Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Food Crisis in the age of Land Grabbing

Food Crisis an outcome of failed agrarian reforms By Vidya Bhushan Rawat Much before the world could rise about the context of land grabbing, we in India, know it well how people’s land was already grabbed by the ruling Elites. These people who we called as Dalits or most marginalised found that whatever land they had in their possession was annexed by those village elite which claimed itself as ‘farmers’. Farmer in India, is a peculiar term. They too have castes. They too have rigidities of life. They too suffer from a hierarchical value system which considers the most marginalised as subhuman and untouchables. Indian villages live in darkness, in caste system and in nepotism Said Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar who guided our destiny in the post-independent India as he drafted our constitution and became the emancipator and liberator of millions of oppressed communities all over the country. While, we oppose all forms of discrimination by any one, and, all forms of land acquisition, a bit sophisticated terminology for land grabbing, we want to make it clear that we have become habitual of speaking the truth of convenience. Land grab is not just international phenomena but have been used by all the power elite in our societies. So, as I said in my opening statement, I am opposed to all forms of land acquisition including that by my own countrymen inside the country as well as outside it. Let me explain it further. Before 1990, most of the Dalits and Adivasis found their land being annexed by the upper castes and middle castes farmers. In many places, Indian state refused to act as those whose land was annexed did not matter much politically. The government knew it well that a large number of these communities need their protection yet nothing happened. The first generation of land reform failed miserably because inherent racist nature of our society which never considered these issues important. We still know millions of people in India mostly the Dalits, the tribal and the most backward communities, have in their hand, their land entitlement yet they fail to know where that exact portion of land is. Second failure of first generation of land reform was state’s failure to get the land ceiling laws implemented. Without active will of the state Land Ceiling Laws remain redundant. Most of the land still remains in the hands of power brutal village elite. We Know that they have used the Indian courts to make the Indian laws completely redundant. Many people talks about the Bhoodan Movement for land reform which was a complete eye wash actually to deviate people’s demand for land rights. We all know that these ruling elite would not give their own land at their own will that easily. To puncture the land rights movement, these elite trapped the whole social movements for land rights in Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. We all know the out come of Bhoodan movement and how the land was used. Andhra Pradesh can give a better example of Bhoodan land. Interestingly, Land Ceiling is for 12 acres of irrigated land while 18 acres for semi irrigated land. Land in India, is a state subject hence these criteria’s change accordingly. But the commonality of these things is that you can procure land in the name of gods and goddesses, in the name of church, temple and mosques and no ceiling law would impact you as all these Gods do not live with in the Ceiling act. You can also procure enormous land for your cows. It is only for human being that we have put ceiling laws. To evade the land ceiling laws, the ruling elite turn to religion, use it as a tool to exploit the most marginalised one. Rule of law have failed to protect and honor the most margainslied communities from being exploited. In the post 1990s, when the Indian government went on Structural Adjustment programmes, became part of the WTO regime and abdicated all its responsibilities particularly related to land and agrarian reform, we saw a clamour for land acquisition in the name of ‘public interest’. Now, public interest during the British regime who drafted 1894 Land Acquisition Act, was much more different. At least the British created institutions in India, built our road networks and railways and hospitals were constructed but contrary to that our governments actually became ‘real estate agents’ and started land acquisition and handed them over to private companies. Most of the people who face this challenge are the communities of farmers, tribal and Dalits living in the villages and forest regions. Since 1950s, over 9 million tribal have become landless and displaced completely without rehabilitation. In fact, I call it, the annihilation of tribal culture and their land. It is criminal. Any protest for their rights and livelihood is being treated with much voracious state apparatus which criminalises the social movements and political protests. The tribal land is gone to mining mafias, timber contractors in the forest and then the environmental mafias who feel that the tribal are the biggest threat to environment. It does not care whether the tribal be honourably rehabilitated, or compensated for their sacrifices for making us live our today. The Indian state has failed to honor the tribal autonomy and continue to marginalise them. The second kind of threat today is to the farmers in India through the Land Acquisition for Special Economic Zones ( SEZs), for the big roads, malls, companies. All over the country, the farmers are protesting against this illegal land grab. The state acquires their land threatening them with dire consequences if they try to stop the authorities from acquiring their land. A report in the Times of India suggest that in 17 States of India, 40 districts will lose simply 3,69,000 acres of land for various projects. The fact is the numbers are quite big and I would term it great Indian land robbery much bigger than any bank robbery. And these robbers have not come from out side India, the record of Indian companies is worst than their external counterparts. For us this challenge is big. Though we know a large of number these farmers do not even consider Dalit and Adivasis as human being (caste being an important aspect of their arrogance) yet, if we have to understand the future of India and its food security, we must understand the conspiracy of the ruling elite and the powerful private owners who want to control our agriculture. Yes, India’s communal land is under the grab. It was meant for the communities and their cattle for grazing and sitting and discussing their issues. But it is in the hands of powerful caste forces in the villages. We do not