My Nagaland #Mustread


by Vibi Yhokha

“The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes  is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete, they make one story become the only story….Stories matter, many stories matter, stories have been used to dispossess and to malign but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize, stories can break the dignity of a people but stories can also repair that broken dignity…..”

– Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi, The Danger of a Single Story

People, especially mainland Indians, have only a single story of Nagaland. No, in fact they have different single stories. They associate the Nagas with headhunting, Hornbill festival, Rock music, fashion and yes, Conflict. Nagaland the land of myths, where life is one long festival but is also a place where life is one long, long war….

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Read more here http://chaikadai.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/my-nagaland/

  

 

Assam’s tragedy, #mustread


 

Harsh Mander

25 August,2012 
Almost an everyday sight. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
Almost an everyday sight. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

How partisan policies and a bitterly divided people keep the State in an endless cycle of violence.

The current tornado of targeted mass violence in Assam is only the latest in a series of several storms of violence which have convulsed the state over the last three decades. Each wave of blood-letting has further deepened fractures between various religious and ethnic groups. It is important to recall this troubled history if we are to find ways forward to lasting peace and calm for the diverse religious and ethnic communities which inhabit the fertile river valleys and low hills of this beautiful State.

The beginning

The foundations of ferocious ethnic and religious hostility in the state were laid in the anti-‘foreigners’ agitation which racked the state from 1979 to 1985. The demand of the agitators was for the State to detect and deport ‘foreigners’, or Bangladeshi immigrants. Migrations from Bangladesh occurred from the early 20th century, partly the result of conscious colonial state policy, mainly of peasants and landless workers, drawn to Assam by land hunger and unemployment.

The Tewary Commission appointed by the State government to enquire into the violence during the agitation reports of diverse groups attacking each other in every district in Assam except Cachar and North Cachar Hills. Baruah in his definitive account of the agitation recounts that violent attacks against Bengali Muslim settlers in Assam, regardless of their vintage, rose after 1979. The most gruesome communal violence in those years, and indeed since Independence anywhere in India, occurred in 14 villages of Nellie.

The Centre for Equity Studies studied this largely forgotten massacre and its aftermath. The author Surabhi Chopra recounts from official records: “On the morning of 18th February 1983, thousands of people surrounded the Nellie area and attacked Bengali Muslim residents… The attackers were armed with machetes and other weapons. They systematically set fire to people’s huts. As residents fled their burning homes, they were hacked to death. Roads to the Nellie area were blocked and the Muslim villages surrounded, so people could not go to Jagiroad police station while violence was unfolding. Unofficial estimates say that the massacre orphaned 371 children and left over 2000 people dead.”

One remarkable feature of this massacre is that not a single person responsible for the violence has been prosecuted or punished. The Assam Accord signed between the Indian government and the leaders of the movement in 1985 included a clause to review criminal offences, except heinous offences. But, as Surabhi Chopra notes: “In practice, what the accord was interpreted to mandate was a full amnesty to all persons charged with crimes, even of murder and rape, during the mass communal violence.” She notes further that “Only one, fairly junior police person faced disciplinary measures. Survivors received minimal compensation.”

This laid a dangerous precedent in Assam of State-sanctioned, officially brokered immunity for people charged with heinous hate mass crimes. This was further nurtured by a policy of enabling, even incentivising ethnic cleansing. The militant agitation of indigenous Bodo tribal people from 1987 was originally not targeted against the East Bengali Muslims: it saw them as allies in a fight against the dominant caste-Hindu Asamiya people. The situation changed drastically in 1993 when the government signed the Bodo Accord, which created an autonomous Bodoland within Assam, but laid down that only settlements with populations of more than 50 per cent Bodo people would be included in Bodoland. The die was thus cast by state policy itself for violent ethnic cleansing.

Former militants organised themselves to drive out the settlers. In 1993 itself, Bengali Muslims were killed and their homes looted and burnt. The terrified survivors fled into camps that were to be their homes for years. Attacks were then mounted against the Santhal descendants of tea garden workers in 1996, and at its peak, around three lakh people were displaced by the violence. In 1997, some returned, but were freshly evicted after new clashes in 1997. In 2000, the Muslims were forced to vacate the official camps, but again were subject to attacks. They set up their own camps by encroaching on government or private land, where they continue until today.

In no man’s land

After visits to these camps, I wrote in 2007 about these ‘nowhere people’ who had lived for a generation in relief camps in the Bodo heartland of Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon, and the State has done nothing to assist them to return to their homelands. I found them surviving on erratic supplies of rice rations for registered camp dwellers for 10 days a month, without child-care centres, health centres or schools, unable to return to their lands and homes, boycotted from seeking work, and attacked if they strayed back to indigenous habitations.

I noted then: “Assam has near-fatally imploded with the politics of competing persecutions, as oppressed groups arm and organise themselves to violently drive away other wretched and deprived people, in pursuit of dangerous, impossible (and unconstitutional) aspirations of ethnically cleansed homelands. Their plight is aggravated by bankrupt and opportunistic politics and State policy, and equivocal rationalisations by civilian observers. In battles between indigenous inhabitants and settlers, many of the region’s poorest people are living out their lives in fear, confined to camps, people who no one wants and who have nowhere to go.”

I added: “The Assam government indifferently says it can do nothing for the people in camps, who must return to their homes from where they were expelled. The displaced people plead that to return is to only live daily in the shadow of fear of the assured next attack, by a people determined to reclaim their ‘homeland’ from the settlers, spurred by the Bodo Accord which recklessly incentivised such ‘cleansing’.”

That next attack has occurred, this sombre monsoon of 2012, and four lakh more people are exiled to pitiless camps. The cauldron of ethnic and religious hatred continues to boil, spurred by a bitterly divided people, and State policies which assure official immunity to perpetrators of mass violence, and incentives for ethnic cleansing.

There seems no end yet to the tragedy of Assam.

Immediate Release-BUJ statement on attacks on media in Mumbai


 
The Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists (BUJ) deplores the attack on the
media on Saturday, August 11, 2012, during the violence that broke out in
Mumbai by protestors of the riots in Assam. The BUJ is particularly
disturbed at what appears to be the sustained targeting of mediapersons and
technicians of outdoor broadcasting (OB) vans.

