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SEZs For The Rich, Poor To Bear The Brunt

Posted by Indian Vanguard on June 13, 2007

By Arun Kumar
Combat Law

Special Economic Zone (SEZ) policy has taken one more turn with the announcement from the Empowered Group of Ministers (eGOM). The freeze on them is being lifted but several parameters will be changed to accommodate the farmers, tribals and the civil society groups who have been agitating against the SEZs.

From the earlier no limit on the maximum size of the multi-product SEZs now the limit has been set at 5,000 hectares. The state governments are prohibited from acquiring land for the private players and they cannot form a joint venture with a private player unless the latter has the land to offer the project. States can acquire land for their own SEZ provided they take care of the relief and rehabilitation as per the new policy to be announced soon.

Now the SEZs will be required to at least use 50 percent of the land for processing unit as compared to the earlier 35 percent so that the real estate component would be lower. Finally, the export requirement has been made more stringent compared to earlier.

Clearly, the eGOM has steered a middle path between the proponents of the SEZs, the corporate sector and their political supporters and the opponents who wanted SEZs to be scrapped because of their adverse impact on the poor people in the rural areas. This was on the cards since the prime minister had stated that SEZs are an accomplished fact. He implied that there is no going back on the policy and the government would only do some tinkering to accommodate the opponents. Where does this leave the policy and the poor?

Political aspects

SEZs have occupied centrestage in the national consciousness for the last eight months due to the events unfolding in Singur (akin to an SEZ though not one) and subsequently due to the occurrences in Nandigram (a proposed SEZ).

News of dissent in the ruling party over the proposed SEZs in Haryana and Punjab has been making the rounds. In West Bengal, the government is determined to continue with its policy of setting up SEZs and continuing with Singur on the grounds of industrialisation of the state. At the centre also it is seen as a strategy for ensuring the continuation of a nine percent growth rate of the economy. If China can succeed through such a policy, it is argued, why not India?


SEZs are threatening to sprout all over the country from the most backward states like, Orissa and Chhattisgarh to the most advanced ones like, Maharashtra and Gujarat. They would number not in tens but in hundreds and would cover huge tracts of land across the country. Some of them would be so large as to create entirely new townships and since they promise world class infrastructure, they would be unlike the existing cities.

They promise to create islands of affluence where foreigners and NRIs can come and live in comfort segregated from the poverty and squalor ridden cities. According to an earlier draft of the SEZ Act, they would have been `deemed to be foreign territory for the purposes of trade operations, duties and tariffs’. Even though this phrase is no more used in the Act of 2005, it is feared that they would be functioning as such, given their enclave character.

Currently, seven previously created Export Promotion Zones (EPZs) stand converted to SEZs, 63 SEZs are approved and notified, 171 are approved but not notified, 162 are approved in principle only and 322 applications are pending. Most of them are by Indian businessmen.

Resistance to these zones has built up rapidly in the country even though most political parties seem to be supporting their creation since they are ruling in some state where they would like them to come up. In different parts of the country, farmers and tribals who are sought to be displaced by the creation of these zones are opposing them.

In Singur (not an SEZ), Nandigram and earlier in Kalinganagar in Orissa there has been fierce resistance. The opposition parties in the different states have taken advantage of these movements to put the ruling governments in the dock. However, only some parties like the Trinamool Congress are going the whole way while others are ambiguous at best.

Displacement is a larger issue. Movements around displacement caused by earlier large projects (Narmada Bachao Andolan is an example of that) already existed and the civil society leaders (like Medha Patkar) of these movements are providing leadership to the anti-SEZ upsurge.


New large-scale displacement is being created by the mega projects coming up all over the country. This includes the setting up of steel mills, power plants, airports or the expansion of existing airports, the expansion of the highway network, etc. Millions of families are likely to be displaced in a short period of time.

Why is the rapid creation of these enclaves so important for the government, in spite of the build up of the movements? Politically, perhaps the government believes that the movements will die down since different political parties are in power in different states and they will prevent the opposition to the idea of SEZs from building up. The CPI (M) is a case in point. It is encouraging Singur and SEZs in West Bengal so its opposition elsewhere would be held in check and be tokenistic. Further, it is expected to hold other Left parties in check.

Economic aspects

Finally, the Central government perhaps believes that the economic gains will dilute the opposition over time. It expects these SEZs to be the nucleus of new investment, jobs and greater exports. Thus, it is propagating the SEZs as the solution to the country’s problems. The critics worry about food security being jeopardised and in response, it is argued that less than 0.1 per cent of the arable land will be involved in the proposed SEZs so this will hardly effect total food production. Another argument is that SEZs will accelerate development and create a large number of jobs. The critics argue that it will also destroy lots of low skill jobs in agriculture and forestry. Further, the adverse impact on small scales sector will reduce jobs. So in the net it is not clear that it will lead to more employment.

It is suggested that there are backward and forward linkages of industry so it will promote development. But does agriculture not have such linkages? There is a fear that the large number of tax concessions being granted will lead to loss of revenue. However, the proponents suggest that increased production will result in enhanced tax collections. Will SEZs spur smuggling and tax evasion that will cause the tax loss to be larger than what is being anticipated? The number of questions that are being raised is quite large so that it is critical to understand where the truth lies? Some of these issues are dealt with in this paper.

Who gains, who loses?

Clearly, those who will benefit or lose from the SEZs will be different sets of people. Those who will be displaced by the SEZs will be the rural people and those who will come in their place will be the skilled urban people. It is true that those who lose land will get “market prices” (according to the government) for their land and theoretically will be able to invest their money in other businesses. Thus, theoretically, not only in the SEZs but the new investments by the former agriculturists would create new non-agricultural jobs and all this maybe expected to lead to a reduction in the rate of increase of unemployment which has accelerated in the last 6 years. It is said that agriculture cannot create jobs anymore and these jobs have to be created in non-agricultural sectors.

The SEZs are likely to curtail the rights of labour given that there will be no labour commissioner and the developer of the SEZ will govern the place along with a development commissioner. There will be no democratically elected body. Under Section 49 of the Act, there will be substantial powers to formulate new laws:

“49. (1) The Central Government may, by notification, direct that any of the provisions of this Act (other than sections 54 and 56) or any other Central Act or any rules or regulations made thereunder or any notification or order issued or direction given thereunder (other than the provisions relating to making of the rules or regulations) specified in the notification—

– Shall not apply to a Special Economic Zone or a class of Special Economic Zones or all Special Economic Zones; or

– Shall apply to a Special Economic Zone or a class of Special Economic Zones or all Special Economic Zones only with such exceptions, modifications and adaptation, as may be specified in the notification.

Provided that nothing contained in this section shall apply to any modifications of any Central Act or any rules or regulations made thereunder or any notification or order issued or direction given or scheme made thereunder so far as such modification, rule, regulation, notification, order or direction or scheme relates to the matters relating to trade unions, industrial and labour disputes, welfare of labour including conditions of work, provident funds, employers’ liability, workmen’s compensation, invalidity and old age pensions and maternity benefits applicable in any Special Economic Zones.”

The jobs the SEZs are likely to create will be of the high skill variety that the displaced farmers (with different skills or with low skills) would not be able to perform… they would not encourage the entry of low-skilled displaced workers


It is likely that environmental considerations will be diluted. Many tax concessions have been announced. Given these considerations, profitability is being ensured so investment will flow into the SEZs to take advantage of these features. It is also possible that there maybe relocation of units from their present locations to the SEZs so that the net investment would be lower.

It is true that new industry and businesses set up in the SEZs will generate new jobs. However, at first people would be displaced, work on the creation of the new infrastructure would then begin and new industry would take even longer time to come up so new jobs will not immediately come. Further, the new infrastructure and industry is much more capital intensive than agriculture or non-farm rural activities it would displace so that fewer jobs would be created.


Further, the farmers receiving compensation for land would not really know of any activity other than agriculture so they are unlikely to be able to invest in new businesses and may simply waste most of the capital they get. Even the most sophisticated businessmen, especially in the new environment, usually specialise in a few businesses and do not venture into businesses they do not know about.

In this age of specialisation many businesses talk of core competencies and shed their other businesses or outsource them. How do we expect the ill-trained farmers to seamlessly transit to other businesses? This is unlikely. Further, every business requires some minimum capital to start but a large number of Indian farmers are small or middle farmers who would get marginal amounts of compensation that would be totally inadequate to start any kind of business even if they were competent to do so.

Finally, consider the impact on small businesses which are failing in large numbers due to the new economic policies. The SEZs will accelerate this process since reservations will get further diluted. This will result in loss of a large number of jobs.

Many of the displaced are not likely to receive much compensation. This would include the landless who will not receive any compensation and those performing non-farm activities like the potters, herdsmen, carpenters, etc. These people, traditionally integrated into the farm economy, would be completely at sea without much of capital. Such people would constitute about half the population of the villages and can only add to the ranks of the unemployed.

The jobs the SEZs are likely to create will be of the high skill variety that the displaced farmers (with different skills or with low skills) would not be able to perform. Further, given their enclave-like character they would not encourage the entry of low-skilled workers displaced from the rural economy flooding their territory. Such people would of necessity become encroachers and slum dwellers in some urban areas. Thus the existing urban areas would face problems while the new enclaves would flourish creating differential urbanisation and more problems.

The displaced would require training to get even the low skilled jobs in the SEZs. The poor who have not even attended schools or drop out by the fifth grade are unlikely to be able to afford the training required and would be ruled out of working in these enclaves. Even if the training is sought to be given, it will be for low skills (like guards) or will take considerable time by which time others would get the jobs and the displaced people would languish.

In brief, the rising unemployment and underemployment (doubled in the last 6 years according to the Economic Survey 2006) can only go up. Instead of farmers committing suicide, it will be the former farmers (and the landless) who would commit suicide.

Are farmers’ suicides important? According to a secretary in the Government of India too much is being made of this phenomenon. According to the crime statistics of India, quoted by her, only 16 percent of the suicides are committed by farmers. There are several lacunae in this argument. One is not talking of the absolute numbers but of the increase in the suicides. Farmers are supposed to be hardy people and do not easily commit suicides.

According to available information, the number of suicides is increasing and specially in some of the better-off states and amongst the better-off farmers. It is not the landless who are the poorest in the rural areas who are committing suicides.

The rising unemployment and underemployment can only go up. Instead of farmers committing suicide, it will be the former farmers who would commit suicide

What one is talking of is the growing distress amongst farmers who are unable to face the emerging challenge of globalisation – an uncertain and unknown entity to them. Further, do we know how many suicides are being committed? Are our crime statistics complete? According to the Crime Statistics, Bihar has the least amount of crime and Kerala the highest (A Kumar, 2002: The Black Economy in India. Penguin (India)).

Clearly, in India, a lot of crime goes unreported and unrecorded and that is also the story of suicides, in spite of all the publicity that this phenomenon is now receiving. If we go by the amount of narcotics drugs confiscated each year, then little of it is used in India. What is caught cannot be used and what is not caught does not exist as far as statistics are concerned so very little would be consumed in the country which is patently false. Clearly we cannot go by this argument since what is caught is only a small amount of the total drugs in use in the country.

According to estimates of gold brought into India and what was caught as smuggling, the ratio was 33:1. Thus official data on crime is not reliable and suicides, etc., maybe more in number than what is officially reported.


Displacement in the past

Displacement in India is not new. Since Independence, the nation has pursued the policy of development from above and set up large industries or industrial estates and projects like, mines, dams, ports, expansion of road and rail network. Each one of them has displaced people in large numbers. We have also had the experience of setting up export zones and electronic zones. In most of these cases, the displaced people have hardly found new employment in these projects while the educated elite (the five percent of the work force in the organised sectors) has benefited substantially.

The experience of HEC, Ranchi or BHEL, Haridwar or the steel plants like, Bokaro and Bhilai has been that the neighbouring areas have remained largely backward. These industries were set up in backward areas and they remain some of the most backward. These have turned out to be mere implants in backward areas with little impact on the surrounding areas. While the country may have had a strategic interest in setting up these industries to achieve relative autonomy, in the absence of basic education for the children of the poor, the jobs went elsewhere. Mostly the local people did not get jobs except menial ones in the townships.

The people of these areas specifically, and the non-elite in general, trusted the post-Independence leadership that there would be trickle down and they would soon benefit. So, either they willingly sacrificed for what they were told was the larger national interest or in the absence of organisation had no choice but to comply with what those in authority wanted. Now they know better that trickle down does not work and do not believe the elite ruling class. A white paper is needed on the impact of the earlier large projects on the people displaced from where these projects came up.

In brief, those likely to be displaced by SEZs are unlikely to find jobs in the SEZs and since they do not have the skills, they would not be able to shift to non-agricultural jobs.

Market price, justice

It is not that those displaced did not receive any compensation. However, since most of them did not know the modern institutions and practices, they did not know what to do with the compensation received. Often money was blown up in drinks and conspicuous consumption. This jeopardised the future of the family. The Government should issue a white paper on what happened to development in these cases in the areas where some of the large projects came up. In some sense, the compensation received by the displaced people was not just.
This raises the larger question of whether there is justice to the displaced? In the market, if one receives a payment voluntarily for what one offers, it is a just trade. However, if one is coerced into accepting a price then this is unjust. However, this applies only to a situation where both parties understand markets. If one party does not understand the institution of market and a capitalist economy, then even payment of a market price taken voluntarily by the seller may not be just.

In a capitalist economy, the agents understand the idea that if they liquidate their primary asset, they need to invest the proceeds so as to continue to derive an income for the rest of their lifetime. Most of the poor people have little idea of what it means to invest and what is the risk of investment or how to regulate their investment so as to get a secure future return. Thus, their ownership of an asset is far more important than the financial market compensation they may get for it.

