Another Volley of Bullets for Bastar’s Tribals

In a replay of last June’s killing in Sarkeguda, CRPF jawans gun down eight innocent villagers in Edesmeta, reports Anil Mishra

Anil Mishra

1-06-2013, Issue 22 Volume 10

Hapless victims Women display the bodies of their loved ones in Gangalur Hapless victims Women display the bodies of their loved ones in Gangalur

Little did the tribals know that death awaited them at the village temple. On the night of 17 May, they had gathered at Edesmeta village in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district to celebrate a local festival when the firing started. Eight villagers, including three children, were shot dead. The CRPF, which was conducting a combing operation in the area, claims that its personnel retaliated after coming under Naxal fire, but the villagers dispute those claims.

This is not the first time that the CRPF’s trigger-happy jawans have come under the scanner. On 29 June 2012, they had shot dead 17 villagers in Sarkeguda village of Bastar district. They claimed to have sprayed bullets in self-defence after coming under fire from Naxals. But a ground report by TEHELKA had found that the CRPF was guilty of attempting a cover-up (Death. And dark lies in Bastar by Brijesh Pandey and Prakhar Jain, 21 July 2012). Even before the judicial inquiry into the Sarkeguda incident is over, the carnage at Edesmeta took place.

On 18 May, the CRPF told the media in Bijapur that a Naxal and a CRPF jawan had been killed in an encounter in Edesmeta.

When reporters visited Gangalur to cover the incident, the women from Edesmeta reached there carrying seven bodies on their shoulders. The angry women demonstrated and pelted stones at the police station and demanded that the guilty must be hanged.

Edesmeta is a small hamlet located 12 km from Gangalur in Bijapur district. There are around 70 houses scattered across the village, which is accessible only by foot.

According to sources, the tribals in Edesmeta traditionally celebrate Beej Pondum (seed festival) before sowing paddy every year. The paddy seeds are blessed by the village priest first and then the tribals dance around the local deity.

Villagers claim that a new CRPF unit set up a camp in Edesmeta the day after the firing. Sources say the jawans privately acknowledged to the villagers that a mistake had been made the previous night. After this, the jawans asked the women to carry the bodies to the Gangalur police station. During all this commotion, the terrified men stayed away from the village.

Rage A villager attacks the police station Rage A villager attacks the police station

Budhram, the brother of Karam Masa, 19, who was killed in the firing, says the tribals were dancing around the deity at 10 pm when around 300 CRPF personnel surrounded them from three sides. They got hold of Masa, but shot him when he tried to run away. Later, they took his body to the Gangalur police station.

Karam Joga, 28, the priest who conducted the ritual of Beej Pondum, and his 10-year-old son Badru, were among those killed in the firing. Joga is survived by his wife, a son and an old mother who are all inconsolable.

Karam Bhanu, 12, and Punem Lakhkhu, 14, were also killed in cold blood, while Lakhkhu’s brother Punem Somlu was injured. Karam Somlu, 40, Karam Pandu, 45, and Punem Sonu, 25, were the others killed in the firing.

Doctors in Gangalur conducted a postmortem of the bodies but the report has not been released as yet. In all, four villagers were injured in the firing. Karam Somlu, Karam Mangu, Punem Somlu and 10-year-old Karam Chotu have been admitted in Jagdalpur for treatment.

Besides firing indiscriminately, the jawans also beat up the villagers. Karam Aaytu says he was hit with a rifle and taken to the police station where he was again beaten up. He was finally let off in the evening on 18 May.

Thirty-five-year-old Soman was beaten up and then shot; he saved himself by lying motionless with the other corpses. Forty – year- old Karam Mangu’s ribs were fractured as a result of the beating he got from the police.

On 18 May, villagers who sustained bullet wounds lay in agonising pain in the village but were too afraid to go to the hospital for treatment. The police took them to the hospital only when the media highlighted the carnage.

Ashok Singh, the sub-divisional police officer in charge of Naxal operations, told TEHELKA that acting on a tip-off on the night of 17 May, security forces from six locations were dispatched to Pidiya village to nab Naxal commander Madhvi. The 208 battalion of CoBRA (Combat Battalion for Resolute Action) was dispatched from Gangalur and Cherpal. He claims that jawan Dev Prakash Singh was killed in the encounter.

CRPF DIG S Llingo claims that the jawans were crossing Edesmeta to carry out an operation in Pidiya when they came under fire. “When they approached the place, the Naxals opened fire in which one CoBRA jawan was killed and another was injured,” he says. “It was a genuine encounter. A CoBRA unit cannot commit such a mistake because they are trained for such situations.The villagers are making false allegations.”

But the villagers vehemently deny that any such encounter took place. They say that the security forces surrounded them from three sides and started firing and the CRPF jawan was killed accidentally in the firing.

“We have nothing to do with Naxals. A vendetta is being carried out against us for not joining the Salwa Judum (an anti-Naxal campaign),” says Budhru, a resident of Edesmeta who works as a farm labourer. “We were targeted when the Salwa Judum was active. The whole village was set on fire and two people were killed. A road was constructed to the village through the mountains and the forest department used to take bamboo from here. But the road closed after the Judum was started. Even the village school was shut down. Now the forces routinely attack the village.”

After Salwa Judum, Operation Green Hunt was started. “In any case, we would be killed,” says Budhru. “Although the villagers have ration cards and some even go to Gangalur to cast their votes, the government has isolated this village from the outside world.”

In an election year, the incident has immediately taken a political colour. Congress leaders have accused the state government of killing innocent tribals, putting the Raman Singh-led BJP government on the backfoot. Stung by the outrage, the government has announced a compensation of 5 lakh to each victim’s family and ordered a judicial inquiry headed by high court judge VK Agarwal to probe the incident. However, no representative of the government has taken the trouble to visit Ground Zero.

On 22 May, CPI leader Manish Kunjam and Congress MLA Kavasi Lakhama visited Edesmeta and wanted the government to lodge an FIR against the jawans. The leaders said the fact that the state government has offered compensation to the dead proves that they were innocent. However, the angry villagers have refused the offer and have demanded action against the erring jawans.

After the incident, the village is seething with anger at the CRPF. Ironically, the Naxals will benefit from this and the villagers will be targeted further by the forces.

Translated from Hindi by Saif Ullah Khan

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 22, Dated 1 June 2013)


Maharashtra- Protest brewing in Red zone as another project proposed in the tribal land

Gatta (Gadchiroli), May 18, 2013



  • Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
    The Hindu Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
  • Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
    The Hindu Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
  • Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
    The Hindu Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat

Suklal Baldir Topo, a Tribal of Jhajawandi village in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli district, is a concerned man these days.

Suklal is concerned about the proposed JSW ISPAT Iron Ore Mining project in Damkodvadavi hills, hardly a few kilometers from his village.

