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A contribution to the pre-World Congress discussion

Socialist Action/USA Political Committee

 

We have read with great interest the draft resolution produced to open a critical discussion on the Role and Tasks of the FI and we have read the responses, amendments and critiques. We find ourselves in agreement with a number of important points raised in some of these latter contributions.

We begin by stating our general agreement with a report authored by Comrade Sabado for the February 2009 meeting of the International Committee entitled, “The Crisis Overdetermines all of World Politics.” This document is in general accord with and strikingly parallels the resolutions approved on the worldwide economic crisis by recent Socialist Action plenums and by our National Convention (See socialistaction.org). [We are also in general agreement with the texts on ecology and women’s liberation.]

The long period of relative capitalist prosperity that emerged in the post WW II era, based on the slaughter of 80 million people in the second imperialist conflagration and the associated destruction of the infrastructure of both the “enemies” and “allies” of U.S. imperialism, has come to an end. We have traced this evolution for several decades, regularly noting the repeated boom and bust cycles – all in the context of what Ernest Mandel accurately described as “oscillations around a declining curve.” Today’s crisis has had devastating effects on the world’s people as never before in our time.

Yet we have also noted that with few exceptions there exists a giant gap between the repeated blows struck by world capitalism and a concerted response on the part of the working masses. The unprecedented layoffs, foreclosures, union-busting, social cutbacks, environmental destruction, degradation of poor nations, seemingly endless imperialist wars and more, have largely been unanswered. There have been important struggles, partial victories and massive mobilizations, none which have yet opened the door to the emergence of formations capable of changing the present relationship of forces. This, in our view, is the music of the future, the near future, we estimate. While we do not agree with the general line of The Role and Tasks of the FI text, we appreciate its being alert to the importance and inevitable emergence of such forces.

It has been world capitalism’s long-term relative prosperity, accompanied by the steady atrophying of the traditional mass parties of the working class – now followed by a ferocious capitalist offensive – that explains in large part why the FI and virtually every other current in the revolutionary socialist movement have often been disoriented in the search for effective strategies and tactics to rebuild the fighting social movements that are a prerequisite for increasing political clarification [testing ideas in practice] and FI growth. The pressure of difficult times has always weighed heavily on revolutionary movements. As we saw in the relatively submissive but angry years following the 1929 Great Depression, it took a while, some 4-5 years, until the U.S. working class began to shake off the blows delivered against it. But when it did the new organizations it discovered proved capable of shaking the foundations of the American capitalist order. The same can be said of many other nations.

Today a central focus of the deliberations of the World Congress is the nature and purpose of the International itself as well as its associated national sections.

The strategic orientation of the FI from its founding in 1938 has been the construction of mass revolutionary socialist, that is, Leninist parties – internationalist to the core – armed with the method embodied in the Transitional Program, deeply integrated into the struggles of masses, programmatically based on the achievements of the first four congresses of the Communist International and the Trotskyist Left Opposition and aimed at the organization of the working class and its allies among the oppressed for the seizure of power. We have always understood that capitalism will never yield to a blunt instrument – to a loose association of disparate and undisciplined forces lacking the perspective of the independent mobilization of the vast majority to abolish the system once and for all and embark on the socialist reconstruction of society.

Our movement has often reviewed the basic elements that constitute the periodic revolutionary crises that are inevitable in the evolution of capitalism. The Russian model still largely embodies what we can expect and what kind of party is required for success.

There are no magic party-building formulas. Each country presents its peculiarities as the Tasks draft properly notes. There will be splits, fusions, regroupments, united front fightbacks, principled joint electoral campaigns, parliamentary maneuvers, “new anti-capitalist parties,” new mass reformist workers’ parties, centrist formations moving to the left and right as well as more advanced formations like soviets and armed defense bodies. All of these can present opportunities for revolutionaries to build Leninist parties for the conquest of power, provided only that this is their reason for being.

By definition, Marxists seek to learn from their mistakes and benefit from their successes. We appreciate the reference in the Role and Tasks draft to “… the lessons drawn from the evolution of the Brazilian PT and of Communist Refoundation in Italy.” Unfortunately, the text neglects to explain what these lessons are. This is always helpful not from the vantage point of self-criticism but rather, in the spirit of scientific socialism – to learn from our experiences and pass on the knowledge gained to the next generation.

Comrades participating in the present discussion have noted “disasters” we suffered in Mexico and Brazil. In Brazil comrades subordinated Leninist party building to participation in a rapidly degenerating workers’ party that, in alliance with bourgeois forces, became the austerity-imposing government of Brazil. A DS (Socialist Democracy) comrade was rewarded with a key ministerial position in a coalition capitalist government.

In Mexico, the FI’s largest section of 5,000, has almost disappeared, in part due to its electoral illusions that it’s parliamentary gains were matched by real influence in the class struggle and later to the PRT’s support to the presidential campaign of Cuauhtemoc Cardenez and his capitalist PRD. In Italy our participation in Communist Refoundation (RC) has been a demonstrated failure, with RC’s continued rightward and unprincipled direction essentially compelling our comrades to leave. The RC experience included a major error of political principle when a leading FI comrade cast the decisive vote (in a formal vote of confidence) in the Italian Parliament that kept the coalition capitalist government in power. We do not intend to dwell on these negative experiences other than to observe that the reference to them, as such, in the majority text is a modest but important step forward.

We do not object to the construction of “anti-capitalist parties” provided only that our objective is the simultaneous construction of our own revolutionary socialist party. How this is to be accomplished is a tactical question. We are not ones for imposing tactics from on high or from afar. The latter are subordinate to our strategic orientation. If the majority comrades believe that a “new anti-capitalist party” is a substitute for a Leninist party, however, we are talking about a horse of a different color.

Comrades appear to appreciate the “triptych:” “New epoch, new program, new party.” We can certainly agree that we are entering a new epoch. World capitalism faces a crisis from which it can find no way out except at the expense of the earth’s people, not to mention at the expense of an environment capable of sustaining human life itself. The present crisis goes to the core of the system and exhibits virtually all the elements that Marx described. But recover it will, over time, in grotesque forms and at humanity’s expense, provided only that it is not challenged by mass Leninist parties organized internationally and armed with our historic revolutionary socialist program.

We are concerned that while a number of pages of the Tasks draft are devoted to the concept of the new-anti-capitalist party, the term remains vague or subjected to multiple and counterposed explanations.

The text states in Point 7:

“In the new anti-capitalist parties which may be formed in the years to come, and which express the current stage of combativeness, experience and consciousness of the sectors that are the most committed to the search for an anti-capitalist alternative, the question of a new International is and will be posed. We act and we will continue to act so that it is not posed in terms of ideological or historical choices, which are likely to lead to divisions and splits. It must be posed on a double level, on the one hand real political convergence on tasks of international intervention, on the other pluralism of the new formations, which must bring together currents of various origins: Trotskyists of different kinds, libertarians, revolutionary syndicalists, revolutionary nationalists, left reformists. So in general, when there have been concrete steps toward new parties, we have proposed that the new broad anti-capitalist party function with the right of tendency or currents, and that the supporters of the Fourth International in these new parties organize themselves in ways to be decided, according to the specific situation of each party.” [Emphasis added].

