#India -Chhattisgarh lawyer, client charged with #sedition walk free #goodnews


SUVOJIT BAGCHI, The Hindu, Raipur  June 28,2013

Advocate from central Chhattisgarh has been slapped with the same charges that of her clients

Rarely in judicial history has an advocate been slapped with the same charges as that of her clients. But such was the case of Rekha Parghaniya – a lawyer and a human rights activist from central Chhattisgarh. She was arrested and charged with sedition and put in the same prison with her client, Rashmi Verma, a middle aged housewife arrested for “excit(ing) disaffection towards the Government.”

Ms. Parghaniya was defending Ms. Verma and her husband Bhola Bag, a contractual worker, who was booked with sedition as well. All three of them were also charged under Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA) for allegedly abetting the outlawed CPI-Maoist. They were acquitted by the district court of Durg on Wednesday.

Bhola Bag and Rashmi Verma were arrested on basis of a statement made by Sarita, an alleged Maoist cadre. She, in her statement to the Sarguja district police, allegedly claimed that she stayed with Mr. Bag and Ms. Verma while working for the underground party. The couple were arrested in February, 2009 and eventually charged under an 1860 Act of Indian Penal Code (IPC) for “excit(ing) disaffection towards the Government” and Section 8/1, 8/3 and 8/5 of CSPSA, 2005 for helping an ‘unlawful organisation.’

“What triggered the arrest of Ms. Parghaniya was the arrest of her husband in Kolkata,” said one of her lawyers, Sadiq Ali. Ms. Parghaniya’s husband, Deepak, was arrested in Kolkata earlier in 2012 for allegedly helping a unit of the Maoists to manufacture small arms. Maoist Central Committee did acknowledge Mr. Parghaniya as one of their “comrades” in a release issued on March 2, 2012. “Ms. Parghaniya was arrested just for being the wife of Mr. Parghaniya whom she last met several years ago,” said Mr. Ali.

A team of CPI (ML)’s women wing, AIPWA visited Ms. Parghaniya in Durg central jail and questioned the arrest. “…incriminating documents seized by the police from Rekha’s house include literature by Bhagat Singh, Marx, Engels and Bertolt Brecht, as well as some folders on the history of the workers’ movement,” said the AIPWA release. “The AIPWA team led by Lakshmi Krishnan was severely interrogated before they were allowed to talk to the women who were projected as big time Maoist guerrillas,” said State secretary of CPI (ML) Brajen Tiwari.

The couple were implicated as Mr. Parghaniya, ostensibly, arranged for some contractual work for Bhola Bag in Bhilai Steel Plant before he left Durg. “Allegedly, they were consolidating the urban network of the Maoists,” said Mr. Ali. While all three were booked by police under same sections of IPC and CSPSA, Ms. Parghaniya was kept out of sedition when charges were finally framed. “Since the permission was not sought by police from home department before slapping 124/A,” said Mr Ali.

The judgment said that the evidences were not sufficient to convict Mr. Bag and Ms. Verma. Ms. Parghaniya was acquitted as the two main witnesses were not present during the seizure, which was the important evidence against her. “Even the investigating officer said there were hardly any incriminating documents, other than few leftist magazines,” said Mr. Ali.

Rekha Parghaniya walked free on Wednesday night and managed to win freedom for her clients as well.

#India – The Naxal, the Tribal, and the Doctor


naxalarea

June 19, 2013 ,

 Recent news reports state that the Chhattisgarh government has asked International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to suspend its operations in the Bijapur district where it had operated for the past two and a half years. ICRC had been providing medical help to violence hit people in the tribal dominated area. This order of suspension raises important questions about (a) the duty and ability of the state to provide medical services to the tribal population in that area, and (b) the willingness of the state to allow medical services to affected people in an area affected by Maoist violence.

 

Bastar district is a predominantly tribal area, with more than two-thirds of the population belonging to the Scheduled Tribes category. Ninety percent of the population is rural, more than 87% of the population is employed only seasonally, and literacy levels are among the lowest in Chhattisgarh. Two thirds of the Village Reports, or Jan Rapats prepared by the villagers themselves (Jan Rapats are prepared by all villages in Chhattisgarh, and reflect the needs and views of the villagers) state that health facilities in these areas are very poor.

“Most villages emphasise that the availability of medicines, appointment of health personnel, improvement in the quality of health care, Government aid, and the availability of clean drinking water are areas that require attention.”

 

Though 6.25% of Chhattisgarh’s population is based in the Bastar district, the area had 3 hospitals, no dispensaries, and 57 Primary Health Care centres as of 2001. Forty percent of the population had no access to toilet facilities, safe drinking water, and electricity as of 2001.

(Human Development Report Chhattisgarh, 2005. Available here.)

 

Bastar has also been in the news recently owing to the naxal attack on Congress’ Parivartan Yatra convoy on May 25, 2013, during which senior Chhattisgarh Congress functionaries and security personnel were killed.