Further capitalism assumes the existence of homogeneous labour which can migrate anywhere to get work. Family ties are not that critical. That is not true for the agriculturists. For them, it is an inter-dependent life and kinship is crucial. Thus, displacement is very painful since it breaks the family and neighbourhood bonds that are not easy to re-establish in a new setting.
The bonds may be between the labourer and the farmer or the farmer and the carpenter or the ironsmith, etc. Especially, if the displaced migrate to an urban or semi urban setting, life is very alienating for them. These relationships cannot be valued in the market. Thus, paying market price cannot be just compensation for the displaced because they lose much more than the land.
Finally, when the land passes on to the businessman and they establish a market in land then a piece of land bought cheaply form the agriculturist shoots up in price. Thus, typically, the agriculturist receives a fraction of the price that the businessman will finally receive. One may ask where is the justice in all this.

Further, often there is a land mafia that operates in most areas where land is likely to be acquired. This mafia often gets to know where land is likely to be acquired and buys up land at prices higher than the current price knowing that the price would soon jump to much higher levels. The mafia also coerces sales by various devices. This is how the real estate developers have become billionaires. The loser in this process of capitalist development is the illiterate and poor rural population.

Location close to metros

Among the many concessions being offered to the developers of the SEZs, one is cheap land close to cities and new highways. Land is being allotted much in excess of the requirement of industries. The implication is clear that land is being seen as urban real estate where huge profits can be made. While Singur is not an SEZ, the Tata group is being given about a 1,000 acre of land when they only need perhaps 70 acre for the car factory. Since the land in Singur is at the intersection of two important highways, it is prime land. This kind of consideration is clearly important for many of the planned SEZs.

While the developers of many of the SEZs and the proponents of these schemes suggest that real estate is not the real consideration and development is the real concern, can these claims be relied on? One line of argument is that since agricultural development has already taken place now it is time to go in for industrialisation since agriculture cannot accommodate more people.

What is the guarantee that land acquired by industries for the SEZs would only be used for specified purposes and not for speculative purposes as real estate. The example of DLF and others in Gurgaon come to mind

There is another reason for the rush to set up these huge estates. In the last three years, the corporate sector profits have been growing at an average of 30% so that they have a lot of cash to invest. Real estate is a good proposition to park their funds in. Thus, we are witnessing the creation of a large number of new landlords.

Finally, developers hope that there will be a shift of industries to these new sites. There is a precedence to this in the fifties and sixties when industry shifted from East India to West because of rising labour militancy. Many industries shifted from West Bengal to Maharashtra. Very quickly, the number one industrialised state West Bengal became a relatively backward one and Maharashtra became the most industrialised state.

The government and industry are making a large number of promises regarding the SEZs. They are promising more investments in industry and massive creation of jobs. However, as has often happened in the past, industry and businesses have not kept their promises. For instance, Pepsi Cola was allowed to come into the country in the `bad old days’, prior to 1991, on the condition that it would export, it would develop Indian agriculture and create large numbers of jobs. None of these things materialised and most of the conditions were later dropped in the nineties since by then Coca Cola was allowed in without any of these conditions.

In Delhi, hospitals were allotted cheap land (almost free) on the condition that they would cater to the needs of the poor by providing a certain number of free beds, etc. However, not only have they not fulfilled that promise but they have been doing everything in their power (using political influence, etc.) to have the rules changed. Many industries have been set up in the backward areas and as argued earlier, in most cases, these industries generated few jobs and of these even fewer went to the local people while most of these jobs were cornered by the educated middle class people.

Given this past experience, what is the guarantee that land acquired by industries for the SEZs would only be used for specified purposes and not for speculative purposes as real estate. The example of DLF and others in Gurgaon and other places comes to mind. They acquired advance information as to which areas are likely to be urbanised around the new NH8 and acquired that land from farmers at literally throwaway prices (market prices for that time). They have then released the land slowly over the last 20 years keeping prices artificially high all along and benefiting enormously. Land prices in this period have risen almost 500 times. Far higher than any other index of prices.

When industry goes back on its promises as it inevitably does, would the land revert back to the farmers and what would be the mechanism for this (to whom and at what price?). In a recent judgment the SC has said that the land need not be returned to those from whom the government acquires it. Thus, it is a one-way street and a mistake is costly to the displaced. Many farmers would be displaced and as mentioned above, their social linkages would have been broken. One cannot reestablish the village again after breaking it up. This is not a reversible process. Further, who is going to pay the cost of the transition in which a community is broken up and which involves the suffering of the women and the children displaced from hearth, schools, etc.

Mockery of democracy

In setting up SEZs an essentially undemocratic process is being followed. While industry and commerce have been consulted regarding what they need, the farmers and civil society groups have been left out of any consultation process. It is assumed that they will accept meekly the decision to take away land from agriculture for the setting up of commerce and industry. It is assumed that their notion of their own welfare is not important.
It is not that the entire country is being turned into SEZs. Certain areas are being selected so that the burden of this kind of industrialisation is going to fall on some people and not all. The question naturally arises whether in a democracy those to be adversely affected need to be consulted or not?


The government has adopted the policy of `growth at any cost’ with the cost falling on the deprived and marginalised sections of the population. The benefits are being taken by the big businessmen

Should it not be the case that if the collective decides against such a project then the government should look for alternative sites where the people agree to the project? If no such site is found, then it means that the majority do not want that kind of development and then in a democracy that decision should be implemented and such a project not be allowed to be set up. If people do not want a certain kind of development, then that decision should be respected. The government should not assume that it knows best and it can force its will.

Finally, for the sake of accountability, land if needed, should be acquired in phases as the project is set up. Thus, it is necessary that the party interested in setting up a SEZ should give a time bound plan and if that is not adhered to then not only should more land not be acquired but what was acquired should be returned. A fine should be imposed on the party involved and distributed to those whose land had been acquired. This would make the system more accountable which today it is not.

For example, if in Singur, the Tatas are now planning to set up a plant to produce one lakh cars then it may be allotted say 50 acres of land with the promise that more would come later as the project progresses to the next phase. After all, if Maruti producing many times more car can function in a plot of similar size then why cannot the Tatas? It is also possible that land to the Tatas be given from out of the closed industries that abound in West Bengal. This would not add to the displacement. It would be a much better solution than giving fresh land and causing displacement and hardship to a large number of people.

Macro aspects

Today, the government has adopted the policy of `growth at any cost’ with the cost falling on the deprived and marginalised sections of the population. The benefits are being taken by the better-off sections of the society and the big businessmen. It is argued that the SEZ policy would lead to a rise in the investment rate in the economy to achieve a 10 percent rate of growth. It is suggested that there would be trickle down and that would lead to the poor also benefiting.

The question is, is this the only way to increase investments and the rate of growth in the economy? One could also ask whether, growth cannot take place through a pro-poor policy? Finally, one needs to be sure whether there will be trickle down to the poor or would there be two separate circles of development a high growth one with the elite benefiting and a low growth path in which the bulk of the population would be trapped. How often it has been found in the Indian context that trickle down has not really worked or has been far too slow and yet the people are expected to put their faith in these policies once again.

In the last five years, the investment rate has jumped from around 25 percent to around 32 percent without the concessions being announced under the SEZ scheme. Then what is the need for further incentives at the expense of the marginalised sections of the population? The issue is what are the prerequisites to investment increase? And, what is the role of concessions in the investment process?

The concessions in taxes and relaxation in environmental regulation and labour laws are expected to make operations in the SEZ highly profitable. All this is being done in the name of exports, to make these zones export competitive by helping industry in these zones to have lower costs of production and higher profits. There is no doubt that with the concessions announced and the privileged position that is being granted to the SEZs, they will get investment so that they will generate employment and output. However, it is equally true that they will also displace production that was already ongoing in the area where SEZs will come up. The past investments in agriculture, non-agricultural activities and in the creation of habitation in that area will be destroyed. Thus, the issue is what would be the net increase in investment, employment and output.

Further, given the concessions, much of the investment in SEZs is likely to be at the expense of the investment in the rest of the economy. Finally, some may even close their units in the rest of the economy to shift to the SEZs. Due to these three factors, the net investment will turn out to be much less than what would be the gross flow of investment to the SEZs. In fact, because the price of output from SEZ is likely to be lower than that in the rest of the country, a lot of smuggling will take place and the output in the rest of the economy will be adversely affected. This will further affect employment.

Since industry set up in SEZs is likely to be of the modern variety, it will use much more capital per worker and generate much higher output per worker. Thus, the SEZs are likely to generate little employment compared to what it will displace both inside the SEZ and outside it (and that too of the skilled variety). This will undermine any trickle down that is being talked of.


There is likely to be diversion of resources from the non-SEZ areas to the SEZs. For instance, water aquifers would be used rapidly as has happened in the past and the poor people in the surrounding areas will be
deprived of water

SEZs are likely to involve concessions in income tax, corporation tax, excise, customs and sales taxes so that there will be substantial revenue loss compared to the potential tax collection. Further, to the extent, industry will shift from the non-SEZ areas where they are required to pay taxes to the SEZs where taxes would not be required to be paid, there would be a decline in tax collections.

Further, due to smuggling of cheap goods from SEZs to the rest of the country, there will be further loss of tax collection. When smuggling takes place easily from outside the guarded borders, it is not difficult to imagine that this would be easy from the unguarded SEZs. The resultant revenue losses will aggravate the deficit in the budgets and will result in cut back in expenditures to fulfill the FRBM Act requirements. Most of the time these cuts tend to be in the social sectors which will worsen the situation for the poor.

Finally, as has happened so often in the past, there will be over investment in the SEZs. As suggested earlier, this would be at the expense of the non-SEZ areas of the country. This would result in imbalanced development and a rise in uncertainty for the economy with consequential impact on the poor who by then would be out of jobs.

In brief, the macroeconomic situation will face major challenges. Employment in the SEZs would rise but would be adversely affected elsewhere. Output net of the loss of production in the activities that were carried on prior to the setting up of the SEZs, in the small scale sector and in the displaced industries would rise much less than claimed. Similarly, investment would rise but much less than being suggested because of the destruction of assets in SEZs and the small scale sectors and displacement from the rest to the SEZs. Loss of tax revenue would be substantial and would affect the budgetary calculus. All in all, the macroeconomic portents are not very promising.

Enclave development

It is also clear from the earlier section, the SEZ areas will develop substantially at the expense of the non-SEZ areas. This is likely to accentuate the already rising disparities. Loss of taxes will lead to shortage of funds for development in the non-SEZ areas.

There is likely to be diversion of resources from the non-SEZ areas to the SEZs. For instance, water aquifers would be used rapidly as has happened in the past and the poor people in the surrounding areas will be starved of water. The only way to prevent differentiation from rising further is to declare the whole country an SEZ. One may ask why limit the supposed benefits of SEZs to only limited areas and aggravate disparities?

Conclusions

This paper has analysed some of the key features relevant to the creation of SEZs. It is argued in the article that the SEZ policy is a part of the policy of `growth at any cost’ with the cost falling on the already marginalised sections in the rural areas. Huge concessions are being offered to the developers of SEZs and the entrepreneurs for locating in the SEZs. The beneficiaries are likely to be the affluent and skilled sections of the population. Thus, those who gain and those that lose will be different sections of the people.

It has been argued that those displaced will not get the market price for their land and even if they do, this price would not take into account many of the hidden costs, like, being a part of a community. As such, payment of a market price for land will not be a `just’ compensation, specially to those who do not understand the institutions of saving and investment.

Displacement will not be just of agriculturists but of a far larger number of people associated with a way of life which will be totally disrupted. Market price does not factor this in since it is at best based on the future flow of incomes (with capitalist development) from the piece of land acquired. It is not valued from the point of view of the displaced to whom the way of life being destroyed may be worth much more, specially, in the long run. Unfortunately, some Marxists seem to be going for a new form of class struggle where the workers and capitalists will together fight the marginalised, the farmers and tribals who instead of getting their support are being treated as anti- industrialisation.

The eGOM has not been able to resolve the problem of acquisition of land. If the government does so, it would pay much less than the potential market price but if this is left to the private sector, land mafia would be involved and the price paid would be much lower than the market price. There is really no solution. Further, it is argued that many in the rural areas do not possess land and will get little compensation when they are displaced. They will join the ranks of the unemployed in the urban areas. Those who do get compensation will find that they would not be able to start businesses since they lack the experience for it (this is the age of core competency). Finally, at a time when the crisis in the small scale sector would only worsen, asking the inexperienced farmers to start small industry or business would be doing them a disservice.

It is argued in this paper that employment generation in SEZs will not be able to compensate for the loss of employment in the activities the SEZs will displace and in the small scale sectors which are likely to be hit hard. Further, the output increase will be much less than claimed and investment will be at the expense of the non-SEZ areas and less than claimed since there will also be destruction of capital. Finally, it is pointed out that the more successful the SEZs the more would be the loss of revenue to the government due to the tax concessions. There is likely to be large scale smuggling and new possibilities of transfer pricing and siphoning out of profits.

There would be enclave development and disparities would rise. Migration to urban areas will rise and they will face further collapse. The excess land being allotted to the SEZs will result in the creation of new landlords. Government is creating new landlords 60 years after independence and long after it was thought prudent to end landlordism in the country. Reports suggest that some large SEZs being set up by the corporates will be known as “…desh”, like, Bangladesh, where the well off will live in style.

If the overall gains from SEZs are so unclear and the government is going ahead with the scheme, then it can only be because it wants to give concessions to certain sections (who are pushing for it). The central government is playing the same role as the World Bank and IMF do in making nation states to compete for capital and give concessions to it. The SEZ policy is making the states compete with each other to get capital. Those states that do not go for SEZs will suffer because others will go ahead and attract investment.

Given the negative features of SEZs, even allowing 5,000 hectares is too much land for one SEZ. Having hundreds of them sprouting in the country is even worse. In brief, if SEZs are the logical culmination of the current Indian strategy of `growth-at-any-cost’ with the cost falling on Bharat then one needs to not only scrap SEZ policy but the development strategy itself.


The writer is professor of economics, JNU, New Delhi

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Mukesh Ambani To Build $1 Billion "Home" Amidst Mumbai’s Multimillion Slum Dwellers

Posted by Indian Vanguard on June 6, 2007

By Parwini Zora

06 June, 2007
World Socialist Web

The richest man in India, Mukesh Ambani, is reportedly building a 27-storey skyscraper mansion in the heart of the country’s commercial capital, Mumbai (Bombay). The total cost of the project is expected to be US$1 billion, roughly the average annual income of 1.5 million Indians.

