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Alternative perspectives

The fact that it is possible to see the world from two completely
different perspectives is something all of us are very familiar with.
Here's a perspective (Marxian) of the Progressive Study grp. Very strange,
indeed, given that both perspectives (I speak for myself, vs. this one)
seem to insist on the sovereignty of the citizen as the determinant of a
fair polity. Both perspectives insist that laws like TADA have been
misused and are not sustainable. The economic perspectives diverge
radically though. That is because equality is defined differently.

It would have been good to get some of these folks here on IP and debate
with them. Reason: both perspectives cannot be correct at the same time.
And only debates between these perspectives can tell us who is right. SS



In the closing days of the 50th anniversary year of the formal
independence of India, The Association of Indian Progressive Study
Groups (AIPSG) organized a conference in New York on August 8, 1998 to
present a program for the renewal of India. The conference participants
unanimously decided to initiate a broad discussion on this program and
to contest the vision and program of the ruling circles as being put
forward by the BJP and others in India who claim that there is no
alternative to liberalization and privatization, or to state terrorism
and war preparations. The Conference was attended by participants from
Canada, India, Britain and different cities in the US =96 New York,
Boston, Los Angeles, Washington and Detroit, to name a few =96 to attend
the proceedings and contributed to the discussions.

Speaking on behalf of the AIPSG, Mr. P. Singh presented the introductory
remarks titled "From the 50th anniversary of formal independence to the
fiftieth anniversary of the Constitution" to explain the context of the
conference and situate the program of renewal within the developments in
India. He highlighted the fact that international developments since the
end of the bipolar division of the world and national developments since
the introduction of Narasimha Rao's "liberalization and privatization"
program in 1991 have created the need for the people to work out an
alternative agenda for progress. This is particularly important because
the ruling elites worldwide have taken advantage of the decline of the
"social welfare state" to turn the clock back in all spheres of life,
and are imposing the notion that there is absolutely no choice other
than to accept budgetary cutbacks, economic restructuring, and job
consolidations in order to be "competitive" in the era of globalization.

Mr. Singh maintained that the rise to power of the BJP-led government in
March has meant an increase in the tempo of economic restructuring and
liberalization as well as an increased threat of state terrorism against
people fighting for economic and social change. This has culminated in
the open declaration of war by the BJP-led government against people
from Kashmir to Manipur, against the peasant and tribal movements from
Andhra Pradesh to Bihar, against the hospital workers and transport
workers from Delhi to Chennai, and against students and women all across
India, in order to deliver on their promise to provide a "stable"
environment for "economic growth".

The drive for expanded militarisation, the enactment of new "black laws"
in a number of states and the call for "pro-active" suppression of
people in the name of defending the "unity and integrity of India" have
made it urgent that the people of India should unite to contest these
ruling circles. They should force them to withdraw state terrorism as
well as "liberalization and privatization" while fighting for a new
political process, for a new direction to the economy that can provide
for the people. The political process requires thorough reform to allow
people to participate in governance and nation-building in a peaceful
South Asian environment, said Mr. Singh, inviting the participants to
deliberate on the program.

The first paper titled, "National Unity and Territorial Integrity":
Defense of Unity or Defense of Oppression? was presented by Dr. Raj
Mishra. Dr. Mishra elaborated on the clash between the notion of unity
being imposed from the top through the laws, constitutional provisions
and state-terror to defend "national unity and territorial integrity"
with the political unity that people are building in course of their
common struggles for rights.

He explained that the 16th amendment to the constitution in 1963 made
"national unity and territorial integrity" a valid judiciable reason to
deny and suspend all the fundamental rights contained in the
constitution. He went on to give a detailed account of how this has
provided wide arbitrary powers to the state, and has allowed various
"black laws" such as TADA to come into being, which have invariably been
used to crush popular socio-economic struggles.

Dr. Mishra pointed out that the defence of "national unity and
territorial integrity" was defined by the Congress party in the 60's
specifically to force the CPI to withdraw its struggle for people's
power and to support the economic and political policies implemented by
Nehru. Later on, Indira Gandhi used this dictum during the national
emergency such that all those opposed to her policies were deemed to be
in opposition to the national unity and territorial integrity of India.

In his presentation, Dr. Mishra compared "national unity and territorial
integrity" in Indian conditions to the efforts being made in Canada to
legislate upon a set of core "Canadian values" which all immigrants will
have to swear by as part of the naturalization process. If one goes into
the content of these "values" in Canada or the U.S., he said, they
invariably boil down to supporting the aims of the "white man's burden"
or American imperialism abroad, or supporting anti-communist and
anti-worker, racist and anti-immigrant policies at home. In the same
vein, he explained, the defence of "national unity and territorial
integrity" of India has come to mean the defence of repressive measures
of the Indian state against those challenging the social, economic and
national oppression in India, the defence of casteism, communalism and
the oppression of women - in other words, of the entire status-quo.

