Internet Edition:December 1-15, 2000
Published by the Communist Ghadar Party of India
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Only Communism Can Save India!
December 25, 2000 marks 75 years since the Kanpur Conference, which decided to establish the Communist Party on Indian soil. The Communist Ghadar Party of India has decided to mark this occasion by organising a Kanpur Communist Conference 2000, on December 25, on the theme: Only Communism can save India!
The Kanpur Communist Conference 2000 is being organised under conditions wherein Indian society is engulfed in an all-sided crisis: economic and political, social and cultural. The crisis of values is all-pervasive. The ruling bourgeoisie is leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of its rapacious drive towards globalisation of capital and production through liberalisation and privatisation. It cares nothing for the enormous disasters being heaped on Indian society. The toiling masses are faced with all-sided attacks on their livelihood and rights. The Indian bourgeoisie and its state are arrogantly declaring that the state and society have no responsibility to the people, and are ruthlessly attacking the workers, peasants and middle strata of town and country. The Indian big bourgeoisie, pursuing its ambition to become a big power, has assumed the role of regional policeman with the backing of the US and other imperialist powers. South Asia has become an arena of acute conflicts.
In these difficult conditions, the working class and toiling masses have begun to contest the claims of the bourgeoisie and are fighting the anti-social offensive of the rulers. India can be saved only if the rule of the bourgeoisie and the monopoly capitalist system can be ended and replaced with a modern socialist system and new state power that will ensure prosperity and protection for all. This is a task that only the working class led by its Communist Party can achieve.
All the parties of the bourgeoisie and the entire political system of representative democracy have become extremely discredited in the eyes of the masses of Indian people. India’s soil is fertile for the flourishing of communism. Indian communists have to rise to the occasion and capture the space that is objectively being created for communism to flourish. The times are calling on all of us to clearly identify the problems and adopt a unified plan to overcome the roadblocks to the advance of the working class and communist movement.
The working class and broad masses of oppressed people of the country are faced with the unprecedented all-round anti-social offensive that the bourgeoisie has launched against their livelihood and rights in the name of economic reform and governance reform. In objective terms, the most urgent need of the hour is for Indian communists to put forward and develop the alternative program for the renewal, reorientation and reconstitution of India.
At a time when the ruling bourgeoisie is in deep political crisis, the working class and communist movement can make a decisive advance by boldly presenting the socialist alternative to the program of capitalist reforms. But the road to such an advance is blocked by those in the communist movement who are conciliating with the status quo of bourgeois rule and capitalist offensive. What are the main forms of class conciliation that need to be opposed and overcome within the working class and communist movement?
The communist party has to be the vanguard of the working class, organised on the basis of the principles of democratic centralism. It has to be a revolutionary party, with basic organisations of class struggle as its foundation. What is the next step towards the restoration of unity of Indian communists in one party? What kind of communist party does India’s working class need today?
The Kanpur Communist Conference 2000, being organised with the active help and participation of so many Indian communists from all regions of the country and Indians resident abroad will be a new beginning, a new zero in the forward march of communism on Indian soil. It will be a contribution to the work of all the Indian communists to overcome the split and restore communist unity on the basis of making a clean break with social democracy and all forms of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideology. It will be a contribution to the work of developing the Indian theory of revolution, based on the best of Indian thought and guided by contemporary Marxist-Leninist thought.
We cordially invite you to participate in the Kanpur Communist Conference 2000.
Programme of the Conference
Keynote Address by Comrade Lal Singh, General Secretary of CGPI: Only Communism can Save India!
Theme for Session 1:
Proletarian Alternative to the Program of the Bourgeoisie
Theme for Session 2:
Roadblocks to the advance of Communism
Theme of Session 3:
What kind of Communist Party?
Discussion and Adoption of Resolutions on the Kanpur 2000 Action Plan
Uphold the right to livelihood! Down with the fascist institutions of bourgeois rule!
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Delhi in the last weeks of November ’00, to protest against the attack of the Indian state on their livelihood. They boldly resisted the attempts of the state to seal off small industrial and other establishments that were the source of livelihood for lakhs of families subsisting in the city. The Supreme Court, which was spearheading these attacks on the livelihood of the people in the name of protecting the Capital from pollution, termed the toiling people who participated in these protests as "hooligans" and worse, much in the manner of the royalty of France in the days preceding the French revolution. Undeterred by this viciousness and the bullets of the Indian state, which martyred at least one worker and injured hundreds of people, at the time of going to the press, the toilers of Delhi have determined to press ahead with their protests to defend their right to life.
In its order of November 14, ’00, the Supreme Court castigated the Ministry of Urban Development, the Delhi (state) government and municipal corporation for not implementing its September 2000 order regarding relocating "industrial units located in residential areas". There are tens of thousands of small establishments in Delhi, as in other big cities of India, which have been set up by toiling people to eke out a livelihood. These include establishments producing daily necessities such as clothes and garments, foodstuffs, as well as hundreds of other items.
