for social dignity in JNU and beyond.

‘Love Jehad’ Myth : Communal-Patriarchal Hate Story

love zehadThe centrepiece of the BJP’s and Sangh Parivar’s vicious ‘love-jehad’ campaign has just been exposed as a lie. The young woman in Meerut, who was supposedly a victim of ‘love jehad’, has approached the police with the truth. And the truth is that she was in fact a victim of the patriarchal pressures of family and society and the conspiracy of the communal political forces.

As a Hindu woman who fell in love with, married, and was pregnant by a Muslim man, she faced the ire of her family and community. And this all too familiar situation was exploited by the politics of communal hatred. A love story was twisted into a hate-story to feed the myth of ‘love jehad’. Love, elopement, and marriage were distorted to claim rape and forced conversion. And as a result, 10 innocent persons suffered arrest and jail, and the young woman herself has faced immense coercion and intimidation.

We have always maintained that the ‘love jehad’ campaign by the BJP victimises women as much as it does minorities – and the Meerut case itself is a classic example of this.  In patriarchal societies, consensual love between men and women of different castes, communities or classes is often branded as rape by the woman’s parents. A recent study of rape trials in Delhi showed that a whopping 40 per cent of rape complaints in Delhi are actually filed by parents of girls or women who have eloped with a lover. In all these cases, the actual violence faced by the woman had been at the hands of her own family and community, in the name of ‘honour’. And of course, the ‘honour’ killings of lovers who break caste and community barriers continue to abound in India.

The BJP’s and Sangh Parivar’s ‘love jehad’ campaign, in order to fan up suspicion and hatred against the minority community, gives political fire-power to such ‘honour’ crimes, coercion and curbs on the freedom of women. Several prominent BJP leaders openly talked of ‘love jehad’; BJP leaders have issued calls against entry of Muslim men into ‘garba’ dance halls; the ABVP, the RSS student outfit, has launched a national campaign against ‘love jehad’, and the RSS’ official organs have carried inflammatory cover stories promoting the ‘love jehad’ myth.

Every person and every woman must have a right to choose who they love, marry or have relationships with. This right is protected by India’s Constitution. How can these rights and freedoms of people, and of women be protected if India’s ruling party openly endorses and conducts campaigns against these rights? In India today, a woman in love with a man from a different caste or community cannot count on the Government and state machinery to protect her rights. A Muslim or Christian man in love with a Hindu woman, or a Dalit man in love with any woman, cannot count on the Government and state machinery to ensure his right and that of his lover. Instead, the police and political parties often share the prejudices of casteist and communal patriarchy. And now, to make matters much worse, India’s ruling party is seeking to expand its political influence by promoting the myth of ‘love jehad’, thereby promoting communal hatred and also attacking women’s freedoms.

In BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh recently, police, under pressure from Sangh Parivar mobs, tried to separate a married couple because the husband is Christian and the wife Hindu. The communal politics of the BJP is making it all the more difficult for women and inter-caste, inter-community couples to defend their rights.  Given this context, it is crucial that amendments be made in the existing Special Marriages’ Act, under which inter-religion marriages are currently allowed. As per provisions of the existing legislation, a one-month period is provided during which parents and family members of the consenting couple are informed and can register their opposition to the proposed marriage. It is essential that this one-month window, which surely opens the doors for pressure and coercion to play, should be done away with. Democratic forces all over the country need to give a fitting rebuff to the BJP’s and Sangh Parivar’s communal-patriarchal campaign, and boldly assert and celebrate the rights of all persons to love and marry according to choice.

Originally Published in :  ML Update | No. 42 | 2014

The Agenda Behind Modi’s ‘Make in India’ and ‘Clean India’ Slogans

swachh modiCentral to Modi’s mesmerising election rhetoric of ‘achchhe din’ were two key promises: checking price-rise and eliminating corruption. Post elections, these promises have conspicuously been replaced by two other slogans: those virtually define Modispeak are “make in India” and “clean India”.  The two slogans formed the main theme of Modi’s 15 August Lal Quila address and also of his first US mission as PM and now thanks to India’s ‘Modi’fied media the slogans are everywhere.