“I have seen my son grow up here and then his sons and daughters. Where would we go if this project comes here” asks Suklal.

Almost all the villagers of 17 villages in Gatta and Gardewada Gram Panchayats in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli district share Suklal’s concern.

The JSW ISPAT Steel Limited has proposed an iron ore mining unit over 751.04 hectares of land on Damkodvadavi hills to produce 5.5 MTPA (Maximum Rated Capacity) of Iron Ore for which crushing and screening plant (3 x 250 TPH) will be installed in the mine lease area.

The JSW has been given mining lease for a period of 20 years. The produce of this unit will be used to meet the iron ore requirements of JSW Steel plant in Dolvi, Maharashtra.

A public hearing related to the environment impact of this iron ore mine project was held in Allapalli town on May 8 in the absence of the villagers from all 17 villages.

The Public hearing took place despite the Gatta Gram Sabha passing a resolution against the proposed project on May 1.

“The company or the government officials did not make available any information about the effects of this project directly or indirectly to all 17 villages in Madia language. The company carried out study of the area from the census document of 2001.But the proposed project requires approval of the concerned villages Gram Sabhas which was never taken. Forest is the mainstay of Adivasis living near the proposed project site and mining will badly damage water, soil, forest and air resulting in danger to our lives. Which measures will the company take to prevent this damage? The project will endanger the lives of birds and animals in this area and destruction of forest will result in the imbalance of environment. This area does not have skilled people to be given employment in this project. We don’t trust the company and the government to keep their promises. This Gram Sabha passes a resolution that we oppose the proposed public hearing of the project and the government should not give permission for this project and if it has given the permission, then it should be cancelled ” reads the resolution passed by Gatta Gram Sabha, a copy of which is available with The Hindu.

Etapalli and Gatta are known to be Naxal zone and the Naxal’s writ runs large in the area after Gatta village.

The public hearing of the project was conducted 70 km away in Allapalli town for “security reasons”, according to Gadchiroli District Collector Abhishek Krishna.

But Mr. Krishna refused to comment when asked how the project will be put up if even a public hearing has to be conducted 70 km away.

“The District administration’s job was to help the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board in conducting the public hearing and to send the proceedings to the government. The government will decide on the next course of action” said the Collector.

Hardly anyone in these villages knew about the proposed project until May 1, says Ravi Atram of Gatta village.

“There is something that this government is trying to hide. The advertisement of the public hearing was published in one English and one Marathi newspaper which hardly come to these interior areas” says activist Anand Dahagavkar.

“But the district authorities ignored the pleas of activists to postpone the public hearing in the absence of project affected people” said Amol Marakwar, the Zilla Parishad member of Gadchiroli who was present in the public hearing.

“The tribals depend on forest for their livelihood and this project, if granted permission, will destroy the tribal culture and life here. Everyone knows how much pollution an iron ore mine project causes” added Mr. Marakwar.

The Naxals have also jumped into the bandwagon and have made their opposition to the project clear.

According to some reliable sources, three days before the public hearing in Allapalli, the Naxals called a meeting of all the project affected villages and assured them the “CPI(Maoist)’s complete support against the Jindal project”.

Almost all the affected villages visited by this reporter in this area, do not want this project to come.

“We are happy with our life now. We will not leave this place even if they offer us Rs. 10 lakhs” says Madi Danu Hido of Kowanvarsi village.

According to activists, the JSW and the government have not said anything about the number villagers to be rehabilitated due to this project.

Rajan Malani of the JSW Ispat said “No village will be relocated. Everything is at an initial stage now. Just a public hearing has happened. And the public hearing was the administration’s lookout. They could have taken it in Nagpur. Our company is very strict about its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and we will do everything that can be done to help all these villages”.

“Mining does not cause much pollution. Our company and the government is very strict regarding this and all the environmental regulations will be followed strictly. And as far as security is concerned, again it’s administration’s responsibility. The government’s help will be taken for security” added Mr. Malani.

But Mr. Malani refused to comment on the resolution passed by Gatta Gram Sabha against the project.

The local MLA Deepak Atram who staged a token protest in Etapalli in protest of public hearing taking place in Allapalli says, “Whether we want it or not this project will come because the Jindal group is a strong group and they have government with them. They will put up CRPF camps if they decide to go ahead with the project”.

Mr. Atram does not have objection to the project but he expressed his displeasure over the way it is being brought.

“It will provide job opportunities to the educated youth of our region” says the MLA but has no answer when asked about the possible destruction of Tribal livelihood dependent on forest in this area.

But Mr. Atram as well as activists working in this area, are concerned about the possibility of an intensified conflict between the Naxals and security forces if the government remains adamant on bringing the project here “because the project’s proposed location is almost a Liberated Zone”.


Surrendering naxals to get a red carpet: Fast trials, legal aid and more money for weapons laid down by Maoists

12 Apr, 2013, 0551 hrs IST, Aman Sharma, ET Bureau

Surrendering naxals to get a red carpet

NEW DELHI: The home ministry has asked state governments to consider not prosecuting surrendering Naxalites and set up fast-track courts for speedy trials as part of a strategy to woo extremists to lay down their arms and join the mainstream.

The Centre has also asked states to consider providing free legal aid or the services of an advocate to surrendered Naxal cadre to help them with court trials. These measures are part of the ministry’s surrender guidelines for Naxals, which kicked in from April 1 and in which the monetary incentives for surrenders of cadres and weapons was sharply increased.

These guidelines seek to advise states on how to deal with pending court cases of surrendering Naxals. “Trial of heinous crimes committed by the surrendered Naxal may continue in the courts. The states may also consider withdrawal of prosecution on a case to case basis depending upon the antecedents and merits of the individual surrendered person. For minor offences, plea bargaining could be allowed at the discretion of the state authorities,” say the guidelines that have been sent to Naxal-affected states.

The ministry, which has been encouraged by a sharp rise in the numbers of Naxal surrenders in the last few years, also wants the states to consider providing free legal aid or an advocate to those who have surrendered “Fast track courts may be constituted by states for speedy trials against the surrendered Naxals,” the guidelines say.

This is part of the carrot and stick policy of the ministry, which has been spearheading the offensive against Naxals in various parts of the country.

Under it, it aims to provide gainful employment and entrepreneurial opportunities to the surrendered Naxals so that they are encouraged to join the mainstream and do not return to the Naxal fold.

“The objective is to wean away the hardcore cadres who have strayed into the fold of the Naxal movement and now find themselves trapped in that net,” the norms said.

Surrender cases involving Naxals hit 440 last year, up from 394 the year before and in line with a general trend that has seen a steady rise since 2009. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has in the past called the Naxalite threat one of the most serious internal security threats facing the country, with vast swathes of the hinterland in several states outside government control.

