Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

State of War

July 1, 2007

The brown papers that hardcore capitalists read every day seem to be
giving more coverage to the maoists of late.
This one is from the business standard.The entire supplement
on staurday carried this article on the frontpages.

State of War

Aditi Phadnis / New Delhi June 30, 2007
The last years have seen a dramatic rise in Naxal violence, and this week’s incidents prove that little is being done to contain it.

It was a warm April afternoon. Humidity rose like a blanket from the jungles around Murkinar, a small hamlet in Dantewada district, Chhattisgarh. Murkinar has two claims to fame: it has a police post on the side of the road and it is linked by a bus that plies between this hamlet and Bijapur, a nearby town.

As usual, villagers were waiting at the bus stop when the bus trundled to a stop. Suddenly, the bus stop was seething with people, mostly men holding bags. Passengers — Gond tribals with their weekly haul from the forest — were told to disembark and the men boarded the empty bus and ordered the driver to drive on.

At 3:00 in the afternoon, the police post was inhabited by constables trying to catch forty winks, dressed only in lungis and vests. No one paid any attention to the bus – until the men inside began firing at the police station with light machine guns. The Naxalites killed 11 policemen like they would shoot clay pigeons, kicked the bodies aside and loaded all the weapons and ammunition they could find into their bags. Then the bus drove off again and the Naxals melted into the forest.

This was the story narrated to Brig Basant Kumar Ponwar, Inspector General of Police, Chhattisgarh, and a veteran of Army counter-insurgency operations who is currently involved in training policemen to handle guerilla operations.

“One hundred and seventy districts over 13 states are currently under the influence of the Naxals, though in some states the pockets are small and have been contained. Our interrogations and materials obtained from raids indicate that the target of this group is to bring, by 2010, 30-35 per cent of India under their sway. In order to prevent incidents like Murkinar, India has to train at least 10,000-20,000 policemen in counter-insurgency tactics. This is no small task,” he said on the phone from Bastar.

The two-day shock and awe campaign earlier this week by Naxals all over India to protest the “imposition” of special economic zones (SEZs) and the government’s economic policies has had the desired effect.

Naxal actions were calculated to be conspicuous and loud. In West Bengal’s Purulia district, about 50 guerrillas set fire to the station master’s room at Biramdih railway station at around 1:30 am. The attack destroyed the signalling system. Biramdih — on the Jharkhand-West Bengal border — is 285 km from Kolkata. Train services between Bihar and Jharkhand, including the state capitals Patna and Ranchi, were cancelled.

In Chhattisgarh, public transport went off the roads and movement of iron ore from Dantewada district’s Bailadila hills to Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh was halted. Maoists blocked interior pockets of Bastar, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Dantewada and Kanker districts by placing wooden logs on the roads. Primitive tactics? Maybe, but no one dared remove the logs.

It isn’t just the intensity of the Maoist rage with the system (in their most spectacular attack on a police post in Rani Bodli, 55 policemen were killed, but what shocked the people was that some policemen who had obviously surrendered were also killed — axed to death, their decapitated heads placed neatly by the side of their bodies). It is also that they will not be ignored any more.

Over a two day-campaign, in Jharkhand alone, official estimates put the losses at around Rs 150 crore. The railways lost Rs 30 crore due to cancellation of goods and passenger trains and damage to property — in Latehar district they burnt two engines and damaged 12 goods train bogies.

Around 1,500 buses did not ply during these two days, causing a loss of Rs 1.5 crore. Trucks stood idle, leading to a loss of Rs 3 crore. Coal and iron ore production and transport was disrupted, leading to losses of around Rs 60 crore. In Jharkhand, export-import businesses had to shut down for virtually the whole week, leading to losses of Rs 5 crore. With road and rail traffic coming to a complete halt in the state, nothing could be done.

Since the inception of Chhattisgarh in November 2000, 751 civilians have fallen to the fury of the rebels. Two hundred and twenty policemen have died combating the Red Army. Development work worth Rs 200 crore has been left stranded in Bastar because no one wants to work there. Property and other losses add up to Rs 8,000 crore in six years.

Guerilla groups are territorial in their outlook. They need an area — one hesitates to call it a state — of their own. The Tamil aspiration is for Eelam. What do the Indian Maoists want?

The Maoist “state” is called Aboojhmad. Its exact contours remain a mystery. The area stretches over some 10,000-15,000 sq km — the size of Fiji or Cyprus — with inaccessible terrain encompassing the forest belt from Bastar to Adilabad, Khammam and East Godavari districts in Andhra Pradesh and including Chandrapur and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh and Malkangiri in Orissa.

Parts of this region have never been surveyed, not even by Emperor Akbar who conducted the first revenue survey in the mid-15th century. The first surveyor-general of India, Edward Everest, also failed to map the entire topography of Aboojhmad in his survey conducted between 1872 and 1880.

According to intelligence agencies, Aboojhmad houses all major establishments of the Maoists outfits including arms manufacturing units and guerrilla training. It is also a safe haven for the top guns. “The area is heavily mined and it is near-impossible for security agencies to sneak in,” said a senior state police official.

Maoists are also expanding their area of operation. The growing economy of the region has increased the demand for raw materials. Chhattisgarh is the preferred destination for investments in thermal power and steel.

SAIL, Essar, Tata and Jindal are in the race to acquire the biggest coal and iron ore mining blocks. The new tactics in Chhattisgarh appear to be to establish a hold in other mining areas as well. The recent arrest of a top Maoist gun in a diamond-rich belt of Raipur district attests to this. It isn’t just the forest for them, it is also mines and industrial areas.

In the bauxite-rich areas in the region they have registered their presence in Siridih and Mainpat areas of Sarguja district where aluminium majors Hindalco and Vedanta-owned Bharat Aluminium have mining facilities.

Besides opposing industries in Chhattisgarh, rebels have also hit at the state economy. Agriculture is impossible in these circumstances. Nor isthe state receiving dividends in the proportion it had estimated from forest produce. The huge budget for the region lapses unspent every year. About 30 per cent of the Rs 450 crore budget for the Chhattisgarh government’s home department is spent on anti-Maoist operations.

How do the groups operate? Over the last decade, the Maoist movement has undergone a lot of mergers and acquisitions. Smaller groups have merged with bigger ones, cadres have joined rivals and while factional warfare has claimed the lives of many loyal believers, it has also prompted the Maoists to consider how best to synergise their strengths. To be sure, there is still some griping between old rivals.

For instance, the CPI ML (Kanu Sanyal) had this to say about the CPI Maoists’s greatest military victory ever: “CPI (Maoist) action on 15th March at Rani Bodili in Dantewada district fully exposes its anarchist line and calls for severe condemnation. Instead of exposing, challenging and defeating the state terror by mobilising the masses, it is totally counter-productive as it has given further excuse for deploying 8,000 more para-military forces in Bastar district alone to intensify the state terror.”

But by and large there is greater coordination among groups than ever before. At the 9th Congress of CPI (Maoist) held after 36 years somewhere in the forests of Orissa-Jharkhand borders in January-February this year, it decided to protest against SEZs and the setting up of industries by acquiring forest and tribal land.

In Chhattisgarh, the Maoists have already warned Tata and Essar against putting up steel plants in Bastar. The Congress, sources said, decided to extend its protests to Kalinga Nagar, Singur, Nandigram, and Polavaram (Andhra Pradesh). Some other specific projects are also in their sights: this makes the challenge all the more terrifying.

How can the Maoists be defeated — and should they be? A former district magistrate in Chhattisgarh, Shailesh Pathak recounts how he supervised the general elections of 2004 in Bastar.

“We couldn’t get the electronic voting machines into Bastar because of Naxal propaganda that they’d mined the area and anyone going there would be blown up. So we launched our own counter-propaganda — that we had airborne missiles that would be able to detect Naxals from the air. I even did a couple of helicopter sorties to prove that we had a helicopter. That’s how we held the election.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that Naxals will grow where there is no development or democracy — the turnout in the general election in Bastar was 15 per cent despite Pathak — but their argument is that the economic boom has bypassed them but it is their resources that has aided it.

Ponwar’s argument is military logic. “You can defeat the Naxalites militarily. What do they have, after all — explosives they have looted from the National Mineral Development Corporation godowns used for mining, some .303 rifles, LMGs and AK 47s looted from police stations? But having once liberated areas militarily, the state must demonstrate its authority. It must establish itself in these areas — because if it doesn’t, the Naxals will just reclaim it.”

Economist Jean Dreze’s survey in Sarguja district that is under Naxal influence suggests that job-creation is an answer. Organising those who are opposed to Naxals unfortunately only renders them more vulnerable to Naxal attacks. Tribals, used to referring to the forest as their home, are now huddled in camps under RCC sheets to protect them from Naxal reprisal.

One thing is certain: no amount of coordinated police and military action is going to prevent the Naxal movement from growing. “It is not that the military challenge is strong,” says Ponwar, “it is that the response is weak.”

The Red battle for Orissa

One night in June, a group of armed CPI (Maoist) extremists killed a contractor at Tumikoma village and two persons at Ranigolla village in Deogarh district on the western fringe of the state.