Ambani is erecting his lavish “home” in a city that has 7 million slum dwellers. Several million more of Mumbai’s 12 million-plus residents live in substandard housing. Such is the price of real estate in Mumbai that even well-paid middle-class professionals cannot afford a decent dwelling. In what is clearly an unintended irony, Ambani has named his mansion “Antilia,” after a mythical island.

Due to a sustained real estate bubble in Mumbai, Ambani’s unbuilt house and the 4,532-square-metre plot on which it is being erected are already estimated to be worth more than US$1.2 billion.

Mukesh Ambani and his brother Anil are the inheritors of their late father’s Reliance Group, India’s largest private company. Mukesh Ambani’s portion of Reliance Group includes the huge petrochemical division and textile-manufacturing plants. According to the Forbes’ 2007 list of the world’s richest people, the 50-year-old Mukesh Ambani is the 14th-richest person in the world, with a net worth of US$20.1 billion.

Ambani’s architect has said the first six floors of the skyscraper mansion will be reserved for parking. Immediately above will be lodgings for 600 servants and their families. Eight floors have been reserved for “entertainment,” including a mini-theatre and a number of swimming pools, and several more floors will house a health club and rooms for guests.

Mukesh Ambani, his wife, three children, and mother will occupy the top four, non-service, floors, giving them a panoramic view of both Mumbai’s Arabian Sea coastline and the city’s skyline as well as easy access to three helipads on the skyscraper’s roof.

Ambani and various aides and sycophants are reported to consider the proposed mansion as “comparable to those owned by his friends such as Lakshmi Mittal,” the UK-based Indian steel tycoon who last year bought the most expensive house in London for 60 million pounds.

Speaking to (India) timesonline, a Mumbai-based architect commented, “Our wealthiest citizens used to hide their money…they would not drive their Mercedes, they lived in small apartments. Even Mr. Ambani’s father lived in a small block of flats. They were afraid of the taxman. But that attitude has gone; Mukesh has made his money and good for him if he wants to flaunt it.”

While India’s rich now shamelessly flaunt their wealth, fully three quarters of India’s population of 1.1 billion live in abysmal poverty, with tens of millions regularly receiving insufficient nourishment.

According to official government estimates, the number of people living in substandard, slumlike dwellings has more than doubled in the past two decades, rising from 27.9 million in 1981 to 61.8 million in 2001.

The social misery and economic insecurity of the vast majority of urban and rural Indians have become especially acute since 1991, when the Indian elite abandoned a national economic-development strategy in favor of fully integrating India into the world capitalist economy and making India a cheap-labour producer for the world market. Even while the country’s economy has grown dramatically, many hundreds of millions of rural and urban poor have become further impoverished.

The agricultural sector, which provides more than 60 percent of all Indians with their livelihood, has been devastated by the diversion of funds from agriculture to the infrastructure projects favoured by Indian and international capital, the reduction in agricultural price supports, and other pro-investor policies.

The state of Maharashtra, whose capital is Mumbai, has witnessed the emergence of a new, abhorrent social phenomenon—suicides of indebted farmers. This year alone, 416 debt-ridden, cotton-growing farmers in the state’s Vidarbha region have taken their own lives.

Meanwhile, millions of small-scale peasants and landless agricultural labourers have been forced to migrate to cities in search of work, greatly expanding the slums in the cities.

“The rise in slums is due to the lack of affordable housing provided by the government,” said Maju Varghese, a representative of the Yuva Urban, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that works with Mumbai’s urban poor. “The Government has withdrawn from the whole area of housing and land prices have gone to such heights that people can’t afford proper housing. Slums are here to stay. The government has completely ignored this problem.”

Mumbai, which has India’s largest slum population, also has the dubious honour of containing Asia’s largest single slum, Dharavi.

The slum, which is home to more than a million people, is considered by Mumbai’s political and economic elite to be a blight on the city. A blight it wants to eliminate by a “slum clearance” campaign that will render—as such campaigns have repeatedly done in cities across India—the slum-dwellers homeless.

Recently, the government put the 223-hectare slum up for sale to international property developers, with advertisements splashed in newspapers all over the world, including the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. The advertisements proclaim the sale as “the opportunity of the millennium,” offering a “perennial source of income” to the successful bidders.

As part of the state and municipal governments’ plan to convert Mumbai into a “world-class city,” Dharavi’s slum dwellings are to be replaced by seven-storey apartment blocks, hospitals, schools, gardens, jogging tracks and even a golf-driving range for an estimated cost of about US$2.3 billion.

Arputham Jockin, the president of the National Slum Dwellers Federation, recently told the press, “selling this land to the global market and giving it over for commercial use—how will that improve our lives? Ninety per cent of the people here want a stake in their future and a say in how it is transformed. It has to work from the bottom up. Not top down.” He warned that a ruthless land-acquisition plan on the part of the state government could well result in a “bloodbath.”

Opponents of the slum’s demolition have already hung black flags over their homes. Most of those who will be “relocated” are not only threatened with homelessness but also with the loss of their livelihood. According to unofficial estimates, Dharavi accounts for US$1 billion in annual economic activity driven by various cottage industries such as potteries, tanneries, bakeries, metal workshops and, prominently, garbage recycling.

So scarce and expensive is housing in Mumbai that even a small 8×10-foot hut in Dharavi is valued at between Rs. 150,000 and 300,000 (US$3,600 and US$7,200). As a result, an estimated 42 percent of the Mumbai’s slum dwellers are forced to live on less than 10 square metres (about 108 square feet) of land with every 800 or so people forced to share a single toilet.

Sixty-year-old Razman, living in Dharvi for the last 10 years, showed his “house” to BBC reporters by stretching its walls with his outstretched hands. This small dwelling is home to five members of his family including two small children. Said Razman, “We want change and for conditions to improve for the people who live here. There is nowhere for my grandchildren to play, but I cannot afford to move from here.”

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25th Anniversary day of the founding of The ‘All India federation of Organisatios for Demoratic Rights.

Posted by Indian Vanguard on May 30, 2007

We here publish an Article on All India Federation of Organizations for Democratic Rights on the occasion of its 25th Anniversary day.

Harsh Thakor

This day is the 25th anniversary year of the founding conference of the All India Federation of Organizations for Democratic Rights which was held on May 29th 1982 in Guntur in Andhra Pradesh.This federation marked the historic trend of an All India trend to promote the democratic Rights Movement as a struggle oriented one, which recognized the right to struggle against socio-economic repression as the fundamental right from which stem up all democratic Rights.The organizations that merged into the federation were the Association for Democratic Rights of India(Punjab),the Organization for Protection of Democratic Rights(Andhra Pradesh),the Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana(Maharashtra),the Gantanatrik Adhikar Suraksha SAmit(Orissa) ,Janadhipatya Avakasa Samrakshana Samiti,Kerala and the Janatantrik Adhikar Surkasha Samiit(Rajasthan) Although he civil liberties movement started from the 1950’s the demarcation of civil liberties with democratic Rights was not made. The historic manifesto was as follows


1.Mobilise public opinion against al fascist laws,acts and atrocities by the ruling classes.

2. Propogate and organize amomg the people about the democratic Rights

3.Give all assistance to the people whose rights were abused.

4.Build unity among all sections possible explaining the connection between their interest.

To build a movement for the right to political dissent and thus demand the unconditional release of all political prisoners.

5.To oppose all capital punishment and build public opinion against it.

6.To protect academic and cultural freedoms and oppose state interference

7.To strive to establish the correct practice o the democratic Rights Movement.


The first such democratic Rights organization representing the correct trend was the Organization for Protection of Democratic Rights formed in Andhra Pradesh in 1975.They fought against the trend where the democratic Rights platform was used as a platform for promoting political ideology. This is what differentiated the O.P.D.R with the A.P.C.LC(Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Comitee) .It was O.P.D.R that was the founder of the slogan’It should be broad-baded,pro-people, and recognize the right to struggle of the people as the fundamental right’In ontrast the A.P.C.L.C propogated that the democratic Rights Movement should uphold the path of ‘armed struggle.’The first major work of O.P D.R was the report on the Srikakulam Girjian Movement 1977 with regard to police encounters.This was one of the most significant reports in the democratic Rights. Movement in India and the first of it’s kind.Hundreds of Girijan families were interviewed and the agency of Srikakulam area was extensively toured.The report narrated the historic background f the Srikakula Girijan Movement which originated in 1967.The taem demanded the unconditional release of all political prisoners and for a all parliamentary committee to inquire into the socio-economic conditios in the Agency areas.It was also demanded that the guilty policeman be brought to the book,police camps removed and that he ‘Distrurbed areas act be scrapped.’ All the victims were innocent sympathizers and not what the police alleged them to be.Earlier O.P.D.R had also propogated against the death sentence of Kista Gowd and Bhumiah In 1975 during e emergency.In 1978 it conducted a historical investigation in East Godavri district.Several innocent Girijans were arrested and police camps were launched. Two innocent Girijans perished In police Firing.O.P.D.R demanded an inquiry and punishment to he guilty policeman.A demand for withdrawal of police camps was made as well as for the protection of Girijan’s lands.. A campaign was done to defend the 1917 and 1959 Tribal area land regulation act.


In the 1980’s O.P.D.R highlighted a huge range of other issues on all sections ,whether tribals, peasants ,workers students or middle class employees.(like teachers)Male chauvinism was opposed as well as caste Chauvinism.It also took out a campaign against te ‘Rape and murder of Shakeela’Custodial rapes were opposed like that of Ramizabee in 1978 in Hyderabad.Other cases wee of Shakhila in Bonagiri and Erukula Kistappa in Ananthapur district.Further reports were carried out on the East Godavri tribals in 1983 and the issue of Communalism was also highlighted. Living conditions of quarry workers was researched in Krishna district as wel as Guntur district. Starvation deaths were investigated in Kolapur Taluka in 1985Mass propaganda was done against Police encounters wiht A.P.C.LC.But the struggle-oriented trend was always emphasized.(The author attended 2 conferences of O.P.D.R.in 1986 and 1990). In Vijaynagarm district O.P.D.R organized a campaign against police firing on 4 people.O.P.D.R took out a report on repression in Sircila In Karimnagar. In 1978 opposing repression on the Rythu Coolie Sangham demands were made for the repealing of cases and charges on innocent peasant mass activists of the Rythu Coolie Sangham.. In July 1982.Again In 1982 November O.P.D.R investigated the killing of 2 Girijans,Kunja Rajulu and Madam Laxmiah in Kondomadulu In East Godavri District.


The O.P.D.R also took out several reports on issues of drought like in Krishna ,Medak and Nalgonda,Prakasham and Srikakulam districtdistrict, where the govt’s anti-people policies were explained .Even relief was carried out..This was predominant in Krishna district.Tremendous efforts we made to defend the rights of the rural poor.East Godavrid district was given great attention as well as Karimnagar. .Campaigns were launched protesting against attacks by Bank officials on Riots in Nalgonda district in 1982.


Mass campaigns were also organized against police firing.A campaign was launched to oppose the unconstitutional overthrow of the N.T.R Govt. The organisation also protected student Movements an once successfuly fought for thre right of the Andhra Pradesh Radical Students Union to propagate their programme in aUniversity room which he authorities at first disallowed. In 1984 Often the platform of the Andhra Pradesh Civil liberties Committee was used as a platfrorm of Maoist groups to propogate ideology.The Organization brought out an Organ ‘ Janpadam’O.P.D.R also opposed the trend of individual terrorism in the People’s Movement as opposed to mass based Movements.True O.P.D.R did virtually all it’s fact-finding reports wit AP.C.L.C but never compromised the ideological difference.It is significant that the left sectarian trend in the Maosit Movement deployed it’s cadre in the A.P.C.L.C and not in the O.P.D.R.(Could not differentiate between party and mass platform)It was a tribute that O.P.D.R had units in so many districts like Srikakulam,East Godavri,Nalgonda,Vijayawada,Krishna district,Hyderabd City


The A.F.D.R.(Punjab)also did significant work in investigating the Naxalite encounters of the early 1970’s .It also played an important role in defending democratic movements .In the early 1980’s the A F D R organized trade Unions opposing the black Laws and formed a joint democratic Front which opposed the curbing of trade Union rights. The way the govt was using black laws in the name of curbing terrorist was explained with great depth..Infact the no existence of such an organization in the time of the emergency was the prime reason of the defeat the Communist revolutionary led movements in Punjab in the 1970’s.

The federation(A.I.F.O.F.D.R) brought out many historic reports through fact-finding teams. During the Khalistan movement a report was brought out which gave a political analysis of the Punjab Problem in the political and socio-economic light had explained how the State functioned as an agent of the Khalistani terrorism.The report explained the genesis of the Khalistani Movement and how the Congress Govt led by Indira Gandi(It was Indira Gandhi who created Bhindranwale) used it to subvert the democratic movements and to topple the Sikh Communal Akali Dal.The ruling class parties connived with the landlords to suppress the democratic movements and used Khalistani gangs against each other to capture power. The report reported the progressive movements led by left organizations combating the Khalistani terror and upheld all the Communist martyrs In the struggle.The fact finding team interviewed all section s of people from peasants,to workers to students to politicians and gained very useful information.



A.F.D.R(formed in 1977) played a major role investigating false police encounters and standing by and giving solidarity to al the anti-Khalistani democratic movements by organisations like he Front against Communalism and state repression and the Revolutionary Centre. Several reports were brought about explaining the nexus between the landlords with the Khalistani forces.The Organization continuously explained the need of mass combat struggle to defeat the communal forces and how the ruling classes were using the Khalistani movement to suppress the people’s day to day struggles.Great anti-communal propaganda was done which as appreciated by the oppressed sections and many a policeman was brought to the book.Attacks on democratic rights by the police like the raiding of villages(Daoke in Amritsar district in 1984 and in the Malant-Lambi area are famous incidents which the organsiation investigated) was a common occurrence,like in Operation Woodrose.A.F.D.R did most creditable work campaigning against the police attacks on the innocent Sikh youth.The organsiation brought out a monthly paper alee ‘Jamhoori Hakk’. A protracted and sustained campaign was carried out exposing state and Khalistani terror.A.F.D.R investigated several instances of repression of workers.(particularly in Ludhiana eg in Sahan Woollen mils)).In 1995 it carried out a report on a May Day attck on workers at Sangrur of he Sangrur Industrial Corpoation where workers opposed their illegal termination.Creditable work was done against repression on members of a rickshaw Union and against kidnaping of student leaders by plainclothes polieman.Sustained campiags were taken out opposing the National Security Act,the Terrorist and Disruptive Areas act,the Disturbe Areas act Etc.Atrocities on women,o Harijan labour,on cases of bonded labour as well as legal aid comitees were it’s other contributions to the movement.A.F.D.R had units in Amritsar,Jalandhar,Ludhiana,Faridkot,Bhatinda ,Sangrur.


