#Invitation- Mumbai Railway -Accidents, corruption and chaos @8dec #mustshare


Presents
MUMBAI RAILWAY
Accidents, corruption and chaos
What every commuter should know about
dealing with these
Anyone who had needed help in railway related issues—from victims of accident to theft, or even a railway constable facing false charges—ended up with Samir Zaveri. This extraordinary activist, who lost both his legs in a railway accident at the age of sixteen, has dedicated his life to help anyone who runs into trouble with the Indian Railways. Samir, a self-taught expert, with a strong support network of well-wishers, has used the Right to Information or RTI Act very effectively to obtain some incredible information that benefited railway commuters.
Date: Saturday, 8 December 2012
Registration: 2:30pm
Session Time: 3:00pm – 5:00pm
Venue: Moneylife Foundation Knowledge Centre,
305, 3rd Floor, Hind Service Industries Premises, Off Veer Savarkar Marg,
Shivaji Park, Dadar (W), Mumbai – 400 028. Landmark: Chaithyabhoomi lane.
NO ADMISSION FEE
Prior registration is a must
Contact details: Seraphina / Shilpa at 022-49205000 or
email us at mail@mlfoundation.in or log on to www.mlfoundation.in
Samir Zaveri is an extraordinary activist. He lost both is legs at the age of 16, when a local train hit him near Borivali and would have almost died, if someone wouldn’t have helped him at that time. Since then, helping every rail commuter, especially accident victims and improving the Railway system has become his mission in life. He is one of the most tireless activists working at almost every issue related with the railways—from medical care for accident victims, to compensation, to security of rail commuters. He got the Railways to install medical facilities at Dadar station through an order from the Bombay High Court. He likes to mention that he is a “dasvi pass in Gujarati medium.” Samir has witnessed the callousness of the Railways, Railway Protection Force (RPF) and even state-managed Government Railway Police (GRP) on several occasions. He even faced the wrath of the Railways and Police for his tireless, never giving up spirit and humble attitude.

 

On The Death Of Bal Thackeray And The Grief Of Athavale


By Dr Anand Teltumbde

05 December, 2012
Countercurrents.org

Ramdas Athawale, who had left all the dealers of Dalit interests in Maharashtra far behind when he managed to sublimate himself straight from a dingy room in the Siddharth Vihar in Wadala to a regality of the Sahyadri, the state guest house in Malabar Hill in 1990 as a cabinet minister of Sharad Pawar, has come full circle from his radical Ambedkarism symbolized by his association with the Dalit Panther to the most anti-Ambedkarian version of Fascism of the late Bal Thackeray. Since he latched his RPI bandwagon to Thackeray’s Shiv Sena-juggernaut, he along with his hangers-on has been awkwardly trying to prove his faithfulness to Matoshree, knowing that his future prospects would be decided there. After all, he was just an alliance partner, but the manner in which he made rounds of Matoshree with grief stricken face, ensuring the television cameras were well focused to show it, was amusing to Dalits. After the ashes of Thackeray’s cremation cooled off, the Shiv Sena violently voiced its claim over the Shivaji Park for constructing the memorial for Thackeray, then relented sensing its impracticability but insisted on the site of cremation be preserved as a holy spot, and Athavale did not utter a word. This self-proclaimed Ambedkar- bhakta should have worried that just within less than a week lakhs of Dalits would pour into the Shivaji Park as every year and the so called ‘holy’ spot could pose a veritable threat to law and order. Athavale should have prevailed upon his partners and ensured that the site was restored as after all it was not legal to keep it beyond the two days for which the specific permission was reportedly given. Instead, on 29 November Ramdas Athavale gave a call to Dalits congregating at the Shivaji Park on 6 December to pay homage to their messiah, Babasaheb Ambedkar, that they should also pay their respects to Bal Thackeray at his cremation site.

Spinelessness Around

Bal Thackeray’s death in the fullest sense culminated his interesting life. His public life of some five decades was interspersed with instances of our collective timidity and hypocrisy but the spectacle his death created in a way has confirmed our spinelessness and cowardly character as a nation. The manner in which almost all people in media showered praises on his persona and paid eulogy to his legacy was nauseatingly bad. One might take shelter under the saying de mortuis nil nisi bonum (speak well of the dead or not at all) but it is a lie. It is our innate character to willingly buckle before power that drives us to such sheepish behavior. None from the millions who filled the crowds in Mumbai on 18 November or the liberals who exhibited their intellect in media asked a simple question what exactly has been the contribution of this man to the human kind, except for his chosen cronies and goons. Rather, he has been responsible for the deaths and devastation of several innocent lives over five long decades. He has not even benefitted Marathi manoos in any which way and rather has lowered his stature as petty and mean-minded species. Marathi people had certain image because of contributions of the stalwarts during the colonial times, particularly the likes of Jotiba Phule, who pioneered the social revolution in the country and Babasaheb Ambedkar, who advanced it to the new highs. Bal Thackeray completely destroyed it and made him rather look sectarian and xenophobic.

Few mustered courage and reminded people how Bal Thackeray played up identities: Marathi against south Indians, Gujaratis, UP’ites, Biharis, Bangladeshis, and of course Muslims from time to time, to build up his personal power and wealth. He exploited general frustration of the working class with their crisis ridden lives, split them along their regional identities and pitched them against each other to the glee of their exploiters. His proximity to the industrialists and businessmen, the film industry big wigs, hobnobbing with political nobility was insinuated by some courageous people. But none spoke about his primal intrigues against Dalits, the Marathi Dalits. On the contrary, he was projected by some as being against castes and in implications pro-Dalits. The truth is that he had been as unscrupulous in making use of castes as he has been in any other matter with his hatred for Ambedkar and Ambedkarite Dalits.

