Endless wait for return of a ‘martyr’ from Pakistan

Gautam Dheer, Apr 28, 2012 : Deccan Herald —For over three decades, 61-year old and ailing Angrez Kaur lived a life in tremulous dilemma unsure if her husband was alive or if she was a widow. 

Angrez Kaur with her son Amrik Singh (left) and grandson Ramandeep Singh.Her son Amrik Singh has only seen his father Surjit Kumar, a Border Security Force constable, in pictures hung on the walls in the house.

He was barely a month-old when Surjit went ‘missing’ in the 1971 war with Pakistan from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.

He was a Prisoner of War (Pow) in Pakistan. Three years after the war, the BSF declared Singh dead, a martyr in records.

But then the unexpected happened.

Indian prisoners repatriated from Pakistan jails in 2004 revealed that Surjit Singh was still alive and languishing in a Pakistan jail. Seven years later, the family’s endless wait for Surjit to return continues.

Kaur and his son Amrik have little choice but to cling on to hope of being one with Singh in this lifetime. BSF records still read him as a martyr and the Indian authorities haven’t been able to make tangible headway to secure the release of a martyr”.

“It has been over 40 years of pain. It’s not entirely impossible to reconcile with the loss of a loved one if you are sure of it. But it’s the prolonged uncertainty over your husband’s life that haunts me everyday,’’ Kaur said.

Ferozepur resident Satish Kumar Marwaha vouches for the fact that Surijit is alive. Surjit and Satish were in the same barrack for several years until Satish was released from a Pakistan jail.

But Surjit’s family hasn’t given up. And hope comes from Pakistan’s former
Federal Minister for Human Rights Ansar Burney.

Amrik and his uncle Dr Ajay Mehra, a medical practitioner in Faridkot, met Burney a few days ago. Hope rekindled after Burney assured them of all possible help to secure Surjit’s release.

Talking to Deccan Herald, Amrik said:

“ My mother at times gets up past midnight and wants me to talk to her about my father. She feels happy when I tell her that her prayers will be heard soon. She tells me to visit every Baba (godman) who comes to the village.’’

Kaur’s marriage was just two years old when her world fell apart after Surjit Singh went missing.

All she was then told by the BSF that her husband could have been captured as a PoW by Pakistan, or perhaps, may have even died in gunfire. His fate was sealed in 1974 when the BSF officially declared him dead, a martyr in their records.

Burney has been pursuing the matter in Pakistan since last year. In fact, it was Burney who called up Surjit’s family last year to reconfirm that the Indian soldier was alive and in a jail. Singh was awarded death penalty as a PoW in Pakistan. But, his sentence was eventually converted into life imprisonment.

All these decades he was kept at the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore. His jail term ended in December last year, said sources. The family has repeatedly taken up the matter with the BSF. The organisation says it has held meetings with the Pakistani Rangers to facilitate Singh’s deportation.

After Surjit did not return from the border and news of Surjit going missing poured in, Kaur returned to her parents in Faridkot town in Punjab. Kaur chose not to remarry. Amrik said, he has appro­ached all agencies for help, but his father still languishes in Pakistan jail.

The Ministry of External Affairs had told Kaur in August 2005 that the BSF had taken up the matter with the Pakistan Rangers in October 2004. But nothing worked out.
Burney said he would meet Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani for the early release of Surjit.

Angrez Kaur recalls the ordeal when her husband went missing in 1971. The government told her that Surjit went missing on December 3, 1971 night from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.

“Amrik was in my lap when my world crashed. Nobody was sure where my husband was. Something kept my belief that my husband was alive, despite the BSF formally declaring him dead in 1974. His photographs are the only memories. My son Amrik has picked up photography to make a living,” Kaur said.

Ashes of Indians in Pakistan

Ashes of at least 53 Indians, who died languishing in Pakistan jails, are still kept in Pakistan prisons.

The revelation was made by Ansar Burney during his recent visit to India last week.

Burney said he will take up the matter with the Pakistan government so that the ashes are brought to India and last rites can be performed by families here.

Supreme Court directs Chhattisgarh government to bring Soni Sori to AIIMS for treatment

Supreme Court directs Chhattisgarh government to bring Soni Sori to AIIMS for treatment

On 2nd May a bench of Supreme Court judges, Justices Altamas Kabir and Chalameshwar, directed the Chhattisgarh state to produce the Adivasi teacher, Soni Sori, in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences within one week.  Reacting to descriptions of her continuing severe medical health problems in letters received from Soni Sori in Raipur jail and from her advocate who had met with her, the Supreme Court expressed deep concern about Soni Sori’s medical condition and recommended that she be brought to AIIMS at the earliest for a thorough medical examinationand full treatment. The Director of AIIMS has also been directed to constitute a Medical Board comprising of Heads of Gynecology, Endocrinology and other departments who would examine Ms. Sori and treat her, and give their opinion on her condition to the Supreme Court by July 10th.

Ms. Soni Sori is the Superintendent of Jabeli ashram for tribal children in Dantewada.  She had been arrested in Delhi on Oct 4 2011 for being a suspected Maoist sympathizer. Having faced police harassment for over a year while functioning in her government-appointed post, she was in Delhi at that time to file a complaint against the Chhattisgarh police and expose them in the media.  Fearing torture at the hands of Chhattisgarh police after her arrest, she had appealed to the Delhi High Court to keep her in custody in Delhi and not send her to Chhattisgarh, but her plea was rejected.  Subsequently, she was brutally tortured by the Chhattisgarh police while she was in their custody from 8-10 October 2011; torture that has since been corroborated by an independent medical examination conducted by NRS Hospital and Medical College in Kolkata.

The Supreme Court today made mention of the brutalization of Ms. Sori that was confirmed by the Kolkata Hospital which recovered three stones inserted deep inside the private parts of Ms. Soni, during the torture she was subjected to in her custodial interrogation.  The Kolkata hosptal had recommended that she be brought back for further treatment and examination at the end of 15 days —  but more than six months have passed since her examination in Kolkata in October 2011 and not only has she not been taken back for treatment, even the medicines prescribed by the Kolkata doctors are not being given to her.  The letters read out in court today described her worsening medical condition where she complains of intermittent bleeding, anemia, vaginal discharges, prolapsed uterus, difficulty in standing and walking, variably high blood pressure, numbness in limbs etc.  In these letters, it was also described how the Chhattisgarh jail authorities are withholding Ms. Soni’s treatment despite court orders, and how Ms. Sori has to suffer their taunts for simply requesting medical treatment.

Taking note of all these, the Supreme Court expressed the need for urgent medical examination and treatment of Ms. Soni Sori at an independent institution.  Since the counsel for Chhattisgarh state expressed reservations about treatment at NRS Hospital in Kolkata, the court directed that Ms. Sori should be immediately brought and examined at AIIMS.

