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A Critique of the Central Government Responses to FAQs on the CAA

https://pibindia.wordpress.com/2019/12/20/q-a-on-nrc-national-register-of-citizens/#more-20113

By MIHIR DESAI

 

The answers released by the Central Government to FAQs on CAA/NRC are highly misleading and at times totally false, hiding more than they reveal.  At the end of each answer issued by the Government to each FAQ, my comments are added.

 

Eight of the most important frequently asked questions are ignored by the Government.

Given below are these eight questions which need to be raised.

 

First:

Why are only persecuted religious groups from three countries namely Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh included in the list? Why are persecuted religious minorities in other neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka (Tamils of all religions), Myanmar (Rohingyas) and China (especially Tibetan Buddhists and Uighers) not included. The answer cannot be partition since Afghanistan had nothing to do with India’s partition. While persecution of the communities mentioned in CAA cannot be denied, it is important to understand why only certain communities from certain countries have been included.

 

Second:

Even while seeking to protect persecuted religious minorities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, why have the other persecuted religious minorities in these very  countries such as Balochis, Ahmadiyyas and Shias not given similar protection? There is enough evidence about their persecution. Just to give an example: in 1974 Ahmadiyyas were declared a non-Muslim minority in Pakistan and a law promulgated in 1984 made it a criminal offence for Ahmadis to refer to themselves as Muslim, to refer to their religion as Islam, or to publicly practice Islam, though the Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims.  There have been persistent physical attacks and killings on Ahmadis in Pakistan. They are obviously a religiously persecuted group.  Just to give another example: tens of thousands of Chakma tribals from Bangladesh migrated due to persecution and for other reasons to North Eastern states during the last many decades. Many of them have been given citizenship but many have not and are demanding citizenship. The overwhelming majority of them follow Buddhism so will be covered by CAA. But there is also a section of Chakmas who follow Islam. Are you therefore going to give citizenship to non-Muslim Chakmas and not give to Muslim Chakmas, though otherwise they are identically placed?

 

Third:

Under the Refugee Convention of 1951 and Protocol of 1967, refugee status should be granted to persons who are persecuted due to race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. While India is not a party to either, nevertheless if persecution was the criteria for offering citizenship to refugees why have these benefits been offered only to those who are seen to be persecuted as non-Muslim religious groups and not to those persecuted for other reasons? For instance, on 19th December, 2019, Junaid Hafeez, a Pakistani academician, was given a death sentence for blasphemy. Obviously this is persecution for his exercise of freedom of speech. A large number of persons are in this way, and otherwise, politically persecuted in the neighbouring countries. Why are those persecuted on grounds other than religion not being offered Indian citizenship if India wants to help the persecuted!

 

Fourth:

Linked to the above, why is citizenship being offered to some people on the basis of their religion? This is clearly contrary to secularism which is not just part of the preamble of the Constitution but has been held to be part of the basic structure of the Constitution by the Supreme Court.  The Constitution of India is the first document determining and conferring citizenship. This obviously was done soon after partition and all its wounds. Despite this and though it allowed migrants from Pakistan (both East and West) to acquire citizenship of India it never made a religious distinction between these migrants. The Citizenship Act, which is the primary Act dealing with citizenship does not make any distinction (till CAA came in) on religious grounds. The Assam accord which set out the cut off date of 25th March, 1971 for subsequent ‘illegal’ entry into Assam for the purposes of determining Indian citizenship does not make any religious distinction. The Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950 does not make any distinction on grounds of religion. There was therefore no justification for bringing in the religious angle now. If at all persecuted persons from neighbouring countries were to be protected, then all persecuted persons should have been offered this protection. 

 

Fifth:

Why is citizenship being offered under CAA to only those who have entered India before 31.12.2014? Is it the case that persecution have stopped after 31.12.2014 in these countries.

 

Sixth:

What is going to be the financial cost and human cost of NRC and can India at all afford it?

 

In Assam, nearly 60 people have lost their lives and their deaths are connected to citizenship related issues. While some have allegedly committed suicide due to frustration, anxiety and helplessness related to the National Register of Citizens (NRC), some allegedly took their own lives fearing incarceration in detention camps. There are also some people who died under rather mysterious circumstances in detention camps. 

The cost of the Assam NRC was Rs 1,600 crore, and 50,000 officials were deployed to enrol 3.3 crore applicants. We now know that it ended up excluding 1.9 million people, mostly genuine citizens of all religious affiliations. If we take this as the basis of a back-of-the-envelope calculation, counting only the Indian electorate of 879 million voters, an all-India NRC would entail an expenditure of Rs 4.26 lakh crore, and would require 1.33 crore officials to conduct it.

 

In addition construction of detention centres and after detaining people, even if the conditions are miserable, you would still have to feed them for a long time if not for the rest of their lives. The capacity of Indian prisons to hold people in aggregate is 3.5 lakhs persons. So just to accommodate the Assamese detainees you would have to build six times the number of jails/detention centres as those existing in entire India.

 

This is apart from the huge financial costs to the people. If Assam is anything to go by large number of people have been even forced to sell off their lands and have been driven to financial misery just to pay lawyers for defending their cases in Foreigners Tribunals and High Court.

 

Seventh:

Is the NRC at all required? NRC is a register of citizens of the country. Under the Constitution of India Article 326 and under the Representation of Peoples Act, 1950 voting rights are available only to citizens. So, all those who are on the voting list should obviously be treated as citizens. Aggregate the voting lists across India and you would automatically have the entire citizenship register for all those above 18 years. So why replicate this exercise? Those below 18 are too young to have crawled into India from some other country on their own. So if their parents are in the voting list, children automatically (barring a few exceptions) become citizens. Then what is the purpose of every one being again required to prove that they are citizens. Unless the idea is to weed out a large number of poor persons of all communities (with special emphasis on Dalits, Tribals, Women and Transgender persons) and a large section of Muslims from citizenship rights. Even without the NRC the Government has the power of weeding out illegal immigrants under the Foreigners Act, 1946. Regularly prosecutions are launched since decades for removing those who are seen as foreigners. The entire NRC exercise seems nothing else but an exercise of fear mongering and creating a vast mass of people who will not be voters, to whom welfare schemes will not be available and who would probably be treated as slave labour in various “detention camps” or even if set free would be a mass of people without any rights whatsoever and thus available to the Corporates and their cronies as labourers at an extremely cheap rate.

 

Eight:

If the Prime Minister is saying that there is no plan to start the NRC process why is the exercise of Population Register (NPR) being carried out? On 31stJuly, 2019 a Notification was issued by the Central Government that the NPR exercise will be carried out across the country between 1st April, 2020 and 30thSeptember, 2020. Confusion is sought to be created between the census and the population register. But the population register is part of Rule 4 of NRC Rules and the census is under the Census Act---a completely independent Act having a totally different purpose. So when the population register is being prepared it is the first step towards an NRC. There is no other purpose of a “population register” except to further NRC.

 

Now let us look at the FAQ response of the Government.

 

Q.1 Is NRC a part of the CAA?

Ans: No. The CAA is a separate law and the NRC is a separate process. The CAA has come into force nationwide after its passage through Parliament, while the NRC rules and procedures for the country are yet to be decided. The NRC process that is going on in Assam has been implemented by the Honourable Supreme Court and mandated by the Assam Accord.

This is only partially true. The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) is an amendment to the Citizenship Act. NRC process is under the Citizenship Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. The NRC Rules are already notified in 2003. The Rules are under the Citizenship Act. The nature of documents required under both i.e. CAA and NRC are yet to be notified. CAA requires a person from Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Parsi, Jain and Sikh communities to show that they have entered India from Pakistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan prior to 31.12.2014. However, what is the evidence required to prove this, has not been prescribed. Similarly, the nature of documents required to prove citizenship under NRC is also not yet provided. CAA can exist without NRC, in the sense that those migrants covered by CAA can ask for citizenship without their being any NRC process. But now NRC cannot  be done without CAA. This is because the CAA has become the law (unless struck down by the Supreme Court) and while determining citizenship under NRC, CAA will have to be taken into account to decide whether a person is a citizen or not.

