POLICE ACTION AGAINST PROGRESSIVE WRITER: ORISSA JOURNALISTS, AUTHORS AND ACTIVISTS PROTEST

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

When misrule gives birth to anarchy, what should artists, authors and journalists do? You can have a glimpse of that by watching what Nishan Editor Lenin Kumar and his colleagues, Dhananjaya Lenka and Rabi Jena have done.

When a State falls in the hands of oppressors that torture progressive writers as they have done to Lenin and his team, what should the men of letters, journalists and authors, the conscience-keepers of the society do without disturbing whatever little tranquility is left?

You can find that out in visiting the unique event Bhubaneswar witnessed in front of the official residence of the Governor of Orissa on December 11, 2008.
in-solidarity-with-lenin
Mark the picture and you get it.

The cream of Orissa’s intelligentsia demonstrated its wrath over oppressive police actions against the progressive trio by the participants gagging their own mouths with black cloths before the Raj Bhawan, from where a delegation of them also went to the Governor and apprised him of the official mischief while urging upon him to intervene in order to protect freedom of expression.

We, in these pages, have discussed the matter in-depth on December 10, 2008.

Surprisingly, in session, the rampart of democracy and the guardian of peoples’ right in the State, the Orissa legislative Assembly, has failed to pay due attention to take stock of this sordid assault on the scribes’ fundamental rights.

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DEMOCRACY DEFILED: HOUSE OUSTS CONGRESS MEMBER FOR A WEEK; REALITY ENTOMBED

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa Legislative Assembly has ousted Congress member Tarakant Bahinipati for seven days as on adoption of a treasury bench motion to suspend him the Speaker decided to enforce it on 11th December.

Bahinipati attracted the harsh decision by venturing to hit the Speaker with an earphone though that had missed the target. It was an affront to dignity of the House, members felt. Bahinipati also felt the same way; but explained his action as a reaction to anti-democratic conduct of the treasury side.

After successfully stonewalling the House the preceding day on the ground of absence of a white paper in respect to the official notice calling attention on killing of Laxmananand and consequent communal violence in Kandhamal that turned into exposing the government’s reluctance to provide the same for use as the base of debate, the Opposition on 11th December allowed the House to proceed so that its own version as well as the government’s could be kept on records and the reality could be known.

And, thus the House started to proceed on Kandhamal issue.

And, thus the House came to hear what the Deputy Leader of Opposition, Narasingha Mishra, known for clear comprehension and in-depth analysis of any issue in hand, was to say on Kandhamal.

Mishra began his speech by razing down the “rosy picture” painted by the initiator of the debate, government chief whip, B.K.Arukh on the present situation in Kandhamal. This district, he reminded the government, is one of the most backward districts of India, where Schedule Tribes constitute 52 per cent and Schedule Castes 17 per cent of its total population. But 90 per cent of its population perish Below-the-Poverty-Line (BPL) with an average per capita income of Rs.4, 743/- as against Rs.5,264/- in other districts of Orissa in the same segment, he showed from statistical reports. And roared, is it the evidence of development that the government boasts of? And then, as he proceeded, he cited certain documents on records in print media to show the darker side of the communal flare up at Kandhamal, the core issue of the particular debate.

Giving vent to his suspicion that Laxmananand’s murder might have been the BJP’s handiwork in executing its stratagem to cultivate communal support in approaching elections, he went ahead to support his apprehensions with circumstantial evidences, to the utmost discomfort of the BJP members of the treasury benches.

He cited newspaper reports to show how contemptuously Togadia of saffron combine had alleged that it was Chief Minister Navin Patnaik’s chilling nonchalance that had facilitated the murder of Laxmananand.

And, as bruised BJP members were at a loss to understand how to stop Mishra’s trigger, he went on to show how Laxmananand was a destroyer of societal solidarity in the affected district in the name of religion and how he was the arch villain behind the 1994 caste conflicts that in acrimony had surpassed every conceivable violence in that district.