In Orissa the G.A S.S.made all efforts to promote the movement opposing the Baliapal Missile base.It also supported the movement of the Adivasi SAngh of the Malkangiri region and gave all support to the anti –people development policies of the govt. promoting high-tech. Another famous report was brought out by the Federation based on the peoples Movement against the building of a missile base in Baliapal in Orissa. The report covered all the areas of Baliapal and explained the policies of the government which promoted military expansionism at the cost of he economic welfare. The class angle as also elaborated but unity with the better off sections like rich farmers was suported .The report highlighted the false propaganda of he government which stressed that too little was spent on defence..


In Maharashtra the Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana(formed in 1978) did significant work in bringing out reports on repression on slumdwellers where the relationship with the trade Union movement was projected.L.H.S alos did acampaign against poice torture ,fought agaisnt the retrenchment of workers in Mukesh Mils in Mumbai in Colaba area,took up poster and leafleting campaigns against communalism(against the Ram Janmabhoomi and Rath Yatra or Mandir propaganda).With regards to communalism emphasis was palced on the role of the working class.LHS also brought out reports on drought and in 1983 and 1989 brought outrepost on repression by the C.P.M on Kashtakari Sanghatana,a struggling organization of Adivasis in Dahanu.(A tribal region of Maharashtra)The report brilliantly explained the relationship betwewn the socio-economic conditions of the Adivasis and the repressin by the C.P.M.In 1984 it investigated the riouis in Bhiwandi from aWorking class viewpoint and also the firing in Goregaon. L.HS also did propaganda in working calls areas opposing state trepresion in Bihar and in Andhra Pradesh.Peaasnt leaders from Bihar were invited to address the gathering.Significant work was done in 1992-93 during the Mumbai riots to build struggle committees promoting communal solidarity .L.HS brought out reports on Contract workers at the Airport in Mumbai and on the closure of the Mills in Mubai with a historic socio-economic angle.Although LHS worked with Commitee For Protection of Democratic Rights there was a difference in the approach of work.It was L.HS that worked I the factories and the Chawls projecting democratic Rights issues.Earlier it had a paper called ‘Lok Hakk’.The author has vivid memories how activists of the left sectarian trend in the Maosit Movement would use the O.P.D.R platform and not work within L.H S.In Rajasthan also significant solidarity work was done with regards to black laws and communalism


The federation held 2 Sammelans,one in 1990 in Udaipur and the other in 1995 in Faridkot..here was no great mass mobilization but the methods of work and issues we of historical significance.A.I.F.O.F.D.R also brought out reports on drought and on the massacre of Christian missionaries in Orissa in 1999.


Historic resolutions have been passed by the Federation on repression on Kashmiri People, Punjab Problem, ,state repression in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh,retrenchment of workers in West Bengal, Black Laws tc.Upto the early 1990’s the Federation progressed at an All India level but sadly by the late 1990’s the trend declined. The A.F.D.R hardly now displayed the same militant orientation and nor did the O.P.D.R.


The author of his article wishes that the readers of this site could get hold of the earlier issues of he A.I.FO.F.D.R organ called “In Defence of Democratic Rights .’and help in reprinting and re-distributing the issues .Brilliant portrayals have been done on communalism ,Repression on peasants and Workers Struggles EtcThe genesis of the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition s and communal riots in the aftermath is well explained.


Today a struggle oriented democratic Rights Movement is very much needed which relates the cause of democratic Rights as different from mere civil liberties.Civil liberties are what exists in the Constitutio,but democarti Rights have always been won over by the people .Eg.The rights of Black people in America or the Working Class in England.Today in ligt of the advance of he Specia economic Zones and repression on the Nandigram peasant struggle a united democratic Rights movement is the need o the hour.


Let us remember this day when a federation was formed 25 years in Guntur in Andhar Pradesh ago to promote he Democratic Rights Movement.


The author wishes that readers could obtain articles on the history of the Democratic Rights Movement and get he earlier reports of te Federation.All readers could kindly request the author of the article.It is impossible in this article to refer to all of the reports and struggles.Please alo read the 1985 December issue of Democratic Rights which historically differentiates civil librties from Democratic Rights. Also purchase reports of A.I.F.O.F.D.R. like the 1987 All India Fact finding report on ‘The Punjab Problem-A Report to the nation.’done in 1987.Alos get 1983 L.H.S report on Repressio in Dahanu.’

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The war on Maoists in Chhattisgarh is beginning to turn on civil society

Posted by Indian Vanguard on May 26, 2007

Shivam Vij

The large number of protests by the civil society, both in Delhi and Raipur, over the arrest of a Human Rights activist in Raipur is the most significant sign yet of the Chhattisgarh government’s troubles over its policy against Naxalism. While the Intelligence Bureau has asked the Chhattisgarh government to explain why Binayak Sen was arrested, the Union Home ministry is considering cutting down funding for the controversial Salwa Judum project. The Supreme Court, acting in response to a pil, has also issued a notice to the Chhattisgarh government over human rights atrocities committed in the name of Salwa Judum or “peace movement”, which is supported by the government.


The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has been bringing to light cases where the police has claimed that it killed Naxalites, when in fact those killed were ordinary tribals whose only fault was that they did not join the Salwa Judum. Such cases are difficult to bring to light because they often take place in the remote interiors and the tribals often do not speak Hindi. The PUCL has been at the forefront of exposing these killings and other activities, wherein entire villages have allegedly been ravaged for not joining the Salwa Judum. Unfortunately for the Chhattisgarh government, the PUCL has been able to rally civil rights groups and the media across the country against the Salwa Judum. The arrest of Binayak Sen on May 14 is a result of this effort to put the truth out, says PUCL Chhattisgarh president Rajendra Sail.


The police also searched Sen’s organic farm without a search warrant in what, Sen and his family feared, was an attempt to plant evidence of Sen’s involvement in Naxalite activities by linking him to a jailed senior CPI (Maoist) leader, Narayan Sanyal. Sen often met Sanyal in jail and exchanged postcards with him, but this was all with the knowledge of jail authorities who were privy to these conversations. The PUCL says that Sen met Sanyal to enquire about his health and help him get medical attention. The immediate cause of Sen’s arrest was a letter found with Piyush Guha, a businessman, which was to be handed over to Sanyal. Guha has also been arrested and the police refuses to divulge the contents of the letter.


On May 21, the police searched Sen’s house and is now trying to use whatever they could lay their hands on as evidence. This includes CDs pertaining to five fake encounters, a computer cpu, books and pamphlets by or about Naxalites or Salwa Judum members.


Sen has not been arrested under the ipc or provisions of the crpc, but under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The CSPSA, which was passed after pota lapsed, is said to be even more draconian. The Act has a provision that makes punishable verbal or written communication and representation or publication or broadcast of anything relating to Maoist activities. A number of local journalists have been threatened and silenced using these provisions.


Sen’s arrest came just when the Chhattisgarh administration was facing charges of having fake encounters conducted by the Salwa Judum. On March 31, seven tribals were killed in an “encounter” in Santoshpur village. Civil society activists say that the Chhattisgarh Police and Salwa Judum officers took the seven from Ponjer village to Santoshpur to kill them. The police claims they were members of the Sangham, the Naxalite wing composed of local tribals. An autopsy confirmed foul play but the state government has only ordered a police inquiry. Home Minister Ram Vichar Netam has gone on record saying that no action would be taken against the police officials. The police officials investigating the case say that the killings were committed by Naxalites dressed as policemen. However, an anonymously shot video shows the spo sarpanch of Santoshpur spilling the beans (available at cgnet.in/santoshpur).


It is feared that Sen’s arrest may be followed by arrests of other activists in Raipur. Activists in other parts of the country could also be targetted. In Mumbai, the police have arrested one Arun Ferreira, who wanted to be a priest, for his alleged involvement in Naxalite activities. In February this year, the Union Home ministry was on the verge of acting against overground Naxalite symapthisers including academics and former bureaucrats, for statements they had made in a seminar in Delhi.


The Supreme Court, meanwhile, has issued a notice to the Chhattisgarh government asking it to explain its support to the Salwa Judum. This was in response to a petition filed by Nandini Sundar, Ramachandra Guha and EAS Sarma demanding an end to government support for the Salwa Judum; an independent inquiry into all killings, rape and arson whether by the Salwa Judum, security forces or Naxalites; registration of FIRs and prosecution of those found guilty; compensation to those affected by the Salwa Judum on the same lines as victims of Naxalites; rehabilitation of those who wish to leave the Salwa Judum; and preventing the state government from appointing minors as Special Police Officers.


But the Salwa Judum may die with a whimper even before the apex court passes a judgement. The Planning Commission, the Tribal Affairs ministry and the Panchayati Raj ministry have requested the Union Home ministry to stop funding the Salwa Judum and divert those funds towards development activities.


Tehelka

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Legacy of Indian Maoism-A Tribute to Tarimala Nagi Reddy’s 30th death anniversary and the 60 th anniversary of the launching of the Telengana Armed ..

Posted by Indian Vanguard on May 25, 2007

1.Telangana Armed Struggle


In 1946 a red Letter was written in the history of the Indian Communist Movement. This event was the Telengana Armed Struggle led by the Andhra Pradesh Unit of the Communist Party of India.Thousands of acres of land were redistributed.Mass revolutionary line was practiced. The relationship between the agrarian revolutionary Movement and the armed struggle and
formation of the peoples army was established and the issue of armed revolution and the principle of forming a people’s army based in the agrarian mass revolutionary programme and movement. was formulated.

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Women Lead Resistance

Posted by Indian Vanguard on April 9, 2007

Palash Biswas

Both feminism and nationalism in India emerged from the social reform movement of the C19th, it is widely believed. But fact is that tribal women enjoyed equality from the beginning and it is not the feminism advocted by the Ruling Brahmins in India. Even before Renaissance, Dalit Women of Bengal had the awakening as they were directly involved with the production system!

Women of Nandigram fought and led the fight from Front as they happen to be associated with indegineus production system. We may remember the fight of Mother India, fight of Dhania in `Godan, if we like.

The social reform movement originated within the Indian intelligentsia and spread to sections of the middle classes. But the peasant women were socially much more conscious from the beginning.

Mind you, Midnapur happens to be the Home of Matangini Hazra!

During the quit india movement, the people of Medinipur planned an attack to capture the Thana, court and other government offices. Matangini, who was then 72 years old, led the procession. The police opened fire. A bullet hit her arm. Undaunted she went on appealing to the police not to shoot at their own brethren. Another bullet pierced her forehead. She fell down dead, a symbol of the anti-colonial movement, holding the flag of freedom in her hand.
What Nandigram has seen, hence, it is nothing new for Bengal!

In fact, Indian Women have come in front to lead the Great Indian Resistance against Post Modern manusmriti, Neo Libetral Globalisation in form of eviction of the masses from the roots!

It is not only coincidence that Brahminical Hindutva considers all Women SHUDRA! Islam also says that women are unsacred! Varnshram never helped women!

Because all women are shudra, the women Mahashweta devi, Medha Patkar, Arundhati Ray, Aparna Sen, Nabaneeta Dev sen, Shaonli Mitra, Anuradha Talwar, Joya Mitra and all women from Singur and Nandigram shows us well how to Resist State Power!

We have seen it often in Manipur!

These ladies deny to be show piece fair commodity meant for the open market!

As Nandigram in West Bengal became a lightning rod for criticism of economic reforms, candidates in Dadri, home to more than 200 villages, are wooing farmers with a promise that they will not allow the forcible acquisition of land to set up industries or plush residential enclaves.
Farmers to whom the lands belong complain that they have been caught unaware by the acquisition process.

Political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and former prime minister V P Singh’s Jan Morcha, have demanded that the Samajwadi Party government make the entire land acquisition process transparent so that the farmers’ right to just compensation is not affected.

“The compensation awarded to farmers is nowhere near the market price of land. There is no transparent move to uphold in full the rights of those who have been displaced because of this land acquisition,” BJP legislator Nawab Singh Nagar, seeking to retain his seat on the same plank, said as he walked into a dusty village of the constituency for his campaign.

Last year, V P Singh and Communist Party of India general secretary A B Bardhan were arrested by police as they headed to Dadri for a protest against alleged inadequate compensation to villagers whose land was acquired for a mega power project of Reliance.

“There have been similar protests and demonstrations in Dadri since Noida and Greater Noida came into being. But farmers continue to suffer. Nobody is genuinely concerned about their welfare,” said Congress candidate Raghuraj Singh.

Hazra, Matangini (1870-1942) a famous Gandhian leader and a humanitarian. Matangini Hazra (Matangini Hazra) was born at a village named Hogla under Tamluk Thana of Medinipur in West Bengal. Daughter of a poor peasant, she had no access to education at her father’s house. Given in marriage at an early age, Matangini became widowed at eighteen without having any children. She played an active role in the struggle for independence from colonial rule and followed Mahatma Gandhi’s creed of non-violence.

In 1932, Matangini participated in Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement (Salt Satyagraha), manufactured salt at Alinan salt centre and was arrested for violating the salt act. After her arrest she was made to walk a long distance as punishment. She also participated in the ‘Chowkidari Tax Bandha’ (abolition of chowkidari tax) movement and while marching towards the court building chanting slogan to protest against the illegal constitution of a court by the governor to punish those who participated in the movement, Matangini was arrested again. She was sentenced to six months imprisonment and sent to Baharampur jail.

