September 14, 2007

SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS SO DEEP, AS TO BE INVISIBLE...

The collective action of reporting sexual harassment at the Sanskrit Centre has received much support from all sections of the campus community. This example forces us to rethink our notions of sexual harassment. The spate of freshers’ parties and the humiliation that new students have been subject to forces upon us the recognition that the predominant culture in our campus in very much a patriarchal culture (that is no doubt also casteist). This culture actively discourages women from participating in the social and political life and restricts our access to space (literally and metaphorically).


What , after all, is sexual harassment? A culture of patriarchy manifests itself in various ways. Some of them are so obvious and physical (like rape, molestation, battery) that they shock us, and few can deny them, or deny the need to act against them. Some, on the other hand, are less obvious: stares, comments…the ‘small’ things, the ‘non-issues’. At a freshers’ party, no-one usually touches a woman (or man) without their consent; why then has a debate about sexual harassment started?? We have to understand that there are ways of harassing women without touching them. When a woman’s body is compared with an object (or worse, a popular sweetmeat), or when an exhibit is made out of her body, or item numbers are played as the women students walk up to the stage…it makes that woman (and other women) an object to be consumed by the male gaze. Is that not harassment? And what of the streets, buses, dhabas, classrooms and protest sites in JNU? What of the passing comments, the 'harmless' jokes, the unwelcome handshakes, the disgusting stares that others do not even see? ALL of these things constitute the patriarchal culture that intimidates and silences women. Imagine, being a new (or even old) student coming to a protest or stepping out for a chai or reading in the library: and having men stare at, comment on or follow you…how comfortable would you be? Protesting, having chai or even studying? Let us ask ourselves, why should women constantly have to modify their behaviour out of fear and discomfort?

How do we react? Unfortunately the automatic response to any questions regarding the gendered nature of our notions of 'fun' and 'entertainment' is a defensive "no we are not patriarchal!". It is difficult for us to accept that we may be complicit in sexual harassment - it is something that 'other people' do. Harassment is often so hidden and to make matters worse, attempts to deny and cover it up are never rare. Questioning ourselves so difficult; and yet, question we must. Individual questioning, however, is not an end in itself. The only way to dismantle the cultures of patriarchy is to struggle against the structures that generate them. Sensitizing men is important, but things will change only when we, as women, refuse to sit down or shut up.

In an earlier pamphlet we pointed out that events that had transpired at the CESP freshers’ party were of a sexually objectifying nature. In ‘response’ to that, instead of being self-critical or trying to have an open discussion about why other people found it problematic, some students of CESP put up an open letter summarily declaring that there “was no sexual harassment”. Following this, a pamphlet by concerned students was published giving details of the events at the CESP party and provided the first public account of what had actually happened. Unfortunately, this pamphlet was removed from most mess halls before it could reach students. These undemocratic acts only reinforce the silence surrounding sexual violation. Another open letter signed by CESP students has regretted the incidents. While we feel this is a positive gesture, the description of the ’incidents’ as ’unintentional’ is deeply problematic and denies the gravity of the harassment that women students faced.

The semester ahead: Innumerable women face harassment from the time they enter university as new students, many times from the very people who 'help' them at 'admission assistance', and it continues from there. The semester ahead is one of freshers' parties at the hostels and centers. Students (mostly women) at these parties will be asked (and refusing will not be an easy option) to do things that make them uncomfortable. Notwithstanding the students who will not find the space and support to speak out in the first place; the objections of students who speak out will not be heard because of the normalcy lent to such practices. Statements like “come on yaar, its just a joke“, “bura mat mano, itna serious kyun ho rahe ho?, will be flung at these women and men. The fear of hostile reactions from classmates and friends threatens to nip dissent in the bud. In such a context, it is for all of us to come together at fight this, but perhaps old students have to take up a bit of extra responsibility; given that they know the campus, the city. If new students find themselves in a campus that is hostile, sexist and casteist, despite its democratic claims, then those of us who have been here longer have to take the responsibility for that. This campus and all its space is what we make it, let us make it space that is truly safe and accessible to women and men from various backgrounds.

September 10, 2007

OBSERVE ALL INDIA BANDH ON OCTOBER 30, 2007!

Scrap SEZ Act, Save the Country
Sez Hatao, Desh Bachao
Scrap all MOUs signed for large scale mining and big industrial plants.
No to Displacement, Development for People
Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan (VVJVA) appeals to one and all in the country to observe a day’s bandh (general strike) on 30th October, 2007 to strongly protest the Government’s policy displacing millions and millions of people, through the policies of SEZs and opening up vast mining projects, big dams and so-called urban renewal benefitting the MNCs and big capitalists in various parts of the country.

The call to observe bandh was given by the first ever All India Conference on 22 & 23 March, 2007 against displacement, where about a hundred of people’s organizations and a similar number of democratic individuals came together at Ranchi to raise their collective voices against all kinds of displacement including that caused by SEZs.

