Free Palestine! End Israeli occupation! End the siege of Gaza!

Free Palestine! End Israeli occupation! End the siege of Gaza!

South Asia Solidarity Group condemns Israel’s genocidal attack on the people of Gaza.

Protesting outside the Israeli Embassy, New Delhi, July 14

Protesting outside the Israeli Embassy, New Delhi, July 14

We mourn the deaths of thousands of men, women and children killed in Gaza – not because they are disproportionate but because ‘proportionate’ does not make sense in a genocide.

We condemn Israel’s colonial policy of collective punishment which has held Gaza under siege – starving the population of essential needs  and then deliberately bombing hospitals,  schools and homes; killing people as they flee from the bombing; flattening vast areas of Gaza and  destroying its power supply and water.   This is a policy which we as South Asians know from our history. In India it was used by the British colonialists after the 1857 uprising –  India’s first war of independence – to wipe out entire populations in village after village. Like the Palestinians they were killed  not because they were convicted of anything, but because they were people of targeted regions. In that period too,  all freedom fighters and all those who resisted or even dissented were constructed as terrorists. Everyone was regarded as a ‘insurgent’.

We condemn the Indian government for its shameful silence and ambiguity over Israel’s genocide and its refusal initially to even discuss the issue in Parliament.  The present Indian government, led by the right-wing BJP, with its ideology of Hindu supremacy,  is betraying India’s own history of anti-colonial struggle.

This history was the reason why India was, for four decades after independence, unequivocally committed to freedom for Palestine. Indian freedom fighters spoke out wholeheartedly in solidarity with Palestine’s struggle.   Gandhi famously declared that “Palestine belongs to the Arabs as England belongs to the English or France to the French.” This is the understanding which  informs all those hundreds of thousands of people who, in the last few weeks, have demonstrated across India against Israel’s genocide..

We condemn the Indian government’s violent response to these peaceful demonstrations which led to hundreds being injured and the death of  fifteen year old Suhail Ahmad in police firing in Kashmir.

Why is it a crime in India today to demonstrate in solidarity with Palestine? Why are  pro-Israel forces  welcomed and pro-Palestine demonstrations  brutally attacked by the police?

We condemn India’s ‘deepening relationship with Israel. Over the last two decades, India’s ruling class has embraced neoliberalism and  grown closer to US imperialism and Indian governments have advocated a ‘pragmatic’ relationship with Israel.  Between 1998 and 2004 when a BJP-led government was in power for the first time, this relationship became even closer with a growing  affinity between Zionism and the BJP’s own ideology of Hindutva, each echoing the others’ murderous Islamophobia, both attempting to rewrite history, both specifically stamptargeting Muslim women and children for the most  inhuman violence and both profoundly misogynistic. The state of Gujarat was described,  during the 2002 pogrom against Muslims as the ‘laboratory of the Hindu nation’. Today Gaza has become a laboratory of Zionism in which illegal weapons, cancer-causing bombs and other  methods of extermination are used with a cruelty which  no words are adequate to describe.

Israel receives weapons from the US and UK but also manufactures and sells its own. India is its biggest customer. It buys a massive  50% of its total weapon sales- a huge contribution to Israel’s economy. Tens of thousands of Indian paramilitary commandos are armed with Israeli Micro-Uzis with which they kill mainly unarmed civilians in India’s central belt, where multinationals are involved in land grabs, or in Kashmir. The Barak-8 naval missile defence system, Mossad surveillance equipment and expertise, and a variety of drones are others in a plethora of  weapons which India is buying and which are proudly on display at India’s Republic Day parade. We condemn these purchases.

We stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine in their struggle for freedom!

 

BADAUN-BHAGANA-NEVER AGAIN! DEMAND JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS OF GENDER/CASTE VIOLENCE!

BADAUN-BHAGANA-NEVER AGAIN! DEMAND  JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS OF GENDER/CASTE VIOLENCE!

