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Democratic Centralism – Public Issue, Private Debate: Rajinder Chaudhary

July 16, 2016

Guest post by RAJINDER CHAUDHARY

Recent expulsion/resignation of Jagmati Sangwan from CPI(M) is reflective of organizational structure and functioning of the left. It has implications beyond the immediate specific issue of whether alignment of Party with the Congress in recently held Vidhan Sabha elections in Bengal was right or not, or for CPI(M) itself. At stake is principle of ‘democratic centralism’.  Jagmati Sangwan episode has reminded me of an episode of my student days in Panjab University in early 80’s. I was convener of ‘Democratic Students’ Forum’ an independent left leaning student group on the campus (with no link with any political party as such). I was convener but found that my opinion was most often than not a minority opinion. So, effectively I was doing things, implementing decisions that I did not agree with. After many months of very intense work, I expressed my desire to be relieved of the responsibility. This was not accepted. Friends tried to persuade me to change my mind and continue with the responsibility as I ‘was making very valuable contribution’. Organisational colleagues were also personal friends, rather the only personal friends. One had no life beyond the organization. So, there was both organizational as well personal/emotional appeal to continue with the post but I found it was too much to carry out decisions with which one personally differed on grounds of principle. I requested at least a break, a breather from hectic schedule for some time. But rather than accepting my request/resignation from the post of convener, I was “expelled” from the organisation.  And this was just a small, independent left leaning student group that called itself ‘democratic students’ forum’ rather than a unit of a communist party, which goes on to indicate that the problem is rather deep rooted and wide ranging. (I have cross checked my memory of this episode with some other key participants of this incident.) Read more…

Police in Kashmir Raid Newspaper Bureaus, Detain Employees, Seize Copies: Prabodh Jamwal

July 16, 2016

Guest Post by Prabodh Jamwal

Two of Kashmir’s leading newspapers, Kashmir Times and Rising Kashmir said that Jammu and Kashmir police raided their office on Saturday night, seized their printed copies and arrested their employees – a clear act of choking and gagging media in crisis-hit Kashmir valley. Copies of other newspapers, including Kashmir Reader and Kashmir Observer were also seized and their circulation prevented.

Read more…

Release Piyush Sethia Manush! Coalition for Environmental Justice – India

July 16, 2016

 

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Piyush Sethia (Manush) (Image courtesy LiveMint)

Coalition for Environmental Justice – India has issued this statement:

We write as concerned citizens and environmental justice activists in support of Piyush Sethia of Salem, Tamil Nadu who has been arrested, denied bail and beaten  inside Salem Central prison. Piyush is a noted environmental activist of Salem Citizen’s Forum (SCF). He has been booked under IPC  sections 341,188, 353 and 506 (2).

On 8.07.2016, when Piyush and other members of SCF were protesting against the railway authorities for starting the construction work of Mulvadi gate over-bridge in Salem without giving prior notice to the people in the area and without laying an alternate road, police arrested Piyush and two other activists, Eesan Karthik and Muthu of SCF.

On 14.07.2016, the Salem Magistrate’s court dismissed Piyush’s bail application while granting conditional bail to the other two activists. Piyush has been kept in solitary confinement since the day of his arrest. And as per Piyush’s wife and his lawyer, Piyush is being subjected to physical and mental harassment and not allowed  to receive reading material or allowed to speak to his wife and other supporters freely. Infact, some of the supporters in Salem are being intimidated and threatened via phone calls to isolate Piyush. According to Piyush’s lawyer, Piyush was beaten ‘for a good half an hour before they sent him to solitary confinement’. Yesterday Piyush informed his lawyer that ‘he was abused by a group of unknown persons numbering nearly 30 inside the prison several times’. We are shocked at this high-handedness of prison authorities and custodial assault on Piyush.

Piyush has done commendable work in the field of Environmental Protection and Climate Change mitigation. We would like to bring to your notice some of them:

1. He leads Salem Citizens Forum to revive many water bodies in Salem city like Mukaneri, Ammapettai eri Kundukkal eri, Ismailkhan eri, Arisipalayam Theppakulam and Pallappatti well.

2. He has created a co-operative forest in Dharmpuri extending upto 150 acres, with the support of his friends and well wishers. This mountain forest acts as a water catchment area for Ettimarathupatti Canal which supplies irrigation water to 17 villages in the vicinity.

3. He has led many citizens’ initiative to protect the natural resources of Salem and its surrounding areas. He has also initiated many green and sustainable livelihood projects and protected the Salem, Yercaud and Hoggenekkal Dam areas from environmental damage.

4. In the recent floods of Chennai and Cuddalore, Piyush and members of SCF, Nizhal and Dharmapuri People’s Forum mobilized 35 containers of relief material and tirelessly worked to reach the materials in time. This won Piyush a CNN-IBN award recently. He was also named as one of the advisors of Nilam, Neer, Neethi (Land, Water, Justice) initiative of Ananda Vikatan group which was kicked off following the floods to protect water bodies in Tamil Nadu.

We demand:

Immediate release of Piyush and all charges foisted against him and other activists be withdrawn forthwith.

Sign the petition for the release of Piyush Manush 

Bangalore Police Revoke Permission for Protest on Kashmir: Greeshma Aruna Rai

July 16, 2016

Guest Post by Greeshma Aruna Rai, with Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) & Karnataka for Kashmir Forum.
Police has revoked the permission which they had given yesterday to hold a democratic protest in solidarity with Kashmiris in Bangalore by concerned citizens and activists. This is another way in which the State shows its true colours to all Indian citizens who are against State repression and State colonialism in Kashmir.
Permission for today’s protest condemning atrocities on the people of Kashmir has been revoked by the Karnataka State Police. They have threatened us with legal action if we proceed.