Arrogantly declaring that the toiling people have no right even to exist other than as dictated by the Master Plans drawn up by the ruling classes, the Supreme Court had ordered that all "non –conforming" units be shut down. The toiling people of Delhi rose as one and came out on to the streets to wage pitched battles with the police and government officials attempting to implement the Court orders to seal and snatch away their means of livelihood. Workers and owners of the small establishments, tea-stall owners, rickshaw pullers, loaders and others united for the fight. Red-beacon flashing and siren-screaming government and police vehicles, symbolizing for the ordinary people the arrogance of the ruling classes, bore the brunt of peoples wrath. In several areas, police resorted to tear gas and lathi attacks, but had to retreat in the face of the sheer determination of the people.
The Supreme Court egged the Delhi government on and directed it not to give in to "hooligans". Its fascist arrogance was too much even for some sections of the bourgeois press to stomach. These newspapers prominently carried reports on how those who took part in the protests were in fact ordinary toiling people, and how the rich and powerful sections carry on merrily with their most polluting establishments without any fear whatsoever, confirming public knowledge on these subjects.
It is a well-known fact that every day, thousands of people from the rural and semi –urban areas are forced to migrate to the bigger cities in search of livelihood. The main means of livelihood in these cities are such small establishments. People toil in them in very demanding circumstances and live in equally intolerable conditions in the slums and bastis, which abound all over. The big bourgeoisie, which lords it over India, has never had any concern for anyone else. Whether the masses of people of this country live like dogs or die like flies, whether people get water to drink or schools to study in, whether peasants get a proper price for their produce or have to commit suicide, none of these thoughts figure in the grandiose plans and Master Plans of the ruling classes. They have abrogated to themselves alone, the right to decide which parts of which city should be used for building bungalows for the rich and which parts may be used for building green golf courses; no matter whether lakhs of people have to be displaced with untold suffering in the course of implementing their Plans.
Today, a handful of people, whose diktat the Supreme Court articulates so arrogantly, are telling us to starve if we must but follow their decrees to the letter. The events in Delhi point to the most urgent necessity of the times – for toiling people to seize the reins of our destiny. Toiling people of India – workers, women, peasants and youth – must assert that this land is ours. It is they who must make the plans as to how the vast resources of our land can be used. The times are calling for revolution, for overthrow of the rotten bourgeois system and all its hated institutions including its judiciary, its police and its bureaucracy, and their replacement with the institutions of people’s power.
Socialism is the necessary condition for ensuring prosperity and protection for all
The recent midterm appraisal of the Ninth Five Year Plan has pointed out that while the Indian economy grew at the rate of around 6% in the first 3 years of the Plan (1997-2000), this did not lead to an increase in the well being of the people. The results were extremely uneven, between one state and another. They were uneven between one sector of the economy and another, with agricultural growth slowing down to no more than the population growth rate. This is yet another public admission by the bourgeoisie that the present system of economy, which is a capitalist system, is unable to provide for the people. It is unable to provide for the workers and peasants who toil to produce the wealth of the country. It is unable to ensure extended reproduction of society without crises and upheavals.
The Plan appraisal points to the continuous deterioration in the fiscal situation, with the central and state governments accumulating huge debts in order to pay off interest to the moneylenders and subsidise further exploitation by the capitalists and imperialist monopolies. This, in spite of the fact that the Indian state has access to very cheap funds of the working people in the form of ESI, pension and provident funds and the insurance corpus.
All this, as the appraisal document itself points out, has resulted in greater inequity between various regions of India, between rural and urban India and between the poorer and richer states. While the midterm appraisal describes these results of the so-called planned development, it does not provide any diagnosis as to why, after the completion of 8 five-year plans and half of the 9th, the targeted improvements in the standard of living of the Indian people is nowhere in sight.
The appraisal document pushes the favourite recipe of bourgeois economists, namely, to advocate changes in economic policies of the government, as if the problem lies only with policies and not with the system of economy itself. Moreover, the "remedial measures" that are proposed are nothing but recipes for further attacks on the livelihood of the working people, including the following:
¨ Increase user charges for power, irrigation, health and government housing
¨ Rationalise the railway tariff structure
¨ Raise the tax-GDP ratio
¨ Privatise Public Sector Undertakings
¨ Attract foreign investment on a large scale
While the midterm appraisal points to the "glaring inadequacies" it pretends that these inadequacies refer only to government policy, and it repeats the tune of calling for globalisation of production and capital through liberalisation and privatisation.
The basic inadequacy of the economy to provide for the people in India stems from the capitalist relations at the base of production. The production of the principal means of production takes place on the basis of collective labour that is hired by capitalist companies. Private capitalist property owners, multimillionaires and multi-crorepatis, are the maliks, the masters of the social production process. This is what makes the Indian economy a capitalist economy, even though small-scale production based on small property remains the predominant form of property. In this capitalist economy, there is a state capitalist sector and government financed investments and social programs and five-year plans, mechanisms through which the monopoly bourgeoisie takes possession of the social surplus and apportions it according to its class interest.