ICRC first expressed its willingness to enter Naxal affected areas in Chhattisgarh in 2008, and was welcomed by Chief Minister Raman Singh (Sourced from here):

“Certainly, ICRC plays a vital role in mitigating the sufferings of people in conflict zones across the globe. With the kind of resources and expertise ICRC has at its command, its presence will benefit the poor tribals of the region where a huge population is suffering and hundreds of children have been orphaned in the conflict…”

Interestingly, he went on to say,

“We have no problem even if such organisations provide medical assistance to Naxalites injured in encounters with security forces…We also do the same thing. Whenever Naxalites are injured, they are hospitalised so that they can be punished by a court of law for their crimes.”

 

Since 2010, ICRC has run a Primary Health Care centre, mobile clinics, and a hand-pump rehabilitation programme to ensure safe drinking water for the tribal population. According to another Times of India story, international agencies have helped play a crucial role in providing essential health care facilities in the region:

“Last year, when a diarrhoea epidemic broke out in South Bastar, killing nearly 100 people, Bijapur administration had enlisted the support of MSF and UNICEF, apart from calling doctors from other districts. But in Dantewada, in the absence of such an intervention, and in the face of an acute shortage of doctors, a large unknown number of people died without medical support.”

Then why the order of suspension?

The order of suspension has ostensibly been given by the district administration because “…ICRC is yet to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the state government” regarding its work in the region. State government sources have said that since ICRC is an international organization, it needs “certain clearances from the centre” for carrying out its operations.

If ICRC has operated in Bastar since 2010, how was it able to function without obtaining clearances from the central and state governments for almost three years? How was it able to bring in medical equipment, and (presumably) foreign personnel into a security sensitive area, and operate without the required permissions for all this time? Does the state and district administration seriously expect people to believe that they allowed ICRC to work in a Naxal dominated area for close to three years without the proper paperwork?

 

News reports indicate that other reasons may also be at play here. In 2011, the police in south Bastar and Dantewada had alleged that ICRC, along with MSF (Doctors Without Borders) which had been operating there since before ICRC started working there, was facilitating the treatment of Maoist rebels. Two Maoist rebels who had been arrested claimed that they were being treated by ICRC and MSF.

“These two organisations are deliberately going to Maoist camps and spending weeks. The foreign doctors should know what they are doing. I am from an enforcement agency and can’t welcome them having extra love for Maoists, but not for people injured in Maoist brutalities.” – Senior Superintendent of Police, Dantewada (Sourced from here)

 

According to him, people from the two organisations could be prosecuted under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act that prohibits direct or indirect contact with Maoists.

 

The recent order of suspension, coming soon after the Maoist attack on May 25 can then also be seen through the lens of an overzealous state and district administration irked by the fact that ICRC is treating Maoist rebels. If in fact this is the case, several questions beg to be asked: What prevents doctors from treating Maoist rebels injured in conflict, especially after the Chief Minister himself expressly stated that he would be fine with such treatment? Does the duty of a doctor to treat injured people depend on whether a person is suspected of being an insurgent or terrorist? Does such treatment in itself make a doctor an accomplice in the crimes the injured is suspected of having committed? If yes, should lawyers representing suspected terrorists also be made accomplices to crimes committed by their clients?

 

The central government has repeatedly touted its plan of combining development with improving law and order as a solution to Naxalism in these regions. ICRC is one of the most reputed health care agencies operating in Bastar, an area with a clearly documented lack of health care facilities. The administration at all levels clearly needs to reconcile its twin goals of development and security enforcement in a transparent, and rational way. Essential health care for tribals in a conflict-ridden area, and the work of doctors cannot be left to the alternating prioritization of security enforcement and development. This is especially so when the Jan Rapats reveal how miserably the state has failed in meeting the expectations of the local population.

SOURCE- http://polityinindia.wordpress.com/

 

 

#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

 

Note of dissent against Tehelka’s newly announced Tarun Sehrawat Award for Journalism of Courage and Conscience


courtesy- Tehelka

 

Pratik Kumar- Facebook

Why make a martyr out of Tarun Sehrawat? The young departed soul deserves an apology, and not memorials or an award in his name. His colleagues say that he died brave and strong. I believe it. When Tarun was in hospital grappling with cerebral malaria, the award page says, his camera was the only thing he had asked for in brief moments of consciousness. I feel sorry for Tarun. His journey with the camera had been cut short. And part of it was due to criminal negligence of Tehelka.

 

The organisation failed to take into account the dangers involved in sending a 23-year-old to the jungles of Chhattisgarh, a Naxal stronghold, and the so-called playground for all serious journalists and photographers in the making. Our more experienced and accomplished colleagues in the industry were left with only notes of lamentations and cautions. (I am sure most of them had learnt the rules of conflict reporting they cited following Tarun’s death, the real hard way.) But the eternal knowledge of ‘safety first’ gets passed on only in the times of distress. In some rare cases, it takes a Tarun to make us see the rot in human values, and the lack of mutual respect, within our own ever-so-restless journalism community.

 

Tehelka by announcing an award in the memory of Tarun is paying obedience to the culture of neglect. I am also afraid that the award hails the spirit of Tarun, journalism, courage and conscience in the same (foul) breath. All journalists, young or old, who are true to their profession will do all it takes to report good stories — that touches lives, but who would want to die and become a martyr like this? Especially so for Tehelka’s newly announced annual bravery award for young journalists, with a prize money of 1.5 lakh. I can only thank their unusual generosity.