The ministry has said that along with making it easier for Naxals to lay down arms, it should also be ensured that those who surrender do not find it attractive to rejoin the movement. It has told the states that “tactical surrenders” should not be permitted at any cost. The guidelines therefore stipulate that surrendering Naxals must make a “clear confession” of all criminal acts committed by them, including the names of Naxal planners, financiers, harbourers, couriers and the details of organisations they are familiar with.

Experts also caution against adopting too lenient a strategy against the Naxals. “A naxalite must not be allowed to have the best of both worlds. I do not think we should become too liberal and the surrendering Naxal must face the music for his criminal acts. Giving legal aid is fine but prosecution should not be dropped,” said Prakash Singh, a former BSF chief and an expert on leftwing extremism. Enthused by the sharp increase in surrenders in the last few years, the home ministry has also sharply raised the monetary incentive for surrendering Naxals from April 1.


Jharkhand: The failed promise of an adivasi state #indigenous #tribalrights

Jharkhand's Resourse Curse.


Richard TOPPO

A tribal perspective from Jharkhand describes how the creation of the state, ostensibly for the welfare of tribal populations, has only led to their exploitation and displacement.


Almost a century ago, Katherine Mayo published a book titled Mother India that criticised the Indian way of living. Such were the author’s views that even Gandhi described it as “the drain inspector’s report” which examined only the drains of the country. Conflating with Mayo’s discriminatory work was another contemporary piece by Rudyard Kipling titled White Man’s Burden. Things would have been different had these works been considered the mere fancy of creative minds. But they were perceptions that became the paradigms of the western perspective, veiling the ground realities and on-going brutalities and actually making people believe that what the colonisers did was in the best interests of the colonised. As a result, most westerners were alienated from the plight of the colonised. Purpose well served – unopposed exploitation.


Years later, India seems to walk the same line that it once so bluntly lambasted. Tribal communities in central areas of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh have been exploited, displaced and dispossessed of their resources by the state. But the government has successfully created an illusory perception of ‘development’ that has alienated the middle class from the plight of the tribals. As a result, the government ruthlessly exploits tribal populations, and does so almost unchallenged by other sections of society.


Placating tribals


On November 15, 2000, tribals, mostly from central India, had something to rejoice about. A demand articulated for over a century saw the birth of the state of Jharkhand.


Demands for separate statehood for Jharkhand were first raised in 1914 by tribals, as mentioned in the State Reorganisation Committee Report 1955-56. Tribal politicians vigorously took up the cause, supported by other indigenous communities. For long, the mineral-rich areas of Chota Nagpur and Santhal Pargana had been exploited and the tribal people displaced in the name of development. Racial discrimination of tribals by outsiders, referred to as dikus in the tribal tongue, was rampant. The demand for separate statehood was not merely to establish a distinct identity but also to do away with years of injustice.


However, the creation of Jharkhand has only increased the vulnerability of tribals. The token concessions of a tribal chief minister and a few reserved constituencies were deemed a green signal to displace tribals for so-called ‘development’. According to reports of the Indian People’s Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights, a total of 6.54 million people have so far been displaced in Jharkhand in the name of development. The ongoing land acquisition at Nagri village (near Ranchi, Jharkhand) for the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and National University of Study and Research in Law (NUSRL) may seem like development projects in the eyes of the educated and the affluent. But these elite educational institutes have displaced over 500 tribal villagers. The displacement in the name of dams, factories, mining, etc goes largely unreported.


In a place where displacement and development have become synonymous, the strategic reasons for such oppressive measures go beyond monetary gain. One senses, quite palpably, consistent attempts by various corporate firms to exert control over the policy formulation process. This political-corporate nexus was very apparent when 42 MoUs were signed as soon as Jharkhand came into being. According to a human rights report published by the Jharkhand Human Rights Movement (JHRM), the state government of Jharkhand has so far signed 102 MoUs which go against the laws of the Fifth Schedule. Vast tracts of land will be required to bring these MoUs to fruition.


People’s opposition and various constitutional laws against land acquisition have always been impediments to the corporations. In 2011, a people’s movement forced Arcelor Mittal to pull out of a proposed project in Jharkhand. The corporate sector has been trying hard to change the status quo in its favour, and in doing so has adopted some dubious means. The Chota Nagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act is one of several laws provided by the Constitution to safeguard tribal interests. It was instituted in 1908 to safeguard tribal lands from being sold to non-tribals. The law was meant to prevent foreseeable dispossession, and preserve tribal identity. Loss of land would naturally lead to loss of tribal identity as the issuance of a community certificate requires proof of land possession.


The private sector seems to have taken a special interest in drastically reforming or abolishing the CNT Act. Corporate-owned newspapers like Prabhat Khabar and Dainik Bhaskar have campaigned vigorously for reforming the Act to make transfer of land from tribals to non-tribals more flexible. Needless to say, any reform in this direction would directly benefit corporations that own mines in the tribal lands of Jharkhand, and pave the way for future land acquisition.


The state government, irrespective of party banner, has been part of such threats to tribal interests. Non-inclusion of the Sarna religion in the religion category of census data has drastically downsized tribal populations. There have been lapses on the part of the administration to provide accurate data on tribal populations, many of which are underreported.


With the never-ending displacement, the tribal population figure has dropped to a mere 28% on paper.


The dark side of anti-Naxal operations


There is little doubt that the Naxal menace has increased over the years. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has good reason to declare Naxalism the biggest internal security threat. In Jharkhand alone, since its formation, a total of 4,430 cases of Naxal violence have been reported so far; 399 police personnel, 916 Naxalites, and 395 common people have lost their lives in such violence. The brutal way in which Naxal violence is perpetrated – beheading, mutilating body parts, slitting throats – has greatly amplified people’s fears. Splinter groups like the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), Jharkhand Liberation Tiger (JLT) and Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) have further intensified the problem and led to the administration using counter-violence.


The security forces deployed in Maoist infested areas face constant threat to their lives. While the terrain here is conducive to guerrilla warfare, the local police finds itself inadequately armed and trained to engage in such warfare. Hence, central forces armed with superior firepower and equipment and better training are called in.


People are told that the Naxalites wish to overthrow the government by violent revolution and undemocratic means, and that they need to be stopped to sustain India’s ‘bright future’. But some facts go unheard. According to a report by JHRM, since the creation of Jharkhand a total of 4,372 people have been arrested on the charge of being Naxalites. Of these, 315 are hardcore Naxals for whom the government had announced prize money. The remaining 4,057 have no record of any criminal offence; even the police has been unable to establish their Naxal involvement  (1). In an extreme case, sources claim that the government was instrumental in sustaining the PLFI during the initial days of its formation, to counter the CPI (M). The move backfired and the PLFI became a prominent terror group in Jharkhand.