The protest over the killing of Muslims in Kokhrajar in Assam was called by
the Mumbai-based Raza Academy and a few other organisations. Two persons
died in the violence while several cars and shops were attacked and
destroyed. More than 50 persons , including policemen, were also injured.

When the violence broke out, photojournalists were chased and those
technicians in OB vans were told that they would be burnt along with the
vehicle if they didn’t step out!

Among those seriously injured are Vivek Bendre (The Hindu),  Prashant
Sawant (Sakal Times) and Atul Kamble (Mid-Day). They were admitted to St
George Hospital for treatment. The equipment of several camerapersons was
also damaged.

According to reports, speakers at the rally expressed ire at what they felt
was the media’s poor coverage of the riots in Assam.  When the violence
broke out, the rioters asked the identities of mediapersons and the media
they represented before attacking them. This clearly indicates that the
speeches may have incited the mob against the media and provoked the attack
on the media.

The BUJ condemns the inability of the police to act speedily and bring the
situation under control and calls the organisers to task for specially
targeting the media in their speeches. The media plays a crucial role in
disseminating information and any attempt to obstruct it is an attack on
freedom of expression. Sections of society may have reservations about the
media’s representation of their grievances but attacking the media is not
the way to redress these. Dialogue and engagement with the media is crucial
to preserving and protecting freedom of expression.

The BUJ demands that the organisers immediately rein in their members and
make amends for the violence they unleashed on the media. The BUJ demands
that the state government investigate whether there was clear provocation
for the attack on the media and whether there was dereliction of duty on
the party of police forces.

 

 

 

 

American Gun Culture creeping in India – Thanks to the UNSAFE CAPITAL – DELHI #VAW


Delhi women gun for arms licences

, TNN | Aug 4, 2012, 1

Delhi women gun for arms licences
It could be a new measure of women’s emancipation or just a passing fad, but Delhi Police has been stumped by the huge number of working women seeking gun licences.
NEW DELHI: It could be a new measure of women’s emancipation or just a passing fad, butDelhi Police has been stumped by the huge number of working women seeking gun licences. The trend is partly a response to the city’s lawlessness but may also reflect the growing need of women to be in control, claim senior officers.In the past two years, Delhi cops have received over 900 applications for guns from women. While year 2010 saw around 320 applications, the figure had grown to around 500 in 2011. But it’s not only the numbers that’s a break from the past. There’s a change as well in the reasons cited by women for bearing arms.”Women earlier mostly cited the inheritance clause – saying their fathers or husbands had a licence which they want to continue holding. Many women applying under this clause were proxies for men who themselves would not have got a licence. But of late women are citing ‘self-defense’ to apply for a licence,” said an officer in the licencing department.

In general, 20-22% of all applicants are now women. The officer said 27 licences were issued to women in 2010. Of these, 17 were those who had applied under the inheritance clause. In 2011, 33 women were granted gun licences, 12 of whom had cited self-defense as a reason.

Till July this year, five women have been granted licences on the basis of personal threats and six on the inheritance clause. In 2010 and 2011, over 600 rejected applications were rejected as no “personal safety threat was assessed”.

Rajya Sabha MP Renuka Chaudhry, herself a gun licence holder, was recently quoted as saying that women need guns more than men “who flaunt the weapons at weddings”.

Mridula Nandy, who unsuccessfully attempted to get a license last year, expresses a similar view. “They kept on asking what do I have to fear. Well, I stay in a place where I am taunted on the roads. At night, I feel unsafe. I will not necessarily fire at someone but a gun boosts confidence,” she said.

Interestingly, even as Indian shooters are doing reasonably well at the Olympic Games bagging silver and a bronze, some women are also applying for gun licences to pursue sport. While two women were granted license under the sports quota, the number doubled in 2011. This year, three women have already been granted licences for pursuing shooting.

In general, police are accused of being too strict while granting women licenses, with the age old inheritance clause still being is the surest way of acquiring a licence. Some allege “a recommendation from a higher up” is crucial in securing a licence.

Cops deny the charges, claiming the criteria for both sexes remain the same. “We grant licenses on three accounts. We check whether the woman has to travel alone at night, whether she is being stalked or harassed or whether she visits a crime-prone area,” said a senior police officer.

He added, “India cannot be seen as a state that promotes guns, unlike some western nations. We will ask everyone to go through the necessary checks and balances.”

Assam riots: Real issue is development


 

 

Ram Puniyani says end of propaganda politics can help people understand actual problems, in Tehelka

PRIME MINISTER Manmohan Singh has called the recent violence in Assam a blot to the nation. Fifty three people have died and almost four lakh people have been rendered homeless in the clashes that occurred last week in Khokrajhar and Chirang districts, between Bodos and ‘illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators’, majority of whom happen to be Muslims. There was some inexcusable delay in deploying the army in the area, which resulted in worsening of the situation. That the riots occurred just around the sowing season in what is the rice country of Assam is a worrying sign. Traumatised people are now crowding 250 ill-equipped relief camps set up by the government.

But this isn’t the first time such violence has hit Assam. The strife between ethnic groups and Muslims, who are labeled as ‘Bangladeshi immigrants’, has been going on for several decades. In 2003, the Bodo Territorial Autonomous Districts were formed following a peace treaty between Bodo activists and the government. The districts included Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalgiri. Estimates put the percentage of Bodos in these districts between 22 and 29. The rest are Tribals and Muslims. Despite being in minority, Bodos, with full powers in the region, initiated policies which have kept non-Bodos largely out of the social framework. Over the years, local disputes have been painted as problems between legal citizens and illegal immigrants with parochial politicking under ‘Assam for Assamese’.

