Monday, December 30, 2013

Working-Class Women Revolt: Gendered Political Economy in Morocco

- Samira Errazzouki


During the beginning of the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, Morocco was often times described as a regional exception. Through the rise of the February 20 Movement, protests took place – however, unlike their Tunisian and Libyan counterparts, they never culminated into a popular movement that called for the downfall of the regime. This is largely due to King Mohammed VI's swift response to the demands for reform and announcement that a council, which he subsequently appointed himself, would draft a new constitution. The constitution itself was no radical document and did nothing to shift power away from the palace. Instead it put forth measures of liberalisation that introduced language pertaining to human rights, freedom of expression, as well as expanding the definition of ‘national identity’ to include the Amazigh and non-Muslim populations. Parallel to the political response to the February 20 Movement demands, it was also announced just weeks after the first protest that food subsidies and public wages would be increased. In conjunction, these measures collectively quelled what could have become a popular uprising. Additionally, while the regime's initial response to protests was largely peaceful, state violence, torture, and arbitrary arrests were common in the months that followed these measures, especially right before the draft constitution was released to the public for a nationwide referendum.

It remains, however, that a significant core of the February 20 Movement and a source of its momentum came from working-class women. Dubbed the ‘Moroccan Mohammed Bouazizi’ (Lalami 2011), it was the self-immolation of single mother Fadoua Laroui on 21 February 2011, the day after the February 20 Movement's first planned protest, that became a spark and mobilising force for thousands of Moroccans across the country. Throughout the duration of the movement, working-class women were publicly present in demonstrations and international media, as well as playing active roles behind the scenes. Moreover, it was the indirect involvement of working-class women, such as Fadoua Laroui, who had no direct association with the movement, that demonstrates how the policies of the entrenchedmakhzen (Arabic term used to denote the Moroccan authoritarian regime.) have marginalised working-class women. Spanning from the neoliberal economic policies to the personal status code law reforms, these measures drove working-class women to the margins of Moroccan society, triggering drastic responses such as Fadoua Laroui's self-immolation.

Photo: Morocco World News

During May 2011, just a month before the draft constitution was made public, video footage circulated widely of riot police violently dispersing protests across the country, from Rabat to Casablanca, and other cities in the northern region. One particular video sparked outrage among Moroccans, where a police officer attacked a woman carrying a child in her arms with a truncheon in the working-class Casablanca suburb, Sbata. The violent attack against the woman was caught on video and disseminated across multiple social media platforms and stood as a testament to multiple issues.

This woman's presence stood as a threat to the state in multiple ways: she was, firstly, a woman; secondly, she was quite visibly a working-class woman; and thirdly, her presence in an anti-government protest was an expression of her dissent towards the political and economic order. Most importantly, as she stood there withstanding blows from police truncheons while holding a child, her public presence demonstrated a clear break from the norms of her prescribed class membership in Morocco. As a working-class woman living under an authoritarian system which has institutionalised state patriarchy through placing men at the central point when positioning women, her act of defiance strikes multiple levels of the status quo (Hatem 1987).

The symbolic nature of the police officer charging at her repeatedly resonated not just with members of the February 20 Movement but drew media attention and sympathisers from across the political spectrum. The act of a man violently projecting state authority upon a working-class woman protesting, inscribed gender into the social tensions that unfolded. What the video also illustrates is an example of just one of the entrenched hierarchical spectrums of power that cannot be broken down with mere constitutional reforms or minimal changes in subsidies and public wages – as the Moroccan regime attempted to implement in order to quell an uprising. For this reason, it is necessary to contextualise and revisit the plight of working-class Moroccan women.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Korean Railway Labor Struggle Culminates into a General Strike: A Photo Essay

President Park Geun-hye, has gone all out to place herself on South Korea’s political map as a stern neoliberal conservative leader of the highest order – not only following in the footsteps of her father (former military dictator Park Chung-hee), it seems, but also in those of her immediate neoliberal predecessor and Saenuri-Party colleague, former president Lee Myung Bak (2008-2012). Lee, who had called himself “the CEO of Korea, Inc”, inaugurated the stripping of the state of its most valuable assets; and President Park is now preparing the grounds for another round of pilfering that will harm the previously strong public sectors of South Korea. Massive health sector privatizations are currently under way, with approximately 20000 doctors protesting against the planned de-regularization and privatization of their domain two weeks ago in Seoul. The public transportation sector, too, is under heavy assault these days: amidst the continuous restructuration of the state-run Korea Railroad Corporation (KORAIL), the recently announced introduction of a new subsidiary has been viewed by many as a first step towards the eventual privatization of KORAIL (Lee Myung-bak had announced this much during his presidency already).

To counter this move, the Korean Railway Workers´ Union (KRWU) – an organization that consists of approximately 20000 railway workers affiliated to Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) – started a strike on 9th of December. This labor struggle, which has been going strong for more than two weeks now, has already become the longest-ever strike in the 65-year-history of South Korea’s railway union, with the number of workers involved in it rising quickly. Roughly 40% of all unionized KORAIL workers haven taken part in the actions so far, which brought substantial parts of Korea’s transportation system to a standstill. In an attempt to end this vital labor struggle, the strike has been countered with unparalleled measures by the state-run corporation and the government standing behind it. With the struggle swiftly declared illegal, nearly 7000 workers – that is, practically all of the union members who have been taking part in the strike – have been dismissed from their jobs at KORAIL. Furthermore, arrest warrants were issued against the leadership of KRWU, who were suspected of having gone into hiding at the headquarters of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). Some 4.000 riot police were deployed in front of KCTU’s offices in the Seodaemun district of Seoul on 22nd December, where a standoff between labor activists, their supporters and the police began that would last for ten hours. After the glass front door of the building had been smashed into pieces, police teams slowly and violently pushed their way through 17 floors to the roof of the building, pepper-spraying and arresting those standing in their way. Some 130 people were taken in by the police, even though no search warrant for KCTU’s headquarters had been issued in the first place, adding a layer of illegality to this police raid of the union center. Furthermore, during these police procedures that put numerous labor activists at risk, the actual leaders of the strike at KORAIL could not be located in the building.

South Korea’s largest national trade union center, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), announced a General Strike, which commenced today on December 28, 2013. This announcement by KCTU, a left leaning labor confederation that unites roughly 700000 South Korean workers under its umbrella, came at the end of long day full of dramatic escalations of 22nd December.

Today, the General Strike drew hundreds of thousands of workers, students, citizens on the streets.As we write this post, sporadic confrontation between police and protesters continue. Below are some of the photographs from Seoul clicked during the day:

Photo: Ohmynews

Photo: Ohmynews

Photo: Seoungwon Lee

Friday, December 27, 2013

मुद्दई भी तुम्हीं, मुंसिफ भी तुम्ही: खतरनाक है मीडिया ट्रायल की प्रवृत्ति और सुर मिलाती समाज की मानसिकता

-अंजलि सिन्हा

बीता साल कर्इ मामलों में पीछे के कर्इ सालों से अलग रहा। उसने जहां कुछ अच्छे बदलाव का संकेत दिया, वहीं कुछ चिन्ता की लकीरें भी खींचीं। 2012 के 16 दिसम्बर की गैंगरेप वाली घटना के बाद देश भर में जो जनाक्रोश फूटा था, उसने पूरे समाज पर असर डाला। एक तरफ यौनहिंसा की पीडि़ताओं ने शिकायत दर्ज कराने में भरोसा किया, कर्इ सारे ऐसे मामले सामने आए जबकि अत्याचारी समाज में प्रभावशाली ओहदे पर था तो दूसरी तरफ समाज में विभिन्न स्तरों पर - गली मोहल्लों से लेकर युनिवर्सिटी, स्कूल, कालेज तक में सुरक्षित वातावरण को लेकर विमर्श चल पड़ा। इन विमर्शों का हो सकता है कि तुरन्त असर न दिखे लेकिन वह लोगों की मानसिकता तैयार करने में भूमिका निभाएगा, तीसरे इन सरगर्मियों ने लम्बे अर्से से लटके कानूनों या उनमें अपेक्षित सुधारों को एक हद तक सम्भव बनाया।