 

I know quite a few ‘exposé journalists’ in my industry, most of whom started their careers with Tehelka. To put it the other way, several young journalists got to test their limits at Tehelka, some flourished, some went off limit, while some paid a price. I graduated last year, almost the same time when Tarun died, with a hope that editors do have a heart and are willing to back their journalists. In the discussions that ensued after Tarun’s death, I learnt how reporters and photographers are sent backpacking to cover sexy jungle exposés, without much preparedness. What now irks the most is a citation for Tarun’s bravery on the award page.

 

“In death, as in his life, Tarun exposed a crucial story: the almost criminal absence of health care in huge swathes of India.” 

 

The greatest of all ironies is that I and many of my friends who graduated last year were dying to get a reporting job with Tehelka.

 

P.S. I know what I would have done had I been the editor of Tehelka. I could have announced something like a Tarun Sehrawat Foundation to create free safety resources for journalists and photographers who report on conflict issues; in my way a befitting, yet silent method of paying a penance.

 

Links to the Tarun Sehrawat Award for Journalism of Courage and Conscience:http://tehelka.com/thetarunsehrawataward/

 

Articles on Tarun Sehrawat and jounalist’s safety:

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/remembering-tarun/article3540064.ece

http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/37179/

http://www.newslaundry.com/2012/06/conflicting-interests/

http://blog.thehoot.org/tarun-sehrawat-and-jounalists-safety/

 

How do Tehelka editors see Tarun’s death:

http://tehelka.com/salute-to-a-friend-and-colleague/

http://tehelka.com/the-messenger-and-the-message/

source- https://www.facebook.com/notes/pratik-kumar/note-of-dissent-against-tehelkas-newly-announced-tarun-sehrawat-award-for-journa/597402643625095

 

#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- wake up to the mining-politician nexus wreaking havoc in our politics


 

On 25 May, the ghastly Naxal attack on a convoy of Congress leaders in Darbha, Chhattisgarh, jolted political leaders across the spectrum. Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh — who has been driving the development agenda in the tribal areas and is known to advocate a more empathetic response to the alienation in these parts — was reported to have called the Naxals “terrorists”. Did this mean a complete shift in stand? Did he — and the UPA government in general — now advocate a “security-only” approach to the problem? Excerpts from a conversation with Shoma Chaudhury
Shoma Chaudhury

2013-06-22 , Issue 25 Volume 10

Jairam Ramesh | 59, Rural Development Minister.
Photo: 

After the recent attack on the Congress convoy, you referred to the Naxals as terrorists. Does that reflect a radical shift in your stand? Do you also now believe the issue should only be tackled by a security-centric approach? Bring on the air force!
That’s a completely bogus debate generated by NDTV. What I said was that there are geographical areas that need more intensive policing and security operations, without which no political and developmental activity is possible. At the same time, there are areas today where security operations have de-esca-lated and development and politics have taken the front seat. For example, there’s Saranda in Jharkhand and Jangalmahal in West Bengal. Or, for that matter, some parts of western Odisha and central Bihar.

We have a four-pronged strategy to deal with the Maoists, which includes security, politics, development, and a sort of redressal of past injustices and ensuring a rights-based approach. Unfortunately, there are places where all four cannot go on simultaneously. For instance, clearly, the five districts of Sukma, Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur and Kanker in southern  are fundamentally different from the other areas. Here, you have large areas that are so-called Maoist “liberated zones” where the writ of the Indian State doesn’t run. Sarpanches, Block Development Officers, superintendents of police and local political activists cannot go in there. So it’s meaningless to talk of political engagement and developmental activity in these areas until circumstances allow it.

I also said that the Maoists operate on a fundamental principle of spreading fear and terror. The NDTV journalist asked me, “So aren’t they terrorists?” I replied, in my book, anyone who spreads terror is a terrorist. What’s the big deal whether you call them terrorists or not? The fact is, it was a carnage; carefully executed and deliberately planned. If we still romanticise these guys, we are barking up the wrong tree.

There’s no doubt that the attack was heinous. But the semantics do matter. It shapes the response.
No. Frankly, the semantics don’t matter. This whole debate — security versus development, Digvijaya Singh versus P Chidambaram — is completely bogus. As I said, in any multi-pronged strategy, the relative importance of each component will depend upon the specific geography and circumstance. Two years ago, development was inconceivable in Saranda or Jangalmahal, both of which were “liberated zones” for many years. Today, you are seeing both developmental and political activity there.

But you can’t treat southern Chhattisgarh on par with these areas. What sets it apart is that the Maoist-affected area here covers nearly 10,000 sq km. Within that, Bastar is not in the same category as Sukma or Bijapur. And the whole Abujmarh area is sui generis. This area also spills over to Gadchiroli in Maharashtra and Khammam district and other parts of Andhra Pradesh. So it’s a tri-junction area.