It appears that the new International, proposed along with new anti-capitalist parties, will be a political reversion wherein “ideological and historical choices… will not be posed.” Since “anarchists, revolutionary nationalists, left reformists and revolutionary syndicalists” will be welcome, one can only guess whether the “ideological issues” of class independence, or building a working class party or fighting for a working class government and/or socialism will be a pre-requisite for membership since such issues, according to the draft, “will not be posed.”

However, this contradictory text appears to have an answer to our question. Point 4 states, “We want to get involved in this reorganization to create a new left that is capable of meeting the challenge of this century and rebuilding the workers’ movement, its structures, its class consciousness, its independence from the bourgeoisies at the political and cultural level.” Minus the fact that the term “socialism” is absent from descriptions of what the new International and new anti-capitalist parties are to be based on, this sounds more like the FI’s historical and ideological wellspring and quite different from the lengthy formulation from Point 7 that we quote above. We can only wonder which description is to be operative.

We are informed that a “convergence on tasks of international intervention” will be a central criteria for membership. It is necessary to ask if these “tasks” are more in the realm of the tactics of a mass action united front than a political framework of a “new anti-capitalist party.”

We want to learn how the inclusion of “left reformists,” not to mention other enumerated categories, squares with “anti-capitalism” and class independence. Is the term employed to designate radicalizing and politically independent individuals or important reformist currents whose tradition and history center on the search for a “kinder gentler capitalism?”

We are informed that posing ideological and historical questions is “… likely to lead to divisions and splits.” But it is fair to note that most of the FI’s past regroupments that ignored critical ideological and historical differences led to debilitating splits and major loses.

We are informed in the Role and Tasks draft that there are to be divergent ideological components of the new anti-capitalist parties that necessitate the “right of tendencies or currents” to be established as an acceptable form of internal organization. We see this as an assurance that FI comrades would retain some form of identity, perhaps a current, tendency or faction, that functions to promote the FI’s perspectives. Are we participating in these new formations to promote membership in a Leninist party and socialist revolution? This appears to be key, and especially so since questions of ideology and history are not to be posed.

We are to build these parties, according to the text, not on the basis of ideology or the lessons of history but based on agreement on tasks, on actions! Of course, such agreements are always an essential part of a healthy and principled unification process. But in a party that has been consciously constructed to be based on diffuse and disparate currents, immediate tasks or actions have a strong tendency to become subordinated to the larger questions of class independence and the very purpose of the party in the first place.

Finally, we must express our concern regarding the repeated references to parliamentary activity – ranging from pledges to never support in parliamentary elections Social Democrats who are the now designated as “social liberals in power to manage the capitalist state…” to the improved electoral results of our comrades who are participants in anti-capitalist parties of one variety or another in other countries (Portugal, Denmark, etc.).

Here again, we are assured that the FI majority seeks to promote the independent organization and mobilization of the masses through the vehicle of a “new left” party. But we can’t help but hear, at least faintly, another side of this new venture, that is, that we seek to become the new electoral alternative, perhaps a mass electoral alternative, to a disintegrating Stalinism and Social Democracy. This objective is certainly not without merit. But like our FI comrades in Mexico, Brazil, and perhaps Italy and elsewhere, preferencing the tactic of electoral activity can become the proverbial spoonful of tar that destroys the barrel of honey. Parliamentary activity has always been subordinate to the construction of a mass Leninist party for socialist revolution.

The survey conducted by the European Bureau indicates that in those countries where our comrades have participated in some form of new anti-capitalist party, some measure of electoral “success” has been achieved. To our knowledge, however, this not been associated with a growth of our section’s cadre. We should add that the great “electoral successes” of our comrades in Mexico, and Brazil led to their undoing as revolutionary socialist parties.

We are hopeful that the World Congress debates will clarify our questions and observations.

Report on Recent ROK Government Repression of Public Sector Workers and Call for International Solidarity

Report on Recent ROK Government Repression of Public Sector Workers and

Call for International Solidarity



Korean Confederation of Trade Unions

2nd Fl. Daeyoung Bld., 139 Youngdeungpo-2-ga, Youngdeungpo-ku, Seoul 150-032 Korea

Tel.: +82-2-2670-9118 Fax: +82-2-2635-1134 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. http://kctu.org

 [KCTU newsletter, 2009]


 1. Public Sector Workers' Struggle and Government Repression

 

1) The Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers’ Unions (KPTU), an affiliate of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), recently began a struggle against the government plan for privatization of public enterprises and so called 'business rationalization' of public institutions—in other words, the merging of public enterprises and utilities, layoffs and the imposition of productivity and efficiency on public services. Three affiliates of KPTU, the Korean Railway Workers' Union, the Korean Public & Social Service Workers' Union (KPSU)-KoGas Branch, and the Korean Powerplant Workers Union set up a headquarters for coordinated struggle. On October 10th, November 6 and November 28th they held mass rallies denouncing the government’s repression of the public sector.

 

2) In particular, the management of Korail’s unilaterally cancelled the current Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Korean Railway Workers’ Union as they prepared for a strike against restructuring on November 26. This was the first time the CBA has been cancelled in 60 years. Unilateral cancellation of CBAs is the worst of unjust labor practices, which has been used with increasing frequency by vicious enterprises in order to incapacitate trade unions. Recently, in many workplaces CBAs have become useless pieces of paper due to the repression of trade union activities by the government. Facing this situation, the Korean Railway Workers Union came out on strike to defend democratic trade unions.

 

3) The Korea Labor Institute, the head of which is an associate of the President, recently sparked public uproar when he commented that the 3 basic labor rights guaranteed in the Constitution should be abolished. These remarks aroused a massive response from the institute’s trade union, which carried out a struggle for more that 100 days. The Instituted then locked its employees out on December 1st for the first time in history.

 

4) The repression of the Korean Government Employees' Union (KGEU) is also beyond comprehension. The government dismissed the newly elected president of KGEU on disciplinary grounds and closed union offices down. However, the three separate government employees unions have come together to form one union and have joined the KCTU.

 

5) The police conducted a raid on the KGEU office in the Yeongdeungpo area of Seoul, and the two offices of KRWU in the Yongsan area. Arrest warrants have been issued against Kim Ki-tae, the president of KRWU and 15 other leaders of the union. 884 union members have been dismissed. Among other unions, 197 union leaders have been charged with "obstruction of business". The Korail management is about to sue the union and its leaders for compensation for damages, insisting that the strike meant $ 7.8 million worth of financial losses to Korail. The KRWU already have $10 billion to pay in damages from previous struggles.

 

6) On December 3rd, KRWU suspended its 8 days strike and went back to work. "I'm asking members to go back to their workplaces for a while and to prepare for our next fight. We have won only half of what we want. We responded to their illegal and senseless act with a reasonable and peaceful strike. However, we will resume our struggle after getting reorganizing and gathering more power,” the president of KRWU declared. This means that the union will continue its struggle.

