Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Protest the Supreme Court Verdict Upholding Section 377 of the IPC!

In a major setback to the LGBT community as well as to democratic and human rights, the Supreme Court has set aside the Delhi High Court ruling which had decriminalized homosexuality and which had read down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The Delhi HC verdict of 2009 had observed that Section 377 is violative of Articles 21 (Right to Protection of Life and Personal Liberty), 14 (Right to Equality before Law) and 15 (Prohibition of Discrimination on Grounds of Religion, Race, Caste, Sex or Place) of the Constitution. In overturning the HC verdict, the SC has sought to absolve itself from the responsibility of confirming what ought to be a basic human right of consenting adults. What the Court has upheld is a colonial-era law which discriminates against sexual minorities and criminalizes their sexual behaviour— Section 377 makes the consensual sexual activity of homosexual adults an offence punishable with up to life imprisonment. It is indeed outrageous that this draconian law classifies homosexuality as being “against the order of nature”, when the fact is that homosexuality is observed in more than 1500 species in nature.
Heteronormativity, or the institutionalized imposition of heterosexuality as a norm, finds place amongst the most oppressive features of our society. Deeply tied in with the institution of the patriarchal family, it is a part of the larger complex of gender violence, oppression and exploitation. Every regressive aspect of gender relations – skewed gender roles, objectification of women, sexual violence – has a deep connection with the imposed norm of heterosexuality. The fight against heteronormativity must necessarily, therefore, be a part of the struggle for democratizing gender relations and the institution of the family. The SC verdict, by striking a major blow to the movement for LGBT rights, represents the desperate flailing of the forces of reaction against precisely such a struggle for democratization.
The last couple of decades, marked by wide-ranging neoliberal reforms, have seen an increasing communalization of our society. An integral part of this process of communalization has been a strengthening of the most reactionary facets of our social world – from caste structures to domination based on gender. While on the one hand, the neoliberal dispensation has ushered in the worst forms of commodification of women, on the other, the growing communalization of our social space has produced increasingly repressive and tyrannical control over love and sexuality. From obnoxious forms of moral policing to khap panchayat-led honour crimes, there is a rising onslaught on the very fundamental freedom of choice. Combatting the growing communalization of our society, therefore, requires a vigorous defense of these freedoms – from the freedom to choose one’s partner in marriage, to the freedom to exercise choices based on one’s sexual orientation. Vigorous assertion and recognition of these freedoms occupy, therefore, a central place in the project of pushing back communal, reactionary forces. The SC judgment is a direct assault on this project.
The SC judgment highlights once more how religious bigotry is an arch enemy of the fundamental liberties of the people. The case in the Supreme Court saw a veritable confluence of religious bigots of every hue – with the likes of Baba Ramdev and elements of the Sangh Parivar leading the pack – rally vigorously against fundamental sexual freedoms. The SC judgment is being hailed and commended by zealots across the board, irrespective of religious denomination. These charlatans and self-proclaimed religious “leaders” need to be reminded that the history of progressive movements across the country is a testament to religion increasingly becoming an arena of contestation. Waves of social reform movements, increasingly under the leadership of oppressed, marginalized and exploited sections, are questioning and challenging the tyrannical and oppressive aspects of established religion. SFI appeals to all progressive sections to stand together in rock solid unity in these struggles.
The SC judgment, very disturbingly, brings out the increasing sway of the forces of reaction on the judiciary. From the Ayodhya verdict, to the many blanket acquittals in the cases of carnage wreaked by the Ranvir Sena, to the current decision, casteist, feudal, and reactionary prejudice has increasingly tended to cloud judicial judgements. The SFI believes that this tendency poses a fundamental threat to the very fabric of our democratic system. In the current case, though, a legislation can potentially overturn the judgment. SFI demands that the central government immediately take up the task of passing a law decriminalizing alternative sexualities and recognizing the fundamental rights of sexual minorities.
The struggle for ensuring and safeguarding the rights of marginalized sexualities is a long and protracted one. SFI stands in firm solidarity with this arduous battle.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Omprakash Valmiki Departs; The Task of Annihilation of Caste Is Still On!

SFI expresses deep condolences on the demise of noted Hindi writer Omprakash Valmiki, whose works paved way for a movement of Dalit assertion in Hindi Literature and its power centres of upper caste domination. In his demise Hindi literature has lost a powerful champion of the assertion of the voices of the unheard and hence also one of the most important figures in the democratisation of a space which still continues to be largely undemocratic.

Omprakash Valmiki was born in Western Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district and had a rough and deprived childhood, which formed the material basis of him questioning the very basis of the society based on the foundations of caste discrimination. Jabalpur’s Marxist study groups brought him in contact with the rich realism of Gorky and Chekhov; while Bombay gave him the fire of the poetry of Namdeo Dhasal, Daya Pawar and the Dalit Panther’s politics of resistance. It was Chandapur though where he became totally absorbed in the Dalit movement. He says: “It was in this part of the country that I came across the marvellous glow of Dalit consciousness. The self-fulfilment that I experienced in connecting with the Dalit movement was a truly unique experience for me.”

