CPI finds fault with CPI(M)

The CPI has found fault with the CPI(M) for skipping the RJD rally in Patna, saying the Left parties should not shy away from the unified fight against BJP citing presence of Congress or others.

Sources said the CPI decided to go ahead with attending the rally last Sunday even after CPI(M) communicating that it would not attend the rally. Usually both parties take a common stand on issues.

CPI(M) had cited the presence of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee at the rally as well as being seen with RJD chief Lalu Prasad, a convicted politician. A section of the CPI(M) central leadership also argued that CPI(M)’s presence would mean that it was open to an electoral alliance with Congress.

However, CPI sources rubbished the CPI(M) theory saying no secular party in the country can avoid working with a “pan-India party like Congress” at a time the RSS and BJP are “aggressively” pursuing a “regressive agenda to divide the country”.

When contacted, CPI National Secretary D Raja told DH, “we are an independent party. We take our own decisions after assessing the political situation. The Left should take real initiatives to fight the fascist forces. Left can play a more effective role.”

He said the division on attending the rally would not affect unity among Left parties. CPI General Secretary S Sudhakar Reddy and Raja attended the Patna rally.

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury defended the decision not to attend the Patna rally while attending rebel JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav’s meetings. “The ‘save composite culture’ movement has got nothing to do with electoral alliances or adjustments. Saving the composite culture is a larger issue,” Yechury said adding it cannot take part in any rally of the grand alliance with the Congress.

CPI sources said the Left should strive to build broadest possible alliance of parties to fight the BJP. “This does not mean electoral alliance. We need to have coordination on the ground. Otherwise we will lose the game,” a senior CPI leader said.

The CPI(M) has to assess the political situation and decide. They should understand the RSS-BJP are very aggressive. CPI(M) should see that and take a decision accordingly,” the leader said.

A senior CPI(M) leader also echoed these sentiments last week when he said party leadership should understand that it is not strong as it was earlier and it should be seen as relevant.

CPI(M) has a historic role to play. All parties of Left shade are looking at CPI(M) to play the leadership role. We are now held up on whether to work with Congress. What we are looking at is not electoral alliance but a unified fight against BJP,” he had told DH.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 30)

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AAP reverses electoral setbacks

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) returned to its winning streak in Delhi by retaining Bawana Assembly seat in a bypoll with a margin of 24,052 votes after suffering a series of electoral shocks in the past months.

BJP had a loss of face in the result as its gamble with AAP turncoat Ved Prakash, the sitting MLA who joined the saffron party and contested the bypoll, fell flat. Congress’ dreams of opening account in Delhi Assembly polls also did not fructify.

AAP’s Ram Chander polled 59,886 votes while Ved Prakash, who polled 1.09 lakh votes in the 2015 polls, managed only 35,834 votes. Congress candidate Surendra Kumar, a three-time MLA from Bawana who was fielded with the hope of regaining the seat, could muster only 31,919 votes.

The final results came after initial moments of anxiety in AAP camp as it trailed in third position till the first 12 of 28 rounds. Congress initially sprinted with the lead but AAP caught up before establishing an unassailable lead while BJP at one point seemed to be settling at third position.

The result puts a brake on BJP’s poll victories in the capital where it had won the Rajouri Garden bypoll by defeating Congress candidate and pushing AAP to third position. It had also won the elections to three municipal corporations in a convincing margin and it came after its crushing defeat in the 2015 Assembly polls where it could bag only three seats in a House of 70.

The Delhi BJP leadership would have to answer tough questions over the defeat as it would give AAP a fresh breather.

If the results left BJP with a gloomy face, the AAP’s thumping victory has come as huge relief for the party and its chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who faced rebellion in the party after the electoral reverses in Delhi as well as in the Assembly polls in Punjab and Goa earlier this year.

Soon after the civic polls loss, the AAP had plunged into a turmoil after senior leader Kumar Vishwas launched a rebellion over the ways the party was run. The leadership managed to cool his tempers but one of the MLAs Kapil Mishra, who was considered close to Vishwas, levelled allegations against Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Health Minister Satyendar Jain.

