Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Making the Steam Roll: A Personal Narrative of a Locoman

- Dharampal / Comrade Burmee  

I came to India on January 8, 1965 as an Indian repatriate from Burma. My friends call me Burmee as I came from Burma. The coup took place in Burma in 1962 and every bit of business was nationalized. 

Every businessmen left for home in the evening after closing his shop or establishment. (There was not a single factory in my birthplace Tannggyi, the capital of Southern Shan State). One day in 1962, when the shopkeepers returned to open their shops, they found to their astonishment that two military personnel were on guard at their shops and they were asked to hand over the keys. It was announced that everything was nationalized and nobody, not even the Burmese nationals, have the right to run any business. 

The bazaars and eatery shops were allowed to run as before as it involved no direct business but were dependent on traders to buy their stuff, prepare it and sell. 

The same day the currency was changed and the entire nation was in a fix and all were finding it very hard to digest but there was no rebellion. Everything was accepted as Gods’ will. 

My parents had settled in Burma in late 1920s and I was the youngest in my family. My elder brothers and sisters could not get proper education because of the War. They were unable to settle in one place. 

I was born after the second world war and my parents were able to send me to proper convent school, St. Anne’s Convent High School, run by Italian missionaries. My entire schooling up to matriculation was done in this school. I was in first year of college when I was refused the citizenship though I was born there and was a state football player. 

Though no one was asked to leave the country, people started leaving the country for their countries of origin like India, Pakistan, Thailand, Australia and other countries. In the same way my parents thought of sending me to India as they thought my future in Burma was very dim. 

I joined the Railways when the transition from steam to diesel and again to electric locomotive engines was taking place. More importantly, I am also one of those railway workers who has not only been a witness to, but has been actively involved in the most glorious and militant period of labour politics in India. 

I was appointed as a loco cleaner on March 3, 1965 in Old Delhi loco shed. Though the duties of loco cleaner was to clean the steam locos, rubbing the engines, to collecting the token from the time keeper. The job was almost like a contract work. Once a group of cleaners had gathered, a jamadar would distribute the work to everyone. The other part of the engine to be cleaned meticulously was the smoke box from the wastes that had gathered there. But apart from merely cleaning it we had to make it shine too, and because of my English language skills I was put to work as a telephone attendant. After sometime I was asked to work as coal checker. My work was to note the amount of coal in tonnes in the incoming trains, to keep a record of the loaded coal etc. For almost three years I continued this job. 

In January 1968 I was transferred to Tughlakabad (TKD). I was allotted a quarter at the railway colony in TKD. My quarter was very close to my heart for many reasons. My entire working period as a fireman, Diesel Assistant, trade unionist, political activist, happened during my stay there. The best part is that I met my lifelong friends there. Hard work apart, I enjoyed my days off, always involving myself with one activity or the other. At times I went to workers colony, where many of the firemen and drivers whom we used to call Purabias because of their specific local dialects, stayed. I still am not clear to which part of India do they belonged to. Usually they would prepare a chillum (a pipe to smoke marijuana) and sing songs in their own language which I used to enjoy. I still remember a few lines. On other days I used to sit along with my colleagues and over a peg or two and sing Ghalib or Cliff Richard. Because of my Burmese background I still could not write Hindi. I could only speak it. In order to sing Ghalib’s poetry I used to write it in Roman English, understand the meanings and the pronunciation and then sing. For me life without music is just not possible. 

Once in a month I used to take my family for a movie or trade fair or whatever outing was possible. At times I used to go to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and spend the night with my student activist friends. I happened to read Zola’s Germinal and to my surprise the Railway Colony was almost the same. The abuses, the quarrels, the fights among the workers were the same. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

[Action alert] Protest Against Sexual Violence and Misogynistic Police Force

Join the Protest Against Sexual Violence and Misogynistic Indian Police Force. Organised by Women’s Organisations along with other Progressive Organisations and Individuals. Monday 22nd  April 2013 at 12.30 pm at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.

Since the December 2012 gang rape case in Delhi, many cases of violence against women and girl are being reported with frightening regularity. The shocking incident of sexual assault and brutalization of the 5 year old girl in Delhi and that of the 6 year old girl raped and murdered in Aligarh are the two recent ones that have been reported. Over and over again, the police has failed to discharge its duties and has proved itself to be corrupt, ineffective and often violent.

