Archive for April 28th, 2009

” Since 1947, it (Functional Industrial Estate) hasn’t hired Muslims.” THIS IS INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS’S SECULARISM.

April 28, 2009

http://www.livemint.com/2009/04/28005103/Constituency-with-a-dubious-di.html

” Since 1947, it (Functional Industrial Estate) hasn’t hired Muslims.” THIS IS INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS’S SECULARISM.

  • Posted: Tue, Apr 28 2009. 12:51 AM IST

Constituency with a dubious distinction


The so-called Functional Industrial Estate in Munger hides an ugly truth: Since 1947, it hasn’t hired Muslims

Utpal Bhaskar



Munger, Bihar: Gunsmiths at the only licensed arms manufacturing facility in Munger town, 130km away from Bihar’s capital Patna, are known around the country for their extraordinary workmanship. But the so-called Functional Industrial Estate here hides an ugly truth: Since 1947, it hasn’t hired Muslims.

This is strange because Muslims were in the business of making arms here for at least five centuries before independence. The reasons for this discrimination are not clear, nor is the discrimination explicit, but it exists.

Burgeoning trade: Country-made pistols seized by Munger police during raids on illegal gun factories. Utpal Bhaskar / Mint

Burgeoning trade: Country-made pistols seized by Munger police during raids on illegal gun factories. Utpal Bhaskar / Mint
“It is a Hindu factory. Nothing is on record…it is understood,” said T.P. Sharma, managing director, Green and Co., one of the 37 units operating in the estate’s premises, which makes bridge-loading guns, including single-barrel and double-barrel ones.

The Munger factory is really a collection of units, among the 100-odd arms factories created after independence by bringing together arms-making units. Similar factories exist in Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Assam.

Back then, the owners of individual units were issued licences allowing them to make arms within these estates. The last time such non-transferable licences were issued was in 1957, and the units cannot manufacture more than their allotted quota. The result: those with valid arms licences invariably have to wait a long time to buy a gun. Then, there’s the hassle of getting a gun licence.

These factors, clubbed with the availability of trained manpower here, could explain why Munger has become a hub for illegal arms manufacture.

Also Read Elections 2009 (Full Coverage)

Sure enough, the Munger arms factory has seen a decline in demand for licensed arms and it has seen significant attrition in its gunsmith population—some of these gunsmiths, people here say, have joined illegal arms-making units that supply arms to criminals and insurgents.

Elections mean boom-time for the makers of illegal arms. These illegal gun factories supply guns to such groups in states such as West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, said a senior police officer in the district, who didn’t want to be identified. The Maoists have a growing presence in Munger. The town is part of the Munger Lok Sabha constituency, which goes to polls on 30 April. And according to the district administration, around 10% of the 535 polling stations in the constituency face the threat of disruption by Maoists.

In the Munger Lok Sabha seat, the state president of the Janata Dal (United) that governs Bihar, Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh, is pitted against Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Ram Badan Rai. Of the 1.5 million voters in the constituency, Dalits, with 300,000, form a major chunk of the electorate. They are followed by Kurmis and Dhanus, both so-called other backward classes, or OBCs, which together have 210,000 voters. The Bhumihars and Vaishyas, essentially traders, have 200,000 votes each; the Yadavs, a dominant community in many parts of the state, account for 180,000 voters; Muslims, 125,000 voters; and Rajputs, 130,000.

These numbers are important because victory in the election here is “purely dependent upon who manages these caste equations well”, said a top district administration official who didn’t want to be identified.

The district administration is aware that elections here and elsewhere in the country mean big business for the makers of illegal guns. Since November last year, when five key states went to the polls, the police here have raided several illegal arms factories and arrested 1,915 people, the police officer quoted in the first instance said.

The gunsmiths of Munger


“Munger traditionally has (had) very good gunsmiths. India has around four major places for illegal gun manufacturing, including Kanpur. But Munger is at the top for the quality of its arms… They can manufacture a duplicate Webley and Scott revolver and even a seasoned eye would not be able to spot the difference, be it in the handling of the weapon or its finish,” said the district administration official.

The town is also close to Jamalpur, an old railway town which, with its numerous workshops, provides a rich supply of raw materials required for making guns, such as high tensile steel.