What is different in case of India is that by giving constitutional and
legal sanction to the "defense of national unity and territorial
integrity", the Indian state has given itself wide-ranging legal powers
to crush any opposition simply by declaring every arbitrary action and
atrocity to be in defence of this dictum.

According to Dr. Mishra, the contest between the two conceptions of
unity is at the heart of opening the path for progress in India and this
contest will be won by forces building the political unity of the people
against state terrorism and for political renewal. The use of laws to
suppress people's struggles in the name of the defence of national unity
and territorial integrity will bring more resistance as it is not only a
fascist and terrorist tool but is against the very notion of the right
to conscience.

A paper titled "Human Conditions in Manipur" by Prof. Naorem Sanajaoba,
dean of law at University of Gauhati was read out on behalf of the
author outlining the violation of human rights by the Indian army and
paramilitary forces who have occupied the state of Manipur since the
50's. The author provided a vivid account of the broad resistance
struggle of the people of Manipur against the human rights violation
including the exemplary "Meira Paibi" resistance movement of the
Manipuri women. The paper made a strong demand to the government of
India to end the occupation of Manipur and pleaded with the people of
India to ensure that the Indian government fulfills its obligations to
international treaties and conventions on human rights that it is a
signatory to and honours the rights and dignity of the people of Manipur
as human beings and Manipur as a nation.

In a paper titled "Movement for Rights and Struggle against State
Terrorism", Dr S. Jagannath dwelt on the recent offensive by the home
ministry against the struggles in Kashmir, Manipur and Assam, in AP,
Bihar, Orissa and elsewhere, and the use of black laws on the striking
workers in Delhi. He also discussed the passage of the black law -
Prevention of Terrorism Act- in Tamil Nadu and of similar laws being
discussed in other states. Dr. Jagannath began by analyzing the findings
of the Srikrishna commission report on Mumbai riots in 1992 and the
indictment of the organs of the state and the political parties and
individuals who are in the ruling or opposition benches in the state
legislature of Maharashtra in the killing of citizens of Mumbai and the
dismal record of the state to bring the accused to justice.

Dr. Jagannath pointed out that the compulsions of the ruling circles in
India to contain the struggles of the people are in order to
"peacefully" implement their economic and political agenda. The
credibility crisis faced by this system is so deep that the BJP
government simply cannot implement its policies any other way. The
ruling circles seem to think that by terrorizing the people at the onset
of their shift to the right-center rule after five decades of the
left-center rule, they will buy some time to make new arrangement to
fleece the economy or rewrite history before the people's movements are
able to regroup and challenge them. The people must not only resist and
defeat this offensive, but they must unfurl their alternative program at
this time and wage the proactive and the reactive struggles
simultaneously, using the vulnerability of the ruling classes to defeat
the anti-social offensive and renew the political process to vest
sovereignty in themselves.

In the paper titled a program for democratic renewal of India, Mr.
Rajesh Gopalan highlighted that the reactive struggles of the people
were giving rise to a consciousness that there must be an alternative
agenda, an alternate program for the renewal of India. He then went on
to elaborate various features of the renewal agenda which have emerged
at this time from the broad movement of the people.

He said that this program is neither a wish list nor a concoction for
getting votes in election but has emerged from a synthesis of the
consciousness of the movement of the people for empowerment and
progress. He highlighted the three main areas of the renewal agenda:
political renewal, renewal of the economy and the renewal of
international relations.

Political renewal, or democratic renewal, boils down to the renewal of
the political process and the creation of new institutions that can
practically ensure that sovereignty is vested in the people. This will
mean, for a start, that political parties will no longer have the right
to select candidates and will not come into power. Supreme political
power including all residual powers must be vested in local constituency
bodies or samitis at the village and town level that will be the
institutions for broad masses of the people to participate directly in
politics. Any candidate for election must be nominated and selected from
within these organs, and once elected, every representative will always
remain accountable to the electorate that elected her or him through the
samiti, which can initiate procedures to recall any member that is
unfit. These institutions at the lowest level can grow to become
permanent elected bodies of the people at the constituency level to
exercise control over their elected representatives while performing the
functions of the executive, legislative and judicial organs of power
through the continuous, direct participation of the people.