He emerged on the horizon of Hindi literature as a comet which was not to vanish into flames; rather it sparked a thousand other comets. Modern Hindi literature had been a citadel of upper caste dominance right since the days of the Nagari Pracharini Sabha and the control of the mathadhish-s over the Hindi departments, publishing houses and magazines across North India still remains more or less intact. Unlike in Marathi or Telugu Literature, Dalits were largely underrepresented in Hindi literature until the late 1980s, when a spurt of works by Dalit writers were published and new magazines and literary groups with focus on Dalit literature started coming up. This period coincided with publication of Valmiki’s autobiographical work Joothan, which announced the arrival of Dalit literature onto the stage of Hindi literature. The genre of autobiography has since then emerged as a powerful means of the assertion of Dalit subjectivity that translates victimhood into a weapon of resistance. Casteism and untouchability were something which Valmiki saw everywhere from his village in Western UP to the cosmopolitan Bombay, and throughout Joothan, there is a definite urge in extending the individual experience to the ongoing movements and towards the creation of a Dalit identity. The publication of Joothan and Valmiki’s surname itself created ripples in the literary circles of Hindi. He says: “This surname is now an indispensable part of my name. Omprakash has no identity without it. ‘Identity ‘and ‘recognition’, the two words say a lot by themselves. Dr. Ambedkar was born in a Dalit family. But Ambedkar signifies a Brahmin caste name; it was a pseudonym given by a Brahmin teacher of his. When joined with ‘Bhimrao’ however it becomes his identity, completely changing its meaning in the process. Today ‘Bhimrao’ has no meaning without ‘Ambedkar’.”

The emergence of Dalit literature has been a step forward in the larger task of the democratisation of Indian Society. While remembering Omprakash Valmiki, it is important to underscore the fact that true democratisation and concrete advances towards the goal of his entire life – the annihilation of caste – can be made only when “annihilate caste” becomes the slogan of all democratic sections of the country. The coming together of progressive forces is absolutely necessary to take the fight against casteism and Brahmanism to its logical conclusion. Today when our Universities and public life continue to be engulfed by the fangs of caste, when huge dropout rates of students belonging to deprived backgrounds is not merely a statistic but a naked display of caste discrimination, the urgency of this task cannot be overemphasised. It is in rising up to the urgency of our times that we will be able to do justice to the memory of Omprakash Valmiki.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Groundbreaking Struggle against Sexual Harassment and Ragging in Pondicherry University

The Pondicherry University (PU) administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect criminal elements who indulged in sexual harassment, ragging and intimidation of girl students in the campus. Instead of punishing those who engaged in such criminal activities, the administration suspended the girl complainants and others who stood by them! The students are on indefinite hunger strike now, and the Madras High Court has stayed the suspensions.

The series of events that led to this began when Jithu, a senior male student, verbally abused two girl students (Kavya M and Vidya T Appukuttan) a few weeks back. When the girls told him that this is not the way to talk, he threatened to rape them. A complaint was filed against the aggressor, and the police filed an FIR against him under IPC sections 506 and 509. In the subsequent days, the students who supported the girl students were threatened and abused, and on October 1 morning, a gang of hooligans manhandled them. They threatened that they would cut off the legs of the students who stood with the girl students if the assailant was suspended from the University because of the complaint filed by the girl students. The gang also brutally beat up one of the students; his tooth was broken and he had to be admitted in JIPMER, Pondicherry. The security personnel of the University remained mute spectators throughout even as the gang unleashed violence.
When one of the girl students who were harassed approached the Vice-Chancellor with her grievance, she was discouraged from filing the complaint – the VC’s prime “concern” was that the “reputation” of the institution would be spoiled. Ever since she filed the complaint, the girl student has been continuously subjected to intimidation and threatened that she wouldn’t be allowed to complete her course of study in the University. Even more shockingly, the attempts to intimidate her were being led by Mr. Praveen, a faculty member of the Department of Physical Education. There were also attempts to slap false cases on the students who helped the girls in filing the complaint against the attacker.
The students of the University conducted a massive protest on 1 October night against these criminal acts in the campus. The protest saw massive participation of girl students and others, who demanded that the University must take steps on an urgent basis to stop ragging, sexual harassment and goonda raj in the campus, and that the University must set up a Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) to address complaints of sexual harassment in the University.
The subsequent days saw further attempts to harass the girl complainant. The university administration issued showcause notices to Kavya and Vidya along with the students who stood by them, for "creating a tense situation in the campus", for talking to the media and so on! The students of PU, however, did not take it lying down. They fought back the patriarchal administration’s machinations fearlessly through campaigns and protests. Students and other democratic sections led by SFI and AIDWA staged another protest demonstration on 23 October in Puducherry demanding strict action against the sexual harassers and the setting up of GSCASH.
But in a decision that could only be termed illogical, irrational and shocking, the PU administration issued a memorandum, signed by the university Registrar, suspending the two girl students and five other students who stood by them. In the memorandum, the university administration sought to equate the aggressors and the victims by portraying the acts of sexual harassment and ragging as merely a case of “mutual fight and exchange of abusive words”. The other charges were even more ridiculous – “having approached the media to release the news without obtaining due permission from the University” and having organised “unauthorised protests within the university campus” are the other “crimes” that the students have supposedly engaged in. 
Since when did talking to the media and holding peaceful protests become crimes in this country? Since when did "the right to freedom of speech and expression", and "the right to assemble peaceably and without arms" cease to be part of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India? The right to protest against injustice constitutes the very essence of democracy, the suppression of which has become the hallmark of the Pondicherry University administration.
Kavya, one of the complainants suspended by the University, was on an indefinite hunger strike from Monday (4 November 2013) against the despotic, vindictive measures by the University administration. Most condemnably, the police forcibly arrested her on Thursday night. But her mantle was taken up by Vidya, Abhijith and Rony, who went on hunger strike immediately. Within hours (on Friday, 8 November), the Madras High Court issued a stay order on the University's decision to suspend the students. The struggle of the student community for justice will now continue with renewed vigour.
SFI has demanded that the Union Minister of Human Resource Development, the UGC and the Vice-President of India (who is the Chancellor of PU) must intervene to ensure the safety and security of girl students in the campus and to ensure that the culprits in the case are given exemplary punishment. We demand that a GSCASH be set up in the University immediately as the students have been demanding, and that action be taken against those in the administration who sought to protect those who engaged in sexual harassment and ragging.

