Archive for the ‘neoliberalism’ Category

Orissa police in service of Hindutva (and POSCO)

December 11, 2008

The Orissa police has arrested writer Lenin Kumar and two of his associates, Ravi Jena and Dhananjay Lenka, for publishing his book Dharma Naanre Kandhamalare Raktanadee (Bloodshed in Kandhamal in the name of religion). They have been charged under Sections 153A, 295A and 34 of the Indian Penal Code.

Section 153A: Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony

Section 295A: Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.

Section 34: Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention [When a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone]

For those who have been following recent events in Orissa, sections 153A and 295A read like a description of the Sangh Parivar’s activities. However, Lenin Kumar and his associates have been arrested for raising their voices against the Parivar. According to Pramodini Pradhan, Convenor of PUCL (Bhubaneswar Unit): The specific section of the book – pages 38 to 41 – (which has been cited by police) relates to a letter allegedly written by the RSS to its members for anti-dalit, anti-minority activities.

A report in the Indian Express has more details:

Quoted in these pages are parts from a piece written by CPI leader D Raja and first published in the June 18-24, 2000, issue of the party’s mouthpiece New Age. This piece, say the police, makes various allegations against the RSS, including that the Hindutva outfit asks followers to store firearms for use in riots, coerces Dalit Christians to chant ‘Shri Ram’ and ‘Om’ and forces Dalit, Muslim and Christian girls into prostitution.

Apparently, the same objectionable (for whom?) material has been published in various outlets in and outside Orissa. The Indian Express report also quotes a civil rights activist, Sudhir Patnaik, on violations of due process in the arrests:

The two sections under which Lenin was held warrant that police take permission from either the state Government or Centre before an arrest is made. How can Lenin be arrested for writing against communal violence while organisations like the RSS and VHP, which incited communal disharmony in Kandhamal through their writings and press statements, have not? (emphasis mine)

While the stated reason for the arrests is the printing and publishing of the said book, and the police also confiscated about 700 copies of the book and shut down the press, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Bhubaneswar) Himanshu Lal has claimed that some Maoist literature was also seized from the press and more charges will be pressed against Kumar. A confusing report in The Hindu also insinuates a Maoist connection, though the logic escapes me:

The police had swung into action and booked Mr. Kumar in the wake of the appearance of Maoist posters in different localities of the Capital city. The posters, which bore the name of Communist Party of India (Maoist), warned people against joining organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The police had seized some posters and registered a case, but no one has been arrested in this connection so far.

The Orissa police seem to have taken a leaf out of their Chhattisgarh colleagues in harrassing and imprisoning dissenters as Maoists and Maoist sympathizers. This August, advocate Protima Das, anti-displacement activist Pradeep and U.S.-based educator Dave  were detained while on a fact-finding trip. Upon his return to the U.S., Pugh wrote:

At approximately 8 pm, the car transporting us was pulled over by local police for a traffic-related reason.  My translator Pratima Das, my guide Pradeep, our driver, and I were taken to a police station for questioning.  For the next eight hours, all of us were interrogated, first by the local police, and then by the chief police official of the state of Orissa.  The latter was particularly hostile, accusing me of being an “anti-government agitator.”  When I insisted that I was a teacher researching the issue of forced displacement in India, he insisted that only “communists” would be interested in speaking with villagers. (emphasis added)

These arrests triggered a debate on whether the police was seeking to muzzle the voices of anti-displacement activists by dubbing them as Maoists.  Interestingly, the police seem to have attempted to concoct a Maoist link with Lenin Kumar at that time, by placing reports in the media that the arrested suspects (whose links with Maoists were not proven) had named Kumar’s magazine Nishan. Kumar’s observations then have now proven prescient:

[Kumar] alleged that of late voice of protest against government policy or system in Orissa has been branded as an act of treason or terrorism. He referred to the Dr Binayak Sen case and noted Orissa may soon witness many more Binayak Sens being put behind bars.

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Related articles (to be updated):

Response to Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn et al on Nandigram

November 24, 2007

[Note: Besides being a useful counter to the joint statement by Chomsky, Zinn, Ali et al, this statement further contextualizes the anti-Taslima protests and the Left Front’s pusillanimity]

We (the undersigned) read with growing dismay the statement signed by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and others advising those opposing the CPI(M)’s pro-capitalist policies in West Bengal not to “split the Left” in the face of American imperialism. We believe that for some of the signatories, their distance from events in India has resulted in their falling prey to a CPI(M) public relations coup and that they may have signed the statement without fully realising the import of it and what it means here in India, not just in Bengal.

We cannot believe that many of the signatories whom we know personally, and whose work we respect, share the values of the CPI(M) – to “share similar values” with the party today is to stand for unbridled capitalist development, nuclear energy at the cost of both ecological concerns and mass displacement of people (the planned nuclear plant at Haripur, West Bengal), and the Stalinist arrogance that the party knows what “the people” need better than the people themselves. Moreover, the violence that has been perpetrated by CPI(M) cadres to browbeat the peasants into submission, including time-tested weapons like rape, demonstrate that this “Left” shares little with the Left ideals that we cherish.