Political power can thus be built from the bottom up to higher
legislative bodies at the state or country-wide level and not in the
present "trickle-down" form which allows the top to be completely
unaccountable and arbitrary to the people while serving the big business
houses and landed interests. If every legislative body derives its power
and legitimacy through this umbilical cord with the masses of the
people, it will not be possible for power and privilege to be hijacked
at the top by moneyed interests through their links with party bosses.
The nations and tribes of India will be able to affirm their rights on
the basis of building a free and equal union to defend equal political
rights for all citizens.

The second part of the renewal agenda is economic renewal. With
political power in their hands, the people will be able to acquire the
resources needed to invest in ending poverty, unemployment and the lack
of health care and education. Currently, the power standing above the
people uses part of the surplus to strengthen the security forces to
suppress the people and uses another part to implement the privatization
and liberalization program to fleece the people further. The renewal
program calls for an end to the privatization and liberalization
program, a moratorium on debt, and for nationalization of internal and
external trade so as to channel the resources thus acquired to be used
to end poverty, modernize production in the countryside, hillside and
the cities and uplift the entire society.

Finally, the program for renewal calls for peace in South Asia, and for
an end to the conditions of tension and warmongering in the region, and
an end to any outside interference in to the affairs of the nations and
peoples there. A renewal of relations in South Asia would involve
establishing a democratic body with representatives from all the
countries of South Asia to sort out the outstanding problems (such as
divided nations, water resources, trade routes etc.) while keeping the
big powers of the world away from the region. In this way, a new India
as the union of free peoples can come into being which will be in
sympathy with all the peoples of the world fighting for renewal.

Mr. Gopalan called on people to develop the discussion for such a
program and to fight to realize it on the basis of their united efforts.

In the conference, Balraj Kaur made the announcement for the convening
of a conference on identity and culture in Toronto on October 10-11,
1998, being organized by the Youth Commission of the Standing Conference
of South Asians (SCSA). Explaining the condition of the youth of South
Asian origin growing up in North America, Britain and Australia, Ms.
Kaur pointed to the problems arising from a denial of the difference
between citizenship and nationality of the people and the consequent
ghettoization of national minorities from Asia, Africa and Latin America
as vote banks in the name of "tolerance". She explained how the colonial
conception of the cultures of South Asia are used to create an identity
crisis among the second and third generation youth of South Asian origin
in Canada who are called upon to view their national traits in racist
terms, as inferior to those promoted by the ruling circles in Canada,
Britain or the US. Emphasizing the importance of establishing
institutions for teaching South Asian language and culture as part of
making the South Asian youth confident to face the future, she invited
all the youth to join in the project of collectively building our future
on a modern basis in the countries where we live and contribute to the
victory of the program of renewal everywhere.

The conference received a message of greetings from the Committee for
People=92s Empowerment (CPE) in India, along with copies of the report of
the All-India Conference on Political Renewal that it convened in May
1998 in Pune. The convenor of the CPE, Madhavi Thampi, in her message,
applauded the work being discussed in the conference for the renewal of
India and for building the political unity of the people "which is
fundamentally opposed to the atmosphere of state terrorism in the name
of defence of national unity and territorial integrity" as is done in
India. One of the participants gave a brief description of the work and
history of the CPE and the decisions of the last annual conference to
prepare for the 50th anniversary of the Indian Constitution on January
26, 2000, drawing the parallel between the program of the AIPSG and the
CPE in this regard.

A number of important resolutions were approved by the delegates to take
the discussion on the program for renewal to the broadest circles in
India and abroad.

One of the resolutions pointed to the emergence of the BJP-led
government, which espouses an open agenda of retrogression, and called
for an open contest between the agenda for retrogression and agenda for
renewal. The conference approved a resolution to organize a signature
campaign in opposition to the escalating state terrorism, black laws and
encounter killings and to convene a conference of all activists and
organizations this fall in Boston.

The second resolution called for a South Asia Friendship Concert to
promote the common strivings and fraternal sentiments of the peoples of
South Asia on a people-to-people basis. The conference also decided to
provide support and assistance for the work of the CPE in India, and to
the SCSA Youth Commission program in Toronto.

Last but not the least, the delegates paid tribute to the memory of
Hardial Bains who spearheaded the work for democratic renewal in the
aftermath of the collapse of the bipolar division of the world and
tragically passed away less than a year ago in Ottawa, Canada. The AIPSG
dedicated the conference to Hardial Bains in recognition of his
leadership to the work of the AIPSG from its founding until his death
and to his seminal contributions to the movement for renewal.

Papers and reference material from the conference can be obtained by
contacting the AIPSG at ipsg@maestro.com or visiting our web site at


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