(Workers Vanguard (reprinting a leaflet by the French section of the ICL))
“In the presidential election last year, we called for people not to vote for Hollande. Among other things, we pointed to his vowing to wage an ‘implacable’ struggle against undocumented immigrants and to put the Roma in ‘encampments of our own choosing’ to stop them from moving around ‘over and over’ (Le Monde, 15 February 2012). His chief cop minister, Valls, was only following through on these campaign promises when on October 9 he sent the cops onto a school bus looking for Leonarda Dibrani and had her deported for good to Kosovo. She speaks neither Albanian nor Serbian—but she does speak French! Leonarda courageously denounced Hollande’s proposal to let her back into France... without her family.
“The lesson Valls draws from this incident is that the processing of asylum requests must be accelerated, for the explicit purpose of being able to deport people before they have the time to settle in the ‘country of the rights of man.’ Reactionaries and fascists of all sorts have seized the opportunity to urge revision of jus soli [the right of the soil], which under certain conditions grants citizenship to those who were born on French soil.
“Around the same time, the cops deported Khatchik Kachatryan to Armenia. He is the first Parisian high school student deported since 2006—when Sarkozy was in charge of the ministry of police. We demand the immediate return of Leonarda and all her family, as well as Khatchik, and we demand they be granted full legal status: Full citizenship rights for everyone who made it here! Down with the racist witchhunt against the Roma! [...]
“The outrageous treatment of Leonarda epitomizes the violent government campaign against the Roma, who are made scapegoats more than ever in this period of deep economic crisis in order to forestall workers struggle. In France, there are at most a few tens of thousands of Roma from the Balkans, and they are essentially excluded from the proletariat. But for the workers movement to accept attacks against the Roma would make it vulnerable to efforts to divide the working class itself along ethnic, racial and sexual lines, while reinforcing the arsenal of police repression directed against workers.
“Manuel Valls, forever in search of a new racist provocation, declared that the Roma were incapable of ‘integrating’ into a civilized society like France. During World War II, the Nazis characterized them as ‘subhuman,’ but here in France the laws invoked to lock up the Roma in camps under the Vichy government were in fact enacted by the Third Republic [1870-1940] before the Nazi occupation. Some Roma remained interned until 1946 under capitalist governments that included Gaullists, Christian Democrats, Social Democrats of the Second International and Stalinists from the French Communist Party (PCF) [see ‘France: Down With Racist Anti-Roma Campaign!’ WV No. 965, 24 September 2010].
“The Roma have been persecuted for centuries, driven from one country to another. In a precapitalist economy, the Gypsies occupied a marginal economic niche as artisans, peddlers and artists. With the development of capitalism, they were pushed to the margins of society, enduring abuses that culminated in the extermination of hundreds of thousands of Gypsies by the Nazis. The truth is that decaying capitalism is incapable of “integrating” the Roma and all the more so in periods of crisis. The French state, including its PCF mayors, chases them from one shantytown to another and then uses the pretext that they are not official residents to refuse to enroll the children in school. When, in spite of these difficulties, children like Leonarda manage to attend school, the state deports them. It refuses the Roma the right to work and then accuses them of living by their wits! Down with restrictions on the right to work imposed by the European Union on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens!
“Only socialist revolution will make possible the full integration of Roma into society with equal rights, as shown by the example of the October 1917 proletarian revolution in Russia that overthrew capitalist rule. The October Revolution destroyed the tsarist empire—that prison house of peoples—and laid the basis for freeing the oppressed nations and ethnic minorities, including the Roma, from the jackboot of Great Russian chauvinism.
“Romania, including under the grotesque Stalinist regime of Ceausescu, and Tito’s Yugoslavia (where Leonarda’s family came from) were bureaucratically deformed workers states. The capitalist ruling class had been driven from power and the resulting collectivized, nationalized economy guaranteed the Roma an improved standard of living and an unprecedented ethnic and national integration. Their level of education began to approach that of the rest of the population and they had not only jobs but also housing and health care. The Roma were recognized as a national minority with the right to be educated in their own language. They were settled and relatively integrated into the proletariat and into the military and state apparatus. When Yugoslavia existed, there were radio and TV programs in the Romany language in Kosovo.”
“For centuries across Europe, children were raised on folk tales with a disturbing message: Wander into the woods and you risk being snatched by Gypsies.
“Such a warning seems like an anachronism from medieval times. But the stereotype of the child-stealing Gypsy was reawakened in recent days when a Roma couple in Greece were jailed on accusations that they had abducted a blond, green-eyed girl called Maria — or ‘the blond angel’ in the Greek news media. This week, two blond, blue-eyed Roma children were taken from their parents in Ireland after suspicions that they had been abducted, too.
“The children in Ireland were quickly returned to their families after DNA testing confirmed that the Roma were their parents. In Greece, the police confirmed on Friday that Maria was the child of a Roma couple from Bulgaria. An investigation continues into whether Maria was sold, adopted or given to the couple as they have claimed.
“Whatever the outcome, the Roma say that it is they who now live in fear — of having their children snatched for no reason other than their cultural identity or skin color. The cases, they say, have helped fan a sometimes violent backlash against the roughly 11 million Roma scattered across Europe. In an era of budget cutbacks and high unemployment, politicians on both the left and the right have singled out the Roma as emblematic of the problems of illegal immigration and have questioned whether they can ever be integrated.[...]
“[A]nti-Roma sentiment appears to be spreading. Serbian news media reported this week that a group of skinheads in Novi Sad, Serbia, tried to abduct a Roma child in front of his house last weekend because his skin was fairer than that of his father, Stefan Nikolic.
“In Italy, the anti-immigrant Northern League responded to news of Maria’s supposed abduction this week by demanding inspections of all Roma communities to check for missing children. Gianluca Buonanno, a member of the Northern League in the Italian lower house of Parliament, said he had submitted a petition to the Interior Ministry demanding identification of camp occupants. [...]
“Even before the cases, rights groups say, violence and intimidation against the Roma were intensifying. Earlier this month, a woman threw acid at a 2-year-old Roma boy and his mother in Naples, according to the European Roma Rights Center. In Hungary, at least seven Roma were killed between 2008 and 2010, and Roma leaders have counted dozens of firebomb attacks in the past.
“In Greece, where the far-right Golden Dawn movement has been fanning anti-immigrant fervor, the head of the Greek Union of Roma, Yiannis Halilopoulos, said the sensational coverage in the Greek news media and the racial profiling that followed the removal of Maria had ‘taken us back 100 years.’ [...]
“In the Czech Republic, ultraright parties and their neo-Nazi supporters this year have organized about 30 anti-Roma marches, where some have chanted, ‘Gypsies to the gas chambers,’ rights groups said.
“In France, where the Roma issue has flared amid a debate over immigration, the far-right National Front has made the Roma a central issue ahead of municipal elections in March. Its leaders have warned that if Romanians and Bulgarians were allowed to travel in the European Union’s passport-free Schengen Area, the country could see a flood of Roma immigrants.
“This month,President François Hollande intervened after a 15-year-old Roma girl, whose family was living illegally in France for five years, was pulled off a bus by the authorities and expelled to Kosovo. After loud protests, Mr. Hollande agreed to allow the girl to return, but only if she left her family behind. [...]
“Roma advocates counter that if there is crime among some Roma, it is the byproduct of severe economic deprivation and social exclusion that allowed a minority of unscrupulous ringleaders to exploit poor people desperately eking out an existence on society’s fringes.”
“She is, we have been told repeatedly, the girl Greece is calling ‘the blonde angel’. She is certainly blonde – and she is a young child who deserves concern as all children do, particularly those facing poverty or discrimination. Whether or not she is angelic is a matter of stereotype rather than personality. She is angelic in the eyes of the media only in stark contrast to the circumstances in which she was found: in a Roma camp in Greece, with dark-skinned parents who, DNA tests have revealed, cannot be her birth parents. The pair appeared in court on Monday charged with child abduction, but are said by their lawyer to be distraught at the forcible removal of a child they were raising as their daughter.
“Whatever the truth of Maria's origins, one element of this case is not in doubt. Even before charges were brought, it was widely reported as a case of abduction. The pursuit of Gerry and Kate McCann and the mother of Ben Needham for reaction will have cemented that impression in the eyes of many; they have been ‘given hope’, apparently. Maria’s case may even, it seems, have prompted the seizure by police in Dublin today of another child from a Roma community after members of the public raised concerns that the child may not be biologically related to the couple she was living with.
“Informal adoption is commonplace, particularly in societies where children are raised collectively by extended family units, and families of eight or 10 are not unusual. Across the world, children in economically difficult circumstances are left with grandparents, aunts and uncles, or sometimes given away because the birth parents cannot provide for them. This is hardly a practice unique to Roma society, and it is a long way from deliberate abduction for the purposes of ‘child trafficking’, an assumption that the non-Roma world has been happy to make with impunity.
“This media reporting has to be seen within the context of a blood libel that has dogged Roma communities for centuries. The claim that Jewish people killed Christian children to have human blood for matzos at Passover was used to justify antisemitism throughout the middle ages; in the same way, the age-old myth that Romanies are in the habit of kidnapping white children entered popular folklore around the same time, and has persisted to the present day. [...]
“The racist reporting of the Greek case is all the more bitter to those familiar with Roma history. Renowned expert Prof Thomas Acton says, ‘I know of no documented case of Roma/Gypsies/Travellers stealing non-Gypsy children anywhere.’ Far from Romanies abducting white children, the truth has been the other way around. Hundreds of Yenish Roma boys and girls were forcibly taken by the authorities in Switzerland from 1926 to 1972. The children were placed in orphanages or homes for people with learning difficulties and their families denied all contact with them.”
“French Interior Minister Manuel Valls says he stands by remarks calling for the country’s Roma (Gypsies) to be expelled.
“He said few Roma could ever integrate into French society and ‘the majority’ should be sent ‘back to the borders’.
“But Mr Valls - a dapper 51-year-old who polls suggest is a rising star in Francois Hollande's Socialist administration - said he saw no reason to correct comments that Roma lifestyles were ‘clearly in confrontation’ with French ways of life. [...]
“‘The majority [of Roma] should be delivered back to the borders. We are not here to welcome these people.‘’ [...]
“Mr Valls has encouraged local councils to systematically dismantle illegal Roma slums, and offer the expelled residents free flights back to their countries of origin. [...]
“Mr Valls is himself the Barcelona-born son of Spanish immigrants, Mr Montebourg pointed out on Wednesday.”