Congress was pinning hopes on Kumar’s popularity in the area but it could not match up with the AAP.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald website on Aug 28, 2017)

Oppn parties upset with CPI(M)

Divergent views on participating in opposition programmes in the CPI(M) have forced the party to skip Sunday’s RJD rally in Patna but this decision has not gone down well with opposition parties,

Such optics will derail the fight against the Narendra Modi-led government and absence of a “credible party” like CPI(M) would only enthuse the opponent, which is on a weak wicket following the large-scale violence in Haryana and Supreme Court verdict on right to privacy, opposition leaders argued.

Besides CPI(M), the Lalu rally would also not have the presence of top Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi as well as BSP chief Mayawati.

Even as Left ally CPI chose to join Lalu Prasad’s ‘BJP Bhagao, Desh Bachao’ rally, a senior RJD leader bluntly told CPI(M) leaders that their action is weakening the opposition and was nothing less than what JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar did. The leader said that JD(U) back-stabbed the Grand Alliance and CPI(M) is now giving a leeway to opponents when a rally is being organised in Kumar’s backyard.

A section in Congress and other parties said the CPI(M) decision reflected the division within the party, which intensified after its Central Committee decision not to renominate General Secretary Sitaram Yechury to Rajya Sabha for a third term.

Sources said the question before CPI(M) is whether to “grab the opportunity (to fight BJP) or let it go” when the party is not in a prime position. “At present, we are not in a prime position. We need to be seen as relevant and we should use all opportunities,” a senior CPI(M) leader said.

There was a view in the party that the CPI(M) should attend the rally to showcase Opposition unity but a section in the central leadership was adamant that the party should stay away. Their argument was that it would be seen as an electoral platform and sharing space with “corrupt” politicians would not do any good.

Sources said reasoning that this was not an electoral platform did not cut much ice with others even as they pointed out the dichotomy in not attending the Lalu rally while providing “silent” support for YSR Congress, whose chief Jagan Mohan Reddy had publicly appreciated Modi, in the recent bypolls.

The CPI, which usually take a common line with CPI(M) on such issues, taking a different approach is also seen as a setback for the main Left party that usually sets the narrative.

This was not the first time that differences surfaced in CPI(M)’s central leadership over participating in opposition programmes. Questions were raised over Yechury being named as a member of Sharad Yadav-led opposition committee on saving composite culture.

There will also be questions over the participation of Yechury in the August 30 conference in Indore called by Sharad Yadav, who had publicly acknowledged that the Left leader had suggested the idea of a conference on composite culture.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 27, 2017)

‘Triple Talaq verdict historic’

The fight against triple talaq was a long drawn one and the Bombay Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) was in the forefront. The Supreme Court suo motu turned BMMA’s petition ‘Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality’ into a PIL before clubbing other petitions, including that of Shayara Bano. I spoke to BMMA’s co-founder Zakia Soman.

How do you see the Supreme Court judgement on triple talaq?

It is a historic judgement and it is not just for Muslim women. It is one of the landmark judgements in independent India. Muslim women are deprived of their Quranic rights and we are also deprived of our Constitutional rights. It is for the first time that this judgement on a very vast scale is trying to sort of undo that kind of injustice.

With this victory, do you think the fight is over?

Not at all. In fact, this is the beginning now. Armed and equipped with this judgement and a potential legal framework, we can really take forward the entire struggle for gender justice in Muslim community. We can also embark on a larger social reform project where we take up education and empowerment of Muslim girls.

zakia

Can you recall how did this fight against triple talaq begin? What was the trigger?

Our organisation was formed in January 2007. We were initially engaged in education, livelihood, widow pension and similar issues. But then, every day we encountered women who started coming to us, saying ‘I have been divorced’, ‘I have been thrown out by my husband’. Women were coming to us asking where can I go, what kind of help we can give them, what kind of guidance we can give them. There were also questions whether talaq was valid, whether it was Quranic, will any Qazi (cleric) help her. So we felt that, if so many women are facing this issue, then we need to take it up very seriously. We did a national public hearing on triple talaq where some 500 women came. We got a number of first person narration of their woes, how they are suffering because of the triple talaq. After that, we made a campaign on abolition of triple talaq. We also filed this petition in the Supreme Court.

What were the obstacles you and others encountered while campaigning for abolishing triple talaq? What were the pulls and pressures from within the community?

