#India – From war to peace #chattisgarh #Maoists


 
By Binayak & Ilina Sen
Story Dated: Saturday, June 15, 2013 , The Week
Illustration: Bhaskaran

The horrific killings of Congress leaders by armed Maoist guerillas that took place at Jiram Ghati in Chhattisgarh on May 25 have drawn the world’s attention. The latest victim was Vidya Charan Shukla, who succumbed to his wounds on June 11, at the age of 84. The victims included Nandkumar Patel and his son Dinesh, who were shot in cold blood after being led away. The bodies were found with their hands tied behind their backs. Sixteen of the victims were unarmed Congress workers, who were returning from an open political rally organised by the Congress in preparation for the coming Assembly elections.

In a statement issued after the incident, the Maoist spokesperson regretted the loss of lives of the unintended victims, in an argument that chillingly echoed the justification provided by the government for the killing of eight unarmed civilians, including four children, by CRPF commandos at Edesmata a week earlier. The militarisation and existence of dual state power have transformed political discourse into a hall of mirrors.

Many today recognise and accept the legitimacy of the resistance of tribal communities against the forcible acquisition of land, water, minerals and other natural resources by the state for handing over to large-scale corporate interests in the current climate of neo-liberalisation. Displacement and dispossession in the course of these developments have become a threat to the very survival of these communities, dependent, as they are, on their access to common property resources. Many would also accept that in case of widespread militarisation of state intervention in campaigns like Salwa Judum and Operation Green Hunt, these targeted communities had the right to defend themselves and their interests.

However, the reduction of the terms of discourse to military resolution only precludes any other points of view from being articulated. What we would also like to emphasise is that the so-called ‘collateral damage’ of battle is actually the main product of violent conflict, a huge proportion of which is paid for by women, children and other vulnerable sections of society. Thus, while much of the discourse centred on this confrontation is about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of different components of this violence, perhaps it may be more productive to shift our focus on ways and means to get past this current impasse and concentrate instead on the possibilities of inducting a discourse that is centred on the restoration of peace and well-being of the communities that live in conflict areas.

We are more than conscious of the fact that such declarations of peaceful intent are greeted in most circles with raucous laughter. However, people who are thus amused should remind themselves that those opting for a scaling up of conflict have little to show for the strategies they have advocated. Political declarations made by the ruling elite, as well as the advocates of revolutionary violence, that have been made after the Jiram Ghati incident, as a necessary step to ensure justice, do not give much hope for the possibilities of peace. Perhaps, that is why, at this juncture, it is more necessary than ever for those who believe in peace and the possibilities of a strategy based on peace, to declare themselves and commit to work towards creative alternatives.

editor@the-week.com

 

#India – Tribal land is Eklavya’s thumb, Dronacharya, the State is demanding as the price for ‘development’


There can also be an alternative universe

PK Vijayan and Karen Gabriel
June 12, 2013, Hindustan Times
Mahendra Karma engineered Salwa Judum (SJ), a vigilante tribal group hired and armed by the State-corporate land and mining nexus to exterminate tribals resisting resource loot. Karma was responsible for the execution of thousands of tribals, and the torture, rape, displacement and destitution oflakhs. This is the man the Congress nurtured, protected and now mourns. The State has never regretted the lakhs of civilian deaths it has caused, whether through Operation Green Hunt (OGH) or otherwise.State and corporate-sponsored violence remains under-reported and frequently justified. The government urges Maoists to eschew violence but itself plans military attacks on civilians. Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s directives, SJ continues in its new avatar as the ‘Koya commandos’.  Abuse of State power, corporate loot and violation of human rights during OGH (and intensifying in Phase II of OGH) — all in the guise of ‘national security’ and ‘development’ — led to national and international protests and bad press. The State responded with news blackouts. The State’s right to violence is conceded only if the State is regarded as above the law, impartial and anonymous. We need to ask inconvenient questions like, ‘why has the State been violent, since when, and for whose benefit?’ ‘Why are the tribals retaliating?’ They are tired of being “collateral damage” in the intensely violent and unjust privatisation of resources (protected under the Fifth Schedule) and national wealth that is passing for ‘development’.

All areas designated Maoist are also areas in which memorandums of understanding amounting to trillions of rupees have been signed with many MNC’s for mineral extraction. When this looting is supplemented with the mythologies of ‘democracy’ and ‘progress’, the villain becomes the anti-development, non-progressive Maoist tribal. The D Bandhopadhyay report of the Planning Commission notes that the Maoists have undertaken development that the State should have. Genuine pro-poor development should enhance tribals’ productive relations with the land, not disposses them.

The tribals are asked to ‘eschew violence’ and ‘join the democratic mainstream’. But the electoral process that constitutes this ‘democratic mainstream’ is a cynical numbers game. The ‘first-past-the-post’ system has meant that parties need address the demands of only the voting populace of very specific constituencies, differentiated along lines of tribe, caste, religion, etc. And that too, only on the influential sections within them, who in turn will (often coercively) ensure the remaining votes. This has not only created  long-standing traditions of nepotism and inherited privilege, it has meant that, after six-plus decades of independence, the needs of the vast majority remain unaddressed. They have not opted out of the ‘mainstream’: they have been systematically excluded.

This exclusion has resulted in systemic, systematic and mind-boggling poverty, destitution, violence and deaths. This ‘political mainstream’ has failed so completely that even these deaths have no meaning for it. They are inconsequential, never on par with the individual deaths of the privileged who constitute the ‘political mainstream’.