“In the three weeks from mid-January till the first week of February, several villages in the Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh experienced the terror of the armed forces of the Indian state. The CRPF, Chhattisgarh state police, erstwhile SPO’s of the Salwa Judum along with various coercive arms of the state orchestrated a systematic targeting of villages, burnt down hundreds of homes, ostensibly in random, further, burnt down the schools built by the people, picked up villagers, young and old, and physically tortured them while their homes burned to the ground. The affected villages are Pidia, Tomnaka, Singham, Lingham, Komati, Tomudum, and Kondapadu, and in each of these between eight and thirty homes were burnt down by the armed forces. In the village of Dodi-Tumnar, a school with hostel facility for about a hundred children, both girls and boys, run by the Janatana Sarkar was looted and then burnt down by the invading forces in the last week of January. Two battalions of about 1000 CRPF personnel each, besides Koya commandos and SPO’s arrived at the village school at 9 am on that day. They systematically proceeded to destroy the school after firing into the air twice. Even as the students and the schoolmaster fled into the forest, the armed forces caught an old man on his way to the field and chopped off his hand with his own sickle. Following this, the forces looted the storeroom and the kitchen of the school, poisoned the water well, and destroyed the roof, walls, and furniture of the school before finally burning it to the ground. They then marched to the nearby village of Pidia. This village, that houses approximately 265 homes, witnessed first-hand the ruthlessness with which the armed force burn down the homes and livelihood of those who stand up for their right to life and liberty. Close to thirty homes were burnt down in one part of this village alone. The charred remains of the homes, cattle sheds, storerooms, utensils can be seen littered with empty bottles of beer and other brands of alcohol. It is clear that this planned attack is part of the routine of military life that participates in wanton destruction and celebrates the impunity they enjoy. [...]
“In the name of developing the country the Indian state officially launched a massive operation of plunder of natural resources in 2009 by displacing thousands of communities living in the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Bihar, West Bengal and Karnataka. This ‘operation’, ironically called Operation Green Hunt by the corporate run media, undertaken by the current Central Government, expropriates the wealth of the country that rightfully belongs to the people for the benefit of imperialist forces. This wealth, in the form of resources of land, water and forests, is sold to exploitative multinational companies and comprador bourgeoisie. In turn, the resistance of the people has been termed an ‘internal security threat’ by the current Prime Minister who expresses his loyalty to the model of ‘development’ that feeds these corporate sharks.”
“The notorious blasphemy law in Pakistan has hit again at the ‘Christian’ minority when a Christian man was charged with blasphemy by a Muslim mob which tried to find him went to Badami Bagh colony of Christians and burnt over 125 houses when they could not find the man. [...]
“According to news reports that a mob of over 3000 people by Shafiq Ahmed, looked for the accused Savan, alias Bubby but due to their inability to find him the mob attacked his house, and also burnt the houses of 150 Christian families. Many residents, including women and children, hastily fled to save themselves. The police registered an FIR under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (death sentence) against Savan and ensuring that he would be given into their custody to decide his fate. They also took Chaman Masih into custody.
“World-over there is a growing concern over the misuse of anti-blasphemy law which has put minorities under deep stress and forced them to convert to Islam. Muslim fanatics have used it to grab land of the poor particularly of the Dalits in Pakistan. [...]
“It has to be understood that in Pakistan a majority of Christians are actually Dalits in general and predominantly the communities of Sweepers which is contemptuously called as ‘Bhangi’. And the Masihs who were attacked were basically sweepers who face untouchability and caste discrimination. They do not get jobs other than sweeping and people do not come near to them. They are completely outcastes and are considered as ‘charsis’ and ‘Bhangedis’ which gives the impression that all the people from the sweeper community are drunkard and chain smokers.”
“The local police allowed violence to escalate in Dhule during a communal clash on January 6 and then systematically targeted the Muslim community, killing six people, claimed a report by a team of activists. On Sunday, a team comprising — social activist Shabnam Hashmi from ANHAD, New Delhi, Ram Puniyani of All India secular Forum, professor Apoorva Anand of Delhi University, advocate Nihalsing Rathod of Human Rights Law Network, and several others — visited the town to investigate the violence, the third in the region since 2008.
“‘Based on our interaction with victims, leaders, locals and officials, there is no doubt about the police’s connivance in the violence,” alleged Hashmi. “All six who died were Muslims, and the police shot people above the waist, with a clear intention to kill rather than disperse the mob.’ [...]
“As per testimonies collected by the team, the incident was triggered after a Muslim auto driver was beaten by the owner of an eatery in Macchi Bazar. ‘When the driver went to the police station to file a complaint, the officials were hostile and did not register his complaint, following which a mob gathered and people started pelting stones,’ said Hashmi. ‘It was not a Hindu-Muslim issue, but the police only let the violence escalate,’ she said.”
“There were differing versions of the cause of violence on 6 January. We were told that it was largely a result of the insensitive handing of a minor quarrel by the police. It was clear from the statements of both Hindus and Muslims that tension could have been diffused easily had police taken proper steps to diffuse the tension, which was building up. It did not intervene and told the people to settle the dispute by themselves. The police allowed crowds to assemble from both sides. One can see from the recordings that mobs which assembled started confronting each other with stones. We were also told that the first incidence took place at around 2 to 2.15 pm and mobs from both sides started assembling soon after that. It is clear that both Hindus and Muslims had indulged in stone throwing. What is perplexing is that the police decided to move into the Muslims areas with Hindu mob behind them. Police started firing indiscriminately at Muslims. [...]
“Forty-two people suffered bullet injuries, six died. Legs of two of the injured had to be amputated. None of the injured went to the civil hospital. We were told that the Muslims avoid going to civil hospital due to their experience of experience of the 2008 riots. In 2008 Muslims were attacked by Hindus when they tried to go to the civil hospital as it falls in a Hindu-dominated locality. Due to the experience of 2008 this time, all the injured were taken to private hospitals.
“It was reported that none of the injured was taken to the hospital by the police. We were also told by the relatives of those killed that they were not allowed to lodge FIRs. They were told that the deceased had already been made accused and were treated as rioters. The injured have not been able to muster courage to file FIRs, nor have the owners of the damaged property been able to do so.
“More than 35 Muslim houses were looted, burnt and destroyed. Destruction of these houses was complete. All of it seems to have been done with clinical precision. We also found four Hindu households burnt, one of them burnt totally. While Muslims are ready to name the attackers, Hindus told us that they did not want to name anybody although they know the attackers.
“The looting, burning and destruction of Muslim houses was done by mobs under the protection of the police. In one of the recordings, a senior police officer is seen exhorting the mobs to move forward and attack. The police is also seen standing silently while houses are being burnt. What the police did was to drive away the Muslims by firing, leaving their houses unprotected and vulnerable.”
“The police firing on dalits at Than town in Surendranagar district was the latest in a series of police atrocities committed on Scheduled Caste people in Gujarat. Most acts of police brutality towards dalits go unreported but even the five cases — including the Than incident — that were officially recorded in the last three months paint a sad picture of caste prejudice in the state.
“FIRs and murder cases have been registered against policemen in two of the five cases mentioned [below], but this is unlikely to end the plight of dalits who, particularly in rural areas, live in constant fear of police violence. [...]
“Three dalits, including two underage boys, were killed in police firing at Than town in Surendranagar district. A murder and conspiracy case was registered against four police officials only after dalits took to the streets at several places to protest against the incident.
“Police lathicharged a dalit rally against the murder of Gunwant Makwana, an SC leader. In the lathicharge, policemen beat up a young girl so savagely that she suffered spinal injuries. The girl is still in hospital. Gujarat HC had suo motu issued notices to police in the case.
“Arvind Makwana, a Dalit youth, was paraded in his knickers in Ved village when he agitated against a retired police inspector belonging to an upper caste. Lunawada court has taken cognizance of the incident in favor of the Scheduled Caste people.
“Arvind Chauhan, 27, a dalit youth, died in police custody at Pathawada police station in Banaskantha district. His body was kept in police custody for three days. Following an agitation, a murder case was registered against 4 cops, including PSI of Pathawada police station.
“Kelia Vasna, Dholka
“Dashrath Solanki, a dalit, committed suicide in front of the Dholka police station as the cops had refused to register a complaint against his business partner, Bhikhabhai Patel. Solanki’s relatives claim suicide note of the deceased was given to cops but is now missing.”
“It was a welcome change from the usual dreary story: a Christian or a Hindu Pakistani accused of blasphemy on flimsy grounds, tried, and sentenced to prison—or found innocent, set free and then murdered by some Muslim fanatic. This time was different.
“The victim this time was a 14-year-old Christian girl, Rimsa Masih, who is believed to suffer from Down’s syndrome. She was stopped by a young Muslim man who found the half-burned remnants of a book that allegedly included verses from the Qur'an in her carrier bag. He told the local imam, who called the police, and she was arrested.
“This kind of story usually ends badly in Pakistan. Two years ago, for example, a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was arrested for insulting the Prophet Muhammad while arguing with fellow farm workers. She was sentenced to death by hanging, but it was such a manifest injustice that the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, publicly called for the repeal of the blasphemy law. He was assassinated by his own bodyguard in January 2011.
“The bodyguard was tried for murder and convicted, but he was treated as a hero by many Pakistanis, and the judge who sent him to prison had to flee the country. Two months later the only Christian member of Pakistan’s cabinet, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also shot dead when he spoke out against the blasphemy laws. Since then, almost nobody has dared to criticize them.
“Asia Bibi remains in prison awaiting execution. Her entire family, including her five children, live in hiding and cannot work or go to school. And while the higher courts would once have thrown out her conviction—they have overturned hundreds of sentences for blasphemy imposed by lower courts that were too vulnerable to local pressures—she can no longer even be confident of that.
“So the outlook seemed grim for Rimsa Masih when she was arrested last month—but then the imam who had called the police, Hafiz Mohammad Khalid Chisti, was arrested for doctoring the evidence. His own deputy had seen him adding pages from the Qur'an to the young Christian’s bag.
“‘I asked him what he was doing,’ the deputy told a television station, ‘and he said this is the evidence against them (the local Christians) and this is how we can get them out from this area.’ [...]
“Ashrafi added that Chisti was acting on behalf of a group who wanted to drive out the Christian minority in the area: ‘I have known for the last three months that some people in this area wanted the Christian community to leave so they could build a madrassah (on their land).’ They have already succeeded: some 300 Christian families have fled in fear for their lives, and they probably won’t be back. But at least the state is starting to defy the fanatics.
“Bail is not normally granted in blasphemy cases, but on September 8 Rimsa Masih was freed on bail, and a military helicopter lifted her out of the prison yard and into hiding. And Paul Bhatti, the Minister for National Harmony, whose brother and predecessor Shahbaz was murdered last year, broke a political taboo by explaining why ordinary Pakistanis are more hostile to the religious minorities in their midst than most Muslims elsewhere.
