Saturday, March 30, 2013

Shahbagh Uprising and Muslim Right in South Asia: Baring Its True Fangs!

- Subhash Gatade

Any death is regrettable and those who died due to police fire may also come under this category. What is interesting is Jamaat’s modus operandi. The lone survivor of 14 December mass murder of intellectuals described in a recent TV documentary how Al Badr killed Prof Munier Chowdhury and others. Some were bitten with iron bars to death and at the final point; they would insert such bars into the head of their victims to ensure death. Jamaat-Shibir reportedly did exactly the same couple of weeks ago when they killed some police constables and others. It shows Jamaat-Shibir’s Standard Operating Procedure has remained unchanged for the last four decades…

(Rabiul H. Zaki, 1952, 1971, the genocide and Shahbagh)

“The Pakistani soldiers unleashed a reign of terror on the soil of Bangladesh in 1971. They brutally killed innocent people, molested Bengali women and ruined the economy. The Jamaat leaders, Ghulam Azam and Matiur Rahman Nizami, issued the fatwa that those activities were permissible to save Islam” (Dr Mohammed Hannan, Page 252, Bangladeshe Fatwar Itihas, 1999).


What is common between Syed Md Nurur Rahman Barkati, Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan Masjid, Kolkatta and Maulana Syed Athar Abbas Rizvi, imam, Cossipore Masjid or Md Qamruzzaman, general secretary, All Bengal Minorities Youth Federation ? Well, if media reports are to be believed then they would be the leading lights of a demonstration to be held on March 30 th in Kolkata demanding stepping down of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Haseena’s resignation. In fact, a dozen odd Muslim outfits are planning to hold the demonstration to protest against the verdict of the ‘war crime tribunal’ against Jamaat-e-Islami’s leaders in connection with the atrocities committed by them during 1971’s Liberation War’. According to them the actions of the Bangladesh government was not only ‘anti-Islam’ but ‘anti-humanity’ as well. The organisers of the demonstration have said that if their demands are not met then they would appeal to the Indian government to severe all ties with Bangladesh.

Definitely this is not the first demonstration of its kind held by the various Islamist groups in this part of South Asia. Not some time ago, similar organizations had organised a protest in the city which had turned violent. It was in response to the death sentence given to Delawar Hossian Sayedee, the Vice President of Jamaat-e- Islami by a war crimes tribunal after he was found guilty for mass killing, rape and atrocities during the nine month war against Pakistan.

Karachi had also witnessed a demonstration in the second week of March led by the Jamaat-e-Islami (Pakistan) ‘to protest the indictment of Jamaat-e-Islami (Bangladesh) war criminals of 1971 and the treatment of its activists by the Bangladesh government, judiciary and the police in the aftermath of the Shahbag movement against the Islamists in Dhaka.’ President of Jamat-e-Islami of Punjab, Pakistan who participated in the demonstration reportedly insisted that, ‘the sentenced leaders of the razakars (pro-Pakistan militias) were innocent.’ Incidentally, close to this protest site a protest against the mob attack on the Christians of Badami Bagh ,Lahore by a rampaging mob of fanatics , was also held, although it was not as large. (The Express Tribune, 15 th March 2013)

In fact, opposition of the Islamists to the new awakening in Bangladesh – popularly known as Shahbagh movement – which wants to reinvigorate the basic principles of secularism and democracy which became a basis for founding of the country, is not limited to civil society organisations or political groups alone. Leaders of many Islamic countries especially President of Egypt and Prime Minister of Turkey are reported to have written letters to their Bangladesh counterparts expressing their ‘displeasure’ over the war crimes tribunal. Few other Islamic countries have through informal channels also ‘requested’ the Bangladesh government to ‘go slow’ on the trials or ensure that ‘violations of human rights’ does not take place. Wittingly or unwittingly all such ‘protests’ or ‘displeasures’ about ‘danger to Islam’ or ‘danger to humanity’ or alleged concern over democratic rights violation which the ongoing trials have allegedly provoked make one thing very clear.

None of them want that the role of organisations like Jamat-e-Islami or or many of its not so illustrious leaders in the 1971 war of Bangladesh’s independence is investigated afresh. They do not want to look into the fact that how many Jamaat activists became Razakars – literally volunteer – which was the paramilitary force organized by the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 and helped unleash untold miseries on nationalist Bengali suspects. The Razakars received training at the hands of the Pakistan Army. Both organisations were later accused of having violated Geneva Conventions of War by raping, murdering and looting the locals.

In fact they want to dilute gravity of Jamaat’s support to the Pakistan army and also cover up its shameful attempts to provide religious justifications of torture, rape and murder, arson etc under the specious plea that it has been more than 42 years that the developments took place, and it is time that people should ‘move on’ or ‘forget and forgive’.

It needs emphasising that the demands of the Shahbagh protesters are not limited to trials of the war criminals , they have demanded that Jamat-e-Islami be banned and its financial sources be confiscated by the state. Launching the second phase of the movement on the 42 nd independence day of Bangladesh (26 th March) activists have reiterated their immediate demand of trial of the war criminals, many of whom are senior leaders of the Jamaat and strongly criticised the Awami League government for dilly dallying on their central demand of banning Jamaat-Shibir politics.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Taking Over the Enterprise: A New Strategy for Labor and the Left

[Note: Richard Wolff is one of the most distinguished Marxist economists of our times. Working along with his colleague Stephen A Resnick(1938-2013), he has brought back Marx’s notion of surplus into the definition of class. In this provocative essay, Wolff suggests how this surplus based definition of class can provide the basis for a more effective anti-capitalist strategy for the left in the present era.]