What do these slogans tell us about Modi’s unfolding agenda?

It is quite clear that Modi finds it inconvenient to talk about prices now. It is also understandable that having won an election on the so-called ‘development’ plank, he cannot afford, or does not even need, to focus on the vicious Sanghi agenda of ‘love jihad’ and ‘cow protection’. There are plenty of other leaders in BJP or organisations in the Sangh brigade to do that. So while the foot soldiers of the Sangh brigade and the likes of Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj are busy spewing the communal and jingoistic venom with impunity, Modi waxes eloquent about FDI and cleanliness.

Modi and his men would like us to believe that the ‘make in India’ mission is modelled on China’s experience of using FDI to emerge as a spectacular manufacturing hub. Modi is however keenly aware that given India’s bitter historical memories of colonial plunder, and the more recent experiences of MNC-led devastation and arm-twisting (Union Carbide, Enron, Vodaphone, to name only a few), the common people are not too enamoured of the idea of FDI. He is therefore trying to give the whole thing a false ‘nationalistic’ spin by explaining FDI as “First Develop India”. There could not possibly be a more false and fraudulent claim. Development of a country of India’s dimensions has to be powered from within and indiscriminate foreign investment can only leave a trail of damage and dependence, not development and public welfare.

Before we start invoking the case of China, we must remember a few facts. By the time China started attracting FDI in manufacturing, it had already laid a solid infrastructure of both social capital and physical infrastructure through decades of post-revolution land reforms and socio-economic reconstruction. It never relied on FDI to come to China and develop the Chinese economy. Much of the FDI in China is made by the non-resident Chinese. And when China sensed trouble in the world market in the wake of the recent global economic crisis, it immediately redirected its attention to expanding the domestic market by effecting significant wage increases. Also China has a much more effective regulatory framework to deal with FDI. Yet as we all know, increasing FDI in China has also added to the country’s share of problems whether in terms of damage to environment and public health or social inequality and regional disparity.

India does not match China on any of these counts. The three D’s Modi is dangling before foreign investors (democracy, demography and demand) cannot hide the 4th unstated D which stands for ‘desperation’ and this desperation can only further reduce India’s strength and bargaining power while handling FDI. To attract FDI, Modi government has already succumbed to the pressure of the American pharmaceutical lobby by relaxing price-controls on life-saving drugs and agreeing to American monitoring of India’s patent laws. And when Modi offers ‘Democracy’ as an incentive for FDI, it becomes clear that what he has in mind is just the majority he has won in this election and not the democratic right of the Indian peasant, worker and consumer to defend their rights and resources in the face of corporate aggression. By advocating liberalised labour laws, diluted environmental norms and an aggressive land acquisition approach, Modi has actually made it clear that he is all for regimentation of democracy in India to facilitate indiscriminate deregulated FDI.

Modi’s ‘clean India’ mission is another exercise in obfuscation and trivialisation of a major public concern. While everybody must be encouraged to keep the environs clean and hygienic, clearly the drive for cleanliness in this era of toxic capitalism can neither begin nor end with a few leaders and celebrities wielding newly brought broom for the benefit of the camera. At a time when the whole world is grappling with climate change and environmental safety and protection, the biggest question is how India deals with industrial pollution and corporate-driven degradation of the environment. Improved public hygiene requires a massive overhaul of our sanitation network and mechanism and the key issues that we face concern as much the state of sanitation workers – the indignity, low wages and abysmal conditions they have to experience even in this 21st century – as the state of the sanitation and waste management infrastructure. And while Modi hogged the limelight with the cleanliness agenda on Gandhi’s birthday, his government quietly engineered a coup on the following day by forcing the Doordarshan to televise the Vijaya Dashami speech of the RSS chief even as Modi took the radio route to address the people on the same day.