Wednesday 4th June 4.30-6.30pm
Indian High Commission
The Aldwych, London WC2 (nearest tube: Holborn)

JNSU

The appalling gang-rape and lynching of two girls, aged 14 and 15, from an oppressed caste in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, India on Wednesday 28th May is the latest in a long line of  horrific murders and sexual assaults perpetrated on young Dalit women across India recently. Only two months earlier, four teenage Dalit girls aged 13-18 were raped by ‘higher caste’ landowners in Bhagana in Haryana, and the survivors are still fighting for the arrest of the rapists.

Dalit women and girls are facing an onslaught of gender, caste, and class based violence in which the Indian state collaborates. Less than 1% of rape cases of Dalit women by non-Dalits end in conviction. The level of impunity is so total that the perpetrators feel confident to finish off their vile crimes by murdering the victims and leaving their bodies on display. Are the lives of young Dalit women so expendable?

In the Badaun case, the police refused to investigate when the girls’ families reported them missing and even threatened to kill them if they filed a case, and two policemen have now been charged with conspiring with the higher caste rapists. In Bhagana, the courageous survivors and their families have been forced to travel to Delhi and stage an ongoing protest to demand the arrest of the rapists –after the police refused to register cases against the powerful men named by the girls in their testimonies.

Dalit women have been targeted for sexual violence wherever Dalit communities are challenging oppression and exploitation. In Bhagana, the four girls were raped in ‘revenge’ after Dalits demanded that the upper caste controlled village council hand over the land which had been allocated to them by the government, and protested against eviction and harassment. In Bihar, the Ranvir Sena, a landowners’ army aligned with Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, targeted Dalit and Muslim women for horrific violence when the rural poor organized for land and a living wage.

The recent election victory of Narendra Modi and the BJP has further emboldened upper caste and economically powerful rapists. The Brahmanical-patriarchal ideas of the Hindu right, in which Dalit women’s lives have no value, are being combined with intensified neoliberal economic policies which leave Dalits and other exploited and marginalised people even more vulnerable. While Modi tried to reach out to Dalits in his election campaign, his close ally Baba Ramdev’s offensive remarks about Dalit women as the sexual property of upper castes exposed once again the misogynistic casteism of the Hindu right. In the wake of the Badaun case, Modi has condemned the appalling levels of gender violence in opposition-ruled UP, but the fact that he has given a Ministerial post in his government to Sanjeev Baliyan, one of the main accused in the Muzaffarnagar communal violence in UP last year which involved mass rapes of Muslim women, sends out a very different signal.

The last year and a half has seen a powerful movement against gender violence in India. But the Badaun and Bhagana cases painfully underline once again that the struggle continues, and can only succeed if the lethal connections between gender, caste, class and communal violence are recognized and fought.

Dalit groups and progressive and left women’s groups and students organisations in India are on the streets demanding justice for the victims and survivors of Badaun and Bhagana.  Join the solidarity protest outside the Indian High Commission in London on Wednesday 4th June from 4.30 to 6.30pm.

Organised by:

Freedom Without Fear Platform, a network of Black and minority ethnic women and groups http://freedomwithoutfearplatformuk.blogspot.co.uk

 

Supported by:

Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance

CasteWatch UK

South Asia Solidarity Group

Southall Black Sisters

Sri Guru Ravidass International Organisation for Human Rights

Voice of Dalit International

 

Secularism: Antidote or Alibi?

Secularism: Antidote or Alibi?

by Goldie Osuri

Secularism is often promoted as an antidote to religious fundamentalism. But can this antidote sometimes function as an alibi? A couple of recent opinion pieces in the Indian media have reassured the populace about strength of Indian secularism in the face of the projected win for the Bharatiya Janata Party and its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.  Shekar Gupta, for example, has attacked a ‘lazy and illiberal left’, for forgetting India’s secular constitution which he suggests should be a model for rest of the world.[1] The idea put forward is that even if an overtly communal party such as the BJP wins, India’s model of secularism will win in the longer term. In this case, an invocation of secularism can function as an alibi, one which perhaps assuages the guilt of middle-class support for a Prime Ministerial candidate well-known for a bloodied past in the state of Gujarat.

