Massive Crackdown on BHU Students Demanding Restoration of Students Union

cropped1Last few days have seen massive crackdown on BHU students demanding restoration of Students Union election, which stands stalled since 1997. After the Lyngdoh committee Recommendation which says that student union elections should be held in each and every university, BHU students started demanding the resumption of their proper union elections but the BHU administration kept stone-walling the demand. In 2012, BHU administration adopted the via-route of so-called ‘Students’ Council,’ which was a puppet in the hands of the administration as the chairman of this council was a Professor!!As the demand for proper Students’ Union was never fulfilled, the protests and the voices of the students never remained silent.

The new government came with an assurance for the students in BHU that the union elections will restored. On the eve of PM Modi’s recent visit to Varanasi, the students intensified their movement and compelled the BHU administration to assure that the union elections will be held by 20th Nov.

 

But, soon after, the administration breached its promise and came up with an idea of conducting an ‘online referendum’, asking the student community whether they want the ‘Students Council’ or not. Then the administration declared on their own that the students have ‘no problem’ with the ‘Students Council’ and went ahead with the formation of the ‘Students Council!’

Against this arbitrary action, students organised a protest in front of the Central Office. A delegation from the protestors was called inside the office for negotiation and was badly beaten up. As this news spread in the campus, the student community came out on roads in large numbers to protest this administrative high-handedness and violence.

Massive State Crackdown:

The administration dealt this situation in its habitual and typical style, and ordered the police to lathicharge and fire. As a result of this, two students are injured by bullets and are in a critical situation, one being in  coma. More than 200 students are injured and hospitalised at present. Police also entered inside hostels, brutally lathicharged, forcefully evacuated and sealed few of the hostels. End semesters are close and the students are facing situations where they are being thrown out of their hostels. Students who were simply demanding a proper union election are being brutalised and cheated again and again by the administration and the government.

Shameful double-game of ABVP:

Restoration of Students Union is a long standing demand of all common students of BHU. Several students’ groups and numerous common students are part of the struggle. Sangh-brigade have always maintained a stranglehold over BHU administration. ABVP, with the overt and covert backing of this powerful saffron lobby in the BHU administration, had routinely indulged in lumpen and violent activities and gone scot-free. In the present struggle also, which was going on in a democratic manner, ABVP made an appearance only to indulge in uncalled-for violence and provide fodder to the administration’s ‘justification’ for a brutal police crackdown. It is interesting to see how ABVP has disappeared from the scene having done their ‘job’ as agent-provocateurs, while hundreds of common students are bearing the brunt of police and administrative repression, violence and witch-hunt. It is obvious to the students of BHU that ABVP is playing a double-game, with cold calculation, of trying to show that they are with the movement while at the same time acting in a manner for facilitating police brutality and chaos and strengthening the hands of the government and the administration to keep the elections at bay under the pretext of ‘unfavorable law and order!’ This is the typical tactics of the ruling class politics in campuses. It is high time ABVP’s double-game as agent provocateurs in democratic students movement has to be nailed and defeated.

Stand by the democratic aspirations and struggle of BHU students: When we are in a movement against LCR, BHU students movement is also a fight against the Lyngdoh model which allows the administration to permanently scuttle students union election via the route of puppet ‘Students Council.’ The BHU situation has once again exposed the ruling class agenda behind the LCR. BHU student movement rejects the so-called ‘students council’ which remains a puppet in the hands of the administration.

WE expresses its solidarity with the common students of BHU against the administrative and police repression, violence and witch-hunt and for the restoration of Students Union election.

Shame on PM Modi, Who Used BHU Premises for Flagging Off His Own Election Campaign in Varanasi But Calculatedly Suppressing Students’ Election and Campus Democracy in BHU!

Stop the Continuing Repression, Witch-Hunt and Hostel Evacuation by the BHU Administration and Police!

AISA Wins the Post of Vice-President in the Allahabad University Students’ Union (AUSU) Elections!

A Significant Advance of Students’ Agenda Against the Politics of Muscle Power, Dominant Power-Lobbies and Communalism!

In the AUSU elections this year, 2 out of five central panel posts have been won by the Left forces, while much hyped ‘saffron wave’ got reduced to 1 post!