In other instances, countless innocent people (mostly tribals) have been killed during anti-Naxal operations. The incident that occurred on April 15, 2009 at Latehar, Jharkhand, exposed the dark side of these operations. Five tribals were picked up from their homes by the CRPF and district police, taken to a nearby place and shot dead. The initial police investigation tried to cover up the act, claiming the tribals were Maoists. Following protests, the Jharkhand police finally accepted that they were ordinary villagers who had no links with Naxalites.


The recent exposure of anti-Naxal operations in the Saranda jungle, home to over 125,000 tribals, is even more disturbing. Central and state forces deployed here under Operation Monsoon and Operation Anaconda destroyed homes and killed innocent people, not sparing even the food the tribals had. As revealed by JHRM, during Operation Anaconda, 33 villagers were arrested on charges of Naxal involvement. The police has been unable to provide any evidence to support this claim.


The problem with an over-hyped ‘Red Corridor’ is that it justifies the actions of the security forces: they are seen as deployed in enemy terrain to ‘protect’ India’s ‘bright’ future. And so, a ‘few’ innocent casualties at the hands of the security forces are deemed inevitable. The victims are labelled ‘Maoist supporters’. As the Red Corridor mostly falls under tribal areas, a general, albeit fallacious, perception exists that the tribals in these areas are Naxalites or Naxalite supporters. What worsens the situation is the exclusion of such areas by the concerned state administration which, after 64 years of independence, has failed to establish any communication with people living in these areas. A district mostly falls in the Red Corridor zone not because the people here support the Naxal ideology, but because the administrative units in these areas are nowhere to be seen, giving a free hand to the Naxalites. It is the failure on the part of the state administration to reach out to rural tribal areas that has provided ample opportunity for Naxalism to flourish.


Decades after their exclusion, the government is trying to bring tribal societies out of their so-called ‘museum culture’ into the mainstream. But the methods being adopted are displacement, and the giving away of lands to multinational companies to set up factories, thereby reducing even the most affluent farmer to a petty labourer. The fact that abundant mineral resources sit beneath these tribal lands hardens the government’s stance, making it determined to counter any opposition with a heavy hand.


There is a dual strategy behind the tag ‘Red Corridor’. Multinational companies and mining corporations have incurred huge losses, mostly in tribal areas: firstly, as levy amount to several Naxalite outfits amounting to hundreds of crores in a single year; secondly, uncertainty over land acquisition even after signing MoUs with the concerned state government due to tribal laws and people’s opposition. By declaring districts Maoist zones, the government clears the ground for future operations to be conducted by the security forces. The mission: to ‘liberate’ such zones from the evil clutches of Naxalites and ‘anti-developmental’ forces. The ‘anti-developmental forces’, as termed by the government, are tribals whose protests are solely aimed at retaining their land; they have no intention whatsoever to topple the government. Several cases of tribals protesting against forcible land acquisition and being killed or imprisoned for allegedly being Naxals have been reported across the state of Jharkhand.


Tribals stand on a thin line between Naxalites and the government, exploited and destroyed by both. In areas where the Naxalites have a presence, not following their orders could result in gruesome killings. Thus, any meeting called by any of these outfits is an unspoken compulsion for the village, not an option.


In such a scenario, resorting to indiscriminate firing and blaming Naxalites for using innocent villagers as human shields is not only a failure on the part of the security forces but also on the state to provide safety to its citizens. The illusion presented to the common man has entwined tribals and Naxalites in such a complex manner that any number of killings in tribal areas fails to generate much sympathy among the people. The recent killing of 18 alleged Naxalites at the hands of the security forces in Chhattisgarh, and its aftermath, is evidence of the general perception that even if these people are not Naxalites, they are definitely supporters.


All in the name of ‘national interest’


In an interview with Shoma Chaudhary from Tehelka in 2009, Home Minister P Chidambaram made the following comment: “No country can develop unless it uses its natural and human resources. Mineral wealth is wealth that must be harvested and used for people.” But who are the ‘people’ for whom mineral wealth must be harvested? The middle class and elites who own multinational corporations.


The mineral resources have more to do with profiting private firms than national growth. For example, the royalty fixed by the central government for iron ore is just 10% of the value of mined iron ore, extraordinarily benefiting private mining firms. Tribals have always remained outside the loop of beneficiaries. This was evident in the non-implementation of the PESA Act until recently, for more than 10 years, in scheduled areas of Jharkhand even after a 2010 directive from the Jharkhand High Court. Adding to this was non-implementation of the Samatha judgment across areas under the Fifth Schedule, which would have hugely benefited tribals. Tribals have repeatedly been exploited, displaced and ruined in the name of ‘national interest’.


Jawaharlal Nehru once exquisitely explained the meaning of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, or ‘Victory to Mother India’, as victory to millions of people spread across the vast tract of India. The privileged classes who are fervently nationalistic must understand that their fellow nationals are being bludgeoned into a war-like situation. These wars are not only perpetrated by the juggernaut of so-called ‘development’ but are sustained by false myths that have blinded the general public. In a brilliant piece by George Monbiot, published in The Guardian, the author speaks about the injustices of the British Empire and the myths so well established that “we appear to blot out countervailing stories even as they are told”.


In order to sustain an actual inclusive growth, people need to do away with such false perceptions and not let exploitative action go unchallenged. Only then will the true essence of ‘Victory to Mother India’ materialise. National development is not just about showcasing the country’s economic growth on paper. A massive GDP growth rate is meaningless if tribals and other underprivileged peoples continue living underdeveloped lives. As a tribal, I expect the government to set aside its false perceptions of development that encourage exploitation of tribal communities, and bring about real meaningful growth.


Khan Kaneej Aur ADHIKAR
(Mines minerals & RIGHTS)



Bombay HC- PIL demands speedy trial for Naxal/ Maoist suspects

TNN | Mar 14, 2013,

NAGPUR: A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed on Wednesday before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court seeking judicial intervention and relief into the various aspects of Naxal undertrials. The petitioner, Soma Sen is a member of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights and associate professor of English Department at the Nagpur University. She is engaged in social work for more than two decades.

The PIL deals with the plight of the several farmers and other residents of Naxal-affected Gadchiroli who had been nabbed during various operations launched by the government forces in the district. Following their arrest, the petitioner has claimed that the trials are often delayed on numbers of pretexts including not providing escort guards to enable undertrials to remain present before the court.

The petitioner has also claimed that delayed trial of the victims has been aggravated by the violation of the fundamental rights of the prisoners and other laws pertaining to present them before the court. Sen has also prayed before the court to discourage videoconferencing facilities which do not allow the undertrials to have access to their lawyer


Maoists threaten to silence voices #Vaw




Time has turned a full circle in the case of Niyamat Ansari. It is on the brink of taking the same ugly turn witnessed exactly two years ago, when Ansari was murdered. The social activist had been fighting corruption in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme (MGNREGS) in Latehar.

