Archive for May, 2009

Elections, Return of UPA and Challenges for People’s Movements
Meeting held on May 22 2009 @ Indian Social Institute, New Delhi

On May 21 2009 some 70-75 people from different civil organisations and social movements met in a conversation discussing the verdict of ‘General Elections 2009, Return of UPA and the Challenges for People’s Movements’. The meeting was organised at Indian Social Institute by Delhi Solidarity Group (https://delhisolidaritygroup.wordpress.com/) and received a good response from many and with a request for documenting it. In addition to this note, a short clip will soon be available on DSG website.

This note is an attempt at summarising some threads of the conversations directly focussing on implications for Peoples Movements. Voting patterns in states by different social groups and how and what led to Left fronts debacle in West Bengal and Kerala were also discussed, but we are consciously avoiding that part of discussion, since a good deal of news reel and air time has been and is still devoted to that. For more details of the meeting you could listen to the audio recording which will also be available on DSG website in some time.


What is this vote for ?

It was not a vote for stability nor for economic reforms, but for dal-roti, the pro-poor image and to some extent the pro-poor agenda of United Progressive Alliance (UPA). It was also pointed out that much of the vote share garnered by UPA was anti votes for others. J. John pointed that emergence of Congress doesn’t mean the emergence of a single party in which India’s diversity can be summarised, and which allows for the oppositions and differences to co exist within – ‘Congressism’ (an earlier coinage by Prof. Rajni Kothari). It’s also a vote against the arrogance of CPI(M) (Communist Party of India, Marxist) and a vote against the communal and hard line politics for which Mr. Advani and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) stands. It’s a vote against the ideological and programmatic vacuum in third and fourth Front. There is no One Mandate, as groups that voted for congress are diverse and have very different expectations. The diversity of the voter’s perspective was summarised in the inability of Congress and BJP to gain much in some prominent states.

What is the implication of this Vote for People’s Movements?

Congress lead-UPA will vigorously push for economic reforms in agriculture, health, education, banking, insurance, energy and other sectors. Special Economic Zones (SEZs) – the most bitterly fought legislation by People’s Movements (PM) – will be pushed vigorously, as soon as there will be signs of economic recovery.  This means a greater assault on people’s sources of livelihood with even less tolerance for resistance. There is a danger that neo-liberal economic policies (of the Economic right) will prepare conditions for a Nationalist and a Political Right to strengthen and dominate Indian politics in the near future.

