March 30, 2014

When Fascism Strikes, Strike Back: Condemn and resist the continuous minority witch hunting by the communal fascist Indian state!

On Sunday, Ammar Yasar, a native of Jharkhand, and his friend Abdul Wahid – both students and residents of Jodhpur - were picked up by the Special Cell of the Delhi police and linked up with the arrest of four people who were arrested and projected as the fictitious „Indian Mujahideen‟ members in Rajasthan a day ago. But before they could be framed in a similar manner, this latest bid of the notorious Special Cell was foiled only because of the militant and spirited protests of the Jamia Nagar residents who came out in the streets in hundreds and blockaded the Noida-Delhi Highway till their release at midnight. While the two had to been released, there have been several cooked up stories that the police has already come up with. One of those arrested from Rajasthan, Zia-ur Rahman has been projected as a key person in the Indian Mujahideen hierarchy and the “mastermind” behind a series of “terror” attacks, such as Jama Masjid attack (September 2010), Varanasi blast (December 2010), Mumbai blast (July 2011), Pune blast (August 2012) and Hyderabad blasts (2013). The Special Cell has also linked Zia with Atif Amin who was killed in cold blood by the Special Cell in 2009 in the Batla House fake encounter. Away from media attention, the Special Cell also took into custody one more youth from Jaipur, brought him to Delhi apparently for „questioning‟ and once again he could be released only because of the intervention and persistent efforts of several activists. In another instance, a renowned Muslim cleric, Maulana Abdul Qavi, the rector of Madarsa Ashraful Uloom in Hyderabad was abducted by the Gujarat police and the Special Cell on the 24th of March as he landed here in Delhi airport. He has also been charged with the conspiracy to kill Modi and others like Advani and Togadia and has also been linked up to some youths who were earlier arrested from Hyderabad.

The corporate media however, went viral immediately after the arrests of 4 youth from Rajasthan. The implanted stories provided by the IB were flooded across headlines. “Foiling of a Major terror plot ahead of the polls”, “IM module in Rajasthan smashed”, “Chunav me dhamaka karne aye chhah atanki giraftar” (6 terrorists aiming to carry out blasts during elections arrested), “IM ka top terrorist police ne dabocha” (Police catches hold of a top IM terrorist)…these were some of the headlines of leading dailies. Bringing out the entrenched Islamophobia, one prominent Hindi daily went so far as to say, “engineering students nikle atankwadi, makaan malik ke saamne padhte the Quran” (engineering students turned out to be terrorists, and they would read the Quran in front of their landlord). The Hindu, considered a progressive newspaper by many, has gone so far as to provide a detailed "life history" (of course as provided by the police) of Zia-Ur Rahman. And in all their narratives what they are trying to establish along with fanning the furor around Islamophobia, is that conspiracies are being hatched to kill Modi! The question to be posed is who actually benefits from this narrative?

“Plotting to kill Modi”, haven‟t we heard it over and over again? This bogey had claimed many lives already. Sadiq Jamal (2003), Ishrat Jahan, Javed Sheikh, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar (2004), Sohrabuddin Sheikh (2005) and Tulsiram Prajapati (2006) were all killed in fake encounters with this same pretext. Today, it is not a surprise that the same bogey is being manufactured once again ahead of the Lok Sabha polls when the mass murderer of Gujarat is projecting himself as the next PM of the country. In his Bihar rally too last October, after some low intensity bomb blasts, several Muslim youth were immediately arrested. Such projections are nothing but blatant efforts to create a polarization in favour of Modi, to show that he is on a „target‟ because of his "strong stand on Islamic terrorism." This serves two complementary and simultaneous purposes to the system. On one hand it provides a ground for communal fascist state to tighten its grip over the people, especially the muslims. As we have seen in the recent instances, the police, special cell, ATS all plunged together and worked in tandem to implicate people in these false cases and the media faithfully parroted the implanted stories without any attempt to unravel the truth. On the other hand this manufactured „threat‟ also generates legitimacy for a fascist figurehead like Modi to be at realm of power and control the situation with his iron fist.

For fascism to gain grounds and thrive the constant invention of "enemies" which from time to time can be muslims, dalits, migrant labourers, Maoists, Christians, homosexuals, "people-emulating-western-values", oppressed nationalities and so on (the list either keeps shifting or overlaps) is inevitable. The simultaneous ruthless persecution of these imagined enemies also becomes a necessity. The Congress too, trying to take electoral advantage of this polarization, is sending a veiled threat to the muslims that this witch hunting will continue. Like a pack of hunting wolves they send this common signal to the minorities, that they should remain as pliant vote bank or else shall be ruthlessly persecuted as "terrorists" by this cannibal state machinery. In this entire constructed cacophony about "Islamic terrorism", the terror network of the sangh giroh that was behind the series of bomb blasts in Malegaon, Ajmer Sharif, Mecca Masjid, Samjhauta Express is carefully being obliterated from public discourse and memory.

It is therefore facile to see Modi as a megalomaniac communal individual who is "posing a threat to the Indian democracy". Quite the contrary, it is each & every cog in the wheel of the casteist, communal, patriarchal & repressive state machinery that has come together in the making of Modi. Be it the army with its top brass involved in Hindutva terror plots; the police with its witch-hunt; the judiciary with its “clean chit” to Modi to cleanse him of the blood of the massacres of thousands; the media with its “NaMo” campaign; and the parliament - every so called "democratic" institution of this country has ensured his rise. Every parliamentary, party including the parliamentary pseudo-left with their complicity & tacit support for this repressive state machinery, has helped it fortify to the extent that now this mass murderer can claim a legitimate rise to the realm of power. Modi is today the strongest advocate of the feudal-Brahmanical-imperialist nexus that has always pervaded & even dominated India‟s parliamentary polity. His agenda of Hindutva & his policies of "development" thereby has the potential to unleash at any given time from a repository of thousands of years of Brahminical caste violence, patriarchal violence, communal-fascist violence & developmental terrorism of loot & plunder.

So, there is no "democracy" that Modi poses a threat to. Rather the challenge in front of us today is to build that real democracy that will wipe out the regime of mass murderers and put an end to such oppression and witch-hunting. Such democratization is possible not through unholy alliances or opportunistic electoral permutations and combinations within the same fascist anti-people system. Only a politics of revolutionary social transformation, that aims to build a united struggle of all the oppressed masses can challenge and crush Modi and the system that backs him.

Condemn the attempts of the Special Cell of the Delhi police to falsely implicate two youth from Jamia Nagar in a ‘terror’ case! Unite to defeat the politics of minority witch-hunting and the so called ‘war on terror’!

DSU condemns in strongest possible terms the attempts by the notorious Special Cell of the Delhi Police to once again frame and harass muslim youth yesterday at Jamia Nagar. As the Special Cell took into custody two youth – Ammar Yasar and Abdul Wahid – from the Abul Fazal Enclave area of Jamia Nagar apparently for ‘questioning’, hundreds of residents came out on the streets. They gheraoed the Jamia Nagar police thana and blocked the Sarita Vihar-Noida highway for hours, despite police attempts to stop the protests. As a result of these spirited and assertive protests, the Special Cell which has a history of illegally detaining innocents and then framing them in ‘terror’ cases was finally forced to release the two around mid-night. The track record of the Special Cell in persecuting, harassing, torturing and even killing muslim youth through fake encounters has been extensively documented, exposed and severely indicted by several rights activists. It cannot be forgotten that this was the same Special Cell which was involved in the infamous Batla House ‘encounter’ five years back, or in the arrest, torture and false framing of Delhi University professor S.A.R. Geelani and countless others.