The same night, 600 km away in Koraput, in south Orissa, suspected Maoists blasted the engine of a goods train and burnt down a part of the Padua police station. Three days later, two suspected Maoists entered the conference room of the Orissa High Court Bar Association at Cuttack and dropped bundles of leaflets there pertaining to their two-day economic blockade agitation on June 26 and 27.

The three incidents say it all — the Naxal presence which was limited to its southern tip bordering Andhra Pradesh only a few years ago has now infiltrated across the length and breadth of Orissa. It is estimated Naxals/Maoists now have a presence of some sort or other in 17 of Orissa’s 30 districts, but the state government acknowledges their existence in only 11 districts.

The left-wing extremist groups have spread the menace in 11 of 30 districts by indulging in violence in the past seven years, says Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. They had mounted attacks as many as 234 times, killing 103 persons in seven years.

But Patnaik is seeking solace that this is far less compared to the mayhem unleashed in neighbouring states. In Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, in the same period, 941 and 930 people were killed; the casualty figure for Andhra Pradesh is 1,867.

According to government records, the tribal dominated Malkanagiri district in the south is the worst-hit, accounting for 43 per cent of the Naxal related incidents.

Rayagada, Sambalpur and Koraput are three other districts where CPI (Maoist) mounted 50, 27 and 20 attacks respectively in the last seven years. Most of the Naxalite attacks were reported from Malkanagiri district. Apart from Malkanagiri, other southern districts infested by the Naxal menace are Rayagada, Gajapati and Koraput.

Win some, lose some

Activists and students who went to Sarguja for a public hearing on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme recently have come back to report major improvements in the distribution of job cards, the extent of employment, the payment of wages and the quality of work undertaken.

This gives reason for hope in the possibility of making NREGP work, says economist and activist Jean Dreze who organised the hearings. Sarguja is one district not in the thick of Naxal influence and where government programmes have been allowed to run their natural course.

The most heartening finding was “a sharp decline in corruption”. This is not to generalise about the state of affairs in Sarguja, for the Dreze-led group reports that the National Food For Work Programme has remained on paper. But on NREGP, says Dreze: “We found that 95 per cent of the wage payments that had been made according to the muster rolls had actually reached the labourers.”

Dreze compares Sarguja with other Naxal hit areas of Chhattisgarh in this context.

“It is interesting to consider the growing contrast between this region of Chhattisgarh and the southern region (Bastar and adjoining districts),” he says.

“In the southern region, misguided attempts to suppress the Naxalite movement through brute force have led to a spiral of violence and turned large areas into a war zone. Development is the casualty. In the northern region, which is comparatively free of violent conflict, there has been a noticeable improvement in the reach and quality of public services such as drinking water, health care, elementary education and the public distribution system.”

Researcher and economist of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Tapas Sen, currently working on a report on Chhattisgarh, notes a change in the policy of the radical elements in the state.

Earlier government functionaries were not targetted but now are. Hence government programmes are a casualty in Naxal-hit areas. Doctors, for example, are held in a pincer between the government and the Naxals. Often they are forced to serve the Naxals without the knowledge of the police. They are under threat from both sides, he says. So, who wins?

With inputs from R Krishna Das in Raipur, Dilip Satapathy in Bhubaneswar and Sreelatha Menon in New Delhi

Business Standard


CIA documents reveal that CPI had infiltrated Indian Army in 1950

June 28, 2007

A right wing reactionary blog recently carried this post about how the
CPI had infiltrated the Indian army in the 1950’s.

The Indian Army no doubt has its fair share of dedicated ,selfless,
gentlemen one wonders how they are planning to commemorate
the 150th anniversary of the Revolt of 1857 ?

The ultimate tribute to the heroes of 1857 will be to re- enact
the same revolt on a nationwide scale and join the Hurricance
which will go down in history as the Third Freedom Struggle.

Is anybody in the Indian Army Listening ?

Below article from a right wing reactionary blog linked to an intelligence
think tank.

We don’t endorse what the article says posting it here for informational

CIA documents throw light on the state of communist movement in 1950

The CIA today released a collection of declassified analytic monographs and reference aids, designated within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Directorate of Intelligence (DI) as the CAESAR, ESAU, and POLO series, highlights the CIA’s efforts from the 1950s through the mid-1970s to pursue in-depth research on Soviet and Chinese internal politics and Sino-Soviet relations. Of particular interest to India is a 3 part series on the border dispute with China but more juicy document is 12 MB dossier on the Indian Communist Party, this should stir up politics in India at a time when the Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi lead Congress has accorded unprecedented leverage to the Communists who are celebrating 30 years of rule in Bengal.

Offstumped has reviewed the documents and was amazed to learn the extent to which the Communists looked for direction from Russia and China, sought support and approval and pretty much sub-ordinated national interest at the altar of a dubious ideology and subservience to the Chinese.

Below are a few highlights:

First we turn our focus to the border dispute with China to get a sense of Nehru’s naivety in his approach to dealing with the Chinese.

Nehru believed China’s Communist Leaders were amenable to Gentlemanly persuasion

Nehru’s strategy was defensive and he believed strengthening Indian Economy to resist a Chinese Military Attack was adequate

China’s short term policy was not to alert Nehru on the wide gap between Chinese and Indian claims on border and hence they lied about Chinese maps

Chinese leaders recognized that India neither by temperament nor by capability was a Military threat

China’s strategy was to use diplomatic channels to cut out Indian press, public and parliament. It was a 5 year masterpiece in guile. It played on Nehru’s Asian anti-imperialist mental attitude his proclivity to temporize and his sincerity for peace with China.

What China conceded with the Left Hand it retrieved with the Right Hand

Had it not been Nehru but a more military minded man who was Prime Minister in Oct 1959, a priority program to prepare India to eventually fight would have been started.

The 3 part series goes into excruciating detail on the series of events on this dispute. Expect more from Offstumped on this in later posts.

Now we turn attention to the dossier on the Indian Communist Parties.

The dossier runs into all of 185 pages. Its focus was on the split within the Indian Communist Parties into Pro-Soviet and Pro-Chinese factions. While recounting the sequence of events drawing from many sources including a book by Minoo Masani. A good portion of the dossier is dedicated to the CPI post Independence under Ranadive with his Pro-Soviet approach and his differences with the Telangana section of the party which was toeing the Maoist line. The dossier notes the April 1957 election win of the CPI in Kerala as the first such development in history were a Communist Party attained power through an election. It then notes that

in July 1957 through a reliable source that EMS Namboodaripad was asked by the Soviets to forward a full report to Moscow on the methods used to attain power via elections

Another juicy detail implicates Harikishen Singh Surjit and others on working with the Soviet Communists to setup an underground party.

In Feb 1958 an official of the Soviet Embassy contacted CPI Leaders to renew the request to setup an underground organization. While AjoY Ghosh refused, HK Surjeet and others privately decided that Ghosh was taking a complacent line and decided to reach out to the CPSU outside of party channels.

Here is where things get murky

the CPI did proceed to recruit a secret organization within the Indian Army

Subsequent events saw the beginning of the tilt of the hard left faction of the CPI towards China. The dossier quotes Basavapunniah a CPI leader

the real source of inspiration for the CPI should be Communist China, and he planned to talk to Chinese Leaders as a Disciple talks to his teachers

Some more murky details of how China and Russia influenced the CPI to setup a parallel state apparatus.

In February 1959, Ajoy Ghosh in his report to the Central Executive Committee that China Russia insisted that the CPI must develop a standby apparatus capable of armed resistance, while intensifying penetration of Indian Military forces.

After the Nehru Government dismissed the Kerala Communist Government on July 31 1959 there was further movement within the Party to revive its illegal activities.

From 6 to 8 August 1959 hard leftists urged a revival of CPI illegal apparatus to be run from the party secretariat

More Murky Details of CPI supporting China during the Tibetan invasion

In April 1959 Ranadive met with the Chinese Ambassador during which he

Offered CPI’s support to China on Tibet, and advised China to concentrate its attacks on rightist Anti-Chinese Indian leaders

Further in August in a letter to the Chinese Communist Party drafted by Ajay Ghosh and Ranadive the CPI urged the Chinese to

single out particularly the Praja Socialist Party and the Jan Sangh for attack as suggested in the April meeting with the Ambassador

More evidence of the sedition and treasonous role played by the hard left of the CPI

In the September Central Executive Committee meeting Ajoy Ghosh argued against the tendency to welcome chinese military presence on Indian borders to justify a new militant line for the CPI. This was rejected by the hard left who argued that

with the PLA now present along the Indian Border the Indian Party had a channel of support for Armed Operations and a potential liberator in the event of mass uprisings.

The CIA reports that this line was repeated multiple times. It was first reported on 13 Sept 1959 by Basavapunniah, Ranadive, Jaipal Singh head of secret illegal apparatus.

However the dossier gets interesting as it moves to the 1960s closer to the formal split in the party. An interesting aspect of the split:

In 1960 the West Bengal faction of the Communist Party passed a resolution criticizing the conduct of the Soviet Communist Party and Khrushchev by name while supporting the Chinese Communist Party

The CIA calls definitely the only such resolution to have ever been passed by any Communist Party in the whole world.

