Kashmir has been plunged into yet another cycle of massive civilian protests met with brutal state repression that claimed 32 lives till now and severely injured many more. The crisis has been precipitated this time by the killing of a young militant, Burhan Wani. Wani had been a popular figure in Kashmir, adept in addressing youth on social media. Vast numbers of Kashmiri people gathered to mourn at his funeral. Mourners and protesters alike are being subjected to repression by paramilitary forces on Kashmir’s streets, in a repeat of the events of 2010, when 112 civilian protesters were killed in a period of four months.
There are many unanswered questions about Burhan Wani’s killing. The Supreme Court’s recent order, reiterating that every encounter must be subjected to criminal investigation and prosecution, whether the person killed is a militant or a civilian, ought to be respected and followed here. But Burhan Wani’s killing also raises other questions about the Indian State’s policy vis a vis Kashmir. In 2010, on the heels of the spate of killings of civilian protesters, Wani and his brother and friends were subjected to a casual, brutal beating by security forces.
Such humiliations are part of the daily experience of most Kashmiris, as a result of the military and paramilitary deployment in civilian areas. Months after the beating, the 16 year-old Wani left home to join a separatist outfit and emerge as a well-known face of the Kashmiri insurgency. In Kashmir, youth who do not take up arms and engage only in street protests, are routinely killed or maimed by security forces.
By choking off all spaces for peaceful resistance and delegitimising even seminars and slogans that reflect Kashmiri sentiments, by routinely cracking down on internet services, and subjecting youth to brutal, arbitrary beating even when they are not protesting, the Indian establishment itself is creating the soil in which militancy takes root. Moreover, Wani was not charged with participating in any specific instance of terrorism, and is on record assuring that Amarnath pilgrims would not be attacked and appealing to Kashmiri Pandits to return to the Valley.
There could have been many ways of engaging youth like him – and separatist organisations like his – in talks about Kashmir’s political future rather than killing them. What the Central Government and the BJP-PDP Government in J&K are unable to reckon with is the scale of the spontaneous civilian mourning and protests that have broken out following Wani’s killing. Attempts to blame the protests on instigation by Pakistan, and justify the killing of Wani as well as the repression on civilians as a war on terror, only point to the colossal political failure of the Governments to engage respectfully with the voices and aspirations of Kashmiri people.
Kashmir is primarily a political issue calling for a political solution that is in keeping with the wishes of the Kashmiri people, their self-respect and dignity. The Sangh Parivar and BJP have for long vitiated the discourse on Kashmir by demanding abrogation of Article 370. But even the Congress and the UPA, that stood by Article 370, had much the same militarised policy towards Kashmir. Both Congress and BJP-led governments at the Centre have insisted on tame state governments in J&K, have branded every instance of Kashmiri mass resistance and protests as ‘instigated by Pakistan’, and unleashed brutal repression on such protests.
The NCP leader Omar Abdullah has been blaming Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for her failure to stop the killings of civilians – forgetting perhaps that he himself presided over a spate of such killings in 2010 when he was Chief Minister. The fact that the NCP and PDP utterly fail to command any credibility, trust and respect among Kashmir’s people is brought home by the fact that the Chief Minister, Ministers and elected MLAs are yet to feel confident enough even to meet the injured in hospital and the families of the victims!
The coverage of the crisis in Kashmir by influential sections of the Indian media is a recipe for further alienation of the Kashmiri people. Any calls for restraint, for sympathy with Kashmir’s grief and rage, for Supreme Court-mandated enquiries into encounter killings, are equated with ‘support for terrorism’ or ‘support for Pakistan.’ The question of the killings of civilian protesters and use of pellet guns to blind scores of protesters is either rendered virtually invisible.
The political issues are obscured and Kashmir is seen entirely through the prism of ‘Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.’ Indian leaders talk now and then of ‘winning the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people’. PV Narasimha Rao had promised that ‘the sky is the limit’ in talks with separatist groups on Kashmir. Vajpayee had, in response to a question about whether talks with separatist groups would take place ‘within the scope of the Indian Constitution’, had countered that they would take place ‘within the scope of humanity.’ But such promises seem to have remained in the domain of phrase-mongering.
The average Kashmiri finds that far from the ‘sky’ being the limit, political self-expression of Kashmiris on the question of self-determination is pushed underground. Rather than talks ‘within the scope of humanity’, the template for dealing with Kashmiri resentments, mournings and protests remains within the grim and inhuman scope of pellets and bullets. It is of course, asserted that ‘Kashmir is an integral part of India’, but the Kashmiri people are subjected to brutalisation and humiliation on a scale and intensity that few other parts of India have experienced.