सोनी सोरी का दिल्ली के एम्स में होगा इलाज

पाणिनि आनंद

soni sori supreme court order aiims treatment relief maoist aligation raipur
सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने सोनी सोरी मामले में अहम आदेश देते हुए उन्हें दिल्ली लाने को कहा
पुलिस उत्पीड़न का शिकार सोनी सोरी को बुधवार को देश के सर्वोच्च न्यायालय से कुछ राहत मिलती नज़र आई है. सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने इस मामले में दायर एक याचिका पर सुनवाई करते हुए आदेश दिया है कि सोनी सोरी को दिल्ली स्थित अखिल भारतीय आयुर्विज्ञान संस्थान में इलाज के लिए लाया जाए.
अदालत ने कहा है कि एक सप्ताह के भीतर सोनी सोरी को दिल्ली लाया जाए और यहाँ एक मेडिकल टीम गठित करके उनके स्वास्थ्य की ताज़ा स्थिति पर रिपोर्ट तैयार की जाए.
पीयूसीएल की राष्ट्रीय महासचिव कविता श्रीवास्तव ने कहा कि अदालत का यह फैसला फौरी तौर पर राहत देने वाला है क्योंकि इससे सोनी कम से कम अपना इलाज करा सकेगी और यातना और दर्द से कुछ मुक्ति पा सकेगी लेकिन असली लड़ाई उसकी रिहाई है. एक निर्दोष महिला को जेल में डालकर उसके साथ ऐसा बर्ताव करना इस लोकतंत्र के लिए कलंक की तरह है.
सोनी सोरी फिलहाल रायपुर जेल में हैं. उनपर माओवादियों की मदद करने के आरोप लगाए गए हैं. पेशे से अध्यापिका सोनी सोरी का कहना है कि ये सारे आरोप ग़लत है और इसलिए लगाए गए हैं क्योंकि उन्होंने राज्य सरकार द्वारा आदिवासियों के दमन के खिलाफ आवाज़ उठाई थी.
अक्टूबर, 2011 में जेल में भयंकरतम और घृणित यातनाओं को झेल रही सोनी सोरी को कोलकाता के एक मेडिकल कॉलेज में इलाज के लिए ले जाया गया था जहाँ उनके जननांगों और मलद्वार से पत्थर निकाले गए थे. ये पत्थर उनके शरीर में पुलिस अधिकारियों के द्वारा प्रताड़ना के दौरान जबरन ठूंसे गए थे.
हालांकि सोनी सोरी को कोलकाता में इलाज के लिए दोबारा 15 दिनों के भीतर ले जाने की सलाह दी गई थी लेकिन रायपुर पुलिस ने ऐसा कुछ नहीं किया. तब से सोनी सोरी की स्थिति दिन ब दिन और बदतर होती गई.
सूजन, जननांगों से लगातार रक्तश्राव और असहनीय दर्द में तड़पती सोनी सोरी अभी भी रायपुर की जेल में बंद हैं. ताज्जुब की बात है कि जिस मामले में उन्हें जेल में रखा गया है, उस मामले के बाकी कॉर्पोरेट अभियुक्तों को रायपुर हाईकोर्ट ने ज़मानत पर रिहा कर दिया है.
लगभग छह महीने से भयंकर शारीरिक और मानसिक यातना झेल रही सोनी सोरी को जिस अपमान और दर्द से गुज़रना पड़ा है, उसका अनुमान  लगा पाना भी मुश्किल है. बदले में ऐसा करने वाले पुलिस अधिकारी अंकित गर्ग को राष्ट्रपति पदक से सम्मानित किया गया है. एक महिला के इस घृणित शोषण उत्पीड़न के बाद एक महिला राष्ट्रपति द्वारा ऐसा करने वाले को सम्मानित करना खुद में न्याय और मानवाधिकारों के प्रति हमारी राजसत्ता की कलई उतारकर रख देता है.

Unique identity crisis- #UID #Aaadhaar #Nandan Nilekani

Author(s): Latha JishnuJyotika Sood, Down to Earth
Issue: May 15, 2012

Biometric-based unique identity or Aadhaar is leading to huge problems for people working for the rural employment guarantee scheme and for others receiving welfare benefits. Not only have enrolments been done shoddily but the experience of the pilot projects shows that it is almost impossible to authenticate the work-hardened fingerprints of the poor, findLatha Jishnu and Jyotika Sood. Besides, there is the overwhelming issue of deficient online connectivity. As a result, some ministries are increasingly opting for smart cards which they say are more reliable and secure

mano devi
Mano Devi’s hands are calloused. The micro-ATM does not recognise her unique identity

Mano Devi is distraught. A woman in her late 30s, who is dependent on the manual work given by the government to keep her going, Mano Devi of Bunkheta village in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district has missed work allotted under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for the fourth day in three weeks.

That’s because she has had to come to the Pragya Kendra or Common Service Centre panchayat headquarters at Dohakatu village every day hoping to get her back wages through the machine.

The machine, as she calls it, is the hand-held device/micro-ATM that scans her fingerprints to authenticate her unique identity or the 12-digit Aadhaar number for bank transactions.

For four days now, the micro-ATM has refused to recognise her unique identity, making it impossible for her to collect her wages of the past three weeks. That is a total of 12 days’ wages at the rate of Rs 120 per day.


“They have tried every finger and thumb, but I don’t know why that machine does not accept any of them. I have done everything that the officers and the machine babu have told me to: scrubbed my hands with soap and water, even applied mustard oil,” says a tearful Mano Devi. The machine babu is the banking correspondent (BC), Rajesh Kumar, appointed by the Bank of India. So every day she has returned empty handed to her home about two km away, let down by the sophisticated technology that was supposed to relieve her of the tedium of going to the nearest branch bank to collect her wages, and losing a working day in the process. The problem for Mano Devi is her fingerprints. Her hands are calloused. Touch her fingers and you can feel the cuts, the hardened skin which is the result of the tough work she is engaged in: breaking stones, picking up heavy material, ploughing and, of course, working in the kitchen.

She asks the BC if she can go back to the old system where she was paid through the post office, but the BC tells that since she is a part of the pilot of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), it is not possible for her to withdraw her wages through any other route. “When they took our fingerprints some months ago and gave us a card with a number we were told that we would not have to go to the bank or post office for our wages. The wages would come to us. Now I am not getting my money.”

The way this works, or does not as in many a case, is the information from the micro-ATM is first routed to the bank branch server and on to the National Payment Corporation of India server from where the Aadhaar is sent to the UIDAI’s central database, Central ID Repository, for authentication. It then comes all the way back to the micro-ATM device which is connected to the GPRS network through the sim card of a local service provider.

The three banks that have joined the pilot are ICICI Bank, which is using the services of Fino, a business and banking technology company that specialises in services delivery; Bank of India that has outsourced it to United Telecoms Limited (UTL) and Union Bank. Interestingly, MGNREGA payments are already being routed through banks and post offices following a policy decision in 2008. In addition, old age pensions and school stipends are also part of the pilot (see ‘Clueless on banking’).

Across the three districts of Jharkhand—Ranchi, Hazaribagh and Ramgarh—where the pilots are being conducted to test the ease and efficacy of the UID platform for disbursing wages and other welfare payments directly to the beneficiaries, the story repeats itself with minor variations. The attempt by UIDAI, headed by software entrepreneur Nandan Nilekani, is to prove the practical application of its project which has run into criticism on account of its huge costs (estimated at Rs 9,000 crore for collecting the biometrics of 600 million residents) and questions about its utility.

But in the well-appointed offices of UIDAI in Delhi’s Connaught Place where the modalities of the pilots were worked out, deputy director general Ashok Pal Singh is reassuring: “In any new process it is quite possible the system is not working. It happened with banks when they went in for online transactions.”

His contention is that there is no denial of service since people like Mano Devi can go back to the bank for the wages. “They are no worse off than before.”