Parasitic Birth of Sena

The main prowess of Bal Thackeray was that he accurately knew what would appeal to the majority of people at various times. Perhaps this trait came naturally to him as a cartoonist. In the general context of struggles for reorganization of states on linguistic basis and in a special context of synchronization of the interests of a small section of the Marathi-speaking entrepreneurs and the larger section of the middle class and the working class in Greater Bombay, a movement for a state of Marathi speaking people had erupted as ‘Samyukta Maharashtra movement’. It was led by the communists and socialists like SM Joshi, SA Dange, PK Atre, with quixotic slogan of ‘samyukta maharashtra, samajvadi maharashtra’ (United Maharashtra, Socialist Maharashtra), in which Bal Thackeray’s father, Prabodhankar Thackeray was also an important participant. Shiv Sena may be considered as an illegitimate child of this Samyukta Maharashtra movement. Piggybacking on the Marathi sentiments built up during the Samyukta Maharashtra movement, he and his brother Shrikant had launched a Marathi cartoon weekly, ‘Marmik’ in August 1960 at the hands of Yashvantrao Chavvan. Although Marmik did not propound any specific political ideology, it consistently criticized Nehru and Dange for toeing the Soviet line and derided the Mulslims. The border issue between Maharashtra and Karnataka resulting from the formation of the Maharashtra state, its ignorance by the center and its extension of the injustice on Marathi people became the cause célèbre for Marmik. Within five years, Marmik became extremely popular among Marathi people. Riding on this popularity, and with the visible support of the ruling Congress Party (important Congress leaders like Sharad Pawar being present at its foundation function) the Shiv Sena was founded as a political party on June 21, 1966, with Marmik as its mouth piece. The Shiv Sena projected the issue of South Indians grabbing jobs in Mumbai and effectively began to split the working class endearing itself to the industrialists and political class. In its very first Dusshera rally on October 30, 1966, which was addressed by the then important Congress leader Ramrao Adik, the Shiv Sena mob had attacked and burnt South Indian shops and restaurants with impunity. The next year they burned the office of the CPI led Girni Kamgar Union that clearly revealed active patronage of the Congress to the rise of the Shiv Sena in Bombay politics. At that time, the Shiv Sena acted as the private militia of the Maharashtra Congress chieftains like Vasantrao Naik and Vasantdada Patil (who would later help it get ensconced in the BMC), who wanted to finish working class movement to please their clientele in industrialists of Bombay. The next major action was the cowardly murder of the popular and militant Communist trade union activist and sitting MLA, Com. Krishna Desai in June 1970 by the Shiv Sena, which firmly established it as the outfit to be feared. Thackeray skillfully capitalized on this fear and grew into a Frankenstein that would cast its evil shadow on Maharashtra for next five decades, quite like Indira Gandhi’s Bhindranwale or Osama Bin Laden of the USA but unlike them, not fully out of the Congress shadow.

Wicked Casteist Strategy

The next big threat to the ruling Congress emerged in the form of the Dalit panthers, founded in 1972, both as a challenge to the injustice of the social system and as a rebellion against the then moribund and directionless Republican Party of India (RPI). The Panthers began by taking up both caste and class issues and also launched a campaign to expose the regressive aspects of some Hindu religious tenets. Dalit panthers posed potentially bigger threat than that of the communists. It had not only threatened the Congress applecart of cooptation of Dalits launched in the previous decade but also portended revolt of the organic proletariat of the country. The Dalit Panther asked Dalits not to support the then RPI leaders who were backing Congress candidate Ramrao Adik, also supported by the Shiv Sena, for a by-election for Mumbai South-Central Lok Sabha seat. With an alibi of objecting to certain speeches made by Panther leaders about Hindu deities, the Shiv Sena unleashed riots against Dalits in the Worli BDD chawls in Mumbai in January 1974, which spread to other areas of the city and continued for a week. A Dalit Panther activist Bhagwat Jadhav was brutally killed by the Shiv Sena activities, marking the beginning of the anti-Dalit feud of the Shiv Sena against the Dalit community. Interestingly, Adik was defeated by CPI’s Roza Deshpande, daughter of the communist leader S A Dange.

Shiv Sena’s sparking off Worli riots was to neutralize the threat of the Dalit Panther at the behest of its benefactor, the Congress. The Congress could have never done it on its own because that could boomerang on it by antagonizing large sections of Dalits. For the Shiv Sena, that was no consideration. On the contrary, it would serve its incipient strategy to isolate the Ambedkarite Dalits as it knew they would never be its supporters. By projecting them to be Hindu haters, it hoped to consolidate all others including the non-Ambedkarite Dalits that supplied its adherents. Nobody had gone until then to the extent of identifying people along sub caste lines as Bal Thackeray did. In that sense he was not only casteist that any way all politicians are, but also super-casteist. This strategy paid him rich dividends in terms of consolidating all other castes, creating a sense of psychological elevation among other Dalit sub-castes as belonging to a party of high caste Hindus. The deliberate projection of himself in the saffron attire with other Hindu markers also indicated that he was a spirited Hindu and in corollary believed in castes.