Even as no action was taken against perpetrators of that crime against the community, it is the BJP’s alliance government that surreptitiously withdrew the security cover from Laxmananand before his murder in the night of August 23, 2008, although as many as 26 hours before the murder, he had informed the Police that there was threat to his life.

After the murder of Laxmanananda BJP has tried to use him posthumously for consolidation of its vote bank, but its coalition government has not net in the real murderer.

This, he said, points the needle of suspicion for the murder of Laxmananand to the BJP and its allies, which they might have done in thirst for votes.

He cited the instance of Kendrapara where a BJP leader had organized bombardment on the house of another leader of his own party with the motive to project the crime as an act of Muslims, so that communal passions ignited against the minority community could have helped the saffronists in having a new polarized vote bank in their favor. There is no reason not to see the same modus operandi in the murder of Laxmananand, Mishra thundered.

Referring to Togadia’s tirades as reported by the Press, Mishra wondered as to how and why the BJP Ministers sharing the dais with Togadia at that time were not taken to task for having not protested against the acerbic words hurled at their Chief Minister. Recitation of the reported words by Mishra was unbearable for the BJD members and even as they squealed, Mishra went ahead to cite Puri Sankaracharya who had alleged that it is the Chief Minister who alone should be held responsible for the murder. The CM, Mishra wondered, was unable to stop the crime as he was dependent on the Sangh Parivar to stay in power and the Sangh Parivar was to make a sacrifice of Laxmanananda at the altar of their ambition that could be fulfilled only through electoral politics. To put his apprehensions on a supportive base, he read out a letter of the Sangh Parivar that was pregnant with the conspiracy as published in a printed edition of Lokamat.

This was more than enough for the BJP members and their BJD allies to digest. They rushed into the well of the Hall demanding deletion of Mishra’s citations.

Under the waves of uproar that soon engulfed the House, Kalpataru Das of BJD was allowed to raise a point of order when Ms. Draupadi Murmu of BJP was in the Chair and as Das started saying, the microphone of Mishra was laid inoperative. The Opposition stood in protest and the pandemonium took a turn towards the worse. In that oral free for all environment inside the Hall, Bahinipati ventured the most condemnable offense against the Chair. He whisked out an earphone and hurled it at the august authority. Democracy was defiled as never before in the very heart of its throne.

Rightly he has been put under suspension. His is an offense that no lover of democracy can tolerate.

But it is also a fact that had the House not been goaded by the treasury bench members into the environment that precipitated the offense, what happened might not have happened at all.

If the peoples of the State are now unable to know the behind the screen reality that could have addressed appropriately to the issue put on agenda of the Assembly by the treasury side itself, whom to blame except the treasury side?

OFFICIAL NOTICE CALLING ATTENTION ON KANDHAMAL FAILED TO PROCEED

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The ruling alliance’s calling attention notice on killing of Hindu religious revivalist Laxmananand Saraswati in Kandhamal and the consequent communal violence could not be taken up for discussion on December 10, as the Government failed to appreciate that it should provide the House with a White Paper for facilitating an informed debate.

The House was dragged into confusion by the Government side when Parliamentary Affairs Minister Raghunath Mohanty asserted that a White Paper could not be released, as a Judicial Commission of Inquiry is investigation the matter. Then, the Opposition wondered, how can the Government continue its calling attention business without transgressing into the issues before the commission?

Pandemonium, begun with the Speaker calling the House to discuss the notice, continued to cause repeated adjournments till finally the House was posted to the next working day.

STOP PROSECUTING LENIN ROY: IMPOSE CEILING ON PROPERTY

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Bhubaneswar Police has arrested the editor of progressive journal, Nishan, Mr. Lenin Kumar Roy along with two of his colleagues, Dhanjaya Lenka and Rabi Jena, under suspicion that they were the authors of alleged Naxal tracts that the rightwing media had claimed to have stumbled upon in the capital city last week. They are remanded to judicial custody.

It seems, squeals of right-wing media over suspected Naxal presence in Bhubaneswar has made the police pounce on the editor of the progressive journal. Poets and authors of the State have put on records their protests against the police highhandedness.