It is of deep concern to the student community that 16 years after the Supreme Court in its Vishaka judgement of 1997 laid down binding directives regarding the formation of committees to deal with cases of sexual harassment, GSCASH has still not been formed even in most central Universities. SFI demands that GSCASH be constituted in all Universities and colleges in the country in order to effectively address cases of sexual harassment in campuses and to sensitise students on gender issues. The incidents in PU underscore the need for intensifying our struggle for gender justice and against ragging in campuses across the country.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Public Meeting on "Muzaffarnagar and Beyond"

SFI CEC Statement on Sexual Harassment and Ragging in Pondicherry University

Ensure Punishment to the Criminal Elements 
Who Indulged in Sexual Harassment, 
Ragging and Intimidation of Girl Students 
in Pondicherry University!
Set Up GSCASH in All Universities in India!!
The Central Executive Committee of the Students’ Federation of India strongly condemns the instances of sexual harassment, ragging and intimidation of girl students in Pondicherry University (PU) and the violence let loose against students who supported the girls.

The students of the University conducted a massive protest on Tuesday (1 October) night against the aforesaid criminal acts in the campus. Some girl students had filed a complaint against ragging and threat of rape by a group of senior students. The Kallapett police has filed an FIR against the aggressor under IPC sections 506 and 509. The students who supported the girl students in filing the complaint were under threat for the past few days, and on Tuesday morning, a gang of hooligans manhandled them. They threatened that they would cut off the legs of those students who stood with the girl students if the assailants are suspended from the University because of the complaint filed by the girl students. The gang also brutally beat up one of the students; his tooth was broken and he had to be admitted in JIPMER, Pondicherry. The security personnel of the University remained mute spectators throughout even as the gang unleashed violence.

When the girl complainant approached the Vice-Chancellor with her grievance, she was discouraged from filing the complaint – the VC’s prime “concern” was that the “reputation” of the institution would be spoiled. Such insensitivity of the University authorities has been one of the prime causes for the continuance of instances of sexual harassment in the campus. Following recent incidents, the students are under constant fear of being attacked at any moment. Ever since she filed the complaint, the girl student who was harassed has been continuously subjected to intimidation and threatened that she wouldn’t be allowed to complete her course of study in the University. Even more shockingly, the attempts to intimidate her are being led by a faculty member of the Department of Physical Education. There are also attempts to divert attention from the matter by fabricating false cases against the students who helped the girls in filing the complaint against the attacker.

The protest on Tuesday night saw massive participation of girl students and others. The students demanded that the University must take steps on an urgent basis to stop ragging, sexual harassment and goonda raj in the campus, and that the University must set up a Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) to address complaints of sexual harassment in the University.

The CEC of SFI demands that Pondicherry University must promptly take steps to ensure the safety and security of girl students in the campus and that the culprits in the case must be given exemplary punishment. We demand that a GSCASH be set up in the University immediately as the students have been demanding. It is appalling that sixteen years after the Supreme Court (in its Vishaka judgement of 1997) laid down binding directives regarding the formation of committees to deal with cases of sexual harassment, and in spite of the recently passed law against sexual harassment in workplaces, GSCASH has not been formed even in most central Universities. SFI demands that GSCASH should be constituted in all Universities and colleges in the country in order to effectively address cases of sexual harassment in campuses and to sensitise students on gender issues. The incidents in PU should serve to underscore the need for intensifying our struggle against ragging in campuses across the country and to establish GSCASH in all campuses.

Sd/-                                                                                  Sd/-
Dr. V Sivadasan, President                                                 Ritabrata Banerjee, General Secretary

Murders Cannot Extinguish the Fire of Our Struggle against Communal-Fascism!

Monday, 9 September 2013

A Failed Union, and the Organisations Leading it Blaming Each other for Their Failure to Advance Students’ Rights — Do We Need This Again?

