Thursday, August 24, 2017

Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee condemns the imprisonment and continued ill-treatment of peasant leader Mehar Abdul Sattar

A photo of Mehar Sattar after he was locked up in High Security jail.
In a statement issued on August 23, the Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee, a member of La Via Campesina in South Asia, has condemned the continued ill-treatment of peasant leader Mehar Abdul Sattar in prison since April 2016.
Mehar Abdul Sattar, the general secretary of Anjman Mozareen Punjab (AMP, Tenants Association Punjab) and also Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee, is a peasant leader who has been at the forefront of the struggle for land rights at Okara Military Farms.
The statement alleges that since his imprisonment early last year, 36 false police cases have been registered against him. In March 2017, he was shifted to Sahiwal High Security prison and allegedly tortured. He is tied in chains, the statement alleged.
Asma Jehangir, renowned social activist, lawyer and former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, is now arguing in the court for the rights of the imprisoned peasant leader.
After Lahore High Court rejected the plea to move back Mr. Sattar to an ordinary jail from the high security prison, the team approached the Supreme Court of Pakistan. On August 23, the case came up for hearing at the Supreme Court, where Asma detailed out the inhuman treatment meted out to the peasant leader in prison.
She pointed out that the decision to move Sattar to a high security prison, originally meant for convicted terrorists and extremists, is part of a conspiracy to criminalise the peasant movement and its leaders.
While arguing the case, the lawyer pointed out that without a judicial order, an under trial prisoner could not be shifted to another jail. Yet, in this case, an order from the Home secretary was used to move him and the court permission was sought much later. An administrative order is against the prison rule, the lawyer argued.
When the prosecutors argued that he was moved as part of a security procedure and accused that his court appearances always see large number of peasants in attendance, Asma Jehangir countered, “Yes when rich leaders appear in courts, no one objects about their followers turning up in large numbers, but a leader of the poor is not treated in the same way. Why?”
In an amusing turn of events, one of the presiding judges, after looking at the list of cases, sought clarification on whether Mr. Sattar was a socialist. The defendants lawyer argued that there were several socialists in the court room, and wondered how that was even relevant to the case!
She requested the Apex Court to demand that Sattar be produced in the court room, so that it can witness first hand his situation.
The court has asked the prosecution to submit all details and orders under which Sattar was moved to a high security prison. While adjourning the case for more hearing in September, it ordered immediate removal of chains and allowed Sattar’s wife and sister to meet him every fifteen days. It also granted permission to his lawyers Asma Jehanghir and Abid Saqi to meet Mehar Sattar in jail. However they did not shift him to Central Jail Sahiwal immediately as requested by the defendant’s lawyers.
The case would now be heard in Islamabad during September.
According to an article published by Herald in 2016the land dispute in Okara initially erupted in 2000 when the management of the farms tried to change the terms and conditions of tenancy agreements. The tenants rejected the new agreements, dreading they would increase the cost of tenancy, would not offer them guaranteed tenure and would make it easier for the authorities to evict them from the lands their families have been cultivating for generations. A vast majority of them refused to sign the new lease agreements. They also fiercely resisted the military’s efforts to evict them from the lands. They then organised themselves as the AMP, under the desperate sounding slogan of maliki ya maut (give us land ownership or give us death).
Image Sourced from www.TheNews.com.pk
Suggested Reading on the issue:
(First published on https://viacampesina.org/en/pakistan-kissan-rabita-committee-condemns-imprisonment-continued-ill-treatment-peasant-leader-mehar-abdul-sattar/) 

The upper caste story is not the only story of India- student’s training camp on caste at Amrita Bhoomi


Students dancing spontaneously 
22 Aug: The Bahujan Vidyarthi Sangh (BVS), a student group with members from the so called bahujan groups conducted a five day camp for students at Amrita Bhoomi. Bahujan means "majority of the people', which includes Dalits, Adivasis, and many other castes and religions of the subcontinent who are caste-bound and ruled by upper-caste minorities. About hundred students attended from across Karnataka. 