- Richard Wolff

We are overdue for a new strategy. Labor and the Left are at low points in long declines. One cause has been adherence to a failed strategy. We need to acknowledge that reality and answer are two linked questions. First, what part of getting into this situation was our own doing? Second, what changes in labor’s and the Left’s strategy could revive the two groups and rebuild their coalition into a powerful political force? To answer the first question: labor’s and the Left’s strategic attitude toward capitalism undermined both partners and their coalition. To answer the second: changing their attitude toward capitalism could, I believe, revive them significantly in the near future.

With rare exceptions, the strategic orientation of labor and the Left toward capitalism has been one-sidedly macro-focused on the nature and extent of state economic interventions. Thus it emphasized taxing enterprises rather than workers, the rich rather than the middle- and lower-income earners. It generally favored state regulation of the private economy rather than laissez-faire, public over private enterprises, and state planning/controls over private/free markets. The welfare state, social democracy, socialism, and communism were all understood chiefly in the macro sense of state intervention. Differences among them concerned the extent of those interventions (ranging from regulation, to control, to state ownership of enterprises and productive resources).

In contrast, labor and the Left paid far less attention to capitalism at the micro level, the internal organization and operation of the enterprise. They did not challenge the basic position of corporate boards of directors as appropriators and distributors of the surpluses produced by other people, the workers. They accepted—or simply presumed—that those boards would exclude workers from the appropriation and distribution of the enterprise’s surpluses (or profits). Rarely did Left forces seriously raise the goal of workers themselves becoming, collectively, the appropriators and distributors of enterprise surpluses. When that idea surfaced, it was usually dismissed as unworkable, utopian, and irrelevant to workers’ practical interests. The Left restricted itself to demanding state-enforced employers’ exploitation of workers, deception of customers, and abuse (both socially and environmentally) of surrounding communities.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Manu Reloaded! Brahminism Yesterday, Hindutva Today?

- Subhash Gatade

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
                                                                                  - Du Bois, 'Souls of Black Folk'

Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva. Unless it is made clear what is meant by the latter the first remains unintelligible and vague....Here it is enough to point out that Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. By an 'ism' it is generally meant a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious dogma or creed. Had not linguistic usage stood in our way then 'Hinduness' would have certainly been a better word than Hinduism as a near parallel to Hindutva. Hindutva embrases all the departments of thought and activity of the whole Being of our Hindu race.
                                                                                                  -Savarkar, 'Hindutva'


The idea and politics of Hindutva is normally presented/understood in the form of religious imaginaries.

For its proponents, it is THE way to correct 'historical wrongs' supposedly committed by 'aggressors' of various hues against 'Hindu Nation' - which according to them has been in existence since times immemorial. It does not need recounting how this strange mix of mythology and history which is fed to the gullible followers unfolds itself before us with dangerous implications.

The dominant antidote to this exclusivist idea, rubbishes the 'us' versus 'them' rationale provided to justify its actions, denies any such continuous strife on the basis of religion amongst people, talks of emergence of composite heritage and the flourishing of many syncretic traditions etc. It is no surprise that the explosive manifestations of communal conflict are presented here as a handiwork of 'few bad apples' within the communities which need to be weeded out or quarantined. A logical consequence of this understanding is that secularism as it is practised here as part of statecraft similarly veers around Sarv Dharm Sambhav (Equal Respect to All Religions) and not to separation of religion from running of the state and society as it is normally understood.

Looking at the fact that the politics of Hindutva has been on ascendance since last two and half decades - despite witnessing temporary setbacks here and there - and the established/standard response to it loosing its lustre, and the strategies devised to deal with loosing their appeal and impact, it is time to look at the phenomenon in a more nuanced way. It is time to move away from standard questions and their pet answers to an arena less probed and investigated. Perhaps it it time to raise questions which were never raised or did not receive the attention they really deserved.

Would it be correct to say that the idea of Hindutva popularly presented as Hindu Nationalism emerged as a 'reaction' to the politics of Muslim nationalism or vice versa or a correct depiction could be both emerged independently as an elite strategy to bring under its canopy the rising voice of the subalterns within the community ?

Would it be proper to say that Hindutva is rather an extension of the ongoing Brahminical project of hegemonising and homogenising of Indian society and in fact could be seen as part of Brahminical strategy/reaction against the Shudras-Atishudras ? Remember under the twin impact of policies promulgated by the colonial regime coupled with the path breaking movements led by the social revolutionaries, one was witness to the loosening of the age old social bondages and restrictions of these depressed classes.

A question could be why Maharashtra - where the population of minorities has never crossed ten per cent mark, and where they were never politically dominant, metamorphosed into a region which saw not only emergence of many leading Hindutva ideologues - ranging from Savarkar, Hedgewar and Golwalkar - and their organisations but a strong base as well as popular legitimacy as well.

A satisfactory answer to all these queries can only be had if we are able to look afresh at all those assumptions about ascent of Hindutva and are ready to break new grounds in pursuit of this aim.


It was Sir T. Madhava Rao who speaking of Hindu Society of his time said :

"The longer one lives, observes, and thinks, the more deeply does he feel that there is no community on the face of the earth which suffers less from political evils and more from self-inflicted or self-accepted or self-created, and therefore avoidable evils, than the Hindu Community."

This view expresses quite accurately and without exaggeration the necessity of social reform in Hindu Society.

The first Social Reformer and the greatest of them all is Gautama Buddha. Any history of Social Reform must begin with him and no history of Social Reform in India will be complete which omits to take account of his great achievements
                                                                                                      - Ambedkar

Dr Ambedkar's discussion about genesis of Manusmriti which he takes up in his incomplete work 'Revolution and Counterrevolution in Ancient India' can act as a starting point to understand the dynamics of this struggle in our context.