The first major catastrophe in this occurred in the 80s, when the All Assam Students Union (AASU) demanded exclusion of Bangladeshi immigrants from the electoral rolls. In 1983, at least 2,000 people were killed in Nellie, near Guwahati. Those killed were Muslims, said to be illegal migrants and occupants of land that belonged to Lalung tribals. Tribhuban Das Tiwary Commission was constituted into the Nellie massacre, but the AASU, now Assam Gana Parishad (AGP), after coming to power dropped all the criminal cases against the culprits and the report of the Commission was never made public. A decade later occurred another series of violence, the victims of which are still living in relief camps. Last week’s carnage was preceded by a rumour that people from Bangladesh have brought in a huge cache of armaments and it soon got triggered into violence that left lakhs with nothing.

Perhaps the real problem lies in the stressed land and job scenario due to a rising population. Lopsided development has put employment under pressure all over the country. In Mumbai, Shiv Sena presents it as a non-Marathis vs marathi issue. In Assam, the problem is deflected by making it an India vs Bangladeshi immigrants issue. Politics aggravates things in Assam by bringing in the foreigner angle, when actually Bangla speakers have made up a sizeable chunk of the state population for over a century.

In the early 20th century, Assam was grossly underpopulated and generated little revenue. The neighbouring Bengal, on the other hand, was overpopulated, which resulted in frequent famines. To counter the problem, the British resorted to ‘human plantation’ encouraging people from Bengal to migrate to Assam. But to maintain the core policy of ‘divide and rule’, the immigrants and the natives were kept in separate areas. This migration of Bangla speaking Muslims went on for several decades and by 1930s, the Muslims comprised a sizeable chunk of Assamese population. Post partition, divided Bengal became East Pakistan and then Bangladesh, but even then both Hindus and Muslims continued migrating to Assam.

The question here is how is this immigration is looked at. Why are Nepalese immigrants to India never looked down upon or demonised here? Why even the Hindus coming from Bangladesh are treated as immigrants, while Bangladeshi Muslims are seen as infiltrators and a threat to our security?

THE PROPAGANDA by communal forces about so call infiltration by Bangledeshis has assumed alarming proportions. It has been the backdrop of many agitations in Assam. Surely the basic issue of lack of development in Assam has been deflected by political groups as the issue of displacement of locals from their lands by infiltrators. Right from Nellie to the present violence, in which displacement is the most dominant factor, the infiltrator propaganda has prepared the ground for carnage.

What is required today is to disarm the criminals, to rehabilitate the refugees and to ensure that they return to their homes for the sowing season. If this is not met, surely a bigger disaster of food deprivation is staring at us. We also need to debunk the myth of ‘infiltrators’ for good. The word has been misued for far too long. And lastly the wounded psyche of communities needs to be healed through a process of dialogue and justice.

Ram Puniyani is a communal harmony activist based in Mumbai. The opinions expressed are his own.
ram.puniyani@gmail.com

 

“Guns don’t kill people,Americans kill people”-Michael Moore


Published on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 by Common Dreams

It’s the Guns – But We All Know, It’s Not Really the Guns

by Michael Moore

Since Cain went nuts and whacked Abel, there have always been those humans who, for one reason or another, go temporarily or permanently insane and commit unspeakable acts of violence.

There was the Roman Emperor Tiberius, who during the first century A.D. enjoyed throwing victims off a cliff on the Mediterranean island of Capri.

Gilles de Rais, a French knight and ally of Joan of Arc during the middle ages, went cuckoo-for-Cocoa Puffs one day and ended up murdering hundreds of children.

Just a few decades later Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Dracula, was killing people in Transylvania in numberless horrifying ways.

In modern times, nearly every nation has had a psychopath or two commit a mass murder, regardless of how strict their gun laws are –

the crazed white supremacist in Norway one year ago Sunday, the schoolyard butcher in Dunblane, Scotland, the École Polytechnique killer in Montreal, the mass murderer in Erfurt, Germany … the list seems endless.

And now the Aurora shooter last Friday. There have always been insane people, and there always will be.

But here’s the difference between the rest of the world and us:

We have TWO Auroras that take place every single day of every single year!

At least 24 Americans every day (8-9,000 a year) are killed by people with guns – and that doesn’t count the ones accidentally killed by guns or who commit suicide with a gun. Count them and you can triple that number to over 25,000.

That means the United States is responsible for over 80% of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined.

Considering that the people of those countries, as human beings, are no better or worse than any of us, well, then, why us?

Both conservatives and liberals in America operate with firmly held beliefs as to “the why” of this problem. And the reason neither can find their way out of the box toward a real solution is because, in fact, they’re both half right.

The right believes that the Founding Fathers, through some sort of divine decree, have guaranteed them the absolute right to own as many guns as they desire. And they will ceaselessly remind you that a gun cannot fire itself – that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Of course, they know they’re being intellectually dishonest (if I can use that word) when they say that about the Second Amendment because they know the men who wrote the constitution just wanted to make sure a militia could be quickly called up from amongst the farmers and merchants should the Brits decide to return and wreak some havoc.

But they are half right when they say “Guns don’t kill people.” I would just alter that slogan slightly to speak the real truth: “Guns don’t kill people, Americans kill people.”

Because we’re the only ones in the first world who do this en masse. And you’ll hear all stripes of Americans come up with a host of reasons so that they don’t have to deal with what’s really behind all this murder and mayhem.

They’ll say it’s the violent movies and video games that are responsible. Last time I checked, the movies and video games in Japan are more violent than ours – and yet usually fewer than 20 people a year are killed there with guns – and in 2006 the number was two!

Others will say it’s the number of broken homes that lead to all this killing. I hate to break this to you, but there are almost as many single-parent homes in the U.K. as there are here – and yet, in Great Britain, there are usually fewer than 40 gun murders a year.

People like me will say this is all the result of the U.S. having a history and a culture of men with guns, “cowboys and Indians,” “shoot first and ask questions later.” And while it is true that the mass genocide of the Native Americans set a pretty ugly model to found a country on, I think it’s safe to say we’re not the only ones with a violent past or a penchant for genocide.

Hello, Germany! That’s right I’m talking about you and your history, from the Huns to the Nazis, just loving a good slaughter (as did the Japanese, and the British who ruled the world for hundreds of years – and they didn’t achieve that through planting daisies). And yet in Germany, a nation of 80 million people, there are only around 200 gun murders a year.

So those countries (and many others) are just like us – except for the fact that more people here believe in God and go to church than any other Western nation.