“‘It is not just a religious problem,’ Bhatti said. ‘It’s a caste factor, because (the victims) belong to the poorest and most marginalized people. Unfortunately they are Christians, and this caste system creates lots of problems.’
“Islam teaches the equality of all believers, but the caste system is alive and kicking in Pakistan. Go far enough back, and almost all Pakistani Muslims are descended from Hindus—and when those Hindu communities converted to Islam, they retained their ideas and prejudices about caste.
“This was particularly disheartening for groups at the bottom of the caste pecking order who had hoped that Islam would free them. When the British empire arrived in the area, therefore, it was the poorest and most despised section of the population who converted to Christianity.
“So everybody knows that most Christians are really ‘untouchables.’ The argument that got Asia Bibi in trouble, for example, broke out when some of her Muslim fellow workers refused to drink the water she had fetched because Christians were ‘unclean.’
“The Hindu minority is mostly just as low-caste as the Christians, and equally vulnerable. Together they are only six million out of 187 million Pakistanis, but they account for the vast majority of blasphemy accusations. In many cases, these accusations are merely a convenient weapon for Muslims engaged in land disputes and other quarrels with members of the minority groups.”
“Bangladesh’s manufacturing formula depends on its having the lowest labor costs in the world, with the minimum wage for garment workers set at roughly $37 a month. During the past two years, as workers have seen their meager earnings eroded by double-digit inflation, protests and violent clashes with the police have become increasingly common.
“In response, Bangladeshi leaders have deployed the security tools of the state to keep factories humming. A high-level government committee monitors the garment sector and includes ranking officers from the military, the police and intelligence agencies. A new special police force patrols many industrial areas. Domestic intelligence agencies keep an eye on some labor organizers. One organizer who had been closely watched, Aminul Islam, was found tortured and killed in April in a case that is unsolved. [...]
“Bangladesh’s Home Ministry, in a written response to questions, said the government does not favor factory owners over workers but acts as a ‘referee/umpire’ while maintaining an ‘investment friendly’ environment for foreign and domestic investors.
Yet Ms. Hasina’s government has resisted expanding labor rights in a country where the owners of about 5,000 garment factories wield enormous influence. Factory owners are major political donors and have moved into news media, buying newspapers and television stations. In Parliament, roughly two-thirds of the members belong to the country’s three biggest business associations. At least 30 factory owners or their family members hold seats in Parliament, about 10 percent of the total. [...]
“At the Rosita factory, workers elected a 15-member association last December[...]. In January, a female employee complained that a Bangladeshi middle manager was pressuring her to have sex with one of the Chinese bosses. Enraged, workers demanded that the management address her complaint as well as the discrepancies over annual raises and earned leave. Six weeks of confrontation and chaos followed. In February, equipment in the Rosita factory was damaged during a rampage. Nearly 300 workers were accused of vandalism and fired, with their names posted on a blacklist at the gate of the Ishwardi zone. [...]
“[O]n March 20, workers discovered that managers had cut the piece rate, a type of production bonus, meaning a loss of wages. Another standoff ensued as managers closed the factories. But when workers returned March 25, the wage cut had not been fully restored.
“Hundreds of workers gathered outside the front door of the factory in an impromptu sit-down strike. Eight workers, interviewed in June, said all the managers had left the factories. A small contingent of police officers soon arrived and ordered everyone back to work. A seamstress said a police officer knocked her to the ground, beating her unconscious with a stick and shredding her clothes. ‘I kept asking them to stop,’ said the seamstress, who asked not to be identified, fearing reprisals. ‘But even after I fell to the ground, they kept beating me and pulled my hair.’
“Workers began throwing stones and chanting slogans against the police, who fled. Hours later, after officials in Dhaka were notified, officers from the Rapid Action Battalion as well as surrounding police stations arrived. Officer Hossein, the police supervisor, denied that the police were aggressors, saying officers were told that foreign managers were trapped inside the factories and that angry workers were vandalizing equipment. [...]
“Cellphone videos show police officers firing rubber bullets and pummeling workers with cane poles. ‘They treated workers as if they were not human beings,’ one worker said. [...]
“Many of the workers involved in the March 25 clash are back on the job, despite their anger over how they have been treated. The seamstress who was knocked unconscious, her clothes shredded, said she had little choice, since she was the family’s sole breadwinner. ‘I am helpless,’ she said. ‘We have to get food.’”
“A Dalit youth, who had married an upper-caste girl against the wishes of her family, was stabbed, and his wife abducted by his in-laws in Motihari town in Bihar's east Champaran district nearly 10 days ago, is seeking justice from the hospital bed as he has been put under police detention.
“‘I was put in police detention and handcuffed in the hospital where I am under treatment after being stabbed 20 times by my in-laws, who also abducted my wife, in an old case filed by my father in law, which is baseless. It appears to me that police is more keen to torture me instead to recover my wife and arrest the named accused in my complaint,’ Krishna Prasad Ram, the 24-year-old victim said.
“Ram told rediff.com over telephone from his hospital bed that the police is behaving as if he is the real criminal, but the fact is that at the time of his court marriage a year ago, he and his wife Khushboo Singh were adults, and India's constitution allows an adult to marry or choose his life partner.
“‘Nine police personnel have been deputed for my security and surveillance round the clock, despite the fact that they handcuffed me during treatment at the Sadar Hospital,’ he said.
“Ram was 23 and Khushboo was 21 when they got married. ‘Even if we were forced to to elope after her family opposed, it was not a crime as both of us were adults and consenting adults,’ Ram said.”
“It is quite evident that after the phase of ‘Salwa Judum’ and the phase of ‘Operation Green Hunt’, anti-Naxal operations have entered a new phase variously called ‘Operation Haka’ [meaning driving out the wild animals in tribal Gondi language] and ‘Operation Vijay’.
“While certain media reports present very different pictures of this Operation [see appendixes], both the spokespersons of the Security Forces and Maoists claim that this Operation took place in the Abujhmaad/Maad area fairly deep in the forests; a large number of joint paramilitary forces about 3000 in number participated.
“While the police reports speak of Naxalite camps destroyed, Maoists encountered and arrested, the Maoist spokesperson claims that houses were burnt down, adivaasi villagers were beaten, including beaten to death, and those arrested have not been produced before courts.”
“Security forces today claimed to have captured vast areas from the Maoists' control in Chhattisgarh by launching their first and biggest ever anti-naxal operation in the rebel bastion of Abujhmad forests. [...]
“This was for the first time in the four-decade-old Naxal movement, the security forces entered the Naxal-controlled areas of Lalchawad, Pagdu, Bhatpal, Kohukameta, Chotedongar, Irukbhat, Toke, Donderaj, Mardapal, Jatawada and Kurusnar in the deep jungles of Abujhmad, which is considered as the safe heaven of the rebel outfit, the sources said.”
“The North-Bastar Divisional Committee (NBDC) in a statement issued to different media organisations here alleged that security forces had unleashed reign of terror against tribals in Abujhmad, said to be the Maoist capital, under the pretext of the anti-Naxal operations in March 13-18, assaulting scores of innocent tribals, leading to death of one of them, torching their houses and looting their foodgrains. [...]
“‘Security forces have launched anti-Maoist operations in Abujhmad to pave way for the Army to set up training centres in the area,’ the statement charged. The anti-Maoist operations, conducted under the code name, “Operation Haka” (meaning driving out the wild animals in tribal Gondi language), were launched simultaneously in more than one dozen villages of Narayanpur and Bijapur districts of Chhattisgarh and Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, in which around 3000 jawans of CRPF, CoBRA battalion and the police forces of the two states participated.”
“The Jaipur Literary Festival, a giddily chaotic celebration of the written word set on the grounds of a Rajasthan palace, ended in misery and embarrassment today, with the organizers bowing to pressure from local security forces and scotching plans for Salman Rushdie to ‘appear’ at the festival, finally, by video link. Rushdie had already been forced to cancel plans to come to Jaipur after he had received intelligence reports—bogus intelligence, as it turned out—that everyone from ‘paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld’ to radical Muslim clerics were sitting in malevolent wait.
“Rushdie’s video image was not allowed at the Festival, but he was on television tonight in India, being interviewed on NDTV, and he spoke out angrily about the “unscrupulous” Muslim groups that threatened him, and an Indian government that failed to act. Speaking from London, Rushdie called the whole affair ‘fantastically fishy’ and blamed the ruling Congress Party and other officials for bowing to electoral priorities and ignoring the priorities of freedom of expression.
“Rushdie pointed out that his work is freely distributed in many Muslim countries, including Egypt, Turkey, and, now, Libya. [...]
“[I]n October, 1988, India, the world’s largest democracy, ordered The Satanic Verses banned. It’s worth remembering that it did so four months before the Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa calling for the execution of Salman Rushdie. The Iranian fatwa was lifted (though no one should have any illusions about the lingering danger) after a decade of wretched hiding, slanders, and violence directed against his translators; the ban on The Satanic Verses in India remains in place.
“The same fear of clerical protest animates the current Indian government, which is far more interested in retaining power than in freedom of expression, much less making life pleasant for Salman Rushdie and his readers. The Congress Party is trying to win Muslim votes in elections in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh next month, and so ‘even minor fulminations’ by regional imams ‘make the local leaders squirm,’ according to an article this week in the liberal magazine Outlook. The Rushdie affair in Jaipur is a pawn in this larger political game. Railing against a banned book that few here have managed to obtain and read is an easy way to stir up populist fervor. Various preachers and extremist politicians latched onto the Jaipur festival as an issue and directed full-throated attacks at Rushdie; old stuff, but it was enough. [...]
“Censorship has been a constant theme since the banning of the The Satanic Verses nearly a quarter century ago. The government, spurred by Hindu and Muslim groups and clerics, rushes in to preserve ‘order’ by decreeing, or tolerating, the suppression of free expression. M. F. Husain, a Muslim painter known as ‘the Picasso of India,’ who died last year in exile, faced a constant onslaught of death threats and lawsuits in India because he dared to paint Hindu goddesses in the nude and in suggestive poses. The Bangladeshi-born novelist and feminist Taslima Nasreen has been attacked and threatened repeatedly by Islamists for her book Lajja, or Shame, about a Hindu family threatened by Muslims. (Nasreen has had to live in Sweden and the United States for years at a time.) Only months ago, Joseph Lelyveld, the former Times executive editor, watched from afar as his new book on Gandhi, Great Soul, was banned in the state of Gujarat as ‘perverse in nature.’ The local authorities got the idea from tabloid reports in England that Lelyveld claimed that Gandhi was gay or bisexual; he makes no such claim. The book remains banned.”
“The principal of a technical school in the district of Pirojpur (southern Bangladesh) was arrested for possession of a copy of Lajja (Shame), the famous novel by writer Taslima Nasrin. The book has been banned in Bangladesh since 1993 because it is considered blasphemous against Islam the state religion. The teacher, Yunus Ali, faces up to three years in prison.