In October 2011, the first time I went to Bijapur, only 80 out of 157 gram panchayats had MGNREGA activity and there were absolutely no roads. This year, I was in Bijapur two days before the massacre and work was going on in 111 gram panchayats and 12 roads are being constructed. So in two years, 31 gram panchayats that had earlier been inaccessible had come under the developmental radar. How did this happen? Fundamentally, because security operations had created an  that raised the confidence level of the people and reassured them that if they come out and participate in the activities, they will not be targeted.

This is not happening because I have been there five times or because the state government is doing something remarkable, but because the security operations have enabled the cycle to be completed.

But security operations have darker impacts too. Barely three weeks before the 25 May massacre, eight tribals — including three children — were killed by the forces at Edesmeta village in Bijapur, and 17 in Sarkeguda a year ago. Instead of greater militarisation, why is there no attempt for talks?
That’s not true. Talks take place on tracks 3, 4 and 5. You and I will not know whether talks are taking place. You can’t hold talks by saying like Swami Agnivesh that “Main talks kar raha hoon (I am engaged in talks)”. Look at Laldenga (of the Mizo National Front). He took on the Indian State for almost 25 years, but through a period of negotiations, the insurgents finally joined the political mainstream. So there could well be talks taking place with the Maoists just now.

Really? I seriously doubt it. I could say with fair amount of certainty it’s not. The last time there was even a semblance of it, Maoist leader Azad was killed off.
Frankly, I don’t know. In a sense, dialogue with them is impossible. If I show you a record of my conversations with Maoist ideologue Vara Vara Rao, you will see there is simply no meeting ground. It’s just entrenched ideological arguments. When P Chidambaram was home minister, he told the Maoists: don’t give up arms, don’t give up your ideology, don’t disband your cadres, just abjure violence and come for talks.

Yes, he said that in an interview with us. But what covert channels of talks did he set up?
As I said, we can’t know. In an interview to Swedish author Jan Myrdal, Comrade Ganapati put out two conditions: remove the ban on the CPI(Maoist) party and release all their leaders in jails, who can then become the interlocutors. The Indian government has three conditions, the Maoists have two. So, at what level should the talks take place? The only thing I do know is that the Indian State operates at multiple levels. To paraphrase former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, there are some known knowns, some unknown knowns and some unknown unknowns. We are operating in the realm of the unknowns here.

It’s quite possible some sort of talks are taking place, but the notion that if we address some of these issues, the Maoists will come on board — I think that’s a big question mark.

Instead, you may have an occasional Kameshwar Baitha (MP from Palamu, Jharkhand, and a former Naxalite) who says, okay, I have had enough; I will contest and go to Parliament. Alternatively, in Saranda, the villagers told me one of the sarpanches is a part of the Maoist cadre. What’s important in both cases is that the end result is they have become part of a political process. That’s good in my view.

The trouble is, in southern Chhattisgarh, absolutely no political process is taking place. I have been to Sukma and Bijapur three times; four times to Narayanpur. It’s only since last year that the Congress was beginning to even be visible on the ground, with hoardings, posters and rallies. We had a rally in Dantewada; the Parivartan Yatra was taking place; we went to Bijapur and Sukma. This unnerved the Maoists. This was the second attack on Nand Kumar Patel (the Congress president in Chhattisgarh) because for the first time he was challenging the status quo, engaging in intensive political outreach. The Maoists would have seen this as dangerous in the long run. How can we allow this to happen in our territory? So far, the Chhattisgarh government seems to have maintained a low-level equilibrium: you do what you want there; we do what we want here, and we don’t disturb each other. But in the past 14 months, Patel had challenged that equation. I’m not saying we would have won, but people were coming to the Congress rallies.

You have been driving the development process through your ministry. But that is not the only criteria. The big elephant in the room is mining. Does the Indian State have any new thinking on mining? There’s a sense that if the insurgency is curbed, rapacious mining will take over.
It’s always easy for a liberal crowd like you to find rationalisations for Maoist violence. You can always say the Forest Rights Act (FRA) hasn’t been implemented, or there is mining, so there is violence.

That’s a cheap shot! We have never rationalised the violence.
I don’t disagree with the substance of what you are saying. It’s true the Maoists are raising very serious concerns. In fact, the tragedy is that tribal issues have been brought onto our radar because of the Maoists. Our attention has been caught because of them. The Indian State has a track record of failures in the tribal areas. Laws have been enacted but not implemented. In fact, they have been brazenly violated. It’s also a fact that the tribal is caught between the devil of the Maoists and the deep sea of the security forces. But their methods are very wrong.

There’s no argument on that. Of course, their methods are wrong. But apart from the tribals sandwiched between the Maoists and the State, the dilemma is, there is only a thin layer of entrenched ideologues who make up the Maoist leadership. Our concern is for the foot soldiers, the tribals who make up their ranks. You yourself have said 40 percent of them are women. They are also the poorest of Indian citizens. Many of them have no desire to unfurl a red flag on Red Fort in Delhi. Their impulse is to defend their land, their chicken, their grain, their families, their huts.
They are still foot soldiers. They are coldblooded killers.

What was not cold-blooded about the security forces gunning down tribals while they were celebrating a seed festival in Edesmeta and Sarkeguda? We always get trapped in this dialectic of Maoist and State violence.
There are 15-year-old kids who kidnap people.

Should we not ask ourselves why then?
This root cause theory will get us nowhere.

