February 25, 2008

Women Hold Up Half the Sky!

Sexual harassment and DSU’s action on it: The DSU public notice of 20th Feb. informing the campus of the expulsion of a leading DSU activist after being found guilty of sexual harassment by an internal enquiry, has left many with a feeling of shock. In a campus which is essentially patriarchal despite all its pretensions to be gender sensitive, such organisational steps are hardly taken in the right spirit. While this action has received no formal public response, all kinds of rumours are being circulated enthusiastically; the most outrageous being that this was a clash between Serohi Nandan and his partner which has been organisationally manipulated to ‘victimise’ him! That he is an innocent victim of a political gimmick by overboard feminists! In all such speculations, the political aspects are often lost: that sexual harassment is a serious offence, which vitiates the organisational and political space for women in general, apart from negatively affecting the individual woman it is committed against, meriting exemplary punitive action. Also, that when any incident or allegation of sexual harassment by a member comes to the notice of an organisation, it is the responsibility of that organisation to take it up seriously instead of trying to cover it up.

Although it is not Serohi Nandan’s partner who had faced sexual harassment in this case, the identity of the aggrieved woman should be irrelevant. The enquiry carried out by the organisation has given us sufficient reason to believe that it is a clear case of sexual harassment and therefore strong punitive action has been taken against the leading activist even before the GSCASH complaint was filed. Despite being in the organisation for a long time, Serohi Nandan’s irresponsible behaviour shows his failure to internalise the politics DSU upholds. We consider this to be a betrayal of our fight against patriarchy as well as the general principles of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. DSU has taken punitive action organisationally, and now it is up to GSCASH to deliver justice as an institution which is entrusted to deal with this kind of issues. We are confident, that the GSCASH verdict will vindicate our stand and deliver justice to the aggrieved woman.

The slander campaigns by a certain section of the campus do not come to us as a surprise. In a campus where politics is synonymous with elections and garnering votes by any means, shielding sexual harassers by organisations is the usual practice. The struggle against sexual harassment has suffered tremendously due to the non-serious and opportunistic approach adopted by almost all organisations. We would like to reiterate that suspending, enquiring against, and then expelling a leading activist and a fellow comrade has not been an easy task for us. But to be true to our politics of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, we saw no other course of action open to us that would do justice to the issue at hand. Our action is not just a vindication of MLM politics, but also an attempt to stay true a basic political ideal: that we are accountable to our political principles and the students of this campus, which is why the whole matter was made public by DSU instead of trying to keep quiet and taking a position only under pressure.

This action could be a beginning of militant assertion of women against sexual violence, and that is a cause for fear for many men and patriarchal interests on campus. Women and men in other organisations and also those not in any organisation are aware of the kind of harassment that is perpetrated, suffered, covered up and hardly ever brought to justice. The time now is to demand justice for each and every crime of sexual harassment, and violence against women in general.

Treating sexual harassers with leniency emboldens harassers in general. The tendency of overlooking such cases, or worse, shielding or defending harassers, as done by organisations such as SFI and AISA which claims itself to be ‘left’ or even ‘revolutionary’ essentially betrays the politics they claim to uphold. A breach of political principles in practice is something no communist organisation worth its name can endorse. The attitude of other organisations towards sexual harassment reduces the space of women to participate in politics or other public events and spaces. Anything less than an uncompromising struggle against patriarchal exploitation is inadequate and unacceptable. The DSU action is a step in that direction.

We strongly feel that this is an occasion for us all as a campus community, and not just as an organisation to reflect on what constitutes patriarchal behaviour in our ‘public’ and ‘private’ domains. None of us are "patriarchy-free" in that sense. As students committed to progressive politics, we need to undertake a prolonged and oftentimes difficult struggle against patriarchy to transform ourselves which is a part of the larger struggle for transforming the society. We must remember that even the progressives are not completely free from the entrenched patriarchal values. Therefore in a case where a leading activist of an organisation and someone who we took for granted to be progressive has been found guilty of sexual harassment, it is our responsibility to collectively reflect on the principles we uphold, how much we have internalised them, and to what extent they translate in our daily lives. To refuse to accept or even consider this, only serves to show the hypocrisy and refusal to really struggle against patriarchy in all its forms.