The coveted tribal land is Eklavya’s thumb. This is what the Dronacharya of the State is demanding as the price for ‘development’. Why should Eklavya concede? Dronacharya and Eklavya are nowhere near equal, and well-intentioned if naïve calls for both to respect the Geneva Convention should understand this. The State denies that it is at war with its own people, and given their disparity in strength, the Maoists are hardly likely to endorse the Convention unilaterally.

If the Maoists have an alternative understanding of democracy and development that may prove more inclusive and sustainable, then perhaps it is time to listen to them, rather than banning and ‘encountering’ them. The post-May 25 suggestions to intensify police and military action in these regions will prove disastrous. The State must recognise its own strength and responsibilities, and make the first move toward peace by lifting the ban. It must allow transparent media coverage and observers in these regions. The question — whether one is for or against Maoist ideology —  trivialises, distorts and distracts from the central issues.

PK Vijayan is Assistant Professor, Department of English, Hindu College. Karen Gabriel is Associate Professor, Department of English, St. Stephen’s College
The views expressed by the authors are personal

 

#India -‘Tribals turn extremists because states are too busy making money from land’


 Down to Earth
Date:Jun 13, 2013

The world’s largest democracy is facing a surge in tribal uprisings. The recent killings of Mahendra Karma and other Congress leaders in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh  has prompted the government to address issues of land dispossession and socioeconomic deprivations of tribals. These are the key issues that have been precipitating recurring violence across various parts of the country. Union Minister of Tribal Affairs Kishore Chandra Deo speaks to Sonum Gayatri Malhotra about the obstacles hindering effective governance of tribal communities in Schedule Five areas and how to overcome them. Edited excerpts from the interview

Kishore Chandra DeoKishore Chandra DeoTribals of Bastar are protesting against the provisions of the Fifth Schedule. With elections nearing, they are demanding tribal autonomy in the district as provided under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Do you think the Sixth Schedule is working better in protecting tribal rights?

The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution has no dearth of laws in protecting the tribal rights. Bastar’s demand to introduce Sixth Schedule provisions in a Fifth Schedule area is not pragmatic and is definitely not well thought through.

Hypothetically, introduction of Sixth Schedule in Fifth Schedule areas would need a statutory amendment to the Constitution. This is an interminable process. Moreover, amending the composition of the Constitution is a process that first needs to be addressed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. The Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs is relatively a new ministry, which came into existence 12 years ago. Before that, scheduled tribes came under the purview of the home ministry. Unfortunately, not all powers have been transferred to the tribal affairs ministry yet. This is a problem. I have limitations as a Union minister. I can only guide the governors of Schedule Five states to evoke their discretionary powers and inform the President of the situation.

But there is confusion over the role of governors in Schedule Five areas. In 2009, then President Pratibha Patil said that the Fifth Schedule devolves special responsibility on the governors in administering scheduled areas and ensuring peace and good governance among tribal communities. But recently, Assistant Solicitor General (ASG) Fouzia Mirza in her submission to the Bilaspur High Court said that a governor under the Fifth Schedule has no discretionary power. Based on her submission, the court dismissed a petition challenging constitutionality of the Tribes Advisory Council and powers of the governor under this schedule. Tribal rights activists have now approached the Centre seeking Presidential reference to the Supreme Court on interpretation of the Fifth Schedule.

The case was recently brought to my notice in response to letters I had sent out to all governors holding posts in Fifth Scheduled states.

The powers exercised by the governor especially under the Fifth Schedule are discretionary powers. The governor is not only the administrative and executive head of the state but also represents the Centre at the state. Fouzia Mirza has got it wrong. I am sad that an ASG, a top government official, erred on such a critical matter.

Most scholars and opposition parties also think that governors are of partisan nature, considering they have never evoked their powers given under the Fifth Schedule. Former governor of Odisha M C Bhandare had said “governors’ role constitutionally exists on paper but actually there is no existing support on ground”.

It is time governors started taking responsibility and invoked the powers which have been conferred on them under the provisions of Article 244 under the Fifth Schedule. It is time for a wake-up call. We are talking about the most marginalised sections. If the government of a state is not directing laws to benefit scheduled tribes, it is the role of the governor to intervene and set things right. When the Constitution was being framed, it was decided that a representative would ensure equality for indigenous communities that would protect them from the burgeoning globalising expansions and secure their fundamental rights. That’s why the governor is not bound by the aid and advice of the Tribes Advisory Council but can direct executive orders in his own discretion.

M C Bhandare has done wrong by not doing anything for the tribal communities of Odisha, where mining has been a critical issue. Constitutionally, the governor is to administer, legislate and execute directives for Fifth Schedule areas. Implementation of development programmes are channelled through the state department, however, the governors can direct laws for areas inhabited by scheduled tribes.

I am ready to take charge of the Fifth Schedule states that have seen governors neglecting their duties. The nodal ministry can empower to assign themselves the powers that have been conferred under the Fifth Schedule for the peace and good governance in tribal regions.

Don’t you think the contentious conflicts between ministries have only imploded to create mistrust among the tribals towards the government? In the latest such instance, the Union environment ministry headed by Jayanthi Natarajan has sought dilution of power of the gram sabha

Today, the growing mining sector is the main threat in Schedule Five areas. This has shaken the confidence and faith of the people in these regions in our democratic system. In many cases, powerful lobbies are trying to encourage mining in a flagrant violation of Constitutional provisions. The variant ideologies of ministries seem to have stemmed from market incitement. Ministries are working at cross-purposes. This is a turf war, lamentably in a social sector which is the most unfortunate.