I agree. By extension, one could argue the root cause of the Gujarat riots. But…
Root cause theories are very dangerous. I would say one has to completely and strongly reject the violence, yet address the symptoms. This is not to deny a lot of violence has taken place in the name of development. I often say that, but I’m in a minority. It’s true, mining is taking place; mining leases are being given, even in Saranda. I have written repeatedly to the prime minister saying we have had a security success and are striving for at least a moderate developmental success. Please don’t jeopardise it by opening up Saranda to the mining lobby. But it has happened.

In his farewell speech in 1961, Eisenhower warned America against the military- industrial complex. I think we have to wake up to the mining-politician complex in our country, which is wreaking havoc in our politics, in the tribal areas. These guys have absolutely no compunction, no social conscience. They are not doing it because it’s essential for economic growth. It’s just a sort of developmental theology. I’m against it. It’s not that mining has to be stopped altogether. But we have to do it in a calibrated, nuanced, prudent manner. We must ensure socially and environmentally responsible mining. It should not increase the misery of an already deprived community, but that is happening. So our track record has no doubt given ample ammunition and fodder to the Maoists. But still we have mining buccaneers masquerading in Parliament as political leaders.

How do you read what happened in Andhra Pradesh? It’s often cited as a success model.
I applaud what Andhra Pradesh did, but in a national context, we just exported the problem. In the past, Andhra Pradesh used to be the main theatre. Hard security measures over 30 years, as well as a process of development and political engagement helped sort out the state. But basically the Maoists spilled into the adjoining states. The forests of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra used to be a sanctuary for the Maoists. Now the sanctuary has become the arena.

This is why the Centre has a very important role to play in the tri-junction areas and quadri-junction areas: the Odisha- Chhattisgarh-Jharkhand border; the Odisha-Andhra-Chhattisgarh border; the Andhra-Chhattisgarh-Maharashtra border; the Bihar-Odisha-Jharkhand border; the Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh-Madhya Pradesh-Uttar Pradesh border.

But the lesson to learn from Punjab and Andhra Pradesh is that, within the state, unless the local police and local intelligence network is up to the task, there is no way pumping in 70,000-80,000 paramilitary forces will work. But the SP of Sukma in Chhattisgarh told me he has only 1,000 men when what he really needs is 3,000. This is the story in district after district.

There seems to be no fresh legal or constitutional thinking on this. Even in the British era, the tribal areas were seen as special zones. What is the thinking within the Indian State? The Fifth Schedule is almost toothless and Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act as you said has not been implemented.
Let’s not undermine what the Indian State has attempted to do. At least it did not adopt the American or Australian policy of extermination. The Gandhi and Nehru route was to bring them into the mainstream but at a pace that they determine. So, let’s not be self-flagellatory about what we have attempted to do. To bring 80 million people into the ‘mainstream’. It has no precedent anywhere in the world. Actually, I’d rather not use the word mainstream; it’s an abused word. We have tried to ensure their constitutional rights through a democratic process.

There are many reasons why we have had greater success in the case of the Scheduled Castes than we have had with the Scheduled Tribes — primarily it’s because they affect elections in far less constituencies. There are many obligations in the Scheduled Areas that have not been met. Land alienation has taken place on a large scale. Land transfer regulations have been violated. Non-tribals have usurped tribal land. There is no denying that, but we have to just keep moving forward and get it sorted now, instead of moping. PESA was passed in 1996. FRA was passed seven years ago, but even in a politically conscious state like Kerala, when I visited the Attapadi hills of Palakkad district — one of the most deprived tribal areas — only half of the tribals’ claims under FRA had been dealt with. But the answer to all this cannot be armed confrontation.

Ironically, an RSS man from a Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Sarguja district in north Chhattisgarh told me part of the reason the forests in the area are intact is because of the Maoists. If not for them, the forests would long have been cut and cleared for development.
That’s an intellectually lazy argument. The forests are intact because of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA). The FCA has nothing to do with the Maoists. Having been the forest minister, I can tell you the FCA is seen to be draconian from the development point of view. But from the forest point of view, it has been the single most important reason why the forests have been intact. Had it not been legislated in 1980, many of our forests, Abujmarh, for instance, would not have existed.

You have been travelling constantly on the ground since you took over as rural development minister. How many  affected constituencies have you been to?
Out of 82 Naxal-affected districts, I have been to 47; some of them I have been to three to four times; some five-six times.

That’s pretty intensive. When you speak to people first-hand there, what are the issues they raise?
Harassment by the local forest administration, which is the first face of the government they encounter. They also complain about the police, lack of electricity, teachers, doctors, health centres, etc. After a visit to Bijapur district, I wrote to the prime minister. As an Indian, I felt appalled and ashamed that the only two agencies providing basic healthcare facilities in the district were Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Red Cross.