“The police took him out of the KC Technical and Business Management College after finding a copy of the book in the school library. Ali defended himself against accusations claiming to be the victim of a conspiracy. The inspector Abdul Malek said: ‘Lajja is a banned book. Nevertheless, the principal kept it in the library. He must answer for this crime.’
“In Lajja, Taslima Nasrin, 49, tells the life of a Hindu family persecuted by Muslims. The author had to flee the country in 1994 after receiving death threats from Islamic fundamentalists. Since then, she has lived between India and Europe, without being able to return to Bangladesh. Her family is Muslim, but today she proclaims herself to be atheist.
“Contacted by AsiaNews, Nasrin said: ‘The arrest of this teacher is a sign that Bangladesh is not in reality a democracy but a totalitarian regime. Since 1990, Islamic fundamentalists have silenced my freedom of expression and tried to kill me, forced me to flee my country and leave my family.’
“Now, she concluded, ‘someone is in danger because of my book, and risks his freedom. But Lajjais not a novel of blasphemy: it is just the defense of a persecuted religious [Hindu] minority, one that is constantly harassed by the Muslim majority. I wish the best for this man and for those who are every day deprived of their freedom of expression.’”
“The operation began in the early hours of March 11 when about 350 heavily armed troopers marched into the forests of Dantewada. They returned to their barracks five days later, with three villages aflame, about 300 homes and granaries incinerated, three villagers and three security personnel dead, and three women sexually assaulted, the victims and several eyewitnesses told The Hindu.
“Last week, the Chhattisgarh police said three Koya commandos were killed in a Maoist ambush during a routine search, yet journalists attempting to reach the site were turned away by gun-toting special police officers. On visiting the area through a forest route, this correspondent was confronted by the aftermath of what appeared to be an attack by security forces on three tribal settlements in a 15-km radius of the police camp at Chintalnar, which has left hundreds homeless and brutalised. [...]
“Villagers say the force left by noon, having torched 37 houses. They also picked up Madavi Ganga, 45, his son Bima and his daughter Hurre, 20. ‘They took us to the Chintalnar police station and put me in a separate cell and stripped me,’ said Hurre.
“Hurre said she was kept all night in the station and sexually assaulted. Ganga and Bima said the police repeatedly asked them whether Maoists visited their village, and beat them through the night. The Madavi family was released when the women of Morpalli demanded their release at the Chintalnar station.
“Police sources say they found neither arms factories nor Maoists at Morpalli that day, though they did find a 15-foot memorial commemorating the death of eight Maoists in the April 2010 encounter, in which 76 CRPF troopers were killed near Tarmetla village.”
“I saw the effect of these operations for myself when I travelled to the area recently. Trauma and fear pervades everyday life for these tribal communities. Whenever an outsider appears on the outskirts of a village, everyone prepares to flee. Only when they recognised our guide did they calm down. [...]
“An ongoing case in the Supreme Court has collected testimonies implicating the state’s security forces in the deaths of 537 people, including 33 children, as well as 99 rapes and the destruction of at least 2,825 houses. These testimonies relate only to the period between 2005 and 2007, when the violence was at its peak. The difficulty of reporting in this remote region means the figures cannot be exactly accurate – and the real numbers could be far higher. A large number of attacks have occurred since then as well and, it would appear, are continuing.
“In its early phase, the violence was fuelled by the formation of an anti-Maoist movement called the Salwa Judum, set up in 2005 by local elites keen to regain control of the region and its resources. The Judum quickly gained the backing and support of the police and the government, but by arming local tribals and seeking to divide communities, it triggered a spiral of brutal violence.
“The Judum held processions through the forests, forcibly relocating people to camps under police control. Evidence in the Supreme Court case states that 47,238 people were moved to the camps. The numbers have been steadily reduced to around 25,000 according to the Chhattisgarh government, spread across 23 camps. The majority of those remaining had joined the Salwa Judum and now fear reprisals from the Maoists and their fellow villagers if they return to their homes.”
“Newspaper images from the villages showed men and women staring at the charred ashes of their homes, food grains, belongings and lives. ‘What will we eat this year? All our grain is lost,’ former sarpanch Nupo Muta was quoted in Patrika, a Hindi daily. The paper reported 300 homes had been torched, five men killed and three women sexually assaulted.
“Between 2005-2007, villages here witnessed intense and savage clashes between Salwa Judum and the Maoists.
“Salwa Judum is translated as 'peace march' by some and as 'purification hunt' by others. This dichotomy of definition extends to accounts of how it began and what followed.
“Judum supporters claim it was a spontaneous upsurge by adivasis – fed up of Maoist diktats, they declared rebellion, moving out of their villages, to escape the wrath of rebels.
“But critics allege it was a government backed militia that launched brutal attacks on villages, forcing thousands to abandon their homes, in a ‘scorched earth' strategy, aimed at exposing rebel hideouts and cutting their supplies.
“Whatever be the truth, either way, the clashes of those years left the area brutally ruptured.
“Thousands moved to refugee camps along NH 221. Others stayed back – but found themselves abandoned by the government, as schools, health centres, anganwadis, every wing of the civil administration folded up in the villages.
“Last October, the state government informed the Supreme Court that Salwa Judum no longer exists. But this week, the rampage came as a reminder of its enduring legacy.”
“I write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning's papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.”
“Last week, the French government began the roundup of more than 700 Romany immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania, and ordered special flights chartered to send them back to their home countries. The deportations will begin on Thursday. Over the past month, the French government began dismantling Romany camps; at present, more than 50 camps all over France have been destroyed by the state.
“At the same time, France has announced two other policies directed at Roma, Travellers and other immigrants: the criminalisation of entire families rather than just individuals and the stripping of citizenship from immigrants with criminal convictions.
“These measures are part of a wider law-and-order push by President Nicolas Sarkozy following a weekend of rioting in two cities in July. In a poor suburb of Grenoble, southeast France, young people torched cars and fired on police following an incident in which a suspect in a casino robbery was shot dead. In Saint-Aignan, in central France, police shot dead a 22-year-old Romany man for failing to stop at a roadblock. Roma armed with hatchets and iron bars felled trees and traffic lights, torched cars and attacked a bakery and a police station.
“This is the first time France has seen protests by Roma youth taking the form of violent disturbances; the current rioting was similar in substance, though smaller in scale, to the immigrant-led 2005 riots that broke out across France’s suburbs. Rather than sympathy for the families who lost their sons, or an apology for the police killings, the protests and riots were met with immediate state violence, expulsion and criminalisation.
“The Sarkozy government's attacks on Roma are nothing more than cynical politics, state-sponsored racism and xenophobia aimed primarily at Roma citizens and, by extension, all immigrants. They have arisen as window-dressing on the unfolding corruption scandal surrounding Sarkozy.
“This happened despite the fact that the young Romany killed was French and those expelled were citizens of EU member states, who have a right to enter France without passports, staying if they find employment within three months. One wonders how closely paperwork was checked with regard to residency and employment as the camps were being dismantled and EU citizens expelled on chartered flights.
“France is not alone in its attack against its own Romany citizens and those of other EU member states. Leaders all over Europe have found it expedient to attack Roma as recessions have hit, political scandals have loomed or other kinds of threats to state power have emerged. Indeed, Sarkozy seems to have been taking lessons from his conservative counterpart in Italy, Silvio Berlusconi whose government has increasingly focused on Roma as targets of state violence and everyday xenophobia. Similar things are happening in places ranging from Slovakia to Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey.”
AOL News spoke to Yaron Matras, an expert on the Roma and a linguistics professor at the University of Manchester in England, where he coordinates the Romani Project.
Where are the Roma from?
From what we’ve been able to find out, the Roma probably came from central India and moved to northern India around the fifth century. The Romani language is one of the Indo-Aryan languages, like Hindi or ancient Sanskrit. We think the Roma people moved westward around the 10th century and into what is now Turkey. From the late 14th century on, they moved into Europe.
Why is everyone so vague about the origins of the Roma and why they left India?
First of all, there are absolutely no historical records. Nobody really knows. People have come up with all sorts of theories and wild speculation. There's no evidence of a catastrophic event causing them to leave. They were part of an economically specialized caste; some of them, for example, were metal workers and continued that trade for centuries.
Do you mean they were part of a lower caste in India?
Well, there’s a generation of [Roma] activists that don’t want to talk about that now, as if that’s an insult to their ancestors. There’s a fashion among activists to say the Roma were upper-caste, proud warriors who were taken as slaves and forced to come to Europe. There’s no evidence to support that. There’s no written attestation.
Many people think the word “Roma” means Romanian, especially as the French are expelling many Roma back to Romania.
“Rom” comes from the caste name “Dom” in the Indian languages. The country of Romania has nothing to do with the Roma or the word “Romani,” which is an adjective for them. It’s a complete coincidence. There is a large population of Roma who live in Romania, but they are all over the Balkans, in Bulgaria and Slovakia and Turkey as well.
Roma are said to have been persecuted for centuries; they also have a reputation for being petty criminals and con artists. Did one lead to the other?
The Roma have a long history of persecution, of living in poverty, being marginalized, and have a high rate of illiteracy. There’s been a lot of social prejudice and isolation. It’s a vicious cycle than can lead to self-despair and a boycotting of mainstream culture. But you’re seeing the Roma who are out there begging; you aren't seeing the ones working in offices and other good jobs. There are thousands of those too.
How does the persecution of the Roma compare to that of the Jews?
To an extent, they’ve been persecuted more than the Jews. Jews had more urban integration. The Roma never had a cohesive body. They’ve never had a territory or a tradition of literacy, which is what the Jews had. Often they were allowed to work in Europe only in certain trades and on the condition they not mix with the local population. The Roma in Romania and Bulgaria were the first to lose their jobs after the fall of communism.
“Police protection hardly helps, say activists. Standard operating procedure in the case of a runaway man and woman ends up with the woman’s family filing a case of kidnapping and/or rape against the man or his family. The woman shows up as ‘missing’ in Haryana police’s records. From November 2009 to May 2010, of the 686 people filed as ‘missing’ on Haryana police’s website, a largish 30% are females aged between 15 and 28 years.