The turn of events on the day - Early morning on 23rd March at 6.30 am, several plainclothes policemen from the Special Cell along with the local police of the area forcibly barged into a house at the Shaheen Bagh area of Jamia Nagar searching for Ammar Yasar and took him, along with his friend Abdul Wahid into custody. After taking away all their possessions, the police also locked the room where they were staying and took away the keys along with them. When the care taker of the flat inquired as to the reasons for the police operations, he was merely told that it was a ‘normal search operation’ and that the two would be released in an hour or two after questioning. While the police did not inform any local resident or the local police station the reasons for these detentions (which is part of the usual standard procedure), a Special Cell officer went on record to say that two were being questioned with regard to their association with the four youth who had been arrested a day earlier from Rajasthan on the bogus plea that they were part of a ‘Indian Mujahideen terror module’ which was planning to ‘strike during elections’ and also ‘plotting to kill Modi’! Ammar Yasar was a student of the same institute in Jaipur where these four students studied and had come to Delhi to board a flight and was staying in a friend’s flat. As several hours passed by, without any information from the police or the release of the two, the people of the area for whom earlier instances of witch-hunting are all too fresh in their memory came out in big numbers and refused to go back to their houses unless the two are released. The entire traffic on the highway remained jammed for hours and empty assurances from the police could not dampen the protests. Sensing the militancy of the protest and the increasing numbers of protesters, the police tried several times to stop the protests but in vain. It was only after the release of the two around the midnight that the protests were called off.

In the past more than a decade as the Indian state has aligned itself closely with US imperialism’s strategic interests, several governments have systemically carried on the witch-hunt of muslims in the name of ‘war on terror’. Even this story of ‘Islamic terrorists’ conspiring to kill Narendra Modi is not new. One cannot forget how the same was evoked to justify a series of fake encounters in Gujarat - of Sadiq Jamal ( 2003), Ishrat Jahan, Javed Sheikh, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar (2004), Sohrabuddin Sheikh (2005) and Tulsiram Prajapati (2006). With the butcher of Gujarat trying to project himself, with the help of big corporates, as the next prospective Prime Minister the same story has come right back. By trying to show Modi as being on the target of ‘terrorists’, such tactics are aimed at creating a polarization in favour of Modi for his supposedly ‘strong’ stand on ‘Islamic terrorism’. And this campaign, as was seen in the arrests of several youth in Bihar after low intensity blasts in a BJP rally in Patna last October and now the arrests from Rajasthan, is ably supported by all sections of the state – from the police to the media. In these arrests from Rajasthan, sections of the media have shamefully already declared them to be terrorists only on the basis of police claims. With communal-fascism starting at us right in our faces, such attacks by the ruling classes are bound to increase in the coming days - not only on the religious minorities but on all the oppressed sections. It is only a resolute and united fight of all progressive and democratic forces that can counter and put an end to such attacks, witch-hunt and oppression.

Condemn the systemic discrimination against the Gorkha students by the Bengal Government in the recruitment by WBCSC! Stand in solidarity with the democratic demand and aspirations for separate Gorkhaland!

JNUSU must not facilitate any “deliberations” by the EC or a dubious “jury” overriding GSCASH decisions! Intensify the struggle to make GSCASH decisions binding on administration!

Yesterday we observed the second university strike in this semester to protest against the promotion of the SIS professor to the post of Deanship against whom there is an ongoing GSCASH enquiry and to demand the implementation of the GSCASH verdict that found Prof. Kundu guilty of sexual harassment. Yesterday’s protest demonstration was an expression of the growing demand from the student community to redeem GSCASH from the clutches of an administration that is hell bent on finding newer & more ingenious ways to shield faculty members guilty of harassment. The JNUSU President, however, started by “welcoming” the dubious option of “deliberations” between EC members and the GSCASH to decide upon cases of sexual harassment referring to a suggestion of an “American jurisprudence system” placed by a faculty member. By that logic, every complaint would need to go through a three-tier process of investigation – first by the GSCASH, second in the EC and lastly, through a “debate” between the GSCASH and the EC before a bench of seemingly neutral “jury”. By being “open to exploring this idea”, the JNUSU would be jeopardizing the very autonomy of GSCASH that it claims to fight for. DSU reiterates that no EC or any purported “jury” should have any right to “vote upon” or for that matter have any say on the implementation of GSCASH verdict. DSU strongly condemns such hollow rhetoric of standing with the cause of gender justice while being “open to” administrative interference through backdoor in the name of “consultation”.

It is clear that AISA is quite eager to let the EC question the veracity of the evidences cited in GSCASH reports, cast aspersions about the competence of elected GSCASH members and breach the confidentiality of cases in the name of “democratization”. Further AISA seemed to be comfortable with the idea of a GSCASH subordinate to the EC, the former having to defend their recommendations every time, in the face of intimidation from powerful cliques. After the meeting with the Rector, the representatives of the AISA-led JNUSU reported to the students about a meeting that the administration is planning between GSCASH and the EC regarding the verdict against Prof. Amitabh Kundu of CSRD. While we have been opposing any intervention by the EC to adjudicate upon the implementation of GSCASH verdict, the JNUSU shamelessly gave consent to, tried to brush aside, and even tried to justify this undemocratic and un-institutional step of the administration. DSU vehemently rejects any such compliance on JNUSU’s part that would only serve to further embolden administration and weaken GSCASH. This only serves to expose the JNUSU’s double-standards in rejecting the “Three Member Committee” on the Kundu case on one hand, while giving green signal to “deliberations” between EC and GSCASH.

DSU has been stating for the last three years that only a militant and prolonged struggle can actualize the demand of making GSCASH recommendations BINDING on the administration. Even after the UGBM of 2013 mandated the same demand, AISA-led JNUSU has been reluctant to fight towards it. The demand for making GSCASH decisions binding upon the administration was absent from even the JNUSU’s posters calling for yesterday’s protest & strike. Yesterday the Gen. Sec. blatantly lied that DSU opined for stalling a plan of “intensified” struggle that the JNUSU had proposed in an All Organization meeting. In reality, DSU had consistently appealed to begin a protracted struggle after the program in solidarity with the Maruti workers on the 28th and 29th of Jan. But JNUSU merely came up with a token one day university strike on 30th Jan which was not followed by any “intensified” struggle till date despite repeatedly being urged to do so. DSU urges the student community to force the union to refrain from such opportunistic attempts and forge an uncompromising struggle to ensure justice in each and every case of sexual harassment.

Defend and Strengthen GCASH by ensuring justice in each and every case of sexual harassment!