No previous NDA government ever dared to let the public broadcaster be openly misused as a propaganda organ of the RSS and no Indian PM has ever addressed the nation on a Hindu festival day. Prime Ministers and Presidents have been addressing the nation year after year on the national occasions of Independence Day and Republic Day. But using the Vijaya Dashmai occasion – which is not just a Hindu religious day, but the foundation day of the RSS – to address the people through AIR and DD, the public broadcaster, is a brazen misuse of power in the service of the RSS and its agenda and vision to make India into a Hindu Rashtra.

When the Modi regime becomes a platform to promote indiscriminate FDI and systematic RSS penetration, the clean India campaign will have to be directed as much against the dirt on the road as against the threats to democracy and secularism.

originally published in ML Update, Vol.  17  No. 41    7 – 13 OCT 2014

Who Is Afraid of Love? Communal, Patriarchal Bogey of ‘Love Jihad’

The black haired Jewish youth lies for hours in ambush, a satanic joy in his face, for the unsuspecting girl whom he pollutes with his blood and steals from her own race.By every means, he seeks to wreck the racial bases of the nation he intends to subdue. Just as individually he deliberately befouls women and girls, so he never shrinks from breaking the barriers race has erected against foreign elements. It was, and is, the Jew who brought Negroes to the Rhine, brought them with the same aim and with deliberate intent to destroy the white race he hates, by persistent bastardization, to hurl it from the cultural and political heights it has attained, and to ascend to them as its masters. He deliberately seeks to lower the race level by steady corruption of the individualAdolf Hitler in Mein Kampf

It was in Nazi Germany that Hitler sought to portray relationships between the ‘racially inferior’ Jewish youth and the ‘pure’ German woman as a conspiracy to break racial barriers and “subdue” Germany. That was in Germany under the throes of fascism.

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Right Wing Campaign posters of Love Jihad

And now, in India, we are seeing the political force which is running an elected government presiding over a vicious campaign with obvious racist and fascist overtones. Under the garb of the so-called ‘love jihad’, the RSS-BJP-VHP-ABVP are seeking to criminalise consensual inter-religion relationships, specifically relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women.

During the recently conducted by-poll elections in Uttar Pradesh, the RSS-BJP ran a vicious campaign led by Yogi Adityanath against the ‘love jihad’. For the most part, it is a campaign that does not bother to base itself on fact. It is a campaign that willfully peddles stories of Hindu women either being duped or coerced into marrying Muslim men and into changing their religion, that seeks to paint the entire Muslim community as ‘predators’ of Hindu womens’ izzat and Hindu ‘honour’. The similarities with Hitler’s narrative are clear: Muslim men ‘enticing’ unsuspecting Hindu women as part of some grand conspiracy, the subsequent dangers to the ‘nation’ and Hindu culture. It is essentially a new name for an old prejudice, a campaign which draws upon the prevalent communal common sense in our society and milks it to the hilt to spread hatred of the Muslim or the Christian ‘other’. Young men and especially young women who choose, of their own volition, to fall in love and marry outside of ‘permitted’ caste and religious boundaries almost inevitably have to face massive opposition, if not wrath from friends and family. And now, with this organized ‘love jihad’ campaign, this opposition has only been rendered a more organized, potent and dangerous form.

Taking a cue from Amit Shah’s vicious campaign in Muzzafarnagar during the Lok Sabha elections, and from the likes of Yogi Adityanath, the ABVP and the VHP are now roaming around ‘advising’ women about the dangers of entering relationships with Muslim men. In September, at a 2-day meeting held in Lucknow, the ABVP declared that it will form groups of girls on university campuses and educational institutions to curb incidents of ‘love jihad’ in which Muslim youths allegedly lure Hindu girls  into marriage and  convert them to their religion. “These vigilante groups will not only counsel girls against ‘love jihad’ but also approach the authorities, including principal and proctor of educational institutions, if they come across any case where any Muslim youth was trying to lure a Hindu girl posing as a Hindu,” said Shreehari Borikar, national general secretary, ABVP. (Indian Express Sep 22, 2014).

