#India – From war to peace #chattisgarh #Maoists


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

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

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

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

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

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

editor@the-week.com

 

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


There can also be an alternative universe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

India’s Maoist Insurgency Grinds On


naxalarea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

#India- A warning to Prime Minister of India , think twice before jumping the gun


Mr PM, think twice before jumping the gun

Pushing in more troops to fight Maoists will only aid the onset of a full-scale insurgency
Prem Shankar Jha

15-06-2013, Issue 24 Volume 10

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Back to square one Demands for retribution after the Darbha hills massacre could prove to be counter-productive Back to square one Demands for retribution after the Darbha hills massacre could prove to be counter-productive

In September 2001, the US reacted to al Qaeda’s attack with an explosion of rage and declaration of a War on Terror that has so far cost more than a million lives and turned the CIA into what author and The New York Times columnist Mark Mazetti calls a “killing machine”. Has the US gained anything from this bloodletting? Has it destroyed al Qaeda? Has it made its allies in West Asia feel more secure? Has it won the hearts and minds of the people it set out to ‘liberate’? One has only to ask these questions to know the answers.

The Congress party has reacted to the  attack on 25 May that claimed the lives of its leaders in the Darbha hills of Bastar with a similar burst of rage and demands for retribution. The  government has promised to bring the culprits to justice and sent in 600 additional paramilitary personnel. Accusing the  of not being interested in talks or following the democratic process, MoS for Home Affairs RPN Singh has said there is an urgent need to review the policy on dealing with the . Echoing what former home minister P Chidambaram had said in 2009, he affirmed that there would be no talks with the  until they gave up violence.

The Centre has inducted the air force into the battle by making it agree to provide helicopters for search, rescue and surveillance missions against the Maoists. It has thus broken the cardinal rule of the armed forces — not to intervene in insurrectionary wars within the country.

All the signs are therefore pointing to another campaign against the Maoists. Will this meet with any more success than Operation Green Hunt, launched in 2009? Or will it leave behind a trail of bitterness that will further swell support for the Maoists in Chhattisgarh and elsewhere on the ‘Red Corridor’?

The answer, here too, is self-evident. In the past five years, the number of districts “seriously affected” by left-wing insurgency has increased to 56 and those seriously or moderately affected, to 83. These make up almost one-sixth of India. In the worst affected areas such as Dantewada and Bastar, as Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh conceded, the writ of the State has virtually ceased to run, and there has been no development for the past 20 years.

New Delhi and Raipur have placed the blame for the 25 May slaughter on a monumental intelligence failure and launched not one but two inquiries into this ‘lapse’. But this is no isolated incident. The failure was equally complete when the Maoists wiped out almost an entire company of CRPF personnel in Dantewada in 2009. It was highlighted, less tragically, a year later when the government discovered a road that the Maoists had built in the forest to spirit away hijacked trucks, entirely by accident.

Although it began decades earlier, the alienation of the  gathered momentum only after the pace of economic growth increased the hunger for land. When Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand were carved out from Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh began to shower mining concessions on corporates like confetti. Neither he, nor anyone at the Centre, spared a thought for the , who would lose their traditional rights of usage in forest lands, their livelihood from selling forest produce and the herbal remedies on which they relied for their health.

What completed their alienation was the creation of the , an armed militia of tribal louts recruited mostly by Mahendra Karma in 2005, but quickly endorsed by the state government. Its main purpose was to drive the villagers off their land in the name of ‘development’. This was a rare example of Congress-BJP collaboration that somehow escaped Sonia Gandhi’s notice.

By 2011, the Salwa Judum had driven people out of at least 644 villages, killed almost a thousand tribals and displaced at least 1.5 lakh more. Of those it has killed, Maoist leaders in Chhattisgarh told Shubhranshu Choudhary, author of Let’s Call Him Vasu, no more than 200 were members of their Sangham. Human rights organisations brought 537 of these killings to the notice of the Chhattisgarh government, but so far the state has ordered only eight magisterial inquiries, of which only one has begun.