Q.2 Do Indian Muslims need to worry about CAA+NRC?

Ans: There is no need for an Indian citizen of any religion to worry about CAA or NRC.

This is totally misleading. It is the NRC process which will decide whether you are an Indian citizen. So, even if you think you are an Indian citizen having a passport, voting card, ration card, Aadhar card, PAN card, etc., in the NRC process you may still be excluded. This would be true across religions. This is precisely what   has happened in Assam where persons who thought they were Indian citizens having all the cards above were still excluded as they were held not to have fulfilled the freshly laid down criteria for proving citizenship. Once you are declared as a citizen you do not have to worry. But nobody knows whether he or she will be declared as a citizen under NRC. Even a simple mismatch in the spellings of names in different documents (either their own name or parent’s name) have rendered people stateless in Assam NRC.

Q.3 Will NRC exclude people of a particular background?

Ans: No. NRC has nothing to do with any religion at all. NRC is for every citizen of India. It is a citizen register, in which names of everyone will be recorded.

In reality it is likely to exclude a large number people from marginalized sections who cannot establish their citizenship due to lack of adequate documents. The issue is whether NRC is at all necessary,

Q.4 Will people be excluded in NRC on religious grounds?

Ans: No. NRC is not about any religion at all. Whenever NRC will be implemented, it will neither be applied on the basis of religion nor can it be implemented on the basis of religion. No one can be excluded just on the basis that he/she follows a particular religion.

This is untrue. Let us take an example. I am a poor Muslim. I am from India. My ancestors are from India. But I do not have any proof of birth. I will be excluded and will be treated as an illegal migrant, CAA further filters me out

I am a poor Hindu. I am from India. My ancestors are from India. I do not have any proof of birth. Under CAA, I claim I have come from Pakistan. Due to persecution all my documentation was lost in Pakistan. I will be granted Indian citizenship.

Or take another example. I am an Ahmadiyya Muslim who due to persecution has crossed over from Pakistan. But due to CAA, I will be treated as an illegal immigrant and sent to a detention camp.

I am a Hindu. I have crossed over from Pakistan due to persecution. I will be offered citizenship.

Q.5 By conducting NRC, will we be asked to present proofs of being Indian?

Ans: First of all, it is important to know that at the national level, no announcement has been made to begin NRC process. If it is implemented, it does not mean that anyone will be asked for proof of being Indian. NRC is merely a normal process to register your name in the Citizens’ Register. Just like we present our identity cards or any other document for registering our names in the voter list or getting Aadhaar Card made, similar documents shall need to be provided for NRC, as and when it is carried out.

False. On 31stJuly, 2019 a Gazette Notification was issued saying National Population Registration will be done across India between 1st April, 2020 to 30th September, 2020. This is different from the census which is done under the Census Act. NPR is done under Section 4 of the NRC Rules. So it is very much part of the NRC process. What documents will be required to be submitted is not yet clear so it is false to say that similar documents as required for voters card or Aadhar card are required. 

Also there are reports that pilot studies for NPR have already been conducted in three Districts of Tamil Nadu in August, 2019.

Q.6 How is citizenship decided? Will it be in the hands of the government?

Ans: Citizenship of any person is decided on the basis of The Citizenship Rules, 2009. These rules are based on the Citizenship Act, 1955. This rule is publicly in front of everyone. These are five ways for any person to become a citizen of India:
I. Citizenship by Birth,
II. Citizenship by descent,
III. Citizenship by registration,
IV. Citizenship by naturalization,
V. Citizenship by incorporation.

 

That is stating the obvious. But ultimately the Government will lay down which are acceptable documents and which are not. The Government officials will determine whether a particular document is legitimate or not. Foreigners Tribunals will adjudicate about the veracity of documents and whether a person is a foreigner or not. The experience of Foreigners Tribunals in Assam shows that totally inexperienced persons are appointed as judges and they are given targets about the number of foreigners to be declared. If these targets are not met there are serious allegations that they are removed from service. Tens of thousands of Foreigners Tribunals will have to be set up across the country. Existing judicial vacancies are not being filled up. How will you find personnel and money for making these appointments.

 

Q.7 Will I have to provide details of the birth of parents etc. to prove my Indian citizenship?

Ans: It would be sufficient for you to provide the details of your birth such as date of birth, month, year and place of birth. If you do not have the details of your birth, then you will have to provide the same details about your parents. But there is absolutely no compulsion to submit any document by/of the parents. Citizenship can be proved by submitting any documents related to date of birth and place of birth. However, a decision is yet to be taken on such acceptable documents. This is likely to include voter cards, passports, Aadhaar, licenses, insurance papers, birth certificates, school leaving certificates, documents relating to land or home or other similar documents issued by
government officials. The list is likely to include more documents so that no Indian citizen has to suffer unnecessarily.

 

Completely false. According to the amendments to the Citizenship Act 1955, citizenship by birth depends on when you were born. If you were born before 1st July 1987, then it is sufficient for you to prove that you were born in India. But due to the subsequent amendments to the Citizenship Act, If you were born between  1st July 1987 to 3rd December 2004  you will have to prove not only that you were born in India but also that one of your parents was a citizen of  India at the time of your birth. If you were born after 3rd December 2004, you have to prove that you were born in India and at the time of your birth one of your parents was a citizen of India, and your other parent was not an illegal migrant.

 

The documents likely to be required are also falsely narrated. To say that AADHAR Card will be one of the documents to prove citizenship is totally false. Section 9 of Aadhar Act reads as under:

 

9. The  Aadhaar number or the authentication thereof shall not, by itself, confer any right of, or be proof of, citizenship or domicile in respect of an Aadhaar number holder.

Similar arguments can be made about licenses, etc. While being in the voters list or having a passport is only for citizens, it is not even mentioned in the Rules whether these documents are sufficient by themselves as proof of citizenship.

 

Q.8 Do I have to prove ancestry dating back before 1971?

Ans: No. For pre-1971 genealogy, you do not have to submit any type of identity card or any documents like the birth certificate of parents/ancestors. It was valid only for the Assam NRC, based on the ‘Assam Accord’ and the directive of the Honourable Supreme Court. For the rest of the country, the NRC process is completely different and is under The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

While it is true that the Assam process was different, now it is further impacted by CAA and in fact Government of India has declared that they will redo the entire NRC in Assam.

The purpose of both Assam procedure and rest of India is to have a list of citizens and to disenfranchise those who do not fall within this list.  As written in response to question 7, there are different sets of criteria required to establish citizenship.

 

Q.9 If it is so easy to prove identity, then how were 19 lakh people in Assam so badly affected due to NRC?

Ans: Infiltration is an old problem in Assam. To curb it, there was a movement and in 1985, the then Rajiv Gandhi government, to identify the intruders, had to enter into an agreement to prepare NRC, assuming the cut-off date of 24 March 1971.

In fact, this Assam accord is sought to be overridden by the CAA. Even in Assam, a large number of people have been declared as noncitizens despite having all documents. In one sense (though this is only a limited argument) it is easier to prove citizenship in Assam then in rest of India. If you prove that you have entered Assam, say in 1964 from Bangladesh you will be entitled to citizenship. In the rest of the country this would not be enough. If you have entered the rest of India after 26thJanuary, 1950 from say, Pakistan or even Bangladesh, you would be treated as an illegal migrant. Barring a few exceptions, only if you are born in India would you be treated as an Indian citizen. Therefore in Assam, if you entered in 1964, you will not need to prove your birth but the fact that you have been in Assam since then can be ascertained through various other documents such as property cards, etc. But in rest of India this would not be enough. Of course, in many other respects citizenship for persons in Assam is more difficult than those in the rest of India.

Q.10 During NRC, will we be asked to present old documents, which are difficult to collect?

Ans: There is nothing like that. Common documents will only be required to prove identity. When the NRC is announced at the national level, then rules and instructions will be made for it in such a way that no one will face any trouble. The government has no intention of harassing its citizens or putting them in trouble.