The year 1960 ended with this faction of the CPI continuing to report to the Chinese Party and to receive guidance from it

Ajoy Ghosh also reported to the Central Executive that during his Peking visit Mao had revealed that China wished to exercise more control on Communist Parties in Asia.

The most concentrated of these Communist Activities were to be in West Bengal

Evidence of Chinese Influence in the growth of Communist Party in West Bengal

A new Chinese Party consul in Calcutta in Sept of 1960 held several meetings with members of the West Bengal party.

4 powerful radio sets had been installed in the office of the China Review in Calcutta to listen to broadcasts from Peking

handouts were given based on these broadcasts for propaganda work

The CIA also reports of indications from 1959 of

Chinese Financial Subsidies to sections of the CPI particularly the left faction strongholds in West Bengal

Basavapunniah also reports to two CPI Leaders later on that

a foreign supply base was now available for the underground organizations with Chinese occupation of Tibet and other frontier areas

In Sept 1960 the first evidence of a vertical split in the CPI became evident with the hard left faction comprising Jyoti Basu, Harikishen Singh Surjit, Basavapunniah, Sundarayya and Ranadive supporting the Chinese position on the Indo-Sino border dispute.

Earlier in August further murky evidence of the hard left seeking chinese support in a written letter.

asking for collaboration in Indian underground organization work aimed at an eventual revolution, because China has a border with India and can provide arms and supplies

Finally more evidence of anti-national stance of the Jyoti Basu lead West Bengal faction

When Z.A. Ahmed indicated that the Party should take a nationalist stand on Chinese incursions to India, he was severely berated by the West Bengal faction

25th Anniversary day of the founding of The ‘All India federation of Organizations for Democratic Rights.

June 21, 2007

29th May 2007 was 25th anniversary year of the founding conference of the All India Federation of Organizations for Democratic Rights.

Mr Harsh Thakor a research scholar based in Mumbai has an article to
mark the occasion

25th Anniversary day of the founding of The ‘All India federation of Organizations for Democratic Rights.’

This day is the 25th anniversary year of the founding conference of the All India Federation of Organizations for Democratic Rights which was held on May 29th 1982. This federation marked the historic trend of an All India trend to promote the democratic Rights Movement as a struggle oriented one, which recognized the right to struggle against socio-economic repression as the fundamental right fro which stems up all democratic Rights.

The organizations that merged into the federation were the Association for Democratic Rights of India(Punjab),the Organization for Protection of Democratic Rights(Andhra Pradesh),the Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana(Maharashtra),the Gantanatrik Adhikar Suraksha Samit(Orissa) ,Janadhipatya Avakasa Samrakshana Samiti,Kerala and the Janatantrik Adhikar Surkasha Samiit(Rajasthan)Although he civil liberties movement started from the 1950’s the demarcation of civil liberties with democratic Rights was not made.The fundamental right is which form s the base of all democratic Rights. The historic manifesto was as follows

1. Mobilize public opinion against all fascist laws, acts and atrocities by the ruling classes.

2. Propagate and organize among the people about the democratic Rights

3. Give all assistance o the people whose rights were abused.

4. Build unity among all sections possible explaining the connection between their interests.

To build a movement for the right to political dissent and his demand the unconditional release o all political prisoners.

5. To oppose all capital punishment and build public opinion against it.

6. To protect academy and cultural freedoms and oppose state interference

7. To strive to establish the correct practice o the democratic Rights Movement.

The first such democratic Rights organization representing the correct trend was the Organization for Protection of Democratic Rights formed in Andhra Pradesh in 1975. They fought against the trend where the democratic Rights platform was used as a platform for promoting political ideology. This is what differentiated the O.P.D.R with the A.P.C.LC (Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee)

The first major work of O.P. D.R was the report on the Srikakulam Girjian Movement 1977 with regard to police encounters. This was one of the most significant reports in the democratic Rights. Movement in India and the first of it’s kind. Hundreds of Girijan families were interviewed and the agency of Srikakulam area was extensively toured.

The report narrated the historic background f the Srikakulam Girijan Movement which originated in 1967. Earlier O.P.D.R had also propagated against the death sentence of Kista Gowd and Bhumiah I 1975 during e emergency. In the 1980’s O.P.D.R highlighted a huge range of issues on all sections, whether tribal, peasants, workers students or middle class employees. (Like teachers)Male chauvinism was opposed as well as caste Chauvinism. It also took out a campaign against the ‘Rape and murder of Shakeela’ Further reports wee carried out on the East Godavri tribals in 1983 and the issue of

Communalism was also highlighted. Living conditions of quarry workers was researched I Krishna district as well as Guntur district. Mass propaganda was done against Police encounters wit A.P.C.LC, but the struggle-oriented trend was always emphasized. (The author attended 2 conferences of O.P.D.R. in 1986 and 1990)The O.P.D.R also took out several reports on issues of drought where the govt’s anti-people policies were explained .Even relief was carried out. This was predominant in Krishna district. Tremendous efforts were made to defend the rights of the rural poor. East Godavri district was given great attention as well as Karimnagar. A campaign was done to defend the 1917 and 1959 Tribal area land regulation act. Mass campaigns were also organized against police firing. Often the platform of the Andhra Pradesh Civil liberties Committee was used as a platform of Maoist groups to propagate ideology. The Organization brought out an Organ ‘ Janpadam ‘O.P.D.R also opposed the trend of individual terrorism in the People’s Movement as opposed to mass based Movements.

The A.F.D.R.(Punjab)also did significant work in investigating the Naxalite encounters of he early 1970’s .It also played an important role in defending democratic movements .In the early 1980’s the A F D R organized trade Unions opposing the black Laws and formed a joint democratic Front which opposed the curbing of trade Union rights. The way the govt was using black laws in the name of curbing terrorist was explained with great depth..Infact he no existence of such an organization in the time o the emergency was the prime reason of the defeat the Communist evolutionary led movements I Punjab in the 1970’s.

The federation brought out many historic reports through fact-finding teams. During the Khalistan movement a report was brought out which gave a political analysis of the Punjab Problem in the political and socio-economic light. The report explained the genesis of the Khalistani Movement and how the Congress Govt led by Indira Gandhi (It was Indira Gandhi who created Bhindranwale) used it to subvert the democratic movements and to topple the Akali Dal. The ruling class parties connived with the landlords to suppress the democratic movements and used Khalistani gangs against each other t capture power.

The report reported the progressive movements led by left organizations combating the Khalistani terror and upheld all the Communist martyrs I the struggle. The fact finding team interviewed all sections of people from peasants, to workers to students to politicians and to very useful information. The constituent of he Federation, the A.F.D.R (formed in 1977) played a major role investigating false police encounters ad standing by and giving solidarity to al the anti-Khalistani democratic movements by organizations like he Front against Communalism and state repression and the Revolutionary Centre. Several reports per brought about explaining the nexus between the landlords with the Khalistani forces. Great anti-communal propaganda was done which as appreciated by the oppressed sections and many a policeman was brought to the book. The organization brought out a monthly paper alee ‘Jamhoori Hakk’. A protracted and sustained campaign was carried out exposing state and Khalistani terror.

Another famous report was brought out by the Federation based on the peoples Movement against the building of a missile base I Baliapal in Orissa. The report covered all the areas of Baliapal and explained the policies of the government which promoted military expansionism at the cost of the economic welfare. The class angle as also elaborated but unity with the better off sections like rich farmers was supported .The report highlighted the false propaganda of he government which stressed hat too little was spent on defense. In Orissa the G.A S.S.made all efforts to promote the movement opposing the Baliapal Missile base. It also supported the movement of the Adivasi Sangh of the Malkangiri region an gave al support to the anti -people development policies of the govt. promoting high-tech.

In Maharashtra the Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana(formed in 1978) did significant work in bringing out reports on repression on slum dwellers where the relationship with the trade Union movement was projected.L.H.S also did a campaign against police torture ,fought against he retrenchment of workers in Mukesh Mils in Mumbai in Colaba area, took up poster and leafleting campaigns against communalism(against the Ram Janmabhoomi and Rath Yatra or Mandir propaganda).With regards to communalism emphasis was placed on the role of the working class.LHS also brought out reports on drought and in 1983 and 1989 brought out a report on repression by the C.P.M on Kashtakari Sanghatana,a struggling organization of Adivasis in Dahanu.(A tribal region of Maharashtra)

The report brilliantly explained the relationship between the socio-economic conditions of the Adivasis and the repression by the C.P.M. L.HS also did propaganda in working calls areas opposing state repression in Bihar and in Andhra Pradesh. Peasent leaders from Bihar were invited to address the gathering. Significant work was done in 1992-93 during the Mumbai riots to build struggle committees promoting communal solidarity .L.HS brought out reports o Contract workers at the Airport in Mumbai and on the closure of the Mills in Mumbai with a historic socio-economic angle.

In Rajasthan also significant solidarity work was done with regards to black laws and communalism

the federation held 2 Sammelans, one in 1990 in Udaipur and he other in 1995 in Faridkot..Here was no great mass mobilization but the methods of work and issues we of historical significance.A.I.F.O.F.D.R also brought out reports on drought and on the massacre of Christian missionaries in Orissa in 1999.