To assert a Nehruvian secularism, which entails a principled distance to all religious groups or organizations as Rajeev Bhargava (2010) argues, doesn’t appear tenable any more.  What might be more useful would be to examine some of the ways in which Hindutva groups claim the terrain of both the religious and the secular, and to intervene in this terrain. For example, by suggesting a uniform civil code, Hindutva groups speak the language of secularism in seeking to discriminate against Muslim communities. Or in demanding a ban on religious conversions, Hindutva groups seek to intimidate as well as discriminate against Christian communities. All of these messy issues highlight a need for examining the ways in which the religious and the secular are entangled in inextricable ways.

The implications of arguments for and against secularism need to be thought through carefully. Advocates of a staunchly secular stance (separation of church and state in the US or distance from any one religion in India) would argue that secularism is the only way forward. This is to ensure firstly that political power or governments are not usurped by any one religious group who might be fascist in their attitude or practice toward religious minorities or even unbelievers. The idea is that secularism is compatible with democracy whereas theological states are not.  Secondly, a secularist might argue that religious freedom can only be possible in a secular state. Often this variant of secularist might be arguing against a ‘post’ secularist who diagnoses our time as the time of the end of secularism (separation of church and state). This time is a witness to the resurgence in attention to faith-based vote-banks or the cooptation of political power by organized religious interests and groups. The American theorist William Connolly famously explains ‘Why I’m not a secularist’, and has argued for a radical pluralism in the polity rather than a pretence of the separation of church and state.

In the Indian context, there appear to be two dominant scholarly arguments.  Ashis Nandy has suggested that secularism is a western phenomenon, and it is time to move toward Gandhian non-modern ideas of tolerance. Tolerance can be problematic when the limits to tolerance are decided through majoritarian norms. Rajeev Bhargava, recently cited by The Hindu, has argued that we restore clarity to the concepts of Nehruvian secularism, the best guarantee for the protection of religious freedom for minorities.[2] Restoring academic clarity to a particular variant of secularism, as well-intentioned as this might be, may not work in the messy world of politics and politicians.  Whether or not politicians play dog-whistle politics or speak with forked-tongues, secularism in practice in a given nation-state often works to favor the norms of the dominant group or a majoritarian religio-cultural system in the practices of law or governance.

There is another factor that needs to be taken into account when thinking through the idea of secularism. Secularism emerged as an idea during the time of imperial knowledge production, when Europeans began defining and classifying the notion of world religions.  This process meant that European thinkers legitimated what could be considered a world religion in the first instance.  We are now faced with a situation where conservative transnational faith-based groups operate through the world religions discourse. They compete, as minorities in the West, with Christian groups to establish not only their legitimacy, but their particular political interests.  In the last couple of decades, we have seen this happen with organized Hindutva groups in the West.  So, for example, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has been at the forefront of legitimizing itself as a progressive ‘Hindu’ group which operates through a coalition with other Hindu groups—thus working through a kind of a kinship structure. But the organized links between minority Hindutva groups and the family of Hindutva organizations in India complicate the structure of majority/minority relations, as the minority groups form political lobbies in the West to advance the interests of the Hindutva in the Indian context. In this sense, western forms of secularism can sometimes unwittingly legitimate particular organizations which incite violence in the Indian context.

However, banning or marginalizing all minority faith-based groups brings its own set of problems. If we operate under a notion of secularism as the marginalization of faith to a private sphere as in a dominant western understanding of secularism, we find ourselves amidst struggles to ban veils (as in France) or we witness the demonization of Islam or Muslims as individuals and communities because of a long history of Islamophobia.  Some of this violence stems from an extension of the fear of religion or religious others that is part of the political system of liberalism which advocates secularism. As thinkers and activists concerned with discrimination and violence, we need to understand that advocating an uncritical secularism will not do when the majority/minority axis can work in problematic ways. A critical secularism, one that would acknowledge majoritarian norms, might be a starting point for rethinking academic and activist strategies, which are concerned with social justice issues. In a time where secularism means ‘living with communalism’ as the feminist scholar Nivedita Menon has described it we need to be critical about the liberal language of secularism which may be easily coopted by either majoritarian or minoritarian incitements to violence against religious others.