What is Lenin’s offense that the police is harping on? Firstly, his comment carried by Nishan on the flare up that communalism had ignited in Kandhamal and secondly, presence of CDs that allegedly carry data of human tragedies, stored also in the hard disk of his computer, which, according to police interpretations, are pro-Naxal.

When the matter is subjudice, one hopes, the judiciary will unveil the truth.

But as the instant reaction of thinkers and writers of Orissa suggests, one finds that progressive intelligentsia is not taking police version as free of prejudice. As such, the right thinking Oriya intellectuals, poets and authors and fighters for freedom in expression – all apolitical patriots – have started defending Lenin and his team very openly and unambiguously.

But without any prejudice, one may say that it is quite difficult to understand as to how possession of certain data of human tragedies constitutes an offense. This is a part of intellectual pursuit that an editor of a progressive journal is supposed to have as it helps him interpret contemporary issues so germane to his profession.

On the other hand, fundamental duties that the Constitution of India has assigned to every Indian include individual and collective endeavor to interpret scriptures and religious occurrences in such manners that a socio-scientific tenor should be evolved out of such interpretations to pave the path for a future society free of religious infestations.

Progressive authors, specifically the journalists, have to bear the burden of this responsibility.

In doing this, they may make comments on religious practices that may look like disparaging to dogmatism. And, any religious fanatic may raise a cry that thereby his or her religious belief has been outraged. Notwithstanding presence of Sections 153A and 295A of IPC, police should desist from invoking these draconian provisions against such progressive journalists and authors as the same may kill the spirit of fundamental duties enshrined in the Constitution and defeat the fundamental rights that the citizens are given in the matter of free expression. Police in Nishan case has preferred not to think about this.

Beyond this, if intellectuals of the State refuse to stand with police action against Lenin and his team, it is because the police personnel in various occasions have been marked for having falsely implicated innocent people in criminal cases.

This time, it seems as if the police is executing a conspiracy of rightwing media against the intellectually accepted progressive journal, Nishan.

A rightwing TV channel that feeds its viewers mostly with superstitions and other recipes of theism in apparent support to religious revivalism was the first to raise a tempest over pasting of typed sheets of papers allegedly containing the Naxal warnings at dingy joints in the city when election propaganda for Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation was at its peak and went on noising that the police is too smug to nail Naxal menace even though the Capital of the State is threatened by its presence. And, rightwing print media went on repeating the same.

Assembly session added the fuel. Police pounced on the team of the only journal that is considered by even the apolitical intelligentsia as progressive.

Cases may be cooked up. Courts may be hoodwinked. Patriots may be punished. But can conscience be extinguished? No.

As long as exploitation continues, protest against exploitation shall go on. Responding to call of conscience peoples will sure rise to protest against exploitation. So prosecuting a progressive editor would not stop spread of protests.

But if protests become violent, our motherland shall bleed. And, no creative person, poet, author, artist, journalist, none of the lovers of human society, can support any action that may make the motherland bleed.

Therefore, the Naxals are not yet getting popular support. Nonetheless, they are spreading.

We must cogitate.

Everybody knows that economic inequality is the basic reason behind spreading of Naxalism. It has grown out of failure of Communists to steer the nation into political economy of socialism. So it is an economic phenomenon; not a matter only of law and order as the rightist say.

Police cannot curb it. Military cannot.

Only a politico-economic formula can curb Naxalism.

This formula must urgently be evolved to remove the inequality.

If we are serious, we must seriously think of our beloved Bapuji. We have forgotten him. He had wanted the country to run in a manner where upliftment of the poorest of the poor must form the core of planning. But our planning is addressed to devise ways to gift stimulus packages to the rich to help consolidation of imperialism.

If the country belongs to every Indian, the deprived Indians must revolt against deprivation. Who can stop?