My liberal compatriots will tell you if we just had less guns, there would be less gun deaths. And, mathematically, that would be true. If you have less arsenic in the water supply, it will kill less people. Less of anything bad – calories, smoking, reality TV – will kill far fewer people. And if we had strong gun laws that prohibited automatic and semi-automatic weapons and banned the sale of large magazines that can hold a gazillion bullets, well, then shooters like the man in Aurora would not be able to shoot so many people in just a few minutes.

But this, too, has a problem. There are plenty of guns in Canada (mostly hunting rifles) – and yet the annual gun murder count in Canada is around 200 deaths. In fact, because of its proximity, Canada’s culture is very similar to ours – the kids play the same violent video games, watch the same movies and TV shows, and yet they don’t grow up wanting to kill each other.

Switzerland has the third-highest number of guns per capita on earth, but still a low murder rate.

So – why us?

I posed this question a decade ago in my film ‘Bowling for Columbine,’ and this week, I have had little to say because I feel I said what I had to say ten years ago – and it doesn’t seem to have done a whole lot of good other than to now look like it was actually a crystal ball posing as a movie.

This is what I said then, and it is what I will say again today:

1. We Americans are incredibly good killers. We believe in killing as a way of accomplishing our goals. Three-quarters of our states execute criminals, even though the states with the lower murder rates are generally the states with no death penalty.

Our killing is not just historical (the slaughter of Indians and slaves and each other in a “civil” war).

It is our current way of resolving whatever it is we’re afraid of.

It’s invasion as foreign policy. Sure there’s Iraq and Afghanistan – but we’ve been invaders since we “conquered the wild west” and now we’re hooked so bad we don’t even know where to invade (bin Laden wasn’t hiding in Afghanistan, he was in Pakistan) or what to invade for (Saddam had zero weapons of mass destruction and nothing to do with 9/11). We send our lower classes off to do the killing, and the rest of us who don’t have a loved one over there don’t spend a single minute of any given day thinking about the carnage.

And now we send in remote pilotless planes to kill, planes that are being controlled by faceless men in a lush, air conditioned studio in suburban Las Vegas. It is madness.

2. We are an easily frightened people and it is easy to manipulate us with fear. What are we so afraid of that we need to have 300 million guns in our homes? Who do we think is going to hurt us? Why are most of these guns in white suburban and rural homes? Maybe we should fix our race problem and our poverty problem (again, #1 in the industrialized world) and then maybe there would be fewer frustrated, frightened, angry people reaching for the gun in the drawer. Maybe we would take better care of each other (here’s a good example of what I mean).

Those are my thoughts about Aurora and the violent country I am a citizen of. Like I said, I spelled it all out here if you’d like to watch it or share it for free with others. All we’re lacking here, my friends, is the courage and the resolve. I’m in if you are.

Michael Moore is an activist, author, and filmmaker.  See more of his work at his website MichaelMoore.com

Manesar Workers are the Villains’: Truth or Prejudice?


Vol – XLVII No. 31, August 04, 2012 | Rakhi Sehgal

The events of 18 July in the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki which ended with the murder of a manager were not a sudden conflagration. Anger at the plant had been building up for months over the management’s refusal to recognise an elected union; workers were increasingly frustrated over their inability to exercise their constitutional rights and the demand of equal pay for equal work was falling on deaf years. Rather than portray the workers as villains, managements in this industrial belt of Haryana have to ask themselves why they have not been able to develop a democratic industrial relations framework that can address the concerns of workers.

Rakhi Sehgal (rakhi.sehgal@gmail.com) is vice president of the Hero Honda Theka Mazdoor Sangathan, which is affiliated to the New Trade Union Initiative.

On Tuesday, 23 July, a Maruti Suzuki worker, VK from Sonepat said that though he had done nothing on 18 July – the day the Manesar plant witnessed large-scale violence ending in the death of an executive of the company – he was coming to surrender to the Gurgaon police because the police were threatening his family with arrest of his father if they could not find VK. He says he was working in the B-shift in the Manesar plant in the paint shop when violence broke out on 18 July but his first name matched the name of one of the 51 workers listed in the first information report (FIR) filed by Deepak Anand, general manager at Maruti Suzuki. Some of us tried to meet him and talk to him before he presented himself to the police, but he was picked up by the Gurgaon police and his family was told he would be taken to the Manesar police station where the FIR was registered. However, until the time of writing (24 July), VK could not be traced either at the Gurgaon police station of Sector 17-C which picked him up or at the Manesar police station where he was to be presented since the FIR was lodged at this station.

According to an unconfirmed report, Haryana police has detained the uncle of RV, an executive committee member of the Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union (MSWU), because they are unable to locate RV himself. Another worker is afraid to seek medical help for fear of arrest and torture by the police. He is a B-shift worker who injured himself while fleeing the factory premises on the evening of 18 July and is afraid to meet or talk to anyone or seek medical help.

Workers’ colonies near the Manesar plant are deserted. Police swept through the area and went up to Jhajjar and Rohtak on the night of 18 July to pick up any worker wearing a Maruti Suzuki uniform or carrying a company identity card.[1] The Haryana police, administration and the Maruti Suzuki management have managed to terrorise Maruti Suzuki workers into silence and forced them underground. This strategy has worked well for Maruti Suzuki management as it has had all the freedom to present only its version of what is purported to have transpired on the evening of 18 July.

A handful of workers we managed to speak to were unanimous in the view that the death of the Maruti Suzuki executive Awanish Kumar Dev “should not have happened”. According to a worker, Awanish Dev had agreed to take back Jiya Lal, the suspended worker, who had protested caste abuse by a supervisor during A-shift on 18 July, but then Awanish Dev got a call from a senior, instructing him otherwise. Naresh Narwal, additional labour commissioner, and Gurgaon district administration officials told a joint trade union delegation that they too had received word that Maruti Suzuki management had agreed to take back the suspended worker the next day on 19 July and that the matter was almost resolved. Some B-shift workers we spoke to, report hearing the same.