AISA's AUSU Central Panel Candidates

AISA’s AUSU Central Panel Candidates

The verdict of the Allahabad University Students’ Union Election held on 21st November has manifested the aspiration of common students for a fundamental change inside the University for democracy, equality and struggle for students’ rights amidst an overall atmosphere of violence and lumpensim created by dominant casteist lobbies and ruling class political parties.

Comrade Neelu Jaiswal from AISA has won the post of Vice-President and comrade Vidyotma Maurya has been elected as the PG/Research Scholar representative from Arts Faculty. Comrade Pawan Kumar from AISA gave a tough fight to ABVP representative for the post of Joint Secretary and polled second in the post.  Other than AISA comrades, two representatives from AIDSO- comrade Ankush Dubey as Cultural Secretary and Comrade Vimsingh Chandel as UG representative from arts faculty have also got victory in the election.

The democratic space within students’ politics in the city has been strengthened by the victory of two left representatives out of five Central Panel Posts in AUSU. ABVP, the student wing of the RSS, which was trying to cash on the claimed NaMo wave got a major setback in the final results with only one post by a slender margin. The post of President and General Secretary have gone to Samajwadi Chhatra Parishad, the student wing of the SP.

Among the contesting forces in the election it was only AISA that kept the spirit of democracy, social justice and gender equality alive. While most of the candidates were busy displaying dominance of caste combinations, money and muscle power, it was only AISA that made the rights of common students and deprived sections an agenda of the election. The academic atmosphere of AU is marked by absence of basic minimum infrastructure and facilities. Books are not issued from the central library of the university. Most of the students do not get hostel and are forced to live in tiny sized rooms in rent. Most of the teaching posts are lying vacant and regular classes are a far-fetched dream of the students. Basic minimum facilities like photocopying, canteen or laboratories with updated instruments are absent from the university.  In such an atmosphere of academic anarchy, it is only AISA that has built up movement demanding these facilities throughout the year and has made these issues a fundamental point of election campaign.

In contrast to this, the rest of the forces and student wings of the ruling parties, be it SP or BJP, tried to cash on their position in power and opportunist combinations to mobilize votes. Devoid of any pro-student agenda, they contested the election by trying to polarize the campus on caste and communal lines. Several incidents of lumpenism targeting teachers from minority community, use of sexist abuse targeted at them or spreading the lie of love jihad were part of their pre-election preparations.

ausu2

AISA’s Electoral Procession in Allahabd University

Along with raising issues of academic rights of the students inside the university, AISA also took up the task to expose the anti-people policies of these governments. Our campaigners and candidates urged students to make student wing of the ruling SP accountable on the question of increasing attack on women and dalits in UP under SP rule. The betrayal of the SP government on the question of social justice by not implementing the three tier reservation in Public Service Commission posts has also been exposed by AISA. The question of increasing unemployment in UP while thousands of government posts are lying vacant for years in UP was a part of election campaign of AISA. When the ABVP representatives thought they can win elections by naming NaMo, AISA comrades made them accountable among the common students on the question of CSAT, scam in SSC results, price rise, black money and communalization of academics and society.

The entire election process be it nomination rallies, election campaign or post-verdict violence has exposed the farce of Lyngdoh Committee Recommendations.  AU administration was a complicit witness to the open violence and show of money and muscle power by ABVP, SP and other dominant lobbies. Flouting all election norms, lakhs of rupees have been spent by the candidates. Big campaign hoardings in the city, luxury cars and lakhs of printed photos were all part of campaign by the lumpen and ruling class groups. Nomination rallies of these forces were marked by several rounds of firing and bombardment. Rampant violence between groups of candidates was common throughout the election period. In one such incident, a group of lumpens tried to attack our women comrades when they intervened to stop fatal attack on another candidate during campaign.

Immediately after the results were declared, ABVP goons started firing throughout the city and created hooliganism and violence. Along with ABVP, goons led by the outgoing president of AUSU who was supporting the anti-reservation lobby in the election, attacked the residence of the Election Commissioner. It is a real irony that Lyngdoh Committee which was introduced in the name of scuttling money and muscle power in the student union elections is only used to scuttle democratic rights and space for democratic forces in student politics (as is happening in JNU).

The result of the AUSU has encouraged the democratic movement and aspiration in the university. In the coming days, AISA is committed to carry forward the struggle against the dominant power lobbies and communal forces, against the anti-student regimes of the SP in UP and BJP at centre under the banner of AUSU and the progressive forces elected in the students union.