February 23, 2008

Separate Telangana: A Democratic Demand


Stop Rickshaw-walla;

I am coming;

You work from morning to night,

but your stomach cannot be filled;

So much blood and sweat,

yet you earn hardly anything…

(From Apuro Rickshaw, the first song written by Gaddar, 1971)

The 59-year old revolutionary balladeer Gaddar is visiting the country’s capital from 23rd to 29th February 2008 to intensify the demand for a separate Telangana state. Apart from participating in a protest demonstration on 28th February at Jantar Mantar demanding a separate Telangana, he and his troupe will perform at two cultural programmes in Delhi University and JNU organised by Democratic Students Union (DSU) on 29th February.

Gaddar: The living legend of the Indian revolutionary movement, Gaddar was born in a poor dalit family in Toopran village of the Medak district adjoining Hyderabad. His parents Seshaiah and Lachumamma worked as labourers to earn a living. After passing the 12th standard from a government junior college in Hyderabad, Gaddar joined the Osmania University Engineering College to pursue a Bachelors degree in engineering, but was forced to drop out after the first year to earn a living.

He worked in a chemical factory before joining the Arts Lovers’ Association, which was renamed Jana Natya Mandali (JNM) in 1972. Gaddar has been actively pursuing the demand for a separate Telangana from the very inception of his political and cultural activism, starting from 1969. The Srikakulam Armed Struggle in Northern coastal Andhra fought by the adivasis inspired as well as drawn him towards revolutionary politics and culture. Even though he got a clerical job in a bank in 1975, Gaddar left it in 1984 to work as a full time activist of JNM. He was forced to go underground in 1985 after protesting against the killing of several dalits by upper caste landlords in Prakasham district.

In exile, Gaddar roamed through the forests of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, spreading the revolutionary ideology through folk arts. Gaddar and his troupe adapted folk forms such as Oggu Katha, Veedhi Bhagotham (vernacular ballets using a combination of song, dialogue and dance) and Yellamma Katha (the story of the local deity) to revolutionary themes depicting the travails of peasants, labourers and as well as other exploited sections. With his revolutionary songs catching the imagination of the masses, Gaddar became a legendary figure among the toiling people. Hundreds of thousands of printed copies and thousands of cassettes and CDs of his songs have been distributed and sold over the last two decades.

After four-and-a-half years of exile, Gaddar emerged from hiding. On February 18, 1990, Gaddar met the media. Two days later, the Mandali celebrated its 19th anniversary at the sprawling Nizam College Grounds in Hyderabad. A staggering 200,000 people came to watch Gaddar perform.

In the last 15 years since he surfaced from his underground life, Gaddar has contributed to keep the separate Telangana movement alive. During this period, he has launched campaigns to protest against State repression in the countryside and brutal killings by the police in the name of ‘encounters.'

He along with Varavara Rao and Kalyan Rao was the emissary for the failed peace talks between the Naxalites and the Andhra Pradesh government. On April 6, 1997 there was an assassination bid on Gaddar. While two of the three bullets the assailants fired into him, two were removed. One was left untouched because of medical complications. The near-fatal attack, which the balladeer believes was engineered by the police, has not deterred Gaddar from being a champion of the downtrodden.

Separate Telangana Movement: Geographically, the state of Andhra Pradesh is divided into three parts: Rayalaseema, Coastal Andhra and Telangana. Telangana remains the most under-developed region after being systematically exploited by the dominant classes of the other two regions. Telangana is a land of poor people with rich natural resources. The people here have been historically denied their rights over resources, deprived of opportunities for political, economic, and cultural autonomy. The demand for a separate Telangana state is a long standing one, with the majority of the people from the region firmly supporting its creation. However, this democratic aspiration of the people of Telangana has been trampled underfoot by the various ruling class political parties in power, be it the regional or national ones. There is also the hostility of the ruling classes from Coastal Andhra against carving out of Telangana from present Andhra Pradesh. Therefore, even though various political parties have promised to make the state of Telangana a reality several times in the past, none of them has taken any concrete step to materialize it. In this respect, the present Congress government led by Y. Rajshekhar Reddy too is no exception. But despite the denial of separate statehood after a prolonged movement, it refuses to die down. The Separate Telangana movement continues to live on, now with renewed vigor, and will continue until the government is made to fulfill the demand. As a part of this movement, Gaddar is visiting New Delhi to impress upon the need for a separate Telangana.