 

2. Backdrop the Governments Repression

 

1) The KRWU’s strike was "lawful". Previously, it was impossible for unions to conduct a lawful strike under the "compulsory arbitration system." From January 1, 2008, a new evil system, “maintenance of essential services" replaced the "compulsory arbitration system." The ILO gives a strict interpretation to "essential services”, in which the right to strike can be restricted from "minimum services" which should be maintained during a labor action. However, the "maintenance of essential services" system was designed with the actual goal of restricting the right to collective action.

 

2) Nevertheless, the KRWU was conducting its strike abiding by this evil law. In other words, it is clear that this was a legal strike in which 15,000 workers, excluding 10,000 workers in essential services, joined.

 

3) President Lee Myung-Bak however, is taking the lead in obstructing any discussion between labor and management and incapacitating the union. "The principle must be upheld under all condition. If an exception is made at this time, it could be repeated in the future. No compromise should be made with this union,” said President Lee on December 2nd.

 

4) On December 1st, lawyers and certified public labor attorneys held a press conference and made clear that the strike conducted by the KRWU is a lawful collective action guaranteed under the Constitution and other laws. They stressed that this strike is lawful in terms of both procedure and aim and the right to collective action including the right strike is a basic right guaranteed in the Constitution. In a nutshell, this strike was the result of the Lee government's blatant disregard of the constitutional value of the 3 basic labor rights and its policy of incapacitating trade unions in public sector. This attitude of the government is also the reason the strike went on for so long.

 

5) The industrial unrest in the Korail, the Korea Labor Institute and other administrative organs was aggravated by the fact that the government had pushed ahead with restructuring of public institutions unilaterally. The relentless crackdown on trade unions is clear indication of the government's intention to tame the unions.

 

3. Call for International Solidarity and Support

 

We are asking for your continued attention to the relentless government crackdown on trade union rights in the South Korean public sector. Any solidarity action is welcome including sending protest letters to the Korean government or visiting the Korean embassy in your own country.

 

The demands of KCTU and its affiliates are as following;

 

-Arrest warrants against Kim Ki-tae, the president of KRWU, and 15 other leaders of the union, and all other charges, legal actions and dismissals should be withdrawn. Yoon Jeung-Hyun, the Mister of Strategy and Finance and Yim Tae-hee, the Minister of Labor, who made a special statement calling the lawful strike illegal, should make public apologies. President Lee Myung-Bak must respect the 3 basic labor rights guaranteed by the Korean Constitution and as international labor standards.

 

- The disciplinary dismissal of Yang Seong-Yoon, the newly elected president of the Korean Government Employees Union should be withdrawn. The government should recognize the KGEU's lawfulness. The government should refrain from any attempt to infringe of the right to association of government employees.

 

- The unilateral cancellation, suspension or amendment of public sector Collective Bargaining Agreements should be stopped.

 

 

Protest letters should be sent to the address below:

 

Lee Myung-Bak

President of the Republic of Korea

Chengwadae: 1 Cheongwadae-ro, Jongno-gu

Seoul, 110-820

KOREA

 

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Fax: +82_2_2110_3079/+82-2-770-4735

 

For further information, please contact Bro. Young-Bae Chang, International Secretary of the KPTU, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , Jinwon Yoon, Spokesperson of the KGEU, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or Sis Mikyung Ryu, International Director of the KCTU, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 

Ryu, Mikyung

International Director

Korean Confederation of Trade Unions

Tel.: +82-2-2670-9118  Fax: +82-2-2635-1134

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web-site : http://kctu.org

2nd Fl. Daeyoung Bld., 139 Youngdeungpo-2-ga, Youngdeungpo-ku, Seoul 150-032 Korea

People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka


Why a tribunal on Sri Lanka?


The war in Sri Lanka commenced in July 2006 with the final collapse of the internationally
backed 2002 peace process between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The declared objective of the Sri Lankan government was to
eliminate the LTTE and capture all areas previously controlled by it. This war, with such a
terrible humanitarian cost, was declared as over by the Sri Lankan government on 18 May
2009. The international media characterised this last phase of the war as a 'war without
witness' due to the fact that journalists and other potential witnesses like aid workers were
prevented by the government from remaining in the area.

By April 2009, according to United Nations internal documents, air raids and use of heavy
weapons were resulting in the death of 116 people a day. During the last weeks of the war,
according to reports in the British and French press, over 20,000 people were killed when the
Sri Lankan armed forces used heavy artillery fire against hundreds of thousand of Tamil
people crowded in an extremely small area ( cf. The Times, Le Monde and France 24 - all
on 29.05.09). According to Human Rights Watch, hospitals were bombed 30 times between
8th of December 2008 and 2nd of May 2009 and, according to a French medical team, cluster
munitions and white phosphorous have been used against these civilians. There has been
media evidence of torture, summary executions, rape and sexual violence, and of food and
water being used as a weapon of war against civilians by the Sri Lankan military.

Those who survived after the final phase of the war - approximately 280,000 people – have
been detained in camps run by Sri Lankan soldiers for the past six months. There are reports
of abductions, rape, disappearances and killing of people in the camps. International and local
media were not allowed to enter these camps and aid agencies that have been allowed in have
had severe limitations imposed on them. A further 11,000 are being kept in undisclosed
locations, most of them without access to their lawyers or anyone from the outside world.

A ‘victor’s peace’ has been imposed upon a 60 year old ethnic conflict through the imposition
of a military solution. This is contrary to the assertion by the international community in 2002
that there cannot be a military solution to the ethnic conflict on the island. It is on this basis
that the international community actively supported the cease-fire and the ensuing peace
process, and it is on this basis that Norway facilitated the process by awarding ‘parity of
esteem’ to the two parties in the conflict.

After May 2009 Sri Lanka is said to have entered into a post-war situation in which a military
victory over one party has been declared. However, charges of massive violations of human
rights have not been examined so far by an independent and credible body. Moves made by
the UN Human Rights Commission to probe into the human rights abuses were thwarted by
geo-political pressures. We, the members of the Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka, believe
that issues of human rights and justice have to be addressed as a prerequisite for a peaceful
settlement in Sri Lanka. The People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka is organised as a basic step
towards that end.

In May 2009 the members of the Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka (IFPSL), in consultation
with sister lobby groups in Europe, decided to appeal to a group of internationally renowned
eminent persons to write to the Sri Lankan government to seek permission to visit the
detention camps in Sri Lanka. As scepticism grew regarding obtaining permission from the
Sri Lankan government (due to the deportation of several groups and individuals who
reported to the world about the detention camps) members of IFPSL initiated a discussion
with the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) based in Milan which has a long history of
carrying out independent investigations into human rights abuses ranging from Vietnam to
Guatemala. The meetings with PPT were facilitated by Prof Francois Houtart who is an
expert in People’s Tribunals ranging from Vietnam to Iraq. As a result of these discussions
the PPT has agreed to conduct a People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka following the methodology
of the Bertrand Russell-Sartre Tribunal on Vietnam.
.
The two main areas that will be investigated are as follows :
1. The People’s Tribunal will investigate the allegations that the Government of Sri Lanka
and its armed forces committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during its final
phase of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

2. The Tribunal will also examine violations of human rights in the aftermath of the war and
the local and international factors that led to the collapse of the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement.
Legal and human rights groups from Asia, the EU and the UN will be invited to submit
reports on crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes against peace in Sri Lanka.
Evidence will be given by individuals and groups who have first hand knowledge about these
crimes.