The people of Nandigram, Kalinganagar, Polavaram, Jagatsinghpur (where POSCO is grabbing the land for its SEZ and captive port), Raigada, Dadri and elsewhere have put up valiant resistance even risking their lives against this day-light robbery of the poor, of making people destitute through the so-called policies of development. In hundreds of places, millions of people in the country have been fighting tooth and nail to stop the SEZs, big mining, big dams, tourist projects, national parks, highways and big industrial projects that have been rendering several millions of people homeless and destitute. The misery of the people is fast developing into a surging storm, the very thought of the spectre of which has sent shudders through the ruling classes. The ruling class elite have become restive to the resisting voices of the people.

The present displacement is an outcome of Second Generation Reform phase under the cliché of development which is nothing but an all-round attack on the toiling masses. Earlier our rulers had mortgaged the country to the imperialists. Sixty years of so-called independence and the ‘democracy’ that supposedly has come of age meant all this penury to the vast majority of people. Today, the entire country, irrespective of the urban and the rural, has been transformed into a firing range where the mercenary police and paramilitary and the goondas of the ruling parties are brutally trying to crush the agitating people who want to protect their Jal, Jungal and Jameen—their sources of livelihood. On the other hand we have a Prime Minister and his smooth talking policy pundits taking their lessons from the World Bank and Washington, laying the road map for a so-called 10 percent growth rate, turning a blind eye to the burning problems of the people.

The Prime Minister of this country gives the impression that he cannot but falter when he gets vacuous about the super power that India is going to become. In these new clothes of the emperor what is being cleverly hidden is the total naked, shameless subservience to the rapacious needs of foreign capital. Beneath the smokescreen of an India Inc.—projected by a sensation driven, sycophant media—is the blood soaked face of a beastly state that satiates on the toil of the adivasis, dalits, landless agricultural labourer, the small and middle peasant, the small entrepreneur... the list is getting longer. There is no way the real anguish of the people that erupts in a Nandigram, Kashipur, Kalinganagar, Jagatsinghpur, Singur or Polavaram can be heard as a dignified, real, response of the people. The Market driven media and the policy pundits who receive their dollops from Multinational consultancy agencies such as Mckinsey or the British run DFID or their senior patrons the World Bank and the IMF are crying hoarse depicting these protests as primitive, anti-development, against civilization itself.

People are being taken into custody under the laws of sedition! As if they are an obstruction to the forward march of development of this country! Lakhs of crores of rupees worth MoUs have been signed by various state governments with various Multi National Corporations for mining of valuable resources of the people such as bauxite, coal, iron ore, diamonds, uranium, precious stones, etc. Several MoUs have been signed with monopolies to develop urban centres that will suit the needs of big capital in the process pushing out all small and medium entrepreneurs from the urban spaces as these ventures have been identified as hazardous to a clean urban environment. Wal-Mart and Reliance are aggressively displacing the local retail and small business. Huge malls have been swallowing the rest of the business. Supreme Court orders are decimating the local retail business prospects making way for MNCs and TNCs. Jawahar Rozgar Vikas Yojana has been wiping out the poor people in the urban slums. Big mining and industrial projects along with about 500 SEZs are driving the people out of their habitats.

Today, every nook and corner of the country is thrown open to the foreign capital in close collaboration with big capital at home to tear open the veins of the rich resources of this country.
Any form of resistance is met with brutal force by the state. Paramilitary and police armed to the teeth hound villagers and adivasis who are fighting for their very survival; when they refuse to let their land and livelihood being sold to the foreign capital and the local big capital for a pittance. And there is deafening silence against these unlawful, criminal acts of the state, on the part of the judiciary not to say the civil society.

The call to OBSERVE BANDH hence as become a wake up call for all those who believe in democracy, the well being of the vast sections of the masses as they too have their rightful place in our society to lead a dignified, secure life free of domination and exploitation. The people have been resisting, fighting their struggles of survival. The people of this country have to give a resounding rebuff to these anti-people policies brought in by this blood thirsty monster of the Indian state. This BANDH CALL is also a wake up call to the powers that be to look at the issues pertaining to development and displacement from the point of view of the people. And not from the diktats of the World Bank, IMF or the US.

Hence we appeal; we urge the people of this country to come forward, to surge ahead with the bandh call as these issues have become the bane of the vast sections of the people, their livelihood, their dreams and memories. These issues are no more the vested or narrow concern of this or that organisation. They have become the life and death issues of the wretched, the poor, the worker, the toiling masses, the tribals, dalits, the small entrepreneur, the small and middle peasant and the patriotic farmer. Yes this is the burning issue of the people of this country.

We once again call upon all political parties, democratic organisations, trade unions, employees’ organisations, workers and peasant organisations, youth and student organisations, adivasi and dalit organisations and the people—the masses of people to come out on to the streets, on 30th October, 2007, to say in no uncertain terms that we will not take all this blood sucking exploitative policies of the rulers and their pay masters lying low.
Let us fight it.
Let us resist it.
Let’s smash the SEZs policy.
Let us end all kinds of displacement.
Let the dead be buried. But death should not be allowed to live!

Repeal SEZ Act, 2005 along with all approved SEZs.
Scrap all MOUs signed for large scale mining and big industrial plants.
Repeal Land Acquisition Act 1894 along with all later amendments to it till date.
Rehabilitate all families so far displaced in the last sixty years.
Abrogate 123 Nuclear Agreement with US!
Stop displacement, stop imperialist sponsored development; protect and advance peoples livelihood.