At the Munger arms factory, the number of gunsmiths has fallen from around 600 four years ago to 300. But Sharma of Green and Co. rules out the involvement of any former employee of the licensed gun factory in the illegal arms manufacturing trade.

Interestingly, with Muslims being kept away from the estate, most illegal arms-making units are located in areas thickly populated by the minority community, such as Hazratganj, which is 2km from Munger, the police officer said.

“Sixty percent of the illegal factories raided were in areas (where Muslims are a majority). (But) it might be a coincidence. I think it is more because of demography, as there is a lot of Muslim population in Munger.”

The guns produced by these factories are popular and cheap. Countrymade small arms cost around Rs400 each in the district. Good automatic small arms cost upwards of Rs1 lakh each, though a gun of the same quality can be provided by these basement factories at prices as low as Rs20,000 .

“Even the Maoists are their clients. These kattas (country-made small arms), the cheapest in the country, can fire two or three kinds of bullets bearing different bores. Interestingly, unlike kattas manufactured in other parts of the country, the barrels do not burst despite repeated use,” the police officer added.

The rise in illegal trade has come even as demand from licensed gun factories such as the one at Munger has fallen. “Business has dried up as no gun licences are issued these days. Business has gone. We register a 10% loss on an annual basis. In our better days, the estate registered a turnover of Rs2 crore per annum and firms used to make a 20% profit,” said Manmohan Prasad Sharma, secretary of the Gun Manufacturers Association, which represents firms operating in the Munger facility.

A gun requires around 70 components and 22 workers to make it. The entire process from the placement of an order to the delivery of a licensed weapon takes around six months as the barrels are sent to the Indian Ordnance Factory (IOF) at Ichapore in West Bengal for testing. The assembling begins only after the barrels are cleared by this factory.
Interestingly, recent raids in Munger have resulted in the seizure of large quantities of magazine springs used for automatic weapon manufacturing that were manufactured by IOF.

Ordnance involvement?

“These springs have a specific elasticity which puts the bullet automatically in the firing chamber. They are the most important component for automatic weapons. The IOF alone does such level of high quality manufacturing. These springs have somehow found their way to Munger’s illegal arms manufacturing business,” said a second senior police officer in the district who too didn’t want to be identified.

Commenting on the seizure of springs manufactured by IOF from illegal units, the additional director general of police (headquarters) in Bihar, Neelmani, who uses only one name, told Mint, “There may be some collusion (between employees of IOF and the makers of illegal arms). However, this has to be probed.”

“A lot of people in Munger know arms manufacturing due to its history.”
In a related development, M Sunil Kumar Naik, the superintendent of police in Munger, said he wants the licences of 68 licensed gun-shops in the district revoked because he claims they function as a front for illegal arms trade.

“We will be sending this proposal shortly and the district magistrate has the right to cancel the licences. Munger has got perhaps the maximum concentration of licensed gun-shops of 75 in the area of this size,” added Naik.

Heightened police activity means that the makers of illegal arms are lying low for the time being. The owners of two such units who had earlier agreed to meet this reporter at their factories did a volte-face and even refused to speak over the phone.

“We have recovered all sorts of weapons (from the raids) except an AK47,” said the second police officer, initially in jest. Given the expertise of the gunsmiths of Munger, “it is not far-fetched.”


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Afraid of the Third Front? – By Jayanti Ghosh – The Asian Age

April 28, 2009

http://www.asianage.com/presentation/leftnavigation/opinion/op-ed/afraid-of-the-third-front.aspx




Afraid of the Third Front?

 

Jayati Ghosh

April.28 : India is a complex and diverse country, with many different loyalties and identities driving the aspirations and actions of its citizens. It is also a country in which — fortunately — electoral democracy is deeply entrenched, and difficult to dislodge, with ever growing numbers of people aware of their rights and deeply committed to casting their votes.

It is therefore not surprising that the electoral process — and electoral outcomes especially in the recent past — reflect both such diversity as well as processes of change. As the political churning in India continues apace, it is likely that it will throw up newer and different combinations of parties in power. These are not necessarily results that should cause concern or fear. Rather, they are signs of a national polity that is emerging out of an immensely complicated reality, in a process that has taken several other countries much longer (often as much as a century) to complete.