Is ‘Kiss of Love’ Against Indian Culture? Is it Obscene? Why Should We Defend It?

kkiissThe #KissofLove protest against moral policing, initiated in Kerala, has gone viral, with protests being organised by common students and citizens across the country. While the numbers of participants continues to swell, the RSS and ABVP continue to condemn and even threaten it, branding it as an affront to ‘Indian culture’. Ironically, in Kerala, the Congress’ youth wing as well as some Muslim outfits also turned up alongside the ABVP to protest.

Why #Kissof Love?

Some well-meaning friends ask, isn’t it frivolous to be defending the right to kiss or embrace in public? After all, aren’t there more important causes?

In answer, let us ask, why does the Sangh Parivar get its (khaki) knickers in a knot over the simple, silly kiss?

Well, because the RSS knows full well this isn’t just about the kiss. The kiss, like jeans, are a symbol of the freedom to love – breaking the rules set by the custodians of caste, community, and gender. And by that token, the kiss is also a potent threat to casteism, communalism, homophobia and patriarchy.

#KissofLove is going viral because it defies moral policing, and all sorts of attacks on democratic rights, and it celebrates the right – not just of individuals to kiss, but of communities to defy hate and embrace each other, of women and all people to freely decide who to love and marry, and of all citizens to resist ‘fatwas’ of the kind issued by the Taliban, khaps or RSS alike…

Let us remember that the Taliban found it obscene/immoral for Malala to go to school. The khaps find it obscene for girls to have mobile phones. The ABVP finds love itself obscene, and therefore protests against Valentine’s Day…. If we allow fundamentalist outfits to decide our ‘morality’, they will clap women in chains.

But Why Kiss in Public?

There are some who say, what’s the need to kiss in public? Why not limit intimacy to private homes?

Well, to begin with, it isn’t just ‘westernised youngsters’ who show intimacy in public. Subramanya Bharati, the great freedom fighter and Tamil poet, used to hold hands with his wife on the streets. In the late 19th and early 20th century in a Tamilnadu village, this was considered scandalous and obscene. But Bharatiyar believed there was nothing shameful about showing love and affection openly.

Moreover, rich people might have the luxury of private spaces in which to enjoy intimacy. For the poor and middle class (married and unmarried both!), in fact, it is only the parks and the movie halls or street benches that offer some spaces to meet and show affection without prying eyes. Ironically, they can find ‘privacy’ only in public, anonymous spaces – not in the tiny, cramped places they call home.

If we feel embarrassed by couples in public, we can always turn our eyes away! Remember how Hindi, Tamil and other movies used to show us couples dancing in parks, and then switch to images of flowers touching, to convey the kiss? Clearly those movies told us clearly that the lovers were kissing in the park – but that we, the viewers, and the camera, have politely turned our gaze away to the flowers. Will the ABVP leaders swear that they will never watch a movie in which thus tell stories in which couples kiss in parks?! Will they seek a ban on such movies?! Will they ban the Amar Chitra Katha story that depicted Subramania Bharati holding Chellamma’s hand lovingly in the public street?

We should indeed be concerned about protecting privacy. But the same groups like ABVP, that threaten violence against couples showing each other affection, have no problem with interfering in the private choice of a Hindu woman to marry a Muslim or Christian man! They have no problem with a Chief Minister who orders illegal snooping on a woman’s private phone conversations – in fact they defend it claiming her father asked for it! The ABVP also has no respect for a woman’s private choice to wear jeans – they claim the right to interfere.

We need to learn – and teach – the public culture of respecting the privacy of couples even on streets and parks. Couples kissing each other isn’t anyone’s business. Children, too, aren’t corrupted by seeing adults kiss. They are corrupted by watching dads beat up mothers, by silently suffering sex abuse, by a culture that teaches them that women should be controlled by men.

Who is ‘Western’? Who Follows in Macaulay’s Footsteps?

Ironically, the obscenity law (Section 292) in India is a product of the British colonial period, where the rulers were guided by Victorian morality. The Victorian ‘morality’ in Britain was ridiculous enough to cover table legs with cloth so as not to remind people of women’s legs, and they shackled women in corsets. But the same Victorian period was notorious for the proliferation of sex trafficking of women and children.