APPEAL TO SUPPORT ALL INDIA BANDH.

It has been almost 16 years since the initiation of the New Economic Policy, one aspect of which has been an attack on organised labour. This is patently called as the Second Generation Reforms. During the same period the overall employment rate collapsed from the annual addition to the Organised Sector Employment (million jobs) from 0.93 in 1981-82 in 2000-01 to an abysmal -0.17.

The major cause of the collapse of employment as a whole is the zero growth in agricultural employment (0.02 per cent per year, by Current Daily Status, during 1993-94 to 1999-2000). Agriculture is still the country's largest employer: it accounted for 60.4 per cent of employment in 1993-94, and 56.7 per cent in 1999-2000. In the past it used to absorb a large number of the under-employed. This has been alarmingly getting reduced to less and less in the present that the future has become scaringly bleak to any discernible mind. The explosive scenario in the agrarian scene is such where the total number of suicide death of the farmers have exceeded the 1 lakh mark. There is no sign of any kind of end to this colossal tragedy that has struck the peasantry of our country.

In a country like India, people take whatever work they can get, regardless of how low the wages are, for there is no present alternative. It is in such a scenario that the looming crisis in the agrarian sector has gripped the Indian economy. When the crisis of the peasantry is grave one need not mention about the plight of the tribals. In this country a peanut vendor may not be able to sell enough to eat two meals a day; a household-based worker might roll bidis the whole day for ten or fifteen rupees; a marginal farmer might be forced to take loans not only for farming but even for consumption. The graveness of the tragedy is that in India of the 21st century the average human being who is capable of hard labour has given up looking for work because no jobs were available for a long time. Yes, nearly half the working age population lacks employment of any sort in our country when we are celebrating the so-called 60th year of independence.

And as a panacea to this crisis the Prime Minister and the policy pundits buoyed by the diktats of IMF, World Bank have taken the country to a situation where the order of the day are the boiling cauldrons of Nandigram, Singur, Dadri, Jagatsinghpur, Raigada, Kashipur or Kalinganagar. The leaders of this country are eager to usher in a development where the people, the vast sections of the toiling masses matter less and the valuable resources like the rivers, forest wealth, minerals, precious stones, diamonds matter more. The policy of leasing out the country through Special Economic Zones (read foreign enclaves) will further result in land concentration among the land and real estate sharks while totally snuffing out any possibility of survival of the small scale industries in the country side. Even the basic constitutional guarantees are being violated and the common man who is fighting against the brutality of displacement from his life and livelihood is being branded anti-national and anti-development. The laws that are supposed to protect the people have become a bane for them. In this scenario it becomes important to make our voice of protest and anguish heard loud and clear. The call to OBSERVE BANDH on the 30 October 2007 is a step in this direction to make the voice of the voiceless be heard by the powers that be so that development is not a means to maximize profit for the blood sucking Multinationals and their local agents but will fundamentally address the concern of the people to live a secure, dignified life without being exploited and dominated.

STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH THOSE WHO DARE TO SPEAK

Last week, nine women students from the Sanskrit Centre complained to the VC against continuous sexual harassment by the Chairperson of their centre. By standing up against this exploitation, they have taken the first and the most difficult step; but it is only the first step. We must make sure that the guilty is punished, notwithstanding his power or privilege. The punishment should go as a strong message to everyone that no misuse of authority will be tolerated. A group of courageous women speaking out against exploitation has created space for us to stand in solidarity with their struggle. Moreover, it has provided another occasion for us to reflect on how the campus treats women, and yet another occasion for us to ask what we have done to change that.

The incident in Sanskrit center is not an isolated one. It is important to understand that Patriarchy survives in silence and breeds off fear. Almost all women at some point of time in their lives are subjected to sexual violence, and no space is entirely safe for them, even the JNU campus. And this is not just a matter of one errant professor in one particular centre. Instances of sexual harassment and assault happen regularly in our campus, sometimes reported, but most often unreported. For example, freshers’ parties have become notorious for the kind of humiliation new students in general and women in particular are subjected to in the name of introduction and entertainment. The freshers’ party in CESP/SSS is a recent example, where objectionable remarks were made about women, a trend common to such programmes at almost every center. The controversy regarding an ‘item number’ in the Mahi-Mandavi ‘cultural’ night last semester was another glaring example of objectionable portrayal of women and ridiculing alternate sexual preferences. We also remember the rape of a five-year old girl by her neighbour in JNU campus this year.

Is this the kind of campus space and campus culture we stand for? A campus where women are not regarded as equal participants, where they are taught to bow down, stay quiet and remain un-noticed, is not democratic. We know that the dhabas, the streets, the nights, or even the sites of protest in the campus are hostile to and violent against women, in many different ways. Women participants are forced to constantly adjust their behaviour to the male choice. Bodies, minds souls are forced and tortured to adhere to beauty, chastity, housewife roles and rules. Such experiences are so normalized in our everyday lives that often women ignore them, rather than act against them. Alternately, women are advised to avoid male attention (Or to face their wrath.) We have seen over and over again how women, who dare to raise objections to what they justly feel oppressive, have been victimized and harassed. Women who opposed the ‘item number’ in Mahi-Mandvi last semester faced verbal abuse that very night and have faced harassment ever since. These attempts to ‘punish’, humiliate and terrify protesting women into silence must be collectively fought and defeated, most of all by women students themselves. We need to take a collective responsibility to ensure that none of the women in Sanskrit Center are intimidated, humiliated or even isolated. They must get the justice. This is not their individual struggle; it is a fight to make our campus space more just and democratic. All of us together have to make sure that nobody is victimized for speaking up, is made to give up space and limit participation in public for fear of consequences.