Since the economy is capitalist, planning by the state is also capitalist planning in the interests of big business, Indian and international. The biggest capitalists of the land plan what the State should do in their common interest. They then present it to the people as if their well-being is what is at stake. Hence various ambitious targets are set in each five-year plan, in terms of socio-economic indicators. These remain noble policy objectives on paper, as no capitalist plan ever achieves these social targets.
What the workers, peasants, women and youth of all nationalities of India need and desire is socialist planning to ensure protection and prosperity for all. The essential condition for socialist planning is social ownership and control over the means of production, in place of capitalist ownership and control. What the Indian bourgeoisie promoted as "socialistic pattern of society" is a capitalist society with state planning in the interest of the dominant section of the capitalist class. What is needed to open the path to progress is the elimination of capitalism from the base of Indian society, its transformation to socialism. This in turn requires the destruction of the existing state power of the bourgeoisie and the establishment, in its place, of a new state of the workers, peasants, women and youth. The first step is to forge the political unity of all the oppressed around the immediate program for the reorientation of the economy to provide for all, the renewal of democracy to empower the working masses and the reconstitution of the Indian Union so as to affirm the rights of all the nations, nationalities and peoples of the subcontinent.
Makalatchi Iyakkam (Lok Raj Sangathan) organised a meeting in Kovilpatti – a town in southern Tamil Nadu - to address the immediate concerns of the workers and peasants of this region on the policies of privatization and liberalization and the ruin these have caused to the lives of the vast majority of the people. Workers from different sectors of industry attended the meeting - mill workers, construction workers, peasants, fishermen, rubber plantation workers, women workers of the match factories and human right activists.
The well-known peasant leader of Tamil Nadu, Gurusamy, initiated the proceedings expressing the hope that the meeting would lead to a better understanding of the present situation and forge unity among the people to resolve the problems in favour of the vast majority.
Baskar, an activist of Makalatchi Iyakkam from Chennai, while explaining the background of the Iyakkam and its objectives and achievements, elaborated on the lack of power in the hands of the workers and peasants. Unless the vast majority of the toiling people are politically empowered, the problems facing them cannot be solved in their favour. Makalatchi Iyakkam has taken up the task of providing the forum for articulating the issues and the solutions in front of the people and activists. It has, in particular, initiated discussions among the people on the form and content of governance that would satisfy their needs and empower them.
Wilson of the Rubber plantation workers of Kanyakumari district passionately described the drastic impact of the liberalization policies of the Indian government on the life of workers and poor people in his region. Rubber prices which were around 80 Rupees per Kg, have dipped to around 20 Rs per Kg. Thousands of workers families have become destitute by the act of the government which has liberalized the import policies to the benefit of Indian and foreign capitalists. It is the same story in the case of coconuts, sugar and every other commodity that has come under the hammer of liberalization. He summed up saying that the people have to play a direct role in deciding the content and direction of the economy. He went on to elaborate the kind of changes in the political process which would benefit the people, such a selection of candidates prior to elections by people’s collectives and not by political parties, ensuring the accountability of those elected to these collectives, and the right of people to recall the elected representatives. He urged everyone to take up the cause of empowerment and fight for it.
Palraj, the state secretary of the Construction Workers Panchayat Union, pointed out that after 53 years of independence, over 60 crores of people are living in stark poverty and remain exploited. Under the globalization program of the Indian capitalists, pre-constructed buildings are being imported from foreign countries and the buildings are being assembled within 2 to 3 weeks' time. On the one hand this drives up the cost of these buildings and on the other hand the workers who are involved in the construction activity are being completely ruined. He called upon the workers and people to take up the task of working for the democratization of the society and polity.
John, an activist of fishermen from Tuticorin, elaborated on the devastating impact of the liberalization policies on the lives of the fishermen all over India. Foreign deep-sea trawlers fish in the rich areas adjoining Indian Territory. Not only does this deprive Indian fishermen of their livelihood, it is also leading to a lowering of the quantum of fish available for the consumption of the Indian people and to escalation of fish prices. More importantly, these mass fishing vessels completely deplete the fish stock in the region, including the young ones. This is leading to permanent and irreparable damage to the fishing environment. He also denounced the diesel and petrol price hikes that have directly affected the fishermen. He called on the people to unite and take up political power from the hands of the handful of political parties into their own hands to resolve all these problems.