Goldie Osuri is Assistant Professor at the University of Warwick. She is author of Religious Freedom in India: Sovereignty and (Anti) Conversion (Routledge, 2013).


 

[1] Gupta, Shekar 2013, ‘National Interest: Secularism is Dead’, The Indian Express. April 18, Available at: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/national-interest-secularism-is-dead/

[2] Subramaniam, Garimella 2013, ‘Development is intrinsic to a secular project’, The Hindu, 14 April, Available at: thehindu.com.

 

Speakers indict Narendra Modi for orchestrating gender violence and serious violations of women’s human rights

PRESS RELEASE 4th March 2014

 Speakers indict Narendra Modi for orchestrating gender violence and serious violations of women’s human rights

A packed meeting at the London School of Economics organised by the LSE Gender Institute in collaboration with the Freedom Without Fear Gulberg Society photosPlatform and South Asia Solidarity Group on 3rd March,  discussed the rise of Hindu fascism and its impact on gender and called for Narendra Modi  to be brought to justice.

Outlining the context of the meeting, Kalpana Wilson of the LSE Gender Institute emphasised that the targeting of minority women for appalling violence is not a side effect but absolutely central to the project of the Hindu right and how it operates. Linked to this, she said  was the intensification of surveillance and control over women, the rise of ‘moral policing’ targeting students and other young people, and the invocation of the “protection” of Hindu women as a justification for violence against religious minorities and Dalits, including rape of women.

She also noted that Hindu right supporters here in Britain have been promoting the completely unfounded myth of ‘love jihad’ in British universities by students and this fits in with the agenda  of the British state and its Islamophobia. While these groups are promoting the image of a so-called ‘Gujarat model’ of development the position of women in Gujarat where  Modi has been Chief Minister since 2001 is abysmal – demonstrated by the sex ratio (2011 census) of 918 women per 1,000 men (below the already scandalous national average of 940), that hints at the magnitude of female infanticide, and the very high gender imbalance in school enrolments compared to all-India levels. Very high rates of domestic violence against women are accompanied by very low conviction rates in the state.

Nishrin with her father, Ahsan Jafri

Nishrin with her father, Ahsan Jafri

Nishrin Jafri Hussain, in a powerful and moving contribution spoke of the unimaginable brutality  perpetrated on the bodies of Muslimwomen in the villages around Ahmedabad. Speaking in London for the first time Nishrin whose father, the MP Ahsan Jafri, was brutally murdered in the 2002 anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat state, and whose family is waging an ongoing legal battle to bring Narendra Modi, who presided over the violence as Chief Minister of Gujarat, to justice showed a series of photographs of those who had been murdered, with many gaps for those of whom no photos exist. She told the meeting  that the numbers of rapes were far more than those reported because these experiences were not only deeply traumatising  and humiliating but that it was a taboo speaking about them.

She said that in the Gulbarg society where she grew up and  the area around it every Muslim house had been burnt down and every family had lost loved ones – deep scars of these losses remain. She told the meeting that her father had been against the ghettoisation of Muslims and committed to living in a mixed Hindu and Muslim area even after the riots of 1969. When his house where nearly 200 people were sheltering was attacked, and was surrounded by armed Hindu mobs, he had called for help to the central government to no avail. When he phoned Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister replied ‘ You are on your own Jafri, save yourself’. Many in the audience had tears in their eyes as Nishrin reaffirmed her family’s commitment to bringing Narendra Modi to justice.

Angana Chatterji an anthropologist and leading human rights specialist, who convened a people’s tribunal in Odisha in 2005 spoke about her work documenting the experiences of sexual violence in Odisha, noting that ideologies of conservative patriarchy had been taken over and intensified by the Hindu Right across India in a series of attacks on women in minority communities Christian, Muslim, Adivasi and Dalit over the years

Meena Kandasamy a Dalit feminist and writer spoke about the way the language and discourse of Hindutva is conveniently utilised by fanatical Hindu upper caste groups like the Pattali Makkal Katchi, in Tamil Nadu or other caste organisations to construct  Dalit men as the “Other”  and create a myth similar to that of ‘love Jihad’ that they deceive Hindu upper caste girls  by “making” them fall in love. The idea that once such a formula of love-jihad is deployed it can serve to function to contain, and threaten, women’s independence.

