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India: the right to land and ownership of means of production at the center of the dispute against the capitalist system

Controversial Citizenship Law brings new wave of mobilizations against the far-right wing

In India there have been massive demonstrations against a new Citizenship Law that came into force in January, which grants nationality to refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, except Muslims. In December, tens of people were murdered in the repression of mobilizations, and hundreds were arrested.

Those who oppose the law affirm, among other things, that this is the first step (by Prime Minister Narendra Modi´s administration) to create a national registry with which tens of thousands of Indian Muslims could become stateless. They are also worried about the large number of Indians in situations of poverty who do not have identification documents to prove their nationality.

Millions of women and other social groups are demonstrating against the Citizenship Law: “We have been born and brought up here for thousands of years, how can they bring a new law on the basis of religion?” said activist Roma Malik, of the organization All India Union of Forest Working People. “They don’t want Muslims, they don’t want tribal communities, they don’t want Dalits (the “untouchables”, the poorest and most discriminated people in the Indian caste system), they don’t want the poor, the working class. All this nationalism, controlling the power in a few hands, needs to be challenged,” stated Roma. “And I feel that the land struggle is the fundamental struggle, and women are at the forefront, they are already challenging the fascist government,” she added.

“The fight for land rights is the fight against fascism also, because these fascist, capitalist, feudal forces are grabbing the land, looting the land, controlling the land.” Roma also explained that this has been this way since the British came to India and during imperial rule. “The conflict is still there. And it has been increased a thousand times after these neoliberal policies,” she added.

These policies facilitate the looting of natural resources, and that is why the dominant classes need a fascist government, said Roma, and she added that the government “wants all the rights and natural resources to be under the control of capitalist forces and imperial forces.” “Companies are coming in a big way, they are building dams, power stations, privatizing the rivers, cutting forests, killing the people, evicting people from their homelands. So, in a way, the struggle for land rights is a struggle against fascist governments also.”

The All India Union of Forest Working People considers that the struggle for food sovereignty of peasant organizations must be linked to the right to land. According to Roma, it is very important for food sovereignty that those who grow food are granted the right to land and ownership over the means of production. Access to forests, lands, and water, is crucial for those who depend on these natural resources for their livelihoods. “These resources should be under their control. Food sovereignty should not be understood in a technical way, it has a very rich meaning, fundamentally it is associated with the rights, and the ownership of the means of production.”

Roma believes that unless you are attacking the core of the system — the capitalist world, the feudal society, patriarchy — or if these are not challenged through control and ownership of productive resources, then ‘Food Sovereignty’ will remain a “mere slogan.”

In addition, the activist considered that food sovereignty is not only a matter of food. “It is a question of preserving our heritage, preserving our cultural values, our health”, since large-scale industrial agriculture has led to the loss of crops and the use of agrotoxics, among other things. “It is a very big struggle to sustain peoples and the future generations,” stressed Roma.

The leader highlighted the need to build alliances in the struggle against capital, transnational corporations and rising fascism. It is about joining forces among peasants, the working class, women movements, students, among other actors. The struggles “are going on in a very vibrant way. In our forest area we are seeing that despite the fascist government, despite they are so cruel (…), people are resisting, they are not backing out.” “Now this whole struggle has come in a big wave in India,” and people are resisting against the new Citizenship Law, concluded Roma.

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