The young rebels of Jhumra hills

Babita Mahto, who has been with this Local Guerrilla Squad of CPI (Maoist) a year, said that joining the party gave her a sense of purpose and immortality.

“So many women in the Mahto community kill themselves due to the stress from dowry, tilak [social ceremonies]. If I die at home, my parents will mourn for some months; we had a daughter who died, they will say. But here, there are so many of us who will remember — there was such and such didi [older sister], our comrade; she died for the people.”

An article based on this and other interviews with Maoist rebels in this area appeared in The Hindu.

On India’s biometrics ID Aadhaar debate

JAM in Jharkhand: ‘Apply lemon juice, flour, Boroplus on fingers and pass biometrics test’
Fact check: Will restricting Aadhaar now affect crores of welfare recipients?
Supreme Court ruling on Aadhaar leaves both government and critics unsatisfied
An audit of ration shops after the introduction of Aadhaar revealed that many genuine beneficiaries couldn’t collect food grain due to system glitches.
Student battles for right to obtain voter card without having to enrol for Aadhaar
How the government got the Supreme Court’s approval to link subsidy schemes with Aadhaar
India’s Unique Identity Dilemma isn’t about those who enrol in Aadhaar, but those who don’t
No benefits for beneficiaries
She returns empty-handed, this time too
To pass biometric identification, apply Vaseline or Boroplus on fingers overnight
Direct benefits transfer: Why direct transfer may not put money in people’s pockets

 

Sly book

“At worst the Africans saw the Indians as illiterate, barefooted, clannish heathens, misers who hoarded coins under their bed, who had strange uncivilized costumes, who spread dung on the walls  and floors of their homes, stunted, thin-limbed and shifty-eyed. At worst, Indians saw the Africans as the condemned: ugly, black of skin, with wide noses and twisted coir for hair, mimics of the white masters, without a language, culture or religion of their own, frivolous, promiscuous, violent, lazy.”  p 120

…”I had thought of chutney as a music without pain, but I had begun to see I was wrong. Reggae was the music of slavery. Its impulse was resistance, confrontation, a homeland severed so absolutely, seized back by the force of imagination or ideology. Chutney was the music of indenture. Its impulse was preservation, then assimilation. There was a pain in this act of attempted preservation— a homeland part remembered and protected, part lost and lingering.” p.212

 

 

Nepal blockade may have created an enduring problem on the border: Fuel smuggling

This post from Raxaul-Birgunj border when the Nepal blockade ended, in early February.

A four-month blockade on the India-Nepal international border by Madhesi protestors left the Himalayan nation with lingering travails.

The blockade, started in September and ended on February 4, and caused enormous shortages and price rises in most parts of Nepal. As imports were disrupted, fuel scarcity pushed people to take to illegal logging and deforestation, creating a real threat of floods. Particularly hit during the four-month period were hospitals and schools. Reconstruction efforts after the deadly April 2015 earthquake too came to a standstill as loaded trucks were prevented from crossing the open border.

In Kathmandu, confronted with cooking gas shortage, most residents switched to firewood and induction stoves for cooking and heating. But this gave rise to further trouble. The widespread use of induction stoves caused electricity transformers to explode, disrupting power distribution.

A full recovery from this impact of the blockade, including from the slowdown of Nepal’s economy, may take long. Even a week after the blockade was lifted, there was little immediate relief for citizens.

Switching trades

Many fuel stations in Kathmandu remained closed. During the blockade, the government provided fuel only to emergency services vehicles and to private vehicles as per lots based on registration numbers. Now too, some rationing continues. The government announced that from next week, all vehicles will get fuel but within limits – 5 litres for motorcycles and 15 litres for four-wheelers.

The blockade by the Madhesis – a term for several communities living in Nepal’s central and eastern plains who have close cultural and family ties to India – also led to widespread smuggling of fuel along the border. The question now is: will the black market syndicate fostered by the illicit business continue in the coming months?

During the blockade, in Raxaul in Bihar’s East Champaran district, protestors didn’t allow four-wheeled vehicles on Maitreyi bridge, which connect the town to Birgunj in Nepal. Yet, thousands carried fuel from Raxaul to Birgunj in cola bottles and plastic jars of 15 litres or 20 litres on foot. Young men on motorbikes zipped back and forth multiple times every day, filling their tanks in Raxaul, selling the fuel in Birgunj, and returning for a refill.