In case after case, women, their relatives and supporters continue to be harassed and those protesting inaction of the police are being thrashed. In the Delhi case, we protest the calculated delay in filing an FIR, attempt at bribing the family and the audacity in assaulting the woman protester. We also protest the physical violence perpetrated by the police in Aligarh on women protestors, as well as the insensitive remarks of the SSP (Aligarh), Amit Pathak about the little girl who was murdered. Suspending police personnel is mere eyewash and NOT enough! We have to make sure that all those who have attempted at subverting justice are chargesheeted and dismissed. We have to hold police personnel accountable under the various provision of the newly promulgated Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013. We also demand that police reforms be initiated and put in place.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

बंगलादेशी जनउभार और भारत की मुर्दाशान्ति

- किशोर झा

सन २०११ में भ्रष्टाचार के खिलाफ अन्ना आन्दोलन में उमड़े हजारों लोगों की तस्वीरें आज भी ज़ेहन में ताज़ा है। उन तस्वीरों को टी वी और अख़बारों में इतनी बार देखा था कि चाहें तो भी नहीं भुला सकते। लोग अपने-अपने घरों से निकल कर अन्ना के समर्थन में इक्कठे हो रहे थे और गली मोहल्लों में लोग भ्रष्टाचार के खिलाफ नारे लगा रहे थे। इंडिया गेट से अख़बारों और न्यूज़ चैनलों तक पहुँचते पहुँचते सैकडों समर्थकों की ये तादात हजारों और हजारों की संख्या लाखों में पहुँच जाती थी। तमाम समाचार पत्र इसे दूसरे स्वतंत्रता आन्दोलन की संज्ञा दे रहे थे और टी वी देखने वालों को लग रहा था कि हिंदुस्तान किसी बड़े बदलाव की दहलीज़ पर खड़ा है और जल्द ही सूरत बदलने वाली है। घरों में सोयी आवाम अचानक जाग गयी थी और राजनीति को अछूत समझने वाला मध्यम वर्ग राजनैतिक रणनीति का ताना बाना बुन रहा था। यहाँ मैं आंदोलन के राजनितिक चरित्र की बात नहीं कर रहा बल्कि ये याद करने की कोशिश कर रहा हूँ कि उस आंदोलन को उसके चरम तक पहुचाने वाला मीडिया अपने पड़ोस बांग्लादेश में उठ रहे जन सैलाब के जानिब इतना उदासीन क्यों है और कुछ ही महीने पहले बढ़ी आवाम की राजनैतिक चेतना आज कहाँ है?