The Ambedkar Hater

He never gave up an opportunity to insult Ambedkar, and batter Ambedkarite Dalits. In the agitation for renaming the Marathwada University at Aurangabad after Babasaheb Ambedkar, the Shiv Sena had a dubious distinction of being the only political party that consistently opposed it. Bal Thackeray had ridiculed Dalit demand saying, “.. people do not have flour at home and they demand university.” On July 27, 1978, the state assembly had adopted a unanimous resolution to rename the university. It provoked large-scale protests all over Marathwada accompanied by mass progroms against Dalits affecting some 1200 to 9000 villages in the region, rendering about 5000 people homeless. Beatings and rapes of women occurred, and one local activist Pochiram Kamble was burned to death. While the violence was instigated mainly by feudal landed interests in the Congress, supported by upper-caste zealots in the then Janata Party, the Shiv Sena, even though confined to Mumbai-Thane belt in those days, had vehemently opposed it. On November 25, 1993, Gautam Waghmare, a Dalit Panther youth from Nanded, committed self-immolation to press the issue of renaming. His martyrdom, denigrated by Bal Thackeray calling him a bevada (a drunkard), triggered off massive wave of demonstrations of Dalits and Left organizations in every district. The Shiv Sena, capitalizing on its consistent and most vocal opposition to the renaming of the Marathwada University, by then had reached Marathwada with its shakhas set up everywhere. It tried to hold back the tide with a Marathwada Bandh opposing the renaming, but this time it evoked little response. The state government could have easily implemented its renaming resolution respecting enormous sacrifice of Dalits over the 16-years long struggle but instead it announced on January 14, 1994 mere addition of “Babasaheb Ambedkar” before Marathwada University for its truncated half, the other half being renamed as a “Swamy Ramanand Tirth University” to be set up at Nanded. Thanks to the compromise of Ramdas Athavale, who was then a cabinet minister in the Sharad Pawar government, this glorious struggle of Dalits ended in a pyrrhic victory for Dalits and a reward for the reactionary elements. Nonetheless, the Shiv Sena would not even tolerate Ambedkar’s name to pollute the university. It denounced the decision with a violent statewide bandh call, but this time it failed in inciting riots.

As the Shiv Sena spanned out of its Mumbai-Thane stronghold, its main plank was battering the Ambedkarite Dalits, which gave expression to the latent hatred of the caste-Hindu folks in rural Maharashtra that was building up because of the cultural assertion and educational progress of Ambedkarite Dalits. By appealing to such base instincts of the backward rural folks Shiv Sena created its formidable constituency in Maharashtra. It did not have competition from any political party as none could openly discard their Dalit base they strenuously cultivated. The Shiv Sena’s strategy of isolating Ambedkarite (or navbauddha, as Thackeray called them) Dalits consolidated other Dalits as well as the OBCs. From the mid-eighties, the Shiv Sena began to incite a series of assaults and atrocities on Dalits, particularly in the rural areas of Marathwada and Vidarbha regions. The struggle for fallow lands has been one of the main economic agendas of Ambedkarite Dalits since 1953 when they had their first satyagraha under BS Waghmare in Marathwada at the instance of Babasaheb Ambedkar himself. In 1960s, they had revived this agenda and had a massive nationwide struggle for land under Dadasaheb Gaikwad. Many such lands were under cultivation by Dalits. The Shiv Sena opposed their encroachments on fallow lands, going to the extent of destroying their crops and attacking their hutments. A few Dalits, mostly agricultural labourers or marginal peasants were even killed in these attacks. On August 11, 1991, carnage took place in Gothala village in Ahmadpur taluka of Latur district in which two Mahar brothers were beaten to death in a mob attack. The most harrowing example was the murder of Ambadas Savane, who was stoned to death by the people belonging to Shiv Sena. When the Shiv Sena in coalition with the BJP formed the government, one of its first decisions was to summarily withdraw over 1100 cases of atrocities on Dalits in Marathwada. Interestingly, here also, Ramdas Athavale had played a role in compromising Dalit interests.

The aspect of Bal Thackeray’s character as the Ambedkar hater came to limelight in the Riddles controversy in 1987. The Maharashtra government had undertaken the project to publish complete writings and speeches of Babasaheb Ambedkar and as a part of the project it brought out a volume that contained Ambedkar’s hitherto unpublished work, “Riddles in Hinduism”. This text was highly critical of brahmanical Hinduism and pointed out its theological inconsistencies. The Shiv Sena opposed it as an intolerable insult to Hindu religion and Hindu deities and demanded a ban on its publication. The Congress government easily obliged suspending the publication. In protest, Dalits, uniting across all the factions, held one of Mumbai’s largest demonstrations ever at the Shivaji Park in November 1987 and demanded the reversal of the government decision. The government conceded defeat and published the text. Provoked by the Dalits show of strength, the Shiv Sena called for a rally in January 1988. It issued an advertisement entitled “An Insult to Hindu religion” which contained the statement clearly alluding to the impurity of Dalits. It said, “Only those Hindus who have unadulterated blood in them should join the morcha.” The following week both Dalits and Sainiks took to the streets. Sainiks organized public burnings of the book and engaged in violent clashes with Dalits. During a massive morcha of Dalits to Mantralaya on February 5, 1988, led by Prakash Ambedkar, some irate youth caused some damage to the hutatma (martyrs) memorial, which the Shiv Sena had erected at Flora Fountain Square. In response, Chhagan Bhujbal, who was one of the close confidante of Bal Thackeray then, performed a religious purification ceremony of the damaged structure by sprinkling go mutra (cow’s urine). Although the Shiv Sena had to be satisfied with a redundant footnote by the government to the Chapter, it’s very act of coming out in opposition of Ambedkar and his followers endeared itself to the majority of caste Hindus and OBCs, who always reared hatred for them but could not express it. This was the true face of Bal Thackeray vis-à-vis Ambedkarite Dalits and even Babasaheb Ambedkar.