In the backdrop of the alarming frequency with which all attempts to seek justice in cases of sexual harassment has criminally scuttled by administrative highhandedness, it is imperative to understand such violation of rights as a ploy to further deepen the roots of patriarchy on campus. The recent promotion of an SIS Professor to the post of Dean is symptomatic of the administration’s earnestness to defend and shield faculty members accused of sexual harassment. In spite of an ongoing GSCASH enquiry against him and a significant section of the faculty members opposing the move through an open letter to the Vice Chancellor, the said Professor was given Deanship. The administration even shamelessly pleaded ignorance to such a case registered against him in the GSCASH and showed total disregard to the fervent protests by the student community. This tyrannical attitude of the administration bears testimony to the fact that it has scant regard for a democratic & quasi-judicial body like GSCASH which has an institutionalised mechanism in place to deliberate and decide on cases of sexual harassment. This promotion comes as a reminder to us as to how the administration is getting methodically emboldened with every passing day. Letting off CSMCH faculty member Prof. Nayar with a compulsory retirement that was not even time-bound and with all benefits, hushing up the case against an SIS faculty with a “public apology”, refusing to implement the findings of the GSCASH enquiry against Prof. Kundu of CSRD, are instances in front of our eyes where the administration undermined the agency of GSCASH and tried to reduce it into an inept toothless body. The promotion of the SIS faculty member to Deanship is only one more attack on the very democratic ethos out of which the GSCASH was born and continuously fought for. The administrative cunning is once again visible in the recent move of sending the concerned professor on “leave” till the semester’s end instead of revoking the Dean-ship. DSU strongly condemns such brazen attacks by the authorities to thwart GSCASH decisions, in an attempt to crush women’s right to justice.

GSCASH came into being in this campus after years of protracted struggle and a concerted student movement which rightfully felt the need for a body to ensure gender justice on campus. While the initial task at hand with the establishment of GSCASH was to safeguard justice in each and every case of sexual harassment, what we have been witnessing over time is the growing necessity to broaden the GSCASH mandate because of the blatant travesty of justice and the overbearing patriarchal domination of the authorities over GSCASH. The administrative despotism has assumed significant proportions in recent times with it even going to the extent of questioning the competence of GSCASH to hold a proper and independent enquiry into cases of sexual harassment involving faculty members, thereby casting aspersions on the integrity of the institution. This is evident in the way the EC suggested the formation of a three-member committee in the case against Prof. Kundu for further “scrutiny” of the GSCASH verdict which had already found him guilty of sexual harassment. In the case of promotion of the SIS Prof. to Deanship, suggestions in a recently held open house ranged from “democratising” the EC to having an “American jurisprudence system” to look into cases of sexual harassment and gender violence. Such a system would then have a jury, which would be “representative” of both GSCASH and EC members, to take a final call on matters of sexual harassment after deliberating on the “debate” between the GSCASH and the EC. This means a particular case of sexual harassment would be dissected by a three-tier system which includes not just the GSCASH, but the EC and a “jury”. This will bolster the hands of the repressive administration to delay, dilute, distort or completely dismantle GSCASH verdicts. If the administration and the EC (including certain faculty of this university) are allowed to pose doubts about the veracity of the evidences cited in GSCASH reports, then the confidentiality of the cases, the competence of elected GSCASH members, the fairness of an independent enquiry process free from interference of powerful cliques, will all be jeopardised. DSU thereby reiterates that no EC, or VC or a purported “jury” should have any right to “vote upon” or for that matter have any say on the matters of implementation of GSCASH verdict. The GSCASH decisions must be made binding upon the administration as a crucial step to defend and expand the sovereignty and autonomy of GSCASH from arbitrary and patriarchal interventions. The GSCASH verdict that found Prof. Kundu guilty must be implemented in toto immediately.

The call for the university strike tomorrow comes in the wake of the consistent indifference of the administration towards the demands of the student community to uphold gender justice on campus. But, today, on the eve of this struggle, we must recall that in the last two years we have behind us a series of protests with no concrete outcome; complicity from our last elected union in the shielding of Nayar; a criminal silence on the case of Kundu at crucial junctures interspersed by tokenism. We should recall that the union in the last six months has done NOTHING towards the implementation of the UGBM resolution that was unanimously passed to make GSCASH decisions binding upon the administration. Even after rejecting the “Three Member Committee” on the Kundu case more than a month back, the JNUSU has clearly been reluctant to wage any meaningful struggle to confront the administration. The absolute lack of vision on the part of the union was evident in the forgotten one day university strike called on 30th January that was purportedly to mark the beginning of an “intensified” struggle after which nothing followed till date. Such inactions, complicity and silences of course ultimately add to the strength of the administration. The demand for making GSCASH decisions binding upon administration is just and crucial; the patriarchal administration’s opposition to is bound to be stubborn. And hence, today, when we prepare to face the administration, we must brace ourselves for a militant, decisive and protracted struggle. We must force the union to forge an uncompromising struggle from hereon to ensure justice in each & every case of sexual harassment. It is only a vigilant student movement that can uphold the legitimacy of the institution of GSCASH and ensure the proper implementation of its decisions.

Zero Tolerance for Sexual Harrasment! Make GSCASH decisions binding upon the administration!

Condemn & Resist the Expulsion, Forcible Eviction and Booking of 67 Kashmiri students for cheering for Pakistan in a cricket match!

Condemn the repeated racial attacks on the People from the North-East! Resist the racist power nexus of the police-judiciary and other state machineries of the country!

Two separate incidents of racial attacks on students from the North-east in New Delhi and Bangalore in the last week have once again demonstrated the frequency of racial attacks and discrimination in a country that denies being anything but “racist”. On the night of 28th February 2014, a 24 year old Manipuri student pursuing her B.Ed at Delhi University was molested and cruelly beaten up by two men at Old Gupta Colony, Vijayanagar in North-West Delhi. The two men stopped the girl and her friend who were on their way to their rented accommodation in the area and started racially abusing them. They also molested the girl and tried to expose their private parts to her. When the male friend tried to intervene, he was brutally beaten up. The subsequent skirmish attracted crowd and around 10.50 pm a call was made to the police control room. Though the police was forced to take in to custody one of the offenders from the spot, the other had fled the scene by the time the police arrived. Exemplifying the repeated role of the police at shielding perpetrators of racial crimes by not filing FIRs or delaying it, the police took almost 3 to 4 hours to even record the statement of the girl. Despite repeated demands from students to file an FIR, it was only formally registered by the police around early morning, that is, 7-8 hours after the incident. This was despite the fact that enraged by the incident and the role of the police thereafter hundreds of students had gathered there to protest. Rather than responding to the genuine demands of the students, the police first tried to flee from that spot and when that failed it responded to the students with lathi-charge. Girls were pushed and elbowed by the police (who had just one female constable amongst them), the police threw stones at the students and even took in to “preventive custody” two protesting students. Around 4.30 am some of the protesting students took out a march against the police high-handedness from Vijay Nagar to Model Town Police Station demanding a copy of the FIR and also the release of the students under preventive custody. The complainant finally managed to get a copy of the FIR at 6.30 am and the detained students had to be let off under mounting pressure shortly thereafter.

In another case in a different part of the country, a group of Arunachali students who were celebrating their local harvest festival in their room were attacked by some locals at the Kirloskar Layout in Bangalore that falls in Peenya police limits in the midnight of 25th February. When they tried to file a complaint with the police, there were met with a severe backlash from both the accused as well as the authorities. While the police wasted no time in falsely implicating the complainants on fabricated charges and then taking them in to custody around 1.30 am, the accused impudently passed sexist and racist comments against the North-eastern women and were shamelessly joined by the policemen in beating up the four North-eastern men. Later four people who were arrested on false charges were granted bail by the Magistrate court on 28th February, after much persuasion from civil society groups and North-east helpline.