Candlelight Vigil at Shahbagh
हमारे पडोसी मुल्क बांग्लादेश की अवाम युद्ध अपराधियों और फिरकापरस्त ताकतों के खिलाफ आन्दोलन कर रही है। यह आन्दोलन महज युद्ध अपराधियों के खिलाफ कार्यवाही के लिए ही नहीं लड़ रहा बल्कि एक धर्मनिरपेक्ष एवं लोकतान्त्रिक समाज के लिए संघर्ष कर रहा है जो मजहबी कठ्मुल्लावादियों को मंजूर नहीं। वहां से मिल रही ख़बरों ( जो की अख़बारों और चैनलों में एकदम नदारद है) के अनुसार लाखों लोग दिन रात शाहबाग चौक पर धरना दिए बैठें है और देश के अन्य भागों में भी लोग इस तरह के प्रदर्शनों में भाग ले रहे हैं। कई राजनैतिक विशेषज्ञ शाहबाग की तुलना तहरीर स्क्वायर से कर रहें है और वहां से आ रही तस्वीरों को देख कर लगता है कि ये तुलना बेवजह नहीं है। हैरानी की बात यह है कि इस आन्दोलन से जुडी ख़बरों के लिए हिन्दुस्तानी मीडिया के पास कोई जगह नहीं है। अमेरिका के चुनावों से काफी पहले हर हिन्दुस्तानी को ये पता होता है कि अमरीकी राजनीति में क्या खिचड़ी पक रही है। कौन से स्टेट में रिपब्लिकन्स आगे है और किसमे डेमोक्रेट्स। सट्टेबाज़ किस पर दाव लगा रहें है इसका सीधा प्रसारण चौबीस घंटे होता है पर पडोस में हो रहे इतने बड़े आंदोलन की हमारे देश की आवाम को इत्तेला तक नहीं है। पिछले दो महीनों में हिन्दुस्तान का मीडिया अपनी बहस और कवरेज नरेंद्र मोदी और राहुल के इर्द गिर्द घूमा रहें हैं या इस गम में मातम मना रहें है कि आखिर शेयर बाज़ार इतना नीचे क्यों आ गया है या सोने के भाव गर्दिश में क्यों है। बांग्लादेश की घटनाएँ किसी “ न्यूज़ एट नाइन” या “ बिग फाईट” का हिस्सा नहीं बन पाए। सुना है आन्दोलन के पहले महीने में “हिंदू” को छोड के किसी हिन्दुस्तानी अखबार का संवाददाता ढाका में मौजूद नहीं था और उसके बाद भी इस आंदोलन की खबर ढूंढे नहीं मिलती। अन्ना आन्दोलन के समय का राजनैतिक तौर पर सजग समाज आज कहाँ चला गया? अमेरिका में अगला प्रेसिडेंट कौन होगा पर एडिटोरियल लिखने वाले अख़बारों को क्या हुआ? क्यों पडोस में हो रही घटनाएँ उनका ध्यान खीचने में नाकामयाब हैं ?

Of ‘Public Purpose’, ‘Beauty’ and other Absurdities: The Curious Case of the Hyderabad Golf Club

- Vasundhara Jairath

[Note: The data presented here has been tediously collected by Forum for a Better Hyderabad, a citizens group, and the local farmers’ organization, Farmers’ Coordination Committee.]

The newest golf course in Hyderabad set in the scenic surroundings of the Qutb Shahi tombs and the Golconda Fort, set up as a joint venture of the Hyderabad Golf Association (HGA) and Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation Ltd (APTDCL), has created a bit of a controversy in the city. You wonder why the Tourism Department has taken it upon itself to develop a golf course? They will tell you the project is a public purpose project. To clarify this matter, the website of the venture states: “This facility would be accessible to all civilian residents of the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad as also visiting golfers from India and abroad”. This is of course subject to paying a paltry sum of Rs. 1,50,000 for three years temporary membership catered primarily for Non Resident Indians or Rs. 7.5 lakhs for associate membership. Add to that the criteria of knowing how to play golf. 

This article tells the tale of how the Government of Andhra Pradesh surpasses all records of arbitrariness in interpreting the phrase ‘public purpose’. However, let this not be seen as absolving the private party – HGA – of all its sins. It is common strategy to have the State do the dirty work while the private party stands apart, hands in the air, claiming innocence. 

The baffling arbitrariness of the case of the Golf Course begins right from Day 1. A government order (G.O. Ms. No. 806 Revenue (L.A.) Department) dated 21.10.1998 identified 52 acres of land within Naya Qila, a part of the Golconda Fort that was added to the original structure by Abdullah Qutb Shah and was completed in 1629, for acquisition for a public purpose – “development as a tourist spot with Birds Sanctuary”. The local farmers that cultivate the 52 acres of land under question will tell you that the wetlands in this part of the city were once home to migrant birds. A process of land acquisition was initiated the following year and land was acquired as per the urgency clause of Section 17 of the Land Acquistion Act 1 of 1894 (LAA 1894), “in view of the urgency of the case”. Accordingly, Section 5A of LAA 1894 that has a provision for accepting objections to the process of land acquisition remains nullified. It may be noted here that the emergency clause in question had been placed by the British in anticipation of situations such as this, as quoted in the law itself: “Whenever, owing to any sudden change in the channel of any navigable river or other unforeseen emergency, it becomes necessary for any Railway Administration to acquire the immediate possession of any land for the maintenance of their traffic or for the purpose of making thereon a river-side or ghat station, or of providing convenient connection with or accesses to any such station, [or the appropriate Government considers it necessary to acquire the immediate possession of any land for the purpose of maintaining any structure or system pertaining to irrigation, water supply, drainage, road communication or electricity] the Collector may immediately…enter upon and take possession of such land”. However, the urgency of the case of developing Naya Qila as a tourist spot with a Birds Sanctuary leaves much to the imagination of the citizen. 