talk about it as it would expose our own imperialist culture. It is easy to fight against an external enemy but very difficult to fight against our ‘own’ people and it is applicable to each one us including the communities who I am talking about. Each one of us is a victim of not only external forces wanting to control us but also our own people wanting to be a stooge in the hands of these forces, to exploit our sentiments. The issue of Food crisis is not just related to Food security. For us Food sovereignty is more important. We are not ready to accept that there is a food crisis and hence we need to import food to give it to our people. Food sovereignty is our food, our land and our farmers. You can not impose your waste food on our people in the name of food security. Food is a culture, it depends on local environment, it is developed over a period of time and hence our concern is food which is culturally conducive for our people. Many Indian companies are procuring land abroad particularly in Africa. I know about the land struggles going on in these countries against this kind of imperialism. That is why I mentioned in my remark that we must oppose all kind of imperialist tendencies and not particular kind. If India indulges in that kind of approach, we must not suffer with a false ‘nationalistic’ sentiment because the same companies are disinheriting our own people from their land and using it for non agricultural purposes and then procuring huge land abroad to get it imported to India. It is a conspiracy to make our farmers workless and complete beggars. We must oppose to it. We must also not lose sight of the fact that the current food crisis is not a day’s work. The issue of subsidy to the farm products and fertilisers are very important. If Europe and Americans are not ready to do away with it, they have no right to impose these conditions on our governments to kill our agriculture. It is because of this, we are witnessing farmers committing suicide as they are unable to face the market pressures. They are unable to produce their crop according to fancies of market. Not able to produce profit as we all know well, market gives you big dreams and yet in reality it works against the most marginalised one. It is monopolised by the big corporations hence how can a common farmer compete with them. The farmers have to procure the hybrid seeds to ‘increase’ their yields which has failed forcing them to commit suicide. Indian farmers’ continuous suicide is a direct out come the ‘green revolution’ where they shunned traditional practices and went following the ‘commercial’ practices. Scientific achievements were converted to commercial greed by the companies and we all know green revolution also undid the agrarian reform. It mocked at small land holding and compelled people to annex the land of the most marginalised. The most powerful regions of India’s ‘green belt’ have the worst record of violence against women and Dalits. It has the worst record of dilapidating our water resources. Today, the same farmers are willingly ready to sale their land for real estate purposes and the only struggle between them and the government is related to monitory compensation and the rehabilitation package. India’s poorest people are living in richest zones. Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, Oddisha, have rich wealth of natural resources. The companies are venturing there and sucking these resources while the indigenous people are on the road fighting in their own land for their own survival. Is it not an irony that in these rich mineral zones, people are still suffering from hunger? What have we given to them? Except than criminalising them, we have no shame in continuously marginalising and isolating them. A war is growing in the heart of people against this injustice. The state was supposed to protect and fulfil its duties towards its people but it has failed. Civil society failed in its duty. For social movements, it was plainly the issue of land but for millions of people it relate to their continuous marginalisation, cultural annihilation and social ostracisation with the rest of the country. We failed in our duty towards our indigenous people, our most marginalised communities and unable to accept them in our decision making so that they can speak about their issues and plan their future. The crisis is enormous. You can not force an unwilling people to your thought. The efforts to privatise the agrarian system in the name of Food security would not succeed. It is an effort to kill the indigenous system of agriculture. It will ruin millions of farmers, indigenous people from their traditional method of agriculture. Such a food produced by big companies using the most ‘modern’ ‘technology’ might be large in quantity but will never be a qualitative food and will be resulting in annihilating our food culture. If the governments world over have failed to fulfil their duties towards their farmers, their indigenous people then they have no right to seize the resources of people which they have protected, nurtured so beautifully over the years. Do not blame these communities who protected our environment, our natural wealth for your mistakes. It is time, we must apologise to these communities and hand over their land and resources to them so that they are protected better. Let the big companies not worry about our food security. Those corporations can not feed the world who are responsible for killing thousands of farmers, indigenous people on whose ruins they produce their resources. Let us all boycott those corporations and products that are the results of the ruins of the farmers and indigenous people. If people are allowed to access their resources, there would be no hunger deaths. Hunger deaths are the failure of modern states which acquired people’s resources in the name of public interest but could never fulfil those promises to the people it displaced and killed. It is time; we need an informative debate on the issue of Food Security, Food sovereignty and on Land Acquisition. For that, we need to place a complete moratorium on all forms of acquisition that displace people from their natural resources and make them landless and then respect community’s sovereignty over their land and other natural resources.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Need action for the perpetrators of the crime against woman in Jharkhand