In 2011, when the Supreme Court banned the Salwa Judum in one of the harshest indictments of a state government on record, Raman Singh inducted 3,000 of its cadres into the police as Special Police Officers (SPOs) on a salary of Rs 1,500 a month. Since then these SPOs have been responsible for some of the worst massacres in the state. To the Adivasis, this is the democracy that the politicians are extolling. No wonder, they consider the Maoists their defenders and the State their oppressor.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must prevent another mindless resort to violence, for it will only accelerate the onset of a full-scale insurgency. The war that will ensue will be unwinnable for, unlike the US, which has won battles but is losing the War on Terror, New Delhi has been losing both the battles and the war against the Maoists. Green Hunt was a failure because the Maoists emerged from it not only ideologically but also militarily stronger. In 2011 and ’12, the scales have tilted further in favour of the Maoists because, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, while the security forces have killed 80 Maoists, they have lost 126 of their own people.

As for the battle for the people’s minds, it is already, irretrievably, lost. According to ‘Vasu’, Choudhary’s eponymous contact in the Maoist leadership, “Though we called the movement People’s War, it was the Salwa Judum that made it a real people’s war. The Salwa Judum left no room for fence-sitters.”

Before going further down the road to repression, the PM would do well to re-examine the assumptions upon which it has been based. The first is that the insurgency is being fed by acute poverty. The second is that this can only be alleviated by ‘development’ — roads, schools, hospitals and power supply. The third is that the tribals are the authors of their own misery because they are not interested in development. The fourth and most important is that the Maoists are against democracy and oppose development. Therefore, they have to be eliminated for good sense to prevail among the Adivasis once more.

Choudhary’s book, written after months of living with the Maoists and chronicling their lives, thoughts and aspirations, shows the superficiality and hollowness of these assumptions. Poverty does not feed the insurgency any more than it fed the French revolution. What feeds the insurgency is injustice. The government claims to have been elected by them, yet takes decisions that take away their rights, break the slender thread that binds them to nature and its bounty, and make their lives more precarious. Denied any voice in decision-making, when they protest, they have to face atrocities by the police or the Salwa Judum. Maoists spoke of these events as casually as townspeople talk about corruption. But the anger that burned in them accounted for the high proportion of women in the armed cadres. It also helps us understand why Karma was stabbed 78 times in addition to being shot.

It is true that the Adivasis are not interested in New Delhi’s concept of economic development, because this is the root cause of their misery. But it is most certainly not true that they do not want any development and wish to be left as noble savages. Choudhary describes the pains the Maoists take to procure medicines, attract doctors, create village schools, bring out ‘comrade’ teachers to teach in them, and enable the tribals to get better prices for their produce.

As for their goals and willingness to seek them peacefully, Rajanna, the Maoists’ chief armourer, has the following things to say: “The party has addressed, and to an extent alleviated, excessive poverty in Dandakaranya. People have access to the forest and the land now. A single Mahua tree yields an income of Rs 5,000 a year; people are not starving anymore. The fight should transform itself into a demand for tribal autonomy. We should demand that all Dandakaranya be able to decide its fate without interference from outsiders. Schedule Five of the Constitution gives these rights in theory, but we should work towards making them a reality.”

When people cite the Indian Constitution, it means that given the right circumstances, they are not averse to living within it. Rajanna is not a moderate or an aberration. So his reflections need to be treated seriously.

letters@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 24, Dated 15 June 2013)

 

#India – Violence of the Oppressed


Vol – XLVIII No. 23, June 08, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Empower tribals or it will get worse: Ex-DG, BSF


Commissioned in the Indian Police Service in 1965, EN Rammohan holds wide-ranging experience of fighting insurgency in Assam as well as Nagaland as the head of the Border Security Force (BSF) in a long career. In an interview with Tehelka Editor-at-Large Ajit Sahi, he suggests it would be counterproductive to escalate the war against the Maoists in Chhattisgarh as a reaction to the massacre by the rebels of 27 people, most of them leaders and workers of the Congress party, on 25 May 2013
Ajit Sahi

Ajit Sahi

May 29,2013e

EDITED EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW

Photo: NaveeshPhoto: Naveesh

The Maoists have claimed that they killed Congress leaders Mahendra Karma and Nand Kumar Patel in  on Saturday as a retaliation for the Salwa Judum and Operation Green Hunt. What do you have to say to that?