That does not seem to be the case in Dohakatu and elsewhere where large numbers of old age pensioners and wage workers have not been authenticated. There is a big problem out here: the UIDAI guidelines say nothing about re-enrolments. Officials, too, are not sure how those who have been issued Aadhaar numbers can be re- enrolled.

For Roopna Rao, Champoo Devi, Laxman Rao, Atbor Oraon and Jhingiya Oraon, whose biometrics have been rejected permanently, the outlook is bleak.

Ratu Block officials say that there had been major problems in reading fingerprints when UID enrolments were made in 2010.

It appears that the enrolment agencies just clicked a photograph and did not ensure that the fingerprints were scanned. A local UID official confirms this.

“Enrolment agencies had given targets to the operators and were putting pressure on them. What must have happened is that they showed some people as not having fingers and recorded them as exceptional cases.”

At least 200 such cases have come to light in Jharkhand where an agency had provided only the iris details to generate Aadhaar numbers by misusing a provision in the UID guidelines that says one biometric detail, either fingerprints or iris, is allowed if one is of poor quality or not available. It is called forced capturing.

Singh, who is in charge of financial inclusion and strategic planning in UIDAI, says: “Give us that much credit. We have a system in place.

It is in the early stages and we are making continuous improvements.” Singh, who says he has been “involved with technology all my life” and was earlier in charge of networking the country’s 150,000 post offices, declares that “there is no system that works 100 per cent.” And in a project of this size, the largest in the world, there would always be some glitches.

imageUIDAI director general R S Sharma explains the process of UID enrolmentThis is a recurring theme with UIDAI. In an interview given earlier to Down To Earth, Ram Sevak Sharma, director general of UIDAI, said that nowhere in the world was there such a large database of biometrics and as such it was “not proven technology at this scale”.

Besides, “nothing is 100 per cent accurate; it is simply not possible.” All the same, Sharma had admitted then that “fingerprint quality had not been studied in the Indian context”. But since then UIDAI has released a study on proof of concept on authentications—and its findings are far from reassuring.

In its Authentication Accuracy Report released in March this year, the authority claimed that proof of concept conducted in a rural setting “representing typical demography of the population” establishes the following:

imageUsing the best finger single-attempt gives an accuracy of 93.5 per cent;

imageUsing multiple (up to three) attempts of the same best finger improves the accuracy to 96.5 per cent.

It did not say how many of the 50,000 people used in the study were from rural areas since a large part of the exercise was undertaken in Delhi. The study also notes differences in performance of different sensor-extractor combinations and “enabled identification of device specifications and certification procedure necessary for high authentication accuracy under Indian conditions”.

In the field though, the experience is not as good as the report claims. In Tigara, just 45 km from Ranchi, Mahmud Alam, the BC employed by UTL, discloses that since the pilots started on December 23, 2011, just 20 people with Aadhaar have been mapped for MGNREGA payments although Ratu Block has about 800 MGNREGA card holders. Of the 20 mapped, five have been debarred since their biometrics could not be authenticated by his device despite repeated attempts. In addition, 60 to 80 people have been drawing pension. According to Jharkhand officials, the state has around four million MGNREGA cardholders. The scaling up could reveal much larger authentication errors.

Watching Alam on a hot March afternoon is a lesson in how the UID platform is fraught with uncertainties and shortcomings. The biggest problem is connectivity. There are two towers directly across the road from the Pragya Kendra in Tigara panchayat and a third is being erected in the vicinity. Yet, Alam is forced to make a round of the Kendra and finally move out towards the anganwadi before he is able to make contact with his bank server. “Connectivity is at the heart of this system. If the GPRS link works everything goes well; otherwise this micro-ATM is as good as dead.”

Followed patiently by the MGNREGA workers who trail him from point to point as he tries for connectivity, Alam is aware of the growing anxiety of his flock. One of them finally proves lucky. Arjun Goap, an 18-year-old farm lad who has done some land levelling work in Barsai Tola (hamlet), some 4 km away, is finally through on the fourth try and after a wait of an hour. But, sometimes, if connectivity is good a transaction can be completed in 20 seconds, explains Alam.

imageArjun Goap gets his fingerprint scanned to withdraw his MGNREGA wages at Tigara panchayat in Ranchi (Photos: Jyotika Sood)Interestingly, the Pragya Kendras where the payments are made were set up in 2009 by then principal secretary of the Department of Information and Technology, Jharkhand, and now the director general of UIDAI and its top honcho after chairman Nilekani. In fact, most of the panchayat offices where the BCs disburse payments boast a mobile phone tower or two. Connectivity away from the panchayat centres of course is nil.

It is believed that Jharkhand was chosen for the pilots because of Sharma’s influence in his home state although the official version is that Chief Minister Arjun Munda is “greatly interested in technology” and opted for UID to cut down subsidy leaks. But UIDAI officials admit that they have approached several state governments to push for projects. In Alwar, Rajasthan has decided to link subsidised kerosene supplies to Aadhaar and is reported to have weeded out a number of ghost cards. But it is a small experiment where just a 100 people have been mapped.

In Mysore, the Indian Oil Corporation has decided to use the UID platform to weed out those who are ineligible for subsidised cooking gas cylinders but so far the pilot has made only limited headway. The plan was to have such pilots in Pune and Hyderabad, too, but this appears to have been put on hold.

Dhaneswar RajakMicro-ATM does not accept the fingerprints of Dhaneswar Rajak of Chutiyaro village in Hazaribagh for the second dayAs more instances come to light of slipshod enrolment through indiscriminate outsourcing to agencies, ministries are becoming wary of using the UID platform for direct transfer of welfare benefits to the beneficiaries. One, most tellingly, is said to be the Union Ministry of Rural Development whose boss Jairam Ramesh was witness to a 30-minute delay in getting connectivity during the launch of the pilot in Jharkhand.

Another is theUnion Ministry of Labour & Employment which is riding high on the success of its smart card used in the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), the health insurance scheme for those on the BPL list. In the four years since the scheme was launched by Sudha Pillai, the then secretary of the ministry, against much opposition, RSBY cards have now reached 29 million beneficiaries and proved to be a secure way of disbursing cash-free hospital care for beneficiaries.

The finance ministry allocated Rs 1,758 crore to UIDAI this year against Rs 1,200 crore in 2011-12

Curiously, the finance ministry which allocated a generous Rs 1,758 crore to UIDAI in the current budget against Rs 1,200 crore for 2011-12 appears to be plumping for the smart card for various welfare benefits instead of using the Aadhaar platform.

In fact, the RSBY card which has been upgraded from 32 kilobyte to 64 kb, is envisaged to serve as a multi-purpose card providing different social security benefits. In fact, the UIDAI appears to have split the bureaucrats into two camps: those who view the project as “grossly wasteful expenditure and duplication” and others who believe it might yet work if the enrolments are streamlined and connectivity is not a stumbling block.

As a senior government official explains: “The budgetary allocation and the compromise reached in January are face-saving measures. Since the prime minister had made UIDAI his pet project the government had to give in.” The bureaucrat is referring to the decision by the government to allow UIDAI to collect the biometrics of another 400 million residents—it was earlier allotted 200 million—after a public standoff between Nilekani, who enjoys Cabinet rank, and Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram on the biometric collection issue.