Images from Shahbagh Solidarity Vigil in Delhi

On the 9th of April 2013 a small solidarity vigil was held at the Bangladesh High Commission in Delhi in support of the Shahbag protests. The vigil was jointly organised by New Socialist Initiative (NSI), Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA), NISHANT, ANHAD, Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sangathan, Stree Mukti Sangathan. Posted below are few images from the solidarity Vigil. 

Photographs: Mukul Dube

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Solidarity Vigil Held in Delhi for Bangladesh's Shahbagh Movement

New Socialist Initiative (NSI), JTSA along with few other organisations and concerned individuals held a solidarity Vigil for Bangladesh's Shahbagh Movement in front the Bangladesh High Commission, New Delhi.

Subhash Gatade (Convener, NSI) appraised the demonstrators of the unfolding situation in Bangladesh. Following Subhash Gatade, Harsh Kapoor (South Asia Citizens' Web), Nagesh Rao, Kamalesh Kumar (Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sangathan), Pranav Jani (Prof., Ohio State University, USA) addressed the demonstrators. A solidarity message sent by Mukul Mangalik (Associate Prof., Delhi University) was read out in  the vigil.

During the addresses most speakers at the vigil reiterated that despite the need to critically engage with certain demands like that of Death penalty emanating from the Shahbagh Movement, it is imperative that the secular-democratic and left forces in India stand in solidarity with Shahbagh Movement because the demand that secular principles and ethos alone should guide and govern all politics is not just a demand for Bangladesh but is universal in nature. It was also pointed out that majoritarian and fascist forces feed and thrive on each other and that there has been a coinciding rise of Hindutva in India and fundamentalist forces in our neighborhood.
Photo credit: NSI

A draft memorandum was read out in the vigil, despite minor disagreements most demonstrators agreed to sign it and submit it the High Commission officials. On behalf of the Bangladesh High Commission, Syed Muntashir Mamum (First secretary & Head of Chancery, Bangladesh High Commission) received the memorandum and assured the demonstrators that the memorandum will be forwarded to Prime Minister's Office, Government of Bangladesh.

Even though it was numerically a small vigil with 30 odd people participating, we at New Socialist Initiative, believe that it was a necessary intervention considering the ironical fact that the secular-democratic and 'official left' forces in India have till now maintained a studied silence on the historical movement in Bangladesh and has also remained a mute spectator to the counter-mobilisation in support of War criminals and Jamat leaders of Bangladesh by Islamic fundamentalist forces in India. We believe that there is an urgent need to break this silence.

It was also decided that a broader planning meeting for future solidarity action for Shahbagh Movement will be held on 12th april (5.30 pm) at Indian Coffee House, Mohan Singh Place, Connaught Place, Delhi.

Below is the text of the memorandum along with the list of signatories and few images from the vigil:   

To, The Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Through the office of 
The High Commissioner of Bangladesh, New Delhi

Monday, April 8, 2013

Solidarity Vigil for Bangladesh's Shahbagh Movement : Down with Forces of Religious Extremism

Solidarity Vigil for the Shahbagh Movement
2 pm, 9th April, 2013; Outside Bangladesh Embassy, EP-39, Dr. S. RadhaKrishnan Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi


The neighbouring country of Bangladesh is going through a new churning. Hundreds and thousands of people have hit the streets of Dhaka, demanding strict punitive action against ‘war criminals’ and their organisations, who forty-two years ago—at the time of the liberation struggle/war of the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)—colluded with the Pakistan army and committed untold acts of atrocities on the general public. 

Basically, there are two main demands of the protesters: war criminals should be strictly punished and organisations like the Jamat-e-Islami, Bangladesh, should be banned and all commercial and other kinds of establishments run by it should be proscribed. Just to recall: members and activists of Jamat-e-Islami, Bangladesh, did not merely oppose the liberation movement/war of Bangladesh because of their insistence on a ‘unified’ Pakistan, but also as part of Razakars—the Islamist East Pakistani paramilitary force contrived by the Pakistan army—aided and sided with the Pakistan Army during to inflict indescribable acts of violence on the people fighting for liberation. 