Fifth Schedule areas in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are governed by the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act. Such areas are meant to be lightly policed. But the government’s emphasis on policing and militarism is evident. Your comment

Deployment of forces in areas inhabited by tribal communities is sending out a message that can only provoke disorder other than what is desired. Sending military or paramilitary forces to these areas will not help contain the uprisings as these are not merely law and order problems. Having said that, one should address the core issue of these uprisings; these areas do not have adequate development. Basic human amenities like food, drinking water and healthcare are lacking. It is the duty of the state government to develop the regions responsibly in accordance with the communities’ requirement.

Most people from the tribal communities end up joining extremists’ movement because the state is too busy concentrating on how to use land in the most profitable way. Lashkar-e-Toiba is funding the Naxalite Movement. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has alleged that the biggest internal threats to the country are its tribal communities. Inevitable alien militant forces triggering hostility in Fifth Schedule Areas, especially bordering states, is bound to undermine the very national integrity.

Sonum Gayatri Malhotra works with Centre for Policy Research, Delhi

 

Interviewee:
Kishore Chandra Deo

 

India’s Maoist Insurgency Grinds On


naxalarea

By Chandrahas Choudhury Jun 1, 2013 3:20 ,BLOOMBERG

An outlawed revolutionary group, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which has for more than three decades carried on a guerrilla war in the forests of central India, carried out a vicious strike last weekend. On the evening of May 25, a band of about 200 armed Maoists, both men and women, ambushed a convoy of Congress Party leaders that was on its way to a political rally in the state of Chhattisgarh. Almost the entire top rung of Congress leaders in the state was eliminated in the attack, in which 28 people were killed. Some of the victims were dragged out of their cars and shot dead at point-blank range.

The Congress, which holds power as the leading party in India’s UPA coalition government but is the opposition in Chhattisgarh, was unnerved by the attack. Rahul Gandhi, the party’s vice president, traveled immediately to Chhattisgarh, where he said that the massacre was “not an attack on Congress” but “an attack on democracy.” The Maoists, meanwhile, sent a four-page statement signed by a top Maoist leader to the BBC, which said that the attack was “necessary revenge against the UPA’s fascist Operation Green Hunt, which is being run in connivance with several state governments.”

The letter-writer granted, in the cold language that characterizes violent revolutionary movements worldwide, that “some innocent people and low-level Congress workers were killed. They were not our enemies but they lost their lives. We express regret over their death and offer our condolence to the bereaved families.”

The Maoists, known as Naxalites, were after one target in particular: the controversial Congress leader Mahendra Karma, whose killing was especially brutal (78 stab wounds were discovered on his body). Karma was the brain behind an organization fashioned to deal with the Maoist menace in Chhattisgarh: the Salwa Judum, or “Purification Hunt” in the local tribal dialect. This civilian vigilante force, made up mainly of tribal youth, was set up in 2006 with the approval of the government of Chhattisgarh to assist the local police and Indian paramilitary forces with their counterinsurgency initiative, Operation Green Hunt.

Members of the Salwa Judum were each given a gun and the status of “special police officer” by the state government, and asked to monitor other civilians. This was to invite upon the tribal peoples of the state a second rule of the gun to that imposed by the Maoists and put civilians in the crossfire. What Karma had achieved, as the Indian sociologist Nandini Sundar, one of themost perceptive observers of the crisis in India’s “red corridor,” was essentially a situation of “my militia versus yours.” As the writer Ramachandra Guha wrote earlier this week:

The combined depredations of the Naxalites and Salwa Judum created a regime of terror and despair across the district. An estimated 150,000 adivasis [tribals] fled their native villages. A large number sought refuge along the roads of the Dantewada district. Here they lived, in ramshackle tents, away from their lands, their cattle, their homes and their shrines. An equally large number fled into the neighbouring State of Andhra Pradesh, living likewise destitute and tragic lives.

In 2011, acting on a petition by Sundar and others, the Supreme Court of India judged the Salwa Judum to be unconstitutional and ordered the government of Chhattisgarh to disband it. By this time, however, the Judum already stood accused of several outrages. And Karma, a tribal leader who had challenged the Maoist claim over the tribals of Chhattisgarh, was already a marked man, surviving several attempts on his life.

This back story explains the reluctance of the Indian press, even as it condemned the attack, to endorse the opinion of Raman Singh, the chief minister of Chhattisgarh, who said of Karma: “He was a great fighter against Maoists. His fight will always be remembered.” In the newspaper Mint, Sudeep Chakravarti, the author of an excellent book on the Maoist movement called “Red Sun,” wrote:

Mahendra Karma is dead. And I am here to write ill of him.

This may be construed as indelicate in the aftermath of the savage Maoist attack on 25 May in southern Chhattisgarh that left him and several others dead—unlike Karma, many innocent of human rights wrongdoing. But it certainly is not an act of hypocrisy. Karma wasn’t exactly a man of probity. For long, the Congress party’s point man in Bastar, sometimes called “Bastar Tiger”, Karma often resembled a wolf that preyed on the tribals of southern Chhattisgarh, many of them from his own tribe, with utter disregard for their livelihood and lives. While I abhor violence, including the revenge hit by Maoists that finally claimed Karma at 62, his death should not be used to whitewash his crimes against humanity….

The endgame in the battle against Maoist rebels is still to begin in earnest, but it will likely come sooner than later, precipitated by the 25 May incident. Meanwhile, the competitive hell that they and Karma & Co. created in Chhattisgarh festers. For now, Maoists remain here in force, intermittently fighting security forces.

It’s clear, though, that the Maoists won’t be rooted out any time soon. Long accused of havingcreated the conditions that enabled Maoism to flourish by its apathy and arrogance toward the region’s overwhelmingly poor population, the Indian state has been working belatedly on a double-sided approach to the counterinsurgency. The UPA government has allocated special funds to Indian districts — there are as many as 34 of them — affected by left-wing extremism, even as it has sent in almost 50,000 federal paramilitary troops to assist state forces in four states as part of Operation Green Hunt.