Manusmriti forms parts of the edicts called Smritis - which appeared roughly from 300 B.C. to 600 A.D. Taken together, they were called the Dharma-Shastras, implying religious injunctions. The Smritis included everything that today we call civil and criminal law, because of which, in English, they are usually referred to as law books. Smritis reveal the complexity and all -embracing character of the bondage, the servitude of the Shudras and Vaishyas, Atishudras and women and laid down '[t]he rights and obligations (duties) of Brahmins, kshatriyas, vaishyas, shudras, and untouchables, in every speher of human life, personal, marital, social, religious, economic, political, et al. It would be more appropriate to say that they laid down the rights and privileges of the brahmins and Kshatriyas and obligations of all the rest. They also laid down the punishments, from religious penance to corporal punishment, for any breach of the laws laid down by them." (S.G. Sardesai, Progress and Conservatism in Ancient India, PPH, 1994, Page 41)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Full Programme & NSI Panels: The Delhi Historical Materialism Conference - "New Cultures of the Left"

Delhi Historical Materialism Conference Programme (“New Cultures of the Left”, Convention Centre, Jawaharlal Nehru Univeristy, New Delhi, 3-5 April)

To Download the complete list of all panels and papers over three days (from: 9.30 am to 8.15 pm everyday) of The Delhi Historical Materialism Conference - "New Cultures of the Left" Click Here

New Socialist Intiative (NSI) is organsing two panels in the Conference

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Remembering Rachel Corrie - A Decade After

"I can’t cool boiling waters in Russia. I can’t be Picasso. I can’t be Jesus. I can’t save the planet single-handedly." - Rachel Corrie

Today on 16th March, we at New Socialist Initiative (NSI), not only remember Rachel Corrie but also salute her sacrifice and love of humanity. 

Rachel Corrie, a 23 year old, peace activist from Olympia, Washington, USA, was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer on the 16th March 2003, while she, along with 7 other peace activists, were protesting non-violently against the demolition of a Palestinian house in Rafaf by Israeli forces. 

Rachel Corrie blocks Israeli Bulldozer.
The Photo was taken earlier in the day she
was bulldozed to death. Photo: Joe Carr
According to eyewitness accounts, when Rachel was 20-30 meters from the bulldozer, she knelt down in front of it. The bulldozer advanced toward her with the blade-bucket in the dirt at a height of 1.5-2 feet. When the bulldozer approached Rachel, she climbed onto a pile of dirt. From the place where she stood, Rachel looked into the driver's cabin. The bulldozer continued to move forward. Rachel turned around to get down from the pile, but the dirt was moving as she climbed down and she fell as the bulldozer continued to move forward. She disappeared under the pile of moving dirt. The bulldozer moved forward a distance of at least 4 meters. Then all of her friends ran toward it, and it stopped. 

Richard Purrssell who was 20 meters away from the bulldozer and had an open view on a clear day and recalls : 'I heard lots of screams, a great many screams, people signaling to the bulldozer driver to stop, signaling him to stop. At that time, the bulldozer was still moving another 4 meters. It passed the spot where Rachel fell, stopped and backed up in reverse along the path it had traveled in a straight line along the path where Rachel lay on the ground.'

Not surprisingly, a Israeli court in 2012 ruled that Israeli State was not to be held responsible as Rachel deliberately put herself in harms way. The judge pronounced that Corrie "was accidentally killed in the framework of a 'war-related activity' ... [and] the state bears no responsibility for the damages inflicted on the plaintiffs resulting from a war-related action,"

It seemed likely that Rachel’s story would by now have faded from memory as just one more among the thousands of deaths in Occupied Palestine over the past decade, but for the efforts of International Solidarity Movement, Occupied Palestine, and  Rachel's parents who immersed themselves in legal struggles, led public campaigns and kept Rachel’s story alive through books, plays, films and media outreach.

Rachel is also very much remembered in Occupied Palestine. In a short message sent out today from Occupied Palestine, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) of which Rachel was a volunteer remembered her in these words:

She is remembered with love still by Palestinians and new generations of ISM volunteers – for many of whom, Rachel’s untimely death was an inspiration to become more involved in the struggle for freedom for Palestine. We honour her memory and what she was standing for, whilst she stood in front of that bulldozer ten years ago today ...Our thoughts today are with Rachel’s family, and as we’re sure Rachel would have wanted, also with all the Palestinian families who have lost a loved one to the Israeli occupation.

Today our thoughts are also with Rachel’s family and with all the Palestinian families who have lost  loved ones to the Israeli occupation.

                           Situation still resembles Rachel’s words in this video

Friday, March 15, 2013

Latest Issue of CRITIQUE Published by NSI Delhi University Team is Out!

The latest issue of CRITIQUE (Vol-2, Issue-2), the magazine published by the Delhi University chapter of New Socialist Initiative is out. The magazine, not always, but largely focuses on higher education, privatisation of education, universities, left politics, histories of student movements from India and beyond. 

If you would like to order copies, write to us at or call +91-8860304908, +91-9013074978. Apart from Delhi, copies are also available on request in Allahabad, Gorakhpur, Lucknow, Guwahati, Bhopal, Jabalpur, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Kurnool, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Mysore and few other cities.

Scroll down to see the Content list of the latest issue.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

[ASEAK Release] Eminent Academics Across the World Join Students in Condemning Publishers

In an Open Letter to Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis Group, 309 renowned academicians from the world over (letter attached with Press Release) have expressed their solidarity with students’ right to access the authors work through means such as photocopying. This campaign among academics was initiated by Amita Baviskar (Institute if Economic Growth), Shamnad Basheer (National University of Juridical Science), Nivedita Menon (Jawaharlal Nehru University) and Nandini Sundar (University of Delhi). This letter comes in the wake of a law suit filed by the publishers against Delhi University and Rameshwari Photocopier (a licensed photocopy shop at DSE), in which they have registered their strong objections to the publishers’ claims. Supporting the stance taken by ASEAK which is representing students’ interest in the Delhi High Court the academics have asked for publishers to withdraw their law suit. The concerns raised by the academics strongly resonate and are in solidarity with what ASEAK has been arguing for – namely: 

• that photocopying to texts, and production of “course packs”, for educational purposes is legal and covered under Sec 52 of the Copyright Act. Sec. 52(1) (i) allows for ‘the reproduction of any work by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction’ or as a part of questions or answers to questions’.Sec. 52(1) (a) allows for a fair dealing with any work (except computer programs) for the purposes of private or personal use, including research.