The uniqueness and hallmark of the Shahdbag movement is that though it was principally initiated, spread and extended by those youth who run online blogs, it quickly witnessed the participation of other classes. It is to be noted that the Movement which began on 5th Feb 2013, went into its second phase this 26th March, the anniversary of Bangladesh’s liberation day. According to latest reports, about twenty (20) people have started a fast unto death under the joint banner of of ‘Gana Jagran Manch’. The protestors have been demanding that the Awami League government should immediately bring an ordinance/bill banning the Jamat. The Supreme Court of Bangladesh is expected to pronounce its views on the demands of the protesters on 9th April 2103. 

There is no doubt that in spite of the extensiveness of the Movement, it is still facies strong opposition from the advocates and supporters of Jamat-e-Islami, who are systemtically induging in a vicious negative campaign. Besides, an attampt is being made to communalise the situation through attacks on religious minorities of Bangladesh—Hindus, Buddhists—orchestrated by those associated with the Jamat. 

Clearly, at a time when the rest of South Asia is witnessing the rise of communal mobilizations, Bangladesh’s Shahbagh Movement stands apart as a unique and ground-breaking venture, for it has demanded that secular principles and ethos alone should guide and govern all politics. Thus, this movement is qualitatively and politically far more mature than, say, movements which arose from the womb of Tahrir square of Cairo. 

Probably, unnerved by the movement’s secular push, Islamist forces, including those outside Bangladesh can be seen to be colluding actively trying to suppress it. In the last few days, the heads of state of both Egypt and Turkey wrote separate letters to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh pressurising her in this regard. In India too, Jamat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Minority Youth Federation and several like-minded organisations have demonstrated and expressed solidarity with the war criminals presently being held in jails of Bangladesh. These organisations have gone on to declare that if the Awami League govt. continues to pursue the conviction of war criminals, they would appeal to the Govt. of India to break all diplomatic relations with Bangladesh. In a way through their emotive stirrings, these Islamist organisations have demonstrated that they have no sympathy or concern with the atrocities committed on the general populace of Bangladesh; majority of whom are Muslims. To the contrary they have clearly bared their intentions, i.e. they are only concerned for the leaders of the Jamat, who are certain to face the legal consequences of the crimes committed by them. 

Majoritarian and fascist forces feed and thrive on each other and that there has been a coinciding of the rise of Hindutva in India and fundamentalist forces in our neighborhood. 

Ironically, the secular-democratic and left forces of India have till now maintained a studied silence on the historical movement being driven and sustained by the general public of Bangladesh. We believe that there is an urgent need to break this silence, as well to express our solidarity to the people of Bangladesh in their historic struggle. 

Inquilab Zindabad
New Socialist Initiative (NSI), Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Association (JTSA), Nishant, Anhad, Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sangathan, Stree Mukti Sangathan

Sunday, April 7, 2013

[Proceedings] HM Conference, NSI Panel on Rural Impoverishment, Displacement and Political Responses

Proceedings (video) of  New Socialist Initiative (NSI) Panel discussion on Rural Impoverishment, Displacement and Political Responses in Historical Materialism Conference 2013, Delhi. Chair: Anil Choudhary; Speakers: Jaya Mehta (Research Coordinator, Joshi-Adhikari Institute of Social Studies) on 'The Feminine Face of Indian Agriculture'; Sudha Vasan (Associate Professor, Dept. of sociology, Delhi School of Economics) on 'Chained to Development's Cross: Livelihood Crisis and displacement in India'; Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty (Council for Social Development) on 'Resistance in Contemporary India: Insights from Land Struggle'.
Concept Note