This process cannot and should not follow the same pattern as the US or UK models, with two major parties alternately contending for and attaining power, because the reality of India is so very different and places such varied requirements upon central governments. Indeed, the middle class yearning for a simple binary division of the polity is completely misplaced in India. It ignores the very reasons why regional and smaller parties have come up at all, and thereby denies the genuine democratic aspirations of most people.

Coalition politics is both necessary and inevitable in India at the current juncture not only because of this diversity, but because of the very obvious failures and apparent of the two major parties. Indeed, just looking at national vote shares of the different parties in the last few elections shows how the electorate is increasingly rejecting this binary division.

The Congress Party, because of its role in the national movement, had emerged after Independence as the default national party, able for a relatively prolonged period to dominate the national political spectrum and particularly the Central government, even though other parties managed to grow sufficiently to set up state governments. But there has been a continuous decline in its national presence. From the peak in 1984 when the wave of sympathy caused by the assassination of Indira Gandhi gave it 46.1 per cent of the national vote, the share has dropped to 26.5 per cent in 2004. It controls only a small minority of state governments.

Every government that has formed at the Centre since 1989 has been a coalition of many parties, and several have been minority governments dependent upon outside support, including the current United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. So the days of one party rule by the Congress are clearly over, whether this is accepted by the Party or not.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) until recently benefited the most from the Congress’ decline, but even the BJP this far has not managed to cross much more than a quarter of the national vote — its peak vote share (in 1998) was 25.6 per cent, and it has declined since then.

These two parties claim to be very different, and certainly it is true that the Congress still claims its secular credentials in opposition to the BJP’s politics of hate and fear, which still underlie the latter’s ideology despite all the moderate masks it seeks to adopt on different occasions. It is also true the BJP is definitely the greater evil, given that its divisive politics actually sows the seeds of more violence and insecurity for the country as a whole. Yet it is also remarkable how similar these two parties have been in government, in terms of economic policies and centralising tendencies.

They have both chosen to follow neoliberal economic policies that have dramatically increased economic inequalities, caused widespread agrarian distress and made material lives more fragile and insecure for most workers. It is true that since the current Congress-led UPA government was dependent upon outside support from the Left, it did bring in some positive and pro-people measures such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). But the basic neoliberal urge was still very evident.

Also both parties — despite being involved in coalition governments that depend upon inside or outside support from smaller and regional parties — have been extremely centralising in terms of concentrating various powers in their own hands, dictating economic terms to the state governments and forcing conditionalities that impose the same neoliberal policies upon the state governments in return for resource transfer in the form of centrally-sponsored schemes. Along with this, it is increasingly evident that both parties are hand in glove with imperialism, in ways that directly impact upon the security and sovereignty of the nation.

Since these are finally the features that affect most of the Indian people directly and indirectly, it is not surprising that these policies have not gone down well with the electorate and have further accentuated the tendency of decline of these two parties.

Things have come to such a pass that it is currently being widely predicted that these two parties together will not get even half of the total votes in the current general elections. So the claim of these two parties being the main relevant national parties is increasingly open to question.

That leaves a varied collection of parties with very different bases, perceptions, identities, ideals, political strategies and forms of organisation and mobilisation. Some of these parties have been, or continue to be associated with fronts, formed by one or the other of the two large parties. But the current evidence of the disintegration of these fronts is not without significance: it indicates that the smaller parties recognise that the role and power of these larger parties is likely to be further constrained in future.

It is obviously both unrealistic and premature to expect that such a diverse grouping (or even a large subset of this grouping) can immediately form a coherent and viable political front that is separate from the two main parties. Yet such a front is both desirable and ultimately inevitable, which is why the Left parties have already invested so much time and effort in working towards such an outcome. After all, these parties have become significant because they express and articulate the genuine concerns and aspirations of substantial sections of voters, and therefore they cannot be denied their space. And because several of them gain their political legitimacy from those who are reacting against unequal and centralising economic policies, they must eventually express this in their own economic strategies.