सुप्रीम कोर्ट के पूर्व न्यायाधीश गांगुली और प्रख्यात पत्राकार तेजपाल वाले मसले ने इस बात पर नए सिरेसे रौशनी डाली कि कैसे बड़े बड़े संस्थानों में भी यौन हिंसा के खिलाफ कमेटियों का गठन नहीं किया गया है और इस रूप में निहायत गैरजिम्मेदाराना व्यवहार देखा गया। इसी के साथ अपने ऊपर बलात्कार का आरोप लगने के बाद सामाजिक कार्यकर्ता खुर्शीद अनवर की आत्महत्या ने पूरे मीडिया ट्रायल की प्रवृतित को बेपर्द किया तथा कोर्इ लड़ार्इ कितने विद्रूप तथा विकृत ढंग से लड़ी जा सकती है इसका नमूना भी देखने को मिला। 

ज्ञात हो कि एक दूसरी संस्था में काम करनेवाली लड़की ने राष्ट्रीय महिला आयोग में इसकी शिकायत की थी, मामला बीते सितम्बर का बताया गया है। महिला आयोग के कहने पर बसन्त कुंज थाने में शिकायत दर्ज हुर्इ। पुलिस का कहना है कि वह लड़की से पूछताछ के बाद ही कार्रवार्इ करती और अगर लड़की शिकायत दर्ज नहीं करती तो केस खारिज हो जाता। मामले के तकनीकी पक्ष की छानबीन करना पुलिस का काम है। लेकिन सबसे अहम बात है कि आखिर खुर्शीद को यह भरोसा क्यों नहीं हुआ कि वह कानून के समक्ष अपनी सफार्इ पेश कर सकें या अपना पक्ष रख सकेंगे ? खुर्शीद को जिन्दगी की कीमत पता थी और वह आवेश में आत्महत्या करनेवाले कोर्इ किशोरवय मानसिकता के इन्सान नहीं थे। गम्भीर मुददा यह है कि मीडिया में जिस तरह इस मसले को लेकर छीछालेदर शुरू हुर्इ, उसमें कोर्इभी सुनवार्इ करना सम्भव नहीं था।
खुर्शीद के मित्रों ने - जो इस मामले से परिचित थे - बताया कि वह बार बार कहते रहे कि केस दायर करो, मामला कोर्ट जाएगा तो मैं अपनी सफार्इ पेश करूंगा। लेकिन सभी को पता है कि कैसे टी वी चैनल से लेकर सोशल मीडिया तक में मुहिम चली और सार्वजनिक दायरे में बातें ऐसी छायीं कि उनका सामना कोर्इ क्या करता ? यदि खुर्शीद दोषी थे तो भी क्या उसे पलट कर यह नहीं सोचना चाहिए कि किसी को न्याय दिलाने की लड़ार्इ ऐसे ही लड़ी जाती है ? क्या आनेवाले दिनों में भीड़ - फिर वह चाहे सोशल मीडिया में नमूदार हों या वह टीआरपी रेटिंग की चाहत में मामलों को सनसनीखेज बना कर तैयार की जाती हो - ही 'फैसला सुनाया करेगी। 

टीआरपी रेटिंग बढ़ाने की खातिर मीडिया द्वारा किस तरह चीजों को हाइप किया जाता है या सरासर झूठे मामलों को 'सच्ची घटना के तौर पर पेश किया जाता है, इस प्रवृतित से हम परिचित हैं। याद करें कुछ साल पहले की वह घटना जब नए शुरू हुए एक चैनल ने दिल्ली के दरियागंज इलाके के एक स्कूल की अध्यापिका के खिलाफ अनर्गल आरोप लगानेवाली स्टोरी चलायी और देखते ही देखते सैकड़ों की तादाद में इलाके के अभिभावकों ने स्कूल को घेर लिया, यहां तक कि कइयों ने अन्दर घुस कर अध्यापिका के साथ मारपीट की और उसके कपड़े भी फाडे थे। गनीमत थी कि मौके पर पहुंची पुलिस के कारण वह बच गयी। बाद में पता चला कि वह स्टोरी पूरी तरह फर्जी थी। अब अगर बाद में पता भी चले कि व्यकित निर्दोष है तो वह हर किसी को जाकर सफार्इ तो नहीं दे सकता और उसकी सामाजिक प्रतिष्ठा तो धूमिल हो ही जाती है। इसी तरह वाराणसी से कुछ साल पहले ख़बर आयी थी कि किस तरह अनशन पर बैठे दुकानदारों को उकसा कर स्थानीय पत्राकारों ने 'आत्मदाह के लिए प्रेरित किया, उन्हें यह 'समझाया गया था कि जब तक कोर्इ कड़ी कार्रवार्इ वह नहीं करते हैं तब तक प्रशासन सुनवार्इ नहीं करेंगा साथ में ही उन्हें बचा लेने का आश्वासन भी दिया गया था। आत्मदाह में उन लोगों की हुर्इ मौत महज एक घटना बन कर रह गयी, कोर्इ सुनवार्इ नहीं हुर्इ।

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

राष्ट्रीय मानव अधिकार आयोग के स्पेशल रिपोटियार द्वारा दंगा प्रभावित क्षेत्र "छीपाबड़" ( मध्य प्रदेश ) का दौरा

H.T. Bhopal 20 December 2013 
मध्यप्रदेश के हरदा जिले के (खिरकिया ब्लॉक) छीपाबड़ खेड़ा में दिनांक 19 सितंबर 2013 को साम्प्रदायिक हिंसा हुई थी। जिसकी एन एस आई भोपाल, भा.क.पा.(मा-ले), राष्ट्रीय सेकूलर मंच, क्रांतिकारी नौजवान भारत सभा, पिपुल्स रिसर्च सोसायटी और नागरिक अधिकार मंच द्वारा 27 सिंतबर 2013 को फैक्ट फाइंडि़ग की़ गई थी. संगठनों द्वारा इस फैक्ट फाइंडि़ग रिर्पोट को सबंधित प्रशासनिक अधिकारियों व आयोगों को भी भेजा गया था। इसकी कड़ी में संगठनों द्वारा दिनांक 16 अक्टूबर 2013 को भी पुनः छीपाबड़ के दंगा प्रभावित क्षेत्र का दौरा किया गया था ।

इसी संदर्भ में राष्ट्रीय मानव अधिकार आयोग के स्पेशल रिपोटियार प्रोफ़ेसर सचीन्द्र नारायण द्वारा दिनांक 18 और 19 दिसम्बर 2013 को दंगा से प्रभावित इस क्षेत्र में भ्रमण किया गया और पीडि़तों से मुलाकात की गयी। 

पीडि़तों द्वारा स्पेशल रिपोटियार को बताया गया कि उनको मुआवजा बहुत ही कम मिला है। कई लोगों के पूरे के पूरे घर दंगाईयों द्वारा जला दिए गए हैं लेकिन सरकार की तरफ से उन्हें मुआवजे के तौर पर बहुत राशि दी गई है। कई पीडि़त परिवार ऐसे भी हैं जिन्हें अभी तक कुछ मुआवजा नहीं मिला है । इस दौरान पीडि़तों द्वारा स्पेशल रिपोटियार को एक लिस्ट भी सौपी गयी जिसमें पीडि़तों की दंगे के दौरान हुए नुकसान और सरकार द्वारा दिए गए मुआवजा को लेकर जानकारी है। भ्रमण के दौरान स्पेशल रिपोटियार द्वारा ए.डी.एम. हरदा से कहा गया है कि वे 4 दिन के अंदर दंगा पीडि़तों के हुए नुक्सान का पुनः सर्वे करवाएँ तथा इसे पीड़ितों द्वारा सौपें गये लिस्ट को वेरिफाय करके स्पेशल रिपोटियार को भेजें। इसके अलावा उन्होंने पीड़ितों को तत्काल मनरेगा के तहत रोजगार उपलब्ध करने का भी निर्देश दिया है. उन्होनें स्थानीय ए.डी.एम. को निर्देश दिया है कि पीड़ितों में जिन लोगों के पास गरीबी रेखा के कार्ड नही है और वे पात्र है उनका तत्काल गरीबी रेखा वाला राशनकार्ड बनाया जाये। इसके अलावा उन्होनें कहा कि वे प्रशासन से सिफारिश करेगें कि खेड़ा के प्राथमिक शाला को हायर स्कूल में बदल दें जिससे सभी बच्चों को शिक्षा मिल सके। 