A Fact Finding Report of Violence against a Dalit woman in Giridih, Jharkhand By Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Ramdev Vishwabandhu and Pradeep Paswan She is completely lost and thoroughly crushed as she comes in front of us and just sits on the floor unmindful of the dust on it. As happen in most of such cases, she has herself become a subject to be discussed and her family regularly being threatened. Just 17 years of age and married twice, Sugani’s tale is the story of how dangerous the guardians of morality could be in our villages. Unfortunately, despite a most gruesome case being reported in the media here in Giridih, not much noise has been made. The organisations working for the Dalits, of the Dalits, by the Dalits, community organisations of Ravidasis, human rights organisations and women’s rights organisations have kept mum. On its parts, administration is absolutely silent and did not even deem it fit to provide protection to the victim and her family who are living in absolute fear. That their economic condition is pethatic reflect from their inaction to take the girl for medication. Police and administration has failed to provide any safety and security to this family Ravidasis Dalits here in Ranidih village which is about 60 kilometer away from the district headquarter of Giridih in Jharkhand state. Sugani is an agricultural labour who was speaking to a known family person from another village who had come to attend a marriage in this village. Just when they were interacting, a village boy Lakhan Das, 22, ask her as ‘who was speaking with’, who is this man? Is he your husband? He abusing her and slapped several time. This incident is of May 5th evening time. Lakhan’s mother intervened and the matter ended there. But the news spread like wild fire in the village. Rumours spread and on May 6th early morning, member of Mahila Samiti gathered together and picked up the girl from her home which is her father’s home at around 10 am. Her hair untied and dragged her to the lanes to the village school. Her aunt try to stop them but they threaten her with dire consequences and similar fate if intervene. There were about 12 members of the Mahila Samiti which is a Self Help Group of the village. According to the victim, these women members then made her naked and cut her hair. She was forced to eat human excreta and garlanded with Chappals. The women asked the men of the village to go out of the place. The woman blame that her pubic hair were also cut by these women and they tried to play with her inner part. She was persistently abused during those five six hours hour. She was kept in the sun. The male members of the family were not at home as they had gone to brick kiln and came home during the day. When the family came and heard from their women about this incident then Kapil Dev, a man known to this family from the neighbouring village came and got this stopped. This humiliation of a woman happened till 3 pm and most shockingly by the women themselves from the same community. In the evening the family of the girl went to the police station Deori to lodge an FIR. This falls under the Jamua Assembly constituency which is a reserved constituency. The family of the girl is a Ravidasi community and are agricultural labour. They don’t even know as what is the FIR filed by the police. So far no action has been taken. When the Mahila Samiti people came to know that there might be investigation and they might have to go to Jail, they have started threatening these people. It is ironical that no medical has been conducted on the woman so far. Our Visit We came to know about the incident during a visit of mine to Giridih when some of the local informed us about the incident and the inability of the administration to take action against the culprits. According to them, these women of the same community are running a SHG group and are dominant and play moral police. They threaten every one with dire consequences. Since the humiliation of the Dalit girl was done by the women of her community, the police found it difficult to register them under the SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. Now, this is an unfortunate situation as it is the woman who has to bear the brunt. Not even the community organisations or other groups came to her rescue so we decided to make a visit to the village and met the victim. We visited the victim’s house and met members of the family and neighbours on May 11th, 2011. We also tried to find out from neighbours, social activists and a few political activists about the incident. Daughter of Girdhari Das, an agricultural worker, Sugani has two brothers. Just at 17 she had faced many realities of life. Her first marriage was broken and her father got her married again. At the moment, she was staying with her father and other relatives. Her father is an angry man. Her mother cries to see the plight of her daughter. She has not eaten any food since the incident happen. Those horrible moments comes in her mind. Her aunts are angry with society, with government and with the political class as none has come to visit them. ‘Yes, the very unfortunate part of this incident is that we are continuously facing threatened by these Mahila Sanghathan i.e. women’s group to keep our mouth shut. They are very powerful people, we are poor so none come to us, said her aunt. The fact is that the girl is unable to recollect many things. Her confidence is completely lost by this event. The humiliation has shattered her body, mind and soul. It is like she does not know what will be her future. Her mother is quietly worried of her future. Till the writing of this, her husband had not known about this incident and the family did not know what could be his reaction. Our main findings were following: Findings 1. None in the village has denied the incident but the village was divided on nature. While the victim and her relatively were categorical that she was paraded naked and a stick with human excreta was forced on her mouth and her silver chain was snatched and hair were cut, the opposite side just felt that the hair were cut but all other things about parading naked was absolutely false. 2. A number of villagers pointed out that the girl was bad in character which clearly indicates that now the fear of an administrative action is forcing people to lie. While they are admitting that incident happen, they deny parading naked and all other charges levelled by the girl. 3. Most of the men actually deny having seen the incident and yet none of them were ready to condemn it even if it had happened. 4. The victim, her family and neighbours openly accused the Mahila Samiti members to have perpetrated this crime while the Mahila Samiti members flatly refused the same and said that a mad woman cut her hair. The victims family is facing threat from the girl. 5. Till the date of our visit, there was no trace of any police protection to the girl and her family. She was also not taken for medical examination. This is the criminal negligence on part of the police for not having done and action must be taken against them. 6. The victim actually named many people in front of us and there was virtual fight when people deny it yet it is true that villagers are divided on the issue. That does not reduce the importance of this incident and its wider repercussion. 