What is also significant is that many of them find political legitimacy among the bulk of people who have been adversely affected by neoliberal economic policies: workers and peasants, students and self-employed, those searching for jobs and those working at multiple jobs to make ends meet.

We need a Central government that acts to bring such people relief and improve their future prospects. Obviously, in creating such a government, a critical role will be played by the Left whether or not it actually joins the government.

This does not mean that simply forming such a government will rid the polity and economy of the various vices and weaknesses that currently dominate. And it is also very likely that such a government may be unstable and prone to dissolve or change because of contending pressures from the various elements in it. But this should be seen as part of a longer political process in which the legitimate demands of a federal polity and of the masses of people are sought to be met. Such a process is not always smooth and seamless; indeed it is likely to be as chaotic and colourful as Indian democracy itself. It does not make the process any less relevant or necessary.

The emergence of a viable third alternative in Indian politics is therefore a matter of historical inevitability. We should not be afraid of heterogenous political groupings, as long as they share the basic agenda of improving the lot of the common people.

Ulema Council first step towards creation of Political Islam: Amresh Misra

April 28, 2009

Ulema Council first step towards creation of Political Islam : Amresh Misra

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/election2009/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=39179&Itemid=1&sectionid=90&secid=87

INTERVIEWS

Ulema Council first step towards creation of Political Islam: Amresh

Mishra

Farzand Ahmed

April 28, 2009

Amresh Mishra, 43, the Ulema Council candidate for Lucknow Lok Sabha constituency, has been a hardcore activist of ultra-Left CPI (ML) since his student days in Allahabad University. During CPI (ML)’s underground days he was Convener of ‘Progressive Students’ Organisation’ that later come to be known as AISA. A well-know historian, Journalist and script-writer Mishra has many well-researched books to his credit. Apart from his work on Lucknow entitled ‘The Fire of Grace”, he created storm in political and academic circles after his voluminous work on 1857 mutiny entitled ‘War on Civilizations’ last year. His other works include ‘Mangal Pandey: True story of a Mutiny’ and a novel ‘The Minister’s Wife’. Mishra took time off his electioneering to meet with India Today’s Farzand Ahmedto discuss how and why being a Marxist-Leninist he strayed into the outfit of clerics. He revealed: Ulema Council is part of a move to create a string Political Islam movement.

 

Excerpts:

Q: Being a historian and author of a book on Lucknow how do you feel about the present day condition of the city known for its distinct tehzib (culture) and adab (etiquette)?

A: Khushboo ka shahar gandagi mein doob geya hai (filth has overpowered the city of fragrance). Inside real Lucknow poverty and helplessness are widespread. This is a gift to the city by our politicians.

Q: Your agenda?

A: To revive the glory of old Lucknow and revive its traditional craft because of which it’s recognised and respected worldwide.

As a historian I link the plight of Lucknow with the much-hyped new economic policy.

Q: Now coming to politics and your political training how come you are in the company of clerics or in the Ulema-driven party?

A: I found that Ulema Council, which was born out of anger against police and administration harassing and arresting innocent youth of Azamgarh in the name of being militants, was a first step towards creation of Political Islam.

Q: What is Political Islam?

A: Instead of going into history I would say that it’s different from Wahabism. It is in fact an attempt to use and link Islam’s ideology to present day politics and provide justice to all.

Q: But you were with Badruddin Ajmal chief of Asom United Democratic Front when he launched a Pan-India Muslim party?

A: Yes. I was there. In fact I came to Uttar Pradesh to set up units of AUDF but found that Ulema Council was the right forum to fight against injustice and police excesses against minorities in Azamgarh.

By design Azamgarh was being projected as breeding ground of militants. It was baseless and wrong.

Q: But many believe UC was born to help BJP in this election?

A: I have heard this too. But such thing happens when votes are polarised. In UP things are different and UC being part of BJP is rubbish.

Q: What’s the future of Ulema Council after this election?

A: UC will ultimately emerge as a grand alliance of all under-privileged classes.

World Islam (to which many object) will be replaced by Insaaf (Justice).

By the end of this election (May 16) UC will announce name of the new political party but the word ‘Ulema’ will be there. Purpose is to emerge as political force by next Assembly elections.