Shiv Sena’s vicious role in the Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar massacre and its cover up is too well known to be recounted. On July 11, 1997, noticing the bust of Ambedkar in Ramabai Nagar desecrated by some miscreants, the Dalits in the colony came out on the road in protest. Nothing unusual had happened beyond the rasto rako they resorted to, to express their anger. However, picking up the opportunity, a petty sub-inspector Manohar Kadam, who had reached there with his state reserve police force, suddenly ordered firing on innocent people with purely malicious intent and mercilessly gunned down ten Dalits and wounded over thirty others. The Shiv Sena-BJP government and its police then launched a shameless campaign to justify the brutal act and protect Manohar Kadam with a fabricated LPG tanker story with a doctored videograph. The Gundewar Commission, instituted by the government in response to persistent agitation of Dalits, to investigate into the incident, exposed the lie of the government and castigated Kadam in no uncertain terms. Justice Gundewar expressed indignation in his report of December 1998 saying, “.. the lapses on part of Kadam are so glaring and fatal that they can hardly be accepted. He has exposed himself in more than one way and I do not think that such an officer should continue to be in police service.”

The entire history of Shiv Sena is replete with such instances that reveal the inveterate hatred for Ambedkar and Ambedkarite Dalits in the mind of Bal Thackeray.

Degenerate Dalit Leaders

Bal Thackeray’s allegorical statements ridiculing Ambedkar, his dismissive references to Ambedkarite Dalits in his lumpen language, irritatingly condoned as ‘thakri’ style, his indirect opposition to the poor slum dwellers and patronizing support to money bags, to be surely construed as anti-Dalits, are legion. But the politics of Dalits has degenerated to such an extent that it does not have much to do with such things. Dalit politicians have grasped the essence of politics as maximizing their wealth and power, which today have become two sides of the same coin. They do not need a priori people behind them. In the neoliberal era, people also value wealth and power. The only requirement for these leaders is to maintain their identities as leader of Dalits, which has been made easy with the iconization of Ambedkar. If you have money, you can attract people, you can engage them to do your propaganda, you can flood the walls with your wall-paintings, put up huge hoardings projecting yourself, flood news papers with your paid-news, influence television channels to project yourselves, and create general impression such that people will perceive you as a ‘big man’ and listen to your rubbish. Politics, in general, is reduced to this base process in the prevailing system. If you have desire, capability, extension motivation and enough intelligence to genuinely serve people but no money, nobody will look at you. This being the state of politics, there is nothing much to speak about politicians in general and Dalit politicians in particular, as the latter are expected to sell much cheaper than others in the political mandi. Anyone can call the tune by paying a penny to these pipers! It is therefore that Namdeo Dhasal, onetime fiery panther dreaming of a revolution wrote a book-length paean to Mrs Gandhi, ‘priyadarshini’ (his worst poem) in 1976 and eventually found shelter in Thackeray’s den; another self-appointed sarsenapati of a non-existent Sena, Jogendra Kawade, showered praises to Narendra Modi and desperately tried to be seen in Thackeray’s funeral; and lastly Ramdas Athavale, who has outsmarted all others in political brokering along with his gang of Mahatekars and Dangales, onetime well meaning fellows, landing at the feet of Thackerays.

Athavale, whose only qualification to the leadership is his third rate poetic chants of Ambedkar, had shamelessly ignored that Thackeray had never left an opportunity to insult Ambedkar and batter his followers. Thackeray had called Ambedkar a stooge of Nizam; likened Ambedkar to a pumpkin with a spectacle; sheltered the foul mouthed Shiv Sena leader Anand Dighe who mockingly insinuated doubt on the character of Bhimabai, Ambedkar’s mother, while explaining how he became Ambedkar from his original name ‘Sapkal’; tried to institute a custom of celebrating the demolition of the Babri masjid as ‘manav mukti din’ on 6 December, the day considered by millions of Dalits as the sad day and as late as in recent year, dismissed the idea of the proposed memorial for Ambedkar on the site of Indu Mills, instead insisting that the land should be given to the memorial for Jagannath Shankar Sheth. Interestingly, he had once insulted Athavale himself famously calling him as a parasite risen over the ass of Sharad Pawar. But what is shame before the prospects of pelf and power!

Dr Anand Teltumbde is a writer and a civil rights activist with CPDR, Mumbai. E-mail: tanandraj@gmail.com

 

Not a Thackeray of hope Manohar Joshi will give up his Koh-i-noor


Published: Tuesday, Nov 27, 2012, 10:30 IST
By Sudhir Suryavanshi | Agency: DNA
Here’s perhaps why senior Sena leader Manohar Joshi is cagey over giving away 4.8 acre of the Kohinoor Mills land to build a memorial for Bal Thackeray: he stands to lose property worth over Rs2,500 crore.Countering the mounting demands that the mill plot be handed over for constructing a memorial for Thackeray, who died on November 17, an annoyed Joshi has insisted that such a memorial will come up only at Shivaji Park in Dadar, where the Shiv Sena chief used to address rallies, even going to the extent of threatening to take the law into his hands if the need arises. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has ruled out the possibility of constructing this memorial at Shivaji Park.