Five of the 20 people mapped in Tigara could not be authenticated as their biometrics did not match

While the UIDAI’s primary mandate was to provide Aadhaar numbers to the entire population, it had sought to corner a larger share of the biometric collection pie. The Home Ministry which wanted it done by the more thorough methods adopted by the Registrar General of India, who had been authorised to prepare a National Population Register (NPR), had to settle for an equal share of 600 million residents. NPR is expected to cost another Rs 6,634 crore but excludes the cost of a smart card that is to be issued to every resident of India with an Aadhaar number.

P ChidambaramUnion Home Minister P Chidambaram launches Resident Identity Cards at Pattipulam village in Tamil NaduIncreasingly, the smart card is being viewed as a better alternative to the UID platform primarily because it does not require real time connectivity and has inbuilt security features that are less vulnerable to being tampered with. Officials of the National Informatics Centre (NIC) point out that the smart cards being developed by it for different government schemes, such as RSBY, the public distribution system and for NPR are more secure because there is complete control over the technology and over the standards. It is, in fact, a multi-factor authentic system that avoids the security worries in UID (see ‘Competing security claims’).

The biggest push comes from the Union Food and Civil Supplies Ministry which is expected to earmark Rs 4,000 crore to assist states in digitising ration cards to help eliminate fake cards and check diversion of grain. Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Odisha and Puducherry are among the states that have opted for smart card designed by NIC.

Other boost is for the RSBY. Anil Swarup, director general, labour welfare, in the Labour Ministry, says discussions are under way to see if RSBY cards—close to 29 million have been issued so far and the number is expected to double in another three years—can also be used as job cards for MGNREGA since it is the same population group that will be availing itself of the benefits. For one, there is strict identification of beneficiaries and for another, cards are carefully vetted and personally handed over by a government official. Already, the finance ministry has set up several working groups to figure out how to transfer more financial inclusion schemes to the RSBY card.

RSBY scores over the UID model because its smart card can function as effectively offline. Swarup, who has publicly debated with Nilekani on this issue at several forums, points out that developing countries like India need an offline system to be fully functional since real time connectivity is a long way off.

Even a developed country like Germany is banking on the RSBY model to reach welfare benefits to a part of its population, he says (see‘Germany opts for the smart card’). The problem for UIDAI, according to some analysts, appears to be waning interest in enrolling for its Aadhaar since it is not mandatory as yet. Therefore, it needs to demonstrate that the 12-digit unique identity has some value. But this is proving a challenge for the authority. While the first UID number holders in Maharashtra are still trying to figure how it will help them get their PDS supplies, others in Jharkhand are already ruing its entry.

Why fuss-fuss about mack-up creams?

By Suchi Govindarajan, Himal
Fairness is good, no?

I am very much connected to Internetworks these days. My friends are sending me every day new new links, and I am expanding my world too much. But yesterday one shocking video I saw. One married girl is thinking about those shame-shame areas of her body, that too while having coffee with her husband! Some animation is coming when she is bathing, showing all brown parts shining and becoming like snow-white, and then she is gallivanting like anything with the husband wearing chaddis. I was shocked. But my friend Kiccha is saying, “So what, there are so many fairness creams these days, and that too for different-different parts of your body: underarms, ears, elbows, teeth, brain, etc.”

See, I am very much in favour of fairness and just society. Fairness is very much important even to break caste, creed and religion. You are knowing Ramaswamy’s daughter? She went off and married American Christian boy. Aiyyo, it was big scandal, and parents completely cut her off. They didn’t even say that she is married. But within one year, the couple were blessed with fair-skinned issue. Seeing such a white baby (blue eyes also), their hearts and all melted. Now they are even wheeling the baby in a pram on famous Besantnagar beach in Madras. All are envying them now. This is the real power of fairness.

But why you want to marry Americans? You can even solve this problem with age-old wisdom! If pregnant ladies are taking saffron with milk, it will be reducing melanin production in the baby and it will come out like a ball of maida flour. This saffron science is all proven and published on email. If you want, I can forward.

My daughter is saying, why you are thinking that brown-black colour is looking bad? She is showing on Fashion TV how so many international models are dark.  After all, Lord Krishna, Draupadi, etc. were also different colour. We should be taking pride in our identity, no?

Ok, ok, I am taking very much pride in our culture, identity, everything. It is not like I am ashamed to be Indian. But in Tamil, we have a compliment, ‘Nee romba colour-aa irukke‘, means ‘You are so colour’.  And we have to be practical. Whatever you say, filter coffee which is so dark is only selling for INR 7 and this new crapuccino thing, which is full of milk-white bubbles, is for INR 50.

And I think you are reading Sir Alyque Padamsee Sir’s latest article? (I am always admiring his advertisings.) He has told that, speaking from physics perspective, white people are reflecting light, so you can see them easily, but with dark people you always need light to see them. One joke here, we are actually calling dark people ‘IaS’, means ‘Invisible after Sunset’. I think Padamsee sir was not knowing this old joke, otherwise he could have used it in his advertisement. See, that’s why there is that famous painting in Mysore palace called ‘Lady with the Lamp’. She is a black beauty, the lady, and she is needing to be carrying oil lamp.  On other hand, see my cousins Sarala and Tarala. They are both having big nose, and one-type of smiles. But because they are fair like tubelights, they are famous beauties of our family.

NONSens agents
In those days also, we were helping dark people to look little better, but then we were not having all this Fair and Lovely technology, only mack-ups. Some men were against mack-up but I was always for the women’s emaciation so I used to say “OK, enjoy.” We had two mack-ups: turmeric and rose-powder. Turmeric, all ladies used as face-wash to make their skin glow like they have jaundice. Rose-powder was more stylish; I used to buy for my wife. Little pink it would make her look. Even newsreaders in those days used to wear it, men also.

Nowadays, of course, I am learning about the modern things, and still I am helping the darker people in the family. My brother you know is a bit dark, and his daughter also (not like my family). So, for her 12th birthday, I am getting her Fairever cream. Why, means, we all want her to become doctor (we are not having doctor in our family, such a shame). And I saw on TV, this story. One number innocent school girl, she is very troubled on behalf of villagers because there is no hospital for them. She thinks, I will become doctor and save the lives. But what to do, she is dark, so she cannot study well (I think you will also be empathising this situation.) But soon, she finds Fairever cream. Then itself her IQ is doubling, and she is getting admission in medical school. She returns to village as doctor. The villagers are all dark and they are all thinking like “Shabbah! If she is so fair, how good doctor she must be!” Best part about this ad is in ending, a little brown village girl finds the Fairever tube. See how beautifully it is conveyed. Like this only India will progress.

I am hearing there is lot of technology behind bleach and fairness cream. Are you knowing that some creams is coming direct from smart scientists at research institutes? First of all, these creams are all acting at a cellular level, not like our rose powder. Some ions are being released by the cream, and it is going into the underside of skin and just burning all the melanin into hot air (this melanin is useless compound anyway). At the same time, the ions are going outside and building big shield like Karna had in Mahabharata TV show. This shield is preventing bad things like sunlight, dust, common sense, etc. I am also reading on how the cream is improving IQ. It seems our brain is like a cauliflower. Fairness creams are having some hi-fi technology, namely Nano OzoNe Sensitiser agents. This NONSens agents is going into brain and like cement, it is sitting between the cauliflower gaps and that is how it is increasing IQ. I am really amazing about this every time.