This project could require a few decades to take effect. Having entrenched themselves, the Maoists, who by some estimates number about 40,000, would now hardly be willing to give up the gains of their own “extortion economy” in mineral-rich Chhattisgarh, where several major Indian business have set up steel and power plants. The Maoist cadre unites around exercises in bloodlust, such as the gruesome beheading of a policeman in Jharkhand in 2009. And when the revolutionary leaders dismiss parliamentary democracy as merely imperialism by another name and seek nothing less than the overthrow of the state (anything can seem like light reading after half an hour perusing the Maoist document “Strategy & Tactics of the Indian Revolution“), it’s hard to see what the government could offer them that they would find acceptable. As Subir Bhaumik wrote in a piece in 2010:

The body count will rise as Operation Green Hunt intensifies. Unlike India’s many ethnic separatist movements in the country’s Northeast or elsewhere, who negotiate for political space and call it a day when they get their pound of flesh, there is very little ground for negotiations between the Indian government and the Maoists. The Maoists seek a structural change of Indian polity that’s unacceptable for India’s neo-ruling elite, who have developed a stake in globalisation, liberalisation and capitalism.

The best books on the Maoist problem — in particular works in the last five years by Arundhati RoySudeep Chakravarti and Satnam — are worth reading because they demonstrate how knotty the problem is, establish what historical and economic frames illuminate it best, and suggest what citizens can attempt to do to keep Indian democracy and the establishment honest. They give the Maoists a human face, something that the Maoists themselves have proved incapable of doing. These writers spent time in Maoist camps, and came back with stories about a cadre at once tremendously idealistic and committed, and pathetically doctrinal.

Indian democracy has many flaws. But when the reading of its failures is as uncompromising as that advanced by the “grim, military imagination” (Roy’s phrase) of the Maoists, the result can only be a cycle of revolutionary violence and state reprisals, doomed to repeat itself endlessly and to take down many innocents in the crossfire.

(Chandrahas Choudhury, a novelist, is the New Delhi correspondent for World View. Follow him on Twitter. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the author of this blog post: Chandrahas Choudhury at Chandrahas.choudhury@gmail.com

To contact the editor responsible for this post: Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net

 

#India – Violence of the Oppressed


Vol – XLVIII No. 23, June 08, 2013

The chorus of righteous indignation against Maoist violence has made a comeback. The commercial media has returned to baying for the blood of the “left-wing extremists”. “Why are human rights groups not condemning the terror the Maoists unleashed?” screamed one of the TV news anchors. “Why has the government lost track of the fight against Maoist terror?” yelled another. In the safety of their studios, the big guns on TV have been booming! They cannot stomach a successful ambush by the Maoist guerrillas. “This is a major setback for Operation Green Hunt (OGH)” (the anti-Maoist counter-insurgency campaign). “Shouldn’t OGH be overhauled and intensified?” or better still, “shouldn’t the Army be deployed on the frontlines in Bastar?” Rather than be swayed by such hawks, maybe we should first try to put what has happened in its proper context and then weigh it all up.

The ambush on 25 May by Maoist guerrillas of a convoy of Congress Party leaders of Chhattisgarh with their retinue and the Z-plus and other category of armed security personnel has shocked the state apparatus in Raipur and New Delhi. The targets of the attack were the chief of the Congress Party in the province and a former home minister of the state, Nand Kumar Patel, and the founder of the state-financed and armed private vigilante force, Salwa Judum (SJ), Mahendra Karma, and the assassinations were on the dot, for the state’s security personnel accompanying the convoy were no match for the guerrillas in the two-hour long battle. The convoy was returning from a Parivartan Yatra (march for change) rally in Sukma in southern Chhattisgarh in the Bastar region and the Maoists not only knew that Karma and Patel were in the convoy, but even the route that it was to take.

The Congress now seems bent on intensifying OGH with the despatch of additional central paramilitary forces. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister of the state has however suggested that the union government go in for talks with the Maoists. It may be noted that the latter have always been open to negotiations, even as they have insisted that they will not give up on the use of force. Nevertheless, with the BJP fiddling to discover what may serve its politics of one-upmanship, the Congress must surely be pleased with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo’s statement demanding “firm action” to put an end to “these Maoists [sic] depredations” and urging “all democratic forces to fight the politics of violence by the Maoists”.

We refuse to join this chorus of righteous indignation against Maoist violence. Why? The credentials of these so-called anti-terrorists are well known – in the eyes of the victims, whether ordinary adivasis in southern Chhattisgarh or Muslims in Gujarat, they stand convicted of terrorism on a scale that constitutes “crimes against humanity”. They have no moral right to talk about democratic values. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government sanctioned the “security-related expenditure” that funded the SJ. The state BJP government turned the other way when the funds for internally displaced person camps went into the personal coffers of SJ leaders. And, the mining companies contracted with the SJ warlords for “protection and ‘ground-clearing’ services”. The SJ which Karma led was “a land and power grab masquerading as a local uprising”, as
Jason Miklian, writing in the journal, Dialectical Anthropology (33, 2009, p 456), put it.