“Police hunt the couple down. If the girl is under 18, she is forcibly returned to her family. If her age is suspect, and she refuses her family, she is packed off to a nari niketan and the guy is jailed. This usually takes place in the month between a couple’s registering their wish to marry and the registration, which has mandatory month in-between: a provision begging to be altered. ‘Fear of cases filed under section 363 (kidnapping) and 366 (compelling/inducing woman into marriage) against the “husband” drives the couple to court. If registration is immediate, such cases can’t proceed,’ says advocate Kulbir Singh Dhaliwal. Jaipur-based activist Kavita Srivastava moots the idea of same-day registration. ‘The more time you give, more the problems for the couple,’ she says. Many couples also surface to protect their families. In the headline-grabbing Manoj-Babli murder, for instance, the posed picture of the two garlanding each other was taken for Babli to prove that she married Manoj of her own accord. This was the only way to ensure that the kidnapping case against her mother-in-law Chandrapati, of Karora village in Kaithal, could be quashed. It was on that visit that the two were murdered.
“As is clear, not every couple is killed. Activists say barely a handful are murdered: what determines the fate of the target is the couple’s financial independence, political clout or wherewithal to pay off the khap. Lawyers say 90% cases are ‘solved.’‘Nobody says a word when a politician’s children decide to marry against norms. It’s very selective,’ says Aidwa’s Sudha Sundararaman. Or when couples can pay the “fines” khaps impose, in short paying their way out. Matters come to a head if the woman marries a lower caste guy. Her succession rights can mean property going—via the girl—into a lower-caste family. Inter-caste, intra-village, intra-gotra are the big daddies frowned upon. But again, selective. ‘A khap had declared a couple brother-sister recently and nullified their marriage. We intervened and as the boy was Delhi-based and had clout, their khap revoked the decision,’ says Sundararaman.”
“The Indian Constitution, the moral underpinning of Indian democracy, was adopted by Parliament in 1950. It was a tragic day for tribal people. The Constitution ratified colonial policy and made the State custodian of tribal homelands. Overnight, it turned the entire tribal population into squatters on their own land. It denied them their traditional rights to forest produce, it criminalised a whole way of life. In exchange for the right to vote, it snatched away their right to livelihood and dignity.
“Having dispossessed them and pushed them into a downward spiral of indigence, in a cruel sleight of hand, the government began to use their own penury against them. Each time it needed to displace a large population–for dams, irrigation projects, mines—it talked of ‘bringing tribals into the mainstream’ or of giving them ‘the fruits of modern development.’ Of the tens of millions of internally displaced people (more than 30 million by big dams alone), refugees of India’s ‘progress,’ the great majority are tribal people. When the government begins to talk of tribal welfare, it’s time to worry.
“The most recent expression of concern has come from home minister P. Chidambaram who says he doesn’t want tribal people living in ‘museum cultures.’ The well-being of tribal people didn’t seem to be such a priority during his career as a corporate lawyer, representing the interests of several major mining companies. So it might be an idea to enquire into the basis for his new anxiety.
“Over the past five years or so, the governments of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal have signed hundreds of MoUs with corporate houses, worth several billion dollars, all of them secret, for steel plants, sponge-iron factories, power plants, aluminium refineries, dams and mines. In order for the MoUs to translate into real money, tribal people must be moved.
“The much-dramatised public exchange of telephone numbers between Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Communist Party of India (Maoist) leader Kishenji and their sparring over a 72-hour or 72-day ceasefire would have been amusing if it did not involve a grim life-and-death issue for millions of wretchedly poor and underprivileged people in India’s heartland. They face the full heat of Operation Green Hunt, the biggest-ever military-style mobilisation launched by the security forces in the central-eastern tribal belt. Until recently, such large-scale deployment was confined to Kashmir and the northeastern region.
“The operation, involving over 40,000 paramilitary troops and policemen armed with weapons ranging from night-vision-capable automatic rifles to helicopter gunships, supposedly aims in its first phase to clear parts of Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra of the Maoists. By all accounts, it will last indefinitely–until the tribal belt is fully ‘sanitised’ and the naxalites are militarily defeated.
“The Centre is coordinating, planning and directing Green Hunt–unlike in the past, when State governments led such operations. In a disturbingly strong signal, a brigade headquarters of the Indian Army is being established in Chhattisgarh, the most turbulent part of the tribal heartland. [...]
“According to numerous credible, well-documented reports, 30 to 40 tribal people are being killed each week in the Adivasi belt. Some 200,000 people have fled their homes. This number does not include the 50,000 who were driven out by Salwa Judum, the militia sponsored, armed and funded by the Chhattisgarh government in 2008-09. The bulk of the 50,000 cannot return home and have taken refuge in Andhra Pradesh and in forests close to the border. In addition to the paramilitary forces, the tribal people are being attacked indiscriminately by private militias or Special Police Officers (SPOs), who enjoy state support, as well as by Maoist guerillas. The testimonies of some of the victims, backed by eyewitness reports, speak of the deliberate targeting of non-combatant civilians by the police and the private thugs they support. Rape and sexual violence are rampant in Bastar and parts of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. The civilians killed greatly outnumber the Maoists shot dead–perhaps by a factor of 10. [...]
“[T]he state has lost legitimacy in tribal India. It is laughable to claim that its project of militarily overpowering the Maoists has popular support. Its police force is inefficient, corrupt, trigger-happy and anti-poor. The State represents little more than predatory, rape-and-run industrial groups, besides super-corrupt Ministers (like Madhu Koda who allegedly amassed wealth equivalent to a fourth of Jharkhand’s tax revenue in three years). It is no accident that the Centre has intervened to assert its full coercive power in an area that contains much of India’s immense mineral and forest wealth, now under transfer to private capital.”
“In November last year, newly-elected Maharashtra state legislator Abu Azmi was assaulted by members of the right-wing Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) for insisting on taking his oath in Hindi. MNS chief Raj Thackeray, the now-estranged nephew of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, had earlier written to all 288 state legislators of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, urging them to take their oath in Marathi. Azmi was slapped, pushed and punched by MNS politicians when he rose to take his oath in Hindi—hooliganism in the country’s high offices that was broadcast live on TV for the nation to see.
“The incident followed the controversy a few weeks earlier that erupted after a request by the first-time Member of Parliament from southern Tamil Nadu state, Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers M. K. Azhagiri, to speak in his mother tongue in the Lok Sabha (the Indian Parliament’s elected house) was turned down. Tamil speakers were outraged, arguing the speech could easily have been translated into Hindi and English for the rest of the House. They also claimed the decision violated their rights and was an insult to Tamil, which they see as much a national language as Hindi.
“The Tamil-Hindi tussle has a long history. Over the decades, many non-Hindi speaking states have opposed the imposition of Hindi nationwide. However, southern Tamil Nadu’s resistance has always been the most sustained and most vociferous, while anti-Hindi campaigns in Tamil Nadu saw mass mobilisation both before and after India’s independence was secured in 1947.
“Although seemingly omnipresent, in part due to its cultural reach through Bollywood (the Hindi film industry), Hindi is not actually a national language. According to the 2001 census, Hindi and its various dialects are spoken by about 422 million people or just over 41 percent of the national population.
“India has no legally-defined national language, and although Article 343 of the Constitution declares Hindi and English to be the official languages of the union of India, to be used for administrative, judicial and legislative business in Parliament and other central bodies, there are 18 official languages that states can use to conduct their intra-state affairs.”
“India’s 1961 census recognised 1,652 languages and dialects, while the 2001 version broke it down into a slightly more manageable roster of 29 that are spoken by a million or more people, and 122 that have more than 10,000 native speakers.
“At the time of independence, the constitution recognised 14 official languages, but the growth of regional politics soon resulted in a flood of demands for further additions.
“Sindhi was added in 1967, three others in 1992 and four more in 2004 to make up the current total of 22, and the Home Ministry is currently considering 38 new requests for inclusion.”
“The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), a 126-year-old landmark institution that has undertaken pioneering wildlife conservation and research in the country, on Thursday became the latest victim of the campaign for the Marathification of Mumbai being undertaken by the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
“Around 50 Shiv Sainiks marched into the premises and, using hammers and a chisel, vandalised the society's sign by taking off the ‘B’ from ‘Bombay’ in the name. They then put a ‘Mumbai’ over the ‘Bombay’ in the Devanagari part of the sign and erected a banner proclaiming the organisation as the 'Mumbai Natural History Society' in Devanagari.”
“Away from the gaze of the media and the judiciary, the adivasis of Bastar are paying a heavy price... for just being there.
“An operation is underway in Central India, but no one really knows what it is. Variously described as a media myth, a comprehensive hearts and minds strategy, and an all-out offensive by paramilitary forces and the state forces along the borders of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, Operation Green Hunt has become a shoebox of news clippings, police reports, public demonstrations and armed encounters.
“Depending on the definition, Green Hunt either began in July 2009, September 2009 or November 2009. Speaking off record, senior policemen confirmed that the intensification of ‘search and comb’ operations in Chhattisgarh began as early as July last year. In September 2009 the press reported on the progress of ‘Operation Green Hunt’: a massive 3-day joint operation in which the central CoBRA force and state police battled Naxal forces in Dantewada.
“By November, the press was regularly reporting on the planning and progress of Green Hunt, prompting Home Minister, P. Chidambaram to term the operation a ‘media invention.’ Since then, the security apparatus has scrupulously avoided all mention of Green Hunt. The week-long joint operation, launched on December 25 2009 in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra for instance, was termed ‘Police Week.’ The change in nomenclature could be prompted by a realisation that the battle between the state and the Naxals is unlikely to end anytime soon. Speaking on background, police sources confirm that the conflict shall take the form of ‘a prolonged, open-ended engagement’ rather than a short, fierce ‘operation.’
“There is also little clarity on the extent of troop deployment, the composition of the forces and the chain of command between central paramilitary forces and the state police. Privately, sources in the security apparatus admit that part of the confusion is by design rather than by default to control the information available to Naxal commanders. At present, the only information independently confirmed by The Hindu relates to the Bastar Zone, a 40,000 square kilometre area in Chhattisgarh that lies at heart of the battle. Sources state that 7 additional battalions of central forces have been moved in the area, bringing the strength of central forces in Bastar to a total 20 battalions including troops from the CRPF, ITBP, BSF and SSB. Taken alongside the 6,000 policemen deployed in Bastar, the size of the total fighting force in the zone is about 20,000 troops.”
“Under the broadbrush moniker of Maoists or Naxalites, these [left-wing insurgents operating in India’s poorest regions] represent one of the few forms of resistance for villagers and hill tribes against the inequities of continuing feudal structures and the encroachment of global corporations—backed by the state—who treat them as awkward impediments to mining plans.
“The Naxalites can be brutal, and the villagers under their control often find themselves unwillingly cut off from health services, education and development. But they have held on to the moral high ground thanks largely to a state response that has been unremittingly heavy-handed: special forces operations, the arming of vigilante groups, the dispossession of land, forced encampment—all accompanied by tales of extrajudicial killings, rapes and, for some godforsaken reason, the chopping off of children's fingers.