Just ahead of the JNUSU elections 2013-14, we see the AISA and DSF trading charges at each other for the failures of the Union led by them. The student community is faced with serious challenges ranging from the hostel crisis and inadequate MCM to the restoration of the JNUSU constitution and the fight for a more just and inclusive admission policy which includes the struggles to end discrimination in viva voce and to ensure adequate representation to backward minorities in the light of the Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra commission reports. At the same time, AISA and DSF have been engaging in an ugly post-mortem of each other’s actions throughout the past one year. They have been claiming that the divided mandate delivered by the student community last year was the reason for the non-performance of the Union. This amounts to nothing but eyewash.
Divided Mandate is Not an Excuse for Non-Performance
The history of the JNUSU gives ample proof that divided mandates need not mean that student demands cannot be addressed effectively. In fact even when the mandate was divided between left organisations and right-wing organisations (such as in 1996-97 when SFI had the Presidents’ post while ABVP had a majority in the JNUSU Council), the Left ensured that the fight for students rights was not in jeopardy. Whenever irreconcilable differences of opinion regarding a particular course of action in a struggle against the administration arose among the organisations leading the Union, such differences were settled through school-level general body meetings or University General Body Meetings, where students came to know clearly about the differences of opinion within the Union and a gave a clear mandate to the Union to fight against the administration without harming students unity.
Significantly, it was in 2006, when the SFI-AISF had three office-bearers (Vice-President, General Secretary and Joint Secretary) and a majority in the Council while the AISA had the President’s post that the last successful MCM agitation was fought. The agitation was led by the office-bearers and councilors from SFI, and the participation of the JNUSU President from AISA was minimal. But this was not allowed to harm the struggling unity of the JNUSU, as differences of opinion were settled in the JNUSU council and the agitation was fought to a successful completion, with MCM being raised from Rs. 600 to Rs. 1500.
Sectarianism within JNUSU
The record of the previous union was so dismal precisely in this regard – the AISA and DSF fought each other regarding practically every issue concerning the students, to which the failed agitations of October 2012 and August 2013 stand testimony. As their recent pamphlets show, there was no united voice against the administration from the part of these organisations on a number of important issues, ranging from viva voce weightage, BA/MA delinking, MCMs and so on. The JNUSU is an instrument of struggle for the student community – it cannot be the battleground for the kind of petty and sectarian organisational interests as the AISA and DSF have ended up turning it into.
The October 2012 agitation had brought out in the open the sectarian nature of the differences of opinion between the organisations leading the JNUSU. Instead of sincere attempts to preserve the struggling unity of the JNUSU, what came out in the open was a fight between the leading organisations regarding competing demands and priorities, with the student community remaining largely in the dark.  The office-bearers of the JNUSU quarreled among themselves in public in the midst of the agitation, thus diminishing the credibility of the Union at a crucial juncture, and thereby strengthening the hands of the administration.
The recent agitation (August 2013) led by the JNUSU saw the dropping of many major demands of the October 2012 struggle which had remained unfulfilled, without informing the student community why all those demands were dropped. The Union’s admission that the JNUSU leadership was aware of the administration’s proposal to increase MCM to Rs. 2000 from July 5th onwards only strengthened the impression among the student community that AISA and DSF had been deceitful in calling for an agitation on just one demand (about which crucial information was deliberately hidden from the student community while not calling for an agitation earlier) at the eleventh hour, before falling down to an abject surrender to the administration.
Lessons from the Past and AISA's Record
The abject surrender of AISA to the administration has been nothing new, and it is no wonder that not a single JNUSU office-bearer from AISA has ever been rusticated while fighting for students’ rights. The record of SFI and SFI-led Unions provide a stark contrast – the SFI unit secretary was in jail throughout the Emergency; rustications before and after the sine die of 1983 were directed against JNUSU office-bearers from SFI and the organisational leadership of SFI; in 1997-98 the move to rusticate JNUSU President Battilal Bairwa was defeated by the organised resistance by the students with a historic, 10-day hunger strike by Com. Vijoo Krishnan who was then the JNUSU Vice-President; the SFI unit secretary had been rusticated for six months following the struggle for Progressive Admission Policy in 1998-99.
The deceit and surrender of the AISA-DSF-led Union is nothing but a reflection of the politics of the AISA and the DSF. It is the sectarianism of AISA which has of late been succumbing to the bourgeois parliamentarism creeping into their ranks on the one hand, and DSF’s petty bourgeois formulation of “autonomy” from the larger left and democratic forces in the country which amounts to stooping to a non-class position on the other, which has led to the weakening of the JNUSU vis-à-vis the administration (over hostels, MCM etc) as well as to its weak-kneed position vis-à-vis the State (with regard to the restoration of the JNUSU constitution, deprivation points for backward minorities etc.)
The overwhelming anger of the student community over the absolute non-performance of the Union expressed in the annual GBMs and in election GBMs have exposed the efforts of the AISA-DSF to shift the agenda of this year’s elections to a devious shadow boxing between them and to the ruling class practice of attacking the organised left by spreading ill-informed rumours on various issues like the martyrdom of Com. Sudipto Gupta as well as the brutal murder of T P Chandrasekharan.
SFI appeals to the student community to participate in today’s UGBM in large numbers and to expose the anti-student record of the AISA-DSF combine.
Arjun Sengupta,
Convenor, Central Campaign Committee, SFI JNU Unit 

Reject the anti-student AISA-DSF!
Students’ Unity Long Live!!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Release the Jailed SFI Comrades Immediately! Expose the Corrupt Congress and its Puppet, the Delhi Police!!

This is the fifth day of incarceration for the nine SFI activists who were arrested for participating in a protest demanding the resignation of Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy for his involvement in the multi-crore Solar Scam. Com. V Sivadasan, SFI’s all-India President, Com. Noor Mohammad (all-India Vice-President), Comrades P Laxmiah and Shatarup Ghosh (all-India Joint Secretaries), Comrades Y Ramu, Narendra Mandula and M Shobhan (Central Executive Committee members), and Comrades Rahul N and Nitheesh Narayanan (Executive Committee members of the SFI JNU Unit) have been remanded in Tihar Jail since Wednesday.

The nine activists, along with several others, were arrested on Tuesday, 9 July 2013, during a protest at the Kerala House in Delhi. The peaceful protesters, including women activists, were dragged, beaten up, punched, slapped and pushed into overcrowded police vans before being taken away to the Connaught Place police station. One of the police officers harassed a journalist and at one stage he charged at the protestors brandishing the burning stick on which the effigy of Oommen Chandy was burned. But the police have chosen to cover up their own brutality and excesses and have charged the protesters with non-bailable offences. At every instance the police indulged in dirty tricks to keep the arrested activists under confinement. On the first day they tried to delay every procedure to prevent the protesters from being taken to the court in time so that they could be kept in police custody. On the second day they argued that the medical report of some “injured” policeman has not come, following which the comrades were sent to Tihar Jail (the report, which came the next day, proved that the police was lying about the “injuries suffered” by the policeman); and on the third day the police argued that the activists must remain under custody to prevent any “obstruction” to the ongoing investigation! The court refused to grant bail to the nine comrades on the basis of such frivolous arguments, even as it was clear that the charges against them are baseless and fabricated.