Historic resolutions have been passed by the Federation on repression on Kashmiri People, Punjab Problem, ,state repression in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, retrenchment of workers in West Bengal, Black Laws .Upto the early 1990’sthe Federation progressed at an All India level but sadly by the late 1990’s the trend declined. The A.F.D.R hardly now displayed the same militant orientation and nor did the O.P.D.R.

The author of his article wishes that the readers of this site could get hold of the earlier issues of he A.I.FO.F.D.R organ called “In Defense of Democratic Rights .’and help in reprinting and re-distributing the issues .Brilliant portrayals have been done on communalism, Repression on peasants and Workers Struggles Etc. The genesis of the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition s and communal riots in the aftermath is well explained.

Today a struggle oriented democratic Rights Movement is very much needed which relates the cause of democratic Rights as different rom mere civil liberties. Civil liberties are what exists in the Constitution, but democratic Rights have always been won over by the people .E.g. the rights of Black people in America or the Working Class in England. Today in light of the advance of he Special economic Zones and repression on the Nandigram peasant struggle a united democratic Rights movement is the need o the hour.

Let us remember this day when a federation was formed 25 years ago to promote he Democratic Rights Movement.

The author wishes that readers could obtain articles on the history of the Democratic Rights Movement and get the earlier reports of the Federation. All readers could kindly request the author of he article. It is impossible in this article to refer to all of the reports and struggles. Please also read the 1985 December issue of Democratic Rights which historically differentiates civil liberties from Democratic Rights. Also purchase reports of A.I.F.O.F.D.R.

By Harsh Taker

Have-Nots Rebel As India Blossoms

June 18, 2007

IN THE DHAULI FOREST, India (AP) – After the paved roads have ended and the dirt roads have crumbled into winding footpaths, after the last power line has vanished into the forest behind you, a tall, red monument suddenly appears at the edge of a clearing.

It’s 25 feet high and topped by a hammer and sickle, honoring a fallen warrior. White letters scroll across the base: “From the blood of a martyr, new generations will bloom like flowers.”

The monument is a memorial but also a signpost, a warning that you are entering a “Liberated Zone” _ a place where Mao is alive and Marx is revered, where an army of leftist guerrillas known as the Naxalites control a shadow state amid the dense forests, isolated villages and shattering poverty of central India. Here, the Indian government is just a distant, hated idea.

“The capitalists and other exploiters of the masses feel increasingly vulnerable. And they should,” said a 33-year-old man known only as Ramu, a regional commander of the Naxalites’ People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army. He cradled an assault rifle as he sat on the dirt floor of a small farmhouse, temporary base for two dozen fighters set amid the forests of Chhattisgarh state. “For them, the danger is rising.”

Initially formed in 1967, the Maoist army has taken root over the past decade in places left behind during India’s spectacular financial rise since its economy was opened up in the early 1990s. Outsiders rarely see their strongholds, but a team from The Associated Press was invited last month into a region they control.

As India has grown wealthier, the Naxalites _ officially called the Communist Party of India (Maoist) _ have grown larger, feeding off the anger of the country’s poor. There are now 10,000-15,000 fighters in an archipelago of rebel territory scattered across nearly half of the country’s 28 states, security officials say.

For years, the government here paid little attention. That began changing two years ago. Today, Chhattisgarh state backs an anti-Naxal militia called the Salwa Judum. And in 2006, India’s prime minister called the Naxalites the single largest threat to the country

Over the past two years, nearly 2,000 people _ police, militants and civilians caught in the middle _ have been killed in Naxalite violence. In March, 55 policemen and government-backed militiamen were killed when up to 500 Naxalites descended on an isolated Chhattisgarh police station.

The rebel patchwork reaches from deep inside India to the border with Nepal, where the Naxalites are thought to have informal ties to the Maoists who, after a long insurgency, recently joined in the Katmandu government.

The Maoist goal in India is nothing less than complete takeover.

“There is only one solution to India’s problems: Naxalism,” said Ramu.

The movement takes its name from Naxalbari, a village outside Calcutta where the revolt began in 1967. Inspired by Mao Zedong, founding father of the Chinese communist regime, they believe an army of peasants can one day overthrow the government. The Naxals are strongest in states such as Chhattisgarh that have large populations of “tribals,” the indigenous people at the bottom of India’s rigid social order.

More than ever, their once-marginal revolt seems like outright war, particularly in the rebel strongholds of rural Chhattisgarh.

India deals with other insurgencies, from Kashmiri separatists to a spectrum of ethnic militant groups in its remote northeast. But the Naxalites have proven different. They have support not just among the poorest or a single ethnic group, and have survived for forty years.

In places like the Dhauli forest, a tangle of vegetation unmarked on most maps _ 500 miles from Bangalore, 450 miles from Calcutta and 600 miles from New Delhi _ the Naxalites are more than surviving. They are winning.

“I won’t lie to you. We’re on the defensive here,” said a top Chhattisgarh police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “We have the main roads, but they have the hills and the small roads.”

Here, government officials hold little power. Through much of the countryside, nervous policemen barricade themselves at night inside stations ringed by barbed wire. Politicians dismiss the Naxalites as criminals, but those politicians go nowhere without armies of bodyguards.

Victory, the Naxals insist, is coming.

“We don’t have the weapons. We don’t have the army,” said a young fighter named Soni. “But slowly, slowly, sometime in the future, we will succeed.”

That seems unlikely.

Most of the Naxalites’ guns are old or handmade. Their land mines are often made from pressure cookers, and bullets are doled out carefully. Their support in many villages has more to do with fear than genuine belief.

Their control can be fleeting. If security forces move into a Naxalite-run area, the fighters simply disappear into the forests.

But while there’s little chance they’ll overthrow the government, in this part of India their power is immense. Every day or so, another policeman is killed. Every few months, another politician faces an assassination attempt _ sometimes successful, sometimes not.

Inside their self-proclaimed Liberated Zones, the Naxals are, effectively, the government. They collect taxes, control movement, and trade in valuable hardwoods from the ever-thinning jungles. They refuse entry not only to the government but also aid organizations, arguing they are tools of an unjust state.

There is an informal Naxal bank, Naxal schools and Naxal courts to settle village disputes and try suspected informants. For those found guilty of helping police, the punishment is public beheading.

“If they kill us, we also have to kill,” Ramu said. “Innocent people will get hurt in the process. But what can we do?”

As for the long history of failed communist states, he was unconcerned: “We will learn from their mistakes.”

Outside, a thunderstorm shook the sky, and rain pelted the straw roof. Inside, a half-dozen fighters sat in the darkness of the mud house, listening silently as Ramu spoke. One carried an AK-47 assault rifle, but the rest were armed with ancient British-made Enfield rifles, some dating to the 1940s, or homemade single-shot shotguns and rifles.

Few appeared to know much about the teachings of Marx or Mao, though both men were spoken of reverently. Some fighters believed Mao, who died in 1976, remains China’s leader. Instead, their beliefs are simple: The revolution will bring an idyllic jungle paradise for the

“One day we will get it back,” said Soni, the fighter, a tribal who spends much of her time in villages performing songs about their struggle. “The forest is ours.”

For now, until paradise comes, people live in mud homes on tiny farms. They grow rice and tobacco and harvest what they can from the forests. Better-off families have $12 shortwave radios or $45 Atlas bicycles.

In a village on the fringes of Naxalite territory, a teenager named Meetu Ram _ he thinks he’s about 17 _ talked about his life one recent evening. His family, by local standards, does well: They have a well-kept compound with three one-room buildings and a half-dozen cows.

Still, Ram has never been to a doctor, and has not even heard of telephones. Asked to name India’s prime minister, he shrugged.

Government officials “never come here,” he said in Gondi, the area’s main tribal language. “So we don’t know who these government people are, and who they aren’t.”

It is in places like this where the Naxalites’ appeal is most resonant.

India may have one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, but it also has vast _ and often growing _ rural poverty. In Chhattisgarh, that has been magnified by conflicts over everything from forest conservation to mining rights, with tribals often expelled from their jungle homes.

“The tribals make a good guerrilla base,” said Meghnad Desai, a scholar at the London School of Economics. They “are really poor, and have a genuine feeling of being taken advantage of … The Naxalites are exploiting that.”

Much of Ramu’s time is spent spreading the rebel message. On a recent afternoon, he summoned hundreds of villagers to a rally to decry the Salwa Judum.

While leaders of the government-supported Salwa Judum insist they are protecting villagers from Naxalite violence _ they have gathered some 50,000 tribals into dingy, guarded camps _ rights groups accuse them of widespread abuses.

“The Salwa Judum is killing people!” Ramu shouted at the villagers. “We are protecting the rights of the people!”

Many, though, don’t see heroes on either side.

Sanjana Bhaskar, 18, has spent more than a year in a Salwa Judum camp.

She hates the camp. “There is nothing here,” she said, gesturing to the one-road expanse. “But where else can we go?”


Naxalites Today

June 17, 2007

Forty years after the Naxalbari uprising, it is remarkable that Maoism remains a potent political force. It has survived the disappearance of Maoism in the land of its origin and the collapse of the Soviet bloc. It has survived the retreat of the Left in academia and trade unions, which contributed to the rise of a middle class that was indifferent to politics in general and the Left in particular.