After her release Matangini got actively involved with the activities of the indian national congress. She took to spinning thread and Khaddar (coarse cloth) like a true follower of Gandhi. In 1933 she joined the ‘Mahakuma Congress Conference’ at serampore where police resorted to baton charge on the protesters. Always engaged in humanitarian causes, she worked among affected men, women and children when small pox in epidemic form broke out in the region. People lovingly called her ‘Gandhi Buri’.

The Left Front’s most recent record in ushering in capitalism in the state of West Bengal is shameful, but there isn’t even a muted response to the Pakistan judiciary reeling under the boots of a military dictator.

However, let’s stick to India alone. Even though the Left allows the UPA government to survive on its oxygen, it misses no opportunity to bare the Manmohan Singh government’s capitalists tendencies. And in its own bastions of West Bengal and Kerala, it’s not just rolling out red carpet to woo foreign investment but is shameless in suppressing popular revolt.

The contradictions are clear. Coming from the CPI(M), lofty ideas, talks of power to the people and human rights appear hollow. The emperor has no clothes. Scores of artists and intellectuals across the country have showed their resentment in no uncertain terms.

Also, West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi has hardly ever courted political controversy. He is known to be a man of scholarship, integrity and composure. When he criticises the government, it contains the credulity of honesty.

The state government thought it would get away this time, too. It thought that a nexus of party, police and a highly politicised establishment would again suppress opposition. It forgot, however, that communication technology and a vibrant media not only had gathered more strength in recent times but also spread the reach. Mamata Banerjee just fitted the bill.

The support of Jamiat-e-Ulema against the state government is again reflective of the withering away of its Muslim vote bank. So, did Nandigram happen due to CPI (M)’s overconfidence? Partly. More so, due to the bourgeois attitude that has crept into the leadership.

Nandigram, quite naturally, generated much political heat in both the Houses. The NDA and the ruling almost came to blows. It was only expected. But the sheer ruffian behaviour of the Kolkattan Left forced Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to offer his resignation for the nth time. No, the Communists did not attack any member from the Opposition benches but a Cabinet minister belonging to DMK, a fellow ally in UPA.

In accordance with written history, Faminism appeared first in Bengal – Ram Mohan Roy founded Atmiya Sabha in Bengal in 1815. 1828 Brahmo Samaj also formed in Bengal.It was partly inspired by Hindu revivalism and partly by liberal ideas.

Talwar (1990) points out that the movement for the uplift of women initiated by men in the early C19th – e.g. Raja Ram Mohun Roy – and included education, widow remarriage, abolition of purdah, and agitation against child marriage.
The author argues that social reform movements arose out of conflict between the older feudal joint family system and material needs of the developing urban middle class.
The urban m/c family was no longer a productive unit but a place of emotional fulfilment. The reform movement of the C19th was generally limited to urban areas.

‘As an Indian bourgeois society developed under western domination, this class sought to reform itself, initiating campaigns against caste, polytheissm, idolatry, animism, purdah, child marriage, sati and more, seeing them as elements of a pre-modern or primitive identity’ (Kumar 1993).

Nandigram

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India: Home to Asia’s Biggest Club of Billionaires and Half of the World’s Poor

Posted by Indian Vanguard on April 5, 2007

When we are told that our economy is growing annually at an impressive 8 per cent per annum, we wonder what it is all about and where it disappears without leaving any trace in our daily lives. The latest Forbes list of global billionaires gives us some clue to resolve this riddle. According to this list there are 946 billionaire families in the world today and there are as many as 36 Indian names in this club of the world’s wealthiest. This is 14 more than the number of Indians who had made it to the Forbes list last year, and the combined wealth of these 36 families amounts to $ 191 billion, which is one-fourth of India’s GDP.


And how have the Indian billionaires grown compared to the 2006 list? Here are some samples: Mukesh Ambani has jumped from $ 7 bn to $ 20.1 bn, his brother Anil from $ 5 bn to $ 18.2 bn, Azim Premji (of Wipro) from $ 11 bn to $ 17.1, Kushal Pal Singh (of DLF) from $ 5 bn to $ 10 bn, Sunil Mittal (of Bharati Telecom) $ 4.9 to $ 9.5 bn and Kumar Birla $ 4.4 bn to $ 8 bn! In other words, the combined wealth of these six families alone has registered a record increase of $ 45 bn in just one year! This is of course only part of the story of corporate India’s stunning accumulation of wealth, for the likes of Ratan Tata who controls the huge Tata empire that has acquired several big companies in recent months the most notable being the $ 11 bn acquisition of Corus by Tata Steel, are conspicuously absent in the Forbes billionaires’ list.

With this kind of astounding leap in accumulation of private wealth, India has now overtaken Japan. With 24 billionaires accounting for $ 64 bn, only a third of the combined wealth of India’s 36, Japan has now lost its place as home to the largest number of Asian billionaires. This dubious distinction now belongs to India. In fact, India now accounts for three among the top 20 billionaires in the world, next only to the United States which is home to five. It is another matter that India’s wealthiest billionaire Laxmi Mittal, who figures fifth in the global list, operates not from India but from the United Kingdom.


The Indian list is more than reflective of the global mix of billionaires. The march of India’s billionaires is powered as much by the booming real estate business as by IT and telecommunications. Among India’s 36 billionaires, there are five from the real estate sector with a combined wealth of $24.5 billion (Kushal Pal Singh of DLF, Ramesh Chandra of Unitech, Pallonji Mistry of Shapoorji Pallonji Group, Vikas Oberoi of Oberoi Construction and Pradeep Jain of Parsvnath Developers). The infotech/software sector too accounts for five Indian entries on the Forbes list (Azim Premji of Wipro, Shiv Nadar of HCL and three from Infosys – N.R. Narayana Murthy, Nandan Nilekani and Senapathy Gopalakrishnan) with a combined wealth of $25.4 billion.


Our governments and pro-liberalisation economists never tire of telling us the trickle-down stories and would have us believe that the accumulation of wealth at the top is the surest and quickest way of ‘development’ at the base of the socio-economic pyramid we live in. The truth is actually the reverse. The mirror image of accumulation of wealth at one pole is the concentration of poverty at the other end. While Marxism explains this dichotomy in terms of the paradox between growing socialization of production (backed amply by technology-induced increases in productivity) and private appropriation of profit (and consequent accumulation of wealth) and shows the revolutionary way out by abolishing the rule of private wealth, one does not have to be a Marxist to see through the deception of the trickle-down gospel.



The UNDP’s annual Human Development Report, for instance, is enough to expose the growing hiatus between the rising fortunes of the billionaire brigade of ‘Shining India’ and the pathetic human development indices that characterize the real India. The UNDP has been compiling these indices since 1990 and in terms of the human development index (which combines factors like life expectancy, school enrolment, public hygiene and standard of living), the UNDP’s 2006 report still places India at the 126th position in a list of 177 countries. The country that accounts for three among the world’s top twenty billionaires remains home to half the world’s poor and the starving while nearly half of India’s children below five remain suffer from
malnutrition.

This coexistence of the super-rich and the underfed has all along been a characteristic feature of capitalism. The developed countries with their welfare policies have managed to contain the mismatch within certain ‘tolerable limits’, but the disparity remains explosive in countries like India, and also in Russia where predatory capitalism has returned with a vengeance on the debris of the erstwhile socialist state. Today a ‘resurgent’ Russia has 53 billionaires in the global list (only 2 shy of Germany), much ahead of Japan’s 24, but the Human Development Report 2006 places Russia (which still has the historical benefits of seventy years of socialism) at the 65th place and India (which is still weighed down by its history of two hundred years of colonial plunder) down by another sixty-odd notches while Japan is ranked 7th in terms of human development. Incidentally, the country that tops the human development list – Norway – has only four entries in the global billionaire list of 946!

Liberation

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A Predator Becomes More Dangerous When Wounded

Posted by Indian Vanguard on March 11, 2007

By Noam Chomsky

11 March, 2007
I
n the energy-rich Middle East, only two countries have failed to subordinate themselves to Washington’s basic demands: Iran and Syria. Accordingly both are enemies, Iran by far the more important. As was the norm during the cold war, resort to violence is regularly justified as a reaction to the malign influence of the main enemy, often on the flimsiest of pretexts. Unsurprisingly, as Bush sends more troops to Iraq, tales surface of Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Iraq – a country otherwise free from any foreign interference – on the tacit assumption that Washington rules the world.

In the cold war-like mentality in Washington, Tehran is portrayed as the pinnacle in the so-called Shia crescent that stretches from Iran to Hizbullah in Lebanon, through Shia southern Iraq and Syria. And again unsurprisingly, the “surge” in Iraq and escalation of threats and accusations against Iran is accompanied by grudging willingness to attend a conference of regional powers, with the agenda limited to Iraq.

Presumably this minimal gesture toward diplomacy is intended to allay the growing fears and anger elicited by Washington’s heightened aggressiveness. These concerns are given new substance in a detailed study of “the Iraq effect” by terrorism experts Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, revealing that the Iraq war “has increased terrorism sevenfold worldwide”. An “Iran effect” could be even more severe.

For the US, the primary issue in the Middle East has been, and remains, effective control of its unparalleled energy resources. Access is a secondary matter. Once the oil is on the seas it goes anywhere. Control is understood to be an instrument of global dominance. Iranian influence in the “crescent” challenges US control. By an accident of geography, the world’s major oil resources are in largely Shia areas of the Middle East: southern Iraq, adjacent regions of Saudi Arabia and Iran, with some of the major reserves of natural gas as well. Washington’s worst nightmare would be a loose Shia alliance controlling most of the world’s oil and independent of the US.

Such a bloc, if it emerges, might even join the Asian Energy Security Grid based in China. Iran could be a lynchpin. If the Bush planners bring that about, they will have seriously undermined the US position of power in the world.

To Washington, Tehran’s principal offence has been its defiance, going back to the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 and the hostage crisis at the US embassy. In retribution, Washington turned to support Saddam Hussein’s aggression against Iran, which left hundreds of thousands dead. Then came murderous sanctions and, under Bush, rejection of Iranian diplomatic efforts.

Last July, Israel invaded Lebanon, the fifth invasion since 1978. As before, US support was a critical factor, the pretexts quickly collapse on inspection, and the consequences for the people of Lebanon are severe. Among the reasons for the US-Israel invasion is that Hizbullah’s rockets could be a deterrent to a US-Israeli attack on Iran. Despite the sabre-rattling it is, I suspect, unlikely that the Bush administration will attack Iran.

Public opinion in the US and around the world is overwhelmingly opposed. It appears that the US military and intelligence community is also opposed. Iran cannot defend itself against US attack, but it can respond in other ways, among them by inciting even more havoc in Iraq. Some issue warnings that are far more grave, among them the British military historian Corelli Barnett, who writes that “an attack on Iran would effectively launch world war three”.

Then again, a predator becomes even more dangerous, and less predictable, when wounded. In desperation to salvage something, the administration might risk even greater disasters. The Bush administration has created an unimaginable catastrophe in Iraq. It has been unable to establish a reliable client state within, and cannot withdraw without facing the possible loss of control of the Middle East’s energy resources.

Meanwhile Washington may be seeking to destabilise Iran from within. The ethnic mix in Iran is complex; much of the population isn’t Persian. There are secessionist tendencies and it is likely that Washington is trying to stir them up – in Khuzestan on the Gulf, for example, where Iran’s oil is concentrated, a region that is largely Arab, not Persian.

Threat escalation also serves to pressure others to join US efforts to strangle Iran economically, with predictable success in Europe. Another predictable consequence, presumably intended, is to induce the Iranian leadership to be as repressive as possible, fomenting disorder while undermining reformers.

It is also necessary to demonise the leadership. In the west, any wild statement by President Ahmadinejad is circulated in headlines, dubiously translated. But Ahmadinejad has no control over foreign policy, which is in the hands of his superior, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The US media tend to ignore Khamenei’s statements, especially if they are conciliatory. It’s widely reported when Ahmadinejad says Israel shouldn’t exist – but there is silence when Khamenei says that Iran supports the Arab League position on Israel-Palestine, calling for normalisation of relations with Israel if it accepts the international consensus of a two-state settlement.

The US invasion of Iraq virtually instructed Iran to develop a nuclear deterrent. The message was that the US attacks at will, as long as the target is defenceless. Now Iran is ringed by US forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and the Persian Gulf, and close by are nuclear-armed Pakistan and Israel, the regional superpower, thanks to US support.

In 2003, Iran offered negotiations on all outstanding issues, including nuclear policies and Israel-Palestine relations. Washington’s response was to censure the Swiss diplomat who brought the offer. The following year, the EU and Iran reached an agreement that Iran would suspend enriching uranium; in return the EU would provide “firm guarantees on security issues” – code for US-Israeli threats to bomb Iran.

Apparently under US pressure, Europe did not live up to the bargain. Iran then resumed uranium enrichment. A genuine interest in preventing the development of nuclear weapons in Iran would lead Washington to implement the EU bargain, agree to meaningful negotiations and join with others to move toward integrating Iran into the international economic system.

Noam Chomsky is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East and US Foreign Policy.