These incidents are evidences once again clearly establish that racial discrimination, particularly against people from the North-East, are no longer isolated/stray incidents of crimes in this country but are symptomatic of the larger racial prejudice deep-seated in Indian society. Racism, infact, is so fundamental to “Indian culture” and its social structure and is deeply entwined into its right-wing edifice, that it time and again lays bare the hollowness of all its proclaimed trans-racial empathy. While the government of this land has been in constant denial of the existence of racism in India, the fact remains that it has thoroughly failed to address the problems like unemployment, poverty and under-education of the entire north eastern society, where various subjugated nationalities have been kept occupied with sheer military might by the Indian state. This forces the people from these regions to migrate en masse for education and jobs to different Indian cities, where in turn they are subjected to such racial discrimination. However, these continuous racist discrimination and harassment of the people from North East will only strengthen their resolve to fight back the relentless injustice meted out against them. All progressive and democratic forces should actively counter and resist this deep seated racism and its various manifestations and actively stand by the struggle of the people of North East for their dignity and freedom.

Immediately remove the SIS Dean from the post of Dean against whom there is an ongoing GSCASH enquiry pending verdict!

In the context in which we stand today, we are faced with an administration that has the most brazen and consistent history of shielding each and every faculty member guilty of sexual harassment. It is certainly the historic struggle of the students that had led to the constitution of the GSCASH in this campus following the Vishakha judgment. But then again, today we are faced with a situation where the administration repeatedly mocks at the very sanctity of GSCASH by using a khap-like EC to flout, dilute, overturn and scuttle its decisions each time it finds a faculty member guilty of harassment.
In the last one year we have seen three consecutive such instances. In the first instance, Prof. Nayar, the CSMCH faculty member found guilty of sexual harassment by GSCASH was let off with a golden handshake. In the second instance, Prof. Kundu, again clearly found guilty of harassment is being shielded by the EC that is bent upon constituting another enquiry of its own in the name of “Three Member Committee” to overturn the GSCASH verdict. And in the third instance, we find the administration going a step further and promoting a faculty member to the post of Dean of SIS, against whom there is an ongoing GSCASH enquiry pending verdict despite severe criticism and protests by a large section of students and faculty.
At a time when the very sanctity of our hard earned institution of GSCASH is threatened, it is imperative that we muster all means to resist such entrenched patriarchy and authoritarianism of the JNU administration. We must fight to demand the immediate demotion of the faculty member against whom there is a GSCASH enquiry from the post of SIS Dean. And alongside, it is imperative that we build an uncompromising struggle to wrest all powers from the administration (the VC or the EC) to scuttle justice through dilution or distortion or overturning of the GSCASH decisions. Therefore, we must in earnest build a protracted struggle to make the GSCASH decisions binding upon the administration. Our fight against patriarchy will prove to be hollow rhetoric if we fail to ensure justice in each and every case of sexual harassment on which the GSCASH delivers a verdict. DSU appeals to the students to participate in large numbers in tomorrow’s referendum to sound it loud & clear to this administration that students of this campus will not tolerate such brazen violation of gender justice as is manifest in the case of promotion of an individual to the post of Dean-ship against whom there is a pending GSCASH enquiry.

Participate in Referendum:

Should anyone undergoing enquiry in GSCASH be
 promoted to important administrative posts?

27th Feb

10am to 2pm in front of SSS & SIS
4pm to 7pm at Bramhaputra hostel, Sabarmati Dhaba & Ganga Dhaba

28th Feb

10am to 2pm at Bramhaputra hostel, Sabarmati Dhaba & Ganga Dhaba 
4pm to 7pm at Bramhaputra hostel, Sabarmati Dhaba & Ganga Dhaba
Vote for a resounding NO

Public Meeting - Maoist Movement in perspective: Struggle for Social Transformation and People's Power

March 10, 2014

Text of the Third Comrade Naveen Babu Memorial Lecture, delivered by Anand Teltumbde

Of Caste Massacres and Judicial Impunity: Bloodstains in Bathani Tola and Laxmanpur Bathe...
Anand Teltumbde

At the outset let me thank DSU for giving me this opportunity to pay my homage to comrade Yalavarthi Naveen Babu, who was martyred at the young age of 35 in Andhra Pradesh. I personally knew Naveen as a young man bubbling with revolutionary zeal and energy as an editor of Kalam, the organ of the AIRSF formed in 1990 and an organizer of the International Seminar on Nationality Struggles in Delhi in February 1996, which I attended. The last I met with him was in Chennai just a few months before his martyrdom. I complement DSU for instituting this memorial lecture, which would help young students in JNU to see how one of their own had lived and died for the cause of Indian revolution. 

If Naveen had been living today, he would have been in forefront in protesting against the obnoxious pattern of judgements coming from Patna High Court in the cases of massacre of Dalits taken place in 1990s. As such, the topic decided for this memorial lecture is quite in tune with the memory of this revolutionary. 

All of you know Bathani Tola and Laxmanpur Bathe, the small obscure hamlets in Bhojpur and Arwal districts of Bihar respectively, which were catapulted to the world map in mid 1990s for their infamous massacres of Dalits. About Laxmanpur Bathe massacre, the then president of India, K.R. Narayanan, had expressed his indignation saying it was a ‘national shame’. Unfortunately, Laxmanpur-Bathe was not to be the lone such shame; there were scores of them before and after Laxmanpur. A quarter century since, the process of law has reached to put a lid on these cases, reminding Dalits of the laws of Manu after 86 years they had burnt Manusmriti in Mahad and after 63 years the country had installed Bhimsmriti in its place. It only wakes them up to the hollowness of such rhetoric which unfortunately informed the Dalit movement after Babasaheb Ambedkar, during the last 56 years. It verily tells us that nothing has changed; if at all, it has changed only for worse. Worse, because in Ambedkar’s time Dalits, approximately were a homogenous mass, appeared like a giant getting up from his deep sleep of millenniums; now it is a hopelessly fragmented mass, splintered into classes and subcastes, pretending to be awake but actually in self imposed stupor to the reality around. 

Most infamous early caste atrocities are associated with the communist movements and although their victims were all Dalits, the mainstream Dalits hesitated to identify with them as such. They demonstrated how caste and class (in a familiar sense; I would tend to incorporate caste within class and do away with this duality) intersected in an indeterminate complex web. No one would say, including communists that the goriest attacks on Dalits were purely class retribution and there was no caste angle to it. Far from it, the fact remains that these atrocities had happened because the victims were Dalits. The same question can be put to the protagonists of caste. Was it entirely because of caste? Only fools could say yes. Before this caste-class cauldron flared up in central Bihar in 1990s, it had all begun in down south in a place called Kilvenmeni way back in 1968 as a product of the changes in political economy that befell in the country during the first two decades after the transfer of power in 1947. 

The very first case of the new genre of caste atrocity, as I have been calling them, happened on a Christmas Day in 1968, when 44 Dalit agricultural farm labourers and their family members, including women, children and old men, were brutally burnt alive in Kilvenmani, a small village in today’s Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu. Kilvenmani and surrounding villages in erstwhile Thanjavur district had a considerable population of landless agricultural labourers, mostly Adi Dravida Dalits, and most agricultural lands in the area belonged to temples and absentee landlords. This feudal formation was an ideal ground for the communist movement to experiment with the peasant struggle. As such from the 1930s itself, the communists under the CPI had begun working in Tanjavur district and had become quite strong in the area with the following among the tenants and landless labourers, who were organized as farm workers union. After the split in the communist party, the leadership of the area had gone to the CPI (M). On the fateful day, the tragedy followed an agitation over the demand from the farm workers for an increase in wages. The haughty landlords rejected the demand. One G. Naidu, a landlord from a nearby village, was the President of Paddy Producers Association of East Thanjavur, who took the leading role in suppressing workers` strike during the harvest season. On the day of the incident, a hit man of G. Naidu was killed in a scuffle with workers. It enraged landlords to retaliate. As per the celebrated account of noted Anthropologist Kathleen Gough, (Read Kathleen Gough, "Indian Peasant Uprisings", Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, Vol. 8, 1976) the landlords reached the Dalit hamlet in their cars followed by tractors carrying some 300 people laced with knives and guns in the night. They surrounded the Dalit settlement and began to shoot and knife people. People ran helter skelter to the paddy fields. They herded remaining people, mainly women and children, into a small hut and set it on fire, burning all the inmates alive. The victims of Kilvenmani included 28 paraiyars and 16 pallars (all Dalits). Sixteen of the dead were women, five men and 23 children. Gough’s chilling account of the incident would still send shivers down anyone’s spine. 