BVS routinely conducts such training camps across Karnataka state. The camps focus on studying Indian history and society from an alternative perspective of that of the upper caste ‘Manuvadi’ versiĆ³n.  Manuvad roughly translated to Manu-ism, is the rule of law based on the Manusmriti - the principle code of law of Hinduism which lays down the rules for the different castes.  It is the proverbial ‘Bible of the Brahmans’ and promotes a systematic exploitation and slavery of the so-called 'lower' castes and all women, keeping them in a permanently subordinate role.

Girls led most of the
sessions during the camp
These BVS camps focus on building the pride and self-confidence of youths from such castes, and creates cadre to join the larger social struggle for their rights.

“This is the first time I was able to learn the real history of India,” said Shashikala of Gundelpet district. “I always took for granted what we experienced, but now I know why it is wrong. I will bring more youth from my village to attend this camp next time,” she said.

Students came from all across Karnataka
“I have been attending these camps for the last seventeen years. We have to fight for social justice and equality in our society. We also have to fight against large scale privatization of our economy,” said Narayanswami from Gundalpet.

The entire camp was conducted through volunteer work by the students.
Song and dance encourage self-expression and are at the heart of the camp – students sang revolutionary songs, and both the women and men danced unabashedly.

Students took an oath to not buy products from multinational corporations, but to support locally produced food and other materials. 

Kannaiyan from the farmers' movement adressing the students
“Amrita Bhoomi is proud to host this camp, and we will continue to do so. The annihilation of caste is at the centre of our educational programmes here, we must build such active solidarity with different social struggles,” said Chukki Nanjundasway of the KRRS, who is also in the coordination of Amrita Bhoomi.


“We have to intensify our struggle against the growing communalism in India today. The upper caste Hindu fundamentalists are misinterpreting history today to spread hatred and violence and increase the polarization of our country. We have to bring everyone together, not divide our country,” said Kannaiyan Subramiam of South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements.

by- Ashlesha, Amrita Bhoomi

Monday, August 21, 2017

People’s Summit in Hyderabad opposes RCEP






    India hosted the 19th trade round of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership(RCEP) from 17th to 28th of July in Hyderabad. It gathered over 500 negotiators from the 16 countries who are involved in the construction of this agreement. On July 23rd and 24th the People’s Convention against Free Trade Agreements and RCEP took place in Hyderabad, a parallel meeting to share information about the consequences of this agreement and to publicly express an opposition, by demonstration.

This Free Trade Agreement (FTA) launched in 2012, aims to create a large economic zone where the trade in services, investments, intellectual property, goods and so on will be “facilitated”. The variety of sectors covered by this agreement are reflected in the opposition of many organisations and associations like  Telangana Rythu JAC, All India Kisan Sabha, All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha, Rythu Swarjya Vedika, All India Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements, Public Services International, All India Trade Unions’ Congress, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, Indian National Trade Union Congress, Telangana Medical Sales Representatives’ Union, Dalit Women’s Union, National Alliance of Dalit Organisations, Jana Vignana Vedika, Telangana Vidyavanthula Vedika, T-JAC, Dalit Bahujan Front, Doctors’ without Borders, National Alliance of People’s Movements and Telangana Praja Front, which were all present at the Convention. Some representatives from Philippines, Japan, Indonesia and Thailand also came to demonstrate the united and international nature of this struggle, against a project which only removes safeguard for workers in all countries.

The reasons for this opposition are numerous. Firstly the entire process remains a secret and out of the control of the populations. The matter has not yet been brought up in the Indian Parliament for discussion. None of the State governments have been officially informed, much less been asked for their opinion. Afsar Jafri, of the Focus on the Global South, recently asked, “Should the states not be consulted on issues which are greatly going to affect them? The lack of Parliamentary scrutiny and debate is also a major concern.” No civil society organisation can have access at the working documents or be present during the discussions and governmental debates. This lack of transparency has created fear of some antidemocratic resolutions in the final agreement and hence must be condemned in itself.