The answer must be given in the context of the non-application of the Fifth Schedule  of the Constitution. As per the Constitiution, the Scheduled Areas of the country are to be ruled by the Governor by appointing a Tribes Advisory Council which will decide what is done with the area and how it is to be administered.This Tribes Advisory Council has never been constituted by any governor. The chief minister has no role in the administration of the tribal areas and nor does the forest minister. The Tribes Advisory Council will decide whether the area must be given for mining or not. If you give the tribals this power, they will administer the area. If they want to extract minerals, they will have a liaison with the company and they will file an agreement and the company will take out the ore and the Panchayat will get the money.

What does this have to do with what the Maoists have done?

The advasi does not have this right. The chief minister of the state signs an agreement with the company and they evict tribals from the area. Is it not illegal and unlawful?

Are you saying that denial of rights to the land is fuelling the Maoist insurgency?

Obviously. The tribals are helpless. They have been evicted from hundreds of acres of land. The Maoists say that the government is illegal and unlawful. We will have to fight them.

Why has counterinsurgency been successful in the North-East but failed in Chhattisgarh?

the insurgency has not been successful in the North-East. First, we must ask why are civilians taking up the gun? it is because the government has been illegal and unlawful. If you remove the cause of insurgency, then it will disappear.

On 27 May, an additional 1,000 troops were sent and a combing operation was begun. How do you rate its chances of success?

There is no chance of any success because the leadership of the counter resistance forces is so poor. Besides, the main thing is that you are fighting on the wrong side. How are you going to help the adivasis when they see that the police are conducting operations? Do you know how many innocent people get killed in the process? How do you get the Maoists out of this game? That should be the objective.

Why dont you answer that question? How do we get Maoists out of this game?

Very simple. Enforce the Fifth Schedule. Let the adivasis administer the area themselves. The chief minister is illegally administering the area by signing a lease with the mining companies. Is that not illegal and unlawful?

Isnt the Chief Minister also a legally and democratically elected representative?

He may be democratically elected but he is doing an illegal thing. He has no power under the Act to administer the forests. The Fifth Schedule says it must be administered by the Governor of the state reporting to the President of India. Where does the Chief Minister come into this?

I want to ask you about Saturday’s massacre of 27 people. A lot has been said about how the route of the Congress convoy was changed at the last minute and the fact that not enough route clearance was done, that sanitisation wasnt done. What are these things sanitisation and route clearance?

Whenever there is insurgency in a forested area, particularly if there are some low hills and they are thickly forested and the road is passing through that, if any convoy of the Government or a political party is passing through that route, they should inform the Government that the route should be sanitised. There should be a road opening party to go on either side of the road to a depth of 1 km so that an ambush cannot be placed. They should occupy the area at least eight hours before the party is about to move and they should sit there. Secondly, an anti-sabotage party should go through with explosive detecting equipment and sanitise the road. Only after they give the clearance, the convoy should be allowed. I don’t think any of this had been done in this case.

But how can you sanitise a route that is as long as 70-100 km?

You cannot. But if you have a large enough force, then you can sanitise it. We have done it in the North-East. I’m not talking about some fairy-tale. I have done it. If it takes five days to cover 100 km, then take five days and sanitise it. If you are sitting there, then they can’t come and plant an IED.

The CRPF have faced a lot of fire from the Maoists in Chhattisgarh. Last year, the Maoists kidnapped the District Collector of Sukma, where the killings occurred on Saturday. Why are they so capable in that region?

Obviously, the forces have not been effective. The Sukma Collector went to that place with only two security guards. What a fool he is. He is a very important man and the collector of a district. He can’t go with just two men. He should have sent two-to-three companies ahead of him and cleared the area.

But he was trying an outreach among the tribal people.

Nonsense. You don’t have an outreach with two men as your guards. He will get kidnapped. The Maoists are using the adivasis to come to power. You are not treating them justly which is why they are going to the Maoists. The Maoists will promise them that when we get the power you will administer the area yourself. The adivasis are poor, illiterate people. What can they do but agree? The only way out is to implement the Fifth Schedule.