My friend Kiccha is saying to tell about men’s plight also. See all these women, for so many years they are taking all good things for themselves. But Sir Alyque Padamsee Sir and Mr Shahrukh Khan are too smart (really, they are beauty and brains mixture). They are coming out with Fair and Handsome cream for boys. It seems all boys are stealing sister’s fairness cream and putting. But how it will work on their skin? So Padamsee Sir and Mr Khan are inventing rough & tough version, Fair & Handsome, as service to mankind. By the by, one thing I am not understanding, why Mr Shahrukh Khan is not using it in real life? Other day only, he has been detained in US Airport and at Yale College, he is telling sarcastically, “Next time I will tell US police I am white.” Mr Khan, why simply you are telling, do and show, no?

Even Fair & Lovely cream also, it has come in men’s flavour, but they are emphasising more on IQ aspect. Here one fair MBA boy is fastly taking interview of man in blue shirt. But in few minutes, man in blue he is leaning back and, you know what we are seeing, he is actual interviewer, along with other big people! Of course, they are selecting fair boy for the job because his fairness makes him so confident (that’s how he got MBA). This is top-class ad, all twisted in the tail. Really these ad men are so clever, everyone in their offices must be having NONSens agents in their brains. I also want to congratulate our young cricketer Virat Kohli. See how honest he is, coming on TV and saying, “Cricket and all okay, but once I remove helmet also, I should perform, no? So only I use fairness cream.” He is truly youth icon.

But I am talking too much and forgetting my last point. See, by now you know how good this fairness creams are. So I am coming with new idea that I am emailing just now only to Madam President. We are having Children’s Day, Mother-in-law’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc. From next year, I am suggesting to have National Bleaching Day. On that day, all girls and boys can do national duty of bleaching their face (other things, I don’t want to mention). In a few years’ time, every Indian will become fair and then automatically they will become doctor or MBA (IT also OK). Then, in next generation, not even one Indian will be having natural skin colour. Really, so much pride Mother India will be bursting with when that is happening, no?

~ Suchi Govindarajan works as a technical writer. In her spare time, she does freelance writing and editing work and also volunteers with the Spastics Society of Karnataka. Readers can follow her on twitter: @suchiswriting

Original Article here

Clarion Call to join for an Expose on Women and Poverty- May 10-13

In the Spring of 2012, from May 10th-13th, Women’s Economic Agenda Project (WEAP) will host the first-ever World Courts of Women on Poverty in the U.S. (WCW) to highlight the grassroots reality of the housing, jobs, and poverty crisis in this country. With advice and counsel from Corinne Kumar, the founder of the Asian Women’s Human Rights Council (AWHRC)

(http://ciedsindia.org/overview.htm) and director of El Taller International (http://eltaller.org), WEAP has been planning for this incredible event for over 18 months, working to build the support and infrastructure needed to make this groundbreaking event succeed.

This past year has been monumental in the movement to highlight and protest against social inequality, corporate greed, and disparities between rich and poor with the emergence of the Occupy Movement. Within months, over 2,700 communities across the world joined the movement to address the impact of rising unemployment and cuts to social service programs. As part of our leadership in this movement, WEAP developed tools to document injustices facing the “99 percent” including Fact Sheets and a Health Addendum that expose human rights violations (found on WEAP’s website).

The World Courts of Women could not come at a more critical time. WEAP has been working hard to build on our transformative people’s movement to end poverty and highlight injustice facing women and families. Through planning of the WCW, we built alliances and partnerships with over 35 organizations across California to develop organizing committees that meet on a bi-weekly basis. These endorsing organizations, including Central Valley Journey for Justice, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), Hip-Hop Congress and many others, that bring a wealth of knowledge and leadership to the planning process. This Planning Committee has made major gains in the progress of the WCW including creating a “Visual Call to Action,” a Youtube video advertising and explaining the Oakland Court (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0EBu9S9F4Y ) and a blog providing daily updates on the progress of WCW (http://worldcourtsofwomen.wordpress.com/). Additionally, we’ve started our registration process, making our registration form available online and developed an extensive volunteer database and descriptions of opportunities to become involved.

Over the past 15 years, the WCW has had a significant impact on placing gender at the center of the theory and practice of human rights as well as strengthening the networks of grassroots NGOs locally and transnationally. In every region they are held, the WCW gather people in conversations across race, religions, and cultures to highlight the knowledge and wisdoms of women in the region; laying the groundwork for transformative practices that challenge the dominant world view that move us all collectively towards a new generation of women’s human rights. Women, men and youth from all areas and histories bring their personal testimonies of violence to the Court.

We need your support now more than ever in this final stage of preparation. In the face of state budget cuts slashing crucial services to the most at risk communities, corporate greed and record numbers of women living in poverty, we offer a critical analysis of capitalism through a women and poverty lens. We are calling on you to become involved and to mobilize your communities to help present both the problems and the solutions.

The World Courts of Women will expose the great violence poverty is doing to increasing numbers of women in the U.S and assess the toll poverty is taking on our nation’s families, and protect & expand public resources for the benefit of the 99%, such as truly universal health care.

Come listen to the soul-searing stories and share your own, bring your organization, endorse, donate or volunteer. As the Assembly to End Poverty says, “It is time we STAND UP AND BUILD a new United States of America.

Who are we who support the World Courts of Women on Poverty in the U.S.?

• We are the mothers of children experiencing the pangs of hunger.

• We are the families who have lost our homes to foreclosure due to the tremendous greed of bankers and politicians.

• We are the incarcerated fathers who were ripped from our families by the prison industrial complex.

• We are the homeless veterans who have been abandoned by the government we fought to protect.

• We are the mothers who fear and suffer from the separation of our families due to our immigrant status.

• We are the millions of uninsured in this country who suffer and die daily due to lack of adequate health care.

•We are the youth that have been thrown away by a government that has continuously revoked all our after-school programs, public libraries, and recreation centers.

• We are the workers who struggle every day to make ends meet while corporations reap billions in profit from our labor.

• We are the immigrants who work tirelessly in a country that denies us basic human rights.

• We are the educators that find ourselves incapable of developing the leadership of our youth while schools are shutting down and funding is cut back.

• We are the women who survive and resist in a world that perpetuates tremendous violence at our expense.

How Can you Help ?

While WEAP is the lead organsaition and Ethel Long Scott the spirit behind it, El Taller, Tunisia and the Asian Women’s Human Rights Council are its key partners.Corinne Kumar, International Coordinator of the Courts of Women and the groups working on the World Court have been working very hard for the past two years with scarce resources to make this happen and finally it is happening!

We all could learn from our poor and homeless sisters in the US the art of organizing programmes with little resources.

Speaking from within the belly of the beast, the US World Court will look at issues of poverty and homelessness as a violation of both women’s rights and human rights, and link the struggles in the US with the struggles of the poor around the world. It seeks to expose the great violence poverty is doing to increasing numbers of women in the U.S; to assess the toll poverty is taking on our nation’s families; to end this crime against humanity by building a transformative movement to eliminate poverty;  to protect and expand public resources for the benefit of the 99%, to ensure truly universal health care.


To know more about the Court you could go to their website www.weap.org.


This Court is as many of you would know part of the larger global movement of the Courts of Women that through finding new ways to justice seeks to make violence against women unthinkable. With violence against women at their centre, more than forty two Courts of Women have been held in different regions of the world on issues ranging from trafficking, rape, military sexual slavery and other forms of personal violence to violence related to wars, nuclearisation, racism, development and poverty.