7. One of the main reason for community unity in this case is that this is a case with in the community. The perpetrators of the crime of community women and hence it is a bit difficult for them to accept or involve the police in it. 8. The police and administration remain ineffective on this issue. No medical examination was done, no compensation was provided and no security to the girls family. She lives in constant fear from the threat of these powerful community women. Our Analysis of the situation This case is typical case as have been happening in our villages where the women are easy target of the ‘moral policing’. It is unfortunate that such things still happening and we have no police protection for those who become victim of it. After speaking to many witnesses or villagers, we realise that while people are saying that her hair were cut which were visible but she was not paraded naked. After I recorded her statement, it seems the message went across the village that they will now be traced and immediately they started sending us overtures that the woman is lying and no woman can be maltreated in our village. The young boys came to us said that the victim was ‘bad in character’. A man who the victim said did not come for her rescue said we must find out why she was paraded. It was clear that among themselves the villagers have justification of the incident. It is only because of fear of law that they retracted that she was not humiliated. My question to them was leave aside all other things, is cutting of her hair and placing a garland of chappals not humiliation ? When we were returning, some of these so called women’s group members met us and said that the girl was lying. One of the member said that the hair were cut by a mad woman. So, like any other incident of village pride, we will not find any witness to this incident also. We know that this incident happened with in the community and must be come with in the parameters of ‘crime for honor’ since it had happened with in the community and there is no chances of any SC-ST act being used in this case as it would have happened in the case of violence been perpetrated by non Dalits. The physical and mental condition of the girl is disturbing and need immediate medical attention. We know that in such cases the girls become victim of neglect and the families also consider them burden. It is time that the government must provide her due compensation. It is a shame that a Women’s group from the community perpetrated this ghastly crime. They must be arrested immediately and a message must be send across that such act of anti women violence by women or community would not be tolerated. It is not that only women were involved in the crime. Some men and the person Lakshman Das, who actually instigated the entire incident must be chargsheeted. Following names were given. The victim identified them with their husbands name. It is not the husbands who are the culprits but the wives who run the Mahila Sanghatan and Self Help Group. They are 1. Wife of Hira Lal Das 2. Wife of Dinesh Das 3. Rekha Devi 4. Krishna Devi 5. Savitri Devi 6. Geeta Devi 7. Bhutwa Devi 8. Dulari Devi 9. Anita Devi 10. Kunti Devi 11. Saraswati Devi 12. Suker Devi Ofcourse, the main culprit seems to be Lakhsman Das, who beat her up the previous day and then complained to the women members about the same. Our Demands 1. Immediate arrest of those who perpetrated the crime even if they happened to be Dalit women. Their organisation must be prohibited working in the community any more. 2. Action against police inaction and delays. 3. The victim must be rehabilitated. Full compensation must be given to her to make her life better. Medical treatment must be provided to her. 4. The Commission can send its own investigation team to find out further. 5. Provide protection to the family of victim as they live in continuous harassment. We would like to request the national bodies such as National Human Rights Commission, National Commission for Women, National Commission for Scheduled Castes and National Commission for Schedule Tribe to look into these matters seriously. Caste and gender related violence in India is rampant and all this happens in the name of community honour. We know fully well that the debate in the village start from the character of woman and our police force and those in administration some time feel the same way and hence rarely we reach to conclude such cases. These commissions should Now have specific duties to investigate these matters themselves and take them To logical conclusions otherwise like many other unknown deaths in India, this case will also die.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Time for left to widen its base and introspect its loss

It is a vote against loot of public resources: Land or money from exchequer Understanding the mandate of voters in recent assembly elections By Vidya Bhushan Rawat The 35 years old left front government in West Bengal finally bowed out of power in a massive reversal of fortunes which they never ever imagined. Mamata Banerjee and her alliance is ready to take up the new challenge in West Bengal. There is no need to argue against left except the fact that they had stayed in power for too long and for the good health of democracy the people must not allow any regime beyond two terms consequently. In fact, Parliament should pass a bill fixing up tenure of Prime Minister and Chief Ministers so not to allow any PM or CM beyond two terms whether consecutive or alternative like the system in United States fix terms for president. It will strengthen democracy and take us beyond the polity of individual ‘liberators’ which has become hall mark of our polity and political-social movements. That will pave the way for more democratisation of parties and leadership and further decentralise the power structure and develop new leadership. Therefore, defeat of left in West Bengal should not be considered as a jolt but as a break for the party leadership to think about their programmes and policies. None can deny the historic role of the left forces in West Bengal but there is also a grave reality that there was no efforts to bring the marginalised leadership into the party. The dark reality of West Bengal is the continuous marginalisation of Dalit-OBC-Muslim leadership in any of the political formulations. Hence if people are calling Mamata Banerjee the new liberator of West Bengal, it