The entire episode clearly smacks of political pressure from the Congress party, which is neck-deep in corruption.
The Solar scam in Kerala is only the latest in the series of corruption scandals involving the Congress and its governments at the Centre and in the states. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his office have been found to have facilitated the deception of several people by duping them into investing in a solar energy company headed by a set of fraudsters. These criminals were able to continue their fraud even after several complaints were raised, thanks to their close relationship with the Chief Minister and his office. Witnesses have come out in the open to reveal that the CM made personal recommendations for the fraudulent company named 'Team Solar', and Oommen Chandy’s personal aide has already been arrested by the police. As the scam broke out, there were repeated demands from the Opposition led by the Left that a judicial enquiry be ordered into the issue, and as the CM himself was found to be complicit in the scandal, his resignation was demanded. Powerful popular protests in support of these demands have emerged in the recent days, with students, youth and other democratic sections actively joining the protests.  But the Congress government has chosen to respond to these protests in a draconian manner by unleashing violence on the protesters. Numerous students and youth have been brutally beaten up, booked under non-bailable charges and thrown into jails. Police repression in Kerala against the protesters is still continuing unabated – SFI CEC member Com. R S Balamurali has suffered multiple injuries in police lathicharge.

The Congress and its governments in Kerala and at the Centre have been trying to prevent an independent enquiry so as to prevent the truth from being revealed, and the brutal repression unleashed on protesters all over Kerala and the fabricated charges leveled against activists in Delhi are part of the ploy to mute the popular demand that the Chief Minister should step down. The Delhi Police meanwhile has once again proven beyond doubt that it has long foregone its duties towards the common citizens and has become a vicious tool in the hands of its political masters. Be it during the anti-gang rape protests of last December or during numerous other protests against the government’s murky involvement in various scams, the Delhi Police has always been found standing on the side of the wrong doers.

SFI condemns the continuing brutality of the Kerala police and the travesty of justice that is being done under the pressure of the ruling party in Delhi.
The Congress is mistaken in assuming that such political victimization will result in the silencing of left and democratic voices in this country. The SFI, in solidarity with the struggling masses of Kerala and the rest of the country, resolves to continue its fight against corruption and political authoritarianism to its logical conclusion.


Manu M R, President, SFI JNU Unit
Paaritosh Nath, Vice-President, SFI JNU Unit

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Implement the Recommendations of the GSCASH in Full! Guard against Attempts to Perpetuate Misogyny and to Undermine the Fight for Gender Justice!

SFI stands by the recommendations and decisions of the GSCASH with regard to the case of sexual harassment in which a faculty member has been found guilty by the GSCASH. The Vice Chancellor has suspended the faculty member on the basis of the GSCASH’s report. SFI demands that the recommendations of the GSCASH be implemented in full and without delay. The Students Union will have to remain vigilant in ensuring this.

The post-Lyngdoh situation of the lack of elections to the JNUSU and to the post of student representatives to the GSCASH had adversely affected the effectiveness of the GSCASH in disposing of cases in the recent years. The restoration of the strength of the GSCASH by, among others, expediting the disposal of pending cases, is of prime importance today. And yet, deplorably, posters in defence of the faculty member and which slyly disparages the GSCASH enquiry have been put up at several locations. Such unacceptable moves which seek to discredit and undermine the GSCASH and its mandate would only weaken the fight for gender justice and will have to be guarded against.

The “JNU Confessions” page on Facebook has become a refuge for misogynistic, sexist and derogatory posts and comments. Many of these posts reveal the identity of various students by pointing to physical attributes, the hostels they stay in, the courses they pursue etc., which exposes them to voyeurism, targeting and ridicule. Particularly notorious has been the “confession” of rape in a post on 2 April which seeks to trivialise the crime. The anonymity the page gives to the posts’ authors effectively shields the perpetrators of sexual violence and perpetuates rape culture. The GSCASH has suitably initiated legal proceedings against the JNU Confessions page by filing an FIR at the Mandir Marg Cyber Crime Branch, New Delhi.

Given the recent developments, the GSCASH has proposed a charter of rights for research scholars and students vis-à-vis the faculty, and has called for an Open House at 10 am on Monday, 15 April 2013 to discuss the proposed charter of rights and the actions to be taken against the “JNU Confessions” Facebook page. SFI appeals to the student community to join the Open House, to be held at SSS-I Committee Room.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Down with the Terror Unleashed by the TMC in Bengal against Democracy and Democratic Institutions! Expose the Lies Peddled by Mamata and Her Minions! Condemn the Attack on Comrade Minati Ghosh!!

It has been more than a week since the cold-blooded murder of SFI leader Sudipto Gupta in Kolkata. Com. Sudipto was killed by Mamata Banerjee’s police while protesting for the restoration of democratic rights of the student community and for the holding of students’ union elections. Instead of ordering a judicial enquiry to bring out the full facts of the case so that the criminals behind this horrific crime can be punished, Mamata and her ministers have termed Com. Sudipto’s heinous murder a “petty and small” incident. Even as the police came up with the most bizarre explanations terming Com. Sudipto’s death an ‘accident’, the post-mortem report has nailed such lies, as it clearly indicates that Sudipto succumbed to multiple injuries sustained on his body, due to the heavy impact on the heart, lung and brain.

It was in this context that a joint protest by SFI and other progressive organisations like AIDWA, DYFI and CITU was held outside the Planning Commission on 9 April, when Mamata Banerjee was scheduled to have a meeting with Montek Singh Ahluwalia. The protest was an expression of the outrage reverberating across the democratic sections against the reign of terror unleashed by the authoritarian TMC Government in West Bengal. The protests were a strong message to the TMC government that this brazen assault on democracy will not be taken lying down and that the tide of protests will grow bigger by the day.