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"Neoliberal" Leninism In India And Its Class Character

Posted by Indian Vanguard on February 21, 2007

By Pratyush Chandra

21 February, 2007

“Criticism – the most keen, ruthless and uncompromising criticism – should be directed, not against parliamentarianism or parliamentary activities, but against those leaders who are unable – and still more against those who are unwilling – to utilise parliamentary elections and the parliamentary rostrum in a revolutionary and communist manner. Only such criticism-combined, of course, with the dismissal of incapable leaders and their replacement by capable ones-will constitute useful and fruitful revolutionary work that will simultaneously train the “leaders” to be worthy of the working class and of all working people, and train the masses to be able properly to understand the political situation and the often very complicated and intricate tasks that spring from that situation.” (Lenin, “Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder”, Chapter 7)


1. Lenin and the CPIM’s Leninism


The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPIM)-led Left Front government in its endeavour to industrialise West Bengal, admittedly within the larger neoliberal framework of the Indian state’s economic policies, is ready to scuttle every act of popular vigilance in the manner which Lenin would have called “bureaucratic harassment” of workers-peasants’ self-organisation. India’s official left position on neoliberal industrialisation and its potentiality to generate employment is very akin to what Lenin characterised “Narodism melted into Liberalism”, as the official left “gloss[es] over [the] contradictions [of industrialisation] and try to damp down the class struggle inherent in it.”(1)

In fact, the mass organisations of the official left in West Bengal have for a long time been the main bulwarks of the state government to pre-empt any systematic upsurge of the workers and peasants. They have become increasingly what can be called the ideological state apparatuses to drug the masses and keep them in line. And in this, Leninism has been reduced to an ideology, an apologia for the Left Front’s convergence with other mainstream forces on the neoliberal path, giving its “steps backwards” a scriptural validity and promoting an image that in fact this is the path towards revolution – all in the name of consolidation and creating objective conditions for revolution. For justifying their compromises locally in West Bengal, CPIM leaders have found handy innumerable quotations from Lenin, and sometimes from Marx too. Contradictory principles and doctrines can easily be derived from their statements, if read as scriptures and taken out of contexts. Hence, as a popular saying in India confirms, baabaa vaakyam pramaanam, which loosely means, you can prove anything on the basis of scriptures.

Of course, this can be a variety of Leninism, as there are varieties mushrooming like religious sects, but such was not Lenin. Lenin himself never treated Marx’s writings as scriptural for justifying his every tactical move. Furthermore, especially after the defeat of other European revolutions, on many occasions he was ready to acknowledge Russia’s “steps backwards”, even during the formulation and implementation of the New Economic Policy. His defence of the independence of working class organisation and power beyond state formation in his attack on Trotsky’s advocacy of the regimentation of trade unions was especially for countering the counter-revolutionary potential in the Russian state’s “steps backwards” by ever-stronger working class vigilance. Lenin had the guts to say, “We now have a state under which it is the business of the massively organised proletariat to protect itself, while we, for our part, must use these workers’ organisations to protect the workers from their state, and to get them to protect our state. Both forms of protection are achieved through the peculiar interweaving of our state measures and our agreeing or “coalescing” with our trade unions.”(2; emphasis mine)

Such was Lenin even as the leader of the Soviet State, unlike the CPIM-led Left Front’s leadership, which seeks to stabilise its rule in a tiny part of India, where, it admits, its government can have no sovereignty.

The CPIM’s energetic peasant leader Benoy Konar (who rails against Naxal conspiracy in every disturbance in West Bengal), a major stalwart in the present debate on repression and agitation in the state, says, “West Bengal is a federal state in a capitalist feudal country. What its government has done is just a miniscule step compared to what Lenin was forced to do, even after the revolution. If this is what upsets these “true” Marxists so much, we request them to stop living in their imaginations and step into the real world.”(3) This logic is very instructive, indeed. It is precisely the case – Lenin could afford to do what he was forced to do because the revolution had taken place. Also, the “steps backwards” were essentially for the sustainability of the state, without changing its basic character – workers-peasants state, taking the risk of further bureaucratisation and distortion, which he thought the independent assertion of the working class would weed out eventually. If Konar and his gurus are forcing themselves to do the same in a “capitalist feudal country”, then it is for whose sustainability – of the “capitalist feudal” state?


2. CPIM and its Self-Criticisms


Throughout its thirty years of continuous rule, the West Bengal government’s main concern has been to stabilise its local rule within the parameters set by India’s state formation, and the hegemonic political economic set-up in the country. It boasts of its successes, but at what cost? The exigencies of the parliamentarist integration reinforced the accommodation and consolidation of a “supra-class” ideology within the communist political habits imbibed during its appendage to the nationalist movement, throughout India in general, and West Bengal in particular. This explains a less radical approach towards land reforms in the region.(4) The CPI-CPIM’s role became limited to controlling and policing the radicalisation of its own mass base, as in the 1960s-70s, especially with regard to the Naxal movement. It is interesting to note today how every attempt to form an organisation of the rural proletarians and small peasantry, independent of the rich and middle peasant (who benefited from the movements on tenancy rights and against the Bargadari system) dominated Kisan Sabhas, is systematically repressed by Bengal’s state machinery and party.

When the CPIM capitulated to electoral politics resorting to tactical measures and strategic sloganeering, because of the so-called popular mandate in its parliamentarist pursuit, militancy became a thing to be repeated only in speeches and slogans as its practice can alienate few votes, precious votes. This is not to say that it was only a subjective transition or a matter of conscious choice, rather, it represented the latent politics of the party leadership’s class character. In fact, the only thing lacking was a conscious and consistent opposition within, despite the fact that the party was aware of this from the very beginning. In one of its early documents, it noted:

“The struggle against revisionism inside the Indian Communist movement will neither be fruitful nor effective unless the alien class orientation and work among the peasantry are completely discarded. No doubt, this is not an easy task, since it is deep-rooted and long-accumulated and also because the bulk of our leading kisan activists come from rich and middle peasant origin, rather than from agricultural labourers and poor peasants. Their class origin, social links and the long training given to them give a reformist ideological-political orientation which is alien to proletarian class point and prevent them from actively working among the agricultural labourers, poor and middle peasants with the zeal and crusading spirit demanded of Communists. Hence the need and urgency to rectify and remould the entire outlook and work of our Party in the kisan movement.”(5)

To this P. Sundarayya adds in 1973 (when he was the party’s general secretary), “the same old reformist deviation is still persisting in our understanding and practice”, which frequently leads to “the repudiation of the Party Programme formulations.” (6)

This was all before the concern for stabilising its rule and building social corporatism – “peace”, “harmony”, etc., in West Bengal became the party’s prime agenda. Today, the state government’s industrialisation and urbanisation policies express the needs of the neo-rich gentry, a considerable section of which is the class of absentee landowners, dominating the bureaucratic apparatuses and service sector, who legitimately want a share in India’s corporate development. When the Kolkata session of the All India Kisan Council held on January 5-6, 2007 asks “the state government to forge ahead on the path of industrialisation based on the success of land reforms and impressive agricultural growth” (7), it is simply expressing the interests of all those who have benefited the most from the success of limited agrarian reforms.

The party is aware that if they alienate these class forces, it will not be possible to remain in power in “a constitutional set-up that is not federal in nature” and which reproduces their ideological hegemony through various identitarian and legal relations influencing the voting pattern of the electorate. As the present party general secretary Prakash Karat, notes:

“It was clear then as now that the policies implemented by Left-led governments would always be circumscribed by the fact that State power vests with the centre while state governments have very limited powers and resources. This is the reality of a constitutional set-up that is not federal in nature. This understanding was further clarified when Left-led governments began to rule in the three states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura for longer periods of time. Within all the constraints and limitations of office, these governments have to take steps to fulfil their commitments to the people and offer relief to the working people. While there are urgent issues before Left-led governments, including those of protecting livelihoods in agriculture, creating jobs by means of industrial development, and improving the quality of people’s lives, alternative policies in certain spheres can be implemented only within the constraints imposed by the system.”(8)

If this is not the Third Way, the there-is-no-alternative (TINA) syndrome, then one wonders what it can be. Zizek defines the Third Way as “simply global capitalism with a human face, that is, an attempt to minimize the human costs of the global capitalist machinery, whose functioning is left undisturbed.”(9) It is an old disease that inflicts all social democratic parties, once they start talking about consolidation within the bourgeois framework. Compare:

“Let no one misunderstand us”; we don’t want “to relinquish our party and our programme but in our opinion we shall have enough to do for years to come if we concentrate our whole strength, our entire energies, on the attainment of certain immediate objectives which must in any case be won before there can be any thought of realising more ambitious aspirations.”

To this Marx and Engels answered back in 1879:

“The programme is not to be relinquished, but merely postponed – for some unspecified period. They accept it – not for themselves in their own lifetime but posthumously, as an heirloom for their children and their children’s children. Meanwhile they devote their “whole strength and energies” to all sorts of trifles, tinkering away at the capitalist social order so that at least something should appear to be done without at the same time alarming the bourgeoisie.”(10; emphasis original)

This is the state of a self-acclaimed “revolutionary” party caught up in an existential struggle – “tinkering away at the capitalist social order”! Why not, “the journey towards socialism would begin only after the accomplishment of the task of the bourgeoisie democratic revolution. If the bourgeois did not join the democratic revolution, it would be easier for the working class to establish its leadership in it which would help in the next stage of socialist revolution.”(11) So friends, nothing to worry about, on behalf of the working class, the CPIM is actually taking a time out for accomplishing the ‘democratic revolutionary’ tasks. If the working classes – rural and urban – are being forced to shut up, it is all for ensuring their leadership! So, “the programme is not to be relinquished, but merely postponed – for some unspecified period…”

The CPI(M)’s capitulation to an alien class-ideological orientation is stark in its continuous effort to de-radicalise the left trade union politics. Parallel to Sundarayya’s self-criticism, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya too has been time and again indulging in his own variety of self-criticism. His statements are very straight-forward, as he seldom minces words in his pandering to corporate interests. In one of his interviews to The Hindu (November 16, 2005), he says: “We did commit certain wrong things in the past. There were investors really afraid of trade unions here. But things have changed… I am in constant touch with our senior trade union leaders and keep telling them that it is now a different situation. …I tell [trade union leaders] they must behave. If you do not behave companies will close, you will lose your jobs.”(12)

The combination of subjective and objective factors determines the tenor of the official left politics everywhere in India today. So the repression of strikers at the Kanoria jute mill in 1993-94 and Singur/Nandigram incidents are not something unexpected. They are expressions of the Left Front’s stable rule in West Bengal for thirty years. These are the imperatives rising from the limitations, about which the Front and CPIM never tire to talk, and in which their existential politics is embedded. They do so, as there-is-no-alternative.


3. No “Doublespeak”, but the “Narodnik-like Bourgeois” speaks


Unsurprisingly, the CPIM’s present general secretary Prakash Karat whom some of us used to admire for his strong positions uncomfortable for the parliamentarian lobbies within the party has come out strongly in defence of the same parliamentarianism. His general secretaryship demands that. In India, the days are gone when within these communist parties, a general secretary used to be the voice of a particular programmatic tendency. The designation has been increasingly reduced to a ‘post’ in the permanent hierarchy, where the post-holder like a civil servant voices whichever tendency dominates in the party.


Prakash Karat accuses the ‘left opposition’ to the Left Front’s industrialisation policies of Narodism, which too is not very surprising. It is one of our standard abuses, along with ‘infantile disorder’, ‘revisionism’, etc… However, Karat in his defence really means it, when he says: “The CPIM will continue to refute the modern-day Narodniks who claim to champion the cause of the peasantry”, as he appends this with a note on the Narodniks.(13)


It seems Karat is ignorant – either he feigns it, or it is real – about Lenin’s analysis of Narodism. Lenin’s criticism of the Narodnik revolutionaries was mainly centred on their faulty understanding of Russian reality; unlike the Narodniks he saw a slow, but definite evolution of capitalism and capitalist market. He stressed strategising on the basis of this new reality. On the other hand, the Narodniks saw capitalism still simply as a possibility, and thus like true petty bourgeois revolutionaries dreamt of evading the ruthlessness of capitalist accumulation, while often lauding bourgeois freedom and democracy. Lenin in his diatribes obviously underlined the utopianism of this programme, but only on the basis of a critique of the political economy of capitalism in Russia. His fundamental stress was to describe the processes of capitalist accumulation, the ruthlessness of which was compounded by its impurity, its ‘incompleteness’. Definitely, an important component of Lenin’s programme was embedding the democratic struggle against feudal remnants in the unfolding of the socialist revolution:


“Thus the red banner of the class-conscious workers means, first, that we support with all our might the peasants’ struggle for full freedom and all the land; secondly, it means that we do not stop at this, but go on further. We are waging, besides the struggle for freedom and land, a fight for socialism. The fight for socialism is a fight against the rule of capital. It is being carried on first and foremost by the wage-workers, who are directly and wholly dependent on capital. As for the small farmers, some of them own capital themselves, and often themselves exploit workers. Hence not all small peasants join the ranks of fighters for socialism; only those do so who resolutely and consciously side with the workers against capital, with public property against private property.”(14; emphasis mine)


Lenin’s analysis of capitalism in agriculture showed a growing peasant differentiation. This led him to stress on the heterogeneity of proletarian attitude towards diverse peasant classes. He criticised the populism of the Narodniks and also the liberals who put forward a homogenised notion of “narod” (people). The same notion is found in the Indian official left’s attitude towards the peasantry and its assessment of the land reform efforts in the left-ruled states. When it calls upon consolidating the gains from land reforms achieved in a “capitalist feudal” society and pursuing industrialisation on their basis, it consistently evades the question of peasant differentiation. Such evasion is a reflection of the consolidation, within the left leadership, of the hegemonic interests that necessarily rose after the limited land reforms measures. As Sundarayya indicated, this lobby had already congealed within the CPIM and been affecting its work in the rural areas, much before it enjoyed the cosiness of the state power. Its consistent success in undermining the rise of the rural proletarians and their organisation in West Bengal is indicative of the strength of this lobby. When Benoy Konar and the All India Kisan Sabha speak for industrialisation based on the gains in agriculture, they speak on the behalf of the rising kulaks and upper middle class in West Bengal who would like to invest and profit on the peripheries and as local agencies of the neoliberal industrialisation – in real estate, in outsourcing and other businesses which are concomitant appendages to the neoliberal expansion.