In Detail

Elections 09 and Challenges for the Peoples Movements

  • There was an overwhelming consensus that pro-people policies and significant legislations such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), Right to Information Act (RTI), farmers’ loan-waivers, among others, passed during the UPA government paid rich dividends in this election. Even the passing of the Forest Right Act (FRA) has benefited the UPA and the implementing state governments. This was felt across the spectrum, as was visible in Congress’s performance as well as in BJD (Biju Janata Dal) win in Orissa and JD (U) (Janata Dal – United) win in Bihar. Even though this alone can’t explain all the defeats or successes.
  • People’s movements’ influence on the elections was also pointed out. Sumit Chakraborty reminded that the poll percentages in struggle areas were generally high, and those were also areas where vote difference between candidates were very high. In West Bengal peasantry and poor voted against the Left, showing simmering discontent in places where NREGA implementation has been meagre, which was further fuelled by discontent over land acquisitions in Nandigram and Singur. It was opined that the progressive legislations have come after long sustained efforts of peoples movements across the country. However, its implementation continues to witness tough opposition from feudal elements in society, governance and political parties. The Congress has been rewarded for passing those policies, but its own cadres are reluctant to their implementation. This mandate will embolden the arrogance of the Congress machinery and the government, which will try to stop the effective implementation of these empowering schemes. Till now, a little implementation has happened due to sustained pressure from the PMs. We need to be ready for bitter struggles ahead at the implementation front.
  • The vote is also a rejection of the Left for its ideological bankruptcy, arrogance, and failure to admit its mistakes. There is a serious need for introspection and an attempt at putting its house in order and bringing to its centre the politics of people. It was stated that CPI(M) needs to understand that if there is industrialisation, it has to be small scale labour intensive, as the real problem is unemployment. J John specifically argued that the Left had failed to be the party of the workers and of peoples movements and that it needs to be able to do that to be relevant. Quoting from a note by S.P.Shukla, Vijayan added that if Left wants to be relevant in the national scenario, it has to work towards the formation of a grand alliance of Left, Trade unions and Peoples Movements. The left’s inability to garner the electoral support of the more than 450 million workers in the country goes against its very basic – the mobilisation of working class towards political power.
  • Main problems to come: J. John pointed out that the coming times will see a massive proletariasation of labour due to large numbers of SEZs and the decisive role they will have in determining the “face” of labour rights. Aseem Srivastava made it clear that the land will continue to be the biggest source of conflict as the govt will continue to promote agro-business, industrial farming, SEZs, among other practices, which are being pushed by Multinational companies and international financial institutions. C K Raju said that we need not forget that the managers of this government are the same men of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Their capacity to carry out economic reforms in previous regime was limited by coalition politics, which wont be the case now to the same extent. Sushmita Das Gupta emphasised that BJP has been voted for in the states of Chattisgarh, and Jharkhand (a former BJP ally, BJD, has been voted back in Orissa). As planned industrial production will increase the need for steel and iron ore, times ahead will surely be difficult for people’s movements in these states. One need not forget that the economic interest of BJP and Congress are the same. In consequence, UPA at the centre is going to tacitly support land acquisitions and atrocities on tribals for exploitation of minerals even in states governed by BJP.
  • There was a worrying analysis of the possible scenario for the time to come. First, the next five years UPA/Congress’s neoliberal economic policies will prepare the ground for the return of more extreme nationalist and political right forces (BJP and likely National Democratic Alliance) in the country, as it happened in case of Germany at the time of Hitler. This will be aggravated by the effects of the current economic recession, without an effective implementation of pro-people policies which will certainly aid the process of shift towards extreme right politics. Secondly, after the defeat of the BJP lead NDA  and the formation of UPA in 2004, civil society groups in general have been in a comfort zone. This comfort zone is not of help for people’s movements in urban and rural areas, who are engaged in fierce battle for survival and livelihood. In the cities, we have to come out of our comfort zone and forgo the tendency that we will deal with the economic right by any means, but dealing with social and political right (read fascists) is much tougher. We need to unite and prepare for struggles ahead before it is too late.
  • To resist effectively one need to know one’s opponent well. Sarita Bhoi asked, if people’s movements are so strong in states of Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand then how is it that right wing governments are still in place? Kavita Krishnan suggested in her written note to the meeting that if CPI won from Jagatsinghpur, Orissa, it is with help of BJD, which is responsible for POSCO project. Subhash Gatade, Naveen and others raised the issue that if people’s movements are so strong in Singur and Nandigram then how come they chose to vote for Trinamool Congress, which was an ally of NDA sometime back and is now ally of the Neo-liberal Congress. All these tendencies together raise the need for introspection within as well. Reflecting on the role of people’s movements and their engagement with the parliamentary process it was felt that somewhere we are lacking two things, the macro perspective, and a broader mass political front.
  • Some speakers felt it is time that people’s movements develop a broad political front which can challenge the existing parties. Vijay Pratap asked, how long will we keep siding with one or the other party? How long will we keep preparing the ground for political parties? Rajendra Ravi added that the time has come for developing a broader critique of development, power and a macro perspective for the people’s movements’ politics, which can challenge the existing structure and also offer a different vision for the larger society. Ashok Chowdhury emphasised that we need not necessarily build political parties but more importantly we need to develop a vocabulary to conduct and engage meaningfully with politics, to negotiate and form tactical alliances with Left parties such as CPI, CPIML, RSP, and not see CPIM only as our ally. However, we need not forget that our agenda will not be carried by those who are sitting in opposition since they don’t identify with our politics. Ashok added that the movements will have to continue to go to streets, since that is what symbolises our politics and is also the only way in which we can keep up with the pulse of masses. The critical consciousness of masses in areas where movements are strong is far ahead of those who are in the leadership position there. He stated that we have to learn to align with the new generations of activists and forge effective alliances with the broader Left and find our allies in the progressive elements within various parties for parliamentary politics.

The meeting was concluded in a positive note that emerged from sharing analyses and finding common ground. It was felt that longer duration programmes formatted as workshops could help groups like DSG to strengthen its genuine search – for political understanding and analysis.