Phoolvati Devi, who lives in Pashupatinagar, a border village near Maitreyi bridge, said the hectic ferrying of gas cylinders and cans went on through the night.

On the Maitreyi bridge, Sheikh Azad, who runs the Golden Gate Academy, a private school in Birgunj, was negotiating the price of 21 litres of diesel with Sohrab Ansari, a fruit seller. Since the blockade started, Ansari had switched from selling fruit to selling fuel, and had hired two children – Rukmini and Rambabu – to assist him. Selling fruit he earned a profit of Rs 5 per kilo. Selling fuel, he managed a margin of Rs 40 per litre on good days.

Hum jhola min bech rahein hain, woh bora mein bech rahein hain (What we are selling in bags, they – the smugglers – are selling in sacks),” said Ansari, hinting that the network was much larger than appeared.

‘Tel ki kheti’

In another part of Parsa district, at the inland depot at Sirisiya, Pitamber Patel, a farmer, had brought 50 litres of diesel on his bicycle to sell to truck drivers at the depot. “Ab tel hi kheti hai (It is a harvest of fuel this year),” he said.

Chain Kishore Chaudhary, a former staffer of the depot, was now a “dealer”. Boys in India bought fuel from gas stations and stored it at home, explained Chaudhary, and he paid local boys Rs 200 per trip to bring it to the depot. “We buy from Indians at Rs 65 a litre and sell it to truck drivers at Rs 75 per litre,” said Chaudhary. “On good days, it earns us thousands.”

Cooking gas cylinders too were smuggled at large profits. Dealers buy cooking gas cylinders of 14 kilo from Indians at the border at Rs 2,300 and transfer the gas into an empty Nepali company cylinder by simply overturning it, using a nozzle. Till last month, they were selling it to freight transporters for Rs 2,800, who then sold it in Kathmandu for up to Rs 5,000 per cylinder.

“This is Nepal’s progress,” said Chaudhary. “No, I suppose, this is India’s progress. They must have recorded fuel sales worth a year in just six months.”

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Farmworkers and rag-pickers walked through fields with fuel bought in India

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Nepal’s Armed Police Force posted in a border village said they allowed those carrying fuel since it helped tide over the shortages.

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Sheikh Azad, who ran a private school in Birgunj, negotiated the price of fuel with Sheikh Ansari, who sold fruit before the blockade.

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At Sirisiya Inland depot, dealer Biswanath Patel (left) bought fuel from locals who brought it here on motorcycles and bicycles. Patel then sold it to truck drivers.

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Manu Kumar, who is 15, had quit work as a labourer at the Dabur factory. He loaded a bicycle with 40 litres of diesel.

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Several truck drivers stored the fuel to sell it at even higher rates in Kathmandu and elsewhere.

More reports from on the Nepal blockade in Scroll.in here.

 

Those who will serve time in prison

If instead of of being hanged by the neck
you’re thrown inside for not giving up hope
in the world, your country, your people,
if you do ten or fifteen years
apart from time you have left,
you won’t say,
“Better I had swung from the end of a rope
like a flag”-
You’ll put your foot down and live.
It may not be pleasure exactly,
but it’s your solemn duty
to live one more day
to spite the enemy.

Part of you may live alone inside,
like a tone at the bottom of a well.
But the other part
must be so caught up
in the flurry of the world
that you shiver there inside
when outside, at forty days’ distance, a leaf moves.
To wait for letters inside,
to sing sad songs,
or to lie awake all night staring at the ceiling
is sweet but dangerous.
Look at your face from shave to shave,
forget your age,
watch out for lice
and for spring nights,
and always remember
to eat every last piece of bread–
also, don’t forget to laugh heartily.
And who knows,
the woman you love may stop loving you.
Don’t say it’s no big thing:
it’s like the snapping of a green branch
to the man inside.
To think of roses and gardens inside is bad,
to think of seas and mountains is good.
Read and write without rest,
and I also advise weaving
and making mirrors.
I mean, it’s not that you can’t pass
ten or fifteen years inside
and more —
you can,
as long as the jewel
on the left side of your chest doesn’t lose it’s luster!

–Nâzım Hikmet, Some Advice To Those  Who Will Serve Time In Prison, May 1949 (found while interviewing him.)

study

vo log bahut Khush_qismat the
jo ishq ko kaam samajhate the
yaa kaam se aashiqii karate the
ham jiite jii masaruuf rahe
kuchh ishq kiyaa kuchh kaam kiyaa

kaam ishq ke aa.De aataa rahaa
aur ishq se kaam ulajhataa rahaa
phir aaKhir tang aakar ham ne
dono.n ko adhuuraa chho.D diyaa

–Faiz

study

Jharkhand: Schools serve as security camps, military barracks

This article is from July 2014 on presence of security forces in school buildings in Jharkhand before and after the general elections.