Vijay Kamble, senior Nationalist Congress Party leader, dubs Joshi’s threat shameful. “If he has any real affection for Balasaheb, Joshi should hand over his mill land without hesitation. He should not love property more than the legacy of Thackeray, who gave him everything — from anointing him the chief minister to making him the Lok Sabha speaker. Joshi is the only one who got the most and key positions by Sena. Even if Joshi gives 10 Kohinoor Mills plots for the memorial, they will not be enough to repay what he owes Balasaheb.”

A senior Sena corporator who is also the chairman of a committee of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation alleges that Joshi’s demand for a memorial at Shivaji Park is a diversionary tactic. “He was the first person to announce the construction of a memorial. He probably knew that Shiv Sainiks would ask the Kohinoor Mills premises for the memorial. That’s why he played such a gimmick. But people are not fools; they can see through his politics.”l Turn to p4

He adds that the party cannot afford to cheese off voters in Dadar by forcing the construction of the memorial at Shivaji Park.

“A majority of our candidates lost in the civic poll this year. Forcing a memorial at Shivaji Park will only alienate the vote bank more.”

Social commentator Arun Tikekar questions the haste behind the move to fix a spot for the memorial. “The residents are opposing it. It won’t be appropriate to build one at the mayor’s bungalow. Besides, such a decision should be taken jointly by the Thackerays and Joshi. A memorial for Balasaheb can be built anywhere in the city.”

Real estate experts point out that Kohinoor Mills is a prime property in Dadar. “It comprises commercial and residential buildings, which will be ready by 2013. It has 72 ultra-luxury flats, each measuring 3,500sqft. The Kohinoor Group, headed by Manohar Joshi’s son Unmesh, has decided to sell each flat between Rs25 crore and Rs30crore. The aam aadmi cannot buy flats here; they will be sold only through invitations. These apartments are made for the uber-rich,” explains a realtor.

The buildings on the premises have not been sold as yet. “That’s why it’s the right time to build the memorial there, where we can have several guest houses and rooms to depict the life of Balasaheb. Also, Kohinoor Mills is close to Sena Bhavan and Shivaji Park,” argues Congress leader Rajendra Chaube.

Joshi was not available for his comments. His staff said he was away and had no idea when he’d be back.

Bal Thackeray, or, Why the Communists Did Nothing


November 22, 2012

by Saroj Giri, Sanhati

Right where Bal Thackeray was cremated, at Shivaji Park in Mumbai, another event had taken place in June 1970: “a twenty-five-thousand-strong funeral procession marched to Shivaji Park, the Sena stronghold, shouting anti-Shiv Sena slogans,” reports Gyan Prakash in his Mumbai Fables (Princeton University Press, 2010, p. 247). The reason: the murder of Krishna Desai by the Sena in June 5, 1970. Bal Thackeray was supposed to be directly involved in it.

Desai was the sitting Communist Party of India (CPI) MLA from central Bombay, a popular and militant working class leader. He was also one of those who went beyond the diktats of the official CPI leadership, which discouraged self-defence and direct action and could not integrate them in its overall political strategy. That evening of the day he was murdered, it is told that thousands of workers spontaneously came out to avenge the murder. This could have meant they would have ‘liquidated’ Bal Thackeray and his cohorts.

Of course given the leadership’s ‘rule of law’ approach, this was not to happen: the angry workers were told to disperse and the Hriday samrat was born. Thackeray went to town boasting about the murder, promising to carry out more such ‘actions’. Seeing that their leaders can be murdered and nothing happens to the murderer, workers loose morale and think that the communists are not serious about defending their interests. So that when Desai’s widow Sarojini Desai contests in the elections, even a sympathy wave for her dead husband who was a hero for the workers does not fetch her victory. The tide turned: the Sena wins, gets its first legislator from the jaws of communist hold. Large sections of the workers ‘go with the winner’, while the loser, the communists, increasingly fail to resist and retaliate and try to foolishly seek protection of the law and courts.

Earlier, “on September 10, 1967, Thackeray declared in Marmik that his object was the ‘emasculation of the Communists.’ Three months later, the Sena activists attacked the CPI’s Dalvi Building office in Parel. They burned files and threw out the furniture. It was an audacious attack, brazenly carried out to strike at the very heart of the enemy. What was the Communist response? Nothing.” (Prakash, p. 242)

It is out of this ‘nothing’, that void left by the communist leadership, against the will of militant workers, that Thackeray and the Shiv Sena come to life.

And yet today the progressives do not want to ask ‘why was the communist’s response ‘nothing’’. Instead they are busy pointing out Thackeray’s overt qualities, qualities that were anyways meant for public consumption and moreover, for the Sena, proud display. We are told that he epitomised the politics of fear and hatred, how he was a fascist and communal and divisive and so on. There is over-reliance on this kind of a ‘politics of exposure’, which is merely old rehashed wisdom about the Sena and Thackeray. Such hollering is done so seriously that one forgets that it alone changes nothing, does not weaken the Sena, nor even expose it. Nor does it shame the Indian state and security apparatus to now become an ally in your anti-communal or anti-fascist struggle.