need to be seen whether people like Amit Mitra of CII, are going to liberate Bengal or will they create new Nandigrams and ‘manage’ media which had turn anti left in the past 10 years. It is important to know whether Mamata has any new agenda for the vast number of these marginalised sections of society which remain marginalised politically and in governance structure in West Bengal. Yesterday, Bengal was remarkably calm. In Bardwan, where I boarded a local train to reach Chandanagore, none was initiating a discussion, there was a pin drop silent in the trains and roads and streets were deserted. Only the regular vendors were selling their products. At one place, a coolie had virtually tears in his eyes telling ‘everything is lost’, Buddha Babu gone, most of his colleagues defeated’. His eyes spoke everything. I came here to understand the moods of people but I suppose so much has happened that it will take time for people to realise that things are changed. There were not much discussions on the streets. People were not much expressive. May be the defeat of Buddha Dev and his team shocked the people. Did he deserve this humiliation of losing in his own constituency? Mamata said the people of West Bengal are liberated. Well didi, we also want liberation from you, from the Railway ministry which you virtually killed with your over time involvement in West Bengal. Now, that you have to take charge of Writer’s Building in Kolkata, please give a break to Prime Minister to find a better Railway Minister so that we all can travel safe and better. In the evening, there was as mall procession of people with Vande Mataram in the air. Mamata’s flag hoist every where. Women and men played holi and colour each other yet the mood still was somewhat sombre. In the night when I walked on the side of Hooghly, not much was visible except the fact the some people went to see an exhibition on Tagore and his life. My friend Bhaskar suggested that political discussion seems to be reducing in West Bengal and youths are completely dejected with the overdose of politicisation process in the state. Did the CPM manipulate the caste equations in the state? The left had always have a position in favour class and not caste but the realities of Bengal showed that also came from powerful Bhadralok who seems to have drifted from the party towards Mamata for green pastures. The 26% Muslims of the state remained completely isolated and marginalised despite tall claims of ‘secular’ values. Muslims want participation in power structure and their job share in the government. Is not it a shame that such a huge number of Muslims have less share in governance structure in West Bengal than in Gujarat who we regularly vilify. Congress Party, the allied partner of Trinamul is happy today as it returned to power in Kerala and retained in Assam. The news analysts may be writing obituary of the left in West Bengal and glorifying Mamata Banerjee and her team but in democracy one has to win. Left lost after 35 years hence no need to feel sorry for them. None should get such a long ride if we want to strengthen democracy. We need left forces in the country as long as we have regimes of repression. Left is always great when in the opposition and one hope they will raise the issue of loot of land in the country and contribute in a much better way. The poll results have thrown some pertinent questions at the moment. Congress lead UPA at the centre continues to brazenly follow the neoliberal agenda and has corrupted the entire structure. It is time for them to do a rethink. In the din of celebrations, it must think that there lies the message of voters about policies and programme. One, that people want better living for them, better life and secure future for them. They want roads, infrastructure, schools, hospitals and not the political rhetoric against these. West Bengal lacked that shockingly and credit goes to some of the rhetorical statement that we in the left movement are habitual of making about development and welfare. Secondly, Nandigram and Singur sealed the fate of the left. The same CPM and its allies lost their credit among their own supporters and constituents as it smack of hypocrisy. None can support Mamata’s politicisation in Singur as most of the people wanted a better compensation and security of their jobs, and yet the government mishandled the situation and now faced the music. The struggle against land acquisition is a nation wide phenomenon apart from the question of tribal rights over forest and water resources. Those who want to celebrate at the ouster of left forces must not drift away from the reality of the current trends. The left forces in West Bengal got 42% of the total votes against 48% of Mamata Banerjee led alliance. Just 6% of shift in votes has changed the fortunes of the left in West Bengal reflect a serious concern of all of us that we need to discuss on the issue of electoral reform. How can a mere 6% difference create loss of 162 seats? So, even after 35 years of left rule, if Bengal electorate has still reposed faith in the left then we should appreciate their work and actions. Ofcourse, as I said earlier, time for introspection for the left themselves and hopefully this will give them more time to strengthen their social base and widen their network. The result of Kerala have shown the similar trends that even if UDF seems to have got the power, the fact is that it is not a resounding no to the policies of left, which brings us to other points as why are neo liberals celebrating this even when left is not decimated despite their tall claims. And the answer is clear that industries are looking Mamata to work for the industries in West Bengal which is fair enough but how she manages it would be seen in future. The rout of DMK in Tamilnadu is a great lesson for all the political leaders who feel that people are not going to entertain corruption. While Jayalalitha is no saint and definitely Karunanidhi had a better record as chief minister, the involvement of family in wide scale corruption is a matter of great concern and people have rejected them all. One thing that goes greatly in favour of the left parties is that despite such a long spell of serving in power in West Bengal and Kerala, their leaders were relatively cleaner and uncorrupted which is unique and must be acknowledged. The trend of people throwing their own community leaders who tend to be corrupt started from Haryana where Devi Lal felt that corruption was never an issue. It reached Bihar where Lalu’s brother in laws had field day and anointing Rabari Devi as chief minister of State was the biggest damage that he played though he might claim it was a ‘backward’ woman but the question is there are