The meeting was as one student who attended it described it, ‘both deeply disturbing and a call to action’ and the organisers announced that the campaign internationally to bring Modi to justice would continue.

Gender and the Hindu Right in India

The LSE Gender Institute in collaboration with the Freedom Without Fear
Platform and South Asia Solidarity Group will host a panel discussion on Gender
and the Hindu Right in India

Speakers: Nishrin Jafri Hussain, Angana P. Chatterji and Meena Kandasamy
Chair: Kalpana Wilson

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Monday 3rd March 2014
6.30-8.30pm
at the Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, LSE

In the context of the forthcoming Indian elections in which the current Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi is the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, a panel of human rights campaigners and academics will discuss questions including:

  • What are the implications of the rise of the Hindu Right for gendered violence in India – and what would a possible victory for Narendra Modi at a national level mean?
  • What are the experiences of those seeking justice for the victims and survivors of organized violence against minority communities in Gujarat and Odisha?  What has been the role of the state in the violence and its aftermath in each case?
  • How does the Hindu right mobilize gendered discourses of religion and caste?
  • How have practices of ‘moral policing’ and fabrications such as ‘love jihad’ impacted on gender relations, and how are they being resisted?
  • What is the relationship of the British and U.S. governments, transnational corporations and diaspora communities with the Hindu right in India?

Nishrin Jafri Hussain is a campaigner for justice for the victims and survivors of the horrific violence against minority communities which took place in Gujarat in 2002. Her father, Ahsan Jafri M.P., was brutally murdered during the violence and her family continues to fight for Narendra Modi to be brought to justice.

Dr Angana P. Chatterji is a cultural anthropologist and human rights specialist. In 2005, she convened a people’s tribunal in Odisha, calling attention to the impending violence against minorities and religionized oppression. In 2009, her collaborative work through a people’s tribunal she co-convened in Jammu & Kashmir called attention to the issue of unknown graves and the need for accountability to families of the disappeared, and subsequently received corroboration from the State Human Rights Commission of Jammu & Kashmir. Her publications include: Violent Gods: Hindu Nationalism in India’s Present; Narratives from Orissa (Three Essays Collective, 2009); a co-edited volume, Contesting Nation: Gendered Violence in South Asia; Notes on the Postcolonial Present (Zubaan, 2012); and the reports, BURIED EVIDENCE: Unknown, Unmarked, and Mass Graves in Kashmir (2009), Communalism in Orissa (2006), and Without Land or Livelihood (2004).

Meena Kandasamy is a writer, activist and political columnist. She has published two collections of poetry, Touch and Ms.Militancy. Her first novel, The Gypsy Goddess, revisits the 1968 Kilvenmani massacre where feudal landlords in Tanjore killed 44 Dalit peasants striking for higher wages. Her work is centered on caste annihilation, the Tamil national question and feminism in contemporary India.

 

CPI-ML visit to Muzaffarnagar

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These photographs are from the CPI-ML, AISA and RYA visit to the relief camp at Malakpur in Muzaffarnagar.

The mounds in two of the pictures are of graves of children who died here because of the extreme cold.

We would like to say thanks to everyone who has contributed to the appeal fund in the UK.

So far we have raised £800 but a lot more is needed. So please send us cheques or transfer money as soon as you possibly can.

 

Urgent Appeal for Relief for the Survivors of the Muzaffarnagar Riots

Urgent Appeal for Relief for the Survivors of the Muzaffarnagar Riots

28th December 2013

Dear Friends

Please support the appeal below for help for the survivors of the Muzaffarnagar riots. Thousands of families are still living in relief camps since being forced to flee their homes during the riots in September in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, India. At least 34 children under the age of 12 have died in these camps as a result of the poor conditions, cold and lack of medicines.  People are desperately in need of warm clothing, firewood, medicines and food.