But in 65 years, the Fifth Schedule has never been implemented and it is not going to be implemented in a hurry.

It is the law of the land and if you are not implementing it, then you are illegal and unlawful. I’ll give you the answer why it is not implemented. Because, there are millions of dollars available to the Government under these areas and nobody wants to give that money to the adivasis.

Where do you see the situation headed now in the next two to six months?

It is going keep going on and on. Continuous fighting will take casualties. A lot of innocent tribals will be killed and the situation will keep on going from bad to worse.

 

Press Release : NAPM on Maoist Ambush in Chattisgarh


Politics of Violence and Counter Violence will only Maim Adivasis

NAPM Condemns the Ambush by Maoists in Bastar

Increased Militarisation in the Region would be no Solution

New Delhi : Once again in the ongoing politics of offensive and counter offensive between State and Maoists, adivasis have lost their lives. In an ambush on the convoy carrying Congress leaders, Maoists have reportedly killed 27 people and injured several others including senior Congress leader, V C Shukla. On the intervening night of May 17-18 too eight villagers, including three children, and a personnel of elite CRPF Cobra battalion were killed in a gun-battle near Edasmeta village in southern Chhattisgarh too. Adivasis caught in the armed conflict have been the worst victim of this war of control over resources, territory and sovereignty. That this happened during the Parivartan Yatra, a programme of the Congress Party to reach out to the people, is indeed unfortunate.

National Alliance of People’s Movements condemns this ambush leading to loss of precious lives. Life of those in power and leadership are important and so are the lives of common adivasis who are being tortured, jailed and killed by Security forces and Maoists alike. In the ongoing conflict both claim to represent the interests and work for Adivasis but their stance and means has only alienated them and perpetrated injustice on them. Their rights have often been violated resulting in large number of adivasis in jail on false trumped up charges. In the same Durma valley where the attack by Maoists have killed Congress leaders, state administration violated all the existing laws and procedures to facilitate land grab for Tata Steel.

Salwa Judum, an armed Sena of the young and adolescents worsened the scenario. It has been termed as illegal and directed to be disbanded by Supreme Court, but State government responded by making them part of the regular police. Even, as Salwa Judum burnt houses, raped women, maimed and killed adivasis, the State supported it and failed to provide justice to adivasis and continued to brand them as Maoists and their supporters. A democratically elected government in Chattisgarh or at the Centre can’t use the dictum of you are with us or against us. Its allegiance is to the rule of law and its duty is to protect the rights of its citizens.

Even while, politicians across the political spectrum are terming this as an attack on democracy, let us not forget that every time an adivasi is jailed, killed, their houses burnt, women raped and their schools occupied to facilitate resource grab or termed as collateral damage in the ‘Operation Green Hunt‘, democracy is attacked and the faith of citizens in the State’s ability to uphold justice and rule of law, shaken. Violence on both sides is condemnable and should be avoided forever.

We fear that this latest ambush will now be used by the state to justify further militarisation in the region and make lives of Adivasis more difficult. There is an urgent need for political intervention and dialogue. The guns of State or Maoists, will not solve the problem. Politics of violence and counter violence will only make lives of adivasis and others in the region more difficult, which will ultimately have an impact on the democratic norms and freedom of citizens elsewhere in the country, as seen in shrinking spaces for non-violent, democratic movements and arrest of activists. Soni Sori, Lingaram Kodopi and many others are braving brutality as a result of the war promoted by the state and Maoists, both. Mahendra Karma, openly supported Salwa Judum, a violent outfit and the same violence has killed him. This is tragic, yet a telling fact.

The swiftness with which the centre has promised all help in this regard and dispatched a large number of security forces, if the same urgency was shown for providing justice to the victims of Salwa Judum in all these years, Indian state would have won a bigger political battle by now. Awards, compensation and martyrdom will be bestowed on those killed by Maoists but Adivasis victims of this collateral damage and those languishing in jail need justice too. There is an urgent need to address that otherwise situation will only deteriorate. We demand that political dialogue in all sincerity be initiated to arrive at a political solution rather than increased militarisation.

