India: “Justice” System Produces Political Prisoners

Vira Sathidar, right, in a scene from “Court,” directed by Chaitanya Tamhane. Credit Zeitgeist Films

 The wheels of justice grind slowly and mercilessly in “Court,” Chaitanya Tamhane’s quiet, devastating critique of the antiquated Indian legal system. As it follows the case of Narayan Kamble (Vira Sathidar), a 65-year-old folk singer and social activist accused of inciting what is presumed to be the suicide of a sewer worker in Mumbai, the film conjures an absurdist nightmare of bureaucratic incompetence, indifference and social inequity.

Narayan is first seen teaching children Indian geography in a crowded Mumbai classroom, then hurrying to board a bus that takes him to an outdoor theater where he is introduced to a small crowd as “the people’s poet.” Backed by a troupe of musicians, he sings a forceful song urging everyone to rise up against “religious, racist, casteist and nationalist jungles.” Midway through, Narayan is arrested.

The remainder of the movie observes his protracted trial. A travesty of justice that another filmmaker might have directed as a farce, the work has a gravity, a measured pace and a detachment reminiscent of a Frederick Wiseman documentary — “Court,” however, is fictional. Continue reading

Democratic Illusions Infect Judiciary in India’s Repressive State

[The Indian state, thoroughly repressive toward over 90% of the people in India, has often claimed, since being “granted” independence by the British Empire, that it is democratic, even “the world’s largest democracy.”  This claim is belied by the brutal displacement and oppression of the majority of the people–the adivasis, dalits, the peasantry, the women of the oppressed castes and classes, Muslims, political opponents of the neo-colonial, semi-feudal state and their imperialist masters, and the Maoists (and all other opponents loosely, and falsely, labelled “Maoists”).  As the opposition continues to grow against the oppressive police state, the contradiction with the democratic myth has grown sharply, infecting even the ranks of the repressive judiary.  The rebellious people will carefully study how these “democratic dissidents in high places” will be dealt with by the repressive “powers-that-be”.  —  Frontlines ed.]

Person can’t be taken into custody just because he is a Maoist, Kerala HC rules

Person can’t be taken into custody just because he is a Maoist, Kerala HC rules

Justice AM Muhammed Mushtaq said that a Maoist can be arrested and put behind the bars only if he or she indulges in unlawful or anti-national activities.

KOCHI: In a significant development, the Kerala high court made it clear that a Maoist cannot be taken into police custody just because of his political leanings.  Justice A M Muhammed Mushtaq, in his order on Friday, said that a Maoist can be arrested and put behind bars only if he or she indulges in unlawful or anti-national activities.  “Being a Maoist is no crime, though the political ideology of Maoists would not synchronise with our constitutional polity. It is a basic human right to think in terms of human aspirations,” Justice Mushtaq said in his order.The court was hearing a petition filed by Shyam Balakrishnan of Wayanad stating that he was arrested and harassed by the Thunderbolt team — a special police unit – for alleged Maoist links. The court ordered a compensation of Rs one lakh for the petitioner and also asked to state to pay litigation costs of Rs 10, 000. Continue reading

Remembering Robert Weil: Intellectual and Political Activist

Robert Emil Weil Obituary

Robert Weil, 1940-2014

by Swapna Banerjee-Guha

Red Cat, White Cat: China and the Contradictions of Market Socialism

Robert Weil, author of the powerful critique of Deng Xiaoping’s “reforms” entitled Red Cat, White Cat: China and the Contradictions of Market Socialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1996, republished in India by Cornerstone Publications, Kharagpur), quietly passed away in California on 12 March 2014.  Almost a year after, on 15 February 2015 a memorial meeting was held in Santa Cruz, California at the Resource Center for Nonviolence where his family, friends, teachers and long-time comrades from near and far came together to share their memories.  Robert meant a lot to them and for many others across the globe, a true friend, a dear comrade whose political integrity, a rare characteristic in the current milieu, they value immensely, a committed activist and intellectual whose life they considered worthy on all counts particularly while imagining a better world.  Starting off as a student-activist at Harvard University in the late 1950s, right till his last days Robert Weil remained involved in solidarity work with oppressed people around the world.  Even in the face of indifferent health, he did not think twice to join such efforts.  His democratic values in pursuing left politics will remain an example to many for years to come. Continue reading

India: When the State is indifferent to rape, the people take the streets

[Increasingly, acts of protest and resistance are denounced or dismissed as “Maoist” by the the state.  —  Frontlines ed.]

When the ‘Maoists’ Took Over the Streets of Kolkata

Why did the Kamduni incident – the rape and murder of a young college student and the utterly insensitive handling of the issue by the West Bengal government and the ruling Trinamool Congress – spark off such a huge reaction to bring together a wide spectrum of civil society under one umbrella in Kolkata on 21 June?

Vol – XLVIII No. 29, July 20, 2013 Rajashri Dasgupta, EPW

Rajashri Dasgupta (rajashridasgupta@gmail.com) is an independent Kolkata-based journalist specialising on issues related to gender, health, democratic rights and social movements.Civil society members take out a procession in Kolkata to protest the rise in crime against women and recent incidents of rape in West Bengal. Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

It was a hot and muggy afternoon on 21 June, when in an incredible display of public solidarity and defiance, thousands of people marched through the streets of Kolkata in silent protest. There were no political parties to manage the swelling numbers, no brandishing of political flags to claim victory for any organisation. Led by respected intellectuals, people poured in from all corners of the city as well as its outskirts to show their support and solidarity – elderly people, some with sticks and crutches; homemakers, for many of whom it was their first rally; working people who spontaneously got off buses or skipped work. There were students in large numbers with banners and placards, teachers, villagers holding hands for safety in an unfamiliar place, rights activists distributing leaflets, feminists with colourful posters, non-governmental organisation workers, actors, academics and journalists – all came together to protest the spurt in crimes against women in the state.