The ABVP says it is against the colonial legacy of Macaulay. For them, rejecting Macaulay means replacing scientific, rational education with Batra-type nonsense that confuses mythology with medical/surgical knowledge! But ABVP won’t reject the outdated and anti-democratic laws drafted by the same Macaulay – including Section 292, 377, as well as Sedition Act and AFSPA, to name just a few. Modi’s Government speaks of getting rid of outdated laws – but instead of touching the above laws, it only targets labour and environment-protection laws!

Historian Charu Gupta, in an article, tells us how the British translators of the Rg Veda and Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda left out certain portions that they found obscene!

An article in The Hindu quoted renowned cultural critic Sadanand Menon “Go to any Vaishnavite temple in India, and you will find the 12th century poet Jayadev’s work Gita Govind being recited during morning prayers. The Sanskrit verse has several lines in which Radha urges Lord Krishna to make love to her … While religious minded men and women seem to have no problem chanting these lines, they seem to get offended when a couple kiss in a park.”

Charu Gupta tells us how a British Orientalist folklorist was shocked at the marriage songs of northern India that celebrated the blouse (worn with the sari): “The Indian woman’s bodice is in reality no covering at all. It rudely shelters the breasts and leaves the stomach exposed. But chiefly on account of its indecency it has been the subject of many praises in the compositions of authors and poets, who only think of love in its meanest form.”

The entire body of Sanskrit love poetry, Kalidasa’s works, shringar rasa poetry – will the ABVP ban this from syllabi and from our reading pleasure because they describe love?

Of course, Gupta recounts how the Hindu/Hindu nationalism of the 19th century had Hindi writers and critics castigating shringar rasa poetry as a fallen and obscene form because it described women seeking love and sex; and instead promoted images of chaste, subordinated wives as ‘ideal’ Indian women. These attitudes were influenced by, and in turn influenced, Victorian morality.

The point is, that there is no universal ‘Indian culture’ that has always condemned public display of affection and sexuality. These attitudes have been shaped by the politics of different periods. In the 21st century India, should we promote a morality that allows some groups to terrorise people for the clothes they wear, the people they choose to love or marry, or the fact that they might show affection to each other in public? Or should we promote a constitutional morality – that protect the rights and privacy of individual citizens from mob sentiment and mob rule?

Indian Culture’

 

Does Indian culture allow kissing in public”, is a question often thrown at the Kiss of Love protesters. The answer, actually, is Yes.

Seen the temple friezes at Khajuraho and Konarak?

Have you read the poems of 12th century Kannada devotional poet Akka Mahadevi? She used to wander totally naked, and she wrote:

Not one, not two, not three or four

but through eighty-four hundred thousand vaginas

have I come.

I have come through unlikely worlds,

guzzled on pleasure and on pain.

Whatever be, all previous lives,

Show me mercy, this one day,

O Lord white as jasmine.”

Akka Mahadevi wrote challenging notions of ‘modesty’:

People,

male and female,

blush when a cloth covering their shame

comes loose

When the lord of lives

lives drowned without a face

in the world, how can you be modest?

When all the world is the eye of the lord,

onlooking everywhere, what can you

cover and conceal?”

Similarly, the poet-saint Lal Ded/Lalleshwari of Kashmir also wandered naked, and is revered by Hindus and Sufis alike.

Will the ABVP brand Akka Mahadevi and Lal Ded as obscene?

The worst part is that the ABVP and RSS goons actually indulged in sexual harassment towards the protesters at the Kiss of Love event. They taunted them, demanding kisses and sex and branding the women as sluts. They asked male protesters to ‘send your sisters to kiss us’. They don’t get it, do they? Women who kiss a person of their choice, are not ‘public property’ to kiss ABVP/RSS men on demand! And ‘sisters’ are not the property of brothers, to be ‘handed over’ to ABVP/RSS men. Sisters, women, will decide if and when and who they will kiss – and THAT is something ABVP/RSS should learn to respect if they claim to respect women.

Let us resist the fundamentalists and moral policing diktats of all communities! Let us recognise and respect that ‘Indian culture’ is a very diverse set of practises and traditions, and that change, too is an integral part of every culture. The debate is not about ‘Western vs Indian culture’ – as we have seen, it is the moral policing brigades that are truly loyal to Macaulay’s worst laws. Let us create and defend an India where the values enshrined in India’s Constitution: of the rights of individuals to live and love as they please without the interference of any mob sentiment or diktats – can be celebrated and respected.

Remain Vigilant Against Ever-New Tricks to Elitise UPSC and Discriminate against Common Students!