स्पेशल रिपोटियार ने प्रशासन को यह भी आदेश दिया कि वह पीडि़तों के स्थायी पुर्नवास का कार्यक्रम बनाये जिसमें पीडि़तों का आर्थिक और सामाजिक पुर्नवास की व्यवस्था हो, प्रशासन को पीड़ितों के लिए सम्पूर्ण पुर्नवास कार्यक्रम 6 माह के अंदर तैयार किये जाना तय हुआ है। 

NHRC special Rapporteur ( MP,CG ) Prof. S Narayan
पीड़ितों द्वारा स्पेशल रिपोटियार को बताया गया कि अभी भी कई ऐसे दंगाई हैं जो पुलिस के गिरफत से बाहर है और उनके नाम एफ.आई.आर.में दर्ज है। स्पेशल रिपोटियार द्वारा पीड़ितों से उन लोगों के नाम की लिस्ट बना कर उन्हें उपलब्ध कराने का निर्देश दिया गया है जो दंगे में शामिल थे लेकिन अभी भी पुलिस के गिरफत से बाहर है ।

स्पेशल रिपोटियार ने स्थानीय मीडिया से बातचीत के दौरान कहा कि वे दंगों के दौरान पुलिस की भूमिका से संतुष्ट नही है। क्योकि अगर पुलिस चाहे तो 2 घंटे में दंगा रोक सकती है लेकिन यहाँ यह नही हुआ। अगर पुलिस सही कार्यवाही करती तो घटना इतनी बढ़ती ही नही। उन्होनें कहा कि आगे ऐसी घटना की पुनरावृत्ति ना हो इसके लिए प्रशासन को दोनों समुदाय के साथ मिल कर कार्यक्रम चलाये जाने की जरूरत है. 

सम्बंधित पोस्ट / लिंक

छीपाबड़ (हरदा) के दंगा प्रभावित क्षेत्र में भोपाल के संगठनों द्वारा पुनः किये गये भ्रमण की संक्षिप्त रिर्पोट: Click here

27 सितम्बर 2013 को स्वतंत्र जांच दल द्वारा की गयी फैक्ट फाइंडिंग की पूरी रिपोर्ट: Click here

मध्यप्रदेश राज्य अल्पसंख्यक आयोग के अध्यक्ष मोहम्मद अनवर खान द्वारा हरदा दंगे को हादसा कहे जाने के सन्दर्भ संगठनों द्वारा जारी बयान Click here

Friday, December 20, 2013

Statue of Unity: How the Varna Media is Loving It !

subhash Gatade

..The man who belonged to the whole country has now been abducted by Narendra Modi, a pracharak of RSS, the communal organization who the Sardar fought against throughout his life. ..The only purpose of the construction of the Sardar Patel statue which was declared by Narendra Modi after he was anointed as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial Candidate is to collect votes for the 2014 elections in the name of this leader of India’s freedom struggle. It is therefore a downright irony that the RSS pracharak is trying to build the facade of unity by erecting the statue of one of the staunchest opponents of RSS.

 "Facade of Unity – RSS Abducts Sardar Patel", Pratik Sinha October 31, 2013 


History bears witness the fact that the attitude to appear 'big' or 'tall' so that even posterity remembers you is very much visible in every megalomaniac. It is a different matter that due to a poor sense of history they cannot even comprehend that the way they subdued a population, cleanse the 'others' rather overwhelms the giant monuments they build or the memorials they erect to commemorate their bloody victories. The Halakus, the Chengiz Khans, the Menanders or the Mussolinis of the world are remembered today not as noble representatives of humanity but as its other.

Not very many people can recollect today the famous scene in 'The Great Dictator' - a parody on the emergence of Hitler in Germany made by the legendary Charlie Chaplin - where the 'Dictator' makes all attempts to appear to be sitting on a higher pedestal vis-a-vis his guest/adversary. The special chair made by him for the stated purpose makes it possible for him to move up and down as desired. The hilarious scene ends up when the 'dictator' literally falls on the ground before his honourable guest.

One was reminded of this scene when news came in that a tallest statue in the memory of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is being built in the Western state of Gujarat at the behest of Narendra Modi, the Prime Ministerial candidate of BJP. According to the plan it will be double the size of ‘Statue of Liberty’ in the US (the height of the Statue of liberty is 93 meters) and four times higher than the statue of ‘Christ the Redeemer’ located in Rio De Janeiro. It is going to be built by Turner Construction of US which is reputed for building many famous and giant structures such as Burj Dubai, the Yankee Stadium of New York etc. The project cost is estimated to be Rs. 2500 crore and the consultancy fees of Turner itself will be to the tune of Rs. 61 Crores. Only a few days back the main opposition Party BJP organised 'Run for Unity' at hundreds of places across India wherein its top leaders also participated as part of its efforts to give this pet project of Mr Modi a big push.

Statue of Unity in comparison to some of the tallest statues in the world. Source:

We are being told that after this event, the members of the party as well as other volunteers of the 'Parivar' would reach out to people, communicating to them the 'importance of this project' and would collect iron from them which would supposedly be used in the construction of this upcoming monument. Looking at the fact that Sardar Patel happened to be a farmer, special emphasis would be paid towards them in this campaign and would be persuaded that they donate at least one iron tool for making the 25,000 tonne statue.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

[Public Meeting] Which Way Nepal?: A discussion on Recent Political Development

Which Way Nepal?: A discussion on Recent Political Development

Speakers: Prashant Jha (Senior Journalist and Commentator), Gautam Navlakha (Activist and Political commentator), Subhash Gatade (Activist, NSI and Author)

18th December; 5 pm onward; SPWD Conference Hall, 14 A Vishnu Digambar Jain Marg (Between Hindi Bhavan and Ajoy Bhavan), ITO, New Delhi

Background note: Recent developments in Nepal have baffled many. 

We have been witness to the near rout faced by the Maoists in the latest round of elections to the constituent assembly. They have come a poor third trailing far behind Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) It was only the year 2008 that Maoists, whose revolt was instrumental in the overthrow of Nepal's monarchy and Nepal's ushering into a secular republic, had emerged as the single largest party. The developments there had then electrified many - especially the revolutionary left - in this part of South Asia and there were high expectations from the novel experiment undertaken by them. Nobody expected that they would face rejection within such a short period.

There have been varied reactions to the developments there. While a section of the revolutionary left feels that such developments are a culmination of the abandonment of armed struggle by the Maoists, people who have been sympathetic to the cause espoused by the Maoists feel that it is a result of their internecine struggles which led to a split among its ranks coupled with the changed concerns and lifestyles of a section of its leadership.

Looking at the fact that the Nepalese experience has tremendous import for everyone associated with transformative politics we feel that the debate needs to be widened and deepened further. In fact, we feel that everyone concerned with building socialism in 21 st century, needs to revisit the experiment underway there and draw necessary lessons.

For facebook event page click here

AAP’s Rise and Congress Rout – Some Obvious but Unconventional Questions

- Sanjay Kumar

A Congress rout and the AAP success are the most obvious results of recent polls. Both are spectacular, in their own ways. Even BJP’s landslide victory in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh pales in comparison, for these two open up new possibilities.

Why a party whose legacy of anti-colonial struggle had lost sheen generations ago, whose top leadership is in the grip of a seemingly disinterested and incompetent dynasty, that lacks any organised cadre, coherent ideology, social base, and whose average leader appears more of a wheeler-dealer, and scamster, should continue to get close to thirty percent of votes from Indians even in worst of times, is a genuine mystery. That the Indian social analyses, barring a few exceptions, have tried little to unravel this mystery, is not only an indication of their intellectual limitations, but also of their ideological biases. The enduring success of Congress indicates seamier side of liberal democracy in general, which bourgeois social sciences try more to paper over than explore.