hundreds of backward community women, much better than Rabari Devi who could have become Chief minister if Lalu was so interested. Mulayam Singh Yadav has the same fate. Actually, that makes Mayawati must stronger and better than any of her opponent despite all allegation of corruption that she has not allowed her family members dominate the political space of BSP. Hence, the Tamilnadu and Puducherry results shows that the people will revolt against their leaders and that democracy will mature and none can take their own community for granted even if our intellectuals and political analysts try to glorify any misdeeds. The trends from these polls are clear that it is a vote against corruption and a vote for change, a vote for better life and not mere rhetoric. It is not that all those who have been elected are ‘revolutionaries’ or ‘change makers’. That is the biggest drawback of our democratic set up that elections are won on the negative votes. Jayalalitha came back to power because of excess of the Karunanidhi government in Tamilnadu. None will want a state to become the family domain of a party or an individual. The West Bengal’s mandate was for change as it is over 35 years left front rule and there was stagnation but that does not really mean power in the hands of marginalised. May be new forces of social justice have to emerge from West Bengal. Muslims continue to remain marginalised except promises by the political parties. They can not survive on the promises of the parties. The leadership has to emerge. West Bengal will need a social revolution of ‘vote hamara raj tumhara, nahi chalega’.. my vote your govt will not work. The OBCs, Dalits, Muslims can make a strong combine but alas they did not have a credible face and more over the first past the post system is certainly beneficial to powerful castes in India and does not favour the marginalised. India will have to switch to Proportionate Electorate System, if we want representative governments in true sense which could reflect the diversity of people in our governance structure. The manipulations and calculations of political parties will not work and they will have to function according to aspirations of the people and minorities whether linguistic or caste or religious will have more safety than they have today. The dismal percentage of Muslims in political structure will create unhealthy environment in all the states and further alienate them. It is time a serious thought is given to make their presence felt in the power structure. What makes it more important from the fact that despite tribal opposition and revolt Bastar goes to the same party and non tribal. How can you resolve a conflict where the Member of Parliament has no time to visit the people and speak on their issues? When the government can hold talks with ULFA and NSCN, what is wrong with speaking with those claiming to work for tribal or protecting them? That would give more time to government to reach in these areas and discuss autonomy of tribal regions It is time for Congress to think beyond Manmohan-Montek-Chidambaram agenda of development. The fire of Nandigram and Singur has now reached Noida where Congress General Secretary went and sat on a Dharana ignoring the vital fact that Congress governments in Andhra Pradesh and Maharastra had the worst record related to this where chief ministers became over enthusiastic in land grab. Late Y.S.Rajshekar Reddy lead it, acquired tribal land and the polarised the opinion in media and political circle by playing different caste, and regional cards. The ideologues in the Congress want government to dole out ‘entitlement’ based things to people and acquire their land clandestinely without any protest. By targeting the civil society and all those who are opposing these policies, the political parties are trying to shut the dissent. Mr Chidambaram would do well to think over his agenda of ‘tribal’ empowerment. There will never be any peace in India if we continue to elect our government based on minority votes and rejoice at the ‘dance’ of democracy. If in the past 20 years our parliament did not have time to discuss the land acquisition bill and despite presence of 350 odd Dalit, OBC and tribal Member of Parliament and our marginalised continue to be sold, then it is time, we must give a rethink to our current system. In the absence of these debates, everything that governments do is a justification of act in the form of violence against people. Every protest for protection of their land water and resources is being criminalised by indiscriminate use of police force, terming it as administrative problem. It is time to think over these issues seriously. At the end of the day, these election results have shown that people will fight against corruption which actually is loot of people’s resources whether it is in the form of Nandigram, Singur or monitory loss to the exchequer in the 3G spectrum. Not much should be expected from the political class who will always manipulate things and wait that people forget it. One is sure, in the coming days, things are becoming more difficult and there is a serious need to switch over to Proportionate Electorate System, at least a debate is needed so that we have genuine representation and wider protections of the rights of the tribals, Dalits and minorities and the seats one gains should be proportional to the vote polled by the party. Let the left initiate the debate on electoral system by involving more political parties and involve itself more on strengthening social political movements which is important against the illegal grab of our resources and growing corruption in our political life. Let Didi and Amma take charge of their state in hope that they would do justice to what they promised to their people.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Pain of the Expatriate Pakistanis