AISA protesting in against CSAT in UPSC in February 2014

AISA protesting in against CSAT in UPSC in February 2014

On 18 Nov 2014, following reports of DoPT ‘s move to reduce age/attempt limits for UPSC, there was a massive public outcry. The govt clearly found it too hot to handle, more so with several elections round the corner. The govt made a hasty retreat at least for the time being.

The DoPT in a statement today (19 Nov) has clarified that it doesn’t intend to reduce the age and attempt limit for UPSC aspirants. It has further said that the decision to reduce the age and attempt limit of UPSC aspirants was taken in a Cabinet meeting in December 2013. But due to the decision taken in February 2014 to increase the attempts for UPSC aspirants the previous decision stand invalid and as of now the previous rules regarding age and attempt limits for UPSC aspirants will be followed.

Passing the Buck Does Not Hide the Govt.’s Intentions:

The Govt. is now saying that it was a decision taken by the UPA Govt. and the present Govt. has nothing to do with it. This is nothing short of an attempt by the Modi Govt. to wash its hands off this decision after it was met with huge outpour of protest from students and youth across the country when this information became public. The Modi Govt. needs to answer many serious questions regarding this.

If this was indeed a decision of the previous govt. and the present govt. had nothing to do with it then why was the Action Taken Report still present in the website of the DoPT? When our PM is touting himself as an efficient and hi-tech administrator – exhibiting ‘speed, scale and skill’, why didn’t the DoPT, a department which comes directly under the PMO, take it off its website? When the claimed hallmark of the functioning of the present Govt. is the ‘micromanaging’ every activity of different ministries and departments, only naivety would make us believe that a major policy of this magnitude would have slipped the radar of the PM.

Restructuring the Bureaucracy: from ‘Public’ Service Commission to ‘Privileged’ Service Commission :

UPSC has become a favourite target of the spate of ‘reforms’ that were being introduced by the UPA and are being continued by the NDA. These ‘reforms’ are less about ‘streamlining’ rules and procedure and more about changing the potential composition of the bureaucracy both in terms of social classes and intellectual training/orientation.

Look at the nature of ‘reforms’: For example, the introduction of the discriminatory CSAT and the removal of several classical and foreign languages including Arabic and Persian from the list of subjects were a clear move to tilt the balance of examination and selection against the students from humanities and social sciences and privileging those with training in ‘professional’ and ‘technical’ subjects. It has been well established by data that post-CSAT, there is a drastic fall in the number of successful candidates from rural, non-English and humanities background in the UPSC.

The icing on the cake was the move to reduce the age/attempt limits. Needless to say age/attempt reduction would have only benefitted those from already privileged background and with strong social capital. The fact that 26 years and 3 attempts were set as the limit for general category candidates imply that students aspiring for UPSC must immediately enrol themselves for CSAT-style modular coaching after graduation and give up post-graduation learning. The agenda is simple: Our potential bureaucrats must not learn too much, must not think too much, certainly not anything that can instil critical thinking or social sensitivity, they must be bulldozed into technical/ modular training so as to remain pliant, obedient and non-critical ‘technocrats’ ready to comply. And also that, bureaucracy must remain restricted to the already privileged section.

It is high time that we recognise the underlying agenda behind these ‘reforms,’ which are being fired one after another by the successive governments. The governments across the board and political spectrum are being turned into pliant agencies of the global and local big corporates. So not just the character and content of higher education are being ‘restructured,’ the entire criteria and composition of critical employment avenues pertaining to governance are being overhauled. They need to ‘restructure’ the very composition of the bureaucracy in a manner so that it is eroded of any semblance of criticality and social sensitivity and are ideologically pliant to work as the technocratic arms of corporate lobby.

We must remain vigilant. The united outburst of protest and anger of students and youth across the country has clearly forced the Govt. to hurriedly come out with a statement of ‘clarification,’ but it is must also be noted that nowhere in the circular does the DoPT unequivocally reject the recommendations to lower the age limit and reduce the number of attempts in the UPSC exams. The govt is unlikely to rest for long despite an election-time tactical ‘retreat.’ Students and youth across the country must be vigilant and keep an alert eye on the Govt. against every attempt to implement elitist, anti-people, anti-student policies.

‘Achchhe Din’ Unfolding: Sterilisation Kills 14 women in Chhattisgarh!