Apparently acting at the behest of culprits behind Ansari’s killing, local Maoists have now threatened his sister, Saida Bibi, and even abducted Bhukhan Singh, the whistleblower’s close aide and companion in his struggle on the Centre’s flagship programme.

The ultras had approached Saida Bibi on Wednesday and threatened her with dire consequences. “The ‘party people’ (Naxals) told Saida to change her statement in court. They pressurised her to say she does not identify the persons languishing in jail (for murdering Ansari) and instead blame the ‘party’ for the crime. Otherwise she would meet a fate similar to her brother. She is terrified since then,” Nuroosha Bibi, Ansari’s wife, told The Pioneer.

Saida Bibi still lives in Jharua village, which Ansari’s wife had been forced to leave behind after his murder. She had left Manika block of Latehar and come to the town with her children.

Seven accused are behind the bars for the March 2, 2011 murder that had sent shockwaves across the nation. Facts coming to the fore now suggest that some of those arrested have had close association with Rajan Yadav and Pappu, reportedly Maoist ‘area commanders’. The Naxals are now terrorising the family members of the whistleblower and key witnesses to deviate from their original statements.

Activists like Jean Dreze, Aruna Roy, Arundhati Roy and several others had raised the matter on various platforms in 2011. A team headed by BK Sinha, the then Secretary in the Rural Development Ministry, had visited Kope gram panchayat in Latehar and filed a detailed report admitting rampant corruption and the role of contractors in the MGNREGA work in the area — the very issue raised by Ansari before he was silenced.

The rebels have been working on sabotaging the entire investigation into and even abducted Bhukhan on February 26 to frighten him into turning a hostile witness.  Bhukhan was released a day after and has been given police protection.

“Maoists often visit Jharua and bully the 14 to 15 eyewitnesses of the incident. They have even beaten a few to get them to change their statement before court,” said a local MGNREGA activist who is fighting for justice to Ansari.

The motive behind pushing the name of the Left-wing organisation for the killing is to save the culprits. It would be virtually impossible for the police to pinpoint individuals working in a Maoist organisation.

It would effectively silence the voice against siphoning of funds and the cold-blooded murder would be masked as another Naxal act.

#Chhattisgarh-Schooled In Rebellion, An Imperilled Generation

In Bastar’s dark interiors, the Naxals are running schools for children, teaching them to be wary of the government

2013-03-09 , Issue 10 Volume 10

Catch ’em young Children at a school run by Naxals in Jappemarka village, Bijapur district

0N 29 DECEMBER last year, joint forces comprising the CRPF and state police busted a Naxal training camp during a combing operation in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, 450 km to the south of Chhattisgarh’s capital city Raipur. TEHELKA visited Jappemarka village where the encounter had taken place and found that besides training camps, the Naxals were also running schools for children in the densely forested region.

It takes a two-day trek through forest trails, after crossing the Bailadila hills — known for the National Mineral Development Corporation’s iron ore mines and forming the border between Dantewada and Bijapur districts — to reach this village. In a small clearing amid the woods just outside the village, a group of children greet TEHELKA with shouts of “Lal Salaam”, reminding us that we are in Naxal country. They are students of an Ashram Shala (residential school) run by the Naxals for 30-odd children from the nearby half-a-dozen villages.

Then the children sing a song in Gondi, the local tribal language. The song is on “the importance of education in making a revolution”, we are told. This is a region where the Naxals have set up what they call the Janatana Sarkar, or “people’s government”.

Motiram, a student at the Jappemarka Ashram Shala, says he wants to become a teacher in a Naxal school. Motiram doesn’t know the national anthem, but he knows how to hide if the police suddenly show up. But his ‘teacher’ Sukhlal, who was once a member of a Naxal dalam (armed squad), claims the children are not trained in warfare. “They are only given general physical education like in government- run schools,” he says. “After the Salwa Judum (an anti-Naxal campaign) started, the government has closed down all schools in this area. As the villages here are believed to be Naxal-dominated, these children cannot go to schools elsewhere. The Naxal-run schools are their only means of getting education.”

The children are taught from textbooks prepared in Gondi by the ‘education department’ of the Janatana Sarkar, besides the same Hindi textbooks that are used in government schools in Chhattisgarh. Even the school uniform is similar.

Besides Sukhlal, the Jappemarka school has one more teacher and two cooks, who are paid Rs 1,000 every month. The school offers education till Class V. So what will the children do after that? “They can work for the Janatana Sarkar, teach in the Naxal-run schools or become village healthcare workers,” says Sukhlal, who studied till Class V at the government school at Mirtur, 10 km away. The exact locations of the Naxal-run schools are kept secret from ‘outsiders’ as top Naxal leaders visit them occasionally.

When the police raided Jappemarka village on 29 December last year, Sonu, a ‘Class III student’ at the Ashram, hailing from nearby Bechapal village, could not flee into the forests with the others. He says the police thrashed him and let him go only after he said he studied in the government school at Mirtur. Though the Ashram Shala was set on fire during the raid, the children say it is being rebuilt again at another “secret” location.

DURING THE two-day trek to Jappemarka, TEHELKA was accompanied by Mohan, the commander of the Bhansi local guerrilla squad. Mohan was a Class V student at the Mirtur government school in 2005 when Salwa Judum started operations in the area. He says atrocities by the Judum forced him to join the Naxals. Mohan showed us several spots where pressure bombs and booby traps had been planted. On receiving information of police presence, the pressure bombs are wired and the wooden covers removed from the trap holes.

Life in these villages is not easy. The villagers often have to spend the nights in the forests to evade police raids. Ramesh, a resident of Udepal village, says the monsoon months are the most difficult, when the tribals cannot even light a fire to ward off wild animals.

In Udepal, TEHELKA also met Dashru Mandavi, who says he once aspired to become a government officer. In 2005, after completing his primary education from Mirtur, he enrolled in the government-run residential school at Gangalur for further studies.

Salwa Judum was at its height at the time. One evening, some armed policemen from Gangalur police station came to the school, asked him if he was the dada (Naxal) from Udepal, and then took him away. Later in the night, Dashru told the guard at the police station that he wanted to use the toilet and managed to slip away. The police came to Udepal looking for him, but he had already escaped into the nearby forests.

Dashru says he has not joined the Naxals, but one of his brothers, Sukuram, was shot dead in Udepal in 2006, and two years later, three more of his brothers were arrested. Two of them, Misra Ram and Mangu, died in custody, Dashru alleges, while the third, Bugra, is still in the jail. Dashru claims the police did not even hand over Mangu’s body to the family.