The Various Courts of Women have been initiated by AWHRC and El taller with several partner organizations in the different regions. Vimochana has been the local organization in Bangalore, India partnering on several of these Courts including the most recent one held here i.e Daughters of Fire, the India Court of Women on Dowry held in 2009 that many of you were part of.

At present apart from the Court of Women in the US there are two other Courts in preparation – the Colombia Court of Women against Forgetting and for Re-existence to be held in Colombia and the Balkan Court of Women on Justice with Healing to be held in the Balkans region.

Many of you have been with us in the creation and holding of the Courts of Women that have been held in different parts of the world either with your actual participation or expression of solidarity.  You must know how precious your support is for the Courts of Women such that it does become a larger movement for transformation in the ways that we understand and seek out justice.

We ask therefore once again for your solidarity and support for the World Courts of Women on Poverty in the United States.

You could endorse the letter  the letter above  or send a letter of solidarity addressed to Ethel Long Scott, Executive Director WEAP at weap@weap.org


A List of Courts held so far.

The Courts of Women held so far (1992- August 2007)




Asian Court of Women on Violence against Women

December 1993 January 1994; Lahore, Pakistan;

with the Simorgh Women’s Collective


Asian Court on War Crimes against Women

March 1994; Tokyo, Japan;

in collaboration with sixty four women’s groups in Japan


India Court of Women on Crimes against Dalit Women

March 1994; Bangalore, India; with the Women’s Voice, India


International Court of Women on Women on Reproductive Technologies

September 1994; Cairo, Egypt,

with UBINIG of Bangladesh



Speaking Tree: Women Speak

Asia Court of Women on Crimes against Women

and the Violence of Development

January 1995; with Vimochana, India


Asian Court of Women on Trafficking and Tourism

June 1995; Kathmandu, Nepal; with two hundred

Nepali ngos working on trafficking issues


Mahkamet El Nissa

Permanent Court of Women in the Arab World

June 1995; Beirut, Lebanon; with women’s and

human rights organisations in Tunisia and Lebanon


World Court of Women on Violence against Women

September 1995; Beijing, China; with over one hundred

women human rights groups from all over the world


Mahkamet El Nissa

Women and the Laws

March 1998; Beirut, Lebanon


Mahakama Ya Wa Mama Wa Africa

Africa Court of Women

June 24-26,   1999; Nairobi, Kenya;

with women’s human rights groups in Africa


Nga Wahine Pasifika

The Pacific Court of Women on Uranium mining, nuclear testing and

the Land

September 1999; Aotearoa, New Zealand,

with the Maori Women’s Network


Mediterranean Forum on Violence against Women

November 1999; Casablanca, Morocco; with Amal, Morocco and Crinali, Italy




International Court of Women on the Economic Blockade

November 1999; Havana, with El Taller- Central America,

Cuban Women’ Federation and Institute of Philosophy

Reheld during the World Social Forum, Puerto Allegre, January 2003


World Court of Women against War, for Peace

March 8, 2001; Cape Town, South Africa;

with an International Coordinating Committee and

a network of local women’s and human rights organisations


World Court for Women against Racism

August 30, 2001; Durban, South Africa with the Institute for Black Research,

University of Natal; the University of the Western Cape,

Women’s Support Network, Cape Town; the Durban Social Forum,

Sangoco and several other national

and  international NGO’s


Australian Court on Refugees and Indigenous Women

December 4, 2001; University of New South Wales with ANCORW

Sydney, Australia;


South Asia Court of Women

on the Violence of Trafficking and HIV/ AIDS

August 11-13, 2003; Dhaka, Bangladesh with

United Nations Development Program and UBINIG, Bangladesh


World Court of Women on War as Crime (WTI-Mumbai)

January 18, 2004, with International Action Center; USA;

Arab and Africa Research Center, Egypt; Institute for Black Research, South Africa;

Center for development studies, India.

and several other local and international ngos

at the World Social Forum, Mumbai, India.


Australian Court on Refugees and Indigenous Women

April, 2004 ; University of New South Wales with ANCORW

Sydney, Australia;


Africa Court of Women on the Violence against Women

December 10, 2004 with the Africa Social Forum

and several other local and regional ngos

at the Africa Social Forum, Lusaka, Zambia


Africa Court of Women: lives, livelihoods, lifeworlds

January 29, 2005 with the Africa Social Forum

and several other regional and international ngos

at the World Social Forum, Porto Alegre, Brazil


International Court of Women against Neo-liberal policies

in Latin America

February 2005, Havana, Cuba in association with

the Institute of Philosophy and Galfisa


World Tribunal on Iraq – Arab session

June 15-18, 2005 in Tunis, Tunisia

the Solidarity Committee for Iraq and Palestine



World Court of Women on Resistance to Wars,

Wars of Globalisation, Wars against Women

January 22,2006, World Social Forum Polycentric, Bamako,

with local Mali organizations;

Forum for another Mali, Mali ;Women in Black India, Philippines, Nepal;

Forum for African Women for Solidarity Economy, Senegal;

Institute of Black Research, South Africa; Enda, Senegal, Ethiopia;

Gender Equity Unit, University of the Western Cape, South Africa;

Asafe, Cameroon; Widows of Rwanda, Rwanda;

Kenya Debt Relief Network, Kenya; Femnet, Zambia, Tanzania;

Genta, South Africa; Institute of Philosophy, Cuba;

Federation of Cuban Women, Cuba; Martin Luther King Center, Cuba;


World Court of Women on Resistance to Wars,

Wars of Globalisation, Wars against Women

January 27, 2006, World Social Forum Polycentric, Caracas, Venezuela

with local Venezuelan organizations ;

Intellectuals and artists in the defense of humanity, Venezuela;

Federation of Cuban Women ; Pratec, Peru;

Embacorpaz, Women of the Consensus, Colombia;

Martin Luther King Center, Cuba; Madres de Plaza Mayo, Argentina;

Zapatistas, Mexico ; Asian Women’s Human Rights Council ;

Cieds Collective, India ; Forum for African Women for Solidarity Economy, Senegal

Institute of Black Research, University of Natal, South Africa


World Court of Women on Resistance to Wars,

Wars of Globalisation, Wars against Women

March 22, 2006, World Social Forum Polycentric, Karachi, Pakistan

with the Cieds Collective, India ; Vimochana, India ; El Taller International, Tunisia ;

the Institute of Black Research, University of Natal South Africa ;

the Gender Equity Support Unit, University of the Western Cape, South Africa;

Kenya Debt Relief Network; Kenya ;

Institute of Philosophy, Cuba ; Women in Black India, Philippines, Nepal

Reheld in March 30, 2006 in Lahore, Pakistan

with Simorgh ;


World Court of Women on Poverty: Lives, Livelihoods, Lifeworlds

January 22, 2007  World Social Forum, Nairobi

with CIEDS Collective, India,the Gender Equity Support Unit, University of the Western Cape, South Africa;Kenya Debt Relief Network; Kenya


Asia Pacific Court of Women on HIV, Inheritance and Property Rights:

From Dispossession to Livelihoods, Security and Safe Spaces

August 18, 2007

With UNDP in association with UNAIDS, UNIFEM SARO, ICRW, Inform – Sri Lanka, Centre for Women’s Research; CENWOR – Sri Lanka; Siyath Foundation, Sri Lanka; FWLD, Sri Lanka; Lawyers Collective, India; PWN+, India; Vimochana, India; Milana, India; Abhaya Action Aid, India; Lanka Plus, Sri Lanka; El Taller International


Courts of Women on Dowry and Related Forms of Violence

Daughters of Fire

July 27, 28, 29, 2009

Christ University, Bangalore, India

With partners AWHRC, El Taller and 50 other partner organisations from all over India.