Above all, the Indian establishment as well as most political parties and the media, fail to display even the most basic respect for Kashmiri sentiments and aspirations. It is urgent for the democratic-minded Indian citizens to open their hearts and minds to the voices of Kashmiri people, and to tell Indian Governments at the Centre and State that the brutal military handling of Kashmiri resistance must stop. To create a conducive climate where a genuine dialogue on solutions for Kashmir can be discussed where Kashmiri people can freely express themselves and be heard with respect, it is a must for the AFSPA to be withdrawn, and or all encounters and alleged rapes by security forces to be subjected to credible and timely investigations.
The right of Kashmiris to a political solution in keeping with their wishes and sense of autonomy and dignity, must be articulated strongly not just in Kashmir but in every corner of India. Indefinite Dharna in Zamania, Ghazipur An indefinite dharna is in progress since 10 May at Zamania tehsil in Ghazipur district of Uttar Pradesh on the issues pertaining to: removal of rich ineligible people and inclusion of poor working people in the food security list; distribution of wheat at Rs 2 per kg and rice at Rs 3 per kg; regularization of kabja by dalits and vanvasis on village, government and banjar lands and their registration in tehsil records; housing pattas to all landless poor; assured work under MNREGA or allowance in lieu of it; availability of medicines in government hospitals; and resolution of land disputes.
The SDM initially refused permission for dharna on the account of elections in Jangipur assemble and some villages in Zamania tehsil. However, with protestors refusing to end dharna, the administration was forced to enter into negotiations, a week after the dharna was started. Representatives of the CPI(ML) and AIARLA were also included in the meeting, where they were assured that their demands would be fulfilled in one week’s time. Under the ‘Uttho Mere Desh’ campaign too village sabhas were held in various villages in the Zamania Assembly constituency on these issues.
However, despite assurances, the actions of the officials have been on the contrary. As eligible people from different villages whose names were not earlier included in the food security list started filling in and submitting their forms and more and more people started participating in the dharna, the concerned SDM arranged for his transfer and left the place on a day the protestors had called for a lockout in the tehsil office. Meanwhile in Tiyari village, people from the Kushwaha community had been given pattas for some housing land on which dominant caste people had taken illegal kabja.
The patta holders started their construction work on the land but the police repeatedly obstructed the process. In another instance, the tehsil police and administration, acting on behalf of a feudally powerful person, tried to destroy a vanvasi basti and establish kabja dakhal on that land. They were forced to turn back in the face of the agitation, however this did not stop the administration from attempting to implement their nefarious plans again. The block and municipal officials refused to verify and forward the food security list amendment forms which had been filled in from 28 villages.
The continued anti-poor actions of the administration have led to the movement getting intensified. On 21 June the poor villagers marched in large numbers with lathis, sickles and other tools from the thana chowk to Pandey chowk and staged a chakka jam in front of the tehsil HQ. The BDO and SDM were forced to accept the memorandum. On 22 June a meeting of all the panchayat officials and the BDO took place during which the SDM pulled up the officials for negligence in work and directed them to meet all the demands within one week.
However, given the past actions of the administration, the protestors have continued the two month long dharna to keep up the pressure.
Against Police Atrocities in Ranchi
On 8 July, Rupesh Sanwaasi, a minor hailing from Bundu, a town in Ranchi district, died in police custody after being subjected to third degree torture by the police. On 10 July, a protest march was called by Ranchi district unit of CPI (ML) to protest against this custodial death and also the increasing police rule of Raghuvar government. The march started from Mahendra Singh Bhawan and culminated in Albert Ekka Chowk with the burning of Chief Minister’s effigy. The party demanded that the Bundu DSP who had got his bodyguard to take Rupesh into custody be arrested along with others who were present with him during the torturing and they be booked for murder.
Despite the recent order issued by the state High Court, the minor was killed in custody. CM Raghuvar must apologize and ensure compensation and job for the family of Rupesh. Given the increasing spate of custodial torture of minors in the state, the government must fix the responsibility of the concerned police officers and take action against them. The protest march was led by Ranchi district secretary, Com. Bhuvaneswar Kewat and state committee member, Com. Janardan Harijan. The leaders declared that if the government does not heed to the demands immediately, a justice march would be taken out in Rahe and Bundu on 21 July and the issue will also be raised strongly in the state assembly.
Fact Finding Report on the Devastation Caused by Cloudburst in Chamoli District of Uttarakhand
Huge damage has been caused by the cloudburst in the ghat region on 1 July and the rising river waters. 5 people were killed, 2 are missing, and a dozen shops and buildings were either badly damaged or washed away in the river. The ghat is 43 km from the headquarters of Chamoli district. While the single narrow road from Nandprayag to the ghat was never in good condition, it has now become particularly filled with holes and stones following the disaster. The access road to Jakhni, a village of 150 families on the other side has been totally destroyed.