Mahendra Karma, a senior leader of the Congress who is known as the founder of the Salwa Judum, told TEHELKA in Dantewada that if the police have indeed destroyed the Naxal-run school in Jappemarka, it was the right thing to do. “The Naxals have destroyed hundreds of government schools.”

– See more at:


#India- Do you know about Gangrape case of tribal girl Arati Majhi ? #delhigangrape #Vaw

Arati Majhi,the girl from Gajapati dist. of Odisha,allegedly gang raped by police forces after arrested on so called sedition case in 2010 And still in jail.Lower court had dismissed her rape case on the ground of  police inqury only and denied the bail.

The police force had raided her village house in  search of her older sister who was in Maoist squad .After 
not finding her ,they took Arati to the police station and gang raped her on the jungle way as she compained.Her 
voice is yet tobe listened becuause the policed filed her as a Maoist.

Is there justice for this poor adivasi girl ?

(Her sister was murdered in Basangmali encounter in 2011.)

HC notice to government on Arati Majhi rape case

The Hindu, Cuttak, Jan 8th n

Today the Odisha court   issued notice to the State government asking the government counsel to file counter to a petition filed by Daksha Majhi, who has alleged that his daughter Arati Majhi was gang-raped by the CRPF and State police in custody after she was arrested during a combing operation.


CBI enquiry


Seeking to quash a lower court order that had rejected his plea to direct the police to register the gang-rape incident and investigate into it, the petitioner has approached the High Court seeking CBI enquiry into the whole incident and for a damage of Rs. 10 lakh from the State government.

When the matter came up for hearing before the single-judge Bench of Justice B.K. Nayak on the day, the government counsel sought at least two weeks time to file the counter.

The HC however, granted one week to the State government and fixed hearing of the case next week after the government counter affidavit is received.

The petitioner, a native of Jadingi village under Adava police station of Gajapati district, has alleged that his 21-year-daughter Arati was dragged from his house on February 12, 2010.

“Police personnel from CRPF and SOG raped his daughter on their way to police station and lodged her in jail after implicating her in false cases and brandishing her as a Naxal cadre”, the petition said adding that since then Arati is languishing in Berhampur jail as an UTP.

The petition further said that when the police refused to register a case against the rape accused, he had approached the R. Udayagiri judicial magistrate court in August 2012, which in the meantime has turned down his petition.

It may be mentioned here that the lower court decided the case late last year only after an order from the High Court.

#India- State Throttling the voice, banning the thought of innocent people #draconianlaws #prisoners


Jan 6, 2013, Deccan Herald 

 The rage of the ‘invisible masses,’ is a thread binding all democratic protests and people’s movements across the state. Be it in Konkan or Vidarbha or the deep dry jungles of Gadchiroli, the cries of ‘rights’ and ‘freedom’ has faded in majority of cases into the darkness of the shadows of the prison cells. Throttling the voice and banning the thought has turned these regions into police state, where in the name of law shackles are clamped on every dissenting voice.

In Konkan, since 2006, the undulating hills dotting Maharashtra coastline has been echoing and roiling with angry voices questioning the nuclear and open cast mining projects pock-marking the green ribbon stretching along the seashore.

The movement, despite running on peaceful strategy, has seen incidents of violence from the police side; in April 2011, police in order to quell a protesting mob, opened fire killing one person.

Last June, when villagers protested against Jaitapur nuclear power project, armed police clamped Section 144.

Vidarbha farmers’ fault?

The region everyday witnesses a funeral of a farmer committing suicide, deaths due to malnutrition and starvation in tribal areas.

The story is not new; in 2001, thousands of tribal women ‘Tendu’ workers were just hauled up in police vans and bundled off to prisons, charged with various draconian sections. Their fault: they were  demanding basic food security.

In December 2012, the government refused permission for staging any kind of demonstration to over a thousand widows of farmers, who took their lives to escape the sharp economic claws, under the pretext that it ‘is being spearheaded by Naxalites.’

Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti leader Kishore Tiwari says: “Raise your voice and you find yourself facing a non-bailable warrant. Since 2001 I have been charged with over 231 criminal cases…”

Gadchiroli’s eternal prisoners

It is the border tribal district and the news that filter out from this region focusses only on ‘violent clashes between the police and militant outfits’; the peaceful demonstrations of tribals asserting their democratic rights and ending up in prisons where sun rarely peeps in, never sees light.

On December 10, 2012, 50 tribal women languishing in Nagpur Central Prison for the past several years, under the charges of being “Naxal‘ sympathisers, went on a 11-day hunger strike demanding immediate opening up of the Gadchiroli Prison and an inquiry into ‘illegal re-arrests.’

Human rights lawyer Surendra Gadling said: “Using the 170-km stretch between Nagpur and Gadchiroli court as an excuse, the police deliberately delay the proceedings. What these women undertrials want is a speedy trial which is their Constitutional right.”

The hunger-strike once again brought to fore the brazen violation of human rights and Constitutional rights by the police and other para-military forces who clandestinely re-arrest political prisoners who have been acquitted or granted bail as soon as they emerge from the prison gate.

In 2007, human rights activist Arun Ferriera, was picked up along with one Arun Satya Reddy while he was distributing pamphlets to Dalits in Dikshabhoomi near Nagpur. In 2011, despite being cleared of all charges by a lower court, the police clandestinely whisked him from the exit door of the jail. In jail, he saw the re-arrest of tribal men and women in violation of laws and undertook a fast lasting 27 days, demanding an inquiry into ‘illegal re-arrests’.

#India- Gadchiroli where 16 panchayat leaders killed, and over 200 others forced to quit

Inside the republic of fear

With at least 16 panchayat leaders killed, and over 200 others forced to quit this year, TEHELKA travels to Gadchiroli to gauge the stranglehold of the Naxals on the region
Revati Laul

December 13, 2012, Issue 51 Volume 9

Where is the government? Less than 10 km from Jimalgatta police station, panchayat leaders were shamed at a Naxal-led Jan SunwaiWhere is the government? Less than 10 km from Jimalgatta police station, panchayat leaders were shamed at a Naxal-led Jan Sunwai

“If they say it’s 4 o’clock, you can’t argue and tell them it’s 5. If they say the sun rises from the west, you have to say it does.”

PULLAYA ERRA Veladi knew exactly what he was talking about. He had spent five days and nights in captivity, a blindfold around his eyes. Kidnapped by the Naxals from his village — Jimalgatta in Aheri, a tiny block in the south of Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra, the heart of Naxal country. Flanked by the Naxal ‘headquarters’ in Chhattisgarh on one side and their stronghold in Andhra Pradesh on the other. Veladi was kidnapped for being the sarpanch of the Jimalgatta gram panchayat for 20 years. It was part of the Naxal’s new game plan for Gadchiroli in 2012. A year when local elections were to be held in the district was a chance for the Naxals to turn what had been their ‘safe zone’ into a ‘liberated zone’. An extension of their own Jantana sarkar from one side of the Dandakaranya forest in Chhattisgarh, to the other side in Maharashtra. By capturing and killing some panchayat and zila parishad leaders so that the rest resign in fear.