The protest was triggered by the gang-rape and murder of a young college girl Sheila (not her real name) in Kamduni village, Barasat district on 7 June and the insensitive handling of the incident by the state government. It was for the first time that the city, famous for its processions, witnessed an outpouring from such a wide cross-section of society, about an issue generally left to women’s groups and feminists to battle: the safety and security of women.

The rally of more than 10,000 strong was also a political expression of indignation against the constant bogey of “the other” raised by the ruling party to gag dissent. Suddenly, from one section of the rally, young men and women raised slogans demanding azaadi (freedom), startling this reporter since the word is usually associated with the Kashmir issue. For the people of Bengal that afternoon, however, the rallying cry of azaadi snowballed to take on a larger significance. It not only meant freedom of women from violence, but also implied the freedom of citizens to live without fear, the freedom to speak up, to question, and the freedom to protest. Since 2011, with the promise of paribartan (change) that had swept Mamata Banerjee to power in West Bengal, defeating an almost invincible Left Front (LF) rule of 34 years, the chief minister has silenced every question, protest or any whiff of dissent, real or imaginary, by dismissing it as a conspiracy against her from her opponents, whom she dubbed the “Maoists”. Continue reading

India: Maruti Suzuki Workers Union pamphlet on the occasion of May day

Sanhati, April 30, 2013

[Note from Maruti Suzuki Workers Union : We are currently on an indefinite dharna in Kaithal, Haryana since 24 March 2013, which included an 8-day Hunger Strike, and will continue until our demands are met. Please join us, in large numbers on 8th May 2013 in Kaithal (in front of the D.C. Office) for a program and rally to take the struggle forward.]

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Make Stronger the Unity of the Workers of Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-Bawal and the Toiling Masses of Haryana !

On the occasion of May Day, take the pledge to challenge the attack of the Capitalists and the Government which serves their interests !

Friends and Comrades,

Our experiences in struggle since 4th June 2011 provide us with the realization of a renewed importance of May Day and its glorious history. Moulded and tempered in the hearth of the struggle against exploitation and repression, the meaning of this history confronts us with an immediacy and concreteness today.

Exploitation and unceasing exploitation, struggle and repression: what all have we not witnessed during the space of these two years! On the strength of our unity and the solidarity of the workers of the industrial belt of Gurgaon-Manesar, after three phases of strike actions in 2011, we finally formed our Union in March 2012. This expression of our collective strength was unbearable to the management of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, Manesar and the state administration, who, to break this unity, as part of the conspiracy of 18th July 2012, declared us to be mindless criminals and terminated the jobs of 546 permanent and around 1800 contract workers. Along with this, 147 of our innocent fellow workers were thrown into jail, who continue to languish there, while non-bailable arrest warrants were thrust on 66 of us. An atmosphere of terror through continuous police repression and administrative intransigence firmly on side of the company management has been hounding us ever since. When we look at the horrible exploitative conditions of work of our fellow workers inside the factory today, the rationale behind the lies and fabrications of the company’s narrative around 18th July 2012 become clear to us. The workers working inside the factory today are bereft of all the rights that we won during the first phase of our struggle. Fewer workers than earlier toil harder than before. When even as much as an inkling of a renewed attempt to raise our voice, to establish our Union inside the factory came, 13 of the more active workers were promptly transferred to various corners of the country, and the attempt crushed there itself. So much for ‘everything’s under control’ in the Maruti’s ‘way of life’! Continue reading

Arundhati Roy speaks out against Indian rape culture

Channel 4 News, Friday 21 December 2012
The writer Arundhati Roy tells Channel 4 News she believes rape is used as a weapon in India and that women in the country are “paying the price”.

India: Revolutionary Trade Unions’ Call for General Strike

 DELHI GENERAL MAZDOOR FRONT (DGMF)

S-21/E-42, Indira Kalyan Vihar, Okhla Phase I, New Delhi 110020
PRESS STATEMENT,  19.02.2013:  Observe the Two Day Countrywide Strike on 20-21 February 2013!”

All the central trade unions have come together to call a two-day countrywide strike on 20 and 21 February 2013 in order to demand the fulfilment of a number of pressing issues connected to the lives of the workers and employees in both the organised and unorganised sectors. DGMF is aware that most of these trade unions are affiliated to the same parliamentary parties in power – whether at the centre or in various states – which are directly responsible for implementing anti-worker and anti-people policies. These political parties and their trade unions have repeatedly sacrificed the interests of the working masses of the country without batting an eyelid. In fact, all the parliamentary parties in the country today stand exposed as the agents and the representatives of foreign and domestic big capitalists.

The central trade unions have never seriously challenged the pro-imperialist policies of their mother parties. So to call a two-day strike upholding the rights of the workers is nothing but an eyewash – a move to hoodwink the toiling masses. It is out of popular pressure that these unions had to call a protest action in the form of the strike. The demands articulated by the two-day strike, however, are genuine demands of the workers themselves. DGMF therefore extends its solidarity to the workers’ strike and calls upon the working people of the country to observe the two-day strike. Without being a part of the grand alliance of ruling-class and revisionist trade unions, DGMF along with other revolutionary trade unions of the country has independently issued a strike call for 20 and 21 February 2013, and will strive to successfully implement the strike.

In solidarity,

Rash Behari

President, DGMF

Jagdish

General Secretary, DGMF

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