From voters’ perspective elections under liberal democracy are an exercise in choice, but not in freedom. When people vote, they are not acting as citizens shaping their social world, but as little men and women facing pre-existing structures of social power. The magic of elections under liberal democracy is precisely this. They offer a choice, the choice is not fake, its collective outcome is uncertain, yet the choice is already pre-determined in ways that by and large reproduce pre-existing power structures. That is why, exercising franchise is not necessarily a marker of democratic exercise, and leaders of fascist persuasion are often the loudest votaries of compulsory voting. But that is not all. If elections were mere gears in a machine that simply revolved on and on, they would be quickly become a ritual, like those under state socialism in which the Party and leaders always got more than 95% approvals. Elections under liberal democracy in contrast provide flexible adjustment of state political functionaries to changing social conditions. They allow reflection of changes in public opinion, demography, gender politics, caste equations and balance of class forces, whose origins lie somewhere else, onto state politics. Punctuated adjustment with a time lag produces a sense of drama. Personae on stage appear as victors and losers, for voters there is enough stage space to allow their hope, vengeance or gratitude to play their part. For a time, and only for a time, the impersonal structure of state power becomes humanly palpable.

However, it does not take long for the alienation to set in; which pollsters tick as the ‘anti-incumbency’ factor in their calculations. It is indeed an irony that while the regimes espousing ‘historical material forces’ made their leaders and Parties permanent fixtures post revolution, the dialectic of electoral politics in liberal regimes, with its rich play of human emotions and drama, is inherently impersonal. Leaders and parties fail and succeed by vote swings of low single digits involving fence sitters. Pundits routinely declare these as ‘harbinger of fundamental change’, emergence of a ’new voter’, etc. But the fact remains a certain class of issues rarely enter electoral arena. For instance, why do numerically minuscule rich have such an overwhelming influence over state policies? Why are persons of questionable morality voted in by so many ordinary folks? Why do people at large know so little about the business of running government? How come state in India has become so business friendly in the past decade, without voters actually being asked to vote on the issue? Answers to these questions point towards those enduring structures of power, which the system of elections does little to reveal. This is also why the drama of elections is mostly so shallow, and momentous victories like that of Janata Party in 1977, and of Congress after Indira Gandhi’s murder are quickly forgotten.

All of the above appears to be contradicted by the rise of AAP. Here is a party that has characterised the entire political class as corrupt, which has made its funding transparent, whose election cadre by and large are not careerists hoping for returns for their labour, but genuine volunteers, archetypal aam aadmis, aam aurats, they really went to the people, for instance while formulating constituency wise manifestos during mohalla meetings. In most aspects AAP’s electoral practice was opposite of established politics. Does not its success mean a fundamental shift, emergence of a new culture of politics with great possibilities?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

[Press Release] Big development in ongoing Copyright Row – Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation's registration refused by government order!

Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge (ASEAK) 

Press Release

In the on-going lawsuit filed by corporate publishers’ (OUP, CUP AND Taylor & Francis) in Delhi High Court against Delhi University and its licensed photocopying agency, Rameshwari Photocopy Services, to which students (ASEAK) and authors (SPEAK) are also defendants, the plaintiffs have been trying to make a case for Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation (IRRO), and arguing that licensing agreements issued by this body can enable ‘legally permissible’ use of copyrighted material. IRRO itself claims to be a society formed for issuing licences over copyright holding work, acting on behalf of ‘Owners of Copyright’. It also claims that their license is mandatory for all government/ private institutions, libraries, photocopy shops, etc.

In a significant move, the registration of IRRO was refused by Government of India. In a communication from Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) accessed by SpicyIP, a leading web platform on Intellectual Property in India, the registration was refused on grounds of IRRO not being able to comply with procedural requirements like mandatory General Body Meeting, etc. This is an important event in the light of the claims being made by the plaintiffs in this case.

Snoopgate and the Gujarat Model of Governance

- by India United Against Fascism

The Snoopgate story starts with the abduction and cold-blooded murder of an innocent young woman, who was framed as a terrorist by her killers [1]. One of them, G.L. Singhal, kept recordings of his telephone conversations with Minister of State for Home Amit Shah, in case he might need them to exonerate his own conduct. It is clips from these recorded conversations that were released by Gulail and Cobrapost. But the clips they released pertain not to the murder of Ishrat Jahan but to the surveillance of a young woman architect, whom they called Madhuri, over more than a month in 2009 [2].

The BJP’s panic at the release of these tapes is evident from the incoherence of their response. They released a statement, purportedly by the architect’s father, saying he had been anxious for her safety, since she had to commute at all hours between her hotel and the hospital in Ahmedabad where her mother was undergoing treatment. He had appealed to Chief Minister Narendra Modi to provide her with security, and Modi obliged [3].

Far from helping the BJP, this statement made matters worse for them. In the tapes, Shah only referred to the person on behalf of whom he was carrying out the surveillance as ‘saheb’, but the statement identified ‘saheb’ as Modi. Worse, by giving out the statement in the father’s real name, the BJP disclosed the architect’s identity to the media, thus violating her privacy and spurring further investigations.

Anyone listening to or reading a transcript of the tapes can make out immediately that the snooping is being done without the woman’s knowledge or consent. References to trying to ‘trap’ her and (repeatedly) to preventing her ‘escape’ make it clear that she neither knows about the spying nor wants it. The khap panchayat mentality of the BJP – including spokeswomen like Nirmala Sitharaman, Meenakshi Lekhi, Madhu Kishwar and Pinky Anand – was on full display when they openly justified a father requesting surveillance of an adult daughter without her knowledge or consent [4].

Sunday, December 8, 2013

प्रेस विज्ञप्ति - मध्यप्रदेश के संगठनों ने ‘‘साम्प्रदायिक और लक्षित हिंसा अधिनियम’’ को लेकर प्रधानमंत्री को भेजा सुझाव

(भोपाल- 7 दिसम्बर 2013 ) मध्यप्रदेश के धर्मनिरपेक्ष और प्रगतिशील संगठनों ने राष्ट्रीय सलाहकार समीति द्वारा तैयार प्रारुप ‘‘साम्प्रदायिक और लक्षित हिंसा (न्याय तक पहुँच और हानिपूर्ति ) अधिनियम 2011 को लेकर प्रधानमंत्री मनमोहन सिंह को सुझाव भेजा है। 

ज्ञात हो कि बाबरी मस्जिद विध्वंस की 21 वीं बरसी (6 दिसंबर 2013) को भोपाल के गांधी भवन स्थित ‘सर्व धर्म प्रेरणा स्थल’ में एक विचार सभा का आयोजन किया गया था। इस विचार सभा में भोपाल के जागरूक नागरिकों एवं संगठनों द्वारा साम्प्रदायिक हिंसा के खिलाफ ठोस कानून की जरुरत और राष्ट्रीय सलाहकार समीति द्वारा तैयार ‘‘साम्प्रदायिक और लक्षित हिंसा (न्याय तक पहुँच और हानिपूर्ति ) अधिनियम 2011’’के प्रारुप पर चर्चा की गइ थी। इस चर्चा के दौरान जो सुझाव निकल कर आये हैं उन्हें ही प्रधानमंत्री को भेजा गया है। 

बैठक में प्रमुखता से यह मांग निकल कर आयी कि केन्द्र सरकार ‘‘साम्प्रदायिक और लक्षित हिंसा (न्याय और पुनर्वास तक पहुँच) विधेयक 2011’’को राज्यसभा की वर्तमान सत्र में लाये ताकि इस पर संसद और समाज में चर्चा हो सके और आम सहमति बन सके। 

इस विचार सभा में सबसे पहले नस्लीय भेदभाव के खिलाफ और बराबरी के लिए लड़ने वाले महान नेता नेल्सन मंडेला को श्रद्वांजलि दी गई थी। 