It has been a bad year for Gadchiroli. The killing of sarpanches and other panchayat leaders had begun in January. On the 28th of the month, in Bhamragarh block, three members of the CPI(Maoist)’s quick action team shot dead Panchayat Samiti Chairman Bahadurshah Alam while he was sipping his morning chai at a tea stall in the town square. Eyewitnesses told the local media that they shouted “Alam Murdabad, Lal Salaam Zindabad” as they fled.

At least 16 other district- and village-level leaders were killed across Gadchiroli this year. By 15 July, over 200 elected members had resigned from panchayat and zila parishad posts. The last to be killed was a former sarpanch — Narayan Srirangi from the Sironcha taluka. Killed on 20 November, just a few days before TEHELKA visited the district.

“Thirty years ago, the first incident of Naxal violence took place in Gadchiroli when they chopped off the hands of a schoolteacher named Raju. Now they chop off heads,” says our guide Arvind Sovani, who teaches at Nagpur University and has surveyed the gram panchayats in Gadchiroli for the Central government’s Backward Regions Grant Fund programme. Sovani has a keen academic interest in issues of tribal rights, violence and the State.

ZOOMING OUT from the villages racked with fear, Gadchiroli’s violence may look like a small blip on the Naxal radar. But it represents a paralysis at the local level, spread over eight of the 12 blocks of the district, affecting 4 lakh people for whom the weakening of the local administration is a tangible loss. A sharp spike in Naxal violence in one of India’s most prosperous states is alarming even if its geographical extent seems small. That’s why the state’s Home Minister RR Patil and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan have made frequent statements about attempts to contain Naxal violence. Most of those statements refer to this hotbed — Gadchiroli. That’s also why this district alone has 15,000 troops on patrol — CRPF, state police and Special Forces working on the ground to fight the Naxals. In March this year, the Naxals blew up a bus carrying a group of CRPF jawans, killing 12. But to tell that part of the story just yet would be to jump too far ahead.

First, it’s important to see how the kidnapping of former sarpanch Veladi finally unfolded. He and his other companions-in-captivity were released as part of a grand and very public ceremony by the Naxals in Jimalgatta village. More than 100 Naxals, including senior cadre and a charismatic leader with the code name ‘Madhu’, called their own kangaroo court — a Jan Sunwai at a public gathering of a clutch of villages. Many sarpanches — both former and current — were invited and made to stand in front of the gathering. It was a political show that went on for eight hours in broad daylight, less than 10 km from the Jimalgatta police station. The media, too, was invited. More than 2,000 villagers gathered to hear the Naxal leaders speak. One of them told TEHELKA, “It was a riveting experience. I took my wife along. People had even brought their kids. Their leader Madhu was a brilliant speaker. We wish our elected leaders were even half as charismatic.”

Before Veladi and his companions were released at the meeting, all the panchayat leaders present were asked to line up in front of the crowd and a Naxal leader asked them: “Tell us, as local representatives of the people, can you say, hands to your hearts, that you can wipe out the scourge of corruption in this country? Swear to your people that you can do that, or step down from your posts.”

It was a political masterstroke. Fear had forced many leaders to resign anyway. But to shame them in front of a crowd was to mop up massive political capital that the Naxals had been losing in other states.

A spate of resignations by local leaders followed. In Korchi block, nearly 60 officials resigned in one day. So great was the fear that not even one dared admit why they resigned; instead, they stated reasons like their demands not being met by the State.

Except for one panchayat leader, Rushi Portet, who in one brave and indignant act, turned his resignation into a political counter-manoeuvre. He wrote a letter that ended up cleverly to win him back his approval with the people. Portet, a tribal leader, had been working as the sarpanch of Dechli Petha for 10 years. He wrote: “A Jan Adalat was conducted where the Naxals asked all the assembled leaders if they could stop corruption… I said it is impossible for me to stop corruption as I belong to the smallest rung in the system. Therefore, I promised I would resign.” In so doing, Portet had admitted publicly what the other leaders had been too scared to do. That it was under fear of the Naxals that the resignations had taken place and that there had been a mass kangaroo court were now part of official lexicon. It was his way of fighting back.

In the neighbouring Etapalli block, however, a sarpanch who had quit, requested TEHELKA not to reveal his name or the village he was from. There was fear in his eyes as he listed the many ways in which the Naxals exercised control. “We cannot avail of insurance when someone dies, we can’t have roads built, and we can’t avail of agricultural or other government schemes.” In his village, the Naxals have replaced government schemes with some of their own. For a local pond to be dug, they gave the village some money. “But they don’t give as much as the equivalent government scheme,” he says. In Bhamragarh block, the Naxals had even held a cricket tournament in 2011 for school children with one of their commanders giving away prizes.

In Etapalli block, we also met Rama Raoji Naroti as she sifted some very lowgrade rice in her field. The rice looked more like a brownish gruel. It came from a farm that, our source informed us, was part of a scheme devised by the Naxals. Farming in the village was organised as if it were a commune. One part of the week is dedicated to tending to your own crop. The second part, to working your neighbour’s crop, and a third part, to looking after a patch reserved exclusively for the Naxals. In the block where Naroti’s village practised the Naxal way of farming, several local leaders had been killed. In April, a sarpanch, Chamru Kulle Joi, was kidnapped and killed by the Naxals. Two days later, the deputy sarpanch, and then a zila parishad member, were also killed.

As we entered Etapalli, we saw evidence of Naxal violence that had taken place just the previous night. Two large yellow JCB earth-moving machines had been burnt down to stop a road from being built.

On a signboard we passed in the block was emblazoned in red a message from the Naxals urging everyone to support the “people’s war” for Telangana — a clear indication that this was their turf.

GADCHIROLI HAS been on the Naxal radar since at least 1982. Thirty years on, the ‘people’s war’ is less and less about the people. But its sympathisers in universities in Nagpur and Mumbai still draw on the original idealism embodied by its leaders like Kobad Ghandy and his wife Anuradha, who had moved to Nagpur in 1982 to expand the Naxal movement in Maharashtra. Kobad, a Doon school and St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, alumnus, and Anuradha, an Elphinstone College, Mumbai, graduate with an MPhil in sociology, were magnets that attracted many to Naxalism. Two people who dropped out of their comfortable, city lives for a punishingly harsh guerrilla life in the forest.