• That in a developing country like India photocopying of books is the only way of ensuring affordable access to books for students pursuing higher education that are priced at prohibitively high costs by these publishers. Thus the reason authors “make course packs” is to ensure that students have access to the most relevant portions of the book without which they would be seriously compromising the students education.

• That academic authors are mostly employed by public funded Universities and hence publicly funded research should be publicly accessible.

• That academic publishing is not sustained by publishers’ investments, and their profits are hugely under-written by tax payers money.

• That the right to affordable access to educational material should be put before the publishers profit motive

Of the 309 signatories, 33 are authors whose works are included in the “course packs” which the publishers claim is an infringement of their copyrights. Among the 33 “suit” authors who have signed the letter include leading academics such as Professors Thomas Blom Hansen, Partha Chatterjee, Ayesha Jalal, Christophe Jaffrelot, Veena Das, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Marc Galanter.

Among the other eminent academics/authors who have signed this letter are Professors Richard Falk, Arjun Appadurai, Jonathan Parry, Ramachandra Guha, Farid Esack, TN Madan, Ian Copland, Tanika Sarkar and Uma Chakravarty. The list of signatories include academics from all over India and from universities in Europe, the USA, UK, South Africa, Singapore, Australia, Argentina and Palestine.

Amartya Sen, in a separate letter (reproduced below) has expressed his distress at the law suit.

Kaushik Sundar Rajan, a leading academic from Chicago University has said that photocopying of his books was “absolutely essential” and “the only way” for his ideas to reach readers in India. Strongly supporting the free dissemination of ideas Sundar Rajan observes the actions by the publishers to be “petty, egregious, and worthy of the strongest opposition and condemnation”. (relevant excerpts of e-mail reproduced below)

Raju Ramachandran, leading Supreme Court counsel and “suit” author has opined, that the creation and distribution of course packs for educational purposes is clearly covered by the copyright fair use and educational exception under Section 52 of The Indian Copyright Act, 1957. (relevant excerpts of e-mail reproduced below)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

ASEAK Press Release: Students Join Legal Battle against Publishers in the Delhi High Court

In an ongoing case in the Delhi High Court, where a consortium of publishers, namely Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis Group have filed a suit against Delhi University and M/S. Rameshwari Photocopier (the licensed photocopy shop at Delhi School of Economics) alleging copyright infringement, students from across India have come together to challenge these allegations in Court. On 1 March, 2013, the impleadment filed by the Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge (ASEAK) to be made a party to the ongoing lawsuit was accepted in Delhi High Court and the Association will represent the interest of students in the said case. 

ASEAK has been formed out of the Campaign to Save the D. School Photocopy Shop, a Campaign that arose spontaneously following the suit when it was initiated in August last year. The publishers had claimed that photocopying of prescribed study material constituted an infringement of their copyright and claimed damages in excess of Rs. 60 lakhs. However, the Indian Copyright Act 1957 makes for exceptions to copyright infringement in Section 52, Article (h) of the Act, which states: “(h) the reproduction of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work- (i) by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction; or (ii) as part of the questions to be answered in an examination; or (iii) in answers to such questions” does not amount to an infringement of copyright.

ASEAK reaffirms the need for such exceptions in a developing country like India where photocopying ensures the access to otherwise prohibitively expensive books to the majority of students of higher education. It condemns the move of these publishers who claim to be fostering academic excellence, two of which are in fact University Presses (OUP & CUP), but are in fact working towards making higher education a preserve of the privileged few who can afford these books. It further condemns the crass attempt of the publishers to use the pretext of the interest of scholars in filing this suit, where this move has drawn severe and widespread condemnation from the academic community including scholars who have published with these publishers. 

In October 2012 the Delhi High Court had passed an interim injunction staying further photocopying of ‘course packs’ which are essentially compilation of prescribed reading materials. To the objections raised by the publishers' lawyer to the Association's impleadment, the honourable High Court observed “that the presence of the applicant is necessary and proper for adjudication of the present suit”. ASEAK seeks a revocation of the interim order and will work to defend the educational exception in favour of the interests of the student community at large. 

That photocopying of educational material takes place at such a large scale across the country and across disciplines is indicative of the gap within our education system that is filled by photocopying. Until alternative mechanisms of access to the same material is evolved, any curbing on photocopying will severely impact the student community, not only in Delhi School of Economics, or Delhi University, but in every educational institute across the country. We affirm and express solidarity with the students of Costa Rica who are fighting for their right to photocopy, directly linked with access to education, as it is in India. We express our solidarity with the open access movement and affirm the cause that Aaron Swartz fought for. We welcome the move in the USA that has led to the decision of free access to publicly funded research after one year of remaining within subscription journals, and will push for similar moves for opening access to publicly funded research within India, including academic works produced by teachers while being employed by State Universities.

Below is a reproduction of the Delhi High Court order :

50 Truths about Bolivarian Venezuela and Hugo Chavez

[Editors Note: Many of us might not agree with many acts of Hugo Chavez like his uncritical valorisation of Gaddafi, his take on the 4th Eellam War in Sri Lanka and gross disregard of human life by the Lankan Army or the position taken by Venezuelan Government in the World Trade Organization Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong in December 2005 and so on and so forth. Many of us also might think, and perhaps rightly so, that the claim that what has unfolded in Venezuela under the Bolivarian Regime is the unfloding of 21st Century Socialism, is a tall claim. 