चर्चा के दौरान राष्ट्रीय सेक्युलर मंच के एल.एस.हरदेनिया ने कहा कि विधेयक अभी संसद के सामने पहुँचा भी नहीं कि इसके खिलाफ यह दुष्प्रचार शुरू हो गया है कि यह विधेयक भारतीय समाज को बहुसंख्यक और अल्पसंख्यक दो भागों में बांट देगा। यह दुष्प्रचार उन्हीं के द्वारा किया जा रहा है जो नफरत की राजनीति करते हैं। लेकिन यह विधेयक बहुसंख्यकों के विरुद्व नहीं है बल्कि यह राज्य की मशीनरों को अल्पसंख्यकों और सामाजिक रूप से कमजोर तबकों के लिए संवेदनशील और जवाबदेह बनाने की पहल है। 

भारत ज्ञान विज्ञान समिति की आशा मिश्रा ने कहा कि भारत का संविधान धर्मनिरपेक्षता और अपने सभी नागरिकों को सुरक्षा की गारंटी देता है। साम्प्रदायिकता एक राष्ट्रीय मुद्दा है और पिछले तमाम अनुभव बताते हैं कि साम्प्रदायिक हिंसा से निपटने, दोषियों को सजा देने और पीडि़तों को उचित एंव पर्याप्त मुआवजा दिलाने का काम केवल राज्यों के भरोसे नही छोड़ा जा सकता है। इसलिए जरुरी है कि भारत के किसी भी क्षेत्र में होने वाले साम्प्रदायिक हिंसा की जवाबदेही राज्य और केन्द्र सरकार दोनों की हो। 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

When is a Collective? An Address to High School Students

- Ravi Sinha

Editors' Note: Below is the text of a talk that the author gave to High School students of Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, New Delhi. The students had, surprisingly, chosen "collective" as the theme for their Annual Day activities and invited the author to address them on this theme. We thought it might be of interest to grown ups too.

It is unusual for school students to be worrying about the “collective”. But, then, yours seems to be an unusual school. When I was here the last time, you were pondering the “continuum”. I find it truly remarkable. To grapple with issues and concepts that are deeply philosophical and at the same time of immense practical value – and doing so at a young age – is an ingredient that goes into the making of great civilizations. In a world that seems to revel in everything that is crass and commercial, and in a country that appears like a continent of cacophony and shallowness, this is not expected of you. You and your teachers must be congratulated for swimming against the tide. 

Collective is something that falls between a collection and the composite. There is ample space between these two categories, and where exactly does a collective fall in this space depends on what kind of collective we are talking about. But let us first talk a bit about the endpoints of this space. 

A collection can be gathering together of arbitrary and distinct elements as in a mathematical set. A set comprising of a frog, a princess, a pencil and a magic wand will qualify as a collection. A collection can also be of identical but distinct elements. A collection of four identical horses pulling Raja Dasharath’s chariot – or ten identical horses pulling King Solomon’s chariot – is also a collection, although you could also call it a team of horses. You may notice that we are already shifting from the concept of an arbitrary collection, although you would still not say that the chariot is being pulled by a collective of horses. 

A composite, on the other hand, is like a diamond or like a bucket of water. The tightly bound crystal of carbon atoms – otherwise known as diamond – makes it impossible for the atoms to assert their individuality. Similarly, the molecules of water, each comprising of two hydrogen atoms and one of oxygen, make a bucket of water only by losing their individuality. Diamond is not a carbon collective, nor is water an H2O collective. 

Humans are very different from horses and certainly very different from atoms and molecules. They should not be harnessed into chariots, nor should they be nailed or dissolved into a composite humanity in a manner that they lose their freedom and individuality. Unfortunately, humans are yet to attain such a simple and eminently reasonable goal. For a vast majority of them, being harnessed into exploitative and unjust systems has been their fate. Of course, systems have changed – generally for the better, although sometime for the worse – and seen over a long span of history the reins of the harness have loosened somewhat. But, being harnessed into the chariot of someone else is still the fate of a vast majority. Similarly, they are still tethered to oppressive customs and traditions. Dissolution of individuals into communities that submerge identities and enforce myriad forms of unfreedom remains the fate for a large majority of humans. 

This morning I wish to make an argument – and hope to convince some of you, if not all – that collectives have played an important role in weakening the reins of oppression and unfreedom and the desirable collectives of the future will play an even more effective role in humanity’s march to collective prosperity and individual freedom. 

But I should not run ahead of myself. We should first try to draw a map of the conceptual terrain covered by the word collective. We started delineating its boundaries by referring to collections and composites. We will stay at the boundaries for a while before moving in to the central meaning and in this process we will hopefully uncover some of the tensions within this concept that endow it with richness and power.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

आउटलुक में प्रकाशित राकेश सिन्हा के लेख का जवाब - "संघ के बारे में अध्यन करने को लेकर डर किसी और का नहीं बल्कि संघ का ही है"

जावेद अनीस

सन्दर्भ -आउटलुक नवम्बर( 2013) के कालम “अभिमत” में प्रकाशित राकेश सिन्हा का लेख “संघ के बारे में अध्यन से डर कैसा”

आउटलुक हिंदी के नवम्बर  2013 के अंक
 में प्रकाशित राकेश सिन्हा का लेख 
आउटलुक नवम्बर( 2013) के कालम अभिमत में प्रकाशित लेख “संघ के बारे में अध्यन से डर कैसा” में राकेश सिन्हा जी इस बात को लेकर बहुत चिंतित हो रहे हैं की देश के विश्वविद्यालयों में संघ पर अध्यन नहीं किया जा रहा है .

दरअसल उनकी चिंता बहुत ही उचित है लेकिन सकंट यह है की संघ की पृकृति एक फासीवादी संगठन की है और कोई भी फासीवादी संगठन अपनी आलोचना बर्दास्त नही करता हैं। इसलिए अकादमीक क्षेत्र में किसी की हिम्मत नही पड़ती है कि उस पर अध्ययन करैं . अगर अध्ययन करेगें और उसमें जरा सा भी निष्पक्ष आलोचना हो गयी तो तो संघ व उसके तमाम संगठन शोघकर्ता,शोध कराने वाले गाईड और विष्वविधालय के पीछे पड़ जायेंगें । 

संघ पर कई अच्छे अध्ययन हुए हैं,जिसमें इटली की लेखिका मारिया कासोलारी का शोध लेख ‘हिंदुत्वाज़ फ़ौरन टाइ-अप इन द थर्टीज़’ बहुत ही महत्त्वपूर्ण है, जो की इकॉनोमिक एंड पॉलिटिकल वीकली 22 जनवरी, 2000 के अंक में प्रकाशित हो चूका है। लेख के अनुसार 1930 के दशक में जब आर.एस.एस. अपने संगठन को मजबूत बनाने की योजनाएँ बनाने में लगा था, इनके शीर्ष नेता वास्तव में इटली में जाकर मुसोलिनी से मिले, उसकी सेनाओं की प्रशिक्षण-पद्धति को जाना-समझा तथा यहाँ भारत में वापिस आकर उसी पद्धति को लागू करने का प्रयास किया। शोध लेख के अनुसार संगठन का कोई संविधान नहीं है; इसके लक्ष्य और उद्देश्यों को कभी स्पष्ट रूप से परिभाषित नहीं किया गया। आम लोगों को सामान्यतः बताया जाता है कि इसका उद्देश्य केवल शारीरिक प्रशिक्षण है, लेकिन असली उद्देश्य आरएसएस के आम सदस्यों को भी नहीं बताए जाते। केवल ‘अंदरूनी हलकों’ को ही विशवास मैं लिया जाता है।