In his reply to debates on the third reading of the Constitution in the Constituent Assembly of India, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had given vent to his fears that the hard-earned freedom of India may not last for long if the Parliament to be constituted under the Constitution fails to remove the economic inequality, which, overwhelmed by the propertied class representing the Indian National Congress in majority in the Assembly, the makers of the Constitution had failed to undo. Showing the shortcomings of the Constitution he had said,

“On 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradiction. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic rights we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man and one vote, one value. In our social and economic rights we shall by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny one man one value…We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.”(Constituent Assembly Debates, Vol.XI, p.979)

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Instead of curbing inequality, the Governments, hand-in-glove with the rich, have spread inequality. Unless they stop it, peoples shall stop it by force. In words of what Ambedkar has warned, “they will blow up the structure of political democracy”. Police can’t stop that.

So, stop prosecuting the Nishan team if at all they are opponents of inequality and try to remove social and economic inequality as soon as possible in right earnest if you love the motherland. By prosecuting Lenin Roy, Dhanjaya Lenka and Rabi Jena, police can’t stop victims of inequality from “blowing up the structure of political democracy”.

But let us stop it collectively without creating any cause of confrontation.

To do this, let us go back to beloved Gandhiji, whom the Congress, represented by the propertied class, had ignored in making of the Constitution.

He had the foresight to know what would happen to India if economic inequality widens the gap between the poor and the rich. He had devised a unique method called “Theory of Trusteeship”. The rich must stop exploiting the poor and treat himself as the trustee of the property of the poor. This is perhaps the only way of stopping class war in the most non-violent way. This is time; we must address our entire political consciousness to bring Bapuji’s Theory of Trusteeship to practice in India, if we are really serious about stopping blood bath on politico-economic ground. If the rich does not voluntarily accept the theory, it must be made to accept.

To do this, two steps are essential. Firstly, the government must retrieve democracy from the labyrinth of plutocracy. It must stop economic gifts in any guise to the rich to make them richer. And, secondly, it must put a ceiling on accumulation of property. When Indian farmers are distress selling their paddies, women are distress selling their bodies, mothers are distress selling their babies, workers are distress selling their abilities, why should a single Indian Ambani, son of a man of obscure beginning, be allowed to have a home that would, when finished, be the costliest building under the sky to live in? Why should India be two Indias like this? To stop this, we must stop concentration of unlimited wealth in individual hands. And for this, ceiling on property must be an unavoidable must.

The state must be told to stop prosecuting Lenin, as the remedy to Naxalism does not lie therein, but lies in removal of social and economic inequalities.

ORISSA OPPOSITION TAKES A TOLL; REVENUE MINISTER RESIGNS

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa Opposition has taken a toll of many a Ministers of Navin Patnaik’s Government, the latest being Revenue Minister Manmohan Samal. Orissa has been saved from the agonizing embarrassment over the Minister’s alleged sex escapades exposed last month.

Samal’s party BJP lost its face in protecting him. But to repair the loss, after Samal resigned, its members today organized a demonstration at Orissa’s spiritual capital Puri in protest against the black spot the Minister painted on the saffron and in a bid to show that all saffronists are not sex maniacs, burnt down the effigy of Samal with utmost contempt that they could have displayed.

The current phase of incumbency of Navin Patnaik is so much soiled with scandals that succumbing to Opposition pressure he has witnessed 11 of his cabinet colleagues quit their berths, nine of his own party BJD and two of his coalition partner BJP. They are M/s Balabhadra Majhi, Bijayashree Rautray, Bishnu Das, Damodar Raut, Debashish Nayak, Kalandi Behera, Nagendra Pradhan, Rabi Nanda and Ms. Pramila Mallik (all BJD) and Mr. Manmohan samal and mr.Pradipta Nayak (both BJP). Ms. Pramila Mallik and Mr. Pradipta Nayak have been reinducted in different circumstances.

Over and above these members of his cabinet, the BJD stalwart Maheswar Mohanty had to quit the Speaker post under Opposition pressure.

