#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)

 

PRESS RELEASE-Police Complaint regardingg burning of houses in Bijapur #Chhattisgarh #mustshare


Police complaint  submitted in the Gangalur police station on 1 February 2013 regarding the burning of houses and destruction of household items in Pidiya village (Bijapur block, Bijapur district) by a large contingent of police force that stayed in the village from 21-23 January 2013.

 

 

Police Station In-charge

Gangalur police station

Gangalur village

Bijapur, Chhattisgarh

 

Friday, 1 February 2013

7.45 pm.

 

Respected Sir,

1.  I am a researcher and honorary professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bombay. I have spent the last two days visiting Pidiya village (Pidiya panchayat), Bijapur block, Bijapur district.

2. During my visit, I found that a large contingent of police force came to this village on 21 January. From the direction the force came, the villagers estimate that they came from Gangalur and Basaguda police stations. Seeing the forces come, most villagers ran to the forests. Force stayed in the village for two days (21, 22 January). They left on 23 January at around 4 pm.

3. In the duration the police force stayed in the village they burnt houses in 4 hamlets. These hamlets are: Maragudem (8 houses, 9 huts); Pantamuram (1 house, 1 hut); Oyampara (6 houses, 2 huts) and Kuppapara (2 houses, 2 huts). I have seen all the houses. In total, 17 houses and 14 huts were burnt.

4. 19 villagers have suffered losses. In the case of 5 persons only their household belongings were destroyed (or taken). In the case of 14 others their houses were burnt along with all their belongings. These household items included:

(i) Food items (unhusked rice, rice, korsa – lentil, tamarind, chillies, salt, turmeric, roots- tubers,  kutki – lentil, barbatti beans, corn, cumin seeds, channa – gram, tora, etc.)

(ii) Agricultural implements (kulhari – axe, hassia – sickle, rope used to tie cows and  bullocks, the mat on which unhusked rice is threshed, etc.)

(iii) Trees (banana trees, mango and lemon saplings)

(iv) Vessels (large vessels such as aluminium or steel gundis and mud handis; cooking    vessels such as aluminium or steel ganjis, etc.)

(v) Clothes (shirts, lungis, children’s’ clothes, etc.)

(vi) Ornaments (nose-studs, neckalace, anklets)

(vii) Money

I have a list of the total losses of each family.

Besides, 2 goats, 63 hens and 59 eggs were also consumed by the police force during their stay in the village. In one instance, when a woman protested on her hen/s being taken, she was paid Rs. 150 by one policeman.

5. A community-run school was burnt. School related items such as books were also burnt or destroyed. The sheet-roof of the school was broken to bits. Holes were made in the large aluminium cooking pots used to cook food for the children and aluminium, steel and mud containers to store water and other things rendering them useless.

In Pidiya, I also met the teacher of a similar community-run ashram school in neighbouring Tumnar village. From him I learnt that the school building as well as items had also been burnt and destroyed by the police force on 21 January, 9.30 am.

6. On 23 January when the police force left the village they took two villagers with them. One of them, a person named Aandha of Idiumpara, was released on 26 January when his family members went to the police station to enquire about him. But nothing was known of the second person, Aavlam Sannu, until this evening. His wife and two other female members of the extended family had come with me today and they were informed [by the ASI] that Aavlam Sannu had been sent to Dantewada prison. He said that the Bijapur police station had sent the information only that morning.

7.  I believe that burning of houses in villages, destroying food and other household items of the public, and other action taken by the police force as elucidated above is against the law. That is why I am writing this complaint. Please admit this as an FIR or register one as per procedure.

Many thanks,

 

Bela Bhatia

Honorary Professor

Tata Institute of Social Sciences

V.N. Purav Marg

Deonar, Bombay – 400 088.

 

[Residential address and telephone numbers were provided on request.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Details contained in Annexure 1 were submitted to the police station the following morning (2 February) on request.

