Stop Politicisation of Armed Forces
On behalf of a number of my colleagues from the armed forces veterans, this is Admiral L Ramdas—a former Chief of the Naval Staff—writing to share some of my concerns regarding recent instances of using the Armed Forces for political gains, especially in the aftermath of both Pulwama and the strikes in Balakot and the shooting down, capture and repatriation of an Indian Air Force pilot.

I am sure that you are well aware that the Armed Forces have always prided themselves on belonging to a structure, an ethos and environment which has been both a-political and secular. With elections due a few weeks from now, it is particularly important that there should not be any misuse of these recent events by any political party to send triumph list or jingoistic messages which can influence the electorate.

And it is in this context that as a responsible citizen and a proud veteran of the Indian Armed Forces, I share our collective sense of dismay and deep concern at how some political parties are brazenly pushing their agenda using images, uniforms and other examples, showing pictures of the armed forces with political figures, in public spaces, in media, election rallies and so on.

This is completely unacceptable since it has the potential to destroy the very foundations and value system of our armed forces, drawn from the vision, the spirit and intent of the Indian Constitution.

We therefore, urge the Election Commission to immediately intervene and send a strong message to the political parties that there should be no misuse of the photographs as indeed any other material reports or other information pertaining to the armed forces for electioneering in any way.

Looking forward to immediate action on this matter by the Honourable Election Commission in the interest of time, I have not circulated this open letter for more signatures, although many veterans are duly agitated by these attempts to compromise the integrity and secular nature of the Indian Armed Forces.
L Ramdas,
Former Chief of the Naval Staff

Killing Children
On 7th February 2019 in Tadiballa village of Bhairamgarh Tehsil, Bijapur district of Chattisgarh the police fired indiscriminately and killed 10 persons.

This appeared in the news as an encounter in which 10 Naxalites were killed by the security forces and the state government and the Congress Government's Home Minister hailed this as a victory.

But the people from many villages of Bastar gathered at Bhairamgarh on 5th March 2019 to protest these killings because they want to tell the world the truth and expose the lies of the Government and demand justice.

Two contacted one activist and also an Adivasi Lingaram Kodopi, who explained the incident that took place on 7th February. He affirmed the facts mentioned in their press release that no encounter took place that day instead the security forces fired indiscriminately at the crowd who had gathered to participate in the village sports. And as a result of the firings, even children died. The security personnel did not stop there, they tortured the dead bodies and even raped 2 girls. One of the girls, who was 12 years was raped and her nose and privates mutilated. Further the security forces also burned the materials they found at the site like vessels, clothes etc.

Lingaram also said, "The forces behave atrociously every time they visit the village. We don't know whom to ask for help under these circumstances. This time we all gathered in large numbers because they killed our children".

Lingaram further said, "Even I have not been spared. Nor other activists. I have faced the atrocities of the police and have been jailed for 3 years under false allegations. Every now and then I get death threats. But we have not given up. We will keep fighting for our rights".

Every single day the Adivasi men are rounded up, taken to a police station, beaten up or detained for days and sometimes even arrested by being labelled as Naxalites. The women are not spared either, they are sexually assaulted. The livestock, the food grains, cash are also seized. Their complaints are not entertained. This happens in many villages across the region.

Lingaram says that "the reason the security forces behave in this manner is to instill fear in our hearts so that out of fear for our lives we will leave the forests. They want to occupy our forests, our lands and our resources. But we have nowhere to go. So we will just keep on fighting".
TCN, Bastar