Democratic Students Union (DSU): It is an independent students' organisation active in JNU and Delhi University in the state of Delhi. It is committed to work towards attaining the ideals of the New Democratic India, and supports democratic and people’s movements all across the country. DSU considers the demand for a separate Telangana state to be a just and democratic one, and therefore extends its solidarity with people of Telangana in their struggle for a separate state.

DSU is happy to organise and announce two cultural performances by Gaddar and his cultural troupe in solidarity with the separate Telangana movement on 28th and 29th February in JNU and Delhi University respectively. We cordially invite you to be present in the above two programmes and extend your solidarity to the movement.

February 22, 2008

CULTURAL EVENT

Poets in Politics

DSU INVITES YOU

To An evening with

People’s Poet

BALLI SINGH CHEEMA

TAPTI MESS, JNU

9.00 PM 22 FEB.’08 FRIDAY

February 21, 2008

PUBLIC NOTICE

DEMOCRATIC STUDENTS UNION
JNU UNIT


In an Executive Committee (EC) Meeting of the DSU JNU Unit held on 17.02.2008, the following resolutions were unanimously passed:


RESOLUTION I: Taking note of the acts of grave misconduct and irresponsible behaviour by Serohi Nandan, a member of the Executive Committee, DSU JNU Unit, the EC held a meeting to discuss the same issues on 4th of February 2008. The EC framed certain charges against the said member. He was asked to step down from his responsibility as an EC member pending enquiry. A three-member Enquiry Committee was constituted by the EC to enquire into the said charges and to come out with its report within 10 days.

After conducting the enquiry the Enquiry Committee subsequently came to the conclusion that on the following charges Serohi Nandan was found guilty:

1. Sexual harassment against a woman.
2. Gender insensitive and anti-woman behaviour.
3. Irresponsible behaviour unbecoming of a leading committee member.
4. Misuse of organisational position.
5. Undermining his partner as a woman and a fellow comrade.

DSU condemns Serohi Nandan for his conduct. It is a complete breach of trust and organizational principles resulting from the failure to internalise the politics that DSU upholds.

Taking into consideration the Enquiry Committee verdicts and the serious nature of the offences committed, the DSU JNU unit strips Serohi Nandan off his responsibilities, rights and duties as a member and bars him from working for the organisation in JNU for life.

This grave misconduct and irresponsible behaviour by Serohi Nandan had vitiated the space for women inside and outside the organisation. DSU takes note of this in all seriousness. We take this occasion to deliberate, discuss and reflect on individual conduct in our personal relationships and public behaviour. Only an uncompromising struggle against patriarchy and other forms of exploitation can ensure that such instances are prevented.


RESOLUTION II: DSU appeals to the aggrieved person to come forward and file a complaint with the GSCASH. We extend our full solidarity and cooperation in her struggle for justice.

The above resolutions were placed in a General Body Meeting of DSU JNU held on 18.02.2008. Both were passed unanimously.

Upholding the spirit of the above two Resolutions, the DSU EC has filed a third-party GSCASH complaint against Serohi Nandan today at 6.20pm.

February 13, 2008

SALWA JUDUM: The Reign of White Terror in Chhattisgarh

‘From the People proceeds the power of the State.’

-But where does it proceed to?

Yes, where is it proceeding to?

There’s some place it is proceeding to.

The policeman proceeds through the station gate.

-But where does he proceed to?

-Bertolt Brecht

What is Salwa Judum? Salwa Judum, referred to as ‘Jan Jagran Abhiyan’ in official rhetoric, is the name given to the Indian state’s massive undeclared war against the adivasi population of the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. The plan has been to pit a section of the adivasi population against the Revolutionary Movement, of which the adivasis themselves have been the major participant. Salwa Judum in Gondi language means ‘purification hunt’. The crime of the people of Bastar to face such a ‘hunt’: they inhabit a vast area of 39,114 sq. km. which is rich in natural resources, including mineral deposits and forest resources of various kinds. 70 percent of Bastar’s population is adivasi, and more than 75 percent of its land is covered by forests. They have also been the epicenter of the Maoist movement for the last 25 years. To pave the way for the unhindered loot and plunder of the natural resources by state as well as multinational companies, it is necessary for the powers-that-be to violently remove the adivasi population from their ancestral land. This however was not possible as long as the people were ready to defend their land and lives. Consequently, the repression of the state had to be directed against the peoples’ revolutionary movement.

