Mayawati responsible for plight of women in UP: Rahul *Being socially relevant in Kerala

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister MayawatiUttar Pradesh, February 12, 2012: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Sunday blamed Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati for the sorry plight of women in the state.

“Even though this state is ruled by a woman chief minister, there is no one to hear the voice of women,” Gandhi said, addressing a pubic rally in this Uttar Pradesh district where polling is due Feb 15 in the third phase of the seven-phase assembly election.

“With a view to ensuring participation of women right down to the grassroots level, the Congress made it a point to give reservation to women in panchayats, but that is not being implemented in the true spirit in this state,” he alleged.

Citing a examples of injustice to women in the state, Gandhi said: “I was told by an old woman how her agricultural land was forcibly acquired for some builders. When the builder demanded immediate vacation of the plot, the woman complained to the local police station but to no avail.

“Police not only refused to intervene but even went to the extent of setting fire to the standing crop on the poor woman’s land,” he alleged.

Stressing he was not here to make promises like other political parties, he said: “When one has clear intentions, he need not make promises. I have not come here to make promises but to take UP on the path for change and I am sure that we will win this battle.”

“Ask Mayawati and (Samajwadi Party chief) Mulayam Singh Yadav whether they cared to visit any village in the last five years, but when they go about addressing election rallies, they were busy making tall promises,” he said, adding he wondered why they had not done so when in power.

Flaying successive non-Congress governments in Uttar Pradish where Congress had been out of power for 22 years, Gandhi asserted he was committed to the cause of Uttar Pradesh’s development.

“And I will not budge from here. Let me tell you that when I choose to take up something, I do not leave it halfway,” he said.

“Even if only one person from UP stands by me, I will continue to fight for you because you have been duped for 22 years,” Gandhi said.

He blamed the BSP, the Samajwadi Party as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for neglecting the state for “not doing anything to build the future of the state’s youth”.

He also accused all the three parties for fuelling corruption in the state and pilfering funds sent by the central government for various development tasks.

Gandhi later addressed another meeting in Zafrabad town of Jaunpur, followed by one in Kaushambhi and two meetings in Allahabad.

– ians

Being socially relevant in Kerala


Being socially relevant in KeralaKerala, February 11, 2012: Recent actions by the communist party has caused fury among the clergy and the ruling Congress. Last week I met John Peter, a Catholic selling tender coconut on the streets of Kochi. His red-colored headgear indicated his leftist sympathies. As he waited for customers, I tried to have a conversation with him and started by mentioning the recent controversy over depictions of Christ as a communist and the Church’s subsequent condemnation of them.

“Nonsense,” the seller said.

Which part was the nonsense, I asked: the Church’s condemnation or the communists’ depictions?

What followed was an hour-long lecture on how people have grown tired of discussing the war of words between the leaders of the Church and communists, how self-acclaimed intellectuals bring to centre-stage issues irrelevant to people’s daily lives.

“These people are a waste, and discussing them we waste time. Do something useful,” he concluded.

I purchased a coconut drink and then left.

Whether Peter is right or not, the history of communists in Kerala has always been marked by the leftists’ tussles with the Church. Nothing has changed in this southern Indian state, where the communists are in the opposition but continue aiming for power. They might well succeed. After all, it is the first place in the world where communists came to power through elections, in 1957.

Their recent expressions of solidarity with Christ, enlisting him among their leaders along with Marx, Engels and Che Guevara, should be seen in the light of political ambition and their struggle to build up losing relevance and cadre support.

Recent actions by the party designed to lessen the gap between Christians and communists has caused fury among the clergy and the ruling Congress Party, and has inspired widespread condemnation.

First, a party leader equated Christianity with communism by saying the religion follows the same ideals that communists embrace. This revelation came from Communist Party of India (Marxist) Central Committee member E P Jayarajan on January 28, ahead of the party’s state meet that began February 6.

A major controversy broke out days before the state-level meeting opened. An exhibition the party organized included a picture of the crucified Christ among those of communist leaders, as if to assert that Christ was among their leaders who struggled for the oppressed.

CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan justified the presence of the crucifix, saying Christ championed the cause of the oppressed just as communists are doing now.

Almost at the same time the party’s confederation of the labor unions sponsored a poster campaign in which they altered an image of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. It replaced Christ with US President Barack Obama and put a motley group of Indian politicians with him at the table. It was subtitled in Malayalam: “The last supper of capitalism…hope only in Marxism.”

They went a step further by also depicting St Sebastian, a popular saint among Kerala Christians, as a martyr who died “fighting oppression” under the Roman emperor Diocletian. The youth wing of the party (DYFI) did it in a poster that greeted a parish celebrating the saint’s feast.

When Church leaders condemned these actions, Vijyan volunteered in a public meeting to explain why his party draws inspiration from Christ. To help Church leaders understand it better, he explained it in terms of Latin American liberation theology and quoted from the Bible.

Vijayan and his cadres are familiar with liberation theology, thanks to some Catholic priests who attempted to practice the Latin American liberation model among the fisher-people on Kerala’s southern coast in the 1980s. That experiment failed when the official Church began to explain it as the “sugar-coated poison” of communists and blacklisted priests who they suspected were communist sympathizers.

But that gave enormous courage to communists to quote the Bible and find similarities with the teachings of Christ and the theories of Marx, causing confusion among ordinary Catholics. A group of devout Catholic youth once told me they were convinced that being a good Christian would mean being a good communist because a Christian is called to struggle for equality and to fight oppression and exploitation. I knew of a Church-going septuagenarian who had Marx’s picture in his scapular. In some huts of fisher-people, I have seen pictures of Marx and Engels alongside the Sacred Heart and Mother of Perpetual Help.

This confused assertion is a worry for the Church, and this confusion is exactly what the communists want because at some stage, they know, it would mean votes for them.

And they know it is time for them to play on the confusion. The state will hold a by-election soon to fill the vacancy created by the death of sitting minister T M Jacob, who won in the Christian stronghold of Piravom. A communist win there would be crucial to pull down the Congress-led alliance government, as the communists already have 68 seats in the 140-seat house.

The communist party badly needs Christian support because its mass base among the “working class” of farm laborers and workers of coir and cashew processing industries in Kerala is almost nonexistent now because of advancements in education, shrinking farmlands and brighter job opportunities overseas. Those now “working” in Kerala are a different “class” that has experienced how communists have been trying to build heaven on earth since 1957, and that experience no longer excites the “working class” to vote en masse for the communists.

However, the electoral fortunes of the communist alliance could be on the rise, as the state has almost never returned the incumbent party to power. Historically, this has meant the communist party’s influence ebbing and flowing in definite intervals, and always giving the Church a reason to fight them.

The communists know the Kerala Church has a substantial following. They have known it since 1958, when Christians protested the communist move to take over educational institutions, which soon emerged as a statewide anti-communist movement and resulted in the federal government dismissing the elected communist government a year later. Since then, the communists have studied ways to make inroads into the Church and have succeeded even beyond their expectations.

Thousands of Communion-receiving Catholics are also now card-carrying members of the party, some publically and others clandestinely. Both the Church and the party tolerate them. The Church tolerates the successful Catholic-candidates of the party simply because of the political influence they bring to the Church. The party allows them to continue in the Church because they offer ways to attract more “faithful party members.”

And why are Catholics, who have received Confirmation, easily confused about the teachings of Christ and Marx? Are they too feeble in their faith? It is surely not the job of communists to teach catechism to Catholics. If someone in the Church takes that basic job seriously, the Church can escape from the perennial worry over Catholics being misled by communists’ posters and preaching.

When the Church teaches that Christ died for all human beings, communists included, there should be nothing wrong in communists getting inspired by him, even if the Church is not preaching him to them. But when they say they are getting inspired, why not verify and strengthen it by inviting them to the Church rather than condemning them?

And will the Church and communist leaders ever offer something relevant to people like Peter? Peter can offer them tender coconut – sweet and cool.

– christopher joseph

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