Is Gender Sensitisation enough? Sensitisation towards gender and gender-based discrimination has its own importance. It encourages criticality about the given gender norms and roles. The problem comes when we stop at that. The structures of oppression that surround us need to be questioned, fought and ultimately smashed. Sensitization, debates, discussions and consensus-building can meaningfully address people who are willing to listen. However, we must think in terms of concrete programmatic action to challenges the very structures of patriarchy. Patriarchy, strengthened by feudal norms and consumerist cultures will not be defeated just by talking politely to its face! The first step to addressing this problem is to acknowledge that it is there amongst us, in each sphere of our everyday life. The fight against patriarchy or any existing structure of oppression, exploitation and violence can then be fought in different creative and complementary ways.

The role of GSCASH: Gender Sensitisation Committee against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) was instituted in JNU in accordance with the Supreme Court guidelines in the Vishakha judgment for the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace. GSCASH is the first body of its kind in the entire country, which came into being after a sustained and protracted movement by the progressive sections of the student community, who have also ensured their representation in this body. This was despite the unwillingness of the administration which has often shielded sexual offenders, be it within the students, teachers or karmcharis. The hopes and expectations raised by such a unique and progressive institution were, disappointed when the movements that created it, subsided. It was expected to spearhead and strengthen the movement for a gender-just campus, by fighting sexual harassment in all its forms. Unfortunately, the institution seems to have replaced (or displaced) the movement, rather than complement it. And so, it has been easy for the administration to attack and weaken the GSCASH. Today we have three sets of rules and procedures for GSCASH, and one is not clear which one of these is being followed. In any case, the original rules have been considerably weakened and diluted by the Ashok Mathur review committee and subsequent alterations, giving protection to those accused of sexual offence. That JNUSU leadership or the GSCASH student representatives have neglected these issues; reflect the sorry state of the question of gender justice in JNU. Institutions will be effective, progressive and democratic only when they are complemented by a vibrant movement. When a controversy over a ‘mujra’ erupted in 1996, hundreds of women took to the streets in protest. We need to bring back those days now more than ever when the lack of a strong women’s movement in JNU is acutely felt.

Patriarchy is not abstract, it has to be fought in concrete situations, such as the one in the Sanskrit center. Patriarchal violence is embodied in our daily lives, norms, values, behaviour, interactions, relationships; in our classrooms, streets, canteens and hostels. To fight patriarchy is to fight against it’s each and every manifestation, every instance. We must ensure that the guilty is punished. Let’s support the women students of Sanskrit Centre who dared to challenge and take to task their errant teacher.This is the call of the hour, to make sure that we do not allow this to happen to ourselves or any women.

September 7, 2007

PROF. JOSE MARIA SISON, FOUNDER AND CHAIRPERSON OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF PHILIPPINES (CPP), ARRESTED IN THE NETHERLANDS

THE GUERRILLA IS LIKE A POET
-Jose Maria Sison
The guerrilla is like a poet
Keen to the rustle of leaves
The break of twigs
The ripples of the river
The smell of fire
And the ashes of departure.
The guerrilla is like a poet.
He has merged with the trees
The bushes and the rocks
Ambiguous but precise
Well-versed on the law of motion
And master of myriad images.
The guerrilla is like a poet
Enrhymed with nature
The subtle rhythm of the greenery
The inner silence, the outer innocence
The steel tensile in-grace
That ensnares the enemy.

The guerrilla is like a poet.
He moves with the green brown multitude
In bush burning with red flowers
That crown and hearten all
Swarming the terrain as a flood
Marching at last against the stronghold.
An endless movement of strength
Behold the protracted theme:
The people's epic, the people's war.
(written in 1968)
The Dutch government arrested Jose Maria Sison on August 28, 2007. He was removed from his residence in Utrecht and brought to the Hague. Professor Sison's office and home were raided and ransacked as well as the homes of 7 other progressive Filipinos and the NDFP office by the International Crime Investigation Team of the Dutch National Criminal Investigation Department. He is now under their custody. "The communist leader was suspected of giving orders, from the Netherlands, to murder his former political associates in the Philippines, Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara," the Dutch national prosecutor's office said in a statement quoted in an AFP report.

WHO IS JOSE MARIA SISON?
Jose Maria Sison led the re-founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines in the late 1960s. The CPP formed the New People's Army in 1969. It undertook people's war of the kind pioneered by Mao Zedong in China, in which the working class leads and the peasantry is the main force. Comrade Sison led the struggle in the rural areas until he was captured by the dictatorial Marcos regime in 1976. He spent nine years in solitary confinement. He was only released when Marcos' regime was forced out by the masses in 1985. Though Marcos fell his generals remained. Comrade Sison and others were forced into exile in the Netherlands where they remain to this day.