राकेश जी के इस बात को लेकर भी में पूरी तरह सहमत हूँ की संघ और राजनीति को लेकर बहस पूरानी है। राजनीति को प्रभावित करना और किसी चुनावी राजनीतिक संगठन के द्वारा राजनीति और व्यवस्था पर नियंत्रित करने की महत्वकांक्षा में बहुत फर्क होता है। अगर सांस्कृतिक संगठन का तात्पर्य झाल मंजीरा बजाने वाला संगठन ना होना है तो इसका तात्पर्य यह भी है कि आप सीधे तौर पर यह ना तय करने लगें की किसी एक पार्टी का अध्यक्ष व प्रधानमंत्री कौन होगा ! दरअसल संघ कभी सांस्कृतिक संगठन रहा ही नही । संघ विशुद्ध रुप से एक राजनैतिक संगठन हे और भाजपा उसका चुनावी (राजनीतिक) संगठन है। यद्यपि आरएसएस प्रत्यक्ष रूप से राजनीति में भाग नहीं लेता व इसलिए औपचारिक या तकनीकी अर्थ में उसे राजनैतिक पार्टी नहीं कहा जा सकता, परंतु व्यावहारिक तौर पर संघ और राजनैतिक दलों में कोई विशेष अंतर नहीं है। संघ की गतिविधियां किसी राजनैतिक संगठन जैसी ही हैं। भाजपा और उसके पूर्ववर्ती अवतार जनसंघ का निर्माण संघ ने इसलिए किया था ताकि वे उसकी ओर से चुनावी राजनीति में भाग ले सकें। जनसंघ और भाजपा उन दर्जनों संगठनों में से हैं जिन्हें संघ ने समाज के विभिन्न क्षेत्रों में अपने संदेश को फैलाने और अपने लक्ष्य की प्राप्ति के लिए गठित किया है। संघ अपने वरिष्ठ पदाधिकारियों को इन संगठनों में डेप्यूटेशन पर भेजता है और उनके हुक्म पर ही ये संगठन चलते हैं!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Book Review: Lazy Stereotypes of an Uninspired Mind

Kishalay Bhattacharjee, Che in Paona Bazaar, Macmillan, 2013, Rs 399, pp. 241

- By Soibam Haripriya

Paona Bazaar lies in the heart of Imphal, Manipur. One can describe this place by its proximity to Bir Tikendrajit Road which had seen the infamous fake encounter case in July 2009. In fact many of the landmarks of the town would tell a story of it being part of a constellation of political violence. Che, I would presume, needs no introduction here. The attempt here is to understand this curious juxtaposition of ‘Che’ and ‘Paona Bazaar’ as seen through the lens of a media practitioner. The book ‘Che in Paona Bazaar’ largely discusses (but not exclusively) two states –Manipur and Nagaland – of what is unproblematically called the North-east. These two states are not only connected by a common border but also bsy it falling in the category of ‘disturbed area’. The infamous Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 has been in place in these states, it is often argued that the enactment of this act is partly related to the peculiar and coerced manner in which these states become a part of the Indian Union. One would therefore expect some amount of nuanced understanding which captures the complexities from a book that claims to deal with the region.

This work of non-fiction with a fictional protagonist whom the writer claims as ‘not representative of any community or culture’ is named Eshei (Meiteilon word for Song) which is a dead giveaway. She is a typical native informant in the book that reminds the reader of dated anthropological writings. The book is to a large extent a narrative mediated through Eshei. The writer does not shy away from beginning the book with racial stereotypes that abounds in the mainstream Indian imagination of the so-called Northeast. The oldest armed group in Manipur – UNLF – mentioned in the initial pages of the book is referred to as ‘working towards a unification of Mongoloid armed groups’, is just one of many such unabashed stereotypes. Comparing cultures on the basis of exotic curiosities –for example, comparing Manipuri and Korean culture based on the practice of putting family name before given name; comparing Sanamahism to Shamanism. Perhaps meant to be amusing, but rather than being funny it ends up carelessly taking down a language especially as in one sentence the protagonist’s fetish for Moreh bras is strangely morphed into its seeming importance among a whole community. Unbelievable as it might sound; the author states that bra (brassiere) is an important word among the Meiteis due to the interrogative pronoun ‘bra’ suffixed at the end of a query.

Moreh, the border town, described as a Manipuri Malgudi in the book of course is a terribly wrong metaphor. Using the metaphor of Moreh being a Manipuri Malgudi, the writer was not even romanticising the town but describing the dirt, grit, ‘prostitution’ and smuggling of drugs which is typical of many border towns in conflict zones across the globe. The book is splattered with pomposity that the author showers upon himself, if the name of the book ‘Che in Paona Bazaar’ itself is not enough indication of that, sample these sentences – ‘my ‘motorcycle diaries’ brought me to Paona Bazaar’; ‘I was the Pirate of Paona Bazaar’! In the start of the book itself the writer expresses his disdain for one of his native informant as he had to do his own research, he seem to want everything on a platter and does not shy away from expressing this. This is one of the kinder expressions he uses; he describes people scathingly leaving enough hints to identify the people populating his book. Even a superficial analysis of the choice of qualifiers used in the book reveals much. For instance, Manorama Devi (though her name is not given it is impossible to miss out on the clues) is described as an explosives expert but she was allegedly raped. Allegedly raped? What about her real murder? The protests that ensued after the rape and murder of Manorama Devi have been offhandedly described as creating ‘another stereotype of naked protests’. One is at a loss as to what the statement is supposed to mean. Did it lead to a chain of naked protests throughout the country? No. Does the country recognise rape of men and women in peripheral states by the armed forces? No. Or did he mean that yet another stereotype has been added to those currently proliferating on the northeast? A second or a third reading does not make this clear either.

What is worst than this racial stereotype interspersed in the writing is the lack of any nuanced political understanding of the region from someone who was at the helm of news from the ‘North-east’ as a Resident Editor for a national news channel. In a rather bizarre juxtaposition he narrates two incidents together – the protest by women who stripped themselves outside the headquarters of Assam Rifles; and another incident six months later where a ‘Meitei girl’ ‘made love to a young army officer’ inside the headquarters of the Assam Rifles. The former was a protest by women, now known as ‘nude protest’, against the rape and murder of Manorama Devi by the Assam Rifles: a protest which also demanded the repeal of AFSPA (though mentioned nowhere in the book). It is unsettling to see the two incidents being described in the same paragraph –protest against a rape where the woman was killed and had gun-shot wounds in her vagina and a woman making love to an army officer.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Condolence Meeting: In Memory of Omprakash Valmiki

New Socialist Initiative (NSI)

Requests you to attend the condolence meeting

 In Memory of Omprakash Valmiki

Anita Bharati (Writer and Activist)
Pallav (Academic and editor of Banaas Magazine)
Ajay Navaria (Academic and Hindi story writer)

5 pm, Thursday, 28th November, 2013
Indian Women's Press Corp (IWPC), 5 Windsor Place, Ashoka Road (Near Le Meridian Hotel), New Delhi

Om Prakash Valmiki who, with his path breaking literary piece in the form of his autobiography 'Joothan' started a new trend in Hindi literature, passed away away recently. 

With his collections of stories such as 'Salaam', 'Ghuspethiya', his collections of poetry 'Sadiyon ka Santaap', 'Bas! Bahut Ho Chuka', 'Ab Aur Nahi', and his critical writings 'Dalit Sahitya Ka Soundarya Shastra', 'Mukhya Dhara Aur Dalit Sahitya', 'Safai Devata' etc., he gave voice to the pains of the oppressed and the downtrodden classes who have been underprivileged for centuries, their strong will to live and their determination. He was unwell for some time and had made it through a successful surgery related to cancer last year. We all were hoping that Om Prakash Valmiki would fully recover to be with us and continue his creative interventions.

New Socialist Initiative is organizing a condolence meeting in his remembrance on Thursday, 28th November, 5 pm at Indian Women’s Press Cops (IWPC). We hope that you will be a part of it and share his memories with all of us.
+91- 9868940920, +91-8860304908

Friday, November 22, 2013

The World is Taking a Left Turn

- Shobhan Saxena

Camila Vallejo. Photo: The Guardian
Camila Vallejo is not a typical Communist. Young, educated, fashionably unfashionable and middle-class, Vallejo is a Chilean Communist who likes to tweet several times a day. In 2011, Vallejo made headlines in this part of the world when she led tens of thousands of angry students demanding free and better public education in the wealthiest country in Latin America, whose incumbent president is a billionaire businessman.

On Sunday, Vallejo was elected to Chilean Congress as the country voted to elect a new president, deputies and senators. Three other former student leaders, running on Communist Party tickets or as independents, also got elected. “We're going to celebrate our triumph on the streets of La Florida,” Vallejo said on Twitter, referring to a district in Santiago, the capital city from where she got elected.

In 2011, Vallejo and her comrades had rocked the streets of Santiago with so much force that it shook the government of Sebastián Piñera, and set the tone for the presidential election. On Sunday, the impact of those raging demonstrations became clear. Running on the promise of taxing the rich and providing free education and health to everyone, Michelle Bachelet emerged winner in the first round.