The Nandakini is still flooded. Debris-filled shops and buildings half-hanging in the river and half washed away tell the tale of the destruction. The rivers in spate and the homes with their backyards practically opening on to the river clearly indicate that rising water, rain or cloudbursts can again pose a grave danger. Though the CM Harish Rawat, Congress MLA and leader of opposition have visited the ghat, there is no visible improvement in the conditions. The wilting vegetables in the ghat bazaar are indicative of the enormous shortage of food, vegetables, and essential goods in the coming days if the road is not opened soon.
Medical services have been badly affected by the lack of road access. There is a primary health centre in the ghat with an allopathic doctor, an ayurvedic doctor and a pharmacist but this is not adequate as several patients need to be referred to Dehradun for treatment. The administrative machinery is moves at an extremely slow pace which even a disaster of such impact has failed to change. On 4 July, Garhwal Commissioner issued a statement that it would take 20 days to complete the road. A couple of days later Chamoli stated that it would take 7 days. The PWD does not appear bothered as the political leaders travel by helicopter and not road. After the 2013 disaster, embankments had to be built as the ghat had been eroded by the flooding rivers.
The irrigation department started building embankments, but on the side where there was no habitation. When the people agitated, they were assured that embankments on the inhabited side would be built within 15 days. Even after 6 months the embankmets were not built.
Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha leader and ghat resident Mohan Singh has filed a petition in the Chamoli police station demanding a case to be registered under section 188 against the supervising engineer and junior engineer of the irrigation department. Com. Bhoopal Singh Rawat informed that the Chamoli DM had twice directed the supervising engineer of the irrigation department to construct the embankment but still it was not done. The Uttarakhand government as always appears unfazed by disasters and unwilling to adopt any measures to prevent them in future.
Hul Diwas Observed in Jharkhand
The tradition of celebrating Hul Diwas on 30 June began in 1855. It was on this date 161 years ago that the Hul revolution led by Sido, Kanho and Chand Bhairvav began in Bhognadih village of Dumka. The movement which was initially against exploitative money lenders later turned into a revolution against the British rule following brutal police oppression. However, even 161 years later, the descendants of the Hul revolutionaries have not been able to obtain their complete rights.
This year on Hul Diwas, Ulgulan march was taken out in Dumka city under the leadership of CPI (ML) MLA Com. Rajkumar Yadav, Comrades Rameshwar Soren, Subhash Mandal, Babulal Rai and others to protest against the attempts of the state government to rob the rural and urban poor of Jharkhand of their lands under the pretext of ‘wrong settlement’ and raise the demands for – (i) ensuring the legality of the land held by rural and urban poor (ii) demarcation and distribution of Gair Majarua land and land exceeding ceiling among the landless poor and for the purpose of providing necessary services like education and health; (iii) revoking the recently announced domicile policy; (iv) making no changes in SPT CNT Act and implementing it strictly; (v) ensuring food security .
A memorandum on the aforementioned demands was also handed over to the district officials. In Nagarutari in Garhwa district, a march of nearly one thousand people was taken out from Bhavnathpur Mod that culminated into a huge public meeting in Gosainbagh Maidan. The leaders addressing the meeting said that in several places ration had not been given since two to three months and several deprived families were yet to get ration cards. Far from addressing these concerns, the state government was instead conspiring to snatch whatever little land they had under the pretext of ‘double settlement’.
The government had failed to provide any relief to the people of this region that has been under severe drought conditions since past few years. On the occasion of Hul Diwas, a pledge was taken to renew a massive people’s movements on the aforementioned issues. Marches and protest events were also organized in Jamtara city, Deori block in Giridih district, Dhanbad, Lohardaga and Hazaribagh .
In Julu Park in Hazaribagh, a one day youth convention was organized by AISA-RYA on ‘Hul Diwas- Yesterday and Today’. The convention was addressed by DU AISA leader, Com. Niraj Kumar, ex CPI (ML) MLA Com. Vinod Singh, state AISA convenor com. Akhilesh Raj and State RYA secretary Com. Amal Ghosh. The leaders emphasized the need for understanding the relevance of Hul Diwas in today’s context. The student movements were spreading across the country and it is now the time for students and youth of Jharkhand to carry forward the legacy of Hul Diwas and strengthen the ongoing movement.
Statewide Protests in Bihar Under the ‘Save Education- Provide Employment’ Campaign
A three day protest programme from 26 to 28 June, was organized in Bihar under the joint banner of CPI (ML), AISA and RYA as a part of the ‘Save Education- Provide Employment’ campaign. On 27 June, a protest march was called in Patna. The march started from Patna University and culminated in a public meeting Bhagat Singh Chowk located in Gandhi maidan. The march was led by RYA state secretary Com. Naveen Kumar. In Darbhanga, a student-youth convention on ‘Change Education, Provide Employment’ was organized in which the CPI (ML) PB member Com. Dhirendra Jha was the chief speaker. Com. Dhirendra Jha said that the Topper Scam that took place in the state was Bihar’s version of Vyapam.