From May-June 2005, the state started recruiting a section of the adivasi youth for Salwa Judum, mostly through coercion and also by taking advantage of their economic hardship. Youths from disgruntled immigrant non-Adivasi families who had lost previous economic privilege due to the peoples’ upsurge, such as landlords, contractors, and businessmen also joined or supported this campaign. Mahendra Karma, the leader of the Congress party, conceptualized and led the campaign from the beginning, with full support from the BJP government of Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh. One Salwa Judum leader describes a typical mode of recruitment: “This is what happened in Bangapal. On 3rd August (2005) we held a meeting in Munder village. Villages from Munder ran away to the hills. The Naga Battalion went to the hills, caught them and brought them back, and made them join the Salwa Judum. Those who were unwilling to join were arrested.” [PUDR Report on Salwa Judum] The government camps where thousands of displaced adivasis are forced to live as refugees have also been an important recruitment base for the state for its Salwa Judum campaign. The youth residing in these camps were not given any opportunity of gainful employment. Moreover, as has been shown by independent fact-finding reports, each family is forced to send one of their young to join the Salwa Judum forces. As is the case with any mercenary army of the state, the Salwa Judum members, known as the Special Police Officers (SPOs) are paid Rs.1500 a month from the government coffers. The state has trained and armed them to use it against their own people and to facilitate the incursion of the state and the multinational companies. And all of this the state sought to do keeping the whole world in the dark. Even any independent media scrutiny of the events in Chhattisgarh was not allowed. As this radio intercept of an instruction by the Bijapur Superintendent of Police to his field forces reveals: “If any journalist comes to report on Naxalites, kill them.” [From a Report by Independent Citizen’s Initiative]

The extent of Repression: Out of 1,354 villages in the Dantewada district alone, 644 have been ‘evacuated’ by Salwa Judum forces and relocated in 20 ‘relief’ camps. These 644 villages have been completely deserted after they have been raged to the ground and destroyed by the invading mercenary armies of Salwa Judum. The official number of displaced people staying in these relief camps is said to be 50,000. As has been pointed out by Lingoo Markam, a ward panchayat member from Balood Panchayat of Dantewada block, “If the entire population of the 1,354 villages in the district is seven lakh, how can 644 villages have only 50,000 residents?!” He adds that nearly two lakh people has been displaced from these villages, and are now on the run to evade Salwa Judum and state police force’s reprisal. Many of them are hiding in forests, while many are forced to take shelter in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. Salwa Judum campaign has murdered more than a thousand adivasis in the last two years, and has unleashed a reign of terror through rape, torture, arrests, destruction of villages, crops, and livestock, apart from displacing millions from their homeland.

Why This Campaign for Hunting the Adivasis? The State, parliamentary political parties, as well as the corporate media have tried to sale the lie that it was a ‘spontaneous peoples’ movement against the Maoists’. This is how The Hindu reported of Salwa Judum in 2005: “From a handful in number to thousands. This is how the anti-Naxal movement is gaining ground in the main heartland of Naxalites in Bastar… After keeping their mouths shut for decades, the tribal people are getting united to battle against the People’s War.” However the facts that have come to light exposed such white lies. It is nothing but a state-sponsored undeclared war against the people and their Revolutionary Movement, by using vigilante gangs of marauding killers with the backing of the state machinery. By forcefully dispossessing the adivasis of their land, forests and resources of livelihood and making refugees in their own land, the Indian State wants to sell it out in a platter to the corporations such as the Tata, Essar, Mittal as well as multinationals who are greedily eying the minerals of the adivasi’s traditional land in Chhattisgarh. The biggest hurdle to this nefarious design of the Indian comprador ruling classes however is the Maoist Movement in the Middle India, and the adivasis that have built up this movement with their blood and sweat. To exterminate both, the Salwa Judum campaign has been unleashed. But as the people of Bastar continues to provide a stiff resistance, this has so far failed to crush the people and their movement.

February 9, 2008

DSU Public Meeting:

DSU Invites you to a Public Meeting on

SALWA JUDUM:
THE FASCIST STATE'S METHOD TO
CRUSH THE PEOPLES' RESISTANCE
AGAINST IMPERIALIST PLUNDER



Speakers:

Sudha Bharadwaj
Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha,
and Human Rights Lawyer

Indira Chakrabarty
Jana Swasthya Abhiyaan

Tapti Hostel Mess, JNU
9.30 pm, Sunday, 10 February 2008