In Dantewada, Bastar and Bijapur districts in Chhattisgarh, in the context of large-scale acquisition of land by corporations in what is a mineral-rich region, entire villages were evacuated and villagers forcibly herded into camps, from which those who escaped were branded Maoists and hunted down. Indeed, SJ, which organised the evacuation and forced herding “was created and encouraged by the [state] government and supported with the fire power and organisation of the central forces”. No, this quote is not from a report of one of the country’s civil liberties and democratic rights’ organisations, but taken from chapter 4 of a 2009 draft report authored by Sub-Group IV of the Committee on State Agrarian Relations and Unfinished Task of Land Reforms, set up by the Ministry of Rural Development, New Delhi. Without mincing words, this report referred to “the biggest grab of tribal land after Columbus” in the making as being initially “scripted by Tata Steel and Essar Steel who want seven villages or there­abouts each to mine the richest lode of iron ore available in India”.

The period from June 2005 for about eight months witnessed the depredations of the SJ backed by the state’s security forces – the murders of hundreds of ordinary Gondi peasants, the razing of hundreds of villages and the forcible herding of people into camps, the sexual atrocities against women, vast stretches of cultivable land lying fallow, the total disruption of the collection of minor forest produce, lack of access to the weekly haats (local markets), the schools turned into police camps, the complete trampling upon of the rights of people. It was only when the Maoists raised a Bhumkal militia and their People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army launched a series of “tactical counter-offensive campaigns” that the Indian state began to rethink its counter-insurgency tactics. It then launched OGH in September 2009, which has since been stepped up from January this year, the last major incident in Edesmeta village on the night of 17 May in Bijapur district where personnel of the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action of the Central Reserve Police Force fired unilaterally and indiscriminately, killing eight ordinary adivasis, including four minors, none of whom were Maoists.

Where was the chorus of righteous indignation against Maoist violence when SJ was committing crimes against humanity and when OGH was (and is) doing the same? We know what decent political behaviour is, and certainly a lot better than the leaders of this chorus. But we owe it to ourselves to analyse what happened, but on our terms and for our purposes. Since the information at hand is, as yet, very imperfect, all we can do at this point in time is to pose a few questions. In the context and circumstances we have outlined, and given the fact that the Constitution and the law have failed to bring justice to the victims, wasn’t the violence of the oppressed, led by the Maoists, a necessity? Didn’t it serve the cause of justice? Wasn’t it morally justified? Hadn’t the oppressed been left with no other way but to challenge the violence that reproduces and maintains their oppression? But what about the dehumanising aspects of the violence of the oppressed? Shouldn’t the revolutionaries specify certain limiting conditions for its deployment, like the Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and Protocol II relating to non-international armed conflict? Cruelty and brutality must never be a part of the means of revolution.

The Maoist guerrilla ambush on 25 May is a piece of the larger phenomenon of the violence of the oppressed, which is always preceded and provoked by the violence of the oppressors.

 

Press Release – Unending Spiral of Violence: Darbha


PEOPLE’S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

PRESS RELEASE

31st May 2013

Unending Spiral of Violence: Darbha

The People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) notes with concern the sad loss of 30 lives in the Maoist attack on the “Parivartan Rally” of Congress Party on 25 May 2013. This is the latest in the series of killings, big and small, in the ongoing undeclared war that the Indian government is waging against our own people. Many of the victims of this war are poor adivasis killed in operations by the security forces, that the government assiduously attempts to hide from the public at large. But, as in the present instance, ruling party functionaries, security forces personnel and Maoist cadres have also lost their lives.

Since 2005, the PUDR and a number of civil liberties organizations have been consistently alerting the public to this escalating war against the poorest of our citizens. Between May 2012 and May 2013 there has been a six to eight times increase in the number of security forces operations being carried out in the Bastar division of Chhattisgarh. In every district no less than 10-15 operations were already being carried out each month. These are being conducted away from the prying eye of the media and civil liberties activists and civilian access to these areas is severely curtailed. On 17 May, ten days before the attack on Congress leaders, nine persons including three children were killed by the security forces in the village of Ehadesmeta.

While PUDR sees the killing of two people who were taken into custody in this instance as an act that cannot be justified and against the rules of war, there is a need to speak out about the role of parties such as Congress and BJP in launching Salwa Judum, which was designed to terrorise the adivasis of Bastar. Congress leaders like Mahendra Karma, the BJP led Chhattisgarh government and the UPA government patronized this murderous enterprise until it was declared illegal by the Supreme Court of India. While Salwa Judum may have formally ended, the elements which comprised the SJ including its leaders and handlers in the security establishment were either incorporated in the ongoing operations as regular forces or some of them chose to switch from being ‘hunters’ to ‘running with the hares’ with impending state assembly elections due in November. In any case, every attempt to prosecute those guilty of the heinous crimes had been frustrated by the governments in power. So the carnage that took place on 26 May was something, unfortunately, waiting to happen.

The governments have plainly connected the continuation of the ongoing war with the prospects of growth in national income. None other than Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared Maoists to be the single biggest internal security threat in 2006. Speaking to IPS probationers on 24th December 2010, he also explained the reason for the war: “Naxalism today afflicts the Central India parts where the bulk of India’s mineral wealth lies and if we don’t control Naxalism we have to say goodbye to our country’s ambitions to sustain growth rate of 10-11 per cent per annum.”

All doubts were laid to rest when government actions confirmed the verbal declarations. In Saranda forest of Jharkhand, once the Maoists were forced to pull back, the Forest Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests began clearing proposals of mining corporations to take over forests for non-forest use. It led Minister for Rural Development, Jairam Ramesh, to complain on 7 February 2013 that “I have been at great pains to counter Maoist propaganda that the Saranda Development Project is a ploy to benefit private mining interests. This Forest Advisory Committee decision is a huge setback and very retrograde” (8 February 2013, Indian Express, Delhi). The Union Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo complained to Hindustan Times (17 May 2013) that “my permission [is] not required nor my opinion is sought in matters relating to tribals. My voice goes unheard”.