1 Doctor, 83 Operations, 5 Hours, 14 Dead and Still Counting…

The mother of Phoolbai, who died after she underwent a sterilization surgery at a government mass sterilisation "camp", reacts at her home in Aamsena village in Bilaspur districtThe deaths so far of 14 women in a sterilization camp in Chhattisgarh has caused outrage and horror in India and all over the world. Some 50 women are struggling for their lives. This is nothing short of a massacre.

The horrific episode of Chhattisgarh have exposed the abysmal absence of even the barest of primary health care for the poor in the state, in stark contrast to ads that tout it as the ‘best investor destination’ with its ‘largest’ forest cover and mineral reserves!

Modi’s Swachha Bharat campaign has politicians and bureaucrats posing with brooms for cameras – while the reality is that in BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, poor women lose their lives having operations on the floors of a dirty room, with even the medicine they are given being poisonous and polluted.

‘Achhe din’ has meant that for the poor and tribals in Chhattisgarh, there is no hope of hospitals – only ‘camps’ where they can lose their uteruses, eyes or lives. The Government is interested only in grabbing their resources and rights, and ‘pruning’ the populations of these poor communities, by deeming them as having ‘too high a fertility rate’.

  • This feat of 83 operations in 5 hours was achieved by none other than the same doctor R K Gupta, who was awarded by the Raman Singh government on January 26 this year for conducting a record number of female sterilisation!

  • Why did the Supreme Court have to lay down a ceiling of no more than 30 sterilization operations to be done per day? Why was this ceiling violated?

  • Why are women routinely denied basic post-op follow up care?

  • Why was a private abandoned hospital, 5 km from the Health Minister’s house, rather than a Government hospital used as the camp?

steri doc

R K Gupta

Mass deaths of poor women in sterilization camps have occurred earlier in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh as well. The BJP’s Chhattisgarh Government has responded to the latest crisis by arresting the doctors and ordering a judicial probe. But the Chhattisgarh Health Minister has refused to accept responsibility and resign. And there is deafening silence from the Central Government on how such a shameful massacre of the poorest of poor women can take place – over and over again – in the name of ‘family planning’.

Moreover, the ‘camps’ themselves point to the shameful absence of hospitals and healthcare. The target-driven ‘camps’ where doctors and health personnel are under pressure to meet government targets, often results in forced operations and botched operations.

  • In 2012 nearly 7000 women were subjected to forced operations to remove uteruses, in Chhattisgarh’s private hospitals within a period of 30 months. The private hospitals had done the operations to profit from the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana package money.

  • Between 2011-2013, around 100 people lost their eyesight due to botched up cataract operations in the same state. In other states, too similar stories abound.

Still More Fundamental Questions:

While all the above questions and concerns are valid and urgent, there are even more basic questions that few are asking.

  • Why are women being denied informed consent about what form of contraception they choose? In the sterilization camps, most sterilizations are forced – because the ‘consent’ is obtained on false premises, and in some cases the women are not even aware that they will lose the ability to bear a child.

  • Why is sterilization of women the favourite method of contraception promoted by the Indian State, even though it is the most invasive method?

  • And even more basic – why is ‘population control’ considered to be a policy goal for India and other developing countries (former colonies)?

Population control’ and ‘family planning’ policies promoting contraception are not viewed by the Indian Government and international funding agencies in the framework of women’s rights and control over their bodies and reproductive rights. Rather, the policies are framed as a way to control so-called ‘overpopulation’ in India and other similar countries.

The very question of ‘overpopulation’ is a racist one, of Malthusian origin. The premise is that unchecked ‘overpopulation’ is responsible for poverty, and for climate change. And this is a lie. Poverty is due to skewed distribution of resources – whereby a tiny fraction of the world’s richest people and countries control and hog the world’s resources. And climate change happens due to the way in this tiny minority ravages those resources and the earth for the sake of profit. Blaming the ‘teeming millions’ of poor people and poor countries is a deliberate, racist myth.

But shouldn’t a poor country like India worry about exploding population? Well, in the first place, we need to ask, why is India poor? Isn’t it because it was colonized by England?! Now, how can the same England turn around and tell Indian women that they need to produce fewer children in order to end India’s poverty?! And inside India too, people are poor not because they have too many babies but because they have too little access to land and other resources! Our resources are grabbed – not by the millions of poor people – but by the tiny slice of richest corporations!