Kombiah, leader of the Panchayat Katada Thozhilar Sangam (Panchayat Construction Workers Union) in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu as well a Municipal Councilor, recounting his recent visit to Delhi, said that workers are being exploited to the bone even in the capital city. "You can see workers living on the pavements of this great city", he said. The Sangam has been opposing the program of mechanization, which the bourgeoisie has taken up at the cost of worker’s livelihood. He demanded that the government implement all the concessions that construction workers and their union over the years have fought for and won. He also demanded that they should be provided compensation during the monsoon season for the lack of job opportunities during the period and extension of ESI facility to all the construction workers.
Patabiraman, a textile mill worker in Kovilpatti, mentioned that for decades the textile industry had been one of the largest industries in India employing a large, organized labour force. But now this industry is in a serious crisis. Whatever rights the workers have won over the years by great sacrifices are being snatched away by the big capitalists and their agents in the working class. Now there is no permanency of work in the textile industry. In the name of VRS, workers are being thrown out into the roads, and contract workers are being employed. Mill owners are looting the PF money of the workers in connivance with the government. In some of the government owned textile mills, workers are paid as little as 250 Rupees per month as wages! He concluded, "If we need to make a government for the sake of people, then we need to build and strengthen the Makalatchi Iyakkam".
Ganesan, an advocate and activist of a human rights organization in nearby Devakotai town pointed out that while on the one hand we have the best resources and wealth, the vast majority of our own people are dying everyday for want of food and shelter. Corruption is so rampant that nothing happens without it. Only the rich capitalists and landlords benefit from this. Today only criminals backed up by money can become MLAs and MPs. Do Indian people have sovereignty in their hands? Who wanted the atomic bombs, while Indian people are dying of poverty? Indian rulers are diverting crores of rupees to arms purchases and into their own pockets. Concluding that the time has come to wage the second war of independence in India, he expressed his confidence that in this war people will emerge victorious.
Thangarasu, leader of the Kovilpatti branch of the Panchayat Katda Thozihlar Sangam pointed out that the workers and poor are the people who have worked hard to get someone or the other elected. We have waited on and on, but our problems never get solved. Now we realize that we need to stand on our own feet and fight. We worked to strengthen our Katada Thozhilar Sangam and under this we have won some of our long-standing demands. People have become fed up of these political parties, we need to unite and fight to win our rights, he said.
Balasubramanian from Tuticorin of "Uravu" magazine traced the problems of this society to the profit motive of capitalist production. He explained that production should be oriented to meet the needs of the people and not to satisfy the greed of the capitalists. This can be achieved only if people exercise their control over production.
The chairperson of the meeting, Gurusamy said that the policies pursued by the government in the name of liberalization has raised all the prices of the agricultural inputs for the benefit of the big capitalists - both Indian and foreign. The big capitalists are turning the poor peasants into paupers. Under these circumstances, some rich capitalists are buying off vast tracts of agricultural land. In the past our people have fought bitter struggles to throw out the British colonialists. To day, all imperialist forces are tightening their hold over our country. We need to draw lessons from the past and use them to advance our struggles.
Sarvanan, the Kovilpatti organizer of Makalatchi Iyakkam, summed up the devastating impact of the liberalization, privatization and globalisation measures of the present rulers on the lives of workers and peasants. He vehemently denounced the caste and communal violence and the use of state terrorism by the rulers in order to quell the struggles of the people and divide and rule them. He concluded that building people’s committees everywhere should be taken up as an urgent task in the Makalatchi Iyakkam, and for this various forms of people’s organizations discussed in the meeting will be a starting point.
Oppose Class Conciliation on the question of the Battle for Democracy
At a time when the existing system of democracy is in deep crisis, in India and on the world scale, the class conciliators in the communist movement are calling for the defence of the "secular and democratic" structure of the Indian Republic and Constitution, from the threat posed by the BJP and its allies. They are also calling on the working class to line up behind yet another parliamentary front of bourgeois parties, called a "third" front or a "secular" front.
By calling for the defence of the existing Indian state and its Constitution, such class conciliators in the communist movement are preventing the working class from fighting for proletarian democracy. They are preventing the working class from fighting for a new political power with which the masses of Indian people can liberate themselves from all forms of exploitation and oppression.
By asking the workers to line up behind another parliamentary front, the class conciliators are organising the workers to remain as vote banks, at the tail of the bourgeois opposition. They are preventing the working class from establishing and leading an independent revolutionary front for the renewal of India and the empowerment of her workers, peasants, women and youth.
From its experience of the past 50 years and more, the Indian working class has learnt that no matter what party or coalition of parties runs the government, the class character and orientation of society remains the same. The orientation of the economy remains that of maximum plunder in the private interests of a minority. It is the Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis and their like who have grown richer and more powerful from one decade to the next; it is their interests that the State defends. The past decade of the 1990s, in particular, has revealed the real content of the existing political power as the dictatorship of the big bourgeoisie, no matter whether it is a Congress-led coalition or a BJP-led coalition or a third parliamentary front that is in charge of the central state. After over 50 years of bourgeois representative democracy, a system that originated in Europe centuries ago, imported and implanted in India under the conditions of colonial rule and continued after independence; should not the working class put forth its alternative vision of power -- of proletarian direct democracy? The times are calling on Indian communists to arm the working class with both the vision and the immediate program to fight for a new system of democracy wherein the masses of working people shall wield political power and make the vital decisions regarding the course of society.