Over the last decade, the policies of the Left Front government in West Bengal have become virtually indistinguishable from those of other parties committed to the neoliberal agenda. Indeed, “the important experiments undertaken in the State” – the land reforms referred to in the statement – are being rapidly reversed. According to figures provided by the West Bengal state secretary for land reforms, over the past five years there has been a massive increase of landless peasants in the state due to government acquisition of land cheaply for handing over to corporations and developing posh upper class neighbourhoods.

We urge our friends to take very seriously the fact that all over the country, democratic rights groups, activists and intellectuals of impeccable democratic credentials have come out in full support of the Nandigram struggle.

The statement reiterates the CPI(M)’s claim that “there will be no chemical hub” in Nandigram, but this assurance is itself deliberately misleading. This is the explanation repeatedly offered by CPI(M) for the first round of resistance in Nandigram – that people reacted to a baseless rumour that there would be land acquisitions in the area. In fact, as the Chief Minister himself conceded in the State Assembly, it was no rumour but a notification issued by the Haldia Development Authority on January 2, 2007 indicating the approximate size and location of the projected SEZ, which triggered the turmoil.

The major factor shaping popular reaction to the notification was Singur.

Singur was the chronicle of the fate foretold for Nandigram. There, land was acquired in most cases without the consent of peasant-owners and at gun-point (terrorizing people is one way of obtaining their consent), under the colonial Land Acquisition Act (1894). That land is now under the control of the industrial house of the Tatas, cordoned off and policed by the state police of West Bengal. The dispossessed villagers are lost to history. A fortunate few among them will become wage slaves of the Tatas on the land on which they were once owners.

While the CPM-led West Bengal government has announced that it will not go ahead with the chemical hub without the consent of the people of Nandigram, it has not announced any plans of withdrawing its commitment to the neo-liberal development model. It has not announced the shelving of plans to create Special Economic Zones. It has not withdrawn its invitation to Dow Chemicals (formerly known as Union Carbide, the corporation responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in Bhopal) to invest in West Bengal. In other words, there are many more Nandigrams waiting to happen.

In any case, the reason for the recently renewed violence in Nandigram has been widely established to have nothing to do with the rumour or otherwise of a chemical hub. Print and visual media, independent reports, the governor of West Bengal (Gopal Gandhi) and the State Home Secretary’s police intelligence all establish that this round of violence was initiated by the CPI(M) to re-establish its control in the area. We all have seen TV coverage of unarmed villagers barricaded behind walls of rubble, while policemen train their guns on them.

With the plans it has for the future, regaining control over Nandigram is vital for the CPI(M) to reassure its corporate partners that it is in complete control of the situation and that any kind of resistance will be comprehensively crushed. The euphemism for this in the free marketplace is ‘creating a good investment climate’.

The anti-Taslima Nasreen angle that has recently been linked to the Nandigram struggle against land acquisition is disturbing to all of us. However, we should remember that it is largely Muslim peasants who are being dispossessed by land acquisitions all over the state. There is a general crisis of confidence of the Muslim community vis-à-vis the Left Front government, inaugurated by the current Chief Minister’s aggressive campaign to “clean up” madarsas, followed by the revelation of the Sachar Committee that Muslim employment in government jobs in West Bengal is among the lowest in the country. While we condemn the attempts to utilize this discontent and channelize it in sectarian ways, we feel very strongly that it would be unfortunate if the entire anger of the community were to be mobilized by communal and sectarian tendencies within it. Such a situation would be inevitable if all Left forces were seen to be backing the CPI(M).

This is why at this critical juncture it is crucial to articulate a Left position that is simultaneously against forcible land acquisition in Nandigram and for the right of Tasleema Nasreen to live, write and speak freely in India.

History has shown us that internal dissent is invariably silenced by dominant forces claiming that a bigger enemy is at the gate. Iraq and Iran are not the only targets of that bigger enemy. The struggle against SEZ’s and corporate globalization is an intrinsic part of the struggle against US imperialism.

We urge our fellow travellers among the signatories to that statement, not to treat the “Left” as homogeneous, for there are many different tendencies which claim that mantle, as indeed you will recognize if you look at the names on your own statement.

Mahashweta Devi
Arundhati Roy
Sumit Sarkar
Uma Chakravarty
Tanika Sarkar
Moinak Biswas
Kaushik Ghosh
Saroj Giri
Sourin Bhattacharya
Nirmalangshu Mukherji
Sibaji Bandyopadhyay
Swapan Chakravorty
Rajarshi Dasgupta
Anand Chakravarty
Apoorvanand
Shuddhabrata Sengupta
Nivedita Menon
Aditya Nigam