Time for Pakistan establishment to show some commitment to secularism and Justice By Vidya Bhushan Rawat It was raining heavily when I boarded the bus no 7 from square one to Toronto Airport to catch my flight back to Delhi. After several stops, I saw Anwar Bhai boarding the bus. It was relief for me as I wanted to meet him before leaving but our schedule were such that it was difficult. Anwar Bhai was born in Lucknow city but became a Pakistani citizen due to accident of circumstances. Pakistan could not attract him much and he migrated to Canada with his family. Speaking to him was a treat as he had so many memories of Delhi and Lucknow that one would always want to listen to him. He is a freak of the Hindustani movies being produced in Bombay which we claim to be ‘Hindi Movies’. ‘Why do we call them as Hindi movies, he says. ‘None of the old days writers, actors ever knew Hindi. The fact is they always wrote their script in Urdu and represented the great Hindustani tehjeeb of the subcontinent’, Anwar Bhai would suggest. He came to meet me at Shamshaad Bhai’s place and we had whole lot of discussion on our relations and the situation in both India and Pakistan. But on that day, when we met at the bus, I saw an anguish and pain in the eyes of Anwar Bhai. He did not know that I was leaving for Delhi but when I informed him that I am leaving for Delhi right now, he became pensive. We sat and chatted for a few minutes before he departed. ‘You see, this is the tragedy of Pakistani expatriates that none of us want to go back to Pakistan. Where shall we go? Are we safe there? It is difficult to live in that country which is in the grip of religious thugs and mafias. When I see you Indians craving to go for your country, I feel how fortunate you are. Each one of us loves our land. ‘I was fortunate to be born and brought up in Lucknow and see the supreme irony I can not even claim to be a citizen of India because I do not possess the relvent papers which got lost, he says. He wanted to say many things but I could realise that he had a lot to say. He narrated me stories of his Hindu neighbours and how they would help each other. India is a model for many of these countries where people help each other. Ofcourse, things are not that easier here I told him yet the people and the unity of Pasmanda Muslims, Dalits, the Adivasis and others is getting stronger day by day, I informed. Similar feelings were expressed by Iqbal bhai who came to drop me at Square one in his taxi. He belonged to Sambhal near Moradabad and would explain to me various things. He had been living in Canada for over 15 years and yet unable to visit his own country for many years. ‘ what do we do after going there. It is becoming risky day by day, he said. The expatriates Pakistanis whose roots are in India are actually praying for good relations between the two countries. They are feeling uprooted from their culture and language. India is providing them a link. The films, the songs, cricket, and politics everything is giving them happiness yet the pain of not being able to see their land is much bigger than any of these. And when they meet friends and compatriots from India, they realise how wrong was partition of India, which actually created artificial borders between three newly created states. Yes, now they are questioning the partition of India and say it was a conspiracy to divide us by the elites. ‘They looted us and gained from our dislocation. What did we get said many of them’, said one of them. Though, I do not personally believe that partition was avoidable as the circumstances that time were completely different and the things have taken a different turn now when the Muslims and others have seen the politics behind partition. There are hundreds of logics who can suggest that Partition was necessary, I said. If I see the condition of Muslims in India, their marginalisation in polity and decision making, I feel it was necessary but when I see the situation in Pakistan today, which can plainly be described as a country in war with itself, and then I say it was absolutely disaster. It did not help either. It was a disaster as many of our friends say seeing the situation today but if that had not happened, don’t we think that the forces of Jehad would have been operating in India demanding for the same. There would have been Hindu fanatics who are still targeting Muslims and Muslim fanatics would have been playing their games easily and we would have been in a much bloody situation today. After years of churning, there is a realisation that hatred does not bring anything. Today, the people of Pakistan have seen what have they got in the name of religion. ‘Well, a friend says, ‘we want to have Kashmir in the name of religion as every locality of Karachi has a collection centre in the name of Jehad in Kashmir. What should the govt do, I asked Butt Saheb, a Kashmiri, who met me at a shop in Toronto? ‘Why has the entire struggle of self respect of Kashmiris have turned into a hatred towards non-Muslims’, I asked. ‘You can not separate the Kashmiri Hindus from the Kashmir Muslims says Butt. You see, my surname is Butt and it reflect that we were originally Pandits who we spell as Bhutt. It is common thread between us. The whole thing has been created by politicians and government. There is tremendous good will among the people on both the sides of border. Though, I live in ‘Azad Kashmir’ yet I am proud to be born in Srinagar’, he says. ‘I asked him when should Pakistan give Azadi to the people in their part of Kashmir? Butt Saheb has not given a thought on this. He only says that it is the politicians who are dividing us. But one very interesting point that he referred was that it was not difficult for him to go to Kashmir as there are so many entry points. He feels proud of being a Kashmiri from Srinagar. Last night, US President Barak Obama declared that Osama Bin Laden is killed by the American troops in Abottabad, a calm military town near Pakistan capital Islamabad. Death of Bin Laden could be described in various ways by commentators. For Americans and their allies he was the person who made women widows, children orphaned and killed innocent, for many in the Islamic world, he was a hero who took on the Non Muslims who were trying to challenge the authority of Islam. It is not that every Muslim supported him but George W Bush’s doctrines of Islamic Fascist actually put the entire Muslim world against him. However, president Obama has been more than careful in describing this as a war against terrorism and not war against Islam. While, we agree that the Americans and others who entered in Iraq or Afghanistan are not there to bring ‘democracy’ which they often describe so proudly, but to serve their own interest, it is also time to look inwardly. Off late, the practice of blaming everything to your opponent seems the best strategy for despots, politicians and those who sale on victim mindset all the time. A victim mindset will never get any one justice but will only create more and more fanatics who at the end will not be damaging to any one but to their own societies. After all, who did Bin Laden kill more? Who are the victims of Talibans? Who are the victims of Gaddafi and Mubaraks? All these despots and fanatics were somewhere created by the American and their notorious agencies like CIA. At the end all of them actually damaged Islam more than they could damage the others. So, when I say we need to look inward, it is because unless our societies are internally stronger, we can not really do justice to our people and fight with the so-called enemy. We