On the other hand, legislations and constitutional provisions meant to safeguard tribals are being thrown to the winds. The fate of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), the showpiece legislation of UPA-I, ostensibly promulgated for empowering forest dwellers, is a case in point. Quite apart from its poor implementation, the core issue of Gram Sabha’s “consent” for non-tribal use of tribal land has been diluted not just in the name of “linear projects”, but in the Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh the government has concluded that under the FRA, Gram Sabha consent is required only to permit mining of minor minerals whereas major minerals such as bauxite and iron ore etc are outside their jurisdiction. Supreme Court’s latest order on Niyamgiri Hills narrows down the jurisdiction of Gram Sabhas by reducing and restricting the definition of impacted area to a radius of ten kilometers, when it is a known fact that livelihood and lives are affected across a much larger area.

It is this continued attack on lives and livelihood of people, threat of displacement from forest areas, dilution of FRA, PESA and complete indifference to Sixth Schedule compounded by the increasing restrictions on public protests, arbitrary laws to prosecute those who oppose their dispossession and bans on political opinion that is responsible for the civil unrest that pervades our society. It is this government that places the requirements of Foreign Direct Investment above the needs of our own people, and which attempts to ram down this “development model” with the barrel of a gun, that is at fault.

As the war is being scaled up it is also turning ugly. PUDR, therefore, urges all people to bring pressure on the ruling parties at the Centre and the nine state governments currently carrying out this war, to de-escalate the militarisation of this region and show a commitment towards dialogue. We hope that the deaths of 30 persons in the present instance and of hundreds of people in the past eight years are sufficient reason for people to recognize the absurdity of this war.

In the meantime, we ask the Government of India to shed its policy of deniability and accept that it is engaged in an internal war. And we ask both sides to abide by the rules that govern war by declaring its commitment to common article 3 of Geneva Convention and Protocol II, which applies to non-international armed conflict.

Asish Gupta and D. Manjit

(Secretaries)

 

Memo to Sonia Gandhi : Cash transfer may not get you a win in 2014


English: Sonia Gandhi, Indian politician, pres...

 

by R Jagannathan May 30, 2013, First Post
#Cash transfers #DCT #Espirito Santo #HowThisWorks #Politics #Sonia Gandhi #Subsidies
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The Congress party has set great store by the direct cash transfers (DCT) scheme, which it has relabelled as direct benefits transfer (DBT), and which it further hopes will result in a direct votes transfer (DVT) scheme and a game-changer in the next elections.
The Rs 64,000-thousand-crore question is: Will it work? Will it deliver the benefits as envisaged? And, more importantly from the Congress party’s point of view, will it deliver the votes?
The short answers are: maybe not, maybe not, and a definite no to the above three questions, in that order.
Memo to Sonia: get reforms going, get growth going.
DCT’s rollout has been patchy so far and the linkage between bank accounts and Aadhaar number seeding is still not 100 percent even in the 43 districts that were the initial targets for small schemes such as scholarships, pensions, et al.
The chances of high success in the big-ticket game-changer schemes like MGNREGA, LPG subsidies and ultimately food and fertiliser subsidies are very limited till 2014. Voters may at best get a glimpse of the promise of the scheme, but any glitches may also get magnified. One could neutralise the other.
The chances of garnering votes is thus limited, since DCT needs at least three to four years to implement properly on a national scale – but this is precisely where the Congress seems to be in too much of a hurry, and hence not paying enough attention to detail.
These are the broad conclusions of a detailed research report on DCT by Espirito Santo Securities (ESS) which discussed the issue with policy-makers, economists, and did some pilot studies where the scheme is being implemented (especially East Godavari district in Andhra).
This is ESS’s conclusion based on early results for DCT even in the first 43 districts where bank penetration and Aadhaar enrolments were supposed to have been very good. The report says only Rs 22 crore has been disbursed using the Aadhaar payments bridge, while more than twice that amount (Rs 57 crore) was paid out using traditional methods. DCT was less than a third of the total amounts disbursed.
If this is the outcome in districts with the best bank-Aadhaar penetration and that too for schemes that anyway involve only cash – scholarships and pensions – and where there is little fraud, one wonders how it will work for the more massive MGNREGA and LPG subsidy schemes that are being targeted for rollout in 121 districts by 1 July and 1 October this year, respectively. The complete national rollout is scheduled for 1 April 2014 – a tell-tale indication of where the election time-table could lie as far as the Congress leadership is concerned.
The Espirito Santo research is certainly not negative on DCT – and nobody beyond Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council (NAC) has serious doubts that it can only be an improvement over the way welfare schemes are implemented right now, with lots of leakages, ghost beneficiaries, and excessive corruption. Estimates of savings for the exchequer range from a minimum of Rs 33,000 crore (according to the PMO) to a wildly optimistic Rs 1,10,000 crore of savings, according to a study by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.
The upper-end expectations are clearly pie-in-the-sky given our record of poor implementation of almost any scheme.
In the case of DCT, in particular, the problems lie in the short-term political expectations embedded in the scheme, which raise concerns about whether they will be implemented well enough and with long-term benefits in mind. Just as MGNREGA and farm loan waivers were implemented without great thought being given to scheme design and reviews, DCT too falls into the same basic cracks.
MGNREGA is facing hurdles in its seventh year of implementation, and the outlays on the scheme have been cut from peak levels just before the 2009 elections due to supply side problems (supply side means providing work for those who demand it). The farm loan waivers scheme has been negatively commented upon by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
Will it be the same story with DCT in 2014? These are Espirito Santo’s conclusions:
#1: Full rollout before 2014 is “extremely unlikely.” The best guess is that “the bulk of the savings will come only after the complete roll-out which may take two to three years.”
#2: Most experts are cautiously positive on DCT, but they dispute the quantum of benefits the government is expecting from it, since few believe that corruption will be eliminated.
#3: ESS does not see “DCT as addressing the near-term fiscal problem. It has to be accompanied by further cuts to subsidies, among other things.”
Conclusion: DCT will not be a game-changer by 2014. ESS says: “We estimate that the impact of DCT will be substantial only post 2015-16, unless the scheme dies down due to lack of political will post the 2014 elections.”
The larger point is this, as Firstpost pointed out earlier. Even in 2009, the Congress party only fooled itself when it thought MGNREGA was a game-changer, when the real thing that delivered it a convincing victory was fast-paced growth from 2003-2008. That, unfortunately, is not the case now.
Memo to Sonia: get reforms going, get growth going. DCT is a direct transfer of benefits to the next government in any case.