It is mainly the counter-revolutionary activity of the parliamentary communists that is preventing the working class from fighting for its own vision of alternative political power. It is these parliamentary communists who lend credibility to bourgeois democracy at a time when it is increasingly becoming discredited. They lower the political consciousness of the working class to the lowest possible level, leaving the class without any initiative of its own but only fit to choose which representative of the bourgeois class is "less evil" than the other.
From its experience of the past 50 years and more, the Indian working class has learnt that no matter what shape or form the party or coalition of parties takes that runs the government, the class character and orientation of society remains the same. The orientation of the economy remains that of maximum plunder in the private interests of a minority. It is the Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis and their like who have grown richer and more powerful from one decade to the next; it is their interests that the State defends. The past decade of the 1990s, in particular, has revealed the real content of the existing political power as the dictatorship of the big bourgeoisie, no matter whether it is a Congress-led coalition or a BJP-led coalition or a third parliamentary front that is in charge of the central state.
What is needed is a new political power, a new fundamental law which the workers, peasants, women and youth of all nationalities of India can and must establish. What is also needed is a new political process that is consistent with the condition that sovereignty -- the supreme decision making power -- should be in the hands of the masses of working people.
The strategic aim of the communist movement is the establishment of classless communist society through the proletarian socialist revolution. Such a revolution requires the replacement of the existing political power of the bourgeoisie with a new political power of the working masses. The working class has to win the battle for democracy by mobilising all the oppressed around itself and its program for the renewal of society through the replacement of the existing political power of the bourgeoisie with a new political power of the working masses.. Communist tactics are those that serve this strategic aim of revolution. They must bring the day of revolution closer. The tactics of tying the workers to a parliamentary front have never brought the day of revolution closer. On the contrary, revolution has been converted into a distant prospect, about which one only occasionally sings some song or shouts a slogan or two, while the immediate task is always to tail behind this or that section of the bourgeoisie.
The most glaring example of class conciliation is provided by the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which opposes any move to even review the 1950 Constitution, let alone change or establish afresh, the 1950 Constitution and existing fundamental law based on colonial and bourgeois definitions. The CPI (M) calls on the workers and peasants to defend the existing democracy, the existing State of the Indian Republic. It attempts to justify such a reactionary stand with the argument that any move to review the foundations of the State will open the door to retrogression -- i.e., enable the BJP to further communalise the polity.
In other words, CPI(M) argues that the working class can have either the existing system or something worse. Once the question is posed in this manner, the battle is already lost as far as the aims of the working class are concerned. By ruling out the possibility of a revolutionary alternative to the existing bourgeois democracy, defence of the status quo becomes the "lesser evil". At a time when there is massive disillusionment with the political system and political process of representative democracy, in India and all over the world, such a position on the part of those who consider themselves communist is unacceptable. CPI(M) has taken a position that appears even more reactionary than the position taken by the BJP! The BJP leaders present themselves as being for change, hence progressive in contrast with the CPI(M) leaders who oppose any change in the status quo.
While rejecting the position of the leadership of CPI(M) to defend the status quo, communists also have to be vigilant against the "leftist" error of declaring that the Constitution is not an issue for the working class, thereby leaving the field of political theory open for the bourgeoisie to capture. Communists have to organise the working class to take a pro-active stance on all political and economic questions., including the question of the Constitution or fundamental law of the land. Thus, it would be wrong to declare that the Constitution is not an issue for the working class, and thereby leave the field of political theory open for the bourgeoisie to monopolise. What kind of political power do the workers and peasants need so as to reorient the economy to provide for all? Communists must lead the discussion among the toiling masses on this and other questions. This is what it means to be pro-active -- to identify the space being opened up for communism, to capture that space and expand it further.
Communists need to be in the forefront of the struggle over the question of democracy and questions of governance. The working class and people need a system where they can govern themselves, without the intermediation of a class or caste of political representatives selected by parties of vested interests, which is the case with the system in India at present. Indian communists need to develop and elaborate the modern Indian theory of governance, drawing on the best of Indian thought from the past and on progressive thought and experience from all over the world.
Indian communists must call for and organise the building of the organs of people's power in the places of work and residence. Such organs at the base of society must assert their right to oversee the selection of candidates to all levels of government and to exercise the right of recall at any time. This is the pro-active program of action with which the working class movement must contest the "good governance" campaign of the bourgeoisie, a campaign that is based on Eurocentric theories of the 18th and 19th centuries, aimed at prettifying bourgeois democracy and making it acceptable in the 21st century.