After the incident the local police arrested 23 landlords. The district court acquitted 15 of the accused and sentenced the rest to various terms of liberal imprisonment ranging from one to ten years. The case went to appeal in the Madras High Court, where all the accused were released. In its judgment, the court simply said: “The rich landlords could not be expected to commit such violent crimes and would normally hire others to do while keeping themselves in the background.” While the landlords who had personally brought and led the killers killing 44 Dalits, in an unprecedentedly horrific incident, several Dalit workers were duly tried for the murder of the hit-man and awarded various jail terms. Gough reports: “Twenty-two harijans from in or near [Kil]Venmani were jailed for 2 months without trial on suspicion of violence. Eight Harijans from [Kil]Venmani, all of whom lost close relatives in the fire, received jail sentences for the alleged murder of P. Padaiyacchi (the hit-man), one being sentenced to life imprisonment and actually imprisoned for seven years. One of the remaining Harijans received five years` rigorous imprisonment, three of them two years, and three, one year.” Kilvenmani thus had set the tone inaugurating the new genre of caste atrocities, which would be followed for a long time. Gough clairvoyantly observed: “Many more can be expected before India`s agrarian exploitation is overcome.”

How and why did Kilvenmani take place? If we want to make sense of history for our struggles, then such questions assume importance, not just their narratives. Kilvenmani should be seen as the product of the momentous change that was befalling the country side. After the transfer of power, the new ruling dispensation under Jawaharlal Nehru went full blast in its treachery against people. While people aspired for ‘land to the tillers’, and end to their bondage and misery under feudal lords, the rulers wanted to make India congenial for the incipient bourgeoisie, duly accommodating the interests of landlords but cheating people at the same time by projecting itself as ideologically socialist and thereby pro-people. This treachery skillfully ran through everything including the very making of the constitution itself. On the one hand, the Constitution spoke of high sounding ideals but on the other rendered those sections (for example, Directive Principles of State Policy in Part IV of the Constitution) ineffective which were meant to achieve them. On the one hand the Constitution provided a lofty vision and on the other, the regime adopted the entire colonial structure of governance. What interfaced with common people were the same old oppressive bureaucracy and Indian Penal Code, drafted by that shrewd colonial strategist Thomas Babington Macaulay. 

The notion of Nehruvian socialism lazily associated with Nehru regime was actually to support the bourgeois plan. Signaled by the increasing militant anti-British activities, the British capital had started leaving the country after 1931, which process grew in volume during and after the Second World War, particularly following the Quit India campaign in August 1942. Actually, it did not always take the form of the outright folding up of undertakings; it was sometimes just in the form of the liquidation of entire holdings or their transfer to Indian hands. [It is estimated that Rs. 13.5 billion worth of British capital had slipped out between August 1942 and July 1948. See, Vivek Chibber, Locked in Place: State-Building and Late Industrialization in India, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2003, p. 107.] One can see the instrumental role of the Quit India movement in strengthening the Indian bourgeoisie to take over British firms. Although the transfer of power would open up sea of opportunities, they still did not possess the strength to mobilize required capital and more importantly to manage political aspects. Taking stock of these things, eight big industrialists and technocrats of the day [Purushottam thakurdas, JRD Tata, GD Birla, Ardeshir Dala, Lala Shri Ram, Kasturbhai Lalbhai, AD Shroff and John Mathai] created a Plan in 1944 [later published in 1945 as memorandum Outlining a Plan of Economic Development for India, Parts One and Two, Penguin, Hammondsworth, 1945] that included all that came to be associated with Nehruvian socialism. Actually, the idea of this Plan had born in December 1942, in the aftermath of the great success of the Quit India movement for the Indian business. This plan that would be known as Bombay Plan presented the 15-year investment horizon with the aim of doubling the per-capita income and trebling the national income. 

Formally, Nehru did not accept the Bombay Plan, but as it stands, our first industrial policy statement as well as our three five year plans could be seen to have been informed by this Plan. The very source of the five year plans, which for the people and the world projected India into the Soviet camp, (and alarmed the capitalist camp during the cold war era) as they were then associated with socialist planning, could be seen in this Bombay Plan. Curiously, it was adopted while the Constitution was still in the making. All the noises in favour of the poor and depressed; rhetoric of reducing inequality and public sector scaling commanding heights, etc. are to be found in the Bombay Plan. 

Merely adopting the investment plan was not however enough unless the actual sources of savings, supply and demand and politics also were aligned. From this perspective, the vast countryside assumed great importance. Taking cue from the peoples’ aspirations for land reforms, often voiced during the freedom struggle, a programme of land reform was undertaken. If the intention had truly been to distribute land among the landless, it could have been executed centrally in one stroke but it was done though a plethora of convoluted land ceiling legislations in states, the resultant effect of which would be to create a class out of the populous shudra caste, which would act as political ally of the national bourgeoisie at the centre. This strategic masterstroke replacing the entrenched feudal class from the minority upper castes by the class with most populous caste base transformed the entire configuration of the rural India. With an alibi of wide spread hunger, which indeed was a reality, the government brought in the capitalist strategy of Green Revolution, which besides hugely enriching the newly created class of rich farmers, seeded capitalist relations in the vast countryside. It brought in money economy and created markets for inputs, outputs, implements, services and credit. In caste terms, it pushed out erstwhile high caste landlords and installed rich farmers of shudra caste in their place, effectively transferring the baton of Brahmanism in villages from a minority to majority base. With the collapse of traditional jajmani relations of interdependence of village people, Dalits were reduced to be rural proletariat, utterly dependent on the shudra caste rich farmers for their farm wages. This new paradigm soon gave rise to wage struggles, which flared up under communist leadership in certain pockets. Kilvenmani was its earliest expression. 

The golden era of capitalism, which had begun with the devastation of the world in the World War II and ran for two decades until mid-1960s during its reconstruction started throwing up inherent contradictions of capitalist system by the ending years of the decade. It manifested in the form of various social unrest all over the world. Many movements during the latter half of the 1960s including Naxalite movement in India also should be included among its manifestations. The movement born out of a minor clash between landlords and tenants in a remote corner of the country acquired its strategic focus on countryside inspired by the Chinese revolution. With its anti-feudal, anti-imperialist slogans, it attracted large mass of rural poor, particularly Dalits wherever it reached. Central Bihar, where class polarization coincided with caste divisions, soon came to prominence because of its armed clashes. As per the data compiled by my friend Prakash Louis, there were more than eighty massacres where the victims have been the farm labourers belonging to the lower castes and the perpetrators were the upper caste landlords. These attacks did not go unanswered and there were massacres of the upper castes too but they hover around just 15 in number, less than one-fifth of the total. In one such incident, the Bara Massacre, in Gaya district, the MCC (Maoist Communist Centre) cadres killed 35 persons of the Bhumihar Brahmin caste (landlords) known to have links with the Savarna Sena (a precursor to the notorious Ranveer Sena) in February 1992. It led to the invocation of TADA by the then Lalu Prasad Yadav government in Bihar. In 2001, the special TADA court and the District and Sessions Court in Gaya awarded death sentences to several of the accused. Some of which were read down to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court in 2002. The lower caste people accused in the Bara Carnage case for killing upper caste villagers met very different destinies from that of the upper caste landlords who executed most other carnages in Bihar where the victims belonged to lower castes. It told a very disturbing but the original tale. It is almost a rule: if you are a lower caste villager who participated in the killing of upper caste militia men, you were sure to get a death sentence, or life imprisonment. However, if you are an upper caste militia man killing lower caste people, you are quite likely to walk free. After all, hasn’t Manu’s code prescribed differential punishments for different castes committing the same crime? 