The ‘politics of exposure’ is moreover part of a tendency to then present Thackeray as just a mad crazy exception, whom we just need to ‘expose’ and soon the rest of ‘democratic society’ and civil society will shun him to hell. The hollering invests the political atmosphere with such illusions. After all, it is not that the workers who joined the Sena did so since they found the organization ‘democratic’ and upholding the rule of law. Nor will they now leave it since they have finally found that it is ‘fascist’, a gang of thugs etc.

Above all, this hollering tends to make us forget that Thackeray emerges as a tacit ruling class response to a particular conjuncture of the class struggle in Mumbai. So let us instead ask: what could the Indian state and big capital have done when they were faced with the kind of ‘enemy’ like the organised communist working class power which had Bombay in its grips in the 1960s? The Indian state is, officially speaking, bound one way or another by its secularism, labour laws and things like that – which is all fine and creates no real hassles for the ruling classes so long as you have a decrepit left but not fine if you are confronted by a powerful working class movement. The movement was so powerful that even the CPI leadership, given the illusions it had about Indian democracy, feared its most militant sections and power.

Hence to deal with this communist monster you needed a force to ensure two (contradictory) things at the same time. First, decimate or liquidate the working class movement. Second, to maintain, at the same time, the garb of democracy, secularism, and so on. A banana republic or a Pinochet would have concentrated only on the first but here you had the ‘idea of India’ too which had to be uphailed – and to which even sections of CPI leadership not to speak of other progressives and ‘left-liberals’ were deeply attached.

An extra legal force like the Sena was exactly what fitted the bill. Not the right wing vigilante armed gangs cut off from the society to be found in Latin America but one which would have a deep organic connect to ‘society’. Hindutva and the populism of the Marathi manoos ensured this connect. A cross between a vigilante and a grass roots populist movement. Put it this way: Thackeray and the Sena were something like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) emerging from within the underbelly of majoritarian society, articulating its latent organic fissures. I mean, if it is war on terror or against anti-nationals, the state is comfortable in sanctioning murder and extra-judicial killings through extraordinary laws formally passed in Parliament. There is no fear of losing democratic legitimacy in the eyes of mainstream upper middle classes.

The working classes or even Naxals are however a different matter, trickier to handle. It is difficult to paint the working classes in textile mills of central Bombay as anti-national and hence for the state to move against it – particularly, when the working classes are consciously portraying themselves as a class in an organised fashion, as a ‘class-for-itself’, and are also politically represented in legislatures and are also largely ‘Hindu’. Decimating working class struggle is of the highest importance and yet executing it demands utmost discretion, a higher level of cunning.

The extra-legal decimating force cannot therefore take the shape of a formal law, even an extraordinary one through an act of Parliament and so on. ‘Society’ then has to ‘produce’ such a force from within its organic underbelly – hence, while enacting the most general interests of capital, Thackeray was not someone who could be a hired goon for the capitalists and mill owners of Mumbai. A hired goon or henchman would only defend particular interests of specific capitalists and industrialists. Thackeray did that too – Rahul Bajaj recalls how Thackeray ‘sorted out’ a workers-related issue at his manufacturing facility. There must be many such cases of ‘sorting out’ by the Sena.

But beyond a point Thackeray ‘rises above’ these individual cases and becomes a higher presence, Hriday Samrat. Or, ‘Maharashtra’s patriarch’, as HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh put it and whose loss he wants to mourn. The point is clear: why would a banker mourn the death of ‘a patriarch’? We have here a much deeper conduit between the (upper caste Hindu) underbelly and (publicly acknowledged) capitalist class interests – Hindutva and the general interests of capital merge in Thackeray.

Moreover, Thackeray could enact all this in the name of the ordinary Marathi manoos. What is not so common knowledge is that he also made liberal use of the anti-Brahman language and symbolism from Jotirao Phule when “he ridicules the pompousness of the Brahmin cultural establishment and ‘high society’” (Thomas Blom Hansen, Wages of Violence, p. 199). If this was not enough, Blom Hansen reports that CPI leader Dange was once invited to share dais with Thackeray, to tremendous applause. And that the ‘socialist’ George Fernandes was a family friend of the Thackeray clan. Further also that the Sena flirted for some time with the idea of ‘practical socialism’ in the early 1980s.

This deep nexus between the Sena and the Indian state and big capital does not however seem credible to many progressives. The word they use is ‘collusion’ between the state and the Hindutva forces. This suggests that the nexus is not deep enough and you expect that when the fascist thugs come for your life you can still be saved by the state – since the state is constitutionally bound to do that for you! Thus when the Sena came gunning for them, the CPI leadership was indeed looking for a way to convert a clearly anti-communist offensive, nay a murder plan, of the Sena and the ruling classes, into a case of a wider attack on the so-called secular fabric of the nation and so on.

Well, did the secular fabric and the Indian state come to the rescue of the communists? It didn’t: the secular fabric turned the other way, just the manner in which Indian security forces often look the other way when hapless Muslims appeal for help in a riot situation. The difference with Muslims is that the communists are targeted first. Indeed the Shiv Sena phenomenon is a clear case of ‘first they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak up because I was not a communist…’. And yet there is today a veiled attempt to avoid probing the period when communists were face to face with the Sena. We need to revisit the communist strategy and find out why the response was ‘nothing’, above all keeping in mind that an anti-communal front cannot be where communists should be taking refuge.