Both the call to defend the existing state power and form of democracy, as well as the tactics of lining up the working class and people behind a third parliamentary front at the present time, are standing in the way of the advance of the working class movement. They are blocking the road to the long overdue revolutionary transformation of Indian society. For the working class to emerge as an independent political force in India today, holding out the vision of emancipation for all the people oppressed and fed up with the present system, it is extremely important to fight these forms of class conciliation on the question of democracy in the communist movement.
To call for the defence of the existing State and democracy is to conciliate with the class enemy on the most crucial and strategic question -- the question of political power. To call on the working class to line up behind a third parliamentary front at the present time is to conciliate with the bourgeoisie on the question of tactics as well. It means to deliver the working class as a reserve of the bourgeoisie.
The Indian working class and communist movement is being prevented from advancing boldly because of the domination of the class conciliators in the movement. The times are calling on all revolutionary communists to organise the broad masses of workers to raise their voices against class conciliation, to raise their fists against the conciliators. This is the necessary condition for the working class to emerge as an independent force in the Indian political scene today.
Down with the murder
of civil rights activist Purushottam!
With great anger People’s Voice condemns the brutal state organised killing of T. Purushottam, well known civil rights activist, on November 23, 2000.
Purushottam was a popular lawyer and joint secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee. He was well known for his bold defence of human rights and civil liberties of people, particularly the poor and oppressed. He had played an active role in exposing the state terror against the masses of people in Andhra Pradesh and the utter lawlessness of the police and security forces, the fake encounters, custodial deaths and police torture, etc. Human rights and civil liberties groups, progressive and democratic people all over the country have condemned the assassination of Purushottam.
The murder of Purushottam, widely believed to be the work of the Special Task Force of the Andhra Pradesh government, once again exposes the utter lawlessness of the state and its security forces. In particular, all those who stand up to fight against this state-organised terror and expose the criminality of the ruling bourgeoisie are specially targeted for attack. Over the years, scores of human rights activists and fighters for the rights of the toiling and oppressed masses, as well as thousands of communists and revolutionaries have been brutally massacred by the forces of this Indian state.
The fascist forces of the Indian state hope that by such killings it will be able to terrorise the oppressed people and make them quietly submit to the injustices and indignities that are continuously heaped upon them. However, history shows that they are completely mistaken. Each such act of state terror only intensifies the resolve of the working and oppressed people to fight for the overthrow of this man eating rule of the exploiters and for the establishment of the rule of the toilers, which alone can guarantee security and prosperity for all the working and oppressed.
the massacre of innocent people in the name of curbing "terrorism"
What we had predicted in an earlier issue of People’s Voice has turned out to be true. After their dramatic show of tolerance and humanism in dealing with the Rajkumar kidnap episode, the ruling classes of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have now bared their fangs. On November 20, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu announced with a lot of fanfare that the state’s police forces would now unleash its entire arsenal to nab the "brigand" Veerappan. In a press interview, the Karnataka Chief Minister, S M Krishna, fully supported his compatriot and offered his full cooperation. The Tamil Nadu Director-General of Police, C Dinakar, told The Hindu that the dreaded State Task Force (STF) personnel have been moved to 17 base camps and five platoons of the Karnataka State Reserve Police have been stationed at different places.
What these emissaries of the Indian ruling class are hiding is that nabbing Veerappan will be only an apology for the commando operation. The real purpose of pressing into service so many platoons is to break the unity of the Tamil and Kannadiga people, let loose a reign of terror among the tribals and other residents of the area, annihilate progressive forces who have been consistently fighting against state terrorism in the region and marginalize people into voting cattle in the coming elections.
At this time, the demand of P. Nedumaran, the leader of the Tamil Nationalist Movement party, that no commando operation should be launched against Veerappan until the Special Task Force (STF) police personnel who committed barbarous atrocities on the tribals in the area were punished, has exposed the real criminal content of the "rule of law" of the bourgeoisie and the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka police as the main source of terrorism in the area. At a press conference, he demanded that "until the victims of STF harassment are warded compensation and the guilty police officers punished, the STF operation should not be resumed". He also made it clear that this was not an appeal to the Tamil Nadu government and that he would be raising this issue at public fora.
Close on the heels of the release of the actor Rajkumar by Veerappan, there have been shrill cries from several political parties and police bigwigs that a commando operation be launched to eliminate Veerappan and his gang. Alleging that Veerappan has links with "Tamil separatists" and "extremists", the media and several spokesmen of regional and national parties have been egging the DMK government in Tamil Nadu and the Congress government in Karnataka to restore the "rule of law" and punish the "brigand" for his "crimes". In response to these demands, the governments in the two states have announced that the Special task Force (STF), which was set up to allegedly nab Veerappan, will now be strengthened and a large cordon and search operation will be organised in the area, just as in Kashmir and the north-east.