South East Asia Court of Women on HIV, Human Trafficking and Migration:

From vulnerability to free just and safe movement

August 6, 2009

Bali International Convention Center , Nusa Dua , Bali, Indonesia





For details contact:


Corinne Kumar

International Coordinator

Courts of Women


International Coordinating Secretariats


El Taller – International

32, Avenue D’afrique

El Menzah V,

1004 Tunis, Tunisie

Telephone              216 – 71 – 753738

Fax                            216 –7 1 – 751570

Email                            eltaller@gnet.tn


Website              www.eltaller.org


Asian Women’s Human Rights Council


Address              No. 33/1, 9 and 10, Thyagaraj Layout

Jaibharath Nagar

Maruthi Sevanagar PO

Bangalore 560 033



Telephone              91 – 80 – 25492782/1/3

Fax                            91 –  80 –  25492782

Email                            awhrci@gmail.com

Website              www.awhrc.org





Reading Marx’s Brumaire in Mamata’s Bengal

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Karl Marx (1818-1883) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Arindam Sen

Exactly as we had forewarned before the 2011 assembly elections, the new government in West Bengal has started baring its fangs. In sync with a series of backtrackings and betrayals on electoral promises and an utterly inhuman, irresponsible attitude towards shocking developments like farmers’ suicides, baby deaths in hospitals and growing violence on women (see our August 2011 and March 2012 issues) it is out to unleash wanton attacks on popular struggles and democratic dissent. The recent incident of beating up and midnight arrest of a Jadavpur University professor has unleashed a wave of angry protests throughout the country, but as we have shown elsewhere, the trend started pretty earlier.
But why did the lady who started her stint in power with slogans like “change, not revenge” and really surprised and pleased many with her initial civilised ways, reverse her approach so quickly and so decisively? Offering an apologia of sorts, one panelist in a televised discussion on the assault on the JU professor opined that her intolerance or angry reactions should be understood as an expression of the “hyper-sensitivity” of the first woman Chief Minister of West Bengal. Many, including some of her erstwhile supporters and admirers among the intelligentsia, have freely used against her invectives like madness, megalomania, fascist mindset and so on. It has also been observed that a deep-seated sense of personal insecurity lurks behind the CM’s overreaction to criticism.

Well, such psychological traits of the person in exclusive command do shed some light on the goings on. But should we not, as Marxists, try and move beyond the individual and grasp the class character and peculiar features of the regime as such as it evolves on the debris of a social democratic dispensation and takes a definite shape before our eyes? We have carefully investigated the collapse of the LF government and its implications for the left movement; should we not focus the spotlight now on the political formation that took its place?

This government has yet to complete one year in office, so we can have only a preliminary assessment. However, even that might be helpful in dispelling some of the confusion which still afflicts sections of people who had voted the Trinamool Congress to power with much expectation.

The task is no doubt challenging, so let us turn to Marx for assistance. Among Marxist works on contemporary history such as Class Struggle in France 1848-50, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Revolution and Counterrevolution in Germany and Civil War in France, the second one, dealing with the counter-revolutionary coup d’état of December 2, 1851, should be most relevant for us. The obvious and huge differences between the French national scenario in mid-19th century and the situation in one state in India in the 21st century notwithstanding, we can profit from the brilliant analysis of how, under what political circumstances, the fruits of popular struggles could be usurped by an upstart-turned autocrat.

****  ****

In February 1848, monarchy was overthrown in France and the country was proclaimed a Republic. Power passed into the hands of the bourgeoisie. They deceived the working class, the main force of the revolution, by taking the most influential workers’ leader Louis Blanc into the provisional government. In May they consolidated their power, abandoned Louis Blanc and other popular leaders and went on an offensive against the proletariat. The latter responded with the June uprising which was ruthlessly crushed. On December 10 the same year elections to the Presidency of the Republic took place. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon I the Emperor – an obscure hedonist engaged in the pursuit of thrills and melodrama and leading the life of a princely vagabond, became a candidate. To the utter surprise of all, he won on the support extended by the impoverished small-holding peasantry who believed that a man named Napoleon would bring all the past glory back to them. In December 1851, he staged a coup and seized absolute power. A year later he formally abolished the Republic and declared himself Emperor of the Second Empire, Napoleon III.

Marx wrote The Eighteenth Brumaire – originally intended to be an article – immediately after the coup of December 1851, when the full features of the new regime were yet to reveal themselves. He examined the dramatic developments (up to the coup of December 1851) in terms of the given balance of class forces and the vicissitudes of class struggle and then at the end of the pamphlet discussed the apparent and actual class character of the Bonapartist regime.

Several other books on the coup were published almost simultaneously. Among these, two were especially notable. One was “Napoleon the Little” by Victor Hugo and the other, Pierre Joseph Proudhon’s “The Social Revolution in the Light of the December 2 Coup”. Neither the great humanist writer and Republican nor the eminent anarchist ideologue really got to the bottom of the matter. Hugo scornfully depicted the whole thing as the sinister handiwork of a single individual, unwittingly making “this individual great instead of little by ascribing to him a personal power of initiative such as would be without parallel in world history.” (Karl Marx, Preface to the Second Edition of The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte) Proudhon on the other hand did try to present a historical construction of the coup d’état but his method made it into “a historical apologia for its hero.” (ibid) Contrasting his own work against these two, Marx wrote: “I, on the contrary, demonstrate how the class struggle in France created circumstances and relationships that made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero’s part.”

Louis Bonaparte sees himself, writes Marx, as the defender of the “bourgeois order” and hence as “the representative of the middle class” (read the capitalist class, mainly the middle bourgeoisie); “at the same time, as the representative of the peasants and of the people in general, who wants to make the lower classes of the people happy within the frame of bourgeois society”; but “above all, Bonaparte himself as the chief of the Society of December 10 , as the representative of the lumpenproletariat to which he himself, his entourage, his government and his army belong, and whose prime consideration is to benefit itself and draw California lottery prizes from the state treasury.”
Thus, “Bonaparte would like to appear as the patriarchal benefactor of all classes. But he cannot give to one class without taking from another.” Ultimately he manages to mobilize all the classes against himself.

Marx is merciless in depicting the ways of the despot.  “Bonaparte, who precisely because he was a bohemian, a princely lumpenproletariat, had the advantage over a rascally bourgeois in that he could conduct the struggle meanly…”, Marx says, and adds that his court and administration were made up of thieves, cheats, worthless sycophants, fortune seekers and the like.

****  ****

The tumultuous decade of revolution and counterrevolution in West Bengal (1967-77) ended with a relatively stable arrangement of class compromise presided over by a social democratic government. Over time the compromise, never perfect, decayed and collapsed under the crushing weight of sharpening contradictions – with social-democracy embracing the neo-liberal trajectory and the people responding with heightened resistance, the social-democratic dispensation lost the plot. Perhaps it had already outlived the role history had assigned for itself. In came the messiah of ma-mati-manush with an assortment of populist slogans.