 

 

 

 

#India – Salwa Judum’s record: 99 allegations of rape, not a single FIR


by  , First Post

When the Supreme Court in 2011 banned the Salwa Judum, a state-sponsored tribal militia propped up to counter Maoists in Chhattisgarh, it ordered the state government to investigate and register FIRs against all alleged criminal activities of the Salwa Judum.

In addition to allegations of murder (500 cases) and arson (103 cases), 99 affidavits were submitted to the Supreme Court accusing the tribal militia of rape. Women have been victimised by the Salwa Judum says the lawyer. AFP Women have been victimised by the Salwa Judum says the lawyer. AFP Two years after the judgment, the state is yet to register its first FIR against the Salwa Judum for sexual violence. “Where ever there is a war, women are the most vulnerable. In the Salwa Judum case itself there are affidavits in the Supreme Court regarding some 99 rapes and the court has to decide what to do about them. I personally had taken up the cases of six women that had not been registered by the Superintendent of Police. They had filed a private complaint and given their statements before the Magistrate. But ultimately they had to take back those statements under pressure and were not able to pursue them,” says Sudha Bharadwaj, Bilaspur-based advocate and General Secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in Chhattisgarh. Expressing her disappointment to instances of the system’s unresponsiveness to injustices against tribals, Bharadwaj says, “When people have tried to raise issues in court, they have often been victimised. Cases of human rights violations have been pending before the Supreme Court, the High Court, the National Human Rights Commisssion (NHRC) years. Even in the recent Sarkeguda Judicial Enquiry, people have given their affidavits but nothing has happened so far. Unfortunately our institutions are failing people.” On 25 May, Mahendra Karma, the architect of Salwa Judum, was among the 28 people who were gunned down in a brutal attack by Maoists who opened fire on a convoy of Congress leaders while they were returning from a political rally. A recent statement issued by the PUCL condemning the cold blooded attack on unarmed political workers of the Congress party and as “unacceptable” and “reprehensible” draws attention to the ongoing cycle of violence in the state. “Under no circumstances can acts of brutality be justified, even if they be in response to equally heinous and brutal acts unleashed by the security forces, as we are seeing presently in Chhattisgarh, as recently as the killing of eight innocent tribal villagers in Edasmeta village of South Bastar on 17 May and 18 May, 2013, or in response to the brutalities committed by the vigilante Salwa Judum founded by the deceased Mahendra Karma,” reads the PUCL statement. Speaking about the apprehensions of tribals about fresh military operations by the government following last week’s attack, Bharadwaj says, “The Chhattisgarh PUCL has condemned the attack by Maoists in no uncertain terms. However, our great concern is that the only response we find from both the State and the Central government is of stepping up militarisation. While we totally appreciate the concerns on the law and order front, the basic democratic issues of the people of this region have to be kept in mind, they have to be addressed. Otherwise, it will be impossible to de-escalate this violence, to reduce the alienation of the tribal people.” A big concern that has now is the danger of displacement due to further militarisation of the region, says Bharadwaj. “In the course of the hearing of the Salwa Judum case, the NHRC had recommended that all internally-displaced persons should be rehabilitated in their villages. We seriously fear that with increased militarisation there might be more people fleeing. This should not be the case. Counter-insurgency operations should not become ground-clearing operations,” says Bharadwaj. Humanitarian medical agencies such as the MSF and Red Cross which are already operating in Bastar should be given free access to the region to provide medical care in order not to risk “criminalising an entire population”  she adds. “That will lead to serious collateral damage. A lot of innocent adivasis will get killed.” Urging for better sense to prevail, Bharadwaj refers to the government’s own reports that have argued at looking at left-wing extremism as more than a crisis of law and order. “The recommendations of the Expert Group of the Planning Commission on Left Wing Extremism, the Report of the Ministry of Rural Development, the NC Saxena Report on implementation of forest rights, and the recent letter of the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Kishore Chandra Deo all speak very strongly about the importance of implementing PESA and the Forest Rights Act in its true spirit, about empowering the Gram Sabhas, about the need for taking people in confidence before mining or industrialization, and how these are the underlying issues which are feeding Naxalism. If they are not addressed, and people continue to be displaced or criminalised, it will result in further spiraling of violence,” says Bharadwaj.

 

SC ban on Salwa Judum not implemented: Nandini Sundar


by  May 27, 2013

“On no count has the government done anything to implement the Supreme Court judgment. In fact, they have done everything to subvert it and make the situation worse,” says author and sociologist Nandini Sundar, on whose petition the apex court in 2011 banned the Salwa Judum, a state-sponsored militia propped up to counter Maoists in Chhattisgarh.