will only end up in killing ourselves. We have seen this in Afghanistan and now in Libya, Nigeria, and Bahrain where one ethnicity dominate over the other and unable to provide political alternative. Today, in Pakistan, the situation is grim. In most of these countries the rights of the people are crumpled under the heavy boots of the authoritarian regimes and society is completely collapsed. The morality brigade ensure that women are beaten on the street and do not go out in their own. It is this situation which has compelled many of the people to migrate to west. And coming to the west is a cultural shock to many as most of the immigrants bring their feudal values along with them. Hence, the largest numbers of honoured killings are being witnessed in United Kingdom and Canada. Yes, many of them go unreported. On the eve of Easter when I was travelling from Ottawa to Toronto, I met a Sudanese doctor who had migrated several years back from his country to Canada. With a wife and family, he started his life as a taxi driver and pursued his study in medicine. Sudanese name in the west has become synonymous with Islamic terror and despite humiliation at the airports and at immigration level, people still preferring to leave those isolated heavens of feudal lords where life has virtually become miserable to live. ‘I want to study here and make my life better said, Marry who was along with her husband. ‘We have been here for past 15 years and our children are now accustomed to live in the Western world. These people have allowed us to grow and given us opportunities to taste the success. I would not like to go there in Sudan where people are killing each other in the name of religion. Today, I can drive around and take my children at my own. None can stop me here taking a decision on my life. Why should I go there if as a woman my own identity is never respected’, explains Marry who felt that America would be the last in her list to visit as it humiliate all who are Sudanese. ‘At least, here in Canada we are much safer and not humiliated’, she adds. Two years ago, I met a few Pakistanis in London working with women and girls in UK who were victim of violence. I met Mehjabin, a Gujarati Muslim woman who married to a Pakistani much against the wishes of her family. They would have killed her yet the girl was too bold to handle and they decided to live separately. Yet, when their child was born, her husband forced him to go to learn Arabic and ‘Muslim culture’ which he was unable to respond. One day the boy was so scared with the highhandedness of the Maulvi that he pissed in his pant. The mother got angry with her husband and withdrew the child. The inability of South Asians to mix up with their counterparts in the western societies is creating a big gap in understanding. They want to come out their cultural shock yet fear isolation from the community push them back in the lap of those who want to ghettoise them. They crave for their language, music and traditions and some time turn more conservative. In the case of Pakistani friends, a number of them become depressed with the fact that there is so much to do in Pakistan yet very unfortunately they can not go and do any work for the women and poor there. Pakistan today is on the verge of collapse. Civil society is threatened and politicians are unable to take on the challenge of the religious right wings who are determined to convert Pakistan into another chaotic Islamic nation where women will virtually have no right and people would not be allowed to access the modern world. Speaking with friends and fellow activists in Pakistan makes you feel pensive on how a country has deteriorated. And most of them feel that the ruling establishment in Pakistan actually want such a scenario when democracy fail and military take over. While people have no love for Zia ul Haq kind of military men, definitely many of them have soft corner for Musharraf who they think was modernising Pakistan. The day Mukhtar Mai’s rapist were released on the order of Pakistan Supreme Court, I spoke to a friend in Sindh who was narrating me the growth of fundamentalist in Pakistan and their continuous assault on freedom of expression and religious beliefs. Pakistan is paying a heavy price for its flirtation with the hate mongers. The elite have shifted to other countries and are not bothered about it. The powerful military men who rules have their children abroad and know they are in safe heaven. Mukthar Mai and many like her do not get justice. The other South Asian particularly the caste Hindus try to avoid the Muslims from Pakistan. They would not like to be associated and counted in minorities and Muslims, informed a friend. The common refrain from the South Asian community in UK and USA is to avoid any linkages with Pakistanis. This has given rise to the growth of Hindu right wing among Indian expatriate as this is their fertile time when the anti Muslim propaganda is on full flow and war on terror has indirectly been a war on Islam despite Obama’s tall claim. A large part of this negative feeling for Muslims has happened because of inner power games in Pakistan’s power structure. It is time for them to change their attitude and stop supporting such notorious movement in the name of Islam. At the end it is isolating Muslims and only helping those who want to see them isolated further. We have seen the isolation of Mukthar Mai, and Salmaan Taseer whose death was celebrated by many. It is the meekness of the voices of secularism that the religious fanatics take things for granted and consider their strength. The fears of people like me is that if Pakistan and Bangladesh go to the right wing fundamentalist groups, it will only strengthen the process of radicalisation of other communities too and the end would be chaos and further destruction of lives in South Asia. Islam is not in danger but Muslims are facing persecution because of a few such fanatics. Justification of historic wrongs and blame games will only escalate tension. Ofcourse, things can not improve if the Americans continue to intervene and kill innocents in the Middle East. It will never improve with the hate propaganda of the US machinery who on the one hand call for reconciliation and the other side continue to harbour ill will and misconceived notion towards Muslims and Islam. A Pakistan of Jinnah’s dream can take the lead in it yet every expatriate is looking for that where minorities have equal rights and women do not face the victimisation like Mukthar Mai. Only a government with strong sense of justice to people and secularism can bring Pakistan near to the secular dream of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Is Pakistan establishment prepared for that?