Recently, in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP state Vice President and MLA Usha Thakur, has taken it a step further by issuing a diktat to ensure that Muslim men aren’t allowed to attend garbas in Indore to prevent women from becoming ‘victims’ of ‘enticement’ and ‘love jihad’!

So now, we will have the entire state machinery and vigilante groups of VHP-ABVP activists cracking down on any consensual relationship between adults, deeming it to be immoral, illegal, or part of some conspiracy!

It is indeed ironic that these campaigns, which openly seek to undermine the autonomy and agency of adult women, are being sold in the name of women’s ‘empowerment’, ‘safety’ and ‘security’.Empowerment is about individual rights and individual agency, and these campaigns are in fact designed to undermine the right and agency of adult people.

Such campaigns are completely uncalled intrusions into people’s personal lives, decisions and relationships. The bogey of women’s ‘honour’ and ‘safety’ has frequently been used as a justification to curb women’s freedom. RSS-VHP-ABVP’s campaign is the latest in this attempt to police women and their decisions in the name of their ‘safety’. And let us also not forget that “protecting” women’s ‘safety’ has always been a useful trope to spread suspicion and hatred against the Muslim “other”.Indeed, it is an offensive which is as communal as it is patriarchal.

Women’s freedom can be ensured only through women’s freedom and equality and respect for their agency, not through such dangerous campaigns that aim to criminalise consensual relationships and spread communal hatred in the name of women’s safety.

Reject Consorted Efforts of Communal Hate and Riot-mongering in Delhi! Report from AISA’s Visit TODAY to Bawana and Narela

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Poster Used by Fascist Forces to Incite Communal Tensions in Delhi

After the RSS-BJP-VHP’s attempts to stoke communal tensions across Uttar Pradesh through vicious campaigns against the so-called ‘Love Jihad’ and cow slaughter, this orchestrated campaign of communal hate mongering is now being replicated in Delhi too. Over the past few days, as Id approaches, a campaign against cow slaughter by a group calling itself the ‘Hindu Krantikari Sena’ is being used to threaten and intimidate Muslims. In the backdrop of this ongoing campaign of communal hate and riot-mongering in Narela and Bawana in Delhi, a team consisting of AISA’s Delhi state leadership, CPI(ML) leaders and AICCTU leaders from Narela visited these areas today. This team, which also included JNUSU Vice President Anant, JNUSU-SSS councilor Rama Naga, AISA Delhi Convenor Omprasad and other AISA leaders from Delhi, met with several families in Bawana and also with local activists and leaders working against the orchestrated communal hate mongering.

The facts of the current situation are as follows:

The epicenter of the current communal tensions in the Narela-Bawana area is the JJ colony in Bawana. The residents of this colony consist of families who had been displaced in 2004 from various slums in Delhi such as Yamuna Pushta. According to the residents of the colony, for years together, dating back to time when they lived in different slums in Delhi, Muslims and Hindus in the colony – consisting mostly of poor working class families – have lived together in harmony. However, there have often been concerted attempts by politically motivated forces to deliberately vilify the atmosphere in JJ colony and in other parts of Narela and Bawana through communal hate mongering. In 2012 for instance, completely unsubstantiated claims were made that Muslims were illegally ‘slaughtering cows’ during Id. This vicious campaign of lies and slander went on, without a shred of evidence, creating a huge amount of communal tension in the area.