The riots in September were orchestrated by the Hindu right-wing BJP and its parent organisation the RSS, along with the Bharatiya Kisan Union, with the goal of forcible displacement of Muslim families from the area(1) . The total numbers of people killed are still not known; evidence has emerged of systematic rapes of Muslim women during the riots (2). The ruling Samajwadi Party government did not do anything to prevent or control the violence, nor did it rehabilitate the displaced. Instead the administration  has been continuously harassing the riot survivors living in relief camps and trying to ensure that they do not return home(3)(4). Shockingly, Chief Minister of U.P. Mulayam Singh Yadav recently claimed that the people living in relief camps were not riot victims but ‘conspirators’ who had been asked to stay there by the BJP and Congress to make a political point – leading to widespread outrage.  Even more callously, the U.P. Home Secretary, commenting on the number of children living in the camps who have died as a harsh winter has set in, quibbled that ‘no-one can die of cold. Children have died of pneumonia, not of cold’(5).

A team of volunteers organized by the CPI(ML) is visiting Muzaffarnagar on 28 December to distribute the first batch of relief materials they have collected, and is currently collecting through a fundraising drive including street collections in cities and towns across India for a second batch to be sent during the next few days. But a lot more help is still needed to prevent further deaths as the cold weather continues.

To contribute to the relief effort from the UK, please make cheques payable to South Asia Solidarity Group, and write ‘Muzaffarnagar Appeal’ on the back. Send to South Asia Solidarity Group, c/o Londec, 293-299 Kentish Town Road, London NW5 2TJ. Or contact sasg@southasiasolidarity.org

(1)    http://kafila.org/2013/09/18/muzaffarnagar-2013-violence-by-political-design-centre-for-policy-analysis/

(2)    http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?288907

(3)    http://www.urdumediamonitor.com/2013/12/09/administrations-wrath-riot-victims-muzaffarnagar/

(4)    http://twocircles.net/2013nov23/muslims_verge_losing_4000_acres_land_muzaffarnagar.html#.

(5)    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Muzaffarnagar-relief-camps-deaths-Nobody-dies-of-cold-UP-home-secretary-says/articleshow/28001591.cms

Demand Relief, Rehabilitation, and Justice for Muzaffarnagar’s Riot Survivors

Observe National Protest Day on 2nd January 2014

Friends,

The bitterly cold winter has begun. And the stories of Muzaffarnagar’s relief camps jolts our conscience.

Thousands of people, who have watched their loved ones killed in cold blood, and who have been raped, and lost their homes and means of survival, languish in the relief camps of Muzaffarnagar. The Uttar Pradesh Government had pleaded earlier that they were helpless to prevent the communal violence. But why has the Government turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the plight of those in the relief camps?

  • ·34 children have died in relief camps in Shahpur, Budhana, Malarpuur and Sunhati due to the cold, and lack of medicines.
  • ·There have been instances of rapes in the relief camps. FIRs have been filed in rape cases that took place during the communal violence – but the accused are yet to be arrested.
  • ·Meanwhile, the BJP shamelessly felicitated its MLAs who are accused of leading the communal violence.
  • ·And the Akhilesh Government issued an order forcibly evicting the riot-hit from the relief camps, and pressurising them to accept a Rs 5 lakh payment in exchange for giving up their right to return to the villages from where they were evicted! In exchange for the Rs 5 lakh, they are being asked to sign an affidavit saying “”Main aur mere parivar ke sadasya apne gram mein hui hinsatmak ghatnaon se bhayakant hokar gaon va ghar chhodkar aaye hain, tatha in kinhi bhi paristhitiyon mein ab apne mool gaon evam ghar nahin lautenge (I and my family left our village and our home due to the violent incidents there. We will not return to our village and home under any circumstances).”
  • ·Also, the UP forest department has booked thousands of Muzaffarnagar riots victims for setting up relief camps by “encroaching” on forest land.
  • ·The report submitted to the UP Government by the 10-member committee of Ministers under the leadership of senior SP Minister Shivpal Yadav, appallingly, blames the madrasas running the relief camps for not wanting to wind up the relief camps in spite of the situation having returned to ‘normal’!
  • ·The SIT constituted to enquire into the riots is doing a mere token job of it and not bothering even to talk to the victims.

We cannot watch this travesty of justice in silence.