“India's civil society looks on in abhorrence at what is widely seen as a full-blown war against the poor. Even the government-appointed Council of Experts had to conclude that: ‘Often any individual who speaks out against the powerful is dubbed a Naxalite and jailed or otherwise silenced. The search for Naxalite cadre leads to severe harassment and torture of its supporters and sympathisers.’
“‘Those who try to report these crimes find themselves bundled away to police custody ‘for their own protection.’ This has been happening to Sodi Sambo, a 28-year-old woman from Gompar village in Chattisgarh who says she witnessed security forces murder nine of her neighbours in October 2009, and was herself shot in the foot in front of her two small children. She tried to file a complaint, only to find herself under armed guard in a nearby hospital with no visitors allowed and denied the right to travel to Delhi for treatment.
“With Amnesty International and the supreme court wading in, her case might just be heard. A couple of troops might even be reprimanded. In the meantime, the operations will continue. Just a fortnight ago, home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram announced another massive offensive across five states, confidently claiming it would target only insurgent leaders. Since no journalists are allowed anywhere near these war zones, we have to take his word for it.”
"India is preparing for a prolonged counterinsurgency fight against Maoist rebels once discounted as a ragtag group of irrelevant ideologues, officials say.
"The Maoists, intent on overthrowing the government, are operating in 20 of India's states, and have become a strong and dangerous insurgency, The New York Times reported on its Web site Saturday.
"Indian leaders are prepared to deploy nearly 70,000 paramilitary officers for the extended counterinsurgency effort.
"The Maoists say they represent the dispossessed of Indian society. Especially hard-hit, they claim, are indigenous tribal groups burdened with the highest rates of illiteracy, poverty and infant mortality.
"The insurgents charge the government wants to push tribal groups from their lands to grab valuable natural resources, the Times says. Maoists have escalated their efforts to sabotage roads and bridges, and even have attacked an energy pipeline."
"Right now in central India, the Maoists' guerrilla army is made up almost entirely of desperately poor tribal people living in conditions of such chronic hunger that it verges on famine of the kind we only associate with sub-Saharan Africa. They are people who, even after 60 years of India's so-called independence, have not had access to education, healthcare or legal redress. They are people who have been mercilessly exploited for decades, consistently cheated by small businessmen and moneylenders, the women raped as a matter of right by police and forest department personnel. Their journey back to a semblance of dignity is due in large part to the Maoist cadre who have lived and worked and fought by their side for decades.
"If the tribals have taken up arms, they have done so because a government which has given them nothing but violence and neglect now wants to snatch away the last thing they have—their land. Clearly, they do not believe the government when it says it only wants to 'develop' their region. Clearly, they do not believe that the roads as wide and flat as aircraft runways that are being built through their forests in Dantewada by the National Mineral Development Corporation are being built for them to walk their children to school on. They believe that if they do not fight for their land, they will be annihilated. That is why they have taken up arms.
"Even if the ideologues of the Maoist movement are fighting to eventually overthrow the Indian state, right now even they know that their ragged, malnutritioned army, the bulk of whose soldiers have never seen a train or a bus or even a small town, are fighting only for survival."
anti-caste: Marxists in India would seek to mobilize the working class to defend tribals and leftist guerillas against this threat of massive state repression.
Unlike liberals and reformists, Marxists would not call on the capitalist state to better the conditions of tribals rather than killing and displacing them; to do so is to reinforce the illusion that this state does not necessarily act in the interests of the Indian bourgeoisie and its imperialist masters. The masses of the subcontinent need a revolutionary workers’ state to serve their own, counterposed interests.
While defending them militarily against police and paramilitary forces, Marxists would give no political support to the Naxalite (guerillaist) Maoists who, though presently under the gun, openly seek an alliance with a mythical “progressive national bourgeoisie.” Despite their claims to Marxism, the Maoist guerillas have nothing to do with the working class and base themselves entirely on peasants and the landless. As Trotsky explained, these classes, unlike the industrial proletariat, lack the unity, organization, and social power to play an independent revolutionary role. The burning social questions of the region—including the liberation of tribals, who are among the most oppressed and marginalized populations on earth—will not be settled in the jungles.
"The Centre has been asked to impose the Bengal model of land distribution across the country by a panel it appointed to suggest land reforms.
"The non-binding advice, which recommends rural land ceilings more stringent than those in Bengal, comes at a time the [CPM-led] Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government has tried to raise those limits to promote industry but seen its efforts stalled. [...]
"In Bengal, the ceiling in non-irrigated areas is 17 acres and in irrigated areas, 12 acres. Left-ruled Bengal, Kerala and Tripura are the only states with rural land ceilings, the limit for irrigated land in Kerala being 15 acres. Some other states have tried and failed to enact land ceilings.
"So, although the report on 'State Agrarian Relations and the Unfinished Task in Land Reforms' was handed in last January, the Centre has been unwilling to reveal its contents given their controversial nature."
anti-caste: The report of the government-appointed panel mentioned above, which is available online here in full, makes interesting reading, with frank and well supported analyses of the near-total failure of capitalist India to solve the land question. And it's only getting dramatically worse, with the current drive to separate poor and middle peasants, landless laborers (who are overwhelmingly untouchable), and tribals from what meager resources they had claim to on behalf of native and foreign-based capital. That shouldn't be news to the government that commissioned the report, since, as documented there, it's the one facilitating it. Liberal reformers regret the state taking on this role; Marxists know it's only doing its job. It's a dirty job, too: just look at Operation Green Hunt.
"Land and Social Hierarchy - Dalits and Adivasis in India
"Land is not merely an important economic asset, its ownership is also socially valued, sought and denied. In rural societies, ownership of land was and to a large extent is still coterminus with social status. Hence, its unequal distribution reflects both prevailing social stratification and also helps maintain the hierarchical structure of the society. In contrast, fair distribution of land strikes directly at the roots of an unequal social order and skewed power relations, and frees the marginalized from the clutches of perpetual bondage, for want of a sustainable livelihood. The landless, whose only remaining asset is their labour, are effectively separated from the other means of production, namely land, and remain dependent on large land holders for their survival. Powerful landlords have always opposed land reforms, fearing not only loss of control of assets, but also their dominant position in society, which straddles the economic and the political realms. The denial of access to land, thereby, functions both as a means of exclusion as also a mechanism of bondage. [...]
"The pattern of land distribution in India, therefore, reflects the existing socioeconomic hierarchy. While large landowners invariably belong to the upper castes, the cultivators belong to the middle castes, and the agricultural workers are largely dalits and tribals. [...T]he data of absolute landless families proves that the feudal society is firmly anchored in large parts of India, notwithstanding claims to the contrary.
"Tribal India – Land and People
"The tribal people, referred to in the law and constitution, considered the descendents of the original inhabitants, are largely located in the hilly tracts of Central and North Eastern India, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. [...] Earlier the temples of modern India reduced millions of tribal people to ecological refugees, now the minerals seen as the building blocks of modern India put the tribal people at risk of losing their land through acquisition and further disruption of their societies and economies. [...] Left without an alternative, either in the government or non government organizations, and left to a harsh fate of unmitigated exploitation, the tribal people initially gave the Naxalites succor and now have become their base. Most tribal areas in Central India are the abode to the naxalites, whose presence is a response both to past and future land alienation, the failure of the government to live up to its constitutional mandate and the withdrawal of the state from its responsibility to protect the tribal realm. [...]
"The data gathered from the village studies and from the records of the various governments all point out to the inescapable conclusion that alienation of tribal land continues unabated and alienation of land has actually accelerated in areas where irrigation and modernization of agriculture are making rapid strides and roadways, industrialization and urbanization is enveloping larger areas in the towns and cities. Four apparent forms of tribal land alienation are listed below. [...]
"Conclusion - The Biggest Grab of Tribal Lands after Columbus
"A civil war like situation has gripped the southern districts of Bastar, Dantewara and Bijapur in Chhattishgarh. The contestants are the armed squads of tribal men and women of the erstwhile Peoples War Group now known as the Communist Party of India (Maoist) on the one side and the armed tribal fighters of the Salva Judum created and encouraged by the government and supported with the firepower and organization of the central police forces. This open declared war will go down as the biggest land grab ever, if it plays out as per the script. The drama being scripted by Tata Steel and Essar Steel who wanted 7 villages or thereabouts, each to mine the richest lode of iron ore available in India.
"There was initial resistance to land acquisition and displacement from the tribals. The state withdrew its plans under fierce resistance. An argument put forward was ‘you don’t play foul with the Murias [a tribal group]’, it’s a matter of life and death and Murias don’t fear death. A new approach was necessary if the rich lodes of iron ore are to be mined.
"The new approach came about with the Salva Judum, euphemistically meaning peace hunt. Ironically the Salva Judum was led by Mahendra Karma, elected on a Congress ticket and the Leader of the Opposition and supported wholeheartedly by the BJP-led government. The Salva Judum was headed and peopled by the Murias, some of them erstwhile cadre and local leaders of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Behind them are the traders, contractors and miners waiting for a successful result of their strategy. The first financiers of the Salva Judum were Tata and the Essar in the quest for ‘peace’. The first onslaught of the Salva Judum was on Muria villagers who still owed allegiance to the Communist Party of India (Maoist). It turned out to be an open war between brothers. 640 villages as per official statistics were laid bare, burnt to the ground and emptied with the force of the gun and the blessings of the state. 350,000 tribals, half the total population of Dantewada district are displaced, their womenfolk raped, their daughters killed, and their youth maimed. Those who could not escape into the jungle were herded together into refugee camps run and managed by the Salva Judum. Others continue to hide in the forest or have migrated to the nearby tribal tracts in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.
"640 villages are empty. Villages sitting on tons of iron ore are effectively de-peopled and available for the highest bidder. The latest information that is being circulated is that both Essar Steel and Tata Steel are willing to take over the empty landscape and manage the mines."
"Pakistan’s military operations against the Taliban in Swat, begun in May under public pressure from the United States, has been hailed by Washington as a showcase effort of the army’s newfound resolve to defeat the militants. [...]
"Now, concerns over the army’s methods in the area threaten to further taint Washington’s association with the military, cooperation that has been questioned in Congress and has been politically unpopular in Pakistan.
"The number of killings suggests that the military is seeking to silence any enthusiasm for the Taliban and to settle accounts for heavy army casualties, said a senior provincial official who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprimand by the army.
"A sullen, uncertain atmosphere prevails in Mingora, where people interviewed last week in shops, homes and government institutions nervously complained of the arbitrary and unpredictable army rule.
"Bodies, some with torture marks and some with limbs tied and a bullet in the neck or head, have been found on the roads of Mingora and in rural areas that were militant strongholds.
"Reports on Sept. 1 in two national daily newspapers, Dawn and The News, said the bodies of 251 people had been found dumped in Swat.