It has survived the rise of caste, as opposed to class, politics as well as the growing sway of the ideology of Hindutva. It has survived even the rise of the NGO sector, which, barring exceptions, provided a platform to those who sought to separate ‘social’ work from ‘political’ work.

While some Naxals of the 60s and 70s did an about-turn in their political beliefs and practices, the movement seems none the weaker for that reason. True, the far Left landscape is a minefield of splinter groups, but for all their differences these organisations pose a serious threat to state power. Therefore, when one takes stock of 40 years of Naxalism, one should understand it as a phenomenon of the present rather than the past.

The ideological underpinnings of Naxalism have not changed. Most parties to the left of CPM still believe in rural armies encircling the cities as the path of revolution. Despite their theoretical allegiance to Marx and Lenin, they have not made any serious effort to organise urban masses, instead evolving over the years as a political organisation of tribals, marginal peasants and Dalits in a corridor of about 150 districts from Bihar to Andhra Pradesh through Chhattisgarh and Orissa. Urban upper middle class ex-Naxals might laugh off the encirclement theory, but to rural cadres exposed to the excesses of urban India after the consumer boom of the 90s the Charu Mazumdar line remains plausible as ever.

The fact is that ‘objective conditions’ in certain pockets of the country are no different from what they were in 1967. Those who believe that economic reforms have delivered millions out of poverty should qualify their optimism. Amidst a steady reduction in poverty in the 80s and 90s, defined in terms of calories consumed or expenditures made, there is an alarming prevalence of malnutrition, as indicated by the government’s National Family Health Surveys and NSS data on protein intake.

This should lead us to broaden our definition of poverty to include access to healthcare, education and basic consumer goods. Health spending, in particular, contributes to a swift transition from subsistence or even comfortable existence to poverty, pushing families into debt; hence, focusing more on incomes than assets to measure poverty can be misleading. Calorie intake norms should be supplemented by measures of protein and vitamin intake, so that lower calorie consumption is not taken to mean that people have moved on to superior substitutes.

A triumphalist media, soaking in the success of India’s economic growth, has missed or chosen to ignore these statistical gaps. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that a section of urban India does not understand the causes of Naxalism. Even if we take the current methodology of poverty estimation at face value and accept that the absolute numbers of the poor have fallen over decades, the statistics, being averages, do not capture the intensity of distress in certain pockets despite high growth in recent years.

These are precisely the regions — eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bastar, interior Orissa, parts of West Bengal, Vidarbha — where the influence of Naxalism has increased. To be poor is one thing, and to seem condemned to one’s fate quite another. Rising incomes in post-reform India have created a rapidly growing aspirational class, but they have also contributed to an army of socio-economic orphans — those who have been rejected by all mainstream political parties and adopted by a parallel network of Naxalites, Gandhians and socialists.

The ‘problem’ of Naxalism is as much a crisis of political empowerment as it is of sheer economic backwardness. It is hardly surprising that Naxal influence is strongest in tribal India. Tribals, more than any other oppressed category, have got nothing out of the Indian state, before or after globalisation. The Indian state has always taken land alienation of tribals for granted, as one of the consequences of ‘progress’ that must be put up with owing to a skewed pattern of land distribution, tribals and Dalits are at the receiving end of the land- owning castes.

In addition, a contractor-politician nexus controls the wealth of the forests and pushes tribals to the margins. A repressive state apparatus, represented by the police and the black laws they use to their advantage, helps keep this exploitative system going.

With the opening up of the Indian economy to trade and investment, the entry of mining companies in Orissa and Chhattisgarh poses a threat to the livelihood of tribals and their way of life. Naxalites are among those — though not the only, or even main, political force — who are with the tribals in this context. Even as their adherence to violence cannot be condoned, it is no worse than the violence of the state and oppressive forces in the region.

In a sharply unequal society, the line between peaceful and violent politics can turn into a blur. The way out is to address entrenched injustices rather than try to stamp out the responses to it. Should we give this effort another 40 years?


GDP :Grossly Distorting Perception

June 13, 2007

This is an old article written way back in 2003 but is still relevant
and should be an enlightening read.The author mainly speaks about the American
Economy and the American way of life which our rulers are busy replicating
and worshiping.

Grossly Distorting Perception

Measure for measure, GDP is the world’s hidden accounting scandal, the one that neither governments nor media will touch. Jonathan Rowe asks why we worship such a false idol.
Date:01/02/2003 Author:Jonathan Rowe

Several months ago a professor at the University of North Carolina published research that turned beliefs about the economy upside down. Health improves, he said, as the economy shrinks. And as the economy declines, deaths, smoking, obesity, heavy drinking, heart disease and some kinds of back problems all decline as well.

‘Sounds unlikely’, said a New York Times correspondent. And indeed it is, at least by standard reckonings. We all know that an expanding economy makes us better off. Or do we? Another study, from the UK, found that shopping, which is the driving force of the entire economy and which is supposed to make people feel good, can actually make us depressed. ‘For significant numbers, dissatisfaction is now part of the shopping process,’ one of the authors wrote. (As though we needed a study to tell us that.)

What is going on here? How could we feel better when the experts say we should feel worse, and worse we should feel better? Could it be that economists have got it all wrong?

This is the world’s hidden accounting scandal, the one that neither the government nor the media will touch. It concerns the accounting for the entire economy, the way the government purports to determine whether things are getting better or worse. This accounting is called the Gross Domestic Product or GDP. It is central to the big policy debate in Washington and is the template for the policies the USA projects upon the world. The media regard it with a reverence bordering on awe. The Wall Street Journal recently called the GDP ‘the world’s most reliable economic indicator’.

Yet, like the books of Enron and Tyco economic accounting at governmental level is a sham. It portrays regress as progress, and misery as economic advance. If leaders are really looking for chief executives who cook the books, they might well take a look at their own accounts. They truly are a mess.

Adding nauseam

Imagine an accountant who can add but can’t subtract and who is so short-sighted he can’t see past his nose. That is the mentality behind the GDP. The GDP simply adds up the the amount of money that people spend and calls the result growth, which equals good, regardless of where the money went and why.

So the more medical bills you incur, the more junk food your kids eat, the more you sit in traffic and the more your credit-card company rips you off with hidden charges, the better the economy is doing.

At the same time GDP accounting ignores the implications of expenditures that at face value might suggest advance. Perhaps your neighbour loves her new Renault Clio. Perhaps she regards it as a step up in her life. Still, when she drives the thing, she pollutes the air and adds to pressures to put oil rigs near coastal beaches. She takes up more space on the road, contributing to traffic and causing everyone to burn more gas. Honest accounting would show such costs. The GDP ignores them.

Worse, it actually shows such costs as economic gains. All the petrol, the fender-benders, the medical bills arising from exposure to bad air get added to the GDP as evidence of the nation’s growth. Americans spend over $5 billion on petrol they burn while stuck in traffic, going nowhere. That’s $5bn more for the GDP. Cook the planet, cook the books and call the result growth.

It’s this kind of ridiculous accounting that enables governments to claim that action to address global warming would be bad for the economy. If you define regress as progress, then steps to take us forward look as though they would set us back. What’s more, while counting bads as goods, the GDP totally ignores the genuine goods that don’t cost money: the air we breathe; the care that parents and grandparents give their children; the games children play with one another; the quiet of the night. These are invisible in the national accounts.

Only when the economy destroys them and forces us to buy substitutes do the governmental accountants spring to life. Day care counts but mum-and-dad care doesn’t. Driving a car counts but walking does not. The reason is not that government bean-counters are incompetent or ethically challenged. Actually they are top notch. The problem is the antiquated system they are forced to use. It is so out of touch with reality it would be comic – if the consequences weren’t so grim.

Thriving on absurdity

The absurdities of all this have not gone entirely unnoticed. Economists and the media reflect upon them from time to time in a feet-on-the-desk kind of way. But they continue to use the GDP anyway. Watch the news the next time the Treasury releases the quarterly GDP figures. Is there a single reporter or economist who says: ‘Wait a minute. Does this accounting really say what people think it says?’

Not likely. Moreover, they never acknowledge how deep the phoney accounting runs. They might remark occasionally upon the unfortunate side-effects of consumption, what economists call externalities – for example, the way off-road vehicles pollute the air. But the consumption itself is always positive, another step up the mountain of more. ‘A nation is by definition thriving if its major indices [such as GDP] say people are making more things and spending more money on them,’ a writer in the New York Times opined not long ago. ‘By definition’ means there’s no need to observe actual experience and see if it is true.

Blind faith

Yet reporters are supposed to be observers, not theologians, and these talents are desperately needed with regard to the hoary postulates of economic thought. The problem today goes far deeper than externalities. Increasingly the problem is ‘internalities’, the supposed cornucopia itself. Is the economy really thriving when kids nag their parents for junk food or when credit-card companies rip off their customers with billions in hidden charges? Is it thriving when teen magazines induce a pathological body-consciousness in young girls to the benefit of the cosmetic and plastic surgery industries?

According to a recent test, six out of seven brands of ‘off-road’ vehicles are designed to incur major damage – worth over $1400 – from a crash at just five mph. That’s GDP for you.

But let’s face it. The problem is not just the economy. It’s also ourselves.