The entire Rajkumar kidnap episode and the recent demands and statements by progressive forces have raised some key issues that have great portent for those who stand for the interests of the working people of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Firstly, it has become very clear to the people of both the states that it is the state government and its security forces which have been the main source of terrorism in the area. The state terrorism has been unleashed on people who asserted their rights, questioned the activities of the ruling class politicians and government officials, and opposed the widespread exploitation and oppression in the area. 121 people, mostly tribals, were incarcerated under TADA and NSA on charges of aiding Veerappan and other "terrorist" groups and tortured for 8 long years in prison. Even after the expiry of TADA, they were kept in prison without any chargesheet whatever. Even today, 51 prisoners are still languishing in Tamil Nadu jails and five others in Karnataka, for allegedly terrorist activities, without any proof whatever. The Supreme Court, which concluded its hearings on October 31, stayed the release of these prisoners and actually accused the two state governments of being "too soft" for even proposing that these prisoners be released.
Right from the Tamil Nadu government’s operation Vanamalai in 1989, to Operation Tusker and Operation Victor in 1999, the Task Force has unleashed unprecedented terror in the area, killing, maiming and raping hundreds of innocent people. The chief ministers of the two states have now announced that the STF will be given special training in anti-terrorist operations, even in using land mines and missiles. It is also being suggested that the BSF, which was earlier involved in 1993, be called in again. All these statements have invited the genuine wrath of all progressive forces in the two states, who have been consistently campaigning against the terrorism of the state governments and massive human rights violations in the Sathyamangalam forest area.
Secondly, it has also become crystal clear to the people that apart from naked state terrorism against the people, the state governments and reactionary political forces of the bourgeoisie will stoop down to any level to terrorise and divide the people of the two states, especially with the elections in Tamil Nadu slated early next year. A virulent hate campaign is being organised by bourgeois reactionary elements on both sides to divide the Tamilians and Kannadigas and egg them to slaughter one another. As in the rest of India, the ruling classes in these two states have so thoroughly criminalized and communalised politics that the vast majority of people have no role whatsoever in the political process. The political system is completely dominated by the big national parties and their regional fronts. All kinds of chauvinist elements and caste groupings swagger around in the political arena organising one diversion after another to prevent people from addressing issues of their concern.
Thirdly, the Veerappan episode has brought out into the open dissensions in the bourgeois camp and impending realignments in Tamil Nadu. The MDMK and the PMK, who are in the NDA-led front along with DMK, have been sympathising with Veerappan’s demands, definitely in their own interests.
In essence, it is very clear that the ruling classes of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and their government and security forces are preparing to unleash large-scale violence on the people living in both the states. They are preparing to drown the coming elections in a bloodbath and prevent people from playing a decisive role in the political process and find solutions to their long-pending demands.
In this situation, the role that CPI(M) and CPI are plying has done nothing to enhance the prestige of communists. In fact, their actions have further exposed them as conciliators of the bourgeoisie within the working class and communist movement and unreliable defenders of the interests of the people. While calling the Chandrababu government in A.P. as fascist for shooting down their cadres for protesting against the power hike, the same parties are unashamedly supporting the Tamil Nadu government for unleashing terror on the people through the STF. In order to dislodge these "leftists" from their strongholds among workers and agricultural labourers, bourgeois parties have been slinging mud at them, calling them brahmanical parties opposed to the interests of the "lower castes", while themselves indulging in the worst forms of communalism and casteism. But, other than fretting and fuming, these "leftists" have done nothing. Instead of defending the interests of all sections of the people, especially at this crucial juncture when the ruling class is planning a mass onslaught on the people, they have opted to jump into bed with bourgeois parties in a" secular" front, consisting of the worst criminals - the very same who vilify them day in and day out - because to them votes matter more than the genuine interests of the people.
From the point of view of communists and progressive people, the current situation holds dangers as well as opportunities of exposing the nefarious aims of the ruling class and advancing the movement of the working class and oppressed people of the two states. They should utilise the prevailing sentiment of the people against the barbarous atrocities of the security forces and demand that the remaining TADA and NSA prisoners be immediately released, that members of the security forces be punished for their criminal deeds, that the STF be immediately withdrawn and the state governments address the real issues of the people living in the area.
For all this to concretise, it is indispensable that people take power in their own hands. The times are calling that this whole system, from the political parties to the police and judiciary and parliament be replaced with a new system, created by the people, in which the workers and toiling people are the real masters.
The arbitrary rule of law of the bourgeoisie
A few days back, the Justice Mohan Commission of Inquiry which probed into the murderous firing by the police on a rally in Tirunelveli in south Tamil Nadu came up with the appalling recommendation that political processions should henceforth be banned, since allegedly the police were provoked to fire because of the procession. 17 people were murdered brutally when police lathi charged a procession of demonstrators and chased them into the Tamiraparani River where 11 people were drowned. Police battered the other 6 to death when they were fleeing towards the river.