High School for SC-ST children in Tiskopiya village in Bokaro where CPI(Maoist) blew eight classrooms in in 2009 after security forces stayed there during the elections. photo-Manob Chowdhury

High School for SC-ST children in Tiskopiya village in Bokaro where CPI(Maoist) blew eight classrooms in in 2009 after security forces stayed there during the elections. photo- Manob Chowdhury

In recent years, as the presence of security personnel in Jharkhand has multiplied, schools and civic buildings have frequently become the theatre of conflict between the paramilitary forces and the rebels. In the absence of large, concrete structures inside densely forested districts, security personnel use civic buildings, schools, anganwadi for accommodation, and camps. For instance, April 4 onwards, in Palamu, CRPF’s 157 Battalion deputed in Chatarpur before polling made barracks out of the government middle school building cordoning off the school with concertina wire and converting its roof into a watch-post. It was the same in several other districts.

Four days after the second phase of polling for Lok Sabha elections got over in Jharkhand on April 17, the CPI(Maoist) blew up panchayat bhawan in Rajabar in Koderma. The building had been used as a temporary camp by one of the 212 additional units of the Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) deputed to keep watch in the state during the Lok Sabha elections. Recently, on June 25, the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), a Maoist splinter group active in western Jharkhand, called for a bandh in all schools in Khunti district citing CRPF’s continued use of school buildings to station troops here. There are instances of classes being disrupted, and overall, this exposes schools to the risk of becoming civilian targets of CPI(Maoist).

In 2008, Ranchi-based activist and school teacher Shashi Bhushan Pathak filed a PIL in Jharkhand High Court objecting to school buildings being turned into temporary and permanent security camps. On the High Court’s orders, Jharkhand police furnished a list of 40 schools in 13 districts where it had set up pickets and security camps, including primary, middle, high schools, hostels, schools for visually disabled children. On November 21, 2008 the Jharkhand High Court ordered security forces vacate all school premises by January 2009. Senior police officials say they have since complied with this order.

Investigations in West Singhbhum and Latehar, however, reveal the CRPF continue to camp schools buildings temporarily and have even converted parts of schools buildings into permanent camps. Villagers pointed out instances where first schools had been occupied temporarily during elections, and then the same camps being turned into permanent camps later.

In Chotanagra in West Singhbhum, a CRPF camp and a thana function at one end of the ground of the Upgraded High School and Residential School for Scheduled Tribes. The school is one of two residential schools catering to tribals villagers from 56 forest villages in Saranda.

“This space used to be a maidaan where people came to play sports from all over. In 2004, the Border Security Force camped here before general elections and then the CRPF set up a permanent camp,” said Ajay Sahu who runs a grocery shop across the road from the school. A wall in the center of the playground was built a few months back, taking away the students’ access to the playground.

“Sometimes the jawans would come to the school to fill water from the handpump, and when the special forces CRPF’s CoBRA, Jharkhand Jaguar visited, they camped in the school at night. Parents of children from Sonapi proposed a wall be built to discourage this as adolescent girls live in the hostel,” said a school teacher requesting anonymity. A CRPF jawan filling water from the school’s hand-pump told this reporter that the jawans had no option but to use the school’s hand-pump, as the camp had an Aquaguard water filter but electricity failed regularly.

Bombings, demolitions; schoolchildren suffer

In retaliation for the security forces making barracks out of school buildings in the last few years, the Maoists have bombed dozens of schools all over Jharkhand. In Tiskopia in Bokaro the rebels blew up eight classrooms of a high school for SC-ST children after the CRPF stayed in the school for 45 days during the elections in 2009. School staff recounted seeing iron doors, windows, sports materials, books lay scattered all around the school building, and classes were held under a tree for the next two years.