What happened in the matter of a couple minutes that changed the course of events that evening? Was it the phone call from a senior manager, reversing the understanding and agreement with the union? Were the union leaders who protested the alleged reversal of the decision threatened inside that negotiating room? Did union members rush into the negotiating room to protect their leaders who they feared were being threatened or attacked? Or was it the case that some people dressed in workers uniforms carrying “weapons” entered the room and started thrashing managers, exhorting workers who were milling outside the room to follow their lead, and these instigators refused to listen to union leaders who pleaded with them to stop and drop their weapons? Was the fire deliberately started or was it an accident, a short-circuit? Was Awanish Kumar Dev’s death an accident or a brutal murder?

Perhaps We Will Never Know

Perhaps by the time workers and union leaders who were present in that negotiating room are able to present their story (if at all they are able to do so), no one would be willing to listen, because Maruti Suzuki management would have drowned out all reasonable voices and the relentless baying for the blood of workers would have reached such a crescendo that the guilt of all workers would be a foregone conclusion and no one would want to hear otherwise.

Build-up on 18 July

What we do know is that on 18 July the workers and their union were protesting the unilateral decision of Maruti Suzuki management to suspend Jiya Lal. The previous day, workers of both shifts had decided to skip their pre-shift meeting with supervisors to protest against management intransigence vis-à-vis their union in negotiations on the charter of demands submitted by MSWU. On 18 July morning, the supervisor, Ramkishore Majhi, stopped some workers, including Jiya Lal, when they were returning from their tea break and instructed them to stop boycotting the pre-shift meeting. In the exchange of heated words between the supervisor and group of workers, Ramkishore Majhi, reportedly hurled a caste abuse at Jiya Lal, who protested along with others in the group. Thereafter, Majhi reported this incident to his senior managers and Jiya Lal reported it to his union leaders. Without giving Jiya Lal an opportunity to present his version of the incident, or discussing the matter with the union leaders, or showing any intent to resolve the dispute, the Maruti Suzuki management took the unilateral decision of suspending Jiya Lal with immediate effect.

Union leaders and workers protested this high-handedness and called upon the Maruti Suzuki management to either discipline both Ramkishore Majhi and Jiya Lal, or revoke Jiya Lal’s suspension and talk to the union and both parties before taking any action. Disciplinary action against just the worker and not the supervisor when the supervisor was equally, if not more at fault, was not acceptable to the workers. Maruti Suzuki management refused and the situation escalated with every passing hour. Workers were angry with what they perceived to be yet another instance of a worker being punished in a jiffy without establishing his guilt and without talking to their democratically elected union, while supervisors and managers are presumed innocent and protected even when they are at fault. B-shift workers continued production while A-shift workers decided to stay back in the plant at the end of their shift until the dispute was satisfactorily resolved.

Workers had not reacted like that earlier in the month when Ram Mehar, president of the union had been suspended and then taken back a day later. Workers already had an enviable history of conducting a long non-violent struggle during the summer months of 2011. So what was different on 18 July? Had they had enough of management high-handedness and arrogance and decided that they must stand up against it? Were their actions fuelled by another alleged incident earlier in the week when supervisors and workers seem to have had a heated exchange and a supervisor allegedly told the workers they could do what they wanted, their story was going to end in the next two to three days (kar lo jo karna hai, agle do-deen din mein tum logon ka yahan se safaya ho jayega)?

Fighting for Recognition

What is clear is that workers and the union leaders had been increasingly frustrated by Maruti Suzuki management’s disrespect towards their elected union, to establish which they had sacrificed much and had also adhered to all pre-conditions laid down by the management so that it would “allow” the Haryana Labour Department to register the union!

Chairman of Maruti Suzuki India R C Bhargava claimed on 20 July in a press conference that it was the Government of Haryana which had reservations about the registration of a union and not the management. Does this claim have any credence in light of the fact that last year Maruti Suzuki withstood a five-month long agitation, massive production losses, loss of market share and gave a huge payout to the union leaders to abandon their struggle for the registration of their union? If Maruti Suzuki did not have reservations about the registration of a union, then how do we interpret Managing Executive Officer (Administration) S Y Siddiqui’s statement in June 2011 that Maruti Suzuki will neither permit the formation of a union nor “tolerate any external affiliation of the union”.

It has been repeatedly made clear to the workers that they were up against the collective might of a huge corporate like Maruti Suzuki with its clout, influence and money power, and a collusive labour department of the state government who were determined to thwart the exercise of the workers’ constitutional right to freedom of association.

Unfortunately, the formation and registration of a union does not automatically lead to its recognition by managements, many of which refuse to negotiate in good faith, if at all, with registered unions – a cause of much frustration among workers.

Workers of Maruti Suzuki were also pressurising their union not to give in to management demands to form a grievance committee and welfare committee, as agreed to by the previous union (the Maruti Suzuki Employees Union) in the October 2011 settlement. Workers feared that the management would use these committees to build a parallel system of governance and subvert the functioning of their democratically elected union and deny it legitimacy and recognition. Workers did not believe that the labour department of the state government could have issued challans to managers (for non-compliance with terms of the tripartite settlement of October 2011) independently, without the implicit “permission” of Maruti Suzuki management and they saw it as a pressure tactic to force the MSWU’s hand.

Managers and labour officers, who regularly visited the shop floor in Manesar, were fully aware of the mounting concerns, anger and frustration of the workers and yet did nothing to address and defuse the situation. Instead the Maruti Suzuki management escalated tensions by trying to intimidate the union leaders to agree to its terms – no collective bargaining and no serious discussion on the charter of demands until the union agreed to form the grievance and welfare committees! It refused to yield to the union’s conciliatory gesture that the formation of these committees could be a part of the negotiations and not a precondition. Maruti Suzuki management went so far as to lodge false cases against key union leaders at the Manesar police station last month when talks broke down on this issue. Union leaders were repeatedly harassed by the SHO of Manesar police station but they refused to yield to the threats and intimidation.

And yet R C Bhargava claims in the press conference that there were no issues between management and workers and “no one saw this coming”! If that is the case then the entire management team of Maruti Suzuki should be sacked and more competent managers should be hired.