In the belief system called economics, we all are shrewd little integers of acquisition, who go through life with an unfailing calculus of benefit and gain. Since economists believe us all to be ‘rational’, the sum total of our buying must be the nation’s prosperity and good. That’s the belief embedded in the national accounting – more buying equals more happiness.

Leave aside for the moment the buying the economy thrusts upon us. Leave aside, too, whether it is really so rational to be obsessed with shopping to begin with. If we simply observe the life around us, what we see is – surprise – a lot of bad choices. We see people who seem in constant lament over the bad choices they have made.

Our book shops are full of titles for such people. Support groups proliferate for those who can’t stop eating, drinking, smoking, falling for the wrong people, spending money they don’t have. The pharmaceutical industry is marketing drugs for people who can’t stop shopping. And there are myriad counsellors waiting to counsel them.

Yet somehow, when the accountants put all of these bad decisions together, the result is supposed to be prosperity and growth. And when people start to get control of their lives – when they toss the gin down the toilet, put the credit cards in the freezer and timers on their telephones – we hear dire warnings of a drop in ‘consumer confidence’ and a ‘sluggish’ GDP.

Rejecting the hype

For a McDonald’s, an Exxon or a General Motors, GDP is of great comfort. It turns obesity and pollution into economic advance, and the perpetrators of these into the heroes of the script. Politicians also like the accounting. It enables them to say that in helping their campaign contributors they are actually helping humankind. Oil drilling in wilderness areas is not a plum for the oil industry, they say. Rather, it’s a boost for the GDP.

For the media, meanwhile, the GDP provides a way to turn a complex story into a simple number, one that comes weighted with a combination of government authority and an economists’ expertise. It enables reporters to pontificate about the economies of entire countries without the need to leave their desks. And the fact that the GDP aligns economic reporting with the interests of advertisers doesn’t hurt either.

These mental grooves are deep, and they are set in concrete. They are not likely to change any time soon. But that does not mean we have to follow along. The first step to change is to withdraw our consent. The next time we hear the solemn voices on the BBC talk about the GDP and ‘growth’, we can just chuckle at how out of it they are. As the exposés of corporate corruption have shown to the great pain of many in the USA, phoney accounting can’t cover up reality forever.

Jonathan Rowe is director of the Tomales Bay Institute, California, and a contributing editor of The Washington Monthly. Enough! is a publication of the Center for a New American Dream.

BOX: Isn’t GDP Wonderful?

There are few human misfortunes that do not have a silver lining where the economic mind is concerned. The result is a strange take on the world that permeates the mainstream media yet goes almost entirely unnoted.

• Teenage girls prone to pathological body-consciousness, egged on by images of physical ‘perfection’ that barrage them in teen magazines, have helped create a teen cosmetic industry worth almost $25bn annually.

• Americans owe over $7 trillion in household debt, used to make purchases that boost the GDP. And in a curious twist, the debt interest payments add $100 billion more.

• For the purchases they don’t really need or use, there is the burgeoning self-storage industry and garage extensions on suburban homes to hold the stuff. The accoutrements alone – shelves etc – are expected to become a $650mn business, according to the Wall Street Journal.

• Growth development problems, otherwise known as erectile dysfunction or impotence, is on the increase, which is excellent news for manufacturers of Viagra – in itself a $1.5bn industry in the USA.

• Over 500,000 Americans contribute to the US GDP with purchases made on stolen credit cards. Add to this identity theft insurance which costs over $100 a year per person.

• Economists love web pornography since it adds some $2bn to America’s GDP.

• Gambling is another affliction that contributes impressively to the US GDP – by some $63.3bn a year.

• GDP also thrives on noise pollution – sound-proofing insulation for an apartment ceiling costs about $400. And the 5.2m American children who have damaged hearing from listening to their headphones too loud are an investment in the GDP as later in life many will require treatments and hearing aids.

• More than half of Americans are overweight. Yippeee! Direct medical costs from diabetes alone add some $44bn to the GDP. And over 50,000 Americans had their stomachs stapled last year at a cost of around $20,000 each.

• Manufacturers of soft drinks are targeting children with hyper-caffeinated sodas, with names like Jolt and Code Red. And to calm them down? Easy. Americans spend $758m on the drug Ritalin. GDP heaven – self-perpetuating supply and demand.

• Approximately one-fifth of America’s food goes to waste, and that’s not counting the vast amount that ends up as flab. This adds about $31bn to the GDP, a figure which could feed those who die of starvation each year twice over.

• American motorists sitting in traffic jams spend over $5bn a year on petrol. In Los Angeles alone the figure is close to $1bn. Note, coincidentally, that Los Angeles also leads the nation in the number of hospital admissions for respiratory problems – more medical costs, higher GDP.

• Depressed – excellent. Over seven million Americans take anti-depressants. Prozac alone has generated over $2.5bn a year. Even better, when the Grim Reaper finally arrives, the typical American funeral costs over $5,000, not counting the price of the cemetery and monument.

The ecologist

A failed revolution enjoys a new breath of life

June 5, 2007

Warning ! My bullshit meter is going crazy ! Reading this article
could cause a serious drop in your IQ levels !

One of the most preposterous assumptions he makes is this

Those who think that Naxalism has failed are right in that it does not ignite the imagination of present-day youth. They are preoccupied with mainstream politics where considerations are within the confines of religion, region, caste and language. Or, they are just busy building their careers, earning money and looking after their families.

No seriously… I wonder if the author wrote this article while living in an igloo in antartica ?

We sympathizers are living proof of the fact that the author is wrong.And there
are thousands of us if not lakhs.

A failed revolution enjoys a new breath of life
Bull Shit Meter

MANY Indians are celebrating the 40th anniversary of “a failed revolution” when it has actually moved away from their comfortable urban milieu to the vast countryside, and is spreading.
They are wearing blinkers of convenience and of their new globalised existence, wishing it would disappear. They come face to face with it when they try to set up industries and economic zones.

Unable to do anything to ward off the voodoo, they look to the government to use force.

The government, too, is helpless in that it has no clear solution. The politician wants to tackle it “politically”, while the bureaucracy, especially the policeman, wants it bullet-for-bullet. The armed forces, taking only an academic interest, are nevertheless concerned.

May 25 marked four decades of a movement founded on the prescriptions of Marx, Lenin and Mao Zedong. A peasant uprising in Naxalbari village, until then an unknown spot on West Bengal’s northern map, snowballed when radical members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) broke away in support of the revolt and two years later formed the CPI (Marxist-Leninist).

In the communist world then, China and the Soviet Union never saw eye to eye. So, the Chinese promptly supported the Naxalbari uprising, adding a new word to the left-wing lexicon: Naxalites.

Kanu Sanyal, 78, one of the pioneers of the movement, is still around leading a faction of the party he founded. But it is not what he started with.

He abhors the violence unleashed in the name of revolution in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh provinces. “Terror cannot solve problems. A single conspiratorial killing cannot bring change. Such actions will only harm the movement and alienate the masses,” Sanyal said in an interview in Naxalbari.

The presence of the Naxalites depends upon which way one looks at the movement. It is almost like the hourglass: You decide whether it is half-full or half-empty. Actually, it is both.

Those who think that Naxalism has failed are right in that it does not ignite the imagination of present-day youth. They are preoccupied with mainstream politics where considerations are within the confines of religion, region, caste and language. Or, they are just busy building their careers, earning money and looking after their families.

But what about those who depend on land that does not belong to them, or do not produce enough and have run debts they cannot pay back? Suicide by scores of indebted farmers is one consequence; the other is Naxalism in tribal areas where forests are being encroached on or occupied.

Disapproval by mainstream political parties, a total lack of support from the communist parties at home and abroad and the decidedly hostile attitude of the state, have not affected the spread of the movement.

Like the ultra-left in neighbouring Nepal, Naxalites swear by Mao. That embarrasses Beijing no end.

Despite their factional and ideological shenanigans, the Naxalites violently fight those they consider “class enemies”. The government acts in fits and starts, alternating between a “political approach” and wanting to establish its hold by force.

Dipankar Bhattacharya, a leading light of the movement, says the government uses the interregnum to infiltrate and weaken the revolutionaries. But equally true is the government’s charge that the rebels use the lull to regroup and rearm.

After three decades of rule by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), many thought, erroneously, that Naxalism had died in the land of its birth. But the recent peasant activism in Singur and Nandigram, where thousands protested the takeover of their farmland for industry, has given a new lease of life to revolutionary ideals.

Most certainly, the public protests in these rural pockets were taken over by the Naxalites, to the delight of the protesting groups and parties and to the chagrin of the ruling CPI (Marxist).

While Tata’s automobile project has just about managed to escape public wrath and got underway, that of Indonesia’s Selim Group has been shelved, for the moment, at least. Protests have now spread to other, even non-Naxal parts, wherever the government is trying to set up economic zones.

Armed only with idealism and Mao’s Red Book, some of the brightest youth in Indian academia embraced Maoism four decades ago, determined to usher in a communist revolution, even at the cost of their careers. Many suffered and died. The survivors wonder today if it was all worth the pain.

At one time, it was thought that revolution would come to India from Moscow to Kolkata, via Beijing. It did come to Naxalbari, but got lost in the complexities of a vast land that has absorbed every race, religion and invader.