With Kobad now in Tihar jail in Delhi and Anuradha having died of cerebral malaria contracted in the jungles, the next generation of intellectuals is far less mesmerised by ideas of forming a dictatorship of the people. But, in some loose sense, those ideas still drive an older generation of tribals, mainly because of local-level corruption and the indifference of the State.

“Most of the panchayat leaders in Gadchiroli operate as contractors,” says Sovani. With Gadchiroli listed as one of the 29 “most affected Naxal zones” in the country, for the local government, it’s raining money. The Centre pumps Rs 25 crore every year into the district. But this money goes into a peculiar loop that Devendra Gawande, the writer of a Marathi book Naxalwaadache Aahvaan, describes. He writes: “The total population of Gadchiroli is 9 lakh. Of that, one half — 4 lakh people — are in the Naxal zone. But whatever government funds come in, it all ends up benefiting the other half because no one dares to go into the Naxal areas.”

‘Because of Naxals, we can’t have roads built, or avail of government schemes,’ says a sarpanch who quit

If the local government is lining its pockets with money, so are the Naxals, whose tall speeches against local-level corruption come completely unstuck when we look at their track record. Gawande claims that after scaring sarpanches into resigning, the Naxals turned into extortionists. He describes how they knocked on the doors of scared local leaders, asking them to pay a fine for having contested elections. The fines collected this year alone amounted to Rs 4 crore, he says.

To make matters worse, the Naxals’ claim of being the protectors of the forests also has its sinister flip side. They have a tacit understanding with paper mills in the area, allowing them to cut bamboo from the forest for as much as 3 crore in a year. In return, the locals are terrorised by the Naxals into not cutting the bamboo. It’s a reality the local administration corroborated for TEHELKA, albeit off the record. Such is the fear of the Naxals in Gadchiroli that even the administration is guarded about the official statements they make.

Typifying the pathetic irony of a war zone, in Gadchiroli there is now an abundance of wealth. And it’s all being collected in the name of the impoverished, forgotten tribals. The local arm of the State collects it and spends some of it on itself, and so do the Naxal leaders. While the tribals remain ‘backward’ and poor.

THE NAXAL’s own record of protecting the tribals in these parts has a somewhat mixed legacy. On the one hand, they have traditionally supported tribals in all their agitations against mining companies that have displaced them. Such as a large mine proposed in the Surajgarh area. Things are somewhat blurred, however, in the mobilisation around another, much smaller mine of 65 hectares – in the Korchi block. People like Sovani claim that there is only sketchy evidence on the ground of potential tribal displacement in this case. However, the State’s track record in protecting the forests has been so poor that the Naxals are seen as the alternative force supporting the tribal agitations against displacement.

The Naxals knocked on the doors of scared local leaders, asking them to pay a fine for having contested elections

At least two sarpanches, in strict confidence, confessed to TEHELKA that they believe “if the Naxals go, the forests in these parts will disappear completely”. This is what had prompted the Gadchiroli Deputy Collector Rajendra Kanphade to make a rare admission during his visit to a Naxal-affected village. He said, “There is legalised violence committed by the State and illegal violence committed by the Maoists. I do not agree with the violence of any party, especially the Maoists, but I personally feel that the legalised violence of the State is far more destructive.”

Anecdotal evidence of State repression can be found all over the district.

Danshul Hallami from Dholdongri village in Korchi had just finished watching an exhilarating kabaddi match in his village. But the blood-rush soon turned to anger when he described how he is fighting as many as nine cases against the State, where he is accused of being a Naxal. Three years ago, he was picked up by the police for allegedly putting up Naxal posters and banners in his village. He spent eight months in jail and has since then fallen into a disturbingly familiar pattern. Where an accused in one case is also charged in many other cases, since s/he now appears on the State’s Naxal radar.

“If the Naxals come to your house asking for food and water, we are hardly in a position to refuse them,” Hallami pleaded. “The police come with their weapons and the Naxals, with theirs,” he says emphatically. He was arrested briefly again in April this year.

And then again, repression runs the other side as well. It’s perhaps the reason why the next generation of tribals isn’t buying into the Naxals’ Robin Hood rhetoric. After much coaxing, a frank opinion emerged from Bhimpur village in Korchi block. “Neither the government nor the Naxals have done anything for us,” said a brave girl from the village dressed in a black t-shirt and rolled up half pants. “The tribals want roads, factories, jobs and cellphones,” she continued. It was a lone voice in a crowd where, we were later informed, the Naxals were also present, watching. But it underlined the analysis that this is indeed the land of diminishing support and expanding fear.

We drove through Korchi on the first day of a bandh declared by the Naxals. Not a single shop was open in the three blocks we visited. On the way to a Naxal hideout in Tipagarh village, we saw a large red memorial dedicated to “Comrade Shrikant”. Signposting the fact that we were deep in Naxal-controlled territory. In Tipagarh, it was as if we were suddenly enveloped by a sheet of glass. Not a single villager was willing to speak to us. Or even show us the way up the hill. Finally, 17- year-old Ripesh Mangal Singh Durve admitted they had strict instructions from the Naxals not to talk to any outsiders.

Gadchiroli has been on the Naxal radar since at least 1982. Thirty years on, the ‘people’s war’ is less and less about the people

For the district administration, working a way into this closed circle of fear is a daunting task. But District Collector Abhishek Krishna believes that “you cannot just sit back and let fear dictate you”. As sarpanch after sarpanch resigned, he and the district police went in and got quite a few of the local leaders to take their resignations back. The CRPF also had their share of successes, the attack on their convoy in March notwithstanding; several Naxal commanders were caught by them this year, and many cadres made to surrender.

Turning Gadchiroli around has also become the pet project of Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, attracting much attention in the national media. Ramesh has zoned in on a village called Lekha Mendha that he is promoting as a model. The Naxal presence in this village is said to have become very weak. Many in the district administration, however, feel this village has been able to turn its economy around because it has access to an unusually large tract of forest — 1,800 hectares. And, crucially, the villagers are led by an able leader — Devaji Tofa. Either way, the results have been staggering. The village earned Rs 1 crore in sales of bamboo last year, Rs 2 crore this year, and is aiming for Rs 3 crore next year. Observers and state officials have used this to argue that Ramesh’s model village is more of an exception that proves the rule. Other villages do not have Devaji Tofas or access to large tracts of forest or the intensive attention from the Centre to protect them from the Naxals so they can go into the forests and cut bamboo.

For the rest of Gadchiroli, there may be no overarching solutions. Much will depend on small, sure-footed and bold steps taken by individuals in villages. For now, large parts of the district have slid out of the State’s control as the Naxals’ twin approach of violence and patronage has worked. Caught in its red hot snare are inhabitants of a growing republic of fear.

Revati Laul is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.


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