But ‘revisiting communist strategy’ is not to now utter postcolonial inanities like ‘the communists emphasized the class question too much and never really understood caste, or religion or identities’. It is not to validate what in ‘cultural studies’ is called ‘the problem of translation’, that class is supposedly a Euro-centric category and cannot comprehend Indian social reality. Instead it is to state that there is really no problem of translation.

The problem of translation was not for the communists but for Thackeray: isn’t it common knowledge that he had to resort to the language and politics of class, that he had to take up the interests of the workers and lower castes, in order to institute his ‘identity politics’. He was forced to do that – he had to translate his identity politics into class lines in order to gain entry into the ‘communist stronghold’ of central Bombay. As the political scientist Aryama pointed out to me, unlike ‘fascists’, the Shiv Sena did not really crush the working class movement. It rechanneled the movement along ‘safe’ lines of Marathi manoos, anti-Muslim politics and so on.

It was not emphasis on class and the problem of translation which undid the communists but a half-hearted emphasis – there was emphasis on the working class ‘issues’ but not on class power, on the organised power of the working class led by the vanguard party. Working class power would have given us a different scenario after Desai’s murder. That is, in a bizarre twist, it was the Sena which would mobilize workers’ ‘militancy’, now misdirected, rather than the CPI leadership which ditched both ground level leaders like Desai and other workers by instead relying on the supposed rule of law and Indian constitutional, legal protection and so on.

So when did ‘direct action’ become a purely fascist trait, as the progressives are telling us today? Here is today a left which turns its back on working class history apparently because class is not an adequate category for Indian reality and so on – something which does not follow from actual facts. Perhaps, it was such a decrepit left which convinced those like Namdeo Dhasal to join the Sena rather than the left – for the Dalit Panthers did also use direct action as a way to defend the interests of Dalit working classes. The communist tradition has a strong place as much for direct action as for direct democracy – you however cannot have one without the other. This needs to be reasserted.

Direct action can be critiqued. But such a critique cannot be geared towards suggesting that we should now come under the mediation of the rule of law and the constitution – and then refuse to see how these latter cannot be upheld at the expense of the workers’ power. Thackeray’s direct action was to ultimately defend the mediation of the rule of law, facilitate its normal functioning and preserve the status quo. It was an exception meant to reinscribe the rule. It was the Hindutva thug’s AFSPA – extraordinary law to ensure the return to ordinary laws, to ‘peace and development’.

The communist workers and the Dalit Panthers’ ‘direct action’ is merely a (Hegelian) move to recognize the Sena’s ‘direct action’, the Hindutva thug’s AFSPA to be an integral part of the normal functioning of the law and the norm. The pro-state (or democratic/parliamentary) left, including many social movements, fails to recognize it as such and is in denial. It treats the Sena’s ‘direct action’ as an aberration from ‘our constitution’ or ‘democratic tradition’ or ‘the idea of India’ – it hence rushes to the state and the rule of law to seek ‘correction of this aberration’, seek legal protection and in the process claim to be democratic and peace-loving and so on. It would have been fine if this was done to strategically build a powerful wider movement. Instead it reduces the entire movement to just this. This is clear, for example, from the way it equates ‘direct action’ by the communists with that of the fascists.

This has historical parallels. After the collapse of Nazism, western liberals tried to present Nazism as an aberration, as something which just happened – if only we would not forget how horrible fascism was, we could stop it from repeating itself. Marxists, in particular the Soviet countries, treated fascism as a live possibility so long as the bourgeoisie was in power. So the Soviets would not merely build memorials to the victims of a past event, which we should not forget, but emphasise that the war against fascism is an ongoing one. Fascism is not in that sense a historically singular aberration.

Moreover when it came to the communist resistance to Nazism, the Soviets were equated to the Nazis. So we are told you have the Nazi concentration camps, but you also have Soviet concentration camps! We cannot take these claims at face value as simple statement of facts. At another level, we must seriously take Slavoj Zizek’s provocation: “in today’s era of hedonist permissivity as the ruling ideology, the time is coming for the Left to (re)appropriate discipline and the spirit of sacrifice: there is nothing inherently “Fascist” about these values” (‘The True Hollywood Left’ ).

The rejection of direct action by equating it with fascist tactics therefore is not just a simple and sincere way to counter the Sena offensive. It conceals a refusal to open up a whole history of communist and working class resistance in Mumbai which used ‘similar’ tactics – including by the Dalit Panthers. We are very good in upholding the cultural heritage of the left movement, right from tamashas to nukkad nataks to the poems and songs from IPTA. If these are not to become mere cultural artefacts and floating images, we must uncover the history of very real battles that have been fought, street by street, factory after factory, chawl after chawl.

Perhaps lot of the questions about organization, agency, mass mobilization, vanguard; about class struggle and identity/caste and so on can be better addressed through an account of these struggles. Meena Menon and Neera Adarkar’s work is highly commendable in this respect but we need more work in this area which would directly tell us about communist organizing rather than provide only an ‘ethnography of labour’ (One Hundred Years, One Hundred Voices: The Millworkers of Girangaon, An Oral History, Seagull, Kolkata, 2004). An elementary aspect of workers insurgency is waiting to be written. Perhaps this will also help us expand our approach to understanding revolutionary struggle beyond the Tebhagas and Telanganas and the Naxalbaris – particularly, if one is really serious about ‘the urban perspective’.

