People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 18

May 06, 2012

Leftword  Launches  May Day Book Store and Cafe

S K Pande


You may strangle this voice but there will be a time when our silence would be more powerful than the voice you strangle today


(August Spies, editor, Fackel, Chicago, Illinois, 1887)


It was indeed a May Day evening with a difference. At a remote corner in west Delhi, what was opened was the country’s first May Day Bookstore and Café amidst a cosmopolitan gathering where the intellectuals rubbed shoulder with the workers, students, activists and the general public.


At one corner,  a wide amalgam of leftist books ready for the take- at bargain prices, at another corner an innovative calendar listing , in brief, some important labour struggles from colonisation to globalisation, giving statistics and some historic facts like the fact that India had officially 478 million workforce that contributed to its economic growth which in itself was a curious mixture of illiterate workers unfamiliar with machines and tools and a sizable pool of experts in the fields of medicine, science, technology and computers. Add to all this May Day badges, cups, tee shirts, jute bags and paperweights.


Centre stage in another room , it was music, poetry, songs and narration–all on the theme of May Day with a cup or two of coffee and a historic booklet by Prof Vijay Prashad giving a brief on May Day through the years. For over three hours , with the limited space jam packed, there were songs of freedom , struggle, spirit of inquiry ranging from Kabir , Faiz, Tagore to Bob Dylan sprinkled with folk and rock flavour.


The performers included the Laal Band from Pakistan, Sumangala Damodaran, Rahul Ram, Harpreet Singh, Purushottm, Shriparna Nandi, Mohsin Ali Khan, and some students from Delhi University.


Sustaining the May day activities at various corners was coffee and more coffee with homemade biscuits and cakes. The coffee corner was managed by the theatre activist (JANAM) Sudhanva Deshpande and historian Mukul Manglik. The coffee House spirit was revived in the manner of the co-operative coffee house movement of the late sixties and seventies.


Significantly, the meeting remembered P Sundaryya , the veteran Marxist leader whose birth centenary is being  celebrated throughout the country. Small wonder too that reminding us of the revolutionary leader from Andhra Pradesh was a Telugu song sung by Sumangala on the theme of the Telangana Movement.


In the gathering there was a constant flow of people from different walks of life. They included CPI(M) leaders Prakash Karat, Brinda Karat, PushpinderGrewal, economists Prabhat Patnaik, Utsa Patnaik, historian Aijaz Ahmed, writers M M P Singh, Javed Malik and activists of Jana Natya Manch, Parcham and some mass organisations. In the age of increasing commercialisation and Bollywoodisation of culture, a place like the May Day Bookstore and Café is a real whiff of fresh air in reviving the spirit of struggle, inquiry and constant discussion - all over a cup of coffee.


Postscript:  In  overview- what was visible before us were some really good performances by Laal Band (from Pakistan), Rahul Ram (from Indian Ocean Band), Sumangala Damodaran, Misha and Surdhani, Young singers like Harpreet Singh  in contemporary Punjabi,  and touches of Kabir and Nazrul!  Add to it Rabinder Sangeet and more than three songs of Faiz. All this in the backdrop of Studio Safdar, and flashes of the Janam experiment, through photos in black and white. In a befitting ending, it was Internationale preceded by Janam songs. Of course, a clear message too. As the organisers put it, space is being created “where the committed can hang out, read, discuss culture and politics, and have great coffee, of course! Attached to it is Jana Natya Manch's new space, Studio Safdar. The theatre space and the bookstore will have a series of events every month, performances, readings, discussions, film screenings. ” 


AIDWA Concerned at Re-Introduction

Of Marriage Laws Bill


The following is the press statement issued by the AIDWA on  May 1:


 The All India Democratic Women’s Association expresses deep concern that  the Marriage Laws ( Amendment) Bill 2010 and the Amendments to it,  reintroduced in the Rajya Sabha on April 30, 2012, is sought to be passed without first giving women equal rights to marital assets including the marital home, and without strengthening the laws relating to maintenance.


The amendment seeks to make irretrievable breakdown of marriage a ground for divorce, and proposes that the court may give the wife a share in the  property acquired during the subsistence of marriage.. Unfortunately, whether a share should be given at all and the quantum of the share in marital property is left to be decided by the Courts on a case to case basis. Our experience in the courts has shown that a large number of courts have been very been very conservative and close-fisted about granting maintenance for wives and children and have awarded dismal sums. These courts have obviously acted with a bias towards women and have treated them unequally. When women approach the courts for maintenance, they are awarded sums that may normally range anywhere between five to thirty five per cent  approximately of the man’s income, even if there are children to be supported. The courts’ evaluation of what constitutes adequate maintenance frequently falls far short of what women and children require even to survive in a dignified manner. Thus, allowing the courts to decide on a share in the marital property is no guarantee that the wife will receive her just entitlements.


In countries where irretrievable breakdown of marriage has been introduced as a ground of divorce, laws relating to an equitable division of all marital assets also exist. This is because the contribution of a woman in building up of the household and in primarily taking care of the children is recognised and is considered to be as economically valuable as work outside the house. Unless women are treated as equals in a marriage and given the same financial and other security that men have on its breakdown, it would be discriminatory to further liberalise the grounds of divorce.  


AIDWA demands that the amendments for irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for divorce be introduced only after a law has been enacted for giving women equal rights in marital property. This law should allow for equal division of the marital property upon separation and not merely on divorce. A provision should also be made for women, and children to get more than the half share for example the matrimonial home if the children are living with their mother. The laws relating to maintenance for women and children must be strengthened to ensure that women/ children receive an adequate amount of maintenance. 


AIDWA has written a letter of appeal to the Rajya Sabha members to prevent the perpetration of injustice against women by the highest law making body of our country, and to oppose the law in its present form.