Upgraded Middle School Salve village in Garu block in Latehar district where Maoists demolished a freshly constructed boundary wall in 2013 objecting to it as schools are often used as barracks by security forces. photo-Manob Chowdhury

Upgraded Middle School Salve village in Garu block in Latehar district where Maoists demolished a freshly constructed boundary wall in 2013 objecting to it as schools are often used as barracks by security forces. photo-Manob Chowdhury

The same year, in Banbirwa, Kone and Saryu in Latehar, they planted bombs and demolished portions of the school building at night soon after they were used by CRPF. Last march, the rebels demolished the nearly-built boundary wall of the Upgraded Middle School in Garu in Latehar. Schoolgirls who watched from a distance recounted watching the rebels break the wall with their rifles soon after school had got over late afternoon: “Dhakol dhakol ke tod diya. Hum ne Master ji ko duur se aate dekha, aur chilaye, ‘Masterji party aayi hai, bhago!'(They broke it bit by bit. We saw the school teacher approach and shouted out, ‘the “party” (Maoists) are here. Run!’). Vishram Oraon, the village Shiksha Samiti member whom the rebels beat up for allowing the construction of the wall, said security forces had camped at the school during panchayat elections of 2010.

In several villages, paramilitary personnel camped temporarily inside classrooms as permanent camps were built in the immediate vicinity of the school. Now camps exist cheek by jowl with schools.

In Latehar’s Saryu village, a CPI(Maoist) “liberated territory” till 2009, the government high school staff recounts the rebels would hoist a black flag in the school on republic day. As paramilitary operations to oust the rebels began, the CRPF stayed in the school innumerable times, even as Maoists warned the school staff against letting security forces camp there. In 2009, the rebels blew up the middle school building a kilometer away. Now, a permanent CRPF camp has been set up across the high school playground, while the ground serves as a helipad for the camp.
Over 360 students of classes till VIII study in the school, and 87 senior students, including 50 girls. “If additional forces come they still stay in the school but not more than three days at a time. Sometimes they come during school hours to take water or borrow chairs and tables,” said the school principal Chandrashekhar Singh, while he supervised the construction of a boundary wall. “If a wall had been built earlier, perhaps the helipad would not have come here?” mused Mohammad Hakimuddin, a farmer.

Upgraded Middle School  in Marangloia in Latehar where Jharkhand Armed Police have set a camp since 2008 in a part of the building even while the school runs in the other part. photo-Manob Chowdhury

Upgraded Middle School in Marangloia in Latehar where Jharkhand Armed Police have set a camp since 2008 in a part of the building even while the school runs in the other part. photo-Manob Chowdhury

In another block Balumath in village Marangloia, the only government middle school catering to ten villages in Marangloia has served as Jharkhand Armed Police(JAP) camp for the last six years. Police personnel occupying the classrooms complained of being cramped for space as over 100 of them live in five small classrooms. The earthen courtyard of the school was being used by mining firm Abhijeet Group to park JCB excavator machines. After the Maoists set fire to the group’s vehicles in 2012, district officials gave permit even to the Abhijeet Group to park vehicles next to the JAP camp inside the middle school.

“The police came to stay in the school when I was in class VIII. We would find it difficult to go to the toilet because there were no toilets and we used the fields. The jawans would use the fields too. Now they have built a toilet,” said Sangeeta Kumari, who is now studying for a Bachelor’s in Arts at the Ranchi University. The schoolchildren and the security personnel still share a hand pump for drinking water.

Police, maoists deny responsibility

Jharkhand has a rural literacy level of 61 percent; female literacy in rural areas in 48 percent. The dropout rate in middle school is very high at 48 percent. A report by Human Rights Watch on militarization of schools in Jharkhand and Bihar identifies that government’s failure to ensure necessary infrastructure for the police violates communities’ right to education as schoolchildren must bear with overcrowding and manage in temporary spaces, and girls’ education suffers.

Officials either deny, or disagree. “Normally, we stay in the open to avoid staying in schools. Or, we stay in schools which we find abandoned, where no teaching is going on. For instance, in one school where we camped, 100 students were enrolled but there were shrubs growing everywhere,” said a CRPF commandant in Latehar. “To my knowledge there is no CRPF camp running out of a school, or disrupting classes in any way,” said Jharkhand’s Director General of Police Rajeev Kumar.

The CPI(Maoist) cadres acknowledge that bombing school buildings as part of “People’s war” has put rural children at a disadvantage but put the onus on security forces’ practice of staying in school buildings.

They cite rare instances where the party has helped rebuild bombed schools in their defence. “We demolished the high school building in Tiskopia after the CRPF stayed there 45 days during the 2009 elections. But we contributed when the villagers pooled funds to rebuild it in 2011,” said Rakeshji who leads local guerrilla squads in Bokaro’s Jhumra hills referring to a non-government school for SC-ST children in Gomia block. When asked to confirm, staff at the school were apprehensive of both acknowledging the rebels’ role in rebuilding the school building even as they expressed anxiety over the possibility of the school being occupied by security forces a second time in future elections.