The 2002 CFA was facilitated by the Norwegian government. The USA, EU and Japan
worked with the Norwegian government as the co-chairs of the 2002 peace process. The CFA
was monitored by representatives from the Nordic countries. Representatives will be invited
from these international bodies to give evidence at the tribunal.

The jury has been chosen from across the global south and north in order to transcend
geopolitical barriers and to ensure that its findings are both credible and ethically binding.
Ireland has been chosen because of its historical status as a post-colonial nation, the success
of the Northern Ireland peace process, and its traditional policy of neutrality.


Members of the Panel of Judges of the People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka:
1. François Houtart (UNESCO awardee for non-violence and tolerance, Chairperson of the
UN Committee on Economic Recession., Prof. Emeritus, University of Louvain, Belgium.
Founding Member of the World Social Forum, Honorary Member of the Academy of
Sciences of Vietnam and Cuba, Laureate of the Camilo Torres Prize of the National
University of Colombia, Bogota )
We have tried to list the panel according to age following the Asian custom for showing respect
2. Rajinder Sachar (Former High Court Judge of Delhi, headed the Sachar Committee
appointed by the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to prepare a report on the social,
economic and educational status of the Muslim community in India)
3. Nawal al Saadawi (Egyptian writer, trained as a medical doctor, known for her
outstanding work for women's rights in Egypt and in the region. She has been imprisoned for
her activities and writings in Egypt. She has also been United Nation's Advisor for the
Women's Programme in Africa (ECA) and Middle East (ECWA) from 1979 to 1980. She is a
prolific author.)
4. Sulak Sivaraksa (Thai Buddhist peace campaigner and writer, initiator of a number of
social, humanitarian, ecological and spiritual movements and organizations in Thailand. He
was awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award))
5. Denis Halliday (Former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. He resigned
from his 34 year old career in the UN because of the economic sanctions imposed over Iraq
by the Security Council. Laureate of the Gandhi International Peace Award)
6. Gianni Tognoni (Secretary General, People’s Permanent Tribunal, Milan)
7. Daniel Feierstein (Director of the Centre for Genocide Studies at the Universidad
Nacional de Tres de Febrero, and Professor in the Faculty of Genocide at the University of
Buenos Aires)
8. Mary Lawlor (Director, Front Line - The International Foundation for the Protection of
Human Rights Defenders, Dublin)
9. Oystein Tveter (A scholar of International Law and member of the People’s Tribunal on
extra-judicial killings and violations of human rights in the Philippines)
10. Eren Keskin (Kurdish-born lawyer and a human rights activist in Turkey, Vice President
of the Human Rights Association, Istanbul. She co-founded the project “Legal Aid For
Women Who Were Raped Or Otherwise Sexually Abused by the National Security Forces”,
to expose the abuses happening to women in Turkish prisons. In 1995, she was imprisoned
for her human rights activities and was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty
International)
11. Francesco Martone (An ex-Senator in Italy, a leading activist in the non-governmental
sector and an ecologist)

Among those who cannot be on the Panel - for various reasons - but have agreed to publicise
and interpret the findings of the Tribunal are:
1. Krishna Iyer (Former Judge of the Indian Supreme Court, former Minister in the Kerala
Parliament and a figure of great prominence in India)
2. Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann (Senior Advisor on Foreign Affairs in Nicaragua, the
outgoing President of the UN General Assembly, the former Minister for Foreign Affairs in
Nicaragua, a liberation theologian and laureate of the Lenin Peace Prize and winner of the
Thomas Merton Award)
3. Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (Argentinian human rights campaigner, and a Nobel Peace Prize
winner)
4. Irene Fernandez (A leading Malaysian trade unionist and a human rights campaigner)
5. Arundhati Roy (Writer, Journalist and Booker prizewinner)


What is The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) ?
The Permanent Peoples' Tribunal (PPT) is a tribunal of international opinion independent of
State authorities. It examines and provides judgements on violations of human rights and the
rights of peoples. The Tribunal was founded in Bologna (Italy), June 24th 1979, by law
experts, writers and other intellectuals. It succeeded the Russell Tribunal (International War
Crimes Tribunal), which, in 1967, exposed the war crimes committed against the Vietnamese
people. The Permanent Peoples' Tribunal was created out of the Lelio Basso International
Foundation for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples (FILB), established in 1976 and inspired
by the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples at Algiers (also named the Algiers
Declaration). The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal may use international human rights law
and/or the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the United Nations.
The Permanent Peoples' Tribunal has examined the cases of Tibet, Western Sahara,
Argentina, Eritrea, the Philippines, El Salvador, Afghanistan, East Timor, Zaire, Guatemala,
the Armenian Genocide, the intervention of the United States in Nicaragua, the Brazilian
Amazon, and others.

The Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka (IFPSL)
The Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka (IFPSL) was established in May 2007 by a group of
human rights and peace campaigners, artists and academics in Ireland with the aim of helping
to promote human rights, democracy and a negotiated settlement in Sri Lanka. Since its
inception the Forum has been engaged in numerous activities to raise awareness among the
Irish public about the Sri Lankan conflict that has claimed over one hundred thousand lives
and displaced over one and a half million people. The group has worked closely with NGOs
and the Irish Government in this regard while making broader alliances with similar groups in
Europe, internationalizing its call to protect human rights and democracy in Sri Lanka. The
IFPSL has consistently spoken out in favour of a negotiated peaceful resolution to the
decades long Sri Lankan conflict as opposed to a militaristic solution.

Dr. Jude Lal Fernando
Ms. Claire de Jong
Co-ordinators
People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
On behalf of the Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka
Website: ifpsl.org
07.12.09

Copenhagen: The rising tide of climate justice


Lauren Carroll Harris, Copenhagen

14 December 2009


*One hundred thousand protesters braved near freezing temperatures and took
over the Danish capital, Copenhagen, to crank up the heat on world leaders
at the United Nations Climate Summit (COP15) and demand climate justice. *

The protest, in a carnival-like atmosphere, brought together a broad range
of groups — from the explicitly anti-capitalist to the lobbying NGOs — and
was led by a group of indigenous activists on a 4.5 kilometre march to the
Bella Center, where the COP15 is taking place.

The demonstration was the main focus of a fortnight of climate justice
protests, and was proceeded by a 5000-strong “flood” of Copenhagen,
organised by Friends of the Earth.

The protest involved mainly youth. The many groups included Jubilee South
and Action Aid (who both call for reparations from the First World to repay
their ecological debt and aid sustainable development in the Third World),
the French New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) and the Danish group Attac, which
carried a banner saying “Don't let corporate lobbying destroy our climate”.