Again wrong. This answer lacks any basis whatsoever when the amendments to the Citizenship Act 1955 lays down the criteria in terms of proof required of parents being citizens of India based on when you are born. Instead, it is just enough to implement the Foreigners Act effectively to find out who are not citizens.

Q.11 What if a person is illiterate and does not have relevant documents?

Ans: In this case, the authorities will allow that person to bring a witness. Also, other evidence and community verification etc. will also be allowed. A proper procedure will be followed. No Indian Citizen will be put in undue trouble.

On what basis is this being said? There are no rules prescribed to prove birth. The only provision under law today is as prescribed under The Compulsory Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969. This provides that at least from 1969 every birth will have to be registered. But the overwhelming number of persons in rural areas and many in urban areas including a large number of slum and pavement dwellers, etc. do not register births.  In the absence of any rule, regulation, notification or other Government Order, on what basis is it being said that witnesses will be allowed?

Q.12 There are a large number of people in India who do not have homes, are poor and are not educated and they do not even have any basic proof of identity. What will happen to such people?

Ans: This is not entirely correct. Such people survive on some basis and they also got the benefit of the welfare schemes of the government. Their identity will be established on the basis of that.

We do not know on what basis this is being said. Availing of welfare schemes may not establish citizenship. No law says this. Also the question is not of establishing identity but of proving citizenship. 

 

Q.13 Does NRC exclude anyone for being transgender, atheist, Adivasis, Dalits, women and landless without/ without documents?

Ans: No. The NRC, as and when carried out does not affect any of those mentioned above.

Technically it does not exclude. But how are poor dalits, adivasis, women and landless without documents, or with documents which have a mismatch in the spelling of names to prove that they are Indian citizens. Thus a large number of them may be excluded by some arbitrary criteria.

 

 

 

Statement of Radical Socialist on the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA), the Proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) an the Ongoing Protests Against Them

 

 

The Radical Socialist Group (RS) salutes the students up and down the country that have been the real spark that has ignited this popular agitation against the iniquitous CAA and the proposed all-India NRC that is already being prepared. This agitation really took off when peaceful protestors against these two measures and about other intra-university concerns in Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) University and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) were singled out for particularly harsh physical punishment and brutality by the police. Their use of lathis, gas grenades, tear gas, even live ammunition within as well as outside the university campuses caused a couple of hundred or more injuries among students and civilians. The brutality of this assault on these students is not an accident since they are both Muslim minority educational institutions having a higher than average proportion of Muslims students even as the majority of students, faculty and employees are not. Clearly, the Central government in Delhi and the Yogi Adityanath government in UP deliberately gave a long rope to the police for they would not otherwise have dared to behave in this way.

In localities where a significant proportion of Muslims live, there is growing recognition that these measures are seeking to punish Muslims in particular; hence other marches and demonstrations which have led to confrontations with the police. UP in fact has been turned into a war zone with the police firing and killing with intent against residents in predominantly Muslim localities. For the first time since Emergency Section 144 preventing public assembly of more than five people has been imposed on the whole state – a sign of the viciousness and ruthlessness of this Hindutva-wadi government! Nevertheless huge assemblies have still taken place in Bareilly and Kanpur deserving our admiration for the courage and persistence of the participants, Muslims and Non-Muslims alike even as the former have had to bear the brunt of these attacks.

To be sure there are other protestors. A huge number of non-Muslim students were involved in these demonstrations and protests throughout the country as also a wide cross-section of ordinary citizens from various walks of life. The push given by the students has been caught up by masses all over India. By Christmas, 2019, about 12 to 13 million people have marched across India. In Assam and some states in the northeast, the motivations of most protestors reflected more specific sentiments of regional rather than religious exclusion, i.e., concerns about non-Assamese and non-indigenous peoples whether from other parts of India (many) or from Bangladesh (much fewer) changing local demographic patterns. Such sentiments are to be seen in the context of violation in Assam Accord and make it very difficult for the BJP, the Sangh Parivar and their in-house elite trumpeters to champion their cause. Of course many parties opposed for their own reasons to the BJP have jumped into the fray. But because they are not the initiators nor the dominant presence in these protests, the public credibility of this movement has been higher and public support and sympathy that much greater.

The struggle has led to fissures opening up in the bloc the BJP sought to cement. At the same time, it has shown why inadequate attention to specific oppressions can lead to sections of the oppressed being co-opted by the Sangh. Thus, on one hand, the NRC in Assam having already declared over 2000 transgenders as non-citizens, members of the transgender community were seen in some places as significant visible protestors. On the other hand, however, a much larger community, the Matuas of (mainly) West Bengal, who are mostly Namasudras (Dalits) forced out from East Pakistan/Bangladesh, have felt aggrieved. Many of them have been deprived of citizenship due to the 2003 amendment. As a result, they are a group who are being targeted by the BJP through the CAA. While the left, including RS and its predecessors, have supported the right of this community, the fact that the BJP is in power, as well as its ability to fan hatred of the Muslims among sections of the Dalits, have meant that they are turning to the Sangh and its politics. Without diluting our hostility to the CAA, we stress that there is a need to ensure the restoration of the rights of this community, which were clipped in 2003.

            There are three main reasons why students have come out in this way. First, to show solidarity with fellow students and their rights within and outside university campuses to exercise freedom of speech, assembly and protest without having to face such brutal police assaults resulting in hundreds injured and even a few deaths. Second, what is very welcome is the growing recognition that this attack on secularism automatically means an assault on the principles and practices of democracy itself. Third, this government since 2014 has systematically sought to severely weaken the independence of thought and behaviour of students and teachers by pursuing policies of (i) privatization hurting the access of poor and not-so-poor students, especially but not only among the lower castes, to cheap and decent education at the tertiary level; (ii) communalization of syllabi and in faculty selection as well as in the appointments of of VCs and senior administrative staff; (iii) centralization to weaken the control and influence of non-BJP ruled state governments since most educational institutions come under their authority.

            So much has already been written (and very widely) about the contradictions and iniquities of the CAA and of what an all-India NRC would do. There is little point therefore in repeating what has been said. This RS statement will speak about what needs to be said but has hardly been highlighted. Time and again, left and progressive forces have underestimated if not the determination, then the degree of longer term planning behind some of the key policy manoeuvres of this Hindutva government.

            Take the CAB, now an Act. It was brought into the public discourse in 2016 and introduced into Parliament only after 2019 when the BJP was confident of it passing both houses. But in 2018 the RBI passes a notification allowing non-Muslim minorities from exactly the same three countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh to buy immovable property in India provided they had a long term visa. Furthermore, they could open non-resident bank accounts to stash their earnings in India. To call this geographical parallel a coincidence would stretch even the most credulous of imaginations.

            The CAA in itself does not directly affect Indian Muslim citizens but of course we know it is the necessary prelude to the NRC which is aimed at domestically resident Muslims not just in Assam but throughout the country once the NRC goes national. Insofar as current events have pushed the SAD and BJD which supported the CAA to oppose the NRC extension, expect the BJP to now use stick and carrot to bring them in line. But the CAA on its own sends a very important message---a strong one to Hindus in the three named countries; a significant message also to Hindus elsewhere in South Asia and the world. It is the first time legislative flesh has been given to a political-symbolic statement that has regularly been repeated from the time of Savarkar and Golwalkar to Mohan Bhagwat today, namely that India is the natural home of Hindus and thus vice versa, Hindus are the ‘true’ people of India. Hindus in the three neighbouring Muslim majority states are being given an invitation to consider coming in thereby increasing the Hindu population. Other Hindus from Sri Lanka and elsewhere can also become naturalised Indian citizens, albeit for the time being, more slowly. This is the initial step in a longer term process of partially emulating Israel’s ‘right of return’ for Jews, here for Hindus. And like Israel, Hindutva aims to forge a global loyalty among a diaspora of Indians of Hindu descent and ‘blood’ only. That the CAA and NRC can also promote conversions by Muslims and others to Hinduism has not escaped the minds of Sangh leaders.