While differentiating the agrarian programme of the Social Democrats (when the revolutionary Marxists still identified themselves with this name) from that of the liberals, Lenin criticised the latter’s “distraught Narodism” – “Narodism melting into Liberalism”, which represented the Narodnik-like bourgeoisie, and explained:


“Firstly, the Social-Democrats want to effect the abolition of the remnants of feudalism (which both programmes directly advance as the aim) by revolutionary means and with revolutionary determination, the liberals-by reformist means and half-heartedly. Secondly, the Social-Democrats stress that the system to be purged of the remnants of feudalism is a bourgeois system; they already now, in advance, expose all its contradictions, and strive immediately to extend and render more conscious the class struggle that is inherent in this new system and is already coming to the surface. The liberals ignore the bourgeois character of the system purged of feudalism, gloss over its contradictions and try to damp down the class struggle inherent in it.”(15; emphasis mine)


Here Lenin clearly states that “distraught Narodism” lies, firstly, in its reformist means, and secondly, in not recognising that the system is already a bourgeois system, hence the basic struggle is against the rule of capital. As Lenin indicated and as it is clear in the case of the CPIM in West Bengal, the ideology of “distraught Narodism” is an ideology of the class of Narodnik-like local bourgeoisie, which is necessarily Janus-headed. On the one hand, it feels insecure before its established competitors and their ‘bigness’, thus consistently calls upon the state to protect its interests. On the other, it is mortified when it feels the presence of its impoverished twin – the growing number of proletarians – as a result of capitalism in agriculture and also due to neoliberal “primitive accumulation”. Most dangerous is the faithlessness and weariness that this class of rural and urban proletarians displays towards the neoliberal euphoria – since it has already experienced more than 150 years of ups and downs of capitalist industrialisation, and its increasingly moribund nature. The Bengali political elites’ “doublespeak” vocalised by the CPIM is actually the reflection of the “Narodnik-like” character of the local bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, torn between the ecstatic possibility of their neoliberal integration, on the one hand, and the rising competition and class struggle, on the other. However, the ideology of homogeneous Bengali interests, along with the “communist” organisations and pretensions come handy in controlling these volatile segments, at least temporarily. It is interesting to note, how the CPIM leadership evades recognising the class character of “land reforms”, “impressive agricultural growth” and industrialisation as far as possible in its discourse, while overstressing their virtues. It is similar to the discursive habits of the Russian liberals – “distraught Narodniks”, which Lenin thus noted, while criticising “Mr L.”:


“Depicting the beneficent effect of the French Revolution on the French peasantry, Mr. L. speaks glowingly of the disappearance of famines and the improvement and progress of agriculture; but about the fact that this was bourgeois progress, based on the formation of a “stable” class of agricultural wage-labourers and on chronic pauperism of the mass of the lower strata of the peasantry, this Narodnik-like bourgeois, of course, says never a word.”(16)


Conclusion

When enthusiasm for neoliberal industrialisation is not well received, as a last resort in defence of the neoliberal policies in West Bengal, ‘vanguards’ like Prakash Karat and his associates have a ready apologia that “in a constitutional set-up that is not federal in nature”, the left government policies “would always be circumscribed by the fact that State power vests with the centre while state governments have very limited powers and resources.” (It does not matter that the CPIM’s other leader, Benoy Konar, talks of the same constraints by admitting West Bengal as “a federal state in a capitalist feudal country.”)


It is tempting to interpret this demand for more federalism in India as representative of “the demand made in certain circles that local self-governing institutions should also be given the autonomy to borrow and to negotiate investment projects with capitalists, including multinational banks and corporations”, as Prabhat Patnaik, a foremost Indian political economist, known for his allegiance to the CPIM and who has been lately appointed as Kerala’s State Planning Board Vice-Chairman, puts it. He continues, “this will further increase the mismatch in bargaining strength between the capitalists and the state organ engaged in negotiating with them, and will further intensify the competitive struggle among the aspirants for investment… This can have only one possible result which is to raise the scale of social ‘bribes’ for capitalists’ investment. This increase in the scale of social “bribes” is an important feature of neo-liberalism.”(17)


Particularly relevant in this regard are the CPIM leadership’s and the West Bengal government’s statements on Singur, in which they consistently fetishise the Left Front’s ability to win away the Tata project from a poorer state of Uttarakhand – an example of its competency in ‘social bribery’! Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya again and again with all his frankness defended his Singur sale to Tata – “We showed them various sites, but they settled for Singur. We could not say no to such a project, otherwise it would have gone to Uttarakhand.”(18)


This is symptomatic of the extent to which the official Indian left has re-trained itself in the competitive culture of neoliberal industrialisation. Of course, it does not have any parliamentary stake in Uttarakhand. Or does the party leadership want to entice the Uttarakhand people to choose CPIM, for its efficiency in negotiating or ‘bribing’ for neoliberal projects? It is obvious that in order to remain the sole contender of the nationalising and globalising interests of the West Bengal hegemonic classes, the CPIM leadership has been giving vent to Bengali parochialism of the local “Narodnik-like bourgeoisie”.


Notes:


(1) V.I. Lenin, The Narodnik-Like Bourgeoisie and Distraught Narodism, 1903. http://www.marxists.org.uk/archive
/lenin/works/1903/nov/05a.htm


(2) V.I. Lenin, The Trade Unions. The Present Situation and Trotsky’s Mistakes, 1920. http://www.marx2mao.com/Lenin/TUTM20.html


(3) Benoy Konar, Left Front Govt And Bengal’s Industrialisation, People’s Democracy, October 08, 2006. http://pd.cpim.org/2006/
1008/10082006_benoy%20konar.htm

(4) See Dipankar Basu, Political Economy of ‘Middleness’: Behind Violence in Rural Bengal, Economic & Political Weekly, April 21, 2001. http://www.epw.org.in/showArticles.php?
root=2001&leaf=04&filename=2411&filetype=pdf

(5) P Sundarayya, Central Committee Resolution on Certain Agrarian Issues and An Explanatory Note, CPIM Publications, 1973.

(6) Ibid.

(7) All India Kisan Council, Resolution: Unite To Fight And Defeat All Moves To Stop The Industrialisation Of West Bengal, People’s Democracy, January 14 2007. http://pd.cpim.org/2007
/0114/01142007_aiks%20meeting.htm

(8) Prakash Karat, “Double-Speak” Charge: Maligning The CPI(M), People’s Democracy, January 28 2007. http://pd.cpim.org/2007/0128/01282007_prakash.htm

(9) Slavoj Zizek, The Fragile Absolute, Verso, 2000, p.63.

(10) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Circular Letter to August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Wilhelm Bracke and Others, 1879.
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1879/09/18.htm

(11) Benoy Konar, West Bengal: Rationale For Industrialisation, People’s Democracy, November 06, 2005.
http://pd.cpim.org/2005/1106/11062005_benoy%20kumar.htm

(12) The Hindu November 16, 2005.
http://www.hindu.com/2005/11/16/stories/2005111605361100.htm

(13) See (6)

(14) V.I. Lenin, The Proletariat and the Peasantry, 1905. http://www2.cddc.vt.edu/marxists//
archive/lenin/works/1905/nov/12.htm

(15) See (1)

(16) Ibid.

(17) Prabhat Patnaik, An Aspect of Neoliberalism, People’s Democracy, December 24, 2006.
http://pd.cpim.org/2006/1224/12242006_eco.htm

(18) Frontline, Jan. 27-Feb. 09, 2007. http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2402/stories
/20070209002911200.htm

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Golwalkar Guruji: Superhuman Or Less Than Human? …

Posted by Indian Vanguard on February 19, 2007

Golwalkar Guruji: Superhuman Or Less Than Human?

Countercurrents.org

He was known as ‘guruji’ (revered teacher). I find that at least in some vernacular papers he is being referred to as ‘shreeguruji’. The addition of shree to his title guruji makes him nearly sacred, an avatar of sorts. Within the Maharashtrian context this has an additional meaning or signification. Mystic gurus are often referred to as ‘shreeguruji’. You can see thus that there has been rather subtle glorification of Golwalkar, the new appellation making him stand a little above the human level.
– GPD (March 25, 2006, EPW GPD, An Occasion for RSS)

I.

It is said that masses have very short memories. For them it is easy to send today’s icon into oblivion without much hair splitting or it is still easier for them to hail yesterday’s monster as today’s development man.

But do classes or their intellectuals also suffer from similar amnesia? Looking at the important role played by them in the running of the society/state it is expected that they appear different. A recent writeup by one of the think-tanks of the right (Sudhindra Kulkarni, who also happened to be a ‘ghost writer’ for the ex deputy PM and was supposedly responsible for the ‘iron leaders’ speech at Jinnah Mausoleum) in the Sunday Express (11 th Feb 20007) belies this expectation. One could also decipher that it is a deliberate ploy by the writer to obfuscate things. It is equally possible that he is trying to present his wishful thinking as in-depth analysis before the masses.

Whatever may be the case, here we are presented with an analysis, which is not only bereft of historical facts but also appears to be another poor attempt at repackaging of a dangerous anti-human trend in Indian politics represented by the Hindu right.

The writer talks about how things are moving or rather changing at RSS. And to buttress his point he mentions two things: the way the RSS has extended invitation to Ms Sonia Gandhi for the programme organized to commemorate the birth anniversary of Golwalkar and secondly, proposal by Madan Das Devi, to deliberate on the Sachar Committee report in the coming meeting of RSS and suggest some measures for the poor Muslims.

Definitely the pen pusher for the ex-Iron Man cannot be faulted for his weak memories, but he can definitely be advised to just flip through similar expectations harboured by the likes of Jayprakash Narayan and others and how they came to a naught. Perhaps he would be delighted to know when Janata Party came to power way back in 1977, an impression was created that the secretive RSS – which retains its Brahminical core intact – was even ready to admit even Muslims in its ranks. It took a lot of time for the genuinely concerned citizens to comprehend that all that was meant for mere public consumption. RSS, which found itself cornered then because of its not so glorious role in the emergency – when it had tried to undertake secret parleys with Ms Indira Gandhi or had even instructed its cadres put in jails to give written undertakings before the Emergency regime – had put forward this proposal to wriggle itself out of the situation.
Perhaps the best thing for him would be to do look at the expectations entertained by a section of the liberal intelligentsia who had thought that a stint at power at the center would rather moderate the ‘rabble rousers’ and the way they got ‘Modified’.

II.

Ofcourse anyone remotedly familiar with RSS would tell you that the RSS, which calls itself the biggest cultural organization on the face of the earth, is seriously trying to do a makeover.
It is a different matter that all these attempts focus not on the essence but the appearance of the organization, the challenge present before it in the wee hours of the 21 st century and they essentially get reduced to presenting a sanitized version of this project before the gullible masses.

It was only last year that there was news in the section of the media about the brainstorming going on within RSS where many a topics vital for the sustenance and continuation of the organization were being discussed. Ranging from the ‘greying’ of the RSS Shakhas to the impact of the electronic channels on the attendance, ranging from the backward looking dress to the relevance of its ideology in times of globalisation everything was put under scanner. Interestingly one of the most serious problem which inadvertently or so, continued to bother the minds of the RSS bosses and continues to remain a focus of attention, concerns the ‘moral degeneration’ of its cadre.

It is widely known that many of the leading cadres or their near and dear ones, are facing investigation for their dealings involving financial matters. While the world at large saw with its own eyes, its old Swayamsevak (who was later declared a failed one) Bangaru Laxman accepting wades of notes from a fraudulent arms dealer (thanks to the sting operation done by Tehelka), it also noticed that biggest contingent of MPs who faced expulsion because of similar sting operation, belonged to the Sangh only.

The world has not forgotten why the ex-spokesperson of the RSS M.G. Vaidya ( who is considered a think-tank in the RSS parlance and expresses views which are still considered very much akin to the RSS patriarchs) had to resign from his post all of a sudden during NDA era itself, when media exposed the dubious role played by his son and daughter in law in a financial company. Perhaps the best example from the Sangh hierarchy could be that of Madan Das Devi, who still has been asked to maintain liason between the BJP and the RSS. Tavleen Singh, a journalist said to be close to the RSS in a signed article ‘Rashtriya Swayamseva Sangh’ (Indian Express, 2003) had given details of Devi’s very own son’s involvement in the Petrol Pump Scam
Of course as far as matters of financial wheeling and dealing are concerned, the involvement of people who are brought up in the Sangh tradition are numerous. As they say it in a Sanskrit Shloka ‘Hari Ananta, Harikatha Ananta’ one can go on presenting instances where people who wear their Sangh lineage on their sleeves had no compunction in even occupying land meant for Dalits for years together ( Venkaiah Naidu) or making a beeline for plots at prime locations in Delhi under fictitious trusts which were existing on mere paper. It is a different matter that RSS still has the audacity to call itself an organization committed to character building.

While all such examples have definitely put a question mark over the moral high ground occupied by the RSS, the Sangh Patriarchs seem to be more disturbed with what can be called ‘Sanjay Joshi Phenomenon’. The world very well knows how this powerful general secretary of the BJP ( loaned to it by RSS) had to make a ignominious exit recently when he was eased out of his responsibilities. The immediate cause for his exit because of a CD scandal, which refused to get settled despite his getting a ‘clean chit’ by the MP state government.

For the uninitiated it might be told that Sanjay Joshi, who happened to be a senior Pracharak of the RSS, who was ‘loaned’ to the BJP some years back, faced axe on the eve of the silver jubilee celebrations of the party last year. The immediate cause for this action was the circulation of a CD, which allegedly showed him (or a lookalike) with a woman in a compromising position. Later he was given a clean chit by the MP government, supposedly after conducting an enquiry. Although he was promptly rehabilitated in the party, doubts continued to linger over the way the enquiry was hushed up. It is learnt that recently when new ‘facts’ relating to the CD episode came up, the party decided to ease him out of his responsibilities to save itself from further embarrassment.

Very few people would know that the whole CD exposure was an intra-Parivar affair and none from the ‘pseudo-secularist’ camp was even blamed for it. A leading think tank of the RSS, M.G. Vaidya, in a signed article in a Marathi daily ‘Tarun Bharat’ had even written that the Sangh Patriarchs know who is behind the episode and if they wish the wrongdoers could be paid in the same coin. There were unconfirmed reports that the whole sting operation was done at the behest of the Chief Minister of a neighbouring state and one of his close female confidants supposedly to settle scores with Joshi. It was worth noting that a compromise within the ‘warring factions’ could be reached only after Mohan Bhagwat, another senior leader of the RSS intervened and settled the matter.

Looking at the secretive nature of the organization and the clandestine manner in which it functions, there is no way one could get to know what conclusions have been drawn by the RSS patriarchs over the whole issue of ‘moral degeneration’. Looking at the fact that Sanjay Joshi episode continued to simmer more than a year after the CD was made public, one can gather that the rot runs quite deep and the Parivar bosses are still looking for answers.