Last year the U.S. government put Comrade Sison and the NPA on their "terrorist" list. The U.S. then prevailed on the Dutch government to do the same. However, they in truth are the leaders of the oppressed masses in their struggle against a backward and rotting social order. The "terrorist" label cost Comrade Sison the economic benefits he had received as a political refugee. A worldwide movement in his support demands that he be taken off these hypocritical lists, instigated by the world's worst terrorist, U.S. imperialism.

The long people's war in the Philippines has had ups and downs, but in recent years has grown to the point where the reactionaries now consider it an acute challenge to their rule (New York Times of January 4, 2004, "Fear of a Communist Rebellion Is Growing in the Philippines"). It seems that the Dutch government has taken off its masks and has finally succumbed to the pressures of U.S. imperialism, and its lackey, comprador government of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Manila.

The founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Jose Maria Sison has been living in exile ever since his release from the Filipino jails after the overthrow of Marcos dictatorship in 1987, and has been a legitimate refugee claimant in the Netherlands ever since. He has been the Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), especially to the NDFP Negotiating Panel in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP, which have been going on for several years now in the neutral territory of Norway. These negotiations had already resulted in several bilateral binding agreements.

Sison has also been an international leading figure in the global struggles against imperialism as the Chairperson of the International League of People's Struggles, with active chapters in many parts of the world. Thus it was hardly surprising that Jose Maria Sison (Joma, as he is popularly known) fell under the sweeping scanner of George Bush and was declared a "terrorist", as has been the case with a large number of individuals and people's organizations around the world who had been engaged in struggles for sovereignty and against the onslaught of imperialist forces. The Dutch government, backed by the EU governments, promptly froze Joma's meager bank accounts and cut him off all the entitlements a refugee claimant in the Netherlands has. The issue was fought in the European Union's Court of Justice, which only a few months ago had ruled in Sison's favour, unfreezing of his assets.

Faced with this legal slap the Dutch government, undoubtedly taking cues from Washington, has gone to the farthest extreme and has arrested Jose Maria Sison. We expect that the Philippine, US and Dutch governments will continue to persecute Prof. Jose Maria Sison by using against him their political power and the existing fascist "anti-terrorism" laws and decisions that they have devised in order to justify state terrorism and wars of aggression. We need to continue and intensify both the political and legal struggles of democratic forces and the people of the world in order to defend the fundamental rights of Prof. Sison and other victims of the global trend of aggressive wars generated by the imperialist powers and their reactionary puppets.

We must struggle to stop immediately the persecution of progressive leaders like Prof. Jose Maria Sison and the suppression of anti-imperialist and democratic forces and peoples fighting for national liberation, freedom, social justice, and a world free of exploitation.

INDO-U.S. NUCLEAR DEAL AND THE DOUBLE-SPEAK OF THE OFFICIAL LEFT

Instead of adopting alternatives that were more available for generation of cheaper power, the govt. was laying undue importanceon the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal for generation of costly nuclear power.
-Sitaram Yechuri CPI(M)
The watchdog is barking hoarse again! The loudest ever since the ruling alliance UPA was formed at the centre. The issue this time is the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal. Be it the SFI in their pamphlets in campus or their parliamentary master the CPM in the media, they are shouting from the rooftops as to how the ‘sovereignty of the nation’ will be jeopardized; how nuclear energy is a perilous source of energy when there are other alternative resources available, and what not. The CPM has even threatened to make the government –led by their masters the Congress- fall, if they go ahead with the deal! While the loyal World Bank pensioner Mr. Prime Minister does not seem very bothered by their (empty) postures (after all how can he ditch his paymasters!), Dr. Goebbles nevertheless bless CPI and CPM from his grave, finding his worthy cohorts in them. While they create a storm of sorts against the present nuclear deal, lets look at what they are planning in their own backyard.
Even as the political atmosphere of Delhi is rising due to the steaming ‘resistance’ (sic) put up by the CPM leadership, the winds of resistance in villages of Midnapur in coastal West Bengal is not calm either. Villages such as Haripur and Junput unlike Nandigram have not yet made it to the national headlines, but they are already in the local news. These villages are next in line of the ‘communist’ (!) government in West Bengal for grabbing fertile farmland as a part of the ongoing ‘industrialization’ process, with the active partnership of the transnational companies. However, Haripur-Junput are not the future locations of any SEZs. It is one of the five sites selected for the upcoming nuclear power plants in India.

A 12-member Site Selection Panel, under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), visited a number of coastal districts in India during November 2006 and have zeroed in on five sites in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), 'spearheading' India's nuclear power programme, will undertake the job. The reaction of the Left state government to the project resonates with its self-styled arrogance. "The State needs a nuclear power plant and will certainly get it”- this is the statement of Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Chief Minister of West Bengal [The Statesman, 19.11.2006]. He also criticized those opposed to the projectfor their ignorance of ‘the worth of the project’.