            As for the NRC, it has not one but two strategic aims. First, to terrorise and inferiorise Muslims by placing as many as possible in various detention camps and to more generally deprive them and others caught in the net such as non-Muslim political ‘troublemakers’ and many among the poor and lower castes (who can be discarded) of numerous rights including to vote, own land, having job permanency or creating other restrictions to make livelihood insecure and inadequate. In 1935 Hitler took away citizenship from Jews, Gypsies and others not ‘German by Aryan descent’. Over the next few years, more laws were put in place to restrict movement, job opportunities, marriages with Germans, and so on till finally, in war-time, these stateless non-citizen Jews were put in concentration camps. Here, the journey time between Muslims and others made non-citizens, and placement in detention camps, will be much quicker.

            The second goal encompasses the whole population. Census taking involves enumeration of self-declared responses to a set of questions. The proposed NRC will require much more detailed responses to many more intrusive questions from all households and their members so as to build up the most comprehensive collection of personal data. In effect this is crucial to creating a new and very powerful surveillance state that can carry out micro-level monitoring to better deal with actual and potential opponents in civil society. If this Orwellian vision seems far-fetched one needs only look at what has already been going on since 2014. Look at the efforts to link Aadhar to bank accounts, mobiles and to as much as possible of everyday activity. This has partially been restrained by the courts when it made personal privacy a fundamental right. But the effort to undermine this by creating exceptions in the name of national security and similarly claimed urgencies is an ongoing one.  In the next Parliament session, a personal Data Protection Bill will be brought in which has been reworked to maximise exceptions thereby allowing various wings of the government to spy on targeted individuals and groups. This Bill has been sent to a parliamentary committee where the chair and majority membership are either BJP MPs or sympathisers from allied parties, so that the final product will be what this government wants. Given that the NDA holds a majority it will become an Act. As it is, the court of last appeal against violations of privacy will be the Data Protection Authority whose members will not be independent of the government but appointed by it.

            Look too at the current efforts to erode RTI’s functioning. Here the court of final appeal is supposed to be the Information Commissioners at the level of states and the Centre. They are supposed to help applicants when government departments unjustifiably delay their responses or simply evade matters altogether or give information not asked for or justify evasions on grounds not permitted by the terms of the RTI Act. Not only has the government deliberately not filled in many vacancies among these Commissioners but it has now eroded their independence by giving itself the power to decide the salaries and tenures of the Commissioners.

            Finally, look at the huge hate-and-fake messages manufactured on social media by the Sangh Parivar’s army of trolls. And if this social media can also bypass the largely suborned print and electronic media to also serve the mobilising interests and information spreading of progressive forces, as has been the case in the help provided in mobilising these latest protests against the CAA and NRC, there is the government’s capacity to haul up internet providers and shut them down. In 2018 0ver 70 percent of all internet shutdowns in the world among democracies was carried out by the Indian government which through its continuing internet lockdown in Kashmir Valley holds the world record for such continuity of internet blackout. After the latest protests began the government has again resorted to shutting down internet in select areas and in UP on a much wider and prolonged basis.

            The RS applauds the remarkable struggle of the students and ordinary citizens across religious divides to overturn the CAA and prevent the NRC from taking place. Given the recent history of how the Supreme Court (SC) has behaved one cannot rely on it to strike down this Act or rule against the NRC.

The RS commits itself to the long term struggle against this fascistic force. The RS seeks to work with all those who have an uncompromising and principled opposition against Hindutva and its politics, economics and ideology.

December 25, 2019

 

অযোধ্যা নিয়ে সুপ্রীম কোর্টের রায় প্রসঙ্গে র‍্যাডিক্যাল সোশ্যালিস্টের বিবৃতি




বাবরি মসজিদের স্বত্বাধিকার নিয়ে সুপ্রীম কোর্টের রায় কলঙ্কজনক। ভারতের সর্বোচ্চ আদালতের কন্ঠে উচ্চারিত হলেও এই রায়ে আসলে উগ্র-দক্ষিণপন্থী হিন্দুত্বের কণ্ঠস্বর। বাবরি মসজিদের গোটা জমি রাম লালাকে দেওয়ার সুপ্রীম কোর্টের এই সিদ্ধান্ত আমরা প্রত্যাখ্যান করি। এই রায়ের আরো বিস্তারিত বিশ্লেষণ করা দরকার, কিন্তু প্রাথমিকভাবে এ কথা স্পষ্ট যে এই রায় হল গণতন্ত্র ও ধর্মনিরপেক্ষতার পরাজয়। একই সাথে শুধু ধর্মীয় সংখ্যালঘুদের নয়, ভারতের শ্রমিক, কৃষক তথা সাধারণ মানুষের জন্যও এ এক বিরাট বিপদ।


হিন্দুত্ববাদী সরকারের কড়া নজরে প্রকাশিত এই রায় গত কয়েক দশকের এক রাজনৈতিক কর্মসূচীর বিজয়। স্বাধীন ভারতের সবচেয়ে ধারাবাহিক সাংগঠনিক উদ্যোগ এবং তাৎপর্যপূর্ণ গণআন্দোলনের মাধ্যমে এটা কার্যকর করা সম্ভব হয়েছে। প্রধানমন্ত্রী এই রায়ের সঙ্গে বার্লিনের দেওয়াল ভেঙ্গে পড়ার তুলনা করেছেন। আটের ও নয়ের দশকের হিন্দুত্ববাদী আন্দোলনের স্থপতি লালকৃষ্ণ আদবাণী ঘোষণা করেছেন যে আজ তাঁর ভূমিকা সম্পূর্ণ ন্যায্য বলে প্রমাণিত। সঙ্ঘ পরিবারের গণজমায়েতের ক্ষমতা, যার সুবাদেই বিজেপির এই শক্তিবৃদ্ধি এবং আরএসএস-এর সর্বত্র ছড়িয়ে পড়া, তাকে মোকাবিলা করার সহজ কোন চাবিকাঠি নেই। তারা দেশের প্রচলিত ধ্যানধারণা, মূল্যবোধ, যুক্তি ও বিচারধারা পাল্টে দিতে সফল হয়েছে এবং ধর্মীয় সংখ্যালঘুদের নিরবিচ্ছিন্নভাবে একঘরে করে তুলেছে। সমাজ ও রাষ্ট্রের (বিচারব্যবস্থা সহ) ধারাবাহিক ও পরিকল্পিত সাম্প্রদায়িকীকরণে সাফল্যই এই রায়ের ভিত্তি।


সুপ্রীম কোর্টের রায় কিন্তু কতগুলো ঘটনাকে বেআইনী স্বীকৃতি দিয়েছে, যেমন, ) ২২/২৩ ডিসেম্বর ১৯৪৯ অবধি বিতর্কিত জায়গায় একটি মসজিদ চালু ছিল, যা বেআইনিভাবে বন্ধ করা হয় এবং চুপিসাড়ে হিন্দু মূর্তি ঢুকিয়ে মসজিদকে অপবিত্র’ করা হয়, ) ১৯৯২ সালে মসজিদটি বেআইনিভাবে এবং অন্যায়ভাবে ধ্বংস করা হয়। এই অপরাধমূলক কাজের বিহিতে ন্যায়-প্রতিষ্ঠার যুক্তিসঙ্গত পথ ছিল মসজিদ পুনঃপ্রতিষ্ঠা। কিন্তু সুপ্রীম কোর্টের রায় উপরোক্ত অপকর্মের অপরাধমূলক চরিত্র স্বীকার করেও অপরাধীদের ও তাদের সমর্থকদের পুরস্কৃত করেছে। এটা ভবিষ্যতের জন্য এক ভয়ঙ্কর দৃষ্টান্ত তৈরি করল।