Also, according to the past experiences on FTA consequences and the few declarations and leaked documents already analysed, several threats on a large number of sectors are expected. The drastic reduction of tariffs (around 80% in some cases) on goods imported is an immediate risk for small Indian businesses and workers that depend on it. The open concurrency of cheap Chinese goods can indeed encourage the businesses to depress wages and working conditions and in numerous cases destroying employment. Moreover, the parties involved plan on creating an Investor-State Dispute Settlement Court (ISDS) which the coprorate companies can apporach in case of any dispute, where suing the States, avoiding payment of taxes and overstepping environmental laws will all be served on a platter to them.

 In addition, according to leaked documents, the access for generic and low-cost medicine seems to be threatened. In India, medicines for HIV are affordable and accessible to the public at large due to previous development in that field. The local production and sale of these medicines at cheaper prices will be affected massively once this FTA comes into effect. In the RCEP agreement South Korean and Japanese governments ask for a longer monopoly for patent holding pharmaceutical companies, by extending the already 20 year old delay, after which generic versions of a medicine can be produced. During this extended delay, those companies will thus be allowed to sell their high price products without any concurrence. This will make it impossible for most people to have access to the new medicines.

Finally, this FTA is a major risk for Indian agriculture sector and especially for small farmers. As for goods imports, the tariff cuts on imported agricultural products in India may result in the destruction of a lot of jobs. The dairy sector in particular will suffer from the unequal competition of New Zealander and Australian low costs products. It should also be noted that, once again, farmers’ free access and use of their seeds will be threatened. In order to protect big companies’ intellectual property rights of these seeds, this agreement aims to make it illegal for farmers to exchange, save and reuse it whereas making it easier for the seed companies to export and import it.

Another consequence of RCEP is the monopoly over rights of seeds. In India, legislation provides farmers a right over the seeds they grow – to store, sell, share or sow. Japan and Korea, which are part of the RCEP and also have major seed companies in India are pushing for Intellectual Property rights of the seeds being granted to corporates. This is along the lines of the 1991 UPOV Convention in Europe, which imposes serious restrictions on farmers’ usage of their seeds and also much research and development on IP-protected seeds. This will only encourage corporate plant breeders to patenting plants while destroying seed variety and crop diversity.

To face those major threats, the different representatives at the People’s Convention adopted a declaration in which they affirmed the multi-sector nature of the opposition to this agreement and reminded everyone about the past FTA experiences, “Dalits, Adivasis, small farmers, unorganized workers, denotified tribes, minorities, women and children stand to lose the most in this game. Those who gain will be the big corporations.” Then, they called the governments to stop the negotiations on RCEP and other FTAs, they demanded transparency in such negotiations and finally, said that “all state governments and political parties should declare their stand on RCEP and other FTAs.”


“RCEP go back!”



On 24thJuly a demonstration gathering hundreds of people started from Peoples’ Plaza, carrying slogans like “Don’t trade our lives away!”, “Yes to co-operative democracy, no to corporate democracy”, “Farmers need better price, not cheap import”. Despite the hostility of the authorities, who didn’t allow the demonstrators to reach the city centre where the negotiations took place, the participants were determined to make their voices heard and walked on Necklace Road.

 The next step is the Manila governmental conference on September 2017, where all the concerned ministers will try to finalise the agreement, which is to be adopted at the end of 2017. More demonstrations and discussions, on the people’s side, such as the People’s Convention at Hyderabad, are being planned in order to ensure that the RCEP agreement does not go through without inclusion of and debate with all affected parties.

 “All the diverse groups at this People’s Convention stand for social, economic and environmental justice. We stand for a new vision of development and trade that creates dignified jobs, sustainable farming, quality public services, respects democratic decision-making and the principles of substantive equality, socialism, and of federalism enshrined in the Constitution of India.”

For Further Information-
http://www.bilaterals.org/?+-rcep-332-+

https://www.grain.org/article/entries/5741-how-rcep-affects-food-and-farmers

https://www.grain.org/article/entries/5763-highlights-from-the-peoples-summit-against-ftas-and-rcep

Contributions (Notes and Pictures)- Akhilesh and Corentin

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

In Solidarity with Narmada Struggle

Protest in support of Narmada Bachao Andolan
August 6th, Sunday, 5:30 P.M., Mysore Bank Circle, Bengaluru
For complete and just rehabilitation!