But what really is the ‘worth’ of this project: The main distinguishing feature of this project is the unprecedented lack of transparency. The shields of ‘army secrecy’ and ‘national security’ have been used as cover-ups to any enquiry about the proposed plan. And especially with their current ‘resistance’ to the nuke deal they are very cautious and silent about this project. However, it seems quite likely that the proposed nuclear power plant will be pushed ahead. Light water reactors are going to be used which will run on imported fuel (never mind even if the CPM’s ‘embedded intellectuals’, like the scientist Prabir Purokayastha in its own mouthpiece People’s Democracy outrightly denounced the idea of imported reactors). Haripur will have six nuclear reactors, each producing 1650 MW of electricity – with a total capacity of 10,000 MW. Since the NPCIL can indigenously produce reactors of only 700 MW capacity, the Indo-U.S. Agreement on Sharing of Nuclear Technology could pave the way for the transfer of U.S. technology too! Thus while the watchdog barks at the thief from the front door, it makes sure that the same thief leaves him with loaves in its own backyard. The same game of opposing in the center and implementing the very same thing in the states is continued in this case too, adding on to their earlier record of opposing and at the same time supporting SEZs, POTA, and so on.

The tale of land acquisition continues:
The Government of West Bengal has decided to acquire 1013 acres of prime agricultural land in and around Haripur, including the fish-processing centre at Junput for the nuclear power project. In Haripur, the rich, multi cropped land supports rice, wheat, mustard, potatoes, betel leaf and chili cultivation on which an estimated 25,000 people directly depend. There are large fruit orchards and a number of water-bodies where prawn rearing and sweet-water pisiculture is practiced on a commercial scale. The area also includes a sea beach that supports some 20,000 fisher-people. In Junput there are large fishing farms and fishing training centers. Hijli and Contai are also the sites of centuries-old salt factories which provide 80% salt consumed by West Bengal. All these places are planned to be acquired for the said project.

The standard buffer zone for a nuclear plant in India includes a 1.6 kilometer radius which no one is allowed to inhabit. Only 10.000 people can live within a 5 kilometer radius; 20,000 within a 10 km radius and 100,000 within a 30 km radius. In case of Haripur the surrounding areas that will fall within the 5-10 Km buffer zone are all rich and densely-populated rural farmlands as well as townships like Contai which alone has a population of 78,000. Either this huge number of population will have to be evicted to establish the project, or worse, they will be left exposed to the dangerous effects of radioactivity.

Whose sovereignty, whose deal? As in Bengal, the other places selected for the power plants too would go through the by now familiar process of forceful eviction, dispossession, and a farce in the name of compensation Worse still, this time it will be accompanied by the effects of nuclear plant generated radioactivity. And all this is in the name of the people, the nation or for development. What today is being portrayed in the mainstream media as India’s ‘superpower’ status, or a big leap in the Indo-U.S. relations, is nothing but the complete capitulation of the Indian ruling classes in front of its most important imperial master, the U.S. The unequal and unfair clauses and conditions of the Indo-U.S. nuke deal makes a mockery of the country’s ‘independent foreign policy’ (it is doubtful whether such a thing ever existed); the comprador and parasitic nature of the parliamentary parties is for everyone to see. They are acting as the faithful running dogs of U.S. and European imperialists, facilitating unbridled loot and destruction of the people of the country, their resources. By pretending to act holier than thou with respect to the nuclear deal while promoting nuclear plants in Bengal, or playing good-cop bad-cop with the Congress, CPM is trying in vain to hoodwink the people. They do not understand that without people there is no nation or national sovereignty. By making deals out of peoples’ lives, land and livelihood, they are undercutting the very basis on which they stand.

September 2, 2007

A UNIVERSITY THAT DOESN'T ALLOW DISSENT BECOMES A PRISON

The Committee was faced with the dilemma of choosing between prohibiting elections, and to enforce a uniform system of student elections across the country.- Lyngdoh Committee Report.

The context of the Lyngdoh Committee: The report of the Lyngdoh committee has not recommended the banning of students’ union elections, but it did consider it seriously, as the opening line of the report clearly suggests. The Birla-Ambani report recommended that education be privatized, and identified organised resistance by campus communities -especially student movements- as the prime impediment. To clear the path for privatisation, it is crucial that organised dissent be crushed. Following up on the Birla-Ambani report, is the Lyngdoh Committee, which is the severest large scale attack on student movements in the last few decades.

The Content of the Lyngdoh Committee Report: The report tries to show that its recommendations have evolved out of a process of ‘wide consultation’ with ‘stakeholders’ and the general public. The data offered in the report itself falsifies this claim: out of the total 350 respondents approached, 229 are University and College/Institution administrations. The data on which the report is based predominantly represents the voice of administrations! It directly attacks our right to organise and elect representatives by giving the administration power to annul democratically elected bodies and appoint hand-picked “student unions”.