এই রায় হিন্দুত্ববাদী শক্তির পক্ষে আরও অনেক বিস্তৃত ক্ষেত্র উন্মুক্ত করল। তারা এখন অযোধ্যায় মন্দির নির্মাণের নামে গণজমায়েত করার উদ্যোগ নেবে। একে জাতীয় কর্তব্য হিসেবে দেখিয়ে শ্রমজীবী মানুষকে করসেবার নামে স্বেচ্ছাশ্রম দিতে বলা হবে। উপরন্তু, এই রায় আরো অন্যান্য বিতর্কিত ক্ষেত্রে সমস্যা সৃষ্টিতে তাদের উৎসাহিত করবে। নয়ের দশক থেকে আরএসএস-এর অন্যতম স্লোগান ছিল অযোধ্যা তো বাস ঝাঁকি হ্যায়, মথুরা-কাশী বাকি হ্যায় (অযোধ্যা তো সবে শুরু, মথুরা কাশী এখনো বাকি)। মুসলমানদের বিরুদ্ধে ঘৃণাসূচক মনোভাব আরও উগ্র হবে।


শ্রেণী বিভক্ত সমাজে বিচারব্যবস্থা রাষ্ট্রেরই প্রত্যক্ষ অঙ্গ, শাসক শ্রেণীর স্বার্থের বিপরীতে কোনো নিরপেক্ষ, স্বাধীন বা অলঙ্ঘ্য প্রতিষ্ঠান নয় - মৌলিক মার্ক্সবাদী রাষ্ট্রতত্ত্বের এই সত্যতা এই রায়ের মধ্যে দিয়ে আরেকবার প্রমাণিত হয়। এই রায় থেকে পরিষ্কার যে কোন সংবিধানসম্মত রাজনৈতিক দলগুলির দ্বারা, যার মধ্যে বাম দলগুলিও অন্তর্ভুক্ত, রাষ্ট্র ও সমাজের হিন্দুত্বকরণের প্রচেষ্টাকে উল্টে দেওয়া তো দূরের কথা, আমাদের অন্ধকারে নিমজ্জিত করার এই রাজনীতিকে চ্যলেঞ্জ জানাতেও সক্ষম নয়। এটা ঠিক যে আগামী দিনে রাজনৈতিক রণনীতি সংক্রান্ত অনেক কঠিন প্রশ্নের মুখোমুখি হতে হবে আমাদের, কিন্তু একটা কথা বুঝে নেওয়া দরকার বাবরি মসজিদ রায় নিয়ে কোনোরকম ইতস্তত করলে হিন্দুত্ব ও ধনতান্ত্রিক আক্রমণের বিরুদ্ধে শ্রমিক ও কৃষকের পাল্টা ক্ষমতা গড়ে তোলার দীর্ঘমেয়াদী প্রয়াসের সর্বনাশ হবে। কিছু সুনির্দিষ্টভাবে মুসলিম রাজনৈতিক সংগঠন ছাড়া, অন্যান্য প্রতিটি রাজনৈতিক শক্তির দ্ব্যর্থহীন ভাষায় এই রায়ের নিন্দা করার ক্ষেত্রে ব্যর্থতা থেকেই স্পষ্ট যে দেশের শাসক শ্রেণীর মদতে সঙ্ঘ পরিবারই এখন সমস্ত রাজনৈতিক অ্যাজেন্ডা স্থির করে দিচ্ছে।


এই অ্যাজেন্ডায় আম জনতার বাস্তব জীবনের কোনো প্রসঙ্গ নেই। তাই সময়ের সাথে রাম মন্দির নির্মাণ ও সঙ্ঘ পরিবারের অন্যান্য লক্ষ্যমাত্রা অর্জনের আসন্ন পদক্ষেপগুলি হিন্দুরাষ্ট্রের রাজনৈতিক প্রকল্পের অন্তর্দ্বন্দ্বগুলি প্রকাশ্যে আনতে পারে এবং তা সক্রিয় হস্তক্ষেপের জমি তৈরী করতে পারে। হিন্দুরাষ্ট্রের প্রকল্পকে কোণঠাসা করতে ছোট বড় সমস্ত উদ্যোগে, বিপ্লবী, গণতান্ত্রিক ও স্বাধীন প্রগতিশীল শক্তিকে সক্রিয় অংশগ্রহণ করতে হবে, তাদের নীতিনিষ্ঠ দৃষ্টিভঙ্গি ও দীর্ঘমেয়াদী ভাবনা দিয়ে তাকে পুষ্ট করতে হবে।


কিন্তু আমরা যেন ভুলে না যাই যে তথাকথিত ধর্মনিরপেক্ষ দলগুলি এই রায়ের বিরুদ্ধে কথা বলতে কতটা ভীত। কংগ্রেস ও সমাজবাদী পার্টি বলেছে যে তারা রাম মন্দির নির্মাণ সমর্থন করবে কারণ তা নাকি দেশের ধর্মনিরপেক্ষ কাঠামোকে আরো মজবুত করবে। বহুজন সমাজ পার্টি এবং সি পি আই-এর বিবৃতি মূল সমস্যা এড়িয়ে সংবিধানের প্রশংসা করতে চেয়েছে এবং শান্তির ডাক দিয়েছে। অন্যদিকে মমতা ব্যানার্জির নীরবতা এক তীব্র অক্ষমতার ছবি তুলে ধরেছে। সিপিআই(এম)-এর বিবৃতিতে বাবরি মসজিদ ধ্বংসকারীদের শাস্তি চাইলেও রায়ের সন্দেহজনক ভিত্তি সম্পর্কে উক্তি ছাড়া আর কিছু বলে নি। অর্থাৎ বুর্জোয়া দলগুলি আত্মসমর্পণ করেছে, এড়িয়ে গেছে বা এই রায়টিকে সাগ্রহে গ্রহণ করেছে। আর মূলস্রোতের সংসদীয় বামদলগুলি দেখিয়েছে যে গত তিন দশক ধরে বলা নিজেদের কথার ভিত্তিতেও তারা নীতিনিষ্ঠ ও অবিচল লড়াই গড়ে তুলতে ও রুখে দাঁড়াতে অক্ষম।


বিপ্লবী, গণতান্ত্রিক ও প্রগতিশীল শক্তিদের এই ঘোলা জলে সাবধানে পা ফেলতে হবে। একদিকে আমাদের নিজেদের নীতিনিষ্ঠ বক্তব্য রাখতে হবে। পাশাপাশি, যেখানেই মুসলমান সম্প্রদায়ের আক্রান্ত মানুষ আছেন সেখানেই তাদের প্রতি সবরকম সাহায্য দেওয়ার ক্ষেত্রে সমস্ত প্রয়াসে আমাদের হাত মেলাতে হবে, যদি তা দোদুল্যমান বামপন্থীদেরও উদ্যোগ হয়। উস্কানীর জবাব দিতে হবে সংহতির মাধ্যমে, যৌথ ফ্রণ্ট গড়ে, এবং আজকের শক্তির ভারসাম্যের কথা মাথায় রেখে, শান্তি বজায় রাখার চেষ্টার মাধ্যমে। মুসলমানদের সামাজিকভাবে বিচ্ছিন্ন করার অপচেষ্টার বিরুদ্ধে বামপন্থীদের সর্বত্র ও সর্বতোভাবে লড়ে যেতে হবে।


কিন্তু কিছু দীর্ঘমেয়াদী প্রশ্ন থেকেই যায়। গণআন্দোলনের সামনের সারিতে আছেন যে কর্মীরা, তাঁদের দাঁতে দাঁত চেপে লড়তে হবে শ্রমিক শ্রেণীর ঐক্য মজবুত করার জন্য এবং সেই সমস্ত শক্তির বিরুদ্ধে, যারা ধর্ম ও জাতিকে সমার্থক করে দিতে চাইছে। শ্রমিক-কৃষককে বুঝতে হবে যে প্রকৃত মুক্তি আসবে শ্রেণীগত ঐক্য ও ধর্মনিরপেক্ষ গণতান্ত্রিক সংস্কৃতির রাজনীতি থেকে। এর ফলে অনেক সময়ে আমাদের সাংগঠনিক প্রচেষ্টাগুলিকে দেশদ্রোহী বলে ছাপ মারার চেষ্টা চলবে। কিন্তু সেই ভয়ে ধর্মনিরপেক্ষতা ও সাম্প্রদায়িকতার প্রশ্নে কোনোরকম ইতস্তত করলে দীর্ঘমেয়াদীভাবে প্রগতিশীল শ্রমিক শ্রেণির আন্দোলন গড়ার কাজের ক্ষতি হবে। একে ভারসাম্য রক্ষা করার রায় বলে ইতিমধ্যেই যে মিথ্যা ব্যাপকভাবে প্রচারিত হচ্ছে তাকে হাজারবার পরাস্ত করতে হবে। শিক্ষাজগতে, পেশাদারী ক্ষেত্রে ও অন্যত্র, দক্ষতা ও বিশ্লেষণের গভীরতাকে একজোট করতে হবে এই ঐকমত্য গড়ার প্রতিক্রিয়াশীল চেষ্টার বিপরীতে।


