Our Pledge – April 2014

Our Pledge
April 2014

India goes to polls this year. Amnesia about Gujarat 2002 and a media BJP hype with Narendra Modi as the candidate for prime minister who “get things done” makes immediate once again the threat of resurgent communalism in India. This is not to be taken lightly in the view of recent history.

With Narendra Modi as chief minister, Gujarat in 2002 underwent a well-planned pogrom that took the lives of 2000 people and made homeless over 100,000. Savagery unleashed upon the minority Muslim population saw kerosene-soaked people set on fire, women raped and mutilated on the streets, children tossed into fires. The authorities were complicit.

Modi’s party, the BJP, aided and abetted by the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), mobilized people in the name of Hinduism. Gujarat 2002 is consistent with the statement of the founder of the RSS, the patron group of the BJP. Their ideology as stated by their founding father incorporates divisiveness that bodes ill for any society: The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and languages, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture… in a word they must cease to be foreigners; Or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment— not even citizens’ rights”

Only two election cycles later, both of which the BJP lost, we are asked to “forgive-and-forget” the pogrom of 2002. People are in return promised that an economic success engineered in Gujarat by Modi will be applied nation-wide. Gujarat is to be a model for growth in India’s economy. Never mind that this much-touted “Gujarat Success” is marginally better than the average in other states of the country and is no departure from the current national paradigm of growth for India as a whole: growth for the few at the cost of many. Modi’s party, the BJP, rules in other states in India as well and the reports from those states are no more encouraging. BJP propaganda persists in deluding people with the promise of a bright economic future by a PM whose ideology and politics are imbued with hate-mongering and is certain to wreak havoc.

As in prior elections, the people of India may well see through the ‘Gujarat Shining’ motif once again, and the poll-seers in India proved wrong again.

Regardless, the prospect of a BJP victory in the elections is of grave concern to all who see secularism as an integral part of democracy worldwide. By the same token that we as US resident immigrants and minorities would not wish for the formation of a Christian state here, we are alarmed at the prospect of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in India that would further marginalize and threaten minorities there.

Our pledge to uphold secularism is therefore not only for the year’s election. It is for all time.

Globalization and People’s Movements – from Bangladesh to Colombia – Jan 11, 2014

A discussion with Aviva Chomsky, Anu Muhammad, Ed Childs

Saturday, January 11, 2014, 3 PM
MIT – Room 4-237
77 Mass Ave
Cambridge, MA

Free and Open to the Public

In the global South workers and peasants fight starvation wages and plunder of natural resources; in the North austerity for workers and bailout for capitalists have become a dominant phenomenon. As most nation-states continue to collude with global capital, people’s movements grow for a just and sustainable world. The speakers will review recent examples in Bangladesh, Colombia, and the US and the prospects for real democracy and global solidarity.

Aviva Chomsky is a historian, author, and activist. She teaches at Salem State University in Massachusetts and her activism and academic work include the development of the global working class, immigration in US, and mining in Colombia.

Anu Muhammad is an activist and professor of economics at Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh. His research work and activism include globalization and energy, specifically mining and garment workers issues in Bangladesh.

Ed Childs is an activist and leader in UNITE HERE! and International Action Center, a cook at Harvard and a participant in Occupy Boston. UNITE HERE represents workers throughout the U.S. and Canada who work in the hotel, food service, manufacturing, textile, laundry, and airport industries.

Sponsors:

Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia ( http://www.SouthAsiaAlliance.org )
Bangladesh Workers Solidarity Network ( http://www.BangladeshWorkersSolidarityNetwork.org
Mass Global Action (http://www.massglobalaction.org )
MIT Western Hemisphere Project (http://web.mit.edu/hemisphere/ )

Red Ant Dream – Dec 7, 2013

The Life of Revolutionary Possibility in India

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia

invites you to a screening of Red Ant Dream

The Life of Revolutionary Possibility in India – A documentary by Sanjay Kak

Sat. Dec. 7, 2013
3 pm
MIT Building 3, Room 270,
77 Mass Ave Cambridge

Director/Producer Sanjay Kak will introduce the film and will answer questions after the screening

An armed insurrection simmers in Bastar, central India; in the east beleaguered adivasis from the mineral-rich hills of Odisha attempt to protect their land with axes; in the north protests by Punjabi peasants call upon the iconic figure of Bhagat Singh, martyr of the anti-colonial struggle.
Red Ant Dream, Sanjay Kak’s latest film, studies the possibilities of people’s revolt in India. It joins an impressive body of work looking at how the state and the powerful have colluded across the nation to silence peaceful protest, Tanushree Bhasin, in Sunday Guardian.

Sanjay Kak is an independent documentary filmmaker whose recent work reflects his interests in ecology, alternatives and resistance politics. “Red Ant Dream” is a film about the Maoist rebellion in East-Central India. It is the third in a series of films that interrogate the workings of Indian democracy and highlight peoples’ resistance movements. His earlier films in this genre are “Jashn-e-Azadi” (How We Celebrate Freedom) about the struggle for Azadi – freedom – in Kashmir, and “Words on Water” about the struggle against large dams in the Narmada Valley in Central India. He is based in New Delhi.