This year too, as Id approaches, we are witnessing a dangerous communal campaign by forces calling themselves the ‘Hindu Krantikari Sena’. Several inflammatory posters have been put up in the area claiming that the ‘India-Pakistan war’ had reached Bawana, and asserting that the Hindu religion was under ‘threat’ from daily cow slaughter. On 2nd October 2014, these communal forces alleged, with no evidence whatsoever, that a truckload of cows had been brought into the JJ colony for slaughter. There are also reports that a compliant regarding cows being brought into JJ colony had been made by calling the Police helpline number ‘100’. Till date, the Police and local administration has refused to reveal the source of the call and of this ‘information’ about rampant cow slaughter by Muslims, despite repeated demands by the residents of JJ colony. Subsequent to this rumour, around 200 men – accompanied and escorted by some members of the Delhi Police – entered the colony and conducted a ‘search’ of any building they deemed ‘suspicious’. This also included one of the local mosques. No cow was found during this search. The search however obviously resulted in huge tensions and a palpable atmosphere of fear amongst Muslims in Bawana and Narela. During the ‘search’, there were also incidents of violence, intimidation and stone pelting. One young Muslim man was injured in the stone pelting. Moreover, one Hindu man in the locality who rears cows was also subjected to this campaign of intimidation – the crowd initially refused to believe that he was a Hindu, and even when they did they tried to forcibly confiscate all his cows claiming that he would sell the cows to the Muslims in the locality for slaughter. In all, the whole point of the entire exercise of ‘searching’ the colony was clearly to spread communal hatred and division and to disturb the peace and amity in the entire region.

After these incidents of 2nd October, the residents of JJ colony have been demanding proper surveillance and security by the government and the local administration. They demanded that the police closely monitor the situation, and prevent any attempt to plant ‘evidence’ of cows in the locality to implicate the Muslims and further exacerbate the situation. These demands assume all the more importance given that on late night of 3rd October, there were allegedly attempts by some Hindu men to release cows in the area as ‘evidence’. Despite repeated demands, the local police has not taken adequate steps to control this volatile situation. They accompanied, escorted and therefore encouraged the ‘search’ conducted on 2nd October. Moreover, they have not yet revealed the call details, or taken any action against the person who falsely complained that a truck load of cows had been brought into the area. Today, the local administration allowed the Hindu Krantikari Sena to conduct a huge meeting and ‘Oath Taking’ against cow slaughter on the eve of Id, where inflammatory speeches were made.

As a result of the intervention of democratic forces who have expressed their horror at the unfolding communal tensions being orchestrated in Narela and Bawana, some deployment of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) has been made in the area – as per the demand of the residents of the JJ colony. AISA, CPI(ML) and other democratic forces such as IFTU and PMS who visited Bawana today have assured the residents of their complete support in the face of this highly condemnable communal hate mongering. Trade union leaders in the Narela industrial area have established close contact with the residents of JJ colony so that immediate and coordinated resistance can be organized in case of any orchestrated communal flare-up. In the days to come, all progressive and democratic forces will have to come together to ensure that all such efforts at stoking violence and hatred are robustly resisted and defeated.

Recurring Floods in the Hills: ‘Natural’ or ‘Man-made’?

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An aerial view of the flood-hit area and a badly damaged bridge over Tawi river in the Kashmir region

Over the past few weeks, vast parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Meghalaya have been reeling under the onslaught of massive rains and floods. Thousands and thousands are still grappling with the subsequent devastation and loss of lives and livelihoods. In the mainstream discourse, floods are normally visualized as a ‘natural’ calamity, which human societies have to deal with. The fact remains that floods, earthquakes and other such ‘natural’ calamities are often triggered off or exacerbated by human activity. An entire range of research has now underlined the implications of human intervention on sensitive ecosystems, and the disastrous impacts that could follow.