An Australian contingent highlighted the issue of global dependence on
fossil fuels for power, chanting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, quit coal now!”

A satirical contingent of green capitalists raised the issue of greenwashing
—dressed tastefully in white, they carried platters of grapes, glasses of
champagne and placards reading “Greed is green“, “Bangladesh: buy rubber
boots“, “Stop global whining”, “We heart green capitalism” and “We love
green, but we love fossil fuels more”.

The lead banner screamed, “Carbon trading: the final solution”. One faux
banker urged the crowd to “go home and buy some carbon offsets”.

Protesters chanted: “Carbon trading: big lie.”

Despite the widely acknowledged, clear failure of the COP15 talks, the
sentiment among protesters was jubilant, positive and determined. Protesters
chanted “Our climate — not your business”, “Our world is not for sale” and
“Change the system, not the climate” — in fact, radical politics dominated
the crowd, if not the platform.

Official speakers included model Helena Christensen and Greenpeace
International executive director Kumi Naidoo.

Environmental activist Vandana Shiva pointed explicitly to capitalism as the
source of the current environmental crisis, telling protesters: “THIS is
what democracy looks like, and the COP15 is trying to kill democracy.”

The demonstration indicated a complete rejection of the green posturing,
market-friendly solutions and inaction of the COP15, and showed that
solutions to catastrophic climate change will come not from leaders who
represent big oil and coal, but the grassroots. It will be centred around
social justice.

The demonstration descended upon the locked-down Bella Center as the sun
fell. The crowd was so huge that most could not see the platform or hear the
speakers — instead, the demonstration morphed into a radical, candlelit
street party.

Though there was an unrelenting police presence and a reported 400 arrests,
the majority of protesters remained unperturbed. Demonstrations will no
doubt continue through and beyond the Copenhagen talks.

From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue
#821<http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2009/821>9 December 2009.

Calcutta Meeting Protests against Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, expresses solidarity with Irom Sharmila


As a part of the International Fortnight on Violence Against Women, Nari Nirjatan Pratirodh Mancha, Calcutta, organized a public meeting to express solidarity with Irom Sharmila Chanu, whose hunger strike has entered its tenth year on 4 November 2008. The meeting was held on 7th December at the Hazra Road Crossing, in front of the Hazra Park, in South Calcutta, from 4 PM to 9 PM.
The programme consisted of speeches, songs, recitations of poems, dances, and film shows. Mira Roy of NNPM delivered the first speech, explaining the history of Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike and called for mass support, in the context of the International Fortnight. She also mentioned that the AFSPA was not the sole draconian law of its kind. Other speakers included Swapna and Soma Marik of NNPM, Nandita Banerjee, film maker who had interviewed Irom Sharmila; Nisha of Lalgarh Mancha, Mitul Dhar of Radical Socialist, Gautam Sen of Mazdoor Mukti Committee, Jayeeta of Matangini Mahila Samiti. Saswati Ghosh (NNPM) recited a poem by Susmita Bhattacharya, and Rukmini Sen danced to the recitation. Susmita Bhattacharya and Juthika Mitra also recited poems they had written. Ruchira Goswami sang songs, and Rukmini Sen danced to one of those. Bipul Chakraborty and Ganobishan also sang a number of songs.
A brief photo feature is being published in this website along with this report.

Experience of All India Women’s Fact Finding Team


All India Women's Fact Finding Team

On 9 December 2009, at 10 a.m.,an All India Women’s Fact Finding Team consisting of 9 women reached Narayanpatna Police Station and requested to meet the Station In-charge. [They had gone to investigate reports of sexual assault on adivasi women by policemen and goons of big private companies.] Reproduced below is the statement they circulated at the subsequent press conference.

1. Sudha Bhardwaj, Advocate, Chhattisgarh
2. Mamata Dash, Delhi
3. Madhumita Dutta, Chennai
4. Shweta Narayan, Chennai
5. Rumita Kundu, Bhubaneswar
6. Pramila, Bhubaneswar
7. Kusum Karnik, NFFPFW
8. Ramani, New Democracy, Orissa
9. Durga, Chhattisgarh

We were told that the policeman was busy, and were asked to come in the evening. The person questioning us asked us for names and mobile phone numbers and names of organisations. We gave all of that. We noticed quite a number of uniformed policemen, and many people in plainclothes. None of the people in uniform (we assume they were policemen) had any name tags. We asked one of them who the people in plainclothes were, and were told that they were all policemen. We asked the man how many police were there in this area, and he said more than 2000 police. One striking thing is that none of the many people gathered there were adivasi.
About 20 adivasi men were huddled, squatting inside the police station premises. We asked the police man near us who they were, and were told that the adivasis were former activists of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh, who had come to surrender. This has been happening for a few days now, and many newspapers are reporting this.
By this time, the crowd of so-called plainclothes police were getting restless. We heard people commenting saying: “Ab aa rahen hain. Jab hamarey gaon jal rahe the, tho kahaan the?” (When our farms were being burnt, where were you? Now they show up.)
Madhumita felt the situation was looking troublesome, and suggested we leave. As we were stepping out of the police station, our driver was cordoned off and was being questioned in a very hostile manner and being threatened. We heard someone saying that he is a regular to these parts, and they enquired as to his antecedents.
We somehow managed to extricate the driver. One of the policemen in plainclothes, who we saw inside the police station premises, was taking photographs, and he said “Maaro Inko.” (Beat these people up). That is when more than 200 people surged ahead. The driver was being slapped repeatedly.
Madhu and 75-year old Kusum Karnik tried to intervene and that is when one man went for Madhu’s throat. Kusum was hurt too.
Rumita Kundu was verbally abused inside the police station. One man crudely said that all these women had come to sleep with the men there. Mamta Dash was hit on her back, and abused. One man attempted to strangle Madhu. When she moved to save herself, her jaw was injured. All this happened inside the police station premises.
The driver was the one that was being assaulted most, and we did all we could to extricate him and board our vehicle. By this time, the vehicle was being broken. The rear windscreen was broken. With great difficulty, we fled the area driving towards Bandhugaon. We were followed by the plainclothesmen who claimed to be police on bikes. Somewhere between Bandhugaon Police Station and the village itself, we were stopped by two men in plainclothes.
They said they were police, and they demanded to see the driver’s license. As he was enquiring, about 20 people gathered there. But nothing untoward happened here. We were scared nevertheless.
From there, we proceeded to Kottulpetta. Even before we got to this village, news seemed to have reached them about our visit. A road blockade had been organised, with a bullock cart blocking the road. There were no oxen. The people there, again all non-tribals, pulled out the driver and started assaulting him. They tried to pull down another male colleague of ours, Mr. Poru Chandra Sahu. and tried to beat them up. We intervened, and that’s when Kusum didi, the 75-year old activist, was hurt on her head. We were there for more than 15 minutes. More violence. More damage to the vehicle. More slaps for the driver. Our friends outside had been notified almost as soon as problems began, and phone calls must have been pouring into the Collector and SP’s office.
By this time, two bikes carrying one of the plainclothes “policemen” who had taken our names in Narayanpatna, and another plainclothes guy who was tall and burly, reached there and asked the youth to disperse.
We reached Bondapalli, the border village within Andhra Pradesh. Almost in no time, a jeep load of Andhra Pradesh police along with plainclothes youth (young boys) armed with rifles and bullets arrived on the scene. They demanded to know who we were. We were treated more like criminals than victims, and our vehicle was searched. Only after Madhu spoke to the SP of Vijayanagar, and the DGP were we allowed to go. The police who stopped us immediately changed the tune, and offered to help us with medical assistance etc.
Our experience with armed youth and police has left us clearly terrified, and convinced that the situation created by the police in Narayanpatna and this part of Orissa is extremely vitiated. We have the following concerns and demands which we conveyed to the media at a press conference in Parvathipuram, Vijayanagarm District, Andhra Pradesh.
Concerns:
1. The scenario of terror that we witnessed, and were subject to shows the kind of tense situation prevailing in the Narayanpatna area post November 20, 2009’s police firings in Narayanpatna.
2. There is no access for people to get in and out of the villages in Narayanpatna, with all routes blocked by armed goons.
3. There is no way to get information about what is happening inside, and no means of verifying the very disturbing accounts we are getting about abuses, molestations and violence against adivasi people.
4. The number of plainclothesmen who claimed they were police, and the comfort with which people outside the Narayanpatna police station were interacting with the police, and reacting to one policeman’s instruction to beat us up, suggests that there may be some truth to reports that there is a Salwa Judum style Shanthi Samiti in this area as well. This may either be sponsored or working in close complicity with the police and state.
4. If the Fact Finding team of prominent women has been treated with such violence, it is clear that there is absolutely no room for dissent inside the villages.
5. All the people who attacked us were non-tribals.
Demands:
1. The officers at the Police Station should be suspended to create an impartial stituation and enable the carrying out of investigations into the firing of 20 November, 2009, and the subsequent reports of atrocities against tribal people.
2. The SP Koraput should be suspended.
3. The Government should constitute a high-level independent investigation team and not depend on the police, who are clearly biased, and are using the language of terror and violence to suppress dissent.