True to her Goebbelsian record, Mamata Banerjee has started peddling outrageous lies about the protests by concocting cock and bull stories. She has taken recourse to wild allegations that the protesters beat her up and even hit her with an iron rod. Only a paranoid authoritarian ruler – that Mamata has consistently been – can come up with such a downright bogus account. What the fabrication of the corporate media and the Trinamool Congress fails to mention is that from the moment the protests started, women comrades were cornered and targeted by the Delhi police. Uncouth and lewd comments were being passed constantly. Moreover, the protesters were assembled in front of the main gate, while Mamata and the West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra were supposed to use the VIP gate. As Wednesday’s statement by the Delhi Police shows, they were indeed asked by the police to use the VIP gate, but these leaders, who callously brushed off the gruesome murder of Com. Sudipto as insignificant, deliberately chose to confront the angry protesters by walking into their midst. The defenders of the TMC regime has been deviously peddling a ridiculous exaggeration of the response of the women comrades to this premeditated confrontation by the leaders of a regime which has killed 93 Left activists after coming into power, without sparing even a word for the highhanded harassment and humiliation which our comrades were constantly subjected to.

The Trinamool Congress meanwhile has gone on a violent rampage against the Left and democratic forces in West Bengal. CPI(M) and SFI offices have been targeted in Habra, the CPI(M)'s district office in Siliguri has been vandalised, and a condolence meeting in Barrackpore for Sudipto Gupta was disrupted by TMC goons. Com. Abdur Rezzak Mollah, a veteran CPI(M) leader has been attacked with petrol bombs. Most deplorably, TMC goons attacked the office of the Ganatantrik Mahila Samity (the Bengal Wing of AIDWA) in South Dinajpur, dragged onto the streets its State Secretary, the senior communist and former parliamentarian Minati Ghosh and physically assaulted and verbally abused her. She has been hospitalised with serious injuries.

Outrageously, Trinamool goons who have no connection with the Presidency University barged into the campus of this premiere institution of higher learning, roughing up students and vandalising parts of the building. The century-old Baker Laboratory of the Physics Department, one of the most famous departments of the college, was vandalised. Celebrated scientist and Nobel laureate C V Raman has worked in this laboratory, set up in 1913 by Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose.

All these are part of a larger series of attacks on the left and democratic forces in West Bengal by the fascistic TMC under some hollow pretext or the other. Anybody raising any voice of criticism against the government has been branded a “Maoist”. Whether it be the case of the Jadavpur University professor who was arrested for forwarding an e-mail which took a dig at Mamata Banerjee, or that of the student who asked uncomfortable questions to the Chief Minister during a TV programme, or that of the farmer who was detained for voicing his grievances, the ruling dispensation’s absolute intolerance of criticism has reared its ugly head again and again. Well over 450 Left supporters have been murdered by the TMC and the CPI-Maoist since May 2009.

While we are aware of the character of the corporate media and whose interests it serves, it is extremely unfortunate that DSF – an outfit which claims itself to be a left student organisation – has taken it upon itself to parrot the lies peddled by Mamata Banerjee. DSF has shamelessly chosen to denigrate the protest and the protesters by throwing abuses and calling names. It has made farcical claims of CPI(M) leadership trying to “hijack” the protests over Com. Sudipto’s custodial death. Only those with a particularly jaundiced vision can hurl such accusations at an organisation for protesting it’s own comrade’s murder.

The student community will see through the hoax of the moral preaching of the DSF, which has gone on to term the protests as ‘infantile rowdy’ behaviour by picking on one unfortunate incident while mentioning the repression unleashed by the TMC in Bengal only in passing (DSF press statement, 9 April 2013), thereby mocking the genuine outrage of the protesters at the terror let loose by the TMC and its government. How different is the DSF’s argument from the logic given by the ruling classes in order to brand and delegitimise every dissent and protest?  Furthermore, the DSF has also taken recourse to white lies such as the protesters being ‘non-students carrying placards of student organisations’.  Those who joined the protest by SFI, DYFI, AIDWA and CITU obviously included students, youth, workers and women, including working class women. What can one say if the ‘decent sensibilities’ of the DSF are hurt by seeing working class women and men protesting alongside students against grave assaults on democracy? To call protesting working class women a bunch of rowdies is a shameless surrender by the DSF to a crass bourgeois belief in sanitised protests and protesters within the norms of ruling class ‘decency’. Without bothering to verify the facts of the matter, this bourgeois outfit has instead joined the bandwagon of Left-bashing. By choosing to attack the Left instead of rallying forces with it at a time when Left activists and sympathisers are being relentlessly attacked in Bengal, the DSF has shown that in the ultimate analysis, they stand with the thugs of Mamata Banerjee; they have shown what a sham their calls for “left unity” are.

The DSF’s position that attacks taking place in West Bengal since Wednesday are merely the repercussion of the heckling by SFI activists not only highlights their own political bankruptcy, but (whether consciously or not) actively assists in concealing the fascistic character of the TMC. We appeal to the student community to condemn the terror unleashed by the Trinamool Congress in Bengal and to rally behind the left and democratic forces in the fight for democratic rights.

Deepanjan K, Joint Secretary, SFI JNU Unit
Viswanathan V, Joint Secretary, SFI JNU Unit                               

Public Meeting on Semi-Fascist Assault on Democracy in West Bengal

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The Death of Comrade Sudipto will not go in vain! Intensify the struggle against TMC’s Authoritarian Rule in West Bengal!