Resisting Violations

The workers and the union leaders were also united in their demand – that the long-term settlement that was under negotiation should be implemented for all casual and contract workers employed at the Manesar plant, who worked alongside them on the shop floor. The management was adamant that it would not agree to do so. It used the same argument proffered time and again in this industrial belt by managements and labour department – that permanent workers do not have the legal right to espouse the cause of casual and contract workers! And that casual and contract workers do not have the legal right to raise an industrial dispute with the principal employer! That these so-called casual and contract workers are working in core production processes in violation of the Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970 is known to all and yet no company has been prosecuted for this violation in Haryana. And the Haryana government does not deem it necessary to comply with its statutory duty of constituting a State Contract Labour Advisory Board before which complaints can be raised, investigated and redressed. Maruti Suzuki management’s recent announcement, that by 2013 it will ensure no contract worker is employed in its core production processes, is an admission that this is the existing practice. Will the Haryana Government prosecute Maruti Suzuki (and all other companies) for violating the Contract Labour Act over several years?

The determination of the permanent workers of Maruti Suzuki to redress the injustice being meted out to their fellow workers in the name of business exigency and need for flexibility is evident from their stand taken during negotiations as reported by them. The MSWU offered to give up one year’s worth of arrears and economic benefits if the Maruti Suzuki management ensured implementation of the long-term agreement (LTA) on all casual and contract workers employed at the Manesar plant. The union had submitted that the LTA be made applicable from April 2011 and the management had countered that the Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union (MUKU) LTA was under implementation for the period 2009-11 and applied to the Manesar plant permanent workers as well. Therefore the MSWU settlement, when finalised, could not be implemented retrospectively from 2011. The MSWU countered that if the MUKU settlement was applicable to them from 2009 onwards when many of them were casual workers and trainees, then by the same logic, the MSWU settlement could be implemented for existing trainees, casual and contract workers. If the management agreed to do so, they would drop their demand for implementation of the settlement from April 2011 onwards, agree to its implementation from April 2012, and give up one year’s worth of economic benefits.

Failing Industrial Relations Systems

There is a danger that the events of 18 July will impede a thorough examination of the reasons for the simmering discontentment among workers of Maruti Suzuki (and it would not be stretching it to say of all workers in the industrial belt of Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-Rewari).

We must recognise and find the collective will to address issues at the centre of the ongoing dispute between workers and management of Maruti Suzuki – the right to form a union (along with the right to affiliate with any central trade union if they choose to) and the right to equal wages and benefits for equal work and an end to discriminatory wage systems and wage theft. These workers have shown the courage to stand up to a powerful corporation and the might of the State. They are not willing to give up their right to form an autonomous union that the management cannot control or dictate to and they are unwilling to sell out their casual and contract workers by accepting a settlement that does not apply equally to all workers doing the same work. This is the biggest threat to the extant production system. And management wonders why the backlash is so severe.

There are many voices commenting on the lack of maturity among these workers, the expression of their demands and their discontentment, their youth, their lack of experience as many are first-generation industrial workers, their supposed hotheadeness and impatience, their aspiration to be upwardly mobile and to have the capacity to indulge in consumerism, and their demands for better wages (why not?). Getting caught up with these issues would be akin to missing the wood for the trees in the immediate circumstances. And yet with an eye towards the long term, one could ask of the Maruti Suzuki management and industrial relations and human resource management experts – if this is the profile of educated workers recruited from ITIs, working in some of the most sophisticated production processes in our country – then why have managements and experts not been able to evolve an appropriate and democratic industrial relations framework and a human resource management system that can address the concerns and aspirations of these workers?

To ignore the problems arising from a defunct industrial relations system and claim as S Y Siddiqui did that “the problem at Manesar, is not one of industrial relations. It is an issue of ‘crime and militancy’” is a gross dereliction on one’s responsibilities and blatant criminalisation of labour.

Trade unions must also introspect on how they are failing the new generation of workers and new formations of labour. We need to collectively reflect on the New Trade Union Initiative’s assessment of last October that “trade union movements have shown a lack of shared understanding and effective strategy to make the workers’ struggle at Maruti Suzuki a decisive trade union battle to change the orientation of the labour policies of companies and government. In order to move forward and build support for the Maruti Suzuki workers the trade union movement needs to build coordination in both the Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera belt and at the national level.”

The Maruti Suzuki management, the labour department of the state, the Gurgaon district administration and the Haryana government must introspect and take responsibility for turning a blind eye to the neon flashing signs and failing to act to defuse or contain the situation before it spiralled so horribly out of control and resulted in the tragic death of Awanish Kumar Dev.

Equally tragic was the brutal murder on 18 October 2009 of 26-year-old Ajit Yadav, a worker at Rico Auto Industries, Gurgaon who was allegedly tossed into the company’s furnace by company officials and company-hired goons during a struggle by the workers to form a union to demand a wage hike and redress of onerous working conditions. Three years later the family of Ajit Yadav and workers of the Gurgaon industrial belt are still awaiting justice!


[1]  On that evening, two buses taking workers of Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India. (HMSI) back home from Manesar after their shift ended were detained all night even though both the buses had been checked thoroughly twice already by Haryana police and no Maruti Suzuki workers were found in the buses.  Calls by the HMSI Employees Union on behalf of their members trapped all night in the buses, fell on deaf ears. The buses were allowed to proceed to their destination only at 8 am the next morning