In Solidarity with Irom Sharmila

Irom Sharmila Protest Meeting 7 December 2009

Soma Marik

(Edited translation of a speech delivered at a Calcutta meeting organised by the Nari Nirjatan Pratirodh Mancha to express solidarity with Irom Sharmila, on 7th December 2009)
Soma Marik delivering speech at Irom Sharmila Protest Meeting on 7 December 2009 
Irom Sharmila Chanu has been on hunger strike since early November 2000. We are gathered here to express our solidarity with her. To express solidarity with her means not merely to express solidarity with one courageous individual, but to support the cause for which she has been on hunger strike, under arrest for “attempted suicide”, and continually force-fed, sometimes in Manipur, sometimes in Delhi.

Chanu has been on a hunger strike demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) since November 2, 2000, after soldiers of the Indian Paramilitary Assam Rifles killed ten innocent bystanders in Malom. We need to understand the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, and state violence using ‘anti-terror laws’, as well as the use of women’s bodies. Such Acts now dot the country and are used extensively in various contexts. Yet the AFSPA holds a special position, because no other act has been used so systematically and for such a long time.

The Background

Manipur was a princely state, forcibly integrated into India in 1949, ignoring the democratic Legislative Assembly the Maharaja had agreed to set up. Indian attitude became even clearer, when Nagaland was granted statehood in 1963, while Manipur, which was annexed in 1949, remained a Union Territory till 1972. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act was initially promulgated in 1958. It has been used to establish martial law in a number of provinces, at first in Assam and Manipur, and subsequently in the entire North East, as well as in Jammu and Kashmir. According to the AFSPA, in an area that is proclaimed as "disturbed", an officer of the armed forces has powers to:
•    Order the shooting and killing of anyone “who is acting in contravention of any law" or has deadly weapons.
•    Arrest without a warrant anyone who has committed certain offences or is suspected of having done so.
•    To enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests.
•    In all such cases, the officers have legal immunity. They cannot be taken to a court for any action committed under the provisions of that law.
•    The government’s decision to identify an area as “disturbed” is not subject to judicial review.

In 1991, the United Nations Human Rights Committee questioned the constitutionality of the AFSPA under Indian law and asked how it could be justified in light of Articles 4 and 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 4 of the ICCPR limits the rights of states to curtail the civil liberties of people living in those states. Article 6 prohibits the taking of human life without due legal process. The AFSPA very obviously disregards that provision, making the UN complaint an extremely valid one. The Attorney General of India responded that the AFSPA is a necessary measure to prevent the secession of the North Eastern states. In other words, by using a political label, the government of India proclaimed that it would commit any civil rights violation.

But why should there be such a strong current of “separatism”? And what is the practice of the Indian state?
“Integration” of the North East into the “national mainstream” is based on a set of assumptions. First of all, it meant the imposition of capitalist exploitation, with little attention to the development of local economy. The traditional trade routes with South East Asia and Bangladesh were kept closed in the name of tackling secessionism. The development programmes of the first few Five Year Plans also gave the North East a miss. Manipur is 22% behind the national average for infrastructural development, and the entire North-Eastern region is 30% behind the rest of India. A study by Hanjabam Isworchandra Sharma, titled ‘Manipur’s Economy from 1949 to 1972: Birth and Nurturing of a Dependent Economy’ (published in ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVES Volume II Issue I October-December 2006 published by the Centre For Alternative Discourse Manipur, Imphal) shows that the period when Manipur was a Union Territory governed from Delhi, was crucial for its deepening development as a colonial type economy, reinforcing and strengthening the tendency begun under the British, whereby a formerly self-sufficient agrarian economy was transformed into a dependent economy.

Secondly, the so-called mainstream is a misnomer. It is actually an attempt to impose customs and rules derived from a highly casteist Hindu society into an area, where society, while not absolutely egalitarian, was certainly less hierarchical than in the bulk of India.

The shifting demographic balance was another cause of tension. Labouring people from Bengal, Bihar, immigrants from Nepal and Bangladesh, have poured into the area, and in the absence of democratic politics, these migrations have heightened tensions. Given the treatment of Manipur as a kind of internal colony, locals have perceived such migrations tempts to drown their voices, rather than as the normal occurrence in a complex economy.

For the Government of India, the primary response in the North East has always been strategic and security centric. No democratic scruples have ever tied its hands. Thus, the AFPSA was initially promulgated as an Ordinance in 1958, only 12 days after the ending of the budget session of the Parliament. This clearly suggests the government wanted to present Parliament with a fait accompli, giving it less scope to modify or reject the proposal. A bill was introduced in the Monsoon session of Parliament that year. Merely, 3 and 4 hours discussion respectively in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, empowered the Parliament to approve the Armed Forces (Assam- Manipur) Special Powers Act with retrospective effect from 22 May 1958. As early as 1966, the operations under the AFPSA included the Air Force in Mizoram resorting to aerial bombardment.