Medha Patkar, Prafulla Samantara, Dr. Sunilam, Arundhati Dhuru, Gabriele Dietrich, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Ramakrishnan Raju, Sister Celia, Maj. Gen (Retd) Sudhir Vombatkere, Vimal Bhai, Krishnakant, Rajendra Ravi, Meera, Seela M, Madhuresh Kumar

 

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

anil@tehelka.com

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

 

Preliminary Report on the Fact Finding , on terrors of the Armed Forces , #Chhattisgarh #Operationgreenhunt


(Released in a Press Conference at Women’s Press Corps on 15 March 2013)

 

In the three weeks from mid-January till the first week of February, several villages in the Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh experienced the terror of the armed forces of the Indian state. The CRPF, Chhattisgarh state police, erstwhile SPO’s of the Salwa Judum along with various coercive arms of the state orchestrated a systematic targeting of villages, burnt down hundreds of homes, ostensibly in random, further, burnt down the schools built by the people, picked up villagers, young and old, and physically tortured them while their homes burned to the ground. The affected villages are Pidia, Tomnaka, Singham, Lingham, Komati, Tomudum, and Kondapadu, and in each of these between eight and thirty homes were burnt down by the armed forces. In the village of Dodi-Tumnar, a school with hostel facility for about a hundred children, both girls and boys, run by the Janatana Sarkar was looted and then burnt down by the invading forces in the last week of January. Two battalions of about 1000 CRPF personnel each, besides Koya commandos and SPO’s arrived at the village school at 9 am on that day. They systematically proceeded to destroy the school after firing into the air twice. Even as the students and the schoolmaster fled into the forest, the armed forces caught an old man on his way to the field and chopped off his hand with his own sickle. Following this, the forces looted the storeroom and the kitchen of the school, poisoned the water well, and destroyed the roof, walls, and furniture of the school before finally burning it to the ground. They then marched to the nearby village of Pidia. This village, that houses approximately 265 homes, witnessed first hand the ruthlessness with which the armed force burn down the homes and livelihood of those who stand up for their right to life and liberty. Close to thirty homes were burnt down in one part of this village alone. The charred remains of the homes, cattle sheds, storerooms, utensils can be seen littered with empty bottles of beer and other brands of alcohol.

 

By burning schools and homes, looting sources of livelihood, and physically torturing hundreds of adivasis, the state attempted to legitimize this violence in the name of ‘development’. This methodical burning of homes and schools reveals the carnival of violence practiced by the forces to intimidate, brutalize and squash the spirit of those living in these parts without any concern for consequences. The villagers were forced to remain in the forest for three days as the force camped in the hills surrounding the village. A few young men were picked up by the armed force and brutally beaten. Most of the men were released while one still remains in jail. They looted the means of livelihood and sustenance and camped in the village for three days. Before leaving, they burnt the leftover rations and supplies of the villagers that they had looted. Here, it is the Janatana Sarkar to whom the villagers turn to in times like these. The Janatana Sarkar provided medicines and food to the affected villagers. It is now also helping them rebuild the burnt homes. Even as the bare frames of the homes are being rebuilt pillar by pillar and brick by brick, the spirit of resistance is visible for all to see.

 

The Indian state orchestrates these operations in states like Chhattisgarh in the name of ‘developing’ the area. These are also done as measures to counter the rise of revolutionary forces that have organized the people to stand united against such forms of oppression and practice policies that give primacy to the development of the people living here. Here, development does not mean filling the coffers of the state. In these policies for development, the people are the primary concern. When these forces attack the people, their homes, their schools, and their livelihood, they are attacking their right to life. This right to life that should be most fundamental and universal for all within this apparently democratic country is being denied to those who have remained historically deprived and marginalized in the fringe of the concern of the state. Today, these people are paying the price for resisting the injustice inflicted on them by being forced to live without any assurance of the most basic rights this country accords to its citizens, losing all means of livelihood, and most crucially, in blood.