With the lower caste retaliation in Bara, the frequency of upper caste attacks became frequent. Landlords floated many senas [see for the comprehensive list Prakash Louis, People Power: The Naxalite Movement in Central Bihar, Delhi: Wordsmith, 2002], which began enacting Dalit massacres. On 11 July, 1996, some 150 men belonging to Ranvir Sena armed with guns, swords, sickles, and lathis surrounded Bathani Tola in Bhojpur district’s Sahar block in Central Bihar and ruthlessly hacked the Dalits in the broad daylight at around 1 pm. As the terrified villagers ran to hide themselves, the men started burning houses. They entered the mud huts, pulled out women and children, slit their throats, shot them, and stabbed them with swords. 11 women and 9 children, including an infant, and 1 man were killed. The dead were all Dalits and Muslims. The survivors and eyewitnesses recognized the attackers and named them clearly in the FIR, as these were men from their own villages who had not even tried to hide their faces during the attack. An FIR was lodged against 33 people the day after the massacre. In all, the Bhojpur police framed charges against 63 persons in October 1996. The accused were convicted by the Sessions Court, Ara and sentenced three persons with capital punishment, and the remaining twenty with life imprisonment in May 2010. The case went into appeal to the Patna High Court. In July 2012, a Division Bench of judges Navneeti Prasad Singh and Ashwani Kumar Singh cited “defective evidence” and acquitted all of them. In their judgement they said, “We regret such a ghastly incident took place. However, the investigation was not fair. Apparently, the investigation moved in a particular direction – far from the truth, not above suspicion.” The counsel for the witnesses in the Bathani Tola, Anand Vatsyayan, expressed his surprise saying, “The evidence at hand was more than sufficient to uphold the judgement passed by the Ara sessions court…. The Supreme Court guidelines in the event of a massacre are quite clear. The eyewitnesses need not remember all the names. And, of the six prime witnesses questioned in this case, all had conclusively pointed fingers at the persons convicted by the lower court.” But who do you say all this and to what avail?

Laxmanpur-Bathe was another site of a massacre, where 58 Dalits were killed by the upper-caste Ranvir Sena on the night of 1 December 1997. The village, just 125 km from Patna along the banks of river Sone, was targeted because Ranvir Sena members believed the Dalits there, mostly poor and landless, were sympathizers of the Maoists who had killed 37 upper caste men in Bara. Ranvir Sena, a militia of upper caste landlords, was created by Bhumihars to take on the Naxalites, mostly who had several Dalits as foot soldiers. In April 2010, 13 years after the massacre, the District and Sessions court in Patna convicted 26 persons for the Laxmanpur- Bathe massacre. The court gave death sentence to 16 convicts and life imprisonment and Rs. 50,000 fine for 10 others, for murder, criminal conspiracy and atrocity. In the judgment the court noted that the massacre was “More than the ‘rarest of the rare cases’, it was a heinous crime.” At the same time, 19 other accused were acquitted for lack of evidence. The conviction by the lower court, in fact, came after the High Court’s intervention to expedite the trial which was not moving. Eventually the judgement came after 11 years of the massacre. Within that period, Ranvir Sena carried out series of attacks in Rural Bihar, which resulted in 38 out of 91 eye witnesses turning hostile. The Patna High Court Division Bench comprising Justices V.N. Sinha and A.K. Lal acquitted on October 9, 2013 all the 26 convicts. In their judgement they said, “since the prosecution failed to establish the charge against the Appellants beyond reasonable doubts, they stand acquired.”

In fact these cases were not the isolated instances of the culprits getting scot free in the High Court. Actually, the cases that were decided by the Patna high court present a pattern that the lower courts after years convicting some accused and the High Court acquitting all of them for want of evidence. This happened four times in quick succession that all the accused in massacre cases were acquitted by the High Court. Earlier in July 2013, 9 of the 10 persons convicted by a special district court for killing 34 Dalits at Miyanpur village in Aurangabad district were acquitted by the Patna High Court. In March 2013, all the 11 accused convicted by a lower court for the massacre of 10 CPI-ML sympathizers at Nagari village in Bhojpur district in November 1998 were acquitted by the High Court. Bathani Tola and Laxmanpur-Bathe were just the repeats. 

It is not in Bihar alone. One can easily discern an interesting pattern in the judgements on the infamous caste atrocity cases irrespective of the states, courts or the judges. Under the pressure created by the public outcry, the lower courts generally drop charges against key criminals and award the remaining convicts salutary punishments which may not be technically warranted by the kind of case prosecution presented. The prosecution’s case will of course be based on shabby investigation police provides, notwithstanding his/her ability vis-à-vis the defendant advocate. Invariably, the convicts would go to the higher court in appeal against the judgement. By then the public outcry would not only have died down, but also the case would have completely faded away from the public memory. The higher court would take hard look at the case before it and would land up reducing the punishments if not altogether discharging the convicts. In many ways Khairlanji is an exemplary case to illustrate contemporary processes in this context and hence I had written a book and followed it up with a few write ups. 

To recount, in Khairlanji, a Dalit mother and her young daughter and two sons were lynched by the upper caste village mob to death as the culmination of a long standing conflict which overtly had its roots in the land dispute. The culprits with their connections with local politicians and state administration, tried to suppress the case as a collective punishment meted out by the outraged villagers to a defiant woman of loose character. But somehow it came to limelight and burst out into a spontaneous statewide agitation. While the government came down heavily against the agitators, labeling them as naxals, it had to invite CBI to investigate and designate the session court at Bhandara as the ‘fast track’ court for its trial. The state however managed not to lose its control over the outcome and appointed its own prosecutor ignoring an advocate suggested by the activists’ group that had brought the incident to the fore. The investigation done by the local police was intentionally lackadaisical. The fast track court, which was constituted on the premise of the application of the Atrocity Act (Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989), came to the conclusion that there was no caste angle to the crime (and hence this Act did not apply), there was no outrage of women’s modesty and it was not a premeditated crime. Thus, it painted this gory atrocity as a simple crime that gets committed in a feat of rage. The initial story of ‘loose character’ was transformed into a case of revenge by the villagers against the witness the mother and daughter stood against the culprits in a case of beating of a man from neighouring village that sent them to jail. (As a matter of fact, they did not go to jail for even for a minute and were given bail, which rather led to their attacking the victims). Although, the case was completely punctured, taking away its foundational content, the verdict succeeded deflecting attention from it by awarding death to six of the eight accused and life imprisonment to two on the ground of their young age. Mind it, the crime was committed by a collective of all caste Hindus in the village. Initially 70 odd people were named, it dropped down to 40 odd and ultimately to just 11. Of these, eventually only 8 were convicted. If one compares the names of the convicts with the names in the original FIR, one would clearly see that the main culprits were already taken out and the convicts were ordinary people, who may at the most be marginally involved in the crime. 