Emerging in this socio-historical context, Mamata Banerjee could not but promise a new deal for the good of all. However, like the “patriarchal benefactor” in France, the benevolent didi of West Bengal finds herself in an eternal predicament: one “cannot give to one class (or section of people, let us add) without taking from another”. Worse, unlike the President of France the Chief Minister of West Bengal does not have the country’s financial reins in her hands. So, for example, if she wishes to please lakhs of commuters by refusing to grant any fare hike, she has to alienate thousands of auto rickshaw, taxi and bus operators. If any section of the latter chooses to press for their demands, they are in for trouble. Thus when autowallahs in Kolkata struck work and staged militant road blockades to highlight their demands, TMC goons led by party MLA Paresh Pal pounded on them, sending the secretary of the union (a TMC cadre) to a hospital. TV channels showed the MLA himself beating up and otherwise “punishing” the auto drivers and transport Minister Madan Mitra aggressively shouting at them, “if you are to ply your vehicles, you must say ‘Mamata Banerjee Zindabad’”.

Mamata Banerjee’s success at the hustings, like Louis Bonaparte’s, rested most crucially on the support extended by the aggrieved peasantry. Naturally she has been trying her level best to keep the illusion alive by means of measures such as the hurriedly passed legislation to return agricultural land in Singur to the so-called ‘unwilling peasants’, the Kisan Credit Card project and the like. Such superficial measures could not possibly do any real good, and very soon the spate of farmers’ suicides revealed some of the fault lines, compelling her to take shelter behind a wall of denials. Well, how could the proud builder of “Sonar Bangla” accept such blemishes and other complaints like growing violence on women?

Banerjee has also to keep in good humour the middle classes and the townspeople in general, who voted not only for herself as usual, but this time also for her party candidates en masse. Then there are other important votebanks to be satisfied: younger generations, the minorities, women. However, for all her gimmicks and promises there is little evidence that any one of these sections is happy with the government.

But there is one stratum which is thriving better than before: the lumpenproletariat. Engaged in all kinds of informal/illegal/semi- legal trades and activities including collection of illegal levies, the overwhelming majority of them lump together to constitute the base of the ubiquitous TMC networks comparable to Bonaparte’s Society of December 10. In many places these elements are organised as “syndicates” – local cartels of order suppliers dealing with building materials, or of transport operators and so on. Even behind the midnight assault and unwarranted arrest of Prof Mahapatra of JU was the long hand of the local “syndicate”. Its leaders actually utilised the cartoon mail forwarded by the professor to punish and pressure him over some disputed bills pending with the housing complex committee (of which Prof Mahapatra is an office bearer).

Not that the erstwhile rulers of West Bengal did not have such networks under their patronage. In fact the new ones are to a large extent made up of turncoats from the old networks. The difference is, whereas the local mafiosi commandeered by the CPI(M) had emerged and spread during the later years of its rule, in the present case these gangs have served as the TMC’s active and effective social base from the very beginning. And they are rapidly multiplying in a situation of severe unemployment, contributing to growing lawlessness and sexual crimes.

The politically nurtured lumpenproletariat is too powerful to be touched by the police. On the contrary, whenever necessary they take up the role of the police with greater effect and lesser legal hassles. For example, they severely beat up mediapersons doing their work on 28 February, the day of all-India industrial strike, in Gangulybagan area of Kolkata. They also disrupted a protest demonstration organised by a civil rights body a few days later at the Hazra Crossing in the city. In both cases the police force did nothing to restrain the assailants and at Hazra they arrested some of the activists instead. Such extra-legal methods of gagging the press and curbing political democracy surely had the blessings of the highest authority; in fact the same purpose was later sought to be served by administrative measures like banning the entry of leading newspapers in government-aided libraries and booking some of the protesters against eviction in Nonadanga under draconian laws and very serious charges.

So what we see today in West Bengal is a PPP in silencing critics and opponents –an emerging goonda raj that works in close coordination with the Police. The motley crowd of lumpenproletariat form the loose base of the TMC power structure and work under the direction of local party functionaries, municipal councilors, panchayat office bearers etc. Above them are the block/district leaders, MLAs, in some cases MPs. The next higher rung is composed of a select group of veterans like Partha Chatterjee and Subrata Mukherjee together with emerging leaders and ministers like Madan Mitra, Jyotipriyo Mullick, who compete among themselves to show the highest loyalty to the supreme commander and extreme aggressiveness towards the CPI(M). At the top of the hierarchy, of course, alone rules the dictator who has no pretensions about the luxury called inner party democracy. It is a loose-knit organization, where violent inner party clashes – often fought on the question of who are the ‘genuine Trinamooli’ (the old cadre or the newcomers from Congress/left parties) – are a daily occurrence.

If authoritarian rule bolstered by partisan terror has emerged as the most obnoxious characteristic of the new dispensation, there are also some other features to count.
It is as much an anti-people government as any other. The series of evictions of hawkers and slum dwellers, and steps like abrupt stoppage of subsidies to public sector transport corporations resulting in non-payment of salaries to hundreds of employees have already made this clear as daylight. Naturally it is also anti-democratic, as evidenced by, inter alia, moves to make elected panchayat bodies more subservient to administrative officials.

It is a government based on falsehoods and deception. To add further boost to the Goebbelsian propaganda, the state budget this year has allocated the highest amount of money to the Ministry of Information and Culture – raising the amount, by nearly 125%, to Rs. 110 crore.

It is an authoritarian government where all power is monopolised by the CM (as they say, there is only one post in the ministry, all others are lamp posts). It is a confused and self-contradictory government marked by utter lack of consistency in policy matters (say on whether political prisoners should be released and whether talks with Maoists should be seriously taken up). Business policy too (e.g., on issues like raising electricity tariff and allowing set top boxes for cable TV transmission) is also a victim of indecision and inconsistency.

But behind all this there is something more than personal whims and caprices: a frantic effort to satisfy contending interests. As Marx wrote about Louis Bonaparte, “Driven by the contradictory demands of his situation and being at the same time, like a conjurer, under the necessity of keeping the public gaze fixed on himself,… by springing constant surprises,… Bonaparte throws the entire bourgeois economy into confusion … and produces actual anarchy in the name of order, while at the same time stripping its halo from the entire state machine, profanes it and makes it at once loathsome and ridiculous…”
Marx also observed that the “contradictory task of the man [Louis Bonaparte] explains the contradictions of his government, the confused groping about which seeks now to win, now to humiliate first one class and then another and arrays all of them uniformly against him…”

Well, this is yet to happen in West Bengal, but the trend is clearly in that direction. The intelligentsia and expanding cross sections of people are already saying: we did want change, but not this kind of change. The days are not far off when their angry protests on the streets of Kolkata are backed up by organised class action of workers and peasants, throwing up a real, effective challenge to the arrogant autocrat.


[] This organisation came into existence in 1849. “On the pretext of founding a benevolent society”, writes Marx, “the lumpenproletariat of Paris had been organised into secret sections, each section being led by Bonapartist agents, with a Bonapartist general at the head of the whole. Alongside decayed roués with dubious means of subsistence and of dubious origin, alongside ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie, where vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers… rag-pickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars – in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither… from this kindred element Bonaparte formed the core of the Society of December 10.”

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May 2012
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