SFI dips its banner in honour of Comrade Sudipto Gupta, member of its West Bengal State Committee, who died yesterday after being brutally assaulted by the police.  The brave 22-year old comrade was part of the protest by four left student organisations against the series of moves by the state government which seek to curb campus democracy, the most retrograde of which would limit students’ union elections to only once every two years. The police ruthlessly lathi charged students demanding their democratic rights. Sudipto was beaten to death in police custody - the violence was so horrific that Sudipto’s eyeballs came out. The grisly terror that sought to buttress the tyrannical rule of the ruling classes mercilessly cut short a young, promising life.

Here was a person who had, as Mayakovsky would have put it, “chosen to assert on behalf of the future generations that we shall refashion life on earth!”  Here was a young man, who had chosen not to succumb to all the pressures to go along with the status quo. Here was a comrade who chose to protest on behalf of students and all those yearning for democratic rights against the assaults on campus democracy rather than being content remaining in the “safe” confines of his home and classroom.

What was it really that made the ruling classes unleash violence in such a gruesome manner? History provides us some answers. Even during the days of the semi-fascist terror of the 1970s, the campuses in West Bengal were hotbeds of resistance. Today when Mamata Banerjee is leaving no stone unturned to once again take back Bengal to an age reminiscent of those dark days of terror, the voices of resistance are once again rising up from campuses and joining those who are struggling outside. It is the panic of the ruling classes at this wave of rising anger among the students and the youth that has led them to let loose such thuggish violence.

The latest move to curb union elections in Bengal comes on top of a number of previous attacks on democracy in academic institutions. Elected bodies have been dismissed arbitrarily and the posts have been allotted to Trinamool Congress supporters. At the same time, anybody raising any voice of criticism against the government has been branded a “Maoist”. Whether it be the case of the Jadavpur University professor who was arrested for forwarding an e-mail which took a dig at Mamata Banerjee, or that of the student who asked uncomfortable questions to the Chief Minister during a TV programme, or that of the farmer who was detained for voicing his grievances, the ruling dispensation’s absolute intolerance of criticism has reared its ugly head again and again.

It was only a few weeks back that the eyes of a worker were gorged out and his ears cut for having participated in the General Strike. The utter callousness shown by ministers and government functionaries in cases of assaults on women, including attempts to portray such cases as “fake” and “orchestrated” provide more evidence to the menacing nature of TMC’s rule. And all these have been happening in the backdrop of large-scale evictions of peasants from their rightful land. Places such as Haroa block in North 24 Parganas, Bolpur block in Birbhum, Bhangar & Sonarpur blocks in South 24 Parganas, and Purbasthali block in Burdwan have witnessed the eviction of thousands of Adivasi, Dalit and Muslim peasants who had been landless earlier and were granted pattas during the term of the Left Front governments. The most brutal violence on Left Front supporters has accompanied this regressive turn of events – since May 2009, well above 450 supporters of the Left Front have been murdered by goons belonging to the TMC or the CPI(Maoist).

But, let it be clear that the martyrdom of our brave comrade shall not go in vain. In the coming days the struggle against the authoritarian regime of Mamata Banerjee shall become stronger and sharper. The Central Executive Committee of SFI has called for an All India Protest day on 4 April (tomorrow) across the campuses and units of the country against the heinous murder of Com. Sudipto and against the attack on democratic rights. The students of West Bengal will go on a massive statewide strike on the same day.

SFI demands that the criminals responsible for the heinous murder of Com. Sudipto be prosecuted and given exemplary punishment. We demand a judicial enquiry into the whole incident. We warn the Trinamool Congress and the government led by it to put an immediate end to the ghastly violence unleashed by them against students and to immediately stop all assaults on campus democracy, failing which they should be prepared to face the wrath of the students and the youth.

SFI calls upon the student community of JNU to participate in large numbers in tonight’s burning of the effigy of the authoritarian Trinamool government and in tomorrow’s protest demonstration at Banga Bhawan.

Deepanjan, Jt. Secretary, SFI JNU Unit
Viswanathan V, Jt. Secretary, SFI JNU Unit

Mamata's Police Kills SFI Activist! Red Salute to Comrade Sudipto!!

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Toiling Masses are Marching towards Delhi for a New India!

The Sangharsh Sandesh Jathas led by the CPI(M), after covering the entire length and breadth of the Country, are converging towards Delhi, where a clarion call for struggles for an alternative policy framework will be given on 19th March in a massive rally in the Ramlila Maidan. The bourgeois media has chosen to ignore something that is phenomenal to say the least in the post-Independence Period, when for the first time, a campaign for alternative policies that place development for the masses on the agenda and not profits for the corporates, is being carried out on such a wide scale. Covering more than 10000 km and reaching out to lakhs of people with the message of Sangharsh (struggle) through public meetings, nukkar sabhas and cultural programmes, the 'suffering India' asserted its resolve to snatch away from the 'shining India' everything that has been systematically denied to it.

Wherever the Jatha went with the message of Sangharsh, it received massive support. People not only affirmed their faith in the red flag, but also resolved to break the shackles of neoliberal “growth” which is making their lives miserable. As the Jathas traversed the length and breadth of the country, they have passed through the areas  where the peasants and Adivasis are struggling to protect their land from forcible acquisition, where farmers are fighting for their livelihood and a fair price for their produce, where workers in the organised and unorganized sectors are struggling for a fair wage and against the contractualisation of labour, where students are opposing commercialization of education and demanding better educational facilities, where women are fighting against sexual violence and for equality and freedom, where Dalits are struggling for social justice, and where youth are waging movements against unemployment. The millions or ordinary and nameless they met included the struggling workers of Gurgaon, facing inhuman work conditions in the heart of India's corporate growth story. The struggling masses they met were the mining workers of Tosham in Haryana who have lost their jobs as the mines have been sold away to the private corporates. Among them were the Dalits of Maharashtra who are still trying to figure out the reality of equality which is enshrined in our Constitution, even after 65 years of Independence. They were the migrants from Bihar who together remit more than Rs 7,500 crore per year, which is 5 percent of the GDP of Bihar, and are still living in poverty, misery and poor health. They were the peasants of Gharsana, Rajasthan, who fought for canal water for months together, who saw relatives dying in police firing, hundred of others being imprisoned and many more injured in the process. They were the Guar farmers of Northern Rajasthan whose produce fetched exporters Rs 33,000 a quintal last year, while the peasants were given only Rs 2,000. They were the vada pav sellers of Andheri who have to face the exploitation of the police and the authorities every single day. They were many others who for the first time saw a sense of hope, a belief that the present can be made better and they have decided that Sangharsh is the only way ahead.