Predatory Growth in India: Critique and Alternative – Oct 6, 2013

Aseem Shrivastava

Sunday, October 6th, 5PM
Room 26-168, MIT

About the talk: Taking its cue from the recent Uttarakhand flash-floods ​disaster ​ in northern India, the talk will examine the socio-economic and ecological impact of globalization in India. The mind-set of globalized development mentality that India’s elites have now come to believe in can only worsen, in the long-run, prevailing conditions of poverty, unemployment, inequalities, and environmental devastation. Do Indian elites have the courage and vision to suspend an unsustainable business-as-usual and build a new India, respectful of nature, and the urgent needs of hundreds of millions? India is uniquely placed by the facts of history and destiny to serve as the world’s ecological pioneer – if only it would surrender its present “corporate nationalism” and stop misunderstanding its role in the world as an aspiring superpower.

About the speaker: Aseem Shrivastava is a Delhi-based writer and ecological economist. He wrote his doctoral thesis in Environmental Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has taught economics for many years at college and university level in India and the US. Most recently, he taught philosophy at Nordic College, Norway. He has written extensively on issues associated with globalization. He is the author (with Ashish Kothari) of Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India (Penguin India, 2012, http://churningtheearth.in/).

Sponsored by: Association for India’s Development (Boston and MIT chapters) and Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia.

Free and Open to All

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/522800417800965/

India: An Urban Battleground

Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia

p r e s e n t s

India: An Urban Battleground – a talk by Dr. Parthosarathy Ray

FRI. JUL 26 | 6:30 pm

MIT Building 4, Room 237
77 Mass Ave, Cambridge

About
Over the last decade or so, the focus of most activists and organizations in India has been mostly on the countryside, where large scale displacement and land grab has been going on in the interests of national and multinational capital. However, in the meantime, the urban conflict over land, over the right to the city, and over proper working and living conditions has also become more and more intense.

Actually, the conflicts in the rural areas and urban areas are interlinked by economics and the commonality of class interests. At the fundamental level, this battle, beyond the rhetoric on urban development and beautification, on rights and rehabilitation, on investment and industrialization, is class conflict. It is a conflict between the urban working class and the bourgeoisie, and the basic question in contention is the “right to the city”. In some places the conflict is taking the shape of slum eviction and resistance to it, in others, it is reflected in the militant action of unorganized labor.

The contours of this conflict are going to shape the future nature and the character of the cities in India, where most of the economic activity in the country is already concentrated, and understanding and developing a proper response to it is therefore of immense importance to all of us.

Bio
Partho Sarothi Ray is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata. He has been active in the anti-displacement movements around India and has been part of the struggles of the urban poor in Kolkata and Bengaluru. He is a founder member of the solidarity forum Sanhati. He was the first activist to do a thorough ground-level reporting of the movement in Lalgarh, West Bengal, and has written extensively on the political economy of contemporary India, especially the political economy of urban struggles.

http://www.sanhati.org

Water Future of Bangladesh and India: Divided by borders, connected by rivers

Saturday 2-4 pm, May 18, 2013

MIT Room 3-133
http://whereis.mit.edu/?go=3

Speakers: Jayanta Bandyopadhyay and Nazrul Islam

Jayanta Bandyopadhya, environmental activist and professor, author of fourteen critically acclaimed books, is the former head of the Center for Development and Environment Policy at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta.

Nazrul Islam, the senior economist at the UN, is the author of several books on prospects for development in Bangladesh and China. He is the coordinator of Bangladesh Environment Network ( BEN ), a global organization of Bangladeshi citizens, expatriates, and friends of Bangladesh dedicated to protecting the environment in Bangladesh.

Recent experience in South Asia demonstrates that rivers are not objects to be “conquered” and “consumed”. The harvesting of river resources must not entail fundamental changes to the natural course and flow of rivers.

Big dams have proven to incur great costs to a country and provide only questionable benefit. Dams on multiple rivers upstream have damaged vast areas in India and even more in the lower riparian country Bangladesh.

In particular, the mammoth Inter Linking of Rivers project ( ILRP ) initiated by the Govt of India is likely to cause irreversible damage to both India and Bangladesh.

Organized by:

Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia (www.southAsiaAlliance.org)

Association for India’s Development MIT & Boston Chapters (www.aidboston.org)

Bangladesh Environment Network (www.ben-global.org)

The South Asia Forum at MIT

Vigil/picket For Bangladeshi workers killed in the April 25th Rana factory collapse – May 4, 2013

Speech by Nurul Kabir, poem read by Padma Balasubramanian below.

Thanks, everybody for being here today. It is a great day, a beautiful day and I am happy to be here with all of you!

And I remember that no more than a few days ago, at 9 AM in the morning on the other side of the world, in Bangladesh, a nine-story building had collapsed, with 5000 workers in it. And people died.

People died. People died cruelly. With their limbs stuck under the rubble. They had no food and water for over four days. They died in anguish thinking of their infants that they had left behind, the father and the mother that they could no longer support with their meager earnings.