There is no explanation for this. After 66 years of Independence, why are we unable to assure basic health services? Why are the roads and power supply the way they are? Why don’t post offices and banks function? When I ask bank officials, they say they can’t recruit locally and others don’t want to serve in tribal areas. If you recruit locally, someone will take you to court saying it’s unconstitutional. There are all sorts of issues. But the fact is, if the Indian State actually wants to do something, it can do it. It has enough powers. I see that effort in Bihar and West Bengal; I don’t see it in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand or Odisha. Some Congressmen were very upset when I praised West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. But supported by Suvendu Adhikary, Mamata did a political outreach programme in Jangalmahal. I took part in a rally there, it was unprecedented. The former CRPF DG told me, ‘Sir, the photo of Mamata kissing a tribal baby is equal to five CRPF battalions going there.’

But the point is, no matter how much one disagrees with what’s happening in some parts of the country, you cannot pick up the gun. Am I picking up the gun because I have been overruled on Saranda?

I agree. It’s just a slightly glib argument because in cities, people beat each other if they can’t find parking spaces or don’t have electricity for a few hours and then are judgmental about those who react to their houses being burnt, women being raped, kids being killed, grain being stolen.
Let’s concentrate on addressing the issues the Maoists raise but let’s not romanticise them. Let’s not justify the root cause theory. I’m all for concerted action on mining, displacement, forest rights, etc. I wrote to three chief ministers — Arjun Munda, Naveen Patnaik and Raman Singh — telling them how their own officers have told me there are literally thousands of tribals in jail without due process and on flimsy charges. Why can’t they be released? I have been bombarding them with letters. They don’t do it. But one has to persist. Remember, Bihar was once a hotbed of Maoist activity, but now only two areas of Jamui and Gaya are affected. So the democratic process can prevail.

shoma@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 25, Dated 22 June 2013)

 

#India – The Dangerous word : Maoists or Terrorists ?


: Dangerous word

Thursday, Jun 13, 2013 Agency: DNA,

Semantics matters in politics; language, used judiciously, is both a prime tool and a potent weapon in the shaping of public discourse. That is why there has been an ongoing debate both within the Congress and between parties in the wake of the Naxal attack on Congress leaders and party workers in Chattisgarh on whether to call Maoists terrorists or not.

Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh was the first to ascribe the term to them; tribal affairs minister KC Deo disagreed, as, when the issue came up this week, did the left parties. Now, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde has followed the Ramesh line of thought and publicly dubbed the Maoists terrorists. It is a mistake —  a dangerous reduction of a multi-faceted problem in a manner that can trammel public opinion and the scope of engagement with the Naxals.

Was the Maoist attack a heinous act? Undoubtedly. And it was far from the first time they have attacked innocent civilians; anyone who harbours romantic notions about them needs to take a closer look at their interaction with the disenfranchised sections of the population they purport to fight for. But the fact remains that the Naxal movement was born in and has taken root in a particular economic and socio-political context. It is the context that is crucial — to the extent that internationally there are over a hundred different definitions of terror with none being legally binding.

There are very real grievances against the Indian state in vast swathes of the country. The term terrorist carries with it — particularly today — an emotional heft that means its use can push the context into the background entirely and de-legitimise those grievances.

Equally, it legitimises any and all state action to bring down those it has termed terrorists. That is a slippery slope when the Indian state’s human rights record is already less than exemplary, as attested to repeatedly by Human Rights Watch.

By all means, the Indian state has the right — and the responsibility — to protect itself and its citizens from security threats. But to do it effectively, it must show itself capable of nuance. There is a vast gulf between focusing on security measures to combat acts of terror by the Maoists — paired with dialogue and development efforts to tackle root causes — and terming them terrorists and thus not worthy of engaging with at all, as Ramesh has done.

And it must also focus on its own methods, given the tendency of its police forces — and in parts of the country, its military and paramilitary forces as well — to indulge in extra-judicial behaviour  up to, and including torture and killings. Such acts do far more to exacerbate the problem than to suppress it.

Shinde and Ramesh would do well to reflect on the fact that by several definitions — including one advocated by the UN secretary general’s office — the Indian state can be said to be indulging in state terrorism against segments of its own population.

 

Maoists deny links with Binayak Sen


Raipur, June 13, 2013

Suvojit Bagchi, The Hindu 

Human rights activist Binayak Sen during a function in Hyderabad. File photo
The Hindu Human rights activist Binayak Sen during a function in Hyderabad. File photo

Rebels term Shubranshu Choudhury’s book a “pack of lies, half-truths and scattered information”

For the first time, Maoists have denied links with social activist and paediatrician Binayak Sen.

The statement on Tuesday night came in the form of a rare rebuttal of a recent book, Let’s Call Him Vasu by journalist Shubranshu Choudhury. While Mr. Choudhury preferred to “stand by” his book, Dr. Sen said it is a “good development” for him.

Read review of Let’s Call Him Vasu.

Mr. Choudhury has also named other eminent activists of Chhattisgarh, who ostensibly are associated with the Maoists, in his book which deals with the day-to-day life of the rebels in the central Indian forest and the impact of the armed movement on the lives of tribals.

The State wing of the CPI (Maoist), Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC), called the book a “pack of lies, half-truths and scattered information.” The release said that “even the disseminated information is distorted… and true lies, especially, the episode on Dr. Binayak Sen and the so-called relationship between Jeet and Mukti [Guha Niogi] and our party.”

The party has also refuted the allegation that it has taken money from Essar Steel as claimed in the book.