Report prepared for DSG by Madhuresh, Susana and Vijayan. May 30 2009


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Conversations on

“Elections ’09, UPA’s Second Term and Challenges to People’s Movements”

May 22 Friday, 4-7 pm at India Social Institute, Lodi Road, New Delhi

On behalf of Delhi Solidarity Group, we, take this initiative to invite you for a people’s movement specific analysis and reflections on the General Elections 2009. We have received overwhelming response from friends all over the country for the meeting and a request for documenting the proceedings. We are trying our best. THANKS !

We will have with us today Ashok Chowdhury, Aunradha Chenoy, Bhupinder Singh Rawat, J John, Pamela Philipose, Praful Bidwai, Seema Mustafa, Suhas Borker, Sumit Chakravarty and some more friends who will share their opinion and perspective on the elections and the new government briefly (5-7 mins. each) to be followed by open house discussion for two hours. Amit Bhaduri, Kavita Krishnan, S P Shukla, Shanti Ranjan Behera, Uma Chakravarty and some more friends have sent notes for the meeting and expressed their solidarity.

We hope you will join to make this discussion more meaningful and futuristic.

With regards,

Madhuresh (9818905316), Vijayan (9868165471) and others

On behalf of DSG


“UPA wins, NDA loses, Left finished, resurgence of Congress, end of coalition regimes, third front days are over, end of caste based identity politics, vote for stability, vote for markets…”

Captions and headlines roar…

As the UPA government prepares to form their new government on the strength of the renewed mandate;

As the electronic media turns away from what was their business for the last three months to a the new one – IPL cricketainment;

As the election pundits count their cash for the season;

Can we – the members of the activist fraternity sit together and reflect on what happened in these General Elections?

We know the Left has lost much ground;

We also know that the BSP did not gain much;

We know the Trinamool Congress did;

We know Nitish’s politics worked and Lalu’s did not;

We know Naveen did well after all that and that Amma did not sweep Tamil minds;

But do we know that it is people’s resistance movements who played an important role in the victory of several of these surprises?

Of course, we have heard of Singur and Nandigram victories… BUT

Do we know that the Pathanamthitta constituency (where the Chengara land movement is going on against the wishes of CPM leaders) has been lost by CPM?

Do we know that CPI, the party leading the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, has won the elections from Jagatsinghpur?

Do we know that the Forest workers movement in UP has played an important role in the victory of BSP candidates from constituencies like Saharanpur?

And how many more seats and constituencies where our groups have played an active role in defeating anti-people parties and policies??

But what does all this hold for us in the 15th Lok Sabha! Is the renewed mandate going to make UPA more arrogant and hence more pro-corporate and anti-people?

See you there !

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Media and Development:

Challenges and Possibilities in the Present Context

11th and 12th June, 2009, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

The history, role and nature of media has become an issue of open debate in recent times, alongside the paradigm of development itself. The media is still considered to be a potent tool in giving shape and direction to social change, in times of increasing marketization and decreasing democratic spaces. The role of media, therefore, becomes that much more important and relevant, than ever before, since, the influence of the market over the media has also tremendously increased.

However, beyond this complexity, it is still necessary to gauge the saved space for and impacts of the positive and progressive outlook of media and analyze the consequences, especially in the face of rapid social, political, and economic changes, considering human justice as the ultimate goal. Whilst on the one hand, conspiracies are being hatched to debilitate peoples’ movements and struggles, on the other, any honest attempt by the media, to create a favourable environment in that direction, is discarded, by branding it as ineffective and futile. Both ways, fervent attempts are being made to maintain the status quo and scuttle any efforts for concrete change. Till the recent elections, our experience has been that the electoral politics, which is devoid of people’s issues and priorities, did use the media to a great extent, but the people’s politics have to have to depend more on the alternative media rather than on the mainstream. Can this discrimination be mitigated or need not be? These and many similar questions reverberate in the minds of both the sensitive media persons as well as activists.

Many of you would be aware that we had organized a Joint Consultation last year in memory of our revolutionary journalist colleague Sanjay Sangwai on the theme Media and Development: Present Context and the Future and propose to hold this as an annual memorial event. Sanjay Sangvai was one of those journalists, who always openly took the position that whatever may be its nature and direction, the media should never divorce itself from people’s movements and struggles and vice versa. Only an in-depth and frank dialogue can achieve this.