When Rabi Nanda had to go as his bid to purchase legislators’ silence over excise malpractice was exposed on records by Congress member Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra, the Chief Minister’s blue-eyed boy Debashish Nayak , BJP’s Manmohan Samal and Speaker Maheswar Mohanty had to quit under charges of sex escapades.

No Ministry in Orissa so far was so infested with so many scandals.

SHOULD THE BJP NOT ASK ITS MINISTER TO SPARE ORISSA FROM FURTHER EMBARRASSMENT?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party marked for foiling Valentine Day celebrations in India in the name of social conscience and morality has left it to personal conscience of its Orissa heavyweight and Revenue Minister Manmohan Samal to decide if he should resign on moral ground as the State has immersed in embarrassment due to his alleged sex escapades involving a woman he had lodged in Orissa Niwas, New Delhi during his stay there in Orissa Bhawan, in the first week of November 2008.

The woman had occupied the guesthouse room on reservation made on the requisition of Samal’s Officer on Special Duty; but it seems, the O.S.D. had acted as directed by Samal.

Ms.Sanghamitra Singh, the woman in question, has said that she has no illicit relationship with Samal.

She may be right.

But then she should blame for whatever ill publicity she has got, whatever relationship she has with Samal.

Had Samal acted as a responsible gentleman, she might never have been in the center of such a storm.

In the first place he should not have taken her to New Delhi through his O.S.D. and kept her in the Orissa Niwas while he himself was to stay in a different place at Orissa Bhawan. By keeping her in the Niwas, he kept her hidden from the eyes of the Bhawan staff, which under protocol was supposed to know if she was the Minister’s de facto guest. As such his visits to Orissa Niwas to meet her behind back of the Bhawan staff was violative of protocol besides being a security risk

But he has explained his position in a curious way. Mum on protocol point, he has tried to justify his activities on the premise of constituency interest. He was trying to help her in contacting guests for the Salandi Mahotsav that she organizes, he has said.

Now, when Ms. Singh herself says that Mr. Samal had met her in the Niwas lobby only for once and does not say anything on guest contact, the scenario sends signals that mar the Minister’s credibility further.

According to media reports, he was rescued from the room of Ms. Singh by staff members of the Niwas hours after someone had locked the door from outside in order to expose him. If there was nothing immoral in his stay there, in other words if that was really in his constituency interest, Samal should have made a complaint before the Niwas authorities immediately against the mischief and if needed, informed the Chanakyapuri Police Station seeking stern action against the miscreant. But he did not do that. If he was not thus locked up, he should have countered the report and initiated penal prosecution against the media organization for spreading such obnoxious canards. But he kept mum.

Now the massive dissimilarity between what he has stated in the Assembly and what Ms. Singh has told the Press on December 6, makes the issue murkier.

The Chief Minister compelled to make a statement in the Assembly, has relied upon the official report received from the Resident Commissioner, New Delhi to say that Samal had visited Orissa Niwas several times during the time in question. This is enough to suspect that both Mr. Samal and Ms. Singh are trying to hide the truth as otherwise their versions should never have been vitiated with such stark dissimilarities.

When the Minister has rushed to New Delhi apparently to lobby for his continuance in the coalition cabinet, Ms. Singh accompanied by a group of saffronist women has staged a demonstration before the Bhubaneswar residence of the Pradesh Congress Committee President Jayadev Jena on December 7 in protest against his harping on the sex scandal, as that has injured her social status.

Should the BJP not ask its Minister to spare the State from further embarrassment?

SANGHAMITRA FEELS LIKE DRAUPADI OF KAURAV COURT

Ms. Sanghamitra Singh focused in alleged sex-escapades of Revenue Minister Manmohan Samal has described her feelings as that of Draupadi in the Kaurav Court.

Samal is her immediate neighbor in native place and is like a guardian. It is wrong to read wrong notes between them, she told the Press while refusing to answer probing questions.

She however told that Samal had seen her only once in the lobby of Orissa Niwas and not gone to her room.

The insinuations in a section of Press and consequential hurling of words in the Assembly are most misconceived and mischievous, she maintained.