India is unlikely to go through the Russian or Chinese experience.

But localised revolutionary movements abound, especially in the tribal areas and where exploitation is naked. Unless there is a solution to socio-economic problems and measures are undertaken to narrow disparities that are widening.

The political class would need to adopt a role that is not just carrot-and-stick. Above all, those who want to set up industries would need to realise their corporate social responsibilities.

The Shining Path

May 25, 2007


For young urban Naxalites out to free India’s peasantry, those days were nightmarish, brutal, but electric


So what do you think of the party? Don’t you think it is going the revisionist way?” I still remember my friend’s face as he asked me this question some 40 years ago, sometime in January 1967. He had lowered his head and voice to ask it. He was my senior by a couple of years at Calcutta’s Presidency College. We had both been very recently involved in a prolonged students’ strike. Tired from the struggle, we were now sitting on the grounds of the college, talking. My friend’s intense face, resting on his knees that he had locked into an embrace, was turned towards me. His eyes, I could see, were searching mine for an answer.

A smoggy Calcutta evening was gathering around us while the historic buildings of the college — the Baker Laboratory to our right, the beautiful main building in front of us, and the unaesthetic, typically pwd, Economics building to our back slowly sank into darkness, assuming the contours of dark, mute, and monstrous witnesses to our whispered conversation.

The “party” in question was the Communist Party of India (Marxist). I date the beginning of the Naxalite movement from the day my friend asked me this question. To explain why, I need to say a few words about the strike we had organised in the winter of 1966. It was aimed at protesting the expulsion from the college of several Leftist students. The authorities had also refused to receive applications for admission to the ma classes from Leftist student leaders, and among them was the future Naxalite leader Ashim Chatterjee.

Our strike was sponsored by the unofficial student wing of the CPI(M), the Bengal Provincial Students’ Federation (Left) (BPSF-l). We wanted to carry on with the strike into January and beyond. Readers of Lenin and Mao, we thought every “struggle” should be notched up to a higher and higher pitch. The party, however, was pressing us to end the strike and to attend to the forthcoming general elections in the state. It was an official “mandate” from the BPSF (then led by the likes of Biman Bose and the late Dinesh Majumdar) that forced us to withdraw the strike. We obeyed but festered. Was an election more important than a strike? Had not Lenin compared the bourgeois parliament to a pigsty?

The main debate in the Communist parties since the Sino-Soviet split of the early 1960s turned precisely — at least in our eyes — on this question. The Leftist students at Presidency College were mostly Maoists. We had rejected what the Chinese Communist Party described as Soviet Social Imperialism. Purists at heart, we felt suspicious of the ambiguous gestures the CPI(M) made on the debate about peaceful versus violent transition to socialism. As Maoists, we were convinced about the necessity of violence. Looking back, however, I can see from my friend’s question that there were Maoist rumblings of disaffection in the party months before any peasants or tribals took up arms in Naxalbari or Phansidewa.

The rest, as they say, is history. From whispers to ginger groups to co-ordination committees to the final announcement of a Maoist party — the CPI(M) — in 1969, was perhaps an inevitable path the Sino-Soviet ideological split opened up for us. The old, Stalinist machinery of the CPI(M) did not know how to contain or nurture the dissidence of the idealistic youth. The call of Comrade Charu Mazumdar — the new leader of the Maoist party — for liberating the country with the help of a peasant army was much more heady and inspiring.

Many of the urban youth who went, red-guard style, to liberate villages in the late 1960s came back within weeks with acute bowel problems. They all discovered the city-country divide in minute everyday aspects of their comportments: their languages, clothes, eating habits, even in their spectacles. They tried assassinating a few landlords, usually with disastrous results.

Many realised that their understanding of rural India was as shaky as the Indian economy was, at least according to their own theories. There developed internal debates among these revolutionaries about the efficacy of the cult of violence that Mazumdar preached. My friend, for example, who operated in the Nadia district, abjured violence even though he remained a steadfast Naxalite and spent time in jail.

What was it like to live through those days? Nightmarish, if one remembers the police brutality and torture that was unleashed on people suspected to be Naxalites. Nightmarish also, if one remembers the fratricidal murders that were to take place in the cities between CPI(M) and CPI(ML) cadres as the police flushed the urban revolutionaries out of the villages (at least one formerly-Leftist senior Bengali police officer later claimed credit for hatching this deliberate strategy of killing poison with poison).

Brutal, if one remembers the killing of innocent traffic constables carried out in the name of the revolution. But electric, if one remembers the idealism of the young men and women who got swept up in the movement. Later, watching films on Northern Ireland, I would be reminded of my Naxalite friends — young men and women who all seemed to be stuffed with gunpowder, their bodies and minds ready to explode at a moment’s notice. Events forced them to accept that their revolution had been defeated. Many lost their lives or careers. Many felt vanquished. Some became civil liberties activists. I still come across my Naxalite friends of youth. Defeated they may have been but I have never felt that they have let go of their anger at the injustices of our society, at the corruption and venality of power in modern India. I can still look into the ageing eyes of my (now) old Naxalite friends and be reminded of that famous saying of Mao’s: “to rebel is justified.”

Chakrabarty is a Professor of History at the University of Chicago
Jun 02 , 2007

Behold , Red Tide at the Floodgates !

May 25, 2007


Overlook the poor peasantry. Ignore the legitimate demands of labour. Implement the neo-liberal project blindly. Naxalism is what you get, says Aditya Nigam


Overlook the poor peasantry. Ignore the legitimate demands of labour. Implement the neo-liberal project blindly. Naxalism is what you get, says Aditya Nigam

After the first burst of utopian energy in the late 1960s, Naxalism underwent a long period of silent transformation. The second phase, in the post-Emergency period, was one of intense churning and regrouping, a period of reflection on, and redefinition of, the various Naxalite groups’ relationship with democracy and democratic institutions. Most groups actually started limited participation in electoral processes and moved away from what had come to be known as ‘annihilation of the class enemy’ — that is, the killing of individual oppressive landlords. They started building organisations of democratic mass struggles like trade unions, peasant organisations and student organisations.

The current phase, in the form of ‘Maoism’, has been marked by the reassertion of the path of armed struggle and complete rejection of parliamentary participation. This is not an entirely new development. Rather, it represents the culmination of a long period of guerilla operations that have been carried out separately by three important groups in different parts of the country. The most important of these was the ‘CPI(ML) People’s War’ led by Kondapalli Sitaramaiah in Andhra Pradesh, popularly known as the People’s War Group (PWG).

Through the 1980s, the PWG built legal mass organisations of students, writers, peasants and other sections but soon moved into almost exclusively underground military operations and built up what turned out to be the most feared and awesome machinery of a guerrilla army. It was in the 1990s that the PWG moved away from mass struggles and became exclusively preoccupied with armed struggle.

It is in this period, especially in the 1990s, that the PWG expanded its guerilla operations in a whole belt extending from Andhra Pradesh to northern Karnataka and eastern Maharashtra as well as neighbouring parts of Chhattisgarh and Orissa. It also established relations with some important non-party organisations and movements such as Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, and the Bharat Jan Andolan that was set up by BD Sharma, a former civil servant who began working with the tribals of that region after he gave up his job.

The PWG managed to draw these movements into its close circle of allies and expanded its influence quite rapidly, despite the fact that it gradually became reduced to a terror machine, often indulging in wanton killings and extortion to finance its activities. It would be wrong, however, to conclude that all these movements shared the PWG’s politics, its philosophy of violence or its methods.

It seems that this expansion of its influence became possible largely because it was precisely in the 1990s that the democratic space for raising questions of poverty and exploitation virtually disappeared. This is one of the relatively understudied ironies of the 1990s that have otherwise been described, correctly, as a period of democratic upsurge. In this period the virtual erasure of issues of the working class or peasantry from the media and public discourse went hand-in-hand with a massive neo-liberal ideological attack on trade unions and organisations of the peasantry. The cynicism and ruthlessness with which the non-violent struggles of the displaced people of the Narmada valley — to take only the most well known example — were treated by the power bloc (including the media and the judiciary, who are deeply implicated in the new nexus of power), produced the general scenario where the PWG began to seem to many of the poorest an attractive option.

Added to this was the complete abdication of the space of mass struggles by the entire mainstream Left and its confinement to the parliamentary arena. While the preoccupations of the mainstream Left in this period were with largely abstract macro issues like defence of the public sector and opposition to foreign investment, the real issues that were beginning to emerge on the ground related to accelerated dispossession in the countryside. In northern Karnataka for example, what gave the PWG popular support was its defence of tribals who were being uprooted from their habitat in the forests, to make way for the Kudremukh National Park. This dispossession also meant denying the tribals their traditional access to minor forest produce and eliminating a whole way of life that lives in symbiosis with the forest. Elsewhere, in parts of Andhra Pradesh, the PWG confronted the issue of imminent displacement of peasants from their land that the government had acquired for private corporations.

As the violent displacement of common people from their habitat assumes unprecedented proportions, and with no recourse to justice — the judiciary being complicit in this game of dispossession — Maoism seems to offer an increasingly attractive option to many.