Sense and Non-Sense
The Pulwama episode has come in handy for Mr Narendra Modi to whip up his own patriotism, which is quint-essentially chauvinism directed against Muslims in the sphere of foreign relations. The opportunity that this episode has offered to Modi is that by highlighting it, he may be able to hide his government's failure on all fronts. At least he thought so. But things have not turned out as expected. The dubious claims about the 'success' of air strikes on Islamic terrorist bases have not gone unchallenged, while Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has scored a point by the diplomatic move to release Mr Abhinandan Varthaman, the captured Indian airforce pilot, a move which has no relation with the Geneva convention. Hence Modi and Amit Shah are under the compulsion of raising the anti-Pakistan cry to higher pitches and to direct popular attention away from phenomena like agrarian crisis, massive unemployment, bad debts. The anti-Pak hysteria and hate speeches have crossed normal limits and have turned into attacks on Kashmiri students and tradesmen, which even otherwise Modi supporters find hard to endorse. A BJP leader and at present the governor of the north-eastern province of Meghalaya went as far as to advocate boycott of Kashmir goods, thus exposing the hollowness of the age-old claim that Kashmir is an integral part of India. The latest submission by the government before the Apex Court that the file of the Rafale deal has been stolen has raised the eye-brows of the pro-status quo middle classes who are not otherwise anti-Modi in outlook.
A Reader, Kolkata

'Century' Workers Fight Back
The Satyagraha by the thousand workers of Century Yarn/denim mills for ensuring the employment has reached a new stage. The 500 days struggle of the workers has already compelled the management to cancel the fraudulent Business Transfer Agreement between Century and Wearit, after the orders by the Tribunal as well as the M P High Court. When the 4 unions with a few members with them, decided to opt for VRS, against the workers' wishes, the majority workers decided and formed a separate union "Shramik Janata Sangh".

After the Tribunal's order dated 06-02-2019 the Century management was directed to pay the remaining wages of 2.5 months from, October, 2017 to December. 2017. But when the majority workers filed an application before the Ld. Labour Commissioner regarding payment of all the remaining wages, from October, 2017 to April, 2018 the management buckled to workers' unity and force, and on February 25th deposited the wages of this period plus the bonus for October, 2017 to March, 2018. In addition to this, the Tribunal also directed the management to open the gates and allow the workers to enter the mills.

Yesterday (26-02-2019) it was already 20 days and management has not complied with that. That's why the workers have started an indefinite relay fast in front of the Labour Commissioner's office, demanding the management to open the gates of the mills, as per the order of the Tribunal and let the workers start at least cleaning and maintenance, if not production in order to prevent the irreparable damage to the machinery. Also, the overwhelming majority of workers are demanding that if Century is not able to run the mills on their own, then as per their written letters to the unions and affidavits filed before the Tribunal, they should transfer the mills to workers' organisation at Re 1, and let them run the mills. The 90% majority of workers are today, having taken advice and consultancy from various experts across the country, ready to take the mills and run them profitably.

Yesterday on the first day, senior journalist Chinmay Mishraji, Father Binoy from Tamil Nadu and social worker Ramswaroop Mantriji from Indore came and extended support to the relay fast. Chinmayji emphasised on the strength of Satyagrah and said it's because of the struggle of the unified workers that today Century management has bowed down and workers are winning every battle one by one. Chinmayji also questioned the position of the unions and said it's really very disappointing that the unions, whose vision and goal should be to stand for the rights and will of the workers, are today standing against the majority of them. Father Binoy expreseed gratitude for the chance given to join the struggle and said all the struggles across the country whether it's in Tamil Nadu or in Madhya Pradesh, have common issues of deprivation to displacement from livelihood. In this era, it is very important for us to fight for our rights. Ramswa-roopji extended the support to the worker's struggle on behalf of the socialist unity of MP. He warned Century management to comply with the orders of the Tribunal otherwise the spark of this struggle will spread to the whole state and workers from various parts will stand for them in solidarity. He also demanded the Commissioner's office to intervene in this matter urgently in favour of the workers and help them avail of their rights and ensure justice.

The next hearing in the Tribunal on the original application is scheduled on 18th of March, 2019.

The Avahan Satyagraha continues with an appeal to the new government of Madhya Pradesh to take a stand and resolve the conflict and end the dispute by ensuring compliance and employment to the workers in struggle.
Sanjay Chouban, Durgesh Khavse, Shyam Bhadane, Naveen Mishra

Vol. 51, No. 38, Mar 24 - 30, 2019