লড়াইয়ের ময়দানে আশু জয়ের সম্ভাবনা মলিন। সব ক্ষেত্রেই হিন্দুত্ববাদিরা সুসংগঠিত। মনে হতে পারে অদূর ভবিষ্যতের নিরিখে এ যেন এক হেরে যাওয়ার লড়াই। আমরা এখন সেই সময়ে রয়েছি, যাকে গ্রামশি বলেছিলেন অবস্থানের যুদ্ধ। আমাদের এখন অবিচল থাকতে হবে সকলের জন্য ন্যায্য, মর্যাদাপূর্ণ ও সমতাসম্পন্ন সমাজ - এই মূল লক্ষ্যের প্রতি। যদি দীর্ঘমেয়াদী রণনীতি অনুসরণ করে লক্ষ্যের দিকে এগোন যায়, শুধুমাত্র তাহলেই ভবিষ্যতের জন্য কোনো আশা থাকতে পারে।

                                                               ১০ নভেম্বর, ২০১৯

Bolivia Will Evo’s resignation lead to Pinochet or resistance?

 

Tuesday 12 November 2019, by Martín Mosquera

The coup d’état against Bolivian president Evo Morales has generated the kind of anguish that great defeats of revolutionary struggles evoke: Allende’s fall, Che’s death in combat, defeat in the Spanish Civil War. “Criticism is no passion of the head, it is the head of passion,” Marx once said. We do not have to put aside the sentiments that envelope us today, rather, we must mobilize them for positive ends.

We still do not know the scope of the events taking place in Bolivia, if the revolution can avoid being shot down, if it can escape heaps of dead among the social movements, the indigenous peoples, and the social base of Morales’ political party, the Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS). Evo’s social defenses are powerful and the ruling classes know they will have to break threw them in order to move forward with their plans. The latest news is disturbing – burning houses, persecutions, arrests.

More big shocks lay ahead and the outcome is unwritten. El Alto – a one-million-strong, indigenous-majority city close by the capital city La Paz – has a heroic insurrectionary tradition that has brought down several governments in the past. It embodies the traditions of struggle in which Evo himself was trained.

I am interested to see what kind of polarization develops among left-wing militants and activists in the face of these facts. The left’s positions are grouped into two major poles. Some are unable to position themselves properly in the fight against the coup because they stick to warnings or slogans that are already out of date. For example, the Argentine Partido de los Trabajadores para el Socialismo (PTS) published an article a couple weeks ago titled: “Neither with Evo nor with Mesa (the right-wing forces). For an independent political solution!” even as preparations for the coup were underway and the government had to be defended. Others defend Evo and renounce their “right to criticize” a government that has just been overturned without a fight, even though it won nearly half of the votes in recent elections. It fell like a house of cards, upending what seemed to be the most stable progressive process in the region. Evo went down to defeat without putting up a fight and that fact forms part of our anguish, and should be part of our balance sheet.

We fight to win, and in order to win we must extract the proper lessons from our experiences. What Evo did yesterday, it must be said, is analogous to the actions taken by Juan Perón in 1955 in the face of a coup or those of Salvador Allende in 1973 (and the opposite of what Chavez did in 2002). Obviously these resignations and retreats, like Evo’s, did not prevent any bloodshed, on the contrary they left social and political organizations and movements and the popular classes at the mercy of brutal reactionary violence. The executions of 1955 and Pinochet’s genocide testify eloquently to this reality. Counter-revolutions produce violence, not revolutions. There is no comparing the social and human cost between the two.

Evo’s resignation (and that of his vice president Garcia Linera) was based on a belief that there was no other alternative. But if that were the case, it is the result of a naïve policy that was not prepared for a test of strength with the kind of authoritarian reaction that every progressive process provokes on the part of the ruling classes. It is the naivety of “class conciliation.” The lessons of history in this field are incontrovertible – Allende’s example remains too close to us to play with fire in this way.

Hopefully, it is not too late to avoid a historic defeat and the liquidation of one of the most notable experiences of the Latin American peoples of the last decades.

11 November 2019

Originally posted on FB. Translated by No Borders News with permission from the author.

Radical Socialist statement on the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya Verdict

 

The Supreme Court’s verdict on the Babri Masjid title dispute will live in infamy. While spoken in the voice of India’s highest court, the verdict rings with the chants and slogans of far-right Hindutva mobilisations. Radical Socialists rejects the Supreme Court’s decision to award the entire premises of the Babri Mosque to Ram Lalla. While we prepare a more detailed analysis of the verdict, some things are already clear: this is a defeat for secularism and democracy, and a clear danger to the interests of not only religious minorities but also workers, peasants and ordinary people in India.

Announced under the watchful eye of a Hindutva government, the verdict represents the victory of a decades old agenda,achieved through relentless organisation and the most significant mass mobilisation in independent India. The Prime Minister has compared the decision to the breaking of the Berlin Wall and L.K. Advani, architect of the mobilisations of the 1980s and 90s, has declared it a complete vindication of his role. It is a reminder that there is no short-cut to confronting the mobilising capacity of the Sangh Parivar which has paved the way for the current strength of the BJP and the continuing spread of the RSS, who have changed the commonsense of the country, and systematically isolated religious minorities. A steady communalisation of society and state (including the judiciary) has paved the way for this judgment.

The SC judgment acknowledges the following illegalities. a) That there was a functioning mosque on the site till 22/23 December 1949. b) That this was unlawfully stopped by an illegal 'desecration' caused by the surreptitious installing of Hindu idols. c) That on December 6, 1992 the mosque was unlawfully and unjustifiably destroyed. The logical course of justice, following these criminal acts, is the restitution of the mosque. The SC verdict however, while acknowledging the criminal illegality of what was done, rewards the perpetrators and their supporters. This sets a chilling precedent for the future.

The judgment has opened up considerable new space for Hindutva forces. They are likely to develop a mobilisational politics towards the construction of a temple in Ayodhya. This will be painted as a ‘national’ task. Working people will be asked to join in through kar seva and volunteer initiatives. Moreover, this verdict has given an impetus tothe creation of disputes at other contested sites.As one of the RSS activists’ slogans of the 1990s and 2000s puts it “Ayodhya to bas jhanki hai, Mathura-Kashi baki hai” (Ayodhya is a mere glimpse, Mathura and Kashi are to follow). The vitriolic mobilisation of Hindus against Muslims will worsen. This judgment has vindicated the basic Marxist theory of state in a class divided society, where the judiciary is an integral part of its superstructure and not neutral, independent or sacrosanct vis-à-vis the ruling elites. It has also exposed and reaffirmed that none of the constitutional political parties, including the Left, pose any challenge to the current descent into darkness, let alone reversing the Hindutva-isation of state and society. Difficult questions of political strategy no doubt lie ahead but one thing is clear: equivocation on the Babri Masjid verdict will be a disaster for the longer term effort to build up the power of workers and peasants against the Hindutva and capitalist onslaught. The failure of a single non-Muslim political force to condemn the verdict reveals the extent to which the Sangh Parivar is setting the agenda, with the full backing of the ruling classes.