The judgement was foolishly hailed as the landmark judgement because it was for the first time that deaths were awarded in the case of a caste atrocity. The Dalit leaders had publicly celebrated it by distributing sweets. Ramdas Athawale, a Dalit leader who was with NCP, the party which had local linkage with the culprits and had control over police, felicitated Ujwal Nikam, the high profile public prosecutor in the case, ignoring the fact that not many years ago, he had stood in defence of Manohar Kadam, that infamous butcher of Ramabai Nagar. Athawale has since graduated to join the alliance with Shiv Sena, the party of Bal Thackeray, the rank hater of Ambedkar and Ambedkarite Dalits to get himself a Rajya Sabha seat. [Anyways, as I speak, almost all Dalit leaders are joining the BJP, which until recent years was accused by them as the party of Brahmans for Brahmanism] Dalits, who have been observing the anniversary of Ramabai Nagar martyrdom every year, magnanimously ignored this misdemeanor of their leader. But should they have rejoiced at the broad depiction of the case as a mere crime committed in a huff? Khairlanji had a heavy context of a decade long caste conflict, for anyone to see but unfortunately the prosecution failed to present it to the court. Rapes as reported by fact finding teams was out of bounds because of the lacuna in post mortem, but the women’s naked corpses cried aloud that their modesty was outraged. The prosecution failed to establish what was so obvious. It also failed to show that it was planned when the villagers knew that Surekha and Priyanka had identified the assaulters of Siddharth Gajbhiye to the police. Having taken out all winds of its sails, the court still punished as many as six persons with death sentence. The way the case was made out, surely the death sentence was unsustainable. But Dalits celebrated it by distributing sweets, following their jubilant leaders! 

The case went to the High Court to confirm the death sentence, and also to deal with four appeals (two by CBI and two by the accused). The High Court verdict came out on 14 July 2010. As expected, the justices AP Lavande and RC Chavan of the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court commuted the death sentence of six convicts to 25 years imprisonment. Basically, the court did not think it was the “rarest of the rare” case and confirmed that there was neither caste angle nor any planning involved in the crime. Expectedly, it caused flutters among Dalits, who had rejoiced at the previous verdict of the Bhandara Sessions court unprecedentedly awarding death to six of the eight accused. As expected, the state government came forward and filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the commutation of death sentence. The case is pending in the Supreme Court for the last three years and it is anybody’s guess what would happen to it. Recently, we have formed a committee in order to support the husband of the woman, the lone survivor of the family. But without resources, it may be uphill task to drive it. 

Quite like Khairlanji judgement which said that the killing of Dalits did not have anything to do with caste, or conspiracy and the women’s naked bodies did not involved assault on women’s modesty, the Patna High Court in its Laxmanpur-Bathe judgement considered this one of the worst massacres in the history as just a casual accident. It directed the State to pay compensation to the next of kin of the 58 deceased and 4 injured of Laxmanpur-Bathe from its fund. The Court ordered the trial court to calculate the amount of compensation after taking into account the age, income of the deceased and the injured in the light of the provisions of Section 163-A and II Schedule of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. [State of Bihar v. Girja Singh, Death Reference No.5 of 2010, Decided on 9/10/2013] It only showed monumental insensitivity in comparing such a abominable caste carnage with something in the nature of a rather unfortunate automobile accident. 

These judgements outraged conscience of many well meaning people but in this country of 1.3 billion they constituted not even a drop in the ocean. Barring a few notable exceptions of The Hindu, Times of India and few others, the reaction of the media was muted. For it the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar, ‘the god’ was far more important than Laxmanpur-Bathe judgement. The news of the former that came two days later than the judgement, totally eclipsed the Laxmanpur-Bathe. Commenting on the verdict, columnist Kuldip Nayar said: “An upper caste judge has released all the accused on the plea that there was no evidence. It is a travesty of justice...If the High Court judge did not find any evidence, he could have constituted a special investigation team (SIT) to work under its supervision to hold a fresh probe...What has happened at Laxmanpur is the fate of Dalits all over the country. The equality before law, enshrined in the Constitution, is a farce.” It was the most apt reaction from a respected journalist.

Only three political parties – CPI (ML-Liberation), CPI(M) and Aam Aadmi Party formally expressed criticism of the Patna High Court verdict. Other parties either kept mum or tried to bake their political bread on the fire of indignation the judgement caused. Sharad Yadav, president of the JD(U), the ruling party in the state, demanded higher reservations for lower castes in the Judiciary. It is noteworthy that Nitish Kumar, the chief minister belonging to his party had disbanded the Justice Amir Das Commission of Enquiry set up to look into the links and the patronage that the Ranveer Sena militia had within the political parties in Bihar just within six months of his coming to power in November 2005. The links between Ranveer Sena thugs and politicians that the Amir Das Commission investigated cut across party lines, and included patronage networks deep within the BJP, the RJD, JD(U) and the Congress. Interestingly, Laxmanpur-Bathe or Batani Tola, as in every other case of caste atrocity, exposed the collusion between all mainstream parties. Indeed, it needs to be understood that they are all together as political class in contradiction with people.

Incidentally, Brahmeshwar Singh Mukhiya, the founder of Ranvir Sena who came to be known as the Butcher of Bathani Tola, was never tried for his role in the Laxmanpur-Bathe or for that matter, in any other case of Dalit massacre. In Laxmanpur-Bathe, the case against him was closed as he was said to be ‘absconding’ and ‘untraceable’. Actually, he was ensconced in the secure environs of Ara Central Prison at that time in some other minor case. Such a degree of shamelessness goes unaccounted in the country! He was rather acquitted and went on to form an organization called Akhil Bharatiya Rashtravadi Kisan Sangathan. He met with justice only after he came out of jail (He was murdered on 1 June, 2012 by six unknown assailants) like his counterparts in other atrocity cases such as G Naidu of Kilvenmeni or Ramaiah of Karamchedu. 

Where do we go from here? As we have seen, the judgements in Laxmanpur-Bathe or Batani Tola cases are not in any way isolated instances of the bias of judiciary. It is a classic instance of pervasive caste virus in the country from which judiciary, as any other institution, cannot be immune. There is absolutely no doubt that these are condemnable judgements, notwithstanding the role of investigation and prosecution in spoiling the case. The judges had option to order SIT investigation, as Kuldeep Nayar commented, if they suspected foul play in investigation. But to conclude summarily dismissing the witness of survivors was the height of prejudice. The antidote to such prejudice cannot be reservations in judiciary as the likes of Sharad Yadav would think. It is not that the Dalits have not seen Dalit judges so far; they have even seen the chief justice of the Supreme Court from their caste. Can they say it made any iota of difference to justice to Dalits? This representation logic based on caste identity has emotional appeal but has really never worked. The politicians have made reservations as a weapon to deal with people at large but it is high time the latter had understood their game plan. It is high time, this reservation-philia is rethought by the people. A properly formulated scheme of reservations as an exceptional measure in favour of some exceptional people, as it was initially conceived during the colonial times, could surely contribute to not only social justice but also to the annihilation of castes. But the post-colonial scheme is an intrigue not only to preserve the caste system but also to aggravate it in the interests of the ruling classes. Laxmanpur-Bathe, Bathani Tola or Khairlanji or Kilvenmani, expose many an aspect of the system. But do we care for them? I hope your answer to this question will be yes. 