Invitation – Meeting Twenty years after ’92-’93 in Bombay – June 2


Dear Friends,

Dec 2012-Jan 2013 marks twenty years of the shocking, violent, horrifying days of Dec 92-Jan 93.
Those of us who were in this city in those days witnessed something that we probably could not even imagine. Those were days that brought the worst kind of violence to the foreground. Violence systematically targeted at some citizens of the city. Violence that divided , that terrified, that made many flee, that gave fresh meanings to the “us”  and “them”.
The last twenty years bear witness to the scars of that violence. Absence of justice and the continuous mockery of the process of justice has not helped in the healing. While some wounds have filled up with time and some acts of kindness and support, many continue to fester – we are just better at not showing them and at not seeing them. The chasms deepened then have not been filled up. They have altered the city and its people in many ways.
Our internal and the external landscapes have shifted in the last twenty years in numerous ways. The violence of 92-93 was one trigger but so also were the processes of globalisation, neo-liberalisation, privatisation. They reconfigured the city and its citizens in multiple ways.
The familiar industries and organised labour have made way for newer occupations and the unorganised sector. There has been an ever expanding disparity between those few who have reaped the benefits of these new capitalist ventures and the vast majority whose struggles for survival have acquired newer meanings.
Alongside, the cosmopolitan character of this city too has been steadily replaced with a  parochial outlook and character. The bogey of the “sons of the soil”, the slogans of cultural nationalism and the narrowing definitions of the “true residents” have altered the city in more ways than we would like to see and remember.
And then there is the terror of terror. Wounded by repeated attacks, the citizens have often welcomed rather than opposed the easier solutions of safety through surveillance and targeting  of the vulnerable offered by the state.  The spirit of the city is continuously under attack and we get nearer to a police state with every such response.
With shrinking open spaces and growing private spaces, protests have almost vanished. On the one hand there is no permission to protest, on the other there are some voices that have become even more strident. Very often these are not voices for dissent and solidarity, they are voices of  the mainstream once again relegating the rest to narrower margins.
Yet the voice of dissent has not died down through all of this. Voices of people in protest have still found ways of being heard. New kinds of protests,  newer formations, platforms and networks, different issues and people have also found place.
We, members of Forum Against Oppression of Women, feel that it is important to do something that captures in some ways the meaning of these changes for us, its citizens. A collective, public acknowledgement that will help in reminding us of all that happened in 1992-93 and since. A remembrance that is needed so that we do not forget. A remembrance needed not just to lament the loss but also to remind us of what is possible. A remembrance that in charting the paths of the past shall also help to map the future.
There is already immense amounts of documentation/ art/ film/ writing/ other cultural expressions/ research and other artefacts of various kinds  that have been created and put together by different people and groups over the last two decades. There is ongoing work, there is work done over the years and there are plans for the future. Can we jointly think about ways of  pulling some of these together to share with the rest of the city and with each other? Can we plan some events together particularly for Dec 2012 – Jan 2013? A series of events to put both memory and resistance in the context of this city that we all so love and have such a difficult relationship with.

We invite you to a meeting on 2nd June 2012 at Gender resource centre to start these conversations and collectively see what shape and form these and other ideas can take.
Let us all put our memories, our anger, our frustration, our grief, together with our vision, our love for this city and what it stands for, our faith and optimism along with our laughter, songs and creativity to create things that will help the dialogue on this city with its citizens.
Forum Against Oppression of Women,
Date/Time: 2nd June,  2pm to 6 pm
Venue  :                                                                                                     
                                                                                   
Savitribai Phule Gender Resource Centre (SPGRC),
Rajgruha Cooperative Society,
Balshet Madurkar Marg,
Elphinstone (West), Mumbai- 400013

Forum Against Oppression of Women, Bombay
29, Bhatia Bhuvan,
Babrekar Marg,
Gokhale Road,
Dadar (West)
Bombay -4000 28
__._,_.___

Misuse Of Intelligence: Right To Dissent


By S.G.Vombatkere

27 January, 2012
Countercurrents.org

The national and state intelligence agencies have advised the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that “ some rights organisations ” that decry state violence are purposefully or at least effectively taking sides with Maoists and “ actively helping spread the Maoist ideology ”. The intelligence age ncies (“IB” is the term used in the report title), therefore opine that “ rights organisations ” lay themselves open to prosecution for “ aiding and abetting a criminal conspiracy .” The advice goes on to say that these rights organizations “ have extended their reach to those areas which help spread Maoist ideology ” and that they are “ functioning as the points persons for the Maoists ”. Accordingly, they have suggested that “ the Union government take steps to limit the activities of leading human rights organizations ”. [1] .

This bodes ill for rights organizations and persons who agitate for civil, democratic, dalit, women’s, human et al rights. That such advice is condemnable is to put it mildly. It is a generalized verdict against rights organizations (notwithstanding that the word “some” has been used), implying that demanding people’s constitutional rights from the State and agitating for them with the State tantamounts to opposing the very idea of the State as the Maoists are reputed to do. This amounts to equating dissent with disloyalty. If people are not to agitate for rights for fear of being clubbed with Maoists, it amounts to denial of democratic rights by instilling fear into public life to enforce conformity with whatever the State deems fit to provide to the public. This leads in the direction of a totalitarian state disguised as a democracy, with the people’s servants becoming the people’s masters. As one wag put it, the leaders who shout “Power to the people!” want the people to shout “Power to the people!” so that people’s power is transferred to the leaders who shout “Power to the people!”.

Workers in rights organizations support the rights of people who are not empowered to agitate their own rights themselves. This involves demanding information from governments, or criticizing, rejecting or resisting governments’ policies, plans, projects or actions. This is dissent being voiced within society. Dissent should be used as a “thermometer” by governments to get a measure of social agitations and diagnose their fundamental reasons. These agitations may be for food, water, employment, fair wages or their enhancement, better working conditions, minimum support price (by farmers), etc. However, in present times, the agitations are more frequently in the form of resistance to governments’ plans or policies, or government-approved corporate projects that take away land and/or livelihood from people who are already variously disadvantaged. Agitations in Odisha against mining and industrial projects of Vedanta and POSCO; Jaitapur (Mah), Koodankulam (TN), Kovvada (AP) against nuclear power plants; Polavaram (AP), Tipaimukh (Manipur), Gerukamukh (Assam) against dams, are merely the most recent, on-going agitations that are reported in the media. Governments with a sense of social justice and equity would “treat” the agitations as social ills, with the democratic political tools of consultation and dialogue. But this is not happening. Rather, governments use the intelligence agencies to stoke trouble so as to provide justification for use of police or military force to brutally break the backbone of the dissenting movement.