There is nothing in this agenda which addresses the real issues in lives of the masses. Constructing the Ram Mandir and carrying forward other parts of the Sangh Parivar’s aims will draw out more contradictions in the political project of Hindutva, offering points of active and structure intervention. Revolutionary, democratic and independent progressive forces have to actively add this principled perspective and long-term vision to all possible initiatives, no matter how small.

We cannot, however, forget the pusillanimity of the so-called secular parties – demonstrated once again in their responses to the verdict. The Congress and SP have suggested that they support the construction of the Ram Mandir and believe that this will strengthen the secular fabric of the country. BSP and CPI statements have tried to evade the issue by praising the constitution and calling for peace. Mamata Banerjee’s silence is evidence of an even deeper paralysis. The CPI(M) statement, while calling for punishment of those guilty for the demolition of the Babri Masjid, has gone no further than talking of the “questionable premises” of the judgment. In short, the bourgeois parties have variously surrendered, evaded, or embraced the verdict and the mainstream parliamentary left has shown itself unable to stand up and fight in a principled and consistent manner, even in terms of its own rhetoric of the past three decades.

Revolutionary, democratic and progressive forces will have to navigate these troubled waters care-fully. While insisting on our principled position, we must join in all efforts to provide help and assistance to beleaguered members of the Muslim community in every place they are present; including those carried out by a vacillating left. Provocations and incitements must be met with solidarity, joint fronts and, given the current balance of forces, maintenance of peace. The Left everywhere, through its statements and actions, must stand against efforts to socially isolate Muslims.

But more long term questions also remain. Activists at the frontlines of organising initiatives will have to work determinedly to strengthen working class unity, against those who equate religion and nation. Workers and peasants must realise that genuine emancipation will only come through a politics of class unity and a secular democratic public culture. Often this will mean confronting efforts to paint organising activity as anti-national. But any hesitation on the issues of secularism and communalism today will damage the long run task of building a progressive working class movement. The lie, already finding wide circulation, that this is a balanced judgment must be defeated a thousand times. Skills and analysis in the academy, professions and elsewhere must coalesce into efforts to defeat the gathering consensus.

The immediate prospects on all these fronts are bleak. The Hindu Right is well organised in all these arenas. For some considerable time this will be a seemingly losing battle. We are in a period of what Gramsci called ‘war of position’. Only by standing steadfastly for our key principles – a just, dignified and equal order for all – and supplementing them with a long term strategy, does any hope for the future exist.

                                                                                                                            10 November 2019

Tear Down the Manosphere

 

From Against the Current

Giselle Gerolami

Misogyny:
The New Activism
By Gail Ukockis
Oxford University Press, 2019, 336 pages, $24.95 hardcover.

GAIL UKOCKIS IS a writer, social worker and instructor who taught Women’s Issues at Ohio Dominican University for 11 years. In the title of her book Misogyny: The New Activism, she consciously avoided the word “feminism.” While Ukockis considers herself a feminist, she invites those who are not feminists but reject misogyny to read her book.

Ukockis argues that we are seeing new forms of misogyny, or “hatred of women,” with the rise of social media, be it rape threats by trolls on the internet or revenge porn by men who feel rejected. These new forms of misogyny and the less extreme sexism add to those that have always confronted women in public, whether at work, in the street, or elsewhere: objectification, dehumanization and humiliation.

Thus, feminism as a tool for social justice is still relevant today, and although it doesn’t appear in the title, Ukockis does advance a feminist agenda.

Ukockis’s book is divided into 10 chapters. The first seven describe aspects of misogyny. The last three take up activist strategies. Ukockis limits her scope to the United States and looks at historical forms of misogyny as well as current ones.

Ukockis uses “intersectionality” to conceptualize current feminist politics. The term, popular now, was first used in the 1970s by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, who looked at how identities could intersect and amplify discrimination.

Ukockis emphasizes that trauma, specifically Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE), is an often-overlooked aspect of intersectionality. African-American women face the “Angry Black Woman” stereotype and are threatened by police almost as much as are African-America males.

Native women are murdered at ten times the national average, and 84% of Native women experience some form of violence in their lifetime. Latina farm workers experience wage theft and health issues related to pesticide use, while Central American women risking the trek to the United States experience high levels of sexual assault along the way.

Using this theoretical perspective, Ukockis outlines some common forms of misogyny in U.S. society. In her section on gender violence, she includes her own research on sex tourism, which she conducted by studying public sex tourist blogs. She concludes that the growth of sex trafficking in the internet age was sparked by men who reject both U.S. dating sites and domestic sex workers because these women resist objectification in various ways.

Instead, these men want the ultimate “girlfriend experience” with underage women who pretend to love them. Unsurprisingly, sex tourist blogs are rife with misogyny, including ageism, fat-shaming and the ranking of women from one to ten.

Resisting Toxic Masculinity

Ukockis goes on to critique other online men’s spaces, or the “manosphere,” where life is a competition to become an alpha and get “hot babes.” The way to a “hot babe” includes negging (a negative comment designed to bring down a woman’s self-esteem) and kino, which is light touching to test the sexual waters without coming across as creepy.

Once a man has won a woman over, he is expected to physically and sexually dominate her. Men who are unsuccessful in the manosphere may become incels, involuntary celibates, who promote violence against women as punishment for having rejected them.

This behavior falls into the category of toxic masculinity, or “behaviors and attitudes of hypermasculinity that stress virility over cooperation and violence over compassion.” Ukockis points out that self-reliance, playboy behavior and power over women are linked not only to violence against women but to negative mental health in men. She believes that male self-compassion would go a long way towards lessening toxic masculinity.

Turning to reproductive health, Ukockis notes men’s ignorance about women’s bodies and their disgust at menstruation. At a time when male legislators show a profound lack of understanding of reproductive science, there has been promising activism against taxes on tampons and pads and for free feminine products in schools, prisons and homeless shelters.

Similarly, while abortion rights are under attack as never before, women are fighting back and talking openly about their abortions. Even with a majority of the U.S. population supporting abortion rights, doctors who perform abortion continue to receive death threats. Catholic hospitals not only deny abortions but refuse gender transition procedures, sterilization, or emergency contraception.

Some politicians, including Trump, think women should be punished for having abortions. Such criminalization of abortion will disproportionately affect marginalized women, since rich women will always be able to obtain abortions.

Ukockis calls for “thoughtful activism” and looks for examples where women have forged alliances with other movements, such as the labor and environmental movements.

Recently, UNITE HERE organized around panic buttons in hotel rooms to protect female cleaning staff who find themselves in unsafe situations with clients. Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United organized around low wages and the sexual harassment that 90% of restaurant workers experience.

Ecofeminism is another alliance. The women involved in resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) fought against tremendous odds and “were injured by water cannons, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas, mace, sound cannons, and unknown chemical agents.

“They have been sexually assaulted on the front line; kept naked in their jail cells and denied legal representation; locked in dog kennels; permanently blinded.” (242)

Ukockis finds inspiration in the example of Lakota elder Spotted Eagle, who talks about bio-politics in opposition to corporate greed as “human life processes [that] are managed under regimes of authority over knowledge, power and ‘subjectivation.’ In other words, our indigenous bodies, which are essentially a direct reflection of Mother Earth, have been and continue to be controlled by corporations and governments that operate for profit without regard for human life.” (244)
Optimistic Outlook

Ukockis is optimistic about today’s resur­gent feminism. The movement represents a cultural and political shift, with new opportunities for legislation on women’s issues.

One success was the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017. Forced arbitration had made it difficult for women to come forward about workplace sexual harassment.

The number of women looking to run for office has skyrocketed to 30,000 from 920 in 2015-2016. This number includes many African-American women. Young feminists have become energized and active in such movements as “Know Your IX” around Title IX.

If you removed the footnotes and illustrations from Misogyny: The New Activism, the book is quite short. The breadth of the topic is too ambitious for a book of this length. Ukockis jumps from one idea to the next without transition and without sufficient development.

Throughout the book are boxes and case studies. These disrupt the flow and contribute to the scattered effect. She meticulously footnotes her references and citations but fails to connect those references.