If we do care, we are necessarily led to ponder annihilation of the caste virus, which has kept us divided in innumerable ways. This is the key problem of this land. Unlike the prevailing stereotype, the caste virus cannot be seen in terms of religio-cultural matter to be dealt with with some reforms or as an aspect of backwardness to be removed by the application of some remedial patch like reservations. It has corrupted every aspect of life, right from our individual selves to the modern institutional structure. Using the computer analogy, this virus cannot be removed unless we reformat our hard disk, the social structure through a thoroughgoing revolution. When we are rightly agitated over the miscarriage of justice to the Laxmanpur-Bathe or Bathani Tola victims, we should not merely attribute it to the caste prejudice of the judges sitting on the bench alone. This prejudice pervades everywhere and is well integrated with the system. While the existential struggles should go on challenging them as they are seen, we must be clear about its mechanics as well as dynamics. It will tell us that the real solution to Bathani Tolas or Laxmanpur-Bathes lies only in the annihilation of castes. I could end with my favorite aphorism: no revolution is possible in this country unless Dalits as the organic proletariat of this land joins the revolutionary forces and emancipation of Dalits also is not possible unless they are supported by those forces. This is the unified theory of Indian revolution. While it is easy to propose the strategy to implement this strategy in terms of orienting the Dalit movement along class line and conversely the left movement to internalize the goal of caste annihilation, implementing this strategy would entail huge amount of creativity and commitment. May Naveen’s memory inspire you to come forward to take up this historic task! Thank you. 

February 23, 2014

23 years since mass gang-rapes by the Indian Army at Kunan & Poshpora: The Horrors of the Indian occupation of Kashmir

More than a lakh killed, thousands ‘disappeared’, millions tortured and maimed…however, the history of Indian state’s war crimes in Kashmir will remain incomplete without the history of the massive sexual violence unleashed by its armed forces on the Kashmiri women. Ever since the Indian state sent its armed forces to brutally crush the Kashmiri people’s struggle for national self-determination, sexual violence has remained a weapon of war, oft-used by the army and paramilitary to subjugate the people of Kashmir. Despite the fact that many cases of sexual violence are forcibly buried under the military jackboot, and are rarely brought to light, even the official number of Kashmiri women raped by the Indian army and paramilitary runs into thousands in this most militarized zone of the world. The mass gang rapes of several women in the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora in the Kupwara district of North Kashmir is one case thathas returned to haunt the Indian state and its armed forces repeatedly, despite its several overt and covert machinations to push it under the carpet.
Exactly 23 years back, on the intervening night of the 23rd and 24th February 1991, hundreds of soldiers belonging to the 4 Rajputana Rifles of the Army’s 68 brigade entered the villages of Kunan and Poshpora. It was what they termed as ‘a search and cordon operation’ – a term synonymous for the Kashmiri people with extreme state terror, torture, cold blooded killings, harassment and as that night showed massive violence on women. On that night, after confining the men of both these villages into store houses, the inebriated soldiers forcibly entered several houses, gagged the mouths of the women and took turns to repeatedly gang-rape them at gun point. “There was darkness all around. At 9.30 pm in the evening, the army entered the village. They took the men and children out and they were taken to a nearby bus stand. Then they entered our homes at around 11:00 pm and started assaulting women”, an old woman recalled that night in these words to a journalist.Another woman recounts When the Armymen entered the house, they dragged away my daughter. I tried to escape but my daughter held me and asked, 'Moujimaikamistravakh (Mother, will you leave me behind with them)?' The soldiers dragged me away too."One more woman had the following to say “One by one, they raped me, while my five year old son was forced to watch, weeping beside the bed.” The bestiality of what transpired can be gauged from the fact that the youngest to be raped was 8 years old and the oldest was 70 year old. The Indian army even did not spare pregnant women, who were repeatedly kicked and beaten by the army while they took turns to rape. As a result of this ordeal, the baby one of the women later gave birth to was born with a broken arm. The brutality continued for hours and came to an end just around the crack of the dawn the next day. A local policeman who tried to raise alarm from the loudspeaker of the local mosque was also killed by the army. As per the official accounts, 53 women were raped by the army that night, whereas the locals of these two villages point out that the real number is over 100 for several woman have even till today not come forward to report. The reasons are many – fear of another reprisal by the army, shame as well as the fear of damaging their marriage prospects.
Developments thereafter have shown that far from merely being the work of some ‘individual crazed, drunken soldiers’, what happened that night enjoys the full support of the entire state apparatus. The very next day, in what was a move to further intimidate the people, the Deputy Commander came to the villages to tell the woman that the army had not done anything wrong. The entire village was cordoned off for several days, and the first FIRs could be filed only on 8th March. There was never an identification parade based on the depositions of the women, and the probe was itselfclosed within 4 months with the prosecution saying that the incident might have been ‘stage-managed’! The Divisional Commissioner of the Kupwara at that time, Wajahat Habibullah brushed aside the reports of his own junior officers - which confirmed the rapes - and called the incident “highly doubtful.” Meanwhile as news started trickling out from the two villages and was even reported in some newspapers, the Army directly got into the act. At the behest of the Defence Ministry, a special ‘fact-finding team’ of the Press Council of India comprising B.G. Verghese and K. Vikram Rao was dispatched to Kashmir. Their aim was to ‘dispose of the ‘grave charges’ of rapes by the army ‘which were being leveled in the press’. Not many in India would know that this so called fact-finding team spent more time in Srinagar talking to government and army officials, when it did decide to go to the two villages it flew in an Air Force chopper and stayed in the quarters of the very same brigade that had committed the gang-rapes. And finally when this report came out, it predictably did dispose of the charges calling the incident ‘a massive hoax’, ‘Pakistani propaganda’, etc that was meant to make the ‘army reluctant to go into such areas’! With this concocted report, the case was more or less considered closed by the state.
After several years of closure, Kunan and Poshpora have once again been in news recently. Because of the protracted battle of the survivors, the state was forced to re-open the case last year. However,what the state was forced to give with one hand, it very shrewdly took it away with another. The police first tried its best to ensure that the case is not re-opened but since public pressure punctured that plan successfully last year, the police has not started any fresh investigations. The army on its part has continued to remain non-cooperative repeating the old arguments - calling it ‘a politically motivated game against the army’; ‘re-opening this case is like flogging a dead horse’, and even ridiculously saying that ‘the Indian army is the best disciplined force in the world’! Several hearings have constantly postponed for either the prosecution does not turn up, or the police did not submit its report or at times even the judge remained absent. It would be anyways be naive to expect even a semblance of justice from the courts that are stooges of the army and the para-military.
The mass gang-rapes of women in Kunan and Poshpora were not in any way isolated instances. Over the next two decades the Indian army and paramilitary has raped thousands of Kashmiri women.These constitute a means of the Indian state and its army to assert its dominance over the people of Kashmir who had dared to rebel against its authority. In some cases, the Indian soldiers would slash the breasts of the Kashmiri women with knives telling them that their breasts will never give milk again to a new-born militant.It is this political context of military occupation and popular resistance against it that explains the impunity given by the state to the perpetrators of these crimes. But as history of the last two decades has shown, such bestiality and state terror has not been able to subdue the aspirationsor the movement of the Kashmiri people. All progressive and democratic forces should unequivocally condemn and oppose the Indian state’s war crimes and continued military occupation of Kashmir, and stand in solidarity with the Kashmiri people’s fight for their inalienable right for self-determination including the right to secede from the Indian union.
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