 

 

Annexure 1

 

Names of those whose house/s and huts were burnt with household items

Hamlet Name House Hut
1. Maragudem 1. Aavlam Pandru 2 3
2. Oyam Lakhmu 1
3. Aavlam Lakhmu 1
4. Aavlam Budru 1 3
5. Aavlam Aaiti 1 1
6. Aavlam Podiye (w/o Mangu) 1 1
7. Aavlam Lakhmi 1 1
2. Pantamuram 8. Lekham Sukku 1 1
3. Oyampara 9. Oyam Gubral 2 1
10. Oyam Budhu 1
11. Oyam Chaitu 1 1
12. Oyam Ungu (w/o Lakmu) 2
4. Kuppapara 13. Sodi Hungal 1 1
14. Sodi Mangu 1 1
Total 14 17 14

 

 

Names of those whose household items were destroyed (or taken)

Hamlet Name
1. Pantamuram 1. Lekham Budru
2. Aavlam Kova
3. Lakhmu
2. Oyampara 4. Oyam Bhimal
3. Gaitapara 5. Oyika Mangu
Total 5

 

Total affected persons: 19

Names of those who lost ornaments and money

Hamlet Name Item
1. Ornaments Gaitapara 1. Oyika Mangu Nose-studs (3 pairs)
Silver anklets (1 pair)
2. -na- Necklace
2. Money Oyampara 1. Oyam Gubral Rs.

3000

Maragudem 2. Aavlam Aaiti 2000
3. Aavlam Pandru   300
4. Lekham Budru   300
5. Lekham Sukku   150
Total                                                        5,750

 

NEW DELHI- Protest against the massacre of adivasis in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh


 

PROTEST AGAINST THE MASSACRE OF 20 ADIVASI VILLAGERS IN BIJAPUR, CHHATTISGARH

 

 

DHARNA AT PARLIAMENT STREET

11 AM to 5 PM, 31 JULY 2012 (Tuesday), New Delhi

  

Almost a month has passed since the heinous massacre of 20 tribal villagers – including six minors – by the Indian state’s armed forces on the night of 28 June 2012 in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh. None of the perpetrators who carried out this planned massacre has so far been indicted of murder, let alone being brought to justice. The culprits continue to enjoy the protection of the state while the affected people of the three villages who are fighting for justice are intimidated, persecuted and put behind the bars. The attempt of the Indian state thereby has been to hide the truth of Bijapur massacre, to pass it off as just another incident of “collateral damage” in its operations against adivasis, and to stifle the voices of those villagers who are affected by the massacre. In such a situation, it becomes the responsibility of the progressive, democratic and revolutionary forces of the country to raise our voice collectively against the genocidal Indian state’s war, to demand punishment of the perpetrators responsible for the massacre, to unite with the fighting masses of Sirkegudem, Kottagudem and Rajupenta villages, and thereby prevent the ruling-class conspiracy to erase the Bijapur massacre from public memory and to push it into oblivion.

The facts of Bijapur massacre are by now well known. Villagers from Sirkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajupenta villages belonging to Dorla Koya tribe who are mostly small peasants, gathered in a meeting on the evening of 28 June in Kottagudem village to plan for the upcoming sowing season. There were around 60 villagers present in the meeting, including children. As the meeting was underway, around 10pm a large contingent of CRPF’s COBRA battalion arrived from Basaguda police station one kilometre away, which is also the base of the CRPF battalion. These heavily armed forces surrounded the people in the meeting and fired at them indiscriminately and without warning from three directions, killing 15 of them on the spot. Many of the villagers who did not die of bullet injuries were brutalised and hacked to death by the CRPF mercenaries with crude weapons collected from the village. To cover up this heinous crime of genocidal proportions, the CRPF killer gangs loaded the dead bodies on a tractor, sent them to the Basaguda police station, and removed the blood-stained earth so that no tell-tale evidence of the massacre remains to speak of the truth. The CRPF forces remained in the village for the night and in the morning they shot dead another village youth in cold blood when he came out of his house. These fascist forces sexually assaulted at least three women and threatened them with rape, broke open the houses of the villagers and looted the money they found therein, destroyed grains, and created a reign of terror. On 29 June a villager died of his grievous injuries in the hospital, thus taking the toll of the massacre to 17. In another incident of cold-blooded murder perpetrated by the Indian state’s armed forces in the same region, two villagers were killed near Jagargunda village of the neighbouring Sukma district on the same night of the Bijapur massacre. The familiar cock-and-bull story of an ‘encounter’ between the Maoists and the armed forces were parroted, claiming that the latter fired in ‘self-defense’ killing the two.