There is no doubt the processes unfolding in Venezuela are complicated; but nonetheless certain facts about Bolivarian Venezuela and Hugo Chavez needs to be reiterated, especially, in the context of the dismissive propaganda campaign launched by American media and also mainstream corporate media in India (perhaps with the exception of The Hindu). To that end we are republishing an English translation of an article originally published in Portuguese in Opera Mundi.]

- Salim Lamrani

1. Never in the history of Latin America, has a political leader had such incontestable democratic legitimacy. Since coming to power in 1999, there were 16 elections in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez won 15, the last on October 7, 2012. He defeated his rivals with a margin of 10-20 percentage points.

2. All international bodies, from the European Union to the Organization of American States, to the Union of South American Nations and the Carter Center, were unanimous in recognizing the transparency of the vote counts.

3. James Carter, former U.S. President, declared that Venezuela’s electoral system was “the best in the world.”
Banner of Memorial Meting held in New Delhi on 12th March, 2013. Photo: Bonojit Hussain 

4. Universal access to education introduced in 1998 had exceptional results. About 1.5 million Venezuelans learned to read and write thanks to the literacy campaign called Mission Robinson I.

5. In December 2005, UNESCO said that Venezuela had eradicated illiteracy.

6. The number of children attending school increased from 6 million in 1998 to 13 million in 2011 and the enrollment rate is now 93.2%.

[NSI Founding Conference] Reflections on A Future for the Left - Jairus Banaji

[Note: The text below is the transcript of the extempore speech delivered by Jairus Banaji at the inaugural session of the founding conference of New Socialist Initiative]

I just want to talk about State and the left in no particular sequence. I haven’t got a written presentation, so I will just talk extempore. India is a society full of paradox, very brutal paradoxes. Consider the following the facts – that the State violates its own Constitution and does so repeatedly and is probably the biggest violator of the Constitution of this country. The State which is supposed to be the guarantor and upholder of the Constitution, is the biggest violator of the Constitution; it’s a paradox. 
                                             Jairus Banaji's full speech

The other part of the paradox is that there are few countries in the world which has a larger working class, in the sense of working people of wage labouring mass, than India. I can’t think of any other country, probably apart from China, which in absolute terms, has a larger mass of working people or wage labourers than this country, yet we don’t have a single working class party in this country, not one working class party; no party formed by workers, for workers, representing workers’ interest at a political level. And on the other hand, our politics is saturated by parties, there are more parties than you possibly want to count. So that’s another paradox. India has a massive, a very substantial class of wage labourers but not a single party of the working class. 

What I want to suggest you by the way of throwing out ideas for your deliberations over the next two days is that you disentangle the issue of the left from the issue of the Revolutionary Party, don’t conflate them. We automatically tend to think that when we discuss the left we are talking about the Revolutionary Party, as if they are same thing. I think the left has to define a role for itself in relation to the possibility of the emergence of a Revolutionary Party or a Radical Party from within the mass of the working people in this country. If a Revolutionary Party has any chance of emerging in India over the next 10 to 15 years, chances of which is very bleak, at the moment they look slim, then it will be from within the mass of working people from within this country. It will not be because the left has founded yet another party or the left has successfully fused with many other radical party to form a Revolutionary Party. 

If there is going to be a party that is truly Radical in its impulse, which can truly contest the stronghold of capital in this country and contest capitalism in this country in concrete and practical way, then it will have to come from the workers themselves. And by workers I just don’t mean industrial workers, I just don’t mean manufacturing workers , I mean workers in the broadest possible sense which includes white collar workers, salaried wage earners or people who work in the bureaucracy, people who work in the Government offices for instances. The kind of a vision of a working class that in fact is there in the poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, which is a kind of a democracy of the masses – of masses who are internally diverse - they range all the way from white collar groups to, at the other end to tribals who are subjected to various forms of exploitation and oppression, whose labour is essentially subsumed in capital but in more complex ways and forms. And between those two poles – between the proletarianised Adivasis on one hand and the white collared workers within the urban economy on the other hand- you have the large mass of workers who are not just industrial, they work on construction site, they in the docks, they work in the railways, they work in transport and so on. And what about the those millions of people in this country who work, as the New Socialist Initiative (NSI) Manifesto calls the ‘petty commodity producers’, I mean I don’t entirely agree with the expression ‘petty commodity producers’, but I agree what the Manifesto is saying about them which is that they are essentially subsumed under capital – that they are essentially and effectively exploited by capital – their surplus value is also generated through their labour. 

So when you consider the working class in this sense, as the mass of working people in this country, is hugely diverse, very diverse, that is another kind of diversity, that’s another sense of diversity we ought to celebrate and not complain about or mourn, you have to celebrate, because I think that the strength ultimately, the strength of the movement in this country is going to come from that diversity, the ability to combine all these very different conditions of their employment, very different sort of working classes, classes of labour into one broadly uniform movement. But the Revolutionary Party is not going to come from the left, its going to come from the working class, its going to come from the mass of the working people. Now, how? That is where the left becomes significant and relevant for us. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

[NSI Founding Conference] Reflections on A Future for the Left - Ravi Sinha

It is with considerable satisfaction and with a mild sense of accomplishment that we arrive at this moment. For those of us who have been a part of this process, it has been an exciting but difficult journey. One little climb is over. After every climb, howsoever small, one gains a view. And a view we have gained.

I speak of satisfaction, and of a sense of accomplishment. But, I also speak of trepidation. I do so because a climb much steeper and far more challenging begins from here.