The CPI(ML) appeals to people all over the country to contribute funds that can be used to buy relief materials (warm clothing, firewood, medicines, food) that are urgently for the Muzaffarnagar riot-affected. A CPI(ML) team is visiting Muzaffarnagar on 28 December to distribute the first batch of relief materials collected, and is currently collecting for a second batch.

CPI(ML) also appeals to begin the new year with a resolve to secure justice for Muzaffarnagar’s riot victims.

On 2nd January 2014, the CPI(ML) has called for an all-India protest day demanding immediate arrest and prosecution of all rioters and rape-accused named in FIRs, and demanding that the  State Government of UP ensure urgent relief and rehabilitation measures for the riot-displaced and riot-affected people.

Labour Friends of Hindu Fascism

Labour Friends of Hindu Fascism

by Amrit Wilson

In 2001, Labour MP for Brent North Barry Gardiner, visited Gujarat and describing himself as the Chair of Labour Friends of India(LFI) presented Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Chief Minister Narendra Modi with a cheque for one million pounds. Till then  few people in India or Britain, had heard of LFI. The money raised by  Sewa International, a charity based in Britain, ostensibly for the victims of the Gujarat earthquake of 2001 and the Orissa cyclone of 1999 was to find its way to front organisations for the storm troopers of Hindu supremacy, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – groups  who a year later were exposed as perpetrators of the genocidal attacks on Muslims in Gujarat in which more than 2000 men, women and children were killed and 200,000

Confronting Barry Gardiner

Confronting Barry Gardiner

displaced. Sewa International itself was also exposed as inextricably bound up with the Sangh Parivar – the so-called family of organisations of the Hindu right which include both the BJP, the RSS. (1)

But Gardiner was not to be deterred either by these revelations or the fact that Narendra Modi was an avowed admirer of Hitler. He himself has after all cosied up to right-wing forces internationally for some time, visiting Israel in 1999, for example, to meet senior Israeli leaders on behalf of Labour Friends of Israel, an organisation of which he was Vice Chair, and later, in  2009,  sacking his campaigns manager for demonstrating support for the Palestinians massacred by Israel during the Gaza slaughter. (2)Labour Friends of India continued to be Gardiner’s personal project, without even its own bank account and in the words of historian of India and Labour activist Jon Wilson, ‘not apparently publically open to new members or run on the same democratic lines as other associations within the Labour movement’. (3)

When it became widely known that the pogrom in Gujarat was sponsored by the Gujarat government and presided over by Modi  –  a leaked report from the British High Commission,  for example,  noting that the attacks  ‘had all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing and that reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims is impossible while the chief minister [Narendra Modi] remains in power’ and that ‘far from being spontaneous’ it was ‘planned, possibly months in advance, carried out by an extremist Hindu organisation with the support of the state government’ (4)  -  Modi had his visa to the US withdrawn for violations of human rights and the UK government and the EU also distanced themselves from him. But neither Gardiner nor the LFI changed their position in any way and Hindu right-wing groups in the UK invited Modi in 2005 and again in 2009. Both times Modi panicked at the last moment in the face of planned protests by South Asian and human rights organisations, and also the possibility of an arrest in Britain over the on-going case of three members of the Dawood family from Batley who had  been killed in the 2002 Gujarat massacres.

Over the last decade, the lobbyists, APCO in the US and Saffron Chase in the UK have been working to get acceptance for Modi abroad and transform his image. The founders of the latter are Manoj Ladwa and Vikas Pota who just happen to be members of both the LFI and the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) (5), the British wing of the RSS. Modi’s new avatar is a man of progress and development who has transformed Gujarat into the  ultimate success story in terms of prosperity. In reality, his policies, which have converted swathes of land and coastline into Special Economic Zones or ‘Special Investment Regions’, have increased  inequalities (with malnutrition among children comparable to that in the poorest states in India) and Gujarat has recently been categorised as one of the ‘less developed’ states in India far behind Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa. (6)

However, for the Con-Dem government, the entry of British corporates is what matters so while Modi makes a bid to become India’s next Prime Minister, campaigning in the same virulent communal rhetoric as before, and claiming, falsely (7), that he has been exonerated by the Supreme Court of India, the British government has begun to rehabilitate him because as Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire said this was in ‘the UK’s national interests’.  meaning the interests of British big business (8).