Chilean Students' Uprising, 2011. Photo: Villagelearning
With the billionaire president pushing for more free-market economy since he came to power in 2010 and the income inequality rising across the country, the message from the Chilean street was clear: reform or perish. People demanded more public spending and less privileges for the rich. Bachelet and other politicians got the message coming from the street. While Bachelet got 47 per cent votes on Sunday, two other candidates – more leftist than her – got 10 per cent votes each. In total, the left managed around 70 pe rcent of the votes in the wealthiest country in entire Latin America.

Similar messages are emerging from the streets – and ballot boxes – of other wealthy countries. Last week, in the Seattle City Council election, Kshama Sawant, the founder of Socialist Alternative, defeated the Democratic Party’s Richard Conlin. Asking the voters to look beyond the “two parties of big business”, Sawant pushed a $15 dollar an hour minimum wage for all workers in Seattle and promised to tax big corporations.

As expected, the big corporations tried to coerce Sawant into changing her stand on economic issues. But she didn’t give in. When the Boeing group threatened to move jobs out of state, if it didn't get tax breaks and wage concessions, Sawant said, “If they insisted on doing this, it will be nothing short of economic terrorism.”

In this battle between a Socialist and big corporations, which were all bankrolling the Democratic and Republican candidate, the people of Seattle sided with the candidate who promised more public spending, better wages, tax on the rich and less income inequality.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Atonement is Insufficient: The Rule of Law Must Prevail

“NWMI demands institutional redress of sexual harassment and assault”

Recent developments at the weekly news magazine Tehelka demonstrate that media houses have a long way to go in ensuring safety for women media professionals.

A journalist working with Tehelka revealed that she was sexually assaulted by the editor, Tarun Tejpal, on two occasions on 7 and 8 November 2013. The repeated harassment and assault over two days took place during Tehelka’s “Think” festival in Goa where the journalist was carrying out her professional duties. While Tarun Tejpal is purportedly “atoning” for what he terms “an error of judgement” by stepping down as editor for six months, we believe that this is simply not enough. Institutional mechanisms must be set in place to investigate the complaint of sexual assault, prosecute the perpetrator, and deal with future cases.

Sexual harassment of women journalists at the workplace is not new. The NWMI has issued several statements over the years in response to specific cases but also calling upon all media houses to comply with the law, which has been in existence since the Vishaka Guidelines were issued by the Supreme Court of India in 1997. There has been plenty of time and opportunity for media houses to establish the necessary mechanisms, as required by the law.

More recently, the Sexual Harassment at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, which was signed into law on 22 April, is a significant civil remedy that recognises women’s right to a safe work environment free of sexual harassment. The onus is on the employer, who is responsible for ensuring such an environment and is to be held liable in case of any violations. If the complainant wishes to pursue criminal prosecution, the employer is also duty bound to assist her in doing so.

In this case it appears that Tarun Tejpal’s actions go beyond sexual harassment and fall under the definition of sexual assault, according the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.

More and more courageous women are speaking out about sexual harassment at the workplace, by judges, politicians, and senior journalists. It is high time that mechanisms were put in place, as required under the law, to ensure that the rule of law operates and perpetrators are brought to justice. Recent experiences in Sun TV, Doordarshan and All India Radio, to name just a few, revealed that not only private media organisations but even the state/public broadcasters were not compliant with the law.

The NWMI demands that media houses across the country comply with the law by setting up sexual harassment complaints and redressal committees within the workplace that include at least one member external to the organisation with relevant knowledge and experience in dealing with such matters. It should be noted that the internal complaints mechanism is to be set up and its existence made known to all employees irrespective of whether or not a complaint has been made or is anticipated. Compliance with the law is the very least that mediawomen expect of the media which are, after all, supposed to be the watchdogs of society.

Rose Petals for Terrorists, Saropas for Hatemongers

- Subhash Gatade

Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana. Photo: Amarujala
The Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP will honour its legislators accused of inciting communal violence in Muzaffarnagar at a rally to be addressed by Narendra Modi in Agra on Thursday.

The BJP’s legislators in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana, were jailed in September after the stringent National Security Act was imposed on them for their alleged role in the Muzaffarnagar riots…Mr Som, accused of uploading a video on his Facebook wall which reportedly sparked communal tension in the area, was arrested in Meerut on September 21. He is also facing allegations of having made inflammatory speeches.Mr Rana was arrested from Lucknow on September 20 for his alleged role in stoking the violence which left over 60 people dead and rendered more than 40,000 homeless.
                                                  - NDTV


It was a gathering not much reported outside the Hindutva laboratory. After their humiliating defeat at the hustings at the centre (Year 2004) it was the first meeting of its kind which witnessed coming together of many stalwarts of the Sangh Parivar to felicitate one among them. One could see all the big names of the Parivar hierarchy— the ex deputy PM L.K.Advani, Narendra Modi and the likes of Togadias and Singhals, and a galaxy of saffron robed sadhus. The programme held in Ahmedabad to felicitate Prof Keka Shastry, VHP leader and a well-known writers’ entering the centenary year seemed an ideal occasion for them to air their views in Gujarat.

Whatever may be the pluses and minuses of Prof. Keka Shastry’s literary works, the rest of India had learnt of this gentleman only in the aftermath of Gujarat carnage. It was through one of his interviews to the people ( ‘It had to be done, VHP leader says of riots’, Sheela Bhatt, 12 March 2002) that people heard how things unfolded in an organized way after the Godhra incident. The interview was an admission for the first time by the Hindutva brigade of their direct role in the carnage which officially saw over 2,000 deaths, uprooting of lakhs of people from their homes and hearth and loss of hope and peace for millions of people. Rarely had one come across an interview so direct and so chilling.

He told the correspondent that “[t]he list of shops owned by Muslims in Ahmedabad was prepared on the morning of 28 February itself.” In the tape recorded interview he said, “In the morning we sat down and prepared the list. We were not prepared in advance.” When the correspondent asked him why they did it, he responded “It had to be done, it had to be done. We don’t like it, but we were terribly angry…” When the correspondent asked him how he, a scholar and littérateur could condone the burning of innocents, he responded: “The youngsters have done some things which we don’t like. We don’t support it. But we can’t condemn it because they are our boys.” He added for good measure “We don’t believe that the boys have done anything wrong, because this was the result of an outburst….We needed to do something.” The interview had also explained the inactivity of the police in simple terms by underlining that “they feared death” and “some of them were Hindus who thought “Let the mob do whatever it wants.” While situation could get aggravated and bigger riots were possible.

There is no doubt that if the Parivar people would not have been in power this ‘literary’ figure would have been hauled up and put behind bars for “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language” etc. and for “acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony ( Section 153-A, IPC)”, or “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class, by insulting its religion or religious beliefs (Section 295-A,IPC) “, or “ uttering words, etc with deliberate intent to wound religious feeling (Section 298, IPC)”, or similar other provisions which have clearly laid down punishment for offences committed under such acts. But he was not even called to the police station to explain his utterances. He seemed putting it in black and white what others of his ilk were implementing through this ‘successful experiment.’

While Keka Shastry is long dead, the basic idea to ‘honour’ such elements seems to have caught on in circles in this part of South Asia whose politics is based on hate and exclusion. If we have Hindutva supremacists on this side of the border felicitating the Keka Shastris, Islamists fundamentalists on that side of the border honouring the Qadris, Buddhists extremists in adjoining countries glorifying their Wirathus or the fanatics of the Bondu Bala Sene.

Rose petals for fanatics and bullets for saner voices seem to be becoming the new norm.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kshama Sawant: The Socialist City Council Member in the Belly of the Beast

- Josh Eidelson

On November 5, Seattle voters made Occupy activist and economics professor Kshama Sawant the first avowed socialist city council member in their city’s history – and the country’s first big city socialist council member in decades. The “Socialist Alternative” insurgent, has unseated four-term incumbent Richard Conlin, with the latest batch of mail-in ballots nearly tripling Sawant’s lead to 1,148 votes. 