They died because they were made to go back into a building that was in danger of collapse. They died because their managers forced them to go in and work. They died for a job that paid $40 a month.

Now, since 2006 there have been over a thousand such deaths. We as consumers in the west do have responsibility. Because those people died making the clothes we wear.

They are being killed because in the chain connecting us to them something is amiss. Something is amiss because we know that for every garment piece that is sold at $100 in the western market, the governments of the consuming countries in the west earn more than $25 in tax, the retailer in the west makes $50 and of the rest, nearly $24 go to the owner’s profit and costs, and a worker gets less than $1.

[Shouts of “Shame” from people assembled at vigil]

Now, the multi-national companies say that “Look, we don’t have any responsibility, because we are contracting to sub-contractors and them to sub-contractors”. They work in cooperation with the government [in the outsourced country}. And the government supports the owners of the factories. The police are on their [owner’s] side, the administration is on their side. Till today not a single factory owner has been punished. The workers, on the other hand, have no unions. They do have industrial police, recently formed, not to protect them but for the express purpose of “keeping order” in the factories.

Now, this is an old story. In 1995, Gap made shirts in El Salvador. They sold for $20 outside. The worker got 18 cents. Men, women, children! toiled in sweatshop hell for 14 hours a day. Some formed a union. The subcontracting factory fired them. Others went on strike. At the end of the year, Gap said we are moving to Asia.

The multi-national companies say this: “Look, if you don’t behave yourselves we will move away. We will leave El Salvador and we will go to Bangladesh, from Bangladesh we will go to Haiti. Why will go to the moon if you don’t behave”.

So how are we to protect poor working people’s rights on this world?

Well, the first thing we have to realize is that the multi-national corporations aren’t about to go to the moon, there are no workers there, not yet. They live on this planet, where WE live and die.

For me, the way is that nowhere in the world should somebody be made to go back to burning buildings, collapsing buildings. If the rights of all workers are upheld, then in the so-called race to the bottom, there is a bottom below which we can’t go to.

So generally if we look at the alliances in the whole supply chain that gives us a guide of where we are and where we should be. There are the alliances between the multi-nationals and the governments, and the works, perhaps, with us.

And specifically, of course, and I say this specifically too certain aggrieved members of the Bangladeshi “Community” :

We do not undertake any action that is not in concert with working people’s express demands.

Understand?

We work in humility. We know that we are not the workers themselves. In unity, we see what the workers want, and to the best of our ability, we will give them our support.

If we do that, I think, we can achieve the goal that we – all of us – want. Which is: “The people united will never be defeated”

[Chorus of slogans from the people assembled at vigil]

Poem Read by Padma Balasubramanian

Your feet are raised toward Bangladesh

By Ali Riaz, translated for AlalODulal.org by Tibra Ali

The music of your anklets used to ring out in your mother’s yard and your own home

Your upturned hands used to rise up in prayer

That was yesterday

That was when we sold your tears and sweat for cheap

You were extremely useful to us

Useful in terms of dollar value,

Useful in terms of international trade,

Useful for the governmental statistics

More than once, your face and your dedication to work I have used,

After creasing out the folds and wrinkles, to represent Bangladesh in brightly-lit seminar rooms.

Fund Raising for families of Bangladesh Garment Workers killed by Fires

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia raised $7,000 for the families of garment workers affected by the Tazreen garment factory fire of November 2012.

This effort in no way absolves the Government of Bangladesh and the class it represents their criminal abdication of responsibility towards the workers. Nor does it weaken our commitment to support the workers in the demand for their rights.

The Alliance expresses immense gratitude to all who contributed to the fundraising effort and their support for the ongoing campaign for workers’ rights.

JAI BHIM COMRADE – Mar 2, 2013

The Atrocity of Caste | a Tradition of Reason | A Song that will be Sung

Introduced by Anand Patwardhan

Sat. Mar 2, 2013, 2 – 6pm MIT 32 – 155

Followed by QA with the Director

Co-sponsored by:

MIT Program in Women’s and Gender Studies
MIT History Department
South Asia Forum at MIT

Ambedkar International Center (Boston)
The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia

JAI BHIM COMRADE

In 1997, a statue of Ambedkar in a Dalit (Untouchable) colony in Mumbai was desecrated. Ambedkar was a central figure in the Dalit liberation movement in India. As angry residents gathered, police opened fire, killing 10. Vilas Ghogre, a leftist poet, hanged himself in protest.

Jai Bhim Comrade shot over 14 years, follows the poetry and music of a subaltern tradition of the reason that has, from the days of the Buddha, fought superstition and religious bigotry with poetry and art.

With their mix of revolutionary politics and Dalit liberation, the artists’ collective Kabit Kala Manch has been subject to intense state repression. Many of the artists featured in the film are now underground to escape arrest. For more info visitwww.kabirkalamanch.wordpress.com

Anand Patwardhan has been making investigative documentaries in India for over four decades. His films have often faced state censorship and the wrath of religious fundamentalists.