He demanded that Nitish Kumar apologise to the people for destroying education in the state. A convention was also organized in Nawada, in which Com. Manmohan Kumar participated as the chief speaker. Several youth along with 6 teachers participated in the convention. On 26 June, the Emergency Day, marches were taken out in Jehanabad city and Modanganj. On 27-28 June, Nukkad Sabhas were held in 20 places in the Jehanabad district in which nearly 2,500 people participated.
In the meetings held in Bandhuganj Bazaar and Nawaabganj Bazaar, some parents openly expressed their anger against the government. In the meeting held in Hulaasganj bazaar, whatever is happening in the area of education came out clearly through this scam. A campaign vehicle was also taken which was led by state CPI (ML) committee member Com. Rambali Yadav. In Bhojpur, AISA activists took out a march from CPI (ML) office to Golamber station. A protest march was also taken out in Gaya.
Jugaad Drivers Demonstration in Bhagalpur
The jugaad (locally manufactured transport vehicles) driver’s union (AICCTU) organized a demonstration under its banner on 15 June, the day the CM was to come to Bhagalpur demanding- removal of ban on Jugaad vehicles, legal approval for the jugaad vehicles and bringing the jugaad drivers under the purview of Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act. On the day of the demonstration, the Jugaad vehicle drivers started gathering at the Bhagalpur station since morning.
The procession left the station premises at around 11 am, carrying red flags, banners, placards stating their demands and raising slogans the government and the state administration. As the Procession was about to reach Ghuran -Peer, the police stopped them from proceeding further. There were sharp confrontations between the protestors and the administration. Eventually, the administration had to bow down in front of the unrelenting spirit of the protestors and allow them to reach the Commissioner’s office.
AICCTU State Secretary Com. Mukesh Mukt, who was leading the demonstration, also addressed the protestors. He said that under the misinformation being spread by the advocates of the capital, the attack on the livelihood of the poor only exposes the class character of the ruling establishment. We are not ready to die hungry.
We will fight at every stage to defend our lives and livelihoods. He warned the administration that if they tried to take any administrative decision to stop the Jugaad vehicles, Bhagalpur would be brought to a standstill. Under no circumstances will the ban on Jugaad vehicles be allowed. Expressing solidarity with the drivers, district CPI (ML) and AIARLA leaders also participated in the demonstration.
6th National Congress of Confederation of Nepalese Professionals
The 6th National Congress of Confederation of Nepalese Professionals (CONEP) was held from 17-19 June 2016 in Nepal Academy Hall, Kamaladi, Kathmandu. The congress began on 17 June with a colourful procession which was led CONEP leaders along with invited international guests. On behalf of AICCTU, the procession was led by AICCTU National Vice President, com. S. K. Sharma. Inaugurating the 6th National Congress, the Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Sharma Oli called the workers to play a significant role in the economic development of the country.
In Nepal, the reactionary forces were trying to join the capitalist and the feudal remnants to push the country back. There was a need for the working class to consistently struggle against this and to defeat these forces along with the imperialist capital and meet the challenges of economic development. Though the Constitution has been passed, the real challenge is to ensure its implementation. Nine trade unions from seven countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Malaysia and Egypt participated in the Congress.
The World Federation of Trade Unions was represented by Com. Dev Ranjan Chakravarti. 800 representatives from 26 unions across 75 districts participated in the Congress which was chaired by Com. Vishwanath Pakurel. CONEP is primarily a federation of unions of workers working in the intellectual domain- such as teahcers’ unions, public service workers union, auditors union etc. CONEP had played an important role in the struggle against monarchy and thereafter in the struggle for establishing democracy and Constitution.
During the Congress most of the speakers including the General Secretary criticized the role played by the Modi government during the passing of the Constitution and the subsequent economic blockade. AICCTU National VP, Com. S. K. Sharma on behalf of AICCTU conveyed the best wishes for the Congress and also congratulated the people of Nepal for passing a secular, democratic Constitution and rejecting the attempts of the Modi government to try make Nepal a Hindu nation. He added that nearly 80% population of the world has been adversely affected by attack unleashed by neo liberal policies.
In India too the Modi government has intensified the attack on workers, students, youth and democracy. 15 crore workers of the country were gearing for a massive strike on 2 September against the pro-corporate, communal, fascist and anti-workers’ policies of the government. He concluded by saying that the working class of India has always shared friendly relations with people of Nepal, especially the workers. We are together with you in your struggles. We will unitedly fight against neo liberalism and imperialism. We will fight and we will win. Long live unity of the workers of India and Nepal, workers of the world unite.