We have gained a view, admittedly still hazy, but much clearer than the one we had in the valley we come from. Most of the climb, however, lies ahead of us.

Fortunately, it is not like climbing in the mountains. Fortunately, metaphors have their limitations. There, in the mountains, as you gain height, the air gets thinner and climbers begin to drop out. There, it gets lonely at the top.

                                           Video Incomplete. Ravi sinha's Speech
The terrain of history is different. Climbing has a different meaning in the movement. Here, the air gets thicker as you climb higher. Here, you join others as you gain a clearer view. With clarity comes a higher but broader platform for unity.

Here, a summit is reached when an entire revolutionary class stands united in its resolve to overturn the status quo. Here, a summit is gained when an invincible mass of humanity comes together to bend the course of history.We know that others too are climbing from their respective valleys. We know that we all, coming as we do from our respective valleys, are on course to meet at the summit, if not earlier. Till then we all have to do our climbing. Till then we have to continue joining with groups after groups of climbers. As I said, in this terrain, the few become many and the sparse become the mass as we gain height and as we gain a clearer view.

The process that we now call New Socialist Initiative started long before it gained a measure of self-awareness. Those who were there at the beginnings before the beginning started out more from compulsion than plan. Most of us had joined a movement that was already on the decline. But we thought the decline was a temporary setback caused by revisionists and rotten eggs. We were certain that we could build the party and make revolution within no time if only others were willing to listen. Yet, as most of us spoke and few of us listened, we kept getting fragmented even further. Despite a little gain here or a small victory there, the movement continued its descent into the valley.

[NSI Founding Conference] हमारा सांस्कृतिक वर्तमान और ‘वाम’ के सामने चुनौतियाँ - सरूप ध्रुव

“क्रांतियाँ सपनों को हक़ीकत का जामा पहनाती है, मगर यथार्थ का प्रवाह अक्सर सपनों के पीछे रहता है...” 

पर आज हम जिस क्रांति के लिये ज़मीन तैयार करने जा रहे हैं, वह ज़मीन इतनी उबड़ख़ाबड़ है कि पैर बड़ी मुश्किल से ठहर पाते हैं। वह ज़मीन इतनी सारी दरारों से कटी-फ़टी हुई है कि हमें लंबे अर्से तक मशक्कत करनी होगी। देखिये, कितनी सारी चुनौतियाँ हैं हमारे सामने?

सब से पहले तो हमें जिस तरह की राजकीय आज़ादी मिली है, उस से तो लग रहा है कि हमारा यथार्थ तों हमारे सपनों के पिछे रैंग रहा है! पहला सवाल तो ये ही उठ रहा है कि क्या ‘प्रजा’ में से हम ‘नागरिक’ बन पाये हैं इन पैंसठ सालों में? प्रजा में से ‘नागरिक’ बनना सिर्फ़ एक राजकीय परिघटना नहीं है- यह एक सांस्कृतिक घटना है, जो अपनेआप नहीं घटती है। वह हमारे नेष्ठिक प्रयासों की पैदाईष होती है, और दूसरी ओर यह घटना ‘राजनैतिक इच्छाशक्ति ’ से संभव होती है।

                                                 सरूप ध्रुव का वक्तव्य

आज हमारे आगे जो चुनौतियाँ हैं, वे सांस्कृतिक हैं; और उनसे मुठभेड़ करने पर ही हम नये समाज के सपनों को यथार्थ मे बदल सकते हैं। इन सांस्कृतिक चुनौतियों को आर्थिक और राजनैतिक भूमिका के साथ साथ रखने पर ही उन से संघर्ष की व्यूहरचनाएं तैयार हो पायेगी।

वैसे देखा जाये तो हमें जिस तरह का बुर्जुआ प्रजातंत्र और उस का संविधान प्राप्त हुआ है, उस के साथ भी हमें यह सांस्कृतिक बदलाव की प्रक्रिया करनी पडे़गी। अफ़सोस की बात यह है कि ना तो हमारा प्रजातंत्र ही समाज के निम्न स्तरों तक पहूंच पाया है और ना तो हमारा संविधान उसकी प्रचारित ख़ूबीयों पर ख़रा उतर पाया है! क्योंकि हमारा प्रजातंत्र और हमारे संविधान के बीच कई सारे विरोधाभास हैं। यूँ देखा जाये तो, प्रजा को नागरकित्व देनेवाला यह संविधान एक हाथ से हमें कई सारे अधिकार दे रहा है पर उधर, प्रजातंत्र के चरित्र को देखेंगें तो वही अधिकार वह छीन रहा है! कहीं कहीं तो ख़ुद हमें भी उन अधिकारों को पाने की ललक से ज़्यादा, उनका बलिदान दे देने तक की पारंपरिक त्यागभावना का मिथ्याभिमान भी रहता है।

इस विरोधाभास से एक तथ्य तो ज़रूर सामने आता है कि हमें ‘नागरिकता’ की सजगता देनेवाला संविधान ‘आधुनिक’(मोडर्न) है और अधिकार से ज़्यादा बलिदान की जो भावना है वह ‘पूर्व आधुनिक’(प्री-मोडर्न) है। मतलब की यह एक बहुत ही गहरा सांस्कृतिक तनाव है जो जर्जर होने पर भी हमारे विचारों में, व्यवहारों मे और अनेक तरह की अभिव्यक्तिओं में जीवित है। क्या ऐसा नहीं लगता कि क्रांतिकारी खे़में मे इस तनाव को निर्मूल करने की चुनौति उठाने को प्राथमिकता दी जानी चाहिये?