Land to the landless!

Today more than 2.1 crore hectare of land in the country is under illegal possession, while only 27 lakh hectare has been declared ceiling-surplus and out of that only 19 lakh hectares have been distributed (most of which is in West Bengal alone). The number of landless peasant households in India has grown tremendously in the last 20 years, from 22% in 1992 to 41% in 2011. Instead of giving land to the landless, government in its attempts of appeasing private and foreign capital is facilitating massive land acquisitions for the corporates.  Constitutional rights that were given to the Adivasis under the 5th schedule are being systematically curtailed. Today the struggle is not only to resist the corporate driven land acquisition, but also to demand the land for the landless.

Right to Food, Right to Work, Right to Health and Affordable Medicines!

In a country which is home to the largest malnourished population in the world, Right to Food isn't mere welfarism, rather it should be a fundamental right. But instead of a universal scheme the government is dividing the poor into BPL and APL, snatching from them the right to food, even as the government's poverty line estimates make a mockery of the poor. With exponential inflation and a cap on subsidised gas cylinders, even subsistence is becoming difficult for the majority of the country. The food security bill which has been prepared by the government is completely inadequate, and targeting & cash transfer are proving to be self defeating. The fraud in the name of food security has to be exposed, future trade in necessary items should be banned and universal food security has to be won.

 The much-trumpeted economic growth has hardly translated into any meaningful employment generation. While in 1998, 2.82 crore people were working in the organised sector; this came down to 2.75 crore in 2008. The employment growth rate for 2000-05 was 2.7%, which came down to 0.8% in 2005-10. The situation is particularly gloomy for the young men and more so ever for the young women. Whatever employment is being generated is on contract basis with no social security provisions. MGNREGA has seen drastic budgetary cuts, with even the allocated money not being spent.

Private hospitals and clinics have become money minting shops without any effective control in the past 20 years. Studies reveal that among the reasons behind the indebtedness of families, health is the second biggest factor. National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) is way short of the actual need in rural areas. Instead of the promised spending of 5% of GDP on Health, only 1% is being spent. Out of the 33 crore households in the country, 57% have no access to pure drinking water, 39% have no kitchen and 53% have no toilet facilities. The monopoly of MNCs over the medicine market has kept most of the medicines out of the reach of the majority. There is an urgent need of strict control over the private health sector and the medicines market.

For Social Justice!

Our country can't advance any inch without the advance of the Dalits, Adivasis, minorities and women. These sections form the overwhelming majority of the working population. Apart from the economic exploitation that is affecting all the toiling masses, these sections also have to face severe forms of oppression and discrimination. Women in general and women of the working poor in particular are the targets of the most brutal sexual violence. The fight for women’s equality and freedom needs to be carried forward and intensified. The efforts of communal forces led by the RSS-BJP combine to impose their narrow communal agendas, spreading hatred against the minority community and inciting violence must be strongly resisted and minority rights protected in all spheres.

Education is a Right, Not a Commodity!

The unwillingness of successive Central governments to allot more resources in the field of education has been one of the main reasons behind the present status of our country, which ranks 136th in the Human Development Index (HDI). In spite of the recommendations of various expert committees since Independence and continuous demands from democratic sections, spending of 6% of GDP and 10 % of the budget on education remains a distant dream. Small increases due to the Left’s pressure during the tenure of UPA-I have now been reversed, and during UPA-II even this small spending has seen continuous cuts. The 27% OBC reservation has not been implemented properly in most of the educational institutions, with cut-offs and eligibility criterion been used to manipulate the rules. The much-touted Right to Education Act has failed universalize school education, mainly because of the lack of adequate public funding. Whether in the case of school education or in the case of higher education, the thrust has been on commercialisation and privatisation.

So, What is to be Done?

The country is faced with a critical situation. At no time since independence has the gulf between the rich and the poor been so wide. More and more, the policies of the State are designed to help the powerful to loot the resources of the country; taxes on their profits and wealth are lowered and the laws help them avoid paying even these taxes. Whether it is the UPA government at the Centre or the BJP-run state governments, there is no difference in their outlook on privatization, in handing over scarce resources to big business and fulfilling the interests of foreign finance capital.

The Sangharsh Sandesh Jatha has promoted the message of struggle for alternative policies and seeks to address the issues and concerns of the millions of working people of the country. It has projected the unity of the working people against all kinds of communal and divisive politics. The future course of action is set for us. An alternative policy platform of struggle and bigger movements which can rally all the left and democratic forces of the country is the only way forward. It is in the fire of struggles that a New India will take its shape and we resolve to be witness to its making.

Join the Sangharsh Sandesh Rally at Ramlila Maidan on March 19, 11.30 am
The culmination of the four all India Sangharsh Sandesh Jathas
from Kanyakumari, Kolkata, Amritsar and Mumbai to Delhi.