Mr. Choudhury has quoted a courier, Anil, of a senior Maoist leader and claimed in his book that Dr. Sen, a respected doctor and social activist, who was arrested for his alleged links with the Maoists, was actually an intermediary between Sabyasachi Panda, erstwhile leader of the Maoists in Orissa, and Narayan Sanyal, a Polit Bureau member of the party.

While Anil told the author that Rs. 50,000 was “collected” by a tendu leaves financier of Bengal, Piyush Guha, to deliver it to Mr. Sanyal for his legal expenses, through Binayak Sen, it is not clear if the money actually passed through the hands of the beleaguered doctor.

“I asked him [Sabyasachi Panda] if he ever got the money back. Piyush had been arrested before he could deliver or return the money, he replied,” Mr. Choudhury wrote in his book. With the DKSZC’s denial of the “Binayak Sen episode,” the controversy involving the doctor and the Maoists took a new turn.

Dr. Sen told The Hindu that he believes Mr. Choudhury is a “promising, young journalist,” and added, “… I have been saying all along what he [Mr. Choudhury] has stated is not true. For me, it is a good development, what I have been saying has been finally confirmed by the other party involved in the alleged transaction.”

Jeet and Mukti Guha Niyogi, the son and daughter of legendary trade union leader Shankar Guha Niyogi, are also named in the book. Mr. Guha Niyogi could not be reached on the phone for his comments.

The rebels, however, have not threatened the senior journalist and the rebuttal is more of a discussion on the praxis of the Maoist movement in India.

DKSZC spokesperon Gudsa Usendi said Mr. Choudhury had not made any “serious attempt” to understand the Maoist movement. “He has claimed to have spent seven years with us but… he has not tried to understand the basic aspects of class war.” However, other than underscoring their objections regarding the claims made about the civilian activists, the release has not clarified why the Maoist leadership is critical about the book.

The allegation seems to be more on how Mr. Choudhury failed to understand the Maoist movement than a point-by-point rebuttal.

The spokesperson is more direct about Mr. Choudhury’s radio broadcasts, which, according to Mr. Usendi, are “baseless.” Media reports suggest that comrade Ramanna alias Ravula Srinivas replaced veteran leader comrade Khosa as DKSZC secretary recently.

According to the release, Mr. Choudhury claimed in a recent radio programme that “Maoists will [now] focus more on violence after a change in the leadership.” Mr. Usendi objected to this observation and said such “imaginary analyses” are “bunkum.”

Alleging that “false propaganda” is often spread against the underground party to negatively influence the people’s movement, the release said “… consciously or unintentionally Mr. Choudhury has become part of it [propaganda machinery].” Mr. Usendi has also denied that there is a “rift” among the senior leaders.

Refuting the allegations, Mr. Choudhury said he stood by his book.

“My book was written on the basis of research conducted within the Maoist dominated areas and after detailed interviews with many Maoists. I stand by what I have written,” he said.

 

Maoist violence is not a mere law and order problem: Tribal Affairs minister


Deo said the government needs to be sensible about development in tribal areas, rather than allowing industries to exploit the rich natural resources of these areas

Nupur Sonar

June 10, 2013

The mangled remains of a vehicle at the site of Maoists ambush in Bastar where the Congress partys convoy was attacked. Photo PTIThe mangled remains of a vehicle at the site of ambush in Bastar where the Congress partys convoy was attacked. Photo PTI

Speaking at a press conference  held on the occasion of the launch of his Ministry’s new website, Tribal Affairs minister  said that Maoist violence is a deeper problem and cannot be treated as a mere law and order problem.  “There is rampant exploitation of tribals and the lack of development is also a part of the problem,” he said. The lack of development in these areas is the reason for such attacks, he said, while laying emphasis on the need to get to the root cause of the problem.

In the wake of the 25 May Maoist attack on a Congress convoy in , Deo said that at a time when the tribals are caught between the cross-fire of the paramilitary forces and the Maoists, all tribals cannot be painted with the same brush.  “It is really unfortunate that today,  in democratic India a tribal has no choice. He has to choose between the security forces and Maoists,” he added.

Deo said the government needs to be sensible about development in tribal areas, rather than allowing industries to exploit the rich natural resources of these areas. “Where in India have tribals benefited from mining activities? The impoverished have only become further impoverished,” he said while stating that whether or not his cabinet colleagues were for this kind of development, he is strongly opposed to it.  “This kind of development is a clear violation of our social obligations.”

Tribals are not our enemy but civilians of the country and our paramilitary forces are the ones who are trained to fight the enemy. But Salwa Judum is the biggest threat to peace.  Keeping young tribals in concentration camps and depriving them of their rights is not the answer. It is the worst thing that can happen”, he said.