In its hard-hitting judgement, the Supreme Court had ordered the prosecution of all those involved in criminal activities of Salwa Judum, the architect of which was controversial Congress leader Mahendra Karma. On Saturday, Karma, the tribal leader from Bastar was among the 27 people gunned down in a deadly Maoist attack on a convoy of Congress leaders while they were returning from a political rally.

CRPF jawans carry of the body of a victim. PTICRPF jawans carry of the body of a victim. PTI

The Supreme Court had directed the state government to investigate all previously “inappropriately or incompletely investigated instances of alleged criminal activities of Salwa Judum”, file appropriate FIRs and diligently prosecute the guilty.

But no one has been prosecuted, says Sundar. “Somebody like Mahendra Karma should have been in jail a long time ago,” she adds.

Has the Supreme Court verdict impacted the government’s response at all? “No. For one thing, we had explicitly named Mahendra Karma and shown from police diaries and the Collector’s monthly reports of his involvement. Right from the beginning we had shown the involvement of the Chhattisgarh government in what was going on. It wasn’t a people’s movement at all.”

Describing the response by the state government to the Supreme Court’s order to disband the 6500 “barely literate” and inadequately trained tribal special police officers to fight the Maoists, as a “slap in the face of the court”, Sundar says “The SPOs were supposed to be disbanded. Instead, they were constituted into an armed constabulary force from the date of the judgment. The Chhattisgarh Act says very clearly that everyone who was an SPO on the date of the judgement would now be considered an armed constabulary force and they were given better guns and more money.”

Asked whether the scale and nature of response by the government to the deadly attack was a cause of worry and what she would like the government response to be, she said, “I am very saddened by the attack and I think it is terrible… Firstly, I would like to see the government implement the Supreme Court judgment. Secondly, I would like to see them resign for their complete failure to address the whole issue.

“The judgment laid down very clearly the fact that people who violated human rights should be prosecuted. I would like to see the SPOs disbanded. I would like to see the compensation and rehabilitation of all those who were affected by the Salwa Judum. I would like to see the schools being vacated and restarted in every village. They continue to be occupied by the security officers (despite the Supreme Court’s order). We would like to see some element of justice and normalcy as the main plank rather than just military operation.”

 

Statement Condemning the Maoist Politics of Murder in Chhattisgarh


Statement Condemning the Maoist Politics of Murder in Chhattisgarh!

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the horrific massacre of leaders
and workers of the Congress Party and the security forces accompanying
them, carried out by the CPI(Maoist) in Chhattisgarh on Saturday. We
also wish to express our deepest condolences to the families of all
those killed in the convoy of Congressmen returning from an election
rally at Sukma in Bastar district.

The killing of senior state Congress leaders and their cadre is
particularly barbaric and reprehensible as they had, in the course of
the Maoist ambush, become captives or had surrendered voluntarily.
This is tantamount to cold-blooded murder of prisoners in custody, an
act that goes against all norms even in a state of civil or
international war. The targeting of a political party in this fashion
by the Maoists is also highly disturbing.

The latest Maoist action will only invite even more state repression
in the area that might as well swell the numbers of CPI(Maoists). If
that is the case then this politics is as evil as that it claims to be
fighting against and should be shunned by all those who stand for
democratic norms in political struggles for peace with justice.

We call upon the state and central governments to exercise great
restraint in their response to the Maoist atrocity.  It is high time
the spiral of violence in the tribal belt of Chhattisgarh be stopped
as it has already claimed innumerable lives.

Abha Dev Habib, Associate Professor, Miranda House, DU

Apoorvanand, Professor, Delhi University

Anivar Arvind, IT Engineer, Bangalore

Arshad Ajmal, Social activist, Patna

Dilip Simeon, Academic, New Delhi

Jagadish, Trade Unionist , Bangalore

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Human Rights Activist, Mumbai

Kavita Srivastava, PUCL, Rajasthan

Satya Sivaraman, Journalist, New Delhi

Shabnam Hashmi, ANHAD, Delhi

Vinod Raina , Educationist, Delhi

Also Endorsed by .

Arati Choksi, PUCL, Karnataka, Bangalor

Reetika Khera, Associate Professor, IIT Delhi

Dr Sunil Kaul, Public Health Activist,

Dheeraj, Coordinator, The Right to Food Campaign

Biraj Patnaik, Social Scientist with the Right to Food Campaign

Trideep, Advocate, Delhi High Court and Supreme Court,

Sachin Kumar Jain, Journalist and Writer with Vikas Samwaad

Radha Holla, Public Health Activist, Breast Feeding Promotion Network of India

Gurjeet Singh, Right to Food Activist, Ranchi, Jharkhand

Father Jothi, SJ, Social Activist, West Bengal

Prem Krishan Sharma, President, PUCL, Rajasthan, Jaipur

Radha Kant Saxena, VP pUCL, Rajasthan, Jaipur

DL Tripathi, VP, PUCL Rajasthan, Ajmer

Anant Bhatnagar, Organising Secretary, PUCL Rajasthan, Ajmer

Sawai Singh, Rajasthan Smagra Sewa Sangh, Jaipur

Endorsed, also by

Harsh Mander, Director Centre for Equity Studies

RAjinder Sachar, EX Chief Justice Delhi and Sikkim High Court

Arundhati Dhuru, NAPM convenor

Aruna Roy,Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh, Lal Singh, Bhanwar Meghwanshi,
Narayan Singh

Shail Mayaram, Senior Fellow,CSDS. , Ps change wars to the singular if you can

Anjali Bhardwaj, NCPRI National Convenor

Vidya bhushan Rawat, Social Activist

Suman Sahai, Gene Campaign

Saito Basumatry, People’s ForumAssam

Sejal Dhand, Anna Adhikar Suraksha Manch