As organisers we have been bombarded by the police, demanding that we withdraw this demonstration.

As we publish this message, the 11th day of curfew continues and valley remains awash with the blood of Kashmiris.
Today’s protest is postponed. We, however, refuse to be stifled by the very same state that is ravaging Kashmir. We have resolved to move against the actions of the Police. We’ll be releasing a Press Note shortly while discussing other options to challenge this.

[ Shortly after this post was uploaded, the organizers of the protest held a press conference where they released the following statement.]

Read more…

Statement On the Unfolding Situation in Kashmir : NSI Delhi Chapter

July 16, 2016

Guest Post by New Socialist Initiative, Delhi Chapter

The valley of Kashmir is on the boil again. Forsaking the so-called normal routines of their lives, people are on the streets. Not just young men, but even children and women are out, challenging the military might of the Indian state. Any fear of the police and army appears to have been discarded. Police stations and even CRPF camps have been attacked. A popular upsurge, it is energised by mass fury. Forty people have lost their lives in one week at the hands of the Indian security establishment. Hundreds of others have suffered serious eye and other injuries from presumedly ‘non-lethal’ pellets used by the police. While people are out confronting the police, para-military and army, the other organs of the Indian state in Kashmir, the elected government and its bureaucracy, elected members of the legislature, panchayats, etc. are in a rathole, fearing public appearance. It is just the people of Kashmir valley versus the institutions of organised violence of the Indian state.

While the immediate cause of popular anger is the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani, reasons for this anger go much deeper and have a longer history. The stifling and repression of the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination stands at the root of this conflict. This repression has taken on extreme violent forms. For twenty five years now, the Kashmir valley has been among the most militarised places in the world. More than half a million troops of Indian army and para-military forces have been stationed in the state and its border with Pakistan. Rashtriya Rifles and CRPF camps dot the land scape. Highway checkpoints and random searches are part of everyday life. Thousands of men have disappeared, been picked up by security forces, thrown in the black hole of interrogation camps, often ending up in unmarked graves. The hated AFSPA gives Indian security forces legal cover to assault basic rights of Kashmiris to live a life of elementary dignity. If an average valley resident is alienated from the normal practices of the Indian state such as elections and its administrative initiatives, s/he harbours deep resentment against the presence of Indian security forces in their homeland. This resentment has erupted in mass protests again and again.

Read more…

Kolkata Rally against Killings & Mayhem in Kashmir: Dwaipayan Banerjee

July 15, 2016
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Guest Post by Dwaipayan Banerjee

Close to five hundred people came out in a rally yesterday, 15th July, to protest the ongoing killings and mayhem in Kashmir by the Indian State. The overwhelming majority of participants were students, but they were joined in good numbers by feminists, queer-activists, trade union activists, writers, journalists, academics, human rights activists, dalit rights activists, cultural activists, with many among them not affiliated with any organisation. Student and youth activists carrying flags and placards of PDSF (Progressive Democratic Student Federation), USDF ( United Students Democratic Front), AISA (All India Students’ Association), Progressive Youth League (PYL) and many from other student-youth organisations were present in good numbers, so were human rights activists from APDR (Association for Protection of Democratic Rights) and those from Bastar Solidarity Network (BSN). Many carried with them their own banners and posters. Like the rally in Delhi, protesters carried with them hand-written, hand-painted and printed placards with the names of civilians recently killed in Kashmir inscribed on it, and through those posters a connection of shared pain and solidarity flowed from the streets of Kolkata to the turbulent and stormy blood-stained streets in Kashmir. Those posters were reaching out to the people of Kashmir with messages that they were not alone in their hour of sorrow, anguish and mourning. Some of the protesters had written verses by the Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali on their posters. One of those many posters summed up the mood of the rally, ‘Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris’.

 

[ Video by Peoples’ Camera]

Read more…

Uniform Civil Code – Once again, where is gender justice?

July 15, 2016

This article appeared in The Hindu today

For nearly eight decades, the women’s movement has discussed and debated the desirability and feasibility of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC), and has ended up posing a simple question – what is the value of uniformity? Is it for the “integrity of the nation” that uniformity in laws is required, as some judicial pronouncements have suggested?  If so, who exactly is the beneficiary? Which sections of people benefit from “integrity of the nation”, that abstract entity which is not exactly at the top of your mind as your husband throws you out on the street?

Or are uniform laws meant to ensure justice for women in marriage and inheritance?

In that case, a UCC would simply put together the best gender just practices from all Personal Laws. So yes, polygamy and arbitrary divorce would be outlawed (a feature derived from Hindu Personal Law). But conversely, as feminist legal activist Flavia Agnes has often pointed out, a UCC would require the abolition of the Hindu Undivided Family, a legal institution that gives tax benefits only to Hindus, and all citizens of India would have to be governed by the largely gender-just Indian Succession Act, 1925, currently applicable only to Christians and Parsis.

Muslim Personal Law is already modern in this sense, since it has since the 1930s, enshrined individual rights to property, unlike Hindu law, in which the family’s natural condition is assumed to be “joint”. In the decades of the 1930s and 1940s, contrary to later discourses about Muslim law being backward, it was Hindu laws that were considered “backward” and needing to be brought into the modern world of individual property rights. Read more…

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