Forced takeover of agricultural and forested land for industries, mining, and infrastructure is leading to intense political struggles in many parts of India. Displacement of impoverished communities has brought the predatory nature of the current capitalist development to the fore. Besides registering this aspect of capitalism, a Historical Materialist understanding of the Indian society demands answers to a number of questions rarely discussed and debated in discourses on land and livelihoods. What actually is changing in Indian agriculture beneath visible signs of distress like the economic unviability of agriculture, displacement and peasant suicides? This question is important, because except at sites of existential threat via forced displacement, little popular political mobilisation has taken place around other reasons of agrarian distress. How are the ownership and tenure patterns of land, and market dependence of rural society changed in the past few decades? Is the Indian agriculture still dominated by a class of landlords and rich peasantry? What changes the evolution of agrarian economy has brought to the nature of class coalition ruling the country? Can the agriculture still be considered a relatively autonomous sector of Indian economy, having its unique class and caste based production relations? Is the programme of land reforms, integral to the Agrarian Programmes of so many communist revolutionaries, still a viable programme for radical transformation of Indian society? State in India has recently taken some steps like the Rural Employement Guarantee Scheme, and is planning to bring out new Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Act, Food Security Act, etc. to address land and livelihood related distress. What do these steps tells about the altered political economy of land from rulers' perspective? How can struggles for land and livelihood be taken beyond the welfare of liberal governance? 

This panel on Rural Impoverishment, Displacement and Political Responses will discuss changes in land relations and rural livelihoods in India in a class framework, treating development of capitalism as an objective process of structural change.
Jaya Mehta on 'The Feminine Face of Indian Agriculture'


Saturday, April 6, 2013

[Proceedings] HM Conference, NSI Panel on Crisis and Change in Higher Education: Universities under Current Capitalism

Proceedings (video) of  New Socialist Initiative (NSI) Panel discussion on Crisis and Change in Higher Education: Universities under Current Capitalism in Historical Materialism Conference 2013, Delhi. Chair: Naveen Chander (Co-convener, NSI); Speakers: Mukul Mangalik (Associate Professor, Ramjas College, DU) on 'Delhi University under Siege, or why everything is at stake'; Prof. Apoorvanand (DU) on 'Modern Universities and the Institution of Vice-Chancellor'; Sanjay Kumar (Associate Professor, St. Stephens' College, DU) on 'Death of University: Education Industry under Neo-liberalism'.
Chairperson's Address

The Neo-liberal political economy of the current capitalism is fundamentally changing the nature of Universities in its own image. Market imperatives sees them as providers of education and research services at a price, thus determining their public character. Services conditions and remuneration of teachers, researchers and allied staff enter as costs in the economic calculus of the university enterprise. This calculus measures their productivity on standardised quantitative scales, and attempts to cut their cost by contractualisation, outsourcing, and reduction and reduction in the number of tenured positions. All these steps undermine the internal autonomy of teaching and research, helping university administrators act like bosses. From students' perspective, besides the cost of education they have to bear, the new model of University education treats them as pre-formed consumers, entering universities to learn a package of goal defined quantifiable skills.

The neo-liberal fashioning of University raises a number of issues for a materialist understanding of capitalism and struggles against it. First, what is being changed? Modern Universities were an epochal development. They freed production and reproduction of the advanced knowledge from religious and feudal prerogatives and brought them into public domain. the expansion of publicly funded university system under the post second world war welfare capitalism in advanced capitalist countries and in some other countries like India, formally for a moment appeared to realise the liberal ideal of knowledge generation as a free enquiry by the self regulated community of intellectuals. However, even this liberal ideal was implicated in many social inequalities. For instance, the university system in post-independence India allowed upper caste to enhance their monopoly in new bureaucratic and technocratic elites. If struggles against neo-liberal changes have to evolve out of campaigns like 'Save the University' as it existed, then what new radical ideas on education and research and their social context can motivate such struggle? Second, what is the problem with the administrative structure and career focused pedagogy of university factories? Why is internal autonomy and fixed tenure essential for teaching and research? What is the relationship between  capitalism and the type of knowledge produced in universities today? what kinds of subjectivities get fostered, and suppressed, by them? Youth often are the starting points of social change, from fashion and art to revolutionary politics. What space do universities provide to youth to realise this essential point of being young? How are universities today implicated in the reproduction of social hierarchy and privilege? This question assumes significance in the context of increasing enrollment ratios. These are as high as 30 to 40 percent in many advanced capitalist countries. Emerging economies like India are frantically trying to 'catch up' in this regard. Higher education is acquiring a mass character in societies with increasing inequalities. In this context, what new points of conflict and forms of resistance are arising in institutions of higher learning?
Mukul Mangalik on 'Delhi University under Siege, or why everything is at stake'