To start with, we might want to find more about Krishna Desai’s Lok Seva Dal about which we are told by Prakash: “Desai founded the Lok Seva Dal as much to counter the Sena’s ideological appeal as to confront its physical force. With these twin purposes in mind, the Lok Seva Dal held political-education classes as well as organized physical exercise programs and games. Since the party leadership offered no support, Desai raised money locally to pay for expenses” (p. 245). Now, are you about to tell me that the “organised physical exercise programs and games” reminds you of a RSS shakha?

CASTE AND CREDIT THE JAI BHIM SAGA


UNDER FIRE Cops at the scene of the riots at Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar in 1997

UNDER FIRE Cops at the scene of the riots at Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar in 1997 .

 

Anand Patwardhans new documentary,14 years in the making,is on the continuing struggle of the Dalit community in Maharashtra

Jyoti Punwani

Garbage,slums,weather-beaten faces talking with pride and anger;above all full-throated songs recounting the life of Bhimrao Ambedkar and all the savagery his followers have faced since Independence in the progressive state of Maharashtra.These are the images that stay with you after watching Anand Patwardhans newdocumentary J a i B h i m C o mr a d e,which has just got a censor certificate with no cuts.

Three and a half hours long and 14 years in the making,the film,which has already won the first prize at Kathmandus Film South Asia festival,looks at the world from the perspective of the Dalitas well as the perspective the other side has of the community.A youngster in a Barista outlet complains about how unqualified SCs ( We hate them, says his female companion) get seats in colleges,making qualified ones wish they were backward too.Would you like to be a Dalit to get that seat asks Anand. No, replies the boy.Their thinking is low,they are dirty. They clean your filth, points out Anand.If thats the job they want,what can I do shrugs the youth.

A worker,ankle-deep in slime at Mumbais dumping ground (a recurring locale in the film,for its a Dalit workplace ),lost an eye when his pitchfork hit him.Forget compensation,even a cap to protect his head from shit isnt part of his contract.Nor is protective gear;the BMC challenged a high court order to provide 2,000 garbage workers on contract with gumboots,caps and raincoats.
The entire SC category is so dirty,you can make out even from far, shudders a Shivaji Park resident.Others complain about how they run,even as far as Dubai,when Dalit hordes descend on December 6 on the park to commemorate Ambedkars death anniversary.You cant compare it to the Ganesh festival, says another,when asked why no one objects to the 10-day mayhem that accompanies Maharashtras favourite festival.

Whose favourite Thats the question Anands film leaves you asking.I was born a Hindu,but I will not die a Hindu, sings Shahir Vithal Umap,one of the many Dalit singers whose songs run like a thread through the film.After our so-called independence,the 330 million Hindu gods didnt get time to free 350 million of us from slavery, says Bhai Sangare,a founder of the Dalit Panthers.So what did we do Made Dr Ambedkar a god and worshipped him.

Sangare mocks this culture of devotion,but when lullabies about Nandlal are replaced with those relating the message of Bhim (Ambedkar ),and folk songs yearning for Kanha are cast aside for those about Ramabai Ambedkar yearning for her husband,one wonders whether such devotion should be mocked.The difference Ambedkar made to his followers comes out best through the words of a labourer whose daughter was raped by their Vanzara landlord: The Vanzaras call us lowcaste Mangs,and we work on their fields;so we also think we are low-caste. No Buddhist follower of Ambedkar would say that.

The ability to look their upper-caste tormentors in the eye and reject them and all they stand forthis quality marks Maharashtras Ambedkarite Dalits,shows the film.This is also the reason their torment continuesbe it Mumbais Ramabai Nagar in 1997,when 11 Dalits were shot dead by the police for protesting the desecration of their Ambedkar statue;or Khairlanji in 2006,when a Dalit mother,daughter and son were mutilated and killed by upper castes.The Sena-BJP was in power when the Ramabai Nagar firing took place;the Congress-NCP did all it could to protect sub-inspector Manohar Kadam,who ordered the firing.Yet,the end of the film shows the leaders of all these parties garlanding Ambedkars statue at Ramabai Nagar,welcomed by the once militant RPI leader Jogendra Kavade.Its 2009;the cooption is complete;the residents weary,not even sure now who was in power when the firing took place.

The Ramabai Nagar firing led Marxist Dalit poet Vilas Ghogre to hang himself.This comrade died with a blue Jai Bhim headband on.Vilas had sung for Anands award-wininng H a m a r a S h e h e r,and his suicide prompted Anand to make J a i B h i m C o m r a d e.The film took so long not only because I wanted to follow the Ramabai firing case;I also wanted to find out why Vilas killed himself. In doing so,Anand found himself following other Dalit musicians and the background that inspired them.The film ends with the talented young singers of Punes Kabir Kala Manch,who have had to go underground after the police labelled them Maoists for singing about the powerlessness of the Constitution to help them.

Of course the police do nothing when Bal Thackeray says human rights activists should be shot with stenguns;when Narendra Modi,sudarshan chakra revolving around his finger,says terrorists must be answered in kind;when Marathas tell their followers they can set their enemies on fire.The film records all these gems.But the best of them all A young Chitpavan telling Anand at a Brahmin rally: Theres a speciality in our genes;we have the genetic capacity to solve the worlds problems.