[Founding Conference] NSI के स्थापना सम्मेलन के उदघाटन सत्र में - सुभाष गाताडे


प्रख्यात मार्क्सवादी विचारक जायरस बानाजी, गुजरात की मशहूर कवयत्री एवं सांस्कृतिक कर्मी और लम्बे समय से संघर्षों की साथी सरूप बेन, मेरे बेहद अज़ीज दोस्त एवं साथी रवि और मित्रों, न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनिशिएटिव के इस स्थापना सम्मेलन के उदघाटन सत्र में आप सभी का तहेदिल से स्वागत है। आज के इस खुले सत्र के बाद आने वाले दो दिन प्रतिनिधि सत्र में एनएसआई की इस प्रक्रिया से जुड़े, उससे नजदीकी रखनेवाले लोग मसविदा दस्तावेजों पर गौर करेंगे, उसमें अपने संशोधनों को पेश करेंगे और अन्त में उस पर अपनी मुहर लगाएंगे।
                                                     संयोजक का वक्तव्य

यूं तो हर दिन की अपनी अहमियत होती है, लेकिन क्या इत्तेफाक है कि यह सम्मेलन कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी का घोषणापत्र - जो ऐतिहासिक दस्तावेज मार्क्स-एंगेल्स ने तैयार किया था, जिसमें यह ऐलान किया गया था कि सर्वहारा के पास ... उसकी 165 सालगिरह के अवसर पर हो रहा है। कल ही दुनिया भर में मार्क्स के विद्यार्थियों ने इस दिन को याद किया।

आप में से कई लोग जानते होंगे कि ‘कामगारों के लिए दुनिया, दुनिया के लिए भविष्य’ शीर्षक से जारी हुए एनएसआई के इस मसविदा घोषणापत्रा को जारी हुए भी दो साल का समय बीत चुका है। तमाम लोगों ने इसके बारे में अपनी प्रतिक्रिया भी हमें दी है, इसके बावजूद यह कहना पड़ेगा कि प्रस्तुत विचारधारात्मक-राजनीतिक प्लेटफॉर्म/मंच के गठन की प्रक्रिया से कई लोग हाल ही में वाकीफ हुए हैं। और हम अन्दाज़ा लगा सकते हैं कि छोटे छोटे वाम संगठनों की बढ़ती सी जा रही कतार में एक और मंच के आगमन को देख कर आप में से कइयों के मन में कई किस्म की प्रतिक्रियाएं हो रही होंगी।

तय बात है कि चन्द मिनटों के इस विषयप्रवर्तन में उन तमाम प्रतिक्रियाओं से रूबरू होना मुमकिन नहीं है। मैं बस हमारी अपनी इस विचारयात्रा का निचोड़ पेश करने की कोशिश करूंगा ताकि आप जान सकें कि क्रान्तिकारी वामपंथ से अभिन्न रूप से जुड़े और उसकी विरासत को अपनी थाती, अपनी धरोहर माननेवाले हम लोगों ने इस किस्म के एक मंच के निर्माण के बारे में क्यों तय किया और कैसे तय किया ? आखिर इसके जरिए हम क्या करना चाहते हैं ? क्रान्तिकारी समाजवादी राजनीति को नवजीवन देने की जरूरत के हमारे दावे के आखिर क्या मायने हैं ? 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Protest Held in New Delhi Against Killing of Anti - POSCO Activists and Forcible Land Grabbing in Odisha

New Socialist Initiative (NSI) along with few other organisations and students of Sociology (Delhi School of Economics) held a demonstration outside Odisha Bhawan to protest against the killing of Anti - POSCO activists and against the ongoing forcible land grabbing by Odisha Government for the proposed POSCO Steel Plant.
Photo: Mukul Dube
Asit Das of "POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity Delhi" appraised the demonstrators about the tensed situation that prevails in the Anti-POSCO movement area. Following Asit Das, Subhash Gatade (Convener, NSI), Om Prakash (AISA - JNU), Suraj Beri (New Materialists - JNU), P.K Sahi (AIFTU - NEW), Mritunjay (Students For Resistance), Shyambir (Inqalabi Mazdoor Kendra), Mrigank (NBS), Minati Dash (Research Scholar, Dept. of Sociology, DSE) and Thomas Mathew (ICTU) addressed the protesters.

After repeated demand by the protesters, the Resident Commissioner of Government of Odisha in New Delhi came out with full police security to receive the memorandum addressed to the Chief Minister of Odisha. 

Below is the text of the memorandum and the signatories:

The Chief Minister, 
Government of Odisha 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Remembering Fukushima: Lessons for India

A citizens' convention on "Remembering Fukushima: Lessons for India” is being organised on March 11th 2013, marking the second year of the beginning of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. (We use 'beginning' advisedly, because the accident has not ended and is still very much continuing.)

The reactors are still emitting radiation, the site is still contaminated and will remain so for decades, people evacuated are afraid of returning back, news about contamination vegetables and animals are pouring in, and mutations detected in the area are being investigated. In a recent scientific investigation, butterflies, which are believed to be resistant to radioactivity, were found to have mutated due to radioactivity exposure in Fukushima. More cases are under observation.

The Fukushima catastrophe reveals the hazards of the nuclear energy industry. It also exposes the criminal nexus between the global nuclear industry, regulators and politicians. Fukushima holds many cautionary lessons for India, which has plans to raise its nuclear power generation several-fold in the near future.

The convention is being organised jointly by a number of citizens' groups, students' organisations, solidarity groups, human rights initiatives, trade unions, and women's organisations. The Women's Development Cell (WDC) of the Miranda House College in Delhi University is hosting and co-organising the event.

A panel discussion will be organised with following speakers:

- Prashant Bhushan, senior advocate in the Supreme Court of India.

- Dr. Vikas Bajpai, radiation oncologist and public health expert.

- Praful Bidwai, eminent journalist and peace activist.

- S P Udayakumar, leader of the Koodankulam movement, via skype

- Chie Matsumoto, an activist from Japan will speak about life in Japan after the nuclear accident, via skype.