Sanjay Sangvai was not only an academic journalist, but had carved out a space in the mainstream of journalism all through. He had served in newspapers like Sakaal, yet on coming into contact with people’s movements, he devoted rest of his life to critically supporting communications and building people’s struggles, giving them an idiom and medium both. He was associated with the Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Alliance of People’s Movements until his last breath. Not only did he closely observe and understand peoples’ movements and struggles, but had become one of the most effective voices of those. The aim of this Media Consultation, which is being organized in his memory is also to stir up a more intense debate on people’s issues and analyze both the history and future of the role of the media vis-à-vis peoples’ movements and struggles for planning some new steps for which this post-electoral time is a good opportunity.

The proposed theme of this two-day Media Consultation to be organized at Bhopal on the 11th and 12th of June, 2009 is Media and Development – Challenges, Possibilities and Present Context. Jointly organized by Sarvodaya Press Service, Narmada Bachao Andolan and Vikas Samvad, the Consultation shall weave together different facets of print, electronic, film and web-based media by analysing the challenges and exploring the possibilities in the present context. There shall be three major sessions in these two days and we shall attempt to concretize our future action plan in the presence of senior media persons and activists.

The Consultation would bring together many sensitive journalists, young and old, with a few eminent media persons including your esteemed self. This consultation being a humble collaborative effort, we would take care of your lodging-boarding and would try to arrange for your travel upon confirmation, though we would greatly appreciate if you can make travel arrangements and meet the costs at your end.

Kindly do inform us of your willingness to participate in the Programme by way of telephone or e-mail, which would enable us to organize the logistical and other aspects of the event. May we hope that you would spare two days of your valuable time for this meaningful dialogue to realize our collective aspirations for justice and equity.

Thanking You,

Yours sincerely

Medha Patkar  (Narmada Bachao Andolan)

Chinmay Mishra   ( Sarvodaya Press Service)

Sachin Jain      (Vikas Samwad)

Consultation Contacts:

Vikas Samvad, Bhopal

Phone: 0755-4252789

Sachin Jain: 09977704847

Raju Kumar: 09839252617

Prashant Dubey: 09425026331

E-mail: vikassamvad@gmail.com , sachinwrites@gmail.com

Narmada Bachao Andolan, Badwani

Phone: 07290-222464 Fax: C/o: 07290 – 222549

Medha Patkar: 09423965153 ; Ashish Mandloi: 09424855042

E-mail: nba.medha@gmail.com , nba.ashish@gmail.com

Sarvodaya Press Service, Indore

29, Samvad Nagar, Naulakha, Indore – 452 001

Phone: 0731-2401083 Fax: 0731-2404114

Chinmay Mishra: 09893278855, Kumar Siddharth: 09425086228, Samyak Kumar: 09827265544

E-mail: indoresps@gmail.com , chinmay.saroj@gmail.com

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Two Years, Too Much !

An Evening of Protest
(To mark the second anniversary of Dr. Binayak Sen’s imprisonment)

May 14, 2009 Thursday
5.30 p.m. onwards

The Lawns of Rabindra Bhawan, Mandi House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi

Music                                                  Poetry                             Speeches
Rabbi Shergil                            Manglesh Dabral               Jst.(retd.) Rajinder Sachar
Dipta Bhog and Yagna              Gauhar Raza                  Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty
Ritwik, Tushar and Anand        Khursheed Anwar       Prof. Uma Chakravarthy
Jigri                                          K. Sachitanandan               & other concerned citizens
Sushmit Bose                           Vishnu Nagar
Hameed                                   Sanjay Kundan
On 14 May 2009 Dr Binayak Sen, well-known paediatrician and human rights defender, will complete two years in a Raipur prison on false charges of abetting Maoist activity in Chhattisgarh, sedition, and waging war against the State. This committed advocate of civil liberties has spent over three decades in the service of some of the poorest and neglected people in this country and raised his voice relentlessly against atrocities in the State of Chhattisgarh in an attempt to uphold the original values of Indian democracy. The imprisonment of Dr. Binayak Sen is symbolic of gross injustice and violation of democratic values by the State and the suppression of the voices of human rights defenders.

Please join us in this struggle to preserve our rights, liberty and freedom and show our solidarity in support of a cause that is core to democracy.

The protest in Delhi on 14th May is part of a global action for release of Dr. Binayak Sen, on the day that marks two years of his incarceration.

Release Binayak Campaign

For details regarding the case and the campaign, visit:



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