The Sawant victory comes exactly 97 years after Seattle voters put their first outspoken radical into office, Seattle School Board member Anna Louise Strong. Strong would write about the Wobblies, oppose U.S. entry into World War I and eventually end her days in China, where she was on friendly terms with Mao Zedong.

Following Sawant's victory the right wing conservative propaganda machinery has already started to spin out anti-socialist hysteria. On the 14th of November Josh Eidelson of the web portal Salon spoke to Kshama Sawant, below is a condensed version of the conversation:

It appears you’re on the cusp of winning a major city’s council race as a socialist. How did that happen?

I think the basis for everything that’s happening in Seattle, and everywhere else, is the fallout of the economic crisis … In Seattle, we are seeing a city that is very wealthy but is very unequal, and has become unaffordable for the vast majority of people …

Along with our [state Legislature] campaign last year and [city council] this year, we’ve seen a movement towards $15 an hour through the fast food movement … workers have courageously gone out on one-day strikes … The workers of [nearby airport city] SeaTac and the labor movement, they put a $15 an hour minimum wage initiative on the ballot for SeaTac city, and that is now leading …

All of this is happening in the cauldron of the economic crisis and the burden placed on the shoulders of working people … The conditions that shape people’s consciousness in Seattle are not different from anywhere else. And in fact, there is a deep frustration and disgust with the political system … This is the background in which our campaign has had a resounding echo.

After the 2008 financial crash, were you disappointed that there wasn’t more of a left turn in U.S. policy at the national level?

I think it’s been it’s been demoralizing for the left for a while. But at the same time, I think what we’re seeing is a slow but steady change, and the Occupy movement was a really significant expression of the disenchantment from the system that we knew that everybody was feeling…

In the absence of movements, especially mass movements, people tend to feel atomized, and everybody is privately thinking that “the system is not working for me.” The Occupy movement, what it did was it ended that silence and people were more openly talking about the economic crisis, the fact that the banks got bailed out and the rest of us were left with unemployment, low-wage jobs, and an epidemic of foreclosures and evictions. So I think, contrary to what people thought…It’s really been a period where newer, small but new movements are starting to rise up. There’s been the Occupy Homes campaign in Minnesota, which has actually prevented several foreclosures…And there’s been sort of initial eruptions of the environmental movement.

…Now, what [the] Left has to do is to recognize that there is an opening here, there is a hunger among people in the United States, especially young people, young working people…In reality, what has become a dirty word is capitalism. Young people can see that the system does not offer any solutions. They can see that a two-party system is not working for them. But what is the alternative? We have to provide the alternative…

Boeing workers…rejected this contract that has been forced on them by Boeing executives [who are] holding the state hostage to their demands…Every few years Boeing demands a massive corporate giveaway from the state, and the state each time gives into it – and this is a Democratic governor of the state who was leading this effort. For Boeing workers, it’s very clear that neither of the two parties is going to stand by them. And so the signal that it sends to the labor movement is that we have to have our own political organization.

Monday, November 18, 2013

श्रद्वांजलि: ओमप्रकाश वाल्मीकि (1950-2013)

- सुभाष गाताड़े 

1997 में आयी वह आत्मकथा ‘‘जूठन’’ आते ही चर्चित हुई थी। उस वक्त एक सीमित दायरे में ही उसके लेखक ओमप्रकाश वाल्मिकी का नाम जाना जाता था। मगर हिन्दी जगत में किताब का जो रिस्पान्स था, जिस तरह अन्य भाषाओं में उसके अनुवाद होने लगे, उससे यह नाम दूर तक पहुंचने में अधिक वक्त नहीं लगा। यह अकारण नहीं था कि इक्कीसवीं सदी की पहली दहाई के मध्य में वह किताब अंग्रेजी में अनूदित होकर कनाडा तथा अन्य देशों के विश्वविद्यालयों के पाठयक्रम में शामिल की गयी थी।

उपरोक्त आत्मकथा ‘‘जूठन’ का वह प्रसंग शायद ही कोई भूला होगा, जब सुखदेव त्यागी के घर हो रही अपनी बेटी की शादी के वक्त अपमानित की गयी उस नन्हे बालक (स्वयं ओमप्रकाशजी) एवं उसकी छोटी बहन माया की मां ‘उस रात गोया दुर्गा’ बनी थी और उसने त्यागी को ललकारा था और एक ‘शेरनी’ की तरह वहां से अपनी सन्तानों के साथ निकल गयी थी। कल्पना ही की जा सकती है कि जिला मुजफ्फरनगर के एक गांव में – जो 21 वीं सदी की दूसरी दहाई में भी वर्चस्वशाली जातियों की दबंगई और खाप पंचायतों की मनमानी के लिए कुख्यात है – आज से लगभग साठ साल पहले इस बग़ावत क्या निहितार्थ रहे होंगे। उनकी मां कभी त्यागी के दरवाजे नहीं गयी।

इस नन्हे बालक के मन पर अपनी अनपढ़ मां की यह बग़ावत – जो वर्णसमाज के मानवद्रोही निज़ाम के तहत सफाई के पेशे में मुब्तिला थी और उस पेशे की वजह से ही लांछन का जीवन जीने के लिए अभिशप्त थी – गोया अंकित हो गयी, जिसने उसे एक तरह से तमाम बाधाओं को दूर करने का हौसला दिया।

उस नन्हे बालक का वह दर्द हमेशा उनके साथ रहा इसलिए एक कविता में उन्होंने लिखा था

‘तुम्हारी महानता मेरे लिए स्याह अंधेरा है,,
मैं जानता हूं,/मेरा दर्द तुम्हारे लिए चींटी जैसा/ और तुम्हारा अपना दर्द पहाड़ जैसा
इसलिए, मेरे और तुम्हारे बीच/ एक फासला है/जिसे लम्बाई में नहीं/समय से नापा जाएगा। (जूता)

1997 में प्रकाशित अपनी इस आत्मकथा से बहुचर्चित हुए ओमप्रकाश वाल्मिकी – जिन्होंने अपने विविधतासम्पन्न रचनासंसार से एक नयी ज़मीन तोड़ी – उनका पिछले दिनों इन्तक़ाल हुआ। पिछले लगभग एक साल से उनके अस्वस्थ्य होने के समाचार मिल रहे थे। उनकी आंत का सफल आपरेशन भी हुआ था, मगर फिर तबीयत तेजी से बिगड़ी। और देहरादून के मैक्स अस्पताल में उन्होंने अन्तिम सांस ली।

Poverty Reduction in Post Reform Era: Myths and Reality

- Kishore Jha

In July 2013 Planning Commission came out with data that showed sharp reduction in poverty in the last seven-eight years. According to its data, population living below poverty line has declined from 37.2% in 2004-05 to 21.9% in 2011-12. Pro-liberalization economist and politicians are giving credit to policies of economic reforms for this sharp decline.

Some economists and journalists, who defend the process of economic liberalization, often argue that economic reforms have helped poverty reduction in the country and India would have achieved much more in this field, had it started economic reforms in the 1970s. They argue that poverty in India has reduced at a higher rate in the era of economic reforms and India could never have achieved this in the pre-reform period with 2% or 3 % “Hindu growth rate”.

In other words they are saying that policies in Liberalization Privatization and Globalization (LPG) era have helped in reducing poverty at a much higher rate which did not happen earlier. Their claims call for looking at poverty reduction statistics in the pre and post reform periods.

It is difficult to find a single source that has comparative data of poverty reduction between 1947 to 2102 as there is no study that has collected data across decades using the same method. 

What is available is the following data from the Planning Commission and World Bank which suggests that there is no drastic reduction in poverty in post reform period, despite popular belief.
Planning Commission


39.1 %
37 %
27 %

World Bank

38 %
34 %

If one examines the above data, poverty reduced from 56.4 % to 39 .1% between 1974 and 1988 (pre reform period) as per Planning Commission data. This means that there was a 17.4 % drop in poverty rate in 14 years which translates into almost 1.25 % every year.

If we look into the data between 1988 and 2000 from the same source (12 years of post reform period), poverty rate came down from 39.1 % to 27 %. This translates into a 12.9% drop in 12 years or almost 1 % per year.