                         
                         NOTE: Since this protest, the situation in the valley has worsened with police violence on peaceful protesters and the arrest of Medha Patkar and other women on indefinite fast. We strongly condemn this brutal response of the government. 

PC-Benny Kuruvilla
On 6th August, people representing movements and organizations from across karnataka and India took part in a demonstration at Mysore Bank Circle, Bengaluru, to voice support for the People of the Narmada valley, who are about to lose their homes, land, livelihoods, and lives. “Narmada ulisi!Manavarannu Ulisi!” (Save Narmada, Save Humanity) echoed in the air in the city’s busiest square, witness to thousands of people passing by.

Among those present in the gathering were a large number of youth from various student organizations from across the country, who had gathered for the All India Convention of Student Struggles- AICSS, which expressed complete solidarity with the Narmada struggle. There were representatives from many people’s organizations part of the National Alliance of Peoples Movements- including Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Karnataka Domestic Workers Union, students groups from Tumkur, etc. Joining the protest were voices from Dalit and Adivasi movements from Madhya Pradesh, Swaraj Abhiyan, and many concerned citizens.

It has been 32 years since the birth of Narmada Bachao Andolan, a non-violent struggle which has questioned the disourse of a violent development model that creates large scale displacement and ecological devastation. The adivasi people, farmers and fisherfolk, have taken part in countless demonstrations, petitions, satyagraha and fasts over the many years leading to key consequences of the struggle like the withdrawal of World Bank funding, and Court orders for just rehabilitation.
The situation took a grave turn when in 2014, the Modi Govt increased the height of the dam by 17m(from 121m to 138m), and over a month ago, closed the gates of the dam. This will force up to 40,000 families to abandon their homes and livelihoods without rehabilitation. Instead of following legal norms on rehabilitation, the MP Govt and the Narmada Control Authority are pushing out people into temporary tin sheds with no amenieties!

KT Gangadhar of KRRS extending Solidarity
A little less than two weeks ago, 12 people, including Medha Patkar, started an indefinite fast demanding just and lawful rehabilitation. However there has been no dialogue by the state government or the Centre, but only appeals to call off the fast without any assurances about rehabilitation.  

  Among those present at the demonstration on Sunday at Bengaluru, K.T. Gangadhar of KRRS called to mind the June 6th tragedy when 6 farmers were killed by the Madhya Pradesh police during a protest. He emphasised the need for a large and strong mobilisation, to force the government to pay heed to the voice of the population. He also spoke in support of Medha Patkar and the other fasting protestors, saying she is one of the most respected activists of this era. He put forward the complete support of KRRS and the rest of Karnataka for the movement.

In addition, Prof. Haragopal of the All india Forum for Right to Ecucation (AIFRTE) tackled the argument of the need for development, often used by the government to justify the Narmada project: “Development should lead towards equality and justice”, thus he expressed his support to the people of Narmada. Madhuri from an organization for Dalits and Adivasis of Narmada region, highlighted the situation of the people who are already being forced to leave and the disinterest of the authorities, “Neither the High court of Madya Pradesh, nor the government are able to answer to what will happen to the victims of Narmada”. Kavitha Kuruganti from the Alliance of Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), said the CM of Madhya Pradesh must be ashamed for not responding to the ongoing hunger strike- instead of engaging in dialogue, the govt is making false statements and playing a game of numbers!  

Madhuri behan from Barwani (Madhya Pradesh)
The protestors  and the movements collectively (National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements, All India convention of Student Struggles, and others) called out to both the government of Madya Pradesh and the government of India to stop the violence against the peaceful protestors, to immediately open a dialogue with those on fast and finally to open the gates of the dam, until a complete rehabilitation is undertaken for each and every family concerned by the project. “Beke beku, nyaya beku”("We want Justice")




‘JUNGAL JAMEEN KISKA HAIN,
HAMARA HAIN HAMARA HAIN.
GAON KA HAKK KISKA HAIN,
HAMARA HAIN HAMARA HAIN’*


*Famous slogan of resistance from Narmada Bachao Andolan - Whose is this forest and land? It's ours, it's ours. Who has the right to our village? It's ours, it's ours.

This a blogpost by Corentin(Karan), who is interning with KRRS.