"A well-to-do landlord, Sher Shah Khan, who had criticized what he termed the army’s early reluctance to confront the militants, said he was not worried about the reports. 'If the security services kill in the same manner as the Taliban killed, people have no problem.'"
The following story is a good example of why we warn at the top of this page that "links to outside sources below are offered for information's sake." As valuable, if unsurprising, as the documentation in the report by Human Rights Watch described below is, we want to dissociate ourselves categorically from its political conclusions. In reality, by brutally enforcing class and caste oppression Indian cops are simply doing their jobs as agents of the capitalist state. This role does not "undermine" but epitomizes Indian "democracy." The working masses of India don't need police "reform"—they need their own state.
"India's police discriminate against people on the basis of caste and financial status and consider themselves above the law, undermining the country's democratic ideals, a leading human rights group said on Tuesday.
"The New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report that Indian police also stood accused of illegally detaining crime suspects, torturing them and even carrying out extra-judicial killings in custody with impunity.
"Official figures showed 23 policemen were charged with atrocities since 2005, but none has been convicted.
"[The Asia Director of Human Rights Watch] said Indians avoided contact with police out of fear because they perceived them as discriminating on the basis of caste and financial and social status."
"The discovery of the women's bodies triggered widespread anger in Shopian, where the residents believed the killings were carried out by security forces. Two people were killed and more than 400 injured in weeklong violent demonstrations and clashes between residents and police in Shopian [a town outside of Srinagar, the main city of Indian-controlled Kashmir].
"On Wednesday, Ghosh asked Shopian residents to end the complete shutdown that has paralyzed normal life in the town since the bodies were found.
"Human rights groups and separatist leaders have long accused Indian security forces of using rape and sexual molestation to intimidate the local population. Rights groups say investigations into such crimes rarely yield results and are often meant only to calm public anger."
"While investigations have emphasized the procedural conduct of the police in their handling of the investigation, they failed to focus on the actual crimes that were committed, or the conduct of state institutions. The investigations in Shopian have not focused on the identification and prosecution of perpetrators or on addressing structural realities of militarization in Kashmir that foster and perpetuate gendered and sexualized violences, and undermine rule of law and justice. The investigations have instead concentrated on locating ‘collaborators’ and manufacturing scapegoats to subdue public outcry. ‘Control’ rather than ‘justice’ has organized the focus of the state apparatus, including all processes related to civic, criminal, and judicial matters."
"Numbering in the thousands every year, 'encounters' or 'encounter killings' are shootouts between the Indian police or army and any criminal element, from terrorists to petty thieves. Many Indians believe that at least some are stage-managed — with, say, a police officer placing a gun in the hands of a dead person — leading to the popular phrase, 'fake encounter killing.'
"The Singaram encounter was part of a long-running campaign to stem an insurrection in impoverished and isolated parts of eastern India by Maoist-inspired rebels known as Naxalites. Other cases, elsewhere in India, have involved Muslim militants and gangsters in Mumbai."
“'They made us stand in a line and ordered us to bow our heads,” Deva says of those terrifying moments between life and death. “I was the last and that gave me just enough time to escape.'
"Four more proved lucky. But 19 others did not. A posse made largely of men from the Salwa Judum (literally, Peace Gathering), the tribal militia raised by the state as a quasi police force, killed 15 men and four women at this spot on the afternoon of January 8, 2009, triggering a massive furor across the state and worsening the battle lines between the armed Maoist insurgents, popularly called the Naxals, and the state police."
"That was when the media began to ask questions of the police account: Two terrorists tasked with staging a Republic Day attack on the national capital had stopped at a tea stall to seek directions; a police informer, who just happened to be present, spotted an AK-47 sticking out of a bag. An urgent tip-off prompted a dramatic chase and shootout, but the 'terrorists' lived just long enough to 'confess' their Pakistani nationality. Nor did it go unnoticed that this was the fourth such 'encounter' between police and suspects in the same area in less than a month."
"In what may be the final chapters of one of the world's longest-running civil wars, Sri Lankan troops say they are close to crushing the remnants of the once-potent Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Yet the military operation comes at a high price for civilians.
"Aid groups and officials say that dozens of civilians trapped in the war zone are being killed and wounded every day. Determined to press ahead with its operation against a guerrilla force that has in the past ruthlessly attacked both military and civilian targets, the Sri Lankan government refuses to effect a ceasefire that would allow the evacuation of wounded people. It has also shut off the area from the outside world."
"Yet as frightening as the disappearances, and perhaps more likely to cause further conflict over time, is the government's unabashed campaign of 'Sinhalization.' Historic sites commemorating ancient Tamil kingdoms have, in the months since the government took control of the area, suddenly become memorials to Sinhalese kingdoms. Some Tamils stopped at checkpoints can no longer give the names of their home villages, because those places have new Sinhala names, local and international human-rights monitors say."
"Parliament - meeting under the shadow of the November 26-29 attacks on India’s commercial hub resulting in close to 200 deaths - approved the legislations on Thursday with no considered debate and the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pushing them past amendments tabled by several parliamentarians.
"One law, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, seeks to establish a new police organisation to investigate acts of terrorism and other statutory offences.
"The other, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA) Act, radically changes procedures for trying those accused of terrorism, extends the periods of police custody and of detention without charges, denies bail to foreigners, and the reverses the burden of proof in many instances.
"'The UAPA Act is particularly vile, and will have the effect of turning India into a virtual police state,' says Colin Gonsalves, executive director of the Delhi-based Human Rights Law Network. 'It basically brings back a discredited law, the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2002 (POTA), except for admitting confessions made to a police officer as legal evidence.'
"POTA was an extremely unpopular law, which the UPA government abrogated upon coming to power in 2004 in response to innumerable complaints of its selective and discriminatory use against India's Muslim minority, and its cavalier and irresponsible application to offences not even remotely connected with terrorism.
"In its desperation to be seen to be taking a tough stand against terrorism, the Manmohan Singh government also tabled the NIA Bill earlier this week. The new agency will specifically investigate offences related to atomic energy, aviation and maritime transport, weapons of mass destruction, and Left-wing extremism, besides terrorism.
"Significantly, it excludes Right-wing terrorism, which has become a greater menace in India.
"POTA and its predecessor, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), were extensively abused. They typically targeted the religious minorities, specifically Muslims, and allowed for their harassment and persecution.
"The TADA story is especially horrifying. Some 67,000 people were arrested under it, but only 8,000 put on trial, and a mere 725 convicted.
"Official TADA Review Committees themselves found the law’s application untenable in all but 5,000 cases. In 1993, Gujarat witnessed no terrorism, but more than 19,000 people were still arrested under TADA.
"Religious minorities were selectively targeted under both Acts. For instance, in Rajasthan, of 115 TADA detainees, 112 were Muslims and three Sikhs.
"Gujarat had a worse pattern under POTA, when all but one of the 200-plus detainees were Muslims, the remaining one a Sikh.
"The passing of the two new laws is certain to increase the alienation of India's Muslims from the state. They have been the principal victims of India's anti-terrorism strategy and activities in recent years.
"Muslims are first to be arrested and interrogated after any terrorist incident, even when the victims are Muslims, and although strong evidence has recently emerged of a well-ramified pro-Hindu terrorist network, in which serving and retired army officers were found to be key players."
"A survey of TADA cases reveals many instances of false arrests, police excesses, and extortion. People were imprisoned under the act for matters entirely unconnected with violent political acts. In 1987, six workers of Reliance Industries Limited in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, were arrested under TADA for legitimate trade union activity."
"The violence was rooted in the CPM's decision to 'capture' two of Nandigram's three blocks, over which it lost control. Their people had got disenchanted with it because it tried to impose a Special Economic Zone on them. The 25,000-acre SEZ was to be created by forcibly acquiring land for Indonesia's Salim group—a front for the super-corrupt dictator Gen Suharto.
"A particularly disgraceful part of the operation was sexual violence. Another was the treatment of political adversaries as an alien enemy population. Most egregious was the state machinery's complete subordination to party interests."
"In November, CPI-M supporters and armed thugs forcibly ended the blockade. In retribution for the protest, they attacked villagers supporting the BUPC, burned down their homes, threatened further violence if villagers went to the authorities, and humiliated them by compelling them to join CPI-M rallies. The state administration removed police posts before CPI-M supporters advanced into the area, strongly suggesting governmental complicity in the abuses."
"By November there had been a clear gathering of CPI(M) cadres and militia in the area, as well as stockpiling of arms. In early November 2007, the armed Harmad Bahini struck back with the full support of the state. They violently 'reclaimed' the 'lost' villages in Nandigram that had come under the control of the BUPC. The police was conspicuous by its inaction even as frightened villagers, caught in the violent crossfire between the two main contending political parties, fled their homes for fear of death or injury.
"On November 12, when the CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force—India's national guard] finally entered Nandigram, the CRPF director S.I.S. Ahmed said, 'The private armies, comprised CPI(M) cadres, have already captured the area. It was only after that the CRPF personnel were allowed in. Now there is not much that the CRPF can do, except the maintain status quo and protect the private armies.' Finally, ‘peace’ reigned in Nandigram, hooded, bloodied and mauled, witness to the terror writ large on people’s faces.
"The CPI(M) has resorted to rampant sexual violence, using it as a weapon of power and intimidation to browbeat all the women of Nandigram who participated in large numbers in the movement against land acquisition."
"'The only good thing with regard to Muslims is that in the last 30 years of Left rule in West Bengal, they were safe. What happened in Nandigram now puts question mark on that, too.'—Manzoor Alam, general secretary, All India Milli Council
"This is, perhaps, the worst-kept secret of the Nandigram violence that’s now being talked about openly. And is reason for embarrassment to the CPM which swears by its secular credentials: a majority of those targeted by its party cadres as they reclaim their turf are Muslim."
"A West Bengal court awarded life imprisonment to two Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) activists Wednesday for the 2006 murder of Singur girl Tapasi Malik.
"The court had convicted the two Tuesday for the murder of 18-year-old Tapasi, who was among those protesting land acquisition for the Tata Motor's Nano car project in Singur."
Tapasi Malik, the daughter of a landless laborer, had been active in the protests against the forced eviction of 6000 families from her locality by the CPI(M)-led state government of West Bengal to create a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for use by Tata Motors, India's largest automaker. The Telegraph (Calcutta) reported on December 20, 2006 that "[e]ighteen-year-old Tapasi had become a hero of sorts for the small section of Singur still resisting Tata Motors’ small-car project. She was throttled, dragged to the Tata plot, dumped into a pit and set on fire."