The curious case of the alphabetically accused

On January 30, 2015, the Supreme Court while hearing a Special Leave Petition for bail for two jailed Maruti workers, Sunil Kumar and Kanwaljeet, gave the Haryana government two weeks to respond why the workers should not be granted bail. SC had on 17 February 2014 declined to hear the workers’ bail plea as eye-witnesses were still being examined. It asked the Haryana court to complete examine eye witnesses by April 2014, though the local court later missed this deadline. Below is a report from August 2014 on the legal case against a majority of the workers.

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Co-workers, families of jailed Maruti workers marching to Haryana Chief Minister Bhoopinder Singh Hooda on August 3, stopped on the way by the police in Rohtak. Photo: Anumeha Yadav

The Hindu

Manesar (Haryana): On Thursday, 147 workers of Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL) in Bhondsi jail will be waiting patientlyfor the decision of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana on bail plea of two of the 147 workers. They have been in jail since two years after manager Awanish Kumar Dev was killed in an instance of rioting in Maruti‘s Manesar plant on 18 July 2012. The rioting in July 2012 was preceded by months of strikes by the workers demanding an independent union in 2011 that had caused a loss of over Rs 2500 crores to MSIL, India’s largest automobile manufacturer.

While all 147 workers have been charged on eighteen counts, including rioting charges, and under Section 302 of IPC for murder of Mr Dev, a pattern has emerged from the evidence against the workers. In case of 89 workers, the Haryana police cited the testimonies of only four labour supply contractors hired by the MSIL. Each contractor has testified to witnessing workers indulge in violence such that the names of the workers allegedly seen rioting fall in an alphabetical order.

Rioters seen in alphabetical order

Court documents show witness Virendra alias Rajender Yadav has named 25 workers such that all workers’ names fall in the alphabetical range of A-G. Another witness contractor Yaad Ram testified that he saw 25 workers rioting all of whose names fall in the next range G-P. Witness Ashok Rana names 26 workers who were allegedly rioting whose names range from P-S.The final witness Rakesh of Tirupati Associates who supplied 900 contract workers to MSIL testified to allegedly seeing 13 workers whose names, continuing the alphabetic sequence, are in the range S-Y.

On July 5 in the district court, all four contractors failed to identify any of the 89 workers named by them. “The management had originally named 52 persons in the FIR, mainly from the union’s body. The police picked up another 100 workers over the next two-three weeks and assigned 89 names alphabetically to the labour contractors with there being no other witnesses. They did not produce any witnesses at all against another 11 workers,” said defence counsel RS Hooda commenting on the evidence against 100 of 147 workers.

Special Public Prosecutor KTS Tulsi declined to comment on this pattern of the testimonies. Witness Virendra alias Rajender Yadav who has named workers with names ranging from A-G told The Hindu that his firm VGR Engineer Pvt. Ltd. supplied 700 workers to the Manesar plant in July 2012, and at present it supplied 600 workers to MSIL’s Gurgaon plant.

Car doors’ recovery

As rioting weapons, the police show they have recovered 139 car door frames and iron rods from workers weeks after the incident. For instance, they show Maruti Suzuki Workers Union’s head Ram Meher was arrested 13 days later on August 1, 2012. The Recovery Memo records that a car door frame over 2 feet in length, with sharp metal planks welded at both ends allegedly used as rioting weapon was found inside his bed in his residence in Ashok Vihar, 25 km from the Manesar plant. Similarly, they show Sarabjeet, the Union’s General Secretary, was arrested on August 1, 2012 and a car door frame recovered from inside Sarabjeet’s bed at his Laxman Vihar house, 22 km from the Maruti plant, was the alleged weapon.

Inside Bhondsi jail, 15 km from Gurgaon, Ram Meher said the pattern was repeated for several workers. “The police say we hid and carried door frames for kilometres, in some instances till another district. How could have we? The police planted these and showed arrests after many of us surrendered,” said Ram Meher.

“The alphabetic order of witness is a matter of probability. It is less probable but not impossible. I cannot comment on other details as I was not the DCP in charge at that time,” said DCP (South) Gurgaon Vivek Sharma.

The District Court in Gurgaon has already rejected the workers’ bail plea thrice, most recently this June. The High Court turned it down in May.

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