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Costa Rica to New Delhi: Forging Solidarity for Equitable Access to Knowledge

We are witnessing a surge in student mobilizations across the world, from Latin America to the USA occupy movements to the UK protest to students in the Middle East, Africa and Asia (most recently the tremendous upheaval led by students in Bangladesh), on a variety of issues. But somewhere a shared thread of anxiety and subject location is visible. It is the need of the hour to build solidarity across borders and better understand and act upon our collective dilemmas as people who will be building (willingly or unwillingly) the world of tomorrow.

Find below the text of a Solidarity Letter to ASEAK, supporting academics and photocopying shops from the 'PHOTOCOPYING FOR STUDYING PURPOSES MOVEMENT' in Costa Rica. Students in Costa Rica have been successful at resisting attempts of corporate publishers similar to what we are experiencing in India now. In their letter they urge the Courts to not be pressurized by the private publishers. Please have a look and share. 

- Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge (ASEAK)


Costa Rica, Sunday, March 31, 2013

In support and solidarity with the students, academics and photocopying shops in India, who are fighting in defense of access to education, work and culture.

The right to work, to access and dissemination of information, culture and education are inherited and inviolable rights that equally belong to every person and culture of the world, therefore it is a humanity’s heritage.

Under no circumstances, one can allow that private firms as publishers take ownership of the information and knowledge itself and decide who can and who cannot have access to it, because both education and culture belong to everyone equally.

From Costa Rica, we want to encourage you to continue this important fight in courts,. Please receive all the support and solidarity on behalf of the students and photocopying shops that are part of the Photocopying for Studying Purposes Movement. 

Four years ago, we experienced something similar to what you are now experiencing, Ever since then, we have been promoting a law to allow students to photocopy books. Even though, we got the Parliament’s approval for that law, the President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla was influenced by publishers and the American Chamber of Commerce (AmChan), and she rejected it. But, we will not stop until we achieve our goal.

We urge the courts of India, not to be pressured by publishers, the only thing these companies want to do is to privatize education and culture, and be the only ones entitled to decide who can access information, reducing that possibility just to those who have the money to pay for it. 

Fellow Students of the Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge (ASEAK), We support you.

Joshua Aguirre Thomas

"People who do not defend their ownings, end up as tenants in their own Country" (Juan Rafael Mora Porras, President and General of the Costa Rican Army from 1814 to 1860)

A "Fotocopiando Para Estudiar" led protest in Costa Rica


New Delhi (India), Monday, 1st April, 2013

We greatly appreciate your show of solidarity with us here in India. ASEAK is committed to taking up this particular battle in Court, and other issues of access to knowledge in our Universities in general. The Public University system in India is under immense stress and is being subjected to what are called "reforms in higher education". Please do read "The Delhi University Four Year Structure – Myths and Reality" for more on the same. Delhi University, being the largest Central University in India, has become in a way the laboratory for such reforms. It is no surprise then that this copyright row began here. Making all aspects of education a commodity and gearing up our public institutions to the sole task of providing 'marketable skills', with utter disregard for what the students or teachers may have to say, seems to be the way forward envisaged for us by the high and mighty of today.

At the same time we are witnessing a surge in student mobilizations across the world, from Latin America to the USA occupy movements to the UK protests, to students in the Middle East & Africa participating in huge numbers in what is referred to as the 'Arab Spring' and Asia (the massive participation of students and youth against the 'rape culture' in India and most recently the tremendous upheaval led by students in Bangladesh), on a variety of issues. But somewhere a shared thread of anxiety and subject location is visible. It is the need of the hour to build solidarity across borders and better understand and act upon our collective dilemmas as people who will be building (willingly or unwillingly) the world of tomorrow.

We take this opportunity to congratulate you on the success you have had in defending and asserting students' right to educational material and its reproduction, and to extend solidarity with you. We are open to and encourage dialogue and joint action whenever possible.

Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge (ASEAK)

An "ASEAK" led protest in Delhi University, India