The AFSPA: A Recipe for Military Rule

The AFSPA only requires that the Central Government and the Governor be "of the opinion that whole or parts of the area are in a dangerous or disturbed condition such that the use of the Armed Forces in aid of civil powers is necessary." The vagueness of this definition was challenged in Indrajit Barua v. State of Assam (AIR 1983 Del. 514) case. The High Court decided that the lack of precision to the definition of a disturbed area was not an issue because the government and people of India understand its meaning. So the government has full freedom to impose the AFPSA at will, and has done so, keeping it going for over half a century.

The crucial aspect of the Act is the State-endorsed license to kill with impunity, granted to any member of the Indian army. Moreover, the AFSPA says that after the military has arrested someone under the AFSPA, they must hand that person over to the nearest police station with the "least possible delay". There is no definition in the act of what constitutes the least possible delay. So several days can and do pass between arrest and handing over, at times the gap being enough to murder the person. Murders are common, as with Thangjam Manorama in July 2004. Section 6 of the AFSPA provides the army officers with absolute immunity for all atrocities committed under the AFSPA. A person wishing to file suit against a member of the armed forces for abuses under the AFSPA must first seek the permission of the Central Government.

In a report on the AFSPA to the UN Human Rights Committee in 1991, Nandita Haksar, a lawyer who has often petitioned the Guwahati High Court in cases related to the AFSPA, explained how in practice this law leaves the military's victims without a remedy. Firstly, there has not been a single case of anyone seeking such permission to file a case in the North East. Given that the armed forces personnel conduct themselves as being above the law and the people are alienated from the state government, it is hardly surprising that no one would approach Delhi for such permission. Secondly, court martial judgments are not published. The only, fragile remedy is the filing of Habeas Corpus cases. By a Habeas Corpus case, the state might be compelled to produce the arrested person in court and this might save her or his life. However, a habeas corpus case will not lead to the repeal of the Act nor will it punish particular officers who committed the abuses. Also, only people who have access to lawyers will be able to file such a case.

Using this law, the Armed Forces of India have carried on a five decade long brutalization of the people of Manipur, along with other North Eastern areas. Human Rights Watch, a civil liberties organization, put out a 16 page dossier chronicling how systematically the AFSA has been used to destroy rights of people. Sections of Manipur were declared disturbed areas after the 1958 adoption of the AFSPA, and the entire state of Manipur was brought under the act on September 8, 1980. Human rights violations by security forces engaged in counterinsurgency operations in Manipur have occurred with depressing regularity over the last five decades. Torture, which includes beatings, electric shocks, and simulated drowning, is common. Arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial executions continue. New “disappearances” stopped  after the Manipur government introduced a system for providing “arrest memos” but at least 17 people remain missing since they “disappeared” in the 1980s and 1990s.

Since it was imposed, by official admission alone, more than 20,000 people have been killed in Manipur. Rather than curb insurgent groups, it has engendered a seething resentment across the land, and fostered new militancies. In 1980, there were only four insurgent groups in Manipur. By the middle of the present decade, there were 25 on the government’s own watch-list. When ordinary people leave their homes, they are uncertain if they will return. There is no electricity. The countryside is dark. Everyone is fair game. The army on one side, rival insurgents on the other.

On November 1, 2000, an insurgent group had bombed an army column. Enraged, the 8th Assam Rifles retaliated on November 2 by gunning down 10 innocent civilians at a bus-stand in Malom. The local papers published brutal pictures of the bodies the next day, including one of a 62-year old woman, Leisangbam Ibetomi, and 18-year old Sinam Chandramani, a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner. An enraged Irom Sharmila Chanu, then 28, began a protest fast. On November 6, she was arrested on charges of ‘attempt to suicide’. The administration began force-feeding her nasally, from November 21, confining her to the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital in Imphal. Released as a part of the Government’s occasional carrot phase of policy, she went to Delhi and re-started her fast. This time she was arrested and put in the AIIMS. The arrests and force-feeding imply additional attacks. While in other parts of India, hunger strikes are met by government attempts at negotiation, her protest was not even given the recognition of a protest. So the arrest, on the charge of “attempt to suicide”, and the force-feeding.

Sharmila is not alone in her struggle. The state erupted in flames in July 2004, after the brutal rape and murder of a young woman, Thangjam Manorama Devi, by the Assam Rifles personnel. Manorama was a 32 year old woman, who sustained herself and her family by weaving. On 11 July 2004, she was arrested from her home by paramilitary forces of the 17 Assam Rifles. The arrest memo given to her mother stated no weapons had been found at her home. Her body was found some hours later, at about 5:00 PM, without proper clothes on, and shot at various places, including her vagina. The Assam Rifles version of the episode is the same as the one given out in all such incidents of the killing of "hardcore militants" while in the custody of the security forces. A statement issued by the paramilitary force stated that self-styled "Corporal" Thangjam Manorama, alias Henthoi, was gunned down as she made a bid to escape by jumping down from the vehicle that the force used. This of course did not explain why she was shot in the vagina. It was widely felt that had been done to cover up traces of rape. The heinous incident triggered an unprecedented form of protest by Manipuri women that briefly shook India. In an attempt to draw the attention of an insensitive and cold-blooded security and political establishment in Imphal and Delhi, (as well, one would suggest, as the bulk of civil society in mainstream India), Manipuri women, calling themselves Mothers of Manorama, turned to their bodies to give vent to their resentment. They stripped themselves in front of the Assam Rifles headquarters in Imphal and challenged the army to rape them. “Indian Army, Rape Us,” said their banner, as they protested, naked. On August 15, 2004, India’s independence day, Pebang Chittaranjan doused himself in kerosene and set himself in fire. He died soon after. He too demanded the abolition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. A 32-organisation network called for further protests, to which Chief Minister Ibobi Singh responded by branding Thangjam Manorama a hardcore terrorist, following the lead of the Assam Rifles. Clearly, in Manipur it is the army and the paramilitary who dictate terms to the “elected” civilian governments.



Laws Helping State Violence Elsewhere in India

The violence in Manipur does not stand alone – not anymore, not after 62 years of independence. We have similar state violence everywhere. And as with the rape of Manorama, as with the brutalization of women’s bodies in Manipur, we have similar cases everywhere. As an all-India women’s meeting called to discuss state violence and its impact on women noted in Bhopal (24-25 October 2009):
•    In land acquisition, in privatization of natural resources and water, in clearing the country to suit national and multinational capital, new laws have been introduced to suppress any resistance, peaceful or otherwise.
•    There has been systematic violence on women in Manipur
•    There have been repeated cases of violence on women in Kashmir from Kupwara to Shopian
•    In a case where the atrocity is committed by a state agency, the accountability of the crime has to be broadened to encompass not just the rapist but all the other authorities as well as the state administration and the judiciary which is duty bound to protect the rights of women as citizens.
•    Presently, driven by aggressive corporatisation, sustained state violence in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, and West Bengal and other states has become the single mantra to evict people from their land and livelihood.
•    Tribal women in Bastar in Chhattisgarh have been subjected to the most extreme forms of violence since 2005, by Salwa Judum, a civil militia created and funded by the state, to counter the Maoists. There have been incidents of gang rapes, custodial rape, mutilation of private parts, murder and continuous sexual abuse in villages, police stations and the relief camps set up by the state government in the area. The extra-judicial murder in 2006 of a tribal for being a Maoist, and the subsequent gang-rape of his wife in front of her child for several days inside a police station in Sarguja by police personnel including the SP is one such documented case. There are not even official records and FIRs of the cases of sexual violence in Dantewada district. Despite more than 90 sworn affidavits filed in cases pending before the Supreme Court, statements made before the National Human Rights Commission, and letters to the Superintendent of Police, the police in Bastar refuse to register cases of rape by Salwa Judum goons. Finally when six women dared to file private complaints and make their statements before a Magistrate in Konta, there is inexplicable and inordinate delay of months together in registering the cases.