What does a Students’ Union Stand for? A students union is a platform of struggle. If we agree that students are to be more than self seeking careerists, that students are also thinking and responsible agents of change, then to separate politics from student movements is not possible. The Lyngdoh Committee report is part of a broader attempt to depoliticize us and our unions. In a ridiculous argument, the report states that unions are for “oppressed workmen”, and students are not “oppressed workmen”, so students unions are not unions! Further, students are, “entitled to certain basic standards of teaching and on campus infrastructure” and we should bother ourselves with just that and steer clear of politics. But is a fight for infrastructure not political? For instance, the fight for remedial english courses and bridge courses is a deeply political one, demanding specially trained teachers means more recruitment, requiring more funds from the government and ultimately a fight against privatisation A contractualised work-force is another step in the direction of privatisation. Our fight is against the same system, the same policies; can we disassociate ourselves? The relationship between a pro-student, pro-people student’s union and the establishment, is one of confrontation. A depoliticized union can’t confront the system and represent the interests of campus communities.

'Criminalisation' of Politics: The Problem, The Cause and The Solution: the Lyngdoh Committee report is in favour of increasing the already wide-ranging powers of Heads of institutions. It has left it to the state/admistration to decide who the criminals are. Now, will these forces ever criminalize students who stand by them and legitimize their ugly deeds? Or will they lash out only at students and organisations that offer a militant resistance to the exploitation and oppression these powers-that-be are responsible for? In the 1970s, thousands of students associated with the Telangana and Naxalbari movements were killed as deshdrohis. In 2005, the CRPF shot at protesting students in Meghalaya killing 9 and injuring 89. They were simply protesting against the shifting of the office of the Board of Education. In 2007 the activists of a student organisation Jagruk Chhatra Morcha in Haryana were arrested; they were mobilizing against the anti-people policies of the Hooda government and fighting against cases of atrocities on Dalits. They were charged with false cases ranging from arson, sedition, threat to national security, attempt to murder, etc. and they have been in jail ever since. A protest by Kuki students against state violence was brutally lathicharged at Jantar Mantar followed by mass-arrest. Incidents of university administrations victimizing protesting students are far too numerous to report, the recent events in JNU being a fresh example. On the other hand, student groups attached to ruling political parties are given a free reign by the university authorities. Rare are the cases when they are taken to task for real criminal activities. It is a fact that right-wing lumpens often escape punishment for the sexual harassment, caste abuse and physical violence they commit on this campus. They are likely to find a way around these recommendations, just as candidates from their parent parties contest elections from jail despite provisions of the Election Commission against it. The committee also recommends that students against whom any from of disciplinary action has been taken will be ineligible for contesting elections. According to the JNU code of conduct, participation in virtually any from of protest including Hunger strikes can make a student liable for punishment. The message is clear, students who protest and organise on issues that displease the administration will not be allowed to contest student union elections. So, if you stand for the rights of students, workers, farmers, dalits, women or any marginalized group, or speak against the state violence, and act towards changing this you are a criminal.

Lyngdoh Recommends! Lets look at some of the recommendations. Lyngdoh says, non-students shall not be a part of the election process in any way. They will neither organise nor campaign. This distinction of student outsider is a false one. Any person who is concerned about issues raised on a campus had been always welcome to be part of the campus community. Extending this argument, the pre-election public meetings, where speakers from outside participates, might be banned too. The recommended provision to set upper age-limit again is highly problematic. It completely denies the rights of students to avail education late in lifeand denies the rights of research scholars. The provision curtailing the rights to contest election in a post more than once directly interferes in the democratic rights of the students. The recommendations for 75% attendance and no arrears in the academic records fall flat for the case of JNU, where no attendance is recorded. However once the Lyngdoh recommendations are allowed to be implemented the administration might come up with a rule to maintain attendance. The recommendations of the Lyngdoh Committees will invariably invite further regimentation, surveillance and intervention by the authorities to curtail the autonomy of the university system, curb the independence of student unions and vitiate the democratic atmosphere and culture in the campuses across the country. And what does Mr. Lyngdoh prescribe to the authorities to implement his recommendations? “It is important that the college/university authorities resort to the assistance of the police in the event of any unlawful activity occurring not only during elections, but also otherwise”. The radical potential of organised students will meet brutal repression.

Is politics the 'problem'? The Lyngdoh Committee tries to use the general dislike of students towards politics as a shield of legitimacy for its recommendations. Such disgust towards politics is indeed a common phenomenon in society today. The problem however, is when we understand politics only as elections, political parties and power politics. Movements for the rights of women, dalits, workers, peasants, socio-religious and national minorities, movements against land grabbing, displacement, communalism, atrocities on backward castes, exploitation of women…these are ALL political movements; the difference is that they represent a progressive politics. Parliamentary politics in this country is a model of corrupt, undemocratic functioning with no transparency and no accountability. Mr. Lyngdoh represents the perpetrators of this criminal and corrupt politics. The report is trying to use people’s genuine hatred towards corrupt power politics to crush the politics of dissent and resistance which forms the most cogent challenge to the system.

Let us take the signal and oppose Lyngdoh in and outside JNU the Lyngdoh recommendations must be opposed entirely and opposed everywhere. Lyngdoh Committee is the harbinger of what is yet to come. It bears clear signals that the state is heading towards facilitating the corporatisation and commodification of education,. Not surprisingly, Mr. Lyngdoh celebrates merit; that same commodity which is sold in the market and bought by urban educated, elite, English speaking class! He wants ‘professional organisations’ to train up “future leaders” in colleges and universities. Like The World Bank probably! As we said earlier, the Lyngdoh Committee was set up on the basis of the Birla-Ambani Report on higher education. The same report also has provisions against teachers who talk about politics in class! So after Lyngdoh who had been entrusted to ‘discipline’ students, it might be the turn of the teachers to be ‘controlled ’! The offensive starting with attacks on students’ unions, will soon bring forth attacks on teachers and Karmchari organisations.