Tapasi Malik's mother looking at her daughter's photograph
"If and when ordinary mortals like you and me buy land, we have to search high and low for an affordable piece, hire brokers, make several trips to different sites, and borrow bank loans, which we must repay through our nose over 10 or 15 years. Besides these high transaction costs in time and money, we must pay stamp duty to the government, which is usually a good eight percent of the land’s value.
"None of this applies to India’s biggest business house (and one of its oldest industrial families), namely, the Tatas—at least as far as the Singur car project is concerned. The Tatas are no ordinary mortals. In fact so special are they that West Bengal’s Left Front government woos them with the choice of six different sites, besides the Uttarakhand and Orissa governments. They choose one at Singur, next to an expressway, in one of Bengal’s most fertile tracts, just 45 km from Kolkata. But they do so after stipulating a series of conditions.
"The government must procure the land for them. This will cost Rs 140 crores. But the Tatas will pay only Rs 20 crores for it.
"They will pay no stamp duty.
"They must have a contiguous plot of 997 acres (almost 400 hectares, or 40 lakh square metres), although no Indian car factory has anything approaching this area. (Even Tata Motors’s giant Pune factory has only 188 acres.)
"The factory proper, say the Tatas, will have a built-up area of only 1.5 lakh sq m, or 4 percent of the land acquired.
"The land must be fenced off and Sec 144 must be imposed to suppress protests by the 12,000 affected people.
"That’s not all. The Tatas say the government must 'compensate' them for 'sacrificing' the 16 percent excise duty exemption offered by Uttarakhand if they locate the car factory there. This means 'upfront infrastructural assistance' worth Rs 160 crore.
"The Tatas claim the Rs 10,000 crore investment will directly generate 2,000 jobs. But noted economist Amit Bhadhuri estimates it will produce just about 300, besides indirect employment for 900. In the process, Singur’s flourishing economy, where two-thirds of land is multi-cropped with vegetables and paddy, will be devastated, along with the livelihoods not just of landowners and sharecroppers (bargadars), but of landless workers and rural artisans.
"Singur will witness counter-reform, a reversal of the most successful land reform ever undertaken in West Bengal. Even the bargadars’ share in the land (75 percent to the absentee landlord’s 25 percent) will be upturned in the land compensation formula. No wonder, the West Bengal government has used repressive methods, including mass arrests, Sec 144 and physical attacks to enforce the sweetheart deal."
"The population is predominantly a mix of Muslim and lower caste Hindus, who have lived harmoniously together for a long time. The area has been till recently a political stronghold of the CPI and the CPI (M).
"More than anything else the area is famous for its historical role in the struggle against British colonial rule and during the Tebagha movement in the mid-forties when peasants in many parts of pre-Partition Bengal captured vast quantities of land demanding it their right as tillers of the soil.
"How the Police Firing Started
"On 14 March 2007 around 9.30 a.m. hundreds of policemen gathered at two entry points into Nandigram—one from the Tekhali Bridge, Gokulnagar, Adhikaripara and the other from the side of Bhangabera Bridge, near Sonachura. Apart from policemen local leaders and cadres of Communist Party of India (Marxist) were also present.
"The deponents claim that the people were peaceful. Only one deponent said there was stone throwing by boys and girls. There is no evidence of the carriage of any arms by the villagers.
"There was an announcement by the police party asking the villagers to allow them to repair the 'bund' [embankment, into which the villagers had dug a trench to defend themselves against developers and the state]. People replied that they would undertake this work themselves. There was very little dialogue over this issue and very soon the police went into the offensive. Police fired tear gas and immediately followed with bullets & rubber bullets, chased the people, mostly women & children, hitting out with lathis and iron rods, and firing. They were chased, and many were caught and mercilessly beaten, with sexual assault, including rape.
"The lack of parleying seems to suggest that the carnage caused by police firing on the retreating mass, mainly of women & children, was pre-planned.
"The depositions before the Tribunal also clearly bring out that police went on firing after the people started to flee and that they were not firing towards the legs.
"The police behaviour was brutal. According to one deposition Uttam Pal, after being shot down, was asking for water. Policemen spat on his face and beat up those trying to give him water.
"Several depositions before the Tribunal accused policemen of rape. Apart from rape, many women have deposed about being stripped, molestation (the breasts being frequent targets), indecent exposure, and filthy language. One deponent accuses policemen of having slashed her breasts. Several accuse policemen of forcing rod/lathi/gunbarrel into sex organs and turning the insert in some cases.
"The evidence definitely points towards serious sexual assault, including rape, by policemen.
"CPI (M) Cadre Allegedly In Police Uniform
"The deponents before the Tribunal spoke of the presence among policemen of others in police dress but wearing slippers (chappals [sandals]), black masks and red arm/wrist bands. There is also reference to others in white dress (sari) and 'ghomta' (veil) pointing out people. These persons were also firing guns and assaulting people with iron rods. They were even more vicious than the policemen.
"A large number of deponents agree that they were cadres of the CPI (M) and some of them identify and name the cadres too."
"Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee may be trying to take West Bengal into the new age with the Tata Motors’ small-car project at Singur but Left Front partner CPI has revived the ghost of a fractious past by forcing the management of Hindustan Motors to declare suspension of work at India’s oldest automobile facility.
"Hindustan Motors today announced suspension of work at its Uttarpara plant near Kolkata after a month-long agitation by a section of workers backed by the CPI. With the Government keeping itself out, operations at the 70-year-old plant, which employs around 4,500 workers grouped under five registered unions, had been severely hit.
"Incidentally, CITU, the CPM’s labour arm, had opposed the agitation from the very beginning and its supporters clashed violently with those blocking access to the plant yesterday. But its union, which secured only 36% of the votes in the last election, lacks bargaining power which rests with the HM & Hyderabad Industries Ltd Sangrami Shramik Karmachari Union (SSKU).
"Kali Ghosh, state CITU secretary, said: 'The unilateral decision of the SSKU to call a strike and the hooliganism that followed cannot be supported.'"
"A scuffle broke out between agitating workers and police at the factory gate of Hindustan Motors' Uttarpara plant in West Bengal's Hooghly district on Tuesday, police sources said.
"Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Sreerampore Ajay Thakur said that a scuffle broke out between the agitating workers of the Sangrami Shramik Karmachari Union (SSKU) and the police as the SSKU was preventing 'willing' workers to join work.
"Thakur said police has dispersed agitating workers.
"However, Amitabha Bhattacharya, president of SSKU claimed that eight SSKU workers were injured in the police lathicharge. He alleged that rival CITU was bringing temporary outside workers to work in the factory, which SSKU workers objected and tried to stop their entry."
"Work resumed at the Hindustan Motors' Uttarpara unit, Thursday with some unions withdrawing support to the ongoing strike and the management taking back the 'suspension of operation' notice.
"Unions like Centre for Indian Trade Union - and two other unions - SSU and IFTU - withdrew their support to the strike to demand regularisation of salary and resumption of payment of dearness allowance that has remained frozen since 2001.
"However, workers affiliated to the Sangrami Shramik Karmachari Union - and INTUC, which are spearheading the strike - had stayed away and continued with their movement at the factory gate demanding Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya's intervention to resolve the stalemate."
"[...t]he strike in March-April by the majority workers' union to protest against the suspension of 15 employees and alleged non-payment of salary for two months, took a heavy toll on its production as well as renewal programme. 'We were producing 1,000 units of Ambassador before March and during the strike the production came down to zero. But now about 92 percent of the workforce has signed the settlement and things are coming back into normalcy,' said Santhanam."
union member attacked by police for defending strike
(image via SSKU website)
"Harjeet Singh, a Dalit youth of Niko Sarai village in Dera Baba Nanak area, was killed in Batala police’s custody allegedly due to torture. The police cremated his body at night without informing his family."
"A recent strike at the Indian unit of Toyota Motor is officially over, but the carmaker's problems with labor are still simmering behind the scenes, providing a cautionary tale to the wave of foreign companies setting up shop in one of Asia's fastest-growing economies.
"A two-week strike at the 2,350-employee plant here in January cost Toyota 900 Corolla and Innova cars. The carmaker is now trying to make up for lost time by running double shifts. An ensuing court battle could last two years, and some employees this week began taking turns fasting at the factory gates in protest.
"The strike has also led to doubts about the country's allure as a destination for foreign manufacturers. Foreign direct investment in India rose to $6 billion in 2005 from $5.3 billion in 2004. Many experts say India, already attractive for its cheap labor and its engineering skills, could bring in even more foreign companies if it could free its labor market of red tape.
"The Toyota strike is not an isolated incident. In the middle of last year, in the Gurgaon suburbs of New Delhi, there was a violent confrontation between the police and disgruntled workers of Honda Motorcycles & Scooters India, owned by Honda of Japan. Workers demanding a raise tried to form a labor union, but management fired four union leaders and suspended 50 workers.When the workers went on strike to demand that their colleagues be reinstated, a clash with the police led to 700 injured workers, and the episode was broadcast worldwide."—see anti-caste: POLICE REPRESSION OF HONDA WORKERS IN GURGAON, HARYANA (August 13, 2005)
"At a protest in Kalinganagar, Orissa, on 2nd January, 2006 the State police opened fire on a protest by local tribals against the takeover and seizure of their land by a Tata Steel plant. Sixteen people died on the spot, four more died in the hospital, and a police constable was also killed in the clash."
"The demand of tribal people who would be affected by the proposed project was that the government allow the construction of the boundary wall only after the company paid them adequate compensation and ensured proper rehabilitation. Instead, they were silenced with brute force by the government. As shots fired from semi-automatic rifles broke the mid-day stillness, panic-stricken men and women ran helter-skelter. The firing continued for nearly an hour. The policemen appeared bent upon avenging the death of their colleague."
On July 25 Indian television showed footage of hundreds of striking workers surrounded by cops and made to crawl on the ground as the cops worked their way through the crowd beating heads, backs, and limbs with thick, metal-tipped clubs and continuing to beat as their victims lay bloody and senseless for a full 45 minutes. It was like the Rodney King video on a tape loop.
The workers were highly skilled technicians recruited two years ago from training institutes all across India to work at a factory in Gurgaon, Haryana owned by the Japanese auto company Honda. It was supposed to be a dream job but they ended up working long shifts for less-than-average pay and under humiliating conditions where they couldn’t even use the toilet when they needed to. Finally 2000 workers were told that they would not be taken on when their two-year training period was up; new trainees would be hired in their place. The workers decided to form a union. The company fired the four workers who were leading the organizing drive and suspended 50 more as troublemakers. When the workers responded with a slowdown to try to get their coworkers’ jobs back, the company locked them out.
On July 25 a group of over a thousand workers marched from the factory gate to the district administrative center to ask the chief minister there to intervene. Police tried to stop the march but couldn’t hold it back. So they called in reinforcements from neighboring cities and got ready to teach the workers a lesson....