 

In the name of developing the country the Indian state officially launched a massive operation of plunder of natural resources in 2009 by displacing thousands of communities living in the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Bihar, West Bengal and Karnataka. This ‘operation’, ironically called Operation Green Hunt by the corporate run media, undertaken by the current Central Government, expropriates the wealth of the country that rightfully belongs to the people for the benefit of imperialist forces. This wealth, in the form of resources of land, water and forests, is sold to exploitative multinational companies and comprador bourgeoisie. In turn, the resistance of the people has been termed an ‘internal security threat’ by the current Prime Minister who expresses his loyalty to the model of ‘development’ that feeds these corporate sharks. The revolutionary forces along with the people in these parts strive to fight this war waged by the Indian state against its own people. In keeping with the spirit of resistance against injustice, the people have consistently stood up against the machinations of the Indian state even as it signs hundreds of MOU’s that sell-out land, mineral and forest resources of the country. The price paid for these corporate deals is the blood of those who stand up for their right to life, livelihood and liberty against the oppressive Indian state. This resistance by the people represents an alternative model for people’s development, which aims at collectivization of resources in opposition to the Indian state’s model of corporate development. It is this revolutionary change that the Indian state aims to crush by calling it ‘terrorism’ and ‘internal security threat’.

 

The state sponsored ‘cleansing’ programme like the armed vigilante gangs of the Salwa Judum began their operations in 2005. The state officially declared its programme a ‘hunt’ in 2009. This hunt, since its inception, resulted in large-scale violence on people. There is a need to recognize the overlap between the official ‘hunt’ and the ‘cleansing’ done by these state funded vigilante groups that are nurtured and endorsed by the state to split the people from within as they stand up against the anti-people policies of the state by asserting their right to land, livelihood and resources. Even as the media projects this ‘operation’ as part of the effort to wipe out the ‘Naxal infestation’, the very form that this resistance takes militates against this projection. The resistance has roots among the people who have faced the worst atrocities at the hands of this state. These are not mere victims of displacement, deprivation and destruction. These forms of resistance have historically taken root among people who recognize the violence inflicted on them by forces that expropriate land and resources to feed the bottomless pit of corporate greed.

 

The armed forces use the government school buildings in the area as camps in the name of fighting Maoists. These schools become the centres from which the armed forces operate in the area. It creates conditions where access to education is rendered near impossible for those living in these parts. This has affected the basic right of education for the entire adivasi community and specifically the children in the region. Further, in regions where these governmental institutions do not exist and are built by the people themselves, the armed forces attack such schools, shelters, irrigation tanks, wells, and basic amenities of those living in these densely forested areas. These are wanton actions of destruction. This is not merely a question of ‘law and order’ or state control. By attacking homes, means of livelihood, and schools, the armed forces of the state inflict not merely physical violence that has become the norm in the region, but this is part of systemic violence of deprivation, displacement and destruction. This exposes the ‘development’ rhetoric of the state as an open farce.

 

The armed forces continue to commit such atrocities with impunity to displace the people living in the area to fulfill the State’s agenda of ‘development’ as seen in the hundreds of MOU’s signed with corporate houses, agencies, and MNCs. This clears the path to exploit the resource-rich land, water, minerals and forests of Chhattisgarh. This onslaught of violence and exploitation of the people and their resources by the state machinery in the name of development and fighting revolutionary forces exposes the nexus between the state, coercive forces and the corporations that aim to exploit the land and its resources. The casualty of this ‘development model’ has been the adivasi community as they are denied the most basic rights of education, livelihood and liberty. This form of state repression on the people has been visible over the course of ‘Operation Green Hunt’ and visible in the anti-people policies adopted by the state. We must recognize the atrocities committed by the state, expose this nexus of imperialist exploitation and stand by the people who have organized themselves against the state as it attempts to displace them.