Close watchers of the Sangh trajectory would vouch that the sting operation was rather a tip of the iceberg. It was worth noting that in the immediate aftermath of the ‘ceasefire’ reached between the warring factions of the Parivar, in connection with the Sanjay Joshi episode, ‘Tehelka’ did a story, where it provided details of an anonymous CD making rounds in the Sangh hierarchy, which allegedly showed another of its senior leaders in poor light.

Interestingly while the ‘moral degeneration’ of the leaders might have become a cause of concern of late, it cannot be said that it is a recent phenomenon. Balraj Madhok, a senior leader of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, in his autobiography provides details of the lifestyles of senior leaders. Madhok, in his autobiography Zindagi Ka Safar, published in three parts presents vivid description of the way senior leaders functioned then and the manner in which the top bosses of the RSS, namely Golwalkar dealt with issues involving moral turpitude..
Balraj Madhok writes :

Some time back when I was the President of the Jana Sangh, Jagadish Prasad Mathur, in-charge of the Central Office, who was staying with a senior leader at 30, Rajendra Prasad Road, had complained to me that the leader had turned that house into a den of immoral activities There everyday new girls were coming. Now water was flowing above heads. So as a senior leader of Jana Sangh I have dared to bring to your notice this fact. I had some information about character of the leader, but situation had deteriorated that much, I did not know. (Balraj Madhok, Zindagi Ka Safar – 3 : Deendayal Upadhyaya Ki Hatya Se Indira Gandhi Ki Hatya Tak, Delhi : Dinmaan Prakashan, 20003, p.22)

He further provides details about Golwalkar’s reaction to the whole episode as Madhok had discovered then that senior leadership of the RSS was bent upon making this particular leader President of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. Discussing his meeting with Golwalkar, he tells :
After listening to my talk he kept quiet for some time and then said –’ I am in the know of the weaknesses of the character of these people. But I have to run an organization. I have to take everybody together, so like Shiva I drink poison everyday.(ibid p.62)

III.

Looking at the crisis of legitimacy, which the RSS is facing because of the moral degradation of its cadres, it deemed it necessary to present itself as ‘moral exemplars of the nation’ supposedly to lift the morale of its cadres and also repackage itself as a ‘moderate’ ‘nationalist’ organization. And the birth anniversary of its second Supremo called Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar alias Guruji happened to be just that occasion.

Since the birth centenary celebrations are moving towards completion, a question can naturally be asked whether it proved successful in ‘repackaging itself’ or it inadvertently opened up many questions before itself and is still struggling for answers. With hindsight one can say that it has been a mixed experience. While it could present a sanitized version of its activities or a defanged version of the second supreme before the masses with a lot of gusto, it has opened a pandora’s box before itself as well. Reason being the impossibility of presenting repacked version of Golwalkar, the second Supremo, which would fit into the mood of the 21 st century. How could they carve out a ‘Saint’ from person who yearned for anti-human solutions to human problems, one who kept himself as well as the organization away from the surging anti-colonial struggle of the Indian masses, who was not only an unashamed supporter of Nazism and Fascism and till the end of his life who yearned for a society based on Manu’s edicts.

IV.

RSS the biggest ‘cultural’ organisation on the face of the earth has had five supremos ‘Sarsanghchalaks’ since its inception. Starting from founder member Hedgewar and leading upto KS Sudarshan the present incumbent, the interregnum was filled by Golwalkar, Deoras and Rajendra Singh. If one takes a synoptic view of each of these periods then one can definitely discern the definitive impact each of them has had on the organisation. Ofcourse none of them proved as controversial as the second incumbent namely Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar whose birth centenary is being celebrated by his followers this year.

Coming to Golwalkar, his biographers tell us that Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar got the alias Guruji for his brief stint in the zoology department of Banaras Hindu University in the early thirties as a teacher. We are also told that he was a latecomer to the RSS, as he was more keen to undertake a spiritual journey via the Ramakrishna Mission. Despite his late entry to the organisation, he earned the confidence of the founder-member Hedgewar in a very short time supposedly because of his brilliance and sharpness of logic. It was logical that when the supremo breathed his last, he left a note asking his followers to make him the next Supremo.(1940) Golwalkar carried on with this responsibilities for a span of 33 years till his death, a period which saw lot of turmoil within the organisation and also witnessed a consolidation and expansion of the same via a network of organisations.

Insiders to the organisation as well as many external wathchers agree to the fact that he could be considered the key figure who provided a theoretical background to the project of Hindutva and laid down the seeds of the vast organisational network. As of now the plethora of anushangik ( affiliated) organisations which owe allegiance to the ideology of Hindutva would run in hundreds, each catering to a section of society. Scholars as well as activists, who may posit themselves diametrically opposite vis-a-vis the weltanshauung of this Hindu Supremacist organisation , also need to study in detail the way an organisation which was on the margins of Indian society for a long time could reach the centrestage of Indian politics. One still remembers how RSS people were made a butt of jokes in popular culture in Maharashtra especially –Marathi dramas in late sixties-early seventies – mainly because of their remaining limited to Brahmins or their insistence on mechanical style discipline. It is true that this era in RSS history it is long passe.

Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar spanned a period in world history, which could be said to be unique in many ways. It was a period when Nazism-Fascism was ready to swamp the whole of Western Europe, a period when national liberation struggles in many of the third world countries were near culmination and the great experiments of Socialist construction undertaken in Soviet Russia coupled with the rising tide of communist led militant movements were proving to be a defining characteristics of the era.

Retrospectively one can say that it was such a juncture in world history when the old world of feudalism, colonialism, was crumbling down and a new world was emerging. And it would not be incorrect to state that due to his peculiar weltanschauung which yearned for building a Hindu Rashtra based on the ‘glorious traditions of Hinduism’ and which looked towards Muslims as bigger adversary vis-a-vis British colonialism and which sought inspiration from the experiments in ‘social engineering’ undertaken by Nazism-Fascism, he completely failed to have a pulse on the march of history. In fact due to his intransigence he not only kept himself personally aloof from the surging anti-colonial struggle but also did not chalk out any positive programme for his organisation to participate in it.

As already mentioned the first of his theoretical contributions for the cause of Hindutva appeared in the form of a pamphlette called ‘We or Our Nationhood Defined’ (1938). It was so straightforward in its appreciation of the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Jews undertaken by Hitler and such an unashamed proponent of the submergence of ‘foreign races’ in the Hindu race that later day RSS leaders have tried to create an impression that the said book was not written by Golwalkar but it was merely a translation of a book ‘Rashtra Meemansa’ by Babarao Savarkar.
It is a different matter that in his Preface to We or Our Nationhood Defined dated March 22, 1939, Golwalkar himself described Rashtra Meemansa as ‘one of my chief sources of inspiration and help. The American scholar Jean A. Curran who did a full length study on RSS in early fifties, in his sympathetic book, Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics: A Study of the RSS (1951) confirms that Golwalkar’s 77-page book was written in 1938 when he was appointed RSS General Secretary by Hedgewar and he calls it as RSS’s ‘Bible’.A. G. Noorani in his famous book ‘ The RSS and the BJP: A Division of Labour, {Pgs. 18-39} Leftword Books) also tells us that :Rajendra Singh and Bhaurao Deoras made an authoritative statement on that book in Para 10 of their 1978 application: ‘With a view to give a scientific base to propagate the idea India being (sic) historically from time immemorial a Hindu Nation, late Shri M.S. Golwalkar had written a book entitled, “We or Our Nationhood Defined”,’ In Para 7 they ‘placed on record’ his book Bunch of Thoughts (1966) in order ‘to clarify and understand the true purpose, the exact nature, the ambit and scope of the RSS work… and its activities.’

A quote from the 77 paged book would be opportune at this moment.

“The foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must loose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizen’s rights. There is, at least, should be, no other course for them to adopt. We are an old nation; let us deal, as old nations ought to and do deal, with the foreign races, who have chosen to live in our country”.
( Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar’s, We or Our Nationhood Defined)

A third arena where Golwalkar proved much behind his times was his love for Manusmriti’s edicts. When leaders of newly independent India were struggling to have a constitution which was premised on the inviolability of individual rights with special provisions of positive discrimination for millions of Indians who had been denied any human rights quoting religious scriptures, it was Golwalkar again who espoused the same Manusmriti as independent India’s constitution.’Organiser’ ( November 30, 1949, p.3) the organ of RSS complained :

But in our constitution there is no mention of the unique constitutional developments in ancient Bharat. Manu’s laws were written long before Lycurgus of Sparta or Solon of Persia. To this day laws as enunciated in the Manusmriti excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity. But to our constitutional pundits that means nothing.

When attempts were made under the stewardship of Ambedkar and Nehru in late forties to give limited rights to Hindu women in property and inheritance through the passage of the Hindu Code Bill , Golwalkar and his associates had no qualms in launching a movement opposing this historic empowerment of hindu women which was to take place for the first time in history. Their contention was simple : This step is inimical to Hindu traditions and culture.

It was late ’60s when Maharashtra witnessed a massive mobilisation of people, cutting across party lines, which was precipitated by a controversial interview given by Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the then Supremo (Sarsanghchalak) of RSS, to a Marathi daily Navakal Golwalkar in this interview had extolled the virtues of Chaturvarnya (the division of the Hindus in four Varnas) and had also glorified Manusmriti, the ancient edicts of the Hindus.

IV

Delhi will host a Grand Programme to commemorate the birth anniversary of Golwalkar on the 18 th of February. In fact this massive programme is a culmination of the yearlong celebrations of the birth anniversary of the second Supremo, which started with a colorful programme held on 24 th February in Nagpur last year. We very well know that a team of 122 members, belonging to different spheres of social life, besides 53 prominent saints and spiritual leaders of the country as patrons, had been constituted for the birth-centenary year celebrations.

Vice President of India, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat would preside over the function and many other dignitaries would speak on the occasion. As we know it had been decided to have ‘social harmony’ (samajik samrasta) as central theme of the yearlong celebrations during which Hindu rallies were organised at the block level all over the country

For the followers of Golwalkar the birth anniversary of one of their Pratasmaraniya ( worth remembering in the morning) icons has also been an occasion to revisit that period during which the second supremo held sway. And surprisingly they are not finding themselves much comfortable with it for various reasons. It is evident in the way in which on the one hand they are lauding him for his ‘contributions’ but are also simultaneously engaged in surreptiously sanitising him and presenting him before the guillible public under a more acceptable, humane face.
Ofcourse not that they have second thoughts about the vision espoused by him, rather they have continued to show their adherence to it by organising the ‘successful experiment’ in Gujarat in 2002. The only problem they have is the presentation of the vision. Looking at his controversial pronouncements from time to time on various issues of social-political concern and his transcending the ‘calculated ambiguity’ on many a occasions which is a hallmark of the organisation which he built, it is not surprising that he has always come under barrage of attack from all those people/groups/organisations who differed with the weltanshaaung of the RSS or who oppose/d the project of Hindutva on various grounds.

The feverish and foolish attempts undertaken by the Swayamsevaks to show that Golwalkar was not the author but basically the translator of the controversial book , the way in which they are engaged in presenting concocted proofs to show that they did participate in the independence movement ( while their very own Golwalkar Guruji had the audacity to make a fun of the tremendous sacrifices made by the people in the anti colonial struggle)or the way they have dedicated the year long celebrations in his honour to the cause of ‘social harmony’ all goes to show their keenness to present the Second Supremo in a Sanitised form.

Their eagerness to present a more palatable Golwalkar was also evident when they went in for presenting a ‘filmy’ version of Golwalkar. Directed by ex-MP Nitish Bharadwaj (‘Mahabharat’ fame) the film tells us that it is a myth to say that RSS kept itself away from freedom struggle and in fact it had decided in its high level meeting to participate wholeheartedly in the struggle. (It is a different matter that till date one has not yet discovered a single freedom fighter who owed allegiance to RSS brand of Hindutva). If one goes by this bollywoodian version of Sangh trajectory, you would know that Congress government led by Nehru had made frantic calls to the Sangh bosses for Gandhi’s safety and a team of Swayamsevaks in fact happened to be brave enough to volunteer for his security.

V

Definitely no less troubling are Golwalkar’s ideas around ‘Hindu Experiments in Cross-breeding’ which extolled North Indian Brahmins at the cost of the rest of the Hindus themselves and in fact propagates an idea that India had a superior race or breed of Hindus and also an inferior race of Hindus, which needed to be improved through cross-breeding.

In his address to the School of Social Science of Gujarat University on December 17, 1960 ( Organiser, January 2, 1961, p.5) he formulated this racist thesis.

Today experiments in cross-breeding are made only on animals. But the courage to make such experiments on human beings is not shown even by the so-called modern scientist of today. If some human cross-breeding is seen today it is the result not of scientific experiments but of carnal lust. Now let us see the experiments our ancestors made in this sphere. In an effort to better the human species through cross-breeding the Namboodri Brahamanas of the North were settled in Kerala and a rule was laid down that the eldest son of a Namboodri family would marry only the daughter of Vaishya, Kshatriya or Shudra communities of Kerala. Another still more courageous rule was that trhe first off-spring of a married woman of any class must be fathered by a Namboodri Brahmin and then she could beget children by her husband. Today this experiment would be called adultery, but it was not so, as it as limited to the first child.

As rightly noted by Dr. Shamsul Islam, in his book ‘Golwalkar’s We Or Our Nationhood Defined A Critique’ ( 2006, Pharos Media, Delhi.pp. 30-31) ‘The above statement of Golwalkar is highly derogatory in many respects. Firstly, it proves that Golwalkar believed that India had a superior race or breed of Hindus and also an inferior race of Hindus’..’Secondly, a more worrying aspect was the belief that only the Brahmins of the North, specifically Namboodri Brahmanas, belonged to a superior race.”

Whatever may be the ideas of every justice loving person about the anti-human core of Golwalkar, his continued valorization in the Sangh circles reminds one of a Sanskrit proverb : Nirastapadapedeshe Erandopi Drumayate! (In a treeless country even castor counts for a big tree!)

– Contact : subhash.gatade@gmail.com

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