Lyngdoh Committee is a direct assault on the autonomous structures of the university by the state. If it is not opposed right away then the entire educational system will be sold off soon to the forces of LPG. Like they are selling off profit-making public sectors, health sectors and the multi-crop farm lands, the minerals, the forests, the resources, the mountains, the rivers, lives and livelihood. In the same way the state and the state-promoted private sector have de-unionised the labour force to curtail their right to protest and demand their rights, the student community is now being targeted. Thus the report urges repeatedly that students stick to issue of students’ welfare and not get involved in anything else. They want to turn the students into atomized self-centered individuals, who are cut off from the other forms of resistances and movements.

Is Lyngdoh in JNU already? In the recent past we have seen the provisions of AC/BoS elections being laid down by the administration. They say the contestants should have a minimum grade of 6.5. There are also provisions for an Administrative Supervisor appointed by the VC, to look into the election procedures. Although the JNUSU leadership accepted these provisions without any protest and called it a “victory” the provisions have close resemblance to the Lyngdoh Recommendations. It is the same merit based elections with direct administrative intervention! So is the JNUSU election the next in the target?
A Different Kind of Politics Is Possible! Let us pay Mr. Lyngdoh back with his own coin: Even the Lyngdoh Committee has upheld the JNUSU model of elections as somewhat an ideal. With all its problems, the fact remains that student politics in JNU is far healthier than most universities; everything from the constitution to the elections is completely independent of administrative control. The credit for this goes not to administrative interventions or model codes of conduct, but deeply political student movements. Criminal activity in JNU elections is relatively marginal, there is no unnecessary expenditure, no attempts to bribe or coerce voters or candidates. Reasonable amounts of money are spent on elections here because display of material wealth during elections is rejected by the students. This is not because of some guidelines laid down by the establishment, but because of a legacy of emphasizing content over form, progressive politics over glamour, money and muscle power. An organic political culture of this sort cannot be substituted by a set of rules and administrative dictates.
So let us pay Mr. Lyngdoh back with his own coin. Let us resist any attempt of violation of the democratic rights of the students and any attempt to privatise education. Only a consistent and militant struggle in all the campuses across the country can ensure that. It is the very same thing Mr. Lyndoh and company as well as his parliamentary masters and their corporate sponsors are so afraid of!
Lets fight for our democratic institutions and politics!

August 31, 2007

The HRD Ministry and the UGC have recently sent letters to the JNU Administration asking it to implement the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations with regard to conduct of the JNUSU elections. The recommendations are:
· an attack on the autonomy of the university system.
· assault on the independence of the students’ movement.
· a move to facilitate privatisation of higher education by
restricting organisd interventions from the campus community.
· to implement Birla-Ambani Report to privatise and corporatise higher
education under the garb of ‘cleaning up’ campuses.
______________________________________________________
DSU PUBLIC MEETING
LYNGDOH COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS:
Another assault on shrinking democratic space
and the students’ movement in campus


Speakers

Anil Sadgopal
Former Head, Deptt. of Education
Delhi University

K. J. Mukherjee
School of Biotechnology, JNU

Rakesh Ranjan
Deptt. of Economics, SRCC,
Delhi University

Kumar Sanjay Singh
Deptt. of History, Delhi University


Tapti Mess 9.30 pm 1 Sept. (Saturday)

August 29, 2007

OPPOSE THE IMPLEMENTATION OF LYNGDOH COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS IN JNU!

The HRD Ministry and the UGC have sent letters to the JNU Administration asking it to implement the recommendations of the Lyngdoh Commission with regard to conduct of the JNUSU elections. The Administration in turn has forwarded the letter to the JNUSU for response.

Some of the important recommendations of the Lyngdoh Committee [You can access the full Report by following the LINK on the left]:

The maximum age limit fixed for students to contest elections is to be 28 years for research students.

75% minimum attendance is compulsory for students to be eligible for contesting student union elections.

Candidates will have only one opportunity to contest the elections for office-bearers.

Any student against whom ‘disciplinary action’ has been taken by the University authorities cannot contest elections.

The Lyngdoh Committee recommendations are aimed at destroying students' democratic organisations, their independence and the power of resistance. It is aimed at making the Students' Union subservient to the university authorities, to make it a harmless, apolititcal and undemocratic body, which will be in no position to resist the anti-student policies and practices of the administration. And this is what the JNU administration, or for that matter any university administration, wants. If allowed to be implemented, it will crush the independence and democratic character of JNUSU election process, and will totally undermine its constitution. This will ultimately make the JNUSU a representative body of the administration and not of the students. So we must unite and say in one voice that the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations have no place in the student's movement of JNU.

LET'S FIGHT THIS LATEST ATTACK ON THE STUDENT MOVEMENT OF JNU.