The panel discussion will be followed by some cultural performances including a mime. A photo exhibition on Fukushima will also be put up on the venue. This photo exhibition will also be displayed at prominent places in Delhi like Dilli Haat, Central Park, JNU etc. between 8th-11th March 2013.

The Citizens' Convention will culminate into a candle light commemoration.

Date: 11th March, Venue: Miranda House Auditorium, Delhi University, Time: 3pm - 6pm

Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), Indian Doctors for Peace and Democracy (IDPD), New Socialist Initiative (NSI), New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI), People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD), National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM), All India Students' Association (AISA), Popular Education and Action Centre (PEACE), Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), Delhi Forum, Delhi Platform, Focus on the Global South, Inter Cultural Resources, Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association (JTSA), Students Against Nuclear Energy (SANE), Toxics Watch Alliance, Greenpeace India

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Protest Against Killing of Anti-POSCO Protesters and Forcible Acquisition of Land

Odisha Bhawan, 1 Niti Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, 12 noon, 9th March, 2013

People's Struggle Against Corporate - State Nexus Long Live!

In the continuum of brutal attacks on the struggle against forcible land acquisition for a POSCO steel plant in Odisha, the most recent case of blatant violence perpetrated by the corporate–police-goonda nexus in the region saw the murder of 4 people in Jagatsinghpur district.

On 2nd March, hired musclemen of POSCO with the full complicity of Odisha Police threw bombs at anti-POSCO activists in Patana village, in which 4 activists were killed and several others were seriously injured. Out of the 4, 3 were killed as a direct consequence of the police’s refusal to arrive at the spot for 15 hours after the bombing, or arrange for an ambulance to take the injured to a hospital.

The active connivance between the POSCO management and local contractors along with the Odisha Government to violently suppress the anti-POSCO struggle through every unconstitutional and illegal means, from hiring criminal elements to intimidation and murder of local activists spearheading the movement, has exposed the extent to which they are willing to bypass the law to bulldoze their way by means by brute force.

Matters have not stopped there, again on 5th March 2013, 12 platoons of armed police led by the District Collector and SP forcibly entered Gobindpur village and destroyed more than 25 betel vines – the major source of livelihood of the protesting villagers.

The Odisha government is going ahead with the forcible land acquisition for the steel plant despite the fact that POSCO does not have an environmental clearance for the project. The environmental clearance given by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on January 31, 2011 was suspended by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on 30 March 2012. POSCO does not even have a valid memorandum of understanding with the State government now. The one it had signed on July 22, 2005 lapsed on July 21, 2010 and no fresh MoU has been signed so far.

We strongly condemn this complete disregard for any kind of democratic processes, and the blatant use of brute force through police as well as goons to brutally crush the movement that is going on in the region. We call on all democratic and progressive organizations and individuals to condemn the violence and protest against the Odisha Government’s naked support towards POSCO, where it is ready to murder its own citizens so that POSCO may set up its steel plant.

New Socialist Initiative

Endorsed by and joined as co-organisers :

All India Platform for Labour Rights, All India Students’ Association, Delhi Solidarity Group, INSAF, Hero Honda Theka Mazdoor Sangathan, New Materialists (JNU), POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity Delhi, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, People’s Union for Democratic Rights, Pragatisheel Yuva Sangathan, Women Against Sexual Violence & State Repression, Sanhati, Socialist Front, Stree Mukti Sangathan, Student for Resistance
Bonojit Hussain: +91-8860304908
Praveen Verma: +91-9911078111
Vasundhara Jairath: +91-9953034105

Friday, March 1, 2013

On Modi's Social Engineering

- subhash Gatade

The system of untouchability has been a goldmine for the Hindus. This system affords 60 millions of untouchables to do the dirty work of scavenging and sweeping to the 240 million Hindus who are debarred by their religion to do such dirty work. But the work must be done for the Hindus and who else than the untouchables?
- Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

Whether Shit Collection or cleaning of gutters - which has condemned lakhs of people to a life of indignity since ages - could be considered a 'Spiritual Experience.' Definitely not. Everybody would yell. Well, Mr Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, has a different take on this.which he mentions in the book 'Karmayog' (Publication year 2007).

The said book is basically a collection of his speeches to high profile IAS officials. Herein he discusses the age old castebased vocation of the Valmikis as "experince in spirituality'. He writes : "I do not believe that they have been doing this job just to sustain their livelihood. Had this been so, they would not have continued with this type of job generation after generation….At some point of time, somebody must have got the enlightenment that it is their (Valmikis') duty to work for the happiness of the entire society and the Gods; that they have to do this job bestowed upon them by Gods; and that this job of cleaning up should continue as an internal spiritual activity for centuries. This should have continued generation after generation. It is impossible believe that their ancestors did not have the choice of adopting any other work or business."

Looking at the fact that a section of the dalits themselves -especially its upwardly mobile and more articulate section - has joined with the Hindutva bandwagon, it was expected that there was no angry reaction to his utterances within the state. A section of the Ambedkarite Dalits and many human rights activists did protest but their voices got drowned in the cacophony of voices of Modi supporters. It is a different matter that when Modi's remark got published in the Times of India in mid-November 2007, which was later translated in few Tamil newspapers, it resulted in a massive reaction of Dalits in Tamilnadu. Not only they staged protests for calling their menial job "spiritual experience" but Modi's effigies were burnt in different parts of the state. Sensing trouble Modi immediately withdrew 5,000 copies of the book, but still sticked to his opinion.Two years later, addressing 9,000-odd safai karmacharis, (cleanliness workers) he likened the safai karmacharis’ job of cleaning up others dirt' to that of a temple priest. He told them, “A priest cleans a temple every day before prayers, you also clean the city like a temple. You and the temple priest work alike.”