            The union home minister P Chidambaram, who is the main architect and orchestrator of Operation Green Hunt, jubilantly celebrated the massacre as a successful assault against the Maoists, who were killed in a “transparent” operation. He congratulated the CRPF force carrying out this daring attack. His lapdog Vijay Kumar – the CRPF Director General – basked in the ‘glory’ of perpetrating the massacre and hailed his “brave soldiers”. Raman Singh, the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister denied that any civilian was killed in the operations, while his home minister Nankiram Kanwar said that anyone who supports the Maoists deserves to be killed like the Maoists. While such lies, slander and intimidation from the ruling-class reactionaries flew thick and fast, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh – the main agent of US imperialism in the government – maintained a studied silence, hoping that the anger of the people will not cascade into a massive outburst of protest. However, as the villagers of Sirkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajupenta came out to the streets to protest against the massacre of their kith and kin, gave fearless testimonies even amidst grave sorrow and anger, and a few conscientious reporters and democratic citizens brought out the truth behind the Bijapur massacre, the ruling classes could no longer defend their white lie and Goebbelsian propaganda that the dead were “dreaded armed Maoists”. Their lie of a ‘fierce encounter’ too got exposed when it was confirmed by the villagers that there were no armed-carrying Maoists in the meeting nor were the CRPF fired upon, and that some of the COBRA personnel were injured by their own men.

Fearing popular reprisal after getting thoroughly exposed, Chidambaram had to swallow his own words and hypocritically declared that he was “deeply sorry” for any civilian deaths, while Vijay Kumar too resorted to duplicity once again by regretting the deaths of the villagers. Neither however gave any indication that the perpetrators of the massacre and their military and political bosses will be charged of murder and brought to justice. After the media brought to light the fact that not even the mandatory post-mortem of the dead bodies were carried out by the government, Raman Singh hastily ordered a farcical judicial enquiry, the purpose of which is to shield the culprits and not to punish them. It is clear that the ruling classes will not punish the foot-soldiers employed to protect their political power and to crush the peoples’ movement which they consider to be the biggest threat to their fascist class rule, unless forced by a strong peoples’ movement.

            Such extreme aggression and brutality undergone by the tribal people of central and eastern India from outside are not new. The people of Bastar have a proud history of fighting exploitation, repression and external aggression that goes back to centuries. From the struggles against predatory feudal states and landlord’s armies in the pre-colonial period through the great Bhumkal Rebellion of 1910 against the colonial regime and thereafter, they have stood up against all attempts in the past aimed at their subjugation and annihilation. After the transfer of power in 1947, when the police firing on landless peasants demanding their rights over land in Darjeeling district in 1967 sparked the prairie fire of Naxalbari, the tribal people of Srikakulam too became the flag-bearers of revolution, a struggle in which hundreds of tribal peasants laid down their lives fighting the repressive state. A police firing on a massive gathering of Gond adivasis at Indravelli in Adilabad district of Telangana on 20 April 1980 led to the massacre of 12 of them, but rather than curbing their fighting spirit, this incident ignited the anger of the Gonds spanning over Telangana and Bastar against the Indian feudal and comprador ruling classes in an unprecedented manner. Indeed, the Indravelli massacre – the largest massacre of tribal people in post-1947 India till the Bijapur massacre of June 2012 – was one of the factors that led the Gond adivasis of Telangana, Gadchiroli and Bastar to espouse the revolutionary movement as their own. In the recent past, the people of Bastar have faced and defeated the notorious Salwa Judum campaign even at the cost of undergoing great losses. In fact, villagers of Sirkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajupenta returned to their homes in 2009 after years of exile, as their villages were destroyed by the state-sponsored Salwa Judum goons. They were still in the process of regrouping their lives when this latest massacre by the Indian state extinguished the lives of 17 of them.