Jammu and Kashmir has recently faced the one of the deadliest floods in living memory. An estimated 450 villages went under water. Given the extent of the disaster, it is indeed amazing that the government forecasts completely ignored all warning signs of the impending disaster. The Central Water Commission (CWC), which functions under the Union Ministry of Water Resources and is meant to issue flood forecasts and related advisories to various states, has no forecast for any place in Jammu and Kashmir! As the situation leading to the floods was building up, the CWC did not bother to even monitor Jammu and Kashmir. Neither does the CWC make public hydrographs for the rivers in Jammu and Kashmir. This is despite the fact that the India Meteorological Department clearly indicated heavy rainfall in the state. Last year too, the CWC completely failed to provide any flood forecast when Uttarakhand faced its worst floods.

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Flood in Meghalaya

Such shocking omissions by bodies such as the CWC, which fail to perform their responsibilities, are however just one of the ways in which human interventions play a role in ‘natural’ calamities. It is now a well-established fact that rampant and unregulated construction activity in the eco-sensitive and fragile hills, and moreover the construction of hydropower projects have had a disastrous impact on the local ecology. For instance, the fact of the matter is that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has been clearing hydropower projects in the Chenab basin even without proper social and environment impact assessment. As a result, the disaster potential in Chenab has only increased. In the entire north-east too, huge hydropower projects are being constructed across several rivers without any scientific assessment of the cumulative impact of such projects.  Moreover, mining activity has only been increasing in the hilly Himalayan terrains as well as in the North-East. In Meghalaya for instance, there are proposals for large-scale mining of limestone.

Today, the possible impact of our ‘development’ policy – of the constant destabilization of the mountain ecosystem through massive construction of roads, highways and dams – is widely recognized.

After the horrific floods in Uttarakhand last year, the Supreme Court intervened highlighting precisely these concerns. In August last year, the Supreme Court ordered the MoEF to appoint an expert committee to ascertain whether existing and under-construction hydropower plants and projects in Uttarakhand contributed to the flood disaster that hit the state in June. At the same time the apex court had ordered a fresh scrutiny of the proposed 24 hydropower projects on Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers, which environmental activists and expert bodies have been opposing. The SC had also ordered MoEF and the Uttarakhand government not to give any more environment clearances for hydroelectric projects in Uttarakhand.

It is indeed unfortunate that both the UPA and the NDA, driven and dictated by corporate interests, are committed to the paradigm of unregulated tourism, of big dams and unfettered mining, of construction of roads, bridges and townships everywhere in the fragile hills. It is high time that we wake up to the need of an entirely new model of development, in the hill regions, and also the rest of the country.

Photo Courtesy: http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2014/09/09/more-rain-on-the-way-for-flood-hit-kashmir/

Pura Killing and Forced Mass Exodus: Continuing Dalit Atrocities in Bihar

Around 300 Mahadalits have moved out of Pura to a makeshift camp six km away. Photo: India Today

The Chief Minister of Bihar, Jeetan Ram Majhi, recently expressed his shock that a temple he had visited in Madhubani had been washed after the visit, presumably to ‘purify’ it after the polluting presence of the CM who is from the most oppressed mahadalit caste. If indeed the temple was washed with such a purpose, it is a highly condemnable and demeaning atrocity against Dalits, and a case must be filed against the temple authorities under the Prevention of Atrocities Act. Some of the CM’s own fellow Ministers have suggested that the CM was misinformed, and perhaps this is why no case has yet been filed against the temple authorities.

Whether the Chief Minister himself was in fact a victim of such an atrocity in this particular case or not, the denial of entry into temples and other humiliating atrocities and organized violence against Dalits continues to be an ugly reality in Bihar. And this raises the unavoidable question – isn’t the persistence and virulence of such atrocities against the most oppressed castes and labouring people, a telling comment on the character of the 25 years of rule by Governments headed by RJD and JD(U)?