They tried a lot to target us. Because we are all women, they tried to bring out things in our personal life. For instance, in my case, they went after my family. They made a Whatapp with my photograph. They wrote all kind of things about my husband and my son. It is very easy to level allegations against women and their personal life. They tried all that. But it did not hold on well with the community. We received support from a lot of ordinary Muslims, both men and women. Several non-Muslim women also came in our support. We got support from media, universities, social organisations, corporate houses and several other places. That is why we were able to overcome the kind of challenges, like those from All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

There could be opposition from within the community to implement the judgement on triple talaq. Do you see any obstacles in its implementation?

The opposition will now become weaker and weaker. We will have to empower the women extensively. We need to make women aware of the judgement. We need to make them aware of the Quranic teachings as well as Constitutional principles. Muslims are also citizens like every others. They also have same concerns like others. They want education, jobs. We need to proceed on social reform process.

There is also an argument the latest judgement does not add much to the rights of Muslim women because earlier also there were judgements making instant talaq null and void. What is your take?

There is a difference. Despite these earlier judgements, the triple talaq was happening. Now, with this kind of awareness and publicity this judgement has received, every Muslim woman will be aware that it is not a valid form of divorce. Even every husband is aware that if he indulges in this, then it will not be a valid form of divorce. So this judgement has gathered entire public attention around the issue unlike any other judgement in the past. That is biggest positive of this judgement.

There is a view among some sections that this fight against triple talaq will help further the agenda of RSS-BJP. How do you respond to that?

I don’t understand how abolition of triple talaq would help the RSS. It is about Muslim women. It is not about the government, it is not about the RSS or BJP, it is not about the Prime Minister it is not about any party. It is not about anybody else. So, my contention is that BJP has come to power only three years ago. Then who prevented others from abolishing triple talaq. We are talking about gender justice in Islam. How can RSS talk about gender justice in Islam? I don’t understand why they are bringing this in. This it seems has become a last resort (for triple talaq supporters) because they don’t have any substantive argument.

There is also a debate on Uniform Civil Code (UCC). Will this judgement be a precursor to the UCC?

Not at all. Uniform Civil Code is a separate issue. It is a separate debate. It is applied to every citizen of the country. It does not apply only to Muslims. Indian people are religious. So we want the church wedding, we want the ‘nikkah’, we want the ‘kanyadan’. That is how we are. But a secular law should be made available as an alternative for all Indian citizens. That is the citizen’s prerogative to choose, if he or she wants secular law or she wants to marry under religious customs.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald’s Panorama on Aug 24, 2017)

Bypoll: Litmus test for AAP

After a series of political and electoral reverses, a litmus test awaits Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP this Wednesday when Bawana Assembly seat goes to bypolls.

It will be a prestige battle for Kejriwal as the bypoll was necessitated after AAP MLA Ved Prakash quit the Assembly to join BJP in March this year.

A victory is very much needed for the AAP, as a reversal in fortunes would be a relief for the party battered in a bypoll and civic body elections in Delhi and Assembly polls in Punjab earlier this year.

BJP has fielded Prakash in the seat reserved for Scheduled Castes, while AAP is in the ring with Ramchandra. Congress, which is also looking for comeback, has fielded three-time MLA from Bawana Surendra Kumar.

The campaign has entered the frenetic last phase with all the eight candidates, including independents, trying to win over the voters. The counting of votes will be on August 28.

The BJP is riding high on its electoral victory in civic polls and Rajouri Garden bypoll and expects that majority of the 2.94 lakh voters would repose their faith in the saffron party and “teach Arvind Kejriwal a lesson”, as Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan said during a campaign meeting last week.

For AAP, the rebellion by one of its MLA Kapil Mishra and public displeasure expressed by senior leader Kumar Vishwas are still fresh in public memory.

The Kejriwal-led party will also have to overcome the electoral setbacks it received in the recent Rajouri Garden bypoll where its candidate lost his deposit in a sitting seat and the civic poll results and win back the confidence of people.

A section in the party believe that they have squandered its hard-earned political capital based on people-centric politics through bad strategy. Kejriwal appears to have tweaked his strategy after the drubbing and in the past four-five months have been concentrating on ground work. The party had instructed its MLAs to meet workers and common man regularly.