An all party meeting to fine-tune the state’s policy on tackling Maoist violence is scheduled for later today

 

Complaint to Odisha Human Rights Commission on CRPF atrocities in Niyamgiri


To, The Secretary,

Odisha Human Rights Commission,

Bhubaneshwar
Date: 11th June 2013
Sub: CRPF atrocities and human rights violations in villages of Niyamgiri mountains
On 3rd June 2013, at around 11am, the Central Reserve Police Force opened fired on a group of three Dongria Kond tribals (1 adult and 2 children) from the interior Batudi village of the Niyamgiri mountains who were bathing in the stream near Panimunda village. A group of adult men and children from Batudi village had gone to bathe to the nearby Panimuda village as the water streams around their village were still dry. Around 11 Dongrias (6 adults and 5 children) were bathing at a higher level of the stream, and one adult and two children were bathing at a lower level. Suddenly, the CRPF opene fired. The two children, Munna Jakesika (14years) and Ravi Jakesika (10years), and Pakru Jakesia (25 years) were present in the area where the CRPF open fired. Their photo is attached. Terrified, three of them started running uphill towards where the the other people were. Bullets flew through Munna, Ravi and Pakru’s sides and above their heads. The adults who were on a higher level of the stream, on hearing the bullet sounds rushed towards where the sound was coming from. They saw Munna, Ravi and Pakru frantically running uphill, as bullets missed them by inches. This open firing by the CRPF lasted for around 5 minutes.
This incident was reported by villagers of Batudi who witnessed the firing to a group of activists (Samarendra Das and Devangana Kalita) who visited the village on 7th June 2013. The names of the 11 people who saw the firing on Munna, Ravi and Pakru, and who reported the incident to us are as follows:
Duku Jakesika: 30yrs
Derku Sikaka: 20yrs
Janju Mandika: 22yrs
Bindu Jakesika: 32yrs
Momo Jakesika: 20yrs
Druku Jakesika: 21yrs
Babula Jakesika: 8yrs
Lanji Kuturuka: 6yrs
Swadevo Jakesika: 10yrs
Manni Kuturuka: 8yrs
Lassu Jakesika: 12yrs
We also spoke to the three people on whom the CRPF had fired. The two children, not surprisingly, were immensely shaken after the experience, and recounted how terrified and scared they felt as the bullets flew on their sides and above their heads. Duku Jakesika, in a powerful statement, said,
“This is an assault on our very lives. The CRPF has no right to shoot at us without any provocation. Villagers bathing in a stream are not Maoists. Little children are not Maoists. These are our mountains, our forests, our land. Because of the CRPF, today, we cannot roam around freely in our own area. We do not feel safe anymore, we have to live in fear and insecurity. Our lives do not matter to the state, they can kill us whenever or wherever.”
This incident in Batudi is indeed a gross violation of national and international human and children’s rights. It is however, one of many similar incidents of CRPF atrocities in the Niyamgiri mountains. CRPF’s ‘combing’ operations have been generating immense fear and insecurity amongst the Dongria Kond, and threatening people’s lives, livelihood and culture. On 5th June in Kesarpadi village, a meeting of Dongrias from various villages was held to discuss on the gram sabha process ordained by the Supreme Court. In the meeting, a Dongria woman, in an interview with Oriya journalist, Amitabh Patra, narrated the following experience of CRPF atrocities,
“Few days back we were gathering forest products near our village. At that time so many armed forces arrived and they pointed guns at us and surrounded us. They started asking “where is Lada (the tribal leader)? Where have you hidden the maoists ? Where have you hidden the weapons? Why are you opposing mining?” Some one from the behind yelled – ‘If you resist the mining you will be killed like dogs’…………….We do not want such development where our lives are threatened every moment by the armed forces! We kept some weapons to safeguard our selves and our crops from wild animals. We do not want to kill the animals, but to drive them away. Occasionally when these animals attack or come too close to us we get killed. They (CRPF) came and barged into our houses, took away our belongings, threw our stored food grains and cooked food, took away our worship weapons and the guns we kept for our protection from wild animals. We have been living and preserving the mountains and the soil and everything around us since centuries. You can see us living in harmony with nature. But since past ten years our peace and life has been disturbed by the company and police. Since the armed forces presence our freedom to move around in our mountains has been restricted. We are living in a state of fear”
The video of the women’s interview can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5D7FAUhNQg&feature=youtu.be . She did not want to reveal her name or village in fear of retribution by the armed forces. She felt without her name and village, it would be difficult for the CRPF to easily locate her, since she lived in the villages inside the forests.
Such atrocities and gross violations by the CRPF are threatening the existence, livelihood, mobility and freedom of the Dongria Kond. The Dongria Kond only live in the Niyamgiri mountains, and such immense repression by the CRPF and the atmosphere of fear and vulnerability generated by this are violations of international standards and protocols for protection of tribal groups.
We demand an immediate enquiry by the Orissa Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights into these violations by the CRPF in the Niyamgiri mountains. These inhuman atrocities need to be immediately stopped, especially in the context of the democratic process of conducting gram sabhas for determining Dongria’s religious, cultural and habitat rights that has been initiated by the Supreme Court judgement on the Niyamgiri mining case. No democratic process can be truly free and fair, in a context of such repression and violation of the Dongria’s basic human rights.
We look forward to hearing from you at the earliest and hope that immediate action will be taken on this matter.
Yours sincerely,
Samarendra Das, Activist, Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti and Foil Vedanta (London)
Devangana Kalita, Independent Researcher and Activist, New Delhi.
Amitabh Patra, Journalist and Activist, Orissa