Even as the Bihar CM waxed eloquent in the London School of Economics about the ‘Bihar Model of Development’ promoted by the JD(U) Government, hundreds of mahadalits of the Pura village in the CM’s own home district Gaya, have been forced to flee after the murder of mahadalit Arjun Majhi, to intimidate his brother Vakil Majhi and prevent the latter from filing nominations in the elections for the post of the President to the Primary Agriculture Cooperative Society [PACS]. The mahadalits of Pura village, Tekari police station, Gaya, have been forced to flee en masse, fearing a massacre by strongmen from the dominant community. The police are yet to arrest most of the named accused in Arjun Majhi’s murder, and have also made no move to arrest those who are openly threatening to massacre the mahadalits. What does it say about the JD(U) Government with a mahadalit Chief Minister, when a dalit man’s kin can be killed to punish him for wanting to file nominations for an election, and the dalits in the CM’s own home district continue to face the very real fear of a massacre?

The Bihar Chief Minister, following in the footsteps of his predecessors, has yet to visit Pura. He has called upon the villagers to avenge Arjun Majhi’s murder by voting to elect Majhi’s brother to the PACS post – oblivious to the fact that Majhi’s brother has not been able to file nominations in time due to the intimidation, and the evicted mahadalit villagers live in terror of a massacre if they dare to vote! Why has the Chief Minister taken no steps to ensure the arrest of the perpetrators of feudal violence and intimidation, and the safe return of all the evicted mahadalits? Why have the PACS elections not been postponed to ensure that they take place only when the mahadalits can participate without fear? Why no action against the police and district administration who are failing to protect the mahadalits from violence and intimidation?

The conduct of the Bihar Government over the Pura episode today underlines how Bihar Governments, police and administration, from the Laloo era to the present JD(U) rule, have colluded with the perpetrators of organized violence against the Dalits and oppressed castes. The RJD regime, and the regimes headed by Nitish Kumar and now Jeetan Ram Majhi, have paid lip service to ‘mahadalit uplift’, while in reality they have made a series of unholy compromises with the feudal forces on a material as well as a political plane.  

In the 1990s, the police and administration under the Laloo and Rabri Governments, failed to prevent the Bathani Tola, Laxmanpur Bathe and other massacres, and then proceeded to scuttle evidence in order to protect the Ranveer Sena perpetrators. Laloo Yadav openly declared his willingness to collude with the Ranveer Sena in order to counter the assertion of the poor and oppressed who rallied around the CPI(ML).

 When the JD(U) allied with the BJP came to power, Nitish Kumar’s first act was to disband the Amir Das Commission that was on the point of submitting the findings of its probe into the political mentors of the Ranveer Sena. The motivation was obvious – those political mentors included a large number of top JD(U) and BJP leaders, as well as some prominent RJD and Congress leaders. Nitish Kumar came to power on the promise of land reforms, including homestead land for the landless oppressed castes, and safeguarding the rights of sharecroppers. But, in another blatant act of appeasement of the feudal forces, the Nitish Government refused to implement the recommendations of the Land Reforms Commission it has itself appointed!

 The serial acquittals of the Ranveer Sena members convicted for the Bathani Tola, Bathe and other massacres, also exposed how the Laloo-Rabri and Nitish regimes alike had acted to protect the perpetrators and perpetuate the injustice against the dalits and oppressed castes. The Nitish Government further exposed its true character when it allowed the Ranveer Sena supporters to run amok and unleash violence on Dalits and on public property after the killing of the Ranveer Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh. On Independence Day last year, Dalits in Baddi village in Rohtas were attacked by feudal forces. The Nitish Government refused to order a CBI enquiry into the murders of mukhiya Chhotu Kushwaha and CPI(ML) leader Bhaiyyaram Yadav by feudal forces.

 Prior to the 1990s, the feudal forces openly enjoyed political hegemony in Bihar. For the past 25 years, the RJD and JD(U) regimes have promised ‘social justice’ and ‘uplift’ of the oppressed castes and a change in the feudal order. The fact is that, behind the mask of ‘social justice’, these Governments have openly made common cause and compromises with the feudal forces. The landless, oppressed poor of Bihar however, have waged and continue to wage a courageous battle for dignity and justice.