Dissent can be peaceful and persuasive, or peaceful and vocally militant, or militant and armed. Thus, not all dissent is militant or armed. (We are not discussing insurgency or terrorism). This may be observed across the length and breadth of the country. However, the intelligence community – which operates under intense secrecy and is, in that sense, an anti-democratic organization – glosses over these differences in dissent. In the report mentioned above, it seeks to tar all dissent with the same brush, and then brand it as direct or clandestine support to Maoists.

The intelligence community is neither stupid nor inefficient. Their advice rendered to MHA is designed to ensure advantage to corporate demands for land and other resources. The intention of the advice in question is clearly to sideline or minimize dissent or criticism of state policies and actions; and if that is not possible, to crush it using state / central police or the military. The reason for this intention is widely understood as inspired by corporate need for land and/or raw material resources, to provide obscene profits to the corporates and huge kick-backs to those who collude with the concerned corporates. A P-B-P-C (politicial-bureaucrat-policeman-corporate) nexus that implements neo-liberal economic policies and operates against already poor and disadvantaged people by dispossessing them of their lands or livelihoods, is behind such use of state force. (Not all politicians, bureaucrats, policemen or corporations form this nexus). What is worse, this is done in the “public interest”, which makes it even more hurtful to those whose lives are small change in this so-called pursuit of public interest by governments to benefit corporates. This has been exposed repeatedly in many states in our country.

It is by now well recognized that the State has a predilection to suppress dissent by use of police or military force rather than address it by time-tested political means of dialogue and consultation. Further, the State is also prone to report its use of force as achievements of body-counts of militants and capture of weapons and ammunition. When human rights organizations question and investigate these actions and encounters, and bring the matter into the public domain, the police often (and the military less often) spin a web of lies and half-truths to deny wrong-doing. This is as often as not, at the behest of, or with the tacit support of, or at least within the knowledge of, the State.

This has been brought out most recently and very succinctly by a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and C.K.Prasad . In a news report [2] , the counsel for the State of Gujarat denied the allegations of fake encounters and questioned the bonafides of the petitioners, who were obviously defending the right to life of those killed in police encounters. The Court told the Gujarat State counsel, “ It [sic] is no point questioning the bonafides of the petitioners. Why in Gujarat [sic] when the matter comes [up before court] the state initially stoutly denies it. When the matter is scratched even slightly the fact comes to light and then the State government admits it as a fake encounter .” While this particular case refers to Gujarat, a similar attitude of State governments can be easily demonstrated from almost every state in India. Such rights petitioners are “bad boys” who possibly get to be watched for suspected links with Maoists. Even a person who comments upon or criticizes governments’ policies and actions, especially their handling of dissent would possibly be on some intelligence watch list.

The advice of the IB to MHA questions the bonafides of rights organizations across the board even though they may have named only “some” organizations. (The names of such organizations or persons is often confidential or secret). It goes on to advise that they may be prosecuted for “ aiding and abetting a criminal conspiracy .” It is well known that police are apt to foist false criminal charges against leading activists in peaceful movements that stand their ground in opposing State policies or actions. One of the methods in their capacious “bag of dirty tricks” (framing false charges, illegal detentions, faked encounter killings, custodial torture and killings, etc.) is for police intelligence to secretly infiltrate their operatives or agents into peaceful protest meetings and demonstrations to initiate violence – just stone-throwing sometimes suffices, but at other times public or private property is destroyed. This gives police the necessary “justification” for filing suitable criminal charges against “ring leaders”. Suppressing people’s dissent is itself certainly anti-democratic, but using police intelligence methods as outlined above is plainly State criminality by elected and appointed officials who are de jure public servants but de facto public masters. To be fair, peaceful movements do occasionally turn violent on their own, without “help” from the police.

This not a digression from the IB’s advice to MHA. It indicates the mind-set of people in government, who are in positions of power. Whether these worthies actually serve the people of their constituencies or of the state or country has been discussed ad nauseum , but the preponderant view is that they do not. One view point that bears repetition in this context is, “ It is unfortunate that governments do not understand the oft-repeated position of human rights and other social activists, that standing against [state] violence does not mean sympathy with or support for militant groups, that there is a third position which is equidistant from both sides of the conflict, and that the position of “if-you-are-not-with-us-you-are-against-us” is deeply flawed in the common law and social senses. Equally unfortunate, speaking against violence and in favour of peaceful negotiations is interpreted by government as opinions of misguided peaceniks at best, or as overt or clandestine collaboration with militants. ” Also, “ In matters such as the militancy and terrorism that are presently rife, many people fear that governments’ policy that militancy (caused by decades-long neglect and misgovernance) should be crushed by the use of police and military firepower, will make presently bad situations worse. Such people take the so-called third position, … and [are] in favour of peace and harmony. ” [3] . This is a viewpoint that is socially responsible and the only viable long-term solution to militancy.

All people who respect the Constitution and value the rights and freedoms that flow from that hallowed document need to vehemently and publicly condemn the advice of the intelligence agencies against rights organizations, that diminish those freedoms and rights and make nonsense of the Constitution. We do not want India to become a police state. The MHA needs to unequivocally assure the people that such unconstitutional advice from the intelligence agencies will be rejected out of hand and the person(s) of the intelligence community who rendered the advice will be put through a formal course of education on the Constitution of India.

(1,686 words of text)

References

1. Anil Sinha and Deepak K Upreti, “ Rights groups fronting for Maoists, says IB ”; < http://www.deccanherald.com/content/221668/rights-groups-fronting-maoists-says.html >; Deccan Herald, New Delhi, Jan 23, 2012.

2. “ Supreme Court orders probe into all fake encounters in Gujarat ”; The Hindu, Bangalore; January 26, 2012, page 1.

3. Vombatkere S.G., “ The Third Position – Non-alignment with violence ”; Mainstream, New Delhi; Vol XLVIII No 13, March 20, 2010, p.29-31.

S.G.Vombatkere retired as major general after 35 years in the Indian military. He is engaged in voluntary social work, and is member of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). As Adjunct Associate Professor of the University of Iowa, USA, he coordinates and lectures a course on Science, Technology and Sustainable Development for under-graduate students from USA and Canada. He holds a master of engineering degree in structural engineering from the University of Poona and a PhD in civil structural dynamics from I.I.T, Madras.: sg9kere@live.com

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