The Human Rights Watch in a report published in 2012 established that target-based sterilizations, pursued by the Indian Government, are coercive and endanger women’s safety, leading to botched operations and even deaths. They quoted ASHA and anganwadi workers saying that they and doctors are under pressure from Governments to “meet targets” or else face pay cuts or dismissal, though India has committed in 1996 to adopting a “target-free” approach to family planning.

Killer Role of ‘Funding’ Agencies

The British Government’s DFID, USAID and the Bill Gates Foundation are some of the agencies that are rendering India’s poor women at risk in the name of ‘family planning.’ But these agencies and the Governments that back them, have learned to speak a more politically correct language!! For instance, British MP and DFID Minister Stephen O’Brien, speaking on behalf of the British Government on World Population Day 2011, said “the Coalition Government does not support programmes that coerce individuals and couples to have fewer children. Population control, in the sense of government edicts and targets on fertility levels, has no ethical place in contemporary rights based development policy making.” Instead, he claimed his Government was only interested in promoting women’s control over their bodies and right to choice.

But the truth is quite different: The DFID has funded ‘population control’ in India – and is thus implicated in the mass sterilization deaths that took place in several states. Not only that, DFID has promoted contraceptive implants that have been proven to be unsafe for women. As Kalpana Wilson writes, “DFID (is involved in a joint operation) with Merck to promote the long-lasting implant Implanon to ‘14.5 million of the poorest women’ by 2015’. Implanon was discontinued in the UK in 2010 because trained medical personnel were finding it too difficult to insert correctly, and there were fears about its safety. As well as a series of debilitating side-effects, the implant was reported as ‘disappearing’ inside women’s bodies.”

Similarly, the Gates Foundation was involved in “a clinical trial of the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer in India in 2009, …for which 23,000 girls aged 9-15 from impoverished communities were selected and requirements for parental consent were bypassed. The trial was suspended following the deaths of seven adivasi girls aged between 9 and 15.” A government enquiry found that the process of obtaining consent amounted to ‘covert inducement and indirect coercion’, and expressed concerns over a ‘hidden agenda’ to push the expensive vaccinations manufactured by Glaxo Smith Kline and Merck Sharp and Dohme into India’s Universal Immunisation Programme.

Earlier, other contraceptive implants like Net-En (Depo-Provera) have been promoted in India, that had widespread side effects on women’s reproductive health and safety.

We must demand action against Chhattisgarh’s Health Minister and resignation of the Chief minister. But the matter cannot end there. We must demand a moratorium on the Indian Government’s policy of sterilization as a form of family planning, and a review of the whole ‘family planning/population control’ framework. Instead, we must demand an expansion of women’s access, through informed choice, of a range of safe methods of contraception, with non-invasive methods being promoted instead of surgery.

Indian women must not be seen as ‘wombs’ needing to be controlled by Indian Government and imperialist funding agencies. Indian women and Indian children are not the cause of their own or the world’s poverty and destruction of the environment – that responsibility lies with the world’s corporations and the rapacious capitalism that promotes profit over people and environment. Target-based sterilizations – as well as other invasive forms of contraception, should be recognized as a form of violence against women that can no longer be tolerated, in any overt or covert way. Instead of viewing women’s reproduction as a ‘problem’, the policy thrust should be to enhance the rights of women – over their bodies, but also over resources and environment. For this, corporate control over bodies, resources and environment must be dismantled and resisted!

Communal Hatred: the Mahapanchayat Way A Report From Bawana, Delhi

development or communalismLong standing communal tension in Bawana (at the outskirts of Delhi) took a vicious inflammatory turn, when a Mahapanchayat was called on 2nd November to provoke hatred against the Taziya (Moharram procession) in Bawana. Since Bakrid, the blatant lie of ‘cow slaughter’ in the JJ Colony (nearby Bawana) was used as a pretext to mobilize the whole Hindu community against Muslims. (http://www.aisa.in/reject-consorted-efforts-communal-hate-riot-mongering-delhi-report-aisas-visit-today-bawana-narela/)

India’s ruling party BJP, as well as entire battery of RSS backed Hindutva outfits were involved in the campaign to divide Hindus and Muslims of the poorest classes. An AISA team visited Bawana on Sunday, met local people, witnessed the Mahapanchayat and the developments around it.

Our observations about the Mahapanchayat are as follows :

People were mobilized from Bawana and many places close to Bawana, from both Haryana and Delhi.