 

These people have resolved to fight back by developing schools, shelters, tanks, wells, and such amenities. These are everyday forms of resistance that the state aims to break, by burning down homes and schools and torturing some physically while inflicting collective violence on the lives of people. The collective development of people adopted by those fighting back the ‘model of development’ of the state provides the revolutionary alternative to the imperialist and feudal designs of corporations and the landed bourgeoisie. As the state commits such atrocities against the people everyday and normalizes its forms of violence, the people have militantly resisted such as it speaks the imperialist language of ‘freedom’ and ‘development’ on one hand and participates in wanton destruction of life, livelihood and liberty on another depends on our silence and implied consent. We need to break this silence and stand up against the injustice inflicted on the hundreds. We need to stand together with the struggling masses; the thousands of displaced and deprived people who have resolved to fight back. Today and everyday hence, we must condemn the atrocities committed by the armed forces of the state on the adivasis of Chhattisgarh and elsewhere; expose the nexus between the state, feudal landed interests and corporate houses in these resource rich areas; recognize that this war on people is being fought by those who recognize their right to jaljangaljameen and against the Indian state in its effort to displace people to expropriate their land, livelihood and resources for its imperialist designs.

 

DSU members  if the Fact Finding Team: Ayantika Das, J. K. Vidhya, Sourabh Kumar, Sushil Kumar.

 

Democratic Students’ Union (DSU)

Contact:dsuatdu@gmail.com

Condemn the spate of arrests in Kerala under the UAPA! Demand unconditional release


Joint statement issued by intellectuals and human rights activists against the arrests being conducted under the guise of Maoist hunt

Condemn the spate of arrests in Kerala under the UAPA! Demand the immediate, unconditional release of arrested activists!

On 15 February 2013, CK Gopalan, a former State Council member of the Porattam organization, was picked up and arrested from Wayanad by the Kerala police on the charge that he possessed posters and notice printed to commemorate the Comrade Verghese Martyrdom Day.

For the last 42 years, several Marxist- Leninist groups including Porattam, and other mass organizations have observed Comrade Verghese Martyrdom Day in memory of a leader who was shot point-blank by the police during an anti-Naxalite operation. Although Porattam had police permission to observe this day, C.K.Gopalan was arrested and charged under sec.153(b) of I.P.C. It is learned that procedure to book him under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is in progress. Another three activists, Shanto Lal, Vinod and Usman were also picked up from Mananthavadi and also charged under s.39(1) a(1)of UAPA on the allegation that these activists were campaigning for furthering the activities of CPI(maoist).These three detenues are members of porattam and they werearrestted while protesting against the sudden ban of there com.varghese martyrdom day public meeting.

Another activist Ismail was arrested from Malappuram on 20 February 2013.He was taken to Kozhikode and after hours long interrogation he was released. Swapnesh Babu, an artist who works withNjattuvela, a cultural organisation was arrested on 21 February 2013. This has been the latest arrest so far. He is also charged under s.39(1)a(1) of UAPA and s.153(b)of IPC.

We also like to point out that Porattam, the mass organization whose members have been subjected to arrrest from various parts of the state, is not even a banned organization in Kerala, or any part of India. All these arrests under the UAPA seem to have been primarily made with the aim of creating a Maoism scare in the state.

Recently, on 29 December 2012, the Kerala police arrested seven activists from a lodge in Mavellikkara on the allegation that they were Maoists. Those detained for suspected Maoist links also included two children who were subsequently released. The other five, including a well-known civil liberties activist Scientist Gopal, are now lodged in prisons in Kerala and cases have been framed under the UAPA in their case too.

These arbitrary and baseless arrests cannot be dismissed as mere diversionary tactics of the state machinery. One has to understand this in the context of Operation Green Hunt. The global war on terror is the military movement of globalization, and in this framework, Wayanad in Kerala is strategically important. These arrests are a pre-emptive action to quell any future dissent in Wayanad where several big projects like the aerodram,cricket stadium,and private medical college, have been planned and where there could be widespread eviction of people from that region.

The usage of a draconian law like the UAPA to silence dissent, to deny the freedom of expression, to victimize members of leftist organizations, and to threaten people’s movements deserves to be condemned. We, the undersigned rights activists, writers, artists, and others, condemn these arbitrary arrests under the UAPA and request the police to immediately and unconditionally release the arrested activists and drop all the charges against them.

K Satchidanandan
Anand Patwardhan
Meena Kandasamy
A Vasu
J Devika
B R P Bhaskar
Kamayani Bali Mahabal
K P Sethunath
C S Murali
P A Pouran
Thushar Nirmal Sarathy

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