The polling in Bawana will also see the use of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). The AAP had raised doubts about EVMs in Assembly polls and had demanded that paper trail should be there. Bawana had witnessed polling of 61.14% and 61.83% in 2013 and 2015 Assembly polls respectively.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 21, 2017)

Conviction in domestic violence case on decline

Domestic violence cases have shown a decline in the country in the past couple of years as also the number of people getting convicted in such incidents.

West Bengal has topped the list of cases in the past three years, where also the conviction rate is very dismal. Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are two other states, which have higher number of such incidents.

According to latest official figures, the country has registered 1,23,126 domestic violence cases in which 1,23,213 women were victims last year. In such cases, 2.27 lakh people were also arrested.

Domestic Violence Cases

Year

Cases reported

Conviction in Cases

No of People Convicted

2014

1,35,492

8,260

20,642

2015

1,25,558

8,556

21,882

2016

1,23,126

7,093

17,908

The figures show a sharp decline in such cases from 2014 — while there were 1,35,492 cases and 1,35,923 victims besides arresting 2.55 lakh people in 2014, the number came down to 1,25,558 cases and 1,25,747 victims and 2.13 lakh people arrested in 2015.

Activists and officials, however, warned against reading too much into the decline, saying there may be a number of cases which are not reported and several incidents were police have refused to register also.

Another problem area is the lesser number of cases getting concluded in courts in a year and the conviction rate. Though a large proportion of cases ends up in chargesheets, the figures show that very few cases end in conviction.

Last year, only 7,093 cases ended in conviction of 17,908 people while police had filed chargesheets in 1.03 lakh cases. Similar is the case in 2014 — 20,642 people convicted in 8,260 cases — and 2015 — 21822 people convicted in 8,566 cases.

Though there was an increase in convicted cases in 2015 compared to 2014, last year saw it dropping even below the 2014 figures.

Officials attribute to the low rate of conviction on improper investigation leading to not-so-strong chargesheets. Some cases also do not stand the test of court because of lack of evidence while some are outright fake cases.

Among the states, West Bengal have reported 20,262 cases last year compared to 23,899 in 2014 and 20,896. The number of those who were convicted last year, however, was a meagre 161 in the state.

Rajasthan had 14,444 cases while the conviction was that of 1,919. In convictions, UP had topped the list with 8,483 people being convicted followed by Madhya Pradesh 2,240 last year.

In Karnataka, there were 3,008 cases last year as against 3,560 in 2014 and 3,260 in 2015. Only 107 people were convicted last year while296 were sent to jail in 2014 and119 in 2015.

(Aug 15, 2017)

Next Oppn show of strength in Bengaluru

Bengaluru will host the next show of strength by Opposition on September 5 when Left parties organising a conference on saving the ‘composite culture’ of the country.

The conference jointly organised by CPI(M) and CPI will see the participation of “all secular parties” and could be seen as a follow up to the ‘Save Composite Culture Conference’ called by dissident JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav.

A senior Left leader told DH that top leaders of all parties are expected to attend the conference in Bengaluru and highlight the threat posed by the RSS-BJP combine to the country.

The opposition getting together in Karnataka on single platform would also comes against the backdrop of the state witnessing Assembly elections in April-May next year though none are saying that it is a precursor to a united fight.

In the conference to be attended by CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, Yadav and others, the leaders are also likely to highlight the rise in numbers of communal incidents in the state.

Among the 296 communal incidents reported this year till May, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in Parliament, Karnataka was ranked second in the list with 36 incidents after Uttar Pradesh, which accounted for 60. In UP, 16 people were killed and another 151 injured while in Karnataka three people lost their lives and another 93 were wounded.

The Left leader also pointed to the controversy surrounding Baba Budangiri shrine in Chikamagalur, saying all efforts are being made to create communal polarisation in the state.

Yadav himself had said that he would take the conference to other cities like Indore, Patna and Nagpur among others. A joint meeting of Opposition parties had also decided to organise programmes in cities other than Delhi.

However, the leader said such conferences alone would not work and what is needed is a people’ struggle in the grassroots. “Alternative narrative against Narendra Modi can be build through people’s struggle only,” he said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald website on Aug 17, 2017)

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