 The agenda of Mahapanchayat was to prevent the Taziya procession in Bawana. But residents of the JJ Colony told us that the Muslims of the colony had already agreed, in a meeting on 28th October where leaders from both communities and the ACP were present, to limit their procession to the JJ Colony itself. If the issue of the route of the Taziya procession had already been settled, why did the police even allow the mahapanchayat to be held?

During the Mahapanchayat again and again leaders and speakers addressed to ACP and DCP (present at the occasion) and warned them of dire consequences if the Taziya procession took place. Why did the police remain meek and mute spectators to these threats?

At the Mahapanchayat, many leaders made provocative speeches full of communal hatred against Muslims. Many speeches declared that the Muslims’ homeland is Pakistan, that Hindus are the ‘Mulnivasi’ (original inhabitants) of this land therefore Hindus would dictate terms to those who want to live here. Speeches were made openly threatening violence:

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Photo: Courtesy Indian Express

ham taziya nahi nikalane denge, khuli chunauti dete hain. Hamne 3000 signature karake acp ko diye hain aur ab abhi agar Taziya niklta hai to jo bhi maar kaat hogi uske jimeedaar ham nahi honge. Ham kamjor nahi hain, hamare sath jo bhi chal raha hai wo galat hai. Ham is soch ko mita denge. Ham dekh lenge (We won’t allow the Taziya procession to be held, we openly challenge anyone to hold it. We have collected 3000 signatures and submitted to the ACP, that if the Taziya is held, there will be bloodshed, and we won’t be responsible for this. We are not weak, what is being done to us is wrong. We will wipe out this thought. We’ll see…)

 Many media persons as well as senior police officers were present and they all witnessed these speeches. We too have video and audio recordings of these speeches. Why has the police not yet filed cases against all those who made these openly provocative speeches?

A large number of young men from Bawana and nearby places were present there. Not surprisingly, many leaders of ABVP were present at this Mahapanchayat.

 The Mahapanchayat was glaringly free of the presence of women. Among the thousands present, there was not a single woman!

 Gugan Singh Ranga, MLA of the Bawana constituency from BJP, who also made speeches instigating and threatening violence, repeatedly declared, ‘ab modi sarkaar aa gayi hai’ (Now the Modi government is in power). Clearly, the fact of the Modi government was seen as a victory for the Hindu majoritarian fundamentalists, not only over the minority community but over all citizens wishing for peace and mutual respect among communities.

Some of the leaders present there were Ganesh ji, and Dharmendra from Kathawala, leader of the Rohini Dharmik aur Sanskritik Sabha, Kuldeep Dalkaar, Jitender Rana and Kishen ji.

The Mahapanchayat leaders felt no hesitation to openly issue threats of violence – from the dais as well as in face-to-face interaction – to the media. There were repeated appeals to the youth and the people present there to be ready for violent actions through whatever means. A diary was circulated among attendees, taking their contact numbers, and it was stated from the dais that the leaders would “secretly inform everyone about the action that needs to be taken on 4th November.” When plans for ‘secret’ mobilizations of communal violence are openly announced on a public dais in presence of senior police officers, why is no action being taken to punish the organizers and prevent the violence?

The deployment of police at the Mahapanchayat was very weak. Knowing that Mahapanchayats were followed by communal violence in Muzaffarnagar, why was the police presence so weak?

We visited the JJ Colony (the site of tension during Bakrid). There was palpable fear there. People of the JJ Colony are mostly workers who work in the industrial belt of Narela. Police patrolling was visible there. People were busy in their routine work.

The JJ Colony residents told us that they had agreed to curtail the Taziya route in the interests of ‘aman chain’ (peace and harmony). But the question came to our mind: why is it that the police used the Muslims’ fear of violence to ‘advice’ them to curtail the route of their procession that they have held peacefully for years? Why, in a democracy, can the police in India’s national capital not ensure that the minority can safely hold their Taziya procession? Why were those threatening violence against the Taziya procession not arrested?

 JJ Colony residents asked, “We agreed to curtail the route of the Taziya. But we don’t know why the administration has allowed the Mahapanchayat where seeds of hatred have been sowed. At the time of Bakrid, and now again near Moharram, we are living in fear of violence.” Many local youths told us stories of fraternity between both the communities in the JJ Colony, lamenting that political forces were sowing seeds of hatred to destroy this fraternity.