Sexual violence is a systematic weapon of the rulers to try and smash women's increasing participation in resistance movements and struggles. In many remote areas the security forces, operate with impunity, as if they have a “license” to rape women, especially those belonging to the tribal and dalit communities – in the AFPSA indeed they do have such a license. When the state directly does not inflict violence, it aids the upper class/caste forces etc who commit such violence.

This is the case not only in areas where there are so-called “insurgency” movements, but also in cases of non-violent mass movements. Since the neo-liberal turn of the 1990s there has been an increased onslaught by the state on the lives and livelihoods of large sections of the our population in the name of “development” projects such as mining and special economic zones, and large communities are being deprived of their lands, rivers, forests, and other common property resources. Pushed to desperation people are organizing in several ways to resist this large-scale displacement and dispossession (Singur, Nandigram, POSCO, and other cases). In several cases women have been at the forefront of these struggles. It has been seen that women are specifically targeted in such cases, and such political participation is being repressed by use of rape and other kinds of violence on women in mass movements.

And everywhere now, we have AFPSA-like laws. In Chhattisgarh, there is the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA).  Although this Act was ostensibly meant to combat growing Maoist violence, all the Maoist groups operating in Chhattisgarh were already banned and declared unlawful organisations after the 2004 amendment to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA). The CSPSA provides provisions that authorize the police to detain a person for committing acts, which among other things, show a “tendency to pose an obstacle to the administration of law”. The act also states any person whose actions “encourage(s) the disobedience of the established law” will be considered “unlawful”.

The present definition of “unlawful activities” imperils free exercise of fundamental freedoms set out under Article 19 of the Constitution and illustratively it appears to restrict the right to hold public meetings; organise public protests; and oppose government policies through the media.
Six organisations were banned under this act. Dr. Binayak Sen, General Secretary, Chhattisgarh PUCL, was detained under this Act on 14 May, 2007 allegedly for his linkages with the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The Act also allows the government to attach the property of accused persons. This point was clearly highlighted by the PUDR in its analysis of the Act submitted to the President of India.

And finally we have the UAPA, as amended in 2008. By this Act, a terrorist act is defined as one that may use “bombs, dynamite… other explosive substances or inflammable substances or firearms or other lethal weapons or poisonous or noxious gases or other chemicals or by any other substances… of a hazardous nature or by any other means of whatever nature” (emphasis added). This last sentence means that any physical act could be deemed a terrorist act, if the government could satisfy the very low burden of proof threshold - that the act was likely to cause terror in the people. When coupled with the denial of the presumption of innocence, the 2008 amendment empowers the government to construe anything as a terrorist act. This last point needs to be stressed. By normal Indian law, any person is innocent till proved guilty in a court of law. Under the amended UAPA, this safeguard has been removed. Now the court is to presume guilt unless the accused proves otherwise. During the scant parliamentary debates, the Home Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram justified this reversal of the burden of proof on the ground that in the past, terrorists have evaded conviction because they were permitted to remain silent.
The 2008 amendment echoes POTA by specifying that a terrorist act is one carried out with the intention to “threaten the unity, integrity, security or sovereignty of India or… to strike terror… in the people”. The amendment in fact broadens the POTA definition by further specifying that any act “likely to threaten” or any act “likely to strike terror in the people” is also a terrorist act (emphasis added). In effect, any protest can be construed as terrorist action. The 2008 UAPA Amendment extends the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 180 days in place of the existing 90 days. Moreover, anyone arrested under the UAPA can be placed in police custody for up to 30 days, instead of the 15 prescribed in other laws, and even when placed under judicial custody, can be interrogated by the police any day.

Under the UAPA the Central Government has the power to “freeze, seize… attach” and prohibit the use of “funds, financial assets or economic resources” of individuals “suspected to be engaged in terrorism” (emphasis added). This provision essentially empowers the Indian government to exercise control over the finances or movements of an individual on the basis of mere suspicion. How the UAPA can be easily abused was seen in the case of the arrest of Chhatradhar Mahato. He was not produced in a court for hearings. The police finally submitted a charge-sheet after five months. Yet daily there were briefings by police officers or state bureaucrats, that he was in no position to deny, such as his ostensibly having an LIC policy of Rs 1 crore (which would mean he pays an annual premium of over Rs. 600,000 or US$12900 !!). He was supposed to have confessed to his Maoist links. But the widely known fact is, his Peoples Committee Against Police Atrocities had sought votes without police presence, whereas Maoists have always been calling for election boycotts.

And here too, the UAPA can be and is an instrument that falls so easily on women, can be used to inflict violence on them. In expressing our solidarity with Sharmila Chanu, we also condemn all such so-called anti-terror laws that in fact strengthen state terrorism and cause violence on innocents.

State Violence and Class Struggle

At the same time, I want to draw your attention to a news and its implication. On November 27, a demonstration was organized, (reportedly larger than the one organized by sugarcane farmers) which marched from the Ramlila Maidan to Parliament in New Delhi. It was a demonstration by women in the unorganized sector, demanding maternity benefits, higher pay for Anganwadi workers, equal pay for equal work, and an end to sexual harassment at workplace. The Finance Minister of India met a delegation, and told them that while the demands were just, it would be difficult for the state to do anything about it. So the state is willing to spend ever more money to crush popular resistance, but none for the basic rights of working women. And in this no state government is any different. In West Bengal too, the struggles in Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh have shown the readiness of the state to use violence, and its unwillingness to spend comparable sums to improve living conditions. The military style operation, including the hiring of helicopters, cost crores of rupees. No comparable funds have been spent on basic amenities of the people. While shoot to kill, like the AFPSA, may not have been imposed, for years, violence on opponents, rape and sexual harassment of women, and all manner of repressive acts by the state apparatus and state backed party cadres have become routine. In West Bengal, no longer an ‘oasis of peace’ the UAPA is in force and the people are living under constant threat since the invasion of Lalgarh and regions adjacent to it by the joint forces from June 17, 2009. It must be remembered that the 2008 UAPA amendment was passed with support from all MPs, including the Left. And in West Bengal, no solution to hunger, lack of medicine, lack of schools, etc has been proposed for the areas where the most deprived tribals live. Yet the West Bengal government too has applied the UAPA without developing the areas. It is evident that as with other provinces, so with Bengal.

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