In the second half of the 1990s, the PWG and two other groups that relied exclusively on armed struggle, namely the CPI(ML) Party Unity and the Maoist Coordination Centre (MCC), both of which functioned in central and south Bihar, came together to form a legal front called the All India People’s Resistance Forum (AIPRF). The AIPRF functioned as a legal coordination centre as well as a forum for joint activity in the middle class constituency and effectively laid the ground for the eventual merger of the three groups. The Party Unity and PWG merged in 1998 and functioned with the latter name till 2004, when it merged with the mcc and adopted the name CPI (Maoist).

Adopting the nomenclature of ‘Maoist’ helped in laying claim to a shared project with the powerful Maoist insurgency in Nepal which had by then made Maoism a household name in the region. Further, the merger of three groups that functioned in different parts of the country under the banner of Maoism, conjured up for the Indian power bloc a fearsome vision of the ‘Red Corridor’ — a corridor that, it believes, extends from Andhra Pradesh via Chhattisgarh and Orissa through the contiguous regions of Jharkhand and Bihar right up to Nepal. The success of this merger and of the semiotics of its naming is apparent from the fact that Maoism is once again seen as a power to reckon with by its enemies, including the government and the media.

Nigam is a Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies


‘I was always Leftist. Economic reforms made me completely Marxist’

May 3, 2007

It is not everyday that we post articles by ministers of
the UPA government . But Mani Shankar Iyer(Minister for
Panchayati Raj) deserves to be read.. because here is one man
trying to expose what his government truly is – A big Sham.

We believe the UPA government is all set to go down in
history as the single largest man made disaster to hit
India in the early part of the twenty first century.

By the time you reach the end of the article one thing
becomes sure…
Mani Shankar Iyer won’t be invited by the CII
to deliver a speech again in this lifetime.

‘I was always Leftist. Economic reforms made me completely Marxist’

In a speech at a CII meet, Mani Shankar Aiyar argued that policy is hijacked by a small elite. That the cabinet he belongs to is quite comfortable with this hijacking. That India’s system of governance is such that Rs 650 crore for village development is considered wasteful but Rs 7,000 crore for the Commonwealth Games is considered vital. The classes rule all the time, Aiyar says, the masses get a look-in every five years

A few weeks ago the newspapers reported that the number of Indian billionaires had exceeded the number of billionaires in Japan, and there was a considerable amount of self-congratulation on this. I understand from P. Sainath that we rank eighth in the world in the number of our millionaires. And we stand 126th on the Human Development Index. I am glad to report that last year we were 127th.

At this very fast rate of growth that we are now showing, we moved up from 127th to 126th position. This is the paradigm of our development process. In a democracy, every five years the masses determine who will rule this country. And they showed dramatically in the last elections that they knew how to keep their counsel and show who they wanted. We, my party and I, were the beneficiaries and we formed the government. Every five years, it is the masses who determine who will form the government. And in between those five years the classes determine what that government will do.

In determining what that government will do, the CII has played an extremely important role. I am not surprised, as that is its job. It represents industry, and therefore it argues for the interests of the industry. Industry has been enormously benefited by the processes of economic reform that we have seen in this country over the last 15 years or so. But the benefits of these reforms have gone so disproportionately to those who are the most passionate advocates of reforms that every five years we are given a slap in the face for having done what the CII regards as self-evidently the right thing for this country.

It is a sustainable economic proposition, because our numbers are so vast, that there are perhaps 10 million Indians who are just as rich as the richest equivalent segment anywhere in the world or in any group of countries. There are about fifty million Indians who really are extraordinarily well off. That’s the population of the UK.

But if you look at the 700 million Indians who are either not in the market or barely in the market, then the impact of the economic reforms process, which is so lauded by the CII, makes virtually no difference to their lives. That is why there is a complete disjunct between what the democratic processes are trying for in the short run and what those who have made an enormous success of our achievements in the last fifteen years deem to be, at least in the short run, their own requirements.

So when you talk of a nine point two per cent growth rate, it becomes a statistical abstraction: 0.2 per cent of our people are growing at 9.92 per cent per annum. But there is a very large number, I don’t know how many, whose growth rate is perhaps down to 0.2 per cent. But certainly, the number of those who are at the lower end of the growth sector is very much larger than those who are at the higher end.

Yet what happens when you have the budget? As an absolute ritual every finance minister (my colleague Chidambaram is no exception) will devote the first four or five pages of his budget speech to the bulk of India and there will then be several pages, including whole of part B, which deals perhaps with one or two per cent of our population. Almost the entire discussion that takes place at CII or CII-like forums, will be about Part B rather than Part A.

There are comfort levels that you get from statistics — for instance, suddenly Arun Shourie, announcing in the NDA government that our poverty rates have fallen from 35 per cent to 22 per cent. He did it by changing the basis on which you estimate poverty. You cannot compare apples and oranges. The next national sample survey has shown that our poverty levels have actually increased. Are we going to be mesmerised by these statistics or understand that 700 million of our people are poor?

So we have an Indira Awaas Yojana which will ensure that there will be a ‘jhuggi’ for every Indian round about the year 2200. We have the PM Gram Sadak Yojana which was supposed to complete all the gram sadak in seven years — we are in the eighth year. And where we are told that the education of 1000 may be covered, who knows only the education of 500 will be covered. And if you happen to be a tribal in Arunachal, you are told that because of your social custom you are to live in one hut atop a hill, we can’t provide you a road.

I was always something of a leftist. But I became a complete Marxist only after the economic reforms. Because I see the extent to which the most important conception of Marx — that the relationship of any given class with the means of production determines the superstructure — holds.

This ugly choice is placed before the government. An unequal choice, because you have organised yourself to say what you want to say but the others are only able to organise themselves and that too without speaking to each other in the fifth year when the elections take place. That is why this expression anti-incumbency, although the Oxford Dictionary says that it is a word belonging to the English language, is a peculiarly Indian phenomenon. Because everything that goes in the name of good governance like the economic reforms either does not touch the life of people or affect them at all.

We have seen what happened at Nandigram, we have seen what was happening at Singur and we have these propositions that say that SEZs are going to come and lakhs of hectares are going to be utilised for the good of the country. For what’s the syndrome in all this, it’s still ‘do bigha zameen’. The chap says that I want my one bigha of zameen to be reinstated, but you offer double the compensation and “baad mein dekha jayega”. You go to Hirakud, which is where Jawaharlal Nehru actually used the expression modern temples of India, and you ask what happened to the tribals who were driven out of there. Absolutely nobody knows.

Coming to the cabinet, you see what happens. The minute suggestions are made as to what would perhaps benefit the people and what would benefit the classes, the tendency is to say that our great achievement is 9.2 per cent growth. Our great achievement is that Indian industrialists are buying Arcelor and Corus. That Time magazine thinks we are a great power.

In these circumstances, when a proposal came before the government to spend Rs 648 crore on the Gram Nyaya department, we were solemnly informed by one of the most influential ministers in the government to remember that we are a poor country. I was delighted when the next day he was with me in a group of ministers and I reminded him of his remark and said in that case can we stop spending the Rs 7000 crore on the Commonwealth Games and he said, “No, no, that is an international commitment and a matter of national pride.” This national pride will of course blow up if you spend Rs 7000 crore on the Commonwealth Games. We will be on the cover of Time and Newsweek.

I have always wondered why this rate of growth and economic reforms process is dated to Manmohan Singh. Because actually it should be dated to L.K. Jha’s book Economic Strategy for the 80s. It is the decade in which we quickly recovered from agricultural depression and registered a double digit growth. At the beginning of the decade our biggest import was crude oil and after that it was edible oil. By the end of the decade we were exporters of several kinds of edible oil.

Why is it that Nehru became successful with his Hindu rate of growth? The reason is that the Hindu rate of growth was five times what our pre-Hindu rate of growth was. From 1914 to 1947, the figures of which are available, the rate of growth of the Indian economy was 0.72 per cent. And we got the Hindu rate of growth which was five times that and it made a difference to the people. The minute you had solid land reforms, the people had their ‘zameen’. That is what Mother India was all about. People felt that they were involved in the process. All the political talk was: gareeb ke liye ham kya kar sakte hain. Indira Gandhi matched it beautifully when the entire political spectrum joined hands against her by saying, “Woh kehte hain Indira hatao, hum kehte hain Garibi hatao.”

There is nobody so marginal in a government as the minister of Panchayati Raj. I count for nothing. Nothing! When I was the minister of petroleum, I used to walk surrounded by this media. I kept on telling them that petrol prices can do only three things — go up, go down or remain where they are. And it was all over the place. But try and get them to write two words about the 700 million Indians — absolutely impossible. And now with terrestrial television it is even worse. You have to be quarreling with your mother-in-law or hitting your daughter-in-law to be able to hit the headlines. It is impossible to get particularly the pink papers to focus on issues that affect the bulk of the people. And it is so easy to get them to focus on issues that are of high relevance to only one or two per cent of the people.

I believe the CII, if it is serious about the issue, should not be restricting itself to 25 minutes discussion before lunch but hold discussions for ten days and maybe something will come out of it.

Edited extracts from a speech at the CII Northern Region annual meeting 2006-07, New Delhi, April 4