The brutal massacre took place on July 23rd, 2000. The procession was organised in support of the struggle of workers at a tea estate in Mongolia in the Tirunelveli district. Among the 17 victims were two women and a two-year-old boy. An additional 15 persons were severely injured.
The tea workers and their family members were holding demonstrations to protest against their conditions of labour. The procession was on its way to the District Collectorate to hand over a petition to the District Collector demanding an early solution to long-pending wage disputes in the Manjolai tea estate, and the release of 652 workers who were jailed following an earlier demonstration in front of the Collectorate.
The CPM, CPI and other "opposition" parties in Tamil Nadu did nothing more than make appeals to the same state government that was seeking to justify the police attack. These parties initially demanded that the DMK government reopen the postmortem on the dead, and bring in doctors outside of Tamil Nadu state, as if the cold-blooded murders were in dispute. They also called for the suspension of the District Collector in Tirunelveli and all the police personnel on duty that day, as well as a judicial inquiry by a sitting judge of the Chennai (State capital) High Court. The devious purpose of airing these demands by these parties was to fool the people that it was not the system that was anti-people but a handful of officials in the system. The demands were also meant to sidetrack the people from becoming active participants in understanding the law and punishing the culprits to passive onlookers expecting justice from an "inquiry commission".
These parties initially protested against the appointment of a district judge to inquire into the incident, and then withdrew their protest when a retired Supreme Court judge was appointed to head the commission.
In October, the state government arrested two people for holding a preview of the documentary "Death of a River", which showed the police massacre of the striking Manjolai tea estate workers and their families. It showed interviews of the tea estate workers seething with rage at the arbitrary rule of law of the ruling class. The 60 minute film, which denounces the Tamil Nadu government's judicial inquiry into the massacre, concludes with the words, "It is only the people who will and are eligible to give justice."
These words sum up the issue that faces the broad masses of Indian people today. Day in day out, the working people of India and their families get the worst deal from the judicial process and the "rule of law" of the big bourgeoisie. The judiciary, the third pillar of the Indian state, along with the executive and the legislature, is touted by the bourgeoisie as an independent mechanism that can bring justice to the people and even protect their interests from the other two arms of the state. But, hard facts of life show that the judiciary and the process of law at all levels – the district courts, the high courts, the supreme court, the various commissions of inquiry and special commissions established to allegedly protect the rights of various sections of people, such as the National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Women, and so on– enable the ruling class to impose its diktat on the people in much the same manner and with as much virulence as the other two arms of the state. The recent court judgements upholding the merciless eviction of pavement and hut dwellers in many cities, the cutting off of water supply and electricity for nonpayment of electricity dues in several parts of the country, the confiscation of land, livestock and property for nonpayment of loans by poor farmers, the eviction and denial of livelihood to thousands of people in the Narmada valley and other dam sites, the stay on the release of 51 TADA prisoners in Tamil Nadu who have been rotting in jails for years without any charges formally filed against them, all prove the point that the judiciary does not operate to serve the interests of the people. In contrast, it lends credibility to bourgeois rule posing as a neutral arm of the state, while vigorously defending the law of the bourgeoisie. It upholds the Constitution, which sanctifies the right to private property and the right of the bourgeoisie to quell any upsurge among the people with fire and sword, in order to protect their rule. It oversees the application of the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code that were enacted in colonial times and which, in principle and in practice, treat the broad masses of people as "lawless subjects" who need to be taught tamed to obey the law of the her Majesty’s kingdom.
British colonial law and policy introduced a centralised legal structure based on common norms of English law in colonial India. The legal profession and the judicial or court system in the colonial period were made to ape the English legal tradition, which encouraged an intensely adversarial process of dispute settlement and complete marginalisation of the people from the judiciary and the legal profession. The colonisers treated native laws and customs as ‘barbarous’ and ‘uncivilized’ and erected in their place a patriarchal legal system that denied justice to the ‘subjects’ and entrenched the positions of the colonisers and their native henchmen.
In today’s judicial system, which is hardly different from the colonial judicial system, the executive, the repository of sovereign power, nominates the judges. Under bourgeois law, they are infallible human beings, members of a priesthood who have great powers over rest of the community. They have no accountability to the people, but only to the masters whom they serve.
Thus, the demand that "only the people will give justice" has been put forward as a practical demand today. This demand means that it is not the legislature of the bourgeoisie but people’s councils who will legislate and oversee the interpretation and implementation of legislation. These councils will deliver justice in the interests of the people, punishing the guilty, irrespective of whether they are state officials and irrespective of their social standing. In the legal system where people give justice, no one will be given immunity. Such a legal system will ensure that the interests of the individual are harmonised with that of the collective and of the society.
The right to legislate and the right to render justice are essential aspects of the empowerment of the people along with other rights such as the right to livelihood, right to progress and the right to live free of exploitation.
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