Critiques of capitalism pop up in passing throughout the book, but as a socialist feminist I found them lacking in depth. At one point, she lumps misogyny and “Marxism-Leninism” together as “stupid ideas that deserve to die out.” I am not one to defend Stalinism, but I found this less than helpful, and I suspect she might include all Marxists in the “stupid” category.

Her attempts at humor sometimes fall flat as she inadvertently plays into stereotypes; in her preface, she jokes about how she has become a “Scary Feminist” who carries scissors in her purse to castrate men.

The chapter on intersectionality compares the hierarchy of oppressions to the group of people she has encountered in the hot tub, each one trying to one-up the other on the numbers of surgeries they have had. This oversimplifies a complicated issue in a way that is not very instructive.

There are several other instances in the book where complex issues are reduced in ways that do nothing to advance the cause of women’s rights.

Ukockis shares that, as an instructor, she often had to develop her own materials when none existed. Her book serves best as a primer on women’s issues. The invitation for all to read the book as opposed to just feminists is appropriate, and her accessibility is admirable.

The opening chapters all end with “Action Steps,” and the last three chapters are a call to activism. How many books call on their readers so directly to get off the couch and do something? One might quibble about the specific content of her activist advice, but Ukockis’ call to action is both refreshing and necessary in the current political climate.

The automotive industry will be at the heart of the coming economic crisis

from International Viewpoint

Thursday 7 November 2019, by Winfried Wolf

Since mid-2019, we have been living through the prelude to a deep crisis in the most important industrial sector of global capital. The automobile industry, the leading manufacturing sector of capitalism, is facing a crisis. By 2018, total car production in Germany was declining. In June 2019, there was a sharp 4.7% drop in new registrations (compared to June 2018). In August, manufacturers producing in Germany alone announced the loss of more than 30,000 jobs. The contradiction in Opel is typical. This subsidiary of the French group Peugeot is finally back in the black. But at what cost? In terms of employment, the numbers are dark red. Since the takeover by PSA [in February 2017], 8,000 jobs have been eliminated at Opel, which corresponds to 25% of the total; the reduction of 2,500 additional jobs is envisaged, as well as the closure of one of the three production sites.

In the United States, GM and Ford have been reducing their investments for months. The Japanese auto industry is also weakening. An extensive consolidation process is currently underway in this country, where only four of the eight current groups are likely to survive as independent companies. This will be associated with the removal of tens of thousands of jobs.

The situation in China is extremely dark. On July 28, the Financial Times announced “Shrinking Chinese car market sparks fears over foreign groups’ future”. There, car sales have already fallen by 4% in 2018. In the first half of 2019, a dramatic drop of 14% was noted. China is the biggest market for most Western automakers. For example, Ford’s sales in China fell by 27% in the first half of 2019. A new Peugeot plant in China sold only 201 cars in the first half of 2019.

All indications are that we are facing a deep crisis in the world’s largest industrial sector since the second half of 2018 in China and since mid-2019 globally.

In order to recognize the importance of the new crisis in this industry, we will first examine the weight of the international auto industry in globalized capitalism, then the changes in the regional concentration of car manufacturing, and finally the financial structure of automotive groups.

The global automotive industry

The automotive industry is the most important industrial sector in the world capitalist system. That’s not to say it’s the biggest industry in terms of jobs. The textile industry is much more important in this respect. In Germany, on the other hand, mechanical engineering [machine tools, etc.] represents significantly more jobs than the automobile industry. The export rate is even higher than in car manufacturing and the car industry is concentrated in only a few countries. However, these are extremely powerful states: at the top is the quartet of the United States, China, Germany and Japan, four countries that set the tone in world capitalism. This quartet is followed by the weakest trio of the countries of automobile production: France, Italy and South Korea. In all other countries with an automotive industry, it does not play - or no longer plays - the role of leader.

However, in the global economy, the automotive industry is the decisive industry in the sense of being “the most powerful”. The huge concentration of capital in the automotive industry makes it the leading industry. It is also the rising star of the global capital cycle and has played a key role in the ups and downs of global gross domestic product and world trade over previous economic cycles.

So far, the automotive industry has been closely linked to the oil industry. The term “fossil capitalism” characterizes this industry well: the manufacturers of motor cars that burn oil derivatives - diesel and gasoline - show the way. Recently, it has sometimes been claimed that the oil and auto industry has lost its weight in world capitalism, or at least was in decline. This thesis does not resist confrontation with reality. The weight of oil and auto among the ten largest companies in the world has remained about the same for decades if sales turnover is taken as the basis. In 2018, oil, automotive and aircraft construction accounted for about one-third of the total sales of the “Global 500” [the largest 500 transnational companies]. Among the 10 largest groups in 2018, there were six oil groups and two automobile groups.

It is true that there is a rise of electronics and Internet companies. With the production of electric cars, however, there is an alliance of these sectors with the basic production groups. And with the intensification of the elements of “autonomous driving”, this energy cartel also merges with these same electronic and Internet groups. The “traditional” automotive industry is likely to strip down and reinvent itself once again. Without control and expropriation of this concentrated power of capital, it will not be possible to make a shift in transport without the conversion of car companies.

The automotive industry is the “clock” of global capitalism. Like the world economy itself, it operates cyclically around the world. This cycle first appeared in the international automotive industry after the Second World War in the mid-1970s. Since then, there have been five global cycles and five sectoral crises. And in all five cases, these sectoral crises have been associated with global recessions or global crises of capitalism as a whole. These crises occurred in 1974/75, 1980-82, 1991/92, 2001/02 and 2008/2009. This latest crisis has been the worst and most profound that the automobile industry and global capitalism have known since the global economic crisis of 1929-1932.

Dramatic changes in the “geography of production”

Changes in global capitalism are closely linked to changes in international car manufacturing. For more than half a century - from the early 20th century to the 1960s - the global auto industry was dominated by the United States. It was the period of unlimited American domination in the world capitalist economy.

The dominance of the US auto industry was followed by a period during which the Japanese auto industry set the tone. It was also the time of Japan’s rise to globalized capitalism, where there was talk of a “triad” between the United States, Western Europe and Japan.

Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, China has seen a meteoric rise to the largest workshop (not an established one!) for cars. By the end of the 20th century, more than four-fifths of all motor vehicles produced in the world were produced in North America, Japan, South Korea and Western Europe. This share has fallen to less than 50% since 2018. During the same period, China’s share rose from just over 3% to just under 30%. In 2018, according to the ACEA (Automobile Manufacturers Association), the production of passenger cars is distributed among the countries or regions as follows:

Europe: 24.0%

EU: 20.5%

Russia: 1.9%

Turkey: 1.3%

North America: 16.4%

of which USA: 10.2%

South America: 3.5%

of which Brazil: 3%

Asia: 53.5%

of which China: 29.2%

of which Japan: 10.4%

India: 5.1%

South Korea: 4.7%

This production by country does not correspond to the distribution of production in terms of car manufacturers. Specifically, the world’s 12 largest car manufacturers still controlled three-quarters (75.2%) of global automotive production in 2017. In 2005, this share was not significantly higher (80.3%). According to our definition, eleven of these twelve companies are to be considered “Western” in the broad sense. In 2017, there was only one Chinese automaker in the top twelve, SAIC. It is a state company linked to VW as part of a joint venture and does not have a major presence in the global market - outside of China.

The balance sheet

The new crisis in the global auto industry is not yet fully developed in the West, but it is already a hard reality in China. With the crisis of the automotive sector in China, the world’s largest car market is affected. And it is also Western companies that are affected by this industrial crisis in China. Because they are also the champions of production in China. The fact that VW, Daimler and BMW were not affected until the summer of 2019 can be explained by the peculiarities of these manufacturers (prestige and manufacturers of high-end passenger cars for the “Chinese upper middle class”). But German manufacturers should also be hit hard by the new industrial crisis in 2019.

In the context of the crisis in the global economy as a whole and the intensification of trade disputes, there is every reason to believe that the evolution of China and the automobile industry will be at the heart of a new general crisis of global capital.

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