Beyond these ‘national interests’,  Barry Gardner has another more personal reason for fostering the relationship with Modi. The UK has some 700,000 Hindu Gujaratis (including a sizeable number in his ModiPhoto1constituency).  With Pota and Ladwa lobbying them that Modi is the man to lead India it is not surprising that Gardiner is proclaiming that he and Modi are the closest of friends. In the run up to the 2010 UK election, Gardiner’s website even carried  Modi’s testimonial –  ‘Gujarat has no greater friend in Britain than Barry Gardiner’ . Clearly the LFI’s recent invitation to Modi to speak at a meeting in Parliament about the Future of Modern India was simply Barry Bhai returning the favour. As it happened the invitation backfired and in the face of angry protests coordinated by South Asia Solidarity Group and supported by a host of South Asian, human rights and trade union organisations, and of course  Modi’s continuing fear that he may face  arrest on entering the UK, he backed out claiming  he was just too busy to come.

(1)http://www.sacw.net/DC/CommunalismCollection/ArticlesArchive/British_charity_and_Hindu_extremism_a_report_summary.pdf

(2) http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/pro-israel-mp-fires-pro-palestinian-staffer

(3) http://labourlist.org/2013/08/if-we-stand-for-the-politics-of-one-nation-we-cannot-support-narendra-modi-an-open-letter-to-iain-mcnicol/

(4)  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/1951471.stm

(5) http://www.truthofgujarat.com/uk-based-hindutva-lobbyists-manoj-ladwa-vikas-pota-driving-force-behind-modis-uk-invitation/

(6)http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/raghuram-rajan-committee-report-demolishes-modis-claims-of-development-in-gujarat/1/311856.html

(7)  Sahmat – Citizens for Justice and Peace: ‘Press Release- Supreme Court clean chit to Narendra Modi ?’  http://www.kractivist.org/press-release-supreme-court-clean-chit-to-narendra-modi/ which explains in detail how the Supreme Court has NOT in fact absolved Modi of responsibility for the 2002 genocide.

(8) See The Hindu ‘Embracing the Darkness’ October 23, 2012, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/embracing-the-darkness/article4023194.ece

This article first appeared in the December 2013/January 2014 issue of Red Pepper

Jai Bhim Comrade – Film showing and Q&A with Anand Patwardhan

‘Jai Bhim Comrade – Songs  That Won’t Be Silenced’ film review by Kavita Krishnan

http://www.cpiml.org/liberation/year_2012/june_2012/film.html

 

Statement on Baba Ramdev’s conference in Hounslow, 22 September 2013

We are extremely concerned over the use of Baba Ramdev’s visit to the UK to promote a Hindu communal agenda, and specifically to build support for Narendra Modi’s election campaign. Modi is responsible for the genocidal killings of more than 2,000 members of the minority Muslim community in Gujarat in 2002, including three British citizens, whose families are still waiting for justice. Over the last month, in the run-up to elections, Modi’s party the BJP and his right-hand man Amit Shah have been trying to recreate these horrific events in Uttar Pradesh, fomenting riots which have seen the worst communal violence in over a decade, leaving large numbers of people dead or missing and tens of thousands of people homeless and destitute. In the midst of these events, Baba Ramdev has proclaimed himself a key supporter of Modi in his campaign to become Prime Minister. This makes it highly inappropriate and disturbing that a small number of British MPs elected politicians, including Minister for Energy and Climate Change Baroness Sandip Verma, and Labour MPs Keith Vaz and Seema Malhotra, should be taking part today in what is clearly a partisan and provocative communal event designed to divide Indian and South Asian communities in Britain. We call on them to withdraw from this event and we call on Hindu organisations in Britain to distance themselves from Baba Ramdev’s support for the ‘Butcher of Gujarat’ and to join us in building unity among Indian and South Asian ommunities in Britain.

South Asia Solidarity Group

CasteWatch UK

Southall Black Sisters

Indian Workers Association (Birmingham)