            But unlike in many of the past incidents of cold-blooded execution by the armed forces of the Indian state in central India, the affected people have now come out to tell their tale and to demand justice. The people of Sirkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajupenta – the witnesses to the heinous crime – have bravely narrated the course of events on 28 June and thereafter to the media and various fact-finding teams. They have refused to be silenced by the intimidating presence of the armed forces in large numbers in and around their villages after the incident. The villagers declined the offers of ‘relief’ and ‘compensation’ by the government, and sent back a truckload of food material brought by the district administration for their ‘relief’. They asked in defiance, “If we are Maoists, then why do you bring us this rice? Why did you do this to us?” Fifteen residents of the three villages including eleven children even embarked on a journey to Hyderabad – the capital city of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh – to tell the world about the brutality and repression that they were subjected to on the night of 28 June. However, as soon as they stepped into Hyderabad, the Andhra Pradesh police at the instructions of its political masters abducted all fifteen villagers along with two members of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) who went to receive them, and took them to an unknown location. It was only after a series of protests that they were produced by the AP police before a court of law. All of them have been sent to prison. All seventeen of them still continue to languish in prison for the ‘crime’ of threatening the Indian ruling classes with the truth of Bijapur massacre.

            The growing frequency of state-orchestrated massacres and the growing number of the dead in such cold-blooded murders show the upsurge of popular discontent against the status-quo as well as the expansion of the peoples’ democratic and revolutionary struggles aimed at changing this status-quo. The intensifying class struggle in the subcontinent in the context of the worldwide economic crisis makes the Indian rulers more desperate by each passing day to remove all hurdles against the ever-growing exploitation of India’s working people and the plunder of the country’s natural resources by MNCs and big Indian corporations – resources which in reality belong to the entire people of the country.  And this regime of exploitation and plunder is being hard-sold by the media-managers of the ruling classes as ‘development’. The entire Bastar region as well as other adivasi-inhabited regions of central and eastern India which are rich in mineral resources has become the most coveted prizes that have been already sold out by the government to various imperialist and domestic companies through thousands of secret MoUs. But since the people all over the subcontinent have stood up to defend their jal-jangal-zameen even at the cost of their lives, the Indian ruling classes have unleashed its fascist repression campaign all over the country in an attempt to crush and decimate all forms of peoples’ resistance. The revolutionary movement of Bastar is one of the fiercest and most militant of such struggles being waged in the subcontinent today, which has defeated each and every military campaign by the Indian state against it till now. Therefore, we now find the exasperated Indian ruling classes executing large-scale massacres of the adivasis and other sections of the oppressed masses to further its anti-people design.

Let us be in no illusion. The ruling classes of India are planning more and more mass executions like that of Bijapur at an ever growing scale in the coming days in the name of countering Maoism. Operation Green Hunt, deployment of the Indian Army in Bastar in the name of ‘training’ and of the Air Force in the name of ‘logistics’, establishment of National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) to strengthen the coercive apparatus of the state, promulgation of draconian laws like UAPA, NSA etc., are important components of this larger design. These are integral parts of the Indian state’s war on the people, which will be pushed forward with ever more vengeance and brutality in the future as is evidenced by the Bijapur massacre – the largest massacre of adivasis in ‘independent’ India. Only a united, widespread and resolute mass mobilisation in the subcontinent and outside can desist the warmongering Indian state and the blood-thirsty ruling classes from perpetrating more Bijapurs in the near future. RDF appeals to the democratic and progressive individuals and organisations to unite in protest against the Bijapur massacre by participating in the Dharna on 31 July 2012 at Parliament Street, New Delhi.

 

 

 

REVOLUTIONARY DEMOCRATIC FRONT (RDF)

Issued by: Varavara Rao (President), Rajkishore (Gen. Sec.) | Contact: 09717583539 | revolutionarydemocracy@gmail.com

 

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